Title: CHANCE ENCOUNTERS I
Story of 6 encounters
Date: Written July, 1999
Posted October, 1999
Summary: A series of chance encounters can have
Rating: PG-13 for the first encounter.
Archive: Ratlover, CJK, Basement.
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and
1013. But, by chance, I too encountered them.
NOTE: If there are inaccuracies in the medical details
and in the behaviour of OPC, chalk it up to the fact
that I never made it to the end of a St. John's
Ambulance first aid film and that I have absolutely no
idea how OPC actually behaves.
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: This being the First (1/3)
Skinner did a double-take.
The man who was crossing the street ahead of him was
the Third Man. That's what he had named the third of
his assailants from the hospital stairwell. The other
two had names: Krycek and Cardinale. The first had
disappeared somewhere in Russia, the second had died in
a prison cell waiting arraignment. The third had just
disappeared into thin air. But now, more than two
years later, had suddenly reappeared in front of him.
Carefully, Skinner followed the man. Old techniques of
surveillance quickly came back. He didn't think the
man had spotted him following him into building with
the sign on the door: Rehearsal and Recording Studios
for Rent or Lease.
There was no one in the lobby. The door to the
stairwell was just closing. Skinner drew his weapon,
cautiously opened the door, heard another shut below
He started down the stairs on cat's feet. Wouldn't it
be ironic if there was a repeat of the last stairwell
incident? he thought.
He got to the door, slowly pushed it open, listened for
any sound before stepping out into the basement
Skinner had a glimpse of a man out of the corner of his
eye before the lights went out.
He was aware of the headache, first. His stupidity at
being caught without back-up, second. The fact that
the room he was in had a high overhead light, but no
windows, third. That his glasses lay next to his legs
fourth. He put them on and came to his fifth
Alex Krycek was hanging by one arm in front of him.
He got slowly to his feet. Krycek was naked, had been
beaten. His body from groin up to face was a wealth of
freshly administered bruises.
The fact that it was Krycek, that he was naked, that he
seemed to be unconscious was diminished by the fact
that his left arm ended in a stump. And that the right
shoulder was hanging in such a way that indicated it
was probably dislocated.
Skinner staggered up, went to Krycek and lifted his
body enough so that the weight of it no longer pulled
on his shoulder.
The hand was tied to a hook on the ceiling by a cord
the thickness of a mooring line. With some difficulty,
Skinner shifted Krycek's dead weight to his left side,
and rising on tip-toe, managed to reach the knots that
held the man up. It took a lot of patience, a great
many tries before the last knot gave way and Krycek's
arm flopped down.
Skinner dropped onto his knees at the sudden release of
weight, just managing to keep Krycek's head from
hitting the cement floor. He let the man down, rolled
his head to ease the tension in his neck and shoulders.
He took off his coat, used it to cover Krycek. A quick
inspection of the room told him it was one of those
sound-proof studios he had seen advertised on the lobby
door. The door was locked from the outside. Apart
from a pile of clothing and a prosthetic arm, there was
nothing in the room. No chairs, no tables, nothing to
use as a weapon.
He checked Krycek's clothes, boots, even the arm --
reluctantly -- as a hiding place for a possible weapon.
It was obvious the Third Man had had the same idea.
Krycek's leather jacket had its lining ripped loose.
His boots were cut: if there had been a weapon in
them, it wasn't there now.
And the arm. It gave Skinner the chills to think that
this was part of Krycek. What the hell had happened to
him? The last he'd heard, Krycek had gotten away from
Mulder in Tunguska Forest, with two good arms.
He went to check on Krycek himself.
Apart from the possibility of some cracked ribs, the
main problem would be internal bleeding. So far
Skinner could find no sign of that, but he wasn't a
doctor. He moved from the body to the right arm. His
wrist had been torn by the rope, by the struggles of
Krycek's movements and weight.
The shoulder was a straight dislocation. Skinner felt
carefully, but Krycek made a gasping sound. He
wouldn't be unconscious much longer. Skinner acted
quickly: it would be easier to reset the shoulder
while Krycek was still out. It took almost no time to
snap the bone back into realignment. Still, Krycek
felt it: this time he moaned loudly.
There wasn't much else Skinner could do for the man.
He wrapped the torn wrist in his clean handkerchief,
used Krycek's sweater to make a sort of sling for his
right arm, wrapping it close to his chest at the same
time trying to avoid putting pressure on those ribs.
While Krycek slowly regained consciousness, Skinner
finally made himself examine the mangled stump. There
were burn scars, shiny in the light. Signs of a knife,
of a scalpel. Of at least one operation, maybe two.
Neither a success by the looks of it. Skinner had seen
cleaner amputations on the battlefields of Nam.
Krycek's eyes opened and had trouble focusing. Even
when they had focused, he didn't quite believe what
they saw. "Skinner?" His voice was raspy, faint.
Skinner crouched by the man. "Krycek. Thought you
were in Mother Russia."
Krycek tried to moisten his lips.
"Sorry. There's no water or anything liquid here."
Skinner looked at his watch. "Nearly five."
"Anyone missing you?"
"No. The meeting was a waste of time. I was making an
early day of it."
Skinner looked a bit angry. "No." His tone indicated
that no additional comment from Krycek would be
Krycek made a sort of laughing sound, winced suddenly
in pain. His eyes opened wide. "My arm!" Panic.
Skinner reached over, put his hands on Krycek's
shoulders. "Krycek. Your right arm was dislocated. I
set it. It's wrapped around your chest. Try not to
move: you may have some cracked ribs."
But Krycek wasn't listening. Was trying to move his
left arm to feel his right. Couldn't, of course. That
didn't help the panic. Skinner finally had to give him
a shake which sent pain cursing through his body.
"Krycek! Listen to me! Look at me! Damn it, will you
look at me!"
Krycek's panicky breathing was aggravating the pain in
his chest. That, combined with Skinner's tone, got
through to him. He tried to control his breathing,
make it shallow so as not to put too much pressure on
his ribs. Finally succeeded.
"Krycek. Are you listening to me?"
"Listen. Your right shoulder was dislocated. I set
it. I wrapped your sweater around you to keep the arm
immobile and to keep you from hurting your ribs more.
Got that? That's why you can't move it."
"But it's still there?"
"Yes. It is still there. Feel my hand on yours? Your
right arm is still there. Just immobilized. Until I
can get you to a doctor." He waited till he was
certain Krycek understood.
"Krycek? Do you have a weapon hidden in the
prosthesis? Krycek! Do you?"
Krycek opened his eyes. Now that he had been reassured
about his right arm, he was having trouble focusing on
"Yes, Krycek. A weapon. Look, they got mine. Both of
them. Even took the cell phone. Do you have anything
in the prosthesis? A knife? A gun? Anything?"
Krycek had to think. "Knife. In boots."
Skinner grunted. "No. Not any more. They've been
ripped apart. And so's your jacket." He tried again.
"Do you have a weapon hidden in your prosthesis?"
Krycek shook his head slightly. "No."
"Shit!" Skinner gave the room another look, trying to
see if there had been anything he'd overlooked. Krycek
said something. Skinner looked back at him. "What? I
missed that." Short. Irritated.
"I said the thing's a weapon. Heavy. Metal."
Skinner went over to the pile of clothes and picked up
the fake arm. Krycek was right: the damn thing was
heavy. Shit! No wonder the stump looked the way it
did. He swung it a couple of times. By the straps.
By the hand. Either way, it would pack a good wallop.
He picked up Krycek's clothes, brought them over to the
man. "Let's get you dressed. That'll keep you warm.
And when we get out of here, no one will notice the
condition you're in. We don't want to attract too much
It took longer than he would have liked, simply because
he didn't want Krycek to lose consciousness. Finally
he had gotten Krycek dressed in shorts, jeans, socks,
leather jacket zipped closed to keep his arm stable.
His boots were useless.
Krycek lay on the floor, Skinner's coat covering him
for extra warmth. He was beginning to shiver from
shock. He kept moving his fingers against his
collarbone where Skinner had isolated his hand, just to
reassure himself that it was still there.
Matherson had promised to cut it off before he finally
He was having enough trouble adjusting to life with
only one hand: he had no intention of living with
"Skinner." His voice was dry, making it hard to be
heard. He had to try again before Skinner heard him.
"Help me sit up. By the door. Maybe trip one of
them...when they come back."
"Shit, Krycek. There are two of them! Why didn't
you..." Skinner cursed under his breath. Christ,
Krycek was barely conscious. Don't take it out on him.
He wasn't the fucking idiot who followed a suspect
"You sure?" At Krycek's nod, he helped the man up,
slowly got him over to just that side of the door and
helped him sit down, back against the wall. He wrapped
his coat around Krycek's shoulders. The move had made
him realize the condition the man was in.
Krycek tried to find a position that would help lessen
the pressure on his ribs. He didn't give their chances
a high percentage of success. But sitting here, with
luck, he might get one of the men to shoot him while he
still had an arm.
He dozed a bit, waking every time his head fell forward
because of the sudden pull of the muscles on his
shoulders. The right one was especially painful with
what had to be strained ligaments.
It was after seven when they heard noise at the door.
Krycek looked to Skinner, who stood, the prosthesis
harness wrapped tightly around his hand. Like Krycek,
he knew they didn't have much of a chance. It would
all depend on timing and luck.
The two men concentrated on the door. Krycek had
pulled up the leg closest to the door opening and put
all the anger, all the strength he had left into a kick
that caught the first man just above the ankle,
snapping it. He screamed just as Skinner hit him with
Matherson, who was behind him, tried to slam the door
shut, but his partner, now unconscious, lay partially
in the doorway. Skinner had picked up the man's gun in
his left hand, not his best shooting hand, but good
enough to fire a couple of times and convince Matherson
to get out as quickly as possible.
Skinner pursued him to the stairwell, realized that he
would never catch him as he heard the upper door close
and decided to get Krycek out instead.
Krycek was not conscious. Lay on his more injured
side. Skinner barely spared a glance for the other
man. He dragged Krycek out to the hallway and shut the
door on their assailant. He stowed the prosthesis in
the arm of his coat, wrapped the coat around Krycek,
Taking a chance that his ribs were only bruised, that
there was no internal bleeding, Skinner hoisted Krycek
over his shoulder, in a fireman's hold, and, gun in his
right hand, he got both of them out of the building.
He kept to the shadows, thankful that at this time of
the year, darkness came early. And that in this part
of town, the few people they passed believed in minding
their own business.
Actually made it back to his car without attracting the
attention of anybody.
"How is he?"
Joe Fischer looked up from washing his hands. He had
been a doctor in Marines for twenty years, a poker
buddy of Skinner's off and on for almost thirty, and
now worked at a free clinic in the DC war zone.
"A couple of bruised ribs. Best left alone. Abrasions
and contusions. I've bandaged the wrist; change it as
you see fit, then leave it to the air. The rest don't
need any special attention. I'll leave some antibiotic
cream for all those."
"Right shoulder, strained and torn ligaments. Keep him
bound up like I've done. That'll hurt like hell. You
got codeine around? Good. Give him some of that."
"Left stump. Severely traumatized. Whoever did that
to him was a butcher. And so was the asshole who tried
to clean it up. Fairly recent. In the last year.
That prosthesis thing is too heavy, too ill-fitting to
be of much use. He should have one of those new ones
with electrodes and computer chips, but he'll need
surgery for that."
"Apart from that, he needs feeding up: he's
Joe had wiped his hands, come out of the bathroom off
Skinner's bedroom, was looking again at his patient.
He had sedated Krycek as soon as he had ascertained
there was no chance of concussion. "He'll sleep till
morning at least, probably longer. That's what he
needs the most: sleep."
He looked at his poker buddy. "I just want to point
out to you, in passing, that I haven't asked why you
haven't taken him to a hospital. Why you've asked me
to keep his presence here a secret. I'm assuming that
you have good reason for him to be here. You being an
FBI assistant director and all.
"And I don't want to know what his name is. But I will
tell you that his body tells me he's living hard. And
those calluses he has on his hand and feet tell me
you'd better be on his good side.
"So, I will be checking in on my patient...and
you...over the next few days."
Skinner grinned. "I like the way you mind your own
business, Joe. And thanks. I do appreciate all this."
"Enough to let me win a couple of hands?"
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: Part 1 (2/3)
Krycek woke stupid.
He was wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and beyond that
his mind didn't want to know.
Eventually some things made their way into awareness.
The smell of clean sheets. The softness of the pillow.
The comforting heaviness of blankets.
So he was in a bed. When was the last time he actually
lay in a bed? he asked himself. A clean one. He found
himself pondering over that as if it were a question
whose answer might solve the problems of the world.
He fell asleep still pondering.
The next time he woke, he tried to move just to make
himself a bit more comfortable. Pain flared from his
right shoulder and he forgot to be stupid.
He kept still, waiting for the pain to subside.
Remembered Matherson and his partner stumbling across
him by merest bad fortune down at the Circle. The guns
in his back, the car drive to the studio. Matherson's
delight with his prosthesis.
Panic waved through him. His arm! Shit! He couldn't
feel his arm!
Hadn't felt the left in some time: he was beginning to
accept that, still not quite used to that.
But the right! Matherson had promised he'd have a
matching set of arms by the time he got through with
him. He tried to move his right arm and couldn't.
Panic was making him breathe hard, made his ribs hurt,
But the only thing he was aware of was the fact that he
couldn't move, couldn't feel his right arm or hand.
Jesus! He was barely surviving with the left one gone.
How would he with no arms? You couldn't kill yourself
with no arms.
Panic, fear, terror overwhelmed him. The warm cocoon
had become a prison, a place of torment.
He was trying to pull out of it when hands forced him
back, held him down. A voice he knew in the back of
his mind but couldn't place was speaking over his
Finally, Skinner gave up trying to get through to the
wild animal struggling beyond sense in the bed. He
raised his hand and slapped him hard on the side of his
face that was less battered.
"Krycek! Stop it! You're only hurting yourself!"
Even then Krycek was beyond reason. Finally Skinner
could make out words in the sounds coming out of the
man's mouth. My arm. Over and over again. Barely
Skinner hauled Krycek up to a sitting position,
captured the flailing head between his two hands and
held it still. "Krycek!" He enunciated every syllable
carefully, forcefully, hoping the tactic would
penetrate the nightmare. "Krycek! Your arm is all
right. Nobody has cut it off. Listen to me. You
still have an arm!"
Krycek stopped struggling, tried to focus on the face
speaking the words. A part of him told him the words
were important, that he should listen to them. A
larger part of him just wanted to scream. Slowly the
balance of power shifted and he listened.
Recognized the words. Recognized the voice.
What was ... The studio. At the studio. Skinner was
there with him. Was with him now. This was a bed, not
the studio. There hadn't been a bed at the studio. So
where were they?
And the words were beginning to make sense. He tried
to get past the fear to listen to the sense of the
words Skinner was giving him.
Skinner saw Krycek begin to understand, saw the panic
be pushed down, heard the breathing become less
stressed. He continued repeating the words that Krycek
seemed to need most: "You still have an arm."
The body between his hands slowly lost its rigidity,
the head became almost too heavy for the neck to hold
Skinner moved closer so that Krycek could rest against
him. He used one hand to brace the man against him,
the other to stroke, in calming motion, the back of the
head, the neck, the top of the hunched shoulder. The
drugs must have made him forget yesterday's
"Krycek. Are you listening?"
Krycek nodded his head against the large shoulder that
supported him. "Yes." More of a croak than a whisper.
"Your right arm is still there. Got that?" Another
slight head movement. "It's bound up because your
shoulder was dislocated. The ligaments need time to
heal and the doctor doesn't want you moving them
around. So he bound up your arm." He shifted Krycek a
bit in his arms. "Feel that? That's my hand. I'm
touching your hand. Krycek?"
Krycek swallowed against the pain that was gradually
making itself felt. He realized that he could feel
Skinner's hand. And that it was touching his hand. He
released some of the residual panic and fear in a sigh.
Nodded his head. "Yes. I can feel it. Your hand. My
hand." A deep breath that hitched as soon as ribs
Skinner carefully lay the man back down on the bed.
Krycek's eyes were closed, his face white against the
bruises of yesterday's beating, his torso damp with the
sweat of fear. He could see the pulse in his throat
"There's nothing to be sorry about." He kept his hands
on Krycek's shoulders until the pulse settled.
Krycek felt the mattress shift as Skinner got up. A
moment later he heard water running nearby. Then
Skinner was back, hand under his head, raising it for
the glass he held at his lips.
"Slowly. Your ribs don't need any more action. No
The water was cold, wet. His mouth was parched, foul
with the after effects of his panic. He drank slowly,
letting the coolness wash some sanity into him.
Then the hand released his head on the pillow and
seconds later a blessedly cool cloth passed over his
face, neck, upper chest removing the smell of his fear.
He opened his eyes to find Skinner's watching him,
waiting to see if there was going to be a repeat of his
panic. Krycek's eyes tracked beyond Skinner to case
out the room. Survival instincts were finally back in
the forefront. He didn't recognize the place.
"You're in my bedroom."
Krycek's eyes came back to his, wary, but panic and
fear gone back to whatever place he stashed them in.
"Your bedroom? Well, at least it's warmer than your
Skinner quirked an eyebrow at the reference.
"What am I doing in your bedroom, Skinner?"
Well, thought Skinner, the boy recovers quick. "Your
ex-partner is still on the loose. He'll have a harder
time getting to you here than in a hospital."
Krycek moved a bit, trying to find a position that
might be easier on his shoulder. "He was working on
his own. He knows I owe him for the car bomb. He
wants to get me before I get him." Krycek closed his
eyes. "Because I will get him."
The next time Krycek woke, he remembered where he was,
how he'd come to be here, that he still had one arm.
Skinner was not around.
There was daylight in the bedroom, making its way past
the curtains in the window. Slowly moving his head as
to avoid any pain, he checked out the room, figured out
that the bathroom was behind the partially shut door.
And right now that was an important piece of
information. Because he needed to piss badly. It took
him some time and a nearly bitten lip to move his body
up the bed to the headboard. Which gave his spine the
backing it needed to push himself into a sitting
position. From there to swinging his legs out from
under the sheets and to the floor.
He sat on the edge of the bed, waiting for the worse of
the pain to recede before he tried standing. If he
fell, he had no guarantee that he would be able to get
himself back onto his feet. He really didn't want
Skinner to come back from wherever he was -- probably
work -- and find him lying in a pool of piss on the
At which point he heard someone make a noise.
There, standing in the doorway of the bedroom, was a
large black man, shoulder leaning against the jamb,
arms crossed on a Skinner-type chest. He was watching
Krycek with a bit of a smile on his heavy-featured
face. There was a thick moustache under his large
nose. A clean-shaven head over it.
"Don't panic, boy, I'm your doctor." The man didn't
move from his place. He waited till the other man had
accepted that information. "Skinner was right about
Krycek didn't react to that goad. Just waited, like
"He said that you were a ratbastard with guts."
Fischer straightened and strolled into the room. He
shook his head, his glare somewhat intimidating. "All
you had to do, boy, was call out."
He helped Krycek to his feet. Supported him into the
bathroom. Used one hand to keep him on his feet, the
other to direct his penis into the toilet. Krycek
silently cursed to himself the whole time his bladder
emptied itself: this is what his life would be like if
Matherson got to him first.
Fischer was very aware of the "boy's" feelings. He had
helped enough double amputees in his career to
interpret the signs. Still, this one would recover the
use of his arm quickly enough, so he had no intention
of wasting sympathy on him. Before returning him to
bed, Fischer helped Krycek brush his teeth, gave him a
very quick sponge bath.
"Those bruises of yours would make Picasso proud," he
commented. "You're lucky Skinner came across you when
he did. Apart from the shoulder and bruised ribs,
you're doing fine."
Krycek said nothing. Had pushed deep within himself
when he realized just how helpless he was in his
present state. He didn't respond to the other's
teasing tone, just waited for whatever was going to
Fischer took a good look at his patient as he got him
back into bed. The boy looked to be in the preliminary
stages of shock: eyes almost black, no expression at
all on his face, body doing as he asked of it. Mind
Fischer propped him up on the pillows, taking care not
to aggravate the ribs, the shoulder. He went and got
the tray he had left on the landing when he'd heard the
irregular breathing of a man doing something he wasn't
supposed to be doing.
Krycek slowly became aware of the mug of soup held to
his mouth. "Come on, boy, snap out of it!" His eyes
began to focus more. "That's better. You've only got
a disabled shoulder. You haven't lost the arm. Give
it a week, and you'll be able to put it to all sorts of
He watched as some colour came back into Krycek's face.
"Drink, boy. It's soup and it'll help chase the chills
Krycek had almost finished the large mug when it
finally struck him that his doctor kept referring to
him as "boy" in a Skinner tone. He raised his head and
really looked at the man. "You're a Marine."
Fischer quirked an eyebrow at the comment. "What makes
you say that?"
Krycek forced himself to relax. This was nothing more
than a client who had to be humoured. "You've got the
same barber as Skinner."
Fischer surprised him with a chuckle. "Not bad, boy.
The fact that he would live didn't balance the
humiliations of daily living.
By the second day of his stay, he wanted nothing more
than to tear off the bandages that immobilized his arm.
Both Fischer and Skinner had taken turns helping him to
the bathroom, cleaning him. Helping him eat, wiping
his face when he accidentally slobbered. And, in spite
of the continual reassurance from both men that it was
just a matter of time before he got the use of his arm
back, Krycek was beginning to drop into severe
"It's not just this episode," Fischer said to Skinner
Friday evening as he got ready to leave. "I'm willing
to bet that he still hasn't adjusted to losing the
other arm. It's normal to be depressed at this stage
of acceptance. Besides, he's got nothing else to do
but stew about it. He'll get out of it when he's got
the arm back and he's not dependant on anyone to wipe
his ass for him."
That hadn't stopped the nightmares. He'd often had
dreams, most of which he didn't remember when he woke
up. Usually, he would find himself sitting up in bed,
gasping for breath, not sure what it was that had
Now and then, it would be worse: he would remember,
near to screaming, heart pounding, covered in sweat.
Those were the nights he didn't go back to sleep. That
he used either to move on to another place, or to go
for a long walk till he had shoved his ghosts back into
the compartment in his brain where they stayed till
their next sortie.
That night, his nightmares mixed themselves.
He was back in Tunguska, on the ground by the fire.
They were holding him down, sitting on his legs, his
chest, his right arm. The old man had wrapped a rope
around his left wrist, was pulling it taut all the
while pushing against his ribs, his armpit with booted
In his dream, Krycek turned his head to see the butcher
approach him with the white-hot blade. Yelling curses,
he tried to push the men off him, to pull away. But
they were very experienced at holding people down.
The butcher knelt at his shoulder. Someone tore his
shirt sleeve down. The old man tightened his grip and
pulled back even harder.
The blade cut and seared at the same time. Krycek
couldn't believe the pain. His curses changed to
The blade hit bone, but the butcher was prepared for
that. At his signal, someone with a hammer hit the
wide top of the blade with just the right amount of
force to slice through the bone and continue its
The old man fell backwards.
Someone took the bloodied knife from the butcher and
handed him another one, also white-hot. He was going
to go over the cut to make sure it was thoroughly
In Tunguska, Krycek had finally fainted at this point,
but in his dream the butcher became Matherson who,
laughing, was pointing with a white-hot blade at his
Krycek screamed and screamed again.
At the first scream, Skinner had run up from the living
room couch where he was sleeping. He turned on the
light to the bedroom as he entered, barely stopping on
his way to the screaming man.
Krycek was thrashing on the bed, entangled in the
bedclothes, out of his head with images only he could
see. Skinner grabbed the man, tried to keep him from
hurting himself, all the while calling out his name.
Krycek's eyes had rolled back into his head. The
scream diminished only because Krycek had run out of
breath. And he wasn't inhaling.
Skinner slapped him hard, forehand and backhand. "Come
on, damn you, breathe!" And again. "Breathe, Krycek,
And finally Krycek did breathe. A hitching, raspy
breath, but an inhalation nevertheless. Then an
"That's it, boy. Do it again. And again. Good.
You've got it."
But with breath came terror and Skinner watched as
Krycek went from shock to hysteria.
He tried hard to fight him off, used his upper body as
a battering ram until Skinner just dropped his own body
on top of Krycek's to keep him still. All the time
talking, trying to get through to him. To get him out
of that nightmare world that was doing its damnest to
suck him back in.
He held the younger man tightly in his arms, stroking
the trembling body, calling his name, reassuring him
that he was awake.
Krycek just kept on trying to escape, to pull away from
the men who had hurt him, from the man who was
threatening to maim him forever. Not understanding the
voice that spoke to him.
Eventually Skinner's patience wore out. He sat up,
pulled Krycek up with him and shook him hard. "Krycek!
Where are you? Krycek!" He sharpened his tone to one
he used when he had been ready to ream, in Nam, one of
those fucking West Point idiots they had sent over as
officers who, instead of leading them, were putting
their lives in danger.
The tone got through to Krycek. He knew the voice had
nothing to do with Tunguska, nothing to do with
Matherson. He tried hard to concentrate on it.
"That's it, Krycek. Don't let it control you. Get a
handle on it. Come on, boy, don't let it get to you."
Skinner watched as Krycek's eyes began to green again,
to focus. To push the nightmare aside, to hold onto
his eyes as a lifeline out of the nightmare.
"Skinner?" His throat was raw from his screams.
"That's right. Skinner." He pulled the shivering man
close to him, pulled the blanket around so that he
could cover Krycek's back, hoping the extra warmth
would help soothe the man.
Krycek dropped his head to rest against Skinner's
collarbone. The residual nightmare threatened to
overcome him again. He tried to swallow his fear,
tried to remind himself that he was safe -- as safe as
he could ever be -- here in Skinner's arms, not by some
fire or hanging by some rope in a sound-proof studio.
Skinner could feel Krycek trying to control his
breathing, his memories. He pulled the head close to
his chest, one big hand just holding it there, the
other gently massaging the tight neck and shoulder
Krycek made a small noise.
"Hey, it's all right. You're safe here." Skinner
repeated the words over and over.
And because he wanted to believe it, had to, Krycek let
the terror, the fears not only of the nightmare, but of
the past year, flow out.
Skinner heard the first sob breaking from the man echo
in the trembling of his body. He wrapped his arms
around the weeping man, holding him even tighter, yet
always aware of his physical condition.
He held Krycek, gently rocking him in his arms, making
soothing sounds that weren't words. Rested his own
head on Krycek's, just letting the man get through his
It took a long time for the sounds of weeping to
soften, become exhaustion, to fade into sleep.
All that time Walter Skinner held Alex Krycek until he
too, just before dawn, fell asleep.
End of Episode 1, Part 2/3
CHANCE ENCOUNTERS: Part 1 (3/3)
The morning wasn't much better.
Krycek lay like a rag doll doing whatever Skinner told
him to, but other than that, nothing.
Fischer looked at his patient differently this morning.
His face still bore the signs of last night's nightmare
and weeping. He'd bitten his lip at some point. His
eyes were almost black: Fischer was certain that in
bright light, Krycek would be blind.
"Krycek." He tried to keep his voice even yet sharp, a
way of penetrating the fog the man was in. "Krycek.
I'm going to unwrap your arm. I need to see just where
those ligaments are.
"Skinner here is going to help me. He's going to prop
Skinner moved behind Krycek, sat so he could hold the
man up. Fischer started unwrapping the bandages that
confined Krycek's arm, talking all the while he was
doing it, basically describing every action of his
"There, that's the last of the binding. Now, I've got
your hand and I'm placing my other hand on your
shoulder. Okay, Krycek, this is where I need you. I
need you to bend your elbow. Nothing else. Just bend
the elbow. Pull up your hand. Krycek! Do it!"
Krycek turned his head to the order. What did the
voice want him to do? Oh, yeah, pull up his hand.
Could he do that?
"Alex. Pull up your hand."
Skinner's voice he recognized. And did as he had been
"Good. That's real good. Okay, now look at me,
Krycek. Really look at me."
Krycek focused on the voice, felt it pull him out of
"That's it. You're doing fine. Look at me." Fischer
was happier with the way Krycek was holding his head,
was beginning to squint with his eyes, even the way he
swallowed. "Welcome back, boy."
"Now listen, because if you don't, this is going to
hurt like hell. I want to see just how far healed
those ligaments are. I don't want any heroics from
you, understand? I need to know the moment there's any
pain. And I need to know just how severe it is. Got
Krycek nodded slightly. "No heroics," he rasped.
The next minute or so lasted forever. He had some
movement in the shoulder but nowhere near enough for
Fischer to leave the shoulder unbound.
"Okay. Here's what we're going to do. Krycek, are you
listening to me? The shoulder still needs to be kept
immobile, so I need to wrap it again. But this time
I'll just bind you above the elbow. You'll need to
keep the arm in a sling, but you should be able to use
the lower half of your arm. On the condition that you
use it only to the point of pain. More than that, the
ligaments will take longer to heal. You got that?"
Fischer talked him through the binding, watching
carefully as Krycek fought off the panic that was never
far away. When he had finished, he helped Skinner prop
Krycek up on pillows. Gave him some water to drink.
"Now, I'm going to examine the other shoulder. And I
want you to tell me how that happened."
Krycek lay on the pillows, eyes closed, waiting for the
pain in his shoulder to diminish to a throb. His hand,
freed against his stomach, played with the waistband of
the sweats they'd put on him. The fingers felt stiff,
but they were there, feeling and being felt on his
"Mulder told me about Tunguska," Skinner was speaking
now. He found it easier to focus when Skinner was the
one speaking. "I know what happened to you until you
dropped out of the back of the truck. What happened
It took a couple of tries before he could get the words
out. The two men listened, Fischer wincing when he
heard how the arm had been amputated and again when
Krycek answered his questions about follow-up care, the
attempt by an improperly equipped rural physician to
clean up the mess. No anaesthetic for the first, barely
any for the second. No wonder the man had nightmares.
Skinner was the one who got him talking about
Krycek hadn't moved at all during the telling, voice
barely changing in tone. Now, his voice began
revealing the fear he was dealing with, with varying
"Matherson said he was going to cut off my arm. Use a
blow torch to cauterize it." He took a breath to get
the fear back down. Continued after a moment. "Ham-string me. He said he'd keep me around to entertain
him and his pals. When I bored them, he might kill me.
Or just pass me on to someone else."
"Jesus Christ!" Fischer glared at the unseeing man.
"Nice bunch of people you hang around with!" But he
filled a syringe and with a gentle touch, injected the
drug into Krycek's hip.
"It's just a light dose," he explained to Skinner.
"He'll sleep for three, maybe four hours. Then, even
though his ribs and shoulder need the rest, get him out
of bed. Move him downstairs, onto the couch. Get him
to watch TV, listen to music, anything.
"And though I'd rather he not use the hand, get him to
do a few easy things with it. Maybe if he feels less
constricted, he'll be able to fight that depression off
Which is how Krycek found himself, late Saturday
afternoon, propped up on Skinner's couch, watching a
football game. It wasn't a sport that interested him
much. But the fact that for Skinner it was more than a
spectator sport was beginning to penetrate even his
Skinner graphically commented on the action, the play
selections, the players, the coaches, the referees.
Even argued with the commentators. Krycek found
himself watching the game so he could understand
At one point, Skinner went into the kitchen and came
back with a couple of drinks; beer for himself, a soft
drink with a straw for Krycek. It wasn't that easy for
him to get the straw to his mouth, but the fact that he
could do so had the desired effect: he relaxed into
the pillows that were stacked behind him.
Skinner tried to keep supper to things Krycek could
manage on his own. Soup with a straw. Sandwich cut up
small enough for him to manoeuvre with a long fork
without making a mess.
He'd gone out and rented some stupid comedy Fischer had
recommended just so the evening would be more relaxed.
The movie was so bad that for a few minutes Skinner was
afraid that the idea would backfire. Then, suddenly,
Krycek came out with the next line of dialogue before
the actors did, and it became a bit of a game between
them as to who could guess the next scene, the next bit
of dialogue before the film itself.
So that getting Krycek ready for bed was less stressful
for the man than it had been up till then. There had
been, for Krycek, a sudden rise in tension when he
realized that Skinner would be sleeping in the bed with
"Sorry, Krycek, even for you I can't stand another
night on that couch." Skinner turned off the light,
stripped to his shorts, and casually got into bed. He
pounded his pillow into the shape he preferred, yawned,
turned his back to Krycek. " 'Night."
Krycek wondered just how real all that was, fought off
sleep until he heard Skinner's soft snore. He hated to
admit it to himself, but the time downstairs had tired
him out. He made himself just a bit more comfortable
on the pillows, and went to sleep.
When the nightmare grabbed hold of him, Skinner was
there to wake him up before he got to the screaming
stage. Skinner moved so that he could hold Krycek back
against him, arm around the man's waist, anchoring him
against his chest. "Go back to sleep, Krycek. I'll
keep the nightmares away."
On thinking about it, Krycek found he believed Skinner
and slept through the rest of the night.
The next morning, Skinner carefully unbound Krycek's
shoulder and got him into the shower. He didn't leave
him alone; Fischer didn't want him falling and re-
injuring that shoulder.
For Krycek, the pleasure of just standing in the water
far outweighed the fact that Skinner had to wash him
down. Still, when he was covered in shampoo and soap,
Skinner moved him under the spray so at least he got to
rinse himself off.
Instead of the sweats he'd been wearing, Skinner helped
him don his own jeans, now freshly laundered. One of
Skinner's old sweaters went on, leaving him with enough
space to move his hand.
"You want that beard to stay on or come off?"
Krycek looked at his reflection in the bedroom mirror.
Between the shave, the shower, the clothes, Krycek
thought that maybe he might just survive after all.
The discovery that they both played chess helped put
Krycek's brain back into gear. The first couple of
games were basically time fillers, a way of getting
through the morning until Skinner's football game
started on TV.
The third game, played during lunch, gave each glimpses
of the other's strategies. Skinner spent the afternoon
looking up for replays and trying to figure out just
where Krycek was going with his queen. Krycek
discovered that though Skinner was a traditionalist in
his moves, he had more than enough military experience
to manipulate those traditions.
When the football game was over, Skinner filled his CD
player with jazz, ordered in Chinese, and settled down
to warfare with Krycek.
They went to bed late, still arguing a couple of moves
from the last game. And when the nightmare came,
Skinner pulled the still sleeping Krycek into his arms,
who, once aware who was holding him, settled back into
a dreamless sleep.
Skinner got him up early the next morning. Helped him
wash, dress, showed him where things were in the
kitchen. "Try to keep the place passably clean, will
you? And don't set any fires."
Krycek smiled. "Can I throw anyone off the balcony?"
Skinner glared at him as he was checking his briefcase.
"Don't even think about it. Fischer said he'll drop in
on his way to the clinic, around one. He's got a key
to the place, but he'll buzz before he opens the door."
Fischer was far better pleased with Krycek than he
expected to be. He was proving to be sensible about
using his hand. And he had to agree, Krycek did indeed
seem to be a fast healer. The shoulder was much
better, he had far more mobility than his last
examination. This time, when he bound up the upper
arm, he left the bandage much looser so that Krycek
would have still more manoeuvrability.
"How's the other shoulder?"
"Twitches now and then."
"How bad is the phantom pain? And don't tell me you
don't have any."
Krycek grimaced. "Sometimes bad. Starts for no
reason. Goes away for no reason. I get the feeling
that if I could just rub my hand, the pain would go
"Another operation might help with the pain level. And
the frequency. But from what I've read, the phantom
pain thing will probably be with you till they bury
Krycek grunted. Made no comment about the operation.
Fischer didn't let it go. "You should do some serious
thinking about that, Krycek. You need some clean-up to
be able to wear one of those new prosthesis. The old
ones all require harnesses and straps, and they're
"And you might like to remember over here I can
guarantee you'd be out completely for the operation.
And the recovery couldn't be any worse than what you're
Skinner came home to find a fairly clean kitchen,
Krycek watching CNN, and the chess board set up for a
game. He changed into jeans and a sweater, threw a
store-made lasagna into the microwave, made a salad.
They ate over the chess board, Skinner challenging
Krycek to explain "Just where the fuck are you going
with that move?"
Over the next couple of days, Krycek's ribs tolerated
more pressure, his shoulder more mobility. Fischer
added some gentle exercises to Krycek's routine: he
had returned to his daily regime of stretching and
kicking, a sort of self-adapted form of Tai Chi.
Thursday, Skinner came home with a foul headache,
stinking of cigarette smoke. He vented off to Krycek
about that "cigarette-smoking bastard" who had spent
most of the day, sitting in his office, polluting the
air with his endless smokes, "Looking at me all day
long like he knew something, like a cat who knows the
canary is his."
He didn't notice Krycek's reaction to that.
Krycek sat on the couch, listening to Skinner grouch,
slowly exercising his arm all the while.
He knew his time here was at an end. That he should
have in fact left a couple of days ago. But it was a
rarity in his life, this feeling of safeness, the
pleasure of taking time for a chess game, playing it,
analyzing it. Of sharing a bed, of being held, with no
mention of payment, with no expectations of performance
on his part.
Skinner had bought him another pair of boots to replace
the ones Matherson had sliced up. Had had his jacket
repaired. Krycek knew where Skinner kept his spare
revolver, his real spare, not the Bureau issued one.
The ammo to go with it.
He was very quiet that evening. Skinner had files to
read, so Krycek lay on the couch, eyes shut, just
listening to the soft jazz playing in the background.
When Skinner took his shower, Krycek hid the gun and
ammo in his jacket, left his boots by the door. He
took some money out of Skinner's wallet, added it to
his jacket. Made sure his prosthesis was in the closet
by the door.
Upstairs, when he undressed, he folded his clothes,
added a sweater of Skinner's to the pile, got into bed.
He wanted some more time between clean sheets.
Skinner went through his bedtime routine before
settling down. Krycek waited till Skinner's snores
were deep and regular before he slipped out. With
careful moves so as to not alert the sleeping man, he
straightened his side of the bed so that it looked as
though no one had used it. Checked out the bathroom.
Downstairs, he dressed quickly, looked around so that
nothing that could be identified as his was lying
around. He did one last thing he hoped Skinner would
understand, and then left.
A finger leaning on his doorbell woke Skinner up. It
was barely five o'clock. He turned to see if
Krycek...the bed was smoothed down. He grabbed his
robe and went to see who was on the bell.
"Ah, Mr. Skinner. We seem to have gotten you out of
Jesus! Shit!, thought Skinner, what the fuck is that
bastard doing here?
"What do you want?" Skinner blocked the Smoker's way
into his apartment: he may have to endure him at the
office, but this was his home and it was off-hours.
One of the two men behind the Smoker pulled out a badge
identifying him as an agent with OPC. "We would like
to speak to you about a matter that has come to our
attention. Assistant Director Skinner."
Skinner sighed deeply, drawing out the moment. This
explained the smoothed half of the bed. He stepped
back, silently allowing the men in.
While one of them checked out the downstairs, the other
went upstairs. The Smoker took out a cigarette, was
about to light it when Skinner took it out of his
mouth. "Not in my home you don't." And held the
Smoker's eyes till he put the lighter back in his
"Who are you playing chess with, AD Skinner?"
Skinner moved into the living room, looked down at the
chess board that last night had been lined up for a new
game. He raised an eyebrow at the OPC agent who till
now had not found anything he was looking for. "It's a
problem move that I'm working out. Sort of like the
problem you seem to be posing me. Just what is it that
you're looking for here, in my apartment?"
The agent looked over Skinner's shoulder to the other
man now standing by the Smoker. "Sorry, Assistant
Director. We were given some information that we might
find a known felon hiding here. I'm sure you
understand that we had to check it out."
Skinner got that look that made so many of his agents
under him fidget. This man, as the silence grew, was
no exception. "Well," Skinner spoke very softly,
"maybe next time you'll double check your information
before waking me up before the crack of dawn. Are you
The man nodded once, stepped around Skinner who didn't
move out of his way. He and the other agent quickly
left the apartment. Skinner and the Smoker exchanged
The Smoker took out a cigarette, put it in his mouth.
"Next time, Skinner." He paused just outside the still
open door to light his cigarette.
Skinner waited till he heard the sound of elevator
doors closing before he went to shut the door.
He returned to the chess board. He had no trouble
recognizing the set up. Krycek was warning him to
About a month later, Skinner came home to find a
message from Fischer on his answering machine, telling
him to put on the news.
The phone rang again as the hourly newscast began.
"You watching the news, Walt?"
"I just got in, Joe. Give me time to listen to it."
The lead feature was about a car bombing in which two
men had died. One of the men had a long list of
arrests to his credit, a man who had often used the
name David Matherson as an alias. The other dead man
was as yet unidentified.
"Hold on, it gets better." Fischer said.
"In an unrelated incident, there was a second car
bombing in which a known drug dealer was killed."
"How is this better?" Skinner muttered into the phone,
still mulling over the details of the first bombing.
"Remember the night I was telling you how some new guy
was whipping up a war in the zone by the clinic. A guy
who didn't see the clinic as being a neutral part of
the zone. The guy whose goons had threatened a couple
of my nurses. Your boy was paying much more attention
than we thought."
Skinner was happy that he had had the phone line
checked out for wire taps that morning. "What makes
you say it was my boy?"
"The guy and his goons were all in that limo when it
went up. Rumour has it they had just bought themselves
a briefcase full of crack. Paid for it in cash.
"Well, a case full of cash was dropped off here this
evening, just as I was closing up. I counted it.
$327,635. And there was a note in the case, addressed
to me. Said 'Payment for services'." His voice
registered his appreciation. "Your boy is good."
Skinner rubbed his eyes. "You going to keep it?"
"Shit, Walt, the clinic doesn't get any funding
whatsoever, not even a nominal amount from the city
since cut-backs. What the hell do you think?"
The next week, a parcel arrived for Skinner in the
Bureau's daily mail. There was a tape in it with a
note: "Keep in a safe place. Use as needed."
Skinner waited until he was home before listening to
the tape. It was a telephone conversation between the
Smoker and a voice that was often in the news these
days, a man recently acquitted of racketeering charges
Their conversation dealt with money laundrying, making
it very obvious that the Smoker was setting up a deal
for the racketeer, for a percentage. And part of the
tape also made it clear that this conversation had
occurred after the man's acquittal.
Skinner tossed the tape in the air and caught it.
Fischer was right: his boy was good.
End of Part 1