Title: Closed Dooors

Author: Josan
Rating: Well, pretty much PG-13 with a bit, a very little bit of NC-17.

Disclaimers: The usual, about CC and 1013 and Fox, who don't deserve our boys.


Closed Doors

by Josan


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

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

"Forget it. It's not important."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No reaction.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I didn't hear you."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krycek slowly shook his head, his head lowered, hand
not dealing well with the bandage.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As they went upstairs, Skinner filled Fischer in on the

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

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

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

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

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

Skinner thought, shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why isn't he in a hospital?"

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

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

"Explains what?" Skinner took the chair opposite.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Physically, Krycek was healing: mentally, who knew?


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

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

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

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

The room stank of vomit and steam.

Shit! He'd had another nightmare.

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

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

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

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

It was then that Skinner realized Krycek was crying

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

"Alex. No one's going to hurt you here. It's going to
be okay. You're safe here."

Eventually Krycek moved. He rested his head against
the rim of the tub, allowed Skinner to drape the bath
sheet over him.

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

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

"What was so funny, Alex?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

He waited while Krycek processed all of this. It took
a few minutes before Krycek nodded. His voice was
exhausted, "Okay."

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

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

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

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

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

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

The next day at Headquarters, Skinner discovered that
Ferguson was no longer a member of the FBI, not since
his name had appeared on one of the lists on a disc
that Krycek had sent to them. That he was nowhere to
be found.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


One night, Krycek hadn't wakened in time, hadn't made
it to the toilet, had puked all over his bed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krycek shrugged as well as he could. "I destroyed
everything I could find."

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

And then he brought home the papers for Krycek's

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

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

As he went out the bedroom door Krycek called,

Skinner stopped, looked over his shoulder.

"Have a good day."

Skinner grinned his thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krycek nodded against his chest.


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

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

"I can't leave."

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

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

And he began laughing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skinner nodded.

"He probably thinks he's not something your career

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

"How's he been lately?"

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

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

Skinner had to think. Shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was easier said than done.


Krycek woke, nervous.

The man who had face aliens, endured possession,
amputation, death now started at anything and

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

The house, already clean, was now pristine. Along with
the agoraphobia, Krycek was developing compulsive
obsessive cleaning habits. Skinner liked a clean
house: his mother and his wife had both been neat, had
no tolerance for messes. But it was getting to the
point that he was almost afraid to walk over the floors
for fear that Krycek would begin cleaning where he had

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

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

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

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

"It's coming. Every time we think we're through, we
find another barrier. And I need more staff."

"So hire some."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He made supper that night.

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

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

"Put this on, Alex."

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

Krycek visibly swallowed. But he did as Skinner asked.

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

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

"Did I ever tell you," Skinner massaged the tensed neck
with his hand, "how much you impress me with your

Krycek made a scoffing sound.

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

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

Krycek nodded against his throat.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"Okay. Is he willing to continue working under these

"For the moment."

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

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

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

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

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

"A day?"

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

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

"What's that for?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He found Krycek sitting in his chair, looking at the

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

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

Skinner paused. "You're in?"

Krycek bit his lower lip, nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skinner nodded.

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

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

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

"Under the table?"

"Under contract at least. How in are you with

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

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

Holleran scoffed.

"On contract," was all Skinner said.

Cassidy sighed. "On contract."

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

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

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

And they were at the door.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Krycek cocked his head. "Depends."


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

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

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

Well, thought Skinner, that explained why he was still

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

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

Skinner examined the man waiting for his judgement. He
thought about the weeks he had spent caring for this
man, watching him fight to get well. Of coming home
and finding someone waiting for him. Of having the
same someone in his bed. Of the pleasure they shared,
and not just in bed. Of the fear tonight he had felt
on arriving and finding maybe he was going to lose all

Krycek hadn't moved under his gaze. He waited,
patiently, though Skinner could see his pulse throbbing
at the side of his throat.

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

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

And held out his hand to his lover.