Under My Thumb
Notes: Story One was written for Kristen K2, Story Two for Dark Cherry, and Story Three for Kristen again. Dark Cherry beta read this one.
Note 2: for K2's birthday from Ursula
Time Frame: After the series
His back ached. His head felt as if it had been ran through the paper shredder and reconstructed with Elmer's glue by a slow kindergartner. Walter pulled his Taurus into the driveway and rested his head on the steering wheel as he tried to shed his work skin for the pleasures of home.
Walter had no plan of admitting that going back to work was not as much of a blessing as he hoped it would be. He called his new secretary by Kim's name five times. The young man was starting to develop a complex about it.
As Walter entered the comfortable rambler that he shared with his wife and their lover, something smelled good. Mulligan stew? Walter's stomach grumbled as he followed the smell to the kitchen. He found a round butt bent over like a present, apron strings dangling untied and framed the well-worn jeans. Walter swatted the offering and rested his hand possessively on the round cheeks.
"Where's Kim? I thought she was done with her classes?" Walter said.
"She should be back soon," Alex said cheerfully. He took the big, golden brown rolls out of the oven. "She has a job interview and was probably caught in traffic."
"A job interview?" Walter said. "Why would she do that?"
"Well, Walter, she graduated from teaching school. The next step is to actually teach, although she said that this is more of a glorified practicum, " Alex said.
"My wife doesn't have to work," Walter said. "I thought she didn't want to go back to work?"
"She didn't want to go back to the Hoover," Alex said. "You know Kim's story as well as I do. She dropped out of teaching school to help support her family. She wanted to be a teacher. Why did you encourage her to go back to school if you didn't want her to work? Who the hell are you? You don't sound like MY Walter Skinner. Female agents fought to get into your area. You were known as tough and fair, a bit old fashioned, but able to send female agents into the field without a qualm. You promoted by merit. No old boy's network for you."
"Hey, I'm not a male chauvinist. I just don't see Kim spending her days at an ill paid job when I would support her," Walter said. "I offered the same thing to you, Alex."
"Yeah, I know, but you know I would be bored as hell," Alex said. "I'm always here when you come home and if you take time off, since I own the business, I can take time off."
"I don't know what is nuttier...you buying the Magic Bullet or the public for making it the hottest newspaper in America. If Frohike buys one more pair of tight leather pants, PETA is going to make him Public Enemy Number One," Walter said. Making fun of the Lone Gunmen was always safe.
"The guys needed someone with a head for business," Alex said, moving to the refrigerator and taking out salad ingredients.
"I suppose," Walter said. "I just can't get used to them being under foot so much. Mulder is around a lot more than he used to be too."
"You like Mulder," Alex pointed out. "He helped us get back together."
"I may like him, but it's still odd to find him here, nearly every night, drinking my beer and eating my chips," Walter said.
"You want me to make him buy the beer and chips?" Alex asked.
Walter merely stared. "It's just that I don't like the way he looks at you."
"He looks at you that way too,' Alex remarked. "But I don't get jealous."
"Why?" Walter asked. "You think I'm too old and set in my ways to stray?"
"Nope, I think you are too damn honest and too much in love to even think about it," Alex said, putting his arm around Walter to pull him close. "Kiss me. I'm the cook," Alex added.
So Walter did.
By the time Kim arrived home; Walter was in a better mood. When he heard her cheerful greeting, he left off his cuddling session with Alex to go into the kitchen to help serve the meal. After the shower that he and Alex had shared, Walter had put on his jeans and a sweatshirt, but his feet were bare. He finally felt as if he was free of the pressure from his work.
Kim stood on her toes to kiss him. She said, "Sorry I was so late. The traffic was miserable."
"You should keep that in mind if they offer you the position," Walter said.
"Well, first time teachers can't be too picky," Kim said. Turning away as if that was all she had to say, Kim pulled Alex's face down to her level to kiss him too and said, "Your dinner smells wonderful. It smells exactly like Walter's recipe."
"I know. I've watched him make it so many times," Alex said.
"Natural born spy," Walter said. Alex winced and Kim shot Walter an irritated glance. "Alex, you know I love you just the way you are," Walter added, not quite an apology.
"Yeah, I know," Alex said.
The three of them sat down to eat. The Mulligan Stew had improved after simmering on the back burner. Alex had followed tradition enough to use yesterday's roast beef and vegetables in the mix. Pagoda noodles, colored richly from spinach, carrots, and corn, mingled with new potatoes to give the stew substance. Alex must have used at least six tomatoes in the mix. He had added a bit more stew meat. Both Walter and he liked beef.
"This is good," Walter mumbled through a big spoonful.
"Yeah, I cooked something," Alex crowed. "I mean something you don't add boiling water to rehydrate."
"It's great," Walter said, "I would have been too tired to cook when I came home from work."
Alex laughed and said, "You had some energy to spare."
"I wondered why you two had the urge to shower before dinner," Kim laughed.
"We missed you," Walter replied.
Shifting in his seat, Walter said, "So did you get the job?"
"I don't know, but the interview went well," Kim said. "They'll probably call you for a reference. I know it's a bit odd, but I used my maiden name for the application. I don't want to be hired as Walter Skinner's wife. I want to be offered the job because of my grades and my student teaching awards. Besides, it wasn't as if we were always lovers. I don't think you looked twice at me for years. I was part of the office."
"Kim, I never thought of you as part of the office furniture," Walter replied.
"Sure, but it wasn't as if sparks were flying from the first," Kim said. "I had to give all my past supervisors and it would be odd to leave out the past seven years."
"I bet they hire you without even calling," Alex said. "If they don't know what an angel you are just from talking to you, they don't deserve you."
"Oh, Alex, you are such a doll!" Kim said. "I could kiss you. In fact I will."
The rest of the evening was perfect.
So why did Walter wake in the middle of the night?
Finding his way to the basement, Walter dug out an old album. Sharon hadn't wanted it. He had tossed it away once, but dug it out before the garbage collector picked up. Sitting with the bare bulb of the light fixture shining harshly on the last remains of his former married life, Walter felt the familiar sense of frustration and helplessness.
When he had come home from Vietnam and entered college, Walter had been happy to leave his teenage and young adult sexual experimentation behind him. He had never thought of himself as gay, just open to possibilities. He had always seen himself as married with a kid or three and a wonderful wife. When he met Sharon and they very quickly became engaged, the rest seemed bound to happen.
Year after year passed, Walter had told Sharon that she should relax. Everyone had babies sooner or later. It was not until the newspapers began to scream about Agent Orange and sterility that Walter had reluctantly agreed to start fertility testing. Hearing he had a low sperm count depressed him, but they didn't say it was impossible. He could adapt to anything, even jerking off in a fertility clinic. The doctors had no explanations why in vitro fertilization didn't take.
Sharon had dragged him to adoption agencies next. Walter was interested. Especially when they mentioned American and Vietnamese kids. He wanted one of those kids. He imagined seeing a lost companion's face in a tiny baby. The thought made him feel weak.
The agency required the family to help at the hospice where the incoming babies were examined and treated before being placed. Walter surprised himself by being a natural with the tiny infants. He fell in love with a particular little girl with big green eyes and reddish brown hair. The staff was even willing to place little Ahn with them despite the fact that there were families before them on the list.
When Ahn went home with them on the first weekend visit, Sharon had thrown up when trying to change her first diaper. She had been nauseated all weekend, then bright eyed on Monday, announced that she was pregnant. Walter had been very surprised, but cheerfully said that they would make up for lost time by having two children at once. His heart had crumpled when Sharon had said that it wouldn't be fair to Ahn. She said that they would always be comparing their biological child with the adopted child.
Walter didn't think so, but what could he say? When they returned Ahn, he saw the barely hidden scorn in the social worker's eyes and felt he and Sharon deserved it.
Sharon had bought maternity clothing, told everyone she was pregnant, and was researching private schools before Walter started to wonder. Finally, he insisted on making the obstetrical appointment for her. The older woman gently explained that it was a false pregnancy. Sharon had dragged him to three doctors before accepting the truth. She was so depressed that she checked into a private clinic for three months.
When Sharon came home, she went back to college and took art history and business. She never mentioned having a baby again and would walk away if anyone mentioned adoption.
Walter always wondered what happened to Ahn? He hoped that the family who adopted her loved her as much as he had. He had been tempted to find out, but he knew that wasn't right. He mourned Ahn as if he had lost his blood daughter.
His marriage had never been the same. He had gladly paid for Sharon's college. He had welcomed her first barely paying job at an art gallery. When she made manager, he bought her an entirely new wardrobe of designer clothing. When she was happy, he was happy.
Gradually, his career led to his present position and her career took off. Sharon had travel. Walter had late nights in the office.
When Spender got his hooks into him, Walter died inside. He couldn't touch Sharon without feeling he tainted her.
Walter wasn't sure who had the first affair. Sharon had the young artist who needed her. "You don't need me, Walter. I need to be needed."
The blond SWAT team leader had seduced Walter when Sharon was off with her artist.
The artist cleaned Sharon's bank account. The pretty and independent police lieutenant wanted Walter to divorce Sharon and marry her. They licked their wounds together and resolved to make it work.
As TS Elliot said, Walter's first marriage ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
The divorce had hurt. Of course, by that time, there had been more separations than reconciliation. When he had both Alex and Kim in his bed, he had been more than willing to sign divorce papers. Sharon had second thoughts. Then Alex was gone. Kim, he shoved away, and Sharon said that he locked her out of his emotional life.
Smiling wryly, Walter closed the photo book. Perhaps he should have shared that he was deep in depression because his male lover had betrayed him and that he was afraid that he would be investigated for having an affair with two of his subordinates. Sharon might have found him more interesting.
As Walter crawled back into bed, Alex snuggled close and asked, "Are you in pain, Walter? I could massage you."
"No, I'm fine," Walter said. "I remembered something I had to do."
"Yeah? Promise you'll let me know something hurts? The doctors said to take it easy," Alex said.
"I know. I came home early, remember?" Walter said.
"How could I forget?" Alex said.
"Don't worry, love, I'm happy," Walter said.
But his mind raced. What if Kim outgrew him as Sharon had? He hadn't thought past her degree. Walter thought she wanted it as part of the things she had meant to accomplish in her life.
Teaching was a demanding profession. Kim was so much younger. What if she met someone else? Some younger male teacher?
Walter turned over and pretended to sleep. He couldn't let it happen.
"Sir, there's a Principal Clark on line one," Walter's office assistant said.
"Thanks, Doug, can you get Agent Mulder's notes on the Church case for me? I'd appreciate it," Walter said.
It was not as if he meant to do it. That was not why he sent Doug down to the basement.
It just happened. Principal Clark had gushed, "I can't believe I'm talking to the Walter Skinner, the man who helped Agent Mulder save the world."
"A lot of people helped," Walter said. "We were only two of them."
"I read Agent Mulder's book," Clark said. "He gives you and that other man a great deal of credit. Alex Krycek...the Russian."
"Well, he was right about Alex," Walter said. "What can I do for you?"
"A teacher named Kim Cook gave you as a reference," Clark said.
"She did?" Walter said.
"Yes, is there a problem? She did work for you?" Clark asked.
"Right up to the time I married her," Walter said. "Didn't she mention that?"
"No," Clark said. "It certainly didn't come up."
"Oh," Walter said. "I suppose I shouldn't have told you if Kim didn't want you to know. She was a great worker, very intelligent."
"I see, but she should have told me," Principal Clark said.
"I suppose, but Kim probably has her reasons," Walter said. She did. She wanted to be hired on her own merit and not because her husband was famous.
That night, Walter came home to a room full of glaring people. Alex, Mulder, and all three Lone Gunmen stared at him.
"Kim is with Scully," Alex said. "She's not coming home tonight. She didn't get the job with the school. They said she was dishonest."
Walter argued, "But she should have told them. You can see that, can't you, Mulder?"
Holding his hands up, Mulder said, "Don't ask me. I got out of the snap judgment business."
"All I want is for my wife to stay home," Walter said. "I don't think that's a lot to ask."
"You didn't ask," Alex said. "I just wanted to be here when you came home. I'm spending the night with the Lone Gunmen. You need to think."
"Go ahead," Walter said, "Show your true colors. Run out on me."
"I'll be back," Alex said, "No matter what Kim decides, but you better persuade her to stay if you have a brain in that bald head."
The first night that Alex and Kim were gone, Walter looked up an old war buddy and they spent the night drunk.
The second night, Walter woke, threw up, and took a long shower. By late afternoon, he sobered up enough to drive to the liquor store. Let them all go to hell. He didn't need them. Besides, they would come crawling back.
Walter cleaned up the place, made the bed, and checked the voice mail. At least, he had remembered to call in both days. Tomorrow, he would go back to work. Tomorrow.
Digging through the huge collection of CDs that the three of them has accumulated, Walter found the one he wanted.
Two Scotches later, Walter sagged in his favorite chair, the one big enough for all three of them to snuggle and roared out the Stone's lyrics.
"Under my thumb, she's the sweetest hmm pet in the world," Walter raucously sang.
Which was when Kim walked in.
"Is that what you really want, Walter?" Kim said.
His mouth gaping, Walter stood up. His heart was pounding. He saw Alex in the doorway, silently supporting Kim.
"You haven't been to work for two days. You didn't answer the phone," Kim said. "We were worried."
His knees suffered from the drop. Walter looked up at Kim and over at Alex. "I was wrong. Anything you want. Just don't leave me. Sharon moved away from me. Her career, my career, I don't want to do that again."
"What?" Kim said.
"I thought if you took the job that you would leave," Walter said.
"Oh, Walter," Kim said. "No, I would never do that. I chose you over my career twice over. Once to marry you and the next to take care of you. You can't push me away. You can't make me run away. Even when you act like an ass."
Glancing behind her, Kim said, "Alex pointed out that it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been so worried about how good I am as a teacher. If I had enough self confidence to know that, if I was hired, it was because of me, not you."
"I'm sorry,'" Walter said. "I need you both so much. Nothing is more important to me."
"I feel the same," Kim said.
"And I'd sooner have my other arm sawed off with a rusty spoon as to lose my lovers," Alex asserted.
"So what do we do?" Walter said, as Alex turned off the Stones.
"I think you should be punished for what you did," Kim said. "I already made Alex spank me for what I did."
A spanking he could handle. Walter pushed down his jeans, his only garment and upended himself over the hassock.
Kim walked across the room as if her bottom was a little sore and drew a deep breath. Her hand was calloused from her boxing lessons. Her arm was as strong as Alex's. She showed no mercy and no hesitation as she thundered blows down on his ass.
Walter's ass stung. He bit his lip to keep from yelling. Alcohol always sent him a little out of control. Finally, he let himself grunt.
Sharon was never this strong. She was a lovely woman, but it was never like it was with Kim and Alex. She wasn't to blame. Neither was he. They weren't right.
This was right.
This pain was offered to the challenges of miscommunication and fear. Walter felt relief shudder through him. He screwed up as badly as he could possibly have done if he planned it. Kim was still here. Alex was still here. He was still here. None of them had run far. All of them had come back.
Kim didn't ask for tears. She knew when he accepted. They ended on the floor, all three of them, in each other's arms.
A long time later they talked.
Walter hadn't told them about Ahn. He hadn't told them much about Sharon. He didn't want to ask for sympathy. He had thought it was entirely his fault. He was sure he would screw this up as he had Sharon.
That wouldn't happen. Kim wasn't perfect. Alex was like a fractured diamond, full of crazy shattered beauty. Walter was as flawed as Sir Lancelot, but put them together, there was nothing stronger.
As the three sat together, Alex said softly, "There are babies here that need families. Older kids too. I'd kind of like a kid. Between the three of us, there wouldn't ever be need for daycare."
It was an idea. Walter said, "I could retire. I'm good with babies."
"Later," Kim said happily. "I think I want to make love to my husbands."
Kim always had the right idea.
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