Little Steps

by Claire Dobbin

Title: Little Steps
Author: Claire Dobbin
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Date Archived: 02/15/02
Category: Unclassified
Pairing (Primary): Skinner/Krycek
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Rating: PG
Permission to Archive: I'd be happy to have the story archived, as long as you use the guppyshark email address if you include one in the description.
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Disclaimer: I don't own them, but I do treat them nice
Summary: This is Walter and Alex in a very domestic situation. Another possibility in the Lifeboat Trilogy that I don't intend to write into the main story.

Little Steps

Walter tried to ignore the morose atmosphere in the car, unsure about which of the two passengers was unhappier. Alex, forty something, in the front seat fidgeted uneasily, his lips compressed into a tight line. Alexander, four and a half, bundled up in his booster seat in the back, sniffled miserably.

"What about McDonald's tonight?" Walter suggested as cheerfully as he could, unable to bear the gloom any longer.

Alex senior, looked over at him doubtfully. If they went to McDonald's again, it would be the third time in a week, and Walter knew that breached Alex's tolerance for fast food.

"Yes please, Dada," a small voice floated over from the back of the car.

Alex glanced at Walter as he turned in his seat towards his son. "The patented Skinner 'cure all'," he complained, clearly irritated by the suggestion.

Walter wisely said nothing more. Instead he watched the road ahead and the interaction between the two people around whom his world revolved.

Alex was reaching back to wipe a snotty nose, his face wearing a reassuring smile.

"McDonald's it is then, half pint," he promised, pleased to see the sad brown eyes brightening at the words. "Maybe we'll get Dino-Chi this time."

"Yes, yes, yes," the younger Alex chanted.

Walter groaned silently. That meant happy meals all round, but hell, if that's what it took.

He signalled and turned right through the school gates, sensing how the temporary bubble of happiness burst as the child realized they had arrived at their destination. In the mirror he watched the chubby hands grip more tightly onto the handle of the Rug Rats lunch pail.

"It's an early day today, Alexander," Walter reminded as he parked the car, "so Daddy will be here for you at one thirty."

"Okay." The emotion in the single word was sufficient to warn the two men that the tears were about to resurface.

They looked at each other anxiously; feeling at sea as to how to deal with the problem they faced, desperately hoping their plan of action was the right one. A show of unity as they both brought their son to school each morning, no lingering good byes, and as much love as could be fitted into the life of one small boy taking his first steps into the big bad world.

Stepping out of the SUV, Alex opened the back door to unbuckle his son, while Walter lifted out his school satchel. There was none of the usual boisterous clambering out once the straps were released and Alex had to tug gently on the small hand to get Alexander moving.

Once he'd guided the child's feet out of the car Alex knelt on the ground in front of his son and wrapped his arm around him, repeating a litany of soothing words into the delicate ear. Walter reached down to adjust the boy's woollen cap, then ran his hand through his lover's hair knowing the man needed reassurance as much as the child. Alex looked up, appreciating the gesture of support. He stood up and they each caught hold of one of Alexander's hands and began to walk towards the kindergarten entrance.

The schoolyard was filling up with children, all well wrapped up against the cold and intent on their play. A few of the moms who were standing around chatting exchanged greetings with Walter and nodded at Alex. The younger man, fixated on his child's anxiety, didn't register the contact. Walter sighed quietly and tried to be sociable for the two of them.

Suddenly Alexander stopped dead in his tracks and was pulled forward a few steps before his dads realised what had happened. He began to cry softly and turned towards Alex, holding on tightly to his leg. His eyes were riveted on the front door that had just swung open. Walter followed his gaze, as did Alex, and they say the problem immediately. Stevie Baker, the obnoxious brat who had made it his mission in life to victimize their son, had just bounced out keen to start his work for the day.

Alexander began to sob and Alex's face took on a murderous look that had Walter wondering what was the statutory sentence for eviscerating a five year old.

"Come on, Alexander Sergei," Walter said with a confidence he didn't feel. "Time to be a man."

That brought a withering scowl from Alex, before he gently pulled Alexander round to continue the walk into school.

"My tummy hurts, Daddy," Alexander's voice quavered.

"Does it baby? I'll take a look at it once we get inside," Alex promised.

It was Walter's turn to scowl at Alex's continued use of 'baby' but he let it go. It was not the time to make an issue of it. They headed towards Alexander's classroom and stopped at the coat rack outside it. Alex knelt down and began removing the child's winter layers, while Walter went into the classroom to put Alexander's satchel and lunch pail into his locker. Mrs. Mulso, Alexander's teacher looked up and wished him good morning.

"Good morning," he responded.

"How are things this morning?" she asked, concerned.

"About the same," he told her, unhappily.

She stood up and left her desk to walk to him.

"I know it's hard to believe, but this will get better. He'll learn to deal with it."

Walter looked at her unconvinced.

"He's fine in his own group. Once you leave and he settles, he's a happy little boy. Please try to remember that. The problem is confined to what goes on in the playground and you know we are monitoring that."

"I know and I appreciate all you're doing," he said sincerely, grateful for the school's acceptance of their family situation.

"It'll be fine, you'll see," she offered, looking over to watch the child trail reluctantly into the room.

"Good morning, Alexander. Want to help Joe and Melissa give the rabbits their breakfast?"

"Uh-huh," he nodded, looking a little happier. He reached up towards Walter for his hug. The big man swept him up into a hug of bear like proportions and succeeded in eliciting a chuckle.

"Be good," Walter told him as he set him back on his feet.

"Bye Dada, bye Daddy," he chirped, accepting the kiss Alex planted on his head before scurrying off to join his friends in the pet's corner.

The two of them spent a couple of minutes watching their son join in the busy activity with the other children before Mrs. Mulso's quiet cough let them know it was time to go.

Together they headed back to the car park, but just as they left the schoolyard, Alex made the mistake of glancing back. He immediately saw Alexander's sad face peering after them through the classroom window. Walter firmly took hold of Alex's arm as the other man turned to retrace his steps.

"Oh no, Alex," Walter said as he gave Alexander one last wave and directed his lover towards the SUV. "Time to let him deal."

"For fuck's sake, Walter, he's not a marine," Alex snapped, reluctantly getting into the car.

"Nor is he a baby," Walter countered, starting up the engine.

The comments left them at an impasse and they began the drive to their Georgetown house in silence.

After a few blocks Alex said, "Maybe we should think about another school."

Walter shook his head. "There isn't a school on the planet that doesn't have a Stevie Baker, and few of them have pastoral care as good as 'Hillview'."

"I guess not," Alex conceded.

Walter thought long and hard before he spoke again. "You know, Alex, maybe it's time to let him out of the cotton wool a little."

He could feel the other man staring at him. "Are you saying I'm over protective?"

Walter tried not to laugh out loud, but he couldn't help the snigger that escaped his lips. "Over protective? Of course not, all parents have their child's dentist and doctor and teacher vetted by the FBI. It's common practice to have a child's bedroom covered by a state of the art CCTV system. To say nothing of . "

"Okay, okay, I get the message," Alex cut him off. "But we need to be careful because of . because of . "

"And I agree. We do have to be careful, but not to the point where we smother him."

Alex's silence was as close as he could come to agreement.

"You know," Walter cajoled, "a lot sooner than we expect he's going to want to spread his wings and we better be ready to let him. He's never spent a night away from us, nor we away from him. What happens the first time he wants to do a sleep over?"

Alex looked at him aghast.

"And more than that," Walter continued, "if his friends are ever going to be allowed to sleep over at our house we better get out there and start making connections with their parents."

Alex groaned. He didn't need anybody else but Walter and Alexander. But for his son's sake he'd have to make the effort. They turned into the driveway of the house and Walter pulled Alex forward to take a kiss. The younger man leaned heavily into the comfort for a few minutes.

"I'll be home as soon as I can," Walter promised as they parted and he watched Alex climb out of the car and walk to the front door. He couldn't miss the depressed slump of the shoulders as Alex let himself into the house, giving him a faint smile as he disappeared.

Walter reversed out of the drive and pointed the car towards the beltway. He drove some distance before he found himself pulling over and killing the engine. He flopped back in his seat. Even after eight years of getting used to the idea it still sometimes threw him to realise that he and Alex Krycek, not only loved each other and lived together but also had a child. The odds on that had to be astronomical.

The conversation that had begun it all was burned into his memory. They were sitting wrapped up in each other watching a football game when Alex had quietly told he was happy, his life was wonderful and he wanted a child.

Walter remembered the shock of the words and the terror that had come in their wake. A child was definitely not part of his game plan. Not even with Sharon. But he didn't dismiss the possibility and instead let Alex spend the next couple of weeks working through the arguments for and against.

At the end of it all he could find no reason why they shouldn't bring a child into the world. They were healthy, happy and financially sound. Okay, so they had an unfortunate history but overcoming it had made them all the stronger. And Walter had to agree that sharing their love with a child and raising it to be happy and fulfilled would help redress some of the mistakes they had both made.

He would never forget the look on Alex's face the day he told him yes. Alex crushed Walter to him and allowed himself to be taken to bed. They had made love beyond the point of exhaustion and Walter found himself laughing as he commented that it was a pity that all the energy they had just expended was not going to get the job done.

Getting the job done turned out to be no barrel of laughs. Finding a surrogate and achieving conception had proved to be a fraught and frustrating business, though the process of obtaining the necessary genetic material had its compensations. Only Alex Krycek could make performing in that nasty little room in the clinic into a sexy and pleasurable experience.

Learning that he, and not Alex ,was going to be the father had been a total surprise. He explained to Walter that some medical issues from his days in the Consortium made him uneasy about being the child's biological father.

Anyway since he had no family with whom he had contact he thought it better that the child have a connection with the Skinner clan. They had accepted his and Walter's relationship and, after their initial bewilderment, had surprised Walter by being supportive of the two men's desire for a child. Being a Skinner would give the child sound emotional and legal safeguards and would provide Walter and Alex with peace of mind.

Some thirteen months later they'd brought home Alexander Sergei Skinner from the hospital and all the pieces of Walter's life had clicked into place. What astounded him above all was the way Alex bonded with the baby. Alex was ecstatic. Walter was convinced that he loved the child all the more because he was Walter's. It seemed that nothing could dent his permanent good humour, not the diapers, nor the teething, or even the constant fear that they might do something wrong. Within months they had the biggest library of baby care books on the North American continent and Walter threatened to take away Alex's credit card if he came home with one more toy.

Apart from the odd minor crisis that had been dealt with by a visit to the paediatrician or a phone call to Walter's sister, this was the first unpleasant ripple in their lives together as a family. But things like this happened to families; Walter understood that in the way that Alex didn't.

Walter came to a decision, turning the key in the ignition he speed dialled the office and told his secretary he wouldn't be coming in for family reasons. He turned the car round and headed home.

Alex was upstairs making Alexander's bed when he heard the front door open and close. He walked out to the landing and was surprised to find his lover crossing the hallway.

"Walter I'm up here," he called. "Is something wrong?"

Walter took off his coat and threw it over the end of the banister. He bounded upstairs and took his lover in his arms.

"Everything's fine, Alex, everything's going to be fine," he said confidently.

The tense body in his arms was not convinced.

"I knew it was going to be tough for him to be raised by two gay men. But that was the theory, now it's the reality. I was so selfish wanting him. But he'll pay the price."

Walter released Alex and pulled him into the study with him. He stood him in front of the corkboard that over the last four and a half years had become the chronicle of Alexander's life. Wrapping his arms around the man he loved he said, "Look at us, Alex, and tell me this is wrong."

He sensed his lover's gaze as it moved over the hundreds of snapshots that patchworked the board. From the first picture of them looking terrified and holding seven pounds eight ounces of crabby baby like he was a one off piece of Dresden china to the picture of him standing proudly between them on his first day at school.

"He's a bright, happy child Alex, who has two loving parents and a supportive family. All children should be so lucky."

"But - "

"Let's trust ourselves on this, Alex. We've done good so far."

Alex turned into him and held on tightly, choosing to let Walter bear the weight for a little while. They stood like that for long minutes until Walter said, "Alex, listen."

The younger man straightened up and listened hard, trying to identify what Walter had heard. All he could hear was silence.

"What?" he questioned.

"No patter of little feet, no incessant questioning, no ears that can hear the grass grow."

Alex looked at him confused.

"When was the last time we had the house to ourselves?"

Alex smiled broadly as Walter's meaning became clear. He checked his watch.

"We have four hours," he said, beginning to unbutton Walter's shirt. "Let's see if I can still make you scream. I've missed the screaming."

His hand stole under the crisp white cotton and unerringly found its way to Walter's right nipple. His hard pinch made the older man grunt and draw in a sharp breath.

"Looks like I haven't lost my touch," he said smiling in pleasure at his lover's response.

It wasn't long until the house was resounding to ecstatic screams, and to Walter Skinner's immense gratification they weren't all his.

I love deadlines. I love the noise they make as they go whizzing by. Douglas Adams

If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Claire Dobbin