Note: This is a sequel to the "I Still Have Plans To Go To Mexico" series.
The original tale can be found at:
Various prequels can be found there as well.
Thanks: Kass, Anne, Leila, Dawn, MJ...and Tucker.
"Three Men in A Boat", a "Mexico" sequel
"What do you mean *he fell off a roof*?!"
Alex was almost grateful that Skinner was still unconscious.
Mulder sounded like he was about to go up in smoke and
there was a dangerous quaver hovering just below his
words. Better that Mulder didn't get swamped by the same
gnawing fear that had gripped Alex when he'd gotten the call
from the paramedics who'd transported Skinner. Alex
decided on a tried and true method to distract Mulder and
keep him from panicking; he set out out piss him off.
"Which word didn't you get, Mulder?" he drawled. "Skinner
*fell* *off* *a* *roof*."
It worked. He could hear Mulder's teeth grinding from two
thousand miles away. "Look, you sorry son of a bitch, just
tell me what's wrong with him and stop playing games!" But
Mulder's voice had regained its strength; he knew
instinctively that Alex wouldn't tease him if it were truly
serious. As a burst of static temporarily cut Mulder off, Alex
privately wished that *he* knew that Skinner's condition
weren't serious, but he preferred to deal with one crisis at a
time. He wanted Mulder kept on an even keel until they
knew for certain whether their lover was ever going to wake
"He's fine, Mulder," Alex lied through his teeth. "A bit
banged up, his head hurts, but otherwise, he's fine. The
doctor's in with him now."
Skinner had been inspecting a leaking roof with its owner
when the other man had slipped. Skinner had grabbed for
him, saving him with a sort of twisting dive and had wound
up flipping himself off the steeply pitched roof onto the
ground fifteen feet below. While the burlap-wrapped rose
bushes beneath had broken his fall, he had been
unconscious for over an hour now and had needed
artificial resuscitation on the scene. Fortunately, the owner
of the roof was one of Skinner's EMT buddies and had dealt
competently with the emergency. But Skinner still hadn't
"I'm on my way home," Mulder's voice came crackling back
suddenly as Alex watched yet another nurse disappear
behind the curtained exam cubicle in where Skinner was
lying, pale and silent.
"Good. How long will it take you?" He heard Mulder
mumbling, then snarling, at someone in the background
before his voice came back on. He definitely sounded
"Where the hell are you?!"
"Chiapas. Don't ask. I'll be there as soon as I can." There
was another burst of static. "Look, Alex, the satellite is
moving out of range here and it's raining like nothing else on
earth right now. Tell Walt..." Mulder's voice faded away, but
Alex knew it had nothing to do with the communications
"I know. I'll tell him. Just come home." And Alex broke the
connection before either of them could get any more
maudlin. He shoved his cell phone in his pocket and
slouched against the wall, scowling at anyone who looked
his way. He knew exactly what he looked like -- hard, dirty,
dangerous -- a man with nothing to lose. One or two of
Walt's fellow EMT's hovered around the periphery of his
attention, but they were too bewildered by his transformation
to approach him more than once.
If he tried, he could picture Mulder as he probably looked
right at this moment -- tightly focused, rigidly in control, the
very air around him humming with concentration as he
devoted everything in him toward getting to Skinner's side as
quickly as possible. Neither Mulder nor Alex were in any
doubt as to what would happen if he were suddenly gone
from their lives. Skinner was their anchor, their keystone.
Alex suddenly thought that, if he were able, he would pray.
Instead, all he could do was stare fixedly at those damned
blue emergency room curtains and wait.
It took him a few moments to register the doctor standing in
front of him. The man looked him up and down doubtfully,
then asked again, "Mr. Corcoran? You're here for Mr.
At Alex's terse nod, the doctor consulted the paperwork in
his hand and looked even more doubtful. "Mr. Skinner's
emergency contact is listed as a Mr. Fox Mulder...."
"Mulder's my brother; he's traveling in rural Mexico, doctor. I
contacted him and he's on his way home, but it could take
as much as two days. I have his power of attorney. What is
Mr. Skinner's condition?" Alex forced himself to speak
calmly, slipping on his CPA persona, even though it jarred
badly with his current state of mind and dress.
"Mr. Skinner is beginning to come around ..." Which was all
he got the opportunity to say before Alex had slipped around
him and behind that hated blue curtain.
Skinner was lying flat and unmoving, face nearly green
under the harsh fluorescent lights. Without his glasses, he
seemed more vulnerable, unprotected. There were
scratches on his face and across the back of the hand that
Alex gripped tightly in his own.
"Talk to him, Mr. Corcoran. Try to get him to respond to
you. He's been out a while and may be confused or even
have a bit of memory loss." The doctor had come to stand
on the other side of the bed.
"Skinner? Come on, Skinner. Come on out of it. Shake it
off. Open your eyes, Walt. If you're not awake when Mulder
gets here, he'll shoot me this time for sure." Alex had no
idea how inconsistent his low crooning was with his torn
t-shirt, the battered leather jacket or the stained jeans he'd
been wearing for a week now. He ignored the doctor's
dubious look and bent lower, speaking gently into Skinner's
ear, breath catching as Skinner started to stir.
Skinner's eyelids flickered open, then squeezed shut as the
bright light assaulted them. The doctor turned off the glaring
examination light hanging over the bed and spoke.
"Mr. Skinner, can you open your eyes?" He waited until
Skinner's eyes opened again and fixed dazedly on him, then
said, "Mr. Skinner? Do you know where you are?"
"Hospital?" Skinner guessed hoarsely, eyes blinking rapidly.
"Good! And do you know who this is?" The doctor stood
back and pulled Alex closer to the bed.
Oh shit. Alex's hand tightened reflexively on Skinner's. He'd
forgotten. Skinner had forgotten the damned cover story *he
himself* had put in place and insisted on them all using.
Neither he nor Mulder *ever* called Alex 'Krycek', except for
very rare occasions in bed together. The Corcoran name
and cover story had been drilled into them until Skinner was
satisfied that there would be *no* slip ups.
The Gunmen had created a beautiful electronic trail that led
straight to an obvious covert ops sealed file which, should
anyone care to breach their reasonable security precautions,
held an impressive file of Major Corcoran's nonexistent
accomplishments and all of Alex Krycek's actual personal
data, right down to his retinal print and gene codes. Skinner
had masterminded the entire operation and Alex had been
deeply touched by the painstaking care taken to safeguard
him. And now the man who'd crafted it had forgotten...what
else had he forgotten?
"No, Mr. Skinner. This is Mr. Corcoran. Do you remember
him?" The doctor prompted, shining a penlight in first one,
then the other of Skinner's eyes.
"Not dressed like that he's not. Krycek," Skinner insisted
muzzily and Alex wanted to laugh aloud. Instead, he just
gripped Skinner's hand tighter and was profoundly reassured
by the answering squeeze he got.
At the doctor's questioning look, Alex said, "It's an old...
nickname. He knows who I am. He's fine." Then he had to
laugh in relief.
"Where's Mulder?" Skinner mumbled.
"What the hell's he doing there?" the man in the bed asked
irritably and batted at the doctor's hand as his ears were
"You tell me, Walt. I leave town for two weeks and suddenly
he's chasing little green men in Mexico and you're taking
swan dives off of roofs."
"Gray." Skinner's eyes closed as the doctor took his blood
pressure in the arm which Alex wasn't gripping. "Little gray
men," he clarified. Then his eyes opened again and fixed on
Alex. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to
be...out there," he finished lamely, eyebrows knitting with the
effort of thinking around his concussion.
Exactly the question Alex hadn't wanted to answer and knew
he would have to when he arrived back home three weeks
earlier than he'd ever returned before. Four years it had
been going on now. Four years since he'd come to live in
the big house set down in the dunes of Eastham. Four
years since he'd become Alex Corcoran, CPA, member of
the Lighthouse Restoration Committee, the Chamber of
Commerce, the Businessmen's Association, treasurer of the
Hatch Foundation, Mulder's half brother and Skinner and
Mulder's lover. Four years in which, every autumn, he'd
disappear for over a month, sometimes longer. 'Alex
Corcoran' would be left behind as easily as his wardrobe and
Alex would again be someone very different, someone who
knew how to move through the darkest shadows without
coming to grief, someone who relished the world beyond the
place where the sidewalks ended.
Skinner and Mulder had accepted his need to escape every
once in a while. Mulder even made jokes about it and
misquoted Kipling's Just So Stories at him, calling him "The
Rat Who Walked By Himself". Mulder and Skinner
pretended not to worry about him as he left and Alex
pretended not to notice their distress. He no longer doubted
his welcome home, when he washed up unkempt and oddly
refreshed by his wanderings. He enjoyed bringing back
peculiar artifacts and letting Skinner and Mulder guess
where he'd been.
Skinner would patch his minor wounds and Mulder would
look carefully into his eyes until he saw the balance restored
and then everything would return to normal for a while. Until
he needed that next walk into the wild.
But this time, not unlike last year's foray, Alex had become
aware of something nagging at him even as he walked
carelessly through some of the most unsavory and free
zones in the world. He had become aware of the ties that
bound him here, to this little town on Cape Cod. After a few
days, he had become aware that he did not resent those
ties. And then one cold, dusty day in Samarkhand, he had
found himself suddenly turning around in the market place
and heading for home, weeks ahead of schedule. He had
stared out the dirt-caked window of the bus that carried him
back along the Silk Road and realized that this had been his
last "Walk By Himself". Three days later, he had walked
through the kitchen door of the empty house on the dunes to
hear the phone ringing, telling him that Skinner lay
unconscious, perhaps dying, in the hospital.
"I came home," Alex said lamely. Skinner only smiled, eyes
"Good," he said, then appeared to fall asleep.
One CAT scan, a battery of tests, a knee brace, a set of
crutches and one overnight observation later, Alex Corcoran
was able to take a very grouchy Walter Skinner home.
Alex was leaning against the doorjamb, watching Skinner
dress. He kept turning Skinner's gun over and over in his
hand, wrapped in its plastic personal effects bag. The
emergency room staff had bagged it along with Skinner's
ring, watch, wallet and Swiss Army knife. It had left a bruise
the size of Alex's hand in the small of Skinner's back. Alex's
lip curled. Careful Skinner always went armed, even when
he was slaloming down some other joker's roof. He wanted
to laugh. Or shake the man until his teeth rattled.
Skinner had been tersely polite to the nursing staff and
barely civil to Alex, who had sat by his bedside, brought him
fresh clothes and his spare set of glasses and a cup of the
best French Roast the local coffee place had to offer this
morning. Alex finally lost his temper; he was suffering from
jet lag, lack of sleep, a disquieting new knowledge about
himself, and the after effects of worrying about the man who
was currently complaining about the amount of cream in his
"What the hell is your problem, Skinner?"
The other man had looked up from struggling to pull his
jeans over his knee brace. One side of his mouth had
twisted up. "I don't like hospitals."
"No one does," Alex reminded him.
"And waking up in a hospital to see *you* hanging
around...well, it brings back some unpleasant memories."
Skinner's head had dropped and he was staring at the bulky
brace on his knee as if it were a challenge he simply wasn't
Shit. Whatever else you could say about Walter Skinner, he
told the truth. Even if it was deep-frozen and came with
sharp edges. Like that one. The reminder that Alex had
once held Skinner's life in a palm-top computer, had played
with it as if it were a video game...it wasn't a memory he was
proud of. Skinner might have excused him, but he hadn't
forgotten and what man could forgive that? Alex knew he
was overtired when he started to open his mouth to say...
what? Something foolish, no doubt.
Instead, he shoved the gun in his pocket, crossed the room
and knelt down. There was a sharp ripping sound as he
loosened the velcro straps of the brace and took it off.
Then, carefully cradling the sprained knee in his hand, he
drew Skinner's jeans up over the swollen joint. Skinner
pulled his pants up the rest of the way, then Alex carefully
pulled the splint on over the jeans, retightening it after
smoothing the denim beneath it. He handed Skinner his
crutches and said,
"Let's get out of here."
And Skinner, knowing Alex better than either man thought,
nodded and said,
"Let's go home, Krycek."
The drive home was silent. So was the slow journey from
the driveway into the house, where Skinner let Alex take his
coat and hang it up for him. Skinner didn't even speak to his
dog, who capered around them joyfully. He merely reached
down, leaning heavily on his crutches, patted the animal on
the head and made his way slowly upstairs, Alex trailing
In the bedroom, Skinner stood, seemingly unable to decide
what to do next. Alex gently pushed him toward the bed,
making him sit down so he could take Skinner's shoes off.
Out of the corner of his eye, Alex could see the other man's
studiously blank expression and knew that he was hating the
fact that he needed help. So Alex forbore teasing and went
to get a glass of water.
Alex came back and handed it to Skinner, along with a
Percodan. He felt a touch of unease when Skinner merely
took the tablet and swallowed it without comment. This was
the man who had to be browbeaten and, on one memorable
occasion last spring, wrestled into taking cold tablets?
Skinner sat, shoulders slumped, staring at the half-empty
glass of water in his hand. When Alex gently took it from
him, he said tonelessly,
"I think I'd like to sleep for a while."
Four years and Alex had never seen Skinner so subdued.
He was often quiet, a self-contained and restrained man, but
he had never before seemed *faded*, as he did now. It was
Alex slid his arm under Skinner's legs and helped to swing
them onto the bed. While Skinner took off his glasses, Alex
pulled the quilt over him, arranging it gently over the splinted
knee. After a moment's thought, he carefully positioned two
pillows under the swollen joint and got a half-smile of thanks.
Mulder's huge cat came stalking up the bed to investigate.
After sniffing thoroughly, Maxie touched his nose to
Skinner's, then deliberately curled up against the large
man's ribs and began to purr.
Skinner nodded, eyes already closed. Trying not to notice
how pale the older man was, Alex brushed his fingers
across the scratched forehead and got a fractional smile in
reply. Then Skinner seemed to drop into sleep. Alex silently
replaced Skinner's gun in the bedside table, then went
downstairs in search of fortitude. The best he could do at 11
o'clock in the morning was a cup of very strong coffee and
endless minutes spent on the phone, waiting for the satellite
service to find Mulder's signal, somewhere on the planet.
After twenty minutes of insipid hold music, he gave up in
He was being an idiot, he told himself. It was ridiculous.
Skinner had merely been knocked unconscious and had a
concussion and a sprain. He'd had worse before. Hell,
Krycek had inflicted worse on him before this, and he'd
sprung back every time. There was, he told himself, no
reason for the mother- hen routine he was pulling.
None, he mentally insisted, as he settled himself in the
armchair beside the window in Mulder and Skinner's
bedroom. "No reason at all," he growled under his breath,
opening a book that had been on the night table on
Skinner's side of the bed. To demonstrate his perfect
unconcern, he propped his feet up on the windowsill and
began reading at the bookmark, glancing up at the sleeper
at the end of every page.
* * *
It was the choked noise that woke him finally. Skinner knew
he wasn't going to enjoy being awake as various parts of his
body began checking in and letting him know exactly how
badly they'd been treated. His head was pounding and he
vaguely hoped it was the forerunner of a killer stroke. Any
number of muscles were yelping accompaniment to the dull
throbbing fire in his left knee. "Oh, shit," he murmured,
slowly remembering what had happened. Maxie got up and
sat beside his shoulder, offering an interrogative chirp.
There was a stirring, then Alex came and leaned over him.
The two sets of green eyes peering questioningly at him
made him chuckle roughly, then groan as the vibrations
seemed to pluck at every abused fiber in his back and side.
"How do you feel?"
"Wasted and miserable. I didn't know it was possible to feel
this bad and still be this strung out. I hate Percodan."
Strangely enough, his bitching seemed to reassure Alex
and the other man began to look more cheerful as he asked,
"What do you want?"
"Bathroom, water and a bullet, right between the eyes."
Alex laughed at the mordant tone and helped him to haul
himself upright and drag himself into the bathroom. Then he
poured three glasses of water into him before steering him
back to bed. Since it was now after one o'clock, Alex
decided it was time for him to eat and ignored any feeble
protests that Skinner made. He disappeared downstairs to
fix a tray before Skinner could at least get him to bring his
book back from where he'd left it across the room.
So instead, Skinner lay there and considered the watery
gray light on the ceiling and the patterns it made. Then he
spent some time counting the cat's whiskers and
remembering how much he hated narcotics and wondering
whether or not he could take another painkiller before he
chewed his throbbing leg off in desperation. Jesus, being
shot hadn't hurt this much, had it?
Alex came back with a bowl of stew and another Percodan,
which he swallowed eagerly. Alex had settled back into the
armchair across the room, his own lunch untouched on the
windowsill beside him.
"You OK?" Skinner asked, startling the other man out of his
"Yeah, Walt, I'm fine. I haven't fallen off of anything
recently." Skinner noted the snide tone and wondered what
Alex was covering up.
"You're home early," he said conversationally, testing the
waters. Yup, that was it, he thought, as he watched
Krycek's shoulders tense another fraction.
"Ran out of money," Alex said shortly.
"You have a platinum card," Skinner reminded him, putting
aside his half-eaten bowl. Alex merely shrugged and
Skinner studied his sullen profile for a few minutes before
"What were you reading when I woke up?"
Skinner wondered if Alex knew what a bad liar he'd become.
"Looks like my book. Can I have it?"
Alex grabbed the book, brought it over to him, then grabbed
the dirty dishes and strode jerkily out of the room before
Skinner could say another word. Feeling the Percodan
kicking in again, Skinner let the book flop open to the page
Krycek had been reading before he'd left it face down on the
windowsill when Skinner had awakened. He read no more
than a few lines before he guessed what had caused
Krycek's full-scale retreat.
/Let your boat of life be light, packed with only what you
need - a homely home and simple pleasures, one or two
friends worth the name, someone to love and someone to
love you, a cat, a dog, and a pipe or two, enough to eat and
enough to wear, and a little more than enough to drink.../
When he recalled the title, he wanted to chuckle again, but
he remembered how little he'd enjoyed the results last time.
"Three Men in a Boat". Right. If Jerome Jerome could see
this carnival funhouse reflection of domestic peace, the man
would be spinning in his grave. Skinner couldn't help it; he
laughed aloud and put up with the resultant twinges and
He sobered as he realized that Alex was going through yet
another crisis of ... what? Faith? Self-discovery? Identity?
The former assassin had been remarkably stable, given his
past, other than his annual voyages of self occlusion.
Skinner had never been in any doubt as to what Alex was
doing when he left them; he was protecting the last wild
corner of himself from them and their perniciously domestic
influence. Mulder counseled space and quiet for Krycek, so
Skinner had followed his lead and they had never asked,
tailed or pressed Alex for details. And Alex had continued to
disappear for over a month every year ... until now.
Skinner's head was aching more than before it seemed, so
he decided to stop thinking about the problem until he and
Mulder could hash it through together. Which started him
wondering where his lover was and why he hadn't heard
from him and he fell asleep before he was able to even
consider reaching for the bedside phone.
* * *
Alex spent the afternoon fending off Skinner's well-wishers
and wondering where the hell Mulder was. Barbara Hatch
sent an entire gourmet catered meal to help "dear Walter"
keep up his strength. Despite her very real respect for them
all, she remained deeply convinced that none of the three
men, ex-FBI agents or not, were actually capable of looking
after themselves. Apparently, most of the volunteer fire
department members and their neighbors were equally
persuaded -- cakes, chicken soup, fresh-baked bread and
other provender kept appearing at the door, held by gruff,
weatherbeaten EMT's and firemen, fishermen and craftsfolk.
After twelve well-wishing calls in twenty minutes, Alex just
unplugged the phone and dropped onto the couch in weary
Neighbors. Friends. Social contacts. How had they
become so ... normal? Skinner was very popular in his own
quiet way, a gentle, courteous man with a no-nonsense
attitude -- the natives loved him and respected his reserve,
so like their own. Mulder was so quirky and harmless and
brilliant that they loved him, too. Everyone loves an
exuberant eccentric and highly successful writer; he added
local color without adding to the local police blotter. But
the very fact that *he*, Alex, knew all these people by
name, that these cheerfully normal people all asked after
him and seemed genuinely concerned when they saw his
drawn features, for once lacking his trademark sharp grin....
For four years, Alex had had a great deal of fun playing the
persona of 'Alex Corcoran', Mulder's half-brother and model
citizen. He had enjoyed dressing the part of an upscale
New England professional and he had managed a number
of investment portfolios into some very healthy financial
ground, his own, Skinner's and Mulder's among them. He
had attended the appropriate social functions, become a
member of the correct business entities and fraternities
and had even developed a respectable handicap at golf.
He had enjoyed his other role as Mulder and Skinner's
secret lover, as well. While one or two close associates
suspected that there was *something* unusual in their
domestic arrangements, most of their circle of acquaintance
had taken him at face value and industriously threw every
single woman of marriageable age at him. The more canny
among them also pushed eligible bachelors at him, but he
had gently turned away all prospects, hinting darkly at some
great romantic tragedy in his past.
All of which allowed him to occasionally share Mulder and
Skinner's bed without worrying about bringing someone
else's medical history or psychopathology into the equation.
He knew that Mulder would prefer to have him beside them
every night, but he kept his own room, needing to have
some place of retreat for himself.
Sometimes, Mulder would come to him deep in the night; he
had learned not to fear those times of silent communion,
shattering as they could be. Rarer still, but no less sweet,
those times when Skinner came to him alone, sharing his
own darkness with the one who could understand it best.
Most treasured, the riotous times when the three of them
would love one another into exhaustion, two of them ganging
up on the third, laughing alliances shifting with a single
stroke, a hard kiss. That, too, was Alex Corcoran's life.
'Corcoran' was a mask, protective coloration, as much as his
'Krycek' or 'Arntzen' identities had been. But neither of
those men had ever had the solid, peaceful, smoothly
timbred life that 'Alex Corcoran' enjoyed. Hell, *loved*. He
wondered if he wasn't actually becoming Alex Corcoran,
going so deeply into the role that there would be nothing left
of himself. And that terrified him.
He was still slumped on the couch, considering the cosmic
joke of his life, when Mulder walked through the front door
three hours later. Alex was so relieved and delighted to see
him that he said the first thing that rose from his heart.
"Where the hell have you been?!? Do you ever turn your
damned cell phone on?!"
Then he seized the rumpled-looking Mulder and kissed him
hard, pouring out all his fear and need and desire into
Mulder's mouth. When he finally let them both come up for
air, it was to find Mulder's dazed eyes fixed on him, a goofy
smile lurking on his lips as he said vaguely,
"Hi, honey, I'm home..."
"Walt's fine," Alex said before Mulder could ask. "He's
Mulder's grin was dawn over the ocean and his next kiss
was pure glory.
They sorted themselves out after a few minutes and Alex's
hands had cataloged the fact that Mulder hadn't been eating
too well, had some new bruises, and a long shallow scratch
across his ribs. He also smelled like a swamp. In fact, he
had a fair amount of dried mud on him, one way and
"What happened to you?"
"There was a flood...we were almost cut off when the river
overflowed the banks. That's what happened to my phone.
And half the equipment."
"So how'd you get here?" Alex asked, running his fingers
through Mulder's gritty hair and grimacing at the residue.
"I...um, chartered a jet when I got to Mexico City."
Alex whistled silently as Mulder started up the stairs. "That's
got to have cost you a small fortune."
"You," Mulder's voice floated back down to him.
"It cost you a fortune. I used your Platinum Card."
"Mulder!" And Alex chased the prodigal up the stairs.
But when he got to the bedroom door, he skidded to a halt,
revenge forgotten in the tableau before him. Mulder was
kneeling beside the bed, face hidden against Skinner's side,
arms thrown around the big man. Skinner's hands were
moving gently over Mulder's hair and shoulders and he was
speaking very softly. Alex could see Mulder nod sometimes,
but he kept his face hidden. It should have looked childish; it
should have been ridiculous. Instead, Alex felt his lips
trembling and his eyes filling and he stepped away from the
doorway to lean against the wall in the hallway and regain
some control of himself. Hadn't he elected himself the one
who didn't fall apart for once, leaving that luxury to Mulder,
who had propped him up through too many sleepless
He heard the rumble of Skinner's voice answering some
muffled question of Mulder's. "I'm glad you're home. Alex
has been great, but I'm glad you're home, too." Warm
feeling, hearing that "too", knowing that they were all home
to one another. He silently blessed Skinner for that, then
wanted to strangle the man in the next instant when he
heard him laugh ruefully and say,
"Yeah, I did it this time, Fox. Knocked myself out for four or
five hours and managed to stop breathing for a bit. The
doctor was sure I was sliding into a coma. He said poor
Alex almost put him through a wall when they told him I was
coming out of it."
Oh shit. He hadn't had a chance to explain to Skinner what
he'd told Mulder, and, more importantly, what he *hadn't*
told him. He saw the set of Mulder's shoulders and knew he
was in deep trouble. Stepping into the room, he said
And then the other man was off his knees and had him
slammed up against the doorframe. Alex's head smacked
the wood and the room went remote for a moment before he
could focus on the hard pressure of Mulder's arm on his
windpipe and the furious hissing in his face. Oh good - deja vu.
"You son of a bitch! You lied to me. You said he was fine
and all the time you *knew* he wasn't!!"
"Mulder...." Alex choked, wondering if this would be the time
he just let loose and coldcocked Mulder.
Mulder grabbed his shirt front in both hands and bounced
him back against the wall again. Apparently not, Alex
thought again as he felt the molding digging into his spine.
"You lied to me!" Mulder spit. His eyes were blazing and
Alex could still see the faint swelling where he'd gently bitten
Mulder's lip when they'd kissed just a few moments ago.
There was a low rumbling noise in the room which Alex
dimly identified as Skinner's voice. He just kept staring at
that deep red spot on Mulder's lip. Skinner's voice got
stronger, and the words finally penetrated.
"I guess you can take the boy out of the abusive relationship
but not the abuse out of the boy, eh, Mulder?" Skinner's
voice was cool and precise, like a surgeon who knew exactly
where to cut. Mulder's hands dropped away and he stared
at Alex. Alex stared back for a moment, fingered the lump
rising on the back of his head, then shoved Mulder out of the
way and walked out of the room.
"I need some ice."
Behind him, he heard their voices; Mulder's, grating and
hesitant, Skinner's deep and reassuring. He answered
neither of them as he went downstairs for an ice pack and a
* * *
"He was trying to help, Mulder. He didn't want you to worry."
"He lied to me!"
"Of course he did." Skinner sounded tired suddenly and
Mulder knew it was because they had crossed and
recrossed this ground in the past four years; usually, it was
Mulder explaining Alex Krycek's rather unusual pathology to
the reflexively honest Skinner. "It's what he does. And
telling you the truth at that moment wouldn't have done a bit
of good. You know that."
After a moment, Mulder nodded. He *did* know that. He
also knew that he would have done exactly the same thing in
Alex's place. But that didn't help dampen the flare of rage
he had felt; it was old, left over from the many betrayals and
lies. He hated that these wounds still lurked beneath the
surface of his conscious mind, like land mines waiting for a
stray thought to detonate him into the old violence again.
Worst of all, he hated that it was usually Alex who would
trigger the blasts.
"He doesn't lie to us without a good reason, Mulder."
"Or for fun," Mulder added dryly.
"But never about the important things," Skinner insisted,
shifting restlessly against the headboard.
"Walt, you nearly died yesterday - that's important!" Mulder
rearranged the pillows under Skinner's wounded leg.
"Fox, he knows you." Skinner's voice was very gentle.
Mulder scratched Maxie's ears as he pulled the bunched up
quilt out from under the cat, then arranged it over Skinner.
Finally he said, not looking up, "I know. I just hate being
Finally, they had reached the root of the problem. Skinner
leaned his head back and closed his eyes in gratitude.
Every once in a while, he wondered if his life wouldn't be
calmer if he'd just pursued his original retirement plan of
becoming an alcoholic beach hermit instead of investing
years in navigating the uncharted emotional wilderness of
either one of his younger lovers. And himself, he added, as
Mulder's fingers brushed down the side of his face. Calmer,
yes, but then who would look at him like that? Would there
be anyone to kneel beside him, to hold him tightly, to
whisper half-heard words of love and need, as Mulder was
Calm is over-rated, he reminded himself, letting his lips
brush against Mulder's dirty hair. "Go on," he said aloud. He
felt Mulder sigh, the watched him unfold himself stiffly.
"If you hear shots downstairs...," Mulder said from the
"I'll assume the status quo has been restored."
Mulder gave a half grin, then left Skinner to ruffle the cat's
fur and appreciate the fact that Maxie had no outstanding
issues beyond his constant need to drink out of the water
glass beside the bed.
When Mulder trailed into the kitchen, Alex was making
dinner, a half-empty glass of scotch beside him on the
Alex pivoted around him and reached for the cucumbers.
"Forget it, Mulder. At least you didn't pull a gun on me this
Mulder passed him the vegetables and grimaced. "Lost it in
the river. Another Glock bites the dust. The insurance
company is gonna love this claim."
"I'm surprised they don't have you nationally blacklisted."
Alex handed him the salad bowl and a knife. Mulder
reached out and froze Alex with a single touch on his wrist.
Their eyes met and they looked steadily at one another, then
Mulder cocked his head. Alex nodded once.
And everything was back to normal.
* * *
So normal, in fact, that after eating the gourmet meal
Barbara Hatch had sent and playing two games of chess
with Skinner, then maneuvering him back up to bed and
tucking Mulder in next to him, all without hearing Mulder's
voice once, Alex had gone to his own room and set his
internal clock for a two hour nap. He had awakened at
around 1 am, as planned, and pulled on his jeans and a
sweatshirt. Then he went down the hall and looked in on
Skinner. The man was sleeping deeply, with the dog and
cat for company, but no Mulder. Alex grinned and awarded
himself two points for knowing Mulder as well as he did, then
went downstairs. No Mulder in the kitchen or living room.
So he went out onto the porch. The boards were cold under
his bare feet, but he didn't go back in to get shoes.
Mulder was leaning on the railing, staring off at the ocean,
silvered by the moonlight, the distant sound of waves on the
beach louder than the breath that steamed in the still night
air. He was also standing there shirtless, wearing only his
jeans - idiot! - so Alex came up behind him and wrapped his
arms around the chilled flesh. He rested his cheek on
Mulder's shoulder and waited. After a few moments, one of
Mulder's hands came up to rest on his forearm where it lay
across his chest. After another wait, during which Alex was
sure his feet had frozen to the porch, Mulder took a deep
breath and spoke.
"Alex, I'm sorry."
Alex awarded himself another two points for knowing that
these would be Mulder's first words. Mulder must have felt
him grin, because he shifted restively and growled, "What
are you laughing at?"
"You," Alex said and hugged him a little tighter. "You're
such a source of stability, Mulder. I always know what you'll
"What the hell are you talking about?"
Alex grinned again, pleased. Mulder no longer sounded
angst-ridden, he sounded annoyed. That was much better,
in Alex's opinion, even though his hand no longer rested on
"I find it very comforting to know that you'll occasionally get
so pissed at me that you'll snap, we'll revert to our old
patterns, then you'll wallow in guilt for two or three days."
"I'm glad I'm so predictable." Mulder's voice was icier than
"It *is* one of your many charms," Alex agreed, and began
to nuzzle at one goose-pimpled shoulder. He could feel
Mulder's muscles vibrating with tension; the man's hands
were gripping the railing until they were skeletal in the
"I *hate* that I do that, just like He did."
There was no doubt in Alex's mind who 'He' was. Bill
Mulder, alcoholic, might not have been Mulder's biological
father, but Mulder was his son and bore the psychological
scars to prove it. Once again, Alex was mildly pleased that
he had been the one to remove Bill Mulder from the world
and prevented him from inflicting any more harm on his
"Mulder...." Alex said soothingly.
The other man shrugged out of Alex's arms and spun to face
him, face shadowed, his eyes glittering in the uncertain light.
"I lost it and tried to put you through a wall. That's no more
or less than spousal abuse."
"I could have stopped you at any time." The words were flat,
cool and unconcerned. They were also absolutely true.
"That's not the point! I lashed out at you in anger and you
just took it - that's the *definition* of spouse abuse, for god's
Well. Alex gave Mulder *three* points for coming up with a
new variation on an old refrain. Spouse abuse. He couldn't
help it, he started chuckling.
"I'm serious, damn it!"
The man was so beautiful when he was so angry, so
tortured, so wrong. Alex loved him more than he
understood, all those twists and turns and intuitive leaps of
logic that no one else could ever hope to predict.
"I know you are, Mulder. It's just that I don't think those
definitions really work for us." He saw Mulder begin to draw
breath to argue with him held up a hand. "It's just that who
we are, what we've been and who we've become...they're so
far from normal that I don't think you can use the standard
definitions. You're beating yourself up over deviating from a
societal norm that we couldn't even *hope* to achieve." He
couldn't help it, he started to snicker again.
"So you're saying it's OK for me to lose it and slam you
around occasionally because we're so fucked up that it's
actually a sign of improved mental health?"
"Basically, yeah." Moving cautiously, Alex stepped closer to
Mulder and slowly took him into his arms.
"What the hell have you been reading - Masochists
"Azerbaijani train schedules. They leave you a lot of time to
"I'm sorry," Mulder whispered into his hair after a time.
"I know. I'm sorry that I had to lie to you."
"You'd do it again, wouldn't you?"
Alex didn't even bother to answer. He ran his hand over
Mulder's marble-cold back and waited. In another moment, it
"Alex, do we have to stand out here any more? I'm freezing,"
in just the right tone of aggrieved that suggested that it had
all been Alex's idea that they have their soul-search out here
in the cold instead of the someplace warmer that Mulder
would have chosen.
The balance restored, the evening's total score up to six
points, Alex cheerfully resisted smacking Mulder's shivering
ass. He steered him inside, back upstairs, stripped him then
tucked him into his own bed before curling up around Mulder
and stroking his hair until the tremors stopped. They fell
asleep with no more words between them.
* * *
Skinner was healing rapidly. He didn't need the Percodan
after two days and the doctor was amazed at his recovery
rate. "Amazing for a man of your age," she said heartily,
well-pleased with her patient's progress.
Alex and Mulder were less pleased. One week after his
accident and Skinner was up and around on his crutches,
working on small pieces in his shop and nearly non-verbal.
He would reply to direct queries or when challenged but was
otherwise silent. More disturbing still, he had stopped
touching either Mulder or Alex, except in the most
perfunctory ways. He would endure their caresses but
seemed more annoyed than soothed as they attempted to
cosset and pet him. He was brooding about something but
neither of the other two could discover it. Tempers got
touchier as their consternation grew.
The night Skinner asked them both to sleep in Alex's room
was the final straw.
* * *
Mulder was sitting in the window seat, staring out at the
Hunter's Moon which hung low and full over the dunes. Alex
had thrown himself back onto the bed and was frowning
ferociously at the ceiling. A chill wind was hissing around
the eaves of the house.
"We can't go on like this."
"And we can't shoot him," Alex pointed out.
"Tempting, but no," Mulder smiled for a moment. "What the
hell is his problem?"
"You mean besides nearly dying in the stupidest way
possible?" Alex was still angry about being scared like that
and tended to snarl whenever he was reminded of the day
he had spent staring at the emergency room walls.
"Yes. He was fine for a couple of days there. He was tired,
he hurt, but he was OK. His mood was good. Then...
nothing. He stops talking, stops eating and won't let either
of us near him. What happened?"
"He was OK when I took him to the doctor," Alex offered. "I
mean, he bitched and moaned for a while about the doctor
calling him an 'old man'. She didn't actually, but she
reminded him that he wasn't exactly immortal. So did I, for
that matter. I told him he wasn't going to see fifty again and
he was goddamned lucky he wasn't dead, so he ought to
shut up and enjoy the fact that he was still around to be
There was a silence from the direction of the window seat,
the suggestion of a man thinking very hard. Mulder rubbed
his hands over his face, then swore.
Alex sat up on his elbow. "What?"
"I'd hate to think it's that simple, but it might just be. That
was Tuesday, right? Well, I spent the evening carefully
hinting around the idea that he might want to start passing
on jobs that required him to climb around other people's
Alex pursed his lips thoughtfully. "You think...?"
Mulder nodded slowly. "Then I suggested he might want to
turn in his stethoscope and jump kit. Stop being an EMT."
"Oh shit. What did he say?"
"He didn't say anything."
Alex groaned and flopped back down on the bed. "So,
basically, what you're telling me is that his doctor and both
his lovers spent the day telling him he was getting old and
fragile and that he ought to just wrap himself up and sit by
"Yup," Mulder said quietly. "That's about the long and short
They were silent for a time, then Alex said reflectively,
"Actually, I'm sort of surprised that he didn't shoot either one
"What the hell are we going to do about it?"
The two men listened to the wind wailing outside for a while,
then Alex said,
"I have an idea."
* * *
Walter Skinner knew that he was sulking. He was sitting in
bed, still wearing shorts and a tee shirt, arms crossed over
his chest, watching the moon move across one window and
into the next. His knee was still propped up on a pillow, but
it gave him barely a twinge when he moved it and was
hardly noticeable when he didn't.
He'd spent two days telling himself he was depressed. Then
he spent another day or so being positive that it was a
delayed midlife crisis. But tonight, when he saw the
kicked-puppy look in Mulder's eyes after he'd been asked to
sleep in Alex's room, that's when Skinner knew he was
simply sulking. Someone had once told him that depression
was merely anger without enthusiasm. What he was going
through was closer to indignation without zeal.
Face it, Walter. You *are* over fifty. Most men your age
wouldn't bounce back from an injury like this as quickly as
The doctor was right.
Plenty of younger men had fallen half the distance he had
and wound up dead. Hell, after half the things he'd done in
his life, just to be pushing 55 was a fucking miracle he
should be celebrating every day.
Alex was right.
He didn't even like roof work; he'd only gone up to help John
out before winter got good and going. He'd be more than
happy to never climb a ladder again, in fact.
Mulder was right.
But he'd be damned if he gave up being an EMT.
Sulking, he told himself, is unattractive at any age.
Especially in someone your age, he thought and grinned
wryly at his empty bedroom. Why Mulder and Alex had put
up with it as long as they had, he didn't know. But it was
time for it to end. Besides, a few days ago, they had both
hinted at a rather unorthodox cure for the blues. He
wondered if they might still be willing to demonstrate, if he
apologized nicely. He was reaching for the cane he'd
graduated to this morning when they both came into the
He knew immediately that something was up. He took a
deep breath, wondering if he could head off the scolding he
knew he deserved. When Alex shook his head warningly,
he sighed and knew he was in for it. But they said nothing;
just stood together in the middle of the room and looked at
Alex put his arm around Mulder's neck and they leaned in
toward one another, still gazing at him. Their heads were
pressed together and, barefoot, in jeans and flannel shirts,
both men ought to have looked wholesome and innocently
charming. Instead, there was a sudden deep thrum of
sensuality in the room and Walter wondered if it weren't his
libido coming out of its sulk just a little behind the rest of
"I'm..." he began when Alex cut him off with a sharp motion
of his artificial hand.
"Don't say anything, Walter. Not a word. Just watch. Got
Skinner nodded, bemused. At least until Alex used the hand
around Mulder's neck to urge his head around. His two
lovers stood kissing hungrily, no more than five feet away, at
the edge of the pool of light thrown by the one lamp.
Jesus, they were beautiful. Mulder was lean and strong,
moving his hands over his partner with a lazy grace. Alex
was stockier, more muscular; his one-handed caresses had
a fierceness held in careful check. He pulled back for a
moment and looked deeply into Mulder's eyes. A question
must have been asked, because Mulder smiled and nodded
agreement, then nuzzled at Alex's forehead. Skinner caught
the edge of one of Alex's demon grins as he took a step
behind Mulder, but by the time the younger man looked up
again, his expression was blank and he looked intensely
focused. Alex's intentions became clear in the next
moment. He began nibbling at Mulder's neck as his right
hand came up to slowly unbutton Mulder's shirt, one button
at a time.
Skinner couldn't look away, which was obviously the point.
His punishment was going to be watching Alex seduce
Mulder just out of arm's reach. He deserved it, he knew, just
as he knew that one of Alex's rules would be that Skinner
could not leave, could not move, could not touch himself.
Skinner swallowed and settled himself back against the
headboard, wordlessly agreeing to everything.
Mulder was arching his neck and breathy little whimpers
were audible as Alex ran his teeth lightly across the sweet
spot behind Mulder's left ear that Skinner had shown him
with such delight over four years ago. It was a constant
source of fascination; Mulder could be reduced to
incoherency with just a small investment of time and effort in
a two inch area of skin. There had been a memorable traffic
jam trying to get back onto the Cape on a Friday afternoon
last year, during which Alex, who had gotten bored in the
back seat, had livened up the entire afternoon by stroking,
caressing and otherwise teasing that spot on Mulder's neck.
Trapped in the passenger seat, Mulder could do nothing but
suffer deliciously. Skinner could still recall the exact timbre
of the moan Mulder gave when Alex had wet his fingers in
his mouth, then run them in circles just behind Mulder's ear.
It was the same moan he gave now as Alex suckled for a
moment, then released him. Mulder's eyes met Skinner's for
a moment, glazed and dark, then he closed them again, a
slight smile on his lips. Alex slipped the last of Mulder's shirt
buttons from its hole, then let his hand drift up Mulder's
chest to his shoulder and under the loosened flannel. With
a long caress, Alex slid the shirt off, drawing his hand behind
Mulder's neck to ease it off the other shoulder and down his
arms, where, cuffs still buttoned, it tangled around his wrists.
Alex kissed Mulder's temple, whispered something in his
ear, then moved away from him. Alex took two steps and
stood in front of Skinner, his hand out. Quietly, he said,
"Give me some oil."
There was a bottle of massage oil still standing on the
bedside table, left over from one of Mulder's numerous
recent attempts to cosset him. Skinner poured a small
amount into Alex's hand and looked hard at him, trying to
gauge his mood. But Alex's face was in shadow and there
was nothing to see but the glitter of his eyes, which could
have meant anything at all. So Skinner looked beyond him
to Mulder and caught his breath at the sight.
Mulder stood just inside the golden circle of light cast by the
bedside lamp. His hands were trapped behind him, still
cuffed by his shirt. His eyes were closed, he was flushed
and breathing fast. There was both pride and submission in
his wide-legged stance, as if he were demanding to be
ravished and yet knew there was nothing he could do to
speed or hinder his tormentor.
"He's beautiful, isn't he?" That same shadowed voice
startled Skinner from his reverie. He could only nod,
voiceless. Alex smiled a little, almost approvingly at him,
then prowled back to where Mulder stood. Moving up behind
him, Alex rubbed against him, bringing a gasp from Mulder.
Alex soothed him by stroking his oiled hand across Mulder's
chest, bracing Mulder's hip with his prosthetic hand. Excess
oil trickled down Mulder's abdomen to disappear beneath
the waistband of his jeans. Skinner was mesmerized by the
slow circling of Alex's strong hand over Mulder's skin, by the
flicker of those oiled muscles as Mulder tried to take deeper,
slower breaths, by the blown- sand sound of Alex's voice
whispering to them both.
"You see him, Skinner? Are you really looking now?" Their
eyes met for a moment and Skinner nodded. "This is what
you didn't want earlier. Were you wrong?" Skinner nodded
again, swallowing heavily. Mulder made a restive movement
like a cat demanding a caress, and Alex turned his attention
back to the man in his arms. "No one like you, Fox. There's
no one in the world like you -- I know, I looked." Mulder's
lips curled for a moment and he shook his head in amused
denial. Alex's hand slid up to Mulder's throat and pulled his
head around for a fiercely awkward kiss. "No one," he
insisted softly and sealed his argument with a firm caress
over the bulge in Mulder's faded jeans and a nip behind his
ear. Mulder subsided with a whimper.
Alex's oiled hand had left darkened patches on the crotch of
Mulder's jeans. They fascinated Skinner as Mulder squirmed
in Alex's arms, almost dancing as he was rubbed and licked,
nipped and kissed. He gave a low tremulous moan as
Alex's agile fingers slipped the button of his jeans open.
Skinner heard himself echoing Mulder's whimper as that
clever hand went exploring and returned into the light
cradling Mulder's swollen cock and balls, easing them past
the open zipper of his jeans. A few caresses with his slick
hand and Mulder was a study in erotic abandonment, body
arched, gleaming and heated, eyes closed, head thrown
back to rest on Alex's shoulder, hands still caught behind his
"Skinner?" Alex offered softly.
"Please," he said hoarsely.
Alex looked at him carefully, then smiled in approval at what
he saw. It was not a nice smile. Skinner became aware
that he was panting and flushed, achingly hard and his fists
were twisted in the comforter. "Never again, Skinner, do you
understand? You don't do this ever again."
"Promise," Skinner whispered, neither understanding nor
caring what he was pledging.
"Good boy," Alex said and gently urged Mulder the last few
steps forward. When Skinner's fingers brushed down one
thigh, Mulder opened his eyes and smiled. Then he was
leaning forward and Skinner was catching his shoulders and
rolling him over his own body to land on the bed without
straining Skinner's injured knee.
Propped on one elbow, Skinner looked down the long hot
length of Mulder's body beside him before growling and
rolling on top of him. Mulder's hands were still tangled in his
shirt, trapped at his sides, so there was nothing and no one
to stop Skinner as he rioted down Mulder's body. He kissed,
licked, nipped, scraped, laved and nuzzled him. The faint
dusty-sweet taste of the massage oil became a top note to
the musky perfume of Mulder's own body as Skinner lapped
at the clear drops that slipped from Mulder's cock. Mulder
moaned when Skinner began sucking and humming around
his flesh and he shouted as he came moments later,
twisting and crying out as he poured down Skinner's throat.
Skinner, favoring his injured leg, crawled awkwardly back up
to kiss Mulder deeply. Then he leaned back and brushed
silvering hair away from Mulder's damp forehead and said,
"Sorry I've been such an asshole."
Mulder smiled dreamily and said, "You have been, but you
apologize with real style. I'm inclined to forgiveness."
From behind them, Alex growled, "You're too easy on him,
"And what do you suggest, Alex?" Mulder asked, grinning.
Skinner barely had time to register Alex kneeling beside
them when his shoulder was seized and he was flipped onto
his back. Then Alex was looming, hard and hot and dark,
over him. Skinner felt a ripple of something that was a
distant kin to fear as he looked into Alex's autumn green
eyes. Then Alex's mouth had seized his and his lips were
being bruised with the fierce caress and he welcomed the
pain as simply another part of the wild sweetness of it all.
The younger man was hard and heavy on top of him,
rocking his hips across Skinner's groin, matching hardness
to hardness. Without thinking, Skinner's arms came up to
hold Alex more tightly against him, breath hissing through
his teeth when Alex bit at his throat, groaning when he felt
the jolt through his cock.
Alex slid down some and kept up that maddening friction
against him, never letting up long enough for him to catch
his breath or take control. He bit at one of Skinner's nipples
through his tee shirt and the wet heat made him cry out and
toss his head, writhing with pleasure so sharp-edged it was
nearly pain. His head came up against something hard and
he was suddenly stilled, caught between Alex's forearm and
his prosthetic. Alex's eyes burned above him.
"Let's be very clear here, Skinner. You don't *ever* do this
to us again." Skinner nodded, eyes snared in the deep forest
gaze above his, captured in the heat that held him down.
"You don't ever lock us out again. You *belong* to us, do
you understand?" Alex emphasized his point by bringing his
knee up to rub firmly against Skinner's cock, so hard and so
good that he almost came -- and then Alex moved it away
again. When Skinner sobbed once, hands tightening with
bruising force on his hips, Alex was finally satisfied. He
leaned down to kiss Skinner very gently this time and
brought his knee back up to press firmly against Skinner's
cock while rocking against him once, twice, then once more
before the older man exploded with a strangled shout,
triggering Alex's own wash of pleasure.
After a few minutes, Alex pulled himself away from Skinner
with a grimace. He sat up on the edge of the bed and flexed
his stiff shoulders then considered his own damp jeans and
Skinner's soaked shorts with a complacently curled lip.
"Well, that was something else," he said hoarsely. Skinner
just shook his head in blind wonder.
"It certainly was," Mulder agreed. "Now, you wanna untie me
It took a few moments to untangle Mulder and strip them all,
then a trip to the bathroom for a washcloth to mop up the
worst of the stickiness on all three of them. After a
moment's careful observation of Skinner's face, Alex went
back and got a glass of water and a couple of painkillers.
Mulder had curled up on Skinner's shoulder and the two
appeared to be dozing. At Alex's nudge, Skinner opened his
eyes. He took in Alex's uncompromising expression, saw the
water and the pills he held out, then took them with
Alex smiled at him, then turned to take away the glass.
Skinner's hand caught his and held him, his expression just
as uncompromising as Alex's had been. "You're home now,
Alex," he said quietly and tugged on his hand. Knowing he
was well and truly caught, Alex put the glass on the bedside
table, then slipped into bed next to Skinner. Skinner turned
onto his left side to give Alex a little more room. Mulder
made a sleepy noise of protest and snuggled back up
against him. Alex turned out the light and the room was
flooded with moonlight and shadows. Skinner ran a gentle
hand over Alex's face, cupping his jaw for a moment in a
gesture so tender that Alex's breath caught in his throat.
Then all was quiet for a time.
"Still feeling old?" Alex asked drowsily in the dark.
"Unh unh," Skinner mumbled. "Dead," he clarified.
"Good," Alex smiled and fell asleep.
Yup, Skinner thought, calm was over-rated. So was youth.
Then he snuggled a little closer to Alex, pulled Mulder's arm
over his hip and fell asleep.
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