24/7: 19. Restitution



Mulder regained consciousness to find that he was lying on a bed. He was dimly aware of someone leaning over him, examining his chest, and of someone else pacing at the foot of the bed.


“Sir?” He whispered hoarsely.


The frantic pacing slowed, and a second later his Master came into view beside him. Skinner sat down awkwardly on the bed, and smiled at his slave but his eyes were dark, full of some complex mix of emotions that Mulder was in no condition to decipher.


“Fox, it’s okay,” Skinner said softly, brushing his slave’s sweat soaked hair away from his forehead. “Perry’s here.”


“Yup, I’m here,” Perry piped up. “If you’d wanted me to stay earlier you only had to ask you know, Fox. There wasn’t any need to resort to such extreme measures.” He grinned his usual affable grin but Mulder couldn’t return it. “All right, hold still. I’m going to stitch the wound,” Perry said. Mulder turned his face away. He wasn’t sure what the hell was going on. He knew he’d done something stupid, but he was too wiped out to remember what it was and he had a feeling that he didn’t want to know. He reached out his hand, and just managed to brush his Master’s arm with his fingertips. Skinner responded by grabbing Mulder’s hand and squeezing tight. Mulder closed his eyes, relieved in some wordless way, and comforted beyond belief by the feel of his Master’s warm flesh against his own.


“Shouldn’t we take him to the ER?” Skinner asked.


“If you want.” Perry shrugged, his fingers moving at lightning speed over Mulder’s chest. “I can deal with his wound here though. It isn’t life threatening – just messy. All they’d do is stitch it up and send him home. I can do that just as well here. However…” He hesitated, and Mulder turned his head back to gaze curiously at the doctor, finding it hard to concentrate on the conversation.


“Well?” Skinner asked. His broad forehead was creased into a frown.


“If you take him to the hospital and tell them that this was self mutilation then they’ll want to admit him for a psychiatric report,” Perry said bluntly. Those last two words somehow permeated Mulder’s consciousness.


“No,” he said firmly, trying to sit up.


“Lie down!” Skinner snapped, pushing him back. “I make the decisions about what happens to you, remember? And right now, psychiatric help might be just what you need. This has gone beyond anything I can deal with.”


“No,” Mulder said again, succinctly.


“Perry?” Skinner looked at his friend helplessly.


“Well, I agree that we’re out of our depth here – but on the other hand…” Perry thought about it for a moment, his fingers still doing their work on Mulder’s chest. “In my experience many psychiatrists would view the kind of arrangement you have going with Mulder as an aberration in itself. They might even view it as part of the problem, when it seems very clear to me, and everyone else who knows you, that it’s more likely to be part of the solution – a big part. Fox certainly needs help – that’s not in question. Is it the kind of help they can give him though?”


“I don’t know. I just…what if I don’t take him and he does something else to himself?” Skinner asked. “I can’t take responsibility for that.”


“Forgive me, Walter, but isn’t that precisely what you bear responsibility for?” Perry said softly. “He’s yours, Walter, and from what I’ve seen you’ve done a good job with him. He needs you right now, and if you send him away when he needs you most then I’m not sure that he’ll ever forgive you.”


“Please don’t send me away,” Mulder said desperately, grabbing Skinner’s hand once more, urgently trying to communicate. “I know I screwed up. I know I did something stupid, but don’t send me back there again.”


“What do you mean – again?” Skinner demanded. “I’ve never sent you away.”


“When Sam went…” Mulder struggled hard to hang onto consciousness as his past flooded back in with terrible clarity. He could see the stainless steel sink, and his own vomit, and could hear someone shouting at him. “People asked so many damn questions. The police, my parents…and then…there were these strange men, asking, always asking. I flipped,” he admitted. “Mom and dad were worried about me. They sent me to a place…we went over everything. Over and over and over…”


“They were trying to help.” Skinner leaned forward, and placed a glass of water against Mulder’s lips.


“No…that’s what I thought at the time. That’s what they told me while I was there.” Mulder pushed Skinner’s hand aside. “It wasn’t true though. They wanted to find what I had in my head – to get at the memory I’d locked away. Or maybe someone else locked it away – maybe I wasn’t supposed to remember. They weren’t cruel but they were…relentless. It was only when I grew up, and did some investigating of my own, that I realized I hadn’t been sent to a psychiatric hospital at all.”


“Where then?” Skinner’s hand tightened around his slave’s fingers.


“A consortium lab. Somebody desperately wanted to know what had happened to Samantha and I was the only witness,” Mulder replied. “Either that or they wanted to make damn sure that I wouldn’t remember.”


“Are you sure?” Skinner asked, a troubled frown creasing his forehead.


“Oh yeah.” Mulder managed a smile. “I wasn’t there long. A few weeks. What they did to me sure as hell wasn’t any therapy I’ve ever heard of though. Even for those days. The emphasis was less on helping me recover from the trauma and more on cracking me open to see what was inside.”


“Shit,” Skinner said, sitting back, an expression Mulder had never seen before clouding his face. “So they have files on you reaching all the way back to your childhood?” he concluded.


“Yeah. Like Krycek said – I’m their prize boy. Don’t ask me why. I don’t feel like a fucking prize,” Mulder replied bitterly. His eyes closed, and then opened again as he struggled to concentrate.


“Krycek.” Skinner stood up, and even in his current state Mulder could see that his Master was furious.


“Sir?” He whispered anxiously, glancing at Perry. The doctor finished stitching his chest, and then placed a clean dressing over the wound, but his eyes radiated concern at what he was hearing. He glanced over at his friend, and visibly winced as he witnessed Skinner’s tense body language.


“Krycek would have had access to all those files on you,” Skinner said, his muscles so tautly clenched that Mulder thought his Master might explode.


“I suppose so,” Mulder murmured, the room spinning around him as he tried to focus on the conversation.


“So, he knows everything about you – everything you said in the immediate aftermath of your sister’s abduction. No wonder he knows how to press all your buttons. Luring you to Seattle must have been like taking candy from a baby.”


“Yeah,” Mulder conceded, his eyes drooping again.


“Fox, what set this off?” Skinner asked in a despairing tone. “When I left you to go downstairs you seemed fine – rebellious, but basically okay. What happened to make you take a razor blade to your scar like this.”


Mulder closed his eyes, not wanting to answer that question, but Skinner slapped his jaw gently, and he opened his eyes again.


“I mean it, Fox. I need to know if I’m going to make a decision about whether or not to take you to the hospital. Tell me what was going through your mind,” Skinner insisted.


“Mom,” Mulder muttered.


“You were thinking about your mother?”


“Not thinking about her, no. She was here,” Mulder replied.


“Here? In this apartment?” Skinner repeated blankly, glancing around as if he expected to see her there.


“Yeah. Here. I let her in…oh shit. I said some fucking awful things to her.” Mulder bit on his lip, the memory coming back all too vividly.


“How the hell did she get in?” Skinner demanded, getting up.


“Dunno. She just knocked on the door,” Mulder replied sleepily, his eyes half-closing as he watched his Master’s angry reaction to his news.


“Yes, but how did she get into the building, damnit! This is supposed to be a secure apartment block!” Skinner snapped. “I’m going to go down there and ask the doormen what the hell they’re playing at! Will he be all right?” He asked Perry, nodding in Mulder’s direction.


“The wound will be fine – it’s a bit more interesting than it was last time but so long as it’s kept clean it’ll heal okay. Messy, but okay.” Perry shrugged. “He’ll need pain meds again. I’ve shot him full of them right now so he’ll be woozy for a while. He lost some blood, but…”


Mulder watched, fascinated, as the two men talked. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but he watched their lips move as if from a great distance. He was tired. Too tired to concentrate. At least Skinner had stopped talking about taking him to the hospital so perhaps he would be spared that ordeal. He heard raised voices, saw Perry remonstrating with his Master, placing a hand on Skinner’s arm which Skinner shook off in a gesture of anger. Mulder wondered what the hell was going on in but he was too tired to move or even care. He was dimly aware of his Master shouting, in a deep voice that sounded as if it was booming underwater. Perry’s voice was higher, softer, full of unfamiliar cadences and rhythms. They were arguing about something but he couldn’t figure out what it was.


Mulder closed his eyes and when he opened them again the scene had changed. Several hours must have passed because Perry was sitting in the armchair by the bed, his eyes closed, clearly dozing. Mulder felt a stab of anxiety and sat up, looking around for his Master, muttering something incoherently. A big hand pulled him back down, and he realized that Skinner was lying on the bed next to him. He stopped yelling, and submitted without demur to his Master’s orders that he lie down and be still.


When he next woke, there was daylight outside. Mulder blinked, his head aching and his whole body throbbing, sensing some kind of commotion. A persistent buzzing noise reverberated around the room. It took him a while to figure it out but he finally realized that it was the entry phone. He felt Skinner move beside him, then the big man rolled off the bed. Mulder reached out and grabbed his Master’s arm. He knew he was saying something but he had no idea what. Skinner was looking at him, perplexed and concerned, shaking his head.


“Fox – listen to me. Nobody is coming to take you away. I promise you!” Skinner remonstrated, sitting down beside his slave, and pushing Mulder back onto the pillows again. “Perry – will you answer the door?” He asked and the doctor nodded, and quickly left the room.


“Sorry…I thought…I’m disorientated,” Mulder muttered.


“It’s the meds,” Skinner said, but Mulder could tell by the look in his Master’s eyes that the other man was seriously worried that his slave had flipped completely.


“Sorry…not crazy…just don’t want you to go,” Mulder murmured, grabbing hold of Skinner’s hand again, and not letting go.


“I’m not going anywhere,” Skinner said, stroking his slave’s hair. “It’s all right, Fox. You’re going to be fine.”


A few minutes later someone burst into the room. “Mulder? Fox?” He opened his eyes to see Elaine leaning over him. “Boy, you always did know how to cause the maximum amount of trouble in the smallest amount of time,” she scolded, smiling at him tenderly. “Walter,” she glanced up at his Master, her expression stern. “What the hell are you doing here? You need some rest,” she said firmly.


“I’m staying with him.” Skinner ran a weary hand over his eyes.


“Like hell you are!” Elaine retorted. “When did you last sleep?”


Skinner shrugged. “I need to keep an eye on him, Elaine – in case he needs me,” he replied. “I can’t sleep anyway.”


“You can and you will.” Elaine’s tone brooked no dissent. Mulder opened his eyes in surprise. He’d never heard anybody talk to his Master like that before. Skinner shifted uncomfortably, and wrapped his arms around his own body, radiating his unease.


“I won’t leave him,” he muttered. “I’ll be fine.”


“No, you won’t. You’re dead on your feet – and you’re no use to him like this,” Elaine retorted.


“I’m not sure I’m much use to him anyway,” Skinner replied, sitting back down on the bed as if his legs had been cut away from underneath him. “Or how else did he end up like this?” His tone was bitter and despairing. “When I took him on, he was doing fine. I should have left him that way. Look at him now.” Skinner buried his face in his hands. “I screwed up,” he muttered. “I thought I was helping him but I clearly don’t have a clue.”


“Nonsense.” Elaine’s reply was brisk and to the point. “You didn’t do this to him – he did it to himself. He’s a grown man, Walter, capable of making his own decisions.”


“He’s mine. I took his decisions away.” Skinner shrugged. “How can this be anybody’s fault but my own?”


Elaine looked like a ball of bright, shining energy as she crossed the room, and leaned over his Master. She took Skinner’s face between her hands and looked straight into his eyes.


“Walter – this was an accident waiting to happen. It’s not your fault. In fact, it’s my firm belief that if Mulder hadn’t been with you, this would have finished him. It’s only you who has kept him going for the past few days – anyone could see that. Give up on him now and you really will screw up. Keep going, and I’m convinced you’ll see Mulder through to the light at the end of this darkness. With your help, he’ll survive. Without you – I don’t think he will.”


“I can’t do it any more, Elaine,” Skinner said, shaking his head.


Mulder’s heart turned cold. Skinner had finally had enough of him. He’d consumed him like he’d devoured all his other tops and Skinner was drawing a line, refusing to take it any more. Damn but he wished Skinner hadn’t made him care. At least before, chasing from top to top, he’d been able to get out before it came to this. This hurt. It hurt more than any pain in his body – it hurt in a way he had spent a whole lifetime trying to escape.


“You don’t have a choice,” Elaine snapped firmly. “You’ve made him yours and you’ll take care of what you started. You wouldn’t be the Walter Skinner I know if you didn’t see this through to the end. Remember what we talked about that night? The night before you offered him your contract? Remember how I advised you, and what your hopes and dreams were for this relationship? You had your doubts, yes, but we both know that if you hadn’t stepped in to save Mulder from himself, someone else would – someone who didn’t love, or understand, or care about him. Someone who’d have ended up killing him. Someone like Franklin. Now, you’re exhausted, and you need a break. If you can’t sleep, Perry will give you some pills but you are not staying in this room worrying yourself to death. You’re going to go to the guest room and get some rest. Perry and I will take care of Mulder. Trust me, this boy won’t be going anywhere.”


“I’m not going anywhere either. I’ve screwed him up. The least he deserves is for me to be here when he wakes so that I can apologize,” Skinner said.


“Walter Skinner that’s enough!” Elaine retorted in a firm, no-nonsense tone. “I want to remind you of a thing or two, Mister. When Andrew died he bequeathed you to me. Would you answer him back like this?”


Skinner hesitated, blinking in surprise. “Andrew wouldn’t…” he began brokenly.


“Andrew would do what was best for you. That’s what I’m doing too!” Elaine told him. “Now, when Andrew gave an order you jumped. You’ll do the same for me. The guest room. Now. Move!”


Skinner’s face registered a kind of shock that would have amused Mulder if he’d been well. The big man got up, and swayed for a moment, then turned towards the door, a look of dogged determination on his face. Mulder surprised himself by letting out a growling whimper from deep in the back of his throat, and Skinner turned back to the bed.


“Just keep walking, Walter,” Elaine warned grimly, and his Master hesitated, then nodded, and allowed Perry to lead him from the room.


Elaine turned back to Mulder and came over and sat on the bed beside him.


“I know you’re hurting, boy, but he is too,” she told him in that same firm tone. “He’ll be back – when he’s recharged, and better able to see to what you need.” She moved his head so that it was resting in her lap, and gently caressed his hair. He closed his eyes, relaxing. “I can still remember the day I first met you. All long gangling limbs and crazy charm, combined with that wild, stubborn streak…I thought you were going to be the sub I’d been looking for all my life, but I soon realized that your questing energy would never let you be at peace. Walter understands you much better than any of us ever did. He has the patience, and the skill to handle you – and the strength, too. I don’t think you’ve ever understood that what you do is test your own strength, constantly, against everyone, to see if they can stand up to it. None of us ever could. Walter was the only one who could take all you threw, and still be left standing. You’ve met your match, Mulder. You won’t find a better one. He’ll see you through this too, if you let him.”


Mulder’s eyelids fluttered open and he gazed up at her curiously. Her blue eyes were vivid against her golden hair.


“You and Walter could have been made for each other,” she told him “You’ve given him a hard time though. He expected that when he took you on, but I don’t think he ever envisaged anything like this. It was clear to us all that you were spinning out of control. He told me he could give you a safe playground to spin in, and then reel you home. He wanted to keep you safe, but I think he knew that first you had to spin all the pain out of yourself before you could allow anything else back in. Mulder, listen to me.” She nudged him gently. “Surrender to him. I mean it this time. I know you think you have before, because every sub always thinks that, but usually they’re keeping something back. It’s often just one small thing they cling onto, and keep secret, to make them feel they have something of their own, and in doing that they live a lie. They retain what they should offer up freely and thereby deny themselves so much.”


Mulder knew that she was right. However much he told himself he was surrendering, deep down he kept a hard shell around his innermost self, to protect himself from harm, and it was that shell that was keeping his Master out, making it impossible for Skinner to either truly know, or own him.


“Give it all up to him, and he’ll repay you in more ways than you can imagine,” Elaine whispered, hugging him close. “I know it isn’t easy to completely give your life to someone else, to trust them to do what’s best, but you need that right now. Walter knows how hard it is – he went through all this with Andrew, and I’ve never known a man with more walls around his heart than Walter,” she chuckled. “Andrew dealt with him so brilliantly – he was steadfast, strict, and loving, and he made Walter surrender. Slowly, surely, over months and months of hard work. Walter’s tried to do the same with you – with some success I believe, but this is your crisis, Mulder. Your crunch time. Walter’s making you face issues you’ve avoided all your life. If you don’t give it all up to Walter now, then I’m not sure you’ll ever have the same opportunity again. Trust him, my dear. Please.”


Mulder closed his eyes again, her words repeating endlessly around his mind. He wanted to. He wanted that more than anything in the world, but he doubted his ability to do it. He was sure that if his Master saw what he really was, and knew what he truly was inside, that he’d stop loving his slave. It had been what he had always feared – his own weakness.


The next couple of days passed in a blur. Mulder was aware of what he’d done to himself, but he couldn’t face thinking about it. He could barely remember why he had done it, or what had been going on in his mind when he’d carved into himself. Mulder didn’t lay eyes on his Master during his initial recuperation. Elaine, Perry or Ian fed him. Perry saw to his medication and Elaine and Ian generally nursed him. He received a visit from Scully, but couldn’t handle her kind, concerned blue eyes. He knew that she blamed Skinner for his current crisis and he didn’t have the energy or the words to explain that it wasn’t about his Master, or his sexuality, but had roots that went far deeper. In the end he asked her not to visit again – he was scared he’d end up saying something he’d regret, the way he had done with his mother. He frequently asked after his Master but each time he was told firmly that Skinner was not available. On the third day Mulder woke up to find that his army of carers had disappeared. He sat up, confused, thinking that he was alone – to find Skinner standing by the window, looking out.


“I’m glad you came back. I thought…” Mulder shrugged.


“That I’d gone? That I was through with you?” Skinner turned, and Mulder found no encouragement in the other man’s face. “I very nearly was, Fox. Elaine turned me around but for a while there it was touch and go. I needed some space to figure out what to do next.”


“And did you come to any decisions?”


“Yes. I did.” Skinner’s face was so serious that Mulder felt a shiver crawl up his spine.


“You’re taking away my contract,” he whispered.


Skinner waved his hand in a gesture of futility. “Contracts aren’t important. They never were, save to give solid form to the essence of what binds us to each other.”


“What is important then?” Mulder asked.


“Fox Mulder. Walter Skinner. Two people who need to make some hard choices about the future.” Skinner came over to the bed and sat down.


“What happened about my Mom?” Mulder flushed as he remembered what he’d said to his mother, but he knew, even as he spoke, that he was changing the subject on purpose, in order to avoid the issues Skinner wanted to discuss.


“I’ve spoken to her – she’s upset, of course, but she understands that you weren’t yourself.” Skinner was silent, and then he shrugged. “It was all I could say. Maybe it was even true. I’m not sure.”


“Did you ever figure out why they let her up here?”


“Apparently…” Skinner stretched, and Mulder heard one of his Master’s shoulders give a distinct crack. “They were expecting a visitor for this apartment – Perry, remember. However they’d had a shift change in the meantime and the doorman just waved your mom up without checking her name. Little gray-haired old ladies are not viewed as a security risk it would seem. I don’t think it’s a mistake that will happen again,” Skinner added and Mulder almost laughed at his Master’s use of understatement. He was fairly sure that Skinner had given the apartment block’s security team a reaming out that made even Agent Mulder’s many dressing downs look like a walk in the park.


There was silence for a moment then Skinner carefully placed his fingertip over the dressing on Mulder’s chest.


“Why did you do it, Fox?” He asked. “Was it something to do with your mother? She said something? Triggered some reaction? Make me understand why you cut yourself, Fox.”


“I don’t know.” Mulder shrugged.


“Yes, you do – and until you share that with me we can’t go on.”


Mulder looked up sharply. “You are finishing it then?” He asked.


“No. You are. It’s up to you. I’ve got work to do, Fox. If you want to talk to me then I’ll be downstairs in my study. If not.” He shrugged. “Well, then it is over. If you want me, then you’ll have to come to me – and when you do, be prepared to talk. You can walk okay – you can go to the bathroom, and get yourself something to eat. I’m taking a step back. I’ll be here if you need me, but it’s up to you to come and ask for help. I’ll never stop loving you, but I can’t keep on guessing what’s in your mind.”


He leaned over and kissed his slave’s forehead, then left the room without looking back. Mulder turned onto his side, pulled his knees up against his chest, and lay staring sightlessly into space. He was joined a little while later by a small, furry figure, who snuggled up under his chin and surveyed him with uncritical yellow-green eyes.


“Fuck off Wanda,” he muttered, and she gave an uncertain purr and rubbed her face on the underside of his chin, then insinuated herself into his arms. He glared at her for a long while, but she seemed unfazed by it. Finally, Mulder wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her creamy, golden fur. Wanda submitted without complaint, her eyes whirling in sympathy at his distress as she cuddled up even closer. She was the softest thing he’d ever touched, and her fur was plush and rich beneath his chin. Mulder held onto her for what seemed like hours. She was his only company and comfort throughout that long, dark day, and finally, he fell asleep, with his long body curled around her short, lithe one, her chin resting on his shoulder, and her whiskers tickling his ear.


Mulder didn’t see Skinner again during that day. Neither did he eat but his Master didn’t seem to care whether his slave ate or not and didn’t force him to do so. Mulder was almost grateful for the time alone, with just Wanda for company. At eleven pm, Skinner returned to the bedroom and put his head around the door.


“Good night, Fox,” he said, the faintest hint of a smile tugging at his lips as he saw Wanda curled up in his slave’s arms. He turned to go again and Mulder sat up.


“Sir? Aren’t you sleeping in here?” He asked.


“No, Fox, I’m not,” Skinner replied, turning back. “Sleep well. I’ll see you in the morning. I’ll be along the corridor in the guest-room – if you want me, just come along. You can wake me any time you want, but if you do, be prepared to talk.” He cast a meaningful glance at his slave. “Your pain meds are by the bed if you need them – it’s up to you though.” He shrugged, and then left the room.


Mulder felt more alone than ever when his Master had gone, and he grabbed Wanda in his arms and held her tight. She rubbed her face enthusiastically against his, purring ecstatically.


“Are you scent marking me?” He accused. “Marking me as your property?” She blinked at him, and he could have sworn that she was smiling. “Go ahead and smile, little missy,” he scolded. “You know, I saw a documentary about this once, Wanda. You have all these scent glands in your cheeks…” he stroked one furry cheek gently “…and when you rub them against things, you mark them with your odor. Mere humans can’t smell it of course but other cats can. So if there was another cat here right now, she’d know that I belonged to you – and that’s just the way you like it isn’t it?” Her only reply was to purr even more loudly, clearly enjoying the attention of being spoken to so earnestly, and then she rubbed her face against his chin again. Mulder smiled and lay back down on the bed, taking her with him. He was so tired. He didn’t know what to do, or think any more. He was beyond tears, beyond anything save lying on this bed, stroking this solid lump of feline comfort beside him.


“You know, I can see why Elaine gave you to him after Andrew died,” he murmured, scratching listlessly behind her ears. Her purring went up a decibel and she snuggled even closer. “I never really hated you, Wanda,” he sighed. “Well, maybe just a bit – right at the beginning. I resented your place in his affections more, and it’s easy to see why he worships you. You know, I think I do too. I think,” he mused, turning his attention to the underside of her jaw, “that I’ve just become your second slave.” Her contented trilling told him that she was pleased he had finally come to his senses – not that she had doubted for one moment that he would. “Now, don’t tell him I said that, Wanda,” he whispered. “There’s no reason why he should know that we’ve declared peace. There’s no reason why he should know…anything, anything at all…except that I really do want to tell him.” He looked down on her bright eyes, shining in the darkness of the room, and smiled again, a small, sad smile. “I do,” he asserted, “I honestly do. I’m just not sure that I can.”


Mulder was awake when Skinner looked in on him the following day. Wanda was still wrapped up in his arms, although Mulder assumed she must have moved around to eat and use her kitty tray during the night.


“Morning, Fox,” Skinner said in a polite, formal tone that broke Mulder’s heart. “How are you today?”


“Fine. If you care.” Mulder pulled a pillow over his head. He knew he was behaving badly, but he couldn’t bring himself to breach the silence that had grown up between them.


“I do care. A great deal,” Skinner replied, opening the drapes and letting daylight in.


“Whatever,” Mulder muttered into his pillow.


“I’ll leave you alone. If you want me I’ll be in my study,” Skinner said tersely.


“Stay.” The words escaped from Mulder’s lips despite his best intentions not to say them. Skinner stopped and turned back.


“I can’t. You know my terms, little one.” Skinner deposited a kiss on Mulder’s forehead, then moved away.


“You don’t know…how fucking hard it is. You have no idea…” Mulder choked incoherently. “I was just a fucking kid.”


“I know.” Skinner stopped by the door.


“I’ve been through all this with those Consortium bastards!” Mulder exploded. “The endless questions, tearing my guts out, telling them everything and for what? I went through all that for nothing, and I don’t want to do that again. It’s over. I’m over it.”


“No, you’re not,” Skinner shrugged, “and you won’t be until you let it go. If you won’t deal with why you mutilated yourself then I can’t help you.”


“You don’t fucking well understand!” Mulder snapped, fighting off a memory of his sterile room in that Consortium ‘sanatorium’. He had a vision of his own 12 year old face, pale, pinched, and scared, reflected in the shiny surface of the stainless steel basin that he’d puked his guts into every night after yet another day of answering their endless questions. He’d missed his mother, and his father and most of all, he’d missed his sister. He still missed her.


Skinner stared at him steadily for a moment, and then left the room. Mulder threw himself back down on the bed, knowing that he’d finally blown it, once and for all. He was surprised when the big man returned a few minutes later, holding a framed photograph. Skinner threw it onto the bed beside Mulder, and then sat down. Mulder glanced at the picture and saw a row of bright, fresh-faced young marines.


“This was Jamie Sullivan – he could fart the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.” Skinner pointed to a sandy-haired kid, with a freckled face. “And this was Luke Larraby – we used to joke that he had a film star’s name and the looks to go with it.” He pointed to a dark, stunningly good-looking youth. “This was my CO, Marco, he was from an Italian family, good with kids – and the ladies. He was a nice guy. We would have done anything for him. I hero-worshipped him. This,” his voice softened, “was Jack.” Mulder gazed intently at the young man Skinner was pointing to. He didn’t look anything special, but he had floppy hair, like a spaniel, and bright, happy eyes. “They all died on 12th February 1971. All of them. So don’t tell me that I don’t understand, or that I can’t, because I lost the people I loved when I was just a kid too.” Skinner got up, and with one last look at his slave, left the room.  


Mulder sat there for a moment, looking at the photograph. He unerringly found the dark, solemn eyes of his Master, staring back at him over the years. He traced his finger over Skinner’s face, finding in the boy some essence of the man he had come to love. Skinner had been eighteen years old when he had lost his comrades. Mulder would have been nine, living a carefree life in Chilmark, running around with his kid sister, while a man he didn’t yet know was fighting for his life in a foreign land. Mulder lay back down on the bed and stared at the ceiling, one hand listlessly holding the photograph. He felt too tired and numb to move. He wanted to give everything up to his Master, to finally relinquish each last bad memory, every single moment of weakness and inadequacy, to offer them up to his Master like a really bad gift, but he wasn’t even sure that he had any answers. Skinner seemed to be expecting something that would explain what had happened, and Mulder didn’t know if it was that clear.  


He lay on the bed for what felt like an eternity, staring into space. His troubled life flashed before him in fits and starts. He remembered his father showing him a nest of baby birds in the garden when he was 6. He could see his little sister in his mind’s eye, being pushed on a swing in the garden, and the long empty winter after her disappearance, when his entire world consisted of his mother’s quiet sobbing, and his father’s barely concealed anger. He was so tired of carrying the weight of that burden. It had been so long, and he hadn’t realized just how tired he was. He thought of Skinner, his big, macho Master, spinning out of control after the death of his wife, ending up desperate, and alone on Andrew Linker’s doorstep. His Master had been strong enough to be weak.  


Mulder found himself moving, as if in a dream. His body didn’t seem to belong to him and moved of its own volition, slowly, shakily, out of the door, and towards the stairs. He held onto the banisters as he walked slowly down, light-headed after the events of the past few days, and from his refusal to eat. He wandered along the corridor like a zombie, paused outside his Master’s study, his hand raised, poised to knock, and then froze. He found he couldn’t take the final step, and sat, shaking, outside the door, his arms clutched around his knees. He had a memory of himself, aged 6 or 7, unable to sleep because of nightmares, going to sit outside the family room where his parents were watching television. He had been too scared to tell them that he was afraid of the dark, and had sat in the hall outside the door listening to the sound of the TV, until, finally comforted, he had felt able to return to bed. They hadn’t even known that he was there. 


He could hear his Master inside the study, moving papers around, and occasionally getting up. It felt good, knowing that he was this close to Skinner, without actually having to face the other man. Mulder buried his face in his knees and disappeared into the memories again. He was thirteen, and it was Samantha’s birthday. The first birthday after her disappearance. His mother was sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch despite the freezing weather. She was just sitting, waiting. She had convinced herself that her little girl would return on her birthday and she sat out there, rocking back and forth, holding a long, silent, lonely vigil. Mulder waited inside the house, his breath frosting the window-pane as he watched his mother. When darkness came she finally gave up, and returned to the house, moving like an old woman. When he looked into her eyes, he knew that something had died inside her that day… the door opened and Mulder looked up, startled out of his memory. Skinner almost tripped over his slave and gave a muffled exclamation. He looked at Mulder intently for a moment, and then purposefully turned in the direction of the kitchen, ignoring the man sitting outside his door. Mulder stared after his Master, too paralyzed to move. He felt as if he’d been caught out doing something forbidden. Skinner returned a few minutes later, holding two mugs of coffee. He didn’t say a word to Mulder, but he didn’t shut the door when he returned to his study. Instead, he left it ajar.  


Mulder shivered involuntarily. He felt stupid sitting here. Skinner knew he was here. Just inside that tantalizing, open door was the one person who could help him right now. His Master was so close – and yet had never seemed more unreachable. Mulder swallowed hard, then nudged the door open, and crouched in the doorway for a second, neither in the room, nor outside, still undecided. His Master looked up – and smiled.


“Why don’t you come in?” Skinner said softly. Mulder hesitated. He wanted to. Holding onto the door, he took one step forward – and was in the room. His Master smiled at him, and Mulder stopped, one hand still on the door, as if he was uncertain whether to stay or flee. Skinner took one of the mugs of coffee and placed it on the corner of the desk closest to his slave, then turned back to his work, ignoring his slave again.  


The aroma of the coffee was enticing. Mulder crept towards the desk, took the mug, and swallowed its contents. Skinner didn’t even look up. The drink warmed him, and Mulder began to relax. He stood there for a long time, and then slowly, like a wild animal furtively seeking food, edged over to where his Master sat behind the desk. Skinner didn’t move, or say a word, as his slave found the position that he loved so much – kneeling at his Master’s feet, his chin resting on the other man’s knee. Mulder felt the tension start to leave his body. The hard part was over. He had managed to get here. He dozed for a moment, comforted just by being in his Master’s presence. Several minutes later, his Master’s hand brushed his hair…then came to rest on his head, stroking softly. Mulder gave a contented sigh, and closed his eyes again, relishing the feel of his Master’s hand soothing his hair.


“We were very close,” Mulder said suddenly, his voice sounding too loud in the silent room. His Master didn’t reply. “After Samantha was taken – not so much before. After though…I was all she had. Dad was gone such a lot, and he was always so angry although I never knew why. He never used to be like that before she was taken. For years it was just Mom and me, alone in that big house, and she needed me. She was so sad. If you could have seen her – she changed almost overnight. Maybe we all did. Sometimes I see families on the TV when a little girl has gone missing. The mom always looks like my Mom looked. They’re being so strong, and they’re always convinced their little girl is still alive, but then the days go by, and they don’t find her, and you just know that a little body is going to turn up…” Mulder trailed off, then took a deep breath and continued. “But they’re still there, hanging onto a slim thread of hope and who the hell can blame them for that? A body didn’t turn up in Samantha’s case – we were just consigned to an endless limbo. Whenever we were out together we used to do the same thing – our heads would turn and follow every little girl who looked like Samantha, hoping we’d just see her in the crowd. Once, my Mom followed a family home convinced that their little dark haired girl was Samantha. She went a little crazy. Anybody would after months of that. It sends you insane. Dad was never there, and I looked after her. The doctor gave her some pills and I’d see she took them. I’d tuck her into bed at night, and try and get her to eat something. I don’t know how long that time went on but it seemed to last for years.” He stared into space for a moment, and was surprised to hear his Master’s voice – he’d almost forgotten that he had an audience.


“You were just a kid. You shouldn’t have had to be the adult, the one taking care of everything,” Skinner said gently.


“No, but there was nobody else, and you know, it’s just what you do,” Mulder shrugged. “I loved her so much and for a while, I was scared that she’d be taken too. I was paranoid about her coming home late. If I came home after she’d gone to bed, I’d always look into her room and check she was there. I thought she’d be stolen away, like Sam was stolen. Mom did get better.” He raised his head and looked at his Master for the first time. Skinner had stopped working and was listening intently. He nodded at Mulder to continue. “She was only crazy for a little while, but she was sad for a whole lot longer. I don’t think that ever goes though. She’s still sad underneath. She never got over it. Maybe you just never do. I’m not surprised they got divorced. Dad just wasn’t there for her when she needed him most.”


“You were though.” Skinner brushed his fingers gently along the side of his slave’s face.


“Yes. I was. I loved her. I used to spend my weekends circling around the area on my bike, looking for Samantha. I used to have this fantasy that I’d find Sam and bring her home, and my mother would be so happy. I guess most people grow out of their childhood fantasies,” Mulder paused, and shrugged, “but I never did,” he added, almost silently. “Yes, I wanted to find Samantha for me, but more than that – I wanted to find her for my mother, and I never could.”


“Did she ever ask you to?” Skinner asked softly, his hand still cupping Mulder’s face.


Mulder frowned. “No…she didn’t need to. I wanted to do that for her.”


“And you tried. Nobody could have tried harder than you.” Skinner’s tone was insistent.


“But I failed…” Mulder said.


“But you tried,” Skinner repeated. “And maybe now you need to let go, Fox. Maybe now you need to live for you and not your mother, or Samantha.”


“I dunno.” Mulder bowed his head.


“I do,” Skinner said firmly. “What use is it to your mother, or Samantha if you die looking for your sister? I’m not telling you to give up – just to let go.”


“I’m not sure I know the difference.” Mulder managed a puzzled smile.


“I’ll show you. We’re not out of the woods yet, Fox, but I’m damn proud of you for coming this far.” Skinner wrapped his arms around his slave, and Mulder rested his head against his Master’s shoulder, relieved and elated to have shared memories he had never spoken of to anyone before in his entire life. That long dark period after his sister’s disappearance, his mother relying on him for everything while she slowly and silently fell apart was one he had consigned to the back of his mind – too painful to relive.


“I’ve lived with it for so long that I thought I’d dealt with it, but it still hurts.” His body was racked by a silent spasm of pain. His eyes were dry but his  body jacknifed against his Master’s large chest and he held on until the spasm passed.


“I know.” His Master held on tight, his big arms solid and warm, keeping his slave safe and Mulder knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that after many long years wandering in the wilderness, he had finally come home.


“So, when your mother showed up here…” Skinner pushed his slave back, and looked at him keenly.


Mulder swallowed, and his hand went unconsciously to the dressing on his chest. “It’s just I want to make her happy, and I know that I don’t. I couldn’t bear for her to see me looking like this…just something else for her to worry about. I behaved like an idiot when I ran off in Seattle, and I got the people I love – you, Scully, my mother, so worried. I suppose…that my scar was a focus for all my anger, resentment and self-loathing. I know I shouldn’t have done it, but I wasn’t thinking straight.” He didn’t say the rest of it – that he doubted that his Master would ever want to make love to his disfigured slave again. That, also, had been at the back of his mind when he took that razor blade to his chest.


“Okay. That’s a good enough answer for me.” Skinner pressed his lips against his slave’s forehead. “Next time you feel like that, just wait until you can speak to me – okay?”


“Is that an order, sir?” Mulder managed a faint smile.


“Yes it damn well is,” Skinner managed a faint smile of his own.


“I’m glad you’re handing them out again. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss them until you stopped,” Mulder admitted.


“You’d better get used to it again, boy,” Skinner warned. “I’m going to make you go a lot further than this, and I’ll be with you all the way.” Mulder looked up questioningly, but Skinner shook his head. “First things first. Right now I think we need to get you fed.”


“I’m not…” Mulder began automatically. Skinner stopped him with a look.


“I’m back in charge now, boy, and if I say you eat, you eat. When did you last eat anyway?”


“I’m not sure I can remember,” Mulder shrugged, shame faced.


“Well, you know my first rule – no slave of mine ever goes hungry. I’m going to cook you the biggest breakfast you’ve ever had.”


“It’s nearly 8pm,” Mulder pointed out.


“Are you arguing with me, boy?” Skinner asked, with a dangerously raised eyebrow. “That butt of yours isn’t exempt from my hand right now you know.”


“No, sir,” Mulder grinned. “Breakfast will do just fine.”


“Come here then.” Skinner stood up, and pulled his slave to his feet, then unexpectedly pressed his lips to Mulder’s mouth and deposited a gentle, warming, loving kiss. “I love you, little one. Don’t ever forget that,” Skinner said in a suspiciously husky tone.


“No, sir,” he choked.


“Good. Time to eat then.” Skinner strode purposefully towards the door, turning his face away as he went, but Mulder saw him wipe the sleeve of his Henley across his eyes as he left the room.


Mulder was surprised to find that he was ravenous once he sat down to the huge repast Skinner prepared. He ate his way through plate after plate of blueberry pancakes, muffins and skillet until his taut stomach protested. His Master sat and watched his slave demolish his “breakfast” with an amused look on his face, but Mulder barely even noticed, so intent was he on feeding his neglected body. He came to a sudden halt, aware that he was stuffed up to the gills, and sat back in his chair with a sigh.


“Have we finished?” Skinner raised an eyebrow at the debris on the table.


“I think we have, yeah!” Mulder grinned, stretching and running his hand over his distended belly.


“Good. Time for bed then.” Skinner stood up.


“Um…will you be…that is, do you want your old room back?” Mulder asked uncertainly. “I mean, I can go back to my room in the upstairs apartment if you do.” Skinner looked at him speculatively, and Mulder flushed. “I’m sorry, sir. It’s just I’m not sure where we stand now. Are we back to the way we were before…” He gestured to the dressing on his chest. “I mean, I still want my collar back, sir, and I still want to earn the right to call you Master again. Those two things are all I want, sir. I haven’t changed in that. I’ll do whatever it takes,” he said earnestly.


“I’m pleased to hear it,” Skinner replied. “Fox, the next few days might be hard. There are things you have to face that have nothing to do with our life here or your slavery. As your Master, I can’t allow you to avoid dealing with them. I’d be shirking in my duty if I did. I want you to know that everything I do will be in your best interests. Do you understand that?”


“Yes, sir.” Mulder nodded, scuffing his foot along the carpet.


“Do you trust me?” Skinner asked. Mulder looked up, and their eyes met.


“Implicitly, sir,” Mulder replied. “Without question.”


“I’m not talking about your body here, Fox. I know you trust me with that. I’m talking about what’s inside. Do you trust me in here.” Skinner placed his hand over Mulder’s heart, his fingertips resting on the dressing over his slave’s wound. Mulder swallowed hard. “I know that trust is hard for you, Fox. Hell, I’ve watched the way you work – trust doesn’t come easy to you. You’ve trusted other tops with your body before but you’ve never trusted them with you. Will you give me that trust?” Mulder hesitated. He had come this far and he had already given Skinner so much. His Master was asking for one last thing – and yet, in this one thing resided Mulder’s last vestige of self-protection. If he gave it all up to Skinner, as his Master was asking, then he left himself vulnerable, open to hurt, betrayal, and rejection.


“Yes,” he said finally, knowing he had run out of options. “Yes, sir. I trust you.” Skinner’s smile was like the sun coming out. Mulder knew in that moment that he had done something profoundly right for maybe the first time in his life. More than that, he would go through hellfire to win such a smile again.


“All right, little one,” Skinner said softly. “Bed. My bed.”


Skinner wasn’t wrong when he said the next few days would be hard. It took every ounce of that blind trust Mulder had given his Master, to keep him there. Skinner didn’t demand anything of his slave except for his honesty, and they spent three days talking. Just talking. Mulder often sat with his head on his Master’s lap, or sprawled on the bed, his Master beside him. Mulder shared everything: the good, the bad, and, to Mulder’s mind, the very ugly indeed. Skinner’s response was always, unfailingly, the same. He listened. Occasionally, he would stop Mulder, question him intently, or encourage or comfort him when the going was particularly hard. Mulder hadn’t realized there was so much to say – and got thoroughly bored with the sound of his own voice. His emotions were volatile, and it was as if a dam had burst, and the words came flooding out in a torrent. He skipped from event to event, one memory leading to another, separated sometimes by a dozen years or more, lacking any coherence, just a continuing stream of consciousness.


“I bet you’re really regretting you asked now,” Mulder grinned one evening, his voice rasping from talking so much.


“On the contrary.” Skinner smiled at his slave. “I am possibly regretting the loss of my cat though,” he commented. Mulder laughed out loud, surveying the dozing bundle of fur draped across his lap. When it got really hard, somehow the only way Mulder could find to keep on talking was to hold the acquiescent Wanda, and stroke her numbly while he spoke. It was during the times when he found it hardest to meet his Master’s gaze, that he found solace in Wanda’s green eyes, and unfailingly serene expression. She didn’t seem to mind him crying all over her fur either.


“Madam is in cat heaven, having two doting slaves around day and night,” Skinner grinned, tickling the little cat under the chin.


“Doting? I don’t do doting,” Mulder objected, rubbing Wanda behind the ears amid an explosion of purring.


“Ah. Right. Okay. I believe you.” Skinner smiled infuriatingly. Mulder threw a pillow at his Master to be rewarded a few seconds later, by finding himself face down over Skinner’s knees. “I think…” Skinner murmured, pushing his slave’s sweatpants down and lovingly caressing his butt, “…that someone has gone too long without a spanking, don’t you? Someone…” He administered a little swat to his slave’s waiting buttocks, “…has forgotten his place, hasn’t he?”


“Don’t tease!” Mulder giggled, wriggling against his Master’s thighs to get comfortable, holding his breath in anticipation. While Skinner often touched his slave affectionately, there had been no sexual contact between them since he had mutilated himself.


“I’m not used to my slave having such a white, unmarked butt,” Skinner commented, slapping one butt cheek lightly. Mulder squirmed, his cock responding with a lurch. “However,” Skinner continued in a regretful tone, pulling his slave’s sweatpants up again. “I think such pleasures must wait.”


“WHY?” Mulder demanded, turning his head to look at his Master over his shoulder.


“Because I say so.” Skinner grinned infuriatingly, and righted his slave. “What we’ve been through here for the past few days isn’t about sex,” he added seriously. It’s about you on the most fundamental level. In some ways by giving me your past, you’ve expressed your slavery in the most profound way you ever could – in a way that goes beyond sex. I don’t want anything to detract from that. Do you understand?”


Mulder sat back on his haunches and gazed at his Master thoughtfully. “Yes, sir. I do,” he said eventually, but that wasn’t true. He did recognize, on a rational level, that without sex as a distraction his Master had stripped him down to the very core of his soul. However, a nagging voice inside doubted that Skinner wanted to make love to him any more. Mulder felt like damaged goods and the fact that his Master hadn’t made love to him since Seattle just confirmed that. Mulder’s suspected, deep in his heart, that Skinner was merely sticking with him in order to see him through this crisis. While he accepted that Skinner loved him, his knowledge of his own ugliness meant that he sincerely doubted that the other man could feel any desire for his slave again. The easy days of heated sexual encounters, and long, lingering, loving sessions in the playroom had gone. Mulder knew that subconsciously he always screwed up anything good in his life, and this was no exception.


“Perry is coming to take out your stitches tomorrow,” Skinner said, as if reading his slave’s mind. “You’ve made a lot of progress over the past few days, Fox, but the one thing you haven’t done is face up to what you did to yourself.”


Mulder shrugged. “I’ve explained it the best I can,” he said, looking away.


“I know – but until you look at what you’ve done to yourself you won’t heal. It’s easy to ignore the evidence when it’s covered in a dressing, but tomorrow the dressing will be gone.”


“I don’t want to see what a fucking mess I made of my body,” Mulder snapped, knowing, also, that he didn’t want Skinner to see it either.


“I didn’t press this issue once before and I regret that now. I think you have to look at what you did in order to come to terms with it,” Skinner told him seriously.


“I can, and I will,” Mulder said, shaking slightly. “Just not yet. Not tomorrow.”


Skinner sat back and looked at his slave thoughtfully. “All right – not tomorrow. However, I won’t let this slide. That was my mistake last time. There are certain steps I expect you to take and this is one of them. I’ve already told you they won’t be easy, but I’ll make you take them, Fox.”


“All right, damnit. I’m trying here!” Mulder flared. “Look, before this, before you, I dealt with my life just fine. I could walk out of here. I could go. Right now.” He stood up, and started striding towards the door. He wasn’t sure whether he was bluffing or not. His moods were so volatile at the moment that he could swing from tears to smiles within nanoseconds. He hated it. He hated feeling this unstable and out of control.


“Your choice.” Skinner shrugged, unmoved by his slave’s display of temper. “I won’t keep an unwilling slave. I’ve told you that before. I’ll release you from your contract over this if you want. It’s one of the few issues I will release you over but if you refuse to face this, then we can’t go forward and we have no future.”


“That sounds like an ultimatum,” Mulder growled, standing by the door, poised to leave. “Christ, when I signed that contract it just seemed like a hot idea. I didn’t know I was going to have to go through all this crap!” He exploded. It seemed like Skinner was asking one thing after another from him and it was so damn hard. He remembered the peace and calm of his empty apartment, and the numbing anaesthetic of all-night TV to soothe him through his insomnia. He had been able to keep a lid on all this back then.


“Don’t lie to yourself,” Skinner told him calmly getting up and going to stand by the door. “Yes, the idea of 24/7 slavery turned you on, but I’m betting that wasn’t the main reason you signed your life over to me, was it?”


Mulder glared at the other man, his fists clenching and unclenching. He could still remember standing in that room, all those months ago, listening to that voice offering him a fantasy fashioned from his wildest dreams. He had known then, and he knew now, that the one thing that had sold him on it, above even the throbbing of his cock, had been the idea of security, of safety, and refuge from his own turbulent emotions.


“Deep down, you thought you’d made a mess of your life, and you wanted someone else to sort it out,” Skinner added, pulling no punches. “I won’t do that, nobody can – but I’ll sure as hell stand by you every step of the way while you do it.”


Mulder swallowed hard. “You are such a fucking hard bastard,” he growled, slamming his fist into the wall just above his Master’s shoulder. “I’ve been spilling my guts here for days. Can’t you give me one goddamn break?” He yelled.


“No.” Skinner faced his slave, eyeball to eyeball and they stared at each other for a long time, Mulder’s future hanging in the balance between them. “I don’t think you want me to, not really,” Skinner said softly. “I think you need me to be a hard bastard right now, and trust me, I can be exactly that.”


“Damn it.” Mulder crossed his arms across his stomach, feeling winded. “I hate you, and I hate this goddamn fucking apartment,” he growled. “I feel like the walls are closing in.”


“Don’t give up now, Fox.” Skinner grabbed his slave’s shoulders and held him up. “I won’t let you give up,” he stated firmly, punctuating the point by slamming his slave’s shoulders against the wall. Mulder looked into his Master’s eyes, and the tension finally left his body, leaving him limp, and unresisting in the other man’s grasp.


“I’m so tired.” Mulder rested his head against Skinner’s shoulder.


“I know.” Skinner grabbed the back of his slave’s neck, pulled him close, and pressed a kiss on Mulder’s head. “I wish I could make it easier for you but I can’t. If I’m hard on you now, it’s to make it easier for you in the long term. Do you understand that?”


“Yeah. I do hate you though,” Mulder muttered.


“Understood,” Skinner chuckled. “Look. I’ll make a deal with you – I won’t force the issue over your scar for the next few days – in return for you taking a different step.”


“Which is?” Mulder had a feeling that he wasn’t going to like this but he would do anything to avoid facing his scarred skin.


“I’ve spoken to your mother,” Skinner said. Mulder stiffened in his Master’s grasp. “I told her you’d be going to visit her.”


“What?” Mulder froze, and gazed, dumbfounded, at his Master.


“It’s time, Fox. You need to clear the air with her. You know you behaved badly towards her and that will fester inside until you go and talk to her. Not just about that. About all of it.”


“No.” Mulder tried to push Skinner away but the other man refused to be pushed. “You don’t understand. Our family doesn’t talk. It’s not what we do.”


“My family was the same.” Skinner shrugged. “It isn’t any harder for you than it was for me, Fox. I think that maybe it’s the hardest lesson Andrew taught me, and it still doesn’t come easily to me. My wife died not knowing how much I cared about her, and how sorry I was for the mess I made of our marriage. Your Mother means a lot to you – don’t make the same mistake I made, because one day you’ll wake up and it will be too late. Do it now – while you still can.”


“She’s not going anywhere,” Mulder muttered resentfully.


“Sharon was a young woman, in the prime of life. I had no idea that she’d die. You never know what the future might bring,” Skinner said. “I live with the silence I built up with Sharon. I live with that on my conscience every day of my life because I didn’t try to breach it until it was too late. I don’t want you to have to live with the same guilt. I think you have enough of that particular emotion already. Don’t you?” Skinner’s eyes were dark and serious.


“Damnit, sir, you can’t…you don’t understand,” Mulder snapped. “My mother and I have a history of misunderstandings. I’ll just make things worse. What the hell will I say to her anyway?”


“Just what you said to me the other day. Even if she doesn’t understand, at least you’ll have said it,” Skinner pointed out.


“You have no idea what it’s like when we see each other.” Mulder clenched his fists. “Christ, last time we had a personal conversation I more or less accused her of having an affair with Cancerman.”


“Ouch.” Skinner winced. “What did she do?”


“She slapped me.” Mulder gave a wry shrug. “I seem to evoke that reaction in people.”


Skinner snorted, but he still wouldn’t let Mulder go. He tightened his grasp on his slave’s shoulders, his fingers digging into Mulder’s flesh. “Trust me,” he said.


Mulder took a deep breath, feeling his resolve waver. His Master’s dark eyes were compelling.
“I do trust you,” Mulder said at last. “All right, damn it, I’ll go.”


“Not alone. I’ll come too.”


“How the hell will I explain that to her?” Mulder muttered.


“I’m your friend and a colleague. There don’t need to be any more explanations than that,” Skinner pointed out, kissing his slave firmly on the forehead.  


Skinner was true to his word. When Perry came to remove the stitches from his wound the next day, his Master absented himself from the room and made no demands on his slave. A part of Mulder was relieved, as he lay, staring at the ceiling, refusing to look at what he’d done to himself. However that nagging voice inside him whispered that Skinner couldn’t stand to look at the ugly jagged mess on his slave’s skin either.


Mulder made the journey to his Mother’s house the following day in glum silence. He stared out of the airplane window, wondering what the hell his Master thought this would solve. There had been too many instances of misunderstanding between himself and his mother and he dreaded making their relationship any worse than it already was. Skinner drove them to his mother’s house, and Mulder’s stomach began to churn in anticipation. They drew up outside the house, and he sat staring gloomily at the door.


“Come on, Fox. It’s time,” Skinner prompted gently. “When this is over…”


“Yeah. Right.” Mulder shrugged morosely. “When this is over I have to face the next goddamn milestone. That’s a real incentive.” He shook himself, got out of the car, and walked slowly, reluctantly towards the door. Skinner fell into step beside him, and Mulder felt strengthened by his Master’s presence. He stood up straight, took a deep breath and knocked on the door. His mother opened it, her face pinched, and anxious.


“Fox.” She looked at him for a moment, then, cautiously, pulled him into a hug. He resisted momentarily, and then gave himself up to the embrace, his eyes misting over.


“Mom. I’m sorry,” he whispered.


“I know that. It’s okay.” She squeezed him and then let go, and drew back, inviting them both into the house.


“Mr. Skinner.” She eyed Mulder’s Master warily, sizing him up. “I wanted to thank you for taking care of Fox after his accident.”


“It was my pleasure, Ma’am,” Skinner said courteously, bowing his head deferentially to her, his old fashioned charm kicking in. Teena Mulder’s eyes narrowed as she assessed the big man, but he remained unfazed by her scrutiny.


“I’ll go and make coffee,” she said.


“None for me, thanks, Ma’am. I’m not stopping,” Skinner told her. “Fox…I’ll leave you and your Mom to talk.” Skinner patted his slave’s arm. “I’ll be in the car if you need me.” He didn’t remove his hand from his slave’s arm until Mulder looked up, and smiled a hesitant confirmation. Then and only then did he leave. Mulder didn’t take his eyes off his Master until the other man’s broad back disappeared from sight.


Mulder sat in the living room while his mother made coffee and brought out a plate of cakes. Then they sat in silence. The ticking of the clock was so loud that Mulder wanted to grab it and throw it into the fire. He cleared his throat, remembering too many conversations with his mother that had ended in tears or angry recriminations – or him getting his face slapped.


“You’re feeling better?” Teena asked.


“Yes, much better. I have another couple of weeks off work and then…” He shrugged.


“Don’t go back,” she said unexpectedly.


“What?” He frowned. She had never interfered with his work before.


“I worry about you. There have been so many phone calls, Fox. So many hospital visits. I’m getting old. I can’t face knowing that one day I might get the call, the one telling me you’re…”


“I have to go back,” he interrupted. “The FBI isn’t just a job to me. It’s more than that.”


“Because of your sister?” she asked, her voice strained and angry.


“Samantha,” Mulder flared, unable to keep the resentment out of his own voice. “Say her name, Mom – it’s always ‘your sister’. She had a name.”


“I know, I also know she’s the reason you risk your life so often. Why else did you join the FBI? You know as well as I do that you thought you could use their resources to find out what happened to your…to Samantha.”


“Yes. I know.” Mulder shrugged. “I know that you’re disappointed that I’ve failed to do that, but that doesn’t mean that I…”


“Fox, I didn’t ask you to give up your life in order to find Samantha,” she interrupted.


“You didn’t ask me, no, but it’s what you wanted.” He gazed at her hopelessly. “I was there, remember, Mom. I watched you after she was taken. You made me vow I’d find her for you again one day.”


“Fox – I said a lot of things after she was taken. I wasn’t myself. You know that. I had no idea you were keeping some vow to me…I don’t even remember asking you,” she admitted, her eyes full of pain.


“You did. You came into my room in the middle of the night, and you kept talking, and talking, not making much sense. You sat me up in bed, and told me I had to promise I’d never stop looking for her. I haven’t stopped, Mom. I kept my promise,” Mulder whispered. “I lost her after all. It’s only right that I find her again.”


“You didn’t lose her.” Teena Mulder’s face crumpled in front of his eyes. “Oh, Fox, I didn’t know you thought that.”


“Of course I thought that. A few years back, when we thought we’d found her – and I lost her again, Dad as much as said it to me. He asked me if he knew what it would do to you, losing her a second time. You never forgave me for that.”


“You’re wrong!” Teena’s voice quavered with emotion. “I don’t blame you for any of it. Is that what you’ve thought? All these years?”


“What else? I knew you wanted me to find her. I knew…” He broke off. His mother was shaking her head vehemently.


“No, Fox. You don’t understand. I just want you to be happy. To live your life and not be tainted by the mess that your father and I made of everything. Oh god, Fox, don’t you see what you mean to me? You’re all I have left.” She came over to him, sat on the couch, took hold of his face between her hands and looked at him. “Fox, I’ve lost Samantha. I’m reconciled to that. I just hope that she’s at peace, wherever she is and that what happened to her was swift, and painless.”


“You don’t think she’s ever coming back?” Mulder’s asked in a broken tone.


“No. I don’t think she’s ever coming back, and even if she did – she’s not my little girl any more, Fox. My little girl is gone. Everything has been taken from me. My daughter, my marriage, my husband, but I still have you.” She said the words fiercely, and he drew back, shaking his head.


“I haven’t given you the things you want. I know you want me to make a success of my life, to get married, have children…I’m sorry, Mom. I don’t think I can give you those things,” he whispered, his whole body shaking.


“You’re wrong. All I want is for you to be happy. We’ve both spent too long being unhappy. I haven’t asked questions, but I’m not blind and I’m not stupid, Fox.” He looked at her questioningly, and saw that she knew. Maybe she had known for a long time. “You never had girlfriends, Fox. You never once brought a girl home,” she said in a strained tone.


“There were girls. Maybe they just weren’t the kind you brought home,” he replied, thinking of Phoebe.


“None of them lasted though. Not one relationship?”


He closed his eyes, remembering a long line of tops, first women, latterly men. “No,” he murmured. “I’m not very good at commitment, and there wasn’t room for a relationship in my life. I know that you hoped that me and Scully…”


“Yes, I did,” she acknowledged, “but you never looked at Scully the way you just looked at Mr. Skinner.”


There was a long silence. Mulder bit on his lip, then finally raised his eyes to meet hers. “How long have you known?” he asked.


“I guessed. I thought it might have been my fault. We were so close after Samantha was taken. It’s a cliché – men who identify too much with their mothers…”


“No,” he said softly. He had no intention of explaining it to her, of trying to unravel his sexuality in front of her. It was too private, and somehow he didn’t think she’d understand that it was his submissive fantasies that had always been with him, not his bisexuality. The fact that his submission had found its best outlet with a man, not a woman, was almost incidental to him. “It had nothing to do with you. I’ve known about this side of myself since I was a kid, and before you ask, yes, I knew before Samantha disappeared. It had nothing to do with her. Do you mind? Does it…upset you?”


“I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t want you to get married, and have children, but that’s just because I want you to have an easier life than the one you’ve chosen,” she told him, clearly struggling to be honest. “At the end of the day, Fox, after what our family has been through, I’d settle for just one of us achieving happiness. Your father and I never did, and Samantha…” She paused, and shrugged, and he knew she was making a huge effort not to cry. “I want it for you, Fox. You’ve been such a good son – it’s the least you deserve, and if this Mr. Skinner makes you happy then I’ll learn how to cope with that. I promise. Does he make you happy?” She put her hand on his arm, and looked at him, and he smiled, and covered her hand with his own.


“Yeah. He does.” He gazed at his feet, uncomfortable talking about his Master with his mother.


“Then he’s always welcome here, just as you are.” She kissed him firmly. “I always thought our problem was that we loved each other too much. It hurt sometimes, watching you…knowing you had all this pain inside. All I saw when I looked in your eyes was Samantha, and I know that’s all you saw when you looked at me. If I’ve been distant, it’s because I saw your pain echoing my own and it all hurt so much,” she stumbled, desperately trying to explain.


“I know. I understand,” he said, and he did.


“Can you let her go?” She asked him.


“Can you?” He drew back and looked into her eyes.


“Yes. I have. A long time ago.”


“The first birthday she had after she disappeared,” he murmured, remembering her long, silent, lonely vigil, and his own – watching her.


“Yes. Oh, a tiny glimmer of hope still remains inside. I don’t think that will ever disappear, but I let her go, Fox. You need to do the same.”


“My M…Walter said something similar recently.” Mulder smiled.


“He’s right.” She reached out and touched the side of his face. “He sounds like a good man,” she said, trying to smile.


“He is – and I’ll try. I promise I’ll try,” he told her.  


They talked for hours, making up for too many lost years of anger, strained silences, and misunderstandings. Then, she glanced at the clock and put her hand over her mouth, pointing to the window, and he remembered that Skinner was still sitting outside in the car, waiting for him. He ran out to the road, and found his Master fast asleep inside the car.


“Sir!” He got into the car beside his Master and Skinner woke with a start.


“Fox?” He rubbed his hand across his eyes.


“It’s all right. Everything’s all right.” Mulder grinned insanely, unable to keep his delight from showing on his face.


“Good.” Skinner’s eyes glowed with pleasure in response to his slave’s obvious excitement.


“Come inside. She wants to meet you. I’ve agreed to stay for the next couple of days. We had so much to talk about.” His expression changed as he realized he hadn’t asked for permission. “Is that all right? You could stay too…”


“No.” Skinner put his finger over his slave’s mouth to stem the flood of words. “I think that you and she need some time alone together. I’ll come in for a drink, and then I’ll head back to DC. I have…some business to attend to.”


Mulder nodded, too keyed up to wonder what business his Master might be referring to.


“I’ll carry my cell phone with me the whole time. Any crises – you call. I mean it,” Skinner said casting a firm glance in his slave’s direction. “The penalty for not calling is severe,” he added in a stern tone. Mulder gave a wry smile, and nodded.


“You were right,” he said suddenly. “This was the right thing to do.”


“Just remember that next time you’re feeling rebellious, boy,” Skinner grinned, treating his slave’s butt to a sideways swat as they walked up the drive.


“Yes, sir!” Mulder grinned, but a small voice inside reminded him that the battle was only half won and that Skinner would make him fight a harder one before he was through with his slave.


Skinner returned to collect his slave three days later. Mulder’s heart lurched when he saw the big man striding up the driveway. He had mixed feelings about their reunion. Much as he had longed to see his Master again, he wasn’t looking forward to tackling more of his issues. He had worn a tee shirt under his shirt for the past few days, despite the warm summer weather, so that he didn’t have to catch even a glimpse of what he’d done to himself. It was at times like this that he longed to be back at work, able to bury himself in his beloved X Files, and lose himself in familiar banter with Scully. Chasing after mutants and monsters was easier by far than tackling the demons within. His visit with his mother had gone well but he was so weary of dealing with one hard issue after the other. He desperately wanted some respite from it, and he knew that his Master wasn’t going to allow him that.


Skinner was dressed in a pair of tight black jeans and a white tee shirt, and, intriguingly, he was wearing a pair of black leather gloves. Mulder found them fascinating, idly wondering what sound they’d make slapping onto a bare, vulnerable butt. It also didn’t escape his notice that Skinner had a cut on his jaw.


“What’s the matter? Forgotten how to shave yourself in my absence?” He grinned at his Master, reaching out to finger the cut. Skinner moved his face away, flushing slightly, and Mulder wondered what the hell that was about.


“We should get moving,” Skinner said stiffly, by way of reply, grabbing Mulder’s bag and slinging it into the car. Mulder said goodbye to his mother and got into the car beside his Master. He sensed that something had happened, something Skinner didn’t want to talk about, and it bothered him. This whole process of revelation made him feel so vulnerable. He had existed in a state of high emotion for the past few weeks and it had taken its toll on him, making him sensitive to every last nuance in his relationship with his Master. He realized, with some resentment, that Skinner had tamed him, brought him in from the cold. He felt like a wild animal, sitting uneasily at his Master’s hearth, warm, and well fed, but now dependent on his Master’s love. The thought of losing it hurt, but Mulder was sure that at some point they both had to face up to the fact that Skinner wasn’t physically attracted to his slave any more. No wonder his Master was so silent, and brooding. He was probably wondering how to broach the subject.


“This isn’t the way to the airport.” Mulder broke the silence, glancing at his Master in surprise.


“I know. We aren’t going there. We’re going somewhere else,” Skinner told him.




“You’ll see. I want to get there before dark.” Skinner glanced at the sky. “Why don’t you get some sleep? You look tired.”


Mulder bit on his lip, wondering what the hell his Master had in store for him next. He half closed his eyes, and watched those sleek, black gloved hands as they rested on the steering wheel.


“What’s with the gloves?” He asked. “They’re, uh, kind of hot.” He wished he hadn’t said that as soon as the words were out of his mouth. Now was not a good time to bring up the subject of sex. He wasn’t ready for this conversation yet. He wasn’t ready for the rejection. His scar was itchy beneath his undershirt – it was too hot to be wearing it, and it irritated the healing flesh, a constant reminder both of what he’d done and what had been done to him.


“You like them?” Skinner gave a half smile but he looked so profoundly uncomfortable that Mulder knew he’d been right and could have kicked himself for his careless words. He closed his eyes and turned his face towards the window. He had never been less than brutally honest with himself. He knew his own faults and failings all too well, and he couldn’t think why any Master would want such an emotionally volatile, physically disfigured slave. He folded his arms across his body and descended into the welcome oblivion of sleep.


Mulder was woken by the sensation of the car moving over rocky ground. He came to with a start and looked around blearily.


“Where are we?” He muttered.


“On a coast road. A long way from anywhere,” Skinner told him. “We’re nearly there.”


“Where is there?” Mulder asked, sitting up.


Skinner didn’t reply. He just swung the car off onto a gravel track, and drove for another mile, before pulling up outside a white gate. He got out of the car and opened the gate, then drove them up a long, grassy driveway and parked the car outside a large, pink house. Mulder got out of the car, still puzzled, and tasted salt water on his lips. The wind was fresh and warm, and the sun was just starting to set…over the sea.


“It’s Murray’s beach house. He gave me the key at the dinner party last week,” Skinner said.


“Is he here?” Mulder asked, still confused.


“No. There’s just you and me – there’s nobody else for miles around. Murray has his own private section of the beach. Come on, let me show you.” Skinner put his gloved hand on Mulder’s shoulder and pulled him across the beach towards the lights of a small jetty, that were sparkling in the fading evening light. “I wanted to get here in time for the sunset. It’s a beautiful spot to watch it from,” Skinner said, drawing his slave across the sand. “This piece of land juts out some way into the sea – so it’s one of the few places on the East Coast where you can see the sun setting over water – partially at least.”


“What about my bag? Shouldn’t I…?” Mulder hung back, pointing at the car.


“Leave it. I was out here earlier today. I brought everything you’ll need which isn’t much.” Skinner grinned an almost feral grin. “Come here. I don’t want to miss the sunset. ” Mulder found himself pushed down onto a blanket. Nearby, a bottle of champagne was cooling in an ice bucket, and there were a dozen candles, each standing two or more feet high, stuck into the sand in a semi-circle around the blanket. Skinner pulled a lighter out of his pocket and lit each one, then opened the champagne, poured his slave a glass, and handed it to him, before sitting down on the blanket sipping from his own glass. Skinner spread his long legs and dragged Mulder over to sit between them, then pulled him into the warm circle of his arms, resting his chin on his slave’s head.


“God, it’s beautiful,” Mulder breathed, watching the orange rays of the sun bathe the beach in their fading warmth, lighting the sea with sparks of pure gold and glancing off the land across the bay. A few stars were just visible in the sky, which was a velvety shade of deep blue. Skinner didn’t speak, he just held his slave tight, his cheek pressed against his slave’s face as they watched the sun go down. Mulder was completely wrapped up in his Master’s arms and legs, trapped by their comforting weight. Only when the last rays of the sun had faded from the sky did Skinner move.


“Lie on your back,” he whispered, in a throaty growl. Mulder looked up, startled.


“Do it, boy. Your Master wants to use his slave,” Skinner ordered. Mulder gave a start of surprise, but he swallowed hard, and did as he had been told, lying back on the blanket. He stared up at his Master, as Skinner moved to sit astride his slave’s body. “Who do you belong to, boy?” Skinner asked, resting his fingers on Mulder’s chest.


“You, sir,” Mulder replied automatically, his cock hardening inside his jeans.


“All of you?” Skinner asked.


“Yes, sir, all of me,” Mulder answered. “I’m yours. You  know that, M…sir.”


“Put your hands above your head,” Skinner ordered. Mulder complied, his eyes never leaving his Master’s face. Skinner was shrouded half in darkness, lit only by the flickering candlelight which lent his face an air of mystery, casting shadows across his cheekbones and making his eyes seem to burn fiercely in the half light. “Don’t move. There’s a penalty for moving,” Skinner said in that same low, throaty, sexy growl.


“Yes, sir.” Mulder closed his eyes and tried to concentrate on staying still, but he opened them again when his Master kissed him full on the lips.


“Watch me,” Skinner ordered.


“Yes, sir.” Mulder whispered, and he watched as Skinner pulled his tee shirt over his head, revealing his hard, muscled chest, tapering down to that flat, narrow waist. Then his Master slowly, very slowly, grasped the tip of one glove, and pulled it from his hand. Mulder felt his cock harden unbearably inside his pants. It was the sexiest thing he’d ever seen. Skinner disposed of the other glove in a similar way, his eyes never leaving those of his slave. Then he reached down and unbuttoned Mulder’s shirt, and opened it, to reveal his tee shirt underneath. “I said don’t move and I mean it,” Skinner hissed, reaching into his jeans and drawing out a pocket knife. Mulder tried hard to obey his Master, every muscle in his body shaking with the effort of staying still. “Who do you belong to?” Skinner asked again.


“You, sir,” Mulder whispered.


“What have I commanded you to do?” Skinner demanded.


“Not to move, sir.”


“Obey me,” Skinner ordered. Mulder shivered at his Master’s tone, and closed his eyes as the big man brought the tip of the blade down on his vest. “Open them. Watch me,” Skinner commanded. Mulder licked his lips, fighting an inner struggle, then, finally, opened his eyes, and watched as Skinner inserted the blade of his knife in his slave’s undershirt, and cut the fabric away, leaving Mulder’s bare chest exposed. Skinner folded the knife and threw it into the sand.


“This,” he said, fingering Mulder’s collarbone with one blunt fingertip, “belongs to me.”


“Yes, sir,” Mulder agreed willingly. Skinner bent to kiss the collarbone.


“And so does this.” Skinner brushed his fingers over Mulder’s left nipple.


“Yes, sir,” Mulder panted. He arched up as his Master dropped another kiss onto the nipple.


“And this.” Skinner rested his fingers on his slave’s scarred flesh. Mulder lay still, the sound of his beating heart the only noise he could hear. “Well, boy? Who does this belong to?” Skinner demanded, his hand resting firmly on the scar.


“I…” Mulder closed his eyes.


“Open them. Who does this belong to?” Skinner asked again. Mulder opened his eyes and met those of his Master, dark and commanding.


“You, sir,” he whispered finally.


“That’s right. Me.” Skinner dipped his head and gently kissed the scar. He lingered over it for several long seconds, kissing every inch of the long, jagged lines.


“It’s ugly,” Mulder tried to wrench himself sideways, only to find that he was trapped between his Master’s legs.


“It’s mine,” Skinner replied firmly. “Are you calling my property ugly, boy?”


“It’s his mark,” Mulder whispered.


“No. It’s mine. It belongs to me. Look at it,” Skinner commanded. Mulder closed his eyes again. Skinner gently tapped his jaw. “I said look at it, boy.” Skinner ordered. Mulder opened his eyes, and for the first time, looked down on the raised ridges of the scar. The lines were pink, and still looked raw, the old wound combining with the new to form a lined mass on his chest. The A K was still visible, despite his best attempts to hack into it. Mulder bit down hard on his lip, struggling to accustom himself to the sight. “It’s mine. All of you is mine,” Skinner said insistently. “Mine to touch, wherever and however I choose.” He lowered his face again, and kissed the scar, then licked the nipple close to it, sucking on it lightly. Mulder moaned, and bucked up into the embrace, forgetting the scar, forgetting everything save the fact that his Master wanted to caress him. Skinner leaned over his slave, and held his arms down into the sand, while he continued licking and kissing Mulder’s scarred and wounded chest. “Mine to love. Mine to touch. Mine,” Skinner repeated softly as he went. Mulder could hear the waves lapping against the shore, and the faint cry of seagulls. More stars had emerged in the darkening night sky, and the candles seemed brighter now, lighting their entwined bodies as the Master made love to his slave.


Skinner’s fingers swiftly divested his slave of his jeans, and Mulder’s cock sprang free, weeping and hungry. Skinner took it briefly in his mouth, sucking the hard length firmly, making Mulder cry out, and arch up from the blanket. Mulder watched as Skinner removed his own clothing, and then knelt over his slave again, his large cock pulsing in the candlelight. Skinner covered his slave’s body with his own, taking Mulder in his arms, and kissed him hard on the mouth, his tongue demanding entry. His knee parted Mulder’s legs, and their hard cocks rubbed against each other, trapped between their stomachs. Skinner’s fingers were relentless, alternately fingering his slave’s nipple, then his scar, then back to his nipple again until Mulder was crying out with his need to come.


“Not until I say,” Skinner whispered. He reached out and pulled some lube from his abandoned jeans, then parted his slave’s legs, and pushed his fingers slowly, teasingly into Mulder’s ass. Mulder moaned, and bucked up into those cool, probing fingers. “You’re so hot, so ready,” Skinner grinned. “My beautiful slave slut,” he murmured, dipping his head to kiss his slave’s scar again. Mulder didn’t think his Master had ever looked more magnificent, as he parted his slave’s legs and knelt over him, preparing to enter him. His Master’s body was sleek, its powerful lines lit by the glowing candlelight, which illuminated tantalizing glimpses of honeyed golden flesh. His big cock was hard with desire and hunger for his slave, as he positioned himself between Mulder’s legs and slid home, all the way into Mulder’s ass, deep inside his slave’s willing, eager body. They lay there for a long while in the candlelight, neither of them moving, Skinner’s hard cock pulsating inside his slave’s ass, where it belonged. Then his Master began to thrust – slowly, very slowly, dipping to lick his slave’s scarred chest with every forward motion. One of Skinner’s hands was wrapped firmly around his slave’s cock as they rocked together, one flesh, one being, beneath the stars. “In time with me, slave,” Skinner whispered, rocking back and forth in a steady rhythm, hitting Mulder’s prostate with every forward glide. “Hold it…we’ll come together. Hold it until I say.” Mulder cried out, his body abandoned to the large, sliding cock inside him, the sensation of his Master’s hand pumping his own hard shaft, and his Master’s warm mouth as it descended on his body, over and over again. Their timed thrusts reached a crescendo, and then Skinner was going faster, harder, his head slung back, his naked scalp illuminated against the backdrop of the velvety night sky. Mulder was just sensation, his one single, coherent thought being to hold on, for as long as his Master commanded.


“Now!” Skinner cried, his hand pumping Mulder’s cock hard, one last time, as he shot his warm come deep into his slave’s body. Mulder surrendered, throwing back his head and crying out his pleasure as his own come shot out over his belly, and his Master’s hand. They lay there, panting, and sated for a long time, Skinner still deeply embedded inside his slave, looking down on him, his fingers resting lightly on Mulder’s scarred chest. Then Skinner withdrew, lay down beside his slave, and pulled Mulder into a warm embrace, his chest against his slave’s back. Mulder grabbed his Master’s hand and kissed it, then paused – the knuckles on Skinner’s right hand were badly bruised, illuminated in the glow of the candlelight.


“So this is why you were wearing those gloves? To hide these bruises? Sir?” He turned over, and ran his fingers along the cut on Skinner’s jaw. “What happened?” He asked.


“I told you. I had business to take care of.” Skinner’s eyes were dark, and haunted.


“Krycek,” Mulder stated flatly. “How did you find him?”


“I set a couple of agents on his trail straight after Seattle,” Skinner admitted. “After I left you with your mother I chased up each and every lead until I caught up with him late last night. I think he was surprised to see me,” he murmured. Mulder drew back, startled. “Don’t look at me like that, boy. The only reason I didn’t do this before was because you needed me. I wanted to go after that bastard straight after Seattle, and then again when you hurt yourself. On that occasion it was all Perry could do to talk me out of it, and you were so adamant that I stay. I knew then what I’d do as soon as I got the chance though. Knowing that he’d read those files on you, written when you were just a kid…” He broke off, his body suffused with a kind of anger Mulder had rarely witnessed in his Master.


“What did you do to him?” Mulder asked, sitting up and surveying what he could see of his Master in the dim candlelight. Skinner didn’t seem to be too badly hurt so he had to assume that his Master had gotten the better of his opponent – not that he would have expected even Krycek to stand a chance against Skinner when he was on the warpath.


“What did I do?” Skinner gave a distant, strained smile, then leaned forward, grabbed Mulder’s hand, and fondled his slave’s taped fingers. “Well…I broke two of his fingers,” he said. Then he raised his hand to Mulder’s face, and spidered his fingertips over the yellow bruises that had nearly faded away. “And I landed a few punches to his face and split his lip. I closed his eye for him too.” His index finger lingered over Mulder’s left eye, which had been badly swollen for days after Seattle. Then his hand moved down to Mulder’s torso, and rested on his ribs. “I kicked his ribs a few times, and…” he glanced at Mulder’s foot, “…he won’t be walking comfortably for a while either. Everything he did to you, I did to him. Nothing more. Nothing less. Except…” His fingers paused, poised over the scar on Mulder’s chest.


“Did you carve your initials into him?” Mulder asked, his breath catching in his throat.


“No. You see, when I put my mark on someone’s body, I want it to be an act of love, and ownership not one of hate, and defilement,” Skinner said in a husky voice. Mulder closed his eyes. In that one sentence, his Master had given his slave back the promise he had once made to him, that he would one day mark him as his own. Permanently, and irrevocably.


Mulder shook his head, unsure how he felt about what his Master had done. “I can fight my own battles,” he said.


“I know,” Skinner agreed, “but this wasn’t your battle. It was mine. Nobody ever, ever lays a finger on my slave and gets away with it.”


Mulder sat back, winded, and looked at the other man, the full realization of what Skinner had done sinking in. “You could have been killed,” he pointed out.


“Trust me, there was no danger of that. I had the element of surprise, and I planned it very carefully.”


“I’m sure you did. I know how good you are at planning.” Mulder grinned, aware of his Master’s almost military precision. “I bet he didn’t know what hit him.”


“Oh, he knew. I made sure that he knew exactly what hit him, and why,” Skinner replied, in a tone of voice that Mulder had never heard before. It sent shivers up his spine and he was suddenly aware that he was face to face with his Master’s dark side for the first time. Skinner was usually so self-controlled, so cool, and rational – the epitome of common sense. Mulder felt just the tiniest flicker of pity for Krycek, being faced with this dark, angry apparition in the middle of the night, as stealthy and deadly as any panther. He hoped that the wrath of this particular Skinner would never be directed at him. “I wanted him to know exactly why he was suffering and what he could expect if he contacted you again. Ever. About anything. I think that message went home,” Skinner murmured absently, fingering his bruised knuckles. “Your enemies are my enemies. These consortium bastards will have to go through me to get to you in future. They can destroy my career but they damned well won’t destroy you. I won’t let them. They’ve been playing with you like you’re their own goddamn personal toy since you were a child and it stops here and it stops with me. You’re mine now.”


“Thank you.” Mulder fingered his chest absently, trying to get used to the feel of the scar. “For all of it,” he said sincerely, flushing in the darkness as he remembered how he had doubted his Master’s love for him.


“I have plans for that too.” Skinner’s fingers joined those of his slave, and traced a line over the jagged flesh. “But first it has to heal some more. I have a lot of plans for you, boy, starting right here. Murray has a dungeon,” he murmured into Mulder’s ear, holding his slave tight. “A fully equipped dungeon,” Skinner added. Mulder’s cock hardened again, involuntarily, when he could have sworn that he was fully stated just seconds before. “I think you need some intensive retraining, boy. We have a couple of weeks here and I’ll be putting you through your paces. You’ll have every chance to win your collar back. Nobody will disturb us. It’ll just be you, and me…and Wanda,” he grinned.


“Wanda’s here?” Mulder asked in surprise.


“I brought her with me. She’s in the house.” Skinner nodded. “I didn’t want to leave her behind and besides, I think she could do with a vacation too.”


“Yeah. She wouldn’t be happy without her willing slaves around her,” Mulder grinned, pleased his little Mistress was here too. He found a small bruise on Skinner’s ribs and fingered it gently. “I’ll be the best slave you could ever want. I promise, sir.”


“Master,” Skinner corrected, placing a finger over his slave’s lips. “You’ve done everything I’ve asked and more. I think you’ve won back the right to call me Master, Fox.” He leaned forward and replaced his finger with his mouth, claiming his slave with both his kiss and his words.


Mulder settled into his Master’s arms, and stared out across the sea, feeling more profoundly at peace than he could ever remember.


“Yes, Master,” he said softly.


End of Part 19


Heavy stuff, but there’ll be lots of BDSM fun and games in the next chapter


Show Buttons
Hide Buttons