COMING OUT (New version)
Summary: A formal night out
Archive: ArchiveX, Ratlover, Gossamer. Any others if you ask: just so I know where this is travelling to.
EXPLANATION FOR THE NEW VERSION: After I posted the original COMING OUT, I got some feedback with "I liked it but... ". So I took a hard look and decided to do some more work on this one. Hey, that's what feedback is for. And I've discovered that my ego may *not* be so sensitive after all. (This is not a call for
abuse!) Many thanks to Solan, Maldrake for looking it over again and making suggestions, and beta'ing. And for Hopie who read it in hardcopy and agreed with the
EXPLANATION: P. D. James (Dame that she is) once explained that she wrote her novel a chapter here, another there. I am only following in her footsteps: except that *she* probably knows very well where her characters are going. I, on the other hand, am being led by the nose by mine. Definitely after LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS, ANSWERS, maybe even after NIGHT OUT.
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013, but let's not forget that imitation is the greatest form of flattery.
Mulder checked in on Alex to see how he was getting along.
Alex was muttering under his breath, turned to see Mulder looking as though he had been born in that tuxedo. "I still think this is asking for trouble."
Mulder grinned, came into Alex's bedroom where Alex was examining himself in the mirror.
The first time Thomas Nash had insisted that Alex attend a formal do, he'd gone out and rented a tux. Which had made him look like some bedraggled misfit. Mulder had hauled him off to his tailor and insisted that, since black tie was now part of his life, Alex needed a properly fitting suit. The problem, of course, was the prosthesis and its hardware.
The tailor had viewed that not as a hindrance to be covered up, but as a challenge so that, unless one knew or was up close enough to realize, the prosthesis would not disturb the line of the suit. He had even produced a shirt designed for the same purpose.
Mulder went to stand behind Alex, became aware just how tense Alex was: he really wasn't crazy about this outing. He needed something else to put him in a better mood, thought Mulder, and casually rubbed himself along Alex's back while he reached over Alex's shoulders to take the tie's ends in hand. He sighed, concentrating, into Alex's ear. Stroked the underside of his chin, as if by accident. And set to finishing off the picture of an elegant Krycek in black tie. "There."
To no effect.
"Mulder, talk to him." Alex turned so that he was encircled by his lover's arms. "This isn't a good idea."
"Alex, stop worrying." Mulder reached up to stroke Alex's face, trying to reassure him. "It's been two years. Everyone who needs to know knows that you're with us. This *isn't* the FBI. This is a charity auction and dinner put on by Walter's think tank. Wilson-Jones knows all about us."
Alex turned back to check them out in the mirror. He was vain enough to appreciate that the two of them looked good in formal wear. He had no great objections to wearing black tie. But this was the first time he was actually, officially accompanying his two lovers to a public function. And, unlike them, *he* didn't think it would go over well.
"Alex." Mulder rested his chin on Alex's shoulder, also checking them out in the mirror. He was used to seeing himself done up this way, but it always surprised him how well formal wear suited the other man. "Stop fretting. It's not like he's asked anything much of us before. He wants this. He wants the two of us to accompany him to this gala. It's important to him or he wouldn't have asked.
"Besides, you owe him. Who came down and bailed you and your team out that night Gus tripped the alarm? Argued with the cops until Nash could get there to clear up the whole thing?"
Alex sighed, already defeated. The night of their first failure and they'd been had by a trip-wire that a ten year old could have set up. Alarms ringing, lights flashing and they had just sat there, waiting for the cops to show up. He'd gotten in a call to Skinner, using his cell phone, just to let him know about the situation. So he wouldn't worry.
Instead, Skinner was waiting for them when they arrived at the police station. Alex's team was viewing this like a lark, but he knew that Alex would feel differently about being cuffed, fingerprinted and charged. He kicked up enough of a fuss, long enough so that when Nash showed up the "culprits" had never gotten past the front desk.
"Besides," Mulder continued before Alex could say anything, "who keeps on inviting him along to those B&E's so he can have some fun? It's work for you, but a pleasure for him. He's just reciprocating. Alex, you know he wouldn't ask you if he thought it would put you in danger. Or even make you feel uncomfortable."
Actually, Skinner had informed Mulder in no uncertain terms that it was time Krycek came out of the shadows.
Alex just nodded, accepting that he was going to accompany Walter and Mulder, in spite of his fears that the world at large was not yet ready to accept the fact that a best-selling author, a respected member of a prestigious think tank, both ex-FBI, were shacked up with an ex-Consortium assassin.
Philippa Wilson looked up from greeting an old friend when she realized that the men she had been waiting for had arrived . Nothing like three seemingly unattached men who looked extremely elegant in black tie to gladden a hostess's heart.
"Walter. How very nice to see you could make the gala."
Walter leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Philippa Wilson was seventy-five if she were a day, beautifully made-up, dressed in a deceptively simple gown of muted crimson, and was the Wilson in Wilson-Jones. In other words, his boss. She hadn't ordered him to put in an appearance, just "suggested" it.
"And Fox. May I tell you how much I enjoyed your latest book. It kept me up all night, I just couldn't put it down."
Mulder laughed, politely kissed the offered cheek. "Thank you, Philippa. Nothing like knowing that I've kept a beautiful woman from her sleep."
She smiled: she and Fox Mulder had crossed paths several times over the years. It was nice to see the boy looking so relaxed.
She turned to the third member of this party to discover she was being examined by a pair of incredibly beautiful green eyes, in a manner which seemed quite removed. Though he hid it well, this one didn't want to be here.
Walter made the introductions. "Philippa, may I present Alex Krycek. Alex works for Thomas Nash, of Nash Securities."
"Yes," she held out her hand, "Thomas's break-in expert, I believe. I'm very pleased to meet you, Mr. Krycek." And didn't add that he had been one of the subjects under discussion when she and Nash had lunched together about a month ago. Thomas was the son of yet another old friend and she liked to keep in touch with him. He had been very enthusiastic about the success rate of his verification team. Their efficiency had increased business. And he had been very vocal about their leader, so she had been curious.
"I've heard a great deal about you from Walter, Mrs. Wilson. The pleasure is all mine." He took her hand in his, brought it up to his mouth and gently passed his lips over the top.
Nicely done, my lad, thought Philippa Wilson and put more warmth into her smile. "There is nothing a woman of my age enjoys more than the attentions of a handsome man. Please, call me Philippa. And may I call you Alex?"
Alex smiled and Philippa Wilson understood just why Walter Skinner would want this one around.
It didn't take much time for the men to be separated.
Mulder was quickly surrounded by a group of fans, happily accepting their compliments, teasing them with snippets of his latest work-in-progress. He loved the "ah's" and "oh's" of sympathy he got when he recounted the trial and tribulations of book tours, badly prepared interviewers.
Walter was off with several members of the Board, to discuss the latest development on one of their projects. He caught up on FBI news with some old colleagues, promised to give some serious thought to reviewing a Senate sub-committee's assessment of an upcoming issue.
Even Alex managed to work the floor a bit. He ran into the president of a software company who had used his services to test out one of its new security programs. Who in turn introduced him to a colleague who also had some concerns about his security needs.
Alex might have felt more comfortable about the evening if it hadn't been for the man who seemed to be very interested in his companions. Who always had something to say to them once he had moved on. It took only a couple of startled glances directed his way to understand that Nash Securities would be better off if he found a corner to hide in.
Philippa Wilson was a spectator in that little drama. She was pleased to see that Alex Krycek didn't go running off to carry tales to Walter Skinner, not even to Fox Mulder. Like Thomas Nash, she was fully aware of the background of the young man who unobtrusively made his way to the bar.
Alex settled against the bar, a vodka in hand. He would be careful, as ever, not to overindulge, but he needed some reason to be here, where he could keep an eye on his shadow. A game of cat and mouse, he thought. No, he smiled into his drink, rat and terrier.
So, he was surprised when they moved into the dining hall to find that he had been seated at Philippa Wilson's table. Next to an old friend of hers, a woman who had once trained in Russia at the Kiev Ballet. It didn't take much time for them to establish that they both spoke Russian and, though Marita Conway-Jones, sister-in-law to the Jones in Wilson-Jones, fulfilled her social obligations with the others at the table, she often monopolized the intriguing partner at her right.
"So, what do you think of him, Mar?" Philippa examined her face in the powder-room mirror.
"I take it you mean Alex, not the old fart you placed to the left of me."
Philippa ignored the unkind reference to an ex-Vice President.
"He's beautiful, intelligent, has a nasty edge to his humour."
"Which I noticed you appreciated."
"Very much. So, Phil, who have you got him for? I can't see any of those granddaughters of yours, or mine for that matter, being of the slightest interest to him."
"He's already taken. He's with Fox and Walter."
"Oh." Marita paused in the reapplication of her lipstick. "Ohhh." She exchanged raised eyebrows with her childhood friend. They both smiled. "How nice to know the younger generation has some old-fashioned vices. Do you remember the chauffeur that Natty Wordsworth had... "
Philippa had arranged that while they had all been at dinner, the items to be auctioned off were set up in the hall they had just vacated. She knew, from past experience, bids were more likely to be at the high end if bidders had enjoyed a good meal and the pieces were still very new to them.
She could see Walter talking to Fox, both of whom then looked around the room searching for somebody. She caught sight of their target only because of the man who was making his way into one of the shadowed corners. Oh dear, she thought, enough is enough.
"Ah, Mr. Krycek."
Alex slowly straightened up from the wall he was slouching against. He took a sip of his drink. "Mr. Director," he acknowledged.
The Director took his time looking the man up and down, a slight look of distaste on his face. "How nice to find you looking so very well, Mr. Krycek." His voice bordered on insult. "I hope you intend keeping in good health, for all our sakes."
"I'm doing my best, Mr. Director." Alex kept his voice as expressionless as his face.
"Keeping busy, are you?"
"Almost as busy as you've been." He took a sip of his brandy. "Of course, if *that* continues, I'll probably find myself out of a job and with lots of time on my hands. Time, as Walter would say, to get involved in things that are really none of my business."
The Director's head shifted back, as if pulling away from a nasty thought. Gritting his teeth, he agreed, "Then it's fortunate that you are so very busy. And should remain that way."
"Alex, dear." Philippa Wilson smiled at the two men, purposefully laid her hand on Alex's arm. She'd overheard that last bit of their conversation and was very pleased with Alex's discreet handling of the matter. "I'm so very sorry to interrupt this conversation, but Walter is looking for you. He'd like you to join him over by the podium. You don't mind, do you, Martin?"
"Not at all, Philippa. I'm sure Mr. Krycek and I have nothing much more to say to each other."
Alex gave a slight nod of his head, smiled down at his hostess, bent and kissed her on the cheek. "Thanks," he whispered and went off to find Walter.
Philippa Wilson took the Director by the arm and began strolling around the room.
"Did you think I was going to cause a scene?" he asked a bit sarcastically. Only a bit, because she was a power worthwhile having on his side.
"Not at all, Martin. But I really would prefer getting through the evening without bloodshed."
"I doubt Krycek... "
"Martin, not Alex. I'm certain the young man has much better manners than to behave that way, here at least. No, I mean Walter. I'm not certain that he would restrain himself if he found you harassing one of his boys." She smiled at some old friends who knew better than to interrupt her when she had that look on her face.
The Director was peeved. "I don't understand why he lets that... thing hang around." Suddenly he stopped in his tracks. Philippa turned to smile at his stunned expression. "One? Of his boys? I know about Mulder, but are you implying... "
"Martin, dear, I'm not implying anything. I'm just saying that Walter can be very protective." She looked amazingly innocent at that moment, even though her voice hardened, just the slightest. "And so can I."
Alex found Mulder first. Mulder took one look at his expression and asked, "You okay?"
Alex grunted softly. "I just had a nice *short* conversation with your ex-boss."
"Shit!" Mulder grimaced. He had worried about the guest list.
"It's okay. Walter's boss rescued me."
"Philippa?" Mulder smiled. "She would."
"Ah, here you are, both of you. There's something I want you two to see. Come on." Walter looked curiously delighted.
The two shrugged at each other, played follow-the-leader until Walter stopped in front of a roped off area. The three men just stood there.
"Nice, eh?" Walter commented.
"Oh, my," said Mulder. "A Morgan."
Alex gave a soft whistle of appreciation.
Surrounded by the red velvet ropes was a canary yellow Morgan convertible sports car.
"It was" explained Walter, "decided only this morning to add this to the auction. One of only sixty made that year. It's out of Jameson's collection. Somehow, Philippa got him to part with it for the auction. She figures it might bring in as much as one hundred thousand dollars." Very casually, he tossed out, "I figure I could provide about thirty-five of that."
And he let that hang in the air.
Alex did some quick calculations about what he had in a nearby safety deposit box as well as in his legit bank account. "Hummm. I could do that too."
Mulder figured he could cover the whole amount without batting an eyelash: he had sold the movie rights for his last book for an obscene amount of money. But he realized the symbolism of this division: it would be the first purchase they had all contributed to, on an equal basis.
He smiled at Walter who just raised his eyebrows. "Count me in for my share."
Alex grinned at the two of them. Who found themselves grinning back.
"Philippa, thank you for the lovely evening." Walter kissed his boss's cheek. "And thanks for keeping an eye on Alex."
"Not much of a chore, Walter. Beautiful men are always a pleasure to watch." Then she smiled. "And he really is very sweet."
"Sweet? I think 'interesting' might be a better word. But sweet?" He laughed at the thought of Alex's reaction when he told him that he had been found "sweet".
He looked over to the corner of the foyer where his two lovers were already drawing up battle lines over who was getting the Morgan for the weekend. He sighed. Why hadn't he thought this through before suggesting they bid on the car? The squabbling was just beginning.