24/7 18. Contractual Obligations


Mulder drifted in and out of consciousness as his Master carried him outside to the waiting car. He was dimly aware of Scully’s sharp intake of breath, and the dark intensity of her blue eyes as she took in his injuries.


“It looks bad, but it isn’t life threatening,” Skinner told her gruffly.


“Are you sure?” she demanded, running towards them, clearly intent on checking her partner for damage then and there.


“I’m sure,” Skinner said in a quiet, authoritative tone that brooked no disagreement. Scully tried anyway.


“Maybe I should…” she began.


Skinner strode towards the car, his big arms never faltering as he bore his slave’s weight. “Agent Scully, trust me, I’ve had more than enough experience checking wounded men to know whether they need CPR or not. He’s down, but he isn’t out for the count yet,” he snapped at her. Then his expression softened. “He’ll be fine, Scully – physically at least,” he murmured. Her eyes whirled blue and anxious as she took in the implications of this statement. She reached out a hand, and brushed aside Mulder’s blood-stained shirt, then drew back in horror as she surveyed the carved mess on his chest.


“When I find Krycek…” she said, leaving the statement hanging ominously.


“I’ll be right beside you,” Skinner told her grimly.


Skinner slid his slave into the back seat of the car and got next to him, while Scully took the front seat, beside the Seattle field agent, who sped the car away from the warehouse and in the direction of the nearest hospital without saying a word.


Scully turned in her seat and spent the entire journey examining her almost comatose partner in silent anxiety. Mulder opened his one good eye sporadically, but closed it again quickly each time, unable to face either his partner’s concern or his Master’s granite face. Skinner sat beside his slave, one big arm around Mulder’s shoulder, cradling his slave against his chest, but even half-comatose as he was, Mulder could feel the tension in those hard muscles beneath him.


He didn’t remember much about the trip to the hospital. He woke again when they moved him from the car onto a gurney, crying out in pain. Skinner’s jaw tightened in response to his slave’s distress – a gesture so small that only a slave used to studying his Master intently at close quarters would have noticed it. Mulder turned his face away from his Master. He could see Scully walking beside the gurney, one hand holding his, but he wouldn’t look at Skinner. He couldn’t face seeing his Master’s disappointment and sense of betrayal, and most of all he couldn’t face looking at the dark bruise on Skinner’s jaw, which was evidence of both.


They wheeled him into the Emergency Room, and he was aware of a nurse cutting off his clothes. Scully was lost in the melee, and then someone was getting a drip into his arm.


“You can’t stay in here, sir,” he heard a nurse say to Skinner.


“I’m not leaving,” Skinner replied in a flat tone, and he took up position by Mulder’s head, his arms crossed over his chest, completely immovable. The nurse looked at him for a moment, clearly wondering whether to press the matter further.


“Are you a relative, sir?” She asked.


“Yes,” Skinner stated.


“His brother?” She questioned, reaching for her notes.


“No. He belongs to me,” Skinner said. “I’m responsible for him. He’s mine – and I’m not leaving, so you’ll have to work around me.”


She gazed at him wide eyed for a moment, and then backed away, clearly startled. If it had been any other occasion, Mulder thought he might even have laughed at the expression on her face. He drifted off again, and when he came to, he found that he was bare-chested, and someone was leaning over the carved flesh on his chest, sewing up the wound. He flushed as he realized that his nipple rings were clearly visible but that was the least of his problems right now. Scully was nowhere in sight, but Skinner was standing immobile beside him, his arms still crossed over his chest.


“Someone did a good job carving him up,” the doctor working on him murmured. Mulder winced, as he noticed his Master’s jaw move spasmodically again, but still Skinner didn’t speak.


“Get rid of it for me…please,” Mulder begged weakly, his voice hardly audible through his swollen, cut lip.


“We can tidy it up a bit – you’ll always have the scar, but we can make it less…” the doctor spoke, but Mulder stopped taking in the words after hearing that he’d always have the scar. He drifted off into merciful blackness, unable to face the implications of bearing those initials seared into his skin for the rest of his life. Even if Skinner still kept him, those marks in his flesh would always come between them, livid and permanent reminders of what he’d done and what had been done to him.


When he regained consciousness he was in a small, private hospital room. Scully was sitting beside his bed, and Skinner was gazing sightlessly out of the window. He cleared his throat, and Scully pressed a glass of water to his lips.


“Sorry,” he whispered to her, grabbing her hand and squeezing it.


“Good,” she said, with mock severity. “It’ll take you more than muffins to buy yourself out of this one, Mulder.”


“I know.” He managed a faint grin, but didn’t even dare look in his Master’s direction.


“Oh, Mulder. You have no idea how worried we were.” Her fingers closed around his, gently caressing his hand.


“No…sorry,” he whispered again.


“Both of us,” she added meaningfully, looking in Skinner’s direction. Skinner turned, and glanced at her, a baleful expression in his dark eyes. Scully gave Mulder a worried frown and got up.


“I think I should leave you two alone,” she murmured, leaning forward and planting a kiss on Mulder’s forehead. He couldn’t bring himself to let go of her hand. He didn’t want her to leave. He didn’t want to have the conversation that he knew was coming next, but her hand slid out from his and then she was gone. He turned his face away to stare at the wall, still unable to meet his Master’s eye.


Skinner came over to the bed and stood, staring down on his slave for a moment.


“Fox, look at me,” he said softly. Mulder felt paralysed. He couldn’t move, and he could feel the tears pricking against the back of his eyes, and blinked them away, angrily. “Fox.” His Master’s voice was stern and compelling, but still Mulder didn’t move. Then he felt a hand on his chin, and his face was pulled around, firmly, but gently, to face his Master. He closed his eyes.


“Fox – if you can’t face what you’ve done, then you’ll never put this behind you,” Skinner said softly. “You’ll never learn, or move on. Now look at me, or I swear I’ll walk out of this room and tear up those contracts that bind us.”


“Maybe that would be best,” Mulder replied softly.


“That’s for me to decide,” Skinner said, in a dark, granite-toned voice. “You’ve never been a coward in your life, Fox. Now, face me.”


It took all his strength of will to open his eyes and look up at his Master. Skinner looked tired, and he had a streak of Mulder’s blood still on his cheek. The bruise on his jaw was purple and raised.


“Thank you.” Skinner sat down on the bed, and put a gentle hand on his slave’s forehead, pushing the blood stained hair away from Mulder’s face.


“Sorr…” Mulder began, but Skinner put a finger over his lips, quelling the word.


“You’ve said it more than enough times already, and I know you mean it, but it isn’t going to mend anything,” Skinner told him, his dark eyes serious.


Mulder nodded. He noticed for the first time that one of his arms was bandaged up to the elbow, one hand completely swathed in white. “You have badly bruised ribs, and a concussion,” Skinner informed him, in a matter of fact tone. “You also have multiple cuts and bruises, and your left foot is badly swollen – we think it was stamped on,” he explained, when he saw Mulder’s questioning look. A memory of passing out amid the most excruciating pain in his foot came back to Mulder and he nodded. “Ditto your hand – one broken finger, one badly strained and bruised, and some torn tendons” Skinner informed him. “Apart from that – you’re fine.” He managed the faintest shadow of a smile.


“Except for…” Mulder gestured to the wound on his chest, which was covered with a bandage.


“Except for where Krycek carved his initials into you, yes,” Skinner stated bluntly. Mulder closed his eyes again, then opened them when Skinner tapped his head. “It happened,” Skinner said. “Accept that.”


“I’m not sure I can,” Mulder confessed.


“You can,” Skinner told him. “You have no choice. I’m going to make you face up to every last thing that happened here, Fox, and it won’t be easy. If you can’t face that process, say so now.”


“I can,” Mulder replied, relieved to find that his Master still intended to keep him. “I promise that I can.”


“It won’t be that easy,” Skinner’s terse tone was at odds with the gentle motion of his fingers along the side of Mulder’s face. “Let me explain, and then we’ll see if you’re so ready to accept my terms. Firstly – unquestioning obedience isn’t just a requirement during your convalescence – it’s a necessity. There is no leeway. There will be no smart-ass comments, no talking back, no deceit and most of all, no disobedience. My word will be your command, my will your every waking hour. If you thought I was tough on you before, then think again. You don’t know what tough is, boy.”


“Yes, Master.” Mulder swallowed hard.


“Good.” Skinner nodded. “Because I’m going to be riding you hard, Fox.”


Mulder was curiously comforted by those words, and he sank back into the pillows, his body relaxing. Skinner’s next words were less reassuring though.


“Secondly, we’re dealing with this. We’re dealing with every single issue. We’re not avoiding it, and we’re not letting it go. We’re talking about it until you want to scream, and I’ll make you face every last thing that happened here. It won’t just be words either – you’ll need to back those up with actions.”


“What kind of actions?” Mulder asked.


“We’ll see when the time comes,” Skinner told him. “That’s enough serious talk for now,” he said, his hand smoothing Mulder’s hair back again. “Do you agree to those terms, Fox?” Mulder nodded, without even thinking about it. Skinner exhaled deeply.


“All right, little one,” he murmured, his tone softening. “For the next few days I want you to concentrate on getting well. We won’t talk about this again until we get home. I don’t want you to think about it, or brood on it. I just want you to get better. When you’re home, then we will have another, serious discussion, but until then, we won’t mention this again. Understood?”


Mulder nodded, hesitantly. “Not thinking about it…not brooding…will be hard, Master,” he said.


“Tough.” Skinner took hold of Mulder’s bruised chin gently between his fingers. “I said this wouldn’t be easy and it won’t. It’ll be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.”


Mulder swallowed, hard, then nodded, brushing his bandaged hand across his face, swiping pointlessly at unshed tears that he refused to allow to fall.


“Good boy.” Skinner said. “Now, come here.” Skinner wrapped his big arms around Mulder’s shaking shoulders and held him against his chest. Mulder tensed, then gave in and allowed himself to be held. Skinner’s hands ran up and down his back, but he didn’t speak and in the end, Mulder finally gave in to the wordless comfort, knowing he didn’t deserve it. After what seemed like hours, Skinner finally released him and pushed him back down onto the pillows.


“Get some rest,” Skinner ordered.


Mulder made a face. “I hate hospitals. Can we go home soon?” Mulder asked, wishing more than anything that he could fast forward through his life for the next few days, and get straight to the big, serious chat his Master had promised him, just to avoid the excruciating wait. “I am going home with you, aren’t I?” He asked, suddenly realizing there was nothing he could take for granted about their relationship any more. Too many variables had changed.


“Of course,” Skinner replied, “but you’re not well enough to travel yet. Give it a few more days and then I’ll take you home. I wouldn’t be so keen to get there if I were you though, boy. There will be some significant changes when we get back.”


“I know.” Mulder swallowed again.


“Don’t think about that now,” Skinner told him gently.


“Master, what will happen about your job?” Mulder asked, needing to know.


“That’s for me to worry about,” Skinner replied tersely. “Everyone makes their choices, Fox. You made yours, and I made mine. I can live with the ramifications of my decision – whatever they might be. Know this though, boy.” He held Mulder’s face firmly between his hands. “My decision was just that – mine. My responsibility. Not yours.” He got up and was about to move away to beckon Scully back into the room, when Mulder grabbed his Master’s hand and moved it up to his lips. He kissed the beloved fingers with all the devotion he had, ignoring the protest of his cut, swollen lip.


“Thank you,” he whispered.


The next days passed slowly as Mulder struggled back to health. He was tired, his whole body in a state of shock after the beating he’d received. When he looked in the mirror, he barely recognized himself. He found it hard to eat, and he was getting thinner, but even apart from that, the bruises on his face were now so multi-colored that they lent his features a grotesque rainbow hue. He still couldn’t walk on his foot, or do much with his hand, and he couldn’t even bring himself to look at the carving on his chest. He closed his eyes whenever the dressing was changed and refused to look at it. His days were spent playing scrabble with Scully, or being read to by Skinner. He was too tired to read anything himself, and one eye was still too bloodshot to see clearly. Besides, he loved listening to his Master’s deep, mellifluous tones which were as soothing as any caress and cocooned him from thought and anxiety. When Skinner was with him, he managed not to worry about what the future would bring, but alone at night, on his own, the demons came out to play and he often didn’t sleep. His tears remained unshed as well. He couldn’t be kind enough to himself to indulge in the luxury of giving into them.


After several days he was allowed out of the hospital, under strict instructions that his convalescence continue at home for the next three weeks at least.


“Don’t worry, Doctor,” Skinner said grimly. “I’ll see that he rests.”


“Good – another few weeks and he’ll be fine.” The doctor smiled, and handed Mulder an envelope. Mulder opened it, and emptied the contents into the palm of his hand, then flushed. The envelope contained his nipple rings – which they’d removed when bandaging his chest – and his cock ring. He didn’t even like to think about when they’d removed that.


“Uh…thanks,” he croaked, ducking his head to hide his utter embarrassment. The doctor’s eyes twinkled with barely suppressed mirth, but Skinner’s expression was as granite and unrelenting as ever, no trace of amusement in his eyes. At least they’d allowed him to keep his collar and wedding ring, Mulder thought to himself, fingering the smooth surface of his collar with his fingertip as Skinner wheeled him out of the hospital in a wheelchair. He longed to put the other symbols of his slavery on as well, and chafed against the tedium of the journey ahead. Scully had returned to DC the day before and he just wanted to be home. It was surprising how easily the Crystal City apartments had become just that – home. He spent the entire airplane journey with his head resting against the window, staring at the clouds as they puffed past, thinking of home. It didn’t matter what would happen between him and his Master when they got back – he just wanted to be there, in familiar surroundings, in a place he loved.


A few hours later, Skinner pushed his slave along the corridor to the 17th floor apartment. Mulder’s foot injury wasn’t so bad that he couldn’t have walked with a cane, but that would have placed too much pressure on his injured hand and ribs so he was resigned to needing the chair – for now at least. He hated it, but he didn’t dare tackle Skinner on the subject. Somehow he knew that wouldn’t be well received. They reached the apartment, and Skinner fished for the key in his pocket, and opened the door, then pushed Mulder inside. There was silence, and then the room erupted, in a blaze of whistling and a round of applause. Mulder blinked. There was a banner above the fireplace, proclaiming: “Welcome Home Mulder!” in bright, cheery red lettering, and a small crowd of people gathered around the table, which contained enough food and drink to feed an army.


“What’s this?” Mulder gasped in surprise.


“Hey, you didn’t think I’d let my buddy come home after being beaten to a pulp by some psycho without laying on a surprise party for him, did ya?” Ian grinned, coming forward. His tone of voice was joking, but it was clear that he was visibly shocked by Mulder’s frail appearance. He crouched down beside the wheelchair, and laid a hand on his friend’s arm. “It’s good to see you again, Mulder. I missed you,” he said sincerely, his eyes serious.


“Thanks,” Mulder said softly, glancing around the room.


He’d been injured many times before and had always gone home to an empty apartment – or worse, to an apartment containing his Mom. She had clearly felt it was her duty to look after him, but had then proceeded to make him feel much worse until he ended up by driving her out with his impossible moods and unpredictable temper – he had never exactly been a good patient after all. This was so…different. There was a throng of people: Perry, who was always so laid back he was practically comatose, was leaning against the wall, with a drink in his hand. Murray and Hammer were both there, and Donald and Elliott, both immaculately dressed in matching gray suits with pink handkerchiefs in their breast pockets which made Mulder smile. Elaine was there, with her sub in tow. Even Mrs. Asher was there. Mulder smiled despite himself, and risked a glance at his Master from under his eyelashes, wondering if Skinner had been in on the plans for the surprise party. He guessed so, considering that Ian had let himself in to the apartment to arrange it, but Mulder was under no illusions about what would happen now that they were home. He knew that Skinner would be addressing their future sooner, rather than later.


“I invited Lee and Franklin but they couldn’t make it. I hope you aren’t too disappointed,” Ian joked.


Mulder pulled a face. “Somehow I think I’ll survive their absence,” he replied.


Ian snorted in delight, clearly pleased to have his friend back. “And I know you have some other friends, buddy – vanilla friends,” Ian winked. “I didn’t know whether to invite them or not though. I wasn’t sure if they knew about your…uh, living arrangement.”


“No. They don’t,” Mulder admitted, finding that one more thing to feel guilty about as he recalled telling the Lone Gunmen to only call him on his cellphone and not to drop by his apartment any more. “I suppose I should have told them. I didn’t…know how,” he broke off.


Ian gave an artificial smile, clearly concerned about Mulder’s mental state, then he handed him a parcel. “Here, buddy. Welcome home present.”


“What the hell is it?” Mulder frowned, fingering the long, slender package. “A fishing rod?”


“No…I’m sure you’ve more than got your hands full with the rod you’ve already got,” Ian quipped, glancing at Skinner. Mulder shot him a look, and ripped open the package to find a cane – of the walking variety.


“I thought you might need it for when you get rid of this thing.” Ian gestured to the wheelchair. Mulder gave him an incredulous look, wondering why the hell his friend thought that he’d want such a utilitarian present. “Oh, you didn’t think I’d give you any old walking cane did ya?” Ian grinned. “This is a special S&M cane, buddy. Look!” He unscrewed the smooth, brown handle, to reveal a hollow center to the cane, and when he held it upside down, a beautiful, slim, very whippy switch fell out. “Finest there is,” Ian said, swishing it through the air a couple of times – catching Perry’s eye as he did so and giving his own Master a broad grin. “Not only that,” Ian said, “the handle doubles up as a highly efficient butt plug too!” Mulder stared at the gift for a moment, his mouth opening and shutting in a plausible imitation of one of his fish.


“I’m speechless,” he said at last, managing a faint smile.


“Knew you would be, buddy!” Ian thumped him playfully on the back, while he reassembled the cane. “So, when you and the big guy next take a walk, Walter has something to hand should his slave require some on the spot discipline!” He handed Mulder back the cane, a mischievous gleam in his eye.


Mulder shook his head, and thanked his friend for the gift, but he still couldn’t tear his eyes away from his Master, wondering whether the image Ian painted of him and his Master doing something so mundane and domestic as taking a walk, would ever happen. Or, come to that, whether his Master even intended to discipline him again. As that was inextricably bound up with the intimacy of their living arrangement, he didn’t know whether it would be part of what Skinner planned for him. Hell, he wasn’t sure what Skinner had in mind for him from now on. For all he knew he’d be tied to a post to receive a workout with the bullwhip as soon as he was well enough. He wasn’t sure whether it dreaded that more or less than the thought that Skinner might never discipline him again.


He was distracted from his reverie by Elaine, who came up to him, and gave him a firm kiss. “Silly boy,” was all she said, as her sub, David, hovered at her elbow, holding her drink and plate of food.


Mulder smiled at her, enjoying the warmth of her affection. “I know,” he muttered. “Does everyone else know?” he asked her anxiously.


“The full details? No,” she said softly. “All they know is that you were hurt by an old enemy in the line of duty. They don’t know any of the circumstances. I only know because Walter phoned me about it – he had to speak to someone. He was out of his mind with worry…and guilt,” she added, looking concerned.


“Guilt?” Mulder glanced up at her in surprise.


“You’re his. You know how seriously he takes his responsibilities. He thinks he should have placed you in bondage to prevent you leaving that night.”


“He gave me the benefit of the doubt instead,” Mulder told her miserably. “And felt the butt of my gun on his jaw for his pains.”


“Well, you know what they say. No good deed goes unpunished.” She shook her head ruefully and kissed him again. He found his face cushioned against her large, full breasts, which wasn’t an uncomfortable place to be, he decided. It had been a long time since his mother had held him in such a way, and he was surprised by how comforting it was. “You’ll be fine. Both of you,” she said, drawing back, and gently rubbing Mulder’s shoulder. “Don’t push him right now though, Mulder, because I don’t think he has a whole lot of that legendary patience left.”


“I wouldn’t dare,” Mulder retorted.


He didn’t take his eyes off his Master, and noticed when Skinner quietly slipped away from the party, and disappeared into the kitchen. Mulder wheeled himself over, and glanced inside to see his Master engaged in a loving reunion with Wanda. The little cat was beside herself with glee to have her slave back again, and Skinner was holding her tightly, showering her with quiet, heartfelt kisses. Mulder could tell by the way his Master was standing that the other man was tense.


“She missed you,” he said, surprising himself. He hadn’t intended to break into the private moment between Skinner and his little Mistress.


Skinner turned, and gave him a slight smile. “And you,” he said, holding out the cat to Mulder. Wanda looked at him, and he looked at her for several seconds.


“Hello, cat,” Mulder said at last. She gazed at him steadily and then blinked solemnly. He tickled her behind the ears and then backed the wheelchair out of the room.


“Another half an hour, Fox,” Skinner warned as he left. Mulder nodded.


Skinner was true to his word, and half an hour later he emerged from the kitchen, where he’d spent the time alone, and bade farewell to their guests. Mulder watched them go, a gnawing anxiety growing in the pit of his stomach.


“Give us a call when you’re bored,” Ian said, cuffing Mulder lightly on the side of his head.


“Yeah. I will.” Mulder nodded, suddenly feeling very tired. It had been a long journey, and his body still ached all over. He wondered what would happen next. Where would he sleep? And what exactly was Skinner going to expect of him? His Master closed the door behind the last of their guests, and then turned back to him, and fixed him with a speculative look.


“All right, Fox. You’re tired. Time for bed,” he said.


“It’s only 8 o clock…” Mulder began, then bit on his lip. “Yes, Master,” he murmured.


“I considered having you sleep on the couch down here, but I need to keep more of an eye on you than that, so you’ll be sleeping in my room until further notice,” Skinner told him. Mulder nodded, the joy of receiving that news being short lived, as Skinner continued. “I’ll carry you up there now, and then we’ll talk,” his Master said.


Mulder nodded again. He’d been waiting for this.


Skinner swung his slave into his arms and carried him slowly up the stairs. Mulder was impressed by his Master’s strength – he wasn’t exactly a lightweight and he was almost as tall as Skinner even if he was much slighter. Skinner placed him on the bed, and aided his slave in undressing, then helped him into the bathroom to wash up and clean his teeth before helping him to return to bed. Mulder hated being this dependent on anyone, and had to bite back the instinctive irritation caused by his physical frailty. When Mulder was settled, Skinner sat down in the armchair facing him, and regarded him for a long moment.


“I want to tell you how things are going to be, Fox,” he said.


“You said things would change.” Mulder felt his stomach flip anxiously. “In what way, Master?”


“Well, firstly in the way you address me,” Skinner told him. “You’ve lost the right to call me Master, Fox. You gave that up when you took your ring off.”


“How am I to address you then?” Mulder asked, taken by surprise both by that statement and the implications of it.


“You can call me ‘sir’, like you used to,” Skinner said.


Mulder swallowed hard. “What am I if not your slave?” he asked, feeling as if his whole world had fallen apart.


“Oh, you’ll always be my slave, boy,” Skinner said, “for as long as you live. Nothing can change that.” Skinner stood up, and his face was grave as he came over to the bed and sat down beside Mulder. “You’ll have to earn the right to call me ‘Master’ again, Fox,” he stated gently, but implacably.


Mulder felt as if all the air had been forcibly removed from his body. “Earn it, M…sir?” he managed to stammer.


“Yes. By showing me that you’ve learned from what happened, by going wherever I take you, however painful, and by your complete, and unquestioning obedience,” Skinner said, his expression the hardest and most determined that Mulder had ever seen it. “I’m taking you back to basics, boy. I’ve always given you a certain amount of latitude, based on the level of trust between us, but now that’s gone. The trust has been shattered. It can be rebuilt, but it will take a while. That is why, from now on, you are going to obey the contract you signed to the letter. Quote me Clause 5 of your contract, Fox.”


“The slave understands that all that has, and all that he does, shall now move from right to privilege, granted only as He wishes, and only to the extend that He finds useful,” Mulder gabbled, not sure what the significance of that was, still reeling from his Master’s words about trust.


“Well, I’m withdrawing all privileges,” Skinner said firmly. “I don’t think you’ll realize just how many you had until you lose them. You have no privileges from now on, Fox. You have only basic and complete slavery- at its lowest possible level. This is a probationary period. My respect for you doesn’t come as standard – it has to be won. You’ve relinquished it for now, and I’m hoping that by dint of some hard work, you’ll earn it back.”


“And if I don’t?” Mulder hardly dared ask that question.


“Then I’ll rescind the contracts we signed,” Skinner told him, without hesitation. “I mean that, Fox. I won’t go forward without being able to trust you. I think you deserve more than that and I sure as hell know that I do.”


Mulder closed his eyes, hardly able to breathe. “What about…?” He began, glancing at the empty space beside him in the bed.


“Sex? That will depend. You’re not well enough yet in any case. As for affection.” Skinner reached out and cupped Mulder’s cheek with a tender hand. “That will never be withdrawn. You have my support, Fox, while we go through this together, and you have my love – always. Do you understand me?”


“Yes,” Mulder whispered. “I guess. Can I tell you that I’m scared?”


“You can tell me anything. There is nothing I won’t help you with. It’s if you withdraw, afraid of dealing with these issues, that you’ll fail,” Skinner said. He picked up Mulder’s hand and fingered his ring. “I put this back on you to signify that you are still mine, that the bond between us, although damaged, still exists. This ring is a traditional symbol, of both belonging and love – you can keep it,” Skinner stated. “You do belong to me, and you are most certainly loved. I won’t take that away from you and you’ll need a symbol of our bond to get you through the next few weeks. However…your collar is a traditional symbol of your slavery, granted by me as a gift to my slave. You’ve dishonored both me, and your condition as my slave, so I’m taking it away from you. You’ll have to earn it back.”


Those words hit Mulder the hardest, and his hand went involuntarily to the chain around his neck. He knew he’d feel naked without it. Lost. “Please…don’t,” he whispered.


“I have to,” Skinner replied, his dark eyes unwavering as he reached out and placed his hands on the collar. “If you apply yourself to this process, then I’ll put it back on you, in a formal collaring ceremony, in front of witnesses.” His fingers found the link and he undid the collar, and removed it, the precious metal disappearing into his big palm. Mulder bowed his head, feeling as if he’d lost a part of himself.


“I’ll make you proud of me again, sir,” he murmured, fighting the tears.


“I’ve never stopped being proud of you, little one, and I’ve never stopped loving you,” Skinner told him, placing the collar on the night stand, then sliding his hands into Mulder’s hair, and caressing him gently. “However there are always penalties, and you have to take responsibility for your decisions, Fox. I won’t make it easy for you.”


“No, sir.” Mulder wa


nted to say more, but he was too lost, and tired, and felt too miserable.


“Fox – listen to me. I’ll demand a lot from you in the next few weeks. I’ll make you do things that you’re resentful of, and that you think you can’t do. I’ll insist on your total and unquestioning obedience. No ifs or buts. No playing. Just you, trying to apply yourself to earning your collar and fulfilling the terms of your contract down to the last crossed ‘t’ and dotted ‘i’. Until then, you’re a slave in the most abject and basic sense of the word, granted no privileges by an indulgent Master. Don’t take anything for granted, boy. If you’re in any doubt, then ask.”


“No rights?” Mulder asked, trying to get his head around that concept. “Do I have to ask your permission to do everything? Is that what you mean, sir?”


“Near enough.” Skinner’s face remained serious. “You’ll ask for permission to use the bathroom, to eat, to drink – every single thing. Don’t assume anything, Fox. Not one thing. We’re starting again from scratch, and this time you’ll come to appreciate both the rights and the responsibilities contained in your contract. I made a mistake with you first time around. I didn’t enforce your contract the way I should have done. I allowed you too much freedom, and too many choices, instead of giving you a thorough grounding in your slavery, and allowing you more freedom later, when you’d done more to earn it. All that has changed. I want you to be in no doubt about what exactly you are and what I expect from you.”


“Yes, sir.” Mulder was too tired to chafe under the idea of these restrictions, and, if he was honest, he didn’t want to. He welcomed the utter grounding such a routine would give him. It was an escape of sorts, from the overwhelming sense of guilt and self-loathing he was currently experiencing. Skinner was taking every burden away from him, and leaving him with nothing save his Master’s will and word. It was a relief. “Can I sleep now, M…sir?” Mulder asked, suddenly feeling desperately tired.


“I think that would be a good idea, yes,” Skinner said. “Goodnight, boy.” He leaned over and kissed his slave firmly on the lips. Mulder drank of his Master’s touch as if it were his life force. Then Skinner drew back, and got up.


“Aren’t you staying?” Mulder asked.


“No. I have a meeting to prepare for. I’m seeing the Director at 11 am tomorrow to discuss my future at the Bureau.”


“Will there be a formal OPC hearing?” Mulder asked anxiously.


“I have no idea,” Skinner shrugged. “Perhaps, a more informal hearing – in front of Jana Cassidy and various other peers. Either way, I need to be prepared. Now, sleep.”


He held the sheets while Mulder slid further down the bed, then carefully tucked his slave in. Then he turned off the bedside lamp, and quietly left the room.


Mulder opened his eyes when his Master had gone, and reached out to touch the gold collar lying on the night stand where Skinner had left it. He fingered the smooth metal, finding the engraving of his name, and it was only then that he broke down and gave way to the tears he’d been fighting for days…maybe, if he was honest, years.


Mulder cried for hours. They were tears of complete despair. He was suddenly aware that if he had thought that he had reached rock bottom back at that warehouse, he had been wrong. Having his collar removed, seeing his Master’s hurt, and experiencing the other man’s disappointment in him, was far worse. On some level, it was the catharsis that he needed though. If Skinner had told him that everything was all right, and that it could all be as it had been before, Mulder’s own sense of guilt would have kicked in, and he knew the misery that always resulted when that particular emotion was allowed to go unchecked. Skinner was taking Mulder’s guilt from him, by acknowledging it, not glossing over it, or pretending it didn’t exist. By both punishing and encouraging him, he was forcing his slave to face his issues rather than run. Mulder had no doubt that it would be a painful process, but on some deep and profound level, he was comforted by the knowledge that running wasn’t an option any more. Skinner had taken that away from him, along with everything else.


The worst of his racking sobs had subsided by the time he heard his Master return to the bedroom three hours later, but the evidence of his tears was clear on his face. He buried his face in his sopping wet pillow, and tried to keep quiet. He heard Skinner walking around the room, and the sounds of his Master undressing and then using the bathroom. Finally, Skinner returned to the bedroom. Mulder expected his Master to get into the bed, and was therefore surprised when instead, Skinner sat down in the armchair beside him, and exhaled a long, deep sigh. He was aware of his Master looking at him, and moved his face, unable to feign sleep under such intense scrutiny. Skinner’s eyes narrowed as he took in Mulder’s swollen eyes, and tear stained cheeks, and he flicked on the lamp on the nightstand, and frowned down on his slave.


“I don’t believe,” Skinner murmured, wiping one blunt finger over Mulder’s wet cheeks, “that I gave you permission to cry.”


Mulder looked at him in silent shock for a moment. “I didn’t realize I should ask for it, M…sir,” he muttered.


“I told you, boy. You’ll ask for permission for everything from now on,” Skinner growled, sitting Mulder up carefully, and examining the sodden pillow he had been resting on. “You can’t sleep on this all night,” he remonstrated.


Mulder bit on his lip. “I’m sorry about the pillow,” he offered, struggling between resentment at what seemed to be an inhuman demand, and a continuation of his abject misery.


Skinner removed the pillow, and disappeared into the guest bedroom, returning a few seconds later with a fresh one. “Next time you want to cry – ask,” he ordered.


Mulder was dumbstruck, trying to take in the implications of such far-reaching authority over his every tiny action, to say nothing of his embarrassment at being found crying. He hated anyone seeing him cry – even his Master. Having Skinner witness his every last emotion had been one of the things he’d found hardest about his slavery, and now that he was in this dark place emotionally, it was even worse. He had a moment of longing for the silent emptiness of his own apartment. He could have retreated there, hidden from the demons that haunted him until he got them under control. Skinner wasn’t allowing him to do that. He was keeping him visible, keeping him from hiding, and it was so damn hard.


“I would have given you permission,” Skinner continued. “I would also have insisted upon staying in attendance until you were through. Are you through?”


Mulder bit on his lip again, then nodded. He hadn’t wanted sympathy, and his Master’s matter of fact approach to the subject was at least something he could accept without feeling even more guilt. He allowed Skinner to settle him back down under the covers again, and watched, uncomprehending, as his Master opened the drawer in his night stand and withdrew a length of thin chain and a leather cuff. Skinner came back to his slave’s side of the bed, and wordlessly fastened the cuff onto Mulder’s good wrist. He attached the chain to it, and then locked it onto the headboard. The chain was long, and there was plenty of room for Mulder to move around the bed, and its immediate environs, but he clearly wouldn’t be leaving the room without his Master’s permission.


“You’ll sleep in chains until you earn back your rights,” Skinner told him. “In fact, you can count on spending a lot of your time in bondage from now on. It’s the only way to treat a runaway slave.”


Mulder swallowed hard, and nodded. Rather than resenting the confinement, he welcomed it. Skinner had made a cradle of his slavery – a place to keep him warm, safe, and grounded. Mulder knew just how close he was to spinning out of control right now.


“If you need to use the bathroom, you’ll wake me and ask permission,” Skinner added. Mulder nodded again, then moved onto his side, trying to get used to the pull of the chain and the clinking sound it made whenever he moved. It felt strangely reassuring. He doubted his own judgement so much after what Krycek had put him through that it felt good to have the responsibility of decisions taken away from him. He didn’t want to have even the temptation of leaving this place, or his Master, and running back into the dark emptiness that had been his life before he became Skinner’s slave.


Mulder watched as his Master turned off the lamp, and he felt the big man get into bed beside him. Mulder stiffened, feeling unwelcome in this bed. He knew that he was only here so that Skinner could keep an eye on him, which was yet another indication of how little his Master trusted him. He hadn’t earned the right to be here, as he’d earned previous nights in this bed, and he dreaded a whole night spent frozen in one place so as not to wake his Master. He expected Skinner to turn over, and put both his back, and considerable distance between Master and slave, but instead Skinner occupied the center of the bed, and reached out for his slave, pulling him close against his chest, amid the metallic clinking of his bonds. Mulder went very still, his whole body tensing, and was surprised a few seconds later to feel the flat of his Master’s hand exploding with a sharp sting against his boxer short clad bottom.


“Relax,” Skinner ordered in a gruff tone.


“Yes, sir,” Mulder murmured, feeling curiously reassured. He melted back against his Master’s chest, revelling in the warmth, and solid, reassuring comfort of that large, familiar body. Skinner didn’t stroke, or caress his slave, but he rested his hands firmly on Mulder’s torso, keeping his slave anchored against him. Mulder slept.


Mulder was woken at 9 am by the sheet being pulled away from his body, letting in a freezing draft.


“What…?” He looked up blearily, to find that his Master was already dressed, and looming over him.


“Time to get up, boy. You may be resting, but you aren’t spending your whole day in bed,” Skinner told him tersely, unlocking Mulder’s cuff from the chain but leaving it on his wrist. “You’ll get up, get washed, and dressed, and then I’ll take you downstairs and you can sit on the couch under a blanket.”


“Yes, Master,” Mulder answered automatically, without even thinking about it. A second later, his boxers were yanked down and his butt was assaulted by two firm slaps on either cheek.


“Remember your place, slave,” Skinner snapped.


“Yes, sir!” Mulder responded promptly.


“Don’t even imagine that your physical condition exempts you from corporal punishment,” Skinner told him, as he helped his slave from the bed. “It doesn’t – I might not take anything more harmful than my hand to your butt for the next few days, but you can expect to feel that aplenty if you forget yourself.


“Yes, sir,” Mulder whispered. In his current condition his libido had completely gone into hibernation, and Skinner’s slaps gave him no erotic thrill whatsoever. They just stung – which was all the more incentive to stay on his Master’s good side.


Skinner helped him into the bathroom, and Mulder clung on to the basin while he washed himself. His Master saw to it that his slave was thoroughly clean, and then helped him back to the bedroom to get dressed. Mulder flushed, hating the process of being helped, and feeling somehow that it was fundamentally wrong. He was used to dressing Skinner and waiting on him – the order of his world had been turned upside down.


When Mulder was clad in sweatpants and a tee-shirt, Skinner scooped him up again and carried him down the stairs. He placed his slave on the couch, and covered him with a comforter, piling a couple of cushions behind him, then disappeared. He returned with two more cuffs and a length of chain. He attached the new cuffs to Mulder’s ankles, then to each other with a long loop of chain, before fastening both ankle cuffs to his wrist cuff with another piece of chain. It was loose enough to be comfortable, but all the same, it would prevent Mulder from going anywhere very fast. Mulder bit on his lip, dismayed by the level of distrust his Master was showing in him, but knowing, also, that he deserved it – and if they were ever going to recover their old intimacy then he had to take his punishment without argument. He was more than willing to do that. Deep down, he knew that he even welcomed it. While Skinner was punishing him, it relieved the need for him to punish himself, and that afforded him some peace of mind at least.


Skinner went into the kitchen and emerged a few minutes later with a bowl of oatmeal, and a plate of toast. Mulder realized, with a sinking heart, that his Master intended to feed him by hand.


“I can feed myself,” he muttered, to be greeted by a hard look from his Master.


“If you were asking permission to do so, then I can inform you that it’s been denied,” Skinner told him, spooning some oatmeal to his slave’s lips. Mulder accepted it, and swallowed down everything his Master gave him. He wasn’t hungry, and if Skinner had given him the slightest leeway, he would have passed on breakfast altogether. His Master was very insistent though, and the stakes were too high for Mulder to give any hint of disobedience. When he’d finished, Skinner smiled, and ruffled his hair with his hand.


“Good boy,” he murmured, dropping a kiss on Mulder’s head as he got up to return the empty dishes to the kitchen. Then he picked up his jacket from the back of a chair, and put it on. Mulder itched to smooth the collar down, as he would have done if he had been dressing his Master, as he so often used to do. He longed to be better so he could do so again – if his Master would allow him. Somehow he knew that was a privilege, rather than a duty, and Skinner had withdrawn all his privileges.


“All right – here are my orders,” Skinner said, standing over his slave, and looking down on him. “You’re confined to the couch today. Elaine will be here shortly – she’ll spend the morning with you, and Perry will be here this afternoon. Until you’re able to move around the place more easily, someone will be with you whenever I’m not here to help you to the bathroom. You’ll ask for their assistance – they’ve both seen everything you’ve got anyway. You do not need to entertain them – your main duty is to rest. Nor should you expect them to entertain you – they’re giving up their free time to sit with you and they’ll probably bring work over with them. You will not interrupt them if they want to work. Understood?” Mulder nodded, wondering whether Perry and Elaine knew that he was under these kinds of restrictions, and wondering also, whether they were part of an informal suicide watch. Surely his Master knew there was no need for that? Mulder had fought that particular demon at the warehouse, and had found that Skinner’s mastery over him extended even unto death. “I’ve also asked Perry to change your dressing.” Skinner pointed at Mulder’s chest wound.


Mulder looked up sharply, feeling angry. “You told Perry about that?” He snarled, dreading showing anyone the carved initials on his chest that he couldn’t even bear to look at himself.


“Yes,” Skinner replied smoothly, unfazed by his slave’s display of temper. “You’re mine, boy. Your body belongs to me. I’ll have whoever the hell I like look at it. Any arguments?”


“I don’t want him seeing it. I don’t want anybody fucking well knowing about it!” Mulder snapped.


“Tough. As I recall, your contract states that I can do what I like with you. I’m exercising that prerogative,” Skinner informed him tersely. Mulder bowed his head. This man was so different to the Master he had known before Seattle. Skinner was riding him every bit as hard as he had promised. He wasn’t giving his slave any breaks.


“You’ll call me three times during the day at regular intervals,” Skinner continued, placing Mulder’s cellphone within easy reach on the coffee table. “I don’t mind when. I won’t call you because I don’t want to wake you if you’re sleeping.” Skinner gave his slave a tight smile. “I also need you to show me your willingness to obey.”


“Yes, sir.” Mulder nodded. They weren’t particularly onerous instructions. He wasn’t exactly going to be doing anything else with himself and at least his Master wanted to hear from him. Skinner hadn’t finished though – and his next instructions were far tougher.


“You are forbidden to watch television, to use your computer, or to read,” Skinner said firmly. Mulder took a deep breath, wondering how the hell he was supposed to get through the day without any stimulation whatsoever. He gazed at his Master challengingly for a moment, and found Skinner’s resolve unwavering, so dropped his gaze back to his lap. “If you need to occupy your mind then you can work on Clause 1 of your contract,” Skinner told him.


Mulder looked up again, startled. “Work on it how, sir?” He asked.


“Firstly by copying it out one hundred times until you’re sick of it – the handcuff might slow you down but you’re still able to write. Going slowly might force you to concentrate on the words and their meaning. More importantly, you will also recite to me the exact ways in which you broke your contract during our time in Seattle. You will outline to me the trigger situations that might cause you to consider breaking it in future, and we will then discuss disciplines to keep you from doing so. I will require your undertaking that you will never again break this clause in your contract before I give you your collar back, and we will discuss how best to avoid that situation.”


Mulder stared at his Master, open-mouthed. Skinner put out a finger, and pushed Mulder’s jaw shut. “Do you understand?” Skinner asked. “Have I made myself clear?”


“As crystal, sir,” Mulder murmured.


“Clause 1 is just the beginning. I consider you to have broken every single clause in your contract, slave, and before I collar you again, I expect you to have told me why, and how, and to have discussed each and every single instance in detail in order to prevent it happening again. A word of warning, boy – I’m happy to continue this process until you are heartily sick of it. Your willingness to undergo it will form part of my judgement on whether or not to collar you again,” Skinner said firmly.


Mulder nodded, his mind racing. “Every single clause, sir?” He asked.


“Yes. Do you have a problem with that?” Skinner asked.


“No…it’s just…I’m not sure how I broke Clause 3, sir.”


“Quote me Clause 3,” Skinner ordered with a frown.


“All of the slave’s possessions likewise belong to his Master, including all assets, finances, and material goods, to do with as He sees fit,” Mulder said obligingly.


“I consider it broken – and when we come to consider that clause, I’ll expect you to tell me how,” Skinner informed his slave. “However, for now you will concentrate on Clause 1. That is your only significant task – apart from getting better of course.” He smiled again, and caressed his slave’s cheek lovingly.


“Yes, sir,” Mulder muttered faintly.


“I don’t mind how long it takes, Fox,” Skinner warned. “If you’re not well enough to begin the process today then you can start tomorrow, or the day after, but we will tackle this. By the time we’re through, I intend that you will have no doubts whatsoever about your…” he paused, and gave a wry grin, “…well, let’s call them contractual obligations, shall we?”


Mulder managed a grin in return. At least his Master was back on his usual excruciating form in the bad jokes department. “Yes, sir,” he agreed.


At that moment, there was a buzz on the entry-phone. Skinner let Elaine in, and exchanged pleasantries, while Mulder mulled over their conversation. Skinner returned to the couch, bent and kissed his slave firmly on the lips, then picked his briefcase, preparing to leave.


“I’ve told him what his duties for the day are,” Skinner informed Elaine. “If he has any doubts he can call me.”


“All right, Walter.” Elaine smiled at Mulder over Skinner’s shoulder.


“His medication is here – it’s all labelled, and his food is laid out in the kitchen. Make sure he eats it – all of it,” Skinner said. “Nothing else, and nothing less.”


“Yes, sir!” Elaine mocked a salute, and he smiled at her.


“Pass that information onto Perry if he’s the one serving lunch,” Skinner continued. “Here’s the keys to Fox’s cuffs. Only unlock them if it’s necessary. They’re loose enough to allow him some movement so he should be able to use the bathroom okay in them. I can’t think of any other instances in which he should be allowed his freedom right now,” Skinner said sternly. Elaine shot Mulder a sympathetic, but firm glance, clearly signalling her intent to abide by Skinner’s restrictions. “And don’t let him get away with any crap,” Skinner finished, tousling Mulder’s hair affectionately. Mulder smiled up at his Master, feeling relieved that despite everything, Skinner’s affection seemed undiminished. He grabbed his Master’s arm as Skinner made to leave, his chain clinking as he did so.


“Good luck at the hearing,” Mulder said urgently, his eyes meeting his Master’s, trying to convey his heartfelt sincerity on this subject. Skinner held his gaze for a moment, then nodded, and bestowed another kiss on his slave’s lips.


“And you get well soon. You’re no use to me like this,” he said with a glint in his eye. Mulder felt the faintest stirrings of interest in his cock, and his mood lightened accordingly. That answered that question. At least his Master still wanted him.


Elaine made herself a cup of coffee, and exchanged a few words with Mulder, then sat down at the table and got out a sheaf of papers. She was a self-employed Human Resources adviser, and was well known in her field for her famously entertaining seminars and conferences on the subject. She also acted as a specialist consultant to a number of major businesses, and she frequently worked from home, using her laptop. Mulder watched her work. He couldn’t see what she was doing, but the intensity and focus of her concentration mesmerized him. It always amused him that she was such an expert on Human Resources. He often wondered if she used her colorful private life for her many observations on managing people in the workplace.


Mulder briefly contemplated writing out Clause 1 of his contract 100 times but that would have meant asking Elaine for paper and pen, and he was too embarrassed at being set the task in the first place to do that. So, he dozed, gazing longingly at the clock and wondering when he could make his first phone call to his Master. He knew there was no point calling Skinner at 11 as he would be in the disciplinary meeting. Mulder wasn’t sure how long that would last, so he sat and worried about it.


“If you bite down on your lip any more you’ll reopen that cut.” Elaine’s voice broke into his reverie. She stood up, and stretched, smiling at him.


“Sorry,” he muttered.


“Don’t apologize to me – it’s Walter’s property you’re damaging. I’m sure he’ll have something to say about it when he gets home.” Her wide smiled belied her words. “Mulder, it’ll take a while to get back to normal – both physically, and with Walter,” she said softly. “I firmly believe that it’ll happen though, so don’t fret about it.”


“You do?” Mulder couldn’t hide his own uncertainty.


“Yes. I do,” Elaine said, sitting down on the couch beside him, and putting an arm around his shoulders. “You’ve been bounced right back to nothing, haven’t you, Mulder?” she sighed. “I’ve never seen you this full of self-doubt, this lacking in purpose, and resolve. You’re normally so committed, and full of fire and passion – even if it’s misdirected sometimes. Whatever that bastard did to you, he did it well,” she commented.


Mulder gave a silent shrug, and Elaine kissed the side of his face, and hugged him again. “We’ll get you better,” she said firmly. “I expect Walter’s doing his best to be harder on you that you’d be on yourself,” she murmured. Mulder looked at her in surprise. “Well, that’s about the only thing that’ll work, isn’t it? If he doesn’t do it, you’ll do it for yourself, and god knows where you’ll end up if you do that,” she told him. “We all know the legendary self destruct button you have that kicks in when you’re desperate.”


“Yeah.” Mulder gave her a wry smile. “You have such faith it’ll be all right. I don’t share it,” he confided.


“Ah, well, I’ve been here before – or close to it,” Elaine responded. “On more than one occasion, – but there’s one that sticks in my mind in particular. Walter.” She squeezed his shoulder, and he glanced at her.




“You know what a state he was in before I pushed him in Andrew’s direction,” she said. “Trust me, it didn’t go easily for him. Andrew wasn’t the kind of person who’d let you get away with anything. When Walter went to him for help, Andrew made sure he got it – and some. I think Walter had a really hard time doing some of what Andrew asked. You know what a closed-off, private person he is.”


“Yeah. It’s weird thinking of him with someone else. All that time he was going through that stuff with Andrew and I never even knew about it,” Mulder mused.


Elaine laughed. “They made a good couple. It wasn’t…” she paused and looked thoughtfully at Mulder. “It wasn’t like it is between you and Walter. It was a good relationship, based on a deep and abiding affection, but it wasn’t passion,” she said. “Andrew had already met and lost the love of his life – Ryan – and Walter…I don’t think he ever thought he’d experience that kind of passion. I think he was resigned to living without it – but he was wrong.”


“He feels that way about me? Passionate, I mean?” Mulder asked. For all the reassurances Skinner had given him over their months together, and the slow building of their relationship beyond mere physical compatibility, he still felt that Skinner’s love had to have its limits. Sexual passion he could understand, but relationships were something he’d always screwed up if he was in them for any length of time. He’d never known anybody who could put up with the worst excesses of his quest without walking away from him. Skinner was no different.


“You’ve surely noticed?” Elaine commented, raising an eyebrow at him. Mulder flushed. “Walter loves you, Mulder. Heart, mind, soul and body. He has done for a very long time and I don’t think he’s going to stop overnight. He understands you – he’s watched you for long enough, so he should! He knew exactly what he was taking on, and I’m sure he knew that there might be setbacks. Here, I might have something that will interest you.” She fumbled around in her purse, and pulled out her diary. There, tucked in the back, were several photographs. She sorted through them until she came to the one she was looking for, and showed it to Mulder. It was a scene party, and in the center of the picture sat Andrew Linker, dressed in elegant, masterful black, a fond smile on his face. He had his hand on the shoulder of someone kneeling beside him, looking up at him as if he were a lifeline – it was Skinner.


“This was in the early days when Walter wasn’t doing much beyond merely functioning. I think, maybe, he was in very similar place to where you are now. I expect Andrew dealt with that in a very different way to how Walter’s dealing with you. You’re very different people, but the caring is the same.” Elaine smiled at Mulder.


He studied the picture, engrossed in the sight of his Master in a position of such abject servitude, wearing…nothing very much, his wrists cuffed behind his back.”He makes a good slave boy,” Mulder commented with a grin.


“Yeah – the big, dom guys always look good in bondage,” she replied. “So, whatever he’s doing to you now, he’s doing because he’s been there, done that, and probably has the leather tee shirt to show for it,” she said with a wink. “He knows what you need, and he’s strong enough to give it to you. Go with him on the journey, Mulder. Trust him to lead you out of the abyss – and follow him blindly, even when it hurts.”


“I will,” Mulder said, the tears that were never far away pricking at the back of his eyes again. He blinked down hard. It wasn’t his custom to cry in front of people. “He sure as hell does look good in that slave boy outfit,” Mulder joked, trying to change the subject.


“Be good, and get better, and he might dress up like this for you one day,” Elaine told him with a mischievous smile. “Now don’t, whatever you do, tell him I showed you this,” she entreated. “The wrath of Walter is not something anyone risks lightly!”


“Oh, I know that,” Mulder replied with a heartfelt sigh. “I know that all too well!”


Elaine took the photograph back and looked at it for a moment, then glanced at Mulder. “You know,” she mused thoughtfully, “when a Master/slave relationship is working well, it’s the most beautiful sight in the world – and I’ve never seen one work better or look more beautiful than what you share with Walter.”


Mulder swallowed down the lump in his throat, and plucked at the comforter with nerveless fingers. “I threw it all away, Elaine. I gave him his ring back,” he told her, almost choking on the words, suddenly aware of just how much happiness he’d given up chasing after apparitions who vanished into the night.


“And he put it back on your finger again,” she observed, pointing.


“But he removed my collar,” Mulder admitted to her, in an almost silent whisper.


She looked at him for a long time, then nodded. “I see,” she said. “I think, in the circumstances, that he had to, don’t you?” She asked. Mulder shrugged. “What you had doesn’t just happen, without any work, or effort,” she told him. “There was real commitment there, and a sense of trust. Now you have to start again. I believe your relationship can be stronger than before – in fact, I think that maybe this was a crisis just waiting to happen. At least it happened now, when your relationship had grown and blossomed. If it had happened right at the beginning you might have thrown all this away without realizing just what it could be.”


Mulder felt a sudden sensation of loss. If he hadn’t signed that contract, if Skinner hadn’t been the unknown Master who’d taken him on, if he hadn’t stayed with his Master in those difficult early days…his life could have turned out so differently.


“I’ve been lucky,” he said.


“Yes,” Elaine chuckled, “and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I’m so fond of you, Mulder.” She kissed his forehead, then got up and settled him down with the comforter tucked around him. “Now, I think you need to rest,” she said firmly.


He slept for a while, and when he woke up, Elaine had miraculously disappeared to be replaced by Perry.
“What time is it?” Mulder asked, blearily.


Perry looked up from his work, and smiled. “Ah, it talks! It moves!” He exclaimed. “The time? Nearly 1. Why?”


“I must call Walter.” Mulder located his cellphone, and punched in the number, eagerly, and then, abruptly, cut the connection. Supposing the hearing had gone badly? Mulder bit on his lip, and tasted his own blood. Supposing Skinner had lost his job?


“Problem?” Perry raised an eyebrow.


“No.” Mulder stared at the phone.


“Then call him,” Perry said firmly. “I’ll get lunch. I understand there are strict instructions about that, and I wouldn’t want to get into any trouble.”


Perry always managed to maintain an air of being faintly amused by all the dom/sub rules and rituals, while at the same time effortlessly entering into the spirit of them when he chose to, in a way that was positively chameleonic. He disappeared into the kitchen, giving Mulder some privacy.


Mulder punched the re-dial button and waited nervously for a few rings. His heart thudded when Skinner picked up.
“Skinner.” His Master’s voice sounded terse.


Mulder swallowed hard. “Sir. It’s me,” he whispered.


“I was wondering when you’d call – how are you feeling?”


“Fine. I was sleeping. Sir…what happened in the meeting?” Mulder asked. There was silence, and he held his breath.


“Nothing for you to worry about. I’ll tell you about it later,” Skinner informed him. “Have you eaten?”


“No. Perry’s just getting lunch.”


“Make sure you eat it all.”


“Yes, sir.” Mulder nodded, not feeling remotely hungry.


“He’ll tell me if you don’t,” Skinner warned, clearly detecting the note of uncertainty in Mulder’s voice.


“Yeah. I know,” Mulder sighed.


There wasn’t much else to say so the conversation came to an end. Mulder knew he’d been told not to worry, but he did anyway. Unable to relax, he pressed the speed-dial button on his phone and was relieved to hear Scully’s voice a few minutes later.


“Yo, partner! I hope you’re not tidying the office or anything in my absence,” he told her, feigning a cheerfulness he didn’t feel.


“No, Mulder. I know how much you hate working in a tidy office,” she responded in kind. “Are you okay? Do you want me to visit?”


“Not yet. I’m under house arrest at the moment,” he joked feebly. “I’m not sure I’m allowed visitors.”


“I could ask Skinner?” she suggested cautiously.


“Uh. No. Not a good idea right now,” Mulder winced, suddenly aware just how much leeway he had been given before. Now he didn’t even dare ask for permission to see Scully. He knew that Skinner was in no mood to be granting him any favors at this moment in time. Scully didn’t know what had happened at Skinner’s review either, so he said goodbye, and disconnected with a sigh, just as Perry returned with a steaming bowl of soup, and a plate of bread and butter, accompanied by a glass of water.


“Nice plain, healthy, nutritious food I see,” Perry winked. “Just what the doctor ordered.”


“I’m not hungry,” Mulder snapped, closing his eyes.


“And I’m not moving,” Perry replied, sitting down in front of Mulder, and waiting patiently. “Come on, Fox – Walter will kill me if you don’t eat. You wouldn’t want me dead would you?”


Mulder sighed, and sat up gingerly, opening his eyes again. This was the second meal today that he wasn’t in the mood for, but somehow Skinner had contrived to ensure that his slave eat every single last morsel in both of them, even when he wasn’t damn well here to threaten Mulder in person. He grudgingly ate the soup and bread.


After lunch, Perry washed his hands and came to sit beside Mulder again, bringing a medical bag with him.


“Fox – Walter asked me to change the dressing on your chest,” he said gently. “He also wants me to examine it.”


Mulder swallowed hard, then shrugged. “Whatever. If that’s what he wants…did he tell you how it happened?” He asked.


Perry looked at him intently. “I know someone took a knife to you – that’s all,” he said. Mulder shrugged again, and turned his face away as Perry lifted his tee-shirt, and removed the dressing. He hadn’t been able to face seeing the scar on his chest since Krycek had carved his initials into his flesh. Perry fished out his spectacles and examined the wound more closely, then pressed his fingers gently against the skin.


“It’s healing nicely. It looks as if that ER doctor did almost as good a job as I would have done myself. Almost,” he grinned modestly. Mulder kept his eyes firmly shut. “Mulder?” Perry asked, an inquiry in his voice.


“Just put another dressing on it. I don’t want to look,” Mulder growled.


“You’ll have to at some point,” Perry pointed out reasonably. “Unless you intend to close your eyes every time you get undressed or take a bath.


“Maybe I will,” Mulder hissed. He felt a new dressing being placed on the wound, and opened his eyes to find Perry’s expression thoughtful and concerned.


“It’s not as bad as you think…” Perry began.


“It’s someone else’s initials. Someone who isn’t my Master,” Mulder pointed out. “How much worse can it be? It’s alwaysthere, Perry. It’ll always be between us. Every time he touches me…I can’t see how he’d even want to with this here, anyway.”


“I don’t think his affection for you is just skin deep,” Perry commented.


“Maybe not, but how would you feel if it was Ian?” Mulder asked bitterly.


“Very worried about his mental state if he couldn’t even look at his own body,” Perry replied forcefully. “Have you spoken to Walter about this?”


“No – and I don’t want you to mention it either.”


“Well, that’s a difficult ethical dilemma, Fox, but seeing as I am merely changing your dressing and am not, officially, your doctor, I’m afraid that my allegiance is to Walter. You’ve chosen a particular lifestyle, and you signed a contract with him of your own free will giving certain rights over to him. Apart from anything else, I think he deserves to know,” Perry said firmly. “Don’t you?”


Mulder gazed at the other man balefully for a long while, then turned on his side and closed his eyes. He studiously ignored Perry, and spent the rest of the day alternately sleeping, and making his requisite phone calls to his Master. Mulder knew he wouldn’t relax until Skinner walked through the front door again. Perry reminded him to take his medication at regular intervals, and Mulder pretended to comply, but the truth was that he welcomed the pain in his body – it matched the way he felt inside. So he palmed the painkillers, and as each hour passed, he relished the worsening throb of the scar on his chest. He tuned out every other pain in his battered body, and simply concentrated on that. Situated as it was, over his heart, it echoed the despair he felt inside, giving it a focus. He was lost in thought, running over several worries in an absent, distracted way, from the outcome of Skinner’s hearing to the initials carved on his chest, when something landed with a thud on his stomach, jolting his sore ribs painfully, and making him yelp. He looked into Wanda’s yellow-green eyes, as she settled down on top of him, tucking her front paws under her breast and clearly deciding to make the most of the unexpected pleasure of having a warm body around to sit on during a weekday.


“Fuck off, cat,” Mulder snapped, pushing her off his lap. She sat and looked at him for a moment her eyes dark in surprise at being rebuffed, then wandered over to try her luck with Perry.


Mulder was sunk totally in lethargy and gloom by the time Skinner returned home, worn out both by pain, and his own tortured thought processes. He heard his Master exchange a few words with Perry, and then Skinner showed the other man out, and came over to his slave. Mulder kept his eyes firmly shut, but heard Skinner lean over him, and then felt the other man’s lips press against his cheek.


“You’re not sleeping, boy, so don’t pretend,” Skinner observed with a wry chuckle.


Mulder sighed, and turned over, opening his eyes. He watched as his Master slumped down in the armchair, and poured himself a glass of whisky, swallowing it down in one heartfelt gulp.


“What happened, sir?” He asked. “I’ve been thinking about it all day.”


“I told you not to,” Skinner growled.


“And I couldn’t stop myself!” Mulder protested.


“I gave you plenty of other things to think about,” Skinner told him firmly. “Is this what you call obedience, Fox?”


Mulder opened his mouth to reply, then closed it mutinously, and shrugged.


“I’ll see to your punishment later – both for that and for mouthing off at me this morning. For now, I can at least put you out of your misery about my job. They were more sympathetic than I expected.” Skinner took another deep gulp of his drink, and Mulder knew that, sympathetic or not, they had put his Master through hell in there. “The aspect of my relationship with you was not discussed – that’s known only to the Director, and for some reason…” Skinner’s mouth quirked at the corners and Mulder had a sudden mental image of the Director prancing around his office in a pair of frilly panties. “…he didn’t think it necessary to make it known to the OPC.” Skinner said. “He passed the file over to them for an informal hearing. While wondering what the hell I was doing in Seattle with you in the first place, they agreed that with an agent down and missing, my actions had been understandable – if wrong. In the circumstances, it was agreed that it would sufficient to place an official reprimand on my file.”


“What does that mean?” Mulder held his breath. He had several official reprimands on his own file so he was familiar enough with the concept but he’d never heard of it happening to someone as high up as Assistant Director.


“It means I won’t ever make Director – or even Deputy Director,” Skinner informed him bluntly. “It means my career has effectively been stopped dead in its tracks.”


“I’m so sorry,” Mulder said abjectly, his wretched mood intensifying. He felt his breath constrict in his throat. This was agonizing – just one more nail in the coffin of his own guilt.


“Don’t be. Promotion isn’t that important to me.” Skinner shrugged. “And I deserved the reprimand. My actions couldn’t go unpunished. There are always consequences – you just have to be sure that you’re prepared to pay them.” He shot Mulder a meaningful look. “And I was. Very sure. One of the things Andrew finally drummed into me was that my job was meaningless if I wasn’t happy in my private life. He reminded me that there were plenty of other jobs I could do, if I left the Bureau. It was hard…” Skinner’s lips turned up at the corners again, in private reminiscence, leaving Mulder only to guess just how hard, “…letting go of all my old ideas, but when I put my ambitions and aspirations into perspective I was a lot happier.”


Mulder remembered that picture that Elaine had shown him. Somehow he thought that Andrew had probably had his work cut out trying to drum that particular lesson into his Master. He knew how focused and committed the Assistant Director was to his work.


“Now, tell me about your day.” Skinner finished his whisky, and waited expectantly.


“What’s to tell?” Mulder muttered. “I spent it on the couch. I called you three times. I slept. I ate. I went to the bathroom twice in case you were wondering. That’s it.”


“Did you give the matter of Clause 1 any thought?” Skinner asked, loosening his tie.


Mulder wished his Master didn’t look so tired. It had been one thing after another recently for Skinner, and the strain was clearly taking its toll on the big man. It was easy to think of him as invincible, but he was only human at the end of the day.


“Not much.” Mulder shrugged.


“Well, there’s time. I won’t let this drop, boy,” Skinner said, getting up. “Did you eat everything I left for you?”


“Yes, sir,” Mulder nodded.


“And you took all your medication?” Skinner asked, looking down on his slave searchingly.


Mulder thought about it for a moment. A lie would be easy enough. Skinner wouldn’t know…and yet…if Skinner found out that he’d lied, he might make good on his promise to rescind the contracts. Mulder closed his eyes, then opened them again, struggling with himself.


“No, sir,” he admitted. Skinner’s expression darkened. “I didn’t take my painkillers,” Mulder confessed, looking away. Skinner reached out and turned his slave’s head back to face him.


“Why?” He demanded.


“Because they take the pain away. I wanted the damn pain!” Mulder snapped, shamefaced.


“I see. Well, let me make one thing clear to you – I can always provide pain, boy, if you need it. You’ll ask for that just like you ask for everything else.” Skinner found the medication and tipped a pill into the palm of his hand. “Tongue out,” he said. “I want to make sure this one ends up where it’s supposed to.” He placed the tablet on the end of Mulder’s tongue, then handed him the glass of water that was on the coffee table. He watched closely to ensure Mulder swallowed it, then took the glass of water back. “That’s worse than getting a tablet down Wanda’s throat,” Skinner commented mildly, rocking back on his heels. Mulder made a face. “I meant what I said. From now on, if you need pain – you’ll ask for it. I may or may not grant it. That’s my prerogative as your Master. Now, is there anything else I should know about?” Skinner asked, crossing his arms across his chest.


Mulder racked his brain. “I don’t think so. Mainly I was just worried about what was happening with your job. I phoned Scully to…”


“You made a call? Without my permission?” Skinner demanded.


Mulder opened his mouth in surprise. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t do it on purpose – I just forgot.”


“I would have given you permission – it isn’t Scully’s fault you’re on restriction after all – but asking isn’t optional,” Skinner told him. “I’ve told you to ask for everything, Fox. Don’t take anything for granted.”


“No, sir.” Mulder bit on his lip.


“And stop that.” Skinner put his finger on Mulder’s split lip. “You’ll gnaw it away to nothing if you keep on like this. All right – it seems to me that we have some issues to address. I’m going to get changed. You can await punishment.” He turned Mulder carefully onto his stomach, and pulled his slave’s sweat pants down. “I want you to lie here with your ass in the air and think about where you went wrong today. When I come back, I’ll administer a reminder of what you are,” Skinner warned.


Mulder’s stomach did a flip, and he nodded, and buried his face in his arms. His sweatpants were around his ankles, leaving a cold draft wafting over his naked ass, but for the first time since his Master had left that morning, he wasn’t focused on his own despair. This felt like a comforting ritual, and an affirmation that their relationship was still intact. He felt reassured, and curiously at peace.


Skinner returned a few minutes later dressed in jeans and a tee shirt, and there was no preamble. Mulder felt six stinging slaps on each of his butt cheeks, delivered by his Master’s hand, then Skinner pulled his slave’s sweatpants up, and sat down beside him, gently manoeuvring Mulder into his lap.


“Thank you,” Mulder whispered, tears burning the back of his eyes. The peremptory spanking had helped break into his mood, and bring him out of his consuming despair.


“I said it wouldn’t be easy, and it won’t,” Skinner said, smoothing his slave’s hair away from his face, and looking down on him. “We’ve only just begun, boy.”


“I know.” Mulder nodded. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t very good company for Perry this afternoon.”


“You didn’t have to be. I told you that before I left.” Skinner continued idly running his hands through Mulder’s hair. “You’re recuperating, not providing entertainment.”


“Yeah. Well, I’ll apologize tomorrow,” Mulder said.


“Perry won’t be back tomorrow.”


“Why? Did I drive him away?” Mulder joked feebly.


“No…but I elected to take four weeks unpaid leave.” Skinner gave just the slightest hint of a grimace.


“You mean they suspended you in other words?” Mulder commented softly.


“Yes – but they aren’t going to call it that.” Skinner smiled. “They also don’t intend to be completely without my services either, so they’ve piled me with paperwork. However, I think it might all work out for the best. This way I can keep a close eye on you for the next four weeks. It’ll be a good opportunity to take you back to our first week together when you were in intensive training. Only this time I’ll be harder on you, and you won’t have the benefit of being able to profess ignorance, boy – the slightest infraction of the rules will be punished.”


“Yes, sir. I accept your will, sir, totally, and absolutely. I surrender myself to it,” Mulder said quietly and determinedly, meaning it.


“I’m pleased to hear it.” Skinner bent down and kissed his slave’s lips, lovingly. “Who do you belong to, boy?” He asked when he drew back.


“You, sir. Always,” Mulder said, feeling almost at peace. “And about Clause 1, sir?”


“Mmm?” Skinner placed his feet on the coffee table, and looked down on his slave expectantly.


“The slave agrees to obey and submit completely to his Master in all ways. There are no boundaries of place, time, or situation in which the slave may willfully refuse to obey the directive of his Master,” Mulder recited. “I think it’s fairly obvious how I screwed that one up. It doesn’t matter what the situation…I disobeyed you. I ran off to meet Krycek against your will. I might have thought the circumstances were extenuating, but in reality…” he paused.


“Go on,” Skinner urged gently.


“In reality it’s in exactly those kind of circumstances that I need some objective guidance,” Mulder finished. “It’s easy to obey when I don’t care, or it doesn’t matter, and if I’m honest…you haven’t ever ordered me to do anything that wasn’t in my best interests.” He ventured another look at his Master, and gave a hesitant smile. “It slays me every time, sir,” he admitted, his throat hurting from the effort of holding back his own emotions. “Every time someone wants to get at me, they dangle Samantha in front of me like a carrot. Every fucking time. This time I was lucky. I could have died. I deservedto die.”


“That’s for me to decide,” Skinner murmured, “and I most certainly disagree. Apart from anything else that would have deprived me of the services of my favourite slave.”


“I’m your only slave,” Mulder pointed out. “Aren’t I?” He added anxiously.


Skinner laughed out loud. “I think I’ve got my hands full enough with one,” he commented. “Now, explain it to me, Fox – why?”


“Why what?” Mulder looked startled.


“I can understand you wanting to find your sister – but why has it reached this level of obsession? Where you’d throw your life away in pursuit of it? Why, Fox?”


Mulder gazed at his Master blankly. He’d never really thought about it before. He just knew that it was important – it was his life’s work.


“My quest is me,” he said at last. “It defines me, I suppose.”


“Not good enough.” Skinner shook his head. “There’s far more to you than that, Fox – but I don’t think that you value any other part of yourself save your quest – why else would you be prepared to throw away everything else for it?


“I don’t know.” Mulder shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t. I mean…Samantha was my sister. She was just a little girl…I feel responsible for her disappearance – I always have. Maybe it’s that?” He looked at his Master for confirmation.


“Maybe.” Skinner clearly remained unconvinced. “I’m not going to allow this one to rest, Fox. You do know that, don’t you? If I were to let it pass, then the next time someone said her name, you’d go again – and the outcome could be even worse.”


“It’s hard to think how it could be much worse,” Mulder said, his hand going absently to his tee shirt, and fingering the dressing beneath it.


“I can,” Skinner stated grimly, grabbing Mulder’s hand away from his chest wound and looking at him. “And the fact that you can’t worries me. Now, let’s get you fed and put to bed, boy.”


There was, Mulder thought an hour later, as Skinner swung him carefully into his arms, only one thing that made being this badly injured bearable – and that was being carried up to bed every night. Skinner’s body was warm and solid beneath him, and Mulder couldn’t remember ever having felt so safe. He was reminded of being a sleepy six-year-old, returning from a journey to visit his grandmother, and being lifted out of the car by his father and carried into the house and up to bed. He rested his face against his Master’s cheek with a sigh, and drifted off in the bliss of being held in such strong, loving, arms. He had never thought that as an adult, he’d ever be able to find this kind of comfort, or love, let alone allow himself to accept it. He knew that having no choice on the matter was the only way he had come to be in this entirely enjoyable position, and concluded that his Master was a sneaky bastard to have insisted on slavery or nothing in the first place. Feeling choked, he buried his face in his Master’s neck.


“Permission to, I dunno…cry, sir?” he asked incoherently.


“Granted. What is it?” Skinner asked, carrying his slave into the bedroom and placing him on the bed.


“I dunno,” Mulder said again, putting an arm over his face, fighting it.


“Then permission denied,” Skinner told him, sitting down on the bed beside his slave. Mulder removed his arm and gazed up at his Master blankly. “Talk, and you can give in to it, slave,” Skinner whispered, his voice as silky as a caress. He reached out and gently touched the side of his slave’s face with the back of his hand.


“It’s just…I’ve always fought against this kind of…intimacy…love…before,” Mulder managed to rasp out, the tears starting to fall unchecked down his face. “I’ve always run from it. I’ve never trusted anyone to…I don’t do this in front of people. I can deal with my own…feelings. I don’t need to put on a fucking show. I don’t like you seeing me like this.” He curled himself up into a fetal position, and grabbed his pillow, clutched it to his chest, and buried his face in it.


“So, it’s all right for me to see you stark naked, or screaming in ecstasy. I’ve see you at your best, your head thrown back in laughter, and that brilliant light shining in your beautiful eyes. You’ve let me see you at your ugliest as well, pulling a gun on me, and knocking me out with it – but I’m not allowed to see you at your lowest point, or witness you expressing your remorse, and sadness? Why is that, Fox?” Skinner made no move to comfort his slave, but sat, gazing at him, steadily, and expectantly.


“Feel weak…” Mulder growled into his pillow, a lump in his throat. “Being known…”


“Is hard. Yes, I know,” Skinner said softly, “but if you can’t share it with me, then who? I love you naked, Fox. I love you moaning incoherently during sex, I love you laughing, and I even loved you at your ugliest, when you were running out on me. I can see you weak and in pain too, and still love you. You don’t have any barriers from me, boy. You’re mine to know, mine to love. Give it all up to me, and accept that you have no control over it,” Skinner said softly.


Mulder shook for a moment, with the effort of holding it in, and Skinner reached out, laid a firm hand on his slave’s back, and rubbed up and down, and that was when Mulder gave in to the racking sobs. He cried for a long time, and Skinner did nothing except continue to caress his slave’s back throughout, never breaking the physical contact between them. Finally, Mulder was all cried out, and he sat up with an apologetic half smile.


“I’m through,” he said, still shaking from laying his grief so bare.


“No. You’ve only just started,” Skinner replied softly.


He got up and helped Mulder into the bathroom, holding him up while he washed and brushed his teeth, then aided him back into the bedroom, locking him into the cuff once more, before he slid into the bed beside his slave and reached for him as was his habit. Mulder lay there in silence for a moment, enjoying the weight of his Master’s body against his back, the feel and smell of the other man, and then he shifted.


“Does sir want…? It’s been a while. That is…” Mulder hesitated. “If you wanted to use me…I’m well enough.”


“I’ll decide when,” Skinner replied gruffly. He ran his hand over Mulder’s groin and then took his slave’s shaft in his hand. Mulder enjoyed his Master’s touch, but his cock remained resolutely limp.


“Maybe it’s the meds,” Mulder whispered. “I’m sorry, sir.”


“For what? I can touch any part of my slave’s body whenever I like,” Skinner growled in his slave’s ear. He played with Mulder’s cock for a while, then ran his finger back along Mulder’s crease, and inserted it into his slave’s anus without warning. The finger wasn’t lubed, and Mulder shifted uncomfortably.


“You’ve forgotten to keep yourself ready for me. If I’d used you tonight as you suggested, you could have been damaged,” Skinner pointed out. “You’re perfectly capable of lubing yourself, boy, even in your current condition. See to it in future.” He removed his finger, and administered a hard slap to his slave’s backside. “That’s for forgetting,” he said.


“Yes, sir,” Mulder said quickly, feeling absurdly pleased by that small amount of sexual contact between them. “If you wanted to use my mouth, sir?” He suggested.


“I’m aware of my rights, boy,” Skinner chided. “Choosing not to use you, is entirely my prerogative under Clause 2 of your contract. You have no say in the matter.” Skinner fondled between his slave’s legs again, opening them, and playing with Mulder’s balls. Mulder gasped, enjoying the fondling but still feeling no response from his cock.


“Damn.” He buried his head in his pillow again, feeling wretched. “I feel like my stupid dick’s gone into hibernation or something. I hate this. Supposing I never get back to…” he trailed off, barely able to stand that thought. He enjoyed his sex life with his Master too much to even contemplate the idea that it might be over.


“I doubt that,” Skinner chuckled. “A wanton slave like you? It doesn’t seem likely.”


Mulder smiled, and snuggled back into his Master’s arms, resolving not to worry about the subject any more, but all the same, it nagged at the back of his mind.


Mornings were the worst. Mulder woke early, feeling wretched. He was lucid enough to understand that this was a symptom of depression, but that didn’t make it any easier. He lay there, just listening to his Master’s breathing, and watching Skinner’s sleeping face, and that helped a little. It didn’t relieve the pit of anxiety in his stomach though. That churned around inside him, making him feel ill. He knew that if he’d been at home he’d have stayed on his couch in a darkened room, not getting up, or dressed or washed, not eating, or showing any interest in his surroundings. He’d have given into the darkness, as he had done a couple of times before until Scully or his consuming need to be working had snapped him out of it. Skinner didn’t give him that option. He didn’t allow his slave to lie in bed feeling sorry for himself. He roused his slave from bed by the usual routine of two stinging slaps on his backside the next morning. Mulder looked around blearily to find his Master standing over him, fully dressed in sweats and a tee shirt.


“Up, boy. Let’s see if you can walk this morning,” Skinner said, handing Mulder the cane Ian had bought him. He undid Mulder’s chain with the key he wore around his neck, and Mulder swung himself hesitantly off the bed, and, with his Master’s aid, stood up. His injured foot still wouldn’t bear his whole weight, but he found that he was able to walk short distances with the cane, and was relieved that this meant he wouldn’t be so dependent on his Master. Skinner followed his slave into the bathroom and Mulder propped himself up against the wall in front of the toilet and reached for his cock – only to find his hand slapped away.


“Sir?” He looked up, confused.


“You’ll ask for permission,” Skinner told him.


“Permission? To hold my own cock?” Mulder asked incredulously.


“Quote me Clause 2 of your contract,” Skinner said.


“The slave also agrees that, once entered into the Slavery Contract, his body belongs to his Master, to be used as seen fit,” Mulder stated. His eyes opened wide in the realization that Skinner intended to hold him to every last word in his contract.


“Exactly. So…” Skinner lifted Mulder’s cock. “This is my property, and you’ll ask permission before you touch it again. Now pee.” Mulder took a deep breath and tried to do as ordered, inhibited by his Master’s watchful gaze. He finally managed to oblige, and afterwards, Skinner released his slave’s cock, and turned on the shower. “Get in.” He gestured with his head. Mulder glanced down at his various bandages with a questioning look.


“Learning how to change dressings and tie a bandage were skills I picked up a long time ago,” Skinner said, his dark eyes reflecting memories of ‘Nam back at Mulder. His slave did as he was told and got in the shower. “These need some air anyway,” Skinner said, undoing the bandage around Mulder’s hand, leaving just the broken finger taped to the one beside it. Mulder gazed at his discolored wrist, and flexed his hand tentatively.


“It’s getting there,” Skinner observed. “Another couple of days and we can dispense with the bandage.” He undid the one around Mulder’s ankle, and then reached for the dressing on Mulder’s chest. Mulder closed his eyes. “Fox. Open them,” Skinner said. Mulder did as he was told, but resolutely refused to look at the wound. “Perry warned me about this,” Skinner said, reaching out a hand to pull his slave’s chin around and make him look at his Master. “You’ll have to face it eventually,” he said.


“Not now. Please not yet,” Mulder asked in a desperate undertone.


“Sometime soon,” Skinner said firmly.


Mulder nodded. “But not now,” he said. “Please don’t order me.”




His Master looked at him for a long time, then finally nodded. “Wash yourself, and remember not to touch your cock,” Skinner ordered, leaving the bathroom. Mulder complied, and it felt good to be taking a shower and getting really clean after so long just sitting around and taking basin washes. It improved his spirits. Skinner returned a couple of minutes later, and helped his slave out of the shower, then handed him a towel, and ordered him to dry himself. “But not your cock,” Skinner warned. “I’ll take care of that.”


Mulder nodded, shivering with the erotic thrill of Skinner’s words. His cock still remained limp, but his mind was definitely turned on. He handed Skinner the towel when he was done, and his Master took several minutes drying his slave’s cock thoroughly, fondling it all the while, until Mulder wished he was on the edge of a frenzied orgasm, and could really enjoy his Master’s touch the way he used to. Finally Skinner released him, helped him back into the bedroom, and sat him down on the side of the bed. Mulder saw the cock cage waiting on the night-stand and guessed it was the item Skinner had gone to retrieve. His Master picked it up, and brought it over.


“You’ll wear this all the time from now on,” Skinner informed his slave, buckling the cock cage around Mulder’s cock and balls. “It’s plastic – not pretty, but washable, and you can pee through this opening. You are forbidden to come – but you’ll find it more or less impossible anyway. This cage is ingenious – it traps the cock, but allows some measure of arousal…see.” Skinner demonstrated. “You’ll find it virtually impossible to come though, which is good as you’re forbidden to do so, just as you are forbidden to touch your cock, balls, or the cage without my express permission. You need to learn that your body doesn’t belong to you. It isn’t yours to run off and get damaged. It’s mine – I say where it goes, and what it does from now on. When you’ve learned this lesson, then I’ll think about giving you some privileges back – but not before.”


Mulder swallowed hard. His cock had been his best friend since he’d discovered it, like most males, and to be told he couldn’t touch it was like a kind of torture…and arousing. He was surprised to find that his cock made a little spasm inside its cage. Somehow, he thought it wouldn’t be too long before he was wishing it would remain limp and uninterested.


Skinner spent the next half an hour slowly, and carefully, applying fresh bandages to his slave’s injuries, taking his time, and making sure the fit of each one was comfortable. Mulder wasn’t surprised by how gentle his Master was, but he was surprised by how good Skinner was at this. He was also surprised by the little kisses his Master stopped to bestow on his slave every few minutes, pausing in his work to press his lips against an injured finger, or discolored portion of flesh on Mulder’s ankle, or his bruised ribs. The only place he didn’t go anywhere near was the wound on his slave’s chest – he merely changed the dressing swiftly, and moved on. Mulder was partly relieved, and partly worried by this omission. Relieved because he didn’t want any attention drawn to the wound that had come to symbolise his own shame in his head, and worried because he feared that his Master would never feel the same about making love to his slave again.


They spent the day in Skinner’s study, Skinner inching his way through a pile of paperwork, and Mulder making a start on his lines. It was a mind-numbing task, and yet curiously absorbing at the same time. There was a respite from his usual mental activity as he buried himself in the laborious process, allowing his mind to just be still. He still wasn’t sure how he had broken Clause 3, but as he completed the task he was more and more aware of how deeply he had broken every single other clause. Skinner’s regime had served to focus his slave’s mind on his contract and he was aware of living it, and breathing it in a way he had never done before. He gave a deep sigh, and his Master looked up, a question on his face.


“Explain, Fox,” he ordered.


“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t mean to interrupt you. I…it’s just that I broke Clause 2, as you pointed out this morning, by putting my body at risk, when it belongs to you. I broke Clause 4 by acting as if I wasn’t your slave, and as if pleasing you weren’t important. Clause 5…I took the rights you bestowed on me during the months of my slavery for granted, as if they were mine by right, not bestowed upon me as privileges because you are a kind and indulgent Master.” He paused. “I still haven’t figured out Clause 3 though, sir,” he admitted.


“You’ve done well on the other clauses, boy.” Skinner nodded. “You’ll figure out Clause 3 too.”


Skinner made him take a nap every few hours, and fed him at regular intervals, and within a few days he was feeling much better -physically at least. Mentally and emotionally he was still struggling, and his mood swings often took both him and his Master by surprise. He was calmer than he had been, but he sensed that he still had a long way to go.


A couple of days later, Skinner removed the bandages from Mulder’s wrist and foot for the last time – and stepped up his slave’s regimen as well.


“All right, as you’re well on the road to recovery now, the rules have changed slightly,” Skinner told his slave as he fed him his breakfast. “From now on, it won’t necessarily be my hand you feel when I punish you – and I intend to increase your punishments, boy,” he warned. Mulder bit on his lip, and nodded. His cock sprang to life inside its cage, and he was pleasantly surprised by the warm tingle it elicited. “You’ll spend a good deal of time in the corner, in quiet contemplation as well,” Skinner warned, “and now that you’ve completed your lines, I think it’s time you learned how to appreciate the clauses of your contract in a more…practical way. Have you figured out how you broke Clause 3 yet?”


“No, sir.”


“Very well. I’m going to set you a task that might help focus your mind on that subject. Follow me.”


Mulder limped up to the playroom after his Master, wondering what the other man had in store for him.


“Watch me – I want you to know where I store each item so that you can return it to its proper place – under my supervision of course,” Skinner said.


He opened the cupboards, and began removing some of the toys – butt plugs, paddles, nipple clamps, and a whole plethora of implements. He piled them in a huge mound in the middle of the room, then turned back to his waiting slave.


“You’ll clean these. Thoroughly. Then put them back where they belong.”


“But…I cleaned them after each session, sir. They aren’t dirty,” Mulder pointed out.


“True. Let me share a little secret with you, Fox. When I was in the marines, I was once ordered to scrub the bathroom floor with a toothbrush. That floor was dirty – it was covered in urine for a start – and it would have been a damn sight quicker, easier, and less disgusting to use a scrubbing brush. Some tasks are set not because they need doing, but because it’s necessary that the person ordered to do them learns a lesson. Does that make it clearer?”


“You’re asking me to perform a completely useless, time-wasting task just in order to make me learn that I am subject to your will at all times?” Mulder stated succinctly.


“That about sums it up, boy, yes.” Skinner chuckled. “In addition it will help you focus on the little matter of what constitutes the phrase material goods around here.”


“Yes, sir,” Mulder said doubtfully.


“And go slowly, boy. There’s no rush. I want a thorough job – done with love and duty. I also don’t want you straining yourself. I’ll be back in a couple of hours to see how you’re getting along. Oh, and Fox…” Skinner beckoned his slave over, and then fastened the chain attached to his ankle and wrist cuffs to a hook in the floor. “Why am I doing this, Fox?” he asked.


“Because I ran away, sir,” Mulder replied.


“And that means?” Skinner folded his arms over his chest, and waited.


“That I have to be tied because you don’t trust me any more, sir,” Mulder said, wincing.


“That’s right.” Skinner surprised his slave by grabbing him and pulling him into an embrace, plundering his mouth in a deep, searching kiss. “Who loves you more than anything or anyone else in the world, Fox?” he asked upon releasing him.


“You do, sir?” Mulder ventured uncertainly, trying to regain his breath. “Ow!” he yelped, as his Master’s hand came down with a resounding slap on his backside.


“Next time don’t hesitate,” Skinner told him. He ruffled his slave’s hair and then turned and left the Playroom. Mulder sat down and surveyed the implements with a sigh. Somehow he didn’t think Skinner was going to let him out of here until every black leather paddle was shining, every nipple clamp sparkling, and every last butt plug gleaming like new.


Skinner released him for lunch, insisted that his slave took a nap, then returned him to the Playroom to continue his task in the afternoon. As it turned out, Mulder enjoyed himself. He was a fetishist at heart, and felt a thrill of arousal as he handled each implement. He dreamily washed and polished, imagining, as he did so, how the items could be used to best effect in the hands of a skilled Master – and they didn’t come any more skilled than Skinner. When he was done, his Master inspected each item then instructed his slave to return them to their correct place.


“There will be a stroke from my belt for every item put back in the wrong place,” Skinner warned, and Mulder nodded, licking his lips anxiously. He had a damn good memory, but even so, he mis-placed 5 of the items. Skinner nodded approvingly, then removed his belt. Mulder’s heart skipped a beat. “Over my knee,” Skinner ordered, seating himself on the throne. Mulder obeyed, and Skinner carefully kept him in place, so as to avoid exacerbating any of his injuries. The lick of the belt when it came was hard, and each stroke counted. Mulder didn’t even bother pretending it didn’t hurt. He yelled out loud from the first lick, and was in tears by the 5th.


“Do you have an answer as to how you broke Clause 3 in Seattle, slave?” Skinner demanded when he’d finished.


Mulder blinked, trying to focus his mind. “I don’t know! All my possessions belong to you! All assets and finances…I don’t see how I broke that. You can’t mean my body because that’s covered in Clause 2,” he cried.


“No. I don’t mean your body. That, as you are discovering more with each passing day, most definitely belongs to me.” Skinner ran his hands over Mulder’s red bottom, kneading and squeezing the flesh. “All right. I’ll give you more time to think about this one. Get up, boy.” He swung Mulder carefully back onto his feet, and Mulder felt a familiar hardness poking against the confines of his cock cage. It wasn’t even an attempt at a full erection, but it was comforting all the same. At least there was a chance he’d get his libido back. “From now on, you’ll do corner time for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening,” Skinner informed him. “You can do it kneeling to begin with, but when your foot is completely healed you’ll do it standing. Corner time will always, without exception, be done with a hot butt, st as yours is now. I think it helps focus a slave’s mind on his duties and ensures he gets in the right headset to meditate upon his condition. Speech is absolutely forbidden during corner time ñ as is turning around. Downstairs, boy, and straight into the corner while I organize dinner.”


Mulder complied quickly, following his Master back downstairs and taking himself off to the corner of the living room, kneeling and staring at the wall. An hour was a long time, and Mulder always found it hard to switch off. Skinner was right about one thing though ñ the faint throbbing in his butt did concentrate his mind on his slavery. He was aware, while kneeling, of his red bottom displayed to the room, and the fact that he was forbidden to talk. His cock stirred slightly ñ Skinner in full forceful mode always aroused him and while his current slight swell of interest was nothing compared to what he was used to, it was at least a start.


He could hear Skinner moving around behind him, and the smell of something in the kitchen, and then he heard his Master talking on the phone. Skinner made a number of calls; to Perry, Ian, Murray, Elaine, and, much to Mulder’s surprise, Scully. It was clear from the tone of that phone call that he spoke with Mulder’s partner every day, keeping her updated on his progress. Mulder was grateful ñ he knew Scully worried about him, and it was good to know that Skinner was keeping her in the loop. Mulder was almost surprised when the hour was up. He got up stiffly, and was about to take his seat at the table when Skinner clicked his fingers and gestured to the ground.


“All meals will be conducted with you on the floor from now on,” his Master told him. Mulder knelt again, and submitted to being tied to his Master’s chair. “Hands behind your back, eyes down ñ assume the submissive pose. You’ll keep your mouth open in the hope of receiving a stray morsel,” Skinner informed him, helping himself to a huge serving. Mulder opened his mouth obediently, flushing slightly. He was aware that it was humiliating to be so completely brought down to the level of slave, but at the same time he was comforted by it. He realized, with some surprise, that he had never totally submitted to Skinner’s will before. His Master had taken him down, but never this far, and this completely. While a part of him still struggled against it, another part welcomed it.


With his eyes down, Mulder barely got a chance to see the food before it was in his mouth. His first taste was of eggplant ñ something he detested. He choked on it, then chewed it slowly, trying not to make a face.


“Problem, slave?” His Master asked.


“No, sir,” he replied quickly, opening his mouth again.


Skinner fed him a few more tid-bits from his plate ñ each and every one being his least favourite foods. Mulder was sure that wasn’t a coincidence and was surprised by how completely his Master knew his dislikes. He hadn’t realized that Skinner had been paying that much attention. When Skinner had finished his own meal, he put the leftovers, both main course and dessert, on one plate, and placed it on the floor in front of his slave.


“Eat. No hands,” Skinner ordered, getting up and clearing the dishes from the table. Mulder lowered his head and cautiously ate his way through the none-too-appetising combination of vegetable lasagne and apple pie. When he’d finished, Skinner wiped his slave’s face with a washcloth. “What clause of your contract was most relevant to your treatment at the dinner table this evening?” Skinner asked, surveying his tied slave impassively.


“Several of them seem relevant,” Mulder mused.


“Pick the most appropriate,” Skinner ordered.


“I think…number 5. That all I have and do shall move from right to privilege.” Mulder looked up for confirmation.


“Eyes down,” Skinner barked. “Submissive pose, boy. Explain why you chose that clause.”


“Because…my Master always used to grant me the privilege of sitting at the table, eating with him, talking to him…” Mulder whispered. “I miss that,” he added miserably. “I didn’t appreciate that it was a privilege at the time, but I do now.”


“Good. You’ve done well. A little reward is in order, I think,” Skinner said, fondling his slave’s ears. “Join me on the couch, slave.” Mulder followed his Master eagerly, and nestled down next to the big man on the couch. “Keep your hands behind your back,” Skinner ordered. He took his slave’s face in his hands, and gently stroked some hair from his forehead, then he tipped Mulder’s chin up and kissed him. It was a long, passionate kiss that made Mulder’s cock stir within its cage. His Master’s lips were firm, unyielding, demanding, and his tongue claimed deep into Mulder’s mouth. Mulder offered himself up, surrendering completely to his Master’s need. Finally, Skinner released him, and Mulder gasped for air.


“Permission to touch you, sir,” he requested, his eyes down, hands still clasped behind his back. Skinner considered the request for a moment.


“Permission granted, slave,” he said finally. Mulder reached out and unbuttoned his Master’s denim shirt as if he were unwrapping a fragile, much longed for present. He paused for a moment, to drink in the sight of his Master’s broad, naked expanse of chest, then reached out reverent fingers to stroke his Master’s chest hair. He turned his attention to one of his Master’s dark nipples, and concentrated on the small nub of flesh, playing with it until it hardened. He continued playing with the nipple with his fingers and pressed his mouth against the other, teasing it to a point with his tongue. Skinner wrapped his arms around his slave, and played with his buttocks as Mulder continued his caresses as if he were mapping a new, hitherto undiscovered country. It had been so long since he had last made love to this body, and he wanted his Master to know that he worshipped him, with every fibre of his being. He kissed his way along each collarbone, pushing Skinner’s shirt from his shoulder, then licked up behind his Master’s ear, pressed his devoted lips to his Master’s wide head, and down over his nose, and cheeks.


“Permission to kiss your mouth, sir,” he whispered.


“Granted,” Skinner grunted, and Mulder dipped his face down and gave his Master a soft, loving kiss. It wasn’t long, or hard, or passionate, but it conveyed every inch of his love for his Master. Skinner’s fingers found the crease between his slave’s buttocks and pushed up, fondling inside his slave’s body, finding it lubed, as instructed, and Mulder gasped, and wiggled his hips back onto those questing fingers. His cock sprang into life ñ more purposefully than at any time since Seattle. Mulder moaned, twisting on his Master’s fingers, and suddenly longing for release.


“Permission to touch my cock, sir,” he gasped.


“Denied,” Skinner replied. Mulder nodded, and continued his lapping, adoring caresses on his Master’s beautiful tanned skin. He found Skinner’s fly, unbuttoned and unzipped it, and reached into his Master’s pants…only to find his way blocked by Skinner’s hand.


“Permission to suck you, sir,” Mulder whispered.


“Denied. Concentrate your attentions on everywhere above my belt,” Skinner ordered. Mulder looked at his Master for confirmation, surprised that Skinner didn’t want his slave to bring him to climax.


“Lower your eyes, remember your place, boy,” Skinner rapped out.


Mulder returned to his former task, making love to his Master’s chest, and neck, and face with all the skill he possessed. Skinner lay back, and accepted the attention without returning it. Finally, he pulled Mulder down on top of him, and they lay there in silence for a long time. This was the best part of his life, Mulder thought, lying on top of his Master, skin pressed against skin, listening to his Master’s heartbeat. Being this close, this loved, this much his Master’s slave, filled his heart with all it had been denied for so long. He watched his Master surreptitiously from under his eyelashes, drinking of the other man’s broad features, the planes of his cheekbones and jaw, and the dark depths of his eyes.


The following day started with his usual wake up call of two firm slaps on his behind. When he limped back into the bedroom after washing, he found that Skinner had pushed an armchair into the corner of the room, with the back facing the wall.


“Kneel on it. You’ll spend the next hour here,” Skinner said. Mulder climbed onto the armchair, and his Master tapped his bottom. “Butt out. I told you that corner time would be done with a red ass, and it will. Every time. Hold still, boy and take your discipline.” Mulder shut his eyes. He heard Skinner open a briefcase, and he knew immediately that it was the case containing his engraved implements. He wondered which one his Master would use, and a moment later yelped as something solid smacked against his backside. The paddle – he’d know the feel and weight of that particular implement anywhere. Skinner applied it liberally to his slave’s backside, just enough to sting, and redden the skin. Painful, but it was a pain that would be gone before lunchtime, and all trace of the spanking with it.


“Who do you belong to?” Skinner asked as he worked.


“You, sir,” Mulder replied immediately.


“And what are you?”


“Nothing. I am…nothing,” Mulder whispered. The paddle stopped, and Skinner turned his slave’s face around so that he was looking at him.


“You’re my slave,” he said, his eyes dark and concerned. “That’s not nothing, Fox. It’s…everything, to me at least. I had hoped it was the same for you too.”


Mulder opened his mouth, and Skinner took advantage of the moment to kiss him, gently, and firmly, full on the lips. When he released him, Mulder gave a rueful shake of his head. “I’m glad I don’t have any slaves,” he commented. “They can be pretty damn stupid some times.”


“True,” Skinner grinned, “but loved all of the time,” he added. “Now, let’s resume where we left off, shall we?” He picked up the paddle again.


“If we must, sir,” Mulder said wryly, turning back to face the wall.


“What are you?” Skinner asked, landing a firm swat on his slave’s buttocks.


“Your slave, sir,” Mulder replied.


“My beloved slave,” Skinner corrected him, landing another stroke, then putting the paddle down. “Now, think about that for the next hour.”


Skinner left his slave to his silent reflection and again, Mulder was surprised by how fast that hour went. When Skinner returned, he ordered Mulder up, and then threw him his sweatpants and a tee shirt.


“Get dressed, boy. You’ve spent enough time indoors, you’re too pale, we need to put some color back in your cheeks,” Skinner said. “A bit of fresh air will do you good. Come downstairs when you’re done.”


Mulder dressed quickly, wondering where his Master would take him. He limped downstairs and knelt by his Master’s side, awaiting further orders.


“We’re going for a walk in the park. You can take Ian’s cane with you to help you walk,” Skinner informed him. “However, it’s my policy to keep you in bondage constantly during the time you’re stripped of your collar, and I have no intention of allowing you your freedom when we’re outside. As you’ve also behaved very well for the past couple of days, I’m giving you a reward that will kill two birds with one stone. Lift up your tee shirt.”


Mulder did as he was told, and watched with wide eyes as his Master picked up an envelope, and tipped two gold rings into his hand. “I’m giving these back to you, boy,” Skinner told him. He threaded the rings into his slave’s nipples, avoiding the dressing on his slave’s chest. Mulder felt a momentary discomfort but he was barely aware of that because his mind was humming with the pleasure of receiving two more of his Master’s rings back on his body. Now there was only the cock ring and, more importantly, his collar left. He was only absently aware of Skinner fastening a long length of thin chain to the rings.


“Thank you, sir,” he said when Skinner had finished, bowing and kissing each of his Master’s shoes.


“Sit up, and pull your tee shirt down. I’m not done yet,” Skinner told him. He picked up a knife and made a small incision in the side of Mulder’s tee shirt. Then he threaded the chain through the opening, and attached it to a slim gold bracelet on his own wrist. “If you stick close by me, then nobody will even notice you’re walking to heel,” Skinner told his slave. “Because you will be walking to heel, every step of the way. You’ll follow my every move, quickly, or you’ll certainly feel a very unpleasant tug on a sensitive area of your body.” He pinched one of Mulder’s nipples hard to illustrate this point and Mulder gave a squawk. He could hardly believe that Skinner was really going to take him out publicly on a lead, but one look at his Master’s face made it clear that Skinner was deadly serious. Skinner got up and Mulder mirrored the movement exactly, anxious not to allow any distance between himself and his Master. He trotted obediently behind his Master as they left the building, sticking to him like glue.


It felt so good to have the sun shining on his face again. They reached the park, and Skinner walked slowly, while Mulder leaned on his walking cane for support. Mulder lifted his head, and felt the wind catch his hair, and the sunlight warm and caress him, like a lover. His spirits soared. There were very few people in the park and it felt almost intimate, just a Master taking his slave out on his leash. Mulder nudged Skinner’s arm every now and again, stealing little touches, enjoying the excursion. They had been walking for about half an hour, when Skinner changed direction, and took them across the grass into a shady, wooded area. When they were out of sight of the main park, Skinner stopped, and held out his hand.


“Give me the switch inside your cane please, boy, drop your pants, and brace yourself against the tree.” He nodded with his head.


Mulder opened his mouth in surprise. “Here, sir? But what if…I mean…” He glanced back at the park. There hadn’t been very many people and it was quiet here, but still…


“Until you can obey me, without pause, or question, you won’t earn either your collar, or your privileges back,” Skinner hissed. “Now, will you do as instructed, or not, boy?”


Mulder hesitated, then, with fumbling fingers he undid the top of the cane, and emptied the switch onto the grass. He bent to pick it up, and handed it to his Master, before sliding his sweatpants down, and placing the palms of his hands against the tree. Skinner rested the switch against his slave’s naked buttocks, and brought it down, hard, twice, in quick succession, making Mulder gasp with the sheer sting. He was too shocked to cry out, and before he knew it his pants were up around his waist again, and when he looked around, Skinner had replaced the switch within the walking cane. The whole procedure had taken less than a minute.


Skinner gave his shocked slave’s nipple chain a little tug, and they resumed their walk.


“The clause just illustrated, slave?” Skinner asked as they made their way back to the main path.


“Clause 1, sir,” Mulder said quickly. “Possibly 2 as well, but definitely 1.”


“Good boy.” Skinner stole his hand around to Mulder’s buttocks and squeezed unobtrusively, making his slave wince and squirm, while at the same time feeling his cock harden inside its cage.


They made a complete circuit of the park, and stopped in the same copse on their way back. This time, Mulder needed no urging. When Skinner held out his hand, Mulder gave him the switch, dropped his pants, and braced himself against the tree as fast as he could. His Master delivered two more hard, stinging swats, and then they left the park and returned to the apartment.


“Clothes off, boy. Face the wall for half an hour,” Skinner ordered, as soon as they were inside. Mulder did as he was told, and submitted to his Master’s inspection. Skinner kneaded his slave’s hot buttocks for a moment, fingering the slightly raised edges.


“I told you we’d put some color back into your cheeks,” he chuckled. Mulder groaned, audibly at the appalling wisecrack, and Skinner gave him a hard slap then chained him to his kennel before leaving him to his silent contemplation. His wounded chest itched as he stood facing the wall. He was very much aware that he was naked save for that one dressing, and that the stitches would need to be removed soon. Skinner had mentioned that Perry would be coming over for that very purpose in the next day or so. That meant that he might not need the dressing for much longer, and that meant…that meant that he might easily catch sight of those hated initials, however hard he tried to avoid them.


Mulder descended into a state of dark depression. He was still concerned that his Master hadn’t used him since their return, and deep down inside he suspected that Skinner was repulsed by the thought of accidentally touching his slave’s scarred flesh during sex, the carving was always between them. Once again, he felt the urge to leave, to run from this appalling hurt, like a wild animal hiding to lick its wounds. If it hadn’t been for the chain attaching him to the kennel on the floor beside him, he might well have tried to do just that. Mulder bowed his head, clenching his fists. The only way he was getting through these dark days was because his Master was distracting him so thoroughly, giving him no opportunity to surrender to the self destructive impulses that were never far below the surface. Mulder wasn’t stupid. He knew that his Master’s insistence on focusing his slave on the letter and law of his contract was keeping him sane and grounded right now. What was it Elaine had said? Trust your Master, and follow him blindly out of the abyss? Mulder knew that if something like this had happened before he had entered into his slavery, he would have gone ballistic, and he wasn’t sure he’d have survived the subsequent fallout. It felt almost as if Skinner was keeping him alive right now, keeping him going long enough to heal, staying beside him every step of the journey. The slight throbbing of his backside was a welcome reminder of the only demand Skinner was making on him. Be mine, exist for your slavery, expect nothing else of yourself save fulfilling your duties as my slave…it was a comforting creed and Mulder willingly gave himself up to it.


He was startled out of his reverie by his Master’s voice behind him.


“All right, slave. Turn around, and kneel,” Skinner said. Mulder did as he was told, then stopped in mid-kneel, as he caught a glimpse of his Master. Skinner was sitting in the armchair, his long legs clad in tight leather trousers, and knee length boots. He was naked from the waist up, his tanned flesh taut over his finely honed muscles, and he looked so completely fantastic that Mulder fell the rest of the distance to the floor and came to a thumping halt.


“Sir?” He muttered weakly.


Skinner regarded his slave for a moment, leaning on his elbow, one hand beside his head, the fingers curled in a characteristic pose. Mulder swallowed hard.


“Please…sir…” He crawled forward as far as his chain would permit, and found he couldn’t get close enough to touch his Master, or even huddle beside the magnificent vision in front of him, head on his Master’s knee, the way he loved doing. Skinner continued to look at his slave, then opened his fly, and began stroking his large cock. Mulder swallowed again, wanting to touch, to hold, to suck… “Please…let me…” he begged, feasting his eyes on the vision in front of him.


“No. You’ll watch. Hands behind your back. Submissive position. NOW!” Skinner snapped.


Mulder did as he was told, lowering his head, barely able to tear his gaze away from his strong, beautiful Master.


“Head up this time, eyes on me. Don’t move a muscle,” Skinner warned. Mulder swallowed again, and raised his head. He didn’t think he’d ever seen his Master look more beautiful, as Skinner sat in the armchair, his hand fondling his pulsing cock into life. Mulder could almost feel the silky flesh of his Master’s engorged flesh under his tongue, could remember the musky scent of his Master’s arousal, and he badly wanted to taste it again.


“Please, sir…” he whispered.


“You want to touch?” Skinner asked, idly stroking his cock to full erection.


“Yes, sir. Please,” Mulder begged. He suddenly realized, in surprise, that his own cock was fighting a desperate struggle inside the cage. His libido seemed to have fully returned, without any side effects.


“Permission denied,” Skinner said tersely. “Touching your Master is a privilege, boy, not a right. You can just sit there, in silence, and watch.”


Mulder could have cried in frustration, his cock throbbing tightly inside the cage, desperate for release. Skinner’s cock bobbed tantalising close, almost close enough to suck, but not quite. Mulder gave a whimper of sheer need.


“Please, sir…” He lunged as far as his chains allowed, ignoring the tug on his nipples as he leaned forward, anxious to be as close to the fantasy vision in front of his as possible.


“Submissive pose!” Skinner snapped. “Move again and you’ll be in tight bondage for the rest of the day.” He leaned back in his chair, and continued caressing himself, while Mulder watched, almost frantic with need. He wanted to be of use to his Master, he wanted to bring him pleasure. It was the only thing on his mind at this moment in time. He surrendered completely to the need, and became nothing but a slave worshipping at his Master’s feet.


“I want…” he moaned after several agonizing minutes, unable to bear it any more.


“I said, silence. I can see that you’ll have to be punished,” Skinner growled.


Mulder’s feet hardly touched the floor as his Master swept him up, undid his chain and frog-marched him up the stairs as fast as his slave could go on his injured ankle. Skinner propelled his slave into the Playroom, and then strapped him into a leather body suit. It covered Mulder from neck to toe, encasing every visible inch of him but leaving his cock and buttocks exposed. Mulder had never worn it before, and he liked the tight, supportive feel of the leather against his flesh. Skinner removed his slave’s cock cage and Mulder’s cock sprang free, weeping in need.


“You’re forbidden to come,” Skinner said. “If you’re in distress, or pain, you’ll tell me. Otherwise you’ll stay silent. I want you to lose yourself in your bondage, boy.” So saying, he tied Mulder’s legs together, and fastened his hands to his side, then he attached a full body harness onto the suit, and swung Mulder up into the air, supporting him so that Mulder felt weightless, as if he was floating through the sky under the glass ceiling. His body, that had been a scarred battlefield for the past couple of weeks as it recovered from Krycek’s brutal attack, was liberated. Skinner checked the links on the harness at all the pressure points and then moved away.


Skinner stood in front of his bound slave, and undid his own leather pants again, reaching in to release his captive cock and stroke it back to full erection once more. Mulder’s own cock begged for release, and he could imagine that he looked almost comical, encased entirely in black leather with just his erect, swollen cock exposed, and desperate for attention.


Skinner continued this torture for several long minutes, then brought himself to climax with a thorough caress of his large shaft. Mulder moaned, his own cock going into spasm at the sight. Skinner cleaned himself up, then returned to his slave.


“I think a period of silent reflection is due.” Skinner fastened a black leather hood over his slave’s head. It encased him completely, leaving only a gap for his mouth, but covering his nose, eyes, and head. Now all of him was covered in black leather save for his cock and buttocks, which just served to make Mulder all the more aware of those areas of his body. This felt good. He couldn’t move a muscle, and yet he felt free, despite his bonds. He couldn’t see, or hear anything, and he floated off in a haze of well being.


He wasn’t sure how much time passed. As always when placed in total bondage, he lost track of time and place. His mind soared, leaving his body and his problems far behind. A thousand thoughts buzzed into his consciousness: the sight of his Master ejaculating, his own desire to received his Master’s semen in his mouth, his job, his contract, his sister, Scully, his mother, his life. Thoughts and ideas flitted in and out of his mind and he felt almost, for one moment, as if he had grasped some essential truth about his own condition, and then it was gone, leaving him rested.


He was so lost to the world, that he shouted out loud when he felt a hand close around his cock. Mindful of his Master’s stern injunction that he could not come, Mulder gritted his teeth as Skinner lovingly caressed his shaft, up and down, over and over again. Every time Mulder was close to coming, Skinner would use his other hand to slap his slave’s buttocks sharply, and the urge would fade…until his Master reawakened it. It happened once, twice, three times, leaving Mulder on the edge of ecstasy on each occasion, and then it was over. Skinner released his slave’s cock without giving him his climax, and lowered the harness to the floor.


Mulder collapsed into his Master’s arms and Skinner removed his hood. Mulder blinked in the daylight, and looked up at his Master, then managed to gasp out two words:


“Wedding ring.”


“What?” Skinner frowned, removing the body harness, but leaving his slave in his leather suit, his arms and legs still bound, his cock hard, straining and free.


“Clause 3. That’s how I broke Clause 3. It came to me when I was up there…I found so many answers…it really was like flying,” he said dreamily.


“Explain about the clause,” Skinner insisted, sitting back on his haunches and regarding his bound slave solemnly.


“All of the slave’s possessions likewise belong to his Master…. to do with as He sees fit,” Mulder paraphrased  “The ring wasn’t mine to take off. It’s yours.”


“Good boy.” Skinner smiled, and undid his slave’s bonds. “Very good,” he said, smoothing Mulder’s hair back from his face. “I think that deserves a reward.” He finished untying his slave, and removed the bodysuit, then went and sat on the throne. “Come here, boy,” he beckoned. “On your hands and knees. You may worship your Master.”


Mulder crawled forward until he was between his Master’s legs, and Skinner gestured with his head. Mulder felt a thrill of anticipation. This was the first time his Master had allowed him to touch his cock since his return from Seattle. The process of reward and forgiveness, slow step by slow step, was exhilarating. It relieved the burden of Mulder’s guilt in tiny chunks, chipping away at it piece by piece. He undid his Master’s leather trousers with trembling fingers, and took his cock in his hand.


“I took this for granted too,” he said. “You, this…” he fondled his Master’s cock lovingly. “Clause 5,” he added. “Rights, and privileges. This is a privilege.”


“Good boy. You might have to work hard…it hasn’t been too long since I came,” Skinner warned.


Mulder nodded. “As long as it takes, sir. I can worship at this particular altar forever if need be,” he smiled.


“I don’t think it’ll take that long,” Skinner retorted, sitting back and allowing his slave to work on his gradually swelling cock. Mulder took his time. Damn, but he had missed this! He fondled the penis between his fingers, caressed it hard in his hand, then bent his head and took it into his mouth, deep throating it in one sudden move that made his Master growl, and something suspiciously like a moan sounded from deep inside the other man’s chest. Mulder smiled contentedly to himself, and continued going about his work. He felt the cock harden in his mouth as he sucked on it, taking it deep inside his body, longing to taste his Master’s salty semen, to swallow his Master’s come, and partake of the feast of his Master’s body to its fullest extent. He was so close…Skinner was on the brink, when, much to Mulder’s surprise, the other man withdrew, and purposefully ejaculated over his slave’s face, and hair.


“You didn’t ask permission to receive my come,” Skinner told him. It was on the tip of Mulder’s tongue to remind his Master that he’d had his mouth full, but instead he just bowed.


“Forgive me, sir,” he said.


“Clean yourself and the room,” Skinner ordered, getting up. Mulder nodded, and hurried to do his Master’s bidding. “And slave.” Skinner beckoned him back. “You’re still forbidden to come,” Skinner told him, picking up the cock cage and fastening it back on his slave. Mulder managed a small smile.


“Thank you, sir,” he said, meaning it. Skinner had skilfully returned his slave’s libido to him, a fact for which Mulder was heartily grateful. Skinner grinned, and slapped his boy on his way.


The following afternoon, Skinner dropped his bombshell.


“Take a bath, slave,” he ordered, “then come out here for inspection. We have visitors tonight and I need you looking your best.”


“Visitors, sir?” Mulder asked, startled.


“That’s right, and you, boy, will be serving them,” Skinner informed him. Mulder’s heart flipped and he wondered who the visitors would be and how exactly he was supposed to be serving them. He washed, and then returned to kneel at his Master’s side for further orders.


Skinner was in the bedroom, changing into chinos and a light shirt, looking as stunning as always.


“Permission to help you dress, sir,” Mulder requested.


“Denied.” Skinner finished dressing himself, then glanced at his slave. “However, if you do well tonight, boy, you’ll win another reward, I’ll allow you to come. How does that sound?”


“Whatever you wish, sir,” Mulder bowed his head. Skinner grinned, and patted him.


“And, because you have done so well recently, I have another reward for you now. Come here.” He sat down in the armchair and opened his legs, and Mulder knelt between them, placing his chin on his favorite position on his Master’s knee. Skinner tousled his hair. “I’m proud of you, boy. You’re not there yet, and we still have a lot of issues to address, but we have time, and your willingness to learn, and submit, make me very pleased,” Skinner said. Mulder’s heart soared. “You’ve almost completed the first two tasks I set you, getting well, and understanding the full meaning of your contract. Soon we’ll move on to the wider areas we need to go into before you earn your collar back, but I want you to know that I’m delighted by your progress so far, boy.”


“Thank you, sir,” Mulder whispered, his eyes glowing at the praise.


“As a reward, I’m placing another of your rings back on your body.” Skinner held up the cock ring, and Mulder’s cock lurched immediately in appreciation. “We can dispense with the cage for now,” Skinner said, removing that item. Mulder’s penis did a forward leap for freedom. Skinner caught hold of it and threaded it quickly through the ring, securing it beneath his slave’s balls.


“With this ring…” he grinned. Mulder grinned back inanely. “You still can’t come yet,” Skinner warned, “and this…” he tapped Mulder’s swelling cock reprovingly, “is still mine. You don’t touch it without permission.”


“Yes, sir,” Mulder agreed happily.


“A word of warning,” Skinner said, his tone changing, and becoming more serious. “Tonight will be hard, boy. How you conduct yourself is important. I expect nothing but the best from you.”


“Yes, sir.” Mulder swallowed hard.


“Very well. You’ll be naked except for this.”


Skinner picked up a sleek leather harness and placed it over his slave’s chest and torso, buckling it at the side. Mulder was relieved to find that it completely obscured the dressing over his chest wound. There were two holes cut out, through which his nipples, with their rings, stood out proud. Skinner pulled a length of leather strap down from the back of the harness, and wedged it firmly between his slave’s buttocks, separating them, and creating two pink, plump, inviting mounds in the process. He pulled another strap from the front of the harness, and fastened it around Mulder’s balls, separating them into two more plump, inviting mounds at the front. Then he secured a further strap around his slave’s cock, binding it comfortably, but firmly, squeezing it tight. He propelled his slave over to a mirror and Mulder moaned when he saw his reflection. He looked like a boy toy, a plaything, his cock bound up like a present, his buttocks on display, his nipples exposed and available. Skinner wasn’t finished with those. He connected a chain from Mulder’s nipple rings to the ring around his cock, fastening it so that it was too short, keeping a constant pressure on Mulder’s nipples, then he attached some bells, Mulder’s least favourite item of decoration to his rings, and stood back to admire his handiwork.


“Beautiful,” he breathed, kneading Mulder’s buttocks in one hand, and flicking at his nipple bells with the other. Mulder flushed, but said nothing. “Good boy. I’m not finished yet though. You are, as I’ve told you, a slave without any rights,” Skinner said him firmly. “You exist to serve tonight, and serve you will. You’ll wait on the table, and you’ll follow my every command. You’ll kneel by my side during courses, be fed at my whim, and clear away the dirty plates when our guests have finished eating. You’ll ensure that nobody’s glass is empty, and you’ll do whatever you are ordered to do, either by me, or our guests. To ensure you understand your status at this gathering, I’m going to do something you’ll find hard.” He held up a large ball gag. “I’m going to keep you gagged throughout. This will provide some small discomfort which you will bear without complaint,” Skinner informed him. “As always, if you’re in genuine distress, you can let me know by tapping my knee three times. Other than that, you’ll accept the ache in your cock, in your jaw, and in these…” he flicked Mulder’s nipples again, “as your due. You’ll appreciate that in suffering these discomforts you are pleasing your Master.”


“Yes, sir,” Mulder whispered.


“Good boy.”


Skinner pulled his slave close, and held him, his hands roving everywhere over his bound boy. Mulder felt his cock harden immediately and painfully within the constricting bonds, and knew that there was no prospect of release any time soon. Skinner held Mulder’s chin, and kissed his slave reassuringly.


“You’ll do fine,” he said. “Now, open your mouth.”


Mulder obliged, and his Master placed the large ball gag between his jaws, then fastened it behind his head. Mulder felt as if his mouth had been stretched far too wide and he wasn’t sure he could bear it for a minute, let alone the rest of the evening. Skinner did the straps up, and checked to make sure they were secure, but not digging into his slave’s skin, and then he released him. Mulder looked at himself in the mirror, his cock almost unbearably hard, trussed up as it was. He was a top’s wet dream, he was wearing every submissive’s fantasy outfit, and he was horny as hell. Yes, it hurt. His nipples chafed, the bells chimed, his jaw ached, and he was acutely aware of the leather strap separating his buttocks, and the thong constricting his cock and balls, but it felt so damn good too.


Mulder followed his Master downstairs on the end of his lead, and helped Skinner set the table. His Master laid 7 places and Mulder’s heart lurched as he mentally ran through the guest list. Supposing Skinner had invited Ian? He wasn’t sure he could bear his friend seeing him trussed up like this, totally servile. His whole body flushed at the thought of that and he was in an agony of humiliation. Skinner put the finishing touches to the meal, just as the entry-phone buzzed. He clicked his fingers to put his slave into the submissive position, removed his apron, and went to answer it. Elaine and her sub, David were the first guests to arrive. They greeted Walter, then said hello to Mulder, who could only nod his head in reply. He focused on the task his Master had given him, bringing them the drinks they requested, then settled himself beside his Master, his eyes fixed only on Skinner.


The next arrivals were Murray and Hammer. Mulder watched his Master hold a conversation with Murray, and Murray handed his Master an envelope which Skinner slipped into his pocket. Mulder was intrigued, but his services were required and he hurried to take Hammer’s jacket, and bring them both drinks. The final guests arrived a few minutes later, and Mulder’s heart sank as he recognised Ian’s loud, uninhibited laugh, and Perry’s more muted, laid back tones. He flushed as he walked forward to take Ian’s coat, but his friend just took one look at him and whistled.


“Jeez, Mulder, you lucky bastard,” Ian exclaimed, his eyes wide with appreciation. “I’ll have to remember to talk Perry into this one day.” Mulder couldn’t even grin around the gag but he felt much better about his friend seeing him so completely and abjectly reduced to his slavery.


The guests talked, while Mulder knelt waiting for orders. He never took his eyes off his Master, and followed Skinner’s every move. The outfit he was wearing stimulated him almost constantly, as too, did his service, if he was honest. His cock remained hard, and visibly so, within its bindings, straining purple against its confines.


Mulder served obediently at the table, barely listening to the chatter as he lost himself in his servitude. It no longer seemed strange to him that he was serving fully clothed people while trussed up half naked. It felt right, and natural…and good. He loved serving his Master, and he loved his Master showing off his obedient slave to his friends. Mulder made only one small mistake, when he spilt some wine onto the cuff of Perry’s shirt. He looked at his Master, worried, but Skinner apologized to his guest, and after delivering a sharp slap to his slave’s backside, the incident was forgotten. Mulder’s cock ached. He’d never been so publicly and yet intimately chastised before, and he was surprised to find that it was a turn on.


Only when everyone had eaten, did Skinner undo Mulder’s gag, and give him a plate of leftovers, to be eaten without using his hands. Mulder ate everything on the plate, knowing that his Master wouldn’t let him get away with anything less, then he went and knelt by his Master’s side as the big man sipped brandy with his guests. Skinner replaced his slave’s gag and Mulder knelt dreamily with his chin on his Master’s lap These people were all on the scene, and they were his friends. He felt at peace among them. He belonged with them, and he’d never belonged anywhere in his life.


The evening stretched on far into the night, and it was well past midnight by the time their guests had departed. They took their leave both of Skinner and his slave, each of them thanking Mulder for his excellent service, and he could almost feel himself glowing. When the door was closed behind them, Skinner turned to his slave, and beckoned to him.


“Come here,” he said. Mulder went, his heart thumping inside his chest. Would his Master use him, he wondered? He wanted to be used. He wanted to feel his Master’s hard cock inside his ass. He’d missed that. He knelt obediently between Skinner’s knees, and his Master undid his gag. Mulder opened and closed his mouth to stretch it back into place, profoundly relieved, and Skinner smiled, and gently massaged his slave’s aching jaw.


“Good boy. Hands behind your back while I untie the rest of you. I’m beyond proud of you, Fox. You did wonderfully well tonight, and there will be a reward. Stand up.”


Mulder did as he was told, keeping his hands behind his back, and Skinner unbound his cock from its prison, releasing the chain keeping his nipples pulled at the same time. Mulder heaved a sigh of relief, and his cock sprang up immediately. Mulder yelped out loud as the blood returned to it. It both hurt like hell and felt so damn good at the same time that he didn’t think he could bear it. He gave another yelp as his Master took his hard cock in his mouth, and sucked the tip, then swallowed the shaft. He had never known his penis more sensitive than it was after the tight binding. Every nerve ending screamed with the combined sensation of pleasure and pain.


“Oh…god…” he cried, as his Master expertly tongued his cock, soothing the tortured flesh, and warming it in his mouth. Mulder clung onto his Master’s shoulders for dear life, not sure whether he could even remaining standing, so intense were the sensations in his body.


“You can come. Any time you like,” Skinner whispered, and a few minutes later, Mulder did just that, jack-knifing as an intense white light exploded behind his eyes. Then he was coming so hard and fast that it made him laugh out loud to think how worried he’d been that he’d never orgasm again. When he’d finished, he leaned, helplessly, on his Master’s strong body, feeling Skinner’s hard muscles holding him up.


“Good?” Skinner asked, smiling up at his slave.


“Beyond good,” Mulder murmured.


“Excellent!” Skinner beamed. “Let’s go to bed then. You can do the clearing up tomorrow.”


“Will you use me?” Mulder asked as they climbed the stairs.


“Tonight? No. You’ve had your reward for tonight,” Skinner informed him.


Mulder’s heart sank. Although Skinner hadn’t said as much, Mulder was sure that the initials on his chest were behind the other man’s reluctance to take him. He reached up absently to touch the dressing, dreading its removal. Skinner seemed to read his mind.


“Perry will be coming to take the stitches out tomorrow,” he said. Mulder nodded, his good mood evaporating, dreading what the morning would bring.


Perry’s visit the following morning was brief and to the point. He stayed less than half an hour, removed the stitches, and examined the scar carefully, for far longer than Mulder thought strictly necessary.


“You’re lucky,” Perry said when he’d finished. “Sometimes the chest area is prone to keloid scarring, but Walter followed my instructions precisely on your aftercare, and you’ve managed to avoid that as a result. It’s healing fine.”


“Yeah. Right,” Mulder muttered, pulling his tee shirt back down so he wouldn’t have to see the scar. His Master shot him a warning glance.


“Stand facing the wall, boy, while I escort Perry back to his car,” Skinner ordered.


Mulder did as he was told, knowing that the only reason why Skinner wanted to escort Perry to his car was so they could talk in private. About him. And his damn scar. A couple of minutes after they left, Mulder heard a knock on the door. Thinking that his Master had forgotten his door key, he left the corner and went over, unthinkingly, to open it, only to find that it wasn’t his Master at all. It was his mother.


“Fox?” Teena looked at him, with a mixture of concern and relief. “I didn’t know where you were. I tried calling your apartment, and your cellphone…but…”


Mulder bit on his lip. His cellphone was switched off. There had been no reason for him to expect any calls and Skinner hadn’t given him permission to make any. He didn’t know what to say.


“Fox?” Teena said again, uncertainly. “I called Scully and she suggested I try here. Can I come in?”


“What? Oh. Yes. Sure.” Mulder stepped aside to let her into the room. Teena stood in the hallway, looking confused.


“Why are you staying here, Fox?” She asked. “Dana said that this is Mr. Skinner’s home? Isn’t he your boss?”


“Yeah. I…” Mulder cleared his throat. “I wasn’t in any fit shape to take care of myself when I came out of the hospital, so he suggested I come here. He has a lot of room. It’s a big place,” he muttered, shifting uncomfortably.


“I see,” Teena said, although she clearly didn’t. “I would have thought Dana could have taken some time off work to look after you,” she commented frostily.


Mulder sighed, seeing all his mother’s hopes and dreams in her eyes. She was always questioning him about romance and he knew she didn’t understand his apparent lack of a sex life. She wanted him to be settled, to get married, and, most importantly, to provide her with the grandchildren that she craved in her lonely old age. She wanted a regular family, just as she always had, and that was the one thing that had always been denied her. Most of all, she wanted a grand-daughter. She wanted a little girl to sit on her knee, and dress up, a little girl who would finally help to remove the pain of losing her daughter all those years ago. He could imagine her with a little girl on her lap, making a daisy chain, smiling, laughing, clapping; a grand-daughter who would fill the void that Samantha had left in her life. It wasn’t going to happen. He had failed her in this, as in so much else.


“Scully has her own life to lead, Mom,” he snapped back. Now was not a good time to come out.


“And Mr. Skinner doesn’t?” Teena asked mildly.


Mulder wasn’t fooled by the hazy look in her green eyes. His mother was only obtuse when it suited her ñ she was a smart lady. “He’s a good boss,” Mulder said weakly, and left it there.


“I was told you’d been injured. The Bureau phoned me. They said it wasn’t life threatening, so I didn’t go all the way to Seattle. I thought I’d visit when you got home…only I couldn’t contact you,” she said reprovingly.


Mulder felt a wave of guilt. He should have asked Skinner if he could call his mother, but he’d had so many other things to think about that he just hadn’t, and, if he was honest, he hadn’t wanted to.


“I’m sorry,” he muttered.


“So, what happened this time?” She sat down on the couch, and looked at him, taking in the yellowing remains of the bruising on his face, and his cut lip, her gaze passing over his taped fingers.


“Someone lured me to a warehouse and spent a couple of days using me as a punch bag,” he told her savagely, wondering when his Master would return, listening for the sound of his step outside the door.


“Lured you?” Trust her to pick up on that, and ignore the punch bag comment. She was an expert at denial.


“Yes lured me,” he snapped.


“How?” Her eyes were radiating concern, and some emotion he couldn’t quite understand.


“The usual way.” He shrugged. “Samantha. Promises of where she is, and how to find her.”


“Oh, Fox.” She laid a hand on his arm, and he pulled it away, ignoring the flash of pain in her eyes.


“And before you ask she wasn’t there. It was a lie, a ruse. They used her again, the way they always use her, to get me to act before I think, and this time I paid for it ñ big time. So, I didn’t find her for you, I didn’t bring her back, so if you’re here for more information about her you’re out of luck,” he snarled.


“Fox, I…” she began, but he cut her short, unable to bear the look of disappointment in her eyes.


“Yeah, I fucked up one more time. You’ve found out what you came here for, now go.” He got up, and limped across to the door, and held it open for her.


“Fox?” She said, following him, and trying to put her hand on his arm again.


“I said go. She’s not here. I didn’t find her. I failed you. You must be used to it by now,” he spat. “Go, Mom, please, before we both say something we regret.”


She looked at him, her eyes full of reproachful tears, and he couldn’t bear it. He hustled her through the door then slammed it shut behind her, and rested against it for a moment, his own eyes filling up. He brushed the tears away angrily with his arm, hating himself for his weakness. He suddenly noticed how itchy his chest wound felt, and tore at it savagely with his nails, finding the pain intoxicating.,


He was aware of the wetness soaking into his shirt, and looked down full of abject loathing at the bright red blood seeping from his wound and some demon took over inside his head. He didn’t even know what he was planning to do, as he half ran, half limped up the stairs to the bedroom, and lunged into the bathroom. He was full of savage hatred for himself, and no longer acting consciously as he opened the bathroom cabinet, and found one of his Master’s razor blades. He slid the blade through his shirt, shredding it, and gazed for the first time at the mark on his body. The scar was raised, and red, and the edges were bumpy, but even so, there was no mistaking the intials it spelled out. A.K. The letters were clear on his chest. Mulder snarled in fury, and looked at himself in the mirror, not even recognizing the man who stared back. Then, slowly, without hesitating, he raised the razor blade, and inserted it into his flesh with one hard flick of his wrist. He sliced down, intending somewhere, within his desperate mind, to transform that hated “A K” and turn it into something else ñ anything else. To somehow, in this one act, transform the past into something he could live with, and undo the injury he had done to his Master. To wipe out the fact that he carried on his body the marks of man he hated, instead of the one he loved. Mulder hacked the razor blade repeatedly into his flesh, twisting violently, over and over again.


The pain brought him to his senses, and he dropped the razor blade from between nerveless fingers, gave an incoherent cry, then crawled into a corner of the bathroom. He gathered his knees up to his chest to block out the full import of what he had done, put his arms around them, and rocked himself back and forth, lost to the world.


He didn’t know how much time passed. Time was meaningless. It could have been an hour or a minute, as he lay crouched in the corner of the bathroom, whispering incoherently to himself, and shaking as he rocked to and fro. Then the door opened, and he was dimly aware of a figure standing there, haloed in the light from the bedroom. He heard a startled “Christ,” and then someone big was crouching in front of him.


“Fox…what did you do? What the hell happened? Christ, where’s all the blood coming from? Okay, hold on…hold on, sweetheart. Fox…let me…”


Someone moved his hands away from his chest, and there was another silence. That silence penetrated his consciousness and he looked up for the first time into his Master’s dark, horrified eyes.


“Did I do something bad?” Mulder asked.


Skinner swallowed hard, then nodded. He grabbed Mulder’s head between his hands and looked intently into his eyes.


“I’m going to clean you up. Do you hear me? I want you to do exactly what I say.”


Mulder felt himself shaking, and then a cloth was pressed hard against his chest. His Master disappeared for a second, and when he reappeared he was carrying his cellphone, talking into it urgently. When he’d finished the call, he turned back to Mulder, and pressed down hard on his chest again.


“All right, little one. It’s all right. I’m going to make this better. Perry’s on his way back. Hold on,” Skinner said, throwing a blanket around his slave. He crouched down, took Mulder in his arms, and held him tight. “Oh god, why?” Skinner asked despairingly. “You were doing so well, Fox. Why? I thought we were winning here.”


“I screwed up,” Mulder said. “Didn’t I, sir? I screwed up.”


“Yeah.” Skinner kept up the pressure to the wound on Mulder’s chest, and held onto his slave for dear life. “Don’t think about that now though,” he whispered, bestowing kiss after kiss on Mulder’s dark hair, and keeping him wrapped up safe within his big arms. “Just hush. I’m in charge now. Just stay quiet. I won’t let anything else happen to you.”


Mulder nodded, closing his eyes, and at some point he passed out.


End of Part 18




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