24/7 17. Slaveless in Seattle


FROM: Ian@Anomaly.net


TO: Fox@slavecity.com


FW: Things you don’t want to hear your top say when you are naked and tied up


Hey buddy – are you bored investigating blood-sucking mutant pigs? Here’s something to distract ya! Maybe you should forward it to Walter (I bet he doesn’t have such an interesting email addy, although Walter@whips.com has a nice ring to it ;-) ) On second thoughts, maybe you *shouldn’t* forward this to the big guy. Or if you do, don’t tell him I sent it! Does he know that you download crap like this while you should be working on Important Government Business? I think it’s disgusting. We at Anomaly Magazine are shocked to think what government employees get up to on our dollars – hmm, maybe I should write an article on that…


Ian, who is in a Good Mood owing to a night spent in the arms of a tall, blond, handsome Master :-)


Mulder smiled to himself, and scrolled down the screen to see what his friend had sent him.


Things you don’t want to hear your top say when you are naked and tied up


1. “Um, I *think* I have another key around here somewhere…”


2. “Oops.”


3. “Don’t worry. I’m sure there’s a locksmith somewhere that’s open at 2AM…”


4. “And this is my German Shepherd, Ralph. I know you’ll just love Ralph.”


Mulder gave a strangled sob of mirth, and shot Scully a glance. She looked up at him and raised an eyebrow.


“Reading something interesting, Mulder?”


“Just going through the FBI manual. You wouldn’t believe how many procedures in here we don’t follow, Scully,” he grinned at her.


“Oh, I think I would,” she replied pointedly.


Mulder gave a little chuckle and turned his attention back to Ian’s email.


5. “Heh heh heh. You didn’t tell anybody else you were coming here, did you?”


6. “Now, where DID I put that extra attachment for the chainsaw?”


7. “Uh oh. If this is the tube of Superglue, where’s the KY?”


8. “Did I ever mention that little fantasy I have about tennis balls?”


9. “No, really. Trust me. I saw this work in a movie once.”


10. “You like my straitjacket? Cool; I’m glad they let me keep it.”


11. “Oh mighty Azathoth, accept this sacrifice I offer to You….”


Mulder snorted into his coffee at that one, and had to act quickly to wipe the resulting mess off of his keyboard. Scully looked at him speculatively.


“I didn’t realize the FBI manual was such a good read,” she murmured skeptically.


“Oh it’s great. You should check it out sometime,” he announced, turning back to the screen.


12. “I’m not crazy. Yes I am. Shut up, all of you.”


13. “I always keep the speculum in the freezer. It’s more fun that way.”


14. “Don’t worry if your hands go numb. You won’t be needing those.”


15. “Bye. I’m taking off for the weekend. Isn’t suspension bondage fun?”


Mulder dissolved into a fit of helpless laughter at that last one, and was so distracted that he didn’t see Scully sneak out from her seat and slip around behind him.


“Mulder, what the hell is so funny?” Scully asked suspiciously, glancing over his shoulder. Mulder did a superbly executed and well-practiced mouse click to reveal a page of guidelines on the subject of search and arrest warrants.


“Too late, Fox@slavecity.com,” she said, her eyes glowing with mischief. “Hmm, are you sure you’re not taking this whole slaveboy thing a bit too far, Mulder?” She asked, raising an eyebrow. “And who is this Ian person? Is he your, uh, Master?” she stressed the last word in a tone of amusement.


“No, he’s a friend,” Mulder replied, sobering up, and wondering if she’d managed to read down far enough to see the references to “Walter”. If she had, she didn’t mention it.


“You haven’t brought up that whole Master thing in ages,” Scully mused. “I suppose you spent the entire time I was away setting up this email account and forwarding yourself these messages just because you can’t accept that I’ve won this particular round of ‘gotcha’. I’m not biting, slaveboy.” She cuffed him across the back of his head with a grin. “I totally believe you.” She gave a little giggle and went to sit back down at her desk.


“Uh good.” Mulder winced, hating the fact that she thought he was lying to her, but not wanting to address the issue of who exactly his Master was, and the nature of his current lifestyle. “You know, it’s good to have you back, Scully. I missed you.” He gazed at his diminutive partner affectionately. “Don’t abandon me to go off on vacation again,” he said mournfully. “It was so boring here without you.”


“Boring? When you had all those reports to catch up on?” Scully raised an eyebrow of teasing disbelief. “And Skinner breathing down your neck every five minutes chasing you for them?”


Mulder made a face. “It was hell,” he said dramatically.


“Aw, poor Mulder – he has a Master at home and a taskmaster at work,” Scully giggled.


“You have no idea!” He grinned back. “Seriously though – I missed you.”


“You missed me editing your reports to make them into something Skinner would sign off on without a huge inquisition,” she snorted.


“Ah – you know me too well,” he lamented. “Lunch today?”


“Your treat?”


“Of course.” Mulder nodded gravely. “Two weeks without you – we need to catch up!”


“Hmm, and perhaps you can tell me what you’ve been doing at the weekend these days,” she said, glancing at him over the top of her reading glasses. “I rang you three times on your cell phone on Saturday to ask if you wanted to go and see a movie with me, and you didn’t have it switched on the whole time. I mean, this is Mulder! The man who’ll have to have his phone surgically removed from his hand when they bury him.”


“Hey – I want it in the coffin with me,” Mulder protested. “I mean, you never know who you might want to call from beyond the grave. Heh, heh, heh…” He waggled his eyebrows at her and gave a demonic laugh. She rolled her eyes, giggling to herself  as she turned back to her work, but they both knew that he hadn’t answered her question about his weekend’s activities.


How the hell do you tell someone you spent the entire weekend at a BDSM party, alternately being dressed as a pony, sold at a slave auction, and nailed to the mattress by your sexy as all hell Master? he thought to himself wryly as he turned his attention back to his computer screen and began typing a reply to Ian.


TO: Ian@Anomaly.net


FROM: Fox@slavecity.com


RE: Fw: Things you don’t want to hear your top say when you are naked and tied up


“Very funny. Number 11 was scarily familiar – hey, you try working on the X Files for 7 years. You run into these Azathoth type guys the whole time.


And no, I won’t be forwarding them onto He Who Must Be Obeyed. Like I’d want to give him any ideas. And this is my secret account so he doesn’t know about it – and no, he doesn’t know I do this on Bureau time either, but hell, I’ve given the Bureau my life and soul for years so I figure I’m owed.


So – you and Perry hooked up together, huh? I trust you ache this morning???? Can’t have been a very good night if you don’t…




He pressed the send key and glanced up to see that Scully was looking at him.


“What?” He asked.


“I was wondering…” she hesitated.


“Hmm?” He shut down his email account, and opened up a file containing his unfinished report.


“Mulder, I know you found out where that phone number was registered to – I just wondered if you followed it up at all.”


“What phone number?” He frowned.


“Hello? Mulder? It’s me – Scully. Your partner for the past 7 years. I do know a few things about the way your mind works.”


“Okay.” Mulder looked up with a sigh. “I almost went there, Scully – while you were away. I almost just upped and went to Seattle to see what was there.”


“And what stopped you?” She asked.


Mulder thought about it for a moment, then shrugged. “My Master,” he said honestly.


Scully sighed. “If you don’t want to tell me then just say so,” she said, looking hurt, “but don’t throw all this Master bullshit at me.”


“Scully, I’m not. Look – someone who is very close to me, who knows me at least as well as you do, told me not to go.”


“So you didn’t?” Scully raised an incredulous eyebrow. “Just like that? Who is this person and what hell have they done with my Fox Mulder?”


“Taught him not to throw himself into every passing trap maybe?” Mulder suggested.


“Or given him something else to think about?” Scully asked softly. “Something sufficiently interesting to distract him from the one thing he’s been obsessed with all his life?”


“Yes,” Mulder replied, his hazel eyes meeting her blue ones without flinching. “Someone who did exactly that. Scully I know you think I’m holding out on you. I just…it’s very complicated,” he finished lamely.


“It must be,” she commented with a shrug. “Mulder, does this mean that you’ve given up on Samantha?”


He flinched at her words. Had he? After all these years searching for her, had Skinner woven a spell of sex around him that stopped him caring about his little sister any more? Had he finally abandoned her, and all hope of ever finding out what had happened to her?


“It’s just that I’ve never seen you like this before,” Scully continued. “I’m not sure it would be a bad thing, Mulder. I’ve watched you put your life on hold for Samantha. Always chasing after ghosts and illusions, being fed half truths by your enemies…maybe you’ve moved on. Maybe you needed to.”


“Maybe.” Mulder stared blankly at his computer screen.


Scully’s words stayed with him all week. It didn’t help that Skinner was so busy at work that he barely saw his Master. He felt that he needed to speak to the other man about what was going on in his head – the longer he spent alone with himself, the more he brooded, and, conversely, the harder it was to broach the subject. It was like the old days, before his slavery, when he’d dealt with this issue alone. The difference was that he actively missed Skinner’s input, his calm way of looking at the facts, and the knowledge and experience that had helped make him an AD. Skinner was rational, and objective – two things Mulder could never rely on being on the subject of his sister. He sorely needed his Master’s advice, but Skinner was busy working on an important Federal case against a scientist suspected of illegal drug experimentation. It was a complex case, and Skinner was working day and night, both with the FDA and his own agents. He frequently brought home case-loads of documentation to look at and he was too tired and distracted to notice that his slave was subdued.


Mulder struggled with the issue, waking early for the next few days, and taking his swim at 4 am, often swimming for a couple of hours, just trying to calm himself, and figure out what to do next, until matters came to a head on Thursday night. Mulder went to bed at 10, feeling exhausted, but was unable to switch off. He tossed and turned, and dozed until 2, then finally got up and tip-toed down the stairs. He had intended to chain himself to Skinner’s bed, to find the peace that he always felt there. He was surprised to see a light on under Skinner’s door, and pushed it open, hesitantly. His Master was sitting up in bed, wearing his glasses, several papers spread out on the bed around him, Wanda tucked against one of his forearms, enjoying her slave’s unexpected nocturnal wakefulness. Skinner looked as tired as Mulder felt and he glanced up, and frowned when he saw Mulder, then his face softened into a faint smile, and he beckoned Mulder into the room with his head.


“Trouble sleeping, little one?” He asked.


Mulder shook his head, unsure whether now was a good time to burden his Master with his worries. He hovered beside the bed for a moment, wondering whether he should just turn around and go, but Skinner patted the empty space beside him, and invited him in. Mulder didn’t need asking twice. No matter how many times he got to spend the night in his Master’s bed, he still craved it and it was usually the ultimate objective of his slavehood. He slipped into the warm bed feeling better just for being near his Master.


“I’m worried about you working so hard,” he said, which was the truth, although not the whole truth.


Skinner smiled down at him through his glasses. “No need. It just has to be done. This guy is hiding something even bigger than the charges we have him arraigned for, I’m convinced of it,” he murmured, gesturing to the papers.


“Have you interviewed him?” Mulder glanced at some of the paperwork with an inner groan. This was his least favorite kind of FBI work. He liked to act on intuition, and had a hands on approach to his work. Sifting painstakingly through papers trying to find evidence, or at least a pointer as to where the metaphorical bodies were hidden was Mulder’s idea of purgatory. He’d already offered to help Skinner, and had scanned several of the documents, but he was the first to admit that it wasn’t his particular forte and he hadn’t been able to help as much as he would have liked. It was far removed from his realm of expertise as well, although he’d tried to apply himself to the complex legal and technical issues involved.


“Yes – and he’s hiding something – but I’m not convinced it’s what we’re charging him with.”


“Do you have enough to get him on that at least?” Mulder asked. “That could buy you some time to investigate the other stuff.”


“It’s not as safe a prosecution as I’d like,” Skinner sighed. “At the moment we don’t have enough solid evidence to make me confident we’ll secure a conviction.”


“But you do have a lot of circumstantial evidence,” Mulder mused.


“Yeah,” Skinner sighed, rubbing a weary hand over his forehead.


“You can’t keep working like this – you’ve hardly slept for days,” Mulder said. “Isn’t there anyone else who can share the workload?”


“Unfortunately not,” Skinner frowned, picking up his pen and turning his attention back to the documentation. “I’m the only one with a complete knowledge of this case and a lot will rest on the evidence I give in court next week.”


“You’re the government’s primary witness?” Mulder asked in surprise. While it wasn’t unusual for Skinner to give evidence in court, it was something he was rarely called upon to do.


“I’m giving a substantial portion of the evidence, yes,” Skinner murmured absently.


Mulder snuggled under the sheets, glaring at Wanda who was occupying the position opposite. She glared back, her ears flattening slightly. Skinner rested his hand absently on his slave’s body and stroked him rhythmically as he worked. Mulder sighed, and laid his head on Skinner’s chest, closing his eyes and dozing. It felt so good to be here. When he was here, he could forget about the other problems and issues he couldn’t solve, issues that went around in his head until he thought he’d go nuts. Here he felt at peace. He exhaled deeply, as if he had been holding his breath, feeling his body relax, and a few seconds later he felt Skinner’s lips brush against his forehead. He opened his eyes to find his Master looking down on him.


“Are you sure you didn’t come down here to talk to me about something?” Skinner asked.


Mulder looked at the familiar, beloved features for a long time. Skinner’s face was paler than usual, and there were dark shadows under his eyes. He looked stressed, and tired. The last thing he needed to deal with right now were his slave’s problems. Mulder smiled.


“No, Walter. I was just worried about you. That’s all,” he murmured. Skinner smiled back, and played with his slave’s nipple ring, rolling it between his big, blunt fingertips.


“I’m fine – but there’s no need for both of us to lose sleep over this. You should get some rest too. You know how cranky you get when you’re tired,” Skinner grinned.


“I do not!” Mulder retorted. Skinner twisted the nipple ring just enough to sting. “Master,” Mulder added sheepishly.


“Sleep, boy,” Skinner growled, and Mulder smiled to himself, and closed his eyes, feeling serene for the first time in days, all the tension leaving his body. He was asleep within minutes.


Skinner was gone when he awoke the next morning, although he’d left a note.


“Fox – I’m going to need to go out of town today. I’ll be back sometime on Saturday – which I believe is Slave’s Day, boy, so we can catch up then. Remember to feed Wanda and don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone. WSS.”


Mulder sighed. Trouble. He was already in trouble and he knew it. He couldn’t figure out the questions in his own mind and he was sure he’d go crazy and do something really stupid if he didn’t speak to Skinner about it soon.


In the absence of his Master, Mulder spent the next two days quietly going off the rails. He didn’t bother with his morning swim, and snapped at Scully constantly in the office until she crept back up to the bullpen to seek more congenial company. When he got home on Friday evening, he went straight up to the 18th floor apartment, and raided the bar that Skinner kept well stocked in the plush upstairs lounge. He retired to the beautiful cream colored couch for a thorough drinking session, lying on his back with one hand listlessly clasped around the television remote control, switching channels aimlessly as he stared absently at the screen, barely concentrating on the garbage he was watching. Wanda somehow managed to negotiate the doors between the two apartments, and she came up to sniff his hand aimlessly. He was heartened for a moment, relishing the company, until he realized that she was just nosing around for food as he’d forgotten to give her any, although she had plenty of dried food to stave off what was hardly encroaching starvation.


“Go and catch a mouse or something,” he hissed at her. “Earn your keep the time-honored way, cat.”


She looked at him uncertainly, then turned on her heel and wandered off down the corridor which for some reason just made him feel even more abandoned. He realized that this was the first time that Skinner had left him alone in the apartments since he had arrived here, and at some point in the middle of Friday night, he woke up, with a pounding headache, and a desire to make the most of his freedom. It was too late to call Ian over to party, and his friend was probably wrapped up in the arms of his non-absentee Master anyway, so he staggered down to Skinner’s study, to nose around and see what he could find.


Skinner’s study was normally off limits, but Mulder didn’t care. He hated it when he wasn’t allowed to investigate mysteries, and his Master’s study was one mystery he hadn’t yet had a chance to fully explore. He let himself in, and turned the light on, then glanced through Skinner’s books. He’d looked at them once before and they were a more eclectic selection than Mulder had expected, but the more he got to know his Master, the less surprised he was by anything about him. Tiring of the bookcase, he wandered over to the desk, where he had sat so many times at his Master’s knee. Mulder dropped to the floor in his normal position, and placed his chin on his Master’s empty chair.


“I really wish you were here right now,” he muttered. “You told me not to get into trouble, but there’s all this stuff in my head I need to talk about. Let’s face it,” he sighed, “I’m going to get into trouble. Hell, I’m already in trouble. If you could see me now, to say nothing of the mess upstairs, and the dent in your vodka supply…you’d have me over your knee in seconds.” He stared into space gloomily. “Which might be nice,” he added.


Then, feeling strangely light-headed, and with the air of someone breaking a dark taboo, he got up and sat in his Master’s chair. It gave him the same thrill as sitting in Skinner’s office chair. It was a big, old, threadbare brown chair, and Mulder frowned as he sat down.


“You really need a new chair y’know, Walt!” He proclaimed loudly and drunkenly. “This one’s no good.” He rocked back and forward in it for a while, idly opening the desk drawers and examining the none too interesting contents. Maybe he’d uncovered all his Master’s mysteries, he thought mournfully to himself. Maybe there wasn’t anything left.


“Maybe you’re not interested in mysteries any more, Mulder,” he growled at himself. “Not Skinner’s mysteries, or Samantha’s, not even the stupid, fucking pointless mystery that is Fox Mulder.” He found a key in one of the drawers that he recognized as belonging to the Playroom, and fingered it thoughtfully. The Playroom still had mystery. It had cupboards full of the most beautiful, exquisite toys – toys which his Master only allowed him to touch or look at while in his presence. Mulder’s fingers fastened around the key and he clenched it tight in his fist.


“Some mysteries still hold their appeal then,” he murmured to himself, sliding out from behind Skinner’s desk and lurching out of the room and back up the stairs towards the Playroom.


Mulder held his breath as he fumbled around trying to fit the key in the lock. It turned easily, and the door swung open. Mulder hesitated on the threshold, holding his breath. This was like going into Bluebeard’s castle or something. The room was in darkness, but he could just make out the sinister shape of the massage table, and the harness, hanging lifeless from the ceiling. Usually this room was rendered dramatic, or sensual, or even terrifying by his Master’s design, and he had never spent any time here without Skinner also being in attendance, stage-managing the many erotic delights this room both promised and delivered. Mulder tip-toed, almost reverentially, inside and turned one of the lights on. He jumped as the room came into sharp focus: wooden flooring, tall windows, plain walls. He wandered slowly around the Playroom, fingering the velvet upholstery of the throne, noticing a tiny tear, listening to the sound of his own footsteps echoing in the empty chamber. There was no sense of eroticism here, none of the usual sensations he felt as he knelt before the throne at his Master’s feet, or allowed his Master to strap him down onto the black leather massage table, or push him over the spanking horse. In the harsh, artificial light, the Playroom was stripped of any mystery – it was just a room. There was nothing here but emptiness.


Mulder grew bolder, and flung open the cupboards. He tore through them like a hurricane, dragging the contents out into the light, exposing them for what they were: tawdry sex toys.


“This is what you gave up Samantha for?” he asked himself incredulously, sitting in a sea of silk clothing, polished boots, harnesses, butt plugs, canes and straps. “Christ, Mulder, what a fucking useless bastard you are,” he muttered, his fingers closing around a set of nipple clamps. Pain…the memory of the eroticism of his own suffering distracted him, and he gazed at the clamps thoughtfully. Then, slowly, purposefully, he removed his shirt, and examined his pierced nipples. He fingered them, rolling the gold ring inside his own flesh, and then, without hesitating, he fastened one of the clamps onto the nub and bit down hard on his lips as the pain cut in, banishing everything else but the immediacy of his own discomfort. These were particularly vicious clamps – Skinner had never used them on him, and they pinched so tight that he was sure they must be drawing blood although he couldn’t see any. The pain faded to a deep, dull ache, and he turned his attention to the other nipple, moving fast, in case he was too much of a coward to go through with it. The pain seemed even more intense the second time around and he bit down even harder on his lip to stop himself screaming. He sat for a moment, shocked into numbness by the agony of the action, then lay back on one of Skinner’s silk shirts and gazed at the mirrored ceiling. He missed his Master’s loving embrace – he missed Skinner whispering to him, touching him, stroking him, taking him to a place where this kind of torture was an exquisite pleasure, not an agonizing torment. He imagined floating in his Master’s arms; kissed, loved, wanted, and finally, exhausted, he fell asleep just as the rays of the sun crept through the huge Playroom windows.


Mulder awoke several hours later feeling stiff and uncomfortable. It was already the middle of the afternoon, and his chest was radiating a numb ache. He looked down to see the clamps still in position.


“You stupid, self-pitying bastard,” he growled, the memory of the previous night’s drunken excesses coming back to him. He steeled himself to remove the clamps, knowing from experience that they hurt more when they were removed than when they were first put in place. He closed his eyes, counted to ten, and then whipped both of them off at the same time. There was a few seconds when he thought he might have got away with it, and then the pain kicked in with a vengeance and he howled out loud. He sat there, winded, waiting for the torment to subside, and after several long minutes it did. Then he turned his attention to the Playroom, his expression one of horror. Skinner had said only that he’d be back today – he hadn’t said when, and Mulder suddenly knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that if his Master saw the mess in the Playroom, then his slave’s life wouldn’t be worth living. He got up, and frenziedly started stuffing the equipment back into the cupboards, then slowed down, and thought about it. Skinner would know if everything was put back in the wrong place, so he’d just have to take it slowly, and hope he got it right.


An hour later, Mulder cast a satisfied look around the Playroom, and then quietly shut the door, and locked it behind him. Skinner need never know. He went back to his bedroom and took a shower, holding a cold washcloth over his nipples until they stopped looking so red and angry, although they ached like hell. He got dressed and went back downstairs to replace the key in Skinner’s desk drawer. He felt like an idiot now, and was kicking himself for losing control. Last night he had behaved like the old Mulder, back in his apartment at Alexandria, lying half comatose on the couch, struggling with issues until he couldn’t bear the pressure inside his own head and did something stupid. He vividly remembered one night sat holding his gun,   seriously considering whether to use it or not. He thought he’d put that behind him – grown beyond it, but as soon as Skinner was out of town he had slipped back all too easily into old patterns of behavior. He was angry and frustrated with himself. For the first time since he had sold himself into slavery, he had woken up with that old self-loathing and fear of his own failures and shortcomings that often led him to despair. Today, maybe he would die. Or maybe he’d run off to Seattle. Or just stay here and go quietly insane. Either way, he wasn’t sure that he cared.


Mulder wandered back into the downstairs lounge just in time to hear his Master’s key in the lock. He was surprised to feel something apart from numbness. He felt…hopeful – and in the circumstances that was the better than nothing. Skinner was shaking his umbrella, mumbling something about the weather, and Mulder saw a way out from his own emotions in the serenity of his servitude. He quickly took Skinner’s coat and hung it up, then sat his Master down, removed his shoes, poured him a drink, and disposed of his own clothing. He knelt obediently, and contentedly at his Master’s feet, in the submissive position – eyes down, shoulders back, cock displayed proudly within its gold ring.


“You’re a sight for sore eyes, sweetheart,” Skinner murmured, absently stroking his slave’s hair. “I’m sorry I had to leave so suddenly. Has everything been okay here?” Mulder smiled and nodded, hoping his eyes didn’t betray him. “Have you been okay?” Skinner pressed, his dark eyes questioning. “I haven’t spent enough time with you recently.”


“I’ve been fine,” Mulder said smoothly. “I missed you though,” he added with a mischievous grin.


Skinner laughed out loud, and undid his tie. “I’ve missed you too, boy,” he growled in the low sexy voice that he usually saved for hot sex sessions. Mulder’s cock responded to the tone the way it always did, leaping up hopefully, eager for attention. “I see that you haven’t forgotten it’s slave’s day,” Skinner said, glancing at his slave’s wildly rampant erection.


“No, Master. How could I?” Mulder grinned.


“I think that you and I need to become re-acquainted, boy,” Skinner said, standing up, and stretching. “I’ve missed you,” he muttered, grabbing hold of his slave, and pulling Mulder’s acquiescent body close to his own. Mulder threaded his hands together behind his Master’s back, enjoying the feel of such solid, reassuring flesh next to his own naked body. Skinner would take him away from his stupid doubts. He’d take him to that place where he could fly, and everything would be fine. His Master kissed him with some passion, his hands roving over his slave’s body possessively, as if he’d been away for a month, not just a couple of days.


“I’m going to get changed,” Skinner said when he released his slave. “Go and wait for me upstairs.”


Mulder nodded and sped off up the stairs. As he wandered along the corridor, he remembered the mess he’d left in the upstairs lounge and his stomach lurched. He broke into a run, and skidded to a halt outside the lounge, took one look at it and then slammed his fist into the wall. It was even more of a mess than the Playroom. He had to tidy it before Skinner came up here. He ran around the place frantically, trying to stuff the remains of last night’s pizza and vodkafest into a garbage sack, as well as tidy away his socks and shoes, to say nothing of the entire sports section of the paper which was spread out all over the room. He was so busy that he didn’t hear the footstep on the stairs, and so nearly jumped out of his skin when he heard a voice behind him.




He stood up guiltily, and turned, making a face.


“Sorry, Master. I slept in here last night. I forgot it was a mess. I was just…” he waved his hand around. “Tidying up?” He finished feebly. Skinner was dressed in tight black jeans, and an even tighter black tee shirt, and there was a very definite scowl on his face.


“Shit,” Mulder whispered. Well, you wanted to be distracted, Mulder told himself. And there was surely nothing more distracting than a Master catching his slave in the act of covering up the evidence of a night of drunken disobedience.


“You slept here?” Skinner raised an eyebrow, his tone dangerous. “You do have a bed. And a bedroom,” he said pointedly.


“I know. I was watching TV. I fell asleep,” Mulder gave a lame shrug.


“Hmm.” Skinner crossed his arms over his chest. “You know that this area is out of bounds to you unless I’m here?”


“Yes, Master,” Mulder shrugged again and bit his lip. “Sorry, Master,” he added.


“Is there anything else about last night that you wish to tell me?” Skinner asked. “Any other rules that you broke in my absence?”


“No, Master,” Mulder said in a low voice, crossing his fingers behind his back. He was sure that Skinner wouldn’t find anything amiss in the Playroom. He’d been so careful when he’d tidied up in there.


“Very well. I can see that we have some areas of discipline to address,” Skinner said, although from his tone of voice Mulder could sense that he was mildly amused. He clearly intended to use the infraction as no more than a backdrop to an erotic punishment scenario and Mulder was all in favor of that. “The Playroom. Now!” Skinner ordered and Mulder dumped the garbage sack and tried to sidle through the doorway past his Master without getting a slapped backside. It was a pointless exercise – Skinner’s hard, heavy hand dropped on his butt with a resounding thwack.


“It’s really good to have you home, Master,” Mulder grinned, as he hurried along the corridor.


He waited impatiently while Skinner took out the key to the Playroom, and inserted it in the lock. He wanted to get in there. He wanted to be transported away from his problems, safe and secure in his Master’s strong arms. He despised himself for needing the escape, but he was too weary with the struggle inside his head to put up any resistance. He needed this, damnit!


Skinner swung the door open, and they both stepped inside…to be greeted by a flying bundle of golden fur who threw herself into her slave’s arms with a squawk of protest at having been locked away for so long. Mulder’s heart sank. Trust the stupid, goddamn cat to ruin everything. Skinner gave the agitated creature a soothing cuddle, and fixed his slave with a cool look over Wanda’s soft, furry, butting head.


“I’m waiting,” he said ominously.


“Waiting, Master?” Mulder bluffed, giving Wanda the look hitherto reserved only for Tom Colton, Alex Krycek and any of Scully’s boyfriends who didn’t treat her properly, which was most of them in his opinion.


“Waiting,” Skinner continued in a deceptively pleasant tone, “for an explanation as to the lie you told me about 3 minutes ago that you hadn’t broken any other rules.”


“Oh. That.” Mulder croaked, his stomach sinking down to its familiar habitat at such moments, in the soles of his feet.


“Yes. That,” Skinner said. “When I left this apartment, Wanda was most definitely not locked up in this room, so in order to get in here…” He paused meaningfully, and then continued. “Well, let’s see. I have only two keys to the Playroom, one of which is always on my person. The other I keep in the desk drawer in my study. So, either you went into my study, took the key, and let yourself in here, or, your old friend the lock pick has been in action again. Either of which options leaves you, boy, up shit creek without a paddle,” Skinner growled. “Although unluckily for you, paddles are not something that are in short supply around here.” He strode over to the door and placed Wanda firmly outside it, then closed it and turned back to deal with his disobedient slave.


“There is another option,” Mulder suggested as he Master advanced on him.


“Really?” Skinner crossed his hands over his chest menacingly as he surveyed his slave. “Do, please, enlighten me then. I’d be so interested to hear your other option.” His tone dripped sarcasm. “Don’t mind me,” he said over his shoulder as he walked towards the cupboard and began removing certain implements of discipline that made Mulder shiver in trepidation just looking at them.


“Well…cats have many special powers…” Mulder began, deciding that he was in big shit anyway, so delaying the moment of retribution was probably the best result he was going to get. “Did you know that the cat used to be worshipped in Ancient Egypt as a symbol of mystery and good fortune?” He said. Skinner found a solid wooden paddle, and slapped it against his thigh. Mulder swallowed hard and continued, warming to his theme. “They’ve been known to save people from earthquakes and fires, and have long been acknowledged to have special sensory powers that humans don’t understand…”


“And your point is?” Skinner asked, marching across the room, and placing one big hand on his slave’s neck, then walking him over towards the chair.


“That Wanda, who we all know is a particularly gifted creature,” Mulder managed to say that with just too much sincerity to be believable, “is very possibly capable of translocation. I have many X Files devoted to just this phenomena,” he finished, gazing at his Master expectantly.


“Translocation?” Skinner sat down on the throne and regarded his slave without expression.


“Yup.” Mulder nodded. “The ability to transport yourself from one place to another,” he added helpfully. “Um, other than just by walking there, obviously,” he continued. “Or taking a car or something,” he finished, barely daring to look at his Master. Somehow he didn’t think that explanation had gone down well.


“And these cases of translocation in your files – was there any actual proof there of this, phenomenon as you call it?” Skinner asked pleasantly.


Mulder winced. “Not proof as such…” he hedged.


“I see. Well, in the absence of proof, I must just assume that the truth lies in the more mundane explanation that you let yourself in here last night and snooped around. Is that the truth, Fox?”


Mulder jumped. Skinner’s tone suddenly had bite. He thought about it for a moment, then sighed. “Yes, Master,” he replied.


Skinner put his hand up, and beckoned very slowly with his index finger. “Come here,” he ordered. Mulder swallowed hard, and crept forward so that he was between his Master’s knees. Skinner placed the paddle on one of the arms of the throne and put his big hands on his slave’s shoulders, then looked intently into Mulder’s eyes.


“I’m sorry,” Skinner said suddenly, confusing his slave.


“For what, Master?” Mulder asked in surprise.


“Quote me Clause number 2 of the Master contract,” Skinner ordered.


Mulder gabbled the Clause off quickly, the words almost engraved on his very soul: “I will provide the physical and emotional necessities of life for my slave, and…”


“How long has it been since I last spanked you?” Skinner interrupted him.


Mulder looked startled. “Six days, Master,” he replied.


“Exactly.” Skinner shook his head. “Spanking, for you, Fox, is both a physical and emotional necessity of life.”


“It is?” Mulder blinked.


“Yes. It is. I’ve failed in my duty and must therefore take part of the responsibility for what happened here last night. You need to feel the weight of my hand on your backside every day – come what may. I promised you that when I accepted you into my service, and I’ve been remiss in not keeping to that promise. I can’t expect your obedience if I don’t enforce it in such a way as to keep your status constantly fresh in your mind.”


“It wasn’t your fault. You were busy,” Mulder protested, kneeling between his Master’s feet, and looking up at him, as if in supplication.


“I know – but that’s no excuse.” Skinner’s hands were firm on his slave’s shoulders. “You have to be taken down, boy, every day, or you forget who you are and start spinning out of control.”


Mulder felt all the breath leave his body. He felt light-headed at not only being so known but also so well understood. His hair stood up on his body and he felt goosebumps break out on his flesh. He hung his head, and placed his hands on his Master’s knees.


“I’m sorry. You’re right. I should have asked you…” he whispered.


“Like I said, it’s my fault, and I’m not angry – at least not too angry,” Skinner amended, his eyes flashing just enough to remind Mulder that he was still in trouble. Skinner placed a finger under his slave’s chin and drew it up, making him look directly into his Master’s eyes. “This reminds me of my early days with you. When you pushed the limits and boundaries to see where they lay, fighting yourself and your slavery.”


Mulder bit on his lip, and nodded.


“You must be feeling tired of that fight, boy. I think you want to give it all up to me,” Skinner said in a low, silky voice. Mulder melted against his Master’s knee, and nodded again, not trusting himself to speak.”This won’t be easy – I won’t stop until you’re back where you need to be,” Skinner warned. “It’ll be a long, painful ride, Fox, but rewarding in the end.”


“Yes, Master,” Mulder croaked, spellbound by the sound of his Master’s voice.


“Good, then get your ass over my knee, and let’s start,” Skinner commanded. Mulder got up slowly, and did as he’d been ordered. He felt the usual dual emotions of trepidation and need that accompanied such moments. When he was being spanked he would have done anything, and said anything, to escape the relentless assault on his backside. However, when it was over, he was invariably glad that his Master hadn’t listened to his pleas, and had continued to blister his ass until his slave was where he needed to be.


Skinner’s knees and thighs were hard, and muscular beneath his torso. Although it was a familiar position for Mulder, his Master more often spanked him in the bedroom with pillows under his body, supporting him. This felt more raw, and basic and certainly less comfortable, yet was curiously intimate too. Skinner opened his legs, and placed one of them over the back of Mulder’s knees, holding him in position. He planted a hand firmly on Mulder’s back pinning him securely in place, and then rested his other hand on Mulder’s backside. Mulder trembled, hating the wait, wanting it all to be over, needing to go where only Skinner could take him, to find the serenity he’d been missing for the past few days. Skinner didn’t start spanking him though. Instead he ran his hand lightly over Mulder’s backside, smoothing the skin, pinching it here and there, cupping his slave’s buttocks lightly in his big hand, and caressing them with his thumb.


“What are you, Fox?” Skinner asked as he stroked his slave into a state of relaxation.


“Yours, Master,” Mulder whispered.


“Do you understand why you’re going to be punished?” Skinner asked.


“Yes, Master. For lying to you, and disobeying you,” Mulder said softly.


“What lesson will you take from this punishment?” Skinner asked him.


“I’m not sure,” Mulder confessed. “Not to lie to you or disobey you again?” He ventured, hesitantly.


“That would be nice, but you’ve promised both before,” Skinner said.


“To…tell you next time, before it gets this bad?” Mulder offered.


“That’s better.” Skinner raised his hand.


“Master – you were working hard. You were tired,” Mulder interrupted the moment. The hand didn’t fall. Instead it gently dropped back on his backside and started to stroke again. “I meant to talk to you…but you had enough to worry about. I’m sorry that I’ve added to your workload with all my crap.”


Mulder was surprised to find that he was pulled up, and pushed down on his knees in front of his Master again.


“Fox – you aren’t my ‘workload’. You aren’t a case file – you’re my beloved slave. I signed that contract knowing what I was doing. If I’m going to ask you to keep up your side of the deal, then I have to do the same and I didn’t. I failed you. Next time, just talk to me, all right?”


“Yes, Master.” Mulder nodded.


“Good.” Skinner caressed the side of his slave’s face with his hand, then dropped a light, chaste kiss on Mulder’s lips. “Now…” His Master’s tone changed radically as he drew away. “Get your ass into position again, boy. We’ll address this situation in the  old fashioned way.”


Mulder quickly scrambled into position again and there was no preamble this time. Skinner’s hand connected with his slave’s bare flesh as soon as Mulder was in place. He winced – Skinner clearly meant business and he had a feeling that this would be a long, painful spanking, going far beyond any erotic enjoyment and taking him to a different place entirely. Skinner’s hand was relentless. His Master worked in a slow, steady pattern around his slave’s butt, leaving no inch of it uncovered by his large palm. There was an almost hypnotic rhythm to the rise and fall of Skinner’s hand against his slave’s bottom, and soon the slaps started to sting, then to hurt, until Mulder was gasping for air, moving his legs to try and escape the unceasing rise and fall of that hand on his backside.


“Shit! Please, Master…stop…” he begged.


“I’ve only just begun,” Skinner informed him tersely. “You have a long way to go yet, boy.”


Mulder struggled to get up, panicked by his Master’s words, but Skinner held him securely in place and he was unable to do more than twist under his Master’s hand and imprisoning leg. The spanking took on a new pace, and the build-up of fire in Mulder’s backside grew worse. It was as if Skinner was finding a way deep into his flesh, embedding the palm of his large, flat hand several inches into his slave’s skin. Then, suddenly, just when Mulder was sure he couldn’t take any more, it stopped. Mulder’s breathing slowed and he tensed as his Master gently rubbed his sore flesh, taking away some of the sting, and calming his slave. Mulder started to relax, pleased that it was over, and that he’d survived without disgracing himself, but then, out of the corner of his eye, he saw Skinner pick up the wooden paddle.


“NO!” He choked, hating the thought of that hard implement impacting on his already sore backside.


“Yes,” Skinner said firmly, holding him in place, and resting the cool, grainy surface of the wood against Mulder’s flaming buttocks. There was silence for a moment, and then a whoosh and a resounding crack that took Mulder by surprise. The pain kicked in a split second later and he howled out loud, before he could stop himself. The paddle was a flat, unforgiving implement, practical and workmanlike. There was nothing fancy, exotic or even erotic about it. It was a tool for meting out punishment, pure and simple. Skinner didn’t even give his slave a chance to get his breath back after the last stroke before applying the next. The paddle moved like wildfire across Mulder’s ass, burning up every single inch of his already sore flesh. He raged for a moment, against the pain, against the imprisonment, against the big man who commanded his obedience, and that was when Skinner moved the spanking up a pace. The slaps became harder, and faster, not slow and loving, or sensual and caressing, but just painful, and unrelenting. Mulder fought it. He knew he was shouting, although he had no idea what he was saying, just that he was angry and resentful.


“Who are you shouting at?” Skinner demanded.


“You, fuck it, stop!” Mulder yelled.


“Who are you angry with?” Skinner asked, his pace swift, unconcerned by his slave’s display of temper.


Mulder somehow managed to free his hand and put it back to protect his burning buttocks. Skinner delivered a resounding thwack to the offending hand and Mulder howled.


“Leave it there and I’ll do that again,” Skinner warned. Mulder fought with the choice – his butt or his hand, but the split second of decision-making took too long and Skinner delivered another sound lick to his hand. Angrily, Mulder tried to get up, struggling both against his Master’s superior strength and the advantage that his position gave him.


“Keep still. Who are you angry with?” Skinner asked, as Mulder became a spitting, exploding mass of incoherent expletives.


“You. I fucking hate you!” Mulder screamed at the top of his voice. The paddle connected with the top of his thighs, making him yelp. It fell there again and again, and Mulder writhed beneath it.


“Who are you angry with?” Skinner asked again, his tone firm, and unchanging.


“The whole fucking world!” Mulder yelled. “You, Krycek, my mother, Scully, Samantha!” He screamed, not even aware who was included in the litany. The paddle cracked down even harder on his unprotected buttocks and he wasn’t sure what he was saying any more.


“Who are you angry with?” Skinner asked again. Mulder felt all the anchors that tied himself to time and place snap, like a balloon being released into the air.


“Me, fuck it. I’m angry with me! Are you fucking happy now, you bastard?” Mulder began to sob, openly, something he always hated doing, but the rage inside him was still unabated; however far and hard he tried to outdistance it – it was always there.


Skinner’s pace changed, abruptly. For a moment, Mulder thought with relief that the spanking was at an end, but it wasn’t. Instead, it became more subtle. Skinner moved his hand down to the cleft between his slave’s buttocks and parted them. Then he aimed the paddle at the sensitive inner flesh between the ass cheeks, which had hitherto been untouched.


“No,” Mulder cried, not having the energy left to fight any more, lying over Skinner’s knee like a stranded fish, accepting each carefully aimed swat. “Please…” he croaked, as the paddle found his most tender areas, each stinging stroke bringing fresh tears to his eyes.


“Why are you angry with yourself?” Skinner asked, his voice implacable, low, and yet clearly audible over the sound of the paddle.


“I don’t fucking know,” Mulder seethed into his Master’s knee. He felt Skinner spread his thighs, and then the paddle cracked against the sensitive flesh between his legs. “Shit, not there,” he panted. “Please, Master…not there. Please…” he sobbed.


“Why, Fox?” Skinner pressed, peppering his slave’s inner thighs with more hard swats of the paddle.


“For giving up, for not being good enough, for being angry with her when it isn’t her fault…” Mulder said, his words jumbled and only just coherent.


“Her?” Skinner asked, his hand rising and falling steadily, the paddle firm and unyielding in his grasp.


“Samantha,” Mulder said, his anger dissipating in a haze of pain. “Take me away from myself, Master,” he whispered. “Please…”


He lay still over his Master’s knee, accepting the gentle rise and fall of the paddle as it slowed down, still delivering swats on Mulder’s glowing, upturned butt, but softer ones. This continued for several minutes, while Mulder got his breath back, and his Master alternated a sharp, stinging swat, with a stroke of his hand over the reddened butt in front of him. Finally, it came to an end, and the paddle was placed on one side. Skinner kept Mulder over his knee until his slave’s breathing evened out, and then he helped him to his feet and looked at him steadily for a long time. Mulder flushed, and glanced down, unwilling to meet his Master’s eyes. Skinner shook his head ruefully, and gently brushed a lock of Mulder’s dark hair away from his sweaty forehead.


“Go to the bathroom and get me the lotion in the cupboard,” Skinner instructed in a soft, low tone.


Mulder nodded, trembling slightly, not entirely sure whether his legs would work. He walked unsteadily to the bathroom, then returned to the Playroom, and approached the throne. Skinner didn’t speak, he just swung his tired slave back over his knee, and then dropped a small dollop of the lotion onto Mulder’s hot buttocks. Mulder almost jumped out of his skin as the cold lotion made contact with his flesh, but Skinner continued rubbing the soothing balm gently into Mulder’s flaming buttocks, gradually cooling them. He took his time, applying and reapplying the lotion and massaging it into his slave’s flesh with long strokes of his thumbs that made Mulder sink his teeth into the fabric of his Master’s jeans to stop himself crying out loud. He had to admit that his buttocks soon started to feel better, and the horrific sting had faded into just a dull, throbbing ache that filled him with a endorphin rush. He felt wrung out, physically, and emotionally, and he didn’t even realize that he was crying silently until his Master wiped one of his fingers over his cheeks.


“Fox – come here,” Skinner ordered. He moved Mulder off from his knee, and pulled him between his open legs, holding him, his arms capturing his slave within their tightly muscled circle. Mulder rested his head against his Master’s shoulder, and cried silently into Skinner’s tee shirt.


“I don’t understand,” Skinner said softly. “Where did that come from? When I went away you seemed fine…”


“I was fine,” Mulder muttered, still hating himself for having allowed his mood to take him so low that he had screwed up like this. “I’m fine now. It’s nothing.”


“I doubt that. It took a long time for you to give it up,” Skinner said gently, pushing Mulder back so that he could look at him. “Who do you belong to, Fox?” He asked, his dark eyes boring holes into Mulder’s soul.


“You, Master,” Mulder said easily, without hesitation.


“What are you?” Skinner asked.


“Your slave.” Mulder knelt down, and hid his face in the carpet. He didn’t want to talk about it any more. He was just relieved that the tension of last night had gone. He felt tired, but, conversely, almost rested. It felt good to be kneeling here; in his service he could find his serenity again.


“Very well.” There was an odd, unsatisfied tone to Skinner’s voice, as if that wasn’t enough.


Mulder looked up, a faint shadow of a grin passing across his face. “I never thought I’d be grateful for my daily spankings,” he said, “but if they save me from that kind of ordeal, then I’ll take them gladly.”


“I don’t like handing out that kind of ordeal either – especially not on slave’s day when I’d much prefer to be playing with my slave rather than disciplining him,” Skinner said.


“Damn. I missed out on whatever you had planned,” Mulder groused, glancing around the room, wondering what erotic pleasures Skinner would have visited on his body if he hadn’t screwed up so badly.


“Well – I could do with some recreation after that,” Skinner said, getting up, and rolling his shoulders back and forth, trying to release some invisible kink.


Mulder’s eyes lit up. “You mean…you’d still give me my slave’s day reward even after I screwed up?” He asked hopefully.


“A truncated form of it maybe,” Skinner said. “I don’t think you deserve the full thing and I’m certainly too tired to deliver it now.” He moved his head from side to side, and Mulder heard his Master’s neck crack, audibly. “However…the idea of using my naked, tied slave appeals,” Skinner murmured, giving Mulder a speculative look. “I think we could both do with some release before bed.”


“Thank you, Master.” Mulder pressed his lips to Skinner’s feet.


“Go and lie on the massage table – face up,” Skinner ordered.


Mulder nodded and eagerly ran over to the table. He still felt light-headed, but good, and full of anticipation. He longed to feel his Master’s hard cock inside him, claiming him, and finally banishing his dark mood.


Skinner approached the table a few moments later, and Mulder glanced up at the other man through his damp eyelashes. Skinner looked tired, but clearly not too tired to enjoy his slave, if the bulge in his Master’s black jeans was anything to go by. Mulder’s own cock rose against its golden ring and Skinner chuckled.


“Yeah – we definitely both need this,” he said, grabbing hold of Mulder’s arms and pinning them above his head, then fastening them into cuffs. “Hard, and rough, and fast…” Skinner said in a growl, opening Mulder’s legs wide and pushing them up so that his knees were bent, then cuffing his ankles to the table. He pulled Mulder’s torso down, so that his slave’s ass was close to the edge of the table, his touch purposeful and questing as he handled his slave’s body. Mulder closed his eyes, and drifted off into space, as his Master caressed him. “My naked, willing slave boy,” Skinner murmured, his mouth roving over Mulder’s stomach. He pressed his lips to one of Mulder’s nipples and Mulder bit down a yelp of pain. He’d forgotten about those clamps he’d used last night, and somehow he knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to tell Skinner what he’d done.


“All right?” Skinner asked, sounding surprised.


“Yes…fine…” Mulder tried to relax, but even the lightest pressure of Skinner’s fingertips or tongue on his sore nipples hurt, and he had to inhibit his pained response, which made him feel tense. He tried to relax again, closing his eyes, but was immediately assaulted by an image of Samantha. Krycek had told him that she’d been experimented upon. Had they tied her down? Had she been held motionless while they hurt her? He gave an involuntary shudder, opened his eyes and saw a dark shadow move beside him. It was only Skinner but it made him jump, and he panicked, tearing against the cuffs holding him downl. He could see Samantha in his mind’s eye, trying to do the same, trying desperately to escape from the people who were hurting her, and he twisted in his bonds, frantically struggling against them.


“Hush, boy,” Skinner said, pushing him back down.


“No…” Mulder yelled, no longer able to breathe, feeling as if he was about to black out.


“Be still. Do what I tell you, slave,” Skinner hissed.


“Shit, no, let me go!” Mulder moved his whole body from side to side in an effort to escape, no longer able to think clearly, fighting a rising sense of panic that was threatening to obscure his senses. “Walter!” He gasped.


The cuffs were released with a single snap of his Master’s fingers and within seconds he was free. He sat on the side of the massage table, breathing heavily, but feeling stupid for making such a fuss. Skinner was nowhere in sight. He wondered where his Master had gone, and felt a sense of dread at having refused the other man his pleasure, wondering what the penalty for that was. It had to be the worst thing a slave could do to his Master.


Skinner returned a second later and pressed a glass of water into Mulder’s hand. His Master didn’t touch him, he just looked at him, his eyes dark, and unreadable.


“Drink it,” Skinner said softly. Then he crouched down so that he was at eye-level with Mulder, and placed a hand on his knee. “All right now, Fox?” He asked.


Mulder nodded uncertainly. “Sorry,” he muttered, between hitching breaths.


“That was a full-blown panic attack,” Skinner commented, taking the empty glass Mulder handed to him. He got up and gently caressed Mulder’s back, stroking his slave for several minutes while Mulder rested his head against his Master’s chest. Then Skinner pushed him away, and looked at him intently. “Get your breath back. I’m going to run us both a bath. Then you’re going to talk.”


It wasn’t a request. It was an order. Mulder nodded, his jaw clenching in a gesture worthy of his Master.


A few minutes later, Skinner helped him into a bath full of warm water, and drew his stricken slave between his legs. He ran a warm wash cloth over his slave’s body, idly tracing circles on Mulder’s flesh.


“I’ve tied you many times before and you’ve never reacted like that,” Skinner said softly, still keeping up the soothing caress on his slave’s body. “What was the trigger, Fox?”


“I thought about Samantha. Krycek told me she’d been experimented upon. I felt…for a moment as if I were her. Unable to move, or breathe.”


“Samantha is on your mind a lot at the moment,” Skinner commented, his arms resting lightly but securely around his slave’s body. “Explain, Fox.”


“It was something Scully said – about me giving up on her. Is that what I’ve done?” Mulder twisted and looked up at his Master.


“Is that what you feel you’ve done?” Skinner asked. “Is that why you hate yourself so much right now?”


“Yes.” Mulder shrugged. “She’s always been my constant, Walter. She’s always been here, inside me, guiding me in everything I do, like the North Star…but since I gave myself to you…”


“You haven’t spent so much time thinking about her,” Skinner finished for him.


“Yes.” Mulder bit on his lip. “One snap of your fingers and it’s as if she meant nothing to me. Am I really so shallow? Can I forget about her that easily?”


“No. Never.” Skinner tightened his arms protectively around his slave. “She’s a part of you, Fox, an important part. I told you when I made you my slave, that I’d never take your quest away from you…”


“But? I sense a ‘but.’” Mulder smiled wryly.


“But I’ve made no secret of the fact that inasmuch as that quest hurts you, or makes you risk your life in stupid, ill-planned ventures, then yes, I will interfere. I’ll do everything in my power to stop your quest killing you.”


“Keep the quest but lose the self-destruct button that comes with it, huh?” Mulder shook his head ruefully. If only it were that easy.


“Yes,” Skinner said firmly. He planted a kiss on the top of his slave’s head. “You’re mine, boy. I won’t let you kill my property,” he growled into Mulder’s ear.


Mulder shivered. “Well then, I’ll try and stay alive,” he murmured in reply.


“You’ll do more than try.” Skinner’s arms tightened around him again. “I mean it, Fox. Samantha has always been your weak spot. Just admitting that you might never find her doesn’t mean you’ve given up on her, but do you think she’d want you to give up your life either, chasing after every clue or half-clue that gets thrown in your path?”


“I don’t know. She was 8 years old when I last saw her. For all I know she prays every night that I’ll find her and release her from whatever prison they’re holding her in,” Mulder said.


“Or maybe she’s dead. Or abducted by those aliens you used to be so sure had taken her,” Skinner replied.


“Maybe.” Mulder bowed his head, and his Master made the most of the opportunity to press a kiss on the back of his neck.


“You’re thinking about Seattle,” Skinner commented.


Mulder sighed, and lay back in his Master’s arms, accepting both their warmth and comfort. “Yeah,” he admitted.


“I’m surprised you didn’t just go there while I was away,” Skinner said.


“You are?” Mulder turned his head to look at his Master again. “After all the training you’ve given me?” Skinner raised an eyebrow, and Mulder sighed. “Okay, I’ll admit it was hard not to. That’s partly why I went stir crazy while you were gone, and why I stole the key to the Playroom.”


“But you didn’t go. I’m proud of you, boy.” Skinner’s hands ran gently over his slave’s body, ending up at his cock, playing with it until it hardened under his caress. “Look,” he said. “I know the Seattle issue won’t go away. I also know that I think it’s a pointless exercise to go there – if there ever was anything there, the trail’s long gone cold. However…” He put up a hand to still his slave’s protest. “I don’t think you’ll be able to rest easily until you at least check it out, and I’m not prepared to let you go there without me. You know I’m busy with the case next week, but when it’s over, I suggest we take a trip up to Seattle and slay this particular ghost once and for all.”


“You mean that?” Mulder asked, a smile wreathing his face. “You’d do that for me?”


“Of course. I want you to be happy,” Skinner replied, his fingers fondling his slave affectionately. “Okay, and obedient too – and this seems as if it’ll kill those two birds with one stone.”


Mulder laughed, and his laugh became a moan as Skinner’s hand slowly pumped his cock. He kicked around in the water, throwing his head back over Skinner’s shoulder, and his Master made the most of the opportunity to kiss his slave’s exposed throat. His free hand found Mulder’s nipple and rubbed it gently, and Mulder arched his back and made a mewling sound in the back of his throat. Skinner pinched gently and Mulder yelped.


“Why does that hurt so much?” Skinner asked, moving his hand to caress Mulder’s other nipple. Mulder tensed, not wanting Skinner to stop his insistent caress on his cock but not comfortable having his nipples touched.


“Please…now…” Mulder moaned, and Skinner brought his slave to climax with a swift, long stroke of his hand on Mulder’s hard cock. Mulder pumped out into the warm bath water, and then fell back on his Master’s chest, with a contented sigh. Skinner’s wrapped his arm around his slave’s body and held him there, then his fingers returned to his slave’s nipples, and he held one lightly between his forefinger and thumb.


“Tell me why these hurt or I’ll squeeze,” he threatened.


Mulder opened his eyes and glanced up at his Master, his body tensing. “They don’t hurt, Master,” he lied.


“Then you won’t mind me playing with them, will you?” Skinner said in a deceptively light tone. “Just a little squeeze – not something that would normally cause you any discomfort,” Skinner continued. His fingers slowly, imperceptibly, began to tighten around Mulder’s flesh. Mulder steeled himself to relax, but even the lightest touch on his tender nipples hurt too much.


“Fuck! Stop – I’m sorry,” he said wretchedly.


“For what?” Skinner pushed him away and looked at him, frowning.


“When I was in the Playroom…well I was drunk,” Mulder shrugged.


“What did you do?” Skinner demanded.


“Clamps.” Mulder shrugged.


“Which ones?” Skinner asked, not looking remotely startled by this news.


“The ones with the little black plastic tips. Hurt like hell,” Mulder sighed.


“I’m not surprised. How long did you wear them?” Skinner asked.


Mulder winced. “I fell asleep in them. Nearly passed out when I took them off.”


“Fox, this is serious.” Skinner got up abruptly, and stepped out of the bath. Mulder hurried to follow him.


“I know, it was stupid. I…”


“No, not just that. I’ve learned how to use every single item in that Playroom – and I’ve learned the hard way, believe me.” Skinner’s eyes were dark.


“I know, and I…”


Skinner quelled his protest with one look. “Listen to me, Fox – if I’d used clamps on you today, not knowing that you’d already had them on half the night, then I might have seriously hurt you. It’s not a game – it’s important. Your safety is important. Will you never understand that?” Skinner was furious – his whole body was shaking, and Mulder nodded silently.


“I’m sorry,” he said miserably. “Fuck, I keep screwing up. How many times before you decide this particular slave is never going to get it right?” he asked with a grimace.


“Never,” Skinner told him firmly. “I told you before – we’ll go right down together, and then I’ll bring you back up – but I won’t ever stop trying and I’ll make sure you don’t either.” He paused, and glanced at his disheartened slave, then gave a wry laugh, and shook his head. “Come here.” He opened his arms and Mulder walked into them, relieved to be back in their safe, protective circle. “You scared me, sweetheart. First in the Playroom, then now, hearing this,” Skinner said. “I made mistakes here tonight. I knew that there was something more going on with you after the spanking, but I didn’t push you when I should have done. Maybe I thought it would go away. If I’d pushed you then, you wouldn’t have gone into the session with the cuffs in such a jumpy mood. Damn.” Skinner’s body was tense under Mulder’s hands and he looked up, concerned. He’d never seen his Master like this before. “I lost touch with you – I’ve been too busy,” Skinner growled, clearly still pissed off with himself. He pushed Mulder away and ran his hand over his forehead, frowning.


“You can’t guess what’s in my head,” Mulder shrugged. “I kept you out. I’m sorry. I suppose trust is still an issue for me. It just seems like one step forward, two steps back,” he sighed. “Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever get it.”


Skinner shook his head. “Fox, I didn’t get everything right either when I started out on this path. Not by a long way. What I’m taking you through, is a similar process to that which Andrew made me go through too. When I arrived on his doorstep that night I was, frankly, a mess.”


Mulder edged close with a towel, and began to dry his Master. He loved hearing about Skinner’s past, and especially about Andrew Linker. “I can’t imagine you ever fucking up, Master,” he said softly, patting his Master’s damp flesh. Skinner laughed out loud.


“I did. Many times. Not in the same way as you, little one, but in my own way.”


“Tell me,” Mulder asked. He finished drying his Master and tied the towel around the other man’s waist.


“I’m tired. Let’s go to bed,” Skinner said. Mulder opened his mouth to protest that he wanted to hear the story, but Skinner stopped him with a look. “You’ll sleep in my bed tonight, and I’ll tell you the goddamn story,” he growled. Mulder grinned and ran ahead to open the door, eager to find out how his perfect Master had ever angered his Master.


They got into bed, and Skinner switched off the light and turned over as if to go to sleep. Mulder propped his head up on his hand and gazed at his Master expectantly in the dark, clearing his throat pointedly. Skinner sighed.


“All right. The story,” he grumbled, turning back. “There was once a slave who was wild, headstrong, and almost untamable…” He grinned at Mulder in the dark.


“You?” Mulder asked in disbelief.


“No,” Skinner snorted. “This slave thought he was the only one who’d ever fucked up, maybe he even thought Masters are born fully formed, and completely in charge from the moment they pick up their first whip,” he chided. It was Mulder’s turn to snort now.


“I don’t think this slave is that naïve,” he said.


“Do you want to hear the story or not?” Skinner demanded.


“Yes. Please.” Mulder slid down further in the bed, and rested his head on his Master’s shoulder.


“All right then. A good Master is made, just like a good slave can be made…with sweat, tears, training, and a large dose of discipline. It’s not an easy process. I’m not infallible, as tonight proved only too well. This slave…” Skinner’s hands caressed his slave’s body, gently, “has a lot to learn. It isn’t a crime. His Master did too, once, and maybe still does.”


“This is where you say ‘Once upon a time,’ isn’t it?” Mulder asked, with a grin. Skinner pinched his butt unexpectedly, making him squeal.


“No. Although I will now, just to spite you. Once upon a time…” Skinner began, in solemn tones. Mulder tried his best to suppress a giggle, and failed, which earned him another pinch. “…there was a very different kind of sub. He wasn’t wild, or headstrong, although he was definitely a trial to his Master because he was obstinate, pig-headed, and obsessive.”


“Obsessive?” Mulder looked up.


“Yeah – he was a perfectionist. He didn’t like to get anything wrong, and if he did, he obsessed about it for days. He made non-communication into an art-form. He could be surly, and sullen, and he was so stubborn that it sometimes took all his Master’s patience and skill, and sometimes his strong right arm, to get his sub to open up and admit that there was anything wrong.” He sighed, ruefully. Mulder grabbed his Master’s hand, and caressed it between his long fingers. “So, being wild, and headstrong aren’t the only faults in the world,” Skinner said, squeezing Mulder’s fingers, “and you’re probably no more exasperating to me than I was to my Master,” he added. Mulder had to laugh at the thought of his Master being a handful to Andrew Linker. He found it hard to picture Skinner serving anyone, although if it had to be someone, he was glad that it was the mysterious and charismatic former Guardian.


“So, how did this stubborn sub screw up?” Mulder asked.


“He shared his slave’s fascination with the Playroom,” Skinner said. “Not from a genuine interest in what it contained, or even what it stood for, but because he had to be the most perfect expert in the world at using everything in that room. He practiced for hours, becoming familiar with every single damn thing in that room, from the bullwhip, to the nipple clamps…” he squeezed his slave’s hand again.


“You used them on yourself?” Mulder asked in surprise.


“Yes. I needed to know how each set felt, and how long they could be used for. I could use the harness blindfolded, and I could cut a piece of paper in two with the bullwhip from across the room. There wasn’t an implement in that room that I wasn’t an expert on.”


“What’s wrong with that?” Mulder asked.


“Patience, grasshopper,” Skinner teased, “I’m coming to that bit. Andrew sought me out one day and found me taking the harness apart, link by link. He looked at me, perplexed, and asked me what I was doing. I told him that it was important that I be a totally perfect Master, that I knew not only how each piece of equipment worked, but also how it could be taken apart and put back together again, and so on. Andrew gave the deepest, most heartfelt sigh – and looked at me as if I were a small child who’d completely missed the point.”


“Why?” Mulder asked, frowning.


“Well, he agreed with me that it’s important to know how the equipment works, but he took issue with my need to be perfect. He reminded me that I wasn’t perfect, however much I might wish otherwise,” Skinner winced. “And also that I would make mistakes, from time to time, because I was human, and that when I did, it wasn’t an excuse for me to beat myself up endlessly, and go into a morose period of self-examination, and then he asked me if I was having fun.”


Skinner paused, and Mulder looked up to find his Master smiling to himself.


“Fun?” Mulder asked.


Skinner grinned. “Yeah. Fun. I repeated the word as if I didn’t even know what it meant, and that’s when he laughed. I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I should be having fun. Like you, I took it too seriously. When he’d finished laughing, Andrew took away my key to the Playroom. Then he led me to his bedroom, ordered me onto the bed, and told me he was going to have a full sub/dom sex session with me without using any equipment at all – and I was going to come. Boy, was I gonna come!” Skinner laughed out loud at the memory.


“And did you?” Mulder asked.


“Did I hell!” Skinner retorted. “Andrew could reduce me to Jell-O just by using his voice – and he did. He took me into subspace, and kept me there by the force of his personality alone. Then, afterwards, when I was lying naked, sweaty and completely sated in his arms, he asked me what I’d learned.”


“What did you say?” Mulder turned onto his stomach, and looked at his Master expectantly.


“The truth. That the mind is the sexiest instrument of all and that none of that equipment upstairs is any kind of substitute for affection, trust and a good erotic imagination. Andrew refused to let me practice with the equipment for weeks after that – in fact he denied me access to the Playroom. Instead, he made me use my mind, to think up erotic games, and then to try them out in the bedroom – and most of all, I had to play. I had to have fun with it, and make it fun for him. Illusion, personality, setting a scene or mood with my voice, and gestures…I learned all that from Andrew. Being a Master is more than just the A, B, and C of how to wield a cane, and where to place a stroke. There are things you must know about your craft, of course, but that’s only a small part of being a good top – and I learned from being a sub to the best top in the country,” Skinner said proudly.


“And the moral of the story is?” Mulder asked, propping up his head on his hand again and looking down on his Master.


“You tell me,” Skinner grinned.


“Only belong to the best top in the country?” Mulder hazarded.


Skinner growled, and pulled his slave over and held him tight while he delivered a light swat to his ass. Mulder wriggled, laughing helplessly.


“Try again,” Skinner commanded.


“Hmm…I dunno. How about: learn from your mistakes?” Mulder suggested.


“Sounds good to me. Will you?” Skinner asked.


“As long as you’re here to point them out to me and take me back down like you did today, painful though it was, then yeah, I think so,” Mulder nodded. “And I’m kind of glad that you do know your way around the stuff in the Playroom,” he added thoughtfully. “Those cuffs were off my wrists and ankles in seconds when I panicked.”


“Of course,” Skinner said. “In a way, maybe it was a good thing it happened. You’ve never had an adverse reaction before because I’ve always prepared you well and been in tune with you enough to know how you’re experiencing the sensations of what I’m doing to you. Now you know that I’ll stop if you’re in genuine distress.”


“I don’t think I ever really doubted that,” Mulder said quietly. He felt his Master’s hard cock digging into his buttocks, aroused by his slave’s proximity. “Will you use me, Master?” He asked hopefully. “I wanted to feel you inside me earlier in the Playroom, before I screwed up,” he said.


Skinner looked at him searchingly for a moment.


“I’m not going to have another panic attack if that’s what you’re thinking,” Mulder said softly.


“Very well then, boy…I believe that I promised you that I’d use you at least once a day, so you’re owed,” Skinner growled.


Mulder smiled. He still felt fully sated after Skinner’s attentions in the bath, but he loved it when his Master touched his slave. He lay on his side, and felt Skinner part his legs with his knee. Then he jumped as he felt a cool, lubed finger enter his anus. He moaned as his Master unerringly found his prostate, and opened up further. The finger was removed, and his sore buttocks grasped, and parted, making him gasp. He felt his Master’s cock slipping into his entrance, and then sliding smoothly home. Skinner gathered Mulder up and pulled him back so that he was close. Mulder loved this moment, before his Master started to move inside him. He loved feeling Skinner this big, and hard and strong within his own body, the two of them bonded in this way. Then Skinner started to thrust, with short, slow movements of his hips, taking his time, his large hands drawing his slave’s body onto his large cock. Mulder gave himself up to the moment, his head thrown back, his body arched as he surrendered to his Master’s pleasure. It felt so good. It was where he belonged. He couldn’t think of anywhere else he’d rather be than here, in this bed, serving his Master with his naked, willing body.


Skinner came a few minutes later with a decided grunt, then they both lay there, Mulder wrapped up in his Master’s arms, too weary to move. He vaguely felt Skinner’s lips brush the back of his neck, then his Master’s weight leaning on him, and the deepening of Skinner’s breathing. He could still feel his Master’s cock, deep inside him, growing soft, but still warm, throbbing slightly, and he smiled, and didn’t draw away. This felt so good. They had come through a mini-crisis, and soon his Master would accompany him to Seattle. Life was good. A few seconds later he was as fast asleep as his Master, their bodies still joined.


Mulder arrived at work on Monday morning convinced that his recent crisis was over. Scully looked relieved to see that his mood had changed for the better, and he brought her in four different kinds of muffins and a mocha latte to make up for his mood the previous week.


“One muffin would have done fine,” she told him, rolling her eyes.


“I was a bastard for four days, so – four muffins!” he grinned.


“That is such Mulder logic,” she grinned back.


“Ah, so you admit I can be logical, oh Queen of Scientific Reasoning.” He plunked himself down behind his desk and turned on his computer.


“In your own way you’re the most logical person I know,” she mused, “it just happens to be alien logic, not human.” She threw him a cranberry and walnut muffin to quell his expression of outrage.


Mulder logged onto his Slavecity account. He hadn’t been in touch with Ian for days, and the other man had sent him an email inquiring if he was okay, or whether the blood-sucking mutant pigs had got him. Mulder grinned, then frowned as he saw the other message in his inbox. Nobody else had this account name so who the hell could it be? There wasn’t any clue in the sender’s name, which was a collection of letters and numbers, and he would have dismissed it as junk mail if it hadn’t been for the subject title which was just one word – but it was a word that made his blood run cold:




He opened the message, but there was no text, just a URL.




Mulder followed the link, and waited impatiently for his browser to locate the page. A dark screen was painted, overlaid by a picture of an eight year old girl that he recognized all too well, but he barely noticed that because a few seconds later the sound kicked in. He was aware of Scully looking up from her desk, as the screams rent through the air in the tiny basement office.


“Please…let me go back to my room. Please…don’t inject me again…it hurts…please…NO!” The child’s voice faded into a low whimpering sob.


“Mulder?” He looked up into Scully’s eyes, dark with worry. She came around to stare at the picture on the screen. “It could all be a fake, Mulder. A set up,” she said to him, putting a hand on his shoulder.


“There’s a link,” he said numbly, accessing it. The next page showed a picture of a woman in her early thirties. She was wearing a hospital gown and her face looked pale, and pinched, but her dark eyes shone out, full of a quiet strength combined with desperation.


“Samantha?” Mulder’s fingers touched the screen.


“It could be anyone,” Scully told him.


“It’s her,” Mulder said emphatically.


“You can’t know that,” Scully said softly.


“I do,” Mulder looked up at her. “I do,” he repeated firmly. He scrolled down the page but there was nothing else. No more information. Nothing.


“I’m going to find out who that website is registered to,” Scully told him but Mulder was barely listening. Instead he reached for the phone and called Skinner’s office.


“He’s in a meeting…” Kim began, but Mulder cut her off curtly.


“Tell him it’s urgent. Tell him I need him in my office – now!” he snapped at her, slamming the telephone down.


His Master didn’t let him down. Skinner strode into the basement office less than 4 minutes later, an expression of concern creasing his blunt features.


“Agent Mulder – this had better be important,” he said, shutting the door firmly and glancing at Scully who was desperately making calls.


“It is.” Mulder paged back, then pushed his chair away and pointed at the computer screen. Frowning, Skinner came over to look at it. He heard the screams and his eyes darkened behind his spectacles.


“Who is this?” he asked, looking up, first at Mulder, and then at Scully for confirmation when he saw that his slave was in no condition to answer him. Mulder just pointed at the little girl on the screen.


“He was sent an email,” Scully began, putting her hand over the phone.


“Who from?” Skinner snapped.


“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” Scully said.


“It was a private account,” Mulder clenched his fists. “Nobody knows about it…unless someone’s been in here…been at my desk…?” He looked at Skinner and Scully, almost as if he was accusing them. “Who would do that?” he asked.


“I can think of one person who seems to possess the ability to come and go within this building without authorization,” Skinner replied tersely.


“Just the one?” Mulder spat. “I thought there was a whole army of Consortium bastards working out of the FBI.”


“Agent Mulder sit down,” Skinner said in a low, even tone. “Someone is clearly yanking your chain…”


“No. That was Samantha’s voice. I recognize it – and that’s her in that second picture. I know it is!”


“Fox, it’s been thirty years since you last saw Samantha,” Skinner told him in a low, urgent tone. “You can’t know that’s her.”


“I know!” Mulder retorted angrily. His Master’s eyes flashed behind his glasses. “I know,” Mulder repeated in a whisper.


“Got it!” Scully scribbled something down on a piece of paper, and then opened her mouth in surprise.


“What is it?” Mulder grabbed the paper and read the address on it, his expression one of shock. “This is where the website is registered?” he asked Scully. She nodded, and exchanged a glance with Skinner. Mulder grabbed his jacket and ran towards the door but his Master’s big hand crashed it shut before he got there.


“Where is it?” Skinner asked.


“It’s that address in Seattle,” Mulder replied, pushing past his Master and opening the door. Skinner placed a hand on his shoulder, and Mulder half turned to face him. “I have to go there, sir. You can see that, can’t you? I’m going to go there,” Mulder told his Master in a determined tone. Slave looked at Master for a moment, and Master looked back at slave, both of them resolutely committed to a certain course of action. The tension in the room crackled almost tangibly, but Mulder’s resolve was more than equal to his Master’s in this instance.


“It’s a trap,” Skinner said in a flat tone.


“I don’t care,” Mulder replied, reaching for the door handle.


“Well I do.” Skinner’s eyes were the darkest Mulder had ever seen them.


“You won’t stop me,” Mulder snapped.


“I have no intention of even trying,” Skinner retorted, “but I sure as hell am going with you.”


Mulder pulled up short. “What about your case?” he asked.


“I have to be back to give evidence on Wednesday. Until then – I’m with you.” Skinner pulled the door open and ushered Mulder through.


“Count me in too,” Scully said in a determined tone, grabbing her coat and following on behind Mulder.


“Good. I think it’ll take both of us to watch his back,” Skinner murmured to her, as he brought up the rear.


“It’s wet.” Scully surveyed the gray evening sky and pulled up the collar of her raincoat.


“It’s Seattle,” Skinner replied grimly. Both of them shot worried glances at Mulder, who hadn’t said a word during the entire journey. “Agent Mulder!” Skinner cracked out sharply. “We’ll get a taxi to our hotel and then…”


“If you don’t mind, sir, I’d prefer to go straight to the address…” Mulder began.


“I do mind,” Skinner barked back, asserting his authority in no uncertain terms. “Get your ass in the cab, Agent.” He held the taxi door open and glared at his slave and subordinate. Mulder bit on his lip for a moment, clearly tempted to defy his Master and then sighed and gave in, throwing himself into the taxi with a disgruntled growl. “We’ll go to the hotel and dump our stuff. I’ve arranged for two agents from the local field office to meet us there. They can fill us in on any information about the house that they’ve been able to gather while we were travelling here,” Skinner informed his two agents tersely. If Mulder had been in a less volatile mood he would have realized that this made sense, but as it was, he was too caught up in his desire to get to the house to think straight. This was almost the closest he’d ever been. A voice, a photograph…a lead, damnit! And Skinner wanted him to sit down around a table with the local agents, have a few beers and discuss fucking real estate prices or something?


It was late evening by the time they got to the hotel. Scully checked them in at the desk.


“Three rooms in the name of Skinner,” she said, glancing back at where Mulder and Skinner were standing, both men’s stances full of tension, neither of them speaking.


“I’m sorry, ma’am, but we only have two rooms in that name,” the receptionist said.


“That’s okay, Agent Scully.” Skinner stepped in. “I had Kim just book the two rooms. It’s not that I don’t trust Agent Mulder,” he said, “just that I think it might be safer if he wasn’t allowed to come and go on his own during this investigation.”


Scully managed a faint smile as she accepted the room cards.


“A wise precaution, sir,” she murmured.


Mulder’s heart sank at Skinner’s words. He had assumed that his Master wouldn’t dare be so blatant as to share a room with Scully along for the ride, but Skinner had clearly thought this through, and now Mulder was likely to spend his nights handcuffed to the bed.


They dumped their belongings, then met the two local field agents in the bar. Neither of them had anything worthwhile to say, as far as Mulder could see and he barely heard a word they were saying in any case. After ten minutes of pointless talk, he just got up and told them he was leaving.


“Agent Mulder…” Skinner was on his feet, but he gave Mulder his head, and allowed him to charge outside to the car.


“I’m not sitting around while my sister could be a few miles away waiting for me,” Mulder seethed as Skinner caught up with him, and grabbed his arm.


“Fine. We’re all with you on this, Fox. Now slow down and start thinking with your head and not your hopes,” Skinner growled. Mulder’s face crumpled as his Master’s words sank in.


“She’s my sister,” he said, in a heartfelt tone.


“I know that, son.” Skinner grabbed the back of Mulder’s head and looked him straight in the eye. “I know that. And we’ll do our best to find her. I promise. Okay?”


Mulder looked at him then nodded. “Okay,” he whispered, getting into the car.


Scully arrived just in time to see this exchange, and she gave Mulder a questioning look, which he ignored.


The journey to the house took less than twenty minutes, and Mulder was out of the car and running up the driveway before the car had stopped moving, with Scully and Skinner hard on his heels. All of the FBI agents had their guns in their hands as Mulder pounded on the door. When there was no reply, he stood back and kicked his way in, while Scully made her way around the back. Mulder crashed into the house, falling on his shoulder, and rolling over, immediately getting back on his feet, waving his gun in the air. Skinner was behind him, at his shoulder, and Scully reached them in the hallway at the exact same moment as they heard it. It was a scream, and it was coming from an upstairs room.


“FOX! Help me!” A woman’s voice cried.


Mulder took the stairs three at a time, and smashed through another door, yelling at the top of his voice: “FBI, drop your weapons.” There was no reply. Mulder stood in the room, his arms held out stiffly in front of him, his gun poised, and ready, clutched in both his hands, the sweat running down his face as he took in the scene in front of him.


“Fox…there’s nobody here. It’s a tape,” Skinner said gently, pushing Mulder’s arms down, and pointing at the speakers on the wall. “She was never here. Someone’s been playing with you.”


“NO! Please don’t! I can’t take any more. Please!” The speakers wailed.


Mulder fired a single bullet into each of them, killing the sound dead. Then, without saying a word, he turned on his heel and went downstairs.


“Fox…” He was dimly aware of his Master’s hand on his shoulder, and his Master’s warm, solid body pulling him close.


“She might have been here. Just because she’s not here now doesn’t mean anything. We have the picture. I’m going to do a house to house. I’m going to…” Mulder mumbled.


“Fox…look at me, little one,” Skinner said softly, grabbing hold of Mulder’s face and making him focus on his Master. “She’s not here. She never was. This is someone’s idea of a sick joke.”


“No.” Mulder’s body shook with the effort of containing his wildly raging emotions.


“Fox,” Skinner’s tone was firmer now. Mulder was dimly aware of Scully’s footstep on the stair, and the startled look in her eyes as she took in the sight of her boss and her partner locked in an embrace. “Listen to me, sweetheart. It’s late. You’re tired. It’s been a long day. We’re going back to the hotel, and you’re going to get some sleep. That’s an order.” Skinner’s voice was gentle but firm, and it was the only anchor holding Mulder to reality in this time and place.


“No. I’m going to knock on doors, ask questions…” Mulder began.


“In the morning.” Skinner interrupted firmly. “I won’t sanction you disturbing this neighborhood in the middle of the night on a wild goose chase.”


“You never believed,” Mulder muttered resentfully.


“No, but I’ll come with you tomorrow. We’ll find her if she’s here,” Skinner said soothingly.


“We don’t have time. You have to get back to DC,” Mulder said wearily.


“Not until the evening. I’ll search with you all day – but Fox, I won’t go home alone. I’m not leaving you up here,” Skinner said, his dark eyes serious. “Do you understand me?” Mulder made no reply, but turned his head away. Skinner grasped his slave’s shoulders and shook him, forcing him to turn back. “I said, do you understand me?” Skinner barked.


“Yes, Master.” Mulder made an ironic bow and then turned on his heel and left the house, slamming the door shut with a resounding bang behind him.


They rode back to the hotel in an uncomfortable silence. Skinner spoke to the two agents who had accompanied them to the house, then allowed them to go with instructions to meet them the following morning. Then he bought both Mulder and Scully a drink.


“I think we all could use one,” he said. Scully nursed hers between her hands, darting silent, speculative glances at Skinner under her eyelashes every so often. Mulder wanted to say something to her, to clear up this whole mess, but he couldn’t think of anything that would make sense right now. He downed his vodka in one gulp then got up.


“I’ll go to bed now. If I have your permission that is, sir,” he growled. Skinner’s dark eyes were intense, but he made no reply, merely nodded.


Mulder walked stiffly up to their room, undid his tie and pulled it off, and opened the top button of his shirt. Then he threw himself down on one of the two beds, only to get straight up again, unable to relax. He paced for a few minutes, thinking furiously, wondering what the hell to do next, when a knock on the door broke into his reverie. He opened it to find Scully standing, hesitantly, outside.


“I’m not in the mood to talk,” he told her tersely.


“I need to understand something,” she told him, coming into the room anyway.


“What the fuck is there to understand?” he said stiffly. “I told you the truth and you didn’t believe me. That’s not my fault. Handle it, Scully.”


“Mulder – I’m not your enemy. Don’t treat me like this,” she said, laying a hand on his arm.


“I’m sorry. Oh shit, I’m sorry.” He slumped down on the bed and looked at her in misery. “I didn’t want to hurt you, Scully. I tried to tell you, but…” He shrugged, and looked at her helplessly.


“Are you telling me that it’s all true?” She said softly. He bit on his lip, then nodded, slowly.


“And that Skinner is…?” There was a look of almost comic disbelief in her eyes as she trailed off, unable to complete the sentence. Mulder didn’t help her out. “Your…” She continued. “Lover?” She finished at last, when he didn’t break the silence.


“If you want to call it that. If it makes you feel easier about it. I usually address him as Master,” Mulder snapped, really not wanting this discussion right now.


“Mulder, this is serious. If he coerced you in some way into…” Scully began, and Mulder gave a bitter, hollow laugh.


“Scully, nobody coerced anybody. In fact if anyone made the moves in this relationship it was me. I hunted him down for over a year before he gave in and agreed to take me on. His only condition was that I become his slave. I agreed. Willingly. I even signed a contract,” Mulder told her, his tone savage, wanting to make her flinch. She obliged and that just made him feel even worse. “I’m his slave, Scully. He’s my Master – those are the terms we use. That’s what we are to each other. Here. Look.” He pulled open his shirt with one savage sweep of his arm, popping a couple of buttons with the force of the gesture, and showed her the gold chain around his neck. “He gave me this. It’s his collar. I wear it all the time, just like I wear his ring.” He held up his hand. “It’s engraved with my name. So is the collar. They both belong to him. Just as I belong to him. Symbols of his ownership. Does that shock you, Scully? Does what I am disgust you?” He asked her, looking into her eyes, and fearing to see a mirror of the disgust that he felt for himself in their blue depths. There was nothing there save concern and he felt a stab of guilt for not trusting her to care about him, after all they’d been through together.


“Disgust? No. How could you think that?” Scully replied slowly. “It’s just…a lot for a girl to get used to,” she tried to smile, feebly.


“Why? Don’t you think it’s possible for me to be happy in this kind of relationship?” Mulder asked her.


“No…I don’t think that,” she said. “In fact, you’ve been happier for these past few months than I’ve ever seen you before and than I ever expected to ever see you. You’re calmer. If I didn’t know you better I’d almost say that you were finally at peace with yourself. Until…”


“Until this crap started. Yes. I know. I can’t…” Mulder felt his legs gave way suddenly, and without warning, and he fell down onto the bed, his muscles lifeless, and buried his face in his hands. “I’m sorry, Scully. I never, ever, in a million years wanted to hurt you. You mean too much to me. You and Walter…you’re all I have and all I ever do is push you away,” he whispered. “You shouldn’t care, Scully. Not you. Not Walter. I am not fucking worth it.”


“Mulder, that’s not true.” She sat down next to him on the bed, and put an arm around his tense shoulders. “Of course we care about you,” she told him softly. “And do you think we’d care if you weren’t worth it?” she chided, kissing his forehead and drawing him close, rocking him against her shoulder. He tried to blink back the tears that were threatening to fall.


“I don’t know. I don’t know…” he whispered.


“You are worth it. I’ve never known anyone more loyal, more passionate, and committed…”


“I sometimes think I should be committed,” he joked feebly. She smiled, and kissed his forehead again.


“Mulder, if he, I mean, Skinner…um, Walter, makes you happy, then that’s fine by me – whatever the nature of your relationship. I’ll admit, I thought it was all just a joke, but…it makes a strange kind of sense. Somehow, although it’s shocking, I’m not saying it isn’t shocking – but it’s not…” She wrinkled her forehead for a moment, struggling to find the right words. “It’s not surprising,” she finished at last. “I don’t understand why exactly, just that it makes a strange kind of sense. That somehow, knowing, makes everything fall into place.”


She reached out a tentative finger and touched the gold collar. “As for being worth something…judging by all the exquisite and expensive gold he’s put on you, I’d say that your Master thinks his slave is worth a great deal to him.” She smiled at him, and gently touched the side of his face. Mulder managed somehow to smile back.


“Are we going to be the same?” He asked anxiously. “Can we work together the same way again? Is this going to change anything?”


“Apart from making me extremely nervous of my boss you mean?” She grinned.


“You should be. Trust me. I know him,” Mulder grinned back.


“No, Mulder. It won’t change anything. Like I said, I just want you to be happy.” Scully got up, just as the door opened, and Skinner walked into the room.


“Agent Scully.” He gave her a strained smile.


“Sir. I was just leaving. Agent Mulder was explaining a few…things to me,” she said, tiptoeing very carefully around Skinner and edging towards the safety of the door with a wide eyed look that made almost made Mulder laugh out loud.


“Agent Scully.” He held open the door for her. “Please don’t worry. Agent Mulder will be fine with me,” he told her sincerely, as she sidled past him.


“I hope so, sir,” she said firmly, and a knowing smile passed between them. Skinner shut the door behind her and gave a loud exhalation of breath.


“Something tells me that I’ll have to live without my kneecaps if I don’t treat my slave in the way his partner approves of,” Skinner commented.


“Yeah – she’s even more scary than Wanda,” Mulder said with a faint smile.


“Oh, I’ve never doubted for a moment that the female of the species is more deadly than the male,” Skinner replied wryly. “It doesn’t matter which species. Feline, or Homo Sapiens. How are you feeling now, little one?”


“Better. I’m sorry, Master.” Mulder gazed at his Master helplessly.


“For what? I understand the pressures you’ve been under, sweetheart. Just remember that I won’t let you self-destruct. If you even attempt it there’ll be trouble,” Skinner’s threat was real, even if it was said in a joking tone. Mulder nodded glumly.


“Are you going to handcuff me to the bed for the night?” He asked.


“Do I need to?” Skinner replied with a raised eyebrow. Mulder thought about it for a moment, struggling with the issue of honesty, then gave in with a sigh.


“Maybe you do,” he replied.


“What can you do in the middle of the night, Fox?” Skinner asked. “Seriously – what point is there in going back to that house now, in darkness? We’ll go back tomorrow in daylight, and I promise you we’ll search it from top to bottom for clues. If there’s anything there – we’ll find it. Now, I want to trust you, sweetheart.” He crouched down and looked his slave directly in the eye. “I’ll leave it up to you. I’ll take you at your word. If you need to be chained to the bed, I’ll do that. Otherwise, you can let your word be your bond. Tell me which it should be.” Skinner rocked back on his heels and waited, his searching gaze never leaving his slave’s face. Mulder knew that in that moment, more than any other, he wanted his Master to be proud of him, and to achieve the trust between them that they had both tried so hard to attain.


“I won’t try and leave. You don’t need to handcuff me,” he whispered. Skinner gave a strained smile, and placed his hands on his slave’s cheeks, then drew him close and kissed him sweetly on the lips.


“Good boy. I’ll trust you then,” he said.


Curled up in his Master’s arms in the strange bed, Mulder could almost believe that everything was all right. Skinner’s hands soothed him, gently tracing relaxing circles on his slave’s naked flesh until most of the tension had left his body. He heard his Master’s breathing change and knew the other man had fallen asleep, but Mulder still couldn’t switch off enough to join him. He went over the day’s events in his mind. If this was all a game, then why? What possible purpose did it serve to drag him all the way out here? It was absurd. There was no reason for it. Who was behind it? Krycek, surely, but again – why? He was lost in these thoughts when the ringing of his cellphone caught his attention. He glanced at Skinner but the other man, always a heavy sleeper, continued to snore through the sound. Mulder slid out of bed, and fumbled for the phone in his jacket pocket.


“Hello?” He edged silently into the bathroom and shut the door behind him so as not to wake his Master.


“Hello, old friend. Did I wake you?” A familiar, taunting voice asked.


“No. I couldn’t sleep. I’m sure you know why, Krycek,” he replied stiffly.


“Too many old ghosts, maybe. The voice of innocents, reaching across the years,” Krycek suggested.


“Cut the crap, old friend,” Mulder snapped back. “My patience with you has just about worn out. What do you want?”


“Isn’t that obvious?” Krycek hissed. “I want you.”


A few minutes later, Mulder crept back into the bedroom and silently got dressed. He picked up his gun, and then stood for a moment, gazing down on his sleeping Master. He struggled with his decision, then gave up the fight, and sat down on the bed.


“Walter.” He shook the other man awake. Skinner sat up with a start – to find himself looking down the barrel of his slave’s gun.


“Fox – what is it?” He asked.


“I’ve had a call. From Krycek,” Mulder said. “He wants to meet me.”


“When?” Skinner demanded.


“Now,” Mulder replied, with a sad smile.


“Where?” Skinner asked grimly.


“I’m under strict instructions not to tell you – and I have to go alone, or I won’t find what I’m looking for.”


“If you do that you’ll walk straight into a trap,” Skinner told him flatly, his eyes taking in the significance of the gun that was pointed at his chest. “Fox, we both know that you won’t use that so stop pointing it at me,” he growled.


“You’re not coming with me, Walter,” Mulder said softly. “I agree – it’s probably a trap. Which is another reason why neither you nor Scully are coming with me. You’ve both suffered enough for my quest in the past. I’m not letting that happen again. This is my decision.”


“You seem to have forgotten, boy, that you belong to me – so it’s not your decision to make,” Skinner said in a low, urgent hiss.


“I thought you’d feel that way,” Mulder said, “which is why I’m going to do this.” He held up his hand and took the ring off his wedding finger. “I’m sorry, but I have to go. I know that what I’m about to do will shatter the trust we’ve built up, and I’m more sorry for that than you’ll ever know. I know I’m fucking everything up, just as I always do, and I know you can’t ever forgive me for this, so I won’t put you under that obligation.” He placed the ring on the night-stand, and got up. Skinner half rose from the bed, only to find the gun pressed under his jaw. He paused, his dark eyes meeting Mulder’s, a question in them.


“You’re wrong about me not using this,” Mulder said softly. “I knew I’d have to, just to keep you off my trail for long enough to get away. This is why you won’t be able to forgive me, Walter.” He moved quickly, without warning, and slammed the gun hard against his Master’s jaw. Skinner’s head cracked back and he fell onto the bed, out cold. Mulder looked down on his Master’s prone, silent body, and hauled his body into a more comfortable position, checking to make sure that Skinner was merely unconscious and not more seriously wounded. Then he handcuffed his Master’s wrist to the headboard. He went into the bathroom and filled a glass with water which he left on the night-stand, and then he moved the phone out of arm’s reach. When Skinner woke he’d have to holler for help, which might buy Mulder even more valuable time to reach his destination without being followed. Mulder went to the door, then paused, and glanced back. He returned to the bed, and planted a kiss on his Master’s lips.


“I’m sorry. I love you,” he whispered, and then he left.


Krycek’s directions took Mulder to what he wasn’t surprised to find was an empty warehouse. There was a single light bulb shining over a battered crate – on top of which sat his old nemesis, wearing his usual uniform of white tee shirt, black leather jacket and blue jeans.


“Hello. Old friend.” Mulder pointed his gun at Krycek, and moved cautiously into the room.


“Ah. Mulder.” Krycek smiled an almost perfectly genuine smile, his legs swinging against the side of the crate, seemingly unconcerned by the fact that Mulder’s gun was aimed straight at his heart.


“You wanted to see me?” Mulder edged closer.


“You came alone I see,” Krycek smiled. “You must have Skinner well trained to persuade him to stay behind. That’s surely not the way it’s supposed to be, hmm? I mean, isn’t the Master supposed to train the slave?”


“What the fuck are you talking about, Krycek,” Mulder growled, breaking out in a cold sweat.


“Did you really think we didn’t know?” Krycek smirked infuriatingly. “Come on, Mulder. You’re our prize boy. We’ve followed your every movement for years. Did you really think we wouldn’t notice that you’d moved in with the incredible hulk? And as for those cute lifestyle games you play…” Krycek leered. “If you wanted someone to tie you up and beat the crap out of you, you only had to ask you know,” he said.


“Fuck you!” Mulder exploded, taking two strides towards his nemesis. He skidded to a halt, as a switch was flicked and the warehouse was suddenly bathed in light. He wasn’t alone with Krycek. Not even close. Half a dozen men were standing around them both, with their guns trained on Mulder.


“Shut up, Mulder. This is my party,” Krycek said, getting off the crate, advancing on his old enemy, and plucking Mulder’s gun from his hand. He snapped his fingers, and his men surrounded Mulder, and cuffed the agent’s hands behind his back. “And I really know how to party,” Krycek grinned, slamming his fist into Mulder’s abdomen. Mulder doubled over and fell to his knees, gasping for air. Krycek grabbed hold of a fistful of his hair, and pulled Mulder’s head back, then punched him hard across the side of the face Mulder went flying. Krycek stood over his stricken enemy and Mulder blinked up at him, one eye already closing.


“Why?” He asked.


“To make up for the many times you’ve done the same to me,” Krycek grinned. “And for this, too,” he gestured with his head towards his prosthetic arm. “And don’t go thinking that when I’m done getting even, I’m going to take you to Samantha. I’m not.”


“Skinner said it was a trap,” Mulder whispered.


“You should listen to your Master,” Krycek said, resting his boot against Mulder’s ribs. “He was right.” He moved his leg, and kicked Mulder hard, making the agent double over in pain. “This isn’t about killing you,” Krycek said, tracing his finger along the side of Mulder’s bruised face, a thoughtful look on his face. “I have you for 48 hours. That’s all. I’m not allowed to kill you – it isn’t policy, apparently.” He smiled again, and backhanded Mulder across the jaw. “So, I’ll just have to cause the maximum amount of pain, with the minimum amount of actual damage in the time I have allotted to me,” he said, casually delivering another backhander in the other direction.


At some point during that long night, Mulder passed out. When he awoke, it was daylight outside.


“Afternoon, slave boy.” Krycek kicked him awake and poured water onto Mulder’s face. Mulder opened his swollen mouth eagerly to accept the drops. “This must be like your ultimate wet dream, huh, slave boy?” Krycek sneered, grabbing Mulder by the lapel of his blood stained shirt and lifting him into a sitting position. “You like being hurt, don’t you, you sick, twisted fuck.” He laced one real hand and one plastic one in Mulder’s hair and looked down on his victim, with flashing green eyes. “Don’t you like it? Feeling out of control, the pain. Is it good for you? Is the earth moving for you, baby, hmm?” Krycek grinned, thumping Mulder’s head back against the wall. “Answer me!” he commanded.


“Trust me, this is doing nothing for me,” Mulder croaked, his good eye closing wearily, his head lolling in Krycek’s hand.


“Aw – are you saying I’m not any good at it? Is that it? I guess I’ll just have to try harder then,” Krycek said, slapping Mulder back into wakefulness.


“I don’t understand. Why?” Mulder said. “Why bring me all the way out here, just to use me as a punch bag. You could have done that in DC.”


“It’s all part of the plan.” Krycek smiled.


“What plan?” Mulder asked. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Krycek’s goons leaning casually against the wall. A couple of them were playing cards, as if none of this was happening, as if they weren’t standing by while one man beat another to a pulp. Mulder shifted position. His ribs hurt, and his breath was coming in wheezing gasps.


“You’re the clever boy. You figure it out,” Krycek said, landing another punch to Mulder’s torso that made the agent fall onto his side, the pain streaking like lightning through his body.


At some point Mulder blacked out again. When he came to, it was dark outside. Krycek was standing over him, kicking him into wakefulness with his foot.


“Come back to us, Mulder, I want to make the most of our time together,” Krycek told his victim with a smile. He knelt down in front of Mulder, and reached out to unbutton Mulder’s shirt.


“What are you doing?” Mulder croaked, trying to twist away.


“Anything I like.” Krycek grinned. “You’re helpless. At my mercy. Turned on yet, Mulder?”


“No.” Mulder’s head thumped back against the wall as another backhander flashed across his jaw.


“I thought you liked to be hurt,” Krycek said, in a mock wounded tone.


“Not like this. Not by you,” Mulder hissed. How could he explain the difference between the loving eroticism of what Skinner did to him in the Playroom, and this raw, sickening violence that made his stomach churn?


“Aw, is my technique not as good as his then?” Krycek asked, backhanding him again. “Doesn’t it hurt bad enough to be good.”


“Your technique is just fine, believe me,” Mulder muttered wryly. “It hurts.”


“Good.” Krycek grinned. “But not good hurt, huh?”


“No. Was it supposed to be?” Mulder flinched from the expected blow, which never came. Krycek’s grin got even wider.


“No, now you mention it – it wasn’t,” he laughed. “So, have you figured it all out yet, Mulder?” He asked.


“You wanted me out of town for some reason. Samantha was a lure…” Mulder muttered, his head lolling sideways, exhausted by the effort of talking through his swollen, bleeding lips.


“Not bad. Not good, but not bad.” Krycek nodded. “Maybe you’re not quite as clever as we thought. Maybe I should explain it to you.”


“Please do,” Mulder muttered. “If it means you’ll stop punching me then I’m all ears.”


“Good, because I think you’re going to like this.” Krycek said, with an amused gleam in his green eyes. “When I first reported back that you and Skinner were, how would you describe it, fucking each other – is that delicate enough? Yeah. Screwing. Fucking each other up the ass. I think that sums it up. When I first reported back I thought they’d send the blackmail boys in for sure. Only it seems that your Master isn’t exactly in the closet.”


“No?” Mulder squinted up at Krycek with his good eye.


“You didn’t know that?” Krycek patted Mulder’s face. “Call yourself an investigator? Skinner came out to his bosses a couple of years back. He was allowed to stay on because the Director has an even bigger secret than you two perverts. Apparently he’s just following in FBI tradition on that.” Mulder raised a questioning eyebrow.


“J Edgar isn’t the only one who likes wearing panties,” Krycek winked. “I still think there’s blackmail material there, but my bosses thought otherwise. Who knows, maybe they have little secrets of their own to worry about.”


“Like murder, maybe, or selling out a whole planet?” Mulder suggested.


Krycek ignored him. “So…all they did was note your unusual new living arrangement and keep it on file for future reference. What I was then instructed to do was to lay a little trail for you. To keep you hot and ready, should we need your services.”


“Services for what?” Mulder asked, blinking. His jaw ached from the effort of talking, and his whole face felt swollen and numb.


“We didn’t know,” Krycek shrugged. “You were being kept on hold – pending further developments. You know, you’re like one of Pavlov’s dogs, Mulder – all I have to do is mention Samantha and you come running, waiting to be fed.”


“It’s a character flaw,” Mulder shrugged. “Both Skinner and Scully have pointed it out.”


“But you don’t listen to them,” Krycek moved his hand reflexively within its black leather glove. Mulder braced himself. “You’re an idiot, Mulder.”


“I know.” Mulder nodded. Krycek’s gloved hand made contact with his jaw and the back of his head crashed against the wall.


“So,” Krycek continued, with a malevolent smile. “Where were we?”


“I’m an idiot,” Mulder murmured, spitting out a tooth.


“Right. An idiot we just needed to call in when the time was right.” Krycek grabbed a fistful of Mulder’s hair, and dragged his head back up again.


“And was the time right? Was there something pressing I was supposed to be doing back in DC right now?” Mulder asked.


“You?” Krycek raised an eyebrow. “No. Not you, Mulder, but your Master is due to give evidence in…” he glanced at his watch, “about 15 minutes at the trial of one of our scientists. My sources tell me he won’t show – which is a good thing for us, because this guy’s been working on a project for us for the past 8 years – we’d hate to see him go to waste.” He released his hold on Mulder’s hair, and Mulder fell back against the wall, every last spark of resistance leaving his body. This hadn’t even been about him. It had been about Skinner – about getting Skinner out of town so that he wouldn’t testify in the trial. Mulder knew, for the first time in his life, without any shadow of a doubt, that he’d reached rock bottom. He lay there in the corner of the warehouse, with Krycek’s foot resting on his abdomen, hardly breathing.


“Skinner will show up,” he said.


“No he won’t. He’s still busy scouring Seattle for you. Did you think he’d leave you to my tender mercies?” Krycek grinned. “Of course not. Given a choice between his slave and his job, he chose you. Trust me on this.”


“No, he didn’t. I gave him his ring back. He won’t have come looking for me.” Mulder said in a dull tone, not really believing that.


“Oh, he came looking. He’s been looking for you for 24 hours straight, now. In a few hours, I’m going to leave here, and then I’m going to call him and tell him where you are and he’s going to come and pick you up. Then he’ll have to go back home and face the music – and see if he still has a job,” Krycek grinned.


“No,” Mulder whispered, bringing his knees up to his chest, and lying on his side in a fetal position, hardly breathing.


“Yes. And when he finds you…” Krycek kicked Mulder onto his back, and then sank down on top of his old enemy, and continued unbuttoning his shirt. “…you won’t be quite the same slave he used to have.” Krycek took a knife out of his pocket, and Mulder gazed blearily at his captor, a dull look in his eyes, not caring what would happen to him – beyond caring about anything any more. “You see, I want you to remember our time together,” Krycek said, spitting on the knife, then polishing it. “I want to give you a memento of these past two days, something I think that both you and your Master will appreciate. So, I’m going to carve my initials in your skin, Mulder. Right here – over your heart. So every time your Master touches your body, he’ll find that I’m there. Written in your flesh.”


“No.” The word was almost soundless as it escaped from Mulder’s lips. He twisted away, struggled with every last ounce of strength in his body to resist. His body belonged to Skinner. He belonged to Skinner. They had talked about giving him a permanent mark, something that proclaimed him as Skinner’s property, his slave, and now Krycek was making a travesty of that decision. Krycek was taking something that had been sacred between them, a bond they had both sworn, and was turning it into something dark and twisted, for his own purposes. Mulder twisted and turned, but he couldn’t escape the line of fire that Krycek carved into his flesh. The knife slipped easily through the skin, making a clear “A”, and then, next to it, a “K”. At some point during the carving, Mulder mercifully passed out.


It was dark again when he awoke, and he knew instantly that he was alone. He moved, feebly, and his whole body protested the movement. His throat was dry and he longed for water. He realized that his handcuffs were gone, and moved his hands, rubbing his sore wrists, and sitting up. His chest hurt, and he looked down on the bloody carving on his body and the memories flooded back. He drew his knees up to his chest, and put his hands around them, his teeth chattering from cold and shock. He didn’t need a mirror to know that his face was swollen and puffy. One of his wrists hurt so much that he thought it might be broken. His ribs ached when he breathed, and he knew without trying, that he couldn’t stand up. His foot knocked against something in the dark, and he put out a hand and felt it close around cool metal. His gun. Krycek had left him his gun. Whether for mercy, or revenge, he didn’t know, but he sat and looked at it in the dark for a long moment, trying to think clearly.


He’d been here before, staring at a gun in the dark, trying to decide whether to take his own life, and this time there seemed to be just as much reason as the last.


He had betrayed his Master, the person he loved more than any other in the world. He had been drawn into a stupid trap, and only had himself to blame. Krycek, Skinner, Scully – they had all been right. He did this every time. Chased after Samantha’s ghost, hunted each one down, and only ended up exposing them for the illusions they were. He felt small, pathetic and very alone, in the dark, in that warehouse. He raised the gun, and placed the cool metal against his head. He didn’t know how long he sat there, alone with his failure, waiting to make that final journey into the unknown, but he heard a movement, and looked up.


The door to the warehouse opened, and he saw his Master, standing in the moonlight. Skinner’s gun was drawn, and he was wearing a dark sweater and pants – combat clothes, for facing an enemy who had long since departed.


“It’s all right. They’ve gone,” Mulder whispered into the darkness.


“Fox?” Skinner was at his side within seconds. “Oh, shit, Fox. Look at you.” Skinner knelt down beside him, and shone his flashlight onto his slave, taking in his condition swiftly. “Are you okay? Can you walk?” Skinner asked.


“No, and no,” Mulder shrugged. “Where’s Scully?” he asked.


“Waiting outside. Some of my subordinates actually obey my orders,” Skinner said tersely. Mulder winced.


“I deserved that. I more than deserved it.” He saw the dark bruise on Skinner’s jaw and winced again. “If it’s any consolation Krycek more than paid me back in kind,” he murmured.


“I can see that,” Skinner said softly, putting the flashlight down and running efficient, probing fingers over Mulder’s body, checking his injuries. “Does anywhere hurt particularly?” He asked.


“No. Everywhere,” Mulder muttered.


“I need to get you out of here,” Skinner said.


“Don’t bother.” Mulder’s fingers closed tightly around the gun. Skinner saw the movement, and sat back on his heels his eyes narrowing. Mulder gave a half smile. “I told him you wouldn’t stay. I told him you’d go back and testify.”


“Then you were wrong,” Skinner said softly.


“I’m good at that,” Mulder shrugged. “The scientist?”


“Acquitted,” Skinner said tersely. “Insufficient evidence.”


“I’m sorry. It’s not good enough but it’s all I can say,” Mulder bit down hard on his lip, and moved the gun into his lap with his last ounce of energy, pointing it at his own heart. “Permission to die, Master,” he requested softly.


Skinner gazed at him for a moment, his dark eyes cold, and hard behind his glasses. Mulder held that gaze hopefully, waiting for his answer, wanting his release both from the pain he’d caused and the pain he felt.


Then Skinner moved forward, and Mulder felt the gun being removed from his hand, and something cold being pressed onto his finger instead. He glanced down to see that his wedding ring was back in its rightful place. Skinner picked him up in his strong arms, and carried his slave bodily towards the door.


“Permission refused,” he stated flatly.


End of Part 17.

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