Title: Little Foxes, Five Year Itch
Author: Laurel

Notes: Formatting for the sequel is a bit different from the original. Changing POV is within the stories instead of assigning a chapter to each character.
I don't know much about kids since I don't have any of my own, so this is gleaned from a mix of real life children and television brats as well as my own imagination. Mostly imagination.

Spoilers: It would sure help to read the first story, Little Foxes. Otherwise you'll be lost. This begins five years later.

Disclaimer: I don't own Alex Krycek or Fox Mulder or any other characters from the X-files. I don't even own a Matchbox car.

They were plunged into a world consisting of Golden books, Barney the purple dinosaur, Sesame street and Teletubbies. They debated on Huggies versus Pampers; which kind of music to play for precocious ears; gender specific toys or basically letting them play with everything from Tonka trucks to Matchbox cars to dirt; pink or yellow rooms.

Fox and Alex were raising two girls now. Star Ariel was five years old with long wheat colored hair streaked with gold, hazel eyes and a nose like her father Fox. She was half tomboy, half ballerina, depending on her mood.

She liked to make her own beaded bracelets and knew how to use a charge card. Her parents found out about that particular talent when she ordered off the internet and several weeks later, packages containing stuffed teddy bears in every size and color began to arrive at their door.

She was also obsessed with all things medical. The surgery channel was her favorite and held her interest above even Cookie monster or her favorite character, Oscar the Grouch. She cajoled Alex into letting her stay up late to watch surgeries that turned his stomach. Fox's pout had been inherited by their first daughter and Alex had a difficult time not giving in to it.

He relented, sighing at his gullible nature when it came to his children. He was Play-do in their hands.

"Daddy, can I dissect a frog?"

"Excuse me?"

"There's a frog in the garden. I saw it again today. Don't kids get to dissect frogs in school?"

"That's not until high school."

"I know I could do it. I've watched hundreds of surgeries. Aunt Dana could help me."

"I don't want you killing animals. Not even a frog."

"Can we buy dead animals?"

Alex sighed. "I'll make you a compromise. If you find a dead animal then we'll see about cutting it up."


"As long as it's not a skunk. Okay?"


Alex shuddered at the thought of road-kill in their house.

Katrina wailed from upstairs. Alex climbed the stairs two at a time. Fox was trying to comfort the sobbing little girl.

It took some time to understand but they finally coaxed the story out of her between sobs and the mumblings of her older sister. It seems that Star had decided Kat's doll was dirty and needed a bath. Star had dunked her doll in the toilet bowl and left her there to soak.

Kat looked up imploringly at her fathers asking for revenge on her older sister. Katrina Victoria was also a wonderful mix of both her fathers, with a long oval face, long dark hair with choppy bangs and green eyes like Alex's.

Now it was Alex's turn to gently interrogate. He questioned Star wondering why she had really dumped her sister's beloved Barbie doll. The real reason revealed itself after careful and relentless inquiry. It seems that Kat, as they called her, had cut off the ribbon adorning the neck of one of Star's favorite teddy bears. Actually they were all her favorites.

Both girls clearly needed punishment.

Each was sent to her own room. Star had to forgo watching a rerun of a rather exotic brain surgery. Kat had to make restitution by helping Alex select a new ribbon from a Tupperware container of odd buttons and string and ribbon to tie on the bear's neck. She also had to carefully clean him off with the lint brush and apologize to both her sister and the bear.

Alex washed the doll's clothes and soon a naked doll was once again clean with the knots unraveled from her hair and her purple and pink outfit neatly pressed and covering her dry anatomically incorrect figure.

Both girls were happily playing together an hour later, the Barbie doll restored to her former glamorous splendor and the chocolate brown bear looking clean, spiffy and wearing a new pink ribbon.

Fox argued with Alex over dinner. Alex thought Fox ordered out too often.

"I know you're working on your third book but the girls need a nutritious dinner and I am tired. I'm raising your kids and with another one on the way too."

"Now they're my kids?"

"Yes. You're the one who got me pregnant. We were going to wait a few years for the third one, but no, you just had to use a condom with holes in it."

"So this is my fault?"


"Did you ever consider that maybe you're incredibly fertile?"

"Hah. If the shoe were on the other foot you wouldn't let me near your ass!" Alex stomped out of the kitchen. "Make them something good. And no hot dogs!"

Fox was taken aback by Alex's behavior. Sure it was difficult raising a family and with Alex pregnant again, his hormones were out of whack but it didn't usually make his lover so cranky. Maybe he'd just forgotten about the mood swings. It certainly wasn't his fault the condom had failed. Those things weren't one hundred percent fail proof. Besides, he sometimes bottomed too. It was just a simple accident. It wasn't Fox's fault that aliens had tampered with his lover's body, enabling him to bear children.

Maybe the new baby was proving too much for his partner but he knew Alex would change his mind when he first felt that incredible kicking. It never ceased to amaze Alex that a tiny little baby was growing inside him and he'd rub his own stomach delightedly.

Fox opened the fridge. He wasn't exactly Julia Child. Or Emeril. He wasn't even Mel from Mel's diner. He could barely boil water without finding a way to burn it.

"Salad it is," he muttered to himself.

Alex nodded with satisfaction at Fox's dinner choice. Bite size pieces of grilled chicken were tossed into a salad of lettuce, red peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes, accompanied by crusty French bread oozing with melted Italian cheeses. The girls drank all their milk and were rewarded with ice cream for dessert.

After dinner Fox helped them with math using flash cards to quiz them. It wasn't too early to start. After all, Star was going to kindergarten this year. He wanted his daughters to have a head start. He had even looked at private schools that taught children all the way through high school. Alex had simply rolled his eyes. Next his lover was going to pick up college applications for them.

Alex read to the two girls lying on Star's bed. The Velveteen Rabbit was one of their favorites. He nearly knew it by heart. He picked up Kat after she had fallen asleep next to Star and brought her to her own room. She curled up in a fetal position as soon as he set her down. Her thumb found its way to her rosebud mouth. Alex pulled her hand away from her lips and kissed her forehead.

The mobile above her bed moved gently with the breeze from the open window. He always liked them to get as much fresh air as possible but shut it now that everyone was going to bed.

The little animals came to a halt above her--the gray elephant, orange tiger, blue parrot, giraffe, zebra, all the zoo animals settled for the night along with the Mulder-Krycek household.

Alex was helping Kat with her alphabet when a scream of utter terror made him flinch.

He told Kat to sit on the couch with her book and went upstairs to investigate the scream. God only knew what Star had done.

He heard Fox wail and his bewildered, angry voice.

Now Alex knew something was terribly wrong. The fire alarm screeched above his head in the hallway. The smell of smoke assaulted his nose. He slammed into Star's bedroom and was greeted with the sight of Star hysterically screaming and Fox standing utterly still in front of the wall of flame that was eating through the curtains.

Alex shoved Fox back and grabbed a struggling, screaming Star. He shoved both of them out the door and shook Fox out of his fear. Fox looked at him with wide hazel eyes on the edge of panic.

"Take Star downstairs and go outside. Kat's on the couch. Take her with you. I'll take care of this."

Fox nodded numbly.

Alex grabbed his cell phone in the bedroom and punched nine one one. While he raced downstairs to grab the fire extinguisher they kept in the kitchen, he gave the operator details on the emergency.

It took him a minute to pull the pin and begin spraying the foam at the curtains. His hands were shaking with fear but he pushed it down deep and the logical part of his mind took over. In moments the foam covered the flames and they died down in a sea of what looked like shaving cream.

The curtains hung in shreds and the paint curled off the window sill in black chips. The rest of the window frame was browned where once it had been white. He set the extinguisher down with a sigh of relief and wiped off his sweaty hand on his jeans.

Alex went outside to find his family and wait for the firemen. He was already thinking about the damage. They would have to repaint the window frame and buy new curtains. He wondered if the store where he had bought the curtains with the dancing teddy bears would still have that pattern in stock.

The neighbors came out of their houses, standing uncertainly on their porches, as the scream of the fire engine came closer to their street. Now in earnest concern, they poured out onto the sidewalk. Alex assured everyone it was a minor fire and all eyes dropped down to little Star. Fox picked her up as she began to sniffle again and held her close. She rubbed her face against his shirtfront as he soothed her nerves. Alex held Kat, bewildered and frightened yet excited as the fire fighters arrived.

It didn't take long for them to check out the damage and make sure the fire was properly put out.

All the neighborhood children chased the fire engine as it roared away and the firemen waved to them.

Alex marched them all back into the house. All the windows had been opened to allow the smell of the smoke to escape. He went upstairs to survey the damage again. Silently, he cleaned up what he could. He had passed the point of anger and fear. What he felt now was cold rage. Star was a precocious yet sweet girl but this time she had gone too far. She could have killed them all.

He left Fox to cuddle the girls on the downstairs couch, reassuring them and making sure they weren't too traumatized by the incident. When he came back downstairs he motioned the girls and Fox to the family room.

Alex took a deep breath. "What in the name of God possessed you to set the curtains on fire?"

Star was silent. Even at her age she knew it was a rhetorical question and her daddy Alex, was very angry. He would vent for some time before he calmed down.

"Haven't I told you not to play with matches time and again? They are not toys. They're dangerous and only adults should touch them. We went through this Star!

What on earth were you thinking? Were you thinking?"

"Alex," Fox warned. "Please."

Alex's tone was harsh. Harsh enough to make Star's eyes sparkle with tears. She sniffed and cupped a hand over her face. Kat sat still, her eyes wide, her hands clutched together, barely blinking. She'd never seen her daddy Alex this mad before. Not even the time that she and her sister let out all the ants from their ant farm inside the house.

He looked down at the girls and felt instantly and horribly guilty. But he had to remain stoic.

"What were you doing?" He changed his tone from one of barely restrained anger and hysteria to a cold voice devoid of emotions.

"I was playing rock star," Star whispered.

"Rock star?"

"Yeah, like on MTV." Her voice became stronger. She would have her chance to explain and everything would be all right. "When they sing at concerts, the people in the audience hold up lighters. That's what I was doing," she finished brightly.

Star swung her legs back and forth but stopped right away at her father's glare. Her feet kicked at the bottom of the couch and stayed there, rigidly held still. Her legs ached as she clutched at the mossy green fabric with her feet. She bowed her head and became quite interested in the pattern on her Capri pants. The little sunflowers were stitched in bright yellow. She did her best to unravel the thread with her little finger.

Alex cleared his throat and she stopped picking at the thread, contenting herself instead by circling the little flowers gently with her finger, whispering over the cotton.

"MTV. I see," he said slowly. "And a lighter is different than matches, how?"

"I thought--"

"Obviously you didn't."

Star was silent.

She gathered her courage again. "I was just playing. I was singing into my hair brush and I had the lighter--"

"Where did you get the lighter?" he asked, his voice deceptively calm.

"From, um, the drawer, where you keep the matches and stuff."

"Weren't you told not to open that junk drawer?"


"Why did you take that lighter out then?"

"I was going to play with it just for a little while. I was going to put it back. Promise."

"Instead you set the curtains on fire."

"It was an accident."

"That's how accidents happen. People get careless."

"I'm sorry daddy!" she wailed.

"We are going to review every single safety rule we have in this house. Every single one," he emphasized each word, "starting with fire safety, fire escape routes, using the telephone, talking to strangers, staying away from guns, staying away from cleaning supplies and everything in between. For now go to your room. You will lose your television privileges for three weeks. In that period of time you will also have no play dates. You will not go out of the house for any reason other than appointments we made with the pediatrician and the hair dresser. You will not use the telephone or the computer.

In addition you will write out fifty lines every day stating that you will not play with matches or lighters. Is that understood?"

"Yes daddy," she replied meekly.

Her face was glum, fallen like a deflated cake. She clutched her hands together and pressed her face into them, sniffling and sobbing. Alex knelt down and held her close.

"I know you're upset baby but you have to understand that what you did was wrong and very dangerous."

Star nodded and cuddled into her father's strong arms.

He picked her up and brought her upstairs. He held her while she cried, rocking her gently on his lap. Kat and Fox had followed them. Kat snuggled up to her sister when Alex put her down, exhausted and cried out. They curled up together and Kat stroked her sister's hair until she fell asleep. She was sleepy eyed herself from all the excitement and emotional upheaval. They left the bedroom when the girls were both asleep.

Fox and Alex retreated to their own bedroom.

"Don't you think you were a little harsh?"

Alex spun around. "Are you nuts? She could have burned the whole damn house down! She could have died. We all could have died. Don't you understand how serious this was?"

"Of course I do."

"Then why do I always have to be the bad guy? Can't you discipline them so they don't do these crazy things? Christ, you're a child sometimes and I already have two!"

"I don't spoil them Alex and yes I do sometimes punish them. You know that."

"Start acting like my full partner then and help me!"

Alex entered the bathroom and slammed the door in Fox's face. He stood there stunned but knew when to leave Alex alone. His temper was quite even and stable most of the time but when he lost it watch out!

Fox left the bedroom and headed downstairs, determined to help out. First thing was finding paint to repaint the windowsill. He looked through the little rolodex that Alex had set up. It was filled with important numbers as well as personal details about the house, including the paint chips detailing the color and make of paint for each room in the house. They were meticulously stapled and noted down. Ah, there it was, the color for the trim was a pale ivory. The actual color name was antique ivory. Fox shrugged. They all looked white to him.

Alex opened the door slowly, nodding with satisfaction at the absence of his lover. He began to slam things around and stamped his foot, muttering as he did so, mostly in Russian and Czech, which signaled the state of his bad mood.

He whipped out a pad of paper and wrote a quick note, sticking it to the bedroom mirror. He hauled out his overnight bag and began to stuff it with clothes. He wiped the bathroom counter clear of his toiletries and stuck his toothbrush into a roomy cosmetics bag.

A short time later, Fox heard Alex's car spin on the gravel drive, and back out. He sighed at the hurt and angry expression on his lover's face. It was a little while before he went upstairs to check on the girls. They were still asleep. He retreated to his bedroom and flopped down on the bed, tired but unable to rest. It was then that he saw the sticky note pasted to the mirror.

He looked at it puzzled then finally got up to read it. "You deal with it. Good luck, Alex," it read.

He stood there shocked. Had Alex really left for good? Panicked, he checked the closet and Alex's dresser. Clothes were missing. His toothbrush wasn't in the holder in the bathroom and a lot of his toiletries were gone too.

His chest gave a painful thump and he had to lie down. He curled around Alex's pillow, still lightly scented with his own unique scent and cried.

"Hey, pretty baby," Walter greeted Star.

"Uncle Walter", she shrieked and wrapped her arms around his legs.

He hoisted her up and she giggled and shrieked some more.

"Did you know that Stella means Star in Italian?"

"I didn't know that."

"It does. Do you want to hear me doing an impression of Marlon Brando?"

Walter exchanged a curious glance with Mulder. "Sure."

"Stella!" she screamed at the top of her lungs.

Walter winced.

"Sweetie, don't yell in Uncle Walter's ear."


"That's okay. What is she doing watching movies like that at her age?"

"She saw that scene in a documentary Alex was watching about old movies."

"Where's Alex?"

Mulder looked down and shuffled his feet a little.

"Um, Star can you go play upstairs with your sister?"

"Okay, daddy."

Walter set her down and she trudged up the stairs.

"What's up?"

The doorbell rang and the lone gunmen all shoved through the door.

"Hey guys, what are you all doing here?"

"We were bored," Langley explained.

"You were telling me about Alex," Walter prompted.

"Yeah. Later, okay?"

"So what's new in the world of parenting?" Frohike asked.

"Where to start? Let's see, a few days ago Star drowned a Barbie doll and yesterday she set the curtains on fire."

"Are you serious Mulder?" Byers asked.

"Unfortunately I am."

"Maybe she's a bad seed."

"She is not. She's a normal little girl."

"She tortures her sister, drowns dolls, and almost sets the house on fire. Mulder she's a demon child," Frohike concluded.

"I have witnessed demonic activity first hand! She's just curious. That's all. A little rambunctious maybe."

"Maybe Frohike's right," Walter agreed.

"You just wait until William turns terrible two."

Mulder pointed a long finger at his long time friend and new father. William Rory as he'd been christened, Billy as he'd been nicknamed and Big Bill as he was now called due to his chubby flushed cheeks and rotund body was the result of invasive procedures and in vitro fertilization. He was just over a year old, a quick crawler with fuzzy red hair and eyes that stared through you like his poppa's.

"Mulder, she is rather precocious."

Mulder pouted. "Well maybe she is but she's not evil."

"No one said she was. She's just a handful."

"Yeah a handful that's out of hand. What did Alex have to say about her hijinx?" Langley asked.

"She was punished for the fire. Alex keeps her in line most of the time."

"So where is he?"

Mulder's shoulders slumped. "He left."

Dead silence filled the room and there was a great intake of breath as Mulder's friends wanted to console him but couldn't think of what to say.

"I need him back. I can't live without him. Those kids need him."

"What do you want us to do? Start a paper trail?" Frohike asked.

"No, he has to come back of his own volition."

Star came bounding into the room. "Look, I put make-up on Kat. See how pretty she is?"

Kat came down the stairs in her ballerina outfit, carrying a little red plastic purse. She had on baby blue eye shadow and two pink spots of blush on her cheeks.

Mulder grinned at the ridiculous sight but when he took his daughter upstairs to wash it off, he discovered to his horror that Star had used permanent markers.

"Demon," he muttered.

Alex had no concept of time. Las Vegas does that a person. He'd landed at McCarran airport just a few days ago. Once he'd stepped out the door, he'd been assailed by the blinding sunlight and the dry desert air. Even the palm trees were wilting in the incredible heat. From there he'd been plunged into the never-ending circus that is Vegas.

The casinos are dim, there are no clocks, everything's open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The neon lights made his eyes numb, the clink of coins in the slot machines followed him into his dreams. The bright sun or dark sky outside gave the only clue as to whether it was day or night.

Fox spent another sleepless night without Alex. Kat and Star slept like the babies they were but in the middle of the night one or the other would wake up, crying for their daddies.

Fox felt Alex's absence like a hole where his heart resided. He blinked back tears and alternately cursed his lover and prayed for his return.

It was hard to lie to the kids but he'd had to do it. He didn't want them to know Alex had left them. He made up some flimsy excuse about daddy Alex needing a few days vacation and somehow they bought it, much to Fox's relief.

Now, if only that were true.

Alex had been excited about being away from the family for a few days. He did all the regular tourist things, taking the little trolley up and down the strip, stopping in every single casino from the pyramid structure of the Luxor to spectacular Caesar's. He ventured into the romantic Paris, taking the trip up the elevator inside the replica Eiffel tower and poked around the shops of the Aladdin. He ventured downtown to watch the light display there and stared at the golden nugget in the hotel of the same name.

But all that wore thin after a few days. He couldn't keep up the level of excitement at the gaudy displays of excess. Beneath the glitter, the showgirls, the perky escorts on glossy advertisements scurrying against the curb with the wind, was a sense of dismal misery. The desperate women at the slot machines with too much makeup crusting their faces was depressing, the hordes of elegant Japanese tourists taking pictures of everything and everyone wasn't amusing for long, the Vietnam vets asking for a handout and sleeping on the sidewalks on their portable cardboard beds made him sad.

He tried to console himself with every fun thing he could find to do by himself: riding the roller coaster at the Stratosphere, buying Fox and the kids, even the baby, matching tee shirts with their names in gold spangles, sliding down the water slide and splashing into the warm pool of water with all the other kids and catching the latest adult attraction: a drag show with performers named Miss Understood and Polly Ester.

Fox made an effort to make dinner. Alex's nagging voice was in his ear. No hotdogs, something nutritious, no fatty, fried, empty calorie junk. Okay, that didn't leave much that he could cook. Scrambled eggs with salsa and cheddar cheese was good. How about roast beef sandwiches from the deli? Or grilled cheese sandwiches or salad? Oh fuck it, Alex just come home already!

Okay, no need to flip out. He just needs a few days by himself. That doesn't mean he's left for good. He needs space. We need space. Oh Christ, I sound like a marriage counselor now. A really crappy one at that.

Right, eggs are good, okay we got two teaspoons of salsa, so let's add that to the grocery list. See Alex, I'm writing stuff down on the little magnetized writing pad stuck on the fridge. Low fat cheese and a nice salad. Not bad at all. I can do this. It's not that hard. See?

Tomorrow I'll do the shopping and the children will not throw tantrums and, or, run away from the wobbling shopping cart. Just a nice morning of shopping and running errands. I can do this.

Okay dinner went well. The kids are watching their video. They didn't get me too wet at bath time. They even cleaned up their toys from the floor. Great, time to do laundry. Okay now how much detergent am I supposed to put in? It's just like cooking really, pinch of this, a dash of softener, one of those sheets. Wait those go in the dryer right? See I can do this.

Alex could swear his retinas were slowly being burned out of his head. Couldn't they turn out these blasted lights for a little while?

What to do now? Go see Boylesque or the Showgirls at Tropicana? Ooh, Elvis! Fox loves Elvis. Worships him.

Oh look a wedding chapel. Another one. Well how about that, I just passed another one. A drive-in one. A themed wedding. Elvis presiding at a wedding.

There were Elvis impersonators representing both young and thin, and old and fat incarnations: Elvis with wide sideburns and a white suit; Elvis in a cowboy suit; Elvis with big sunglasses; Elvis at the bar in another casino, knocking back bourbon.

Ugh, if I see Elvis one more time, I'll shoot him.

Honestly, what did Fox see in the guy? Okay, he was handsome and those sideburns were kind of sexy and the voice, well, the voice was deep and sincere and all that but still, couldn't he pick someone more contemporary and I don't know, hip?

Alex drained his club soda and left a tip on the counter. He perused the casino a little more. Not that there was much to look at. It was well past the strip, a little dinky, smoky bar, a few stores, including a cheap souvenir place, a magazine and novelty store, a drugstore where you could buy aspirin, porno magazines and tiny bottles of liquor, a small restaurant that more closely resembled a greasy spoon and the casino itself.

There was however, a magic show advertised for that night. They usually had a band playing at the small theatre but occasionally bigger acts performed.

Alex decided to get a quick bite to eat and settled for a hot roast beef sandwich, fries and a Coke for dinner.

He had his own little table for the show. It was only half filled with people and just as smoky as the casino was. He ordered another club soda with a twist of lemon.

The stage darkened and a smattering of applause greeted the master of ceremonies, a tall, nearly skeletal man with a handlebar moustache, hair pasted down with thick wax parting the two halves into a center part and a cigarette poking out of the corner of his mouth.

"Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the amazing Maleeni. He will awe you with his magical powers and slight of hand. You are all lucky enough to see the always in demand, amazing Maleeni appearing here tonight for one night only. Let's give him a big hand."

The applause increased only marginally, as a tall, chunky man stuffed into a shiny tuxedo came out from behind the velvet curtain, spouting an endless scarf from the inside of his jacket pocket.

That little trick garnered him polite applause. The assistant, a buxom, bottle blonde, with a tuxedo style merry widow outfit got the most applause. It was obvious by the narrow bands of the material framing her naked thighs that she'd had to get a Brazilian bikini wax.

She tossed her hair and licked her glossed lips as the amazing Maleeni introduced her as the magnificent Melinda.

The men cheered hardest and the women all sulked. Alex sat back to enjoy the show both onstage and off.

Maleeni wasted no time in showing off cheap tricks like the scarf being pulled out of his pocket, pulling coins out of the audience members' ears and the magical rings illusion.

Melinda squealed quite well as he sawed her in half and separated her body parts to the delight of the crowd.

Maleeni squinted as he scoured the crowd for volunteers as the crowd grew restless with the typical parlor tricks a child could perform.

Let's face it, Copperfield could make airplanes disappear and David Blaine might let himself become frozen and then thaw out but that wasn't enough for the average audience anymore. They wanted more: more dangerous, more exciting, more grotesque, as evidenced by all the reality shows.

Maleeni pointed a finger at Alex. "You sir, look like the perfect victim, er, I mean, volunteer."

Alex pointed at himself, looked behind his shoulder, inquired with raised eyebrows as Maleeni kept pointing at him and finally shrugged as if to say why not.

"Have you ever been hypnotized?"


"Ah, very well, a virgin," he declared deliciously.

Alex smirked, so did Melinda.

She dangled her breasts close to Alex's face as she bent over to adjust her shoe.

Alex ignored her and looked at Maleeni sympathetically.

He really didn't think he was a good candidate for hypnosis and this Maleeni guy looked like he needed to put a plant in the audience to summon as a "volunteer".

Alex let himself be lulled by the "magic" coin Maleeni swung back and forth before his eyes. His voice became deeper, "you are getting very sleepy. You cannot keep your eyes open. Yes, that's right, Alex, you need to sleep."

Alex was almost fooled. Almost. Actually the psychedelic design on the coin was making him nauseous, which in turn made him close his eyes. Maleeni continued crooning, showing off to the crowd how Alex was falling under his spell.

Melinda waved her arms over Alex like he was a washer-dryer and she was a hostess on a game show where she showed off her plastic boobs and didn't say a word, just kept smiling at the appliances.

The crowd grew quiet, leaning toward the stage, anticipating what would happen next.

To prove that Alex was indeed hypnotized, Maleeni asked Alex to raise his hand. Maleeni placed his own over Alex's, making sure Alex understood he was to make his arm as rigid as a board and to resist Maleeni's own pressure on his flesh.

Alex did it consciously. Maleeni smiled in delight.

It had worked! He really could hypnotize someone!

He smirked at Melinda as if to say, see, I do have powers. Melinda rolled her eyes. She knew Alex was faking.

Alex was told to put his arm down in his lap. He complied. Next Maleeni told him to raise his foot off the floor. Alex obeyed.

He stamped his boot down when Maleeni asked. He was a puppet controlled by the aging magician. Alex was used to the role. Only Alex used to make people and problems disappear, lest Alex himself become a victim of the aging puppeteer.

Alex made a good-natured, co-operative volunteer. He squawked like a chicken to the giggles of the audience, sang like a torch singer to the swoons of the women in the audience, Alex's smoky voice lighting an erotic fire in them, and finally he pretended he was a soldier in the army, marching in perfect solitary formation up and down the tiny stage.

Maleeni put him back into the chair with another command and dramatically told Alex he would wake up with no memory of what had happened and no after effects. He did put a suggestion into his head that every time he heard the word ketchup, he should break into song. It didn't matter what song, but it should preferably be a show tune. Maleeni was partial to them and Alex's rendition of Peggy Lee's "is that all there is" brought a tear to the man's eye.

Alex snapped awake and looked in wonder and confusion at the audience proclaiming total memory loss of the last half hour.

The audience responded wildly and shouted out "ketchup".

Alex grabbed Maleeni's microphone and began to belt out a little something from "Cabaret."

The audience applauded and the curtain descended on them. Maleeni always knew when it was time to leave the stage: when the audience wanted more.

Mulder was forlorn, sighing dramatically as he folded the laundry. He missed Alex, he hated folding laundry, much less doing it and he couldn't concentrate on his writing.

He sighed again as the girls were arguing in the living room over what to watch on television. Mulder quickly put a stop to that by sending both of them to their rooms to play quietly. They sulked to great effect but this didn't seem to work at all on their dad.

Each stomp of a little foot told Mulder how pissed they were but he didn't have the patience to deal with them. He was up to his ears in housework, there was a deadline looming, he was horny as a cat in heat and there was no loving Alex to clamp his legs around, he was still angry about the pan he'd burned and had to throw out, and he was worried that Alex hadn't called at all. He at least should have checked on the kids by now. What if something had happened to him? Alex was pregnant. What if something had happened to their newest edition?

Maybe no news really was good news.

He ironed half-heartedly, leaving only one shirt with a scorch mark. Ah well, didn't much care for that shirt anyhow.

Alex entered the shops at the Aladdin, excited about shopping. That was very unusual for him. He hated shopping for anything that he had to look over. For himself or Fox, he'd know exactly what he needed be it socks or briefs or jeans, find out where it was located in the store, find the size, choose a color and pay for it.

He didn't mind looking at toys or clothes for the girls or going up and down each aisle in the grocery store but anything else that involved window shopping, checking prices or wandering aimlessly was a waste of time for him and quite boring besides.

Every store was nearly empty, with throngs of people looking only in the windows at the sinfully priced merchandise. The souvenirs were the only thing many were interested in.

He was beginning to think it was a waste of time when he came across a shop packed with people. Curious, he stepped inside. It was nothing but teddy bears. Now what on earth was so amazing about these bears that the shop was full?

He ventured further and into the back of the room where there was a larger concentration of people. He stared in amazement at the little factory. People were picking out models of different bears in several colors, shapes and sizes and could literally watch their bear come alive from beginning to end, stuffed with stuffing, fluffed into perfection and dressed in clothes and accessories to finish them off.

A helpful clerk steered Alex to pick out his own purchase. He was like a child himself as he watched the bears being made from start to finish, from stuffed to fluffed.

He decided to get a bear for every one in the family as well as their friends. For Star, it was a medium brown bear decked out in ballet slippers and a pink ribbon to match. For Kat, an ivory bear with cool shades and a lavender ribbon. For Fox, a dark brown one with studious glasses and holding a book with a page marker unfurling from between the pages. He even got ones for Walter and Scully. Walter's was a large, fuzzy model with glasses and for Dana he chose a petite silver bear with granny glasses and a doctor's stethoscope. The one he chose for William was a fuzzy, grinning bear with a baseball cap. He picked out bears for the lone gunmen as well. The last bear was for the baby, a small, delicate little grey bear with a silver ribbon and baby booties on its feet.

He was delighted with his purchases, eager to see the faces of his friends and family as they opened the bags and plucked out their gifts. He gave a heavy sigh and realized that in order to see them he would have to go home and face the music. It was time to go.

When he pulled the car into the drive, Alex looked at his home with a mixture of profound guilt and relief. What would Fox think of him? Would he kick him out? Would he want him back?

Alex sighed and got out of the car. The baby gave a kick as if he recognized home. Alex patted his stomach and smiled.

"At least I'm never alone with you inside me," he said softly.

The house was quiet, with only a low murmur of voices. It didn't come from the television or radio. No goofy videos playing or sing-a-long records. He headed upstairs and tossed his overnight bag in the bedroom.

He lingered over each room he entered, noting the slight disarray that never completely disappeared in a house filled with children. It was neat though. There was no laundry on the floor, no toys ready to puncture a hole in his bare foot littering the hallway, no crayon drawings on the wall.

In the office, Fox's computer screen was black, his research books neatly stacked on the corner, an ashtray full of sunflower seeds the only evidence he'd been in the room recently.

Alex headed to Star's room where the noise seemed to be coming from. He opened the door silently and was treated to the sight of Fox reading quietly to the girls who were both snuggled against him and paying close attention to the story. Alex recognized the book. It was the Secret of Nimh, one of his favorites.

He looked at them for several minutes, savoring the sight of them. The girls would sometimes ask questions about what was happening in the story or what something meant. They were all oblivious to Alex's presence.

He gently cleared his throat. Three pairs of eyes looked up. One was hazel and tired-looking, hope flickering in their depths, another also hazel and drooping with sleepiness and the third a deep green, his little sweetheart.

"Daddy! Daddy!" the girls screamed and jumped out of bed. Both grabbed one leg and clung tightly to Alex until he scooped them up in his arms. They hugged his neck and squealed delightedly against his throat.

Alex took a deep breath, inhaling the scent of talcum powder, Johnson's baby shampoo and lavender bubble bath. Their chubby arms were soft as flower petals and just as ticklish against his throat. He closed his eyes and nuzzled into their clean, shiny hair.

Fox approached the three of them and Alex opened his eyes to see his lover smile gratefully before he was wrapped in his firm embrace. All four of them stood there for several minutes just enjoying each other's company.

"Daddy where have you been?"

"I needed to be alone a little bit, Kat."

"Why? Don't you like us anymore?"

"Oh god, baby I love you. I would never leave you," he whispered. His voice was husky with tears he held in check.

"We love you too. Don't ever go away again."

"Okay, sweetie I won't."

"Hey girls, how about if Star finishes reading this chapter? I need to talk to your daddy okay? We'll be back to tuck you in in a few minutes."

They nodded in unison and bounced back up on the bed. Star picked up the book and read to her sister, a finger underlining each word.

Fox and Alex left the room.

"I'm sorry Fox, I just needed some time after everything that's been happening."

"Shh, I know. I understand. Really, I do."

"The girls were good?"

"Let's just say they always make life interesting."

"I'm sorry I didn't call. I wanted to. I was just so fed up. God, I'm a horrible father. You must hate me."

"No, no Alex. You're wonderful, more amazing than I realized. I've been taking you for granted for so long and when you left after Star almost set the house on fire it finally dawned on me how rough you've had it. I mean, you take care of the house and the girls and me and you hardly have any time for yourself. I wonder how you've done it for so long."

"It wasn't always like that you know. You helped me a lot in the beginning, when we had Star and had to buy a house and everything."

"Yeah but still. You do most of the work around here and I just get so wrapped up in my work that I ignored your needs. I'm sorry. I didn't realize it until it was too late. It's not too late, is it Alex?" he asked anxiously.

Alex looked into Fox's eyes and saw relief and welcome there. There was the glow of love and joy in those remarkable eyes but there was also fear, fear of being left alone.

"Oh God, baby no. I was so worried you were going to kick me out. Never mind me leaving for good."

Fox opened his arms to Alex and they stood wrapped in each other's embrace, breathing in each other's scent deeply, nuzzling their faces together. Fox's hand slipped under Alex's shirt and rubbed his back comfortingly. Alex gave a little sigh and held him closer. He nuzzled his little nose into Fox's throat until Fox chuckled.

They pulled away from each other and looked into each other's eyes. There was a restored balance of equality and the affirmation of love and acceptance that each one sought.

"Come on, let's go talk," Fox tugged his arm.

"Hey don't we have a couple of daughters to tuck in for the night?"

"Right. I almost forgot."

They headed back to Star's room and found both girls asleep with the book closed beside them. Fox slipped the bookmark into the page where he had left off. Alex picked up Kat gently and brought her to her own room. Her hand went to her mouth automatically in sleep and Alex gently pulled it away. She curled up as soon as he settled her down. He noted that Fox had done the laundry. The soft scent of softener wafted up from the sheets. He loved the little girl's sheet set which featured little puppies and kittens cavorting in harmony together but he stifled a giggle when he discovered the dryer sheet still stuck in the folds of the top sheet.

"Whatever am I going to do with you Fox Mulder?"

Alex smiled and took the dryer sheet with him fully prepared to milk as much humor out of the situation as he could.

He kissed both girls as did Fox, and made sure the windows were locked and the alarm system set.

He smiled when he saw that the ruined paint on the windowsill had been repainted and the curtains replaced. They were light yellow with lacy designs that looked as if they were hand sewn. It took him a moment to realize in the dim light from the hallway that the designs were white butterflies with little green antennae.

Fox made them tea and they sat in the sunny yellow kitchen to talk.

"I guess things need to change around here," he began.

"Yeah Fox, they do. I need more time for myself. We have another little one on the way and with two precocious children running wild in the house, I just need more me time. We need to get control before things spiral out of our grasp."

"The last week has been hard on all of us. The girls missed you. They'd wake up crying for you and I had to make sure they ate right and the housework was done."

"And the fire department didn't get any calls."

"Yeah that too. I did okay though you know? I mean, okay I'm not Julia Child but the kids ate well. I sort of cooked. I did laundry and I didn't shrink one thing."

"Yeah I saw the results of your laundry."

Alex held up the dryer sheet.

Fox frowned and took it from him. "Where'd you get that?"

"From in between the sheets."

"Oh." Fox's face colored.

"Don't worry I won't tell anyone," Alex mock promised.

"Yeah, well." Fox gave him a sheepish grin. "The girls were great you know. They rallied round me and helped me out around the house. I told them I wanted everything nice for daddy Alex when he came home."

"That's great. I guess you understand now what I've been talking about."

"You have the patience of a saint."

"Well I don't know that I'd go that far."

"Seriously, Alex you do. I know I've been neglecting you and us. I need to help more around the house and I think it is time the girls learn a little more responsibility. You need more time for you. We'll sort it all out, I promise."

Alex hugged Fox and Fox's arms wrapped around his lover holding him close. They stayed like that for a long time.

Fox led Alex to bed, making sure the door was locked. It would really kill the mood to have one or both rug rats slipping into their room and asking for a glass of water while they were naked and in between the sheets.

Fox lit some fragrant candles and Alex put on the mixed tape that Fox had made for him years ago. It reminded him of the long romantic evenings they had spent together before they had been over run by children and domestic duties and could spend the whole night making love, stopping only long enough to eat or sleep before resuming again. It was a time when Fox believed Alex was still innocent and Fox hadn't lost his idealism in the sea of cynicism that would soon come crashing over him like a tidal wave.

It was like the first time they'd made love, slow and tentative, gentle and careful, careful not to push, careful not to hurt, yet searching out the vulnerable spots on each other's body and exploiting them until a satisfactory cry or moan was wrenched from an arched throat.

They undressed each other slowly, almost reverently. Fox noted Alex's curved belly. He would begin showing soon. He knelt down and pressed his ear against Alex's abdomen, murmuring words of love to the growing child inside and the man who was his whole life.

Alex tugged him back up and moved in for a hungry kiss. They snuggled deep under the covers, which muted the sounds of their passion. They ran their hands across each other, learning again the geography of each other's bodies. Fox cupped a hand over Alex's belly. The slight swelling was the only visible sign of his pregnancy.

Alex ran his fingers through Fox's hair, relishing the thick, silky feel of it. Fox kissed his way back up until he met Alex face to face. "I love you. I never want to lose you again."

"You won't," Alex promised. "Make love to me," he whispered.

They moved against each other, letting the feeling of their hard cocks grinding together prolong their desire. Fox kissed his way back down, making sure he licked every inch of skin he could until he reached Alex's groin and swallowed his aching cock in one smooth move. He was rewarded with a low, plaintive groan.

"Fox," Alex begged, tugging at his hair. "You'll make me come."

"That's the general idea," Fox replied with a chuckle then went back to imitating a vacuum cleaner and trying to suck Alex dry.

"I want you in me."

Fox planted sweet, wet kisses on Alex's inner thighs. The muscles contracted under his assault and Alex shivered with delight.

"Let me do this. I want to taste you. We have all night, baby."

Alex relented. He smiled at the exquisite torture as Fox's warm breaths tickled his thighs and his tongue curled around his cock head.

Alex's smiled widened. They did have all night. He urged Fox on with an insistent hand. Hell, they had the rest of their lives.

Fox let his cock slip out of his mouth with a soft slap against his stomach and crawled up to kiss Alex breathless.

There was no finesse. Just hungry wet kisses, caressing hands eager to touch warm skin and legs tangling together trying to get as close to each other as possible. They wanted to re-learn the unique textures of skin, from pebbly nipples to smooth skin, from the planes of thighs to the little extra bit of flesh on a hipbone. Their cocks ground together, rubbing their sticky heads, making their need more urgent.

The scented air filled with their groans of pleasure. Fox rolled over on top of Alex, spread his lover's legs apart to fill the space with his body and latched on to Alex's mouth, sucking another kiss from him, frantically rubbing and humping against him until they both came.

Fox lay on top of him, sated and exhausted, careful not to put any pressure on his stomach. He shoved his face into the crook of his shoulder, lazily kissed his heated skin.

Alex's arm rubbed over his back soothingly, making trails through the sheen of sweat, skating over the entire length of his back.

There was a little knock on the door.

"Daddy, can I have a glass of water?" Kat's plaintive sleepy voice called out.

Alex laughed. Fox was already gathering up a clean, dampened washcloth and in the process grabbing a robe to throw on. He rubbed his chest and belly clean and tossed the damp cloth to Alex.

"Welcome home," Fox whispered.

Alex smiled up at him. It was good to be needed but even better, he thought, to be wanted.

The baby grew inside Alex as his relationship with Fox deepened. They were closer than they'd been in months. Fox always made time for his lover and made sure he had extra attention while he was going through the many different stages of his pregnancy.

He engaged their daughters to help as well and with minimal prodding they were picking up their own toys and fighting less, even helping out a bit around the house with easy tasks.

Alex was aware of the changes in the household and never failed to show his appreciation of Fox and the girls. He signed up for a writing class and an art class to get out of the house. Those few hours away from responsibility gave him a chance to relax, gather his thoughts and spread his creative wings.

Fox even hired a nanny and housekeeper part time, a terrifically efficient Irish woman named Mary with frizzy hair that she tinted orange-red. She was Margaret Thatcher crossed with Mary Poppins.

This allowed Fox to get work done on his book, the girls adored her and Alex was pleased that the house was clean. Well, it was clean for a few short hours anyway.

When he was nearly full-term, he avoided the nanny as well as the neighbors, going out at odd hours and dressing in baggy sweats and jackets to conceal his growing stomach.

But when the time came that Alex felt the first contractions he was at home with the girls alone. A frantic Alex called Fox on his cell phone.

"Baby I'm stuck in a traffic jam from hell. I'll get there as soon as I can. What about the girls? Are they home with you?"

"Yeah, Fox. I'll have to bring them with me. I suppose I could call a cab but I'd rather you brought me to Dana's clinic."

"What about the neighbors?"

"The Parkers left this morning on vacation. I could try Mrs. Ross but I saw her with her jogging partner this morning and I haven't seen them come home yet."

"Damn. Wait, call Walter and see if he's home. Okay?"

"All right, but please hurry. I need you there."

"I'll do my best. Hang in there."

Alex hung up the phone. He could hear horns blaring on the other end as he placed the phone back on the cradle.

"Star! Kat!" he called out.

Both girls came racing down the stairs.

"What is it daddy?"

"It's time for your baby brother to come out."

"Oh goody." Star launched herself at Alex's round, protruding stomach.

"I need to call Uncle Walter to have him pick me up. You two have to come with us okay?"

"Okay. I like Aunt Dana's clinic. Can we see the baby being born?"

"No, sorry, sweetie. I think that might be a bit much for you."

"But dad I saw a baby being born on television," Star insisted.

"They show too much stuff on television," he muttered.

He picked up the phone and punched in Walter's number.

"Walter I need your help."

"What is it?"

"I'm having contractions and Fox is stuck in traffic. I don't think I can drive myself and I'd really rather not take a cab."

In their excited stage he didn't think the girls would be able to keep his secret silent for long. He didn't trust them to keep it to themselves. Besides if anything happened how would he explain his situation or get the proper medical treatment?

"I'm on my way, but I'll have to bring William too."

"No problem. Thank you."

Walter trudged out with the diaper bag and baby in tow. Luckily he had the van so everyone would fit comfortably. He got William settled into his car seat and threw the bag in the back.

He was halfway to the house when he was pulled over by a police car.

"Sir do you have any idea how fast you were driving?"

"Actually yes I do officer. I can flash you my badge if you like but I haven't got time for that. I'm with the F.B.I."

"You're on a case sir?" He looked curiously at the baby grinning at him.

The officer's straightened back collapsed slightly into a comfortable slouch. His hand on his holster relaxed. The other hand that framed the window fell to his side.

Even without seeing the man's shield his authority as a deputy director came through quite clearly in manner.

"Actually I'm picking up a friend of mine. He's, I mean, she's having contractions. I need to bring her to my wife's clinic."

"Oh I see. That certainly is an emergency. I'll give you a police escort," he offered cheerfully.

"That won't be necessary," Walter protested.

"I insist sir." The officer returned to his car and motioned for Walter to lead the way.

"Now what?" he asked himself. The baby laughed and cooed and tried to stuff his foot into his mouth.

He'd had to change Alex's gender obviously but once the cop saw him in person he'd definitely question them. Walter had no inclination to reveal Alex's secret to the world.

He punched in Alex's number on his cell phone as he drove away from the curb.

He picked up on the first ring. "Fox?"

"No it's Walter. Listen Alex, I've run into a problem."

"Oh no, Walter, don't tell me you can't come get me."

"No I'm on the way. Do you still have that wig you wore last year to the Halloween party?"

"You want to go to a costume party?"

"No you have to play dress up. I got stopped on the way for speeding and I'm getting a police escort whether I want one or not. I told him I was picking up a pregnant friend to deliver her to the hospital."

"Oh shit."

"Yeah. Find that wig and put it on. Make yourself look as female as possible."

"Okay, got it."

Alex sent Star to the storage closet. He rubbed his stomach as another pain hit him. She found the wig packed away with all the other accumulated junk that got shoved into the cardboard boxes in the little storage area.

Last year he, Fox and Dana had gone to an adult Halloween party dressed as Charlie's Angels characters. He'd gotten the Jacklynn Smith role and so had gotten to wear the long luxurious dark wig. Both he and Scully had vied for the coveted Farrah Fawcett get-up but Fox insisted that since it had been his idea he'd get to play the blond bombshell.

He completed his outfit with a little of the kids' play make-up. Glaring pink cheeks and plum lipgloss made him a lot prettier. An oversized sweatshirt could very well belong to a woman, especially with the iron-on transfer printed in dazzling colors, "baby lives here", complete with arrow pointing down to his stomach completing the illusion. Thank goodness for Fox's warped fashion style.

He waited Walter's arrival as patiently as he could, with the girls sitting quietly beside him. He had his overnight bag already stuffed with everything he'd need for the new baby and clothes for himself. After two kids he could get organized very quickly.

He explained to the girls why he had to dress up like a lady. They accepted his explanation quite well but were still confused as to why usually only ladies had babies.

He groaned as another contraction ripped through him. Star patted his stomach sympathetically and Kat frowned worriedly. She had the same little line above her nose as her father.

Kat snuggled closer and chastised the baby. "You shouldn't hurt daddy. He's very nice. Mean baby," she muttered.

Alex snorted, even as another contraction made him squirm. "That's just a signal that the baby needs to come out, sweetie. He's not doing it to hurt me. Besides it'll be over soon. We'll go to Aunt Dana's clinic and they'll operate on me to get the baby out. Then you'll see your new brother."

"Where do they cut you?" Star asked.

"Right here," Alex motioned with his hand. "Daddy has a little scar there already. Remember?"

"From us, right?" Kat asked.

"That's right."

"Does it hurt when they cut you?" Kat's frown deepened.

"No. They give me medicine so it doesn't hurt. I don't feel anything. Well not too much. And after the baby is born, they give me some more medicine in case it hurts."

The doorbell rang and Star jumped up to answer.

"Ask who it is first," Alex shouted after her.

"It's Uncle Walter," she shouted back.

"Let him in then and let's get going."

They headed out after Alex carefully checked the alarm setting and made sure he had his cell phone with him.

He tried not to slouch or walk bow legged as Walter helped him down the porch stairs. He waved at the police car as daintily as he could manage then struggled into the van.

The girls were strapped into their car seats that Alex had dragged from the garage. They were on their way in minutes.

Alex groaned and panted through the contractions accompanied by the whispered comforting words of his daughters. Walter drove quickly but expertly, weaving through traffic, following the police car with the siren blaring and the red light flashing like a beacon.

They made it to the women's clinic in record time. The officer gave them a friendly wave as he left.

Walter helped Alex out of the van and the girls followed them inside. The baby cooed in Walter's arms. He loved going for car rides but even better he loved seeing his mother.

Dana greeted them at the front desk and William held out his chubby little arms, feet kicking as he implored his dad to let him go to her. She held him briefly and rubbed his back then handed him back to Walter.

Alex was hustled into a room to get ready. One of the nurses took care of Walter and the brood of children, leading the way to the waiting area. She found coloring books for the girls and gave Walter a cup of coffee. She heated up William's lunch and insisted on feeding him while Walter relaxed.

Alex was in a gown and a nurse shaved his abdomen in preparation for the surgery. He panted through the volley of contractions, moaning loudly and rubbing his stomach. Another nurse wrapped a fetal monitor around his middle to check on the baby.

Dana greeted Alex once she had scrubbed up. "Hey Alex, how're you doing?"

"I'd be better with Fox here."

"I know but we really need to get started. We don't want to risk the baby rupturing through the sac in your belly. Who knows what kind of damage could be done to you internally?"

"You're right, I know, but do you think we could wait a few more minutes? The contractions aren't that close together yet and a few minutes wouldn't hurt right?"

Dana sighed. "I don't know. Right now the baby and you are doing fine but if we wait too long the baby could be in distress and you are definitely at risk without the surgery being performed promptly."

Alex acquiesced. "Okay, but can I call Fox and have him listen to everything on his cell?"

"You don't have to call. I'm here," Fox called out. He was out of breath and looking frazzled but rushed to Alex's side.

"Oh, Fox you made it. You wouldn't believe what happened."

"Alex, why are you wearing lipstick?"

"I'll tell you later."

A nurse ran up behind him struggling all the while to slip a pale yellow gown over his suit. She gave up trying to tie the flimsy string at the nape of his neck.

Fox leaned over and kissed Alex tenderly. Alex closed his eyes and moaned lightly as another contraction ripped through him. Fox patted his belly sympathetically.

"The girls are so excited about getting a little brother."

"It'll be a change."

"I hate to break this up guys, but I need to operate," Scully broke in.

"Please slice away," Alex moaned in a pitiful whimper that ended in a yowl of pain.

Fox stood steadfast, determined to watch the whole thing and not faint. He turned his face a little as Scully held the scalpel firmly over Alex's bursting abdomen. His belly was as round and pale as the underside of a marine mammal with thin streaks of shiny skin where previous and current stretch marks intersected.

He'd watched countless autopsies that Scully had performed when they were partners. He had witnessed the most brutalized victims of violent death, had seen with his own eyes the vilest monsters that were beyond human imagination, and yet he could not stand to see Dana slice into Alex's belly to deliver their child.

It was only blood and tissue he told himself, harmless alien-looking organs, the transparent innocuous sac that held their baby in a safe bubble of nurturing fluid.

Alex blinked at Fox. The drugs had made him blissful. He could see the pained look in his lover's hazel eyes and reached out to grasp his hand.

Fox squeezed it gratefully. He leaned over Alex and nuzzled his face as Dana did her work.

Fox looked on in awe as Dana carefully slid the scalpel through Alex's abdomen and the womb wrapped in a thin undulating sac. They still hadn't figured out the purpose of it but it only appeared when Alex was expecting. Dana assumed it had something to do with either the baby receiving nutrients absorbed in its surface or providing some sort of protection for the baby.

When Alex delivered, the sac which had to be ruptured in order to reach the baby in the womb, stayed attached to the uterine wall then dissolved and was somehow reabsorbed into Alex's body. At least it didn't show up in the ultrasound. The uterus would then shrink. What happened if the sac ruptured on its own no one wanted to find out but it didn't seem to be harmful to Alex in any way.

"Oh, here he comes out," Alex alerted Fox.

They watched as she made a delicate puncture in the sac that was undulating and beginning to thin out as the baby pushed against the delicate membrane. It was like looking at a soap bubble, spinning lazily in the air then finally bursting.

The sac bubbled then deflated like a balloon and Dana reached down to the infant and severed the umbilical cord with Fox's help. The baby was a perfect little boy, with all his fingers and toes and, to Fox's eyes, an impressive penis.

The sac retracted as the baby was pulled away from it with a gentle whisper of movement, gaining mobility as it was slowly sucked back into Alex's body.

The child, startled by the loss of its warm and wet haven let out a wail. His eyes were assaulted by the lights, even though they had been replaced with the softest gentlest bulbs available and immediately bathed in a mild saltwater solution. For some biological reason, the babies responded best to mild light and the salty water. Fox and Dana had studied the babies' responses to different stimuli since part of their DNA make-up was alien in order to find the best possible environment for their children.

Alex cooed over the baby for a few minutes while Fox and one of the nurses helped him hold the baby on his stomach. Then he was taken away to be cleaned up and checked out.

Fox pressed little kisses all over Alex's face, murmuring his love for him. "We have a perfect little boy."

"He has your nose," Alex replied.

"Poor kid," Fox joked. "Lots of hair, huh?"

"Yeah, he's got my hair," Alex cooed in a husky voice.

"Those are some good drugs aren't they babe?"

"Oh yeah," Alex sighed.

While Dana stitched up Alex's belly, Fox watched the nurses as they cleaned his son, weighed and measured him.

Alex and baby weren't separated for long. Alex snuggled the baby on his bare, warm skin, helped into position by Fox. He cooed at the sensation of warmth and the near darkness that pervaded the room and fell asleep.

Fox was unable to restrain himself from touching his son, touching a ticklish foot that kicked out or the tiny finger that curled around his own.

With each child they learned not only about parenting, but about their unique biological make-up, both alien and human, and the techniques needed to bond their babies to their fathers.

Dim lights softened the sterile environment of Alex's private room. Fox played a tape of gurgling water and birdsong to soothe the infant, and Alex delighted in snuggling the boy on his bare chest. Every few hours he would need to feed and change him, bathe him in the seawater and sleep with the baby on his body. In the next few months he would have to gradually get used to regular water but for the time being they would use the things they had learned on the newest addition to the family.

Alex was writing out thank you notes to everyone who had sent a gift for the baby. Fox alternately cooed over the baby in his bassinette and flipped through a baby name book.

Alex carefully put stamps and their return address on each envelope while keeping on eye on both father and son.

The baby looked up at Fox with wide uncomprehending eyes, looking quizzically at the odd creature who was murmuring nonsense words at him and pursing his lips like a fish.

Star and Kat were playing together, engaged in making a Lite-Brite picture. Alex shuddered when he realized it was an alien. One of Fox's little green men. He appeared to be hitch-hiking or giving the finger. Alex wasn't sure which. They consulted each other before plugging in each peg.

Alex smiled at his kooky family. He'd never been happier.

"What about Elvis? That's a good name."

Alex paled in fright. "Are you serious?"

"Sure. There's Elvis Presley. Elvis Stoiko."

"Name me another."

Fox ignored the request. "Look it says in the baby name book that Elvis means all wise."

Alex grabbed the book and turned it around. "It also says it's a form of Elwin, which means friend of the elves."

Fox stroked his chin. "Hmm, do we know any elves?"


"We should be friendly to elves, Alex."

"I shouldn't let you near the baby name book, Fox."

"Although I did meet a genie once. And I do believe in fairies."

"We're fairies. No Elvis."

"You come up with something better," he challenged. "But it has to have a special meaning."

Alex flipped through the book until he reached the letter r. "Here. Ryan. It means little king."

"Not bad. Masculine yet sensitive. Meaningful and yet never trendy. Always in style, just like his old pop. Whoops, the little guy needs changing. I'll do the honors this time."

Fox picked up his son and headed for the nursery.

It had taken only a few weeks to re-decorate it for the little boy's arrival. The yellow walls stayed as did the wallpaper border covered with cavorting bumblebees and butterflies pouncing on daisies. The curtains had faded to a dull ivory so they were replaced with pale blue ones. The changing table had been taken out again as had the diaper pail, sturdy white crib and a new mobile with colorful animals all chasing each other in slow motion, just like the one in Kat's room.

Fox expertly changed his son. Before he could get the clean diaper on him though, the little boy gave a gleeful screech and peed right on his dad.

Alex snickered from the doorway. Fox wrinkled his nose at the stream of urine decorating his shirtfront.

"I guess pisser wouldn't be such a hot name. Kids would tease him."

Fox gave Alex an evil glare.

"The king has spoken." Alex broke into a fit of giggles then groaned, holding his still tender middle.

Fox took off his shirt and Alex fastened the diaper on the newly christened Ryan. They added Samuel as a middle name.

Fox kept to his word and gave Alex the "me" time he needed. It wasn't too difficult to re-arrange schedules and the nanny was perfect, no-nonsense but never stern, loving but firm with the children. Alex got in touch with an agent with Fox's help, getting a lot of encouragement for the outline of the novel he wanted to write.

Alex sighed and sat down at his desk across from Fox's. He started up the word processing program and grinned at his lover over the computer. He was excited at the prospect of his new project. He had a vague outline of the story, a mix of action and suspense in the modern age of spying, which he was quite familiar with considering his training and knowledge, the title character, which would be a heroic mixture of himself and Fox and a title, "The assassin smiled." He began to type.

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