Title: CHANCE ENCOUNTERS I
Story of 6 encounters
Date: Written July, 1999
Posted October, 1999
Summary: A series of chance encounters can have
Rating: PG-13 for the first encounter.
Archive: Ratlover, CJK, Basement.
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013. But, by
chance, I too encountered them.
NOTE: If there are inaccuracies in the medical details and in
the behaviour of OPC, chalk it up to the fact that I never made
it to the end of a St. John's Ambulance first aid film and that
I have absolutely no idea how OPC actually behaves.
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: This being the First (1/3)
Skinner did a double-take.
The man who was crossing the street ahead of him was the Third
Man. That's what he had named the third of his assailants from
the hospital stairwell. The other two had names: Krycek and Cardinale.
The first had disappeared somewhere in Russia, the second had
died in a prison cell waiting arraignment. The third had just
disappeared into thin air. But now, more than two years later,
had suddenly reappeared in front of him.
Carefully, Skinner followed the man. Old techniques of surveillance
quickly came back. He didn't think the man had spotted him following
him into building with the sign on the door: Rehearsal and Recording
Studios for Rent or Lease.
There was no one in the lobby. The door to the stairwell was just
closing. Skinner drew his weapon, cautiously opened the door,
heard another shut below him.
He started down the stairs on cat's feet. Wouldn't it be ironic
if there was a repeat of the last stairwell incident? he thought.
He got to the door, slowly pushed it open, listened for any sound
before stepping out into the basement hallway.
Skinner had a glimpse of a man out of the corner of his eye before
the lights went out.
He was aware of the headache, first. His stupidity at being caught
without back-up, second. The fact that the room he was in had
a high overhead light, but no windows, third. That his glasses
lay next to his legs fourth. He put them on and came to his fifth
Alex Krycek was hanging by one arm in front of him.
He got slowly to his feet. Krycek was naked, had been beaten.
His body from groin up to face was a wealth of freshly administered
The fact that it was Krycek, that he was naked, that he seemed
to be unconscious was diminished by the fact that his left arm
ended in a stump. And that the right shoulder was hanging in such
a way that indicated it was probably dislocated.
Skinner staggered up, went to Krycek and lifted his body enough
so that the weight of it no longer pulled on his shoulder.
The hand was tied to a hook on the ceiling by a cord the thickness
of a mooring line. With some difficulty, Skinner shifted Krycek's
dead weight to his left side, and rising on tip-toe, managed to
reach the knots that held the man up. It took a lot of patience,
a great many tries before the last knot gave way and Krycek's
arm flopped down.
Skinner dropped onto his knees at the sudden release of weight,
just managing to keep Krycek's head from hitting the cement floor.
He let the man down, rolled his head to ease the tension in his
neck and shoulders.
He took off his coat, used it to cover Krycek. A quick inspection
of the room told him it was one of those sound-proof studios he
had seen advertised on the lobby door. The door was locked from
the outside. Apart from a pile of clothing and a prosthetic arm,
there was nothing in the room. No chairs, no tables, nothing to
use as a weapon.
He checked Krycek's clothes, boots, even the arm -- reluctantly
-- as a hiding place for a possible weapon. It was obvious the
Third Man had had the same idea. Krycek's leather jacket had its
lining ripped loose. His boots were cut: if there had been a weapon
in them, it wasn't there now.
And the arm. It gave Skinner the chills to think that this was
part of Krycek. What the hell had happened to him? The last he'd
heard, Krycek had gotten away from Mulder in Tunguska Forest,
with two good arms.
He went to check on Krycek himself.
Apart from the possibility of some cracked ribs, the main problem
would be internal bleeding. So far Skinner could find no sign
of that, but he wasn't a doctor. He moved from the body to the
right arm. His wrist had been torn by the rope, by the struggles
of Krycek's movements and weight.
The shoulder was a straight dislocation. Skinner felt carefully,
but Krycek made a gasping sound. He wouldn't be unconscious much
longer. Skinner acted quickly: it would be easier to reset the
shoulder while Krycek was still out. It took almost no time to
snap the bone back into realignment. Still, Krycek felt it: this
time he moaned loudly.
There wasn't much else Skinner could do for the man. He wrapped
the torn wrist in his clean handkerchief, used Krycek's sweater
to make a sort of sling for his right arm, wrapping it close to
his chest at the same time trying to avoid putting pressure on
While Krycek slowly regained consciousness, Skinner finally made
himself examine the mangled stump. There were burn scars, shiny
in the light. Signs of a knife, of a scalpel. Of at least one
operation, maybe two. Neither a success by the looks of it. Skinner
had seen cleaner amputations on the battlefields of Nam.
Krycek's eyes opened and had trouble focusing. Even when they
had focused, he didn't quite believe what they saw. "Skinner?"
His voice was raspy, faint.
Skinner crouched by the man. "Krycek. Thought you were in
Krycek tried to moisten his lips.
"Sorry. There's no water or anything liquid here."
Skinner looked at his watch. "Nearly five."
"Anyone missing you?"
"No. The meeting was a waste of time. I was making an early
day of it."
Skinner looked a bit angry. "No." His tone indicated
that no additional comment from Krycek would be welcomed. "You?"
Krycek made a sort of laughing sound, winced suddenly in pain.
His eyes opened wide. "My arm!" Panic.
Skinner reached over, put his hands on Krycek's shoulders. "Krycek.
Your right arm was dislocated. I set it. It's wrapped around your
chest. Try not to move: you may have some cracked ribs."
But Krycek wasn't listening. Was trying to move his left arm to
feel his right. Couldn't, of course. That didn't help the panic.
Skinner finally had to give him a shake which sent pain cursing
through his body.
"Krycek! Listen to me! Look at me! Damn it, will you look
Krycek's panicky breathing was aggravating the pain in his chest.
That, combined with Skinner's tone, got through to him. He tried
to control his breathing, make it shallow so as not to put too
much pressure on his ribs. Finally succeeded.
"Krycek. Are you listening to me?"
"Listen. Your right shoulder was dislocated. I set it. I
wrapped your sweater around you to keep the arm immobile and to
keep you from hurting your ribs more. Got that? That's why you
can't move it."
"But it's still there?"
"Yes. It is still there. Feel my hand on yours? Your right
arm is still there. Just immobilized. Until I can get you to a
doctor." He waited till he was certain Krycek understood.
"Krycek? Do you have a weapon hidden in the prosthesis? Krycek!
Krycek opened his eyes. Now that he had been reassured about his
right arm, he was having trouble focusing on anything. "Weapon?"
"Yes, Krycek. A weapon. Look, they got mine. Both of them.
Even took the cell phone. Do you have anything in the prosthesis?
A knife? A gun? Anything?"
Krycek had to think. "Knife. In boots."
Skinner grunted. "No. Not any more. They've been ripped apart.
And so's your jacket." He tried again. "Do you have
a weapon hidden in your prosthesis?"
Krycek shook his head slightly. "No."
"Shit!" Skinner gave the room another look, trying to
see if there had been anything he'd overlooked. Krycek said something.
Skinner looked back at him. "What? I missed that." Short.
"I said the thing's a weapon. Heavy. Metal."
Skinner went over to the pile of clothes and picked up the fake
arm. Krycek was right: the damn thing was heavy. Shit! No wonder
the stump looked the way it did. He swung it a couple of times.
By the straps. By the hand. Either way, it would pack a good wallop.
He picked up Krycek's clothes, brought them over to the man. "Let's
get you dressed. That'll keep you warm. And when we get out of
here, no one will notice the condition you're in. We don't want
to attract too much attention."
It took longer than he would have liked, simply because he didn't
want Krycek to lose consciousness. Finally he had gotten Krycek
dressed in shorts, jeans, socks, leather jacket zipped closed
to keep his arm stable. His boots were useless.
Krycek lay on the floor, Skinner's coat covering him for extra
warmth. He was beginning to shiver from shock. He kept moving
his fingers against his collarbone where Skinner had isolated
his hand, just to reassure himself that it was still there.
Matherson had promised to cut it off before he finally killed
He was having enough trouble adjusting to life with only one hand:
he had no intention of living with none.
"Skinner." His voice was dry, making it hard to be heard.
He had to try again before Skinner heard him.
"Help me sit up. By the door. Maybe trip one of them...when
they come back."
"Shit, Krycek. There are two of them! Why didn't you..."
Skinner cursed under his breath. Christ, Krycek was barely conscious.
Don't take it out on him. He wasn't the fucking idiot who followed
a suspect without back-up.
"You sure?" At Krycek's nod, he helped the man up, slowly
got him over to just that side of the door and helped him sit
down, back against the wall. He wrapped his coat around Krycek's
shoulders. The move had made him realize the condition the man
Krycek tried to find a position that would help lessen the pressure
on his ribs. He didn't give their chances a high percentage of
success. But sitting here, with luck, he might get one of the
men to shoot him while he still had an arm.
He dozed a bit, waking every time his head fell forward because
of the sudden pull of the muscles on his shoulders. The right
one was especially painful with what had to be strained ligaments.
It was after seven when they heard noise at the door. Krycek looked
to Skinner, who stood, the prosthesis harness wrapped tightly
around his hand. Like Krycek, he knew they didn't have much of
a chance. It would all depend on timing and luck.
The two men concentrated on the door. Krycek had pulled up the
leg closest to the door opening and put all the anger, all the
strength he had left into a kick that caught the first man just
above the ankle, snapping it. He screamed just as Skinner hit
him with the arm.
Matherson, who was behind him, tried to slam the door shut, but
his partner, now unconscious, lay partially in the doorway. Skinner
had picked up the man's gun in his left hand, not his best shooting
hand, but good enough to fire a couple of times and convince Matherson
to get out as quickly as possible.
Skinner pursued him to the stairwell, realized that he would never
catch him as he heard the upper door close and decided to get
Krycek out instead.
Krycek was not conscious. Lay on his more injured side. Skinner
barely spared a glance for the other man. He dragged Krycek out
to the hallway and shut the door on their assailant. He stowed
the prosthesis in the arm of his coat, wrapped the coat around
Krycek, buttoned it.
Taking a chance that his ribs were only bruised, that there was
no internal bleeding, Skinner hoisted Krycek over his shoulder,
in a fireman's hold, and, gun in his right hand, he got both of
them out of the building.
He kept to the shadows, thankful that at this time of the year,
darkness came early. And that in this part of town, the few people
they passed believed in minding their own business.
Actually made it back to his car without attracting the attention
"How is he?"
Joe Fischer looked up from washing his hands. He had been a doctor
in Marines for twenty years, a poker buddy of Skinner's off and
on for almost thirty, and now worked at a free clinic in the DC
"A couple of bruised ribs. Best left alone. Abrasions and
contusions. I've bandaged the wrist; change it as you see fit,
then leave it to the air. The rest don't need any special attention.
I'll leave some antibiotic cream for all those."
"Right shoulder, strained and torn ligaments. Keep him bound
up like I've done. That'll hurt like hell. You got codeine around?
Good. Give him some of that."
"Left stump. Severely traumatized. Whoever did that to him
was a butcher. And so was the asshole who tried to clean it up.
Fairly recent. In the last year. That prosthesis thing is too
heavy, too ill-fitting to be of much use. He should have one of
those new ones with electrodes and computer chips, but he'll need
surgery for that."
"Apart from that, he needs feeding up: he's underweight."
Joe had wiped his hands, come out of the bathroom off Skinner's
bedroom, was looking again at his patient. He had sedated Krycek
as soon as he had ascertained there was no chance of concussion.
"He'll sleep till morning at least, probably longer. That's
what he needs the most: sleep."
He looked at his poker buddy. "I just want to point out to
you, in passing, that I haven't asked why you haven't taken him
to a hospital. Why you've asked me to keep his presence here a
secret. I'm assuming that you have good reason for him to be here.
You being an FBI assistant director and all.
"And I don't want to know what his name is. But I will tell
you that his body tells me he's living hard. And those calluses
he has on his hand and feet tell me you'd better be on his good
"So, I will be checking in on my patient...and you...over
the next few days."
Skinner grinned. "I like the way you mind your own business,
Joe. And thanks. I do appreciate all this."
"Enough to let me win a couple of hands?"
Krycek woke stupid.
He was wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and beyond that his mind
didn't want to know.
Eventually some things made their way into awareness. The smell
of clean sheets. The softness of the pillow. The comforting heaviness
So he was in a bed. When was the last time he actually lay in
a bed? he asked himself. A clean one. He found himself pondering
over that as if it were a question whose answer might solve the
problems of the world.
He fell asleep still pondering.
The next time he woke, he tried to move just to make himself a
bit more comfortable. Pain flared from his right shoulder and
he forgot to be stupid.
He kept still, waiting for the pain to subside. Remembered Matherson
and his partner stumbling across him by merest bad fortune down
at the Circle. The guns in his back, the car drive to the studio.
Matherson's delight with his prosthesis.
Panic waved through him. His arm! Shit! He couldn't feel his arm!
Hadn't felt the left in some time: he was beginning to accept
that, still not quite used to that.
But the right! Matherson had promised he'd have a matching set
of arms by the time he got through with him. He tried to move
his right arm and couldn't.
Panic was making him breathe hard, made his ribs hurt, his stomach.
But the only thing he was aware of was the fact that he couldn't
move, couldn't feel his right arm or hand.
Jesus! He was barely surviving with the left one gone. How would
he with no arms? You couldn't kill yourself with no arms.
Panic, fear, terror overwhelmed him. The warm cocoon had become
a prison, a place of torment.
He was trying to pull out of it when hands forced him back, held
him down. A voice he knew in the back of his mind but couldn't
place was speaking over his terror.
Finally, Skinner gave up trying to get through to the wild animal
struggling beyond sense in the bed. He raised his hand and slapped
him hard on the side of his face that was less battered.
"Krycek! Stop it! You're only hurting yourself!"
Even then Krycek was beyond reason. Finally Skinner could make
out words in the sounds coming out of the man's mouth. My arm.
Over and over again. Barely coherent.
Skinner hauled Krycek up to a sitting position, captured the flailing
head between his two hands and held it still. "Krycek!"
He enunciated every syllable carefully, forcefully, hoping the
tactic would penetrate the nightmare. "Krycek! Your arm is
all right. Nobody has cut it off. Listen to me. You still have
Krycek stopped struggling, tried to focus on the face speaking
the words. A part of him told him the words were important, that
he should listen to them. A larger part of him just wanted to
scream. Slowly the balance of power shifted and he listened.
Recognized the words. Recognized the voice.
What was ... The studio. At the studio. Skinner was there with
him. Was with him now. This was a bed, not the studio. There hadn't
been a bed at the studio. So where were they?
And the words were beginning to make sense. He tried to get past
the fear to listen to the sense of the words Skinner was giving
Skinner saw Krycek begin to understand, saw the panic be pushed
down, heard the breathing become less stressed. He continued repeating
the words that Krycek seemed to need most: "You still have
The body between his hands slowly lost its rigidity, the head
became almost too heavy for the neck to hold upright.
Skinner moved closer so that Krycek could rest against him. He
used one hand to brace the man against him, the other to stroke,
in calming motion, the back of the head, the neck, the top of
the hunched shoulder. The drugs must have made him forget yesterday's
"Krycek. Are you listening?"
Krycek nodded his head against the large shoulder that supported
him. "Yes." More of a croak than a whisper.
"Your right arm is still there. Got that?" Another slight
head movement. "It's bound up because your shoulder was dislocated.
The ligaments need time to heal and the doctor doesn't want you
moving them around. So he bound up your arm." He shifted
Krycek a bit in his arms. "Feel that? That's my hand. I'm
touching your hand. Krycek?"
Krycek swallowed against the pain that was gradually making itself
felt. He realized that he could feel Skinner's hand. And that
it was touching his hand. He released some of the residual panic
and fear in a sigh. Nodded his head. "Yes. I can feel it.
Your hand. My hand." A deep breath that hitched as soon as
ribs protested. "Sorry."
Skinner carefully lay the man back down on the bed. Krycek's eyes
were closed, his face white against the bruises of yesterday's
beating, his torso damp with the sweat of fear. He could see the
pulse in his throat still jumping.
"There's nothing to be sorry about." He kept his hands
on Krycek's shoulders until the pulse settled.
Krycek felt the mattress shift as Skinner got up. A moment later
he heard water running nearby. Then Skinner was back, hand under
his head, raising it for the glass he held at his lips.
"Slowly. Your ribs don't need any more action. No coughing,
The water was cold, wet. His mouth was parched, foul with the
after effects of his panic. He drank slowly, letting the coolness
wash some sanity into him.
Then the hand released his head on the pillow and seconds later
a blessedly cool cloth passed over his face, neck, upper chest
removing the smell of his fear.
He opened his eyes to find Skinner's watching him, waiting to
see if there was going to be a repeat of his panic. Krycek's eyes
tracked beyond Skinner to case out the room. Survival instincts
were finally back in the forefront. He didn't recognize the place.
"You're in my bedroom."
Krycek's eyes came back to his, wary, but panic and fear gone
back to whatever place he stashed them in. "Your bedroom?
Well, at least it's warmer than your balcony."
Skinner quirked an eyebrow at the reference.
"What am I doing in your bedroom, Skinner?"
Well, thought Skinner, the boy recovers quick. "Your ex-partner
is still on the loose. He'll have a harder time getting to you
here than in a hospital."
Krycek moved a bit, trying to find a position that might be easier
on his shoulder. "He was working on his own. He knows I owe
him for the car bomb. He wants to get me before I get him."
Krycek closed his eyes. "Because I will get him."
The next time Krycek woke, he remembered where he was, how he'd
come to be here, that he still had one arm. Skinner was not around.
There was daylight in the bedroom, making its way past the curtains
in the window. Slowly moving his head as to avoid any pain, he
checked out the room, figured out that the bathroom was behind
the partially shut door.
And right now that was an important piece of information. Because
he needed to piss badly. It took him some time and a nearly bitten
lip to move his body up the bed to the headboard. Which gave his
spine the backing it needed to push himself into a sitting position.
From there to swinging his legs out from under the sheets and
to the floor.
He sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for the worse of the pain
to recede before he tried standing. If he fell, he had no guarantee
that he would be able to get himself back onto his feet. He really
didn't want Skinner to come back from wherever he was -- probably
work -- and find him lying in a pool of piss on the bedroom floor.
At which point he heard someone make a noise.
There, standing in the doorway of the bedroom, was a large black
man, shoulder leaning against the jamb, arms crossed on a Skinner-type
chest. He was watching Krycek with a bit of a smile on his heavy-featured
face. There was a thick moustache under his large nose. A clean-shaven
head over it.
"Don't panic, boy, I'm your doctor." The man didn't
move from his place. He waited till the other man had accepted
that information. "Skinner was right about you."
Krycek didn't react to that goad. Just waited, like his "doctor".
"He said that you were a ratbastard with guts." Fischer
straightened and strolled into the room. He shook his head, his
glare somewhat intimidating. "All you had to do, boy, was
He helped Krycek to his feet. Supported him into the bathroom.
Used one hand to keep him on his feet, the other to direct his
penis into the toilet. Krycek silently cursed to himself the whole
time his bladder emptied itself: this is what his life would be
like if Matherson got to him first.
Fischer was very aware of the "boy's" feelings. He had
helped enough double amputees in his career to interpret the signs.
Still, this one would recover the use of his arm quickly enough,
so he had no intention of wasting sympathy on him. Before returning
him to bed, Fischer helped Krycek brush his teeth, gave him a
very quick sponge bath.
"Those bruises of yours would make Picasso proud," he
commented. "You're lucky Skinner came across you when he
did. Apart from the shoulder and bruised ribs, you're doing fine."
Krycek said nothing. Had pushed deep within himself when he realized
just how helpless he was in his present state. He didn't respond
to the other's teasing tone, just waited for whatever was going
Fischer took a good look at his patient as he got him back into
bed. The boy looked to be in the preliminary stages of shock:
eyes almost black, no expression at all on his face, body doing
as he asked of it. Mind hidden somewhere.
Fischer propped him up on the pillows, taking care not to aggravate
the ribs, the shoulder. He went and got the tray he had left on
the landing when he'd heard the irregular breathing of a man doing
something he wasn't supposed to be doing.
Krycek slowly became aware of the mug of soup held to his mouth.
"Come on, boy, snap out of it!" His eyes began to focus
more. "That's better. You've only got a disabled shoulder.
You haven't lost the arm. Give it a week, and you'll be able to
put it to all sorts of uses."
He watched as some colour came back into Krycek's face. "Drink,
boy. It's soup and it'll help chase the chills away."
Krycek had almost finished the large mug when it finally struck
him that his doctor kept referring to him as "boy" in
a Skinner tone. He raised his head and really looked at the man.
"You're a Marine."
Fischer quirked an eyebrow at the comment. "What makes you
Krycek forced himself to relax. This was nothing more than a client
who had to be humoured. "You've got the same barber as Skinner."
Fischer surprised him with a chuckle. "Not bad, boy. You'll
The fact that he would live didn't balance the humiliations of
By the second day of his stay, he wanted nothing more than to
tear off the bandages that immobilized his arm. Both Fischer and
Skinner had taken turns helping him to the bathroom, cleaning
him. Helping him eat, wiping his face when he accidentally slobbered.
And, in spite of the continual reassurance from both men that
it was just a matter of time before he got the use of his arm
back, Krycek was beginning to drop into severe depression.
"It's not just this episode," Fischer said to Skinner
Friday evening as he got ready to leave. "I'm willing to
bet that he still hasn't adjusted to losing the other arm. It's
normal to be depressed at this stage of acceptance. Besides, he's
got nothing else to do but stew about it. He'll get out of it
when he's got the arm back and he's not dependant on anyone to
wipe his ass for him."
That hadn't stopped the nightmares. He'd often had dreams, most
of which he didn't remember when he woke up. Usually, he would
find himself sitting up in bed, gasping for breath, not sure what
it was that had awakened him.
Now and then, it would be worse: he would remember, near to screaming,
heart pounding, covered in sweat. Those were the nights he didn't
go back to sleep. That he used either to move on to another place,
or to go for a long walk till he had shoved his ghosts back into
the compartment in his brain where they stayed till their next
That night, his nightmares mixed themselves.
He was back in Tunguska, on the ground by the fire. They were
holding him down, sitting on his legs, his chest, his right arm.
The old man had wrapped a rope around his left wrist, was pulling
it taut all the while pushing against his ribs, his armpit with
In his dream, Krycek turned his head to see the butcher approach
him with the white-hot blade. Yelling curses, he tried to push
the men off him, to pull away. But they were very experienced
at holding people down.
The butcher knelt at his shoulder. Someone tore his shirt sleeve
down. The old man tightened his grip and pulled back even harder.
The blade cut and seared at the same time. Krycek couldn't believe
the pain. His curses changed to screams.
The blade hit bone, but the butcher was prepared for that. At
his signal, someone with a hammer hit the wide top of the blade
with just the right amount of force to slice through the bone
and continue its cutting.
The old man fell backwards.
Someone took the bloodied knife from the butcher and handed him
another one, also white-hot. He was going to go over the cut to
make sure it was thoroughly seared.
In Tunguska, Krycek had finally fainted at this point, but in
his dream the butcher became Matherson who, laughing, was pointing
with a white-hot blade at his other shoulder.
Krycek screamed and screamed again.
At the first scream, Skinner had run up from the living room couch
where he was sleeping. He turned on the light to the bedroom as
he entered, barely stopping on his way to the screaming man.
Krycek was thrashing on the bed, entangled in the bedclothes,
out of his head with images only he could see. Skinner grabbed
the man, tried to keep him from hurting himself, all the while
calling out his name.
Krycek's eyes had rolled back into his head. The scream diminished
only because Krycek had run out of breath. And he wasn't inhaling.
Skinner slapped him hard, forehand and backhand. "Come on,
damn you, breathe!" And again. "Breathe, Krycek, breathe."
And finally Krycek did breathe. A hitching, raspy breath, but
an inhalation nevertheless. Then an exhalation.
"That's it, boy. Do it again. And again. Good. You've got
But with breath came terror and Skinner watched as Krycek went
from shock to hysteria.
He tried hard to fight him off, used his upper body as a battering
ram until Skinner just dropped his own body on top of Krycek's
to keep him still. All the time talking, trying to get through
to him. To get him out of that nightmare world that was doing
its damnest to suck him back in.
He held the younger man tightly in his arms, stroking the trembling
body, calling his name, reassuring him that he was awake.
Krycek just kept on trying to escape, to pull away from the men
who had hurt him, from the man who was threatening to maim him
forever. Not understanding the voice that spoke to him.
Eventually Skinner's patience wore out. He sat up, pulled Krycek
up with him and shook him hard. "Krycek! Where are you? Krycek!"
He sharpened his tone to one he used when he had been ready to
ream, in Nam, one of those fucking West Point idiots they had
sent over as officers who, instead of leading them, were putting
their lives in danger.
The tone got through to Krycek. He knew the voice had nothing
to do with Tunguska, nothing to do with Matherson. He tried hard
to concentrate on it.
"That's it, Krycek. Don't let it control you. Get a handle
on it. Come on, boy, don't let it get to you."
Skinner watched as Krycek's eyes began to green again, to focus.
To push the nightmare aside, to hold onto his eyes as a lifeline
out of the nightmare.
"Skinner?" His throat was raw from his screams.
"That's right. Skinner." He pulled the shivering man
close to him, pulled the blanket around so that he could cover
Krycek's back, hoping the extra warmth would help soothe the man.
Krycek dropped his head to rest against Skinner's collarbone.
The residual nightmare threatened to overcome him again. He tried
to swallow his fear, tried to remind himself that he was safe
-- as safe as he could ever be -- here in Skinner's arms, not
by some fire or hanging by some rope in a sound-proof studio.
Skinner could feel Krycek trying to control his breathing, his
memories. He pulled the head close to his chest, one big hand
just holding it there, the other gently massaging the tight neck
and shoulder muscles.
Krycek made a small noise.
"Hey, it's all right. You're safe here." Skinner repeated
the words over and over.
And because he wanted to believe it, had to, Krycek let the terror,
the fears not only of the nightmare, but of the past year, flow
Skinner heard the first sob breaking from the man echo in the
trembling of his body. He wrapped his arms around the weeping
man, holding him even tighter, yet always aware of his physical
He held Krycek, gently rocking him in his arms, making soothing
sounds that weren't words. Rested his own head on Krycek's, just
letting the man get through his pain.
It took a long time for the sounds of weeping to soften, become
exhaustion, to fade into sleep.
All that time Walter Skinner held Alex Krycek until he too, just
before dawn, fell asleep.
The morning wasn't much better.
Krycek lay like a rag doll doing whatever Skinner told him to,
but other than that, nothing.
Fischer looked at his patient differently this morning. His face
still bore the signs of last night's nightmare and weeping. He'd
bitten his lip at some point. His eyes were almost black: Fischer
was certain that in bright light, Krycek would be blind.
"Krycek." He tried to keep his voice even yet sharp,
a way of penetrating the fog the man was in. "Krycek. I'm
going to unwrap your arm. I need to see just where those ligaments
"Skinner here is going to help me. He's going to prop you
Skinner moved behind Krycek, sat so he could hold the man up.
Fischer started unwrapping the bandages that confined Krycek's
arm, talking all the while he was doing it, basically describing
every action of his hands.
"There, that's the last of the binding. Now, I've got your
hand and I'm placing my other hand on your shoulder. Okay, Krycek,
this is where I need you. I need you to bend your elbow. Nothing
else. Just bend the elbow. Pull up your hand. Krycek! Do it!"
Krycek turned his head to the order. What did the voice want him
to do? Oh, yeah, pull up his hand. Could he do that?
"Alex. Pull up your hand."
Skinner's voice he recognized. And did as he had been told.
"Good. That's real good. Okay, now look at me, Krycek. Really
look at me."
Krycek focused on the voice, felt it pull him out of the fog.
"That's it. You're doing fine. Look at me." Fischer
was happier with the way Krycek was holding his head, was beginning
to squint with his eyes, even the way he swallowed. "Welcome
"Now listen, because if you don't, this is going to hurt
like hell. I want to see just how far healed those ligaments are.
I don't want any heroics from you, understand? I need to know
the moment there's any pain. And I need to know just how severe
it is. Got that?"
Krycek nodded slightly. "No heroics," he rasped.
The next minute or so lasted forever. He had some movement in
the shoulder but nowhere near enough for Fischer to leave the
"Okay. Here's what we're going to do. Krycek, are you listening
to me? The shoulder still needs to be kept immobile, so I need
to wrap it again. But this time I'll just bind you above the elbow.
You'll need to keep the arm in a sling, but you should be able
to use the lower half of your arm. On the condition that you use
it only to the point of pain. More than that, the ligaments will
take longer to heal. You got that?"
Fischer talked him through the binding, watching carefully as
Krycek fought off the panic that was never far away. When he had
finished, he helped Skinner prop Krycek up on pillows. Gave him
some water to drink.
"Now, I'm going to examine the other shoulder. And I want
you to tell me how that happened."
Krycek lay on the pillows, eyes closed, waiting for the pain in
his shoulder to diminish to a throb. His hand, freed against his
stomach, played with the waistband of the sweats they'd put on
him. The fingers felt stiff, but they were there, feeling and
being felt on his skin.
"Mulder told me about Tunguska," Skinner was speaking
now. He found it easier to focus when Skinner was the one speaking.
"I know what happened to you until you dropped out of the
back of the truck. What happened next, Krycek?"
It took a couple of tries before he could get the words out. The
two men listened, Fischer wincing when he heard how the arm had
been amputated and again when Krycek answered his questions about
follow-up care, the attempt by an improperly equipped rural physician
to clean up the mess. No anaesthetic for the first, barely any
for the second. No wonder the man had nightmares.
Skinner was the one who got him talking about Matherson's threats.
Krycek hadn't moved at all during the telling, voice barely changing
in tone. Now, his voice began revealing the fear he was dealing
with, with varying success.
"Matherson said he was going to cut off my arm. Use a blow
torch to cauterize it." He took a breath to get the fear
back down. Continued after a moment. "Ham- string me. He
said he'd keep me around to entertain him and his pals. When I
bored them, he might kill me. Or just pass me on to someone else."
"Jesus Christ!" Fischer glared at the unseeing man.
"Nice bunch of people you hang around with!" But he
filled a syringe and with a gentle touch, injected the drug into
"It's just a light dose," he explained to Skinner. "He'll
sleep for three, maybe four hours. Then, even though his ribs
and shoulder need the rest, get him out of bed. Move him downstairs,
onto the couch. Get him to watch TV, listen to music, anything.
"And though I'd rather he not use the hand, get him to do
a few easy things with it. Maybe if he feels less constricted,
he'll be able to fight that depression off faster."
Which is how Krycek found himself, late Saturday afternoon, propped
up on Skinner's couch, watching a football game. It wasn't a sport
that interested him much. But the fact that for Skinner it was
more than a spectator sport was beginning to penetrate even his
Skinner graphically commented on the action, the play selections,
the players, the coaches, the referees. Even argued with the commentators.
Krycek found himself watching the game so he could understand
At one point, Skinner went into the kitchen and came back with
a couple of drinks; beer for himself, a soft drink with a straw
for Krycek. It wasn't that easy for him to get the straw to his
mouth, but the fact that he could do so had the desired effect:
he relaxed into the pillows that were stacked behind him.
Skinner tried to keep supper to things Krycek could manage on
his own. Soup with a straw. Sandwich cut up small enough for him
to manoeuvre with a long fork without making a mess.
He'd gone out and rented some stupid comedy Fischer had recommended
just so the evening would be more relaxed. The movie was so bad
that for a few minutes Skinner was afraid that the idea would
backfire. Then, suddenly, Krycek came out with the next line of
dialogue before the actors did, and it became a bit of a game
between them as to who could guess the next scene, the next bit
of dialogue before the film itself.
So that getting Krycek ready for bed was less stressful for the
man than it had been up till then. There had been, for Krycek,
a sudden rise in tension when he realized that Skinner would be
sleeping in the bed with him.
"Sorry, Krycek, even for you I can't stand another night
on that couch." Skinner turned off the light, stripped to
his shorts, and casually got into bed. He pounded his pillow into
the shape he preferred, yawned, turned his back to Krycek. "
Krycek wondered just how real all that was, fought off sleep until
he heard Skinner's soft snore. He hated to admit it to himself,
but the time downstairs had tired him out. He made himself just
a bit more comfortable on the pillows, and went to sleep.
When the nightmare grabbed hold of him, Skinner was there to wake
him up before he got to the screaming stage. Skinner moved so
that he could hold Krycek back against him, arm around the man's
waist, anchoring him against his chest. "Go back to sleep,
Krycek. I'll keep the nightmares away."
On thinking about it, Krycek found he believed Skinner and slept
through the rest of the night.
The next morning, Skinner carefully unbound Krycek's shoulder
and got him into the shower. He didn't leave him alone; Fischer
didn't want him falling and re- injuring that shoulder.
For Krycek, the pleasure of just standing in the water far outweighed
the fact that Skinner had to wash him down. Still, when he was
covered in shampoo and soap, Skinner moved him under the spray
so at least he got to rinse himself off.
Instead of the sweats he'd been wearing, Skinner helped him don
his own jeans, now freshly laundered. One of Skinner's old sweaters
went on, leaving him with enough space to move his hand.
"You want that beard to stay on or come off?"
Krycek looked at his reflection in the bedroom mirror. "Off."
Between the shave, the shower, the clothes, Krycek thought that
maybe he might just survive after all.
The discovery that they both played chess helped put Krycek's
brain back into gear. The first couple of games were basically
time fillers, a way of getting through the morning until Skinner's
football game started on TV.
The third game, played during lunch, gave each glimpses of the
other's strategies. Skinner spent the afternoon looking up for
replays and trying to figure out just where Krycek was going with
his queen. Krycek discovered that though Skinner was a traditionalist
in his moves, he had more than enough military experience to manipulate
When the football game was over, Skinner filled his CD player
with jazz, ordered in Chinese, and settled down to warfare with
They went to bed late, still arguing a couple of moves from the
last game. And when the nightmare came, Skinner pulled the still
sleeping Krycek into his arms, who, once aware who was holding
him, settled back into a dreamless sleep.
Skinner got him up early the next morning. Helped him wash, dress,
showed him where things were in the kitchen. "Try to keep
the place passably clean, will you? And don't set any fires."
Krycek smiled. "Can I throw anyone off the balcony?"
Skinner glared at him as he was checking his briefcase. "Don't
even think about it. Fischer said he'll drop in on his way to
the clinic, around one. He's got a key to the place, but he'll
buzz before he opens the door."
Fischer was far better pleased with Krycek than he expected to
be. He was proving to be sensible about using his hand. And he
had to agree, Krycek did indeed seem to be a fast healer. The
shoulder was much better, he had far more mobility than his last
examination. This time, when he bound up the upper arm, he left
the bandage much looser so that Krycek would have still more manoeuvrability.
"How's the other shoulder?"
"Twitches now and then."
"How bad is the phantom pain? And don't tell me you don't
Krycek grimaced. "Sometimes bad. Starts for no reason. Goes
away for no reason. I get the feeling that if I could just rub
my hand, the pain would go away."
"Another operation might help with the pain level. And the
frequency. But from what I've read, the phantom pain thing will
probably be with you till they bury you."
Krycek grunted. Made no comment about the operation. Fischer didn't
let it go. "You should do some serious thinking about that,
Krycek. You need some clean-up to be able to wear one of those
new prosthesis. The old ones all require harnesses and straps,
and they're cumbersome.
"And you might like to remember over here I can guarantee
you'd be out completely for the operation. And the recovery couldn't
be any worse than what you're feeling now."
Skinner came home to find a fairly clean kitchen, Krycek watching
CNN, and the chess board set up for a game. He changed into jeans
and a sweater, threw a store-made lasagna into the microwave,
made a salad. They ate over the chess board, Skinner challenging
Krycek to explain "Just where the fuck are you going with
Over the next couple of days, Krycek's ribs tolerated more pressure,
his shoulder more mobility. Fischer added some gentle exercises
to Krycek's routine: he had returned to his daily regime of stretching
and kicking, a sort of self-adapted form of Tai Chi.
Thursday, Skinner came home with a foul headache, stinking of
cigarette smoke. He vented off to Krycek about that "cigarette-smoking
bastard" who had spent most of the day, sitting in his office,
polluting the air with his endless smokes, "Looking at me
all day long like he knew something, like a cat who knows the
canary is his."
He didn't notice Krycek's reaction to that.
Krycek sat on the couch, listening to Skinner grouch, slowly exercising
his arm all the while.
He knew his time here was at an end. That he should have in fact
left a couple of days ago. But it was a rarity in his life, this
feeling of safeness, the pleasure of taking time for a chess game,
playing it, analyzing it. Of sharing a bed, of being held, with
no mention of payment, with no expectations of performance on
Skinner had bought him another pair of boots to replace the ones
Matherson had sliced up. Had had his jacket repaired. Krycek knew
where Skinner kept his spare revolver, his real spare, not the
Bureau issued one. The ammo to go with it.
He was very quiet that evening. Skinner had files to read, so
Krycek lay on the couch, eyes shut, just listening to the soft
jazz playing in the background.
When Skinner took his shower, Krycek hid the gun and ammo in his
jacket, left his boots by the door. He took some money out of
Skinner's wallet, added it to his jacket. Made sure his prosthesis
was in the closet by the door.
Upstairs, when he undressed, he folded his clothes, added a sweater
of Skinner's to the pile, got into bed. He wanted some more time
between clean sheets.
Skinner went through his bedtime routine before settling down.
Krycek waited till Skinner's snores were deep and regular before
he slipped out. With careful moves so as to not alert the sleeping
man, he straightened his side of the bed so that it looked as
though no one had used it. Checked out the bathroom.
Downstairs, he dressed quickly, looked around so that nothing
that could be identified as his was lying around. He did one last
thing he hoped Skinner would understand, and then left.
A finger leaning on his doorbell woke Skinner up. It was barely
five o'clock. He turned to see if Krycek...the bed was smoothed
down. He grabbed his robe and went to see who was on the bell.
"Ah, Mr. Skinner. We seem to have gotten you out of bed."
Jesus! Shit!, thought Skinner, what the fuck is that bastard doing
"What do you want?" Skinner blocked the Smoker's way
into his apartment: he may have to endure him at the office, but
this was his home and it was off-hours.
One of the two men behind the Smoker pulled out a badge identifying
him as an agent with OPC. "We would like to speak to you
about a matter that has come to our attention. Assistant Director
Skinner sighed deeply, drawing out the moment. This explained
the smoothed half of the bed. He stepped back, silently allowing
the men in.
While one of them checked out the downstairs, the other went upstairs.
The Smoker took out a cigarette, was about to light it when Skinner
took it out of his mouth. "Not in my home you don't."
And held the Smoker's eyes till he put the lighter back in his
"Who are you playing chess with, AD Skinner?"
Skinner moved into the living room, looked down at the chess board
that last night had been lined up for a new game. He raised an
eyebrow at the OPC agent who till now had not found anything he
was looking for. "It's a problem move that I'm working out.
Sort of like the problem you seem to be posing me. Just what is
it that you're looking for here, in my apartment?"
The agent looked over Skinner's shoulder to the other man now
standing by the Smoker. "Sorry, Assistant Director. We were
given some information that we might find a known felon hiding
here. I'm sure you understand that we had to check it out."
Skinner got that look that made so many of his agents under him
fidget. This man, as the silence grew, was no exception. "Well,"
Skinner spoke very softly, "maybe next time you'll double
check your information before waking me up before the crack of
dawn. Are you leaving now?"
The man nodded once, stepped around Skinner who didn't move out
of his way. He and the other agent quickly left the apartment.
Skinner and the Smoker exchanged glacial glares.
The Smoker took out a cigarette, put it in his mouth. "Next
time, Skinner." He paused just outside the still open door
to light his cigarette.
Skinner waited till he heard the sound of elevator doors closing
before he went to shut the door.
He returned to the chess board. He had no trouble recognizing
the set up. Krycek was warning him to protect himself.
About a month later, Skinner came home to find a message from
Fischer on his answering machine, telling him to put on the news.
The phone rang again as the hourly newscast began.
"You watching the news, Walt?"
"I just got in, Joe. Give me time to listen to it."
The lead feature was about a car bombing in which two men had
died. One of the men had a long list of arrests to his credit,
a man who had often used the name David Matherson as an alias.
The other dead man was as yet unidentified.
"Hold on, it gets better." Fischer said.
"In an unrelated incident, there was a second car bombing
in which a known drug dealer was killed."
"How is this better?" Skinner muttered into the phone,
still mulling over the details of the first bombing.
"Remember the night I was telling you how some new guy was
whipping up a war in the zone by the clinic. A guy who didn't
see the clinic as being a neutral part of the zone. The guy whose
goons had threatened a couple of my nurses. Your boy was paying
much more attention than we thought."
Skinner was happy that he had had the phone line checked out for
wire taps that morning. "What makes you say it was my boy?"
"The guy and his goons were all in that limo when it went
up. Rumour has it they had just bought themselves a briefcase
full of crack. Paid for it in cash.
"Well, a case full of cash was dropped off here this evening,
just as I was closing up. I counted it. $327,635. And there was
a note in the case, addressed to me. Said 'Payment for services'."
His voice registered his appreciation. "Your boy is good."
Skinner rubbed his eyes. "You going to keep it?"
"Shit, Walt, the clinic doesn't get any funding whatsoever,
not even a nominal amount from the city since cut-backs. What
the hell do you think?"
The next week, a parcel arrived for Skinner in the Bureau's daily
mail. There was a tape in it with a note: "Keep in a safe
place. Use as needed."
Skinner waited until he was home before listening to the tape.
It was a telephone conversation between the Smoker and a voice
that was often in the news these days, a man recently acquitted
of racketeering charges in Maryland.
Their conversation dealt with money laundrying, making it very
obvious that the Smoker was setting up a deal for the racketeer,
for a percentage. And part of the tape also made it clear that
this conversation had occurred after the man's acquittal.
Skinner tossed the tape in the air and caught it.
Fischer was right: his boy was good.
End of Part 1