Title: The Forgotten Man
Feedback: Yes, please!
Warnings: No. Can you imagine?
Spoilers: None for X-Files.
Archive: Full House, RatB, DIB, WWOMB
Disclaimer: All X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. I have no idea who owns MMG, but it's not me. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made.
Summary: Rich boy Alex hires forgotten man Walter to be his family's butler.
Notes: This is total AU, based on the William Powell/Carole Lombard movie My Man Godfrey.
Thanks to Audrey, my beta, for a great, down-to-the-wire beta. Any remaining mistakes are mine.
And to my husband, who inspired me by watching a movie William Powell was in, which reminded me of this movie, and I thought how neat it would be with Walter and Alex.
This was written for the Mitch Pileggi Birthday challenge on the AlexKH-C-orD list.
The Forgotten Man by Maddie
City Dump, early evening
The shiny cars looked out of place; the elegantly dressed people, even more so. The dark-haired young man dressed in formal evening clothes and the blond woman wearing a silvery-blue evening gown were a surreal sight against the background of the city dump. It was the height of the Depression and a great many people were out of work, as evidenced by the people scattered around various fires on this cool October night. The air was misty and smoky as the homeless stared with disgust at the obviously affluent people walking toward them. All except one, the young man noted. As they approached, he could see curiosity and a hint of amusement in the tired, dark eyes. The woman walked ahead, straight to him.
"I'll give you five dollars if you come with me," she said without preamble.
"What would I have to do for it?"
"Just come to a party for a few minutes, then I'll send you right back here."
"Well, it's a scavenger hunt," she held up a piece of paper. "My team has everything else: a street sign, a pumpkin . . . Now I need a forgotten man."
"I see. Should I dress, or just come as I am?" The man stood, towering over the blond. The younger man noticed that even though he wore tattered clothes like the rest, he seemed to have a dignity the others lacked. The woman started to back away. "Although I am flattered by your generous offer," the man continued sarcastically, his voice low and menacing, "I couldn't possibly attend. I have far too many engagements as it is."
The blond, still backing away, tripped over a tin can and sat unceremoniously in a pile of ashes. Quickly rising, she sprinted to her car without a backward glance. The young man, on the verge of laughter with his green eyes glittering, watched her, then turned back to the man.
"I'm sorry. She's sort of . . . "
"Yes, she is," the man agreed. "What's your name?"
He blinked, then said, "Alex Bullock."
"Nice to meet you, Alex. I'm Walter. Walter Parke." He held his hand out. It took Alex a few seconds to remember his manners, then he took the man's hand.
"Nice to meet you, too."
"Are you also a member of the hunting party, Alex?"
"I was," he admitted. "Not anymore. That was my sister. Marita."
Walter grimaced. Just then, several other derelict men walked up, glaring pointedly at Alex.
"Having some trouble, Walter? Need any help?"
"No thanks, Bert. I'm fine." He turned back to Alex. "Now, tell me the point of this scavenger hunt."
Alex ducked his head. "Basically, you have a list of random . . . objects, and whoever collects them all and brings them to the party, wins the prize money. Well, it goes to charity. Look, I'm sorry about all this. Please forgive my sister's rudeness and my part in this debacle. We'll leave you alone." He turned to go.
"Alex, wait. You know, if we go there, you can still win. Best Marita."
Alex shook his head. "I don't care about that."
"You don't want to outplay her? Besides, I'd like to see what a scavenger hunt looks like."
"Let's do it."
Alex smiled. "Okay."
Walter and Alex had to wade their way through a mob of obviously rich people, dressed in tuxedos and evening gowns, and carrying an amazing assortment of things. Goldfish, pumpkins, scarecrows, and one older woman was leading a live goat. Walter looked on in amazement; the room appeared to be in a state of complete chaos. As they passed the bar, Walter heard one man tell another, "This place resembles an insane asylum." The other man observed, "Well, all you need to start an asylum is an empty building and the right kind of people." Walter laughed as he followed Alex to the center of the room.
Alex lead him to the coordinator; then the master of ceremonies asked Walter to speak and to prove he was a forgotten man. After Walter gave his permanent address as "City Dump 32, East River, Booth Place," the man pulled on Walter's beard, checking to see that the growth of whiskers was real. Satisfied, the master of ceremonies announced Alex's team the winner. But Walter wasn't finished. He announced in a loud rumble, "I had two reasons for coming here tonight. The first was to aid this young man. And second, I was curious to see how a group of empty headed, rich idiots conduct themselves. I have satisfied my curiosity, and let me tell you, it will be a pleasure to get back to a society of really important people." Walter strode from the hotel. Alex took off after him.
"Walter, wait! Please!"
Walter stopped and waited for Alex to catch up.
"Walter, again, I'm sorry. I would never have brought you here if I known they would try to humiliate you. I also want to say that I'm grateful for your help. This is the first time I've ever beaten Marita at anything. And you helped me to do it. I wish I could do something for you."
"Alex, you don't owe me anything. And you shouldn't be measuring your worth by your sister. You seem like a thoughtful, intelligent man in your own right." Walter started off again.
"Walter, do you think you could be a butler?"
"We need a butler. I'd like to help you. Although, really, I have to warn you. My family is . . . unique. Maybe a little crazy."
Walter considered it. He didn't look forward to seeing Marita, but he found he liked Alex's company. "All right, Alex. I'll do it. And thank you."
Alex smiled. He would enjoy having Walter around.
Bullock Home, morning
Alex stood with Walter, nervously waiting for everyone to come down. Alex couldn't help but notice how nice Walter looked in his new clothes.
"Walter, I may not have been clear enough about my family. You already know what Marita's like. My dad is okay, but he obsesses about some things, for instance, he refuses to admit he's an immigrant. Our surname would have been Krycek if he hadn't taken my mother's last name upon their marriage. And my mom . . . well, you'll see. She's sort of clueless. And then there's Fox."
"You have a fox?"
"No. Fox Mulder, my mom's 'protege.' He's supposed to be an artist she's helping, but all I see him do is play tennis and spend her money."
"I think I can handle them, Alex," Walter said, sounding almost sure of it.
Just then, a woman came downstairs. Walter recognized her as the one leading the goat into the hotel.
"Good morning, Alex dear," she said, giving him a kiss. And who is this?"
"Mother, this is Walter Parke. He's agreed to become our butler. Walter, my mother, Angelica Bullock."
Walter took her hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bullock." He could see where Marita had gotten her looks. It was obvious that Angelica Bullock had been just as beautiful as Marita was now.
"Oh, I hope this works out," Angelica observed.
"Mother!" Marita interrupted, coming in with her father. "This man is no butler. He's . . ."
"If he lasts out the day, that'll be longer than the last one, young lady," her father said.
"Father, this is Walter. Walter, my father, Alexander Bullock."
"Mr. Bullock. How are you?"
"As well as can be expected, living here. Think you're up to this?"
"I intend to give it my best."
Angelica pulled on Walter's arm. "Walter, meet Fox. He's my protege. He's a wonderful artist, and part of the family."
Alexander snorted at that as Walter shook Fox's hand.
"All right," Alexander boomed. "Let's go have breakfast. Walter, if you wait here, the housekeeper will show you to your room."
Marita caught Walter as the others went to the dining room.
"Don't think I'll forget last night," she hissed. "You'll regret causing me embarrassment."
Walter only smiled and said, "Yes, ma'am."
Marita gave him a withering look and then flounced into the dining room.
"Father, I don't like this new butler."
"Forget it, Rita," Alex said. "You had your chance. That idiot you hired couldn't find the door, much less answer it."
"Alex, you . . ."
Just then, Dana, the lovely red-haired housekeeper, brought in an envelope and gave it to Alexander, taking time to stare at Fox, who was listening to the argument avidly.
"Stop it, you two!" Alexander ordered. "Since you seem to be so vocal this morning, do either of you care to explain why you thought it was a good idea to bring a horse into the library?"
"It was a bet," Alex answered, after a while.
"A bet? Do you have any idea how much this bet will cost me?"
"Must we talk about money all the time?" Fox asked. "There are other things that are so much more important."
Alexander glared briefly at Fox before turning back to face Alex and Marita. "Are you two trying to bankrupt me? There are going to be some changes around here. Alex, you are going to start coming to work with me. You need to learn how to handle the business, for when you all drive me to an early grave."
"Alexander, dear . . ." Angelica began.
"No, Angelica. It's time they started to act like adults, take some responsibility. And you, young lady, need to pick one of the lovesick boys who are constantly underfoot and marry him. The wedding will cost a fortune, but in the long run, it'll be cheaper. And Alex, you could find a wife with money."
"Father!" Alex and Marita both shrieked.
"Alexander, don't be crude," Angelica admonished.
"I'm not. How many times has Marita been engaged?"
"That's beside the point. It just means she's very picky. She hasn't found the right man yet."
"Actually, Mother, that means she's . . ."
"Alex . . ." his mother admonished.
"And what about you?" Alexander said to Alex. "Have you ever seriously dated a woman?"
"Father, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for Alex to pick a wife. He prefers . . ."
"Marita!" Alex warned.
"Children!" Angelica yelled. "You are giving me a headache. Fox, dear, see me to my room before you work on your new piece."
"Of course. But I'm afraid I will need to postpone painting until later. I have a tennis date this morning."
Alex found Walter straightening the living room after breakfast.
"See, I told you," Alex said with a grin.
Walter laughed. "They're nice, Alex. They mean well. Okay, maybe Marita doesn't."
"I won't let her cause trouble for you."
"Don't worry about me."
"My father says I have to start going to work with him."
"Learning the family business?"
"Yes. And he wants me to marry. Preferably, a woman with money."
"There are worse things, you know."
"Not for me."
"You'll be fine, Alex," Walter told him, smiling at the handsome albeit pouting face. "I don't give advice as a rule, but I'll tell you this. Don't marry someone you don't love. You'll only make her, and yourself, miserable. Wait until you find someone you love."
"I have no intention of marrying anyone, Walter."
"You won't always feel that way. One day, you'll want to settle down."
Alex sighed. "Well, I guess I do need to learn the business. I don't want to end up some rich woman's protege."
"Alex!" Walter scolded, laughing. "I'm sure you'll catch on quickly. If I can help you, with anything, I will."
"And Alex? Why did you think it was a good idea to take a horse into the library?"
Bullock home, afternoon, a few days later
Walter had worked out a routine in the few days he had been a butler, which as it turned out, he actually enjoyed. He and Dana were preparing for the small gathering Angelica would be hosting that afternoon. Walter found he liked Dana. She was straight-forward and, even if she was infatuated with Fox, she was realistic.
"He's a good artist, but he's being spoiled by his life here. He would be a big success if he'd apply himself to his work."
"I see," Walter said cautiously.
"And they're all a little crazy. You should be careful of Marita. I don't think she likes you."
"That, Dana, is an understatement."
"Alex likes you, though."
"He's a nice young man."
"He is. He's a little spoiled, though. And I think he's lonely. He has friends he goes out with, but he just seems . . ."
"Alone in a crowd?"
"Well, isn't this cozy?" Marita asked, from the doorway. It's nice to see the help getting along."
"I'll go see if the hors d'oeurvres are ready," Dana said, exiting quickly.
"Marita, how are you this afternoon?" Walter asked.
"Don't think you'll be able to get on my good side. I don't have one where you're concerned."
Angelica swept into the room, closely followed by Fox.
"Oh, everything looks lovely," Angelica observed.
Marita glared once more at Walter, then went to sit down.
The doorbell rang, signaling the first guest's arrival. Walter went to answer the door.
"Oh, dear," Angelica said to Marita. "As usual, your father is late, and now he's teaching Alex to be late too."
Walter came in with an older woman who immediately cornered Angelica and started talking.
Dana came in with hors d'oeuvres, followed by another maid who brought the drinks. Walter took the drink tray, offering one to everyone, ending with Marita.
"Walter," Marita drawled as he started away. "I seem to have a spot of dirt on my shoe. Could you get that for me?" she asked sweetly.
Walter went back to her with a napkin. He kneeled in front of her. "Of course, Miss," he said, wiping the shoe carefully. "How's that?"
Marita sighed. "I suppose it will do."
Walter stood, and looked up to see a furious Alex staring at Marita.
Walter shook his head imperceptibly as soon as he got Alex's attention. Alex wasn't listening, and was headed for his sister when one of the guests, who'd come in with Alex and his father, said Walter's name in amazement. "Walter? Walter Skinner? How about that! We went to Harvard together."
Walter rushed over to the man. Taking his arm, he lead him away from the crowd.
"Mike, listen, I need you to cover for me. Please don't tell them who I am. Please."
"Walter, what's going on?"
"I'll tell you tomorrow if you'll go along with this."
"Okay. This should be good."
As they went back to the party, Walter heard Marita saying, "Imagine that. A butler with a college education."
"Yeah," Mike said. "Walter worked as my valet in college. He married a sweet girl as soon as he graduated and they had a parcel of kids."
Stunned by what he heard, Alex was still standing in the exact same spot as the party swirled around him, everyone talking at once. Without preamble, he announced to his mother that he was going upstairs.
"Are you all right, dear?"
"He's fine, Mother," Marita broke in. "He just has manservant trouble."
Angelica stared at Marita in confusion. Alex merely scowled at her and headed upstairs.
Eventually, the party started to wind down. Mike cornered Walter as he left, making Walter promise to meet him for lunch at his favorite restaurant the next day.
Mike was at the restaurant when Walter arrived, and he was dying to hear Walter's story.
"Come on, man. Tell me how Walter Sergei Skinner, one of the Boston Skinners, ends up working as a butler. And for the Bullocks, of all people. You know, your family's telling everyone you're off in South America, looking into a new business venture. I'd love to see their faces when they hear what you're really doing."
"All right, Sutton, I'll tell you." He paused, gathering his thoughts. "You were correct that I married Sharon right out of college. But I never should have done that. We made each other miserable. She loved me, but I didn't love her the same way. I tried. Tried to live the life my parents wanted. Eventually, we realized the futility. I gave her a considerable amount of money, and she gave me a divorce and went off to find someone who could appreciate her. I drifted through life for a while, then I met someone I thought I could love. It was good at first, but I got hurt. Badly. When I started talking about commitment, he balked. Apparently, I was fine as a back street affair, but that was as far as it could go. So, I left. And I drank. A lot. I continued my path of self destruction until one night I ended up at the East River. I was going to do myself in, but I met these men there, at the dump. They were all down and out, but they were so . . . optimistic. So I stayed. I became Walter Parke. And I was happy. Now, are you still as willing to call yourself my friend?"
"Well, I think you're crazy, but that could just be the Bullocks' influence. Living in a dump, working as a butler, when your family is one of the richest in Massachusetts? And if you mean your . . . preferences, hell, I've known about that since school. After all, we were roommates. I've always felt safe around you."
"Like I'd ever go for a guy like you."
"You should be so lucky. Look, if this is what you want, fine. I'll go along with it."
Walter successfully mastered the role of butler and the next few weeks passed uneventfully. He saw very little of Alex during this time, as Alex left early in the morning to go to work with his father, and in the evening, he either disappeared into to his room or went out with friends.
Marita, on the other hand, was a presence Walter seemed unable to escape. Late one Friday night, after the older Bullocks and Fox had gone up to their rooms, she cornered Walter in the library.
"Walter, don't you think you've worn out your welcome here? It's time for you to move on."
"I like it here, Miss Marita. And the company's so pleasant."
Walter could see he'd hit a nerve.
"You obviously think you're clever. We'll see how clever you are when you're back at the dump. Don't think that I won't find a way. You have a secret and I intend to find out what it is. If I can't, then there are other ways. And I'll keep trying until I succeed."
She didn't give Walter time to respond, she stalked out of the library and up to her room. Walter exhaled in frustration. He'd apparently underestimated Marita's dislike for him, and the lengths to which she'd go for revenge. He would have to watch his back. Walter stayed downstairs, puttering around, trying not to admit he was waiting up for Alex, who was never this late. Walter heard him before he saw him. He made a huge amount of noise getting in the house, and Walter soon saw why. He was exceptionally drunk.
"Alex?" Walter said, concerned. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, Walter, jus' fine," he said, slurring.
He almost toppled over, but Walter managed to grab him.
"Let's get you upstairs."
"Upstairs?" Alex seemed vastly amused by the idea.
"Yes. You should be in bed."
"You're gonna put me in bed, Walter?" Alex grinned maniacally. "Okay."
Walter struggled to get Alex up the staircase. Alex wasn't much help, clinging tightly and giggling. Finally, they made it to the bedroom. Walter carefully sat Alex on the bed, then knelt down and began untying Alex's shoes.
"Walter? Where'd you go?"
"I'm right here. I'm going to undress you."
"Oh, yeah. Good idea," Alex giggled.
Walter got his shoes off, then went to help Alex with his shirt. He actually seemed to be cooperating now.
"You know, Walter," Alex said in a dreamy voice. "I've been going out a lot lately."
"Yes, I know, Alex."
"Are you really married, Walter? And do you have kids?"
"I was, Alex. Not anymore. And we never had children."
"I knew it. I knew you wouldn't bring me up here if you were. You're not like that."
"What?" Walter asked, trying to follow Alex's thoughts.
"I've been going out, Walter. At first, I was going to find a wife. At least a girlfriend. But every time I was with one, I kept thinking, 'I wish I was with Walter.'"
"Alex, wait a minute . . . "
"So then, I figured, I'll find a guy. I thought that would make me forget you."
"Alex," Walter said with horror, "You didn't . . . "
"Nah. Same thing. They weren't you." Alex pulled Walter close to whisper to him. "Walter, my parents don't know. I think Marita might." Then he kissed Walter, who was so stunned he did nothing to stop it. Then he came to his senses and pushed Alex back down.
"Alex. Stop this. It isn't appropriate."
Alex stopped and stared at Walter, confused.
"But, you said you were taking me to bed."
"Alex!" Walter lowered his voice. "Alex. I said I was going to put you in bed. To sleep. You're drunk."
Alex's face fell, and his clear green eyes welled up. "But . . . I thought you . . . I thought you wanted me."
"Alex, first of all, I'm the butler . . ."
"I don't care about that."
"Alex. This isn't right. And you're drunk. You don't even know what you're doing."
"I do too," Alex told him, and tried to prove it by putting his hand on Walter's crotch and groping him.
Walter grabbed his hand. "Stop that!" he hissed.
"See," Alex said. "You're hard. I am, too. I want you. I've never done this," he admitted drunkenly. "But I know you won't hurt me."
"Alex," Walter moaned. "You have to stop this. We can't do this."
"Why? Because I'm drunk?"
"That's not the only reason. Alex, we'll talk about this later."
"Walter," Alex said seriously. "I'm going to puke."
Walter jumped up, pulling Alex up and toward the bathroom. He held Alex until he was done being sick, then left him sitting on the floor while he got a washcloth. He bathed Alex's face tenderly.
"Let's get you in a bath. Or a cold shower maybe."
"No cold shower," Alex mumbled.
Walter got the bath water ready, then helped Alex to finish undressing. He slowly guided Alex into the tub, then turned to leave.
"Walter? Wash my back?"
Walter sighed, but turned back to Alex, taking the washcloth and gently washing the younger man's back.
"That feels good, Walter," Alex murmured sleepily.
Walter squeezed the washcloth, letting the water run over Alex until he started to nod.
Alex was barely conscious by the time Walter got him out of the tub and dried. Put back into his bed, Alex curled up on his side. Reaching for Walter's hand, he said "I love you, Walter." And almost immediately he began to snore.
"I love you, too, Alex," he whispered softly.
Walter headed to his own room, wondering just how he would get to sleep.
Bullock home, Saturday morning
"Where is Alex, Walter? Has he gone out already?" Angelica asked.
"He's feeling a bit . . . under the weather this morning. I sent Dana up with a tray."
Just then, Alexander and Marita came in.
"And what about Fox?" Angelica said. "Has anyone seen our dear Fox?"
"Don't worry," Alexander grumbled. "As soon as breakfast is ready, he'll be here."
"Father," Marita said, "I have a party tonight, and Walter didn't send my dress to the cleaners as I asked him to."
"I'm sure you have something else to wear, Marita. God knows you spend enough on clothes."
"But this one's special. Can't Walter take it now and wait for them to finish it?"
Alexander massaged his temples. "Walter, would you mind?"
"Of course, Sir. Right away."
Marita had never mentioned the dress before then, but Walter saw no point in arguing. He went up with her to get the dress. Marita threw it to him.
"Your time here is near its end, Walter," she said spitefully. "See you at the ash pile."
Walter ignored her, but her tone worried him. He stopped by his room before he headed out and considered looking in on Alex as well, but decided he wasn't up to that. He'd slept little enough the night before, thinking about the things Alex said. So he took the dress to the cleaners. While he waited for it to be cleaned, Walter ran an errand of his own.
It was late in the afternoon when Walter returned to the house. When he arrived, the entire household was gathered in the living room. Even Alex, who looked rather unwell, was there. Intent on hanging Marita's dress in her closet before it could become wrinkled, Walter continued down the hallway and ascended the stairs.
Leaving Marita's room, Walter heard the doorbell chime. As he made his way to answer the door, Alex rushed to intercept him.
"Come on, Walter, we have to find it first. The police are here!" Alex hurried past, and went into Walter's room. Walter followed.
"Now where would she hide it?" Alex asked himself. He looked in an open dresser drawer, then under the mattress. Walter heard people approaching. Looking through the open bedroom door, he saw Alexander, followed by Marita and two men Walter didn't know.
"This is the man," Marita told them. "He took them.
"Hold on," the older of the two men said. He took out a badge. "I'm Detective Taggert. This is Detective Doggett. This young lady is claiming that you stole her pearls, Mr. Parke."
"Of course he did it," Marita said scornfully. "Look under the mattress."
The detectives looked at Walter. Walter nodded at the bed. They checked and came up with nothing.
"Do you mind if we check the rest of the room?" Detective Doggett asked.
"I don't mind in the least," Walter replied. Alex, on the other hand, looked increasingly ill.
The officers' performed a quick but thorough search of Walter's room but didn't find the missing necklace.
"They must be here somewhere!" Marita exclaimed. "Search him!"
Detective Taggert seemed almost apologetic as he looked at Walter.
"Go ahead." Walter said, raising his arms.
Alex chimed in, saying, "You'd better search me too, before my sister claims I took her pearls." Taggert quickly searched Walter, while Doggett searched Alex. Both came up empty handed.
Alexander stepped in. "That's enough. Boys, I believe your time has been wasted here. I do apologize. It seems my daughter is a bit confused."
"I see," said Detective Taggert. "Let's go, John."
The other detective turned to Marita. "You know, Miss, this is a serious thing. You shouldn't accuse someone until you have proof." He followed his partner out.
"Marita," Alexander said to his daughter, "It would serve you right if you didn't find those pearls. And they are not insured. Walter, I apologize. Sometimes I wonder about this family."
He walked out. Alex turned to his sister, seething with anger. "Marita, you bitch!"
"Alex, no," Walter got between Alex and his sister. "Leave it alone."
Marita, embarrassed and angry herself, stormed from the room.
"Walter, she tried to get you arrested."
"But she didn't. Leave it alone. Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah, I feel better. My head finally stopped aching."
Walter took a deep breath. "Alex, about last night . . . Do you remember what happened?"
Alex's face flamed, but he looked at Walter defiantly. "Yes, I do. I meant what I said. And you did want me, Walter."
"That doesn't make it right, Alex."
"I'm not worried, Walter. You'll come around eventually," Alex told him. He left Walter standing there.
Marita carefully avoided Walter for the next few days. Alex, on the other hand, took every opportunity to get close to Walter.
One night early in the next week, the house was quiet. Fox was sulking in his room because Alexander had taken Angelica out to dinner and refused to allow him to accompany them. Marita was still hiding in her room. Walter was straightening up the living room when Dana walked in with a tray.
"Is that for Marita?" he asked.
Dana blushed and shook her head. "For Fox."
"Then aren't you in effect helping to spoil him?"
"Maybe. But it's all part of my plan. You'll see." She smiled mysteriously and went on her way.
Walter shook her head and went back to his work until Alex came in and stood there staring at him.
"Can I help you with something, Alex?"
"Sit with me, Walter."
Walter went over and sat by him.
"Walter, I know that you think I'm just a brainless, spoiled rich boy. But I do love you. I felt it from the first moment I saw you. I think you felt it, too." He reached out to take Walter's hand. "Walter, you told me not to marry someone I don't love. To wait for someone who makes me happy. Someone I really love. So I am. I'm waiting for you, Walter."
Walter shook his head. "Alex, don't do that. You need someone your own age."
"Walter, no one my age is like you. That's not right. They just are not you. Walter, what are you afraid of? You know what I think? I think someone hurt you, and now you're afraid to love anyone; to trust anyone. Trust me, Walter. I won't hurt you." Alex stood up. "You know, I've never been a violent person, but I would love to get my hands on whoever brought that anguished look to your eyes."
Thursday, near the east River
"So, Walter, what are we doing here?" Mike asked.
"Let's take a walk, Mike."
Mike walked with Walter down to the dump.
"Mike, this where Walter Parke was born. In one of those shacks."
The forgotten men who lived there were busy disassembling some of
the shacks. Bert saw Walter and walked over.
"What's going on, Bert?"
"They're crowding us out, Walter. We're running out of room. Not sure where we'll go next."
Bert went back to helping the others.
"Mike, these men have more integrity than any of the people I used to know. You see that little man?" Walter said, pointing out a man helping to move wood. "That's Rudy Balinger from First National. When his bank failed, he gave up everything he had so his depositors wouldn't suffer. How many of our crowd would do that? There are two kinds of people, Mike, and I'd rather be this kind."
"Walter, things have always been this way for some people. These men are not your responsibility."
"And I wasn't theirs. But they saved me, Mike. Why can't I return the favor? I learned something important here. The only difference between a derelict and a man is a job. Now, are you going to help me with this?"
Mike sighed. "Yes, Walter, I believe I am."
Bullock kitchen, a few weeks later
Walter was doing the dishes when Alex walked in.
"You look cute in an apron, Walter." Alex teased. "I'll dry."
"Alex, I'm glad you're here. I have something to tell you."
Alex leaned in close. "Yes?"
"Alex, I think I'll be leaving this job soon."
Alex busied himself drying a plate so Walter couldn't see the hurt flicker in his eyes. "Oh, couldn't take us after all, huh?" he said lightly.
"No, it's not that. I appreciate everything you've done for me. You gave me work, and purpose, at a time when I needed it. I'll never forget that."
"I'd give you more if you'd let me," Alex said earnestly.
"Alex, in time, you'll find someone," Walter told him gently. "You'll forget all about the butler you thought you loved."
"I'd never forget you, Walter. I can't believe you won't give us a chance," Alex said sadly.
"I'm flattered and I do care about you. But I'm no good for you, Alex."
Marita chose that inopportune moment to enter the kitchen.
"Well, aren't you two cozy?"
"Rita, I didn't realize you even knew where the kitchen was. Or did you find it by accident?" Alex taunted.
"Alex, dear, would you excuse us? I need to speak with Walter."
Walter nodded to Alex. "Go ahead. It's okay."
Alex reluctantly left.
"My, he's very protective of you, isn't he? Now, let's get down to business. Any idea what did happen to my pearls?"
Walter was silent.
"No comment? All right, what if we talk about a certain butler who has amazing ties to the Skinners of Boston? I found out some interesting things. We really should discuss them in private, though. I know a quiet, discreet hotel near here. You could meet me there in a little while. Don't be late, though. It would be a shame if those sweet Skinners were embarrassed by your new career."
Marita sauntered out of the kitchen with the air of a woman who knew she'd just won. Walter sighed and headed to his room, knowing the time had come for him to leave.
Alex caught Walter in the hall.
"Walter, please don't go with her," he begged.
"Alex, were you eavesdropping?"
"Don't go with Marita, Walter. She does that. She forces people to do what she wants. And she gets her way. She always has."
"Alex, calm down. I'm not going anywhere with Marita. I do have to leave, though."
Just then, Alexander opened the door. "Alex, I need you in the living room. Walter, you might as well hear this, too."
Angelica and Marita were there already. Angelica was crying.
"Mother?" Alex asked as he went to her. "What's wrong?"
"She'll be fine," his father said. "I finally evicted that freeloading artist."
"And Dana's going with him," Angelica said peevishly. "She's told him he has to earn the money she needs to go to school. She wants to be a doctor. Can you imagine?"
Actually, Walter thought that he could. He had no doubt Dana was up to the challenge of handling both Fox and becoming a doctor.
"All right, everyone, listen," Alexander began. "Our company is in trouble. We're just about broke. We have this house, some odds and ends, but I've lost all my stock in Bullock Enterprises. And I borrowed money from the pension fund trying to recoup my losses. Alex, maybe I should have brought you in earlier. Maybe you would have done better. I don't know where I'll end up. Jail, maybe. And none of you should laugh at Walter's past. That could be our future."
As the Bullocks sat there in shock, Walter spoke up.
"Mr. Bullock, I have something to say. I've known for a while that the company was in a bad way. I took the liberty of dabbling in the stock market." He pulled some papers from his pocket. "This is most of your stock. I knew it was being dumped on the market, so I sold my own investments and bought this back for you. I've endorsed it over to you. With the remainder of the profit, I've begun a venture of my own."
Walter handed the papers to Alexander, who, along with the rest of the family, was staring at Walter in amazement. Alexander started to speak.
"Wait, sir, please. I need to say this to all of you. There comes a point in every man's life when he needs help. This family has helped me, and I hope I've repaid that."
Walter walked over to Marita. "A good friend, Mike Sutton, helped me to do all this. I used these as collateral," he said as he pulled Marita's pearls from his pocket. "And now I'm returning them."
Marita took them, her face red. "Walter," she said, suddenly shy. "We're indebted to you. I treated you so badly. I'm so sorry. For everything."
"I've already been repaid in many ways. I wouldn't be here at all were it not for Alex. Mr. Bullock has taught me patience. Mrs. Bullock, you have been a delight. And Marita, you taught me about the fallacy of false pride. You taught me humility. There have been many spoiled children in this world; I should know as I was one of them. You are very high spirited and I hope to see you use that in a more constructive way. Goodbye, everyone."
The Dump, a new nightclub, a few weeks later
"Alex, dear, why are we here? It's not where we usually go," Angelica observed.
"It's just opened, Mother," Alex said, ushering his family from the car and handing the keys to the valet. "I've heard good things about it."
"Alex, does that valet seem familiar?" Marita asked.
Alex, recognizing Bert as a one of the former residents of the city dump, grinned. "I think we've seen him around."
As they were seated at their table, Angelica asked Marita, "When is your young man expected?"
"In a little while, Mother. He had to work late."
"Everyone, order what you want," Alex said. "I'll be right back." He made his way to the office door marked "Walter Sergei Skinner", and knocked. It was opened by Mike Sutton.
"Come in, Alex. Good to see you."
Walter looked up in shock. "Alex?"
"Hello, Walter. How are you?"
"I'm fine," he said, trying to hide his surprise.
"So, what do you think?" Mike asked.
"I love it. I saw quite a few familiar faces, too."
"Yes, we found places for all of them. And Walter found an apartment building that we're using as housing. Things are going very well. In fact, the Mayor's here tonight with some of his friends, and we're hoping for a donation."
"That's great. You two did an amazing thing."
"Well, mostly Walter. I just carried out his plans. Now that things are going so well here, I'm headed back to Boston. Alex, you'll try to keep Walter out of trouble, won't you?"
"Hey!" Walter said. "I'm right here, you know."
Mike was laughing as he left.
"Walter," Alex sighed. "I missed you. You really did do an amazing thing."
"Thank you, Alex. I'm actually proud of this. How did you find me?"
Alex grinned. "Mike was very helpful."
"I should have known."
"He was sympathetic to my cause."
"I told him I loved you and couldn't live without you."
"Alex. You didn't. Oh God. You did." Walter sat down heavily.
Alex laughed. "I did. Could you come out here with me? My family is here."
Walter followed Alex out, stopping short as they approached the table.
"Alex, is that Detective Doggett holding your sister's hand?"
"Yes. He and Marita have been seeing a lot of each other."
"I'll be damned."
Angelica saw Walter.
"Walter, how nice to see you."
"Hello, Mrs. Bullock, Mr. Bullock. How are you?"
"We're fine," Alexander boomed.
"And Marita. Detective Doggett. Nice to see you both."
"Hello, Walter," Marita said demurely, barely taking her eyes off John.
"Would you join us, Walter?" Alexander offered. "Or are you here with another party?"
"Actually, Father, Walter owns the place. Well, he's part-owner. His partner wants to go back to Boston and he asked if I'd be interested in his half. I said yes. But that's not the big news."
"It isn't?" Walter said drily.
"No," Alex smirked. "Sit down, Walter. I ordered champagne. No, the other news is that I'm in love. In addition to being Walter's business partner, I intend to share his life. If he'll have me."
Five pairs of shocked eyes turned their attention to Alex. Walter's more so than anyone's. Marita merely smiled and reached for John's hand. Angelica looked a bit confused. Alexander grasped Walter's shoulder.
"Walter, I hope you know what you're getting into. You know what these children of mine are like."
Walter sat there, still in shock. After a moment, he stood.
"Alex, could I speak with you?"
Alex, still smirking, got up and followed him.
Once back in the office, Walter demanded, "Alex, have you lost your mind?"
"No, Walter, I haven't. I figured you might just need a push in the right direction."
"But, Alex, your family . . . "
". . . loves me. Even Marita. I had to tell them. I won't keep it a secret. I love you. I want to shout it from the rooftops. I want to put an ad in the paper."
"Alex." Walter said, awe on his face and in his voice.
"Well, I won't do that, but I don't care who knows."
"Alex, come here."
Alex walked to the desk where Walter was leaning.
"Alex, this won't be easy."
"I know. But we can do it. Together."
Walter stood and pulled Alex close.
"Alex, you were right when you guessed that someone hurt me. It nearly destroyed me. I resisted this, you, because I couldn't bear to be hurt like that again. But, seeing you tonight made me realize how empty my life would be without you. I love you, Alex, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Is that what you want?"
"Oh, yes. Will you kiss me, Walter?"
Walter took Alex's head in his hands, gently kissing him, then he thrust his tongue in, exploring that beautiful mouth that he'd wanted to taste, taking his time.
"Wow," Alex said when the kiss ended.
"Alex, we should get back out there."
"Can't we just go home and do some more of this?" he asked, rubbing against Walter.
"No. Family first. Then, I promise, we'll go home and spend the rest of our lives doing this."
"I love my family, Walter, but I think this is going to be a very long evening."
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