Illusions of Love

by Amazon X

Title: Illusions of Love

Author: Amazon X

E-mail: yankeestarbuck@yahoo.com

Website: http://yankeestarbuck.tripod.com

Feedback: Sure, it's OK.

Category: Slash, Sk/K, Post-colonization, H/C

Rating: NC-17

Summary: "You're getting to her."

Archive: The Basement, Full House Slash, Gossamer, WWOMB, SKINKS, anyone else, ask.

Disclaimer: Not mine, but hey, you put them out there. Found 'em, like 'em, keeping 'em.

Notes: This is a sequel to "Illusions of the Heart" because Laura made me the most lovely book cover for it! I want to give this to both her and Nicholas Lea, for his birthday. Thank you, Ursula, for the wonderful beta, and the great advice, some of which I just did not have time, or inclination to use, although it was better than what I came up with. Maybe I'll rewrite this as an alternate one of these days. So, everyone, enjoy the sequel!


RESTORED OKLAHOMA CITY, OK
MAY 2015

"By the powers granted me by the people of Oklahoma City, I now pronounce you husband and wife. Jimmy, kiss your bride." To the sounds of whoops and shouts, Jimmy Bond took his new wife, Yves Bond, in his arms and kissed her gently on the mouth. She immediately curled against his body, as much as she could with her belly heavy with their baby. Jimmy didn't ignore that part of her, getting on his knees to kiss her stomach. The crowd cheered for them, Krycek included.

It had been months since the night that Krycek and Jimmy had spent together, but neither man was lonely. Yves had let Jimmy move into her tent, small as it was, which made Byers, Langly and Frohike happy, since it meant more room for them. Krycek had moved into Skinner's tent, which gave another to Scully for the children. They walked for weeks, trying to find some type of civilization, but all they found were bodies along the way. A mysterious illness was further reducing the population left on Earth after the alien attacks. Sometimes Skinner wondered if the human race was doomed.

Skinner sat down with Mulder, Scully, the Gunmen, and much to everyone else's dismay, Krycek. Skinner asked him there as head of security. He'd forced Yves to step down when she couldn't hide her pregnancy from him any longer. He'd also sat down like a father to tell her to "do the right thing" and marry Jimmy. Secretly, he trusted Krycek more than he trusted Yves. He knew she was smart, savvy and strong, but Krycek was ruthless, Yves didn't see the need to kill anyone who wasn't convicted of a serious crime. Skinner knew Krycek was more cut-throat, and in the post-apocalyptic America, it was necessary. Just before finding this place, they had been attacked by marauders looking for drugs and alcohol. While Yves was giving orders to surround and seize, Krycek went into berserker-mode and slaughtered a fair bit of them. Skinner made his decision about which tactic worked while Scully sewed the gash in his arm.

Skinner walked to where Krycek stood, drinking some of the homemade brew that was now in stills all over the converted mall. They'd lucked out and came across a small town that had been saved from decimation by its isolation. Krycek was wary, of course, not expecting to just "stumble on everything we need" as he put it. So he ran a reconnaissance mission while keeping the group far away until he deemed the entire place safe for inspection by the larger group.

There were two livable apartment houses close to town as well as a medical clinic and a strip mall. Further out of town, a Walmart stood, unmolested and still fully stocked, information which Krycek kept to himself. Although, this was a "dry" Walmart, it did have the makings for stills, which Krycek maintained himself.

"Good job, boss," Krycek said, raising his glass to Skinner.

"What did I tell you about calling me that?" Skinner growled, grabbing the glass of moonshine.

"Can't get my tongue around 'Walter' too good, so I'll stick with what I know," Krycek drawled.

Skinner grimaced as he swallowed. "Drinking this shit will wrap your tongue around your head."

Krycek laughed and took his glass back. "Hey, I'm just thinking of you with this stuff. If I get drunk enough, my dick won't bother me tonight. Or you."

Skinner pressed his lips to Krycek's, drawing the breath from the man and said, "I am never bothered by your dick, my friend."

"Ah-Lex! Ah-Lex!" came the cry from across the lawn. They'd set up a barbecue for the wedding, and everyone was there. Morgan was a little girl Krycek had rescued from a burning house; a house he'd set on fire. She was burned on her arms, face and neck. Scully fought hard to save her life, berating Krycek to his face and behind his back every chance she got. Skinner thought that if Scully had been there, every night, while Krycek sat with Morgan, her hand and prayed over the little girl, she'd see how sorry he felt.

"Hey, kitten, come here," Krycek called out. He hoisted the girl into his arms and rested her on his hip, with the burned side of her face toward him. He always did that, so she could rest that side against his chest and hide it. Also, he could sneer over her head at the people that winced at her scars.

"You happy for Jimmy?" she asked.

"Yeah, sweetie, I am. Hey, when are you gonna marry me?" he asked, squeezing her a little. She giggled and settled into a comfortable silence. Krycek carried her around, until he got a dirty look from Scully, who came to get her and send her to play with the other children.

"Morgan, you know not to bother the adults," she said, sending the pouting girl on her way. Morgan thrust her lips out, looking back at Krycek, then shuffled on her way. Krycek turned away from Scully and walked away before anyone saw the tears in his eyes.

Skinner followed Krycek away, and they sat together on an old stoop of a house that had crumbled away, leaving only the disembodied steps and railing that would lead inside. Skinner handed the bottle back to Krycek. "Don't you let her get on your nerves, Alex," he said, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "She still holds me responsible for closing the X-Files that first time. The only person that walks on water is Mulder. And not even that much since he took her on the run so she couldn't find William."

John Doggett strolled over and took the proffered bottle from Krycek's hand. He had joined the community a few months previous, after spending his time searching for them. He'd been with Monica Reyes, but she had died in childbirth four months before he found them. Their son, Michael, was now part of Scully's brood, but Doggett took him into his tent every night. "Hey, why you guys here? They're gonna start serving the barbecue venison. That and the rabbits are on the spits now, too. We need to find some cattle. I'm getting tired of all this wilderness meat. I want some steak."

Skinner laughed. "Yeah, I know what you mean. I'm dying for a hamburger."

"I'd like a plate of spaghetti and meatballs," Krycek mused, eyes glazing over. They all wanted their old lives, it was abundantly clear. They'd find something soon, a farm, something, Skinner tried to convince himself.

When the party was over, cleared away from the square and the folks went back to their tents and structures, Skinner lay full length beside Krycek in their tent, kissing and holding each other. Both had drunk a little too much that night, and they were paying for it with their soft cocks, madly rubbing each other in vain. Skinner finally lay back and sighed deeply.

"He's not coming up, baby," Skinner whispered in Krycek's ear. He spoke with soft tones and terms of endearments only when they were alone. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have had all that liquor."

"Yeah, like my little soldier wants to go to war," Krycek muttered, pulling on his flaccid cock. He rolled over onto his stomach and folded his arms under his head. Skinner took the man into his arms and kissed his dark hair. He wore it much shorter than he once did, which made it easier to control the lice. Skinner knew it was a hazard of a nomadic life, but he also knew it still embarrassed Krycek.

They settled for the night, curled together under the rough blanket to conserve body heat. Both men freely admitted they enjoyed sharing the tent than sleeping in the cold alone. It was a struggle for rest of the community to see the two men as a couple. Skinner had never shown the inclination of homosexuality, and the consensus for Krycek was distrust, which didn't bother the man one bit, from what he told Skinner. He had a job to do, a lover to satisfy, and a little girl to make up to. Life was simple for him.

After a few days, and the meat supply drying up, Skinner held a "town meeting" to decide what they should do about food. Their wild vegetation stores were fast being used up, but with the equipment found in the Walmart, they could start farming. Did they want to stay in their current community, or move onto a new settlement where game might be better?

"I was right to start this early in the day, after the noon meal," he whispered to Krycek. "They're still sleepy from all the food they ate."

"They'll stay," was all Krycek said, quietly but certain.

"You think?" Skinner asked.

"They're tired. We're all tired. It's pretty good here. That fuckin' Walmart was pure luck. We should really crack that store open, Walt. I say, we stay, put sown some roots and just try and get normal again." Krycek snorted derisively. "Listen to me, like I fucking know what normal is."

"You know normal more than you think," was Skinner's reply before calling the vote. And as Krycek predicted, they settled into a community, and called it Oklahoma City. The original by that name had been completely leveled in the one of the culls.

Skinner had many reservations about taking Krycek's advice and "cracking open" the store, mainly being the activity of clearing out the wares might attract the attention of more marauders to just slaughter the group and move into their territory. He also felt guilty about stealing, even though there was no possible way anyone from the Walton family would make a claim against them if they were caught. They'd live for more than two years in survival mode, a few more weeks wouldn't hurt them. He hadn't even been there himself, yet, relying on Krycek's descriptions of the contents. He knew that Krycek was helping himself to the contents, as new items began showing up in the community, blankets, clothing for the children, even mattresses were hauled out. Skinner was amazed; the man must have carried them on his back.

The work began slowly, building and clearing, plowing and planting. Krycek was drawing plans for battlements and support walls, but was quickly told that he was only to allow plank fences to be built around the planting areas. Skinner wanted them to be sure that they promoted a friendly atmosphere for anyone who happened upon them and wanted to join the community. Krycek laughed in their faces.

"You're counting on believing that all the evil folks are dead from the culling, and all the viruses that resulted afterward. You're not gonna believe that there are folks out there who just want to be evil. I oughta know. I was one of them."

Krycek retreated to the tent, causing Scully to sigh with relief. "Dana, he's got our best interests at heart," Skinner reasoned.

"The only thing he wants to do is make us scared and control that fear. He did it with you, Walter. And I see him doing it with Morgan. She's dependent on him holding her to hide her face. But she wouldn't look like that if he hadn't burned that house down, would she?" Scully sounded to Skinner like she wanted to burn Krycek at the stake like a witch.

"Scully's right, Walter," Mulder chimed in. "I didn't see the need to burn that house down, did you?"

"The bodies inside were rotting and rife with disease," came the quiet reply of Doggett. Skinner knew he held no love for Krycek, but Doggett understood the man. "If Krycek hadn't done that, it may have spread infection. He shoulda checked the house better, though, I'll give ya that."

Scully left the room, an old conference room in the office building, and went out into the cool May afternoon. Without all the industry going on, the planet had cooled considerably, and an evening in Oklahoma that had normally been over eighty degrees at one point was down to sixty at sunset; over night the temperatures fell close to freezing. Scully stood on the front steps, arms wrapped tightly around herself and looked into the evening sky, reds becoming purple, stars twinkling behind them.

"Dana, you need to get over it," the rough voice came from behind her. Skinner pressed his chest to her back, sharing his unending supply of body heat. Krycek had commented that he was happy to finally have his own personal radiator.

"Walter, don't. I have very few pleasures left in life. Hating...him...is still one of them. OK?"

Shaking his head, Skinner said, "You consider hate a pleasure? No wonder I haven't yet married you and Mulder. He doesn't want to get stuck with all that."

"All what? How dare you! I'm not the one buggering a whore in his tent at night, while in the daytime trying to make a silk purse from that sow's ear! You may think your perversions make you worldly and forgiving, but they only make you a pervert. And to exercise those perversions with a whore like Krycek? Don't propose to talk to me about not being married!"

Scully stalked away, catching a glimpse out of the corner of her eye of Krycek scowling and turning away. With a smirk, she went to the apartment she'd created in the medical center, to her bed where she was sure her lover would join her. Skinner walked back to the place where he'd struck the tent, in a back yard of a burned down house not too far from the office building. He and Alex would have to start thinking about a real house. It was getting too hard to sleep on cold ground. There were plenty of things at the Walmart they could use to build a bed, but where would they put it?

Skinner found Krycek in the tent, starting to pack his things. Sitting on their bedding, Skinner waited for Krycek to acknowledge his presence, which the younger man didn't. "Where you goin', Alex?"

After a long and tense silence, Krycek looked up from his freshly packed bag, ready to throw on his back and go, and said, "I heard what she said. She doesn't respect you. And she won't encourage anyone to respect you as long as I'm around. So I'm taking off, OK?" Krycek hadn't turned on a lantern in the tent, so Skinner was unable to see his face.

"Not OK. Why would you care what anyone thought of you, Alex? That's not the Krycek I know. Not the one that I care about." Skinner's tone had softened, but he could see he wasn't saying the right words.

"Useless emotions. Find a girl. Better, find a good dog, he'll love you, protect you and get you all the respect you need. Me? I'll be fine. I've survived worse." He tossed his bag out the flap and started to crawl out, but a hand on his ankle impeded his way.

"Alex, please don't go. I'm an old man, and being with you is one of my only pleasures. If you take that away from me, I'm not gonna last long. Trust me. My old bones creak more and more every day. Knowing I gotta keep up with you keeps me going. So, if you leave me, you're signing my death certificate."

Krycek turned and sat in the doorway of the tent. "You know something, I expect a guilt trip from Mulder, or Byers. But you? Yenta doesn't look good on you, Walt. You'd make me stay here, torture myself in the presence of that woman, just to keep your cock satisfied? You're pretty fucked up."

Skinner shook his head. "You're right, I'm sorry. But hey, I mean, all the kids that love to hear you tell stories and watch you recondition old rifles, and coach the soccer games, they won't miss you one bit. Yeah, it's OK, I'm just an old man, I'll be replaced. Take care, Alex. I'll miss you."

With that, Skinner curled onto his side on the bedroll and hugged himself. He heard the loud sigh and the shuffle of Krycek getting his bag from outside the tent. It landed with a plop beside his own and then he heard more rustling. A slow smile curved his mouth. A naked Krycek slipped under the top blanket and hugged Skinner's clothed back. Skinner turned to him and kissed him.

"He's working tonight. You wanna...give an old man a thrill?" Skinner nuzzled his nose into Krycek's neck, which never failed to elicit giggles from him. Skinner followed up with gentle kisses and nips on the soft skin under Krycek's jaw.

"Oh, I think we can manage a good night together, huh?" Krycek whispered, taking possession of the questing mouth with his own. He rolled Skinner onto his back and began divesting him of his clothing. Happy to finally feel skin on skin, Skinner slid his hands down from shoulders to buttocks, taking hold gently. Krycek's ass was a sight to behold. Even at fifty-one, so he purported his age, it was high and tight, all muscled and round. Having two big handfuls was something to cherish and never take for granted.

Two powerful bodies rubbed against each other, grunts wafted onto the night wind and two men became closer that night. Krycek had wiggled down under the blanket to take Skinner's cock down his throat. He brought Skinner closer to the edge than he intended and had to squeeze the base of the massive member to keep the older man from coming before he had the chance to ride Skinner like a stallion.

It took him moments to slick himself and Skinner so he could slide on. "Oh, God, old man, you do have a nice dick," he said as he began moving up and down on his knees. Skinner reached out and grabbed Krycek's bouncing cock and began stroking in time.

"Old man? We'll see who comes first!" he cried as Krycek squeezed him with his powerful ass muscles.

Digging his heels into the bedding, Skinner began thrusting upward to meet Krycek's down-motions. Krycek's eyes shot wide open as he felt the harder thrusts and smiled down at his lover. They clasped hands for balance and rode until Skinner played dirty and began stroking Krycek's tantalizing cock. "No, fair, you're cheating," he said, biting his lip to stop the on-coming orgasm.

"Not cheating, winning," he said and gave the head of Krycek's cock a last swipe with his thumb before the younger man began jerking and spasming in orgasm, cursing at Skinner. The contractions of Krycek's ass threw Skinner over his own precipice. Krycek looked down at the spatters of semen on Skinner's chest and leaned down to lick the man clean. Skinner had a naughty streak in him and enjoyed it when Krycek was naughty as well. They kissed, sharing the taste between them.

When Skinner had settled beside Krycek, he stroked the stubbled cheek of his contented lover. "Alex, I want you to promise me to never leave me."

Krycek opened his eyes and turned his head toward Skinner. "You're insane, old man. Just let me suck your cock and I'll let you fuck my ass. And when this shit gets too much, I'll do what I have to do. Don't ask any more than that, OK?"

Skinner nodded, bestowing another kiss on Krycek's now-swollen lips and settled beside the man on the bedroll. They'd been gifted with a leaf bed some of the kids had made to cushion them as they slept. Walter was thankful, but knew he couldn't do this for long. With the summer coming, he and Krycek could work longer hours to build their house.

Skinner fell asleep to dreams of compressed air nail guns, table saws and cordless electric drills. He'd helped build a buddy's barn the summer he came home from Vietnam. He'd loved using the tools and kept building things throughout his life. Buying the condo and disposing of his beloved tools hurt more than he could admit. It did make him happy to know that Sharon had requested all of the hand-made furniture in the divorce, stating sentimental value. He gladly gave it to her. Fleetingly, he wondered if she'd survived. He pushed the thought from his head when Krycek sighed deeply in his sleep.

Starting the next day, Krycek and Skinner spent as much time as they could hunting down trees and cutting them down. Skinner laid out the plan for log cabin he and Krycek would share in the middle of town. If Skinner was going to be the mayor, as was proposed, he would need to be in the middle of it all.

Krycek also sent Doggett to the Walmart with a list of the tools they would need. If course, they would have to salvage a lot of things, possibly go on expeditions, but all in all, it seemed like it could start to be a decent coexistence. Maybe it could be the start back from whence they came. It was a nice fantasy. Fortunately, Krycek remembered that nothing works the way you want it to in his world.

He'd warned Skinner about building a fence, a wall, something delineating where their community was. It was rather noisily how they came, half-dead, hanging from their horses, but guns blazing nonetheless. Krycek was the only one in the area so was the first to meet the force head on. He was fiercely glad that he had never relaxed his vigilance or his care of his weapons. He always took apart, cleaned and reassembled his weapons after firing them or even if he had not. He was able to take out several of the riders before catching a bullet in his arm; the wound was the least of his worries.

Skinner ran toward the commotion while Scully began rounding up the children to take them to safety. More of the men in the community came running out to assist in defending them, using whatever weapons they could find, including rocks. None of the invaders survived.

It was a scene of chaos Skinner never thought he'd see again. Dust swirling about, screaming groans of pain, death moans, the smell of gunpowder and blood in the air, the ground thick with red. It was a very bad day. He began asking for assessments of injuries and most were superficial. There were a few bullet wounds but nothing fatal. That was when he began looking for Krycek.

He knew Krycek had been the first one out with his weapon, having been digging the foundation of the house at the time. After most of the wounded were taken to the medical facility, and the dead taken to be burned on a pyre downwind, Krycek was still no where to be found. It was a nightmare. As Skinner began looking around the outer areas, there was a soft sound, like the crying of a child.

Behind the burned out shell of a McDonalds, Krycek sprawled with Morgan sitting beside him, crying. "Please open your eyes, Ah-lex, please..." was all she kept saying. Skinner raced over and looked down. The weak right hand was covering a bleeding gunshot wound in his belly. His eyes were indeed closed.

"Ah, God, Alex, please, Christ....HELP!!!" Skinner screamed, trying to lift Krycek's body on his own. "HELP!! He's here!" He screamed over and over for help, trying to get Krycek off the ground. Doggett arrived first with Mulder bringing up the rear. The three men got him up and carried him to the medical center where Scully was just finishing her last patient.

"Oh my God, was he shot?" shouted one of the men leaving. "Shit, who's gonna protect us now?"

"Bring him into the trauma area, quickly!" Scully shouted. She had found herself a nurse in Byers, and the bearded man helped her as they began cutting Krycek's clothes from his body. Mulder and Doggett began shoving Skinner out of the area to let Scully work.

"Stop it, you bastards, I'm not leaving him!" Skinner screamed.

"Walter!" Mulder shouted, getting Skinner's attention. "He's in good hands. Let Scully do her work."

Reluctantly, Skinner allowed Mulder to drag him from the building. Immediately, Morgan came running over and jumped up into Skinner's arms. "How's Ah-lex?"

"Scully is making him better, sweetie. He'll be fine." He hated lying to her, but it was as much for his sake as for hers.

The little girl smiled and patted his cheek. "Ah-lex loves us. He'll be OK."

Hugging Morgan tightly, Skinner walked away to her tent to set her down. "You go take a rest and then come find me. We'll see how Alex is later, OK, baby?"

"OK, Waltuh," she said, smiling. For the little girl's sake, as well as his own, Skinner hoped Krycek would make it.

Hours went by as Skinner helped keep the funeral pyres going until all the bodies were gone. He knew they didn't need animals digging up the freshly buried remains. He helped tie up and water the horses from the fallen marauders, happy to have animals that could be trained. There were two dead animals, so he ordered them cut for meat and to burn the rest. Horse meat, while a bit gamier than beef, was a decent change. Having the seven other beasts would be good to get the farming going, to pull the plows Krycek had found in the Walmart.

When the sun set, he found himself alone on the empty steps of the home he had wanted to build with Krycek. Everyone was either eating with their families or friends, or resting. Skinner looked at the sky full of stars and knew he needed to pray for Krycek. And so he did, getting on his knees, blessing himself like the nuns had taught him, he began the Lord's Prayer. He followed it by every prayer he could remember. When he'd exhausted himself, he looked around and found most of the community members with him, also kneeling, praying with him.

"Thank you for your kindness. I don't know how he is, but I will tell you when I know. Please, everyone, it's getting late. We had a hell of a day. Let's all try and get some rest."

Scully appeared by his side and said, "He's asking for you, Walter. Come, he needs his rest, but he wants to see you first."

Skinner followed behind the small woman, shocked at how fast she could walk on such little legs. He followed her to the gurney where Krycek lay resting. His clothes had been removed so that Scully could wash him from head to toe. Neither of them bathed regularly, living in the tent. Scully was not happy about that.

"Hey, baby, how are you?" Skinner asked, stroking Krycek's messy hair.

"Wal...sorry, I was...hit..." he rasped out tiredly.

"Shhh, baby, you just rest and let Dana take care of you. You lost a lot of blood and we don't have any way to replace it. You know how limited our blood supply is here. You need lots of rest." Skinner knew his voice was wavering under the weight of restrained tears, but he tried to be strong for Krycek.

"L...love you," Krycek said, quietly, before closing his eyes.

Skinner bent down and kissed his forehead. "Dana, get my bedroll in here, please. And show me where I can wash. And get someone to find me some clean clothes. I need to clean up so I can stay here with him all night." He turned to Scully, who looked up at him with surprise. Assistant Director Skinner was back. "Now, Agent Scully!"

She startled before going out to do as he asked. Skinner, conversely, began removing his clothing, preparing for his bath. He stood proudly as Scully walked in and gasped at his naked body. She carried a bucket of warm water in her hands and brought it to him. She looked him up and down appreciatively. "Still looking good after all these years. Someone will bring you clothes and a bed soon. Your bedroll is being...taken care of."

She handed him the soap, wash cloth and towel. She closed the tattered curtain behind her. Skinner washed himself down, feeling better for being clean. He preferred daily baths, but he'd lived this way in Vietnam, he could deal with it.

When she returned, Scully handed Skinner fresh clothing and directed the volunteers to place the cot beside Krycek's gurney. One man, Michael Jones, someone who'd been following Skinner since they'd started on their journey looked at him. "Mr. Skinner, we're washing all the contents of your tent, and the tent itself. It will be re-erected when it's clean. When Alex is better, we'll start building your house for you."

Skinner turned to him. "No, you won't. You will be starting the fences around the community like Alex told us to build."

"Sir," Scully interrupted. "With all due respect, those men would have ridden through the fences. They were dying of the retro-virus that is affecting the uninocculated population. After a few more months, there won't be any population left that wasn't given the antidote like we were. We'll probably not encounter as many marauders as we had, as I believe part of the illness is the madness these people display. The truth is that you and Alex do need a home."

"Oh, do we? And what of all the children you have still living in tents. They don't need homes as much as I do? Well, you build them a home first, make sure every child has a bed to sleep on and a roof over his or her head, and then I'll consider working on one for myself. Until then, the priority is and should have been our protection, then theirs."

Skinner took a deep breath. It felt good to be back in command, the way he used to take over an investigation. He wanted to kick his own ass for considering his comfort over that of a group of children, whether they were teens or not. They needed to be out of the elements of winter faster than anyone else. He had no intention of letting them suffer another winter searching for a cave to protect them from the cold and snow.

Skinner stood back and watched as the cot and mattress were brought in. Scully handed him a set of sheets and a blanket, all compliments of the Walmart. It seems they were taking the things they needed, even without his orders. He knew he was going to be sleeping better than the kids he had wanted to help instead. The teenaged orphans went without the mattresses, making sure everyone had them first, as well as any empty living spaces. The two apartment buildings were over flowing, so most of the teenagers opted to stay in the tents. Skinner knew that the brisk nights weren't a bother to them, as they knew how to keep each other warm.

Skinner sat on the freshly made bed and sighed with relief. It had been a long time since he'd slept in a real bed. He remembered that night fondly. He laid there, on his California King bed, silk sheets, completely naked. He loved the feel of silk sheets on his bare skin. It was the last night's sleep he'd gotten that was easy.

The next day, the ships swooped down and began spraying the cities with the culling agent. It was a concentrated virus, which killed most of the population within days. The virus spread to outer lying areas outside the cities, but it was diluted, causing more and more people to be ill for longer amounts of time.

This was when Krycek had let him know that there was a weapon that could kill the colonists, but it would have to be encased in missiles pointed at the ships; the vaccine antidote to the virus. Krycek also perfected the bullets that killed the Super Soldiers. He was worth his weight in diamonds, and Skinner knew it. He was happy that the man had decided to remain in their group.

In the morning, Skinner awoke to Scully checking Krycek's vitals and trying get fluids into him. He stood and moved to hold Krycek upright so she could drizzle water into his mouth.

"It would be so much more helpful if I had IV equipment. This is medicine at its most basic. I swear, I don't know if he'll make it." She grimaced.

"I wonder...did that Walmart have a pharmacy?" They looked at each other. "I'll take Byers and a few people with bags. We'll clear out the medical supplies. Alex was the only one ever in the store, so I have no idea what's there."

"Sir, I think the best idea, start clearing the store out of all merchandise. I mean, we don't know what we can use here."

"Agreed, that will be the first order of business."

Skinner immediately walked outside and called the town to a meeting. He outlined their idea, stating as point of fact, the merchandise was needed more than honesty was, which kept most of the town from looting the place. "I was foolish to let fear keep me from acting in a sensible fashion. There aren't any dangers out there that as a community we cannot overcome. We may as well bring all viable items back to this area and divide them as equitably as possible. OK, let's get started!"

The community began organizing and soon enough, there were tons of goods coming from the store to be put to good use. Skinner was perplexed at the locked-tight pharmacy, but when Doggett handed him a sledge hammer, and held an ax himself, they went to work on the steel door. It took them all of fifteen minutes to break off the locks and slide the rolling doors up.

"Holy shit, Walt, we got ourselves all the drugs we'll need for a while," Doggett mused, amazed at the stock still in tact.

"I can't believe we just let this sit here," Skinner said. "I mean, Alex brought us thing, all the dry goods, but the clothing here, the tools, I just let everything sit. What a fool I am. I am in no way capable of running this community. I'm not prepared for this..." Skinner sat heavily on a chair that was left from whatever pharmacist that used it before the shit hit the fan.

Doggett stood beside him and said, "Bullshit, Walt. You can't think of everything, and we know that. We've been doing OK since we got here. It's only been two months we got here. Alex was the only one knew where this place was, and the only one with enough strength to do all this walking so regular. Gotta admit, I'm exhausted myself. Everyone is. No one's blaming you that you didn't consider everything all at once. So calm yourself, let's start loading this, and get it back your boyfriend so he don't die, OK? Cuz to be honest, I felt safer when Yves stepped down and Alex was in charge of security, since he's one scary fucker."

Skinner looked up at Doggett, who was earnest in his monologue of Krycek, and smiled. "Thank you, John. I needed that. OK, let's get going. If he dies...I don't know what I'll do..."

"He know you love him?" Skinner turned abruptly at the word love. No, he didn't ever say it to Krycek. And Krycek had only said it that once, before succumbing to his injuries. It was something he wouldn't deny to Krycek ever again.

"Does it surprise you that I'm sleeping with a man, John?" Skinner ask, as he packed one of the rolling duffle bags he'd found in the luggage section.

"Nope. Get your comfort where you can. You were in 'Nam. I was in Beirut. I know I slept with people back then that I never thought about again. Had I faced staying there forever, I would have attached myself to them a little more, maybe." Doggett's matter-of-fact admission comforted Skinner.

"I dated a man in college, you know. It was the seventies, after all. And I had one lover in 'Nam who we were exclusive, not wanting to get something from any of the whores there. When he got killed, I thought I should just die, too. Then I was told I was going home and to think of all the girls who would be happy I went back. And that's what I did, screwed anything in a skirt. And then dated Martin. And then married Sharon. Well, I'm too goddam old to care what people think, anyway."

Gearing up, Skinner and Doggett made the long way back to the town and straight to the medical facility. Scully was excited by the new offerings and quickly pulled the saline bags from the duffle. They were a little old, but they looked fine. She quickly inserted a needle into Krycek's arm and let the fluid go.

"Well, if it's not too old, it will help rehydrate him. Or it's too old and it will kill him." The look on her face was calm, but Skinner could see a line of worry in her brows.

"You're concerned about him, Dana," he said quietly.

"As my patient, yes. Other than that, don't test me, Walter." She moved back to her patient and checked his pulse and temperature. "Just watch him for a while. I've added antibiotics and Tylenol to his IV bag and he should start feeling better soon. If his temperature goes up, call me. I'm going to catch a nap."

Skinner stood beside the gurney and watched as Scully patted Krycek's hand before leaving the room. He leaned down to whisper in Krycek's ear, "You're getting through to her."

He sat in the chair and opened one of the paperback books that had survived and started an intriguing spy novel. When he was hoarse from reading, somewhere past midnight, Doggett came in the room and took the book from Skinner's sagging hands. He helped Skinner to undress and covered the man in his bed. "I tell ya, Walt, if you weren't attached to Krycek, I'd take a run at you myself. Almost seventy and still a hottie."

Skinner opened his eyes and smiled at his friend. "Maybe you can join us one night," he said jokingly.

"No...share..." came the quiet, raspy response from the gurney, then nothing more. Skinner looked up, but Doggett pushed him back down.

"I'll take care of him for you, Walt. Least I can do," he said.

Skinner laid his head back on the pillow and almost immediately dropped off to sleep, Doggett's voice a soothing lullaby. When he woke again, Scully was mopping Krycek's face with a wet cloth. Skinner jumped up, heedless of his nudity, and looked down at Krycek's pale face.

"Walter, I think you should get dressed," she said quietly.

"Fuck that, what's wrong with him? Is he worse?" he asked, breathless.

"His fever is higher. I think the antibiotics were stale."

"Stale? What the fuck does that mean?" he shouted.

"Calm down, Walter. It means that it's unuseful. I will have to either make more or just see if he can fight the infection on his own." She looked up at him with worry written on her face.

"Make more, then. I'll stay here and watch him," he said, hastily throwing pants and a shirt on. Scully backed away, watching as Skinner began bathing Krycek's face, neck and arms with cold water. She went straight to the make-shift laboratory and began working on the project she'd started the day before. She was going to make more penicillin if it killed her.

As the day went on, well into the night, Skinner kept mopping and reading, and praying, making sure that there was no moment that Krycek wasn't attended to. After twelve hours, Scully came to him with tubing in her hands.

"Walter, I'm going to have to catheterize him. He hasn't...wet... the bed, and I'm afraid he'll poison himself with his own waste. We should give him an...enema as well. It will help him."

The embarrassment on her face was quickly hidden by her professional mask. Skinner thought a moment, then helped her catheterize Krycek, and watched as the vacuum effect of the apparatus as it emptied his bladder. They waited until he was as empty as possible to begin the process of the suction enema. Skinner was pleasantly surprised at his ease in working with his lover's prone body to cleanse him. He also helped change the sheets and bathe Krycek's body again.

He took his time, using the lamp light to really get to know Krycek's body. They'd become lovers in the dark, in a tent. He knew every inch of flesh by heart with his hands. Standing there, he noticed the scars, from knives, bullets, part of a tattoo that had scared over from what might have been road rash. The tattoo was a quarter of a heart with a ribbon on it. There was only one letter, a lowercase a. He wondered who it was.

After he settled Krycek back on the gurney, he felt the man's head and noticed it was a bit cooler. Taking his temperature, he saw it was down to 102. "Dana! Dana, come here, quickly!"

She rushed into the room and took the thermometer he held out. "Walter, that's wonderful. I think I may have a rudimentary solution of penicillin soon. You'll have to bear with me until tomorrow. And take the IV needle out. I don't think that's what's helping."

Skinner ran a hand through Krycek's still-moist hair and asked, "What do you think is helping?"

"You. The way you touch him, handle his body, read to him, whisper in his ear. I think that on some level, he's aware of you, and it's helping him." She looked down and was quiet a moment. Skinner continued to stroke Krycek's hair. "Walter, I'm sorry for...insulting him. And you. I'll...leave you alone now."

She left the room quietly and Skinner smiled at her back. He knew it was a lot for her to admit, and he didn't need to answer her. It would sound condescending. When he looked back down at Krycek, the man looked like he had shifted. And there was a wisp of a smile on his lips.

By sundown, Scully came in with her simple antibiotic solution. "Sit him up, and I'll pour a little at a time." For the next hour, with a teaspoon and a bowl, Scully fed the solution to Krycek. "Now, we wait."

Skinner, however, did not wait. He went back to reading to Krycek, then spent a few hours napping, before he was up helping Scully feed him more water and even some warm, clear broth. It was canned and old, but it would help. Three days and nights, Skinner never left Krycek's side, nursing him to the astonishment of everyone who entered the room to visit. He'd thrown Byers out when the man tried to get Skinner to go to Doggett's apartment to rest. Skinner refused and sent the man packing.

On the evening of the third day of watching his lover, Doggett entered the sick room and sat in the other chair that Scully insisted bringing in while Skinner sat on the cot. They sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, until Doggett said, "Walt, they're all really concerned. About you, Alex, and themselves. They're nervous that their leader maybe having a breakdown. I don't know what to tell them. They keep looking to me."

"Good, then follow me and we'll settle this," Skinner said, standing abruptly. He strode out of the room and startled Byers, who was content to sit out in the old reception area. "Byers, go in and sit with him. Get some fluid in him, and Scully should have his next dose of medicine soon. I'll be back as soon as I can."

The sun was just setting and a cool breeze was blowing through the town commons. It was the place where the community would gather at night sometimes. It had become a nightly ritual to wait to see how Krycek was doing. Each night, Scully would give them the bad news and they would go back to their homes and spend the night praying. Krycek had grown on the community, fiercely protecting them even almost to his own death.

"Everyone!" Skinner called out. "Call everyone to the square, make sure all the people are here." Skinner waited with Doggett beside him until the last of the settlers have gathered. He took a deep breath and looked out across the sea of faces.

"I want to thank you all for your concern for Alex. He is...still unconscious, but he's...not getting any worse. I wanted to address your growing concerns with my leadership of this community." Skinner cleared his throat and continued his speech, holding the railing outside the medical center to steady his hands. "I am so sorry that I did not order the store to be emptied before now. We have been here two months already. We should have been doing that from the start. I see that with Alex no longer...able to function as our commander of defense, I must make some very...difficult decisions."

Skinner looked up into the red and purple sky, silently begging for the strength to say what had so easily come to him as his decision. "I would like to propose that John Jay Doggett take my place as the mayor of our community." The shouts of concern and denial were quiet, but Skinner held his hands up.

"Please, listen to me. I thank you for your concerns, but John is a smarter and more...able man than I am to handle this. Back before the wars and culling, John was educated in public administration. He knows more about running a community than I do. I was...a bureaucrat for the FBI. I don't know how to handle this anymore. And...I'm far too old. I would like you all to consider, from this moment forward, John Jay Doggett as the leader of our community until you all come up with another candidate, or make it final amongst yourselves."

There were murmurings among the groups, but ultimately they started saying, "Agreed." Skinner nodded and turned to Doggett. "They're all yours. Be good to them."

"I will treat them, sir, as you have always treated me, with respect and friendship." Skinner nodded, patting Doggett on his shoulder and walked back into the building. A tug at his pantleg and looked down to see Morgan, tears in her eyes.

"Is...Ah-lex..." she started, then stopped, burying her face in her hands to cry. Skinner lifted her into his arms and kissed her scarred cheek.

"Come on, let's go see Alex. You can tell him a story while he sleeps. I'm sure he can hear you." He went back to the sick room and lay Morgan beside Alex on the gurney. She immediately began telling him about the family of birds she found and how she saved a bit of her dinner to give them, but they didn't really want any.

Yawning, Skinner lay back on his cot and closed his eyes, wanting only to catch a few minutes of rest, but Morgan's voice lulled him into a deep, dreamless sleep.

Immediately, Skinner awoke to screams and then heard a voice he didn't think he'd ever hear again. Sitting up, he saw Morgan in Krycek's arms, and a man standing over them. He jumped up and looked to see a sight that brought tears to his eyes.

"Jeremiah Smith...you're...back..." he choked out. Morgan's face had been restored, as was Krycek's health. All trace of coma and infection were gone.

"Yes, Walter Skinner, we all have returned. In gratitude of your actions against the colonists, we, the rebels and I, have returned to help you rebuild your planet. Back to full health and better than before."

Skinner leaned down and looked into Krycek's clear green eyes, smile across his full lips. "Hey, Walt, how are you? I heard you...all the reading you did for me. Thank you for not giving up on me."

Skinner pressed a kiss to his mouth and said, "I missed you." He looked up at Smith and asked, "The colonists are completely defeated? How...seriously?"

"We did not know that a member of your people had injected the vaccine into a returning ship of the colonists, which infected the entire fleet. Their food supplies were destroyed. It was a matter of time after that. There is a small contingent of one thousand volunteers to help you and your people to rebuild civilizations around your planet. Be advised, there are only about five hundred thousand of your kind left, and most on this continent. Your former government was very...greedy. We will...encourage the opposite."

Krycek reached up and brushed his hand across Morgan's cheek and said, "I always told you that you are beautiful. Now, you'll really believe it."

She giggled and hugged him tightly. Skinner helped Krycek to sit up. Smith stood back, watching serenely as the little group reassured each other they weren't really dreaming. Skinner pulled Morgan away with a whimper from the girl. "Sorry, sweetie, I have to get Alex dressed, but we will come outside soon." She pouted, nodded and left.

After being dressed, Skinner and Krycek accompanied Smith outside to where other men, who all looked exactly like Smith, all helping heal different community members, creating food from replicators, and generally creating happiness and hope amongst the weary group of survivors.

"We wish to impart our greater technological knowledge upon your race, to help you rebuild to be a member of the counsel."

Doggett walked over and said, "Walt, they got an intergalactic counsel. We're...I mean, you are the ambassador. And Alex, of course. I'm staying here. They're going to take our group to a better location, one that survived better. Actually, it's Dallas, which should make you happy, Skinner."

"Yes, it'll be nice to go home, again. Alex, hopefully, my parents' home survived, and we will live there. You want to see where I grew up?"

Krycek kissed Skinner's cheek. "I would love to."

"Me too!" Morgan cried, reaching up to hug Krycek, who hoisted her up and settled her on his hip. The sunrise was just ending, the pinks and oranges and golden rays becoming the brilliant blue of a new day. Skinner looked into the vast expanse of sky and gave silent thanks to God, and the gods, and the rebels and anyone else for his life, his lover and a brand new day.

"I love you, Alex. I love you very much."

Krycek turned to him. "You've never said that to me."

"And now you'll be hard pressed to stop me."

"Say it again."

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

The End
Happy Birthday, Nicholas Lea!


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Amazon X