Title: Getting a Life
Author: Josan
Betas: Peach and the Evil Child, thank you.
Date: May 2002
Pairing: Sk/K
Rating: NC-17, in spots
Warning: Existence? What's that, Existence?
Archive: Only RatB and DitB for this one. Thank you.
Comments: jmann@pobox.mondenet.com
Disclaimer: Well, considering the way the secondary characters are being treated this season, I hereby dis-claim Season 9. Come to think of it, I also dis-claim a fair portion of Season 8. BTW: I treat them all much nicer. :-)
BACKGROUND: After I posted In Death, there is Life, many of you wanted to know what happened to Walter Skinner in his new role as father to Zander. That particular story has a certain association for me, so, apart from ENDINGS, which gently touches on the distant future, I will not ever be returning to this particular pairing, ever again.

However, that said, I too wondered what would happen to Walter in that situation. So, in a blatant plagiarization of my story, I decided to investigate. Hope you enjoy it as well.
One more thing: Doctor Joseph Fischer, MD, Colonel, Marine Corps, Retired is making a guest appearance. Many of you have inquired about him so he's back too.


Part One

Walter Skinner parked the rented SUV at the bottom of the slope that curved into his cabin's lane way.

He released the seat belt, got out of the vehicle, then slipped into his black leather jacket. His face expressionless, he pulled out the Smith & Wesson from a pocket, checked it and slipped it back in again. He didn't bother with the Sig on his hip and the Beretta at the small of his back, though he did pat the other pocket of the jacket just to confirm that the replacement clips of ammunition hadn't fallen out during the trip up here.

He'd gotten a call this morning before leaving for work, from a neighbour who periodically checked on his place up here in the mountains. Jefferson had wanted to know if there was a reason for the smoke coming out of his chimney. He had been wondering if someone had dropped off a friend as there was no vehicle that he could see parked in the usual spots. And no lights on, unless the friend went to bed as the sun set.

Considering this was March, that bedtime would be really early.

Skinner had thanked Jefferson, indicating that he would investigate. Which was a subtle hint for Jefferson to avoid the place. He'd packed the few things he needed, had gone in to the office to handle the meetings which couldn't be postponed, then taken off early for the weekend, a fact which had amazed Kim into forgetting to ask him if he would be available at all.

Passing an airport on the way up to the mountains, he'd exchanged his Bureau-issued car for the innocuous black SUV and continued on his way.

The setting sun was shining brilliantly as it did this time of the year. He pulled on a pair of tight black leather gloves, then settled his sunglasses firmly on his nose. Checking around to verify that there was no one else in the immediate vicinity, Skinner slipped silently into the woods that surrounded his get-away.

Jefferson had been right: there was a thin plume of smoke escaping from his chimney. Someone had obviously made himself at home. In his home. He waited patiently for the sun to finish setting, for the sky to be the grey/black that created so many shadows that yet another, even a moving one, would probably not garner any notice.

The door from the car port was still locked. Holding his keys tightly in one hand, his Sig in the other, Skinner turned the well-oiled lock, opening the door cautiously. He listened for sounds of any kind.

None.

Automatically slipping into his Marine training, Skinner silently entered his cabin.

Feet carefully treading up the short flight of steps to the main floor, Skinner made no sounds of any kind to alert whoever had invaded his place.

The great room was the heart of his cabin. The wall facing the lake was composed of glass panels which allowed in not only the view but also the light and heat of a south-east exposure. Usually, the ceiling fans set high up in the beams which supported the roof would be spinning, redirecting the heat downward. They were still. As was everything that Skinner could see from his entry position.

Moving even more carefully, Skinner approached the fireplace, so far not easily visible as there was a long leather couch between him and the hearth. Not the usual place for the couch.

The fire was not a big one. Skinner figured it was barely large enough to provide heat for the two figures who lay close to it, one on the couch, the other on the floor.

He recognized the comforter which should have been on his bed, in the loft overlooking the great room. It was wrapped around the smallish lump on the couch. On closer inspection, a child's face was barely visible from its cocoon.

A child whose breathing indicated illness of some kind.

Skinner used his teeth to remove the glove from his free hand so that he could gauge the condition of the child. Barely moving the comforter out of the way, he could feel the heat radiating from the small face.

Shit! thought Skinner. He pulled the covering off a few more inches and decided that the features were of a boy. Gently, he resettled the comforter.

Even more carefully, he made his way around the couch to the mound on the floor. Here again he recognized a blanket from his bed, wrapped around a figure who still hadn't moved. Crouching by the head of the body, weapon at the ready, Skinner reached over and gave the figure a sharp shake. Then another.

He waited, ready for anything.

The body moved. The head rose. Turned to face him.

Jesus! thought Skinner.

"Krycek?" he said.


Alex Krycek sat propped up against the front edge of the couch, eyes squinting, focused with effort on the man who was examining the sleeping child.

"What's wrong with him?" Skinner tucked in the comforter a little more snugly around the boy's shoulders.

"Don't really know." Krycek's voice was a croaked whisper. "He's been warmer than usual the last couple of days. He said he ached a bit. He's been really hot since yesterday."

Skinner's lip curled. "So what was wrong with getting him to a doctor? Beyond your ability?"

Krycek grinned humourlessly and let his head fall backwards onto the seat of the couch. Skinner had noticed that he hadn't moved quickly to the position he now maintained. He had assumed that was the man's response to the weapon in his hand, but now, examining him more closely...

The face was sunken under the several days' growth of beard. The eyes, glassy and red. The lips, dry and cracked.

Skinner reached over and lay his hand on Krycek's forehead, a gesture which Krycek surprisingly allowed. Shit! Not so surprising. The kid wasn't the only one burning with fever.

He snarled, "What the fuck's the matter with you, Krycek? I can understand you not taking care of someone else, but you usually take better care of yourself."

Krycek laboriously raised his head. For a moment, Skinner thought he would try defending himself against Skinner's verbal onslaught, but the effort proved to be too much. He closed his eyes and let his head sag back.

Fucking shit! thought Skinner. There was something seriously wrong.

Eyes intent on Krycek's closed face, Skinner tugged gently on the blanket until Krycek allowed it to be pulled back.

Even by the near darkness of the light coming in, he could see that the right side of Krycek's clothing gleamed with wetness.

He lightly passed a finger over the damp jeans and shook his head at the red stain.

"When did this happen?"

"About a week ago."

"A week! Fuck, Krycek, where the hell did you leave your brains?"

Krycek wisely understood a rhetorical question when he heard one. But he did rouse himself enough to ask, "What are you doing with that cell phone?"

Skinner growled, "Calling the local EMU."

"Why don't you just shoot the kid now?"

Skinner hesitated, silenced the cell phone. "Who's after him?"

Krycek closed his eyes, resting his head back on the couch. "Consortium. I stole him from them."

Skinner's reaction coloured the air for a few moments. Krycek nodded once in appreciation.

"That doesn't negate the fact that you both need medical attention." Skinner thought a moment and redialled the phone. "Like it or not, you're going to have to trust me on this, Krycek."

Krycek watched from half-opened eyes, barely understanding the one-sided conversation.

"Fischer? What you doing? Hey, remember Qui Nhon? Remember that night when...yeah, when the sky lit up... It's the anniversary tomorrow. Thought you might like to come up here, drink a few to the guys we lost there. Remember Jones and Filmore? Yeah. Nah, why don't you come up now. That'll give you time to toss back a few and toast the sunrise. Yeah. I'll expect you by midnight."

All Krycek asked was "Who's Fischer?"

"Doctor. Used to be with the Marines. He retired a couple of years ago."

Krycek gave a slight nod and closed his eyes, not unhappy to be forced to accept the situation.

Skinner sighed, loudly. Well, there wasn't much he could do right now other than deal with the situation at hand.

He pulled off his jacket, rolled up the sleeves of his sweat shirt and set to getting things organized.

He saw to the fire, building it up so that it would heat up the room more efficiently. He noticed that one of his pots was sitting to the side, probably being used to heat up some food, then found a couple of opened tins of what had once contained soup in the corner. Krycek hadn't been all that irresponsible, he thought.

He went to the electrical panel hidden in the small closet under the stairs and switched on those connections that had been set to off the last time he'd left. The hot water heater would take a couple of hours to provide the water necessary for a bath or two. It had taken only a whiff to understand that Krycek and the boy had been living in their clothes for some time.

He went through the house, turning on lights, plugging in the refrigerator, the small washer and dryer that were hidden in a closet off the kitchen area. In the kitchen, he set a pan of water to heat on the stove.

"Okay. Let me take a look at that."

Skinner placed a bowl of tepid water on the floor by Krycek. Next to it, he dropped a couple of towels.

Krycek roused enough to push his hand away. "The kid first."

Skinner sat back on his heels. "You sure?"

Krycek's smile was more of a grimace. "Not dead yet. And don't intend dying in the few next minutes." Then he raised his head, voice intent. "Please, Skinner. The boy first."

The boy's clothes were rank with the smell of illness and dirt. He was in need of a bath. The thermometer that Skinner had dug up in the medicine cabinet read over 103. Calling up whatever medical knowledge he has accumulated over the years, remembering a particularly trying visit with his sister when one of her kids had fallen ill, he knew that, before anything else, he had to do something to bring the kid's temperature down.

"Is he injured in any way?"

Krycek responded only when Skinner snapped at him, loudly repeating the question. "No. Nothing."

"Did he hit his head?"

"No."

Skinner passed a hand over his scalp. "Okay. A cool bath." He stood up, went to the kitchen, muttering. "Not too cold. Don't want the kid to go into shock." He pulled out several other pans and filled them with water. Once every burner on the stove was working at heating up water, he went into the bathroom and made certain that the baseboard heater in there was turned to its highest to get the chill out of the room. He draped a bath sheet over the rack above the heater. Then he let the water in the tub run until he had about three inches of water. It took a refill of the pans for him to decide that the water in the tub would be cool to the boy yet not so cold as to make him even more ill.

"Does he have a name?" Skinner carefully unwrapped the boy and scooped him into his arms. Shit! The kid was a light-weight. If Krycek hadn't been so ill himself, Skinner might not have been able to stop himself from kicking his ribs in. Why the hell had he waited until the boy was so sick...

He sighed. Stupid question. If the Consortium was after Krycek and the boy...

He still hadn't had an answer from the man. With bare control, he nudged him on the left hip with his booted foot. Krycek woke gasping. He looked around the room in a panic until he realized that Skinner was carrying the boy in his arms.

"Name? Does the boy have a name?"

Krycek passed his tongue over his lips, trying to moisten them enough to answer. He would have loved a glass of water but he wasn't sure Skinner would bring it to him if he asked. Besides, the kid was the priority. "Yeah. Davy. We decided on Davy."

We decided? thought Skinner as he carried the boy to the bathroom.

As soon as the boy was comfortable, he was going to get answers from Krycek, even if he had to beat the shit out of him in order to get them.


Skinner gently undressed the boy and then carefully lowered him into the tepid water, an inch at a time.

He figured, looking at him, that the boy was around seven or eight years old. Thin but probably, he reluctantly acknowledged, naturally so. Apart from the dirt, the dried sweat, the fever, he seemed to be okay. There were some bruises on him but those seemed to point to a boy's regular wear and tear, not abuse. That, apart from the signs of illness, he had been kindly treated.

When the boy's legs and bottom rested on the floor of the tub, Skinner moved him so that his head rested against his biceps, his shoulders on his arm. With his free hand, Skinner scooped up water and let it trickle over the boy's chest and shoulders. Apart from the occasional restless movement, the boy was quiet. Skinner spoke to him in the calm, soothing tone that had proven so effective with nervous or hysterical witnesses when he had been a field agent.

"It's going to be okay, Davy. You've only got a bit of a temperature. This is going to get it down. It's going to be all right."

As he worked on the boy, eventually soaping and then rinsing him off, Skinner gradually grew aware of certain facts. That his hands and feet were slim and long, hinting that he would be tall. That the boy's dark brown hair seemed to be growing out of a really bad cut. That his facial bone structure was fine, hinting at something almost oriental.

No, not oriental. Slavic.

Skinner wet his hand and used the moisture to stroke the crust of dried saliva off the boy's mouth and cheeks. When the boy turned his head, Skinner found he really wasn't all that surprised to notice that the boy's ear rose into a slightly peaked formation. Even less so when the boy opened his eyes and their green was probably a match for the eyes that were no doubt closed in the other room.

"Hi, Davy." Skinner gentled his voice. "I'm a friend of Alex Krycek. My name is Walter. You're here in my house. It's going to be all right. You're just a little bit hot, that's all."

The boy's fevered eyes looked around the room as though searching for someone. Skinner repeated his words, hoping to ease the fear he saw darkening the boy's eyes. Eyes which blanked before they closed. The boy made a barely audible mewling sound which he quickly silenced by pulling in his lower lip with his front teeth.

And then the small body tensed in his arms, as though bracing for something.

Skinner looked from the boy to the door which he had partially closed in order to keep the heat in the small room. He glared at it, determinedly. Then the boy shivered and Skinner refocused his attention on him.

Quickly, he washed the boy's hair then pulled the bath sheet off the rack. With one hand, he flicked it open and wrapped the unresisting boy in it. All the while rubbing him dry, Skinner carried him back into the great room, which he was pleased to feel had warmed up from the combined heat of the fire and the baseboard heaters.

He noticed Krycek had returned to his position of sleeping on the floor.

Skinner lay the boy back on the couch, pulled the damp towel from around him and covered him with the comforter. The boy's eyes, he noticed, never left Krycek. A couple of minutes later, he pulled the covering back just enough to slip one of his fire-warmed t-shirts over the boy's head.

Still ignoring Krycek, he went into the kitchen, opened a can of chicken noodle soup and set it to warm up while he checked out the medicine cabinet for something to continue working on the boy's temperature. With some difficulty, he quartered a Tylenol, poured some of the broth into a mug and, with calm patience, managed to get the boy to swallow the bitter pill and most of the broth.

Once he was certain the boy had taken all the liquid he could, he settled him back on the couch. He went and got some clean linen and, pulling together two leather armchairs, made the boy a bed. He watched as the boy...

He suddenly realized that he had been avoiding thinking of the child by his name. Because he was Krycek's... What? Son?

Not the kid's fault, that.

He watched as Davy settled back into sleep.

And then, finally, he went to deal with Alex Krycek.


The fact that Krycek barely roused as Skinner uncovered him, undid the jacket he was wearing, to examine the source of the blood indicated that Krycek was a lot sicker than the boy.

"Fuck!" Skinner hissed as he pulled the sodden sweater up far enough to reveal the blood soaked towel that was serving as bandage.

Krycek did mutter, probably in Russian, as Skinner carefully inched back the towel to reveal what must have originally been a gunshot wound, just over his hip. By the light, even he could make out that the wound had become infected, probably due to being reopened several times.

Skinner sighed. Fischer would have his work cut out for him when he got here.

All he could do was recover the wound with a clean towel, using the sweater to hold it in place. With some difficulty, he managed to rouse Krycek enough to feed him a couple of Tylenol and get him to swallow some of the reheated broth. The enthusiasm with which he did that made Skinner kick himself mentally. He went and got a large glass of water.

"Thanks," muttered Krycek.

Skinner grunted then covered the man with a second blanket, allowing him to slip back into whatever world his fevered mind inhabited.

Skinner had done all he could for now. He checked the cupboards and found a container of stew that he heated up for a meal while waiting for Fischer to arrive. He could only hope that the man had fully understood his message and would show up, prepared.

Fischer had.

He pulled into the car port just after eleven. Anyone watching would have concluded that he was someone coming for a long weekend of lazing around. He handed Skinner several boxes—one containing fresh food—all the while chatting as though this were a long-planned sojourn.

Once inside, his tone changed.

"Okay. Where's the kid with the fever? That is what you meant when you referred to Filmore?"

Skinner nodded, pointing to the make-shift bed and the child.

"Jones was for a seriously wounded man?"

Skinner pointed to Krycek, unconscious on the floor. "But the kid first." When Fischer cocked an eyebrow at that, Skinner shrugged. "He insisted."

It didn't take a long examination for Fischer's diagnosis. "He's picked up that new flu making the rounds. Makes their temperature spike. The cool bath helped. We'll give him another in the morning if this children's Tylenol doesn't work by then."

He smiled at the semi-awake child as he poured some liquid into a child's dosage spoon. "It's okay, Davy. I'm a doctor. You're going to be fine. Can you swallow this stuff for me? Tastes like cherry. Promise. That's a boy." Gently, he tucked the boy back into his cocoon.

Beckoning to Skinner, he washed his hands thoroughly in the bathroom. "What the hell is going on, Walt? That kid is terrified. He only relaxed when he caught sight of Krycek."

"Damned if I know. That'll have to wait until Krycek is able to answer questions."

"He needs washing," was the first thing out of Fischer's mouth as he pulled back Krycek's blankets.

"Shower or bath?"

"Neither. Sponge bath. He can't afford to get that wound more infected than it is. Shit! Thing looks like it hasn't been allowed to even scab over properly. Entry from side, exit in front. He was shot from behind. Damn! The whole area is seriously infected."

Together, Skinner and Fischer managed to strip the clothes off the inert Krycek and quickly wash him down in front of the built up fire. Fischer was less than pleased at the condition of Krycek's stump when they removed the prosthesis. "This is going to need treatment as well. By the way, is this the same Krycek that I've heard you refer to as 'that ratbastard'?"

Skinner nodded. "So?"

"Hell, he's more of a cat than a rat if he's managed to survive this long."

Skinner grunted. "He does have the habit of landing on his feet more often than not."

"Guess this was one of the 'not' times."

At Fischer's suggestion, Skinner made up a bed on the couch. Then, with the wounded area carefully packed, together they lifted Krycek up off the floor and onto the couch. Skinner moved one of the floor lamps closer and Fischer proved once more why he had a reputation of being a successful medic under less than auspicious circumstances.

Skinner was surprised to find himself wincing whenever Krycek moaned or jerked under Fischer's hands. The wound was ugly and Skinner wondered how Krycek had endured the pain that had to accompany that level of infection. Also made him wonder how he'd found his way here since there was no vehicle anywhere that he could see. He'd figured out that the door off the deck was probably the one Krycek had picked open for access.

Skinner changed the bowl of water several times until Fischer was content that he had done all he could. He finished by injecting a syringe filled with antibiotics into Krycek's hip. "Well, now we wait and see what happens," he yawned, fidgeting with the drip that he had set up to rehydrate Krycek.

Skinner checked his watch. It was nearly two in the morning. "Give me a few minutes to get the rental in here and then you hit the bed upstairs. I'll take first watch."

Fischer nodded, checking one last time on his patients while Skinner went to get the SUV. "Call me if it looks as though either of them is deteriorating."


By morning, Davy was alert enough to sit up, check on the whereabouts of Krycek, then allow himself to be taken to the bathroom. He swallowed another dose of liquid Tylenol, drank most of the glass of eggnog that Skinner had put together from the milk and eggs Fischer had brought, with sugar and a bit of cinnamon for taste. He politely whispered "Thank you," before settling back in his cocoon and going back to sleep.

"Down to just under 101." Fischer put the ear thermometer back into his medical bag. "He should be back to himself in the next couple of days. On the other hand, Krycek...." He shrugged.

Skinner refused to allow himself to admit that Krycek's condition worried him. He'd been given another shot of antibiotics, but the infection seemed determined to hang in. Apart from some small sounds, he'd been unresponsive to Fischer's changing his bandages. His fever was still high. Fischer had gotten him to swallow more Tylenol for that as well.

"He's lost a fair amount of blood. He really needs to be in a hospital," suggested Fischer.

Skinner shook his head. "He'd be dead within a day, two at best. Can we move him?"

Fischer poured himself another coffee. They were sitting in the kitchen, both of them tiredly enjoying the warm sun that gave the cabin's pine interior a golden glow. "What have you got in mind?"

"Moving them to my place. I can't stay here. This week is packed filled with meetings that I can't get out of. Besides, my building is pretty secure. And I know people I can contact to verify that my apartment is clean before we move them in. It'll also be easier for you to check in on them."

Fischer thought a bit. "Shouldn't be a problem for the boy. Krycek... It's more than the infection that's got him down like he is. It's as though he's got no resources left of his own to help his body with the fight."

Skinner nodded. "He was pretty honed down the last time I saw him. In Mulder's room at the hospital." And he was still more than suspicious that whatever Krycek had been doing there had more to do with Mulder's return from the dead than the medical care he had been getting at the time. "He's skin and bones right now. Probably been living hard for some time."

"Well, let's see how he is by tomorrow. I think night would be the safest time to get them into your place without attracting too much attention."


Skinner drove into the lighted parking lot of his apartment building and braced himself when he caught sight of the disreputable VW van parked to one side, waiting for them. He checked in the rear view mirror as he had often on the drive back. Fischer was pulling into one of the visitor parking spots.

Three shadows moved from the van. Skinner looked over at the small bundle asleep on the passenger seat. Davy had occasionally wakened on the trip down, but had slipped back into sleep each time after silently checking that Krycek was still on the back seat of the SUV.

"Assistant Director."

Skinner had to think a moment before he remembered which name for the face. "Byers. Thanks for coming out."

"Thank you for trusting us." Byers nodded to the parking garage doors. "We've already set up a loop for that camera and the others inside. The elevator is clean, too. We thought it might be prudent to wait for your arrival before checking out your apartment."

Fischer raised his eyebrows in Skinner's direction. "Secure building, I think you said."

Skinner shrugged. "From what I understand, if there's a way in, these men will find it. Gentlemen, Doctor Joe Fischer."

"Colonel, retired, Marine Corps," said Langly, grinning at the large black man.

"We checked you out," said Frohike. "Well," he added when Fischer looked threatening, "Skinner said he wanted the place totally secure. Just because he trusts you..."

"I'm sorry," offered Byers, "but since you did request complete confidentiality, we did feel it important."

"Thank you," Skinner tried to sound less shocked than he was. He'd only contacted them that afternoon from a public phone booth. He barely remembered having mentioned Fischer by name.

"So, why all the secrecy?" Langly peered into the SUV. "Shit! Is that Krycek? Whew! No wonder you want the place checked out."

Byers glared at the two men. "You do know that there's a contract out on him? Seems he stole something and someone wants it back."

"I don't like this," muttered Frohike.

"It's the boy," Skinner explained. "That's what he's 'stolen' from them. From the Consortium. And if they get him back, there's a good chance he won't get any older."

The three men silently exchanged messages with eyebrows, shrugs, and small nods of head. Byers spoke for them. "Okay. Let's get in there. If you'll give me the keys, we'll go up and check out the apartment, clean it out if we find anything. It might be best if you waited here, in the vehicle, until we come get you."

Fischer scooped the now awakened Davy into his arms and took the passenger seat. "Who the hell are they?"

"Mulder's Lone Gunmen."

"They going to tell Mulder?"

"No. Byers indicated that they have a solid reputation of keeping their mouths shut, unless it has something to do with government conspiracy."


They found one bug, in his office.

"Dead. Battery ran out a long time ago. I guess no one's interested in you any more, Skinner." Frohike snickered as he said that.

Fischer grinned as he entered, carrying Davy in his arms. Langly had his arms full with the medical supplies. Skinner was pushing a still unconscious Krycek in the wheeled office chair that the men had brought down to help. Byers followed close by, holding the drip.

"Where is Davy going to sleep?" Fischer smiled at the boy who was focused on the man being rolled in.

"Spare room. The bed is already made up. Krycek will go in my room." At Frohike's raised eyebrows, he added, "That way I can hear both of them if something goes wrong."

That, however, was easier said than done. It took Skinner and Fischer both to move Krycek up the stairs, with Byers following behind, providing support. Davy watched wide-eyed through the open door, from the foot of the bed with Frohike who was looking at him as though encountering an alien life form.

Skinner left Fischer to settle Krycek properly and went to deal with the boy.

"Would you like me to leave this light on?" Skinner pointed to the table lamp at the far side of the bed. "I know that sometimes new places can be difficult at the best of times. And these last few days must have seemed pretty crazy."

Davy nodded, relaxing somewhat when Skinner turned the light on to low. Skinner gave the boy another dose of meds. "There. Glass of water on the table by the light if you need it. Bathroom's next door if you need that, too. No? Then sleep well. I'll see you in the morning." He tucked the boy snugly under the blankets.

Skinner left the door partially open, not only for the boy but so that he could hear him if something was wrong.

Downstairs, he thanked the Gunmen, slipped Byers the agreed-upon cash and stopped himself in time from reminding them of their promise of secrecy. These men were professionals. They had given him their word and they would keep it.

At the door, Frohike hesitated, then turned to face Skinner.

"If you need something more done to keep the boy safe, call."

The other two men nodded in agreement.

"Kids don't do well in Consortium hands," muttered Langly as they left to set all the cameras back to normal.


The next morning, Skinner found Davy sitting up in bed, face worried. He smiled, hoping to ease the boy's tension. "You're looking a lot better today. But the doctor still wants you taking the medicine so..." Skinner sat on the side of the bed, offering the child's medicine spoon. Eyes holding his, the boy leaned over and opened his mouth. Skinner tilted the spoon. "There, that's done for the morning. Now, what's next?"

"Please," the boy whispered, "Alex?"

Skinner nodded. The boy never spoke more than one or two words, always at a whisper. He wondered if there was something wrong with his voice. He'd mention it to Fischer when he arrived.

Still smiling, Skinner pulled a pair of his gym socks out of his pants pocket. "Here. These'll have to do instead of slippers. And," he reached for the sleeveless sweat shirt he had brought in with him, "we'll pull this over your t-shirt so that you don't catch a chill. Fischer won't be pleased with me if you have a relapse. Okay. Now let's go check on Kry... On Alex."

He held out his hand to the boy who, between the socks that rose to above his knees and the sweat shirt that came down below them, looked even more forlorn. At first, the boy was a little unsteady on his feet but determinedly followed Skinner out of the bedroom, down the hall to the only other bedroom in the condo.

Krycek was still fevered, sleeping deeply under the influence of that and the medications. Davy stood by the bedside and looked too lost for Skinner's peace of mind. "He's going to be okay, Davy. See, the bag that's dripping the colourless liquid into his arm? That's for his body, to help it fight the infection. And he's getting some food that way, too. He's just sleeping right now, but soon, he'll wake up."

His words didn't seem to be reassuring the boy. Skinner crouched next to the boy, trying to get Davy to look at him. "Davy. I won't lie to you. Alex is very ill, but he's getting all the care he needs. And right now, what he needs most is sleep. He's getting that and all the right stuff to make him better. Understand?"

Face far too serious, Davy gave a slight nod. Then he leaned over and whispered, "Can I touch him?"

Skinner nodded. "I think that might do him a lot of good. And tell him that you're okay. That Skinner is taking care of you both. That I promise you'll both be safe."

The boy nodded, let go of Skinner's hand and carefully crawled up onto the bed. Equally carefully, he made his way around Krycek's legs and to his left side. There, he looked over to Skinner as though waiting for permission. Skinner smiled and that seemed to be enough for the boy. He leaned over and lay his hand on Krycek's shoulder, placed his mouth close to Krycek's ear and whispered into it. Skinner had no idea what the boy said, but from the few sounds that he did catch, he realized that the boy was speaking to the sleeping man in Russian.

After a moment, the boy rested his head on Krycek's shoulder, sighed, picked himself up and made his way back to Skinner's side.

"Please," he whispered, " the bathroom?"

Skinner showed Davy to the main bathroom, pointed out the new toothbrush and the paste that he'd laid out on the vanity and then shut the door, allowing the child privacy.

They made their way gingerly down the stairs, the boy still a little wobbly on his legs. In the kitchen, Skinner poured him a glass of orange juice, watched him sip it as he prepared a bowl of cereal for the boy. "It's just corn flakes," he said as he placed the bowl in front of Davy, "but if you tell me what you prefer, I'll pick some up before I come home tonight."

The boy looked up from spooning the cereal, afraid.

"Doctor Fischer, you remember him? Well, he's coming to spend the day with you. Just in case Alex needs him. So you see, you'll be in good hands."

The boy didn't look much reassured, but he went back to eating his breakfast.


"You're back earlier than planned." Fischer hit 'mute' on the remote and sat up on the couch. "It's barely seven o'clock."

Skinner shed his coat, grinning. "I delegated a couple of meetings to some poor jerk who began by thanking me but will probably end up cursing me when he really understands just how tedious these things are. How are the patients?"

Fischer rose from the couch, stretching. "Davy slept on and off all day. His temp is back to normal. His appetite also seems to be back to normal. Which means he would be bouncing off the walls by tomorrow afternoon, if he were a normal child."

Skinner paused in removing his weapon then continued, storing it on a high shelf in the closet. Not its usual place, but now there was a child in his home. "What's wrong with him?"

Fischer shrugged. "Very restrained. Very quiet. Too quiet. He came with me every time I checked in on Krycek. He talked more to a sleeping man than he spoke to me all day. He's not familiar with television programs. Watched them as though he wasn't certain of what he was watching."

"Shit, Joe! Daytime television stinks."

"Hey! Nickelodeon, I'll have you know."

Skinner grinned at the image of Joe Fischer watching children's programming. "And the other patient?"

"The antibiotics finally seem to be doing their job. Temperature dropped to around 101. He woke once, was alert enough to speak to the boy then. When I told him where he was, he slipped back into sleep. He's begun to be restless, a good sign. Though I'd like him to remain quiet at least another day for those wounds to close properly. I've set him up with another drip for the night, but tomorrow we have to get him eating something. Which brings up the problem of tomorrow. I can't be here. I have a funding meeting to attend and I can't miss it."

Skinner nodded. "I remembered you mentioning that. I had Kim rearrange my meetings for the day, and I delegated the others she couldn't."

Fischer shook his head in stunned amazement. "I can't believe what I'm hearing. You, Walter S. Skinner, A-type supreme, not only using the word 'delegating', but actually doing it. Pigs everywhere have got to be flying."

"Fuck off." Skinner picked up several bags and brought them into the living room where he dropped them on the couch.

Fischer caught sight of a name on one of the bags and dug into it. "A nerf football?" With a hoot, he dug into the others. He pulled out a puzzle of a Harry Potter scene, a packaged set of the four books, the largest of the Crayola crayon boxes with several colouring books, one of which was themed trucks and cars. In yet another bag, he found a boy's set of pyjamas, socks, underwear, a sweat suit with Shrek and Donkey grinning up at him. "Does he even know who they are?" he asked with a laugh.

"He will." Skinner opened another bag and tossed the "Shrek" video onto the couch, following that with "Monster, Inc." and "Peter Pan".

"Shit, Walt! I can't picture you..."

"I didn't. I sent Kim."

"Didn't she ask why you'd want all this stuff?"

Skinner shook his head, dropping into his favourite armchair. "Nope. That's why she's such a good PA. I just told her I needed some clothes and things to occupy an eight-year-old boy and this is what she came up with."


The clothes, the crayons and the colouring books were a huge success. Davy had no idea who Harry Potter was, didn't recognize either Shrek or Peter Pan. He also had no idea what to do with the football until Skinner gave him a demonstration. He watched, a bemused expression on his face, as Skinner explained the principal of the game, showed him how to throw the football. Skinner made a mental note to send Kim for different kinds of balls.

They spent the morning quietly. Though Skinner had indeed delegated—a fact which had stunned his PA as much as his request for her help with a personal matter—he had brought home a briefcase filled with work. As he worked on the table, Davy seemed content to join him with his colouring. At mid-morning, when he went to check up on Krycek, Davy came along, face worried, quietly approaching the bed.

Skinner sat at the side of the bed and gently shook the man, trying to rouse him. The previous day that had gotten no response. This morning, Krycek moaned slightly—which caused Davy to move closer to the bed—and then opened his eyes.

"Alex?"

Krycek turned his head towards the boy, eyes slitted against the light. "Daveed?" he croaked.

Skinner slipped his hand under Krycek's head, helped him raise it so that he could sip at the glass of water Skinner held to his mouth.

Davy lay his hand on Krycek's chest, smiled at him and, without warning, burst into tears.

Krycek tried to get up, but hadn't the strength. Skinner pushed him back, scooped up Davy and settled him on the bed, at Krycek's uninjured side. The boy lay his head against Krycek's, wrapped his arms around him and wept.

"He's all right, Krycek," Skinner answered the weak glare directed at him. "He's been worried about you."

"He was sick," Krycek's voice was rough.

Skinner nodded. "Flu. He's all right now. I called Fischer, remember?"

It was obvious that Krycek didn't and that he was also too weak to deal with Davy. Skinner sat on the side of the bed. "It's been five days and though Davy got better right away, you've been sleeping all this time."

"F... Five!"

Skinner nodded, reaching over to stroke Davy's back. The boy was slowly quieting. "We moved you here, to my place. I got the Lone Gunmen in to check it out for any kind of bugs and either I or Fischer has been here with you two ever since." Skinner directed his next words to the boy though he was looking at Krycek. "Davy's been very good and he took his medicine so he's better. Just like you're going to take yours. I'm going downstairs for a minute, to get them. Davy here can keep you company until I come back."

By the time Skinner returned, Davy had calmed considerably and had probably brought Krycek up to date on their situation. Whatever strength the man had had on waking was now gone. Krycek was struggling to keep his eyes open. "Here, drink this." Skinner raised Krycek enough so that he could swallow the Tylenol and drink down the juice he'd doctored with protein powder. Davy sat up and watched as Krycek settled back into sleep.

"Come on, Davy. Let's leave Alex to sleep and maybe he'll wake up again this afternoon."

Reluctantly, Davy slipped off the bed and, with one last look at the man sleeping, went out of the room.

Skinner sat him up on the kitchen counter and used a warm wet cloth to wipe the traces of the boy's tears off his face. He offered him a tissue to blow his nose then just took him in his arms and held him. "Alex is going to be okay, Davy. He's tough. He's not going to let something like this kill him, but he is weak. He needs sleep and care. And we're going to see to it that he gets it, right?"

Head drooping onto Skinner's shoulder, Davy nodded.

Skinner held the emotionally exhausted child as he fell asleep and then settled him on the couch. The boy was less tense, less quiet when he awoke. He actually spoke to Skinner in complete sentences rather than the usual one or two words. And though he was disappointed that Krycek didn't wake the next two times they checked in on him, he seemed to accept that Krycek was getting better.


Skinner was hanging up his suit in the closet Friday afternoon when he realized Krycek was watching him. Between Kim's re-arranging of his schedule, his new habit of delegating and Fischer, they had gotten to the weekend with someone always in the apartment.

Both Fischer and Krycek were less than pleased with Krycek's recovery. He still had a low grade fever that he couldn't seem to shake off and the infection, though much less than it had been, was stubbornly hanging around. Krycek was off the drip, but found a trip to the bathroom taxing. He slept most of the day, with Davy checking in on him whenever he could.

Davy was proving to be more of an enigma than Skinner and Fischer thought a boy his age should be.

He was a little more talkative though if asked a question about himself, or the time before Skinner had arrived at the cabin, he would look blankly at them and grow very quiet. They stopped questioning him on that.

If Skinner asked for a food preference, the boy just shrugged, though he was wary of any new thing that appeared on his plate. He would try it and then decide if it was something to his taste. Not that Skinner was offering him anything exotic in his choice of meals, but things the boy should be familiar with, it appeared he wasn't.

When Skinner had handed him the Harry Potter books, Davy had looked at them as though they were a mystery. Skinner had assumed that the boy had never learnt to read. Yet when Skinner had begun reading one to him, Davy had suddenly lit up and slowly begun reading along with him. He was now working his way through the books on his own.

Kim had subtly inquired as to the success of her shopping and then had picked up Skinner's even more subtle comment that the boy was still around. He'd come home from the office with several more packages. Davy now had another sweat suit, with a monster truck emblazoned on the top. Kim had also sent over a couple of pairs of jeans, a sweater and a winter jacket that her son had outgrown.

"How're you feeling?" Skinner rested his shoulder against the closet door, looking over at the man gingerly pulling himself up into a sitting position.

Krycek sighed. "I don't understand why it's taking so long."

Skinner moved away from the door, scoffed. "Gees, Krycek. Maybe if you took better care of yourself..." Then he shook his head. "You feeling well enough to explain a few things to me?"

There was a soft knock on the door and it was Skinner's turn to sigh. It was as though there was a psychic connection between Krycek and Davy. Every time Krycek woke, the boy seemed to know it.

"Tonight?" offered Krycek. "When he's asleep."

Skinner nodded as he opened the door and the boy came in to join Krycek on the bed.


Skinner watched Krycek make himself comfortable against the mound of pillows. Like the boy, he needed a decent haircut. Not that the longer hair was irritating, but the scruffiness of it bugged him. And that beard didn't help any.

He found himself comparing this Krycek to the one who had played at being a green agent, the one who had spent the night on his balcony, the one who had held a palm pilot in his hand, and decided that this was yet another Krycek. He pulled up a chair to his side of the bed, sat and propped his feet, one ankle on top of the other, on the bed itself.

"Where do you want me to begin?" Krycek had asked for a glass of water which he now held in his hand.

They both knew they were in for a long discussion.

Skinner greeted the question with a raised eyebrow. "What if I said back to when you were admitted to Quantico?"

Krycek cocked his head slightly. "Then I start there." Tone serious to match his expression, he went on. "Look, I owe you my life. And Davy's as well. If you hadn't shown up when you did..." He shrugged and took a sip of water.

"I haven't decided yet if saving your skin was worth it. Davy, on the other hand...Your son is entirely another matter."

"My son?" Krycek's voice was dry. "What ever made you think Davy's my son?"

Skinner's voice was equally dry. "The eyes. The ears. The shape of his face. If he's not your son, what is he? Your brother? Your nephew?"

Krycek's smile was humourless. "Daveed's not any of those. What he is is my clone."

Skinner grew very still. "Your...clone?"

Krycek nodded. "Seems Samantha Mulder's genes weren't the only ones conducive to cloning."

"Does Davy know..."

"That he's a clone? Yes, he knows."

And then Krycek shut up, knowing that Skinner needed time to absorb the truth about Davy, to think about what Krycek had told him.

When Skinner spoke, it was obvious that the subject made him uneasy. "How long have you known about this...cloning?"

"Consortium cloning? It wasn't exactly a closed secret in some levels of the organization. They've been working on this for years. They've been successful to some degree or another since the 50's. And they've been getting better at it with every trial. They don't always develop what they want, but with the right genes and a little luck, they can replicate a person."

"And they decided to 'replicate' you."

Krycek shrugged. "I didn't know about that part of their work until a few years ago. I didn't have much to do with those labs. We all had to undergo testing on a regular basis and cell donation was part of that."

"We?" Skinner was in full A.D. mode, his voice expressionless, alert for nuances in the other's voice, in his 'story'.

Krycek leaned back into the pillows. "You know," he said, casually, "Samantha Mulder was not the only child given to the Consortium. I know that Mulder acts as though she was, but anyone who reached a certain level within the organization had to provide a ... Had to show proof of loyalty. The handing over of a child or some family member provided not only a guarantee, in most cases..."

Skinner caught the slight change in tone, bitterness quickly recovered.

"...of co-operation, but also a gene pool to work from and with."

"How old were you?"

Krycek shrugged. "I have no real idea. Well, I do. I was seven. But I found that out when I hacked into their data banks. We—none of us—remembered much because they played around with our memories. Without real memories of home, mom and dad, we were easier to control and train."

"Is that what happened to Davy? His memories were wiped out?"

Krycek nodded and took a drink of water.

"That's why he didn't remember he could read. Or what foods he likes."

Again, Krycek nodded.

"How the hell could they do that to him!" Skinner's anger slipped out. He sat straight in the chair, no longer at ease.

"Actually," said Krycek, "they didn't. I arranged for that."

The look Skinner turned on him should have turned him into stone. "You fucking..." But Skinner stopped himself. There had to be a reason. Krycek never did anything without a reason. "Why?" he snarled.

Krycek looked down at the glass in his hand. "I found him by accident. In a lab that some Rebels and I had gone in to blow up. They were in the process of...ah...'eliminating' clones that they considered flawed or at the end of their usefulness."

Skinner jerked in his chair, but forced himself to sit still. He knew he wasn't going to like what Krycek was going to tell him.

"They had determined early on in their cloning experiments that the only way to reproduce a viable human clone was the traditional way. Nine months in a womb. They could arrange for multiple births, but not all the clones were adequate for whatever they wanted them. Those were easily dealt with right away. Deformed or blind clones, weak ones were eliminated at birth. The others were handed over to the labs for certain testing until they proved their worth. Even those were further tested and their future training, if they were to have any, depended on how well they did."

"Jesus!" Skinner closed his eyes, shook his head.

"Davy was among those they decided didn't have the right stuff. They'd handed several of them over to 'technicians' who were using them to...to amuse themselves before they killed them. When I got to that part of the labs, Davy was one of three who was still alive."

Skinner looked up, face almost feral. "Where are the others?"

Krycek met his anger and disgust right on. "Dead. And, yes, I killed them. Skinner, they were still alive, but they'd been torn apart, had been mu...."

Skinner raised his hand and stopped him. He had to swallow several times before he could get the words out. "And Davy?"

"He was the smallest of the lot. They had just started on him when I got there. I didn't clue in to who he was until after I'd cleaned up the place."

Skinner didn't ask what had comprised the 'cleaning up'.

"I couldn't bring myself to kill him. I got him out and to a doctor that the Consortium sometimes used. I killed him, too, so that they wouldn't know.

"Shit, Skinner. He'd never been outside. They'd kept him in a lab like a test rat. He shook all the time. Was afraid of sleeping for the nightmares. He cried almost constantly, silently, as though he didn't know he was doing it. His wounds were superficial and his body healed, but his mind...

"I knew of another lab. The techs there were proficient at wiping out memories. So that's what I did. I took him there and had them wipe out whatever they had done to him, whatever they had had him do."

Skinner growled, "That could have left him a total vegetable."

Krycek shrugged. "They were experts. They knew what to erase and what to leave in. His motor and language skills were barely affected. His ability to think is fine. Mulder's had it done to him several times and he's not a vegetable. They've done it to me and, in spite of what you think of me, I'm not one either."

Skinner ignored Mulder for "Were?"

Krycek shrugged. "I wasn't that successful. Someone got out and told them that it was me and that I had a clone with me. My clone. Things got a lot more interesting after that, but I thought we were pretty much ahead of them until someone I thought was safe turned out not to be."

"What the hell were you going to do with the boy?"

Krycek's voice dripped bitter sarcasm. "What do you think? Use him for sex? As a punching bag? Maybe I was going to sell him to some experimental lab?"

The two men glared at each other until finally Skinner sighed loudly. "No," his voice was tired, "I don't think that. But what were you going to do with him?"

Krycek also sighed, let his head fall back on the pillows. "God knew. I sure as hell didn't. I just knew that I couldn't leave him behind. If they didn't kill him, they'd start with the testing all over again. There'd already been enough of that."

There was silence in the room while both men dealt with thoughts and memories.

Skinner sat back in his chair and carefully examined the man before him. Krycek had been seven when he'd been handed over to technicians who... What? Had tested him and found that he'd satisfied their qualifications for further training. Who had had his memories of home and family wiped so that he had to hack into data banks to find out who he had been. Who had been taught to kill without emotion.

Who had still had enough humanity in him to try and save a part of himself.

"How did you get to my place? We never found a car."

Krycek roused himself and emptied the glass. "I got us into the back of some truck at a truck stop further up state. I knew about your place because they had once sent me to bug it, about the time you did some work for Spender in exchange for the info on Scully. I figured since you don't go out there as much as you used to, that maybe they hadn't updated the bugs. That we would be safe until I got better. Davy wasn't sick then.

"We got out of the truck when the driver stopped to fill up with gas at the stop on the highway. Then we walked there."

Skinner scowled. That stop was at least ten miles away. No wonder the wound hadn't closed up.

"How long ago did you rescue Davy?"

"About three months ago."

"And the memory wipe?"

Krycek shrugged. "A couple of weeks after that."

"And Davy remembers nothing about the time before that."

Krycek shook his head. "Ask Mulder if he remembers anything about his visit to a bio-lab when he was eleven. And the one when he was fifteen. And the other when he returned from England."

"What were they testing him for?"

"For any sign that his DNA was modifying from the changes they had made to it when he was a kid. They were trying to understand why Samantha's had taken but Mulder's hadn't."

"And?"

Krycek yawned. "Seems Mulder had Mulder DNA, Samantha hadn't. By the time they figured that out, the man whose DNA was the determining factor was dead. Had been long dead. Had been blown to bits stepping on a land mine in Vietnam."

"So Spender isn't Mulder's father?"

"Spender," Krycek's grin was humourlessly satisfied, "was no one's father. Not even Jeffrey's."

After some silence, Skinner got up, put the chair back in its place. He went over and took the glass from Krycek "What are you going to do with Davy?"

Krycek tossed a couple of the pillows to the foot of the bed. "Find him a safe place."

Skinner said nothing, just nodded in agreement.


Fischer was finally satisfied. "Took you long enough but you're looking good. If you're going to continue getting shot, Krycek, make sure you stay in shape. Three meals a day and at least six hours of sleep a night. Next time, you may not be so lucky."

It had taken another three weeks for Fischer to be satisfied that Krycek's wound wouldn't give him any more trouble. That he'd put on some weight and gotten his energy back.

Three weeks during which Krycek had watched Skinner and Davy.

After that first week, Krycek had insisted that he could come downstairs and that neither man need to re-organize his life for them. Skinner hadn't been sure, but there was only so much he could delegate and Kim could re-arrange. Fischer had to return to his clinic.

They'd gotten Krycek downstairs that Sunday and settled him on the couch. Skinner showed Davy how to use the microwave to heat up meals. He made the boy promise that he'd never take anything out without oven mitts on his hands, that only Krycek would open the containers. He set up his cell phone to a special ring so that when he called, Davy would know who it was and would answer.

Krycek noticed that Skinner called at least three times a day, just to check up on them.

Krycek scoffed quietly to himself. Who the hell was he kidding? Skinner was checking up on Davy. Seeing that the boy was fine. That he was still here.

Every morning before he left the room where the two of them were still sleeping each on his side of the bed, Skinner got him to state unequivocally that both he and Davy would be still here when Skinner got back from work.

And that was another thing that seemed slightly out of the norm for Skinner. At least in Krycek's mind. They were still sharing the oversized king in Skinner's room. He'd offered to sleep somewhere else, but Skinner had vetoed that idea. Krycek couldn't share with Davy because he, Krycek, moved around too much, muttered too much in his sleep. He'd wake the boy and the boy needed his sleep.

When Krycek had used that same argument as the reason he should then move to the couch downstairs, Skinner had vetoed that on the grounds that Krycek needed decent sleep and, comfortable though the couch was for a nap, it wasn't conducive for a good night's sleep. Not when there would be more than a few on it. Besides, Skinner pointed out, Krycek slept better if someone woke him before the muttering turned into nightmares.

Krycek found that argument hard to ignore. When he'd gotten here, he'd been too ill, too drugged for the nightmares to play havoc with his sleep. He'd been able to sympathize with his clone's fear of sleep because he'd often been there himself, and still had trouble with nightmares when he was ill or overly tired. And, yes, having someone wake him, touch or even hold him until he was back in this world, did help.

It was also stupid time for him, that time between. It was then that his resistence was low, that he answered Skinner's questions about these same nightmares. At about the same time that Skinner had learnt he wasn't comfortable in the dark because of his time in the silo, a small lamp appeared at his side of the bed, a light with a soft glow that helped keep those dreams at bay.

And Skinner learnt that if he was muttering in Russian, he was reliving the time of his alien possession, when all he had been able to do was watch his body betray him and deliver what he had hoped would be his ticket out from under Consortium clutches to Spender himself. Or in the forests of Tunguska, having his arm cut off. If he spoke Arabic, he was back in Tunisia, a one-armed man in a cell filled with other men who thought he'd be an easy target. Which was how Skinner also found out that the reason Spender had arranged for this experience had been the "loss" of Orgel's documentation which meant that the subtle reprogramming of a certain palm pilot could not be reversed.

"Why, Krycek?" Skinner had been rubbing his hand up and down Krycek's back, soothing him after a particularly entrenched dream.

"If I threw the thing away, they'd try something else. This way, they could still use the nanos on you, but only to a certain extent."

"They still sent you."

"Yeah, but you had to admit it wasn't anything like that first time." Krycek was still trembling from the aftermath of a Tunisian dream. He had been able to defend himself from the men sharing his cell; the guards had been something else. He'd endured because he'd fully intended to make it out. "And that time, I didn't have any choice. At least I brought you back. Someone else wouldn't have bothered."

Strangely, thought Krycek, their time in bed together, sharing platonically, seemed to have defused past tensions between them. Skinner had brought up the night he'd spent on the balcony, but Krycek had shrugged it away. All things considered, it hadn't been much of a punishment. More revenge for what had happened between them up till then.

"Still, I shouldn't have hit you so hard. I could have ruptured something."

Krycek shook his head. "Don't worry about it. You didn't."

And over the past weeks, Krycek noticed how Skinner smiled every time Davy spoke to him, how he listened patiently as Davy read something or talked about a program he and Krycek had watched during the day. Davy's artwork was finding its way to the fridge door, to the room Skinner used as his home office. Saturdays, Skinner would pick up a couple of kids' videos along with groceries and all three of them would sit, watching children's classics that Skinner knew but that neither Davy nor Krycek had ever seen. And Krycek knew that wasn't normal Saturday fare on the Skinner television.

He also knew that gradually there were things being added to Davy's closet, more books for the shelving unit by his bed. On a shelf in the living room, next to a framed commendation from the White House, there now sat a model car that Davy and Skinner had put together one Sunday afternoon. Krycek had lazed on the couch, pretending to read, all the while listening to Skinner explain what the next step was and then patiently helping Davy with it.

The day that Fischer had finally given him a clean bill of health was also the day that Krycek forced himself to make a decision.

He was helping Davy get ready for bed that evening when the boy said, "Alex, do you remember the time you told me that, when you were scared, you went to a safe spot deep inside you?"

Krycek finished turning down the bed and then sat next to the boy looking up at him with a near blank look on his face. It had been some time since he'd seen that look. The first had been after the memory wipe. "Yes, Davy, I remember. I told you that when we were running away from the bad people who were trying to catch us. Why?"

"Well, I didn't know what you meant then, Alex. But I do now. This time here, with Walter, that's going to be my safe spot."

Krycek found he couldn't say anything to that, but he understood that now he was better, Davy was expecting them to take off again.

He tucked Davy into bed and then sat by him until the boy fell asleep.

He went back downstairs to find Skinner in the kitchen, making a pot of coffee.

"Want some? It's decaf." Skinner reached up for a second mug.

Krycek waited until they were sitting at the table. "I have to leave."

Skinner nodded, placed his mug carefully back on the table. "Yes. I figured that would happen once Fischer gave you a clean bill of health."

Krycek placed his mug on the table, stared at it. He knew he would never forget the dark blue of the mug against the white tabletop. "I can't bring Davy with me. It wouldn't be fair."

"No," agreed Skinner, very quietly. "It wouldn't."

Krycek looked up. "Do you want him?"

"Want him?"

Krycek felt his face harden. "Not just for a while. Permanently."

"Per..." Skinner was stunned.

"Look, if not, you have to tell me. They are places I can take him to, places where he'll probably be okay..."

"Probably!" Skinner barely managed to hold down the tone of his voice. "Jesus, Krycek. The kid deserves more than a fucking 'probably'!"

"Yeah, I know. Skinner, hear me out and think about it, okay?"

Krycek watched as Skinner took a deep breath, obviously trying to control his growing anger. Then he closed his eyes, sighed loudly and the anger was gone.

Krycek continued. "I've watched you with Daveed. You're good with him. He likes you and I think you like him. He needs... Jesus, Skinner! He needs a home. A chance to be someone, something other than my fucking clone. He needs someone who isn't freaked out by the fact that he is a clone. Someone who will... Who will care for him. See to it that he grows up properly. That he'll get the chance to grow up safe. Understand? I can't give him that. I know that.

"I also know that taking on a kid like him is no easy task. And that there are financial considerations. There are accounts that I can access that..."

"Shut the fuck up!" Skinner's fist came down loud on the table. Krycek wisely shut up. Skinner stood, passed his hands over his scalp and took a nervous pace around the room. He stopped once, opened his mouth and then paced some more. He was calmer when he took back his seat.

"Yes, I'll take him. Yes, I do like him. Fuck that, I love the kid. I'll take good care of him. And I'll do it without fucking Consortium money, you understand!" He took a calming breath. "How do we go about doing this so that he's not traumatized by your leaving?"

Krycek made a choked laughing sound. "I doubt he'll be traumatized. He might miss me a day or two, but if you keep him busy, he probably won't notice I'm not here."

Skinner looked stunned. "You really believe that?"

Krycek shrugged, trying hard to look nonchalant about the situation.

"Jesus, Krycek, are you really that blind? The kid loves you. Hell, he worships you."

For a moment, Krycek thought he might shatter. He forced himself to breathe shallowly until the pain passed.

"And don't try and tell me you don't love him, Krycek." Skinner's voice had gentled. "You're a top-notch liar, but even you aren't that good."

Krycek said nothing, merely concentrated on the blue of the mug against the white of the table.

Finally, Skinner cleared his throat. "Okay, as I said, how are we going to do this?"

Krycek had to try twice to get the words out. "I'll talk to him tomorrow before I leave. I'll need at least a day to get in touch with my contacts. To let them know that I'm back in the game."

"These contacts of yours..."

"They're with the Rebels. I gave up long ago trusting human beings." Even Krycek was taken aback by the bitterness in his voice.

Skinner couldn't help pointing out, "Yet you're trusting me with Davy."

Krycek noticed that if he concentrated on staring at the handle of the mug, the blue seemed to run onto the white of the table.


Davy listened warily as Krycek explained that he was going to be staying with Skinner. That he, Krycek, had to leave and it wouldn't be fair to Davy to drag him around with him. That Skinner was very happy to have Davy staying with him.

At no time did Krycek mention that the stay was a permanent one, that he wouldn't be coming back for the boy.

Davy nodded, eyes sad, and was very quiet for the rest of the day. Krycek's eyes followed him around all the time and he tried to tell himself that was just because he needed to make sure the boy wasn't reacting badly.

At Davy's request, they watched "Shrek" yet again. Krycek lay on the couch, the boy snug in his arms, and recited the boy's favourite dialogue along with Davy. Later, Davy pretended to nap, still in Krycek's arms.

Supper was very quiet, too, that evening. Skinner was used to hearing the boy recount his day and ask him questions about his. He looked at Krycek, concerned, but then realized that Krycek was not paying the least amount of attention to him.

That all Krycek saw or heard right then was Davy.


Skinner, wearing only his jeans, listened to the shower being shut off. With a sigh, he went back to turning down the bed.

The evening had been hard on all of them. Davy had been restless, whiny, as though suddenly realizing that when he woke, the man who had been his one constant in the little time that he could remember would not be here. Krycek had become more and more remote, more wooden, as though already moved on to this other world of his.

Except that when it had come time to put Davy to bed, Krycek had gone up with the boy tightly wrapped round him, holding on just as tightly. And he'd stayed in Davy's room long after the boy had fallen asleep.

He'd come out as Skinner had come upstairs, gone into the ensuite bathroom and turned on the shower.

Skinner wondered if Krycek was leaving immediately or if he was going catch some sleep then sneak out before Davy woke up.

Instead, Krycek walked into the bedroom, naked, and slowly knelt in the open space between the bed and the bathroom.

"Krycek?"

Krycek sat back on his heels, placed his hand on his knee, lowered his head in a submissive position.

What the hell? thought Skinner.

Krycek's voice was almost monotone. "There are things I did to you and to people you care about. Things for which I fully accept responsibility. Things which, even now when you mention them, make you angry. That you haven't forgiven because they are unforgivable."

"Krycek, what..."

Krycek kept on as though Skinner hadn't spoken. "Things that as Davy grows up, gets older, looks more and more like me, you will remember and may find get in the way." Krycek looked up, meeting Skinner's slow understanding of the scene. "You may find that you will wish then you had punished me, had hurt me now as you had been hurt. And that seeing Davy every day will only make that anger grow."

Skinner stepped out from his side of the bed, shaking his head. "Krycek! I know that Davy has nothing to do with whatever has passed between us. I would never hold him to account for that. Jesus, Krycek! He's a kid!"

"He's a kid now. But in a few years? When he really looks like me, when you have nightmares of the nanos, of my killing you. When he's not a kid anymore. When you think of the revenge you could have taken and didn't."

Krycek ignored Skinner's strong "NO!"

"So I'm offering you a chance to get your own back on me. Before I leave."

"Jesus!"

"For Davy's sake."

Skinner sat on the foot of the bed and looked at the man kneeling before him. Once, he would have been delighted with this picture. Krycek, in his hands, waiting for punishment. His punishment. And, yes, god knew, he had dreamt of this, had thought of what he'd do to the rat if he ever fell into his hands, away from watching eyes. And Krycek knew that. Knew what was going through his mind right now.

And was knowingly offering himself up to Skinner for the sake of the child who had been made from him.

Much as he might have wanted this not that long ago, Skinner also knew that having both the child and the man in his home for the past month had changed many things, including his need for his pound of flesh.

"Krycek...." He raised his hand and dropped it in frustration. What could he say that would make Krycek understand.

"You don't have to worry about my waking Davy up. I was well trained. But you can gag me if you like, just to be certain. I only ask that whatever it is you do to me, I can still walk out of here before he wakes up."

"Krycek...."

"No, please. I need to know that Davy won't suffer for what I've done."

"And you think this...my beating you..."

Krycek shrugged. "It will get it out of your system. No matter what happens in the future, you'll know that you made me hurt. That you made me pay."

Skinner stood up, to take a turn around the room, to try and get his emotions in perspective. At the gesture, Krycek lowered his head, offering his body to whatever Skinner wished to do to it.

Skinner went to the window , pulled back the curtain. He stared out into the dark and forced himself to clear his mind. He hated to admit it, but Krycek had a point. Would he be able to see Davy growing up into the man who had held the palm pilot and not hold that against him? Could he separate the two?

He shifted the focus of his sight. In the glass, he could see the reflection of the man waiting for his punishment.

Instead of putting Krycek's face on Davy, Skinner made himself put Davy's face on Krycek. The child who had been given away. Had had his mind wiped. Had been "tested"... Fuck! What fucking brutality did that word hide? What had Krycek said about his decision to have Davy's mind wiped? So that he wouldn't remember what had been done to him, what he had had to do.

He turned and took a good look at what the Consortium with its labs and its technicians had been capable of producing.

Rat-bastard. Liar extraordinaire. A top notch assassin. A man who survived at any cost.

But not Davy's.

Davy had allowed Krycek to let down his defences enough so that Skinner had gleamed a certain sense about Krycek's existence within the Consortium. He had also relaxed enough to use this time as a much-needed respite. Neither he nor Davy had left the apartment once since they'd arrived. Skinner had gone out and bought all sorts of things for Davy to keep him occupied, but Krycek had been more than happy to forage in Skinner's closet and drawers for clothing, to read what he found on Skinner's shelves, to listen to his selection of music, to watch whatever television programs Skinner selected.

There had been discussions as well. Hell, they couldn't spend this much time in each other's presence without doing some talking. Krycek was well read, well travelled. He was a repository of inside information. He had personal information about international situations Skinner only knew about from listening to news reports.

Skinner learnt that Krycek had a particularly cynical perspective on world politics, a biting wit that had made Skinner chuckle or even laugh when Krycek allowed it out.

That he could sit with a child and watch the same movie over and over again as if each time were the first, yet ignore replays of sports action, muttering pejorative comments about the average intelligence of commentators who thought no one would see what they were seeing, assuming they could get it straight.

A man who was content to sit quietly reading while Skinner caught up on work, in a silent apartment that he was so used to working in before a man and his clone child had moved in.

A man, Skinner was suddenly astonished to understand, he was going to miss.

Skinner had finally acknowledged to himself, after Sharon had divorced him, that he did pay too much attention to some male agents. She had accused him of Mulder. And he would admit that the man was beautiful to look at, to fantasize about as he jerked off.

But Mulder hadn't been the only agent who had served under him to fill that function.

Now, thought Skinner, might be a good time to also acknowledge that a full bladder wasn't the only reason behind his morning erection these last couple of weeks. A month of sleeping in the same bed with the man, carefully rousing him when he'd had a nightmare, remembering the two or three times he had had to hold him after one... The feel of the man in his arms...

Krycek had never pulled away from these moments of comfort. He hadn't initiated anything, but he certainly hadn't protested or hurried to return to his side of the bed.

But Krycek had indicated that he wouldn't be coming back.

Maybe, thought Skinner, he needed some reason to come back Something to come back for. To a place where he might find himself welcomed back.

And then he knew what he was going to do.

"I can do anything I want with you, so long as you can walk out when I'm through?"

Krycek raised his head just enough so that his answer could be heard. "Yes,"

"All right. Get on the bed."

Krycek grew so still Skinner doubted he was even breathing. Then, with a small shudder, Krycek rose to his feet and went over to the bed. "How do you want me?"

There was no more expression in the voice than there was on the face.

"On your back, in the middle of the bed."

Skinner stripped off the jeans and then went over to his bureau, knowing that his instructions would be carried out. When he turned around, Krycek lay on his back, in the middle of the bed that they had shared for a month.

"Put your hand on the spindle and grip it."

Skinner knelt on the bed and cuffed Krycek's wrist to the spindle. Then he sat back on his heels and examined the man staring blankly at the ceiling.

He was still thin, much slimmer than he'd been those years ago as an agent. He'd been using Skinner's Soliflex to get back into shape and Skinner knew he went through a series of exercises every day for flexibility. All things considered, it was an attractive body.

The face, once so young and, god knows, pretty, was older, harder. It was a face that had learnt the hard way to keep thoughts secret. And the eyes had learnt that lesson as well. At the moment, they revealed nothing of what had to be going through Krycek's mind. Unless that too had been trained to withdraw.

Skinner reached out with a finger and slowly traced the collarbone from shoulder to neck, and back again. Krycek didn't react.

Skinner smiled to himself. He moved the finger down to a brown nipple that hesitated before showing its appreciation of his attention. With a more open smile, Skinner concentrated on pleasing that nipple.

When he was certain that he was beginning to get Krycek's attention, when his brain clued in that what Skinner was doing to him didn't hurt, Skinner let loose all the fantasies he had ever had about this particular body.

Skinner was used to quick snatches of sex when he finally had enough of his hand. He'd go to another town, go cruising and then find relief in a toilet stall, in a dark corner. Maybe a motel bed, if he was certain that the area was safe enough for him.

Tonight, he had to show this man that he had feelings for him. That he wanted him to come back. And not just for Davy.

It pleased him to know that he had at least until the early morning hours to do this. That he could do so with the lights on, so that he could judge just how successful he was in this plan of his. So that he could watch the blankness on Krycek's face gradually replaced by confusion, by responses he didn't seem to be able to hide in spite of his training.

Or just maybe because no one had ever taken the time to drive him to the edge of orgasm, to retrench only to begin the assault on his senses all over again.

The body laid out for Skinner's pleasure gradually looked oiled in the light, the sheets darkened with the spreading dampness of sweat. Krycek rocked, writhed, bucked. His hand whitely gripped the spindle as his body arched upward. He held the sounds back as long as he could by drawing in his lower lip with his front teeth—like Davy did, thought Skinner—and then gave up. Skinner found he was thankful that Davy, once asleep, did so soundly.

Using only his hands, his mouth, tongue, teeth, his skin rubbing against Krycek's, Skinner brought them both up to the point where even a breath of air against a body part was blissfully painful. Then, and only then, did he once more reach for the lube, this time to grease his condomed cock. Teeth gritted, only then did he ever so slowly penetrate Krycek's asshole, did his greased hand once more pump Krycek's erect cock, did he finally allow Krycek to have an orgasm. Then, and only then, did he allow himself the same intense pleasure.

They lay side by side, chests heaving, gasped breathing the only sounds. Krycek slipped into post-coital sleep while Skinner fought to stay awake long enough to free Krycek's wrist, to clean them both. He left the curtains open but turned off the lights, then got into bed. He pushed and pulled Krycek until they were both in a dry part of the bed, Krycek in his arms, and then Skinner, self-satisfied grin plastered on his face, permitted himself to doze off.

The room was still dark when a small noise woke him. Krycek was dressed, by the door.

"Alex?"

Krycek froze.

"When you're done whatever it is you feel you have to do, you come back. If you need help, you call. You have the number for my secure line at work and you know the number here. I'd like it if you contacted me on a regular basis, just to let me know how you are, but I also know that might be asking too much. I do insist, however," here his voice slipped into the stern A.D., "that if you are hurt in any way, you get a message to me. I will go get you, no matter where you are on this planet. I want your word on all that, Alex."

Krycek had been standing very still during all this. Now he looked over his shoulder. "Skinner..."

"Your word, Alex. And your word that you will not take stupid chances. We want you back, Alex. Davy and I. In as close to one piece as is possible. Is that understood?"

Skinner watched as Alex Krycek rested his forehead against the bedroom door.

"Skinner..." Painfully whispered.

"Your word, Alex. I'm waiting."

There was no motion for a long minute then a small nod.

"Sorry, Alex. I need to hear the words. I need something that'll tell me you'll make every effort to come back."

There was a choked off laugh from the door. "God, you're crazy!"

"Not the words I wanted to hear, but they will do." Skinner's voice dropped in tone. "Go do what you have to do, Alex, then come back. We'll be waiting for you."

The door opened and closed. Skinner stared at it until the sky at the uncurtained window lightened.


Skinner closed the door behind him and looked around his once pristine apartment.

Several months ago, his cleaning service would barely have found anything different since their previous visit. Today...

He sighed.

His and Davy's bikes were leaning against the wall where once there had stood a small, delicate looking table, a leftover from his marriage. There were legos on the coffee table along with several kids' magazines and a nerf baseball. A small sweater had been thrown onto the couch. The dining room table was filled with a half-finished jigsaw puzzle and their latest mechano project—Davy's version of an Enterprise-type vessel. There was a small running shoe peering out from under Skinner's favourite chair. Probably the one Davy had not been able to find this morning.

Skinner looked around and wondered what had happened to his once well-organized, uncluttered life.

"Papa!"

He grinned, crouching, arms open to catch the body hurling itself onto him.

The past three months hadn't been all that easy. He was the first to acknowledge that both he and Krycek hadn't seriously considered all the ramifications of their decision about Davy.

There were problems of supervision—after all, Skinner still had to go in to work every day—and education—Davy had never had any official schooling. Which had brought up the problem of documentation. Legally, Davy did not exist. And also legally, Skinner had no rights to him. Then there was the additional problem of keeping Davy's existence secret until all this had been cleared up. Skinner didn't want to wake one morning to find Children's Services at his door, demanding Davy.

The people who had surprising come to his rescue were the Lone Gunmen.

That first day after Krycek had left, Davy had been fairly accepting. Skinner had decided to take him out of the apartment, to show him the town.

Davy sat in the car, eyes wide open, head swiveling every which way at the novelty, trying to take it all in. Skinner wondered if it were too much for the boy. He wouldn't remember much of what he was seeing. So, with a flash of inspiration, he headed for the National Zoological Park It was a Thursday and the Park wasn't filled with tourists. And it was a different perspective for Skinner, seeing the animals from Davy's eyes, animals that the boy had seen only in television programs.

They got home late, late enough that all Davy had the energy to do was eat some supper then fall asleep. With a smile, Skinner undressed the boy and tucked him into bed.

He complimented himself on his handling of the situation.

It was a different matter the next morning.

Davy didn't come down at his usual time. Skinner assumed that the boy was still tuckered out from the previous day. Eventually, he decided to check up on the boy.

The bed was empty.

Fighting the urge to panic, Skinner looked around the room, finding the boy curled up tightly into a ball in a corner.

"Davy?" He crouched in front of the boy.

The boy untucked his head from his knees and looked up at Skinner, eyes terrifyingly blank.

"Davy?" Skinner forced his voice into calm tones. "What's the matter, Davy?"

The boy swallowed and, visibly bracing himself, spoke in such a soft voice that Skinner had to bend forward to hear it. "Alex is gone."

Careful not to startle the boy, Skinner placed his hand on the boy's knees. "Yes, Davy, he is."

"Are you going to give me back to them now?"

"No! Davy, never!" Skinner took his time, gently drawing the boy into his arms, and once there, holding on to him as tightly as he thought the child could bear. "No way. You're mine and I don't intend allowing 'them' anywhere near you." He rested his cheek onto the boy's head. "Alex left you with me because he knew I'd take care of you. That I would never ever allow anyone to hurt you. That I will keep you safe."

Then he stood, carried the child over to his bed and sat on it, still holding the boy tightly, crooning to him and hoping that he could carry out the promises he was making, suddenly wondering if there were any of those Consortium technicians still around so that he could kill them.

By day's end, Skinner knew that the smooth sailing of the previous day had been an illusion. Davy was terrified to let him out of his sight. And Skinner had realized that there was a limit to the amount of time he could take off from work, that he needed someone to look after the boy while he was at work. That there was the additional problem of security for the boy.

Friday night, Davy started the night in his bed, woke screaming and spent the rest of the night tightly clutching Skinner in Skinner's bed. It took hours for the boy to calm down enough to sleep, even more hours until Skinner joined him. Though he barely admitted to himself, he found he was as terrified of the future as was the boy.

Saturday, Davy was a little less clingy, though back to the quiet child of those first days. He sat colouring at the table, eyes nervously following Skinner as he moved through the apartment.

Skinner was almost relieved when the doorbell rang. Expecting someone from the building, he opened the door to find the Lone Gunmen who didn't bother waiting for an invitation to enter.

Skinner watched open-mouthed as Langly ignored him for Davy. "Hey, dude, watcha up to?"

Byers nodded politely. "Assistant Director," he said then walked into the living room, taking a stance by the windows, obviously waiting for Skinner to close the door.

"You went out two days ago," accused Frohike. "Now we have to check the place again. You gotta let us know when you do these things, man."

"How..." Skinner knew he had to look as befuddled as he felt.

"Perhaps you should close the door, Assistant Director?" Byers gestured toward the item in question as though speaking to someone who had lost whatever sense he had.

Skinner looked at the door and slowly closed it. He took a deep breath and turned to confront the three men who had invaded his apartment.

Frohike had already begun checking the living room for any devices. Langly was engaging Davy in a discussion about how colouring within the lines was a conspiracy invented by colouring book companies to try and control individual creativity. That, to counter this, people should colour everything outside the lines. What did Davy think?

Davy was staring up at him, uncertain. He moved his eyes to Skinner who smiled encouragingly at him. These people were nuts, but not dangerous. He hoped.

Byers pointed to the hallway. "Check out the office first, Frohike. The Assistant Director and I need a safe place to discuss the situation."

With a scowl and a muttered, "Like I need someone to tell me my business," Frohike disappeared into Skinner's home office. While he did so, Byers turned and looked out of the window as though the view were absolutely fascinating. Langly continued his discussion with Davy, finally getting the boy to admit that he had never thought that colouring within lines was so hot.

"All clear." Frohike headed into the kitchen, opening the fridge door and helping himself to a can of cola before he continued checking out the rest of the apartment. "Cola isn't good for a kid," he told Skinner as he passed by him. "Too much caffeine." He opened the can and chugged down a good portion of it.

Byers stopped by the table. "Davy, do you think you can keep Ringo here occupied and out of trouble for a little while? I need to talk privately with Assistant Director Skinner and I don't want Ringo getting into things he shouldn't."

"Hey!" protested Langly.

Byers waited until Davy, taken by the idea of his looking after an adult, checked with Skinner before slowly nodding. "Excellent. I know I won't have to worry about him while I'm in Mr. Skinner's office. Thank you." He turned to Skinner. "Shall we?"

Once in Skinner's office, Byers opened the briefcase he had been carrying. He handed Skinner a thick manilla envelope. "I think it would be best if you began by looking at those." Then he sat in the armchair while Skinner took the envelope to his side of the desk and sat down.

He read the first document, looked up to find Byers watching him with an expression of studied innocence. He quickly scanned the rest of the documentation, knowing that his jaw was probably hitting the top of his desk as he did so.

Five minutes later, Skinner was shaking his head. "How the hell..."

"Krycek. He didn't give us much time, but these should pass muster."

These were a series of documents—all official looking—that indicated that Daveed Krycek was the natural born son of one Walter Sergei Skinner. There were the results of blood tests, DNA tests, all attesting to that fact. There was a death certificate for one Daschenka Ivanova Krycek, mother of said child, who had died in a car accident. There was a doctor's assessment on Daveed Krycek's memory loss due to the trauma of the accident. There were social workers' reviews, testaments to his character from people who actually knew him, Fischer among them. There were adoption papers indicating that Daveed Krycek was now a Skinner.

Skinner was overwhelmed. "When did Krycek ask you to do all this?"

"He called us Wednesday morning. Explained that he was leaving Davy with you and that you needed papers to prove he was yours. I apologize for the very little that we could pull together but he really didn't give us much time. He indicated that you really needed this something like this as soon as possible if you were to keep the boy safe."

Skinner stared at the papers in his hands. All official. All superb forgeries. How could he accept them? How could he not? He looked at the man watching him, who seemed to understand what was going through his mind.

"It's for the boy," Byers said.

Skinner nodded. "Thank you." He slipped all the papers back into the envelope. "I take it that any investigation will find these to be authentic?"

Byers raised a haughty eyebrow. "Of course."

"Of course." Skinner found he was nodding again. "How much do I owe you?"

Byers waved off his offer of payment. "Krycek took care of that, too." Then he reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. "There's more," he offered. "Krycek didn't think of this, but we did. You have to work and you really can't leave the boy by himself, unattended. Not until we know for certain that the Consortium is no longer interested in him."

The envelope contained a security background check on a woman who, it turned out, lived three floors below. The accompanying photograph showed a woman in her sixties, holding a Pekinese in her arms, on the way out through the building's front door. She was short, plump and looked... The only word that came to Skinner's mind was alive.

"Elisavetta Desbordes-Valmore. She once danced with some minor ballet company in Kiev. Thirty-five years ago, she ran off with a Frenchman while they were touring in France. They have four children, all grown; one living here in the States, one in Canada and the last two in France. They're all teachers of some kind. That's what their father did. He was teaching some course on European economics here at Georgetown when he had a heart attack. She decided to stay until her youngest finished her courses at the University and now that the kid has accepted a fellowship, she's decided to stick around until that's over.

"She's been doing some private tutoring all along, mainly French and Russian, so she's around most days, evenings too. Davy," Byers stood up, "will be safe with her when you're at work. You just need to mention to your 'concierge' downstairs that you need someone to keep an eye on a kid and he'll recommend her."

Skinner ignored the fact that this man seemed to know more about his building than he did. "Why would she be willing to do this?"

"She's also worked with disadvantaged kids, but she was attacked three months ago and she stopped going to help out. She misses the kids, but the experience frightened her and her family too much for her to continue. Which is a pity. I understand that she was very good with the kids. By the way, her kids will probably want some references from you just to check you out. Use Fischer. He knows people who worked with her."

Back in the living room, Davy was listening wide-eyed to an argument between Frohike and Langly about whether pizza or fries would be more appealing to aliens.

On their way out, Byers stopped. "If you ever need someone to look after the kid, remember we're available. Last minute meetings and all that. He knows us and I think he also knows that he'll be safe with us."

"Right on," Langly, very serious, nodded.

"We'll be dropping by, on an irregular schedule, to check out the place for you anyway," said Frohike. "And the kid needs a computer of his own. We'll put one together for him and bring it over next time."

Stunned yet again, Skinner could only look at Davy and nod. "Okay," he said.


Elisavetta Desbordes-Valmore, better known as Madame to her students, was more than pleased to agree to look after a small boy who had lost his mother and his memory in such horrible circumstances. After a week, she requested a meeting with Skinner one evening when he came to pick Davy up.

"I love the child already," she told him. "He is intelligent, curious, interested. But his previous life style"—Skinner had invented a nomadic existence with a mother who had believed that the '60's had been such a free time to explain Davy's lack of schooling—"has not prepared him to fit into a class with other children his age. May I suggest that you hire a tutor who could work with Daveed in your apartment office for a number of hours during the day."

So, on Madame's recommendation, and with the approval of the Gunmen, Molly Henderson, doctoral student in Educational Psychology, was engaged to work in several hours a day around her courses, tutoring Davy in the school curriculum so that, come September, he would be able to attend regular classes.

The settled schedule of Madame in the morning until Molly arrived, and then Madame again until Skinner got home seemed to give Davy a sense of security. Madame insisted that he speak to her mornings in Russian so that he wouldn't lose that language and afternoons in the French she was teaching him. "In today's world, one cannot speak too many languages," Madame informed Skinner when he wondered if an eight year old boy could handle that. "Besides, Daveed has a natural ability for languages."

When Skinner thought about it, he remembered that was also a Krycek skill.

Molly was impressed with Davy's rate of learning. "He doesn't forget much, does he? And he catches on quickly. His math skills are excellent once he understands the concept. He shouldn't have any problems handling school. He really is quite intelligent."

Skinner smiled. One thing no one had ever been able to call Krycek was stupid.

Kim was the one who came up with a solution to another problem. By now, she knew about Davy and his "relationship" to Skinner, though she had been sworn to secrecy about his existence.

"It's all fine and good that he's being cared for and he's being taught all sorts of things, but he needs to play with other children."

So, Saturdays, Skinner either dropped Davy off at the Cooks or picked up Kim's two sons, Tommy, aged 10, and Jamie, aged 7, and took all three boys to the zoo, or the movies, or a sports activity so that Davy would learn how to behave around people his age, not just adults. After a couple of months, Kim wondered if Davy would like to spend the night. Her sons were camping out in the back yard and she assured Skinner that her husband would be sleeping in the tent with the boys.

The night out was a success, though Kim and her husband indicated that sometime in the morning, Davy had grown very quiet.

"Is there anything wrong, Davy?" Skinner waited until they were on the way home to ask. He too noticed that Davy was more than usually quiet.

Davy shrugged, not looking at him.

"Davy? You know that you can talk to me about anything."

Davy nodded, suddenly focused on the toes of his running shoes.

Skinner said nothing, just waited. They were almost home when Davy spoke in that soft voice he used whenever he was unsure. "They call Mr. Cook Daddy. And Mr. Cook calls you my father."

Skinner found that he couldn't take his eyes away from the road in front of him. "Yes. They call him Daddy because that's one name children use for their fathers. And he calls me your father because the papers Alex and the Gunmen arranged for us say that I am." He hadn't lied to the child when he had explained that he had a new name and that it was to keep him safe.

"Is that why I call you Walter?"

Skinner swallowed hard. "No. That's what you called me when I found you, remember. If you'd like," Skinner was finding that a heaviness was beginning to develop in his stomach, "you could call me Daddy. Or Dad. I called my own father Papa when I was your age."

"Papa?" Davy looked sideways at Skinner who also meet his look sideways.

"Yes, Davy."

"Papa." Davy rolled the word around his mouth as though tasting it.

"Yes, Davy."

"Can we have pizza for supper, Papa?"

The heaviness in Skinner's gut evaporated though the road got a little blurry. "Yes, son, we can have pizza for supper."


About the time Davy had begun settling in, the first package of information had appeared in Skinner's computer at work.

It wasn't much. Just some names and bank account numbers, but the names should not have been associated with those particular bank.

The source was anonymous and when the FBI's IT whiz kids tried to trace it down, they got lost in a maze of relays.

Skinner had no difficulty in placing a name to the source though he said nothing.

Over the next weeks, more and more information began showing up, not just in Skinner's computer, but in Doggett's, and Reyes's. Information that was as hard to ignore as it was in some cases to accept. And the sender was proving particularly intelligent about whom he was sending sensitive data to. The FBI found that they often received data about other government agencies just as other agencies received data concerning the FBI. Considering the cut-throat competition between agencies for media coverage, budget funding, etc., it was a good move. There was very little temptation to cover up something that concerned people you felt were out to get you.

Gradually, information in other forms began appearing. Packages arrived from different places around the world, containing disks, CDs, documentation. The FBI set up a new team just to deal with the situation. Skinner turned down the chance to lead it. "I'm getting too old for week- long all-nighters," he told the Director. "Besides, I'm not hungry enough to lead such an investigation. I don't mind advising but give it to one of those young sharks."

One package arrived with an envelope addressed to him, personally. He slid the CD into its drive and looked at the files listed in the Directory. "It's just some of the same information that we've already received," he told the agent who had brought it to his office. "It's probably addressed to me because my machine got that dump. I don't have any meetings booked for the rest of the day. I'll check it against the original and send you anything that's new."

Skinner checked his watch against the size of the CD. He reached for his secure phone line and punched in a number.

"Frohike, Skinner here. Could you pick up Davy from Madame's and stay with him until I get there? Yes, I'll contact her and tell her that you're coming. I'll tell her that she's to wait until Davy identifies you. No, I don't have any idea when I'm going to get in. Will that be a problem? Oh, his bedtime is eight thirty; don't let him talk you into later than nine. Thanks, Frohike. I owe you one."

Skinner removed his jacket and rolled up his shirt sleeves. He loosened his tie and undid the top button of his shirt. He picked up the phone. "Kim. I'm not available to anyone for the rest of the day. In fact, I would appreciate not being disturbed for any reason. Why don't you leave early today. No, everything's fine. Yes, I'll see you tomorrow."

Skinner sat, staring at the monitor on his desk. He closed his eyes, took an deep breath. He released it slowly and then opened his eyes. Fighting off the feeling that he was lifting the lid of a Pandora's box, he opened the first file of what had to be Consortium information on one Alex Krycek.

He managed to read three files before he rushed to the bathroom off his office to vomit. After the second time, there was nothing left in his stomach to eliminate. Still, now and then, he went in, waiting for the sensation that he needed to vomit to pass.

He had never really approved of Krycek's having Davy's memories wiped. Now he did. Wholeheartedly. He only wished that it had been done more often to the boy who had grown up to with far too many memories of what had been done to him, what he had had to do.

The details were made far more obscene by the objectivity of the reports that described first the boy's, then the adolescent's testing and training. By the time Krycek had been given to Peskow to polish off his talents as a assassin, there had been very little left of the boy who was now Davy.

Whoever had put this document together had not spared the information on Krycek's career as an assassin for the Consortium. On his infiltration into the FBI and all that was associated with that stay. On the Consortium's inclining that maybe their training was not holding. There were at least three termination orders included in the files, but in two of the cases, Krycek had eliminated those sent after him. The third had been cancelled on the orders of someone with some power within the organization who was adding him to his team.

There were reports on Krycek's stay in Hong Kong, on his being left in the silo, Tunguska and the loss of his arm, his killing of Orgel and the Tunisians. A couple of reports included suspicions of possible links with the Rebels. There was a very short one indicating that he had been incarcerated, at Spender's request, in a Tunisian prison in the middle of a dessert.

The information stopped suddenly with his release from that hell-hole.

Skinner stared at the screen long after he had closed the final file.

He had enough documented information that he could easily present a case which would put Krycek away for the rest of his life.

He hit the eject button.

Holding the CD in his hand, he opened his top drawer and pulled out a small Swiss Army knife. Mind consciously blank, he used one of the blades to gouge closely placed lines first on one side of the CD, then on the other.

He put away the knife, slipped on his jacket and shoved the mutilated CD into a pocket. He turned off his computer, the lights to his office and made his way down to the garage and his car.

He took the long way home.

It was almost two o'clock in the morning when he let himself into his apartment. Byers and Langly were dozing at either end of the couch. Frohike came out of the kitchen, gun in hand. He and Skinner stared at each other for a moment. "You look like hell," Frohike growled.

"Yeah, I'm sure."

Their voices woke the other men. Byers stood up, stretched and then nudged Langly.

"Davy is sound asleep," continued Frohike. "I checked up on him a half hour ago."

"Thanks. I really appreciate this."

"No problem," said Byers. "We enjoyed ourselves. He's a nice kid."

"Yeah," agreed Langly. "Even if he is Krycek."

Byers was the last to leave. As he got to the door, Skinner called him back. He put his hand into his jacket pocket and pulled out the CD. "This needs to be properly disposed."

Byers took the mangled CD. He said nothing, merely nodded and left.

On the way up to bed, Skinner opened the door to Davy's room.

The child was sleeping on his stomach, arms and legs spread out as though claiming his space. Skinner pulled the sheet up a little higher.

"Papa?" The voice was sleep laden.

"Yes, Davy."

"I beat Ringo at Stratego."

Skinner smiled and sat by the boy. He bent and placed a kiss on the boy's head. "Congratulations."

He slipped his shoes off, joined Davy on the bed and spent the rest of the night watching the child sleep.


Skinner was finishing up some work in his office when the intercom buzzer sounded. He glanced at his watch. Nearly midnight. He grinned, wondering if the Gunmen had finally decided to warn him they were visiting the way most people did. He'd gotten use to their showing up to check out the apartment at odd times. This was later than the norm, but he'd learnt that the norm didn't have much meaning where they were concerned.

"Yes?"

"It's me. Krycek. May I come up?"

"Jesus! Alex! Yes, of course. You need help?"

"No. I... I'll see you in...."

"Get up here."

Skinner hit the release for the lobby doors and opened the door to the apartment, sticking his head out to watch for the elevator.

Seven months. Krycek's voice had sounded...tired. Was he hurt?

He should have foreseen this. The information dumps had been trickling down to nothing these last few weeks.

Not that the response to them had done anything other than increase. Shit was flying everywhere. People were resigning, disappearing. Bank accounts were being frozen, auditors working overtime. Like Capone, many of the untouchables who were protected by connections and status were being taken down through their finances. The IRS was on a hiring spree.

The elevator door opened and Krycek stepped out. He stood waiting until the doors closed behind him before he started walking down the hallway, face completely expressionless.

He's too fucking thin, thought Skinner, watching the man slowly approaching. He's limping. He's aged.

Krycek still hadn't said anything when he stopped in front of Skinner and the open door. He waited, as though expecting Skinner to say something. Instead Skinner grabbed him by the arm, pulled him into the apartment and shut the door. "Jesus, Alex, what the fuck have you been doing to yourself?"

Before Krycek could answer, Skinner pulled him into a tight hug and held onto him.

At first, Krycek was stiff. Then he sighed and, all of a sudden, it was as though his bones melted. He leaned heavily into Skinner, his right arm holding on as tightly as Skinner was to him.

They stayed that way, Skinner silently welcoming and offering support, for long minutes. Finally Skinner muttered, "'Bout bloody time you came home."

Krycek made a choked sound and began pulling back. "Wasn't sure that you'd want me to show up here."

Skinner raised a hand to stroke the side of Krycek's face. He understood that Krycek was referring to a certain CD. "Don't be an ass. I told you to come home when you were done. Nothing's changed that."

"You sure?" Krycek's voice was hesitant. His eyes were searching Skinner's face for any hint that the words were just that, words.

Skinner nodded and pulled Krycek into another hug. "You're limping."

"Not important," whispered Krycek from Skinner's shoulder.

"You're too thin. Have you been eating at all?"

This time there was a laugh. Not a big one, but something that definitely indicated humour. "I'm fine, Skinner."

Skinner's response to that was to grab a handful of hair and pull back so that he could check out Krycek's face. The skin was stretched taut over the bone structure but the eyes were alive. "I doubt that Fischer will agree with you. Remember, he said three meals a day and at least six hours of sleep. If you don't, I can promise you that he will."

Krycek grinned. "Yeah, but that was if I continued to get shot. I didn't get shot. I got hit by shrapnel."

Skinner grinned back. "I don't think that excuse is going to carry much weight. You hungry?"

Still in the warmth of Skinner's arms, Krycek shook his head. "No. I ate on the plane."

Skinner's eyebrow quirked at that, but he didn't comment. "You got any stuff, any luggage anywhere?"

Another shake of the head. "I'm travelling even lighter these days than I used to."

Holding on to Krycek's arm, Skinner reached over to reset the security system. He turned off the light and, with a smile, started up the stairs. "You'll want to look in on Davy." He went slowly, not certain how much weight Krycek could put on that leg.

Krycek stopped at the first landing. "Did the Gunmen..."

Skinner looked back. "Did they ever! By the time they were through, Daveed Krycek Skinner had more documentation proving he was my son than he would have had if he had truly been my son."

"You kept the Krycek? Was that a good idea?"

Skinner had caught the surprise in Krycek's eyes at Davy's full name. "He's yours too, Alex."

Skinner quietly opened the door to Davy's room. By the soft light of the night lamp, it was easy to see that Davy had pushed the covers partially off while in his usual possession of the bed. Skinner often thought that the boy was unconsciously putting a claim on all the space he would eventually fill.

Krycek hesitantly made his way to the side of the bed. For several minutes all he did was look, then he lifted the bedclothes and covered the boy.

Back in the hallway, Krycek spoke softly. "He's grown."

Skinner grinned. "He eats three meals a day." He opened the door to his bedroom and waited until Krycek made his way inside. "You want a shower?"

Krycek shook his head again.

Skinner nodded. "Okay." Then he stepped up to Krycek and began undressing him. Krycek raised his hand, whether to help or to try and stop him, Skinner couldn't tell. The hand dropped and Krycek allowed Skinner to strip him down to his shorts and t-shirt. Apart from lifting his feet, the only thing Krycek did was remove his prosthesis. Skinner took it from him and placed on the bureau top that had been its resting place when Krycek had last been here.

As Krycek got into the bed, Skinner also quickly stripped down to his skivvies and joined him. He pulled the once more tensed man into his arms, made sure the covers were tucked in around both of them and, with a loud sigh, he rested his chin on Krycek's head. "Go to sleep, Alex.."

"You sure that's what you want me to do?"

Skinner knew from Krycek's tone that this wasn't what he had been expecting. He smiled. "I just want to hold you. Besides, I don't want you falling asleep in the middle of anything we're both too tired to see through."

There was no response from Krycek, though he gradually relaxed against Skinner.

"Welcome home, Alex," Skinner murmured into Krycek's hair.

Again no verbal response. Krycek merely sighed, and then he actually snuggled a little closer to Skinner.


"Papa. You didn't wake me. I'm going to be late for school."

Skinner looked up from his coffee and newspaper to see Davy, in his pyjamas, standing in the entrance of the kitchen, sleepily rubbing his eyes.

"There's a reason for that." Skinner folded the sports section and tossed it onto the table. "You're not going to school today."

Since September, Davy had been attending a school that was favoured by diplomatic families. Its academic standing was almost as high as its security clearance. Davy was still finding his way around after two months, not certain that he liked having that many people around him all that time. The fact that, for some unknown reason, he was being given the day off was an immediate success. Skinner found himself with an armful of Davy.

"So what are we going to do today instead?" He fingered the collar of Skinner's sweat shirt, understanding that for some reason Skinner was also taking the day off work.

Skinner grinned, hugged Davy tightly, got one back in return. "I have a surprise for you."

He stood up, refilled his coffee, poured a second cup and filled a glass with juice. He put all three on a tray. "Come on."

At the door to his bedroom, he gestured to Davy. "You'd better knock on the door first. Okay, now do it again, harder. Good. Now, open the door."

Krycek had heard the knocking and was sitting up in bed, trying hard to wake up. What the knocking hadn't accomplished the screamed "ALEX!" did.

He barely had time to brace himself when he was hit by a small torpedo.

Skinner placed the tray on the chair by the door, went to draw the curtains, allowing Krycek and Davy some privacy. He looked outside, finding he was grinning stupidly at some stupid pigeon flying by as he could hear Davy and Krycek murmuring to each other in Russian. At Madame's insistence—she had been shocked that he had not kept at least that facet of his maternal grandparents' Russian legacy—he was being tutored in the rudiments of the language. He knew that if he wanted to, if he listened in, he could probably understand what they were saying to each other. But he didn't. Last night, he and Krycek had had some time to reconnect. This time was Davy's.

When their voices quieted, Skinner went into the bathroom and came out with a damp face cloth. Krycek had his face buried in Davy's hair while Davy's was hidden against his throat. Skinner sat next to them, waiting patiently until first Krycek then Davy raised his head.

"Papa," Davy's voice was heavy with tears, "Alex is back."

Skinner noticed that Krycek reacted to Davy's calling him Papa. He smiled at the boy, offered him the cloth to wipe his face. "Really?" He exaggerated his disbelief to the boy's giggle. "I was wondering what this lump in the bed was this morning."

Giving Krycek a bit more time to collect himself, Skinner went to get the tray. With a grin at the look of appreciation that flashed across Krycek's face as he handed him the coffee, Skinner settled with the tray at the foot of the bed.

As Davy took a sip of his juice, he suddenly frowned.

"What's wrong, Davy?"

Davy looked from his glass to Alex, back to his glass and then, when Skinner asked again, "Davy?" at Skinner. "Is Alex staying?"

"I think," said Skinner, "that's something you need to ask Alex."

Davy faced Alex. "Are you?"

Krycek wriggled, uncomfortable. He peered at Skinner over the rim of the coffee cup he was holding to his mouth as though expecting Skinner to answer for him. Skinner only smiled back at him, obviously waiting to hear his answer as well. He took a deep breath, raised his chin. "If it's all right?"

Skinner looked very seriously at Davy. "Well, it's all right with me. Is it all right with you, Davy?"

Davy's grin put the sun to shame. "And you won't go away again?"

Krycek shrugged, not knowing how to answer that.

Skinner answered for him. "No. He's here to stay. Even if I have to cuff him to the bed, he's staying with us."

Davy laughed. "Cuff him to the bed!" he whooped.

Krycek looked up at Skinner from under his eyelashes. Skin slightly flushed, he looked shy, though there was agreement in his voice when he muttered, "Promises, promises."

Skinner's laughter joined Davy's happiness.


They were sprawled in the living room, Skinner at one end of the couch, Alex at the other, with Davy moving back and forth between them. They'd all eaten a hardy breakfast. Well, Krycek had insisted that it had been a hardy one for him. Skinner had decided to put in a call to Fischer once everyone had settled down. Just to be sure that there was nothing seriously wrong with Krycek. And he wanted that leg looked at.

"So, Davy, why don't you tell Alex our news?"

Barely able to contain his happiness, Davy bounced on the couch. "Alex! I'm going to get a dog!'

Skinner grinned to himself. Leave it to Davy to prioritize the important stuff, he thought, watching Krycek's face.

"That's great, Davy. What kind of dog are you getting?"

Davy sat cross-legged and turned very serious. This was something that had occupied a lot of his thoughts lately. "Well, not a Boris."

Skinner answered Krycek's unasked question. "Madame's peke."

Krycek nodded, having been told in no little detail by Davy of his life since Krycek had left.

"Not that it's a bad dog," Davy hurried to clarify, "it's just not a real dog. Papa says that it's an okay dog for an apartment. But it's not the kind of dog I want. I want a big dog. Not a toy."

Skinner held back his laughter as Krycek nodded along with Davy who nodded at every point he was making.

"Papa says a big dog needs a yard to run in, not sidewalks. So that's why we're moving."

Krycek grew very still. He looked over to the man who was watching his reaction. "Moving?"

Skinner winced at the blandness of the tone. Krycek was in for a few surprises and he wondered if the man was in the right frame of mind for all of them. "Yes, we are. To Middlebury, Vermont." He waited for that to sink in before he added, "This weekend."

Krycek grew even more still, his eyes blanked out.

"Davy, why don't you explain to Alex the plan the Gunmen put together so that Alex would know where we were."

"The plan?"

Skinner noticed that Krycek's eyes regained some life. "Yes. There was no way that we would leave without assurances that you would know how to find us. In fact," Skinner moved off the couch and went to the telephone. He punched in a series of numbers and, from the answering machine speaker, Krycek and Davy could hear, "Skinner. Byers here. Alex Krycek landed at Washington National at 10:56, on a flight from Sydney, Australia that stopped over for refueling and customs at Hilo, Hawaii. He got into a cab at 11:12 which left him off at your condo at 11:31. Let us know if we're to keep surveillance on him, will you? Say hello to Davy."

Krycek was stunned. "The Gunmen?"

Skinner took back his place on the couch. "I have no idea how they do it. I'm just glad that they're on our side. They promised us, when this idea of moving came up, that they would let you know where we were, so that we wouldn't worry about your finding us."

Davy had caught the sudden tension in the room when he'd mentioned their moving. "They keep their promises, Alex," he told Krycek sincerely.

Krycek nodded though Skinner wondered just how he really felt about all this.

"Davy, why don't you go get the pictures and plans of the house so that Alex can see for himself where we're off to?"

Krycek waited until Davy disappeared up the stairs. "This weekend?"

Skinner nodded.

"What about your work?"

"Ah. Well," Skinner stretched out his legs, crossed one ankle on top of the other, "By Friday, you will be looking at a retired Assistant Director."

"Retired? Why?"

Skinner shook his head. "Alex. Other than the fact it's time, I have to admit that a lot of the data you dropped on us has made a first class cynic out of me. I knew that things aren't perfect in this world. Certainly not in this town. But some of the information... Well, enough is enough. I turned down the opportunity to head the Bureau's investigation into all this and... Hell, Alex, I'm fifty years old. I don't want to spend the rest of my life tied to a desk "

Davy came running down the stairs with a file. "See, Alex. This is the house we bought."

Krycek looked at the official real estate photo of a large, two-storey wooden house with a full veranda, painted white with slate trim. There were a couple of large trees in front.

"These we took when we went to see it." Davy started dropping photo after photo of the front, sides and back of the house, several of the back yard—huge in Krycek's estimation—taken from different angles.

Skinner waited until Davy paused for breath. "There are five large rooms upstairs. Davy's put dibs on the front one for his bedroom. I thought the back one would do for us. Then there's an office for you and one for me as well as a spare bedroom for visitors. The downstairs has a huge kitchen, a living room..."

"The woman called it a parlour," Davy informed Krycek.

"...with a fireplace. A dining room next to it. On the other side, there's another room that the last owners used as their den and one that looks like a TV room. By themselves, they're too small to be of much use, but I thought if we pulled down the wall between them, it would make a good-sized family/entertainment room."

"There's a fireplace in your bedroom, too," added Davy. "The woman said that it was perfect for those romantic... Papa, what did she call them?"

"Interludes." Skinner smiled, keeping watch on Krycek's face.

"Yeah, interludes. She said that she was certain that any woman would appreciate that feature. Then Papa said that he was certain his man would, too."

Krycek cocked an eyebrow in Skinner's direction. "And what was her reaction to that little bit of information?"

"She smiled and said that we would find the village welcoming. It's a college town. Liberal Arts. We won't be the only male couple there."

Skinner sent Davy down to Madame's, to invite her to meet Alex. Once the boy had left, he tossed a manilla envelope onto Krycek's lap.

"What is this?"

Skinner grinned. "Open it up."

"I don't know if I can take another surprise."

"Alex. You weren't around. I had to make decisions about Davy and his life without you."

"But moving?"

Skinner sat back. "Alex. I was brought up in a small town, not a city. I want that for Davy as well. I want him to be able to get on his bike and not need me or you to accompany him when he heads to the park, to play baseball with his friends. I want him to be able to play street hockey. To have friends over on the spur of the moment, without it requiring us to play phone tag with the parents' voice mail. Where he doesn't have to worry about getting into a car being driven by a security service because he can walk home from school safely. And I want him in a school where he won't feel so different because his parents aren't diplomats."

"Parents?" Krycek's tone was brusque. " Davy doesn't have parents. He's a clone."

"He has parents. You and me. Read the file, Alex."

The Gunmen had produced another of their small masterpieces. Alexander Ivanovitch Krycek, twin brother to Daschenka Ivanova Krycek, the biological mother of Daveed Krycek Skinner, shared in the adoption of the aforementioned child. With the usual slew of documentation to back up Krycek's relationship to the boy and all the approvals necessary for his adoption—including the biological father's permission and approval—of his nephew.

"My nephew?"

"Well, that was the closest blood relationship we could come up with for you."

Krycek stared silently at the papers before clearing his throat. "Why?"

Skinner shrugged, trying to defuse the tension that suddenly overwhelmed the room. "If something should happen to me, you need legal rights to take care of Davy. This way, all that's taken care of before we have to deal with any situation."

"No, that's not what I mean. Why bother? You had to prepare this some time ago. It's not like you knew I'd be coming back."

"I knew that if you didn't, it would be because you were dead. I figured, in spite of everything, you'd managed to live this long and I simply assumed that you would continue living. As for the papers, well, face it. Davy may call me Papa, but he also needs you in his life."

The sound of the door opening put an end to the conversation. Skinner rose to greet Madame and smiled at Krycek. "We'll take this up later. Come meet Madame Desbordes-Valmore. You'll like her and I know she's dying to meet you."


Krycek lay back against the pillows on what now seemed to be his side the bed and watched Skinner go through his small nightly rituals. They hadn't changed at all from the nights he had spent sleeping celibately in this bed. It was something he had wondered about while he'd been gone: whether Skinner's rituals would have changed.

It was rather reassuring that some things in this world were constant.

He'd met Madame who had been, as Skinner had said, delighted to meet him. Seemed his "nephew" had told her what a brave and wonderful man he was. He'd expected to hear Skinner at least snicker at that, but instead, in halting Russian—yet another surprise in this day of surprises—Skinner had agreed, adding that it was a pity that Krycek's deeds could not be discussed because of secrecy. Because what he'd done had been nothing short of heroic.

Madame and Davy both had beamed proudly at him.

He'd been stunned speechless.

He'd dozed off on the couch after lunch, watching "Shrek" with Davy in his arms. When he'd awakened, Fischer had been glaring at him. The glare hadn't lessened when they'd moved upstairs, to this room, and Fischer's inspection of him. As Skinner had predicted, his point that being hit by shrapnel was not the same as being shot did not go over well.

Fischer had ended up giving him a vitamin shot in the hip—which still hurt, damn him!—as well as reading him a lecture about taking care of himself because there were people who needed him in one piece, healthy and well. And not just Davy.

Which was a close as Fischer came to acknowledging that Krycek was still in Skinner's bedroom.

When Krycek asked, Fischer was pleased to inform him that Davy was in fine health, was growing as he should for a child his age. He also took the opportunity to indicate that it had been time for Skinner to retire. That his blood pressure was a bit high. That his ulcer was kicking up too often for Fischer's peace of mind. And that he needed to keep watch on his cholesterol. And that—like other men he could mention—in his opinion, Skinner wasn't going to do all that unless someone held him to it. The glare accompanying those words had been pretty pointed.

He informed Krycek that he had already made contact with a family practice doctor in Middlebury whom he highly recommended. The fact that the man had once served under him had nothing to do with anything.

"Davy will be going to school tomorrow," Skinner removed his bathrobe, revealing that he was wearing t-shirt and shorts, and tossed it onto the chair. "He's only got two days left and he wants to say goodbye to some of the kids he's gotten friendly with. That'll give you the day to laze around, get some rest."

"Will I have a reason to need this rest?" Krycek kept his voice casually inquiring. That was something else that had not gone as he had expected.

Skinner grinned at him before turning off the night stand lamp. "You got your orders from Fischer and I got mine."

"Which were?" Krycek wasn't sure how he felt about Fischer discussing him with someone else.

"Which were that you were to get rid of the purple circles from around your eyes and put on five pounds before I jumped on your bones." Skinner propped up the pillows on his side of the bed and waited for Krycek's reaction.

Krycek lay back, staring at the ceiling. "He told me that he doesn't like your blood pressure readings, your ulcer and your cholesterol levels."

Skinner sighed loudly. "Nothing like having a doctor who pulls rank on you because he still thinks of you as a raw eighteen-year-old recruit."

"Seems the doctor in Middlebury used to serve under him." Krycek turned his head to watch Skinner make himself comfortable.

"Damn it! That means that at the slightest sign of anyone's illness, Fischer will be getting reports." Skinner didn't sound all that upset.

Krycek rolled to face Skinner. "Isn't that unethical?"

Skinner raised an eyebrow. "You want to try telling that to a Marine Corps Colonel, you go straight ahead."

Krycek rested the side of his face on his upraised arm. He remembered the glare and the lecture Fischer had read him. He sighed. Another thing that seemed to be out of his control.

"Skinner?"

"Hmmm." Skinner flipped his pillow around, seeking that comfortable spot.

"What am I doing here?"

Skinner turned to face the man who looked honestly confused. Now that he'd read that CD, he understood just how little experience Alex Krycek had with what most people would call a normal life. "What did you think you would be doing here?"

Krycek sighed. "Wondering if you were going to turn me in. Wondering if you'd turned Davy against me. Wondering what kind of sex you were going to want me to supply."

Skinner nodded. "You don't seem very comfortable with the fact that you've been welcomed home, Alex. I suppose, all things considered, you were more prepared for all those 'wonderings'. Sorry. Like I told Madame, what you did was heroic."

Krycek looked very uncomfortable.

"It was, Alex." Skinner reached over to touch the face of the man who was suddenly avoiding his gaze. "You put your life on the line, fighting a war that very few people even knew was going on. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that you and the Rebels had a lot to do with those mysterious explosions, the fires that destroyed certain facilities. Not to mention all that information which is making the IRS orgasmic."

Krycek still didn't meet his eyes.

"Alex?"

Krycek shrugged as best he could. "I don't remember any of it. Before they let me loose, the Rebels did a little number on my memories." He looked up. "Their wipe-out techniques are even more refined than the Consortium's were. I remember organizing hits with them, even getting to the locations, sometimes entering them. But what happened once we got in, what we saw, what we did... I know that I saw things that disgusted me. That repelled me. But that's all I remember."

Skinner let his hand caress the frustrated worry off Krycek's face. "I'm glad they did that for you. And if I ever run into them, I'll thank them. You don't need any new nightmares, Alex.."

"Yeah, well, they took care of those as well. I remember those things, but it's as though they're some movie I saw. I don't feel any connection to them."

"That's good, too." Then a thought hit him. "Alex, do you remember sending me a CD?"

Krycek nodded. "Yeah. I thought you should know what I am. That if you were...inviting me back because of Davy... I figured you should know..."

Skinner reached out and pulled what he now discovered was a completely naked Krycek into his arms. "Yeah, well. Just so you should know, the CD doesn't exist any more."

Krycek slowly settled into the position of the previous night, his head on Skinner's shoulder, arm around his waist.

"So," said Skinner, keeping his hands still, "did you come back just because of Davy?"

After a couple of tense heartbeats, Skinner heard the same soft tone that Davy used when he was unsure of Skinner's reaction. "No."

Skinner pushed. "Why else did you come back, Alex?"

This response was longer in coming. Even with Krycek in his arms, Skinner had to listen carefully to catch, "I liked it here."

Skinner rubbed his cheek on the top of the head on his chest.

"And," Krycek seemed to have found some courage. He raised his head. "I wanted to know why...that last night...why you did what you did to me."

"What did I do to you, Alex?"

Krycek rested his chin on Skinner's shoulder. "I don't know. I offered you a chance to punish me and what you did wasn't anything like any punishment I've ever had."

"Are you saying that you liked what I did to you?" And then had to hold back his surprise as he witnessed a suddenly bashful Krycek.

"Yeah," voice once more soft, yet not from a lack of confidence; more heavy, almost erotic.

Skinner found it hard to breathe. Eyes holding Skinner's, Krycek's hand slipped under the waistband of the shorts Skinner was wearing. When it found what it was looking for, Skinner inhaled sharply.

"I was wondering," continued Krycek, in the tone that went directly to Skinner's cock, "what it would be like if you repeated what you did to me, without the cuffs. Though," his voice roughened as his fingers explored what he held in his hand, "I wouldn't object to the cuffs again. I even wondered," Skinner gasped as Krycek's eyes took on a delightfully wicked gleam, "what it would be like if the cuffs were on you."

Skinner swallowed loudly and retaliated, letting his hands wander over the body that rested on his. "I think that could be arranged."

"Which part?" Krycek captured his lower lip with his upper teeth. Skinner grinned. Davy did the same thing when he was concentrating on something.

"All and any." Skinner let his own voice dip into the erotic. And smiled at the reaction against his thigh. He moved so that they were both resting on a side, face to face, hands free to explore, to raise heat and cocks.

With Krycek's help, Skinner got rid of shorts and t-shirt.

"You really are far too skinny," Skinner muttered as fingers slowly stroked over vertebrae and ribs.

"You going to fatten me up?" Krycek's hand slipped from cock to balls.

A gasp. "That. And see to it you get plenty of rest." Skinner's fingers teased along Krycek's crack, taunted his asshole, tormented the back of his balls. Krycek hissed, jerked his hips against Skinner's.

"Bed rest?" Krycek's grasp on Skinner's cock tightened, loosened, tightened again. This time Skinner was the one who jerked.

"Oh, yeah!" Skinner decided Krycek was talking too much. He used his free hand to pull Krycek's head to his, took his mouth and played his tongue in it as his hand played with Krycek's now erect cock.

There was no more talk. Just an unspoken resolution on both of their parts that the other was going to come first. Krycek won, by scant seconds. Skinner used his t-shirt to clean them and then wrapped his legs around Krycek's, keeping him close for the rest of the night.

He figured that suited Krycek just fine as the man made no effort to move away.


Part Two

If Skinner had had any hair to spare, he probably would be pulling it out!

Here they were—finally—in their new home and everything that could have gone wrong had.

And to think everything had begun so well.

He had retired last Friday with, at his request, minimum fanfare. Instead of the usual 'gold watch' cliche, he had been presented with a fly-fishing package that had taken his breath away. Top of the line graphite rod, Hardy reel. A creel that came with lines and flies for every possible occasion.

The Director had been very smug that this decision of his had met with such success.

Davy had finished off his last day at school with a hug for his teacher, a handshake from the director and a complete set of Tolkien from the class. Apart from a couple of the friendlier kids, he really was not unhappy to be leaving the school.

Kim's boys were a different story. There were tears there from all three boys among the promises of visits.

Krycek was quiet but he seemed to accept the fact that he had come home, as Skinner said, only to move. He'd disappeared on the Friday for a while and had returned with a few bags of new clothes which he stashed in a large gym bag for the trip to Vermont, and some books, CDs and videos he packed in a box which he then carefully labeled with his name.

Saturday, all started well. The movers arrived at the prescribed time. The truck was quickly filled. The things the three of them wanted to bring along were safely stashed in Skinner's new SUV, a forest green Davy proudly pointed out to Krycek that he had selected.

Both SUV and truck left on time.

And that was the last of their luck.

The truck was supposed to arrive around noon Sunday in Middlebury. Skinner had agreed to pay overtime to ensure that arrival. Unfortunately, the truck had a breakdown and didn't arrive until Monday afternoon.

Not that the late arrival did much to inconvenience the travellers. No, that honour went to a sudden blizzard that came out of nowhere, with snow falling faster than the road crews could handle and high winds causing drifts that blocked highways, stranding them in a small town only a few hours from their final destination. The small motel had been quickly filled up with other stranded travellers and the three ended up spending the night camped out on the floor in a corner of the local elementary school gym. Krycek didn't get much rest. That many people around him, the crying babies and children, the cranky adults made him too edgy to sleep. Davy and Skinner slept only fitfully.

It was the middle of the next morning before they could safely get back on road. Apart from the coffee, juice and toast provided, they'd not taken the time to eat more so that by the time they got to Middlebury, Davy was cranky with hunger and fatigue, Krycek was stolidly silent and Skinner was wondering just what the hell else could go wrong.

The Real Estate office was closed.

The agent he had been dealing with had expected them the previous day and had now left for a family gathering. By the time Skinner managed to track down another agent, who went into the office to get the keys to the house, he had also gotten the message from the moving company about the truck's delay.

The pathway to the house and the driveway which had been cleared prior to the storm were now packed tight with drifted snow. By the time Skinner and the agent got to the front door, they had had to force their way through some hip-deep drifts.

The good news about the house was that the utilities were on. They had light and heat. Of course, they had no beds, no blankets, nothing to eat on or with. Not that there was any food in the house.

The agent was very accommodating. Through his efforts, the local Inn was more than pleased to take them, if they were all three willing to share a small room with a double bed. They could find a cot for the child, but that was the best they could do as they too were still filled from the storm.

At least, thought Skinner, supper had been delicious. Not that it made up for the day, but it was the first really good event of the day and he wasn't going to be too particular. The room had a television and Davy settled down on his cot to watch a Disney movie while Skinner and Krycek tried to get comfortable on the bed that, for the two of them, was just that much too small right now. Krycek slept almost on the edge of his side of the bed while Skinner spent the night very aware of the presence of a child in the room with them.

Breakfast had also been excellent. The coffee was top quality and Skinner found he was in a better frame of mind. At first, it was hard to tell how Krycek was other than silent. However, by the end of the meal, Davy had picked up Krycek's mood and was looking from one adult to the other as though expecting an explosion of some kind.

Their first stop was at the local hardware store where Skinner picked up three shovels and a extra large thermos. The Inn was more than pleased to fill it up with coffee and to provide them with sandwiches and drinks for lunch. Skinner reserved the room for another night, just in case. The Inn, having heard from the agent about their trials, informed Skinner that if he cancelled the room before 5 p.m., there would be no charge.

So they had cleared the way to their new house, an activity that seemed to defuse some of the tension they were all carrying. Krycek and Davy had emptied the SUV while Skinner had finished shoveling snow away from the door of the double garage that stood to the left of the house, then Davy and Skinner had given Krycek the grand tour of the house.

Davy's bedroom was huge, the complete front width of the house. There was a large bathroom and what Skinner called his office to the left of the stairwell, the spare bedroom and what was to be Krycek's office to the right. Their bedroom, the one with the fireplace, had its own bathroom complete with tub and shower which made it smaller than Davy's room even though it too was the width of the house.

All three of them stared out at the view of the whitened back yard with its now bare trees. Skinner found it almost peaceful.

Krycek must have felt that as well. Several minutes later, he took a deep breath, let it out and seemed to relax.

After eating their lunch, they had tackled the veranda, clearing it of snow. Krycek was the one who noticed the attention they were getting. From the street, a small group of children was watching them. Once they realized that they had the adults' attentions, they ran off.

Davy wondered if they lived near-by. He added, a little plaintively, "Do you think they'll like me?"

Before Skinner had a chance to say of course, the moving van arrived.

Now, two days later, the mood had grown yet again tense.

Krycek had spent both nights definitely sleeping on his side of the bed, both days barely speaking. Davy was either too quiet or far too wound up, with nothing, so it seemed, in between. And Skinner, looking around at the mess of moving which still escaped order, found himself wondering what the hell had possessed him to think that this had been a good idea.

Davy had spent the morning asking when he was going to get his dog until Skinner had told him to stop asking, that he didn't want to hear the word "dog" again until they had settled in. Right now, Davy was whining that there was nothing for him to drink in the fridge. Krycek was frigidly staring out of the den window after unpacking a box of books. And Skinner knew he could no longer ignore the pounding in his head.

"Okay! That does it! Everyone in the parlour. Now!"

Krycek turned as though he were figuring out which would be the fastest way out. Davy's mouth was open in mid-whine. He had never before heard that tone from Skinner. Krycek had. It reminded him of his time with the FBI and a particularly stringent dressing down the office had gotten from a certain AD.

Davy wriggled in his corner of the couch, Krycek sat still in the other.

Skinner rubbed his scalp with both hands and tried to get his tiredness, his anger and, yes, his fear all under control.

He stopped in front of the couch, sat on the arm of favourite chair and closed his eyes.

"Look, I'm not going to lie to you two. I know this hasn't gone off as planned. I know that we're all tired and stressed. And I'll admit that this was probably a bad idea. But we're here and we've all got to deal with this."

He opened his eyes and examined the two faces watching him. Davy's was worried; Krycek's, expressionless. Neither was good news. Both had to be addressed.

"Davy. I know this past year has been hard. You were found by Alex and spirited away. You both were on the run far too long. Alex was hurt and you were ill. Then I popped up and took the two of you to my place. Alex left you with me. All with the best of intentions, but without ever asking you what you thought about the whole situation."

Krycek, Skinner caught out of the corner of his eye, looked startled by that idea. Then Krycek turned slightly so he could watch Davy's face. Right now, in a manner with which Skinner was the more familiar, Davy's face was down, focused on the toes of his running shoes.

Skinner continued, his voice indicating his sympathy. "Then you suddenly found yourself with a father, with people who were doing all sorts of things that they thought was best for you. Again, without asking what you wanted. I know that you liked Madame and Molly, and that you really got along well with Kim's boys. And that you're missing all of them. I know, too, that school wasn't a great success. I'm sorry about that, but I wanted you safe and that was the best place for you to be while we were in D.C.

"I know that Alex's coming back to us, the leaving, the moving, the 'adventures' we've had in the past couple of days, the tension between Alex and myself..." Now he had Krycek's full attention. "All that is very upsetting to you. I understand that, Davy."

The boy glanced sideways at Krycek then up at Skinner. His lower lip was caught under his front teeth. He looked about to cry.

"And," Skinner gentled his voice even more, "what you need to understand is, no matter what happens, Alex and I, we both love you very much."

Davy said nothing but his eyes widened with surprise.

Shit! thought Skinner, did the boy really not know how they felt about him?

"As you grow older," he smiled at the boy, "there will be times when you'll think we don't understand you. That we're too strict. We'll have arguments, disagreements. You'll yell at us and we'll probably yell straight back at you. But that's all right, Davy. Because we will always love you, no matter what."

Then Skinner looked at the man silently watching. "And Alex. I know that you didn't need all this right now. That you're beyond tired. That you came home, not knowing what to expect, and what you walked into was not of your making. That the past few days have been tough on you as well. And that, in the next few weeks, there will be more difficult days in among the good ones. But in all that, you too need to remember that Davy and I, we both love you. No matter what."

Krycek's eyes weren't completely successful in hiding his shock.

"And as for me, well," Skinner shook his head, "I should have thought that this was too much happening in too short a time. Even though I've been looking forward to it, retirement is a big change in one's life. And work was pretty stressful those last weeks as we were trying to tie up ends and get the new A.D. up to snuff on all the other things that the office deals with.

"I'm new at being a parent and I worry too much about some things and probably not enough about others. I wanted this move because I thought—and still think – that you, Davy, will do better here than you would in D.C. That we would have the kind of home I grew up in, with a dog, a back yard, space for all of us. And yes, Alex, I did include you in the 'us'."

Krycek cocked his head slightly as though considering that.

Skinner sighed and rubbed his hands over his face. "Look, maybe moving up here in November was not the brightest of ideas. I should have realized that Mother Nature was a little more capricious in Vermont than in D.C. And yes, I should have considered that we would all need time to adjust. That everything wouldn't necessarily be clear sailing. But through it all, I will remember that you both love me."

Davy nodded his head several times at that. Skinner smiled, reached over to place his hand on one of those small feet.

"And, Davy, when you feel comfortable enough to yell at us, to go stomping up the stairs and slam the door all the time muttering under your breath, we, Alex and I, we will both remember that you love us all the while."

Now both of the faces staring at him wore similar expressions of astonishment. Damn, thought Skinner, he should have had this conversation with them long before now.

Davy lowered his head and peered sideways at Alex, as though looking for confirmation of what Skinner had said. Krycek cocked his head sideways and met the boy's glance. His head moved in a slight nodding motion and Davy, almost shyly, nodded back.

"Now then," Skinner had their attention once more, "one of the problems we're all facing is that we're all far too tired and we're finding each other's company difficult. I think it would be best if we went off and did things that we need to do, but on our own. Davy, your room needs tiding up. You need to decide what should go where and I think that this would be a good thing for you to do for the next hour or so. While you're doing that, I'll be in my office, doing the same thing. Alex, I think you'll find paper and pencils in that box over there. This would be a good time for you to go make a list of what you'll need for your office."


Nearly two hours later, Skinner stood in the doorway of Krycek's office and examined the man lying on the floor, staring at the ceiling, his good arm under his head. The pad of paper on the floor next to him was still blank.

Skinner cleared his throat and waited until he had Krycek's attention. "Davy is sound asleep on his bed. I think that's just what he needed." He came part way into the room. "You okay?"

Krycek let his head fall back. "Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure." Skinner went to sit on the floor by Krycek, one leg folded up under the other which he stretched out.

Krycek worried his lower lip then turned to face the man above him. "You told Davy that you wouldn't lie to him."

"That's right." Skinner wondered where this was going.

"You also told Davy that we both loved him."

"Yes." Skinner cocked his head. "Are you going to tell me you don't love him?"

Krycek ignored that and went on. "You also said that you...that both of you...you and Davy...that you loved me."

Skinner nodded at the unasked question. "Is that what you want to know? If Davy and I love you?" He reached out and rested his hand on Krycek's hip. "Alex, you would have to be blind and senseless not to understand that Davy loves you."

Still no real reaction on Krycek's part. Skinner allowed a small smile to grace his face. "Ah. Davy's not the one you're wondering about."

Krycek shrugged. "I know you said what you did because Davy's been uneasy these past few days."

"Alex, I said it because it's true."

"You love me." Krycek scoffed, obviously disbelieving.

Skinner allowed the smile more freedom. "Well, what's so strange about that?"

"Fuck, Skinner. Lie all you want to the kid, but please, not to me."

The wariness shimmering under that statement made Skinner think twice before snapping off an answer. He pulled his hand back and rested it on his knee. "Alex. You once told me that you wouldn't hide the truth from Davy. That was the reason why you told him he was a clone. I've also promised Davy I wouldn't lie to him. Besides, that's not what a kid needs: lies don't help you find your way in life.

"So, if I won't lie to Davy, I don't see any need to lie to you. Besides, it's not like you need that kind of protection."

"Yeah, okay. But 'love', Skinner?"

Skinner shrugged. "Alex. Do you think you're the only one who's unsure of what's going on? Davy is still finding his feet. He's doing incredibly well handling all the changes in his life in so short a time. And, right now, he's probably handling all these new relationships the best of all of us.

"As for us, well, all I know is that I find I want and need both of you in my life. And the reason that I think you might want both of us in yours is the fact that you're still here."

"And that's love?"

"One facet of it." Skinner reached out his hand and let it lie on Krycek's knee. "Alex, why do you think I can't use the word love in relation to you and mean it?"

Krycek found the ceiling very interesting once more. Skinner waited, his hand warm on Krycek's knee.

Krycek finally moved, sitting up, and leaned back against the wall to meet Skinner's look straight on. "You know what my life has been. The only thing I know about love, the kind between adults, is what I've seen in movies or read in books. But even that is enough to tell me that there must be something seriously wrong with you if you think you...care that way about me."

Skinner pulled his legs under him and sat facing Krycek. Before he could say anything, Krycek added, "Look, it's not necessary to use that love line on me. I came back and I don't mind being in your bed. In fact, I quite like it. I'm just saying that you don't have to pretend anything with me."

Skinner nodded his head as though agreeing then moved so quickly Krycek didn't have a chance to react. He grabbed Krycek's head and pulled it to him. Holding it steady with a tight grip in his hair, Skinner took Krycek's mouth for a kiss that he hoped would make his feelings rather more obvious.

At first, Krycek barely allowed it, then, when Skinner didn't let up, he slowly relaxed into the kiss, finally returning it. Only then did Skinner loosen his grip on Krycek's head.

"I guess," Skinner said when he finally caught his breath, "that there must be something seriously wrong with me. Of course, that's only a real problem if it's one-sided. Is it, Alex?"

Krycek licked the taste of Skinner from his lips slowly. "No," he whispered. "But that still doesn't answer the question." He dropped his head onto Skinner's shoulder. "I beat you. I killed you. I used the nanos to control you."

"Yes," agreed Skinner. "And I have to admit that I didn't really like any of that. But, yes, I also understand that for you back then, it was that or death. For both of us. I seriously doubt that there will be any repeats of those episodes, especially since the people who ordered you to do those things are now all gone. And, knowing that, thinking about it, I find that it's not been that difficult to forgive you."

"Yeah?" Krycek pulled back. He didn't sound as though he really believed that was all there was to it, but his face was more open than Skinner had ever seen it.

"Yeah."

Krycek nodded and then leaned in and took possession of Skinner's mouth. They were slowly getting into the feel of it when they heard a loud, "Yuck!"

Two hard cocks quickly wilted.

Skinner looked over his shoulder at the boy who was watching them from the open doorway. He sighed. They were going to have to remember to close doors.

"Are you two going to be playing sucky face a lot?" Davy's disgust was very audible.

Skinner grinned at the boy, keeping his grip on Krycek whose forehead was propped on Skinner's shoulder. "I hope so."

"Alex?"

Krycek raised his head but kept his eyes on Skinner's though he spoke to the boy. "Yeah, I think so."

Davy gave an exasperated sigh. He slowly came into the room and dropped to the floor next to them. "Tommy says his parents do that stuff all the time, too. It's really gross."

Skinner laughed. "It's gross at your age. You'll change your mind as you get older."

Davy shook his head. "No way!" Then he added, "Are we all okay now?"

Skinner shared a silent message with Krycek. "Yeah. I think we're all going to be okay."


They were going to get curtains for the windows in the next days, but Krycek found he rather liked the light from the reflection off the snow that shadowed their bedroom. Enough light so that he could see Skinner coming out of the darkened bathroom, not wearing any "protective" underwear.

Enough light so that Skinner, even without his glasses, could make out the welcoming leer as he approached the bed. He slipped under the covers and reached for Krycek.

"Shit!" Krycek gasped, "You're cold," and tried to pull out of Skinner's arms.

"And you're nice and warm. Better than a hot water bottle." Skinner entwined his legs in Krycek's, keeping him close. "What do you expect? I'm coming to you naked in a Vermont bedroom in the middle of winter. Of course, I'm going to be cold."

Skinner cuddled close to Krycek who was now resigned to his role as bed-warmer. "Well, you could keep that cold on your side of the bed. Shit, now I'm freezing."

Skinner's grin was a match for Krycek's earlier leer. "Maybe I should do something about that?"

"Maybe you should...Oh!"

Skinner had slipped quickly under the covers and found Krycek's cock, flaccid against his thigh. Not for long. Skinner's mouth played happily with it, his hands gleefully exploring the skin of Krycek's thighs, his balls, his ass until Krycek's gasps turned into moans and he came. Skinner loudly slurped him clean and then came back up. "Warm enough now?"

Krycek opened his eyes to find Skinner propped up watching him, his cheerful glee irritating enough for him to push Skinner onto his back. "My turn now."

Skinner thought himself pretty good at giving head. No one had ever complained; he had even had a few compliments. But he had nothing on Alex Krycek. Damn, he thought at one point, he really would have to pay attention and pick up a few pointers. Next time. This time...damn, it was hard to think, never mind make notes.

Krycek drew it out, not just to show off what he could do, but to repay Skinner a little for the night when Skinner had brought him to the edge of release so often and then backed away.

Later, lying next to the man softly snoring, Krycek wondered at the fun he had had tonight, blowing a man for the pleasure of it, teasing and not having to worry about paying for the teasing. Having been catered to before he did the catering. He allowed himself to move a little closer to this man who, crazy as it seemed, actually wanted him.


The next morning, Davy was very quiet. Both Skinner and Krycek had reassured him that he had nothing to worry about. That his new school was going to be fine. Well, his papa had sounded confident. Alex had shrugged and reminded him that he, Krycek, had never experienced what he was going through, but that they were survivors, both of them.

He ate his breakfast cereal slowly, hoping to delay their leaving for school.

Upstairs, the men were getting dressed. Skinner had pulled out a Hugo Boss that he had usually worn for high-level meetings where someone had to be impressed. Krycek was trying to find the least obvious of his clothing. He wasn't certain why Skinner was insisting that he come along. What the hell did he know about first days at school?

"No, not that. The black jeans and that black sweater you picked up before we left D.C."

Krycek raised an eyebrow. "I wear those and I'll look like what I am."

Skinner nodded. "Precisely."

Krycek didn't understand but he pulled the black sweater out of the drawer that was his until they brought some more furniture.

"Alex. Think about it. It's the middle of the week, over two months into the school year. Davy is not only new, but in their eyes, he's a city kid who's moved into the country. Into their territory. He lives with a gay couple who are also new to town. How this day starts for him will probably determine the rest of his school life in this town."

Krycek bit his lower lip as he thought. "Good cop, bad cop?"

Skinner smiled. "Think of the fun you're going to have intimidating a principal and teacher."


Actually, the first person Krycek got to intimidate was the school secretary who took one look at him and went scurrying into the office to warn the principal that the new student had arrived. She made very certain to be as far back as possible from Krycek as he followed Skinner and Davy into the office.

The man behind the desk was more than surprised at the two men who entered his office. Of course, Sally Benson had informed anyone who would listen that she had sold the old Farmer place to a man who came equipped with a child and another man. She had also added that the one that she'd met was very male. Tom Derrick had been expecting that she had exaggerated a bit. Sally's idea of a macho man was that SNAG on "Dharma and Greg".

The first man who stepped in had him mentally apologizing to Sally. The second explained why Mrs. Moffett was acting the way she was.

The boy was polite, offered his hand to shake when his father introduced him. The man in black merely gave a short nod.

"I'm pleased to welcome you to Middlebury Public School, David."

"Daveed."

Mr. Derrick looked at the man in black. "Daveed," he corrected himself.

"Davy will do fine," interjected the boy's father.

Mr. Derrick decided that he preferred to deal solely with the father and wondered if there was a way he could ask the other to leave.

"This is Alex Krycek," explained the father. "He's Davy's uncle and also his legal guardian."

Mr. Derrick tried to smile and knew that there was no way he was going to get his wish.

"There are some forms that will need to be filled and then we'll take Davy down to Mrs. Morgan's room. We received his school reports by fax on Friday. Mrs. Morgan teaches the enriched program."

Mr. Derrick handed the forms for personal information to the father and examined the child who was sitting very quietly, watching the proceedings with those eyes that had to come from his mother's side of the family. The uncle had the same eyes, but colder, harder.

"I see that you've indicated that you're retired, Mr. Skinner. May I inquire from what?"

The father recapped his fountain pen and sat back. "From the FBI, Mr. Derrick."

"Ah, you're our first FBI agent, Mr. Skinner."

"Assistant Director."

Mr. Derrick looked at the child who had spoken.

"Papa wasn't an agent, he was Assistant Director."

Mr. Derrick held his breath. A gay agent was one thing, but an Assistant Director? He looked at the father who was wearing a suit which probably cost far more than what he made in a month. Darn, the child was not exaggerating.

"And is Mr. Krycek also with the FBI?" Might as well get all the news at one time, he thought.

Mr. Skinner smiled and glanced over at the man in black who merely looked back at the now retired Assistant Director of the FBI. "Alex's work, I'm afraid, is still classified and will probably always remain so. For the record, let us just say that he too is retired."

Yes, thought Mr. Derrick as he stood up to escort the trio to Mrs. Morgan's class, let us say so and let us indeed hope so.

While Davy hung up his outdoor clothes in the locker that had been assigned to him outside of his new classroom, Mr. Derrick knocked on the door.

Mrs. Morgan was one of the stall worth members of his staff. She had moved here from Burlington ten years ago, bringing with her a wealth of experience and had proven fairly popular with the children she taught. She was stern but could laugh when it was important, had high standards that the students strived hard to reach and knew the worth of sparingly used praise. Nothing much frazzled her. Mr. Derrick wondered how she would react to the adults who accompanied the child.

It began badly.

Leave it to the Ferguson boy to open his mouth without thinking. Just like his mother. Mary Louise Gagnon still put her mouth into gear before her brain.

As Davy entered the room, Frank called out, "Is that the new fag kid?"

Mrs. Morgan looked horrified. Mr. Derrick glanced over his shoulder, nowhere near as calm as he projected. Before he had time to say anything, the man in the suit entered and Mr. Derrick had no trouble seeing the Assistant Director. Thankfully, neither did Frank.

"We will discuss this later, Frank," Mrs. Morgan's tone left no doubt that the discussion was not going to be a happy one for Frank. "But right now, I will just say that you have greatly disappointed me."

But no one was watching, probably not even listening to Mrs. Morgan. Because the uncle had entered the room and had brought with him all the sense of danger that Mr. Derrick had sensed on meeting him.

The entire room fell silent.

As if examining the room, the man took his time and strolled his way to the back of the room, all eyes, adult and child, on him.

Frank, Mr. Derrick was pleased to note out of the corner of an eye, looked suddenly very remorseful.

"This is Mr. Krycek. He's Davy's uncle," he told Mrs. Morgan and the class.

Mrs. Morgan nodded at the man at the back of her classroom. The man nodded back.

"Davy," his voice was soft, not difficult to hear in the stillness of her classroom. "If you have any trouble of any kind, you're to tell me." He looked around the room, not in a threatening way, she later had to admit, though she doubted that Frank or any other of the children whose parents may have made comments about the new boy's family set-up would remember it that way. "Understand?"

All eyes shifted to the new boy who had barely noticed his uncle's behaviour

Davy nodded his head. "Yes, Alex. I understand."

The uncle casually made his way back to the front and the man waiting for him with a rueful expression on his face. Mrs. Morgan watched as a message was exchanged and the uncle shrugged.

"I can assure you that there won't be any trouble," she smiled at the child who was now curiously looking around the classroom. She assumed that the child was used to these displays and wasn't bothered by them. "Perhaps you would like to take the desk that I've set up for you next to Barbara-Ann. She lives quite close to your new home, I believe. Will you be going home for lunch? Yes? I'm certain that Barbara-Ann will be happy to show you the way."

It was her classroom and she was now going to take back control of it. "Gentlemen," her tone very schoolmistress, "we really do need to be getting back to our math work."

Mr. Derrick nodded and indicated to the two men that they should leave. Mr. Skinner smiled at her, thanked her for allowing them to interrupt their work, nodded to the boy and followed Tom Derrick out of the room. The uncle looked at her and then, to the gasping surprise of everyone of her students—and a few giggles from one or two of the braver girls—he came up to her, took her hand in one of his gloved ones and raised it to his mouth for one of those incredibly romantic European hand kisses. "If Davy behaves inappropriately, please, do let us know."

And with that she understood that he was apologizing for monopolizing her class. Well, maybe terrifying them was a better description, but looking over at Frank who was getting far too spoiled by his parents since he had been identified as gifted, that might not be such a bad thing. One sure result would be that Davy would be allowed time to settle in before he was tested by the other children.


"So, did you enjoy intimidating a class filled with kids?"

Krycek snorted. "Isn't that what you wanted me to do?"

Skinner grinned then turned his attention to the road. He pulled into their driveway, parked the SUV and turned off engine.

"I don't see why we had to take this thing," muttered Krycek, getting out. "I mean, the school isn't even five blocks away."

Skinner merely grinned, unlocked the front door to their house and let Krycek precede him in.

"A five minute walk..."

Krycek didn't finish his complaint as Skinner shoved him against the wall and took his mouth roughly with his own.

"Wha...?" Not that he had any complaints, Krycek thought, but...

"The kid is out of the house," said Skinner by way of explanation, pulling back just enough to watch Krycek's face.

"Yeah, so?"

Skinner cocked an eyebrow and grinned lasciviously and suddenly Krycek caught on. "Oh. Oh!" and his grin matched Skinner's. And then Skinner found himself back against the wall and his mouth being taken possessively. While Krycek was busy, Skinner stripped the leather jacket off him, tossed it to one side as he also began toeing off his own boots.

Krycek was more occupied with Skinner's belt then the button on his fly, the zipper.

They moved slowly up the stairs, scattering clothing, footwear on the steps, the bannister, the hallway floor. Hugo Boss would not have approved of the way his suit was tossed here and there to the floor.

Both men were naked by the time they made their way into their bedroom.

"How much time do we have?" gasped Krycek, head back as Skinner sucked hard on a nipple.

"Couple of hours," muttered Skinner. "Now you can scream all you want."

"Oh, yeah? Maybe I don't scream." Krycek worked off the straps that held the prosthesis. Skinner took it from him, carefully placed it and his glasses out of harm's way then tipped Krycek backwards onto the bed.

"I seem to remember that you did, one night."

"That," Krycek pulled Skinner down on top of him, gasping at the sudden weight on his chest, "was an aberration on my part."

Skinner grinned wickedly, all the way down to Krycek's cock. "Let's just see about that, shall we?"

"Gonna cuff me?" Krycek raised his hips, rubbing hard against Skinner's groin.

"Another time. This time, I want to feel your hand on me." Skinner pushed back just as hard. Krycek moaned and then, catching Skinner's self-satisfied smirk, let the feral side of himself loose.

They both screamed.


Davy came pounding up the stairs and down the veranda to the kitchen door.

"So, how did the morning go?"

Alex was sitting sprawled in a chair by the table, a cup of coffee in his hand. He wasn't wearing his working clothes any more, thought Davy. Just jeans and a t-shirt. Papa wasn't wearing his work stuff either. Sweats and a henley.

Both of them, thought Davy as he hung his outdoor clothes onto the hook that Papa had put up for him, looked really relaxed.

"I like Mrs. Morgan," he said. Then he answered what he knew would be their next question, "She's making Frank write a composition on prejudice."

He snickered as he sat down at the table and grabbed his glass of milk, chugging a good portion down.

"Did Barbara-Ann walk with you?" Papa asked.

He checked out his sandwich. Roast beef with ketchup. Sliced really thin. Just as he liked it.

"No. She cried after you left. Said her mother wouldn't be happy if she did." He didn't catch the reaction of the two men. "Slaven says she does that all the time. The crying. And that her mother doesn't like her," he imitated someone, "'associating with the locals'."

"Who's Slaven?" asked Alex.

Davy chewed quickly, anxious to get out this bit of information.

"Don't choke yourself," Papa said, sitting down with his sandwich. Made with mustard, not ketchup.

"You remember the kids who were watching us the day we moved in? Well, that was Slaven and his brother and sisters. He has two of them. Brothers and sisters, I mean. They live just down the street, the brick house on the corner? He's my age and," his voice rose with excitement, "he speaks Russian!"

Papa grinned at him. "So, the morning seems to have been a success. Do you think you're going to like this school more than the old one in D.C.?"

Davy shrugged around his mouthful. Papa didn't like it when he talked with his mouth full. Come to think of it, Alex hadn't either. "Mrs. Morgan says that my math skills are excellent and so is my reading. She was pleased about the French. Some of the kids take that and others take Spanish. But Slaven and I are the only ones who speak Russian as well," he beamed, proud of the fact.

"How come Slaven speaks Russian?" Alex had eaten all of his sandwich. Papa would be happy. Alex hadn't eaten all that much when he'd arrived.

Davy finished his milk. "His mother teaches some Russian stuff at the College. And his father stays at home with the kids. He's a writer of some kind."

Papa was smiling at Alex. "Considering all the information you seem to have picked up in such a short time, I was wondering if you knew what Slaven's last name is?"

D'uh, thought Davy, though he didn't say it aloud. Papa wasn't impressed with that expression. "Rush. He writes poetry, Slaven says."

The sound of footsteps pounding on the veranda caught everyone's attention. A head appeared in the bottom half of the kitchen door window. As Davy crammed the last of his cookie into his mouth, Papa opened the door to Slaven whose mouth showed the remains of whatever dessert he had eaten. Something chocolate, thought Davy.

"Hi. I'm Slaven."

Davy held his breath as Alex looked the boy over carefully. Slaven was about the same height as him, but his face was more slavic than his. He hoped Alex and Papa wouldn't disapprove of his new friend.

Slaven's large brown eyes were watching them excitedly. "My parents say that if you're not doing anything this aft, maybe you'd like to come for tea. Around three. If you'd...WOW! You don't have an arm!"

All eyes went to Alex who hadn't put back on his prosthesis.

"Oh, yeah," Davy said, casually.

"Yeah, but he had two this morning."

"He has a fake one he puts on when he wants," explained Davy, sitting on the floor, pulling on his boots.

"Cool, man!" enthused Slaven. Then he turned serious. "Davy, did you ask them?"

Davy shook his head. "They kept on asking questions about school and Papa doesn't like me to talk with my mouth full."

Slaven nodded, expression commiserating.

"Ask us what, Davy?" Papa was wearing that face he wore when he was trying not to laugh at something.

"Can he come over after school and play with Gorky and me?" Slaven and Davy stood side by side, eyes brilliant with anticipation.

"Is Gorky your brother?" Alex raised an eyebrow.

Slaven and Davy exchanged a look. Sometimes adults weren't very bright.

"No," explained Davy, "Gorky is Slaven's dog."

"Ah," said Papa.

Davy hoped that Papa was going to remember his promise of a dog. Even if he had told Davy very strongly that he didn't want to hear any more about a dog until they had settled in themselves.

"Tell you what," said Papa, "stop here on the way back, both of you. If we're not here, we'll be at Slaven's."

The door slammed shut behind the two cheering boys.


They walked down to the Rush house around three.

"So, what do you want me to be this time?" asked Krycek as he looked over the big three-storey brick house on the corner.

"Yourself. On your best behaviour. We're being vetted but we're doing our own bit of vetting as well."

Krycek frowned. "What if we don't pass muster? Does that mean Slaven won't be allowed to 'associate' with Davy?"

Skinner shrugged. "Don't look at me, I don't know. I'm new to this parent-vetting thing."

"Didn't happen in D.C.?"

"Wasn't that kind of school. Wasn't that kind of situation."

There was a van parked in the driveway. Several years old, thought Krycek Shit! Five kids. How do they do it? He felt he was walking barefoot around broken glass where Davy was concerned.

Before they reached the door, a dog barked excitedly and the door was opened by a tall, slender woman who had the cheekbones of a Tartar and masses of unruly curly red-brown hair. She was smiling at them. She was also extremely pregnant.

Shit! thought Krycek. Six kids?

"Hello. You must be Davy's parents. Come in. I'm Natasha."

The voice was lightly accented. Krycek allowed Skinner to go in first.

"Walter Skinner," he said, offering his hand. "This is Alex Krycek, Davy's uncle."

"Natasha Sevastjana Katayev-Rush." She smiled and switched to Russian. "Good day. I'm so pleased to meet you both. Come in, come in."

St. Petersburg, thought Krycek.

The dog began barking loudly from behind a closed door.

"Do you mind?" she asked, pointing to the door.

"The famous Gorky?" Skinner grinned, shaking his head.

"Brace yourselves," was the only warning they got as she opened the door and a large rug came charging out excitedly.

"A sheepdog!"

Krycek took a step back as the animal happily gave a quick once over to the visitors.

Gorky barely bothered to give Skinner a token sniff-over then he turned his attention to Krycek. To everyone's surprise, the dog reared up and placed his front paws on Krycek shoulders, happily licking his face.

"Gorky! Down!"

The dog immediately obeyed the stern voice but refused to leave Krycek's side.

"I'm so sorry, he usually isn't so enthusiastic about greeting people he doesn't know. Charlie!" she called up the stairs, "bring a wet face cloth with you. Gorky seems to be very fond of our new neighbours."

Charles Rush was as slender as his wife, with a strong resemblance to Gorky. As neat and put- together as his wife seemed, he was the opposite. Skinner decided that if ever there was a walking stereotype of the absentminded professor, Charles Rush was it.

The house seemed to be a mixture of the neat and tidy interspersed with disordered and cluttered. A well-developed balance that seemed to work for the people in this house and was comfortable for visitors who were prepared not to be too fussy.

Natasha Katayev-Rush taught both Russian Language and Literature courses at the College during the school year as well as during the Summer session that was dedicated solely to the teaching of languages. Charles Rush taught a couple of courses of poetry at the College during the academic year, then led poetry-writing seminars at Bread Loaf during the Summer. They both looked a little askance when Skinner revealed what position he had retired from, but readily accepted Krycek's explanation that he had retired from "doing a little of this and a little of that." Natasha Katayev-Rush had stared at him for a long moment and then nodded her head knowingly, exchanging a message with Krycek that only he understood.

Gorky had been exiled to the kitchen and so had the pleasure of greeting all the children, Davy included, when they arrived from school. The two eldest, a boy and a girl, were in high school. They grabbed some of the cake that had been served and headed upstairs to get a start on homework. The twins, also a boy and a girl, were in second grade.

"I'm afraid that this one too will be twins," laughed Natasha Katayev-Rush.

"Seven! They're going to have seven kids around," Krycek muttered to Skinner as they walked home, a happy Davy running on ahead of them.

Skinner grinned. "Yet they seem sane."

"Do you come from a large family?" Krycek didn't often ask personal questions. He had done his research on Skinner long ago, but his family beginnings hadn't been considered important so he hadn't gone much past his time with the Marines.

Skinner laughed. "Five kids, two parents."

Krycek thought a moment. "They still around?"

Skinner shrugged. "My parents both died within months of each other about ten years ago. The rest of us are all scattered around the world. We try to get together once every five years."

"Do they know about..."

Skinner stopped walking. "About?"

Krycek turned to face him. "About Davy?"

Skinner nodded. "I sent them all an e-mail or a letter and pictures about four months ago. They were all very happy for me."

Krycek waited.

"About us? Well, I did indicate that it might be a possibility." Skinner started up their driveway. "The final judgement on that is still pretty much in the air. So far it's two I-have-to-think-about- that, one definitely-your-business-as-long-as-you're-happy and one no answer. But that could be for many reasons, one of which is my brother is not accessible by internet. And mail getting to him is a 50-50 proposition."

"Skinner?"

Skinner looked back at the man still standing on the sidewalk.

"The dog you promised Davy, is he going to get it?"

Skinner grinned. "Natasha has a colleague who finds homes for abandoned animals. Seems she has a couple of litters of pups that are about ready to leave home. I thought that we'd go take a look Saturday."

Krycek nodded and moved to join Skinner. "Any sheepdogs in that?" he asked casually.

"No, I believe there's nothing that big available."

"Thank god," muttered Krycek as he passed Skinner.

Skinner roared as he draped a sympathetic arm around Krycek's shoulders.


The dog was a three-month old beagle mixture pup that fell in love with Davy almost as soon as Davy patted it.

They nearly didn't get the pup. Not because of Davy and his age, but because Skinner had to admit that he had no recent pet experience. That Krycek had never had a pet was an additional negative they had to overcome.

"You do know that pups require loving discipline, that they chew things. He's been trained to ask for the door, but that doesn't mean he's not going to urinate on the floor at the most inopportune times. And both pups and dogs require a lot of walking and exercise." The short, rotund woman glared at them, fists on hips.

Davy had been listening to their interrogation all the while playing with the pup. "And they need lots of love and attention, especially when they're this young. And because he's part beagle, he's going to need training, too."

The woman switched her interrogation from the adults to the child, impressed with the amount of research he had conducted into the care and training of dogs.

So they got to take Barney home with them, along with a list of items they had to purchase, the name of the local vet who would see to the pup's neutering when it was old enough, a condition all perspective owners had to agree to, in writing.

"Whew!" muttered Skinner as they watched Davy, brimming with excitement, leading the pup on a leash that he certainly did not like to their vehicle. "Reminded me of my old DI."

Krycek nodded. "The Rushes were easier to get by than her. You think she was serious when she said she's going to show up at the house, unannounced, just to see that we're doing things right?"

"Why Barney?" Skinner asked once they were all settled in the car. On the list was a requirement for a dog's seat belt. Right now, they were driving with the pup nervously tucked in by Davy's side.

"I don't know, just seemed to be the right name for him."

Skinner had no intentions of allowing the dog to sleep in Davy's room, much to the disappointment of both boy and pup. And the pup was far more vocal in his disappointment. After the third night of listening to the pup howl off and on all night long, Barney got to join his young master in his bedroom. On a special pad that had been bought for him, as per instructions. He quickly learnt to start the night on the pad, looking up sleepily when either of the men checked in on the boy on their way to bed. Once that was over, Barney was free to join Davy on the bed, wriggle under the blankets and sleep all night through, tucked in under the boy's arm.

To Krycek's amazement and then glee, Skinner pretended not to notice.

It was harder not the notice when the Christmas tree nearly came tumbling down when Barney decided to go exploring, but they survived that as well.

And he was proving to be very popular with the kids in the neighbourhood, some older, some younger than Davy. The urge to see and pat, then play with the new puppy helped Davy earn ready acceptance. And the sight of the adults walking the dog around the neighbourhood helped introduce them to their neighbours as well, at least on a nodding basis.

Davy and Slaven quickly became an inseparable team. So, one spring afternoon, at recess, when one of the older boys teased Slaven about his wuss father staying home, playing nursemaid to the babies, Davy had to enter the fray which had Mr. Derrick calling parents to his office.

Krycek sat with Slaven and Davy in the outer office while the Rushes and Skinner discussed the situation with the principal. Slaven had a swollen lip from where he had bitten himself when he'd been pushed to the ground. Davy was sporting his first shinner. Well, thought Krycek, the first that the boy could remember. He'd refused to go in with Skinner for several reasons, one of which was that he didn't know how things like this were dealt with in this world. In the one he'd come from, if he'd been involved in a fight that had not been sanctioned, he'd have been caned. If they thought they were going to do that to Davy...

"You two need to learn how to defend yourselves."

Slaven sighed heavily. "Mom says that she's against that kind of stuff. That civilized people discuss their differences of opinion."

Davy nodded. "Papa says," having endured one lecture on the subject in his bedroom the night before, "that fighting never solves anything."

Krycek caught himself from scoffing out loud.

There was no caning. Only a day's suspension for all three boys, a day to be spent composing an explanation, for Slaven and Davy, as to why fighting was not the way to resolve a problem, and for the boy who had started the whole thing, one on the different forms families in the 21st Century came in and why this was a good thing for society.

Skinner checked in on Davy who was labouring over his assignment. All in all, the boy had handled the entire episode well, he thought. Even if he'd gone in, with no thought of his own safety, to defend a friend whom he'd seen overwhelmed by a situation. He'd accepted Skinner's lecture on fighting without trying to wriggle out of his part in the confrontation. And he was working hard on trying to come up with other ways the situation could have been dealt with.

With a kiss on his head and a squeeze of a shoulder, Skinner left him to get on with it.

As he passed Krycek's office door, Skinner realized that he had another problem to deal with: Krycek and his reaction to all this.

There had been some coldness last night after he'd had his talk with Davy. Actually, Krycek's first reaction had been to go out and deal with the kid who had dared blacken Davy's eye. Skinner had put a quick end to that but he'd also realized, from Krycek's mutterings on hearing they were required to show up at the school the next morning, that Krycek was expecting some reaction that he had no intention of putting up with, even if he had to take on Skinner's 'control of Davy'.

And after that, Skinner had spent a great deal of the night thinking about the situation here at the house. About how Krycek never involved himself in Davy's life except as a casual participant. It was Skinner who made the house rules, who reminded Davy of them, who enforced them if need be. Krycek never commented, either positively or negatively. He just stood by and let Skinner deal with matters.

But today, when they had come out of the principal's office, Krycek had placed himself between them and the two boys, as though ready to defend them.

Ready, when Skinner thought about it, to grab Davy and take off.

Now, watching the man sitting in his chair at his computer, Skinner realized what Krycek reminded him of. Of Davy that first time he had had to scold him about something. He'd found the boy sitting in just that position on the edge of his bed, shoulders hunched, eyes concentrating on his shoes.

The boy had found the courage to ask, "Are you going to send me away now?" And Skinner had wanted to cry at the fear and discouragement in the child's voice. It had taken him a long time to explain to the boy—to make him truly understand—that disagreements, arguments, and yes, the occasional scolding would sometimes occur between them. And that they were perfectly normal. That he didn't love Davy less, or wanted him to go away: that would never happen.

He knocked on the door, following a rule he had set up so that Davy didn't take them by surprise.

Krycek raised his head but said nothing.

"May I come in or are you busy?"

At first Krycek didn't respond. Skinner was about to head for his office when Krycek hit a couple of keys and gestured with his head. Skinner came in and took a seat on the couch that Krycek had added to the room when they had gone off to furnish it. It didn't have the look Skinner had once thought it might. Instead of being very modern, the style that, for some reason, he had associated with Krycek, it was mainly wood, of a certain age. A large roll-top desk they had found in a second-hand shop filled one wall while wooden bookcases filled another. The wall opposite the desk housed the long couch that they had found in the same shop: a dark green leather. It was then, when Skinner had pulled out his wallet to pay, that he had found out that Krycek had money of his own. How much, he still didn't know but more than enough to furnish his office, to pick up one of the latest computers with all the bells and whistles, to insist on paying his share of the expenses around the house.

Looking around the room, Skinner realized that the shelves in the bookcases were only sparsely filled. Even after five months here. That though Davy's room had already needed a new shelving unit for books and games and other things that Krycek had purchased—always, now that Skinner thought about it, after checking with Skinner if he could—Krycek's office still did not have a sense of permanence about it.

Damn, thought Skinner. He should have noticed before now.

Krycek turned around and watched him with those expressionless eyes of long ago. He said nothing, waiting for Skinner to break the silence.

Skinner leaned back on the couch. "You remember working with Mulder?"

The question took Krycek by surprise. He nodded slowly as though unsure of where Skinner was going.

"Remember how one minute you were impressed by the way his mind worked and then the next you wanted to strangle him because he'd tried to dump you again?"

Krycek nodded. "Yeah, I remember that."

Skinner sighed his understanding. "But you never did. Even when he drove you so crazy that you dreamt about killing him, you didn't. Because he was your partner and the good times, the times when he made you smile or laugh, when he taught you something about something you didn't know balanced out all the other times."

"Until I betrayed him." Said coldly. "And you." Said even more coldly.

Skinner shrugged. "Even then, Alex, you didn't. You didn't kill me, really kill me, and you didn't kill him. You went out of your way at some expense to yourself to keep us alive."

"What's your point?"

"My point is," Skinner leaned forward, reached out with a hand and pulled on Krycek's arm until he joined him on the couch, "that in any relationship there are good times and difficult times. And the difficult times are most often brought about because the people in the relationship are not talking to each other. Making assumptions based on opinions that may or may not be valid."

God, thought Skinner, if Sharon were a fly on the wall, she'd be roaring her head off. Old Stone Face talking about the importance of talking in a relationship.

"Alex, when you left Davy with me, we weren't even sure you would be coming back. Kids need rules and regulations. It makes them feel secure."

Krycek, sitting next to Skinner, arms around himself, softly scoffed.

"Rules and regulations, Alex. Guidelines and boundaries. Not excuses to abuse and beat a child. The same unchanging rules so that a kid knows just how far he can go before suffering the consequences, which are a scolding, a time out or the withdrawal of a privilege. Not rules that change on the whim of a man who gets off on inflicting pain."

Skinner turned enough so that he could watch Krycek's face.

"I'm sorry that once you came back to us, I didn't take the time to discuss all this with you."

Krycek shrugged. "Wouldn't matter. I don't know anything about this kind of life."

"Maybe not, but you are Davy's parent. And you have a say-so in his life and how it's going to be lived. And I apologize for excluding you in all the decisions I've taken about Davy and his life since you've come back. That's going to change. As of right now."

Krycek looked up. "Would you have let Derrick cane Davy for fighting?"

Skinner was shocked. "Cane Davy? What..." And then things that he'd read on the CD flashed through his mind. "Jesus, Alex, I'd have killed the bastard if he'd even said anything like that out loud! Cane Davy..." he sputtered.

Krycek actually relaxed. "Yeah, well, me too."

Skinner slipped into his A.D. voice. "That is one thing we are going to have to agree on right now, Alex. There will never be any physical punishment in this house. Never. Davy is not going to be hit by either one of us, ever. That has to be agreed upon right now. Understand."

Krycek nodded. "Agreed."

Skinner breathed hard for a moment then sighed loudly. "Okay. That's one thing out of the way. Now about yesterday. I should have asked you if you wanted to deal with the situation."

Krycek shook his head, more determinedly the more Skinner spoke.

"Yes, I just assumed that you agreed with me and I shouldn't have done that. I should have discussed the situation with you and together, we should have spoken to Davy. Why are you still shaking your head?"

Krycek took a moment to angle himself in the opposite corner. "First of all, I have no idea how to handle this or any of these situations. I have very little experience with kids. Even as a kid, they tended to keep us apart so that we wouldn't form any attachments. Or maybe they were afraid we would gang up on them. I don't know. All I do know is I find all this talk about fighting never solving anything a little ironic coming from an ex-Marine who fought his way up the ranks of the FBI and who boxes as a hobby. That's all."

Skinner opened his mouth but nothing came out. He closed it and sat back. "Shit! You're right. Still, if Nam taught me anything, it's that fighting doesn't mean victory or winning."

"Maybe. But there are things worth fighting for. Nam must have taught you that if nothing else. Whether you do it with your fists or words, at one point if you're attacked, you do have to stand up for yourself. That's all Davy and Slaven were doing. Standing up for something. In this case, it was Davy going to Slaven's support, but I don't doubt that if we had been the ones slandered, if Davy had gone in swinging to defend us, Slaven would have jumped in just as quickly as Davy did for him."

Skinner closed his eyes. Damn, this parenting thing was not fucking easy. Neither was this taking another opinion into account. "Did you see the size of that kid? He made three of them together easily."

Krycek nodded. "That makes them idiots, not potential assassins. Or is that what you're worried about? That you've remembered that Davy is me."

Skinner opened his eyes. "You were not born an assassin. You were made into one. Davy is no more a potential assassin than...than Barney will ever accept sleeping on his bed all night." He was pleased to see a hint of a smile on Krycek's face at that. "The kid could have hurt them both badly."

Krycek nodded. "That's why they need to learn to fight properly."

"And so?"

Krycek hesitated.

"Alex, I'm serious. I want to hear what you think. This is important, not just for the two of us, but for Davy as well."

"There's a karate club at the College, one evening a week."

Skinner thought about that. "Responsible fighting."

Krycek said nothing, just watched as a slow smile lit Skinner face. "Yeah."

With a quick movement, Skinner pulled Krycek over to him, tugged until Krycek was in his arms, head resting on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Alex. I should have involved you right away. He's your kid as well as mine."

Krycek shrugged. "I just don't want him hurt," he muttered against Skinner's neck.

"I know."

They sat that way for a few minutes. "Alex?"

"Hmm?"

"We have to talk about us."

"What about us?"

Skinner pulled back so that he could see Krycek's face. "Alex, why do I have the impression that you're ready to leave at a moment's notice?"

Krycek tried to pull out of Skinner's arms, but they merely tightened around him. "Alex. We've been living together for five months now. Do you realize that you still call me Skinner? Never Walter. Or Walt."

Krycek stilled. He looked up at the man watching him.

"Alex, do I make you feel like a visitor, not part of this family?"

Krycek rested his head against Skinner's shoulder and thought before he started speaking, carefully finding his words.

"To be honest, I don't know what I feel like. Ski..." He stopped, took a breath and started again. "Walter. Walter, I don't have any memories of family. I don't know what you expect of me. I think you like having me around but I also think, one day, you're going to wake up and ask yourself what the fuck you're doing with an assassin, with a man who played games with people's lives. People you care deeply about."

Walter rested his cheek on Alex's head. "I thought we'd dealt with that, Alex."

Alex shrugged. "Yeah, well, the rules were forever changing in my world. It's what I'm used to."

"Well, the rules in this world, at least in this house, won't change. I want you in my life, Alex. Not just because of Davy. But because I want you. Let's start with the obvious. I want you in my bed because I get great pleasure out of touching you and of having you touch me. And the sex is marvelous, whether we go at it like otters or just bring each other off."

Alex snorted, but didn't deny it. Walter grinned and went on.

"I want you in my life because I like the man that you've turned out to be. The one you kept hidden under the thick skin you grew years ago. The one that you let me and Davy see.

"And, you know, I think that part of the problem we're having right now is that we are two men who are use to being at work almost twenty-four hours a day. The last five months were necessary. We both needed to adjust to the move, to this new life. To the fact that we both will not be returning to the kind of work that once dominated our lives. Let's face it, Alex, you needed the time to get yourself back into shape—remember what you looked like when you came back? —and I needed the time to remind my body what it's like living without almost continual stress.

"Well, we've done that and now we're bored. I think, Alex, that it's time we found ourselves some work to do. Something that will give our minds something else to do other than tip-toe around each other and focus on Davy. Hell, the kid needs breathing space, too. Otherwise we're going to stifle him."

"You got anything specific in mind?" Alex wriggled so that he was more comfortable.

"Yeah. Well, Quantico wants me to produce a training manual about methodology for them. Maybe give a couple of lectures a year to special groups."

Alex grunted. "Methodology. Sounds right up your alley," he finally said.

"What about you, Alex? What would you like to do?"

Alex hesitated. "Natasha wants me to do some tutoring this Summer at the College. In Russian."

"And would you like to do that?"

"Can you see me in the classroom?"

Walter thought Alex sounded as though he needed reassurance. "Yes. Why not? I've seen you with Davy and the other kids when you're explaining something about the computer to them. You're good at explaining things clearly. Language shouldn't be any different."

"The College is going to want a security check on me as well as other things."

Walter grinned. "So, what's the problem? Just contact the Gunmen. They'll take care of that. At the same time, we can invite them to come up for a visit so that they can check out the area."

Alex grinned back. "Are you sure you want them up here? From what Davy's told me, they won't be happy with our security system."

Walter shrugged. "So they can play with that at the same time. Besides, can you see Langley and Charlie discussing conspiracies?"

Alex laughed. "Natasha will kill you!"

"Why will Slaven's Mom kill Papa?"

The two men looked up to see the child watching them from the doorway. Walter held out a hand and Davy came in and joined then at the foot of the couch.

"You know how Natasha feels about sensible things? Well, Charlie believes that things like ghosts exist. And if the Gunmen do come for a visit..."

Davy giggled. "Mr. Rush gets almost as loud as Ringo does when he gets excited."

"Not to mention," added Alex, "that Natasha doesn't approve of such things."

Davy suddenly got very serious. "She doesn't approve of ghosts and things like that." He looked up at the two men. "I guess she wouldn't approve of clones, too."

Alex reached out his hand and pulled the boy on top of him. Walter decided that Alex had to be the one to deal with this and sat back.

"Natasha doesn't approve of things that she's never met. If she'd meet a ghost, a nice one, then she'd be fine with that. But she's never met one, so she doesn't approve. Now you, she knows you. She's likes you as a friend for Slaven. She's had you over for supper. She approves of you.

"If we went to her and told her that you were a clone, she would probably raise her eyebrow really high..." Alex did a fine imitation of Natasha's raised eyebrow. "...and look at you in that way she does when one of you kids is explaining how Gorky and Barney got all wet and muddy..." Alex added the look. Davy giggled and Walter laughed. "...and then she'd say..." Alex cleared his throat and imitated Natasha's cadence to a T. "...'And what does all this have to do with the price of fish in Odessa?'" Alex waited until Davy's giggles stopped. "And it wouldn't matter in the least to her or to Slaven. Or to any of the Rushes. But, yes, it might to others so that's why we don't talk about it, Davy. And besides, it's not anybody's business but ours."

"See," whispered Walter, "you can do this parenting thing."

Alex smiled sheepishly but was pleased. However, Davy was frowning again. He'd pulled himself up and was sitting on Alex's stomach, a leg to either side. He seemed very pre-occupied with Alex's belt.

"Is there something else you'd like to talk about, Davy?" Walter wondered what was causing that worried look on the child's face.

Davy murmured something, still playing with Alex's belt.

"Davy, you can talk to us about anything you know," Walter added. "We promise we'll always listen."

Davy examined both of their faces. "You sleep together in the same bed."

"Yes," agreed Walter. Dear god, he thought, am I ready for this?

"Do you and Alex have sex, too?"

"Yes," said Alex, "we do. Do you understand what that means?"

Davy looked insulted. "We did reproduction in class, you know. I got an A plus, remember?"

"Yes, you did," Walter braced himself though he smiled at the boy.

"We did all the different ways plants and animals reproduce." Davy sounded still a little insulted.

"Huh-hum," nodded Walter.

"So, I guess what I want to know is," he looked at them directly as though challenging them to tell him the truth, "is one of you going to get pregnant like Mrs. Rush?"

There were two open mouths as two heads shook. "No!" "Never going to happen!"

Walter took a breath and forced himself to ask calmly, "Why, Davy? Do you want a brother or a sister?"

Davy went back to playing with Alex's belt. He thought for several moments before answering. "No. I don't think so. I mean I like going over to Slaven's and playing there, but it can get really noisy what with everyone playing different music and the babies crying and Gorky barking. I like coming back here where I can hear myself think."

"Well," said Alex, voice sincere, "we can promise you that you're never going to have to worry about that."

Davy looked up. "And then I won't have to share you two with anyone."

"Just the three of us, sharing each other with each other." Walter wondered if that was all bothering the child since he was still very serious. "Anything else, Davy?"

Davy stopped playing with the belt and peered up from under his lashes. "Alex, are you staying with us?"

Walter squeezed Alex's shoulder. Poor man, he was going to have to deal with this one also. "Yes, I'm staying. Why are you asking, Davy?"

Davy shrugged and went back to playing with the belt. "Don't know."

Walter nudged. "Is it because Alex and I did something to make you worry, Davy?"

Another shrug.

"Davy? Please." Walter wondered how much he should nudge.

"Alex was angry yesterday and this morning about what happened."

"Yes, he was, but not at you."

Alex reached out and took the boy's hand from his belt. "Davy. Look at me. Why would you think I would leave because of yesterday?"

"I thought," whispered the child, looking at their joined hands, "that you might think that I was too much trouble. I mean, the last time there was a fight about me, you got shot."

Walter winced. Alex shook his head. "That happened because I didn't duck fast enough. And I never thought you were responsible for that in any way, Davy."

"So you're not sorry you found me and stole me?"

"Davy! Never!" Alex pulled the child into his arms and held him tightly against his chest. "That was the very best thing that ever happened to me. Even the getting shot ended up being a good thing. It brought us to Walter and Middlebury and ...and Barney. Davy, if it hadn't been for you, I would probably be dead by now. Never ever think that. I would cut off my good arm rather than let you think that."

Walter watched the child cling to the man. He stroked the small back as he thought how kids carried a heavier load than he'd ever thought possible. And it amazed him how long kids held on to their insecurities no matter what you said to try and convince them otherwise. "In fact, Davy, if he hadn't found you and brought you to me, I'd probably be turning into a real bear at work. Remember how Doctor Fischer told you that you had to see to it that I loosened up? Well, without you, I'd probably be fighting off an ulcer and be ill and ... Damn it, Davy, I can't imagine what my life would be without you. Without the two of you."

After a few minutes, Alex slipped a hand under the child's chin to raise his face. "Davy. This is my fault, isn't it? Listen to me. I'm not very good at this family thing. I'm new at it. You've had more experience being part of a family than I have."

Davy sniffed loudly and allowed Skinner to offer him a tissue. "Are you a clone, too?"

Alex shook his head. "No. Even before I was given to the Consortium, I really didn't have a family."

Walter's hand tightened on his shoulder, as encouragement.

"My parents...they were scientists with the Consortium. They were more interested in their labs than in me. It was a relief to them when the Consortium asked for me. So you see, you're going to have to be very patient with me as I learn about all this stuff. Is that okay?"

Davy sniffed, blew his nose again. He nodded. "I finished my composition for Mr. Derrick. Can we have pizza for supper?"

The quick switch took Alex by surprise. Walter just grinned. "Sounds like a plan. Why don't you go get your composition and read it to us and then we'll order."

"Okay." All smiles, Davy bounced on Alex's stomach and went off to get his work.

"Wha..." Alex was stunned.

Walter patted him on the stomach. "Welcome to the wild and woolly world of childhood. From pregnancy to soul-shattering discussion to pizza all in the space of a few minutes."

Alex sat up, shaking his head.

"By the way, you handled your bit really well. Congratulations."

"I didn't lie to him," Alex was still wondering at Davy's reactions.

"No. He'd have known if you had."

Alex turned to face Walter. "How could he think..."

"He's you, Alex. How could you think that I would wake one day and decide, just like that, I wouldn't want you?"

Alex shrugged.

"Same reason." Walter reached for Alex's head and pulled it to his. His kiss was very thorough.

"You're doing it again," Davy sighed as he came back in.

Walter grinned. "Yes, we are. Get use to it, me boy. Your parents will be discreet but, in this house, we will not hide the fact that we love each other. You can expect to see a lot of hugging and kissing and even cuddling. I mean, after all, why should you be the only recipient, eh?"

Davy condescended to nod. "Well, since it won't make Alex pregnant..."

"Why Alex?" asked Walter, making room on the couch for Davy.

"Well, Mrs. Morgan said that it was the female of the species who had the babies...except for seahorses and Alex isn't a seahorse.'

"Thanks for noticing," muttered Alex.

"That still doesn't answer my question, Davy. Why would you say that Alex would be the one get pregnant? I mean, as you pointed out, he's not a seahorse, but he's also not...'the female of the species'."

Davy looked up from his paper. "Well, Ringo said that you were my father because they had put together all the paper work that said you were, but that Alex was the one who had provided the cells that created me. And that made him my mother."

"When did Ringo explain all that to you?" Walter glared at Alex whose mouth was wide open. If the Gunmen did come for a visit, he was going to have a little talk with Ringo Langley, hopefully before Alex got to him.

"The night they stayed with me 'cause you had to work all night. I heard them talking about clones and I asked them how clones were made. They knew I was a clone so they explained it all to me. About how regular babies were made and how I had been made. I think," he added, in a very thoughtful tone, "that my way is best. The other way sounded really messy."

Alex had to slap Walter on the back to get him to stop choking.


Nevertheless, their family grew.

The Dog Lady, as Davy called the woman with the unwanted dogs, did follow through with her threat to drop in unannounced.

Which was why, one Thursday evening, while Alex was waiting at the College Library for Davy and Slaven to finish with their karate lesson in the College gym, she called and wondered if, considering the amount of back yard that they had, the fact that it really wasn't good for a dog to be an "only dog," they all might like to come up to her farm and see something that she thought might suit all four of them well.

Walter thought about it, indicated that he'd discuss it with Alex and get back to her. He didn't need to discuss it with Davy. Davy never thought there might be too many animals around.

Alex shrugged and offered they might like to see what she had in mind for them before they made any decision.

It was a boxer mix. About a year old. Already trained. Her owners were suddenly expecting a child of their own and had decided that they could care for one but not both.

Barney and Kaiser—not after the old monarchist leader of Germany, but for the fact that she inhaled the rolls if left unattended near some—took a few minutes to sniff each other out. For Barney to indicate that though younger, he was top dog, and that was that. The Krycek-Skinner residence had increased by one dog.

Walter looked around for Alex and finally found him, sitting in one of the low runs with a dog that was warily allowing itself to be stroked.

"Damn!" whispered the Dog Lady. "Well, what do you know?"

The pup was, according to the woman and her vet, an unidentifiable mixture of whatever had given him long legs and a thin body, a mottled shaggy coat that once properly groomed was easy enough to keep tangle-free with a weekly brushing, a long narrow face with drooping ears. The animal had been abandoned somewhere in the area and had lived hard for some time. It had also been hit which was how it had ended up here, front leg in a cast, shaggy coat shaved in spots so that the open wounds could be treated and stitched up.

"He barely allows me to touch him. And he's been here a good three weeks now."

Alex looked up. He didn't have to say anything.

They went home with three dogs.

Kaiser was not fond of bedrooms. She looked over the house carefully and then decided that the couch in the now expanded TV room was hers, though she didn't mind sharing with her humans when they joined her. She was also fond of answering the doors at the slightest sound. They got to know that someone was coming to visit long before they heard footsteps on the veranda. Kaiser was ready to defend her territory but once introduced, she was friendly.

Unlike the other two dogs, Pushkin, Alex's dog, wasn't gregarious. He preferred Alex's company. He'd accept Davy or Walter for a walk, only if Alex wasn't around or if he insisted. Then, with a loud sigh, a sad, pathetic look, head drooping, Pushkin would go out for his exercise. If Alex indicated it was time for a walk, the dog was at the door in a streak, body wriggling in glee at the chance to be with Alex in the outdoors. In either case, once outside, he loved to romp with the other dogs, as long as there were no kids around. Children made him very nervous.

He would have probably loved sleeping on the bed with Alex, but Walter indicated that only he got to share Alex's bed. So, instead, Pushkin took over Alex's office. He ignored the comfortable bed that Alex bought for him, preferring to sleep, curled up, almost like a cat, in the '50's green leatherette chair with the deep arms that Davy had found at a garage sale for the office. It was a tight fit, but that's what he went back to, no matter what else he was offered.

Walter stopped teasing Alex about his cat-dog when they got a visit from the local sheriff and Pushkin suddenly developed a deep-throated rumble as the man approached Alex.

Steve Granger had a son in Davy's school, a grade younger, who took karate with the boys. By then, he had heard the rumours about how one of the new gay couple in town was an ex-FBI big- wig. He'd checked it out himself and, by the end of the school year, the last parents' day, made sure that he "bumped" into the two men. He'd tried to do a background search on the Assistant Director's partner, but had only came up with "Access denied" in too many law enforcement data banks that depended on the FBI's for information. Other information on the man, which the College had been more than happy to accept, seemed just a little too "real" for him. He was a local boy, but he had done his training and gotten his experience with the Chicago Police Department before he'd decided it was best for his marriage, his kids and his own sanity and health to come home.

He invited the two men to come join him and his crew when they took over the local shooting club once a month in order to maintain their firing skills. Not that there was much need for them, but there were still the occasional feud that flamed up in the hills around Ripton and now and then, they did have to deal with the brutal reality of life in the 21st Century.

After a quick but silent exchange between the two men, Skinner agreed for both of them.

Granger was no slouch with a weapon. Neither were his men. Most of them came from the State and had learnt to hunt and handle a rifle at an early age. Skinner, thought Granger, after watching him shoot, was more than decent. He hadn't lost his touch sitting on his ass eight years in a big office. But the partner, that was another story. By the time he was through, Granger knew that there was a reason for those "Access denied" messages. He'd bet his entire retirement fund that the man was a killer. Each bullet fired went exactly where he wanted it to.

"I wonder," he said causally to Skinner as they walked out to their cars, "what I would find if I had the right password to get into his FBI file?"

Skinner stopped and Granger got to meet the Assistant Director. "You'd find that you'd have gotten yourself a lot of trouble for nothing. All you need know about Alex Krycek is that he is my lover and Davy's uncle."

Granger swallowed hard and invited the men to join them every month. Krycek was too good not to hit on for some instruction. Then, at his men's instigation, he invited Skinner to give them a talk on procedures and discovered that the man was quite willing to share, with none of the usual jurisdictional lines drawn.

Still, more than a few of the parents were a little wary of allowing their kids to hang around the old Farmer place. Some of them would never change their minds but enough did when it became obvious that one of the men was always more than willing to supervise the kids when they headed for the swimming hole or to organize some activity to keep them occupied. Especially as the Sheriff's kids were often part of the crowd.

Alex was surprised to find that having lost an arm, having more than a couple of "interesting" scars on his body meant that the kids were quite willing to listen to him when he said something. That Summer, every day he was free, usually in the afternoon, he'd round up whatever kids and dogs were about—Pushkin excepted—and head for the river. There, to the awe and fascination of any new kids, he'd remove his arm, strip down to his trunks and jump in.

The older kids learnt that he didn't tolerate anything that might cause trouble. That if they wanted to rough-house, they did so after he and the kids left. Some visiting teenager, very sure of his physical prowess, challenged him on that. After that episode, no one ever tried it again.


Granger pulled into the driveway as Walter came out onto the veranda, hefting a large drink- cooler onto a table that had been set up near the barbecue where the coals were just about ready for the hot dogs. He waited for the man to join him, both of them looking a bit askance at the condition of the back yard.

Granger shook his head. "There have got to be what? twenty kids here at least."

Walter shrugged. "I just check to see that my two are present and accounted for."

Davy was indeed there. With his sidekick, Slaven. And at least five other kids from their class. All of them busy filling up grocery-size plastic bags with leaves, leaves that some of the smaller children, siblings of others in the yard, were raking their way after the various dogs had gone through the pile yet again.

In another corner of the yard, the older Rush kids were setting up a scarecrow with the help of a couple of kids. Walter figured they were whoever the Rush kids were dating this week. The girls from across the street were stapling dry corn stalks to the fence that separated this yard from the neighbour's—who was carefully keeping an eye out to make sure that none of the leaves were making their way back onto his property. The old man finished filling a large orange leaf bag and called over one of the smaller kids who was running about the yard. The child awkwardly waddled over to Davy and his gang who happily took the bag, emptied it onto their pile and handed the bag back to the little girl who cheerfully returned it to the waiting neighbour.

"Where's the Pied Piper?" Granger looked about the yard. "Dylan! Patty!"

Two of his children came running up.

"Back seat of the car."

Walter glanced over his shoulder, wondering what goodies Patricia Anne Granger had sent over to help feed the horde she'd gasped at when she'd dropped off her children. Steve's wife was a firm believer in chocolate. Walter hoped there were some of her brownies in one of those boxes. "Tree house."

Granger looked at the large oak that dominated the back yard. That Summer the two men had built a tree house in the deep fork of the oak, under the kids' supervision. It was a true kid's delight. It had a trap door, a ladder and a knotted rope as a means of getting up and down. There was a railing and a covered portion where four boys could camp out comfortably in sleeping bags, though they had discovered one night that nine could squeeze in.

As the Rush sheepdog decided to roll in yet another pile of leaves, a stuffed dummy dropped, hanging down from the tree house, with Alex close behind landing on his feet. "Okay," he tossed back up to the two teenagers who were helping him. "Nice and secured. Let's see what else you've got that we can use."

"Coffee?" offered Walter.

"You two are certifiable," said Granger as he followed Walter into the kitchen.

Walter grinned as he poured out a couple of mugs of coffee. "Well, I have to admit that I didn't have this in mind when I told Davy he could have a few friends over to fix up a Hallowe'en scene in the back yard. I thought maybe a few old sheets as ghosts and some rope as spiders' webs."

Granger shook his head. "The kids are having a real hoot. I can't think of any of their parents, maybe with the exception of the Rushes, who would allow their property to be taken over this way."

Walter smiled. "Well, this way, we know where the neighbourhood kids are. Though, to be honest, since all of them are here, I don't know who the set-up is going to impress tonight."

Granger laughed. "The parents. Who are going to thank you for allowing the kids to do it here and who will go home thankful they don't have to clean up."

"Ah, Alex thought about that. Each kid had to promise to show up after lunch tomorrow to help with the clean up. Or else."

Granger finished his coffee. "Or else what?"

Walter shrugged. "I have no idea. He's never had to follow through on that yet."

As Granger pulled out of the yard, three other kids came charging up the driveway, with a wagon that was heaped high with orange leaf bags. While one pulled the wagon, the other two worked at keeping the bags from rolling off. "Hi, Mr. Skinner. See, we found more. MR. KRYCEK!"

Walter watched as Alex helped the kids unload and open the bags then left them to pour the leaves out while he went to check on the taller kids who were tying the smaller bags of leaves to the bare branches of the two maples in the yard. The youngest Derwent girl, who was about four, caught Alex's attention to show him the pretty leaf she had found. Alex, crouching so that he was face to face with the little girl, examined her leaf as though it were the most important thing going.

Walter grinned. Alex Krycek and dogs and kids. Whoever would have thought it!

He went over to the barbecue and began loading it up with weiners.

"Thought you might like a little help."

Walter greeted Natasha Rush with a thankful smile. "Escaping from the twins?"

"I was up all night with them. They have decided to start teething. Both of them. At the same time. It is now Charlie's turn. Besides," she sighed, helping set out the napkins and condiments, "I remember what it was like in the neighbourhood before you moved in. We often had crowds of children over at our house and all the parents would do to help was drop their kids off and wave as they went off to do something."

Walter grinned. "That doesn't seem to have changed."

Natasha smiled and shook her head. She switched to Russian. "And I have ulterior motives as well. I need to ask Alex which classes he'd like to handle next semester. Now that Yuri's doctor has indicated that he has to take the rest of the academic year off, the shuffle means that we are hoping Alex won't mind taking on a regular course." She glanced over her shoulder. "Or two."

Walter shrugged, speaking less hesitantly in his improving Russian. "Not going to get involved in this. It's his decision. But you know that he's still finding his feet in a classroom. It's not his usual environment. "

She nodded. "But of course." She checked to see that the buns were ready for the hot dogs. "How's the book coming along?"

Voice mockingly stern, slipping back into English, Walter growled, "Showing interest in my tome on Methodology for Quantico is not going to get me to side with you, Natasha Sevastjana Katayev-Rush."

She laughed. "Well, it was worth a try. Will you be going to Virginia for that conference?"

Walter shook his head. "I never thought that they'd pay me what I asked. Which is why I asked it. But they have, so I'm off for three days next week."

Natasha grinned at him. "So very sorry to hear that they think you're worth it. Remember to leave the hotel and phone number with us before you leave. As a precaution. Just in case."

Walter grinned back. He had insisted on having Natasha's itinerary that Easter when she and the children had driven to visit her family, leaving Charlie and Gorky behind. "Thanks, I will." He walked over to the edge of the veranda. He yelled, "Calling all sevens and younger! First round!"


Davy was driving them crazy.

Walter had read that twelve was an awkward age for boys, but this was bordering on insane. They were both of them ready to kill the kid. It was hard to remember that he had once said, almost jokingly, that there would come a day that Davy would stomp up stairs, muttering invectives at his parents under his breath, and slam his bedroom door shut. That they would still love him, no matter what.

Well, they might still love him, but it was hard to find the likeable child in the tense, pouting, moody demon who had taken up residence in Davy's body.

"Puberty," said Natasha and Charlie, offering sympathetic shudders.

Walter agreed on that it was the onset of puberty, but it was also more than that. He knew it. Alex knew it. Even Davy knew it, but neither of them could get Davy to talk about it.

Then, one day, after there had been a set-to between Walter and Davy about some homework, Alex blew his top.

"That's it!" He shouted over the tension as he slammed the palm of his hand down hard on the kitchen table, shocking the other two. Alex never raised his voice. Rarely indicated that he had a temper. It effectively silenced both of them.

Alex pointed to a chair at the kitchen table. "Davy. Sit."

Without a word, eyes wide open, still taken aback by Alex's reaction, Davy sat. So did the dogs who had been anxiously watching the scene.

"Walter, you, too."

Walter sat. After nearly four years, there were times when Alex took him completely by surprise. While he'd been hoping that Alex could come up with some insight into Davy's behaviour, he wasn't sure what the hell was going on right now, but he was tired of dealing with Davy on his own and was more than happy to leave the field open to Alex.

"Okay. Enough is enough, Daveed Krycek Skinner. We know that things are happening that are upsetting you, but so far you're refusing to let us help you. That's what we're here for. Unfortunately, neither of us is a mind-reader, so you're going to have to let us in on what the problem is. I know that Natasha says it's puberty and that all kids' bodies go through some chemical change at this age, but it's more than that, Davy.

"Now we've been pretty tolerant, but unless you start telling us what's bugging you, you're going to find yourself grounded for the rest of your life." Alex pulled out a chair and sat watching the boy who seemed to be growing an inch a week these past months. All arms and legs, hands and feet awkwardly large for the still growing body. Mouth mulishly set.

Eyes frightened.

Alex gentled his tone. "Davy, we love you. We will always love you. No matter what. Please, can't you find it in yourself to tell us what's wrong?"

Davy looked at his hands lying flat on the table for several minutes.

Alex was wondering just what he could say to get the kid talking when he did. Low, mumbled. Inaudible.

"I'm sorry, Davy, I didn't catch any of that. Would you try again?"

Davy sighed deeply, looked up at his worried parents. "I think there's something really wrong with me."

Walter got out of his chair and took one closer to the boy. He placed his hand on one of the boy's nervous ones and held it still. Voice infused with a calm he didn't feel, he asked, "What do you think is wrong with you, Davy?"

Davy looked from Walter to Alex. "I'm your clone, right?"

Alex nodded. "There's nothing new about that, Davy. We never hid it from you."

Davy nodded, bitting his lower lip as he gathered the courage to continue. Walter gave the cold hand under his an encouraging squeeze.

"You sleep with Papa. Have sex with him."

"Nothing new there either, Davy." Alex spoke in the same tone that he used when Pushkin was frightened by something that he couldn't get anyone to understand.

Davy nodded again. "I'm your clone," he repeated, "I should be like you."

"How like me?"

Davy looked from Alex to Walter. Frustrated, he struggled with the words. "Remember last month? When the high school had the car wash as a fund raiser? And they didn't want us elementary," he sneered, "kids around to get under their feet?"

Alex nodded. He glanced at Walter who looked as lost as he felt.

"Well, we watched them from the big tree by the parking lot."

"We?"

"Yeah, me, Slaven and Maggie."

Maggie had joined the select group of kids who hung around the house since she'd moved to the town with her parents that September.

"Okay," recapped Alex, "you, Slaven and Maggie are in the tree watching the high school kids wash cars."

Davy nodded. "It was a hot day, remember? And all of them were wearing things like shorts and tank tops or bathing suits."

"That's a good idea," said Alex, giving Davy time to find the words to continue, "when there's that much water around."

Davy nodded, almost grateful. "That's when it happened. They were all wet and tossing buckets of water over each other and... I...got..." Davy's voice faded into a faint whisper, "...hard."

There was a moment's silence as the two adults finally clued in.

"You had an erection?" Walter kept his voice sympathetic though he almost had to bite his lips to keep from laughing. All this angst for an erection!

"But?" asked Alex, having clued in that, worrisome though that was, it wasn't the cause of Davy's behaviour.

Davy lowered his head, his hair falling forward as though he was looking for something behind which to hide.

Walter exchanged a worried glance with Alex before giving Davy's hand a tighter squeeze. "Davy, whatever it is, you can tell us. Erections are a natural occurrence for the male of the species. We've spoken about that before. But did something else happen?"

Damn, thought Walter, had someone touched his child?

"You don't understand." Davy was almost in tears.

"Then," Alex's voice was softly encouraging, "you'd better try and explain it to us, Davy."

"I got hard watching Joanna Ryan!" he shouted. "There! You see!"

But they didn't. Davy freed his hands and used them to wipe the hair back off his face. He tried again. "I should have gotten hard watching Tommy Baker or John Douglas. Maggie thought they were extreme hunks. But nothing happened when I watched them. But Joanna Ryan was wearing this thing that barely covered her nipples and she was jumping up and down, squealing whenever the guys hosed her, and her...her..." He made a cupping gesture with his hands.

"Breasts," Walter offered.

"They were jiggling and all I could think of was touching them and I got hard!" Davy was in tears. "What's wrong with me?"

Alex grabbed one of Davy's hands in his. Walter reached and snagged a near-by box of tissues. He pulled several out and offered them to the boy. They both waited until Davy blew his nose and wiped his face.

"First of all, Davy, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you." Walter shook his head at the boy ready to challenge his statement. "What happened is what is supposed to happen. You saw something that turned you on sexually and your body reacted to that."

"But it should have been the guys, not a girl!"

"Because you're my clone?" Alex cocked his head. "Is that it, Davy?"

Davy found the table top very interesting but finally nodded.

Alex frowned. This was something neither he nor Walter had ever thought about. He looked at Walter who shrugged and tossed the ball back at him.

"Davy, look at me, please. Now listen to me. Yes, you are my clone. All that means is that genetically, you are my double. Like an identical twin, but younger. When you grow up, you know exactly what you're going to look like because you see me, you see my face every day. But that's it, Davy. That's all. The rest of you is you, not me. We have different experiences, we have different pasts, we'll have different futures."

"But I'm your clone. I should be just like you."

"Look like me, yes. Be me, no. Davy, sexuality is an individual thing. There are identical twins, one of whom is gay while the other is straight."

Davy just shook his head, not really believing.

Walter leaned forward. "Davy, you know how you hate cooked turnips?"

Davy, confused by the change in topic, had to take a moment to think about that. "Yeah?"

"But Alex loves cooked turnips. And no matter how you've tried them...with brown sugar...with butter... you hate the stuff. Am I right?"

Davy nodded.

"If your theory on clones was right, you should love the stuff as much as Alex does. But you don't now, do you?"

"No." The thought seemed to cheer Davy up. "No, I really hate the taste of them."

"So then why shouldn't you find females a turn on? There's nothing that says you shouldn't or can't. It's obvious that your mind and body find them attractive."

"So there's nothing weird about me? Nothing that needs to be fixed?"

"Just because you get turned on by women and not men?" Walter grinned with relief. "Nothing in the least."

"Nothing in the least." Alex repeated as he pulled his clone into his arms and gave him a tight hug before passing him onto Walter.

"I'm sorry, Alex, I'm sorry, Papa, for the way I've been. I thought that maybe you'd be disgusted by me."

"Disgusted!" Walter gave the boy a gentle shake. "Never ever. We love you too much for that to ever happen."

Alex leaned back in his chair. "Even if we really didn't like you much these days, kiddo, we never stopped loving you."

Walter gave the boy another hug and then sat him back in his chair. "Now that's out of the way, I think we'd better have a little talk about what is acceptable behaviour where women are concerned."

"The whys and wherefores," added Alex. "And it's never too early to be reminded about condoms."

Davy rolled his eyes, relieved to discover that there was nothing weird about him, but already slightly embarrassed to be discussing condoms with his parents. "Papa!," he whined. "Ahh...lex!"


Alex rolled over and let his body laze as the slight breeze from the open window cooled the sweat off it.

Walter covered his eyes with an arm and sighed happily. Damn, but he loved it when Alex let loose his usual restraint and went feral on him that way.

"You know," Alex said after several minutes.

On the verge of slipping into sleep, Walter forced himself to give an interrogative grunt by way of response.

"I feel sorry for the kid."

Walter opened his eyes and thought about the situation. "Yeah, puberty's no fun at the best of times."

"Not that." Alex turned onto his side, facing Walter. "Yes, I'm sorry he's had such a hard time of it these last few weeks, worrying about being straight, but that's not why I feel sorry for him."

Walter watched the face that was above his. Domestic life seemed to suit Alex very well. And not just physically. He'd gradually put back some weight so that he came across as less honed and dangerous. And he'd lost that tension he'd carried along with him so that he looked more like the teaching assistant he'd become. "Then why?"

Alex propped his cheek against his raised fist. "He'll never know how wonderful it feels to have someone like you as his lover. Never know the pleasure of being royally fucked into the mattress by one Walter S. Skinner-type."

Walter grinned, raised his hand to caress the cheek that was free. He was about to say something when Alex continued.

"Of being loved by you. And of loving you."

That last caught Walter's breath. He swallowed hard. "Thank you."

Alex shrugged as best he could. "I know it's not something I've often said to you," he acknowledged.

"Actually," Walter smiled gently, "it's the first time that you've ever said something like that to me."

"The first time?" That worried Alex. "Are you sure?"

"Well, the first time you say the words. You've never let me doubt how you feel about me, Alex, but you've never actually said the words until now."

Alex was stunned. "But..."

Walter grinned. "It's okay, Alex." Actually, it had made him understand how Sharon must have felt. "I mean, I know you love me, but it's just nice to hear the words. Sorta reassuring that it's not a one-way street."

"Fuck! No way! Walter, I'm sorry, I thought..."

Walter placed his fingers over Alex's mouth. "Alex. I don't say it often enough either. We're men, you know. The strong, silent type. We just assume that actions speak louder than words. And they do, Alex. For us, they have done and will continue doing so. But for the record, I love you, Alex Krycek. Very much."

Alex lowered his mouth so that it hovered over Walter's, his eyes close enough that, even in the faint moonlight, Walter could make out the intense emotion in them. "I love you, Walter. More than I ever thought it was possible to love another being. And I will remember to say it from now on."

Walter raised his head enough so that their mouths met. His arms reached and pulled his lover down to him. When they finally released, Alex's head against his own, Walter muttered, "I wish I were twenty again, just so I could make love to you a second time tonight."

Alex chuckled. "Well, you're not and I'm not. But I don't mind giving it a try if you're game."

They went slowly, each gesture now suddenly made all that much more sensual as there were words that accompanied the touches. Words that Walter discovered he had wanted to say for a long time, words that thrilled him to hear whispered in his ear, against his skin. Words that spilled out of his lover in several languages. Words serving to inflame them both.

This time, they lay snuggled up close to each other, cooling in the night breeze.

"Not bad for two old geezers," yawned Walter.

"Love you," murmured Alex.


The sound of the doorbell startled him in his office.

Not a sound often heard, not with Kaiser ever on the alert. But the dogs were off with Alex and Walter had to think about which door was requesting his presence.

He went down the stairs, to the front door, wondering who the hell would actually take the time to ring at their door. Most people knew to come round to the kitchen door.

"Yes..."

And that was all that made it out of his mouth.

The couple at the door were smiling broadly at him.

"So," said the man, "this is where Assistant Directors hide out."

The woman raised an eyebrow at the comment. "Good afternoon, sir."

Shit! thought Walter. Mulder? Scully? Here?

"Have we arrived at an inconvenient time, sir?" Scully sent one of those I-told-you-so looks at her husband. Mulder just grinned and shrugged.

"Sorry, sir. We were in the area and remembered that you had moved up here some time ago. We took the chance..."

"Yes, yes, of course." Walter stepped back, realizing that his reception could be construed as less than welcoming. That's when he noticed the boy. What was his name? Oh, yes, William. "Come in, come in."

He looked around the entrance that had become a bit of a storage area for the men. They rarely had any reason to use the front area so that it had, over the years, gathered the usual debris a male household produced. Three pairs of roller blades. Damn, didn't they hang those up any more? The hockey stick and goalie pads that Davy used when playing street hockey with the neighbourhood kids. A pair of baseball mitts, a ball and a bat. Davy's and Alex's gym bags which, from the aroma that wafted up, were probably due for their monthly clean out. Two boxes of newspapers ready for the Scouts recycling run. A couple of well-chewed sticks, something the dogs had brought in.

With a smile, hoping—hopelessly— that Scully was not as meticulous a housekeeper as her reports had been, Walter led his surprise visitors into the large family room. This would be the week the parlour was unuseable as they were in the process of repainting it.

With a smile, he indicated the better of the two couches and watched as Mulder examined the room with a delighted grin. Yes, it wasn't that much better than the entry either. Davy had had his gang over last night to watch some game on the wide-screen TV, followed by at least three of those movies boys his age were so fond of watching. Someone had left a jacket and a plate on the pool table. There was still a bowl on the battered coffee table with remnants of popcorn, a couple of empty large bags of chips and a few apple cores as well as a pyramid of Coke cans. Not to mention the crumbs that decorated the carpet by the couches and armchairs.

Damn it, he'd been busy with that article he had promised Granger he'd have for him by the end of the weekend. He hadn't taken time to check if Davy and his friends had cleaned up. He guessed that Davy thought he'd get around to that this morning but then, glancing at his watch, come to think of it, Davy hadn't yet gotten out of bed. What time had he finally hit the sack last night? No, this morning.

As Scully and Mulder were casing the room, exchanging those silent messages married couples did, Walter took a moment to examine the boy. He'd been born when they'd left D.C. So what did that make him? Eight? Nine?

And looking at the boy, Walter suddenly found himself grinning. The Mulder nose. The Mulder mouth. The Mulder eyes. The Mulder build. Damn but if Scully hadn't gone and given birth to a Mulder clone. Explained a few things. Such as how a woman made barren suddenly got pregnant.

He dropped into his favourite chair and smiled, more at ease with this visit now than he had been. "So what were you doing up here? The last I heard, you, Agent Scully, were at Quantico, teaching forensics."

"Actually, sir, it's no longer Agent, merely Doctor. I'm still teaching forensics but at Georgetown."

Walter smiled as he nodded. "And do you enjoy that?"

"Yes, sir, I do. It's very fulfilling." She smiled back at him, slowly working her way to the back of the couch.

Walter hoped that she wouldn't mind the dog hair on her black pants.

"And what are you up to these days, Mulder?"

"Psychology. I have a private practice and I occasionally provide profiles for the VCUs of different law enforcement agencies."

Walter nodded. "That must keep you busy."

Scully grinned at him openly. "And out of trouble?" she added.

Walter grinned back.

"Actually," said Mulder, laughing slightly at his wife's reminder of his days back when he worked under the Assistant Director, "we're on our way back from a seminar in Boston and we decided to take the long way home. We knew that you had retired here, so we looked you up in the phone book and took the chance that you might be at home today."

Before Walter could ask them if there was a reason behind the visit, they were interrupted by the sound of an elephant charging down the stairs.

Walter sighed. How many times had they...

"Papa, I know we didn't clean up last night but..."

Davy came into the room, his usual cyclone self. He was wearing jeans that he probably had slept in, a green hockey sweater with his name on the back, and in his stocking feet because his joggers were still on the veranda at the back door, encrusted with the mud he had brought home with him after spending the evening cleaning up the bank of the swimming hole with Slaven and Maggie and whomever else they had managed to drag along.

His entry caused a variety of reactions. Mulder and Scully stood up. "Krycek!"

William joined them. "Green! Your hair is green!"

Standing, Walter smiled at the boy, grinned at the adults. "I don't think you've ever met my son, Daveed, have you?"

"Your son!" Mulder looked stunned.

Walter nodded. "Davy, I'd like you to meet Doctor Dana Scully and Doctor Fox Mulder. They used to work in one of the departments under me, the X-Files."

Davy nodded at them in a friendly manner. "I've heard those names before. I'm pleased to meet you, Dr. Scully. Dr. Mulder."

Walter enjoyed the stunned looks on the faces of their visitors. At seventeen, Davy was still a couple of inches shy of his full height but hours of playing hockey had filled the shoulders and chest so that his resemblance to the adult Alex Krycek was striking. Of course, the green hair added a certain je-ne-sais-quoi. Not something that Alex would ever be caught dead wearing.

"Why is your hair green?"

Davy crouched to face the child.

Scully made to move as though to protect her child but Mulder quickly placed his hand on her arm. Walter lost his smile. The kids ignored them.

"So that it matches the colour of my sweater. See. The green and white are the colours of the Middlebury Green Mountain Boys. That's my hockey team. I'm one of their goalies. We were in the State finals and we thought, the team did, that the hair might make us play better."

"And did it?" The child's eyes were bright with fascination.

"Nope. We got creamed in the semi-finals. But it was fun." Davy looked up, eyes laughing. "Besides, it drove some of the parents crazy and that was fun, too."

Walter scoffed. "Granger finally admitted it was something he would have done at your ages, too."

"The only reason the sheriff didn't go ballistic when he saw Dylan is because you found it funny. Frankly, a lot of the kids were hoping that you would. They figured if you backed us, their parents would freak out less."

Walter shook his head. "What use would freaking out have been? It was a done deal by the time I saw it. And I don't have to handle the looks and the questions." He sighed, hoping for some commiseration from the two who were still silently absorbing the presence and look of his son. "I just have to live with it. Not so easy first thing in the morning."

And then there was the sound of a truck arriving, dogs barking and the kitchen door slamming. "Davy! Get those joggers cleaned up before Kaiser thinks they're a snack."

And there was the thud of what Walter knew were pizza boxes on the counter, followed by, "Go eat your own food!"

And then Alex Krycek walked into the room, sunglasses shoved up to the top of his head, thin cigarillo in his mouth, dogs at his feet.

"Dear lord!" Scully looked aghast.

Alex came to a dead stop, causing Pushkin to plough into him.

"Dogs! You have dogs!" William squealed with delight. "Three of them!" He looked up as Barney came over to sniff him. "Can I pat them?" he asked Davy.

"William," Scully unfroze enough to approach her son.

Davy ignored her for William. "Sure. Barney's pretty cool. He likes pats. Kaiser, let her smell you really well before you try touching her. She just wants to make sure that you're not another dog muscling in on her territory. As for Pushkin...well, he's hiding in the kitchen. He's afraid of kids so he may never let you near."

"We have visitors, Alex." Walter went to stand by his lover.

"Yes, Walter, so I see." Alex spoke though clamped teeth.

The tension in the room rose enough that Kaiser stopped sniffing William and looked nervously at the others.

"Davy," Walter smiled at the small boy who was also picking up the tension, "why don't you show William the tree house..."

"A tree house! You have a tree house, too!"

Davy grinned and offered his hand to the child. "Yep. Papa and Alex built it for me when I was about your age. It has a trap door and a ladder..." With the same grin that Scully and Mulder remembered from Alex Krycek's days as an agent, Davy took William out to the kitchen. The dogs went with them, in happy expectation.

"That had better be your pizza you feed them," tossed Alex over his shoulder.

Davy paused in the doorway, pizza box in hand, eyes sparkling with bedevilment. "Yes, sir, Mom." To Scully he added. "I'll keep an eye on the boy, Doctor Scully. I'm sure you two and Papa and Alex have all sorts of things to catch up on." Said very innocently, as though he had no idea of just who these people were and why they had responded so strongly to the sight of him and then Alex.

Alex snorted. Walter raised an eyebrow. Davy whistled. "Come on, Push, pizza!"

It was about an hour later when the adults went out to the yard where William was tossing up pieces of crust for the dogs.

It had been a strangely harrowing hour for Dana Scully, to discover that not only was Alex Krycek alive and well, but that he was happily living in a domestic situation with a man he had once killed. With a child who was an obvious replicant of himself. It took her almost that entire time to clue in to the matching rings the men wore, on their right hands. Because, she reasoned, of Krycek's only having the one real hand. Later on, Mulder would remind her that in the Russian tradition, wedding bands were worn on the right hand.

Fox Mulder, once he had understood the situation in the house, had settled for getting a few answers from Krycek about events that had occurred all those years back which had bugged him since.

Both of them had been surprised to discover that Krycek was a lecturer at the local college: Russian language and literature. That Skinner had indeed written the methodology text that was still in use at Quantico and had a career in speaking to police groups about cross-boundary jurisdictional procedures. That he was often called, in an advisory capacity, to help in dealing with such situations.

That Daveed Krycek Skinner was finishing high school, on his way to university on a scholarship.

None of them had mentioned the obvious: that Davy was a clone.

"Mom! Watch!" William tossed a crust high into the air for Kaiser who leapt up to catch it before it had even started its downward path.

Scully smiled at her son.

The back yard had the usual accouterment that she associated with men. There was an older model SUV in the driveway, a pick-up truck that she assumed was Krycek's. She wasn't certain whom the two motorcycles in disrepair that were housed in the open garage belonged to, just that someone had dismantled the engine of one. Leaning against the veranda were two bicycles. Those she decided had to belong to the two young women—girls really—dressed in short shorts and tight cropped tank tops who were leaning in flirtatious poses against the trunk of the maple tree closest to the tree with the tree house. A tree in which the green-haired boy lay contentedly along a branch, holding easy conversation with the two girls.

"Well,' she said in a low tone, loud enough for just the adults to hear, "it's a pity that they're wasting their time."

Walter stopped to look a question at her.

"Well, they seem to be very...optimistic about their chances with your...son."

Alex took a moment to relight his cigarillo "It is," he said, blowing out a long plume of smoke, knowing that it would irritate Scully to no end, "a deep, dark family secret that, much to our bewilderment, Davy is unabashedly heterosexual."

"That said," Walter smiled, "you are right about their being optimistic. Scud coming in at seven o'clock."

It took Scully a moment to understand that he was referring to the woman who was strolling into the yard. A woman who wore a short skirt, a tight t-shirt that revealed no skin, but a nice bosom. Who, though young, was older than the two girls by several years. Older than Davy by at least a couple.

"Mr. Skinner. Mr. Krycek." Her voice had that low, gravelly quality that seemed to be so popular with some men. Scully noticed that Mulder suddenly went from playing with Kaiser and their son to smiling up at the young woman. Who ignored him for the boy up in the tree. Who no longer saw either of the other girls.

"Joanna." He smiled as only a young man, confident in his sexuality, can and the two girls practically salivated, even if the smile was not directed their way.

As Joanna approached the tree, Davy dropped lazily, like a large cat, onto the ground.

They didn't kiss. She just went and put her arm around his waist. He let his arm drop onto her shoulders. Walking hip by hip, they passed by the four watching adults on their way out of the yard.

"Time?" Alex removed the small cigar from his mouth, smiling at the young woman who grinned back at him.

"By five. I promised to coach tonight."

Walter nodded. "Have fun."

"Behave," muttered Alex, but low enough that the young couple didn't hear him. "Grey hairs. I swear I wouldn't have any if it wasn't for him."

Walter grinned, passing his hand over his scalp, over the narrower fringe of light grey hair. "Take a good look, Mulder. This is what puberty does to parents."

They finally got William away from the dogs. "All I have at home are fish," he explained to Walter. "'Cause we live in a no-pet building."

Scully used an anti-bacterial towelette to wipe his hands after she got him into the car. Mulder nodded to Krycek who disappeared inside, probably to warn up the pizza that had lain on the counter all this time, waiting to be eaten.

As he went to go around the car to the driver's seat, Skinner stopped him. "Does William know?"

Mulder stilled. "Know what?"

"That he's a clone."

Mulder's face hardened as he looked at Skinner, ready to challenge him. "What makes you say that?"

Skinner sighed. "Mulder, I've spent the last nine years living with one. Believe me, I recognize a clone when I see one. He's you to a T."

Mulder sighed, allowed some of the tension to dissipate. "No. No, he doesn't. We decided to wait until he can fully understand before telling him."

Skinner nodded. "Alex's decision was different. Which means that Davy's had time to think about it. To figure out how or if he will allow it to affect his life. So, Mulder, when you and Scully decide to tell William, if he needs to talk to someone, to understand that he's not alone in that position, call us. I'm sure that Davy will be happy to discuss all or any of the advantages and the disadvantages with him."

Mulder thought about it for a moment. He looked into the car where Scully was sitting, waiting for him to join her and their son. "Thanks. I will remember to tell William that as well."

Walter watched the car pull out of the driveway. He checked his watch. Davy would be gone a good three hours.

He smiled.

The package with the new toys had arrived earlier in the week.

Whistling happily, Walter went up the stairs, into the kitchen, wondering how long it would take him to convince his lover this would be a good time to try some of them out.

The End

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