TITLE: Remote Love
AUTHOR: Draig
EMAIL: Draig@artos113.fsnet.co.uk
ARCHIVE: Yes to Gossamer, Basement, RatB, All Things Rat, SKSA.
Anywhere else please ask.
WEB SITE: http://www.chaelyndra.com/nicklea/fiction
SUMMARY: Skinner seduces Krycek, but not all is what it seems, and sometimes revenge can be a nasty double edged sword.
RATING: NC-17
SPOILERS: The usual one for Terma.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story was written for the March 2000 challenge, and I have to say a big... BIG thank you to both Tarlan (for beta reading and advice) and Aqualegia (for posting the story to the list and advice) and to them both again for the encouragement and help in areas where I was hitting my head against a wall... thank you both for being so understanding :0)
DISCLAIMER: They don't belong to me, I'm just playing with them
for a while.

Remote Love

 

by Draig

The parking garage was hot, so damn hot, and while the Summer sun could not actually hit the underground parking lot, it still managed to send the temperature within the confined garage up into soaring highs. Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI, Washington Section, hated being in the parking garage. He hated feeling sweaty and dirty, and he especially hated having to be at the beck and call of that Rat bastard Alex Krycek, ex-FBI agent, waiting for that more than capable assassin to turn up.

Skinner hated the man, that was pure and simple. He hated with a loathing that almost had him reaching for his gun every time he saw the strikingly handsome man, and yet his very life was held in the hand of the suspected double/triple agent who's only real allegiance seemed to be to his own ends. Yet, ever since the rat bastard had infected him with sophisticated new technology called nanocytes and proved he could, with just a gentle sweep of his stylus on the palm pilot that he always carried, send him into a world of pain and suffering, ultimately leading to his death, since that day Alex Krycek had been his master and he, Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI, an unwilling slave.

Skinner felt his jaw clenching again and firmly pushed his rage away. He knew that his fury would not help, and that if he wanted to free himself from his blackmailer then he had to think calmly and act rationally, at least until he had an effective plan to free himself. Krycek must never know that he was terrified of the effects of the rampaging nanocytes, and that he would sell his very soul rather then suffering that torment again.

He took another deep lungful of air and counted slowly under his breath, trying to draw his frustration and rage back to a controllable level. Ever since he had been trapped in Krycek's clutches, he had been planning his escape and, finally, in the dark hours of the previous night he had suddenly seen a light at the end of the tunnel. It was a faint, flicker of a light, and Skinner was not even sure if he could fan it into a brighter glow that he could turn to his advantage. He was only acting on a passing comment made by CGB Spender, one day after the newly introduced younger Agent Krycek had left his office. He could recall the words clearly now that he had remembered them.

"Why Mr Skinner I do believe you've made another conquest." The clogging smoke curled about him as he spoke, almost like a living entity, "That boy can be very accommodating and has always had a weak spot for a powerful man." A knowing smile fixed on the Smoker's face, and a gleam of lust following the handsome young man out the door, but it had taken several seconds for the words and meaning to actually sink in. When they did Skinner had only looked at the man in silent rage. Spender just sniggered suggestively, then waving the words aside he moved onto the matter at hand.

The memory faded and Skinner thought about the dangerous game he was about to embark on. He knew that Krycek was a desperately lonely man, had seen the lingering looks that the ex-agent had fastened on him, when he had thought himself unobserved. Skinner recognised the hunger that he had witnessed a time or two, and now, tonight, he was about to step onto a new chess board in his life and play the ultimate and oldest game of conquest for his survival.

He planned to seduce Alex Krycek, beguile him to such an extent that he would slip up and allow Skinner to get his hands on the Palm Pilot, and once that was done he would destroy it and the rat bastard's hold over him for ever. Then... then he would make Alex Krycek rue the day he ever decided to entrap Skinner into his dirty little world. Walter's mouth almost watered at the thought of having that man on his knees before him, broken, hurting and suffering as much as he had when the nanocytes had been introduced into his body, but he was not going to use modern technology to break that young man, he was going to use the oldest method of betrayal available to mankind. He would make Alex Krycek fall in love with him, allowing him to service him, taking pleasure from the lithe young body, showing him what he so desperately needed, and then, just when Krycek thought he had what he desired the most, Skinner would rip his heart from his body and crush it under his sneering acknowledgement that he had only used the man, as he would a cheap whore. Oh yes, he would make damn sure that Krycek knew exactly what he thought of him.

Yet, Skinner was not a dreamer, he did not believe for one instant that his hunt was going to be easy nor that he would sweep Krycek off his feet like some virgin schoolboy. But Walter was not an innocent either, and had been around, and he was well aware of his own prowess. Vietnam had taught him that, and if he was brutally honest with himself he had to admit that he had nothing to lose, and that was the bottom line. He didn't have a thing to lose. With that thought in mind he had spent most of the previous night awake, planning his next move and now he stood waiting for Krycek to appear so that he could begin the seduction.

As if on cue a car as dark as the night sweep into the parking garage and Walter Skinner fixed a faint, hesitating smile on his lips. The hunt was about to begin, without thinking he licked at his lips, pulling his teeth over the bottom lips to redden it.

*~*

Skinner watched as Krycek slipped easily from the car, his body lithe and sleek, like the mountain cat he imitated when he walked. Walter smile, allowing his eyes to linger in a slow lustful sweep of the body, licking at his lips again as if in anticipation, using his whole body to indicate that he was attracted to this man. With a gently sigh he realised that it would not really be that hard a chore.

After checking that they were alone, Alex moved cautiously over towards the taller man. "Have you got it?" Krycek's voice was husky his expressive, weary green eyes shining eerily in the dampened light. It was obvious to Skinner that he was not easy with this new man who stood loosely before him. Walter had taken care when he dressed, and fully understood what a striking figure he now made standing before the other, in tight body hugging jeans, with a tee-shirt stretching across well developed muscles. Alex swallowed, unable to hide the answering flicker of interest that he was fighting to keep hidden, especially now that Walter was allowing his look to linger, almost caressing his body.

"Yes." Skinner answered his own voice low and husky as he continued, "You wanted the Masterson file... I got you a photocopy... taking the actual file out of the office would have been too... dangerous."

Krycek frowned unsure about what had cause this alteration in Skinner since their last meeting, then it cleared as he agreed, pushing his own reactions to the back of his mind. "Alright... as long as it has.... everything that I need."

Skinner smiled shyly, his eyes now firmly fixed on the face that was half hidden in shadow, only the bright eyes splintered the darkness as the meagre light reflected off them. "It's the complete file... if what you want isn't there... then it's because it was never there in the first place." He protested, after all he was still the unwilling victim in this hunt, and needed to play the part to perfection. There was a hint of steel now in his tone and look.

"If it's not.... I'll get back to you." Krycek snapped the threat clear as he glanced about as if expecting a trap.

Skinner could tell that he was uneasy by the way he was looking at him. Walter decided to up the pressure and holding out the file he let his fingers brush lingeringly across the back of Alex's hand as he reached for it.

Krycek snatched his hand back and tucked the file inside his jacket snarling. "I'll give you a call...." With that he spun about and began to melt into the darkness.

"Wait..." Skinner snapped, suddenly needing to push this game further along, he had no desire to prolong this hunt as it was already leaving a sour taste in his mouth. He swallowed as Krycek turned back towards him, his face set, his eyes agleam with sharp intelligence.

"What?"

Skinner took a breath, he didn't have to pretend that he was nervous about his next words, but he had seen the answering interest in Krycek's look so this made him bold as he continued. "Do we have to meet in places like this?" he demanded, before he softened his tone, "Could we meet somewhere a little less... hot and..." he paused as he looked about the parking garage, "Somewhere..." he stumbled to a stop, giving the impression that he was not sure what he wanted to say next. He was a powerful man, but a sign of vulnerability had always worked for him in the past, it was a hardy combination for those who had tasted it.

Krycek was in front of him, right up into his personal space as he spoke, his voice husky, intimate his eyes gleaming, daring Skinner to react. "What, Walter..." he used the first name on purpose and it was whispered with an edge of intimacy, "You didn't exactly like me coming to your office... So you want to meet for brunch in one of your fancy restaurants? How would you explain that to your bosses? Hum... or maybe we could arrange a tête-à-tête at your sports club... in the gym perhaps... I'll spot you while you slip over the files..."

Skinner let out a frustrated sigh, stepping back as he realised that this was never going to work, the look that Krycek was giving him, was now so cold, distance that he knew that the smoking bastard had been wrong; the only person Krycek had interest in was Krycek. "No... It's just... this..." he waved his hand outwards towards the surrounding cars, he had started this so he had to play out the hand, "It's so... so... cheap.... like an old spy movie or something." He finished with disgust.

"Cheap..." Krycek actually burst out laughing, it was real and relaxing he moved back slightly, his face leaping with humour, "Skinner... you are spying on the FBI and passing me secrets that could get your ass in the can for several long, long years.... You're meeting your contact in a dark, dank underground car garage like a cheap spy movie, 'cause that's exactly what you *are* doing..."

"It doesn't have to be like this... we could met in a hotel..." he could tell from Krycek's sudden alteration of expression that he had said the wrong thing so he hurried on, not pausing for breath, "Or a bar... I know one that's pretty off the beaten track... had booths that are private... and air conditioned..."

He floundered, his act was perfect, his words designed to have an affect. Which they did as Krycek paused, consider his words for a brief second before he broke into a wide grin and agreed, his own eyes twinkling with mischief. Skinner noted with a deep swallow that it made him look considerably younger.

"Alright," Krycek offered, slowly looking Skinner up and down fully for the first time, "So you want to meet in a hotel... You want to play, Walter?" the words carried just a hint of speculation, as he considered the prospect and once more allowed his look to linger on the chest clearly outlined in the stretched tee-shirt, he swallowed and slowly licked his lips. "Next time we'll met in a bar... but not your bar.... I get to choose it... I know just the place..."

"Fine..." Skinner conceded slowly, before he mentally took a step back, he didn't want to push his advantage, the man was nothing if not clever, and he had not survived this long by mistaking other people's intentions.

"Just remember that I'm the one in control here Skinner..." Krycek suddenly threatened, showing the hand held control for the first time, it rested neatly in his artificial hand, and Skinner winced as he saw it, remembering the pain. This seemed to satisfy Krycek as he smiled coldly before he spun about and moved swiftly to his car.

AD Skinner stood frozen until the other man's car disappeared from sight, then slowly he moved towards his own car; he felt numb. He was shocked to realise that his own hands were shaking. Had he been that afraid that his plan would not work, or more afraid that it would? Pushing these disturbing thoughts aside he got into his car and headed home. He suddenly felt the need to take a long, hot shower, after downing a very full glass of Jack Daniels.

*~*

Walter Skinner could not believe his eyes, he was standing on the threshold of the bar where Krycek had arranged to meet him. He swallowed and felt his world-weary eyes grow wide as he watched the writhing array of bodies that were spread out on the lower dance floor before him. They moved seductively in time with the heavy beat of the music. The men below him had reached the tempo of a bubbling mass of humanity that had left the sanity of every day living behind them at the door, and they were now enjoying tasting the forbidden fruit of each other's bodies. This was not a bar, this was an orgy and Skinner was about to descend into it.

He swallowed again and moved forward as he was pushed from behind, people were still trying to get in behind him, and he was forced to move down the steps into the hive of sexual activity below. Keeping his eyes fixed firmly on the bar across the room he pushed, as carefully as he could, to form a pathway for himself, restraining himself from breaking the fingers that found his backside too tempting in his tight fitting trousers, and slipping gratefully onto a bar stool. He looked into the wide mirror over the bar, and just prevented himself from gaping, open mouthed.

"What you having?" a barman asked as he suddenly appeared and graced Skinner with an appraising glance as he cleared the space in front of him with a quick motion and a damp cloth.

"Beer..." Skinner began, then quickly changed the order to, "No... make that a large JD..." he glanced back at the mirror, "In fact make it a triple... no ice..."

The barman smiled and offered warmly leaning forward into Skinner's personal space, "First timer huh?" He finished with a knowing wink.

"How can those men breathe?" Skinner had to ask, his look drawn back to the heaving mass on the dance floor.

"They aren't talking there babe..." the barman smiled again before he added, "They are communicating on a baser level."

"If they got any baser," Skinner replied with a smile, "You'd have to hose them down."

"What makes you think we don't... later on." Came back the smirking response as his drink was placed professionally in front of him.

Skinner reached for his wallet, but was stopped as a twenty-dollar note was held across the bar in front of him, a body suddenly leaning up close against him. Krycek spoke huskily, but was clearly heard by the barman. "This one's mine..." Walter felt his eyes close and his body shudder as the warm breath of the words skated across his exposed neck. Then pointing towards the drink Alex stated, "And I'll have the same." Another twenty appeared as if from thin air.

The barman smiled warmly and offered, "Hey Al... Long time no see... you been out of town?"

Krycek raised an eyebrow as he effectively pushed the man from the stool next to Skinner and met his feeble protest with a hard glare, the man swallowed hard and disappeared into the swaying mass. The law of the jungle was alive and kicking, and Krycek was showing himself to be a rat with sharp claws. Alex turned his attention back to the question the barman had raised, "Business.... Now I'm back for the pleasure part..."

He finished, his hand sliding across his thigh and onto Skinner's leg. The other man started and nearly spilt his drink, but he bravely managed to regroup his reaction and smiled slyly at Alex. To a casual observer it was two very good friends meeting. Walter took Krycek's slight distraction of the arriving drink to gulp down a mouthful of his own, after all this was what he had been playing for, so why was he now mentally complaining that it had happened? He had to admit that he was thrown by Krycek's sudden open interest. Skinner had believed that Alex would take more reeling in before he was caught.

Krycek allowed his body to sway in time to the music, smiling broadly and leaning over he whispered into Skinner's ear, as the other man leant closer to listen to him, "This more to your liking, Walt?"

Walter tossed a look at the mirror and the orgy behind him and offered weakly, "A few too many people for my taste, but at least it's warm."

Alex let out a bark of laughter as he slipped back, licking his tongue over his full lips, tasting the drink. "Warm... WARM.. this place is HOT, Skinner... so hot you could be burned alive if you were jerking someone's chain..." he tilted his head and gave Walter a long, considering look before he finished. "Are you jerking someone's chain Walt?"

He moved his hand seductively, rhythmically up and down Skinners upper thigh as he spoke. His action possessive, his attitude one of ownership.

Skinner didn't answer; he just returned his attention to his drink. A silence sprang up between them, but to Walter's surprise it was an easy silence, the music blared about them, and yet he felt warmed by the hand that still rested intimately on his leg. He made no motion to remove it, after all he had known the stake of the hunt before he had began. With that thought in mind he casually, allowed his hand to slip across to rest on Krycek's thigh, up slightly higher, just below the groin area and fought back a smile as Alex cough on the swallow of JD he had just taken. Krycek gave him an intense look, his green eyes flaring with a sudden burst of passion, but Skinner kept his expression forward, his eyes fixed firmly on the mass behind him, as he soaked in the deeply sexual effect it was having on his body and allowed it to show in his eyes.

Krycek leant nearer to ask, his tone husky with his own desire. "You like what you see."

Skinner quickly turned his glance to sweep over Krycek and answered just as huskily, his own desire rising as he looked at the handsome man before him. "Yes..."

Both men knew that he was not referring to the image in the mirror. Alex licked at his lips and then removed his hand from Walter's thigh saying, "Follow me, there's rooms out the back..." Seeing the slight frown that flashed across Skinner's features he continued, "It's quieter and we can talk there."

With a knowing nod towards the barman, Krycek slipped from his stool and moved along the side of the dance floor. Skinner followed him, watching the rhythmical movement of the hips and tightly clad ass before him. His own passions now bubbled just below the surface.

Suddenly he was grabbed from behind and pulled about, a bearded man stood before him taller then he was, an impressive figure dressed in leather trousers and waist coat, his chest mainly bare, muscles gleaming.

"Want some action honey?" the man asked, moving in close and rubbing his aroused body against Skinner's own. Before the AD could answer, the man was falling back as Krycek was suddenly in his space.

"Back off man, otherwise you'll be wearing that leather to hold your body together..."

The intent behind the words was clear and the bearded man, who stood several inches taller then Krycek seemed to shrink as he bravely tried to counter speaking over Krycek's head to Skinner. "Hey man.. can't you keep your bitch on a leash or something?" The words were designed to insult and Krycek reacted, as his nature demanded and the man slipped, falling against other patrons as his body suddenly exploded in pain. Alex had just attacked him, and it would take him days before he realised the exact extent of the damage. Krycek smiled coldly feeling sorry for the guy's future boyfriend, who would no doubt move on once he realised that the man could no longer fulfil his manly obligations.

To the surprised people who caught the gasping, twisted man, Krycek casually said, "Can't stand a leather man who can't hold his drink." The crowd seemed to accept this and just handed the cringing man backwards until he was leaning up against the bar, the man slapped on the wood and demanded, in a gasping voice an extra large drink to dull the pain he was experiencing. Krycek turned back, the leather man totally forgotten as he again headed through the crowd towards the back of the bar.

Skinner looked from Krycek to the man he had just attacked and wondered how anyone could have missed the brutality of the assault, and how they could just accept Krycek's explanation of the other's collapse so easily. Slowly shaking his head, he had to marvel at the ease with which Alex moved among these people, and at how easily he used his ability, and yet still managed to cover it from the casual observer.

The door closing behind Skinner shut out the sound of the music, and Walter stopped to let his eyes adjust to a more normal lighting. Krycek paused up ahead and then tilted his head, indicating that Skinner was to keep up with him. He continued along the corridor for a short way, then slipping a key out of his impossibly tight pocket, he opened a door and entered a room, flipping a light on as he did so. He waited until Skinner had entered, before he closed and locked the door behind him.

The room was larger than Skinner expected and he was surprised to see some comfortable chairs, a small table, a line of drinks standing behind a small bar, but it was the large bed that dominated the room. Walter found that he was unable to prevent the gulp that slipped down his throat as he took in the black silk covers that were draped over it.

"Drink?" Krycek causally asked as he made his way over to the small bar and poured himself a good measure of Whisky.

"Yeah..." Skinner stammered, then shaking himself he answered more forcefully, "Yes...please" Krycek held up the bottle that he had poured his drink from and tilted it. Walter nodded, whatever he was drinking would be fine.

Alex poured a healthy measure into a glass and carried it over to Walter before he moved back to sip at his own. As he did so he allowed his glance to slide along the body of the man who stood before him. Skinner suddenly felt naked before the hot look.

"So is this better than the parking garage?" Alex asked, a small smile playing about his lips. Skinner nodded, now that they were away from the bar it was almost impossible to tell that there were even near the place, as no music could be heard.

"Nice little hide out you've got yourself here." He added as he made his way across and slipped down into one of the chairs.

"It had its uses in the past." Krycek confided, but his tone held the slight tinge of bitterness, and with a slight shudder he forced whatever bad memory this bar rose to the back of his mind and turned his formidable attention to the man sitting in front of him. "But that's then and now is now."

Skinner suddenly felt uneasy under the intense look and stammered, "You called for this meeting because?" As soon as the words left his mouth he wished that he could have called them back, and cursed himself for his sudden attack of nerves.

Krycek swayed back on his heels and considered the question before he answered, "Just wanted to let you know that the Masterson was as complete as er... it needed to be."

Skinner looked down at the glass he was clutching in his two hands before he offered, "That's good?" he took another gulp, the plan had seemed so simple when he had thought it up, but now, seeing the large bed in the room he was not so sure it would succeed.

"What's going on here, Skinner?" Krycek suddenly demanded, his glance now ice and his tone just as cold.

Skinner knew that he had betrayed himself, but he struggled to save the situation as he countered, "This... this isn't me..." he stopped and confessed, "I'm not sure that I can explain myself to you Krycek as I'm not even sure I understand it myself." He stammered to a stop, but the man before him stay silent watching closely until finally he continued, "I was married for a hell of a long time... but I've... I've always known that I... er like.." He stopped and coughed as he pushed the words out, "Liked men... I discovered this titbit of information while in Vietnam... you know... the mentality... buddy fuck as you might be dead in the morning so grab what comfort you can... but well... I er... discovered that I liked it more than... well let's just say that I really did have an education during that war.... Anyway, when I came back... I knew that I wanted to... go into law enforcement and I also knew, that to do that meant... meant being squeaky clean..." He stopped and swallowed another deep gulp, and looked up in surprise as Krycek was suddenly there to fill his glass, his expression one of keen listening, he was interested in Skinner's story so this gave him more courage to continue, surprised at how near the truth it actually was., "I loved Sharon, I really did, and I tried my best to be what she wanted, but it didn't work and after she left, I push myself into my work...." He stopped again and looked up at Krycek meeting his eyes dead on, his own reflecting the honestly of his words as he stated, "Then you came along... all fresh faced and eager... I felt... I felt attracted to another man... first time since Vietnam, and it scared the shit out of me... you... You scare the shit out of me, Alex... I've tried so hard to fight this... this feeling, but after I died," he was surprise to see Krycek wince at that but he pushed onwards, "Every time I see you, whenever I'm near you... I can't... I can't explain what you do to me..." he stopped again, and looked down at his glass which he only just realised he was twisting in his hand, and was empty again.

"So your telling me you've got the hots for me, a man who has attacked you, a man YOU have attacked and then left to freeze on your balcony overnight. Hardly the actions of an amorous man, Skinner." Krycek spat out, his green eyes ready to cut glass.

"You betrayed me damn it..." Skinner snarled back, his anger real, "You were under my command, you lied to me, helped them kidnap Scully, beat the shit out of me, had a hand in Mulder's father's death and I strongly suspect you know more about Scully's sister's death than you're letting on, you bastard. You've injected me with those nanocytes and have even killed me... and yet..." He stood up and advanced on the man who stood frozen before him, Skinner could tell that Krycek was ready to defend himself but he was also waiting to see what the taller man would do. "And yet." Skinner finally confessed, "I can't stop my heart from speeding up every time I see you... from wanting to just reach out... to just reach out and..." he stumbled to a stop, and closed his eyes as Krycek asked.

"To just reach out and?"

Skinner moved swiftly, his action taking the other man by surprise, but Krycek didn't try to break free of the grip that Walter had him in, instead he leant into the embrace and crumbled against the larger man, as Skinner swooped down and captured his lips in a hard, brutal kiss of intense passion. His tongue seeking and demanding entry, Walter freely ravaged the mouth under his and only released it when they both needed to breathe. "I hate you Krycek, damn you but I hate you... for this....." He mumbled into the neck that he began to attack with nipping bites, before he nipped his lips back up to take the mouth in another crushing kiss.

Krycek pressed up against Skinner, his body hardening as the other man worked his mouth, slipping across his cheek, leaving a trail of small kisses until he reach Alex's ear where he sucked the lobe and licked at it. Alex shuddered and plastered his length against Walter's unable to prevent the whimper that escaped his lips as his eyes closed, and he allowed himself to get lost in the rare sensation of being made love to.

Skinner manoeuvred Krycek backwards until his legs caught on the edge of the bed and he tumbled them both backwards. Krycek gasped as the heavier man landed on top of him, but it was a secure feeling to have the weight pushing down on him, as Walter wiggled a leg in between his own and spread them further apart, seeking further contact with the smaller man.

Skinner carefully moved his hands so that he could undo the shirt of the man under him and with gentle care he run his fingers over the flesh his action lay bare, he toyed with the nipples as he sucked kisses from the gasping, groaning man, and slowly moved his hand down the body to play with the belt and button until he had loosened the trousers enough to push them out of the way, allowing him to grasp the raging cock he knew was waiting. Sliding to the side he let one hand circle the throbbing member and alternately squeezed and then pulled at the growing length. All Krycek could do was gasp and shudder as his former boss played with his body, taking him higher and higher.

Skinner lay watching the play of emotions as they slid across Krycek face, his hand now working faster and faster as he toyed to bring the other man to fulfilment. It did not take long before Alex gasped, reared up and spurted over both of them, he slumped back on the bed as Skinner leant in and tenderly, ever so tenderly, kissed his lips and allowed his tongue to play with the mouth under his own.

Seeing that Krycek was now laying in a post euphoric haze, he stood and silently began to remove his own clothes, his actions of making love to the man had aroused his own desire and seeing the man sprawled under him, he knew that he could and would take him. Once he was naked he began to carefully undress Alex, the man moved lazily to assist him, a smile playing about his face. Skinner had to wonder at the stupidity of the man for allowing himself to be caught so totally off guard, but then the eyes open and the glint in them startled Walter into realising that while Alex lay totally submissive under his ministrations, he was allowing this and he was still quite capable of turning into a killing beast and end his lover's life. Skinner filed that away for future reference and continued on, his body now forcing his mind into only one course of action.

"Lube..." Skinner gasped, handling his own body as he fought to keep it under some kind of control until he was ready.

"Draw..." Krycek breathlessly replied before he reached up with his one hand and fumbling open a drawer beside the bed he snagged a tube of lube and a condom.

Skinner swiftly removed the items from Alex's care and gently pushed him back, smiling as he did so, he swooped in and claimed a hot kiss before he whispered.

"Don't move.. tonight you are mine to control... just tonight." He countered as he saw the words raise on the other's lips. Alex relaxed and acquiesced to Walter's urgent demands.

Swiftly Skinner moved Krycek into a position that would be best suited for their future actions and after making sure that Alex was comfortable he eased the other man's leg up onto his shoulder and knelt between the splayed legs, gently easing his finger into the other's body. He worked Krycek slowly, taking pains to make sure the man was ready for him. Then with shaking hands he slipped the condom on and played with his cock as he greased it for entry.

"Are you ready?" Walter gasped, sweat shining on his body as he fought to control his urges, it was a hard fight as he took in the sprawled abandonment of the man beneath him.

Alex just reached out and took the hard cock in a gentle grasp and pulled it carefully towards his own body. This was all the encouragement that Skinner needed, with a sigh of contentment and his own hand to guide him, he slipped into the prepared body of Alex Krycek who arched up to meet him, his own cock again flaring and raging.

They moved in a single motion for several long moments as Skinner built up speed, sweat mingled between them as gasps and grunts filled the air. This was a rutting that was built on gentleness and preparation, so it was intense and pleasurable to both men. Finally Walter could hold back no longer and with a grunt of animal domination he began to thrust in earnest, Krycek arching up to meet every thrust with his own action of acceptance. One, two... three times Skinner forced himself deeply into his lover before he arched his own back, teeth gritted, every muscle in his body straining as he pushed his seed as deeply as possible into the acquiescent man under him. Walter bellowed as he found his release and Krycek matched it with a cry of his own as his cock spurted out his own fluid between them.

Finally after what seemed to be several long minutes, Skinner collapsed onto his lover, and carefully, breathing hard, he removed himself from Krycek and slowly slumped, exhausted down beside the other man. He tilted his head to see that Alex was also panting, his eyes closed, his glistening chest heaving, as he gulped in much needed air. Skinner smiled and moving over on shaking arms he lowered himself to steal another kiss before he settled in and pulled the totally relaxed body towards him. He held him snugly until both men slipped into an fatigued slumber. Both men too exhausted by the intense sex to even contemplate cleaning themselves up.

**

Skinner sat at his desk, his mind a whirl as he remembered the night before. They had woken near dawn and made love again, just as gentle and wild as the previous night, before they had dragged themselves apart, only to meet in the shower, just off the bedroom. They had kissed and licked at each other again, this time Skinner paid special attention to the severed arm, feeling Krycek tense as he kissed and licked over the stump, finally Alex had relaxed and held his head lovingly with his one hand as he watched the man administered to the puckered flesh of his lost arm.

Then they had dressed and departed out of a back entrance to the club. No words were spoken as they parted, just a lingering touch of hands, a long look and a promise in Krycek's eyes, which were warmer and more tender than they had ever been before. Skinner felt a small bit of frustration as he accepted that the hand held palm computer that was used to control the nanocytes was not with Krycek that night, but as he had suspected and had been informed previously, the control was in a safe place and if Alex did not return to collect it, the consequences to Skinner would be deadly. He didn't ask about it, or give any indication that the night they had spent together had been anything but two lovers meeting and confirming their need for each other.

Skinner had barely made it home, showered again this time scrubbing his skin almost raw, and headed back into the office. He felt exhilarated and cheap at the same time. He had done what he set out to do, and had far exceeded his expectations. He had totally seduced Alex Krycek and had, he hated to admit it, enjoyed the encounter far more then he intended. The man was a wonder in bed, eager to accept what his lover wanted. Just closing his eyes Skinner could see Krycek on his knees, body supported by his one arm as he tilted his head back, looking wantonly over his shoulder encouraging Skinner to enter him, holding up his round firm ass as torment to the heavier man. Skinner had been far too willing to oblige him.

Walter gave himself a hard shake and pushed the thoughts of the previous evening out of his mind. He was not making love to Alex Krycek; he was seducing him, and seducing him for one reason, and only one reason, to gain control of the palm computer that controlled the nanocytes that rushed about his blood. He again felt rage swell up from the pit of his stomach, like a snake uncoiling within his gut, as he remembered the torture that Krycek had put him through when he had first infected him with the nanocytes, of how hard he had died, only to be brought back to life by that rat bastard.

Skinner leant back in his chair and forced his emotions to retreat. He had to work, had to get through this day and the next and as many days as it took to bring the man he had slept with to his knees, and put him through the same hell that he had placed Skinner in, and it was with this thought that Walter Skinner turned his full attention to his work.

**

Several weeks had passed, slipping easily into months, and during that time Skinner had met with Krycek on a twice weekly basis and each time they had made love. Wild, passionate, searing, body licking, totally exhausting love. During that period Krycek had not forgotten that he wanted information from Skinner and the other man had been eager to supply, giving the impression that he was now working with Krycek instead of fighting against him. Walter was wise enough to ask enough questions, probing enough to show that he now wanted to know the reason behind why Alex wanted that information, and had in fact given a few suggestions of his own, which had started to be accepted within the last few week, as Krycek finally started to lower his shields.

Always they would meet at a gay bar and Krycek would escort Skinner to a set of private rooms behind the club, letting it slip once that he had several such places spotted about the city and he used these as he hideaways. All had beds, bathrooms and a couple even had a small well stocked kitchen attached. Walter knew that the barman at each site usually filled the room with the necessary and from what he could tell, Alex was the only patron who used the room. Krycek paid very well for their loyalty.

Never once had Krycek brought the Palm computer to their secret meetings. Whenever Skinner casually mentioned it, Alex acted uneasy and would change the subject, and Walter was not sure that it was the right time to press it, although he did mention his concerns that it might fall into dangerous hands and his life would then be at risk, he also hinted that his working with Krycek was now more out of devotion and a growing sense of love. So they continued to meet, and continued to make love, and Skinner continued to wind his web of deceit tighter and tighter about Krycek.

The meeting that evening had been arranged earlier in the day and it was unusual in the respect that it was to be at a small Italian restaurant on a dark street, in a quiet neighbourhood. The prefect place for their meeting, as it was not the kind of place where a self-respecting AD would meet with an ex-FBI agent turned assassin.

Skinner walked in to the small cosy restaurant, gave his name and was surprised when the owner himself came to greet him, warmly showing him to a table in a booth at the back, the corner was dark, but more romantically so than sinister. Walter settled in and look about with interest. It was small, only about twelve tables, four of which were booths. Looking at the two pretty waitresses and their resemblance to the owner it was obviously a very close family business.

"Would you like a drink?" A voice suddenly spoke beside him, looking up Skinner smiled at the young teenager who was standing beside the table. She smiled back, holding her pad in front of her.

"Er... what do you have?" he asked, looking at the small bar that run along the back. It was simple but clean and the shelves along the back showed an extensive range of bottles. The waitress followed his look and offered with another bright smile.

"I'm sure we will have whatever you want, and if we don't, we can always send Mario out to fetch it from the local store."

Skinner sat back in surprise as he stated, "You are uncommonly generous to please your patrons." She laughed at this and supplied with a big smile.

"Oh no... not really, we do try to please our customers, but you are special..."

Skinner frowned before he asked, "Special?"

The pretty woman looked about as if to impart a secret, then leaning closer she offered, "Senor Krycek ordered the table himself... said he was bringing a friend... a close friend... " She paused before she added her tone dropping slightly, "He has never done that before. He always comes alone and sits here so sad... "

Skinner sat back, totally surprised at her words. For weeks he had been working on getting close to Krycek, and had started to believe that he was never going to get close to Alex, that there would only ever be sex between them, and then suddenly, out of the blue Krycek arranges a romantic dinner at a restaurant that was obviously close to him.

"So..." the waitress continued shaking her melancholy aside, "What would you like to drink?"

"Er... Scotch on the rocks would be fine."

"Scotch it is then." She wrote the order down, smiled once more and then headed back to the bar.

"She is really pretty isn't she?" Krycek suddenly said, appearing by the booth, he smiled at Skinner's surprised look before he slipped into the seat opposite his lover. "Missed me?" he asked, reaching across and running his finger up the other man's hands, his eyes warm. It was an intimate gesture.

Skinner pulled his hand back, but then forced himself to stop as he saw the confused expression that fled across Alex's face, so leaning forward he offered scolding slightly, "In public, Alex!!!" he countered his tone with a warm smile, letting it reach his eyes as he raised an eyebrow.

Alex relaxed back in his seat and informed Walter in a husky tone, which was capable of sending shivers down the AD's back. "No sweat... this place is safe..." He paused as the waitress returned to placed a drink in front of Skinner and then another one to Krycek's right. "Thank you, Maria..."

"My pleasure..." she smiled as she handed over the menu, "I'll give you a few minutes." She offered as she moved off to serve another couple.

"This is..." Skinner looked about the restaurant again and offered weakly, "not like our usual meeting place."

Krycek was now totally relaxed and smiled warmly, "I thought it would make a nice change to go somewhere different... somewhere special..."

"Special?" Walter asked, his heart speeding up as he considered what the special reason might be.

Krycek reached into his pocket and pulled out a small brightly wrapped box, which he slid gently across the table, his eyes flaring with an emotion that Skinner had never thought to see in Alex Krycek's eyes, let alone flashing at him. He carefully reached out and taking the box he unwrapped it and slowly opened it, surprised to note that his hands were slightly shaking. A pair of cufflinks reflected in the dull lighting, a solitaire diamond in the centre of each.

"Alex.. this is... too much." Walter stammered, totally floored by the expensive gift. "No... no..." Alex insisted reaching across and again resting his hand on top of Walter's. "This is our... our two month anniversary." There was an eagerness in the tone that made Skinner feel slightly sick. This man had really fallen in love with him. He pushed the twinge of guilt aside, seeing this as his opportunity to push home his need to be free of the threat from the nanocytes. Licking at dry lips he leant forward and said, his tone as sincere as he could manage, his eyes showing the inner torture that he wrestled with every night.

"If you really want to give me a gift Alex, you could stop me from waking up in the night, in a cold sweat, from wondering each morning if I am going to die today. You, and only you can take away my nightmare of feeling the pain, the torment I suffered when you first activated those nanocytes." He suddenly lurched forward and garbed at Krycek's hand said earnestly. "Alex... I want to love you... hell, a part of me does desperately... and yet... and yet still this stands between us... a threat.... We can never be equal partners."

Skinner snapped the lid of the box shut and pushed it gently back towards Krycek. Then looking about once more, he reached for his drink, tossed it back with a shaking hand, then Skinner stood and fled from the restaurant, never looking back. Surprised at the honesty behind the words, and terrified at what they implied. He had never been able to lie to himself, and yet here he was desperately trying to flee from it.

**

The next couple of days were the hardest that Skinner had ever had to live. He got up every morning, got ready and went to work. As he did so he went over and over the memory of the night in the restaurant. Had he been right to force the issue in such a manner, would he now pay for his impetuous actions with his life.

Skinner still found it hard to believe that Krycek could love him so completely, the look in the man's eyes as he slid the anniversary present across the table had not been a lie. The eagerness of a small child about to spring a surprise had been so total, so real that no one could have acted that part, not acted it as well as Alex had. Somewhere within the web that Skinner had been weaving he had capture more than just an assassin, he had caught a small boy who had never been good enough to earn his parents love, the young man who had been drawn into committing espionage, that had dragged him deeper and deeper into the dark world that he could now not escape from, who spent most of his adult existence running for his life, never able to set down roots or stay in one place long enough to attempt a relationship. The affair with Skinner had started out to be just that, and yet, Walter had manipulated events in such a manner that he had forced the other man to step out of the shadows where Alex was safe, and into the light of his pretend love, and like a small animal beaten and mistreated, Krycek had responded out of all proportion to the first act, of what he perceived, to be true kindness towards him.

One part of Walter Skinner felt totally ashamed at how well his plan had worked. He had not really expected Krycek to respond so instantly to his overtures. He had honestly believed the assassin to be more experienced in the game. How could he not know that Walter was only using him, the lovemaking was good, hot in fact and Walter had found using the other's body to be far easier then he expected and never once, not once had Alex ever asked to use Walter's body. Alex was a willing and eager lover, who responded to every wish that Skinner suggested, as far as the bedroom was concerned it was Walter who had control. It had always been Skinner who fucked, and Walter now made sure that he only thought that term when thinking of the things they did together. He was not going to trip himself into his own trap by daring to call it love. As he honestly thought that what he felt for the other man would only last as long as it took to get his hand on the palm computer.

This led Skinner to another question. Did Krycek really love him enough to surrender the control of the palm held computer to him? Would Alex ever contract Walter again, and if he did would it be to arrange another meeting in an underground car park? Would all the time and effort that Skinner had put into his trap be wasted? The AD knew that at the next meeting he would have to play the errant lover, who was sorry for his previous actions, who had let the shock of the event overtake him in a moment of weakness. He would eat humble pie, if it would help him regain any control that he had lost.

Even as the thoughts crossed his mind, Skinner felt an urge to attack something. Every time he remembered what Krycek had done to him in the past, he felt a murderous rage take hold of him. On top of this, he could now add the fact that the stupid rat bastard thought he was in love with him. It nearly made the older man sick, and yet it also caused a flutter to take up residence in his stomach and that was what he really could not forgive Krycek for. The suspicion that the other man might actually come to mean more to Skinner then Walter was prepared to accept, and like any man who is force to face his own worse nightmare, Skinner was willing to place the blame for that addiction squarely on Alex Krycek's shoulders. It was another sin that he would be punished for as soon as Walter had gained back control of his own life, and punish Krycek he would. His anger and honour would demand nothing less.

The phone rung loudly, shattering Walter's contemplation's and Skinner snatched it up. "Skinner." He said, and held his breath as he heard the low breathing that informed him that Krycek was on the other end.

"Walt..." came the hesitant voice, and Skinner felt his eyes close in reaction. Finally he answered.

"Yes."

"Tonight... the Erotic Unleashed club... eight o'clock..." again a deep pause before he continued. "If you don't turn up... I'll.... I'll understand..." The line went dead, but it was several seconds before Skinner was able to stop his shaking enough to replace the receiver. He had not been able to deduce anything from Krycek's tone. Could not say if the man was going to free him or kill him that evening. Yet, he knew that he would have to go. He had no way of knowing if Krycek would use the nanocytes against him if he didn't turn up, but he knew that he could not live with the uncertainty.

**

The bar was as crowded as he remembered from his initial visit. The noise as loud, but unlike then, he now just nodded at the barman and made his way straight though to the rooms at the back. Skinner had spent the rest of the day hovering from a thrill of excitement that his torment might be coming to an end, to plunging into a raging anger of depression that his lover might be preparing to kill him. He had snapped and sneered his way through the afternoon, and by three no one was willing to badger him in his den. So he had just sat and brooded, until his temper was stretched to snapping point.

Krycek was already waiting for him, he stood as Skinner entered and smiled hesitantly, his face creased with worry as he offered lamely, "I wasn't sure if you would come."

Skinner sighed and offered honestly as he removed he coat, "I wasn't sure if I should."

"I'm sorry about the other night." Krycek began, biting his lip before he continued, "It was a bit... senseless..." he gave a small bark of laughter, it sounded hollow, "I mean... acting like a teenager in love..." Alex actually looked acutely embarrassed, but whether by his actions or his words, Walter could not tell.

Skinner didn't want him to continue to apologise as it was making his own guilt and anger raise it's ugly head and he really didn't want to face that particular demon just now, so he interrupted roughly. "And I reacted badly..." Again he forced air from his lungs, and moved further into the room, "Look could we just forget the other night... it was just badly timed..."

Krycek moved towards Skinner and lifting a hand he cupped the other man's unshaved cheek saying in a gentle, desperate tone. "No... no, you were right... we can't be partners... not real partners, not in the way I want us to be... not... not...while you have the nanocytes hanging over your head..." Alex tilted his head as he looked deeply into Walter's eyes and added, "you were right my love."

Skinner froze, his eyes darting up to look deeply into Krycek's. There was that damn eagerness again, and the flurry skittered back into Walter's stomach again.

Krycek took Skinner's silence as acceptance of what he was saying, and reaching his hand into his jacket he withdrew the palm control and offered it over saying innocently. "I've disabled it..." he stopped breathing hard, excited by his actions as he continued, "You can take it with you, or destroy it here... but they won't ever be able to use those nanocytes against you.... Not ever..."

Skinner dizzily accepted the palm control; only then realising that his own hand was shaking. He looked at it, how could something that appeared so small have such an impact on his life? How could he have lived in fear of this tiny machine and the man who held it for so long? He allowed it to slip through his fingers and lifting his foot he ground it under his heel, wincing as he did so, even now expecting the pain from the nanocytes to flare. When it didn't he stamped again and again on the shattered palm control until he was grinding computer bits under his heel.

"Walt.... Babe... Walter..." a worried voice was calling him as if from a long distance, and he was abruptly back in his body, looking down into the worried green eyes of the man he had fucked for the last two months. "It's.... It's over... we can... work together now..." the tone had slipped into the hushed tenor that indicated just how intensely Krycek was feeling.

The words acting as the potion that broke the spell that had surrounded Skinner's building rage for the last two months. He felt himself draw back, a snarl crossing his face, saw the confusion and tilt of the other's head, the nervous lick of the lips, the eyes that deepened with concern as his action.

"You're right..." Skinner agreed, his tone as cold as the ice that was freezing up his eyes, his heart. "It is over, Krycek...." He raised his hand and slapped the other man hard about his face, causing Alex to spin, falling onto the bed, his sense of balance lost.

"Walt...." Krycek began, trying to push himself off the bed, with his one good arm, not sure what was happening, still unable to understand why his lover was reacting like this, after all he had just given Skinner his freedom. Alex froze, his face twisting as realisation of where his thoughts were taking him flashed across his features. Krycek's face reflected his horror at the comprehension of the betrayal.

"Just figured it out huh baby..." Skinner snarled seeing the look, he reached down and pulled Krycek up, and ploughed his fist into the man's middle, enjoying the ooff sound that Alex issued at this, he did it again and again, putting his whole weight behind the punch and feeling the body give under the impact, ribs compacted and crumpled as he attacked them. Until it was only his grip on Krycek that was keeping the man on his feet. Skinner tossed him across the room, where he hit the wall hard. "How does it feel to be on the receiving end of the pain Krycek.." Walter asked, as he marched over and pulled the other man up, this time sending him spinning into the wall with a fist to the face. Blood spurted out of the split lip, but Skinner ignored it and moved in to strike again.

The beating was harsh and intense. Skinner had a lot of rage and pain to process and brutalising Krycek was doing wonders for his closures. It took the man about ten minutes to completely vent his anger and when he did, Krycek was a barely conscious bundle at his feet, his one hand feebly clawing as he vainly tried to move away from the foot that was damaging his body. Skinner seeing this stepped forward and leaning down he again pulled at Krycek, this time only dragging him partly off the ground as he hissed into a bruised ear.

"Do you know what it felt like... the pain... the not being able to do anything about it...the helplessness of it all...." it was almost a creasing whisper, as gently as any lovers kiss. "Well I guess I'm going to have to give you a little example of what it felt like...."

So saying he dumped Krycek to the ground and reaching down he grabbed the other's hand. He grasped the index and middle finger's getting a good hold of them and suddenly, viciously snapped them back, using his brute strength to snap them like dry twigs.

During the entire assault Krycek had not cried out, not once. He had whimpered, groaned, but never yell in agony, but with the snapping of his two fingers he let out a banshee shriek that must have been heard above the music of the club. Skinner allowed the broken man to slip to the ground, noting that he curled about the damaged hand, then stepping over him he swung open the door and casually strolled out of the room, adjusting his jacket. He never looked back.

**

How long Krycek lay there he had no idea, his consciousness kept fading in and out and he felt nauseous, and not only from the attack.

"Oh my God...." Came a voice above him and he forced opened his one good eye to peer at George, the bartender who was standing over him, his face white with shock and concern. "What the hell happened to you..." this was closely followed by, "We need to get you to a hospital..."

Alex had just enough sense left to gasp, "NO... no hospital.."

George came back into view, this time stooping down, "But babe... you're.... You're just bloody all over...."

"No... hospital..." Alex gasped and groaned, before he bit his lip, the blood seeping into his mouth only making him more determined to suffer in silence, as he always had. It was funny, but ever since he had been a child, this blessed feeling of slipping into unconsciousness had always been his warmest friend. "I can't...." whatever else he'd been about to say was lost as darkness swept over him.

**

When next he awoke he was in the bed, his ribs had been strapped, his fingers wedged together and taped, and his other injuries tended, his whole body hurt. He had been beaten in the past, many times, but never, never had he felt so... broken.

"Here drink this..." a gentle voice said and his head was carefully lifted as a glass was pressed to his lips, he drunk greedily before the water was removed, "No too much... we don't know about internal injuries... I don't think you've got any... least ways... as far as one can tell with all that bruising... but you really should consider going to hospital to get checked out...."

"No.... no hospitals..." Krycek gasped, then taking a longer look at the man who was treating him, a man he didn't recognise, he asked, "Who?"

"Oh... my name's Peter... I'm a friend of George's.... I'm a second year medical student... when he found you... well... he asked me to take a look... I've done what I can... but well..." he shrugged, "I've done the best I can...."

"Thanks." Krycek offered, trying to force back the agony of a raging headache, but that was nothing compared to the torture that was radiating from his heart. How could he have been such a fool as to believe that someone like Walter Skinner could actually fall in love with him? He was nothing more than a cheap, worthless whore and the Assistant Director had skilfully used that against him. He knew that he should be raging against what Skinner had done, should be trying to build up his strength so that he could return to reap his revenge against the man who had hurt him so badly, but the truth was he just couldn't seem to drag up the energy to fight any longer. It suddenly didn't seem as important.

"Here..." Peter was back, this time holding another small glass, this one cloudy with a drug. Krycek willing accepted the drink, wanting nothing more than to float away from it all.

George crept in half an hour later, and silently watched as Peter, wiped a cold cloth over the beaten body of his friend, tilted his head and wincing at the damage done to the beautiful body he asked sadly, "How...?"

Peter shrugged, he had already had the 'take him to hospital' conversation with George who had been adamant that it would not be in Alex's best interest. While Peter could not understand George's devotion to the man, he had to accept that it was the injured man's decision. Standing Peter said regretfully, "Look... I've got to go... classes tomorrow... an exam... I can't miss it...you know..."

George looked at his friend and smiled, "Thanks... I'm just about to lock up anyhow..." then looking back at the unconscious man he asked, "Should I stay...." He worried at his lip, his boyfriend was already waiting in the car outside for him, and he would not understand if George asked to stay the night, the relationship was already rocky, and George was desperate to save it.

"He should sleep the night..." Peter offered, knowing the rough situation that his friend was in, taking his jacket and slipping it on he continued. "The injuries and the drugs will see to that..."

The bartender nodded and offered, "I'll come in early tomorrow and check on him... if necessary I'll take him to the hospital... whether he wants to or not..." With that George gently touched the battered face, wincing at the bruises, then knowing there was little he could do at present he turned and escorted his friend from the club.

Once the door closed, Krycek slowly opened his eyes. He had heard the entire conversation and knew that George would insist on calling an ambulance and dragging him to hospital, he was surprised that he hadn't done so already. He swallowed hard and felt his eyes close against his will. The drug was strong and swirled about his body. He desperately needed rest, and his body refused to obey his commands as darkness once more claimed him.

**

When George returned to the club the early next morning, his first action was to check on his friend. He was not totally surprised to find that sometime during the night, the man he knew only as Alex had left.

**

Several days passed since Walter Skinner's attack on Krycek. Several days during which Skinner enjoyed the act of just being alive...alive and free. He had awoken the next morning after the first restful night's sleep he'd had since the nanocytes had attacked his body. He felt free, a release that was as potent as any jail sentence ending, as fresh as stepping out of any confining chamber, and he was unable to keep the spring out of his step or the smile from his face.

A couple of times the memory of the beating he had given Krycek flashed across his mind and he was surprised to feel that flutter in his stomach again, when he thought of just how badly he had hurt the other man, and he was honest enough with himself to know that he had totally overreacted. He was not usually such a brutal man, and it was only the strong emotion that Krycek stirred in him that had caused him to lash out so violently.

Nevertheless, he had pushed those twinges aside and continued with his life, not accepting that with each passing day his concern for his ex-lover continued to grow. How would he survive with the broken fingers that Skinner had given him, and the busted ribs? Until finally Walter had to admit that he would not rest until he knew for certain that he had not murdered Krycek.

With that thought in mind, he took the rest of the day off and returned to the club. It was closed, but George was there taking inventory. The bartender gasped as he saw Skinner approach, then spinning he attempted to flee, but Walter was too fast for him, and soon the man was laying over his own bar, his arm twisted up painfully behind his back as Skinner demanded.

"Where the hell is he?"

"I don't know...." George gasped, struggling to break free. He was not a small man, but Skinner easily had him pinned down.

"I will twist your arm off unless you tell me..." Skinner threatened and George after seeing Alex's condition was in no doubt that his man would keep his word.

"God, I swear don't know... I got him looked at... a friend of mine... then left for the night... when I got back the next day.... He was gone... I don't know...where." He finally gasped, and his words held just the right amount of truth to allow Skinner to release him. The man attempted to run again, but Walter just grabbed him and tossed him back against the bar demanding.

"Where else... where else would he go?"

George looked at the man before him, he was terrified. The man was a giant and angry, a dangerous combination, but he could only give the answer he knew. Slowly he shook his head and offered weakly, "I don't know..." he shook his head, "He... had a couple of places... like the room out back."

"I know about those... but he wouldn't go somewhere where we had been..." even as he said the words a thought crossed his mind, the Italian restaurant where Krycek had taken him, the owner had seemed fond of Alex, if Skinner's own reception had been anything to go on.

Without a word he left a shaking George behind, and left the club, making his way to the restaurant, it was open for the lunchtime business, and Skinner was pleased to note that he was again welcomed warmly and when he informed the owner that he was looking for Alex, he was disappointed when a grey head was shook, followed by a shrug. The man had not seen Krycek, for several days, and had no idea where he was.

Skinner forced back his disappointment, and slowly turned to leave, politely refusing the offer of a free lunch, he made his excuses and left. He had just reached his car when he heard his name being called behind him, turning he saw Maria, the teenage waitress making her way towards him.

"Mr Skinner... Mr Skinner." He reached out to steady her as she reached him, "I'm sorry..." he waited while she caught her breath. "You were asking after Alex?" Skinner just nodded. "You don't know where he lives?"

Skinner looked away before he confided uncomfortably, "We always met at my place...." Then he added for good measure, not easy with the fact that he was lying to this young woman. "We had an argument... I said some things..."

"The night you were here?"

Skinner looked up slightly surprised, but he managed to cover it well and slowly nodded in agreement grateful that she accepted his words so easily.

"Alex was sad when he left...that night...." She said, remembering the slumped shoulders as her friend had departed. "Look, he has an apartment... over the jazz club the Blue Cat... it's about three blocks up on Hudson... he..." she paused and bit her lip again before resting a gently had on Skinner sleeve as she finished, "He looked happy... with you... the other night... Alex never looked so happy before..."

Skinner felt the breath leave his body in a whoosh, and he swallowed hard against the flutter in his stomach that had suddenly turned into a twisting knot of agony. "Thank you... thank you... Maria..." he finally said and watched as she nodded once, happy that she had been able to do something for her friend, and headed back to the small restaurant.

**

Skinner stood outside the apartment door and considered his options. He could enter and take responsibility for whatever he found, or he could turn about and leave, and force the memory of Alex Krycek forever from his thoughts. The fluttering in his stomach would not allow him to leave. Bending he made short work of the lock and slowly the door swung opened.

He raised his hand to his nose as the smell of the room assailed him. The stench was thick, the smell of urine almost overpowering. The light was feeble, the blinds fixed firmly in place. The room was fairly large, a bed at one end, a kitchen at another, with a door leading off near the bed. The bathroom Skinner assumed, a set of chairs near the kitchen allowed for a seating area. But what caught his attention was the figure that lay crumpled on the bed.

In a couple of strides Skinner was standing beside the bed, reaching out to check of a pulse. He relaxed when he felt the delicate beat of blood as it pulsed about Krycek body. Once assured that the man was in fact alive, he took the time to actually look at him. He was sweating, and Skinner could now see that he was in fact moving slightly on the bed, shivering, small tremors assailing his body, a fever having taken a firm hold of him. He looked deathly ill, bruised and unshaven, still dressed in the clothes that he had been wearing on the night of the attack, but Walter could just see a ragged, dirty bandage wrapped about his middle, and shivered when he saw the pathetic strips that were tied about his swollen and disfigured fingers.

"Alex?" Skinner gasped, then seeing the man's feeble attempt to lick his dry lips, he moved towards the kitchen and after finding a glass he poured some cold water into it and very carefully assisted Alex to drink. The man gasped and eagerly moved his mouth to accept the drink. Once Skinner was happy with the amount of liquid that Krycek had consumed, he placed the glass aside and started to objectively inspect the injuries, carefully removing the torn clothes to do so. The abrasions were nasty and when each bruise was revealed and each cracked or broken rib identified, Skinner would wince. He still felt distant from the actual attack, almost as if he had been a stranger using his body to beat the younger man into unconsciousness.

Finally he looked at the fingers, they were indeed broken, but they appeared to have been strapped effectively, yet the other three fingers were scrapped raw, and bleeding sluggishly, how ever Krycek had made it to his apartment, it had not been easy, and judging from the scattered first aid remains tossed about the room, he had pitifully attempted to administer to himself before his fever had overtaken him.

Moving to the bathroom, looking for a face cloth with which to cool Alex down, Skinner noted that the room was a mess, it was obvious that Krycek had attempted to use this room as well, but his aim had been affected by his broken fingers and damaged body. It was then that he noted how cold the apartment was, looking about he found the heater and turned it on.

After giving Alex some more water, and cleaning him up as best he could without moving him too much, he left to gather some supplied and make arrangements for his absence from work for the next few days.

**

When Skinner returned, his arms piled with supplies, he gratefully dropped them on the kitchen counter, which separated the living area from the other. Checked on Alex, saw that he was still out for the count. Diluted three dissolvable painkillers in water and dribbled it down his throat, then set about cleaning the place, opening some windows to allow fresh air in. By evening he had the small apartment, cosy warm and back to some resemblance of order, had cleaned and re-bandaged Krycek injuries, and was now waiting for the soup to warm enough for him to attempt to wake Krycek and force it down Alex's throat. During it all the man on the bed had not moved, even when Skinner had gathered him up, blankets and all to sit in the large chair while he cleaned and re-made the bed, then he had transferred him back and removed his clothing and made him as comfortable as possible. Walter had gasped in shock as he removed the clothes and saw the extent of Alex's bruises, and as he washed the black and blue skin he had been unable to stop his hands from shaking. Krycek's fever still burned high, and Skinner decided that he would give it the one night, and if it did not fall, then he would take Alex to the hospital. He knew the risks involved, but he also knew that he would ensure the younger man's safety, even if it meant staying with him 24/7 to do so.

The soup bubbled and Skinner carefully poured it into a bowl, then he gathered up the rest of the utensils, a large towel and made his way carefully towards Krycek, placing the tray on the small table next to the bed, he carefully manoeuvred the injured man until he was sitting in a more upright position, making sure there were enough pillows to support him, Walter knew that it would be kinder to do it while the man was still unconscious.

"Alex." He gently said reaching out and carefully skimming his fingers down the battered cheek. This was not the remote touch of a healer treating a patient, this was the gently creases of a lover. "Krycek... babe... I need you to wake up now..." His voice caught as he heard the words he was saying, they were not words that he had thought about, they were the feelings that he was fighting to hold back, but seeing Alex, the man he had made love to for the past two months, looking so weak, so fragile was just too much for him to bear and no matter what the outcome, he was not going to lie to either Alex or himself any more. He loved this man.

Skinner was not a fool, he was fully aware that one of the first things Krycek was bound to do, once he was mobile again was kill him, but Walter was prepared for that, and he only hoped that he would persuade Alex to just listen to him before he ended his life, whether that be by delivering a swift bullet to the brain or walking out on him.

Alex groaned and slowly moved his head from side to side as if trying to rid himself of an unpleasant thought, but it was all the indication that Walter needed as he leant in closer and as gently as a butterfly landing he whispered his lips across those of Alex as he spoke huskily, "That's right Alex... come back...I need to see you open... open your eyes... do it for me babe."

Krycek swallowed and groaned again, this time his eyes fluttered open, then closed again as he whimpered, it was obvious that the agony of his body was starting to hit, but Skinner could see that he was harnessing this pain to fight his way back to wakefulness. Walter felt a flash of pride and spoke again, this time his voice was more normal. "Alex... wake up... I need you to come back.... NOW."

It worked and Krycek blinked up at Skinner, then memory returned and he gasped as he tried to move away from Walter, but his action was stopped as pain swelled and he lay gasping in the bed, his eyes glaring fire and vengeance at the man who leant over him.

"Bastard." He gasped, unable to really do anything else.

"I know." Skinner agreed sadly, before he reached over Alex and very carefully placed the towel across the injured man's chest, "Here... try to eat this." He said, as he carefully manoeuvred the bowl so that he could feed Alex, he blew lovingly on each mouthful to ensure that it would not burn the other man. Krycek opened his mouth in shock at Skinner's gentle ministrations, and accepted the food without further comment, too confused and injured to really fight.

When the bowl was nearly empty, Krycek turned his head away from the offered spoon, indicating that he had had enough, but gladly accepted the painkillers and cool glass of water that was held to his lips. When he had drunk his fill he settled back, feeling sleep sneaking up on him he demanded, "What the... hell... are you... doing here." He had to gasp the words as pain flared from his broken and bruised ribs. "Come to.... check on..... your... handy... work." He snarled, fighting the bitterness that threaten to engulf him.

"Alex...." Skinner began, but Krycek interrupted his whole body shaking with reaction as he spat out.

"Don't.... You've had... your laugh.. now get out..."

Even as he said the words Skinner could see that he was fighting to stay conscious, so he sat back, not answering. He knew that Krycek was not yet ready to listen to what he had to say, nor was he strong enough to process it. He kept quiet as he watched Alex lose the struggle and slip back into a healing sleep.

**

The next twenty-four hours passed in pretty much the same manner. Walter kept watch over the sleeping man. Skinner would wake Krycek every six hours to force food and water and the tablets into him, and then watch while Alex hissed abuse at him and demanded that he left until exhaustion overtook him.

Skinner sat by Krycek the entire time, making sure that he was warm enough when he shivered and cooling down his body when his fever peaked. The next day Krycek started awake more clear eyed, he lay watching Skinner as the man pottered about the kitchen getting the next batch of soup ready.

Skinner, suddenly feeling eyes on him looked over and seeing the green orbs fever free he let out a sigh of relief. Filling a glass of water he approached the bed. As he sat down in the comfortable chair he had pulled up beside the bed Krycek asked, his voice a dry rasp, "WHY?" His tormented emotions showing clearly in his eyes.

Skinner sat back as he contemplated the question, finally he delayed, "Why am I here, or why did I do it?" He tried to keep his voice neutral, but was unable to hide the hitch that slipped in.

Krycek closed his eyes, trying to push away the image of Skinner snarling as he attacked him, and choosing his words with care he demanded, "Why did you LIE to me?" Coughing as he finished and gritting his teeth against the pain that swept up from his ribs, and when Walter would have helped him drink, he tilted his head away and insisted again, "WHY?"

Skinner looked at the glass in his hand, not sure how he could answer Krycek in a manner that would allow the other man to believe him, taking a breath he decided to tell the truth, as this was now the only thing that might bring this man back to his side. "When I.... When I died... because of the nanocytes... something changed... deep within me... I'd faced death before, hell in Vietnam I was actually in a body bag before they realised that I was alive... but that time...."

Walter closed his eyes and fought to get his thinking in order, for the last twenty four hours he had thought of nothing but what he was going to say to this man, but now, now that it had come to it, he could not remember any of what he had considered important, so he tried again.

"I have always... always been in control... then one day a smoking bastard came into my office and informed me that I was going to have to... HAVE TO.... have you in my section and that it would be in my best interest to assign you to Agent Mulder. Do you know what that felt like Alex... not being in control... of my own section... and then... everything else that happened, that took the control further and further away from me... I just hated it, and I guess... I guess I grew to hate you... you stood for everything that had taken my control away... the beating in the stairwell, Scully's sister being shot, the death of Mulder's father... every where I turned your name came up... and then finally the nanocytes... By the time you came into my office to show me exactly what you could do.... I hated you... I just wanted you to die... but it never happened, and then you started demanding things of me... causing my to further betray my oath." He stopped, letting the rage he had felt wash over him, but this time, instead off allowing it take control he absorbed it, allowing it to give him the strength to continue.

"Then I remembered something that Spender... the smoking man once mentioned, about me making another conquest... as I lay awake that night this one thought began to take hold, and around and around it would go... what if I could use that against you... could in some way seduce you..."

He paused again, and this time he reached out, trying to touch the bruises cheek, but again Alex moved slightly away, wincing as he did so, but determined not to allow the expression of affection. Skinner let his hand fall, but continued his story. "I never expected...." He paused and swallowed hard, "I never expected it to work so effectively, nor...nor to have the impact that it did on me..."

"I need to... go to the toilet." Krycek suddenly said, his face blushing with his request, but he knew that he would not be able to make it to the bathroom unaided and he didn't want to embarrass himself further.

Skinner seeing this, immediately assisted the other man to raise from his bed, and helped him over to the bathroom, but when he would have entered to help him, Krycek held up his hand and pushed him back with his fast waning strength, then firmly closed the door on him. Walter spent a few anxious moments waiting for Alex to finish, and when the door finally opened, he was there waiting to catch the man when he staggered from the room.

Once Krycek was settled back in his bed, Skinner offered him the water again, which he accepted this time, gladly accepting the strong painkillers that Walter held out to him. As he relaxed back on the pillow he looked tired and drained, bruised and wounded, especially in his eyes, but he lifted his head slightly as he said coldly, his tone final, "I don't think I want to hear any more."

Skinner felt his stomach clench at the defeat that he heard in the tone, and the crushed expression that flickered across his features. This was a broken man, who was having to depend on the man who had attacked him, the breaking of Krycek's fingers was a particular cruel punishment considering the loss of his left arm. Skinner suddenly reached out and tilted the bruised face towards him, meeting Krycek's intense look he said slowly, clearly, "Alex... I love you..." He held up his other hand to prevent the man from speaking as he continued, "I know that at the moment you find that very hard to believe.... But I do... and if you will give me the chance I will.... I will prove it to you."

"Skinner..." Krycek began, but then licked his lips as he absorbed Walter's words, before he pushed them away to a place where he could handle them safely at a later date, finally he continued, "If you love me... like you profess to, then prove it by leaving me alone...." His words had the slight edge of sarcasm to it.

Walter sat back with a deep sigh, and remove his hand, he should not be surprised that Alex didn't believe him, after all he more than likely thought that this was just another trick on Skinner's part to torment him. Standing the older man, made his way to the kitchen and continued with the food. As he did so he said, "Once I'm satisfied that you can look after yourself, then I will leave... if you want me to.... but not until then."

Krycek was either too exhausted to argue further or just accepted the other's words, because the next time Skinner looked up, Alex was again caught in the grip of slumber. Laying down the knife that he had been using, he moved back to look down at the man he had confessed to love, and was unable to prevent the twinge of guilt that flickered about his stomach, and the edge of fear that seeped in with it. Had he done the right thing in telling Krycek that he loved him, or had he just given Alex a weapon to use against him? But what really concerned him, was the knowledge that Krycek might be so affected by Skinner's callous actions that he might not allow himself to accept that love.

**

That became the pattern for the following days, Krycek would awake, accept whatever food was placed in front of him, allowing Skinner to help him where absolutely necessary. He would not make a sound as Walter assisted him to the bathroom, but he would never allow the older man to enter with him and always locked the door firmly behind him.

Skinner accepted Krycek limitations on their relationship, as he fully understood the uncertainly that the younger man was suffering from. By the end of five days Krycek was able to make his own way to the bathroom and was eating his own food, admittedly it was still soup. He had showered that morning and allowed Skinner to re-strap his injuries.

Walter had realised that they were running out of supplies and after making sure that Krycek was sleeping soundly he had reluctantly left to gather more. He was gone for about an hour, but when he returned Alex was gone. He stood in the middle of the room, slowly looking about, searching for a note or something to inform him of where Krycek had gone. There was no message and Skinner had to finally admit that the man he loved had left his life, possibly forever, and he had no one but himself to blame.

**

Th next few weeks passed slowly for Walter Skinner. He threw himself into his work and spent most of the third week trying to figure out why Mulder was in such a good mood. He finally discovered when the other man asked him to confirm some information, and from that Skinner was able to glean that someone had been supplying the FBI agent with very damaging consortium information over the last few months and it was finally starting to be put to good use, as several arrests occurred that splashed across the media for a day.

Skinner was actually glad when Mulder approached him, as it gave him an opportunity to think about something else beside his missing lover. Once he saw the names and the information that Mulder was working from, he felt a shiver run down his spine, someone was helping Fox Mulder break the consortium and helping him constructively, as each sliver of data was closely followed by a concrete iron arrest. Skinner only hoped that whoever it was, was taking the proper precautions otherwise he would not live much longer.

It was not really a great surprise when Skinner returned to his office after a monthly budget meeting to find the smoking man waiting for him. He knew the moment he entered his office who was waiting form him. The haze of smoke that hung in the air caused him to cough and he glared at the man seating in a relaxed manner before his desk.

"Ahh... AD Skinner... it is good to see you again." CSM said, not bothering to rise from his seat.

Skinner pulled a face and turning slowly closed his door. "Why are you here?" He asked moving over to his desk. His voice was barely civil, as he fought to keep in his temper.

The man before him just waved aside his hands and commented, "You don't look pleased to see me, Mr Skinner, and I have come with such... good news for you."

Skinner felt his head snap up as he demanded, "Good news... for me?" If he was honest Walter had been expecting this visit ever since he had started signing off on the arrests that Mulder had instigated, but now that it was here he was not going to hide from the man.

The man just smiled and took a long drag from his cigarette before he finally said the two words that Skinner had been dreading to hear from this mans lips. "Alex Krycek."

While he had been expecting it, Walter still felt his breath catch, and he swallowed hard, hoping that the fear he suddenly felt was not showing in his eyes. "Alex Krycek." He repeated, forcing only a slight interest into his tone.

"Yes," CSM said, after another drag of his cancer stick. "It would appear that Agent Mulder has been gaining some rather damaging information and making arrests that we would rather he hadn't."

"Agent Mulder has proved himself to be most efficient at gathering information in the past, and in making arrests based on that data... why do you suspect Alex Krycek as being involved?" He paused and added for good measure, "After all, Mulder and Krycek have not had the most amenable relationship in the past, why would that rat bastard suddenly decided to help him?"

Spender nodded understanding where Skinner's comments were coming from and agreed with a sneer of disgust, "It would appear that recently Alex has undergone a... a change in his views as far as his loyalty and his own survival are concerned."

"You don't think his change in view might have had something to do with your attempting to kill him... do you?" Skinner asked dryly, with a raised eyebrow, determined not to allow Spender to see just how much is words were affecting him.

A look of distaste crossed Spender's features as he stated, "Alex Krycek has been a loose cannon for a number of years now....but he was always a survivalist... but recently he has deviated from that... pathway, and it is causing us some difficulties... He has knowledge that has proven to be.... harmful.... when it falls into the wrong hands. So it has been decided to remove this particular thorn from our side once and for all."

"What do you mean?" Skinner could barely ask the question, his gut was so tight that he felt that the man opposite him just had to know that he was being drowned in terror for his ex-lover.

"There is to be a meeting tonight between Agent Mulder and Krycek... you are to prevent Mulder from attending that meeting..."

"How will I do that?" Skinner asked, knowing that he had to keep his tone clear of any emotion, this man was too sharp an adversary not to notice that something was amiss.

Spender frowned and offered shortly his temper flaring, "That is your problem... but you must ensure that Agent Mulder does not attend that meeting." He stood up slow, gave Skinner a wasted, force smile, "Fox still has his uses to us..." and left the room.

Skinner sat for a long while, gathering his thoughts. Going over what he had learned. The consortium was going to kill Alex Krycek, and they were going to do it while he waited for Mulder to arrive for their meeting. He was surprised at the extent of jealously that flare within him. Alex had been secretly meeting Fox and the FBI agent had said nothing to him. He wondered bitterly just how close they were.

He sat back and wiped his hand over his face. There was no way that he could allow Spender and his people to kill Krycek and yet, how could he warn his ex-lover of the danger he faced. He had to, even if it meant revealing his own treachery to Spender and the consortium, coming to a decision he left his office and headed towards Mulder's basement sanctuary.

The younger man looked up in surprise as Skinner burst into his office and demanded, "Agent Mulder... have you had lunch yet?"

Mulder gaped in surprise and finally shot a glance at his watch, and then looked back to Skinner as he stammered, "It's three in the afternoon sir."

"Come with me." Skinner insisted before he turned and strolled from the room, he would allow no discussion and Mulder, was surprised and concerned by the AD actions. He dutifully followed as Walter left the building and walked several blocks to a small cosy coffee shop, which was nearly empty because of the time of day. Walter entered and motioned towards a booth at the back of the shop. Skinner waited until their orders had been taken before he spoke, his tone urgent and his look intense.

"The information that you have been using was given to you by Alex Krycek... correct?"

Mulder looked shocked, then paled, as he attempted to deny it, but Skinner waved his words roughly aside saying, "I've just had a meeting.... With the man.... who always leaves my ashtrays full.... He informed me in no uncertain terms.... that I had to keep you away from a meeting tonight with Krycek." He paused when he saw the colour again drain from his agent's features. "Look Mulder." Skinner continued, leaning over the table and almost hissing at the other man, "I don't give a rats ass about where you got your information from, but they are planning on killing Krycek tonight, and I am not about to let that happen... do you understand me?"

"Sir?" Mulder finally managed to gasp, totally caught off guard by the determination he witnessed in the other man's expression..

Skinner looked annoyed before he demanded, "What Agent Mulder?" He could feel the seconds ticking passed and was acutely aware that Alex's life expectancy was seeping away with them.

"Why are you... so... so interested in keeping Krycek alive... I mean... after what he has done to you... to us... I would have thought that you were the last person to want to keep him alive.... Hell, both you and I should be in line to pull the trigger..."

Skinner slumped back, and looked at the man who sat before him, he knew that his affair with Krycek had to be kept a secret otherwise both their lives would be worthless, but he also knew how to play the game, so he slipped into hunter mould and explained rationally.

"The information that Krycek has is unique... no-one else has been as deeply involved with the consortium and survived, and they are afraid of what he does know, and that alone Agent Mulder would make saving the life of Alex Krycek one of our most important missions..."

Mulder was looking even more perplexed with each word his boss said, but he could clearly see the determination in his eyes and he knew that Skinner meant to keep Alex alive, no matter what the cost, and while he might wonder at that, he also had to accede that Skinner was correct, the information that Krycek carried was worth keeping the man alive for, so he finally admitted. "Krycek has only been supplying me with bits and pieces... and to be honest the last time I saw him..."

"When?" Skinner barked out before he could prevent himself.

"What?"

Taking a breath Walter asked, his tone calmer "When did you last see Krycek?"

Looking even more confused Mulder answered, "About three nights ago..." He watched his bosses reaction to these words with interest as a niggling idea began to take root and grow.

Skinner thought about that and was relieved to know that Krycek was up and about again, if he was meeting with Mulder he must be able to look after himself. "How was he?" he asked watching carefully to see how the other man reacted to the question.

Mulder took a swallow of his coffee and answered slowly, as if unwilling to pass this piece of information along. "He was looking a bit... worn, but there was nothing wrong with his smart mouth." He finished with a wince remembering the tongue-lashing he had received when he'd expressed concern at Krycek's haggard appearance.

"So where are you meeting tonight?" Skinner asked, hiding his relief that Krycek was mobile again, he would not have gone to a met with Mulder, if he had not been able to defend himself.

All movement across the table stopped, finally Mulder stated, not totally trusting the man sitting opposite him, "If there is a hit out on Krycek then I will take care of it."

"You can contact him?" Skinner asked, looking up from his own coffee. His shoulders slumped as Mulder regretfully shook his head saying.

"No... he always contacts me... but now that I know, I can be there... to warn him..."

"No Mulder... we will both be there.."

"I don't think that's...." Mulder stumbled to a stop, he was slightly ashamed to admit openly that he did not totally trust Skinner and felt uneasy about passing the information of the meeting place along to him.

"Look Mulder, I know that we have had our differences in the past." Skinner was leaning forward again, his voice intense and his expression sincere. "But I have always, always be there when you or Scully really needed me... now they are going to attempt to kill Krycek tonight, and just you being there might not be enough to prevent it... if we are going to save Alex, then I am afraid that we both will have to be there."

Mulder now looked slightly disturbed before his stance relaxed and he offered philosophically, "Who would have thought that I would risk my life to save that rat bastard..."

Skinner didn't comment on that, but he thought to himself, 'and who would have thought that I would fall in love with him.'

"The meeting is set for 9.30 this evening... In the underground parking garage on 5th and Main... second level down."

Skinner was unable to suppress a smile; Alex was back to the underground parking garages. He thought for a few moments then said, "When we get back to the office, inform Scully that I'm sending you out of State on a case... alone... a flight will be booked for you, so I want you to go to the airport..." he paused and said sternly, "This will not be the first time you have disobeyed my orders Agent Mulder... go back to my apartment and wait for me there..." he pulled a key from his pocket and said, "I will work until seven, then met you there."

"Sir... what will we do with Krycek... if we manage to pull this off, I mean... if they know who is leaking the information his life won't be worth a red cent?" Mulder asked, his voice filled with concern.

Skinner finished off his drink and standing he said, "That will be my problem Agent Mulder..." he nodded once and left Mulder sitting in the coffee shop.

**

Skinner did not immediately return to his office, but instead caught the first bus that came along heading downtown, and was soon standing outside a rather run down survivalist store. He took a breath, considered his options then slowly entered the shop.

"Can I help you?" Came a rough voice from the back of the shop where the counter reached across the entire length of the room. The man was hidden from view, as he delved below the counter for something.

Skinner approached the counter and stopped about five feet from it, "I'm interested in buying a way out of this joint... I hear you do discounts on chopper rides?"

The man behind the counter froze, then popping up, he tilted his head to one side before he let out a bark of laughter and moving swiftly into the shop he said, "Skinner... Walter Skinner... why you old hound dog...how you been doing?" the man clasped Skinner in a deep bear hug and lifted the tall man off his feet.

"I'm fine Jack, and it sure is good to see you." The handsome FBI AD smiled warmly at the man who released him. "It's been a long time my friend." He finished sadly.

"Ahh... hell Skinner.... Vietnam was a long time ago," Jack stood back and took a long hard sceptical look at the man before him, before he spoke "FBI suits you..."

Skinner smiled weakly in agreement before he answered honestly, "It has its good days..."

Jack looked down at the floor, then back up before he said, "And today is not is a good day...."

"No..." Skinner agreed, Jack could always read him, and they had been great friends during their struggle to survive in Vietnam.

"Hey... no problem," Jack said, clapping the other man on the shoulder, "I'll lock up the shop and we can talk out the back, I still make syrup coffee."

"I don't want to...." Skinner began, looking about the shop, it was tidy but still carried the air of being threadbare.

Jack interrupted, "Please Walter... this place is driving me nuts... you'd be giving me a break... I'm lucky if I get two customers a week... so losing an hour won't kill the business."

Skinner shrugged and asked, titling his head and looking at his friend "If business is so bad, why do you still do it?"

Jack finished locking up the shop, and turned the open sign to closed before he answered, "It's a steady job, pays the bills and allows me to work the hours I want, and I get to play with the toys." He waved his hands about to indicate the survivalist gear that littered the shelves and filled the room.

"And you always liked to play with your toys..." Skinner agreed with a smile remembering the wild man he had called friend for so many years.

"Yeah... hey how about you and me do a weekend sometime.. you know, get back to nature and see if you can still rough it?"

"I'm getting too old to rough it Jack..." Walter stated with a smile, knowing that Jack rarely roughed it enough to go without a case or two of beers. Skinner followed his friend towards the back of the shop, and into a comfortable sitting room with a kitchen off to the back.

"Take a seat, I'll dig us up some beers..." Jack disappeared into the kitchen and returned a few moments later. He settled down in a chair, tossed a can towards Skinner and, as he pulled the tab on his drink, he asked, "So what can I do for you Walter?"

Skinner sat back and took a health swig from his own can before he began, "I need a favour..." He stopped and looked at his friend, Jack pressed his lips together considering Walter's words carefully, before he nodded, their friendship went back to the paddy fields of Vietnam and he would help Skinner in any way he could, their reliance of each other to survive that long ago had formed that bond and it was not easily broken.

Skinner let out the breath he had not been aware that he had been holding and smiled, "Thanks Jack.. I feel bad about dropping this on you after so many years of silence, but... but this is important... I need to protect someone... someone who has come to mean a lot to me..."

"And your usual FBI protection isn't good enough?" Jack asked smiling slightly, he had his own view of the government's ability to protect its people, but that was not a conversation that he needed to have with his old friend.

"Not... not in this case... Alex..." Skinner stopped, but the realising that he would have to be totally honest if he wanted Jack to help him, so he continued, "Alex is a law unto himself, but that's not to say that he is above the law... but he has enemies that are quite serious about stopping him, and I feel that to stop him now, would be disastrous..." he looked up and met Jack's look, as he finished, "For us all."

Jack pulled a face, reading the truth in his friend's words and took another deep swallow before he said, "So you want somewhere safe... where he can be safe."

"Just for a while, a few months at the most... I need... We need some time to get this all together..."

"You know that I... er... I have a place... out in the wilds... it's pretty safe... well protected... there is enough can food and stuff out there to keep him going for a lot longer than a couple of months..." Jack let out a rueful laugh as he added, "It's a small system of caves... they go pretty deep."

Skinner looked suitably impressed. "A cave?" he questioned. He warmly remembered that Jack had never been conventional, and it was just like him to have a cave when everyone else had a wooden cabin.

"Yeah... hell what can I say... I was going through a 'we're going go in an atomic war' phase and a cave seemed to safest place to be..." he shrugged.

"So what happened to change your mind?" Skinner had to ask a slight smile playing about his face.

"Russia disbanded, and hell, it'll take me two hours to get to it, so I finally figured that a four minute warning might not be enough time to reach it."

"You've got a point there." Skinner offered mildly.

"I still use it in the summer... me and some of the boys crash out there every once in a while... great fishing a couple hundred feet away... there's a lake...that's where you get your water from as well..." Jack's eyes misted as he thought of his little home away from home, before he finished sadly, "I always had an ambition to retire out there, but Betty refuses to live up there with me... too far away from the shopping mall and electricity... and please don't even mention the fact that it's a chemical toilet and the makeshift mobile-home shower..." Jack rolled his eyes, and Walter knew that he had been repeating the words that Betty had used against him.

"So things are still going well with you and Betty?" Skinner asked with a smile. It always seemed strange to him that Jack, who was such a survivalist macho man was madly in love with Betty, a pure breed shopping mall child, who shopped at least once a day, otherwise she went into withdrawal symptoms. They were so different, and yet matched together so well, Walter could almost be jealous of what they had, as it had lasted far longer then his marriage.

"Yeah... but she still won't marry me... says I'll whisk her away to that damn cave for the honeymoon and that would be too much for her... no shops for two weeks...." he laugh out loud and confided, "Hell, I'd spend the honeymoon in Macy's if I thought it would get her to take the damn ring."

"Keep trying." Skinner advised wisely, knowing that it was not the first time that he had given Jack that particular piece of advice.

"Oh I plan to... I plan to... now the cave... it's on private land... you have to hike in the last two miles are so... and it will be getting colder this time of year.. so your buddy had better dress up warm..." He stood and started looking for the map on how to reach the cave. "But like I said, there is plenty of stuff there, once he gets in, but he needs to be careful... only about three months until snow fall, and that would be a bit dangerous for him, if he's still there... ahh... here it is..." He pulled open a draw and drew out a ragged piece of paper, he shook it a couple of times and then pressed it out on the wall saying, "there is good hunting in the area, but he'll have to take his own weapons... I have a few snares and a couple of fishing rod and such up there. Like I said, it's really a pretty place once you get there, and quite cosy once you close up the canvas opening..." He stopped and looked hard at Skinner before he added, "Walter... I've added quite a bit.. you know.. chemical toilet... outside the cave... comfortable bed, shower, cooking stuff... because of Betty... but this place still isn't for someone who's city bred...but it is fully stocked... I was only up there a few weeks back, and me and a couple of guys hiked in with supplies... planning on going back just after the snow to do some winter survival training."

Skinner held up his hand and advanced on his friend saying calmly and with conviction, "I really appreciate your concern for Alex, Jack, but please don't worry. This guy's like a sewer rat... he could survive anywhere..."

Jack nodded, trusting Walter's judgement, and handing over the map, they spoke for a while longer and finally Skinner had to make his excuses, after purchasing a few items from Jack that he thought Alex would find useful he departed. He still had a lot to do if he was going to ensure Krycek's survival.

His next stop was at a car rental shop, where he hired their cheapest model and filled it with petrol. He drove it to the parking garage that Mulder had told him the meeting was to be and paid the money to park the car on the next level up from where they would be. Then he made his way back to work and dutifully called Mulder into his office to inform him of the new case, the FBI agent left without a word and made his way to the airport. Skinner, as agreed worked in his office until seven and then made his way home. To anyone else it would have looked just like the cancer man had requested, no-one guessed at the fear for his ex-lover that raced through Walter's stomach every time he thought about them failing in their mission.

**

The parking garage was quiet as Skinner and Mulder approached, they had decided to arrive an hour before the meeting, and were in position when a dark, almost invisible car pulled into the second level and parked near the end, close to the exit ramp. Both men could barely see the two men sitting in the car waiting. The car was just far enough from the actual meeting place, not to arouse suspicion.

As the time ticked by Skinner felt more and more nervous, his palms started to sweat and he began to wonder if any of them would get out of this alive. His concern for Krycek gnawed at his stomach until a car finally pulled into the garage and slipped along to park near the assigned meeting place. Mulder gasped beside Skinner, it was his own car, the one that he'd been driving out of the car pool, and the man sitting inside was close enough to Mulder in appearance that both knew Krycek would be equally fooled.

After a few more minutes another car slipped into the garage and slowed, it did not park but the engine was killed, and slowly, carefully, Krycek opened the door and stepped out.

Skinner unconsciously leaned forward. Even in the dull lighting he could see that most of the bruises had gone and while he still walked with a slight hunch, he didn't seem to be overly favouring his injured ribs. Walter felt his heart constrict when he saw that the two broken fingers were taped, they must still be giving Krycek trouble, but then again unlike his ribs, he had to use the fingers, so they would take longer to heal.

The man who was playing Mulder slowly climbed from his car, keeping out of the light. The attack was sudden and shocking as Krycek whipped out a gun and shot the man impersonating Mulder, once again his instincts had served him well. Then he spun about as the lights from the hidden car flared on and more shots were fired. Krycek dove for cover, while Mulder and Skinner lay down a covering fire, giving Alex the vital time he need to get out of the line of the deadly attack.

The two men near the car were surprised to find they were being attack from another source, but soon altered their assault to compensate for the extra resistance. They were professionals and as they dodged between the cars seeking their own cover, they still tried to hit their initial target. Krycek was doing his best to defend himself, but in his haste to gain cover, he had cornered himself, and his opponents knew it.

Skinner and Mulder also saw the danger that Krycek was in, but before they could offer further assistance they were surprised by an attack from behind and spinning about they realised that another two men had appeared. It was obvious from their positioning that they had been waiting on the upper floor of that garage, just in case they were needed, and Skinner had to admit that the smoking man was not leaving anything to chance this time; he wanted Krycek dead.

One of the men attacking them spun out and away from the pillar he was using for cover as he was hit, the other man ducked down further behind his shelter. When Skinner turned his attention back to Krycek he felt his heart catch in his throat. One of the assassins were laying motionless on the floor, but the other one had used his companions rash attack to his advantage and was now lining up a killing shot on the unsuspecting Krycek who was struggling to reload his gun single handed, his broken fingers fumbling, they were taking up precious time that he didn't have.

Without a thought for his own safety Skinner stepped out of his hiding place to get a better aim at the man sighting his gun on Krycek, but this action also put him fully within sight of the man he was going to shoot, who seeing a direct threat from the Assistant Director switched his aim and fired just as Skinner did. The impact of the bullet didn't register at first, even though Walter was tossed back against a car, and he slid down to land on the hard concrete floor, it was only a few seconds later that he realised that he was in fact lying on the ground. He had lost those few seconds forever.

He tried to breathe, but discovered that it was damn hard to pull air into his body. He gasped instead finding it easier to just pull small gulps of air into his failing lungs. Mulder was suddenly there leaning above him, having dispatched their last attacker.

"Skinn...Walter." He cried, his eyes clear with an expression of terror and concern. He was trying to pull open Skinner's shirt to get a closer look at the injury.

"Krycek..." Skinner gasped, trying to struggle up, desperately needing to know that his last shot had counted and that his lover was still alive.

"Here... I'm here." Alex suddenly came into view, sliding haphazardly to his knees side his wounded ex-lover. "Damn it, Walt...." He cried out, paling as he saw the amount of blood, he finished weakly, "I saw him... you didn't have to...." He stopped his voice too choked up to continue as he watched Mulder reveal the wound. He gasped, as if finding it as hard as Skinner to draw breath.

"Damn..." Mulder hissed, as he removed his wallet and slipped out a credit card, placing it over the bubbling hole, he then used his large handkerchief to cover it, and used pressure from his hand to stop any further blood lost. He looked up at Krycek a strange expression crossing his face as he saw just how distraught the other man was at seeing Skinner injured. Fox used his other hand to slip out his mobile phone and hit the speed dial, then cursed when he got a 'no signal' sign on the front.

"Here... hold this." Mulder demanded of Krycek as he grabbed the other man's hand and slapped it over the make shift bandage, then standing he ordered firmly, "Keep the pressure there, I'm going to call for an ambulance... I'll be right back..." Then he was gone, running towards the exit to the street and the open air. For some reason he just knew that Krycek would do as asked.

As soon as Mulder disappeared into the darkness, Skinner gasped, "Map... pocket..." he tried to lift a hand to indicate his right hand pocket, but he didn't have the strength and it felt limply back to the ground. "Safe... place..."

"You stupid bastard..." Krycek raged, keeping his hand firmly in position, "I can protect myself..." He was almost crying as he ranted and looking at the terror clearly reflecting in his eyes, Skinner felt his own eyes soften, Alex still loved him.

"Love... you..." Walter gasped, his tone fading as he struggle to stay conscious.

"Yeah... well, I hate you..." Krycek hissed back, his face mare inches from Skinner's, then his face crumpled as he realised that those might be the last words they ever spoke, so he quickly countered, remembering others he had love, who'd he'd never got the chance to tell. "No... I don't hate you...I... I... love... I...."

"I... know...babe... I... know..." Skinner informed him rather smugly considering he was lying mortally wounded on the parking garage floor, bleeding profusely.

"Think you know me pretty well... huh..." Krycek offered weakly, suddenly leaning close, his lips now gently creasing the mouth under his. Skinner smiled, breathing in the breath of his lover. Then remembering they only had a few moments he urged.

"Car... next level... bay 47... map... pocket... safe place..." He again attempted to reach the envelope with the map and keys to the car, and this time he was successful and pulled it, weakly, from it's hiding place.

"Babe.. don't move... you'll....." Krycek stopped as Skinner began to pant again, gasping for breath.

"Safe... place... wait... for me... Please?" There was a question in the injured man's eyes a desperate pleading that Krycek could not refuse. He heard Mulder returning and knew that if he was to escape it had to be now, but he hated to leave Skinner. The other man saw this in his lover's eyes and hissed, "Love you... need... you... safe..."

Krycek shot a look over to where he could hear Mulder returning, then leaning down he pressed his lips hard against those of Skinner, allowing his tongue to slip into the warm cavern, ignoring the taste of blood that greeted him and answered softly, "I'll be waiting...." Then he snatched up the envelope and giving Walter a last longing look, he rushed towards the stairs that lead up to the next level.

He made it to the door and hid in the shadows until he saw Mulder return a few seconds later and fall to his knees beside Skinner, his posture informing the ex-assassin that he had taken up the position of holding the bandage in place, he let out a breath of relief and unwillingly disappeared into the darkness.

Skinner seeing the swimming face of Mulder suddenly appear above him, smiled once and allowed the darkness to overtake him.

**

Three weeks had passed since the night in the parking garage and Skinner was reluctantly released from the hospital to continue his convalescing at home. During the first few days at the hospital he had been in and out of consciousness, but thought that he had seen Krycek once, standing just outside his door, he blinked and when he looked again, the man was gone and Walter was not even sure if he had seen the man or only dreamed him.

Mulder and Scully visited every day, once he was allowed visitors, and once he had awoken to find the smoking man standing by his bed, an unlit cigarette hanging in his hand.

"You are playing a very dangerous game Mr Skinner." The man sneered, seeing that the man in the bed was conscious.

Skinner winced and took a shallow breath, he had learn that to breath deeply was still very painful. "I owe... Krycek... for the nanocytes." He simple stated, and glared at the man before him.

Spender smiled; it was a weak, watery effort that never reached his eyes as he stated coolly, "Nevertheless, Krycek escaped..."

"Your men... were incompetent," Skinner interrupted breathlessly as his anger rose, falling back on the lie that he had invented to excuse his being at the underground parking garage. "Once Mulder.... arrived.... I had... to defend.... him.... from an.... bungling... free for all..."

"Mulder should not have been there." Spender hissed, his eyes flashing. The rat would be even harder to catch, and he had now been given an excuse to really unsheathe his claws.

Skinner wilted back on his pillow, his strength fast waning, as he offered, "It's not the first time Mulder... has disobeyed an order...."

"This will not be overlooked Skinner." Spender had snapped, before turning and leaving the room. Skinner felt exhausted by the visit, and knew that never before had he been on such thin ice, but Krycek was alive, and that was all that really matter to him.

Since he's release from hospital Skinner had spent the time resting, and building up his strength before making his way to the cave where he hoped Krycek would be waiting for him. Each day that passed caused him greater and greater concern. Had Alex even gone to the cave? If he had, would he still be there by the time Walter made his way there? These thought swirled about his head keeping him awake long into the night, when he should have been resting.

Finally after being able to wait no longer he packed up some clothes, locked up his apartment and drove out of Washington in the pre-dawn, taking every precaution to ensure that he was not followed. The drive was tiring in itself, and he had to stop a couple of times to rest, but that was nothing compared to the agony of walking the two miles to the cave. What would normally have taken under an hour took far longer and he was starting to worry as he felt weakness overtake him.

He stopped again, leaning against a tree to gather his breath, panting as he watched the sun start to slip from the sky. He wiped at the sweat that was running down his face, as he shivered and wondered at how hot he felt in the growing cold.

"What the hell!!!" came an startled, angry voice he knew so well from behind him. He attempted to turn, but this action along with his weaken body was too much and he slipped to the ground, only to be caught and held steadily against a warm body. He blinked owlishly into the face of his lover.

"Alex." He said, the word was a caress in itself.

"Walt... what the hell do you think you are doing?" Krycek demanded, he had barely made it to Skinner's side to keep him on his feet.

"I was... worried... you... wouldn't wait." Skinner replied, reaching a shaking hand up to cup the other's face, he suddenly leant in for a gentle kiss. At first Krycek's lips were hard, unyielding under his, but slowly they melted and he was able to slip his tongue into the warm cavern. "I... missed... you." He panted as his lips were released.

"Come on... let's get you back to the cave..." As they started to move, Krycek began to grouse. "A Cave, Skinner... you had me hide out in a G-d damn cave..."

"What's wrong... with a cave?" Skinner asked, as he allow Krycek to settle his arm over his shoulder, and they slowly made their way to the hideout in question.

Alex pulled a face and offered, "Cave... Silo.... Trapped underground... getting a hint now."

Skinner stopped dead, pulling the other man to a halt as his face paled even further. "Christ, Alex... I... I never thought...." He stammered mortified, but the man in question just smiled up at him and offered,.

"Don't worry, I er... got around it..."

"How?"

Alex looked slightly uncomfortable as he admitted, "I sleep in the main cave... near the entrance... leave the canvas half open... but now that you're here, I think I can manage... that bed sure is something else..."

"Bed?" Skinner knew he was starting to sound like an idiot with his one-word questions.

"Yeah... the guy who lent you this place is definitely into comfort...camouflage sheeting across the front, doors fixed into the inner caves, and did you know that there's a big double bed... it must have been made in the back cave... it had to be taken into it in bits and then rebuilt once inside... it's... damn it's really.. er... erotic... I mean.. the covers and all..."

"That would be Betty." Skinner offered with a smile, just content to have his arm about his lover's shoulder. As they made their way back to the cave, Skinner was unable to shake the feeling that he was home, but Krycek looked surprised and impressed as he stated.

"She must be some woman to have built that bed."

Skinner smiled and corrected, "No... Jack would have built the bed, but Betty's the REASON he built the bed."

As he finished they came upon the cave, and silence fell while he looked about the place that had been Krycek's home for the last three weeks. He was in total awe, as he saw that Alex's words were true, it was so well fixed up that he would have been hard to actually call it a cave, it was more like a cabin built in stone. "Let's get you into the warm." Alex said, moving the older man carefully into the darkness. He left Walter by the entrance while he scurried about and lit a few lamps and then stoked the fire, which was ingeniously fixed into the side of the cave, with a flue escaping into the stones above and out into the open air. The cave was warm and once light flooded the surrounding area, it was quite cosy. Alex disappeared into the back part of the cave to continue his lighting up of the area.

Skinner looked about and saw off to one side, a make shift bed, close enough to the entrance to give the feeling of openness. When Krycek returned Skinner stammered, "I'm sorry Alex, I never realised.... About the silo..." he paused as Krycek shook his head and smile before he assisted Walter into the back cave where a large double bed did indeed stand. Alex helped Walter over to lay on the comfortable bedding. Skinner glanced up and swallowed when he saw the large mirror that was firmly fixed into the reinforced wooden canopy across the top of the bed. Krycek was right it was very erotic.

"Just rest here for a moment," Krycek moved back to the entrance and said, "I'll go and get your bag..." Walter looked surprised, he had dropped his bag when he'd first seen Krycek and had forgotten all about it. "You just rest there for a few minutes, I won't be long." The younger man repeated just before he bounded out of the cave, and Skinner was pleased to note that he was showing no sign of his beating. Even the splint on his fingers had now been removed.

As he lay there Skinner let the exhaustion that he had been pushing away all day creep over him and he was sleeping soundly by the time that Krycek returned.

**

Krycek stood for a while looking down at the sleeping man he had finally admitted he loved, a word he had never thought would ever apply to himself. After the brutal beating and harsh, bitter words he had thought that he could push his feelings for Skinner out of his mind, his heart and his soul. Even after Skinner had found him, nursed him so tenderly back to health and whispered the words he had so desperately wanted to hear, Krycek had thought they were just another form of torment, but as the weeks passed and he slowly recovered from his injuries, he had been forced to admit that he could not get the handsome AD out of his mind, nor his sleep, as he frequently woke up with Walter's name on his lips and his cock twitching from fulfilment. Just looking at the sleeping man was making him hard.

Moving out of the bedroom area of the cave he started to warm up some of the tin food that he had discovered when he found the caves, wanting to let Skinner rest after his trek up to the cave, but needing to keep himself busy.

**

Skinner came awake with a shudder and sat up, wincing as his side protested such abusive treatment. He looked about forgetting for the moment where he was, and blinked in confusion as he took in the rugged stone walls that surrounded him, and the camping lamps there were spotted about the room.

"Hi." Krycek said from the entrance smiling warmly, "How you do feel?" He asked, moving across to sit on the bedside Skinner, reaching a hand out to lie across the forehead of his lover, checking for a temperature, he smiled again and let his hand fall when he found none.

The older man thought seriously about the question before he smiled in return, and offered, "Rested." As he spoke he reached out and brushed his fingers across Alex's cheek, the other man leaned back, just enough to break the contact, then standing he said firmly.

"I've cooked, and I think it would be wise to eat it while it's warm... those emergency rations just don't do cold very well..."

"Alex..." Skinner asked, a sudden feeling of dread overtaking him, with Krycek's so obvious withdrawal. "Is everything all right?"

Krycek looked at his feet, then glanced back at the man he had grown to love, he answered slowly, "I think we ought to talk... about... about what's happened.... Before... before... we..." He waved his hand towards the bed, and swallowed.

Walter looked at Alex for several long, silent minutes, before he nodded in agreement, and standing, he moved towards Krycek, following as the smaller man slipped out of the bedroom. Alex spoke saying, "The outhouse is about five hundred yards to your left... it took me two days to find it... it's so well hidden... but it's pretty decent..." He smiled, then continued with a cheeky grin, "Well it was after I got the chemical bit working..." Then seeing the genuine worried look that Walter was giving him, he admitted, "Look... I just thought we ought to talk... so that if we do... move forward... it will be with a clear, open book..."

"But we will move forward?" Skinner demanded, before he added firmly as if stating a fact. "Together."

"Together..." Alex agreed with a shy smile. "If that's what you want." The green eyes were steady and clear, the ex-assassin obvious knew what he wanted, but he was still proud enough to allow Skinner an escape if he needed it.

"I think... talking is a good idea..." Skinner agreed, wiping the last of the sleep from his eyes with his hand, before he smiled and offered sincerely "And an apology from me is first on that list.... But you're right, food and a visit to the outhouse is definitely in order."

"Take a torch...by the door... it's getting dark out there... I'll get the food ready..." Alex replied, pointing towards the compact stove, and the pot that was bubbling on top of it that was issuing delicious smells. Seeing Skinner hesitate at the entrance of the cave, torch in hand, he advised with a grin, "Five hundred yards to your left, and Walt... check that you're the only one in there."

When Skinner returned, they ate the meal, filling the quiet space with small talk, mainly concerning how effective the cave was as a hideout, the weather and lastly the events of the parking garage. Skinner told Krycek about what he could remember of the hospital when he first arrived, and how he had thought he'd seen Alex, then stopped, a flash of anger filling him when he saw the guilty expression cross the other man's face. "You were there?" he demanded, slightly outraged that Krycek had taken such a risk as to come to the hospital.

Alex didn't look sorry as he fired back, his own eyes flashing with defiance, "I had to know... to know that... you were alright... I couldn't.. couldn't just leave without.... knowing if you were.. alive... or dead."

Skinner sat back and saw the pain that the words had caused Krycek, without thinking he reached out and grasped the clenched hand that now rested on the tabletop, the food forgotten. "I'm sorry... I know... I would have done the same thing... but... the risk..." he stopped allowing his words to hang, and his fear for his young lover to clearly show.

"Was worth it." Krycek finished simply with a shy smile, then slowly he turned his hand to clasp that of his lover's and offered, "finish your food... we will talk later."

Skinner nodded, and after giving Krycek a warm smile, he returned to his food, "This is good." He offered, pointing his fork at the plate.

"Yeah... well don't ask where I got the fresh meat, by the way... did you check for voyeurs in the toilet, Walt?"

Walter choked on the lump of meat he was about to swallow and glared at Alex's laughing features.

The meal continued without incident and, as they finished, Alex collected the plates and placed them in a bowl saying, "There is a river just down below, this is a pretty neat place, Walt..." He stopped and suddenly looked unsure of himself as he glanced about the cave.

"Do you want to talk now?" Skinner asked, looking about the cave as well and seeing that it really was a home from home, once you got used to the stone walls.

Krycek smiled and advised, "You need to rest some more, and it's a lot more comfortable to sit on the bed, you go and get settled, I've just got to clear a few things out here and shut down the entrance."

"You can shut it down?" Skinner asked in some surprise looking at the entrance with the camouflage sheeting sitting across it.

Krycek smiled, like a child about to show off a new toy, "Yeah, it's really clever, your friend has fixed the sheeting across the front of the cave, if you didn't know it was here you'd totally miss it, anyway, it's like the entrance of a tent... you can zip it closed at night, but have it open during the day... really neat... I just love this place." There was true admiration in his voice, "The kitchen, the shower..." he stopped, as he looked wide-eyed at Skinner. "Did you see the shower?"

The other man shook his head in wonder, as Krycek gripped his hand and dragged him off into the another closed off section of the main cave, and sure enough there was a shower. "It's fixed up the same way as a camper home... you get a good ten, fifteen minutes in it before you have to refill it, and a small heater warms the water up and everything.."

Walter laugh at his lover's enthusiasm as he stated, "I can see that I'm going to have trouble getting you back to civilisation."

Krycek looked back at Skinner his white teeth flashing along with the light in his green eyes; "you just might at that." Then the smile fell as Alex offered, "Look, go and get settled, I'll be in, in a few minutes... then we can talk."

Skinner did as requested, and was settled in the bed when Krycek appeared. Walter had not attempted to get into the bed, nor had he removed his clothes as he knew that Alex wanted to talk and he realised that if they were not fully dressed, then talk would be not just difficult but damn near impossible, although he had to smile when Krycek walked in carrying an open bottle of champagne and two tin mugs.

"Your friend certainly has taste... I found a case of this with the food..." He settled on the bed, facing Skinner and handing the cups over he poured the drink, then placed the bottle on the bedside table as he took his own cup and tapping his drink to Skinner's he toasted, "to the future and us."

"The future and us." Skinner agreed before he took a long swallow. Then, reaching out he touched Alex's face, gently cupping the curve of the cheek as he continued, "No past Krycek... whatever is behind us, is just that... behind us... we've both made mistakes... but from now on we work together... towards the future..." His looked was intent and his determination written in every muscle of his strong body.

Alex opened his mouth to protest, he wanted to explain about the past, was not sure if he could just close the door and leave it that way, but Walter seeing the look in his eyes, slowly shook his head and offered, "We have to do this... if we want to move forward... we have to do this... as long as we keep going over the past, it will never, ever allow us to move forward... can you understand that?"

Krycek slowly nodded, before he commented sadly, "I don't know if I can do that Walt... there's just too damn much..."

Skinner reached around the face he was holding and carefully, gently tugged the worried head forward until their lips met. At first it was Skinner teasing and testing the lips under his, but slowly almost as if fighting against a stronger force, Krycek's lips opened and the kiss was returned in full force. "You have to...we have to... and we will together." Skinner breathed against the mouth just above his, before he pulled him back into a long, passionate kiss.

Several minutes passed as the men got reacquainted with each other. Krycek taking care not to aggravate the still healing side of his lover. Skinner gasped as Alex, gently placed kisses about the wounds and arched up as his lover's mouth travelled further down his body.

They had both been waiting for this. It was simple and quick as clothes were tossed and tumbled aside, flesh exposed, kissed, caressed and loved. Alex urging Walter to rest on top of him, their bodies aligning as they had in the past, their cocks clashing and rubbing together. Passion grew, mouths kissed and nipped as they played with each other, gently thrusting until the peak was reach by one which tossed the other over until they lay still, panting, satisfied.

After they lay sedated with limbs laying in abandonment about each other, Krycek had manoeuvred Skinner so that he was resting comfortably against him, they were now sipping the champagne. It felt totally surreal to Walter. As he drifted, he knew that they still had a lot of ground to cover, he also understood that leaving the past would not be easy for Krycek, but he was determined that they would have a future.

Skinner wonder idly when he was going to break the news to his lover that they would have to talk to Mulder and Scully, and that they would be joining their crusade for the truth, because Skinner knew that the only way to secure their future together was to ensure that the men responsible for trying to kill Krycek were stopped, and the only way to do that would be to expose them. Krycek had that information, had already been working with Mulder. Skinner only hoped that Alex would be prepared to take it that last step forward. It was going to be a hard step, a very dangerous step, but it would be a necessary step for the both of them, if they wanted to take that step together into the future.

Krycek suddenly leaned up, as if hearing Skinner's thoughts he said his eyes narrowing, "We will have to take them out now, Walt..." he gently laid a kiss on his lover lips, "What I know can do that... between us... you, me... Mulder... we can do it... we can expose them.... Destroy them, " He leant in for another kiss, which Skinner willing gave as he finished, "And now for the first time... I got a reason to fight."

Skinner looked into his lover's fierce green eyes and suddenly realised exactly how dangerous this man who loved him really was. He also saw the determination, and felt an odd twinge of pity for the men, and aliens, that Alex Krycek had just declared war on.

Fin.