The Lodge V: Words

by Josan

"Thought I'd find you here."

Alex didn't respond. Just kept on looking over the lake into the distance.

It was a lovely view, what with the lake top shimmering from a light breeze, the mountains green and gold in their autumn foliage. Walter liked looking at it himself, whenever he could steal a moment from the chores of running the lodge.

Except that it was nearly midnight and one of those starless, moonless nights they occasionally got up here that made it hard to see five feet ahead of you. Even the owls that usually started hunting at this time of night were silent.

Alex was sitting on the trunk of a large tree some storm, years ago, had pulled down so that it lay almost perpendicular to the water line. The shore here was rocky, not attractive to swimmers. Not encouraged for swimming because it was around a bend from the lodge and therefore rather isolated. In fact, it helped to be a bit of a tracker to find the way to it from off one of the main paths.

Far enough away for privacy, close enough so that a shrill whistle from the dock at the lodge could easily be heard.

Perfect for Alex who sometimes needed to get away from the hustle, the demands, the noise of the lodge.

Walter shook his head slightly, sighed. He rested his shoulder against one of the jack pines, crossed his arms. And waited.

"I'll apologize," Alex finally said to the darkness.

Walter's grunt was non-committal.

"Terry should be able to pick me up in the morning on his way back from Moosenee."

Walter straightened. "Why should Terry be able to pick you up?"

"Because..." Alex rubbed his hand over his face. He tried again. "Because it would be better if I left."

"If you...Jesus! Alex! What the hell's made you come to that asinine conclusion?" Walter came up to the log, dropped his hand on Alex's shoulder.

Alex shook it off.

Walter was stunned. "Look. You've lost me here. Why do you think you have to go? MacLeod was the one who was drunk. You're the one who was going to help him to his room. He's the one who took a swing at you. In front, may I remind you, of a room filled with people."

Alex turned his head as if to look over his shoulder. "Who also said, in a room filled with people, that he didn't want to be touched by a, and I quote, 'fucking cock-sucking fag'. Or have you forgotten that?"

Walter's sigh sounded exasperated. "So since when have you become so sensitive that some drunken idiot's slur gives rise to *this* reaction?"

"He said it," said Alex, in the tones of someone explaining something to someone not overly bright, "to a room filled with people."

"So?" Walter passed a hand over his scalp. "If you ask me, he's the one who owes you an apology."

"For what? Telling the truth?"

"Alex, maybe I'm being really thick here. Probably because it's the end of the season and I'm tired. MacLeod got drunk. He was beginning to be obnoxious with it. You went over to him, suggested he might like to go to bed, offered to help him. *He* then became even more obnoxious, knocked over his chair getting up and..."

"And said, *in front of everyone*, that he wasn't so desperate that he wanted to go to bed with me. That he didn't care what me and my partner got up to in our cabin, but that he didn't want to be touched by a fucking cock-sucking fag."

Walter opened his mouth to say something, closed it. Instead he swung a leg over the log, sat behind Alex, close enough to feel the heat of his body, careful not to touch him.

Sometimes, he thought, he forgot that Alex had a literal side.

"Alex." He kept his voice low, calm. "Do you seriously think that no one knows that we're lovers?"

The back in front of him stiffened.

Bingo, thought Walter.

"Alex, would you be surprised to know that everyone on staff figured it out probably the very first day that they got here?" He placed his hand on the hard shoulder in front of him. "Do you think that Isabelle, who knows what's in our mail before we do, doesn't know that about us?" He began a gentle massage of the stiff muscles. "Or that the people who come here more than once haven't any idea? Or that they care?" He set his other hand to working on the other shoulder.

Usually, when he did this, Alex would sigh, bend into the massage. Tonight, the back remained stiff, the head straight. Walter felt the thread of worry twist into something thicker inside him.

"There's a difference," Alex's voice was stripped of any emotion, "between figuring it out and hearing it said out loud."

Walter stilled his hands. "True."

"The reason," the quiet voice continued, "we moved into the cabin was to give people the illusion, at least, that we were...straight."

"Now, yes. Originally, it was to give us some privacy. To put some space between us and the guests. So I could rant and rave when I had to." Walter slipped his thumbs under Alex's hair and stroked his nape, from the top bone of the spine to the hairline. It didn't work its usual magic.

"So that the men coming here didn't have to acknowledge that the macho ex-Assistant Director of the FBI owner of a hunting and fishing lodge was fucking his killer."

Walter made a grimace into the night. Damn! He should have seen this coming. Every so often Alex got very Russian on him and depressed. When he was sure that his past was suddenly going to pop up and put an end to this new life he had made for himself.

It usually took place in the depth of winter, during those days with little sunshine, and long dark nights. Alex would grow very quiet, barely speak. The first time it had happened, Walter had worried that Alex had had enough of being confined by weather and circumstance in the middle of nowhere. His love-making always had an edge to it in those days.

The solution was for Walter to take him in his arms and hold him, all the while discussing the plans for the upcoming season, quietly emphasizing Alex's role in the scheme of things. That always seemed to reassure Alex. They'd lazed many a day on the couch in the kitchen doing that while some storm raged outside.

But now it was not the dead of winter and Alex's depression was a few months early.

Walter thought it really wasn't all that surprising, all things considered. It had not been a particularly good season. The weather refused to co-operate: it had rained far more than usual. Some guests took personal offense at that, almost expecting them to do something about the weather. The fishing hadn't been great. One or two of the guides hadn't turned up when they were expected to, which meant that Walter had to leave his chores at the lodge for guiding. Alex who preferred staying in the background had found himself front man far too often.

Then there was the fact that Mulder was coming up after the season was over to work on another book. Walter had made it very clear to Alex that if he was in any way uncomfortable with the idea, that they would tell Mulder to make other plans. Alex had assured him he wasn't. Maybe he wasn't as sure as he made out to be.

So tonight hadn't helped.

MacLeod was up here with one of the business groups that more often these days booked the entire lodge while they worked out some merger or deal in complete privacy. They'd been celebrating when things had gotten out of hand. MacLeod had been growing more and more obnoxious, louder, the more he drank. One of those good old boys who was a shrewd negotiator in business, but a lousy drunk.

There had been several raised eyebrows at the comments he was making, but before he had become intolerably offensive, Alex had stepped in, offering to help him to his room. The not-so-quiet sighs of relief had turned into stunned surprise when MacLeod had pulled away, cursing Alex and taking a swing at him. Alex had reverted to his training, subdued the man and had literally dragged him off to his room.

Then he'd disappeared.

"The illusion," Alex suddenly continued, "is important. People don't like having their noses rubbed into something they don't like, that they don't approve of. That they find morally offensive."

Walter's hands included the back of Alex's head in their massage. "Okay, that's true. But I find it hard to jump from MacLeod's behaviour to your leaving. Unless, of course, this is what *you* want."

Finally, a reaction. Alex turned his body enough so that Walter could see his face. Even the dark couldn't hide the pain he found there. "Alex," he was astonished at how quickly Alex's pain filled him.

"Look." It was obvious that Alex was fighting hard to keep his feelings out of his voice. "If I'm not here, people will just assume that MacLeod was mouthing off. You won't lose any business."

"*I* won't lose any business? Alex, you're an equal partner in this business. Or have you forgotten?"

Alex shook his head. "No. But this is your business, was your idea. I'm just the guy who showed up and didn't leave. I've always known that this wasn't permanent. That one day something of what I am would show up and I would leave. And it has."

"Alex..." Walter couldn't believe he was hearing what he was hearing.

"No. Listen. In the past, I've been responsible for a lot of your pain. I know you didn't have an easy time of it with the Upper Floor when I turned out to be a plant. I know how you feel about Scully and Mulder. About what was done to them. About Melissa Scully's death. About my killing Mulder's father."

"He was," snapped Walter, "a piece of shit and he deserved to die."

Alex ignored him. "About my killing you. No," he raised his hand to stop Walter from interrupting, "I know that you've said all that is in the past and that's where it belongs. But I swore to myself that if my being here in any way endangered the life you had made for yourself, that I would leave.

"Maybe I should have left before now, but MacLeod's comment tonight made it clear to me that I can't stay. Walter, I'm responsible for a lot of shit, but I won't be responsible for your losing the place you've made for yourself up here."

Walter's immediate reaction was to shake the daylights out of Alex. He stopped that before it went further than placing his hands back on Alex's shoulders. He took a deep breath, calmed himself. "Turn around, will you, Alex. I want to see your face and in that position, you're going to end up with a cramp in your neck."

After a moment or two, Alex reluctantly swung his legs around so that he now sat facing Walter. "It doesn't matter what you say, my mind is made up."

Walter nodded. He wasn't going to argue the point. He knew from experience that Alex with his mind made up was unmoveable. That didn't mean he intended to accept this decision he had had no part in.

They were sitting close enough that Walter could see the cost of this decision in Alex's eyes. And the fact that Alex was looking at him as though memorizing every wrinkle, every facet of his face.

He raised his hands to Alex's face, framing it, holding it so that Alex wouldn't pull back. He knew he had a battle on his hands and he had every intention of winning. His thumbs stroked the high cheekbones in a soothing motion.

"You know, Alex, in all the time we've been together, we've never said the words to each other."

From the slight frown, he knew the jump had left Alex behind.

"Probably because we're men, we feel we don't have to say them. Let's face it, they're not the kind of words that easily come out of the mouths of macho ex-Assistant Directors of the FBI. Nor, for that matter, out of the mouths of ex-Consortium assassins." Walter caught Alex's reaction to that last bit: his mouth had tightened.

"I suppose we think the other knows how we feel, so what's the point of saying them. So we don't. But I think that it's time."

Walter cocked his head, smiled at the man in front of him who still hadn't clued in. Who knew, thought Walter, that someone so intelligent could be so thick?

"Point of fact, Alex. I love you."

Alex grew so still Walter thought he'd even stopped breathing.

"Now if you want to leave me because you don't return my feelings, because you don't love me, well, that's one thing. But that's the only ground I'll accept for your leaving. And you'll have to convince me of that before I let you go.

"So, Alex, convince me. Convince me that you have no feelings for me."

Alex's eyes had closed during his speech. Now his teeth caught his lower lip, as if to hold back words. Walter waited while his lover fought a battle with himself.

"Alex, would it help you to know that there are other couples like us in the area?"

Alex took a shuddering breath, opened his eyes. Voice thick, he said, "I thought we were the only ex-FBI, ex-Consortium people up here."

Walter caught the smile. He hadn't won yet. Alex was as good as he was for moving on tangents while not relinquishing the main idea. "We have that honour. But there's Johnny Two Rivers and the guy who teaches history at the high school. The two women who run the wool store. Those two idiot guides who 'forget' to show up every now and then. What? You didn't know about them? Alex."

Alex shrugged. "They look like grizzly bears. Smell like them too. It's hard to image..."

Walter shook his head, ruefully.

Alex stopped talking, looked into Walter's eyes as if trying to find a truth. "It doesn't change what I am," he said softly. "It doesn't put a stop to the damage I can bring onto you."

Walter nodded. "I've given you an easy way out, Alex. All you have to do is tell me you have no feelings for me. Do that, and I'll get up. I'll go back to the cabin and even pack your things for you. That easy, Alex."

For a moment he thought he might have lost. Alex seemed to gather his resolve in hand, brace himself as for some execution squad. He even got as far as opening his mouth. Then Walter slipped one of his thumbs to it, stroked the full lower lip. Alex deflated. "No, I can't do that," he whispered.

Walter rested his forehead against Alex's bent head. "I'm glad. I'd be even gladder if I weren't the only one tonight to put my macho-ness on the line and say the words."

Alex leaned over into Walter's embrace, slid his own arms around the other's body, holding for dear life. The decision to leave had not been easy. It had torn him apart. He thought he had been making the right one, the only one he could to protect this man. It should hurt that his sacrifice had not been accepted: he wondered just how much it would have hurt if it had been.

He took his courage in hand and whispered the words he had never said to anyone, ever. "I love you, Walter. More than life."

Walter's mouth grazed Alex's cheek. He pulled back and smiled at the man in his arms.

There was no doubting Alex's feelings. He did nothing whatsoever to hide them.

Walter nodded.

"And if you ever do decide to take off, better be sure that I'm really convinced that you've stopped loving me, Alex, or I'll go after you. And I'll find you.

"And if you think our being outed as a couple is going to make people talk, just think of the fun they'll have when I bring you back, tied down, spread-eagle, to the hood of the jeep, like the prize catch you are."

Alex snorted, went back into Walter's arms, face tucked against his neck.

"I love you," he said.