"Come on, Alex, you promised," Matthew said, a wheedling tone in his voice.
"Okay," Alex Krycek said, giving in. Alex wanted nothing more than to get away from the crowded mall, but he *had* promised Matthew they'd do the whole holiday thing -- including a visit with Santa. At 11, Matthew was a little too old to sit for a picture with Santa, but since he had been denied the opportunity when he was the appropriate age, Alex figured he deserved it. Alex knew what it was like to miss out on the cultural experiences that everyone else takes for granted.
Matthew was small for his age, but otherwise appeared to be a perfectly normal child. Only Alex, and a select few others, knew the small dark-haired boy had been rescued from a consortium lab near the end of the war. Like Alex, he sometimes still awoke screaming in the middle of the night. Many of Alex's fellow warriors had tried to persuade him the boy would be better off in a group home for children. But Alex, who had been the one to find the boy, painfully thin and huddled in a cage, disagreed. The boy, with his huge brown eyes and quiet manner, had captured Alex's heart, something he had never expected. After a life spent mostly alone and on the run, Alex was still sometimes amazed to wake up and realize he was, in fact, a father.
Matthew walked ahead of Alex, stopping to look in stores while waiting for Alex to catch up. At one time, he would have clung to Alex, never letting go of his adoptive father's hand. Alex was delighted to see him so animated and carefree.
The line for Santa was long, filled with frazzled parents and hyper children. Alex groaned when he saw just how long the line was. He was on the verge of suggesting they come back another time when he caught sight of the expression on Matthew's face as he took in the decorations, with Santa seated in the middle of it all. He knew that without a doubt they would remain in line.
Alex turned to see his neighbor, Marilyn, in line behind him, her daughter Kiera in tow. Kiera was six years old and had become attached to Matthew, following him around like a little sister. She walked right over to Matthew and began chattering.
"Hi, Marilyn. You brought Kiera to see Santa, huh?"
Marilyn grinned. "Yep. Long line, huh?"
Alex laughed. "Yes, but I think it'll be worth it, don't you?," he asked, nodding at Matthew and Kiera, who were staring raptly at Santa, Kiera rattling off the long list of presents she was going to ask for.
"You're right." In a lower voice she said, "Matthew's really coming out of his shell, isn't he?"
"He is. I'm really glad. I was worried about him for a long time. What about Kiera, how is she? Will she be seeing her dad at Christmas?"
Marilyn's smile dimmed. "No," she said, her voice low and angry. "That son of a - - he called and said he and Kristen would be out of the country for Christmas and he didn't think all the traveling would be good for Kiera."
"I'm sorry, sweetie. We'll make it a good Christmas for her, though. I promised Matthew we'd have a traditional Christmas, and you guys are welcome."
When Alex first moved in, Marilyn, recently divorced with a little girl to care for, had made it clear she thought he would make a good husband and father for her and Kiera. Alex had gently but firmly let her know that he was gay and that while they could be friends, it would never go any further than that. Now they were the best of friends.
The line moved slowly forward, made more bearable by Alex and Marilyn's conversation about their holiday plans. Alex was describing how he and Matthew had been decorating as they neared the front of the line, even with the photographer taking pictures of Santa and the kids.
"So there I was, up on the roof..." Alex paused as he noticed the photographer for the first time.
"Alex?" Marilyn asked as Alex abruptly broke off.
Alex stood there in shock, staring at the photographer, certain he was looking at Walter Skinner, albeit a very different Skinner than the one Alex remembered. This was not the stoic FBI director, nor the determined fellow freedom fighter. This Skinner seemed... relaxed. At peace. He was without his customary glasses, and had grown a beard, and was dressed in a long sleeved denim shirt and jeans.
"What? Oh, sorry, Marilyn, I... um, I... know the guy taking pictures."
About that time, they reached the front of the line, and Matthew grabbed Alex's hand.
"Alex, I'm... what if they laugh at me? I'm 11, not a little kid."
Alex leaned down to speak in Matthew's ear. "That doesn't matter. Look around, Matt," he said, indicating the rest of the line. "See, there are plenty of kids bigger than you. It won't matter. And I'll be right there too."
"Will you be in the picture with me?"
"Do you want me to?"
Matthew chewed his lower lip as he thought it over. "I think so," was his eventual response.
Alex watched with some apprehension as Matthew slowly made his way to Santa, the shock of seeing Skinner - - Walter Skinner! - - taking pictures in the mall momentarily forgotten..
The Santa, accustomed to bashful children, quickly put Matthew at ease, and soon Matthew was smiling as he told him about the digital camera he hoped to get for Christmas, and maybe a new computer game... Alex grimaced, hoping he could remember all of the items Matthew listed.
Walter noticed Alex and his -- what? Son? -- told Santa what he wanted for Christmas. Alex appeared to be listening avidly, and Walter's mouth fell open in shock. He hadn't known what became of Krycek after the war, but he never expected to see him here in the mall, let alone bringing a child to see Santa.
Walter Skinner had announced his retirement shortly after the end of the war, and had left his old life behind. His testimony before the Senate was, as his oath demanded, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. After revealing the secrets he'd been forced to keep, including his infection with the nanocytes and the body he'd been forced to incinerate, Skinner felt that his continued presence at the bureau would cast doubt on its integrity and cause more harm than good. He still corresponded with Mulder and Scully on occasion, and Scully always made sure to send him a card at holidays, but they rarely spoke on the phone and never visited.
While the boy was talking with Santa, Walter took the opportunity to contain his surprise, so when it was time to take the picture, he was able to gently request a smile for the camera.
Alex watched in amazement as Skinner coaxed a smile from his shy son. Alex thought of the stern man he had known from the war and before, when he was a much-feared AD. He didn't quite know how to take this calm, jovial Walter Skinner, but that didn't stop him from smiling dutifully when directed.
After Walter finished with Alex and Matthew's photos, he told his assistant he was taking a break, and left the picture taking in her capable hands. He intrigued by this seemingly different Krycek and wanted to learn more.
He caught up with them as they were filling out the form for their picture.
"Krycek?" Walter asked tentatively. "Could I have a minute?"
Alex shrugged. "Sure. Um, how are you, Skinner?"
"Good, actually," Walter said.
Alex put his arm around Matthew and turned to Walter. "This is my son Matthew," Alex said, pride and obvious affection in his voice.
"Hello, Matthew, I'm Walter." Skinner said, holding out his hand. "Nice to meet you."
Matthew looked doubtfully at the outstretched hand before glancing at Alex, who nodded. Matthew shook Walter's hand before inquiring, "Are you a friend of Alex's? I've never seen you before," he added, narrowing his eyes in a way strongly reminiscent of Alex.
"I knew Alex some years ago," Walter said.
"I might be getting a camera for Christmas," Matthew said, looking at Walter's. "But not like yours. Could... could I hold it?"
"Matt, I don't think - -" Alex started.
"Sure," Walter said. "Just be careful."
Matthew took it and looked at it in wonder. Walter showed him the different settings and then Matthew looked through the viewfinder, fascinated. He reluctantly returned it to Walter.
After a moment of awkward silence, Walter said, "So, Krycek, would you like to maybe have coffee sometime, and... catch up?"
After a slight hesitation, Alex nodded. "I'd like that."
Walter handed him a card. "I'm free most nights. When I'm shooting film, I do my developing then, but I don't have a set schedule."
"Okay. I'll talk to you later then."
§ § §
Alex waited two days to call. Matthew was doing his homework when Alex made the call, and Alex himself felt as awkward as schoolboy. He had just finalized an arrangement to meet Walter at a nearby coffeehouse, assuring him they had "real" coffee, when Matthew came in.
"Are you going on a date with Mr. Skinner?"
"It's not really a date, Matt."
"'Cause that'd be okay. You never go anywhere except with me or Marilyn and Kiera."
"I *like* going places with you and Marilyn and Kiera," Alex said defensively."
"But Marilyn goes out all the time, with different guys. You hardly ever go out."
Alex nodded. What Matthew said was true, he hardly ever went out. But then Skinner was straight, so it wasn't as though he was arranging an actual date with the man. "We're just going out for coffee, Matt. I'm not Skinner's type."
"You mean he likes girls."
"That's too bad. I think I'd like having him around."
Alex grinned. "You mean you'd like having his cameras around."
Matt grinned back. "Well, that wouldn't be bad either."
§ § §
Two hours later, Alex found himself sitting at a bistro table arguing with Walter Skinner.
"Look, Skinner, I don't want - -"
"Krycek, we need to - -"
Walter held up his hands. "Look, I didn't agree to meet you here to pick a fight."
Alex visibly relaxed. "I was... concerned that you might still... well... hate me."
"I did, at one time," Walter said matter-of-factly. "But you were on on the right side longer than I was, and I know we could never have succeeded without you."
Alex's eyes widened. He had never imagined hearing those words from Skinner or anyone else.
"Why don't we just pretend we're two war buddies who happened to meet up with each other? Unless you have some unresolved issues about me?"
Well, no anger issues, Alex thought to himself. "No, I'm really tired of fighting, Skinner."
"Good. Let's have some coffee and talk about what we've been doing since we last saw each other."
The men spoke in unison.
"So, you're a photographer now?"
"So, you're a father now?"
"You first," Alex said, taking a sip of his coffee. "What happened? You just disappeared."
"Well," Walter said, taking note of the fact that Alex noticed his disappearance. "When the war ended, I had to testify before the Senate and Congress. Not only was I was tired of it all, but I didn't feel I could ever regain the trust and respect of the men under me. So, I left. I turned in my resignation, packed up, and moved here."
"How did the photography come about?"
"While I was moving, I went through some boxes I had packed up, stuff from years ago. I found my old camera. Photography was my hobby when I was a teenager."
"Really," Alex said. "I'm not sure I can imagine that."
"It's true. I even won a few amateur competitions."
"So, why didn't you pursue it back then?"
"Life, the war... I enlisted right after I graduated, you know. When I got back, taking pictures was the last thing on my mind."
"So, after... what, 20 years, you went back to it?"
"Yes, that's about the size of it. I found my camera, cleaned it up, and went out and took some pictures. It was fall here, the leaves were turning, and I suddenly realized how much I'd missed it."
"And you decided taking pictures in the mall would be your new career?"
Walter laughed. "I just do that for pocket change. My real love is wildlife and scenic photography."
"Now, what about you? I don't remember you having a child before."
"No," Alex agreed with a laugh, then his voice went low and serious. "I was leading a raid on a consortium lab when I found Matthew."
Walter frowned, remembering some of the labs he had seen himself. "Poor kid. And you adopted him."
"Yeah. Crazy, huh? Alex Krycek raising a child," Alex said derisively. He shook his head, still in disbelief about the situation. "The way he clung to me after I got him out... Even after we got him outside, got him food and clothes... He stayed near me every second he could and the nurses tell me he'd sit in a corner and rock every moment I was away from camp. They tried to talk me out of keeping him, but I just couldn't... He still has nightmares," he finished lamely.
"Me, too," Walter said softly. "And I don't think it's crazy. He seems happy, and healthy."
"He is, now," Alex said with a smile. "I still don't know much about how to raise a kid, but we're figuring it out together."
"So, what are you doing for a living now?" Walter asked.
"Working for a security company. I needed something with regular hours. You know, for Matthew."
"I would imagine you're pretty good at that."
Alex shrugged. "It's okay."
"You sound like you'd rather be doing something else."
"Well, it's not all that challenging. You seem happy with your work."
Walter smiled. "I am. I don't miss the FBI at all."
Alex raised an eyebrow. "Not at all?"
Walter grinned. "Well, maybe a little. But not the power plays or corruption."
"What about troublemaking agents?"
Walter laughed. "Sometimes I do actually miss Mulder. But I meant the reasons I originally joined. It seems naive now, with everything I've seen, but I really did want to make a difference, get the bad guy, serve and protect, all of that."
"Don't you think you did that? Made a difference?"
Walter looked doubtful. "Not really. You know how badly I was compromised."
"You made a difference, Skinner. Maybe not like you wanted to, but you did. You weren't nearly as compromised as you seem to think. And at least you didn't spend most of your life as a lackey for some psycho."
"You can't say that. I know -- now -- that you were a triple agent the entire time."
Alex shrugged, uncomfortable with the compliment, and downed the rest of his coffee. "I should get back. I told Matthew I wouldn't be gone very long."
"Do you want me to drop you by your place?"
"No, I drove, but thanks." Alex slowly walked in the direction of his car. "Well, it's been... really nice, Skinner," Alex said, trying to make their time together last a bit longer.
"Yes, it has," Walter said as reluctant as Alex to let the evening end.
"I really have to go," Alex said with regret. "Marilyn's with Matthew, but we'll both have an early morning."
"All right," Walter said. "Listen, Krycek - -"
"Yes?" Alex asked expectantly.
"I'm glad that things turned out so good for you. You deserve it."
"So do you, Skinner. So do you."
§ § §
The next night, hearing a knock, Alex Krycek opened his door and stared at Walter Skinner in surprise.
"Skinner. Is anything... wrong?"
"No, not all. I was out looking at some possible shooting locations and since I'd be in your neighborhood, I thought I'd drop your pictures by."
"You didn't have to do that. But thanks, come on in."
"Are you sure I'm not intruding? I should've called."
"No, you're not intruding," Alex assured him.
Walter took in the comfortably furnished living room, tastefully done in browns and dark greens, as Alex invited him to sit.
"I also need to apologize for how they turned out. I don't understand what went wrong," Walter mused. "I'm sure I didn't change any settings and everyone else's turned out fine."
Alex shrugged. "I'm sure they're not bad. Can I get you something to drink while I'm still up? I was about to get myself a Coke." Alex paused for a millisecond, then added, "Matthew's next door at Marilyn's, but he should be back soon. He hasn't stopped talking about your camera since the other day."
"Nothing for me," Walter said, handing the the envelope holding the prints to Alex. "I can't stay long, I just wanted to bring these by."
"Thanks," Alex said as he pulled out a sheaf of pictures. "I thought we just got one 8x10."
"I included some duplicates, some different sizes. I thought you might like some extras for your family or friends."
"Thanks, Skinner. Neither of us have family, but I'm sure Marilyn and some of Matt's friends would love one." Alex studied the pictures. "You're really good, Skinner."
"Thanks," Walter said with a grin. "I didn't expect to enjoy it this much. Even *this*," he said, indicating the picture Alex held. "I think I'd forgotten what it was like to enjoy my work."
"I'm still looking for that," Alex said wistfully. "I put away some money over the years, and my security job pays well enough we can live comfortably. But I can't really say I'm happy with it."
"I'm sure you'll find your niche sooner or later. Look how long it took me."
The front door burst open, bringing Matthew and a rush of cold air with it.
"Alex, you'll never guess - -" Matthew paused when he saw Walter. "Hi, Mr. Skinner."
"Hello, Matthew, how are you?"
"Matt, Mr. Skinner brought over our pictures. Would you like to see?"
"Yes!" Matthew said, sitting on the arm of Alex's chair. He took the photo from Alex and held it reverently. "Can I have one for my room?"
"Sure, we'll pick up a frame for it."
"Mr. Skinner, do you develop your own pictures? My friend Casey's dad takes pictures at weddings and he has a dark room in his house. It's really cool."
"Yes, when I'm not shooting digitally, I develop my own pictures. I turned my basement into a photo lab."
"Do you take wedding pictures, too, Mr. Skinner?" Alex asked.
"I do a few here and there. I prefer taking pictures of wildlife or landscapes."
"Wow, like animals and stuff?" Matthew asked, coming to sit beside Walter on the couch.
"Yeah, animals and stuff," Walter grinned. "If it's okay with your... Alex, you're both welcome to come over and see some pictures if you'd like."
"Cool! Could we, Alex?" Matthew asked excitedly.
"We'll see," Alex laughed. "Why don't you take one of the pictures over to Marilyn and Kiera?"
"Okay," Matthew said, taking the picture and racing for the door.
"Matthew?" Alex called. "Come straight back."
"I will," Matt said, continuing on his way.
Alex looked at Walter and grinned. "As glad as I am that Matt's become so much more outgoing, I've learned 11 year olds can be exhausting. And nearly *everything* is 'cool'."
"He seems like a great kid, though."
"Well, all things considered, I guess we do okay. I knew fuck-all about parenting when I adopted him, but together we've managed."
"A little better than that, I'd say," Walter observed quietly. "He obviously loves you, and I can see you love him."
Alex nodded. "I do. I've never regretted my decision to bring him here."
"Well, I should go. But my invitation was sincere. I'd like it if you and Matthew came over sometime," Walter said, standing up to go.
"We will. Matt will love it, and I'd like to see your work," Alex said as he walked Walter out.
§ § §
Walter called a few days later to see if Alex and Matthew had plans the next evening, a Friday.
"No, no plans," Alex told him. "It's Mr. Skinner," Walter heard Alex tell Matthew.
"Would you like to come over? I'll make dinner and you two can see my pictures and Matthew can explore the darkroom."
"Let me ask Matt," Alex said. Walter heard Matthew's "Cool!", then Alex was back, his husky laugh pleasant in Walter's ear. "I guess you heard that."
"I did. Is 6:00 a good time for you?"
"That'd be great. We're looking forward to it. Can we bring anything?"
"If you want to bring dessert, that would be good. I'm not picky, bring something you and Matthew like."
§ § §
Alex and Matthew arrived promptly at 6. Alex looked approvingly at the house, a huge old two story wood house, painted white with blue trim and shutters. Walter answered the door in his usual jeans, this time paired with a black sweater that accentuated the fact that he was still in excellent shape.
"We brought chocolate cake," Matthew announced, holding out a bakery box.
"Do you like chocolate as much as Alex?" Walter asked as he showed them in.
"Yeah," Matthew answered enthusiastically.
"Yes sir," Alex interrupted.
"Yes sir," Matthew said, not slowing down. "And is that spaghetti?" Matthew asked, sniffing the air. "I love spaghetti!"
Walter chuckled. "Yes, it is."
"Can we do anything to help?" Alex asked.
"No. I have the sauce simmering, and the salad's ready. All I have to do is cook the spaghetti and put the bread in the oven. Would you like a tour before we eat?"
"Yea - - um, yes sir," Matthew said, looking to Alex, who nodded.
"Sure, that would be great," Alex said, following Walter and a very excited Matthew down the hall.
Walter led them downstairs to the basement, which he had sectioned off into a darkroom and studio. Matthew was interested in everything, particularly how the pictures were developed, and the animal pictures Walter showed them.
"Is that a fox?" Matthew asked.
"Yep, it sure is. It took me days to get that shot," Walter said. "He was very shy."
"Do you think I could take pictures like that?" Matthew asked.
"I'm sure that in time, you can," Walter said. "It takes patience, though, especially for the wildlife pictures."
"Are you sure you can sit still that long, Matt?" Alex said teasingly, ruffling his son's hair.
"Sure I could," Matthew said, but he smiled. "Will you show me how to develop pictures, Mr. Skinner?"
"Matt, I'm sure Mr. Skinner doesn't have time - -"
"I'd love to, Matt. If it's okay with your dad."
Matthew looked beseechingly at Alex. Alex grimaced. "*If* you keep up with your schoolwork, and *if* Mr. Skinner has time, then yes, you may."
"Yes!" Matthew said. "Thanks, Alex. Can I look at the rest of the pictures, Mr. Skinner?"
"Sure, Matt. Why don't you bring them upstairs and look at them while I finish dinner?"
After depositing a thoroughly absorbed Matt on the living room couch, Alex followed Walter to the kitchen.
"Are you sure you don't mind all this, Skinner?" Alex asked.
"Not at all," Walter said as he set water for the spaghetti on the stove. "It's nice seeing someone so excited about photography."
"I know I spoil him sometimes" Alex said, lowering his voice. "But he had such a bad beginning, you know?"
"He seems like a very well grounded boy to me," Walter said. "And believe me, I know. You should see some of the delinquents that come through the mall - -" Walter broke off abruptly.
"What?" Alex asked.
"I really sound like an old fart, don't I?" Walter said, shaking his head. "Next thing you know, I'll be yelling at the neighbor kids to stay off my lawn."
Alex laughed. "If you are, I am, too. Sometimes I keep my neighbor's daughter, and just her and Matt... they have no volume control."
They commiserated as they finished dinner. Walter's spaghetti and Alex and Matthew's chocolate cake were big hits. All too soon it was time for the evening to end.
Walter walked them out. Alex lingered as Matthew went on to the car.
"I had a great time, Skinner. We both did," Alex said.
"I did, too. Do you think since we've been to each other's house and even had dinner, we could use each other's first names?" Walter asked.
Alex smirked. "I think so. Walter."
"Good," Walter said with a smirk of his own. "Alex. I'd like to do this again, if you would."
"I would," Alex confirmed. "We have to get home, though. I don't know how I'm going to get Matt settled enough to sleep. Between the chocolate cake and your studio and pictures, he's pretty hyper."
"He's a really special boy, Alex. You should be proud."
"I am. I'll be in touch, okay?"
Walter walked back inside, feeling happier than he had in some time.
§ § §
Alex called later in the week. Walter had been looking at proofs and was slightly out of breath when he made it to the phone.
"It's me, Sk - - , um, Walter," Alex said hesitantly.
"Alex. Great to hear from you."
"Am I interrupting anything?"
"No, I was just checking out some proofs, nothing pressing."
"Well, Matthew hasn't stopped talking about our visit. He - - we both had a great time."
"So did I," Walter said.
"I'm taking Matthew and Kiera around the neighborhood to see Christmas lights tomorrow night, and I thought maybe you'd like to join us."
"What about Kiera's mother? Marilyn, is it?"
"She needs a night to do some shopping and to have some time to herself. We trade kid-sitting duties."
"Alex, forgive me for prying, but are you and she... involved?"
"Me? And Marilyn?" Alex laughed, that husky sexy laugh, of which Walter was becoming very fond. "Marilyn and I got that straight long ago, Walt. She knows I'm gay."
And that answers two questions, Walter thought, hope blooming in his heart.
"So," Alex was saying, smiling, "Christmas lights?"
"Yeah," Walter said, smiling himself.
Walter arrived at the next night at 6, and they all set out, Matthew and Kiera taking the lead, with Alex admonishing them to stay strictly on the sidewalk, and not to get too far ahead. Alex noticed Walter had stopped and was staring at him. "What?" he asked, frowning.
Walter shook his head. "I just never imagined seeing you this way," he said. "Being so... fatherly."
"Yeah, me either," Alex admitted. "Knowing me the way you do - -"
Walter put his hand on Alex's arm. "It's nice. Matthew's very lucky to have you."
"I'm the lucky one," Alex said quietly. "But thanks."
"We should catch up," Walter observed.
They heard Kiera's "oohs" and Matthew's "cools" well before they got to them.
"Some of these really are amazing," Walter said. "I couldn't help but notice yours are pretty amazing, actually."
"I did them, with Matt directing. I've actually been a little worried the neighbors will complain about the glare."
Walter chuckled as they followed the kids, past elaborate light designs, simple illuminated wreaths, Nativity scenes and all manner of lighted reindeer, Santas and snowmen.
"Walter, Matt has decided instead of a digital camera, he wants a 'real' one like yours. I was hoping you could recommend something."
"Sure. There are some good ones out there, but they're expensive." Walter thought for a minute. "Tomorrow's Saturday. If you're free, why not come with me to some flea markets? Sometimes you can find some good deals. I found a couple of my spare cameras that way."
"You wouldn't mind?"
"Not at all. Can you get away?"
"Yeah, no problem. Marilyn's keeping the kids tomorrow. They're going to a museum and then a movie."
They walked on, not talking, Matthew and Kiera more than making up for their silence.
Kiera slept over at Alex and Matthew's, and Marilyn came by early so Alex could pick up Walter and they could get to the flea market before all the good stuff was gone.
They ended up driving to the flea market in Walter's jeep. They stopped by several booths that had vintage cameras, Walter dismissing the first few as being too worn out or the price being too high. Alex knew the moment Walter found the one he wanted. His face lit up and he began to seriously bargain with the owner until they settled on a price that Alex thought was too high, but Walter assured him it was a great deal.
With the camera taken care of, they wandered around the flea market, with Alex picking up some antique earrings for Marilyn. Walter found a book he thought Emma, his assistant at the photo studio, would like.
After a couple of hours, Walter suggested they get lunch. "Unless you need to get home?" Walter asked.
"No, Marilyn and the kids will be out all day."
They stopped by a bar near Walter's neighborhood that, like the rest of the area, had a very old fashioned atmosphere, lots of dark wood and vintage lighting. They ordered burgers and fries and cold beers.
"Ah, that's good," Alex said, taking a huge drink of his beer. "I worked up a thirst."
"Yeah, me too," Walter agreed distantly, momentarily distracted by Alex swallowing.
"Walter? You with me?"
"Yeah, sorry, I was... lost in thought. It's warm in here, huh?" Walter said, well aware that the temperature in the bar wasn't what was making him hot. He slipped his jacket off as Alex took the opportunity to admire the view.
They were quiet as they ate, both ordering another beer. They both grabbed for the check.
"My treat," Walter said. "I asked you to come, remember?"
"But it was to help me find a camera for Matt," Alex pointed out.
"You can get it next time," Walter said easily. "Ready to go?"
"Sure," Alex said, disappointed that their time together was ending. He was quiet as they got in Walter's jeep.
Walter started to put the jeep in gear, but hesitated. "Alex... I know you said you were free for the day. Would you like to... come to my place?"
Alex looked up, startled. "Um, sure. I'd love to."
Walter turned and looked Alex in the eye, letting him see the desire in his eyes. "Do you understand what I'm asking, Alex?"
Alex swallowed his surprise. "Yeah. Yeah, I do," Alex said, giving Walter a heated look in return. "And I want to."
Walter barely managed the speed limit on the brief ride back to his house. They rushed inside, but Walter stopped inside the door to demand a kiss. They were both a bit light-headed when the kiss ended. Then they were on their way again, both grinning like crazy as Walter led them to his bedroom. Alex barely glanced at the very masculine room with its medium hued furniture and huge 4 poster bed with blue bedclothes, before Walter tugged him onto the bed. They helped each other undress, pausing often to kiss each other hungrily.
"You know I used to imagine this," Alex said breathlessly.
"You too?" Walter said with a chuckle as he finally freed Alex from his one remaining piece of clothing.
"You thought about fucking me?" Alex asked.
"Of *course* I did. You're gorgeous, Alex."
"Not only did I think you were straight, I never imagined we'd be able to get past *our* pasts."
Skinner kissed the tip of Alex's nose. "I know. But we have. Or at least, we can."
"This is a lot to take in - - things don't usually turn out the way you imagine them. I never imagined being a father. I certainly never imagined we could be together like this."
"We can take it slow, Alex. We need to anyway, because of Matthew."
"But not right now."
"No, not right now," Walter agreed, running his hands over Alex's smooth chest.
"Not as pretty as I used to be," Alex murmured, his voice betraying insecurity.
"Oh, Alex, we're both older, and we've both had a rough time of it. I hope you don't think I'm disappointed. Hell, I'm the one who should be worried."
"You? You must be kidding. You're even sexier now than before, and I didn't think that was possible. I like this, by the way," Alex said, stroking Walter's beard.
"Does it make me look distinguished?" Walter asked.
"I was thinking dead sexy, but distinguished works too."
"Good," Walter murmured, moving in for another kiss.
§ § §
"I don't want to go, but... " Alex said as he dressed.
"I know. You need to be there for Matt."
"Do you want to come home with me?"
"I'd like to, but not this time. I have some things to do here. Next time, okay?"
"Okay. About the camera - - "
"I'll check it out thoroughly, and get it cleaned up. I'll have it ready in time for Christmas."
Alex paused again at the front door, still reluctant to leave. Walter, equally reluctant to let him go, pulled him in for one more kiss.
§ § §
The base of the Christmas tree was littered with boxes and torn gift rap. Glancing over to his best chair, Alex saw Marilyn curled up under a soft wool throw and sound asleep. Looking down at the carpet, he found Matthew and Kiera laying on their stomachs, quietly reading. Kiera was engrossed in the Junie B. Jones book he'd given her, while Matthew had the open the user's guide to his new camera in one hand and was paging through a beginner's guide to photography with the other. Turning his attention to the wreck of his kitchen, Alex told himself he should get up and put away the leftovers, but at the moment he was feeling far too content to move. He felt more than saw the smile Walter Skinner directed at him from his side of the couch.
Skinner stretched out one long leg and nudged Alex's thigh. Indicating the tree, the Christmas decorations, and the other people sharing their Christmas with a sweep of his head, Walter quietly rumbled, "It doesn't get much better, does it, Alex?"
Title: Not Exactly a Photo Finish
Author: Maddie and Haven.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Websites: Maddie's Fanfiction and Haven's Slash Archive
Feedback: Yes, please!
Warnings: This story contains a m/m sexual relationship.
Spoilers: Assume everything through S.R. 819.
Archive: Full House, RatB, DitB, WWOMB
Disclaimer: All X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made. All original characters belong to Maddie and Haven.
Summary: Krycek takes his son to have his photo taken with Santa
First Published: December 2008 in the Christmas 2008 eZine
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