Title: OF LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS (1/1)
Author: Josan
Date: June, 1999
Summary: How Krycek enters the M/Sk household
Pairing: M/Sk/K
Rating: PG-13
Warning: VERY VERY angsty for all three. (I wrote this before the EATING series, in midst of major depression. It shows.)
Archive: Archive X, Gossamer, thank you. Others, please contact me just to let me know.
Comments: jmann@spam.mondenet.com
DISCLAIMER: They "belong" to Chris Carter, Fox, and 1013; I am only dreaming about them.
NOTE: This is a series based on the premise that all three could one day be together. Kassandra started it for me, then JiM and MJ had the idea (at the same time: great minds think alike...ignore the rest). I happen to like this premise. ANSWERS TRILOGY, NIGHT OUT belong to this series. (I seem to be writing these in a backward chronology.)


Of Long Distance Runners

What the hell was he doing here?

Krycek leaned against the large tree trunk and tried to get his eyes to focus on the house.

He was amazed that he had made it here. He didn't remember much of the taxi ride from the airport, only the fact that the driver had warned him that if he threw up in his cab, he, Krycek, not the driver, was going to clean it up.

Except that Krycek wasn't drunk. Just deathly ill.

He had picked up some bug in Hong Kong, hadn't paid proper attention to it, and now he was beyond paying attention to it.

He'd gotten the driver to drop him off near the house. He knew where it was because, in healthier times, he had come to see where they lived. Just to be sure *he* was all right.

Now, he rested against the tree in their front yard, in the middle of the night, trying hard to remember what the hell he had been thinking of when he had decided to come here.

Did he think they would welcome him with open arms?

More with open weapons.

God! He was so tired. And so tired of being tired.

In the more than two years since the shit had hit the fan, when Mulder had used the material he had syphoned down to him to good advantage, when the Consortium big-wigs suddenly found themselves on the receiving end, when alien rebels had finally "convinced" the slimy Oilians that staying on Planet Earth might just be a little too costly, Krycek had found himself constantly on the run.

First, the rebels had used him as a front, a human weapon, in their campaign to clean out centres of Oilian activity. Then, their human allies had decided that he should pay for his part in the downfall of their plans.

In the hunt that had followed, Krycek's killing abilities had been honed to an even finer point. While the top echelons battled it out in the court-rooms, the Grand Juries, the private clubs of the world, their enforcers tried hard to be the one who counted coup on Alex Krycek.

But now, with no one to pay them for their kill, one by one, those enforcers and their crews who still lived, who were not in prisons, decided that maybe Krycek wasn't worth the effort. Not enough to hunt him down on purpose, but should he happen to wander in their path, well, that was another story.

Through it all, Krycek had managed to keep a sort of eye on Mulder and what was happening to him. He hadn't been surprised that Mulder had suddenly, without warning, quit the FBI. Supposedly for no reason.

But Krycek had known that Mulder would not tolerate the covering-up that went on in the highest ranks of the FBI, the CIA, the Military. No one wanted outright disintegration of society. The Consortium and the departmental scapegoats were offered as sacrifice but the Public never really got all the details of situation.

He had been a bit more surprised to discover that Mulder had set up house with Walter Skinner, who was still at the FBI, as Acting Deputy Director: acting, because his job was to oversee the rebuilding of the internal structure of the FBI. After which, he would have made too many enemies to remain at the FBI, let alone be one of its DD's. A sacrificial lamb -- no, not a lamb; one of those white bulls offered up to Zeus -- a sacrificial bull for the betterment of the Bureau.

A high price, thought Krycek, to pay for fucking Mulder.

So, while Mulder's life went on, for the better, his had plummeted down further into the darkness.

And now he could go no further down; he had hit rock bottom and had hit hard. He knew he wasn't going to pull out of this. Was that why he had come here? To die as close as he could get to the one person he had loved in his life?

Because he did love Mulder, as much as someone like him was capable of love. Loved the feel of him, the smell of him. Loved being touched by him. For those few times they had meshed together, he had felt warm, in light. To him, Fox Mulder was the sun in his dark world. He cherished those times they had been together, had called upon those memories to warm him when he was so cold, to bring him the semblance of light in his dark, bitter world.

Loved him enough to realize that staying with him, even near him would endanger that warmth, that light. So he had left. Not out of nobility. But because he understood that nothing would change on the path he had chosen; that if he didn't leave, Mulder would be drawn along that same destructive path and he would be responsible for the end of that warmth, that light. And that realization was hard enough to bear: he would not be responsible for the destruction of Fox Mulder.

It had been the right decision. But the pain of it sometimes slashed through his guts, cutting his breath, making him long for something he could never again have.

He was a survivor by nature. And so he survived. Not well, but survived. Had forgotten what it was like to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, let alone in a bed: to eat at a table, surrounded by conversation: to be clean, except at moments: to stay in one place for longer than a day.

Forgotten to be human rather than an animal at bay.

Until he'd gotten sick in Hong Kong and decided he wanted to be warm once more before he gave up.

So here he was, the story of his life, on the outside looking in, and knowing there was no place for him inside.

By the warmth.

And, God, he was so cold. In spite of the heat radiating off his body, the core of him was cold unto death.

The light from the front room reflected gold on the autumn lawn. Inside, he imagined Mulder and Skinner together, a masochistic image he held onto as he tried to summon up some strength to move, to leave. This had not been one of his better ideas.

His knees gave out from under him and he found it harder to breathe. He sat back on his heels, swaying.

Why bother? he thought. This was as good a place to die as anywhere. Unlike his other enemies, Skinner would at least bury him, not throw his body to the scavengers. He rather liked the idea of Skinner burying him. Maybe even providing him with a marker. The thought made him smile. What would Skinner have them put on it? Here lies a ratbastard? Maybe just a little rat picture.

And maybe Mulder would remember the times they had had together with some sentiment. Maybe even miss him for a moment. Maybe...but no, no one would shed a tear at the death of Alex Krycek.

Krycek looked at the golden grass and longed painfully for it. Each breath hurt. Now that he had given up, moving was almost impossible. But that little patch of gold seemed to call him, and so he tried to go to it. Almost made it. He was just too tired to try and move again.

He lay where he had fallen, gathered all the strength he had left, gave it one final effort. He reached out with his hand, his real hand, and pulled himself just enough so that the hand could touch the soft light.

He closed his hand on it. Sighed. Stopped fighting the darkness.

*******************************************************

The meeting in the Director's office had lasted into the wee small hours of the morning.

Unlike several of the representatives from Justice, the Director had refused to accept Walter Skinner's resignation, his retirement papers, anything else he offered in his anger at what he saw as the ultimate betrayal of the honour of the FBI.

CSG Spender was going to be offered immunity for testifying against his former colleagues, given a new identity and allowed to continue living, protected by the very government he had tried so hard to take down.

This in spite of all the documentation they had gathered on the man's dealings with the underworld, his alien ties, his connections to the many deaths that had occurred when the Consortium had begun disintegrating.

Try to see sense, they had told him: Spender knows where all the bodies are buried. Not just theirs, but ours as well. In return for this deal, he would keep quiet about that embarrassment, give them more information on the conspiracy. Surely that alone was worth his, Skinner's, acceptance -- well, if not acceptance, then silence.

Justice and the other DD's had left an enraged Skinner alone for a final meeting with the Director which had ended with his agreeing to consider Skinner's termination whether by resignation or retirement, decision to come after the weekend. He agreed to take the next day, today really, off so as to allow tempers on the upper floor to cool down.

The only cheerful spot in this entire fiasco was the fact that Mulder had left the lights on for him, a warm welcome in a rather bleak day.

But not enough light to prevent him from tripping over something and nearly landing, face first, in the shrubbery. Swearing at this perfect end of a perfect day, he turned to kick whatever it was that he had tripped over only to discover it was too large to be a rake, or one of the local kids' bikes.

He stooped and pulled the pile of cloth far enough into the light to recognize that it was a man. A man burning with fever.

"Shit!" Skinner unlocked the door with his key at the same time ringing the doorbell. He pushed open the door, tossed his briefcase onto the nearby chair and turned on the outdoor light.

"Walter? Are you okay?" A sleep-hoarsened voice came down the stairs.

"Out here, Fox. There's someone out here. Sick."

Mulder staggered out, dressed in a rumpled t-shirt and baggy sweat pants. He quickly woke up when he saw Skinner lifting someone off the lawn, came to help carry the dead weight of the man into the house.

"Here. Lay him here on the entry floor. Who the hell is he? Do you recognize him? Careful. There seems to be something wrong with his left arm...Ah, Jesus! You don't think it could be...Shit! I thought he was dead," Skinner growled.

Mulder looked up from verifying that the left arm was indeed a prosthesis. "He's going to be dead real soon if we don't get a doctor. He's burning up."

Mulder left Walter fuming but dialling the phone while he rushed into the bathroom, returned with a thermometer. One of those instant reading things. "Damn! 104.5!" He passed that information to Skinner who passed it on to his contact. Mulder stroked the flushed face of his former lover, a face honed to skin and bone. "Jesus, Alex, where the hell have you been?"

Skinner finished his call. "Joe will meet us at his clinic. He says to keep him wrapped, try and get some liquids into him. Get dressed, Fox. And bring down that comforter your mother gave us last Christmas: it's in the box in the storeroom."

Skinner got some tepid water and, raising Krycek enough so he wouldn't choke, he tried to get the man to drink. The water just ran out of his mouth, down his chin. Skinner winced at the sound of the man's breathing. Pneumonia at least, he thought.

An hour later Joe Fischer confirmed his diagnosis. "Plus, he's suffering from malnutrition, exhaustion, among other things. To be honest, I don't think he's got the resources to fight this off."

"But you'll help him." Mulder glared at him.

"I'll do my best, Mulder." Fischer was insulted by Mulder's implication that he would not do the best for any of his patients. "I've given him a massive dose of antibiotics, another of vitamins. He's on intravenous, on oxygen. I've done my part: now, it's up to him."

Skinner was grim. If Krycek *had* to show up, why was it just to die on them. On Mulder.

He knew about the relationship between the two men. Mulder hadn't tried to hide it, had told him about it just after they had gotten together. He knew that Mulder loved him. Had told and shown him often enough.

But he also knew that Mulder was still in love with Alex Krycek.

Krycek had provided Mulder with raw passion, had appealed to the impetuous Mulder. He, Skinner, provided Mulder with stability, the first in his life, and steady, dependable love. He wondered if Krycek's reappearance meant an end to their life together.

For the moment, he looked upon his rival and wished him dead.

*****************************************************

Mulder refused to leave Krycek behind. If he were going to die, he wasn't going to be alone when it happened.

Skinner held his temper back with difficulty. Temper, he acknowledged to himself, based on fear of losing Mulder mixed with a good portion of anger at the situation. He wanted to take Mulder home, to lock their front door against the outside world, to go back to what they had before Krycek had shown up.

Instead, he announced *he* was going home to catch up on some sleep. He would relieve Mulder later on. If need so.

The fact that Mulder was barely aware of his leaving cut him to the quick. He had to wait, sitting behind the wheel of his car, till the pain was bearable before he drove away. Only the gods knew whether he would have something to come back for.

Mulder spent the next three days sitting by Krycek's bedside, grasping his hand as if to pull the dying man into life.

Fischer had been right: Krycek had very few reserves left to fight off both this infection and the bug he had picked up. But that after forty-eight hours the man was still alive amazed him: he wouldn't say it out loud, but he thought maybe, just maybe his patient might survive after all. Twenty-four hours later, he dared say it to Skinner.

Skinner looked at the bed set up in one of the few private areas the clinic had. He had not yet managed to get Mulder to go home, not even for a change of clothes, not even for some sleep.

Skinner brought him clean clothes, food, even watched over him while he slept in an old armchair they had pulled up to the bed. Watched with each passing minute his relationship with Mulder tested as to its strength.

Because Mulder was certain the only thing keeping Krycek alive was the fact that *his* hand was what was refusing to let Krycek slip into death. If he let go, he feared that Krycek too would let go, would stop fighting no matter how feeble a fight it was.

Skinner had tried once, and only once, to insist that Mulder go home and sleep. Mulder had reached out for him, pulled him down with his free hand for one of the sweetest kisses he had ever given Skinner, looked him sadly in the eye, and said "No."

Nothing else. No explanation. No argument. Just a simple statement of fact. He was not going to leave Krycek.

That was when Skinner had gone home and gotten drunk. Knowing that after their time together, two years of them together in this house, the loneliness that Mulder had driven out of his life was back.

In the morning, moaning slightly under the shower at the foolishness of trying to empty a bottle of scotch by himself, Skinner decided that he was not giving up without a fight. Krycek had disappeared when the going got tough. True, he had given them the various documents which became the basis of the case against the Consortium. But then no one had heard from him.

Not Mulder. Not himself.

And now that he *was* back, and possibly not to die, there was an additional problem. His own relationship with Krycek. One which he had never mentioned to Mulder. Even after Mulder had told him about his relationship with Krycek.

He *had* meant to tell Mulder that he was not unacquainted with Krycek's talents -- not that their few encounters could by any measure be deemed a relationship -- but he had fucked the man when Krycek had first appeared on the scene.

Krycek had approached him just after the first time he and Sharon had separated. Had sat beside him in a bar sipping his vodka while he had tossed back scotch the day she had moved out, supposedly just happening to be there at that particular moment. Had stayed with him so he wouldn't be drinking alone.

"Not a good thing to do, Sir, not in the mood you're in. You don't have to talk to me. Just ignore me. But, if you need anything..."

And he had needed something. Someone to get him home. That someone who had stayed with him, had undressed him, had caressed him, had joined him in bed. Had, after seventeen years, reminded him of the particular pleasures of coming in a tight ass.

But he hadn't told Mulder. The opportunity never seemed right. And he *had* ended the situation with Krycek after a couple...alright five...encounters, when he and Sharon had decided to try again. But Krycek had never, as far as he knew, ever mentioned these to anyone. Certainly not to Spender who would have not hesitated for a moment to use that information against him.

So, it was the ultimate irony that when Krycek finally opened his eyes, found the energy to focus them, the first thing he saw was Walter Skinner glaring at him.

It took Skinner a moment to realize that this was not just another unclosing of eyes, but that the eyes were really seeing him.

The two men looked at each other. Krycek, oxygen mask and weakness preventing him from speaking, managed a small rueful smile, closed his eyes and went back to sleep.

Skinner didn't tell Mulder.

********************************************************

Skinner had come to the conclusion that if he had to fight for Mulder's affections, the battle had to be fought on even ground. At the moment Krycek had the unfair advantage of being too weak, too close to death. Too much still the bad boy that appealed so much to Mulder.

Monday morning, Skinner requested a private meeting with the Director and a top representative from Justice. Before leaving for it, he had a closed door session with his staff, basically preparing them for his departure.

Not one of them was really surprised: word had quickly gotten around the building that the Acting Deputy Director and the Upper Floor disagreed. No one knew about what, but they were afraid to choose sides, worried about their careers. Skinner wasn't surprised by their reactions.

The Director and Justice were a bit wary of the purpose of the meeting. Its direction was completely unexpected.

In return for being silent about his disapproval of the deal offered Spender, about the deal itself, Skinner wanted a deal of his own: total, complete immunity for Alex Krycek.

Justice laughed until he realized that neither Skinner nor the Director was laughing with him. He began enumerating the reasons this was not possible, in spite of the "small amount of information the man had passed on to them". He was too closely linked with the Alien Rebels -- which didn't officially exist anyway -- and too closely tied to the numerous deaths that occurred whenever he was around. No, no, totally impossible.

And then Skinner explained just why Justice would be very co-operative in this request of his. Spender was not the only one who knew where the bodies were buried. And why. And not just the other side's but so many of their own.

All detailed on some secured web site somewhere out on the internet. Which only he had access to. And they had better hope that he kept on having access to it because if he didn't do so once every 48 hours, the site would automatically download itself into some 658 (so far) mailing lists, all over the world. And wasn't modern technology a marvel.

Oh, and should anything happen to him, to Mulder, to Krycek, or to Scully and her family, he just might forget how to access this site himself. Justice had better hope and pray that they all died of natural causes, preferably old age.

Justice ranted, threatened, talked about treason. The Director just sat in his chair and watched as all of that had absolutely no effect on the man he had personally chosen to clean up the mess the Consortium had made of his Bureau. Chosen for his loyalty, his honesty, his sense of honour. He had known the Spender deal was not going to go over well, but he now realized that it had cost him the respect of this man.

He stood, told Justice to shut up, prepare all the papers required to provide Alex Krycek with total immunity. Moreover, he added, "See to it that word gets out on the street and in the proper clubs that should anything happen to Krycek, the consequences will be catastrophic for whomever is responsible."

Skinner waited till Justice left, looked at his superior and informed him that his retirement papers would be on his desk the moment he had Krycek's papers in his hand. Until then, he would be clearing off his desk.

He was at the door when the Director called his name. "I'm sorry about this. I was over-ruled." Skinner nodded, left the top floor for his office and began the job of putting an end to a twenty-four year career with the FBI.

Tuesday evening, he found Mulder dozing in the chair, looking less tense than he had since they'd found Krycek. "He woke up this afternoon. Actually stayed awake for a couple of minutes. Fischer said he's probably going to make it."

Skinner nodded, went over to the bed. He wanted to blame Krycek for the end of his career. His career. His relationship with Mulder. His life. But his career would have been over anyway. This way, he at least had had the pleasure of giving back some of the frustration he had had to endure over the last few weeks.

He tossed a large manilla envelope onto the bed.

"What's that?" Mulder's voice was thick with fatigue, with a sense of relief.

"Immunity for Krycek. Signed, sealed, and now delivered." He waited for Mulder's reaction.

Mulder looked at the man he loved and knew in his gut the cost of that envelope. He closed his eyes, wondered what he had done to find someone like this, who loved him enough to seek protection for the only other man he had ever loved, at what cost to himself?

"Walter..."

But he was speaking to the air: Skinner had left the room.

He looked down at the man in the bed, and wondered what that life had cost *him*?

*******************************************************

Mulder knew his refusal to leave Krycek had hurt Skinner, but he really was afraid that Krycek would die if he left him.

The first twenty-four hours had been a horror of listening to Krycek trying to breathe with lungs that were filled with fluid. Of watching Fischer bind a stump that was so raw that it resembled nothing more than a piece of meat. Of helping wash a body he had once pleasured, had once pleasured him that was now nothing but sinew and bone. Of watching a face that had once been angelic now looking as if it had been to hell and back.

He might have given up, gone home the second day, but he overheard one of the nurses commenting that Krycek's vital signs weakened whenever he was out of the room, strengthened whenever he came back. And then there was the fact that, on the second day, the fingers he held in his hand began closing on his. Holding on. Not tightly. But, gradually with more and more strength, until he knew that Krycek was aware of him.

Occasionally, Krycek's eyes would open, but no matter how many times he called his name, there was no real response. Fischer had told him not to be too optimistic about Krycek's chances of recovery, but he had known, once the fingers began gripping his, that Krycek was too much a survivor to die.

He began talking to the man, bringing him up to date on the events of the past three years. Nothing heavy. Scully's courtship by a doctor, a widower with two small daughters who had decided that Scully would do as a stepmother long before either adult had even considered the possibility. About the house, the repairs, the roof leaking. Mostly mundane things, but a thread that Krycek could weave into a lifeline.

He had veered off on a tangent, the way he always did, when he realized that Krycek's eyes were not only open, but seemed to be focusing on him.

"Alex?"

And got a hint of a smile in return.

"Alex." Relief coursed through him. "Don't try to talk. You've got tubes everywhere. You're going to be all right. " He leaned over the bed, stroked the side of Krycek's face and grinned at the sight of Krycek turning his face into that hand. "Welcome back, Alex."

Krycek savoured the feel of the hand on his face, closed his eyes and drifted back into sleep.

Certain that Krycek was on the road to recovery, Mulder had to somehow get Skinner to accept the return of Alex Krycek into their lives and to soothe the disharmony that now existed between the two of them.

*****************************************************

Krycek faintly remembered waking to see Skinner staring at him, face severe. Waking again to find Mulder hovering over him, touching him, telling him things he couldn't follow. It was just enough to have him close, to feel his hand on his face.

This time, when he woke, he found Mulder sleeping in a chair by his bed, holding onto his hand which was holding tightly onto Mulder's. He was alert enough to realize that he'd better check out where he was. Seemed to be some hospital room. Not a fancy one, so not one of the big ones. Which could be good. Could be a private hospital. Might make it harder for them to find him.

Krycek went back to looking at Mulder. He looked tired. Needed to shave. Smiled, remembering the feel of that stubble on his skin. He wanted to pass his hand over it, but that would mean letting go and he knew he couldn't do that.

Just as he knew Mulder shouldn't be here. He tried to call to him, but became aware of the mask on his face, the dryness of his throat. The fact that breathing was much easier than it had been. How long had he been here?

He took a quick inventory of his condition. Concluded with a sigh he wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon. He gripped the hand in his a bit harder and went back to his contemplation of Mulder, trying to absorb as much of him as he could before sending him away.

Skinner pushed open the door quietly, not wanting to wake Mulder up if he were sleeping. He found Krycek awake, eyes devouring Mulder as if feeding off him. He must have made some noise because the eyes tracked to him, afraid. Closed in relief when they recognized him.

Krycek tried to talk, found the mask a hindrance. He rubbed it against his left shoulder, trying to get it off his face. Skinner quickly went to his side, lifted it enough so that the man could speak. But Krycek's throat was too dry to get the sounds out.

"Hang on," whispered Skinner. He poured some of the water from the thermos into a glass and added a straw so that Krycek could drink. After a bit, Krycek tried again.

"Get...him...out of...here." It was hard to get the words out. And not just because of his throat. Skinner arched an eyebrow at him. He tried again. "They'll hurt him...if they find him here."

Skinner had had to bend down, place his ear close to Krycek's mouth to hear. He raised his head, examined the face of his rival. "Who 'they', Krycek?"

Krycek closed his eyes, gathered what little strength he had to convince Skinner to get Mulder out of the room. Why was it so hard for Skinner to understand? He opened his eyes. "When...come to kill me...hurt him. Get him out of here. Please."

He felt exhausted by the effort. Surely Skinner would want to protect Mulder. Why had he allowed the man to stay with him? He of all people knew the kind of trouble he attracted.

Skinner replaced the mask on his face, waited till Krycek had recovered a bit. "Krycek." Waited till those eyes had focused on him once more. "No one is going to show up to kill you. You've been given immunity. Immunity, Krycek. Do you understand?"

Krycek looked confused. Mouthed "Immunity?" under his mask.

"Yes. As much as it can be guaranteed. From both sides."

Now Krycek looked outright stunned. After a bit, he tried to get the mask off his face. Skinner did it for him, leaned over. Krycek had to try several times before he could breathe out "What idiot sold his soul to the devil for that?"

Skinner stood up, replaced the mask. "I'm the idiot. And if you want to thank me, convince Mulder to come home and get some sleep. He's been sleeping in that chair ever since we found you, six days ago." And he turned and left the room.

******************************************************

Mulder did go home that night, nuked and ate the meal he found waiting for him in the fridge. Showered and went to sleep on his side of the bed. No Skinner.

He woke late in the morning, found the other side of the bed had been slept in -- he had never heard or felt Skinner join him -- and a note on the pillow.

"Will be at the office till late tonight. Have to tie up loose ends. Retirement officially begins tomorrow."

Mulder spent the next while cursing, using every oath he had ever learnt. Krycek was at the clinic needing help. Walter was at the office going through what had to be the most harrowing of times. He felt the need to be with both of them, but unless he could clone himself in the next hour or so...Shit! Sometimes life sucked!

He found a way to compromise. He spent the rest of the morning at the clinic: Alex would spend the afternoon sleeping, was still far too weak to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time.

He showed up at the door of Walter's office to find his assistant in tears, trying to finish some of the paperwork that he insisted be done before his successor took over.

"Kim. I think that the Personnel Department would be the best place for these files. Tell them to archive them just in case..." He looked up to see Mulder slouching against the doorjamb.

"Kim's washing her face. I told her I'd run errands for a while." He came up to the desk, held his hand out for the stack of files.

Skinner hesitated before handing them over. Opened his mouth to say something. Closed it. Some of the hard tension left his face. "Thank you." He spoke softly.

Mulder smiled at him. "I'm the one who needs to thank you. And to apologize. And," he took a deep breath, "maybe to explain."

Skinner smiled, relieved to have Mulder here with him right now. "You only need to be here." Feeling suddenly magnanimous, he asked, "How's he doing?"

"Getting there. You said Personnel?"

Skinner nodded. Maybe this wasn't quite the day from hell he thought it was going to be.

********************************************************

Eight days later, Mulder pulled up into the driveway, Krycek sitting in the passenger seat.

Skinner, if he had to be honest, at least with himself, had expected this would happen. Didn't like it, but had "allowed" Mulder to convince him, late at night. Besides, it wasn't as if Krycek had anywhere to go. And he certainly didn't have the money to pay a convalescent hospital bill.

As Skinner watched from the front window, he realized that Krycek was as happy to be here as *he* was to have him.

Krycek refused Mulder's help getting out of the car, had to hold onto the door frame till his legs stopped trembling. So far, he had been allowed out of bed for very short spells. This trip had made him face the truth, that he needed lots more time before he could even remotely consider himself well.

He fended off Mulder's attempts to take his arm, to lend him support. If he had to spend any amount of time under Skinner's roof, he was going to get there on his own.

He'd taken just a couple of wobbly steps when a car pulled up behind Mulder's. Dana Scully: Assistant Director Scully, in charge of all forensic investigation in a new Bureau department, got out of the car, glared daggers at Krycek, slammed her door.

Skinner came out of the house to join the two men. "Fox, I think Dana wants to speak to you. Krycek." He stooped, lifted the man in his arms and carried him indoors.

Krycek wanted to curse him but realized that Scully was not someone he wanted to be near, at this particular moment. Waited till they were inside. "Okay. Put me down."

Skinner ignored him, started up the stairs.

"Jesus, Skinner, put me down. I can manage." His anger at the situation was clamped between his teeth.

"Shut up, Krycek. You can't."

"You going to drop me?"

Skinner's grin was a bit too feral for Krycek's liking. But, no, he wasn't going to drop him. Hell, he hardly weighed enough to make this more than some regular exercise.

Skinner was more aware than ever just how fragile Krycek was at this moment. It wouldn't last: he knew Mulder had restocked the cupboards, the freezer with a list of items Fischer's nutritionist had handed him. He *would* get well. But right now, a gust of wind would blow the man off his feet.

He placed Krycek on the bed that Mulder had made up in the spare bedroom.

 "Skinner." Krycek's voice was stripped of all emotion. "Why are you doing this?"

Skinner straightened. "Doing what?"

"This." Krycek gestured around the room with his hand. "And the immunity thing. Why?"

Skinner rested a hip against the dresser. "This, because he asked me to. The immunity, because if they were giving it to Spender, they might as well give it to you too. Besides, he would have gone after it for you. I just had a better chance of getting it."

Krycek cocked his head, almost his old mocking self. "And of course *you* give him anything *he* wants."

"Don't you?" Skinner tossed back in the same tone. At Krycek's querying glance, he added, "Mulder wanted you to live. And *you* gave *him* that."

He moved away from the dresser, reached behind Krycek and pulled down the bedclothes. "You look like you're about to fall flat on your face. Get out of those clothes."

Krycek's hand was trembling from stress and fatigue. He was having difficulty with the buttons on his shirt.

>From downstairs came the sound of two angry voices, sometimes one at a time, usually together. Skinner closed the bedroom door. After a minute, he went over to help Krycek undress. He was stripping the jeans down those long legs when Krycek broke the silence. "Been a while since you've done that."

Skinner froze.

"Oh. He doesn't know, does he? That you and I..."

Skinner went back to pulling the jeans off, stood, his back to Krycek, folded them. "No. Not yet."

Wary, not sure where to go, Krycek started "Did he..." and stopped. If Skinner hadn't mention their time together, would Mulder have done the same?

"Yes." Skinner's voice was brusque. "Yes, he told me about the two of you."

Krycek nodded. Decided this would be a good time to keep his mouth shut. Skinner finished folding his clothes while he pulled the sheet and blanket over himself.

Skinner turned to face him. "Bathroom's through there." He pointed to what Krycek had thought was a closet door. "You don't need to share. You have your own. Do you need anything?"

Krycek shook his head. Skinner nodded, turned to go out. He had his hand on the door knob when Krycek spoke. "Don't tell him." Skinner paused, looked over his shoulder. "It's not like it was anything important. Was it?"

Skinner gave a little nod of acknowledgement. Maybe of thanks. "No. It was nothing important." He closed the door behind him.

No, of course not, thought Krycek. Why would it be important? He closed his eyes. Only Mulder had ever thought him important. He passed his hand over his face. God! He was getting maudlin.

Half way down the stairs, Skinner stopped. Dana Scully was raging mad. Mad at his leaving the Bureau. Mad at the Spender deal -- he had told her even if her department hadn't any involvement in the issue. It was enough for him that *she* had. Mad at the fact that Krycek, whom she had thought safely dead, had returned to play havoc with her ex-partner's life, with his relationship with Skinner.

At the moment she was going on about fairness. Fairness to himself. "Did you even stop for one darn moment to consider how Walter was going to feel in all of this? Damn! You are so...so fucking selfish, Mulder!"

Skinner heard the door slam, heard Dana swear very nautically and knew that it was Mulder who had left.

He came to the bottom of the stairs as she entered the hallway. She went up to him, put her arms around him and squeezed. Since becoming the mother to two rambunctious youngsters, Dana had come to be a firm believer in the power of a hug. He hugged her back.

Skinner found himself consoling her. "Don't worry so much. We'll survive. That's one thing the three of us share, we're survivors." He hugged her again. "Kiss the girls for me, will you?"

***************************************************

In the bedroom, Alex Krycek rolled over to his right, curled himself around a pillow hugged hard to his chest and dealt with the situation the only way he could: he escaped into sleep.

In the driveway, Fox Mulder sat in the car, dropped his forehead onto the whitened knuckles gripping the top of the steering wheel and cursed himself for not having fully considered all the possible ramifications of bringing Alex into their household.

In the living room, Walter Skinner jammed his fists into his pants pockets and stared sightlessly out of the picture window.

************************NIF*************************

 


 

Title: Long Distance Runners 2: The Grounding
Author: Josan
Date: September, 1999
Summary: The "how-for" of the menage.
Pairing: Sk/M/K
Rating: Pg-13
Archive: Archive/X, Ratlover, Gossamer. Any others if you ask: just so I know where this is travelling to.
Comments: jmann@spam.mondenet.com
DISCLAIMER: These are the property of CC, Fox and 1013, and aren't we hoping that the last season proves to be the best.


Being the First Part

He'd planned his escape very carefully.

He'd had to. He hadn't the strength to do it differently.

It hadn't been easy.

He had needed to get his hands on some money. Which meant that he had to get to one of those banks where he had a safety deposit box. Fortunately, he'd stashed his fake ID's in the secret pocket of his belt, which he still had.

He didn't have the energy to walk, that meant a cab. So he "borrowed" some money from the drawer in Mulder's desk. Mulder hated loose change, always emptied his pockets into the drawer. There was enough in it for a cab ride to the bank and back.

So, he picked a day when both Mulder and Skinner were out, came back with new ID, cash (paid back his "loan"), and the gems he had put aside for a rainy day.

Now he had to pick a method of transport out of DC, a destination, a time when he could get away and get in a fair amount of distance before they discovered he was gone. Far enough that Skinner would know that this wasn't a set-up and that Mulder would get the message. Preferably a time when Mulder was out of town, Skinner away for the day.

It came sooner rather than later.

The next day, Mulder was called to New York for a meeting with his editor to discuss some problem that had arisen with their legal department; he'd be gone at least two days. At the same time, Skinner had arranged to spend time with a couple of old Marine buddies who were in DC to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He'd be gone all day.

The cab arrived on time, got him to the airport. All he had to do was buy a ticket for the next flight out and hope it wasn't to Alaska. He still had trouble breathing and the doctor had warned him to avoid extremes in temperature.

He was standing in line at the ticket counter when the two FBI agents moved in, arrested him. Stupidly, he tried to resist, his energy level equal only to a token display. They cuffed his hands behind him, escorted him down to the Bureau car, shoved him into the back seat where they joined him, one on either side.

He didn't bother to ask why they were arresting him; they didn't deign to speak to him.

Still, it was a surprise when they pulled up not at Headquarters, not even at a police station, but back at the house.

Skinner opened the door, watched them push him into the foyer. They removed the cuffs while he thanked them. And they left.

Skinner looked over the returnee who now sat on the couch in the living room, head back, eyes closed, already exhausted from this little foray.

"I've been expecting this," he growled.

Krycek didn't react.

"Damn stupid thing to do, given your condition, Krycek. You're barely on your feet. Five weeks ago, you were at death's door. You want to tell me what the fuck possessed you to pull this stunt?" His voice had been getting progressively louder until he heard himself. He took a deep breath. Used it to get himself under control. "Fox is on his way back."

*That* got a reaction. Krycek turned his head to look at him. "Why?"

"Because, you fucking idiot, he's worried about you!"

"He wouldn't be if you hadn't told him." He closed his eyes. Damn! All he wanted to do right now was sleep. He was even weaker than he'd thought. "Besides, I thought you'd prefer it this way. I planned it out so that he couldn't possibly blame you for my going. How did you know?"

"I saw you going into the bank yesterday. When you should have been resting. It didn't take much to figure out you were going to run."

Just his luck, thought Krycek. "What about the Men in Black? They real?"

"Oh, yeah. A couple of guys who owed me a favour or two."

"You seem to be doing that a lot, Skinner. Pulling in favours for me." He leaned over, rested his elbow on his knee, stared at the carpet. "Why?" He wanted to get up, go find the bed, but he was afraid that if he stood up, his legs wouldn't hold him.

Skinner sat in the armchair across. "I told you," he spoke quietly, "he wants you here." He sighed. "Besides, Krycek, you're already dead on your feet and you haven't done anything. The word on your immunity is still too fresh to have made the rounds. You're a walking target, and I didn't put my neck on the line for you to go out and let them take pot shots at you. In your condition, you couldn't duck fast enough to avoid a water pistol."

He got up and went over to the now shivering man. "Look, I appreciate the fact that you want out of this situation. Let's face it, the only one that doesn't seem overly uncomfortable with it is Fox. Probably because, for one thing, he's so busy with this new book of his, what with their wanting to bring up the date of release. And probably because he doesn't have any difficulty with lo...caring for two people at the same time."

"You don't get it," whispered Krycek. He raised his head, tried to say something, but nothing came out. He shrugged his frustration. How could he explain it to Skinner when he couldn't put it into words himself?

Skinner slipped an arm under the man's shoulders. Got him up the stairs and into the bedroom. Krycek was asleep before he'd finished stripping him.

Mulder arrived, anxious, not fully understanding what had possessed Krycek. He checked in on the man, still sound asleep after four hours. With luck, he wouldn't have a relapse. He gently stroked the hair off his forehead, ostensibly checking for fever, actually seeking to reassure himself.

"He seems to be just sleeping, " he told Skinner, "doesn't seem to be any worse."

Skinner grunted, not offering more. He had promised Mulder that he would keep an eye on Krycek while he was in New York, and that's exactly what he had done.

"Did he tell you why?" Mulder worried.

"You'll have to ask him that yourself, Fox. He basically fell asleep just after he got back."

When questioned, Krycek merely shrugged. "I thought it was for the best."

And had to endure a long, rambling lecture on pneumonia, its root causes, its possible consequence: asthma, the historical significance of asthma and on and on. For the first time since he'd shown up, Krycek got a sympathetic shrug from Skinner.

Skinner was aware that Krycek was just biding his time.

Mulder was only aware that Krycek either didn't sleep well, or slept too much. He rarely came out of his bedroom during the day. Skinner discovered he spent most of the nights napping or reading in an armchair in the living room when he came down in the wee hours to feed his ulcer some milk.

Which is also how he discovered that Krycek had taken a second flit. He noticed the bedroom door was open, the bed empty so expected to find the man downstairs. But he didn't.

Cursing, he grabbed some of the clothes he kept in the mud room for working in the yard, donned them over his pyjamas bottom, shoved his feet into his work boots and went off in the car, Krycek hunting.

He found him sitting on the park bench about six blocks away, catching his breath. Skinner said nothing, just threw open the passenger door and waited patiently until Krycek slowly got to his feet and carefully made his way over to the car. Neither of them said a word.

The lights were on at the house. Mulder had gotten up, found himself alone in the house, Skinner's car gone. He was just getting ready to take off in his car when Skinner pulled up with Krycek.

Krycek walked into the house, didn't say a word to the obviously upset Mulder and just made his way up the stairs to his room.

Mulder looked to Skinner for an explanation, got a shrug, so he charged up the stairs, ready to confront Krycek on the issue.

He found the man lying on his back on the bed, his jacket off but still clothed.

For several minutes Mulder said nothing. Krycek, eyes closed, was obviously not asleep, but purposefully ignoring him. Mulder ran his hand through his already ruffled hair. He felt he had to do something: at this rate, Krycek was either going to get himself killed or die from a relapse.

"Why?" He sat on the side of the bed. "Alex? Please. Just tell me why?"

There was no response.

"Alex. Is it because you want to die? Because that's what you're setting yourself up for. Whether it's a bullet in the back or another bout of pneumonia, hell, either one will kill you." He let his hand brush over Krycek's.

Krycek flinched. Pulled his hand back.

The hurt was blatant in Mulder's eyes. "Why?"

Krycek rubbed his hand over his face, trying to get the cobwebs out of his brain, trying to find the words that would release him from this hell.

He pushed himself up into a semi-sitting position against the headboard. Looked at Mulder who was watching him with confused eyes. God! Krycek sighed, Mulder really didn't understand at all.

"Because," he spoke slowly, not just because he was already tired, but because he wanted to say this only once, "I've discovered I'm not that much of a masochist."

And knew from his reaction that Mulder still didn't understand.

In the hallway, standing just out of sight of the open door, Skinner understood.

"I don't get it." Mulder looked increasingly frustrated. "Alex, you're not making sense. We're not hurting you."

"Oh, God! Mulder." Krycek was too tired to even try and mask his expression. "Do you have any idea what it's like for me to be so close to you and not be able to touch you? To ask you to touch me? To..." his breathe hitched, he controlled it, continued. "To watch you touch him and him touch you. And know I can't.

"To listen to your door close at night and know that the two of you are having sex. And that I can't have you.

"To be here, in your lover's house, watching the two of you."

Mulder reached out to Krycek, but he pulled away. "No!" Then more calmly, "No."

He moved so that he sat on the side of the bed, carefully not touching the man who looked at him, in stunned disbelief.

"Mulder. Do you have any idea of how badly I need you? All my life, all I've been is...something to be used then thrown away. A piece of meat to sell for the night. A hole to plug for some john who's too tired of his hand. Shit, Spender, when he thought I was too much trouble, decided that if he couldn't blow me up, he would leave me as fodder for some alien. And the Brit, all he needed was someone to follow his orders, who would kill on demand. You think he left me with any kind of back-up when he got blown up?"

He paused to catch his breath. Silently damned the pneumonia that had made everything so difficult.

"Mulder, all my life I've been a thing. Until you touched me. You touched *me*. You made me feel things I didn't know I could feel. That I had never felt before."

He struggled hard to find the words. Mulder sat back, finally understanding.

"You made me feel...like I mattered. That I was important. Jesus, why the hell do you think I got you all that information? Most of the time I was putting my neck on the line. If they had caught me...

"But I did it because you would smile at me, hold me. Take me to your bed. Warm me. God, Mulder! Towards the end, the only time I ever felt warm was in your bed. In your arms.

"Shit, Mulder, you made me feel real. The best I'd ever been before you was..." he caught himself " was someone's pastime between marital reconciliations."

In the hallway, Skinner winced.

"Mulder. Please. I can't stay here, by the warmth, and not be able to touch. Spender and his thugs were easier to endure...

"Please. If it's revenge you want, for Scully, for Skinner, for whatever else I've done to you, you've had it. It hurts." Whispered, voice raw. "It hurts so much to see you with him. To know I can never have that. I'd scream if they hadn't trained screaming out of me.

"But, please. I can't any more."

Krycek slipped off the bed, onto his knees, head bowed like a man waiting for execution.

"Please, let me go. I beg you, Mulder. Let me go."

Mulder was finding it hard to breathe. He had brought the man into his house, thinking he was saving him. Never once considered what effect it would have. Scully was right: he was a selfish bastard. What an idiot! He had actually thought things were going well. Hell, they were fine for Fox Mulder. Why shouldn't they be fine for everyone else?

He joined Krycek on the floor, kneeling next to the man. Knowing now it was going to hurt him, but feeling that somehow he had to offer at least something, he pulled Krycek into his arms, sat back on his heels, holding the exhausted man tightly.

In the doorway, Skinner saw his lover, face wet with tears, rub his cheek back and forth across the head of his rival. Krycek had initially resisted, but now had turned into the warmth of the man holding him.

Krycek clutched Mulder with whatever strength he had left. Mulder would let him leave now, he knew. But he wanted one final memory to take with him. One final time of being held. Like he was important. Like he was real.

Mulder became aware of Skinner's presence in the doorway. He looked up at him. Said nothing. Here was another person he had hurt badly with his thoughtlessness.

Skinner placed a small bottle of lube on the top of the dresser, dropped some condoms next to it. He held Mulder's astonished look, gave a slight nod. A very slight nod. Reached into the bedroom, pulled the door shut.

With Mulder and Krycek on one side. Himself on the other.

He walked slowly down the stairs, hesitated in the foyer.

Grabbed his jacket.

Left the house.

Mulder found him a couple of hours later on the same park bench Skinner had found Krycek earlier that night.

Skinner was just staring at the heavens, looking at the three-quarter moon. He didn't react when Mulder sat next to him, near but not touching.

Mulder finally broke the silence. "I never really knew."

Skinner resisted the urge to point out Mulder's habit of plunging into things without really considering the consequences.

"He needs me." Mulder was finding words difficult. He who never had trouble with words was floundering.

"I need you, too." Skinner tone belied the dilemma he had been struggling with over the past hours.

Mulder dropped his chin onto his chest, squeezed his eyes tightly. All he seemed to be doing tonight was hurt those who loved him. Whom he loved.

"I've been sitting here, thinking." Skinner continued, voice even, as if chairing one of those meetings of his at the Bureau. "Playing out several possible scenarios.

"I could insist that Krycek go. That you stay with me. But then, you'd always feel responsible for him. If anything happened to him, you wouldn't be able to live with the guilt and me. I don't give *us* much chance if that happened.

"I could be noble and let you go away with him. But, quite frankly, *I* don't think I could live without you. Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't go out and kill myself. But part of me would die. And I'd have to get used to the loneliness again."

He looked over at his lover, huddled into himself as to protect himself from blows. "He's right about that. When you touch someone, Fox, you have the ability, the gift, to touch the real them. And he's right to call it a warmth. Because that is *how* your touch makes us feel. Warm. It's hard to let that go.

"I suppose we could all go our separate ways. Take off for parts unknown, far away from each other. But that would be pretty much overkill. And I don't think it would work for any of us."

Skinner looked back at the setting moon. God! What time was it anyway? He took a deep breath, expelled it. He had taken a decision while sitting here, felt the possibility of it settle not well, but also not that badly in his stomach. His ulcer hadn't kicked up at this last scenario as much as he would have thought.

"I guess the best solution is for all three of us to stay together."

Mulder started, looked at him with astonishment. Wisely kept his mouth shut.

Skinner meet his expression with a rueful one of his own. "Who knows? It might work out. At the least we won't be any more miserable than we already are. And things are bound to get better."

Mulder took the plunge. "It would mean me sharing his bed. Sometimes," he hurried to add.

Skinner nodded. "Yes, I know. I thought of that. I have to admit I don't really like it, but I can understand why you would want to. Sex with Krycek," Skinner acknowledged with the beginning of an embarrassed expression, "is very different from what we have."

Mulder felt the tension leave his body. He made a small sound of agreement. "That almost sounds like you're speaking from experience," he chuckled. Then caught it back as the expression on Skinner's face deepened.

"I guess," and Skinner wondered how this was going to go over, "you could say *I* was his experience at being someone's pastime between reconciliations."

"Oh." Mulder's voice was very quiet.

The two men sat silently on the bench until the moon set.

The house was quiet. Not empty, but very quiet.

Its inhabitants, two only this weekend since Mulder was off again to New York, had been doing their best to avoid each other.

Krycek was sitting at the kitchen table, working on a printout from the office.

It was still all too new, this job, this getting up in the morning, being driven to a building (by Mulder, who insisted he still wasn't well enough to drive himself safely home after a day of work) where he had an office. Mulder's Lone Gunmen had suggested his name to one of their occasional contacts, a man looking for a "break-in" expert. And, just like that, on their recommendation, he had a job.

He was beginning to feel more like his old self again. He was rested, had put back some of the weight he had lost when on the run and sick. He even had Mulder in his bed. Discreetly, but often enough that he could tolerate that Mulder spent nights in Skinner's bed.

Tolerate.

That's what he and Skinner did. They tolerated each other's presence in Mulder's life, because it was the only way Mulder was happy. And Mulder's happiness was paramount to both of them. Therefore, the tolerance.

Except now that Mulder was away, that tolerance was being put to a severe test. Mulder had left Friday morning. Friday, Krycek had spent at work, coming home with a colleague, one of those hopeful of being accepted on his team. Krycek found it delightfully strange, being in a position where someone actually wanted to suck up to him. He thanked the applicant for the lift, reminded himself that the guy was too loquacious for the job: he hadn't shut up once in the half hour drive to the house. Not good material for a break-in team.

He had eaten Friday supper in his bedroom. He turned on the small television he had in the room, made himself comfortable on the bed with his sandwich and a beer, watched some replay of a soccer game and hit the sack early. His energy level still quickly left him and he needed more sleep than he ever had in his life. Much as he hated to admit it, he *was* getting older.

Now, Saturday morning, he had come down early, made himself breakfast, enjoyed it and his newspaper, the New York TIMES, in the quiet. He rinsed his dishes, put them in the dishwasher, refilled his coffee from the thermos carafe and pulled out his briefcase, a gift from Mulder on his first day of work.

He was deep in the intricacies of hacking into a supposedly impenetrable program when Skinner entered the kitchen. Krycek looked up, gave a slight nod of acknowledgement, went back to work.

Skinner made his breakfast, cereal, and sat down at the table with his newspaper, the Washington POST.

As Skinner was eating his breakfast, reading his paper, Krycek gradually became aware that Skinner's things were taking up more and more space on the table. Instead of the empty bowl being stashed in the dishwasher, it was now taking up a corner by Krycek. Skinner, whose reading habits could only be classified as fastidious, was spread out, paper covering all of the table, even to flopping over onto Krycek's printout.

Skinner looked up from turning yet another page that seemed to be inching over Krycek's reading matter, met the other man's look with blatant disinterest, went back to the sports page.

Krycek said nothing. He nonchalantly gathered his stuff, put it back into the briefcase, got up making just enough noise to get Skinner's attention. And walked out of the room.

Some time later, Skinner entered the living room where Krycek had now set up his paperwork on the coffee table in front of the couch. This time Krycek didn't bother to acknowledge the other's presence.

Skinner made himself comfortable in his armchair, picked up the remote and turned on the television. To the Golf Channel.

Krcyek cocked an eyebrow up at the television. Golf? Skinner hated the game, was vehement in his disdain for the sport. He peeked over to the side, watched disbelievingly as Skinner appeared intently involved in the play as if it were the Super Bowl. Krycek went back to his reading. He had moved once. He didn't feel like moving again. He settled in.

But it was getting harder to ignore the commentary since Skinner kept on turning up and then turning down the sound. Then he began to channel surf, always coming back to the golf game where he would stop as if interested, and once more begin playing with the sound.

Krycek had enough. With sharp gestures, he packed up his material again, stacked his papers on top of the briefcase, picked them up. He stood up, waited till he had Skinner's full attention. Said nothing. Went out of the living room and back into the kitchen.

He was damned if he was going to spend the weekend in his bedroom. Fuck that! He paid his share of the expenses. He had full right to pick a place downstairs to do his work. It wasn't like Skinner didn't have a work space of his own. The third bedroom upstairs had been converted into his and Mulder's home office. And it wasn't as if *his* bedroom had been used for anything other than a bedroom before he had appeared on the scene.

He took back the kitchen table, purposefully spreading his things out all over it. From the living room, the sound of the golf game diminished and finally was silent.

An hour later, Krycek was feeling quite pleased with himself. He had found a way into the system that the planners had overlooked. Not a big entry point, but one big enough that someone with his skills would have found and put to use.

So he was feeling quite benevolent when Skinner came in to open the fridge door, pull out a jar of purple grape juice. Skinner poured himself a glass, recapped the jar, put it back into the fridge. Krycek was jotting down notes on his papers, moving back and forth between pages.

When, suddenly, Skinner tripped and the glass of purple grape juice went spilling over.

All over Krycek's papers.

For a moment, Krycek couldn't believe the purple stain spreading across his morning's work. He looked up in time to get an insincere shrug of apology from Skinner. Who then placed the now empty glass on the counter by the sink. And began walking out.

So, the shoulder that caught Skinner dead centre in the back came as a complete surprise.

He pitched forward, hitting the hallway floor hard. With the additional dead weight of Krycek following him down, landing heavily on him. He was winded long enough for Krycek to begin picking himself up. But not so long that he wasn't able to grab Krycek's leg before the man could get his weight onto it. He pulled sharply. Now it was Krycek's turn to pitch forward. He wasn't wearing his prosthesis so he really had no way of breaking his fall. He, too, landed hard.

But Skinner had forgotten, or maybe hadn't really noticed, that Krycek was nowhere near the invalid Mulder still thought he was. Before he had time to get to his feet, Krycek had twisted, pulling his leg back to kick Skinner hard enough in the chest for the man to land heavily on his butt, winded.

Then, of course, it was a free-for-all.

Fists, knees, elbows all met the other's body in a release of anger and frustration that had been building up for some time. For some uncontested reason, no blows were directed to the other's face. Neck down, and it was open season.

The two were a unit, rolling over the floor of the hallway, into the living room. Each aiming to cause as much damage to the other while protecting his own body. Apart from the grunts, the loud exhalations of breath, they fought silently.

Eventually, faster than he would have liked to admit, Krycek's disabilities made themselves felt. He had no arm to protect his left side from Skinner's bruising punches. And his breathing was still affected by his recent near-death experience with pneumonia.

He lay caught, Skinner's greater size and weight pinning him to the floor, the man's hands holding down on his left shoulder, his right wrist.

Skinner waited for the man to concede in some way, to show he was beaten. Krycek tried to buck Skinner off him. Skinner grinned a superior grin when the man failed. Except...

Except that the interplay had had other effects on both their bodies. When Krycek had jerked his hips in hope of toppling Skinner over, he realized that there was something hard between both their bodies. And not just on his part. Skinner became aware of the fact at about the same instant.

This time Krycek's face bore the smirk. He remembered a little move that Skinner used to like an awful lot when they had had their encounters. Slowly, eyes still holding Skinner's, Krycek raised his hips, twisted them in a rubbing motion that got the same response it had long ago.

Skinner's grin grew less superior. Turned into more of a snarl when Krycek repeated the action. Two could play at that game. He waited for the gesture to end, and then, very slowly, he moved his body, rubbing his groin *hard*, the way he remembered Krycek liked it, against him.

Hard and rough. What had drawn him back to the man every time he had sworn he would avoid him. What, Skinner had to admit to himself, probably drew Mulder to him. That sex with Krycek was raw, with very little time for the subtle niceties, the drawing out that existed in the bed they shared.

Then, as now, right here in the entry of the living room, sex between Krycek and Skinner was a thing of lust to be satisfied. As quickly as possible. In the most direct manner as possible.

Foreplay was minimal: more direct focus on groin , on known erogenous zones -- Krycek's nipples, Skinner's abdomen. No gentle touching. No slow arousal. Pants and shorts were pulled down; tops, pushed out of the way. Teeth, part of the ritual they had once established, were used heedlessly, Mulder now forgotten. Not sighs of pleasure but grunts of intensity.

The only lube they used was spit mixed with pre-come. The only preparation was a saliva-wet thumb that Skinner pressed into Krycek when he had flipped him over into position.

Krycek raised his head, face feral when Skinner pushed his way into his body. For just a moment, Skinner paused. Each took a breath, waiting a couple of heart beats to accustom himself to the situation.

Krycek was the first to move, pulling his hips forward enough for Skinner's cock to slip back. Skinner grabbed Krycek's hips, held them tightly and took up the measured rhythm that would bring him to orgasm. Once he had it, he left one hand on Krycek's hips for balance, used the other to set up a counter-rhythm on the man's cock.

Each was intent on his own sensations, intent on making the other come first. An old game between them, newly restarted.

They lay collapsed, Skinner on Krycek. Eventually Skinner's weight was too much for the poor condition of Krycek's lungs: he began coughing.

Skinner pulled away from him, moved first to his knees, then to his feet. He held his jeans up in his hand as he went into the downstairs bathroom to clean up. He brought back a warm, wet cloth with him, handed it to Krycek who now lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling, focusing on controlling his breathing. Krycek cleaned himself, used the cloth to wipe his come off the floor.

He sat up, put his clothes back into order, stood up.

He found Skinner in the kitchen, sponging up the purple stain on the floor and table. He had spread Krycek's papers over the counter, so they could dry. Krycek went and found the bleach in the laundry room, wet a rag and rubbed the faint purple markings off the floor. When he was done, he tossed the rag into the garbage bin.

Skinner prepared a fresh pot of coffee, watched Krycek find some clean paper and begin jotting down the notes he could barely make out on the printout.

Skinner poured two cups of coffee, handed one to Krycek, went into the living room.

Krycek took his coffee, sat down, pulled another printout from his briefcase and started working on it to the faint sound of the Pre-game show.

***********************La Fin***********************

 


 

Title: THE FIRST TIME (1/1)
Author: Josan
Date: September, 1999
Summary: There were three in a bed and the little one said...
Pairing: Sk/M/K
Rating: NC-17
Archive: Archive/X, Ratlover, Gossamer. Any others if you ask: just so I know where this is travelling to.
Comments: jmann@spam.mondenet.com
DISCLAIMER: The usual, accompanied with bitter longing.
This is for Solan, who beta's for me. I thought about ending the ANSWERS series with LONG DISTANCE RUNNERS 2, but she, and others, wanted one with the three of them together. So, here it is. Comes between LDR2 and ANSWERS. And this is it: no more.


Skinner watched Krycek make himself a sandwich.

It was four a.m.

He stood quietly in the doorway of the kitchen as Krycek made toast, loaded both slices down with butter then peanut butter. Which meant that the man needed a quick energy fix. He said nothing as Krycek opened the fridge, stood staring into its depths, finally pulling out the milk. The fact that he spilt some as he poured himself a large glass was the signal for Skinner to clear his throat.

"You're coming home rather late."

Krycek stilled for a breath, then moved his meal to the table. "I called."

The first time Krycek had pulled an all-nighter at work, he hadn't called. Had been totally taken aback when he had been severely raked over the coals by both Skinner and Mulder when he returned home the next evening. They knew he had been all right because Mulder had placed a call in to the office and had had the receptionist inform him that "Mr. Krycek is certainly in this morning: I just saw him with Mr. Nash. But there's a do-not-disturb sign on Mr. Nash's door. I can take a message if you care to leave one."

The upshot of the lecture was that Krycek now knew to call not just if he were going to be pulling an all-nighter, but if he were going to be the slightest bit late. He had been surprised that someone would worry about him that way: he wasn't used to checking in.

Skinner looked Krycek over. He was eating as if starved, his hand shook slightly as he drank. Skinner sighed. Took the glass away from Krycek, poured the milk into a mug, nuked some warmth into it, added chocolate powder, stirred and gave it back to the man.

"Okay," he joined him at the table, "what have you been up to?" Because he recognized a fit of nerves when he saw one. Krycek might be working on a regular basis, but his body still betrayed the fact that he wasn't yet back in top form.

Whatever he was expecting, it wasn't a fit of the giggles. Which Krycek was trying hard to control with varying success.

"You remember the argument I had with Johnson about that opening I told him would let in anyone with a brain?"

Skinner thought a moment, then did remember. Johnson was one of the planners at Nash Securities. For some reason Skinner never fathomed, Johnson and Krycek had taken one look at each other that first day and decided that outright warfare would exist between them no matter what.

"So, what did you do, take his program apart?"

"No. He didn't believe me when I did that."

Skinner suddenly realized that Krycek was dressed in black, that his hair was scrunched down as if he had been wearing some headwear of some kind. He had an idea where this was going and he didn't like it. God! If *he* didn't like it, Fox would be livid!

"Tell me you didn't actually break in." Then groaned at the delighted grin that split Krycek's face. "Krycek!"

Krycek sat back in his chair, stretched his legs out. He held the warm mug in his hands, its heat helping to control the slight tremors that affected his real hand.

"Well, he wouldn't listen to me. What else was I supposed to do?"

"Krycek, this is supposed to be a desk job. An inside job. You know, where no one can take pot shots at you."

"Don't you believe it," snapped Krycek. "They take pot shots all right, just not with bullets." He took a breath and forced himself to calm down. He hadn't meant to let that slip out.

He was surprised when Skinner stood up, came around behind him and placed his hands on his shoulders, slowly working the knots out. He let his head fall forwards, letting the hands soothe the night's tensions away.

After a while, Skinner prodded, "So, you decided to prove Johnson wrong. How did it go?"

"Like a breeze. Just like I told him, anyone with a bit of brains could do it. All they have to do is get their hands on the security system lay-out."

"Not too fair there, Krycek. I mean, you do have a copy of the thing in your office," Skinner pointed out, reasonably.

"Didn't use it." He was feeling too relaxed to take umbrage. "I hacked into the company's system and pulled it out from there. Which reminds me, I'll have to tell Nash about that. He's got to warn them that their system is too easy to get into."

Probably, thought Skinner, their system had been perfectly adequate until Krycek decided to hack in: not every hacker had Krycek's specialized expertise.

"You sure they'll believe you?"

Krycek snickered. "I left a business card propped up on the owner's computer, with a note telling him to call Johnson."

Skinner shook his head. "Bit childish."

Krycek leaned back into the hands that were bringing him off the high. Who'd have thought that after all the years he'd been doing things like this, that one done just to prove a point would leave him so wound up?

"Who'd you convince to act as back-up?"

"No one. I went by myself." Said it very casually, so that he really didn't understand why it set off such a fuse in Skinner.

But it did. It got him a lecture that made Mulder's rants look tame. Here he was, being yelled at by a man who just tolerated him, for being stupid, thoughtless, putting his life on the line. "What if you had attracted the attention of a guard, you fucking idiot! They're armed in that place! Asshole!"

Yelled at loudly and long enough to wake Mulder up, have him join the party.

Skinner expected Mulder to add his two cents' worth, but Mulder just sat there, at the table, listening to Skinner expertly ream Krycek for his actions of the night. It was, decided Mulder, rather more interesting to be a spectator to one of Skinner's AD reamings than be the recipient.

Not that Krycek took it quietly: the two of them were shouting at each other. These days, when Skinner put on his AD voice, Mulder preferred to slowly work his way around Skinner's objections. Maybe that's why he was challenging Krycek, nose to nose, at the top of his voice. Maybe he'd missed the challenge of a rousing good argument. Mind you, Mulder thought, his way was much quieter.

The sound of a telephone finally penetrated through the noise. Mulder went into the living room to answer, where he would be able to hear.

It was Thomas Nash.

No, he didn't need to speak to Krycek right then and there. Just tell him to come to his office first thing. Yes, he knew about the break-in: a security guard had found the card, called the owner who had called him. Yes, actually he could hear the noise from the background. Yes, he agreed with Skinner that going in without back-up was not particularly bright, but then he could also understand why Krycek did it. That was something he wanted to discuss with Krycek. No, certainly not, his job was *not* on the line because of this.

Mulder turned off the phone, went back into the now quieter kitchen. Why was it, he thought, that the two of them got so turned on by fighting? Because, even if they weren't aware of it, the two of them were sporting the beginnings of erections.

Skinner went stomping out, went back to bed. Mulder smiled: he was going to reap the benefits of that hard-on. He passed Nash's message on to Krycek. Went up to the man, kissed him. Tasted anger, arousal and Krycek's own particular flavour.

"He's right, you know," he whispered by Krycek's ear, "that wasn't smart of you."

Krycek would have died rather than admit it to Skinner, but Mulder was a different deal. "Yeah, well, it was pretty much off the cuff. I really hadn't planned to do this."

He leaned into Mulder's body, wanting him, knowing that he wasn't going to get him. When they had sex, Mulder always picked times when Skinner wasn't around. He pulled back: no sense teasing himself with something he couldn't have.

Mulder started for the stairs, expecting Krycek to follow him, but Krycek went into the living room, dropped onto the couch. "I just need some time to unwind."

Mulder stopped at the bottom of the stairs. He looked up them to the bedroom door that was closed, looked back to the man lying on the couch, arm over eyes. Krycek never made demands, never even made requests. He accepted whatever was handed out to him, piece-meal, without complaining.

If it had been him in this position, Mulder realized, he would have thrown a couple of major temper fits by now.

He looked upstairs again, then turned around and went into the living room.

Krycek was surprised when Mulder sat next to him on the couch, using his hip to make him move over a bit, catching the prosthesis between his body and the back of the couch.

Was even more surprised when Mulder began unbuttoning his shirt. "What are you doing, Mulder?"

Mulder said nothing, just smiled that "come hither" smile he used whenever he initiated sex with him.

Krycek cocked an eyebrow, looked out toward the staircase. Talk about putting his life on the line! Shit! If Skinner came down and caught them at it...well, he had no idea how the man would take it. It was one thing knowing your lover had sex with another man, under your roof; quite another to catch them in the act.

He wanted to say something to Mulder, but between the knowledgeable fingers stroking his chest, the fact that there was still a residue of the high he'd gotten that night and the hard-on that was still hanging in from the argument with Skinner...Hell! He was only human.

And then there was the added danger of Skinner's presence, of his possibly coming down to see what was taking Mulder so long.

Oh, why the hell not! And he raised his mouth for Mulder's kiss as his hand found its way under Mulder's t-shirt, to stoke up Mulder's fire.

Neither one of them heard Skinner's grunt from the stairs. He watched for a minute, watched Mulder help strip the shirt off Krycek, their mouths glued to each all the while. They pulled apart just long enough to pull Mulder's t-shirt off over his head.

At least they're being quiet, he thought. His mouth tightened even though he had to admit to himself that neither one of them ever rubbed his nose in the fact that he shared his lover.

He started back up the stairs when the two men came off the couch, stood, the easier to get rid of Krycek's jeans and shorts, Mulder's sweats.

They *were* beautiful together, he thought, two long bodies that both gave him pleasure. Because he, too, made use of that scarred body when Mulder wasn't around. Always when the tension in the house had built up to a point when it was either have sex or punch each other out. And Mulder was no fool: it hadn't taken him any time to understand why those bruises, the bite marks on both their bodies appeared only when he was off somewhere. Not that he mentioned it: like a lot of things in this household, it was never discussed.

And as usual with Krycek, this sex was rougher, less refined. And fucking arousing, thought Skinner as he felt his cock reacting to the action he was witnessing.

He dropped a hand to himself, began stroking. He'd been doing some work on the house lately and his hand was rough. Made him think about lube.

By now, Mulder and Krycek were making more noise. Not on purpose, but because they'd forgotten about the man supposedly upstairs. Krycek had dropped to his knees; Mulder's eyes were shut tight, his whole being concentrated on the play of that magic mouth on him.

So the lubed finger that penetrated his ass was not such a surprise until he realized that there was also someone standing behind him. He opened his eyes, turned his head slightly and closed them again at the sight of his other lover. Jesus! How was he going to handle this without hurting anyone?

Except that Skinner didn't seem to need handling. While one hand was working at opening him up, the other had snaked around his chest to play with his nipples, to stroke his chest and belly.

Krycek felt Mulder stiffen, looked up to see if his lover was all right and saw the large man behind him. He stilled his mouth, began releasing Mulder's cock. In the hierarchy of things in this household, he knew his place.

Over Mulder's shoulder, Skinner's eyes met Krycek's. Saw loss and acceptance in the younger man's eyes as Krycek began pulling back. He reached with his free hand, managed to grab some of Krycek's hair and tugged him, not too gently, back to Mulder. Krycek's eyes closed over his astonishment, but he didn't question, just took Mulder back into his mouth.

Mulder stopped thinking. Between Krycek's mouth and Skinner's fingers, he was being fucked fore and aft. Then Skinner's cock replaced his fingers and all Mulder could do was weave back and forth between the two sensations of penetration and moist warmth. His only contribution was a mantra of "Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" which ended in a jumble of throaty sounds punctuated by a loud groan when he came.

Krycek swallowed, sucked, encouraged the last sensation out of him possible. Skinner pulled out, let Mulder slide down him to the floor, stood solidly erect over the two men.

The feral grin he gave Krycek warned him. Krycek began dropping his shoulders to the floor for support as Skinner stepped over Mulder, positioned himself behind Krycek. He used one hand to stroke himself, the other to prepare Krycek. With no more than that, he entered him, taking him roughly, enjoying the way Krycek threw up his head, grunted when he did so.

When he had established a rhythm that pleased him, Skinner reached under and took Krycek's neglected cock in hand, setting up the rhythm that he knew would send the man over the edge.

Mulder lay on his side, sleepily watching his two lovers achieve orgasm.

Skinner rested his body on top of Krycek's for a minute or two before pulling out, stripping the condom off himself, holding it in hand since there was nowhere to dispose of it in the immediate vicinity. He lay flat on his back, staring at the ceiling, waiting for his heart rate to settle.

Krycek slowly stretched out his legs, resting on the carpet here and there wet with his come. He sighed.

Mulder reached out to touch Skinner's leg, pulled it closer so he could rest his cheek on it. He stroked the other leg with his hand.

Krycek turned his head so that it faced Skinner's. The older man's eyes were closed. He raised himself onto the prosthesis, leaned over and kissed his thanks. Then he pushed himself up to his knees, then his feet. He did his best to clean the carpet with his shorts, took the condom out of Skinner's hand, disposed of it in the downstairs bathroom and made his way up to his room. He looked back to see Skinner still lying there, eyes closed, Mulder grinning sleepily at him then up to Krycek. The smile grew at Krycek's nod.

Skinner waited until he heard the door to Krycek's bedroom close before he opened his eyes. Mulder slowly made his way to his feet, offered Skinner his hand to help him up.

Skinner let him tug a bit before he pushed himself off the floor. He accepted Mulder's kiss as his due for what had happened here. Couldn't help seeing the smug expression in those near green eyes as they made their way up the stairs.

Half way up the stairs, Skinner looked back. Sighed.

"Remind me to get that carpet scotch-guarded."

 


 

Answers I thru III


Title: ANSWERS
Author: Josan
Date: MAY, 1999
Summary: Skinner asks, Krycek answers, but not exactly what Skinner was expecting
Pairing: Sk/K with M in absentia
Rating: PG
Archive: Thank you, that would be nice.
Comments: jmann@spam.mondenet.com
DISCLAIMER: Okay, CC and 1013, but I like them too.
NOTE: This is a series based on the premise that all three of our boys could one day be together. Kassandra started it for me, then JiM and MJ had the idea (at the same time: great minds think alike...ignore the rest). I happen to like this premise. All those nice bodies together. And, unless reaction is horribly negative, this premise will be the basis for a AU, PWP series, number as yet unknown, with the three together. NIGHT OUT belongs to this series.


Answers
by Josan

Skinner wasn't surprised to find Krycek sitting in the darkened living room, glass of scotch in hand. The problem of phantom pain seemed to be more prevalent when Mulder was off on one of his jaunts, promoting his new book or acting as the special guest at some sci-fi conference. This time he was to be gone for ten days, hitting four cities on his book tour and one conference out on the West Coast.

Krycek had heard Skinner come down, knew he was being watched from the doorway. He raised the glass to his mouth and drank. And waited.

Skinner sat at the far end of the couch, stuck his hands into the pockets of his loosened jeans, slouched till his head rested against the back and took his time looking over his housemate/lover.

Krycek concentrated on the drink in his hand, looking into the glass as though fascinated. He was wearing an old pair of black sweatpants and nothing else. His feet were propped up on the coffee table they all used as an ottoman. His elbow, when not bending, rested on the arm of the couch. He seemed to be waiting for something, but Skinner couldn't think what that could be, certainly at 3 a.m.

He finally broke the silence. "Are you okay?" Krycek didn't look at him, just gave a slight nod. Raised the glass again. He had filled it to the top, was slowly working it down.

Skinner decided to take a chance. Things between the two of them were always a bit delicate. A lot of pussy-footing around. Even when Mulder was at home. More so when he wasn't. Maybe it was time to see if more concrete ground existed. So he pushed. "I don't think so. And I don't think it has anything to do with missing Fox. More, it seems that it has to do with me. So why don't you just tell me what's bothering you, Krycek, and maybe we can clear the air."

Krycek didn't move, didn't say anything. He kept on staring at the glass balanced on his knees.

Skinner sighed loudly, putting a bit more exasperation in it than he actually felt. And waited. After all this time with Mulder, he had learnt that patience was indeed a virtue. Not that he didn't feel like strangling him once in a while. If Krycek needed time to get to the point, he was willing to wait.

So he just sat there. Watching. Waiting.

Krycek took another swallow. Shit! Why not? Maybe it was time to bring the whole thing out. If he got thrown out, well...that was life. His life.

He turned to meet Skinner's eyes. Skinner wasn't wearing his glasses which softened his face. Made him look less like an AD and more like a human being. Not less strong. Not less dangerous. Just less bureaucratic. Krycek moved his body slightly, so it was angled into the corner of the couch. Protection for his back if he needed it. He still felt, after all this time, a bit safer with something solid against his back.

"When are you going to boot me out?"

Not quite what Skinner was expecting. But, on hearing the question coming out of Krycek's mouth, not that surprising either. "Why would I boot you out, Krycek?" A question for a question. Gave him time to do some thinking.

Krycek gave a little smirk. "Come on, Skinner. The only reason I'm part of this...household is because Mulder asked you to let me stay. You don't want me here, you only let me stay because of Mulder."

"Are you sure of that, Krycek?" Skinner's voice was softly even in the dark.

"Come off it, Skinner. Would I be here if it were up to you?"

This time Krycek was the one who waited for Skinner's answer. Even if he did know the answer, he wanted Skinner to say it aloud.

"To be honest, Alex, I don't know. When you first got here, you were too sick to throw out. And now...like I said, I don't know."

Krcyek snorted his disbelief and went back to his drink.

"I do know that I was surprised, in a way, that Fox understood why you killed Bill Mulder. Even accepted it. Maybe it helped that he wasn't really Fox's father, but he had hated you for it for so long that I did have trouble with his...forgiving you."

"I think," offered Krycek, "he was so happy that he didn't carry that bastard's genes he was willing to forgive anything."

Skinner shrugged. "Don't see how Cancerman's are any better. Still. And there is the fact that you did pass all that information over to us. Made it a whole lot easier for us to take down the Consortium, what was left of it, after the burnings. I'll admit *that* made it easier for me to accept you."

Krycek looked back at him. "But not quite."

Skinner grunted. "Yeah, you're right. Not quite." He stretched out his feet so that they rested on the coffee table. "I take it this is the right time for me to ask why."

Krycek nodded, slouched a bit more on his spine. "Which why?" He sipped his drink.

"True. There are so many." Skinner's tone was ironic. "Why you betrayed the Bureau. Why you helped them with Scully. Why you beat me up in the stairwell. Why you stole the DAT tape. Why you sold the stuff you deciphered off it. Why you followed Mulder to Tunguska. Why you went back to the Consortium. Why..."

"Why the palm pilot," interrupted Krycek.

Skinner's face hardened. "Yes," he said softly, "why the palm pilot, Krycek?"

Krycek emptied the glass and placed it on the arm of the couch. There were things about himself he had long ago accepted, but sometimes, some times like now, he was a bit embarrassed, a bit ashamed of what he had done.

Skinner watched as Krycek worked out how he was going to answer that particular "why". He didn't think he would hear a lie: Krycek was honest in his own way. He was the one who brought up the subject, so the answer would be the reason as Krycek saw the truth. Problem was Krycek often didn't see the truth as he, Skinner, saw it. But he waited. Watched as Krycek's fingers played with a small hole in the knee of his sweats.

Krycek's voice was almost too soft to hear when he did speak. "Because you slept with him."

Skinner didn't react. He had to think a moment. Because he'd slept with him? With whom?

"Again?"

Krycek's fingers widened the hole. He bit his lower lip, squirmed a little. "It doesn't make much sense, now. But then, you were sleeping with him. With Mulder."

Skinner was thoroughly confused. Yes. True. He had been sleeping with Mulder by then.

Krycek took a breath and tried again. "You had sex with me. But you slept with him."

Skinner cocked his head. "Let me get this straight. You played God with my life because I was sleeping with Mulder and having sex with you? But I wasn't. I mean I wasn't doing both of you at the same time. Krycek, I don't get this." He was beginning to feel angry. Shit! The ratbastard had let him die because he was...what? jealous because he was sleeping with Mulder?

Krycek shook his head. "I told you it didn't make much sense." He kept his eyes on the hole in his sweats. Felt Skinner sit up.

"Take me over this again, Krycek. I want to understand even if you say it doesn't make much sense. To begin with, I wasn't juggling the two of you at all."

"No. You weren't." Krycek passed a frustrated hand through his hair. It was hard to explain to Skinner when he wasn't very sure himself of the explanation.

Skinner was smart enough to keep quiet, hard though that was, and let Krycek work out the words for himself. Then, he would hit him. He shoved his hands back into his pockets, fisted them. Hitting Krycek now would make him feel better, but it wouldn't help matters at all.

After a while, Krycek tried again. "When I was still with the Bureau," he spoke slowly, "when you and I had sex, that's what it was. Sex. A quick fuck. Against a wall. Over a desk. Once, at a hotel, we made it to the bed, but it was me over it. That's as close to sleeping together as we got."

He was making the hole larger, seemed to be very focused on that. "When I left the Bureau and you took up with Mulder, it was different for the two of you. When you met, it wasn't for a quick fuck. You took more time together."

"Once," his voice was bland, all emotion suppressed, "I snuck into Mulder's apartment and found the two of you together in his bed." He looked up and faced Skinner. "That's how I found out that the two of you were an item."

He gave a sort of half smile. "I thought it would be fun to take your place when you left. So I waited in the outer hallway for you to leave. But you didn't." He went back to working the hole. "You spent the night with him. The morning too. And when you left, he left with you. You went to that restaurant for brunch and then spent the afternoon together. Doing things."

His smile was bitter. "You never did anything like that with me. *Mulder* never did anything like that with me. I was good enough for a screw, but not for much else."

Skinner said nothing. Tried to work through what Krycek was telling him. About all three of them.

"So," continued Krycek, "when Cancerman wanted to test out the palm pilot on you, I volunteered to do it. The Brit wasn't too happy with the trial. It was too complicated, too involved for him. He wasn't that keen on technological advances even if Cancerman was rather ga-ga over new toys."

"The original plans were for you to die. Really die. Cancerman hated your guts by then, especially for reopening the X-Files. He wanted Mulder neutralized and there you were, letting him loose again. But by then the Brit was giving me my orders. He agreed to the testing but I convinced him that we needed to know the exact limits of the thing. It was a prototype, a very expensive prototype. Each palm pilot had to be individually programmed for its match. Very time consuming. And the nanolytes had a limited lifespan. So there was only so much time to play in. At that point, there were only two of the things around. The one for Orgel. And the one for you."

Skinner finally found his voice. "Orgel died."

Krycek nodded. "Yes. I needed to know just how much a body could take before "dying". And how long it could be dead before reactivating the palm pilot. He was no great loss. He was the one who transferred the nanolytes to you when he touched you in the hall. And he was the one who had invented the nanolytes in the first place, so it was appropriate that they should kill him."

He looked at Skinner, meeting his eyes. "Yes. I killed him. And then I 'killed' you."

"All because I didn't spend a night in your bed." Skinner couldn't quite hide his anger, his disgust. Krycek reacted to neither.

Skinner stood up and took a turn around the floor at that end of the living room. Well, he'd wanted to know. And now he did. It took a bit more effort than he liked to calmly ask, "Does this mean that whenever we don't spend the night with you our lives are at risk?"

Krycek quirked an eyebrow. "Get real, Skinner. When do either of you ever spend a night in my bed?"

Skinner caught himself about to scoff. He stopped pacing.

"Think about it, Skinner. In all the time I've been here, have you or Mulder ever spent an entire night with me? Ever?"

Skinner opened his mouth. Then shut it. He tried hard to contradict Krycek, but nothing came to mind. "There are nights when Mulder goes to you," he started.

"Yes. But he goes back to you, or to your bed if you're gone, after we have sex."

"Before...surely before I came into the picture, the two of you..."

"Yeah, sure, the two of us had sex. Sometimes even in his bed. But Mulder never spent an entire night in his bed until he started sleeping with you. We'd have sex, great sex, but Mulder always moved to his couch at some point during the night."

"And," continued Krycek, " even when *you* come to my bed, those times you do, like Mulder, you go back to your room. Even faster than Mulder. At least, Mulder spends some time with me."

Skinner listened to Krycek's voice. It was calm. Unaccusing. But he realized that under the coolness lay an undertone of hurt. Something of what he felt must have made itself apparent on his face because Krycek quickly added, "It's okay. I finally realized that sex may be all I'm good for. Neither of you seems to have any complaints about my technique because you both keep on coming back. And I certainly don't have any complaints on my end. I've got more here than I ever hoped to have in my life."

"And I do realize that I'm here on your sufferance. That I don't really add much to the composition of this household. And," he took a deep breath, braced himself, "if your patience is at an end, if my presence is too much for you to tolerate any more, well...it's been a year and a half. I never expected to be allowed to stay here this long. If you want me to leave, you don't have to worry. I won't make a fuss. I'll even leave Mulder a note telling him I want to move on."

He waited.

Skinner dry scrubbed his face. He hadn't really been listening to Krycek's offer of leaving: he was still trying to find a time when one of them had had more than quick sex with the man.

"Those times when the three of us have sex together?"

Krycek almost smiled. "Usually we do it here in the living room. The few times we've made it to a bed, it's your bed. Yours and Mulder's. I'm only a visitor. Like all well behaved visitors, I leave before I become a nuisance."

He waited while Skinner absorbed this bit of information. Eventually he yawned. The scotch and the tension of the conversation had worked some magic on his missing arm: the phantom pain was gone. He wanted this resolved. "Skinner. Do you want me to leave?"

Skinner examined the younger man sitting at the end of the couch, knee bared by the hole, awaiting his answer like some penitent in front of a judge: he was ready to be told to pack up and go. And Krycek's offer had finally penetrated his own thick skull. If he told the man to go, he would do so, keeping his word.

So easy. All he had to do was say "Go," and the baggage that was Krycek would go.

So why couldn't he say that word.

"No. No, I don't want you to leave."

"Sure? I may never make the offer again."

Shit! What was it about Krycek that he always had to push? Skinner shook his head.

"Then I'm going back to bed."

**********************************************

 


 

Title: ANSWERS 2: ANSWERS TO ANSWERS
Author: Josan
Date: MAY 1999
Summary: Skinner thinks about those answers.
Pairing: Sk/K, M in absentia
Rating: PG
Archive: Thank you, that would be nice.
Comments: jmann@spam.mondenet.com
DISCLAIMER: Okay, CC and 1013, but I like them too.
NOTE: This is a series based on the premise that all three of our boys could one day be together. Kassandra started it for me, then JiM and MJ had the idea (at the same time: great minds think alike...ignore the rest). I happen to like this premise. All those nice bodies together. And, unless reaction is horribly negative, this premise will be the basis for a AU, PWP series, number as yet unknown, with the three together. NIGHT OUT belongs to this series.


Answers to Answers
By Josan

Krycek got up the next morning, went off to work as if nothing had happened. Skinner lay in bed, listening to him go through his morning rituals.

Of the three of them, Krycek was the one with the regular job. Well, as regular a job as any of them had.

Mulder had quit the Bureau, wrote articles and was promoting his second book, begrudging the time away from his third.

Since his retirement from the Bureau, he, Skinner, worked as a consultant for a conservative (small c) think tank. He'd put in his twenty years and had had no trouble adjusting to easier days, no overtime, no weekends spent at the office catching up on the continually reproducing paperwork. He just went in when he felt like it, picked up the articles they wanted him to review, to comment on, occasionally attended some meetings. All that for a nice hourly fee.

Krycek's work required him to go to an office, work with a team, his team. Now and then, they did field work when he could be gone for up to a week, but most often he did his work at a computer. Krycek was, of the three of them, a master of the keyboard. That plus his skills at "gathering" information, no matter where it was, had got him a job -- no, a position -- with a high level security firm, Nash Securities.

He and his team evaluated secured locations. Which meant that one team would go in, analyze the needs for security, install what they had determined was required. And then Krycek's team would try and break in. Either by hacking or by an actual break in. So far, in fourteen trials, Krycek's team had broken through fourteen times. Which made him a master of his trade, though not well liked by those who installed the systems.

He'd gotten the work through Mulder's Lone Gunmen who often served as consultants to Krycek's team.

So, of the three of them, Krycek was the one who got to fight morning and evening traffic in his black army surplus jeep.

The next couple of days passed like they always did. Krycek brought home some papers that required his attention. Skinner wrote up some reports, went to his office to pick up some more, attended a short meeting. Mulder called on the speaker phone with his nightly reports on the latest trials and tribulations of being a best-selling author on a book tour.

Skinner and Krycek ate supper, cleaned up with no more, no less than the usual conversations. Life as it had become normal in the Mulder/Skinner/Krycek household.

Krycek even had his usual problem with nightmares.

The third night after they'd talked, Skinner woke to the muffled sounds of Krycek screaming. Usually, Mulder went to him when that happened. But Mulder was out of town and Skinner, instead of ignoring the sounds, turning over and going back to sleep like he usually did, got up and went to the man.

Krycek was sitting up in bed, huddled over his raised knees, trying hard to get his breathing back under control. He hated his reactions to the nightmares he had. He had trained himself to wake from most of them, to come out of them before he was too deeply dragged down. But occasionally, when he was stressed, or tired, or sick, the timbre of his dreams changed and he wasn't able to pull out so that they totally entwined him in some horror he had tried so hard to suppress.

Tonight, he had been back in the silo, the oil pouring out of him, his eyes, his nose, his mouth, his ears. The additional horrors of being locked up with the UFO and its contents, the silo walls closing in, the living death from which he had somehow escaped were all too real.

He knew he had screamed, his throat told him he had. And he was covered in sweat. His body trembled as his mind pushed back the demons into whatever compartment they hid until the next time.

The unexpected hand touching his back scared the hell out of him.

Skinner sat on the edge of the bed, handed him a glass of water. "Sorry. I thought you'd heard me."

Krycek took the glass, the water slopping over the rim. Skinner placed his hand over Krycek's, holding the glass steady to his mouth.

"Thank you," Krycek's voice sounded husky. Skinner placed the glass on the night table, passed a wet face cloth over Krycek's back, face. Krycek sighed at the coolness removing the smell of fear from his skin. Gently down his throat, across the upper portion of his body. He felt Skinner leave the bed. Not expecting more, he muttered "Thanks," again and rested his forehead on his knees, trying to control the shivers still running through his body.

"Move over." Skinner pushed him a bit to the centre of the bed, piled the pillows and sat down behind Krycek, tugging the man down and the covers up over him at the same time. Krycek was surprised by the treatment, but accepted it wouldn't last long. He was still trembling and the feel of another's body against his would help push away the residue of his nightmare. Mulder, had he been here, would have wrapped himself around Krycek, holding him till he fell back asleep. He didn't expect the same from Skinner, but had to admit the heat of the big body, the arm holding him would probably work as well. He wondered if Skinner would stay long enough for him to fall asleep.

Skinner felt the tremors subside gradually. His hand stroked the smooth back, gently massaged the tight muscles on the shoulders, the nape until Krycek sighed and relaxed.

To Krycek's surprise, Skinner didn't get up and go back to his own bedroom. He found himself wondering if maybe Skinner wanted sex, though the usual signals had not been forthcoming. He had no objections if he did; he had had Mulder over a week ago, and was getting a bit bored with jerking off in the shower.

But Skinner just continued holding him.

When Skinner finally spoke, Krycek was taken completely by surprise. He had concluded that Skinner wasn't in the mood for sex, was beginning to drowse. "I've been thinking about our conversation of the other night." Skinner's voice vibrated a bit in the chest under his ear. Krycek said nothing, just became more alert.

"You're wrong, you know. You do add something to the composition of this household. You are important. Not just to Fox."

Krycek slowly moved so that his temple rested against Skinner's shoulder joint, tilted his head so that he could watch Skinner's face. Skinner was staring straight ahead.

"I'm important to you?" His disbelief was obvious. "How?"

Skinner still didn't look at him, but his hand made soothing motions over his left shoulder, warming the truncation that was his arm. Skinner seemed to be trying to put something together before he spoke. "When Fox is gone, on these jaunts of his, I miss him. But I don't worry about him. When you're off on one of your break ins, I worry about you." He looked down into the stunned face resting on his shoulder. Krycek's eyes had opened wide; his mouth partially, but no sound came out of it.

Finally Krycek found his voice. "Why would you worry about me?"

Skinner cocked his head, gave one of his half smiles. "Alex. You haven't had one failure yet, you and your people. I know Nash thinks it's fantastic the way you catch any little thing that could cause a problem, but I also know that the planners of those security systems hate your guts. Accidents do happen."

Krycek had nothing to say to that. He knew very well how the planning teams felt about him.

"And I know you're important to Mulder."

"He just feels guilty about the arm."

Skinner didn't lie to Krycek. "Probably that's a bit of it. But he needs someone who understands him."

"And you don't?" Krycek scoffed.

"Not as well as you do. I accept him as he is. I don't try and change him. But a lot of the time, I find myself wondering where he's coming from. Where he's going. And you don't seem to have that problem. Maybe it's because, though you're more self-disciplined than he is, like him you also come to things from off a tangent. Which is probably why you're still alive. Why you're so good at what you do."

Krycek lay very still, absorbing the fact that Walter Sergei Skinner was complimenting him, Alex Krycek, Skinner's favourite ratbastard.

"And you are important to this household. To the fabrication of it."

At this stage, Krycek was beginning to wonder if this was the real Walter Skinner. His feelings must have been obvious because Skinner chuckled. "What's the problem, Krycek? Finding it difficult to accept that you're not just here on sufferance?"

"Yeah, a bit. Actually more than a bit." Krycek was wary: maybe this was Skinner's idea of a joke. If so, he didn't think he was going to find it funny.

Skinner could feel the muscles under his hand tightening. The younger man looked as though he was expecting a blow of some kind. It saddened him to think that Krycek's life had prepared him for that kind of expectation. And he had contributed to that feeling. Not that the man was a misunderstood saint, not by a long shot, but he had been living here, under his roof, for the last eighteen months and he, Skinner, should have realized how very little the man expected to receive in return.

He passed his hand down over Krycek's ribs to his hip and back in a caressing gesture. "A 'menage a trois' requires delicate balancing. Just to exist, never mind being successful. And we're not doing too badly. We seem to balance each other's weaknesses. I keep the two of you grounded. Mulder is the heart of both of us."

"And what's my role, the household pet?" Krycek was as surprised as Skinner to hear the bitterness in his voice.

Skinner pulled him closer in a one armed hug, offering comfort. "No. You're the one who gives us focus."

Now Krycek was really stunned. "I don't understand."

"Well, both you and Fox tend to get depressed. Fox's tendency then is to do something stupid, to act without thinking; yours, to fight. If you can work your way through it, Fox is forced to do likewise. He's too competitive to allow you to overcome depression while he runs away from it. Makes him think about what he's doing and, though he does make our lives miserable for a while, he does pull himself out of the darkness."

"As for me, well, I don't think I would have accepted the job with the think tank if you hadn't been here. I mean, I hadn't had anything planned once I'd retired except maybe for playing around with some wood, making something or other. Then you showed up at the door with pneumonia and though you've barely got the energy to make it through a day without a nap, seven weeks later you're planning your first official, legal break in. Woke me up and made me get my ass in gear."

"I guess your role is make sure we get up in the morning with some idea that the day will be productive. I know Fox has written more since you've been here than he had in the two years before. And I like the way I can toss ideas from work off you and get some seriously considered responses. We both know that Fox thinks I'm far too conservative."

"And, unlike Fox, you play a really good game of chess. With your usual complete disregard for the conventions. Which forces me to review those conventions." He watched Krycek's face as his words sank in. Was pleased to feel some of the tension leave him.

"Now, as for the sex." And felt the tension come back. "I owe you an apology."

Krycek was confused. "Why?"

"Because you were right. All I had with you was sex. My marriage was breaking up. I had just been forced to close down the X-Files. Cancerman was making my life miserable. And there you were, any man's...no, not just any man's wet dream. *My* wet dream. And I used you, Alex. The sex was fantastic. What *I* needed. But I never for a moment asked myself if it was what *you* needed. And I'm sorry for that."

Krycek was uncomfortable. "It wasn't a problem. We both...we all three of us know I'm a slut."

"No! That's not what you are." Skinner's anger took Krycek aback. "Maybe that's how we treated you. God, Alex, if there's anyone who's sex on wheels, it's you. But you're not a slut. You are not responsible for the way *we* reacted to you. Don't ever let me hear you refer to yourself like that again. Do you understand?"

Krycek nodded, bemused: maybe this whole night was a dream, from nightmare to fantasy.

"Alex? Do you understand that you're not going to be booted out of here? That, for as long as *you* want it, this is your home?" Skinner's face was intense.

Krycek felt the force of his promises. His eyes got suspiciously bright. He swallowed audibly. Whispered through a closed throat, "Yes, I understand."

He was pulled into arms, held hard against Skinner's chest. He wrapped what he could of himself around Skinner. When his throat had eased enough so he could speak without croaking, he asked, "Walter, do you want..."

"No." Skinner pulled Krycek's head back by the hair, sharply enough to catch the man's attention. "I have a better idea."

Krycek gave a sort of laugh. "A better idea than sex? What's better than sex?"

"Let me make love to you, Alex."

Krycek's breath caught.

"I think that would be a far better idea." Skinner turned to capture the mouth that had opened but hadn't answered. He used his mouth to caress Krycek's face. "I want to make love to you. Alex, do you mind?"

"No." Krycek's voice was raw. "No, I don't mind."

"And may I spend the night with you?" Skinner's hands shaped the body lying under his. "I want to spend the night with you, Alex. May I?"

*****************************************************

 


 

Title: ANSWERS 3: MORE ANSWERS
Author: Josan, aided and abetted by Solan
Date: MAY 1999
Summary: Mulder asks and answers his questions
Pairing: Sk/K/M
Rating: PG
Archive: Sure. Thank you, that would be nice.
Comments: jmann@spam.mondenet.com
DISCLAIMER: Okay, CC and 1013, but I like them too.
NOTE: This is a series based on the premise that all three of our boys could one day be together. Kassandra started it for me, then JiM and MJ had the idea (at the same time: great minds think alike...ignore the rest). I happen to like this premise. All those nice bodies together. And, unless reaction is horribly negative, this premise will be the basis for a AU, PWP series, number as yet unknown, with the three together. NIGHT OUT belongs to this series.


More Answers
by Josan, aided and abetted by Solan

Mulder sensed something was different. But he wasn't quite sure what it was. He was out too often these days promoting his second book to put his finger on it. Still, it bothered him.

Not that it was a bad thing. The times he came home between cities, conferences, appearances on the late night talk shows (once with that David guy who supposedly played him in the movie based on his first book), there seemed to be less tension between Alex and Walter. As if they had finally found some middle ground.

But he was a bit surprised to come home unexpectedly and find neither one of them there.

It has been an incredibly pissy day.

First, the hotel had lost his suit which he had sent out to be cleaned. Then the publisher's minder who always accompanied him had come down with the flu and been replaced by one of the editors. Who had so many good ideas for rewriting his third book. Not that he'd even seen a copy of it yet.

It had been obvious that the interviewer at the radio station hadn't even scanned his book. Had thought it had to do with people sneaking into the country illegally. Then lunch was more "good" ideas from the jerk. Who talked with his mouth full and waved his knife and fork around. It was obvious he had never eaten at a table with Teena Mulder.

In the afternoon, they went to a TV station for the taping of a panel discussion on "faction", which he hadn't wanted to do in the first place. The set must have been cursed because everything that could go wrong did. From the video robot freaking out and attacking the moderator, the excruciatingly painful pitch of the misbehaving sound system, to the set manager spilling hot coffee all over him, coffee he neither wanted nor requested.

Then the ultimate straw of the editor weaseling his way onto the panel and telling everyone who did or did not want to listen how *he* had saved Mulder's first book from the reject heap on the promise that *he* would personally oversee all and any necessary changes to the manuscript.

Mulder stormed off the set to the sound of the jerk tsk-tsking his "prima donna routine".

A quick phone call to the head of public relations informed him that the jerk was the CEO's son who had no business whatsoever being within fifty miles of Mulder. Lots of apologies later, Mulder *did* pull a prima donna routine and announced that until his usual minder was better, he was going home.

So here he was, in desperate need of some cuddling, some sympathetic comforting, especially since the plane had landed more than an hour late, and his car battery was dead because he'd forgotten...God knows what he had forgotten. That wasn't the point. The point was here he was in need of comforting and neither of his men was home.

Where the bloody hell were they?

He knew Krycek should be around: he had been working on a plan to infiltrate a software development lab in one of the suburbs.

And Skinner rarely went out in the evening, preferring to sit at home, work on his reports or just listen to one of those old vinyl albums in his jazz collection.

It was obvious that one or the other was still in residence: the light over the stove was on, a sure sign that someone expected to be back after dark. Shit! Here it was after midnight. Where were they?

The sound of laughter woke him from a doze on the couch. He squinted at his watch: 02:55. In the a. m.

He swung his legs off the couch, rubbed his eyes with the heel of his hands. What the hell was so funny? Geez! It was three a.m.! Didn't they think maybe someone was trying to sleep here?

And since when had they become such pals that they went out together and came home in the middle of the night making enough noise to wake the dead?

Mulder got off the couch and stomped into the kitchen.

It would have been hard to decide who was more surprised: Skinner and Krycek at seeing Mulder frown at them from the kitchen entrance or Mulder at seeing his two lovers dressed completely in black, hands and faces blackened.

"Fox! When did you get in?" Skinner smiled, his teeth brilliant in his blackened face.

"Mulder! Want a beer?" Krycek tossed one to Skinner, held out another to Mulder.

"No," snapped Mulder, his tone a perfect imitation of his mother when she was irritated, "I do not want a beer."

Skinner and Krycek exchanged raised eyebrows and smirks at Mulder's tone. Krycek closed the fridge door, held out his bottle of beer to Skinner who twisted the cap off. Both men settled at the kitchen table. Krycek dragged a chair over with a foot, propped both his feet on it. Skinner sat back, holding his beer in one hand, the ankle of a foot resting on top of the other knee.

"Thought you weren't due back till Friday night," said Skinner calmly. He recognized Mulder's tone: the man was feeling put upon for some reason. Krycek wisely said nothing, preferring to let Skinner handle Mulder when he was in this mood.

"Where the hell have you two been? And what's with the makeup?"

Skinner and Krycek exchanged grins. "We went and did a little B&E," explained Skinner. "You know, Alex mentioned it the last time you were here. That software place."

Mulder was speechless. Almost. "Since when does Alex invite amateurs along on his B&E's?"

Krycek whistled softly under his breath. Skinner sat up straighter, his voice a bit cold. "Not such an amateur. Or have you forgotten my little walk on the dark side because of you?"

Mulder felt embarrassed so he retaliated. "And what the hell is someone your age doing getting involved in something like that? You, Alex, should have known better than to involve him in one of your fool stunts!"

The temperature in the kitchen dropped to freezing.

Skinner and Krycek both stood up at the same time. Krycek nodded to Skinner. "Thanks for coming along, Walter. It *was* a big help, having you there." Then, ignoring Mulder, he walked past him, heading for the stairs.

Skinner faced Mulder, waited until Krycek's footsteps indicated that he was in the bathroom before passing judgement. "Sometimes, Fox, you are such a shit."

Then, he too walked out of the kitchen, ignoring his now shame-faced lover.

Mulder passed his hands through his hair, grabbed handfuls and slowly began cursing himself. This was not what he had come home for.

And he *was* acting like a shit.

Fuck! He owed them both apologies for his behaviour, for what he'd said. He knew he was tired, was disappointed that neither of them had been home to cater, yes, Fox, cater to his every wish, but that didn't explain the way he had over reacted. What was it with him?

He turned out the kitchen light, headed for the stairs but instead veered to the couch. He needed some time to get his act together, and besides, he didn't relish the thought of sharing a bed with a freezing Skinner.

Not that he would have.

He waited until he heard noises in the kitchen the next morning before heading upstairs for a shower and clean clothes. The bed in their room had not been slept in.

Krycek, dressed for work, was eating his usual breakfast of oatmeal smothered with pecans, brown sugar and cream, reading the sports page. Skinner wore his dressing gown, was spooning up muesli while working his way through the first section of the paper. Both men looked up when he came in, then went back to their reading.

Mulder poured himself a cup of coffee, sipped it, hoping for an opening in which to insert his apologies.

They didn't give it to him.

Krycek finished eating, put his bowl in the dish washer, started pulling on his jacket.

"Okay." Mulder's voice sounded irritated, but it was his own, not his mother's. "I'm sorry. I was in a bad mood and I took it out on you guys. I said things I shouldn't have said. I didn't mean them."

His two lovers just looked at him, neither one giving in an inch. What the hell did they want? He had apologized, hadn't he! What were they waiting for? For him to get on his knees and beg?

The silence grew. Skinner got up and put his bowl in the dish washer. Krycek finished putting on his jacket.

"Look. What more do you want? I was in a foul mood and I acted like a bitch. I'm sorry." He was beginning to feel just a bit desperate here. He had never had to face a united front before and he wasn't quite sure how to penetrate it.

Krycek and Skinner exchanged glances. Krycek slouched against the back door, a bit of a gleam in his eye. Skinner waited for it.

"Why is it," Krycek addressed Skinner, "that whenever Mulder shows us his sensitive feminine side, it's PMSing?"

Skinner didn't bother to hide his laughter. Krycek opened the door.

"Alex. I had fun last night. Thanks for the invite."

Krycek smiled. "Maybe you'd like to come again?"

Skinner grinned. "I'd like that."

He waited until he heard the jeep pull out of the driveway before pouring himself a cup of coffee then went to join a contrite Mulder at the table.

Mulder's head was on the table, hiding under his crossed arms. Skinner sighed, tapped a finger on the bit of head he could reach. Mulder slowly raised his head, sheepishly meeting Skinner's eyes.

"You want to tell me what that was all about?" Skinner wore that semi-AD look of his, the one he used to wear at the beginning of meetings when he and Scully reported.

Mulder shook his head. "I don't really know." He slouched back in the chair, rubbed his face. "I had the day from hell yesterday, got in and I guess I was surprised to find no one at home."

"By no one, does that mean me?" Skinner waited while Mulder worked that through.

"Yeah, I guess that was it. I mean, you're always there when I need you. Last night I needed you and you weren't here."

"No. I was out with Alex. Which bothers you more, Fox? That I was actually out? Or that I was out with Alex?"

Mulder didn't answer right away. Skinner took a sip of coffee. One thing you had to give Mulder credit for: he didn't run away from problems.

"Shit. If I say that it was because you were out with Alex, it makes me sound like some jealous bitch."

"A bit. After all, Fox, Alex is here, part of this household, because *you* asked me to let him stay. Have you changed your mind? Because if you have, it's really not fair to Alex to let him stay here under false pretences."

Mulder's hair was evidence of his working through his frustration.

"No." He took a deep breath. "No, I haven't changed my mind. I still want him here, with us. I still love him, not like I love you, but I love him nevertheless."

"But something has changed. Between you and Alex. For some time now. I can't put my finger on it, but it's as if..." He struggled for the words.

Skinner's face relaxed. "As if he's not here just on sufferance any more."

"Yeah. Like you want him to be here too."

"And this bothers you?"

Mulder grimaced. "It shouldn't, should it? I mean, this is what *I* wanted, the two of you here together with me. All of us getting along."

"But you would have preferred that Alex and I get along a little less amiably?"

"God! That makes me sound like such a prig."

Skinner smiled. "Well, not like a prig. Just maybe more human than you would prefer to admit." He reached over to touch Mulder's hand clenched on the table. Opened the fingers and held it in his. "Look, Fox, basically what happened is that Alex and I cleared the air. We discussed a couple of things and discovered we have maybe a bit more in common than just loving you."

Mulder wriggled uncomfortably.

"Because we both do love you. Very much. And that will probably never change. But if all three of us are going to live together, isn't it better that Alex and I at least be friends?"

Mulder nodded. Then decided to plow ahead. "Why didn't you come back to our bed last night?"

Skinner had to admit to himself that he enjoyed the little flash of jealousy that crossed Mulder's face. He was petty enough to appreciate the tables turning the other way: he had felt that way often enough at the beginning of this menage.

"Because I went to sleep with Alex. Fox. Can I ask you a question?"

Mulder grunted.

"When you go to Alex, why do you never spend the rest of the night with him?"

The question took Mulder by surprise. He had to think about it. "Never?"

"No. You always come back to our bed. Why is that, Fox?"

Mulder really had to think. From the expression on Skinner's face, it was obvious that this was a serious question. So he gave it serious consideration.

Skinner got up and refilled their coffee cups.

"I think," he began slowly, "because staying with him..." He tried again. "I don't want you to think I'm leaving you. I mean..." This was harder than he thought to put into words.

He tried again. "I'd asked you to let him stay. Because I loved him. Because, I guess, somehow, I need the two of you. And, because you love me, you let him stay. I know that hurt you. But still you let him stay. I guess, I feel spending the night with him would add to that hurt. And I don't want to do that. Does this make sense?" Mulder wasn't sure he was making himself clear. The whole situation was so unnormal to begin with, how could he explain.

But Skinner seemed to understand. "You feel you've been unfair to me so you don't want to be more unfair."

"I guess. Something like that."

"What about being unfair to Alex?"

"What?" Now Mulder was thoroughly confused.

"Well, in trying to be less unfair to me, you are...No, you aren't the only one in the blame. We both were unfair to Alex. Fox, he's not here just as a sex toy. Is he?"

"Christ, no!" Mulder was really upset. "Is that what he thinks?"

"Not any more. At least, I hope not."

Mulder got it. "The clearing of the air." He went a step further. "So will it be okay with you if I stay with him those nights I go to him?"

And waited for Skinner's answer.

"I certainly don't intend on coming back to our bed when I do." He bent and kissed the eyebrow Mulder quirked at him. "And, if I'm too old for you, maybe I'll spend more time in bed with someone who thinks I've still got what it takes."

He started up the stairs to get dressed.

Mulder let him get into the bedroom before attacking him.

**************************************************