Title: CLOSED DOORS (in 5 Parts)
Author: Josan
Beta: Jamwired
Date: April, 2000
Summary: Entry in one of the April SkinnerKrycek challenges: H/C with K raped and Sk offering
the comfort.
Pairing: Duh!
Rating: Lots of PG-13 with some NC-17
Archive: With thanks to CJK at: http://adult.dencity.com/CJK/index.html Yes, to Basement, Ratlover
Comments: jmann@mondenet.com OR, if you're getting bounced due to the anti-spam filter my server has added, try jmann@spam.mondenet.com

 

DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013, but if they won't use them, they can't really complain if we do.

SPECIAL THANKS: to all the members of SkinnerKrycek who helped with the new title, found those little things I still can't see, even with my glasses on.

Part 1

"Look, you should at least report this to the authorities. I mean, man, you were raped. The times have changed. The cops, they have a special team to deal with things like this."

Skinner hesitated. He was on his way out of the hospital, having visited one of his agents who had been assaulted that evening. He'd parked his car on the street, was cutting through Emergency to get back to it.

"Forget it. It's not important."

Now he stopped. He knew that voice. Heard it often in his nightmares.

He stepped back to behind the booth it was coming from.

"Look, at least take this. It's a pamphlet put out by the Men's Rape Crisis Group. I can understand your not wanting to report this, but you're going to need counselling. These guys are good. They can help."

"Just hand me my arm and let me get out of here."

Skinner stepped back even further, watched as a man he recognized as Alex Krycek limped out of the examination booth, prosthetic arm tucked under his real arm, and headed out towards the hospital door.

The young resident stood, holding back the curtain, shaking his head. Skinner pulled out his ID, showed it to the man. "What happened to him?"

The resident, already heading for his next chart, shrugged. "He was raped. By several men." He was already looking over the chart, heading for the next booth. Skinner stayed with him. "And beaten. He's got no insurance, so he's leaving though he should be checking in for overnight at least. He's got some prescriptions to be filled, but he won't because he hasn't any money. They took what he had." He pulled the curtain aside, stepped in, Krycek already forgotten in his mind as he went in to deal with another casualty of the Washington night.

Skinner waited at the curtain, thinking. With a slight nod, he turned, went out to his car.

He found Krycek not far from the hospital, sitting on one of the benches they had at the closest bus stop. He pulled over to the curb, reached over and opened the passenger side door. "Krycek."

No reaction.

"Krycek!"

Krycek's head came up slowly. By the street light, Skinner could see that Krycek's face was swollen, one eye almost closed. There was a bandage over one eyebrow, another along his left cheek. Skinner knew Krycek knew who he was, but he showed no reaction whatsoever.

"Get in." Skinner switched to Marine tones, recognizing shock when he saw it. "I...said...get...in!"

As if every movement hurt -- and it probably did -- Krycek got off the bench, gingerly made his way into the car. Skinner had to reach over him to close the door, found himself wondering when was the last time Krycek had showered.

Apart from placing the arm on his lap, Krycek didn't move. Skinner glanced at him now and then as he drove to a near-by all night pharmacy. One thing to be said for Monday nights: parking was easier to find. He stopped the car, turned in his seat to face the man who had barely twitched. "The prescriptions, give them to me." No reaction. Skinner sighed. "Krycek. It's nearly midnight. I'm tired. Give me the fucking prescriptions. You still have them, right?"

With a grimace, Krycek leaned over to the left, reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a crumpled ball of paper. Skinner took it out of his hand, smoothed it out between his. There were four medications listed. Skinner looked from the paper to the man.

"Krycek, are you going to be here in the car when I come out of there? I'm willing to fork out the money these are going to cost, but not if I come back to an empty car. So, are you?"

Krycek looked at his hand, bent his head a bit, gave a little nod.

"I didn't hear you."

"Yeah," a rough whisper, "I'll be here."

And he was, head resting against the window, weight shifted off his ass, onto his hip, sound asleep.

Skinner shoved the bag of meds into his coat pocket, got in and took the time to look over the man who had suddenly reappeared in his life.

Eighteen months ago this man had been responsible for an information dump that had resulted in their being able to pull in the last remaining members of the Consortium on charges that had actually held. In the general brouhaha that followed, he had expected Krycek to show up, demanding recognition of some kind, immunity at the very least. Instead the man had just disappeared. Until tonight the general consensus had been that he was probably rotting away in some ditch somewhere. The most they had gotten from CGB Spender was one of his smiles whenever they had asked him about Krycek's whereabouts.

Instead, the man was here, alive. Looking like hell warmed over.

Skinner pulled back into the traffic, occasionally looking at his passenger, checking out the changes since he'd last seen him.

He was thinner, almost sinew and bone. His face, what wasn't swollen, was skin over bone. His clothes stank as much as he did. He had the greyed complexion of someone who hadn't had much contact with water. His clothes wouldn't be worth washing. Hell, soap would probably dissolve them. And the leather jacket looked even more beat up than the man.

He glanced down at the fake arm. Even that looked worn and battered.

Funny, Skinner thought as he pulled into the driveway and then the garage of his home, once he would have given a lot to have Krycek at his mercy. To have him to do with as he pleased. But that was before he had found out just how often Krycek had been ordered to kill him and hadn't. Spender had been very vocal on that point when he had been questioned about Krycek.

"If he'd done his job properly the first time, I wouldn't have had to depend on Cardinale, now would I? And even with the nanocyte technology, he managed to find a way of keeping you alive. I suppose you know by now that the cytes are not dependable unless reactivated every couple of months." (No, they hadn't.) "He didn't follow even those orders when I sent him with your instructions. Only you, Skinner. Now I wonder why that was?"

Skinner wondered too. And now he had a chance to find out. He leaned over to wake Krycek, placed his hand on Krycek's shoulder to shake him. And finally got a reaction. Krycek started, snapped his head around, eyes wide with terror. His right hand came up, not to attack, but to protect, to ward off an attack.

"Easy. It's only me." Skinner quickly pulled his hand back, watching as Krycek fought hard to get his fear under control. He wasn't completely successful.

Skinner got out of the car, pulled his briefcase from behind his seat, went over to open Krycek's door. He reached for the prosthesis, only to have Krycek make a soft animal sound, grab it with his arm and hold it to him. Skinner stepped back, Krycek slowly got out of the car.

He followed Skinner into his house, head down, shoulders raised as if ready to ward off a blow. He stood silently while Skinner hung his coat up, retrieved the bag of meds.

Skinner nodded to the stairs going up. "Come on, Krycek. Let's go re-acquaint you with water." He waited for Krycek to make a move. Krycek didn't. Skinner sighed, went to help the man up the stairs when Krycek flinched, moved towards the stairs. He clung to the right of the staircase, his eyes flickering between the steps and Skinner who made sure he stayed to the left and a bit behind the man. When Krycek stumbled, his toe hitting the lip of the upper step, Skinner reached out to catch him, and Krycek froze, cowering into the wall at his side.

"Easy, Krycek. Take it easy. Just a few steps more and we're there. Hot water and clean towels. Okay, whenever you're ready." And Skinner patiently waited until Krycek decided to continue up. He was careful not to reach for him on the rest of their journey into the bathroom. Once there, Krycek stood as if waiting for instructions.

"Take the clothes off, Krycek. You can't keep them on in the shower. Though they could use a turn with water. I'll run them through the laundry. Put the arm down on the hamper. Do you need help?"

*That* got Krycek moving. Not quickly. But Skinner had caught on that Krycek was not in top form in more ways than one. He had trouble getting his jacket off, the bloodied t-shirt. The doctor had bound his ribs with an ace bandage. "Are your ribs broken, Krycek? Krycek? Ribs, are they broken?"

Krycek slowly shook his head, face intent on his hand which was not dealing well with the bandage.

"Cracked?" Skinner watched as the hand fumbled with the clasps that held the bandage together. He waited until it was obvious even to Krycek that he wasn't going to get the things off before, moving carefully, he offered to help. He kept his body well back, used just his hand to unclasp the ties, pulled back as soon as they came off. Krycek had held very still while he'd done that, barely breathing. It took a couple of breaths before he tried to unwind the bandage, with little success. Skinner waited until the hand dropped to Krycek's side before coming closer to help.

As he unwound, the bruising along Krycek's ribs, stomach was revealed. Skinner found himself wincing at the sight of the large black markings. Jesus! What had they hit him with? Steel-toed boots? Bats? Once he had the bandage off, he knelt to help Krycek take off his boots, the holey socks that were so threadbare as to be transparent. Then he stepped back and let Krycek deal with his jeans, shorts himself. Again, with only one hand, it took time. Skinner turned his back to Krycek, went to turn on the shower, adjusted the water to a comfortable temperature.

"I use the body soap for shampoo. If you want to take that beard off, I'll leave a razor on the sink. And a new toothbrush as well."

He turned and caught the gasp of shock. Krycek's lower body was as bruised as his upper. Someone had really gone out of his way to work him over. Skinner stepped back as Krycek limped into the shower. He said nothing to the man but grimaced at his back with its welts -- someone had taken a belt, a strap of some kind to him - - and tried not to notice the blood that streaked his ass and thighs.

He found the items he had mentioned to Krycek, set them on the sink counter next to the clean towels. He went out to the spare bedroom, found a bathrobe Sharon had given him that he rarely used. He turned down the bed, added a blanket to it. And went to take a position, leaning against the wall opposite the bathroom door. He was beginning to wonder if he should go back in and see how Krycek was handling things when the door opened. Krycek hadn't shaved, some water was still shining on his skin, but overall he looked cleaner, smelt better than he had in the car.

Skinner pointed to the bedroom, watched as Krycek, naked, dragged one foot in front of the other, making his way in. Skinner hurriedly filled a glass with water, got the meds, another ace bandage and followed Krycek in. He was standing by the bed, as if asleep on his feet.

"I'm going to bind your ribs, Krycek. Tell me if this is too tight." But Skinner doubted Krycek would say anything even if he weren't able to breathe. He moved only to take the pills Skinner handed him. He looked at them for a moment, tossed them into his mouth. He took the glass from Skinner, drained it, handed it back. Skinner held the robe open for him to slip on. Krycek looked almost surprised at that, but allowed him to belt it shut.

"Bed."

It took Krycek some time to find a position he could endure. Skinner covered him with the blankets, turned down the light by the bed. He went and got another glass of water, set it on the nightstand and examined the man who had already slipped into sleep.

This was not a Krycek he recognized. Not just from the beating. This man cowered, was expecting to be hurt, almost accepting of that possibility. Skinner shrugged, figured it was just the moment. Krycek probably just needed some sleep, some food, a bit of time then he would spring back to his usual obnoxious self.

It really never crossed Skinner's mind that he might just be too optimistic about the situation.

Part 2

Three days later, Skinner was ready to admit that he was worried.

He stood by Krycek's bed, watching the man curled up under the blankets. It was hard to tell if he was asleep or not: he doubted that Krycek had moved since that first night.

Well, that was an exaggeration. He moved to take the meds Skinner gave him in the morning with a glass of Boost before he left for work. He took them too at night. And he must have taken them at lunch because those, which he left on the nightstand with a jug of Boost before going to work, were gone when he came home.

And he had to move to take showers because he was clean, his hair often wet, and the towels, neatly hanging, were damp.

But apart from that, all he seemed to do was sleep. And, though he should have been showing signs of getting better, he wasn't.

The doorbell rang and Krycek flinched in his sleep. Skinner sighed, went down to answer the door.

"Let me guess," Joe Fischer grunted, "Mulder's got himself in trouble again."

Skinner smiled. "No, got someone else for you to look at."

As they went upstairs, Skinner filled Fischer in on the situation.

He knew Fischer was a top-notch doctor. Not just by reputation, but also from some personal experience. He thought Fischer would quickly evaluate the situation, make a diagnosis and prescribe what was needed. What he had never really realized until he saw his friend with Krycek was just how gentle the physician could be. And just how ill Krycek was. How terrified of being touched.

Even though Fischer had wakened Krycek with what Skinner thought at first was undue gentleness, Krycek reacted badly. Fischer took the time to calm him, to reassure him, to let Krycek set the pace of the examination. He explained everything he did before he did it, allowing Krycek to pull back when it grew to be too much, letting him settle again before continuing.

Skinner found himself looking at Krycek through different eyes and was uncomfortable with the realization that he saw things now he should have seen earlier.

Fischer got Krycek to admit that nothing he ingested stayed down. That about fifteen, twenty minutes after he swallowed his meds, the Boost, they came up. That he could manage some water, sometimes. That his stomach hurt the most of all his injuries. No, after the first night, he hadn't vomited any blood.

"Walt, you got any hot water bottles in this house?"

Skinner thought, shook his head.

"Okay, go buy a couple. Three, in fact." He reached over and pulled out a prescription pad, jotted something on it, passed it to Skinner. "And this too." Fischer looked over his shoulder at the man lounging against the doorway. "Now, please."

Fischer noted how Krycek's eyes followed the man out, how he relaxed a bit more at his departure. The rest of the examination was not going to be easy and he wanted Krycek as comfortable, as untensed as possible.

Skinner came back to find Fischer with his arms around a trembling Krycek, making soothing noises, one of his hands gently rubbing a shoulder.

"Could you fill those hot water bottles for me, Walt?"

By the time he returned with all three, Krycek was resting partially on his right side, curled up. Fischer had rummaged around in the closet, found another bathrobe -- Sharon had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to separate Skinner from his favourite bedraggled robe -- and gotten that one around the man.

Fischer had some hand towels ready, wrapped one around each of the hot water bottles, placed one at Krycek's feet, another on his stomach and the third between his shoulder blades. He propped up a pillow against his back to keep it there.

Then he set up the saline drip he had had Skinner purchase. Krycek never moved.

"Let's talk downstairs." Fischer took one last look at his patient, double-checked the needle he had taped to Krycek's arm and went to join Skinner in the kitchen.

"Why isn't he in a hospital?"

"No money. No insurance. And even if he had, he probably wouldn't last long. Spender has a long memory."

"Well, if the stuff I shot into him doesn't work, he won't have any choice. I'll find room for him at the clinic if it comes to that." Fischer looked into the cup of coffee that Skinner served him. "So, he's not one of yours. I suppose that explains it."

"Explains what?" Skinner took the chair opposite.

"Why you never noticed. If he were one of yours, you'd have picked up the nausea, the dehydration, the compulsive showering. The marks on his mouth." He took a sip, aware that his friend was not comfortable with the way this conversation was going. "You know, of course, that he's been gagging himself. I found the towel under the pillow."

"What!"

So he hadn't known: Fischer felt some relief. "Yeah. He has nightmares. Doesn't want to call attention to that." Fischer placed his cup on the table. In his mind, his patient came first. He'd had some trouble with that philosophy when he'd been in the Marines. In this case, his patient came before his friendship. In the tones that used to set his entire staff to walking on tip-toe, he explained the physical state, the emotional state, the psychological state of the man he had found in his friend's spare bedroom.

Skinner may not have been a Marine for over twenty years, was a man with a reputation for being able to ream an agent within a inch of his life, but he had nothing on a Colonel Joseph Fischer who was quietly livid on the condition of a man who had been pushed to the absolute end of any reserves, any resources he might have had.

Even when Skinner tried to explain by giving the history of the man, his betrayals, his activities, his killings, Fischer was barely moved. He knew that most of what Skinner was telling him was classified information: not really a problem as he still had his security clearances even though he was retired.

He waited until Skinner had finished his defense before passing judgement.

"So he's no saint. But from what you say, he kept you alive when others wanted you dead. He found you all you needed to put away a conspiracy that would have seen the end of our life here as we know it, imperfect though it may be. And he never asked for payment. Never asked for anything in return.

"What he *has* gotten from this relationship with you and your people is alien possession, being locked up in a silo and left to die slowly, an arm cut off in the most barbaric of circumstances and no offer of immunity, of protection, of safety after he'd put his life on the line finding you your evidence."

Fischer stood up, aware that he might have put his friendship on the line. "I'll come by tomorrow morning to check in on him. If I don't see any improvement, I'll move him to the clinic. Get him off your hands. Have you got an extra key so I can let myself in?"

"I'll be....shit! no I can't be here. I've got an early meeting with Justice tomorrow. I can't get out of it." Skinner passed his hands over his head, frustration dealing with the feelings of guilt Fischer's lecture had brought up in him. Damn, the man was right. Anyone else but Krycek and he would have noticed things were bad earlier on.

Skinner came home to find a young black man waiting for him, reading a medical journal in his kitchen.

"Hi! Doctor Fischer said I shouldn't be surprised if you pulled out a gun on me. I'm Jim Tempest. I'm an aide at the clinic. I've been keeping an eye on the patient upstairs."

Skinner put his gun away. "How's he doing?"

"Better. He's keeping down liquids. Doctor Fischer asked me to tell you that he won't be around this evening. If it's all right with you, he'll pass by on his way home tomorrow morning." At Skinner's unasked question, he added, "Friday nights we're pretty busy at the clinic, usually until the early hours.

"I've set him up with another saline drip, given him his injections, so he'll be okay until then. If he needs to go to the bathroom, he needs help with the bag. And he's pretty unsteady on his feet. Don't touch him if he hasn't seen you coming and wait until he nods to help him. You might want to refill the hot water bottles before you go to bed."

Skinner checked in on the patient after he changed his clothes. Krycek was sleeping, curled up in a cocoon of covers. But Tempest was right. He *did* look better, had more colour in his face, seemed to be resting more comfortably.

"So do I take him to the clinic?" Fischer yawned widely. It was seven a.m. and he desperately wanted his bed.

"No. I'm taking Monday off. That's all the time I can take off right now. Tell me what to do and I'll do my best."

Fischer was pleased enough with Krycek's progress to take him off the drip by that evening. He left instructions for feeding, things to watch out for, and the recommendation that Krycek be encouraged out of the bedroom and downstairs. "He needs some physical activity. Nothing strenuous, his ribs are still pretty sore, but get him moving. That'll be good for his body and for his mind."

By Sunday, Krycek joined him downstairs when he suggested it, ate his meals -- clear soups and puddings -- at the table, even found himself a comfortable position on the couch for watching the football game. But all that time Skinner was aware that though the man was there physically, mentally he wasn't.

He had to call his name several times for a reaction. And often even then he wasn't sure Krycek really heard him. Apart from the fear he had trouble controlling if Skinner came too close to him, it was like having a zombie in the place.

"Give him time," counselled Fischer. "The anti- depressants need time to work."

By Tuesday, Skinner was willing to admit -- if only to himself -- that he did not like this Krycek. He found that, all things considered, he would rather hear the sarcastic tones than the bland whisper that answered his few questions, see the sardonic look on that face rather than the expressionless features, the challenge rather than the frightened acceptance.

Physically, Krycek was healing: mentally, who knew?

Part 3

Over the next week, Skinner thought he saw some improvement in Krycek's mental state.

He answered when called. Actually seemed to be aware of what was going on around him. Had graduated to semi-solid food.

Fischer still popped in to check on him every couple of days, sometimes staying with him in his room for a good hour before coming down to chat with Skinner. He never told Skinner what he and Krycek talked about: Skinner knew better than to ask. Each visit, before leaving, Fischer would casually mention keeping an eye on Krycek and any abnormal behaviour.

Skinner finally understood the message when he came home early one afternoon and found Krycek in his bathroom, door closed. From the state of the bed, he assumed Krycek had just gotten up from a nap: he still slept a lot. Skinner could hear the shower running and, for some reason, he gave a knock on the door and opened it.

The room stank of vomit and steam.

Shit! He'd had another nightmare.

Fischer had, in Skinner's presence, forbidden Krycek to gag himself. Skinner had been awakened a few times by Krycek screaming, blathering. He would go to the man, carefully rouse him following Fischer's instructions. Once or twice he had found Krycek in the bathroom, head in the toilet, puking his guts up. He had cleaned him up, gotten him back into bed, refilled the hot water bottles and settled him back to sleep. Every time, Krycek would allow Skinner to touch him more than he usually would and then, pulling away, would whisper his thanks.

This time, from the steam in the room, he realized that Krycek had to have been in the shower a while. "Krycek? You okay?" And pulled back the heavy shower curtain to find a shuddering Krycek rubbing himself raw with a balled up face cloth in his hand.

"Jesus! Krycek!" Skinner quickly turned off the cooling water, grabbed a bath sheet and, stupidly, reached out to pull the man out of the tub.

Krycek screamed, dropped to the floor of the tub, cowering against the back.

It was then that Skinner realized Krycek was crying hysterically.

Unsure, he stepped away from the tub then closed the door to keep in the heat and sat on the toilet. He kept his voice calm, even, remembering the way Fischer had gotten through to him that first night. Gradually, Krycek's sobs diminished, until the only sound he made was a soft hiccupping. He still lay, curled tightly around himself, as if protecting himself from some beating, his body only occasionally shuddering.

"Alex. No one's going to hurt you here. It's going to be okay. You're safe here." Eventually Krycek moved. He rested his head against the rim of the tub, allowed Skinner to drape the bath sheet over him.

Skinner knelt by the tub, sat back on his heels, careful to keep his hands on his thighs. "Alex. Why the hell didn't you come to us after you dumped all that information? Surely you know we would have protected you."

Krycek actually laughed. For a moment there, Skinner thought it would lead to another bout of hysteria. Krycek must have thought so too because he quickly caught the sounds, hand on mouth. When he was back under control, he opened his eyes.

"What was so funny, Alex?"

Krycek looked at him. Directly. For the first time since Skinner had picked him up at the bus stop bench.

"I did go to you. I was told that it was too late. Spender..." Krcyek pulled the sheet closer to himself.

"Who told you it was too late? And what does Spender have to do with this?" Skinner kept his tone gentle, knowing that if Krycek had suddenly decided to talk, he couldn't rush him.

Krycek took a deep breath, released it in a sigh. He explained hesitantly. "Ferguson. I met with Ferguson. He told me that I should have made the deal before I dumped the information. That you had worked out a deal with Spender. That Spender was being given immunity. That part of the deal for Spender's giving you more information was that nothing was to be done for me. And that you, personally, had agreed to that."

Skinner cursed. "Alex. I swear. This is the first I've heard of this. I never made a deal with Spender. Immunity was never offered to him. We've got him in a top-secret holding tank and he hasn't given us any information. All we have, all we used, came from you. I don't know anything about a meeting between you and Ferguson. I swear, Alex. I know I can't prove it, but, so help me God, I didn't know.

"I do promise you that I'll look into this right away. I don't know what charges are still pending, but I'll look into that too. I swear, Alex."

He waited while Krycek processed all of this. It took a few minutes before Krycek nodded, tiredly whispered, "Okay."

Skinner got to his feet, offered Krycek a hand to rise. Krycek looked at it, then at him. As if making a decision, he reached out with his hand, placed it in Skinner's and allowed the man to help him to his feet and out of the tub. Skinner noticed he was trembling again, probably out of exhaustion rather than emotion. He helped Krycek back to his bed, finished drying him off, wrapped him up in the bathrobe he used to sleep in and sat with him in the bed.

At first, Krycek froze in the embrace. Then, slowly, he relaxed, allowing his body to rest against Skinner's, his head on Skinner's shoulder.

Skinner waited until he felt the man was more comfortable then he slowly began massaging the shoulder under his hand. Krycek didn't react negatively to that, so Skinner kept on doing it.

"Alex. I need to know something. I don't want this to upset you," Krycek stiffened, "but I need to know. Who beat you up? Was it some of Spender's thugs?"

It took some time to get an answer. Skinner didn't force the issue, just held Krycek, soothing him. He was beginning to think Krycek had fallen asleep when he sighed, spoke. "No. I got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Just some drunks out to have some fun gay-bashing. They caught me coming out an alley near a gay bar." He gave a little laugh. "You'll love the irony of this. I had just sold my gun to some jerk who found another way out of the alley when they attacked me. Some guys coming out of the bar broke it up, brought me to the hospital. They all chipped in to pay for the emergency visit and left."

"You're going to be okay," Skinner rubbed his cheek on the wet head tucked under his chin. "You're safe here. No one is going to hurt you here."

The next day at Headquarters, Skinner discovered that Ferguson was no longer a member of the FBI, that he had left just before his name had appeared on one of the lists on a disc that Krycek had sent to them. That he was nowhere to be found.

"We didn't get him right away. The disc had a security code on it that took some time to crack. He was gone by then." Keith Holleran leaned back in his chair, nearly tipping it over. "Some of that stuff your man dumped on us still hasn't been opened. You wouldn't believe our backlog."

Skinner looked at the man whose department was in charge of breaking open security codes. Holleran and his group were occupants of another part of the basement at Headquarters. Important in the scheme of things, considered by most agents and administrators not to be true members of the organization since they were computer nerds, geeks who rarely associated with anyone else in the place. Skinner himself had never met Holleran until the Spender affair.

The meeting with Jana Cassidy went somewhat better. The new Director agreed with Skinner that had he come to anyone other than Ferguson, Krycek would have been granted immunity. Several phone calls, too many meetings with Justice later, and Skinner came home one night with the offer of a new identity, relocation if that was what Krycek wanted along with immunity.

There had been some changes in the house in the weeks all that had taken.

Krycek seemed to be finally coming out of his depression. He'd started doing things around the house. Skinner was surprised to find himself coming home at night to a meal. Nothing fancy. Stews, chicken paprika like his grandmother used to make. Never anything that couldn't be warmed up since he never arrived at the same time.

The nightmares were less of a problem. Krycek now allowed Skinner to wake him without reacting too badly, allowed himself to be held, comforted. A few times, Skinner had fallen asleep in Krycek's bed, his arms around him, both of them sleeping soundly until morning.

Which is how Krycek ended up in Skinner's bed.

Part 4

One night, Krycek didn't waken in time, didn't made it to the toilet, puked all over his bed.

It was three o'clock in the morning. Skinner got him cleaned up, stripped the bed and decided the rest could wait until morning. He moved Krycek into his bed, pulled the still trembling man into his arms and went back to sleep.

Krycek, he had noticed, slept better when he didn't sleep alone.

That night, he suggested that Krycek sleep with him. The nightmares had the habit of coming in twos: twice in a row, then a few nights not. Krycek hesitated, then agreed. Slept the night through without even a murmur. And stayed.

And then there was the morning Skinner woke to his being on the point of coming into Krycek's mouth. He'd been having what he thought was an erotic dream, only to find that the magical mouth working on him belonged to the man he had taken to his bed to comfort.

"That wasn't necessary," he said once he caught his breath.

Krycek lay next to him, head propped up on his elbow. "Maybe," he looked very serious, "but you should be getting something out of all this. My being here has probably put a damper on your sex life."

Skinner opened his eyes and examined the man next to him. "How much did they have on me?"

Krycek shrugged. "Some tapes, a few pictures. Enough to have ruined you if they had wanted. Spender always thought he could use that if he needed to break you."

Skinner reached out, stroked Krycek's face. "Instead he sent you to kill me."

Krycek shrugged as well as he could. "I destroyed everything I could find." That night Skinner tried to return the favour only to find that Krycek still had trouble with being touched. That what he wanted, what he needed, was just to be held. Skinner didn't think it was much of an exchange, but decided that with time, Krycek would allow him to return some of the pleasure Krycek brought him.

And then he brought home the papers for Krycek's immunity.

Krycek had refused the offer of a new identity, of witness protection. He held the papers, quietly thanked Skinner for all that he had done. That night, Skinner thought his head was going to blow off before Krycek allowed him to come. After, he curled up around Skinner, snuggled as close as he could and slept. In the morning, still in bed, his eyes followed Skinner as he dressed for the office and a breakfast meeting.

"I should be back by seven. The only thing on the agenda today is a meeting with Holleran about some tapes."

As he went out the bedroom door Krycek called, "Walter."

Skinner stopped, looked over his shoulder.

"Have a good day."

Skinner grinned his thanks.

It started bothering him around lunchtime. Enough that he phoned home. They had arranged that the machine would be on, allowing Krycek to hear who was calling. "Come on, Alex, answer."

But Krycek didn't answer. Not that one, not the two others that he placed.

"Kim," he said on his way out, "contact Holleran and arrange for another meeting tomorrow."

The house looked quiet when he pulled in. His sense that something was wrong grew stronger when he opened the front door. He glanced around the living room, ran up the stairs calling Krycek's name. Nothing.

No one in his room, not in Krycek's old room. Most of the clothes he had bought him were still there. He was closing the closet door when he realized that the leather jacket was gone.

Cursing himself for being an idiot, he was heading for the door again when he heard something, a small noise that made him stop in his tracks. He pulled his weapon out, carefully made his way into the kitchen area.

Krycek, wearing his jacket, was curled up on the floor. The small whimpering sounds were coming from him.

Skinner dropped to his knees next to the man, checking to see where he was hurt. He expected to see blood at the very least. "Alex? Where are you hurt? Come on, Alex, tell me. Where are you hurt?"

Krycek's face was ravaged, tear streaked. He looked as he had when Skinner had found him in the shower, tearing away at his skin.

Skinner put the gun down, pulled the man into his arms, murmuring comfort, trying to see what had caused this return to a distraught Krycek.

Krycek clung to him as to a life-line, his breath hitching after the long bout of crying.

Skinner waited until he felt the tense body relax in his arms. "You were going to leave, weren't you?"

Krycek nodded against his chest.

"Why?"

"Because," Krycek had to clear his throat to continue, "you're Walter Skinner, Assistant Director of the FBI and I'm Alex Krycek, ratbastard."

"Alex." Skinner's arms tightened, holding him closer. "What stopped you?"

"I can't leave."

"Glad you came to that conclusion." Skinner rubbed his cheek on Krycek's head.

"No. You don't understand. I tried to leave. Every time I got near one of the doors I thought I was going to pass out. Doesn't matter which door. The front. The patio. This one. It's like I'm back in the silo. I can't breathe. I can't move. It's...There's an invisible wall. I can't walk through it."

And he began laughing.

Fischer didn't comment on the fact that his patient was in his friend's bed. He quickly evaluated the situation, gave Krycek a shot to put him to sleep and gestured to Skinner that he wanted to talk to him downstairs.

"He said he was leaving. Did he tell you why?"

Skinner shrugged. "I guess he thought it was the thing to do now that he's gotten what he wanted."

Fischer quirked an eyebrow at Skinner's tone, calmly asked, "What did he want?"

Skinner stood looking out the long leaded windows in the living room, seemingly interested in the tree out in the front yard. "Immunity."

Fischer sat in one of the leather armchairs, slouched so he rested on the base of his spine. "Walt. We've been friends for a long time. Since Nam, right?"

"You should know. You're the medic who took me out of the body bag." He stayed staring out the window.

"You and Krycek are lovers, aren't you?"

Skinner looked over his shoulder. Fischer met his look straight on.

Skinner sighed, came to sit on the couch. "Not exactly. Alex makes love to me: he lets me hold him."

"And you're FBI and he isn't."

Skinner nodded.

"He probably thinks he's not something your career needs."

"What career?" Some of the bitterness Skinner felt seeped out. He had reached the pinnacle of his success: there would be no upper floor office for him. Not considering his connections to Spender and the Consortium. The Bureau needed squeaky clean hands at its helm. His were a little too dirty to move up, not dirty enough to have forced into retirement.

"How's he been lately?"

"Okay. Well, I thought he was okay. Doing better. The nightmares don't come the way they used to. He's sleeping better. Eating better. I've got him using the soliflex."

"Has he gone out at all since he's been here."

Skinner had to think. Shook his head.

"So what are you going to do about him?"

"About? Shouldn't you be asking what I'm going to do with him?"

Fischer grinned. "I don't think I need to know that. I lost all interest in the details of other people's sex lives long ago."

Skinner relaxed. He had wondered how his friend would react to his sharing his bed with a man. He smiled his thanks to the man who had pulled him out of his body bag, screaming for assistance all the while recovering from the fright of having a dead man come to life under his hands.

"So," continued Fischer. "Do you want him out of here? Now's the time to do it, while he's out. From what you tell me, he seems to have become agoraphobic."

"Why?"

Fischer gave Skinner the "Duh?" look his gang member patients gave him when he asked them what they thought were stupid questions. "Well, gees, let me see. He spends the last year and a half running for his life. He gets raped, beaten up. You come to his rescue. You not only offer him a safe haven, you fix it so he can actually have a chance at a life.

"Okay, let's be serious about this. In spite of what the two of you thought, six weeks is not exactly enough time to recover from everything that's happened to him lately. He may think he can survive out there, but it's obvious his mind doesn't.

"Is the fact that he tried to leave going to change things between the two of you?"

"You mean, am I going to toss him out because of it?"

"No, I mean are you going to throw it in his face?"

Skinner gave that serious thought. He shook his head. "No. He thought he was doing the right thing. So how do we handle this..."

"Agoraphobia. It seems to me he's got it because his mind tells him he's safe here. You tell me he's also safe outside, what with this immunity thing. We just have to convince his mind that's true."

Part 5

That was easier said than done.

Krycek woke, nervous.

The man who had faced aliens, endured possession, amputation, death now started at anything and everything.

The nights Krycek didn't have nightmares were rare. Not only of the rape but other times as well. Skinner grew to hate three in the morning. And the mornings he woke to Krycek's mouth on him, making him come. Then quickly pulling back, so that Skinner couldn't even hold him.

The house, already clean, was now pristine. Along with the agoraphobia, Krycek was developing compulsive obsessive cleaning habits. Skinner liked a clean house: his mother and his wife had both been neat. But it was getting to the point that he was almost afraid to walk over the floors for fear that Krycek would begin cleaning where he had walked.

Fischer commiserated, recommended some books on dealing with the situation. Suggested that one of Krycek's problems was that he had nothing to do.

"Find him something that will keep him occupied. Doesn't have to be physical. His mind needs something to keep it off its troubles."

Holleran, one day in his basement office, came up with a possibility.

Skinner was down there, wondering how work on breaking into a disc his department needed was coming along.

"It's coming. Every time we think we're through, we find another barrier. Not that this one is difficult, it's more time consuming than anything else. And I'm short-staffed right now."

"So hire some people."

Holleran looked at Skinner in a rather condescending way. "What? You think these guys grow on trees? Just because someone can fool around with a computer doesn't mean they have the mind set to untangle security codes. Good decryptors are few and far between. Like that guy who decrypted part of the DAT tape. It's brains like that I need."

Skinner thought about that all afternoon. When he left, he took a swing through Holleran's office.

"Have you got some stuff you can let me have? Something that won't jeopardize security, but that your team hasn't got the time to deal with right now."

Holleran said nothing: just stared at the AD who, it was rumoured, had lines in to groups that were not really acceptable for someone in his position. He got up, went to a filing cabinet and unlocked it. He stared again at the man in his office, opened a drawer, reached in and took out a couple of discs.

"These two come from that info dump you downloaded onto us. We haven't had time to get to these yet. I have no idea just how difficult the codes will be to break."

Krycek was surprised when Skinner handed him the discs. He did nothing with them for a couple of days, just looked at them in their case, sitting on the counter.

Finally, the third day, he picked the case up.

Skinner came home to find Krycek at the computer in his office, face intent on the screen in front of him.

He made supper that night.

"Sorry. I really hadn't noticed the time." This was the third time Krycek had apologized since Skinner had called him to supper.

"Alex. Knock it off." Skinner had picked up that Krycek was a lot less skittish that evening than he had been in weeks. Maybe it was time to try something that Fischer had recommended. He waited until the dishes were done, the counter cleared and cleaned. Before Krycek had time to evaluate whether the counter needed a second cleaning, Skinner was there with his jacket.

"Put this on, Alex."

He nearly relented at the fear that took over Krycek's eyes. He held firm as he watched Krycek brace himself, slip his arms into the sleeves. Skinner pulled Krycek to the spot where he found him that day, curled up on the floor. He placed himself in front. "Okay. I want you to step forward, one step at a time, until you hit that invisible wall of yours, Alex. Take your time. Just up to it, no further. Got that."

Krycek visibly swallowed. But he did as Skinner asked.

Skinner concentrated on Krycek's face, seeing him lose colour, the sweat bead on his upper lip. He was having trouble breathing when he finally stopped, long after Skinner was ready for him to do so.

When Krycek whispered "Here," Skinner took him in his arms, held him. He kept him there for a full ten minutes, holding him, rubbing his back through the leather jacket, murmuring nonsense to him until he felt the reaction lessen.

"Have I ever told you," Skinner massaged the tensed neck with his hand, "how much you impress me with your courage?"

Krycek made a scoffing sound.

"No. I mean that, Alex. No matter how many times you get kicked down, you find it in yourself to pick yourself up and try again. Like this tonight. I would have told me to go to hell rather than go through this. Instead, you dig down deep and find the wherewithal to try.

"You're going to beat this because you won't let it beat you. Not tonight, maybe not next week. But we'll do this every night until you're comfortable with taking another step closer to the door. With the understanding that once you can open that door, step out, this doesn't mean I expect you to pack your bags and leave. You need to be able to do this in case the house catches on fire, Alex. Got that? We're doing this to keep you safe."

Krycek nodded against his throat.

"And while we're at it, you're going to let me touch you when we have sex. I'm tired of it being all in one direction. I get pleasure out of touching my partner, Alex. Of giving pleasure. We'll take it slowly, but I want to hear you come, see you come. Understand?"

When the ten minutes were up, Skinner gently pushed Krycek backwards until they were at the table. He helped him off with his jacket, hung it up on a hook by the back door and went to watch a replay of some game on the sports network. Krycek came and sat by him. At one point, Skinner reached out, pulled him into his arms and they spent the rest of the evening that way.

Supper was ready the next evening along with the first disc. Skinner smiled, placed it along with Krycek's written notations in his briefcase. They went one step closer to the door that night.

Holleran was pleased with the broken security codes. He looked at Skinner, went and got a couple of others. He didn't ask any questions.

Over the next three weeks, Krycek broke seven more codes, took seven steps closer to the door. Skinner didn't think it was coincidence that there was a step for each disc decrypted.

Holleran was beginning to show more interest in this secret decoder he seemed to have working for him. "Doesn't this guy want to be paid?" he finally asked.

Skinner looked surprised: he hadn't thought of that.

"Look, I can pay him something under the table. I've got a budget for that sort of stuff. Nowhere near what this work is worth on the open market. I take it your guy can't come out in the open for some reason, right?"

"Right."

"Okay. Is he willing to continue working under these circumstances?"

"For the moment."

Holleran nodded, pulled a cash box from the filing cabinet. "I went to Finance this morning." He pulled out an envelope. "Cash is the usual form of payment."

Skinner opened the envelope, counted. "There's three thousand dollars here."

"Yeah, well, I wish I could pay more, but that's all Finance was willing to fork over in cash at one time."

"Out of curiosity," Skinner sealed the envelope and put it away in his inside jacket pocket, "what's the going rate for this sort of thing?"

"Depends on the level of security. The amount of time we've spent on it. If we were paying him as a consultant, we would be looking at about $100."

"A day?"

"Hell, no, an hour. To be honest, I'm hoping your guy wants to continue working under the table. Cheaper for us."

Krycek looked at the money, took a couple of bills out and handed the rest to Skinner.

"What's that for?"

"The meds. The doctor's bills. The clothes."

Skinner opened a second safety deposit box, put the money in it, gave Krycek the key.

Things were getting interesting in bed as well. Krycek was difficult to arouse, often couldn't get it up. They went slowly, getting used to each other's bodies. Finding pleasure in touches. Krycek had a hard time accepting someone behind him so all their play was face to face, or Krycek behind Skinner. None of their sex had been penetral until the night Skinner rolled a condom on Krycek, pushed him onto his back and straddling him, lowered himself onto Krycek's cock. As Skinner rode Krycek, Krycek's hand was busy on Skinner's cock. When they had both recovered, Skinner found they were grinning like a couple of kids overly pleased with themselves.

Holleran was pleased too. He handed over another envelope and a couple of more discs. "Just between you and me, your guy is very good."

Skinner, thinking about other talents his "guy" had, agreed.

Holleran went to the cabinet, took out a third disc. "I take it this guy has no security clearances. No, don't answer that. See this disc. It's a bitch. We've all had a go at it and we haven't found the key. For all we know it could contain someone's shopping list. We've had it around for a couple of years. Tell your guy he's welcome to try his hand at it."

The first two discs took Krycek about his usual time to break. The third was indeed a bitch. Oh, he managed to get in as had the other decryptors, only to find yet another level of security, with no rhyme or reason to the previous. The furthest any of them had gotten in was the fifth code. It took him three days to break the sixth, only to find yet another. It became an obsession.

Skinner was beginning to worry. After a week, he went into his home office one morning, determined to put his foot down. Krycek had spent almost every waking moment working on that disc. He hadn't come to bed for the past two nights. Skinner had found him sound asleep, head on his arm at the desk when he'd come home last night.

Enough was enough. He wasn't going to tolerate his getting ill again.

He found Krycek sitting in his chair, looking at the screen.

"Alex." Skinner began sharply, wanting to get Krycek's attention.

Krycek turned his head, grinned tiredly, eyes more alive than Skinner remembered seeing them, in spite of the dark circles under them.

Skinner paused. "You're in?"

Krycek bit his lower lip, nodded.

"Jesus! Alex! So what is it? Someone's shopping list?" Skinner came over to Krycek, stood behind him, his hands on the man's shoulders. They both looked at the data on the screen.

"It's a list, all right. It lists all the drug dealers that Columbia has connections to on the east coast. From Maine to Canaveral. Even if it is two years out of date, there should be more than enough to make DEA happy."

"Holleran, too." Skinner squeezed Krycek's shoulders. "Congratulations, Alex."

Holleran was incredulous. He followed all of Krycek's instructions, stared at the screen filling up with page after page of data. "How long did you say he worked on this?"

"A week." Skinner sat on the corner of Holleran's desk, trying hard to remember every little detail of Holleran's reactions to tell Krycek.

Holleran turned to face Skinner. "Okay. No more games. I need to know who this guy is, Skinner. Seriously."

"You remember saying you could use the man who had broken into the DAT tape?"

Holleran squinted. Said nothing while he ran information through his computer-brain. Came up with a name. "Krycek."

Skinner nodded.

"Shit!" Holleran swivelled his chair back to the screen. "How the hell am I going to get Krycek past Security?"

"Why do you want to get him past Security?"

"Are you kidding? I want him working for us. And only for us."

"Under the table?"

"Under contract at least. How in are you with Cassidy?"

Cassidy was not overly pleased. Holleran pointed out that it would be better to have Krycek working for them rather than loose and working for someone else.

"Off site. And only on things on which he could be given security clearance *or*," she cut off Holleran's protest before he got it out, "on things that you can prove to me you haven't been able to open. Just because he did it once doesn't mean it will happen again."

Holleran scoffed.

"On contract," was all Skinner said.

Cassidy sighed. "On contract."

"You've got to be kidding," Krycek said that night as Skinner helped him on with his jacket. Because of the disc, they hadn't played the game much this week.

"Nope. Holleran wants to come out here to meet with you. Wants me to warn you that all Cassidy will agree to is regular salary levels, but he'd holding out for the salary scale of his department." He looked at Krycek. "Ready?"

The last time, they had made it to about two feet from the door. That night they added another step. Skinner was ready to push Krycek back when taking a deep breath, Krycek shook his head. "One more."

And they were at the door.

Krycek rested against Skinner, waited until his heart stopped racing. He reached behind the man who supported him, found the door knob and pushed open the door. Skinner's arms tightened around him.

His chin resting on Skinner's shoulder, his head against Skinner's, Krycek looked out at the side yard and smiled.

That night, he took the lead in their bed. When Skinner thought he couldn't take any more teasing, Krycek pulled back, rolled the condom on Skinner's erection. Skinner pulled himself up onto his elbows. "Alex?"

Krycek sat back on his heels. "I want you in me tonight. I want you to take all the fear away."

Skinner went slowly, carefully preparing Krycek. Krycek hadn't had anal sex since the night of the rape and he wanted this to be easy for him. He slipped a pillow under his hips, making sure Krycek's cock was accessible to his hand. He made certain that Krycek was aroused, was ready for penetration long before he inserted himself into Krycek's asshole. He made certain that Krycek achieved orgasm before he allowed himself to come.

They slept side by side, Krycek spooned into Skinner, his arm holding tightly to the two that were wrapped around him.

Skinner had to admit to himself that he wasn't overly surprised to find Krycek waiting for him outside, sitting on the steps, that night when he got home. He did feel his stomach clench when he realized that there was a knapsack with what were obviously Krycek's things, sitting at his feet.

He opened the car door, came around to lean back against the passenger side. They looked at each other.

Skinner broke the silence. "Leaving, are you?"

Krycek cocked his head. "Depends."

"On?"

"On how you feel after I tell you something."

Outwardly, Skinner only nodded. Inside, his body tensed, began hurting.

"I've wanted you from the first time I saw you. You were giving the new interns a welcoming speech. All I could think of was pushing you against the wall and going down on you."

Well, thought Skinner, that explained why he was still alive.

Krycek smiled, a bit ruefully. "I still want you. But, for what it's worth, I love you too. As much as I can love someone. And not because you took care of me. Or helped me. Or stopped me from going crazy. You make me feel..." he looked for the word, "...real. Like I matter. That you enjoy having me around. And not just in bed.

"Walter, I would like to stay. Would *you* like me to stay?"

Skinner examined the man waiting for his judgement. He thought about the weeks he had spent caring for this man, watching him fight to get well. Of coming home and finding someone waiting for him. Of having the same someone in his bed. Of the pleasure they shared - - and not just in bed.

Of the fear tonight he had felt on arriving and finding maybe he was going to lose all that.

Krycek sat, stilled under his gaze. He waited, patiently, though Skinner could see the pulse throbbing at the side of his throat.

He straightened off the car, smiled at this man who had somehow, in spite of all things past, found a place in his heart.

"Alex. Let's go in, love."

And held out his hand to his lover.

End of CLOSED DOORS