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Alone With You

by Donna McIntosh


"I despise you!" Walter said as he fought to keep his breathing under control.

"I know you do. That doesn't change the fact that you want me." Alex said as he looked up at Walter Skinner standing so close to him.

"I never said I wanted you! Never!" Walter insisted through clenched teeth.

"Maybe not in words," Alex grinned, "But your pulse races every time our eyes meet. Don't bother to deny it; I can see it."

"You're crazy." Walter said. "Get your hand out of my shirt. I don't want this."

"Your head is telling you one thing while your dick is screaming something else." Alex teased.

"I don't want you! I never have and I never will." Walter said as he removed Alex' hand from underneath his shirt and grabbing the other hand from around his waist, he pinned them both behind Alex' back.

"Are you sure about that?" Alex said as pressed his hips forward bringing them in contact with Walter's unmistakable bulging jeans.

"I don't know whether to strangle you or..." Walter fumed.

"Or what? Fuck me?" Alex chuckled. "I know—decisions, decisions."

Walter shut him up the only way he could since both of his hands were busy holding Alex' behind his back. He kissed him hard with a clunk of their teeth together. He pulled back only long enough to say, "I hate you!" before sucking on an ear lobe.

"I know." Alex said and as his hands were released they came up around Walter's back, underneath his shirt.

"I hate it when you're near me." Walter whispered as he crushed Alex in his arms.

"Because you know that we belong together and you're just too damn stubborn to admit it."

"You're out of your fucking mind!" Walter said as he undid Alex's jeans and slid them down.

"Only when I'm around you." Alex gasped as Walter's hands slid beneath his underwear and caressed his bottom.

"I can't be alone with you." Walter breathed heavily as his hands slid around front and grasped Alex' balls and cock. "I can't!"

"It's okay." Alex said quietly as he brought his hands up and cradled Walter's face between them. "You can take what you want. No one will ever know. Who would believe it anyway?"

"I mean it, Alex. I do hate you." Walter insisted.

"I know. I know." Alex said and sighed deeply as Walter went to his knees in front of him.

Walter pressed his cheek against Alex' cock for a moment before allowing himself a long leisurely lick up the side and around the ridge. When he finally allowed himself the pleasure of taking it into his mouth, his moan was as loud as the one from Alex. His head bobbed as the cock slid in and out of his mouth, each time deeper and deeper into his throat. In a very few minutes, Alex stiffened up and with a groan, emptied himself in Walter's hot sucking mouth.

"This doesn't change a thing!" Walter said as he stood and wiped the corner of his mouth on his sleeve.

"I know." Alex whispered as he tried to focus his eyes again before turning around and leaning with his forearms against the wall.

Walter stepped up close behind him. "We cannot be alone!" He growled as he undid his pants, spit in his hand, wiped it on his cock, grabbed Alex' hips and plunged in.

"Of course not." Alex agreed with a gasp of pleasure/pain at the penetration. "We wouldn't want anything untoward to happen."

Every stroke heightened the desire; the explosive pleasure minutes later, almost unbearable as Walter sagged against him after release.

"You okay?" Alex asked over his shoulder as Walter clung to him. "You didn't swoon on me; did you? Isn't that what you old folks call it – swooning?"

Walter pulled himself together quickly, turned away as he righted his clothing, and put a few steps between them, "You are absolutely disgusting." He said as he poured some bottled water on himself and wiped dry with his handkerchief.

"I know. I know." Alex said as he pulled his jeans up and snapped them. "You hate me."

"I hate everything about you. I hate that you're wasting your life working for that bastard Spender. I hate that you'd rather work with him than with me... the bureau, I mean. I hate the way you dress! I fucking hate the smell of leather!" Walter ranted.

"I suppose I could come back to the bureau, dress in designer suits; but oh wait—you already have one of those—you have Mulder." Alex sneered as he worked the zipper on his leather jacket.

"That's not funny!" Walter fumed.

"I wasn't trying to be funny. I was trying to make a point. You already have a Mulder—you don't need another one." Alex said as he made his way to the door of the warehouse.

"What I don't need is you sneaking around here while I'm checking this place out!" Walter followed him to the door.

"I can tell you what you need but you'd never believe it." Alex said as he looked around outside to make sure no one was around.

"How would you know what I need?" Walter asked with contempt.

"What you need is me! You need someone who doesn't agree with you. Someone to challenge you, someone discrete. Someone who will be there to give you what you want, whenever you want it, anyway you want it. Someone who can take your nine or ten inches and give back almost as much in return when you feel the need to be taken. I can do that for you. Can he? Would he? Or would he be off somewhere chasing swamp monsters or sniffing after Scully?"

"I hate you." Walter said again. "And the last thing I need is to be alone with you ever again."

"Until next time then." Alex grinned at him before slipping out into the night and disappearing from sight.

"Shit!" Walter said as he walked back to the small office he had been searching before Alex Krycek popped into his life again and blew his resolve all to hell. He rubbed his balls and sighed, "Why the hell does it have to be Krycek who's the only one that sets my insides on fire and why the hell does it have to be so damn much better with him than it is with anyone else?"

**** Walter worked a little bit longer before giving up and going home for the night. He wasn't getting anything done and all he could think about was Alex Krycek and Fox Mulder. The two most attractive agents he had ever known and the only ones he'd ever even consider breaking his no-messing-around-with-co workers rule for.

He was in love with Mulder. Totally, madly, passionately. At least, that was what he kept telling himself. Mulder was everything he wanted; everything he needed. Everything except loving him in return. Mulder had no interest at all in anything but his work. Walter realized that after a half-hearted attempt to seduce him a few years before. He had shown no reaction at all to Walter's attempts to get him to relax. Not even the back rub that had worked on so many others over the years. Nothing seemed to excite Mulder at all except chasing his illusive truths.

Then there is Alex Krycek. Walter stiffened as he allowed himself to think of him and reached down and gave himself a squeeze as he drove. "That bastard Alex Krycek!" Walter seethed as he thought of him. "Why does he always have to show up just when I'm hurting the most? How can he possibly know what I need and when I need it?" He whispered to the empty streets as he headed home.

"And he thinks we belong together." Walter said, his voice dripping with disgust, as he pulled into the underground parking area at Viva Towers. "As if I'd ever agree to anything like that with the likes of him."

Up in the elevator to the seventeenth floor, through his door and straight to his liquor cabinet, he fixed himself a drink taking a long swallow before heading up to the shower where he could wash the smell of Alex Krycek off of him; once and for all. "It will not happen again!" He promised himself before climbing into bed. "I will never allow myself to be alone with him again. If he shows up; I'll just run him off. I hate that bastard!" He rolled over on his side and fell immediately into a peaceful sleep.


Walter woke up the next morning feeling great; had a productive day at work, a delicious dinner and headed home feeling pretty good about his life. Everything was exactly the way it should be—most everything. "Maybe I should give Mulder another try." He thought to himself as he entered his condo. "It's Friday night. He might be sitting around doing nothing; no plans for the weekend. Maybe I should call him."

He took the stairs two at a time as he headed up for a shower. A good washing, followed by a shave and donning his jeans and Henley, he headed back down stairs with a bounce in his step. "Maybe he'd like a drive in the country." Walter thought as he fingered the phone in his hand. "Or maybe he'd like to hit some clubs. A drink or two might relax him enough to get his mind on something other than work." He thumbed in the number and waited.

"Not here. Leave a message or forget about it." Mulder's message left a sour taste in his mouth as he flipped the phone shut and pocketed it before heading to his liquor cabinet and fixing himself a drink.

He stood at his balcony window and watched as the lights came on in the other condos that he could see from his seventeenth floor location. He wondered what it would be like to have someone to come home to; to have someone come home to him. He gave a sigh, deposited his empty glass on the bar cabinet and slumped down on his couch. "Why couldn't it be Mulder?" He asked the ceiling. "Why is Krycek the one who wants me and not Mulder? Is Mulder really that straight or is he just not interested?"

He raised his stocking feet to the coffee table and laced his hands together across his abdomen. "Another weekend going down the drain." He sighed. "Another weekend alone—no Mulder—no body but the memory of Alex Krycek still fresh from the night before. He licked his lips and imagined he could still taste him; still taste that sweet cock exploding in his mouth.

His insides churned and his cock twitched at the thought. He did love sucking so much. If only he could get Mulder alone... get him to relax a little bit... "Looks like that's never going to happen." He whispered in the semi-darkness of his living room. "Mulder has no interest in sex—at least not with me." He sighed and closed his eyes.

He remembered the first time he had been alone with Alex Krycek and thought he should never have let that happen; never have let those green eyes get to him...

"Sir?" Krycek had driven him home the night after the Bartleson case went down the tubes. Walter had been so disappointed by the verdict he had gone out and gotten drunk. Something he had seldom done but that night he made an exception. He couldn't wait until he got home and hit the first bar he came to after hearing they had lost the case and Melvin Bartleson, child molester, was going free. He couldn't stand it. He knew how disappointed Mulder would be. This had been his case and he had done everything by the book for a change. Bartleson should not have gotten off, but he did. This was going to hit Mulder hard.

He had ordered drink after drink, not realizing how many he had downed until he left the bar to go home and found he could barely walk. He stumbled in the parking lot and was grateful for the strong arms that caught him, helped him into a car and drove him home. Next thing he knew he was being undressed, tucked into bed and he was making love to Mulder. At least he thought it was Mulder. He was disgusted and appalled with himself when he realized it was Alex Krycek in his bed. "Get out!" He had screamed at Krycek as he followed him to the door.

"Your keys." Alex had said and tossed Walter's keys to him. "Don't bother to thank me. You already did." Alex gave a chuckle and left.

God, he hated Krycek! He couldn't believe that he had mistaken him for Mulder. He vowed never to get drunk again. Ever!

The next time had been in a hotel room in Chicago. Cold, windy Chicago. He had given his little speech on the importance of beefing up security in Federal buildings and made it back to his hotel room just before the bottom fell out and the rain came down in torrents, nearly closing the city down, canceling all flights in or out. He figured he might as well order a bottle and when that one was gone he ordered another.

The second one showed up at his door being carried by none other than Alex Krycek. Why he let him into his room, he didn't know. Maybe he was already drunk, maybe it was the storm raging outside, or maybe because he hadn't gone out and gotten laid in a while. He didn't know. What he did know, was that Krycek had been there, ready, willing, and more than capable—eager, in fact, to give him what he needed. In his drunken state, he figured 'why not'? They drank steadily and had sex for the next two days straight; until the morning the phone rang and the message came that flights were now taking off and he could leave within the hour. He had packed and left while Krycek was in the shower; vowing to never even think about the incident again.

Of course, that was easier said than done and Krycek had come to him several times during the next year. Even after the big blow-up when Walter told him how much he hated him and never wanted to see him again. Krycek had continued to show up and Walter had continued to let him.

"Why the hell not?" Walter had argued with himself. "It's not like I'm going to get any from Mulder." He had thought angrily as he sat at his desk the next morning after Mulder left with his 302 signed. "All Mulder needs from me is my signature on his paperwork." He bitched as he groped himself. "It doesn't matter to him or anyone else who I screw." He stiffened at the memory of burying himself in Krycek's willing ass—over and over again—and vowed not to let it happen again. A vow he'd break over and over again in months to come.


"A private word with you, Mr. Skinner?" The slimy voice behind him made him sick to his stomach as he glanced around to find Spender following him into the Hoover.

"Whatever you have to say; I'm not interested." Skinner said and continued walking toward the elevators.

Spender stepped into the elevator behind him and pressed the 'close door' button before anyone else could get on. "I just have one quick question for you. Krycek. Do you have him?"

"Krycek?" Skinner asked, hoping that his discomfort didn't show. "Why on earth would I have Krycek?"

"He's missing. I thought maybe you or Mulder might have him." He took a drag on his cigarette as he eyed Skinner closely. "Whatever information you're after, he'll be of little use to you. He hasn't been involved in anything of any importance in several months now."

"I don't have him; I don't keep track of your errand boys." Walter said before adding, "Now if you'll excuse me; I need to get to my office." He reached around Spender and pressed the button for his floor and the elevator started up.

"You would be wise if you handed him over to me, Mr. Skinner." Spender warned.

"Why do you need him? I thought you said he wasn't involved in anything important?" Skinner asked.

"I didn't say that I needed him." The old man inhaled another lung-full of smoke. "It would be in no ones' best interests if he should... shall we say... have a change of heart and fall into the wrong hands."

The elevator stopped, the door opened and Walter brushed past him, stepped out into the hall and headed for his office. Pleased that the door closed and Spender remained behind it. He sat at his desk for some time thinking about Krycek and where he might have gone. He wondered if Mulder had anything to do with his disappearance. Thoughts of Mulder still lingered as he started his day. Mulder and his soulful gray eyes, Mulder with his lithe runner's body, Mulder curled up with him in his cabin up in the mountains. The appearance of his secretary at his door with an arm load of files that he had requested brought him back to reality.

Mid-morning, half way through a report from Agent Douglas, Mulder walked through his door. "Sir? You have a few minutes?" The soft voice rattled him even though he knew it only meant something work related, he couldn't help but imagine that sweet voice asking something else... "; where do you keep the towels?" or "More please... harder...harder." He had to shake himself out of such indulgent thoughts.

"Yes. About five before I have a meeting with Douglas." He waved Mulder in but kept his eyes mostly on the report in front of him and tried not to think about Mulder's soft voice and what it did to him, or about the fantasy he had about him that morning in his shower. "What can I do for you?"

"I finished up the Dallas case and left my report on your secretary's desk and I was wondering... Would it be okay if I take some time off?"

"You haven't taken any days off in months, Mulder. Are you all right?" Walter asked dropping the report and focusing his full attention on the man sitting across the desk from him.

"I'm fine. I'm between cases right now. Scully invited me to go skiing in Canada. I haven't been in years and thought it might be fun." Mulder explained. "Two weeks in the mountains drinking cocoa—how could I refuse." He gave Skinner a smile and had no idea what those hazel eyes were doing to him.

Skinner nodded and picked up his report again, gluing his eyes to it. "Go. It'll do you good to get away. Give my best to Scully." He kept his tone as business-like as he could. He didn't want his envy to expose the betrayal he felt. "Oh, by the way, I spoke with Spender this morning. It seems Krycek is missing; has been for some time. You wouldn't know anything about that; would you?"

"Krycek?" Mulder stopped half way to the door. "I haven't seen him since the airport, two months ago. In October when I got back from Amsterdam. We didn't talk; I doubt he even saw me. He had his passport and a ticket in his hand and a bag over his shoulder so he was heading out. Don't know where. You need me to try and find him for you before we leave?"

"No; it's not important. I wasn't looking for him. Spender was. Go. Have fun." He gave Mulder one last look and got a wave before Mulder left.

"Scully could never do for you what I could." He whispered as the door closed behind Mulder. He returned to his report once again, vowing not to think about Mulder snuggled up somewhere in front of a fireplace with his arms around Scully. It didn't work very well and he found himself snapping angrily at Agent Douglas for next to nothing.


Later that evening as Walter sat in the coffee shop eating his blue-plate special, he thought for a moment he saw Krycek pass by the window. He craned his neck to see better but whoever it was passed on by. It wasn't Krycek. "What the hell do I care?" He thought to himself as the waitress took his empty plate with one hand and re-filled his coffee cup with the other.

"Krycek probably has all kinds of information the old man wouldn't want spread around." He thought. It would serve him right if Krycek turned state's evidence on him. He probably knew enough to put the old man away for good." Walter sipped his coffee and watched the traffic go by outside the window. "Krycek is just the bastard that would do something like that too."

Two men came in and took a booth a short distance from Walter's table and ordered their dinners. He wasn't purposely staring but they were in his line of vision. It didn't take long for him to realize that the two were a 'couple'. They sat side by side instead of across from one another and he couldn't help but notice how they bent their heads towards one another when they spoke and how they casually touched one another's arm or hand as they talked. They looked happy together. If anyone in the room had been staring, the two of them wouldn't have noticed. It was obvious to the world, they had eyes only for each other.

Walter dropped a few bills on the table, got up and left. He thought about that couple all the way home. What it must be like to have someone care about you that much, what it must be like to have someone to have dinner with, someone to share your life with. His loneliness haunted him. His empty condo echoed as he stepped inside. If only Mulder had turned to him...

He refused to let himself go there. He put some music on and fought for something to occupy his mind besides thinking about Mulder and Scully all cozied up together in the mountains. He turned his thoughts to Alex Krycek. If only he hadn't gone to work for Spender, if only he had stayed on at the bureau. Things might have been very different for them. In moments like this—alone and sober— he could admit to himself the attraction had always been there. Right from the moment they had first met and he shook the young green-eyed agent's hand when they were introduced. There was something there. Something they might have built on.

He stopped that line of thought and reminded himself how much he hated Krycek. He thought about the history the two of them had over the years and even dwelt a bit on the last year or so when they hadn't been enemies as much as they had been secret... what? "What?" he gave a grunt as he paced around his living room. What could he call their current relationship? And where the hell was he?

Walter stopped at his desk and looked at the calendar figuring out how long it had been since he had last seen Krycek. Nearly three months. It was September—right after the latest school shooting. A small community college in Pennsylvania. Fourteen dead, three teachers, ten students, and the shooter. He remembered vividly how sickened he had been by it all; how helpless he felt; like no matter how many nuts they put away, some always managed to slip through the cracks and take the lives of innocent people. He had stopped at the liquor store on the way home and bought four bottles of Cutty Sark.

Walter walked through his door that Friday evening to find Alex Krycek sitting on his couch waiting for him. He just picked up two glasses from the bar cabinet and headed up the stairs. Alex followed him and they didn't come down stairs until Monday morning; time for Walter to leave for work. They barely spoke that weekend. That was one thing he'd have to give Krycek—he knew when to keep his mouth shut.

That was the last time he saw Krycek. He wondered about him and where he might have been going when Mulder saw him at the airport in October? Not that he cared. What difference did it make to him if Krycek decided to take off and leave Spender in the dust? He was curious though.

After trying to come up with something else to occupy his mind and failing, Walter decided he'd try out his tracking skills and see if he could find Krycek. Maybe he had gone to England? He remembered that there had been an Englishman who was a member of the Consortium back when it was in full swing.

Walter sat down at his computer, typed in his clearance codes, and went to work. First the airplane passenger lists for the day Mulder got back. That date had been easy enough to come by. All he had to do was check out Mulder's expense reports. Krycek was probably doing the same thing Mulder was. He was probably spending the winter holed up somewhere with some sugar daddy, sitting in front of a fireplace drinking hot cocoa. Walter sighed with disgust at the thought and was about to give up his search when he came across the name, Alexander Artzen. He was surprised to see the plane was headed for Romania.

"What in the world was he doing in Romania?" Walter asked aloud. He refined his search and looked for a return flight but there was no Alexander Artzen listed as having returned. "He's still there? In a poor country like Romania in December? Why?"

Walter was into the mystery now and began working on anything he thought might have been connected with the Consortium and any eastern European connection and came up with nothing. He did a background on each known member of the group for any connection to Romania. Nothing.

He got up from his desk and paced for a while. Back at his desk again he decided to call in a favor and dialed an old friend at the State Department and asked if he had any information about things happening within the last few months in Romania that might have involved an American citizen. He was told it would take a day or two to do a thorough search so he gave up for the evening and went to bed.

Walter dreamed that night of Alex. Alex in his arms, Alex in his bed. He awoke at three am with a raging hard-on and had to relieve himself with thoughts of his dream Alex sucking him off before he could finally fall back to sleep.


Two days passed before he heard from his friend at the state department and the two of them met for coffee and conversation.

"So what do you have for me?" Walter asked after they gave their order and exchanged a few pleasantries.

"I did a thorough run down on this Alex Krycek/Artzen; as thorough as I could while still keeping it under the table. It's pretty rough, Walter." Tommy Lee, Walter's old Marine buddy now working at the state department said.

"I'm aware of his background, Tommy. What I need to know is where he is now. I tracked him to Romania but that's where the trail ended. Do you have anything after he arrived there back in October?" Walter asked.

"Nothing definite; but there are a couple of possibilities." Tommy said.

"They are?" Walter prodded.

"I could find very little information past what hotel he checked into; and like you, I found no record of him returning to the US, or leaving Romania at all; so I went the other way and checked into any Americans there who were out of place—not supposed to be there."

"That's a pretty broad stroke." Walter said with a sigh as he sipped his coffee.

"Not necessarily. If this were the summer or even spring it might be; but it's December—the dead of winter. No body goes to Romania this time of year without a reason." Tommy explained.

"So how does this help us?" Walter asked.

"It narrowed the search down to two distinct possibilities."

"Just two?" Walter asked, excited now that the field had been whittled to two.

"Only two fit the description – male, medium hight and build, American." Tommy said.

"Did you ask about the prosthetic arm?" Walter asked.

"I put that in but got no answer on it one way or the other."

"What can you tell me about these two? Where are they and did you get names?" Walter asked.

"I did. John Doe." Tommy said.

"Both of them?"

"That's the way a lot of foreigners refer to Americans." Tommy explained.

"Is that all you have on them?"

"One is in a jail in Bucharest and the other is in a hospital in Ploiesti; about forty miles north." Tommy said.

"And both are registered as John Does? So do you think they were unable to give their real names or used those to remain anonymous?" Walter asked.

"I asked my contact at the Embassy that and he didn't know."

"If I decide to go there and find him; how do I get him out?" Walter asked.

"Most likely with lots and lots of money." Tommy grinned.

"Seriously?" Walter asked.

"If he's the one in jail—there will be fines, plural, lawyers fees, filing fees, as well as the usual bribes to the local officials to get his passport released. They'll have all kinds of fees to add on."

"And if he's the one in the hospital?" Walter asked.

"Just as expensive. Doctor's fees, hospital fees, plus the bribes for the officials for his passport."

"How much are we talking here?" Walter asked.

"I wouldn't make the trip without at least a hundred grand in my pocket. You might make it out of there for half that, maybe less. And then again it might take every penny and more. There is no set amount for these things. It's all a matter of what they think they can get out of you, what the guy in jail did, how sick the guy in the hospital is, and so on. Too many variables to come up with an exact figure." Tommy explained.

Walter sipped his coffee deep in thought.

"Just how important is this guy to you?" Tommy asked.

"It's strictly business, Tommy." Walter said and they both knew he was lying.

"If you need help coming up with that much cash..."

"No. I've got it." Walter had to drag his mind back to his friend. "What makes you think this is anything but business?"

"If it was business, you wouldn't have needed my help. You'd have used the bureau's own resources." Tommy grinned before adding "And this is exactly the kind of guy you've always been attracted to—the trouble makers of the world."

"That's not true!" Walter insisted and thought immediately about Mulder, and the few others that he had caught his eye and his heart over the years since he had known Tommy.

"Yes it is. I've seen his photo, Walter. He's exactly your type. You've always had a thing for bad boys." Tommy said, chiding his old friend affectionately. "You have this great need inside you to rehabilitate them and it never works out. That's why you always end up alone."

"Not true!" Walter insisted with a shake of his head.

"Okay; stop me if I'm wrong, but what about that trouble maker you've been swooning over for so long, Mulder? Haven't you told me at least a hundred times all the trouble he's caused? Didn't he even attack you once?" Tommy waited and watched while Walter squirmed in his chair without answering.

"And before Mulder, there was that sailor; what's his name?" Tommy went on.

"He was a Lieutenant and they ended up dropping all charges against him." Walter said in defense of the sailor whose name he couldn't even remember, but he did remember how great he looked in that uniform – and out of it. His face flushed and he looked away hoping that Tommy hadn't noticed.

"And before him there was some recruit you were talking about with the mesmerizing green eyes? Remember him? Didn't he leave the bureau when he got into some trouble?" Tommy grinned as his old friend squirmed.

"All right; all right. You've made your point, Tommy, but this one is different. This is Alex Krycek and he's that green-eyed agent I used to talk about." Walter admitted.

"I rest my case." Tommy said. "So what kind of trouble do you think he's in? And are you seriously going to risk going after him?"

"I have no idea what he's likely to be into. I know he's been involved in some pretty deep shit but that was some time ago." Walter answered before adding. "And yes, I'm definitely going after him."

Tommy heaved a big sigh, rubbed the back of his neck as the concern grew for his friend. "I figured you'd be going." He pulled a large brown envelope out of his jacket pocket and placed it in the table in front of Walter.

"What's this?" Walter said as he picked it up. Inside he found diplomatic papers to get Walter into Romania, papers stating his purpose and giving him permission to bring back one Alexander Krycek/Artzen, and a temporary passport for Krycek in case his was 'temporarily un-available'. There were also airplane tickets for the next day and an international cashier's check in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars.

"Tommy—you didn't need to do all of this." Walter was stunned.

"I know you're good for it and if I need it back, I'll ask for it." Tommy grinned.

"I don't know what to say." Walter mumbled as he shoved everything back into the envelope and stuffed it into his jacket pocket.

"Just promise me you'll be careful. I know you, and when you set your mind to something, you don't give up. If they refuse to release him, you'll bring him back anyway; won't you?"

Walter grinned at his friend. "I wouldn't be going over there if I didn't intend on bringing him back."

"Whatever it takes?" Tommy asked.

"Whatever it takes." Walter promised.

"Well, you've got my number. Call me if you need anything else." Tommy stood and gave Walter a hug good-bye.


Walter applied for, and was granted, an indefinite leave of absence from the bureau. The trip had been exhausting and Walter felt only relief when he arrived at his hotel in Bucharest and checked in. He had cashed the check at the airport bank and kept the money in four separate envelopes. Two he carried with him in separate coat pockets and the other two he had hidden in the hotel bathroom. With that finished, he fell into bed and slept away his jet-lag.

The next morning he awoke feeling revived and eager to get on with his mission. He tried his luck first with the phone but the prison didn't have anyone who spoke English available to speak with him so he hung up and tried the hospital. He had no luck there either. Downstairs at the desk he made his request for a driver/interpreter and was told one would be available shortly.

He paced the floor and waited patiently, nearly jumping out of his skin when the loud knock on his door startled him. He explained briefly that he was looking for someone and had two possibilities—the hospital or the jail. Convinced that jail was the more likely possibility, they headed there first.

The interpreter chattered and gestured and argued with first the guards, then the warden, for what seemed like an incredible length of time, but finally he motioned for Walter to come with him and they followed the warden through a hallway, out a back door, across a long snowy walkway and into an ancient building that immediately assailed all his senses.

The building was so old it amazed him that it still stood. Heat was non-existant, electricity was sparse and consisted of a few bare bulbs hanging from the ceiling every so often, and the smell was beyond description. Walter covered his mouth and nose as he gagged and tried to cover it with a cough. They entered a huge area with cells circling the room. One uniformed man slept at a small desk in the center and jumped up when they entered. They spoke rapidly and Walter couldn't understand a word except occasionally 'American John Doe' would enter the conversation.

The interpreter told him that they claimed they had no Americans. The warden said yes, the guard said no. On and on the argument went until Walter had had enough and called out, "Krycek! Alex Krycek! Alexander Artzen! Krycek!"

There was a murmuring of muffled voices from the various cells but no one answered. "Maybe he's in another area. We keep looking." The interpreter said as they started to leave.

"Sir?" A voice called out and Walter stopped in his tracks.

"Sir, I'm not Alex Krycek, but I'm an American. Can you help me please?" The voice came from the far side of the room.

Walter made his way over to the cell holding five men. Four were older, probably in their fifties, the fifth was the young man who had called out to him. Walter guessed him to be barely out of his teens. He stood there holding onto the bars; brusied, bloodied, clothes torn, shoes gone, and tears streaming down his face.

"Who are you and what are you doing here?" Walter asked as he took it all in.

"My name is Joey; Joey Sellers. I'm from Baltimore, MD." The young man said.

"Why are you here?" Walter asked as he eyed the older men whispering at the back of the cell. From their looks and the look of the young man he didn't have to guess what had been going on.

"They say I murdered someone; but I didn't. It was an accident. They won't let me call the embassy or my folks." He couldn't control the tears and had to stop long enough to catch his breath before going on. "I was on a bike tour, riding all around Europe for the summer. I chained my bike up in front of a restaurant and went in for a meal. When I came out, three men were trying to steal my bike. They started pushing me back and forth between them. I managed to shove one of them back and he slipped and fell. He hit his head on the sidewalk, and I guess he died. He didn't get up, and they couldn't wake him. They started shouting and screaming. The next thing I knew, the police showed up and they brought me here."

"When did this happen?" Walter asked.

"July 17th. It was my 21st birthday. My folks must be worried sick. I was due back first week in August. I was supposed to start medical school in September." The young man gasped out. "Please, can you call them for me? Or at least call the embassy?"

"You've been allowed no calls since you were arrested five months ago?" Walter asked and looked over at his interpreter who just shrugged his shoulders.

"No!" Joey said. "Please, please—call someone for me! An attorney, someone!" The young man was clearly desperate. With another look at his lecherous cell mates, and the boy's dis-shelved condition, it was plain to see why.

"I'll see what I can do." Walter said as he turned away and left with the warden and interpreter.

Back in the warden's office the chatter between the interpreter and warden began again.

"He says that is the only John Doe – American he has and if it is not the one you are looking for you must blame the gods and not him." The interpreter said.

"Ask him about the boy. Ask him why he was here and why he hasn't been allowed to contact the embassy." Walter instructed.

More chatter ensued and the interpreter returned with the answer, "He says the boy is a murder. He will get a trial someday... maybe."

Walter paced the floor, knowing that he should stay out of it, but couldn't erase the look of desperation on the young man's face, nor the leering grins from his cell mates. He knew what had been going on in that cell, and he knew that the warden did too. And he knew that it didn't matter to anyone but him.

"Ask him how much." Walter instructed him.

"What?" The interpreter asked him; surprised by the words. "But I thought this was not the man you were looking for?"

"It's not. But I can't leave him here like that. Go on. Ask the warden what it will take to get him out." Walter instructed him.

The chatter began again and the warden brightened immediately now that he had a commodity to sell. They bickered for a time before the interpreter turned back to Walter and said, "Twenty five big." He grinned at Walter. "Twenty five thousand." He repeated, just to make sure Walter understood what the price was.

Walter did some quick figuring. That would still leave him with seventy-five thousand; and with Krycek most likely being the one in the hospital, if he was here at all, he figured that would cover whatever it took to get him out.

"I'll need his passport, and a letter saying he was freed of all charges against him." Walter said as he pulled out one of his envelopes with twenty five thousand dollars in it.

The interpreter reported his request to the warden who promptly sat down and began writing. Moments later he dug through a drawer and pulled out a passport and handed both to the interpreter who passed them to Walter.

Walter inspected them carefully and asked what the note said. The interpreter read the note aloud that said Joey Sellers had been released from custody. All charges against him had been dropped and that it had been a case of mistaken identity.

Walter nodded his head yes and the interpreter said something to the warden. The warden reached out a hand for the money and Walter shook his head no. Not until the boy was brought out and turned over to him. The interpreter relayed the message and the warden picked up the phone and made a call. They waited only a few moments before the boy was brought in; barefoot and shivering from the cold.

"You did it? They're going to let me call the embassy?" Joey gasped out.

Walter handed the envelop to the interpreter, who pulled one thousand out and pocketed it before handing the rest over to the warden who grinned with greed as he sat and counted it before waving them to leave his office.

"Am I going to get to use the phone?" Joey asked.

"Ask him about the boy's bike; his shoes, the rest of his belongings." Walter said to the interpreter before going over to the boy and placing his coat around the boy's slim shoulders.

A quick sentence or two between them and the interpreter said, "He says the boy came in with nothing and he leaves with nothing."

Walter gave a disgusted grunt, and steered the boy towards the door.

"What's happening? What's going on?" Joey asked.

"We're leaving and you're coming with me." Walter said as they walked out the front door, to their car.

"But... but... They'll come after me! They think I murdered that man!" Joey pleaded frantically but relaxed just a bit when Walter explained about the letter and pass port once they were in the car.

"We'll get you to the hotel, get you cleaned up, and on the next plane home." Walter said and the look on the boy's face was enough to convince him that he had done the right thing. Whatever the boy had done, whether he was guilty or not, he had paid a heavy price.

The boy sat in the back of the car sobbing the entire thirty minute ride back to the hotel. Walter told the interpreter to go have lunch and come back in two hours to pick him up for the trip to the hospital in Ploiesti . They entered through a side door, took the elevator up, and entered his room.

"You... paid them money? You... bought me?" The boy, once again, became rigid with fear.

"Joey, you have nothing to fear from me." Walter assured him. "Yes, I paid them money and what I bought was your freedom—nothing else."

Joey stared at him, still not able to believe what was happening to him.

"Look." Walter showed him his I.D. "My name is Walter Skinner and I'm an Assistant Director at the F.B.I. I don't go around 'buying' people. I came here looking for someone... a former agent... who was last heard of entering Romania before he disappeared. I was told there were two Americans being held in this area. One in jail and the other in a hospital."

"Alex Krycek." Joey said the name, after a deep breath of relief, as he handed Walter's I.D. back to him. "That's the name you were calling out back there."

"That's right." Walter said, taking his bag down from the shelf and rummaging through it. "Here." He tossed his sweat pants and a pair of underwear to Joey. "Why don't you jump in the shower and get cleaned up; then you can make your phone call. Afterwards, we'll go down stairs to the coffee shop and get some lunch."

Joey stared at the clean clothes in his hands. "I... a..." He clouded up and the tears started to flow again.

"It's all right, Joey. Go ahead. Get cleaned up and you can call your folks." Walter said as he placed a tee-shirt, a sweat shirt and a pair of clean socks on the bed for Joey for after his shower, before stashing his bag back on the shelf.

Joey gave a quick look over at the phone, stared at the clean clothes, and made his way into the bathroom. He came out a short time later, tying the string to hold the way-too-big sweat pants up.

"Here." Walter offered him the rest of the clothes. "We'll do some shopping after lunch and get you some clothes that fit." He was silent as he watched Joey dress and said nothing about the bruises that covered the boy's pale body before asking, "Do you need to see a doctor?"

"No!" Joey answered quickly. "I just want to go home." He sat down by the phone. "Whatever you paid for me... my release, I mean... my dad will reimburse you."

"Don't worry about it. Just make your call. I saw some shops across the street and down about half a block. We ought to be able to get you something to wear and hopefully some shoes."

Walter stood by the window and looked out on the cold gray day and wondered what Joey was saying to his folks. All he could hear was the boy's choked sobs. The conversation was short and in a few minutes Joey had joined Walter at the window.

"You hungry?" Walter asked not wanting to even imagine what the rail-thin boy had been fed these last five months.

"Uh huh." Joey said as he wiped his face on the back of his hand.

"Let's go then."

Downstairs they ordered vegetable soup and bread. Walter was struck by the boy's silent looking around and knew that he was expecting for the police to arrive any minute and take him back to prison again.

"You're safe, Joey. You can relax." Walter assured him.

"I just want to go home." Joey said and could hardly contain himself when the food was placed in front of him. He first picked up the bowl to drink, as he had been doing for the past five months in prison, but seeing Walter using a spoon, he placed the bowl back down and picked up his spoon.

"I called the airport while you were in the shower and booked you on the next flight for the U.S. Unfortunately it doesn't leave until tomorrow night." Walter explained. "That might be a good thing. It will give you a chance to... get yourself together... get to feeling better. Are you sure you don't want to see a doctor? We can call the embassy and have them recommend one."

"No; no doctor." Joey insisted. "I would really like some clothes though; shoes especially. Keep track of all you're spending on me and my father will pay you back for everything."

"That's not necessary, Joey. Eat." Walter encouraged. "We've got to hit the shops and be back here before the interpreter gets back to take me to Ploiesti."

Joey dug in then and finished off his food without another word and sipped at the warm coffee that was brought to them at the end of their meal. "This is so good. Nothing we got in that place was ever warm and nothing, nothing, ever tasted this good."

"Good. I'm glad you're enjoying it. Why don't you write your sizes down and I'll go and try and find you some things. You can wait in the room. You don't want to go out there without any shoes." Walter said as he fished in his pocket and pulled out his pen and handed it to Joey along with a paper napkin to write on.

"No! Please!" Joey's fear clicked in again. "Don't leave me here! I want to go with you. Please!"

"It's all right, Joey. You can go if you want. It's going to be really cold though without any shoes."

"I don't care. I've been cold and barefoot since they arrested me. The first thing they did was take my boots and my coat." He explained.

"Bastards." Walter said as he placed a few bills on the table and the two of them left.

Outside the hotel, Joey removed his socks and shoved them in his pocket. When Walter gave him a questioning look he explained, "There's no sense getting them wet with this slush all over everywhere. I'll put them back on when we get to a store."

They dashed across the street as soon as the traffic cleared and into the first shop they came to. It was mostly tourist type items so they went on to the next shop. This one was a winner. It had everything they needed. Joey came away with a pair of Reeboks, two pairs of jeans, two sweat shirts, packages of tee-shirts, underwear, socks, and a coat, knit cap and gloves.

Once back at the hotel, Joey dressed quickly in his new clothes and actually smiled for the first time since he'd been released. "I can't believe all this is happening." He choked up again. "I thought I was going to die in that place."

"You don't have to worry about that any more, Joey. Tomorrow you'll be on your way home." Walter said with a warm squeeze to the boy's shoulder.

The interpreter arrived then and they were off to Poliesti. "Are you sure you don't want to wait at the hotel?" Walter had asked but gave in when the boy's desperation to stay with him became all too clear. He was obviously terrified to have Walter out of his sight.

"All right. I can't see that we'd be getting into any trouble just visiting someone in a hospital." Walter finally agreed.

The ride took a little over an hour. The roads were mostly clear but they were icy enough that the driver kept it at a reasonable slower speed saying, "I must drive carefully." Marius, the interpreter explained in his thick accent. "Wouldn't want anything bad happen to best customer in months!"

"You go in. They speak American." Marius assured them when they arrived. "I must call wife; tell I be late."

They met with blank stares at the front desk until one nurse finally said, "American?" and left in a hurry. A short time later she came back with a flustered nurse who was obviously apologizing profusely with a negative shake of the head, saying the only American words she knew, "Er... how much... pretty girl... Dallas Cowboys... fuck Russia."

Walter sighed in exasperation and wondered where his interpreter was and repeated over and over again, "American – John Doe. American – John Doe." Until another nurse passing by heard and came over. A lengthy conversation began and she came over to them asking, "JohnDoe?" as it if was all one name. It sounded more like 'Shondo'; but Walter shook his head yes and followed her as she took them off down the hallway and down a long set of stairs. Through corridor after corridor they followed her to the oldest part of the hospital and through a set of double doors into a ward with at least twenty beds in it.

"Shondo – American," the nurse with them said to the matron who sat at her desk reading a magazine and smoking a cigarette, oblivious to the fact that the patients nearest to her were coughing. She pointed them to the last bed on the left at the far back of the room; said something that sounded roughly like 'American' and went back to her magazine.

The nurse led them to the bed, smiled at them, said "Shondo -American," and left.

"Is that him?" Joey asked. "Is that Alex Krycek?"

Walter walked around to the opposite side of the bed to get a look at the sleeping man who was laboring with every breath he took.

"Krycek?" He asked as he bent down for a closer look in the dim light.

The sleeping man roused, coughed and fought to open his eyes. When he rolled over on his back, Walter could see the missing arm. He swept the long hair back off the patients face and saw that it was indeed Alex Krycek.

"Walter?" Krycek whispered and coughed some more.

Walter looked around for some water for him but there was none. He worked the crank at the foot of the old fashioned bed and it raised Krycek to an almost sitting position and his coughing calmed down a bit.

"What are you doing here?" Alex rasped out through dry, cracked lips.

"Looking for you, asshole! What's the matter with you?" Walter could barely control his anger.

"Probably pneumonia." Alex said as he tried to clear his throat with a weak sputter.

"Pneumonia shouldn't keep you in this state. How long have you been like this?" Walter demanded.

"Don't know. Long time." Alex managed to get out before coughing took control of him again.

The interpreter, Marius, found them then. "Ahh there you are. I see you found John Doe." He was grinning from ear to ear expecting a big bonus from his rich American client.

"I want to speak to his doctor. I need to know his condition and when he'll be able to leave. And can we get some water in here for him?" Walter said and the Marius skittered off to find the information.

"Are you awake?" Walter asked, irritated that once the coughing had stopped, Alex had closed his eyes and appeared to be asleep again.

"I'm awake." Alex whispered.

"What the hell happened? What were you doing in Romania?" Walter asked.

"I got a telegram that said to come here for a meeting. I thought it was from the old man. It wasn't." That was all he could get out before he had to stop and catch his breath. Talking was difficult and taking a lot out of him. "Who's that?" He nodded weakly towards Joey.

"I picked him up out of the jail." Walter explained. "I was told there were two Americans here; one in the hospital and one in the jail. I naturally assumed you were the one in jail. When I found him... I couldn't leave him. He's okay. He'll be heading back to Baltimore tomorrow."

"He's just a kid. What's he doing in jail?" Alex asked but before he could get an answer, Marius was back, dragging the doctor by the arm and speaking to him a mile a minute.

"This is the doctor who treated him." The Marius said.

"Ask him what's wrong with him." Walter said.

They chatted a minute and Marius said, "Pneumonia."

"Why doesn't he have any oxygen? When was the last time he was given any meds for his temperature?" Walter asked.

More chatting and the Marius said, "Money. He has no money. No money – no meds."

"Shit!" Walter said. "You mean he hasn't been given anything?"

A shrug from Marius as he repeated, "No money – no meds".

"Penicillin—right now!" Walter pulled out his wallet and showed a few bills to the doctor who brightened considerably; shook his head and hurried off.

"Water!" Walter demanded. "He needs water. And when was the last time he was fed?"

Marius hurried off and spoke with the matron. He came back a few minutes later with a chipped cup filled with water and handed it to Walter. "She says he got broth when the others did, at ten this morning."

Walter shook his head in disgust as he held the cup for Alex.

"He needs aspirin, a bowl of water and a wash rag." Joey said from the other side of the bed and explained when the others looked up at him. "We need to bathe his forehead with cool water. That will help with the temperature."

"Bring it." Walter said and Marius hurried off.

The doctor came back a few minutes later and gave Alex a shot. Immediately after, he stood with his hand out wanting to get paid.

"Ten." Marius said to Walter after returning and handing the water to Joey. "Ten only and don't let him see you have lots money. He try get more."

The doctor pocketed the money and left quickly.

Joey took the bowl of water and rag; and began wiping down Alex's face. When he finished, he folded the rag over several times and left it to rest on Alex's forehead.

Alex eyed him suspiciously but Joey responded, "I'm not a doctor but I am a medical student. I know how to bring down a temperature." And to Walter he said, "Ask again for some aspirin. He needs it."

Walter asked Marius and he nodded his head that he understood but held out his hand for money. Walter gave an exasperated sigh and pulled out his wallet. Marius held up three fingers. Walter handed him three dollars and he left returning a short time later and handed Walter a small tin container with several words printed on it; one being 'aspirin'.

He squeezed the back corner of the tin and the container popped open exposing twelve aspirin tablets. "How many?" He asked Joey.

"Let's start out with three." Joey said. "We'll cut back to two, every four hours, once the fever starts to come down."

Walter took out three tablets and handed one to Alex along with the cup of water. "One at a time. You don't want to choke." He held the water up for him and Alex swallowed the pills eagerly.

"I need to get out of here, Walter. Can you get me back to the states?" Alex asked.

"As soon as you're strong enough to get up out of that bed. They'd never let you on a plane looking like that." Walter said.

Alex wilted a little. Disappointment as well as a fear plain on his tired face. "I can walk." He said but they all knew he was lying.

"Okay. Come on then. Let's go." Walter challenged.

Alex made a half-hearted attempt to get up but didn't even have the strength to sit up. He slumped back down, filled with despair.

Walter told Marius to go see about getting Alex into a private room and he took off.

"Relax." Walter pressed a hand down on Alex' shoulder. "I came to Romania to bring you back and that's what I'm going to do. If we have to wait a few days until you get your strength back, then that's what we'll do."

"If they know I'm alive... they might come back." Alex warned and looked quickly from Walter to the boy and back again.

"He's leaving tomorrow. He's staying with me until then, and I'm staying here with you." Walter assured him but couldn't help the feeling of unease at not having his gun with him, that, try as he did, he wasn't allowed to bring into the country.

Alex caught the look and asked, "You're not armed?"

"No." He answered and wished this conversation wasn't necessary—especially in front of Joey—but he couldn't send Joey away and he had to ask. "Who is it? Who should I be looking out for?"

"Wang Cho; out of Shanghai." Alex whispered.

"Okay then. I'll keep my eye out for any suspicious looking Chinese." Walter assured him. "We'll get you in a private room and that should offer at the very least, a little more security."

Alex started coughing again and Walter asked about oxygen. Alex said he couldn't remember being given any since he'd been there. In fact, he remembered very little at all after Wang Cho and his buddies attacked him in his hotel room and left him for dead. He had been very lucky that the maid had found him and got him sent to the hospital. Unfortunately, by the time he arrived there, his wallet and belongings had disappeared so he'd been sent to the charity ward where the nasty cold he had, worsened and he ended up with pneumonia. He had no idea how long he had been there and was surprised when Walter told him it was December.

A short while later an attendant came in. Walter was told a private room would be one hundred dollars. He handed it over and they were moved up to a newer better part of the hospital but the room they were ushered into had four beds in it; one was occupied by an old man. Marius argued with the attendant and was told this was the only room available and not to worry about the old man as he was deceased and they would have someone come by and remove the body as soon as possible.

Walter didn't like it but it was better than the charity ward. At least here there was a bit of warmth coming from an ancient radiator and there was an attached bathroom. An oxygen tank was wheeled in and a nurse hooked up the tubing and attached it around Alex's head to his nostrils. His breathing improved immediately.

"Do you know what else he needs?" Walter asked Joey.

"No. Penicillin for the infection, aspirin for the fever, and oxygen to help him breathe easier. That's all I know. That and keeping him warm." He said as he went over to one of the other beds, pulled a blanket off and added it to the other thin blanket that was covering Alex.

"Maybe we can get a heater brought in?" Walter asked, but Marius shrugged his shoulders and shook his head no.

"All right. We'll manage." Walter said as he paced the floor. "We need food though. He needs to eat a little something every few hours. So does Joey. He... ah... hasn't been well himself and needs food. Can you see about getting some brought in – something other than broth?" Marius held out his hand. Walter pulled out a twenty and gave it to him and he scurried away.

"If you can think of anything else he needs, or anything you need, Joey; let me know." Walter said.

Joey shook his head vigorously but remained quiet as he refilled the bowl with water from the bathroom and once again started bathing Alex's forehead.

It took nearly an hour but Marius finally returned, pushing a cart with a towel draped over it. Once inside, with the door closed, he whipped the towel off and showed that the cart was filled with food. There were stacks of sandwiches, bowls of what looked like stew, pudding, fresh fruit—an urn of coffee, a jug of milk, and several plates of food that looked like it came directly from the cafeteria.

"I did not know what you like so I got you some of everything." Marius grinned widely at his presentation.

"You did beautifully!" Walter said as he waved away the eight dollars and change that Marius tried to give him. "You keep that. This is perfect."

Joey's eyes lit up when he saw the food and Alex seemed to brighten a bit as well.

"Come on, Joey. Dig in." Walter said and handed him a bowl of stew. "This smells pretty good." He picked up another bowl, sat on the side of the bed, and began spooning some into Alex' mouth. "From now on, you eat something every hour. With the medications and a little food, you'll get your strength back in no time."


The evening came on cold and snowy and Marius warned them that if they didn't leave for the hotel soon, the roads would be closed until the blizzard passed. Walter offered Joey the chance to go back to the hotel for the night, but when he said he was going to stay there with Alex, Joey said he wanted to stay as well.

The doctor came in and checked on Alex, gave him another shot and left; assuring Walter with a smile that he no longer had to pay for each item individually. Now that the patient had 'family' to look after him, it would be more convenient to settle up when they left.

"Family?" Walter asked Marius.

"I could not say you were F.B.I. – police matters very serious thing here. I told him you Shondo's brother." Marius grinned sheepishly. "Otherwise, you have to leave."

"All right. You did good." Walter shook his head. "Hadn't you better be heading on home yourself before you get stuck here?"

"Too late. Already stuck." Marius said as he pointed to the window and the storm raging outside.

"Oh, I'm sorry." Walter apologized as he took a look.

"No problem. I stay in waiting room. They have TV there! I like the TV." Marius grinned. "You need me, you come get me. End of hall, turn right."

The room was chilly and Walter fiddled with the radiator but it was putting out all the warmth it could. He took a blanket from another bed and covered Alex; giving him three thin blankets now. He got another blanket and wrapped it around Joey's shoulders as he sat on the floor, arms around his knees, head down and trying to sleep.

"Joey, why don't you get in one of these beds. You'll be a lot more comfortable."

"No. I can't. I don't want to. This is fine; better than I've had in months." He sniffed. "I've got shoes and socks and a sweat shirt and a blanket and I don't have to worry about anyone..." He put his head back down, unable to voice that thought any further, he sat silently—rocking himself back and forth.

Walter sat down beside him, leaning back against the wall. "Joey—what happened to you was—despicable. You're going to need help dealing with it."

"No!" Joey jerked his head up and hissed the words out. "I'm fine! I just want to go home!"

"When I was, not quite your age; something bad happened to me." Walter fumbled for a beginning.

"It happened to you too? You were..." Joey stared at him wide eyed.

"No. Not the same thing that happened to you, but in it's own way, just as despicable." Walter let the words seep out of him slowly. "As soon as I turned eighteen, I joined the Marines." He sighed at the memory of that gung-ho kid. "I was so eager—we all were. We could hardly wait to get into the action. We had the best training in the world, the best equipment, and the best of intentions."

"You were in the war?" Joey asked.

"I was; for eight months. Eight months of hell. There's no other way to describe combat. It was hell—day in; day out. It didn't stop. Not until you took a bullet or worse."

"But you made it." Joey encouraged Walter to go on.

"One morning we were out on patrol. Our entire squad was wiped out. I can still remember lying there seeing my buddies being put in body bags. Then they lifted me and started shoving me in a bag too."

"Oh my god!" Joey gasped.

"It was just a stroke of luck that one of the guys handling me saw a pulse in my neck, and found out I was still alive." Walter went on. "The lights went out then and when I came around again, I was back in the states, in a nice clean hospital with nice clean people taking care of me. No bombs going off, no planes screeching overhead, no buddies screaming in agony."

"You got to go home?" Joey asked.

"Yeah. But not before I went round and round with the base doctor. He refused to release me until I saw a counselor. I insisted that I didn't need one. I was home—I was fine. I just wanted to leave."

Joey caught on to where he was going and turned his head away.

"It took half a dozen visits to the counselor's office before I finally lost it. I hollered and I screamed and I cursed everything and everyone. I ranted and raved. I trashed the guy's office and even puked in his waste basket. When I finished I expected I'd be hauled off to the brig. Instead he smiled at me and said he was proud of me. That I'd finally had a break through." Walter stopped and took a few deep breaths. "All the night mares didn't disappear. It took a long time but I finally got a handle on things."

"But you got better?"

"I did, Joey. The point I'm trying to make is this. Horrible things can happen to us. It puts a scar on our souls that will last a life time. Scars that will never entirely go away. It's up to us to learn how to deal with it—how to cope once we are taken out of the intolerable situation and thrust back into normal life, with normal people who have no idea what we've been through. That's what a counselor does. That's what they are trained to do."

"I don't need a counselor. I couldn't tell them... you know... everything." Joey shook his head sadly.

"Yes you can and you must if you want your life back. I've run into other vets, vets who weren't physically injured and just rotated back into civilian life. Most of them have a hard time adjusting. One day they are in the middle of an exploding jungle, killing people, watching their buddies being torn apart, the next day they are walking down main street and a stranger accidentally bumps into them—and they lose it—try to kill the poor guy."

"That really happened?" Joey asked.

"It did. And many variations on that same theme. The person thinks they are fine and handling things and all the sudden, something kicks in and the world falls out from under them. They usually end up on drugs, or become drunks, bullies, or wife-beaters. Very few can manage to return to a normal life without consequences, after something so horrific happens to them. And what happened to you was horrific, Joey."

"But I can't! I can't tell anyone what happened." Joey covered his face with his hands. "My parents are both doctors. If I went to a psychiatrist, they'd find out!"

"It wouldn't have to be a psychiatrist—just a counselor who's handled trauma victims before. I could find someone for you. It wouldn't have to be in Baltimore. We can find someone in D.C. or anywhere you'd be comfortable, and remember, they are sworn to keep anything you tell them strictly private. All your folks would have to know is that you are seeing someone to help you deal with the trauma of being locked up in a foreign prison cell for five months. Then don't need to know any more details than that."

"They wouldn't find out?" Joey turned to look at him again.

"They'd be less likely to find out if you got help handling the situation, than they would if you let it go and it erupts suddenly one day when someone says or does something that triggers a memory sending you back into the nightmare."

"And that could happen?"

"It could; and usually does." Walter said. "Someone, maybe a friend or relative could give you an innocent hug, and all the sudden you're back there in that cell with those bastards. Joey, if you don't get help, it'll be like carrying a time bomb around inside you waiting to go off."

"I just... don't want to talk about it... don't even want to think about it." Joey said propping his head on his knees miserably.

"I know." Walter commiserated. "It's still too raw right now. It's good you have these few days to... to kind of catch your breath." He wanted to somehow comfort the boy but putting his arms around him would be the last thing he'd be able to tolerate. Instead he gave him a little shoulder bump and Joey looked up at him. "Just think about it. I'm going to check up on you after we're back. I'll come up with a couple names of counselors. You think you can get a little sleep?"

"I'll try. I haven't slept at night in a while. I tried to sleep mostly during the day." He gave a sad little smile.

Walter could see tear tracks down Joey's face again. He patted his shoulder, went to the last bed and took the blanket and wrapped it around himself before sitting back down next to Alex.

"What happened to him?" Alex whispered.

"What do you think? He's been locked in a cell for five months with four older men—all who hated to see him go." Walter said with disgust.

"Jesus!" Alex said. "I'm glad you got him out."

"He'll be on his way home tomorrow, and we'll be on our way home as soon as you're strong enough to get up out of this bed." Walter assured him with a pat on his shoulder.

"Walter... there is one more thing I need." Alex said, hating to ask for anything more since Walter had already done so much for him.

"What is it?" Walter asked, wondering what he had missed.

"My arm. Can you ask them for my arm?"

"Of course!" Walter started to get up but Alex stopped him.

"You can do it in the morning."

"I should have thought of that. I'm sorry." Walter apologized.

"I know I could get another one, but it takes so long to get used to a new one..." Alex explained.

"Next time Marius comes in, I'll ask him to see if he can find it." Walter promised. "Now why don't you try and sleep."

Alex did sleep then; and Walter and Joey dozed on and off during the night; Joey crouched on the floor and Walter stayed in the chair beside Alex' bed. At one point Alex awoke in a panic and called out for Walter.

"Huh?" Walter shook himself awake. "I'm right here. What do you need?"

"Oh..." Alex sighed with relief. "I didn't see you right off... I was afraid I had dreamed you were here."

"I'm here." Walter said and slipped his hand into Alex'.

"I still can't believe it." Alex whispered and stared at him for a time before asking, "Why are you here, Walter?"

"Because you're here." Walter said simply as if those three little words answered everything.

"But... I thought you hated me."

"I do. And don't you ever forget it. I also happen to love you; I have no idea why, so don't ever call me on it because I'll probably deny I ever said it." Walter said and leaned over and placed a soft kiss on Alex' dry lips. "Now shut up and get some sleep!"

"Yes sir." Alex said with a little smile before rolling over, closing his eyes and adding, "I'm really liking this dream."


The storm raged outside for the next three days straight; not only bringing the entire city and it's airport to a complete stand-still—but giving Alex a chance to get some of his strength back. Marius was more than happy to act as go-between for them, securing whatever they needed in the way of food, medicine, and information. He also located Alex's prosthesis and had it brought to him. He was as happy as the other three when it was announced that the worst of the storm had passed and the roads and airport would be open the next day.

Walter spent some time on the phone in the waiting room talking with the airport and making sure that Joey had a seat on the first plane with connections to the U.S. Joey had agreed to wait in the room keeping an eye on Alex while Walter was gone. The doctor had said that Alex needed at least another few days before he'd be strong enough to leave.

They had just finished their lunch and Walter and Joey had helped Alex into the bathroom and back to his bed; when Marius came in looking worried. Walter picked up on it immediately.

"What is it, Marius? What's wrong?" Walter asked.

"Big trouble; I think maybe." He looked from Walter to Alex and back to Walter again. "I talk before with nurse on duty when Johndo, Alex Krycek, come in. She say he was badly beaten—almost dead."

"Yes," Walter said. "We know that."

"Two men downstairs right now, asking for one-armed American name Alex Krycek. Mean, mean looking." He shook his head and wrung his hands with worry. "Same men beat Johndo, I think maybe?"

"Chinese?" Alex asked as he struggled to get back up out of bed.

"Chinese, Korean, Japanese; don't know. But Asian for true." Marius said.

Walter froze for a minute but sprang into action as Joey peppered him with questions. "What is it? What's happening? Who are they?"

"We're leaving." Walter announced. "Marius, we need to get out of here; right now!" Walter grabbed his coat off the rack and wrapped it around Alex while Joey grabbed his coat, came over and put an arm around Alex as well to help steady him.

"Yes! Good! You must go! Come. Come, I take you. We go to Bucharest." Marius said as they left the room as quietly as possible.

Alex hobbled along between them, still extremely weak but eager to be out of the hospital and away from those men seeking to finish the job they had started. Marius led them to a freight elevator that took them to the basement.

"Wait here. Stay in elevator. I bring car." He said before dashing off towards the parking lot.

A few minutes later they were on the road and heading back to Bucharest and the hotel. "Marius, find out what the final bill is at the hospital so I can pay it and see if the doctor has any final instructions for Alex. Tell him a family matter came up and we had to leave right away." Walter said as they drove.

"I don't want to leave any unfinished business." He said to Alex. "Do I need to see to these two before we head back to the U.S.?"

"No." Alex shook his head. "Let's just get out of here. We can leave them for another day when we can think straight."

"Okay. Your call." Walter agreed. "I'll call the airport as soon as we get to the hotel and see about tickets."

"You don't get tickets; you call Marius! I have many friends—big friends. I get tickets." Marius said after speeding down the highway getting them safely to Bucharest and their hotel in record time.

"Thank you, Marius. I appreciate all the help you've given us." Walter said as he pulled out a hand full of bills and handed them to Marius whose eyes bulged at the vast over-payment he had just received.

"Thank you, Sir! Thank you!" he said over and over again as he folded the bills and stuffed them in his shirt pocket. "You need ride to airport, you call Marius! I take you! You need anything—anything—you call Marius!"

"We will. Thanks." Walter said as he and Joey struggled to get Alex, still in his hospital gown and barefoot, out of the car and into the hotel side door. "I'm just glad that I reserved the room for a week." Walter said as he inserted the key and unlocked the door.

"I need clothes." Alex said after Walter deposited him on the bed and pulled the bed spread up around him.

"Mine will probably fit him." Joey said and pulled out the second set of new clothes that they had bought.

"I could run across the street and get some." Walter said but Alex had grabbed up what Joey offered and was already pulling on his underwear and reaching for the jeans.

"These are fine." Alex said. "Call the airport. Get us on anything going in any direction."

Walter made the call and was at first told there were no more tickets available but after speaking with a supervisor, giving him his F.B.I. badge number and explaining that it was an emergency situation, he was allowed to trade in the one seat that he had reserved for Joey, in exchange for three seats—with a significant increase in price, of course, for the evening flight to London.

"He needs shoes." Joey said, when Walter got off the phone.

"I'll get some." Walter said and started to leave but stopped to argue, when Alex tried to get up and go with him.

"No; I'll go." Joey said. "It's just across the street."

"Are you sure?" Walter said, knowing how fearful Joey had been at having Walter out of his sight.

"Positive. I've got to start sometime." He gave a weak smile. "You look about the same size as I am, Alex. Ten and a half?"

"Eleven; but I'll take anything you can find." Alex said as he settled himself back on the bed now that Walter was staying with him.

"Here." Walter handed him a several bills. "Get whatever you think he needs."

"Watch your back!" Alex warned as Joey left the room gingerly.

Walter went over the room carefully, looking for anything that he could use for a weapon, in case they had been followed and he needed something to protect both Joey and Alex. Only one idea came to him and he called for room service. He ordered three steak dinners to be sent up as soon as possible.

"I don't think I could eat a steak, Walter." Alex said, puzzled at Walter's order.

"I don't care about the steaks. I'm just hoping that they'll be served with steak knives. That way we'll have at least a little something to use to protect ourselves." Walter explained as he continued his search of the place and made a mental note that from now on, he'd have to figure out some way to smuggle in a weapon of some kind whenever he visited a foreign country.

A little over an hour later, as Walter stood watching out the window, he saw Joey make his way across the street and enter the hotel. He came away from the window and announced to Alex, "Joey's back."

"Oh, thank goodness!" Alex sighed with relief. "I was beginning to get worried."

"Me too." Walter admitted and jumped as someone knocked on their door as it was too soon after seeing Joey downstairs for it to have been him. Walter peeked out the peep-hole and saw it was room service with a cart loaded with covered dishes. He opened the door slowly, looking carefully up and down the hall before letting the young man wheel their food in. He tipped the boy and he left just as Joey appeared with a double arm load of bags.

"What's all this?" Joey asked.

Walter closed and locked the door before answering. "Weapons; I hope." He said and began uncovering the meals. Sure enough, each plate had a set of regular utensils plus a steak knife. Walter inspected the blade on one, handed it to Alex and picked up a second one.

"I was thinking about that." Joey said. "So I got these." He dug around in his bags and brought out two boxes and handed one each to Walter and Alex. They pulled the top off the boxes to find hunting knives.

"Where did you get these?" Walter asked, amazed Joey's resourcefulness.

"I noticed when I went into the shop that a couple doors down was a sporting goods place. The guy behind the counter spoke a little English. I told him I was looking for gifts to take home for my two brothers and that they liked to hunt. He suggested the knives but said I'd probably have to mail them home as he didn't think they'd allow them on a plane."

"These are great, Joey!" Walter said as he inspected the large knife. "We can always ditch them at the airport."

"You did good, Joey." Alex confirmed.

"I got you shoes, a coat, a shaving kit, and more socks, underwear, jeans and sweat shirts for us both; and a couple of back packs." Joey said as he opened the bags and dumped everything out onto the bed next to Alex.

"This is great, Joey!" Walter said. "We have weapons now and everything we need. All we have to do is make it through the next few hours until it's time to head for the airport."

Alex worked at cutting the tags off all of his new clothes and stashing them in his back pack as Joey did the same. Walter sat down and decided to work on his steak; finishing it off easily. The other two, ate some vegetables and bread which was enough to satisfy both of them.

One at a time, they showered and cleaned up for their flight. Marius showed up right on time and presented Walter with the hospital bill. Walter gave him the cash for it. He thought it out-outrageously high and figured that Marius might have added a little on for himself but it didn't matter. He was still getting out of the country for a lot less than he thought he would and he got what he came for, Alex, plus the bonus of finding and helping Joey to get home. He was very pleased as they headed downstairs. He made his final payment for the room and they left for the airport.

Marius stayed with them until they checked in and bid them goodbye and good luck. Walter had hit the bank and changed what was left of his big money into a cashier's check, and handed the smaller Lei bills that he had left over, to Marius for a job well done.


They arrived in London a little after midnight and found they had a six and a half hour lay over before their flight left for the U.S. so Walter rented a room there at the airport hotel. The room had two large queen sized beds in it and it didn't take much convincing to get Alex down for a nap. "What about you, Joey? Don't you want to try and sleep a little?" Walter asked Joey who had stationed himself in a chair by the window.

"No." Joey said as he shook his head vigorously. "I don't like to sleep. I sleep only when I have to. You go ahead. I'll keep watch."

"We're perfectly safe now that we're out of Romania. I left a wake up call so you don't have to worry that we'll over-sleep and miss our flight."

"I'm not worried. I just don't want anything to happen now that I'm so close to getting home. I'll sleep on the flight back."

"Okay; suit yourself." Walter said and gave up out of sheer exhaustion. One last check on Alex who was snoozing comfortably, and he lay down beside him, leaving the other bed free in case Joey changed his mind.


The flight back to the U.S. Was un-eventful, and the three of them slept most of the way. Tears and hugs were exchanged with Joey's grateful parents at their arrival, along with promises to keep in touch. Once on the road, Walter by-passed the turn-off for Crystal City and headed out of town. The next three weeks were spent in Walter's cabin in the mountains; resting, healing, and relaxing.


Walter came out of the bedroom and joined Alex who was sitting on the couch, head back and relaxing. He plopped down, lying with his head and shoulders in Alex' lap and Alex grinned at him affectionately.

"Tell me your secret, Alex. What makes it so much better with you than it is with anyone else?" Walter asked.

"It's better with me than with anyone else because you're in love with me and you know that I feel the same way about you. It's as simple as that." Alex said as his hand rested on Walter's chest and fingered the curls. The spoken truth marred by his sad demeanor.

"What is it, Alex? What's wrong?" Walter sat up as he spoke; worried at the melancholy tone in Alex's voice.

Alex got up, walked over to the door, and stood staring out at the snow covered ground before answering. "I think it's time for me to leave." Alex said; his voice small. "I'm sure you're anxious to get back to work."

Walter remained on the couch, staring into the fire while Alex went into the bedroom and packed his things in his backpack. He came back into the room a few minutes later. "If you can give me a ride into town, I can catch a bus back to D.C.--or I could hitch-hike."

"That won't be necessary." Walter got up, went into the bedroom and got his shoes, coat and car keys. They walked silently out to the car; neither of them capable of speaking what was on their minds. Walter started the car and drove half-way down to the front gate before slamming on the brakes and saying, "NO!" He turned in his seat and said it again. "No, dammit!" He cut the engine and the two of them sat staring at one another. "I don't want you to go."

"I can't stay here any longer. I've already stayed longer than I should have. If they're still after me—it's not safe." Alex reasoned.

"You're right." Walter nodded his head in agreement. "This place isn't safe. We should both leave." He started the car again, turned it around as best he could in the narrow driveway, and headed back to the cabin. Dashing inside with Alex right behind him, he said, "See to it that the fire is out while I pack. And toss whatever is left in the refrigerator."

A few minutes later he came out of the bedroom with a bag packed, grabbed his lap-top, and switched everything off.

"What are you doing?" Alex asked wide eyed.

"I need to turn the generator off and we'll be on our way." Walter made a quick trip out back to tend to the generator and returned in minutes; hopping into the car and starting it. Alex joined him and off them went.

They had been on the road nearly an hour before Alex commented, "You missed the turn off for D.C."

"Nah; I didn't miss it. We're not going to D.C." Walter said as he drove.

"Okay." Alex asked, curiosity getting the better of his vow to himself to remain silent. "If we're not going to D.C.; may I ask where we are going?"

"Away." Walter took his eyes off the road long enough to look over at Alex and grin. "It doesn't matter where—as long as it's a far away from here. Somewhere safe." His eyes returned to the road. "Somewhere warm. I'm sick and tired of all this snow. We could try Florida, of maybe Texas. You ever been to Corpus Christi? Padre Island?"

Alex shook his head, more than a little stunned, and said, "No; I haven't."

"It's beautiful. We could get a condo on the beach there. It would be a great place to winter. We can always come back east in the spring. It's nicest then anyway."

When Alex didn't say anything Walter added, "Or we could try California. Does any of that sound good to you?"

"Uh huh." Alex said, still not sure what Walter was talking about.

"Which one? You don't have to choose; we can try each of them. Maybe spend a week or two in each place. See which one you like best." Walter grinned confidently.

"What about the Bureau?" Alex asked, not wanting to get his hopes up for something he'd dreamed about for years.

"Oh that can be handled with a phone call." Walter said and pulled his phone out and thumbed in a number.

"Director Cassidy please. A.D. Walter Skinner calling." He said as he took the off-ramp and drove in and parked at a rest stop. "All right; will you give her a message for me please? Tell her I've decided to retire, effective immediately. She'll receive my written notice within a week. Thank you." He closed his phone and pocketed it.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" Alex asked, frozen in his seat.

"Absolutely!" Walter assured him as he reached an arm around Alex' shoulders. "I have no intention of ever letting you out of my sight again."

A small grin crossed Alex' features as he turned and leaned into Walter's embrace. "I thought you hated me."

"Oh I do!" Walter insisted. "I hate everything about you. I hate you when you disappear and I don't see you for weeks or months. I hate you when you're hurt or sick and there's nothing I can do about it. I hate you when you stand and stare out the window and it makes me wonder if you're thinking about some other guy you'd rather be with. I hate you when you make me worry about you—if you're alive or dead—or maybe off with someone else. I hate you when you make me walk the floor at night with a need that only you can satisfy."

Alex pulled back just enough to look Walter in the eyes. "That's a lot of hate."

"It is." Walter agreed. "Hate is something that I can understand. I'm familiar with it. I've been around it my whole life. One of these days, I'll tell you what I love about you. I'm a stranger when it comes to love, and I understand very little about it. If I ever get a handle on that, I'll share it with you."

"I'd like that." Alex said as he rested his head against Walter's broad shoulder.

"I don't know much about situations like ours, Alex; but I do know one thing for sure—I want to spend the rest of my life alone with you."

It was a new year, and a new life for both of them; filled with happiness and contentment.



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