Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Surrender is the original Exigency story, first published in 2000.

Authors: Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us
Website: http://slashfactory.com/
Pairing: Skinner/Krycek
Warning: Heavy angst, a dead body, but nothing out of the ordinary.
Spoilers: SR-819. Takes place six weeks after this episode.
Summary: A post-nanocyte reunion between ex-lovers Skinner and Krycek.
Series: This follows Assault in the Exigency series.
Beta Thanks: Loren Q, Alex, Velvet, Ness, Laurie, Sue and Becca.
Note: All sex positions have been painstakingly tested for accuracy, by our favorite visual aide, Loren Q.
Version Note: This second version of the original Exigency contains many minor edits, but no substantial deviations from the original story.
Disclaimer: Skinner, Krycek, Mulder, Scully and other X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No infringement of rights is intended.

Comment: This story was the first we wrote using a technique we call method slash writing, which is based on method acting. We each became a character and controlled that character's words and actions.
 

3rd Place Winner for Outstanding Skinner/Krycek story,
plus Honorable Mentions for Outstanding Novel-length Fiction and Outstanding Skinner Characterization.

Russian Glossary--Note: Translations appear as tool tips.
Dermo: Shit
Eb tvoju mat: Fuck you
Kurite moju trubku: Suck my cock (an insult)
Na khuya?: Fuck, why?
Ne pizdi!: Cut it the fuck out!
Ni khuya: No fucking way!
Ni za khuy sobachy: For less than a dog's dick
Pizda: Cunt
Pizdetc: Fiasco
Poshel v pizdu: Fuck off!
Styerva: Bastards/bitches
Suka: Bitch
Svoloch: Bastard


Exigency: Surrender
(ek-'si-gen-see)
noun: urgent requirements, exacting want or pressing needs.

Starring:
Zoe Takashi as Alex Krycek.
Louise Wu as Walter S. Skinner.


S.W. Washington, D.C.
Thursday, 11 March 1999
9:30 P.M.

One dark alley bleeds into the next while I search for a likely place--a private place--to stop. I'm running so fast it is difficult to hear above the sounds of my feet striking the pavement and the blood pounding in my ears. I need to distance myself from the body, as quickly as possible, without being seen. I haven't seen anyone, but I'm moving too rapidly to be certain no one has seen me.

I'd be easy to describe--black hair, leather jacket, blood soaked T-shirt, and there's something not quite right about the left arm. What the hell is wrong with the damned thing? It keeps bouncing strangely against my left hip. I suppose I'm lucky to still have the over-priced piece of plastic. I could have easily lost it in that tussle back in the alley. That would have been... inconvenient.

I estimate that I'm about seven blocks from the alley where the bloody body lies--far enough away to stop and make myself less conspicuous. I see a colorfully-lit gas station up ahead, decorated with absurd little orange and blue flags. Beyond that, the dark residential area slowly gives way to a more commercial--and better lit--district. Time to stop. I don't see anyone at the back of the building, but I pause at the corner and look around carefully. Nobody at the side of the building either. I slip into the restroom and lock the door.

My arm comes off with my jacket. Damn.

The lights in the bathroom are dim, but a quick assessment in the mirror reveals I'm messier than I expected. My white shirt is liberally splattered with blood and my jeans, while less noticeable, have streaks of blood where that unfortunate young man must have slid down my body. All the blood appears to be his as I cannot locate any gaping wounds. What a fucking mess... me and the situation. Back in the days when I had two arms this would have gone down much better--and neater.

The blood on the shirt is too obvious so I use it to wipe down my hand and prosthetic arm, leaving it in the trash--to the horror of the next patron, no doubt. Ah well, you have to take pleasure in the little things. Like manipulating Mulder into taking me to Russia and then leaving him in at the gulag. My enjoyment of that memory fades as my prosthetic arm mocks me; that situation didn't exactly turn out well.

In any case, the forensic evidence I'm leaving behind is somewhat irrelevant. I don't think it would be possible for the FBI to want to find me any more than they already do. Unless, of course, that body in the alley belongs to them. Certainly a possibility, but not much of a concern. Should the FBI become an issue, I have my ace-in-the-hole... so to speak.

After cleaning up as best I can--blood is such a bitch to wash off--I strap my arm back on and pull on my leather jacket--sans shirt. My sleazy hotel apartment is only two blocks away but, odds are, my mystery man's employer already knows where I'm staying. How the hell did they find me? And who are 'they' this time around? FBI? If so, who was pulling his strings? Mulder? Probably not. If he knew where to find me, he would never bother with another agent... he'd just show up and bash my face in. Again. Was the guy working for Skinner? That certainly seems more plausible--Skinner must be feeling a little anxious since our little chat in his car.

It's possible that the body stiffening in the alley was another minion of my own employer. But not likely. If my employer felt a reason to distrust me they would have killed me some time ago. FBI is the most likely. The guy didn't look like a killer for hire.

I first observed my stalker at 6:35 this morning. I was sitting in a dark corner of a coffee shop, with a clear view of Skinner's apartment building, when I noticed my little friend across the street. Very clean cut and trying too hard to blend in. After my third sighting later in the day, it was clear he was following me. I waited for my opportunity, and cover of darkness, to catch him by surprise and find out who sent him. Damned unfortunate that I had to kill him before I could get any information. He had his gun out when he rounded the corner and managed to knock my gun out of my hand in the subsequent tussle. A few minutes of scrambling around and I had him with my knife--not very tidy, but apparently sufficient. It was too dark to find either gun quickly so I vacated the alley to put some distance between me and the body.

The whole situation is a mess and my plans are totally screwed.

Well, I can't spend the night in this fucking bathroom and my hotel is out of the question. Time to find a sanctuary for tonight--perhaps even tomorrow. I need to salvage as much of the plan as possible. My whole purpose here is to watch and wait for orders to activate the next phase in our little conspiracy. A phase for which we've carefully groomed Walter Skinner.

The lot is vacant as I leave the bathroom. Under good light I still look gruesome but in shadow I should be inconspicuous. First, a phone call and some insurance. Then a visit to my nemesis. And former lover.


Crystal City
10:17 P.M.

I slowly lower the phone and move out onto the sidewalk. New strategy approved. It's more volatile than my employers realize. They are unaware of my past with Skinner and I prefer to keep it that way. Skinner was always the best choice for the nano experiment but someone else would be on point if they knew I had been his lover.

I look up--17 floors--at A.D. Skinner's balcony. The balcony. What fond memories I have of that charming vacation retreat. Damn him.

His lights are still on. A little late night work eh, Walt? I think I'll wait until he goes to bed.


11:02 P.M.

I step out of the shadows and cross the street as the lights in Skinner's apartment blink out.

Once inside the building, I decide to skip the elevator and take the stairs. My body has begun to ache--and I need a shower--but endorphins are starting to flow. I roll my shoulders a few times and the pain recedes as I reach the 17th floor.

I position myself where he can clearly see me through the peephole, then pound on the door.

**

I'm trying to break the habit of bringing work home. I work twelve or thirteen hours a day anyway. Isn't that enough? It never is. I can always imagine some remote connection between my dreaded paperwork and the safety of my agents or citizens. Tonight, at least, I leave my work in the briefcase, but then find myself going to bed at a reasonable hour because I don't have anything else I want to do.

I'm going to have to find a hobby or something. This is pathetic.

I peel off my remaining clothing and slide under the covers of my king size bed. What I really need is someone in the bed with me, but I loathe dating. And the last time I slept in the same bed with someone, I woke up with a corpse lying next to me.

My cock is a little twitchy wondering if I'm going to jack off tonight. I reach for it and give it a few friendly strokes, still trying to decide if we're in the mood or not.

Then I hear an obnoxious pounding from downstairs. I get up with a groan. Pulling on my jeans, I wonder who or what is invading my privacy this time. Statistically, Mulder's the best guess. I have 286 agents under me, but Fox Mulder alone is responsible for fully half of the late night visits.

I go down the stairs barefooted, stopping at the hall table to retrieve my Glock. I look through the peep-hole and see the face I least want to see tonight. Or really any night. Krycek.

Do I really want to open the door? No. Is it worth dying for? Probably not.

I open the damned door, still holding my handgun, and glare at the little bastard. He's a mess. His hair is flat on one side and standing straight up on the other. He's sweaty and grimy. His jeans are splattered with what looks like fresh blood. He's not wearing a shirt under the leather jacket, leaving a vertical strip of his chest on display. Part of me that's not smart enough to remember what this man is still wants to touch him.

I have nothing to say to him. If he wants something from me, he's going to have to ask for it.

**

The silence seems to stretch for hours. My equilibrium fled as soon as he opened the door. I try to tell myself it's fatigue, but I know better. I've always felt a little off balance around this man. It's a feeling I don't care for, and perhaps the reason I've been so violent to him at times. It doesn't help that my cock has been semi-hard since I first set eyes on him. A side effect of Skinner's presence I have intentionally forgotten. The body remembers.

I give him a once over, deliberately pausing at his crotch and openly staring at his bare chest. He looks slightly startled for a very brief moment. Good. No reason why I should be the only one unsettled by this encounter.

He looks good. The casual observer might say he looks stoic or impassive, but I know Walter well enough to see the warring emotions--rage, suspicion, fatigue. The experience with the nanos has taken its toll. He still looks good. Damn, I wish he had put on a shirt.

Distractions.

Skinner is still pointing the Glock at me. It's completely pointless. Without a word said, he's fully aware of the ramifications of killing me--his own death.

Enough of this little drama.

I deliberately move directly toward him. His eyes widen slightly, then he moves back and to the side just before we're close enough to touch. I walk past him and enter his apartment, moving forward until I reach the balcony doors. Focus on that night on the balcony--keep the other memories at bay. I'm here to do a job and that's it. That he once was my lover does not matter.

Now that the first few moments are past, I can feel my composure returning. I turn to face him. He hasn't lowered his gun and his expression is wary. I lean back against the balcony doors and stick my hand in my front pocket.

"Put down the gun, Walter. We both know you are not going to use it."

**

The little bastard just makes himself right at home.

He's right, though. I'm not going to use the gun. It would be far too unsatisfying to kill him with a bullet. Bodily contact is definitely required.

After securing the front door, I set the safety on the gun and store it carefully back in its drawer. He sees me do it, but the man doesn't need a gun to kill me. It seems pointless to worry about it.

He's standing across the room, posed like a rent boy, just looking at me. I'm trying to keep my body from responding to his insolent green gaze.

"What do you want, Krycek?"

"A shower."

"You think this is a hotel?"

"Yes. I hear the accommodations on the balcony are top notch."

I grimace at that memory and missed opportunity. If only...

Krycek's posture is a bit stiff and he's holding his left arm a little funny. My glasses are by the bed, so I can't tell exactly what's wrong.

"Don't be pissy, Walter. I could just make myself comfortable in that cream-colored arm chair--that's new isn't it?--but think of your cleaning bill. No, I think I'd rather shower."

I sigh heavily and rub my eyes. "Fine. Take a shower. As you may recall, the guest bath is halfway down on the left. May I offer you some evidence bags for your clothes?"

"Hmm... tempting but I think I'll just borrow your washer and save you some trouble." Krycek starts toward the hallway leading to the guest suite. "Actually, I wouldn't recall. As I'm sure you know, my only visit to your new abode was limited to the drafty areas." He stops in the doorway, looking around. "So, I'm relegated to the guest bathroom. I'm crushed, Walter, really crushed."

Krycek starts down the hallway and then turns around. "Just so we're clear--I do not have the nanocyte control panel with me. Your nanos will remain inactive, for now, provided I check in by 5:00 P.M. tomorrow."

"In that case, watch your step in the shower."

He tosses me a less-than-amused grin and disappears into the hall.

So now what? I've got Alex Krycek in my shower. I'd like to go to bed, but it seems unlikely that I'll get any sleep with him in the house. Waiting for him is even less appealing. I head upstairs and turn into my office. Retrieving a few reports I've been dreading from my briefcase, I return to the bedroom.

I take off my jeans and put on a T-shirt, briefs and sweats. I leave a pair of loafers by the bed. I want to be ready for anything. Switching on the bedside lamp, I prop myself up on the bed and try to read.

I'm under a death sentence.

I loathe the waiting. Waiting to see just what the little bastard has in mind for me... I've got my limits clear in my head. I won't do just anything he asks. I'll pick and choose carefully and only do what I can live with. It's really quite simple; I'm willing to die rather than betray my beliefs beyond a certain point.

I read the first paragraph of the report at least nine times before I can move on.

**

I close the bathroom door not bothering to lock it. I doubt Skinner would come in here of his own volition, and I'm not concerned about what he would do if he made an unexpected appearance. Suddenly, I feel completely drained, and sink to the floor with my back pressed up against the door. This is harder than I had imagined. My encounters with Skinner since my defection--he would say betrayal--have been brief and, more often than not, violent. I found myself fighting the urge to cross the room and run my hands over his chest. Ugh... it's going to be difficult to keep my mind clear when I get a hard-on every time he looks in my direction. There's only enough blood for one head.

I don't know why I thought I could do this. I had to blow my cover with that whole Duane Barry mess because I was close to screwing everything up.

First things first. I need to figure out what's wrong with my arm. The last thing I need is another disadvantage. It was difficult to see anything under the dim fluorescent lights of the gas station bathroom. I scramble up off the floor and shed my jacket, noticing dried blood I had not seen before. Have to remember to clean that, too.

I pull off my arm... shit. It's totally screwed up. Slightly bent at a strange angle near the 'elbow' and several cracks in the upper arm. The structures under the thumb and index finger feel smashed.

"Well, this is completely useless." All it's good for now is covering my stump. Fan-bloody-tastic.

I grab a washcloth and start cleaning my arm. Next, the jacket--I leave it hanging on the bathroom door. I strip off my jeans, kick them in the corner and climb into the shower.

The water is almost scalding. Perfect. I've always loved too-hot showers. As water saturates my hair and runs down my body, the pooling liquid around the drain turns a reddish-brown color. There goes the last of the mystery man.

I can't help but think of other showers. Walter never liked the water temperature super-hot so the water was cooler but the action was always very hot. Inevitably, when we showered together, I'd get on my knees and suck him off then soap him from head to toe, delivering a full body massage in the disguise of a bath. After we finished bathing, Walter was always hard again and ready to fuck. Those showers were as close to servile as I ever get. In point of fact, my whole interaction with Walter was uncomfortably submissive. I've intentionally never put too much thought into that.

I'm suddenly aware of my raging hard-on. It's almost painful. That little trip down memory lane was not productive. Focus, Alex, focus!

I finish up my shower, completely ignoring my errant dick, and wrap myself in one of Walter's dark blue bath towels. I don't have any clean clothes, so the towel is it. My prosthetic draws my attention--to wear or not? I don't particularly want to wear the aid in front of Skinner but I'm less comfortable with not wearing it.

Wear it.

Gritting my teeth, I put the arm back on and set out in search of my reluctant host. My own mental gyrations seem to have tamed the savage beast and my cock has settled down.

He's not on the first floor, which leaves upstairs or out of the apartment. I sincerely doubt he would leave, so I head upstairs.

I find him sitting on a king size bed in a large bedroom at the top of the stairs, pretending to read something in an FBI file.

I lean against the doorframe and wait.

**

Acutely aware of having the little bastard in my home, I feel a pang of anxiety when I hear the shower turn off. Fifteen minutes later, during which time I've read about five words, he saunters into my doorway, wearing only a towel. His left arm is... Christ, it's not real.

The left arm has been amputated and a prosthetic arm is strapped on in its place. Fuck. It wasn't even cut off neatly. There's a mass of scar tissue around the junction where flesh meets plastic.

My jaw is hanging open. Impossible to imagine the pain of whatever happened to his arm...

Krycek's glowering at me, his voice terse as he snaps, "Morbid curiosity isn't an option. Ask Mulder."

Mulder? And then I remember the agent's report on Tunguska. After escaping the gulag, he was found by Russian peasants who wanted to amputate his arm to save him from the tests. Shit. Looks like someone didn't give Krycek a chance to say no.

For a moment, I hurt for him at the sight of that beautiful body marred by the truncated arm. And then I remember just who and what this man is. Maybe he deserved it.

I shake my head and try to forget about the amputation.

Again, Krycek has nothing to say, leaving me to wonder what his intentions are. It galls me that he has infected me with these damned nanocytes and won't just tell me what he wants.

The way he's hanging around is suggestive of earlier times. My leg twitches as I avoid the instinct to rise and haul him to bed.

I toss the reports on the bedside table and sit facing him.

"Stop playing games, Krycek. You obviously want something. And with your little device, you might have enough leverage to get it. So, dammit, start giving your orders and we can both find out if I'm going to obey them."

Krycek moves slowly into the room, glancing around, finally stopping approximately three feet from the end of the bed. "Yes, I do want something--many things, in fact. But don't look so worried, Walter. I'm not going to ask you to kill anyone."

Krycek gives a little dismissive gesture before continuing, "Let's talk about this later--I'm not in the mood to talk shop right now. So, how've you been, Walter? You look... tired."

The goddamned infuriating little bastard... Before I know it, I'm up from the bed, accosting him. I shove him face first into the bed and grab him in a headlock as he falls.

"So tell me again. It's a hypothetical question. What happens to me if I break your neck?"

I allow my forearm to press into his throat, hard enough to tell him I'm serious about ending his miserable life, but not enough to completely stop his air flow. I doubt he can speak, however.

"This may be just a nasty joke to you, but I'm not in the mood to hang around and chit chat with a man who has a gun to my head. So if there's a point, let's get to it."

I throw him on the bed and stand back, listening to his gasping breaths.

Krycek's towel has come loose. After his breathing slows, he rolls over and the towel falls away. He's quite unabashedly erect and flashes me an evil grin.

"What happens if you break my neck? You already know the answer to that question. Except this time, there's no coming back when the nanos are finished with you. It's likely that your strategic value is higher than mine but, if you kill me, it becomes apparent that you cannot be controlled and that would necessitate your demise."

Krycek sits up a little and braces his weight on his arms. The prosthetic is unsteady and he loses his balance, but quickly rights himself and balances on one arm. His voice becomes hard, "Do you want to know the reality of the situation, Mr. Skinner? I don't have the gun to your head--never did. Whether you live or die is not a decision I get to make. It doesn't truly matter what you do to me, but, if I don't walk out of here and check in tomorrow by 5:00, they will assume you killed me and then you will die. Your choice. Not mine.

"As for what will happen if you attack me like that again? Well," Krycek glances down at his crotch, "we both know the answer to that, too, don't we?"

He sits up straight and leans forward slightly. "You're the only one who gets away with that kind of shit, Walter."

"Lucky me." It is not the least bit reassuring to learn that Krycek's masters are in control of my fate. At least I know him.

In spite of the threat to my life, I desperately want to beat the crap out of the little cocksucker. I pace and fidget, trying to keep my keyed-up body off his, which is still naked and vulnerable on my bed.

"You still didn't answer my question. What the fuck do you want from me, Krycek?"

"What are you really asking, Walter? What do I want or what do my employers want?"

I squeeze my fists, pressing them against my thighs. I take a long deep breath. "What do you want, Krycek. Why are you here?"

**

What do I want? Good question. I haven't had much clarity on that point since I was in the shower--perhaps since Skinner opened the door. And, apparently, I've lost all sense of reason as well. I should have just told him what he had to do and slept in the guest room while Skinner wrestled with his demons in private. But I've never had much common sense where Walter Skinner is concerned.

I would never have started an affair with him if I had an iota of sense. After our first time--that unexpected, hurried fuck in Skinner's garage with his wife in the house--I conveniently persuaded myself that continuing the affair could yield blackmail material when my duplicity was inevitably uncovered. Yet, I've never told a soul. My capacity for self-delusion is probably only eclipsed by my lack of regard for... anything.

It's obvious he wants to beat the crap out of me--not a particularly appealing idea. But I have effectively delivered myself into his hands. I left my good judgment at the door and told a man who would probably love to see me dead, that he can do whatever he wants to me--provided he doesn't kill me. Sometimes I surprise myself with my colossal stupidity. Should he go over the top, I can make his life truly miserable--I may not be able to kill him but there's a great chasm between 'just fine' and dead. Payback is, after all, a real bitch. I know that better than anyone. Before I walked into this room I would have said tackling and trying to strangle me would be a bit over the top. My very obvious hard-on bears evidence to the contrary. I just can't help that I get turned on no matter how he touches me.

I can't afford to let him get under my skin. I have a job to do and I can't let this get personal.

Uh-huh... So why am I in his bedroom?

The silence is thick and heavy. Skinner looks increasingly tense with each passing moment. It's never my intention to torture him but that's just the way it goes--intentions don't count for shit.

I realize that as much as it's possible for me to care for anyone, I care for Walter Skinner. I don't love him--what the fuck is that anyway--but he makes me feel... something... anything. And that's such a novelty for me.

I would still put a bullet in his brain if ordered.

Definitely no sense, so why break an impressive streak now? I sigh heavily and bring my knees up to my chest, resting my head briefly. I glance back up at Walter and he looks--I don't know--I've never seen that look before and I don't know what it means.

"Do you remember the first few weeks of our relationship?" Now he looks positively murderous. Like I said, I have no sense, but I continue on like a man walking off a cliff. He probably will kill me. "The third time we were together seems like the actual beginning. Those first two times were so furtive and hurried we barely had time to fuck and then acted like it never happened. But that third time--in the sleazy, flea-bag motel--was..." My voice fails me and the barrage of memories are making my head hurt. I start to rub my forehead, as if that will push the memories back. Was what? Special? My downfall? An obsession? "...the beginning--of our affair, of where we are now, of the end.

"I sucked your cock for the first time that day." The memories are so powerful I feel a tickle in my throat. I continue on, thinking out loud. "I've debated which I like more, sucking your cock or having you fuck me. That day was the beginning of an addiction. But it didn't change who I was or what I had to do--and it never will."

I drop my legs off the side of the bed, stand up and walk around the bed stopping about a foot in front of Skinner. I must be suicidal. He could easily strangle me at this distance. "So, what do I want?" I shrug my shoulders. "What am I here for? I'm here for you."

**

Well, nice job, Walter. You made him say it. Are you happy? His body told you the truth from his first suggestive pose in front of the balcony door. Somehow making him say it was supposed to make you feel better, humiliate him or something.

But instead it just reached that part of me that wants the little bastard. Now my cock is hard, too. I can only hope my sweat pants are loose enough to conceal the evidence.

There are many things I could say to him, but what comes out is what I have to say. "I'm fighting for my life here, Krycek. And you wanna get laid? I'm worrying about whether I'll be alive next week at this time, and if so, who or what I'll have to betray to stay alive. And you're trying to decide if you want to suck my dick or bend over and spread your legs? Is this some kind of sick joke?"

Krycek becomes very still and then starts to laugh--a rarity for him. "Perhaps." He pauses for a few seconds. "Perhaps it's a sick joke on both of us, Walter." He turns and sits on the end of the bed, looking up at me. "I guess we all need our illusions--yours appears to be the notion that you were ever not fighting for your life."

"Don't get all metaphysical on me, boy. Until your employers infect you with nanocytes and they have a Palm Pilot with your name on it, you haven't got the right to talk to me about illusions."

The worst of it is that Alex Krycek is still a beautiful man. Who thought to put such a diseased soul in that body?

I'm tense and I'm frustrated and I don't know what I'm doing any more. When Krycek showed up, I was prepared to defend my principles against his demands, but now I'm not even sure what I'm fighting for.

"So what if I say no? I refuse to let you blow me. I won't fuck you. Am I to die for that? I've been a soldier and an officer of the law; this wasn't how I expected to go."

Krycek looks positively annoyed. "Come off your moral high-horse, sir. Has it ever crossed your justice-obsessed brain to wonder why I allow myself to be on such a tight leash? Forget that." He makes an abortive gesture with his hand, as if trying to cut off the flow of words. "What you do, or don't do, to me--or allow me to do to you--has no bearing on your chances for survival. You'll live or die based on your willingness to meet their demands--just like the rest of us. So, don't start feelin' all self-righteous."

I resist the urge to laugh. Only next to Krycek could I look morally superior.

Krycek gets up and paces the room. "By the way, it isn't how anyone plans to go." He stops and leans against the wall, looking down. "You'll do better with the choices before you when you learn to not care who wins or loses, lives or dies."

But I do care who lives or dies. I want to live. And, if I'm honest with myself, I want him to live. Some part of me can't stop seeing the boy who slept in my arms, thick lashes quivering as he dreamed.

I wanted this encounter to be about principles and integrity, but it's not. Just two hard cocks and a pair of morally damaged men who don't want to admit that they want each other.

I'm confused and aggravated, but Krycek is agitated and angry, so I must have done something right.

I don't know what to say to him. It's not as if we're going to actually resolve the issues between us. I shake my head and sit down on the bed a few feet away from him. "Now what?"

Krycek sneers at me. "Now what? Well, as unpleasant as it may be for you, you're stuck with me until tomorrow. So, the question is, what do you want, Walter? Shall we continue to discuss my moral turpitude at annoying length?"

No point in fighting with him all night.

"Discussing morals with you, Alex, reminds me of the Mark Twain saying about administering medicine to the dead. And, speaking of the dead, can you at least reassure me that you didn't bring the entire crime scene into my home? Where's the weapon? Do we need to burn your Levis?"

Krycek seems nonplussed, then sighs heavily and sinks to the floor, his back still against the wall, long elegant legs bent in front of him. "That seems eerily akin to being burned in effigy and I can't very well walk out of here bare-assed. And no, I didn't bring the entire crime scene--you don't see a body, do you? My gun is, regrettably, in an alley with the body and the knife is..." He pauses as if trying to decide whether to tell me. "... in my jacket--your guest bathroom." He sighs again and rubs his eyes. "And don't call me... that."

"It's your fucking name, you little bastard. Oh, fuck it, I don't even care. So, boy, is this body anyone I know? Will someone be coming to my door to chat about it? Do you need to dispose of the knife? Christ, I can't believe I'm giving you lessons in crime 101."

"Fuck you, Walter."

Every time I lower my standards in order to tolerate his presence, he asks me to reduce them even further. We're getting nowhere. I still don't really know why he's here or what he wants. If he has a plan, he's never going to tell me what it is. I give up.

I'm so fed up with him that my cock is only half hard, even in the presence of a naked Krycek.

"Did you notice the guest room across the hall from the guest bath? The bed's already made." I throw his damp towel at him and offer him a grim smile. "Pleasant dreams," I offer sarcastically.

Krycek struggles to stand, suddenly wavering and groping the wall for support. He walks out the door, leaving the towel on the floor, muttering, "I'll be right back."

He's obviously stiff and sore. Since he left his gun at the scene, I guess things got out of control and he's hurting. Not my problem.

After a minute or two he returns, looking very unsteady. He walks over to the bed, still ignoring the towel, and tosses a knife on one of the pillows. "Do what you want with it." He rips the bedspread off and turns toward the door trailing it behind him. "I'll sleep on the couch... wouldn't want you to leave before we finish our business."

It takes only an instant to recognize the knife. I'm certain that Krycek is enjoying my ire that he's killed with that knife. I gave it to him when we were lovers. As an agent, he lost his knife trying to apprehend a suspect. I purchased a beautiful Solingen for him. It's the ultimate 'fuck you' to bring it into my home as evidence of his murder.

He turns back slightly as he reaches the doorway. "A question for you, Mr. Skinner. Did you send someone after me?"

Fascinating. It sounds like even Krycek doesn't know who he killed. "No. I'm grateful to say I didn't send anyone after you. Must have been one of your other ex-lovers."

Suddenly, Krycek's fist is in my face and, by instinct, I grab his wrist before it connects. I'm about to pull it behind his back and shove him into the wall, but something stops me. Instead I hold his wrist firmly at his side, careful not to harm him, and wrap my other arm around his waist, pulling his naked body to mine.

I try to gentle my voice so he understands that the question is serious. "Are you injured? You're testy tonight, even for you. Were you hurt?"

Krycek's eyes widen in shock. "Yes... no... I don't underst..." He starts struggling and all the color drains out of his face.

He's scared, and I don't want him to feel trapped. I release his wrist slowly, my guard up in case he strikes again. His body stills. The hand around his waist is loose, unthreatening. He feels so vulnerable in my arms. I force myself to remember who he is and who he's not. Our past is much prettier and it's so easy for me to go there.

"Tell me, Alex. Talk to me, for once. Just cut through the bullshit and talk to me."

Krycek is silent for a few moments and when he does speak his words are halting and quiet. "I chose this life, Walter, and I wouldn't change my decisions--even if I could but..." He falters and his tension increases. He looks away and continues, even softer than before, "I didn't choose this situation. For you or for me." He exhales slowly and almost seems to deflate. "I don't like confidences and I'm not redeemable, but I wanted... needed you to know I didn't want this."

I'm astonished, not just by his words, but also by the fact that he allows me to keep holding him. Uncertain how to deal with what he's just told me, I allow my lips to briefly touch his temple. How can this man take me from homicidal rage to... to... whatever the fuck I'm feeling now?

"Are you injured? Do you need a doctor?"

He looks at me for several moments--his eyes questioning and a bit leery. "I don't have any fatal injuries. Unless I'm dying, you know I cannot see a doctor--probably not even then."

He moves his hand up, pauses, and then drops it back to his side. He looks past my shoulder, staring blankly for a few seconds and then closes his eyes. His voice, when he speaks, sounds weary and resigned. "Why, Walter? What difference does it make if I'm injured?"

"I'm reasonably competent at first aid. If that's not adequate, I can call Scully."

Krycek looks appalled.

"She owes me a few favors. If I tell her to keep silent, she will. Or I can phone her for advice. I can patch up minor injuries myself. Just tell me what you need, Alex. What's wrong with you?"

It feels so good to touch him. I don't want him to know how he's affecting me. Fuck, I don't want to know myself.

"I don't want Dana Scully anywhere near me." Krycek's voice is loud and very adamant. His whole body tenses and then slowly relaxes, his voice quiet again when he continues. "You are what's wrong with me. I don't understand you and I don't know what... to do." He looks appalled again. "Oh fuck... I probably have a broken rib, Walter but it's not bad... I've had worse--just forget about it."

I can't fathom what he's feeling that makes me the problem. It defies everything I know about the man. But I focus on what I can do something about.

"Get on the bed, Alex. Let's take a look at your ribs." I slide my hand reassuringly down his bare back. "I'm going for my emergency kit."

He pulls away from me and backs up a couple of steps, looking wary and almost scared. He starts to say something, stops and begins to pace. He stills and almost collapses, sitting at the end of the bed with his head in his hands. I can hear him mutter, "Do whatever you want."

I return from the en suite bathroom with my supplies. Krycek is stoic as I palpate his chest. It seems he has only one rib injured in the lower back. It's bruised and swollen, but he lets me tape it without complaint.

"I'm... I'm sorry I got rough with you. I didn't know."

He eyes me sullenly, but says nothing.

"Any internal bleeding? Other injuries?"

"No." He looks away. "It doesn't matter, you know. I don't even notice pain most of the time." He glances at me briefly. "Your courtesy is... well, thank you."

I sit down next to him on the bed, resting a hand on his good shoulder. "You want to talk about what's eating you up? Or whatever?" I wonder if anything I say can get him to tell me what's on his mind. Now I know how Sharon felt all those years. By contrast, Krycek makes me seem eager to talk about my feelings.

He turns toward me slightly, his brow furrowed in concentration or thought. He stands up slowly and makes a few abortive pacing motions, finally stopping in front of me.

"Why I had to come here is eating me--and why I can't just tell you and leave. This is a bad way to start..." He cuts himself off and sinks to his knees, resting back on his heels. He shakes his head as if trying to clear it. "But I don't want to talk about it... I can't dissect it for you, Walter." He rises back to his knees, his face slightly below mine and about six inches away, resting his hand on my knee.

I can't deny that I like it when he touches me. I resist the urge to run my fingers through his short, sleek hair.

"If you want to know something specific, I'll tell you--if I can--if I'm permitted." He pauses as if trying to find the next words. "But I can't just unburden my soul... I just can't."

I'm surprised that he's told me as much as he has.

"Who do you work for?"

Krycek looks almost defeated and leans back slightly. "I can't tell you that but," he stops, trying to decide how much to tell me. "Their intention isn't to... well, it's not what you might think considering my involvement." He stumbles over his words. "I realize you believe I would only be involved in something... nefarious, but I'm actually not working for them by choice. Oh Christ... I can't answer this question, Walter."

"How do they want to use me?"

He's starting to look almost ill. He already told me he didn't want to discuss this now. I feel his hand clench on my knee. "They want information. The kind of information you would have readily available." He removes his hand and rubs his forehead. "I will be your handler--for lack of a better term." He drops his hand and it rests lightly on my foot. He looks back up at me. "I'll contact you with the information you need to provide and you'll provide it to me. That's all I know for now. It could be more but, well, that's what I know."

I want to ask him why he's here tonight, but I've already tried and I haven't gotten any kind of meaningful answer. And I don't want to think about what I'll be asked to do. I'll deal with it when I have to, but, for some reason, I am inclined to warn my handler about what lies ahead.

"You realize there are things you may ask me to do that I won't do. There are limits to who or what I will betray. I am not afraid to die."

Krycek looks pained. "I have no control over this situation--from either side. You'll do what you must and so will I."

I will do what I choose, but I don't feel a need to argue with him about it. Not now.

"I can't tell you any more about my employers or what you'll have to do. So, what else, Walter?"

"Are you infected with the nanocytes, Alex?"

Krycek sits back on his heels again and sighs. "Yes--before you."

So, that raises obvious questions. Is he really infected? Did he infect me because he had no choice? But I'm not sure I want to know the answers. And would I know the truth if I heard it?

"And will you do anything they ask to stay alive?"

"I have rarely seen a place I was not willing to go, Walter--for some reason or another. Fighting to stay alive seems like a better motive than anything else."

"I don't often understand you, Alex, but in this I think I do." I don't like the idea of him being controlled that way. Alex has always been free. Reprehensible, perhaps, but acting freely on his own obscure agenda. Me, I've compromised so much and so often that it doesn't seem the same.

"Are the nanocytes transmittable? If I kiss or fuck someone, do I put them at risk?"

"Not in the way you mean. It's possible someone could pick up your nanocytes but they could not be harmed by them. The nanocytes are encoded for each individual--necessitating a separate control frequency for each person--based on their DNA. A blood sample was used to encode yours--which were actually encoded before mine. Quite a long time before, I understand."

He seems to be trying to tell me that he didn't want to infect me. Why should he care, really? Surely not affection, as he'd already betrayed me several times.

"If you develop a plan to get free of these things, we could... cooperate." I meet his green eyes, to make sure I'm communicating. "I don't trust you, Alex. I can't. Not anymore. But I might work with you. You know more than I do about the nanocytes. If you see a way, count me in."

Krycek looks away and gives a nearly imperceptible nod. He looks back at me. "I can't do this anymore. Not now--I'll answer anything else you want later but it's too... difficult."

He begins to reach toward my leg and then drops his hand back to the floor. "If it means anything, I'm s... umm, I regret... no, ah, I wish this didn't have to be, Walter."

It is more of an apology than I ever expected from him.

"All right. No more questions tonight." It's more of an acceptance of his apology than I ever expected to give.

Krycek leans forward, reaching his hand up to my face. He touches his fingertips to my temple and trails his fingers down my jaw line. He freezes and pulls back, almost falling over, then closes his eyes for a second. "Thank you."

I reach out to steady him, my hands finding his shoulders. "Are you sure you're okay? Do you need something? Pain medication? Tell me what you need, Alex."

"I don't need you to take care of me..." His voice trails away and he suddenly leans forward, closing the short distance between us, placing his hand on the back of my neck. He pauses for a fraction of a second, then pulls me forward and kisses me.

I wrap my arms around him, mindful of his bandaged rib, pulling him in between my legs. My tongue invades his mouth, tasting what I have missed... that spicy flavor that is Alex.

A moan emanates from deep in his throat. I feel his tongue move against mine and his body push against me, as if trying to increase the physical contact. His shoulders tremble as our kiss intensifies.

Krycek releases my neck and pulls back, enough to break the contact of our mouths but not enough to break my hold on him. He's breathing rapidly and his eyes seem to burn. "I need you, Walt--I have since I met you." He sighs and shakes his head. "I'm so exhausted, I can't think, but I don't want to leave."

"It's a terrible idea for us to do this." My hand explores the smooth skin of his back. "It's too risky for both of us. Our lives are already complicated and interconnected in dangerous ways." My lips wander from the side of his face down to the side of his neck.

Krycek suddenly breathes deeply, like a man who has been suffocated, and leans up toward me, moving closer. His hand glides up my leg and around my hip, pulling at my shirt until it slides up my back. He seems hesitant at first and then turns his head and nips my earlobe, trailing his lips along my jaw line. I hear him murmur, "Things can't possibly be any more complicated than they already are. Or difficult."

"As long as we're in agreement... come to bed, Alex." I rise slowly, helping him to stand next to me. With an arm around his waist, I guide him to the side of the bed that isn't my side.

Krycek turns toward me, my arm still around his waist. "What?" He looks puzzled in a very sleepy way. It's almost cute.

I turn back the sheet and blanket. "Get in the bed. Or I'll put you there myself."

He tenses and tries to pull away, looking confused. He stumbles and bangs into the nightstand, trying to catch himself on his prosthetic arm.

I gently nudge one knee out from under him so his balance shifts toward the bed and catch him as he falls, easing him down where I want him.

Krycek looks a little panicked and reaches for his prosthetic, muttering, "I can't sleep..." He trails off, looking like he's trying to piece his thoughts together, and whispers, "doesn't matter." He's obviously fighting his body's need to fall asleep but looks up at me. "Why?"

"I missed you." I pull the covers over him.

In the bathroom, I pour a glass of water. By the time I've returned to offer it to him, he's already snoring softly, his arm up by his head, which is turned toward the middle of the bed. He looks deceptively peaceful. I leave the glass on his bedside table.

There's an evidence bag in my first aid kit. I retrieve the knife from my pillow, touching it only with the plastic bag. It's clean of blood, but it must have his prints on it. He shouldn't have given me this. It would be so easy to turn in the evidence and arrest him. But I don't even consider it. At least not tonight. I take the bag to the hall closet and conceal it inside a roll of paper towels. I'll deal with it later.

I strip off my clothes and join him in the bed, scooting to the middle, just to be close. I watch his eyelashes twitch.

Sleep seems miles away. Alex is in my bed again.

I replay the events of the night in my head. He gave up so much of himself. I made him admit that I mattered to him. His green eyes burned so brightly as he awkwardly confessed to vague and uncomfortable feelings... My beautiful passionate Alex...

This is the Alex I might have left Sharon to be with. But it is dangerous to feel anything for him. God help me, I'm more afraid of my feelings for him than I am of his damned nanocytes. But it's more than lust...

Alex always wanted to be taken from behind, on his belly or on all fours. One night I pinned him on his back and tried to fuck him face to face. He fought and squirmed and hid his face in my armpit. I think he knew how much I cared for him and was afraid to see it in my face with my cock inside him. Maybe he had something to hide, too.

It takes me over an hour to calm my thoughts enough to sleep.

**

Friday, 12 March 1999
4:35 A.M.

A sense of panic brings me suddenly awake. Something is wrong--I can't remember anything. Years of training and instinct keep me still and my breathing even. I can hear someone breathing softly near me but no other sounds. A quick physical inventory reveals that I'm sore and stiff. The fractured rib in my back isn't as painful as it should be--the nanos must be doing their work. And that is going to be a bigger problem for me later--hopefully not sooner.

Why the hell is my arm on? I never sleep with it on because it hurts like a son of a bitch in the morning--and it really fucking hurts now. And where are my clothes? I don't normally sleep naked because I often have to leave in a hurry. What the hell?

I can feel something resting against my left hip. It's definitely skin, so it's not my prosthetic arm. Where the hell am I and who is with me? I glance around, without moving, first looking to the right. It's still dark outside. I don't have any concept of time... could be late at night or early morning. I slowly look to the left. Oh my god.

Walter is on his back, turned slightly toward me, apparently in a deep sleep. His right arm is extended slightly and the back of his hand is touching my hip. My prosthetic arm lies on top of his wrist. He's covered to the waist with blankets but his chest is bare. It takes about two more seconds before the events from last night cascade through my brain. Oh, Christ. Someone get me out of here. So much for proving that I can handle the situation.

I very slowly start moving off the bed, careful not to touch Skinner at all. The pain and stiffness make it slow going, but I manage to get out of bed without waking him. I stand at the side of the bed and stare at him for a few seconds. "I missed you." That's the last thing he said to me. No. I must have been delirious. My chest feels constricted and I'm starting to feel panicky. I need to get out of this room.

I slowly and quietly exit, pulling the door closed but not shutting it. Skinner is normally a moderate sleeper but I have a feeling he'll awaken easily tonight.

I creep downstairs trying to decide what to do. I suppose I can leave if I want. I did give Skinner the information I came to deliver. The memory of that interlude makes me cringe. I was on leave of my senses last night. What could I possibly have been thinking?

The urge for flight is so strong it almost doesn't seem rational. I need to calm down and figure out what's happening. Why do I feel so panicked? One step at a time, Krycek. I need to piss--that's urgent. Inside the guest bathroom, I see my bloody jeans and boots on the floor. I quickly review other details from the day before.

I grab for my jacket and start feeling the inside pockets, finding only my knife sheath. What the? Oh, I gave it to Walter. Jesus, I am such an idiot. I don't know why people have this perception that I'm a competent all-around-bad-guy. Apparently I'm a blithering idiot. I gave an Assistant Director of the FBI a murder weapon. I just couldn't deal with his pompous 'don't you know anything, boy' attitude. Not that Skinner can do anything with the knife, but still. It actually pains me that it's gone. I've been dragging that knife around with me since our relationship ended--it was the only thing I had left. God, that's pathetic. I might think I was starting to go soft. Ha! This is one of those things in my life that I've accepted not thinking about. But I wish I could get the damned knife back.

I turn to the toilet to finally take a piss and glance at my jeans. What am I going to wear out of here? Have to deal with that later. I finish pissing and rummage around in the medicine cabinet. Hmm. Tylenol and a generic anti-inflammatory. I take double the recommended dose of both with a handful of water, then splash more water on my face.

I pull off my prosthetic arm. It's an instant relief and then everything starts to sting. I look at my shoulder and what's left of my arm in the mirror. Lots of small cuts on the stump--none of them bleeding anymore. Damn! More injuries distracting the nanos. I run my fingers along the prosthetic--the damage created some sharp surfaces. No wonder the stupid thing has been hurting so much. Every time my shoulder twitches I get a small cut--but there's not much bleeding so it's hardly terminal. Shit, I have to put the stupid thing back on. I've got to remember to keep my shoulder still.

Next I assess my rib. The swelling has gone down and it's just sore. There's some blood pooled in strange places that suggest the pull of gravity. Hmm... subcutaneous bleeding. Also not very bad. The nanos have been very busy. Fuck.

Next most urgent thing: need to eat. I can tell by how my body feels that the nano-decay is approaching problematic levels. Shit. I hope this doesn't get out of control.

I poke around in the kitchen trying to find something to eat. There's not a lot--Skinner must go out all the time. I finally find some left over chow mein (which won't be very helpful) and a cabinet full of protein powders and supplements for body-builders and athletes. I certainly do appreciate that Walter spends so much time at the gym but I wouldn't be able to eat this crap. Except today. This seems like the best choice. I don't want to make a lot of noise, so I eat the protein powder dry and wash it down with water.

I continue to poke around the kitchen while I 'eat' trying to block out what a gagging experience this is. I open one of the drawers and nearly have an orgasm. Valrhona chocolate. Oh my. One of my weaknesses in life.

The sudden, violent trembling in my hand brings my mind forcibly to a place I didn't want to go. I'm not going to be able to prevent this. Shit. Looking back over the last 24 hours, there were about a dozen things I could have done to mitigate this problem--not the least of which was telling Skinner what could happen if I didn't rest and eat. Yeah, right. We've never been strong on confidences.

When I attacked him, he grabbed me and shocked me by holding me still and asking if I was injured. At first, I thought he was trying to determine how badly he could beat me up, but then he seemed concerned and I panicked. My only worry was the cellular damage caused by the nanos, but I couldn't tell him that. But he kept pushing and I finally told him about the fractured rib--which wasn't a problem because of the nanos. Except that it was a problem because they weren't doing their real work. Shit--this confuses the hell out of me sometimes.

The trembling is starting to worsen. I try to focus on something else. Kissing Walter. The only thing I don't cringe at the memory of. Why did I have to be so fucking tired? The rest of the night was just, well, damned embarrassing.

My knees start to buckle and I grab at the counter to try to make my descent to the floor as quiet as possible. The trembling is horrible and I can see my veins standing out in relief against my now too pale skin. Oh hell, this is going to take a couple of hours to pass. I lean back and try to block out the pain. Maybe Walter will stay asleep until it's over.

**

As I awaken, I'm aware that something unexpected has happened, but my sleep-fogged brain can't quite figure it out. I stretch and roll onto my side and notice that the bedcovers are opened.

Krycek.

Oh, shit. He was here and now he's not. It's frightening to consider what that could mean.

I get up and pull on my jeans. I remember doing the same thing last night. I opened the door wanting to kill him. He hijacked my body and my free will with his damned nanocytes.

I scan the room finding no sign of him, other than a damp towel on the floor and the bedspread in a heap by the door. I hang up the towel in my bathroom and take a quick look at myself in the mirror. Still an old fool? I felt something for him last night besides hate. Something I'd be much better off not feeling, so I won't.

Absentmindedly, I toss the bedspread on the bed and go looking for him. As I pass by, a quick glance rules out my office. Downstairs, he's not on the sofa, so I try the guest room. Empty. In the bathroom across the hall, I see his bloody jeans and boots. His leather jacket is on a hook on the back of the door. There's a smear of dried blood on the wall over the towel rack. It reminds me that I must never allow myself to trust Alex. Whatever happens, my trust can always be betrayed.

I quickly go through the pockets of his jacket. SIG Sauer. No surprise he carries a spare. I leave it. Sheath for the knife. Sunglasses. Wallet. Driver's license and credit cards in the name of Erik Lewis. A couple hundred dollars. No phone numbers or other possibly useful information. In another small pocket I find one of those plastic hotel keys and a small brass key, held together on a plain silver ring.

Retracing my steps through the living room, I pass into the dining room. Empty. The kitchen looks empty, too. Maybe he had spare clothes or found something of mine to wear, but it seems unlikely that he'd leave without his wallet and jacket. Running out of options, I head toward the laundry room and almost step on him.

Alex is unconscious at my feet.

Shit. I drop to my knees. He's breathing. His airway is clear. At his throat, I take his pulse with my fingers. Too rapid. His skin is a bit clammy and an unnatural shade of white. His veins are all clearly visible--some on his chest and extremities are distended. He's trembling violently but he's not having a seizure.

I don't want to move him, because I might further injure his rib, but I can't leave him here. I scoop him into my arms and carry him to the couch. He starts thrashing and murmuring, "Don't tell anyone," over and over.

Suddenly, he opens his eyes, agonized and scared. He focuses clearly on me with a horrified expression. "It passes. Go away and forget this." His eyes close and he starts to mumble, "Don't tell anyone." Just as suddenly, he passes out again.

Forgetting this is an impossibility. He's in excruciating pain and my body tenses at the memory of my own nanocyte-inflicted agony, still too fresh in my mind.

So it looks like he was telling the truth about his own nanocyte infection. It's strange to consider that he might be as trapped as I am. Fuck, could we be on the same side?

He's so pale and his skin is cold and clammy. It's hard to resist calling Scully, but I know he doesn't want that. And, from my own experiences, I have good reason to believe she won't be able to help.

I run upstairs for a pillow and a light blanket. I do my best to make him comfortable, but that's all I can do. I sit on the chair next to the couch, watching him twitch and moan. He shifts around quite a bit, but doesn't become alert again. I get a warm washcloth and wipe his forehead every few minutes.

I telephone my admin to say I'm home with a sick friend. Friend? He was my friend once, at least I believed so. What is he now? My tormentor? And yet I'm caring for him. I do care, even though I don't want to.

After almost an hour, he's settling down a bit. I leave him long enough to make coffee. My mega-muscle powder is on the counter and there's a chocolate bar on the floor. I pick it up. Valrhona was his favorite. I've had one every now and then since we were lovers.

I take my coffee mug back to the living room. He's still out, but the veins look a little more natural. I sit next to him and pick up an investment magazine to try to occupy my thoughts.

I hear his voice and kneel beside him. He's trembling again and trying to speak. "Nanos aren't working on the right... 's okay, Walter's asleep won't... no, can't tell..." After a minute, he stops shaking and seems to sleep more calmly again.

I sit on the floor and return to my magazine.

Again he starts muttering. He's thrashing around. "Don't want Scull...don't tell anyone. Should have told Walte... is ugly--messed up." He seems anxious, but his eyes are only half open.

I wipe his forehead again. "It's okay, Alex. Just rest. I haven't called anyone."

The next time it happens, I can clearly hear him say, "You mean they're dying? How, what... doesn't make sense. Will it kill me or... Is it safe for... No, I don't want to do--I can't... what will you..."

It doesn't make any sense, but I try to soothe him with my words. "You're safe here, Alex. Just rest."

After another hour or so, he calms down and sleeps more peacefully. He's still very pale.

**

My head is pounding. Ugh. It feels like someone whacked me on the back of the head with a sledgehammer. I can't seem to open my eyes--my body feels--oh shit. The nanocytes! I should have done something last night to prevent this. At least Walter didn't see... wait--I'm not on the kitchen floor. Memories of Walter carrying me and setting me on the sofa return with embarrassing clarity. Could things possibly get any worse?

If I didn't let enough slip last night, he just doesn't need to know about this. Maybe he won't ask any questions, because I sure don't know if I can explain. Fuck, Krycek, could you have screwed this up any more? Well, yes, now that you mention it. Shut up.

I finally open my eyes and look around. The sun is up but it's still very early. Skinner is in a nearby chair with some papers in his lap but he's looking out the window. I see a muscle twitch in his tense jaw.

I struggle to sit up. His head jerks around and he stares at me. He starts to rise. I shrink back against the couch; I don't know how to interpret his expression.

His face goes tight, reacting to my flinch, I suppose. He kneels beside the couch, brown eyes open, and draws a cool washcloth across my forehead. "Do you need anything?"

I think on that for a second. He doesn't seem angry but I'm not inclined to lean on anyone--especially when I'm not fully in control of myself. But my body's demands outweigh my need to be independent. "Something for pain." My voice is a croak.

He nods and darts up the stairs.

Good lord. What's wrong with him? My brain suddenly zeros in on an important detail. Skinner would know what a nano induced illness looks like. Shit. That had to push some buttons.

Skinner returns with a pill bottle. "Demerol. Okay?"

Hell yes. More than okay. "Yeah, fine. Thanks." I reach out my hand and accept one of the pills. He hands me a glass of water.

I swallow the pill and close my eyes for a second. Then I look back at Skinner. "How long?"

"A couple of hours." His eyes are tired, worried. "If you would like anything else, just tell me. I won't ask you any questions until you get past the pain. Just trust me enough to tell me if you want or need anything. Okay?"

I hand him back the glass. "Fuck the pain, Walter." I realize that sounded harsh and soften my voice. "It passes quickly, even without pain killers. The headache is the real bitch. Uh... thanks for umm, everything.

"As for your future questions, if I told you that this won't happen to you--that it won't be a symptom of your nano infection--will that satisfy you? Would you drop it?" I might as well make an effort to try to get out of explaining this while he's a little off balance.

Skinner rearranges his long legs, so he's sitting on the floor, facing me, just watching me intently. He's wearing nothing but jeans. Christ, he's sexy. This is an outfit he should wear more often. A ridiculous thought floats through my brain--if I were inventing a world, there would definitely be a law that Walter never gets to wear a shirt. The thought is so absurd I almost smile. I'm acutely aware that the blanket covering me is thin, and probably does not conceal the evidence of my erection. I need to think about something else... like why the hell is he staring at me?

Neither of us speaks for a long time. "Okay, Alex. At least until you get better."

Why is he coddling me? I do not understand this man at all. "I'm not sick, Walter. My head hurts... it's not terminal."

"I thought I was a bad patient." He shakes his head in disgust. "I'm going to make myself a protein drink. You want something? I have eggs, bread. I could go out and buy something."

"No. Don't leave." Christ, I need to stop blurting things out. "I mean, I think I ate enough protein powder to keep my kidneys busy for a few days. I'm fine." I wave the offer away. "By the way, Walter, I'm sure you're a terrible patient. But I'm not sick so the patient business is moot. Let it go." I don't want him to keep looking at me like I'm going to break. Damn.

Skinner doesn't reply, but offers me a dubious leer. After a moment, he goes to the kitchen.

I re-assess my physical situation. Everything feels pretty good. Uh-oh. I'm starting to get that Demerol euphoria. I should have thought of that before I accepted the pill. I hope I don't start giggling...

Walter comes back with a large glass containing a thick, unnaturally colored beverage and something in his other hand, which I can't identify. He sits on the floor again next to me. I'm about to object to his hovering, when he opens the chocolate bar. He breaks off a few chunks, holding one near my mouth. My lips open automatically.

He places the Valrhona on my tongue and I capture his finger with my teeth, sucking as if trying to remove melted chocolate. This type of chocolate doesn't melt quickly but why blow an opportunity? I let his finger slide out of my mouth and savor the taste of the chocolate. Demerol, Valrhona and Walter. God, let me die now.

Walter's looking at me with a tight lipped face I recognize as a suppressed smile. "I think you're getting stoned on the Demerol, Alex."

"Probably, Walter." Shades of the time we used to spend together... Except our positions were reversed. Walt sat on the couch and I sat on the floor. He would stick bits of Valrhona in my mouth and I'd slowly suck his fingers. Of course I'd suck anything Walter stuck in my mouth.

He looks stunned. What the devil? Oh dear lord. I realize I just said that whole thing out loud. I moan, close my eyes and put my hand over my face. "Please don't ever let me take another one of those things."

I hear a strange sound from Walter and I glance back at him. This time he can't suppress the smile. Fucking lovely. Well, at least it didn't piss him off. Most of my references to our prior relationship have hit a nerve that made him look like he wanted to throttle me. Enough lying around--I need to prove to Skinner that I'm not about to expire.

I start to sit up more and twist to face Skinner but my prosthetic arm gets caught and I feel a sudden sharp pain. I gasp and flinch. So much for proving I'm able-bodied.

He starts to give me assistance, but I give him a glare that leaves no doubt as to my desire for independence. I'm relieved I can still manage a stern look--I feel anything but stern. I do know I don't want him messing with my arm. He backs off and watches me get comfortable again. As I'm shifting around, I get a clear view of his crotch. He's definitely hard.

When did that happen? My erection moves up the scale from noticeable to almost unbearable. Skinner can turn me on faster than anyone I've ever met. I think about past times when we were alone. I never hesitated to touch him. Frequently. Constantly. In those days, if I saw him sitting on the floor in nothing but a pair of jeans with a huge hard-on, I would have been touching him almost before the facts registered in my brain. I'd touch him anywhere I could reach, struggling to get his jeans open so I could caress his cock. I'd probably be on my knees, pulling his cock into my mouth while he... uh, this is not productive. Unfortunately, he's too much of a gentleman to take advantage of me while he thinks I'm incapacitated.

I look up at Skinner. My breathing is more rapid and he looks concerned. He sets his glass off to the side and reaches out as if to check my forehead.

I bat his arm away. "Dammit, Walter, I am not sick." I rapidly change my position, almost balancing on my side, and reach out for him. I grab the back of his neck and pull his lips to mine. He stiffens for a few seconds as if he might push me away but then softens his lips and lets my tongue slide inside. I move my tongue under his and taste his mouth. I can feel, more than hear, the growl in his throat. He reaches around me, carefully avoiding my injured rib. I should probably tell him it's almost healed. Later.

Our mouths break contact and the blanket slides away as he carefully pulls me down off the sofa and half onto his lap--the movement makes my head spin. He's staring at me as if trying to decide if I'll break. I want to start screaming, 'don't coddle me.' Fuck it. I lean up and lock my mouth on his neck. I slowly move my lips down his throat occasionally nipping the skin and then sucking it lightly. My fingers slide along his waist, seeking the opening of his jeans, popping one button open at a time.

I can feel Skinner's hand and arm pass over my ass as he adjusts my position so my hip is pressed into his crotch. His hand moves over my hip and up my side, pushing my prosthetic arm out slightly. The pain isn't horrible, just unexpected. I gasp against his neck and pull away.

Skinner grabs my good arm and pulls me around to face him. He gingerly lays his other hand on my left shoulder. "What's wrong with your arm, Alex?"

One part of my brain knows that I won't be able to do much more of anything with the prosthetic on. So, why not just take the damned thing off? The other part of my brain, the part I work with most of the time, doesn't want Walter to see this particular wound. "Nothing!" My voice sounds hard to my own ears. I try to get up but Skinner tries to keep me still. I start to struggle and manage to bang my arm a few times. He lets me go and I scramble to my feet, wavering slightly due to the Demerol effect and the post-nano hangover. Skinner reaches out as if to steady me, but I sidestep and flash him a don't-touch-me look.

I turn around and walk to the bathroom, still a little unsteady. I push the door shut and drop my forehead against it, taking a few deep breaths to try to clear my head. I turn to face the mirror. Shit, I look awful. That kind of pallor can hardly inspire lustful thoughts. Ugh. I just shake my head--this situation is about as bad as it can get.

Slowly, I remove my arm, then jump forward so the blood can run into the sink. I set the prosthetic on the counter and try to assess the damage. The cuts still aren't bad, just more of them. I must have thrashed around a lot when I was out of it. I'm actually surprised my body has any blood to spare--it all seems to be in my dick. I drop my head again. This is so fucked up. I almost had my hand on Walter's cock and this fucking arm had to become a problem.

My arm is barely bleeding anymore. The nanos will begin healing soon and the bleeding will completely stop, but I can't put the arm back on and I need to cover up the cuts for a little while. I look around for a first aid kit. There isn't one in here. Shit.

I'm becoming unpleasantly accustomed to having limited choices.

Raising my voice enough to be heard through the door, I call out, "Walter, I need a first aid kit."

A couple minutes later, he taps his knuckles on the bathroom door. I open it a few inches and take the kit. I'm immensely relieved that he doesn't offer to help.

I fumble with bandages for a few minutes, trying to decide how to cover the cuts. There are a few dozen of them, in various stages of healing, primarily on the outside bottom portion of what's left of my upper arm. I cover them with a couple of gauze pads, and rather clumsily tape them onto my arm.

What now? I can't put the arm back on and I sure as hell don't want to go out there now. On the other hand, it seems awfully absurd to stay in the bathroom. This would be easier if I weren't naked but the only thing I can put on is my jacket. Now that would just be stupid. Jesus. Note to self: Never visit ex-lovers you've infected with nanos after you've been injured.

The only real thing to do is go back out there and act like it doesn't bother me. Which is... totally transparent because if it didn't bother me I'd have taken the damn thing off before my arm was lacerated to hell. My decision making abilities have apparently been severely damaged--no doubt by Walter's presence.

I turn to leave the bathroom and catch sight of the tape on my ribs. That's probably not necessary any more. I carefully peel off the tape. My back is stiff and sore but all the swelling and pain are gone and the bruising is lighter. The nanos are certainly efficient--really good on broken bones. Too good actually. I cringe, remembering what their efficiency cost me today.

I find Walter in the living room. His eyes flicker very briefly to the bandaged stump of my arm and his face hints at a grimace, but in a moment it's gone. He comes to me, wrapping a hand around my shoulders and pulling me into his body. He reassuringly rubs our groins together, so there can be no doubt he's still hard. I think my leaking cock is staining his jeans.

"Christ, Alex. You always make me these impossible offers. You want me to fuck a sick man with a broken rib who's stoned out of his mind? I suppose I should be grateful that you don't work for me any longer."

"It's not like I'd have ever charged you with sexual harassment, Walter." He baffles me. I can't seem to predict what he'll say next, but this is where I've wanted to be, so I might as well make the most of it. I lean toward him and capture his mouth. This time his tongue aggressively enters my mouth and my mind starts to go numb.

His hand wanders to my ass, squeezing my cheeks and teasing my crack. For the first time since our affair I can sense how much he really wants me. I've done enough to Skinner that he would want to kill me and yet... the lust blows my mind. My cock feels harder than I can ever remember. I imagine I could come just under the power of his desire.

His unshaven face is scraping against mine. We're both going to end up with beard burn if we're not careful. His lips trail across my cheek and down the side of my neck, seeking out that extra sensitive place beneath my ear. He hasn't forgotten how to play my body.

"Your body still turns me on..." He nibbles my ear lobe. "Massively," he whispers breathlessly into my ear.

His words suddenly make me feel aggressive. All this teasing is too much. I turn my head and bite at his shoulder while my hand moves back to the waist of his jeans. There's only one button left and I quickly slide it open, my fingers brushing across his hard cock. I move my hand around to his ass and grab his cheek. I feel his body tense and his breathing becomes erratic.

Skinner's mouth finds mine again and a hand slides down my flank. Then the telephone rings. The fucking telephone. He pulls away reluctantly and goes to answer it.

"Skinner."

I can't help but listen. I'm only three feet away from him, so at least he knows I'm listening.

"What is it, Kimberly?" His face suddenly goes cold with dismay. "Oh, fuck." He listens for a long time. Those brown eyes offer me a disdainful glance. "Does anyone know what he was doing? ... Get Rodriguez on the line." A long pause. "I'm sorry about your partner, Agent Rodriguez. ... What was he doing last night?" He gives an audible groan. "Have you spoken to Mulder? ... Don't talk to him. I'll do it. ... Has anyone told the family? ... I'll do that, too. ... I don't want you on the case. ... That's an order, Agent Rodriguez." That A.D. voice makes me want to shiver. "Why don't you take the rest of the day off and we can discuss it on Monday? ... Give it a break, Agent. ... Can you send me back to Kimberly?" Now he won't even look at me. "Yes. I need you to find Mulder. I'll be there in a couple of hours and I have to talk to him. ... Handcuff him to his desk if you have to. ... No, I'll take care of it. ... Yeah." He hangs up the phone.

My brain is rapidly trying to make sense of the small fragments of conversation. Mulder? The last thing I need is to be anywhere near him. Whenever he turns up, there's trouble.

Skinner glances at me dismissively. "God damn it, Krycek. Did you have to kill one of my agents?" It must be a rhetorical question, because he's headed up the stairs before I can respond.

I consider following him--for about two seconds. Fuck him. I move over to the sofa and prop my hip against it and wait for him to return.

Well this is fucking perfect. I must have really offended the gods in my past life for this much to go wrong. What am I talking about? I'm sure I've offended them plenty in this life. Remorse is completely beyond me, but I certainly didn't want to give Walter another reason to want to kill me.

About ten minutes later, when he comes back down the stairs, he's in full corporate attire. His glasses are on and he's carrying a leather briefcase. Oh dear. The official Walter Skinner. I'm not inclined to explain, even if he asks, but his appearance keeps me completely silent and my expression impassive.

He glances at me out of the corner of his eye and opens his mouth as if to say something, but then just gives a heavy sigh. His hand reaches for the doorknob and he's gone. I'm relieved. This isn't a good time for a confrontation but I know I can't avoid it forever.

My brain is still a little foggy but I need to get out of here. I run upstairs and try to find my knife. Ten minutes of looking reveals nothing. Shit. What did he do with it last night? I need to leave, but I can't put on my bloodstained clothes. The jeans Skinner had on are kicked to the end of the bed. Why not? It will probably piss Walter off. I pull them on--the length is okay but they're too big. There's a damp spot in the crotch. From him or from me? No time for stupid distractions. After a couple minutes I come up with a belt and T-shirt. I also find a small duffel bag in the closet.

I quickly put on my socks and boots, and stuff my arm and blood-covered jeans in the bag. I pull on my jacket and head out the door.

**

I step into the basement office. Scully is absent. Mulder is sailing CDs, like Frisbees, into his trashcan. I'm certain it's all part of his creative process but, at the moment, it ratchets up my anger to the homicidal zone.

"Agent Mulder, get your jacket. We're leaving the building."

I watch his lighthearted face fall as he accurately detects my mood. He follows me silently until we're at the fishpond behind the Bureau, which is away from prying eyes and electronic recording devices.

"Agent Mulder, exactly what was Agent Landis doing for you?"

"Landis?" His face passes for baffled. Maybe he is baffled. He probably didn't expect me to find out.

"Answer the question."

He hesitates with a wince. "Looking for Alex Krycek."

"Why?"

"Because I believe Krycek is behind your nanocyte infection."

So far I've managed to resist touching him, but my arms twitch with the desire to wrap my hands around his throat. "Didn't I tell you to leave that alone, Agent Mulder?"

"Yes, sir, but I felt that you needed our help."

"When I want your help I'll ask for it."

"Sir, someone is blackmailing-"

"Shut up, Mulder."

He obeys, eyeing me with equal parts curiosity and trepidation.

"What did you tell Landis?"

"I gave him a photo of Krycek and told him to stake out your apartment. If Krycek showed up, he was to follow and report on his movements."

"Why didn't you do this yourself?"

"Krycek would recognize me. I'd never be able to track him undetected."

"Did Landis find him? What did he report back to you?"

"He didn't. I'm still waiting for his callback this morning."

"It's going to be a long wait, Agent Mulder."

"What?"

"I just came from the Landis house, where I had to inform his wife that Agent Landis had his throat slit in an alley off L Street last night."

His jaw falls open. "Shit."

"Your meddling in this situation cost Agent Landis his life."

"He must have found Krycek," Mulder replies, his overactive mind already trying to assemble the pieces.

"Did you hear me, Agent Mulder? You're responsible for this man's death."

At least he has the decency to look ashamed.

"And because this was not an official investigation, unless I lie to the Bureau--which I'm going to do--the Landis family will not even receive his life insurance benefits."

"Assign me to the case, sir. Maybe we can finally get Krycek."

"No, I will not assign you the case. In fact, if you so much as go near this case, or anything related to my recent health problems, you will find yourself in the unemployment line."

He starts to open his mouth again.

"Mulder, you've interfered, disobeyed, broken rules, broken laws, fucked up cases and made a complete nuisance of yourself for years, and I've backed you and protected you. But this is personal. And if you disobey me on this, someone else is going to die."

It finally dawns on me that I'm blaming Mulder so I don't have to blame Krycek. No question that Mulder fucked up. Landis probably did, too. Krycek's not a joy killer. But the truth is, it's easier to find fault with Mulder.

"Mulder, you know I respect you and your work, but I need you to stay out of this matter. I need that more than I need anything else right now. If I see a way you can help me, I'll ask, but you have got to butt out. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, sir," he replies. He's doing a good fake of meek, but his eyes give him away. I can see the resistance.

"I mean it, Mulder. I will fire you, and Scully, too."

He nods curtly.

"You're dismissed."

**

11:57 P.M.

As I approach Walter's doorway I feel an eerie sense of deeja vu. It's only been twenty-four hours since I last beat on his door. I have my own clothes again--clean this time--and a new arm.

One of our men has been watching Skinner's apartment all day--there's no one here but Skinner and he arrived about ninety minutes ago.

I set down the duffel bag and bang on the door.

In a few minutes, he's at the door again, this time wearing only his sweat pants. Again he does not invite me in, but he doesn't kill me on sight either.

"That's not happiness to see me, Walter."

Predictably, his face turns surly as only Walter's can.

"Considering how unpredictable your agents are these days, I think you'd better invite me in before someone turns up and attempts to arrest me. Think of how difficult it will be to explain when you have to get me out."

Skinner steps aside, I enter and he closes the door, muttering, "Most people don't have to resort to lethal blackmail just to get invited in."

"If it weren't for the lethal blackmail, is there anything that would prevent you from killing me right now?" My tone is sarcastic, but a twisted part of me is sincere. I don't seriously expect him to answer. I toss the duffel bag at his feet.

He looks at his watch. "It's after midnight... Agent Landis would have been 28 today. Unfortunately, he's unable to celebrate his birthday this year. His wife will be planning a funeral instead. The good news is that his two pre-school-aged children are young enough that in a few years time they probably won't remember him at all." At this point in his speech he stalks over to me, standing a mere foot away, scanning my face. "Do you have any remorse at all, Krycek? Or is this just another dead body in the course of a day's work?"

Skinner seems almost unnaturally calm. My inclination is to move away from him, but I stand my ground. "I've never been strong on familial sentiment, Walter, and I've never... rarely, felt remorse. But if I could undo this situation," I pause because I can't believe I'm saying this, "I would."

I shake my head and look him squarely in the eye. "People don't follow me for benevolent reasons."

"Yeah, well, I've already had a go at Mulder's ass for that." He turns away from me and lowers himself into the chair. The same chair he sat in this morning while tending to me.

Some pieces of this morning's conversation start to make sense. "Why in the world was Mulder having me followed?" I continue on, almost mumbling to myself. "I immediately discounted him..."

I can almost see him wondering if he should share information with me, since I've been less than forthcoming with him. Finally, he does answer. "The nanocytes... He was trying to rescue me." Where I've been expecting his anger, I now see him lapse into a more gloomy mood.

Oh fuck. How nauseatingly noble and twisted and--Mulder, you fucking moron. Why would that idiot take the notion in his head that finding me would help Skinner? Surely he doesn't think I'm hiding a PhD in molecular biology? Mulder gives me too much credit for being the source of all evil in the world. I wish he'd stick to crop circles... my life would be so much easier.

It seems like anything I say would only make the situation worse but I feel compelled to warn Skinner. "If..." I pause not quite knowing how to phrase what I want to say. "...someone else should decide to try to 'help' you, it would be in everyone's uh, best interest, if they didn't pull their gun." I'm not trying to defend myself but if he doesn't want to lose any more agents they need to think twice before pointing their weapons at me.

He rolls his eyes. "Thanks for that scintillating piece of wisdom, Krycek. Would you like to give a seminar to my agents?" Skinner's apparently not mad enough to really go at me. The man does anger so well, it makes me wonder what's eating at him.

I shake my head and wave the comment away; I'm not going to let him bait me--yet. For some reason, I don't want to be a threat to him. Anymore than I already am. I move to the other side of the room, far away from Skinner, and take off my jacket, dropping it on a table. I pull out my gun, engage the safety and set it on the jacket. I move around to stand about three feet in front of him. "I expected you to rip my head off, nanos or no. What's..." My voice trails off. I don't know how to ask him what's bothering him.

"I'm too busy ripping my own head off."

"Good god, why?" I rarely feel guilty about the things I do, much less something someone else did.

"Have you come to give me my first directives? I'm up to my ass in moral failures already, it would be a good time to ask me to do something heinous."

Hell. I hadn't planned on bringing this up yet. "Okay, Walter. You are officially directed to divert attention away from this investigation as quickly as possible and notify me of any evidence you receive. You'll receive a phone number in the mail--anonymously--tomorrow, where you can contact me." I should have made something up and put this off until later. Nano directives do not seem tactically advantageous right now.

"Fine. I'm already concealing the murder weapon. Might as well go all the way." He rubs his fingers over his eyebrows, as if combating a headache. "However, it's a waste of perfectly good nanocytes, since I'm already protecting you. Will that be all, Mr. Handler?"

I shake my head in bemusement. Every time I think I understand this man he presents a whole new side. Is he trying to imply that he would not arrest me if he weren't infected with nanos? That's, well, absurd. "Yes, that's it--for now." I turn back toward my jacket but decide to leave one warning. "Our communication via the phone number will be monitored. If you have any questions that you can't..." I find myself hesitating. "Well, you need to ask me now."

Skinner stares off into space, appearing for all the world as if he hasn't heard me. I put my gun away and slip my jacket on. As I reach the door something flashes through my mind. "I need the knife." Actually, I want the knife.

He nods absently and goes to the stairs. Impulsively, I decide to follow him. When I get to the top of the stairs, Skinner is reaching into a closet halfway down the hall. When he turns around and sees me, he looks slightly startled. I approach him. The knife is in an evidence bag. My eyebrows shoot up and I flash him a questioning look.

"It did cross my mind to turn you in, Alex." It obviously hurts him to say it, but I've no idea why. "I'm not like you, I won't do anything to stay alive. It's only a matter of time before your masters ask me to do something I won't. I'd have died to prevent what happened to Agent Landis, but it's too late..."

My chest feels constricted. I don't like the idea of this easy willingness to give up his own life. I went through so much to make sure this didn't kill him--unless he chose it--and it looks like he's resigned to choose death. I don't really understand anything he's said, but I nod my head, refusing to meet his eye. I reach out for the knife and he hands me the evidence bag.

His voice gets softer, almost tentative. "You never knew why I gave you a gift that day, did you?"

I feel as if the world has tilted. I did not expect him to bring up anything related to our past. And I don't think I can deal with there having been any significance in that gift. I quietly murmur, "No."

I can't read the expression on his face as he says, "It was my way of saying I wanted to take our relationship to the next level."

I close my eyes. It feels like something is falling apart. My choice of employment destroyed any chance we had before we even met, but I wanted Walter more than I've ever wanted anything. However, until this moment, I never knew he wanted me for anything other than a good fuck. Does he mean that he would have left Sharon to be with me? Not possible. It can't be.

And then his tone grows cold. "Imagine my reaction, three days later, when Mulder told me you killed Duane Barry and Kimberly informed me that your phone had been disconnected."

"Well, I did half of that," I mutter to cover the silence while I try to recover from the blow he's dealt me. I turn my back to the wall and rub my hand over my face. "I'm not going to try to explain... it would be pointless--and I know you don't want to hear it--but I don't think you understand why I've carried that knife all these years." I feel like I'm telling him too much. "It's not the most convenient weapon for a man with one arm." My tone has become self-deprecating. "Maybe we both understand too well."

Something very dark passes over Skinner's face. A firm hand on my chest puts my back against the wall. His lips descend and he kisses me with the fervor of a dying man's last kiss, his entire body pressing hard against mine, his hard-on rubbing against my groin. I feel the evidence bag slip out of my fingers. I'm grateful he's no longer handling me like a fragile object. It's a possessive kiss with a lot of anger in it. When he breaks the kiss, he eyes me fiercely. "You son of a bitch." He shakes his head and pulls away from me, just observing me.

I feel like I can't get enough air into my lungs. Myriad emotions cascade through my brain setting up a pulse behind my eyes that makes it hard to focus. Lust, anger, pain, regret, sympathy, affection... I close my eyes against the last one trying to push it away--push them all away. I grab at the wall behind me, as if holding onto something solid will help keep my head steady.

"Do you have any idea how high a price I'm paying for wanting you? The first time I put my marriage and my career on the table. Now I have to sacrifice what's left of my integrity and my life."

I won't be able to kill him.

The thought is suddenly so profoundly clear I feel panicked. I open my eyes and stare at him. No matter what the stakes, I know for absolute certainty I will not kill him. I never could. I feel like I'm being choked and take a halting step to the side.

He sees the look on my face and something in his changes. He gets it, I think. We're both compromised beyond anything we could have imagined. With a knowing glance, he speaks again, "Alex, if you want to be a good thug, and live a long, healthy thug life, you need to take that knife and walk out of here. Now."

Like an automaton, I lean over to pick up the evidence bag containing my knife--Walter's knife. The knife has sliced through the bag. Extricating it from the plastic, I move to stick it in my jacket and find myself staring at it blankly. In a daze, I slide the knife into its sheath. What's going on? I feel like I'm being strangled and the urge to run is almost over-powering, but it's too late. "It's too late." It's too late.

Walter slowly extends one strong hand toward me. Those warm brown eyes capture me and tell me everything I need to know.

I gape at him blankly for a second before giving him my hand.

His strong fingers close around mine and he leads me to the bedroom. He reaches for the lapel of my leather jacket. I shrug it off my shoulders and he catches it, laying it across a table. His hands slide under my shirt, gliding along my chest.

I've never craved anyone's touch like I crave his. I reach under my own shirt, brushing my hand across his--the smallest touch is so sweet--then pull the shirt over my head. I toss it away and step back a couple feet. I turn around and quickly detach my arm and set it with my jacket. I face him again. Walter is staring in the general vicinity of my ribs, with a slight frown. I move back to him and he glances at the remainder of my left arm looking slightly puzzled. Not wanting him to think about it, I slide my hand up his chest and around his neck.

Walter wraps a hand around my left shoulder giving it a gentle squeeze. His way of saying it doesn't matter, I suppose.

I place several light kisses along his neck and jaw line before capturing his mouth. I feel his arms surround me while I move my tongue along the inside of his lower lip. A warm hand slides down my lower back, into my jeans and grips my butt. His other hand gropes my waist and starts unfastening my fly. Everything feels surreal and I'm overpowered by lust. I expected some awkwardness but it feels like we never stopped... touching, fucking.

My hand moves to help him, and soon my pants are hanging around my knees. His fingers find my cock, squeezing and teasing, before moving down to caress my balls. My body has waited years for this touch and I fight the urge to come. He takes his mouth away. "You feel so good, hard and ready for me."

I moan against his throat and work to get my pants down. I kick off my shoes and step out of my jeans while I move my hand around Walter's waist and into his sweats to cup his ass. I knead the flesh and I feel him bite my shoulder. My breath catches in my throat and I begin to push his sweats down. He moves as if to help me and I knock his hand away, pulling his sweatpants down slowly, leaving random kisses on his chest, abdomen, hip and finally, thigh. I'm on my knees on the floor, holding his sweats so he can step out of them.

I lean back on my heels and look up. I find every part of his body intoxicating. His size and definition turned me on the first moment I saw him. He's so much more masculine than the androgynous boys I usually fuck. He stares at me intently and his cock looks painfully hard. After everything, it seems impossible that he could still want me, but the evidence is right before me. My hand moves up the inside of his leg, stopping to caress his balls and then stroking his cock. I move up so my mouth is within a few inches of his straining erection. I look up at him--those intense brown eyes seem to radiate heat. I take the head of his dick in my mouth and feel his body twitch. I pause briefly and then take him all the way down my throat. I hear him gasp and feel his fingers squeeze my shoulder.

When he speaks again his voice is shaky. "God...No one... does that like... you do...." His hand finds the back of my neck and he begins to fuck my face, but gently and at the rhythm I've set.

He could say anything--just the sound of his voice turns me on more than I thought possible--but his words nearly kill me. I fiercely need to give Walter something he doesn't get from anyone else. I reach my arm around his hip, for balance and to allow me to play with his ass. I run my hand down his crack and push with my thumb until I'm applying pressure on his anus. I feel his whole body jerk. I apply more pressure to the underside of his cock with my tongue and increase my suction. My throat spasms around the head of his dick and I feel his hand bite into my shoulder. His arousal makes my cock throb.

Walter lets out a deep groan and pulls my face off of his cock. I expected it, but I'm still momentarily disappointed. He drops to his knees and kisses me on the lips again, then down the side of my jaw. "You know I want to come in your ass..." Something I've wanted for years.

I was fucked in the ass when I was 17 and never again until I met Walter. And not since. I've never analyzed why I only take this submissive position with him--and no one else--but I want it more than I want to keep breathing.

I move my arm to his back and drop my head down, sucking and nipping at his shoulder. "I want you to fuck me, Walt... so badly... please."

He winces like he's about to come and his hands find my waist, looking at me solemnly. "So beautiful, Alex." One hand traces across my body as his eyes follow it. From my chest to my shoulder to my neck along my jaw and up to my cheekbones. "You're so fucking beautiful." The words are painful. Who is he seeing?

Walter rubs his cheek against mine. I feel the bristles of his evening beard. I'd forgotten how much I missed his hyper-masculinity. I kiss the side of his neck, holding him tightly to me with my arm around his shoulder.

Breaking away, he rises to his feet, guiding me up with a hand at the small of my back. Soon we're both on the bed, lying side by side. Hands everywhere, he rolls over me, careful to support his own body weight, then rolls me on top of him. He gnaws on my neck, finding all the tender spots, and I'm starting to make embarrassing sounds. His hands massage my ass and tease my upper thighs.

I brace myself on my knees and tightly grip his hips between my legs while I pull myself upright. I need a few minutes to touch him. I trail my hand up his chest, wishing I could touch him with two hands. I caress and massage everywhere I can reach. I love his chest. Leaning forward, I kiss and suck at his muscles, capturing his nipples lightly between my teeth. I feel his hands moving on my thighs. I could touch him all day, but I need his cock desperately.

I lean over to kiss him, and his tongue immediately invades my mouth while one of his hands clamps onto the back of my head. The other grabs my ass hard. I struggle to pull back slightly but his grip is too firm. I caress his jaw. He releases my head and starts kissing my neck again.

"No more teasing, Walt. I can't stand it--I need you to fuck me."

He smiles wickedly. I'm not sure I've ever seen him look at me like that. "I know what you like, Alex. And what you don't." He hesitates. "I want you on your back."

I freeze. Walter insisted on this once and it was almost impossible for me. I'm not sure I can go back there, but I'm not sure I can say no. I break eye contact and turn my head away. This situation is already more intimate than I can handle. I feel like I'm drowning, but I close my eyes and nod my head.

He puts a hand under my chin and my eyes open. Looking so deeply--too deeply--into my eyes, he says, "Thank you."

My defenses have deserted me and I desperately want them back. But I'd do anything to please him.

I slide off him as he pulls away and moves to the edge of the bed. He opens a drawer in the bedside table.

"Alex?"

"Hmm?" I have a perfect view of his well-shaped, muscular--and very sexy--ass. It's such a distraction.

"We've always used condoms. Is it safe for us to go bareback?"

He has my complete attention again. The intimacy implicit in the question makes me feel light-headed. I'm not sure how much more I can take in one day. Since the nanos it's actually more than safe--something I can't very easily explain to him. I'm silent for so long he gives me a puzzled look. It's more than a question--he's asking for consent.

"Yes, it's safe." I pause again. "And we can if that's what you want."

He returns to me with a bottle of lube and a hint of a smile. He straddles my hips and runs his hands up and down my flanks. For the moment I lie passively, feeling very overwhelmed... I'm normally a very active participant when we fuck. He hovers over me and kisses my neck, working his way down my chest to my nipples. I can feel teeth on the tender nubs, but he's being gentle. The sensation goes straight to my cock, but I need to be fucked and he knows it. I'm not going to beg... unless I have to.

Before I completely lose my mind, he shifts down further and his tongue swipes the tip of my leaking cock. Christ. My back arches up off the bed and he's grinning up at me, obviously very pleased. Bracing himself on one arm, he cups my balls and squeezes them just hard enough to feel good without hurting. I gasp and my body tries to retreat into the mattress. He's driving me crazy as his tongue continues to slurp at the head of my cock. I reach out to try to grab his arm but can't quite reach, settling for stroking his jaw and the side of his face. If he doesn't move on quickly, my groans will become whimpers. He knows.

Shifting off of me for a moment, he lifts under my knees. My ass exposed, I'm so damned vulnerable to him. I want to scream and run out of the room, but I need him so badly. I move my arm up behind my head and grab a handful of sheet. He gives me a gentle smile and opens the lube. Two wet fingers find my anus, which he massages and teases before easing a finger inside, quickly followed by a second. It feels tight--it's been a long time since anything's been in my ass. Scissoring his fingers inside me, he opens me up. I close my eyes and turn my head to the side, grabbing the sheet harder. Quite deliberately, he drags those fingers across my prostate.

I gasp and feel my hips buck toward, then away from those tormenting fingers. I'm a heartbeat from coming. "Don't, Walt. I don't want to come 'til you're in my ass." My breath is coming in short, ragged bursts. "I need your cock... please, just fuck me."

Walter doesn't take further advantage of my desperation. He stills, draws in a deep breath and I realize he needs it as badly as I do. He lifts my legs onto his shoulders and moves forward until his cock is slipping along my crack. It's still not where I fucking need it. He braces my legs and reaches to position his cock. The nudge of it against my opening makes me shake with need. His eyes flicker closed for a moment just before he pushes it into me. The brief flash of pain is irrelevant. I need this more than I've needed anything.

"Oh, god," he moans as he slides deeper into me. His normally serious face is distorted by what looks like pain, but surely isn't. Those eyes meet mine and I can see his desperate hold on his control as he sinks inside me.

I feel my ass stretching to take him in and he stares at me, watching my reaction.

In all the times we've fucked, we've never had this. We've never looked at each other while Walter had his cock buried in my ass. I now know why I always avoided it. It's like being punched in the gut. I can see how much he needs me and I know that he's seeing the same from me--god help me--possibly more. I can't take it and turn my head to the side, closing my eyes.

I feel him withdraw and, as he pushes back in, I hear his voice near my ear, "Look at me, Alex. Don't turn away." It feels impossible but I look back and meet his intense gaze as he pulls his hips back. He captures my mouth as he thrusts forward, harder this time, pushing his cock into my ass as far as it will go while he invades my mouth with his tongue . I pull my arm out from under my head and hold him to me. I try to force his mouth to stay connected to mine.

In between kisses, he emits a raspy sound that might be, "Yes." He's biting my lips and frantically tongue fucking my mouth. My moans are lost in his kisses. I savor the delicious feel of the weight of his body slamming into mine. His cock is stretching my ass and grinding against my prostate. My cock is being smashed between our bellies. Struggling to breathe, he pulls out of my grasp. The look on his face is intense concentration. I remember it from before. He's trying to hold back his orgasm. I doubt he'll last long.

My hand slides down his shoulder, along his flank and onto his front. I brush against the thick fur on his chest, sliding lower and touching where his body joins mine. I am unable to resist any longer, so I reach for my own cock.

Deadly serious, he shakes his head and his eyes issue a warning. "That's mine." Just hearing him say it is almost enough to bring me off. With a whimper, I withdraw my hand and bite my lip, pleading with my eyes.

He tries to suppress a grin, but he's losing it fast. He braces himself on one arm and reaches for my desperate hard-on.

He wraps his hand around my cock and I can't breathe. He jacks me once. Twice. I feel myself explode. "Walt!" He covers my mouth for one last violent kiss. My body is shaking and I'm gasping with brain-liquefying pleasure. He pulls away from the kiss, gives a growl from deep in his chest, and I feel his entire body go rigid. He allows his weight to cover me and thrusts furiously as he shoots deep inside me.

As my breath slows, I reach up to touch his face, then lean up to kiss him.

**

I'm barely aware when Alex's tongue finds my mouth again. So fucking sweet. He tastes so damned good. My body is pleasantly buzzed, my softening cock still inside him.

I smile and gradually relieve him of my weight. Flopping onto my stomach next to him, I examine my debauched Alex. Do I look so well fucked? I run my fingers across his belly through the tracks of his semen and hold them to his mouth.

Laser-green eyes flicker and his head turns, as if he's trying to hide but, after a moment, he reaches out with his mouth and licks my fingers clean. The sight is almost enough to make me hard again.

Alex leans over to kiss me and I can taste the semen on his tongue. He runs his mouth down the side of my neck and nibbles at my nape. Balancing on his left side, he slides his hand down my back, kissing my shoulder. He massages my ass while resting his forehead against my back. I can hear him murmur, "You're so fucking amazing, Walt."

Soon, his hand falls away and I hear his breathing change. He's asleep.

I'm lying here wondering why I bothered to have sex with anyone else in the years since we were together. The simplest fuck with Alex is raw and pure like sex could only be in my imagination, but impossibly real.

I believe I've felt every emotion known to man in the past two hours. I need to go over it in my head, to sort myself out, but I drift off, too.


Saturday, 13 March 1999

When I wake, Alex is still sleeping, with his butt pressed against my hip. I can see one side of his face. I always did like to watch him sleep. It's a refreshing change from the keyed-up man he is awake. I like having him in my bed. He'll never belong to me--Alex is a wild animal--but even the illusion is sweet. I roll onto my side and creep in closer, sneaking a kiss to his exposed shoulder.

Alex twitches slightly and his eyelids flutter. I hear him moan in his throat and he rotates his hips back, coming into contact with my crotch. After a few blinks, his eyes stay open. He glances around, looking a little confused until he sees my face. I can see a variety of emotions flit across his features and finally settle on something like disbelief. He rotates onto his back, looking me squarely in the eye, then reaches out and strokes my jaw.

I capture and kiss his fingers. "Last night was good. Really good."

He looks very vulnerable and turns toward me, resting his head a few inches from mine. He closes his eyes, then his hand travels down my flank and over my hip. He draws it back up over my abdomen, lightly brushing my cock on the way, then caresses my chest. Finally, his fingers move across my lips.

We lay together for a long while, not speaking, just touching. I finally ask the question I was afraid to ask before. "Why were you infected before me?"

Alex is not surprised. He's been expecting it.

He pulls back slightly and stares at me for several breaths. "Are you sure you want to know this, Walter. It's not... um, easy."

"What do you mean not easy? Not easy for who?"

"I don't know." He shakes his head.

"I think I need to know, Alex. Why are you afraid to tell me?"

"Because I don't know how you'll respond... what you'll think. You've surprised me quite a bit in the last two days."

I shake my head. "You killed one of my agents. I helped cover up the crime. Can it get any worse?"

Alex shrugs. "It's a little complicated, so bear with me."

He pauses as if he doesn't know where to start. "Some time ago--I don't know exactly when," he waves the detail away as if it doesn't matter, "several strategic people were selected to be infected with the nanocytes. You were at the top of the list. As I told you yesterday, they had a sample of your blood and had encoded nanocytes for you. But they needed a... hmm... test case--for lack of a better word." He stops abruptly, staring vacantly before continuing, "It would have been disastrous if they went to the trouble to infect you and there were any problems. A test case was necessary to make certain the nanocytes were a) successful and b) effective. If something went wrong it would have been tactically, uh, disadvantageous.

"I was working for their ene... uh... competitor at the time and wound up in the right place at the wrong time. Or the wrong place at the wrong time. Or whatever." He's starting to babble and pauses for a few seconds. "So, I was detained and infected with the nanocytes. There were... experiments that went on for a while before they determined that the nanos would be an effective control mechanism."

The idea of Alex being used like that is ghastly. I shove away the image to stay focused on my questions. He may talk to me only this once. I have to take advantage of the opportunity.

"And this 'they' you speak of would be?"

He looks weary but quietly replies, "Walter, I'll tell you as much as I can--as much as you want to know--but I can't tell you that. If it makes any difference, my first task was to betray that black-lunged bastard, Spender. Their interests are in direct opposition to his."

"The alien resistance then?"

He sighs. "Draw your conclusions. I can't go... there."

"Okay. I find it hard to believe that Spender is working for the benefit of mankind. If I were to accept that the end justifies the means, are you at least working for the right side of the war?"

"Spender is working to make sure his ass is covered no matter what happens. It doesn't necessarily follow that he's working for the wrong 'side.' But in this case, I do think my current employers are on the right side of the battle. But don't confuse that with any kind of regard for humanity."

Regard for humanity? An absurd expectation in this situation... I'm just afraid that I'm going to be used to destroy the very things I work every day to protect.

I'm asking hard questions, but I'm being gentle with him because I don't want him to shut down. "Who else have they infected?"

"Most of the people infected are now dead. There are a couple still alive but I can't give you names." He stops for a second and then adds something, almost as an afterthought, "I don't know the names of everyone on the list but the next target will be hit in about three weeks. You'll know who it is provided you follow unusual medical cases in the Washington area."

"But you can't tell me who?"

"It will be someone in a position similar to yours--in another government agency. Walter, please don't push this question further."

"What would happen if you told me something you can't tell me?"

"A few days of... experiments. Maybe more." His lips thin at some memory. "But that's not the part that matters. Consider the position you'd be in if you knew the next target. Would you really be able to not act? And if you acted..." He lapses into silence.

He's right, so I nod. "When were you infected?"

Alex is quiet for a second. "Ah, I received the first nanos a few months before you."

"The first nanos?"

Alex suddenly struggles to sit and turns away from me. Only part of his profile is visible when he begins to speak in a quiet monotone. "I think the plan was to kill me once they had determined the efficacy of the nanos to be given to you. But, for reasons unknown to me, they decided to keep me around. Sort of a general amoral handyman. A useful toy to have if you can find one." He pauses, a muscle twitching spasmodically in his jaw. "If I wanted to live I had to betray my then current employer. My most recent assignment was to infect you."

I interrupt him. "How did you infect me?"

"Umm... I contaminated a few bottles of water delivered to your gym. Since they're encoded to work only with your DNA, they wouldn't hurt anyone else who received them."

"And the first nanos?"

"We discovered a problem with the original nanocytes." He pauses again, his body completely rigid and his face devoid of color. "They have a little tendency to spontaneously decay causing damage to any cells they happen to be near when they 'die.' The effect is much like what you saw yesterday but the damage to vital cells leads to illness and, eventually, death.

"They decided to use another test case to see if the problem was specific to me. It wasn't. It was actually worse for the other guy. His nanos decayed much more quickly than mine and he... well, anyway..." His voice trails off and he drops his face into his hand. He's quiet for several breaths and appears to be struggling with his emotions. "They began working on a modification of the nanos that would not self-destruct. And, after a time, they came up with something. There were several other test cases, but when the new nanos were ready I was fortunate enough to still be alive so they could continue their experiments. They infected me with the new and improved nanocytes--the same type you have. The new ones have all the 'benefits' and none of the drawbacks. And one interesting new feature: they can rejuvenate, or repair, cells as well as destroy them. But it all depends upon how they are programmed. My second set was programmed to constantly repair the cellular damage caused by the first. Unless of course, they need the nanos to uh... never mind." He waves dismissively.

"Am I hearing you correctly that the nanos can heal? Is that why your back got better so quickly?"

"Yes."

"Is this effect turned on in my body?"

"Your nanos can do it, but the effect is triggered from the control device, as needed. If there's ever a situation where your health interferes with your orders, this feature could be activated and you would rapidly become well."

"So what happened to you yesterday?"

"The nanocytes cannot distinguish between cellular damage caused by the decaying nanos and, say, injuries. Broken ribs--or, in fact any bone--aren't normally a big deal. Nanos handle broken bones very well but beatings are a real bitch. They cause so much micro damage to so many systems, it just overloads everything. The upshot for yesterday was that new nanocytes were busy with my other injuries and not repairing the cellular damage quickly enough.

"Result: what you saw... it goes on until the second batch of nanos catches up."

"Is there anything you could have done to prevent this?"

"Perhaps. If my own body's immune response is weakened by lack of sleep, food or whatever, the nanos have more to do. Considering how long it lasted, I don't know that I could have prevented it completely, but I could have made it... easier, I guess."

"Are they still running tests on you, Alex?"

"Who else? The others are dead. I'm sort of a walking nano experiment." His voice drips cynicism.

I'm almost numb from the horror of it.

I get up and walk around to the other side of the bed and sit on the edge, facing him. I make deliberate eye contact. "Assuming that what you've told me is true, you're being used in a hideous way that's even worse than what's been done to me. No one deserves that, Alex."

He looks troubled. His voice is quiet but very hard when he says, "Don't ever feel sorry for me, Walter. I want you to know why this situation has come to pass but not so you can pity me."

"I know, Alex, but... You and I don't agree when it comes to moral issues. I just wanted you to know that I... that I don't consider this is what you deserve." I kiss him lightly on the lips. He doesn't respond, but he lets me do it.

Alex looks at me for a few seconds and then rubs his forehead as if trying to push away the conversation.

"So are we well and truly caught? Is there a trick? A way out? Someone else we can sell ourselves to for a cure? What?"

He looks at me as if I've gone insane but then his expression goes blank. "I don't know... something I've thought about but it's very improbable and... well, extremely risky." He stops and gives me a measured look. "It occurs to me that studying the decay of the first nanos might yield some insight into weaknesses that could be exploited to destroy the new nanocytes without destroying the host. I'm certainly no scientist, and I could be blowing smoke, but I've wondered about it.

"There has to be a way to reverse engineer the damned things. The first nanocytes were much less complex but still the building blocks for the second. The information your doctors never had is the first nanocyte sample." He shakes his head.

"I've got a little money. We could hire a scientist."

Alex shakes his head again. "If they find you studying these things, they'll know there is only one place you could have obtained them. Lord knows the FBI can't hold on to any secret information and it's almost impossible to tell who's compromised to one side or the other."

"I know. Anything involving the Bureau would be suicide. I'll investigate how to conceal it--maybe we can set up a dummy foundation with an anonymous grant? I warn you, I won't just give up."

Alex nods, then closes his eyes and rests his head on his hand. He''s tired and troubled. I am, too, but I'm also rejuvenated in a way.

We're both lost in our private thoughts for a while.

Then I turn to him. "Lie on your stomach, Alex, I'll rub your back."

He looks like he's going to protest, but then sighs and adjusts his position so he's lying prone on the bed.

I'm a brutal masseur, but he already knows this. I work on his kinks and knots for a long time, listening to him make tiny sounds of pleasure, until I realize he's fallen asleep again. After pulling the covers over him, I head downstairs seeking coffee.

**

When I wake, I'm immediately aware that Walter is gone. At some point during the last day, I've become very attuned to his presence. I listen for a few seconds and am relieved to hear faint sounds from downstairs. I focus on my body, feeling incredibly relaxed but a little sore. Walter's massages are usually pretty rough, but so very effective. I tune in on another area of soreness--my ass. Empathy is not one of my strong suits, but I find myself wincing slightly when I remember all the virgin asses I've broken in, many times roughly, over the years.

I'm fleetingly grateful that Walter isn't as rough on me as I've been on some of my boys. But in the next breath, I feel a little bit of disappointment. There's no pleasing some people. I think it would have been easier for me if he had been rougher.

Walter and I never negotiated our roles--it just sort of happened--but it was a complete reversal for me. I don't think he ever knew that. He just assumed he'd be the sexually dominant partner--cocky bastard--and I was so hard for him, all the time, that when he bent me over his work bench my protest was brief and shockingly insincere.

Thinking about sex with Walter always makes me hard. I allow my mind to lazily wander over his muscular, well-formed, powerful body. My cock gets noticeably harder thinking about all those fabulous muscles. I roll over and reach down to stroke myself a few times. A smile--something that feels so unfamiliar to me--finds its way to my lips when it occurs to me that Walter probably wouldn't like the idea of me jacking off without him. With a sigh, I remove the offending hand from my cock.

Inevitably a niggling sense of unease draws my mind back to this morning's conversation. The direction of my thoughts quells the rampaging hormones controlling my erection. It was much more difficult than I had thought--reliving those months of imprisonment and torture.

Walter had asked me if the tale would be difficult for him or me. I guess the answer was me. I revealed more than I wanted to and found recounting the experience to be impossibly painful. Expecting anger from him, I received something close to pity, then tenderness. I've never been able to accurately predict how Walter will respond. The pity infuriated me but the tenderness was my undoing. Part of me--the part that's kept me alive all these years--wanted to escape and never come back here, but his touch helped chase away the conversation more than flight ever could.

Except that I still feel... raw. I've been so damned vulnerable to him since I walked in the door the night before last. The vulnerability feels like a black hole that could destroy everything. If there's anything in my life I've ever needed to fear, it's this. But I won't consider that now.

I roll out of bed and go in search of Walter.

**

It's a sunny morning, so I drink my coffee on the balcony while reading the morning paper. I'm feeling calmer than I have in over a month. With more information, I'm better prepared to take on the battles ahead of me. And Alex has provided a sort of sustenance that I've sorely needed.

I hear a sound behind me, and turn to find him standing naked a few feet inside the balcony doors, his expression tight.

I gesture to the chair next to mine. "There's coffee in the kitchen. Find a pair of pants and join me."

He shakes his head. "That doesn't seem like a good idea; it's not certain that we're free from watchful eyes."

"I'll come inside, then." I gather up the paper and my mug.

Alex follows me to the dining room. I select a chair and he stands at the foot of the table, looking down and lightly tapping the surface. He seems anxious and very uncommunicative. I guess he's trying to avoid thinking about the odious problems before us. He's quiet for a while, then walks over to me. "I want to take a shower. Will you, uh... join me?"

I can't help but smile at the memories his invitation evokes. I nod my assent.

Before I can get up, he steps in front of me, leans down and kisses the side of my neck, trailing his hand up the inside of my thigh. Then he moves back and walks toward the stairs.

How can I not follow?

Once inside the master bathroom, Alex ignores the large tub and moves to the separate shower stall, turning on the taps. If memory serves, it will be warmer than I like, but nowhere close to the boiling temperature he prefers. He returns to me and slides to his knees, pushing my sweats down so I can step out of them. Rising back to his feet, he pulls me to him for an aggressive kiss. A brief battle of tongues, and I win the right to invade his mouth.

Without breaking our kiss, he steps backward toward the shower. I follow him into the stall, grateful for its spacious size.

Alex removes his mouth as he slowly backs me up under the shower spray, then joins me under the water for another long kiss. The hot water is sluicing off of our bodies. Kisses trail down my neck and a hand cups my ass. His mouth moves toward my ear while he strokes my cock a few times. I'm fully hard, but I'm merely cooperating, just enjoying the experience of finding out what he has in store for me.

He turns me around and kisses a path down my spine, aggressively rubbing my shoulders and my lats. It feels good to let go of the tension.

I can tell he's on his knees when I feel his teeth lightly nip my ass. The playful side of Alex is so rare and so sweet. He rubs the area he just bit, and leaves small kisses all over my ass and upper thighs. His tongue slides down my crack, and he pries at the cheeks of my ass, tongue playing at my anus, before he pushes inside. No one has done this to me since the last time Alex did it. It's such a wonderful feeling--the gentle sensation of his wet tongue. It almost feels like nothing, and yet it's such a fantastic, tingly nothing. I groan my appreciation.

Eventually, he leans back and indicates he wants me to turn around. Almost immediately, he takes my cock in his mouth--in the way that's uniquely his--all at once. I meant what I said last night. No one does it as expertly as he does. He swallows it all effortlessly, eyes half lidded, as if he's getting high. I've never felt more appreciated. I stroke his cheek softly as he works my cock. I could come in an instant if I let myself. The one time I did, I recall he was more disappointed than I was.

Alex varies his rhythm, alternately increasing and releasing pressure. He kneads my ass, and varies his position so my cock is sliding down his throat at a different angle. His throat spasms are more frequent like this, but it doesn't slow him down. He applies more pressure with his tongue, while caressing and fondling my balls. My knees feel weak.

As I near the point of no return, he lets my cock slide out of his mouth, moving to caress and lick my balls with his mouth and tongue. His hand slides into the crack of my ass, his thumb applying pressure to my anus as his mouth returns to my cock. This time he focuses on the head, tongue playing with the sensitive tip and applying suction--almost more than I can stand.

I love the way he's lavishing attention on me and my cock. I'm grateful for the antiskid surface of the shower, or we'd both end up on our butts.

I can tell when he's serious about making me come--he takes my whole cock back down his throat and applies more pressure to my anus. I gasp for air. He settles into the rhythm that drives me crazy. No amount of trying not to come will help me now. I struggle to relax my hands, so I don't injure his shoulders, but I'm losing it fast.

"Oh, Christ," I mutter, then I'm gone. My cock is throbbing and I'm coming in his throat, gasping at the raw pleasure. He doesn't stop sucking until I lean back languidly against the shower wall and mutter, "I think I'm done."

He releases my cock and smiles up at me. Alex smiles less often than I do, but it's a gorgeous sight with his shapely lips and white teeth. I try to memorize him like this as I stroke his hair to say thank you.

Alex reaches for soap, using sudsy fingers to massage my legs. He moves on to my hips and ass, hand sliding between my legs, gently caressing my balls. Teasingly, he rubs my anus. Then he turns me around and works his way up my back.

I remember when he did this with two hands and I suspect he's thinking about that, too. It's slow going with one, but that just makes it seem more luxurious. "It feels so good to have you touching me like this, Alex."

At my words, he leaves a few kisses on my butt as he reaches around and massages my cock. He strokes my too-sensitive cock for several moments, then massages my balls. Oh, Christ, if anyone can make me hard again, it's him. He caresses my abdomen, then my lower back. He stands, his erection pressing into my hip, and kisses the back of my neck while rubbing my shoulder. I cannot resist the urge to run my fingers along his hard-on, but he pulls it away for just a moment to make his position clear.

Alex rubs my other arm and shoulder, then breaks contact with me briefly. I hear a clicking sound behind me, then feel his hand on my head, slowly massaging my scalp and neck. For once, I enjoy having a bald head. He applies gentle pressure to the back of my neck and pushes my head under the water. I feel his lips on my shoulder.

I remember the languid pleasure of doing this with him many years ago. It's hard not to feel sad about what we once had.

Alex reaches around my body, caressing my chest, then runs his fingers up my neck. He's lazily massaging my abdomen when he stills and touches his lips to my nape. It's so soothing. I'm completely sated and satisfied.

For a time, we're just two men enjoying each other's bodies. The extreme trials of our lives are not in the shower with us.

"I need to touch you, Alex. Is it my turn?"

He pulls me close and whispers, "Whatever you want." It's the first time he's spoken since he asked me to join him for a shower... he's so turned on it's affecting his voice, which is rough and masculine. It's every bit as sexy as the rest of him.

I soap up my hands and reach for his chest. Touching him is pure pleasure, as I enjoy the sleek lines of his body. His skin is so smooth. One of my hands slides to the back of him and lathers his crack. His body arches toward me as his head falls back, and he moans low in his throat.

I've just come, so my pleasure is more subtle. I don't need release, but I need the feel of him and the sight of his face as he yields his body to my hands.

His front now well soaped, I press against him and slide our torsos together. The soap makes our skin glide across each other effortlessly. He groans with pleasure and bites his lower lip, gripping my shoulder for support. Pulling away again, I focus on his nipples, pinching them just enough that his eyelids become heavy and I hear a faint whimper. His pelvis moves against mine, his erection rubbing along my hip.

A red patch on his face by his mouth reminds me that we're both long overdue for a shave. My own face already has a mild rash, so I kiss him again, just to feel the scratchy abrasion that will mark us both for a day or two. He moans and sucks my tongue into his mouth. Then he tenderly bites my lower lip, sucking it lightly until I break the kiss.

What he gives me is so beautiful.

Soaping his right arm, I massage the muscles between my hands. He flinches when I reach for his truncated arm, but he allows it. I give it the same gentle massage. His face is closed but his eyes are glazed with pleasure, he responds with a small sigh, holding on to me tightly.

Alex is hard. Very hard. Water is dripping from the curly black hairs around his cock. Up till this point, I've ignored his erection. Now I grab it, sliding it in the circle of my fingers. He groans, then whimpers, and even tries to pull out of my reach, but his cock wants to be touched.

I press against him and take a kiss. There's no battle this time, he just offers his mouth to my tongue. I pull away to say something, but find myself just kissing him again. I've missed the spicy taste of Alex.

I step back a bit and my hand finds his cock again. I stroke it firmly a few times. He's too hard to tolerate this very well. A few more strokes and he'll come, and I know he doesn't want me to jack him off in the shower.

He pushes against me before his hips jerk back, then leans his head against the wall, his breath coming in shallow, uneasy gasps. "Walter, please don't make me beg you every time."

I raise one eyebrow, to let him know that I'm thinking about it. I could easily just keep tormenting him in the shower, but my skin is getting crinkly.

I step out onto the carpet. Alex stands directly under the water and hits the hot all the way for a few seconds. He groans his pleasure before turning it off and joining me outside. I pass him a towel, wrapping it around his body and ineffectually drying him off.

Alex is still for a few moments as if trying to get his bearings, then pushes my hand away and reaches for another towel. He starts to dry my head and torso. He gets down on his knees again, unsteady this time, and dries my legs. When he reaches around to dry my ass, he pulls my cock into his mouth. Releasing it, he tosses the towel to the side, and looks up at me. Lust radiates from his eyes. He tries to get up but is suddenly clumsy.

I'm hard again. I help him stand up into my arms. "There's no way a man my age can get hard again this quickly." I glare at him as if he's to blame for this anomaly.

He flashes me a small smile before leaning in to kiss me.

Somehow his towel ends up on the floor with mine and my hands just naturally seek out his ass. I pull on his butt, grinding our groins together. His breath is drawn in suddenly as his cock is trapped between us. I could tease him all day, but then I'd have to tease myself, too. And it's been too long.

"Bedroom," I mutter.

He follows me there and I gesture toward the bed. I'm curious to see what he'll do if I don't tell him what position I want. He sinuously slides onto his belly, propped on his elbow, opening his legs invitingly and looking back at me over his shoulder.

I love the way he gives himself to me. Alex is so ungiving--he generally gives nothing to anyone--and then it's like it's ripped out of his soul against his will, but he gives it to me because he must. His need turns me on like nothing ever has.

As I stop to admire the sight of him, his butt twitches. He's desperate to remind me what he's there for. It makes me smile and it's probably not a nice smile.

He correctly interprets my look and groans as he drops his head. A shudder passes through his body.

I can't help but chuckle when he's that easy to read. Joining him on the bed, I wrap my arms around him and press against him, just enjoying the heat of his lithe body.

The lube is still sitting on the bedside table. "Give me your hand."

He twists half onto his side and reaches out, palm up. I squirt a generous amount on his fingers.

"Get me ready."

Alex sighs with pleasure. Slippery fingers stroke my cock, touching me more vigorously than is necessary. He looks up at me.

"Again."

He offers his hand again.

I give him more lube. "Get yourself ready."

During our previous affair, I never asked him to do this. He stares fixedly at me for several moments as if trying to decide how to respond. I can see it in his face the moment he decides to accept--his whole body seems to surrender. He adjusts his position, rolling back onto his stomach, while reaching behind and running his fingers along the crack of his ass. He slides one finger in, then two, moving them in and out, evenly distributing the lube. Slowly, he adds a third finger and I hear the moan in the back of his throat.

The sight of him lubing and stretching his own ass for me takes my lust to the next level. "Do you have any idea how sexy you look fucking yourself like that?"

He's been silent for so long, but he looks me in the eye and whispers, "I'd do anything if I thought it would turn you on, Walt. Having you want me is the hottest thing I can imagine."

Those words in that incredible voice of his are enough to make me need to fuck him. Now. No, he won't have to beg. I'm certain that I've never before reached this intense state of desire on my second round of the day.

I'm over his body in an instant, yanking his hand away from his butt. He braces himself on his forearm as I position my cock at his entrance. As I push inside him my desperate moan is echoed in his cry.

The tight heat of him envelops my cock. My balls touch his butt and I pause for a moment. "Fuck, Alex," I mutter inanely. Then I begin to thrust, pulling out of his body and forcing my way back in. Fully inside him, I hold the position for just long enough to enjoy the skin contact with his plump buttocks. This man's ass is pure pleasure. If I were any more turned on, I'd surely implode.

As I pull out again, his hips arch up to follow my motion--every movement of his body telling me how desperately he wants to be fucked. His hand claws at the sheet as whimpers and moans are torn from his throat with every thrust.

I growl at the delicious sounds he's making. Shifting my position slightly, I give it to him harder. I love the feeling of letting go and using my full strength to fuck. Alex can take it. He wants it as much as I do. He howls his delight as I slam into him.

I paw at his hip with one hand in a clumsy attempt to reach his cock. Alex cooperates enthusiastically by pulling his knees up to distance his hips from the bed, balancing his weight on his chest. I wrap my fingers around his cock, not jerking him off yet, just holding it.

He gasps and shudders rack his body. "No... god, Walt... I'm going to come."

Well, in that case... I remove my hand and drop my upper body on top of him, pushing him back into the mattress. My chest is pressing down on his back, my hips now doing all the work. My lips find the back of his neck and I begin to bite. I've nearly lost control, but I'm going to hang on until he comes, because I love the sensation of his clenching ass on my cock. My teeth are going to leave a mark on his neck, but I can't bring myself to care.

I feel a growl in his chest, then hear an inarticulate cry. "Walt..." His tone is a clear warning that he can't hold back anymore.

I release his neck and rasp, "Come, Alex."

His body goes rigid and he gasps as I feel his ass spasm wonderfully around my cock.

In the muscles of his back, I can feel the peak of his tension. Then he collapses into a post-orgasmic moaning heap, as I continue to fuck him vigorously. I'm losing it quickly, but I keep hanging on so I can enjoy the feel of his body as it goes slack underneath me.

Unexpectedly, I feel his rectum contract tightly around my cock in what has to be a deliberate attempt to bring me off. "Oh, fuck," I sputter, and manage one more thrust before I'm shooting deep inside him.

I wrap myself around him tightly and hold on as I drift into the mindlessness of post-orgasm.

My full weight is on him, probably making breathing difficult, but he doesn't complain. After several moments, he reaches up and strokes the side of my face.

When my brain starts to function again, I slide out of him and roll onto my back. I pull him over, so he's lying on top of me and we're face to face. We kiss again, fervently. Besides escaping from our troubles for an hour or so, we've reconnected emotionally. I feel like he's mine again, as much as this elusive man can belong to anyone.

I'm momentarily tempted to tell him something about what I'm feeling, but I hold back, certain that neither of us wants to be reminded of what we can barely cope with. Instead, I keep touching him, running my fingers through his silky hair, which is still damp from our shower. I kiss his forehead and grind my scratchy cheek against his.

Alex moans and settles into my arms. He's as content as I've ever seen him.

His lips find my throat and he murmurs, "That was incredible... I wonder why I ever bothered fucking anyone else."

I couldn't agree more.

We lie together for several minutes before Alex stirs and lifts his head. I glance at him and find him staring at my bedside clock. "What is it, Alex?"

He takes a deep breath, sighs and rubs his forehead against my chest. "I have to check in soon but I need to eat first. Are you hungry?"

"A little." I'm all in favor of feeding him before something else goes wrong with his body.

I tug on my sweats, and watch Krycek put on his arm and pull on his clothes. When he's finished, he grabs his jacket and we descend to the kitchen. I find some lemon yogurt and make toast. He looks less than excited by the meal, but takes a seat and begins to eat.

No question I enjoy having the man in my bed. I'm not sure I could ever really turn that down but, on the other hand, I don't--I can't--expect this to go anywhere. Where could it possibly lead? I was a lot more naive that day years ago when I gave him the knife.

Eventually, Alex sighs and stands, pulling on his jacket. I almost hate to see him leave, but I need some time to myself to sort out my insane life.

His face is very closed but he walks over to me, leans down and gives me a hard kiss. "I'll be back tonight. And I'll try to arrive before you go to sleep this time." The humor is unexpected and he gives me a half smile.

I respond with a brief nod.

He turns and leaves my apartment.


Monday, 15 March 1999

Krycek didn't come back Saturday night. Or Sunday. I was a little disappointed. The bed seemed empty, but I already knew I couldn't rely on him. I figured he'd turn up eventually.

This morning, a hypocrite spoke at the funeral of Agent Landis. He deserved better, but the Director wasn't available, so, not wishing to slight the man's family, I gave the Bureau eulogy.

After the funeral and lunch, I'm back at my desk. My private line rings.

"Skinner."

"Mr. Skinner." I don't recognize the voice. "I believe one of Our agents paid you a visit on Friday--with a request for information?"

My fingers automatically reach for the phone and punch in a code for an automated call trace. "Who is this?"

The mystery caller ignores the question. "We spoke with Our agent Friday but he has since failed to report in."

Shit. Surely he means Krycek, but how could he not report in? And if he didn't, why am I still alive? "If you say so. What does this have to do with me?"

He again ignores my question. "It was made clear that We expect you to be responsible for Our agent's safety. We recommend that he report in within 48 hours or We may have to worry."

A click and the line is dead.

I phone Telecommunications. "This is Walter Skinner. Did you get a successful trace on my phone call?"

"No, sir. I'm sorry. We didn't have enough time. We traced it up the coast, but it looks like it's from overseas."

Damn. Where's Krycek?

If he's been taken out by some enemy, there's no way I'm going to find him. There's only one possible explanation where my involvement could be useful in locating him. I hate to even consider it as I take the elevator to the basement.

In the X-Files office, Scully is at Mulder's desk, working diligently at the computer, but Mulder is absent. "Where is he, Agent Scully?"

"I believe he went to the men's room, sir. Would you like to wait?"

"No."

I make my way down the hall to the tiny basement men's room. As soon as I pass through the door, I see him standing at the urinal. I block the exit and wait.

He sees me out of the corner of his eye, glances at me nervously, and tucks his dick back in his pants. "Uh, sir?"

The guilty look on his face is as good as a confession. "Where is he, Mulder?"

"Let's go somewhere and talk about this."

"There's nothing to discuss. You're going to give me his location, your badge and your gun."

"Sir, why don't you just come with me? I'll take you there."

Mulder's a fighter and I don't feel like fighting, so I'll go along with him for now. "Fine."

He stops by his office for his suit coat.

"Where are you going?" Scully asks.

"Uh, I'm just running an errand for the A.D. Don't worry about it, Scully."

In the elevator to the parking level, I prod, "Does Scully know what you've done?"

"No. After Landis I wasn't taking any chances."

In a few minutes, we're in his car heading north. I consider giving him a piece of my mind, but it's not important just now. I need to find Alex first.

A couple of miles from the Bureau, he pulls off the highway. "Let's just talk before we go any further."

"No, Mulder. Take me to him. Now."

"But, sir. Maybe if we work together we-"

"I made my position clear last Friday." I open my coat and place my hand on my gun waiting for his face to register that he's seen the gesture. "This is serious and this is personal. You are taking me to him. End of discussion."

Mulder's clearly shocked by the fact that I would consider using my weapon, but he starts the car again and pulls back onto the highway.

Fifteen minutes later, he drives up to a house in College Park.

"Am I going to need this, Mulder?" I ask, gesturing to the gun.

"Not yet, but I'm going to have to be the one to knock on the door. They'll never open it for you."

We approach the slightly shabby house. Mulder rings the bell. After what sounds like about eight locks being unlocked, the door swings open and we're greeted by a small troll of a man I remember meeting once in Mulder's hospital room.

"Any problems, Frohike?"

"No, man, everything's under control."

"We're both going in. Make sure the back door is locked behind us."

"Sure thing."

We pass through a maze of computers and random electronics gear. Another man I met, with stringy blonde hair, nods at us from a couch where he's watching TV with headphones.

Exiting through the rear of the house, Mulder waits until he hears the snicks of many locks behind us. Then he leads me through a weed lot to a small house in the back. We both draw our weapons and exchange glances. For a moment, we're two agents on a case again, ready to back each other up.

He opens the door and I see Krycek seated on the floor, legs roped together. His hand is cuffed to a thick water pipe running up the wall. There's something in his mouth.

There's a light in the room but it's not as bright as the sunlight, making it difficult to see clearly. I step inside and nearly trip over something. What the hell? His prosthetic arm is lying on the floor by the doorway very close to a kicked-over dish in a puddle of water. Krycek hasn't moved since I opened the door. I step closer.

His face is covered in contusions and cuts, one eye swollen shut, and blood liberally splattered on his shirt. There are also trails of blood on the wrist cuffed to the water pipe.

Oh, Christ.

Krycek's eyes are closed and his breathing is too rapid. His skin is extremely pale and distended blood vessels are visible on his neck and arm. He's shaking violently.

I holster my gun again. "Mulder, you're giving me your car and finding your own way home." I squat down next to Alex and reach behind his head to untie the tightly knotted handkerchief holding another handkerchief in his mouth, which I pull out. It's sticky, so he must be dehydrated.

"Shit, sir. Is he infected with those things, too?"

"Your car keys, Mulder," I snap in my command voice. I take the bowl to a faucet in the back, filling it with about a half inch of water.

Mulder nods, his eyes wide open. He slips the keys into my suit coat pocket. "Should I-?"

"Grab his arm and his jacket. And all of his belongings. Go tell your friends we're coming through."

He reluctantly backs away, somehow finally grasping that this has nothing to do with him.

I manage to drip some of the water into Alex's mouth, going very slowly, so he won't choke. He's shaking too hard to help me.

He can't stand me taking care of him. And yet he needs it so badly. He's never been able to take care of himself--stay alive, yes--take care of himself, no.

"I'm going to get you out of here. Hang on, Alex. I'm taking you back to my place."

**

A familiar pounding in my head breaks through the fog that has enveloped my brain. I keep my eyes closed and remain as still as possible. If Mulder's around, or one of his moronic groupies, I don't need him to know I'm awake so he can start with more of his inane questions.

Post-nano hangover. It's hard to think clearly around the pain, but I slowly register that I'm no longer bound and I'm not lying on a concrete floor. I open my eyes but don't move.

I'm at Walter's. Hell, what happened? Walter is sitting in the same chair, staring at nothing, looking stoic and very removed. This whole situation is too recently familiar.

Vague memories come back slowly of Walter trying to support--more like carry--me out of that house and put me in a car. That's the last thing I remember. My clothes are gone and I'm covered with a light blanket. It feels like my ribs are taped--I think Mulder broke two this time--and there are bandages on my forehead and wrist. Christ, Mulder, I'd like to kill you.

I turn my head and the sudden pain is unbearable--I cannot suppress a small moan.

Walter sits next to me on the couch. "Demerol?"

I glance at him... he looks distant.

"No." I don't need anything fucking with my head right now. "Oh hell... I've got to report in." I try sitting up. The pain is unreal, but I desperately need to get out of here.

"I got a phone call, earlier today. They told me you had 48 hours to report in. You've still got time."

I lean back. My brain can't seem to process anything. What is he talking about? "What happened? How did you..." My ability to articulate my thoughts has taken a, hopefully short, vacation.

Skinner wipes my forehead in a now familiar gesture. "I got a call from... your employer, I guess. I went to Mulder and he looked guilty, so I made him take me to you. Then I brought you here."

I can't move away from him so I push his hand away. I feel trapped and panicked. Mulder got the drop on me because I was distracted. Something I need to not let happen again. My life depends on doing my fucking job. My breathing becomes more rapid and I try to sit up. The pain keeps me down.

He backs off and doesn't try to touch me again. "It's okay, Alex. Try to relax."

I put my hand to my eyes to try to shut out the pain. This is more than a post-nano headache. That idiot Mulder had been smacking me around for twenty-four hours, asking questions he had to know I'd never answer. Between the concussion, the beating and the nanos, I'm surprised I have a functioning brain at all.

Walter gestures to a glass of water on the table, before rising and returning to his chair.

The room is silent for several minutes while I try to regain my sense of equanimity. I feel like I owe Walter an explanation--or at least some details.

"Someone, presumably Mulder, conked me on the head about a block from here on Saturday afternoon. I woke up Sunday morning in that... room. The first person I saw was Mulder but these strange people came in from time to time to give me water." I pause. What a bunch of nut cases. "He had questions."

"About my nanocyte infection?"

"Mm. What else? He seems to fancy himself your savior, Walter."

He grunts. "He saw you, Alex. He knows you're infected. Is that going to be a problem?"

"It's not a problem for me but it could be one for you. Does he realize you're... compromised?"

"I don't know. Probably not before today, but he left you in my hands and I didn't arrest you, did I?"

"It could be a problem if he tries to do anything about the situation." The ramifications are starting to pound through my head. "This could wind up being a problem for me." I find myself thinking out loud. "The question for my employers would then become, is it more advantageous to have Mulder on the X-Files, or you as a compromised A.D.? What a mind fuck. If they chose Mulder over you, they'd probably just let him bring you down. If they chose you over Mulder, they'd probably order me to kill him."

Walter shakes his head in frustration. "I can't begin to try to sort this out, since I don't even know who I'm working for. But I believe Mulder's work is important. I... I told him I'd fire him if he didn't butt out of my situation, but now I'm not sure I can."

Fire Mulder? Oh hell. "Uh... you can't fire him."

He looks like he has a headache, too. Closing his eyes, he massages his eyebrows. "Are you going to give me a reason why, or is this just another order?"

My head hurts too much for tact. "Interpret how you like, but Mulder is working on the X-Files for a reason and, unfortunately for him, that's his only option. He dies if he leaves the X-Files, voluntarily or... otherwise. If you had fired him, you'd have to reinstate him."

"I don't know why I bothered to sit here trying to figure out what I should do, when you'll just tell me and I don't have to wonder." His voice has definitely crossed into the testy zone. "I suppose I should just stop thinking entirely. Would that be better, Alex? Or should I wait until you give me the order to stop thinking?"

My temper flares. It's been a really shitty couple of days. I grit my teeth and force myself to sit up. "Jesus, Walter, just accept the fucking situation and get on with it."

"Fuck you, Alex. At least you know who you're working for. I don't know if I'm violating my conscience for the betterment of mankind, for some ghastly Machiavellian plot, or for a few good fucks. Oh, I forgot, I used a word you don't know... conscience."

I sneer at him. "You're right. I have no fucking clue what that word means but how about remorse. Yeah. I've learned that word recently. Hell, my vocabulary is fucking huge these days. I'm sorry you're infected with nanocytes. I'm sorry you don't like the situation you find yourself in. I'm sorry you don't like not having enough information. I'm really sorry you can't fire Fox Mulder. And I'll be really fucking sorry if I'm the one who has to blow his brains out." I'm yelling by the time I reach the end of my diatribe and my tone is anything but apologetic.

Walter doesn't speak for a long time. I can't exactly tell what's going on with him, but he appears to be regulating his breathing. Finally, when he replies, his voice approximates calm. "You think I should accept, Alex, but I think you accept too much. Why don't you give me your blood sample and I'll hire a medical researcher like we talked about? If you work with me on that, I'll try to accept your orders as well as I can."

I accept too much? It's not possible for Walter to understand how much I don't accept. I shake my head. "Blackmail, Walter?" My voice is calmer but there's an ironic edge.

"If I weren't so damned frustrated I'd laugh."

I can't stop myself from sighing, then I shake my head. "I'll get you the blood sample in a few days."

"No. I need to see the blood drawn."

I'm instantly annoyed. I recognize that Walter has every reason to distrust me, but I have as much at stake as he does. Of course, the problem is he doesn't believe that.

I can't keep the irritation out of my voice. "And how do you propose to manage that? You can't very well take me to a hospital. Were you thinking of taking up blood-letting? Slice open a vein in my good arm and catch your evidence in a bowl?"

"God damn it, Alex! You are the most aggravating..." He falters, unable to find a choice word, and I'm rather grateful, not particularly wanting to hear a list of my most obnoxious qualities. "I'll swear Scully to silence. She'll do it for me."

Scully? I shoot him a murderous look.

"Look, I could get a lab tech from the Bureau, but Scully already knows about the nanocytes. She's the best person to help me find a researcher. I think it's worth the risk to trust her."

My inclination is to fight with him more, but I lean my head back and close my eyes, thinking about it for several moments. I finally look back at him. I shouldn't, but I feel defeated. "How do you want to handle it?"

"Are you feeling well enough now? I can call Scully and ask her to come here."

"Whatever, Walter. Let's just get this over with."

"You sure you're okay?"

I shoot him another look of death. "Do not coddle me." I hate to bring up the next subject but don't feel like I have a choice. "She's going to want to rip my head off. How are you going to explain my unimpeded presence in your home?"

"I'd rather not give her any information that isn't related to the medical problem. It increases our risk."

I appreciate that he says 'our risk.' Although I can accept that he's willing to trust Scully with his life, I loathe the idea of trusting her with mine. She'd probably just as soon shoot me as look at me. "Ugh. Fine. Just tie me up and tell her you're holding me at your house until you get the medical information you need. But keep her off me, Skinner."

"I think that's the best plan, since we don't know if Mulder's told her anything. As far as they know, you're still a prisoner."

How did everything get so fucked up in such a short period of time? "I need my arm, clothes and six Tylenol. When are we going to do this?"

"Right away." He retrieves my arm from the dining room table. Lifting a pile of clothes from the floor, he asks, "Do you need help?"

I shake my head. While I'm putting on my arm, he disappears up the stairs and comes back with the pills. I swallow them as he dials the phone.

"Scully, this is A.D. Skinner. I want you to listen very carefully. Don't respond to me with anything but a yes or no, okay? I don't want anyone, even Mulder, to know who you're talking to. Got that?" A pause, then, "Is Mulder with you in the office? ... I want you to hang up the phone and go find another desk to call me from. I'm at home." He recites the phone number and hangs up.

The phone rings two minutes later. "Skinner. ... Scully, I need your help. What I'm going to ask you to do may save my life, but I need you to promise not to tell Mulder. ... I know that's not very comfortable for you, but there's no other way. I'm trusting you with my life and I need you to trust me with the decision not to inform him. ... I appreciate that. Can you come to my condo? Do you know where it is? ... Bring your medical bag. You're going to draw blood. ... Thank you."

Like an idiot, I go along with my stupid plan to pass me off as a prisoner. Walter carts a very sturdy wooden chair down from his office. As he begins tying me up, the cadence of my heart becomes uncomfortably fast. I do not like being bound and, after two days in Mulder's fun house, I feel like I'm going to come out of my skin. I want to trust Walter--I'm surprised by my own desire to trust--but I can't.

He ties my legs to the chair legs and cuffs my right arm behind me to the back of the chair. I feel like I'm suffocating. The only thing worse than being tied up is having someone hold me down.

My breathing is too rapid, and Walter glances at me, concerned. "Alex?" I ignore him. I wonder if my expression is as hostile as I feel. Silently, he sits nearby until Scully arrives.

She nearly comes unglued when she sees me. Walter puts his body in the path between us, before she can get to me. At least he took my warning seriously.

"Relax, Scully. I'm just asking you to take a blood sample. You can do that, right?"

"Sir, I can't believe you have Alex Krycek tied up in your living room. Why isn't he under arrest at the Bureau?"

"He's infected with the nanocytes, too, Scully. We need a sample of his blood."

I'm startled by how much it bothers me that he told her. I'd never considered my nanocyte infection as... personal information. It feels like Walter is allowing Scully to invade my privacy. Never mind that this is what we agreed to.

"We've got your blood. Why do we need his?"

"His is different." I can hear the impatient tone in Walter's voice. "I'll explain later. Just take the sample."

"And then what? You're going to let him go?"

Yes, you stupid suka, he's going to let me go. I can't stop the growl emanating from my throat. She looks at me askance.

"I'm not sure, Agent. I'll deal with that later."

Scully stares at him for a long time before acquiescing with a nod. "Okay, I'll draw his blood."

I almost hoped she'd refuse.

Walter moves out of her path, and she steps toward me. Her cool blue eyes appraise me briefly. "I'm going to need an arm, but I don't think we should uncuff him." She speaks to him as if I'm not in the room. "I can't get to a reasonable vein with his arm behind his back."

What the fuck?

Before Walter has a chance to even offer a suggestion, Scully answers her own question with, "We'll need to remove the prosthetic."

No fucking way.

She pulls a pair of scissors from her bag.

I find myself straining forward and yelling at them. "No. Ni khuya!"

Walter looks at me and back at Scully. "Scully, is that really necessary?"

"Sir, the best vein I can get under the circumstances is on the inside of the, uh, stump." She reaches for the 'wrist' of my prosthetic.

A part of my brain accepts that he cannot stop her without appearing suspicious, but the thought goes unheeded. I start fighting with my fake arm, because it is the only thing I have that isn't tied down. Although, if she gets close enough, I'm going to bite. She jumps back when I start swinging.

Walter comes up behind me and holds me firmly in the chair, pinning my upper left arm down, so I can no longer use it.

Oh god. Panic wars with rage as an irrational sense of betrayal takes over. I pull against his grip but he's too damn strong. "No! You fucking let me go. Svoloch. Eb tvoju mat!"

Scully approaches me again and cuts open my shirt, deftly removing the prosthetic. She proceeds to examine the remains of my arm, squeezing and prodding it thoughtlessly, as if I am a cadaver.

I jerk backwards, knocking into Walter. His grip loosens briefly and I struggle to get my arm out of the bitch's hands. I feel Walter's fingers bite harder into my shoulder and arm. Images from that night in the Tunguskan woods flash in my mind. I try to push down the panic.

"Agent Scully, if we could get back to the blood sample?"

But the damned Doctor Scully is too fascinated to be deterred. "Looks like a battlefield amputation. Cut right through the humerus, but not evenly. The biceps brachii... hmm... the long head is severed far from the radial tuberosity but the short head may still be attached to the bicipital aponeurosis. Uh... no. They're both severed. And the brachalis as well. All are truncated and atrophied."

"You fucking pizda--kurite moju trubku!" I scream at her.

I feel my grip on reality slipping as the visions take over. They're going to cut off my arm. No, that's already happened. I fight to remember what's real. Feral noises fill the room. They must be coming from me.

Walter can barely hold on to me. I catch his eye. "Ne pizdi!" He looks cold and impassive. I look back at Scully and struggle harder. "Poshel v pizdu!"

Scully looks at me as if mystified by my frustration and calmly requests, "Do you think we can gag him?"

"Na khuya?! Don't even think it!"

Every muscle in my back is seizing with my desire to assault the woman. Sweat stings the cuts on my face.

"Agent, draw the blood." Per his tone, it's an order.

Scully finally pulls a syringe out of her bag and a half dozen tubes. I stop thrashing when she swabs the inside of my upper arm with alcohol. The bitch is going to infect me with more nanocytes. Confusion swamps my brain. Normally I'm tied to a table. Why the chair? Where's the lab? No--none of that is real. I'm at Walter's. I fight the panic and confusion.

I'm rigid with tension and find myself muttering, "Pizdetc... Dermo. You fucking... styerva!"

With no concern for my comfort, she jabs the needle in and settles the first tube in the housing. I concentrate on my breathing and push back ugly pictures from the past.

Walter's bracing hand gives a reassuring squeeze on my good upper arm but I'm beyond being comforted.

Between tube changes, Scully eyes me like a cancerous specimen.

I glare at her and she doesn't look away. I hiss at her. "You are... ni za khuy sobachy." The venom seems to unsettle her and she glances away.

Finally the last tube is full. I'm sure I don't have any blood left.

At last, Walter releases my arm and goes to her. "We need to talk about what to do with the samples and make arrangements to meet somewhere for a lengthy discussion. I've got a lot to explain to you."

"What about Krycek?"

"I'll restrain him in my guest room."

Walter's talking about me like an animal he keeps caged in the basement. My anger peaks again. I'm so enraged I can't speak, and nearly knock the chair over trying to vent my wrath.

Walter jumps back to me and braces me again, holding me so I can't move at all. "Scully, untie his right leg."

She moves to me cautiously and unfastens the tie around my leg. I'm getting ready to kick her in the teeth, but she must sense it, because she jumps back as soon as the ropes are loosened. Walter releases my upper body and moves in front of me. I kick out at him and he catches my leg. It takes all his strength to hold it next to my left leg and tie them together. He then unties the bond holding my left leg to the chair.

I'm breathing hard and shooting him a murderous look as he moves behind me and unfastens the handcuffs. The instant I'm free, he pins my wrist to the front of my body, grabbing me around the waist and drags me into the guest bedroom. He kicks the door closed and throws me face first on the bed. I immediately try to get up but he pushes me down, and I feel him sit on me. In a few seconds, the ropes fall away and his weight is off my body.

I am seriously pissed, and completely out of control. Regaining my balance, I come after him and deliver a punch that connects with the side of his face.

Unfazed, he catches my arm and twists it behind me again. "Calm down, Alex. I won't let her touch you again," he offers in a harsh whisper.

I can't seem to control my rage and continue struggling. He grapples with me, finally slamming my back into the wall. My head bangs off the hard surface and his forearm is against my throat. I feel his weight against me but he speaks in a gentle tone. "Calm down. I'm sorry. That's not what I intended, but did you want to scrap the whole thing because you didn't want your arm removed?"

The arm removal was only part of the problem, but pointing out that I'm being irrational is not the best thing to do. I pound backwards with my elbow, smashing it into the wall to vent my ire.

"Alex, stop!" he hisses into my ear.

"Na khuya?" My breathing is labored and I stop struggling against him.

Scully calls out through the door, "Sir, do you need help?"

"No, I've got him restrained."

"Are you sure? It sounds like-"

"I'll be. Right. Out," he barks at her.

Walter slowly relaxes his grip, testing me. "It's okay, Alex. I won't let her touch you again."

The mindless rage begins to diminish, replaced by a feeling of panic. I'm not trying to hit him anymore.

He pulls me into his arms and captures my mouth in a kiss. Something normally so arousing has become calming. He whispers against my lips, "I'm sorry."

I nod to indicate that I'm okay now. I'm anything but.

He kisses me very gently on the temple, a non-verbal apology that gets through to me more than anything he said.

Walter steps away and opens the door just enough to slip out without allowing Scully to see inside the room. I hear her ask, "Is Krycek okay?"

She probably figures he beat the crap out of me.

Aware that she's still in the apartment, I keep my movements to a minimum, but I feel like destroying the room. I can't believe I went through with this. What has happened to me in the last four days? Up until today I would have been one hundred percent certain I'd never voluntarily let something like this happen.

Walter. Walter Skinner is what happened to me. I sit carefully at the foot of the bed. This can't happen again--I cannot let myself be vulnerable to him.

I sigh. I can't undo what is already done. What in the world am I going to do?

After about ten minutes, I hear the front door open and close. In a flash, he's back in the guest room, eyeing me cautiously.

"You okay?"

I don't respond.

"Still think I'm a svoloch?" He shakes his head sadly. "I'm sorry, Alex. I should have drawn the blood myself or found another way." He sits down on the edge of the bed, waiting patiently.

I can't look at him--it makes me too vulnerable--and I don't want to relive the situation. I intend my voice to be firm, but faintly whisper, "It doesn't matter." Nothing matters. I'm trapped in a situation I can't control and I feel completely disgusted with myself. I jump off the bed and begin to pace. "Is she gone?"

"Yes." He rises and crosses the room to me. "Why don't you sit down, Alex? I'll rub your shoulders."

No. If he touches me, I'm screwed--I have no defense against him except distance. "No. Don't touch me."

I open the door and step into the hall. I can hear Skinner behind me. As soon as I enter the living room, I see my jacket by the door. I walk over and pull it on, keeping my back to him, then reach for the doorknob.

He follows me to the living room, neither getting too close nor demanding anything from me, but just his presence is threatening. It's hard to believe I could feel so comforted by him and then so threatened. Perhaps they go hand in hand.

I need to leave before I screw this up any more. Stepping into the corridor, I close the door quietly behind me.

Outside the apartment I search my jacket. Keys, wallet, gun, knife... all wrapped neatly in little plastic evidence bags, but everything's here. How did Walter manage that? Mulder made quite the production out of taking everything and carefully labeling it as 'evidence of a crime.' He's such an annoying little prick.

**

Shit.

I've never seen Alex panic like that. I think he left the room a few times, reliving something unbearable. Reminds me of some of the guys in the veterans' hospital. It was obviously a mistake to tie him up. If we need blood again, we'll have to find another way.

It seems I still know so little of the truth about Alex. He's so willing to fuck, but so unwilling to reveal anything inside himself.

Krycek's Bureau file says he's from Iowa, but he mixes English and Russian when terrified. I'm tempted to conclude he's not American born, but he has no accent. Not one hint of an accent in his English. I wish I knew more than a few words of Russian, so I could know if that was accented.

The man presents enough mysteries to keep my entire division busy for a year. I know I won't solve any of them tonight. I change into my sweats and head to the gym. Working out with the weights won't answer my questions either, but it will clear my head.

**

As I walk down the sixteen flights of stairs, I fight to regain control of myself. Walking outside presents dangers for which I need to be prepared, and I cannot afford this distraction. With what feels like a Herculean force of will, I push the last four days out of my head and step into the entryway.

I remain in the shadows of the doorway surveying the street in front of Walter's apartment. My glance is casual but I spot someone across the street watching the building. He's one of ours. I should be relieved, but it just makes me feel tired. Apparently reporting in will be a formality since they know I'm here.

I step onto the sidewalk and catch the eye of my counterpart across the street. A slight tilt of my chin acknowledges that I've seen him, and I move away from the building.

Several blocks away, I find an enclosed payphone in the back of a quiet coffee shop. I quickly dial an international number. A raspy voice responds, "Yes?" after the third ring.

"It's Krycek."

"What happened?"

"Agent Mulder."

"Ah. Was Mr. Skinner involved?" Their brains must have short-circuited at the idea that Skinner might not be as easy to control as they expected.

"Not that I can tell."

"What did he want?"

"Information."

"And you said?"

I can barely keep the exasperation out of my voice. "Nothing."

There's an unusual pause. "What is Agent Scully's involvement?"

Shit. I should have known that would come up if they were watching the building. "Damage control. Mulder is suspicious."

"Why did Mr. Skinner summon her to his apartment?"

"To foster the illusion that I escaped. She saw me tied to a chair. Skinner will tell her I was gone when he returned."

"Will Mulder be a problem?"

I pause, carefully considering my answer. "I don't know."

"You may have to contact him."

"I do not think that's a good idea."

"Mr. Krycek, I was not asking for your opinion."

"Of course not. You never do. But you don't keep me around for my pretty face, and you should trust my judgment on this."

He doesn't respond for the longest time. I hope to hell he's considering what I said. "Encourage Mr. Skinner to handle Mulder and impress upon him the consequences should this situation get out of control."

"Certainly. Would you care to share those consequences so I can more effectively 'impress' them?" It's like trying to extract water from dirt.

"You will kill Agent Scully." He certainly knows how to play a room. Not that I wouldn't take a certain pleasure in killing Doctor Scully after today, but I think that's something... Walter would never forgive. Damn... when did that start to matter?

I'm silent. Fortunately, they always interpret my silence as acquiescence.

"Have the nanocytes been... problematic?" Talk about an abrupt change of subject. I suppress a sigh. There's no fucking point in lying--it never turns out well with these... people.

"Yes."

"You need to come in. We have something new to try."

Oh, fuck me. "When?"

"Soon."

I really love these conversations. "Anything else?"

"We have work for Mr. Skinner."

Fuck. So soon?

"You'll find a package of information at the usual location. Deliver Our requests within the next day."

I was hoping to avoid Walter for longer than a day, dammit. "Anything else?" I grit my teeth, no longer able to keep the annoyance out of my voice.

"No, Mr. Krycek. That will be all. For now. Report in forty-eight hours." His voice has a slightly amused edge. Fucking bastard.

I hang up the phone.

I want to sleep and forget this miserable afternoon. I guess in this one thing I'll get my wish. Because it's too late to get to my safe-deposit box--which must be done before I pick up the information for Skinner. I need to shed the Erik Lewis identity as soon as possible--it's completely compromised.

The street is clear as I leave the coffee shop and head out to search for a hotel.

**

Franklin Park
Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, 16 March 1999
7:00 A.M.

As I instructed via Kimberly, Mulder is at the park when I arrive. He's sitting on a bench, bundled in his overcoat, drinking a cup of coffee.

I approach him cautiously, reminding myself of my intention to remain calm.

"Sir."

"Agent Mulder."

I sit down next to him.

He gestures toward a bag. "I brought you coffee."

"No, thank you." I will not accept his peace offering. "Did you bring your badge and your gun?"

"I did, but I was planning on talking you out of firing me." He offers a hangdog grin.

"Don't bother. I'm not going to fire you. I should, but I won't. I believe in your quest, Mulder, you know I do."

Mulder nods. He knows it's true. "What happened to your face?"

At first I don't understand what he's asking, but I raise a hand to my cheek and remember. "Boxing."

"Right," he replies in a dubious tone. "What happened to Krycek?"

"That's the first of many questions I'm not going to answer. I know things that you don't about what happened to me six weeks ago. You've demonstrated that you're willing to risk your career to learn what I know."

"To help you, sir."

"No. That delusion has to go. Your little kidnapping did not save my life. In fact, it very nearly cost me my life." I take a deep breath before continuing. "I won't tell you what I know, but I will net it out for you. If you continue to investigate this matter, more people will die. The most likely death you will cause is my own. Your death is the next most likely, followed by Agent Scully's. I know you care about at least one of these people."

"I don't understand. Is Krycek going to kill you with the nanocytes?"

"I'm not here to answer your questions."

"Then why are you here?"

"To plead for my life. I want you to promise me that you'll butt out of this issue."

"Have you been compromised, sir? Will others die because you're being blackmailed?"

"That's for me to worry about, Agent Mulder."

"Is it? Can I trust you on any case that Krycek might be interested in?"

"You seem awfully worried about being able to trust me, when you discarded the trust I had for you so casually."

He ignores the barb. "I think you're compromised. Where's the knife? It's evidence in a murder investigation."

I shrug my shoulders and gesture futilely with my hands. "If that knife had any importance to you, you shouldn't have abducted and beaten the man carrying it. You know as well as I do that you tainted the evidence."

"Perhaps, but I didn't make it disappear."

With any luck, my guilt isn't written all over my face.

"I'm supposed to contact the Office of Professional Conduct if I believe that you're being influenced by an outside agent."

"Mulder, you and I both need a computer to tally all the conduct violations we have on each other. Given Agent Landis' recent death because you disobeyed my direct order, I don't think this is a battle you're going to win."

"I don't want to go to OPC, but I don't see how I can do nothing."

"Listen to yourself. When you told yourself you were saving my life, you were eager to investigate against my orders. But now I'm asking you to save my life--and maybe yours and Scully's--by not asking questions. And you don't want to give it up. Is this really about your ethical dilemma or is it about your obsessive need to know the truth?"

"Dammit, sir! Don't try to make this about me. You're compromised."

"Then you do what you have to do, Mulder." I stand up, ready to depart defeated. "But think about what I've said. Be sure you're doing whatever you do for the right reasons. And be prepared to live with the consequences." I walk away.

Mulder rapidly catches up to me. "Is Krycek infected with the nanocytes?"

I ignore him.

"Surely you can tell me that, at least?"

I reach my car and unlock the door.

"Dammit, Skinner. I need to know."

I slam the car door and start the ignition.

Every damned car seems to be in my way on the drive to the Bureau.

Already in a bad mood, I enter my office and glance at my desk. Kimberly has left me a present. A giant stack of Mulder's expense reports. Seven months worth. Expecting the usual lost cell phones, burned up automobiles and remodeling for damaged private property, even I am shocked by last summer's bill from the Australian Government Antarctic Research Station for three helicopter rides, emergency medical equipment, several days of room and board, a Snow Cat and the cost of shipping the replacement Snow Cat to Antarctica.

Keeping Mulder and Scully alive isn't just my own personal burden. The Bureau is out $434,279.14 for that one rescue. I don't begrudge Mulder or Scully the expense. Both of them are worth every penny. Explaining it to the Director is another headache entirely, as is covering the cost out of the budget of some more mundane department.

I plow through the myriad of obnoxious problems that make up the life of an A.D.

**

9:15 A.M.

I spot the agent across the street as I exit the bank. Fuck. Walter needs to tell these idiots how to blend in. I don't suppose he'd appreciate my giving him tips. I look down and make a show of fumbling through my pockets to produce my sunglasses. What rotten fucking timing. I need to get another safe deposit box immediately, but can't have this boob following me.

Surely Mulder isn't behind this. Not three times in a row.

I start down the street. When there's a break in traffic, I cross and surreptitiously check behind me. He's still there. Closer even--too damned close.

Casually rounding a corner, I quickly duck between two buildings. When he appears, he's looking around trying to locate me. I have my gun in his face at the same moment that he sees me. He freezes and flashes me a look filled with hatred. What the fuck did I do to this guy?

I motion with my head for him to proceed me to the back of the building. We're in a driveway behind two stores--no one around.

"Why are you following me?"

The Hispanic man looks mutinous and remains silent. He appears angry enough to charge me. I push the barrel of the gun hard into his forehead. "Why are you fol-low-ing me?" I draw every word out slowly.

"You killed my partner."

Shit. Instinct tells me to pull the trigger. But before he has a chance to act on all that unhealthy rage, I hit him on the head with the butt of my gun. He crumples to the ground. I check his pulse and breathing. He'll have a bitch of a headache but will be fine. Jeez... Walter is going to be pissed that I've been fucking up his agents again. Well, at least this one's breathing.

I cautiously head back to the sidewalk. There's a good choice for a new bank about five blocks away.

So, the late Agent Landis' vengeful partner... How the hell did he know to look for me at the bank? Landis must have made surveillance notes. But... I went to the bank on Wednesday afternoon. Did I miss Landis following me on Wednesday? God, if that's true, I need to think about another line of work--assuming I had any choice in the matter.

I leave Erik Lewis safely tucked away at the bank and become Kyle Tresch. After a quick stop at a rental car company, I begin the thirty minute drive to pick up Walter's orders.


10:30 A.M.

I flop back on the bed in my hotel, the package beside me. It's a large envelope with several small, irregularly shaped lumps... I'm not sure I even want to know. I have no desire to deal with this now but I don't exactly have a lot of time.

Delaying the inevitable as much as possible, I move to the bathroom and pull off my shirt. The tape on my ribs is ready to be removed and I slowly strip it away from my skin. Fucking nanos work perfectly every time. The evidence of my outing with Mulder is almost gone and the bruises from Walter's less-than-gentle restraint are starting to fade.

I grind the heel of my hand into my eyes. I need to be as far away from Walter Skinner as I can get, but circumstances keep driving me to him.

Returning to the bed, I pull my knife out from the sheath at my waist. One slice opens the envelope. Inside there's a sheaf of papers and a very small cellular phone with various peripherals. Ah... The anonymous phone number. I hate leashes. I clip the phone on the front pocket of my jeans and pull out the papers.

I start to put my knife back, but find myself contemplating it for several seconds. The events of the last five days flash through my mind. The images of being fucked by Walter make me feel light headed. The visions of that last afternoon with Scully, and the subsequent fight with Walter, make me grind my teeth. Thoughts of Mulder make me feel homicidal. I angrily shove the knife back into its leather sheath.

Turning my attention to more pressing matters, I scan the contents of the envelope quickly. The information they're requesting is trivial. I guess they're testing the waters.

I pull out the cell phone but hesitate. This situation is impossible. I dial the number for Skinner's private office line and press SEND.

**

Mid-morning I'm meeting with the antiterrorism department heads. The Director has chosen to attend and is dictating policy changes he wishes to propose to Congress that will make our work impossible. It requires my intense focus to effectively stand up to him and protect the two departments.

My private telephone line rings. Kimberly uses it for emergencies when I'm in a meeting, so I take the call.

"Skinner."

"Mr. Skinner, you were provided with a telephone number?"

It's Krycek. "Yes."

"Go to a secure line and call that number." He hangs up, not leaving me an opportunity to argue. Shit.

The Director is looking at me. What do I say?

"I'm sorry, I've got a problem that can't wait. Chen, please explain to the Director our position on the airport luggage inspection policy."

I dare not wait to see anyone's reaction or I might feel obligated to remain. Instead, I bolt out of the room. There's a secure line in my office, but the room is occupied and I assume my office is bugged. It's not even worth a bug scan, because I'd have to check it every day. Better just to assume.

The nearest other secure lines are in the operations rooms. I'm certain that two of them are occupied. Ops Two might be free, unless something nasty has happened this morning that no one has informed me of.

I reach the room. The overhead light declares that it is not in use, but there are two coffee-drinking agents laughing at the conference table.

I gesture with a jerk of my head. "Agents, I need the room." They scurry out and I take a seat at the main telephone station, then dial the number.

Krycek answers with a terse, "Yes."

"God dammit. I was in the middle of a meeting with the Director."

"Good. I'm glad to hear there's no confusion about your priorities."

"Fine. What do you want? I'm certain this isn't a social call."

"We need information about two pending investigations." He quickly relays the details--basic case file data about the death of Jeffrey Spender. It's obviously a test. Young Spender was of little consequence, I think. "Take the information home with you tonight. I need it by 10 P.M."

Most of what he's asked for is publicly available. It's certainly not worth defending with my life. "Okay."

"What's the status of the investigation into Agent Landis' death?"

"Mulder is still suspicious, of course, but there's no evidence linking you to this. The investigating agent..." I pause for a moment, about to name the agent, but I decide against it. "... has two guns, but no murder weapon. The gun that didn't belong to Landis has very smudged prints--not usable. Landis' field notes indicate that he was following you earlier in the day. No one saw anything useful and there's nothing to place you at the scene."

"You need to phone me immediately if this case develops implicating me in any way. And it's in your best interest to deflect the investigation away from me."

"Yeah, I got that, Krycek."

"When we last spoke I was not clear about what would happen should you or Mulder fail to comply. Allow me to clarify that point now. In either case, Scully will die."

So now Scully's a target. Damn it! "Still angry about yesterday?"

"Yes, but her death isn't my decision, it's yours." He hangs up. No goodbyes in his business, I suppose.

Back at my office, there's a note from Chen. "We're in trouble. Please talk to the Director again before the end of the day."

There are also what looks like forty phone slips. Kimberly's a wiz at handling a lot of the calls; I shudder to think what the pile would look like if I had an ordinary assistant. I scan them quickly. Two agents hospitalized with minor injuries. A presidential aide who wants to ask me about crime statistics. A kidnapping in Florida, but the SAC can handle it. A complaint about excessive force--seeing the name of the agent, it's probably valid. Another agent asking me to remember a case I worked on fifteen years ago. A death penalty review. Nothing unusual. Not much that I have to deal with this instant. I write 'DDH,' our code for delegate to department heads, on seven of the slips and put them back on Kimberly's desk.

I dart over to the Director's office, but he's in with the Attorney General. I can't interrupt them without having to give an update on every high visibility case under my jurisdiction. So I return to my office and start making phone calls.

After about thirty minutes, Kimberly taps on my door. She usually uses the private line when my door is closed, so this is something sensitive. "Sir?"

"What is it?"

"I just got a call from George Washington Hospital. Agent Rodriguez was admitted this morning with severe head trauma."

"Shit." It can't be a coincidence. "Kimberly, would you cancel my 1:00 finance meeting and pull the file on Agent Spender's murder?"

"Yes, sir. Should someone visit Agent Rodriguez?"

"I'll do that myself during lunch."

Kimberly starts to leave, then stops herself. "Should I get you a sandwich, sir?"

"No, thanks."

At 12:30 I take a PowerBar out of my desk drawer and escape my office using the back door. It will be a relief to get away from the damned Bureau. I haven't accomplished anything all morning besides annoying the Director.

I don't have a chance to find out about Agent Rodriguez' condition before I leave for the hospital. If he's in serious condition, I'll wish him well. If he is okay, I'll kick his butt.

When I reach his room, he's awake, alert and reasonably healthy. Too bad for him.

"No, sir. I don't remember the actual attack, but I'm sure it was Krycek. I was following him. Who else would it be?"

I'm still suspicious. Rodriguez is alive. It doesn't quite seem like Alex's style. "Agent Rodriguez, why were you following Krycek?"

"He killed my partner."

"How do you know that?"

"Landis' notepad was in his car. He was following Krycek the day he was killed."

"Perhaps that should have been an object lesson, Agent Rodriguez."

"He killed Phillipe. You can't expect me to leave him alone."

"Agent, you will stay away from Krycek and your partner's investigation or I'll transfer you to Peoria." I've been working for Krycek for less than a week and I'm already damned tired of having these conversations.

There's a face at the door. Mulder. I catch his eye, indicating that I want to talk to him.

"You're on medical leave until further notice. Excuse me."

Mulder follows me as I look for a quiet place to talk. I nod as we pass Gina Landis and her children in the hall. They must be going to see Rodriguez. Rodriguez and Landis were close, like brothers.

Mulder and I find what appears to be a nurses' lounge. It is thankfully empty. I don't have to ask if he's feeling guilty. Mulder has that drawn-inside-himself look, suggesting that he's coping with something painful.

"Are you beginning to understand what can happen if you don't leave this situation alone?"

He objects, but his voice is subdued. "We're in law enforcement, sir. We're supposed to risk our lives to find and prosecute criminals."

"I agree, Mulder, but it's my job to make sure we don't take unnecessary risks. And since I seriously doubt that anyone will ever be arrested or incarcerated in this matter, I think preventing further deaths is the only useful thing we can do."

"So I'm supposed to just ignore what I've seen?"

"Yes," I reply wearily.

"How many lives will ignoring it take?"

"I can't answer that, but I have reason to believe that Agent Scully has become a target."

"Why?!" He kicks an old file cabinet. "I haven't even told her about this... about any of it, since I first suspected it was Krycek."

"What's the best way to control you?" I shouldn't have said it, but I'm trying so hard to get through to him about the consequences of his actions.

"Dammit, sir! Did you get her involved in this?"

I did get Scully involved. "I've done some unethical things before to protect Agent Scully. I'll do it again, if I have to. That's all I can say."

Mulder is sulking, but I can tell I shook him up. He might behave himself, at least until something else brings this matter to his attention.

"Mulder, until Agent Rodriguez gets back from medical leave, I'm assigning you to work his and Agent Landis' cases."

"But, sir, stolen property?"

"Yes, Mulder. I said I wouldn't fire you, but I didn't say I wouldn't take disciplinary action. You'll be tracking interstate stolen goods until Rodriguez gets an okay from medical."

"But there's an X-File in Indianapolis... a pair of ghosts in a church."

"They'll still be dead in a couple of weeks, Mulder."

He rolls his eyes and pouts as only Mulder can.

Annoyed by his childish complaining, I decide to do something cruel. "Mulder, come with me. There's someone I'd like you to meet."

He follows me back to Rodriguez' room. "Mrs. Landis, this is another one of our agents, Agent Mulder. Mulder, this is Gina Landis..." I gesture to the two little girls in pigtails. "...and her daughters, Chelsea and Rachel."

I regret it as soon as I see his face.

My cell phone vibrates. I excuse myself into the hall to take the call.

"Skinner."

"I need more information." Krycek again.

To my knowledge Kimberly and Krycek are the only people who have this number. "I'm at the hospital visiting Agent Rodriguez, you know, Landis' partner."

"Ah. Another one of your agents not following orders. Or was he?"

"Fuck." I didn't really mean to say that on the phone.

"Could you get your mind back on business please?"

"Christ. What the fuck do you think I'm thinking about here? I'm trying to keep my agents alive. Give me a break."

"Is Mulder there?"

"Yes, actually. He's in Rodriguez' room with the widow Landis and her two daughters."

"Well, that's nice. It sounds like you have all the interested parties available. Did you send Rodriguez after me?"

"No, I wouldn't do that after Landis. Fuck, I wouldn't have done it before Landis."

"Did Mulder?"

"No. Rodriguez found Landis' field notes."

"Is he going to continue to be a problem or did I make a mistake?"

That's ugly. "I was a little surprised, actually."

"I can assure you it won't happen again. Now, are you going to be able to control your agents?"

"I'm doing the best I can. Rodriguez has been warned. And you've tied my hands with Mulder. I don't suppose you'd let me transfer him to another A.D. or to some obscure local office?"

"The only thing I can say for certain is Scully dies before either of you go anywhere. Do I need to relay that information to Mulder personally?"

He doesn't realize how much I value Scully. This is better blackmail than the damned nanocytes. "I'm certain the message would be more effective coming from you, but be sure to bring plenty of backup. Mulder's less tolerant of your bad habits than I am."

"Your agent just kidnapped and beat me, and you're talking about my bad habits?" I can almost see the look of total aggravation on his face. He hangs up.

It's 1:30 in the afternoon and I have yet to complete a single task on my original agenda for the day.

I spare Rodriguez any more exposure to my foul mood and leave the hospital without saying goodbye.

Back at the Bureau, I manage to get ten minutes with the Director. He's not easily swayed to my position, but he's agreeable by the end of the conversation. Unfortunately, I know that five minutes with some key congressman and his opinion could flip again.

Halfway through the monthly Public Relations Bureau Image Management meeting, I excuse myself in disgust. When I return, Kimberly hands me about 30 more phone message slips.

I run through them quickly, jotting little notes on most of them and giving them back to her. Near the bottom is a simple "Call Erik Lewis. Sorry, but he wouldn't leave a number."

My only happiness during the entire day is leaving that message until last. Finally, I go back to the still unused operations room and dial the damned number.

"Yeah." Alex sounds groggy. He must have been asleep. A small victory.

"It's Skinner."

He grunts into the phone and doesn't manage to spit out anything coherent.

"What do you want?" Even I can hear how testy I sound.

Krycek sighs into the phone. "What is Scully and Mulder's current understanding about me?"

I'm almost grateful he's come to the point. "Mulder suspects you infected me with the nanocytes. He also guessed that you are infected yourself, after he saw you on Sunday. Scully knows you're infected, of course, but doesn't understand much else. Perhaps Mulder told her you infected me, I'm not certain."

"How did you explain not arresting me to Scully?"

"I didn't. I haven't seen her since yesterday."

"You need to make her believe that I escaped."

Well, I can tell that lie to Scully, but making her believe it is another matter entirely. As if summoned by my thoughts, Scully appears at the door.

"Sir, I've been looking for you."

"Just a minute, Scully," I state deliberately for her ears and Krycek's. And then I say into the phone, "I have a visitor."

"Well, by all means invite her in."

"Do you want me to call you back?"

"No, I want to hear this."

Shit. I set down the phone, but do not put it on speaker. He'll probably hear me, but not Scully.

"What is it, Agent Scully?"

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but I'm worried about Mulder."

"Why? Where is he?"

"I don't know. After he returned from seeing Agent Rodriguez, he got a phone call that upset him. He wouldn't tell me about it and he left." Her eyes flick to my bruised cheek, but she says nothing further.

Scully doesn't come find me over every little matter. "Why are you so worried?"

"He was extremely uncommunicative, but kept staring at me. I couldn't get him to even give me a hint about what's bothering him."

Had to be Krycek who called. "Do you have something in mind that you want me to do about this?"

"He ran an errand with you yesterday that he was also mysterious about. I thought you might know where he is."

"I'm sorry, I don't know. I assume you've tried to reach him on his cell phone?"

"Yes, but he's not answering. Sir, what happened to Krycek? You didn't arrest him, did you?"

God, I hate lying. "No. He... uh... escaped from my apartment last night." I wouldn't believe it, and I'm probably a lot more gullible than Scully.

The look in her eyes tells me I'm right. I wait for her to question the lie. "Does Krycek have anything to do with why Mulder's so upset?"

"I don't know." But I can guess. "Keep trying his cell phone and if he doesn't turn up by tomorrow morning, let me know."

I don't like the way Scully's looking at me, but what did I expect? She gives me an uneasy nod and departs.

I pick up the phone again. "Well?"

"That wasn't very believable."

"You want me to take acting lessons? Or do they have special classes for telling lies? You're the master--how did you learn?"

"To truly master the art, you have to find a certain enjoyment in it. You're going to have to practice, Mr. Skinner."

"And I'm sure you're going to see that I do."

"Naturally. So is Mulder still upset about my little conversation with him?"

"Apparently. I wouldn't know, because I haven't spoken to him."

"Well, he was a little miffed, but he will give you assurances of his future good behavior before the end of the day."

I can't hold back a nasty chuckle. "What? You've got Mulder under control already? How did I ever manage without you?"

"That's something you won't ever have to worry about again."

My mood turns black again. "Threatening him is enough..." I hope it is, anyway. "... leave him alone, Krycek." There's an edge in my voice.

"Let's not re-hash old news, Skinner. I won't do anything to Mulder of my own volition. Besides, threatening Mulder has no effect, but threatening his precious partner seems to work. This is a high priority for us. I expect you to inform me immediately if this situation should slip outside of your control."

Is anything actually under my control? It doesn't seem like it lately. Controlling Mulder has always been a joke anyway. "Yeah, whatever." I can lie to him, too.

He hangs up again.

At the end of the miserable day I'm back in my office working with Kimberly on my schedule, when Mulder sticks his head through the door.

"I got your message," he says in a bitter voice.

"I didn't leave you a message."

"Well, your friend called me."

"He's not my friend." Or is that a lie, too?

Kimberly barely notices the tension between us. She's used to Mulder and I going at it.

Standing over my desk, Mulder fidgets uncomfortably. "You win. I'll stay out of it. At least for now."

It's a weak capitulation. I didn't want to hear it anyway. Now he's being blackmailed, too. It all makes me tired. "Is that all, Agent Mulder?"

"Yeah," he replies, and I can see the truth in his eyes. I know for certain that Agent Mulder will never trust me again. I've lost him, for good this time. Perhaps he and Scully will remain alive. It's some consolation for losing the respect of a man I admire.

9:35 P.M.

I finally get home after a hellish day, shutting the door behind me with relief. I'm beyond fatigue, but there's so much adrenalin in my system that I'll probably never sleep.

Picking up takeout on the way home was the best idea I had all day. I sit at the dining room table and eat Pad Thai and Basil Chicken out of the cartons with the awful little plastic fork they provided. I finish the meal unsure whether or not I've actually chewed any of it. Usually, I read when I eat alone, but I realize that I've just been staring into space.

I'm angry, frustrated, exhausted and depressed all at once. It nets out to numb and wired. Fuck.

After dinner, I get ready for bed, not the least bit tired, but it has to be done. Then I stand around the bathroom in the nude trying to figure out what to do with myself.

I go back downstairs and turn on the TV, catching the middle of some movie on HBO. After almost an hour, I realize I'm not paying attention to it, so I switch it off and go to bed.

Lying in bed, I change positions frequently. Not sleeping. Not exactly thinking either. I don't know what the fuck I'm doing.

**

11:00 P.M.

I'm getting really tired of these fucking stairs. I almost never take elevators--not too fond of enclosed spaces and you never know who might greet you when the doors open.

I find myself in front of Walter's door. Again. I need to get the information and get out of here. Get back to my happy little life as an egregious asshole. This time, I'll keep my fucking clothes on.

Except for one other thing... I need to leave something for him. I reach my hand into the pocket of my jacket, as if to confirm the reality of what I'm about to do. It's still there. I yank my hand out as if burned.

I reach up and bang on the door.

**

I hear a knock from downstairs. Whoever could it possibly be? I don't bother with my jeans this time. After checking the peephole, I simply open the door and yank him inside by the lapels of his jacket. That felt good.

My cock is hard.

"What the fuck..." Alex is startled and tries to pull away, but doesn't strike out.

I shove the little bastard face first against the wall. He grunts and begins to struggle, but I use my weight against him. In spite of his fighting, my hand wanders to the waistband of his 501's.

I may not be in control of anything else, but his body in my house is mine.

**

Adrenaline starts to pump through my veins. Why didn't I strike out at him when he first grabbed me? I fight harder. It's difficult to breathe. Does he think he's going to arrest me? Take me prisoner? Has he lost his mind?

My muscles are so tense with futile struggle I feel like I'm vibrating. I've never seen Walter lose control and it occurs to me that I should be terrified of what he could do if he ever completely lost it. I thrash about, trying to get some distance from the wall so I can get some air--enough air to try to talk to him--when I feel his hand at the fly of my jeans. He rips the buttons open and aggressively yanks my 501's down to my knees.

I gasp and throw my weight backwards. "Skinner, what the hell..." He shoves into me again and the breath is knocked out of me. I feel his erection press into my ass cheeks. I barely caught a glimpse of him before he put me into the wall, but he must be naked.

He slams his arm into the middle of my back to hold me still and his hip presses my pelvis forward, banging my cock into the wall--forcefully demonstrating to me that my dick has become rock hard. That hurt.

I hear what sounds like him spitting. The man has gone round the bend. "Have you gone insane?" I shove my weight back, trying to catch him off balance and swing my elbow at what I hope is his ribs. He catches my arm and pins it to the wall. I suddenly feel his knee roughly inserted between my legs, forcing my knees open.

His weight is holding me to the wall but I lose my balance and struggle to plant my feet. My brain starts functioning again--he plans to fuck me. In the next breath, his cock pushes between my cheeks and presses against the opening to my ass. I moan low in my throat. My body understands what's happening even if my brain is slow to catch up.

In the next instant, he drives his cock all the way in. A cry is ripped out of me--spit is not enough lubricant. Sharp pain as his cock stretches my ass is followed by agonizing pleasure as it rubs my prostate. I drop my head against the wall. A deep groan emanates from my chest.

He releases my arm. How can I not offer myself for anything he wants? I reach back and grab his hip.

Walter begins to fuck me brutally--thrusting hard and fast. Every thrust is both painful and mind-numbingly pleasurable. My brain can't sort one sensation from the other and my body wants more of anything he'll give.

I feel his hand in my hair, pulling hard and yanking my head back so he can fasten his teeth on the back of my neck. He bites hard. The sensation travels straight to my dick--making it twitch and bringing me painfully close to orgasm.

I hear what sounds like sobs and realize the noises are coming from me. My body is shaking and struggling for air, but I push my ass toward him for more.

His teeth release my neck. The rhythm of his fucking changes and I realize he's about to come. He growls in my ear as his hips slam into mine and he shoots deep in my ass.

Groaning, he pulls out of me, breaking the contact of our bodies.

With the support of his body gone, I can't remain standing. I find myself sliding to my knees, my hand braced against the wall as I try to catch my breath. When we were together I'd fantasize about something like this, but my fantasies never included an enraged Skinner. My body is obscenely happy, but I feel like an emotional vacuum.

My breath is still coming in ragged gasps when he squats down behind me.

His hand wraps around my cock. He does not complete one full stroke before I start to come. A strangled whimper issues from my throat as I ejaculate on his entryway floor.

**

Alex's breath comes in short gasps for several seconds, then I hear a small whimper as he turns his body toward me. He looks at me for a moment, then places a light kiss on the side of my neck, leaning up toward my ear. His voice is a whisper, "Point taken." His mouth finds mine.

I should feel ashamed, using my anger like that. But I don't. I've done so many terrible things in the past few days and this is just not important.

My mouth assaults his. My need for him is so strong. I am most truly alive when touching this man.

Together we struggle to stand. And then we are standing, but just looking at each other, each trying to understand where we've been and where we are now.

Alex steps back, pulling off his jacket and dropping it on the floor. He finishes removing his clothes, never breaking eye contact except to tug his shirt over his head. Leaving his clothes in a heap by the door, he walks into the kitchen, returning with a glass and a towel. He wordlessly hands me the glass with two fingers of scotch, leans down to clean up the entryway floor and moves back to the kitchen. He sets his prosthetic on the dining room table on the way back to the living room.

He stands in front of me, silent for a long time. He opens his mouth to speak, hesitates, then finally murmurs, "So, how angry are you?"

I walk to the sofa and take a seat, my bare feet resting on a chair, and sip the drink. "I'm less angry now than I was when you arrived." I quirk an eyebrow in his direction. "The envelope on the table... it's the information you requested."

Alex waves it away. "I'll take it when I go. The request was so transparent it was embarrassing asking for it." He looks down and shakes his head. Approaching the couch, he sits on the floor next to me with his arm wrapped around his knees. He looks uncomfortable. "I... needed to put something between us to give myself some defense..." His voice trails off. "I may have gone too far."

It's almost an apology. I didn't expect that. I think about it for a long time, resting a hand absently on his good shoulder. I knew what he was five days ago. Why was I so upset today? He didn't do anything that surprised me. He was just being his normal, criminal self. Am I supposed to accept that somehow? I know it will never happen. I hope I'm not angry because our relationship led me to believe that he'd be a good boy for me. That won't happen either.

Something has been bothering me all day in the back of my mind. "Why is Rodriguez still alive?"

Alex looks resigned to my becoming angry. "Don't start thinking I've become noble, Walter." He rubs his eyes and sighs. "I didn't think you could... handle the guilt if I killed another one of your agents."

"You know, Alex, in a really twisted, fucked up sort of way, that's almost sweet." With a weak laugh, I put down my drink, having lost interest about half way through.

Alex looks flabbergasted and stands up, pacing near the other end of the couch. "Don't read anything into it, Walter."

It strikes me as funny. After all the things I've said to him, this bugs him. "I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean it. You're not sweet at all... you're evil." I chuckle, but try to suppress it. I don't want him to think I'm laughing at him, which, of course, is exactly what I'm doing.

He stops pacing and gives me a look of complete exasperation. "Fuck you, Walter."

I deserved that. "I'm tired and I've had the worst two days of my career. My life just seems like a giant joke right now." I run my fingers along my forehead trying to get my face to relax. "My life was pretty fucked up a week ago, but since you came back... well, it's like Hurricane Alex. And it's not just me, your life isn't a pretty sight either."

Surprisingly, he ignores my comment about the state of his life. "I cannot remove myself from your life--it's not my choice--but I'll... try to... ugh." He drops his head in his hand and mumbles to himself for a few moments. "I don't want to torture you, Walter. Tell me what will make it easier and, if I can, I'll do it."

"I just need a break from people dying, being tortured, hospitalized or threatened with death. Even a few days would help. I don't mean to be flip. I'm just... I'm overwhelmed."

Alex looks at me for a long while before nodding his head. He sits on the end of the couch, his face expressionless. "You should go to bed, Walter."

But I'm in a mood. There's a sick satisfaction at being able to examine my preposterous life from this half-numb perspective. It's safer at a distance. I'm not at all sure I want to go to bed, though, no doubt, I do need sleep.

"Alex... did I ever tell you... did I ever tell you how incredibly sexy your legs are? When you're naked they look about nine feet long. They're lean, but muscular. So masculine. You really should wear shorts. Well, not in March, I suppose..."

Alex looks astonished, perhaps even a little horrified. He eventually gets up and stands in front of me. Mimicking my tone, he asks, "Walter... did I ever tell you... did I ever tell you that I have no idea what you're going to say next?" He puts one knee on the sofa next to me, then straddles my hips. He leans forward until his face is two inches from mine, his cock touching my stomach. "Walter, I don't own shorts."

I'd like to pretend that there are two Alexes. The affectionate man on my lap couldn't possibly be the same person who blackmails me with Scully's life. And to complete the fantasy, there are two of me. That other guy sold his soul, not me. That Walter doing those awful things couldn't be me, could it?

I stroke his abdomen lightly with my fingertips. Not willing to share my pitiful evil twin self-delusion, I ask another question instead, "Did I hurt you when I fucked you earlier? I mean, did you want it like that? Had you fantasized about me doing that to you?"

Alex sits back, his butt pressing into my thighs. He looks vulnerable again. "Umm... I thought about it back when... we were together. But did you hurt me? I'm not injured, if that's what you mean. But it was a little painful... although, I'm not complaining." He smiles and leans forward to kiss the side of my neck. I feel his lips move against my skin when he says, "But I never wanted you to fuck me because you were angry, Walter."

He hasn't said anything that surprises me. I stroke his nipples with the pads of my thumbs and watch them become erect. It makes Alex hiss, but that only makes me smile. There's enough light in the room to get a good look at his eyes. They're clear green, like the ocean in the Caribbean.

"Alex, before...when we were together... did you trust me? Did you feel like I was someone you could count on? Turn to in a crisis?" For years I've wondered if my failure to be there for him at some crucial moment contributed to irrevocable acts that committed him to a criminal career.

"I wanted to..." He suddenly stops, as if surprised to hear himself speak. He looks pained, but continues, "I'll never trust anyone, but I found myself wanting to trust you, Walter. It.... surprised me and, well... it was part of why I had to leave... wanting to trust you was dangerous."

His words seem to absolve me. With all the problems ahead of us, perhaps it's foolish to concern myself with his past.

I reply, "It's all dangerous. We're both walking on a wire over the Grand Canyon. You've been doing this longer than I have. I was counting on you to teach me how to do it. Is it possible to live on the edge of disaster every day without going mad?"

Alex gives me a glance that suggests I'm well past insane already.

"I'm sorry. I don't get moody like this very often. I'm just not used to living with so much conflict." I shake my head at myself and stroke the tops of his thighs. "The sex is so damned good, Alex." The way I say it, it sounds like a complaint. Maybe it is.

He looks faintly amused but his tone is serious when he asks, "I don't care if you're moody, Walt, but are you saying this would be easier for you if I were a terrible lay?"

"Definitely. If you really want to make it easier for me, you should have short legs, coarse hair, a monotone voice and no desire whatsoever to do what I tell you in bed." I can't help but smile at my own joke. "But you can keep the silly nose." I kiss it to apologize for any offense.

Alex's eyebrows aim for his hairline and he shakes his head. "Well, on one point we agree. This situation would be a lot easier if you were a shitty lover. Quid pro quo, Walt. Why did you assume I'd do what you told me in bed?"

"I didn't assume anything. I just told you what I wanted and discovered that you'd do it. And discovered that it made me very hard. It made you hard, too." We're both hard now, but, I think, too tired to care. "You may be my keeper in the real world, but you walk through that door and you're mine--you'll put up with almost anything I throw at you. And like it. I like it, too. For a little while we're just two ordinary men having extraordinary sex. It's so simple."

There's a half smile on his face as he listens to me, then he leans over and playfully bites my neck, sucking the stinging skin into his mouth. Releasing it, his lips move toward mine and hover a fraction of an inch away. "It's not as simple as you think."

I slip my fingers into his almost black hair and massage his scalp. "Do tell, Alex. Why isn't it simple?"

His eyes become heavy-lidded with pleasure. "God, Walt, I can't think when you do that." He takes a deep breath. "You make it sound so... natural. But up until that day I would have said there was no fucking way."

"The day in my garage?" I keep rubbing his head. I like the silky feel of his hair, plus it's a benefit if he can't think while I'm doing it.

He closes his eyes. "Mm hmm."

I should have seen that coming. "Good thing Sharon gave me that bottle of hand lotion, or we'd've had to use WD-40 for lube." If I keep playing with his hair, he's going to turn into a mindless zombie prepared to cater to my every whim. What a lovely thought. "Of course, I'll bet your butt smelled like peaches for the rest of the day."

He moans faintly. I'm not certain he's going to reply but, keeping his eyes closed, he quietly says, "Well, that's one advantage to you becoming less fussy about using lube... That hand lotion fucking itched."

Alex is rapidly passing into a liquid state. I pull him closer to my chest. "Are you going to stay the night, lover?"

He opens his eyes. "Yeah." Then his lips close over mine.

I finally stop messing with his scalp, so he'll be able to think clearly enough to kiss me properly. I slide my tongue into his mouth as his enters mine. For a moment, the soft, wet feel of Alex's mouth is the only thing that's real.

"Bed, then?"

"Mmm." He kisses me again, then rolls off, standing next to me.

I rise and embrace him, our cocks getting in the way as we draw together. After kissing his temple, I release him.

**

Walter steps back from me. I can still feel where his lips touched my forehead. It unnerves me. It's the tender, affectionate things that make walking out of this apartment so much harder. The same things that made it hard to walk away years ago. I sigh, reaching out for him, pulling him to me and pressing my lips to his shoulder, so he can't see how much I need him.

He's in such a weird mood tonight--I've never seen him like this before. It's kind of fun... in a painful sort of way. How strange. It doesn't even occur to me to lie to him and yet all this honesty feels so alien.

Walter pulls back, giving me a quizzical look. Even I think my clinging is peculiar. I shake my head, not wanting to explain. In order to come back here, to do this job, I had to persuade myself that I wouldn't get sucked in by this. How am I going to control this situation now? Something to worry about tomorrow. I want illusions tonight.

Upstairs, he offers me a fresh toothbrush. How... intimate. Jesus. He steps behind me and pulls me to him. His cock presses against my ass. "I'm taking a quick shower." He leaves a kiss on the side of my neck before he turns to the shower. This feels achingly familiar.

Falling into our old patterns... those rare nights we had together... I don't want to think about the things I gave up. But that's the illusion--I never had those things. It was all based on me pretending to be someone else.

But now, there's no pretense, and I feel so exposed. This is the real me he's going to bed with. I don't think I can even try to figure out what all this means.

I lean over the sink and brush my teeth, watching Walter in the mirror. Damn, he's sexy. I finish my teeth as he steps out of the shower, not turning the water off. "Alex?" I nod my head. Just like before.

I move to the shower and he moves to the sink. He grabs me for a quick kiss as we pass each other. I step into the stall--ugh, the water's too cold. I crank the hot up and bathe quickly. When I step out, Walter is leaning against the doorframe with a towel wrapped around his waist.

He greets me with another towel and dries me off. He has no idea how much of a luxury that is, because it's nearly impossible to dry yourself properly with one arm.

I feel almost shy getting ready for bed with him. He pulls back the covers and I slip in underneath. When he gets in on the other side, he seems miles away in the king size bed. But he quickly shifts to the middle and opens his arms for me. It's disturbing that he consciously accepts this situation--accepts me. The other day felt like a reaction--responding to our past--but this is different. The cautious part of my brain screams for me to stay on my side of the bed and avoid this kind of intimacy, but I find myself moving over and settling against his chest. I run my hand down his flank. It's so rare for me to just relax and accept a situation. I quiet all the danger warnings and caution flags--at least for tonight.

He kisses the top of my head. "Alex, I'm going to find a way to beat the damned nanocytes."

Shit. I actually want Walter to be free of these damned things. Years ago, I accepted that we'll always be on the opposite side of any moral argument, largely because I don't understand the argument to begin with. So, I know his freedom from the nanos ends us. But I still want him to find a way out.

"And when we're free you won't be my keeper... just my lover." The last words are faintly whispered as if he hadn't meant to say them at all.

What?

What he's saying is impossible. I can't fathom why he'd be with me if the nanos weren't hanging over our heads. My chest feels constricted.

I look up at him. "Walt, I am impossibly flawed and I can never change that. One of the few things in my life I regret is not being what you thought I was." I press my lips to his chest. "I hope you find a way out of this."

"I'm not what I thought I was either, Alex."

Walter losing faith in himself is not something I ever desired. I move my hand behind his neck, tilt my head up and kiss him.


Wednesday, 17 March 1999
5:47 A.M.

Complete consciousness seems elusive for the longest time. I struggle to force myself awake. Fuck, I don't even remember falling asleep. I finally manage to pry open my eyes. I seem to have scooted down on the bed, as my feet are definitely hanging off. I'm looking straight at Walter's chest, which is about ten inches away, as he lies half on his side.

My hand is resting on his inner thigh. Hmm. I look up. Walter is watching me, his head propped on his hand. "I don't think I've ever seen you sleep that soundly." His voice doesn't have that sleep edge. I wonder how long he's been awake. It occurs to me to ask, but I move my hand up to his crotch instead. Morning erections... how convenient.

I place a kiss on his chest while I start to stroke his cock. Trailing kisses down to his abdomen, I push the blankets off us. I move my hand around to his ass and run my tongue over the head of his cock. He gasps suddenly. I play with the tip of his cock for several moments. This isn't my usual style, but why not? I eventually tire of teasing and take him down my throat.

"So good, Alex, but there's something I want to do first."

I look up from his dick with a question on my face.

He slides out from under my mouth, pulls me into his arms and rolls me onto my back. He plants himself between my legs and leans over, kissing my stomach and running a hand down my thigh. The wandering hand gives my balls a gentle squeeze. His lips move south and he nips at my hipbone.

"Alex, how's your ass? You think you can handle a couple of fingers?"

"Yes." My ass is sore, but I know I'm not going to deny him anything he asks.

Walter moves to the far side of the bed, returning with a bottle of lube. He anoints his fingers. Kissing my stomach again, he starts at my navel and moves down. Walter is so difficult for me to predict... I can't help but wonder what he's got planned. His lips circle my cock and he takes a lick at the head. Unexpected sensation explodes in my body and I gasp for air. Walter likes to taste. He takes the head of my cock into his mouth. The sensation coursing through my dick makes me feel light headed. A groan is torn out of my throat.

He lifts my legs at the knees and pushes them toward my chest. What in the world is he up to? A lubed finger slips down my crack and teases my anus. Mercilessly. His mouth leaves my cock to lick my balls. One at a time, he pulls them into his mouth, before returning to my cock and sucking in the head. The teasing is almost cruel.

"Walt, what are you..."

He releases my cock from his mouth and, with a smug grin, offers, "I'm making you feel good, Alex. Am I doing something wrong?" It must be a rhetorical question, because he sucks in my dick again, this time swallowing me all the way, as that teasing finger enters my rectum. It's a bit sore, but he's been generous with the lube. I'm more than a little surprised that he's sucking me. My breathing becomes ragged as the dual sensation shuts out anything but what he's doing to me.

He's never blown me before, but I can tell from his eyes that he's enjoying himself immensely. He draws his mouth on and off my cock like a pro. That finger in my ass is taken away for just a moment, I groan at the loss, but then feel what must be two fingers.

"Oh hell." My hips push toward his fingers.

Walter growls at me from deep in his chest. His fingers are wonderfully dexterous. They aren't small either. Two of them feel really good. I'm just thinking about wanting three when he scissors them and drags them across my prostate.

"Fuck... Walter..." I bang my head back into the mattress.

Meanwhile his mouth and tongue are giving my cock a good workout. He applies pressure to the underside when he goes down and releases when he comes up. It feels incredible but it's the opposite of the motion that gets me off so it will take longer. I'm sure Walter would do that on purpose if he knew it would drive me crazy, but I don't see how he could possibly know. I grind my teeth. I can't keep up with the riotous sensations pounding in my cock and ass.

I've had other blowjobs--by some of the most talented mouths around--but this is Walter. I never expected it... but it's incredible--something he seems to want to do for me. I feel my hips jerking uncontrollably, not knowing which pleasure to seek.

Walter releases my cock, sucking on just the head again. The sensations are more than I can handle. He nibbles around the rim... and not completely gently either. I bite my lip until I taste blood. Those relentless fingers are pushing harder and faster inside me. My prostate has never received so much attention. I feel like I'm a hair's breadth from coming. I know if he goes back down on me, it'll be all over. My back arches off the bed and I try to reach for him.

"Walter, I can't... uh... fuck." I'm reduced to incomprehensible muttering.

With another deep growl, he swallows my cock again. His head bobs as he goes back and forth on my erection, his lips squeezing my cock and his tongue putting an amazing amount of pressure on the underside. He keeps the pressure constant this time. His fingers are gliding in and out of my ass, going deeper inside me than seems possible. I feel the orgasm take over.

"Walt!" I try to warn him but it's too late. My hips jerk up, and I shoot deep in his throat.

Much to my surprise, this doesn't stop him. He's still fucking me and sucking my cock even harder than before. It takes a moment for my lust-addled brain to realize that he's not going to stop. Sharp sensations spread out from my over-sensitized cock. I moan and try to pull away, but there's nowhere to go.

"Walt... please stop." Instantly his fingers freeze in my ass and his mouth releases my hypersensitive cock.

He smiles up at me with a huge grin on his face. "So beautiful," he says so softly I almost don't hear it.

I groan and shift onto my side to hide my face in the pillow.

After his fingers disengage from my rectum, Walter curls up beside me, pulls my face out of the pillow and kisses me deeply.

I taste myself on his tongue, and wrap my arm around his shoulders.

"That was something I needed to do," he says quietly.

I wonder why, but don't have the nerve to ask. I place a light kiss on the side of his mouth. "I don't really understand you, Walter, but thank you. It was fantastic."

It takes me a moment to realize that Walter's hand is stroking his own cock.

I reach for him, grabbing his wrist. "Don't..." I falter, not knowing how to object. "Walt, please don't... I want you to fuck me."

"I don't want to hurt you after last night... besides you've already come."

I'm confused, but don't know how to express what I'm thinking. I pull at his hand, bringing it to my mouth and kissing his fingers. "Walter, please..." I feel exposed and desperately don't want to reveal anything else, but find myself telling him anyway. "I get more from you fucking me than just an orgasm."

Walter looks deeply into my eyes and kisses me. Then he reaches for the lube and rolls onto his back. He guides me on top of him, so my knees are on either side of his hips, and gives me a sensual grin. "Fuck yourself for me, Alex."

That's not what I was expecting but... fuck, whatever he wants. I scoot backwards till I'm resting on his thighs and hold my hand out. He places a good amount on my fingers and I begin massaging his cock. I'm not applying enough pressure to bring him off but I know too much of this will drive him crazy. I move up his body, kissing his abdomen and then his chest. His arms wrap around me, holding me for a moment before releasing me.

I position my ass above him, reaching back to adjust his dick, then slide the tip of it into me. My ass is tender but I want his cock. I press down and he slowly fills my ass. With each inch of descent, Walter's eyelids lower further until his eyes are barely open. When my balls touch him, he moans. His hands grip around my waist.

I hold still for a minute, just getting used to the feel of him. I think I'm liking this position. He's inside me, but I'm bringing him off. And, though I've already come, just watching the changing expressions on his face is exciting.

His eyes open a little and he smiles up at me. "So damned sexy, Alex. I wish we had a mirror, so you could see how you look."

His desire is such a turn-on. I wouldn't have thought it possible to feel pleasure again so soon, but his dick is pressing against my prostate and I feel my cock twitch. His hands still on my waist, I can't stop myself from moaning as I pull up, tightening my rectum around him and then relaxing.

"Oh, Christ, Alex..."

When only the head of his cock is in me, I tighten and relax my ass several times. Bracing my hand on his chest, I push my ass down hard.

"I'm not..." He's losing it fast. His hips start thrusting upward and I'm struggling with my balance.

His hands clamp firmly around me as he begins to thrust harder. My knees dig into the mattress trying to find more stability. It's so rare for me to just watch him come to orgasm. He looks so hot it's hard to concentrate on what my body should be doing. I push my hips down to meet his and clench my ass tightly around him.

Walter reaches for my face. I bend my neck down and his fingers invade my hair. With each thrust he haphazardly massages my head. There's no easier way to distract me than for him to put his hands on my head. My eyes slide shut and I groan with appreciation. His breath is coming unevenly. I open my eyes and focus on watching him come while I continue to work my ass around his dick.

His face contorts into a wince and, with a growl, his orgasm begins. I press my hips down and he holds them still while he thrusts into me. I feel his cock jerking as he comes. My ass is so tender I can feel every twitch of him inside me.

The growl tapers off into a weak moan and his body goes slack underneath me. He looks too drained to move, but pulls me toward his chest. Allowing his cock to slide out of me, I lower myself into his arms.

He kisses the side of my neck and murmurs, "Thank you, Alex."

I never quite know how to respond to his appreciation, but it feels good. Not knowing what to say, I stroke the side of his face and pull back to kiss him lightly.

Walter asks, "Have you ever done that before?"

"Mm... No."

His arms close tightly around me, making escape impossible. The defensive side of me wants to run, so I'm grateful he's prevented it. "No matter what I ask of you, you give it to me. It leaves me wondering if you get what you want."

It's not really a question, but he's obviously expecting a response. "Do I seem like I'm not pleased, Walt? I like knowing that I turn you on, and I want to make you feel good."

"No one turns me on like you do. And I do like getting my way all the time." He idly strokes his fingertips down my spine.

I can't stop the small laugh that escapes. The one thing I'm clear on with Skinner is that he likes to get his way. I feel stupidly pleased that no one else turns him on as much as I do. At least I'm not the only one who gets something unusual from this relationship.

The motion of his fingers could hypnotize me, but I want to say something to him. I catch his eye, staring at him for several moments. "Walter, I don't think you're a svoloch and I didn't mean to hit you." I lightly stroke the fading bruise on his jaw.

"I am a bit of a svoloch, but the punch didn't matter." He cards his fingers through my hair.

I moan with pleasure. "God, I love it when you do that... but I can't... think."

"Do you want me to stop?"

"Uh-uh."

He chuckles and gives me a thorough, two-handed head massage. His fingers are moving rapidly, covering every inch of my scalp. Strange contented sounds are coming from my throat. To my embarrassment, it sounds a lot like purring.

"You sound like a cat, Alex."

"It's embarrassing, but it's hard to care as long as you keep doing that."

"No one would ever believe that the fearsome Alex Krycek is lying on my chest, a lump of feline contentment."

"I think I can still muster enough energy to tell you to fuck off, Walt." My tone is absurdly level and satisfied.

My body is practically bouncing off his chest as he laughs. Those magnificent hands leave my head and he rolls us over so he is lying on top of me. Bracing himself on one arm, he kisses me passionately.

With his hands out of my hair, I can think again and give myself over to his kiss. I groan into his mouth and arch my body into his. Wrapping my arm around his waist, I pull him to me so my body takes his full weight.

"You feel so good, Alex." He runs a finger along my jaw line. "I'm afraid to look at the clock. Do you have any idea what time it is?"

I close my eyes and sigh. "I don't want to know, Walt. I've been avoiding reality since last night." And the rest of my week is going to be shit.

"I don't suppose it would help if we put our heads under the pillows." He groans and removes his body from mine. Brown eyes flick to the bedside table. "6:13," he says mournfully. He sits up next to me, leaning against the headboard. "I'm meeting with Scully tonight."

Why is he telling me this? I sit up next to him with one knee pulled to my chest. "Why?"

"To tell her everything I know about the nanocytes and about your blood."

"Mmm." I close my eyes and rub my forehead. The subject that's always between us... "I hope it goes... well." My voice sounds choked to my own ears.

He lays a hand on my thigh. "When we find a researcher, I'm sure there will be more questions about what happened to you."

"Walter... I don't think... I can." Can what? I don't even know what to say anymore. "I know it's weak but-"

"Christ, Alex. Don't come to stupid conclusions about what is weak. Anyone who gets up and keeps living after what you've been through is damned strong. And don't get phobic about pity. I don't pity you, Alex, any more than you pity me."

What can I say? I know I'll do whatever he asks when the time comes, but I don't want to keep reliving those days. I shake my head. This is so impossible, and I feel like I'm drowning. "You know how to reach me. Whenever this comes up, I'll come to you and answer your questions."

His arm comes around my shoulders, squeezing reassuringly. "I know it's not easy for you, but I also know you'll do what it takes. So will I."

I nod, accepting, but not quite believing, what he's saying. "I prefer to plan things so I know what's coming next." I turn my head to look at him. "Going to pieces in front of you was certainly not part of my plan. I don't know how to handle it." I hate revealing a weakness. "The prisoner thing can't ever happen again. I don't know how you'll work around it or explain it, but that's the only way I can live with this." I'm not trying to give him an ultimatum, but I truly cannot go through that again.

"I know, Alex. I knew it when I saw you yesterday. I'd never ask you to go there again. I wish... I wish you could count on the same from your employers." He turns away from me, looking at nothing for a while, then slowly turns back. "I'm afraid that I'll make a mistake that will result in your being punished with more tests. I don't want that to happen to you. I wish I could prevent it."

My throat feels constricted and my eyes burn--not at all sure what that means. I place my hand over my eyes and rub for a second trying to push it back. "Just do what you have to do, Walter." I feel compelled to tell him about the next hurdle, but I don't know how.

"It's difficult to face it all, when the stakes are so high and I feel so powerless, but I've decided to fight. I guess maybe my only real asset is my own stubbornness." He offers me a grim smile.

I've put my life in his hands, so I suppose it's a relief that he's decided to fight. "There's one more thing..." He's always been difficult to read but I don't think he'll like this. "Some of the 'treatments' will alter my nanos. You'll need to have new samples at those times for whatever research you initiate. I understand why you don't trust me, but will you in this? Will you trust me to bring you samples when it's necessary?"

I don't like the look on his face. Uncomfortable. "Trust, Alex? That's not what we do best, is it?" He leans his head on my shoulder. "I'll try. I want to trust you, but... I'll think about it. Is that good enough for now?"

I can't be mad at him for not trusting me because, why should he? "No, it's not good enough." This is going to be hard. "You'll need new blood samples the end of next week, after I return. I can either bring you samples or you need to figure out a way to have the blood drawn. It doesn't really matter which, I guess. The upside is I'll be out of your hair for a week." I try to sound flip but fail miserably. I know what's coming, and I'm not looking forward to another week as a lab rat.

"Oh, Christ, Alex." He turns and sits Indian style facing me. His face is pained by his compassion. "Isn't there anything we can do to keep them from doing it to you again?"

I lean my head back against the headboard. "No." This is difficult, but it's good that we both come back to reality. I give him a half smile. "If it helps, think of it as me serving penance. I tried that for a while... but it didn't work too well since I could not figure out what I need penance for. You always had that whole moral thing so it might work better for you." His jaw clenches. I'm not trying to piss him off, just protect myself. I lean forward and place my hand on his chest. "Don't think about it."

His eyes close and I can see him struggle with this for a long time. Finally he lays a hand over mine, still on his chest. "I'll trust you with the blood samples, but in return I want you to count on me. I'll be here when you get back." He swallows hard and the muscles in his face tighten as he fights to control them.

Count on Walter? Relying on him is as difficult for me as trusting me is for him. Reassurances feel like lying, but I don't know what else to do.

"Okay, Walter."

I know I'll have to push thoughts of this away to make it through the next week, but it seems easier to face knowing I could be here when it's over. I move my hand to the back of his neck and lean forward, kissing him hard. He kisses me like it will be our last kiss. It feels like I can taste his pain and it only makes me hurt more. When did I start to care so much?

When I pull back, words tumble out unbidden. "I'm tired, Walter. I feel like I've been tired for years. Can you stay a little longer?"

His face is blank, but he nods. He lies down next to me. I slide in beside him and rest my head on his chest. It's not my intention to fall asleep like this, but emotional exhaustion pulls me under.

**

My arm wraps around his waist as if holding him tightly enough will keep him safe. But there is nothing I can do to protect him. I would steal confidential files, cover up more of his murders or volunteer for those tests myself but, instead, I am helpless. All I can offer is to be here when he returns and a faint hope of future freedom, which rests on the shoulders of some scientist I may never meet.

At first, it was just about what I'd do for my life and what I wouldn't. It was simple. Not pleasant, but simple. I knew I could make the choices and, if necessary, the sacrifice.

Now, I've corrupted myself beyond repair and I still have to juggle the pieces to try to keep all four of us alive. I'd sell my soul for any of their lives, but perhaps not my own.

And my only comfort is an amoral assassin, possibly the cause of all of this, who spreads his legs so sweetly. And sleeps on my chest with the face of an innocent child.

My arms try to find a way to hold tighter.

As I watch the clock with dread, I consider the meeting I'm missing, but it seems so unimportant. I want to give Alex what I can while I can.

After about an hour, he stirs and I watch his eyes blink. His first glance at me is delightfully groggy... those green eyes only half-focused as his brain tries to function.

I can see him piecing the morning's events together, ending with a scowl. He drops his head down and gives a heartfelt sigh. "I've got to work on this sudden problem I've developed with babbling." Even as his mind is apparently occupied with self-recrimination, he reaches up and runs his thumb along my lower lip.

Somehow I manage a smile.

A brief image flickers through my mind... of a life where Alex and I could just be simple lovers, waking up to spend the day together. We've never done anything together. Dinner and a movie would be a miracle. I shove that thought away. It can only hurt me.

My mood ruined, I struggle to sound upbeat. "Morning, sleepy."

He looks intently at me before replying. "Mornin'. How long have I been asleep?" His voice is sleep-heavy but he looks like he's trying to figure something out. "You sound... Did you sleep?"

"A little over an hour. No, I didn't sleep." I kiss his face. "Breakfast?"

"Hmm... later." He's pre-occupied by something, but then shakes his head as if trying to clear it. He focuses on me quietly for several seconds. "The last thing I want to do right now is get out of this bed. Your body is such a distraction..." His hand slides down my chest, followed by his glance. Pushing himself up he presses his lips to mine.

I could go there so easily. Did I really miss this morning's meetings to stay home and fuck? In spite of momentary good intentions, my hands slide down his back, gripping his ass. "I just keep wanting you. It's never enough, is it?"

His body moves against mine, and he makes a small muffled sound of pleasure. "Not thus far but... Well, I haven't predicted anything accurately of late, so I'm not even going to try." He runs his tongue across my nipple, sucking it hard into his mouth while his hand drifts up my inner thigh.

My body, tuned perfectly to his frequency, responds instantly. For the third time in less than 12 hours. Surely this is impossible? I hold back my instinct to take charge and just let him do what he wants. Nothing is more beautiful to watch than a naked, turned-on Alex.

His hand reaches my crotch, caressing and lightly squeezing my balls before wrapping around my dick. He strokes me, gradually increasing the pressure and speed. His mouth and tongue lavish attention on my chest before moving up my neck. I feel his tongue trace my ear before he sucks my earlobe into his mouth.

I utter a pitiful moan. My bones are dissolving into the bed. I want him so badly. Even if I believed that he was just using sex to control me, I'd still need it. He's the carrot and the stick and I am so controlled by him. I only hope he can't see it.

Alex's hand slows, then moves up my body, caressing my chest. His lips fasten on mine as his tongue aggressively explores my mouth. He breaks the kiss, breathing hard, his eyes glazed with lust. I feel his mouth at my ear again, and his gravelly voice whispers, "What can I do for you, Walt? Tell me what you want."

I run my hands up and down his back, then just hold him tightly. He sighs and his body relaxes into my grasp. I can sense how much he enjoys being held. He wants to be safe in my arms, but I can't really keep him safe. But maybe there's comfort for both of us in the illusion.

"I want to fuck. You pick the position, Alex."

He meets my gaze and doesn't even pause to consider it. Rolling onto his back, he bends his knees and opens his legs.

I half-groan, half-whimper at the sight. He's giving himself to me in the way that's hardest for him. "Oh, Christ, Alex."

Beautiful illusions. Alex belongs to me. In my fantasy, he only ever allows himself to get fucked by me. I'm sure it's not real, but reality is such crap, I think I'm entitled to a few benign illusions.

Determined to stay in the moment, I lean over him and just look, letting my eyes appreciate him. His expression is tight, eyes open, but I can tell he's struggling to keep them from closing. His face couldn't say any more clearly, 'Anything you want.'

He's so damned hot. I can't tell him--or myself--what I feel, but I know it's on my face. Surely he must see and understand. I bite my lip. It feels like I could climax from just watching him.

Alex flattens his legs as I shift my entire body over his. I trace my erection across his belly, teasing him with it. He groans when the tip of my cock rubs across the tip of his. We're both painfully hard. I scoot lower and kneel between his legs.

He pulls himself upright and wraps his arm around me, his feet braced on the bed by my legs. He kisses me hard and fast, then moves his mouth to my neck, sucking intensely enough to leave marks. "No teasing, Walt. Just fuck me."

I can't help but smile. "Would I tease you, Alex?" Of course I would, but not today.

He nods vigorously against my neck. "You've mastered the art. But, please, not now. I need your cock in my ass." Alex isn't usually this talkative during sex. I insert a hand between our chests and push him back on the bed.

Leaning awkwardly over Alex's body, I manage to reach the lube, then sit between his legs, lifting them up and pushing them toward his chest. He pulls them eagerly toward his body. I stroke his cock and balls, gently, for a moment. Then I lube my fingers and push two of them into him at once.

His eyes shut as he gasps, then moans. His back arches up and he pushes his ass toward me. "Three, Walter." He pauses, breathing hard. "Please."

From the look on his face, you'd think three fingers was his life's ultimate desire. I smile at my horny Alex and remove my fingers, returning quickly with three.

A strangled groan comes from him as his hips jerk uncontrollably on my thrusting fingers. Pre-cum is leaking from his cock. His breathing is erratic and labored as he struggles to still his body. "Stop. I don't want to come yet."

He's the one who asked for those fingers. They aren't small. Four would be painful and five only a fantasy.

But my own cock is impatient, too. I withdraw my hand and lube myself hastily. I lift his legs onto my shoulders and adjust my position so I can get the tip of my cock at his entrance. I pause there just to tease us both, but only for a moment.

Alex hisses between his teeth, trying to push his hips against me. He doesn't have much room to move so he waits, panting.

Then I push, feeling the tightness of his ass squeezing around my cock. It's so good to be inside him.

His head rolls back, pressing into the bed and exposing his neck as he tightens his rectum around me.

"Behave yourself," I scold, gritting my teeth. With Alex, coming too soon is always a possibility. It would be disappointing, but easy, to come before I've had a chance to fuck him at all. From the serious look on Alex's face, I gather he's having a little trouble himself.

I concentrate on not coming, tightening my own ass as my personal reminder. Breathe.

Bracing myself, I begin cautiously by pulling out a little and pushing back in. His ass is truly the nicest, hottest place to stick my dick.

I can see the tension in his body as he tries to hold himself still. He slowly relaxes his ass, making it a little easier to fuck him. I pull almost all the way out and shove back in. His jaw clenches as he fights for control, his whole body trembling, even his ass. He's breathing hard and looks dazed. His hand prowls along my body restlessly.

"Oh, fuck," I mutter as I brace myself on one arm. I begin to fuck him really hard and reach for his cock, just to hold it. I know he doesn't need anything else. He cries out and I know he's an instant away from coming. I stop trying to control it and just pound into him, too far gone to do anything else. The slightest contraction in his ass and I will come deep inside him.

An inarticulate sound comes from his throat as his body tightens and he begins to come. He bucks toward me, ass clenching around my cock as his body is racked by his orgasm.

My brain and body seem to disintegrate at the same time and I collapse onto him, moaning. At that moment, nothing exists beyond the clutch of our sweaty, sticky bodies. Somehow my mouth finds his and I kiss him deliriously, both of us requiring frequent breaks to breathe. He tastes and smells of sex and it's so damned good.

My cock slips out of his ass and he gives a plaintive moan at the loss, but his tongue seeks entrance to my mouth again. I break the kiss, and his lips press against the front of my throat. I shift to roll off him but he holds me still, content with the weight of my body on his. His breathing is labored. I brace myself on my arm and push up.

"You need to breathe."

"Who cares." He pulls me back down for another kiss. We kiss fervently for several moments, but I break out of his hold and roll over, pulling him on top of me. He's not the only one who enjoys feeling the weight of a lover's body. His knees settle on either side of my hips and his forehead rests against my shoulder. I'm certain that he belongs right there.

I feel the semen on the back of his upper thighs and his come is sticky on our torsos. So wonderfully raunchy. I pull him to me for another kiss.

He rolls to the side, one leg still covering my body and rests his head next to mine. His hand idly explores my chest. I feel him sigh inaudibly. He looks at me intently for several minutes and starts to say something but stops himself.

Reality is coming back. Both of us have ultimately failed in our efforts to keep it at bay.

After a few more moments, he speaks softly. "I'm going to shower. I can't think of anything better than showering with you, but I don't think you'll ever get to work." His look is regretful. He leaves a kiss on my shoulder and sits up.

My arms feel his absence.

Now that there's nothing in the bed worth sticking around for, I pull on my sweats. In the bathroom, I try to ignore his sexy body in the shower. I wipe up the semen and brush my teeth. Then, with my own regret, I head downstairs.

In the kitchen, I quickly locate two items, which I slip into one of the outside pockets of Alex's leather jacket.

I whip up a protein shake and drink it standing at the balcony door, gazing out into the world. I don't want to think about where Alex is headed, but I can no longer get it out of my mind. It's so terrible as to seem unreal. I wish it were.

A sound behind me alerts me to his presence. He's naked, his hair wet from the shower. He gazes at me for a moment, then moves over to his clothes, still in a pile by the door. He stares at the wall for several seconds before picking up his shirt. There's a half smile on his face when he turns around, and he looks lost in thought.

He crosses to me, dropping his clothes in the chair. Grabbing his jeans, he starts to pull them on, but pauses and looks up at me. He seems hesitant when he finally speaks. "We still need to discuss a couple of things. Do you want to shower first?" He finishes yanking up his jeans, then deftly buttons them. Wonder how long it took him to learn that? He looks at me expectantly.

I need a shower, but I don't want to leave him alone. "I'll shower later. Want some help finding something to eat?"

Alex runs his hand through his hair, looking thoughtful. "Uh, yeah. I guess I should eat." He leaves the rest of his clothes on the chair and moves to the kitchen, grabbing his prosthetic arm off the dining room table on the way, and quickly attaching it. Looking around with a bemused expression on his face, he mutters, "I hate kitchens."

"I could scramble some eggs or make you a protein drink?"

He looks repulsed. "That thick slimy thing you're ingesting? No thank you." He trails off mumbling something like, "...don't know how you eat..." After a few seconds, he says, "The gooey stuff with the bread is fine."

"What?"

"What's it called? Uh... Oh, yogurt."

I roll my eyes at him and open the fridge. "Strawberry or peach?"

"Umm... Strawberry."

I deliver the carton of yogurt to him and pull out a chair, encouraging him to sit with a hand on his shoulder. "Do you want your bread toasted?"

"Toasted? Uh, I don't care. However it comes."

On any other day it would be funny, but I can't bring myself to laugh this morning. I toast the bread anyway, because I'm fairly certain he'll like it better. When it's buttered, I set the plate in front of him, and join him at the table with the last of my drink.

Alex picks at the food for a few seconds, managing a couple of bites. He looks confused and a little lost. He glances away and sighs before resting his arm on the table and leaning forward. "I need to explain to you how the nanos are controlled." He pauses as if deciding what to say. "Each device has resident software that controls the nanos. There's a module that triggers the vascular crisis. Another module to trigger the cell rejuvenation. The software is set to a specific frequency for the nano host and, well... you know."

He stops and stares at me as if trying to assess if I understand what he's saying. I have no idea where he's going with this, but I'm listening carefully to every word. The information may save my life.

"I want you to understand several things. First, the devices controlling your nanos only have the module for the vascular crisis. Second, that the nanos are controlled by RF transmissions."

He's already told me I can't be healed by the nanocytes like he is. RF transmissions. Radio frequency...

Alex's voice is very detached and clinical. "Ah, anyway. The devices emit a signal that can be tracked. Uh, only when they're turned on, of course. The signal is RF so, theoretically, if you were in an area that jams RF, it couldn't be detected. Of course, it follows that if the signals are being jammed, the nano control program doesn't work either." He gazes at me intently. "Do you follow what I'm saying?"

"You're saying that if I go where RF is being jammed, they cannot trigger the vascular crisis?" I'm putting this together as rapidly as I can. "If they do it to me again and I go to an RF protected environment will the episode end?"

"Ah, not quite. You are correct that if you are in an RF blackout area the vascular symptoms cannot be initiated. However, an RF protected environment cannot end an episode once begun, but it will prevent escalation. Each phase is controlled through the device. Cutting off communication does not stop the crisis because the software has to shut off the nanos."

"Where are you going with this, Alex? Are you giving me information for the research, or something else?"

His shoulders slump and he looks like he's fighting for control. He seems oddly defeated. His voice is a shaky whisper as he replies, "In part, to protect you, Walter." I can see that it hurts him even to say it. When he continues, his clinical tone has returned. "If an episode should be initiated, you can avoid escalation by getting to an area where the signals can't reach. Any cell phone blackout area would work."

What Alex is saying to me has changed the equation between us. I don't fully comprehend how, but I can see it in his face.

"And, yes, to help your research. If you can figure out a way to control the nanos yourself, or disable their ability to communicate, it nets out the same as a cure. They don't have to be gone for you to be free of them. Technology might yield faster results."

He pushes back from the table and paces, very agitated, for several moments. Then he abruptly turns toward the living room and grabs his jacket. Returning to the table, sighing as he sits down, he opens a zippered pocket on the inside of the jacket. He pulls something out that I can't see well. His face is pained as he slides it over to me. It's a black leather zippered case. I look at him questioningly.

Alex closes his eyes and shakes his head. "That one is yours. Don't leave it in your apartment--it needs to be secured." He stops, looking almost ill. "It should help your scientist provided he's working in an RF protected lab. But if you turn it on otherwise..." His voice trails away and he puts his head in his hand.

"Is that a device encoded for my nanocytes?"

He doesn't look up. "Yes."

The next question I think I already know the answer to, but I need to be certain I've got it right. "What happens if I turn it on outside an RF screened lab?"

Refusing to look at me, he very evenly replies, "I have to explain the loss of that device--those masterful lying skills, if you recall. Loss isn't acceptable. I have to convince them it was destroyed. If you turn it on, they'll track it. They will know you got it from me."

And now I really see. He's risking everything. And if my sense of Alex is correct, that runs against everything he believes about himself.

"Look at me, Alex." I pause until his eyes meet mine. "You haven't told the lie yet? What if they don't believe you? There's no question that this device will aid our research, but I don't want you to die because you gave it to me."

He takes a deep breath, but maintains eye contact. "I've laid the groundwork for the lie, Walter. I need to explain the rest in person. This cannot be undone. I'm relatively confident they'll believe me. Lord knows, the last thing they'll think is that I gave it to you. They believe a lot of things about me but they don't think I'm suicidal."

I suppose I have to accept that we're risking our lives here to get free, but I just can't bear the thought of Alex being killed because of me.

"And what if they find out about our affair? That will change everything. I don't want you to die for me, Alex."

He looks disturbed. "I don't know, Walter. There are too many variables to worry about every one. What if they tell me to activate your nanos and kill you?" When he continues, it seems like every word is pulled out of him. "I wouldn't do it. They'd probably kill me for that. The list of things they could kill me for is very long, not the least of which is their whim." He seems calmer as he proceeds, "Just let it go, Walter. Figure out a way to get free of this."

He's right, of course. It bothers me that he won't say 'to get us free of this.' He's not counting on me. I don't suppose I can blame him for that. We're on the high wire and anything could happen. And the only thing I can do for him for sure is give him hope. "Thank for you this," I intone, gesturing to the leather bound device. "I'll find a way to make the research happen. I promise you, Alex. For both of us."

He gives a nearly imperceptible nod, then gets up from the table. Moving to the living room, he stands by the chair and pulls on his shirt.

I want to go to him and ask if he's okay, but, of course, he isn't. He's going to walk out my door and go to them, knowing that they're going to use him for more experiments. And I can't stop it. I've never felt so powerless.

When he's fully dressed, he returns to the dining room with the envelope he came here to collect. After tucking it into a pocket, he pulls on his jacket.

I follow him to the entryway. I desperately need to protect him from this, but I can't. Every muscle in my body wants to prevent him from walking out that door. I feel a wave of extreme emotion take me. I turn to face the wall, until I can get myself under control. When I can breathe, I face him again.

Alex is shocked, those expressive green eyes opened wide.

It's a fight to keep my voice from shaking. "I'll see you in a week or so... whenever you can get back."

He looks pained. He's made it obvious that he wants distance, but steps close to me. "Walter... don't worry so much. I've been doing this for a long time. Surviving. Focus on all the things I'm going to do to piss you off when I return." His hand finds my waist. "This situation can go from bad to worse at any time. Finding my way to your bed occasionally might make it tolerable. I'll be back."

We kiss. I want to let my feelings go, to give him everything in that kiss, but I cannot. The only thing keeping me sane is holding them back. There's an edge of desperation in the way his tongue meets mine but, when he pulls back, his face is closed.

"It's not penance, Alex."

The impassive mask he's been wearing slips briefly, giving me a glimpse of his pain and, seemingly, regret. "It's not a concept I even understand, Walt. But I've been hearing for years that I need it. What I need is..." His voice trails off, the mask firmly in place, his tone soft and low when he continues, "Thank you."

He steps away from me and leaves my apartment.

I hear the click of the door shutting. He's still in the hall, I could open the door and run to catch him, but I can't.

I need to act out my feelings. Short of destroying my apartment, that means going to the gym. I phone Kimberly and tell her I won't be in until after lunch. Never in my life have I missed an hour of work because of something I was feeling.

**

I feel bereft. I lean against the wall outside Skinner's apartment. I came here six days ago trying to prove to myself that I could survive in this situation. Needing to prove that our previous affair was an aberration and I'd never lose control like that again. And what have I done? Proven that I've lost my edge? That I can lose control... over and over? Proven that I have feelings? Well, that really fucks everything up. I've built my life on not caring and not trusting.

This obsessive need for the man I just left behind can unravel everything I've worked for. I let him see how much I care, and even trust... Fuck. And I just handed him my life in a black leather case. Where did the real Alex Krycek go?

I feel lost.

I wonder if he realizes yet that none of my threats are real. Of course, there will be someone to replace me if I refuse to execute an order--and it's become clear to me that I will... fail... miserably. Will we be able to operate under the illusion of a threat? Right now, the only life hanging in the balance is mine. As long as I care about Walter, I won't be able to do what I have to. And if I don't kill his precious agents on demand, they'll just eliminate me. So I go before anyone else. What an odd predicament to find myself in--preparing to throw myself into the breach to save that fuckhead Mulder to keep Walter from pain? Someone kill me now.

Damn.

Needing to get out of the hallway before he exits his apartment, I move to the stairwell. With a grimace, I recall that I've been telling myself for the past several years that I don't feel anything for Walter Skinner. My capacity for self-delusion is truly astonishing.

More shocking than anything else were the feelings evident on Walter's face. I was prepared to hand him the black case, not understanding anything about how he felt. Knowing he has the power to kill me is hard. Knowing he won't kill me because he cares feels intolerable. I can push my feelings away, but I have no defense against Walter's. Fighting his feelings is tantamount to cutting off my other arm...

But part of me is tired of fighting alone.

As I reach the bottom of the stairs, it occurs to me that I never checked to make sure everything was still in my jacket. Jesus. How very trusting. And trust has been anathema to me for longer than I can remember.

I search my pocket and feel something strange. I pull out a Valrhona chocolate bar. I close my eyes, trying to get control of myself. Walter must have put it there when I was showering. It's so trivial, yet it's a clear demonstration of his affection. My twisted subconscious is troubled by it; I would be more comfortable if he hated me. I push thoughts and images away and stuff the chocolate back in my jacket. Everything else seems present, but I feel two sets of keys. What? I pull them both out. One is mine, and the other... I don't recognize. Walter's keys. Trust? Need? I guess it doesn't matter. If I had any doubts about coming back, they're gone.

I know I'm going to make him angry... time and time again. I have to. Feigned animosity is not going to keep us alive. But the only thing of any value in my life right now is Walter. As long as he wants me, I'll keep coming back... no matter how angry he gets.

I watch the street for several moments--to make sure it's clear and to give myself time to turn off the last week. Eventually, I step outside, only half successful. The street is clear. The last week isn't going away. Maybe--just maybe--I don't want it to go anywhere.

**
END
9 June 2000 (Revised 3 April 2002)

Feedback... it works. After the first publication of Surrender, many of you asked for more. Even the most aggressive reader didn't ask for 1500 pages. Besides spurring us on, your feedback makes us happy. Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us

Next book in series: Exigency: Confront


Back to LZL Home Back to Exigency Page