Ready to Play Nice

by Claire Dobbin



The phone rang for a third time. As on the previous two occasions, Krycek ignored it. It rang longer this time, long enough for the answering machine to pick up.

Skinner’s clipped tones filled the apartment.

"There is no one available to take your call at present. If you require a response, leave your name and number after the tone."

Jeez, Walter, you sure know how to roll out a warm welcome, Alex thought as he turned over onto his side.

"Alex? Alex, if you’re there pick up." There was a short pause. "Okay ... look, things are running over here, so I’ll be coming in on a later flight. It'll still give me plenty of time to make the game but I’ll have to take a cab directly to the Verizon Centre. I’ll meet you there at 6.40 ... no make that 6.50 ... "

Alex sat bolt upright, remembering too late about the headache that had been pounding away at him since early morning. He winced and reached up to apply pressure to the top of his skull as he tuned in again to Skinner’s words.

" ... the tickets. Repeat, do not forget the tickets. They’re in the top left hand drawer of the desk. See you there."

The call ended with an abrupt click and Alex groaned out loud. He flopped back onto the couch and groaned again. Several violent sneezes shook his body. He pulled out one of the tissues he'd stuffed in his pants pocket and blew his nose, then reached out for the glass of water he’d left on the coffee table and drank it down greedily. He pushed himself up off the couch and headed for the kitchen to re-fill it.

"Shit," he murmured.

Heading out into a freezing December night to watch a hockey game was about the last thing he felt like doing. Now the phone call left him with no choice because he knew how much the other man was looking forward to it, and no way was he going to disappoint him. His relationship with Skinner wasn’t built on much common ground, but a masochistic dedication to the fortunes of the Capitals was one of the few certainties they shared. Nothing short of death would keep him from attending the game.

He took another long drink of water and stood staring out of the kitchen window at the bleak winter day. Shivers ran through him from head to foot. It seemed as if the weather had managed to re-create perfectly the way he felt about himself and his life.

"What the fuck am I doing here?" he asked himself aloud.

The answer didn't require much soul searching.

You're here because you want him ... because you need him.

Shivers convulsed him again, deepening the misery he felt. With deliberation he turned his back on the grey cityscape. Self pity had never been his style and he knew all he needed to shake it off was a couple of hours sleep. He checked his watch and was relieved to find it was still early. He dragged his aching body upstairs, set the alarm and fell into bed.




The Verizon Centre
7.12 pm

Krycek dug his hands deeper into his pockets and shivered. Not even the Sahara-like blast from the blow heaters above the main entrance could shift the coldness that had taken hold of his bones. He stared morosely into the floodlit forecourt and watched a trickle of latecomers jog through the flurries of snow into the warmth of the centre.

Where the hell was Skinner?

He refused to start worrying; it was way too soon for that.

Shit, look at that weather ... an iced up runway ... a hold up in the Chicago lay over ... traffic backed up on the I-95 ...

There were a dozen eventualities that could explain his lover’s lateness.

A roar convulsed the arena at the end of the national anthem and washed outward to engulf the entire building. Krycek grimaced, knowing how much Skinner hated missing the face-off.

Just then a familiar, broad shouldered figure came into view, moving at a dead run. A frisson of excitement sizzled along Krycek’s nerve endings and centred itself in his groin. The sight of Skinner in Assistant Director mode, heading towards him like he meant business, pushed one of his favourite fantasy buttons – hard.

If he didn’t feel so shitty ... and if Walter wasn’t such a prude about having sex anywhere other than in his own bed ... well ... let’s just say he could have brought a whole new meaning to the term ‘stickhandling’.

"Sorry," Skinner panted, leaning over to ease the stitch in his side. "The flight had closed when I got to the gate ... had to pull out my badge."

Krycek’s stuffed up sinuses made it impossible for him to snort at the uncharacteristic admission so he sniffed hard instead. The list of people for whom Walter Skinner would willingly abuse the privilege of his position was a short one, but it seemed the Capitals had found a place upon it. Something he doubted he'd ever achieve.

Another roar went up and Skinner moved off towards the turnstiles. Krycek pulled the tickets out of his inside jacket pocket and followed him. They were kept waiting in the semi-darkness of the access way for nearly five minutes before the usher gave them the go-ahead to enter the arena and take their rink side seats. Already fully engaged in the action on the ice, Skinner took off his gloves and top coat and sat down.

Beside him, Krycek huddled further into his parka and tried to control the chills running through his body. At the same time sweat began to gather on his forehead and he felt suddenly queasy. Desperate not to embarrass them both by throwing up, he screwed his eyes shut and tried to slow his breathing. Gradually the panic subsided and his stomach settled enough for him to risk opening his eyes. He was relieved to find the noisy, brightly lit arena with its sweeping Mexican waves had stopped its erratic spinning motion. Feeling a little better, he tried to get into the hard fought contest against the Carolina Hurricanes, but as the minutes counted down to the end of the period he gave up - he just felt too damn lousy.

Suddenly, Jan Tsilokovsky, the Capitals’ golden boy, executed a perfect shoulder deke that left the opposition floundering in his wake. The breakaway was inspired and the scorching goal that completed the move sent the breathless home crowd into a frenzy.

"Yes!" Skinner roared, punching the air.

He turned to share the sweet moment with his lover and fellow fan and noticed for the first time since he had arrived the slump of Krycek’s shoulders and the grayness of his face.

"Are you okay?" he asked, the question almost drowned out by the noise of the crowd.

"Got a cold," Krycek mumbled, his voice scratchy and sore.

Skinner sat down again with the rest of the fans, but he ignored the resumed action on the ice.

"You look like shit."

Krycek’s ‘Gee thanks, Walter,’ was never spoken because, inexplicably, Skinner reached over and laid a hand on his forehead.

"Jesus - " Krycek squawked, batting away the unwanted attention.

A flush of embarrassment sent his temperature and heart rate spiking higher still and turned the queasiness into a dizzy disorientation. Through the uncomfortable haze he registered Skinner’s worried expression.

"You’ve got a fever, Alex. Why the hell didn’t you call ... never mind ... I’m taking you home."

He was unceremoniously pulled up out of his seat and guided past half a row of amused and disapproving glances.

" ... m’okay ... gonna miss the game ... "

His protests were disregarded and within minutes he was being bundled into the passenger seat of the Lexus for the ride home.

"When did this start?" Skinner demanded.

"Woke up with it yesterday."

"Did you see a doctor?"

"No ... it’s nothing ... it’ll be gone by tomorrow."

"Yeah ... right. Did you get a ‘flu shot?"

"Um ... a 'flu shot?"

"I take it that means ‘no’."

"I don’t have the ‘flu."

"Well, you’ve got something."

"Jesus ... such a fucking fuss over nothing."

"You obviously haven’t looked in the mirror today."

He turned the rear view mirror so Krycek to take a look at the pale, sweaty, red eyed reflection that stared back at him.

"Urrrgh ... "

"Exactly," Skinner agreed, pulling into the parking lot of a late night drug store.



Krycek let himself into the apartment ahead of Skinner and went straight upstairs. The darkness on the landing came as a relief to his overloaded senses and he walked into the guest bedroom. He didn't bother turning on the light, he just stripped down to his boxers, slid under the covers and curled up into a comforting ball. Despite the tremors that shook his body, sleep came at once.



"Alex?"

The insistent voice sifted down through the layers of sleep.

"Alex ... where the hell are you?"

The door swung open and the room filled with the glare of the landing light.

"What are you doing in here?"

"Um ... I ... "

"Never mind, let’s get you into bed."

"... ’m in bed," Alex mumbled, holding onto the blanket that Skinner was trying to draw back.

"Yeah, but you’re in the wrong bed," Skinner told him with an edge of impatience.

"Come on."

"You need your sleep ... you got work tomorrow."

"I'm taking tomorrow off."

"Oh ... you might catch this."

"I’ve had my 'flu shot. Anyway, I've already been exposed ... " his voice softened, almost imperceptibly, " ... and you need someone to take care of you."

Krycek was unsure how to react to the final statement, or the tone in which it was delivered. On the few occasions in his adult life when he’d been sick, he’d handled it by himself. To be sick was to be weak and if his five years in the Project had taught him anything, it had taught him never to be weak - or at least never to be seen to be weak.

"Come on, Alex ... you’re shivering."

Reluctantly, he released his hold on the blanket and pushed himself up out of the bed.


Skinner's bedroom, the one they shared, was filled with the warm glow of the bedside lamps. Krycek sat down on the bed and began to lie back.

"Hold up a minute," Skinner instructed.

He came to stand in front of Krycek, a pair of fleecy grey sweats in his hands.

"Don't you want to take this off?" Skinner asked, nodding towards the prosthesis.

"What? Oh ... yeah."

Skinner helped him undo the heavy strapping and take it off. He placed it on the dresser and waited for Krycek to finish stretching the cramped muscles in his back and shoulders.

"Ready?" he asked, shaking the sweatshirt out of its folds.

"Uh-huh."

He pulled it over Krycek’s head and went down on one knee to hold out the sweat pants, a leg at a time.

"Stand up."

He quickly settled the sweats in place and helped Krycek back onto the bed and beneath the comforter.

"Open your mouth," he instructed.

Krycek squinted up at him, then at the thermometer in his hand.

"Forget it, Walter."

He rolled away onto his side.

Sighing, Skinner sat down on the bed behind him.

"We can put this in your mouth, Alex ... or we can put it somewhere else. It's up to you."

Krycek rolled back.

"What – "

Skinner slipped the thermometer into his open mouth and tipped his chin up.

"Make sure that's under your tongue," he instructed, reaching over to the nightstand to fill a glass with freshly squeezed orange juice from a pitcher.

Skinner ignored the string of garbled curses.

"When did you last take medication?" he asked.

Mouth clamped shut, Krycek shrugged.

"You haven't taken anything for this?" Skinner asked, incredulous.

"Uh-uh."

Skinner shook his head in exasperation and checked his watch.

"Okay, open up."

Krycek did as he was told and Skinner held the thermometer in the lamplight to get a reading.

"One hundred and two degrees," he stated, "with exhaustion and chills ... you've got the 'flu, Alex."

He popped two capsules out of a strip of medication and handed them and the orange juice to his lover.

"Down the hatch."

"What are they?"

"Contac Cold and Flu."

Krycek swallowed them along with half of the orange juice.

"Finish it," Skinner coaxed, and Krycek drained the glass.

"Good, now get some sleep."

He fell asleep with the weird sensation of someone tucking the comforter in over his shoulders and around his feet.




He had a bad night. His sleep was fretful and filled with nightmares. Ruthless and completely unforgiving, his unconscious mind made him relive the worst of his memories, the horror of the silo, the agony of losing his arm, the sight of Skinner lying on a hospital gurney, disfigured and dying ...


... he looked down at his hand. The palm pilot was gone. Someone had taken it. Where the fuck was it? He had to find it. He had to fucking find it ...

"No!" he yelled. "It's gotta be here!"

Strong hands grabbed him.

"Let go of me! I gotta find it!"


"Wake up, Alex, you're having a nightmare."

He jolted awake. Skinner was holding him, his voice full of concern. Krycek drew in a shuddering breath.

"You're not dead ... you're not dead ... " he chanted.

Skinner quirked an amused eyebrow and muttered, "So it would seem."

The light came on and Krycek squeezed his eyes shut against the glare. He felt the smooth rim of a glass being pressed to his lips.

"Come on, you need to drink as much as you can."

The water was wonderfully cold. He could hear ice clinking in it.

"That's good," Skinner said. "Here, you may as well take your medication."

He opened his eyes carefully.

"Throat hurts."

"I know. These will help."

He took the capsules from Skinner's hand and swallowed them down with the last of the water.

"Back to sleep now."

Krycek lay back down and the comforter was pulled up over his shoulders.

"Too hot," he complained and tried to throw it off.

"You've got to stay warm, Alex."

"Don't want it ... get it off me!"

He watched Skinner get out of bed and walk into the bathroom. The man was muttering something, but he couldn't make out what it was. Petulantly he pulled the sweatshirt up over his head and dumped it on the floor. The cool air felt good on his bare skin.

"Are you trying to get pneumonia?" Skinner demanded when he returned.

The bed dipped again and a cool washcloth was wiped gently over his face and neck.

"Come on, Alex. Put this back ... wait, it's damp. I'll get a fresh one."

There was the sound of a drawer sliding open and closed, then Skinner was back on the bed ignoring his protests and over-riding all resistance.

"There," he said, tugging the sweatshirt into position.

"Now let's get back to sleep."

The light was switched off and Skinner's warm body slid in behind his own. The comforter came back up too. He didn't fight it. What was the point? Anyhow, he suddenly felt cold ... cold and safe ... safe and sleepy ... sleepy ...


The nightmare returned almost immediately and he found himself in a big echoing room. It was familiar but he couldn't remember why. He sat at a table, Skinner on one side of him, Mulder on the other. He looked up at the ten silver haired old men who peered down at him from their perches behind a tall wooden bench. They despised him, he could tell. It was written in their gaunt, lined faces. Suddenly, it all came flooding back. This was The Committee and he was here to give testimony ...


"Do you honestly expect the members of this committee to believe such a preposterous tale, Mr. Krycek?" the Chairman was asking him.

"It's all true, Senator. I can prove it."

He opened the file on the table before him. It was empty. He frowned and opened the next file. It was empty too. So was the next and the next. One by one he discarded the empty files until they covered the entire table and began falling onto the floor. There were hundreds of them. They were everywhere.

"Is this what you're looking for?" a familiar voice asked.

He looked up. Spender was standing in front of him holding an X File, a broad smirk on his face. Krycek took it from him. He flipped it open. It contained only one page and the few words written on it leapt out at him.

"This isn't right," he said, looking up at the man who had once been his role model.

"Kindly read the statement aloud for the committee, Mr. Krycek," the Chairman instructed.

"But this isn't – "

The gavel struck the desk several times, its booming sound drowning out this voice.

"The witness will comply with the request."

"There's some kind of mistake, you have to bel –"

"Stop wasting the committee's valuable time and read the statement!"

He swallowed hard and began to read.

"After conducting a lengthy and intensive investigation I have concluded with absolute certainty that the case for the existence of extra-terrestrial life is without validity and therefore all claims to the contrary are based on falsehood and confabulation. I have further concluded that no evidence can be produced to support the assertion that a consortium of highly placed individuals has conspired to mislead or betray the government and citizens of the United States of America."

"Whose signature is on that report, Mr. Krycek?" the Chairman asked.

Krycek looked up at him, his brows knitted in utter disbelief and frustration.

"This document is the fabrication, Mr. Chair –"

The gavel sounded again.

"Read the signature, Mr. Krycek."

Krycek looked over at Mulder. The man sat unmoving, his face expressionless.

"Mulder, tell them –"

"Mr. Krycek, I will hold you in contempt if you do not read out the signature!"

Krycek ducked his head.

"The report is signed by Agent Fox Mulder," he said.

Immediately Mulder stood up, looked at Krycek like he was something unpleasant stuck to the sole of his shoe then without a word, he walked from the room. Krycek turned to Skinner.

"Tell them, Walter," he begged, holding up the X File. "Tell them this is a lie."

Skinner stood up and addressed the committee.

"Mr. Chairman, I am here today to lend my support to Agent Mulder's findings," he announced, his voice flat and cold. "Fox Mulder is an exemplary agent who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the truth." He turned to look at Krycek. "Unlike this man, who is a liar ... and a murderer."

"What are you doing? What are you say –"

The pounding of the Chairman's gavel resounded in the room.

"Take that man into custody," he ordered, pointing at Krycek.

Many hands seized hold of him and he was forced to the floor and held here.


"Nooooo!" he yelled. "Somebody –"

The light went on and he came suddenly awake.

" – help me!"

"Easy, Alex ... easy."

Skinner had to hold him tighter this time.

"It's over ... let it go."

He could feel Krycek's heart thumping in his chest.

"You were dreaming ... that's all ... it was just a dream."

"They wouldn't believe me," Krycek insisted, his breath rasping in his throat.

"Who wouldn't believe you?"

"The Committee ... you told them I was a liar."

Skinner looked at him perplexed.

"The Congressional Committee?" he asked.

"Uh-huh."

"You're confused, Alex. It's the fever. The Committee believed you, every word. The evidence you gave them was rock solid. We got the bastards. Remember?"

"But Spender - ?"

"Spender's dead. His own side took him out before he could testify."

Krycek's face scrunched up as he tried to sort out the reality from the nightmare. Slowly the two began to unravel and the terror began to fade. What had he been thinking? No way had Skinner denounced him, quite the reverse. From the moment he walked into the Hoover and made the F.B.I. an offer they couldn't refuse, the only person in the whole fucking universe who hadn't treated him like a piece of shit was Walter Skinner. It was Skinner who had taken him home and given him a place to sleep when he was released from protective custody with nowhere to go – and three weeks later, when he finally screwed up the courage to cross the hallway and climb uninvited into the Skinner's bed, the man had simply nodded and accepted him without question.

"Yeah, I remember now," he murmured. "Mulder showed me the autopsy pictures."

"Yeah? Well, let's not focus on that," Skinner suggested. "Tonight has been eventful enough."

"I'm sorry – "

"Not your fault. I think two aspirin might help bring your temperature down."

"Okay."

Skinner fetched the aspirin from the bathroom cabinet and Krycek swallowed it down.

"Let's try again?"

"Yeah ... 'night."

"Good night, Alex."

Thankfully, the dreams that followed grew steadily less stressful until, sometime around four o'clock, he fell into a deep, untroubled sleep.


He opened his eyes at eight the next morning to find Skinner waiting with a glass of orange juice and another dose of medication. He swallowed down both then shuffled into the bathroom to relieve himself and brush his teeth.

In the bedroom, he could hear Skinner making a phone call. Old habits die hard and he moved to stand beside the half open door.


"Good morning, Kim."

"No, I'm not coming in today."

"I have a family emergency."

Krycek stopped brushing.

Family?

"No, nothing serious, just a bad dose of 'flu."

"That's fine. If you need to contact me I'm at my home number."

"See you on Monday."

Skinner hung up and went downstairs.



When Krycek returned to the bedroom, he found the bed had been freshly made up. He climbed in between the cool sheets and banked Skinner's pillows up on top of his own. His glass had been re-filled with juice and he sipped at it gratefully. Skinner came in carrying a tray.

"Some breakfast," he said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Not hungry."

"Well, just try."

Skinner settled the tray on his lap and handed him the fork.

"I'm going to the market to stock up on a few things," Skinner said. "Anything in particular you'd like?"

"Uh-uh."

"Okay, see you later."

He left his patient picking half-heartedly at the scrambled eggs. As soon as the door closed behind him, Krycek set the tray aside and went back to sleep.


He woke up unable to breathe, his nose completely blocked and his throat so swollen and dry the air could not get through. He sat up abruptly and leaned forward, blindly fumbling for something to drink. A cold glass was pressed into his hand and he swallowed a gulp of water that eased the tightness in his throat and triggered his gag reflex. A vicious spasm of coughing wracked his body and he felt the glass being taken from his hand. It clinked down onto the nightstand, then two strong hands settled on his shoulders and supported him until the coughing subsided enough for him to be able to lie down again.

"Here," Skinner said, holding out two of the Contac capsules.

Krycek was ready to protest that he’d only just taken some when he noticed the bedside lamps were on and the sky was streaked with the orange of a winter sunset. It seemed he had slept the day away.

"Need to piss," he mumbled, his voice sounding strange in his own ears.

"Swallow these first."

There was a ‘take no prisoners’ tenor to the words, so he obeyed. Feeling fragile he shuffled into the bathroom. He stood at the toilet and emptied his full bladder with a grateful sigh then moved to the sink to wash his face. A quick glance into the mirror told him he still looked like hell. He had an idea he didn't smell too good either, so wanting rid of the sweaty sheen that covered his skin, he turned on the shower and shed the damp sweats. The warm cascade of water felt wonderful on his achy muscles and he revolved slowly under the flow for several minutes before using an all-in-one gel to soap his body and hair. Rinsed and feeling better, he turned off the water and stepped out of the shower.

Skinner was waiting for him and he didn’t look best pleased.

"That’s not a smart more, Alex," he chided, taking a bathrobe from the hook behind the door and holding it out for Krycek.

"Needed a shower," Krycek told him defiantly as he put it on and belted it closed.

"Whatever ... let’s get that hair dry."

Krycek’s reply was lost beneath a vigorously applied towel.

"Owww ... " Krycek gasped " ... my head hurts."

"Mmm ... sorry."

The towel was removed and he was steered backward towards the toilet.

"Sit," Skinner said, putting down the seat and the lid.

After the exertions of the shower, Krycek was too exhausted to put up a fight and he sat meekly while Skinner wielded a brush and the hairdryer.

"You're done," Skinner told him, coiling the electrical cord neatly around the dryer.

Krycek stood up shakily and went to the sink to brush his teeth.

"Shit," he gasped, catching sight of his reflection in the mirror.

His high school year book photograph looked back at him.

"What the fuck ... " he groused, running his fingers several times through his hair trying to reinstate the unruly 'bad boy' look. Giving up he watched his hair settle back into a neatly parted silkiness.

"Shit!"

"What's wrong?" Skinner asked, shouldering him to one side so he could put the dryer away under the sink.

"My hair – " he began before another bout of painful coughing overtook him.

Skinner snagged a couple of tissues from the box on the counter and placed them in his hand. He moved in behind Krycek and pulled him tight against his body.

"That's gotta hurt," he murmured into Krycek's ear.

Krycek glanced up into the mirror and made eye contact with him.

"Come on, back to bed," Skinner coaxed. "I bought you some Tylenol cough syrup."

Krycek blew his nose noisily and tossed the tissues into the garbage. He leaned back against Skinner's body.

"You trying to get me high?"

"It's the drowsy kind."

"Ah ... trying to get me comatose?"

"I don't need to try anything, Alex. I already got you."

The tone was playful and it took ten seconds for the significance of the words to register on his 'flu addled brain. He frowned at the picture they made in the mirror. Something was definitely out of whack here. This Skinner was very different from the cool, distant man he had lived with for the past four months. Was the difference real or a product of his fever heightened imagination?

It felt real enough - the solid strength supporting him from behind – the powerful arms wrapped protectively round his waist – the soft look of concern in the brown eyes – it felt all too believably real.

"Yeah ... you got me, Walter, You got me good," he agreed, desperate for it to be real.

He meant the words to be a sultry invitation but they came out wheezy and stuffed up, like the punch line of a vapor rub advert.

Still, Skinner smiled at him and laid a kiss on his cheek.

"I'd take you up on that," he said, "if you weren't so ... congested. Come on, let's go."

Krycek stood his ground, wanting more.

"But soon ... yeah?" he asked.

"You bet. Now back to bed."

Skinner watched him swap the bathrobe for the clean sweats he had left on the bed and get in under the covers.

"Hungry?" he asked.

"You know what ... I am."

Skinner put his hand on Krycek's forehead. This time it met with no resistance.

"Fever's going down," he confirmed. "How does homemade chicken soup sound?"

"Good."


Krycek finished the bowl of soup and chased it down with two servings of toffee pecan ice cream.

"Okay," Skinner began, checking off the items on the nightstand. "Tissues, ice water, nasal spray, cough syrup, paracetamol. Anything else you need?"

"What about – "

He hesitated, then shook his head.

"No, never mind."

"What?"

"No ... it’s okay."

"What?"

"No ... forget it."

"Alex," he warned, his teeth clenching. "Just tell me."

"I don't feel sleepy."

Skinner's eyebrows lifted and he shrugged.

"So?"

"So ... I was thinking maybe I could go downstairs and watch some T.V."

"I don't think that's a good idea -"

Krycek began to protest but Skinner held up his hand.

" – but if you want, I'll bring the portable up from the kitchen."

Krycek stared at him. There was no longer any doubt about it, this was a different Skinner. He had just been given the proof positive. The other Skinner had made it clear his bedroom served only two functions - sleeping and fucking. All other activities were strictly taboo, or at least they were until today.

"Okay?"

"Huh?"

"You the want the T.V. up here?"

"Sure."

Skinner disappeared and returned a couple of minutes later with the T.V. He placed it on the ottoman at the foot of the bed and plugged it in. Krycek watched him walk round to his own side of the bed and sit down. He took the T.V. remote control from his pocket and offered it to Krycek.

Krycek stared at it, then at him.

"Thought you wanted to watch television?" Skinner said, shoving the remote into his hand.

Krycek pointed it at the T.V. and turned it on. He began flicking through the channels, acutely aware of how Skinner was kicking off his shoes and lying down on the bed beside him. The old Steve McQueen movie, 'The Great Escape' was playing on Channel 17 and it caught his attention. He adjusted the volume and settled back to watch. Skinner murmured his approval and did the same.

It didn't matter that the movie was already part way through because it was so familiar to both. Inexorably they were drawn into the gripping narrative. Just as inexorably they moved closer to each other in the bed so that by the time the credits rolled, Krycek had made himself comfortable against Skinner's chest with his head on the older man's shoulder.

"Had enough?" Skinner asked.

"Yeah," Krycek said, blowing his red and raw nose for the hundredth time.

Skinner located the remote and switched off the T.V.

"Need to use the bathroom?"

"Uh-uh."

"Then try to get some sleep."

He started to get off the bed, but Krycek leaned over and caught hold of his shirt.

"Stay with me?" he asked, wanting to find out just how far he could take this new Skinner.

Skinner took hold of his hand and brought it to his lips. The simple gesture caused Krycek's breath to hitch in his throat.

"Okay, if that's what you want," he promised, holding the hand against his cheek. "Let me get comfortable first."

He switched off the lamp nearest to Krycek and went to the bathroom to take care of his physical needs. When he returned, he stripped down to his boxers and climbed into bed. He reached out and switched off the other lamp.

"Come here," he said softly, pulling Krycek in close to his body.

Though he was still a little freaked by the change in Skinner's attitude, Krycek was more afraid their new closeness might be gone in the morning. So he tried to hold onto the feeling for as long as possible. The virus and the medication had other ideas however, and much too soon he was snoring noisily on Skinner's chest.



The sound of a door slamming shut woke him abruptly the next morning. He wasn't sure where he was. Adrenaline pumped through his bloodstream. He lay completely still, listening to the sounds filtering up from downstairs. A radio was switched on and a medley of Beatles tunes mingled with the clatter of dishes and pans. A coffee maker was filled with water and slotted into place. Someone began whistling a tuneful accompaniment to the sixties hits. Memory flooded back. Walter was making breakfast. His heart stopped racing. Everything was as it should be. He drifted off again.


"Alex, ready to wake up?"

Delicious smells filled his nostrils.

"Bacon ... mmm," he murmured into his pillow.

"Sense of smell coming back online, Homer?"

Krycek snorted and Skinner leaned across his back to kiss him on the side of his mouth.

"Why don't you hit the shower while I finish breakfast?" he asked.

"Yeah ... "

With regret Krycek felt the other man's weight lift off him. He rubbed his face against the pillow and stretched the kinks out of his achy muscles.

"You got about five minutes," Skinner warned as he left the room.

He used up his full allotment of time standing under the heavy thud of water, enjoying the way the steamy heat eased the tightness in his chest. Feeling better than he had for days, he stepped out of the stall and pulled on a bathrobe. Back at the mirror, he brushed his teeth and decided he needed a shave. Skinner's Braun Activator was lying on the counter so he picked it up and ran it over his face as he walked into the bedroom. There was tray loaded with breakfast on the ottoman and Skinner was reading one of the Sunday papers that lay scattered across the comforter.

"Better move it, breakfast's getting cold."

Krycek stood in front of the dresser to finish his shave. When it was done, he took off his bathrobe and tossed it over an armchair. In the mirror he noticed Skinner glance up from his newspaper. Through lowered lashes, he watched his lover's gaze sweep along his naked length and come to rest on his butt. Enjoying the attention, he struck a pose and reached up to run his fingers through his damp hair. He took his time getting it to sit right. Satisfied at last with his hair and the affect his performance he was having on the man in the bed, he found a clean pair of boxers in the dresser. He bent over and slowly pulled them on. Straightening up, he looked in the mirror again and was pleased to find his lover was still watching. Their eyes met and Skinner looked away. With a broad smile on his face Krycek finished dressing and went to fill his plate.

They munched their way through a lazy breakfast, reading and swapping sections.

"That was good," Krycek said, finishing the last of his coffee.

Skinner took the cup and reached down to put it on the tray. He picked up The Post's sports section and leaned back into the pillows. Krycek moved into Skinner's personal space and slid his hand in under the Quantico sweatshirt.

"And this is good," he said breathily.

"Yeah ... "

Skinner turned a page.

"I can make it better."

The promise made Skinner look up at him.

"You're not well enough for that - "

Krycek snorted loudly and his wandering hand found Skinner's left nipple and tugged on it sharply. Skinner gasped and he rolled over on top of Krycek, his mouth latching onto the tender skin of his lover's neck.

"Easy, Walter," Krycek murmured into his ear. "Let me take care of you."

"Ugggh ... god, I want you so much."

Krycek laughed.

"You already got me, remember?"

Skinner's hands moved to cup Krycek's face and he covered his lover's mouth with his own.

"Aaah ... no," Krycek told him, pulling away. "Just lie back ... okay."

Reluctantly, Skinner released his hold and rolled back onto his own side of the bed. Krycek stretched out beside him. "Get the lube," he instructed. Skinner opened the drawer in the nightstand and took out a tube of Astroglide.

"Take off the cap."

Skinner did as he was told.

"Now take off the sweatshirt."

Skinner obeyed again.

Krycek caught hold of the waistband of his sweat pants and tugged them down until the man's heavy genitals sprang free. He held his hand out towards Skinner.

"Lube."

A more than generous dollop was squeezed into his hand.

"Enough!" he warned. "Now close your eyes."

He watched his lover obey the instruction then reached over to take the thick, blood dark cock in a firm grip. Skinner sucked in a breath, his chest rising jerkily. Krycek grinned and leaned down to lick at a temptingly erect nipple. That caused Skinner to release the breath he was holding with a shudder. Krycek moved closer and began teasing the hard little nub the insistent tip of his tongue. At the same time he smeared the lube slowly along the pulsing shaft.

"Jesus ... " Skinner murmured.

"You like this?" Krycek asked in his hoarse, raspy voice. "You like me jerking you off?"

"Fuck yes ... "

Krycek began stroking in the way he liked to do himself and Skinner responded by thrusting his hips up into each downward pass.

"That's it, Walter. Let me see you move," Krycek coaxed.

He didn't need much coaxing and wanting more contact between them he threaded his fingers through Krycek's hair and pushed his head down until the talented mouth again covered his right nipple. Krycek swirled his tongue over it several times then took it between his teeth and bit down gently. Gradually he increased the pressure until he breached the threshold of pain.

"Unnngh," Skinner groaned.

Krycek raised his head, intensifying the sensation by stretching the skin around the nipple. At the same time he stopped stroking Skinner's cock.

"No ... don't –"

Skinner's protest ended abruptly when Krycek's thumb began slowly circling the head of his cock. Skinner moaned loudly and resumed thrusting.

"Alex ... please ... need more ... "

Impressed with the begging tone, Krycek began stroking again as he slowly released the nipple. He lapped at the place where he'd left teeth marks for a little while before kissing it goodbye.

"You're beautiful," he told his lover. "Now ... I want you to help."

There was no response from the man he held in the palm of his hand. Ignoring the needy whimpers, Krycek let go of the cock and reached up to detach the hand that was painfully gripping his hair. He began guiding it downward.

"Go on ... finish it," he murmured.

Skinner's practiced right hand grasped the shaft and his left hand cupped the balls beneath. He began pleasuring himself with the familiar choreography of moving hands and thrusting hips. Captivated by the sensual dance, Krycek's fingers sought out the entrance to his lover's body and pressed against it. Skinner froze in mid-thrust, then dug his heels into the mattress and lifted his hips. To reward him, Krycek slipped his middle finger inside and found his prostate. He pressed on it gently. Two strong bucking movements later, Skinner roared out his pleasure and spilled over his own abdomen and chest. Finding his own satisfaction in that of his lover's, Krycek continued the internal massage until it was clear Skinner was done. Reluctantly he pulled out and waited for him to float down from the blissful heights.

"Good, huh?" he asked.

"Unghh ... "

Krycek laughed and went to get a washcloth from the bathroom. When they were cleaned up, he tugged Skinner's sweat pants the rest of the way off and dropped them on the floor beside the bed. Grabbing hold of the comforter and stretched himself out beside his lover again and pulled it up to cover them both.

"Alex ... " Skinner began then drifted into silence.

"Mmm?"

"You want - ?"

"I'm fine."

"But – "

"Later ... "



They spent the rest of the day in bed. Reading and dozing and watching T.V. Lunch was a plate of thickly cut roast beef sandwiches and apple pie a la mode. Around seven o'clock, Krycek reminded Skinner that a cold needed to be fed and his lover placidly padded down to the kitchen and made French toast. An hour later he did the same, this time to make a bowl of hot, buttery popcorn.

Just before ten, Krycek got fidgety again.

"Now what, Alex?"

"Hot chocolate?" Krycek requested with a pouty lip.

Skinner closed his eyes and groaned.

"This is the last time, Alex. I'm not running an all night diner here," he warned.

Krycek favoured him with a beaming smile and reached for the T.V. remote.

"Oh ... if there are any of those little minty marshmallows left, that would be great."

Skinner got out of bed and headed for the door. When he returned with two steaming mugs he avoided Krycek's reaching hand and set them down on the nightstand.

"In a minute," he said, going into the bathroom to retrieve the thermometer. "First, we do this."

He held the thermometer out towards Krycek, who reluctantly opened his mouth and allowed it to be placed under his tongue. With his eye on the seconds ticking away on the bedside alarm clock, Skinner kept guard. After the allotted time, he removed the thermometer and held it in the light to read it.

A satisfied smile formed on his lips.

"Normal," he pronounced. "It's official, you're cured."

"Shit!" Krycek commented, his pout returning.

Skinner ignored it and handed over one of the mugs.

"Make the most of this because the kitchen is now closed

"Thanks."

He took a careful sip of his chocolate to test the temperature, then a deep swallow.

"Mmm ... 's good."

His eyes closed in appreciation and he leaned back on his pillows. There was an easy silence. It didn't last long.

"Hey, can we have take-out for dinner tomorrow night?"

"Don't push your luck, Alex."

Krycek looked over at him.

"What about Thai?"

"Didn't you hear what I just said?"

"Course I did ... Chinese?"

Skinner breathed an exasperated sigh.

"If I say yes, will we be done with food for the day?" he bargained.

"Sure."

"Okay then."

There was quiet pause.

"As long as it's McDonalds."

Skinner sighed again and gave in gracefully.



The next morning Skinner kissed his sleeping lover and went to work very early. Some twelve hours later, he arrived home carrying a paper sack of McDonalds' cholesterol on a plate.

"Where's yours, Walter?" Krycek asked concerned when Skinner placed the entire contents of the bag on the coffee table before him.

"I had something at the office," he lied.

"You sure? There's plenty here."

"I'm sure, you go ahead."

He took off his coat and hung it up.

"Going to get some milk," he told Krycek. "Want some?"

"Uh-huh," Krycek mumbled round his double cheese burger.

Krycek watched him bring two glasses of milk in from the kitchen. He put Krycek's down on the table and took a long swallow from his own. Sitting down he continued to sip at he milk as he watched his lover enjoy the fast food. Krycek could tell from the occasional grimace on his face that the ulcer they never talked about was playing up. He was getting ready to breach the subject for the first time when Skinner suddenly asked, "Can we talk?"

Krycek wiped his hands on a napkin, his expression mirroring the serious look on Skinner's face.

"Sure."

True to his nature, Skinner cut directly to the heart of the matter.

"The Director and I were called into a meeting at the Justice Department today ... about your appeal for clemency."

Krycek swallowed hard. He had been waiting for this for almost six months. Suddenly he wished he hadn't eaten so much.

Skinner opened his briefcase and took out three envelopes. Two of them he set aside and the third he held out towards Krycek, who took it nervously.

"Go ahead, open it," Skinner told him. "It's good news."

Krycek slowly opened it and unfolded the single sheet of paper within. The heavily embossed letterhead contained the seal of the Department of Justice.

Krycek read through the terse legalese, his bottom lip trapped between his teeth.

"That's an absolute discharge from any and all legal liability you incurred while in the employ of the Project," Skinner explained. "It's signed by the Attorney General,"

"Jesus ... this is it?"

He looked up at Skinner.

"That's it." Skinner nodded. "Just two paragraphs on a fancy piece of paper and you get to start your life over."

"It seems ... too easy."

"Yeah," Skinner agreed.

It was the first and only word of reproach Skinner had spoken to him and Krycek's stomach clenched in apprehension.

"We have to think about what happens now," Skinner said, suddenly businesslike, "and since you've given your testimony and your debriefing is complete there isn't any reason – "

"There isn't any reason to continue this ... arrangement," Krycek finished for him.

Skinner frowned and asked, "Don't you want it to continue?"

"Do you?"

"Of course I do ... but if you don't ... "

Krycek's face relaxed and he smiled broadly.

"I want this ... I really want this."

"For fuck's sake, Alex what are you trying to do to me?" Skinner demanded.

"I wasn't sure ... the sex I was sure about, right from day one in your office ... but the rest of it ... I just wasn't sure."

Skinner reached out and took hold of his hand.

"Be sure," he told him. "What I was going to say was now your situation has been regularized I no longer have a reason to stay on at the Bureau."

Krycek stared at him.

"Don't look so surprised. What am I giving up? The privilege of sitting behind a desk for ten ... twelve hours a day, burning a hole in my gut, worrying about things over which I have no control?"

"But your career – "

"I've done my time, Alex. I want out. I want to make a life with you ... a life we don't have to spend hiding in the shadows. Isn't that what you want?"

Krycek watched Skinner hold his breath.

"It's the only thing I want."

Skinner stood up and pulled Krycek to his feet and into his arms.

"Are you sure?" he asked, a smile playing on his lips and in his eyes. "Don't you want to go upstairs and -?"

Krycek didn't let him finish the question instead he took hold of Skinner's hand and yanked him hard towards the stairs.

"Wait," Skinner said, releasing himself from the fierce grip to retrieve the two envelopes he had left on the table.

Krycek screwed up his face.

"Later," Skinner told him, taking hold of his hand again and following him upstairs.


The lovemaking was unlike any that had gone before. Leaning against the closed bedroom door, they kissed and touched with a passion free of all fear and suspicion. It was breathtakingly good and when Krycek sensed his lover was ready for more, he undressed him slowly and sensually. Completely naked, Krycek led him to the bed and encouraged him to lie in the middle of it.

"Don't touch," he warned, stepping back to strip off his own clothes in the way he knew would drive Skinner crazy. When he was done and the desired effect had been achieved, he took the lube and a condom from the nightstand and climbed onto the bed.

"Open these," he said holding them out. Laughing out loud, he watched as Skinner's sex drunk brain and hands struggled to comply.

When they were ready, he straddled his lover, remaining upright on his knees. He held out his fingers.

"Lube," he requested.

Skinner coated them in the slippery stuff and watched as Krycek reached back to open himself up. By the time he was finished, Skinner was biting down hard on his lower lip to hold in his needy pleas.

"Soon, sweetheart," he promised, rolling the condom down over Skinner's erection.

The man beneath him shuddered but held still, his hands seeking purchase on fistfuls of bedding. Krycek reached down to find the right position then slowly ... very slowly he lowered himself until he was resting on Skinner's abdomen with every glorious inch of the man's big cock seated inside him.

"Fuck ... " he muttered, enjoying the way the burn translated itself into the delicious feeling of fullness.

He pulled up and slid back down slowly, eliciting a toe curling groan from Skinner. Inspired, he did it again, a little faster this time ... and again ... and again ... picking up speed and purpose with each movement until he found a rhythm that put them both in the perfect groove.

"That's it, babe ... ride me ... ride me harder," Skinner called out.

"Oh yeah ... I can do that ... just watch me ... feel me ... "

It lasted much longer than it should have done - past the point when Skinner released his hold on the comforter and reached out blindly to take Krycek's hand in his own - even past the point when his other hand found Krycek's neglected erection and began working it. Only when Skinner's thrusting cock began to hit his lover's sweet spot at the perfect angle and with the perfect amount of force did they reach the point of no return.

Feeling the momentum that would bring him to completion gather in his balls, Skinner reared up suddenly, dislodging himself from his lover's body. Growling with frustration, he rolled them over, pulled Krycek's ass up high onto his thighs and plunged in again, pumping with powerful thrusts ... once ... twice ... and then he was coming ... and so was the man beneath him ...

He collapsed forward onto Krycek's body and felt the huff of air being forced out of his lover's lungs.

"Sorry," he murmured.

He started to roll off, but Krycek's leg snaked round his thigh to hold him in place.

"Don't even think about pulling out, Walter," he warned, his hand moving down to rest possessively on Skinner's ass.

Skinner laughed out loud.

"That has got to be love talking," he said, rubbing his cheek against Krycek's shoulder.

"You're not going to get an argument from me on that score."

He planted a row of kisses along the rim of Skinner's ear.

"Good ... 'cos I wouldn't want this to be all one way."

Krycek's reply was lost in a sudden bout of painful coughing.

"Shit!" Skinner murmured, pushing himself up and off Krycek with newfound energy.

He pulled his lover up into a sitting position and held him until the spasm ended.

"There ... that's better," he said, combing Krycek's hair back from his sweaty forehead.

He kissed him on the lips and got off bed.

"Where you going?" Krycek asked.

"I'm going to fill the tub so you can take a long hot soak ... then I'm gonna make sure you take your cough syrup ... "

He was in the bathroom by then and Krycek lay back and listened to him prattle on as the water started to gush into the bathtub.

" ... then I'm gonna order in pizza and we're gonna watch the Capitals beat the shit out of the Islanders. How does that sound?"

He came out of the bathroom and stood beside the bed waiting for an answer.

"Sounds ... almost perfect," Krycek told him.

"Almost?"

"I want you in the tub with me."

"I think that might be arranged. Now ... get your ass moving."

Krycek laughed and got out of bed. He laughed even harder when he saw that Skinner had put bubble bath in the water. The hot water felt incredibly good on his skin. He grabbed the sponge and used it to wash the come off his stomach and chest while the tub finished filling.

Ten minutes later, Skinner walked into the bathroom holding the bottle of cough syrup in one hand and a little medicine cup in the other. He poured out the correct dose and handed it over. Krycek grimaced but he swallowed it down. Skinner nodded his approval and shed his robe.

"Make room," he said, climbing in behind Krycek.

They had twenty minutes together in the warm depths before the intercom buzzer sounded.

"Pizza," Krycek announced happily.

Skinner kissed the back of his neck and got out of the tub.

"Bed's made up, sweetheart."

He pulled on his robe and grabbed a towel. Krycek lay back in the water for a few extra minutes then did the same. Stretching out on the bed, he found the remote and turned on the T.V. The game had started. He was about to call out when he heard the clink of bottles from the landing. Skinner entered the room carrying a six pack and balancing two large pizza boxes.

"If this is a dream, Walter I'm warning you, don't fucking wake me up."

Skinner roared with laughter and put down the beer.

"Here," he said, handing over a pizza box. "I think that's yours."

It wasn't, so they swapped over and began to eat.

An hour and a half of drinking beer and cursing at the Capitals' woeful performance just about wiped Krycek out.

"Hey, don't go to sleep yet," Skinner coaxed, turning off game that was fizzling out like a damp squib. "There's something I want to give you."

He lifted the two envelopes from the nightstand.

"Call this an early Christmas gift," he said, opening the sealed flap on the first.

Krycek shook off the sleep that called to him with the sweet voice of a siren. He reached inside and pulled out a letter typed on F.B.I. notepaper and signed by the Director himself. The sight of it woke him up better than a dousing with cold water. He read through it quickly.

"They're letting you go?" he asked breathlessly.

"Yeah."

His face broke into a grin, almost as broad as the one Skinner was wearing.

"Tomorrow I begin handing over to my successor ... Sam Roffe ... he's a good man. It should be done by Friday at the latest, then I'm going to take my accrued vacation time. I'm not due back until January 10th ... to sign off on the paperwork ... tie up any loose ends ... you know ... so how do you fancy spending Christmas and New Year on a beach in the Bahamas?"

He tipped up the third envelope and two airline tickets fell out. Krycek ignored them and threw himself on top of Skinner, his mouth seeking out the other man's aggressively. Skinner's deep laugh rumbled through them both. No more words were needed, just the intimacy of skin on skin as they embraced each other ... and the future they would make together.


Epilogue

Krycek was fighting against the urge to pace the floor. It was almost eight o'clock and Skinner was late. The man had been putting in fourteen hour days at the Hoover all week. Today, his last day in the job before he went on vacation, he had promised to be home at a reasonable time. Krycek gave way to his frustration and picked up the phone. Before he could begin dialing he heard shuffling footsteps approach the door of the apartment. Krycek dropped the phone back into its cradle. The doorbell began to ring continuously and he went to answer it.

"Alex ... hurry up," Skinner called out.

Krycek opened the door and found his lover with his elbow pressed against the bell. The man's arms were filled with gift wrapped packages and two bottles of champagne were gripped precariously in his right hand. Krycek grabbed hold of one of the bottles and got out of his way.

"Sorry I'm late, babe," Skinner told him as he hurried to the dining table to put down his burden. "Kim organized a party to wish me good luck and I couldn't get away any earlier."

Krycek helped him off with his coat and went to hang it up. He followed Skinner into the kitchen.

"Get some glasses," Skinner requested as he stripped the foil from one of the bottles.

The cork popped and Skinner laughed and rushed to catch the first foamy gush in one of the glasses. He filled both to the brim and handed one to Krycek.

"Here's to us," he said clinking their glasses together.

Krycek took a swallow noticing the flush on his lover's face.

"Are you drunk, Walter?"

Skinner pulled back from where he was nuzzling Krycek's neck.

"No."

He frowned and held up his champagne.

"This is the second glass I've had today."

He took a swallow from it and sneezed loudly ... twice.

"Ugh ... " he murmured, grimacing at a sudden sharp pain in his temple.

Dismayed, he looked at Krycek who was reaching out to lay a hand on his forehead.

"N-no –" Skinner stuttered and sneezed again. "I can't have the 'flu. I've had my shot."

"You're hot," Krycek told him, a look of amused concern on his face, "in both senses of the word."

He caught hold of Skinner's jacket and pulled him close. Skinner sneezed again, louder and more violently.

"Oh shit," he murmured, leaning heavily on Krycek. "My throat was sore when I woke up this morning.

"It's okay," Krycek told him. "We don't fly out until Wednesday. If you've got it, the worst will be over by then."

Skinner groaned and Krycek gave him a reassuring hug.

"Let's get you out of this suit and into bed," he coaxed.

"But we were going to celebrate ... "

"We can celebrate in bed."

Krycek pulled back and gave him a suggestive look. Skinner's response was another loud sneeze.

"Ooo-kay," Krycek said steering him out of the kitchen. "You go ahead. I'll be up in a minute."

He watched Skinner head upstairs then went back to the kitchen to fill a tray with everything he would need to make his lover feel better. Battling another dose of 'flu wasn't how he'd planned to spend the weekend, but Krycek wasn't too disappointed. Skinner would need looking after and that was just fine with him.

"Alex ... ?" a miserable voice sounded from upstairs.

Krycek smiled and went to answer the summons.

THE END
 

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