Kitten II

by Amazon X

Title: Kitten II

Author: Amazon X



Feedback: Why, yes, thank you!

Category: X-Files, kidfic, Daddy!Walter, Daddy!Alex, and hot slash sex

Rating: NC-17, eventually

Summary: Walter receives a gift. And then another. And that's just the beginning.

Warning: Some graphic torture descriptions in the middle of the story. You may want to skip that section.

Archive: The Basement, Full House Slash, Gossamer, WWOMB,

Disclaimer: Not mine, never were, I have no money.

Notes: This takes place...well, it's noted in the story. Canon goes right the fuck out the window, although certain things did take place. "S.R. 819" did not since this replaces everything just before the movie. So...most of season 5 didn't happen either, like the nonsense with that faux-kiss. If you saw the little bit at the end from when the first part was first posted, ignore the name, I changed it. Thank you Bill and Ursula for beta, you guys did great in a pinch!

This is for Mort's birthday. I don't know what day it is, but I THINK it's today. So, I decided it's today and it's today. Period. Happy birthday, Mort! I hope you're feeling better and you have a wonderful day! All my love to you!

6:57 PM

Skinner sat at his desk, writing out his notes in shorthand for Arlene to type in the morning. He was so focused on his work he did not hear the man enter room. He did hear the gurgling sound, and looked up quickly. There stood the Englishman, Clarence Barstow Higgins, holding a baby. There was a brightly colored bag slung over his shoulder.

"What are you doing here?" Skinner demanded. "How the hell do you get into this building?"

"Mr. Skinner, please, I have someone for you to meet." Walking out from behind his desk, Skinner looked down at the infant in the man's arms. "This is your daughter, Mr. Skinner. I thought it was about time you two should meet."

Stopping in his tracks, Skinner continued to look at the child. She was bundled tightly against the cool April evening. Higgins reached out and thrust her into Skinner's arms. Instinctively, Skinner pulled the baby close and looked into her face. Her cheeks were as pink as her blanket, setting off the bright color of her eyes. Skinner actually pulled her up closer to him to see how green her eyes were.

"Amazing, isn't it? Her eyes are exactly like his. When you remove her cap, you'll se she only has one little curl of dark hair. Truly an adorable child, not unlike my own grandchildren."

Skinner took the baby to his couch and sat with her in his arms. He was a little rusty since the last babies he'd held were Sharon's nine nieces and nephews, over four years ago, but it was like riding a bike: you never forget. The little girl looked up at him and Skinner would swear for the rest of his life, even knowing that she was too young to even focus her eyes, that she recognized him as her father and smiled up at him. He laughed out a sob and the tears rolled down his cheeks. "She's beautiful. Is she..."

"Healthy? Quite. Dare I say, she's perfect." Skinner looked up at him, a mixture of disbelief and fear in his eyes. "And perfectly human. Completely human, to be frank. It was the only reason why our smoking friend let me bring her to you. I couldn't bear to allow him to terminate her."

"Terminate her? He wouldn't..." Skinner instinctively pulled the child closer to him.

"Mr. Skinner, remember who we're talking about. He would and he almost did. I managed to...persuade him to allow me to bring the child to you. It is your decision what to do about her. But that is a decision that you will have to make without me. I must go now."

Higgins placed the diaper bag on Skinner's desk and turned to the door. Just before leaving he turned back to Skinner and said, "She doesn't have any papers, so you'll have to get that settled. And she wasn't named."

"Krycek didn't name her?" he growled, annoyed. He looked down at the little girl who had stopped squirming and fussing and had gone to sleep.

"He wasn't the position to be very paternal."

With that, Higgins was gone. Skinner watched the little girl sleep for a few moments when he heard sounds in his outer office. He dismissed it as the cleaning crew. And that was just the beginning.

As if in slow motion, the knock sounded on the door and it swung open gently. Skinner looked up from the baby to see Mulder's astonished face. He stood there a moment, not moving, nor speaking. The latter shocked Skinner a bit since Mulder always had something to say about everything. He knew he should make the first comment.

"Agent Mulder, this is my daughter, Natalya." The name just flowed off his tongue, without any forethought.

"She's...that's really...have you called Scully?" he managed after more silence.

"No, Mulder. She just showed up. I've been watching her. Please, call Dana for me, thank you."

Skinner settled back and loosened his grip on the baby to allow her to sleep comfortably. It seemed like only seconds passed while Mulder called his partner and she drove back to the office from her comfortable living room. Skinner looked up as the woman walked over, handing her coat to Mulder.

"Is this her, sir?" she asked, sitting beside him.

"Dana Scully, this is Natalya Melissa Skinner. Natalya, this is your Godmother, Dana Scully."

The tears welled in Scully's eyes and Skinner honestly thought she'd burst out crying. Being the consummate lady she was, she pulled a tissue from her sleeve and blotted her eyes. Again presentable, she took the baby from Skinner's arms and looked down into her suddenly awake face. She leaned closer to her, most likely to kiss her, but Natalya began sneezing abruptly, spraying Scully's face in baby spit. All three adults erupted in laughter as Skinner took the baby back.

"She must not like my perfume, sir," Scully said, dabbing her cheek. After a centering deep breath, Scully asked, "Are you keeping her, then, sir?"

He nodded gently. "Yes, Dana, I am. But I do expect a great amount of help from you both. My Godparents were a very big part of my upbringing. I wouldn't have it any differently for my daughter. Mulder," Skinner said, looking up at him, "please have the Gunmen contact me. She'll need a birth certificate. I'll supply the name."

"What name, sir?" Mulder asked, bewildered.

"Her mother's name. Alexander Nicholai Krycek is not going to fly, is it?"

"No, sir. Is there anything else I can do?" he asked.

"We can do, sir?" Scully added.

"I need...things for her. All I have is in that bag. Can you check it for me?"

Both agents began laying out the meager supplies in the diaper bag; an extra change of clothing, not including underwear, two spare diapers, an empty bottle, a can of liquid formula and one rattle. Skinner felt that Higgins must have just grabbed those items from a local store quickly as he ran with the baby.

"Can you both go and get me everything I'll need, including new-parent books, please? My wallet is in my jacket pocket, hanging behind my door. I'll stay here with her. I'll need a car seat, especially. Take the American Express card. That only has my first two initials on it on purpose. That's the card I give to Arlene to shop for me. You'll be able to duplicate the signature on the back. Please hurry. I want to take her home."

Mulder fished out the card while Scully took one last look. "Sir, if your arms tire, I think it would be safe to lay her on the couch, so long as you sit beside her and keep an eye on her."

"Dana, there is no way I will put her down." Skinner didn't even notice them leave. And ninety minutes later, as the infant continued to sleep in his arms, Skinner did not hear the hustle and bustle of all the packages being brought into his office. He looked up and frowned.

"Why didn't you leave everything in the car? I have to take her home." Mulder sighed and they followed the big man out to the parking garage, nodding briefly to the night security officers.

Finally, at two in the morning, after Mulder and Skinner struggled with the crib and bassinette and various and sundry other items, Skinner lay her down, on sheets Scully had washed in his laundry room, while keeping a concentrated eye on the baby sleeping soundly, Skinner left the baby in her crib. Throughout all the cursing and banging, when Skinner's next door neighbor rang over twice to ask about the noise, they finally erected the crib, a swing and a lovely beech wood high chair. Scully knew it would coordinate with the light wood in Skinner's kitchen.

The two agents bid their boss a quiet farewell and he told them to take the next morning off. Skinner went back to his guest room, now a nursery, and watched the little girl sleeping. After a few moments, though, age took over and he decided it was time to sleep. It was an unrealized wish.

Skinner took a fast, warm shower, dressed in his most comfortable pajamas and settled in his bed, baby monitor with him the whole time. He laid his head on his pillow and closed his eyes, not thinking about anything, but letting the exhaustion just take him.

After what felt like a few minutes, he was jolted awake by the shrill screams of the baby. He stumbled from the bed, grabbing his glasses and lunged into the other room. He turned on the bedside light and illuminated the room to make his way to the wailing infant. Scooping her up, Skinner walked to the guest bed and sat, rocking the baby gently, shushing her, cooing nonsense words to her, the way he'd done with his younger relatives.

Natalya cried a bit more, but quieted down a little. Skinner reached out to stroke her cheek, but she turned her head and began sucking at his finger. "Oh, I see, you're hungry, sweetie. Let's go down to the kitchen and Daddy will make you a bottle, won't he?"

Skinner laughed at himself using baby talk to her. He carried her down to the kitchen and looked around for a place to lay her. He sighed. "There wouldn't be a chance you'd fit in that high chair yet, would there? No, I didn't think so." He walked out of the room, whimpering baby nestled against his chest. As he headed toward the stairs, he spotted the bassinette in the corner and smiled. He lay her down and rolled it into the kitchen. Natalya began to quiet immediately. He quickly made her bottle using water heated in his electric kettle to mix with the formula powder.

He shook it vigorously, making sure there were no lumps and tested the temperature on his wrist as they always told you to. It felt perfect to him, so he rolled her bassinette back into the living room, gathered her up and put the bottle to her mouth. Two big green eyes opened and she stared at him as she drained the bottle. He was fascinated by how much she drank. He threw a dishtowel over his shoulder and after only a few pats, she let out a little burp and looked as if she smiled up at him.

"You are so absolutely beautiful, baby. You look like your father." He knew it sounded odd, but there was no way he was going to call Alex her mother. He wasn't going to get caught up in the crap of "Which is the mommy and which is the daddy" that so many people wanted to label gay men who raise children. He would tell Natalya about her other father and how much he loved the green-eyed devil.

Walter decided that the bassinette was comfortable enough for Natalya to sleep in, so he carried it up the stairs, vowing to get another for that level, and put it right next to his bed. Natalya didn't even change her breathing as he turned off the light and lay down.

The light went on five minutes later, but it was actually 4:30, an hour and a half later. Walter blinked as he searched for his glasses and reached for Natalya. She was wet. With a sigh, he carried her into her room, and he stumbled a bit, having thought of the converted guest room as her room so quickly, and changed her diaper. When he laid her back in her bassinette, he knew it would only be an hour or two before she would remind him that she was around. As if he would ever forget.

Later in the morning, around the time he should be entering the office, Skinner picked up his phone and called his assistant. He ignored her question about the crying baby in the background and just told her that he had personal business to take care of and would not be in. He hung up the phone and began "the walk". He'd never understood "the walk". It looked silly. Then he actually had a baby in his arms, starting to quiet as he gently swayed her while singing "I'll Follow the Sun". It was one of the few Beatles songs he knew he could manage with his rich baritone voice. And one song that he knew Krycek loved the most.

When finally he thought he had her asleep for a while, the doorbell rang, and her screaming began again. With a great sigh, Skinner lifted the noisemaker and carried her to the door. He hoped it was a bounty hunter, the smoking man, hell, one of those gray monsters Mulder always said existed. Anything to stop the screaming.

Next best thing: Mulder and Scully. "Get in here you two, now!" He handed Natalya to a highly confused Mulder and sat heavily on the couch. Mulder smiled down at the baby who began to coo a bit, then started crying again.

Scully sat down, opening her briefcase and said, "Mulder, take her upstairs for a bit. See if you can get her to sleep. I need to speak with Walter."

Mulder, realizing Scully meant business by using Skinner's first name, shrugged and took Natalya up to her bedroom. Skinner looked over at Scully on the couch beside him and asked, "What's wrong, Dana?"

She smiled at his use of her given name as well. "Well, I took the liberty of examining Natalya when you and Mulder played 'This Old Crib' upstairs. I had grabbed some supplies I keep in case of a Mulder emergency, which is usually often. I took a blood sample and ran it through the lab at Quantico. She was drugged, sir. Only sedatives, which is why she slept so long. And probably why she's so cranky now. I'm going to guess that they kept Krycek tranquilized until he was due, then kept the baby tranquilized. She may be detoxing. That will be difficult."

Skinner dropped his head into his hand, then uncharacteristically grabbed the thick crystal bowl on his coffee table and threw it at the wall. It shattered and restarted the crying baby. He looked over at Scully and asked, "How difficult will it be if she does this here? I can take time off to be with her."

"I think it would be best to take her to a hospital to be examined completely. Mulder called the Gunmen on the way here and they are working on a set of Pennsylvania papers for her. Birth certificate, application for social security number, health records, everything. They're going to hack into a hospital several hours away from your home town to add her information. An emergency birth. Then, you'll be covered. But you should take her to a hospital here in Virginia, so there is no question. OK, sir?"

"No, I can't. How do I explain she's been tranquilized? No, I'll be arrested for abuse. You'll just have to take time off and help me." Skinner emphasized his words by crossing his arms.

"Sir, I don't have any vacation saved up. I'll need to ask Kersh for compassionate leave. I don't think he's very compassionate, but I can help you."

"Fine, then. I'll take all the help you can offer. I'll have keys made for you and you can use the guest room to sleep in if you like."

"Sir, I..."

Skinner sighed and lay back against the couch. "Sir, you get some sleep. Mulder and I will take Natalya to my apartment..."

"No!" he shouted, surprising her. Mulder had finally quieted the baby and they both looked up at the ceiling. "She'll stay here. I'll try and nap today. Just...Dana...please don't leave me. Please?"

Scully smiled and nodded. Skinner stood before her and hugged her. "Of course, Walter. I'll stay with you."

Skinner placed a kiss on her head and she walked him up the stairs. They passed the guest room, where Mulder was standing over the crib, speaking down to the baby, but he didn't hear what Mulder said. He went into his own room, leaving Scully and Mulder with the baby, closed the door and lay on the bed. He didn't have much time to think before falling right to sleep.


Walter Skinner hurried to pack his briefcase to leave his office. He had just enough time to get home before he had to meet her. Of course, he was never late when he had to pick her up early. She would be furious if she had to wait. And how could he look down into her sparkling, light eyes and not do everything to show her how much he loved her?

Holding her tiny frame in his big strong arms could cure any hurt, any ill that overcame him. Seeing her smiling face first thing in the morning was all he ever thought he could want. Her kisses could push away any fear of the future for them. It was as if they were the healing balm his life needed. It was right there, and all he needed to do was reach out for it, and he would have it.

He pulled around the front of the official-looking building and saw her standing there. Weaving through the throng of students, he smiled up at her as he ascended the steps. Wearing her long wool coat, with her bag slung over her shoulder, stylish beret covering her crown of curls, all in the same shade of pink. She was such a little lady for a three-year-old. "Daddy!" she shrieked before running at him, disproving the previous assumption of maturity.

Walter squatted on the steps and caught the running bundle of pink in his arms and held her high. His afternoon was free of classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so he didn't bother to leave her at the daycare late. "How is my pretty pink princess?" he asked, kissing both of her cheeks. He smiled and nodded to the aide who had waited with Natalya until Walter got there. No matter the weather, she insisted on waiting on the steps for her father. A completely single-minded child he had.

"Good, thank you. How are you?"

"Very well, thank you. You look like you want to take your daddy to a fancy restaurant and buy him dinner," he said, securing her in her car seat in the back of his new Expedition. He'd upgraded from the one given him, and after having driven the old one for so long, he found he liked SUVs.

"No, we can't. Aunt Dana and Mulder are coming for dinner! You're cooking for them, right?"

"Yes, my love, I am. How was school today?" he asked, pulling onto the main road of town.

"Lousy. Josh Davis messed up my dress." The pout on her face was enough to break Walter's heart.

"How did he ruin your dress, baby?" he asked, looking at her in the rearview mirror.

"He got blood on it."

Walter shook his head. No matter how well she spoke, and how easily she read, and how good she was with the large crayons writing her name and letters, she was still three and a half, almost four. She didn't quite get the concept of elaboration. "How did that happen, Kitten?"

"I hit him," she said, losing interest fast.

"Wait, wait, wait. Why did you hit him? Did he hit you first?" Walter was gripping the wheel with a white-knuckled grasp. If that kid hurt his little girl...

"I told him to get me a flower and he said no. So I hit him." Walter chuckled a bit at that, but quickly looked back at Natalya, who had taken a book out of her bag and was reading quietly.

"Natalya, look at me in the mirror," he said. She'd done that before, to talk to him. "That was very bad. Did you apologize to him?"

"No," she stated and looked back at her book.

"Little girl, I'm speaking to you. Look at me." She looked up at him and closed the book. She may have her father wrapped around her finger, but she knew who wore the pants, Walter thought. "I've told you not to hit other children unless you're defending yourself, haven't I?"

After a moment, and a deep, put-upon sigh, she answered, "Yes sir."

"Well, that means we're going to the Davis' home and you're going to apologize to Joshua, aren't you?"

Another sigh and eye-roll, "Yes sir."

Walter smirked and turned the car down Elm Street toward the Davis home. It was a modest two-story four square home, with a prize-winning tulip garden right in front. Before Walter even had even gotten Natalya out of her car seat, Mrs. Davis was opening the door and stepping out onto the porch. "Hello, Walter," she called out cheerily with a smile, as Walter followed Natalya up the steps.

"Good afternoon, Jessica. I think my daughter has something to say to Joshua." Looking down at Natalya's down-cast face and fully protruding lip, Walter fought not to be overcome by the feelings, the memories of his lover. Walter often times lay in bed, wondering if Alex was still alive. But that wasn't important at the moment.

Jessica turned to the doorway and called Josh out onto the porch. He had two comically large tissues stuffed in his nose, one showing a tinge of dark blood. Walter fought to keep a straight face, noting with guilty pride that his baby got the bad boy in both nostrils. "Joshua, Natalya wants to say something to you."

The little girl remained silent. Both adults looked at her. Walter looked up at the boy a moment and deduced that if he frowned any harder in the cold late afternoon air, his face would stay that way. Deep down, a devilish little voice said, "Would serve that boy right. He should have gotten Natalya a flower in the first place." The voice came along with the memory of sparkling green eyes, of course, but he didn't look at them.

"Natalya, apologize to Joshua for hitting him. Nice young ladies don't act like that, remember?" Walter admonished.

He watched as his little girl took a deep breath and looked up at Josh. "Sorry I hit you."


The little boy turned around and went back into the house. Jessica shook Walter's proffered hand, accepting his apology as well and turned to go back into her home. Walter led Natalya back to the truck and secured her in the back again. When they were almost back at the house, he looked at her in the mirror again. "That was very brave of you. I won't punish you for this, since I know admitting you were wrong was bad enough. But should this ever happen again, you will not only have to apologize again, I'll make you do it at school in front of your entire class. And I'll ask your teacher to keep you from playing at recess. And don't ask what you'll lose here in the house. Understood?"

Two sparkling green eyes looked up at him as she said, "Yes, sir." Then he saw the tears start to drip down her face.

"Aw, Kitten, you don't have to cry, it's over," he cooed at her. He turned off the engine, having entered their driveway and went straight back to carry her from the truck to the house, her little bag in his empty hand. A little wet face with a cold, red nose buried itself under his collar as he unlocked the door and entered the home. "Come on, Kitten, give Daddy a smile? A little one?"

She looked up and him and started crying again. "OK, no smiles." He carried his charge to her room and proceeded to strip her of her soiled dress, down to her underwear and redressed her in her favorite pink fleece sweats. He slipped thick pink socks on her feet and sat beside her on her bed as she whimpered. "OK, you wanna tell me what this is about, little girl?" he asked.

"You're gonna make me say sorry in front of my class!" she shouted.

The sound reverberated off the pink walls, white laminate furniture and mirror-covered sliding closet doors. The white carpet did little to deaden the sound. He'd even gone as far as putting a white cotton canopy on her bed, eyelet ruffles all the way around, to make sure sounds could be heard, but not pierce his head. As Walter looked back at Natalya's life, she was a relatively good baby. She started sleeping throughout the night once Walter found out that the altitude of his condo bothered her. When he'd taken her to his parents' home for a weekend retreat, she slept soundly, only waking once to be fed and changed. He made his decisions then and there.

After retiring from the FBI when his daughter was 6 months old, he promptly paid the daycare bill, packed up, sold the condo and changed his residence to Fogelsville, PA. It was difficult at first to adjust to life outside the bureau. Having the Masters degree helped when he inquired at Lehigh to teach. His years at the bureau gave him enough clout, as well as the letter of recommendation from the Director, to choose his subjects. Walter was a modest man by nature, not even asking for an office, but was given his choice of offices, including currently occupied ones.

True to character, he chose a small office with a small window, overlooking the quad where the students would sit and talk, or play a fast game of touch football or Frisbee. Occasionally, he saw a pair of lovers sharing sweet kisses, and some daring to go a bit further. That brought him thoughts of his lost lover. And he usually blamed his red eyes and stuffed nose on allergies. But Walter Skinner didn't have any allergies.

Mondays and Wednesdays were his worst days with three classes. Tuesdays and Thursdays were easier, one class in the morning and office hours. Fridays, he did not have classes, giving him a threeday weekend. Those three days were spent at home, teaching his daughter to read, attempting to write, and playing the guitar. Hers was smaller, a ukulele actually, but she learned quickly. He taught her as many Beatles tunes as she could learn, but he always played for her the one she loved the best, "I'll Follow the Sun." He dared not tell her he'd also sung it to her other father, many nights when his back and legs were screaming in pain and he couldn't take any medicine for it. The singing seemed to calm her as well.

"If you hit Joshua again for no reason, yes, I will make you do that. Otherwise, you're safe. OK?" He smiled down at her, noting that he did that a lot lately.

"OK, fine. Can I watch TV before dinner?" she asked. She didn't care much for television, but it was her subtle way of telling him she was miffed at him. Usually, she was content to read, color or play dolls.

"No, I'd rather you read something. What do you want for dessert, tonight?" He sat looking down at her reddened face.

"Chocolate ice cream," she said.

"How did I know?" he asked, smiling. "Come on, time for you to finish reading `The Adventures of Capitol Kitty' to me." It was her favorite book about a kitten that becomes the resident mascot of the Capitol building.

They made their way down to the kitchen where Natalya sat at the large wooden table. Walter had taken up his old pastime of wood working and had made mostly new furniture to furnish the house. He had kept his parent's bedroom intact, only replacing the mattress on the bed and the study was exactly as it had been in his father's day.

His greatest achievement was the mini table and chairs he'd made for his daughter for her tea parties. There was a huge table, about her height, and eight chairs, two with arms, one for her and one for him. Various and sundry stuffed animals occupied the other chairs at times. Everything was currently stored in the basement, where Walter had set her up with her own little "playhouse". When the weather was warmer, he was going to build her one in the backyard. He would make her an entire home, sans bathroom. But he'd been reading up on plumbing and sewage management, trying to figure out a way to get her some running water, but a flush toilet would be entirely too much trouble.

As Walter cooked, making a simple spaghetti and meatballs dinner, Natalya read her story to him. She read slowly, as if she was carefully deciphering every word, but Walter made sure she understood what she was reading, and not just pronouncing the words. What good is being able to read if what you're reading has no meaning to you?

While she was putting her book away, the doorbell rang. Walter quickly went out to open the door and admit the happy Godparents. Mulder had been a little flustered at being asked to be the godfather, being Jewish, but Scully walked him through it. "Mulder, really, Episcopalian is just Catholic light," she'd joked.

"Hello, you two. Get in here, dinner's almost ready." He accepted the hug from Scully and Mulder's hand shake, then the bottle of red wine. Mulder quickly hung the coats while waiting for the inevitable pounding of feet as the girl of the hour ran down the stairs. She always checked her appearance before greeting Mulder.

"Mulder! Aunt Dana!" came the squeal and thump-thump-thump and Mulder had two arms full of giggles. She gave the same enthusiasm in her hug to Scully, but did not attempt to run the little woman over as she did with her Godfather.

"I thought you were going to wear that pretty pink dress I love so much," Mulder said, sounding disappointed.

"Josh Davis got blood on it."

"Excuse me?" Scully asked. She and Walter had a habit of speaking to Natalya as if she were an adult, not using baby talk with her. They attributed her early grasp of speech to that fact. Mulder, however, always had his own agenda.

"Did you pop him one?" he asked, knowing the little girl all too well.

"Sure! I told him to get me a flower and he said no! So BAM in the nose!" She looked so proud of her accomplishment, Walter didn't have the heart to stop her from boasting about bullying.

"That's enough, kids. Why don't you all get washed up for supper?"

Walter laughed as his daughter was walked up the stairs by her Godparents, one hand in each of theirs. The dinner proved to be just as pleasant as they always were. Each week, the couple arrived to chat and catch up with their former boss and current friend. Afterward, they sat in the living room, drinking coffee and talking about their investigations. Walter listened intently, wishing he were once again back in the office, leading investigations, yet thankful that he wasn't. With the number of hours he spent either in his office or in his home, concentration on bureau work would never have allowed him to have any kind of relationship with Natalya. And in the past three years, it had become everything to him. Both of his former agents noticed.

"Walter, what are you planning on doing for Halloween?" Scully asked, sipping at her mocha java.

"Oh, I'm a fool this year. We got her a Dorothy costume and I'm dressing..."

"Don't tell me!" Mulder interrupted. "The Wicked Witch of the West." The smile on Mulder's face was priceless.

"Mulder, be serious!" Walter chastised. "I'm going to be Toto."

Both of them laughed uncontrollably. Walter did his best to hide his blush behind his coffee cup, but was soon laughing with them. "Yes, I have a man-sized Yorkie costume. I am so humiliated, but, it's for the baby, so it's OK."

Everyone stopped laughing when a sleepy Natalya trotted down the stairs in her pajamas, rubbing her eyes with one hand and dragging her Pooh Bear in the other. She crawled into Walter's lap and pressed her face into his neck, whimpering. "What's wrong, Kitten? Bad dream?"

He felt her nod her head into his neck. "OK, you want to stay with us a while?" More nodding. "OK, baby. You stay here. I was just telling Aunt Dana and Mulder what we're going to be for Halloween. They like it."

She sat up and smiled widely. "Daddy's being Toto for me! We have a dress and the shoes and the basket. And he's gonna learn how to braid my hair!"

"I thought you were scared from your dreams," Walter said, cautiously. "What exactly was this bad dream?"

"Well...uh..." She buried her face in her father's neck again, threatening to strangle him with her hug.

"OK, OK, calm down. Did you just come down here so that Mulder can put you to bed again?" he asked, half chastising, half smiling. She looked up at him, guiltily and smiled.

"I'm sorry, Daddy," she said. "Please?"

"Don't ask me, ask Mulder."

Natalya turned to him and gave him her most winning grin. Mulder was putty in her hands. "OK, one more story, and that's it." She squealed in delight and jumped from her father's lap to Mulder's, just missing hurting him seriously. He stood, hoisted her high in his arms and started toward the stairs. "Did I ever tell you about the Great Mutato?"

"No," she said, and giggled.

"No? Oh, let me tell you about him..." he was saying as he disappeared into her room.

Scully smiled up at them. "Thank you, Walter," she said absently.

"For what, Dana?"

"For letting us be a part of her life. It's almost as good as having my own."

"One day, Dana, we will find a way to help you. I promise."

She turned to him and gave a sad smile. "I know, Walter." She waited a moment, testing his mood, and then asked something she hadn't in three years, and wouldn't dare if Mulder was there. "Do you think about him, Walter?"

He stiffened as it struck. Quickly, realizing his company, he cleared his throat and sipped his coffee. "No, I don't. Natalya's mother died in birth. That's all she knows. And she knows not to ask any more about it."

Scully nodded and left it at that.


Walter hauled the huge cart of food to the truck, listening to the delightful chatter of the little girl seated in the front. She was explaining how excited she'd be if she had a kitty. Not a dog, like Walter wanted, but a kitty. Her Daddy would always be her best Toto.

All Walter cared about at that moment was getting the food into the truck and getting his baby home. He'd been thankful that it was Thanksgiving week, Thursday being the holiday, he wanted to get the turkey into the garage refrigerator so it would defrost slowly for five days. Scully and Mulder were coming for the holiday, with the Lone Gunmen, who had stayed in touch with him over the years. Frohike turned out to be a font of knowledge regarding childcare. Walter suspected the man was a father himself, but had alienated a child or two over his life.

Byers enjoyed visiting and loved teaching Natalya to play the piano a very fine upright Walter had bought. Langly would sit with her and draw for hours. Walter had no clue Langly was such an accomplished artist. He stuck to simple things with Natalya, though, crayons and finger paints. He'd told Walter that she was showing a strong grasp of color and shape placement, wanting balance on her pictures, wanting her trees and animals to look "right" which most often they did. She would be a fine artist if she kept at it.

He was barely paying attention when he pulled the cart up to the truck and went to put her into her safety seat. She was staring at the front of the truck oddly, as if she was working a problem. He turned to follow her line of sight and saw the body. Someone had dumped a body by his truck. He pulled her back and reached instinctively for his weapon, the weapon he returned to the FBI when he retired. The service weapon he was allowed to carry, under federal statute, that he didn't think was fitting to keep when he was with his daughter, was locked in a box in his den safe. No, this time, he would have to protect his child like a wild animal, with his naked hands.

"Be very quiet, Natalya. I'm going to look, OK?" She nodded, but didn't seem scared, just curious. Walter started toward the body. It moved and he stopped. He looked around and it seemed the entire parking lot had gotten very quiet while he was checking out why there was a dead body near his truck. He looked back one last time at the baby before creeping around the front.

He was cautious and careful, prepared to defend his daughter with his life, and when he realized..."Holy shit! Alex!!"

Walter knelt before the unconscious man and checked his vitals. He was still breathing, but he was dirty, smelly, he had several bruises on his face, and Walter knew there were more on his body. He checked the pulse again, feeling how light it was and knew he needed to get Alex home. He turned to his daughter and began quickly getting her into her chair.

"Daddy, who's that man?" she asked, trying to look past him at the body on the ground.

"He's my friend. He's not well, very sick. We need to get him home quickly. Can you be Daddy's best girl today and do everything I tell you?" He gave her a serious look. He'd only used the strong tone and harsh look when he was upset with her and she was about to get a spanking. She just nodded, looking at him as if she knew the spanking was coming anyway. He stroked her face and said, "I'm going to go get the man now, so you be good for Daddy, and I will make sure we have extra story time tonight."

She smiled widely. Walter moved to the front of the truck, hoisted Alex in front of him and dragged the sagging man into the front seat of the truck. He strapped Alex in with the seatbelt and ran around to get the groceries into the truck. And of course, no one had been anywhere near them to see a thing. They may as well have been in New York.

He pulled out of the parking lot and made his way carefully, albeit quickly, back to the house. He could see Natalya in the back, staring intently at Alex, but she didn't look scared at all. She looked curious. And the entire trip home, all of twenty minutes, she only spoke to admonish Walter for talking on his cell phone without the hands-free earpiece. "Daddy, that's bad, use the ear thing!"

"I don't have time, Kitten. I need to make sure Aunt Dana and Mulder get to the house as soon as possible. They need to help Alex, if he needs it." Walter pulled a little too quickly around a corner and the tires squealed. He tried to keep the truck on the road but, Alex, if possible, seemed to get even paler. Reaching the house, things became a blur.

"Kitten, go on upstairs and play in your room while I take care of Alex."

"Is he going to be OK, Daddy?" she asked, blinking up at him.

"I'm going to do everything I can to make sure he is, OK, Kitten?" She nodded and went to her room.

Walter got most of the groceries into the kitchen, the perishables at least, where they sort of needed to be, then went to get Alex out of the truck. The man had not moved. He half-carried him into the house, up the stairs and laid him out on the bathroom floor where he proceeded to strip him of the filthy, smelly clothes. Alex had soiled himself, evidently. Walter was quick, piling the clothes in the corner, using baby wipes to clean the mess before settling Alex into the tub to spray him down with the shower massager head.

It was convenient that Walter wasn't disgusted by body functions. Fatherhood did that to you, having handled plenty of Natalya's accidents all over his lap, his shirt or in his arms. It was also convenient to have the removable shower head so that Walter could better rinse Alex as he washed the thin, bruised body. He felt around, and did not feel any broken bones in his limbs, nor broken ribs, nothing major that would be protruding through skin. So Alex was safe until Mulder and Dana arrived.

He hauled a warm, clean and dried Alex to his bed, the bed where they both had slept for months and months together, cultivating a love that still gripped Walter's heart tightly. He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to Alex's slack mouth. The quiet gasp from the open doorway made him jump and he turned to see Natalya standing there, hand over her mouth.

"How long have you been there?!" he thundered at her. She stepped back in fear.

" brought him up." He took a deep breath and walked out of the room, pulling the door mostly closed behind him. They went to her room and they sat on the floor together, the place where they had conversations about important things, in the middle of the play area.

"You watched me clean and wash him?" he asked and she nodded. "Did you want to see what a naked man looks like?" This was puzzling to Walter. She was entirely too young for that.

"No! Aunt Dana showed me a book. I don't care 'bout that. kissed him..."

"Does that bother you?" She shook her head.

"Is he your son?" Walter realized she didn't quite understand the relationship.

"No, he's my lover. I love him very much."

"Like you love me?" she asked, with a bit of trepidation on her face.

"Oh, I could never love anyone like I love you. I love you most of all. Alex is...your other father."

"Huh?" He knew she was very confused, but she deserved to know. "You said my mommy died. You said her name was Alexis. You lied?"

After taking a shaky breath, a tear slipped from his eye. "I'm sorry for lying to you, but I didn't want you to think your other parent was out there somewhere and didn't want to see you. Sometimes people think that when a parent is gone and can't come home, the parent doesn't want to. Alex...his name is Alexander Nicholai Krycek, and he couldn't be here. He was in trouble with some men who wanted to kill him. And they would have hurt me, and you, to do that. So he left. You following?"

She shrugged. He would keep reinforcing points to her over time, like the fact that Alex couldn't be here, instead of wouldn't be here. He knew Alex had always said he didn't care about the fetus he carried, but Walter knew in his heart that if Alex had seen how wonderful a baby Natalya was, he would have been there.

"OK, well, we have to be really careful until I can find out what's going on. So, no going to the windows or the door unless I say it's OK. And no answering the phone." She pouted at that last bit, just beginning to be able to manage holding the phone by herself. "When Alex wakes up, I'll introduce you to him. Now, let's go and put the rest of the groceries away. Wait for me in the kitchen. I want to set up the monitor in the bedroom so we can hear him if he wakes up."

Natalya nodded and they went about putting things back together until the doorbell rang. Walter took a deep breath and answered it, holding his hand up before they walked into the house. "I will not have any animosity toward him, period. He is Natalya's other parent, and her happiness comes first. She doesn't know the details, but she knows that he's her other father. OK?"

Both agents nodded and entered the house. Natalya quickly launched herself into Mulder's arms, hugging him and kissing his cheeks. "OK, little one, OK, relax." He put her down so she could hug Dana. They walked into the living room where Walter asked, "Mulder, would you do me the favor of spending some time with Natalya while Dana and I check out Alex? Sounds good?"

Natalya nodded and started to talk to Mulder about buying her a kitten as he helped her with her coat, scarf and hat. She firmly stated she was old enough to put her mittens on herself. With the little girl safely out of the way, Walter and Dana went up to find Alex still sleeping soundly in the same position. Dana asked if any of the bruises on his abdomen had darkened or gotten larger, and she nodded at Walter's firm "no".

"Well, I don't think he has any internal injuries, but you never can tell. Just watch him carefully. Do you think..."

"What? That he's back for good? Who knows? He's been out since I found him."

"Where exactly did you find him?" she asked, leading Walter down to the kitchen. She sat him in a chair and started to make tea. Walter proceeded to tell her the story about Alex lying unconscious by the truck, and how well Natalya behaved and thanked her profusely for showing up to help. "It's not a problem, Walter. With the precious gift he gave you, how can we really be angry with him?"

The change in Dana's attitude didn't surprise Walter a bit. The only one they needed to worry about was Mulder.

Alex rolled over in the large bed and yawned, trying to stretch but his injuries stopped him. He vaguely remembered Walter's voice, but thought it was a dream. There was muted sunshine coming through the light sheers on the window. He slowly opened his eyes to see another pair of eyes, remarkably like his own, staring back at him. He sat up quickly. "Who are you?" he asked harshly.

The little girl with dark, curly hair and bright green eyes stared at him. "I'm Natalya. I live here. Who are you?"

He yawned again and scratched his chest. He looked at the clock beside the bed and saw the time, seven twenty-one. "You got a dad?" he asked, ignoring her question.

"Yeah, downstairs."

"You wanna go get him for me, kid?" Alex was annoyed with this little girl and her questions. She should just know who he was.

"Tell me who you are, first. Mulder tells great stories, but I don't know if I should believe him about you. Daddy says he loves you."

"Mulder?" he said quickly and started to sit up. His bruised belly protested and he sat back down. "Is Mulder here?"

"No, just me and Daddy.' other daddy. Right?" she asked, chewing a thumbnail. The look on her face was enough to make Alex crack a bit of a grin, her sadly expectant wide eyes.

"Yeah. Sorry, kid." It was all he could think to say. The doorway behind the little girl was filled by Walter's body. His face was neutral as he looked at the man in his bed. "Hey, Walt. What's up?"

"Nothing but you. Feel OK?" he asked. Alex was surprised he wasn't getting the third degree.

"Feel like sh...garbage. I gotta p...go to the bathroom," he said.

Walter smirked and said, "Kitten, how about you go down to the kitchen and see if you can get a bottle of water for Alex while I help him out?"

She nodded and left the room, staring back at Alex every few minutes. When she'd cleared the doorway and they heard her going down the stairs, he walked over and sat on the bed. "Are you sure you're OK? Seriously, I can't take you to a hospital if..."

"No one's looking for me. Trust me. I'm free and clear." Alex closed his eyes and settled back onto the pillows. No one wanted him anymore, most likely, not the man sitting beside him, either.

Walter looked down in the pinched and haggard face of his former lover. Alex looked as if he was giving up his life to him. Walter would gladly take him. "So you're safe to stay here? You swear it?"

"Why? You want me here?" he asked, frowning.

"Of course! Alex...when I told you this was your home so many years ago, I meant it. I want you here. I want you to get to know what wonderful little girl..."

"Who the fuck are you?" Alex asked. "You aren't the tight-assed, stuffed-shirt AD I know and...what the fuck..."

"Alex, a lot has happened since they took you. I' life is all about my daughter. I've come to be able to say things, to express how I feel more easily because of her. If you need a place to stay, and want to stay here, you are welcome to live here as long as you like, in my bed or the guest room. But I think it would be a crime if you didn't get to know Natalya..."

"Why did you name her that?" Alex asked. Walter smiled gently.

"That was my mother's name. I hope you like it."

Alex nodded and gave a small grin to Walter. "Hey, I'm gonna wet the bed like some kid if you don't help me up. I'll let you hold it."

Walter shook his head and said, "Not yet. Soon, though. When you're recovered."

Alex snorted as Walter helped haul him to his feet. "I've 'recovered' enough. That's all I've been doing. Christ, that's why I'm all bruised up; my body was so stressed from all the healing they made me go through."

Walter stood before him in the bathroom as Alex sat on the toilet. He looked up at Walter and asked, "When did we begin toileting together, lover?"

"Since you shit yourself after they left you for dead near my truck," he said, gruffly, turning to grab his bathrobe from the back of the door. "Alex, I have a daughter. You think wiping a dirty ass is a new thing for me?"

Alex looked up and tilted his head. "She looks like you."

"Are you blind?" Walter asked, helping Alex with the robe. "Not only does she have your eyes, but she has your nose, thankfully. My nose is not for a girl." They smiled at each other for a moment. "What do you think of her?"

"Fuck, Walt, I just got, after what they did to me...let me get my head straight, OK?"

Walter nodded sadly. Alex would find it odd that he was not the center of Walter's universe any longer. He would find it jarring, all the changes in Walter. If Walter were honest with himself, he'd say the changes surprised him, as well. In a good way, if he were brutally honest. He was an older man, looking forward toward his twilight years, which loomed closer and closer every year. It wasn't unheard of for a man his age to have a heart attack, fatally so. If honesty were to cut to the bone, he was thankful Alex was there, so that at least one of Natalya's parents could be there, always, or so he hoped.

When he had helped Alex back to the bed, and thrown some sweatpants and a t-shirt at him, Natalya walked in with the bottle of water. She climbed on the bed and sat beside Alex, looking down at him thoughtfully.

"Daddy, we weren't properly introduced, you know?" she stated, cocking an eyebrow up at her father, suspiciously looking a lot like Dana.

"You're correct. Natalya Melissa Skinner, this is your other father, Alexander Nikolai Krycek. Alex, this is your daughter, Natalya. Or as I call her, Kitten. Or princess. Or..."

"I get it, Walt," Alex interrupted. Natalya held her hand up to Alex and he took it, shaking it gently.

"Did you make the nesting dolls?" she asked, suddenly.

Alex looked up at Walter, questioning. Walter shrugged, but Natalya continued on. "I like them, but I have newer ones. I have the Little Mermaid, and Cinderella, and my favorite, Beauty and the Beast!" She sat up, pleased with herself.

"Why is that your favorite?" Alex asked, confused look on his face.

"Belle has curly dark hair like me! So does Wonder Woman, too. And..."

"Yeah, I get it, kid. Role models." Alex gave an exasperated look up at Walter, who scowled back. "What?"

"OK, Natalya, get your drawing book out. Langly will be by later for art."

Natalya frowned and reluctantly crawled off the bed. Walter waited until her bedroom door closed firmly. She was a very smart little girl.

"Alex, I'm only going to tell you this once. That little girl is my whole life. Do not upset her. Do not insult her. She's barely four years old and she's...incredible. She's so advanced for her age; I may not put her in school, but home school her myself. She has incredible artistic and musical abilities. You saw, she's only three and a half years old. She never used baby talk. I'm so...amazed by her..."

He looked down at Krycek who was giving him a look that he couldn't translate. "What?"

"You look like one of those parents know, goes on about their kid."

"I am one of those parents. And she's your child, too. It would do you a world of good to get to know her."

"Well, can I get my shit together first? I mean..."

"And that's another thing. No more swearing. I don't, Mulder and Dana don't. She knows the words, and knows they aren't polite, but if you talk like that, she'll swear just to rebel against me."

"Why is she rebelling?" Alex asked, trying to lie back.

"I won't buy her a cat. I love cats, myself, but Dana and Mulder ran into a case once with feral cats, and they were attacked. Dana won't go near them anymore. We tell Natalya she's allergic, so I can't have one. I'd rather a positive role model like Dana visit, than comb cat fur off everything."

Alex laughed and shook his head. "You got answers for everything, don't you?"

Walter smiled. "With a smart child around, you learn to think quick."

Alex nodded and lay back against the pillows. Walter sat on the bed beside him and smiled down. "Alex, may I kiss you?"

"I thought you'd never ask." Alex reached out and pulled Walter's mouth down to his, kissing the other man deeply. They held onto each other, kissing and hugging, just trying to get back to where they once were, once when they were younger, in love and more innocent. Walter almost laughed into the kiss, thinking that Alex could have been innocent then, but it fit the times.

Alex pulled away and took a deep breath. "Wow, just like I remembered. You always could curl my toes, you hot sexy..."

"OK, I think that's enough for you. Little ears could be lurking." Walter stood to walk out of the room.

"You used to be more fun."

Walter gave him a sad smile. "I used to be childless. If I had to give my baby up, I wouldn't go back for anything."

"Not even for me?" Alex asked, seriously.

"No, not even for you. As much as I love you, Alex, and yes, I do love you, I can't love anyone more than I love that little girl. I hope you can understand that."

Alex just shrugged and lay back in the bed, closing his eyes. Walter would not regret saying those words, as he walked out into the hall and saw his daughter lurking. "How long have you been there?"

"You really love me more than him?" she asked, giving him the best Scully eyebrow he'd ever seen.

He laughed and lifted her into his arms. "I could never love anyone as much as I love you."

She hugged him tightly and kissed his cheek, giggling.

Alex lay in the bed with his eyes closed, not sleeping. Yeah, the kid was cute, but she was too damn nosy for his taste. Kids should be quiet in their rooms and not in adults' business. She'd just have to learn to back off. She was cute, though.

He slept a little longer, then hauled himself from the bed to pad to the bathroom. He sat there, looking around at the decor, and shook his head. It was pleasantly appointed in sunny yellow and corn flower blue accents around a base of bright white. As bright it was, it looked as if Skinner scrubbed the porcelain daily. He'd remodeled a bit since Alex lived there last.

When he went back to the bedroom, he found Natalya sitting in the middle of the covers, holding a small birdcage. He stood there a moment and asked, "What's that?"

A spray of curls swung about as she turned to him. "This is my parakeet, Tweety. Isn't he pretty? He doesn't talk."

"Well, Tweety doesn't belong in my bed, kid." Alex got back on the bed and stretched out.

"This is my daddy's bed," she said, a little flash of defiance in her eyes.

"Right, and I'm one of your daddies, so I get to sleep here. Take the bird back to your room, OK?"

Natalya looked up at him and shrugged. She took the cage and as she left, she said, "You can come see Tweety in my room later. We'll be waiting."

Alex watched the little girl walk out of the room and shook his head. He slipped back into the bed and lay back against the pillows. After ten minutes, he couldn't sleep so he sat up to look around the room. It was exactly the same, minus the television Walter had put in there for Alex to watch in bed. Otherwise, it was as if Alex had never left. He never left in the first place. He was taken. Which was probably why Walter had welcomed him back.

Did he know where Alex was? Could he have helped Alex escape? Did they make Walter choose between him and that kid? And Alex was positive he chose the fucking kid. That bastard! He thought to himself. He threw back the covers and stomped down the stairs. He made a beeline for the study, knowing Walter spent a fair amount of time in there.

He barreled into the room and let the door slam back against the plaster wall, knowing the doorknob did a bit of damage. Walter looked up from the term papers he was grading, a bit startled. "Alex? Is something wrong?"

"You mother fucking asshole! You son of a bitch! Did you know where I was? Did you know where I was kept? And gave me up for that fucking kid? I should have flown to Switzerland and had that thing cut out of me like I said I would! You fucking bastard!"

"Shut up!" came a shrill scream behind Alex. Then next thing he knew, there were little feet, with surprisingly solid sneakers, kicking his bare ankles. He stepped away and reached back to slap the little annoying brat when a growl from across the room stopped him cold.

"You put your hands on her, and I will be calling the M.E. for you. Don't test me on this, Alex." Natalya looked up at Walter and backed off quickly, going back to her small desk in the corner and sitting in her chair. She stared forward with wide eyes.

"You didn't answer my questions, Walt. Did you know where I was and what they did to me?" Alex asked, in the deadly tone from his former days as an assassin.

"Alex, if I had known, I would have rescued you long ago. As it was, Mulder and Dana could not find you. They tried; for three and a half years, they tried every lead that the Gunmen could come up with and nothing. I'm sorry if you don't believe me, but that's the truth. Now, apologize to Natalya for almost hitting her."

"Fuck you, crazy man, that's bullshit. This was my fucking house before it was hers. Who the fuck does she, and YOU think you are talking to me like that!"

Walter walked out from behind his desk and stopped in front of Alex. "Natalya, please go to your room and wait for me there. Make sure Tweety's cage is clean and he has water." The little girl ran to her room so fast that she left a swirling dust trail behind her.

Without blinking, Walter said, "If you ever raise a hand to my daughter again, I'll kill you and bury you in the back yard."

"She's my daughter, too. What if I decide to take her away from here, from you? What are you going to do, Walt?" Alex tried to put as much ice in his voice as possible.

"I dare you. The FBI will find you faster than you think. And my daughter knows how to get away from a kidnapper. I'd love to see you prove she's yours when I have her birth certificate. Your name isn't on it, you know. Now, I'm going to pour myself a drink. I suggest you have one and calm down. After I check on Natalya, you can tell me about what happened to you for the last three years."

Walter walked out of the room, brushing past Alex and went up the stairs quickly. Alex took the opportunity to get himself a glass of vodka, the kind he always drank, and sat on the wide back porch that he loved so many years ago.

Walter knocked on Natalya's door and found her sitting on her bed, holding her Pooh Bear. "Kitten, can I come in?"

"Sure." He walked over and sat on the bed with her. He reached out and wiped a tear from her cheek.

"Come here and give me a hug," he said quietly. She crawled into his lap and let loose crying. He held her and soothed her until she'd finally calmed, looking up at him with watery green eyes.

"Why was he gonna hit me?" she asked. "I thought that...he was my daddy, too. You don't hit me."

"Alex is never going to do that ever again. He thinks that I knew where he was for three years, and that I chose you over him." Skinner continued to stroke her hair.

"I heard what he said. What happened to him?" She hiccupped.

"Let's get your face washed and set you up with something to do for a while. I'm going to ask him what happened. And then he and I are going to have a talk."

"What did he want cut out of him?" she asked quietly, after they came back from the bathroom.

"What?" Walter asked. His mind began to spin. He didn't want to have to think about telling her about her origin. It seemed he had no choice. He only hoped that as smart as Natalya was, she would actually understand him.

"I was inside him, wasn't I? He's my mommy, isn't he?" she asked, innocently.

"In a way, yes. Does that make any sense to you?" Walter wasn't sure why he was telling her. Most three-year-old children didn't understand the facts of life, but Natalya wasn't like most children.

"Not really. I know the parts that make a baby...but...I don't get it." She rubbed her head as if she was really trying to work out the problem.

"Sweetie, you have plenty of time to understand the way you were born. Right now, just know that yes, you grew inside Alex and no matter what he says when he's angry, the one thing I remember very well was Alex sitting in the office while I worked, rubbing his belly, singing your favorite song to you. Whether he wanted to admit it or not, he loved you."

Natalya nodded, still looking sad. "Can I stay here and read for a while, please? I...uh...he..."

"You scared?" She nodded, sadly. "Then you stay here. I won't let anything happen to you, I promise."

"I trust you," she said and kissed his cheek.

Walter was reluctant to leave her alone, but thought that if he was going to get to the bottom of what happened to Alex, he'd have to. He made his way down the stairs and found Alex on the back porch, watching the sun go down. "So, you wanna come inside and talk to me? I'm not sitting out here in the cold November night, Alex."

Without a word, Alex went into the living room, where Walter reappeared with a glass of scotch. Alex sat on the couch and Walter took his leather chair. "You wanna tell me what that outburst was about? You really frightened Natalya and you're going to apologize later. Now, talk."

"Man, just...did you know where I was?"

"No, Alex, of course I didn't. I would have rescued you. I wish I could have. As it was, I had no idea where you were. What did they do to you?" Walter sat forward, wanting to go to Alex and hold him.

"What didn't they do to me! When they got me back, I was 'tranquilized' until they cut the kid out." Alex looked a bit disgusted.

"She was tranquilized when they gave her to me. She detoxed in my apartment. I know what they did to you..."

"Fuck if you don't!" Alex shouted, jumping to his feet. He began pacing the room as he elaborated on the last three years. "They took out the uterus, so they could study it. And they left me there, half aware, open-gut like a fucking fish. They removed everything that connected me to the kid. They could not figure out how it happened, so they tried to do it again. They cut my arm off, re-grew it and then..."

"Oh, God, Alex...they didn't..." Walter couldn't help letting the moan slip out of his mouth.

Alex flopped back on the couch. "Yeah, seven times they cut this arm off. Seven fucking times..." A brief momentary slip of his mask and tears dripped down Alex's face. Walter hadn't seen him this way since the hormones had raged in him when he was pregnant, and never before that. "When they realized it wasn't going to work, you know, with inserting the semen the first few times all sterile, they tried getting some big guy to fuck me. He fucked me until I bled and came in me, like you did that time. I was so drugged out; it was my fucking suggestion. The words just slipped out. When my arm didn't work, they tried the other one. Then my legs. Spender was so fucking pissed he had them cut off all four at once just to punish me..."

By this point, Alex was weeping and Walter immediately moved to his side to hold him, stroke his hair and kiss his cheeks. Walter rocked him slowly, waiting until he'd calmed. It was the most extraordinary moment they'd had in their relationship, so unlike Alex to show open emotion without some reason; hormones, a sad movie, something.

Alex had been hard as stone before, no emotions when they had sex before the pregnancy. He'd barely tolerated the kissing Walter insisted on. The man in his arms who was releasing a flood of emotions was a new person, someone completely different, changed by years of torture, anger and indifference. This was an Alex that Walter would have to learn about all over again.

Alex calmed down and sat up fast. "Shit, sorry, that came out of nowhere. It just...I..."

"Alex, you built up all that pain and sorrow over more than three years. It needed to get out. If you hadn't released it, I would have forced you to. If you need to cry like that again, just...go into the bathroom, lock the door, turn on the shower and let go. No one will bother you."

Walter was rewarded with a grin. "You always wanted to take care of everyone, huh? That's why you kept the kid, didn't give her to Scully."

"I kept Natalya because as soon as I saw her face, with your eyes and nose, my curly dark hair, I knew that I could never look upon her and not love her with all my heart. Giving her to Scully wasn't an option I could live with." Walter kissed Alex's forehead again.

"Why didn't you marry her? I mean, that would have been the smartest thing, huh? You both get the kid, and you take care of them both, too. Then you're happy." Looking down into Alex's eyes, Walter saw that he waited for Walter to reject him, to tell him that he'd asked Dana and she refused.

"Why would I marry someone I didn't love to take the place of someone I do love? I could never replace you, Alex. I wouldn't even try." Another kiss, this time on Alex's mouth. Walter allowed Alex to deepen it, welcomed the questing tongue into his mouth. He knew Alex wanted to reconnect, and if Alex wanted to make love that night, Walter wouldn't deny him. He would just remind Alex to be quiet.

They pulled apart and Alex growled with pleasure. "So take me upstairs and fuck me hard."

"Alex, please, watch your words. She can lurk at any time. And wait until later, when I've put her to bed, we have all night." Walter watched two green eyes roll and a dark-haired head shake. "Hey, you've been here a day. She's been here three and a half years. And you should be concerned for her as well. She's your daughter, too, as you so reminded me."

Alex snorted a laugh, then lay his head on Walter's shoulder. "She's damn cute, though. Looks like me."

"She said she was a little frightened of you. You should go upstairs and say you're sorry." Walter kissed his neck gently. Alex looked up into Walter's eyes, and Walter saw that little spark of the man Alex was before the things that made him hard and angry had taken hold in his heart. He saw the fresh-faced cadet who stole his heart, tempted his resolve and worshipped his body, causing Walter to throw away his marriage.

"If she's scared of me, why should I go bother her?" Alex asked. Walter saw the complete ignorance of his charm. Alex never could see how charming he was. Alex had charmed Walter into things Walter never knew he was capable of.

"Alex, go upstairs and ask about the bird." Walter stood from the couch and started into the kitchen.

"Where are you going?"

"It's close to six. Our schedule is all off. We have dinner promptly at six, followed by reading to settle our stomachs. Bedtime is eight-thirty sharp. I'm going to start some spaghetti, OK?"

"Yeah, that sounds good. Thanks, Walter." Alex turned to go up the stairs.

Alex stood outside the bright white bedroom door and listened carefully to hear if there were any sounds indicating what kind of mood the child was in. All he could hear were pages turning in a book. 'She can read at three?' he thought to himself. Taking a deep breath, he knocked gently on the door. He felt a little guilty when the cheerful voice called out, "Come in, Daddy."

"It's not Walter, it's Alex. Can I come in?" he asked, trying to sound polite.

"Why?" she asked, pout evident in her voice.

Alex shook his head at her obstinacy. Yeah, that was his kid. "I want to apologize to you."

"Okay, come in." Alex opened the door and the shock of white and pink almost blinded him. Maybe she wasn't his kid. There were cuddly toys everywhere, baby dolls lined the toy shelves, a large doll house took up one corner and there were stacks of board game boxes on the book shelf. It certainly was a little girl's room with all the white eyelet linens.

"I'm sorry I yelled before. I was...upset with your dad," Alex began, looking away.

"I'm sorry I kicked you," she said. "And you shouldn't say bad words. Daddy hates that."

Alex watched her get up from the floor and carry her book to the shelf and replace it. She took a doll down and carried it back to her bed. Walter had made her a small set of steps for her to walk up to get on her bed.

"So, how is it that a three-year-old knows how to read?" Alex asked. He'd been amazed at some of the creations of the Consortium. When he'd driven around little Gibson Praise, and the kid read his mind, he was a bit more than unnerved. Gibson had told Alex not to worry about the man he loved. The man loved him back. Alex shook off his odd feelings.

"Daddy taught me. It's not hard." She looked up at him again, in that searching way that made him uneasy.

"Your dad's making dinner, so we're gonna eat soon. He's a good cook." Alex wasn't really sure what to say to her. He had no clue about toddler culture.

"I know. He cooks every night. How'd you know?" She tilted her head, jolting Alex through and through. He tiled his head like that.

"He used to cook for me, too." Alex felt a wave of weariness take him by surprise. "Hey, kid, I'm gonna sit on the floor a minute. I feel a little dizzy." Alex slid down the wall to the floor and lay his head on the carpet. His eyes fluttered closed and blackness overtook him.

Walter stood in the kitchen stirring the tomato sauce in the pot. He hated using store-bought sauce, as he'd learned how to make fresh sauce from tomatoes. He liked using fresh vegetables to cook with, especially when he could find the organic produce. There was a rumor that an organic supermarket was opening in town soon. Yet, this late in the day, starting a fresh pot of sauce was out of the question.

"DADDY!!" came the screech from upstairs. Walter quickly turned off all the burners and ran up to Natalya's room. He entered the room to see Alex lying on the carpet, passed out, with his head cradled on Natalya's lap. She was stroking his brow and patting his shoulder.

"What happened?" Walter asked, kneeling beside them.

"He just...I dunno..." she said, tears forming in her eyes.

"OK, yes or no, were you talking to him?"

She nodded.

"Was he talking OK?"

Another nod.

"He just slid to the floor and passed out?"

More furious nodding.

"OK, baby, back up, I'm going to carry him to bed," Walter said, reaching under Alex to carry him back to bed. He walked quickly with the man and laid him back on the rumpled sheets. Immediately, Alex curled up on his side and buried his face in the pillow. Walter sighed and covered the man, leaving him alone in the room.

He went back to Natalya who was still sitting on the floor. He lifted her into his arms and settled in the white wooden rocking chair he'd made so he could rock her to sleep. She leaned against him and cried. Skinner patted her back and stroked her hair, singing to her the only song she liked. When the song was over and she'd stopped crying, Walter asked, "Did he hit his head on the wall or the floor?"

She shook her head. "He kinda...stopped."

"Like he wound down, like a toy?"

She nodded.

"Well, he's sleeping now and he'll probably sleep through the night. Are you hungry at all?"

She shrugged.

"You have gotten very quiet since he arrived. Natalya, you would tell me if something's wrong, yes?"

She shrugged.

"Lemme guess, you don't know how to say what you're feeling so you won't say anything."

This got a warm, wet face pressed against his neck. He rocked her again. "Kitten, I want you to know, you are the most important part of my life. If Alex frightens you, I'll send him away."

"No!" she yelled.

"You want him here?" he asked, turning her face toward him. He was thoroughly confused.

"I...I want him to like me." She pressed her face against him and started to cry again.

"Kitten, he loves you. He just doesn't know it yet."

Walter took Natalya downstairs and both ate lightly. He quickly set the dishes into the dishwasher to start the cycle after Natalya's bath. She liked bath time, usually, with all the bath toys Walter had gotten for her. This evening, she wanted to finish quickly and go to bed. She didn't even want to hear a story.

Walter sat beside her on her bed. He'd gone all out and made the bed frame full sized, which was entirely too big for a little girl. She liked it that way, she said, since she could ask him to lie down with her until she fell asleep. This night wasn't any different.

"Daddy," she whispered, "sleep here tonight."

Walter smiled down at his daughter. "The whole night?"

"Yeah, please?"

He could never deny her. "OK, let me go close things up for the night and get into my pajamas. Daddy needs a bath, too."

He kissed her head and went about setting the alarms in the house. He took a fast shower and put on his pajamas, the ones with big moons with faces on them. Natalya loved those best. She would make him read "Goodnight Moon" when he wore them. He finally started the dishwasher, turned off all the lights, retrieved the book he'd been reading and went to Natalya's room. She was busy settling her stuffed animals for bed, as she did every night.

"I'm going to put the chalk board in my room so Alex knows where we are, OK?" he asked. She nodded and he wrote in big flowing letters, "sleeping in Natalya's room ~ come join us" and carried it to his room. He left it by the door where Alex could see it, and then went back to Natalya's room. He carried Tweety to the guest room, where the bird would be covered for the night and wouldn't wake them, and finally, Walter sat on the bed.

"Goodnight Moon, Daddy, please?" she asked. He smiled, retrieved the book and read quietly to her. When he closed the book, she was asleep. He put her book back and slipped into bed beside her, taking his own book to read. He tipped his glasses down and read until he could not keep his eyes open any longer. Glasses on the book on the beside table, white cotton eyelet shade pink enamel lamp turned off and settled beside her.

Natalya had been known to crawl into bed with him when they first got Tweety and he would chirp through the night. He didn't think anything wrong with it, so long as he wore full pajamas like her. She had her favorite Disney Princesses pajamas on. Walter had to buy all the different princess pajamas, and the compilation set with all six princesses on them. He didn't care, as long as she was happy. With thoughts of his two favorite people in his head, he fell asleep.

He knew it was the morning, because something was bouncing on the bed, shouting, "Daddy, wake up!" Natalya liked bouncing on the beds so he built hers with more support and added support to his parents' bed. This time was different. She was also shouting, "Alex, wake up!" Walter sat up and pulled her down to beside him. "Will you stop that!" he shouted, tickling her. She giggled and began tickling him back.

"OK, you guys, some of us are trying to sleep," came a deep voice from the other side of the bed. Walter reached for his glasses to slip them on and see the prone figure, wearing the same sweatpants and t-shirt he had the night before.

"When did you slip in here?" Walter asked, sitting up.

Alex stretched and rolled onto his back. "Oh, about two-ish."

Natalya jumped up and flopped across his chest, eliciting a groan from the man. She pressed a kiss to his cheek and said, "Good morning, Alex."

"Hey, kid. Slept good?" Walter watched Alex with Natalya. He held her by the arms, not hugging her, and not pushing her away.

"Yes. Daddy is the best pillow. You?"

"Yeah, after I read that invitation, how could I refuse?" Alex smiled at her and she smiled back. Walter was quite pleased.

"OK, you two, time to get up. It's Sunday so you know what that means, baby," he said, pulling her back into his arms.

"Diner!" she shouted. She jumped up and ran into the bathroom and closed the door.

Alex looked over at Walter. "Is she OK in there by herself?"

"I built a step stool and she's potty trained. Nearly killed me, but she's really good about it. No accidents and she knows to think carefully before we get in the car." Walter stroked Alex's arm a bit before asking, "Are you OK from yesterday? You scared the hell out of me."

"I just got real tired all of a sudden, couldn't keep my eyes open. I'm feeling better now. I should just take it easy then, huh?" Alex looked away a little guiltily.

"I'll take care of you until you're top drawer again. Now, greet me properly for the morning."

Alex rolled over and slipped his arms around Walter's neck. They shared a sweet morning kiss before Natalya bounded back on the bed shouting at them to "get ready!" They went to their bedroom and Walter told Alex to use the shower first.

"Why can't we shower together?" Alex asked.


Alex held his hand up and said, "I get it, I get it. We going to that cool diner I liked?"

"Where else? Go get washed and let me dress Natalya. I'll wash and dress fast while you tell her what your favorites were when you lived here." Walter smiled at Alex who shook his head.

Walking back into Natalya's bedroom, Walter saw she'd already pulled the sheets back and the blankets off. Walter helped her make her bed and then saw the clothes that she pulled out. It was her best dress, the one she wore when Dana would take her to church, all pink and frilly. "Kitten, I think this is too fancy for breakfast at the diner. How about a sweater and some jeans? Alex doesn't have many clothes here, so he'll feel bad if you're all dressy and he's not."

"OK!" she said, and ran to the wardrobe. He helped her dress and then sent her to wait in the living room, to read. Walter went back to his room and found Alex standing in front of the closet, naked, looking at the row of clothes. Walter quickly closed the door.

"What are you looking for?" Walter asked, coming up behind Alex. His big hands immediately clutched at Alex's ass, feeling the firm flesh. Alex leaned back and wiggled in Walter's arms.

"I need clothes. I'm sure you threw the other stuff out." Alex turned and latched onto Walter's mouth, reaching down to feel inside Walter's pajama pants. The first stirrings of an erection began and Walter pulled back.

"Your things are toward the back and in the bottom drawer of my bureau. Your old boots are in the back. Get dressed and stop touching my dick. I'm not sitting through breakfast with a hard on." Walter turned to leave the room and shower. He shaved extra close, noting that Alex had used the razor before him, and brushed his teeth well. He was taking his two favorite people out, and he couldn't have been happier.

He padded back to the bedroom to find it empty. He looked down at the unmade bed and shrugged, figuring he'd do it when they got back. Surprisingly, he found Alex in the living room watching "The Three Stooges" with Natalya and they were both in stitches. "OK, you two, get on your jackets and let's get going!" Walter said.

Pulling down Natalya's jacket and helping her with it, Walter noticed Alex hang back and wait. Walter went back to the closet and pulled out Alex's old leather jacket. Walter kept it, hoping Alex would come for it. Alex took the well-worn jacket in his hands and looked up at Walter.

"Thanks for keeping this. I missed it."

"You're very welcome. Now, let's get going."

In the truck, Alex sat up front with Walter and marveled at how everything was the same. Really, it was only about four years since he'd left, but it felt like forever. He almost thought things should have radically changed. The drive was exactly the same and he even felt the little sting of tears when Walter pulled into the lot. He tagged in back as Natalya held her father's hand and they went into the restaurant.

Alex knew he should be attached to the kid, should hold her or be nice, but he just didn't feel it. It was like he didn't feel attached to the fetus when he carried it. Somewhere in the back of his head, he still wondered if she was a created human being, an experiment of the Consortium.

Again, as if no time had passed, a familiar face floated over. "Alex! Oh my goodness! How have you been?" Leah Wakefield, Alex's biggest fan, leaned down and hugged him. He noticed she was a little rounder, but she looked happier than ever.

"I've been good. I was in Europe for a while, but I'm home now. Nice to see you. Whacha been up to?" Alex tried to remember to lilt in his affected Texas accent.

"I got myself married and had a baby. Here's a picture," she gushed and proceeded to pull out a picture of a chubby baby boy, who had deep blue eyes. Alex looked over the picture and smiled. He nodded and handed it back. Fuck, was everybody becoming a parent?

"Alex is my other daddy," Natalya said.

Both Walter and Alex stopped a moment and looked down at Natalya. Christ! They hadn't coached her on what to say to people about Alex. Alex knew there was a yelling at coming down the pike, and he was thankful it wasn't at him.

"Oh, sweetie, everyone knows that. You shouldn't just say it out loud, though, that's bad manners. Walter and Alex are just very good friends, and we just keep saying that. Okay, baby?"

Natalya nodded and smiled. Alex and Walter both let out their held breaths. So, no speculation on Natalya's maternal origins. Alex would have to ask Walter about that story a little later.

Leah took their order and went back to her other tables. Alex watched as Natalya worked on a child's stack of pancakes and smiled as she wiped syrup from her mouth just like a little lady. Walter made small talk with her, but mostly, Alex sat back and watched. Several people came by the table to say hello, Alex being reintroduced to all of them. He had vague recollections of people. Walter was quick in saying everyone's name for him to jog his memory. They went with the working in Europe story. Alex also marveled that Natalya kept quiet throughout the rest of the meal. She finished her breakfast and sat back.

Alex finished his own coffee and looked over beside Walter to find the little girl asleep.

"She's conked out from pancakes?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, you're exciting her and she's not used to the stimulation. And she missed her nap yesterday. So I suppose I'll go put her back in bed when we get home." Walter stroked the little girl's soft hair.

"We can do the same, you know. I missed you. A lot." Alex let his lashes fall against his cheek, something that Walter always loved about him.

"I missed you a lot, my love. Yes, let's go back to the house and lounge in bed. I like that idea." Walter opened his wallet and began pulling money out. Fleetingly, Alex knew he'd need cash soon, for clothes and emergencies. He would need a car to get to one of his safe deposit boxes.

"Hey, what about the kid? She can just walk in on us." Alex stood and pulled on his jacket.

"I'll leave her a note on the chalkboard to knock before coming into my room. Usually she remembers, but I almost never close the door unless I'm dressing." Walter scooped the little girl up and they walked out of the diner, waving goodbye to a few people.

The drive back to the house was done nervously. It was the longest fifteen minutes of Alex's life. Walter took the kid up to her room and when he came in to get the chalkboard, he found Alex laying across the bed, naked and half hard. "God, Alex...I've missed you. Two more minutes."

When Walter came back, Alex had made himself fully hard and was still stroking. "You couldn't wait for me?" Walter asked, closing the door and pulling his clothes off quickly. He slid onto the bed and Alex finally felt home. He hungrily latched onto Walter's mouth, tasting him again, remembering the sweetness of his breath, the spicy smell of his skin, his musky loins radiating heat against his own. He began mapping out Walter's body with his mouth, remembering each part, relishing in relearning the lay of the land.

Two big hands slipped into his longish hair, massaging and encouraging him along. Alex knew Walter loved a good blowjob, but he didn't want to just get his lover off. He wanted to worship Walter. Alex had thought about the man constantly while in captivity. This is what he was thinking about the whole time. Dispensing with the preliminaries, Alex simply went all the way down on Walter, enjoying the feel of the head slipping down his throat. He so loved the taste of this man's cock. It was the sweetest ambrosia to him.

"Oh, Alex, I missed your mouth..." Walter breathed. Alex began working his tongue and his throat on the big man, not taking into account that Walter wasn't fighting it. The hands in his hair held him in place as the low grumbling groan rose from his throat, signaling his orgasm. Once upon a time, the man would curse and shout. Times change.

Alex swallowed down his gift and let the spent cock slip from his mouth. He crawled up to lay beside Walter and kiss him again. He was surprised to see the blush come into Walter's cheeks. "I'm sorry, Alex. It's been a very long time for me."

"Since me?" Alex asked, hoping.

"Since you. I've masturbated a few times, but it didn't help me. I just forgot about it. You brought me back." Those warm hands cupped Alex's face so Walter could wander over eyes and cheeks and nose. "Let me take care of you, Alex," Walter said, pushing Alex down. Alex went limp onto his back and relished the feeling of Walter kissing down his body, licking and biting at his nipples, tickling his navel and nuzzling in his thick thatch of curly dark hair. Even though Walter had been celibate while Alex was in captivity, he hadn't lost his ability to make Alex's toes curl with his oral skills.

Surprising himself, Alex went off like a shot, his orgasm sneaking up on him. He lay there, panting for oxygen while Walter crawled up beside him and went to work on his neck. Alex turned his head to capture Walter's lips until they settled together to rest.

"Thank you, Walt. That was incredible. I didn't even feel it coming."

"I know. Surprised me, too. I remember you used to whimper a little before you came."

"I never whimpered."

"Oh, yeah, you did. Big time. Kiss me again. And let's get a little sleep." Happily, Alex gave a deep, searching kiss to Walter, tasting himself on the man's tongue and hoping Walter could taste his own come on his tongue. Alex drifted into a deep, sated, dreamless sleep.

Walter woke up about an hour later, realizing there was a knocking at the door. He slipped from the bed and grabbed his pants to slip on before exiting the room. Alex didn't even sigh. Outside, Natalya stood, clothing rumpled and rubbing her eyes. "Why did you let me sleep?" she asked, holding up her arms for a hug.

Walter scooped her up and walked down to the kitchen with her. "Alex and I wanted to get a little sleep, too. We're big men, your bed is too small for us, Kitten."

"OK. Can we go out today?" she asked.

"No, Kitten, we need to stay home. Alex is still getting better, you know. He fell asleep right on your floor yesterday. Why don't we stay in today? Besides, I need to finish grading those papers, and I have two more sets of lesson notes to write."

"Thursday is Thanksgiving. Mulder, Aunt Dana and Gramma Maggie are coming! Turkey, Daddy!" She looked up at him with an expectant smile on her face. Walter sighed, having forgotten all about Thanksgiving with the family. Maggie Scully had become a surrogate grandmother to Natalya. Forsaking her other seven grandchildren, Maggie would spend certain holidays with Walter and Natalya, giving the little girl what she needed sometimes, a mother's love. Walter noticed how the woman looked at him. She'd stopped grieving for her husband who'd passed many years earlier. She was a goodlooking woman. It would be difficult to tell her he was gay.

"OK, baby. We should leave a note for Alex on the board, shouldn't we?" he said, stroking her cheek.

"You need your own!" she stated firmly.

"I'll think about it."

Walter went back to his room to dress and upon turning around, found two emerald eyes staring at him. "Where ya goin'?" Alex asked, sitting up.

"To the store. I'm hosting Thanksgiving this Thursday. Mulder, Dana, her mother Maggie and the Gunmen. Do you have plans? Or can I count on you to be here?" Walter slipped on the sweater he wore to breakfast and looked around for the socks discarded in the haste to be naked.

"Yeah, I'll be here. Where else have I got to be?" He pulled the covers up to his chin and shivered. "I should get my pajamas back on, huh?"

"You should get dressed again, make the beds and if you want to nap, do it in the living room. The more you move around, the better you'll feel, trust me."

"Am I going to become the maid around here? I liked to keep things neat the last time I was here, but I may not be around long enough to do this stuff."

"Carla will be in tomorrow. What do you mean you won't be around? Where the hell are you going?" Walter walked over to the bed and stood over Alex, not happy at the new turn of events.

"I don't know! Someone may still hold a grudge, come after me. I gotta work, too, you know. What, you think I'm gonna get all sweet and domestic, be the mommy of the house? Walt, that's not me, that's never been me, it never will be. Can't keep me in a cage like that bird you got upstairs."

Walter nodded and gave a sad smile. "Well, this is always your home. And you're always welcome in my bed. Just...keep me apprised of your travel plans and I guess we can attempt to keep in touch, yes?"

Walter turned to leave the room before he started to cry. He stepped into the bathroom, meaning to empty his bladder before he went out, and ended up washing the tears from his face. Why did Alex always do this to him?

He went straight down to the living room where he found Natalya flipping channels to try and find more Three Stooges. "Sorry, Kitten, you gotta turn that off now. Let's get moving."

Walter bundled them both up and went on a whirlwind shopping trip. They had a good time, the two of them, as they usually did. Walter had no idea he'd spent so much time shopping, almost two hours. They drove back to the house, singing about Jeremiah the bullfrog, Alex not even a thought in their heads. Until Walter turned off the engine and the sound came from the house, loud as it ever was.

"Daddy? What song is that?" Natalya asked.

Walter sighed to himself and smiled at Natalya as he took her out of the car seat. "That is 'I Should Have Known Better'. Apparently, Alex has found Daddy's records." He told Natalya to wait outside until he'd gone in to tell Alex to turn the music down. He wasn't greeted with hugs and kisses, and he didn't think he would be. Alex was laying on the couch, reading a paperback book, music blaring around him. Walter turned the stereo down and said, "You can help me get the groceries from the car."

"I thought I was supposed to rest. Now you want me to exercise again. Make up your fucking mind, would ya?"

"Stop saying bad words at my daddy," came a quiet voice from the doorway. Both men turned to her, Walter smiling and Alex shrugging in defeat. They both brought the groceries in, and Alex seemed happy that he remembered where everything went.

Walter was surprised at how begrudgingly domestic Alex became. A frantic phone call was left on his office voicemail about the "bitch who cleans this fucking box" and Alex's dislike of her methods. Walter called and told Alex to just sit in the backyard and read while Carla does her job. "She knows what she's doing Alex. She's taken care of the house since we moved back. She'll learn your preferences soon."

"How often does she come?" Alex demanded.

"Monday and Wednesday all day, and Friday mornings. I'm home on Fridays, no classes."

"OK. We need to go car-shopping for me, tonight. I need wheels. This being stuck in the house shit is for the birds."

"Where's your driver's license?" Walter asked, taking his glasses off and rubbing his eyes.

"Uh...well..." Alex stumbled, making Walter sigh.

"I'll call the Gunmen and see what I can do for you."

There was a long pause at the end of the line. Then simply, "Thanks, Walt."

They both hung up without another word. Walter quickly made his call to the Gunmen to get the necessary things in motion, all warrants dropped, all paperwork pushed through. They would bring Alex's documents and past history with them to Thanksgiving dinner.

On the way home, Walter made sure that he bought a good supply of condoms and lube before returning home. He knew Alex was a little annoyed by the hand and blowjobs. Alex wanted full on sex. He'd been feeling better, setting the house to rights on Tuesday while Walter and Natalya were at school. He also pulled all of Walter's Beatles records and the videos out. He wasn't happy that his tapes was getting fuzzy.

"Stop watching it so much, Alex. They wear out, you know."

"Why can't Paul let them release the DVDs? Those don't wear out."

Walter laughed and shook his head. "Christmas is coming, Alex. Be patient."

Alex shrugged him off, but Walter had an elaborate plan in mind.

Come the morning of Thanksgiving, Walter was up early starting to cook. He'd prepared quite a bit of it the night before, but there were still so many things to do the next day. Dana and Mulder were bringing dessert, the Gunmen were bringing the wine, Maggie had stated she was making the crudite, with her mother's special dressing recipe.

Alex dragged himself in, no pajama shirt, just the pants, bare feet. "You better have coffee on," was all he said, moving straight to the fresh, full pot. Walter had gotten him a huge mug back when Alex first lived in the house, and had kept it the whole time Alex was gone, much to Alex's delight. He continued to use the mug, white ceramic with "The Beatles" in their special font around it.

Natalya walked in, similarly barefooted, which was starting to annoy Walter. He'd specifically taught her to wear slippers and a robe around the house at all times, as he did. In one week, Alex had destroyed the careful education. It was a matter of propriety. He wanted to tech his daughter dignity for her body. The way teenagers dressed made Walter angry, that they showed no respect for themselves. He sighed, knowing he was just getting old, and his years having grown up during the sexual revolution of the sixties was lost.

Alex loved to be naked, although in the confines of their bedroom seemed sufficient. Walter had to stress, "She's a little girl. She's our daughter. Nudity is only permitted during bathing and dressing. The pool I put up for her in the summer requires a bathing suit at all times. I know these concepts are foreign to you, but this is still my house and these are my rules."

Wearing pants was all the concession Alex would give. Walter picked up Natalya and propped her on his hip, holding her with one arm, while tickling her feet with the other. "Stop it, Daddy!" she screamed while giggling.

"No screaming before I've had coffee," Alex grumbled, taking another sip.

"Make him stop, Alex!" she said.

"If you would wear your slippers, I couldn't do that, now could I?" Walter said, putting her down.

With breakfast prepared, eaten and cleared away, Alex shocked Walter by suggesting, "How about Tasha and I get our rooms cleaned and ourselves dressed while you stay here and do things?"

"Tasha?" Natalya asked, cocking her head exactly the way Alex did.

"It's the nickname for Natalya. It's Russian, like your grandmother. I'm Russian too. Wanna know what my nickname was when my parents were alive?" He smirked down at her from the side of his mouth, causing Walter to feel a bit choked up.

"What?" Natalya asked, eyes wide in wonder.

"Mama called me Sasha, which is the little form of Aleksand'r, which is my name. So, now we'll match, eh?" Natalya smiled and reached out to take Alex's hand to go upstairs. Walter quickly wiped his eyes with the dishtowel.

After having made fresh stuffing to be baked, aside from the stuffing in the bird, he set the rest of the food to wait while he washed and dressed. He walked into the living room to see Alex and Natalya dressed in plain blue jeans, a light blue Little Mermaid sweatshirt and blue sneakers. Alex, who had gone shopping with Walter one night, a sleepy Natalya along for the ride, also wore jeans, but he had on a dark green sweater and his black boots. Natalya's head was pillowed on his belly as they watched the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.

"Alex, can we go see that next year?" she asked, looking up at him.

"Sure can, baby. I know the parade route, so I'll find us a great spot to watch from. I'll sit you up on my shoulders, you can see everything." Walter was shocked, to say the least, but the pure paternalistic attitude that Alex was exuding.

"I'm going to shower and get dressed, kids. I'll be down in about half an hour. Don't make a mess."

Walter was thoroughly impressed that Alex was starting to come around with Natalya. It was Walter's distant dream that they be a family, the people he loved. He knew that contending with Mulder and Alex would be a handful. Dana would behave perfectly in front of her mother. The Gunmen would contend to watch football all day, except Byers would steal away to read in the den, which was fine by Walter. Byers was the only person permitted to borrow books from the Skinner library, since Walter knew the man had an utter reverence for the historical significance of the contents.

Walter did not count on Maggie's reaction to Alex, though. He'd conveniently forgotten that Alex was partially responsible for Melissa's death. When Mulder arrived with the two Scully women, Alex quickly rose to be polite and welcome the ladies. He was even smiling at Mulder. Until Maggie turned to him and her face fell into a scowl. "What is he doing here, Walter?" she asked.

Natalya broke through the tension bounding into the room shouting, "Gramma Maggie, this is my other daddy! Alex, this is my Gramma Maggie. But she's Aunt Dana's mommy."

"I know, kid. Mrs. Scully, a pleasure to meet you." Alex didn't take a step closer but nodded politely.

"Thank you," was all she said and continued on her way to the kitchen. Alex nodded also to Mulder and Dana before sitting back on the couch to watch the football game that was on. Walter closed the front door and stopped briefly in the hallway. Alex had rearranged the matryoshka on the dilapidated bookshelf he made. They were both opened in curvy patterns, not the straight line Walter had kept them in. Walter smiled at this, knowing Alex wanted to have some impact on his home and went to follow Maggie and Dana into the kitchen.

Maggie was waiting for him, hands on her hips, fuming. "Walter! How dare you let that...person into your home! Aren't you concerned for the welfare of your daughter? I mean..."

"Mom, don't, please. I know how you feel about Melissa..."

"You know nothing, Dana! You weren't there when she died, you were off with Mulder chasing..."

"Maggie, that wasn't my fault..."

"Enough!" Walter shouted. "Maggie, get this straight. Alex is my lover and he lives here. Dana can explain the medical particulars to you, but Natalya didn't have a mother. Alex gave her birth. This is his home. You will treat him with the same respect you would treat anyone when visiting his home. Otherwise, this holiday dinner is over. Everyone got it? I'm not putting up with any bullshit today." Walter's ears and face were beet red.

"Stop saying bad words, Daddy," came the little voice behind him.

'Christ, she heard me,' Walter thought. He turned to Natalya and said, "What have I told you about spying on people?" he asked, lifting her to look at her face to face.

"Don't say bad words and I won't spy," she said.

"Think you're so smart? How about you go inside and get Alex to turn on something that's not football," he said, kissing her cheek and putting her down.

"Good! I hate football." She walked out of the room, curls bouncing.

"Are we all straight about what today is about?" Walter asked. "It's not about Melissa or Sharon or anyone else. It's about that little girl. She loves Alex, as much as I do. I swear to God, this day will be nice or I'll empty the house. OK?"

Reluctant as they were, everyone nodded and set about getting dinner together. Maggie stayed behind and helped Walter set the table, just watching him oddly. He tolerated this a few moments until he turned to her square on and asked, "Maggie, is there something you want to ask me?"

She stopped a moment, then said simply, "I didn't know you were gay."

Walter snorted a low laugh. "Maggie, I'm sorry I never told you. I'm actually bi-sexual and always have been. Alex and goes back to the academy when I met him on a field outing at the body farm. We maintained discretion, certain got crazy, with the things we've done in our lives. I am quite sure that he is finished with the things he's done in the past after the torture he went through for the last three and a half years."

"Torture?" she asked, mixing the salad greens. "I don't understand. I thought the...people he worked with..."

"Maggie, the men who held us both in their death-grips were ruthless. They tested Alex to regrow limbs using stem cells."

"I thought that research wasn't granted by the FDA." Maggie looked honestly confused.

"These men weren't testing for the good of mankind, Maggie. They were doing it in secret to further their own cause. Well, it obviously worked; Alex has two working limbs. As a side effect of the female stem cells and beta microwaves used to stimulate the growth, Alex grew an ovary and a uterus. He became pregnant and gestated Natalya. He was kidnapped before his due date and the baby was surgically removed and brought to me. I then left the FBI, to raise and protect her. Thankfully, your daughter and Mulder have ended the threat by capturing those men and seeing to their incarceration. The vaccine that was developed will ensure that the colonists do not take over the earth."

Maggie sighed. "Where was he for so long? You said he was tortured."

"Yes. I guess Alex was held in a medical lab out there somewhere that we missed. They tried to recreate the pregnancy...for three years. His limbs were amputated, regrown, then he was...inseminated. Please don't ask for details. They left him half dead near my truck. He's been getting better, really bonding with Natalya. She just loves him."

"You have a lovely family, Walter," Maggie said, wistfully.

About half an hour before dinner went on the table, the Gunmen showed up, wine in each hand. Walter was so thankful it was all white wine, as red didn't really suit turkey. He settled them in the spare fridge in the garage and opened the first bottle. The family sat at the table to start with salad and appetizers, drink the first bottle of wine and start the meal. Maggie Scully made a quiet comment that it didn't seem right to start the meal without a prayer. Walter turned to her, hiding his annoyance, and said, "You're right. Everyone, please, put your forks down and let's bow our heads. I'll say the prayer."

Alex rolled his eyes, sitting at the other end of the table flanked on one side by Byers and the other by Frohike.

"Dear Lord, we thank you for bringing us together on this Thanksgiving Day, as a family, to enjoy your bountiful gifts. We ask that you bless each member of our family and watch over them as they go out into the world each day and do your good work. Amen."

The "amens" around the table echoed the sentiment. Hearing Alex's voice as well set a warm feeling in Walter's chest. They began eating almost silently, with some chatter from Natalya to Alex at the end of the table. He just nodded politely and let the meal continue. Mulder, however, took every opportunity to chat with Natalya about anything and everything. Every time Natalya tried to turn again to Alex, Mulder started up more conversation. They talked about cartoons, games and it almost seemed like Mulder was cornering her attention.

Alex just let it go on. He tried to keep a low profile until Natalya crawled under the table and up into his lap. Mulder looked under the table and called out, "Natalya, come back here! Where are you going? We were talking."

"Tasha, what are you doing?" Alex asked, as she settled in his lap.

"Tasha?" Mulder asked, with a hint of sarcasm.

"It's what Sasha calls me," Natalya said. Even Alex gave her a look, but he shrugged and began feeding her forkfuls of vegetables, since she left a lot of them on her plate. Walter noted that Alex always ate well-balanced meals when he could, and was happy that he was instilling the same idea in his daughter.

Walter noticed that the Gunmen didn't give Alex a second look while he was with Natalya, but Mulder, Dana and Maggie kept shooting him dirty looks. Walter was very wary of the situation. He just ate and kept sipping his wine, watching for the opening he knew Mulder would take and run with, all over Alex.

"So, Natalya, have you thought of what you want for Christmas?" Maggie asked.

"I want a kitty." It was always the same, Christmas or birthday, she wanted a kitty. She stood on Alex's thighs, turned to him and looked down, putting her forehead on his. Walter had seen her do this once or twice to him. "Get me a kitty, Sasha."

"OK, kid. No problem." Alex went back to feeding them both, Byers helping by filling his plate again. Natalya fell asleep before the dessert and coffee was served. When Alex returned from putting Natalya to bed, Frohike handed him the envelope of his new life.

"Go through it and make sure we got everything right. Your driver's license will come in the mail in two weeks, so keep the temporary and your passport on you. Oh, sorry, the passport will come in two weeks, too. Um, use the picture ID we put in there. Your credit history and work history are on the dossiers. You had a life."

Alex held the envelope with reverence and said, "Thank you. I owe you guys. I'll look through all this later."

Walter raised his coffee cup to Alex across the table. He was so thrilled that Alex was settling into his life. He was through with the Consortium. He wanted more.

"Mulder, you and me, we gotta talk. I want you to take out the lab that...where I spent my summer vacation. We got a lot to talk about."

Mulder grabbed his wine glass, taking a healthy sip and said, "We'll see, Krycek."

This was beginning to annoy Walter. Mulder was acting like a brat. He was a bigger man than this. Walter had also vowed he would stay out of it. He only wanted to raise his daughter and love the man who'd been given back to him.

"OK everyone," Walter began, standing from the table. "Let's take this into the living room so I can start clearing the table."

Alex, surprising everyone, stood and said, "You go with them inside, I'll get all this."

Walter smiled and said, "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, you cooked all day, it's only fair that I take care of this." No one argued and left the room as Alex began to clean up. They did retire to the living room, but the Gunmen didn't stay long. Their work was never done. Soon after that, Mulder announced that he was taking his "dates" home as well. Walter walked them to the door, but Mulder stopped before he left.

"Just because I was polite tonight, doesn't mean I believe a word he's said. I also think that the longer you expose Natalya to his...himself, the harder it's going to be to control her as she grows up. I don't ever recall her crawling under the table at a meal before, do you?"

Walter took a deep breath, closed his eyes briefly and then said, "Good night, Mulder. It was nice to see you again." Thankfully, Mulder took the hint and left. Walter began cleaning up the living room and joined Alex in the kitchen. The man had successfully finished the dishes, cleaning the table and putting away the leftovers.

"Come on, big boy, take me to bed. Tomorrow, you're lending me your truck so I can go car shopping."

The men kissed and went to bed.

As predicted, Alex was very picky about the kind of car he wanted. The only thing Walter asked for is a backseat that would accommodate a car seat for Natalya. Other than that, he allowed Alex to choose the car he wanted. Alex left early, taking the envelope that the Gunmen gave him along, promising to be back for dinner. He came back, all right. Walter was amazed at the bags and boxes and things he carried in from the truck.

"Alex, what is all this stuff?" Walter asked. Alex continued to bring things in, finally handing Walter back the keys to the truck.

"This is my wardrobe, new laptop, printer/scanner/fax thing, uh...stuff for you and the kid. Oh, the car is coming tomorrow. I didn't feel like waiting for them to build the one I wanted, so I had to take the one that had the cold weather package already installed. Don't need it but..."

"Ah, yes, Russian blood. What did you get?"

"760Li, titanium gray metallic, basalt leather seats, V-12 standard, but no turbo."

"Who needs it? You can drive that thing across the country and back, no worries." Walter smiled at Alex. "I think it sounds like a great car."

"Thanks, Walt. Come on, let's get my clothes upstairs. You got room in that closet for me?" Alex asked.

"If not, we can knock it out and make more room. You need a desk, too." The men gathered the bags, and with an excited little girl following, they made their way up to the master bedroom.

"What did you get for me?" Natalya kept asking, too excited to wait and grabbed greedily at the bags from "Toys R Us".

"You'll have to wait a little longer," Alex said. He'd cleverly had the sales people wrap all the gifts, including some very large boxes.

After putting away all of his new clothes, the closet that ran the length of the room more than able to accommodate the new wardrobe, Alex turned his attention to the toys in the bags. "Come on, we'll take them to your room."

They gathered on the carpet and Alex began pulling boxes from the bags. "Go ahead, open them."

Natalya tore paper faster than Alex could collect the scraps, revealing the toys Alex chose. He'd bought every Barbie doll and related product they had. Barbie, her friends, relatives and boyfriends, all had clothes, cars, several houses that Alex would have to build, play sets of various places such as a veterinarian's office, a mall, an ice cream shop and all of it slathered in Pepto Bismol pink.

"Alex, what have you done?" Walter moaned, quietly.

"Thank you, Sasha, oh, thank you!" she screeched, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tight.

"What's wrong, Walt?" Alex asked, smile on his face.

"I'll talk to you later. I have papers to grade."

Walter left the room and went to his office, trying to expel the feeling of dread and anxiety that was overcoming him. He'd been so careful raising his daughter, positive influences, keeping the popular opinions of beauty from poisoning his daughter, so that she would concentrate on her education and not be swayed by frivolity. It was starting to work, until Alex came in with the root of the problem in giraffepatterned bags.

After about two hours, he went up to see what was going on. The sight in the room was both funny and sickening. All the tasteful white furniture was obscured by massive pink goliaths of toys. Alex was in the middle of it all, putting stickers on what looked to Walter to be a pink sports car. Natalya, on the contrary, was out cold asleep on her bed, a doll in each hand.

"Alex, come on, I need to talk to you," Walter whispered. Alex looked up and sighed, putting his project down carefully. He picked his way out of the room, careful not to step on and break the next project.

"I should have only got her one thing I had to build," he said, closing the door on the sleeping girl.

"Why did you get all that shit? If you hadn't noticed, I was trying to avoid the world of Barbie. Vanity and shallowness is not what I want to teach her. Barbie is about how you look, not how smart you are." The look on Walter's face was reminiscent of his days as an assistant director.

"Walt, the bitch is a vet, she's a regular doctor; she own cars, homes; she's an astronaut. Trust me, the bitch is accomplished. Think about this, what fuckin' job does Ken have?" Alex looked straight on at Walter, as if he really expected an answer.

"Are you listening to yourself? You're speaking like these are real people. How do you know such things?"

"I asked the sales clerk. She told me the whole story. Doll's pretty fuckin' accomplished."

Walter swiped a hand over his scalp and removed his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose, trying to stem the oncoming headache. "Alex, why did you get her everything? You can't buy her affection, you know?"

Alex took on an indignant expression. "I'm not trying to buy anything. Kid likes me anyway. She reads all the time, you know? She...doesn't watch cartoons, she's got a little desk like...well, like you. She needs to be a kid. So...I gave her all the girl stuff I could think of."

Walter replaced his glasses and started back toward the stairs. "I'm going to start dinner. Make sure the boxes are crushed and put out for trash Tuesday. You're responsible for setting up all that stuff, but I want it all in the basement, not her room. The carpeted area should be large enough to set up Barbie Town."

Walter left Alex standing there with a slack jaw.

After Walter left him standing there, Alex decided that fuck it, he'd set up all the toys in the basement to make Walter happy. It took a while to haul everything down there, but when he'd finished, he found that he could make a nice little play area for Natalya. He set back to work, hoping to get everything finished before dinner.

After about an hour, a sleepy figure appeared at the bottom of the steps and walked over, dolls in one arm and the free hand rubbing her eyes. "You let me sleep," she said, pouty lips pushed all the way out.

"You were tired. Walt wanted me to put this all down here, so I've been building. I think we got a nice little thing going here."

Natalya walked around the half built items and looked at everything critically. "You think my kitty will break all this?" she asked, hands on hips.

"Uh, dunno. We'll find out, won't we?" Alex wasn't sure that he should keep telling her she was getting a cat. Walter was pretty clear about it. He just wanted the kid to be happy. She was growing on him. He could tolerate her calling him Sasha, too.

A tall figure filled the doorway to the basement stairs and said, "Dinner's ready, you two. Tomorrow's another day for that."

Alex held out his hand and said, "Come on, kid. Let's go upstairs and eat. We'll take care of this tomorrow."

"OK!" she said, pulling him up to the kitchen table. Alex briefly looked at Walter and gave the big man a cheeky smile. Walter shook his head and closed the door behind them.

For the next few days, things settled a bit. Walter was impressed with Alex's car. "Can I drive it, Alex?"

There was an evil gleam in Alex's eye. "If you blow me..."


" the shower."

Walter laughed. "After the baby is in bed."

"Compromises, compromises, this is what my life has become."

"Welcome to the wonderful world of fatherhood."

Those last words hit Alex hard. It still wasn't real to him, living in the house with Walter and the kid. She was Walter's daughter. Sure, she was attached to him, crawled into his lap and fell asleep on him while he watched hockey games, but she wasn't his kid.

Calling Mulder was also starting to annoy him. He'd left two messages for the man on his cell phone, yet, no answers. With the knowledge that Alex had of covert labs operating around the world, a UN Peacekeeping force could be busy for the next millennium clearing things up. It seemed that Mulder could broaden his conquering territory and not only be an American hero, but a hero to the entire planet. If he wanted to ignore it, fine. Alex would just prepare his family for the oncoming colonization when the project started rolling again.

Another thing that annoyed Alex was the weekly dinners. Mulder would try and corner Natalya's attention from him, but the little girl seemed to always get Alex involved in the "Muldertime". That first week, the time before dinner was spent in the basement with Natalya showing Mulder her Barbie town. Alex stood back watching, waiting for Mulder to say it was good or cool, or something. The kid was waiting for his approval, yet it never came. All he had to say was, "You sure you wanna waste all this time with dolls?"

The little girl's became a mask of sadness as she took Mulder's hand and left the basement with him. Alex vowed right then and there, his daughter would not feel bad because she liked something her father did for her. Mulder and Dana had to go, and he knew exactly the way to do it.

With Walter working, Alex agreed to stay with Natalya instead of sending her to daycare. She loudly approved of being able to stay home with her new best friend. Alex would take her for long drives, each event of which was recounted to Walter that night at dinner, which Alex would also prepare.

"We drove all the way to New York today, Daddy! So tall there. We went to a bank. Sasha just told me to be quiet and smile." She used her new Disney Princesses cutlery to bring a string bean to her mouth, enjoying the smaller fork to the salad fork Walter was usually making her use. Alex felt that she would enjoy eating more if they made it fun for her. He also reveled in telling Walter that "this fatherhood thing ain't that hard."

"Alex, this is nothing. You've been here three weeks. Wait until she gets older, and there's school and dance classes and soccer and boys..."

"See, that's where you're wrong. I'm her boyfriend. She's not gonna love anyone as much as she loves me."

"You think so." Walter sighed and a shadow fell in his features. "She used to say that about me, too. Before you got here. Don't disappoint that little girl. If you do, she'll never forgive you."

Alex took serious consideration of those words. Disappointing Natalya is something he couldn't do, at any cost. His promise to her had to be fulfilled and he had a lot of work to do. Searching the internet and making phone calls in private that annoyed Natalya were done with the impish grin that always accompanied anything Alex did. He kept searching while she was playing in the basement, making calls on his cell phone and not telling anyone anything.

Two weeks before Christmas, Walter and Natalya had gone to Maggie's to visit, since she would be traveling to San Diego to stay with her son's families. They spent the day there, giving Alex plenty of time. He bought a Christmas tree, set it up and decorated it, then started his next woodworking project. When Walter and Natalya got home, they were extremely excited. "Sasha!" came the scream from the living room where the little girl stared up at the six-and-a-half-foot tree.

Alex walked in and was ambushed by two and a half feet of excitement. She kissed his cheeks and he was inexplicably compelled to kiss her back, which made her squeal. It had ceased to be an annoying sound. Alex wondered when that happened.

Two long arms came around them from behind and a warm kiss was pressed to Alex's neck. "Alex, this place looks great!" Alex truly surprised himself with using every Christmas decoration he could find in the house and in the stores. It looked like the North Pole vomited throughout the house.

"Thanks, Walt. I wanted it to look nice. The gifts will go under the tree as I get them."

"Except for the ones that Santa brings." Walter came around and gave Alex a hard look, not wanting Alex to ruin the illusion.

"Oh, Santa takes too long, Daddy," Natalya said. "Can't you and Sasha get me everything I want?"

"What would be the fun in that?" Walter asked. Alex let Natalya down to look around the house at everything.

"You taught her about Santa, but you wouldn't get her a Barbie doll?" Alex asked when Natalya was safely back in the basement with her toys.

"OK, so...I haven't done the best job. That's why I'm glad you're here, Alex," Walter said, kissing his head.

'Keep that attitude Christmas morning' was all that Alex could think. He continued to make he secret phone calls, and sneak around, which was starting to make Walter a little crazy as well. Alex didn't like keeping secrets from his lover, but he had no choice. Walter would not be happy with him, but it didn't matter. Natalya would be happy.

Christmas morning came with a scream of delight. Alex and Walter had taken precautions and worn pajamas, thinking they would have an early morning guest. They had brought all of Natalya's gifts from Santa into the house from the garage where Walter still kept all the woodworking tools. She wasn't allowed in there, period, so Alex took his time making her a detailed and intricate jewelry box for the few little things he bought her, rings and bracelets and necklaces. Walter got her the real gifts, clothes and shoes and things like that. Santa bought her a Barbie car she could drive herself, with a friend beside her and a toy laptop. There were a bunch of Barbie Christmas toys from Santa as well. Walter was surprised that Alex hadn't gotten everything.

"Walt, different stores carry different things. I got those from the Target of all places. That's a pretty nifty store. I could get used to this domestication thing."

They all sat down to open their gifts. Walter had gotten things for Alex from both him and Natalya, Alex doing the same. The little girl was exhausted by breakfast with all the gifts she was giving out. The did stop to have a big breakfast of pancakes with fresh berries, maple syrup and organic orange juice to wash it down. Walter was happy to feed his family the best foods, even if it took him longer to make them himself.

While they were finishing dressing for the day, the doorbell rang. Alex stayed upstairs to help Natalya with her hair while Walter let Mulder and Dana into the house. They had a stack of gifts, even something for Alex. It was the oddest thing, a necktie, in muted tones of brown. Alex did not own a suit that would go with it, but he made the best of the situation.

"Walter, this tie goes with your eyes, doesn't it? I'll have to broaden my wardrobe now, won't I?" he said.

"Anything so you can shop," Walter said, kissing his cheek. Walter saw the hair on Mulder's neck bristling. This was when Alex decided to bring up the fact that Mulder hadn't returned one phone call. Walter knew there would be a war, but tried keeping it down.

"Mulder, you sure you don't want my help finding those labs? You do know, just because you put the big Italian and the Englishman behind bars and the Smoker killed himself, that the project is over. While you were doing all of that, they were still cutting my arms and legs off."

"Don't you think it's a coincidence that they released you just as the sentences came down?" Mulder said quietly so that Natalya wouldn't hear. "They know that if they continue to operate, I'll find them."

"No, they've just gone deeper underground. You keep deluding yourself, Mulder, and your arrogant ass is going to ensure the enslavement of the planet. I will not see that happen to her," Alex said, nodding to Natalya. She was oblivious, placing the rings Alex got her in her jewelry box. She'd politely opened the gift from Mulder and Dana, a backyard archaeology kit, and said thank you.

When she'd gone back to one of the other fifty toys Alex had gotten her, he turned to Mulder and smirked. "Nice gift, Mulder. Picked it out yourself?"

"As a matter of fact, I did. Why?" Walter could see the color coming up in Mulder's face.

"Pretty good idea, getting something for a kid she can't use until the ground softens and it's warm outside, huh? She can look at it all winter, waiting until she can play with it. More likely, it'll go in the basement and gather dust. Good job."

Alex walked away before Mulder could raise his hand and actually take the swing Walter could see gathering in his arm. Walter put a hand on Mulder's shoulder and said, "Whatever you're feeling right now, how would you feel about hitting that little girl's father in front of her? She'd never forgive you. And he really does love her."

"I find that hard to believe," Mulder said.

"He's a fool for her. She gives him unconditional love, something no one's ever given him. Not even me. This is the only thing that's gotten him to stick around."

Mulder snorted in disbelief and walked into the living room. Dana and Walter followed, to see Alex pull out a new gift, one that hadn't been given that morning.

"Sasha, what's this? More?"

"Open it, and you'll see."

She tore at the paper and found another hand-made box, just like the one that Walter had gotten, only finer quality. He wasn't trying to "fake out" Natalya. She opened the box and pulled out the egg-shaped wooden doll, painted like a tabby cat. Another squeal greeted the group. She began opening the different matryoshka to find different breeds of cats until the littlest kitty at the center was a black cat with green eyes. She held it tight and threw herself into Alex's arms, trying to kiss his cheeks again.

"Sasha, you got me a kitty!"

"A lot of kitties, huh?" he said, holding her tight. Then the doorbell rang.

Everyone stopped short. Walter didn't think they were expecting anyone, but with Alex, it could be anyone. Alex went to the door and opened it, admitting a woman who held a cardboard box with a handle. She was young and pretty, dressed for the cold. Walter walked over and said, "What are you doing here on Christmas, miss?"

"Oh, I'm Jewish, it's no big deal. Mr. Krycek wanted it this way." She handed him the box, said, "Have a nice day, folks," and let herself out. Alex walked with the box to the living room and Walter heard the unmistakable "meow" come from the box.

"Alex, you didn't!" he said, just as the box was opened and Alex pulled out a fluffy orange kitten. The loudest scream they'd ever heard came from Natalya and she reached for the cat.

"Easy, Tasha, she's delicate. She's only three months old. She's litter trained and had shots, but she'll still need more shots. Where are we putting her litter box?"

There was a sound behind Walter, heavy breathing and panting. Walter turned to see Dana being led to the kitchen by Mulder. He led her to a chair and helped her sit. Walter quickly got her a glass of water, hoping she wouldn't pass out. "Dana, I'm so sorry, I had no idea. I would never have let him do it if I had known."

She took another sip of water and said, "I expected something like this from him. Anything to keep us away from her...he's so...evil."

"Am I?" Alex asked, walking into the kitchen. "Did it ever occur to you that she doesn't give a shit about you? She knows you're 'allergic' to the thing and still wanted it. This isn't about you. This is about my daughter. She doesn't understand handmade matryoshka, or the backyard archaeology kit, but she wants this. This is all she's ever wanted, the cat. I promised her, and I delivered. Now, get your ass into therapy and get over it, otherwise, you're not invited over. I'm not disappointing my child."

Alex went out to the garage and brought in a bag of things. He laid out a litter box, cat food bags, bowls and toys. He'd thought of everything. He began putting things out while they heard the little girl playing in the living room. Walter walked out to see the little furball walking around, playing with the paper scraps on the floor and Natalya chasing her. "Hey, Kitten, have you decided on an name for her?"

"Fluffy!" The cat stopped, sat and looked at Natalya. She knew her name, apparently.

Walter went back into the kitchen and saw Mulder helping Dana stand. "I'm going to get our coats to go, Walter. I can't let her stay here with that cat. We'll come see you when she's doing better."

It was the last time they'd see Mulder and Dana for a while.

Alex enjoyed teaching Natalya about the cat. It seems he'd had one growing up, until his cat was hit by a car. Alex call it Scamp, it was black and white with two different color eyes. Natalya won the fight to let the cat sleep on her bed at night. The cat found her litter easy enough in the basement by the laundry room, but she seemed to like to dump over her food bowl and chase the little pieces around the kitchen. Walter was highly annoyed at stepping on the little pieces of kibble and crushing them to have to sweep them up with the dustpan.

The cat was as adorable as could be. She answered to her name, purred loudly at the slightest affection and had no inclination to scratch anything other than the scratching post, which Alex had doctored up with some kind of catnip spray. He also sprayed the other furniture with repellant, something he'd gotten at the pet store.

Alex noticed Walter giving the kitten pieces of cheese when he thought no one was looking. He really did like the cat, there was no denying it. He and Alex were in bed one night, starting to fool around when there was movement on the bed. First Alex, then Walter began giggling as Fluffy made her way up the bed to them and sat on Walter's chest, letting out a loud meow. Not to be outdone by a cat, Walter took her and put her outside their room and closed the door.

"Walt, was that necessary?" Alex asked.

"I'm not having that cat in here while I violate your ass." Walter took Alex in his arms and kissed him deeply. They played a bit, both getting a mouthful of the other. When he finally sunk in balls-deep in Alex's ass, he kissed the man breathless until the both came hard. Ever prepared, Walter cleaned them both off with a hand towel and they settled to sleep.

Alex insisted they celebrate Valentines Day, buying gifts for each other and Natalya. That night, they had a big talk with Natalya, and she ended up shocking them more than they could shock her. Fluffy was sleeping in her lap and she was sitting between the men in front of the fireplace. Walter bought a huge, heavy grate for it after Fluffy got too close one night and singed her whiskers.

"Sasha, what did you call your daddy?" she asked.

"Papa. I called him papa. Why?"

"That's what I wanna call you. You're my father, like Daddy, but he's Daddy. I wanted to call you something different. I love you, Papa."

She laid her head on his belly and let Alex stroke her hair until she was asleep. Walter wasn't happy about the new habit of letting Natalya go to sleep without a bath and letting her bathe in the mornings. When she started school, she would have to get back into the night-bath habit again.

When they lay in bed that night, Walter broached a subject Alex knew that Walter was wary of. "I don't think that Mulder and Dana will come back as long as Fluffy lives here."

"I wasn't kidding when I said she should get therapy. It's a fucking cat, Walter. My parents weren't able to give me everything we can give her. If Scully wants to see the kid again, these are the terms."

"So you just get to choose the terms now? You never asked me about Fluffy, you know."

"As I recall, you liked cats. Besides, there's nothing you can do about it now."

"I suppose."

The settled back down onto the bed and just before they fell asleep, Walter said, "She would have loved the matryoshka as the cat. It is beautiful."

"Thanks, Walt."

In March, for Natalya's fourth birthday, Mother Nature was smiling on the little family and gave them a Saturday of warm, sunny weather. Alex, still a little wary of the games Natalya liked to play, dreaded the tea party she planed. Walter had brought up the table and chairs he'd made for her from the basement and Natalya was busy getting her toys to take up the empty seats.

Begrudgingly, Alex sat at the foot of the table, Walter happier to sit at the head and she began serving them tea. It was really Tang, but the cookies were real. She served them a sweet little party and it seemed like a quiet day.

Walter heard the car in the driveway first. He walked around the house to see who was there. It was Mulder and Dana. He greeted them, but didn't invite them into the house. "Are you sure you want to be here?" he asked Dana.

"I went to a hypno-therapist. I think he did the trick. I went into a pet store and didn't lose my mind. So, we brought gifts and we'd like to help celebrate."

"We're having a tea party in the back."

He led them to the back where they saw Alex sitting and sipping tea. There was the screeching and hugging that they expected when Natalya saw them and they gave hugs and kisses to her. Natalya led them to the table where they sat, displacing Pooh Bear and Tigger. They would get over it, Mulder assured her. She stood there and suggested, "I'll get Fluffy, too!"

"No," Alex said, quietly.

Everyone turned to him. "Why, Papa?" Natalya asked.

"Because she's too young to understand not to leave the yard. This is the time she sleeps. Leave her where she is, Mulder and Aunt Dana can see her later if she decides to come out."

Dana looked over at Alex and gave him a small smile. He nodded back. A gap was bridged.

The party went on until the sun went in and it became colder. The table and chairs were stored in the basement again, and Walter started to decide what to do for dinner. "We're going out," Mulder said.

The three adults looked at him and he smiled. "I figured it was easier than cooking. Alex always gets stuck with the dishes because Walter always cooks." Alex actually smiled at Mulder.

"Good idea. OK, kid, let's get you dressed and ready to go to dinner." Alex led the girl up the stairs to her room to help her change.

"Mulder, what's with the attitude? What made you change your mind?" Walter asked. "You hate him."

"Yeah, but she loves him. I love the kid. He said it, it's not about us, it's about Natalya. The hypnotherapist was my idea."

"It was a good idea."

"Thanks. Now, go change your clothes so we can go out!"

Walter headed up the stairs to join Alex and dress for dinner. It promised to be a very good night.

The End

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