I Find No Peace
I find no peace, and all my war is done;
I desire to perish, and yet I ask health;
Skinner pushed his glasses up on his forehead, rubbing his eyes tiredly. It had been a long day--he was probably the last one in the J. Edgar Hoover building, except for the housekeeping crew. *Why do I do this to myself? I didn't have to stay over to finish this paperwork--it could have waited till tomorrow. I should have gone home hours ago.*
He knew why he had stayed--it had been a STRESSFUL day, too. He'd assigned Mulder and Scully to a field operation--one that required them to leave almost immediately. They had only about an hour to get packed for the trip and get on the road. When they'd left his office, he'd found that a vital list of contacts had somehow slipped out of the folder he'd given them. Their phone was busy, and he had been worried that they would leave before he could place another call, so he had decided to simply bring the paper down to the basement office. When he had opened the door only Fox was there, and he had been slumped in his chair, turned toward the back wall as he spoke on the phone.
"No, I won't be home for dinner. No. Look, I'm sorry, too. I was really looking forward to this weekend. Yeah. Scully will bring me by the apartment just long enough for me to throw a couple of things in a bag, and I DO mean throw. No time for neat packing. What? Alex, don't you DARE be waiting for me when I get there." He had chuckled, a rich sound that had given Skinner a sense of warmth. "No, I won't even have time for that, you pervert. You know, if the FBI had one of those sexual spying departments like the movies are always going on about, you would have been a star agent."
Alex Krycek. The warmth had seeped away, replaced by icy anger. "Mulder."
Mulder had flinched, turning so sharply that his long legs had gotten in the way, and he had banged his knee. "Damn! No, I'm okay." His voice had been suddenly strained. "Look, I have to go. Yeah. Me, too. What? Of course I do." He had paused, his eyes flicking to Skinner, then had said quietly, "Look, Alex, we'll talk about it later, okay? Bye." He had hung up. "Sir?"
"Personal calls on department time, Mulder?"
"You didn't say this assignment was hush-hush, sir. I had plans I needed to cancel."
His eyes had hardened. "That isn't any of your business, sir. Did you have something to tell me?"
Skinner had gone over and laid the paper on his desk. "You dropped this. You'll need it." He had watched as Mulder folded the paper and tucked it in his jacket pocket. "Mulder, I don't want to pry into your private life..."
Walter had had a lot of experience at concealing his emotions--he hadn't winced at Mulder's clipped tone. Instead he had scowled. "Try not to lose your cell phone this time."
The phone had begun ringing as he exited. After he had closed the door he stood there in the hall for a moment, listening. The doors in the basement were those flimsy, hollow core kind, and he had been able to hear Fox. "Mulder." His voice had softened. "Hey, babe. I didn't mean to cut you off like that. Hm? Yeah, Walter. I don't know, I guess he's having a hard time... Look, I TOLD him it was none of his business, okay? I'm fine, forget about it." There had been a pause. Skinner could almost hear the smile in Mulder's voice. "That's why I couldn't say it--because he was here. Okay, I owe you one, so I'll say it twice. I love you. I love you."
Skinner had turned and quickly gone back to the elevator.
He tried to forget the tenderness in those final words as he rolled his shoulders, muscles bunching and flowing under his plain white shirt. He jerked impatiently at his tie, loosening it, and thought, *Hell, I could have taken my shoes off. It isn't as if someone is going to come in here and catch me.* The universe proved it had a sense of irony by choosing that moment to have Alex Krycek walk into Skinner's office.
Walter jerked open his desk drawer and had his gun trained on Krycek before the younger man took his hand off the doorknob. Alex stood very still, a small smile playing across his lips, and said, "Being office bound hasn't slowed your reflexes."
"Stay still, Krycek. I don't want to shoot you unless I have to." He got up and went to the other man, patting him down carefully.
"Nice of you to care."
Walter didn't find any weapon. "It takes too damn long for housekeeping to scrub up blood. What do you want?"
"Right now? I want that fucking gun put away. I don't like having conversations while someone has a bead on me."
Walter waved Krycek over to the chair in front of his desk. As Alex sat, Skinner shut the door, then went to sit behind the desk, never lowering his weapon. "Give me a compelling reason why I should trust you enough to put this away."
Krycek's voice was matter-of-fact. "If I wanted you dead I would have just shot you as I came through the door. Better yet, I'd have picked you off when you walked to your car, taken your briefcase and wallet, and they would have called it a robbery/homicide. Do the math, Skinner. I don't want you dead--I want to talk to you."
Skinner considered him. Alex was dressed casually in boots, tight jeans, and a soft, black sweater. Against the dark colors, his skin was pale, and his eyes looked impossibly green. If Skinner hadn't known him for a pathologically devious sociopathic killer-for-hire he might have mistaken him for an ivy league grad student dressed to visit some upscale pub. Skinner laid the gun on the desktop, but he kept it within easy reach and he did not put the safety back on. "About what, Krycek? I've already told your handlers that I'm not interested in working for them."
His smile was cold. "They don't handle me as much as they think they do, and this is strictly personal. I want to talk to you about my boyfriend, and the shit you've been giving him."
Now Skinner did wince. *Boyfriend.*
Krycek, long trained to read the nuances of expression, caught it. "What's wrong, Skinner? Don't like boyfriend? What would you prefer--significant other, partner, main squeeze?" He smiled. "Lover?" Skinner's expression didn't change, but Alex saw the steely light in his eyes, and his smile broadened. "Oh, you don't like that one at ALL, do you? What's your problem? Even Red has eased off on the bitchiness level a little."
"Say what you have to say, Krycek."
The smile became a smirk. "Hardass all the way, eh, Skinner? All right. I want you to ease up on Mulder about our relationship."
"I haven't said anything to him about it. It's none of my business..." his voice was sour, "as he told me."
"Well, now, he wouldn't have had to tell you that if you hadn't been after him SOMEHOW, now would he? It isn't the first time, either. I've come over more than once after you've spoken to him and found him tighter and more charged up than a power line. He didn't want to talk about it, but I'm good on picking up hints. You've been harping at him about seeing me."
"You're dangerous, Krycek."
"I know that, asshole. Look, I'm breaking away from the Old Men--I've finally stashed away enough on them to guarantee that they won't be able to force me back into their plots. I'm going straight." This time the smile was ironic. "Mostly. You don't have to worry about me interfering in any precious Bureau interests. The only thing about the Bureau that I'm interested in now is Fox."
"Mulder is an agent under my supervision. I'm responsible for his welfare--if I see him walking into a dangerous situation, I'm obligated to call him on it."
"Bullshit." Alex's eyes narrowed. "Don't try to lay this off on professional duties, Skinman. This is personal, and you fucking well know it. Mulder isn't just an agent to you, same as he was never just a partner to me."
Walter felt cold. "You don't know what you're talking about."
"I know more than you might think. I've been through it, too, but I came through the other side. You ever heard of Tom Wyatt?"
Walter blinked at the abrupt change of subject. "Is he some sort of country-western singer?"
There was the faintest hint of condescention in Krycek's voice, and Walter had to force himself to resist the urge to hit him. "No, SIR Thomas Wyatt. He was a poet. He wrote a poem called 'I Find No Peace'. It's you, Walter."
"I'm not a poetic soul, Krycek. I deal with reality."
"The best poetry is a reflection of reality, and sometimes you run into one that states a situation perfectly. That poem could have been written about how you feel about Fox."
He could hear the strain in his own voice. "I'm worried about a friend throwing himself away, putting himself in danger..."
"'I find no peace, and all my war is done.' Bet you thought you were through with war when you left the jarheads, huh? But the hardest wars are fought inside, and you still haven't found any peace, have you? You thought that in the Bureau things would be safe--everything bound by rules, everything ordered. It would have to be peaceful, right? Then along came Fox Mulder, and you haven't had a moment's peace since then."
No, no peace. There was always SOMETHING going on with Fox--some new crusade that was likely to get him disgraced (if he was lucky), or killed. There was always some situation to be straightened out or covered up, some improbable tale to be believed or (more likely) dismissed. No, life was not peaceful with Fox around.
"'I fear, and hope.' I know that's how it was when I first met him. I wanted so badly for him to know how I felt about him, but I was nervous about how he'd react when he DID know." His voice became soft. "He never HAS figured it out about you, Walter."
"What are you implying?"
"'I burn, and freeze like ice. I fly above the wind, yet can I not arise.' He can do it all. He can make you feel like your bones are melting, then freeze you solid with his sarcasm. When he smiles, you soar--when he frowns, you sink."
"You're crazy. He's a friend and colleague--nothing more."
"'And naught I have, and all the world I seize on. That loseth nor locketh holdeth me in prison.' That's irritating for you, isn't it, Skinner? The fact that he isn't TRYING to seduce you, never has, and yet he has you. He doesn't want you, but he has you, anyway. 'And holdeth me not, yet can I 'scape nowise.' Fuck, Skinner, I don't blame you--he's almost inevitable."
He leaned forward, placing his hands flat on the desk as he studied the older man. "How far has it gone with you? How deep?"
They stared at each other silently. Seconds ticked by. Alex searched Skinner's eyes, and his own gaze softened marginally. *Is that... pity?* Skinner thought. *God, I may have to shoot him after all.*
Alex's voice was quiet. "Oh, you have it bad. 'Nor letteth me live nor die at my devise, and yet of death it giveth me occasion.' I bet... I bet there's been at least one time that you've sat in the dark, holding that gun, and the reason you didn't use it was because you might see him the next day." Walter closed his eyes. "And you haven't said anything, and you never will. 'Without eyen I see, and without tongue I plain. I desire to perish, and yet I ask health.' You hide it well, Skinner, but he's going to figure it out if you keep this up."
"You're wrong, Krycek."
"'I love another, and thus I hate myself.' You can't stand it. Marines don't desire other men. And if they do, they don't LOVE them, right?"
Alex stood, straightening. "'I feed me in sorrow, and laugh at all my pain.' It's eating you alive. 'Likewise displeaseth me both death and life.' Hard to tell which would be darker and emptier--death, or life without Fox. 'And my delight is causer of this strife.' It isn't his fault, Walter--he can't help it. He didn't make you love him on purpose. He isn't loving me just to torment you. Neither one of us can help this, either."
Alex walked toward the office door and opened it. He paused and looked back at the silent, still man. There was no hostility in his voice. "I understand, Skinner--really I do, but it has to stop. Let it go, Skinner. You can't have him, and you don't need to be so pissed with me, man. All I did was hold up a mirror for you."
Walter finally spoke. "Because he's yours?"
"No, because I'm his. I'm what he wants. Deal with it." He hesitated, then said, "We're a lot alike, Skinner." The older man snorted. "No, we are--but there's one major difference between us." He smiled softly. "I've found my peace."
The door closed. Skinner stared at it for a long time, then picked up the report he'd been working on. He stared at it for almost three minutes before realizing that he wasn't really seeing it. The paper slipped from his fingers, drifting lazily to the floor as Walter Skinner, eyes still slightly unfocused, slowly straightened his tie.