Wayfaring Stranger

by Ursula and Amazon X


Title: Wayfaring Stranger

Author: Ursula and Amazon X

E-mail: fan4richie@aol.com and yankeestarbuck@yahoo.com

Website: http://yankeestarbuck.tripod.com

Feedback: Why, yes, thank you!

Category: QAF/XF crossover

Rating: NC-17, would you expect less?

Summary: Where did Krycek go between the car bomb and Hong Kong?

Archive: The Basement, FHSA Slash, Gossamer, WWOMB, and if I OKed when I signed up on the list, go for it. Anyone else, just tell us!

Disclaimer: Not ours, never were, we have no money.

Ursula Notes: For Bertina! She asked for it. She got it. Thanks to Karen S. for having a look and encouraging. Thanks for helping finish something and write in a universe I never tackled seriously, Linda!

Amazon X Notes: OK, mine are short. Thank you, Ursula for taking a chance with me. Thank you, Peach, for the beta, even though a few things you didn't like, they're staying, lol. They aren't sentiments, they're sarcastic, baby! This was a treat for me, to write with someone else. I hope the next part goes as well.

OooOooO

Sitting there, buried in misery, Alex had blocked out his companions. He was so out of it that he didn't even notice at first that they had stopped, pulling into a convenience store parking lot. Cardinal and the man that Alex only knew as Freddy got out of the car. Surprised, Alex looked around, expecting that they were switching cars or meeting someone to give them the DAT tape.

No, Cardinal was looking toward the store. His voice was uncharacteristically kind as he asked, "I could use a beer. You want anything?"

"No."

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

Oh yeah, Alex wanted something. He wanted his life back. He wanted to back in the FBI, back trotting his ass after Fox Mulder, and best of all, back in Walter Skinner's bed.

The worst of it was that Alex knew it was never going to be like that again. Remembering the look in Walter's eyes when he saw Alex with Cardinal and Freddy the thug, Alex looked away, far away into a future where he was no more than another killer.

It was in that moment that Alex decided that he would rather be dead. Spender stopped scaring him. Well, perhaps that wasn't true. You would have to be crazy or dead for the smoking man not to scare you, but Alex was more frightened of his future than he was of his boss. He wanted out. Right now.

Ignoring Cardinal so that he'd leave, Alex slumped back into the seat. He watched them go before drifting back into his fugue state. His hands hurt. He had hit Walter so hard. The pain shot through his hand, up his wrist, through his arm. It hurt his heart the most.

At that moment, Alex hated Walter. Hated him because he hated feeling like this. Walter had gotten to him. Slammed into his soul the way he had driven into Alex's body. If Alex had kept his cool, kept playing the game, then Spender wouldn't have fucked him over like this.

Cardinal was looking back through the window of the store, probably laughing at him. Then again...

That look, the look Cardinal got when he was about to kill something was in his eyes as he glanced at Alex. There was something wrong. The clock was flashing in a way that Alex had never seen before.

God! The car was wired to explode.

Alex was running, running and he was never going to stop.

OooOooO

Days later, Alex woke with a start. His head was sore and he was cold as hell.

"End of the line, buddy," the trucker said. "End of the line. The dispatcher in Pittsburgh is no friend to hitchers. He'll can my ass if he knew I picked you up. Good luck, kid. You look like you need it."

"Tucker? Hey, Tucker, maybe I can meet you at a stop outside of town? I don't know anyone in Pittsburgh," Alex said.

"Sorry, kid, but you should do okay here. They like good looking kids here," Tucker said. He looked a bit ashamed and said, "I didn't mean it like that, but there's always work here. You'll find something. Chin up, kid."

Having no choice, Alex looked around. He was in the city and there was a bar up ahead. Checking his pocket, Alex found an extra ten that hadn't been there. He knew that Tucker was sorry to leave him here in Pittsburgh.

Well, Tucker had driven him a long way, all the way from DC. Alex had been lucky to find a ride and even luckier to find one that had been willing to let him sleep in the compartment behind his cab. That might have saved Alex's life unless Cardinal and Freddy had lied to Spender and said mission accomplished. Alex touched the tape, safe in his pocket. Well, he was across the street from the post office. Alex walked in and spent part of his sparse cash to mail the tape to a postal box he kept in Hong Kong. He had never expected to use the address again. He hoped that he would have a chance to retrieve the tape in person.

Shit, it was fucking cold. The rain had turned to sleet while he had been inside and he had to get out of it. What he really wanted to do is crawl into some hotel bed and put a do not disturb sign up for a couple of weeks. Counting the change in his pocket, he had twelve bucks left. There wasn't a sleaze bag motel cheap enough for that.

Well, the bar across the street looked warm and he could nurse a drink for an hour if he had to. Alex wriggled his fingers and tried to remember the technique for picking a pocket. He might have to resort to that.

The bar was named "Woody's."

Ah, yes, Alex thought. It's fate. A gay bar. A fucking gay bar.

Wistfully, Alex's mind added, 'I always wanted to go to a gay bar with Walter. I wanted to go out dancing with him, show him off. That incredible ass. Those shoulders. That cock.'

Being closeted sucked and not in a good way.

Despite being the worse for wear, Alex was cruised the moment he stepped in the door. Guess they didn't mind the leather boy with dirty hair look.

A guy with sad eyes offered Alex a drink. "I'm Ted," the man said. "You're new in town."

"Passing through," Alex said. His stomach growled and he looked around hopefully for a menu. This Ted guy looked as if he would be good for a meal. Ted was a tame puppy. Alex was sure he could lead him on for a meal and a couple drinks, maybe even touch him up for a twenty without having to deliver anything for it.

"And you are?" Ted asked.

"You can call me Lex," Alex said. He was too tired to think of a better alias.

"Well, Lex, why don't you let me show you around?" Ted asked hopefully.

There was no menu. Ignoring Ted for the moment, Alex snagged some peanuts from the counter next to him. Anything to fill his belly. He had slept through the last truck stop more then twelve hours ago.

A hand closed over his. It was a hard hand with a familiar callous pattern on it. "That's mine," the guy said.

Pissed, Alex had to bite back his temper. Son of a bitch! The guy had a lot of fucking nerve. However, he smelled like a cop. There was something about the way he looked at Alex, the way he stood, and even the way he sounded.

Alex looked at the guy as Ted tugged on his sleeve. Ted said, "There's a booth free back there."

Ted was safe and Alex was sure that he could lead him around. He bet he could even go home with Ted and not put out. A shower sounded great. Alex started to rise to follow sweet, safe Ted.

"Where you going?" the older man asked. "I didn't say you could leave."

What was this shit?

The man said, "You look as if you need a friend and like a boy who doesn't need any more trouble in his life. I think we should go for a walk."

Ted said, "Lex, hey, don't let this guy push you around."

"Beat it, Teddy. You name is Teddy, isn't it?" Mister Charm inquired in a tone of voice that suggested that he was making notes in an arrest record.

Looking scared, but still not quite ready to walk away, Ted stood silently begging.

The big bad probable cop growled, "Beat it, Ted. That's what you usually end up doing anyway."

Cold son of a bitch and not a looker, but there was something about the authority and even more of something about the bill he threw down on the bar. He glanced at it and glanced at Alex, letting him know the score.

Damn, Alex had never been a whore, never used one either. He had some shitty times in his life, but he had never been low enough to think about prostituting. Thinking about what he did to Walter in that stairwell, beating on a man whose shoes he was not good enough to kiss, Alex wondered why he was having scruples now. He deserved this. He followed the cop into the night.

OooOooO

Only the thought of a soft bed and a warm room, if even for a little while pushed Alex on to follow the man toward an alley. Alex started slowing down, waiting for some kind of ambush. Fat chance, he was broke. The man turned around and said, "Hey, come on. My place is above the garage back here."

"At the back of an alley?" Alex asked, cautiously.

"It's cheap. But it's clean and warm. You look like you need a hot shower and a good night's rest, there, pretty boy." The man tried to sound like he was purring, but it came out more as a growl. Alex had been in worse situations than this; he could make his way out.

Hell, if he really thought about it carefully, he could probably get the guy unawares, knock him out and rob him blind. That would save his ass, literally.

"Hey, I gotta clean up a little. Relax a minute, eh?" he said, leaving Alex alone in the smallish front room. There was a small kitchenette thing that was part of a make shift living room. It didn't have much, a card table, a half-assed futon and one folding chair. There wasn't even a television. It looked clean in the dim light from the small floor lamp, but it could look like anything in the light of day. He turned to look out the window and saw the back yard of something that looked like a diner. He was trying to make out the name of the diner and missed the man come up behind him. Alex turned to give the man his price and just caught the upraised hand a moment too late. The blackness was quick to follow the thunk on the side of his head.

OooOooO

Alex awoke to screaming pain all over his body. Mostly his head and his ass. He roused but didn't move, sensing that he wasn't alone. No, they were talking, two of them. That ugly-ass cop with the light hair and some dark-haired guy. He was acutely aware that he was completely naked and tied to some headboard. No, handcuffs.

Alex was handcuffed to an iron headboard, on his belly, naked. He tested his bonds a little and no give. He'd been trained for this. There had to be a little give, but no. They were damn tight. He heard them again, closed his eyes and was very still. Alex had learned when he was a little boy how to be really still. Unfortunately, it did him no good.

One of the men got on the bed and without even a word, pulled his cheeks apart and plunged in. Alex didn't even think about it and tightened up. "Hey, pretty boy is awake, huh?" It was the man who lured him there. 'Shit shit shit' he thought to himself. 'No no no, no one has been in my ass but Walter! That's Walter's ass! Stop it!' he screamed in his head.

Everything went black, but he hadn't been knocked out. It was a pillowcase, he figured, pulled over his head. A fist slammed into his ribs, effectively rendering him breathless. The man never stopped moving in him, and he never stopped whispering in Alex's ear, telling him what a hot slut he was, how tight his ass was and how they were going to take every last bit he had to give them. He could barely breathe, much less make the sounds they ordered him to make. They wanted him to scream, to beg, to yell and cry. Alex resolved to bear it in silence, save for a few grunts he couldn't help.

It seemed as if it went on for hours. First one would be inside him, without benefit of a condom or lube, but after he tore, the blood worked well enough. Alex never believed the old wives' tale that after your body has been subject to severe pain for a while, you go onto shock and become numb. He started to feel cold, regardless of the sweat pouring off him. He started to shiver. The blows raining down on his torso, sides and legs faded into the background.

'I'm going to die,' he thought to himself. 'They're going to beat me to death and I'm going to die and the last memories Walter has of me is beating him. Shit shit shit.'

And they stopped. He lay there for a moment, thankful they pulled the pillowcase from his head, taking stock of his injuries. He could feel a definite trickle from his asshole, but he didn't know if it was blood or come. He probably had a few broken ribs, and there would be bruises on him for months. Other than that, there didn't seem to be any broken limbs. He could make a run for it when the situation presented itself.

"Come on, help me with him, we can dump him by that diner." His chance. He knew if he was going to get away alive, he'd have to play dead and when they weren't paying attention, slip away.

They manhandled him onto a plastic tarp, a huge garbage bag it looked like when he cracked his eyes open. They didn't know he was watching them and he saw their faces. Both of them. The dark-haired one seemed like he was meaner than the one who lured him there. Thing One and Thing Two. Thing One grabbed his ankles and Thing Two grabbed his wrists. He stayed slack to make sure they still thought he was out like a light.

Alex felt them going down the stairs but he didn't know how far they took him into the backyard. In the distance, there was a sound like a door unlocking and he was unceremoniously dropped on the ground like a sack of garbage. Thinking back to how they wrapped him, he WAS a sack of garbage. The ground was freezing cold, and he knew that if it were to start raining, it would be sleet. He thought he'd heard the weather in that bar say there was rain due in the morning. It had to be close to morning.

Taking a deep breath, he figured, if they were still around, whoever was coming out of that door would help. He hoped. Alex pulled the heavy black plastic from his body and realized that he was naked and bleeding. Didn't matter. 'Need help. Now. Bleeding, cold, hurt. Walter.' He stood and started blindly walking toward where he heard the sounds of garbage being dumped. His face had been hit enough that his eyes were swollen almost closed, but he could make out a thick form standing there, closing a garbage bag.

Alex knew his only chance was to get this person's attention and quick. His bare feet were numb from the cold concrete and his vision, what little there was, was starting to get fuzzy. He must have been choked hard because as he tried to call out, all he felt was a throb of pain. The ground came up quick to meet his cheek. Before passing out again, he heard a definitely feminine gasp. And that was all for Alex.

OooOooO

Despite Michael's offer to take it out for her, Debbie swung the garbage in her gloved hands to carry it out to the dumpster. She wanted to get away for a moment, leave the noise and bright lights behind. Although it was nearly time to close up, the place was still full. The night was cold and there had been a rash of gay bashings lately. No one wanted to go home. When Debbie decided to take out the trash, Ted was talking about the one who got away. From the way he told it, an angel had been out to go home with him when the devil took him away. Michael had been rolling his eyes while Emmett fluttered his usual ego boo at his friend, Ted. Why the hell didn't those two get together? They were perfect for each other, Debbie thought.

Shaking her head, Debbie hurried toward the dumpster. A gasp of terror puffed out of her mouth as something white flew out of the darkness at her. Something brushed her as it folded rapidly toward the ground.

It took a breathless moment for Debbie to realize it was a naked man. He sprawled face down on the pavement. His hand reached pitifully out toward her, nearly as white as the snow. She froze in place, wanting to back away, to turn, to run, to try to forget what she was seeing. Instead her courage returned and she knelt to place shaking fingers on the man's neck to check his pulse. It was a faint flutter beneath her fingers.

"Help!" Debbie yelled, but it came out as a strangled whisper. She tried again, this time getting out a full Debbie roar.

Surprisingly, Brian made it to her side first. He squatted and said, "Is he dead?"

"No, but he will be if we don't get him inside," Debbie said.

"I don't think you're supposed to move injured people," Michael said, as he skidded to a stop right behind Brian.

"Yeah? And how long is it going to take to get an ambulance here?" Debbie said. "Get him inside."

Everyone was out now. Ted and Emmett grabbed the man's legs as Michael and Brian gingerly held him by the arms.

"He's bleeding," Debbie warned, "Be careful."

"No shit," Brian said. "He's a fucking mess."

"It's him," Ted said. "The guy from the bar. What did they do to him?"

"You sure?" Debbie asked.

"Yes, I'd know him anywhere," Ted said.

"You know his name?" Vic asked, coming out of the kitchen to the storeroom where they had laid the unconscious man out.

"He said his name was Lex," Ted said.

"Last name?" Debbie asked.

"Sure, we exchanged name, address, and HIV status at Woody's," Ted said.

"You should," Debbie said.

In the light of the indoors, the waif looked worse than he did outside. His face was swollen; there were bright purple marks on his neck. His thighs were stained with a nasty mixture of blood and come. There were scrapes that looked like friction burns, deep abrasions on his wrists; someone had bitten deep into the man's shoulder, and there were finger tip shaped bruises all over him. His stomach and ribs were a mottled mass of purpling marks.

Once in the storeroom, the injuries were even more apparent. Michael had grabbed Brian's cell phone and was already calling for an ambulance. The man opened his left eye, the one less swollen and peered at Debbie. His hand twitched and he mumbled something. Leaning closer, Debbie heard, "Walter."

"Did Walter do this to you?" Debbie asked.

"Walter," the man repeated in a slurred voice. "Want."

"Must be his lover," Emmett said. "Wish we knew where he was so we could get him."

"Can't be much of a relationship if he was trying to pick up Ted," Brian said.

"His head is hurt," Ted said. He had found Debbie's blanket and spread it over the suffering man. She used to take naps in the car when it was warmer and hadn't got around to bringing the blanket home.

"Too bad," Brian said, "Waste to mess up a body and face like that up."

"He'll be fine," Debbie said. "Shut up if you don't have anything helpful to say." She didn't have to look at Brian to know he was rolling his eyes in response. She knelt and lightly held the outstretched hand. "You'll be just fine, Lex. We're going to take care of you."

The eye slowly closed and the hand went limp in hers.

"Don't you die on me," Debbie said. "I don't let people die on me."

The eye opened a bit and despite his condition, Debbie could have sworn she saw a glint of humor in the depths.

Whenever she thought the man was letting go again, Debbie called him back. She kept him conscious by the sheer force of will until the ambulance wailed in the distance. He was out when they loaded him onto the stretcher.

Grabbing her favorite fleece coat, Debbie looked around until she spotted Vic. "Lock up for me, Vic. Michael, come on. You can drive me to the hospital."

"Mom, we don't even know him!" Michael complained, but he grabbed his coat too.

OooOooO

"I didn't mean everyone should come," Debbie said, looking around her at the usual suspects. Brian smirked back. Emmett was making deep eye contact with a handsome man in a nurse's uniform. Ted was thumbing through brochures, an earnest look on his face as if he was studying for a test on the material.

The intake worker shoved the admission form at Debbie again and said, "You must know something about him. You came in with him."

"Really, I don't," Debbie replied. "All I know is he introduced himself to Ted . . . Ted, come here."

"Yes?" Ted said.

"Did Lex say anything else about himself?" Debbie asked.

"He said he was passing through," Ted said.

To compound the confusion, the police finally showed up. They noticed Emmett first. He was wearing pink and yellow, a fluffy pastel coat keeping his tall, thin form warm. Debbie saw the cops exchange looks and smirk.

"Gay bashing or did the guy's boyfriend get rough with him?" the older cop asked.

"He was raped," Brian said, his usually amused voice lacking its typical indifference.

"Probably a hooker," the cop ventured.

"Even if he was, he didn't ask to be beaten and nearly killed. If my Mom hadn't gone out when she did, he would be dead. He was tortured!" Michael shouted.

Feeling proud of her son, Debbie stepped forward and said, "I'm a member of PFLAG. You better watch what you say about what happened to Lex."

With a grunt of amusement, the aging cop wandered off to look at the medical records.

"It isn't 1960, for God's sake," Debbie muttered after the retreating back. Her voice dropping even lower, she added, "What an asshole!"

They had finally finished examining poor Lex and found him a bed in Critical Care. Debbie managed a look at Lex's chart; she wanted to make sure they had done a swab.

"Are you a relative?" a voice asked.

"Uh," Debbie said. She looked at a beautiful young man with cocoa colored skin and big blue eyes. His reddish colored hair was coifed in a multitude of little braids. "Kind of. Closest thing he has."

"Oh," the man said. He was wearing a well-tailored suit, a honey colored silk shirt adding a flamboyant touch. There was something about him that made Debbie think he was a member of the club. "He's going to make it, but he's going to need a lot of care. A Mister Kinney told me that this patient doesn't have insurance and wanted me to apply for the Waylon fund for him. I'm Tekumi Eto, the hospital social worker."

Brian . . .

Brian was amazing. Debbie had never known what to make of him. When Michael and Brian were kids, she had been torn between wanting to mother the beautiful boy from one of the most fucked up families she had ever seen and wanting to keep him away from Michael. Her feelings had not settled with any more clarity in the years since.

Well, this must be one of Brian's rare second dates and, even more shocking, the guy still liked Brian. Debbie said, "What's the Waylon fund?"

"There was a dear old gay man who had a mostly platonic relationship with a much younger college student. When he died, the student was surprised to find out that he had been left a considerable fortune and that his elderly friend had been deeply in love with him. The student used part of the money to pay for his social work degree and the rest to set up a trust fund. The interest from the trust fund pays for the gay victims of rape. Victims of crimes don't usually have enough to buy a box of tissues to wipe away tears in a hospital," Tekumi said. His large, black as coal Asiatic eyes fluttered closed for a moment along his prominent, but delicate cheekbones. Gawd, what a beauty! Brian Kinney was a fool not to feather a nest for this one.

"Well, the social work student's loss was the community's gain," Debbie said softly. "This kid is going to need a lot, including counseling when he wakes up."

"I'm your man for that," Tekumi said. "I work with some clients outside of the hospital." He smiled wistfully and said, "Somehow I never expected so much of this job would be referring clients to public assistance."

"What's going to happen to him when he's better?" Debbie asked. "I mean when he's well enough to leave here."

"A nursing home, I expect," the social worker said, "Unless he has a place to go."

It didn't take a moment of thought. Debbie said, "He does. My place. I have a room."

"It's going to be a lot of work. He probably won't be able to be alone at first," Tekumi said.

"That's fine. My brother, Vic, lives with me. He needs a project," Debbie said.

"He would be okay with that?" Tekumi asked.

"Yeah, Vic's been around. He's been out before out was a concept," Debbie replied. A feeling of pride swept over her. She knew that most people didn't spare a moment of thought for her brother, but it had taken immense courage for him to admit to being gay when the very admission could mean jail time.

"All right," Tekumi said. "We should start some paperwork to begin home health care for a while. It would help to know what to put as a last name."

"Lex Novotny," Debbie said. "List him as my step-son."

And that was that. Debbie had always taken in strays.

OooOooO

"Just a little ways, sweetheart, then we can put you to bed," Debbie assured as a quiet groan issued from Lex.

Vic tapped his fingers on the wheel as Michael tried to steer the wheelchair without bumping any walls.

The day was bright, white light reflecting in prisms across the snow.

"It's cold," Lex said. "Still cold."

"Yeah, well, honey, it's winter," Debbie replied.

"It seems like months since I was outside. I thought it should be spring," Lex said, his tone little boy lost.

"It will be spring soon enough and meanwhile, my place is warm. You're going to be just fine."

"Yeah, yeah," Lex murmured. His eyes were fully open now, green jade, still lovely even surrounded by the fading yellow bruises from his beating.

Lex's lashes fell downward. Damn, he was as pretty as a girl, Debbie thought. "Don't be scared."

His eyes met hers and he said, "Nothing scares me."

Vic turned around and said, "Then you're in a world of trouble. If you stop being scared, you're dead. Remember that."

Lex raised a feathered brow, but the dull pain in his gaze lifted for a moment. "I'll try to remember that," he said softly. "Sounds like something Wa . . . a guy I used to know would say."

"Okay, grit your teeth," Michael said, "We have to get you into the car."

A gasp emerged through clenched teeth, pink lips pulled back in a grimace of agony.

Debbie's eyes watered in sympathy pain. If she could have gotten her hands on the bastard who did this to poor defenseless Lex!

OooOooO

The blinds were open enough to let in bars of light. Turning his head, Alex could see the clock on the VCR. Thank God it was set. He would wig out if he saw a blinking light right now.

The rocking chair creaked. Alex looked over. Debbie was sleeping in it. They never left him alone. Everybody was so fucking nice he couldn't stand it. He kept expecting it to change. Some of the foster homes he had been in had seemed nice at first too until he screwed up and they beat him or until suddenly he was in the way and they put him out on the curb with the garbage.

The pain was a dull ache over his body to go with the weak, sloshing feel of his middle. The doctor still had him on a liquid diet while his rectum was healing.

The beautiful, arrogant one, Brian somebody, had looked at him with good honest disdain and said, "Cheer up. You're a tight little virgin again. It's a miracle."

Debbie had hit Brian for that, a quick clout to the side of his head. Brian had ducked away just far enough to make most of the blow fall on empty air. It had startled Alex until he realized it was a ritual between the two.

These people were weird. He couldn't figure them out. Here's Mom, but instead of being freaked out over her gay son, she was as proud as if he was the chair of the local Rotary Club.

Here's Michael and Brian as comfortable together as long time lovers, but apparently not together.

Lovers. That's what Walter and Alex had been. It had been Alex's first. He'd had sex since he was too young to know what went where. He'd had plenty of partners, but only one Walter, one man who made him feel something inside.

The dull ache from his ass made Alex remember again what the brutal rape had taken from him. Somehow, in everything he had to do in his life, much of it unwillingly, he had kept one thing for himself. When he was with a guy, they could have his mouth. He would even go down on his knees for them, but he would never let them penetrate him. He would top them with pleasure, but not let them inside him. It had always seemed too intimate, yielding too much. He had never thought he would give that to anyone as he had to Walter.

Alex closed his eyes again, trying to think away the pain. His mind returned to the first time with Walter.

It was not the first time they had made love, so to speak, if making out counted, but it was the best.

When Alex answered the door, there was Walter, grinning, carrying an armload of takeout food and looking edible himself. He had been wearing old jeans and a worn soft flannel shirt, not anyone else's version of sexy, but on Walter, it was an enticing as black leather and skin.

OooOooO

He walked into the apartment and Alex immediately took the bags from his hands to put them aside, making room to kiss him deeply. The kiss seemed to transport them from the small, run down living room to a world of light and happiness and love. He wasn't happy when Walter pulled away and said, "The ice cream will melt."

"You brought me ice cream?" Alex asked, then smothered Walter's neck in kisses.

"Yes, and it will be warm cream if you don't put it away, OK, baby?"

Alex felt a shiver go through him. Baby. Walter always called him that. Not that he thought Alex was a baby, he'd said. He just loved to baby Alex, treat him with kindness and do everything for him. That's why he always brought dinner, drinks and dessert. He'd admitted his marriage was a mistake, him denying his real feelings, his desires. Sharon was always independent, not needing him to help her or cater to her. It was the beginning of the end for him, before it really began. When the romance wore off, there was nothing to the marriage. He was just waiting for her to send him the separation papers.

Alex had already set out the plates and silverware on the dining room table, so he wasn't surprised to see Walter serving the delicious Italian food he'd gotten. Mama Marie was the greatest chef in Falls Church and her restaurant was always packed, but she was never too busy to make some takeout lasagna or manicotti for Walter and Alex.

They sat eating, drinking wine, trying to talk about innocuous subjects; things that had nothing to do with what made them first get together. They had both just known, for a very long time, seeing each other around the Hoover building, on the obstacle course at Quantico. Alex was determined to find out if he was flirting with his future or with disaster.

It was pretty simple; get him alone. And an assistant director is never alone. It was difficult, but finally, he caught Skinner in the parking garage, and asked. He was positively floored when the big man agreed! Yes, Assistant Director Walter S. Skinner would meet him for a beer.

The beer led to a movie. It was odd for Alex. Walter seemed to be courting him. Oh, they kissed after the movie at Alex's door. Walter seemed to want to pay for things, pick up and drop Alex off at his home, as if he were courting a girl. If he were honest, Alex would say it was nice to be pampered, to be babied.

After dinner, Walter helped Alex wash and dry the dishes. It was something out of a movie or a romance novel. Walter was the perfect gentleman, uncorking the white wine while Alex got the glasses from the cupboard. While Water poured the wine, Alex lowered the lights and put on some soft music, setting the mood for romance. They sat on the couch and talked some more until Alex had had enough.

Alex took the wine glasses and put them beside the empty bottle on the coffee table. He looked at Skinner and said, "I think it's time we stopped playing games, Walter."

"I wasn't playing any games, Alex. I just didn't want you to think all I cared about was your body." Walter looked away a moment, and Alex was lost to him forever. "I don't think of you as just a piece of meat."

"Oh, please think of me that way. Yes, I'm meat!" They both laughed at Alex's exuberant joke, and Alex took advantage of the unguarded moment to jump on Walter and kiss him. Walter responded in kind, wrapping his arms around Alex and pulling him down in his arms. They kissed, Alex impressed that Walter could make out and breathe at the same time. He thought he was the only one who could do that.

They kissed on the couch, hands exploring chests and backs and bottoms, learning the landscape. It wasn't until Walter unbuttoned Alex's pants and slipped his hand down the back to Alex's crack. Alex reared up a little. "Hey, baby, calm down, what's wrong?"

Alex wiped his mouth and cleared his throat, obviously stalling for time. Walter stroked Alex's cheek gently and Alex thanked all the gods he could think of for such a patient man.

"I've never...you know..."

Walter continued stroking his cheek and gave a soft smile. "If you want to do something else...it's OK, I don't...

"No!" Alex cleared his throat quickly. "I mean, yes, I want to do that. I want you to be my first. I just wanted you to know that you're the first."

It shocked Alex that he was so open to this man he'd only had two previous dates with. And it was the truth; he'd never given his ass to anyone. He was happy to top all the little twinks he picked up in bars. Usually, he didn't even leave the club with them. He would be all too happy to get a blowjob, or an offered ass in the back.

With another kiss, Walter said, "I am honored to be your first. And I'll make it good. Just be aware, I'm big."

"Oh, thank God!" Alex said and dove onto Walter again. He only pulled away long enough to get his Henley over his head and then back to Walter's mouth. He unbuttoned Walter's shirt and slid it down the strong, wide shoulders. He pulled away and said, "I knew those shirts were hiding a delectable body."

Walter's laughter was a welcome sound. He pushed Alex away and said, "I've seen most of your apartment. Maybe you should show me the bedroom."

Alex, not leaving anything to chance, got up and walked his guest into his simple bedroom, with one night table, one dresser, and one Queen-sized bed. Simplicity was key for Alex, and it was evident in his furnishings. He held his hand out and said, "The bedroom. Bathroom we passed, you can see that later. Wanna see the sheets?"

In almost a tackle motion, Walter took Alex down to the bed, and the clothes started coming off being tossed about. As new flesh was revealed, hips, buttocks, thighs, Alex needed to taste every bit of Walter's body. Alex was always an oral lover, and he would prove to Walter that his blowjobs were a religious experience. "Christ almighty, Alex!" he shouted, as the head of his cock slipped down Alex's throat.

Alex tried not to smile as he concentrated on his work, trying to make it the most exciting experience for Walter. The hand that played with the massive balls in their sack strayed down to the tight pucker, causing Walter to sit up quickly. "Only one finger, Alex. It's been a long time for me," he admitted, then lay back on the hunter green comforter.

Alex took care to wet his finger thoroughly as he explored his lover's hole. His lover. He could easily fall deeper in love with Walter. And he desperately hoped Walter would fall in love with him. Especially when Walter took over, rolled Alex onto his own back and began to orally torture him, using his teeth, tongue and lips to make sure that Alex wore a mark or two in a few discreet places.

When finally, Alex lay on his side, leg pulled high in the air by a long, golden-honey arm, lubed thoroughly, with Walter's condom-sheathed cock sliding in and out of him, he knew it was where he was meant to be. Later he would ask Walter why he chose that position for their first time, as opposed to facing each other. Walter was succinct in saying; "My first time having a man inside me was a private moment for me, really. I wasn't raised with tolerance for gay men, so to be breached seemed that the last vestige of being a 'real man' was gone and I needed to handle that without my lover staring at me. I wanted to give you that same respect."

At the moment, all Alex truly wanted was to kiss his lover. He turned as much as he could, not being double-jointed, and reached for Walter. After some maneuvering, both men were curled around each other, never separating, nor even slowing down from where they were joined. Alex was impressed with Walter's stamina, even being in a virgin hole. Alex stroked his own cock in time with the thrusts and when he felt Walter hit the magical spot, he jerked almost dislodging the huge cock from his ass.

"Shit, Walter, do that again, please!" he begged as he stroked harder. He knew he was close, and a few more jabs on this prostate were all it took. "One more, yes!" Alex spilled over onto his hand, shooting a little come onto his belly. A few more thrusts into the spasming ass and Walter was shooting as well, both men gasping. Alex turned and took Walter's mouth is a fate-sealing kiss, so they rode out their pleasure connected, a complete circle joined. After a quick clean up, aided by Alex thinking ahead with tissues and a waste basket near the bed, they lay together curled up, as if they had done it for ages.

Back in Pittsburgh, Alex lay curled in the same position, crying in the early morning light, face buried in his pillow, chanting, "Walter...Walter...Walter..."

He didn't notice the other voice at first, but when Debbie sat beside him to stroke his hair and try to pull him into her arms, he went freely, accepting, for the first time in his life, a mother's pure love. "It's all right, Angel. I'm here. I've got you. You're safe, Angel. You're safe, now."

OooOooO

Debbie was tired, but it didn't seem right to leave Lex alone his first night out of the hospital. Despite spending hours out of the last three days with the boy, Debbie still didn't know much about Lex. He had given them a last name. Arntzen . . . he did not look like an Arntzen, but Debbie wasn't going to pry. There was a sad look in those beautiful eyes. Life had kicked him hard. Debbie knew about that all too well, although she never let it keep her down for long.

If she could have found Lex's Walter, Debbie would have given him a piece of her mind. Hearing poor Lex calling for his lover had broken her heart. People were such asses. They let the most trivial things separate them from the people they should care about. Whatever had happened between this Walter and Lex, it shouldn't have been enough to drive Lex away like this.

Debbie knew a running man and Lex was one.

"You have to sleep, Angel; you have to rest and heal," Debbie said, her hands carding through the shining brown hair she had washed for him earlier that day.

"Wha . . . what's in it for you?" Lex asked, stiffening a little in her arms. "I have no money. I can't work right now. I have nothing."

"No, Angel, that's not true. You have me," Debbie said. "And everyone, all my family and friends."

"Why?" Lex asked. "You don't even know me."

"I know you. You're my green-eyed angel," Debbie crooned.

Lex's little nose grew a tiny wrinkle as if he was trying hard to understand her. Debbie said, "Honey, you flew right out of the dark into my arms like a wounded bird. That wouldn't have happened unless there was a purpose. You just have to accept that sometimes people can care about you. They don't have to have a reason."

With a tired sigh, Lex settled back into her arms. He looked at Debbie with that hungry look she knew too well. Brian had looked like that when he watched her with Michael. That was one of the reasons why she never banned her son's best friend from her home, even when he did things she felt were intolerable. It wasn't just because Michael loved Brian. It was because she knew there was a needy child inside the tough exterior. Lex looked even more adrift.

Testing a little, Debbie said, "Your own mother must be missing you."

"Dead," Lex said, "I don't even remember her. She was murdered when I was little."

"Oh, I am so sorry," Debbie said. "It must have been hard for your father to raise you on his own."

"Yeah, real hard, too hard," Lex said. "He threw the towel in when I was five. Dumped me on the state. Bastard promised me he would be back, but he hardly even visited me. Stopped entirely after the first year. "

"Oh, Angel, I am sorry," Debbie said.

"It's not your fault," Lex said. "You've done better by me than my own family. When I'm better, I'll pay you back somehow."

"Don't worry about it, honey," Debbie said, but she was glad that he was proud. Proud, she knew. It had kept her going when her natural optimism failed.

Lex blinked. His eyes were rolling closed. Debbie noted that his eyelashes were even longer than Michael's. Amazing. Debbie always thought that her son's eyes were his best features, big, soulful brown eyes with long black lashes. Lex had lovely eyes, but he was almost pretty where her son was cute. They both had tiny upturned noses. Maybe that was what had her maternal juices flowing.

Almost reluctantly, Debbie lowered Lex's head back to the pillow. Vic poked his head in and said, "You want me to keep watch? You have to work tomorrow."

"In a little while," Debbie said. "I just want to sit with him until I'm sure he will sleep."

"Sure, Sis," Vic said. "But, honey, don't get too attached. This kid's in trouble. Trust me. I know trouble."

"So do I", Debbie said inside, "but it never stopped me from caring."

"I know that too," Vic said.

As Vic gently closed the door, Debbie tucked the blanket more securely around Lex. Maybe she couldn't heal all the pain he had already been through, but she meant to take care of him. She would be his shelter from the storm.

OooOooO

The world was pain. It was nothing new. What was new was that there were people here who gave a fuck, not because anyone was watching them, not because they were being paid to care, not even because anyone was going to put them on a pedestal for doing it. Alex was wary. He was waiting for it. Waiting for them to reveal their true motives.

Now, it was Brian. Brian was the pretty one, as pretty as Alex. He walked into the room as if spotlights shone on him. "I can't believe you talked me into this."

"Honey, Vic has his group. The store kept Michael late doing inventory. Ted is working on an audit. As for Emmett, I have no idea where he's gotten himself off to," Debbie said.

"At least, he's getting off somewhere. Unlike me," Brian said, flopping into the rocking chair with a petulant grimace. "Just remember, I don't do bed pans."

Ouch! Alex smirked as he saw Debbie twist Brian's ear.

"You be nice," Debbie said. "You never know when you might need a friend."

As the door shut, Brian said, "Fuck. Why do I let her do that to me?"

"Look, you don't need to stay. I'm not a baby. I'm all right alone," Alex said.

Picking up a comic book, Brian said, "Yeah, yeah, don't I know that song. You're a tough bitch. You don't need anyone, right?"

"You have no idea," Alex said. Right now, his ass hurt so bad that he could have killed Brian for looking at him.

"You needed someone when Debbie picked your naked body up off the street," Brian said, "And when Tekumi made sure no one looked too deeply into who you are."

"What makes you think I'm hiding something?" Alex asked.

"You can't lie to a liar," Brian said, putting down the comic book. "I actually looked forward to talking to you alone, Lex. I just want you to know that if you hurt Debbie or Michael or even Ted, I'm going to make you regret it."

Stupid ass . . .

Alex had no intention of hurting them. Nor, as a fresh wave of pain ran through him, was he likely to have the opportunity. Inching up by force of will, as his strained and bruised muscles screamed out his agony, Alex kept his eye on the glass of water and the little gold bottle of pain pills on the table. He could feel sweat soaking the tee shirt and boxers Michael had loaned him.

"Ah, shit, if you break any of those stitches, Deb's going to kill me," Brian said.

Smoothly, competently, Brian propped Alex's head higher, slipped the pill into his mouth, and gave him a drink of water to wash it down. A moment later, Brian mopped away the sweat and straightened Alex's bedding.

"I'll give you this. You're a tough bastard," Brian said.

As far as Alex was concerned, Brian had missed his calling. Spender would have loved to recruit this ruthless young man. Maybe Alex would drop the old man a line.

How the hell did he come to this?

Just a few months ago, Alex had the world by the tail. He had made it into the FBI. He had aced his way through the academy and he had the most wonderful lover in the world.

After years of being a nobody, the kid who slept in the extra room, the honor student who couldn't afford to pay for a yearbook or a tux for the prom, Alex expected that he would show them all who he was.

About the only bump in the road was that Alex wasn't going to be able to rub it into his father's face. He remembered when he was still young and stupid enough to believe that his father was coming back. He lived his week in anticipation of seeing his Dad. He would tremble in the back seat of some social worker's cheap car, race into the dingy room with the dumb clown or puppy pictures on the wall, the broken toys and crayon covered books, to hope that this time Dad would come.

Dad visited, at first, looking guilty and haggard. Sometimes, he smelled of booze, the familiar odor making Alex feel a little sick. Dad would bring a small toy sometimes and would mention relatives Alex didn't remember. Dad told Alex one of those people with the funny Russian names would open their home to him and Alex believed him. He would live with them and soon Dad would live there too. No more foster homes, no more social workers. Alex would be just a regular kid.

Soon enough, Dad missed every other visit. Then Alex would be lucky if Dad made one visit a month. He believed the excuses even when the cool voice of the social worker questioned Dad's words.

And, finally, when there were no more visits, Alex lied to himself. Dad was away earning money. He would return with a nice car, new clothes, and Alex would go home with him.

Alex was an old man of ten before he figured it out. That was after he ran away, not once but many times from his best foster home. He had to run because it was too easy to call them Mom and Dad, to pretend his foster brothers and sisters were really related. When he heard the foster father and mother talking to the social worker about adoption, his traitor heart had leaped. That night he dreamed that Dad came back and found out that he let himself be adopted. Dad walked away and Alex knew his Dad would have nothing more to live for. Dad had said that once. "Alex, after your Mom died, you were my life. You were all that I had. We have to stick together, you and I."

Being adopted wasn't sticking together.

Leaving all his nice new clothes behind along with the cool toys and the clean bed, Alex ran.

When they brought him back, Alex ran again. He ran until the day that they didn't return him to the Arntzen family. They locked him up in a home for boys. Alex figured it out then. He promised not to run again, but the Arntzens had new kids. There was no room for him even if Mama Cindy cried when she came to tell him.

Alex never had a good foster home after that. He had a reputation that took years to live down. When he realized his only way out was to work hard in school and to follow the rules in his foster homes, he was already a teenager. Then that one home caught him kissing another boy from school. They had kicked him out and there were social workers all over him, convinced he was a victim of abuse. Finally, one kind soul had asked him if he was gay.

Alex had to ask what that meant, but when he understood, he knew that he was. He liked girls. They were all right, but boys were the ones he imagined. He didn't even know what guys could do together. He just imagined kissing and touching when he let himself dream and play with himself.

It was another long road to push that one kiss far back in his record. By high school, Alex was an honor student and a jock. He made sure he was seen with pretty girls and never hung out with students the other guys said were gay.

Alex had decided on a career by then. He was going to be an FBI agent like Papa Don, Cindy's husband. Once Papa Don told him that part of his job was finding missing people. Alex had asked him if he could find his dad. Papa Don had looked sad and said that was against the rules. Alex had asked his foster father if his computers could have found Alex's father. Papa Don said, "Maybe."

"I'll be an FBI agent then," Alex said. "and the first case I solve will be finding my Dad."

Papa Don had laughed, but Alex had made it through. He had solved the mystery of his father's disappearance. All it took was an unsupervised hour on a FBI computer at the academy. "Vladimir Krycek had died of a combination of cirrhosis of the liver and exposure. His body was found curled up in a dumpster in New York ."

All that time, Alex was running away, rejecting his only chance of having a normal family, his father was dead. Dead and still fucking up Alex's life.

Pretty ironic that Alex had nearly ended his life in a dumpster, too.

Ironic.

Irony sucks.

Life sucks, Alex thought.

However Alex must have said it aloud because Brian Kinney looked at him and laughed. He said, "You and me both, brother, but getting sucked makes it nearly all worth living."

The way Brian looked at him for a moment made Alex feel less like worthless garbage. Brian wasn't Walter, but Alex could look at him and imagine that he could forget what those bastards had done to him.

Maybe. Just maybe.

But right now, Alex was floating away on a pain pill haze. He'd think about Brian later.

OooOooO

Michael sat at the kitchen table, eating lunch with his mother, before her shift at the diner. "This is just ridiculous, Mom. We know nothing about him. He could rob you fucking blind and you'd never know it! You're just in love with him."

"I thought Lex had the green fuckin' eyes around here. Yours are showing." She stood and started to clear the dishes of leftover lasagna.

"I am not jealous, Mom. I'm just saying that..."

"You are too jealous, Michael. And how can he rob me blind? He can't even take a shit, for Christ's sake! He needs help. And how do you know that he's bad?" She stood in her kitchen, hands on her hips, staring at him the way she did throughout his life, whether he'd brought home a bad grade or was caught kissing a boy in his room.

"Mom, come on. Look at him! Why was he hustling in the first place? That should be your first tip off." No matter how old he got, Michael knew that when he argued, he always sounded like a bratty child. He couldn't help it; it was just the way it was.

"I don't ask those kinds of questions, Michael. What I do know is that boy's nursing a pretty bad broken heart. I also know he didn't try to hustle Ted, although that would have been a better fuckin' trick. He asked me why I gave shit about him. I didn't really know what to tell him, Michael. But I know if you were ever that bad off, I'd hope someone's mother would be this fuckin' nice to you, and care for you."

"I wouldn't get in this position in the first fucking place, Mom, now would I?" he said, standing to stomp from the room.

"Oh, you never went home with someone to their place? Sure you have. What if it all looked innocent, and that guy had some fuckin' shithead creep waiting to plow your asshole back out through the other end the way they did to Lex, huh? I don't know if you looked, Michael, but that boy has twice the muscle you do, and look what they did to him. And the bruises on his hands and forearms, the doctor said he put up a helluva fight."

Michael looked at the faded beige linoleum floor of the kitchen. She was right.

"He was not expecting that. And the doctor also said that he had treated hustlers before, and Lex was not a hustler. That's why they were able to use those collagen stitches so he doesn't have to have them removed. They'll just dissolve into his skin, the poor baby. Give him some dignity back."

"I guess..."

"Stop fuckin' guessing and do! Go up there and talk to him. Get to know him. Hell, Brian's up there, probably got the boy to tell him the dirtiest stories by now."

"Yeah, I know." Reluctantly, Michael went to his mother and pressed a kiss to her careworn cheek. She smiled at him.

"Get the fuck out of here, you little shit," she said, mussing his hair. Yeah, she loved him dearly.

OooOooO

Brian sat in the rocking chair, reading a comic book when Michael walked in. Brian looked up at his friend and smiled. "Hey, baby, gonna keep me 'come'-pany?"

Michael held his finger to his lips. "Shhh! He's sleeping," Michael whispered.

"He's sleeping with Prince Percocet. You couldn't wake him if you blew him." Brian looked evilly up at Michael. "Let's get a peek at his package."

"We've seen his package! The night we found him, stupid." Michael took a step toward the bed to try and thwart any movements made by Brian.

"Well, yes, but it was cold and there's that shrivel factor to keep in mind. Besides, he was moaning for 'Walter' again. I'll bet he's sporting wood."

"Touch me and you die, twink," came the gravelly response from the prone form on the bed.

Both men smiled as Lex gingerly rolled away from them and pulled the covers up over his shoulder.

"He's got your number, Brian. I just came to hang a little. I have a two-to-ten shift at the store. God, I hate that place." Michael made a sickly face.

"Think of it this way, Mikey, maybe one day, you'll be manager," Brian said, wiseassed as always.

Lex sat up and winced, but not as strongly as before. He looked at the two friends as they talked. "Either fuck or suck or do something. Entertain me."

Both men looked at each other and grimaced. Michael walked toward the door and stated, "I have to get to work, guys, I'll see you tonight, Lex."

"Later, Mike," Lex said with a wave.

Brian sat back in the rocking chair and looked down at Lex. The man looked like he was feeling better. He'd slept only about an hour, but it seemed to do him good.

"So, how can I entertain you?" Brian purred. Oh, yes, he was a pretty man, just the way Brian liked them. Brian liked anyone and everyone, so it wasn't a far stretch. And he sure as hell wanted the newbie, wanted him against the wall, in bed, on the floor, over a couch...It would be a long time before that happened. The kid was hurt and hurt bad.

"Hey, pretty boy, help me up. I gotta move around. I can't lay in bed forever." Lex was trying to get up on his own. Brian, like a flash, was out of the chair and next to Lex, trying to help him. He understood ignoring the doctor's orders and knowing what your body needed. He went to hold Alex by the waist, and his wrist was caught in an iron grip. "Let me let you know, had I not been cold cocked from behind, I would most likely have been disposing of two bodies. I may be hurt, but I'd rip my ass open to defend myself. Don't make me, yeah?"

Brian laughed. "You're safe. I may not be too picky about who I fuck, but I'll only fuck the willing. All that struggling musses my hair."

The two men looked into each other's eyes, green into hazel. Brian softened first. He wasn't scared of Lex, not really. He was concerned he would accidentally do something that would set Lex off. He was confident, though, that Lex would see it as a mistake and not a misstep.

"So, where am I taking you?" Brian asked, as he secured Lex in an upright position.

"The head. I wanna piss like a man, standing up. You know how hard it is to shake off in that little bottle?" Lex said, cracking a smile.

"Ooh, can this be our first date?" He heard Lex snort a laugh and was relieved the man was becoming comfortable. They made slow progress and Brian stood behind Lex, but not watching.

When Lex was done, he gave Brian a serious look. "Our first date will be much better than water sports in my mom's bathroom."

Brian was a little taken aback by Lex's statement. Yes, he wanted the man, but a real first date wasn't necessary. Hell, it wasn't even necessary for Lex to bottom, either. Brian would happily bend over for his new friend. Yeah, Lex was a friend. He'd already taken to Debbie, and she didn't just give away her affections easily. Lex called her his mom. She must have touched a nerve in the man, as well.

After Lex had washed his hands, Brian asked, "Now where to, handsome?" He figured, continue the light-hearted play until the man said stop.

"How about a TV? I'm bored stiff in that room," he said.

"How stiff, baby?" Brian asked, smiling. Lex glared back. "Alright, I'll stop. For now."

Lex shook his head and allowed Brian to help him down the stairs. To his own surprise, Brian helped Lex sit carefully, propped his feet up on the coffee table and even got him a glass of Debbie's diet soda. He sat with his own diet soda and they watched horrible daytime TV. Lex admitted he'd never watched the court shows nor the talk shows. He particularly liked the way everyone swore at each other and started fights.

Brian just watched Lex for a while, until he dozed off.

OooOooO

Debbie walked into the house and saw the two young men she had left in the bedroom asleep in her living room, television still on. They both looked like little boys when they slept, with all the stress, pain and worry of their lives wiped away. No matter what they've done, no matter who's hurt them, it all disappears.

She went to the kitchen and left the dinner she'd brought for them on the stove. Lex had clear broth, chicken, turkey and beef, and Jell-o, red and orange. She put the cold stuff in the fridge and began writing a note for them on the white board. As she walked back to the door to get back to the diner, Lex sat up and groaned. She turned quickly and said, "Hey, Angel, you're up!"

A big smile plastered on her face, covering her concern for him, she went over and kissed his brow.

"Hi, Deb. Aren't you supposed to be at the diner?" he asked, rubbing his eyes like a little boy. Debbie mussed his long, silky hair and smiled.

"Knowing Brian, he can't cook you what you need, and I thought I'd take a break and bring you boys some dinner. There's clear broth for you and Jell-o. I left a burger for Prince Useless. Make sure you two don't stay up all night. I'll be late, OK?"

Lex smiled up at her. "I may not wait up for you, depending on how I feel. But I'll try."

"If you need sleep, Angel, you just get it, OK, baby?"

"Want to make sure you get home safe" he said with a yawn, then put his head back down to sleep.

Debbie pulled the blanket back up to his shoulders, noting that the house was a bit cold, and took the extra afghan to lay across Brian. She placed a soft hand on his head and left the boys to sleep.

OooOooO

After another week of trying to get these people to realize he was getting better in leaps and bounds, and not taking anymore pain pills, Alex was taken for his last doctor's appointment. He was pronounced mostly healed. He had been allowed to have pureed baby food fruit so that he would have soft bowel movements for the first few days. He was cautioned not to have any anal intercourse at all for another month. He snorted at that last instruction.

"Alex," the doctor said, sitting on his stool so that Alex's head was above his. "I'm not suggesting anything about your attack. I am giving you an instruction. You're a young, healthy, virile man. And you are very handsome, so I imagine you have an active social life. Lay off your ass. How is your counseling going?"

Another derisive snort. "You declined counseling? Why? What happened to you is no different than what happens to a woman. And you would never want to see your..."

"Look! I'm not some woman who was almost killed. I'm fine. I can take care of myself. I'll be a lot more careful about who I go home with, and where I go. OK? I'm a trained..." and he stopped there. He wasn't a trained FBI agent anymore. And Quantico taught him how to help a victim, not how to be one.

It was one of the things that helped him dismiss the nightmares quickly, chanting his training. "Not my fault, they can't hurt me anymore. I know better. I didn't deserve this. I'm better than this. J. Edgar Fucking Hoover said so. He was gay as blazes, too. Not my fault. Not my fault."

It was how he could sit there, look the doctor in the eye and tell him he would be fine. And it was how he knew the next time he came, it would be in someone else's ass.

With a handshake and smile, Alex walked out of the doctor's office where Debbie and Michael waited for him. "How did you do, Angel?"

"Clean bill of health, my ass is ready for action!" he said, making Debbie laugh and Michael roll his eyes.

They got into Michael's car and started back for the house. "So what are your plans now that you're better?" she asked. Alex could hear a little slip of sadness in her voice. The lady was nice, and he was a little attached himself. He didn't want to go.

"I was gonna talk to you about that. I mean, you've done so much for me, the only way I can think to pay you back...can I work off my tab at the diner?" Alex watched Michael's huge eyes in the rear view mirror as he considered Alex's request.

"Angel, what we did for you..."

"Yeah, but I'm not anyone. I wasn't...I mean, I can't just let you go through all that and not give back, OK? I can bus tables, clean up, little things that no one wants to do, I don't care. I...I mean..."

"What, baby?" she asked, turning in the seat towards him.

"I've got no where to go. If I work, I've got a roof, right?" He knew he was pathetic. He knew he was a disgrace to the Arntzens as it was; he didn't need to disgust himself. But he was close to begging. And he didn't care what that prissy bitch Michael thought about him. He had no clue how great his mom really was.

"Angel, so long as I have a roof, so do you. You can start tomorrow, first thing in the morning with me. Shift starts at seven."

The whole way home, Alex was ecstatic. He had a purpose and he had a goal. He had a rough estimate in his head of what he owed. If he would get paid minimum wage, he'd be able to pay Debbie back in a few months. Alex wasn't sure he would be able to get used to all the people in the diner seeing his face, but maybe he could get Debbie to color his hair blonde or something.

Back at the house, Debbie went to her room, and as soon as her door was closed, Michael cornered Alex. "Look, you...you...whatever you are. If you hurt my mother, in any way, I'll kill you myself. You got me?"

Alex smiled and decided he needed to loosen up this tight-assed boy. Maybe literally. He leaned in and kissed Michael deeply, pressing his tongue through the pouty, delicious mouth. Michael didn't kiss back, but he didn't pull away either. Alex held his face gently and let the kiss just fade away. Michael was slow to open his eyes.

"I'll treat your mother as if she was my own. I'd cut my arm off before I'd hurt her. And I'd kill anyone who did hurt her." Alex's voice was soft, but he was serious. Michael's eyes flashed with fear for a moment, then he saw what Alex figured Debbie saw. And Brian saw. Michael gave a little smile and nodded. Alex figured what the hell and kissed him again. This time Michael kissed back.

OooOooO

"Got to get my head together," Alex told himself. Last night's flirtation with Michael had been amusing and resulted in the first stirring of little Alex since . . .

No, Alex didn't want to even think about it. He wasn't going there. His aches and pains were all back suddenly and he tossed in the bed until he heard Debbie stirring in the kitchen. Slowly, he got out of bed and stiffly walked to the bathroom. He had chosen an old shirt of Brian's and blue jeans purchased by Debbie at a rummage sale to wear.

Walter would have laughed himself sick. Alex peeled off the sweats he wore to bed and hung them behind the door. He couldn't remember the last time he wore pajamas. Even in the academy, he had slept in boxers. At his apartment, he had slept nude. Now, he wasn't happy unless he was layered in clothing and tightly wrapped in his blankets. Yeah, he knew what it was all about, but that didn't stop him from the need to keep a barrier between his body and the world.

Running the water, Alex grabbed a washcloth and jumped into the shower, shutting his eyes as he shampooed his hair and bathed as quickly as he could. Even drying off, he didn't want to look at himself. He hated his body. It had failed him. After all the training, everything he had learned to make sure that no one ever hurt him again, his body had punked out. He had been raped. His body had been used against his will as Spender had twisted and used his mind.

Ah, shit.

No tears.

Alex would not weep.

A few moments later, Alex emerged from the bathroom, his face expressionless. He passed Michael in the hall. He stared him up and down with studied arrogance until Michael blushed and hurried away. Yeah, that was better.

Coming into the kitchen, Alex sniffed. Waffles. Not the kind that Mulder had in his fridge either, that one time he had driven him to work. These were freshly made, smelling sweet and buttery. Alex's stomach growled suddenly.

Debbie turned, a bottle of syrup in one hand and a jar of honey in the other, and smiled at him. "Which do you like, Angel?"

"Honey," Alex said, reaching for the jar.

"Sweet, just like you," Debbie said. "Are you sure you feel well enough to come to work today?"

"Yeah," Alex said. "I can work. I feel fine."

"Your eyes look tired, Angel," Debbie said. "I know you're still not sleeping well."

"I'm fine," Alex said. "It'll be good to have something to do. I was bored."

"Okay, but if you get tired, you need to go have a lie down," Debbie ordered.

"Yes, Mom," Alex said. He was teasing, but maybe he wasn't. She reminded him of Mrs. Arntzen.

Mrs. Arntzen had been plump like Debbie although her hair had been dark. She had worn it in long braids that she had woven into a pretty bun when she went out. When Alex tried to imagine his mother, the closest thing he could get to her was Mrs. Arntzen. Mrs. Arntzen had cooked breakfast nearly every morning too, steaming hot breakfasts very unlike the generic cereals and reconstituted milk that he had been served at most of his foster homes.

"Can I get something?" Alex asked.

"Sure, sweetie, get the orange juice," Debbie said.

Alex lifted the pitcher off the first shelf. It wasn't fresh squeezed like Walter liked, but it smelled good too or maybe he was just hungry. His appetite hadn't come back even after the doctors said he could eat real food again. Now, he was starved. He hastened to pull the chair out for Debbie, accepting her smile in tribute.

"This all looks great," Alex said.

Michael arrived, dressed in his white shirt and dark slacks for work. At least someone dressed worse than little Agent Krycek. Michael said, "Waffles? When was the last time you made ME waffles?"

"Today," Debbie said, pointing toward a plate. "Sorry. No happy face today. Out of bacon."

"Mom," Michael protested, but he sat down and pulled his plate toward him promptly.

Dribbling honey over his waffle, Alex smirked at Michael. Michael rolled his eyes and said, "Lex, you are a spoiled brat!"

"Takes one to know one," Alex shot back, comfortable here. All too comfortable in Debbie's house.

OooOooO

The diner was hopping. People came and went, mostly men, mostly in pairs, but there were women too, including a ditzy blond earth mother type who introduced herself as a school mate of Michael and Brian's. The food was okay, but Alex was pretty sure that the food was not the attraction. As was his way, he watched closely and came to a silent conclusion. Debbie was the four star attraction. She either knew everyone or made everyone feel as if she did. She joked, cajoled, babied, bullied, and carried the world not on her shoulders, but on her hip like a beloved child.

Debbie rarely let her mask slip. Once or twice, Alex saw her slump in a chair for a moment, her weary feet propped on a box. He said nothing, but worked harder to anticipate what she would need or how he could save her a trip or two. If he smiled and looked pretty, the customers didn't mind his inexpert service when he poured them coffee or served them a slice of pie. As a matter of fact, coffee and dessert orders increased by a landside by the second day of Alex's work.

Amused, Alex flirted, staying behind his mask, making sure that his arrival in this enclave was a footnote to the greater story of how sexy, how powerful, how in control he was. He swaggered when he walked back into the kitchen with their dirty dishes, a prince of the universe in disguise as a peasant. Tips were bigger when he found a reason to bend low near tables, wiggling his sweet ass as he picked up a fallen utensil or a stray napkin. As always, he was good at what he did. That was how he survived.

The third day of work, Emmett and Ted waved him over. They were sitting with Tekumi Eto, who smiled at him warmly and patted the seat.

"I'm still not buying any," Alex reminded. He had put up with Tekumi's efforts to draw him out as long as he thought it was required in order for that hospital bill to be paid. When Tekumi had told him that it wasn't obligatory to have the counseling to accept the charity, Alex had snarled at him and dismissed him. If he had wounds, he preferred to lick them in private.

"I told you I didn't need counseling," Alex said, keeping his eye on Debbie's expression.

"I heard you weren't sleeping well," Tekumi said.

"Yeah, well, I needed to get my ass in gear and have a reason to be tired," Alex said.

"Whatever works for you," Tekumi said, agreeably.

The guy was likable, at least compared to the FBI shrinks and Spender's lab geeks whom Alex always thought wanted to pull his brain out and vivisect it. Still, Alex didn't have the luxury of exposing all those soft and vulnerable places. It was better to form scar tissue to protect him from further pain.

OooOooO

Debbie watched Lex stalk away from her little scheme. Damn, she had thought he might fall for the help in a social guise. Brian had said that Tekumi could draw anyone out, even him. Shit, now that was someone who had skill. Brian was as deeply guarded as the Pentagon.

"Angel, you should take a break, walk outside with Tekumi. He wants to help you," Debbie said, her hand softly holding Lex's arm.

"Debbie, don't ask me for things I can't deliver. I appreciate your help," Lex said, "but that's not happening. I can deal with what happened. Believe me. I'm handling it."

"Yeah, and that's why you end up screaming and crying every night?" Debbie challenged.

"I'm taking a break," Lex said, his arm stiffening beneath her grip. "Going out for a walk."

"Lex," Debbie said.

"I'll be back," Lex said. He shrugged on the black leather jacket that Brian had donated and walked out the back door.

Damn.

Debbie knew Lex was hurting, but he wouldn't talk about it. His refusal to let Tekumi help was just a symptom. He flirted with everyone, seemed to need to be reassured that he was beautiful and sexy, but Debbie knew that Lex wasn't sexually active yet. Not a big deal for most people, although none of her boys seemed to go more than a day or so without at least trying to get laid. Lex acted like a tomcat on the prowl, but he wasn't delivering; Debbie had caught that as the subject of conversation between Michael and Brian just yesterday. She had given them a piece of her mind for bitching about that, but it worried the hell out of her. Watching her boys gave her an accurate picture of how often they had or thought about having sex. Pretty much every day, around the clock.

Lex seemed to be going through the motions, but Debbie knew he was hurting. Why was it so hard for some people to accept help?

OooOooO

Snowflakes hit his face the moment Alex stepped out into the alley behind the diner. He gathered the lapels of Brian's leather jacket closer and cautiously looked around. Emmett had said there was a creepy looking guy staring at Alex the other day. When Alex looked, he hadn't seen anyone, but he had that itchy feeling between his shoulder blades like someone was drawing a bead on him. Emmett had typically described the guy only as silver, but definitely not a fox. Then he had added that the guy had a big nose so maybe he had a big cock too.

It sounded enough like the guy who had almost killed Alex to chill him to the bone. Crap, Alex wanted to run back to Debbie's and huddle under the bed. The son of a bitch had broken him; Alex knew he could beat the fear, but it was still so pervasive, so overwhelming that his stomach churned and his legs went weak at the very thought of that bastard.

Walking faster, Alex fought the useless adrenaline that sped through his body. He needed to kill the bastards. He had to find them and kill them then the fear would be gone. Then he would be in control again. How many times when he was a kid had he sworn that no one would make his decisions when he grew up? No more social workers doing 'what's best for you, Alex'. No more foster parents sanctimoniously trying to pretend that they weren't dumping him 'We just aren't the ones who can help you, Alex'.

When was Debbie going to say that? Soon, no doubt.

Pissed at her in advance, Alex took the key she had given him and tossed it into the street. A moment later, he bent to pick it up. As he did, the distinct sound of a bullet whirred over his head. He saw the flash, but not the shooter. He had instinctively reached for the gun that should have been in a holster in his shoulder, but he wasn't an FBI agent now. He wasn't even one of Spender's hired goons. He was a fucking rabbit and it was hunting season.

The key clutched in his hand, Alex ducked and weaved his way back to the diner. He made his way into the diner and went to work, bussing dirty dishes back to the already laden sink. He hoped everyone thought his quiet demeanor was embarrassment at his earlier tantrum. He needed a weapon. He could guess who the man was who took a shot at him. Next time, he might not be alone. It would kill him if a shot meant for him hit Debbie instead.

"Angel, you look so pale," Debbie said. "You should go home and lie down."

"I'm all right," Alex said. "Hey, would it be all right if I kept some of my tips? There are a few things I'm going to need."

"Sure, baby," Debbie said. "Don't worry about it. You're doing the work of two men."

On impulse, Alex put his arms around her and hugged her hard. He was wrong. Debbie was different from most of his foster parents. She was someone special. And no one was going to hurt her if he could help it.

Not even himself.

OooOooO

When Lex walked back into the diner, Debbie knew something was wrong. He'd left through the front door, and reentered the back. She knew there were several yards and fences he'd have to get past in order to accomplish what he did. As he hung the jacket on his peg, Debbie saw the sweat-soaked fringe of hair at the nape of his neck. And he was shaking. It was a minute shaking, but still, he had a good scare when he was outside.

When Lex brought the dishes into the back, she walked over and said, "Angel, sweetie, come with me into the store room? I need some supplies for the front."

Turning as if he weren't expecting anyone behind him, Lex looked at her and then smiled. He followed her into the storeroom looking around at the neatly stacked shelves and racks. When Debbie closed the door, she watched Lex spin around and stare at her with wide, frightened eyes. Then the easy, flirty smile she'd grown to enjoy came across his face as he walked up to her. "You know, I always did like chubby redheads, Deb. You wanna see if you can make me a switch hitter?"

With a strong slap to his arm, Debbie smiled and let out one of her raspy, throaty laughs. "Fuckin' comedian, huh? I wanna talk to you, Lex. What happened outside?"

He looked back at her with a cocked head. She wasn't buying it. "You walked in here white as a sheet and sweating like a pig. Something happened and I wanna know what."

Smiling, he slipped his arms around her shoulders and hugged her. "Deb, there was like this kid, and he almost got hit by a car and I like, just got scared."

Bullshit. She knew it was total bullshit. And she didn't like being lied to. "You know, you little fucker..." She pulled back and saw a fleeting moment of terror in his emerald eyes, and then he blinked back to his cool suave self. "You don't have to lie to me, Angel. I just wanted to know why you looked like you saw...did you see the men who hurt you?"

The easy smile faltered a little, but was back with a vengeance. "Nah, not that. I'm OK, Deb. I promise. Kay?"

She let him place a kiss on her head and give her a tight hug. "You ever lie to me again, I'll kick your fuckin' ass! Cute as it is."

With that, Debbie left Lex in the storeroom. She hoped he'd wash his face in the sink and get on with his shift. It seemed that Lex liked to bury himself in his work, and he worked very hard. And of course, Lex did bury his head in work. He wiggled his ass, washed his jeans every night and put them in the drier on high so they'd be tight as hell in the morning to get better tips. He wasn't afraid to get on his hands and knees with Lysol and a scrub brush to clean the john, either. She respected the kid. He wasn't afraid of hard work. It would be his payoff in the long run.

OooOooO

What the fuck was he going to do? He had to leave and soon. He knew that he didn't have close to what he should to pay back Debbie, but if he stayed any longer, it would be a disaster. And Alex did not want to play fast and loose with the lives of his friends.

On the other hand, he didn't have any money to be on the run with. He'd need to get a new identity, passport, and airfare to Hong Kong. That's where the DAT tape was. That's where he could make money without selling his ass. Anything not to have to do that. He wasn't up to it. He wasn't having active nightmares anymore, but sometimes they'd start to get dark, and he'd think about Walter, pull him into the dream, and Walter would make it better. A trick he'd read about in the library in a book about dreams and controlling them. It helped him to get a full night's sleep and he was a much better flirt when he wasn't dragging.

Debbie was a great boss. He worked off the books and she let him keep his tips, so he had money. It just wasn't enough. And short of robbing her, which was out of the question, it would take weeks to get enough for the new papers, much less a ticket to Hong Kong.

It was about a week later that Brian, Michael, Emmett and Teddy swept into the diner, all laughing and joking. Alex sauntered by and stopped, asking, "Coffee and the usual, guys?"

"Oh, and more than that, sweetie," Emmett drawled.

Alex looked on, intrigued. Brian sat back and smiled. "I've made full time at my firm since graduation. I just closed my first solo account and I'm having a house warming at the loft. You're invited. Wear little."

Alex snickered and said, "Thanks, I appreciate that. I'll be there. When?"

"Saturday night, of course," he supplied, looking Alex over like he was a menu. The biggest surprise was that Alex didn't feel odd at the visual appraisal from Brian. It was the opposite, in fact. He felt a hot rush through his loins, and thought he would be on the verge of embarrassing himself. Then thought better and knew he would get bigger tips, and let his imagination run riot at the sight in his mind's eye of Brian on all fours, pistoning in and out of his body. Of course, everyone noticed. And there were several phone numbers left at every table for Alex that shift.

When Saturday arrived, Alex took his impressive tip money, and bought his party outfit. Leather pants from a vintage store, something akin to what Jim Morrison was always photographed wearing, in chocolate brown. He found some low boots to match, buttery soft. He was lucky to find lightly used things so cheap, in his size. The shirt he bought was new, an emerald, satin, tight T-shirt that showed the state of arousal of his nipples.

He showered and shaved again that evening, dousing with just enough cologne, and adding a new product to his hair that Emmett had suggested. The texturizer in his wet hair gave it the slick look of gel and not the fixed helmet, so his hair would move and still look great. God bless, Emmett. When he got to the first floor, Debbie and Vic looked him over. They had been invited as well, but declined, realizing it was a party for the younger ones, and sent their good wishes and gifts on with Michael.

Ted and Emmett waited in Ted's car out front for him, and Alex couldn't wait to see what Emmett was wearing. As it turned out, gold lame was the theme of the night, complete with sunglasses to match. Alex always joked he wasn't "that kind of fag" who could decorate a room or redo someone's wardrobe. That was Emmett. Usually, flamboyance wasn't his thing, but something about Emmett was pure and sweet, and that made him smile, thankful he knew the man. Ted was different.

Remembering back to the night he met the man, and thinking he was the one Alex should have gone home with, Ted was a friend you could always count on. He would always make time to drive Alex to the doctor, or to go on shopping trips for Debbie and Vic. Ted was probably the most reliable person Alex had met since...he wasn't going to think about his past. They gave him away just like everyone else, and Ted did, too. Right to those men who...was he going to relive every shitty thing that had happened in his life that night? Or was he going to grab a beer, get silly, dance and maybe get laid that night? The latter sounded better in his head.

Brian's apartment was the top floor of a warehouse-type set of loft apartments. The industrial elevator was a nice touch. The huge iron door on rolling runners gave it charm. The brick walls and wood floors were so New York in their simple, unfinished presentation. Yet, if Alex knew Brian the way he thought he did, there would be many coats of clear polyurethane on both before he was settled in properly.

When the three men walked in, the party had already started and was a third of the way toward its goal: a massive orgy. There were men everywhere, all in various states of dress. Alex decided to tuck himself into a corner with a beer and just watch. Most everyone was satisfied with dancing and making out. Brian was a master of ceremonies, keeping things from getting completely out of hand. He stopped by to see Alex a few times, garnering hugs and even a kiss at one point before flitting off to make the rounds and see to the comfort all of his guests. Alex enjoyed watching the show.

OooOooO

Throughout the night, several men had made their way over to Alex to talk, ask to dance and more, and usually politely shot down. Brian had wondered if Lex was having a good time or not, until he asked Lex to dance, and surprisingly got an agreement. Brian led Lex out onto the floor and they danced like two wild spirits. Lex hadn't even been to Babylon yet, but that was next. If the man danced all the time the way he was dancing at that moment, he would be a sought after property at Babylon. If he was ready. And the way he was rubbing against Brian, he was ready. Brian would even bottom.

They danced through a few numbers until a few of the guests got very friendly, starting the orgy. Brian grabbed onto Lex, intending to pull him toward the action, but noticed that Lex looked rather reluctant. It was a small price to pay breaking up the action to keep his potential lover calm. "Let me go and break these pussies up and I'll get some good wine out."

He pressed a soft kiss to Lex's neck, getting rewarded with a smile and a playful growl. Brian was fast, efficient and kicked everyone to the curb, slamming his heavy door shut behind them. He poured two glasses of his best red wine, having stashed it way in the back under the sink for the party. He had enough booze out for those guys. Lex was something entirely different.

Lex, it seemed, was in the same mood as Brian, and they sipped their wine demurely for a few minutes before beginning to devour each other. It was animalistic, almost vicious the way Lex fought his clothes off him, until they were both completely naked and lying in Brian's wide, platform bed. Lex, then, became very gentle as if a switch was thrown.

Lex's hands were gentle, sliding over Brian's chest and belly, his mouth following not far behind, licking, tasting, teasing the flesh it passed. Brian shocked himself at how easily he allowed Lex to top him, to haul his legs up and feel the hot, slick tongue flick behind his balls and trail down to his ass. His secret weakness, rimming. It turned him into a loose slut, and this time was no different.

He was only half aware as Lex knelt up above him, rolled on the condom, greased them both and started working his way in. "Yeah, oh God, yeah Lex, fuck me."

Lex started slowly, teasing Brian, which was something Brian wasn't really good at with his partners yet. But Lex was older than him, by a good five years at least. And Lex did something that Brian rarely did; he bent over and lay on Brian's chest to start kissing him. The thrusting tempo rose, as did the pitch of Brian's whines. Lex continued to kiss him, hushing him, and Brian felt Lex's cock shift inside him. It started hitting the spot, that magic spot, the most wonderful spot in the world. He suddenly wondered why he rarely bottomed, as Lex's cock battered his prostate. Brian jerked and moved, bucked and moaned until with a kiss on his neck and a bite on his earlobe, Brian came, spurting come between their bodies and thoroughly shocking himself that he came without touching his own cock. Lex followed right behind, filling the condom sheathing him and slowing to lie across Brian's chest as they both worked to regain their breaths.

Brian barely noticed Lex roll off to dump the condom and wipe them up with tissues. Soon, the man was back beside him, and Brian got a good look. The waifish thinness of Lex's body had filled in, and he was thick, strong and lush. His ass was even more delicious than when he first ran into their lives. Brian rolled onto his side and propped his head up on his hand. He looked Lex up and down and said, "So, who were you running away from when you came to the Pitts?"

OooOooO

Alex felt his muscles tense at the question. He moved away from Brian and stared at the opposite wall. "You don't want to know that, pretty boy."

Brian snorted, probably objecting to the description. "Maybe I could help?"

"Forget about it," Alex said. "I mean that. Once I'm gone, you need to forget you ever knew me."

"You aren't going to hang around?" Brian asked, sounding disappointed.

"No, if I can figure out how to make some money, I'd be out of here already," Alex said.

Glancing at Brian, Alex was relieved to see that his friend was going to let his history drop.

"You know the way you like shaking your thing at the diner for tips, you're missing the obvious," Brian drawled.

"Yeah?" Alex asked. "I don't do porn or hooking."

"You like to dance, sweet thing," Brian said. "Why not do it for money? I know a man . . ."

Alex did like to dance. He couldn't say that he was a great dancer. He thought of himself as somewhat clumsy except when he was fighting. When he was fighting for his life, his body knew what the hell to do. Still, from what he remembered of his one visit to Babylon, you didn't have to be Baryshnikov as long as you were sexy. Sexy, Alex could do.

Pouncing on Brian, Alex decided to show his gratitude in a way Brian would appreciate. Grinning down at the sexy, pouting face, Alex purred, "Let's dance. Let's dance right here. If you're up to it, little boy."

"Oh, I'm up to it," Brian replied, hooking a leg to get Lex under him.

There was a moment when instinct started to kick in and then Alex was able to tell himself that it was just Brian. Relaxing, he stared up at Brian, trusting him almost as much . . . well, not to go there.

Lowering his face, Brian teased Alex's nipple erect. "You taste damn good," Brian growled.

Brian's hair was wet with sweat. The smell of sex was still heavy in the air, not yet grown unpleasant, just heating the atmosphere for them. Tongue lapping at his belly, hand insinuating between his legs, Brian was performing for him, teasing him. A light touch beneath him and Alex warned, "Brian, I'm not ready for that."

"Yeah, just a finger," Brian said.

Thinking about it, Alex tried to relax. He used to enjoy that even before he let Walter take his ass. Thick with lube, the finger gently pressed him open as Brian let him slide deep into his throat. It was all right, better than all right. With a groan, Alex forgot all about his fears, losing himself in the expert blowjob. Brian teased him, flicking his tongue lightly over him when Alex started to shudder with impending orgasm, backing away, grinning as Alex arched toward him.

"You better finish it," Alex threatened.

"Maybe," Brian teased.

"Now," Alex bullied, pulling Brian's head toward him.

Heat enveloped him, Brian dropping his tease to deliver what Alex wanted, taking him deep, his hands almost bruising Alex as they gripped his hips, head moving with rapid, eager jerks until Alex felt the top of his head blow off with his second orgasm of the night.

Moments later, Alex returned the favor, giving Brian as good as he gave. This time he let Brian come in his mouth, wonderful intimate blending of flesh and soul as that was. They fell asleep together in the ravaged bedding, naked limbs entangled, Alex's foot dangling over the bed nearly to the floor. Brian's hand rested tenderly on Alex's ass, reminding him again of Walter.

There wouldn't be much more of this, Alex reminded himself. He had to leave soon. If he cared about these people at all, he had to get away.

OooOooO

Brian's loft was deserted when Alex woke. Shit, he couldn't believe that he had slept through Brian getting dressed and going to work. He yawned and stretched. The loft smelled of liquor, sex, and coffee. The coffee part was good. His clothing was piled on a chair along with clean underwear that must have been Brian's. Nice. Thoughtful. He must have been really good last night, as those words normally didn't describe Brian Kinney.

Stumbling to the coffee machine, Alex poured a cup, closing his eyes as he let the rich brew seep into his body. He needed a shower. He stunk of sex. His body still felt sensitized, ready for more. His morning erection bobbed hopefully, but he had no intention of satisfying it.

The shower was great in Brian's bathroom. There was plenty of room for two in there, but Alex was glad Brian had not tried to wake him. He needed to be alone with his thoughts. Most of them were good ones. He was glad to be alive again. He felt as if some of his missing pieces were back. Brian had been the antidote to the fear that had been stalking him.

The beautiful, and self-centered, young man wasn't going to be the love of Alex's life. Alex smirked as he dried himself. Brian Kinney was the great love of his own life. He'd never be the kind of lover that Walter had been, but Alex didn't want that anymore. He knew he didn't, no matter what the wounded creature inside of him said.

Catching a glimpse of himself in the steamy mirror, Alex didn't like what he saw. His eyes were huge, desperate, frightened. He had to do better than that. He refused to be a victim. Spender was the last person who was going to lead him around on a leash. If Alex couldn't be one of the good guys, at least, he was going to be a top rat. No more Spender jerking him by the balls.

OooOooO

Debbie knew that Lex had spent the night at Brian's. If nothing else, she could tell by Michael's sullen face. There were times when she felt like dragging her son and Brian into a room and ordering them not to come out until they had fucked all the unresolved lust out of them.

The only thing stopping her was fear that Michael's tender heart would be broken beyond repair. Brian was someone special to her son, not a fact that pleased her. She cared about Brian, but he was a lot like a beautiful Siamese cat she had when she was a girl. The cat demanded its food, would tolerate an occasional touch, but if she tried to pick it up or cuddle it, she would wear its marks for the next week. Brian didn't want a relationship. He wanted conquests, assuring him that he was the most beautiful, filling the empty places left by his good-for-nothing parents in his flawed heart.

"You left early," Lex said, his tone purring and teasing.

"I had an evening shift," Michael said, spooning more brown sugar onto his oatmeal.

"Whatever," Lex said, his voice sounding smugly amused.

Debbie sighed. Maybe Brian was what Lex needed, but she didn't need another Brian on her hands. She admitted she preferred Lex as a waif. The wounded kitten was lovable. This Lex was someone new and she didn't know if she liked him at all.

Eyes softer, Lex turned to Debbie and said, "I have to leave early today. Brian is going to set me up with an audition at Babylon. I need to get some money together. There's a business opportunity I need to get to."

"Dancing?" Debbie said. "Lex? Are you really up to that?"

"I'm all better," Lex assured, his chin ducking low and his eyes veiled with those enviable lashes.

"I didn't mean physically," Debbie said. She didn't think shaking his wares in front of all those horny guys was good for the boy.

"Deb, I never was who you thought I was," Lex said, his voice dropping to a husky note that was very distracting even for a Debbie in mother-mode.

"Angel, I'm not sure you are who you think you are," Debbie replied. "You can pretend things don't bother you, but I know better."

The smile that crossed Lex's lips was odd. He shook his head, refusing to discuss it further. He said, "I'll come back after I finish and clean the kitchen to satisfy the meanest Marine NCO in Parris Island. Just leave the mess. You can count on me."

"Thanks, sweetie," Debbie said, but she had no intention of leaving the work for Lex. Although right now, she felt as if the day's work was going to be accomplished with a four-ton elephant riding on her shoulders.

Kissing Michael, Debbie said, "You tell that boss of yours that your mother is going to have a word with him if he calls you back for a day shift after a swing shift. It's not fair."

"Yes, Mother," Michael said.

Kissing Lex too, Debbie said, "I'll see you later."

OooOooO

With limited resources for costuming, Alex had chosen a pair of black denim jeans, a skimpy black muscle shirt, and the worn, but well fitting boots he had found at the AIDS benefit rummage. Debbie had dragged him to it. Mulder would have laughed himself sick to see Alex pretending to enjoy rummaging through everything from sequined drag queen dresses to leather daddy chaps. It had surprised the hell out of him to find the designer boots made of supple black leather. They even fit his rather large feet.

"Looking good," Brian said, eying Alex with a hungry gaze.

Damn, Alex had heard that Brian hardly ever did repeat fucks. One to a customer and don't expect to spend the night unless you were good enough to be on the morning menu. The way he was looking at Alex, though, suggested that he was considering dragging him off to the infamous back room instead of to the manager's office.

Jerking his chin toward the office, Alex said, "Come on. I have to get back to the diner in time to clean the kitchen. I promised Deb."

"What? She have you by the cock ring?" Brian sneered. "Come on, Lex. Let's see you shake it. Bud's a sleezeball, but he pays you. And the tips...they're great. If you're good."

Bud had a cigarette hanging from his mouth, a God-damned Morley cigarette, at that. Alex disliked him on sight for that. Bud wore an off-purple suit, a black shirt, and enough diamond rings to open a branch jewelry store.

Looking Alex up and down, Bud said, "He's got the looks, but it takes more than that, before you dance here. It's not just eye candy. It's attitude. You got to have it smoldering. Make them think they want it so bad that they can taste it. Can you do that, kid?"

"Watch me," Alex said, but he wasn't feeling as confident as he sounded.

The music started, a sexy techno beat that Alex normally would have enjoyed. He tried to forget that Bud was watching him, but the image that came into his mind was worse. He could see Agent Scully watching him with one Spock-like eyebrow raised as he gyrated. He felt exposed, clumsy, and what he intended to be sexy pelvic thrusts came off like someone's moronic cocker spaniel humping the air.

Bud's laugh was derisive. "Yeah, pretty, but I wouldn't even let you dance near the stage, much less on it. Brian, you're losing your touch, bringing me this."

"Wait a second," Brian said.

Gripping Alex's face lightly, Brian kissed his lips. "You try again, Lex. I want you to think about me looking at you. Just me. You're in my bedroom. I'm waiting for you in bed, stroking my hard cock, but you're teasing. You're giving me a show. Come on, lover. Show it to me."

Alex needed that money. Brian's idea was good, but not quite the trick.

Closing his eyes, Alex thought about dancing for Walter. His hands became those of his lover, exploring him, worshipping him, pinching his nipples erect, stroking down his ribs, teasing along his belly before they came to rest on Alex's ass. Gasping, Alex opened his eyes, but all he could see was Walter. Walter's brown eyes devouring him, making him feel beautiful, wanted, infinitely desirable.

Alex's body came alive. No one was in the room but Walter and he wanted to make his lover desire him. He wanted to make Walter come with the mere sight of him dancing. He knew he was hard. He knew what he must look like; sweat glistening on his face, his belly exposed by his . . . Walter's hand exploring his heated flesh. The music ended as Alex thrust into the air, imagining the one time he had fucked Walter.

Panting, Alex looked at Bud.

"Okay, if you can do it like that out there, it's yours," Bud said. "You want to come into my private office to talk about it?"

Brian grabbed Alex and said, "He can talk to you later. Right now, we have some business . . . in the back room."

OooOooO

There were no lights in the diner when Alex arrived. Alex moved toward the kitchen. Debbie slumped on a chair, staring dispiritedly at a mop bucket. "Hi, Angel, I meant to have this all done. My get up and go has got up and gone."

"Don't worry, Mom," Alex said, "I said I would do it."

"Did you get the job, hon?" Debbie asked.

"Yes, I danced tonight. Got a hundred dollars in tips in half an hour. I'm going to be dancing every night from now on, but don't worry. I'll still clean up for you," Alex said. He pulled up a crate for Debbie's feet. "You just rest and watch me work."

"I can do that," Debbie said. "I guess I get my own floor show, sweetie."

"Yes," Alex said, shaking his ass for her. Man, Michael had no idea how lucky he was! He had a Mom who accepted him, had a raunchy sense of humor, cooked like a dream, and cared like hell.

Trudging out with the garbage, Alex looked around warily. He knew that the men who had raped him were watching the diner. Each day he remained was pushing his none too reliable luck. He saw nothing so pried open the rusty dumpster lid with a plastic gloved hand. Wrinkling his often-kissed nose, Alex aimed the sack at the opening. The damn thing slipped.

"Fuck," Alex said. He bent to scoop half eaten sandwiches and greasy paper napkins back in the bag. His hand encountered something hard. Metal. Expecting to see a can lid, Alex sighed and grabbed for it. A badge. A fucking badge with a crust of blood smeared across it. His heart pounding, Alex sank to the ground. He remembered. He remembered being lifted, hearing laughter.

Someone's voice said, "We wore the bitch out."

The man who had first picked him up said, "I told you that you'd like it."

Alex remembered his hand closing around something that had been lying on the floor. It had felt cold in his hand. He remembered the remains of the FBI agent that he had been telling him to hold onto it. It was evidence that might convict his murderer if he did not survive this ordeal.

Then Alex had been dumped in the bag.

Alex knew more than ever he had to get the hell out of here. His assailants had been cops, wolves set to watch sheep.

When he went back inside, Debbie asked, "Angel, you okay? You're pale again."

"Don't worry," Alex said. "I'm just tired."

Debbie insisted on staying until he had finished cleaning.

Alex made sure to stay between his friend and the street the entire way home.

Tomorrow, Alex had to make more in tips. He had to have enough for fake ID and a plane ticket to Hong Kong and he had to have it soon.

OooOooO

The cheapest ticket price Alex could find, using Brian's computer was still logging in at almost nine hundred dollars. Between tips and wages at the diner, Alex had been able to give Debbie seven hundred dollars to date. He felt he owed her more, but he didn't want to pay her back by getting her shot. Dancing at Babylon for two days had netted him half of the money he needed. He thought he could get the rest by the end of the week.

One of the other guys, a honey blond who looked barely legal age said there were ways to get around the 'no contact' rule. After your legal turn in the cage, you could dance with the customers. Nothing was to stop you from picking only the customers who would tuck a twenty or better in your waistband for a close dance.

It wasn't how Alex imagined his life going. He had always been picky about who touched him, but this was life and death. He wasn't ready to die.

It turned out Alex had a good nose for money. He had zeroed in on an older guy, a burly type who looked a bit like Walter. The guy had kid's pictures in his wallet for God's sake. He had even shown them to Alex when he bought him a drink. Alex had noted the Alaska driver's license and figured the guy was in the city for a convention, a good time, some wild oats, and then would be returning to some drab small town life with a meek little wife. It wouldn't hurt Alex to sell him a fantasy for a few bucks.

Well, the guy wanted more, but even if the man resembled his lover, Alex wasn't going to take any chances. His one attempt to sell his ass had ended in nearly losing it. This guy was going to have to take the painful looking hard-on home with someone else.

Amused, Alex watched Emmett cut the balding stud from the herd and expertly lead him out. Good enough to take home, Emmett seemed to think. Well, Alex hoped it was good for both of them. Emmett probably would give Mr. Alaska the wild ride of his life.

Pulling the bill that the out of towner had tucked in his waistband out, Alex did a double take. The tourist had given him a hundred dollars for a tease and a hand on his ass. With everything else, Alex had made, this put him close enough to his ticket price for Step Number Two.

Alex was going to have to deal with Geraldine Kallenchuk.

Shit.

You might say that Geraldine was a past indiscretion. A big one.

Alex had met her in high school and the relationship continued into college. At the time, he saw her as a beard, an amusing cover up for his truer preferences. She was an inventive, aggressive lover, who quickly figured out that Alex liked the boys as much as she did. She was perfectly willing to cruise for a bi guy who wanted a threesome and didn't mind being topped by the two of them.

At the time, Geraldine had made him laugh. He ignored her methods of getting ahead, seducing and blackmailing professors, buying and selling test answers, dealing a little on the side. When she had returned to Hong Kong to the family business, he didn't find it as funny to discover she belonged to one of the most powerful crime families in Hong Kong. He had planned to spend the summer with her before starting his master's program, but when Geraldine's father sat him down to ask him if he intended to marry into the business, telling him that his career in law enforcement was okay with him, he was spooked. They could use an FBI agent in their pocket, he'd said.

Shit, Alex had almost squeaked like a frightened mouse and decided he could better spend the summer, earning money as a commercial security officer.

Since that time, Alex had spoken to Geraldine only a handful of times. He hadn't told her about Spender or his recent problems with him, but now. Now, he needed her help badly. She had the means to buy him a new identity. He had meant to earn enough money for a fake passport and his ticket out of town, but things were heating up. He had been shot at again yesterday night and he had spotted a face that looked like Thing One in the crowd. The cold gray eyes had stared at him from the crowd, a cat looking at a wounded mouse before reeling it back in to kill it.

A friend of Michael's was a computer nerd. The FCC didn't bother him at all and he was happy as hell to help Alex put together a buffering signal that would bounce his phone call through so many relays that even Mulder's infamous Lone Gunmen couldn't have traced it.

"Geri, it's Alex," Alex said.

"How's your sweet ass, lamb chops?" Geri said.

"My sweet ass would be happier in Hong Kong. I need help, Geri, and you owe me. You would have spent prom night in jail if I hadn't managed to find out about that undercover narc before you sold to him," Alex said.

"Gratitude might get you something, but that was a long time ago" Geri said, "what have you done for me lately?"

"I'm onto something big," Alex said. "I'm not with the bureau anymore and I . . . I was working for some people who deal in secrets. Once I sell what I have, I can pay you back double. I need a passport."

"As in a passport in someone's else's name?" Geri asked. "What did you do, Alex? I thought you were the squeaky clean one?"

"Things happened," Alex said. "I don't want explain right now. Will you help me?"

"I might, but if you've got something good, I want more out of the deal than a few thousand bucks of pocket money. You want my help? Then whatever you have, I have. We're partners. Capisce?"

Thinking fast, Alex couldn't figure a way out of Geri's trap. He did need help and she was a natural born criminal. Despite his fall from grace, Alex still knew more about being an FBI agent than he knew about being a thug. Accepting her lead, Alex said, "Yeah, we're partners. Send the passport to me here. There's a post office box, Ted Schmidt, PO BOX 69101, Pittsburgh, PA, Zip code 15201, USA. Send the passport there. Soon. I need it soon."

"You're going to need to send me a picture, Alex, I can't just whip out my crayons and draw one," Geri said.

"I'll send it. Same E-Mail address?" Alex asked.

"Still the same," Geri said, "I have to keep those dollars rolling in for my e-mail scam business."

"I'll send it now," Alex said, as he logged onto the Internet to send the picture.

As soon as the message was transmitted, the geek and Alex dismantled the equipment and disconnected the telephone line. The office that a friend of a friend had been cleaning would be a dead end if the message was traced and the e-mail address that Alex had used only existed for long enough to send the picture. Now, Alex would have to wait for few more days and see what would happen.

On the way back to Debbie's, Alex stepped into a payphone. It was late on a Saturday. Even an employee as devoted as Walter Skinner should be home by now on a weekend.

"Walter Skinner," the familiar voice said wearily.

Alex closed his eyes, happy to hear Walter's voice. He wanted to say something, anything to see if any part of Walter still harbored affection for him, but his throat closed.

"Hello? Who the hell is this?" Walter said. Then speaking away from the phone, Skinner said, "It's either one of your informants with stage fright or I have a prank call, Mulder."

Mulder? What was Mulder doing at Walter's? Jealousy shot through Alex. Was he that replaceable? Did Walter just like to fuck his subordinates?

"You have one minute to speak," Walter said. "And if this is a prank call, you picked the wrong man. I'm a federal agent."

"Wrong number," Alex croaked, thinking his voice was unrecognizable, even to himself.

"Don't hang up!" Walter shouted. "Where are you? God damn it! Answer me!"

"What's Mulder doing there?" Alex asked.

"Working on a case," Walter answered, as if Alex still had a right to know. "Do you need help?"

Alex could hear Mulder's voice in the background, but he listened to Walter until his lover said, "You should have come to me. You still could. You bastard..."

Alex listened for a moment longer, wanting to believe that Walter was concerned about him even after that debacle in the stairway. Hanging up, Alex ran as if the phone call was pursuing him. That was the stupidest thing he had done since he fell for Spender's entrapment.

OooOooO

Her angel was growing distant. Debbie saw him watching things constantly, his eyes dark with wariness. He was hurting, but there was nothing she could do to comfort Lex. He was closing up around his wounds, looking more and more like a trapped animal.

Michael said that Lex was acting like a slut at the club, not quite whoring himself, but teasing men into giving him outrageous tips in the hope that they could rent a piece of him. Even Brian had suggested that Lex tone it down, but Angel wasn't listening. He said he could protect himself. Apparently, he could. Michael said that someone had tried to use force to make Lex deliver what his dancing seemed to promise, following him outside and trying to compel him into the alley. It had taken Michael, Brian, and the two football fullbacks that Brian was bringing home to peel Lex off his shaken pursuer.

Debbie had learned not to touch Lex without warning. She said, "Angel, can I sit with you for a while?"

Looking up at her, Lex had patted the couch next to him. "Angel, you're working too hard. Between the diner and the dancing, you hardly sleep. I don't know what's keeping you on your feet."

"Fear," Lex said. "Nothing but pure, unvarnished adrenaline and fear."

If Brian had been speaking or Michael, that would have been a joke, but Lex sounded like he meant it. Michael had been antsy again, saying, "We don't really know Lex, Mom. I think he's trouble."

What could Debbie say? She knew her son was right, but her heart still went out to Lex. He might be a dangerous man, but there was a lost little boy inside of him.

"Why don't you lie down for a moment? Close your eyes and let Mom take care of you?" Debbie asked, patting her ample lap.

As if he had been waiting for the invitation, Lex slid down with a sigh. He closed his eyes, going as boneless as a cat in her lap. Debbie petted his hair, her eyes memorizing his face. Michael accused her of falling for every stray animal and waif that crossed her path. He might be right, but Lex was different. She felt something special for him. Maybe it was the way he fell into her arms when she found him. She had saved his life. That meant something. Poor Lex. What was going to happen to him?

OooOooO

Ted opened the postal box and sorted through the assortment of porn. He finally found the stiff envelope with the Hong Kong postmark and handed it to Alex.

"That it?" Ted said. "You're out of here."

"I'm out of here," Alex said. He looked into the sad brown eyes, cupped Ted's face, and leaned close, kissing him. "I wish I had gone home with you that night."

"Me too," said Ted.

"Someday the right guy's going to see you're pure gold," Alex assured.

"Yeah," Ted said, not buying it. "I'll drive you to pick up your things."

Alex's room was a mess. Someone had searched it. Well, if they were looking for the badge, they were out of luck. Alex had climbed into Michael's old tree house and planted the badge between the wall and the roof.

"Shit, I have to leave now," Alex said. "You have to tell them all goodbye for me, Ted."

"Deb's going to hate that," Ted remarked.

"She would hate it more if Michael got hurt, or Vic. And I would rather die than see her hurt," Alex said. "Drive me to the airport. I'm going to get a standby."

Ted nodded and helped him gather up the few things Alex would be taking. Alex would miss this room. It had been a home to him and he had a chance to have a family that he now realized would have been a better one than the one he had been born into. He had been a fool to turn down the Arntzens back when they wanted him. He had always made the wrong choices. He hoped this was the right one.

Blinking back tears, Alex gripped the ragged duffle bag that Vic had given him. It was time to move on.

OooOooO

Alex smiled with relief. Yeah, he was getting out of here. In a way, he was glad that he had skipped the tearful farewells. This was better. When he got together with Geraldine and the disc, he would have the world by the balls. He planned to make a lot of money, selling the old men's secrets. Maybe he'd drop Mulder a few crumbs for old time's sake.

There was more than one way to fight a war and Alex knew that he was in a war now. His side was any side that opposed Spender. Somehow, he would do what he could to keep Walter safe, even if it meant hurting him himself. Walter was his knight and Alex would be his shield if he could. His lover would never know, but that didn't matter. Walter had to live. He was the center of Alex's world even if they would never be together again.

One last thing to do . . .

Alex picked up the phone, dialing directly into the old bastard's office. "Give me Spender."

The flunky of the month didn't bother pretending not to know who Alex was talking about it. "He's just arrived."

"Let me talk to him," Alex said.

There was a murmur and then the hated voice said, "Hello?"

"I'm alive. Isn't that a surprise?" Alex spat out.

"Yes, good, good, where are you?" Spender asked.

As if...

Alex said, "Somewhere that you will never find me, you doublecrossing son of a bitch."

"Are you sure?" Spender asked, managing to shoot menace into his voice.

"I'm sure of this. If I so much as feel your presence, I'm going to make you a very, very famous man. Do you understand?" Alex snarled into the phone.

"Yes, thank you, I'm going to report that to the group,' Spender replied, his voice steady, but Alex could hear the hint of uncertainty. He had never been sure of his control of Alex, just as Walter's unexpected resistance to him frustrated the old man.

Slamming the phone down, Alex ran to make the plane. He had a future to catch.

The End
 

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