Somewhere To Call Home
Warnings: mentions of abuse, underage prostitution
Alex flipped up the collar of his jacket to ward off the brisk November chill as he hurried home from the corner bookstore with a paperback tucked under his arm. It was the new Mikhail Khostov novel, now an international best-selling series that he had been lucky to find printed in its original Russian edition. The fast-paced thriller novel was just was not his usual reading fare, to be sure, but just something mindless and distracting enough he could curl up with front of the fire and not really have to concentrate on or think too much about.
And if he was honest, then maybe, just maybe, he was a little tired of being alone with his thoughts at night, though another part of himself chided him for having become soft now that the War was over.
The 'Silent War' as he had come to think of it, had not generated much of a ripple effect, at least in the eyes of the general public. The aliens had left as silently and as secretly as they had come, persuaded perhaps by the sheer effectiveness of the vaccine that Alex helped deliver, the one with the lethal backlash that had convinced them that Earth was no longer inhabitable.
But for the most part the whole affair had been kept on the down-low. Oh for a while, there had been some vicious turnovers in the upper echelons of government administrations, but somehow the vast majority of the public had never got wind of the fact that aliens had been involved.
Overall, though, he had to admit that he was satisfied with the way things turned out. The Consortium had been exposed and shut down, the government effectively performing a deep-cleanse within itself. It was as if everything had been wrapped up and tied with a neat little bow. He had played his part in it, had done what he could, and now was all too glad to wash his hands of the whole affair.
He wished no recognition for his part in the war, nor did he want to be involved in that bureaucratic mess that had followed. His life was his own now, for the first time in years. No obligations, except of his own making.
Alex sidestepped a puddle of slush and huddled deeper into his jacket, shivering against a sudden upgust of the wind. He had ditched leather for the charcoal cargo jacket he now sported. Innocuous but expensive, it was far less conspicuous than the menacing black leather he had been so fond of. He didn't want to be noticed these days. A clean break. New name, new city... not quite a new line of work, but it'll do.
The security firm he had set up in New York City under his new identity was doing quite well for itself. Of course, it was nights like these that made him wonder if he'd made the right decision. But he always told himself it was all right in the end. It's not like he hadn't been always been on his own anyway. He was comfortable working alone. He knew himself best after all. He liked what he was doing. Most of all, he enjoyed being the boss.
And if there was that little part of himself that wished he could've stayed, some part, however small, that had wanted to remain shackled to the familiarity that was the X-Files, and... Mulder?... well, he'd seen how they were, hadn't he? The way they had looked at him after the mess had been cleared up, unsure if they wanted him around or not, even though they knew who he was now, what he'd done. No, he got it. There was too much history there, and unpleasantness.
Mulder might have said something to him. He'd seen that part-hesitation, part-desire in those hazel eyes. Mulder's eyes narrowing and alighting on Alex across the room as he finally made up his mind. Like Alex was going to be his next project, some type of personal X-Files. Mulder was itching to find out what made him tick. Or he might have just wanted him for the sex. But he hadn't bothered to stick around to find out what it was, exactly, that Mulder had wanted. It hurt, more than he'd like to admit, to realize that Mulder's... obsession, there was no other word for it, with him was just that. Nothing but a primal, surface attraction because Mulder didn't know him. Not really. And what he wanted wasn't Alex.
Mulder had Scully, and little William now. Skinner was happily courting Doggett of all people. Anyway he looked at it, he was the odd one out. The third wheel, so to speak.
But that was okay. He was used to being on his own. He just didn't want to be alone around that happy little family and be constantly reminded of the fact that he simply didn't belong. He'd caught Skinner and Scully sharing a look right before he slipped out of the room, and away, had watched him sympathetically as if he was some type of charity case, someone they needed to keep an eye on. No, forget it. He'd make his own luck. No more X-Files, no more little grey men, and no more Spender.
He'd almost laughed when he was outside the building - through the front door this time - and looking up at the Hoover for the last time. There had been a tightening ache in his chest ached but at the same time it had been oddly liberating.
He should have spent more time paying attention to where he was going and less time musing over the past, because rounding the corner he nearly collided with someone.
Alex berated himself for letting his guard down. He mumbled a quick apology to the other and meant to step around and continued on his way when the smaller figure mirrored his sidestep to deliberately block his way again, this time planting himself solidly in Alex's path.
Alex's irritation flared considerably. What the hell? It was late, he was cold, and this idiot wanted to pick a fight? It was laughable. The provoker barely came up to his chin.
Narrowing his eyes, Alex took a step back and assessed the other man.
He was dressed in a dark blue hooded sweatshirt with the hood thrown up to obscure his face, torn jeans, and oversized sneakers. The entire getup screamed 'punk' to him and Alex's lips curled in distaste. He didn't doubt the guy had a knife on him somewhere, or else he wouldn't have dared to pick a fight with someone so much bigger than him. Well, knife or no, he had picked the wrong guy to mess around with tonight.
"Now look here," Alex started to warn, letting menace seep into his voice like poison. Walking around alone in New York City after dark, he knew he was asking for it, really. But while he was not afraid of the city and its nighttime vices - he was more than equipped to handle it, after all - it did start to get old pretty fast. Now if he could just scare the other guy off instead of having to get his hands dirty, he'd be home that much quicker.
But the sharp rebuke he meant to deliver died on his lips when the 'thug' pushed backed his hoodie and Alex was staring into the guileless blue eyes of a young teen. He stepped back in surprise.
"I'm sorry. I don't mean to bother you, sir," the boy apologized softly, politely.
He looked quite a bit frightened under Alex's hostile glare that Alex remembered to soften his expression. It was just a kid. Not much of a threat, and there's no need to scare the wits off of him. He was obviously not the boisterous gang member spoiling for a fight or the unscrupulous mugger that Alex had been expecting.
The boy spoke again. "I was just, uhm, wondering if you'd like to..." he trailed off, licking his lips nervously and shuffling his feet on the ground before clearing his throat and trying again. "That is, would you consider -"
Alex's eyes widened in sudden understanding. Oh. The boy was turning tricks. Well, it was obvious now, the way he peered up at Alex from under his lashes in a way that was clearly meant to be seductive, eyes darting quickly downwards before slowly dragging up to not-quite-meet Alex's eyes, the mop of tousled brown hair, intentionally messy, and the tattered, tight-fitting jeans showing more skin than was decent.
Jesus. He did not need this. The kid couldn't have been more than, what, fourteen? Fifteen at the most. Alex felt a twinge of sympathy. He knew what it was like. That had been him, at one point in time. But for this kid, at least, there was no Consortium on the other end of the leash. For a brief moment he wondered where the boy's parents were, or if they were even alive, for him to be out on the streets so young. But it didn't matter. He had no intention of soliciting underage sex. He'd best send the boy on his way then.
"Sorry, kid, not interested," Alex told him, not unkindly. He turned to go.
"Wait!" A hand on his sleeve stopped him. "I'll make it worth your while, I promise. Look, for seventy you can have me for the night. I'll let you do whatever you want. Please, Sir," he begged.
Alex could hear thinly-veiled desperation in that voice. The kid was shivering. He was definitely not dressed for the weather in that slim hoodie and threadbare jeans. Alex glanced around him at the deserted streets. Johns didn't usually cruise this area, so he wondered why the kid was turning tricks here. But it was obvious he couldn't foist him off onto someone else, unfortunately.
There was a hotel just up ahead. The least he could do was get the kid a room for the night, somewhere he could stay warm.
"Okay. Come on," Alex relented. He nodded at their destination and stepped down from the curb to cross the street, listening to the hesitant footsteps starting to follow him.
Glancing behind him, Alex noticed that the kid had dropped the seductive act now that he had secured Alex's interest. Instead he trailed behind Alex with his head down, hands shoved inside his pockets and shoulders hunched miserably against the cold. He looked incredibly vulnerable.
He slowed his stride so the boy could match his speed.
"What's your name?" Alex asked him.
The boy looked up, startled at the question. There was a flicker of something, surprise or other, in his eyes, but it was quickly gone. "Warren," he answered quietly.
Alex nodded. "Alex."
They were standing on the stairs outside the building now, right underneath the gaudy but bright-lit sign that loudly proclaimed this was a fine establishment, 'catering to customers since 1964'. Alex peered through the glass. Well, it looked modern enough, inside.
He opened the door and waved Warren in, glad for the few late-night customers that were still waiting to check in at the front desk. He hoped that was enough to draw the focus away from them while Alex rented a room, lest hotel staff became suspicious of possible "illicit" activity taking place. Not that he planned on doing anything illegal, for once, and especially not this, but an older guy like him and a pretty young thing well, people inevitably jumped to the worst conclusions.
He turned to Warren and was about to instruct him to take the side stairs, to wait for him by the landing, but Warren just gave a little nod and had sauntered off like he belonged there, already familiar with the procedure.
Alex watched him go with a small frown upon his face. So young and already a victim of the sex trade, exploited by dirty men with nothing better to do than prey upon young innocents.
Somewhere along the way, unbidden but not unnoticed, a small persistent burn of anger had started to simmer underneath the surface. It's been a long time since he had nursed that particular little grudge. He had a lot to be angry at, certainly, but over the years he'd learned to temper his anger and channel his resentment so as to be able to do his job properly.
But now, now he could do something about it. Maybe he'd been wrong about himself. Maybe he hadn't wanted to completely bury his past, though many of the people involved were long dead and buried anyway. But here was his chance for... for what, exactly?
Rectification? He couldn't fix what was broken, not this time. Revenge? Too little, too late, and not likely to be all that satisfactory. Redemption, then. If only a little, and if only in his own eyes. It would have to be enough.
Warren was waiting for him by the stairs the next floor up, when Alex had booked the room and retrieved the key cards. They took the elevator up to the 7th floor. Navigating the corridors in search of the room, they passed a small vending machine.
Alex abruptly stopped by the well-stocked black machine and took out his wallet. He fed it some money, scrounging up a few bags of chips and chocolate bars and handing them over to Warren. Working long nights meant the kid was probably more than a bit hungry by now.
If Warren was surprised at the gesture he covered it up well, trying to be unobtrusive about opening up the noisy bags as he followed behind Alex and munched eagerly on the snacks.
The room, when they reached it, was a pleasantly clean and spacious area patterned in muted tones of red and gold. The large bed that featured prominently in the center of the room certainly made its presence felt. Alex stared at it a few moments, struggling with a surge of past memories, and then blinked and shook his head.
He turned to see Warren watching him tentatively, waiting for Alex's directions. Alex had turned over some questions in his head as they'd made their way up, and now he'd see about getting some answers. He doubted he was going to be surprised though.
"Warren. Why are you doing this?" He knew he didn't have to clarify. Warren would know what he's referring to.
There was something almost akin to anger that flitted over the thin face - that's good. Anger. Anger was good. Not so broken, then- and for a second Alex thought he wasn't going to answer, but then -.
"Because. Because... I have to," Warren sounded very unsure, but his lips were pressed in a thin line, and in his eyes, a challenge.
"Because you have to," Alex repeated with a sigh. He looked down at the carpet. "Look, you're not 18 - no, don't argue, you are not 18. Where are your parents?"
"Why the hell do you even care?" Prickly subject, that. The kid was getting antsy. "You're the one who picked me up. Obviously -"
"Indulge me," Alex cut him off.
Warren affixed him with a defiant glare but thought better of snapping back. Alex waited, letting the silence stretch, knowing that the boy was feeling trapped between this line of questioning and the thought of money down the line - or the consequences if he doesn't get it.
"I -" The air of rebellion seem to slump out of him all of a sudden. His next words were much quieter. "I'm a foster kid. So no, my 'parents' don't know where I am and they won't care if I'm doing this, If that's what you're so worried about, okay?"
"You ran away, is that it?" Alex got a curt, short nod. Warren had shoved his hands into his pockets and was looking at the walls, at the floor, anywhere but at Alex. The food lay on scattered on the table where they were tossed earlier, forgotten.
"And you got into this," Alex waved a hand vaguely. "And now he won't let you go, is that right?" Underage hustlers usually had a 'pimp' who controlled their activities and took most of their earnings in exchange for some dubious protection. And the really nasty ones, they were possessive to a fault.
"Who? Who are you working for?"
"Vinnie." Alex wasn't so much surprised at the answer as he was that the kid actually answered. But then again, he hadn't given him much of a choice. Resentful as Warren was at Alex's inquiries, the kid needed his money to meet his quota for the night, and he didn't want to piss off a client.
"You could have picked a different area, you know," Alex said mildly, "There can't have been much business around here."
"I go where he tells me to go, and here because it's... punishment for something I did last week. It's not like I have a choice! He'd find me, if I tried to... I don't know, escape or something. Look, I know what you are here for. So stop it, stop pretending like you give a damn. Just go ahead. Tell me what you want." The defiant spark was back in the kid's eyes. "Tell me what you want me to do. Do you want me on my knees? On all fours?"
Alex pushed aside the blend of voices and memories from the past, focused on the here and now. This was turning out to be a hell of a night.
He gave Warren a long look. The kid looked worn down. Alex was probably not the first client he he'd picked up that night. He looked like he could probably use, would welcome even, a nice long hot shower.
"You should get cleaned up," Alex tipped his head in the direction of the en-suite bath.
A beat of silence where they stared warily at each other, and then Alex heard a soft, "Yes, sir." Polite, if slightly mocking. So it was back to business, was it?
Alex heard the shower turn on and noticed that Warren had left the bathroom door ajar. He sat down on the bed with a sigh, scrubbing a hand over his face and thinking back to what Warren had told him earlier.
Vinnie. That had to be Vincent 'Vinnie' Moretti. And yes, Alex knew him. Or knew of him, rather. Over the course of his work, Alex's company occasionally had run-ins with some of the more unsavory characters in the city. It became a matter of course and necessity to keep tabs on many of the underground players in the city. Sometimes the info came in handy.
A member of the Italian mafia, Vinnie had made quite a lucrative trade of a prostitution ring, one that specialized in underage hustlers. Even before the details he'd gleaned from Warren tonight, Alex had already decided that Vinnie was a sleazeball in the purest sense of the word.
Alex had kept the data they had inadvertently collected on the man, though he wasn't entirely sure why he'd been sitting on it until now. Yes, he'd been busy with various aspects of running a top-level security firm, sure, but he'd always know he intended to put that information to use someday. Meeting Warren tonight was just the tipping point. It took a cold man to leave the kid under the control of that monster. And Alex wasn't that cold, not anymore.
He glanced at the bathroom door. This business with Vinnie had to be taken care of, tonight. In the meantime, he needed Warren to stay put. Warren didn't trust him enough to do as Alex asked, but Alex didn't want the kid back on the street tonight. Or going back to Vinnie, for that matter. That left only one option.
He stood and walked around to the head of the bed. It was of a solid brass frame that gleamed dully, the hotel's vintage spin on decor. He ran a hand over the smooth metal and tugged twice, testing the strength. It'll do.
Reaching into his jacket pocket, Alex pulled out the pair of handcuffs he carried as a matter of course. Aside from the practical aspects of the thing in his current line of business, it was also the same pair that had chained him to Skinner's balcony that one cold night in distant memory, the same pair that Mulder had freed him from in the morning. He'd long given up trying to come up with a good reason why he'd kept it in the first place.
A faint scuffling noise behind him, feet on carpet. Alex closed his fist around the cuffs and brought his hand behind his back as he turned, feeling vaguely guilty.
He almost dropped it in surprise when he saw Warren, Warren who had not bothered to get dressed again after the shower. Alex's eyes flickered to the walls momentarily. He probably should have expected that.
Warren watched him with careful eyes as he approached. He was standing quite still, save for the faint rise and fall of his chest that signaled he was breathing faster than usual.
Alex caught sight of what appeared to be faint reddish marks curving over the tensed set of shoulders. Frowning, he caught hold of Warren's arm gently and turned him around, taking in without comment the number of red streaks that marred the boy's back. His hand had tightened reflexively and Warren flinched.
There were marks that looked liked they'd been inflicted by a crop with enough intensity to draw blood, and welts that looked like someone had taken a belt to him, hard.
Alex's lips pressed into a grim line. He could feel the anger bubbling up again. Sadist, they were the worst lot. Vincent was going down.
Warren looked up at him uncertainly. It made what he was about to do harder. He didn't want to scare the kid, but it was unavoidable.
Alex led him, unresisting, to the bed and sat him down. When he slipped the cool metal onto Warren's too-thin wrist, the boy jerked in surprise, but quickly stilled himself. He was wide-eyed and afraid now, eyes darting back and forth between Alex's face and the restraint on his left wrist, no doubt wondering just how badly he'd misjudged Alex's intentions.
"You don't need to do this. Please, Sir. I'll do whatever you ask," Warren pleaded with him.
Warren's suddenly more subdued voice made him wince inwardly. Sorry, kid. He reached out and brushed back a few stray stands of hair that had flopped forward messily. "I just need you to stay here for a while, okay? I'm not going to hurt you." He'd meant it as a comforting gesture, but Warren's involuntary shudder at his touch made him withdraw his hand.
Before leaving, Alex retrieved Warren's discarded clothing from the bathroom and dropped them on the bed next to him. He'd left Warren's other hand free so with some maneuvering he should be able to get dressed if he wanted.
"I'll be back in a bit."
It was several hours later when he returned to the hotel, laden down with several bags of stuff but a lighter conscience.
He'd taken care of matters with Vincent. No, Alex hadn't outright killed him, though he'd been sorely tempted, but the man was in decidedly worse shape than he'd started the night with. He was also in the custody of the NYPD, along with a full folder of incriminating evidence backed up with the reputation of Alex's company. It should be more than enough to get a raid on the place. In any case, the news channel would be all over it in the morning.
No one had ever accused Alex of not being efficient.
In retrospect, though, maybe it hadn't been the best idea to break into a Macy's outlet on the way back and liberalizing the store of a couple hundred dollars worth of winter wear. He had left behind a generous amount of cash to compensate, but there was no denying that he'd enjoyed the brief thrill of being lawless once again. Besides, it wasn't like there were place open at this hour.
He struggled with the bags before managing to insert the key into the slot. Half expecting Warren to be gone - street kids were especially adept at escaping tight spots, and he'd know, wouldn't he? - Alex shouldered open the door.
The irrational relief that flooded him at seeing Warren still there, small frame curled up on that huge bed, surprised him. He entered and set down the bags.
Warren had managed to wriggle back into the jeans, and he was sitting huddled up against the headboard with the covers pulled up halfway to his chest. He stared at Alex with no small amount of panic and resignation on his face. No doubt he'd worked himself into a frenzy imagining the sort of terrible things Alex would do to him upon his return.
Alex approached the bed. He saw that Warren's free hand was clenched tightly in the tangled mess of sheets and covers. Sitting down, he ignored the way Warren shied away from him as far as the cuffs would allow and reached over to undo the restraints. He noted the appearance of red abrasions on the skin underneath the metal, where the cuffs had bitten into the wrist in what were probably several unsuccessful escape attempts on Warren's part.
The boy let his arm lie limp and plaint in Alex's loose hold even after the cuffs had come off. He was staring resolutely at the opposite wall, but fine tremors had started to course through his body.
Alex reached down into one of the bags and drew out a small first aid kit he had picked up on the way back. He'd meant it for the cuts on the boy's back, a few of which were still bleeding sluggishly, but the wrist had to be treated as well.
"Can you lie down for me?" He asked, angling the box so Warren could see it. "On your stomach. I want to get a look at those cuts on your back."
Warren obeyed him, sliding down to stretch out fully on top of the covers. Alex broke out the kit and started smearing antibacterial ointment on some of the worst marks.
Warren peered back over his shoulder at Alex as he worked, brows knitted in a confused little frown. He'd lost some of that wild fear of earlier, but he was still tense and wary.
Alex kept his touch light, strictly clinical. Finishing up with the back, he turned his attention to the abused wrist. It didn't look too bad. Would probably heal in a few days without any scarring.
"You don't have to worry about Vincent anymore," Alex told him as he wrapped a loose layer of bandages around the wrist. "He won't be bothering you again, all right? Watch the news feed in a few hours. You'll see what I mean."
He set the wrist down gently on the pillow. "Are you hurt anywhere else?"
Warren had pulled his injured arm in close to his chest. He looked startled at the question, but eventually gave a small, hesitant shake of his head.
"Okay, then." He studied Warren in silence for a little while. "There are some warmer clothes there, in the bags." Alex pointed at the cluster of Macy's bags deposited on the floor.
He shifted so he could draw out his wallet. He had stopped off at an ATM machine on his way back and there were several crisp hundred-dollar bills in the folds. Almost two thousand dollars' worth. He took them out and placed the cash on the bedside stand.
It was up to the kid now, what he did with the money. It was more than enough to cover a plane or bus ticket out of the city, back to his foster parents if he wanted, now that he no longer had Vinnie's threat hanging over his head, or to somewhere with a far less toxic atmosphere for a kid than New York City. The boy was smart. He'd figure something out.
As an afterthought, Alex took his business card and laid it on top of the pile. Just in case.
He turned to Warren with a wry smile. "Well, there's your payment."
He ruffled the boy's hair lightly. "Stay out of trouble now, all right?" The touch didn't elicit the same shiver-response he'd gotten the first time, and the wide-eyed look Alex received wasn't out of fear this time.
Standing up, he held out the hotel's key card, waited for Warren to take it. "The room's paid for for a few days, if you need it." He looked at Warren like he wanted to say something else, but settled for giving his shoulder a small pat.
His last glimpse of Warren before he closed the door was of the boy sitting up in the middle of the bed, key card clutched in his hand and looking after him with a bewildered expression on his face. Alex sighed. He had gotten somewhat fond of the kid. He hoped he'd be all right.
Outside, the sky was just getting lighter, streaks of black fading into pale grey. Alex stood on the sidewalk and watched his breath curl into steam in the air. His apartment wasn't too far of a walk, but the cold made it seem longer than it was.
He hadn't gotten very far down the block, however, when the sudden sound of running footsteps behind him caused him to tense - far too early for anyone to be up and about, so who -
He blinked in surprise and turned. That sounded like - "Warren?"
The boy came to a stop in front of him, cheeks flushed from the cold and the exertion. He had hastily thrown on one of the heavy fleece jackets Alex had got him and he was clutching two other shopping bags to him like a lifeline. Anxiety practically shone in his eyes. They stared at each other for a few seconds.
"C-Could I come with you?" Warren suddenly asked. It was quiet enough to be a whisper that Alex almost didn't catch it.
"I - what?" The request took him completely by surprise. Alex honestly hadn't even considered the idea.
"It's just... I don't have anywhere else to go... and I don't want to do this anymore." He sounded so broken. "Please?"
There was the slow trickle of tears now, coating the lashes and sliding down the cheek one drop at a time.
Alex's throat tightened. He reached out and cupped the boy's cheek, brushed away tears with his thumb. "Hey, don't cry."
Warren looked up at him, hope battling with the tears in his eyes.
It was like... like he'd picked up a stray puppy. Or something.
But in any case he let him follow him home.
Dec. 25. 3 AM. 2 years later
Alex stepped out into the living room, bathed in the warmth and glow of the fireplace. There was a scrawny but cheerfully-decorated tree in one corner. He and Warren had both taken a liking to the thing, tucked away in a corner of the lot while prospective buyers had flocked to the sprucier firs and pines the next row over.
Alex moved to the front of the couch, opting to sit on the floor with his back leaning against it. He was content to just watch the fire.
For all that he had no shortage of money on his hands - what with the leftover Consortium funds he'd "appropriated" and the not insubstantial income from his current job - Alex lived in a rather modest apartment. Two small bedrooms, a study for the work he brought home more of often than not. He didn't feel the need to hunt down a lavish penthouse somewhere like many of his colleagues seemed to be so fond of doing. Besides, for a man who'd been on the run or on the move for so long, after the endless dingy motels and small flats over the years even the permanence of the place seemed like a luxury.
After Warren had moved in, Alex thought about getting a bigger place perhaps, but Warren seemed to like it here and there was, after all, something to be said for the coziness of the apartment.
For so many years past, he hadn't bothered with a Christmas tree. The holidays didn't interest him. What was the point if you had no one to share them with?
But now, with Warren here, he felt like he ought to at least make an effort. Enjoyed making the effort, even. It was worth it to see the pure unbridled joy in Warren's eyes when they decorated the tree together, or shared some other small moments that made life worthwhile. Warren had been through a lot, and Alex was glad he could give him this.
The kid had filled something empty in him that Alex hadn't even known he was missing.
A small creak behind him signaled a door opening.
Alex turned his head to see Warren emerging from his room, rubbing sleep from his eyes.
"Hey," Alex greeted, a smile starting to form on his face. "What are you doing up?"
Warren just chuckled sleepily. "What are you doing up? I, uh, I just came to put this under the tree." Alex saw that he was holding an envelope in his hand. "I couldn't decide earlier, whether I should or not. But... here." He held it out for Alex to take.
Alex had gathered that there must be something especially meaningful about the envelope, as he already had several presents under the tree that were from Warren.
As soon as Alex's hand had closed around the envelope, however, Warren started to edge backwards, "I think I'll retreat to my room while you read that. Please, please don't be mad." This last was accompanied by a nervous laugh as Warren turned to go.
Alex stopped him with a hand on his shoulder, stepped around so he could pull him into a reassuring hug. "Hey. I won't be mad, whatever it is."
Warren just made a noncommittal sound in his throat, but he hugged back before making his escape.
Alex sat down on the couch, turning over the letter in his hand. His eyes widened as he read the lettering on the front of the envelope, addressed to him. The handwriting, he'd recognize it anywhere, even if it's been so long that he...
He opened the envelope with shaky fingers, smoothed out the letter.
You are a damned hard man to find.
I've been looking for a long time, did you have any idea? I've had the Gunmen on it, I've used the Bureau's resources, but no dice. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. You were always good at disappearing.
Except... I hadn't wanted you to disappear this time. I thought we were done with that, with the war. I thought maybe you'd stick around this time, that we'd finally have a chance to work things out between us.
I'd like to think that we could have had something, the two of us. I thought we did have something.
I don't know what I might have said, or done (or maybe not have done) to make you take off like that and not look back.
I've just about given up, and settled for hoping that wherever you were, maybe you'd finally found some peace of mind.
And then out of the blue I get contacted by this adolescent kid, your Warren. He's something else, isn't he? I guess you've told him about your past. I get the sense that he's more reading between the lines than anything, but he seems to think that maybe (a guy can hope, right?) you aren't quite over me, and asked if I felt the same way. He said he just wanted to make you happy. He thinks the world of you, Alex.
He also informed me, in no uncertain terms, that if I ever do anything to hurt you again, he will personally hunt me down and make sure I regret it. You're raising a mini-Krycek there, Alex, you know that? I mean it in the best possible way though.
I've missed you.
Please, Alex, give me another chance?
Alex drew a deep breath and rested his head on his knees, the letter clenched tightly in his hand. His chest hurt, but it was a good kind of hurt.
Somehow the thought of seeing Mulder again, after all this time, didn't scare him so much anymore. Maybe it was because this time, he had something to fall back on. A family, of sorts. And yeah, maybe they'd make it work this time.
He padded over to Warren's room, nudged the door open and peered in. Warren was sprawled across his bed and from what Alex could tell, fast asleep already. Teenagers. He fought the urge to roll his eyes.
He carefully edged the door shut again and leaned against it. He found himself smiling a lot, these days.
Life was good.