"No." There was an edge to his voice that I'd never thought I'd hear, and that frightened me more than anything. Mulder was the center to my world, but Skinner was one of the rocks, him and Mulder's partner. I could stand his hatred, but not his fear.

"Are you sure? Maybe he's...hiding it."

"I'm sure. I wish I weren't. I wish he were lying, covering something up. But I only got what I wished for once." He looked at the bathroom. I could hear water running, smell shaving lotion on the steam. "He woke up, saw you were there and...asked."

"Just...asked? He wasn't bothered?" I pulled away so I could see his face. He had his glasses back on, hiding his eyes.

"He was bothered. Or confused. He asked what the hell you were doing in bed with us, except he called you a 'rat bastard.' But...there was no anger there."

"He didn't try to hit me?" I hated the way my voice sounded, as if I were scared of *Mulder*.

Skinner's gaze pierced me straight to my soul. "No." He closed his eyes for a moment. I sighed in relief as the contact was broken. When he opened them again, he stared at the bathroom door. I could hear off-key singing. "But his fists were clenched. Alyosha...I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the slam in the belly, I'm sorry for the night on my balcony. Things were...things *are* bad, but not as bad as they were then. That's no excuse." He stroked my back.

No one had ever apologized before. I wanted to run again, to find the world I was used to, where people hit and didn't care, where being naked in bed meant more than cuddling, where no gentle hand caressed my stump, where people acted *normally.* "I know. You did what you had to do."

"I wanted you, even then. If I hadn't chained you outside, if I hadn't let the violence take over, I'd have...compromised everything. You're so beautiful..."

"I bring out the violence in everyone, it seems. Mulder...I don't blame him, either. I betrayed him so often. I'm not surprised he hates me."

"He doesn't hate you. He wants to hate you, like I wanted to hate you, but...He was starting to get upset this morning because he couldn't remember, because he thought he'd slept through it. I sent him running, promising that I'd be okay, that I could take care of myself in case. He...he believed me."

"He trusts you. He trusts you absolutely, even now. Like I do. Honor is a rare thing, Walter."

He gathered me closer. "I have no honor. I sold it along time ago for a false promise. All I have is him. And..."

I had to change the subject. It was too close to home. "Has this ever happened before? That he doesn't remember something?"

"I don't know. It hasn't happened with me. But he never was like he was last night with me, either. He's been angry and drugged and exhausted and despondent, but not...terrified."

"You're terrified yourself." That thought was no more comfortable the second time.

"I'm terrified on many counts. I don't know what's going on with Mulder. I don't know what's going on with you - twice you've slept when you have no business sleeping, and that's going to get you killed. And I don't know what's going with me because not only am I worried about Fox, I'm worried about you, and I can't seem to let go of you." His arms tightened around me.

"Please...don't. Don't let go...it makes me feel safe." Shut up, Krycek. You're revealing too much.


"Yes. Safe. Secure. No one is after me here. No one can hurt me. Maybe that's why I could