Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind I:
And Then There Were Two
by Josan, aided and abetted by Virgule Vaughan
The bespectacled man dressed in brown tweed paused in the act of unlocking his office door. "Yes?"
A large man entered the hallway from the secretary's office. The Professor took one quick look at him and thought, American. Not another one.
He sighed, opened the door and entered his office, turning on a light as he did so. He placed his briefcase on his desk, went and took his seat. Ever since he'd published that paper, "Chaos in Pure Mathematics", he'd received several calls from American universities who wanted him to pull up his roots, move across the sea and, of course, wanted all that to happen yesterday. They didn't seem to comprehend that he had no desire to move to America, that he was more than content with his position at the University of Leeds, that he had all that he wanted here in Yorkshire.
Unfortunately, they didn't seem to be able to take "no" for an answer. He looked at the big man dressed rather casually even for an American academic headhunter, in dark slacks, shirt, sweater topped with one of those well-worn leather bomber jackets. Mind you, there was no doubting the intelligence, nor the personality. He would have to be on his toes with this one.
His visitor remained standing just inside the door. Good manners forced him to stand in turn, looking around the small office for a chair that the man could sit on. He found that the larger of the two was the more piled with books. With a shrug, he cleared it off, carefully stacking the books on top of those in the other chair.
"Thank you," said the man, smiling at him, as if something had pleased him inordinately. No, not pleased. More amused.
He took his place behind his desk and waited for the American to begin. Got another of those smiles.
"My name, " the American finally said, "is Walter Skinner. I doubt that means anything to you, Professor Tarquinn. I used to be Assistant Director with the FBI. I'm retired now."
Professor Tarquinn settled back in his chair. "Well, that's a different approach. I wonder, which of your universities would be using a retired member of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, with your rank, as their recruitment officer?"
Walter Skinner shook his head. "I don't represent any university. Are they after you?"
That sounded to the Professor as more of a question to put him at ease than real curiosity on the part of the American.
"I am, of late, discovering that you Americans don't like to hear the word 'no' when you expect to hear an enthusiastic 'yes'."
"Ah," said Skinner, also settling back into his chair. "That paper you wrote and presented in Munich. I understand that it's made ripples in many a Math Department. That it is, in fact, very controversial?"
Professor Tarquinn shrugged. "Have you read it?"
Skinner chuckled. "No. Sorry, Professor. I can do the books for my business, but theoretical mathematics is not my strong point. No, a friend of mine read it. He was very impressed by the paper. And by your presentation. I understand that it was the first Internet conferencing Math symposium."
Tarquinn winced. "Not my idea. I believe that the problems with the transmission were caused by some satellite glitch." He leaned forward and rested his elbows on the desk top. "Excuse me if I sound rude, Mr. Skinner, but I have a student coming for a tutorial and I need some time to prepare myself for it. What is it that you want with me?"
"Sorry. I'll get to the point." Skinner pulled the briefcase he had with him onto his lap and opened it. He looked at the Professor, as if making a decision, and then pulled out a folder. He closed the briefcase and placed it back on the floor by his chair.
"I'd like your opinion on this." From the folder, he handed the Professor a transparency with some blurs on it.
The Professor held it in his hand, frowned. "I am a mathematician, Mr. Skinner, not a biologist."
"True. But you're scientist enough to know what that is."
Professor Tarquinn held the transparency up to the light, squinted. "I might be able to say that this seems to be someone's DNA profile."
"Yes." Skinner smiled at him as he did when a student picked up a particular tricky concept. "It belongs to a man named Alex Krycek."
The AK on the label, noted the Professor. "Yes, well, you'll have to forgive me but I don't understand just why this Mr. Krycek's DNA should interest me?"
Skinner handed him another of the transparencies. The Professor put down the one he had in his hand, accepted the second. He held it up in turn. "Yes, well, at first glance I say again Mr. Krycek." He handed it back. Skinner didn't take it back.
"That's not Alex Krycek's DNA, Professor. That's yours."
The Professor grew very still for a moment. He glanced at the notation on the label: ST. He picked up the first transparency, placed it on top of the second, held them up to the light. They matched perfectly.
The Professor laughed. "All right, Mr. Skinner. Good joke. Now then..."
But Skinner interrupted him. "No joke, Professor." The expression on his face certainly supported that.
The Professor held up the two transparencies to the light again. "This is impossible. There can be similar DNA profiles, but these two are identical."
"Not impossible, I assure you, Professor. Uncommon, but not impossible."
"But...Only identical twins are thought to have identical DNA profiles. This is some sort of mistake at best. At worst, a trick. For this to be true, I would have to be..."
"To be?" encouraged Skinner.
Professor Tarquinn looked at the man sitting so calmly in his office. "To be," his voice monotone, "an identical twin." He cleared his throat with a soft cough, allowed some of his scepticism show in his voice. "Believe me, Mr. Skinner, if I had been one of twins, my mother would certainly have known."
He lifted the transparencies off the desk to hand them back but they slipped out of his hands, dropped onto the floor.
"Oh!" The Professor bent to pick them up, came up with a revolver in his hand. Which he pointed in a very steady hand at the man seated in front of him.
And got a reaction unlike any that he could have imagined.
Skinner laughed, kept on laughing though it was obvious he was trying very hard to get the laughter under control.
"Oh, my. I'm sorry, Professor." He raised his glasses and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "The switch from ivory- towered academic to killer was just a bit too much. I mean, you look exactly like Alex...apart from the superficial external differences...but I really didn't think you had much of him in you. Until that thing with the gun."
"I'm so very pleased that you're getting such enjoyment out of this, Mr. Skinner. Permit me to inform you that I don't see the situation in the same light."
"Well, you even sound like him there. In spite of the British accent." The hand on the handle tightened and Skinner stopped grinning. "Please, Professor. If you will allow me to explain? I don't think we need the gun."
"On the contrary, Mr. Skinner, I think we do." Professor Tarquinn reached for the telephone on his desk.
"I *can* explain," Skinner spoke convincingly.
"I'm certain that you think you can. Miss Beasley, would you be so kind as to cancel my tutorial with young Maugham. I shall be meeting with my American visitor for some time. No, no need to bother the Dean. He's not a headhunter. No, we shan't be needing tea. It's not that kind of meeting. Thank you, Miss Beasley."
He sat back in his chair, gun still pointing at the chest of his visitor. "I believe you said you have an explanation."
And Professor Sebastian Tarquinn, holder of the Chair in Pure Mathematics at the University of Leeds, holder of two doctorates, one in Theoretical Mathematics and the other in Philosophy, listened as his American visitor, Walter Skinner, told him a story about a man who some forty years ago cloned himself into four.
In the two years since he had learnt the truth about Alex Krycek's origins, Walter Skinner had had to make several changes in his life.
The first was the realization that Dana Scully and her Circus, as she called her family, composed of her four cloned daughters and their three surrogate uncles, the Lone Gunmen, would be more involved in their life, his and Alex's. That meant that they needed more room than what they had above the bar Skinner owned in Newport.
And also, though they were close, and becoming closer all the time, both he and Alex were independent men who were used to having space around them. They loved each other but, now and then, Alex, like Lissa, needed a place just to himself, away from everything and everyone. And that wasn't possible in the apartment.
So, after that first Christmas, Walter set about looking for a property to buy. Finally found one that satisfied his particular requirements. It was near town, on Lake Menphremagog, with a waterfront that, with some work, would be suitable for four little girls to go swimming.
The house had been built in the twenties by some wood baron as a hunting "cabin". It was two stories high, with a huge, screened-in wrap-around porch, large rooms. The living room had a good-sized fireplace; the kitchen, a wood stove.
The price was pretty fair, considering the amount of property and the repairs the place needed. Alex hadn't been too certain until he'd seen the master bedroom, with its own balcony overlooking the lake. And the fireplace.
They haggled over who was going to pay what. Nearly had their first fight. Alex, it seemed, had money he'd hidden in accounts all over the world. Walter wasn't certain he wanted to know the source but realized Alex needed to contribute his share to make this his home more than Walter's conscience needed to feel righteous.
And then Walter had been contacted by an old friend who now taught at Tufts University in Boston, asking if he'd be interested in dropping by occasionally to lecture on a point or two in their Law Department. Charlie Fables was one of the few people who knew the real reasons for Walter's "retirement" from the FBI. Who neither cared about, nor disbelieved Walter's version of the abduction, but who knew that enough time had passed so that Walter's acceptance to do the occasional lecture would not raise eyebrows.
So Walter went to Boston once a month -- he and Charlie had differing ideas as to the meaning of "occasional" -- while Alex took over the day-to-day running of the bar.
Their second Christmas was spent in their new home with Dana's Circus in attendance.
Without a second thought, Dana dumped the responsibility for the girls onto Alex's lap, sat back and enjoyed herself. Now five and starting school, the girls were thrilled with the amount of snow, outdoor games and were more than Alex could handle by himself. Walter and the Gunmen sometimes took pity on him and would come to his rescue.
Walter grew to expect finding his lover in bed, sound asleep, almost every night of the week the Circus spent with them.
While they were there, unknown to Alex, Walter had asked the Gunmen to do their best to find Alex's brothers. The documentation on them in the Consortium data banks was fairly sketchy. After they had turned three, the data concentrated on Alex and his reactions, his responses to the experimentation that was done on him. Not that they referred to Alex by name. In the documentation the code used was Clone 4. And it was not easy reading.
The others, one by one, had disappeared from the references. Over a twelve month period, they had all been placed in homes of people who worked for the Consortium, but, one by one, these people too disappeared.
The Gunmen were enthralled by the challenge. And they had come through.
Langley had been monitoring the Internet, enjoying the comical aspects of static filled, stop/go video transmission when he'd come across the one out of Munich, just as a certain Professor Sebastian Tarquinn was presenting his paper.
Within a week, Walter had a package in his hand, all about the good professor.
Except that there seemed to have been a lapse of some kind. There was nothing in the background he'd been given to explain the steady hand holding the gun pointed at his chest, the cool assessment of those cat-green eyes behind the nerdy glasses.
"So there are four of us," said Professor Tarquinn, in a calm voice, as if he were making a comment in one of his lectures.
"Yes. If I may?" Skinner pointed to the briefcase at his feet.
"On the desk, where I can see it."
Skinner carefully placed the briefcase, opened it so that the armed man could see the inside. Equally carefully he took out another folder, placed it in front of the Professor and flipped it open to the photo.
Tarquinn glanced down. Grew very still again. Skinner didn't underestimate the man. He knew that the stillness would vanish in an instant if he moved in any way.
Sebastian Tarquinn looked at the face of the man called Alex Krycek; who, apart from the hair shorter than his own, the lack of glasses, had the same face he saw in his mirror every morning when he shaved.
He set the gun down, picked up the documentation in the folder and read.
Skinner had purposefully kept the data on Alex as ambiguous as he could while still giving enough background on the man for the reader to know something about him.
Tarquinn read through without making a comment. Skinner found that he could no more figure out the man's reaction to the information than he could Alex's when he wore a similar expression on his face.
When Tarquinn reached the final page, he replaced the papers in the folder, Alex's picture on top. "This man is an assassin."
"Was," agreed Skinner.
"What do you want of me?" Tarquinn's hand was not far from the gun.
"I would like you to think about meeting him."
"Meet an assassin? Why would I want to do that, Mr. Skinner?"
"Because he's your brother."
Tarquinn's eyebrows were more expressive than Alex's. "Now it makes me wonder just what an Assistant Director of the FBI..."
"Retired," interrupted Skinner.
"Retired or otherwise...what you have to do with a man who...*was*...an assassin?"
To Tarquinn's surprise, Skinner's face softened. "Alex and I are lovers."
Not, thought Skinner, what the good professor was expecting. He took advantage of the man's astonishment to sit back in his chair.
With Alex's eyes staring at him, Skinner fleshed out some of the information that Tarquinn had read in the file. Provided more about Alex's early training, about his stint with the Consortium. Tarquinn's mouth tightened, his lips thinning in what Skinner could interpret as disapproval.
Other than a twitch of that mouth, a slight lift of an eyebrow, Tarquinn barely reacted to the part about Alex's encounters with the Olians and the Rebels.
So Skinner told him, without mentioning names, about Lissa and what had nearly happened to her.
Throughout it all, Tarquinn listened, not interrupting him once. When he was done, Skinner waited.
"Does this Krycek know about me?" Tarquinn picked up the gun, examined it as though seeing it for the first time.
The green eyes left the gun to examine Skinner's face. "Why not?"
"Alex has had enough pain in his life. Enough rejection because of what he was made out to be."
"Which was?" Tarquinn's interruption was sharp.
"A clone. Yes," Skinner raised his hand, forestalling Tarquinn, "genetically, you are clones. But you are also human beings. Alex was trained to think of himself as a thing. A scientific experiment. Non-human. He's finally come to accept that what he was told was wrong. That, though his responses as a child had a lot to do with his being a Fourth One and still do, he is as much a human being as any person.
"Look, Professor Tarquinn, I know this is a surprise. And I know that you need time to think about this."
"No." Tarquinn spoke with quiet conviction.
Skinner looked at him. "No? No, what, Professor?"
"No, it is not a surprise. Not a complete surprise. I knew there was something about me that was different, just not what it was. My mother and I left her husband when I was seven. We were spirited away into the American government's witness protection program when she gave testimony against him. I never knew what the matter was, only that it was classified as secret. We came to England because she was British. The Americans worked out some deal with MI5 so that we were given new identities but that she could continue with her work in Physics. She taught at a small Public School with ties to Leeds. When I was nine, she married Godfrey Tarquinn who taught Literature and Philosophy in the same School. He adopted me.
"But," Tarquinn waved a hand negligently, "I'm certain none of this is new to you." He paused then continued. "Before they married, I overheard them talking one night. About me. Not much, but just enough for me to understand that someone might come looking for me one day because of this difference."
Tarquinn placed the gun in the top, side drawer. "My mother preferred me to fade into the woodwork. My father had been with Military Intelligence. He taught me to use a revolver, to defend myself. Just in case someone would ever decide to come for me.
"As to the second no. No. I do not need time to think about this. I want nothing to do with this man, whoever, whatever he is. And I must ask you never to mention me, my existence, to him. Yes, you are right. He has been hurt enough. I don't want to add to that."
Tarquinn stood up in what was obviously a sign of dismissal.
Skinner gathered the files, put them back into his briefcase.
He had to try again, if only for Alex's sake. "He's worth knowing, you know."
"I'm sure he is. I would just rather not. I hope you will respect my wishes in this."
Skinner felt an overwhelming urge to shake the man and then sighed. Alex needed a brother who actually wanted to meet him. And this man didn't. He nodded, reluctantly.
He was at the door, hand on the knob when Tarquinn spoke, hesitantly. "There is one thing I would like to know."
Skinner looked at him over his shoulder.
"Does he have something wrong with an arm?" He gestured awkwardly to his left arm.
The documentation in the file had nothing about the loss of Alex's arm. Skinner cocked an eyebrow. "Why do you want to know?"
"About ten years ago?"
"Again, why do you want to know, Professor Tarquinn?"
Tarquinn bit his lower lip the same way Alex did when he was making a decision. He looked up at him, and Skinner saw the confusion in the man's eyes. "I...I had dreams around that time. About my arm. About losing it. Did he lose it in a fire?"
"In a way. They cut it off with a white-hot knife. Good day, Professor. I won't be bothering you again."
And had the pleasure of closing the door upon a stunned Sebastian Tarquinn.
"I still find it hard to drive on the left side of the road," Walter muttered as they came through the door of the hotel suite in York.
"I can't get over how small the cars are." Alex stretched, his t-shirt riding out of his jeans. He gave a last twist, removed his jacket and tossed it onto the armchair that sat in front of a window. "Beautiful country. Strange to think that houses here are hundreds of years old. Back home our place is considered to be one of the historical ones."
Walter picked up Alex's jacket on the way to the bedroom and hung it up in the closet besides his own. They'd spent the day touring the country between Leeds and York, after he'd finished his business with "the pal of Charlie's" he'd arranged to meet at the University while Alex had checked out the main part of town.
They'd had lunch in Leeds, driven around until the sun started setting and, right now, all Walter wanted was a chance to forget that this morning's meeting hadn't produced the results he had wanted for Alex.
The trip to England was, Walter had convinced Alex, something he had always wanted to do. May was slack time at the bar. Tufts didn't need him again until September. He had been to London, he'd told Alex, but he wanted to see more of the North. Why not go for a couple of weeks?
Alex had thought about the money he had secreted away in a London bank, agreed on the condition that they'd land in London and have a couple of nights there. He quickly emptied the safety deposit box of its contents, hidden most of it in the false bottom of his knapsack and contentedly left the sights of London for the beauties of Northern England.
They were scheduled to spent one more night in York before leaving for Scotland.
Alex sprawled on the couch while Walter stretched out with his feet on the ottoman by the armchair, reviewing the things they'd seen, making lazy conversation.
The unexpected knock on the door took them both by surprise. Alex sat up, his hand going for the back of his belt and the small gun holstered there. One of those things he had gotten out of the box at the bank.
Walter signalled him to stay seated and went to answer the knock.
"Message for Mr. Skinner."
Walter cracked the door, opened his mouth to ask for the message.
Nothing came out.
"Please," said the man at the door, "may I come in?"
Walter looked him over as though expecting him to pull out some weapon at any moment. "If you hurt him..." he whispered.
The man nodded, accepting the threat as the promise it was.
Walter opened the door wide and Sebastian Tarquinn entered the room.
Walter leaned against the door and watched as Alex finally understood who this man was.
Neither of them moved. Nor spoke.
They just stared at each other.
Alex saw a man the same height as himself, though thinner and less muscular. His skin was pale but the hair colour was the same. The hair was longer, swept back off the face, cut to collar length. He had the same mouth, the same nose, the same slight elf-shape to the ears that Alex saw ever day in the mirror.
He realized that he was being watched through dark rimmed glasses with eyes the same green as his, the same shape. With the same intensity.
He knew what the other was seeing. Himself dressed in jeans, navy long sleeved t-shirt. Hair parted to one side, the bangs drooping over his forehead --Walter liked his hair this way, the same it had been when he had been an agent for the FBI.
He also knew that the other had to be aware of the gun pointed at him, but wasn't paying it any attention.
Without taking his eyes off the man who looked like him, Alex nodded to show he had heard his lover.
"Put the gun away. Then I'll introduce you two."
Alex didn't move. Walter was going to speak again when the gun was hesitantly returned to its holster.
Alex's hand dropped to his side as Walter came to stand between the two men, but closer to Alex. "Alex Krycek, Sebastian Tarquinn."
And waited for something to happen.
Walter frowned. What now? He had expected to see nothing more of the Professor after the end of this morning's meeting. He had fully accepted the Professor's refusal to even consider meeting Alex.
Yet, here he was.
One look at Alex and Walter knew his walls were up thick and strong. Mind you, Tarquinn wore a similar expression so his walls, whatever they were, must also be up and in place.
Walter sighed. This meeting was in no way proceeding in any manner he had allowed himself to imagine. But he took a step back and decided to leave the rest of this to the two men who were barely breathing.
"You really do look like me." Tarquinn finally broke the silence that had held the two men.
"Yeah." Alex replied in the same soft tone. Apart from the Britishness of Tarquinn's accent, they sounded much alike. "You, too."
Walter pressed his lips together to keep from interfering. This was between the two of them, he reminded himself. Yeah, *right*. Who'd started all this? he chastised himself.
"I didn't believe it. When your Mr. Skinner showed me the picture..."
"*My* Mr. Skinner?" Alex spared a glance for his lover who glared at Tarquinn.
"Yes, this morning at the University. I hold the Chair of Pure Mathematics there. Yes, I know, you didn't know. I asked him not to tell you."
Alex's defences went up stronger than before. "I see." His raised his chin in that way he had when he expected to be hit and could only accept.
Walter felt his stomach clench.
"No," Tarquinn shook his head. "You don't see. I know you think it has something to do with you. It doesn't. It has something to do with me."
Alex's smile was cold and not pretty. "Yeah. Sure. That's what people say when they break up. 'Nothing to do with you, it's all me.'"
"It has to do with the dreams," Tarquinn ploughed on.
"The dreams?" Alex's chin dropped just the slightest.
Good, thought Walter. At least he was listening. And what the hell did Tarquinn's dreams have to do with this?
"I know about your arm because of the dreams."
Alex's right hand went to cover the place where his stump and prosthesis met. As if to protect.
"About ten years ago, wasn't it? Mr. Skinner said it was a knife. A white-hot knife?"
Alex winced. Nodded his head.
Tarquinn also nodded his head. "In my dreams it was fire. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have come. But I needed to know."
Tarquinn turned for the door. Walter saw the look in Alex's eyes before he covered it with that blank expression Walter so hated: longing quickly stifled.
In his mind, Walter began cursing Tarquinn with every foul oath he could think of.
Tarquinn took a couple of steps then stopped, turned and, as if moving before he could stop himself, he came to stand before Alex. Within arm's reach. This time, he didn't bother hiding the pain, the hunger on his own face. He raised his hands, as if to touch Alex. Stopped himself.
"I..." He coughed to clear his throat. "I had other dreams. As a child. Of darkness. And pain. And incredible fear."
Walter watched as a crack appeared in Alex's defences.
"That was you, wasn't it. What they did to you. The documents Mr. Skinner showed me only said that they had kept you, that they had performed certain experiments on you. Because you were different. They did that to you because you weren't like us. They didn't bother with us. They bothered with you. They hurt you. They hurt you badly. I felt that in my dreams."
Again, Tarquinn's hands came up and again he forced himself not to touch the man in front of him.
"Alex. The worst thing that I can remember being done to me was when I was eleven and my father made me apologize to Piggy Fitzroy for bloodying his nose." Tarquinn's voice dropped to a whisper. "Do you understand?" he begged.
Walter bit his lips as the mask slipped off Alex's face.
Alex nodded. It took a couple of tries before he found his voice. "Piggy Fitzroy," he said, voice rough.
"Did...did he deserve getting his nose bloodied?"
Tarquinn smiled, not a particularly strong smile; it wobbled a bit. "Yes. He was a bully. Liked going around pinching the smaller boys."
"Did you enjoy doing it?" Alex tried hard to keep his voice even.
Tarquinn nodded. "Yes."
"And that was the worst thing that happened to you?"
Tarquinn had lots of trouble getting out this "Yes."
Jesus, thought Walter, will one of you do something?
Tarquinn brought up his hand again, nearly made it to Alex's face. He left it hovering there. "They hurt you so much."
Alex swayed a little, almost into the hand his brother held by his face. "You can't be sure that the dreams were of me," he offered. "They had you for three, four years before they let you go. Those dreams could have been what they did to you."
Even though Walter had his eyes on them, he never knew who moved first. One moment the two men were devouring each other with hungry eyes, the next they were in each other's arms, silent, holding tight as for dear life.
Walter closed his eyes and whispered, "Thank you, God."
Tactfully, Walter left them alone. From the bedroom, he could hear them talking, awkwardly. Once he was certain he could leave them alone, he put his jacket on. "I'll go find something for supper," he said on his way out. The two of them were sitting on the couch, one at each end. Alex smiled at him.
He discovered a market area where he could have sandwiches made, placed an order and was told they'd be ready in an hour. He walked around, found a store selling wine, spirits; he picked up a couple of bottles of red and a small bottle of brandy. He found some good coffee that he could use in the coffee maker that came with the suite. He bought Ian Rankin's latest mystery and picked up the sandwiches.
Back at the hotel, he found the professor in his shirt sleeves, shoes off, sitting cross-legged on the couch, with Alex in the same position at his end. Walter placed the sandwiches on the low table by the couch. opened the wine, poured them each a glass.
Sebastian -- no longer Tarquinn in Walter's mind -- was telling Alex about a trip he'd taken into northern Scotland to go fly- fishing.
"Walter does that, too," Alex grinned.
Sebastian smiled at Walter, but Walter knew he wasn't really part of this conversation. He stayed long enough to finish his sandwich, refilled his glass with wine and, book in hand, took himself off to the bedroom. He left the door partially open, not to listen in, but in case something went wrong with the meeting and he was needed.
Once in a while something one of them was saying would catch his attention, such as Alex explaining the methodology how he used to decrypt the DAT tape. His answers to Sebastian's questions revealed that Sebastian was not the only mathematician in the room.
Or how Alex had felt when the Oilian had been in him, feelings that somehow Sebastian had shared, if only remotely in his dreams.
When Walter stuck his head out to say goodnight -- it was after one in the morning -- they were sitting on the floor, face to face, legs stretched out over the other's hips.
Walter was alone in the bed when he woke up the next morning. He lay still, listening for the sound of the voices that had been in the background all the time he slept. He got up, used the bathroom, brushed his teeth. Wearing only the sweat pants he slept in, Walter went into the other room to find Alex in Sebastian's arms, back to chest, sound asleep on the couch. Alex's prosthesis lay on the table, next to Sebastian's glasses.
Walter sat in the armchair and looked at the picture his lover and his brother made. Sebastian's chin rested on the top of Alex's head, his arms loosely wrapped around Alex, Alex's arm relaxed, lying on top of the other's.
Walter wondered if he should feel jealous of the peace on Alex's face.
As if he sensed Walter's thoughts, Alex's eyes opened. He and Walter looked at each other for a few moments, both hiding their feelings. With a glance over his shoulder, Alex slipped out of Sebastian's arms, allowed his body to slide to the floor. There, face serious, he made his way on hand and knees in that feline way of his. He stopped by Walter's knees, sat back on his haunches, rested his head on Walter's thigh.
Without looking at him, Walter knew Sebastian was watching. He reached down and caressed Alex's face.
"Walter." Alex's voice was thick with sleep, rough from all the talking he had done since he and Sebastian had touched each other.
Alex propped his chin up on Walter's thigh. He smiled. "Thank you."
Walter smoothed back the hair from Alex's face. Alex turned into his touch, sighed.
"What are you thanking me for, love?"
Alex looked over his shoulder at Sebastian and smiled. He turned that smile back on his lover, deepened it to show his love.
"For giving me my brother."
Sebastian got up, came to kneel at Walter other's side. "Yes. Thank you, Walter."
Walter smiled at the two faces looking up at him. Identical but not the same.
"Would you like another?" he asked.
"Would you like another?" Walter had asked.
But that was all he would tell them. He asked them to be patient, said that there were a couple of hurdles left to overcome but that, as soon as he could, he would inform them of their brother's name and his whereabouts.
Sebastian wasn't too pleased, but he accepted. Especially when he saw the time. "Damn! I have a lecture to give in an hour." He dressed, took a hesitant leave of Alex, "You two *are* staying?"
"Yes," said Walter, "we are staying. Shall we meet for supper?"
Sebastian grinned Alex's grin, shrugged into his jacket. "Dinner, I think you mean. Shall we say my place? Around seven? I'm certain that you," he addressed Walter, "have the address in that briefcase of yours." With a tentative hug for Alex and a nod for Walter, he rushed out.
"I wonder," Alex came to sit on Walter's lap, dropped his hand onto Walter's shoulder, began a gentle massage of the muscles that joined with the neck, "what other bits of information you have in 'that briefcase of yours'?"
Walter grinned. Alex already did a good imitation of Sebastian's accent. "You can go through the file I have on him. Though, I doubt, that after last night, you'll find anything new."
Yes, Alex thought as he showered, he and Sebastian had shared a great deal of information about themselves. Maybe too much.
Walter noted as the day went on that Alex seemed distracted. He had taken Alex to the University, so they could walk around Sebastian's world.
"You want to tell me what's wrong, Alex?" They were back at the hotel. Alex had tossed his jacket to the chair, missed it completely, ignoring its falling to the floor. Not usual treatment for the jacket that Walter often thought was part of Alex's defences against the world. He stooped, picked it up. Alex was sitting on the edge of the couch, slightly hunched over, eyes on his hands, the real one fidgeting with the fake.
Alex sighed, looked up, worried. "Last night with Sebastian, I talked a lot."
Walter waited for him to continue. Then pushed a little. "Yes, you did."
"Maybe too much."
"Too much? How too much?" Walter tossed his and Alex's jackets onto the armchair, went to sit next to his lover.
Alex gnawed on his lower lip. He took a deep breath, looked at Walter. "Too much about some of the things I've done."
Walter's nod was questioning.
"I see. And now that you've had time to think about it, you're worried that you might have put yourself into jeopardy. That maybe Sebastian is going to go to the authorities, that he's going to turn you in for having been an assassin?"
Alex shrugged, concentrated on rubbing his thumb against a small spot on his fake hand.
"That he might decide that knowing one Alex Krycek might not be a good thing for his career?"
Alex's left shoulder twitched in answer.
"That he might not like the fact that there is someone around to remind him that he too is a clone, and that he might hate the man that made him aware of that?"
Alex took his time before nodding. Walter moved his hand to the back of Alex's neck, worked to smooth the hard tension he found there.
"Alex. What makes you think that Sebastian isn't feeling the same way about you right now?"
Alex's hand stopped its repetitious rubbing.
"That he too isn't regretting the things he's told you in the first rush of pleasure at finding a brother? I mean, it's not like he was a choirboy. He's told you more than a few things that he may not want to become common knowledge. I know that the British are more open about certain kinds of relationships than we are. But the fact that he's bisexual may not be something that everyone who works with him knows."
Alex sat up. "It's not like he screws around. He's had two long-term relationships. One with a woman, one with a man. He's alone right now, but he's not cruising the bars looking for his next bed-mate."
Walter raised a eyebrow at Alex's immediate defence of Sebastian's lifestyle. It warmed him that after so little time, Alex seemed to have formed a bond with his brother. He decided to push a little more.
"Then there's the thing with the gun. This is England. They have strict gun laws in this country. *You* know what the consequences would be if someone caught that thing you carry on your belt. What do you think they would be for Sebastian if someone reported he kept a loaded revolver in his office? In his home?"
"He's only doing it for his own security. His father showed him how to use guns, how to defend himself in case anyone from the Consortium ever showed up. I mean, hell!" Alex stood up, turned to glare at Walter. "It's not like he's going around taking pot shots at anything that moves! Why are you smiling like that?"
Walter slouched back in the corner of the couch, smiling growing into grin. "Do you hear yourself, Alex?" With a wider grin, he reached up, pulled Alex down next to him. Alex rested the back of his head against the top of the couch and sighed.
"It's going to be all right, Alex. We'll go have *dinner* with your brother. You two will probably pussyfoot your way around all sorts of topics you both wish you hadn't broached last night. You'll learn a bit more about each other. You'll decide if you both want to further this acquaintance. Whether you want to go from knowing the other is alive, to wanting more contact.
"Alex, we're in no rush to go home. That's why the tickets I bought are open ended. There's no great time limit on our staying here. 'Bout the only thing on my schedule is that I'd like to try a little fishing in Scotland, but even that is not a priority. Right now, you're the priority, Alex. You and Sebastian."
"Is that why you won't tell us anything about this other...brother you've found?" Alex let his head rest against Walter's shoulder. Walter pulled him closer, wrapped a comforting arm around him.
"One thing at a time, Alex. Take a few days, spend as much or as little of them as you care to with this brother. Really see if there's anything there. For both of you. He also needs to make a few decisions about you."
Alex got that stillness that Walter so disliked, as though he were bracing himself. He jumped in before Alex had time to say anything. "You know how upset he was at the differences in your backgrounds. You know, if you'll admit it to yourself, that he feels guilty that his was so much smoother than your own." Less abusive, thought Walter.
"Piggy Fitzroy," said Alex.
"And he's had those dreams." Alex made himself comfortable against Walter's chest, head resting on the far shoulder of the man who was supporting him in so many ways. "You know," his tone turned thoughtful, "I thought I only had a connection with other Fourth Ones. Do you think he really can feel some of what I feel?"
Walter's eyebrow raised again as he contemplated the euphemisms they were using. "Why not? I mean we hear all the time about identical twins who know when the other is in trouble, in pain. Why shouldn't Sebastian have some sort of link with you?"
There was a long pause as Alex thought about that. "Because, " he finally said, almost whispering, "I don't want him to know about those times."
Not knowing what to say, Walter kissed the head on his shoulder.
Dinner was strained.
As Walter had told Alex, Sebastian too felt the nervous embarrassment of having said more than he was comfortable with when he had had time to think about it. He wasn't ashamed of anything he had done, just wary of having spilt so much of himself to someone he had just met.
Walter watched the way the men avoid meeting each other's eyes over the meal, addressing their comments to him, speaking over each other's shoulders.
They were sitting down to coffee and brandy when Walter decided to put them out of their misery. "Gentlemen," he held up his brandy snifter to make a toast. He waited until the two had followed his example. "To the biggest pains in the ass, to the best and the worst parts of one's self. To brothers."
While Walter sipped his brandy, the two others stared at the glasses in their hands. It was then that Walter realized how alike they were, more than just physically, even though they had just met. The way they held their heads, the way they positioned their bodies. The way the slow smiles grew on their faces.
Sebastian pushed his glasses up his nose with a fingertip, cocked his head. He raised his glass towards Alex. "To brothers."
Alex's head moved to the same degree. "To brothers," he agreed.
Sebastian hadn't been joking about fly-fishing. A couple of phone calls and he had made arrangements of the three of them to stay at a friend's cottage in Scotland for the weekend.
The water was icy cold, even with waders on. Alex refused to join them, preferring to sit on the bank, watching Walter and Sebastian up to their hips in snow-melt water, freezing their balls off as he was not reluctant to inform them
Neither Sebastian or Walter seemed to be minding that fact. They were both hugely enjoying themselves. They gestured instructions back and forth over the quiet sound of the water, pointedly ignoring Alex who called out comments to them, thereby committing a major mortal sin in the catechism of any serious fisherman.
Alex laughed at them. He was nice and dry, he reminded them -- often --better yet, *warm*, in his spot under a tree. *His* balls weren't shrivelling up, turning blue. Wouldn't, he tossed out at Walter, be useless.
He really shouldn't have been so surprised when his lover and his brother ganged up on him and together managed to drag him, laughing and then yowling, into the water.
"So now," smirked Sebastian, "we're back to being identical, even to the state of our balls."
"Not fair," groused Alex, staggering out of the water.
"Perfectly fair," countered Sebastian. "I understand that's what younger brothers are for, ganging up on them and making their life miserable. You have brothers, Walter. Am I not right?" Sebastian turned a beautifully innocent look on Alex.
"Absolutely," smiled Walter.
"Fuck you," snarled Alex.
They moved out of the hotel and in with Sebastian. He owned a small grey stone townhouse about a mile from the campus, that had been built in the 1830's. He biked to and from the University, biked everywhere in town, the only exercise he admitted taking. He watched in fascination as Alex went through what he called his morning exercises, a self-invented combination of Tai Chi moves mixed in with judo, karate to keep him limber. He signed Walter up at the University fitness centre so he could work out on the machines there.
They'd stayed with Sebastian for about five days when Alex had the nightmare.
It began the usual way, with his twitching and making spasmodic movements. Walter, subliminally aware of these after two years of sharing a bed with Alex, woke. He had learnt not to rouse Alex, but to take his time and talk him out of the claws that gripped him in his sleep.
Carefully, he took the now shuddering, softly moaning man into his arms, held him close, quietly reciting the rhyme that Alex had taught Lissa to chase the nightmares away.
A noise caught his attention. Sebastian had pushed open the door. Eyes stark in a whitened face, he hung onto the doorframe as if it were the only thing keeping him up. The green silk pyjamas he wore were darkly stained with sweat. "Please," his raw whisper was forced out of a clenched throat, "wake him up. Get him out of there."
Walter nodded, kept up the rhyme. Sebastian stared at Alex, his breathing roughened until it was in sync with his brother's. Walter noted what was happening, but concentrated on Alex. Gradually, far too slowly for Sebastian, Alex worked his way out of the dream. His voice joined in with Walter's, repeating fragments of the rhyme until finally he was saying it along with him.
"I know." Walter kept repeating the rhyme, eyes now on Sebastian, as Alex slipped back into sleep. He held up a hand, showing five fingers then pointed to the stairs. Sebastian nodded, forced himself up and away from the frame. Walter heard him make his way downstairs.
It was closer to ten minutes before Walter felt he could leave Alex. He tenderly tucked the blankets around his lover and then went to deal with his lover's brother.
He found Sebastian sitting at the kitchen table, drink in hand. The man was still white-faced, hands slightly trembling as he brought the glass to his mouth. He took more than a sip.
Walter sighed, pulled out one of the chairs and sat facing Sebastian.
"You felt that dream, did you?" He tried to make it sound like an everyday occurrence.
Sebastian nodded. He forced his gaze from the glass to Walter's face. "More than felt, actually. I think I shared it."
Walter had a general idea as to the contents of the nightmares. It had taken him months to get Alex to talk about them. He was forever claiming that he really didn't remember them. Walter thought it was more that he didn't want to, once he'd awakened.
"Bad?" Walter's voice was softly probing.
Sebastian took another drink. He sat staring at the glass between his hands. "It's dark. Pitch black. We...because I feel him...I'm in him...we're one. I really can't explain it better than that." He looked at Walter, almost pleading for his understanding. Walter nodded. Sebastian continued.
"We can't see anything. But we can feel. There's something that's come into where ever it is we are that frightens us. I can feel our heart pounding. Our body sweating. Then suddenly there are hands touching us. We freeze. They...they're hurting, the hands, they're hurting us. I want to scream, but Alex won't. He's holding it back."
Sebastian's voice hoarsened, his face grew shiny with sweaty. Walter stayed very quiet.
"The pain, it's growing worse. Harder to bear. I think we're being severed into two, the pain is that much. We can hear the person's gasps and moans. I know that it's a man. And then I know what he's doing to us. He's raping us. I want to scream, Walter, but Alex...he won't let me. Tells me it...the pain...will be worse if I do. I don't see how. I think we're going to lose consciousness. Maybe we do."
Sebastian, hands trembling, gulped down the last of his drink. He visibly forced himself to continue.
"Suddenly there's light. I realize that we were blindfolded. The light hurts our eyes. As it clears I realize two things. That we're a child, a young child. And that the face of the man who's hurt us is coming into focus.
"Oh, God, Walter! It's our face! The man who's raped us is us. Is me. Walter, I would never do that to Alex. Believe me, please. How can he think that I would rape him?"
Walter's heart hurt at the anguish in Sebastian's plea. He reached out, took the man's hands in his. "Sebastian. That's not you. Think about it. If you and Alex are the child, you can't be the man. Yes, there was a man with your face. But it's not you. It's not you, Sebastian."
"Then who... Dear God! The man who created us? But..." Shocked, Sebatian was finding it hard to put his thoughts into words. They sounded so obscene to him. He tried again. "In the documentation you showed me, in the things Alex talked about, there was no mention... I mean, you said experimentation. This wasn't experimentation. This was rape. Of a child. A child that was his clone. Are you telling me..."
Walter stood up, went around the table. He put his arms around Sebastian the way he did with Alex when he was upset about something. He soothed him, softly recited the rhyme to him until Sebastian was more in control. Still holding him, Walter explained. "Yes, Alex was experimented upon. And, yes, the experiments were directed by the man who cloned you all from himself. Yes, he did rape Alex. He used him, trained him for what Alex called 'his particular passions'. I think it was a huge turn on for him to have himself as a sexual partner."
"He was a child," began Sebastian.
"Yes, he was. And yes, he does have nightmares about those days. But they're less common these days. I think he's had another tonight because of the situation."
"I don't understand," Sebastian spoke against Walter's shoulder. Walter caressed the trembling head, let his hand drop to the shoulder and slowly, soothingly, he rubbed Sebastian's back. He had too much practice at this, he thought.
"I think Alex is worried that one day you'll take a good look at him and see the clone, the thing he was told he was, and that you'll reject him."
"No! I won't. How can he even think that? For something over which he had no control?"
"No, Sebastian, I don't believe you would. If I did, I would have opposed our staying with you. But Alex is slow to believe that he can be wanted. That he's not a freak, not a thing. That he can be loved."
"That's bloody stupid," said Sebastian, pulling his head back to look up at Walter. "You love him."
"Yes, I do. He knows that. But his acceptance of that didn't come overnight. Once in a while he still has doubts. Like you do."
Sebastian tugged and Walter let him go. He got him a glass of water, allowed the man time to blow his nose, wipe his face, get himself back under a semblance of control. Sebastian thanked him with a wobbly smile.
"You're right, you know," he said when Walter had taken his seat again. "I do doubt this relationship between the two of us. I mean, it was bad enough before, but now to know that Alex was... so badly abused. I mean, how can he look at me and not see the life he should have had? How can he not resent me? Hate me," he whispered.
"Why should I hate you?"
The two men turned and found Alex, sitting on the bottom step, watching them.
"I mean, it's not your fault. It's not like you asked for me to be the one he focused on."
Walter was pleased to hear that Alex seemed genuinely concerned for his brother's attitude.
"No. But I am the one who got away."
Alex shrugged. "All three of you got away. Well, not *got* away. You were given away. And I got the feeling from some of the things you've told me that if your mother hadn't left her husband, it would have been different."
Sebastian nodded. "He hit her. Me, too, once. She left him after that. My father... Godfrey Tarquinn never hit either of us. The angriest he would get was to grow very still and then he would go for a walk. By the time he came home, he would have calmed down. I do the same thing when I'm angry. I guess I picked that up from him."
Alex stood up, came to crouch beside his brother's chair. "I'm sorry you were pulled into my nightmare. I really don't remember much of them when I wake up. Well, not since I wake up to Walter." He smiled at his lover.
"Sebastian, I'm not used to having a brother. But I like it. I know you feel some sort of link to me. I would like that to be a good thing, not something that will make you hate me."
Sebastian reached out, stroked a side of the face that was also his. "I worry too, that you'll hate me. I don't want that. I was an only child, Alex. I always wanted a brother. A brother to love. A brother who would love me. Imperfections, foibles, peculiar habits and all."
Walter quietly got up, made his way back to bed.
There was one more reference to the events of that night. The next afternoon, Sebastian waited until he and Walter were alone.
"This man who created us in his likeness," he spoke firmly, "where is he now?"
Walter shrugged. "Why do you want to know?"
"I want to kill him."
Sebastian held Walter's eyes. There was, realized Walter, more than one killer in this family.
"You're too late. He's dead."
"Are you certain? Do you know this for a fact?" challenged Sebastian.
Walter nodded. "Yes."
"How can you be sure?"
"I killed him."
Sebastian thought about that. "Thank you."
Now Alex was pouting. In stereo.
They were in Sebastian's den. Alex was sprawled out on the couch, nose in book, pointedly ignoring Walter who was sequestered in an armchair. Sebastian was working on some papers at his desk, also pointedly ignoring Walter.
When Sebastian had a comment to make on what his students were forcing him to read, he made it to Alex. When Alex found a passage that he thought worthy of being shared, he shared it with Sebastian.
Pages were being turned over, whether in a book or of an essay, with expressive snaps.
Walter kept on reading his book, eyes firmly planted on the printed pages, fighting hard to control the grin that wanted to escape. Except for Sebastian's glasses, his accent, they pouted -- Walter covered up his laugh with a soft throat clearing cough -- in exactly the same manner.
They both looked up at the cough, both mouths thinned. Both exhaled loudly, though Alex's was a little more expressive than Sebastian's. They exchanged a terse glance, both with the left eyebrow slightly raised, and then went back to their reading.
They were irritated with him. Two weeks after meeting for the very first time, they had become a united front. Both were quietly determined to get the information about this other brother Walter had promised them out of him.
Walter just shook his head, denying them any until he had confirmed all the information the Gunmen had sent him. He didn't want any little surprises this time, like the gun that had stared him in the face in a certain mathematician's office.
Because this time, if it didn't work out, there were two of them that would be hurt.