Spoilers: For all seasons
Disclaimer: I haven't written an essay since school, and I have a suspicion the last one was along the lines of 'What I did on my holiday'. In other words don't expect anything too polished here - in particular don't expect footnotes!
Not many relationships can boast their very own balcony scene. Romeo and Juliet it ain't, but it does have a certain something. Oh, before we visit this little excerpt from the episode 'Tunguska' could everyone just move to the sides. That's it, cosy up together, you won't have to stay there long.
Crystal City, Virginia
(Ext. Skinner's apartment building. Cut to int.
Skinner's apartment. Sound of someone knocking on door. Skinner comes down the stairs, shirtless, buckling his belt.)
SKINNER: Who is it?
MULDER: I need to speak with you, sir.
(Skinner sighs with exasperation, opens door. Mulder is standing in the doorway.)
SKINNER: What do you want, Agent Mulder?
MULDER: I need your authorization to provide a safe house.
SKINNER: A safe house for whom?
MULDER: (Reaches to his left and yanks Krycek into view by the collar of his jacket. He has his baseball cap again.) This man has information about extreme-right militia that could save the lives of innocent Americans.
(Krycek meets Skinner's gaze, smiles nervously)
SKINNER: He'll be safe here.
(Mulder pushes Krycek in and closes door the door. Krycek is looking around the darkened apartment when Skinner slips up behind him and punches him in the stomach with all his strength. Krycek grunts and collapses. Skinner pulls him back up by his jacket collar.)
SKINNER: Relatively safe. We're not even yet, boy. (Shakes Krycek, who is groaning in pain.) That's a start. (To Mulder) Give me the keys.
(Skinner drags Krycek across the room by the collar and throws him out onto the balcony. Krycek falls onto the balcony floor. Skinner drags him up by the collar again and cuffs his right hand to the railing. Krycek leans against the railing, unable to stand.)
KRYCEK: You can't -- you can't leave me out here, I'm going to freeze to death! (jerks at handcuffs)
(Skinner shoves Krycek down to sit on the floor. Skinner crouches down to face him.)
SKINNER: Just think warm thoughts. (stands and leaves)
(Krycek jerks at the cuffs again, then rips his cap off, glowering.)
Okay, everyone still here? Nobody crushed to death by the stampede of BDSM bunnies? Good, good, let's move on. I guess the correct order should have been to introduce the characters when they aren't half-naked or wearing handcuffs ... but first impressions are so important <g> Anyway, on to the more serious stuff - who are these guys and why should they get together.
Or to give him his full name and title Assistant Director Walter Sergei Skinner. He has the thankless task of supervising the X-Files department. At 18 he volunteered to join the Marines and fight in Vietnam, where among other horrific experiences he killed a booby-trapped 10-year-old boy in order to save his camp, and later was badly wounded in an ambush, of which he was the only survivor. Apparently a character who respects and upholds the rules of the establishment, but from his earliest appearances we see that Cancerman has some influence over him. This ebbs and wanes over the course of the series so sometimes he is able to support Mulder and Scully, as in 'Paper Clip' where he takes particular delight in telling Cancerman "This is where you pucker up and kiss my ass." Later, in Scully's cancer arc, he makes a deal with Cancerman which involves him covering up crimes which include several deaths by experimental bee. (Bee? It's the X-Files, don't try to understand it.)
On the relationship side, 'Avatar' has him as married, but undergoing a divorce, and possibly with a dead wife at the end. He also finds time during this episode to have sex with a female prostitute. Despite this heterosexual hiccup in the course of true love, the fact that we do know little about his private live allows writers to make him repressed gay or bisexual without too much wrangling.
Do I really need to introduce this guy? Known as the 'little black dress of fanfic' Krycek goes with anything. Gender, age, inclination, mortality, different series, different country, different century - nothing stands in the way of Alex getting horizontal with anyone or anything.
Apart from that we actually know little about him. We first see him as a young FBI agent in 'Sleepless', but by the end of the episode we know he's working with the Consortium. Perhaps he started off as a loyal foot soldier for this group - possibly in the Russian part since we learn later that he speaks fluent Russian. The Consortium turn on him, attempting to blow him up in 'Paper Clip' and after that he appears to turn freelance and it's anybody's guess which side he's on. It's possible to argue that he only acts in his own self-interest, but he does appear to consistently oppose the aliens, and as Housman says in his Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries What God abandoned, these defended, And saved the sum of things for pay.
Krycek, in his guise of adorable young FBI agent, first meets Skinner in 'Ascension'. He is respectful and cute, and Skinner can't keep his eyes off him, and seems to forget the concept of personal space. Having recently rewatched this episode I can confirm the truth of this! Unfortunately it all goes downhill after this as Krycek is revealed as a traitor.
The next time they meet is a brief encounter in a stairwell during 'Paper Clip' where Krycek gutpunches Skinner three times while retrieving a DAT tape for his Consortium masters (who are not at all grateful - see blowing up above.)
After this we come to the famous balcony scene and as you've seen Skinner can't keep his hands off him, and then they spend the night together. You don't believe me? Try finding a slash story where Krycek stays on that balcony. At the end of 'Tunguska' Krycek gets his arm cut off. (You've got to admire a man who goes to these lengths to put the hurt in the hurt/comfort scenario.) A lot of AUs split off at this point, because there's obviously less of Krycek to be pretty with one arm missing, and it's also darn difficult to choreograph sex scenes taking one arm - with or without prosthetic - into account.
The star-crossed lovers next meet in 'S.R. 819' where Krycek runs over a Tunisian diplomat who's trying to kill Skinner, thereby saving his life. (Awww, it must be love.)
Unfortunately (and that won't be the last time you see that word) Skinner has been infected with nanobots which make him seriously ill and eventually kill him. But no, miraculously he comes back from being pronounced dead, and the first thing he sees is the man who brought him back - Krycek. Another altruistic act by our hero? Well, not quite. Krycek has a nifty little palm pilot which controls the nanobots, and as he succintly explains in the final scene, "I can push the button anytime."
By the time 'Biogenesis' comes round he's probably pushed the button a few times since Skinner is willing to videotape Mulder and Scully's deliberations and give the recording to Krycek. The tape is passed on in a short but telling scene where no dialogue is exchanged but there is a very meaningful glance, and Krycek is either wearing lipgloss or has licked his lips while the camera has been pointed at Skinner. (Aside: And I thought I was going to have problems coming up with slashy scenes for this pairing?)
So we get to 'Deadalive' and Kryeck is still pushing buttons, inveigling Skinner into elevators, and they're on first name terms. He's also offering Skinner the opportunity to save Mulder, who at this moment is more dead than alive. And all Skinner has to do to save a man's life is to kill a child - Scully's unborn offspring. This time 'The answer is no.'
Coming to the end now, and in 'Essence' Krycek and Skinner bring their relationship out into the open. That would be the relationship where they've been working together, and Krycek gets to join the good guys, saving Mulder once and Scully twice. Unfortunately (there's that word again) in the next episode 'Existence', which many Sk/K shippers just ignore completely, there's a bit of a falling out. You could tell it was coming because Krycek and Skinner are back to the surnames again. Krycek's self-preservation is kicking in, and after some soul-searching he decides he has to kill Mulder. Just as he is about to do it, he gets shot by Skinner. In fact, he gets shot a lot by Skinner, and becomes a dead Krycek.
And you think these two should be together?
All right, so they have a few problems. But given what we know about Skinner, and what we don't know about Krycek it's possible to see some connections between them. Starting with the simplest bond - Walter's middle name. Perhaps it was just coincidence that it's Sergei, suggesting Russian ancestors, but that gives him some common ground with our double agent. And if we conclude that Krycek started off as a soldier obeying orders, we can see other parallels in their lives.
Skinner has it in him to be ruthless: the ability to kill a child to save others' lives. He doesn't always pick the right side: throughout the series Mulder and Scully express doubts about whether he will support them, and there are times where he can't. He makes bad decisions: the bargain he made during the cancer arc may not have involved him actually killing someone, but people died, children died.
And their differences can also highlight their similarities.
Krycek is a man without friends: the occasional ally, but even they can turn on him. He has no structure to his life: the fanfic cliché of living in motels can act as a metaphor for a man always on the run. If he believed in anything he lost that belief, and morals can be very expensive.
But they both keep on fighting. They lose, they have victories, they regroup, they find what weapons they can. And if their eyes do meet, perhaps they're thinking, "That could have been me."
"Every minute of every day we choose. Who we are, who we forgive, who we defend and protect. We choose a side or to walk the line. To play the middle. To straddle the fence between what is and what should be. This was the course I chose. Trying to find a delicate balance of interest that can never exist. Choosing by not choosing. Defending a center which cannot hold." Skinner in S.R. 819
And the final scene? Well, in a series with shapeshifters, clones and indestructible aliens, being dead isn't necessarily permanent. And sometimes, love is a bullet between the eyes.
Luckily I happen to know of a site which has links to many of the Sk/K stories on the Net and it can be found at SKINKS.
There's a small archive which has been around for a while with some stories not available at SKINKS SKSA
And if you're still looking for more The Basement has Skinner/Krycek among its pairings.
Like many X-Files Yahoo lists SkinnerKrycek is quieter than in its heyday, but you'll find most Sk/K stories will be posted there.
And just to show the fandom is still active, there's been a recent e-zine Skinner/Krycek Zine Christmas 2004
There are a lot of stories out there so I'm just going to give a few suggestions. I'll welcome links in the comments to any stories that people would like to recommend.
I started with the BDSM, and a couple of links in that area might be a reward for those who stayed. Skinner is often portrayed as the 'top' and a good example of this is L'Avatar by Louise Wu, but if you think he's more of a 'bottom' then Peach has a whole series His Master's Voice exploring that concept.
In March 2000, I reposted in SkinnerKrycek (Messages 413-416) one of the earliest Sk/K stories written : A Job for the Ratboy by Yvette. Of interest since it looks at Sk/K before a lot of the baggage is accumulated.
The Sk/K was not as numerous as the other main pairings, but Josan almost single-handedly managed to change that when she burst on the scene with her 'Eating' series which can be found on her page. (If you're at all interested in Sk/K you have to read Josan.)
Skinner and Krycek having to work together is a frequent theme. One story that explores Skinner employing Krycek's talents is JiM's Descent with it's sequel Formerly Unsuspected. And one post-Invasion series that slowly builds a relationship between them is Ratadder's Resist and Serve.
Given the ... ah ... difficulties in the canon relationship, AUs are popular, and another well-known Sk/K author, Ursula, used an intriguing historical background in Like a Wounded Bird (This includes Mulder in the mix.)