Title: "Alone in the Dark"
Author: Dafna G. (beruria@eskimo.com)
Category: Josh Lyman/Walter Skinner (West Wing/X-Files crossover)
Spoilers: The story is set in winter 2000, before "Noel" on the West Wing. Mulder is still missing on the X-Files. Assume spoilers for anything before that.
Rating: NC-17. Mild BDSM. Kiddies, shoo.
Archive: Yes to Laura S. Others, please ask.
Written: Nov. 2001
Summary: No one ever recovered from PTSD by picking up strange men in bars. Which doesn't mean Josh couldn't try.
Notes: Written as a birthday present for Xanthe. With thanks to Jae & Shana, who helped tie the ribbon.

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Alone in the Dark by Dafna G.

He told himself he'd stopped looking. The first few weeks, hell, the first few months, his breath would catch at every tall brown-haired man in a trench coat. He'd lurch forward, calling "M --"

But it was never him. And he told himself he'd stopped looking.

Later, he blamed that for how it started. He'd heard shouting and he'd run around the corner and come face to face with a mugger, a gun and a tall brown-haired man in a trench coat.

It's not Mulder, he told himself fiercely. It's just some guy who got lost on his way back to the subway, a banker, probably, or a lawyer and by the time his brain had processed "subway," he had already pulled out his weapon.

"Federal agent. Freeze."

The mugger laughed. Great, Skinner, thought, some punk hopped up on whatever suburban kids were taking these days to prove they were bad.

"What are you going to do, man? Shoot me? I don't think so. You get me, I get him." He waved the gun at his victim.

"Maybe I have better aim than you do."

"And maybe you don't, man." The mugger waved his gun around, still laughing.

"Do I get a vote?" asked the banker, his back against the wall of the narrow alley. His tone was nervous but not panicked and Skinner thought he saw a feverish gleam of something akin to amusement in his eyes.

"Get away," Kim had said. "Just for the weekend. Go to New York or someplace like that. A change of scene would be good." And she'd looked so concerned for his health that he'd submitted and here he was, in New York less than 6 hours and already engaged in an armed standoff. He sighed and looked down the alley.

"OK, look," Skinner said. "No one has to get shot here. You," he pointed at the banker. "Give him your wallet."

"What?"

"Give him your wallet."

The banker opened his mouth again, then closed it and shrugged as well as he could with his hands up. He reached into his coat pocket, fished out his wallet and offered it to the mugger.

He eyed it suspiciously. "What's the catch, man?"

"No one has to get shot here," Skinner repeated. "Take the wallet, and get lost." He jerked his head down the alley.

The mugger paused a second, then grabbed the wallet and ran down the alley, vanishing from sight in the dark rainy haze.

The banker came forward, shaking the dirt off his suit. "Um, what federal agency are you an agent of, Fish and Game? Cause, don't get me wrong, I'm just as happy not to get shot again, but isn't the idea to prevent the crime?"

Skinner looked at him, seeing him clearly for the first time. Not Mulder. Older. Taller. Darker eyes. He gestured with his head and the banker followed him back out onto the street.

"OK, thanks very much, but I've got to . . . "

"Just wait," Skinner said.

"Wait for what?"

The mugger came barreling out of the alley and into Skinner's fist. He crumpled onto the sidewalk and the banker let out of a huff of breath.

"Not Fish and Game."

Skinner ignored him and stuck his gun back under his jacket. He leaned down and snagged the mugger's gun, then began rifling through his pockets.

The banker turned and looked down the alley. "You knew there was only one way out, didn't you?"

Skinner stood up and handed the man his wallet. "Yeah." He gestured down to the fallen mugger. "You want to press charges or what?"

The banker paused to consider and Skinner's eyes narrowed. Don't be so suspicious, he thought. Not everyone's thrilled with the idea of a night at the local precinct.

"Are you covering something up if I say no?" the banker asked.

"I'm on vacation," Skinner said, which wasn't an answer, but hell, he didn't want to start his weekend with a trip to a police station either.

"OK, look." The man ran his hand through his hair and Skinner saw that he wasn't as old as he'd thought. "If it's all the same to you, I'd rather not report this. I mean, I have my wallet back -- you've taken away his gun. Can we just call it a night?"

Skinner shrugged and tried not to let the look of relief on the other man's face disturb him. "The subway's two blocks that way, by the way." He pointed.

"What?" The banker turned around, puzzled. Then his face cleared. "Oh, right." He smiled. "Yeah, I did sort of got lost on my way . . . " His voice trailed off. "Anyway, thanks again. I owe you."

Skinner allowed himself a small smile. "Just remember that the next time some politician tells you the bureaucrats in Washington can't get anything done."

The banker laughed. "That's -- not really a problem with the politicians I know." He stuck out his hand.

Skinner shook it and then watched as he disappeared down the block. The wind whipped down the street, and Skinner pulled the collar of his leather jacket closer to his neck. He stepped over the mugger, now groaning awake, and went his own way.

It wasn't until the third block that he thought, "Shot *again*?"

******************

Josh swallowed his second Scotch and decided he might be getting too old for this. Not that the club was full of twenty-something Men's Health devotees -- on the contrary, that's why he'd liked it so much 10 years ago. The club had changed, true -- a lot less leather, for one. But there were still plenty of good-looking older guys ready to help a young guy forget his troubles.

But the lights were hurting his eyes and the music was pounding at his head -- and boy was he able to recover fast, he thought ironically. Not 20 minutes ago, he had been about to be the poster child for tougher gun laws. Again. Was that a siren outside the club? He probably shouldn't have talked that guy out of calling the cops.

He remembered thinking: "I survived a racially motivated political assassination on live TV in order to die in a New York alley for 25 bucks?" And, also: "CJ is going to kill me."

Now he was just thinking, "please God, let me find someone halfway decent-looking to spend the night with before my head explodes."

A blonde guy about Charlie's age caught his eye across the bar and smiled. Josh turned around and winced, wondering if he was now considered an old guy, there for the cruising. He felt a sharp pain in his chest and clutched at the bar. Great, now I've probably got angina as well, he thought.

Josh watched the blonde guy out of the corner of his eye as the kid shrugged off his noninterest and began talking to someone else. He never went for those really pretty types, anyway.

Yeah, right.

Shut up, Josh thought back at himself.

Anyway, he wasn't in the mood to mentor someone else, to have to listen patiently and pretend like they were half as smart as he was. He wanted someone to listen to him for once, to take charge, someone older, stronger--

An ex-fighter pilot, perhaps?

Shut up, he thought back at himself again.

He wanted someone his own size, he reassured himself. Someone who could dominate him physically, not just mentally, someone -- he heard a loud bang and jumped. Car backfiring, he told himself. Just then, the crowd to his left parted and Josh caught his breath. One tall, stern muscular hunk, coming right up. Yeah, someone like that would do just fine.

Then the guy turned around, and Josh smiled. The gods were finally paying him back for sticking him with that stamp assignment. He moved to intercept his savior of the night and put on what Donna called his, "Hi-I-went-to-Harvard-may-I-buy-you-a-drink" face.

"Shoot anyone on your way over here?"

The man gazed at Josh through his glasses, finally saying, "Not a banker."

"What, I couldn't be a banker? The suit not Wall Street enough?" Josh turned around, modeling the suit -- and if his brooding fed took the chance to check out his ass, so much the better.

"I thought you might have been working late and gotten lost," the man explained.

"I'm not lost." Josh smiled and toyed with his drink, trying to remember how you did this. . Licking the glass here would be too much, right?

"I see that," the man said, and was that a hint of a smile on his face? Josh reminded God again about the stamp assignment.

"Want to, uh, join me?" Josh motioned with his head toward a booth.

The man muttered something under his breath and then nodded.

"I'm not what?" Josh asked. "'Cause I thought we settled the banker thing."

The man grimaced. "You sort of look like someone."

Josh paused, halfway to sitting down. "Um, OK, if that's . . ."

"Someone I lost."

Josh sat down. "Oh." He wasn't sure of the etiquette here. "Was it . . .?"

"What? Oh. No. Not that."

Good, Josh thought. He wasn't up to a discussion of epidemics and health-care priorities and anything the least bit connected to his job.

"Was he cute, this guy I sort of look like?" he said, trying to get things back on track.

"He was -- " The man's eyes glinted. "Incorrigible," he said, settling on a word finally.

"I can do that," Josh said, looking up at the man from over the rim of his glass.

The man sucked in a long breath.

"I can be incorrigible," Josh said, deciding to test his luck. He reached under the table and put one hand on the man's thigh. "I can be . . ." he said slowly, "anything you like." And this time he did flick out his tongue to touch the rim of his glass.

A heavy hand cupped his chin. "You don't do this a lot, do you?"

Josh shivered at the contact, but opted for honesty. "No. I used to come here when I was younger. Ten years ago, this place was more of a . . ."

A callused thumb brushed his mouth closed. "I know what this place was." The man dropped his hand from Josh's face and leaned back against the wall of the booth. He considered Josh. "Is that what you want?'

Josh thought a minute. To give over control, to someone worthy of him, for one night, and it was a long way from Washington, and . . .

"Yeah." He exhaled slowly. "That's what I want."

The man looked down into his glass, then looked up and nodded abruptly. He gestured with his head, and Josh followed him out into the street.

"I'm staying at a friend's place over on 2nd, that OK?"

Josh nodded. This is a really bad idea, he thought.

*******************

This is a really bad idea, Skinner thought, leading his not-a-banker up the stairs. You don't know his name, this whole thing could be a setup, or a con or a --

Oh, who was he kidding? It¹s not like he'd gone to the club looking for a game of chess. "Get away," Kim had said, and wasn't this part of it? To escape Washington, Hoover Building, his life for just two days? Hell, even Alex Krycek would probably look good right now. Anything to blot out the memory of Mulder from his mind.

He opened the door, and his NotMulder brushed past him in the doorway, shedding his coat as he entered. The man's scent filled his senses and Skinner tied a little bow around his reservations and put them to one side.

"Nice place," the man said, running his hand through his hair. "Um, I probably should have said this before, but it's been a while. I mean, I was never into anything that heavy and now, I mean . . . "

"It's OK," Skinner said. "I'm not really into the rough stuff, either."

The man blew a sigh of relief. "Good. I didn't you want to think. . . ." He shrugged, uncomfortable. "It's the power part of it that I . . . "

"Yeah." Skinner ran his eyes over the man, enjoying the opportunity to look with want, instead of calculation. By the time he made it up to his face, the man was blushing.

"I'm Josh, by the way," he offered.

Skinner didn't say anything, just started circling him, contemplating how deep he could bury his memories in this man's body.

"Um, what should I call you?" The man said, twisting his head around to follow Skinner.

"'Sir' would do nicely," Skinner said, taking off his glasses.

Josh's mouth twitched. "Yes, sir," he purred. "Tell me how I can serve you, sir."

Skinner walked up to him and just stood there for a minute, violating his personal space. He growled softly and enjoyed watching its effect on the other man's breathing. He ran his fingers through Josh's hair and cupped the back of his head. He deepened his voice deliberately and said, "Kiss me. Make it good."

Josh started a little and Skinner could tell he'd expected him to order him to his knees or some other cliché. But he recovered quickly and reached up with one hand to stroke Skinner's face.

"I didn't say you could touch me."

The hand dropped immediately, and a faint glint of challenge entered Josh's eyes. Yes, Skinner thought, test me. Make it difficult.

"Whatever you say, sir." Josh leaned in and grasped Skinner's lower lip with his mouth. He ran his tongue along the lip and then began nipping little bites out of it.

Skinner felt a thrumming start in his groin and used the hand behind Josh's head to guide him closer. But Josh refused to take the hint and didn't deepen the kiss. Instead, he retreated even further and pressed light butterfly kisses along the edges of Skinner's mouth.

Oh, very clever, Skinner thought. Make me make the first move. Well, two could play that game. He reached out with his other hand and began stroking Josh's earlobe. The other man cried out and Skinner stopped.

"You don't like that? I'm sorry." Skinner's eyes were full of false concern and he could see that Josh was about ready to throttle him for stopping.

"No, I . . ." Josh looked at him, frustrated. "What you like, I like, sir."

"Good." Skinner resumed teasing Josh's ear. "Then kiss me."

This time, Josh didn't play games. He leaned in and devoured, sucking on Skinner's tongue hard before backing off and stroking the inside of his mouth with his own tongue. He worried at Skinner's lower lip, this time chewing on it until it turned red before diving for riches with his tongue again.

Skinner grasped Josh's head with both hands and returned the favor, plundering the other man's mouth as if all the warmth there could somehow defrost his soul. Or if not his soul, well, other parts certainly seemed to think it was springtime. He felt Josh begin to smile underneath him and drew back. Time to reassert some control.

"Go into the other room and get undressed."

Josh was trying to avoid looking smug and failing miserably. "Yes, sir. No problem, sir."

He's not Mulder, Skinner thought again and felt a brief pang of longing. Then he shook himself and went off to retrieve supplies.

*******************************

Josh cast an assessing eye around the bedroom before remembering it was a friend's place and thus wouldn't give up any clues. Well, the friend had crappy taste in music, but other than that.

His hand clutched nervously around his tie. Don't think about it, he thought, just do it. He closed his eyes and stripped quickly, as if someone was watching with a timer, and for all he knew, someone was. When he was naked except for his socks, he heard a waft of air and then a deep voice telling him, "Lie down, Josh. No, keep your eyes closed."

He complied, and if one part of him was railing at the stupidity of giving his own name, another was fiercely glad. This was about him tonight, not some imaginary alter-ego he could shrug off on the Metroliner home.

And now rough wonderful hands were lifting his feet, massaging them through the worn-away cotton.

"Do you need something to hold onto, or can I trust you to keep your hands still?"

Josh shook his head, and moved his hands under his head. This had the effect of thrusting his body up another few degrees and the hands on his feet paused to enjoy the view.

"You're in pretty good shape for what, a lawyer?" The voice was a tease, not a question. And then it deepened even more, and Josh felt like he could sink into it and never need oxygen again. "What brought you to the club tonight, boy? Life getting too rough for you at the big, bad law firm?"

He shook his head, not sure he was allowed to speak. Abruptly, his socks were stripped away, and one of his big toes was enveloped in warmth. A tongue flicked around it even as hands continued to caress the insoles of both feet. He groaned.

"Like that, do you?"

I'd like it even more if that was my mouth around your cock, Josh thought, but he kept quiet. He really didn't want to play Pushy Sub tonight. He needed to be fucked hard and then he could go home and live with himself another three weeks and maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't give into the temptation of Sam's lower lip.

He bent his knees, hoping the big guy would get the hint. Come on, Josh thought. Let's go.

The big guy sighed. "Yeah, I'm not really in the mood for foreplay, either."

A pause and then the slippery feel of lube on his ass, followed by a blunt finger, probing. And then two, splitting him open and reminding him of dark nights 10 years ago, in an apartment not far from this one. And then, three and get on with it already, Josh thought.

Another pause and he exhaled in relief as he heard the telltale sound of a plastic packet being ripped open.

A longer pause this time.

"Josh, open your eyes." He obeyed and found the other man's face inches away. Eyes unshielded by glasses probed at his own. A hand brushed his cheek, more soothing than sexual. "Do you really want this?"

He nodded, mute, unable to take his eyes away from the man's face.

"You're not . . . " A short pause. "You're not showing much interest here." Skinner ran his hand down Josh's body and Josh realized for the first time that he wasn't hard.

"It's OK. I don't care. I don't always --- I need this. I really need this." Josh realized he was babbling and stopped, shutting his eyes against the possibility of being left alone in the dark.

The other man sighed. "Yeah, OK. I know about need." He ran his hand down Josh's body again. "And god knows, I don't want to turn away this," he said, and Josh felt vindicated, proud. He was needed.

More lube. And then Josh's legs were tossed over his head and god, how had he ever thought he could spend the rest of his life without this -- bent in two and pounded apart.

The other man fulfilled every bit of promise he'd shown in the bar, holding Josh up as he rammed in mercilessly, driving away every bit of vanity and self-pity and god, it felt good.

Josh lost track of the time, lost track of himself, lost track of everything but the harsh breathing above him and the pounding thrusts at his core. And when it was over, it took him a minute to realize it.

A hand ran up his chest, settling on his neck. "Josh, that was . . ." He felt a deep sigh against his chest. "Thank you."

Josh sat up, his mouth dry. It was over, and now he'd have to go back to his real life. He moved to get out of bed and a long arm forestalled him.

"Um, you can stay if you like."

Josh peered up and saw sympathy in the other guy's face. Sympathy, but not pity, he decided. "OK," he nodded. "I'll just . . ." he indicated the bathroom with a hand, and the other guy nodded.

When Josh came back, he was already asleep.

******************

Skinner woke up in the middle of the night and for a minute he thought the nightmares had come back.

But the sweat he was drenched in wasn't his own and as he rolled Josh onto his back, Skinner could see Josh's body was shaking uncontrollably.

"Josh. Josh, wake up." Skinner shook him, not sure it was the right thing to do but certain no man should live through a nightmare like that.

"Josh, C'mon, wake up." Skinner thought a minute and then slapped him.

"Sam?" Josh offered weakly, and Skinner wasn't sure whether he was still dreaming or not, so he said, "Sure."

Josh shook his head and rolled into a tight ball. Skinner grabbed hold and rocked him. "Shhh . . . It's OK."

Josh stilled suddenly, and his eyes popped open. He turned to face Skinner and it was like looking into a mirror, the same bleak pain of too many nights waking in fear. Jesus, what had this guy been through?

Josh shrugged his shoulders. Skinner took the hint and backed off. "I'm going to get you a towel, OK?" Josh just shrugged again and looked away, burying his face in the soaked pillow.

Skinner walked through the living room to the bathroom, his mind racing. He was too young for Vietnam, wasn't he? But what else? On his way back with towels, he saw Josh's coat, flung over a chair.

He paused, and looked in the direction of the bedroom. And then back at the chair. And then back at the bedroom. And then back at the chair.

Screw it, he thought, SOP, know what you're dealing with first. He dropped the towels on the couch and reached for the jacket, feeling for the wallet he'd returned to the man only hours earlier. He thumbed it open.

Walter Skinner, you are the dumbest man in the history of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Alvin Kersh is a giant among men compared to you.

He sat back on the couch with a thud. Jesus, how could he have been this stupid. It's Mulder's fault, he thought irritably. He'd been so obsessed with telling himself it wasn't Mulder that he'd never really looked at the man.

*"Cause, don't get me wrong, I'm just as happy not to get shot again."*

Josh Lyman, Leo McGarry's deputy, cover stories and special reports -- and it wasn't that long ago, dammit. And sure, he'd seen the scar, but he had his own scars he didn't like to talk about and . . . his blood ran cold.

Oh Jesus, is that what tonight was about? OK, he'd been running from his own demons, but there were demons and there were demons. And no one recovered from PTSD by picking up strange men in bars. He should know, Skinner thought grimly.

He should be kicked out of the FBI. Had he really forgotten what that haunted look meant? And sure, it'd been 30 years, but how many guys had he seen with that look? Dozens? Hundreds? He tried to salve his conscience. It's good, he thought, you can help him. You can't help Mulder, but you can help him.

He collected the towels and went back in the bedroom. Josh was lying in bed, his eyes straight up at the ceiling.

A light touch, Skinner thought. Don't scare him.

"You have those dreams a lot?" Yeah, way to go.

Josh flinched. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Skinner sat down next to him on the bed. He dropped one of the towels on Josh's chest and used the other to begin cleaning his face.

"Look. I know about this. It's called Post-Traumatic--"

"If this is where you tell me you were in 'Nam, I'm really not interested," Josh interrupted, sitting up and brushing Skinner's hands away.

Skinner gritted his teeth and tried to stay calm. "Fine, you don't want to hear about me, let's talk about you."

"You don't know anything about me." Josh got out of bed.

He pulled on his clothes as Skinner watched, trying to make up his mind. Washington was a very small town. There wasn't really a choice.

He was halfway to the living room when Skinner called, "Josh. Josh Lyman."

Josh froze.

"OK, I'm an idiot," Skinner said, standing in the doorway of the bedroom with his arms folded. "You look like someone I try not to think about and I was so busy not thinking about him that I never really *saw* you -- but we've met, you know."

"What?" Josh turned around, panic in his eyes. He saw that Skinner was still naked and blushed, turning away slightly.

"Yeah, I'm not that thrilled about it, either." Skinner walked over to his desk and picked up his wallet. He threw it at Josh.

Josh flipped it open. "*That* federal agency."

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry, I don't remember . . . We've met?" And it was funny, but Skinner could see the inner politician reassert itself, as Josh tried to be polite and remember where they'd met.

Skinner looked down at his feet. "It was that Government Oversight thing last year. You and Leo, a couple of staff lawyers and about 6 of my people in the Oval."

"You know Leo?"

Skinner nodded.

Josh ran his head through his hair. "When I blow my cover, I really go all the way, don't I?"

"Well," Skinner gestured around. "I'm not exactly taking an ad out either, here."

"So," Josh exhaled. "This is OK, then."

Skinner shook his head, annoyed.

"It is not."

Josh flinched and Skinner held up a hand.

"That's not what I mean. Yeah, this --" Skinner waved his hand in the direction of the bedroom, "is OK. But if you're waking up like that a lot, you need to get help."

But it was too late, he could see that. The shields were back up and Josh was very much the deputy chief of staff at the moment.

Josh smiled tightly. "Look, just because you know my boss . . ." He stopped and tried again. "I oversee 1100 White House employees, you know. I'm not some lost lamb for you to save."

Skinner sighed, and rubbed his eyes with his hand.

"I'm sorry I woke you up," Josh said, his voice flat as he straightened his tie. "But all things considered . . ." He pulled on his coat. "Anyway, I'm just going to go now."

Skinner thought of saying something, but really, what could he say? A night in his bed -- not even a night, really -- didn't give Skinner any hold over him.

He nodded. Josh walked out the door without looking back.

Skinner banged his head against the doorway once. Stupid, he thought again.

He went back into the bedroom and saw that it was already 5:30 in the morning There's a chance, he thought.

He picked up the phone and called the White House operator.

"Yeah, this is Walter Skinner from the FBI. Put me through to Leo McGarry, please."

There's a chance, he thought.

<end>

-- Dafna G. (beruria@eskomi.com) http://www.geocities.com/beruriagreer/

 

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