Last Train

by Flutesong

Title: Last Train

Author: Flutesong



Spoilers: Somewhere AU after Requiem

Rating: R

Summary: 20 years have passed

Warning: None

Archive: Sure, let me know where

Notes: Originally written for the 2003 Zone Zine, contact Sue Ashworth and the Nick Zone if you want to buy one.

Last Train

The sunshine on the deck was bright. The temperature was perfect for a sweater and the first cup of morning coffee was just enough to ward off the invigorating chill. I was glad; once again, I had chosen this townhouse development to live in after I returned from the dead and was retired by the FBI.

Hard to believe it was almost twenty years ago.

Scully went back to the X Files after our son was born, after the consortium had been exposed, and the aliens had departed. My time on their ship had been illuminating, for them, if not for me. It had been all about me after all. They'd vanished after a widespread sweep of previous abductees were retaken and left dead in the woods. Those deaths are still the largest `unexplained' but related deaths on record worldwide. The U.N. and international law enforcement bodies still occasionally revisit the case.

I moved into the townhouse, Scully got a real house nearby, and we raised the kid like millions of other shared custody parents. He is bright, very bright and doing well in college. He's going to study medicine. I'm glad.

Scully and I never married, either each other or anyone else. She retired just a few weeks ago and decided to join Doctors Without Borders and travel. She sold her house, giving me all the kid's boxes of stuff to store. She has a small apartment in Atlanta, where she will hang her hat, and the kid can visit when she is between assignments. Her hair is still red.

Skinner retired a few years ago. He married the widow of another Viet Nam Vet, when he retired, and teaches her grandchildren wilderness survival and the best way to fish. He keeps in touch and often says only four year olds have the tendency to ask more questions than I did - and are even more impatient for answers.

Reyes went on to head the X Files, she's still there, and Doggett is an A.D. They both married, not each other, and he hassles her over every travel expense.

I write and lecture and used my inheritance to become part owner in a local Triple A baseball team. We have winning seasons every once in awhile and a couple of hotshots have made it to the pros.

Alex Krycek `helped' in his inexplicable way and vanished before he had to testify. He watched it from somewhere though, and continued to send information, proof, and witnesses as it long as it went on.

After twenty years, twenty-five from the time I met him, he remains a puzzle. I wonder about the oddest things regarding him now. How had he survived the loss of the arm under those conditions? Had he been a willing participant in the consortium, or suborned and trapped. Did he think of me as a friend, enemy, or simply as another swimmer in the murky, shark infested pool of those years?

I wonder about the depth of my anger and hatred, and why I could never reconcile he was just another evil among the numerous evils of that time. Why I took what he did so personally.

I talked about the fascination he held for me with a girlfriend who had lasted after the lover phase had worn thin and become a friend. She shook her head and asked if, with all the bizarre and extreme occurrences in my life, why couldn't I recognize that my most intimate relationship was with the unknown conundrum he presented. She also asked if he was sexy, and when I was surprised at the question, she laughed and wouldn't say another word.

I know what she was implying. Skinner and Scully had touched on the same theme, using other words, of course, but they were important words in the lexicon of my life. Why did I always seem to trust even part of what he said, offered, or arranged? Why hadn't I ever killed him outright? Why had I always reacted like a lunatic when I was near him?

I wonder the why's from the other side. Why hadn't he ever killed me? Why had he never seemed to prevent or contain my emotional and physical violence? Why had he come through and made sure I was the conduit for the revelations that brought the consortium down? Why had he chosen a kiss, all those years ago, to make me wake up and pay attention?

The morning chill has worn off. I have nowhere to go, so I get another cup of coffee and a bagel, take off my sweater and return to the deck.

I suppose that it's Scully finally moving on, and the kid living his own almost adult life, that has made me pensive and full of memories.

He remains an unanswered question.

I wonder if he had a family? Had his reality ever included the mundane Saturday morning filled with chores?

When we worked together he had been, seemed, normal. He griped about having to pick up laundry and missing the game on TV, once about forgetting to call his date and cancel.

I went to his apartment a few times, to pick him up or drop off work. It was a typical place in a lower rent area of Alexandria than my own. It was basic mid-twenty bachelor apartment, a cool driftwood end table, a cheap couch, unmade bed and laundry thrown in a corner. He had a great sound system he was proud of, but I cut him off when he wanted to have me listen to a new CD.

We worked through the night once, at the small table in the open area between the tiny kitchen and the couch. He was in sweats and an academy tee shirt, and his hair fell over his forehead. And yes, I thought he was good looking.

He stretched, in the kitchen doorway, when he went to get more coffee. For a moment, I thought of grace, sensuousness, and slim hips. And yes, I thought he was sexy, for a guy.

I used the phone that night. It was in his bedroom and the phone was on the floor next to the bed, a pile of books stacked haphazardly next to his shoes. While I waited for the coroner's clerk to find the file I needed, I paged through his stuff. A couple of books on FBI protocol, a few more on the criminal justice system, a buyer's price comparison on the latest in sound systems, which was outdated by a few weeks, I was glad to see the next to latest Penthouse, and a few paperback novels.

He came in the room and asked me if I was hungry, I nodded yes. He didn't seem putout at my obvious look-see at his stuff, asked me if I wanted frozen waffles or frozen mac and cheese.

I said either or both, preferably cooked.

He said, "ha, ha."

I quipped, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

He said, "Yeah, right, and I'm Sara Lee."

The clerk transferred me to another surly graveyard-shift nonentity, and I fell into a doze, propped up against the pillows on his bed waiting endlessly on hold. I dimly remember him crouched beside the bed and the smell of maple syrup.

Hours later, I found him asleep on the cheap couch. I remember I watched him, until he woke and stared back at me. I know I wanted something, but I felt paralyzed by the monumental battle inside of me. I said I would get us fresh coffee and breakfast from the diner down the block. He nodded and almost reached for me when I straightened to my feet.

I returned to find him showered and dressed for work. We ate, he finished the report while I used the spare clothes from my car to wash and dress for work.

Long after events unfolded, I was struck by the thought of his restraint that night. If he had been sent to make me trust him, why not take the most obvious route of all and attempt to seduce me, or encourage me to seduce him? If he had been sent to undermine me and what was left of my reputation, certainly sex, both gay sex and sex with someone was nominally under my jurisdiction, would have been the final straw.

Who was Alex Krycek? My friend was right. After all these years he remains a conundrum. Fifty, a half a century, who the hell ever thought I'd still be alive on my fiftyfith birthday? I need to celebrate.

##### Krycek #####

I watch the lake tides wash out and leave the gnarled tree roots bare to the morning sun.

I've lived here a long time in a sort of semi-isolation. Took a share of the consortium pot of gold and took myself out of Mulder's orbit. Twenty years now. He's lived a good life, the normal one he always pined for. He and Scully raised the kid, Uncle Walt occasionally pitching in. The X Files go on, and new conspiracies come and go. The aliens went and stayed gone. Even Marita eventually married. She rules her moldering estate, English country garden, and chinless over-bred husband, with a stern hand.

I kept my hand in, so to speak, for a long time, keeping the intelligence community informed here and there as it amused me. When the Russian Mafia started to get grandiose, I realized I was getting too serious again and dropped out for good.

The last decade has been spent building my house. Always wanted a house and if it took twice as long with one hand, well it was only for me anyway, and I wasn't in a hurry.

He never got an obvious boyfriend, think he toyed with it a bit after the second, or was it third, lady friend moved on. I never did either, although I played the game for a few years. It turned out to be not exactly my thing. Of course, relationships with women never prospered either. Too much baggage and too little trust, the old paranoia never ceased ticking .
I do keep track of him and the kid of course, those alien buggers were awfully persistent and not everyone from the old days died. The boy seems normal; I figured if anything `different' was going to kick in, puberty would have been the time. Nothing did.

I never entirely stop playing with fire, so I've met him a few times since he's been away at college. He attends Duke, and that's only a few hours away. He hangs at a local club, near the school, which has live country music. Bet Mulder doesn't know that, and truth is, I can't stand the music either. Nevertheless, propped in a booth, he never gets a look at the prosthetic arm. Don't know how much Scully or Mulder told him about the past, but a one armed man would set off an alarm too big to be ignored, if he ever mentioned it at either of his homes.

He's a good kid. He's worldly without being a total cynic, and bright, very bright. He and his friends haven't a clue about inviting a stranger to join their party, especially if the stranger buys the beer. They think they are invincible; those pretty girls and clear-eyed boys. I had a hand in that, so to speak, although neither his father nor mother would ever admit it or would I ever tell him so.

Twenty years, and the man stays in my daily thoughts. He made himself strong after his return from the ship. Worked out and built muscles and added some girth to his leanness. Controlled his wanderlust and made a home for himself, so he could be there for Scully and the boy.

I guess he's moved into middle age with grace. The years have been kind; he's kept his hair, and he's lean again now, runs long distance events, and he's got the look of longevity about him.

I wonder how I would look to him now? Building the house has pared me down too. I took a chance, after checking the doc out from birth, and had the laser surgery done to my eyes. Vanity, but I'm entitled, besides there's nothing worse than having your only hand occupied when you're balanced on a roof beam and need to push your glasses up your nose.

My house is done, it's very private, and I have the best in security. I could kidnap him, if I still did that kind of thing, and make him eat birthday cake with me here, if I knew how to bake a cake.

I know it was real, the connection, need and desire. After twenty years I can still feel it burn in my veins and ratchet up my libido. I know he felt it too. After twenty years of the life he always wanted, does he wonder if he wanted me too?

I was never fanciful, maybe it's living this long or maybe it's my exposure to the constancy of the gnarled roots which survive the daily immersion on the water's edge. Maybe the last longing for a life unlived, unknown and alone has finally gotten to me.

##### Mulder #####

The outer envelope was from my lawyers'; the letter inside was from Krycek; why am I not surprised he has stationery from my lawyers'?


The address and directions were at the bottom of the page.

I packed for a week, sent e-messages to anyone who might be interested in my whereabouts to reply online and cancelled the paper. My neighbor, Mrs. Blake, promised to collect the mail and water the lawn.

##### Mulder and Krycek #####

I got a call from Bonita Blake, Mulder's housekeeper, telling me Mulder had decided to take a trip. I bought frozen mac and cheese, waffles and a cake, Sara Lee, chocolate.

He was sitting on the jetty as I drove the last quarter mile around the lake. He got to his feet and walked toward the driveway. We got to the front of the house at the same time. He was lean and I could see the silver glinting in his hair. The arm looked almost real, micro neurosurgery and rejection sensitive grafting materials have come a long way in twenty years. I know. I kept abreast of the developments.

He waits arms askance, as if to show me he has no weapon, I approve of this. He was showing me his intent; I got out of the car and opened my hands in a `nothing here' gesture. Point - counterpoint and the score is tied.

"Welcome to my house," he said sweeping the entire area with a flick of his wrist.

Closer, I saw the years hadn't made too much of a change. I was more surprised by the tan and the length of his hair. It was tied back in a ponytail and loose, probably reached past his shoulders.

"You're too young to have been a hippie," I said.

He looked surprised for a moment and his hand almost reached the back of his head before he realized and shrugged instead, "Now I'm old enough to be eccentric," he replied.

"Yeah, a real Gentle Ben. Are there bears in these parts or have you just gone native?"

He laughed, and the smile showed creases that the stillness of his face had been hiding. I had a sudden vision of him squinting into the sun; years worth of sun, and for the first time I began to understand the reality of twenty years between meetings.

I stopped laughing, but the smile held to my jaw. He looked good, a bit rumpled from the long drive, and he hadn't shaved. The hair on his head remained nut brown, the stubble on his chin was white. I'd seen pictures over the years, not too many, I had to keep some distance from him or risk him becoming an obsession. The reality was almost more than I could process. Mulder here, alive and kicking. He looked good.

"Want to come in a take a load off or have a tour first?" I asked him.

"Let's walk," he said, "I've been sitting in the car for hours."

I walked him round the house, pointing out its architectural features, and down to the pier. I show him the 22' Chriscraft I use to get down the mountain by water faster than by car. He asked about fishing and I told him about fresh water choices. We maintained civility.

The serious reckonings would happen inside over coffee.

He stretched and took a deep lungful of breath, and I suggested the coffee. He agreed and we went inside.

I left my luggage in the car. I was almost certain I would stay but the gesture would not be lost on Krycek. The house outside and in was simple, elegant and even I could see, easy to maintain. There were books everywhere, and the latest in compu-vid-sound had taken the place of the old CD system he'd once tried to explain to me.

"I'm glad you came. It's been a long time."

Mulder nodded, "It's been a long time," he echoed.

He took a sip of coffee and said "We were never friends, Krycek. Why contact me now?"

I knew he would ask me this. I'd thought through dozens of replies, played out dozens of scenarios from the serious to the sex-filled and the sacred to profane. "We never finished, Mulder. Fifty put me in mind of finishing things. I always wanted a house and now the house is done. I wanted to live quietly but not secretly, done that for years now. Wanted to know if I could have friends and relationships. Have a few friends, never found the lasting relationship. Realized a long time ago I was never going to separate entirely from the past, the paranoia or be able to sleep without dreams or a gun under my pillow."

I picked up my coffee and put it down again without drinking. "You were the most `real' part of my life. Maybe it was the danger, violence and intrigue. Maybe it was how much more alive I felt when I knew you were playing in the game too. I know it was because I felt things when I was near you I hadn't ever expected to feel or thought were possible to feel. I thought then and think now, you felt it too." This time I took a gulp of the coffee; glad it was lukewarm and easy to swallow.

"I'm not moving on and I'm not going backwards, Mulder, if you see what I mean. I'm here. I guess I really wanted to know where you are, if you had come to the same place after all this time."

I was sure I'd never heard Krycek say so many words all at one time. Probably not even cumulatively in all the time I'd known him. I decided to answer the question he hadn't had time to pose. I thought about what to tell him about my decision to come. Answers ranged from old wounds and vengeance, needing to know if my son was really going to stay normal, and the ridiculous to the sublime. Old unexplained X Files, in which he was featured, nibbled at my curiosity as well. "I came because I wanted to stop feeling the need to kill you, or to make you pay for all the pain," that was something I hadn't intended to say, but it rushed out and having been said, I realized it was the truth.

"What recompense have you then, Mulder?" I felt as if I were bleeding from fresh wounds beneath old scars.

"The same as you," A lightness of being began to overtake me. "The same as you. Twenty years of this life, lived and gone. At this point, life itself is what counts and in the tradition of `old soldiers never die', it is because, I think, they meet at reunions. Who else remembers, after all? If all enemies killed each other there would be no one left."

"That's the most pragmatic thing you've ever said," I was surprised, Mulder didn't seem as if he were defeated by his philosophical take on old pain. I had been expecting him to be caught up in unresolved issues; perhaps half expecting he would come armed and determined to kill me, no matter how long it had been. I'd been ready to let him.

"Fathers and sons," Mulder continued to muse. "I never expected to be able to take the long view, Krycek. All through those years looking for Sam and answers, I always lived in the moment. Raising my son was entirely different. He needed more from me than to get through the day. I realized as a child, he was incapable of knowing there was a life to be lived tomorrow, and he had to grow up in order to be there to do it. He changed me. Oh, I still want to know all the whys, and I would prefer you'd spent the last twenty years in prison. But if you had, I realized when I got your note; I would have been there on your release, waiting at the gate."

"Waiting for me? What for?"

"What for? You said it yourself. You had thoughts and feelings for me you never expected and were sure I had the same. You're right. After all the conflict, inexplicable moves and counter moves, the suffering and the violence, those feelings were still there. They were their own truth in a sea of lies." Mulder finished his coffee and rose from the table. "If I can get my stuff, I wouldn't mind a shower and some fresh clothes."

"Yeah, sure, Mulder." I put the cups in the sink and headed for the door. He was surprising the hell out of me, and I wasn't sure I liked it. I had the sudden urge to take a swing at him, to push him and see if he pushed back. Did he see me as some kind of toothless old man wallowing in past guilt? I was offended by his placidity. I might be fifty, but I wasn't dead yet, or an impotent nonentity. Where did he get off sounding so goddamn comfortable around me? I realized I was out the door and waiting impatiently at the trunk of his car when I met his eyes as he came through the door. He was grinning. The son-of-a-bitch was grinning at me.

"Still can't handle the truth, huh Alex?" I said, knowing I was baiting him, knowing I was baffling him. God, but it felt good to do both again. I almost laughed, but I didn't want to agitate him to violence. I could live through a tumble to the rocky driveway, but I'd feel it later, and liniment wasn't at all what I had in mind as a bedtime treatment. Besides, I `d waited twenty years to get his goat. I unlocked the trunk and handed him the heaviest bag. He took it, still in the pugilistic stance, he'd taken, and once he had hold of the bag, I reached up and tapped his cheek, hard.

He looked bewildered for a moment, then angry, "Goddamn you, Mulder!" he said loudly.

"Don't drop the bag," I said and took the second one out, closing the trunk.

Bastard! Playing games with me now, was he? Well, of course he was. Mulder wasn't exactly toothless either. "Bastard!" I said aloud, and he laughed.

He showed me the room. It was so clean it gleamed; the bed was freshly made, and you could bounce a quarter off the spread. I looked around. The paintings were excellent and most likely local artists, a few unusual pieces of pottery here and there, and a modern handmade quilt glowed with colors and hung over its own stand. The `cool' driftwood coffee table was beside a comfortable stuffed chair and a reading lamp. There was a stack of books and magazines on it. "You've come a long way, Alex Krycek," I said.

How strange to find I was suddenly afraid. Was I nuts to open up the past this way? I'd taken care preparing the room for his visit. I saw what I hadn't wanted to acknowledge, I'd made the room into a setting of colors and textures, taste and comfort - for him - whether he would ever see it or not.

I had turned this room into a representation of the best of what I'd become. Past and present merged here. I'd hidden the driftwood table in an abandoned shed when Spender had pulled my cover so long ago, and, miraculously, it had survived The quilt had been a gift in exchange for identity papers I'd given the son of the Russian woman who'd taken me in, when I had a relapse from an infection in my arm. The paintings and pottery were from a group of artisans who helped me dig the foundation of the house, and who wouldn't take the money I offered for their good deed, but eventually accepted it as payment for their art. The rug was from the apartment of my first male lover. He'd been tall and slim with a large nose and a sharp wit. He found me, somehow, almost ten years later, when he was in the last stages of HIV. He'd worried the whole time, he said, that the doctors had been wrong, and he'd been infected earlier than they thought. The bed was new; no one had ever slept in it.

I watched Krycek as I unpacked. He studied the room as if he'd never seen it before. His eyes went from item to item, and his face grew grimmer with each. What memories was he experiencing? I found I wanted to know the stories of each of those memories. I sat on the bed, and he turned to go. "Krycek?" I said, and he paused.

"Do you need anything?" he asked me.

"It's a beautiful room."

He froze. His throat worked for a moment or two before he spoke. "I made it ready for you."

"How did you know I would come?" I asked, quietly.

"You were always here," he said, gathering himself together with effort, "Come down when you're rested." He left the room; the door closed on silent hinges.

For the first time I wondered what I had really meant to Alex Krycek beyond the weird help and betrayal and the taunting bait and switch in which we had gone round and round. I knew what I thought I had meant to him. I came to grips with the sexual interest long ago, and while that was intense, it wasn't what would really drive a man like him to maintain a connection.

A headache began to work its way across my skull. The impulsive decision to come, the long drive and just seeing him, God! Just seeing him again after all this time brought a storm of old frustrations and a wealth of emotion too close to the surface too soon.

I headed for the shower. If there was one thing I learned over the past twenty years, it was how to keep my need to know everything at once on a leash. I'd learned patience. I kept that, and not the aching emptiness for the unresolved `something' he'd always stirred up in me, in mind while I ran the shower too hot and too hard over my head. But Jesus, if the "you were always here" comment didn't make my heart pound in a contrapuntal beat of Alex, Alex...Alex.

Contrary to what Mulder always accused me of, I am not a coward. I won't ever come close to being a `good' guy in his definition of ethical morality or, for that matter, in my own. I may not have spent the years in prison, but I have paid. No apologies and whatever regrets have long since blended with the nightmares into an unchangeable past and a lifetime of less than serene retirement. Christ! He has always been the wild card no matter how I figure the odds and consider the consequences.

I want things with him, from him, that I would have been much better off never considering, then, now or at all. I don't even have the language to define them. The closest I've ever been able to come - and then only after more liquor than was sane - is the knowledge that I, who could never sleep beside another person through the night without a feeling of claustrophobia more intense than incarceration in the silo ever wrought, knew I could lie with Fox Mulder until daylight.

I had ESPN on the tube; sandwich stuff loaded on a tray and added another six-pack of cold beer to the front row of the fridge by the time Mulder came back to the living room.

The day had turned overcast and cold. He took the beer gratefully and waved off the food with a, "Later." A couple of Big Ten favorites were in the Final Four, and we settled down to watch. We rooted for the opposite teams, naturally.

"So, Alex," Mulder began. I noted the Alex. "You ever married? Had kids?"

He continued to surprise me, such an ordinary question as if we were normal acquaintances.

"Nope. Never married and no kids," Alex answered, and I watched as he found the view through the window suddenly more interesting than the game. "I never really wanted it. Too afraid, I guess, the past would come back to bite me and spill over onto anyone close." He grinned and once again, I saw the evidence of the years on his otherwise youthful face. "I go check out the college kids now and then. They're so shiny and bright, if you know what I mean, I get a kick out of it."

"Down Chapel Hill way?" I asked, knowing he seldom spoke without subtext.

"Yeah," He sobered and looked back at the rain, "He's a great kid Mulder, you and Scully did good."

My gut clenched, and I felt familiar anger rise, but it dissipated just as quickly, "You've kept track all this time?" I asked.

He sighed audibly, "Yeah, sure," as if it was so totally a `given' in his life, that I shouldn't see it any other way. "Not everyone ended up dead or in prison, and who knew exactly what they had done with all the science. I kept an eye out. Not intimately, Mulder, never that way." He was sincere, and I understood. Surveillance was such a normal part of our past; the usual definitions of intrusion just didn't apply.

"So what are your conclusions?" I was as confident as possible that the son Scully and I had created, however shrouded in `miraculous mystery', at the time, was normal. Scully and I had also had a lot of access to science through the years.

"Other than an unaccountable affinity for country music, he's normal as far as I can determine."

"Country music? No, don't tell me. There's things even a dad doesn't need to know."

"Okay Pops," Alex grinned, "Compared to the crap you used to have on the radio, this is at least music with understandable lyrics."

"Acid rock is classic," I affirmed.

"Maybe for your generation," Alex replied, tongue in cheek.

I made a sandwich and gave him the half with too much mustard.

I couldn't eat the sandwich, not yet. "I never found where they were, Mulder, if they lived, or how long it took them to die."

Other than my own father, this was the crucible at the heart of our past. "I didn't either. I did come to understand Sam was in a better place. I believe she died a long time ago. Long before I started to look for her."

"I'm sorry," he said.

I nodded, and we both ate. The next game came on, and the day became twilight.

He got us another beer.

He muted the TV during a commercial. "I did not fire the shot that killed Bill Mulder, but only because Cardinale fired first."

"Turn the sound up; the game's tied." Mulder replied.

He turned the sound back on and went into the bathroom, I heard him vomiting over the roar of the crowd.

It would be another decade before I was as old as my father was on the day of his death. He lived the entirety of his adult life in bitterness and secrecy.

I'd had twenty years of a life well spent doing what was right. I'd loved and guided my son and stayed normal and supportive enough to meet Scully's approval. We'd been a functioning family, if not the usual one. I'd spent most of the years before laboring under an enormous burden of guilt and shame at my inadequacy at finding Sam and solving the puzzle of her disappearance. The great joy the adventures into the X Files could have afforded me was never able to fully materialize, although there had been moments along the way.

Alex came out of the bathroom and sat down.

I looked around the house. There were a lot of windows, and all of them were the kind that opened. It didn't make sense from a security standpoint, but I understood what it meant.

He may well have settled down, but he wasn't going to be confined by his decision.

"While you were keeping tabs on me, I was thinking about you," Mulder said, and I was startled once again by his outspokenness. He went on, "So many unanswered questions. Who were you? Really? How did you get involved with Spender to begin with? How many sides were you playing and for what purpose? If you had been assigned to subvert my efforts, you did a lousy job. If you'd been assigned to ruin me personally, you did a lousy job of that too. You certainly almost got Scully and I killed a few times, and you prevented the same, no doubt, on more occasions than I know about even now. In the end, you saved both my efforts and me. You did it in time for the baby to be born safely."

Mulder stood and came to stand in front of me. I rose, uncomfortable with him towering over me. He put out his hand, and when I made no move, he took my right hand in his, covering it with his left said, "Thank you for the life of my son and for giving Scully and I the past twenty years to be blessed with him in our lives. I may never know the list of all your wrongdoings, but this was a thing done right."

He stood there while I held his hand in both of mine. He'd paled, and for a moment I thought he was going to be sick again. The color came back into his face, and I knew he was going to be okay. We stood like that for a long time. He looked past my face and out the window, and he did not let go of my hand. "Can the rest of my life start now?" he asked.

"Have you been waiting?"

"Yes, I didn't know that's what I was waiting for until now. But - yes, yes I was."

"Has it always depended on me?" I had to ask it.

I had to smile then, and with it the weight of the past finally lifted. Only Mulder would ask that question, and I knew the answer, "It's always been about you, Mulder." I said.

He tightened his grip on my hand and stepped in closer. "Good," Mulder said. "I intend to hold you to it for the future as well."

I looked into his face. There were lines, and the nose was more prominent than ever. Up close, I could see there was gray in his hair. None of it made a difference. He was Mulder, and I had been forgiven. I wrapped my clumsy left arm around him, glad - glad I was going to make the move to the next place we were going. He'd come all this way in time and distance to step into my arms. It may have taken over twenty years, but it wasn't a moment too soon or a moment too late.

He hugged me to him with his other arm. He smiled a soft, dreamy kind of smile, and I knew he was going to be the one to take the final step. If he'd been waiting for me to start living the truth, I'd been waiting for him to live the life I'd always wanted.

In the end we met half way, kissing and being kissed, without anyone taking the lead or setting the pace.

And it was a beginning, not an end at all.

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