Title: BRUTAL FORCES
Story in 4 parts, 10 sections.
Betas: Kai: Thanks for taking the time away from THE
PRETENDER to do this for me, and Solan
Date: Written June, 1999
Posted September, 1999
Summary: The encounter on the Balcony leads to other
situations. Starts badly, violently, but maybe they can work it
Rating: NC-17: not just for sex, but for PART 1's
sexual violence, PART 3's suggested
Archive: No one without my permission.
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013.
BRUTAL FORCES was written last June but it has taken till now
for me to finish tinkering with it.
This is not like the EATING series: it is not, as one feedback
called that one, "sweet".
PART 1 is brutal, sexually violent, physically and emotionally
difficult for both Skinner and Krycek.
PART 3 deals with suggested sexual abuse.
Each of these sections contains further warnings.
If, in spite of all this, you venture forth and don't like the
subject matter, just delete. Don't bother with the flames: I have
Critical evaluations always appreciated.
NOTE: Skinner's and Krycek's backgrounds are different in this
one than in EATING. Thomas Nash made his first appearance in BRUTAL
SR819 never happened.
********** WARNING!!!!!! WARNING!!!!!! **********
PART 1 contains NON-CONSENSUAL SEXUAL VIOLENCE.
Lots of it. If you don't want to read it, don't: there will be
a summary of the contents at the start of Part 2.
Walter Skinner watched the man huddled against the railing of
his balcony. It was cold out there for DC, but he was sure the
man had endured much colder temperatures wearing just what he
was wearing now.
Alex Krycek was very aware that Skinner was watching him from
behind the curtains. With luck, that's where the man would stay
till Mulder came and got him in the morning.
Shit! Safe house! Mulder had promised to stash him away in a safe
house. Obviously they had different ideas as to the meaning of
the term. Damn Skinner with his "Think warm thoughts"
Krycek checked the windows: no Skinner. Maybe he'd get some sleep
after all. He pulled up the collar of his jacket, burrowed into
it like a turtle, stuck his free hand into the pocket and curled
up to conserve heat.
The balcony door opened very quietly. Krycek was just cold enough,
tired enough, to be slow in his reaction. His free hand was grabbed,
cuffed, and then pulled over so that when Skinner clamped the
other cuff to the top of the railing, Krycek was face down, arms
stretched out to their fullest. Skinner dropped his weight against
Krycek's shoulders effectively pinning him down. Krycek opened
his mouth, swearing, only to have a bit gag roughly pulled into
his mouth, tied so tightly that he felt it might tear into his
Skinner's weight left his body, and Krycek managed to turn his
head to see the big man lean a shoulder negligently against the
far wall. What scared him the most was that there was no expression
at all on Skinner's face. After a couple of minutes, Skinner moved
into the apartment, closing the door behind him.
Krycek tried to see if he could get loose: maybe the cuffs would
miraculously loosen. As was, the pressure building up in his shoulders
from the position he was in was going to make the rest of the
night seem incredibly longer.
Skinner gave it an hour before he went back out again. The night
was almost black, no moon, no stars. The only light came from
the hallway light behind him and whatever could make it up to
the seventeenth floor from street-level.
Krycek barely struggled when Skinner grabbed his foot, took off
boot and sock. Grabbed the other foot, did the same. It was only
when his hands went to undo the jeans that Krycek pushed his weight
forward, and kicked back with his heel. He got Skinner just under
the knee: a couple of inches higher and the kick would have kneecapped
Skinner pulled back, silently cursing. So the ratbastard still
had some fight left in him. *That* would add some flavour to his
Krycek's eyes, enraged, tracked him as much as they could. He
had no illusions about what Skinner was planning to do to him,
but he had no intention of making it easy for him.
Skinner waited till the pain in his leg became a dull ache. Krycek
never once took his eyes off him, swinging his head around when
Skinner moved behind him.
When Skinner came in close, he threw all his weight onto Krycek,
slamming him hard against the balcony railing, knocking the breath
out of him. Before Krycek could fill his lungs again, he had hauled
the jeans and shorts off the man.
This time, Skinner wisely stayed far enough away from those feet.
He dropped the clothing on top of the boots and went back in.
He would have to do something about those feet. Krycek was as
lethal with them as he was with his hands.
For a moment, Krycek let himself believe that was all Skinner
had wanted, to have him spend what was left of the night, bare-assed
and cold. However, he wasn't really surprised when Skinner appeared
with something in his hands.
This time when Krycek's foot lashed out, Skinner was ready. He
grabbed the offending leg tightly while quickly wrapping something
around the ankle. Fully extending the leg, he walked to the railing
and tied the free end of the restraint to the top of it.
The pull on Krycek's body effectively immobilized him. As it was,
there was no need to bind the other foot as Krycek's balance was
too precarious for him to get too active. True, if he went over
the top of the railing, the cuffs and the restraint, the last
tie Sharon had bought him before the divorce, would probably keep
him from plunging down the seventeen storeys to the ground, but
he didn't think Krycek would want to chance it.
However, just to test out his theory, he went to stand behind
Krycek, well within kicking reach of that second foot.
Krycek knew when to admit defeat. If he tried anything now, he
fully expected Skinner to tie his other foot to the railing so
that he'd hang like one of those boneless asexual gymnasts on
a balance beam. If his foot were free, he might, just might, be
able to get one solid kick in before this was over.
Skinner's grin was lupine when Krycek managed to turn his head
to find him. Still smiling, he reached out and drew a finger down
the taut muscles of Krycek's ass. Krycek glared as much as he
could around the gag, promised himself Skinner would pay for every
second he spent on his balcony, and turned his head to look over
the still city.
Waiting. For whatever it was Skinner was going to do to him.
In the silence of the seventeenth floor, the sound of Skinner
taking off his belt was enough warning for him not to be surprised
when the looped leather passed over his ass, gently, almost like
a caress. Over the inner muscles of the stretched-out thigh. Back
again to his ass. Down the other thigh, now trembling with the
cold and strain of supporting his weight. Back up the inner muscles
to tease his balls and flaccid cock.
Krycek's hands grabbed the top of the railing, bracing himself
for the blow that finally arrived. Skinner had moved to one side
so he could get a good swing on the belt. And Krycek certainly
felt it when it landed, across the fullest part of his buttocks.
He sensed Skinner behind him, held back the sound that wanted
out of his throat when one of those big hands inspected the path
the belt had taken. And braced himself for more.
Skinner didn't disappoint him. Five more times the leather raised
a path of fire across his ass, and five more times he refused
to give Skinner the pleasure of hearing him scream.
Then, with a slight shifting of Skinner's position, the leather
moved to his thighs, first one then the other, as if Skinner wanted
to distribute an equal amount of attention to each.
Occasionally, the tip of the belt would flick his balls, or the
head of his penis. And then, the sharpness of the pain made it
impossible for Krycek to contain his groans. The bit gag effectively
muted the sounds, reducing the timbre.
But Skinner heard them. And enjoyed them.
After a few more blows, he stopped to inspect the damage. There
were some nice weals rising on Krycek's skin, weals he roughly
traced with his thumb. Krycek flinched, made a sound in the back
of his throat that pleased Skinner greatly. He dropped the belt
on top of Krycek's clothes, used his two hands to massage the
aching muscles of ass and thighs. Krycek greyed out, his head
sagging, adding further strain on already over-strained shoulders.
Skinner pulled back, went to lean against the wall where he could
keep an eye on Krycek's face. He waited while his prisoner recovered
from the rough treatment he'd just inflicted on him. Wanted him
fully conscious and aware for his next move.
At this stage of the game, Krycek wished Skinner would just hurry
up and rape him and get it over with. The strain in his shoulders
had passed the burning stage, and was now making itself felt in
his spine. His ass and thighs were on fire where-ever the belt
had landed, the head of his cock was sore. And the coldness of
the cement balcony floor was eating its way up his free leg.
What the fuck was the bastard waiting for?
The first clue Krycek had that Skinner might have a different
plan in mind was when he heard a "snap". Like the one
made by a latex glove when it was snapped into place.
Krycek tried to see what Skinner was up to, but the man had hidden
in the shadows. Krycek could make out his shape, knew he was doing
something with his hands, but couldn't make out what. He felt
panic rising up in him, tried to control it. If what he thought
was going to happen, there was a good chance that Mulder wouldn't
have much use for him in the morning.
When Skinner moved out of the darkness, Krycek was waiting for
him. This would probably be his only chance to get a good kick
in and he went for it as soon as he thought Skinner was in reach.
But Skinner had been waiting for the move, anticipated it, and
with another brutal slam of his body imprisoned the leg against
the side of the balcony. Krycek was going to be black and blue
wherever the railing met his body.
Krycek caught his breath and forced himself to relax. Less chance
of damage if his muscles weren't tensed.
The first finger invading him told him that Skinner was indeed
gloved and that the latex had been lubed.
The second that there would be no side benefits to this, no chance
of even the slightest twinge of pleasure, even if he did get off
on this type of stuff.
The third finger stretched him more than he had been for a time.
It was beginning to hurt. Especially when Skinner spread them
open in him. The fourth only added to the burn.
Krycek tried to control his breathing to merge with the penetration.
Skinner let him think it might help before he twisted the fingers
around, making way for the thumb.
From this point on, Krycek just conceded that nothing he was able
to do would mitigate the pain of being fist-fucked. He emptied
his mind and tried hard to stay very still, anything to minimize
Krycek couldn't prevent the grunt of pain as the widest part of
Skinner's hand forced itself into him, holding in place.
"Are you enjoying this, Krycek?" Skinner leaned over,
placed his weight behind his elbow, adding to the build-up of
pressure on Krycek's anal muscle. "No? Funny, this is how
I felt when you fucked around with my department in the Bureau."
He added just a bit more pressure. "This is what it feels
like when one of your agents turns out to be a fraud."
More pressure. Enough so that the entire hand was now in him.
The pressure on his anal muscle decreased slightly when all that
stretched it was a comparatively narrower wrist. "When you
get called on the carpet by the Director, to explain how such
an incident could have happened in your department."
"When OPC reams you out for two days, investigating why you
couldn't tell that so-called agent was a fraud."
Skinner twisted his hand: Krycek screamed.
"When that so-called agent turns out to be nothing more than
some thug whose continuing existence keeps reminding your bosses
that somehow, in spite of all their precautions, he managed to
slip past all their security measures."
With a savage brutality he hadn't felt since Vietnam, Skinner
yanked his hand out. This time, even the gag didn't prevent Krycek's
scream from piercing the night.
As he stripped the glove off his hand, Skinner watched the limp
body of the ex-agent hanging on his balcony railing. Krycek was
still breathing, though shallowly.
Holding the glove now inside out, he picked up the towel he had
dropped on the floor, used it to wipe the lube remaining on his
arm. Almost as an afterthought, he wiped Krycek's ass, wrapped
the glove in the towel. He dropped it by the door.
He released Krycek's leg, removed the tie from his ankle, let
the foot drop.
Standing behind Krycek, he grabbed the man's hair. Short though
it was, he managed to get a good grasp by the front. Pulled the
head back with one hand, released the bit gag with the other.
Krycek's face was wet with tears of pain.
With no word, no show of any further expression, Skinner used
his key and released his handcuffs from the inert body. Krycek
slipped to the floor, whimpered.
Skinner picked up his belt, the towel. With a foot, he pushed
Krycek's clothes, boots close to him. Went into the apartment,
closed and locked the balcony door behind him. Dropped the towel
down the incinerator shoot, turned off the lights and went to
In the morning, Skinner made his usual breakfast of cereal and
coffee, ate it while reading his morning newspaper, grabbed his
coat and left for work.
Not once did he go near the balcony door or windows. Not once
did his eyes even wander that way. It was as if Alex Krycek didn't
The Consortium had imploded.
Between suspicions, betrayals, power plays, misinformation supplied
by a one-armed double (triple? quadruple?) agent who had worked
his way deep into the Consortium itself.
Because of alien rebels, outside influences suddenly decided that
the cost would be too high for their own personal interests.
Because Mulder finally had gotten his hands on actual documentation,
irrefutable evidence of fraud, financial laundrying, treason provided
to him by his one-armed informant.
For all these reasons, and probably many more never to be discovered
or understood, it was over.
There had been a sleuth of investigations, of Grand Jury indictments,
suicides and even a few murders. And, apart from several minor
players and one major one, all had been accounted for.
Skinner's department had become the pride of the Director: Fox
Mulder, once the embarrassment, was now the darling.
Skinner snorted to himself at the irony and hypocrisy of the situation.
Mulder merely accepted it all as his due, his vindication of so
many years of mockery. Krycek was just pleased to have all and
any charges pending against him dropped.
Walter Skinner was walking back from a meeting when he realized
that the front entrance of FBI headquarters was swarming with
the Media. Again. Not that they were there for him, but making
his way through the scrum was not something he was in the mood
for right now. If he went around the building, there should be
a back door he could use to get back to his office and the paper
work that seemed to be reproducing overnight.
He had just turned the corner when a man fell into step with him,
quickly came up behind him. The barrel of a gun jammed into the
small of his back.
"It would be wise to come with me, AD Skinner, or would you
prefer spending the remainder of your life in a wheelchair, assuming
you survive?" When there wasn't an immediate answer, the
man shrugged noncommittally and pressed the barrel into Skinner's
spine. "The choice remains yours."
Skinner let his briefcase slid quietly down the front of his leg,
to his foot, to the ground. He turned in the direction the gun
wanted him to, walked over to the darkened limo that was waiting
back at curbside. Somehow, the Media seemed to be focused on the
big man, easily identifiable now, and the man with him, a man
who still appeared on the list of possible suspects.
The limo door opened and CGB Spender, aka Cancerman, aka "that
cigarette-smoking bastard" greeted Skinner like a long-lost
brother, helped the two men into the back of the limo and the
car sped away.
All captured on video for the six o'clock newscasts.
"How nice to see you again, Mr. Skinner." Spender lit
another of his innumerable cigarettes. "I didn't want to
leave without thanking you for all the help you and your department
have given me over the years."
Skinner assumed, rightly, that the conversation was being taped.
He said nothing, sat stoned-face in the middle of the back seat,
between his "escort" and another man also wanted for
questioning. Both were holding guns on him.
"You know," Spender rattled on, "we never would
have lasted as long, or been as prosperous, had you not slipped
us all that useful information." He smiled around the cigarette.
"No, couldn't have done it without you, Skinner. Of course,
the bank account in the Caymans will certainly bear proof of that.
You should have a nice comfortable retirement. As you said, much
better than anything the Bureau could provide you with."
Spender nodded to one of the men, who pulled a syringe out of
a pocket. Skinner had his eyes on Spender, was aware of the syringe
only when it was jammed into the back of his neck. He started
to turn, hand rising to pull it out when he fell forward onto
Spender reached up and pushed a button in the roof of the limo.
A cassette dropped into his hand. He stuck the cigarette into
his mouth, eyes squinted against the smoke, and placed the tape
into an already addressed envelope. At the next mailbox, the limo
stopped, and the pack was dropped into the shoot.
Skinner regained consciousness slowly.
Because of the drug hangover, it took him some time to really
understand the precariousness of his position.
His hands were stretched above his head, the weight of his body
straining shoulder muscles to the point of burning cramp. He tried
to stand only to realize he could only do so on the front part
of his feet. He was naked.
His head eventually cleared enough for him to figure out that
he was hanging from a metal bar which in turn was hanging from
a lever. He was in some barn, so he assumed the lever was for
lifting bales of hay into the upper loft of the structure.
He had no idea how long he had been hanging here though the pain
in his upper body told him if had to have been some hours.
He had no idea where this structure was located. He assumed that,
since he was not gagged, it would not be near people. Did he want
to take a chance and try calling out? What if the only attention
he attracted was that of Spender and his friends?
But the decision was taken out of his hands when Spender and his
associates came out of a side door from what seemed to be an office
of some kind.
"Ah, Skinner, you've decided to join us. How nice."
In spite of the hay and straw on the floor, Spender took out a
cigarette, lit it with his lighter.
"You'll be happy to know that my contacts will be picking
us up a bit later on this evening. Maybe less happy to know that
we find ourselves with time on our hands until they get here."
He took a deep inhalation, held it, released the smoke in a series
of rings. Smiled at the circles that slowly made their way up,
dissolving into the upper reaches of the barn.
"Well," Spender smiled, "that's the limit of my
entertainment skills. Let's see just how much fun you can be,
Skinner." He took another deep inhalation, watched the tip
of the cigarette turn brilliant red and, with real pleasure, butted
out the smoke on Skinner's chest.
The pain hadn't stopped when the helicopter had arrived.
The hands hurting him had gone, but the pain had just continued
throbbing in time with his heartbeat. He faded in and out of consciousness,
finding it harder to breathe because of the constant pressure
put on his lungs by his up-stretched arms.
He was out when a figure all dressed in black slipped into the
barn. It avoided him, although it was obvious that he was there.
The figure went through the structure, verifying that he was alone
before slowly walking around him, objectively evaluating the state
of his body before coming to stand in front of him.
The barrel of an uzi was placed under his chin and upward pressure
forced his head up.
Through the pain, Skinner felt the presence of another person.
The need to know which of his tormentors had returned forced him
to open his eyes.
Instead, after some moments of trying to focus his sight, he realized
that a new character had joined the party. It took him several
tries to get enough moisture in his mouth to croak "Your
turn," to Alex Krycek.
Krycek swung his weapon over his truncated shoulder, used the
prosthesis to balance it there. Took a cell phone out of his pocket,
speed-dialled it. "I found him. Send an ambulance."
Using the information Skinner managed to give them, Spender and
his goons were caught as they were transferring from the helicopter
to a private jet on its way to Libya. In the ensuing gun battle,
Spender was wounded, unfortunately, not critically. His men had
not been so fortunate. One had died on the spot; the other the
next day in hospital, though his wounds had not been life-threatening.
Spender was immediately transferred to an extreme security cell
where he was waiting for an appearance in front of a Grand Jury.
Which would take place as soon as Walter Skinner was able to testify.
WARNING: As a Canadian, I have no experience with Grand Juries,
apart from some examples in movies. If any of this is inaccurate,
blame me. My betas did their best and I did make some changes
but if not enough, then just assume this is an AU where such situations
WARNING: Discussion of rape.
The Grand Jury investigating the charges against CGB Spender was
in its last days. The final witness to be heard from had just
been released from hospital. Less than four weeks after being
found by Alex Krycek, Walter Skinner, accompanied by a Bureau
lawyer, was sworn in.
There had been some dissension by a few of the panel about the
veracity of this witness, considering the news videos, the cassette
recording, the Cayman bank account. The fact that the Director
himself had finally come out and stated "positively"
that, based on his knowledge of both Spender and Skinner, he did
not feel that AD Skinner would either betray his country nor secret
away money in an off-shore bank didn't make him more reliable.
In general, the questions covered the relationship Skinner had
with Spender, Spender's actions within the Bureau itself, his
involvement with the X-Files Department. Once or twice they touched
the matter of the cassette and the bank account, stayed away from
the kidnapping and reasons for his stay in the hospital.
Until it was the turn of Senator Matthews.
"Well, Mr. Skinner, you seemed to have convinced my colleagues
that you ran an honest show. Perhaps you may even eventually convince
"As you know, in addition to all the charges against Mr.
Spender, there have been added, among others, kidnapping, forcible
confinement, gross bodily harm.
"You'll have to excuse me, Mr. Skinner, but I find these
charges quite unwarranted. In fact, I'm sure, if you will only
be honest with us, Mr. Skinner, these charges are there only to
cover up your activities in relation with Mr. Spender."
There was a negative reaction from most of the panel members.
"No, no, gentlemen, I intend to show that Mr. Skinner was
a voluntary participant in this so-called kidnapping. And that
the last day's testimony has been nothing more than a sham."
He waited till the room quietened down.
"Mr. Skinner, have you ever had consensual sex with a man?
And before you answer that question, I would just like to submit
the following photos as evidence to the panel that this"
his voice showed his disgust "fine example of the Federal
Bureau of Investigations is a practising ho..mo..sexual who is
into games of say..do..mas..o..chistic bondage."
Skinner's lawyer accepted the duplicate of the package that was
now making its way along the panel. Skinner barely glanced at
the photos of Mulder and himself, taken in Mulder's apartment,
with Mulder in handcuffs. All with Mulder's face blacked out.
His lawyer slowly began pulling away from him. By the end of the
session was sitting almost away from the table.
The questions had been another rape.
Didn't he enjoy being tied up? Didn't he enjoy rough sex? Wasn't
what had happened to him been just a bit of rough sex that had
gotten out of control? He, Senator Matthews, understood that it
was quite acceptable for a whip to be used in this sort of activity.
Burning, too, or so his expert witness had told him: not that
he himself would know about "such things".
Hadn't he actively participated in group sex? How was this episode
so different? After all, he understood that four way sex was not
unknown in "such things".
And as for the damages to the "anal canal" done by the
barrel of some gun, well, he understood that "object penetration"
was a common practice in "such things" and some injury
was only to be expected.
Alex Krycek sat at the side of the room where this inquisition
was being played out. Neither Scully nor Mulder was around: someone
had seen to it that Scully had been safely ensconced with a series
of autopsies in Quantico for the past four days; Mulder was with
the Director being shown off like some rare species at some conference.
And someone had certainly seen to it that Senator Matthews had
been provided with all kinds of fascinating photos and documents.
Krycek took it from the Cheshire-cat smile on Spender's face that
he was getting in his final twist of the knife in the man he held
responsible for not controlling Mulder and his X-Files investigations:
Spender was going down, but he wasn't going alone.
And that fucking idiot lawyer the Bureau had provided was certainly
not doing his job. Or maybe doing it too well. With every little
revelation, most of them doctored to some extent, all the motherfucker
did was look horrified, pull further away from Skinner who only
sat there, stone-faced, not even trying to defend himself.
But Krycek knew a few things about Senator Matthews that could
prove interesting. He stood up and held a short conference with
a couple of people who would not really want their connection
to him known. He waited until the panel called a short recess
during which they argued with each other as to Matthews' line
of questioning. Then he went over to the table where Skinner sat.
Krycek patted Skinner on the shoulder, bent over and covered the
mike with his hand. "Listen to me, Skinner. At this rate
you're going to be sharing a cell with the Cancerman over there.
So you're going to do as I say, understand? Start giving Matthews
the details he wants. Long, involved juicy details. Think of him
as a vampire and feed him the blood he needs. I'll take care of
Skinner's eyes were unalive behind his glasses. He met Krycek's
eyes, but couldn't hold them. When Krycek had found him, he had
expected the man to take revenge for what he had done to him on
the balcony that cold fall night.
Instead, Krycek had lowered him onto the ground, stayed beside
him till help had arrived in the form of Mulder, Scully and some
other people dressed all in black. He'd managed to stay conscious
long enough to pass on the information that led to Spender's capture
So, if Krycek had picked now for his revenge, he had nothing left
to fight him with. And why shouldn't Krycek get his pound of flesh
like everyone else?
At Matthews' next question, Skinner's dead voice gave the man
the emotional details he'd been pecking for. How he had hurt,
how there was a difference between rough sex and what he'd undergone.
That there was a difference between having a dildo stuck up your
ass and the barrel of a Glock.
The spectators drew silent, listening intently to the softly spoken
answers, a dark contrast to Matthews' condescending questions.
Behind the panel, the man Krycek had spoken to waited for his
signal to walk over to Senator Matthews. As he passed the senator's
chair, he somehow tripped and knocked both the chair and the senator
in it backwards onto the floor.
"Oh! Dear God! Senator Matthews! You're
The ENG people pushed the "shocked" woman out of the
way in their hurry to tape the Senator with his cock out of his
pants, semen-stained handkerchief spread over his crotch. The
reaction of the man to the left of the Senator was caught for
all to view on the six o'clock news, especially since family hour
viewing precluded the sight of the Senator's quickly shrivelling
Krycek sat back, grinning. That should help detract some of the
attention from Skinner. And, using his new connections, a little
talk with Mr. Spender that night would see an end to this comedy.
He tried to catch Skinner's eye, sure the man was getting some
enjoyment out of this reversal.
Skinner didn't seem to be aware of what was happening around him.
He just sat, staring at the front, waiting. His lawyer had disappeared,
and people around him weren't interested in him any more.
Krycek got a strange feeling. He tried to get to Skinner but the
panel leader was rapping his gavel, bringing the proceedings to
a halt for the day. By the time Krycek got through the crowd,
Skinner was gone.
The next day, when the Grand Jury reconvened, Skinner sat alone
at the table, the Bureau not even pretending to support him. Krycek
watched him more intently now. Finally seeing the signs of a man
pushed beyond his limits. Krycek wondered just what was holding
To everyone's surprise but Krycek's, Spender's lawyer rose with
a request to address the panel. "My client wishes to read
a statement into the record."
Briefly, Spender informed the Grand Jury that Walter Skinner had
never ever been anything but a hinderance to himself and the people
he represented. That the video op had been set up by himself,
the tape faked, the bank account was his, not Skinner's. That
the photos sent to Senator Matthews had been doctored. And that
Senator Matthews had been in his pay.
Krycek smiled: it hadn't taken long for Spender to understand
that any time spent in prison would be easier if he weren't in
a wheelchair, paralysed from the neck down.
By the time the statement had been read, questioned by the panel
leader, Skinner's reputation had been re- established: at least
Krycek thought it should be. The panel leader finally addressed
Skinner himself, indifferently apologizing on behalf of all the
panel, the absent Senator Matthews excepted, for yesterday's line
of questioning. Skinner said nothing. Waited till he had been
dismissed, stood up, and with all eyes on him, walked out of the
********************End of Part 1**********************
Krycek pulled up in front of the cabin, parked by Skinner's car.
The November rain made the Blue Ridge Mountains seem more grey
than blue in the late afternoon light.
Krycek wasn't sure why he was here.
Skinner had disappeared the day the Panel had dismissed him. Had
just left the Crystal City condo and taken off. Scully knew he
had had a meeting with the Director that morning, knew he had
a cabin in the mountains, had assumed he'd gone there to convalesce.
She'd been livid at his treatment by the Panel and the Bureau.
Grabbed the chance to teach at Quantico, taking her out of field
Mulder had been upset by Skinner's problems, but not enough to
turn down his former boss's position, on an acting basis only,
when it was offered to him. He couldn't pass up the opportunity
to be in charge of the people who had made it their life's work
to make him miserable.
Which was how they found out that Skinner had been told to take
six months sick leave.
Scully had tried often to get Skinner on the phone, had managed
it once or twice in the two months since the Grand Jury. She hadn't
made contact with Skinner in at least three weeks and was worried.
"It's Thanksgiving next week, Scully. He's probably with
his family," said Mulder, over-worked and enjoying every
moment of it. He'd never known how much fun it was to have a group
of people all on nerves, wondering when he would tell them to
"Cut the bullshit and get to the point." Meetings were
far less deadly when you were the one directing them.
But Scully was worried. Her own schedule meant that she couldn't
take the time necessary to drive out to the cabin and check on
Skinner in person. To everyone's surprise, including his own,
Krycek offered to do it. He was still floundering around, not
having found anything to do to replace his former activities,
not even getting laid on a regular basis since Mulder had discovered
the joys of bureaucracy and twenty-hour days.
The cabin seemed empty, but Krycek got the first frisson of something
not being right when he discovered the front door was not locked.
Old habits die hard, so he pulled his gun from the side holster
he wore under the prosthesis and cautiously went in.
In the entrance way, he noticed the smell first, enclosed air,
cheap booze, unwashed dishes and clothes, something else.
There were no lights on, but the windows in the kitchen let in
enough for him to see the pile of dishes crusted over, the garbage
overflowing with bottles of whisky and not much else. Krycek opened
the fridge door. Empty except for a dried piece of cheese, a container
of curdled milk.
The bathroom contained the dirty clothes piled in a corner and
the smell of vomit.
The great room, with its cathedral ceiling, glassed wall, wooden
floor also smelt of vomit, some of it crusted by the deck door,
splattered on the windows by the door. Some by the fireplace.
Krycek checked out the loft bedroom with its king-sized bed and
small wood stove. The sheets hadn't been changed in quite a while,
smelled of rancid sweat. There were signs of vomit on the quilt
that lay tangled at the foot of the bed.
Jesus Christ! What the hell was going on here?
Krycek made his way back downstairs, tried the deck to see if
there was any sign of Skinner. Noticed something he had missed
on his first turn around the room. On the coffee table in front
of the couch lay a Glock, freshly cleaned and oiled going by the
rag and can of gun oil next to it.
Krycek picked up the gun, checked to see if the safety was on:
it was. If it was loaded: it was.
He slipped it into his holster.
The cabin had been built on a slope, the front facing away from
the drop, the back porch built up on stilts. Steps led down from
the deck which offered a great view of the lake. There, standing
on the bank, Krycek spotted Skinner.
Krycek approached him with great care. Was horrified by the changes
he saw in the man. He had lost a good twenty pounds while in the
hospital, but it looked as though he had lost twenty more. And
he could smell him from fifteen feet back.
Krycek made a small noise so Skinner could hear him coming. There
was no reaction from the man.
"Skinner." Krycek spoke softly. Repeated the name a
bit more loudly.
Finally Skinner turned around enough to see who was behind him.
"What do you want?"
Krycek thought he was prepared for changes in Skinner but had
trouble recognizing the bearded scarecrow standing in front of
He took the time to look him over. The deep lines of pain etched
on either side of nose and mouth were visible even with the beard.
The redden eyes were sunk, dark purple bruises in a grey face
that held no life. His glasses were dirty.
He had to have been standing in this rain for some time: he was
thoroughly soaked. The rain dripped off the shirt-tails of the
dirty black (navy? brown?) flannel shirt that hung on his body.
The jeans were worn, grimed, hips barely there to hold them up.
The unlaced boots were wide open, letting the rain in.
"Scully sent me to see how you were." Krycek slid the
gun into his pocket, kept his hand on it.
Skinner turned back to the lake. Krycek went to stand by him,
trying to see what it was that had caught Skinner's attention.
There was a white mist rising off the water, adding to the eerieness
of the entire situation.
After a few minutes, Skinner said in an indifferent voice, "You
can go now."
Krycek shook his head, spoke with an authoritative tone, "No.
It's been raining too much. One of the roads up here was already
flooding. I'll be spending the night." And turned to go back
into the cabin.
Once in, he quickly checked the place for more weaponry, confiscated
the knives that looked as though they could cut from the kitchen.
The safety razor and blades from the bathroom. Tossed the lot
in the trunk of his car and locked it.
In the freezer he found a container of coffee and with some difficulty,
the coffee pot buried in the rubble on the kitchen counter.
He used the taps in the tub to wash it out, fill it with water
and got it going on stove, once he'd cleared the top of its contents.
Skinner still hadn't moved. Still stood looking out over the lake.
Jesus! thought Krycek. What have we done to you?
Krycek was on his second cup when Skinner finally moved and walking
slowly, as if each step was impossibly hard, he made his way up
the path, up the stairs, across the deck and, after hesitating
at the deck doors, into the cabin.
He ignored Krycek and stopped in the great room only long enough
to see that the gun on the coffee table was gone. In the kitchen,
he opened a storage door and came out with another of those whisky
bottles that littered the cabin. He opened it, found a glass on
the counter and filled it with the liquid. With bottle and glass
he moved back into the great room, sat on the couch.
Apart from filling the glass, now and then drinking, Skinner sat
unmoving. Krycek was horrified at the fragility of the man he
had once compared to "thick- skinned rhino". This man
barely had skin left to hold him together.
In the evening, Krycek made a fresh pot of coffee, cooked the
two beef pies he'd found in the back of the freezer. He used a
couple of pie tins as dishes, the only things he could find that
didn't need washing. Found a spoon and a fork that were more easily
cleaned. Placed the one with the spoon next to Skinner on the
couch. Ate his sitting on the bottom steps to the loft.
Skinner ignored both the food and Krycek. Eventually fell asleep,
head resting on the arm of the couch. Still holding the almost
empty bottle. Still dressed in the sodden clothes.
Krycek waited till he was certain that Skinner was deeply asleep
before going to look at him.
The smell in the room was the smell of death. He knew that. Recognized
it from having smelt it before.
Skinner, the one with the least direct involvement with the Consortium,
was its biggest victim.
They'd all landed on their feet except him. Scully with her position
at Quantico. Mulder with his new office: everyone thinking that
he had taken Krycek as a lover as a way of getting information.
Even he had landed pretty well-off: all charges dropped, even
a bit of a hero for having supplied all that documentation, all
that data to Mulder for him to use.
They'd forgotten the man who had done his best to protect them.
Who had given Mulder and Scully the time and leeway to pursue
the X-Files. Had protected them from Cancerman. Had done things
that certainly went against his training, his personal philosophy
to keep them alive. Had even done things to protect him, Alex
True, there had been that scene on the balcony, but even then,
he had made his point without permanent damage. Hell, Spender
and his goons hadn't used a lubed glove on Skinner when they'd
torn him apart on the inside. And Skinner hadn't called the cops,
even though he must have hated him for fucking his department
around the way he had. Or even toss him off the seventeenth floor.
Which he could have done, and no one have been the wiser.
He'd been violated twice: ripped apart twice. Once by Spender
and his goons, once by the so-called Justice system. He'd needed
more time to recover from what had been done...Shit! The man had
been tortured, and four weeks later they'd tortured what was left
Krycek sat at the other end of the couch and considered options.
If he left now, Skinner was dead. And he didn't deserve that.
On the other hand, if he stayed...God! Scully should have been
the one to come up; to handle this. Even Mulder, for Christ's
sake! Not him. He had no idea what to do.
But he knew that if he contacted Scully -- or Mulder -- the only
thing they would do is have Skinner hospitalized. And Krycek was
Russian enough to be extremely suspicious of mental institutions.
And the "treatments" that took place there.
He scrubbed his hand over his face. Reached over and took the
bottle out of Skinner's hand. There was a mouthful of the stuff
left in the bottom. He tipped it back and swallowed what had to
be licensed rot-gut.
Skinner had been making small noises, been restless for some time
when suddenly he screamed. Krycek went to touch him but Skinner
sat up, white face beaded with sweat and barely made it to the
toilet when he vomited. The smell in the room was overpowering
as Skinner continued heaving even though nothing was left in his
stomach to come up.
Krycek touched his shoulder and Skinner turned, eyes black with
pain, vomit marking his beard, his lips. "Please," he
whispered, voice hoarse with the effort of vomiting, "Please,
Krycek felt his stomach clench. Found he had to swallow, to breathe
shallowly to control the urge to vomit next to Skinner. The man
had curled up, huddled by the toilet, as if trying to protect
himself from blows.
Krycek crouched by Skinner, taking care not to touch him, not
to do anything to set him off. Waited till the man had fallen
asleep lying there on the floor, exhausted from the act of vomiting,
from the lack of food. From the pain and fear he carried in him.
Krycek knew how Skinner felt. Knew the kind of depression that
had Skinner in its talons. Had been there often enough himself.
Knew that Skinner would have to be made to want to live again
if he were not to take that Glock and put it to his head.
Krycek sat back on his heels and, after some time, made a decision.
Skinner woke to find himself on the floor of the bathroom, not
an uncommon occurrence these days.
His throat and stomach muscles hurt, his clothes were damp . He'd
learnt to ignore the taste in his mouth some time ago. Slowly,
he rolled over to his knees, sat back, and using the toilet as
a prop, he finally made it to his feet. He was dimly aware that
something was different today, but couldn't concentrate long enough
to track it down.
He'd staggered to the doorway of the bathroom when he realized
what was different. Krycek was standing in the kitchen, washing
a sinkful of dishes. The kitchen, though not yet clean, was certainly
a lot easier to find. Most of the dishes had been soaked, scraped
clean and then washed. The top of the stove was cleared, except
for the pot of coffee that was percolating.
Krycek wiped his hand dry on a dishcloth he'd found in one of
the kitchen drawers. Between loads of dishes, he'd stripped the
bed, found the washer and dryer behind louvred doors and was into
his fourth load of laundry. Two more piles of clothes were still
waiting for their turn in the appliances.
Krycek poured himself a cup of coffee. Drank it while watching
Skinner absorb what was going on around him. When he finished,
Krycek put the cup down and in a continuous movement, slammed
Skinner against the wall, started stripping the clothes off him.
Skinner tried to push him away. Got slapped hard across the face
for the effort.
"You," said Krycek through gritted teeth, "are
a pig. You smell worse than a pig. No self-respecting pig would
live in his shit like this." He pulled Skinner off the wall,
turned him, pulled his arm high behind his back, the fake arm
around his neck.
Angrily, he shoved the man back into the bathroom, manhandled
him into the tub. Skinner had trouble standing, wobbled. Krycek
stripped his clothes and prosthesis off, joined Skinner and turned
the water on. It took a bit of fiddling to get the temperature
to a bearable heat.
With very little difficulty, he got Skinner to his feet, braced
his hands against the back wall and began washing him down.
Stripped, Skinner was in worse shape than he had appeared. Krycek
felt he could have counted every rib, every disc of the spine,
hung his hat on hip-bones if he had wanted. There were sores on
skin that had dirt encrusted on it.
Even in depression, how could Skinner have let himself deteriorate
to this extent?
As he washed Skinner down, Krycek couldn't miss the webbing of
scars that lashed the back, buttocks, even chest of the man. The
larger burns still had a reddish sheen to them. The cigarette
burns freckled his chest, were denser in his groin area, penis
and balls. They contrasted with the sharp operation scars on his
ribs where they'd had to cut to clean out the shards of bone broken
by gun butts. Krycek knew they had had to remove one of them completely.
When he finished washing Skinner, Krycek turned off the water,
left Skinner where he was while he dried himself using one of
the towels that had already gone through its cleaning cycle. Pulled
his jeans on.
He tugged Skinner's arm, got the man out and dried. Wrapped a
towel around his hips and shoved him into the kitchen. There he
poured him a cup of coffee, added brown sugar and snapped, "Drink."
Watched as Skinner, hands shaking, got the sweetened drink to
his mouth and sipped. Waited till he had drunk most of it before
"Listen to me, you fucking bastard. I will be staying here
for a few days. While I am here, you will obey me. In anything
and everything I tell you to do. Do you understand?"
Skinner put the mug down on the table, held it between his hands
as if to warm them. He didn't respond. Krycek moved to the table,
hauled Skinner's chin up. "I asked you a question. You answer
me when I ask you a question. Do...you...understand?"
Something flared for a moment in Skinner's eyes, then faded. He
dropped his eyes from Krycek's. "Yes." Voice low.
Krycek grabbed Skinner's jaw in his hand, forced it up, forced
Skinner to meet his eyes again. "Yes, what?"
Watched as Skinner's military training, his Bureau indoctrination
took over, which he had hoped would in response to his tone.
Still holding Skinner's jaw, "I will be gone for the rest
of the afternoon. When I come back, I will find you here. I will
find the kitchen cleaned up. The bathroom cleaned up. I will find
you sober. Is that understood, Skinner?"
Skinner nodded, "Yes. Sir." His voice was even softer.
Krycek waited for a moment before releasing Skinner's jaw. He
set a bowl with some cereal, all he could find in the bottom of
a couple of different boxes in the back of one of the cupboards,
poured some water and sugar on it and presented it to the man.
"You've got five minutes to eat this." An "or else"
threat hung in the air. Krycek waited for Skinner to pick up the
spoon, take a mouthful, and left to dress.
He was taking a chance, leaving him here alone, but the cupboards
were literally bare and he had to get some food into the place
and into Skinner. He had passed a small town not a half-hour away
and thought that would have to do for now.
He had gone through the house, taken away as much as he felt could
be dangerous, including all the booze he could find. He pocketed
Skinner's car keys. At the door, he turned around. "Skinner!"
Waited till he had the man's attention. "When that load is
dry, you'll find pants and some shirts in it. Get dressed."
He hadn't found all the booze.
He had found the town, spent a couple of hundred dollars buying
canned goods, fresh food, meats to restock the freezer. Even added
some fancy chocolate ice cream, a treat for himself which he did
not intend to share. He stocked up on cheese, dry and fresh milk.
At the small drugstore, he bought a variety of vitamins, food
supplements, stomach medication, shampoo, soap, basic medical
He found out that for twenty bucks, the kid who pumped gas at
the only gas station in the area would pick up groceries and deliver
them to the cabin. For another twenty, wouldn't deliver Skinner's
He was gone a total of four hours and returned to find Skinner
passed out in the bathroom, hand bleeding from the bottle that
had broken against the toilet when he fell. The kitchen was a
bit cleaner. The bathroom not.
"Well, Alexei, now what do you do?" He had inferred
a threat if his orders had not been carried out. How was he going
to handle this "disobedience". Whatever he did, he had
to consider the shape the man was in.
Then he had an idea.
He dragged Skinner out to the great room. Carefully he washed
and bandaged the cut hand. "Shit, man, just what you needed,
Because the kitchen was open concept, an upright beam served to
support its part of the loft. Krycek dragged Skinner face down
to it, took the handcuffs he had found in one of the upstairs
drawers, and cuffed Skinner's hands around the beam. He dragged
over a couple of the couch cushions, piled one on top of the other,
raised Skinner on them so that his head hung over the edge. That
way, if he vomited, he wouldn't drown in it. And, just in case
he did vomit, he placed a large metal pan on the floor under his
At the last minute, he tossed a blanket over the man, turned on
a couple of lights so he wouldn't wake up in the dark, and drove
back into the town for a leisurely supper in the town's one so-called
It was nearly midnight when he unlocked the door and came in find
Skinner's eyes wide open and black. He strolled over to the man,
pulled the pan and its contents away and went to empty it in the
bathroom. He took his time rinsing the pan, putting it in the
kitchen sink for washing.
He crouched by Skinner, stroked his face with a finger. "Next
time I tell you to do something, you'll do it. Won't you, Skinner."
He reached into his pocket, took out the key and unlocked the
cuffs. His hand came away bloodied.
He pulled Skinner's hands to him. Both wrists were torn, bleeding:
the result of Skinner's attempts to free himself. He turned to
yell at the man, to find terror and insanity.
"Please. Don't chain me. Please. I'll do whatever you ask.
I won't fight you. But please, don't chain me. Please!"
Skinner's voice had risen with hysteria; his body trembled, his
eyes grew wide with fear. He curled himself tight into a fetal
position, voice begging, words unclear except for the repeated
Krycek cursed himself. He pulled the broken man into his arms,
tried to get through the fear and hysteria. Too late he'd remembered
that Skinner had been handcuffed to the metal bar that had kept
him upright throughout his torture.
God! He didn't know what he was doing. He was only making things
worse. Maybe this was a stupid idea. Maybe Skinner would be better
off in one of those hospitals, drugged to the gills, not feeling
anything but stoned.
How was what he had done to the man any different than Spender
and his goons? Shit! He should have remembered!
He rocked Skinner awkwardly in his arms, back and forth till his
legs went to sleep beneath him, his arm ached and his stump burnt
with the stress of gripping Skinner. Gradually, Skinner calmed,
holding tightly to Krycek.
Krycek thought he had fallen asleep when Skinner asked, "Please.
When you've had your revenge, will you kill me?"
Krycek rubbed his cheek against Skinner's bald head. "My
revenge for what, Skinner?"
"For the balcony."
Krycek did some quick thinking, hated himself for using the weapon
Skinner had just handed him. "That depends. Will you obey
Skinner nodded his head slightly against Krycek's shoulder.
"Then, when I'm satisfied, we'll discuss this again."
Skinner nodded again. Then faintly, "Please. Don't chain
Krycek interrupted before the man was actually begging again.
"No chains. No cuffs. I promise."
He waited a bit longer, but Skinner seemed satisfied with the
promise. "Come on, Skinner. Let's get you on the couch. I'll
wrap those wrists of yours."
Skinner fell asleep before he had finished the second wrist. Krycek
made him comfortable on the couch, slipped a pillow under his
head, tucked a blanket around him. He wrapped another one around
himself, tried to get comfortable in the armchair, put his feet
up on the coffee table and did some heavy thinking.
Skinner made it through the rest of the night without waking.
Not without nightmares.
By morning Krycek had decided against hospitalization, and had
decided to give it a shot. What Skinner needed was food, exercise,
sleep. Nightmares were something Krycek understood, something
he had learnt to handle.
When Skinner got a handle on the nightmares, he'd be okay, thought
In the morning, he made Skinner take a shower, put on clean sweats.
Made him a light breakfast of strong, sweet tea and dry toast.
Told him to take a nap.
All of which Skinner did without saying a word, without questioning.
That bothered Alex Krycek more than he thought it would: the old
Skinner would have told him to "Go to hell, boy!"
After an hour, Krycek woke Skinner, fed him more of the tea and
toast. Gave him the pile of towels and socks that he had finally
finished washing. Had Skinner fold the towels, pair the socks,
then told him to take another nap.
It was like that all day long: food, some small activity that
didn't require thinking, naps. Skinner made it to mid-afternoon
before his stomach rejected the last batch of tea and toast. Krycek
waited till Skinner had cleaned up the bathroom -- he hadn't quite
made it to the toilet -- and then handed him some of the stomach
medication he'd picked up. He gave it several hours before he
tried food again: this time it stayed down.
The only time Skinner spoke that day was when Krycek indicated
that he was to sleep upstairs with him. Skinner looked from him
to the bathroom. "Please," his voice rough with disuse,
"the couch is closer."
Krycek picked up a bucket he'd found in his cleaning spree, handed
it to Skinner. "By the bed. But you're sleeping in the bed,
not down here."
Up in the loft, he made Skinner strip to his shorts, get in one
side of the big bed, and claimed the other side as his. He'd locked
his gun in the car trunk, and felt quite naked without it. He
couldn't remember the last time he'd slept without it at hand.
Which meant he slept badly, but that was okay, because he spent
part of the night holding Skinner's head over the bucket.
When it was over, Krycek cleaned up the bucket, Skinner. He piled
a bunch of pillows so he could sleep sitting up, grabbed a shivering
Skinner and hauled him as close to himself as possible.
Skinner had flinched at first, lay tense but gradually, the heat
of Krycek's body, the hand gently stroking his neck and back calmed
him and he went back to sleep.
Krycek found that once more he was doing some heavy thinking about
the situation. He was having a hard time believing that what Spender
and his goons had done to Skinner was responsible for this kind
of extreme reaction on Skinner's part.
The next morning, he changed the routine: he made Skinner run
before feeding him. Skinner slept for two hours straight, soundly,
after that. Had him replenish the wood pile by the fireplace before
lunch. Twenty sit-ups, twenty push-ups before the mid-afternoon
feed. Another run before supper.
All food stayed down, except for the bowl of cereal he had before
bed. So there was part of yesterday's routine repeated after all.
Over the next four days, Krycek gradually increased the distance
of the run, the number of repetitions, the quantity of the food.
He left the length of the naps stable; Skinner needed all the
sleep he could get.
The nights were bad: Skinner's nightmares seemed determined to
keep him from getting a full night's sleep. Krycek began the nights
on his half of the bed, ended them on Skinner's, holding the man.
He had worried about the cold turkey removal of alcohol from Skinner's
diet. Wasn't too surprised that to find total abstention wasn't
much of a problem. Skinner's wasn't an addictive personality.
The booze had been there for some reason, but not because it was
On Thanksgiving Day, Krycek had been there one week. Other than
a sentence here or there, there had been no conversation between
the two men. Krycek gave orders and Skinner carried them out.
And apart from that, Krycek read while Skinner ran, exercised
There was a TV in the great room, but neither man had turned it
on. Krycek knew from what Mulder had told him that Skinner was
a football fan. He seemed to remember that this time of the year
was saturated with televised games. So, after lunch, he turned
on the set, found a game on and settled to watch it on the couch.
Skinner was sitting at the other end, silent, waiting for the
next set of commands from Krycek.
Gradually, he became interested in the game. For the first time
since he'd arrived, Krycek watched as some animation appeared
in the man. Not much, but enough for him to snort at some play
that Krycek, who had never spent much time with this game, couldn't
That game was followed by another, and by this time, Skinner had
caught on that the day's activities were to be more easy. At one
point, Krycek got up, went into the kitchen. He placed a bowl
of some kind of pretzel- nut mixture by Skinner, sat at his end
with a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
"I don't get the popularity of this game." Krycek licked
his spoon. "I mean, you've got a bunch of over- sized, over-paid
goons who crash into each other, try to dismember each other,
feel each other up. This is a sport?"
"You don't understand." Skinner voice was hoarse, not
just from the vomiting but because he'd spoken so rarely. "It's
an American thing."
"Don't give me that bullshit! I was born here. I'm as American
as you are, even if my parents were Russian. I had to put up with
those stupid jocks all the way through school. They haven't a
brain among them. And everyone thinks they're so great that even
when they kill their ex-wives, they get away with murder. There's
no real skill needed to play football. Just brute strength and
the ability to endure pain."
Skinner sat very still. Krycek checked him out of the corner of
his eye. Wondered if he was going to get any kind of reaction
"There's finesse in the game. You just don't know where to
look for it."
Ah, Krycek smiled into his ice cream. He almost sounded like the
old Skinner there for a moment. "Okay. So explain it to me."
Shit! That sounded more like an order than an invitation to conversation.
But it got Skinner started. He began carefully neutral in tone,
became more animated as the game progressed. He explained the
action on the screen as if he were talking to some kid who had
never seen the game before.
By the end of the game, Skinner had spoken more than he had in
months. And he had begun gesturing, using his hands to explain
rules. He slouched down on his spine, muttered comments about
the commentary. Krycek smiled openly, delighted that this idea
had borne fruit.
But when the game ended, it was as if Skinner found himself shocked
by his behaviour and he withdrew, fell silent again.
Over supper, Krycek left him alone. He intended to push, but not
today. Today had shown him that the old Skinner was still around:
he would just need some time to come out of whatever hole he was
A week later, Krycek handed Skinner an axe and told him to replenish
the wood stack. There were at least ten cords of wood stacked
outside, but some of the pieces need to be cut down, especially
for use in the small wood stove in the bedroom and for kindling.
The nights were getting colder and apart from a small baseboard
in the bathroom, a larger one in the kitchen, all heat came from
It was the first time that he'd allowed anything sharp near Skinner,
but with only one arm, he very well couldn't do the chopping himself.
And since he had no intention of leaving Skinner alone, he stacked
the chopped wood in the lean-to set up for that purpose besides
the deck steps.
After a while of working in the sun, Skinner took off his shirt,
continuing to work just in his t-shirt. Krycek sat on the bottom
steps and watched him.
He had managed to put on some weight. The exercise had helped
it become muscle. He had more stamina. Slept better, except for
the middle of the night. Except for the middle of the night, had
stopped vomiting completely. His skin had lost that grey look,
but that beard and the hair needed cutting.
After the game, there hadn't been much conversation, but what
little there had been was easier. And Krycek had discovered the
chess set on the shelf that held all sorts of well-used board
games. He had intended to play against himself, to pass the time,
but had been pleased when Skinner casually asked if he played
They played a game every night after supper. A sort of non-verbal
conversation, thought Krycek. He pushed and Skinner, after losing
too many games in a row, began pushing back. It amused Krycek
to see that Skinner pushed using the rules while he tended to
push against the rules.
They were in bed that night when Krycek caught Skinner wincing
at muscles that hadn't been used for some time.
"Turn over," he told Skinner. Skinner's reaction was
to freeze. That haunted look came back in his eyes, and he looked
as if he was going to panic. Finally, he took a deep breath and
Krycek had caught his mistake almost as soon as it came out of
his mouth. He knew that he had just lost a lot of the trust he
had been so slowly establishing.
He had been aware, in these weeks, that Skinner was almost afraid
of being touched. Every night, when he had held the man, there
had always been a period where he was tensed, relaxing only when
sleep took over. And that was allowable only because he was usually
so sick that he didn't have the resources to deal with more.
But now, it wasn't the middle of the night. He hadn't puked his
guts out. He wasn't shivering in reaction to the vomiting and
his dreams. He didn't need someone to hold onto, to keep those
Krycek carefully propped the pillows so they would support his
left side: God! it was times like this that he missed his left
He lay his hand on the nape of Skinner's neck, felt the slight
tremor and left it there for him to get used to. Then gently,
he began massaging the tight muscles of neck and shoulder. He
didn't say anything, just worked on the knotted musculature, reminding
himself that he had to remember to get some sort of lotion to
make this easier on both of them.
After working on Skinner's neck and upper back, he made himself
comfortable on his side of the bed. " 'Night," he yawned,
and turned so his back was to Skinner, knowing full well that
wasn't what Skinner was expecting.
The next day, he doubled all of Skinner's exercise. Timed his
morning run. Had him spend the rest of the morning in sit-ups,
crunches, push-ups, anything he could think of to wear him out
completely. No naps either, had him run again in the afternoon
after telling him to cut ten minutes off the morning time.
Skinner ached that night, so much so, that when Krycek told him
"Turn over," he did so with a sigh of anticipation.
Krycek began propped up as he had the night before, but at one
point, he found it easier if he just straddled Skinner's hips.
He ignored the immediate tensing of the man. Shit! Skinner was
going to learn to trust him!
And again, when he was done, he moved over to his side of the
bed and went to sleep.
Skinner had his usual three o'clock nightmares, but this time
when Krycek pulled him into his arms, there was no tensing up.
And he went willingly.
The first snow arrived the next morning. In a nice little blizzard
that would dump five to ten inches, and then the sun the next
day would melt most of it away. Krycek didn't set a run that day,
just the usual inside exercises.
During lunch, he realized that Skinner had been staring at him
under his eyelashes all through the meal. As if really seeing
him for the first time. Krycek decided it was time to push the
trust issue just a bit further.
"Stay here," he said, after the dishes had been washed
and put away. He pointed to the table. Skinner sat, waited.
Krycek came back with a bowl of hot water, scissors, shaving lather,
a couple of towels, and a safety razor.
"I'm tired of not seeing your face," he wrapped a towel
around Skinner's neck. "And it's not really you, Skinner.
Not the beard. Not the long hair. You've never been scruffy, and
if you've suddenly decided to go for the hippie look, well, you're
too late now. You should have gone for it when you were the right
With the scissors, he trimmed the beard to a shaveable length.
Skinner, he noticed, kept very still during the whole operation,
only moving that part of his face that Krycek told him to move.
It took, Krycek smiled to himself, a fair amount of trust to allow
a one-handed man, who used an electric shaver himself, to shave
your exposed throat with a safety razor.
When he got to hair, Krycek just shaved all of it off as well.
Skinner didn't protest, just made a little sound when Krycek said,
"Well, it's not as if you have no experience with being a
"I think," offered Skinner, "you mean a leather-neck."
"Whatever. It'll grow back soon anyway." He walked around
Skinner evaluating the afternoon's effort. He stopped in front
of Skinner, check out the smoothness of his work on cheeks and
jaw with a finger. Felt only the tiniest reaction from Skinner
to his touch.
"Better," he said.
Skinner looked at him, raised an eyebrow. "Yes," he
Krycek understood he wasn't just referring to the shave.
Skinner found himself waking, not because of nightmares but because
of the sense that something was wrong.
He was alone in bed, alone in the loft. Slowly, he got out of
bed, pulled his jeans on and went to see where Krycek was.
The idea passed through his mind that Krycek was fed up with him,
and had decided to take off. Then he shrugged it off. He hadn't
heard the door close, a car start. And he wasn't sleeping so deeply
that he wouldn't have awaken at those sounds. Moreover, whenever
Krycek went into town, he always made sure Skinner knew he was
going, how long he intended to be away, and left a list of instructions
of how to fill in his time while Krycek was gone. Krycek, Skinner
had discovered, did not believe in idle hands. Besides, there
was still plenty of that chocolate ice cream he ate so that he
had no reason for going into town.
Skinner found Krycek on the couch, feet on the table. His face
was in the dark, but Skinner knew from the way his right hand
was massaging his shoulder and the upper part of his stump that
he was in pain. He'd read about phantom pain, but this was the
first time he'd seen someone experiencing it.
He quietly approached the couch, stood behind Krycek and waited
till the man acknowledged he was there before placing his hands
on Krycek's shoulder and using thumbs and fingers, began pressing
deeply into knotted muscle.
Krycek dropped his own hand, sighed at the ease Skinner's hands
were bringing him.
"Lean your head forward." Skinner worked on tight neck
muscles, upper back muscles before moving to include the front
of the shoulders.
Krycek groaned. "Thanks. It's not the same thing when you
do it to yourself."
Skinner grunted. "Phantom pain?"
"Yeah. And then the nerves get into act. It's like I can
feel the burning from my shoulder to my hand. I get the impression
that if I could just rub my hand, the bloody pain would stop."
Skinner moved his hands to the stump, holding it in both of his.
He could feel the muscles twitching. Very gently, he massaged
the scared and mangled limb. "Does this hurt?"
"Yeah, but it's good pain, don't stop. Sort of like working
a charlie horse out of a muscle. That kind of hurt."
After a while, Krycek rested his head against the back of the
couch, looked up at Skinner who was still working on his shoulder
"Skinner. What happened?"
Skinner didn't pretend to misunderstand the question. He shrugged.
Krycek's hand reached up and rested on the arm nearest to it.
He tugged gently, and, hand still on Skinner, got him to come
around to the front of the couch. To sit next to him.
"Listen, I know you strong silent types don't like to talk
much, but Skinner, those nightmares won't go away if you don't
get some of that stuff out of you."
Krycek turned slightly so he could look at the man sitting stiffly
next to him.
"Look, it's not that difficult. With a name like Sergei,
you must have had some connection to a church. What? Russian Orthodox?
Roman Catholic? Which one was it?"
Skinner sat back, put his feet on the table next to Krycek's.
Scrubbed his face with his hands.
"Come on, Walter. Don't make me remind you of your promise.
Remember, I ask, you answer."
"Except," Skinner sighed, "you still haven't taken
your revenge. And you won't kill me. Not now."
"No. Not necessary now. But it was close. That day I got
here, you were going to do it. Put the Glock to your head and
add to the general smell and mess of the place." He paused.
Skinner still didn't answer.
"What Spender and his goons did to you was shit, but you
never struck me as the type of guy who would let that kind of
shit get to him. I'm not saying it wasn't bad, because it was.
But Walter Sergei Skinner should have rolled with it, gotten up,
found his feet and gone on with life."
Skinner decided to answer another question. "Catholic. My
father found the Russian Liturgy took too much time. And the local
school with the best football team was Catholic."
"So you practice?"
"No. Nam took care of that. And I haven't seen anything in
the last thirty years to change my mind."
"But you're familiar with confession. That's all this is,
Skinner. Confession time. Just close your eyes and pretend I'm
"Father Kiwaulski." He found himself wondering just
how far Krycek was going to play this.
"Father Kiwaulski then and tell me all your sins. You know,
the venial ones first so that you can work your way up to the
mortal and not shock the old wino."
Skinner quirked an eyebrow at Krycek. "You seem to know a
lot about that."
"I've heard about it. I haven't done it." Almost defensive.
Krycek tried again. "Look, do it whichever way you want,
but get it out of your gut before it festers. Maybe it won't make
the nightmares go away, but at least I'll know what we're dealing
with. Maybe I can help."
Skinner looked carefully at the man next to him. The man who had
bullied him back into life. The last man on earth he'd have ever
thought would hold out a hand and pull him back from the blackness.
A man he had abused, hated, had wanted dead, preferably by his
Krycek didn't know where to go from here. He was tired and, in
spite of the massage, his arm still hurt. It would continue hurting
for no reason he could find and then suddenly stop, again for
no discernable reason. Meanwhile, it left him tense, sore and
gave him a headache. Normally he'd drink to handle the situation,
but he had no intention of doing so in front of Skinner.
He was seriously thinking of finding some codeine tablets when
Skinner suddenly started talking.
"Two weeks after you found me OPC came to see me in the hospital."
"OPC? What the fuck for?" And two weeks after he'd found
him, Walter Skinner had still not been in any shape to handle
"The video and cassette. The bank account."
Krycek was stunned. "Are you telling me they believed that
"That's their job, believing bullshit." Even Skinner
heard the bitterness in his voice. "They 'interviewed' me
every day after that. I was put on notice that I was to consider
myself guilty...no, a traitor unless they could prove otherwise.
Like you, they wanted a confession. It would make things easier
on me if I just told them the truth."
"Jesus, Skinner. But they knew you. Shit! Even I knew it
was a set-up when I heard it. Surely it was obvious to them."
"Well, you see, there'd been problems with my department
before, where they'd had to investigate..."
Skinner stopped to listen to Alex Krycek swear fluently first
in English, then in Russian. He really didn't have much Russian,
only his maternal grandparents had spoken it, but he did recognize
a few of the expressions. His grandfather had always believed
that Russian was a much better language for swearing. Krycek obviously
knew a fair amount since he had yet to repeat himself.
Skinner waited for Krycek's anger to quiet. He hadn't really been
surprised at the arrival of OPC. What had gotten to him was the
vehemence, the acrimony directed at him. But eventually he had
"Eventually," he continued, "OPC had to admit that
apart from the video, the tape and the bank account, which they
couldn't trace definitively back to me, I 'seemed' to be clean.
That's when the Director came out with his oh-so-supportive statement.
"I knew that they believed me dirty when I got to the Grand
Jury waiting room and met my lawyer."
"That asshole!" Krycek's disdain was obvious.
"The Director's god-son, who passed his bar exams on, it
is rumoured, his fifth try. I knew that they were hanging me out
to dry. And then there was Senator Matthews and his questions."
Skinner turned to look at Krycek who had slouched so that his
spine rested on the seat, head thrown back, eyes closed.
"By the way, thanks for that. You were the only one in that
room who understood what he was doing."
"Yeah, right. I told you to feed him and you did. You know,"
Krycek opened his eyes to look at Skinner, "I actually thought
you'd get a kick out of what happened to him. What I did was set
you up for yet another assault."
Skinner slouched beside Krycek on the couch. "Actually, there
was a day when I finally got a laugh over it, but it did take
a while. And I was drunk at the time. But I do seriously thank
you. You were the only one who even tried to help."
"Look," Krycek felt he had to explain, "Scully
and Mulder weren't there because they didn't even think for a
minute that anyone would take those things about you seriously.
Neither of them knew about the OPC investigation, or they'd have
been there fighting. Shit! We thought the bloody fighting was
Skinner shrugged. The fact remained that of all of them, only
Krycek had been there at the Grand Jury, had been the only one...again...to
A new thought came to him. "So, what did you threaten Spender
with that he confessed to all the next day?"
Krycek shrugged. "I just described to him what prison life
would be like if he were paralysed from the neck down."
Krycek met Skinner's half smile with a grin of his own. "I'm
very good at graphic detail." Then, "How did you know
it was me?"
Skinner's smile grew. "You just told me."
Krycek snickered. That was more like the old Skinner. "So
where did you disappear to, after you were dismissed."
"The Director's Personal Assistant was waiting for me when
I left the Court. To take me to the Director. The PA had already
updated him on the morning's revelations."
"And?" By now, Krycek had an idea where this was going.
"And I got told that I had brought too much disrepute to
the Bureau for them to allow me to come back."
"Even if you'd been cleared?"
"Ah, but I hadn't been cleared. I had admitted in my own
testimony that I was quote a practising ho..mo..sexual who was
into games of
say..do..mas..o..chistic bondage. Unquote. That I had had sex
with a subordinate who was too naive to understand what I was
leading him into."
"Mulder? Naive? Shit! That asshole doesn't know our boy very
well, does he?" Krycek's first and only reference to the
fact that they had both shared in Mulder's favours.
Skinner ignored the comment. "That in spite of Spender's
testimony, I was still under suspicion and therefore, until and
unless I was completely cleared, irrevocably cleared by OPC, it
would be required that I take leave without pay for at least six
months while my work was investigated. Of course, should I wish
to do the 'honourable' thing for the Bureau and its reputation,
I could resign. They would even 'allow' me to take retirement
if that was the route I preferred. After all, I did have my twenty
years and was eligible. Of course, pension payments would have
to be held back until I was cleared."
Shit! No wonder the man had hit the bottle.
"I really wasn't surprised then that Scully and Mulder weren't
around. I had been their supervisor. I understood that considering
the position I was in, they couldn't be seen to support me in
any way and keep their careers..."
"That's bullshit!" Krycek's vehemence stopped Skinner.
"No. I was...I am poison."
"That's not what I calling bullshit, though that's also bullshit.
No. You weren't just their supervisor. You covered for them more
than you had to. You cared for them. Christ, Skinner, you were
their fucking lifeline! They should have been there for you. Hell,
Skinner! You were even there for me!"
Skinner looked stunned. "How the hell did you come to that
"Come on, the number of times you could have killed me. Called
the cops on me. Could have thrown me off the balcony."
"Instead I tortured you."
Krycek rolled his eyes. "Get real. You of all people know
that it wasn't torture."
"Really. So what was it that I did to you that night on my
Krycek meet Skinner's eyes, saw the self-disgust in them. "I
pissed you off and you lost it for a while."
"I lost it?!" Skinner was incredulous.
"Jesus, Skinner, you going to tell me that Spender put a
glove and a ton of lube on one of those gun barrels before he
shoved it up your ass?" He took a deep breath, tried again.
"Look, I'm not saying it didn't hurt: it did. But you didn't
tear me." Well, he had, but not much. And he had had worse
in his life. "Though, I did shit lube for the next two days.
And face it, you did have legitimate grounds for hating me. It's
not like you did it out of the blue.
"And, not that I'm excusing them, but Scully was up to her
neck in corpses in Quantico, from the Johnson case. And Mulder
was on the West Coast at some conference with the Director. Neither
of them suspected what was going on. I swear, Skinner. They didn't
know. Or they'd have been there. And they never for a moment believed
any of that crap Spender invented."
There was a long bit of quiet while Krycek thought of some very
inventive things he wanted to do to the Bureau Director.
"My family believed it." Skinner voice was very quiet.
The final piece, thought Krycek. "What did they believe?"
"The video, the cassette, the bank account. Even after Spender
confessed, they thought there had to be a grain of truth to it
because if there hadn't been, the Director would have come out
right away to defend me."
Krycek was stunned silent.
"And then there's the fact that I sleep with men. It's bad
enough I do it, but to admit it in front of a Grand Jury humiliated
them to no end. They had to send for the doctor for my mother.
They thought she was going to have a heart attack. My brother
George wouldn't let me talk to her because if I did, it might
kill her. When I tried to get her later on, she hung up the phone
on hearing my voice.
"I thought if I gave it some time, things would calm down.
So I waited, called my other brother, Tom. He actually talked
to me. Told me how mom couldn't hold up her head in town any more.
How Father Kiwaulski helped her pray for my immortal soul. How
I was a embarrassment to the Marine Corps, the FBI, the American
way of life. That he hoped that I would have the common basic
decency, if people like me *had* any decency, to remember that
there were children in the family and that my presence would not
be tolerated around them.
"He probably had more to say, but I hung up at that point.
"That was the day you arrived."
The next day, while Skinner was out running, Krycek got hold of
Scully in Quantico. Told her about the OPC investigations, about
the Director and his "support".
Heard, for the first time in his life, Dana Scully swear like
the sailor her father had been.
"How bad is he?"
"It's getting better. He'd lost weight. Wasn't eating properly.
Drinking too much. But he's got it under control again. More like
the old Skinner."
"Are you sure? Maybe I should come out and see for myself."
"Wait, will you, Scully. Maybe later. But there are still
a few things left for him to sort out, and it would be easier
if he dealt with them first. And I promise I'll call you every
week with an update."
Scully wanted to believe Krycek that things weren't bad, but had
gotten the message that interference would not be welcomed. And
since Krycek was the one who had gone up, she felt she had to
trust him. "Every week. I'll expect your call every Wednesday
at this time. If I don't hear from you, I'll be coming up. And,
Krycek, I'll find out what's going on with OPC. After all, the
new Acting Assistant Director used to be my partner."
"How's he doing?"
"Having the time of his life shaking things up. Got the budget
people freaked out over his expenses approvals. Won't read reports
longer than three pages. He's getting away with it all only because
he knows he's still the Media darling. All that positive coverage
is just delighting the upper offices."
Krycek gave Skinner the day off for Christmas. Even allowed him
some of his chocolate ice cream after warning him that should
any disappear that he couldn't account for, he would break Skinner's
Skinner thanked him very politely for the treat, then pointed
out to Krycek that he really didn't like chocolate all that much,
preferred butter pecan. Which Krycek added to the shopping list.
Once Skinner initiated a conversation of his own: wondering if
Krycek didn't want to go back to his place to pick up some clothes,
his mail, something.
Krycek had been wearing some of Skinner's clothes, his shirts,
his sweats. Had bought socks, t-shirts, underwear in the town's
"I don't really have any other clothes. I usually keep things
down to a bare minimum. As for the apartment, I rent it by the
week. So it's been long cleaned out and rented to someone else.
And the only mail I get is addressed 'Occupant'."
New Year's Day. They spent the evening watching yet another football
game. Skinner was watching, stretched out on the couch. Krycek
was sitting cross-legged in the armchair, working his way through
Faulkner's "The Sound and the Fury", occasionally looking
at the game.
He got up at one point, returned some time later with two drinks.
Placed one on the coffee table by Skinner, resettled in his chair
with the other.
Skinner looked at the drink, could smell it was scotch. Knew by
the colour, it had to be prime. Looked over at Krycek who was
"Aren't you afraid I'll go back to that other stuff?"
Krycek shook his head. "You're no alcoholic, Skinner. One
glass in the evening, now and then, isn't going to send you back
that way. Not now." He raised his glass, said something in
Russian, translated at Skinner's raised eyebrow. "To life!"
Skinner picked up the glass, toasted Krycek with it. "To
Alex smiled. "To life. Walter."
Walter took a sip. Felt the warmth of single malt scotch roll
over his tongue, down his throat, into his stomach. He shut his
eyes in appreciation. "Good stuff."
Alex shrugged. "You should know. That's the brand you had
on the sideboard in your place that night."
Walter shook his head in rueful appreciation. Alex had spent what,
ten seconds? in that part of his apartment, yet had noticed, and
remembered, something that insignificant. No wonder the man was
Alex was beginning to wonder when Walter was going to tell him
to get lost. He'd been here two months, since mid-November.
He had to admit that he liked it here at the cabin with Walter.
Had joined him in the morning and afternoon runs since the New
Year. Their chess games had become battles of strategy since their
evening games allowed them both to test old skills.
Scully updated him every week on the ongoing battle with OPC.
"It's as if they want to find something to hang on him,"
she grouched. "And since they can't, they keep on digging."
"They don't want to admit they were wrong. That they abandoned
one of their own. Not good for morale," Alex explained.
"Mulder's threatened to go public unless they tie it up real
soon." Scully told him the next week.
"That should light a fire under them." Alex's tone was
both bitter and sarcastic.
"I've got some time coming to me," said Scully. "Want
me to replace you for a while?"
But Alex didn't want to be replaced, didn't want any outside interference.
Because he had finally clued in to the last bit of the Skinner
puzzle; that feeling that no matter how well Walter was, there
was something missing.
That morning, he'd passed the bathroom and noticed that while
shaving, Walter didn't look in the mirror. As if he didn't want
to see himself.
That got Alex thinking. Walter still flinched if he was accidentally
touched. Except in bed, after a nightmare, he made no effort to
touch Alex, even in passing.
And, unless he jerked off on his runs or in the shower, he had
not had any sex at all, of any type, since the kidnapping.
Alex knew that he himself waited to jerk off in the shower. He
tended to be a bit loud and liked the idea of privacy.
He knew now that Walter hadn't had much counselling in the hospital,
none since leaving.
And he had been brutally raped, not just by gun barrels but by
the three men themselves. Anally and orally.
Alex remembered how he had felt the first time he had been brutally
raped. How long it had taken for him to even tolerate the sight
of his body in the shower. Not to cringe at the touch of a hand.
He shook his head, refusing to go down that path any longer. But
it made him look at Walter differently, picking up signals he
had till then either not seen or ignored.
He waited till they were in bed to test his theory.
He had propped himself on a couple of pillows, near the centre
of the bed, watching Walter stoke up the fire in the wood stove
that heated the loft, undress. Walter was surprised to find him
that close to himself, but just lay back, the way he did every
Alex waited till he thought Walter was comfortable before reaching
out to pass a finger along his jaw. Walter's eyes opened, stared
at the ceiling, didn't turn toward Alex.
Alex just kept on stroking the stubbly skin of jaw and cheek,
felt the tension rise in the man with each pass of his finger.
"When we finally do it," he leaned over and whispered,
"it will not be rape. You'll want it as much as I do."
Walter's eyes turned to his. "Yes, you will. But for right
now, we'll go slowly. Very slowly. Just a touch, till you get
used to the feel of my hand."
He moved the finger across Walter's mouth, gently stroking the
lips. Up to his nose and down it. Again across the lips. Walter's
eyes holding his own.
"Till the feel of them is less than the feel of my hand on
Walter pulled away, sat on the edge of the bed, trying hard not
Alex moved to sit on his heels behind Walter. He didn't touch
the man, just let him adjust to his presence in his personal space.
"By now I think you trust me enough to know I won't hurt
you. You're a hell of a lot better than what you were when I first
got here, Walter. You're eating regularly. You're back in shape.
You're back in control. Of everything except this.
"Before they raped you, you liked sex. You couldn't help
but like it with Mulder. You probably even liked it a lot with
"They took a lot away from you, Walter. Your reputation.
Your peace of mind. Your self-worth. You went down for a while
there, but you've pulled yourself back up. And in the long run,
you're going to win.
"But not if you let them keep this part of yourself. If you
do, they'll have won your soul, your heart.
"And it's not an easy thing to do, to win back your soul.
Alex took a deep breath. "I know what it's like to avoid
looking into a mirror because you can't stand to see what's in
your eyes. To shower and pretend it's someone else's body you're
washing. Because if it's yours that's being touch, the idea will
send you screaming through the night. To see marks on your body
that disgust you.
"To have nightmares where the darkness is hands and other
things hurting. To wake up screaming your throat to shreds. To
the smell of vomit."
Alex paused, trying to control his own breathing. "If you
want me to leave, I will. But I would rather stay, if you'll allow.
And if you do, then I will touch you, Walter. I will allow you
to dictate how much I can touch, but I will touch you.
"If the only way you can tolerate this is to say that this
is my revenge for the balcony, then that's okay. I will tell you
now, it isn't. I have wanted to touch you for some time now, but
I wanted it to be a mutual want."
His voice softened.
"I would like once in my life for someone to want me as much
as I want him. To want my pleasure as I want his. To touch me
with care. As I touch him with care."
Alex rested his head against Walter's shoulder, whispered so low
that Walter barely heard the words. "Not just be a piece
Walter let his head rest on top of Alex's. God! He was tired!
It had hurt him more than he would admit to hear Alex understood
Slowly, he turned and took Alex into his arms. It was his turn
to hold and comfort. How many times had Alex done it for him since
he'd arrived? How many times had someone done it for Alex?
He lay back on the pillows, holding Alex. They slept that way
through the night.
No nightmares for either of them.
Walter was aware that Alex had been very sincere in telling him
if he stayed he would touch.
Because touch he did. Light, casual touches. On a shoulder. On
an arm. Just in passing.
Standing closer to him than he had done. Sitting next to him on
Yet always watching for Walter's reaction. Careful not to push
too long, too deeply.
Just getting him used to the feel of his hand, the nearness of
his body. The fact that his eyes followed him.
And those were just the days. The nights were a bit more intense.
Touching for a purpose.
Just the face to begin. A finger delineating his features. Eyes
watching for the slightest nuance of pain, fear in his. Then a
hand caressing. A comment about the roughness of his beard. About
how, when they were going to have sex, he was going to have to
Then his mouth. Just passing over his skin, his lips. Then tip
of tongue, tracing the path the finger had taken. Licking. Tasting.
And done, gradually, over several nights. Sometimes as they went
to bed. Others, to awaken him in the night at the start of a nightmare.
In the morning.
So that finally, Walter realized that what he felt on his face
was not the touch of the men who had hurt him, but of Alex.
That night, he turned to Alex, and began his own attack of touch,
using, as Alex had, just a finger to begin with. Was rewarded
with green eyes that showed surprise. Then wary pleasure. Watched
as his touch brought a slight blush to Alex's face. Passed his
own lips over the blush. Opened his mouth to Alex's taste and
felt it overpower the sour taste that had been left behind in
Walter found that now he too touched in the days. The same light,
casual touches. Fingers brushing when they played chess. A slight
nudge of a shoulder against the other's, to point out a bit of
action on TV. Feet "accidentally" resting on the other's
on the coffee table. Slouching so that head rested against shoulder.
And understanding that a stump hurt after a day of wearing a prosthesis.
That a massage of neck, shoulder, stump was heaven for a one-armed
man who could never reach the right muscle.
Other than Scully's weekly phone call, and the weekly food delivery
by the boy at the gas station, they were alone. And uninterrupted.
Getting to know each other, each other's bodies gradually.
Like, thought Walter one night, curled up in bed with Alex after
a necking session, two teenage virgins pussy-footing around each
He nearly said it aloud to Alex, but by now had pieced together
enough information about Alex himself to know he had not had that
kind of adolescence.
It became a game; what Alex touched one night, Walter touched
the next. Necks, shoulders, chest were added to face.
Walter learnt that Alex enjoyed having his throat stroked, his
collarbone nibbled, his nipples teased by tongue and teeth.
Alex discovered that Walter's underarms were an erogenous zone
that made him flush from mid-chest to throat. That he liked having
the soft side of his elbows licked. That he was ticklish on his
left ribs, but not his right.
Each was careful of the other's scars. Gentle with them.
It took them a month of nights to finally work their way below
each other's waists. Where Walter found it hard to take a hand,
a light touch. But by now Alex had a better understanding of Walter's
mind. Knew that words -- not that either of them was much of a
talker - - would help distract Walter's attention from a hand
that was travelling over badly used territory.
So, head resting on Walter's chest, hand making gentle forays
on abdomen, groin, upper thighs, Alex tried to find stories from
his past that would keep Walter's mind away from that hand.
He had made no attempts to conceal his past from Walter, knew
that the man could put the bits of information that sometimes
slipped out to their logical conclusion. Knew that from Mulder's
reports Walter would know how he had survived in Hong Kong, how
he had used his skills to start his way up the internal structure
of the Consortium.
There were not too many light moments in his past, but he did
find a few that he felt if he shared, Walter would not look at
him with contempt or disgust and send him away.
In turn, Walter told him about Vietnam. About the boy who had
given him his first blow job. About the officer who had taken
his virginity. About his dying.
So that the night Alex finally put his mouth to Walter's cock,
Walter just sighed, and let himself accept the wonders of Alex's
mouth. Playing with him. Soothing him. Taking away the fear of
the oh-so-acute memories of pain. Bringing him pleasure. And finally
orgasm. Deep within the warmth, the security of Alex's mouth.
When Alex had finished with him, he moved up Walter's body to
take his mouth. "Taste yourself, Walter. As good as chocolate
And Walter tasted Alex, himself, flavours intermingled with the
saltiness of tears that ran down his skin into his mouth.
Alex nestled against him, holding him.
And wondered if Walter would have any use for him after tonight.
But in the middle of the night, it was Alex who woke with the
feel of a mouth on him. Walter took his time, remembering the
comment about being taken with care. And he was careful because
Alex also had his share of scars, his memories of pain centred
on his groin.
And when he too had come, had gasped his semen into Walter's throat,
Walter also moved up Alex's body to take his mouth. "Taste
yourself, Alex," he repeated. "As good as sixteen year
And wondered where they went from here.
Walter noticed that Alex seemed to be fighting some depression.
He recognized it easily enough from his own. More trouble sleeping.
Time spent just staring out the window. Less appetite.
Not that there was less touching, there wasn't. Alex seemed more
intent on increasing the sensuality of his touch. Light touches
became caresses; tasting, kisses. There were times Walter felt
that his skin burnt from the play of hand and mouth on his body:
and that was with him still wearing his clothes.
Alex would surprise him, push him against the wall, or into the
couch, or onto the floor and stroke him through his clothes till
he felt that the merest touch of cloth against his cock would
make him come. Except that Alex would suddenly stop, pull away
and resume what he had been doing. Walter would have called him
a cockteaser except that it was obvious from the erection behind
Alex's jeans that he too was being left short of completion.
At night, there was a controlled element of franticness to Alex's
love-making. Walter knew there was something not right, but he
couldn't put his finger on it. Except that maybe Alex had been
here three months and was feeling restless.
Walter suddenly found that thought depressing.
Then one night, Alex whispered into Walter's ear, "I want
to come in you. Will you let me?"
Walter felt a frisson of fear. Alex picked it up. "Slowly.
Not tonight, but when you're ready."
And Walter looked into dark green eyes and realized that he wanted
Alex to come in him. So that he in turn could come in Alex.
Holding Alex's eyes, he turned to lie on his stomach. His hand
drew the other's so that Alex lay on top of him. Alex sighed,
nibbled the top of the shoulder under him. He slipped his hand
under Walter's shoulder and slept there for the night. Walter
felt like some big cat had settled on him, found comfort in the
weight, the sound of the breathing, and slept.
The next night, he took the initiative for the first time. He
dropped lube and condoms on the bed by Alex. Leaning over, he
took Alex's mouth with his, let his hand stroke neck, slowly move
down a taut body to Alex's hardening cock. His mouth followed
Alex pulled away. "Too quick," he gasped. "You're
the one who needs to get ready."
Alex dropped his mouth to Walter's body. Played all the spots
he had learnt made Walter forget to think. When he felt Walter
was truly ready, he handed him the bottle of lube to open. Walter
spread the gel on his fingers, and then turned face down.
Alex wished right then for his arm back, if only for the next
little bit of time. The top position in this move was somewhat
difficult for one arm. Resting his upper body on Walter's back,
kissed the skin nearest his mouth.
"Take a breath, Walter." And gradually slipped a finger
into Walter's very tight ass. Walter stilled. Alex waited till
he was certain Walter had adjusted to the feel of the finger before
slowly moving it back and forth. Gently. Talking him through this
"God, Walter. A catholic miracle. The surgeons made you a
virgin again." Felt a slight snort from the man under him.
Then, seriously, "Tell me if it hurts. I don't want it to
hurt, Walter. I don't want to hurt you." Punctuated with
kissing, nibbling, licking the whip scars by his face.
"You're not hurting me, Alex. The only way you can hurt me
is to leave me hanging like this." Walter moved his hips
into the rhythm of the finger. Gasped when a second joined the
Realized that the position was not easy for Alex to maintain.
With careful concentration, he moved to his hands and knees, taking
Alex and those fingers with him. So that Alex was now kneeling
behind him, between his knees, more easily able to control the
Alex withdrew his fingers, rolled on the condom, added more lube
to it. He bent over Walter, kissed his back and slowly began pushing
his way into Walter's body. He did it slowly, waiting for Walter
to become accustomed to the stretch. He hadn't been kidding: Walter
was tight, virginically tight. He wanted this to be pleasurable,
not anything to remind Walter of the last penetration.
Had it been the Walter of a month before, it would have been necessary.
This Walter appreciated the concern, but wanted to feel Alex in
him, now. He brought back a hand to grasp Alex's hip, and, before
Alex could do anything, thrust himself back, fully, on Alex's
Alex swore. "Jesus! Walter!"
Walter bit his lip to the point of blood. For a moment, there
was a burning pain. But then, that it was Alex in him, brought
a sense of pleasure. He began moving his hips, "Alex! I'm
okay. But I need you along for this ride."
Alex's hand came up to caress his stomach, stroke his abdomen,
squeeze his balls. Hips moved in counter rhythm to Walter's thrusts,
causing Walter to gasp when Alex found his prostate.
Walter rested his weight on one hand, brought up the other to
grasp his cock, only to have Alex's hand slap it away. "Mine,"
he growled in Walter's ear.
The word became his mantra. As he thrust in, as he brought Walter
to orgasm, as he spilled himself into Walter's ass. As he lay
spent next to his lover, he whispered it.
And longed with all his being for it to be true.
Walter woke the next morning, feeling as though a weight had been
removed from his shoulders. Only to find, by the end of the day,
that it had merely moved from him to Alex.
Alex was even quieter than usual. More...wary. His eyes tracked
Walter all through the day with almost a hunger. As if he were
storing up...something. Sometimes, something close to pain would
flash across his features, and his breath would suddenly hitch
as if to control the feeling.
That evening, while Walter was watching a hockey game on TV, Alex
joined him on the couch, rested his head on one thigh, arm slipped
under the other, and pretended to sleep under Walter's stroking
When they went upstairs, Alex dropped the lube and condom next
to Walter. Watched with darkly serious eyes, as Walter aroused
him, barely participating in the act. Walter touched him gently,
watched him shatter when he penetrated him, Alex's legs over his
shoulders, face to face.
Walter wondered if Alex was even aware that his eyes shed tears
all through their final thrusts, through both their orgasms. He
withdrew carefully, as if Alex were made of glass. Got rid of
the condom. Pulled Alex into his arms and wrapped himself around
the silently weeping man.
Walter gently stroked Alex, long soothing caresses from the back
of his head, down his nape, along the spine to the small of his
back. Then back up again. Back and forth. Until Alex fell asleep.
The Alex that woke up in his arms was self-contained, calm. As
if last night had never happened.
Walter watched him puttering in the kitchen, making his breakfast.
Realized with a shock that Alex was wearing only his own clothes,
nothing of Walter's.
He sat back in his chair, coffee in hand, and thought over the
last few days. Concluded that Alex was leaving. But not the reason
Or had he?
Or was it just wishful thinking on his part.
But he kept on hearing Alex's voice as it chanted "Mine",
and decided to take a chance.
"Alex. I have a problem."
Alex turned slowly, leaned back against the counter- top, hand
braced on edge. He looked like a man expecting a blow. Even raised
his chin for it. "What is it?" His voice revealed little
of his tension.
Walter looked from his coffee to the man watching him.
"How do you tell a man you once whipped and fisted that you
It wasn't what Alex had been expecting.
Walter stood up, went up to Alex. Raised a trembling hand to caress
a whitened cheek.
"So," he whispered, "how do I tell him, Alex?"
He bent and passed his mouth over Alex's bottom lip. Looked up
into eyes that carried far too many shadows, far too much pain.
"That's..." Alex swallowed and tried again, a whisper.
"That's not what I expected you to say."
"What did you expect?" Walter's mouth moved to those
eyes now closing, his tongue drawing the shape of them.
"That it was time for me to leave."
Walter rested his forehead against Alex's, felt the pain, the
expectation of rejection that Alex's indifferent tone covered.
He brought his hands up Alex's sides, from his hips to his shoulders,
brought his hands around the tensed neck, to clasp the face in
a gentle hold. He lowered his mouth to Alex's. Felt it tremble
Hesitantly, Alex brought up his hand, moved it across ribs, back
to shoulder. "Please," he whispered into Walter's mouth.
For a moment, he leaned into the kiss, savouring, then pulled
back. Walter saw Alex's soul stripped bare on his face. "Is
this a joke of some kind?"
"No joke. I swear. Alex. Don't go. Stay with me. Please."
Alex pressed close to Walter, held him tightly, was in turn held
tightly. Felt some of the pain that had enclosed him for the last
two days dissolve.
*******************End of Part 2***********************
WARNING: Suggested sexual abuse
Walter propped himself up on an elbow and examined the face of
his lover sleeping next to him on the bed.
The past two days had been fraught with tension, revelations,
and a lot of sex.
Walter discovered that the car Alex had been driving was Mulder's
That his bank account had been paying for groceries. Alex had
used up the thousand he'd had on him when he'd arrived. Had simply
forged Walter's signature to the cheques he'd used to buy anything
after that. He *had* kept a meticulous account of the money he'd
That Alex had been in weekly contact with Scully, who was keeping
him up to date on the OPC proceedings.
All of this revealed with the expectation that it would be the
straw that broke the infamous camel and Alex would find himself
It hadn't taken long for Walter to understand that all the patience
and tenderness Alex had shown him during those days and nights
to heal him, had torn up Alex's soul. He had given what he so
desperately wanted himself but never expected to receive. That
he, Walter, had returned the tenderness had only increased the
anticipation of the pain when he would no longer be of use.
Walter realized that in his life, Alex had often been treated
as a thing to be used then discarded as so much garbage when his
usefulness was over.
It wasn't going to be easy convincing him otherwise.
Walter reached out with a finger and traced Alex's lips. The sensuous
upper lip, the full lower lip. Watched as a smile slowly woke
under his stroking. Alex turned his head, sighed, and opened his
Walter, now reading his lover better, saw the hesitant fear that
flashed in Alex's eyes before he pushed it down deep within himself.
Then saw the smile warm those dark green eyes.
As he bent for a kiss, Walter promised himself that one day Alex
would wake without that initial reaction.
Alex licked Walter's lips, stretched sinuously against his lover.
"Weren't you the one complaining of the lack of recovery
time just this morning?"
Walter hummed a sort of answer, brought his head down to lick
Alex's nipples. "You were wrong," between nibbles, "about
my not having an addictive personality."
"Really?" Alex's hand caressed the large shoulders hovering
"I find that I am getting quite dependent on the taste and
smell of post-coital Krycek." Walter rubbed his roughened
chin on Alex's neck.
"I understand," Alex sighed, rather dramatically. "I'm
into eau de Skinner myself." And whooped as Walter grabbed
him by the only ticklish spot he had on his ribs. And then had
It was, thought Walter, a bit like rough-housing with a jungle
cat, claws sheathed, but still dangerous.
He ended the fun by rolling off the bed, grabbing a still laughing
Alex and hauling him over his shoulders in a fireman's clutch.
"Shower," he snarled, and started down the stairs with
Alex, hanging upside down, wrapping his arm around a leg.
Just as they reached the bottom of the stairs, the phone rang.
In all the time Alex had been there, the phone had never rung.
By the third ring, Alex pulled himself out of Walter's grasp.
Watched as Walter picked it up. Knew the man was hoping it might
be someone from his family.
Saw the disappointment quickly banished for a pleasant, "Agent
Scully. Nice to hear your voice."
Alex sat on the bottom step, intent on his lover's face.
Walter showed real pleasure at something Scully said. Leaned back
against the wall and closed his eyes, listening, face serious.
Nodded occasionally. Still just listening.
"He did, did he? Yes." He looked at Alex. "Hang
on, will you, Scully, I want to tell him."
Walter cupped the phone against his chest. Alex cocked his head,
had an idea what the call was about.
"OPC's report was presented today. It fully exonerates me."
Alex grinned. "Are we surprised?" His tone was mocking.
Walter met his grin. "Back pay to the day of the initial
investigation. Full pension re-instatement." Watched Alex
stroll up to him.
"With," Walter continued, "the recommendation that
I take the rest of the time I've booked off to consider my future
with the Bureau."
Alex lost his smile. "Fucking shit!"
Walter reached out and pulled Alex to him. "I'd rather fuck
He put the phone back to his ear. "Scully, Alex feels pretty
much as you do. Do me a favour and inform the Director's office
that I'll do that. Yes, have them send everything to the condo."
He listened, hand stroking Alex's neck and shoulder. Then, "No.
It's not worth it. A press release isn't going to change anything.
No one will cover it; it's old news. And besides, it won't change
people's minds. Those who want me to be dirty, will just think
it's another government cover-up. And those who never believed
He listened a bit longer. Alex rested his head against Walter's
free shoulder, wrapped his arm around Walter's waist. "Yes.
That would be fine. I think I'd rather like the OPC report to
at least make its way around the Bureau. Who? Mulder's Lone Gunmen?
Can they hack into...Oh, I see. Sure. That sounds rather appropriate.
"Thank you for all the support. Thank Mulder too. Yes, supper
when we get back to DC. Yes. And Dana, thanks again. Bye."
Alex rested his chin on Walter's collarbone. "I'm sorry.
I don't understand why they're taking that attitude. You've been
exonerated. What more do they want?"
"They want me to stop being an embarrassment to the Bureau.
And the only way I can do that is by not being around."
"So people forget." Alex didn't like that idea.
"So people forget," agreed Walter. "Well, there's
still a shower that needs to be taken. And," he leered, "I
believe you had an idea or two."
"Walter. I need to go to Boston. Legit business. Come with
Walter looked over his morning coffee. "What kind of 'legit'
business are we talking about here?"
"I've got a safety deposit box with some money in it. Clean
money. If I'm staying here with you, I need to pay my share.
"Come on, Walter. You've been cooped up here since what?
the end of September. We're in March. You need to get back into
the real world. We need some new reading material. And there's
a great little jazz club in Boston I think you'd like."
Because a good half of the records, tapes or CDs that filled the
cabin's entertainment area were jazz. Which, to Walter's surprise,
Alex not only liked, but was actually quite knowledgeable about.
"Look, we drive up. It'll take us a good day. We can spend
a couple of days there. Stop in New York on the way back. What
do you say?"
Walter quirked an eyebrow. "I suppose you've got a safety
deposit box in New York as well?"
"No. Actually about four. Or five. Well?"
Alex drove the way he played chess: with very little regard for
the rules. He broke the speed limit: "What the hell are radar
detectors for?" He drove mostly in the right lane: "It's
for passing, isn't it? And I am passing all those cars."
But, Walter had to admit, once his heart-rate had returned to
normal, that Alex wasn't reckless, was attentive to the road.
And sang along with the classic rock station in a very acceptable
"Why classic rock?" Walter was curious. "Apart
from the jazz, you strike me as more of the hard rock type."
Alex grinned one of those grins that warned Walter he was going
to get zinged. "Because I don't think you'd know the words
to those songs."
"And these I do?"
"Well, it is a *classic* station, Walter."
"Is this a subtle reference to my age, Alex?" Walter's
voice had become just a bit dangerous.
"Far be it for me to point that out, Walt. After all, I'm
not the one who keeps on saying he's not twenty any more."
"Not all of us, Alex, have the recovery capacity of an otter."
"Otter, eh." Alex thought about that for a while. "As
long as it's not a cat."
Ah, thought Walter, a little sign of jealousy. "Certainly
not a domestic cat. Too pampered and slick for you."
He made a bit of a show thinking about it, enjoying the slight
irritation that Alex couldn't hide. "A leopard maybe. Always
untamed. Always just a bit dangerous. Always beautiful."
He leaned over and bit Alex's ear. Alex purred.
His baritone harmonized well with Alex's tenor.
Alex registered them into the Boston Hilton. Paid with a credit
card. Wouldn't let Walter see the name on the plastic or the registration
He'd gotten them a large room that came complete with two king-sized
Walter watched Alex toss himself backwards on one of the beds,
bounce. Hold his hand out in invitation. "We have time to
mess this one up before we head out for supper and the club."
The club was not what Walter expected. He thought they would head
into a little rat-hole somewhere below ground level. Instead,
in South End, near Northeastern University , Alex brought him
to what looked like an old victorian house, at least three storeys
high, complete with large wrap-around porch, lace curtain windows,
well-maintained gingerbread decorations. And a discreet sign on
the door: "Vodka and Jazz".
Alex seemed nervous to Walter. He'd gotten very quiet and kept
on watching Walter for his reaction to the area, the building.
Inside, he became wary.
Inside, Walter found that walls had been torn down so that the
actual club space was a large room that took up the entire left
half of the downstairs area. There was a wide beautiful staircase
that went to the second floor, with a "Private" sign
hanging from a thick velvet rope at the foot of the stairs.
To the right of the entrance was a door marked "Office".
And from the smells, there had to be a kitchen behind the stairs
and to the right in the back.
Alex led the way to a table in a dark corner, close to a door
by the kitchen area that wasn't being used by the staff: they
used the doors that were under the stairs.
The waitress asked them what they wanted to order. Reminded them
that once the show began, no orders were filled or accepted. And
that the show would begin in ten minutes.
Alex ordered a bottle of vodka, paid for it with cash. It came
straight from the freezer, in a bucket of ice. Alex poured two
drinks, toasted Walter, and tossed his back. Walter followed his
example. The drink was so cold that at first he felt nothing,
then an incredible warmth that filled his stomach, throat.
"Nice," he gasped to Alex. Alex nodded, refilled both
The lights in the club, already dim, dimmed even further. A young
black man walked over to the piano, was joined by a older man
with a sax, a blond kid who looked like a teenager with a base
fiddle, and an older woman who seemed to be a mixture of races.
The music began, the woman picked up the mike, and Walter heard
not English, but Russian play so well with melody and tone that
it gave him the shivers.
The woman sang, the trio played and no matter the language, the
style of song, Walter felt he had been handed a wondrous gift.
He reached out to Alex, squeezed his arm and mouthed, "Thank
The set was a long one, over an hour. Though the club was filled
there were no sounds from the audience above a whisper. And the
applause was heartfelt.
After the last song, the pianist announced they would be back
in an hour. The lights came back up, the staff appeared and the
noise level rose.
Alex also rose, but stayed where he was. Walter turned and saw
an older man approaching the table. Alex seemed to be braced for
something. As Walter pushed back his chair and stood, he wondered
what the hell was going to happen.
"Alexei." The man stood in front of Alex, smiled and
gently touched his cheek. He said something in Russian that had
Alex relaxing slightly. He shook his head, answered the man's
question. Made a comment and then switched to English.
"Walter, this is Anton Rozanovski. He and his wife own the
club. Anton, this is Walter Sergei Skinner. In spite of the Sergei,
he doesn't speak Russian."
Anton Rozanovski looked like some absent-minded professor. He
was slight, a couple of inches shorter than Alex. Had thick grey
hair that curled over the collar of his shirt. Wore dress pants,
expensively tailored, a dark tie to go with a slightly lighter
shirt. Instead of a suit jacket, he wore a sweater which from
its shape was a comfortable old favourite.
Walter figured he was in his mid to late sixties.
He had taken his time looking Walter over as well, decided he
liked what he saw, and offered his hand.
"I won't hold that against him," Rozanovski said to
Alex. "What part of Russia are your people from, Mr. Skinner?"
"My mother's grandparents came from St. Petersburg."
"Ah, very acceptable, Sergei. May I call you Sergei?"
The man's blue eyes challenged him with a twinkle.
"If you wish. No one else does."
"Ah, but here, in a Russian club, it is a good name to use.
Are you enjoying the music, Sergei?"
Walter noticed out of the corner of his eye that Alex was slouching
against the wall, watching the interplay between the two of them.
Staying out, but carefully evaluating.
"Yes. You have a rare combination here. Marvellous musicians,
great booze and a very appreciative audience. Even rarer, a well-trained
Rozanovski laughed. "Yes. One of the advantages of a small
club is that there can suddenly be no place available for noisy
customers the next time they show up. Sergei, I hope you don't
mind, but I must have Alexei join me for a while in the office.
We have some business to discuss. Will that be all right with
Walter found it strange to be asked permission for Rozanovski
to talk with Alex. He looked at the man slouching against the
wall, was surprised to find himself feeling slight twinges of
Alex straightened, came to stand by Walter and leaned over to
kiss him on the cheek. "It really is just business. I'll
be back before the next set." But also waited for permission.
Walter nodded. Watched as Rozanovski, face beaming, followed Alex
out to the office.
Walter sat down, decided he had had his quota of liquor for the
night, asked the waitress for a coffee.
A few minutes later, the door behind him opened and a different
woman brought him his coffee. She set it down in front of him,
spoke to him in Russian. From her age and clothes, Walter figured
she was Rozanovski's wife and stood.
"I'm sorry. I don't speak Russian."
"You will have to learn then." She sat down in Alex's
place. "Please, sit down. How nice that someone took the
time to teach you manners. Today, that seems to be considered
old-fashioned. Not too many people go out of their way to practise
"I am Mina Rozanovski." She held out her hand.
Walter took it. "Walter.."
"Sergei Skinner." She finished. "Word got back
to me very quickly." She sat back in her chair. "So,
Walter Sergei Skinner, let me look at you. And you can look at
Mina Rozanovski was about the same size as her husband, just as
slim, with fashionably short grey hair, eyes a darker blue. Her
age was harder to guess: she had that ageless bone structure,
the type of skin that could make her forty or sixty.
She was dressed casually in pants and man's shirt, probably one
of her husband's. Apart from her wedding ring, worn Russian style
on her right hand, she wore no jewelry. Walter concluded that
was out of personal choice because the clothes were expensive.
She seemed to be very pleased about something.
"So," she finally said, "our Alexei has chosen
well. You seem to make him happy. Does he make you happy?"
Walter pulled slightly back from the woman. "How do you know
"Since Alexei was a small boy. You haven't answered me: does
he make you happy?"
"Yes. He does. What was..."
"Alexei like? Is that what you want to know?"
Walter nodded. And held his breath, knowing he was going to be
given a key to Alex Krycek.
Mina Rozanovski leaned over and took one of Walter's hands in
hers. With her thumb she stroked the knuckles of his hand.
"You are the Skinner who is an assistant director of the
FBI?" And Walter's hand tightened involuntarily in hers.
She ignored his reaction. "So," she continued, "you
know the adult Alex Krycek." And got a hesitant nod. His
eyes cooled and she decided that this man could make a good enemy.
"Alexei was four when he and his parents moved next door
to our home. Not here, but in..." she waved with her hand,
"not important. He was very beautiful. He is very beautiful
now, but as a child...
"He was slender for his age. And those eyes! Large, green
eyes that you could drown in. Black-haired. Fair-skinned."
She looked from their joined hands to Walter's eyes. "Except
for the bruises, the marks."
She leaned forward, eyes intense. Her hand gripped Walter's hard.
"In those days, one did not interfere with parental discipline.
Do you understand? The times were not like today, with their social
agencies, children's advocates. And even if they had been around,
that part of town was filled with immigrants from countries where
to involve the authorities was to betray one's neighbours. Maybe
to end up in jail yourself.
"Do you understand, Walter Sergei Skinner?"
Walter's hand ached with the force of her grip. And he nodded,
because he did understand.
She smiled sadly at him, let up the grip she had on him, though
she didn't release his hand.
"He was very serious. Very shy. It took me weeks to coax
him to the back steps. Then inside. I bribed him, with chocolate
cookies that I made just for him. Gave him milk and cookies when
his parents weren't around. He wasn't allowed in their house if
one of them wasn't there.
"The bruises were always there. Other marks as well. He never
cried. Well, never when he was awake. Once I found him on our
back porch, very early one morning, curled up against the door,
crying in his sleep. He never remembered doing it when he woke
"Why?" Walter had long ago guessed that Alex had been
abused, but still his skin crawled at the images she was handing
him. "Why did they hurt him like that? He was only a child!"
Mina Rozanovski leaned forward and passed her free hand over his
cheek as if to soothe him.
"Are you old enough to remember Kruschev? What he looked
"And his wife? Well, you see that is what Alexei's parents
looked like. Peasants who worked the soil for the landowners.
Except that sometimes the landowners or their sons would amuse
themselves with the peasants' daughters. Alexei is a throwback
to his mother's grandfather, who owned both large tracks of land
and many serfs. Of which her father was one, even if his father
"He was an embarrassment to them. I think they were both
firm marxists, if not communists. One didn't ask one's neighbours
what their political philosophy was. I think that to them he represented
all they had been trained to hate. And they did hate him.
"There was nothing much we could do, Anton and I, except
offer the child a place to come to when he had no other place
"And they were his parents. And children do want their parents'
"They were our neighbours for four years. They ignored us,
thought us inferior because we are from the Ukraine, and Orthodox.
We ignored them because to get their attention would have been
bad for the child.
"Then one day, Alexei was outside with a friend from school.
He was doing well in school, liked it. The school authorities
could make trouble for people, so the beatings were less often,
"He and his friend were playing, at something or other, giggling
the way children do at that age. His father heard them. Came rushing
out, yelling obscenities at his son for the sounds he was making.
"The friend ran away, terrified. Alexei just stood there,
waiting. The man pulled off his belt and began whipping the boy,
there, in the yard, in front of all the neighbours. Most of whom
just went into their houses and shut their doors."
She paused, remembering the ugliness of that day. Walter took
her other hand in his, as if to encourage her to continue.
"My Anton is not a big man. You've seen him, Walter Sergei.
Nowhere near the size of that monster. And he is a gentle man,
which was why I fell in love with him, why I still love him. I
had never seen him angry. Until that day.
"He rushed over and pulled the boy away from the man. Picked
him up in his arms and carried him away. His voice was very cold
with his anger. He told the man if he ever saw him hurt the boy
again, he would kill him himself.
"The boy was almost unconscious. We tended to his welts.
We got some medicine into him. We took turns holding him so he
"It was very late at night when she just opened the kitchen
door and told us she wanted the boy back.
"I could not have children. I begged her to leave him with
us. After all, they did not love him, did not want him, did not
care for him. He was a bother to them. So why not leave him with
us. We would love him, take care of him. His looks, his body were
not his fault.
"Anton tried to persuade her as well. We even offered to
buy him from them. But she didn't listen. Just kept on repeating
that the boy belonged to them and that they wanted him back. Finally
she threatened us with prison, for kidnapping. Said that who would
the authorities believe, us or them, the parents.
"Alexei was on the couch in the living-room, hearing all
this. When she threatened us with the police, he came into the
room, went up to her. She grabbed him by the arm and dragged him
"They were gone the next morning. That week someone came
and took their furniture and things."
Mina Rozanovski had held Walter's eyes through the telling. Had
seen the anger, the pity and now the understanding in them. She
raised the hand she still gripped and placed a gentle kiss on
She gave them both a bit of time to calm before she continued.
"It was ten years before we saw him again."
"He came to you?"
"Yes. One night." She took a deep breath, seemed to
be making a decision. "You have good eyes, Walter Sergei
Skinner. I think you also have a good heart.
"One night, in summer, there was some noise in the back yard.
The trash cans fell over. Anton went to see. Sometimes the animals
got into the garbage and spread it all around.
"There was a young man, lying on the ground by the cans.
He must not have seen them and backed into them. He was having
trouble getting up.
"At first Anton thought the boy was drunk, but when he turned
his face, Anton could see that he'd been badly beaten. He could
also see his eyes. Large, green eyes. He went to help the boy,
called him by name. Eventually, persuaded him to come into the
"Did he tell you who beat him up?" He had an idea: but
did these people who had loved the child know.
"No. We never asked. We just assumed it had been a customer.
Or his pimp." She waited to see if this were news to Walter:
"How did you guess?"
"By the clothes. The smell on him. His injuries. He stayed
three days. Slept most of the time. We told him he could stay.
That we wanted him to stay. Told him each of us in turn. Told
him together. But the fourth morning, he was gone.
"After that, he would show up, sometimes hurt, sometimes
not. Stay for two, maybe three days. And leave. Sometimes it was
months before we saw him again. Once, almost a year. Always, when
he came, he waited for us to invite him in, as if he were afraid
that one day, we would not allow it."
"But you did want him. Jesus! Why didn't he stay?"
"Tsk, Walter Sergei, do not blaspheme." Absently, like
she was correcting a child. "A wild animal, Walter Sergei,
if he is injured enough, if he is ill enough, will come sit by
the fire. But not stay, because he fears the fire. We understand
that, my Anton and I. Do you?"
She smiled at him, approvingly. Looked down at their clasped hands.
Examined them. "You have good hands, Walter Sergei Skinner.
Big hands. I think they are gentle hands. Hands that will not
hurt our Alexei."
She felt him flinch. Looked at him differently, a little coldly.
"You have hurt him. When?"
Walter knew he was being evaluated and was coming out on the short
side. "Some time ago."
He shook his head.
"Because he made me very angry."
"Ah, because he had done something to hurt you." Mina
sighed. "Our Alexei sometimes does that. He doesn't understand
the little things that hurt so much."
Then she smiled at him. "But you love him now." It wasn't
a question, still she waited for his nod. "So all will be
well, because he loves you too."
"Does he?" Walter suddenly wanted her assurance that
Alex did love him: so far he had been the only one to say the
Mina leaned back in her chair, looked at him like he was not very
bright . "Of course. Why else would he have brought you to
meet us? He has never done that, you know. Never brought anyone
here to his home."
She stood up, bent and kissed Walter on each cheek, on the forehead.
"Welcome, Walter Sergei Skinner. Maybe next time you and
Alexei will stay here, with us, in his room?"
"That would be nice."
She beamed at him. "Marise!" she called the waitress
over, "Bring Walter Sergei another coffee." To Walter
she said, "I'll just be a few minutes. You will be here when
I come back? Good."
The coffee was good and strong, helped settle the feelings he
had churning in his guts. He didn't hear Mina return. A large
plate of perogies appeared in front of him, the smell alone making
his stomach growl in appreciation. She handed him a fork, placed
a bowl of sour cream in front of him. "Taste and tell me
what you think."
Walter remembered the taste of his grandmother's perogies with
nostalgia. His mother hadn't much time for what she called "ethnic
foods": they were too time consuming.
And these had had lots of time spent on them. And because they
were very, very good, and because he understood what they represented,
he rolled his eyes, grabbed Mina's hand, kissed it loudly. "Mina
Rozanovski, run away with me?"
She laughed happily, kissed him on the top of his head. "Eat.
You're a big man. And big men need lots of replenishing. To keep
their strength up."
Walter laughed. Especially with Alex, he thought.
Alex slipped back into his chair.
"Hey! Leave me some!"
Walter started smiling, was going to make a comment. Stopped when
he realized that Alex was incredibly drunk. His eyes had a glazed
sheen to them, he was slightly flushed, his grin was almost feral.
He reached over, took a perogie with his fingers, used it to scoop
a pile of sour cream and shoved the whole thing into his mouth.
All the time, his eyes holding Walter's, daring him.
Daring him to what? thought Walter, sitting back in his chair.
To comment about his being drunk? About what Mina had told him?
Because he suddenly was aware that Alex's absence had meant that
Mina could check him out, could fill him in on Alex's background.
He had been tested, and found acceptable. By Mina and, he supposed,
by Anton as well.
But Alex was drunk. And was, as Mina had said, a wild animal --
his leopard -- afraid of the fire it craved. Setting up the opportunity
to be discarded because wanting was too painful.
"First of all," Walter spoke very softly, "you
will keep your hands off my perogies. Secondly, you will give
me the car keys."
"Like hell!" Quietly snarled.
"Alex, you're drunk. You won't be driving. Give me the keys."
Alex stared at Walter, eyes wild, almost covering the despair
in them. Walter searched for a way to make Alex understand that
he wasn't going to be discarded. Was interrupted by the appearance
of another large plate of perogies.
Mina Rozanovski picked up the tensions right away. She stood by
Alex, carefully placed a hand on his shoulder. Made a comment
in Russian. Alex answered her in Russian, never letting go of
"Mina," said Walter, keeping to the very tone they'd
all adopted so that the people around them would not be attracted,
"Alex is drunk. He won't give me the car keys."
Mina took the angle he had handed her and used it. "Tsk,
tsk, Alexei. By now you should know better than to try and drink
Anton under the table. You never win." She was touching him
like she was trying to soothe a nervous animal. The fact that
she was succeeding told Walter she had had lots of practice.
Alex looked up at her, sighed some of the tension away. Reached
into his jeans pocket and pulled out the keys. Mina took them
from him, passed them to Walter.
"And, Mina," said Walter, hoping it would lighten the
situation, "please tell him to keep his hands off my perogies."
He reached over with his fork, took one back from Alex's plate.
He was watching Alex eat -- Mina had stayed at the table with
them -- when Anton came and said, in an absent way, "Oh,
Alexei, you're busy. Maybe, Sergei, you can came and help me?"
Well, thought Walter, joining the man going down the cellar stairs,
the second vetting. Sharon's father had been much more obvious
Anton Rozanovski turned on the light in what was the wine cellar,
"Now I know it is here somewhere." He handed Walter
a large flashlight. "Perhaps you could shine the light in
this corner for me?"
If Alex was drunk, Anton was merely light-hearted. Whatever he
was looking for, he accompanied himself with a Duke Ellington
melody. Walter pointed the light in whichever direction he was
told, and waited for the interrogation he knew was coming to begin.
"So you are with the FBI? An assistant director?"
Walter found himself tensing. "I'm on sick leave right now.
I probably won't be with the FBI much longer."
Anton looked surprised. "Why not? It is a good job. Not the
kind of job that would interest me, but a good job nevertheless.
Why would you be leaving?"
"Because they don't want me around."
"Ah, that Grand Jury bullshit. Oh," he caught himself,
"you must not let Mina know I used that word: she doesn't
like that kind of language."
He came to stand in front of Walter, cocked his head up at him.
Walter was reminded of a math teacher he had had in high school.
"You are telling me that they believed the Spender scam."
He made a little sound of disgust. "Idiots always float to
the top, Sergei, simply because they have no brains. Nothing to
hold them back."
"Did Alex tell you that I've been exonerated?"
"Exonerated? No, why would Alex speak to me about that?"
He really was puzzled. "No, we discussed the club. Alex,
you know, owns it with us." He sat on a small table that
had some notebooks on it. "Mina says that she likes you.
That you understand about Alexei." He sighed. "There
are other things you need to know about Alexei."
Walter braced himself. What now?
"I love Alexei very much, Sergei, but you need to know. He
is no good with money." He held up a hand to ward off any
comment Walter was going to make. And finally Walter realized
that Anton Rozanovski was in fact as drunk as Alex. Just showed
"He has no idea of the value of money except as a commodity
for buying information, weapons, plane tickets. The small everyday
things, like rent, insurance, taxes, he knows nothing about."
"Like grocery expenses, " offered Walter.
"Exactly. He lives..." raised an eyebrow at Walter,
"lived?" Walter nodded, Anton smiled. "He lived
on the run. Hotel here, plane there. Plastic money in the name
of someone who doesn't exist. Mina, by the way, does not know
Like hell, thought Walter. But nodded seriously. "Yet you
say he co-owns this club with you. He told me that you and your
wife are the owners."
Anton rubbed his face. Sighed deeply. "You would think at
my age I would know better than to try and keep up with him.
"Where was I? Oh, yes. The club. Six years ago, I was fired
from my job. Downsizing they called it. Actually, the old man
who had owned the business died and his sons replaced me with
a computer. I was an accountant.
"Alex knew about it. Somehow. He showed up one day, with
a car. One of those Ford Taurus. You know this car? It's a nice
car. Nondescript. Gets good mileage.
"Alex hands me the keys. Directs us to this house. It's a
mess. The last owner started to renovate, lost interest. Alex
says, I bought it for you. Make it the club you've always wanted
He looked up at Walter. "When a man is handed his dream,
he would be a fool not to take it."
"And it came from Alex," added Walter.
Anton smiled. "So, we have the club. It makes a great deal
of money. It looks small, but the crowd tonight is typical of
a weekday. Weekends, we have reservations for the next six months.
We charge a great deal of money for the food, the alcohol. Because
we only serve the best."
Walter nodded in agreement.
"And as I said, Alex has no concept of money. Every time
he comes, he leaves behind money. He thinks we need it. We don't.
But, because I am an accountant, I worry about him. So I have
invested it. In property, mainly."
"Anton, are you trying to tell me that Alex has a dowry?"
"That he can pay his share. He knows that we registered the
club in all three names, but he refuses to take his share of the
profits. Keeps on telling us to use it for the business. I'll
stop adding it to the investments, send him a check every month
so he is not dependant on you, so he can pay his share of expenses.
It's usually about two thousand dollars a month. Will that do?"
He'd gotten up, was browsing behind a wine unit when he laughed.
"Ah, here it is. I knew it was somewhere. Here, hold this.
Now where is the other one? It can't be far away. Eureka, I have
He handed Walter another dusty bottle. "This one you need
to keep in the freezer. For special occasions."
Walter looked at the two bottles in his hands, gave a soft whistle.
One was vodka, Kettle One, the latest darling of the "in"
crowd. But the other was scotch, The MacAllan, one of the best
single malts out of Scotland.
Anton smiled at Walter. "I have been saving that one for
someone who will truly appreciate it."
Alex had sobered up quit a bit by the time they left.
Mina hugged Walter to her, whispered, "Maybe you could come
for Easter? Stay with us?" Said something to Alex in Russian
that had him looking at Walter sheepishly. He was definitely going
to learn Russian.
While he drove back to the hotel, Alex slouched against the door,
not saying anything, as if waiting for some comment from Walter.
He was less wary, but still tense. Walter wasn't sure how to deal
with him right now. Waited till they had gotten into bed.
Alex stayed on his half of the bed, like he had before they had
become lovers. Walter let him get away with it for a while, before
he suddenly pulled him to the middle of the bed at the same time
as he rolled over on him. He let his full weight hold Alex down,
grabbed his wrist and clamped it hard to the mattress, immobilizing
him. With his other hand, he grabbed a fistful of Alex's hair,
pulling back so he couldn't move his head much.
Alex struggled a bit, but was seriously outweighed. And with the
tensions of the past hours, the amount of vodka in him, he was
tired. He had been waiting for some reaction from Walter and now
he had it: he stilled, hoping the hurt would be quick.
"You bastard," Walter's voice was sharp, not loud, "you
could have warned me that you were taking me to be vetted by your
Alex's reaction was extreme. He went white, his eyes widened with
shock. "They're not my parents..." His voice was heavy
with pain. Walter stopped with words with his mouth, controlling
the panic he saw in Alex.
When Alex finally calmed, Walter pulled back just enough to watch
Alex's eyes. "I'm not talking about your biological parents.
I'm talking about Mina and Anton Rozanovski. Your foster parents,
if you prefer. The people who love you enough to let you waltz
in and out of their lives. Who worry about you. Whom you brought
me to meet tonight as the person you have chosen to be with."
He rested his chin on Alex's. "I know you're not up on the
latest social manners, but it is expected that the prospective
mate bring a gift of some kind. It might have been nice to have
some flowers for Mina, maybe a jazz album for Anton. Instead,
I'm the one who's been given the gifts."
Alex was confused. "I don't get it. That's why you're angry?"
"Yeah, that's why I'm angry. Fortunately, Mina, your foster
mother, approves of me. She likes the fact that I have manners.
That I make you happy. That I love you. She liked me enough to
"Anton, your foster father, also approves of me. Enough to
warn me that you are no good with money in the everyday sense
of it. To assure me that you have money to pay your share of expenses.
And to give me a bottle of eighteen year old scotch. As a welcoming
He watched the play in Alex's eyes: confusion, hunger, hope. Fear.
"Alex," he whispered, "why the fuck didn't you
stay with them when you found them again?" Alex's eyes closed
in pain. "They love you. They would have taken care of you.
Taken you in at any time. Christ, Alex, why didn't you stay?"
Alex had trouble swallowing. When he opened his eyes, Walter thought
he had never such despair in a person's eyes.
"Because," Alex's voice was bleak, "by then it
was too late. My masters would have hurt them if they had known
about them. I could get away with disappearing for a little time,
but any longer, and they would have hunted for me. Not because
I was more important to them than any other whore in their stable,
but to make the point that no one they bought got away from them.
Unless they died or got passed on to a new set of masters."
Walter felt the most incredible anger build in his gut. "Who
are these 'masters', Alex? Who sold you to them?"
Alex didn't answer right away. He tugged his hand, and Walter
released it. Let go the pressure on his scalp. Alex closed his
eyes again, not wanting to see Walter's reaction.
"My...biological...parents were sent here to spy on the Soviet
immigrant community. Their contact in the Consulate in New York
City ran the sex trade for the Embassy. Call girls, boys. The
usual. They wanted to go home. He wanted me."
"How old were you?"
"About twelve." Heard Walter swear. "Eventually,
I came to someone's notice who wanted me in Boston for a while.
There were these private parties he liked to give.
"Actually, that's where I met one of the men in the Consortium,
who decided my skills could be improved with better and different
training. And the rest, as they say, is history."
Walter had rested his head next to Alex. Now he raised it to look
at his lover. Alex just lay there, no expression on his face,
his eyes staring vacantly at the ceiling.
"Are any of these so-called masters still alive, Alex?"
Alex took some time to answer. "No."
Walter made no comment.
"What happens now?" Alex asked after a few minutes.
Walter rubbed his cheek against Alex's. Punctuated his words with
a series of unhurried kisses, cat licks across face and throat.
"What happens now is that we have been invited to your parents'
home for Easter.
"We will get tickets, the very best tickets, for the Saturday
night hockey game, because Anton likes hockey. You will call Marise
and find out which restaurant would be a real treat for them.
And make reservations for the four of us after the game.
"Then we will go home with them. And you and I will sleep
in your bed, in your bedroom, under your parents' roof."
He stopped what he was doing. "Alex. How big is your bed?"
Alex made a sound between a laugh and a sob. "A double."
"Shit. I get in bed first. You can join me after I find a
comfortable position." He returned to tracing Alex's face.
"Where was I? Oh, yeah, in bed. Where, because of the fact
that your parents are just down the hall, we will either not make
love, or make it very quietly. So as not to disturb them."
"You've done this before." Alex's voice was thick.
"Yeah. The first time Sharon and I stayed at her parents'
place. Just after we were married. Does that bother you, Alex?"
"Good. Now then, in the morning, we will accompany them to
the Easter service at the Russian Orthodox Church, because it
will please Mina. There, Alex, we will both be on our best behaviour.
"And then we will go home with them for Easter dinner. Where,"
Walter's voice became threatening, "you will keep your hands
off my perogies. Is all of that understood?"
"Good." And moved his mouth down Alex's body.
They spent three days in New York. Alex went and visited his safety
deposit boxes. Walter went shopping by himself. They went together
to music stores, book stores. Alex laughed when he saw the Teach
Yourself Russian tapes and books.
He hid his laughter when, in the music store, some guy started
to put the moves on him: Walter suddenly appeared at his side,
looking very Assistant Director. Found it less funny when their
waiter in the restaurant made it very clear he was interested
That night, at the hotel, he made very certain that Walter knew
he had a good thing going with him. By the time he let Walter
come, Walter felt that the top of his head had been blown off.
So, when Alex woke sometime in the night, to find himself on his
side, imprisoned in a pair of arms with hands that were busy arousing
him, he sighed happily.
Hands were slowly working their magic, playing with his body,
making him writhe within the circle of Walter's arms.
"Have I got your attention, Alex?"
"God, yes! Don't stop."
"I want you to listen to me. All right?"
Alex made a conscious effort to pay attention to what Walter was
"I realized something important today." Alex made a
slight purring sound to indicate he was listening. "I realized
that I don't like it when you look at other men."
Alex felt a chill, pulled back against Walter's chest, trying
to get away from his hands. Walter co-operated enough to keep
his hands fairly still.
"And I don't like it when they look at you." He nibbled
at Alex's ear. "Not that I know there's anything wrong with
the looking. It's just that I happen to be insecure enough in
this relationship to need some reassurance."
"I'm not encouraging it," protested Alex.
"You don't need to. All you have to do is breathe, Alex."
"It's not like you don't get your share of looks. Or give
"And are you comfortable with that? Or was that growl you
gave the waiter tonight a misunderstanding?"
"No. To both your questions." Alex's voice had chilled.
"So," Walter rested his chin on Alex's shoulder, "we
need some ground rules here. Do you know what exclusivity means,
Alex? In a relationship?"
"Yes." A bit hesitant.
"Well, Alex, that's what I want from you. A commitment of
exclusivity." And felt Alex grow very still.
"Do I get one from you?"
Walter rubbed his stubbled chin against Alex's throat. "God,
yes! I seem to have a strong streak of monogamy in me, Alex. In
seventeen years of marriage, the only time I was unfaithful to
Sharon our marriage was already at an end. And that was a fiasco."
"I remember. Mulder told me about it."
"So, yes, exclusivity both ways. I want only your ass in
our bed, and I want to know your ass is only in our bed."
"Okay," Alex whispered.
"I think I want a bit more than an 'okay'. I think I want
words like...like...I, Walter Sergei Skinner commit myself exclusively
to Alex Antonovitch Krycek. Because I love him."
Alex's breath hitched, as if in pain. As Mina had said, the fire
was a frightening thing.
He began hesitantly, "I, Alex...Antonovitch," accepting
the patronymic Walter had given him, "...Krycek commit myself
exclusively to Walter Sergei Skinner." He took a deep breath.
"Because I love him."
He turned in the shelter of his lover's arms, mouth ready for
his kiss. Wrapped himself around Walter and held on tight.
In the morning, while they were still in bed, Walter announced,
"After we dump most of this stuff at the cabin, we're going
to DC. I'm taking their offer for retirement."
Alex rolled over, rested his chin on Walter's chest. "You
"Yeah." He stroked Alex's back. "Maybe I could
fight them, but it's not worth the effort it would take."
Alex looked thoughtful. "You going in to Headquarters to
"I'll call Kim, have her prepare the papers. But, yes, I
want to go in and sign them there."
"Why, Walter, nice to see that in-your-face attitude of yours
back in full swing. But you have to do it with flare."
"Flare, eh? Have you got an idea?"
Alex grinned evilly.
They stayed just overnight at the cabin. Walter figured they would
be back within the week. Before they left the next morning there
was one more thing he wanted to do to convince Alex that this
was a serious relationship, that he wasn't going to find himself
pitched out, away from the fire.
And, if he were being honest, he had to admit this was not just
for Alex: he knew he was much older, was insecure in that knowledge.
He needed this gesture too.
"Okay. That's it. All the stuff is in the car."
Only Walter's car was there: they'd paid the kid at the gas station
a hundred bucks and a bus ticket back to deliver Alex's car back
to Mulder while they were in Boston.
Walter was sitting on the arm of the couch, looking at Alex with
an odd little smile on his face. A bit uncertain.
Alex leaned against the wall, shoved his hand into his leather
jacket pocket. "What?"
"I have something for you. But I'm not quite sure how you'll
Alex shrugged. "I won't know till you give it to me."
Walter held out a small black jewelry box. Alex slowly straightened,
came over to Walter. He took the box in his hand, and flipped
open the lid with his thumb.
Inside there were two plain gold bands, one larger than the other.
"They're inscribed," said Walter, carefully watching
He held out his hand for the box. Watched as Alex picked the bands
up, first one then the other. The inside of the smaller band read:
"Mine. Walter". The larger one: "Mine. Alex".
Walter cleared his throat. "That way you can look all you
want. And they can look all they want. But that's all."
He took Alex's hand, waited for permission -- a very slight nod
-- and slipped the smaller band on the ring finger. Held out his
Alex looked up from his hand, eyes incredibly green, for once
totally unshadowed. Holding Walter's eyes, he slipped the band
Walter stood into Alex's embrace. And held onto him for dear life.
Alex was very quiet on the trip to the city. He sat sideways in
his seat, eyes on Walter. Just watching him, a small smile on
his face. Thumb playing with the band on his finger.
Every now and then Walter would turn and look at him, and both
of them would grin. Once, at a red light, Alex leaned over and
tried hard to devour Walter in the time it took for the light
to turn green. The cars behind them honked before Walter had the
breath to drive on.
***********************End of Part 3******************
PART 4 (1/2)
Scully was in Headquarters to attend a meeting of Section heads.
Not that officially she was one, but in her capacity as assistant
to the Head of Forensics, she was representing him.
They'd taken a break for coffee. She was in the hallway, listening
to the on-going conversations when the hall gradually became silent.
"Oh, my!" said the woman nearest her, one of the new
intake of agents, "I'm just getting used to the Armani, and
here comes Herrara For Men."
Scully turned into the direction of the on-coming silence. Two
men were striding down the hall: one, stone-faced as usual; the
other, devilment personified.
Both were dressed all in black. It was the first time Scully had
ever seen Skinner in Headquarters not wearing a suit and tie.
Skinner wore slacks and one of those crew-necked silk knit tops
that clung to the musculature of his chest. An open loose linen
jacket. The only colour was the narrow silver buckle of his black
leather belt, which drew a great many eyes to the narrowness of
his waist and hips.
Krycek wore his usual jeans, except these hadn't come from any
bargain basement. The fit was just this side of decent. The loose
t-shirt tucked into the jeans, the leather jacket all added to
the bad-boy image.
As the men walked past her, Skinner nodded. "Agent Scully."
"Assistant Director Skinner," she acknowledged.
Krycek just grinned at her, one of those angelic grins that forecasts
trouble of some kind.
She watched the two men get into the elevator that would take
them to Skinner's old office. Heard the cell phones being dialled
as the news made its way around the building.
The woman next to her gasped, "That's AD Skinner? And who
was the other stud?"
Scully debated using her cell phone to call Mulder, decided against
"Who was with AD Skinner? The guy in the jeans."
"Oh, that's Alex Krycek. Excuse me, I just remembered a message
I forgot to deliver." And went for the next available elevator
Mulder came out of his office muttering to himself over the papers
in his hand. "Kim, I can't seem..." He looked up and
saw Alex Krycek leaning against the outer office doorway, looking
like sin. "Alex."
Krycek cocked his head, just smiled.
"It's been a while," Mulder was wondering how the hell
he was going to get Krycek out of the office before anyone knew
he was here.
"He's with me." The voice was icy, possessive.
Mulder turned to see Walter Skinner, a Walter Skinner he wasn't
sure he recognized, sitting at Kim's desk, signing wherever it
was Kim was indicating.
Skinner raised a sardonic eyebrow at the neutral tone of address.
Watched as Mulder straightened, his usual reaction to that look.
"Assistant Director Skinner is here to sign his retirement
forms," explained Kim, obviously unhappy with the whole situation.
"Oh." Mulder shuffled his feet, unsure of what his reaction
should be. He knew how the Upper Levels felt about Skinner. Didn't
know how Skinner himself felt. They'd been out of touch too long
for him to know whether commiseration or felicitations were called
Krycek seemed to be expecting something from him, so he cleared
his throat, uncomfortable, wanted to say something, anything.
"You're looking well. Sir." Fucking sexy, he thought,
now having had a good look at the man. Skinner had stood, was
recapping his pen before slipping it into the jacket's inside
"Thanks, Kim. For handling all this paperwork. I appreciate
it. And for everything else." He took her hand, began to
shake it. Leaned over and kissed her instead.
Krycek straightened quickly, made a growling sound. Mulder's attention
swung from Skinner to Krycek. Correctly interpreted the growl.
Looked back to Skinner, his surprise written on his face.
Skinner stopped in front of Mulder, quirked an eyebrow at Mulder's
reaction. "My desk for Krycek." He spoke softly, so
only Mulder would hear. "I got the better of the trade."
At the door, he turned once more to Kim. "Thanks again."
Krycek followed him out.
In the hallway to the elevator, there were suddenly groups of
very involved conversations going on. Whereas the hall had been
almost empty on their way in, now, it was as though offices had
all spontaneously emptied. Skinner even recognized some of the
people from the top floor.
He stopped half-way down the hall. Alex nearly bumped into him.
"What's wrong?" He wanted Walter out of this place as
soon as possible. He was used to these kinds of over-the-shoulder,
barely-contained sneers; Walter wasn't. These people had been
his colleagues before they had turned on him, abandoned him. Walter
ignored the looks, found Alex's eyes on him, worried.
"I've just realized how much I hate this place." Astonished.
Alex grinned. "About bloody time."
Walter grinned back, a wide, evil grin. He reached out and grabbed
Alex by the back of the head. Pulled him in for the type of kiss
he usually kept for initiating sex.
Alex stepped closer, mouth devouring and devoured. Knew he was
adding fuel to the fire, that they had a disapproving -- on the
whole -- audience. Controlled himself, with difficulty, from rubbing
his hips against Walter.
Had some trouble with his breath when they finally pulled apart.
Walter's grin had become laughter, delighted, happy, raunchy.
He grabbed Alex's wrist and pulled him along to the elevator where
someone had a finger on the "open" button.
He slapped the finger down as they got in and the door closed
behind a jubilant Alex.
Standing by Mulder's door, Scully turned and looked at her former
partner. She couldn't resist. "Tell me, Mulder, did either
of them ever kiss you like that?"
Mulder grunted, went back into his office.
Kim and Scully exchanged raised eyebrows, knowing grins.
"He never looked that hot when he was working here."
Kim said. "Otherwise I would have made a play for him after
his divorce." She sighed over lost opportunities. "And
I think I'm not the only female," she looked around at the
people still milling about, "or male, who's thinking that
That evening, after buzzing Scully up, Walter was waiting at the
door to let her in.
She shook her head ruefully at the now dressed down, now retired
"Walter. I don't carry the ID any more, Dana." He offered
to take her coat.
"You may not want me to stay once you know why I'm here."
Alex slouched against the door to the kitchen.
Scully handed Walter a thick envelope. "Your retirement papers,
sir. All signed and approved."
Walter took them from her. Weighed the packet in his hand. "That
was quick." He explained to Alex, "Usually takes weeks,
three or four, to process retirement papers."
Alex swore under his breath, straightened up and came over to
stand by Walter.
"Scully, there's a pot on the stove. Could you go and stir
it, please. It shouldn't be boiling."
Scully slipped off her coat and went into the kitchen. There was
a wooden spoon by the stove and she picked it up and stirred what
had to be borscht. She tasted it, closed her eyes in appreciation.
Alex caught her. "Care to stay for supper, or are we too
dangerous to your career to associate with?"
Scully ignored his snide remark, knowing that Alex was upset because
Walter had been once more badly treated by the Bureau.
"This needs more pepper," she said. "Apart from
that, it is the very best borscht I've ever tasted."
Alex dropped into the chair by the table. Scully went back to
stirring. After a minute Alex said, more calmly, "It does
not need more pepper at this stage. Later, just before serving."
"Is he all right?" She was very interested in the pattern
the spoon made in the thick liquid.
Alex rubbed his face. "Yeah. I think he was expecting it,
but it's still a bit of a shock. He's not used to being discarded
"Well, if it's any consolation, it's going to be a long time
before the...manner of his leaving stops being a subject of discussion."
That got a bit of a smile from Alex. "It is the general consensus,
at least among the female members of the Bureau, that the kiss
rated beyond a ten. That, if there is a God, you are both bisexual.
And that your jeans...Oh, and Skinner's sweater...should be bronzed."
"Certainly the jeans," Walter came and sat next to Alex.
Shared a smile with him.
"She thinks it needs pepper." Alex reached his hand
out to rub Walter's shoulder.
"Make her wash the dishes after supper. That'll teach her
to criticize the chef."
"You just want to get out of doing them."
Scully listened to the exchange, marvelling at the comfort and
facility between the two men. Two men she would never have associated
with comfort and facility. And certainly never with each other.
The evening provided a few more surprises, the matching bands
being the first. Then there was the fact that they never seemed
to be more than an arm's length away from each other. She wasn't
surprised to see Alex touching Walter as much as he did: he had
always struck her as being a tactile person.
But Walter Skinner? Unapproachable old Stone Face, the man who
went by the book, the AD voted most likely to have a steel rod
up his ass? Whose hand reached out, casually, to rub a shoulder,
touch a leg, tug at hair. Who smiled readily. Who laughed, easily.
Scully sat in an armchair, her feet up on the coffee table, brandied
coffee in her hand, stomach filled with borscht and sour cream
and black bread, watched Alex Krycek pull himself into a cross-legged
position at the feet of Walter Skinner who sat, back against the
arm rest, at the other end of the couch. In no time at all, Walter
slouched, made himself comfortable with his feet on Alex's lap.
The conversation never went near the events of the day of the
day, instead ranging over a variety of casual topics like politics,
books, movies. Lightly, ironically, with wit and humour. She was
surprised when she realized it was nearly midnight.
"By the way, if you're not doing anything for Easter, my
mother said to tell you you're both welcomed to join us."
And got yet another surprise when Walter thanked her, "But
we're spending Easter with Alex's folks."
Scully raised an eyebrow. "Alex has folks? Somehow, I always
thought you had been hatched, Alex."
Alex looked uncomfortable. "They're not...They're..."
Walter's hand rubbed the back of Alex's neck. "Alex is still
having a bit of trouble with the concept of biology versus fostering.
They're Alex's foster parents. But please thank your mother for
He accompanied her down to her car, held the door open for her.
Because of the lines of friendship that had been drawn over the
evening, she chanced "When he went down last November, just
how bad were you?"
He rested a hip against the side of the car, folded his arms and
looked at her for a moment before answering. "If he'd arrived
an hour later, he would have found my brains splattered throughout
Then regretted telling her when he saw the hurt and guilt on her
face. "Scully...Dana, of all the people who could have come
to the cabin that day, he was the only one who could actually
have understood where I was then. The only one. And you helped
in other ways. Without your pushing, OPC would have probably found
a reason for shelving their investigation."
"Mulder pushed too."
"Yes. But you pushed him too."
She examined the face and body of the man before her. "You're
slouching. I didn't think ex-Marines ever slouched."
Walter laughed. "Alex slouches everywhere. I seem to be picking
it up from him." He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek.
They were working their way through the morning papers when the
phone rang. Walter seemed a bit surprised at the identity of the
caller, listened, finally covered the phone with his hand.
"It's Senator McCuen. He would like us to join him for dinner
tonight at his place. Around eight."
Alex frowned. "Which one is he?"
"Finance Committee. Republican. One of the central southern
states...I can't remember which one. Looks a bit like Sam Erwing."
"He say why we're being so graced?"
"Says he wants to discuss a proposal with both of us."
Alex shrugged. "Your decision."
Walter picked up the phone again. "Yes, thank you. We'll
see you at eight."
Dinner was roast beef and all the fixings. Alex was well behaved,
though Walter knew he wanted to challenge the Senator as to why
they were here. The Senator and his wife were charming throughout
"Well, gentlemen, I'll leave you to your brandy." Mrs.
McCuen smiled at the men as she rose from the table. "Besides,
Haines wishes to discuss business with you and there's a movie
on the television that I want to see."
The Senator suggested brandy in the library. When he had served
them each, he sat in what was obviously his chair, made himself
comfortable, took a sip of brandy.
"Actually, this is a proposal in two parts. I'll begin with
Mr. Skinner if I may.
"As you know I am a member of the Committee investigating
financial responsibility in some of our more secretive organizations.
Of which the FBI is next on our schedule."
He kept his eyes on Skinner as he carefully approached his offer.
"You have not been well treated by the FBI, Mr. Skinner.
When they should have supported you in the face of an obvious
set-up, they floundered. Their defense of you was more of an attack.
And their subsequent treatment of you was more than shoddy."
He held up a hand, forestalling Walter's reply. "I understand
your training, your integrity will preclude your desire for revenge.
I ask you only to consider the following notion: if they did it
to you, whose loyalty to the organization was never in doubt,
what will stop them from doing it to someone else?
"The actual grounds for their investigation of your career
were non-existent. What they were on was a witch-hunt. Your personal
life is just that, Mr. Skinner. Personal. We live in a time of
'Don't ask. Don't tell.' Still rather repressive, but the beginning
of an acknowledgement that people are different.
"Before I continue, I will tell you that I have a personal
interest in all this. My grandson is gay. He was recently badly
beaten up by several members of his campus OTP because he dared
to try and sign up. All the male members of this family have served
their country. My grandson wished to do so as well. His sexual
preferences should not have been at issue. But not everyone sees
it that way.
"I am not asking you to betray confidential Bureau information.
Though I believe my security clearance is as high as yours. I
do however believe that in a general way you could be of help
in determining what is bullshit and what is not.
"If that involvement is still too close for your personal
sense of honour, I think that your mere presence next to me on
the panel, as an informed consultant, which will be perfectly
legal as, by the start of the hearings, you will be officially
retired from the Bureau..."
Senator McCuen stopped. Looked from Alex to Walter, bushy eyebrows
raised in question.
"My retirement became official last evening. All paperwork
done and passed."
"Ah. I see. May I continue with my proposal?"
Walter held the Senator's eyes, did some careful thinking. Did
he want revenge? If so, to what extent was he willing to go for
Slowly he nodded his permission.
"The Director's appointment was a compromise. He is a political
outsider. He seems to think that the Bureau exists as an employment
agency for his family and friends. You have personally had some
experience of that.
"It has come to my attention that he feels that the panel
is there to logroll his budget through. I would like to dissuade
him of that notion.
"If in helping me do so, you can get a sense of getting your
own back for the legal support that was given you, so much the
better. Personally, I would like to see that embarrassment be
withdrawn from the legal department of the Bureau. And, though
I am only a country lawyer, I find his presence in my profession
He got up, poured more brandy in all their glasses. Krycek seemed
well pleased with his proposal: an ally in that camp was a welcomed
Their discussion over the next twenty minutes convinced the Senator
that even if all Walter Skinner did was look over his questions
for the Director, he would be more than well served. The man had
the intelligence, the perceptions, the drive to have risen much
higher in the Bureau than he had. Someone, besides Spender, had
certainly been made very uncomfortable by this man.
They were interrupted by the doorbell ringing. "Ah, here
comes the second part of my proposal."
A man, probably in his early forties, well-dressed in an executive
type suit and tie, came into the room.
"Thank you for inviting me, Senator."
Walter had stood for an introduction when he heard a hiss from
Alex. He turned and saw Alex become the killer he had once so
"Krycek." The new guest nodded, reacting much the same
way as Alex.
"Nash." Almost a snarl.
The tension in the library rose dramatically. Walter went on alert.
He didn't know who this Nash was, but it was obvious Alex did.
And didn't like him.
Senator McCuen filled a glass with brandy, went to stand between
the two men. Offered the glass to Nash, who accepted it, never
taking his eyes off Alex.
"I would," he said, in a very quiet voice, his accent
suddenly very pronounced, "like to remind the two of you
that you have both retired from the field. So cut out the bobcat
dance, both of you, and sit down."
He waited till the two men had complied with his wishes, smiled
at Walter, who also sat down, very slowly. He remained standing.
"Thomas Nash and Alex Krycek have a bit of a history,"
he explained to Walter. "I believe that each has tried several
times to...eliminate...the other. Obviously with little success."
He waited till Walter responded with a raised eyebrow. "Mr.
Nash decided some time ago to count his blessings and stop pushing
his luck. He, and several other ex- ...What do you call yourselves,
"Operatives. Ex-operatives." He took a sip of brandy,
still holding Alex's eyes.
"Ah, very good. Descriptive, yet neutral. As I was saying,
Mr. Nash has set up an organization that trains bodyguards, provides
business executives with the survival skills necessary for going
into parts of the world that are inhospitable, but relevant for
some of their business concerns. Quite above board, Mr. Skinner.
And very successful."
He turned to Nash. "Perhaps you would like to continue, Nash."
And he sat down.
Nash finally released Alex's eyes, looked down into his drink.
"I'm expanding. I understand from Senator McCuen that there
is a possibility that Skinner will be accepting a temporary position
with his office. I was wondering if a position as a sort of consultant
with my organization would interest you."
Alex bit out, "Shit, Nash. Just what would you expect me
to consult on?"
"Staying alive. For one thing. Self-defense for another.
Especially when handicapped. Strategy. Conning your captors. Mental
tricks to surviving torture."
He paused, dropped the "operative" persona, became the
executive. "The staff I have is small, but each is an expert
in his or her field. We all have two things in common. We're over
thirty. And we're still alive."
"And that qualifies me?"
"Shit, Krycek, you've been in the business for what, ten,
twelve years? You've got fucking Ph.D qualifications. Not to mention
you survived the last four years with only one arm. Bets were
that you wouldn't last two months when people realized the state
you were in after Tunguska.
"There are conditions if you decide to come out and look
over the place. You'll probably recognize one or two faces. Just
remember everyone's retired, you included. No scores need to be
settled. No physical attacks. No eliminations. On both sides.
"The pay's good. And it'll give you something to do with
your time if Skinner's busy. Besides, you may discover you like
the work. It's a hell of a lot safer than what you're used to,
and you get to go home at the end of the day."
Alex shared a look with Walter.
"I think we need some time to think about these offers, Senator."
Walter spoke for the two of them.
Nash finished his drink, stood up, He pulled out a case from his
inside pocket -- Alex had tensed when his hand had gone under
his lapel -- and handed Alex a card. "Come check us out anytime
you want. Pleasure to have met you, Skinner. Thank you, Senator."
"I think we'll take our leave as well, Senator." Walter
shook hands with McCuen. "I will seriously consider your
offer, Senator. Please thank your wife for the lovely dinner.
In the car, Alex slouched against the door, watching Walter's
face in the passing lights. He waited till they were home. "So
how much help are you going to give him?"
Walter sighed, rubbed his face with his hands. "McCuen wants
at least three maybe four months of my time."
Alex frowned. "I thought he was talking five to six weeks."
"The hearings begin in three weeks. The Bureau usually slots
two to three more. That's if all goes well. They only sit three
days a week. What McCuen is asking for will drag things out far
longer than that."
"Are you going to give him what he's asking for?"
Walter yawned, suddenly tired. The last two days had been a roller-coaster
for him. "He's right in that I would love to get some of
my own back, especially for the Director's god-son. But I also
know that budget cut-backs put the lives of field agents more
at risk all the time."
Alex slouched low on his spine, toed his boots off and propped
his feet on the table. "Seems to me that I heard Scully complaining
about a redecorating spree in the upper levels. And," he
continued after thinking a bit, "wasn't there some squawking
about someone's promotion, just about the time Spender got you."
"The Director's new son-in-law." Walter rested his head
on the back of his chair. "You going to be able to work with
Alex grinned, knew both of them were going to be "gainfully
employed" for the next little while. "It'll be interesting.
I wonder who those 'familiar faces' will turn out to be."
"We'll have to go and close up the cabin. And you can break
the news to Anton and Mina that you have an nine- to-five job."
Suddenly Walter laughed. "And that you've joined the legion
The Director was quite pleased with the way things were going.
Already in the second day of hearings he felt that this would
be over in no time at all.
Then on the second day, things changed. The consultant sitting
just behind Senator McCuen was absent. The proceedings had started
when the chair was filled. By a large balding man wearing glasses.
A man the Director had never expected to see again in his life.
The Senator smiled at the reaction the Director couldn't hide.
The hunt was on and his own personal bloodhound, even if all he
did was sit and look barely interested, was going to make the
Director look over his shoulder for the entire length of these
Into the second week, Walter came home one day to find several
messages waiting in his computer. Anonymous reports of internal
improper budgetary expenditures. There were more of them by the
end of the week. Most of them related to personnel appointed by
the Director. Some mere rumours and innuendo. Others accompanied
by scanned copies of actual billing, other documented support.
"Looks like some people have decided that you're their white
knight." Alex, fresh out of the shower, wearing only jeans,
curled up in a chair in Walter's home office.
Walter made a grunting noise, neither positive nor negative in
meaning. He looked Alex over. "You're sporting a couple of
new bruises. I thought this was a desk job."
Alex smiled. "Was too nice a day to stay inside. We had ...
what do you call it? Oh, yeah. A field trip."
"So how did you end up with the bruises? Or should I ask
what does the other guy look like?"
"Fergus was out with a couple of her crew. We sort of gave
them a bit of a demonstration."
Fergus was one of those familiar faces Nash had spoken about.
A tall, elegant woman, who knew as much about killing as Alex
did. Their occasional clashes were always for the benefit of their
students. At least, that was always the explanation.
He assumed that Fergus would also be sporting a new set of bruises.
Alex had adjusted to regular work, if training people in assault
techniques could be consider "regular". He had gone
with the notion of just hanging around the estate Nash used as
his compound, so that Walter would take the position McCuen had
But he found that, not only was he good at passing on instruction,
he actually liked the work. The ex- operatives were for the most
part people like him, who were tired of the game, surprised to
find that they were still alive, and needed a job where their
skills would actually be appreciated.
There had been a few personality clashes, but Nash had been up
front when he'd said there were conditions imposed on everyone
who worked for him. If necessary, he was quite willing to put
an end to confrontations himself, with his fists.
They both had made it a condition of employment that they would
not be expected to be around come Easter. The visit to Anton and
Mina had gone off pretty much as Walter had forecasted.
Except that when they got to Alex's room, the double bed had been
replaced with a king-sized one. Mina had expressed surprise at
their surprise. "Alexei, you yourself barely fit in that
bed. Where did you expect Walter Sergei to sleep, on the floor?"
And there was a bit of tension at the hockey game. Alex had just
bought the tickets, not checking to see whom Boston was playing
that night. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Washington. After
the first period intermission, Alex and Mina sat between the two
hockey fans, trying hard to ignore the squabbling between Anton
and Walter. Which continued into supper, until Mina put her foot
down, hard, on both their necks. The subject of hockey was henceforth
banned in her presence. Alex snickered.
For Easter services, Walter had brought a suit, but the best he
could get on Alex was dress pants, a shirt and tie, and the ubiquitous
black leather jacket.
"This thing lasts three hours," complained Alex as Walter
was fixing his tie for him.
"Music is wonderful. All bass and baritone. Just think of
it as a concert with lots of standing and sitting. You'll live."
Mina hugged them both tightly when they left, sent them home with
enough food to feed themselves for a week. They'd eaten cold perogies
on the drive back.
"So what are you going to do with all that information that
keeps popping up on the screen?" Alex knew that Walter was
trying to walk a thin line between his idea of loyalty and his
anger at the re-routing of federal funds by the Director. Nothing
overtly illegal, just all sorts of "perks" that added
up to decreased budgets in the lower levels.
Years of being told to tighten their demands offset by overboard
spending at the top. Had the Director really needed to lease a
private jet to get him and his two PAs to the West Coast? Especially
since the FBI had a plane-load of people going to the same conference.
On regular flights. Squeezing into those too-small spaces the
airlines allotted for human beings.
At the hearings, Walter was beginning to slip the occasional piece
of substantiated information over to the Senator. Who did not
question the change of heart. The Director found he sweated every
time Skinner began writing on the pad the Senator kept by his
The Senator appreciated the information, used it judiciously.
Found that all it took to draw the Director's attention to his
end of the panel was for Skinner to shift in his chair. Old Stone
Face, as one of his researchers had called Skinner, never reacted
to the Director's glares, the occasional pointed barbs that were
aimed at Skinner. He made a mental note to himself never to invite
Skinner to participate in one of his monthly poker games.
"Excuse me, Mr. Skinner." Walter looked up from the
papers whose information he was verifying. "There's a Mr.
Nash on the phone for you. He says it's important."
Skinner thanked the assistant the Senator had assigned to him,
waited till she had left the office, and picked up the phone,
heart in throat. If anything had happened to Alex...
"I'll tell you first off that Alex is fine. But we've had
some trouble here."
Walter felt relief then "What kind of trouble?"
"Alex nearly took out one of the students this morning. Don't
freak out on me, Skinner. It was provoked. The rest of the class
is behind him all the way. And it turns out the guy was an FBI
"Cops getting involved?"
"No way. We get all candidates to the program to sign a waver
of responsibility should they happen to get injured. The guy is
just badly bruised. Though it'll be some time, if ever, before
he gets to raise his voice."
"Okay. What happened?"
According to Nash, the new intake that came in that week was the
usual except that one of the men seemed to react negatively to
Alex's presence. Made more than a few cracks about cripples, gays,
traitors. Alex had ignored the whole thing. Nash had found out
about it when one of the other students had come to him to lodge
a complaint about the idiot.
Alex had shrugged it off when Nash had asked him about the situation.
He was used to it. Was nothing new. The guy wanted a rise out
of him, and he wasn't going to get it.
But this morning, the guy had finally said something that had
made Alex flip.
"What did he say?" Walter rubbed the bridge of his nose,
feeling a headache coming on.
Nash sighed. "The asshole made a crack about you. Something
about you being dirty, about traitors betraying traitors and landing
in some cushy job sitting behind some senator. It took four of
us to get Alex off the guy.
"When we did, the guy was trying to tell us that we would
all go to jail, for letting Krycek attack an FBI agent.
"I just got off the phone with the president of the company
the guy was supposed to be working for. Seems the Bureau came
to see him, gave him a story of checking up to see that we were
not some cover for some subversive operation. Told him it would
be his patriotic duty to his country to give this agent a legit
cover for his investigations.
"I've told him to take his business somewhere else.
"The other three in the class have given me hand- written
reports on what occurred. All of them back Alex. One even says
that if Alex had really wanted to kill the jerk, the guy would
be dead. That he was just teaching him a lesson."
"Where's Alex now?"
"Fergus has got him demonstrating the move that he used to
disable the jerk to her class and his. Christ! They'll all have
sore throats by the end of the day."
"You're sure he's all right?"
"Yeah, he seems to be. Skinner, the student was right: if
Alex had wanted to kill the guy, he'd have been dead before any
of us could have done anything. And I've placed a call in to the
Director of the Bureau to tell him that next time he wants to
check us out, he should send someone who actually knows what he's
doing. And I will lodge a formal complaint. More than that, I
don't know what I can do."
Skinner growled, "You can tighten up your intake verifications."
"Goes without saying. I put my PA on verifying the rest of
the intake right away. Everyone pans out." His tone changed.
"Skinner, whatever you're doing at the hearings, you sure
managed to piss someone off, big time. Be careful."
The Senator had been warned that a call had come for Skinner that
had upset him. When Skinner sat next to him at the meeting, he
made certain his mike was off before leaning over to talk to Skinner.
"The Bureau slipped someone in at Nash's who's been riding
Alex all week. This morning the jerk changed tactics and attacked
"And the Bureau is going to find that they probably have
an agent on permanent disability. And I'm going to give you much
more than you want."
Walter moved the pad to in front of him. And began writing a line
of questioning for McCuen to follow.
At first, McCuen just watched Skinner, finally realized that the
man was dangerously angry. Another mental note: never attack the
man's lover. By the third page of notes, McCuen had seen the Director
go from smug to nervous to downright anxious.
By the time the hearings were over, it was just a matter of time
before the Director would announce his retirement.
"Skinner. You would have to pick today to drop in."
Nash passed a harried hand through already ruffled hair.
Skinner smiled. "You did tell me any time. Is Alex up to
something? I didn't find him in his office. Or in the classroom."
Nash moaned, dropped his head on his cluttered desk. "My
assistant is off taking care of her mother who's just had a hip
replacement. I can't find anything. Her replacement didn't come
back the second day because she's sure someone's going to kill
"Fergus thinks she may be pregnant. Christ! She's forty if
she's a day. What the hell is she doing with a biological clock?
"And Krycek decided that a game of tag with weapons is the
perfect activity for a lovely autumn day. The only good thing
that's happened today is that I convinced him to use paint-guns
instead of live ammunition."
Skinner grinned "And now me. Would you like me to come back
some other day?"
Nash sighed, thought about it for maybe five seconds. "No.
Maybe this is for the best. I can play on your sympathy."
He got up, poured two coffees. "It's times like this that
I wish I hadn't banned alcohol from the premises."
He sipped the coffee he had made several hours ago, nearly spat
it up. "God, that is awful!"
Skinner laughed. "Reminds me of the crap you drink on a stake
Nash watched Skinner walk around his office, looking at the stuff
he had on his walls to impress prospective clients. He sat on
the edge of his desk. "How do you want it, smooth and slick
or to the point?"
Skinner slouched against an elegant wooden filing cabinet in the
corner. "To the point."
"Krycek tells me you're bored with the hearings. That basically
you've given the Senator more than he needs to hang the Director
and his cronies out to dry."
"You need something new to keep you busy. Because if you
continue being bored, you're probably going to want to leave DC
and I'm going to lose one of my top staff."
"Tell me," Skinner ignored most of Nash's comments,
"when you offered Alex the job did you expect him to be good
"Yeah, I did. It wasn't a charity thing so that the Senator
could keep you around. What surprises me the most is that the
students like him. Respect him."
Skinner smiled. "He gets a real kick when they call him Sir."
"Another thing that surprised me was the way you tamed him.
He was pretty wild. I never expected to see the Alex Krycek I
knew set down roots."
"Nash. Get to the point."
"I need a Director of Operations. Someone who understands
where my staff has been, where they're coming from. Where they
"The place needs expansion again. I'm thinking of taking
on a couple more..."
"Ex-operatives," offered Skinner.
"Yeah. Look, my strong point is negotiations. I can sell
the client on the product. Follow through on satisfaction studies.
Trouble-shoot on location if and when it's needed. But that means
that I have to be out of the place a fair amount.
"I need someone who can run the place for me. Deal with the
day-to-day demands -- and I'm not hiding the fact that these guys
are heavy on demands -- in a responsible way. Someone who won't
panic when Krycek and Fergus use each other for 'demonstrations'.
Or when O'Brien wants something the size of the Titanic for boarding
"Someone I can work with when I'm here. And who can run the
show when I'm out in the field. Someone with organizational skills
who understands the working of this kind of set-up.
"The pay's not as good as what you're getting as a senatorial
consultant, but it's fair. All I'm asking is that you think about
it. Maybe spend a day in the place to get a feel for it."
"Find you an assistant?" Skinner put his untouched coffee
down. "Get a decent coffee maker into the place?"
"All that and a tower office as well."
The main building on the grounds was an old mansion that some
robber baron had built at the turn of the century. It came with
a couple of towers and large rooms, beautiful wood floors and
twelve foot high ceilings.
Nash had turned one of the towers into classrooms; the other,
into an office -- his -- and a conference room at the top. There
were five large windows bringing in the outside light into the
"The fireplace works. Bathroom's through there. Includes
a shower. Assistant can use the connecting hall as an office.
If you want an assistant, you'll have to find one yourself."
Skinner walked over to one of the windows. There was a large open
space around the building, an orchard of some kind to the west,
a series of other buildings to the east. He saw Alex, with maybe
one splotch of colour on his sweat suit, lead three others who
were in various rainbow hues through the back yard and into the
mansion, talking seriously, being listened to seriously.
Nash was right: he was bored. The only intellectual stimulation
he was getting these days was their evening chess games.
"Does that work?" He pointed to the phone on the side
table by the conference table. Nash nodded. Skinner dialled.
"Dana, it's Walter. What's the phone number of the PA in
your department that the Director forced into retirement last
month? Thanks. I'll explain at supper. Tomorrow night? Good."
He looked up at Nash who was grinning. "I'm not saying yes.
A lot will depend on my discussion with Alex tonight. But I will
"Hello. Is this Catherine Bainbridge? This is Walter Skinner.
Yes. Mrs. Bainbridge, I was wondering if the chance to work in
a zoo would be of interest to you? No, the human kind. No, and
it's not for the faint- hearted, believe me. Today. Actually,
as soon as possible. I'll give you the address. Oh, and Mrs. Bainbridge,
dress casually. Feeding time can be very messy."
He looked at Nash. "She'll be here in an hour. I'll explain
the situation to her. While I'm waiting, let's see some of the
"So," Alex stretched, rubbing himself against a sated
Walter, "are you going to be the new boss?"
"I don't know." Walter stroked the arching back, kneaded
the tight ass muscles of his lover. "How do you feel about
the whole thing?"
Alex lay on top of Walter, stroking his foot up and down Walter's
leg. "I have the funny feeling that my sleeping with you
isn't going to help my budget in the least."
"Probably not," agreed Walter.
"And that in the sense of fair play, you're going to go over
backwards to show me no favouritism."
"Maybe not backwards, but far enough so that there's no friction
with the others. Wouldn't do for Fergus to think you've got one
up on her, her being pregnant and all. All that anxiety wouldn't
do the baby much good."
Alex laughed lazily, too filled with good humour to challenge
Walter's assessment of Fergus: he'd learn soon enough what she
"If I take it, there are a few things that need to be clear,
"Like there you're Krycek and I'm Skinner. Like there's no
sex in the office, neither yours nor mine. That I will be your
department head, and I will cut your demands or ignore them or
toss them out if I feel they're unreasonable."
"You're not going back to old Stone Face, are you, Walter?
Because I can put up with the rest of it, but not that."
"No. And if you ever feel uncomfortable with the situation,
I want your promise to tell me. That's your territory. I'm the
interloper. And I promise you I'll leave it to you."
"And do what?"
"Well, just so you know, Nash's wasn't the first offer I've
had lately. Just the most interesting one." He licked some
of the sweat that had gathered in the hollow by Alex's collar-bone.
"So what are we feeding Dana tomorrow night?"