Rescue Me

by Ursula


Notes: Dedicated to the dogs I have rescued and the ones who have rescued me
Pairing: Skinner/Mulder/Krycek
Time Frame: Post Series

 

"Eat," the voice said.

Alex heard the strength and opened his mouth to accept life. Damn, he thought he was done with it. The cold was taking him, his sins, his heroic deeds, his loves, his betrayals, all that was the complexity of Alex Krycek spiraling to nothing in the snow.

His body was still so chilled, but he was starting to shiver, his body fighting back. It was a curse that he had such strength. It was his body's persistent that kept him alive in the silo, in the Russian wasteland that was Tunguska. It was his body's stubborn refusal to lay down that kept him going after he woke from the alien healer's touch.

"You stink of them," the woman said.

"Sorry," Alex rasped out. He was naked beneath the blankets and warm bodies surrounded him. He turned his face to one side and was licked thoroughly by a freckle faced dog with one blue eye and one brown eye. When he turned to the other side, a large yellow dog whined anxiously before also licking him.

His left arm ached and burned, the only truly warm part of him. Sighing, Alex reached for his stump and yelped as he encountered living flesh instead.

"You were screaming about your arm being cut off," the woman said.

She was a big woman, even sitting; it was evident that she must have been nearly as tall as Alex. Her brown face was deeply weathered. Green eyes peered from the sharp featured face, looking as if they belonged to someone else. Her iron gray hair hung in two thick braids. She laid a hand on Alex's chest, restraining him from getting up. "You're safe here."

Coughing, Alex gazed around. He was in a large room with a million dogs. A fireplace crackled fiercely. The room was wood paneled, not the façade of wood, but real weathered timber. Brightly colored Indian blankets were hung everywhere.

"Eat," the woman said.

"Who are you?" Alex asked.

"Laura Bear Medicine," the woman said. "I take care of the dogs. That's what I do now to forget the bad things I did for a good cause. Nanabosho led me to you...in the spirit of Pa Kaka Ban... the red Siberian Husky over there.

Alex followed her pointing lip to see a red dog licking its paws with a smug expression on his face.

The room swirled. Alex sunk into sleep.

OooOooO


The steady beat of the ax kept counter point to the drum beating inside the lodge. Alex took a breath and tried to let out the fury.

Why not him? Why Laura?

Why! Why!

The black oil caused cancer. Alex knew that, but he had harbored the vile stuff more than once. He had been a steed for it. He had walked with the infernal darkness in his eyes and in his soul and he had no trace of the disease. Laura had never been infected, but her strong body was being eaten by cancer. She said when it was done that she would walk into the wilderness with her Rose, an ancient Australian Shepherd. This property she would leave in trust to the tribe with a life long lease to Alex. The task of protecting the dogs would also be his.

It was a duty that Alex gladly would take. He had the money to expand the plot of trust land. He would take money meant to do harm and would do good.

He only wished his mission would keep Laura by his side. She understood him. She had blood on her hands. She had darkness in her soul. She also had difficulty living with her past.

Twenty dogs redeemed the past with the devotion in their eyes, with the joys of wagging tails that once hung between trembling legs. Alex wondered how many more it would take to take one iota of the guilt that made life a burden?

Jon Boxer was here, working in his tiny trailer, spaying, neutering, administering shots, and applying flea medication. He volunteered but Alex covered the expenses, knowing the veterinarian struggled to make ends meet with his small animal practice in an area where most people did not think a dog or a cat worth the trouble to bring to a vet.

Alex walked to the trailer, the early snow crunching beneath his boots.

"Hey," Jon said, red hair peeking out of his surgical cap. "Can you glove up? I need a hand and Nancy's babysitter didn't show.

"Sure," Alex said, moving to the small sink to wash and put on surgical gloves.

Jon was so fast that he could do a dozen dogs in a day, even the tiny ones. The dog on the table was Nat Gorneu's favorite hunting dog. She had five litters already and her uterus was flabby. It was an incredible thing that the old man had agreed to do this. He almost lost Masie the last litter and, in the end, he loved the bitch more than he loved the money from her fine hunting pups.

The muttered instructions hardly were needed. Alex had played vet assistant more than once. He handed instruments to Jon and added clamps when needed. Finished, Jon said, "Last one. She's doing good. Thank God, the old man would probably shoot me if I lost her."

Jon stripped off his gloves and transferred the hound to a recovery cage. He petted her blue ticked head. One of her ancestors was a blue tick hound, but a lot of breeds had combined to create her sweet nature and uncanny hunting ability.

"Do you think the old gal is really going to do it? Walk into the woods like the old ones did?"

"Sure," Alex said. "She's calling it a spirit walk, but we all know she isn't coming back. Her and Rose both dying of cancer. A good woman and her good dog. If I believed in anything, I would rage to the heavens."

OooOooO


A week later, Alex woke to dogs howling. All of them were there but Rose. He felt like howling himself, but he comforted Lil'Bear who was actually a very solid lab sized yellow dog, Laura's second favorite. She would not take him. He was young and healthy. He would live a good life. Alex would make sure.

The dogs had already been fed and out, but Alex let them out again after checking to make sure Laura had shut the gates of the enclosure.

The snow was falling steadily and the temperature was dropping. No one could survive long out there.

Tears froze on Alex's face. His legs give out. He wept and he wept. He wept for Laura and Rose. He wept for himself. He wept for Mulder and Scully. He even wept for Walter who gave back all the hurt that Alex had slammed at him.

OooOooO


Laura was buried with honor and with Rose. The young people who showed up respected her as an elder. The old people mourned each passing as a step closer to their own. The people who had adopted dogs from her thought she had been a saint.

Alex knew. He knew she sometimes could not sleep at night. He knew her bones ached from the times police beatings broke them. He knew she looked at pictures of people caught in time, warriors fallen, comrades killed as traitors, strong men who died as thin ghosts from service in Vietnam. He knew she wondered why she had lived. Alex understood.

After the funeral, there were still dogs. Alex hired Jon full time. He offered free shots and flea medication for the price of neutering, something few understood in this place caught out of time.

In the middle of rescuing dogs, Alex found himself rescuing people. He hired young ones to care for the kennels. The first one he caught drugging was Mary. He sent her to treatment twice. The second time worked. Mary had a friend. He went to treatment too and then to school to be a vet tech.

Now it seemed as if there was constantly an old woman dragging a grandchild who was already pale from the poisons of drug abuse, whose black hair was brittle with lack of nutrition, whose brown skin was broken with sores.

Some Alex helped. Some he could not. Some died.

OooOooO


Like pearls, the white dogs moved side by side. One had blue markings around her ears and a patch over her eyes. Her sister glistened, a snow angel with sapphire eyes, and one might have thought she was sighted by her grace and the ease in which she explored the compound, but she had lethal white. Her breeder had called Alex up and said he would give him both pups as they were 'useless'.

The sighted pup had fooled her breeder. She had shining white fur, half of her face was white, but she could see well. She was the seeing eye dog for her sister, who was shy, sweet, and who needed a home that would take a dog with a significant handicap. So far no one would take both, once they knew Dragon was blind and that the beautiful Bella would never be parted from her.

Brutus was old. He was eight which in some dogs would be young, but he was a mastiff and his live was shortened by his size and careless breeding. His hips were going bad. Alex had both hip sockets rebuilt but for some reason, the surgery had not worked. Brutus was good natured and even in pain, he leaned against Alex and grunted his enjoyment of attention. If he missed the family that abandoned him, it was only shown in the way he perked up when a school bus passed. Brutus was faithful. His family was not.

Lil'Bear was adoptable. He was young, handsome, and had a perfect temperament, but he had slept with Alex from the day Laura had rescued him. He was a good dog, an angel dog that paced with Alex when he could not sleep, who licked the bitter tears in the grey hours of the North Dakota mornings; that made Alex laugh by his wild antics when Alex worked on his chores. He was sweet and gentle with all creatures, an anxious whine in his throat when puppies played too rough or when an old dog moaned.

OooOooO


Spring was coming. Rivulets of water ran through chunks of dirty snow mixed with ice. Alex's left arm ached. The local doctor said there was nothing wrong with it. He kept telling Alex that he looked half his age and that there was not one damn thing wrong with him. The arm still whimpered for the ghost of itself.

Alex moved toward the pen where locals dropped animals when they were too ashamed to fill out an application and make a donation. They didn't know that along with the heating system that Alex had installed a video feed. Some habits died hard.

There was a moderate sized dog in the pen but something was wrong with it. Its bark sounded all wrong. Its ears were huge and the paws...the paws were deformed.

A little head peeked up from the clean straw and brayed boldly.

Alex laughed. His new 'dog' was a miniature donkey. It brayed again as Alex put a halter on it. It was new born and it needed food soon. He hoped Jon would come in early...he wasn't sure what kind of formula to feed this little thing.

Meanwhile, Alex put the shivering creature in a warmer; when it brayed, he and Lil'Bear sat inside, telling the tiny creature that despite the hard hungry start to his life that there was a life and love waiting for him.

OooOooO


Several months later...

It was four am when Alex decided to check on Karat, the miniature donkey. He saw someone was already there. Mary curled in the straw with the donkey.

"Having a hard night?" Alex asked.

Mary smiled. Alex was proud of that smile. He had spent a lot of money rebuilding those teeth after a lifetime of poor dental care and three years on meth. He had spent a lot of soul, giving the twenty one year old reason to smile.

"I'm having a great night," Mary said. She kissed Karat on the nose and the miniature donkey nuzzled her back. Every day Alex mulled adoption applications but the donkey who thought she was a dog had grown on him. Beside Lil'Bear loved his surrogate child.

"What's up?"

Mary reached into her pocket and showed Alex a transcript of her grades. She was attending Turtle Mountain Community College to learn computer skills. Her real life project was to build the website for Medicine Bear Animal Rescue.

"Wow, solid four points!" Alex said.

"I was a smart kid until the first time I tried Meth," Mary said. "I remember being a prom queen and an honor student. My life was going to be first class. I was going to be a model."

"You are going to have a great life," Alex said.

Mary hugged him tight and said, "Thanks to you."

"Thanks to you, Mary....I gave you the path. You had to walk it on your own. Hey, if you need some more money..."

Mary handed Alex a second letter and said, "Full scholarship from the tribe and I don't have to leave this place to do it. I'm going for human services. I'm going to work in substance abuse prevention with the kids."

"I thought you were going to make money with your computer skills?" Alex said, getting the letter away from Karat before the little donkey could eat it.

"I'll still do that," Mary said, her dark eyes sparkling. "Grandmother needs help with the other kids."

"Grandmother needs help kicking your mother into a mental ward where she belongs," Alex said. Mary's grandmother had raised her after her drug addled mother had abandoned her. Cheryl's house now was filled with grandchildren, but she wouldn't stop sheltering Maggie Gladue, Mary's mother; she believed she could keep everyone safe, but Alex worried. Maggie seemed okay at times, but then she would have a bad day and rave about her mother abusing the children or stealing from her or about the nightmares that tore through the ravaged remains of her head. Maggie might be a victim, but at this point, she was like a pestilent infection that drained the life from everyone.

"My grandmother is a strong, stubborn woman," Mary said. "Alex, don't you go fixing things. Nokomis would hate us both if you did anything to Maggie. Beside, I get it now. I could have been just like her." Mary shuddered and hugged Alex tight.

"You are becoming a good woman, Mary," Alex said.

"You're my role model, Alex," Mary said. Her sharp cheekbones, her jet black hair which sparkled these days without the drug sapping her life from her, her slim, strong figure were a contrast to the wan waif with meth sores scarring her face that Alex had hired despite knowing what Mary's problem was. To this day, he didn’t know why he had taken the chance, but he was glad he did.

"Mary, don't say that...Laura Medicine Bear...she was someone whose life you want to imitate. I'm a bad man, Mary. I've done things that will never be redeemed enough."

"Oh, tell me about it," Mary said, "Like I didn't pawn my grandmother's sewing machine, steal money from her purse, sell my body for my next dose. Get over it, Alex. We all do bad things."

Alex laughed with her. Laura might be dead, but her spirit lived on in her tough, tragic, yet still quick to see humor people.

OooOooO


Nancy's two children went to preschool in the building Alex had renovated along with a handful of other kids who needed a safe place while parents worked. Nancy wasn't native. Her husband had fallen from an oil rig, stranding her in North Dakota. She had taken a minimum wage job from Jon when he had his struggling practice. Now Alex paid her well and provided the co op daycare so she could work worry free.

Nancy had blond hair and blue eyes, a strong back, and a face so defined that she would never be described as pretty, but was instead as beautiful as a Valkerie. Between mothering her sons, Bud and Chuck, she tried her best to mother Alex. Sometimes like today, Alex let her. Someone had left a starved puppy in the pen and Jon didn't think he could save the little girl. Sure it was just a dog, but Alex wanted so badly for to live, to learn that human hands bring pets, love, and all the food she needed.

The scrap of a canine was not much of any breed or rather; she must have shared ten or more breeds, cooking down to a black and white creature with a smooth tail and upright ears. Her thin coat clung over horribly defined ribs.

"I have an idea what we should name her," Nancy said. "Her name should be Hope."

Alex smiled and said, "I think that's a great idea. We'll name her Hope."

Nancy smiled and kissed his forehead. She said, "She'll like her name when she gets better."

Alex had almost given up hope when Laura found him. He said, "She'll get better."

Standing up, Alex went to the ER. He would sit with Hope and wish, pray, and believe she would make it.

If not....there was the video. Someone would pay.

OooOooO


Little bit of a tail wagging...Alex remembered starvation. Going crazy in that silo, clawing the walls, screaming, praying, hallucinating as his body devoured every meager reserve in his body. He remembered thirst and the bitterness. The experience embittered him, but this little dog, Hope, loved everybody, wagged her scrap of a tail and licked fingers even if they were the ones pricking her for another IV feeding.

Hope's fur was sparse. It would grow back in if she made it...Alex made himself correct the thought...when she got better.

The culprit turned out to be a crazed old man. A neighbor child had rescued Hope when he saw her lying in the yard, near death. When Alex questioned the boy, he learned that there were other starving creatures on the farm. It was like a horror movie, chickens that were more feathers than flesh. Cows with jutting bones. A horse so near death that there was no choice other than to give it peace right on the spot. Alex took the livestock. They had earned the right to peace and protection just as Hope had.

As for the old man, he was in dementia and now was hospitalized. He was starved himself. His daughter had moved out months ago, unable to deal with him and he had immediately gone down hill. He was in the state mental hospital now and would be there for the pitiful remainder of his life.

Alex smiled as Hope licked his hand. "I guess this is what you're about, pretty girl, to remind me that sometimes it's not about revenge or even justice; sometimes it's just about saving what you can."

Leaning over the pup, Alex kissed her tiny, bony face and said, "Stay alive, Hope. There will be good times to come."

For the first time, Alex started to believe there would be good times for him also.

OooOooO


Alex might have never known that somewhere his name was being spoken and long belated justice was being offered to him. He used a lot of donated newspaper in the cat barn. He was changing out the lining for a kitten cage when he saw Mulder's face peering out at him; Walter's surly face beside him.

Shit.

At first, Alex assumed that it was some awards ceremony. After all, everyone knew the aliens were real now...real, defeated, but always lurking out there as a threat. Mulder had his moment in the sun, the antihero who fought the menace alone.

And, yes, Alex was petty enough to notice when Scully and Mulder divorced. He was vindictive enough to wonder if the good Catholic girl had finally found out exactly why Mulder could never keep his hands off his erstwhile partner.

The redemption Alex looked for in caring for the unwanted, in helping the hard luck people on the near by reservation helped him find an uneasy peace but it didn't make him a saint.

The affairs he had with Mulder and Skinner had consisted of great sex, a few moments of tenderness that might have been love, and a whole universe of pain. The pain was easier to remember. Alex wasn't sure if he could survive reentering that world, seeing them. Yet if he didn't, he had to accept that they would be imprisoned or worse.

Shit!

After Alex finished with the kittens, all waiting Jon's skilled hands so they would go to new homes, neutered, with shots, and a good supply of food and flea medication. The oil boom in North Dakota created a bumper crop of new homes, but you still had to pick and choose for the right place where a kitten would grow old as part of a family. Alex smiled into the face of a milky eyed Siamese mix who offered to punch his face with tiny paws. "Go, kitten," Alex said. "Life is tough and it helps to come out fighting."

Sitting on a hay bale, Alex fought the kitten's interfering paws to read the article. There was irony. So Walter was on trial for murder, for Alex's murder and Mulder was being tried as his accomplice.

Ah, fuck!

Alex closed his eyes and muttered, "It's not as if I owe them anything. Walter tried to murder me. Mulder beat the shit out of me every time he saw me."

Laura Medicine Bear's face came to him and she looked at him with that familiar expression, not judging, waiting for Alex to see the right path, the hard path he needed to walk if he was ever to balance the light and dark of his life.

"All right. All right," Alex said. He groaned. Hell. He had to make sure that everything was set here to go on without him if need be. Washington DC was still a snake pit and all those safeguards might not work. There were still people who wanted to know his secrets or wanted them dead in the grave with him.

OooOooO


"Not like anyone really cares what happened to the son of a bitch," Walter said. He paced the cell.

Mulder had fallen into one of his depressions, his tawny hair forming a halo around his sharp features.

Mulder was still a handsome man, but his rages, his passions; his sleepless nights had marked him.

Like the song said, "I took some comfort there," Walter thought. He could see Mulder with the eyes of the past, remembering the young agent he protected, chided, and who kept him up many a late night one way or the other.

"I was too worried about Scully to bother figuring out what the hell Krycek was up to," Mulder said. "He was always a crazy son of a bitch, but never the way he was that night. That wasn't the Krycek I knew... it was as if he was being written by a really bad B script writer!"

Walter thought Mulder was falling asleep when Mulder added, "He was so beautiful. When Scully was gone, he kept me sane. I was almost in love with him. He was sweet in bed."

Mulder was right. Alex was sweet in bed, Walter's darling boy for a few brief weeks and, after that, even when Walter was angriest, especially when Walter was angry, Alex was always good in bed.

"I told them what happened!" Walter complained.

"Yeah, well... the tape made it look like you shot an unarmed wounded man," Mulder said.

"You saw him get up! You saw him!"

"No, I saw him lying on the floor, trying to push his gun away," Mulder admitted.

"So I'm a murderer and you are my accomplice after the fact..."

"I don't even know if I care anymore," Mulder said.

"If they execute me?" Walter asked.

Mulder shook from his inertia and said, "That's not what I meant, Walter, not at all."

Mulder's kiss soothed Walter, but he couldn't help remembering his beautiful boy, his Alex.

OooOooO


Ten days into the trial, Risa Dunham, Mulder's attorney advised him to turn state's evidence against Walter.

Mulder told her to fuck off.

Scully visited him for the first time and told him that it was his last chance to do something sane.

Mulder told her to fuck off too and it felt good.

Walter may have dirty hands but he had come down on the right side. Mulder would not betray him.

Who knows what Walter was being advised. They had finally separated them, even though no one was willing to be housed with Mulder. His mythos lingered over him and the other prisoners were terrified of him.

Mulder didn't get it. He and Walter had been heralded as heroes when the truth, Mulder's almighty truth, came out.

What the hell was happening now?

OooOooO


Making arrangements in case he couldn't go back to North Dakota had taken a few days. The worst of it was leaving Lil'Bear. Jon and Mary might give the big yellow dog the pets and attention he craved, but Lil'Bear was Alex's dog...Alex admitted this now. The dog braced his paws on Alex's shoulder, stared deep into his eyes as if extracting a promise. Alex ruffled his long, pendulous, velvety ears and kissed him between those melting hazel eyes, making a silent promise that he would return.

Despite the money that Alex controlled, the spoils of the old men to spend, Alex begrudged the incredible amount of money it took to fly out of North Dakota. He could be half way around the world for the same amount. He glumly looked out the window at the plowed runway and at the deicing crew working hard to keep the plane running. Hard to believe people had slaughtered the Chippewa and Sioux for this hard, bitter land!

Once in Washington, Alex checked on the trial progress and decided he had time for one more delay. It was vanity, but Alex had no intention of walking into that courtroom in his grubby, dog-hair covered jeans and battered black sweater. He stopped at a spa, did his best to restore his broken nails, his wind burned skin to what had once been. His suit and shoes were Italian and fit his work hardened body perfectly. Let the bastards see what they had given up. What Walter had intended to burn before the alien healers stopped him and took Alex to work magic over him.

Looking in the mirror, Alex saw little of Agent Krycek and nothing of wild eyed double agent Alex. He saw a man with some white in his hair, but a man who looked as if his most serious struggle was whether to play another round of golf or go to the clubhouse for lunch. Alex nodded. Of all the emotions he abhorred, pity was the worst.

OooOooO


The prosecutor looked as if he had swallowed both the mouse and the cream. Mulder wished he could reach across and hold Walter's hand. It wasn't going well. The jury hadn't looked at Walter when they filed out six hours ago.

Now as they reentered the jury box, the twelve men and women looked as if they were a firing squad. There was still a picture of Alex Krycek projected on a screen, his head oozing blood from the last wound Walter had inflicted. Smooth as silk, Alex Krycek walked into the room and said, "I think there might be a misunderstanding here."

Alex had seldom been in position to want to attract attention, but he enjoyed the moment, especially Mulder and Skinner's gaping mouths.

OooOooO


Alex paused. His rescue was all about second chances.

The question was how much of a chance did Walter Skinner deserve...

Alex continued his stroll, making his pace smooth, a sexy pounce of a walk. Let Mulder and Skinner remember what they had enjoyed...

"My name is Alex Krycek...and I assuredly am not dead," Alex said.

The judge, a tough looking woman with brassy blond hair, did not look pleased. She banged her gavel and said, "Mr. Krycek, I hope you have a reason for your late appearance in this matter. This case has been in various stages for months with ample media coverage."

"I'm sorry, your honor," Alex said. "I have been living near Belcourt, North Dakota where I run an animal rescue. I didn't learn of the trial until I was changing the cat cages and saw Mr. Mulder's picture in the old newspapers."

"We will be requiring that you prove your identity," the judge said.

"I'm willing," Alex said.

Shortly, the court was recessed; the case dismissed with prejudice. However, Mulder and Skinner were not freed. There were questions to be answered about what happened that night. Alex hoped the pair could come up with a good story and he also hope they sweated on their answers. A little suffering was good for the soul.

OooOooO


It was odd to slip back on the old memories, to be Agent Alex Krycek, to be the undercover agent again. His records were clean. They edited away his life from the brief time spent assigned to Mulder to his disappearance. All of the rest was classified, eyes only, implying that every move he had made was under the direction of the CIA. Oddly, it was as near the truth as anything else that might be said. Alex had been a CIA agent at one time, but then again, he had been a lot of things.

His DNA, his finger prints, his retina scan proved it was him. Alex refused to explain the security footage that showed Skinner shooting him. He said, "It was a matter of national security. That's all I can say."

Fortunately, Walter and Mulder had come up with exactly the same story.

OooOooO


However a blond judge wasn't done with Mulder and Skinner. She called them back to her courtroom, a curious Alex in tow. She scowled at the former FBI agents and said, "You might have been acting in some deep and dark matter of national security, but you could have said as much. You used up my courtroom time so I am charging you with obstruction of justice... unless you accept my offer."

Mulder and Skinner looked at her. Mulder had his pension restored and Walter had not as yet lost his. They waited. They had reasons for working with the judge.

The judge smirked and said, "I am sentencing you to two years of probation, to be spent in the service of Alex Krycek and his animal rescue. You are arrogant men and you need to spend some time learning to be humble."

Alex supposed he could have objected, but he found the judge formidable and, besides, he was a little curious how this would work out.

Alex nodded and said, "I can use the help."

Mulder objected, but Skinner shook his head and said, "Live with it, Mulder. We need to get out of this cesspool for a while anyway. Besides, you like dogs and I could use some time working with my hands."

Mulder shut up and nodded. He glanced at Alex as if he just had an interesting thought.

Well, Mulder could keep that thought in his pants. It was going to take more than that to persuade Alex there was anything left to salvage between them.

OooOooO


That flight to North Dakota was grimmer and quieter than even the flight Mulder and Krycek made to Russia. Mulder slouched next to Walter, brooding, and Walter spent his time, gazing at Krycek as if still trying to decide whether he was a ghost or not.

Alex looked out the window and tried to control the feelings that raged within.

He had thought he was becoming a different person, one who had mastered the darkness and passions of his former life. Alex ruefully found he had no peace at all at his core. So much for the past year. So much for being a different person.

Alex took his eyes from the dark sky and glanced at Mulder and Skinner. His past...his bane...the men he had loved as much as he allowed himself to care about anyone. For a moment, he thought he heard Laura laugh.

"Oh, Alex, you have so much more to learn..."

And Laura was walking in the stars with her faithful Rose at her side and all the other animals she rescued following behind.

OooOooO


"I thought I had seen the asshole of the universe in Russia, but I was mistaken, that was a mere pucker and this is the real thing," Mulder declared as he got into the ancient truck that Alex took out of the short term parking at Devil's Lake which proclaimed itself a major airport, but which closer resembled something out of a third world country.

"You haven't lived then until you see Belcourt...not that we're really going to see those big city lights. My place is about twenty miles out of town."

"What are you really doing there...did you find some Greys we missed?" Mulder asked eagerly.

"I am saving dogs, cats, the occasional cow or horse, and I am the guardian of one miniature donkey that believes it is a dog," Alex said. "On the side, I seem to be saving the youth of Turtle Mountain's tomorrow one person at a time."

Mulder looked stunned. He shook his head and said, "Are you nuts? Sure I like dogs, but why spend your life saving animals? Alex, you were pivotal in all the events that happened. You were an important man."

"Now, I am contemplating on a scale of things that I might be saving my soul and certainly am saving my sanity," Alex said, pulling around to the loading zone to pick up a shipment of antibiotics for Jon. "The world does not need us anymore. You might think that what nearly happened to you was part of the old conspiracies, but my guess is that it's not. You and Walter remind people of what they want to forgot. You won't shut up about it so they were going to silence you...not because there is an enemy to fight. You make them uncomfortable. "

Before Mulder could say anything, Walter said, "I think he's right, Mulder. It's alright with me. I'm tired. I want to rest and forget. This looks like the kind of country that a man can lose the pain and the fury. That's what I want."

Mulder muttered, "Traitor," and turned his sulking face to the window.

OooOooO


The cold bit through Walter's clothing although he had shopped for high tech garments guaranteed against artic conditions...maybe they should have sent them to be tested here, on a January day, with the wind prying at every layer, and the snow coming from all directions.

The truck went into a large garage as soon as it was unloaded by a tall, thin, dark haired man who was introduced as the vet, Jon Boxer and a sturdy blond woman who said she was Nancy Baxter, Jon's vet tech.

Meanwhile, a young light skinned Indian teenager came running from the house, closely followed by a dancing yellow dog and...and...

"What the hell is that?" Walter asked.

"That's Karat," Alex said, hugging the yellow dog he called Lil'Bear...Walter would hate to see the big bear if this was the little one.

"Why is it making that noise," Mulder said, shivering and stamping his feet.

"Karat is a miniature donkey who thinks he is a dog," Alex said, fondling the little thing's big ears. "I even had him house broken although mostly Lil'Bear makes sure he goes outside. He seems to have a second sense for when Karat has to go."

"Can we go inside?" Mulder said.

"Mary can take you to the house," Alex said. "I want to check on the other animals, especially a special case, Hope, who was nearly starved to death."

"I can stand it if you can," Walter said.

So Mulder quickly added himself to the tour.

Walter liked this place. He could see there was a great deal of new construction, including additions to the main house. The garage looked new and the vet clinic was very new, shining white even in the snow. There was a vast barn with annexes coming off it. It could have been untidy, but it wasn't. It was very clean, organized. Krycek had always been like that. He was a control freak like Walter, perhaps for the same reasons, to survive in a tough world.

As for himself, Walter felt tired, drained almost. He hadn't realized how disgusted he was with the world until he was sentenced to this place, far from the politics and ambitions...far from the dirt that had made him feel as if he would choke on the bitterness of it.

At first, Alex had seemed himself, full of maneuvers, playing several games at once, but almost from the moment of debarking from the plane; the double agent had been shedding that skin. Even the allure of sexual appeal seemed forgotten, no longer needed.

Alex seemed to be breathing deep of the cold clean air. His hand drew strength from the big yellow dog that followed him, frantically wagging his whip of a tail.

Mary...the young Native woman...smiled at Alex with hero worship in her eyes. She said, "Hope is up and walking now. I made her a good coat and some leggings and her very own moccasins. She looks a sight, but at least she is warm."

"That's great," Alex said. His stride lengthened and Walter reminded himself not to stare at Alex's ass. It was still juicy morsel, but now was not the time.

One of the newer buildings apparently was the clinic. There were an amazing variety of animals, mostly dogs and cats, but there was also a swan with a battered wing, and a nest of motherless raccoons.

The dog that came running up was like a skeletal sculpture of a canine clad in thin black and white fur... what little could be seen of it. She had one blue eye and one brown eye, both flashing as she danced up to Alex. As the young woman said, this was a well dressed dog with a wool coat in a Native pattern, apparently lined with fleece. Leggings to match kept her bony legs warm and she did wear moccasins...beaded ones.

Alex scooped the dog up and accepted her kisses as the big yellow dog whined anxiously. "This is Hope; she was dumped in the holding pen, near starvation. It turned out she was one of a pack of dogs that belonged to an old man who had turned senile. We have most of his animals here and he is in the state hospital. Funny, when I saw Hope, all I could think about was avenging her, but there was nothing to avenge, just a poor crazy old man. The neighbor kid who rescued her saved a lot of dogs by bringing her here. His parents told him to mind his own business, but he couldn't stand by and see the dogs suffer."

Alex smiled. He said, "Smart kid...he thought I would track him down if he brought Hope here and he was right. Besides she was the littlest and was in the worst shape."

"Jon said that Hope is ready to start taking turns in the house," Mary said.

"Great," Alex said. "We'll bring her over tonight. Gentlemen, I am sure you are tired as am I. Let's go to the house."

OooOooO


Mulder was not sure how he was supposed to feel. He had been unsettled in Washington, but he hated Podunk piss holes like this one. He couldn't believe how easily Walter had agreed to two years of community service here. Maybe Walter was that eager to get back in Alex's good graces and hence force into his pants. Not that Mulder wouldn't mind a tumble for old time's sake. He didn't think it was worth two years of his life.

The house was not as bad as Mulder feared although he found the trading post motif corny. The inside was paneled with weathered oak siding. It was warm. Mulder could see where the old house joined the new, but all the windows had been replaced. The floors were tile, but with some warming element and finished with a rough design, probably to prevent the dogs from slipping..

Alex saw Mulder's perusal and said, "I rotate dogs and cats through here to socialize them. A few of the cats and dogs won't agree to get along, but I do my best to get them to at least ignore each other. When I get volunteers, they can take a dog or cat to live with them while they are here. Sometimes, that results in an adoption on the spot, but if it doesn't, it's another good experience for the animal."

"Where does all the money come from?" Mulder demanded.

Alex shrugged and said, "I have my sources."

"Tainted money," Mulder said. "No one knows where the bulk of the project's funds disappeared. Now that I know you're alive and see this place, I think I know."

Walter's voice interrupted, rumbling and deep, "If that's so, then some good comes from the bad."

"You're some kind of asshole," Mary said. "Alex Krycek is not only helping the animals. He helped me. He helped me get off drugs. Lots of the rest of us too. Just two weeks ago, he asked for volunteers and we all fixed up old lady Azure's place. That place was falling down around her and she was half starved. Now she has a nice warm place and she didn't have to give up her old dog and cat like she thought she had to do. He's making a difference. He cares about us...who else does? Who have you helped, Mr. Mulder?"

Quietly, Alex said, "Mulder helped us all, Mary. He was a one man war on the Oiliens."

"I never saw one of those," Mary said. "They're like a scary tale for kids."

"They were real," Alex said. "We were one virus away from extinction but those shots everyone had to get killed the young aliens and made the adults sick.

A loud bray came from the miniature donkey that was curled on a special bed she shared with Lil'Bear, the big yellow dog.

Alex said, "Karat doesn't like raised voices so let's not argue. Let me show you to your rooms."

Mulder grimaced, but he allowed Alex to lead Walter and him to hallway. There were three bedrooms and an office. The office was between Alex's room and the other rooms. Alex opened the two rooms and said, "They are pretty much the same size, king sized beds. Usually, these are for volunteers, but I don't expect any this winter. Even the most charitable hearts find the North Dakota weather puts a damper on the urge."

"Nice that you found yourself some captive labor," Mulder said.

"Would you rather I refused and let you do the time? You think I want you here? You're part of my old life, not this one. You bring memories, feelings I would rather forget."

Alex's eyes looked misty and his voice shook.

Mulder drew a breath to argue but instead walked into the first bedroom he saw and put down his bags.

Shutting the door, Mulder sat on the bed and thought about it. Alex didn't say feelings of hate nor did he say all of the memories were bad.

And they weren't. all bad. Mulder shook his head. What he had felt for Alex was one of the most intense emotions he had ever experienced. More so than with Scully, Alex had been someone he could have loved without the problems he had with loving a woman he idealized beyond the possibility of a real relationship. Alex had been wild sex and a sharp mind. A beautiful body and challenging partner in all respects.

But who was Alex now? He had made a life for himself beyond the war with the Greys. Mulder could not let go. Maybe he should spend the next two years deciding who he was going to be for the rest of his life.

OooOooO


In many ways, Walter was a simpler man than Mulder. He had wanted a conventional life, success, promotion, and a family. However in reaching for the first two goals, he had screwed up the third. Seesawing between saving his career and saving Mulder and Scully, Walter held onto nothing. He winced and decided that he had held onto the scraps of his soul. He had saved Scully and Mulder. He was in love with them both, but Mulder was the obtainable ones. Walter smiled. Scully was not happy with either of them when she caught them in bed. All of Mulder's excuses didn't work. Scully might give lip service to respecting different orientations, but she wasn't having that as part of her personal life. She got the kid. Walter got Mulder... as much as anyone would ever have Mulder.

This place had brought Alex peace. Walter would like to woo this beautiful man he had once wanted more than anything he valued, but even more he wanted peace. He changed into his thermal pajamas and then grinned. He stepped out and knocked on Alex's door.

Walter saw the wariness in his former lover's eyes and held up his hands. "I just thought I might borrow a dog for company."

Alex frowned, that pinch of skin between his eyes over his small nose making this more a little boy scowl than an expression that should be worn by a dangerous man. Walter didn't underestimate Alex, but he was reasonably sure that the little boy was beneath the layers of danger.

Shrugging, Alex said, "You can see if Dragon and Bella are willing. They didn't want to sleep with me tonight."

Walter peered around at Alex's bed. "No Karat?" He saw Lil'Bear but not his friend.

"Tried it once. Her hooves hurt," Alex said.

"Let's go see if Bella and Dragon find you to their taste," Alex said.

The one called Bella smiled at Walter after an initial wariness. She was a lovely creature with a mottled bluish black coat, enhanced with a great deal of white. Her face was split in two sections. One side was the color of her coat and the other shining white. She was long haired, with a stub of a tail. Her sister, Dragon, was like an angel, no colored hair on her body... her fur was blindingly white. Her eyes were crystal blue. Walter said, "The white one is incredible."

"She's blind," Alex said. "That's why Bella and her are always together. Someday I'll explain why her breeder bred two dogs that were more than likely to produce blind, deaf, seizure prone dogs or worse."

"I'll assume that it has something to do with greed," Walter said, gently patting Dragon. "That's usually a safe bet."

Alex snorted and said, "Right up there with ambition, Walter."

"Yes, Alex, it is," Walter said. He said, "I'm ready to give up my ambition, my anger, my hunger for revenge. What I did was unforgivable."

"Unforgivable is a final word," Alex said. "This place is for new beginnings, Walter. I'll give you a chance...to help. I'm not ready for anything else. I don't even know if I will ever be ready. It's easier to love the animals. I trust them and they don't judge me."

Nodding, Walter knelt to pet Bella and said, "Hey, girl, since Alex gave me a turn down, are you willing to keep me company? You and your sister?"

Bella cocked her head and followed Walter down to his room, her sister's Dragon's nose on her flank.

Walter found the unfamiliar bed comfortable although Bella hogged the pillows, leaving him only one. He shrugged and accepted that as the price of company, falling asleep in the middle of petting Dragon and Bella as they curled by his side.

OooOooO


Mulder sneered at the poop he scooped from a large kennel. He hated this work. He hated any form of repetitive labor and he found this chore humiliating even though he saw Alex cheerfully undertake it every day. He wasn't made for this life. It was torture to be stuck here like this. He didn't get why Walter pretended everything was fine... of course, he was on construction and repair most of the day. Mulder wasn't skilled at those jobs either.

Looking at Alex, Mulder saw those wide green eyes taking his discontent in. He emptied the scoop and stomped away into the outside.

It was as always cold as hell. Most of the dogs had made brief trips to the outside and opted for warm beds. Pa Kaka Ban was outside though. The thickly furred Siberian Husky was difficult to bring inside. He made Mulder laugh...one of the few dogs that didn't respond to Alex's commands. The red dog bowed to Mulder, wagging his thick curly tail.

Mulder picked up a snow ball. The Siberian pounced and danced back with the remainder shaking from his mouth. Mulder threw another. The Siberian made a show of jumping at the snow ball several times, chortling in his odd way. The dog seemed to know nothing of barking. He howled, performed arias of strange sounds, but nary an arf from his liver colored lips.

Pa Kaka Ban circled around Mulder and knocked him down, kissing his face a dozen times with his chilly snow cooled mouth.

Mulder reached up and tugged at the thickly furred head. "You and me, boy...we don't fit in. A pair of misfits."

The dog joyously responded with his silly rhapsody of sounds.

As Mulder headed for the house, Pa Kaka Ban joined him. Mulder shook his head. "Now I'm being stockholmed. I suppose you think I'm going to agree to be your human, dog, but I'm not buying this."

Pa Kaka Ban followed Mulder to bed that night and curled up with his fluffy tail around his nose.

Stockholmed....

OooOooO


After Mulder stomped out, Walter said, "It's not my place to tell you how to run this place, but I know how to handle Mulder."

"By putting your arm around his neck and choking him?" Alex asked and laughed. "He does enjoy that at times."

Shaking his head, Walter said, "The other night you were grousing about the hard work of screening applicants. Put Mulder on it. You know how good he is about sniffing out anything out of place."

"He lacks people skills," Alex said.

"If they live through the interview, then they are motivated to adopt," Walter said. "The other thing. I can do more."

"I have no problem with how hard you are working," Alex said.

"Yes, but I can work on your budget," Walter said, "Finish that paperwork to be tax exempt. I'm good at that."

Alex shrugged. He replied, "If you don't mind, but, Walter, if you are trying for more...I'm not ready. I may never be ready."

"I'll bide my time," Walter said, "I like it here. It works for me. I haven't had to take an antacid since the second week. Meanwhile, get to know me outside of that sick game we played. I can be a decent man, Alex, just as you have become."

"I know that," Alex said. He finished cleaning the last kennel and said, "I have to go talk to that new kid, Jerry Poitra. Mary said he's a junkie and I think he might be ready to go to treatment now...after I caught him trying to break into the vet clinic."

"Not a good idea keeping him around," Walter said.

"You would be amazed at what kind of chances I take on people...even on guys who killed me and were just lucky I don't know how to stay dead."

OooOooO


The nice couple looked ideal and they handled the dog they wanted to adopt well. Mulder had learned to be reasonably charming in the interviews. He could be ruthless later on the computer.

Saying good bye, Mulder made a vague promise to get back to them before Mary took them to their car. Mulder hit the computer and used methods he learned from the Gunmen to look deeper into Rita and Don Jenkins. He was looking for dirt and found it. The family had lost their home in Washington State to foreclosure...no big deal in this economy, but they had left their dog locked inside until someone noticed and rescued the severely weakened canine. Mulder stamped no on the application. Second chances were well and good, but not for someone who had made a stupid, cruel choice like that. Mulder would let Mary write the letter that told them why.

Next... Mulder thought. Later this day, he would drive to St. Johns, an even smaller town than Belcourt and do a home check. Meanwhile Pa Kaka Ban was waiting outside for a walk in the rules.

Mulder tensed. Damn it. He wasn't happy. He absolutely refused to be happy in this backwater place, doing a job which was hardly saving the world. Pa Kaka Ban dashed about in a dance of joy. Alex said that Laura, the woman who had started this refuge had found the Siberian Husky as a puppy, a discard from a hobbyist who ran a racing team. Apparently, Pa Kaka Ban had not been a promising puppy. Along with some injured and aging sled dogs, the puppy had been shot and dumped in the ditch. When Laura came along, the injured pup had been howling his wounded heart out.

Mulder ran at Pa Kaka Ban, causing the dog to run from him at light speed. Too bad that hobbyist hadn't waited to see how the scrawny pup would develop. Pa Kaka Ban was fast, strong, and would pull Mulder for hours on cross country skies. Mulder corrected himself; Pa Kaka Ban was better free of that monster. Mulder had found the man easily enough. Alex was working on building a case, but Mulder would rather go confront the man now.

However, Alex had a strong will these days. Mulder decided to go with Plan A. Let Alex document the case and bring the man to trial.

Pa Kaka Ban seemed to applaud that decision with a round of his vocalizations.

OooOooO


Walter sifted through the information, formatting the accounting into a slightly different form than Alex had designed. The work was good, but there was more to be done. Alex preferred working directly with the people and the animals so he had done the minimum to keep the finances straight, he had invested money...in part to launder funds, Walter suspected, and he had started but not finished the tax exempt status. Walter would tackle the latter first. No reason to pay the IRS to save animals.

Walter didn't try to probe for the secrets Alex kept. The man was smarter than that and Walter didn't want to fight him. He meant what he said to Mulder. Let Alex use the money where it would do good.

It took Walter a couple days to apply for the exempt status and to reorganize the payroll system. Alex was casual about dispensing funds. Someone's family was always having a crisis.

Walter was uncomfortable with that. He worried that the Natives were exploiting Alex, but then again, it was Alex decision.

Mary had repeated a story she had been told about what happened to the four buffalo who were purchased to start a herd. First one big family begged for a cow to have a feast for a funeral. Next, another prominent family said if the first family could have a buffalo feast that they should too. Soon only the bull was left and the council slaughtered him because they said he was lonely without his cows. Mary said there were great things about her people but they were infected with the white man's greed and lack of respect. In order to get well; they needed to be free of those things. She said once they were a great people who had defeated both the Iroquois and Sioux many times, but now their worst enemies were themselves.

Walter reflected that young people like Mary could change the tribe for the better. He had never met the founder who saved Alex, but he saw how the seeds of wellness had spread from good act to another.

Walter decided to go work on the fence. He had enjoyed the challenge of making a budget, but now he itched to go back to hard, physical labor. He patted his waist which was trim again and there was a little swagger in his step as he went out the door.

OooOooO


Two years passed...

Walter and Alex didn't tumble into bed. Mulder and Alex didn't tumble into bed.

Yet there was a growing peace in all three men.

The discharge papers came and the probation ended.

Mulder shrugged and said that Pa Kaka Ban loved the snow to much to leave Belcourt. He had taken to investigating a bit on the side and he was busy to the point of overwork.

Walter had told Alex long ago that he wanted to stay.

Alex had fluttered his long lashes and said, "Suit yourself."

Bella and Dragon were Walter's shadows. He could hardly leave the rescue without loading up his beautiful girls.

Meanwhile Karat was starring in a living nativity scene Mary set up. No one mentioned that Lil'Bear was an odd addition to the scene.

OooOooO


Up on a ladder in the barn where they were putting on a Christmas party for children from the reservation, Walter tacked garlands everywhere. He moved the ladder and automatically took the next thing he was handed.

"Mistletoe?"

Mulder was stuck with decorating too and Alex was in the middle of it, pretending he was not as excited as Karen's kids who were 'helping' resulting in ornaments in odd places and a few broken ones that were not mourned.

Mulder laughed and said, "What are up to Mary?'

"Since you said not a lot of candy, I get something," Mary said, her face shining.

"Someone you want to kiss?" Alex asked protectively.

"Someone I want to see kiss," Mary said. She jerked her chin at Mulder, at Walter, and at Alex."

"Mary..." Alex said.

"Alex!" Mary said back. "Isn't it time you started to have a personal life?"

"Hey, I might have one, but wouldn't it be private and personal?"

"You can't pass gas in this place without someone knowing what you ate and telling everyone in town," Mary said.

Alex let Walter come down the ladder and they both stared at the mistletoe.

"I don't bite," Walter said, his hands shrugged in jeans that had seen better days. Bella sat next to him, her head cocked and her mouth smiling. Dragon nudged Walter, probably for a treat, but it sent Walter under the mistletoe.

Alex stepped near, cupped Walter's neck with his left hand, the one lost and restored. Walter leaned into the kiss. Alex no longer smelled of smoke. He smelled of cedar shavings, clean hay, and maybe a little of happy dog.

Alex's lips were never so sweet. Walter stood back as Mulder approached.

"It's just a kiss," Mulder said. He grinned, once again the golden man he had once been. He said, "But someday you will be ready and we will be there. I promise."

Walter kissed Mulder for good measure, drawing a deep drink of Mulder's plump lower lip. He said, "We will be."

The barn sparkled with decorations.

Hope came running in.

Mulder laughed and said, "I think fate is trying to tell you something because here's Hope."

Alex nodded, but he had to have the last words. "But we have to finish this so the kids will have a good Christmas."

Walter laughed and patted Mulder on the ass.

Okay, there was always work to do.

It takes a lot to start again.

This was a grand new beginning.

The End

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