Chalk Drawings

by Ursula



Third part in a series:
1. False Faces
2. So Many Masks

Notes: Ricky Caruso was a young cop played by Nick Lea on the series, The Commish
Time Frame: alternate time line



Another one. The skid marks went about fifty feet before they swerved away, but not far enough. The crumpled body stretched a small hand toward the curb as if still struggling toward safety.

The medic shook his head after checking the body. No sign of life. Carla Sanchez swiftly drew the outline of the body after the crime scene photographer snapped a picture. The young boy was removed from the scene, his wan face vanishing into a body bag.

Against the concrete, the white chalk outline was ghostly. Carla shuddered as she saw a spot of blood on her protective gloves. She swiftly bagged them and put them in the biohazard box.

"You okay, girl?" Anton asked.

No one else would ever get away with calling her girl, but Anton was like a combination of big brother and father to her. There was no one like him, a tall, raw boned black man from Chicago. Despite his origins, he had been raised by a Southern grandmother and had a faint honey bee buzz of accent.

"I'm fine," Carla said, pulling off the second pair of gloves. "Poor kid."

"Yeah, I know. Hope we catch the bastard," Anton said.

"We better," Carla said. She struggled to block out memories of the past, but could not. She and her twin brother were walking in the crosswalk on the way to school. It was the first time they were allowed to go by themselves and it was a heady feeling. Her brother ran ahead into the crosswalk, leaving her behind.

Carla remembered being irritated because she was usually the one in the lead. On that day, however, she was handicapped by brand new, shiny patent leather shoes. She took two steps into the intersection when she heard the screeching brakes. The next thing she knew her brother was flying toward her. He landed half on the curb and half off. She screamed and ran to him. Even at eight, she knew that the way he had fallen was wrong. He was crumpled up like her Raggedy Ann when she forgot her in the yard one rainy night.

The driver was in an expensive car. Carla remembered the car was black and had two Vs in the name. She hadn't seen the driver and couldn't even say if he was a man or a woman. No body shop ever reported working on the car and no other witness came forward.

The hit and run driver was never found. Her twin brother, Joey, lived... if you can call his present state living. It had been touch and go for a while, but eventually Joey had come home, paralyzed. Carla remembered her father yelling that he would get the bastard that did this to his son. Dad started drinking after that and eventually her parents had split. Joey was seventeen when a bladder infection put him back in the hospital. His tough body survived, but the infection left him in a persistent vegetative state. Carla wanted to join the police to find the man who took her twin from her and broke up her family.

Carla had finished college, working part time for the tribal police. A Native youth seminar had brought her to the capital, where she had met Captain Nicholas. He had offered her a job. She left her job with the tribal police to move here and go through the academy. Along the way, she gave up her hope for revenge. Carla would have loved to have closed her brother's case, but the trail was cold and she had never found a lead after she retraced the steps of the original investigators.

Carla helped to finish with the car scene, measuring the skid marks, looking for tire tread imprints.

What the boy had been doing out so early in the morning. He had been no more than ten and the hit and run was reported at five in the morning. Where the hell had his parents been?

Shaking her head, Carla said, "I'm finished, Tony, let's go back to the station and clock out."

"I'm more than ready," Anton agreed.

Carla was having a difficult time adjusting to night shift. She hoped she would sleep and if she did, she hoped she would be spared the nightmares that had plagued her since she had started this new schedule.



OooOooO

The conference table was scattered with files. Agent Humby had finally left, satisfied with the report that Mulder and Alex had given him on his case, a group of preadolescent girls who all claimed to have been abducted by aliens after being found in Maryland after disappearing from a camping trip.

Alex had suspected the girl's fifth grade teacher from the moment he met him. Something just crept along his nerves and told him that the man was a creep. Maybe it was something in the mass of memories that Alex still couldn't recall from the missing time between when he had last seen Mulder and when he awoke as Alex Krycek.

What Ricky... Alex... had noticed since he had come back to himself was that he had a sixth sense for perves now. He had never had it before; he could blush with embarrassment over some of the mistakes he had made when he was simply Ricky Caruso, rookie cop. Now certain suspects sent creepy-crawlies up his spine. Mulder thought that perhaps the Project had altered him in experiments. Scully thought it was more simply explained by post traumatic stress. All Alex knew is that he could trust that instinct that told him when a suspect was hiding a dark secret.

Paul Hamilton was hiding something. The fifth grade teacher was tall, blond, and handsome. He seemed beloved by all his students and their parents, but Alex watched the way some of the girls reacted to the guy and he knew something was wrong. He had planted a video feed in the classroom without telling Mulder.

It wasn't that Alex thought his partner and lover would object. It was that he didn't want Mulder to go down with him if Hamilton found out. He knew that anything he saw on the feed could not be used in court, but he just needed something to confirm what his spooky sense told him.

Of course, there had been hell to pay when Alex had to show Mulder what Hamilton was doing right in the classroom. He had asked a pair of the girls to stay after to help him decorate the classroom. The teacher was careful to make it appear that every action was explainable, such as holding the girls steady when they were standing on a chair to put up the class art work or squeezing by them when they were moving between his desk and the wall.

Despite Hamilton's caution, no parent would have felt comfortable with the length of time his hands rested intimately on the girls. However, if someone had questioned the students, there would always have been an explanation.

Despite the way Alex confirmed his suspicions, Mulder agreed that the root to the girl's behavior was in Hamilton's inappropriate touch. Scully had been delegated to talk to the girls and had been able to break down their defenses. The girls admitted that Mr. Hamilton had entered their cabin after their female counselor felt ill and went to see the nurse. He had asked them to sneak out and meet him in the woods for a secret adventure. The six girls could not agree what to do. Three wanted to tell, two wanted to go on the adventure, saying that it was probably something very fun, and one wanted to go home, saying she was sick.

The compromise they came up with was stealing two of the canoes and going to shore. They had hidden in an old couple's mobile home in the commercial campground located not far from the dock. They had no idea how far the couple had traveled when the camper stopped at a truck stop. They came up with the abductions story because one of the girls had parents who were MUFON members.

Case solved. Another X File transformed into a mundane criminal case. Alex couldn't regret helping break the case. The molestation hadn't progressed beyond fondling the girls through their clothing and victims of crimes was going to supply counseling, the cost eventually coming out of Paul Hamilton's pocket. Alex hoped that the teacher was going to prison for what he had done. Kids grew up soon enough. They didn't need perves like Hamilton hastening the process.

"We should head home," Mulder said.

Nodding, Alex yawned and reached for his coke thumbing it open. He took a drink and set it down. Mulder picked it up and drank, giving Alex a minor thrill as his mouth covered the same spot as his own.

"Maybe Skinner will let us take a long weekend," Alex said.


The AD's deep commanding voice said, "No, he won't. He has a hot case and I'm going to need you both."

"What is it?" Mulder asked.

"This... " Skinner said.

Tossing down yet another file, Skinner opened the manila folder and fanned out an array of pictures.

"Chalk drawings," Alex remarked, stifling another yawn. "Never much saw the point in those."

"The interesting thing is that these were not drawn by the police," Skinner said.

Meanwhile, Mulder had flipped through the photographs twice. He said, "Cause of death?"

"Extreme blood loss," Skinner replied.

"It looks as if they were ripped to pieces by machinery," Mulder said. "They must have been killed elsewhere and brought back to the places where their body was found."

"Read the reports. We have a crime team meeting tomorrow at ten. I'll hear your thoughts at that time."

Skinner's eyes flickered over both agents before he turned to leave the room. "Agent Scully will be assigned as well. Good evening, Agents."

Alex's stomach grumbled and he wished Skinner had waited until morning. He loved his work, but damned if he wanted to live his work the way his partner sometimes did.

Taking the reports that Mulder had finished, Alex settled down on Mulder's desk to read them. Mulder's arm was inches from his thigh. His lover didn't bother to give more than the bare minimum of observance to propriety. After all, they were protected, safer from interference than most agents were, as long as they held Spender's leash. Still, Alex couldn't wait to get home.

Alex...

Sometimes, it was easy to pretend Ricky had always been Alex, to forget the identity that had been taken from him ruthlessly. For a while, Mulder had called him Ricky when they were at home, but it slipped into work so Ricky had made him stop.

For all the love, Alex had for Mulder, he knew he had paid a terrible price for this life. His parents were dead, his older brother, Louis, the man Alex had admired most before he met Mulder, would hardly speak to him. Hell, Alex didn't even have his own name anymore, most of the time he tried not to even think about himself as Ricky Caruso.

But Alex had Mulder. He had his career as a FBI agent, a couple of honors already shining in his file, and a letter of commendation from the governor was soon to join them. It turned out that one of the girls in their last case was the governor's favorite niece. It wasn't everything, but it was enough.

Adding to his lists of positives, Alex had to add that his life with Mulder didn't include time to be bored. Work was a constant and the cases were challenging.

The material in the reports puzzled Alex. He assumed that Mulder was right when he saw the pictures of the victims. The bodies were shredded as if they had fallen into sharp blades. Blood soaked through the chalk drawings that outlined their bodies. Ricky couldn't see how any normal weapon could have resulted in the damage.

Except...

"Hey, Mulder, what about steel claws like the Leopard Men of the Congo wore? Wouldn't that explain some of the wounds?"

Mulder tossed a final picture toward Alex. It showed a man's body, his body split in two up to his chest as if someone had used him for a wishbone. "Not this one."

"It still could be a cult," Alex argued.

"Could be," Mulder agreed. He shuffled the files back together and locked them in his desk. "Let's head home. Get some food on the way and pick up a bottle of wine."

"No Chinese," Alex said.

Mulder groaned and said, "Someday we have to get past your eating habits."

"You didn't bitch last night about 'em," Alex teased.

As Alex stood up, Mulder swatted his ass, hard enough to make him yelp.

"Hey, that hurt," Alex said.

"I'll kiss it better later," Mulder promised.

"Sounds good," Alex said.

OooOooO

Mulder resolved the usual take out quandary by driving to the only Italian Chinese Restaurant he had ever discovered. Alex's stomach rumbled again as they went in the door. Mulder asked, "You want to eat here instead?"

A smile was his answer. Mulder said, "Table for two."

The place was crowded. The chef did a great job at both kinds of food and the prices were great. Despite the odd combination of ethnic food, this was a popular local restaurant.

The decor was generic. Apparently the clash between cultures had dissuaded the restaurant from attempting either atmosphere. The plain wood tables and comfortable chairs were generic but no one cared once they tasted the food.

Alex ordered Steak Angelica, a concoction of steak, tomatoes, bell peppers, and pasta that he loved. Mulder ordered red wine for them both and a complete Chinese dinner with both chow yuk and almond chicken for himself. He never used to have that big an appetite, but since he and Alex got together, he was always hungry. Making love a couple times a day will do that to a man.

Alex was brooding or perhaps just absent. Mulder brushed his lover's hand with his own, bringing him back. Alex took a moment and then their eyes connected.

"Are you all right?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah," Alex said.

"Where were you?"

"Some disco," Alex answered, "Weird chick trying to pick me up. I don't know why I would have gone with her. Not my type. Really not my type."

"Michael," Mulder said. The memories flooded back. Michael... lost to him in some ways although he was part of Alex, part of Alex."

"The one part of him I wanted to remember, I can't remember," Alex said. "They took that from me. They tried to take you away from me forever."

"But we found each other," Mulder reminded.

"Yeah," Alex agreed. He put his hand under the table. Mulder took it and squeezed hard.

"We have to stay together," Alex said. "I don't want to ever try to live without you."

"We will," Mulder said. "I promise you."

Glowing green eyes gazed into his. If this wasn't the only Chinese-Italian Restaurant in town... possibly in the world... Mulder would have kissed Alex until his lover passed out from lack of air.

Mulder contented himself with a whispered, "I love you."

"Me too," Alex whispered back. He played with his napkin a moment than flashed a half smile at Mulder. "Got a Christmas card from your Dad and Mom," Alex said.

Mulder snorted. He said, "Addressed to both of us?"

"Yeah, right, it's cold, but hell ain't froze over yet," Alex said. "It's better than my brother. He won't even admit I'm alive."

"Charming, maybe my parents can adopt him. I can't believe they got back together after that business with Samantha."

"My sis and yours are the high points of our families," Alex said.

"More than we had," Mulder said. "We should get down and see the Commish before the holidays."

"Which holiday? His wife is Jewish and he converted."

"Whatever," Mulder replied. "It would be nice to see him and Rachel, the kids. They're good folks."

"Yeah," Alex said, "We have a case to solve first though. We should talk to everyone connected with the case. I don't like these second hand reports Skinner gave us."

"That's my boy," Mulder said.

"In every way," Alex said.

"You get any feelings about the police and forensic team?"

"Not yet," Alex said. "Maybe after we interview them."

"The chalk drawings make me wonder about Carla Sanchez. She draws them as part of her work."

"Her twin brother was crippled by a drunk driver. He's in a nursing home for coma patients now. Has been since he and Carla were seventeen. You know, two of the homicide victims had a history of drunk driving. Carla Sanchez responded to one of the cases a few months ago and she recently responded to another homicide, a kid this time. When the last victim's garage had been investigated, the car had paint scraping that matched those found on the kid's clothing. So that's a couple of smoking guns."

"You think she might have something to do with it?" Mulder asked. "Seems like a long shot, given her background, her very clean background but it's worth looking into." He smiled wryly and said, "Trust No One."

"But each other and, maybe, Scully," Alex replied. "Yeah, we should talk to Carla tomorrow," Alex said.

Alex used a chunk of bread to sop up the last of the sauce from his Steak Angelica.

"Dessert?" Mulder asked. He was ready to go back home and work on the case, but over the last year, he had learned that a hungry Alex was a sulky Alex. The man was a slave to his appetite. It was a good thing that he was busy enough to run it all off.

"Nah, I want to look at those files again," Alex said. "Do some research on the names... "

Mulder grinned. That was his boy. His lover. Alex was one hell of a partner in every sense of the word.

OooOooO

Alex was sprawled across the bed, his round ass graced only by a pair of knit boxer shorts. Half the files were piled in front of him. His foot kicked in time to his thoughts. "Carla Sanchez was involved with all of these."

"Got that, Junior," Mulder said. For once though, his mind wasn't entirely on work. His eyes kept being drawn up Alex's leg to the flash of round ass cheek that was revealed at each movement.

"However, unless a whole bunch of cops are lying, she has an alibi for several of the killings."

"Could be vigilante stuff," Alex said. "Saw that before when I was in blues."

"Could be," Mulder agreed. He moved from his perch on the dresser to the bed... accidentally brushing Alex's leg as he sat down. Mulder lay down next to his lover.

"We going to work or play?" Alex asked.

"Work," Mulder said with a sigh, but then added, "But not all night. I have other plans for the night." He reached over and squeezed Alex's ass.

"You have a serious thing for my ass," Alex said, "Not that I'm complaining."

"It's beautiful, the most perfect, round, lush ass in the world."

Alex's grin was devastating. Mulder sometimes wondered what his life would have been like if he hadn't realized that his new partner was his lost love. It would have been so easy to reject Alex and push him away. If he had followed his dark side, Mulder never would have discovered that Alex Krycek was Ricky Caruso. All it would have taken was turning away from that door.

OooOooO

They had gone over the files twice. Even Mulder couldn't find any reason to read them again.

"I'm going to take a shower," Alex said. "Am I going to have to wash my own back?"

"Not when I'm around," Mulder said.

It was never this much fun with Scully when he kept her working on cases late in the evening. Of course, he and Scully had never become lovers despite the attraction between them.

The water washed over them, Mulder traced its path down his lover's back, kissing and nibbling. Alex moaned, arching toward Mulder's worshipping mouth.

"Let's get out of here before I fall on you," Alex said.

"Not very romantic," Mulder complained, blowing water out of his mouth."

"Fuck romance," Alex said. "Let's get right to the sex."

"Demanding brat," Mulder muttered. He grabbed a towel to dry Alex off, taking his time as he ran the terry cloth over his lover's nipples until Alex growled at him, and grabbed the towel to throw it to the floor. Alex ducked out the door, a backwards glance inviting

They wrestled their way to the bedroom; Alex evaded Mulder's grasp and rolled onto the bed. Mulder got him by the foot and held on tight. A moment later, Alex was pinned to the bed, Mulder covering him and staring down into his green eyes.

Alex pretended to struggle, somehow managing to thrust their cocks together with each motion.

"I'm going to have you," Mulder said. His kisses on Alex's neck were mingled with love bites.

In some other life, this might have been a real struggle. In some other life...

Not this one. In this life, Mulder wasn't alone. He had his lover, his partner, his other soul.

Mulder's hand trembled as he stroked down his lover's body. "How can you make me love you so?" Mulder asked.

"I don't know," Alex said. "Something tells me that with you and me, it had to be hate or love."

A kiss later... Mulder said, "I'm glad it's love. It's got to be love."

Mulder couldn't stop tasting Alex, touching him. Mulder knew him, every inch of him. If the world was plunged into darkness, Mulder could still have seen Alex's face. His image was burned into Mulder's brain and heart. Mulder believed that his adoration for his lover was written into his being, his DNA.

Alex's stomach heaved with his deep shuddering breaths as Mulder's tongue worshipped his flesh. Alex's hand stroked through Mulder's hair, gripping it when Mulder teased him with a long pulling slurp and then let his lover's cock slip from his mouth.

"Thought I might go do some research," Mulder said.

"Not if you want to live long enough to finish this investigation," Alex said.

Mulder took his chuckle with him back Alex's erection. He couldn't decide whether to see if he could make Alex come while he was fucking him or whether to take this to the end and then enjoy his lover's willing and relaxed body.

"I want you inside me," Alex said. "I want you and me... together. I want to be with you. Always."

It was always like this. Mulder couldn't understand it. Everything was fine. They had everything they ever wanted and Mulder wouldn't have traded it for any other life. Yet despite it all, that road not taken always seemed to threatening.

Letting Alex's cock slide from his mouth, Mulder rolled over, smiling at the confusion on Alex's face. "Ride me," Mulder cajoled.

Alex straddled him. "Getting lazy, old man? Wanna make me do all the work?"

"Yes," Mulder said.

Watching Alex prepare himself always thrilled Mulder. His and only his.

Whatever Spender had did to his beloved during the missing years, Alex's heart was his. Mulder was his first male lover, the only one to whom he had ever given himself willingly.

Alex gazed at Mulder as his fingers worked inside him. He was leaning back, his erection jutting towards Mulder's face. His eyes were heavy lidded, half veiled beneath his wealth of lashes. "This for you, Mulder. Only for you. I only remember your touch. I only remember loving you ever."
Voice gone husky, Alex said, "I'm going to ride you, Mulder. I'm going to make you feel so good that you're going scream for me."

His face turned in lovely profile, Alex watched himself as he guided Mulder into his body. He groaned and flashed his white teeth as he impaled himself on Mulder's erection. He was never so beautiful as now, doing this, giving himself to Mulder totally.

Bracing himself, Alex rose and fell slowly, riding Mulder. Their eyes met, locked, more intimate in their gaze than in their conjoined bodies. Alex spared a hand to stroke himself as Mulder reached to grab his hip, supporting him, holding him close.

Alex's body was hot, slick. His strong legs gripped Mulder. His panting moans filled Mulder's ears.

"Just a little faster," Mulder begged, aware that he was gripping Alex's waist like a drowning man, but unable to stop. Alex's eyes burned into his.

Throwing his head back, eyes finally leaving Mulder's, Alex groaned "Yeah. Yeah."

Mulder gasped and thrust upward, still holding tight to his lover. The slap of their flesh filled his senses. He wanted it to last forever and he wanted to come so badly that it felt he would immolate if he didn't.

"Oh, Alex... "

"Yeah, Mulder," Alex responded and he was arching, his come cascading onto Mulder.

Mulder's world had narrowed to Alex's face, the connection between their bodies. He was coming, breathless, heart thundering, his remaining air emerging in a scream of pleasure.

Long moments later, Mulder was aware of Alex's legs and arms entangled with his own. He gave his lover a weary kiss and stroked his face before they settled into each other's arms to sleep.


OooOooO

Carla gripped her cup of coffee desperately. The phone call that had disrupted her sleep had confused her and upset her. She was a good cop. She followed the rules and tried hard to keep her actions thoroughly professional. Sure, she didn't drink and she didn't care to be around people who did, but that was a personal choice.

Whenever she had to deal with cases where alcohol abuse was an issue, Carla bent over backwards to be fair and impartial.

And her cell phone was ringing again. Mom.

"Hi, Mom, I can't talk long," Carla said.

"Do you have a date?" Mom asked.

"No, Mom," Carla said, trying to be patient. "I haven't had much time lately."

"You know Harold is thinking of retiring soon," Mom said. "You would be a shoe in for the job."

"Mom, I don't want to be a tribal cop," Carla said. "I'm sorry. I know you miss me, but this is something I'm doing for myself. How's Gina doing?"

"Gina's fine," Mom said. "She just went for an ultrasound and they say it's going to be twins."

"So there you go," Carla said. "You'll have plenty to keep you busy."

"Honey, I put so much of my time into this tribe because I cared about the future my kids were going to living in. With you in Washington... and Joey... Joey... "

"I know, Mom," Carla said. "I know. Listen, someone is at the door. I'll call you back."

Despite being pissed off about being questioned, Carla was glad to hear the buzzer for her apartment. She didn't want to talk about Joey. She didn't want to think about him.

Last time Carla was home, she had felt obligated to go to the long term care facility and see Joey. There was nothing left of the brother she remembered in the crabbed body that lay in the bed. His body was twisted, his face emaciated. Tubes ran in and out of him. His skin color had faded to yellow. Even when she remembered him the way he had been right after the accident, Joey looked worse. Then he had been swollen and bruised. Now, he was sunken into himself, his arms and legs withered.

That had been enough for Carla to visit a lawyer and make sure she had a living will that could not be broken. She had told Gina, Mom, and several other relatives about the will, making them promise not to argue with her wishes if she was injured in such a way as her brother. The thought that killed her was that Joey somehow was aware inside the waste of his body... she hope not, but...

Carla grimaced as she remembered touching her brother's hand. She could swear she had felt his fingers move and tears had run down his face. The caretakers said that the tears meant nothing. How could they know? They weren't inside Joey's head.

"Agents Mulder and Krycek," a laconic voice said.

"Hold your ID up to the monitor," Carla said. It wasn't so much that she was paranoid about her safety. She was reasonably sure she could protect herself, but she didn't want to make it easy for the agents.

The man in the ID was handsome enough... if you like white men. Carla didn't. When she dated, she always dated Native American men. She didn't date often. She liked them reasonably good looking, intelligent, but not arrogant. In Indian country, that could be hard to find.

"Come up," Carla said.

Agent Mulder was accompanied by a very handsome man. Agent Krycek looked about Carla's age although she guessed he must be older since the minimum age for entering the FBI was twenty three and he was a full agent. Carla was just past her twenty fifth birthday herself, the occasion for having flown home and visiting the brother who shared her birthday.

Agent Krycek had almost the look that Carla favored. Great cheekbones, a nice mouth, and beautiful eyes. He had a light complexion though. Carla preferred men with skin her color, a golden brown that was the result of both Native and Mexican genes combined with a few adventurous European ancestors, but Krycek was damn pretty.

Mulder's gaze flickered from Carla's eyes to his partner. His body language was probably unconscious as he stepped closer to Krycek and reached out to touch his partner's arm. Maybe not as a glint of amusement flickered in the man's hazel eyes.

"I'm Agent Mulder. You spoke to my partner, Agent Krycek."

"I did, but I don't know what I can do to help you," Carla said. "I have a clean record, Agents. I don't know anything about any of the victims other than responding to one of the crime scenes."

"Your brother is in a persistent coma caused by a drunk driver," Agent Krycek said.

Agent Krycek didn't believe in pulling punches. Carla nodded and said, "I guess that's in my file. If you went that far, you probably read my psychological too. I've dealt with what happened. Look, Agents, go find a Native American family that doesn't have an alcohol related tragedy someplace in the background. We deal with it. I dealt with what happened to my brother."

"If it was my brother, I think I would have a difficult time handling drunk drivers," Agent Krycek said.

"Look in my record if you think so," Carla said. "I've handled lots of drunk-driving busts without any complaints. Hell, I have a couple thank you letters from people who went into treatment because of the way I talked to them. I'm good."

"And not shy about telling people you are," Agent Mulder said.

Carla nodded. It was hard enough being a female cop. Being Native American on top of it didn't help. Not to mention her Latina surname confused the Hispanic cops. She didn't speak more than a few words of Spanish; her name was a relic of her Mexican grandfather. Her father said he never really knew the man. He was just a name on a wall. Anyway, she had to work hard to get here and she was not going to give up her career to give lazy FBI agents closure on a file.

"Why is the FBI involved anyway?" Carla said. "As far as I know, the killings have all been local. No kidnappings, no drugs, no terrorism. A couple of cases of... oh, there are more killings? Wow."

"I was at a training when the first murder happened," Carla said. "I was with twenty five other cops and sharing a room with Maddie Forsythe. Maddie has trouble sleeping without her cat. She was up and down all night so you can believe me, she would have noticed if I was gone. Talk to her."

Carla wrote down Maddie's phone number. The woman owed her for keeping her awake and telling her endless stories about her cat, none of them particularly amusing.

"You want some coffee?" Carla asked. "You know I work from seven to three Am? Which means I am going to be short on sleep. Not that I have really mastered sleeping during the day."

Agent Krycek chuckled and said, "Yeah, I got stuck on a shift like that one time when I was in uniform. I lived on coffee until I got off the Commish's shit list. Yeah, I would love some coffee."

Agent Krycek was very cute when he laughed. Big white teeth flashing and a darling v shaped wrinkle appeared above his nose. Carla saw Agent Mulder glance at his partner and warmth flood his intense gaze.

Carla spent a moment pouring three cups of coffee and even remembered coasters for once.

"How long have you been on this shift?" Agent Mulder asked.

"Six weeks," Carla said, "Minus that seminar. I didn't get much sleep there either thanks to Maddie."

"First killing happened five weeks ago," Agent Krycek murmured.

Mulder nodded and the two men locked gazes.

Carla sighed and said, "You guys want to tell me why my sleeping habits could have any bearing on this case? You think maybe I'm sleep walking with my faithful tomahawk and chopping these guys up?"

"Not with a tomahawk," Mulder said, his eyes going to the bear claw necklace her father had made her when he was going through recovery.

Dad was a born again traditionalist, living back home on his reservation and studying Midewiwin, the old spiritual beliefs of the Anishinaabe. Mom was pleased with that. She practiced a mixture of coastal religion, sweat lodge learned from the plain's Indians who had helped her tribe when they were struggling to regain their land base, and Native American church. Mom was too much a part of her tribe to move back to Dad's reserve, but they seemed to be happy with spending a few weeks together.

Carla was happy that her father was sober and she loved her mother, but she liked the world in which she lived. She knew who she was, but she didn't want to live in the shadow world that her parents preferred. That's why she lived here in DC, away from tribal politics and family expectations.

Carla took down the necklace and held it, away from Mulder's grasp but where he could see it. The fur was intact around the claws and surely even a white man could see that this was a decoration, not a weapon. If the claws were used as a weapon, the gore would have matted the fur around the claws. Carla said, "My father made this for me. It's a symbol of our clan. I'm bear clan Anishinaabe on my father's side. My father is Anishinaabe... it's our traditional name. Most people call us Chippewa or Ojibwa. My Mom is Puyallup. That's a Washington State tribe."

Carla sighed, remembering her father praying over her brother's twisted form. The exact duplicate of her necklace hung over her brother's bed. She could almost smell the sweet grass, tobacco, and cedar smell that clung to her father. His lean brown face had been shrouded in sorrow. Carla had kept looking at him although she was supposed to be praying. It had been so good to see him without the bloat of alcohol distorting his face.

"I heard that the murder victims were torn apart as if a wild animal had been after them," Carla said. "It doesn't make sense to me. What kind of wild animal do we have here? Maybe giant rats, if anything."

"Ms. Sanchez, why are you the one to draw the chalk outlines when they are wanted?"

"That's my lieutenant's idea of a joke," Carla replied. "I went to art school before I switched to criminology. He claims he's hoping that my chalk drawings will become collector's items. He's also a Tony Hillerman fan. Makes comments about sand paintings."

"Tony who?" Mulder asked.

"Writes mysteries about Navajo cops," Agent Krycek explained. He said, "Mulder prefers science fiction to detective novels."

A distant memory percolated to the surface. Carla remembered where she had heard Mulder's name before. The X Files... a strange little department in the FBI that looked into bizarre cases. Carla was intrigued. Maybe this case did involve giant rats...

"ROUS," Carla said. "Maybe it was ROUS."

Now it was Agent Krycek who seemed surprised. He said, "I never heard of them. Is it some kind of gang?"
"I've neglected your education, Krycek," Mulder said, his generous mouth pulling into a smile. "ROUS is an acronym for Rodents of Unusual Size. They were giant man eating rats from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride."

"Well, I don't think this case has anything to do with rats," Agent Krycek said, his brows knitting.

Carla yawned and glanced at her watch. Coffee or no, she was still sleepy. If these agents left soon, she could grab a nap and still be in plenty of time for her shift.

"I don't know what to tell you," Carla said. "I don't know anything about the murders."

When the two agents left, Carla lay down. She felt exhausted and, despite her worries, sleep sucked her down almost immediately.

Persistent ringing woke Carla. Her mother's distressed voice said, "Someone tried to kidnap Joey."

"What? Why?" Carla asked. She hoped it wasn't Dad. She knew her father hoped that Joey's spirit would soon be free from his shattered body. Mom just couldn't stand the thought of her son starving to death if they pulled the feeding tube.

"All the alarms started ringing and a nurse found him on the floor of his room."

"Is he all right?" Carla asked.

"Yes, he's no worse," Mom said. "Thank God he's able to breath on his own."

Carla wasn't sure why Mom thought that was worth thanking God for. Maybe if she didn't know what happened to Joey she could find some faith in her parent's beliefs. She couldn't believe in a benevolent God if he could take a little kid and leave him like that. If only Joey could die...

Carla had no hope that her brother would wake. She had read all the books. Few if any victims in a persistent vegetative state woke after the first year. She sometimes thought her brother lingered because she had not found the driver of that car. She had let Joey down.

Dreading the answer, Carla asked, "Do you need me to fly home?"

"No," Mom said. She sighed and said, "The nursing home is going to review tapes and see if they can figure out what happened. They have increased security. Gina wants to sue them."

"Gina better not. You better remind her where the next total care nursing home is located."

"I know," Mom said. "I'm going to fast until it's time for the sweat this week. You know, when they told me, I wondered if Joey somehow got out of that bed on his own."

Right. Carla said, "Don't get your hopes up. Listen, Mom, I'm sorry. Now I really have to go to work."

OooOooO

After the interview, the two of them returned to their office. Scully had a desk here too, but she frequently worked in her lab instead. Today was no exception. They had the place to themselves.

"You like her," Mulder said.

"What? You don't like her? You jealous?" Alex asked.

"You're not her type," Mulder said.

"Wow, is that the master profiler speaking? You gonna tell me the secret of the Great Swami?"

"Well, grasshopper, I talked to a couple coworkers who mentioned that Carla doesn't socialize much in the department. Hangs out with the Bureau of Indian Affair cops. Dates only Native American men."

"Well, you're my type, anyway," Alex said. "But, I do like her. She's tough and I can guess it wasn't easy being her. Bet her family is on her ass about her being here and not on the reservation."

"You saying your family gave you a hard time?"

"Oh, not at first," Alex said. "At first, I was doing exactly what I was expected to do. Like Ricky told you, cops and fireman were the family business."

"Alex, as you told me, babe," Mulder reminded.

Alex's eyes went hard for a moment. "Ricky's dead."

"No, he isn't, he's alive, he's beautiful, and I love the hell out of him."

Alex's eyes glittered dangerously until Mulder stroked his arm. "You're still the man you were born. A rose by any other name... "

Eyes dropped now, shielded by his impossibly long lashes. "Yeah."

"I'm sorry, Ric... Alex. You should have run when you saw me coming. I took everything from you."

"You became everything to me," Alex said. "And I'm still a cop. I still have that."

Mulder could understand. That was where his life had been going after he lost Ricky, the only thing that mattered to him was his work. In getting his beloved back, he had regained so much more, including Samantha. It wasn't fair that Ricky had given so much up to be with him, but Mulder loved him. He thought he would always love him and couldn't imagine a world where he did not have Alex. What a sad world that would have been.

"Anyway, I can feel Carla's pain," Alex said. "You can love your family, but they can be like a straitjacket made out of broken glass."

Mulder smirked. Yeah, maybe he and Alex had more in common than they realized. His family was a bed of horrors. The only good thing about it was finally back in his life. The grown up Samantha was tough, funny, and full of fight. The first thing she did when she saw their father was to punch his lights out. That a girl.

"That bear claw necklace might not have been the weapon but something like that could have done part of the damage," Mulder said.

"Carla Sanchez doesn't strike me as crazy and she seems to have dealt with her anger. Now if her brother wasn't in a coma... "

"What?" Mulder said.

"I was saying her brother might have a reason to be pissed if he was capable of doing something about it," Alex said.

"Kiddo, we are going to fly to Washington State. Go bat your lashes at the boss and get him to sign the travel orders."

"Why are we going to Washington State?" Alex asked.

"Rain's good for the complexion," Mulder said.

"Mulder, give me something I can use."

"We are going to have a look at Joey Sanchez."

"Yeah? I don't know if that's going to sell any better than telling Skinner we need some rain on our skin."

"Tell him that psychokinetic ability has been suspected in cases of disturbed adolescents."

"Joey Sanchez is the same age as his sister," Alex said. "He's twenty-five."

"He was seventeen when he fell into that coma," Mulder said. "Emotionally, he hasn't had the experience and stimulation to process past that age."

"If he can process anything," Alex said. "The guy's a vegetable."

"The brain's a peculiar organ," Mulder said. "Twins especially seem to have mysterious connections. Even fraternal twins."



"You think Joey is somehow acting through his sister? That still doesn't explain why the murder just started happening."

Mulder leaned back in his chair, his arms behind his back. "Think about it, Alex. What changed in Carla's life recently?"

"Sleep cycle," Alex said, after thinking about it. Then he added, "Plus that trip home. She hasn't been home. I pulled her leave records."

"You are as smart as you are beautiful," Mulder admired. "So am I nuts or do we have a lead?"

"Well, a lot of guys think we are both nuts. Even Scully looks at us funny sometimes, but I've seen things that don't make sense. You got a way of finding the weird ones."

"So you ready to go make nice with Skinner?"

Alex sighed and said, "If I have to."

OooOooO

Stopping in the men's room, Alex combed his hair, straightened his tie, and checked his suit. Mulder had bought everything he was wearing so he looked good. He smirked at himself. The old Ricky would have loved what he was wearing, thinking about the girls... taking numbers to get to him. What an asshole he had been...

Alex sat down in the outer office. Skinner's secretary, Kim Cook, brought him coffee and fussed over him. She was cute and she liked him, obviously either out of the gossip loop or possibly kinkier than she looked, dreaming of being a sandwich with Mulder and him.

The looks he got didn't bother Alex that much. All he had to do was remember how near he came to a dark path. People could think whatever they wanted. He had what he wanted. He had Mulder and he had his dream job.

Skinner put his head out, sighed, and said, "Agent Krycek, you have a travel request? Come in."

Normally, the department head would authorize such things but Mulder was the department head. Skinner had canceled Mulder's power to order airline tickets long ago.

"Yes, sir," Alex said.

Skinner sat down behind his desk and sighed again. "Agent Krycek, what possible reason did Mulder give for flying to Washington State? Do you have a suspect?"

"Carla Sanchez has a family member who was paralyzed by a drunk driver. We think there is a tie in to this case."

"You think that this family member killed the victims and flew back to Washington State? Why not just pull the person's airline records?"

"Uh, we think he didn't fly," Alex said.

"So we have a former paralysis victim who is driving back and forth across the country to wrack revenge on a collection of strangers who may or may not all be drunk drivers."

"Yes, Sir," Alex said, looking demurely down at his coffee.

"I'm supposed to buy this?"

"Only if you want the killings to stop," Alex ventured.

"You and Mulder are that sure?" Skinner asked. His eyes peered at Alex as if he could read his mind.

"Mulder's sure and that's all I need," Alex said.

Skinner smiled and said, "I thought I would regret keeping you together, but your solve rate is way up. The three of you are quite the team. Unfortunately, Agent Scully has already asked for leave. I'm sure you and Mulder can handle this on your own."

"Yes, Sir," Alex said, turning the authorization toward Skinner.

"Just keep expenses down," Walter said.

"We'll share a room," Alex said, looking straight ahead as if there was only the budget to consider.

Skinner snorted and said, "I'm sure you will. Keep Mulder under control."

"If I need to," Alex said. He didn't like the implication that Mulder needed a keeper. Mulder was intense. When he was on a case, all of his attention was on it. So what if he didn't take the time for social nuances. He solved the cases.

Alex smoothed out some of the rough spots. Like or not, he found that he was a chameleon these days. He could fit into almost any situation, charm the hell out of people... even his surly boss. He didn't want to think about where those skills came from, what he had to do in the past that he could not remember to learn them.

"Are you all right, Agent Krycek?" Skinner asked.

"Yeah... yes," Ricky said. "I have a lot on my mind."

Skinner looked away. "Sometimes I don't know if we made the right choices for you, Alex."

"I can do this job," Alex said. "You know I can."

"You were kidnapped," Skinner said. "You were tortured and brain washed. Don't you think someone should pay for that?"

"Not if it means losing my job," Alex said. "The only thing I wanted besides... well, you know, was to be an FBI You got to admit, I have skills that I didn't have before. I speak Russian. I know a lot about martial arts. I'm a better shot... I was a pretty good one to start out with, but I'm a sharpshooter now."

With a wry smile, Alex said, "I woke up a lot more grown up than I was before I was taken. All in all, it could have been worse."

Putting down his glasses, Skinner gazed over Alex's shoulder. "It's your life. I just hope that Mulder is being very good to you. I mean that in a professional sense, of course."

"Of course," Alex said, "Mulder's fine. We get things done."

"As I should," Skinner said.

Alex grabbed the travel order and remembered to walk out of the office with dignified slowness instead of running with it to give to a pleased Mulder.

Alex hoped that there was a Holiday Inn near the nursing home. He loved Holiday Inn even if it amused the hell out of Mulder.

OooOooO

Mulder sat with eyes half closed in the airline seat. Alex was asleep next to him, head back, long neck exposed. His lashes lay in sooty perfection across the sharp sweet lines off his cheeks. One of his hands brushed Mulder's thigh, staying connected, anchoring him to Mulder. The other hand was open, fingers curled slightly.

They had made love twice last night, sacrificing sleep to pleasure. Alex could always sleep anywhere. Mulder wished he was like that, but he still struggled to sleep even in his own bed. Even with Samantha and Ricky back, sometimes the nightmares came and tormented him.

A lot of the dreams seemed to be of a darker world as if the Mulder could still see the path not taken, the one that would have led to his sister never returning, his relationship with Ricky destroyed.

The air line attendant glanced at Alex surreptitiously. She had hovered over Mulder's partner until he fell asleep, offering blanket, pillow, and coming just short of offering herself. Mulder had seen that before and it amused the hell out of him. Alex's physical beauty and his raw sexual appeal garnered attention that sometimes was useful and sometimes irritating to Mulder.

Their relationship was lock-tight. Mulder knew that Alex was his. Sometimes he didn't mind the assumption that women made that Alex was available. He still enjoyed flirting and he knew that Alex did. They both were capable of being with the opposite sex and enjoying it. What they had with each other was more than physical. Mulder thought he and Alex would have been drawn together no matter what skin they wore.

Alex sighed in his sleep, his hand closed on Mulder's arm for a moment. Mulder whispered, "I'm here, Alex."

His lover settled back into sleep.

OooOooO

Mulder continued to read about Joey Sanchez. Scully had made notes for him, clarifying the young man's medical condition. She said that the bursts of brain activity that showed on his chart could be evidence of seizures.

Alex had told Mulder about a case he once had. A young couple had brought their dying son to the hospital. He was clearly a shaken baby, his infant brain pulverized in his head.

Alex said that he was assigned to stand guard over the child as the family members were part of a violent gang. There had been rumors that they intended to kidnap the child before the case went to trial. He told Mulder that the child seemed to convulse and cry out in pain, but the doctors said that this was the result of damaged parts of the infant's brain slowly dying. As the brain cells lost functioning, they sent out random bursts of electrical activity.

"I think we all would have rather had the worst shift in the worst part of town than be in that room," Alex had said. "This pain stuff... how can they know what a person is feeling? If it looks like they hurt, maybe they are."

Joey Sanchez had shown periods of time when it appeared he was trying to regain consciousness, but his recent brain activity seemed similar to the case that Alex had discussed. His brain was shutting down.

The one thing that Mulder knew was that the human brain was incredibly complicated. The closer that neurologists came to mapping the brain, the more mysteries seemed to appear. There were many cases of individuals regaining function even when parts of their brain were literally gone. Somehow the brain had rewired itself.

Still Joey Sanchez was fading. If he had any awareness, Joey must have known he was dying. What rage the brain in the helpless body must have felt... Joey might not know where the person who hit him was, but through his sister, he may have been aware of other drunk drivers. Perhaps he blindly struck out at them, taking revenge not only for himself but for the other victims.

Carla's disrupted sleep cycle might be the key to why this was happening now. She might be more vulnerable to her brother.

It was clear to Mulder that Carla could not have physically been the assailant. She was seen by reliable witnesses during the time of at least two of the homicides. Mulder didn't believe that Carla was a conscious part of her brother's quest for revenge. However, he believed she was a focal point for her brother.

The six victims may not have been innocent, but Mulder doubted that any of them were the one that hit Joey Sanchez, not unless the driver was from DC. Mulder sat straighter. Wait a minute; that made sense. Although it was possible that the vehicle could have gone undetected all this time, it was even more likely that the car could have been scrapped in another state. All the driver had to do was say he hit a deer or a tree. He could have junked the car before he went home for that matter.

Still, it would be quite a coincidence for Joey's sister to end up being a cop in the city where the person who crippled him live.

Coincidence or not, Mulder wouldn't rule out the possibility that somewhere in Washington was a man or woman with a guilty conscience. Of course, it could have been one of the six victims, but for some reason, Mulder had a feeling that this was not finished.

OooOooO

Bad dreams...

Spender was laughing as Alex struggled in the grip of brutes. He didn't want to remember what happened next, but he could hear the pants and groans. He could hear his own screams.
Somehow in this nightmare, Alex knew Mulder was there. He reached out and found his lover's arm and held on tight.

A false face mask spoke to Alex. "Help him. Help them. Help her find her road home. Help her forgive. Healing."

Alex felt his body become light. He was running, laughing, happy that he was taller than his sister and his legs were longer. He turned to laugh at her as she struggled to keep up with those silly girl shoes.

Carla's mouth opened and she yelled, "Joey! Joey, get out of the road!"

Girls... they think they are so smart and they try to cheat. Joey turned back and now he saw the car. He was flying through the air just like Superman. He didn't know he could fly!

Then there was pain. Pain. Pain. He was tied up and they kept poking him. His body hurt all over. He couldn't see.

When Joey woke, nothing worked right. He hated it. He was going to be a football player, but you couldn't do that in a wheel chair. He used to be good at math and spelling, but now he couldn't even do baby stuff. Sis pretended that he as still the same, but he knew she let him win at games. He hated it.

Sometimes he hated Carla. That was a bad thing. He and his sis were almost the same person. He loved her more than Mom and Dad. He loved her more than Stickiyo, his dog, and he loved his dog more than anything. But why had he been trying so hard to run faster than her? Why couldn't it have been her? Joey knew that wasn't right to think. He was bad. Maybe that was why that car hit him.

But if he was bad and he was just a little kid when it happened, the man who did must be really bad. He should be punished. Maybe in a little while, Joey would wake up with superpowers or he could figure out how to be like Batman. Maybe he could invent a super-suit that would allow him to walk and run again. He would leap from roof top to roof top until he found the man he had seen. The man with one blue eye and one green eye.

Joey knew he had been asleep for a long time until he heard his Dad praying. Somehow the healing songs and prayers called him back from the cold dark place, but he couldn't make his body move. Sometimes Joey thought he was trapped in a grave like the people in scary movies he used to watch.

Needing to escape. Needing to be able to see and feel. Joey reached as far as he could. He could reach Carla. She was all grown up now which puzzled Joey. His sister wasn't very much fun and she was a police man which was the other thing Joey wanted to be if he couldn't be a football star.

Then Carla was so nice to all those stupid people who drank and drove. Joey hated them all. Carla said they had a problem. Well, they didn't have a problem like Joey had a problem. They weren't stuck in a bed somewhere with gooey stuff in their eyes!

Carla was such a girl. She should punish the bad people like a cop should.

If she wouldn't... Joey would have to do it. Yes, he would.

Dad gave him the power. He didn't mean to do it, but he called on the spirit of the bear and Joey knew what to do with the creature that responded.

Let them suffer. Let them all suffer until he found the right one.

OooOooO

Alex woke, a scream strangling in his throat. Mulder's hand anchored him.

"Hey, we're landing," Mulder said. "Put your safety belt back on."

Staring at his fingers, Alex was relieved to see they did not end in heavy claws and were not covered with blood. He shuddered and said, "I was a gigantic bear that could fly through the air."

Puzzling through the memories, Alex said, "I was also a little boy. I think I dreamed about Carla's brother."

"Yeah? What else do you remember?"

"Just that he woke up recently and he was very angry," Alex said.

"Hmm, I wonder if Joey's parents have run any recent tests on him?"

"You think he's waking up?" Alex asked.

"I think we better find out," Mulder said.

"Jake Smoke was in my dream too. At least, it was Jake's voice speaking through a false face mask. He said I have to help Joey."

"That guy, I saw him in my dream. A white male, about two hundred pounds, mid thirties, blond hair, one blue eye and one green eye. Well dressed and driving a Volvo."

"More detail than the kids gave. Carla just remembered that the car was black and Joey's memories were totally gone. Trauma based amnesia," Mulder said. "While you were napping, I was thinking. What if the driver who hit Joey wasn't from Tacoma? What if he kept on driving after the accident?"

"That would make it easier for him to conceal the accident," Alex said. "I think Joey Sanchez won't stop until he dies or he gets justice for what happened to him."

"That's a tall order," Mulder said.

"We can do handle it," Alex said.

"I'm just glad Scully isn't part of this conversation. I think she would have both of us committed."

Alex snorted and said, "You would think with all the shit we have seen that she would realize the world is pretty fucked up place and even the laws of nature get broken."

"It's going to be difficult to persuade the rest of the world that these murders were committed by a twenty six year old quadriplegic who can't even turn over."

"Our first job is to stop the murders," Mulder said, "Skinner might not agree, but we can't bring back the dead; we can save other potential victims."

"You don't think Joey deserves his revenge? They took his freedom from him. They took who he was."

Damn, the way that Mulder was looking at him. That guilty look.

"I'm just talking about Joey," Alex said. "I'm okay. I made my choices and I have a great life."

As they into the terminal, Alex said, "You can drive if we get to stay in the Holiday Inn."

"I was thinking about Alexis. You don't like the lap of luxury? I liked the name too."

"I like the Holiday Inn," Alex said. "My folks always took us to the Holiday Inn."

"So much for all the Russian mystery they layered on you," Mulder said. "You're still Ricky."

"Yeah, I'm me and I'm all yours."

As they entered the elevator, alone by virtue of the time of the morning, Alex whispered, "Fuck the lap of luxury. Itís your lap I like. Sitting on your cock, riding it."

Mulder felt his cock jump at Alex's husky voice. "That's a promise no matter where we stay."

OooOooO

Joseph Sanchez Senior was in the room when Mulder and Krycek arrived. He was a burly man who wore his hair in long braids. Wisps of curly hair escaped from the red cloth wrapped braids. There were deep lines around his eyes and mouth. His coal black eyes were set in long epicanthic folds. There was a scar on his cheek. He had been praying and was passing an eagle feather over his son's body.

Distrustful eyes raked over the FBI agents. Sanchez said, "You smell like feds." Sanchez stood up, heavy shoulders hunching.

Resisting the urge to ask what that smelled like, Mulder said, "We are FBI agents investigating your son's case. I'm Special Agent Mulder and that is Special Agent Krycek."

"Yeah? Well why now? The way it went down back then, it was more of a cover up than an investigation. With all those politicians in town that week, I wouldn't be surprised if the guy who did it was one of those Republican assholes."

Mulder nodded. So perhaps his idea was correct. Maybe the drunk driver who put Joey in that bed was in Washington DC.

"Mr. Sanchez, I have the reputation of never letting go of a case, no matter who stands in my way."

"Don't play me for a fool," Sanchez said. "My daughter said you were questioning her. I don't know why you came here, but it wasn't to help my son."

Softly, Sanchez said, "Only Gitchie Manitou could help him. Maybe not even all the Manitou could."

As Mulder spoke, Alex circled around. Mulder could see his partner was looking at the bear claw necklace hung over the bed. Alex nodded at him.

"Ain't my daughter's fault that Pauguk has taken a fancy to the assholes in Washington. Carla doesn't feel the same way I feel about you white bastards. She always was a good girl. Too nice. Too forgiving. I don't forgive. I will never forgive."

"Yet, isn't it true that you were treated for an alcohol problem yourself?"

"Maybe so, but I gave up driving until I was sober. I wasn't going to put a family through what happened to mine. When Joey was hurt, it destroyed us as a family for a lot of years. Me and May are just now finding our way again although she won't leave her people and I won't leave mine. I need the Mide or I will keep being a crazy man."

Mulder nodded. A strange sound came from Joey, a grunting gasp. Sanchez turned sad eyes on his son.

Joey grimaced, dry lips pulling back from large teeth. His emaciated limbs twitched.

Sighing, Mr. Sanchez smoothed some lip balm on his son's mouth. "My son was so full of life. He loved to run. Best player on his pee wee football team. He used to run up to me and jump up on me, hug me tight. I'd give anything to have him back. Sometimes I think I should... I don't like seeing him this way."

Joey's fingers twitched again. Mulder said, "He must have scratched himself."

"Hell if... " Mr. Sanchez looked and saw the rusty traces under his son's nails. "I don't understand. Other than that time after the first ceremony when he was found on the floor, he's never moved his arms or legs since he was put here."

Under Mulder's watchful eyes, the nurse checked Joey for injuries. There were none. Mr. Sanchez left to get some coffee. He admitted he didn't like being in the room when they were working with Joey.

Mulder displayed his ID to the nurse. As gently as he could, he collected the debris under the man's nails. He had to uncurl each finger to access the nail. He almost stopped mid task, his common sense telling him that there was no way this pitiful wreck could have harmed anyone.

"You want me to do it?" Alex asked.

Glancing at his lover, Mulder knew that he could handle the job. Somewhere in his journey between Ricky Caruso and Alex Krycek, Alex had lost most of his squeamishness. "I can handle it, Alex."

Finishing his work, Mulder put the nail scrapings in an evidence bag.

"Better bag this too," Alex said. Taking out disposable gloves, Alex gingerly picked up the bear claw necklace. He showed Mulder the clumps of reddish brown matter that stuck on the hairs around the preserved claws.

"As a weapon, this isn't very effective," Mulder said.

"I think we should see if there were any unidentified animal hairs at any of murder sites."

"Good idea," Mulder said.

It was pro forma to question the nursing home staff. Mulder doubted they would admit that Joey Sanchez might have left the nursing home, but he had to ask.

Joseph Sr. refused to talk to them again and Mulder didn't think it was worth the effort. If he knew anything, he wouldn't implicate either of his children.

OooOooO

By the time, Mulder and Alex finished a good steak dinner to make up for the airline food they had consumed, there was already a lawyer calling them. Apparently, Joseph Sanchez noticed the bear claw necklace was gone after they left. He had contacted a friend of his who specialized in Native American rights and put her on the case.

"Ms. Fountain, the bear claws may have been used in a murder," Mulder said.

"Oh, sure, I understand you think Joey Sanchez flew out of the nursing home and killed a bunch of white guys in Washington DC. Just like Pauguk."

"What's Pauguk?" Mulder asked.

"Live," said the lawyer. "Those bear claws are an expression of Native American religion. You had no right to take them."

"If that's not human blood on them, the claws will be returned," Mulder said.

"Don't be ridiculous," Ms. Fountain said. "I get so tired of you white people with your wild ideas about Native People. I will have a court order to return the claws by tomorrow."

Mulder sighed as he hung up. He said, "I have to find a pathology lab that can test those claws tonight."

"How you gonna do that?"

"Scully dates some guy who heads the lab here," Mulder said.

"I'm going to have her call him."

"She's on vacation," Alex said, his mouth pursing and that cute little frown forming on his face.

"You know she'll take my call," Mulder assured.

"Yeah, I wish I didn't know that."

"You are so damn cute when you are jealous," Mulder said, planting his finger right in the middle of the v.

"Yeah, well, you better not give me any reason," Alex replied, eyes dark. "Don't forget, I'm a dangerous man. You have no idea what they trained me to do."

"Don't joke about that," Mulder said. "Never joke about it. But you will never have any reason to be jealous of Scully or anyone else. I love Scully, but I am in love with you."

Gradually the darkness left Alex's eyes. He said, "Okay. I know."

Mulder made the call, listened to Scully complain, apologized, smoothed her feathers, and got her to promise to get Stewart Cosko to agree to rush an analysis.

"Let's go back to your Holiday Inn and relax until Cosko calls," Mulder suggested.

Alex smiled at that and said, "I got better things to do with you then relax."

OooOooO

The lobby was decorated brightly. A large Christmas tree dominated the lobby, all sparkling garlands and beautifully wrapped presents beneath. It reminded Mulder of the sad decorations at the nursing home. Somehow the cheap tinsel and plastic ornaments at the long term care facility were more depressing than bare walls would have been.

Without discussion, Mulder undressed himself and then took his time disrobing his lover.

"You're my favorite present to unwrap all year long," He told Alex.

"Nothing you haven't seen before," Alex said, as Mulder knelt down to remove his shoes. A soft chuckle teased out of him as Mulder kissed the top of his foot. "Don't do that. At least not when I'm not fresh out of the shower."

"You still smell good to me," Mulder said, pulling off his lover's pants and briefs, sliding them off. Mulder nibbled and sucked his way back up.

"You taste good too," Mulder said. "I always liked Italian with Russian dressing."

"Come to bed," Alex said, voice deepening.

"Mmm," Mulder purred. "You know what I think?"

"It scares me trying to think like you," Alex said.

"I think I'm going to let you fuck me," Mulder replied.

"I think I like the way you think," Alex said.

Alex was hard, eager, panting. Mulder liked to fuck, but sometimes Alex just had to be on top. Right now, they devoured each other, kiss by kiss. Mulder felt Alex's finger breech him, slowly opening him. They knew each other so well. There was no inch of their bodies the other had not caressed, kissed, tasted, touched.

Their hard cocks dueled as they continued to kiss. They could have come like this. Even after a year, they still excited each other enough to ignite even with the friction of their naked flesh against each other.
This time, Mulder wanted Alex inside him. He rolled over, offering. He felt Alex's kiss on his lower back and then the slide of lubricated fingers. He moaned and twitched his ass, teasing.

Alex gave him a swat before continuing. Mulder laughed. "Oh, we are so toppy tonight."

"I'm gonna ride you hard," Alex said. He pulled Mulder's hips up and slid a pillow under him.

The slow burn of being entered was familiar. There was something about surrendering. This act was always wonderful with Alex although Mulder had not enjoyed it much with other lovers. He trusted Alex. He loved Alex.

Mulder could feel Alex holding back, tender of him. He pushed back swiftly, feeling the familiar pain-pleasure of being filled.

"Oh, Mulder... "

His lover's worshipping tones was the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Up on his knees, Mulder's head hung down as he braced himself for his lover's thrusts. Alex's hand coaxed him to stay hard, but he didn't need it. He could come from this, especially when Alex sped up, the friction inside him, Alex's cock angled perfectly for his pleasure. Sweat lubricated them, letting their bodies move. Alex's groans were answered by his own.

Ah, now his body was poised on the edge of coming. Mulder's awareness of his lover faded. They were one, harsh cries chiming together, muscles straining, nerves on fire. And now... and now...

World imploded. Mulder's world was these exquisite sensations, washing everything away from him.

Afterwards, heart thundering, body satiated, mind humming with aftershocks of pleasure. Hasty swipe of tissue and then sleep. Deep, deep sleep that was Mulder's due now. He could feel Alex's hand resting on his ass, still claiming him.

This was Mulder. This was Alex.

OooOooO

Mulder's phone brought him back from his post coital sleep. Damn, where had he left it?

The insistent ring led him to his discarded pants. Mulder caught the call at the last moment. "Special Agent Mulder."

"Agent Mulder, it's Stewart Cosko. Dana Scully said you had an emergency and needed a confirmation that blood on an item is human. I'm your man."

Not quite. Mulder's man was sitting on the edge of the bed with hair spiked into improbable angles.

Mulder pointed toward the bathroom and Alex nodded, going in to get a head start on putting his agent face back on.

Despite still feeling the burn inside him, Mulder could have easily gone back to that bed for a second round, but he got directions instead. He would just have time to take a hurried shower before they left with the bear claws necklace.

OooOooO

The lab was in Seattle. The roads were jammed. People in Washington State really did not know how to handle traffic! Mulder had to call Dr. Cosko twice to assure him they were on his way. Scully must have left a very nice memory in the man's mind for him to be this cooperative.

Cosko was good looking enough. Very tall though. He would have towered over Scully. He took the bear claw necklace with a curious look. "This doesn't look like something made for tourists."

"It wasn't. It was given to a comatose son by his father and it could end up the subject of a law suit unless we find out that it is human blood on the fur."

"Easy enough to do some rough tests on that. I won't be able to do anything more than some broad spectrum tests."

"Good enough."

Alex parked himself next to Mulder and stretched his legs out. "Hope that our hunch is right. Hate to be the start of an Indian war."

"I have a lot of respect for Native American traditions, but I'm not going to let them stand in the way of a murder investigation," Mulder said.

"I know, but you know, Old Man Smoke helped us out," Alex said."

"We may be saving Carla Sanchez from a false accusation," Mulder said.

"I wish her father could understand that," Alex said. "He's an angry man."

"Then we've given him a gift," Mulder said, "We've given him a legitimate reason to be pissed off."

"You're an asshole, Mulder."

"But you love me anyway."

Rolling his eyes, Alex whispered, "That goes without saying."

Mulder spent the next two hours drinking bad coffee and sexually harassing his partner. It was still enjoyable, knowing that this partner he could have, almost anytime he wanted.

Skinner called with as much disregard for Mulder's working hours as Mulder himself had. "Senator Richardson is screaming for us to arrest Carla Sanchez."

"How is he privy to the connection?" Mulder asked.

There was a brief silence and Skinner sounded puzzled. "I don't know. He has had his aides sniffing around since the third murder. He claims that two of the murders were in his Virginia and he is concerned for his constituents."

"Since when has the esteemed senator cared about anything that didn't lead directly to his reelection or lining his pockets?"

"Mulder, he is on the ways and means committee," Skinner reminded. "Not the man to antagonize. I let you and Krycek go to Washington. I want you to come up with something concrete by tomorrow or I want you on a plane back to Washington DC."

"We will have something, Sir," Mulder said. "We believe we have found some material evidence."

"In Tacoma Washington? Seems far fetched."

"We will have a report for you in the morning," Mulder promised. "Have a good night, Sir."

Alex looked at Mulder and asked, "What if the tests are negative for human blood?"

"It won't be."

OooOooO

Both the scrapings from Joey's nails and the bear claws were positive for blood, more than one type of human blood and something else. Without a larger sample, Cosko could not attempt to guess what the strange blood type was, but it did not match any DNA found in the computer so far.

The hearing was brief. Ms. Fountain knew her stuff, but the bear claws held human blood. Genotyping already matched some of the traces to the victims in Washington DC. Mulder got a court order to have an electroencephalogram done on Joey Sanchez. Although the judge was doubtful, the blood traces under Joey's nails persuaded him to see if somehow Joey was part of an elaborate fraud.

Meanwhile Senator Richardson was still playing armchair detective. He accused Carla Sanchez of exchanging necklaces with her brother and planting the traces of blood under his nails.

"Why does he have a case for her?" Alex mused. "Hey, Mulder, think the weird sisters could find our where our Senator was on a night in April of 1980?"
"Why, Agent Krycek, I was about to suggest that very thing," Mulder said.

Alex grinned despite the seriousness of what they intended to do. Senator Richardson was powerful. He could get them both canned and make Skinner's life hell. That wasn't going to stop them. Nothing would.

OooOooO

The EEG tests produced some dramatic information. Joey's brain scan showed dramatic bursts of activity and equally dramatic areas of deterioration. Joey Sanchez was dying. His neurons seemed to be firing final salutes to his life.

The other interesting thing was that there was additional blood traces between Joey's toes and some fiber samples that Mulder suspected would match the carpet from the most recent victim.

Carla Sanchez was suspended. Richardson had exerted enough pressure to assure that and to issue another search warrant for her apartment.

OooOooO

Mulder winced as Carla Sanchez stormed into the meeting room at the local prosecutor.

"What the hell are you doing, hounding my family? Haven't we suffered enough?" Carla yelled.

"I'm trying to solve a case," Mulder said. "And incidentally keep you out of jail."

"It's bullshit," Carla said. "I can't believe you would even waste money flying out here. My brother hasn't been out of that bed, not under his own power."

"Sit down, Ms. Sanchez," Mulder said. He pushed the test result at the irate woman.

Officer Sanchez brushed at her thick black hair and glared at Mulder, but she did sit down. She angrily flipped through the pages until she came to the medical report about her brother.

"He's dying," Carla Sanchez said. "And you still can't leave him alone. Look, I don't know what your thing is, but those bear claws arenít magic. Yes, I kept mine, but only because they were a gift from my Dad. This entire mish mash of events is nothing but coincidence. I don't believe in any of this stuff."

"Your parents do," Mulder said.

"It comforts them," Carla Sanchez said. "Neither of them was that much into Native American religion when Joey and I were kids. They turned to it after he was injured. My Dad uses his Midewiwin beliefs to keep him sober."

"Ms. Sanchez, look at the lab evidence," Alex said. "I know you wear the blues, but I did too. It didn't stop me from knowing about the basics of forensics. You know that blood testing is more of an exact science than ever. Look at the match from your brother's nails and from the bear claws."

It was hard to watch Carla Sanchez's eyes as she read, compared, and struggled to find the results a lie.

"Someone else might have taken the bear claws."

"Who?" Mulder asked.

"I don't know," Carla said. "Some nut."

"Your family has motivation to do it," Mulder said. His voice was oddly gentle as he added, "But I don't think your parents or you did it."

"How would my brother even know about those cases?" Carla said.

"A couple of them were known suspects in hit and runs," Mulder said. "You were assigned to several recent cases. You and Joey are twins. People close to you report that you and Joey engaged in twin language when you were toddlers. They say you were like one person when you were small children. Do you dream about Joey, Ms. Sanchez?"

By the way Carla Sanchez stormed out of the room, Alex knew she did dream about Joey.

OooOooO
Myra Sanchez was lighter than her husband and had green eyes in an almost Asian featured face. She and Carla held hands across Joey's bed as Joseph Senior prayed, sprinkling something from a clam shell.

Alex and Mulder stood by, heads bowed respectfully. As the prayer finished, the family stood.

Carla said, "I want to talk to you."

OooOooO

They sat in the cafeteria. Carla played with a cup of tea. She spun the cup, her eyes distant. She said, "I have been having some weird dreams. My chalk drawings coming to life and turning into skeletons that flew. I thought it was because my father has been filling my head with his legends. Pauguk."

"That's the third time we've heard that name," Alex said. "Who is Pauguk?"

"Well, good luck booking him if you think he is a suspect," Carla Sanchez said. "Pauguk is like the grim reaper. He's a flying skeleton from my father's legends. Only sometimes he doesn't wait for you to die from another cause. Sometimes he chases you down and slices you to pieces with his bony fingers."

"What about a bear?" Alex asked. "Has your father mentioned anything about a bear?"

Shrugging, Carla Sanchez said, "Nothing but our Bear clan connection. That's why our father gave us the necklaces."

Mulder glanced at Alex. Alex nodded. The lab had finally returned the verdict that the strange blood on the claws was simply that of the bear from which the claws came. It was fresher than it should have been, but they preferred the easy answer.

Joseph Sr. and Myra Sanchez came back in the room. Myra said, "Are you really trying to open our son's case?"

"We're looking into a few ideas," Mulder said.

"We're going to go back to Myra's place," Joseph Sr. said. He nodded at his daughter and said, "Carla, you coming with us?"

Carla Sanchez nodded and followed them out. "Yeah, I'm tired. Agents... good night."

"Here's my phone number if anything comes up," Mulder said, handing the woman his card. "Call the cell phone."

OooOooO

"Do you want to go to the hotel?" Mulder asked.

Alex shook his head. He felt unsettled and didn't think he could sleep. For once, he did not even feel like making love. "Let's drive around, get some hot chocolate, and look at Christmas lights."

Mulder's expression was classic. Alex knew the idea didn't appeal. Mulder's family had celebrated a mixture of traditions before Samantha was abducted. Afterwards, they had never had a Christmas again.

Alex's... Ricky's family had brought it all out for Christmas. He remembered his Uncle and Aunt had so many light displays that he would wake up at night and think that it was already morning. They would still drive around, with thermos jars of hot chocolate and admire the decorations in town. It was one of Ricky's best memories.

"Come on, Mulder," Alex said. "It will be fun. We can snuggle."

"Men don't snuggle," Mulder said. "We fuck."

Rolling his eyes, Alex said, "Yeah, right, that's why you always use me as your body pillow."

"That's different," Mulder said. "So we can see your lights but the next time, you finally do that thing I want."

"I am not going to make you blackout while we fuck," Alex said. "That's dangerous."

"I was talking about letting me handcuff you," Mulder said.

"Okay," Alex said. "My wrists are all yours. Deal?"

"Deal," Mulder said with a smirk.

Despite Mulder's resistance, he seemed to enjoy the experience. His poor Mulder... Alex loathed Mulder's parents. His... Ricky's parents weren't perfect, but they had loved him and had tried to give him a normal childhood. When his mother had become ill, his Uncle and Aunt gave him a great home.

They drove until they ended up on bluff overlooking the bay and parked. Mulder's arm claimed Alex and he certainly did a good job at snuggling for a man who said he didn't believe in it.

"You make me want to commit a public indecency," Mulder said.

"You say the nicest things," Alex said, returning Mulder's kiss.

The kiss might have tempted them to more, but Mulder's cell phone rang insistently.

Carla Sanchez said, "Agent Mulder, we're on our way to the nursing home. I was so exhausted that I took a nap at Mom's the moment I went in the door. I had a terrible nightmare about Joey and now the center isn't answering the phone."

"We'll meet you there," Mulder said, straightening his clothing.

Alex buckled his seat belt, hand automatically checking to make sure he has his gun. Mulder said, "Call Skinner and have him send someone to check on Senator Richardson."

"What am I supposed to say to Skinner to get him to do that?"

"Tell him anything," Mulder said. "Just get him to do it."

Alex called Skinner, getting him quickly. Skinner sounded odd though as if he had just tumbled out of bed... and not as if he had been sleeping.

Channeling his inner rat boy, Alex said, "Mulder got a suspicious call from Senator Richardson's home. Can you have someone check on him?"

"I suppose," Skinner said. "At least, I can give him a call."

"Let us know," Alex said.

"I will," Skinner said, "All the Sanchezs are still there in Tacoma?"

"Yes," Alex assured. "We're on our way to meet with them."

"This late?" Skinner asked.

"Just check on Richardson."

OooOooO

Ambulances were hauling people out of the nursing home when the agents arrived.

"What happened?" Mulder yelled to the director.

"Power's out and the battery backup is failing," the director yelled. "I have to get these people to one of my other facilities or have them hospitalized."

At that moment, blue and red lights arced over the west side of the building. Joey Sanchez's room was in that area.

Carla Sanchez and her parents showed up, running from their car. They headed into the nursing home.

"Come on, Alex!" Mulder yelled. His partner ran with him.

Their long legs carried them in front of Carla Sanchez. A burly male nurse's aid was pulling on the door.

"It's stuck," the man yelled.

"You sure it's unlocked?" Mulder asked.

"Duh," the man said. He suddenly let go of the door, yelling, "It's electrified!"

Mulder reached for the door handle and promptly let go. The shock was enough to make his hands numb for a moment. Before he could try again, Alex dragged him back and said, "We'll go through the window. Someone get us a hammer, a crow bar, anything like that so we can get in."

Someone brought a hammer and then they were running again. The emergency exit had a small blinking light that must have been run off the emergency generator. Leaving the door gaping, Mulder mentally mapped which window was Joey Sanchez's.

A second later, there was no doubt. A haze of light seemed to erupt from the window. There was a screech and a ghastly figure circled them, heading for Mulder. Alex pushed him down, landing on top of him. Alex gasped.

"Stop it," Mulder said. He shoved Alex aside. He had to see this.

Pauguk, if that's what the bloody skeleton was, took flight.

Now a huge shape squeezed through the window. It growled. It was huge bear, colored rust like blood. It stood on its hind legs, head swaying, claws ready.

Joseph Sanchez leapt between the others and the bear. He spoke to the bear, the word, Makwa, repeated.

The bear roared so loudly that Mulder covered his ears. It started toward them again until Sanchez roared something, throwing powder towards the bear.

It leapt...

Mulder was the one this time who stood protectively in front of his lover.

The bear's leap took it skyward. It wasn't flying, but running, running in the air. Running east. Toward Washington DC.

Now chalk drawings danced out of the room. They were outlines one moment and then transparent human figures. They wailed as they capered and then they also headed east.

The window was shattered. Mulder ran forward despite Alex's warning shout.

Joey Sanchez floated in the air. He was dancing in the air, a strange measured dance that echoed the movements of the bear.

Mulder jumped into the room, followed by his lover and the Sanchez family.

"Son," Joseph Sanchez said. "Son, this is wrong. Let your hate go. Hate does not lead to the good red road. Don't kill any more of them."

Joey's eyes opened, dark eyes, eyes with pupils made of red flame. He continued to dance.

Kneeling, Joseph Sanchez took an oddly shaped bundle that was slung from his shoulder, across his back. He lit something in a large clam shell, waving the smoke in his son's direction. He was praying hard.

Myra Sanchez joined her husband, her language contrasting, but supporting him none the less.

Carla Sanchez walked toward his brother, holding her hands out to him. "Joey, don't do this. Please, my brother, please don't hurt anyone else."

Light arced from Joey to his sister.

No, it was flowing from Carla to her brother.

Alex said, "He's stealing her life! We have to get her out of here."

When Alex grabbed Carla, a thunder clap sounded and Alex tumbled away as if hit by a gigantic wind. Mulder caught his lover and partner before he could fall.

Joseph Sanchez's prayers grew louder and he stood. From his body, a gigantic bear formed, but this one wasn't red. This one was white. Not white like a polar bear, but shining, a rainbow of iridescence radiating from its fur. Its expression was mild.

The bear grew until it filled the room. It reached huge paws toward Joey. Joey tried to push it away, but it encircled him. The bear cradled Joey who struggled at first, but the bear sang to him. The song was high and beautiful, unearthly.

Suddenly the strange light in the room faded. The bear let Joey go. He turned, smiled at his family and he became a child again. He was that eight year old boy running, a little brown skinned boy running. Now he caught the white bear's paw. He climbed on the bear's back and he rode away, one backwards look at his family.

The room was entirely dark. Mulder found his flashlight and aimed it at the bed. Joey Sanchez lay crumpled near his bed. The lights came on and the room was white, everything was white.

"The bear claw necklace," Carla said. "His necklace is white now."

Kneeling by her brother, Carla checked for a pulse. She said, "He's gone, Daddy. He's gone. I'm sorry."

Joseph Sanchez handed the shell to his wife. The smoke was gone, but the fragrance filled the room, bitter, pure, sweet smoke...

"It's okay, Little Bear, it's okay. He is safe now. He is pure now. He is part of the great mystery. He is healed."

Mulder looked at Alex, only now realizing that the first bear had raked his arm. His suit jacket hung in ribbons, his white shirt was dotted with blood.

"Alex, you're hurt," Mulder said.

"It's not bad," Alex said. His cell phone rang.

"It's Skinner," Alex said.

Putting their boss on speaker phone, Alex frowned at Mulder as his lover pulled off his torn jacket to have a look at the wounded arm.

"We found Senator Richardson in his garage."

"Dead?" Mulder asked.

"No, he was alive, battered and very shaken. He's going to resign from the senate. He's had a crisis of conscience. Apparently he hit an eight year old boy fourteen years ago. He was at a convention, drank too much. He had just won his first major position as a representative. He didn't want to face the consequences. He kept on driving. He ditched the car in Idaho, telling the junkyard that he hit a tree and didn't want to repair the car as he was ready for a new one."

"He's admitting this?" Mulder said. He put his coat over Alex and said, "One of these is deep. You need stitches."

Skinner said, "He's babbling some cockamamie story about a bloody skeleton chasing him and a bear, a bear in his garage. He also said there were people made of chalk all screaming at him to confess. We've ordered a drug and alcohol test."

"I don't think you'll find Senator Richardson was drinking," Mulder said, plucking the cell phone from his lover's fingers. "I have to get Agent Krycek to an emergency room. He needs stitches."

"What happened?" Skinner asked.

"A bear clawed him," Mulder said.

"I'm not going to like your report, am I?" Skinner said.

"The case is solved," Mulder said. "Carla Sanchez is cleared. She can go back to her job."

Carla came up, shaking her head. She said, "No, Agent Mulder, what I saw here tonight... I rejected my traditional ways. I ran from my people. I realize now that there are things beyond what I knew as real. I will be a better police officer when I know who I am. Besides, my Mom and my Dad need me. We have healing to do."

"What was that?" Skinner asked.

"Nothing, Sir," Mulder said. "Officer Sanchez was making a statement about her brother's death."

"Get your... get your partner seen," Skinner said. "No need to hurry back. Take a few days off."

"Thank you, Sir," Mulder said.

"Don't thank me," Skinner said. "It's the only way I'm going to have any time off. Enjoy yourself, Agents. Hopefully, Agent Krycek's injury won't impair your holiday."

On the way to the hospital, Mulder said, "Alex, you know I never celebrated Christmas. Never had any reason. Tonight, if I didn't know it, I am reminded that I have been given a wonderful gift. I have someone who loves me as much as life. I have someone whom I want to spend my life with. I have you."

Alex's answer was his hand on Mulder's knee. He needed no words. They had each other. They were complete.

Mulder smiled. Scully had been brought into debunk him, but became his friend and she would always be his loyal partner.

Spender had taken his beloved. Spender had tried to twist Mulder's lover into a weapon.

Perhaps somewhere there was a universe where Mulder had never gone to his Alex. Perhaps there were Mulders who were still alone.

This Mulder pitied them.

The night was cold, stars shining. Mulder could finally look at them and merely see beauty. And Peace.

Peace to all. Mulder walked his right road too. Never alone. Never.

The future was not something Mulder and Alex had to fight. They would face it with joy. They would solve other cases and perhaps someday, they would find a way to make sure that the invasion Spender claimed was happening would be stemmed.

The case was over.

Love remained.

THE END
 

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