Date: MAY, 1999
Summary: Lots of questions need answering.
DISCLAIMER: Okay, CC and 1013, but I like them too.
Skinner wasn't surprised to find Krycek sitting in the darkened living room, glass of scotch in hand. The problem of phantom pain seemed to be more prevalent when Mulder was off on one of his jaunts, promoting his new book or acting as the special guest at some sci-fi conference. This time he was to be gone for ten days, hitting four cities on his book tour and one conference out on the West Coast.
Krycek had heard Skinner come down, knew he was being watched from the doorway. He raised the glass to his mouth and drank. And waited.
Skinner sat at the far end of the couch, stuck his hands into the pockets of his loosened jeans, slouched till his head rested against the back and took his time looking over his housemate/lover.
Krycek concentrated on the drink in his hand, looking into the glass as though fascinated. He was wearing an old pair of black sweatpants and nothing else. His feet were propped up on the coffee table they all used as an ottoman. His elbow, when not bending, rested on the arm of the couch. He seemed to be waiting for something, but Skinner couldn't think what that could be, certainly at 3 a.m.
He finally broke the silence. "Are you okay?" Krycek didn't look at him, just gave a slight nod. Raised the glass again. He had filled it to the top, was slowly working it down.
Skinner decided to take a chance. Things between the two of them were always a bit delicate. A lot of pussy-footing around. Even when Mulder was at home. More so when he wasn't. Maybe it was time to see if more concrete ground existed. So he pushed. "I don't think so. And I don't think it has anything to do with missing Fox. More, it seems that it has to do with me. So why don't you just tell me what's bothering you, Krycek, and maybe we can clear the air."
Krycek didn't move, didn't say anything. He kept on staring at the glass balanced on his knees.
Skinner sighed loudly, putting a bit more exasperation in it than he actually felt. And waited. After all this time with Mulder, he had learnt that patience was indeed a virtue. Not that he didn't feel like strangling him once in a while. If Krycek needed time to get to the point, he was willing to wait.
So he just sat there. Watching. Waiting.
Krycek took another swallow. Shit! Why not? Maybe it was time to bring the whole thing out. If he got thrown out, well... that was life. His life.
He turned to meet Skinner's eyes. Skinner wasn't wearing his glasses which softened his face. Made him look less like an AD and more like a human being. Not less strong. Not less dangerous. Just less bureaucratic. Krycek moved his body slightly, so it was angled into the corner of the couch. Protection for his back if he needed it. He still felt, after all this time, a bit safer with something solid against his back.
"When are you going to boot me out?"
Not quite what Skinner was expecting. But, on hearing the question coming out of Krycek's mouth, not that surprising either. "Why would I boot you out, Krycek?" A question for a question. Gave him time to do some thinking.
Krycek gave a little smirk. "Come on, Skinner. The only reason I'm part of this... household is because Mulder asked you to let me stay. You don't want me here, you only let me stay because of Mulder."
"Are you sure of that, Krycek?" Skinner's voice was softly even in the dark.
"Come off it, Skinner. Would I be here if it were up to you?"
This time Krycek was the one who waited for Skinner's answer. Even if he did know the answer, he wanted Skinner to say it aloud.
"To be honest, Alex, I don't know. When you first got here, you were too sick to throw out. And now... like I said, I don't know."
Krcyek snorted his disbelief and went back to his drink.
"I do know that I was surprised, in a way, that Fox understood why you killed Bill Mulder. Even accepted it. Maybe it helped that he wasn't really Fox's father, but he had hated you for it for so long that I did have trouble with his... forgiving you."
"I think," offered Krycek, "he was so happy that he didn't carry that bastard's genes he was willing to forgive anything."
Skinner shrugged. "Don't see how Cancerman's are any better. Still. And there is the fact that you did pass all that information over to us. Made it a whole lot easier for us to take down the Consortium, what was left of it, after the burnings. I'll admit *that* made it easier for me to accept you."
Krycek looked back at him. "But not quite."
Skinner grunted. "Yeah, you're right. Not quite." He stretched out his feet so that they rested on the coffee table. "I take it this is the right time for me to ask why."
Krycek nodded, slouched a bit more on his spine. "Which why?" He sipped his drink.
"True. There are so many." Skinner's tone was ironic. "Why you betrayed the Bureau. Why you helped them with Scully. Why you beat me up in the stairwell. Why you stole the DAT tape. Why you sold the stuff you deciphered off it. Why you followed Mulder to Tunguska. Why you went back to the Consortium. Why... "
"Why the palm pilot," interrupted Krycek.
Skinner's face hardened. "Yes," he said softly, "why the palm pilot, Krycek?"
Krycek emptied the glass and placed it on the arm of the couch. There were things about himself he had long ago accepted, but sometimes, some times like now, he was a bit embarrassed, a bit ashamed of what he had done.
Skinner watched as Krycek worked out how he was going to answer that particular "why". He didn't think he would hear a lie: Krycek was honest in his own way. He was the one who brought up the subject, so the answer would be the reason as Krycek saw the truth. Problem was Krycek often didn't see the truth as he, Skinner, saw it. But he waited. Watched as Krycek's fingers played with a small hole in the knee of his sweats.
Krycek's voice was almost too soft to hear when he did speak. "Because you slept with him."
Skinner didn't react. He had to think a moment. Because he'd slept with him? With whom?
Krycek's fingers widened the hole. He bit his lower lip, squirmed a little. "It doesn't make much sense, now. But then, you were sleeping with him. With Mulder."
Skinner was thoroughly confused. Yes. True. He had been sleeping with Mulder by then.
Krycek took a breath and tried again. "You had sex with me. But you slept with him."
Skinner cocked his head. "Let me get this straight. You played God with my life because I was sleeping with Mulder and having sex with you? But I wasn't. I mean I wasn't doing both of you at the same time. Krycek, I don't get this." He was beginning to feel angry. Shit! The ratbastard had let him die because he was... what? jealous because he was sleeping with Mulder?
Krycek shook his head. "I told you it didn't make much sense." He kept his eyes on the hole in his sweats. Felt Skinner sit up.
"Take me over this again, Krycek. I want to understand even if you say it doesn't make much sense. To begin with, I wasn't juggling the two of you at all."
"No. You weren't." Krycek passed a frustrated hand through his hair. It was hard to explain to Skinner when he wasn't very sure himself of the explanation.
Skinner was smart enough to keep quiet, hard though that was, and let Krycek work out the words for himself. Then, he would hit him. He shoved his hands back into his pockets, fisted them. Hitting Krycek now would make him feel better, but it wouldn't help matters at all.
After a while, Krycek tried again. "When I was still with the Bureau," he spoke slowly, "when you and I had sex, that's what it was. Sex. A quick fuck. Against a wall. Over a desk. Once, at a hotel, we made it to the bed, but it was me over it. That's as close to sleeping together as we got."
He was making the hole larger, seemed to be very focused on that. "When I left the Bureau and you took up with Mulder, it was different for the two of you. When you met, it wasn't for a quick fuck. You took more time together."
"Once," his voice was bland, all emotion suppressed, "I snuck into Mulder's apartment and found the two of you together in his bed." He looked up and faced Skinner. "That's how I found out that the two of you were an item."
He gave a sort of half smile. "I thought it would be fun to take your place when you left. So I waited in the outer hallway for you to leave. But you didn't." He went back to working the hole. "You spent the night with him. The morning too. And when you left, he left with you. You went to that restaurant for brunch and then spent the afternoon together. Doing things."
His smile was bitter. "You never did anything like that with me. *Mulder* never did anything like that with me. I was good enough for a screw, but not for much else."
Skinner said nothing. Tried to work through what Krycek was telling him. About all three of them.
"So," continued Krycek, "when Cancerman wanted to test out the palm pilot on you, I volunteered to do it. The Brit wasn't too happy with the trial. It was too complicated, too involved for him. He wasn't that keen on technological advances even if Cancerman was rather ga-ga over new toys."
"The original plans were for you to die. Really die. Cancerman hated your guts by then, especially for reopening the X-Files. He wanted Mulder neutralized and there you were, letting him loose again. But by then the Brit was giving me my orders. He agreed to the testing but I convinced him that we needed to know the exact limits of the thing. It was a prototype, a very expensive prototype. Each palm pilot had to be individually programmed for its match. Very time consuming. And the nanocytes had a limited lifespan. So there was only so much time to play in. At that point, there were only two of the things around. The one for Orgel. And the one for you."
Skinner finally found his voice. "Orgel died."
Krycek nodded. "Yes. I needed to know just how much a body could take before "dying". And how long it could be dead before reactivating the palm pilot. He was no great loss. He was the one who transferred the nanocytes to you when he touched you in the hall. And he was the one who had invented the nanocytes in the first place, so it was appropriate that they should kill him."
He looked at Skinner, meeting his eyes. "Yes. I killed him. And then I 'killed' you."
"All because I didn't spend a night in your bed." Skinner couldn't quite hide his anger, his disgust. Krycek reacted to neither.
Skinner stood up and took a turn around the floor at that end of the living room. Well, he'd wanted to know. And now he did. It took a bit more effort than he liked to calmly ask, "Does this mean that whenever we don't spend the night with you our lives are at risk?"
Krycek quirked an eyebrow. "Get real, Skinner. When do either of you ever spend a night in my bed?"
Skinner caught himself about to scoff. He stopped pacing.
"Think about it, Skinner. In all the time I've been here, have you or Mulder ever spent an entire night with me? Ever?"
Skinner opened his mouth. Then shut it. He tried hard to contradict Krycek, but nothing came to mind. "There are nights when Mulder goes to you," he started.
"Yes. But he goes back to you, or to your bed if you're gone, after we have sex."
"Before... surely before I came into the picture, the two of you... "
"Yeah, sure, the two of us had sex. Sometimes even in his bed. But Mulder never spent an entire night in his bed until he started sleeping with you. We'd have sex, great sex, but Mulder always moved to his couch at some point during the night."
"And," continued Krycek, " even when *you* come to my bed, those times you do, like Mulder, you go back to your room. Even faster than Mulder. At least, Mulder spends some time with me."
Skinner listened to Krycek's voice. It was calm. Unaccusing. But he realized that under the coolness lay an undertone of hurt. Something of what he felt must have made itself apparent on his face because Krycek quickly added, "It's okay. I finally realized that sex may be all I'm good for. Neither of you seems to have any complaints about my technique because you both keep on coming back. And I certainly don't have any complaints on my end. I've got more here than I ever hoped to have in my life."
"And I do realize that I'm here on your sufferance. That I don't really add much to the composition of this household. And," he took a deep breath, braced himself, "if your patience is at an end, if my presence is too much for you to tolerate any more, well... it's been a year and a half. I never expected to be allowed to stay here this long. If you want me to leave, you don't have to worry. I won't make a fuss. I'll even leave Mulder a note telling him I want to move on."
Skinner dry scrubbed his face. He hadn't really been listening to Krycek's offer of leaving: he was still trying to find a time when one of them had had more than quick sex with the man.
"Those times when the three of us have sex together?"
Krycek almost smiled. "Usually we do it here in the living room. The few times we've made it to a bed, it's your bed. Yours and Mulder's. I'm only a visitor. Like all well behaved visitors, I leave before I become a nuisance."
He waited while Skinner absorbed this bit of information. Eventually he yawned. The scotch and the tension of the conversation had worked some magic on his missing arm: the phantom pain was gone. He wanted this resolved. "Skinner. Do you want me to leave?"
Skinner examined the younger man sitting at the end of the couch, knee bared by the hole, awaiting his answer like some penitent in front of a judge: he was ready to be told to pack up and go. And Krycek's offer had finally penetrated his own thick skull. If he told the man to go, he would do so, keeping his word.
So easy. All he had to do was say "Go," and the baggage that was Krycek would go.
So why couldn't he say that word?
"No. No, I don't want you to leave."
"Sure? I may never make the offer again."
Shit! What was it about Krycek that he always had to push? Skinner shook his head.
"Then I'm going back to bed."
ANSWERS TO ANSWERS
Krycek got up the next morning, went off to work as if nothing had happened. Skinner lay in bed, listening to him go through his morning rituals.
Of the three of them, Krycek was the one with the regular job. Well, as regular a job as any of them had.
Mulder had quit the Bureau, wrote articles and was promoting his second book, begrudging the time away from his third.
Since his retirement from the Bureau, he, Skinner, worked as a consultant for a conservative (small c) think tank. He'd put in his twenty years and had had no trouble adjusting to easier days, no overtime, no weekends spent at the office catching up on the continually reproducing paperwork. He just went in when he felt like it, picked up the articles they wanted him to review, to comment on, occasionally attended some meetings. All that for a nice hourly fee.
Krycek's work required him to go to an office, work with a team, his team. Now and then, they did field work when he could be gone for up to a week, but most often he did his work at a computer. Krycek was, of the three of them, a master of the keyboard. That plus his skills at "gathering" information, no matter where it was, had got him a job - no, a position - with a high level security firm, Nash Securities.
He and his team evaluated secured locations. Which meant that one team would go in, analyze the needs for security, install what they had determined was required. And then Krycek's team would try and break in. Either by hacking or by an actual break in. So far, in fourteen trials, Krycek's team had broken through fourteen times. Which made him a master of his trade, though not well liked by those who installed the systems.
He'd gotten the work through Mulder's Lone Gunmen who often served as consultants to Krycek's team.
So, of the three of them, Krycek was the one who got to fight morning and evening traffic in his black army surplus jeep.
The next couple of days passed like they always did. Krycek brought home some papers that required his attention. Skinner wrote up some reports, went to his office to pick up some more, attended a short meeting. Mulder called on the speaker phone with his nightly reports on the latest trials and tribulations of being a best-selling author on a book tour.
Skinner and Krycek ate supper, cleaned up with no more, no less than the usual conversations. Life as it had become normal in the Mulder/Skinner/Krycek household.
Krycek even had his usual problem with nightmares.
The third night after they'd talked, Skinner woke to the muffled sounds of Krycek screaming. Usually, Mulder went to him when that happened. But Mulder was out of town and Skinner, instead of ignoring the sounds, turning over and going back to sleep like he usually did, got up and went to the man.
Krycek was sitting up in bed, huddled over his raised knees, trying hard to get his breathing back under control. He hated his reactions to the nightmares he had. He had trained himself to wake from most of them, to come out of them before he was too deeply dragged down. But occasionally, when he was stressed, or tired, or sick, the timbre of his dreams changed and he wasn't able to pull out so that they totally entwined him in some horror he had tried so hard to suppress.
Tonight, he had been back in the silo, the oil pouring out of him, his eyes, his nose, his mouth, his ears. The additional horrors of being locked up with the UFO and its contents, the silo walls closing in, the living death from which he had somehow escaped were all too real.
He knew he had screamed, his throat told him he had. And he was covered in sweat. His body trembled as his mind pushed back the demons into whatever compartment they hid until the next time.
The unexpected hand touching his back scared the hell out of him.
Skinner sat on the edge of the bed, handed him a glass of water. "Sorry. I thought you'd heard me."
Krycek took the glass, the water slopping over the rim. Skinner placed his hand over Krycek's, holding the glass steady to his mouth.
"Thank you," Krycek's voice sounded husky. Skinner placed the glass on the night table, passed a wet face cloth over Krycek's back, face. Krycek sighed at the coolness removing the smell of fear from his skin. Gently down his throat, across the upper portion of his body. He felt Skinner leave the bed. Not expecting more, he muttered "Thanks," again and rested his forehead on his knees, trying to control the shivers still running through his body.
"Move over." Skinner pushed him a bit to the centre of the bed, piled the pillows and sat down behind Krycek, tugging the man down and the covers up over him at the same time. Krycek was surprised by the treatment, but accepted it wouldn't last long. He was still trembling and the feel of another's body against his would help push away the residue of his nightmare. Mulder, had he been here, would have wrapped himself around Krycek, holding him till he fell back asleep. He didn't expect the same from Skinner, but had to admit the heat of the big body, the arm holding him would probably work as well. He wondered if Skinner would stay long enough for him to fall asleep.
Skinner felt the tremors subside gradually. His hand stroked the smooth back, gently massaged the tight muscles on the shoulders, the nape until Krycek sighed and relaxed.
To Krycek's surprise, Skinner didn't get up and go back to his own bedroom. He found himself wondering if maybe Skinner wanted sex, though the usual signals had not been forthcoming. He had no objections if he did; he had had Mulder over a week ago, and was getting a bit bored with jerking off in the shower.
But Skinner just continued holding him.
When Skinner finally spoke, Krycek was taken completely by surprise. He had concluded that Skinner wasn't in the mood for sex, was beginning to drowse. "I've been thinking about our conversation of the other night." Skinner's voice vibrated a bit in the chest under his ear. Krycek said nothing, just became more alert.
"You're wrong, you know. You do add something to the composition of this household. You are important. Not just to Fox."
Krycek slowly moved so that his temple rested against Skinner's shoulder joint, tilted his head so that he could watch Skinner's face. Skinner was staring straight ahead.
"I'm important to you?" His disbelief was obvious. "How?"
Skinner still didn't look at him, but his hand made soothing motions over his left shoulder, warming the truncation that was his arm. Skinner seemed to be trying to put something together before he spoke. "When Fox is gone, on these jaunts of his, I miss him. But I don't worry about him. When you're off on one of your break ins, I worry about you." He looked down into the stunned face resting on his shoulder. Krycek's eyes had opened wide; his mouth partially, but no sound came out of it.
Finally Krycek found his voice. "Why would you worry about me?"
Skinner cocked his head, gave one of his half smiles. "Alex. You haven't had one failure yet, you and your people. I know Nash thinks it's fantastic the way you catch any little thing that could cause a problem, but I also know that the planners of those security systems hate your guts. Accidents do happen."
Krycek had nothing to say to that. He knew very well how the planning teams felt about him.
"And I know you're important to Mulder."
"He just feels guilty about the arm."
Skinner didn't lie to Krycek. "Probably that's a bit of it. But he needs someone who understands him."
"And you don't?" Krycek scoffed.
"Not as well as you do. I accept him as he is. I don't try and change him. But a lot of the time, I find myself wondering where he's coming from. Where he's going. And you don't seem to have that problem. Maybe it's because, though you're more self-disciplined than he is, like him you also come to things from off a tangent. Which is probably why you're still alive. Why you're so good at what you do."
Krycek lay very still, absorbing the fact that Walter Sergei Skinner was complimenting him, Alex Krycek, Skinner's favourite ratbastard.
"And you are important to this household. To the fabrication of it."
At this stage, Krycek was beginning to wonder if this was the real Walter Skinner. His feelings must have been obvious because Skinner chuckled. "What's the problem, Krycek? Finding it difficult to accept that you're not just here on sufferance?"
"Yeah, a bit. Actually more than a bit." Krycek was wary: maybe this was Skinner's idea of a joke. If so, he didn't think he was going to find it funny.
Skinner could feel the muscles under his hand tightening. The younger man looked as though he was expecting a blow of some kind. It saddened him to think that Krycek's life had prepared him for that kind of expectation. And he had contributed to that feeling. Not that the man was a misunderstood saint, not by a long shot, but he had been living here, under his roof, for the last eighteen months and he, Skinner, should have realized how very little the man expected to receive in return.
He passed his hand down over Krycek's ribs to his hip and back in a caressing gesture. "A 'menage a trois' requires delicate balancing. Just to exist, never mind being successful. And we're not doing too badly. We seem to balance each other's weaknesses. I keep the two of you grounded. Mulder is the heart of both of us."
"And what's my role, the household pet?" Krycek was as surprised as Skinner to hear the bitterness in his voice. Skinner pulled him closer in a one armed hug, offering comfort. "No. You're the one who gives us focus."
Now Krycek was really stunned. "I don't understand."
"Well, both you and Fox tend to get depressed. Fox's tendency then is to do something stupid, to act without thinking; yours, to fight. If you can work your way through it, Fox is forced to do likewise. He's too competitive to allow you to overcome depression while he runs away from it. Makes him think about what he's doing and, though he does make our lives miserable for a while, he does pull himself out of the darkness."
"As for me, well, I don't think I would have accepted the job with the think tank if you hadn't been here. I mean, I hadn't had anything planned once I'd retired except maybe for playing around with some wood, making something or other. Then you showed up at the door with pneumonia and though you've barely got the energy to make it through a day without a nap, seven weeks later you're planning your first official, legal break in. Woke me up and made me get my ass in gear."
"I guess your role is make sure we get up in the morning with some idea that the day will be productive. I know Fox has written more since you've been here than he had in the two years before. And I like the way I can toss ideas from work off you and get some seriously considered responses. We both know that Fox thinks I'm far too conservative."
"And, unlike Fox, you play a really good game of chess. With your usual complete disregard for the conventions. Which forces me to review those conventions." He watched Krycek's face as his words sank in. Was pleased to feel some of the tension leave him.
"Now, as for the sex." And felt the tension come back. "I owe you an apology."
Krycek was confused. "Why?"
"Because you were right. All I had with you was sex. My marriage was breaking up. I had just been forced to close down the X-Files. Cancerman was making my life miserable. And there you were, any man's... no, not just any man's wet dream. *My* wet dream. And I used you, Alex. The sex was fantastic. What *I* needed. But I never for a moment asked myself if it was what *you* needed. And I'm sorry for that."
Krycek was uncomfortable. "It wasn't a problem. We both... we all three of us know I'm a slut."
"No! That's not what you are." Skinner's anger took Krycek aback. "Maybe that's how we treated you. God, Alex, if there's anyone who's sex on wheels, it's you. But you're not a slut. You are not responsible for the way *we* reacted to you. Don't ever let me hear you refer to yourself like that again. Do you understand?"
Krycek nodded, bemused: maybe this whole night was a dream, from nightmare to fantasy.
"Alex? Do you understand that you're not going to be booted out of here? That, for as long as *you* want it, this is your home?" Skinner's face was intense.
Krycek felt the force of his promises. His eyes got suspiciously bright. He swallowed audibly. Whispered through a closed throat, "Yes, I understand."
He was pulled into arms, held hard against Skinner's chest. He wrapped what he could of himself around Skinner. When his throat had eased enough so he could speak without croaking, he asked, "Walter, do you want... "
"No." Skinner pulled Krycek's head back by the hair, sharply enough to catch the man's attention. "I have a better idea."
Krycek gave a sort of laugh. "A better idea than sex? What's better than sex?"
"Let me make love to you, Alex."
Krycek's breath caught.
"I think that would be a far better idea." Skinner turned to capture the mouth that had opened but hadn't answered. He used his mouth to caress Krycek's face. "I want to make love to you. Alex, do you mind?"
"No." Krycek's voice was raw. "No, I don't mind."
"And may I spend the night with you?" Skinner's hands shaped the body lying under his. "I want to spend the night with you, Alex. May I?"
Mulder sensed something was different. But he wasn't quite sure what it was. He was out too often these days promoting his second book to put his finger on it. Still, it bothered him.
Not that it was a bad thing. The times he came home between cities, conferences, appearances on the late night talk shows (once with that David guy who supposedly played him in the movie based on his first book), there seemed to be less tension between Alex and Walter. As if they had finally found some middle ground.
But he was a bit surprised to come home unexpectedly and find neither one of them there.
It has been an incredibly pissy day.
First, the hotel had lost his suit which he had sent out to be cleaned. Then the publisher's minder who always accompanied him had come down with the flu and been replaced by one of the editors. Who had so many good ideas for rewriting his third book. Not that he'd even seen a copy of it yet.
It had been obvious that the interviewer at the radio station hadn't even scanned his book. Had thought it had to do with people sneaking into the country illegally. Then lunch was more "good" ideas from the jerk. Who talked with his mouth full and waved his knife and fork around. It was obvious he had never eaten at a table with Teena Mulder.
In the afternoon, they went to a TV station for the taping of a panel discussion on "faction", which he hadn't wanted to do in the first place. The set must have been cursed because everything that could go wrong did. From the video robot freaking out and attacking the moderator, the excruciatingly painful pitch of the misbehaving sound system, to the set manager spilling hot coffee all over him, coffee he neither wanted nor requested.
Then the ultimate straw of the editor weaseling his way onto the panel and telling everyone who did or did not want to listen how *he* had saved Mulder's first book from the reject heap on the promise that *he* would personally oversee all and any necessary changes to the manuscript.
Mulder stormed off the set to the sound of the jerk tsk-tsking his "prima donna routine".
A quick phone call to the head of public relations informed him that the jerk was the CEO's son who had no business whatsoever being within fifty miles of Mulder. Lots of apologies later, Mulder *did* pull a prima donna routine and announced that until his usual minder was better, he was going home.
So here he was, in desperate need of some cuddling, some sympathetic comforting, especially since the plane had landed more than an hour late, and his car battery was dead because he'd forgotten... God knows what he had forgotten. That wasn't the point. The point was here he was in need of comforting and neither of his men was
Where the bloody hell were they?
He knew Krycek should be around: he had been working on a plan to infiltrate a software development lab in one of the suburbs.
And Skinner rarely went out in the evening, preferring to sit at home, work on his reports or just listen to one of those old vinyl albums in his jazz collection.
It was obvious that one or the other was still in residence: the light over the stove was on, a sure sign that someone expected to be back after dark. Shit! Here it was after midnight. Where were they?
The sound of laughter woke him from a doze on the couch. He squinted at his watch: 02:55. In the a. m.
He swung his legs off the couch, rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hands. What the hell was so funny? Geez! It was three a.m.! Didn't they think maybe someone was trying to sleep here?
And since when had they become such pals that they went out together and came home in the middle of the night making enough noise to wake the dead?
Mulder got off the couch and stomped into the kitchen.
It would have been hard to decide who was more surprised: Skinner and Krycek at seeing Mulder frown at them from the kitchen entrance or Mulder at seeing his two lovers dressed completely in black, hands and faces blackened.
"Fox! When did you get in?" Skinner smiled, his teeth brilliant in his blackened face.
"Mulder! Want a beer?" Krycek tossed one to Skinner, held out another to Mulder.
"No," snapped Mulder, his tone a perfect imitation of his mother when she was irritated, "I do not want a beer."
Skinner and Krycek exchanged raised eyebrows and smirks at Mulder's tone. Krycek closed the fridge door, held out his bottle of beer to Skinner who twisted the cap off. Both men settled at the kitchen table. Krycek dragged a chair over with a foot, propped both his feet on it. Skinner sat back, holding his beer in one hand, the ankle of a foot resting on top of the other knee.
"Thought you weren't due back till Friday night," said Skinner calmly. He recognized Mulder's tone: the man was feeling put upon for some reason. Krycek wisely said nothing, preferring to let Skinner handle Mulder when he was in this mood.
"Where the hell have you two been? And what's with the makeup?"
Skinner and Krycek exchanged grins. "We went and did a little B&E," explained Skinner. "You know, Alex mentioned it the last time you were here. That software place."
Mulder was speechless. Almost. "Since when does Alex invite amateurs along on his B&E's?"
Krycek whistled softly under his breath. Skinner sat up straighter, his voice a bit cold. "Not such an amateur. Or have you forgotten my little walk on the dark side because of you?"
Mulder felt embarrassed so he retaliated. "And what the hell is someone your age doing getting involved in something like that? You, Alex, should have known better than to involve him in one of your fool stunts!"
The temperature in the kitchen dropped to freezing.
Skinner and Krycek both stood up at the same time. Krycek nodded to Skinner. "Thanks for coming along, Walter. It *was* a big help, having you there." Then, ignoring Mulder, he walked past him, heading for the stairs.
Skinner faced Mulder, waited until Krycek's footsteps indicated that he was in the bathroom before passing judgement. "Sometimes, Fox, you are such a shit."
Then, he too walked out of the kitchen, ignoring his now shame-faced lover.
Mulder passed his hands through his hair, grabbed handfuls and slowly began cursing himself. This was not what he had come home for.
And he *was* acting like a shit.
Fuck! He owed them both apologies for his behaviour, for what he'd said. He knew he was tired, was disappointed that neither of them had been home to cater, yes, Fox, cater to his every wish, but that didn't explain the way he had overreacted. What was it with him?
He turned out the kitchen light, headed for the stairs but instead veered to the couch. He needed some time to get his act together, and besides, he didn't relish the thought of sharing a bed with a freezing Skinner.
Not that he would have.
He waited until he heard noises in the kitchen the next morning before heading upstairs for a shower and clean clothes. The bed in their room had not been slept in.
Krycek, dressed for work, was eating his usual breakfast of oatmeal smothered with pecans, brown sugar and cream, reading the sports page. Skinner wore his dressing gown, was spooning up muesli while working his way through the first section of the paper. Both men looked up when he came in, then went back to their reading.
Mulder poured himself a cup of coffee, sipped it, hoping for an opening in which to insert his apologies.
They didn't give it to him.
Krycek finished eating, put his bowl in the dish washer, started pulling on his jacket.
"Okay." Mulder's voice sounded irritated, but it was his own, not his mother's. "I'm sorry. I was in a bad mood and I took it out on you guys. I said things I shouldn't have said. I didn't mean them."
His two lovers just looked at him, neither one giving in an inch. What the hell did they want? He had apologized, hadn't he! What were they waiting for? For him to get on his knees and beg?
The silence grew. Skinner got up and put his bowl in the dish washer. Krycek finished putting on his jacket.
"Look. What more do you want? I was in a foul mood and I acted like a bitch. I'm sorry." He was beginning to feel just a bit desperate here. He had never had to face a united front before and he wasn't quite sure how to penetrate it.
Krycek and Skinner exchanged glances. Krycek slouched against the back door, a bit of a gleam in his eye. Skinner waited for it.
"Why is it," Krycek addressed Skinner, "that whenever Mulder shows us his sensitive feminine side, it's PMSing?"
Skinner didn't bother to hide his laughter. Krycek opened the door.
"Alex. I had fun last night. Thanks for the invite."
Krycek smiled. "Maybe you'd like to come again?"
Skinner grinned. "I'd like that."
He waited until he heard the jeep pull out of the driveway before pouring himself a cup of coffee then went to join a contrite Mulder at the table.
Mulder's head was on the table, hiding under his crossed arms. Skinner sighed, tapped a finger on the bit of head he could reach. Mulder slowly raised his head, sheepishly meeting Skinner's eyes.
"You want to tell me what that was all about?" Skinner wore that semi-AD look of his, the one he used to wear at the beginning of meetings when he and Scully reported.
Mulder shook his head. "I don't really know." He slouched back in the chair, rubbed his face. "I had the day from hell yesterday, got in and I guess I was surprised to find no one at home."
"By no one, does that mean me?" Skinner waited while Mulder worked that through.
"Yeah, I guess that was it. I mean, you're always there when I need you. Last night I needed you and you weren't here."
"No. I was out with Alex. Which bothers you more, Fox? That I was actually out? Or that I was out with Alex?"
Mulder didn't answer right away. Skinner took a sip of coffee. One thing you had to give Mulder credit for: he didn't run away from problems.
"Shit. If I say that it was because you were out with Alex, it makes me sound like some jealous bitch."
"A bit. After all, Fox, Alex is here, part of this household, because *you* asked me to let him stay. Have you changed your mind? Because if you have, it's really not fair to Alex to let him stay here under false pretences."
Mulder's hair was evidence of his working through his frustration.
"No." He took a deep breath. "No, I haven't changed my mind. I still want him here, with us. I still love him, not like I love you, but I love him nevertheless."
"But something has changed. Between you and Alex. For some time now. I can't put my finger on it, but it's as if... " He struggled for the words.
Skinner's face relaxed. "As if he's not here just on sufferance any more."
"Yeah. Like you want him to be here too."
"And this bothers you?"
Mulder grimaced. "It shouldn't, should it? I mean, this is what *I* wanted, the two of you here together with me. All of us getting along."
"But you would have preferred that Alex and I get along a little less amiably?"
"God! That makes me sound like such a prig."
Skinner smiled. "Well, not like a prig. Just maybe more human than you would prefer to admit." He reached over to touch Mulder's hand clenched on the table. Opened the fingers and held it in his. "Look, Fox, basically what happened is that Alex and I cleared the air. We discussed a couple of things and discovered we have maybe a bit more in common than just loving you."
Mulder wriggled uncomfortably.
"Because we both do love you. Very much. And that will probably never change. But if all three of us are going to live together, isn't it better that Alex and I at least be friends?"
Mulder nodded. Then decided to plow ahead. "Why didn't you come back to our bed last night?"
Skinner had to admit to himself that he enjoyed the little flash of jealousy that crossed Mulder's face. He was petty enough to appreciate the tables turning the other way: he had felt that way often enough at the beginning of this menage.
"Because I went to sleep with Alex. Fox. Can I ask you a question?"
"When you go to Alex, why do you never spend the rest of the night with him?"
The question took Mulder by surprise. He had to think about it. "Never?"
"No. You always come back to our bed. Why is that, Fox?"
Mulder really had to think. From the expression on Skinner's face, it was obvious that this was a serious question. So he gave it serious consideration.
Skinner got up and refilled their coffee cups.
"I think," he began slowly, "because staying with him... " He tried again. "I don't want you to think I'm leaving you. I mean... " This was harder than he thought to put into words.
He tried again. "I'd asked you to let him stay. Because I loved him. Because, I guess, somehow, I need the two of you. And, because you love me, you let him stay. I know that hurt you. But still you let him stay. I guess, I feel spending the night with him would add to that hurt. And I don't want to do that. Does this make sense?" Mulder wasn't sure he was making himself clear. The whole situation was so unnormal to begin with, how could he explain.
But Skinner seemed to understand. "You feel you've been unfair to me so you don't want to be more unfair."
"I guess. Something like that."
"What about being unfair to Alex?"
"What?" Now Mulder was thoroughly confused.
"Well, in trying to be less unfair to me, you are... No, you aren't the only one in the blame. We both were unfair to Alex. Fox, he's not here just as a sex toy. Is he?"
"Christ, no!" Mulder was really upset. "Is that what he thinks?"
"Not any more. At least, I hope not."
Mulder got it. "The clearing of the air." He went a step further. "So will it be okay with you if I stay with him those nights I go to him?"
And waited for Skinner's answer.
"I certainly don't intend on coming back to our bed when I do." He bent and kissed the eyebrow Mulder quirked at him. "And, if I'm too old for you, maybe I'll spend more time in bed with someone who thinks I've still got what it takes."
He started up the stairs to get dressed.
Mulder let him get into the bedroom before attacking him.