24/7: 11. Ring, Master?


Mulder lay very still, one eye on the clock as the digital display gradually changed, taking him closer and closer to doomsday. 5:58, 5:59…He should have got up an hour ago. He should have swum, he should be making his Master’s coffee, and giving him his wake-up call, and instead he was…6:00. Skinner’s alarm clock hummed into life. Mulder jumped. So, his Master wasn’t going to leave his wake-up call entirely in the hands of his slave on a work day. Mulder didn’t know whether to be insulted or relieved. He rolled over, the chain clinking around his neck, and squeezed his eyes shut as he heard Skinner get up. There was the sound of footsteps that stopped by his head, and then a deep, heart-felt sigh.


“Pretending to be asleep, pup?” He felt a toe dig into the side of his ribs, and sat up.


“No, Master. Yes, Master. Are you angry with me, Master?”


“Not yet. Should I be?” Skinner crouched down beside his slave, and Mulder looked into his Master’s deep, dark, eyes, and swallowed nervously. Skinner held up a key, and unlocked his slave from the foot of his bed, where Mulder had chained himself in the middle of the night. “Go and make the coffee, and bring it back. Quickly, Fox. We’re behind schedule now.”


“But, Master…” Mulder began.


“You can fill me in on the whys and wherefors of how you came to be sleeping in my room when I’ve got a cup of coffee in my hands. I’m already kind of pissed off to have missed out on my usual wake-up perk, and I definitely don’t function well before my morning coffee. Run, slave, and while you’re making the coffee, you’d better give some serious thought to how you’re going to explain yourself,” Skinner warned. Mulder sighed, nodded, and left the room at a run.


He wasn’t invited into the bed. Somehow that didn’t surprise him. He knelt beside the bed while Skinner skimmed the paper, and hastily drank his coffee, then his Master and frowned at him.


“All right, pup. The honeymoon’s over so we don’t have time to linger. Make it quick.”


“I couldn’t sleep, Master,” Mulder admitted.


“Why?” Skinner looked at him searchingly. Mulder shrugged. “Did you have another nightmare?” Skinner pressed.


Mulder bit on his lip. “Not exactly,” he confessed.


“Hmm.” Skinner moved his hand, and Mulder hesitated, then remembered his training, and went down on all fours, pressing his nose into the carpet. “I seem to recall that I gave you permission to come down here only after you’d had a nightmare. Not just if you couldn’t sleep.”


“Yes, Master. I know,” Mulder sighed. “The thing is…I knew I’d be able to sleep down here, and I didn’t want to screw up today because of being too tired, so…”


“So, you thought you finagle a night in your Master’s room without paying for it,” Skinner finished.


“No! Maybe.” Mulder made a face. “Jeez, don’t think I don’t hate myself for coming over all needy, Master.”


“Needy? No, that’s just the problem, Fox,” Skinner said. Mulder looked up in surprise. “If you were needy, I wouldn’t have had to insist on you signing that contract – you’d have stuck by my side whether I wanted it or not. Nervy – yes, like a temperamental colt, but not needy. Half your trouble is that you don’t see what you need, and you’d have no idea how to get it anyway. That’s what I’m here for.”


“Is it?” Mulder blinked.


“Yeah. Now get me the crop, and assume the grace position. Quickly.”


Mulder did as he was told, and scrambled into position. He had a feeling that this was really going to hurt. He wasn’t wrong. Skinner had given him a mild strapping the previous night, his arm, or maybe his heart, clearly not in the task, but this morning he was back on form. The crop landed with awesome precision on his ass, and it was all he could do to keep his position in the wake of the onslaught.


“Your litany, please, slave,” Skinner demanded.


“I’m yours, Master,” Mulder yelled.


“Just here?” Skinner prompted.


“No! Everywhere!” Mulder screeched.


“Will you remember that today?”


“YES! Oh god yes, I promise!”


When Skinner finally finished with him, the tears were flowing freely down his cheeks, and his breath was coming in hitching sobs. Skinner clicked his fingers, and Mulder sank gratefully to his knees, and kissed his Master’s feet. “Now, remember that even small pleasures require sacrifice,” Skinner told him. Then he bent down, and kissed his slave’s lips, firmly. “You’ll do fine, Fox,” he murmured. “And if you don’t, your ass will know about it.”


“Master is…” Mulder began.


“Cruel? Tough? Yeah – like I said, boy, the honeymoon’s over. Yesterday was about indulgence: me indulging you, and you indulging me. Today, we’re back in the front line, back in the office, and you are back to being my subordinate, as well as my slave. You can and will handle it. I’ll be with you every step of the way. Now get in the shower.” Skinner pointed. Mulder hopped away quickly. Skinner was in a very brisk, very uncompromising mood this morning. Why did he love that so much?


Skinner joined him in the shower a second or so later. He pinned his slave against the wall, and held him under the water, then he kissed him again.


“Condom,” was the first thing he said, when he let Mulder up for air. Mulder put his hand around the edge of the shower curtain, and fumbled his fingers along the shelf above the basin until he found the item in question. He handed it to his Master, then stood there awaiting further instructions. “Turn around,” Skinner ordered. Mulder quivered, his cock hardening. Damn but he loved Skinner in full Masterful mode. It was such a turn on. He put his hands against the wall, and opened his legs, thrusting his butt back, ready to receive his Master. He felt Skinner stand behind him, and take his buttocks in his hands, caressing the hot flesh gently. His Master probed one finger into his ass, then two, and Mulder moaned and opened up even more. He gave a cry of sheer bliss as he felt the familiar tip of his Master’s hard cock against his opening, then Skinner thrust inside him, up to the hilt, taking his breath away.


“Who do you belong to, pup?” Skinner demanded, his chest warm against Mulder’s back.


“You, Master,” Mulder panted.


“All right. Remember this moment all day – it should help you concentrate.” Skinner’s voice had a tone of wry amusement. He then proceeded to thrust into Mulder so hard, and so fast, that the slave thought he’d pass out. The stimulation of his prostate, combined with Skinner’s masterful manner, was too much of a turn on for him. “Keep your hands on the wall. You can come but only after me, like a good slave,” Skinner commanded, and a second later, he took hold of Mulder’s cock and started to pump it in time to the rhythm of his thrusting. Shit, it was good! Mulder put his head back and let the water run down his face, gasping for air. It took all his willpower to hold on until Skinner came a few minutes later, and Mulder had his own climax barely seconds afterwards. They both stood there, panting, for a while, and Mulder enjoyed the sensation of being connected in the aftermath of their mutual pleasure. Then Skinner withdrew. “Okay. What do you have to say to me, boy?” He asked. Mulder swallowed, and went down on his knees in the water.


“Thank you, Master. You are such a fucking stallion,” Mulder grinned. Skinner frowned, and cuffed the side of his head lightly with the back of his hand.


“And you are always just one step away from a taste of my strap on your bare ass. Remember that, slave.”


“Yes, Master.” Mulder allowed himself to wallow in a moment of total adoration, then got up, and began to soap his Master.


“Do yourself. I don’t want you to ever be late for work on my account,” Skinner told him firmly. Mulder nodded, and washed his own body quickly, watching out of the corner of his eye, as Skinner finished, and then handed the shower head to his slave.


“Don’t you want me to dry you, Master?” he asked, frantically.


“No, not today. Dry yourself, then get upstairs and get ready. You’re dismissed,” Skinner told him curtly.


“Yes, Master.”


Mulder finished washing and drying himself, then scampered back into his Master’s bedroom to find Skinner getting his clothes out of his closet. Mulder ran past him, and put one hand on the door, then some devil in him prompted him to turn back. He sidled up to his Master, and kissed the back of his neck, pausing long enough for a quick grope of Skinner’s sleek, muscled flesh.


“See you in the office, Master,” he murmured. Skinner turned with another growl, and swatted him hard on his naked, glowing backside. Mulder yelped. “I love you too, Master,” he flung over his shoulder, before beating a hasty retreat. Something told him that it wouldn’t be wise to linger.


He didn’t see Skinner again before he went to work. He didn’t know whether he left the apartment before his Master or after him. He put on one of the new shirts and ties Skinner had bought him, and examined himself in the mirror. He looked fine. Crisp white shirt, tasteful navy tie. His Master would approve. Mulder grinned at his reflection, grabbed his keys and cellphone, then let himself out of the apartment and ran along to the elevator. He felt alive! He had never gone into work feeling so completely alive before in his life. He just felt so damn good!


Mulder took the metro to work. His butt was stinging nicely, and at least he could spend the entire journey standing to give it time to recover. He breezed into the Hoover building, waved a cheery hello to anyone he recognized, and laughed when most of them looked over their shoulders, wondering if he was waving at someone else. He sauntered along the corridor, couldn’t be bothered to wait for the elevator to take him down, and took the stairs two at a time instead. He paused for a moment outside the door to the basement, and then put out his hand to open it…and froze. Shit! The ring! Scully would see it and ask him all kinds of questions. What the hell was he going to tell her? Mulder went back and perched on the bottom step of the staircase for a moment, thinking it through.


He could tell her that he just got married. No, asshole, she’d be hurt that you didn’t tell her you were dating!


Well, he could tell her it was a sudden thing – he just met someone and married them in the space of one week. No, asshole, then she’d ask you lots of questions about your new wife and insist on meeting her!


Okay. He could tell her…that he was sick and tired of being chatted up and this was to keep the vultures away. Yeah, right. How many times has she ever seen you being chatted up? That is so convincing, lame-brain.


Okay, how about…how about I tell her the truth? Mulder’s withering internal voice didn’t even bother to snort in disgust atthat suggestion.


Okay…how about…


The door to the basement office suddenly opened. Mulder felt his life flash in front of him, and in a split second made his decision. He took the wedding ring off, shuffled it swiftly into his pocket, then got to his feet and smiled a falsely cheerful grin just as Scully stepped into the corridor.


“Oh, hi, Mulder,” she said absently, flicking through a file. “Have a good vacation?”


“Fantastic,” he breathed.


She looked up sharply. “It must have been good. My god, what’s happened to you?” She asked incredulously.


“What do you mean?” Mulder looked down. Were his nipple rings showing through his shirt? No, that was impossible – he’d worn a vest underneath on purpose to hide them. Had Scully suddenly developed X-ray vision? Could she see through his pants? Had she somehow caught a glimpse of his cock ring?


“You! My god!” Scully circled around him, then gave a low whistle. “You look so…clean. And well dressed, and…Mulder – are you glowing?” She asked suspiciously. Mulder flushed. Only my ass, Scully.


“No. Only pregnant women glow, Scully. Everyone knows that,” he told her loftily, disappearing into his office.


“Mulder! You’re not pregnant are you?” She teased, following him in.


“Ha, ha. Very funny. No, I’m not.” He flicked a paper clip at her.


“Then you must be in love,” Scully said firmly. He looked up, too quickly. “You are in love! I knew it. Tell me everything.” She perched herself on the side of the desk and looked at him expectantly.


“There’s nothing to tell. You’ve been reading too many romances,” he said, glancing nonchalantly around his office. Oh, it was good to be back! He went over to his filing cabinets and delved into his beloved X Files. “I missed you babies,” he crooned to them.


Scully rolled her eyes. “They didn’t miss you, Mulder. You should take a vacation more often. It obviously agrees with you.”


“Yeah. Maybe. It wasn’t so bad after all,” Mulder said softly.


“I’m pleased. When you left here last Friday, you were so nervy I thought you were going to your doom or something. It obviously turned out better than you expected.”


“Yes.” Mulder glanced at her, a shy smile on his lips. “Yes, it did, Scully. It did.” He took a bundle of files out of the cabinet, and dumped them on his desk.


“What are you looking for?” Scully frowned.


“People who undergo transforming sexual experiences,” he grinned at her.


She put her hands up in mock surrender. “Okay, Mulder. You’re on your own with that one.” She walked back to her desk, and he sat down with a sigh, then gave a yelp and jumped right up again.


“Problem?” Scully raised a quizzical eyebrow.


“Uh, no. I’d just, um…forgotten how hard these Bureau seats are.” Mulder smiled feebly at her.


She raised her other eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay, Mulder?” She asked. “I mean first of all you come in here looking like…like…Skinner or something, all crisp and clean – not that you’re normally dirty, just that now you’re almost sparkling. Then you talk about pregnancy and transforming sexual experiences, and now you’re jumping around as if you have ants in your pants…a girl has to wonder, Mulder.”


“I’m fine,” he said firmly, seating himself back at his desk gingerly. “Never better in fact.”


“That’s good.” She smiled sweetly, and handed him a note. “Because Skinner called just before you got here. He wants to see us both in ten minutes. Mulder? Hello?”


Mulder banged his head on the desk. Ten minutes. You’d think his Master could have given him longer than that to adjust to all this, although he couldn’t blame the man for wanting to check up on him so soon. Ten minutes. Ten minutes until he had to sit in the same room as his Master, with Scully by his side, and pretend that they hadn’t just spanked, screwed, and sucked their way through an entire week. Mulder came out in a cold sweat.


He spent the next ten minutes searching frantically around his office for the reports he had been working on before he went away. He had almost forgotten about them, and Skinner would be bound to ask. He found them under a pile of junk mail, and a dozen or more inter-office memorandums which he threw straight into the trash with his usual disdain for such things. He skimmed through the files quickly, trying to remember the salient points about the cases. Luckily his eidetic memory kicked in, and he was astonished how quickly he snapped back into work mode.


“Did you finish the medical evidence on these?” He asked Scully. She nodded, and handed him another file. He looked through it, fascinated by her findings. “I said you’d find evidence of Alzheimer’s in the brain tissue, Scully,” he told her.


“Yes, Mulder. And you are always right, Mulder.” Scully made a face at him.


“Well I am!” He grinned. “Well, about this kind of stuff anyway.”


“It’s time.” She glanced at her watch, and finished her coffee.


“Damn. I’m not quite up to speed…” Mulder got to his feet, flicking through the file frantically.


“Don’t sweat it, partner!” Scully opened the door for him, and pushed him through. “Skinner knows you’ve been on vacation. Hey, Skinner’s been on vacation too, so he’s probably got some catching up to do as well.”


“Right. Good.” Mulder put a finger under the collar of his starched new shirt, and loosened it slightly.


They waited for a couple of minutes in Kim’s office, while Skinner finished a call, and Mulder paced, anxiously.


“Mulder!” Scully stared at him. “Calm down. You didn’t go off investigating something while on vacation did you?” She asked suspiciously. “There’s nothing going on here that I don’t know about is there?”


“Um, no I didn’t go out investigating, Scully. I took a vacation, like I said I was going to,” Mulder protested. “In fact, I hardly went out anywhere all week.” That was true enough. “I was a slave to the chores and the apartment.” He grinned at his own little joke. Scully didn’t have time to reply, as Kim’s buzzer went, and they were nodded into Skinner’s office.


Scully went first, and Mulder’s heart nearly stood still as he caught his first glimpse of his Master back in his more familiar domain. Skinner was wearing one of the crisp white shirts that Mulder had ironed, and he looked devastatingly, dangerously…deadly. His Master’s eyes flickered over Mulder as if he were nothing more than…one of his agents. Which he was of course. Just keep moving, asshole. Don’t do anything stupid. Mulder shuffled nervously over to one of the chairs in front of Skinner’s desk, and sat down.


“Welcome back, Agent Mulder,” Skinner said urbanely. “I trust you had a good vacation?”


Mulder swallowed convulsively, willing his vocal chords to work. “Yes, sir,” he managed to croak. “The best I’ve ever had, actually.” He glanced up at his Master from under his eyelashes, and saw the faintest flicker of a knowing smile in Skinner’s dark, shielded eyes.




“I hear you were on vacation too.” Mulder sat back in his chair, and relaxed slightly.


“That’s right.” Skinner took the file Scully was handing to him, and opened it. He didn’t give any more information than that on his vacation, much to Mulder’s disappointment. He thought it had been good for Skinner too, but maybe it hadn’t. Maybe Skinner had trained better, cuter, more obedient, and sexually insatiable slaves in his time. Maybe Mulder had just been another in a long line of people willing to do his Master’s laundry. God knows, there had never been a time when Skinner hadn’t worn those exquisitely ironed shirts, so he probably had a conveyor belt of slaves, constantly doing his washing. When one moved out, another one just moved straight in.


“Agent Mulder.” Skinner’s voice broke into this bleak internal reverie.


“Yeah. What?” He growled back. Scully gave him a surprised look, clearly startled by his tone.


“You were writing me some reports too?” Skinner prompted.


“They’re not finished.” Mulder snapped.


“Did you bring what you have?” Skinner asked mildly, his dark eyes boring into Mulder.


“No. You hate receiving unfinished reports,” Mulder told him, sulkily.


“A progress report is acceptable.”


“Okay.” Mulder shrugged.


“Do you have anything further to add to Agent Scully’s report?” Skinner pressed.


“Yes – it’s clear that with this advanced level of Alzheimer’s, the perp could not have committed these crimes…” Mulder began. Then his eyes flickered away from his boss, and skimmed over the briefcase that was on the floor beside his desk. His throat when dry. He recognized that briefcase! It was his briefcase. The one with all the special, Fox-engraved implements in it…Skinner had brought it here! Mulder’s throat dried up in horror. Surely, surely, Skinner didn’t intend to use them on him in the office? Please, god, no!


“Agent Mulder?” Skinner was looking concerned. “Would you like a glass of water?”


“Uh, yes…please…” he whispered. Scully got up, poured Mulder some water, and handed it to him. He took it, and gulped it down thankfully. It was only as he placed the glass back on the table that he realized he wasn’t wearing his ring.




Mulder felt his whole world collapse around his ears. Why hadn’t he put the ring back on for the meeting? Why had he forgotten?




He pulled his hands back quickly, and covered his left one with the right, hiding it from sight.


“Your theory?” Skinner asked pleasantly.


“My theory…” Mulder’s eyes shifted back to the briefcase, while his fingers nervously caressed the place where his missing ring should have been. Please god, don’t let him have noticed. Please! “…is that, um, in his weakened condition, the perp’s body was taken over, and inhabited by a being, or beings who committed these crimes in his place,” Mulder gabbled. There was no good way to expound this particular theory, so he didn’t bother dressing it up in more acceptable language.


“I see. In other words, the perp was possessed,” Skinner commented, neutrally.


“Um. Yes.” Mulder went red.


“By what? Or whom?” Skinner asked.


“Evil spirits?” Mulder shrugged, trying manfully to drag his eyes away from the briefcase.


“Right.” Skinner nodded, then glanced at Scully. “And the scientific viewpoint would be, Agent Scully?”


She smiled. “Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s regress to a point in their past when they were younger, and stronger, and they experience that as their current reality. I would suggest that’s what happened here.”


“Good. Thank you.” Skinner smiled at her. Hah! Yeah, trust him to go along with the scientific viewpoint, Mulder thought bitterly. “Tell me, Agent Scully, were there any identifying signs on the perp’s body? You’re sure we’ve got the right person?” Skinner asked. Scully raised an eyebrow. It was a pertinent question but she’d covered it in her report.


“Yes, sir. He was wearing a distinctively engraved wedding ring,” she said. Mulder’s heart sank. He looked up into Skinner’s dark, impassive eyes. His Master stared back, coolly.


“I see. He still wore his wedding ring even though you say his wife passed away…” Skinner flicked through the file, “ten years previously. How devoted of him.” He glanced at Mulder with a look of pure ice. “Some people only have to be in a committed relationship for five minutes before they forget their devotion, and are only too happy to discard the visible symbols of the vows they’ve made.” Mulder felt the ground open up and swallow him. He’d noticed! Oh, god, now he was in such deep shit. “Well, agents, I think that’s all.” Skinner handed them the file, which Scully took, with a smile. She got up, and Mulder found himself numbly following her to the door, his legs functioning on auto-pilot. He almost got there. He was so nearly safe, so close to freedom. He actually had his hand on the door, and one foot outside the office, when Skinner reeled him back in, like a fish on the end of a line.


“Agent Mulder.” Skinner’s voice was silkily smooth, but Mulder wasn’t fooled. He froze, took a deep breath, then turned back. “I’d like a private word with you, if I may. You can go, Agent Scully.” He smiled at her over Mulder’s shoulder. “I have a little task for Agent Mulder. He might be some time.” Mulder’s heart, already inhabiting the pit of his stomach, now fled into his shoes. He sent Scully a desperate, telepathic plea for help, which she clearly didn’t receive, as she just smiled, and continued on her way, leaving him all alone with certain death. Mulder shut the door quietly, and turned around.


“Before you say anything – I can explain!” He said desperately.


“All right.” Skinner sat back, expectantly. “But this had better be more convincing that ‘I was drugged’, Fox.”


“That was the truth!” Mulder protested. Skinner raised an eyebrow. Mulder decided that now was not the best moment to go into that particular event. “Look, I’m sorry.” Mulder walked back to the desk, and stood in front of his Master. “I know I shouldn’t have taken the ring off, but I didn’t want to upset Scully.”


“Why would you wearing a ring upset your partner?” Skinner frowned.


“I just figured she’d be upset I hadn’t told her I’d got married!”


“All right. Why didn’t you raise this issue with me?” Skinner asked.


“I forgot!” Mulder protested desperately.


“You’ve had a while week to bring this up, Fox. One factor in our relationship was most definitely not negotiable, and I made that very clear. Your ring stays on at all times. In fact, all your rings stay on at all times, unless I remove them.”


“Why? You don’t have to wear a goddamn ring!” Mulder growled in protest.


“I’m not a slave. You are,” Skinner replied pointedly. “And I’m not arguing about this. You knew the rules.” He clicked his fingers. Mulder stared at him.


“Not here. I mean…” Mulder glanced around the office nervously. “I mean…Kim’s next door,” he whispered.


“Yes, she is. So you’ll have to keep quiet. Now, are you going to obey me, or do I have to make you.” Skinner got to his feet, and Mulder sank to his knees without further protest. He wasn’t stupid. “Good. Now go and get the briefcase.” Skinner pointed. Mulder crawled to retrieve the case, and presented it to his Master.


“I still can’t believe that you brought this here,” Mulder whined.


Skinner raised an eyebrow, and glanced at his watch. “Fox, it’s 8:54 a.m. You’ve lasted less than half an hour before requiring correction. I think it’s a good thing I did bring this in,” Skinner said coolly. He loosened Mulder’s tie, then undid the top button of his shirt, and reached inside. Mulder closed his eyes as Skinner retrieved the key to the briefcase, and opened it. His Master gave him an assessing look for several seconds, his fingers touching each implement in turn as he considered the matter. Then he pulled out the strap. Mulder’s heart sank out of his body and down into the very foundations of the building. “Open your mouth,” Skinner said unexpectedly.


“My mouth…?” Mulder had no sooner opened it to speak, than Skinner stuck the strap between his lips. “Now, follow me,” Skinner said. “You can walk.”


Mulder got up, feeling ridiculous with the strap in his mouth, and walked across the room. Skinner opened the door to his en-suite bathroom, and turned the light on, then he put down the lid on the toilet seat.


“Kneel,” he instructed. Mulder obeyed, glumly. “Undo your pants, and bend over the seat,” Skinner commanded. Mulder looked up at him, with a mute plea. Skinner raised an eyebrow. Mulder sighed, and obeyed. “Good.”


Mulder felt Skinner’s hands tug his trousers and boxers down to his knees, leaving his butt exposed. He moaned, softly, but he had to admit that he found the idea of being punished in his Master’s office a turn-on. He looked up at Skinner expectantly, waiting for his Master to take the strap out of his mouth, but he didn’t.


“Now, I have a meeting in a couple of minutes. I expect it’ll last an hour or so. You’ll wait there, butt up in the air, until I have the time, and inclination, to give you what you deserve. Use the time wisely, Fox, and don’t move. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you not to make any noise either – not unless you want your fellow agents to come and take a look at what I’m keeping in my bathroom. I’m sure that they’d find it a most amusing sight – Agent Mulder, ass up over the toilet seat, with a strap in his mouth, awaiting punishment.” Mulder gave a deep, heartfelt groan. It was both excruciating, and fiendish. Only his Master could have come up with something like this. He tried to speak but only succeeded in muttering a muffled, garbled sentence. Skinner removed the strap from his mouth and looked at him expectantly.


“What if someone wants to use the bathroom, Master?” Mulder squeaked.


“You’d better hope they don’t.” Skinner put the strap back in his mouth, and pushed Mulder’s head down so that he was looking at the tiled floor. “An hour, Fox. Think about how much you hurt my feelings with your behavior, and how disobedience is always punished. Your bare, exposed butt, offered up for my attention should serve as a reminder.”


Mulder bit down on the strap to avoid making a smart reply, and Skinner delivered a swat to his ass with his hand. “Don’t ruin that strap, boy – I don’t expect to see teeth marks on it,” he warned, and then he left the bathroom, leaving the door ajar behind him.


Mulder knelt there for a long while, still reeling from this turn of events. This could not be happening to him. It couldn’t! He could not be kneeling in Assistant Director Skinner’s private office bathroom, ass exposed to the world, with a strap in his mouth awaiting punishment. Just over a week ago, the very idea would have been unthinkable. Shit! How the hell had this happened? Something that Skinner had said stayed in his mind though. “Think about how much you hurt my feelings…”He had never intended that. He should have realized how much his Master enjoyed seeing visible symbols of his ownership on his slave’s body. He’d mentioned it enough times over the past week after all, and the wedding ring was the only visible symbol when Mulder was fully dressed. Mulder sighed. He had screwed up and he hated that Skinner might have been made upset rather than angry by his actions.


Mulder stiffened, hearing sounds in the office behind him. His whole body tingled in nervous anticipation, as he heard Skinner greet a couple of agents, and instruct them to sit. Mulder tensed, and stayed tensed for a good ten minutes. Shit, supposing one of them wanted to use the bathroom? Supposing he dropped the strap – his jaw was already aching. Supposing he moved, and made a noise? His tense muscles were making him shake with the effort of staying in position. Surely Skinner wouldn’t know if he moved into a sitting position, would he? How could he know if Mulder took the strap out of his mouth? Mulder thought about it for a second, then came to a decision. He slowly, silently, removed the strap, and placed it gently on the floor, then he turned around, oh so carefully…and froze.


Skinner had left the door ajar on purpose. From where he sat at his desk, the interior of the bathroom was clearly visible – although the angle would have made it impossible for anyone sitting facing him to see in. Mulder crossed his fingers behind his back. If he moved very slowly back into his original position it might not be too…damn! Busted. Skinner’s eyes suddenly flicked in his direction. The big man’s expression didn’t change, but his gaze lingered just long enough to make it clear to Mulder that he’d been seen. Mulder sat on the floor, wretchedly, trying to come to a decision. This wasn’t helped by the fact that his cock seemed to have found the whole event a complete turn-on and was now starting to harden. Inside he was terrified though. He was in enough trouble as it was, without making things worse for himself. How do you always manage to do that, asshole?


Finally, deciding that he could at least repair some of the damage by returning to his original position, Mulder turned around, and arranged himself back over the toilet seat. He picked up the strap, and placed it in his mouth, then raised his butt so that it was once more in Skinner’s line of sight. Enjoy the view, Master, you mean son of a bitch.


Mulder didn’t think he’d ever spent a worse hour in his life. Each second trickled by slowly, and his muscles seized up with the effort of staying in position. The strap smelt divine but it didn’t exactly taste good, and he was petrified that it would drop out of his mouth, onto the tiled floor. He listened with one ear as Skinner discussed tedious expense reports, and for a brief second pitied his Master for having to spend his days in such boring pastimes. No wonder he wanted a slave on the premises to take his frustrations out on. No, that was definitely not a good thought. Mulder was painfully aware of his ass, waiting naked for its inevitable punishment. Very soon, this strap, which he knew stung like hell, would be tormenting his poor, exposed butt. Mulder wished he could sigh, but he was too scared of making any noise.


Finally, the interminable meeting came to an end, and Mulder heard the other agents leave the room, and Skinner murmuring something to Kim. Then he heard heavy footsteps crossing the office in his direction. His stomach started to do that series of flips that it always did when he knew he was in trouble. The door was pushed open, and then shut, and locked, and Mulder looked up into his Master’s stern, dark eyes.


“Is it too much to expect you to be obedient in even the most minor matters?” Skinner asked him. “Do you take any aspect of your slavery seriously? Or is it all just a game to you? Is your servitude, something you offered up freely to me, so worthless? Merely something you pay lip service to – to be ignored whenever you think you aren’t being watched? Well?” Skinner folded his arms over his chest and waited for an answer. Mulder knelt up, and took the strap out of his mouth.


“I’m sorry, Master, but how the hell was I suppose to keep still for a whole hour?” He demanded.


“Fox, if I told you to fly to the moon I’d expect you to at least try,” Skinner riposted, hands on hips. Mulder opened his mouth to make a smart reply, then closed it again, sensing that he was on very dangerous ground. “All right – you’re in trouble, boy. Big trouble. Now, give me that strap and get back over the toilet seat. And Fox?” Skinner took the strap from his hapless slave, and Mulder looked up at him, glumly. “Don’t count on being able to sit comfortably for the rest of the day,” Skinner warned. Mulder gave his Master a look of intense dislike, and then, grudgingly arranged himself over the toilet seat. “All right. What lesson will you learn from this?” Skinner asked, holding the strap over Mulder’s exposed butt, caressing the leather against his flesh in a way that made his slave moan in scared anticipation.


“To obey you, Master.”


“Well, I’m not holding my breath on that score, but yes. And?” Skinner prompted.


“To talk to you about what’s going on in my head, Master,” Mulder said with a sigh.


“Good.” Skinner laid the first stroke across Mulder’s butt, and he gave a strangled yelp as the pain kicked in. Damn but that strap stung! “Here.” Skinner paused, and gave Mulder a clean, freshly starched handkerchief. Mulder stuffed it into his mouth, with a hitching sob, glancing up at his Master out of the corner of his eye to see if his distress would earn him a reprieve. It didn’t. Skinner pushed him back down and proceeded to tan his hide thoroughly, and efficiently with the strap until Mulder squirmed, his long arms waving like a windmill as he tried to stay still and take his punishment. Finally, Skinner let him up, and gestured to him to kneel in front of him. He took the handkerchief out of Mulder’s mouth, and used it to gently wipe his slave’s tear-stained cheeks, then he took Mulder’s face between his hands, and looked down at him.


“What am I going to do with you?” He asked, softly.


“I dunno, Master.” Mulder shrugged.


“Where’s the ring?” Skinner held out his hand, and Mulder reached in his pocket and handed the wedding ring over. “Fox, this isn’t just a piece of metal to me. It’s a lot more than that.” Skinner took Mulder’s left hand, and kissed it, tenderly. “I’d like it to mean a lot more than that to you, but it’s clear that it doesn’t.”


“It does!” Mulder protested. Skinner’s disappointment was harder to bear than all the punishments in the world. “Master, I’m yours. I’ve given myself to you and I wear all your symbols with pride. You have no idea…no idea at all how much they mean to me,” Mulder choked.


“Good – because you have no idea how much you mean to me,” Skinner told him quietly. He pushed the ring gently back onto Mulder’s finger, before reaching down and helping the other man to stand. Then he took Mulder in his arms, and kissed him firmly on the lips. Mulder hung there, in his Master’s grasp, wanting to hate him for strapping him so hard, but succeeding only in melting against that big body, and holding on to that solidly muscled form. Skinner released him, and was immediately back to his business-like persona.


“Get dressed, Fox, and get those reports to me as soon as possible,” he ordered.


“Yes, Master.” Mulder pulled his boxers and pants gingerly over his backside. Skinner looked at his bobbing cock, and shook his head.


“Fox – if you go and relieve that particular ache in the men’s room, then the strapping I just gave you will seem like a walk in the park. Understand me? I don’t want you playing with my toys, or there’ll be less left for me later.”


Mulder sighed. “Is there even the faintest possibility that you will ever give me the slightest break?” He asked.


“No.” Skinner grinned, then he put a big arm around the younger man, and hugged him. “So, tell me,” he whispered, directly into Mulder’s ear as he escorted him out of the bathroom, “how long have you had this fantasy about being disciplined in my office?”


Mulder went red. “Since the very first day I sat in front of that big head-fuck of a desk of yours, while you made me wait like a schoolboy as you read my first report,” he replied.


“That long?” Skinner raised an amused eyebrow.


“Yeah. I have a desk fetish – did I ever tell you that, Master? And a ruler fetish – you kept slapping your ruler against one of your hands in a way that gave me a hard-on so bad I had to pick up a file to hide it.”


“A desk fetish, hmm?” Skinner shook his head. “Ah, my insatiable little slave. You’ll be the death of me yet,” he sighed.


“And how long have you wanted to hand out some office discipline?” Mulder asked with a sly grin. “Don’t tell me that never crossed your mind before.”


“It never crossed my mind before I had to deal with you, that’s for sure,” Skinner growled, landing a swat on Mulder’s sore backside that made his slave yelp. “Now, get out of my office, boy, and try and behave for the rest of the day.” He opened his office door, and ushered Mulder out. “And Agent Mulder – I have a meeting with you and the other department heads at 2.30. Don’t be late.”


“No, sir!” Mulder shook his head vigorously.


Mulder ran down the stairs and back into his office, whistling to himself. His butt ached, but somehow his Master’s kisses had made everything better. Scully was busy working on her report and he was eager to get to work on his. His ingenious brain was filled to the brim with facts relating to the perp with Alzheimer’s and he wanted to get them down and move on to the next case. He perched gingerly in front of his computer, and logged on to the Internet, tracking down some obscure facts about the disease, and saving them to incorporate into his report. A sudden thought occurred to him. His fascination with his Master’s mysterious past was always bubbling away in his mind, and now they were back at work there seemed to be even more of a curious dichotomy here. It was hard to reconcile hard-assed, tightly controlled Assistant Director Skinner with the sensualist owner of that 18th floor Playroom, and Mulder was burned up with curiosity on the subject. He shelved his research into Alzheimer’s, and went into the records of previous owners of the apartment that was his new home. It took him an hour or so of diligent study, but then he found his answer: Skinner hadn’t bought either the 17th or the 18th floor apartments. He’d inherited them a few years previously. Mulder scrolled through the information eagerly, and found that Skinner’s mysterious benefactor had been a man called Andrew Linker. So far, so good. Mulder filed the name away for future reference, and looked up, feeling hungry…only to find Scully staring at him, both eyebrows raised sky high.


“So, Mulder, who’s the lucky lady and where did you spend the honeymoon?” She asked.


“What?” Mulder frowned, then he remembered the ring. “Oh this?” He grinned, pointing to the ring and affecting nonchalance. “It’s just a…” he racked his brains, and blurted out the first thing that came into his head, “a bet!” he said triumphantly. Scully’s eyebrows disappeared into her hairline and showed no signs of ever reappearing. “Um…yeah, I lost a bet with a friend, and the penalty was wearing this for a month,” he told her. It sounded stupid even to his own ears.


“Uh huh.” She crossed her arms over her chest, and waited. Mulder searched desperately for those eyebrows but they had clearly decided to go for a trek over the top of her head and down the back of her skull.


“Okay…the truth… the truth is…” Mulder hesitated, and went with one of his earlier options. “I was getting sick of being hit upon the whole time, you know. I thought the ring might keep the vultures at bay.”


“What?” Scully frowned. Mulder’s heart sank. “Well, I’ve noticed that you get looked at a lot, partner, but I didn’t realize you had a problem with that. To be honest, I wasn’t sure you’d even noticed. I’ve seen some women, and even the occasional man,” she gave him a sly grin, “try and chat you up, but it passes you right by.”


“When?” Mulder asked blankly. “When did that happen?” Then he realized he’d blown that cover story too.


Scully sighed. “Come on, Mulder – why are you really wearing a wedding ring? Did you get married?”


“No.” Mulder said, grateful that much was the truth at least.


“Then why?”


Mulder sighed, running out of options. “Okay, but you won’t like it,” he warned.


“Just spit it out, partner!” She cried, clearly exasperated.


Mulder took a deep breath. She was his friend, right? And friends were supposed to be supportive about this kind of stuff. Okay, so it was a lot to hit her with all in one go, but she deserved the truth. “All right,” he began, looking studiously at his own feet to avoid her searching stare. “There’s some stuff you don’t know about me. Basically…I, um, I’m into the BDSM scene, and I just, uh, sold myself into slavery and last week I was being, um, trained which is why I took a vacation. So now I belong to someone and that’s why I wear the ring to signify that I’m owned and therefore not…um, available.” He ran out of steam, and looked up to see what the reaction was.


“Uh huh.” He hated it when she said that in that special tone of voice. “I see.” She gave him her patented Scully “look” and he squirmed. “And, uh, how long have you known this, um new owner of yours?” She was one step away from giggling. He could tell.


“A long time.” Mulder went an interesting shade of brick red.


“And is she attractive?” Scully pressed.


“Very…but, uh, she’s not a she.” Mulder winced, and waited for the reaction. Scully put her head on one side and gazed at him quizzically.


“She’s an alien?” She asked.


“I wish!” Mulder shook his head ruefully. “No, I mean, that is…my new owner is a man. I have a…Master.”


You could have heard a pin drop.


“Right.” Scully said in a tone that implied she didn’t believe a word of it but was going to indulge him in the fantasy anyway. Mulder heaved a sigh of relief and took a deep gulp of his now cold coffee. “Okay, Mulder. So, tell me about this training of yours. Did your, uh, master, give you a slave name?”


Mulder’s coffee went down the wrong way and he choked, then coughed energetically onto his desk. “What…” he rasped feebly after several minutes, “do you know about slave names, Scully?”


“I’m not a complete innocent, Mulder.” She gave him an infuriating wink, and he stared at her mesmerized. His Scully. His lovely Scully – surely she wasn’t into the lifestyle? An image of her in a tight corset waving a whip sprang into his mind and he dismissed it. Not his Scully. He’d know if she played on the scene anyway – he’d gone through all the tops around, male and female, until he’d fetched up in Skinner’s lap, so to speak. “So, come on, what’s your slave name?”


“It’s Fox,” he told her weakly.


“Fox?” Her eyebrows went on another of their mountaineering expeditions into the far reaches of her hair. “Isn’t that a bit unoriginal, Mulder? Or doesn’t your master have much of an imagination?”


“Well, it’s not that.” Mulder shifted uncomfortably. “It’s more like an exquisite form of torture, Scully. You see, he knows I hate my name, and to have your slave name be your real name is kind of cruel as well. Sort of the ultimate humiliation, so that’s why he chose Fox. I didn’t have any say in the matter.”


“I see.” She nodded. “So does your master spank you, Mulder?” He could see that she was enjoying every second of this game. She thought she was calling his bluff, when in actual fact every word he’d told her was the truth. Mulder couldn’t help but appreciate the irony, and he laughed out loud.


“Yeah, Scully. He spanks me good – but only when I’m bad,” he winked at her.


“Oh dear. Your poor master. His right arm must ache then,” she mused. He glared at her, and she burst out laughing. “Oh, Mulder, honestly, you could have come up with something more realistic than this cock and bull story!” she exclaimed. “I don’t care about the ring, Mulder. If you don’t want to tell me, that’s fine – it’s none of my business, but you could have just said that,” she told him reprovingly. He sighed, and nodded. Jeez – she was worse than Skinner on this whole honesty issue. “You haven’t forgotten that we’re having lunch together, have you, Mulder?” She asked him.


“No,” he grinned. “My treat.” It was the least he could do, and it was Skinner’s money anyway – he’d use the credit card his Master had given him.


“You’re on!” She grinned back. “Slaveboy!” She added as an afterthought. Mulder cringed inside. Maybe it hadn’t been such a good idea telling her the truth after all. She seemed to be enjoying the whole joke immensely. On the other hand – it was good to see her so happy. He was so content himself, in his new life, and his new living arrangement that he could hardly begrudge her a little bit of fun at his expense.


The telephone interrupted them. Mulder picked it up.


“Yo! Slaveboys R Us!” he announced, grinning at Scully who gave him a thumbs up sign.


“Mulder – long time, no talk,” a voice on the other end of the line purred. Mulder sat down heavily, ignoring the streak of pain that shot through his body as his sore backside made contact with the chair. Krycek.


“What do you want?” he hissed.


“That’s no way to greet an old friend.”


“You’re no friend of mine.”


“I could be though. I have information you might like to hear.” Mulder glanced at Scully. She’d returned to her report, although she was obviously listening to this conversation with half an ear.


“It’s about your sister,” Krycek murmured, in sibilant tones.


It was a trap. It had to be a trap. Krycek knew that the one way to lure him anywhere was to mention Samantha. He had a pavlovian response to her name. He thought about Scully, and her dead sister, about his own dead father. You can’t trust this man, Mulder, he told himself. You can’t. “Remember I gave you that information about the black oil,” Krycek told him, sounding like the devil himself in his efforts to tempt Mulder.


“No.” Mulder snapped. “I’m not playing this game with you.”


“We could arrange to meet,” Krycek ignored him. “She’s fine – safe and well. A… mutual acquaintance of ours visited her last week. He took me along as his driver. Don’t you want to know where she’s living?”


Mulder closed his eyes, and counted to ten. He remembered Skinner telling him only yesterday that Mulder knew the kind of behavior his Master would approve of, and what he wouldn’t. He had been ordered to go and speak to Skinner if he was in any doubt. He wasn’t in any doubt though, and he knew what Skinner would say – he would tell him it was too risky.


“No,” he said, finally, through great effort of will. “This time I’m not biting,” and he slammed the phone down. A sense of euphoria flooded through his veins. He’d done the right thing. His Master would be proud of him. That didn’t still the tiny, nagging voice at the back of his mind though. Supposing Krycek had been telling the truth? Supposing his sister was out there, just waiting for him to find her?


“Mulder?” Scully was looking at him with concerned blue eyes.


“It’s okay.” He gave her a half smile. “Hey – isn’t it time for lunch, partner?”


Mulder took Scully to an expensive Italian restaurant nearby. He talked too much, trying to distract himself from thinking about Krycek’s phone call, but he knew he sounded like he’d taken speed. He was gabbling, and not making a lot of sense. Scully was giving him one of her worried looks, and he could see she was wearing her ‘Dr. Scully’ hat.


“Slow down, Mulder.” She put her hand gently over his. “Is there something worrying you?” She asked him.


“No. Why should there be? Do you like that sparkling water? I could get you still, or how about a diet coke?”


“This is fine. Mulder…if you can’t talk to me, perhaps you could talk to…” Her eyes flickered over his wedding ring. “The person who gave you that,” she finished.


Mulder bit on his lip. “I said, I’m fine. I’m great. Hey, tell me how work was last week without me to keep you entertained.” He sat back in his chair, and tried to stop fidgeting.


“Quiet. I missed you.” She smiled. “But you needed the break and you’re looking terrific, Mulder. Seriously – this, uh, master of yours is clearly doing you good.” Her lips twisted up at the side, as if she wasn’t sure whether this was a game or not.


“Thanks.” He took a sip of his own water and caught a reflection of himself in the mirror opposite. He looked rested, and his skin was…well Scully was right – he did look ‘glowing’. It must be love…


It was so good to be back with Scully again that Mulder started to relax. They talked for longer than they should have done, and overshot their lunch hour. Mulder looked around for a waiter so he could call for the check…and then froze. A familiar face loomed into his vision. Green eyes sparkled at him, and Krycek’s mouth twisted into a grin of greeting. He was sitting at a table across the restaurant, just watching…and waiting. It was too much for Mulder. He got to his feet, angrily.


“Mulder?” Scully looked at him in surprise.


“Go back to work. I’ll see you later,” he told her.


“Mulder…the check…I didn’t bring any money!” She protested.


“Here.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out all the cash Skinner had given to him – he didn’t have time to wait for the credit card to be processed. Then he turned and ran.


Krycek had already disappeared by the time he got to the door of the restaurant. Mulder pulled it open and ran outside, and down the street. A car pulled up in front of him, and the door opened.


“Get in.” Krycek was the only occupant of the car. Mulder weighed it up, looked up and down the street, and then did what they both knew he was going to do anyway. He got in.


“What’s the deal, Krycek?” Mulder drew his gun and held it pointed at the other man. Krycek grinned.


“Use that and you’ll never find her,” he said.


“Where is she?”


“I can’t tell you.” Krycek grinned again. Mulder grabbed him by the collar, nearly resulting in the car going off the road. Krycek shoved Mulder away.


“You told me you knew where she was,” Mulder snarled.


“I did. She’s been moved,” Krycek shrugged. “My…employer moves her around a lot. She’s important to them. Something to do with the virus they’re developing.”


“They’re experimenting on her?” Mulder closed his eyes, and tried to remember to breathe.


“Yes. They’ve been experimenting upon her for years. Poor kid.”


“Don’t. If this isn’t true, don’t do this,” Mulder said, in a broken tone.


“Sorry, old friend, but it’s true,” Krycek said softly. “Look – I don’t like it either. She’s had a tough life.”


“Where was she when you last saw her?” Mulder demanded.


“California.” Krycek handed him a piece of paper, with an address on it. “Check it out if you want, but you won’t find her there, and there won’t be any clues as to where she’s gone. This is just a gesture of good faith, from me to you, so that you know I’m telling the truth.” He stopped the car abruptly, in a quiet street, and turned to face Mulder. “I’m ideally placed to find out more,” he said. “When I do, you’ll know about it.” Then he leaned over, opened the door, and pushed Mulder out onto the road. “I’ll be in touch,” were his last words before the car screeched away. It could have been a threat, or a promise. Mulder wasn’t sure which.


Mulder found himself miles from the Hoover building without any cash. He sank his hands deep into his pockets and began the slow walk back to work.


It was almost 3 when he got there. He jogged the last couple of miles, but even so, he knew that he was dead meat. Skinner had warned him not to be late for the meeting, and now he would ask him a lot of questions about why he was late, and Mulder wasn’t in any mood to answer them, knowing as he did that he’d just get into even worse trouble. He ran up the stairs and burst into Skinner’s office to find his Master talking quietly to a group of agents.


“Ah, Agent Mulder. Good of you to join us.” Skinner’s unerring eyes took in his disheveled appearance, without giving any hint of what he was thinking, but Mulder knew. He knew his Master well enough by now to know that he was in deep shit. “Sit down.” Skinner gestured with his hand, and Mulder went and plunked himself into the vacant chair, only to jump up again as his painful buttocks reminded him of the whipping he’d received up here just a few hours ago.


“Problem, Agent Mulder?” Skinner asked him.


“No, sir. It’s just these Bureau chairs, sir. They’re a bit uncomfortable…” Mulder mumbled, going red.


“Agent Mulder, you’ve held up this meeting for long enough. I’d be grateful if you would take your place as quickly and quietly as possible,” Skinner growled, his eyes meeting Mulder’s and holding a promise of imminent punishment.


“Yes, M…sir.” Mulder bit on his lip, and lowered himself cautiously into his seat.


The meeting, which had already gotten off to a bad start, got even worse. Mulder couldn’t keep his mind on the subject they were discussing. He was too busy thinking about Krycek, and what he’d told him. His sister had been experimented upon? He couldn’t stand thinking about it. He was distracted, and paid little attention to Skinner’s briefing. When his Master asked him questions he didn’t know the answers, and after a while he stopped attempting to keep up. His eyes strayed over to the briefcase in the corner of the office every so often. Damn! It was hard enough keeping up with the labyrinthine conspiracy that threatened to overwhelm all of them, without worrying about getting his ass whipped as well. Mulder’s lack of attention turned into a full-scale sulk, and he crossed his arms and answered Skinner’s questions with barely any attempt at civility. He knew he was testing his Master’s patience to the limit, but he figured that he might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb. He was going to get punished anyway, whatever he said, and he was so not in the mood.


“So, Agents Phillips, and Goodacre, I’d be grateful if you could research this issue for me,” Skinner wound up the meeting.


“Yes, sir.” The two agents nodded, and picked up their brief. Mulder glared at them. Asslickers.


“Agent Mulder, do you think you’ll be able to tie this in with the X Files you mentioned?” Skinner turned back to his most truculent agent.


“Oh, I think I can just about manage that, yes, sir,” he sneered, almost rolling his eyes sarcastically. “Unless you doubt my competence,” he challenged. There was a silence around the table. Several agents looked as if they wanted to run for cover. Mulder didn’t blame them. Skinner’s mouth settled into a hard line.


“Not your competence, no,” he replied coolly, his message going home loud and clear, and not just to Mulder. He knew the other agents were wondering whether he was insane. Nobody took on Skinner and won. “That will be all, agents. You have your assignments.” Skinner dismissed them. Mulder didn’t even bother to move. Skinner also remained seated, as the other agents filed out nervously, casting glances in their direction. Mulder could see from the looks on their faces that they were all glad that they weren’t in his shoes. Suddenly he wished that he wasn’t in his shoes either, and cursed his earlier bravado and display of bad temper.


The door closed behind the last agent, and still Skinner didn’t move. He surveyed Mulder like a snake, watching its prey for any sign of movement. Mulder sat slumped in his chair, looking back, not dropping his gaze. He was going to stare Skinner out and take the consequences. Two minutes passed. Then three. Mulder suddenly felt very hot. Skinner’s dark eyes were fixed on his face, waiting. His Master was leaning on one hand, his fingers caressing the side of his jaw as he sat there. Mulder cleared his throat, opened his mouth, then closed it again. Skinner’s dark eyes were unwavering. Four minutes. Mulder snapped. He dropped his gaze, unable to bear it any longer, and that was when Skinner finally spoke.


“Go and get me the paddle,” he said, in a low, hard tone.


“No.” Mulder clenched his fists. “Don’t you want to hear my explanation first?” He asked.


“You mean you actually have one?” Skinner sounded surprised. “You’re saying there can be any excuse for the appalling behavior I just witnessed? Well then, by all means, go ahead. Explain away. This should be good.” He sat back in his chair and folded his arms, expectantly.


“Oh fuck it. You’re not going to listen to me anyway!” Mulder exploded, getting up and flouncing across the room to the briefcase. He opened it and drew out the paddle. While he hadn’t exactly found this implement to be the most painful implement in the case yesterday, he knew his butt was so sore after the caning, and strapping he’d already received today that the paddle would add another level to his current agony. He brought the paddle back and threw it down on the table in front of his Master. Skinner caught his wrist in a vice-like grip.


“I always listen,” he said in a deep, urgent tone. “Now, talk.” He kept hold of Mulder’s wrist, and clicked the fingers on his other hand. Mulder tried to resist, but Skinner pulled his arm down and he found himself sinking onto his knees beside his Master. He knelt there glumly because he knew there was nothing he could say. Well, he could tell Skinner about Krycek, but he just knew how well that would go down. Skinner would have his hide for chasing after his old enemy and if he knew he’d got into the car with him…Mulder bit on his lip. It wasn’t worth it. Some small part of him also knew that he didn’t want to share this information, regardless of any punishment. He was a grown man, capable of making his own decisions, and he’d continue to make them regardless of any sanctions his Master placed upon him.


“I was having lunch with Scully. We forgot the time,” he said lamely. Skinner placed a finger under his chin, and pulled his head up to look at him.


“And that’s the reason why you showed me up in front of a room full of agents?” He asked incredulously. “Why, for god’s sake, Fox?”


“I don’t know. I got annoyed with you.” Mulder shrugged. “I knew I was in trouble anyway, and I just got angry. I’m not used to all these restrictions. I need some leeway.”


“Tough.” Skinner got to his feet, his expression grim. “Quote me the first clause of your contract, slave.”


Mulder stared at him. Then did as he was told, with a sigh.


“The slave agrees to obey and submit completely to his Master in all ways. There are no boundaries of place, time, or situation in which the slave may willfully refuse to obey the directive of his Master,” he gabbled.


“Did you put your name to that contract, Fox?” Skinner asked. Mulder struggled for a moment.


“Yes, but I didn’t know that you’d be working here!” He protested.


“It makes no difference. At least you were lucky enough to end up with a Master who understands about your quest – can you imagine how many other Masters would be so accommodating to that side of your life?” Skinner turned back, and glared at him. “Now, yesterday I told you that the consequences of screwing up big time are being punished big time. Now I’m going to show you exactly what that means.”


He moved around the room, drawing the blinds, and locking the doors. Mulder watched, his heart sinking into his stomach. He wasn’t in the mood for a spanking. This morning it had hurt, but it had also been a turn on. This afternoon it was more like a punishment, which was exactly what Skinner intended, of course. Mulder clenched his fists and willed himself to be anywhere else in the universe but here. Skinner finished his task, then turned back, and silently handed Mulder his handkerchief again.


“You’ll need it,” he warned.


Mulder took it, and Skinner pointed at the table. “Pants down, and bend over,” he ordered. Mulder’s breath caught in his throat. Usually those words thrilled him, but on this occasion…he wasn’t sure. Skinner was genuinely angry. It still wasn’t too late. He could still tell the other man about Krycek, about his sister. He longed to share the information with someoneif he was honest, but a lifetime of dealing with this issue on his own kicked in, and instead of talking, he took his pants down, as ordered, and bent over the table.


Mulder held onto the table with sweaty palms as he felt the paddle, cool and sleek, brushing his backside. The hard surface of the table dug into his thighs. Skinner didn’t even bother to ask him what lesson he was learning. There was silence for a moment, then the most almighty blaze of pain. He choked into the handkerchief, as his Master punished him thoroughly. His already sore bottom reached new levels of pain as his Master laid into him with the paddle. Skinner was an expert of course, and he applied the paddle to cover every single inch of Mulder’s red buns, until the agent was sure that he couldn’t stand it any more, and he dissolved into hiccuping sobs, trying to breathe through the handkerchief. Then it was over.


“Get up, get dressed, and put the paddle away,” Skinner told him firmly. Mulder pulled the handkerchief out of his mouth and gazed at his Master resentfully. No hugs? No kisses? No little words of reassurance? Mulder did as instructed in silence, watching out of the corner of his eye as Skinner returned to his desk, and started writing something down. Mulder finished his tasks, and went to kneel beside his Master. He rested his head on Skinner’s knee in his favorite position, then nudged his Master’s hand with his nose, like a puppy needing attention. Skinner looked down at him, and frowned. Then he ruffled his hand through Mulder’s hair. Mulder sighed, and leaned into the embrace.


“That hurt, Master,” Mulder whispered.


“I know. It was supposed to, little one,” Skinner replied. “You know I’ll be hard on you if you’re disrespectful or disobey me. I’ve always made that very clear.” They sat there for a moment, Skinner’s fingers gently caressing his slave’s hair. Then Skinner took Mulder’s face in his hands and looked at him. “You’re sure there’s nothing else?” He asked, his eyes scanning Mulder’s face, searchingly. Mulder closed his eyes. He wanted to tell his Master. He did want to, but an old instinct took over. He shook his head.


“No, Master,” he whispered. Skinner carried on looking at him for a moment, then dropped Mulder’s head, abruptly.


“Get up,” he ordered. “Here.” He handed Mulder the note he had been writing. “This is a list of the groceries we need. Make sure you get them on your way home.” Mulder stared at the list, his throat dry. He knew he had disappointed Skinner, but he didn’t know how to make things better. “Now go,” Skinner told him. “Unless you have anything else you’d like to say?”


“No.” Mulder shrugged. He looked at Skinner for a moment, then pocketed the grocery list and walked over to the door.


“And, Fox – don’t be late home,” Skinner advised. “I really wouldn’t recommend that today.”


“No, Master.”


Mulder wandered downstairs, dejected. I knew this would happen. I told him this would happen. It’s just not going to work. Jeez, the expression on his face – as if I disgusted him or something. He couldn’t wait to get rid of me. He hunched his shoulders, and returned to his office. Scully glanced up, concerned.


“Mulder – are you okay? Where did you get to? What happened to you?”


“I’m fine, Scully.” Mulder sighed. “I’m sorry for ditching you.” Scully’s eyes widened in astonishment. “What?” Mulder asked her, surprised by her expression.


“Mulder – that’s the first time you’ve ever apologized for ditching me in your entire life, and it’s happened enough times!” She exclaimed. “That Master of yours must be really hot on manners,” she grinned slyly. Mulder managed a feeble smile in return.


“Yeah. He is,” he murmured, seating himself gingerly in his chair.


“Aw, what’s the matter, slaveboy? Master spank you too hard?” Scully teased, watching him.


“Something like that.” Mulder shook his head wryly.


Mulder’s mood wasn’t made any better by having to sit on his aching butt all afternoon. He gazed at the address on the note Krycek had given to him. He knew there wasn’t any point in running off to California, although he was sorely tempted. He did a search on the address and dug up some details that didn’t verify anything, one way or another. He was glad when it was time to go, and was about to leave when he realized he didn’t have any money to pay for the metro. He was damned if he was going to go and ask Skinner for some, like a school kid, and he sure as hell wasn’t going to start borrowing off Scully. Mulder decided to jog home instead. He kept some gym clothes and sneakers in his locker. He said goodbye to Scully, and went and got changed, then set off.


It felt good to be running off his misery. He went over and over the events of the day in his head but he couldn’t see a way of changing anything. He wished he could have told Skinner about Krycek, but it was as if he became mute at the very idea. Something stopped him, something too deep for him to tackle. He felt as if he were floating off into space once more, and he desperately wanted somebody to pull him back, and keep him grounded. As he ran, he felt the endorphins kick in. This felt good! He’d missed being able to jog. Mulder glanced at his watch. It was almost 6. He should go home, but he didn’t want to. He wanted to run and run, and if he ran for long enough he might be able to escape all his problems. He remembered the groceries Skinner had asked for, but he didn’t care. He didn’t care if his Master whipped his ass all night. He needed this. He needed to run and run forever. It got dark, and Mulder started to feel cold. It was sogood though. He had gone into a dream-like state where nothing mattered. It must have been a good two hours later, when he realized his feet had stopped moving. He looked up and found himself standing outside the Viva Towers. Some homing instinct had brought him here. He glanced up at the seventeenth floor, and then, with a sigh, went inside to meet his fate.


He considered going straight up to the 18th floor and locking himself in his room, but he knew that his Master had to be faced, sooner or later, so he knocked on the 17th floor apartment. Skinner opened the door, and looked at him for a long moment.


“Can I come in?” Mulder asked. Skinner didn’t move. “Master,” Mulder added. Skinner stood aside, and Mulder entered the apartment. “All right, I know I’m in deep shit. Spare me the lecture,” Mulder said with a smirk. “Just whip my ass and send me to bed without any supper. I didn’t get the groceries, and I went out running without your permission. I’ve been a very bad slave,” he mocked.


Skinner didn’t explode as he’d expected. He just shook his head.


“Why, Fox?” He asked mildly. Somehow, his Master’s unexpected reaction was like a red rag to a bull, and Mulder went ballistic.


“Because I wanted to fucking run! And I didn’t want to do the fucking shopping! And I don’t want to do any more of your fucking laundry either. Now get off my case, asshole!”


Skinner moved so fast that Mulder only saw a blur of white. Then he felt himself being propelled into the kitchen, and pushed over to the sink. He had no idea what was even happening, until a handful of white, sloppy goo was thrust into his mouth.


“UGH!” He spat out the soap, but the aftertaste lingered. “Fuck you! Fucking, fuck…oh my god that tastes like SHIT!”


Skinner grabbed hold of his sweatshirt, dragged him out of the kitchen and across the living room, opened the balcony door, and threw him outside. Then he reached into his pocket, snapped a set of handcuffs around Mulder’s wrist, and secured him to the balcony railing, before getting to his feet and looking down on his recalcitrant slave.


“You can stay out here until you cool down,” Skinner told him.


“You bastard!” Mulder yelled. “Come back here! Fuck you, Skinner. Let me go!”


Skinner gazed at him impassively for a moment, then went back into the apartment, leaving the door ajar. Mulder struggled pointlessly in his bonds for a moment, then sank back on his haunches, growling to himself as he tried to find a position that didn’t involve placing his sore butt on the hard balcony floor. He kept up a screeching monologue for several minutes, cursing his Master, calling him every name under the sun, but although Skinner could clearly hear him, he made no reply. Mulder could see him through the balcony door, moving around in the kitchen, making dinner. Finally Mulder subsided, reconciling himself to a long stay out here. Damn, but Krycek had been right – it was cold out here. Damn Skinner. Damn him. Why the hell had Mulder agreed to that stupid, fucking contract? Mulder closed his eyes, blinking back the tears. He remembered the words security, and love. He had wanted that, and he hated himself for that weakness.


Skinner came out a few minutes later. He didn’t say anything. He just placed a bottle of water on the ground next to Mulder, and gazed at him for a few moments. Mulder glared at him, angrily, still tasting the soap in his mouth. He couldn’t wait to wash that away with the water, but he had enough pride to wait until Skinner had gone before he grabbed the bottle and held it between his knees so that he could twist the cap off. Then he drank down the entire contents in one go, lost in his own misery.


Mulder knew the danger signs only too well. He wasn’t angry with Skinner. He was angry with himself, and his fucked up life. He was angry that he’d lost his sister in the first place, angry that men like Krycek used her to lure him into god knew what kind of trap. He was angry with himself for responding, for still needing this so badly that he’d risk screwing up the best thing that had ever happened to him in order to get it. This was one of those moments that he had warned his Master about. He was about to go out of control, about to spin off into the edges of insanity and he knew that when he came back down to earth, he’d feel empty, and lost, without hope, and full of despair. Those were the moments when he woke up wishing that he were dead. It was on one of those days that he knew he might decide to die. Mulder wrapped his free arm around his body. He felt so cold. So alone. If he closed his eyes he could see his sister, lying in some laboratory somewhere, faceless men looming over her. Mulder fought against the image, fought against it swallowing him whole, and twisting his gut until he could feel real physical pain.


He watched his Master move around the apartment. He knew that if he called out, if he apologized, Skinner would come out here, and undo the cuff, but Mulder wouldn’t ask. He dipped his head down to his chest, sunk in misery. A few minutes later he felt something wet nudge against his hand. Wanda had come to investigate the novelty of her slave’s slave sitting out on the balcony and she was sniffing at him curiously.


“Go. Away,” he told her. She looked at him with clear green eyes, then climbed calmly into his lap, and snuggled up against his chest. He longed to accept the comfort, and his chin dropped for a moment against her soft head, but then his self-loathing kicked back in, and he shoved her angrily off his lap and onto the floor with his free hand. “Shoo!” He snarled, and she ran back into the apartment. He saw her climb onto Skinner’s lap where his Master was sitting on the couch. She snuggled up in his Master’s arms, and that just added to Mulder’s misery. He wanted to cry but he had too much pride, so he just sat there, glaring at Skinner, glaring at Wanda, glaring at the world.


A couple of hours passed, and finally Mulder’s mood played itself out. Skinner appeared in the doorway.


“How are you feeling?” He asked softly.


“Fucking freezing,” Mulder snapped. “Not that you care.”


“You must be hungry.” Skinner came out onto the balcony, and crouched down in front of him. He was holding a plate full of the most delicious smelling food. Mulder realized that he was hungry. Very hungry. “Open up.” Skinner pushed some food onto a fork, and held it up to Mulder’s mouth.


“I can damn well feed myself,” Mulder protested.


“Open up,” Skinner repeated, his tone brooking no further resistance. Mulder obeyed, grudgingly, and Skinner fed him a forkful of food, then another, and another. Mulder was too overwrought to eat much though, and he refused any more after the 4th serving. Skinner looked at him calmly. “You’ll eat the whole plateful,” he stated firmly. “You’ve been out running for hours. You need to replace the energy.” Mulder turned his face away, but Skinner turned it back, and held another forkful of food against his lips. Grudgingly, Mulder ate. He finished the plate of food, and then Skinner disappeared into the kitchen and returned with dessert. “No slave of mine ever goes to bed hungry,” Skinner insisted, holding up a spoon full of cheesecake. “There are some punishments you’ll never suffer at my hands, and missing meals is one of them.”


Mulder swallowed it down, feeling completely and utterly wrung-out. “I’m sorry, Master,” he whispered between mouthfuls.


“I know you are.” Skinner smiled. When Mulder had finished, Skinner took the bowl back into the apartment, and then returned to the balcony. “Ready to come in now?” He asked. Mulder looked at him wearily, all the anger having fled his body, leaving him completely drained.


“Yes please,” he said softly.


Skinner knelt down beside him, and unlocked the handcuff. Then he pulled Mulder to his feet and enveloped him in a hug. Mulder clung to his Master’s big body as if his life depended on it. He felt so safe here. So warm, and comforted. Skinner was his earth, his grounding. It felt good knowing he could rely on the other man to pull him back down when he was about to fly off into orbit.


“Okay, little one,” Skinner soothed, gently stroking his slave’s hair. “Now, I won’t usually reward bad behavior, but on this occasion I’ll make an exception as you’re clearly in a bad way. Go and wait in my bedroom. You can spend the night with me.”


Mulder pulled back, and looked into his Master’s eyes. “Really?” he whispered.


“Really.” Skinner kissed his forehead. “Now go and kneel in the bedroom and wait for me. I won’t be long.”


Mulder didn’t need telling twice. He walked wearily up to the bedroom, and sank down on the floor, waiting to be told what to do next. He didn’t want to think. He just wanted to be held, and loved. Skinner came up a few minutes later. He sat on the end of the bed, and pulled his slave over, then he undressed him gently, kissing him, and soothing the weary agent with loving words as he worked. Mulder went into a trance. He was so tired. He wanted to escape, to be free. He needed to find some place in his head where there was peace, but all he could see was his sister. He gave a stifled sob, and Skinner drew him close, and kissed his lips. Mulder drowned in that kiss, and realized, with a start, that he had found his escape in his Master’s arms. Here he was safe from the demons that had haunted him all his life. He surrendered to Skinner’s insistent mouth, to his claiming tongue, and melted against the big man, warming himself in that loving embrace.


“I’ve run you a bath,” Skinner said when he released him. “You need warming up.” He helped Mulder to get up, and walked him into the bathroom. He deposited his weary slave in the bath, and then got undressed himself and slipped in beside him. He pulled Mulder over, and soaped him down, rubbing his muscles briskly. Mulder started to feel more human. He was warm, clean, fed, loved…He leaned back in his Master’s arms, and allowed the other man to take care of him. Skinner didn’t linger in the bath. He made sure Mulder was warm, then he walked him back into the other room, and helped him into the bed. Mulder watched his Master wander around the room, tidying up clothing, and longed for him to join him in the bed. Finally Skinner finished, turned off the light, and got into the bed beside his slave. Mulder hesitated, then inched his way hesitantly towards his Master, and put his arms around him, burying his face in the other man’s chest.


“I’m so, so sorry. I’m such a shit head. I…”


“Fox. Stop. I never use abusive names when I talk to you, do I?” Skinner asked.


Mulder blinked. “No, Master.”


“And do you think I’d keep a slave that wasn’t worthy of me?” Skinner pressed. Mulder felt so tired that he couldn’t think.


“No, Master. I suppose not,” he agreed reluctantly.


“Well then.” Skinner kissed him gently, lovingly, holding him tight. “Don’t use names like that for yourself again.”


“Make love to me, Master,” Mulder whispered.


“No, sweetheart, you’re too tired,” Skinner replied.


“Please. I want to feel…good again,” Mulder kissed his Master’s chest, and lightly teased a nipple with his tongue. “You make me feel good, Master. Help me forget…”


“Forget what, Fox?” Skinner held him so tight that he couldn’t escape. “What happened today?”


“Nothing. Nothing. Nothing…” Mulder found his Master’s soft cock and caressed it with his hand. He loved his Master’s bed too much to want to lose the privilege by telling him what had happened, and apart from anything else, he just didn’t want to talk about it. It was his pain, and his alone. It always had been, and he nursed it close to his heart and never let anyone in.


“Please, Master…make love to me.”


Skinner sighed. “Fox, something clearly happened today. Now I can’t make you tell me, but I want you to know that youcan. When you’re ready. I might whip your ass, but I’ll always listen. Understood?” Mulder nodded, dumbly. Skinner shook his head. “Fox, I don’t like watching you tear yourself apart like this.”


Mulder ignored his Master, and kept nuzzling at Skinner’s broad chest. He kissed his way down to his Master’s groin, and took Skinner’s cock into his mouth. It hardened under Mulder’s expert caress. He drew back, and looked at Skinner expectantly.


“Please…make love to me,” he begged.


Skinner nodded, finally accepting that it was the only thing that would soothe his deeply troubled slave. He turned Mulder around, and held his slave close against his chest. Mulder could feel his Master’s hard length pressing against his buttocks.


“Okay, stroke yourself. Come if you want,” Skinner said. Mulder heard him putting a condom on his hard cock, and then his Master handed one to him as well. “So neither of us has to lie on the damp patch,” Skinner whispered.


He took hold of Mulder’s buttocks gently, and eased himself between them, sliding into the lubricated hole without difficulty. Then he held Mulder tight, and gently rocked back and forth into his slave. Mulder lost himself in the sheer pleasure of his Master’s touch, pressing back to impale himself on even more of Skinner’s length. His own cock was hard, and he entered a dream-like state of total bliss, lying comfortably in his Master’s arms, lulled by the scent of sex, and the pleasure of being made love to, of being loved. Skinner kissed the back of his slave’s neck, and nibbled on his ear, and they both came a little while later. Skinner disposed of the condoms, then joined his slave back in the bed. He took Mulder in his arms again, and Mulder felt at peace for the first time since Krycek’s phone call.


“Listen to me, Fox, before you go to sleep,” Skinner said.


“Hmmm?” Mulder felt his weary mind begin to drift away.


“Today was a bad day. Tomorrow we’ll start again.”


“Yes…again.” Mulder nodded.


“Remember one thing.” Skinner’s arms tightened around his slave. “You belong to me, and you’re hurting right now. I’ll do everything in my power to help you. You’re mine, sweetheart. Body, heart, mind, and soul, and whatever hurts you, hurts me.”


“I can feel myself spinning off course. Just don’t let me go.” Mulder had a vision of himself flying off into space. Deep inside, he doubted that even Skinner would be strong enough to keep him on the ground.


“I won’t,” Skinner promised, and his voice was grim. “I might be hard on you, Fox, but I’ll always be here for you.”


Mulder remembered, with a guilty start, the information he’d found out about Skinner inheriting these apartments from Andrew Linker. He had spied on his Master, lied to him, disobeyed him too many times to mention, and been insolent to him all in the space of one day. He’d shouted at Skinner, and pushed him to the limits of his patience, but at the end of the day the other man was still here, with his arms wrapped tightly around his slave. Maybe he had finally met his match, after all. Maybe he had at last found somebody he could trust with the true darkness of what he knew lay within himself. Just not yet. Not quite yet.


End of Part 11


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