24/7 24. Guardian of the House



Mulder was humming softly to himself as he paused outside the 17th floor apartment and reached into his pocket for his key. It still gave him a thrill to use the key his Master had given him on his birthday a couple of weeks previously. It was surprising that something as simple as a key could mean so much but it made all the difference to be entering this apartment through the front door, truly belonging here, rather than descending to it via the internal staircase.  He opened the door, hating the fact that he was returning to an empty apartment. His Master was away attending a high level briefing in Los Angeles and wouldn’t be home for another few days. Mulder had coped well with Skinner’s absence – much better than the last time, he thought wryly to himself as he let himself into the apartment. He could scarcely believe the change in himself. A few months ago, when Skinner had last gone away, Mulder had spun out into orbit, but now he felt curiously grounded. The apartment felt empty without his Master, but Mulder was pretty sure that Skinner would make up for his absence upon his return. In the meantime he had Wanda to keep him company. He was surprised by how fond he had become of the little cat. He had been taking care of Wanda while Skinner was away, seeing to it that she was fed and watered, and he never retired to bed, which seemed so empty in his Master’s absence, without taking her with him, wrapped up in his arms, something to hold until his Master returned home. Not that he’d ever tell Skinner that of course – it was a secret between him and Wanda. He didn’t want his Master thinking he’d gone soft, or that he and Wanda had declared a truce or anything.


Mulder glanced around, frowning. Wanda always ran to greet him on his return home – she loved to come and say hello, and receive her customary petting. If he was leafing through his mail and ignored her for too long she’d miaow accusingly and rub her face around his ankles. If he persisted in his impolite behavior she’d stand on her hind legs and dig her claws into his shins until he picked her up and gave her a cuddle. After that she was fine and would wander off happily do Cat Things. She clearly needed the correct proprieties to be observed, and a formal greeting ritual to be performed. Mulder chuckled as he considered how well she had him trained – which made it all the more surprising that she wasn’t here engaging in her usual welcoming procedure.  A sudden panic gripped him, as his overactive imagination presented him with a picture of her lying dead somewhere, slain by some negligence of his – a sink full of water in which she’d drowned, or a knife left out carelessly upon which she had somehow impaled herself – but he quickly shrugged this off as being ridiculous. Only Skinner himself could have taken better care of the little cat.




Mulder threw his keys absently onto the hall table, feeling that something was wrong. Something was very wrong. The hair on the back of his neck stood up on end as he walked cautiously towards the living room, drawing his gun as he went. He wasn’t sure why he felt that was necessary, just that he did. Some instinct was warning him, and he had learned over the years not to ignore his instincts.


“Wanda,” he said again, softly…and then he froze.


Wanda was sitting on the couch, purring happily…and she wasn’t alone.




Mulder stood in the doorway, eyeing the assassin, and then nervously glanced at the cat who was sitting happily on his enemy’s lap, being petted and fondled. She took no notice of Mulder, being far too busy rubbing her chin enthusiastically against Krycek’s gently caressing, oh so dangerous hand: a hand that to Mulder’s certain knowledge had killed and beaten with impunity; a hand that would surely take less than a second to crush a cat’s windpipe.


“Put the gun down, Mulder. You aren’t going to shoot me. Not with the cat so close. Skinner would never forgive you if anything happened to her.” Krycek’s hand effortlessly circled Wanda’s neck and Mulder stiffened but Wanda just purred, seemingly oblivious to any danger, her eyes opening and closing sleepily, only the pricking of her ears indicating that she had sensed the sudden tension in the room.


“Put her down, Krycek,” Mulder said, still holding the gun pointed at his enemy’s head.


“Don’t be ridiculous.” Krycek rolled his eyes. “I’m not going to kill her – she’s adorable. I’m just here to talk. Put the gun away.”


“We have nothing to talk about. How the hell did you get in here anyway?” Mulder glanced at Skinner’s state-of-the-art security system, which was winking away merrily, oblivious to its own shortcomings.


“It wasn’t exactly hard.” Krycek shrugged. “Sit down, Mulder. You’re making me jumpy.”


“Krycek, last time we met you lured me into a trap that ended up with me in the hospital. I’m the one who should be jumpy, not you,” Mulder growled.


“That was payback for all the punches you’ve landed on me over the years.” Krycek smiled sweetly. “Now that I feel suitably avenged, I’m happy to let bygones be bygones.”


“It might surprise you to find that I am not,” Mulder snapped.


“Aw, you’re not still smarting over my handiwork with the knife?” Krycek raised an eyebrow, a grin hovering on his lips. “And there was I thinking that kind of thing was just part and parcel of your lifestyle of choice, slaveboy.”


“Why are you here?” Mulder refused to rise to the bait. He felt a sense of deadly calm settle into the pit of his stomach. This bastard couldn’t touch him any more. Whatever power Krycek had once held over him was gone because he wasn’t going to give him that power any more.


“To offer you information. That’s all. There’s no need for confrontation, or violence.” Krycek tickled Wanda under the chin and she gave a trilling purr. Mulder shot her a murderous glance.


“Traitor,” he muttered under his breath.


“Don’t be like that.” Krycek grinned. “She likes me. I have a calm aura.” That much was true. Krycek held himself very still, with a deadly kind of detached tranquility that suited his profession. “I bet she doesn’t like sitting on your lap,” Krycek goaded. “Too fidgety.”


Mulder furled his hand into a fist. Krycek was always able to make his most violent instincts rise to the surface. He seemed to know exactly the right buttons to press to make Mulder itch to plant his fist in that smugly grinning face. What, after all, did it matter that Krycek was right? That Wanda invariably preferred sitting with Skinner rather than him, because Skinner had a gentle, relaxed core to his soul, and could sit still for more than a few minutes without feeling the urge to stretch, twitch, rustle or otherwise behave in the restless manner of his slave. Only when Mulder was in deep submission, experiencing the total serenity of subspace, would Wanda deign to sit anywhere near him. It was absurd – it didn’t matter that Wanda found Krycek’s a more congenial lap than his, but somehow it made him boil with anger.


“Just say what you have to say and then go, Krycek,” Mulder muttered grimly.


“All right.” Krycek smiled, and allowed Wanda to sniff his plastic hand and nibble on the end of one of his artificial fingers. “I’m not here to fight, Mulder. I’m here with information.”


“You always offer information, Krycek. Most of the time it isn’t any use,” Mulder snarled.


“Not true.” Krycek looked wounded. “Sometimes I’ve risked my life bringing you information that’s been very useful to you, Mulder.”

Mulder chewed on his lip. That had a nugget of truth to it. Krycek’s motives might be hard to fathom but he had occasionally done Mulder favors… which did not negate the fact that his information was just as frequently flawed, and had often landed Mulder in deep trouble.


“Just tell me,” Mulder snapped. He leaned back against the wall, prepared not to be interested in anything Krycek had to say…only to be completely stunned by what came next.


“There’s a spaceship in close contact orbit around Earth. It’s massive – a total motherfucking beauty. Get there and you could become the first person to provide documented proof of extra-terrestrial life.”


Mulder gave a bark of laughter, shaking his head incredulously. “First Samantha, now a giant UFO – you know my buttons and you sure as hell know how to press them. I’m not buying this, Krycek.”


“I’m not lying. Call your geeky friends – radars are going crazy and the UFO watchers are out in force, chasing across the country to get there. They’ll confirm everything I’ve said.”


Mulder clenched and unclenched his fist, still holding his gun in his other hand, loosely pointed at Krycek. Finally he snapped, and reached into his jacket pocket to pull out his cell phone.


“If this is a lie…” he began.


“It isn’t.” Krycek’s tone was flat, and deadly serious. Mulder speed-dialed the Lone Gunmen with one hand.


“All right…where is this spaceship?” Mulder asked his uninvited guest as he waited for the Gunmen to pick up.


“It’s in Oregon.” Krycek leaned back into the soft cushions of the couch, and smiled.


Mulder froze. He wasn’t sure why, but the hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end, and a cold shiver was creeping slowly up his spine.


“Oregon?” He repeated blankly, surprised by his physical reaction to this information.


“That’s right.” Krycek nodded.


“Gunmen.” Langley’s voice.


“Langley it’s me. Turn the tape off,” Mulder replied.


“Yo – Mulder. We were going to call you but it’s so crazy here right now we didn’t have enough hands.”


“What’s going on?”


“Something big.” Langley’s voice sounded distant and then came back into focus. “Oh Jesus, Mulder. You wouldn’t believe what I’m looking at right now.”


“Radar of the skies over Oregon?” Mulder hazarded a guess, glancing at Krycek.


“You’ve heard already!” Langley sounded crestfallen. “Well, dude, you’d better get yourself over there – it’s all happening. This one is like the mothership or something. It’s massive, and it’s on a mission, crawling over the state on a go-slow like it’s looking for something. There have to be sightings of this one – maybe film. This could be it, Mulder. The big one.”


“Thanks, Langley.” Mulder turned his phone off and looked at Krycek again. “So you’re right. What worries me is why you want me to know about this ship. Why do you want me in Oregon, Krycek?”


“Maybe the time has come to make the world aware of what’s up there.” Krycek stroked Wanda’s head thoughtfully and her purring went up a decibel. “And you’d be the perfect person to do it. You’re credible, Mulder. However weird you are, you’re also an FBI agent. You’re a suit. A fibbie. A G-man. People will believe you. You’re not crackpot trailer trash out looking to make a quick buck. You’re the best we’ve got if we’re going to be believed.”


“Well you can find someone else. I’m not going.” Mulder held the door wide open and gestured towards it. “Get out of here, Krycek.”


“Not going?” Krycek raised an eyebrow. “Hell, what did Skinner do to you, Mulder? The Mulder I used to know would be on a plane right now. What’s the matter – do you need your Master’s permission to leave town, slave boy?”


“As a matter of fact I do – but that’s not why I’m not going. I’m not going because I know you, Krycek. Whatever this is it won’t be what I think it is. I’m not taking any more risks for you. Go and tell your masters that, errand boy.”


Krycek’s face darkened slightly, and Mulder felt a wave of grim satisfaction that his barb had hit home. He raised his gun cautiously as Krycek slowly and carefully picked up Wanda and deposited her on the floor. Then the assassin got up himself and stretched, his own movements almost as feline as those of the cat. Finally, he sauntered slowly towards the door, where Mulder was standing.


“It won’t be there forever, Mulder,” he hissed as he passed. “Get down to Oregon tonight – or you could miss out on what you’ve been looking for all your life.”


“Thanks for your concern.” Mulder smiled unpleasantly. He escorted Krycek to the front door, ushered him through it, then shut it again afterwards and locked it – a gesture that he knew to be pointless considering how easily Krycek had gotten into the apartment in the first place. That done, he sank to the floor, his knees feeling like jelly. Seeing Krycek had brought back too many memories, and he fingered the fading scar on his chest absently, his throat constricting as he recalled the hours spent as his old enemy’s captive, imprisoned in a warehouse waiting to die, the betrayal of his Master eating away at his soul just as Krycek had eaten away at his body with his knife. Finally, still trembling, he walked back to the living room, and collapsed on the couch, his body nerveless, bereft of energy. He sat there for a long time, staring out onto the balcony. Wanda leapt onto the couch and sniffed him curiously, puzzled by his lack of activity. 


It was a UFO, very probably an alien vessel, something he had been looking for all his life, and it was out there, waiting for him. There would be answers to all the questions he had ever asked, and probably a few more besides. It could be the culmination of his life’s work…or it could be a trap. It would be so easy to just pick up his cell phone and call the airlines, to get a taxi to the airport…he could be in Oregon within hours.  


Mulder reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. His fingers pressed the buttons, seemingly not of their own volition. He wasn’t breathing. He wasn’t even sure that he was thinking straight. A reassuring voice on the other end of the line broke through his trance, jolting him back to reality.



Mulder started to breathe again. “Master, it’s me,” he whispered.


“Fox – what’s up?” Skinner seemed to know immediately that something was wrong by Mulder’s tone of voice.


“Krycek was just here.” Mulder felt the blood start to roar through his veins again, and the world came back into focus. His Master was an anchor on the other end of the line, keeping him safe, keeping him grounded, not allowing him to spin off into orbit along with whatever it was that was hovering over Oregon right now. There was a pause on the other end of the line, and then the sound of Skinner taking a sharp intake of breath.


“Are you okay?” Skinner’s voice was full of anxiety and Mulder gave a little smile. Skinner’s first thought was for his slave’s safety.


“I’m fine. He didn’t do anything. He was sitting in the apartment when I got ho…”


“He was in the apartment?”


Mulder winced. Skinner sounded as if he was having an apoplectic fit. “Yes. He broke in.”


“Is Wanda okay?” Skinner asked anxiously.


“She’s fine. She actually seemed to like him.” Mulder scowled at the cat who gazed at him steadily, without any trace of remorse.


“Damn the rat bastard. I thought I made myself clear last time we ‘spoke’,” Skinner snapped. “What did he want?”


Mulder filled his Master in as quickly as he could. When he finished there was silence.


“Master?” He prompted.


“I’m still here. Tell me where you are right now, Fox. Be honest,” Skinner said softly.


“I’m in the apartment. Krycek only left a few minutes ago.”


“Fox, don’t take this the wrong way but I really need to know. You’re not lying to me are you? You’re not on your way to the airport?” Skinner asked.


Mulder winced but he knew that he had earned that inquiry. “No, Master. I’m still here,” he said quietly.


“And will you stay there?” Skinner wanted to know.


“I…don’t know,” Mulder replied honestly. “This is everything I’ve ever wanted, Walter.”


“I know, Fox, I know.” Skinner’s voice was husky with repressed emotion.


“It’s evidence of extra terrestrials. It could be answers about Samantha. It could be proof.”


“And it could be a trap,” Skinner said flatly.


“I know that.” Mulder chewed on his lip. “Are you ordering me not to go, Master?” He asked. There was another silence on the other end of the line, followed by a heavy sigh.


“No. No I’m not,” Skinner replied. “I couldn’t do that to you, Fox. You’d resent me for it for the rest of your life if I did. No, this is your decision. I’m asking you not to go but I’m not ordering you.”


“Thank you, Walter,” Mulder said quietly.


“Damn…if I could get back home I would, but I have a top level meeting tomorrow on a highly sensitive national security issue. I can’t…”


“You don’t need to. I don’t need babysitting. I’ll figure this one out,” Mulder interrupted him.


“Fox – do what you have to do but listen to me,” Skinner said urgently. “I want you to promise me that you’ll keep me informed – even if you decide to go. Even if, when you’re there, you make decisions that you know I’ll disapprove of – just keep me in the loop. Let me know where you’ll be staying and take Scully or some other kind of back-up with you. Don’t do this alone. That much is an order, both as your Master and your boss.”


“Yes, sir.” Mulder gave a wry grin.


“I mean it, Fox,” Skinner said, his tone in deadly earnest.


“I know you do, Master and I promise that I’ll do what you say.”


“Good. I have to go. I’m due in another meeting in five minutes.” Skinner hesitated, clearly unwilling to end the call.


“It’ll be okay,” Mulder said reassuringly, still chewing on his bottom lip. “You go, Master. I’ll be fine.”


“All right. I’ll be home in a few days, Fox. If you go to Oregon…if you’re still there…I’ll come straight to wherever you are as soon as I’m free.”


“Thanks.” Mulder felt the weight lift a little from his shoulders. It was good to share the problem, and to know that Skinner cared. He had never had that in his life before. Ever since he was 12 years old he had been used to shouldering burdens alone, from his sister’s abduction to his mother’s ill health. He had been the one who took care of everything and nobody had ever taken any of that strain from him before. He had never realized how good that would feel. “Take care, Master,” he said softly. “I, uh, you know…love you.” His voice dropped to a whisper as he said that. He still found it hard admitting to such an emotion at any time outside the heat of sex or his own intoxicating submission, but the evidence was so incontrovertible that there didn’t seem to be any point in fudging the issue.


“I love you too. Go carefully, Fox,” Skinner warned, “and remember what I said about keeping me informed. Call me anytime, day or night, just let me know what’s going on.”


“I will.” Mulder ended the call and sat back on the couch with a sigh. If he only knew what was going on himself, he’d happily keep his Master informed.  


Mulder sat staring into space for a long time, trying to come to a decision. Finally the grumbling of his stomach forced him to make a foray to the freezer to dig out a pizza. When he’d finished eating he glanced at his cell phone again. Should he call the airlines? Or the Gunmen? If he asked them for an update he knew that he’d crack and head straight for Oregon and he didn’t want that. He felt like a dog with his damn Pavlovian response to every piece of bait Krycek dangled in front of him. It had always been his weakness. One sniff of an answer to the burning questions that had consumed his life and he went, like an obedient puppy, tail wagging, and it nearly always ended in disaster of one kind or another. He had to move on. He had to transcend it. And yet…Oregon beckoned. 


Mulder had never been more aware of his own weaknesses than during this long, dark night of the soul. Hour after hour passed. Night fell, and the sounds of traffic far below faded into the usual night-time lull. He lay on the couch, the restless churning of his mind at odds with the listlessness of his body. His jacket was discarded on the chair, and his shoes were kicked under the coffee table. His tie was abandoned on the floor, his shirt unbuttoned at the collar. When Skinner had first gone away he had reveled in being clothed in the apartment. Usually he was naked, on display, and while he found that a turn on it made a change to be wearing clothes for once, as if it were some kind of exotic, forbidden luxury. Who would have thought that something as simple as wearing clothes could feel so illicit? He longed for the uncomplicated reassurance of his role as Skinner’s slave and yet even as he thought that he knew he couldn’t hide behind that role. Skinner had never allowed him to use his slavery as an escape from his problems – instead he had made it a tool by which Mulder faced up to them. Being naked, kneeling at his Master’s feet, would certainly be a distraction right now but it wouldn’t solve anything. If only the answers were simple. His heart told him to go – but his soul told him to stay. His head said that logically he had nothing to fear as long as he took someone with him, and went to Oregon with backup, but some instinct he didn’t understand made him doubt that logic. Somehow he knew that it would make no difference. Even if his Master himself accompanied him to Oregon, somehow something would happen to him there…and he wasn’t sure what. 


Cold fingers of uncertainty nagged at him whenever he came close to making a decision. Several times he got up, sure that he had made the decision to go, and each time he sat down again, a cold sweat breaking out on his skin. He even got as far as packing a small bag and bringing it back down to the living room. He sat with it between his feet, still trying to come to a decision. He wanted this. He wanted it badly. He needed to go. If he didn’t go he knew that he’d regret it forever…he’d always think of what might have been, of the answers he could finally have uncovered. 


It was nearly dawn when Mulder finally made up his mind. He stood up, and grabbed the bag. He’d go. He’d call ahead to the local PD and request back up. There was no need to involve Scully in this. If there was any danger then he didn’t want her to get hurt. Relieved to have finally made up his mind, Mulder patted Wanda’s head absently, and wrote a note to Mrs. Asher asking her to feed the cat and fish for the next couple of days. Then he got up, picked up his bag, walked to the door, grabbed his keys…and hesitated. He looked back over his shoulder at the apartment and that icy sensation swept through him again. Suddenly he knew, without any shadow of a doubt, that if he left here this evening he wouldn’t come back for a very long time – if ever. The sensation was so sudden and so strong that it winded him, and he crouched, trying to get his breath back. He saw Wanda through the open living room door, lying on her side on the couch in a state of blissful feline contentment. He saw one of his Master’s paddles hanging from a hook outside the kitchen – serving both as a permanently on display reminder to his slave and a conveniently available implement for Skinner to use when his slave required immediate correction. Mulder took a sharp intake of breath. This was it. This was his home, his whole existence, and he loved it. If he walked out of the door now it would all disappear, as if it had never existed. If he went, he’d lose it forever. He wasn’t sure how, or why, he just knew that it was true. If he left now, he might find his answers, but in so doing he’d lose himself. 


Mulder gave a low, choking sob, and walked back into the living room. He threw his bag onto the floor, slumped on the couch, and buried his face in Wanda’s fur. He had just undergone a most profound moment. He had been tested, and had found the resolve to walk a different path, and by that one act he knew that he had somehow freed himself from a particular destiny, and chosen a different one instead. The strange thing was that it didn’t feel like a bad choice. It felt good. It felt right.


“You’re still here.” The voice made him stiffen.


“Go away, Krycek.” He didn’t even look around. Krycek was no longer a threat. Mulder was so sure of his decision that nothing Krycek said or did would alter that.


“Skinner must have really screwed with your mind. I thought you’d come to your senses when you had time to think about it.” Krycek sounded surprised. “Well, well. This is different.” The room was in darkness. Mulder heard Krycek walk over to him, and he tensed, uncertain whether the other man had a gun. “I’m not entirely sure how to play this one. In fact, I’m speechless,” Krycek said, his lips brushing Mulder’s ear as he leaned in close.


“You’re patently not,” Mulder commented acerbically. He could feel Krycek’s breath on the back of his neck, making his hackles rise.


“I brought you this.” Krycek threw an envelope onto the coffee table in front of them. “Plane ticket…and a couple of pictures.” He walked around the couch and perched on the side of the coffee table. “You might find the pictures particularly interesting.”


Krycek waited, but Mulder just sat, making no move to open the envelope.


“I can see that Skinner also stole your curiosity. Okay.” Krycek opened the envelope and drew out the photographs. He held one up. “Remember Billy Miles? One of your first cases with Agent Scully I believe. He’s an abductee. You suspected aliens and she…well, Agent Scully has always been more of a skeptical personality, hasn’t she?” Krycek’s teeth gleamed a vivid white in the dimly lit room – the only light being that from the hallway slanting through the open door. Mulder clenched his fists, wanting to strike but he still wasn’t sure whether Krycek had a gun – or worse, a knife. Mulder’s finger went absently to his scar again. “This photograph is of Billy. He’s older now of course – it’s been a few years since you saw him after all. He disappeared last night. In Oregon.” Krycek threw the photograph onto Mulder’s lap. “His car was found abandoned on the open road. The electrics weren’t working.” Krycek paused, gazing intently at Mulder.


“It’s just a photograph.” Mulder shrugged. “It doesn’t prove anything. You could have got it anywhere.”


“The second photo might interest you more.” Krycek held it up. Mulder could just about make out a cylindrical object with flashing lights, hovering in a dark sky.


“It could be anything.” Mulder shrugged. “You know how easily those shots can be faked.”


“This one isn’t. It was taken a few hours ago. In Oregon.”


“Okay. I’m still not going.” Mulder shrugged. Wanda stretched and yawned beside him, then sat up, her yellow-green eyes sparkling in the half light.


“Why? Because of Skinner? He doesn’t own you, Mulder.” Krycek sounded genuinely angry now, as if he hadn’t anticipated meeting this kind of resistance.


“As a matter of fact he does,” Mulder chuckled. “And no, not because of him, because of me. You wouldn’t understand, Krycek.”


“I understand one thing – it’s my mark on your chest, Mulder. I’m the one who pulls your strings, whether you like it or not. You’ll go.” Krycek sat back confidently, his green eyes glowing like Wanda’s.


“No. I won’t.” Mulder shook his head wryly, refusing to rise to the bait.


“You couldn’t even come after me yourself, could you?” Krycek growled in a sneering tone, clearly annoyed by Mulder’s refusal to play the game his way. “You had to send Skinner to take revenge on me for what happened in Seattle. You had to hide behind him – just like you’re doing now.”


“That’s crap and you know it,” Mulder bristled. “I’ve never shied away from a fight with you in my life Krycek. I enjoy beating the shit out of you too much. And on that subject, I think that you and I have some unfinished business to take care of, don’t you?” Mulder threw his fist at Krycek’s jaw without warning, striking the other man a glancing blow. Krycek recovered quickly and launched himself forward, landing on Mulder’s body and winding him as he pushed him back on the couch. He brought his fist down hard on Mulder’s face, making painful contact with Mulder’s cheek. Mulder twisted, and pushed up with all his might, aware of Wanda scurrying away frantically out of the corner of his eye. Anger gave him the strength to


lever his opponent away. “Get the fuck out of my life, Krycek,” he hissed, pummeling the other man with his fists. They both fell off the couch and crashed onto the coffee table, which shattered beneath them. They landed amid the remains of sheared wood and broken glass, Krycek on top.


 “No deal, Mulder. I’m with you forever,” Krycek growled. “You’ll never get rid of me.” They rolled over together, each landing a punch but not hard enough to decide the outcome of the fight.


“You fucking bastard,” Mulder shouted, lashing out in a blind frenzy. He had a vision of Krycek following him for the rest of his life, always there, smirking, offering him leads that turned into traps, wrong-footing him at every turn, and a wave of frustration swept through him. Krycek took advantage of his loss of control and managed to land a punch to Mulder’s midriff that knocked him onto his back. Mulder fell awkwardly, with a grunt, winded, and he lay there, helpless, as Krycek raised his fist to strike.


“Let’s face it, Mulder,” Krycek hissed, his fist poised ready to deliver the decisive blow in this particular battle. “You’re always going to be a sick, crazy pervert, playing your stupid sex games with that thick as shit moron you call Master.” He said that word with a distinct sneer. “You don’t need my help to be any more fucked up than you already are, slave boy.” And with that he brought his fist down. Mulder steeled himself for a blow that never arrived. Instead the lights snapped on, blinding him momentarily in the sudden glare. He heard a low growl of surprise and then Krycek was lifted bodily from him and thrown unceremoniously against the wall, where he crashed to a halt and then slid slowly to the ground.


“Thick as shit?” Skinner’s voice was as cold as ice, and almost expressionless. “It seems to me there’s only one moron around here, Krycek. Tell me, what part of ‘leave Mulder alone’ didn’t you understand when I visited you last time?” He grabbed the collar of Krycek’s black leather jacket and flicked a savage punch at the other man’s jaw that made Mulder wince. Krycek’s head lolled back against the wall, blood running down his chin.


“Leave me alone, Skinner,” Krycek snarled, struggling desperately in Skinner’s grasp. He was suddenly transformed into a vicious animal fighting for his life. “Mulder doesn’t need you to protect him. He’s a big boy now, and he wants to go to Oregon – don’t you, Mulder?” He glanced at Mulder over Skinner’s shoulder. Mulder sat up, gingerly feeling his tender abdomen and bruised jaw.


“There’s his bag by the couch, all packed and ready to go,” Krycek pointed out. Skinner glanced at it and then his eyes swept over Mulder’s face, utterly impassive. Mulder shook his head. He didn’t need to prove anything to Skinner – his Master would take his word over Krycek’s any day of the week. Skinner’s expression hardened as he turned back to their uninvited guest.


“You see, no amount of ‘Yes Master, No Master’ is going to change him,” Krycek taunted. “He’ll always be what he is, however hard you work on him.”


“Oh yes. And what exactly is it that you think he is?” Skinner asked, his fingers digging deep into Krycek’s neck. Krycek gave a smirk, his cut lip splitting open even more, causing a large bubble of blood to well up in the crack.


“He’s easy,” Krycek replied. “Mulder’s easy. You just wind him up, press his buttons, set him in the right direction, and he goes – and I know which buttons to press far more than you do, Skinner. He isn’t really yours – I’m the one who knows him best. I’m the one who can make him dance to my tune like a puppet.”


“Is that so?” Skinner’s voice was deceptively mild.


“Yeah – those are my initials carved on his chest after all.” Krycek grinned smugly as he threw his ultimate jibe at the man holding him against the wall.


Skinner’s expression didn’t change. “Fox, come here,” he ordered. Mulder walked over, wondering what his Master was going to do. Skinner gestured with his head. “Open your shirt, Fox. Show him what’s on your chest.”


Mulder exchanged a grim glance with his Master, and then unbuttoned his shirt to reveal the smooth, neat, almost invisible scar – a scar that no longer spelt out the initials AK.


“You see, things can change, boy,” Skinner said. “Just like that scar changed. Mulder is mine – don’t be in any doubt about that. He’s mine. Don’t mess with him again.”


Krycek’s eyes were sullen and angry as he recognized that he had lost this particular argument. “Let me go, Skinner,” he gasped, struggling pointlessly in the big man’s grasp.


“Not yet. I want to make something very plain, in words that a moron like you can understand,” Skinner said, his large paw holding Krycek upright as he threw off another of those punches that looked so easy but which had to hurt like hell. The assassin’s eyes were starting to look a little glazed. “Leave Mulder alone,” Skinner growled. “Leave me alone. Don’t ever, ever come back here. I don’t give a shit how scared you are of your masters – you should be more afraid of me because if you ever contact us again you’ll really feel my wrath. And I mean that, Krycek. It isn’t an empty threat. If you ever bother either of us again then it’s serious. I won’t play nice. I won’t play by the rules. There will be consequences. Do you understand?”


“Sure.” Krycek nodded, licking his lips nervously and wiping away the blood, only for it to well up again almost immediately.


“No.” Skinner shook Krycek as if he were a rag doll. Mulder was in awe of his Master’s angry strength. Skinner was like a cat playing with a mouse – deadly and dangerous. Mulder had no doubt that his Master could have killed Krycek with one flick of his hands, snapping the assassin’s neck as if he were nothing, and he was suddenly profoundly aware how much Skinner held back when dealing with his slave, how those big hands also knew how to caress, and be gentle, and loving. He had never seen Skinner like this before, and it was a revelation to him. He suddenly became aware, with an acute sensation of embarrassment, that his cock had started to swell within his pants. Christ, that was the last thing he needed right now.


“No, that’s not good enough,” Skinner said in a low, intense voice. “You have to really understand, Krycek, because this is the last warning. There won’t be another one.” He shook Krycek again to illustrate the point. The blood running down Krycek’s jaw dripped onto his tee shirt and splattered onto Skinner’s face. “Leave us alone. Don’t come near Mulder – and that means no phone calls, no visits, no turning up here or at the Hoover Building. No emails, no letters – no contact of any kind. Don’t follow him. Don’t come anywhere near him – or I promise you that it will be the last time.” Skinner’s voice was so low and hard that it was almost unrecognizable. “Now I’m going to ask you again – do you understand?” Skinner pressed.


“Y…yes…sir…” Krycek stammered. Mulder smiled – even Krycek was in awe of his Master.


“Good. Then it’s time for you to leave.” Skinner hauled Krycek bodily to the door, then paused and pulled his cell phone from his pocket. He called the doorman and requested two members of the security team. When they arrived a few minutes later, he handed Krycek to them with a grim request that he be thrown onto the street and not allowed re-admittance – ever. Then, finally, he shut the door and turned back to his slave boy.


“I thought you had a meeting,” Mulder said, unsure what mood his Master was in. Skinner’s chest was still heaving, and he didn’t know whether his Master had come down off his battle high or not. If not…then he could still be dangerous.


“I couldn’t stay knowing what you were going through. I wanted to be with you for this decision – whichever way you decided to jump,” Skinner told him. “I said a personal emergency had come up. I’m sure the Director wasn’t impressed, but this was more important.”


Mulder was stunned by his Master’s grasp of his priorities. He wasn’t sure he had ever come so decisively first with anyone in his life before. “I had made up my mind,” he said softly. “I wasn’t going. I almost did. I packed to go but I turned back at the last minute. I just had a really bad feeling about it. My decision seemed to upset Krycek. He’s used to me jumping through his hoops. That’s why we were fighting.”


“Are you okay?” Skinner’s eyes were dark and concerned. He wasn’t wearing his wirerims and his face was still spattered with Krycek’s blood. He traced his fingers over Mulder’s bruised cheek.


“I’m fine. You?” Mulder caught his Master’s hand and examined it. Skinner’s knuckles were badly bruised and the skin was scraped in places.


“I’m fine too. Come here.” Skinner wrapped his arms around his slave and held him tight, then pushed him away and glanced in surprise at Mulder’s crotch. “You’re hard,” he observed, in a tone of mild astonishment. “I’m impressed. After all the drama here tonight I’d have thought sex would be the last thing on your mind.”


Mulder felt the heat rise to the surface of his skin and cursed his body silently for giving away a long-held fantasy that fascinated and appalled him so much that he had never been able to give it voice.


“What’s this about?” Skinner asked, his dark eyes intrigued, his fingers gently brushing his slave’s swelling cock.


“You’re hot when you’re in he-man mode that’s all. You know it turns me on,” Mulder deflected the question, feeling utterly embarrassed, hating his body for giving him away. He disengaged himself from his Master’s grasp, turned, and went into the kitchen. He dug out some antiseptic gel from the cupboard, and then returned to escort his Master into the lounge, where he knelt and applied the gel to Skinner’s knuckles.


“I know how it looks – with the bag,” Mulder said softly as he soothed the gel into his Master’s discolored skin. “But I really wasn’t going to go. I’d made up my mind.”


“I believe you.” Skinner smiled, and placed his free hand on Mulder’s shoulders, stroking him affectionately.


“You can go back to LA. Krycek would be an idiot to show up here again and I’m not in danger of being abducted by aliens in Oregon.” Mulder gave a faint, rueful smile. He felt that cold sensation again, and shivered.


“Boy?” Skinner’s fingers found Mulder’s chin and forced his face up to look at him.


“It’s nothing, Master. Just this weird feeling I’ve been having all night. I think I made the right decision.”


“So do I. As for LA – I’m in no mood to fly back straight away. I want to go to bed and have my slave remind me what I’ve been missing while I’ve been away.” Skinner flicked Mulder’s dark hair away from his face, and gazed at his slave boy fondly. Mulder melted into the caress, as he always did. “Before that though…” Skinner drew back reluctantly, and glanced around the room. “I suspect we weren’t the only ones spooked by what happened here this evening. I think a certain someone will be in need of some reassurance too.”


“Wanda.” Mulder got up, frowning. He remembered seeing the little cat rush away at the first sign of violence but had no idea where she had gone after that. They spent the next twenty minutes scouring the apartment but couldn’t find her. Eventually, Skinner called a halt to the search with a sigh of resignation.


“I guess she’s gone to ground. That’s fair enough. She obviously doesn’t want to be found. We’ll have to wait until she decides she’s ready to come out. I’ve learned the hard way that you can’t force Madam to do anything she doesn’t want to do.” He glanced at Mulder. “I don’t know about you, boy but I’m tired. Let’s hit the sheets.” 


Skinner headed for the bedroom and Mulder followed, chewing on his lip. He was still disturbed by his earlier arousal and somehow he knew that this wasn’t something Skinner would allow to rest. He got undressed, knelt beside the bed, and waited until his Master was settled under the sheets before requesting permission to join him. Skinner nodded, and Mulder slid into bed, and was immediately pulled into a pair of big arms. Skinner pushed Mulder’s legs open forcefully with his knee, and pinned him to the bed, kissing him thoroughly. Mulder’s cock hardened immediately.


“You denied me earlier,” Skinner said, his large hands holding Mulder down as surely as any method of bondage. Mulder moaned, too distracted by sex to be able to fathom what his Master was talking about.


“Denied you? I never…I wouldn’t, Master,” he replied in astonishment. He had never once rejected his Master’s sexual advances – he enjoyed them too much for that.


“You denied me a part of your sexuality. I noticed you were aroused and you made an excuse not to talk about it. I want to talk about it,” Skinner insisted, one hand holding Mulder in place, the other stroking his slave’s chest. He paused over Mulder’s left nipple and took it between his fingers, rubbing it to a point. Mulder gasped out loud.


“I’m waiting.” Skinner’s fingers squeezed, and Mulder jack-knifed against his Master’s body.


“I don’t know what you want me to say. I was embarrassed, that’s all. I didn’t mean to deny you anything,” he said quickly. The pressure of the fingers on his nipple eased a little.


“Talk to me about it. If it’s a sexual fantasy then I want to know. I have a right to know my slave’s desires.  Why does it embarrass you after all we’ve done?”


“Because…because it’s…” Mulder struggled with what he wanted to say. Skinner increased the tension on his nipple. “It’s not very PC,” Mulder gasped.


“Neither is slavery.” Skinner released the nipple, and dropped his head to suck the abused nub of flesh, warming and soothing it with his tongue. When he’d finished he kissed his slave on the lips again, a deep, heartfelt kiss then leaned back and gazed at him, clearly waiting for Mulder to elaborate on his fantasy. Mulder remained mute. This wasn’t something he wanted to talk about. After a long silence, Skinner gave a loud sigh, clearly accepting that he wasn’t going to get any answers and unwilling to press the issue after all they’d just been through.


“I was afraid you’d gone to Oregon. I wasn’t sure what I’d find when I came home,” he murmured, caressing Mulder’s features in the dark with his fingers as if to remind himself what they looked like. “I sure as hell didn’t expect to see you writhing on the carpet with Alex Krycek.”


“We really need to get a new security system,” Mulder said wryly. “He broke in twice without any difficulty at all.”


“I’ll look into it,” Skinner murmured absently. He released Mulder and turned over with another deep sigh. Mulder lay there, his cock still hard and aroused. He knew he’d upset his Master with his lack of trust, but this was difficult. All the same – Skinner was right. He was a slave, and he had given control of his body and his desires to his Master. By withholding them he was committing a breach of their contracts, and they both knew it. It was only because they were both so shaken after Krycek’s visit that his Master wasn’t pressing the issue and he was taking advantage of that fact. Mulder thought about it for a moment, and then touched his Master’s shoulder.


“It was you, holding Krycek against the wall, being so dangerous and uncompromising,” he said quickly, before he could change his mind. “You didn’t care about him. You weren’t careful with him the way you are with me. You know I have a thing about you in he-man mode anyway. You know how much I enjoy really rough sex.” He bit on his lip. Skinner turned to look at him in the darkness. Mulder took a deep breath, unsure how to proceed.


“You want me to force you?” Skinner asked.


Mulder made a face. “Kinda,” he whispered.


“Tell me more.” Skinner slung his thigh over Mulder’s legs, drawing him close. He reached down and began to slowly caress his slave’s hard cock.


Mulder grimaced, torn between pleasure and confession. “It’s not an easy thing to admit,” he murmured.


“You can tell me anything. In fact I insist. As your Master.” Skinner smiled, his white teeth gleaming. “I won’t judge you, Fox. It’s just a fantasy. Tell me,” he urged.


“I know you’re always careful with me and I’m grateful for that because some of what we do is pretty…extreme…but…I’d like to try maybe…something a bit more…when we’re playing that is…” He broke off, realizing what little sense he was making.


“Keep going.” Skinner pumped his cock hard and he gave a gasp of need.


“I’d like to struggle,” Mulder murmured, thankful that it was dark so Skinner couldn’t see the shade of bright red his face had turned. “I want to be subdued. I want to fight…I want to be…”


“Raped?” Skinner flicked some of Mulder’s hair out of his eyes. He was propped up on one elbow, gazing down on his slave with an amused look on his face.


“No! I mean…not for real,” Mulder said quickly.


“I know what you mean, slave boy.” Skinner’s hand was firm on his cock as he milked Mulder to climax. “It isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It’s a common fantasy.”


“Is it? For men?” Mulder grimaced again.


“Well, a lot of men fantasize about being overpowered by a strong, sexy woman so yes, why not? Your fantasy is more skewed to your particular sexuality but it isn’t uncommon. It’s okay, Fox. I know it’s just a fantasy. I also know that if anyone actually tried to rape you you’d fight him tooth and nail. Being my slave means you can’t say ‘no’ to me. You’re saying you’d like to have a controlled fantasy scenario where you can say no. Where you can fight and struggle against me without the normal rules applying. You want me to take you by force, to make you submit. Yes?”


“I guess.” Mulder glanced at his Master apprehensively, waiting for some kind of reaction. This was a fantasy that he had never shared with anyone before. It was too personal, and, on some level, too shaming, but the idea of his Master overpowering him, forcing him to do what he enjoyed so much anyway…it turned him on. He should have known better than to doubt his Master’s response to his fantasy. There wasn’t the remotest trace of disgust in Skinner’ eyes as he dropped his head and devoured Mulder’s lips with his own, kissing him thoroughly, massaging his slave’s cock hard and fast at the same time.


“How much force?” Skinner whispered in his ear. Mulder tried to concentrate on the question, his breathing coming fast and hard as his Master expertly brought him close to orgasm.


“Uh…as much as it takes. I want to feel the heat of the fight…oh shit…I want to let go, to really get physical, violently physical…oh god!” Mulder jack-knifed off the bed as he came, helplessly, with a groan of satisfaction, and then he lay nerveless and sated, sweat pouring down the side of his face.


Skinner grinned down at him. “That seemed pretty physical to me,” he commented.


“It was. I’m not dissatisfied with anything you do to me, Master,” Mulder said quickly.


“I know.” Skinner nodded.


“But you asked…I was being as honest as I could.” Mulder felt himself flush again. It was bad enough admitting to a rape fantasy, but it was made worse by the fact that it also meant admitting that part of that fantasy was that he refused his Master his rights over his slave – and that was something that went against the very heart of the contract he had freely signed.


“I’m going to fly back to LA tomorrow,” Skinner told him, as the aftermath of Mulder’s orgasm still buzzed in his ears. “Just for a few days.” He smiled at his slave. “As for the other thing…I’ll think about it,” he promised. “There’s something else I want to talk about. Krycek broke in here. He violated our home. Do you need to talk about that? Do you still feel safe here?”


“After the way you threw the rat bastard around? Sure.” Mulder grinned. “It reminded me of that time, years ago, when I brought him here and you slugged him in the gut and handcuffed him to your balcony; the sight of you doing that, bare-chested, fuelled my jerk off fantasies for years. I walked out of this apartment with a hard on the size of Mount Everest in my pants. I had no idea I’d be lucky enough to have the real thing one day.”


“You might like to reclaim the experience,” Skinner mused.


Mulder moved his head in order to examine his Master’s face. He couldn’t read Skinner’s expression in the darkness though. “I don’t understand,” he said.


“Well…just as we took what Krycek did with your chest and made it our own – a bond between us, maybe we could do the same with what he did here tonight and how he violated our home, where we have every right to feel safe.”


“How?” Mulder frowned in the dark, wondering what Skinner was getting at.


“Like I said, I need to give it some thought.” Skinner sank back on his pillows with a weary sigh. Mulder grinned. There was something he could do to make his Master more comfortable. He disappeared under the sheets, and located his Master’s cock with his mouth. Skinner’s hand came down and rested on his hair, as it usually did when his slave was serving him orally. His Master’s cock was as responsive as usual despite his weariness, and it didn’t take long for Mulder to bring him to climax. He swallowed his Master’s come, cleaned Skinner’s beautiful smooth cock, and then snaked his way up the bed. Skinner pulled him into his arms and gave him a kiss and they both lay there in silence. Mulder felt warm and safe within the circle of his Master’s arms but he knew that it had been so close. He had nearly lost everything this evening.




If he had gone to Oregon he could have found that space craft – or it could have found him…If he had gone, then instead of being held safely in his Master’s arms right now, he could be high above the earth, abducted, just like he was sure his sister had been abducted. Mulder felt as if someone had walked across his grave. He bent his head, and kissed his Master’s wrist, bringing himself back into the present. It hadn’t happened. Whatever might have happened if he had gone to Oregon hadn’t happened, and that was all because his Master had given him something else to live for beside his quest.


“Thank you,” he whispered silently. Skinner laid his cheek against his slave’s. If he was puzzled by the remark he didn’t say so.


A few seconds later a soft thump on the bed and a little squeak alerted them to the fact that Wanda had decided it was safe to come out. Skinner scooped her up, and checked her thoroughly for injury, but the little cat was clearly fine – and equally clearly was thoroughly enjoying all the attention. Mulder could empathize with that. He enjoyed being examined by his Master himself, but for entirely different reasons. Finally, Master, slave and cat settled down to sleep, in a tangle of warm fur and entwined limbs.


Skinner left reluctantly to return to LA first thing the next day. He had arranged for the meeting he should have attended in the morning to be put back until the evening, and he would make it there just in time. Mulder was left with the debris of the previous night’s drama to take care of. The coffee table had been broken in the melee, and the furniture in the living room was upturned. There was blood on the carpet and the wall. Krycek’s blood. Mulder looked at it for a moment, then sighed, grabbed his keys, kissed Wanda on the head and left for work. He’d clean up the apartment when he got home.


Scully was already ensconced in his office talking on the telephone when he arrived. He could tell by the teasing tone in her voice that she was talking to John Doggett and he struggled with his jealousy for a moment. He was pleased for her. She deserved to find someone who’d give her the kind of love that he wasn’t capable of, but that didn’t mean that a part of him didn’t hurt. She was his best friend and he didn’t like the idea of sharing her with anyone, any more than he liked the idea of sharing Skinner with anyone.


He didn’t have long to think about that subject, because as soon as he sat down at his desk he saw that his computer screen was covered in yellow post-it notes. He raised an eyebrow at Scully who mouthed the word ‘gunmen’ back at him. Mulder reached for the phone, and called his geeky friends.


“Hey, dude.” Langly sounded bubbly. “How’s Oregon?”

“I wouldn’t know. I’m in DC,” Mulder grunted, his heart plummeting. However sure he was that he had made the right decision last night, a part of him would always regret not going after that UFO.


“You’re what? Damnit, Mulder. This is what we’ve been waiting for!” Langly remonstrated.

“Sorry, Ringo but you can get to Oregon just as easily as I can,” Mulder pointed out.


“We were relying on you, buddy!” Langly lamented.


Mulder’s hand tightened into a fist around the phone. “I know. It just wasn’t…the right thing to do.”


“Let’s just say that someone else wanted me to go there too much to make it safe.”


“Safe?” Langly sounded incredulous. “Yo, Mulder, this is me you’re talking to! When did you ever want to play it safe?”

Mulder gazed at Scully, who was giggling down the telephone in a way he’d never have believed possible if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes.


“It’s just…sometimes…sometimes other things are more important,” he murmured.


“Yeah. Right. Either you’ve found religion or you’ve found lurve,” Langly teased. “Oh shit. You haven’t, have you?” He asked.


“Found religion? My work is my religion,” Mulder deflected. How long had he and Scully been locked away down here in this basement? And for how much of that time had either of them been really happy? They’d sacrificed their happiness to their work, and now they both had a chance to be fulfilled in an area of their lives that neither of them had been very successful in before. It felt good. He grinned at Scully as she finished her call and put the phone down – only for it to ring again almost immediately. “So, what happened in Oregon? I didn’t see anything in the papers about a flying saucer landing,” Mulder said, swinging his feet onto his desktop.


“That’s because it moved on hours ago. It hovered over Arizona for awhile and then disappeared into god knows where,” Langly told him. “It clearly didn’t find what it was looking for in Oregon so maybe it had more luck in Arizona.”

“What the hell is in Arizona?” Mulder mused. Out of the corner of his eye he saw all the color drain from Scully’s face as she answered the incoming call. “Langly, I’ll call you back,” he said quickly, putting the phone down.



She stared at him, her face drawn and tense. “It’s Gibson Praise. He’s been abducted.”


“Abducted?” Mulder repeated stupidly. “From where?”


“He was being looked after at a children’s home in the Arizona desert.”


Mulder felt as if a cold wind had blown up his spine, causing all the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end. “Arizona?” he whispered.


“Yes. Why? Does that mean something to you?” Scully asked.


“Nothing that makes any sense. Shit!” Mulder rested his forehead in his hands. “Oh shit.”

“Mulder.” Scully came over to him, and laid a hand on his shoulder. “What is it that you know?”

“It’s hard to explain. I just know that…Last night I made a decision, Scully. I think someone had to be taken last night…and if it hadn’t been Gibson then it would have been me. That poor kid. Shit!” He kicked his desk, feeling utterly shattered. Gibson Praise was just a kid. If someone had given him a choice, if someone had only explained it to him, then he would have traded himself. He’d have gone instead – if only he’d known.


“Mulder, you aren’t making any sense,” Scully perched on his desk and rubbed his stiff shoulders.


“It’s just a feeling, Scully. It doesn’t make any sense and I don’t blame you for not taking it seriously. If it were someone else, someone like your sister, Melissa, coming in here and saying the same thing to me then I’d dismiss it as just new age crap…but that wasn’t what it felt like. I felt as if my destiny was taking some kind of divergent path – and it was all linked to a decision I made last night. You know, I saw a play once where the whole outcome depended on whether one of the main characters smoked a cigarette before the end of Act One. They had all these different scenarios to play out depending on that cigarette. Last night…last night felt like that.” He looked into her uncomprehending blue eyes and shook his head. “I can’t tell you how I know but I just do. Last night Gibson Praise was abducted – and if I’d gone to Oregon like I was supposed to then it would have been me, and somehow, and again I’m not sure how I know this, but somehow if it had been me then it wouldn’t have been him.”


“Oh, Mulder.” Scully put her arms around his shoulders and held him. “You don’t know that. You can’t know that. It’s just that over-developed sense of guilt of yours talking.”

“No. It isn’t.” He drew away from her. “It isn’t, Scully. Not this time.”


“What will you do?” She gazed at him searchingly.


“What can I do?” He spread his arms helplessly. “What the hell can I do?”


Mulder booked a flight to Arizona, knowing in his heart that it was pointless. He called his Master to let him know what he was doing. Skinner sounded worried, and Mulder knew that the other man thought, just like Scully, that this was just his overactive sense of guilt taking responsibility for what had happened. Arizona yielded the dead ends he’d expected. He spoke to a friend of Gibson’s who, communicating in sign language, told him what he already knew in his heart. She and Gibson had been walking back from a cook-out in the desert, when they’d seen bright lights overhead. Gibson seemed to know what would happen. He hadn’t been scared – instead he had seemed almost fatalistically resigned. She had looked away for a second and when she looked back he was gone. She called his name, but the bright lights overhead had moved away, taking Gibson with them.


Mulder spent another day in Arizona searching for clues, but he already knew it was a waste of time. Exhausted and heartsick, he returned home – to find the evidence of his fight with Krycek still littering the living room. He gazed at it for a moment, and then sank down on his haunches, fighting back tears of anger and frustration. This reminded him so much of another time, a few years ago, when Scully had been abducted and he’d returned to his trashed apartment – only on that occasion he had been alone, with nobody to share his despair. This time it was different. He checked that Wanda was okay – his Master had called Mrs. Asher to ask her to drop by and feed the little cat – and, finding her as bright eyed as ever, he loosened his collar, flung himself down on the couch, and speed-dialed his Master on his cell phone.

“Skinner.” Hearing those familiar deep tones made all the difference. Mulder felt the tension start to lift from his aching shoulders.


“Hi. It’s me,” Mulder said softly. “I just wanted to hear your voice. Things have been pretty shitty the past couple of days.”


“No luck in Arizona huh?”


“No. Damn! I feel so useless.”


“Listen to me, Fox. None of this was your fault,” Skinner told him urgently. “How are you holding up? I mean honestly? I don’t want to come home and find you’ve done something stupid.”


“Like going up to the Playroom and taking out my frustration on myself with some of the more savage implements in there?” Mulder asked.


“Something like that.”


“No. I won’t do that. I just want to fucking well…” Mulder gave into another wave of angry frustration and thumped his fist into the remains of the broken coffee table, watching with some satisfaction as the shards of wood went flying. “I’d trash the place if it wasn’t already trashed,” he joked feebly.


Skinner gave a wry grunt. “I take it that sound effect was you taking out your anger on inanimate objects?”


“Yeah. The coffee table was already wounded. I just put it out of its misery.”


“Look, I’ll be home tomorrow. I know you’re taking this badly and I understand why, but hurting yourself – or the apartment – won’t change anything, and besides, that’s my property you’d be damaging, boy – in both cases.” Skinner’s tones were deep, throaty and masterful, and Mulder felt himself tuning out the rest of the world, and allowing his Master’s voice to wash over him, soothing him.


“I know,” he replied. “I told you, I won’t do anything stupid, Master. I just wish I had a way of getting rid of all this anger. Christ, I almost wish Krycek would break in here again just so I could have the satisfaction of sinking my fist into his stupid ass face. He must have known something like this would happen. This was what he intended to happen to me. If he’d just warned me…if I’d just known that Gibson was at risk…”
“You couldn’t have known that – and you can’t be sure that Krycek wanted you to go to Oregon so that you’d be abducted either,” Skinner pointed out in reasonable tones. “Shit – I have to go, I’ve got a meeting in a couple of minutes. Listen to me, boy,” his tone dropped even further. “I want you to take a bath, and then go and find the butt plug in my nightstand drawer – the big one. Lube it up, and wear it to bed tonight. Remember that you’re mine, and that’s where my cock belongs – and where it’s going to be planted just as soon as I get home.”
Mulder managed a wry smile, feeling his own cock swell at the thought of his Master using him.


“Yes, Master,” he murmured.


“You can remove the plug tomorrow morning and not before. And Fox – I want you to check your email before you go to bed tonight,” Skinner ordered.


“Yes, Master.” Mulder frowned, wondering what that was all about. He jumped, startled, as something wet touched his outstretched hand. “Damn, Wanda – you shouldn’t be in here. I thought I closed the door,” he chided, worried in a case she trod on a splinter of glass. He scooped her up out of harm’s way, nestled her on his chest, and tickled her under the chin.


“When did you last eat?” Skinner asked, oblivious to the minor piece of cat drama being enacted on the other end of the line.


“I have no idea.”


Mulder heard his Master give a deep, heartfelt sigh. “I don’t think you’re taking very good care of my property, boy, “Skinner growled. “You’ll call the Lotus Flower for take out. Menu options 14, 61 and 37.”


“I don’t believe you know that menu by heart,” Mulder commented, impressed.


“Well I do.”

“And what are menu options 14, 61 and 37, Master? If it’s all vegetable dishes I won’t be a happy slave boy.”

“It’s healthy – and you need something healthy right now. You know what you get like if you run on empty for too long and trust me, I have ways of dealing with cranky slave boys that you will not like.”


“Oh, I know all about those,” Mulder laughed down the phone, the combination of Wanda’s purring and his Master’s erotic threats combining to de-stress him after the events of the past few days.

“Damn. Much as I’d like to stay here and discuss the many slow and painful ways in which I would enjoy punishing your ass, I really do have to go,” Skinner sighed. “Be good, Fox.”


“I will. When will you be home, Master?”


“Tomorrow sometime. I’m not sure when – it depends on when I finish up here.”


“I can’t wait.”


Mulder switched off his phone and settled back to stroke Wanda. Tomorrow couldn’t come too soon as far as he was concerned. He did as his Master had instructed and called for the take out – which actually turned out to be a selection of some of his favorite dishes. Afterwards he took a bath, and then went in search of the butt plug as ordered. Skinner wasn’t kidding – it was huge. He surveyed it somewhat glumly – this one wouldn’t be easy to either insert or ignore, but that, he guessed, was the point; his Master was trying to distract him. He was loose and relaxed after his bath, and he slathered the plug with lube, lay on the bed and toyed the plug in and out of his anus, just teasing, inserting it further each time. He closed his eyes and imagined it was his Master’s hard length, sliding effortlessly into him, and played with his cock, which hardened immediately at the thought of his Master’s touch. The butt plug slid into place after a couple of false starts, and Mulder brought himself off with his hand, excited by the thought of following his Master’s intimate orders in this way. He was about to turn over and go to sleep when he remembered that Skinner had instructed him to check his email. He was tired and fought a battle with himself about whether this was an order he could ignore until the morning. It was a battle he lost, and, with a resigned sigh, he got up, pulled on his robe, and wandered upstairs to his old bedroom to check his email. He sat down without thinking and jumped straight back up again, his eyes watering, as the butt plug made its presence unequivocally felt. Then he perched back down again, very gingerly, and turned on his computer. There was only the one message in this particular in-box, which was reserved for Master/slave correspondence only. Mulder brought it up, and read it:


To: slave@WSS.com

From: Master@WSS.com

Subject: A New Command For you


Dear Slave,

When I give you the command ‘Wanda’ I expect to be given total control of your body, without question or hesitation, for my immediate and urgent use.

As this is a special word between us, with considerable significance, and one which holds a certain degree of affection for both of us, I have decided to give it to you as a special gift for a special reason. Needless to say it will not have the same meaning when you say it as it does when you hear it from me – so don’t even think about it, boy.

Upon hearing you say the word ‘Wanda’ I will immediately cease any action that is giving you distress. However it is only to be used in certain specific circumstances, which I trust you will find clear upon my return. Please reply to this email so that I’m sure you’ve understood.

BTW, my right arm has had a good rest over the past few days and is feeling very strong right now, so I would advise you to stay out of trouble until my return – unless you want to discover just how rested it is.

As always,

Your Loving Master

Mulder laughed at the last comment, then re-read the email, with a frown of surprise. His Master was giving him a safe word? Why? And why now, after all this time? Not that he needed a safe word. Skinner had never done anything that had distressed him…and the one time Mulder had freaked out during sex play he had found that using his Master’s given name had been enough to make Skinner stop what he was doing and release him immediately. Not that he disapproved of his Master’s choice of safe word – it seemed pretty fitting – but why now? And what did Skinner mean by ‘specific circumstances’?

Puzzled, Mulder hit the reply key.


To: Master@WSS.com

From: slave@WSS.com

Subject: Re: A New Command For you


Dear Master,

I understand, Master. You’re saying that ‘Wanda’, besides being the name of the devil cat from hell, and the command by which you make very thorough use of your poor, helpless slave, is also to be some kind of safe word between us. I assume you’ll explain it all to me when you get home. Speaking of which – this butt plug is not an adequate substitute for the real thing so get your ass home quickly. Uh, that wasn’t an order, just a fervently expressed wish…but obviously if you want to spank me for it I’d be very interested in trying out the rested arm.

Ass raised high in anticipation,

Your slave,


He shrugged as he pressed the send key. Obviously that was all the information his Master wanted to give him, or he’d have elaborated further in his email. So what the hell was it all about? Unable to figure it out, Mulder turned off the computer and went back downstairs to curl up with Wanda in bed.


Mulder was relieved that it was the weekend so he could catch up on his sleep. He dozed until noon, then got up, dressed in sweats, and went downstairs to begin the task he’d been putting off for so many days – clearing up the mess from his fight with Krycek. He carefully gathered up the remains of the coffee table and put it in the trash, vacuumed the carpet thoroughly to get rid of any last splinters, and then opened the door and allowed Wanda to reclaim the living room, which she did with her tail held loftily high.


“Typical cat,” Mulder commented, watching her pace around the room and sniff in all the corners. “No sooner is a door closed to you than what is on the other side becomes instantly attractive. Don’t you dare,” he warned her as she gazed at him speculatively. “No, we are not similar like that. My comment was entirely justified – yours is just plain ridiculous. I mean, I always have reasons for breaking into secure government installations. With you it’s just plain curiosity and we all know the proverb about what curiosity did to the cat.” She gave him a look of studied indifference and then washed her flank with considerable vigor. “Ha. See – you know I’m right,” he told her.


He got a bowl and cloth from the kitchen and began sponging the spattered blood from the walls. There wasn’t much, but it wasn’t a nice task and it reminded him uncomfortably of the image of his Master, holding a bleeding, hissing, spitting Krycek against the wall. His emotions were mixed on that topic – a part of him was furious with Krycek for showing up and trying to ruin his life yet again, but another part of him couldn’t help but be aroused as he remembered the sheer anger that had been evident in Skinner’s tense muscles as he’d dished out those casual punches to their enemy. Damn, but it was just plain perverted that this memory turned him on so much, and it made him even angrier with Krycek.


Mulder was relieved when he had finished. He made sure the whole apartment was tidy, then set off for the grocery store. He wanted his Master to come home to a clean apartment, a full fridge, and a very loving slave. It did cross his mind that today was Slave’s Day but he didn’t give it much thought. Their lives had been so chaotic these past few days then he wasn’t expecting the normal rituals to take place. Apart from anything else he wasn’t even sure that his Master would be home before midnight. He’d called Skinner on his cell phone when he first woke up, and the other man had been in one final meeting so he wasn’t expecting him back for hours. Mulder hoped his Master wouldn’t be too late home. He was still harboring a certain degree of anger and jitters after the week’s events and he was fairly sure that it was going to take a long session in his Master’s capable hands to slay a few of the demons that had resurfaced.


Mulder returned home to watch back-to-back sport on the TV – a luxury that his Master rarely gave him permission to indulge – Wanda perched on his stomach, the remote hanging loosely in his hand, a bowl of popcorn and can of beer resting on the floor in the absence of the broken coffee table. He hadn’t heard from his Master but he wasn’t unduly worried. He’d left a message asking if Skinner wanted to be met at the airport but his Master hadn’t replied so he assumed that his chauffeuring skills weren’t required. At 8pm Mulder tried his Master’s cell phone again, only to find it switched off. With a sigh, he settled back on the couch and closed his eyes, resigning himself to the wait. He was a little concerned not to have heard from his Master. He wanted to be a dutiful slave and serve Skinner by driving him home, and carrying his suitcase, and he felt he had been denied that opportunity. Even if his Master didn’t want his slave’s help would a phone call have hurt? And supposing Skinner was in trouble? Mulder was aware that he wasn’t the best at phoning in, but his Master had drummed into him the importance of that lesson over the past several months, and the basic tenet was always that he worried when Mulder wasn’t in phone contact. Didn’t the same thing apply the other way around?


Mulder was so busy nursing these resentments that he was surprised when he heard a sudden noise behind him, and then the light was turned on, flooding the room. He sat up, bemused, and saw his Master framed in the doorway. Skinner was wearing black chinos and a black sweater – and Mulder’s first reaction was lust, followed shortly after by a resurgence of his anger.


“Master. I would have come to the airport for you. I left a message,” he said, unable to keep the resentment out of his voice.


“I know.”

“So why didn’t you reply?” Mulder snapped.

“Come here.” Skinner said, ignoring his question. He seemed different. He was almost…distracted. Mulder went, reluctantly, still disgruntled and in no mood to be treated so peremptorily. Skinner grabbed him when he was within arm’s reach, and pulled him close. He was much rougher than usual, and Mulder put out a hand to protect himself. Skinner growled, grasped the offending hand and placed it securely behind Mulder’s back, holding it there painfully.


“Don’t resist me, boy,” he growled. Then he gave a vicious smile, lowered his head, and whispered into Mulder’s ear: “I’m going to fuck you.”


Mulder gazed at his Master, startled. This wasn’t Skinner’s usual behavior. He normally gave orders and expected obedience. He didn’t usually grab, twist and…overpower. A light-bulb went off in Mulder’s head, as he remembered the substance of that email he had received, and his own faltering admission that he wanted permission to struggle, and be overwhelmed. He remembered all the anger he’d felt earlier in the day, and how he had thought he needed a session at his Master’s hands – it appeared that Skinner was giving him just that. He felt as if he was in a strait jacket, with his arm pressed up his back, and his Master’s hands roughly imprisoning him. He straightened up as best he could, and looked the other man in the eye.


“Go to hell,” he said, allowing all the anger and frustration of the past few days to rise to the surface.

“Are you refusing me?” Skinner snarled. He looked more dangerous than Mulder had ever seen him, and for a split second he knew how Krycek had felt being on the receiving end of this a few days before – and that made his cock harden in his pants.


“Yes, I fucking am,” he rasped. There was silence for a moment, and then Skinner gave a low roar, and pushed Mulder bodily against the wall. He grabbed his slave’s hands, held them above his slave’s head, and leaned in close.


“You don’t have the right to refuse me, boy,” he growled.


Skinner’s breath was warm on his slave’s cheek. He smelled of sweat and arousal, and looked so magnificently frightening that Mulder wondered whether he’d misread this and his Master was serious – and whether he should say his safe word just to find out. He studied his Master’s face, searching for clues, and found them in his Master’s eyes. They weren’t angry but they were very focused, and that reassured him.


“What are you going to do – rape me?” Mulder challenged. Skinner’s fingers were hard on his wrists – painfully so. It felt…exhilarating; very raw, and very real.


“If there’s a word you want to say to me, boy then you’d better say it now,” Skinner told him in a low tone, “because if you wait then it might be too late.”


Mulder relaxed, sure that they were playing now. His Master was giving him a chance to end this but Mulder had no intention of doing so. The scenario was hot, and he didn’t want to do anything to spoil it. Besides, he was just getting warmed up. He was being given a safe arena to express all the fears and frustrations of the past few days and he intended to make the most of it. He met his Master’s eye and they shared a moment of understanding. Thus reassured, Skinner bounced Mulder back against the wall, and pushed his slave’s legs apart with his knee. “Get on your hands and knees now,” Skinner said, punctuating each word with another bounce, each one jolting the back of Mulder’s head. “Get your ass in the air because I’m going to fuck you into tomorrow.”

“Fuck’s a good word – let’s add another. How about…off…” Mulder replied, and then he suddenly relaxed his resistance and, surprised, Skinner loosened his hold for a split second – but it was long enough for Mulder to break free, and throw himself towards the door. He didn’t get there. He had his hand on the handle when Skinner tackled him round the waist, grabbed him bodily, and threw him in the direction of the couch. He pinned Mulder there, bent over it, his own large body covering that of his slave.


“The only fucking that is going to be done around here is me fucking you,” Skinner hissed into his ear. Mulder’s cock gave a spasm of arousal. He struggled with all his might as Skinner started to slide his sweatpants down. Mulder could feel that his butt was exposed, and he was suddenly overcome with a need to make this more real. It felt too easy, too staged. He pushed back hard with his elbow, and Skinner gave a grunt of genuine pain. Mulder slid out from under him, and threw himself at his Master. They both went down, with Mulder hissing, spitting and struggling like an enraged cat.


“You want to screw me then you’ll have to take what you want by force,” Mulder snarled. He grabbed his Master’s head and thumped it on the floor. Skinner’s face contorted momentarily, and then he got one arm free, pressed it against Mulder’s throat, and pushed him away. Mulder fell back, but Skinner was on him again almost immediately. He pinned Mulder under him, held him down with one hand, and reached into his slave’s pants with his other.


“Oh I’ll make you all right, boy. I’ll make you,” Skinner told him. His hands were sweaty and rough on Mulder’s skin, arousing him unbearably. Skinner hauled Mulder onto his hands and knees, and stripped his pants and briefs off, leaving him naked and exposed from the waist down. Feeling vulnerable, Mulder kicked back with his foot, and then managed to turn over, and swipe at his Master with his open palm. Skinner took a glancing blow on the side of his face, and gave a growl of pure anger. Energy sparkled between them in the room. Mulder was so pleased at this minor victory that he hesitated – and next thing he knew his Master had grasped his hard cock and was holding it firmly in his hand. He couldn’t struggle without causing the most sensitive organ of his body considerable pain.


“Shit! Let me go!” he said, trying to push Skinner back.


Skinner just grinned, an evil, feral grin, and, still holding onto Mulder’s cock with one hand, reached with his other to undo his belt. Mulder watched, momentarily transfixed by the inherent threat in the action, then realized he was missing his chance to escape. Suddenly divining his Master’s intent, he pulled away – only to stop with a yelp of pain as his cock paid the price for that action. Skinner moved in again. He grabbed Mulder’s wrist, and dragged it in front of his body. Then he released Mulder’s cock but only in order to grab his other wrist. At the same time he took Mulder by surprise, kicked his legs from under him, and toppled him back onto the couch. Mulder gazed up, winded and startled by the turn of events – just in time to see his Master tie his wrists firmly together in front of his body with the belt.


“Now just submit, boy, because your ass is going to be royally nailed,” Skinner hissed. Mulder tried to pull his hands apart but the belt was unyielding. Realizing that wouldn’t work, he bunched them into fists and try to knock his Master sideways. Skinner easily ducked the blow, and Mulder fell off the couch and onto the floor from the force of it.


“Don’t fucking come near me. Don’t fucking touch me. I swear I’ll fucking kill you!” Mulder shouted, finding a strange kind of security in the restraint of the belt, almost as if in losing the chance of seriously resisting his Master he was able to release all his inhibitions, giving him the opportunity to really let rip. Skinner grinned. He stood astride his slave, and then slowly undid his chinos. Mulder was still for a moment, transfixed as Skinner released his large, swollen cock.


“See this, boy? I’m going to make you take every last inch,” Skinner told him in a dark, low tone that washed over Mulder like molten chocolate. Mulder swallowed hard, and then tried to slide back along the carpet, using his feet to lever himself along. Skinner followed him, slowly, still grinning. He watched as Mulder almost reached the door – and then pounced, grabbing Mulder’s ankles and pulling him back bodily into the center of the room. Mulder twisted pointlessly in his grasp, flailing with his tied hands, but Skinner easily subdued him by the simple expedient of sitting on him. He sat astride his slave’s body and pinned Mulder to the floor. Mulder twisted and turned but eventually gave up, exhausted – Skinner was just too heavy to dislodge. Finally satisfied that his prey had stopped struggling, Skinner reached down, grabbed Mulder’s tee shirt, and literally tore it from his slave’s body. Mulder heard the sound of the ripping and wondered what it was before he realized what his Master was doing – and then, within seconds, he was completely naked, his torn tee shirt discarded on the floor beside him. He shivered, shocked by the look of intent and lust in his Master eyes, but he wasn’t about to give in just yet.


“Let me go,” he hissed, raising his bound arms in attempt to punch his Master in the stomach. Skinner caught his fists easily, and pressed them back over Mulder’s head.

“You’re mine, boy. Submit and it’ll be easier for you. Resist and it’ll hurt. I’ll enjoy hurting you, boy. I’ll enjoy ramming your tight hole until you scream.”


Mulder swallowed hard, feeling all the struggle leave him. His cock was so hard and he was so turned on by Skinner’s display of strength that he wasn’t sure he wanted to resist for much longer.


“Had enough, boy?” Skinner mocked. “Giving in?”


Some competitive instinct in Mulder took over. “Not on your fucking life. I told you, if you want to screw me you’ll have to do it by force,” Mulder snarled, wriggling as best he good within the prison of his Master’s large thighs.


“Oh, that can be arranged.” Skinner grabbed Mulder’s bound wrists and held them above his slave’s head, pressing them into the carpet. Then he bent his head, took one of Mulder’s nipples in his mouth – and sucked down hard. Mulder gave a hoarse cry – although he wasn’t sure whether it was in pleasure or pain. He bucked up against the savage caress, shouting in earnest as the sucking turned into a full bite, and his Master’s teeth chewed on his nipple unmercifully, pressing the metal of his ring into his flesh. Finally Skinner released him with another feral grin.


“Beg me to fuck you, boy. Beg,” Skinner demanded.


“Never,” Mulder replied. “You can do what the hell you like to me but I won’t beg.”

“Oh, you will. You’ll scream at me to fuck you before I’m through. You’ll plead and scream and beg,” Skinner told him. He bounced Mulder’s bound wrists back down on the carpet again, and then paused. The look in his eyes changed slightly. “Are you sure there’s nothing you wanted to say?” He asked softly. “You have a word.”


Mulder didn’t even need to think about – he shook his head vehemently. He wanted this to end the way he’d fantasized about it. He didn’t want a let out, and he didn’t want to use his safe word. Skinner immediately snapped back into the scenario.

“Good, because I’m going to screw you harder than you’ve been screwed in your life, boy. You’ll be so sore you won’t walk for a week, but, like I said, you’re going to beg me first.”


“Go fuck yourself,” Mulder replied, squirming beneath his Master’s body.


“No, I’m going to fuck you.” Skinner lowered his head again, and took Mulder’s other nipple between his teeth. Mulder tensed even before his Master bit down, and screamed with all his might as his Master thoroughly tormented his nipple.

“Shit…oh shit…let me go…please!” He cried, trying feebly to push Skinner away. His Master held on tight, releasing Mulder’s nipple only to bite it again within seconds. It was a maneuver he repeated over and over again until Mulder was lost in a frenzy of his own desperate screams and struggles. Finally Skinner pulled away from the tormented nub of flesh. He looked down on his slave again, took Mulder’s sore nipple between his thumb and forefinger and said one word: “Beg.”

Mulder hesitated, but this had become a matter of pride.


“No,” he replied and began screaming almost before Skinner pinched his abused nipple. He was dimly aware that his cock was rock hard and that he was as turned on as he’d ever been in his life. The boundaries between pleasure and pain had become so close that they were impossible to separate. Skinner released the nipple, but only in order to pinch the other one – savagely. Mulder roared and twisted but it was no use. He was completely captured.


“Open your legs and let me fuck you,” Skinner ordered.


Mulder shook his head mutely, and Skinner grabbed his hair, and kissed him. It wasn’t a kind kiss. It was vicious, and brutal. Skinner’s tongue forced its way into Mulder’s mouth, and explored it, hard and thrusting. At the same time Skinner reached down again and squeezed hard on Mulder’s left nipple. Mulder couldn’t even scream, with his mouth completely full of his Master’s tongue, and his hair grasped in his Master’s hand. He surrendered to the harsh caress and when his Master finished, and pulled back, he panted desperately for air.


“I said, open your legs and let me fuck you, boy,” Skinner told him.


“Go to hell.” Mulder wasn’t really sure why he was resisting any more, as he was more than happy to be fucked, but there was something so cathartic about the struggle after all he’d been through this past week, and besides – he was interested to see what his Master would do next.


“Maybe I will – but not before I’ve pounded my cock into you so hard that you scream,” Skinner promised with another of those feral, evilly sexual grins. Mulder groaned, his cock rigid with need. Skinner bent his head and caught Mulder’s right nipple this time, and tortured the flesh with his tongue and teeth again, showing Mulder no mercy. Mulder kicked out, desperate for the agony to end, and Skinner used the moment to insert his leg between Mulder’s thighs. He released the nipple with a triumphant grin, and moved his hand down to between Mulder’s legs. One finger pushed up roughly into Mulder’s ass.


“Nice and tight. Just the way I like it,” Skinner purred. “Beg me for my hard cock, boy. Beg.” He moved his finger savagely, in and out, thrusting hard. Mulder couldn’t help raising his hips off the ground to meet the thrusts, swallowing that finger deep inside his body, wanting more. “Beg for it, boy,” Skinner hissed. “Beg to feel my cock in your tight hole.”


“No…” Mulder replied, no longer sure he could hold out.

“Beg.” Skinner inserted another finger. He held Mulder down with one arm across his body, while he thrust in and out of his slave’s ass with his fingers. Mulder had lost all sense of himself. He was too turned on.


“Want…want…” he gasped.

“Say it.” Skinner twisted his fingers brutally and Mulder cried out.

“Your cock. Please…in me now!” Mulder demanded.


Skinner gave a bellow of triumph. He withdrew his fingers, thrust Mulder’s legs apart with his hands, grasped his slave’s buttocks, positioned his erect cock, and then sank himself deep into Mulder’s ass, right up to the hilt without pausing, all in one fluid motion. Mulder thought he was going to pass out. He had never felt so filled, and he was sure that he had never been penetrated so quickly, and with so much power. Skinner’s cock was burning hot inside his ass – he could feel it pulsing – large, ravaging and hungry. Skinner leaned forward, and as he did so the force of his weight pushed his cock even deeper into his slave’s body. He rested his hands on the carpet next to his slave’s head, and pushed Mulder’s legs over his shoulders. Now there were almost nose-to-nose, both panting with the exertion.

“Fuck me,” Mulder said.


Skinner gave another of those terrible, evil grins. “When I’m ready,” he said.


Mulder could have screamed. Skinner drew back a little, shifting his weight and stimulating Mulder’s prostate unbearably in the process. He nuzzled Mulder’s nipples again, and then nibbled in earnest. Mulder began to yell – he wasn’t sure what he was saying but the dual sensations of his Master’s huge cock filling him to the brim, Skinner’s large, sweaty, muscular body keeping him pinned to the carpet, his own bound hands increasing his sensation of powerlessness, and his Master’s roving mouth on his sensitive and tortured nipples was too much. He screamed and screamed but his Master ignored him. Skinner remained buried to the root in his slave, his teeth biting down on Mulder’s flesh. He would let go of one nipple just to start on the other. Mulder needed to be fucked so much that he wasn’t coherent. He longed for the torment on his chest to cease and for his Master to pound him into the floor with his massive, hungry cock.


“Please, please, please, please, fuck me, fuck me, fuck me…I beg you!” Mulder cried. “I BEG YOU!” He screamed, banging his bound hands uselessly over his head. “Please, I’m begging. I’m begging!”

“I know.” Skinner raised his head for a moment, and then grinned again – and this time he looked so evil that Mulder almost came just looking at him. “I heard you,” Skinner said. “But I’m enjoying myself too much. Maybe later.” He dropped his face again, and, taking Mulder’s right nipple ring between his teeth, drew back, pulling on the tortured nub. Mulder hollered so loud he was surprised that Mrs. Asher wasn’t knocking on the wall to complain.

“FUCK ME! PLEASE FUCK ME! PLEASE!” he screeched.


Skinner released the nipple and Mulder heaved a sigh of relief. Skinner then plunged back for another deep, brutally rough kiss, plundering Mulder’s lips with his own. Mulder opened up, wriggling to try and force more of his Master’s hard cock into him as he did so. He wanted Skinner to thrust. He needed Skinner to thrust. Finally Skinner released him, and Mulder was almost weeping now.

“Do it…do it…fuck me…” he moaned feebly.


“You know, I still don’t think I’m ready.” Skinner grinned.


He dropped his mouth to Mulder’s body and began licking, and biting all over Mulder’s chest and neck. Mulder screamed again, but this time from frustration and pure need.


“I hate you!” Mulder roared. “I fucking hate you.”

“Is that any way to talk to your Master?” Skinner gave a smug grin. “Now I might just decide to have another snack on these tasty morsels.” He enveloped Mulder’s left nipple in his warm mouth again and Mulder was sobbing now, weak with need. His body was a mass of sensation. Skinner’s mouth was as rough as ever, biting, and savage, and Mulder wasn’t sure he could bear the agonizing pleasure of it for one second longer. He put his bound hands around his Master’s neck and tried to pull him deeper into his body. Skinner looked up with another evil grin.

“Getting impatient?” He asked. “Is this what you want, boy?” He moved his hips back, with agonizing slowness, and then slammed back into Mulder’s body fast, taking his slave’s breath away in the process. Mulder whimpered, still hanging onto his Master’s neck.


“Oh god…yes…fuck me…fuck me…please,” he begged helplessly.


“All right, boy. I hope you’re ready for the ride.” Skinner moved his hips back again and then thrust deep into Mulder, and then again, and again, over and over, hard and fast. Mulder could feel his Master’s balls slamming against his bare ass and he felt as if he would explode. He had never been fucked harder in his life. Skinner’s cock seemed to go deeper than it had ever penetrated before, until Mulder almost passed out from the sensation. His own cock was exploding, and he felt his come on his chest, but still Skinner wasn’t finished, still he rode his slave boy, on, and on, and on. His Master’s face was close to his own, and his brown eyes were fixed on his slave’s as he pounded into him. Mulder was lost in the moment, transfixed, and then he felt his Master shudder. Skinner’s face went a shade of mottled red and then he collapsed on top of his slave.


They lay there for a long time in a messy tangle of arms and legs. Mulder couldn’t move – not just because he was tied, with his legs akimbo and his Master’s weight on top and inside of him, but also because his muscles just wouldn’t obey his commands. Skinner’s head was resting on his slave’s cheek, and his Master seemed to be just as exhausted as he was. Finally Skinner managed to raise his head, and glanced down on his slave speculatively.


“Okay?” he rasped.


“Would now…” Mulder’s voice sounded croaky. He swallowed hard and tried again. “Would now be a good time to say ‘Wanda’?” He asked.


Skinner grinned, and then gave a deep roar of laughter that made his cock twitch, lodged as it was, deep inside Mulder’s body.


“No, now would be entirely too late,” Skinner replied, his voice weak with laughter. He tried to move and then gave up and flopped down on Mulder again. “Oh…fuck,” he muttered, and then he kissed his slave gently on the lips.

“Fuck, I think, being the operative word,” Mulder commented. “One hell of a fuck.”

“And good?” Skinner stroked his slave’s hair. “Was it good? It looked good from where I was, uh, lying.”

“Yeah, it was good. My nipples are in agony and I’m not sure I’ll ever walk again but yeah…” Mulder grinned. He pulled his Master’s face close, and kissed him again. “It was definitely good,” he murmured. They lay there for what felt like the rest of the night, then Skinner finally groaned and moved. Mulder gave a hiss as his Master withdrew from his body – he had known he’d feel sore in the morning but not this soon!


“I’d better take a look at that,” Skinner said, with a frown. He rearranged his clothing, and then reached down a hand to haul Mulder to his feet.


“It’s fine. Just…over-stimulated.” Mulder grabbed his Master’s shoulder as he found his footing, trying to ignore the loud buzzing sound in his head. “Oh shit.” He glanced around the room. “You do realize I just cleaned the place this afternoon don’t you?” He muttered accusingly. Skinner took a look around at the disturbed couch, overturned chair, and scattered clothing.


“That’s the price of enacting a fantasy,” he commented wryly.

“It was a hot fantasy though,” Mulder winked.

“Yes.” Skinner looked a little strained and Mulder caught the taut tone in his voice.


“Master? Was it hot for you?” He hadn’t even considered that. Skinner seemed to be having just as much fun as he was.


“Yes. Maybe that’s the problem.” Skinner reached out a gentle hand and lovingly caressed his slave’s face with the most tender of touches.


“I don’t understand.”


“Ah, well, you weren’t the one getting off on raping someone.” Skinner pressed a gossamer light kiss on his slave’s lips.


“I see.” Mulder nodded. “But you knew it was a fantasy. You gave me a safe word. It was hot. Thank you.” He pulled his Master close and wrapped his arms around the big man. Skinner looked oddly vulnerable, completely different to the man with the evil, feral grin who had just overpowered him. “I needed that tonight. Although I still think you could have called.” He pinched his Master’s butt cheekily and Skinner gave a grunt, and drew back, reaching for his slave’s hand and pulling him with him.


“I did try as a matter of fact – not calling you wasn’t part of the scenario. I couldn’t get a connection on my cell phone and I figured I’d be home soon enough anyway. I’m sorry if you were worried.”


“Apology accepted.”


Mulder followed his Master up the stairs and into the shower. Skinner turned it on full force and Mulder stepped under the hot spray. It felt so good on his strained muscles. He watched his Master undress and then Skinner joined him in the shower. Mulder reached for the soap, but Skinner stopped him, and took it from him.
“I want to wash you. I want to make sure you’re okay,” he said, running his fingers carefully over Mulder’s chest, and checking the bite marks on his body.


“I’m fine.” Mulder smiled. “I mean I ache all over but it’s one hell of a good ache.”

His Master refused to be deflected though. He insisted on examining his slave thoroughly. Mulder submitted easily – he was used to being inspected. In fact he usually found it a turn on, although he was so spent on this occasion that his cock remained resolutely limp. Finally Skinner finished with him and sent him into the bedroom. Mulder flopped down, exhausted, on the bed, and Skinner emerged a few seconds later with a towel wrapped around his waist and a tube of gel in his hand.


“This will soothe the irritation. I want to take a careful look. On your front, legs open,” Skinner ordered. Mulder rolled over and opened his legs as commanded. His sated cock even gave a little twitch of interest at the order. Skinner was gentle but thorough. He turned on the bedside lamp, parted Mulder’s buttocks, and probed him with his finger. Mulder winced – there was no doubt that he was sore. He had never been this sore after a sex session but all the same, he wouldn’t have given up the scenario they’d just enacted for anything. He had enjoyed himself too much.


“There’s no tearing,” Skinner noted.


“That’s because you keep me so well stretched.” Mulder glanced at his Master over his shoulder. “You had me wear that massive butt plug last night, after all.”


“It’s still sore. I’ll rub in some gel. If you feel any discomfort during the night then tell me. I mean it.” Skinner gazed at Mulder sternly and Mulder nodded, a little surprised by how big a deal his Master was making of this. He gave a yelp as Skinner inserted a cold, gel-tipped finger into his ass, and then relaxed. The gel stung a bit but it wasn’t too bad, and once it was applied the soreness did fade. Skinner finished up, put the gel away, and then got into the bed. They were silent for a moment. Mulder had the feeling that something wasn’t right.


“Master…thank you for the fantasy. I know you have some issues with it but I enjoyed it. I’d never ask you to do anything that freaked you out, but I hope that doesn’t mean we can’t play this particular game again sometime.”

“Maybe. I…need some time to digest this one, Fox,” Skinner said. His voice sounded a little strange in the darkness. Mulder reached out, and pulled his Master close. Skinner just seemed so…vulnerable. It was the opposite of what he would have expected. He might have expected his own emotional state to be fragile after such a fantasy but instead he felt fantastic. He understood where Skinner was coming from but it surprised him. He was also surprised by how easily Skinner submitted to being held in his arms, and cuddled – there was no other word for it. It was the first time in their relationship that Mulder had ever seen his Master like this and it brought out a fierce protective instinct in him. He kissed his Master’s face, and held him, and at some point they fell asleep.


Skinner seemed to have recovered his equilibrium by the morning. He certainly delivered his slave’s spanking with enough gusto. Mulder made sure to smother his Master with affection – he was pleased to have him back in any case so that wasn’t hard. He also felt that Skinner needed it right now. He was grateful to his Master for fulfilling his fantasy for him, and he understood that Skinner was as bemused by the reaction he was having to the mock-rape as his slave was. Mulder cleared up the living room while Skinner prepared brunch, and later they retired to the couch with the Sunday papers. Mulder lay with his head in his Master’s lap, gazing up at the other man. Skinner was looking at the paper, but he didn’t seem to be reading it – instead he was lost in thought.


“Want to talk about it?” Mulder asked. “Maybe we both need to debrief after that kind of fantasy.”


“Probably.” Skinner took a deep inhalation of breath.


“Don’t bury it.” Mulder sat up, and faced his Master. “Walter, it was consensual. I asked you for it, you gave me a safe word, you prepared me with the plug – you gave me two opportunities to duck out of it. It was entirely what I wanted.”

“Yes, I know.” Skinner nodded thoughtfully. “Don’t get me wrong, Fox. I enjoyed it myself. It was hot. It was just so…violent.”

“My fault.” Mulder made a face. “I stepped up the pace when I poked my elbow into your ribs and thumped your head on the floor. It’s no wonder you responded. I needed that struggle – I wanted it to feel real. It doesn’t mean I have any hostility towards you, repressed or otherwise. I just enjoyed…letting go. Strangely, I felt most able to let go after you tied me up – because I knew I couldn’t escape then.”


“I suppose what shocked me was how lost I became in the moment. There was a time when I was so into the fantasy that I can’t say for sure that I would have stopped if you’d used your safe word. That worries me. I’ve never felt like that before. I’m used to being more…in control.” Skinner looked deeply troubled.


Mulder shook his head, and placed a comforting hand on his Master’s neck. “You might doubt yourself, but I have no doubts, Walter. You would have stopped. I know you too well. I was into it too – you probably needed a safe word to protect yourself from me!” Mulder traced a scratch on the side of Skinner’s face. He knew his Master also had a couple of bruises on his body from the fight – hell they both did. “Come here.” Mulder pulled his Master into his arms and they sank back on the couch. Although this was a little different to their usual Master/slave interaction it didn’t feel wrong. In fact, Mulder was surprised to find that it felt entirely right. A slave served his Master with affection as much as with his body and his sexuality. Just because his Master always seemed so invulnerable didn’t mean he wasn’t allowed to occasionally be fragile. He was pleased he had the opportunity to show Skinner that he could take care of all his Master’s needs, and not just the simple ones.


They talked quietly for the rest of the afternoon, and by the early evening Skinner seemed to be his old self once more. They were both surprised when there was a buzz on the entry phone.


“Expecting anyone? Scully’s not on her way over with some X File the two of you want to chew over is she?” Skinner raised an eyebrow. Scully often dropped by to discuss X Files with Mulder, and Mulder was used to the wry glances his Master would give them as they bounced bizarre ideas off each other.


“I’m not expecting her.” Mulder shrugged. The entry phone buzzed more urgently, and Skinner went to the door and picked up the phone next to it.


“Skinner. Who is it?”


Mulder watched as Skinner frowned. His Master replaced the phone and quickly unlocked the door, gesturing Mulder forward as he did so. He was just in time. There, standing in the doorway, was Ian – and he was covered in blood. Beside him was a frail, pathetic figure, hanging from Ian’s arms, also covered in blood.


“Help me! He’s too heavy…” Ian gasped.


Skinner and Mulder were just in time to catch the man. Mulder helped his Master to carry him into the living room and lay him on the couch. It was only when they put him down that Mulder realized that the prone figure was Lee. He didn’t look the way he had when they had last seen him. Gone was the long, dramatic braid, and he now sported a much shorter, floppy cut, that fell into his eyes, although the shorn tips of his thick dark hair had been dyed the same shade of peroxide blond as before, giving him a strangely jagged appearance. His formerly tanned face was now pale, his exotic, almond-shaped eyes were closed, and his nose was swollen and cut. Blood was pouring out of it, staining his shirt and matting his dark hair. There was another bloodstain on his pants – one that Mulder didn’t even want to think about. Skinner turned immediately to Ian.


“What’s going on?” he asked. “What happened?”

“I’m sorry, Walter. I didn’t want to dump this on you,” Ian said in a desperate tone. Mulder crouched beside Lee and examined him visually – he didn’t touch, he just observed, listening to Ian at the same time. “He just showed up on my door step an hour ago. He refused to go to the hospital, and Perry’s out of town on business – remember, I told you? He came to me because he knew Perry was a doctor, but I’m useless. I didn’t know what to do.”

“You did the right thing.” Skinner placed a soothing hand on Ian’s shoulder. “Do you know what happened to him?”

“He won’t tell me, but I can guess.” Ian shrugged.


“Franklin?” Mulder noticed how Skinner’s fists clenched involuntarily. Ian nodded.


Mulder stood up. “We have to call the police,” he said firmly.


“That’s Lee’s decision. First we have to get him to the hospital,” Skinner replied.


“No hospital.” It was the first thing Lee had said. They all looked at him. He opened one eye – the other was swollen shut.


“I’m sorry, Lee, but I’m over-ruling you on this,” Skinner said gently, crouching beside the couch. “You’re badly hurt. You haven’t done anything wrong. There’s no need to feel ashamed – or as if you’ve got anything to hide.”

“He said he’d kill me,” Lee whispered.


Skinner’s jaw tightened. “Nobody is going to kill you,” he said firmly. “Now, we need to stop this bleeding.” Skinner glanced at the fresh, glistening blood-stains on Lee’s pants. “Fox, get some water and some towels. Ian, call for the paramedics. Do it,” he said firmly, when Ian gave Lee an agonized glance. Ian didn’t need any more prompting. He pulled out his cell phone, and punched in the number.


“No…” Lee’s face twisted and he looked as if he was going to cry.


“Lee, listen to me. You’re going to the hospital and then we’ll talk about what happens next, but nobody is going to hurt you. I promise you that.”

Lee gazed at Skinner with a glassy eye. Mulder could see Lee responding to Skinner’s innate authority almost by instinct. Finally, he nodded, and Skinner smiled.


“Lee, I’m going to try and stop the bleeding so I’m going to need to touch you. Just lie still. I’ll be as gentle as I can,” Skinner said softly. He moved Lee onto his side, and pulled his sweatpants down. Mulder moved forward to hand him a towel, and then stopped, shocked: Lee’s backside was covered in long, raw, vicious welts. Many of them were bleeding. There were also some faded scars on his back.


“These were caused by more than just a sex game,” Skinner muttered grimly. “A lot more. This is torture, not BDSM.” He pressed the towel onto Lee’s wounds, and his hand came away bright red. “Oh shit,” he whispered. Mulder swallowed hard. His Master looked up at him, a shocked look on his face. “There’s severe rectal bleeding,” Skinner said in a horrified tone. “Ian, we need those paramedics now.”


“They’re on their way. I’ll go downstairs to show them where to come,” Ian said, his face frightened.


“All right, Lee. Not long now.” Skinner packed Lee’s sweats with the towels as best he could, and then stood up. He went into the kitchen to wash his hands and Mulder followed him.


“We should have known this would happen,” Mulder said, kicking the fridge with his foot. “Christ, Walter, we should have known.”

“We did know, Fox.” Skinner’s shoulders seemed bent with the whole weight of the world. “I should have done something back then. I warned him…I told him…shit. If only I’d done more.”


“No.” Mulder took a deep breath, and tried to get control of himself again. “No…this isn’t your fault. Lee was warned…but christ, what a price to pay for not listening.”


“We’d better get back to him. Poor bastard.” Skinner finished washing his hands and returned to the living room, Mulder at his heels. Mulder crouched beside Lee again, but was careful not to touch him. He knew from his years in the FBI that while a touch might seem to be an obvious way of giving comfort, to someone who had just been raped it could seem like a threat.


“Lee – are you okay? Do you need anything?” Mulder asked gently.


Lee’s face crumpled and he shook his head, but a tear leaked from his good eye. He moved his hand feebly, and Mulder caught it in his own. Lee held on as if he thought Mulder was going to disappear. Mulder glanced up at Skinner, with an anxious frown. He and Lee had never exactly been close – in fact they’d hated each other from the moment they first set eyes on each other – but Mulder wouldn’t have wished these injuries on anyone. He noticed the muscle in Skinner’s jaw doing a vicious sideways clench and he wished he knew what was going on in Skinner’s mind. This couldn’t have been worse timing, he thought to himself, bearing in mind the sex game they’d played the previous night, and how concerned his Master had been about his own slave’s soreness subsequently. There was one huge hell of a difference between that and Lee’s condition, but somehow Mulder wasn’t too sure that his Master was in the right frame of mind to appreciate that right now.


There was a noise at the door and then Ian burst through with two paramedics in tow. They took over, and Mulder tried to step back – only to find that Lee wouldn’t let go of his hand.

“Don’t leave me,” he implored.


“I’ll be over here. I’m not going anywhere,” Mulder replied, gently disengaging himself. The paramedics checked Skinner’s first aid, and then transferred Lee to a gurney.


“Where are you taking him?” Skinner asked, grabbing his keys.


“Arlington Hospital,” came back the reply.


“We’ll see you there.”


“There’s room for one person to ride with him,” the paramedic said, glancing back at them as they pelted down the corridor towards the elevator.


“I’ll go.” Mulder glanced at his Master. Their eyes met, and Skinner nodded.


Mulder climbed into the ambulance and took hold of Lee’s hand again as they made the short journey to the hospital.

“Lee, you have to let the police know how this happened,” Mulder told the young man. He didn’t want to force this issue when Lee was so traumatized, but he was struggling hard to keep his anger at what Franklin had done in check. He was also annoyed with himself that he hadn’t made more effort to get Ian to report Franklin when he’d come to them a few months before after his encounter with the sadistic top. If Ian had reported it then maybe Franklin’s behavior could have been checked before it got this far. Lee shook his head.


“He warned me not to drink,” was all he said, mystifyingly. Mulder frowned, and leaned in close. He smelled Lee’s breath, and thought he detected the faint odor of alcohol, but Lee didn’t appear drunk.


“Listen, Lee, nobody has the right to do this to you,” Mulder said, gently but insistently.


“He does. You know he does.” Lee fixed his good eye on Mulder, with an agonized expression. He squeezed Mulder’s hand fiercely. “You know how it is. It’s the same with you and the Guardian. You know. He had every right. I disobeyed him.”


Mulder bit on his lip and sat back, still holding Lee’s hand. He was glad his Master hadn’t been present to hear that comment. It was wrong, but he knew he wasn’t going to be able to convince Lee of that while he was in this condition – it was clear that Franklin had done quite a number on Lee’s mind. Untangling that might prove difficult.


They arrived at the Emergency Room and Lee was whisked away. Mulder met Skinner and Ian in the corridor, and they leaned against the wall, waiting for news.

“Shit, this is my fault. I knew what Franklin was,” Ian berated himself.


“Lee made his own choice. We all tried to warn him but he’s an adult. He makes his own decisions,” Skinner told Ian firmly.


“Lee thinks Franklin had the right to do this – because…well you know why.” Mulder glanced up and down the corridor to check they weren’t being overheard. “I talked to him about it in the ambulance. I don’t think it’ll be easy convincing him to report this. In fact, I think it’ll be impossible – for the same reason that Ian didn’t want to report it.”


“Dragging the lifestyle into the courtroom. They wouldn’t get it.” Ian shrugged. “Vanilla people never do. Even if they accept Franklin went too far, they’ll take one look at Lee and think he was a perverted faggot who had it coming.”

“Maybe I have more faith in the justice system of this country.” Skinner shrugged. “Even if it’s hard someone has to make a stand, to try and change attitudes and prejudices. Lee has as much right to justice as anyone else in the US.”


“I agree. I don’t want to see that bastard Franklin get away with this kind of thing – over and over again,” Mulder said vehemently. Ian looked from Master to slave, and shook his head.


“I know you both have to believe in the law because you spend your day working to uphold it, but some of the rest of us are just a little more cynical,” he commented. “Me and Lee included.”

At that moment they were interrupted by the doctor.


“Lee’s asking for you,” he said, addressing himself to Skinner, as people generally tended to do.


“Is he all right?” Skinner asked.


“He’ll live – but we’ll need to admit him overnight. If you’d like to follow me.” The doctor led them into a side room. Lee looked a little better, with some of the blood washed from his face, and a couple of butterfly stitches inserted in the bridge of his nose.

“Lee, is there anyone you want me to contact?” Skinner asked. “Any family? Friends?”

“Don’t have either,” Lee replied. He suddenly looked very lost, and small. Mulder found himself taking Lee’s hand again, and squeezing.


“We just spoke to the doctor, you’re going to be fine.”


“Yeah? What’s the damage, doc?” Lee glanced at the doctor, who, in turn, glanced at Lee’s visitors. Lee blinked. “I don’t mind them hearing. They probably already know,” he muttered.


“Well, your nose isn’t broken – just badly bruised. The swelling will go down in a few days. You have a rectal bleed as a result of some tearing. We’ve stitched it up, so there’s no danger of peritonitis, but it’s a good thing you got here when you did.” The doctor shrugged.


Lee glanced at Skinner.

“Looks like you made the right call, sir,” he whispered sleepily.


“Does he have someone who can take care of him?” The doctor glanced at Skinner again. “He’ll need somewhere to stay when he gets out – he can’t be on his own.”


“He can stay with us,” Skinner replied tersely.


“All right. We’ll be moving him upstairs in a few minutes. You can stay here until then if you want.” The doctor left the room, shutting the door sharply behind him.


“See. Disapproval radiating from every pore,” Ian commented, making an obscene gesture at the door.


“He was just being professional. There was nothing personal going on,” Skinner said, going over to Lee’s bed. He gazed down on the injured man. “Lee, rape is a very serious crime. You have to report…”

“Wasn’t rape.” Lee shook his head. “S’not rape if…” He frowned. Mulder moved forward in his chair by the bed, and squeezed on Lee’s fingers again, encouraging him to continue.

“What are you trying to say, Lee?”

“It wasn’t him…in me. That’s not rape. He said it was a lesson…He told me not to drink. I used to sneak the liquor when he was out. Filled up the bottle with water so…he wouldn’t know.” Lee shrugged. “He found out. Said I had to learn. Beat me first and then…used the bottle to…he said to ram the point home…he was laughing, called it the punishment fitting the crime. That’s not rape though…is it?”


Mulder glanced up at Skinner, horrified, to see that all the blood had drained from his Master’s face. Franklin had punished his slave by inserting a bottle into his rectum? Mulder thought he was going to explode. He didn’t know how his Master could remain so calm when he felt so furious he couldn’t even trust himself to speak.


“It’s a serious sexual assault, Lee,” Skinner said in a low, growling tone.


“Yeah. Well…I shouldn’t have. I knew he’d be fucked off with me.” Lee shrugged. “He’s out a lot. I just wanted him to notice me. I get bored…it was my own fault…I knew he’d be mad.”


“Nothing justifies this, Lee,” Ian told him.


“He’s just edgy, that’s all. You’ve played with him, you know.” Lee wet his dry lips with his tongue. “He can be really hot when he’s angry – I just pushed him too far.”


“The police will want to talk to you,” Mulder said, struggling to control his temper. He badly needed Lee to make his report – he wanted to see Franklin brought to justice because if he wasn’t then Mulder thought he might very well decide to take the law into his own hands.


“I’m not saying a word.” Lee shook his head. “He’ll kill me if I do.”

“We can protect you,” Skinner told him.


Lee glanced from Mulder to Skinner and back again.


“You two make me laugh,” he said, still shaking his head. “I don’t trust you or anyone else to protect me. He’ll find a way to kill me. I’m not saying a word.” And with that he closed his good eye, and ignored them. A few minutes later the door opened again, and the medical staff prepared to move Lee upstairs.


“We’ll visit,” Mulder said, but Lee didn’t even open his eye to watch them go.


It was late by the time Mulder and Skinner dropped Ian off, and then got back to their own apartment. Mulder was concerned about his Master. Skinner hadn’t said a word throughout the entire journey home, and his face was closed off, and wary, lost in thought. Mulder didn’t know whether to try and engage him in conversation or to leave him to his introspection. After several uncomfortable minutes, he decided that he couldn’t bear the silence any more, and turned to Skinner, opening his mouth to speak.


“Mast…” he began, but he didn’t get any further.


“Your silence, please, Fox,” Skinner snapped. 


Mulder closed his mouth, surprised. This wasn’t behavior he’d witnessed from his Master before, and it worried him. He wasn’t sure what was going on in Skinner’s mind and he didn’t like being shut out – more than that, he didn’t think it was good for Skinner to shut him out. He had pieced together a good deal about Skinner’s relationship with Andrew over the months of his slavery, and one factor had recurred – the hardest part of Andrew’s task had been getting Skinner to open up to him, and talk about whatever might be causing him anxiety. Mulder knew he wasn’t Andrew Linker, but he was his Master’s slave, lover, and friend. Whatever was going on in Skinner’s mind, he wanted to know about it – and he wanted to help. This protective instinct he had towards his Master wasn’t new. It had been something that had surprised him since the early days of their relationship, but as his feelings towards Skinner had deepened, so had Mulder’s protective instinct intensified. This, he knew, was one of the reasons why he had always pushed people away when they threatened to get too close in the past. He ended up caring too much – and that hurt. He was at a loss as to how to deal with this situation. He didn’t have the same kind of relationship with Skinner that Andrew Linker had enjoyed – what he had with Skinner was just as close, maybe more so, but Skinner wasn’t his sub. Although, as a slave, there had to be a way of making his Master confide in him, Mulder wasn’t sure how to go about that task. He hated feeling this helpless, but in the end there was nothing he could do but sit in the car and watch his Master drive.


They made the journey up to the 17th floor in silence, and entered the apartment in silence. Then Skinner turned to his slave, and spoke to him in a low, terse tone.

“Go upstairs and go to bed,” he said.


“What will you do, Master?” Mulder asked, as Skinner turned on his heel and walked towards the living room. His Master paused, his back tense. He didn’t turn around.


“I believe I gave you an order,” he hissed.


Mulder stared at his Master’s back, uncertain what he should do. Yes, Skinner had given him an order, but he wasn’t sure that order was in the best interests of either of them. On the other hand Skinner was still his Master – and he couldn’t choose which of his Master’s orders he would obey. With a sigh, Mulder began to walk up the stairs. He paused, halfway up, and glanced back down. Skinner was still standing frozen to the same spot. His muscles were bunched under his shirt. He stood there for a moment, and then shook his head, and, with brisk, jerky steps, disappeared into the living room. Mulder sighed and resumed his walk up the bedroom. He got undressed and slid into the bed, but he couldn’t sleep. He wasn’t by nature someone who could just stand by and watch. He was used to taking action. Slavery had curbed some of his more headstrong instincts but Skinner had always told him that he didn’t want him not to be Fox Mulder – it was Fox Mulder he had fallen in love with after all. It didn’t seem right to Mulder that his Master could delve so deeply into his psyche and help him when he was obviously struggling, but refused to accept the same help back. Skinner had only once before shut him out like this but on that occasion it had been as a result of something Mulder had done, and a trust that he had breached between them by investigating his Master’s past. This was different – this time Mulder hadn’t broken any trust – and his psychology background told him that it wasn’t healthy for Skinner to deal with whatever was troubling him alone. The truth was that Mulder cared far too much about his Master to ignore his problems – but he needed to find a way to tackle them that didn’t threaten the bond they shared. Mulder struggled with it for a long time, but when two hours had gone by and there was still no sign of his Master, he couldn’t bear it any longer. He got up, pulled on his sweatpants, and padded downstairs, barefoot and bare-chested. Usually he went naked in his Master’s presence, but that didn’t feel right at the moment. He didn’t want to lure Skinner into bed – he wanted to talk to him.


He found Skinner in the living room, sitting at the table with some papers strewn out in front of him, the phone perched on top of them. Mulder also noted the nearly empty glass of whisky. His Master was staring absently into space, and Mulder’s heart did a little lurch. He hated seeing his lover look this lost. He crossed the room, and placed a hand on Skinner’s shoulder. It never occurred to him that Skinner had not heard his approach, so his Master’s startled reaction took him by surprise. Skinner slapped his hand away with a growl, and Mulder fell against the table. He regained his footing and looked at his Master. Skinner’s jaw was practically scissoring in distress, and although he put out a hand as if to steady Mulder, he drew back, as if stung, without actually touching his slave. There was a grim sense of resolve in his Master’s eyes.


“You surprised me. You should have said something. I didn’t know you were here,” Skinner muttered. Mulder just gazed at him, thoughtfully. “I thought I gave you an order. Go to bed,” Skinner snapped, refusing to meet his slave’s eyes.


“Come with me,” Mulder urged softly. “Then we can talk about this.”


Skinner crossed his arms defensively over his chest – he clearly didn’t want to engage in any kind of conversation. Mulder was going to try anyway.


“Walter – it’s late. I’m worried about you,” he said softly.


Skinner took a deep breath. “I know. I’m sorry. Go to bed. I’ll be along soon.”


“What are you thinking?” Mulder ignored the order.


“Nothing.” Skinner reached out and played idly with the papers on the table.

“You made some phone calls?” Mulder pressed, glancing at the phone.

“Yes. Guardian stuff. I thought…” Skinner cleared his throat and began again, not looking at Mulder. “I thought I should call a meeting of the House.”

“What can the House do?”

“That’s what I need to find out. We can certainly tackle Franklin.” Skinner shrugged. “We can make sure he isn’t welcome at any more parties or clubs in DC – but there are always parts of the scene that we can’t police, and there will always be places that will welcome someone that dangerous. There’ll even be some stupid boys who venerate him for being a violent abuser. They’ll just think he’s particularly masterful.” He clamped his jaw shut, clearly not having intended to say so much.


“If Lee would only make a report to the police…” Mulder began hotly.

“Let’s face it, Fox, that isn’t going to happen,” Skinner snapped. “The House is our only other option. Now, I thought I told you to go to bed.”


“And I thought I should find out whether my Master was all right.” Mulder put his head on one side, and gazed at the other man. “Is he? What’s going on, Walter? Don’t shut me out.”

Skinner glared at him for a moment, and then all the tension suddenly left his body, and he lifted his hands, helplessly. He shook his head, but didn’t seem to have any words.


“Don’t even think it,” Mulder warned him.


His Master raised an eyebrow. “You know what I’m thinking now?” He asked.


“I have a pretty good idea.” Mulder stepped close to Skinner, and gently touched his Master’s cheek. Skinner stiffened. Mulder reached down, took hold of one of Skinner’s hands, and placed it on his own waist. “I’m not made of glass, Walter, and I won’t break. You’re not Franklin. You’d never hurt me.”


“I’ve often hurt you,” Skinner replied, still unmoving, his hand like a lead weight on Mulder’s body.


“What was it you said when you first brought me home? You’d hurt me, for my own pleasure – but you wouldn’t harm me? That’s the distinction here. Lee and Franklin aren’t holding up a mirror to our relationship, Walter. What they have is no more or less than domestic abuse – something that happens in non-BDSM relationships as well.”


“Sometimes I don’t know my own strength. Last night…”

“Was fantastic. We talked about this.”

“And if one day I went too far?”

“I don’t believe you could. It isn’t in you. Even last night.”

“What do you mean?” Skinner’s dark eyes were intense.


“I mean that I asked you for a rape fantasy but you wouldn’t deliver. You had to make me beg to be fucked – you needed my consent on some level. Even in a fantasy.”


“I…” Skinner hesitated.


Mulder put his other hand on his Master’s face, and caressed him with his thumbs, stroking Skinner’s cheeks softly. “You aren’t Franklin. You aren’t going to abuse your power over me, or turn me into a victim. You’ve always told me that we’re equals, Walter. We complement each other – like two sides of a coin. You have what I need, and I have what you need. It works, and it works well.”


Mulder pressed his lips against his Master’s and found the other man’s mouth soft, and yielding, but unresponsive. “I’m your slave. I love you,” Mulder said, drawing back a little way. “Don’t shut me out, Master.”


Skinner seemed to break out of his frozen trance at those words. He took a deep inhalation of breath, then placed his hands on Mulder’s shoulders, and looked at him. Finally he moved his head, and returned his slave’s kiss with a gentle one of his own.


“When did you get to know me so well?” He asked softly.


Mulder smiled, put his arms around his Master, and caressed those taut muscles, trying to relax them.


“I’m not sure. Maybe during the many occasions when I’ve knelt at your feet, with my chin resting on your knee, which is the best place in the world to be. Or maybe during those times when you stroked my body to ever greater heights of ecstasy, or when you spanked my bare ass until I floated as high as a kite. Or perhaps it was when you picked me up off the floor when I cut my chest, or carried me out of that warehouse bloodied and bruised. Or when you made love to me in the sand on the beach, kissing my scar to make me feel better about myself …or maybe it was when, after I’d been cruising around DC looking for a top who would help me self-destruct, you stepped in to offer me the safe haven of your contract. Or maybe it happened during those nights I couldn’t sleep, when I’d turn over and watch you sleeping instead; naked, unguarded, devoid of all the trappings of my Master so that I could see the man himself underneath. A good man. A gentle man. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching you sleep, so maybe that was when I got to know you, Walter. What I do know is that you’ve been there for me whenever I’ve needed you, and you’ve been more patient with me, and kinder than I probably ever deserved, and that you couldn’t hurt me if you tried. I’m more likely to hurt you. I know you, Master, better than you know yourself.”


Skinner didn’t say a word for a long time after this speech – Mulder didn’t think his Master trusted himself to speak. His eyes were glistening, and he glanced down at his feet and then back to Mulder. Finally he pulled himself together, took Mulder’s hand, brought it to his mouth, and kissed the wedding ring on Mulder’s finger. It was a gesture Mulder remembered from their first evening together and for some reason he found it peculiarly touching.


“I think it’s time for bed,” Skinner said, in a low, growling tone. “Both of us this time,” Skinner added, before Mulder could protest. He put his arm around his slave’s shoulder and they walked upstairs together.

“Did you arrange a meeting of the House?” Mulder asked.


“Yes – but it’ll have to wait for a few days. It wasn’t easy getting everyone in the same place at the same time. They’re all busy people. We’ll meet on Friday.”


“And in the meantime?” Mulder glanced at his Master.


“In the meantime we hope that Lee will talk to the police about Franklin, so that the House doesn’t have to deal with it, but if that doesn’t happen…” Skinner shrugged. “Well, we might have to take some more radical kind of action.”
“What does that mean?” They had reached the bedroom, and Mulder began to undress his Master. Skinner stood there and let him. He looked profoundly weary.


“Let’s not go there just yet,” Skinner said softly. Mulder looked up at his Master from a kneeling position where he was undoing his Master’s sneakers. Skinner put a hand on his slave’s shoulder to steady himself.
“But it might be necessary to talk about more…extreme measures? At some point?” Mulder asked.


Skinner’s face was hard as granite. “Maybe, at some point. Let’s see what happens first, though, shall we?”
Mulder placed his Master’s shoes neatly under the bed, then removed the big man’s socks and threw them in the laundry basket. He undid Skinner’s jeans and slid them down his Master’s long legs, then put them away in the closet. His naked Master smiled at him, and glanced at Mulder’s sweats pointedly.


“I’m not sure those are allowed,” he murmured.


“No, Master.” Mulder grinned and lost the pants quickly. He pulled back the bedcovers for his Master and Skinner slid between the sheets with a tired sigh. Mulder covered him and then went to his own side of the bed and knelt.


“Permission to sleep with you, Master,” he requested obediently.


“Oh for god’s sake, just get in,” Skinner said, a wry laugh in his voice. Mulder grinned and slid in beside his Master. He was surprised when Skinner reached for him – he had imagined his Master would be too tired for sex. He opened his legs obligingly, to allow his Master access to his ass, but Skinner gently pushed him back.
“Just lie still,” he whispered. Then he bent his head and touched the merest hint of a lick to Mulder’s still sore nipples. They zinged into life, and Mulder gave a little gasp. Skinner continued on down, pressing the tiniest, most tender touches of lips and fingers to his slave’s flesh. Mulder had never been treated more gently. Skinner’s caresses were like whispers. His Master reached his cock and bestowed a dozen or more tiny licks and kisses on it. Mulder was hard immediately. He groaned and opened his legs again, expecting Skinner to lift his buttocks, and enter between his ass cheeks – but his Master just fondled his slave’s bottom tenderly.


“I’m not going to use you there,” Skinner murmured. “You’ll be too sore after last night.”


“I don’t care,” Mulder groaned, too aroused to worry about it.

“Well I do.” Skinner nuzzled his slave’s flesh gently. He stroked the soft flesh of Mulder’s inner thigh and then applied his warm, wet tongue to Mulder’s ass. Mulder nearly jumped out of the bed at the sensation. He’d been rimmed before but it wasn’t a frequent occurrence, and this was so slow, and intimate, and loving. Skinner’s tongue made dozens of long, leisurely swirling motions over his slave’s opening, at the same time as gently pumping his slave’s cock in time to the motion of his tongue. Mulder was lost in a haze of sensation. This felt so warm, sensuous, and comforting. It was a different kind of sex to the wild excess of the previous evening, but it was just as satisfying in its own way. It was so beautiful, so languorous. Skinner made love to every inch of his slave’s body for the next hour. He went so slowly that there were times when Mulder thought he’d scream – for just as he seemed to be getting close to climax his Master would stop what he was doing and move on to some other area of his slave’s body. When Mulder tried to caress his Master in return, he was told to just lie still, and accept his Master’s will. Mulder didn’t need much convincing considering how deliciously erotic and arousing his Master’s will was on this occasion. Finally, after more than an hour of love making, Skinner allowed his slave to come – which Mulder did, copiously. Afterwards, Skinner gathered his slave in his arms, and held him.


“Wouldn’t Master like me…” Mulder began, noting that Skinner hadn’t taken his own pleasure.

“No, boy, Master wouldn’t,” Skinner said softly, nuzzling his slave’s neck with his arms. Mulder understood. His Master had needed to show his slave that a gentle love making session could be just as good as all the explosive violence of the previous evening. Skinner had also needed to show his slave how much he was loved, and how his Master could reveal to him all the gentleness at his core and yet still be his Master.


“I didn’t need to be convinced,” Mulder murmured.


“I know. Maybe I did,” Skinner replied.


They brought Lee home the following evening. The young man was able to walk – but slowly and unsteadily. His face looked a mess – the swelling had gone down but a huge, multi-colored bruise had risen in its place. Mulder helped him along to the spare room, and Skinner settled him in the bed.

“There’s a small TV to keep you amused. Fox and I have to work but we’ll be here in the evenings – we’ve arranged for a small army of people to be with you during the day,” Skinner told their guest.

“What kind of people?” Lee asked irritably.


“Scene people,” Skinner replied. “You’ll know most of them – Ian, Hammer, Murray, Elaine…”


“I don’t like her. She looks as me as if I’m something she stepped in,” Lee muttered. Mulder smiled to himself. Elaine had always been a lady of discerning good taste.


“She’s nice and she’s willing to help. You can’t be left on your own,” Skinner told their recalcitrant guest firmly.


“Why not? You scared I’ll steal something?”


“No. I’m more concerned for your well-being. We don’t know who might turn up on the doorstep, do we?” Skinner said pleasantly.


Lee’s face paled. “He wouldn’t come here – would he?”


“I don’t know. Would he?” Skinner sat on the side of the bed and looked at their guest discerningly.


Lee shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m his slave. I suppose he’ll come looking for me eventually. If he still wants me.”


“Isn’t it more to the point whether you still want him?” Skinner asked.


Lee looked surprised. “I don’t have a choice. He owns me,” he said. “You two both understand what that means.”

“I know what it doesn’t mean,” Mulder said, leaning against the wall, and gazing at the young man. “It doesn’t mean that he has the right to put you in the hospital.”


“Yeah, like you two never played a game that went too far,” Lee sneered.


“No, we haven’t,” Mulder said bluntly.


“Yeah right. My Master told me you’d been in the hospital recently. Don’t tell me that wasn’t as a result of your Master deciding to play blood sports on your chest.” He nodded in the direction of Mulder’s scar. Mulder stared at him, aghast. Was that what was being said on the scene? He could see how those kinds of Chinese whispers got around but it made him so angry as to be almost speechless. How could anyone think Skinner had been the one who had hurt him? He glanced at his Master who looked as surprised and shocked as Mulder felt – and not a little wounded as well, although he was clearly trying to hide that particular emotion. Mulder could have cursed – every time he thought he had managed to get it into his Master’s head that he was not remotely in the same league as Franklin, something happened to set the process back.

“Don’t be a little idiot, Lee. Of course Walter didn’t hurt me. As a matter of fact he saved me. The only one who hurt me was myself.” Mulder didn’t think he had either the patience or the energy to explain about Krycek at this point in time.


“If you say so.” Lee waved his hand in the air and then reached for the remote.


“I don’t just say so, it’s the goddamn truth!” Mulder exploded.


“Fox. It’s okay.” Skinner shot him a warning glance. “Lee, do you want anything to eat?”


“No. I want to watch TV.” Lee turned on the television and flicked through a few channels, ignoring his hosts. Mulder felt his anger start to boil over again. He had forgotten, in his horror over Lee’s injuries, what a total little shit the kid was.


“Not yet. First we need to talk.” Skinner got up, and turned the TV off at the wall. Lee gave him a look that would have felled a lesser man. Skinner ignored it. “Lee, I’m not giving you back to Franklin just to have this happen all over again,” he said. Lee twisted the comforter between his fingers and shrugged. “If you tell me that you want to be released from whatever contract you have with Franklin then I’ll report that to the House and we’ll protect you from him, but I need to know what you’re thinking first,” Skinner said.


Lee shrugged again. He had a air of such brooding sulkiness that Mulder couldn’t help thinking what an excruciatingly irritating slave he must have been, and he didn’t imagine that Franklin had any patience for such slaves – not that it excused what Franklin had done for a moment, but he could see how Lee would annoy anyone, even if they had the patience of a saint, which Franklin clearly didn’t.


“Lee, I need your answer. Give it to me,” Skinner ordered firmly.


“If he wants…I mean…I can’t refuse him.” Lee shrugged. “He owns me,” he said desperately, looking at Skinner with a pleading gaze. “I’m not allowed to refuse him. If he comes for me…”

“Lee, you’ve been owned before. Mike owned you, and you had no qualms about ending that contract so you must see that you do have the right,” Skinner said forcefully.


“Mike was different. My Master…Franklin…he wouldn’t tolerate it. He hates it when his authority is questioned.”


“Forget Franklin. What do you want, Lee?”

“Dunno.” Lee shrugged again and gazed moodily at the comforter.


Skinner tapped his head. “Look at me, boy,” he said firmly. Mulder glanced at his Master, surprised by his tone, but he soon saw there was a method to it as Lee responded to Skinner’s authority, his head snapping up. He looked Skinner in the eye and his face crumpled as if he was going to burst into tears.


“What do you want, Lee?” Skinner asked again. “This isn’t the first time Franklin has hurt you, is it? And I don’t mean as part of a sex game. When I applied first aid last night I saw the scars on your back, and buttocks. Those were deep, savage wounds. How did you feel about them at the time?”

“It hurt.” Lee struggled to keep his head held high, but his shoulders had sagged and he looked utterly dejected. Mulder found himself feeling sorry for the young man again. “My step dad used to beat me up some, and then after…well he’d be good to me. Franklin was like that. He said I had to learn – it was all part of some big training plan but I never knew when he was playing and when he meant it and sometimes he…he’d just go ballistic about something I never meant. I thought I could play him…you know…” Lee shot a glance at Mulder. “You know what I mean,” he whispered.

“Yes. I know.” Mulder sighed. He remembered his first few days in his Master’s apartment. He had been so sure he could ‘play’ Skinner and get what he wanted without giving anything back. Luckily Skinner had been playing a different game completely. He shuddered to think what would have happened if the unknown Master he had sold himself to had been Franklin and not Skinner. “It didn’t work with Franklin, though, did it?” He said, shaking his head.


“No. He just used to get mad. Really mad. Sometimes that was hot, but mostly it just scared me shitless.”


“Do you love him?” Skinner asked softly.

“No.” Lee shuddered. “No…I don’t even like him. He’s loco…but…I have to go back to him. You don’t understand what he’s like. He’ll find me. He’ll kill me. He told me once that no slave of his had the right to leave – that if they wanted out then he’d give them permission to die, but that was the only way they could go. He used to tell me about some Indian tradition – sooty or something…”


“Sutee,” Mulder murmured.


“Yeah – that’s it. Where if a man died, his wife had to burn with him. He approved of that. He said that if he ever died I had to die too – that he wouldn’t let me live if he was dead. He’d send someone after me to kill me. He used to tell me that death was the only way I’d ever get away from him. He meant it. He’ll kill me.”

“He won’t kill you, he was just trying to scare you – and it’s illegal to make death threats in this country,” Skinner said. “Lee, you have to trust me. I want you to report Franklin to the police.”

Lee dropped his gaze again, and Skinner put a finger under the young man’s chin and raised his head. “Lee.” He looked at him searchingly.


“I can’t,” Lee said. “You can’t make me do it. I can’t. I’ll run away. I’ll kill myself. You can’t make me…I won’t stand up in court and say what he did to me. They’ll ask me questions. They’ll make me say I enjoyed it.”

“No, Lee, it doesn’t have to be that way,” Mulder began, but Lee interrupted him.


“Yes, it does. You know what I look like, the way I talk. They won’t take me seriously. He’s older, he’s rich, he’s a businessman and I’m just a bum. I have…” his voice dropped. “I have convictions for hustling, for drugs, for stealing… I used to be a hustler. I’d share drugs with my tricks and then, when they were completely out of it, I’d steal their money. I’ve been to prison for it. There isn’t a jury in the land that will take my word over his.”


Skinner sat back and glanced at Mulder for a second. Mulder could see in his Master’s eyes that Skinner didn’t rate Lee’s chances much either.


“All right. If you won’t testify against Franklin, that’s fine.” Skinner gave a sigh that implied it wasn’t fine but he couldn’t do anything about it. “But you’ve told me that you don’t love him and I don’t think you really want to go back to him.” He raised a hand as Lee opened his mouth to interrupt. “Forget about his death threats – take them out of the equation and tell me honestly whether you want to go back to him.”


Lee chewed on his lip for a moment, and then shook his head. “No. I’m scared of him. I hate him,” he whispered.


“All right. That’s all I wanted to know.” Skinner stood up.


“What will you do?” Lee asked.


“Don’t worry about it. I’ll sort it out,” Skinner said.


“You’re not going to kill him are you?” Lee asked. Mulder glanced at Skinner, wondering the same thing himself. He knew his Master to be a law abiding man, but he couldn’t see a way out of this particular problem without Skinner at best having to resort to using his fists, and at worst taking Franklin out of the equation altogether. Somehow he couldn’t see Skinner sanctioning that last option – so what did he have planned?


“I’ve told you – don’t worry. Just concentrate on getting better.”

“If I do…I don’t have anywhere to go,” Lee muttered.


“We’ll find you somewhere. When the time comes.” Skinner put a gentle hand on Lee’s shoulder and pushed him back onto the bed. “Get some rest, Lee. We’ll be across the hallway.”

“I want to watch…” Lee reached for the remote, only to have it plucked from his fingers by Skinner.


“Rest. You can watch TV tomorrow. You need to get some sleep.” Skinner gestured with his head at Mulder and left the room. Mulder, following on behind him, was the only one who witnessed the look Lee gave his Master – it was somewhere between hero worship and sly intent. Mulder gave an inward sigh. He knew Skinner didn’t mean anything by commanding Lee in this way – his air of authority was innate to his personality, and he was just being himself by sternly demanding answers, and being kind, solicitous and firm with it – in short by showing Lee just how a good Master behaved. And of course Lee, like any other sub, couldn’t help responding to Skinner’s manner. He had never made any secret of his attraction to Skinner in the past – and Mulder, in the grip of that same attraction, couldn’t blame him. So, Lee was developing a huge crush on his Master – and now they had one more problem to worry about.


“What will happen on Friday, Walter?” Mulder asked as they retired to their own bedroom, across the hallway. “Will the House want to speak to Lee?”

“If he’s up to it.” Skinner shrugged, disappearing into the bathroom. “It doesn’t matter – I can put his wishes to them and tell them what’s happened if he’s not well enough, but he should be by then.”

“And what do you think they’ll decide? What will they do? What will they expect you to do?” Mulder followed his Master into the bathroom and watched while Skinner peed.

His Master sighed. “Fox, I don’t know. That’s the whole point of having the meeting,” he said, finishing and washing his hands.


“Have you ever encountered this kind of problem before?” Mulder pressed, undressing. “Did Andrew? Is there some kind of precedent for…?”

“Fox.” Skinner fixed him with a glare. “House meetings of this kind are confidential. While nobody objects to the Guardian’s slave sitting in on them as just that – a slave – I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to discuss previous confidential incidents with you.”


“Oh.” Mulder hadn’t even thought about that. He went to the basin and began brushing his teeth.

“However…” Skinner took a deep breath, and looked at his slave for a long moment.

“What?” Mulder shifted uneasily, his toothbrush still in his mouth.


“I know you feel very strongly about this subject, and I’m sure you have a lot to say on the matter. You can have your say – but only if you decide to become a Member of the House.”


“A Member?” Mulder removed his toothbrush and stared at his Master, stunned, a little stream of toothpaste running down his chin. “But I…that is…you’re asking me if I want to be part of the House? I mean, I thought you had to be on the scene for years and know all the right people to even get asked.”


“You have been on the scene for years – well on and off anyway – and if sleeping with the Guardian isn’t knowing the right person then I don’t what is,” Skinner grinned, wiping Mulder’s dripping chin with a towel.


Mulder was dumbfounded. “I had no idea…but, I mean, is there a vacancy?” he asked, stupefied.


“As a matter of fact there are two. People move on – they move to new towns or their interests and priorities change. I’m more of a nominal head – Hammer is in charge of meetings and policing the scene by and large because I don’t have the time. We’ve also found that it pays to have a Guardian with a certain amount of mystique – one who isn’t too visible and who can be brought in to act the heavy on special occasions. My reputation is far more frightening than the reality.” Skinner removed his sweatshirt and threw it in the laundry basket.


“I’m not so sure about that.” Mulder grinned. “Are you sure Hammer would be okay with me being a Member of the House?”


“It was Hammer who suggested it. How do you feel about it?”

“What would it entail?” Mulder followed his Master out of the bathroom and into the bedroom.


“Well, a certain amount of work – it isn’t just going to meetings. Members of the House have to be active on the scene – more active than you are at the moment. That will mean going to clubs, parties, munches and events. It’ll also mean taking the time to get to know the new players on the scene, to make sure they’re safe, and get a feel for people, so that you will have a fair idea of the problems and personalities if something should come up.”

“Oh.” Mulder wasn’t sure how he felt about that. While he enjoyed the scene parties he’d been to, his lifestyle was so frenetic and his commitment to both his Master and the X Files so all consuming that he wasn’t sure he’d have the time to really give his all to anything else. He wasn’t somebody who did anything by halves and his interest in the scene was fairly limited.


“There might be some minor paperwork involved as well.” Skinner glanced at his slave. “So, what do you think?” He asked.


“I don’t know. I’m not sure I have the time. That’s the plain truth. I mean, I’ve enjoyed the scene, but it isn’t my life – the X Files are my life, and you’re my life. If I’m honest, I don’t think I could give enough to it. I don’t think I’d enjoy it either. Networking has never exactly been a skill of mine after all.” Mulder gave a theatrical grimace, and sat down on the side of the bed.

“That’s fine.” Skinner smiled.


“It is?” Mulder looked up. It didn’t feel fine. He felt as if he was letting people down in some way.


“Of course. It does mean that you won’t have a voice during meetings though, so if I want you to attend as my slave you’ll have to be silent, as you were during the meeting you attended at Murray’s house a few months back – although that one was fairly mundane. The one on Friday is likely to be a lot more interesting.”


“You mean that if I’m not a Member you won’t let me attend?” Mulder asked. He had just assumed he’d be at the meeting. He wanted to know what was said and how the situation was resolved. He was involved in the whole incident in such a personal way that he felt he had a right to know.


“I have no objection to you attending – as my slave,” Skinner said with a shrug. “None of the other Members will object to the Guardian having his slave in attendance either, but if you want a voice then you must become a Member and put in the time and effort. It’s only fair.”


“Yes. That’s fair enough, and much as I hate having to give up any opportunity to get very angry and talk in a loud voice,” Mulder grinned at his Master, “I think I have to say ‘no’. I have enough long term commitments in my life as it is – one of them being very time consuming.” He gazed at his Master meaningfully.


“Ah, the X Files don’t take up that much of your time,” Skinner teased.

“I was thinking more of the demands of my Master and his insatiable sexual needs.” Mulder grinned.


“Insatiable?” Skinner slid his sweat pants down to reveal a sizeable erection. “That’s right, boy – completely and utterly rampant. Now get your ass over here and take care of this.” Mulder went, laughing out loud.


Their houseguest proved to be a moody addition to the household over the next few days. Mulder and Skinner worked out a routine whereby Skinner would take care of Lee in the mornings, getting him his breakfast, doling out his medication, and helping him take a Sitz bath to ease his rectal injury, before handing their charge over to one of the many people who had volunteered to sit with him during the day. Mulder would go to work earlier than usual and leave earlier as well – while Skinner stayed late to finish his work. Mulder would give Lee his evening meal, and look after him until Skinner got home. Mulder couldn’t help being of the opinion that it was like having a bad tempered child – or a very recalcitrant puppy in the apartment. The only problem being that he was sure that he could have felt some affection for a puppy or child but Lee was a different matter. Their guest was frankly rude to Mulder, while butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth when he was with Skinner. Not that Mulder was surprised – in fact, on some level he even understood it. Lee was scared, and he was looking to someone to fill the gap that Franklin had left. He was also desperately afraid that he would have nowhere to live when he recovered and was clearly hoping that if he played his cards right Skinner would decide that he was in the market for another slave. Mulder did his best to keep both his jealousy and his temper in check – his Master had a lot on his plate right now and the last thing he needed was for his slave to go off into the deep end and cause him even more problems, but even so, it gnawed at him.


Mulder was so preoccupied with the situation, to say nothing of the looming House meeting, that he got careless – and as a result found himself alone in the parking garage of the Hoover Building at 7pm on Friday evening with a gun pressed to the back of his head. He and Skinner had swapped their Lee shifts for the day, as Skinner wanted to get home in plenty of time to have a long talk Lee before the meeting of the House which he had called for 9pm. Lee was already nervous about it – he seemed to view it as being akin to coming up before a prison parole board, despite Skinner’s assurances to the contrary. Mulder wanted to be in time for the meeting as well. He was so lost in thought as he jogged towards his car that he didn’t see the dark shadow inside the vehicle until it was too late and he was sitting inside – and that was when he heard the click of the gun.


“Hello, Mulder, ” a familiar voice said. “Out on your own without Big Daddy to hold your hand?”


“Krycek. You must be either deaf or stupid,” Mulder growled, his hands clenching hard around the steering wheel. “Didn’t you hear what Skinner said to you last time you showed up?”


“You mean the idle threats? I heard. What you’ve got to understand is that Skinner is one of the good guys.” Mulder glanced in his mirror, and saw that his old partner had a grimly amused expression on his face. “And the good guys don’t do more than punch you in the gut once or twice. Skinner knows that there isn’t a prison in this country that will hold me, considering who and what I know, and he’s far too bright and shining to kill me himself. So it was just a bluff. I’m much more concerned about my masters’ threats than yours, Mulder.”


“Who are your masters, Krycek? Who are you working for these days? Are you still letting that cigarette smoking bastard breathe his foul fumes all over you or have you moved on, and sold your services elsewhere?”


“That isn’t important. What is important is that you have a chance to make up for last week’s lost opportunity.”


“Ah, is there another spaceship hovering over Oregon?”


“Not yet – and not Oregon. I figure that last time I didn’t give you enough notice. This time you can be prepared.”

“It won’t change anything. I still won’t be going,” Mulder snapped.


“You have to. This is bigger than you, and your fucking stupid Spartacus complex. This is something you’ll regret all your life if you don’t follow it up. I’m leaving now, but you can expect another visit from me very soon – and I’ll want to hear that you’re willing to play ball when I return. Oh, and Mulder, this time – don’t tell Skinner I visited.” The cold metal of Krycek’s gun dug into harder into Mulder’s neck and then was gone. Mulder heard the door open and close, and then he was alone again. He briefly considered getting out of the car and chasing after his nemesis, but he knew it would be pointless – Krycek was too fast and too good at hiding in the shadows.


Despite Krycek’s injunction, Mulder had every intention of telling his Master about the visit. It might not be the best timing what with everything else that was going on, but he knew Skinner would want to know. He let himself into the apartment, and went straight into the living room calling his Master’s name – only to find that Skinner was not alone. Franklin was with him.


“What the hell is he doing here?” Mulder asked hotly, all thoughts of Krycek vanishing from his mind. Franklin raised an eyebrow and glanced at Skinner.


“Your slave isn’t very well trained. I had expected something more of the Guardian’s slave,” he commented.


“Franklin just arrived,” Skinner told his slave. “He says he wants to talk. I thought it would be churlish to kick his ass onto the street without hearing what he had to say first.”


Franklin’s lip curled up into a sneer. “You won’t be kicking me anywhere, Skinner.” He glanced around the room, saw the couch, and sat down on it. Mulder stepped forward, ready to explode at the way their uninvited guest had assumed a hospitality that he hadn’t been shown.


“Fox.” Skinner clicked his fingers and Mulder reluctantly went to his Master’s side, and knelt.


“That’s better. We must show these boys their place,” Franklin smirked, placing his outstretched arms along the back of the couch as if he owned it. “I’ll come straight to the point. You have something that belongs to me, Skinner. I want it back.”

“If you’re referring to Lee, then he doesn’t want to belong to you any more,” Skinner replied.


Franklin waved his hand negligently in the air. “Ah, he’s just a boy. He doesn’t know what he wants.”

“As a matter of fact he does. I spoke to him at some length on the subject, both when he first came out of the hospital and this evening. He was very clear on the point that he wants nothing more to do with you.”

Mulder watched as Franklin’s urbane veneer faltered. The other man’s face darkened, and his eyes flashed angrily. Mulder felt his temper rising again as he remembered what this man had done to both Ian and Lee. He was dangerous, sadistic, and violent.


“It’s of little concern to me whether the little brat wants to return or not. He’s my slave. My property. Since when did property choose who it belonged to?”


“Since this was a democratic country in which slavery only exists as part of a sexual contract between two consenting adults,” Skinner replied. “You have no legal right to him, Franklin, and you certainly don’t have a moral right to him.”


“He signed a contract. I believe that has some meaning in the circles in which we move.” Franklin allowed his eyes to rake over Mulder in a pointed fashion.


“Yes, it does, but you abused whatever contract you had with Lee and now he’s finished with you. He has that right.”

“Would you give your slave that right?” Franklin growled. “If he decided he wanted to leave?”


Mulder glanced at his Master. Skinner had told him when he first took him as his slave that he would be released from his contract only if it was what his Master wanted as well – and yet…and yet on one of the two occasions when he’d tried to leave, Skinner had let him go – only for Mulder to return of his own free will. On the other occasion his Master should have washed his hands of him altogether, and Mulder was eternally grateful for the fact that Skinner had refused to release his slave even when Mulder had returned his wedding ring and made a mockery of their contracts.


“No.” Skinner glanced at Mulder. “No, I wouldn’t – but then I’d never push a bottle up his rectum either. It could have broken. That rip you put in Lee’s ass could have led to infection – peritonitis – even death. My slave doesn’t live in fear of his life like yours. People like you shouldn’t be responsible for another human being, Franklin. What you do isn’t BDSM. You’re attracted to the lifestyle because you think it gives you the right to abuse. It doesn’t. BDSM isn’t about abuse, or cruelty, or crushing someone else’s self esteem.”

“Ah, you’re going to tell me it’s about love next,” Franklin laughed. “I can almost hear the violins tuning up, Skinner.”


“Love? Not necessarily – not unless you’re lucky anyway.” Skinner placed a hand on Mulder’s head and Mulder leaned into the caress, as he always did, as he couldn’t help doing, no matter who was watching. “But it is about mutual respect and trust, and you don’t have either of those with your slave, Franklin.”


“He’s my slave. He doesn’t have any rights. I don’t require his respect, or his trust – just his body – and his obedience,” Franklin snapped.

“Then, like I said, you’ve got this lifestyle all wrong. Treat your slave like a whipped pup and that’s all you’ll have,” Skinner said, “and beware if you turn your back on him for one minute or he’ll bite you for all the abuse you’ve handed out. Tell me – when you touch Lee does he enjoy it and lean towards you hoping for more, or does he cower away from you?” Franklin pursed his lips and Skinner shook his head. “I know which I’d prefer,” he commented. “Having a slave isn’t about having someone to abuse, Franklin. It’s about finding someone who you can live with, in a kind of symbiosis, each bringing out the best in the other. You and Lee – you bring out the worst.”

Franklin sat back and applauded Skinner’s speech, with slow, mocking claps of his hands.


“Very good. You’ve had your say – now give me back my slave.”

“He isn’t your slave any more. You gave up any right to him when you smashed your fist into his face and rammed a bottle up his ass.”

“I won’t give up my claim to him – and you can’t protect him here forever,” Franklin hissed. “And while I’m waiting, well, there are plenty of other pretty boys in this town who’d beg for a touch of my whip. You know, there are always boys who like it rough. And if you’re going to keep my slave, I might just decide to take yours in recompense. Fair exchange is no robbery after all.” He glanced at Mulder with a glint in his eyes.

“Is that a threat?” Skinner went very still. Mulder could feel his Master’s muscles tense through his pants. He glanced up, knowing that the mood had changed, and the gloves were coming off.

“It’s a fact. If you keep my boy, then you should take care to protect your own – some might consider it greedy to take another man’s property when you already have a slave of your own.”


“Don’t bluff me, Franklin. If you lay one finger on Fox then you’re dead. You know that.” Skinner moved his hand and laid it on protectively Mulder’s shoulder, squeezing firmly.

“Who is threatening who now?” Franklin sneered.


“I haven’t got time for this. Get out of here, Franklin, and get out of this town, because you won’t find anyone who’ll play with you after this.”


“You’re a fool, Skinner. You’re too soft. You think everyone in this town wants to play like you? You’re wrong. There will always be submissives who like men with my kind of edge. I’ll keep playing, even if you misuse your power as Guardian to advise all the subs in the city against playing with me. You see, there will be those to whom your warning will just serve as a great aphrodisiac. Rather than being frightened away, they’ll seek me out. You know it, and I know it.” 

Mulder glanced up at his Master. He could see by the way the big man’s jaw was clenched that his Master recognized the truth of this statement. Franklin was only saying what Skinner had already said privately to Mulder.


“How many times do you think you’ll get away with it?” Skinner asked. “Sooner or later, one of your victims will go to the police.”

“You think?” Franklin smiled. “Just like Lee is going to do maybe? Or that whiny friend of yours – Ian?”
Mulder was on his feet and half way across the room, his fist raised to strike, before Skinner caught up with him, and propelled him back.


“Maybe you need some tips on how to control him,” Franklin offered. “I could suggest a few things…I like boys like him – boys with fire, boys who won’t easily obey – boys that need to be crushed underfoot until they do what their Master requires.” He gave Mulder an insane grin, his eyes afire with a kind of evil enjoyment. “I always did find him interesting. I like my boys a little more conventionally beautiful, I’ll admit, but he has such fire. It would be so good to stamp it out.” Franklin ground his heel into the carpet to illustrate the point, and Skinner’s hand, which had been digging into Mulder’s shoulder, turned instead to a reassuring caress. “Such a spitfire. It’s no fun when they’re easy to tame. I like the challenge,” Franklin continued. “Lee has been amusing but he’s just a child. So naughty, even though he knows he’ll be punished. He just can’t help himself. When I get him back, I’ll take him on the final step of the journey. I’ll break him. Then he won’t disobey me any more.”

“You won’t be breaking anyone because you’re going to be leaving town,” Skinner said firmly. “And I’ll make sure that the word is spread about you wherever you go. I’ll tell every city with a scene that you’re too dangerous to be played with. Word will get around. You’ll find your activities severely curtailed.”


It was Franklin’s turn to look shaken now. His dark eyes glittered angrily as he realized that Skinner did, indeed, have that power, and although he might still find willing submissives to play with, it wouldn’t be easy, and he’d have to trawl the less respectable bars to find what he was looking for. It would take more of his time and energy, and it would be more personally dangerous for him.


“I’m not going to leave,” he snarled. “Who is going to make me? I’ve committed no crime that will ever be punished in court, and you aren’t going to take the law into your own hands, are you, Skinner? I have business interests in this town. I’m settled here and I intend to stay. You aren’t going to get rid of me that easily. You’ve made yourself a formidable enemy, Skinner. I’ll not only get Lee back – I’ll also make a challenge for your job. I rather enjoy the thought of being the next Guardian of the House – does the slave come with the job I wonder? I do hope so.” Franklin gave a little laugh at his own joke, his eyes raking over Mulder’s body lasciviously, as if mentally undressing him.


“I think it’s time that you left.” Skinner moved menacingly in Franklin’s direction, every muscle in his body taut. Mulder knew that it was taking all his Master’s self-control not to snap, seize Franklin, and throw him bodily from the apartment.


“I think so too. It’s been a pleasure seeing your willful slave again, Skinner. I’m sure he’ll be happier with the firmer hand that I can provide. I find the most uncontrollable ones always are. In the meantime, when you’ve come to your senses on the subject of my slave, you can reach me on this number.” Franklin reached into his wallet and withdrew a business card, which he placed on the arm of the couch. “If I don’t hear from you then you can consider yourself involved in an extremely messy, and very dangerous battle. I look forward to getting your call,” he murmured.


Skinner didn’t reply. He just opened the door for their uninvited guest to walk through, and then slammed it shut again afterwards.


“It’s all bluff,” Skinner said when their guest had gone.

“You think?” Mulder replied. “I’m sorry, Walter, but I’ve known men like him before. He’s a fanatic – and he believes what he says. I’m not so sure it is a bluff.”

“But what can I do?” Skinner sat down on the couch with a sigh. “He knows that my hands are tied. All I can do is put the word out about him – but he’s right about that as well. There will always be some idiots out there who want to play with him precisely because of his reputation. He’ll find it a little annoying not to be able to attend the big events and the main bars, and being ostracized on the scene will make him angry – but he will find people to play with somewhere. Men like him always do.”

Mulder was reminded of Krycek’s comment about his Master. It made him angry – both Krycek and Franklin could get away with behaving like this precisely because men like Skinner were honorable and law-abiding.


“I guess the good guys just don’t have the array of weapons that the bad guys have,” Mulder murmured.


“I guess not.” Skinner spread his arms helplessly. Mulder considered telling his Master about Krycek but this didn’t seem the right time. He wasn’t sure there would ever be a right time the way things were going.


“Where’s Lee?” Mulder glanced around the room.


“I sent him upstairs when I realized Franklin was at the door.”


“I’d better go and see if he’s okay.”


Mulder walked slowly up the stairs, lost in thought. He was angry at being in thrall to Krycek, just as he was angry that Franklin looked as if he was going to walk out of this without paying any kind of price at all for what he’d done. Not only that – Franklin was escalating the situation into some kind of all out war. Mulder was more than angry – he was incensed. Both Krycek and Franklin were fucking up so many lives, and they seemed to be immune from the law – a law he had spent his career trying to uphold. Why should these men be immune from justice? And why should people like his Master and Ian, and even Lee, obnoxious brat that he was, suffer because of it? Mulder paused outside Lee’s bedroom, and knocked on the door. There was no reply. He pushed open the door and peered inside – but the room seemed to be empty. Puzzled, Mulder stepped into the room and glanced around.


“Lee?” He called. Silence – which was broken by a slightly muffled sound coming from the closet. Frowning, Mulder opened the closet door. The closet was full of an overspill of his own clothes that hadn’t fitted into the closet in his Master’s bedroom, but he could just see two feet peeping out from underneath them. “Lee?” He said again, kneeling to get a better look. Lee was cowering beneath the clothing in a way that would have been comical if it hadn’t been for the expression on the kid’s face. He was shaking uncontrollably – and his skin was pale and covered in sweat.


“Is Walter going to give me back to him?” Lee whispered. “He’ll punish me for running away. He’ll…”

“Lee, it’s okay. Walter sent Franklin away. Nobody is going to give you to him. Come on out. It’s safe.” He reached out a hand. Lee looked at it for a moment, then took it, and allowed himself to be pulled from the closet. “Oh shit.” Mulder saw the stain on Lee’s sweatpants, in the area around his crotch.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself…I thought…I heard them talking. I heard Walter say that he wouldn’t allow you to leave, so I thought he was going to…” Lee covered his stained crotch with his hands, clearly embarrassed that he’d pissed his pants in fright.


“It’s okay,” Mulder said soothingly.

“It isn’t! He’s after me! He’s going to kill me! You don’t understand! He’s going to fucking kill me!” Lee screamed hysterically.


“This isn’t helping…” Mulder began, placing a soothing hand on Lee’s shoulder. The younger man went ballistic, throwing himself around the place, sobbing his heart out. Mulder watched him for a moment, dumbfounded, and then he couldn’t help laughing. Lee subsided, and gazed at Mulder, an outraged expression on his face. “I’m sorry,” Mulder said between chuckles. “But you really do look ridiculous like that Lee.”

“You bastard!” Lee ran for him, and pounded his fists against Mulder’s chest. Mulder was many years older, several inches taller, and a trained FBI agent into the bargain, so he easily sidestepped the kid. He grabbed Lee’s arm, pushed it up his back, and propelled him bodily along to the bathroom.


“Take those pants off, and get into the shower, Lee,” Mulder said firmly. Lee struggled for a few seconds, flailing around helplessly in Mulder’s much stronger arms, and then the kid suddenly crumpled, and began to sob – only these weren’t tears for show. They were real. Lee clung onto Mulder for dear life and cried his heart out. Mulder put his arms around the kid and held him, stroking Lee’s shorn dark hair gently. He felt his anger towards Franklin rising again. Lee wasn’t exactly his favorite person in the world, but his fear and grief were genuine enough. From what Mulder had learned of Lee’s past, the kid had drawn the short straw in life so far, with a violent, abusive stepfather who had set the pattern for Lee’s later relationships with other men. Unfortunately, instead of running into someone like Skinner, who might have been able to help him, Lee had chosen Franklin – and now he was lost, hurt, and scared witless. Finally the sobbing slowed, and Mulder disengaged the young man, helped him undress, and then pushed him under the warm shower. Skinner had always helped Lee bathe before, so Mulder had never seen the younger man completely naked – and the sight shocked him. Lee’s body was a map of abuse, from cigarette burns to the white scarring caused by what had to be fairly heavy duty whipping, some of it obviously recent, but some so old that the damage had to have been inflicted when he was still a boy. Mulder couldn’t help but feel sorry for the young man, which just made him even angrier that Franklin could brutalize someone who had been so obviously abused in the past.


“I’ll get you a change of pants.” Mulder returned to the bedroom, and took a deep, gasping gulp of air, shocked by what he had witnessed, both in terms of Lee’s behavior and his scars, and he resolved to treat the kid as best he could from now on, no matter how much Lee provoked him. Mulder grabbed some sweats from the dresser, and strode back to the bathroom. Lee gazed at him with a new respect in his eyes when the agent returned, although he couldn’t stop himself from shivering theatrically as he stood under the shower, just to milk the situation a little bit more.


“I take it that you were listening outside the door downstairs when Walter was talking to Franklin?” Mulder commented in a neutral tone.


Lee shrugged. “I needed to know what was going to happen to me,” he whispered, now thoroughly subdued after all the hysterics.


“Lee, Walter told you that he wouldn’t hand you back to Franklin. You should have trusted him.”


“Why?” Lee blinked, the water clinging to his long eyelashes, making him look impossibly young.


“Because he’s a man of his word           .”

Lee shrugged. “I’ve never met one of them. I don’t believe they really exist,” he replied.


Mulder took a deep intake of breath. From what he’d learned of Lee’s life he wasn’t sure he blamed him. “Well, we’re the only friends you have right now, Lee, so I suggest you at least try to trust us.” He turned the water off and handed the young man a towel.


“You don’t like me very much, do you?” Lee said, drying himself.


“I want to like you, Lee,” Mulder answered carefully. “But you don’t care whether I like you or not,” he pointed out, handing the kid the clean clothing.


“You’re scared I’ll take your Master away from you…and I will. You see, that’s the only way I’ll be safe. If I stay here, Franklin won’t dare touch me. I haven’t got anywhere else to go. I don’t mind if I’m second slave or whatever to you – we could do a threesome maybe? I bet Skinner would like to watch us go down on each other. We could put a show on for him. You and me…what do you say? You could suggest it to him.” Lee’s almond shaped brown eyes were alight with glee over his plan. Mulder shuddered at the very thought of it.


“Lee, it isn’t going to happen,” he said calmly. “I understand your fears but hiding behind Walter isn’t going to solve your problems.”


Lee’s face crumpled, angrily. “You can either work with me or I’ll work around you,” he snapped. “But either way, I’m staying.” And with that he stalked back to his bedroom. Mulder sighed, and ran a hand through his hair wearily. First Krycek showed up, then Franklin, and now this little complication reared its ugly head. He knew he should tell his Master but he was of the opinion that Skinner had more than enough on his plate to deal with right now, without discovering that Lee was planning on enlarging his harem for him.


Mulder shook himself out of his reverie and glanced at his watch. It was 8.45 – the House would be meeting in a few minutes. He ran down the stairs and found his Master in the kitchen, brewing coffee and laying out cups.

“Sorry – Lee was having a crisis,” Mulder said by way of explanation. “Walter – he’s shit scared. He overheard some of what you said to Franklin. I found him hiding in the closet – he was so freaked that you’d hand him back to Franklin that he peed his pants.”

“Oh shit.” Skinner placed his hands on his hips.


“It’s okay – I calmed him down and stuck him under the shower, but I don’t know whether he’s going to be able to talk to the House tonight. He’s freaked out enough as it is.”

“We’ll deal with that when we come to it. I won’t make him talk to them,” Skinner said, rubbing a tired hand over his eyes. Mulder felt infinitely sorry for his Master. He had always thought of the title Guardian of the House as being fairly honorary until now – just a source of status and kudos, but he was beginning to see that it brought a lot of responsibility with it – and his Master already had more than enough responsibility resting on his broad shoulders. Nobody was invulnerable – Skinner was only human, and he had to be feeling the strain. There were just too many demands on his time and energy – he did a difficult, high powered job, had a slave who Mulder would be the first to admit was high maintenance, and now this.

“How do you wish me to behave in the meeting, Master?” Mulder asked, standing behind his Master, and giving him a neck rub. His Master leaned back against him gratefully.


“Answer the door, show the Members into the living room – I’ve put some extra chairs in there. We can just about get everyone around the table. Ask our guests if they’d like coffee, and serve it. After that, you can kneel beside me. Fox…” Skinner turned and gazed at his slave. “Are you sure that you don’t want to accept Hammer’s offer to be a Member?”

“I’m sure.” Mulder nodded, biting his lip. “I’m not saying it wasn’t tempting – but it’s not for me, Walter. I don’t like belonging to things…uh, well, you know what I mean,” he grinned. “I mean, belonging to you is fine…but clubs, societies, associations…even the FBI…” He shrugged. “Well, I’m just not very good at it,” he sighed.


“All right. Then remember that you don’t have a voice in this meeting. You’re there in your capacity as my slave – you don’t speak unless spoken to other than to see to the comfort of our guests. Understood?”

“Yes, Master.” Mulder nodded. 

At that moment there was a buzz on the entry-phone, and Mulder pulled away to answer it. Skinner hauled him back, and planted a loving, possessive kiss on his slave’s lips.

“This will all be over soon,” he said as he released his slave. “Then we can relax. Have some fun.”


“Yeah. Soon.” Mulder gave a faded smile. He wasn’t so sure about that. There seemed to be too many balls in the air right now that required juggling. He was worried about how his Master would hold up under the strain…and he still hadn’t told Skinner about Krycek’s latest visit.


By ten past nine all the members of the House had gathered. Mulder showed them into the living room, brought them coffee, placed some cookies on the table, and then settled down at his Master’s feet with a contented sigh. There was a part of him that longed to be involved more directly in the proceedings but he was happy enough to just be at this meeting in his capacity as the Guardian’s slave. Ian wasn’t the only one who shot him a look of envy as he zoned out, with his chin on Skinner’s knee. Subs by far outnumbered tops in the House, just as they did in the scene, and Mulder’s position as the slave of the most important top in DC was a source of some envy. If this had been a professional meeting, involving the X Files, then Mulder knew that there was no way he could have stayed silent – and his Master wouldn’t have asked him to either. Mulder knew that Skinner held him and his opinions in the highest respect. Mulder wasn’t just Skinner’s slave – he was also the best agent he had, even though Assistant Director Skinner sometimes winced at the methods Special Agent Mulder employed to get to the truth. Here though, in their own apartment, and at this particular meeting, Skinner was Guardian of the House and Mulder was his slave – and he was happy enough to be just that.


Skinner opened the meeting by filling in the Members on what had happened to Lee. There was some murmuring around the table, and then Skinner outlined the substance of his conversation with Franklin earlier in the evening. The meeting erupted at that until Skinner brought them to order.


“I haven’t asked you here to just sit and chew over what happened – I need to know what action to take about Franklin,” he said firmly. “Does anyone here know anything about him? As Lee won’t testify, are there any other skeletons in his closet that we can use to force him out of the scene, or to frighten him enough to keep him in line so that he doesn’t hurt anyone else?”


“I’ve heard rumors…” A shy, slight, blond haired man piped up. “I don’t know if they’re true, but…”


“Fill us in, Ben.” Skinner nodded.


“Franklin says he came here on business, but I heard he got into trouble like this in another town, and when he was challenged…well, let’s just say that the guy who accused him turned up dead in a dumpster a few days later.”

“Was Franklin investigated by the police?” Skinner demanded.


“Yes – but he always has an alibi. Someone else said he knows trained killers. Assassins. He pays them to do his dirty work for him.” Mulder’s ears pricked up at that. He couldn’t hear the word ‘assassin’ without thinking of Alex Krycek – and that reminded him of Krycek’s visit earlier in the evening. How long before Krycek visited him again, as promised? A day? A week? And what would he do if Mulder refused to investigate the UFO this time, as he had the last time? Should he investigate it? Last time he had refused, Gibson had been taken. Who would be taken next? Scully? Skinner? He glanced up at his Master, his heart beating fast in his chest. He couldn’t bear to lose either of his two closest friends. Without Scully and Skinner he would be lost. Losing Samantha had been hard enough – he couldn’t go through that kind of pain again. This was the reason why he didn’t get involved with people, but somehow both Scully and Skinner had snuck in under his defenses when he wasn’t looking, and had colonized their own special niches in his heart – and now both Krycek and Franklin threatened that. His anger, never far below the surface, bubbled back up to the surface and he felt himself tensing under his Master’s casually caressing hand as the big man idly stroked his hair.


Mulder listened with a growing sense of dismay as all the House members had their say. It was all so much talk. People were happy enough to go on and on endlessly about what had happened, what the ramifications were, and how horrifying it all was, but they ignored Skinner’s repeated request that they discuss what action could, realistically, be taken. They preferred to wail and indulge their own sense of drama rather than find a solution. Mulder wondered how much it really mattered to any of them. Lee wasn’t popular, and what had happened to him was removed and abstract – they hadn’t had to see the immediate aftermath of it as Mulder had. Lee’s fear and his injuries weren’t even real to them – and neither were Franklin’s threats.


When the Members did discuss a course of action none of them could agree on anything. Mulder watched the meeting disintegrate, his anger levels rising by the second. Skinner was allowing them all to have their say, which he was sure to his Master’s credit, but it wasn’t getting them anywhere. Mulder noticed some subtle differences between the way his Master acted as Guardian and the way he behaved as AD of the FBI. As the latter he demanded a considerable amount from his trained, paid agents, and didn’t hesitate to come down hard on them if they didn’t give him the information he required, but he trod far more carefully as Guardian. Mulder wished that the AD would make an appearance, and bark out a few orders, but Skinner was being scrupulously diplomatic in his role as Guardian.


“Where is Lee? Can we talk to him? How do we even know his accusations are true?” One of the House Members asked.


“Lee is very scared right now. I’d rather not call him unless it’s absolutely necessary,” Skinner said.


“Well I think it is necessary,” someone else pressed.


“Oh, for god’s sake – the boy is scared enough as it is,” Ian replied. “Walter’s told us all we need to know.”

“Lee’s a notorious liar.”

“Someone stuffed a bottle up the kid’s ass – he’s not lying about that – there’s medical evidence to prove it. And Franklin’s his Master so I don’t think it’s very likely that anybody else did it,” Ian snapped.

“We have no real proof…” Another Member chimed in.

“Don’t we? This isn’t the first person Franklin’s played rough with.” That was Hammer. Everybody joined in at that point, and the room was filled with angry voices.


“Even if that’s the case, Lee might have consented to it. Everybody has their own sexual fantasy…”

“I think that’s a good point. We might be interfering in what is essentially a private matter between Master and slave. We’re not here to question anyone’s preferences after all.”

“I don’t see how you can say…”


“That’s not what I’m saying – what I’m saying is…”

“OH, FOR GOD’S SAKE!” Mulder exploded, his voice cutting through the cacophony of voices like a knife. He got to his feet, utterly unable to stay still for a moment longer. “Lee isn’t lying – and if you let Franklin get away with this then you might as well disband the House as being nothing more than a talking shop. Walter’s asked you for suggestions for action. He’s got a kid upstairs who is scared witless for his life, and he’s turning to you guys for help. If you’re not going to be any fucking use then get the hell out of here and let Walter handle it on his own – but don’t fucking carp that he didn’t consult you because he sure as hell tried.”


There was a long, horrified silence, and then Skinner turned to his slave, and said, in the softest tones.


“Fox, I want you to go upstairs to our bedroom, get out the black paddle from the top drawer of my dresser, undress, and then wait for me. I’ll be along when I’ve finished with the meeting and you know what you can expect.”


Mulder swallowed hard. He glanced around at the assembled people who were still gazing at him with shocked expressions, and then back at his Master. Skinner’s face was set in a grim, granite mask, and his eyes were deadly serious. Mulder was aware that he had just made everything worse for his Master, and that was something he truly regretted. He bowed his head at Skinner, muttered a hasty “Yes, Master,” and quickly exited the room. He caught Ian’s eye as he went, and his friend made a sympathetic little face at him, which cheered him slightly. At least Ian wasn’t mad at him – as his Master had every right to be.


Mulder walked slowly up the stairs to the bedroom, his heart thumping in his chest. He was still angry – but angry with himself this time. Skinner had offered him a voice – on more than one occasion – but he’d turned it down. His Master had allowed him to attend the meeting in his capacity of slave, but even that had been an indulgence on Skinner’s part – and one that Mulder had royally fucked up. Mulder sat numbly on the bed. He didn’t regret what he’d said – it had only been the truth, but he was aware that not only had he not had the right to say it but also he certainly hadn’t had the right to say it in the way he had. When he remembered the skilful way in which Skinner had been chairing the meeting, how diplomatic he had been, how he’d listened to everyone’s arguments, Mulder felt ashamed. He deserved this punishment – and he had a feeling it was going to be a hard one.


With his stomach churning, he went over to the dresser and opened it. Skinner had chosen this particular paddle deliberately – and Mulder knew why. It wasn’t one his Master used very often; he kept it in the drawer for those occasions when Mulder was doing corner time in the bedroom. If he fidgeted, Skinner would give him one swat with the black paddle and that would be enough to remind his slave to stand still in position. His Master had never actually delivered a whole spanking with the paddle – just one swat here or there – and those swats stung so much that Mulder had always been heartily grateful that his Master didn’t use this particular implement to deliver more than one swat at a time. Mulder sat on the bed, and examined the paddle. It was made of wood, covered in rubber, and there were holes drilled in the surface to allow it to travel through the air more swiftly and thereby pack more of a punch. Mulder felt his stomach do a little somersault. This wouldn’t be a cozy little erotic spanking – it was going to hurt – but what hurt most was knowing that he had disappointed his Master and made his job as Guardian more difficult. Mulder was fairly sure that Skinner was busy smoothing over the results of his slave’s outburst, being his usual urbane, diplomatic self. Mulder had seen Skinner in full diplomacy mode at the office often enough to know how good his Master was at it – and he had been the subject of enough dressing downs when they were alone together afterwards to know, also, how much Skinner hated being put in the position of apologizing to people he loathed. No matter how good he was at doing it, it always took its toll.


Mulder stared at the paddle for a long time, coming to terms both with his actions and the impending punishment. Finally he got undressed, and waited for his Master to come and give him what he deserved. He heard sounds downstairs, and voices by the door, and then there was silence. Several minutes passed and then more voices, and the sound of the door being opened and shutting again. Then, a few seconds later, he heard footsteps on the stairs. He got up, and knelt by his Master’s side of the bed, waiting for him in the submissive position, shoulders back, eyes down. He heard Skinner come into the room, followed by the sound of a deep heartfelt sigh. Mulder steeled himself, offering the paddle in front of his body with his outstretched hands. A few seconds later he heard his Master cross the room towards him, and he closed his eyes, his stomach churning at the thought of what was to come. Skinner’s thighs came into Mulder’s field of vision as his Master sat down on the bed, and then he felt a gentle hand on his hair.

“Fox,” Skinner said softly.


Mulder looked up, a little surprised by his Master’s tone. “I’m sorry, Master,” he said swiftly. “I’m so fucking sorry. I screwed everything up for you down there. It isn’t as if you didn’t give me a chance to contribute but I turned it down so I had no right to lose it like that down there.”

“Fox, come here.” Skinner held out his arms, and Mulder stared at him, blankly. “Now,” Skinner said quietly.


Mulder got up and walked into his Master’s arms. He stood between Skinner’s open thighs, and Skinner wrapped his arms around his slave’s body and hugged him close. Mulder looked down on his Master’s large, bunched shoulders in surprise, and then returned the hug. He held Skinner tight, and kissed his Master’s head. Finally, Skinner released him, and patted the bed. “Sit beside me,” he ordered.


Mulder did as he was told, handing Skinner the paddle as he sat. “You’ve forgotten this,” he said.


“No. I haven’t.” Skinner brushed the paddle away, took his slave’s face between his hands instead, and kissed him soundly on the lips. “You only said exactly what I was thinking. I can’t punish you for that,” he said when he drew back.


“But I didn’t have the right to say it,” Mulder pointed out.


“Ah well.” Skinner shrugged.


“And I made things worse for you – that’s something I’m truly sorry for, Walter. It was a difficult enough situation in there for you as it was.”


“It doesn’t matter.” Skinner shrugged again.


“Yes it does. I didn’t have the right to…”

“Fox – you were protecting me, and you were saying what you thought. I respect you for that.” Skinner put a hand on his slave’s neck and squeezed gently.


“Shit. Did you have to do a lot of fast talking when I’d gone to smooth it all over?” Mulder asked, leaning his face wretchedly against his Master’s shoulder.


“As a matter of fact – no. I told them that while you had no right to say what you did, I agreed with every word. Then I went around the table and gave each of them 2 minutes to give me a suggested course of action, rather than to just endlessly rehash all the same old arguments. At the end of it I asked them to vote on the various suggestions – including one that I deal with the matter in whatever way I see fit – and that they give me their full support and trust to do so.”


“That’s the one they all voted for, isn’t it?” Mulder glanced up at his Master.


Skinner smiled down on him, wearily. “How did you guess?”

“So now you’re landed with the difficult decision.”

“I always was.” Skinner shrugged. “But at least I have the comfort of knowing that they support me 100% in whatever action I decide to take.”

“Without knowing what it is? Either they must really trust you or they just wanted to pass the buck.”


Skinner chuckled. “Well, I was being rather stern down there after you left – and as most of them are subs…well, I guess that was a little underhand of me.”

“Hmm, that’s not playing very fair, Walter.” Mulder dug his finger into his Master’s ribs. “I know how impressive you can be in stern mode. No wonder they trust you to figure this whole mess out.”

“They mean well. They’re all good people. It’s just hard getting a whole bunch of folks to agree on one course of action – especially in a situation as difficult as this one. At the end of the day I guess I always knew I was on my own with it.”

“Not exactly on your own,” Mulder said softly.


Skinner put his arm around Mulder’s shoulder and pulled him close. “No – in fact, not remotely on my own. Ian and Hammer and a couple of the others stayed back to talk more calmly after the rest had gone – but it’s your opinion I value most. You’re the smartest guy I know, after all.” He smiled at his slave again and Mulder gave a little snort.


“Flattery will get you everywhere – but you already know what I think. If you let Franklin get away with this then the House, the whole being Guardian gig, and everything Andrew left you – then it’s all just worthless posturing.”

“And yet, as one of the most senior agents in the biggest law enforcement agency in the world, I’m the last person who could sanction taking the law into my own hands just because it’s expedient,” Skinner sighed.

“Nobody said being the one in charge was easy.” Mulder kissed his Master on the lips, a slow, deep kiss, and then sat back on the bed. “But we’ll figure out something together. Right now you need some sleep though. With all due respect, Master, you look like shit.” Skinner had dark shadows under his eyes that told of the strain of the past week or so.


“Thank you, boy. You’re looking a little weary yourself.”


“I’m not carrying the weight of responsibility that you are. You need some rest – but first.” Mulder handed his Master the paddle. “You have a punishment to mete out, Master.”


“I don’t want to do this, Fox,” Skinner frowned, staring at the paddle.


“I know, but you have to.” Mulder gave a wry smile. “I was in the wrong down there and you know it. You’ve spanked me for a lot less before. I do know I deserve it, and, frankly, I’d like the closure if I’m not going to be beating myself up about it for the rest of my life.”

Skinner stared at his slave for a long moment and then let out a heartfelt sigh. “All right. I, of all people, can understand that. Six is all you’re getting though, Fox. They’ll hurt enough with this as it is, so don’t think I’m being lenient on you.”

“No, Master.” Mulder arranged himself over his Master’s knees and closed his eyes, waiting for the first swat. He felt Skinner rest the paddle on his buttocks for a moment then there was a loud swishing noise, followed by an explosion of stinging pain in his backside. He gave a strangled yelp.


“That’s one.” Skinner soothed his back gently for a moment. “Take your time to get your breath back. This paddle hurts like hell.”

“Tell me about it,” Mulder croaked.


Skinner chuckled and tousled his slave’s hair. “All right, little one, prepare yourself,” Skinner ordered. Mulder moved his right arm and gripped onto his Master’s leg with his hand. A second later there was a little draft of air on his already burning bottom, a loud crack as the paddle made impact with his ass, and then a fierce wave of pain kicked in. Mulder couldn’t help yelling out loud. Again Skinner waited until the after-shock had subsided. He stroked Mulder’s burning butt with tender fingers.


“You’re doing well, Fox. I’m proud of you. I always am. When you threw yourself at Franklin today and I had to haul you back – you were just doing what I wanted to do, and when you said what you did in the meeting I agreed with every word.”


“I’m sorry I can’t control my temper more,” Mulder whispered, turning, and burying his face in his Master’s side.


“Ah, but then how would I look calm and reasonable by comparison, hmm?”


Mulder was in mid-chuckle over that joke when another swat took him by surprise.


“FUCK!” He roared. “That wasn’t funny, Master.”

“It wasn’t supposed to be. I believe this is a punishment, Fox,” Skinner replied, tousling his slave’s hair fondly.


“Don’t remind me. I’m already regretting being all noble and insisting on it,” Mulder groused. “Next time I do that, just ignore me.”

“You know you’ll feel better for the punishment.” Skinner brought the fourth stroke down sharply on his slave’s backside and Mulder almost flipped off his Master’s knee. Skinner hadn’t been kidding about it hurting like hell – when applied seriously like this, rather than as just a casually aimed swat when he was standing in the corner, this particular paddle was vicious.


“Oh shit…oh shit.” Mulder clung weakly to his Master’s leg while Skinner rearranged him back over his knee. “Couldn’t we call it a day at four, Master?” He asked.


Skinner gave a wry smile, and stroked his slave’s sweaty hair. “No, we couldn’t. I said six – and you and I both know that you’ll fret more if I don’t give you the full amount than if I do. Besides – you’re right. You do deserve them.” He ignored Mulder’s look of abject misery, and raised his hand again. “All right, slave, let’s get this over with. Two more – one after the other, quickly, to finish it.”


It didn’t matter that Mulder immediately protested that he couldn’t take two in swift succession – Skinner banged then down, hard and fast, one on top of the other, and then it was over…and Mulder was left a panting, gasping, sweat-sodden heap on his Master’s lap.


“Fuck,” he whispered pathetically.


Skinner laughed. He gathered his slave up in his arms, and held him tight against his chest, and then he kissed Mulder noisily and extravagantly over and over again on his face.

“Yeuch…I’m not Wanda!” Mulder protested.


“Aw, but you’re just as cute and kissable.” Skinner spent the next few minutes bestowing dozens of kisses on his slave’s face, covering every inch from his forehead to his chin, including his eyelids. Mulder felt too weak to struggle – and anyway he was enjoying it, ridiculous though it was. Finally Skinner pushed him back over his knee.


“Oh god. No more please! You said six!” Mulder pointed out.


“Relax.” His Master slapped him on his bottom – not too hard but he was so sore he yelped anyway. “I’m going to cool you down a bit.” Mulder heard his Master open his nightstand drawer, and, a second later something freezing landed on his ass.


“Shiiiiit,” Mulder commented succinctly.


“It’s lotion. Your ass will feel better in a moment. Hold still, I want to enjoy fondling my boy’s glowing red bottom. Mmmmm!”


Mulder relaxed and enjoyed the sensation of his Master rubbing the cool lotion into his warm buttocks. Skinner stroked him for a long time, and then he opened Mulder’s legs a little way and inserted a finger inside him. Mulder moaned and opened his legs even further. Another finger opened him up some more and then the endorphins kicked in, and he felt as if he were floating. He knew there was something he was supposed to tell his Master but he wasn’t sure what it was. Something about Franklin? No, something else had happened…earlier in the day…Krycek…that was it…Krycek…but he was enjoying being finger fucked too much to spoil the moment. All thought of Krycek was banished in the next instant as his Master pulled him up so that he was kneeling with his legs on either side of his Master’s thighs, his body facing Skinner’s. His Master undid his own pants, and positioned Mulder over his large, erect cock. He held Mulder’s cooling buttocks open, and guided his slave down easily onto his penis. Mulder reveled in the feel of that hard cock, buried up to the root in his ass. They paused, and kissed for a long time, tongues clashing and devouring, Skinner’s cock pulsing deep inside his slave’s body, Mulder’s arms wrapped around his Master as he rode him. This was a good position for post-spanking anal sex, as Mulder’s ass didn’t have to touch any surface. He could just move up and down on his Master’s large cock, with Skinner stroking his slave’s erection in time to the rhythm, sucking on his slave’s nipples as he did so, until they both came.  


Afterwards Mulder sagged against his Master’s chest. It was the first time Skinner had entered him since the mock-rape, and it felt so good.

“D’you think we could roll over and just go straight to sleep?” Mulder murmured wearily.


“Mmmm. Sounds good…but I’m still dressed,” Skinner muttered in reply.


“We don’t have to move do we? We could just stay like this all night, couldn’t we?” Mulder said, wrapping his arms even more tightly around his Master’s shoulders.


“Sure,” Skinner replied drowsily.


They stayed there for a long time, just enjoying the moment, Skinner’s hands lightly cupping his slave’s sore bottom, his soft cock still lodged within his slave’s body, their faces resting against each other. Mulder would happily have stayed there forever but they were interrupted by a knock at the door.


“Oh shit. Lee,” Skinner muttered. “Hold on, Lee,” he called, disengaging himself from Mulder, and tucking his cock back into his pants. Mulder rolled onto the bed with a groan, and then rolled over again – quickly – with a hiss, as his sore ass made contact with the mattress. He watched as Skinner opened the door, and Lee sidled in. He was wearing one of Skinner’s tee shirts and a pair of Mulder’s boxer shorts, and both were far too big for him. He looked all washed and clean, like a little kid at bedtime.


“Sorry…I just…” Lee hopped from one foot to the other, his eyes wide and pathetic.


“What is it, Lee?” Skinner asked patiently.


“I can’t sleep. I’m scared to be on my own,” Lee whispered.

“We’re just across the hallway.”


“I know. But please…can’t I sleep in here? I’ll be very quiet. You won’t even know I’m here.”


Skinner sighed, and glanced at Mulder who shrugged. Skinner turned back to Lee.


“All right, Lee. You can sleep in here – but on the floor, and just for tonight. We’ll talk about this in the morning. Go and get your pillow and blanket and bring them in here.”


Lee’s face broke into a wide smile and he ran to do as he had been bidden. Skinner looked at Mulder.


“Not a word,” he said.

“I wasn’t going to say anything!” Mulder protested. Skinner raised an eyebrow at him, and started walking towards their en suite bathroom. “Big softie,” Mulder said sotto voice at his Master’s departing back.


“I heard that!” Skinner growled.

“So spank me,” Mulder riposted with a grin.


Lee returned to the bedroom with his pillow and blanket, which he arranged on the floor on Skinner’s side of the bed.


“Uh huh.” Mulder gestured to the foot of the bed. Lee glared at him for a moment, and then moved his bedding as ordered.

“I see someone’s been in trouble,” he said snidely, glancing at Mulder’s red ass. “Maybe your Master would prefer a slave who’d give him fewer problems,” he commented, in a meaningful tone.


“What – you mean like you?” Mulder grinned. “Forgive me for not feeling remotely threatened by that remark.”


Lee flushed, and muttered something angrily under his breath, but then Skinner came back into the room, and the kid’s expression changed to one of sweetness and light. Mulder rolled his eyes, and slid under the bedcovers. His Master joined him a second later, and switched off the light.


“Don’t snore, Lee,” Mulder called. Skinner poked him in the ribs. “My Master needs all the beauty sleep he can get,” Mulder added.


Skinner gave a low growl and placed the flat of his hand over his slave’s still burning buttocks. “Anything you’d like to add to that comment?” Skinner asked quietly.


“Uh. No.” Mulder grinned. He grabbed his Master’s free hand and pulled it over to rest on his own stomach. He was just about to fall asleep when he came to with a start. Krycek. Oh shit. He still hadn’t told Skinner about Krycek but he wasn’t about to do it with Lee lying on the floor so it would just have to wait until the morning…


Mulder woke early the next day to find that his ass was hanging out over the side of the bed. He felt cramped – as if he was about to fall, and on opening his eyes and looking around he figured out why. At some point during the night Lee must have crept into the bed, because the kid’s lithe, slender body was curled up beside Skinner, and his Master, unwittingly, or perhaps by Lee’s design, had one big arm slung protectively over the youth. Mulder stared at them for a moment, fighting down a wave of jealousy. He was pretty sure that Skinner didn’t even know Lee was in the bed with them – his Master was a notoriously heavy sleeper and even Mulder hadn’t woken when Lee had crawled in beside them. Even so, the sight of his Master cozied up so intimately with another man upset him. The truth was that they’d never talked about whether their relationship was exclusive or not. Skinner had made it clear that Mulder wasn’t to have another lover – but the terms of their contract didn’t exclude Skinner from taking another slave. Skinner had told him often enough that Mulder was more than enough for him to handle, but that didn’t mean that his Master couldn’t choose to have a casual fuck with anyone else he wanted – and Lee was eminently available right now. He was also at least 10 years younger than Mulder and exquisitely beautiful. Mulder gazed at the sleeping men for a while, and then, with a sigh, slid out from the bed. He didn’t want to wake his Master by dislodging Lee – Skinner had been looking so tired the previous night and he needed his sleep – but all the same, he couldn’t stay in the same bed knowing Lee was there too. Mulder grabbed some clothes and his sneakers, and took them along to the bathroom in order to get dressed. He wasn’t sure what to do next – and he didn’t have time to think about it because there was a letter waiting for him downstairs – one that had been pushed under the door during the night. Mulder opened it, frowning.


This time you don’t have to go as far as Oregon. There’s a UFO hovering near Richmond. You can drive there. Head out for Charlottesville, and keep to the back roads – you should find what you’re looking for. Don’t fuck this one up, Mulder. You’re about to make the biggest discovery of your life.


Charlottesville. It wouldn’t take him more than a couple of hours to drive there…He thought of his Master, with the new slave on the block wrapped up in his big arms, sleeping like a baby upstairs. He could leave a note. Skinner didn’t even need to know until he got back…always presuming he did get back. Mulder pulled on his sneakers, and watched as Wanda idly played with the laces as he tried to tie them. She batted them with her paws, and then got hold of one in her teeth and pulled vigorously. He wrested it away from her, in no mood to play, then got up, grabbed a pen and a piece of paper, and wrote a note.


Gone for a run. Be back later. Fox.”


He crumpled Krycek’s note in his fist and threw it in the trash. He’d made this decision once. He didn’t need to make it again.


It felt good to be out jogging. He loved the feel of the wind in his hair. It was turning cold, the first chill of Winter just starting to set in, and Mulder relished the way it stung in his lungs, making him feel very alive. His footsteps took him, as they so often did when he went jogging, to the waterfront at Alexandria. He came here partly because it was so beautiful, and partly because it was where he had once lived, before his slavery, and he had an affection for the place. He ran beside the river for a while, watching the sunlight glint on the water, but his mind was elsewhere: in Charlottesville to be precise. It would be so easy to go there but he was intrigued as to why he wasn’t even vaguely tempted this time. The last time Krycek had contacted him with this information had been some kind of turning point. He wouldn’t be going to Charlottesville. He had enough to deal with right here in Washington. His priorities had, at some point, subtly shifted. He still wanted to know what had happened to his sister, but he was no longer prepared to risk his own life rashly and needlessly in order to find out. His life had become worth much more to him than it once had. He had a reason for living now. Having mulled over that for a while, and come to terms with these new emotions, Mulder headed back to Crystal City. He was halfway there when his cell phone rang. He slowed to a walk so he could answer the call.


“You got my note.” Krycek.


“Yes, I did.”


“And can I take it that as you’re out jogging you’ve decided not to go to Charlottesville?” Krycek asked.


“How did you kn…oh forget it,” Mulder sighed. He should have known that Krycek would be watching him. “No, Krycek. I told you last time, I’m not playing your game anymore. I won’t be going after any UFOs, or any sightings of my sister, or any top secret documents or tapes that I have to break into high security air force bases to steal so that you can then arrange to have them stolen from me.”


“Pity. It’s always been so much fun throwing you a bone and watching you fetch it.” Krycek sounded as if he was enjoying this. “It’s unfortunate, because I was hoping we could do this the old fashioned way. Still, there are other ways of making a dog wag its tail.”

“What do you mean?” Mulder slowed to a halt, his heart pounding painfully in his chest.


“I mean that I was given orders to get you to Charlottesville one way or another – so that’s exactly what I’m doing. There’s somebody here who’d like to talk to you…oh, no, wait – I had to gag him because he was swearing and cussing at me, and calling me every name under the sun. It was so hurtful. Here’s someone else instead.” Mulder pressed his hand into the stitch that had suddenly developed in his side.


“F..Fox?” A hesitant voice came on the line.



“What’s going on? Who is this guy? He…”

“That’s enough.” Krycek’s voice came back on the line. “Get your ass to Charlottesville, Mulder, and I’ll let Big Daddy and his new slave boy go, but if you don’t…”

Mulder didn’t stay still for long enough to hear the rest. He had already started running the remaining distance back to Crystal City at top speed.


Mulder wasn’t sure what he was thinking but he knew he had to get back to the apartment. He considered calling Scully as he ran – he also thought about calling the FBI for back up agents, but he decided against it. He couldn’t afford for anyone to get trigger-happy – not with his Master’s life at stake. He covered the distance back to Crystal City faster than he had ever made it before, ran up the stairs because he couldn’t wait for the elevator, and then crashed through the front door.


“Walter!” He yelled. He glanced into the living room, but it was empty. “Master!” He bounded up the stairs, and into the bedroom…and then came sliding to a halt, raising his hands in the air as he did so. “Master?”

Skinner was lying on the bed on his side. There was a bruise and raised lump on his forehead, and a large ball gag in his mouth that had been fastened so tightly it had split his lip open, causing a trail of blood to run down his chin. He looked dazed. His wrists were handcuffed together in front of him, and attached to the headboard of the bed with a length of chain. Lee was sobbing in the corner of the room, his hands and legs tied together – and Krycek was standing beside the bed, his gun pointed loosely at Skinner’s groin.


“I would have pointed it at his head – but I thought you’d be more worried about him losing this portion of his anatomy,” Krycek grinned. “So much more important than his brain, don’t you think? To you at least.”


“Let them go.” Mulder took a step forward and Krycek removed the safety catch with a loud click.

“I wouldn’t, Mulder. Not unless you want to be slave to a eunuch. As for letting them go – I will – just as soon as you’re safely in Charlottesville. All you have to do is drive there. My sources will tell me when you arrive and I’ll let your Master and his new fuck-toy go. That’s all there is to it.”


“I’m surprised you didn’t just abduct me and take me there yourself,” Mulder growled.


“I considered it.” Krycek inclined his head. “But this way is better. You can take a horse to water after all, but you can’t make him drink. This way you’ll drink. Or at least you will if you want to see your Master alive again.”

Mulder glanced at Skinner. His Master’s face was pale, and he was looking at Mulder mutely, his brown eyes communicating some kind of message but it wasn’t one that Mulder could decipher. Mulder couldn’t stand to see his Master looking like this – bound and hurt. It was a travesty of what was between them, and the way they led their lives. As he watched, Skinner shook his head slowly, almost imperceptibly. He didn’t want Mulder to go to Charlottesville – but what else could he do?


“What’s so important about Charlottesville?” Mulder asked in despair. “Why do you want me to investigate these UFO’s so badly Krycek?”

“Oh, it isn’t me.” Krycek gave a taut, faded smile. “It’s someone else. They want to meet you, take you for a little spin in their ship, Mulder.”

“Their ship?” Mulder frowned. “Are we talking about an alien abduction scenario here, Krycek?”


“That’s what you’ll find out in Charlottesville. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.” Krycek waved his gun negligently in the air and Mulder flinched. “You know, I was so surprised when I came up here after you went jogging,” Krycek murmured silkily. “I was expecting to find Big Daddy here, all alone, missing his slave, and instead I found he hadn’t wasted any time in filling the gap in his bed. I’m surprised – somehow, knowing you as I do, Mulder, I wouldn’t have thought you’d take kindly to having to share your Master’s attention with someone else. You always need so much attention for yourself, after all.”


“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Krycek.”


“You’re right. I don’t know. There must be a lot of things I don’t know, Mulder – such as why you’d pass up the biggest opportunity in your life – the chance to witness the proof of extra terrestrial life at first hand – on the order of a man who has already replaced you with a younger, prettier slaveboy.”


Mulder glanced at Lee, whose eyes were wide with fright. Out of the frying pan, into the fire, kid, Mulder thought grimly to himself. Lee had escaped Franklin’s clutches just to end up in the hands of someone equally, if not more, dangerous.  


He looked back at his Master. Skinner’s eyes were dark with pain. He shook his head again, to deny Krycek’s words – but Mulder didn’t need his denial.


“They were both fast asleep, lying in each other’s arms. It was adorable – or should that be sick and perverted? I don’t know.” Krycek gave a theatrical shrug. “Anyway, it was an easy matter to knock the big bad Master unconscious. He didn’t even know what was happening. The kid just screamed his head off so I guess he’s even more of a faggot than you are. One of the good things about this place is that I didn’t even have to bring my own equipment to tie up my hostages with.” Krycek smirked. “There were already some convenient lengths of chain attached to the headboard, and handcuffs everywhere. If only all my jobs were this simple.” He grinned at the prone Skinner and then turned his attention back to Mulder again. “Are you still here, Mulder? You should be in Charlottesville. Run along, there’s a good pup. You can have your Master and this screaming little idiot back when you’ve done as you’re told.”

Mulder wasn’t listening. He hadn’t taken his eyes off his Master throughout Krycek’s speech. Skinner could move his hands – not very far, as they were fastened to the bed, but he could move them a little within the confines of his bonds. His Master, very slowly, made his right hand flat, and then gestured it towards the floor. It was a subtle gesture, but it was one Mulder was very familiar with. It was the non-verbal signal that his slave should lie flat on the floor. Mulder had been trained to obey those signals instinctively, on sight, and he found himself sinking down without even thinking about it. Comprehension kicked in as got halfway down and he wondered what Skinner had planned next and what he expected his slave to do in order to make sure it worked. Time slowed down and he watched in slow motion, his knees hitting the floor, as Skinner suddenly moved his bound legs off the bed, and delivered a powerful kick to the back of Krycek’s knees. Krycek, distracted, by Mulder’s sudden lunge towards the carpet, didn’t notice the kick until it was too late. He staggered, and Mulder, completing his downward dive, was able to pull their already off-balance attacker onto the carpet beside him. Krycek still had the gun, but Mulder had something more important – a fierce instinct to protect his Master, whatever the cost, even with his own life if need be. He saw Krycek swing the gun up – not at him, but at Skinner – and then heard a roar of sheer rage that reverberated in his ears. He wasn’t even aware that the sound came from his own throat. All he could see was that gun, pointed at his Master’s head, and Krycek’s finger tightening on the trigger. Krycek glanced at Mulder, gave an evil grin, then took aim.


“Say goodbye to Daddy, Mulder,” he hissed.


Mulder gave a hoarse cry, and threw himself bodily at Krycek, in an attempt to dislodge the assassin’s aim. The gun went off with a loud bang. From somewhere in the corner, Mulder heard a frightened scream, but he took no notice because a wave of sheer despair was sweeping through him, together with the dull certainty of one thing: Krycek had killed his Master. His old enemy had robbed him of the one thing he loved with his entire being, and now his rage, compounded by an agony so strong it cut into his gut like a knife, knew no bounds. He leapt on Krycek, and brought his fist down on the other man’s face. One punch, delivered with all the anguish and passion in Mulder’s heart, knocked Krycek out cold. Mulder wrested the gun from his enemy’s nerveless fingers, and then turned, his heart in his mouth, to see whether his Master was still alive. 


Skinner’s eyes were wide open – and he was breathing. Mulder ran to him, and removed the gag from his Master’s mouth. It was tied far too tight, and Mulder had to pull the straps even tighter before he could undo them. He fumbled for a moment, before managing to pull the gag free.


“Are you okay? Did it hit you?” He demanded.


Skinner shook his head. “Over my shoulder…” He gestured at a hole in the wall behind him. The bullet had missed his Master by a matter of inches. Mulder took a deep breath, and sat down on the side of the bed as his legs almost gave way beneath him.


“Thank god. I thought he’d killed you. I thought…”

“Stop thinking and get me untied before he wakes up,” Skinner commanded. “The keys to the cuffs are in Krycek’s pocket.” 

Mulder nodded, fighting off a sudden desire to laugh hysterically. He found the keys, and undid his Master. Skinner’s wrists and ankles were chafed – Krycek had clearly been as gentle with the cuffs as he had been with the gag. Skinner used the discarded handcuffs to restrain Krycek, while Mulder untied Lee. Then Skinner pulled on some sweats and went to check on the young man who had unwittingly been caught up in a drama that had nothing to do with him.


“Are you okay, Lee?” He asked softly, crouching in front of the kid.


“I dunno. Who the fuck is that?” Lee asked, still clearly terrified.

“He’s an old enemy.” Mulder stood up, and glanced down at their still unconscious nemesis. “Walter, I’m sorry. I was meaning to tell you but there was never a right time. Krycek contacted me yesterday evening. He said there was another UFO he wanted me to investigate. When I woke up this morning, there was a note from him. I threw it in the trash and went out jogging. I didn’t think he’d do anything like this. I was going to tell you about it when I got back but I wanted to let you sleep. I know how shitty last night was for you. Both of you.” He glanced at Lee, and shrugged.


“We’ll talk about this later.” Skinner glanced meaningfully at his slave and Mulder nodded. “Are you both okay?”

“I’m fine.” Mulder placed his hands on his Master’s face and moved it so that he could examine the lump on Skinner’s forehead. “You might have a concussion though.”


“No. I’m okay.” Skinner brushed his slave’s concern aside. “Lee – we’ll discuss what you were doing in the bed another time. For now, get washed and dressed and wait in your bedroom.” Lee nodded, ashen faced, and scurried towards the door. “Lee,” Skinner stopped him. “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. You’re safe now. It’s over. Understood?” 

Lee glanced at Krycek, and then back at Skinner, his face pale. He couldn’t bring himself to nod and just stumbled from the room. Skinner sighed.

“What do we do with him?” Mulder looked at Krycek, and then at his Master. Skinner was only wearing sweat pants, and his bare chest was rising and falling heavily as he stood over their enemy.


“I’m not sure,” Skinner mused. His hand tightened on the gun – a gesture that didn’t go un-noticed by Mulder.


“When I saw him last night, he said that you were one of the good guys so you wouldn’t follow up on the threats you made to him,” Mulder said softly, never taking his eyes off his Master’s gun. “He said his friends would never allow him to stay in jail, so he’ll never face justice that way. Basically, he thinks our hands are tied – that we can’t do a fucking thing to stop him showing up in our lives whenever he wants.”

“It sure as hell looks that way.” Skinner crouched down in front of their enemy, and stared at him intently.


“Is that it? You mean we just let him go? Or maybe you punch him around a bit first to make us feel better and then we let him go?” Mulder said.


Skinner looked up at his slave. “No. I’ve tried that a couple of times before and it didn’t work. I can’t let him get away with this. I warned him – if I don’t follow through on my warnings then we’re at his mercy forever.”


“Maybe we are,” Mulder said savagely. “Maybe there’s not one damn thing we can do about it, Walter.”


Skinner’s face was a cold mask as he stood up. “No,” he said again, in a tone that sent a chill down Mulder’s spine. He reached out, and put a hand on Mulder’s shoulder, his fingers digging in painfully. He pulled Mulder close, and examined him with his hands, covering his slave’s face, neck and body possessively. When he’d finished he wrapped his arms around his slave with a sigh, and buried his face in Mulder’s hair, inhaling the scent deeply. “Thank god you’re all right,” he whispered. “I thought I’d lost you. I thought you might go to Charlottesville in order to save me and never come back – and then, when you were struggling with him on the floor and the gun went off – I thought he’d killed you. Oh Christ. I thought he’d killed you.”


He squeezed Mulder so tight that the slave wasn’t sure he could breathe – and he wasn’t sure he cared either. He was just so glad that his Master was alive and well enough to hold him. “That’s why I can’t let this go,” Skinner whispered to him, his voice as cold as ice. “He came in here, knocked me out, tied me up, and held a gun on me. He used me to get to you, just as he once used you to get to me. He’s violated our home on more than one occasion. He’s shot at me with every intention of killing. He’s more or less stalked you. He’s been warned – more than once. No. I can’t just let him go. It ends here, and it ends now.”

“With the gun?” Mulder placed his hand over his Master’s gun hand. “I don’t believe you could shoot a man in cold blood, Walter. Not even him. Could you?” He looked his Master in the eye for a long time. Skinner’s eyes were so dark and angry that they made him shiver.


“I’ve killed men before,” Skinner told him. “Plenty of times.”


“In the heat of battle, and in the field – never execution style,” Mulder pointed out.


“I could do it,” Skinner told him in a low, hoarse tone. “I’ve done it before.”


“I know – but what would it do to you?” Mulder asked, remembering the story his Master had once told him about the 10 year old boy strapped down with grenades who had walked into Skinner’s camp in Vietnam, and who his Master had shot and killed. He knew that was a memory that still sometimes woke his Master screaming at night, even if Skinner rarely spoke about it. “There must be something else we can do to get him out of our lives. There has to be another option.”

Skinner’s jaw did a savage sideways clench. “I have an idea,” he said softly, turning back to Krycek. He gazed down at the unconscious man. “Although I think he might prefer death to what I have in mind. He’s kind of pretty wouldn’t you say?” He said unexpectedly.


“What?” Mulder glanced at his Master in surprise. “You’re going to add him to your harem as well as Lee?” He asked.


“Don’t be stupid,” Skinner snapped. “I’d sooner take a real snake to my bed than this viper in human form.” He kicked Krycek with his foot, none too gently, and the prone man made a little groaning sound in the back of his throat.


“Then what?” Mulder asked.


Skinner put the safety catch back on the gun, and then tucked it into his sweatpants. “Let’s just say that I think I have a way of killing two birds with one stone,” he muttered grimly. “Tie him to the bed – you can be as gentle with him as he was with me. Then come downstairs.” He turned on his heel and, with one last, bitterly assessing look at Krycek, left the room.


Mulder did as ordered and then followed his Master downstairs. Skinner was pouring himself a large glass of whisky – but he didn’t drink it. Instead he stared at for a moment, before pouring it back into the bottle with a sigh.


“I need to be stone cold sober for this,” he muttered, pouring himself a glass of water instead. He downed it in one gulp.


“For what?” Mulder put his hands on his Master’s shoulders and looked him in the eye. “What are you planning on doing, Walter? Whatever it is, I’ll be here with you. Just tell me what you want to do.”

“No.” Skinner looked his slave in the eye, and shook his head. “This is my decision. I won’t involve you in it. I’m not telling you, not because I don’t trust you, but because I won’t make you complicit in what I do. I’ll bear the burden of this alone.”


“You don’t need to,” Mulder said softly. “Whatever you decide to do I’ll back you up.”


“Not on this. I don’t want your back up. I don’t want you to feel implicated, Fox.”


“Christ, now you’re scaring me, Walter. What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to make a call. Sit down, and don’t talk.” Skinner guided him to the couch and sat him on it. “I mean it,” he told his slave fiercely. “Stay out of this, Fox…all I ask is that you’re here to pick up the pieces when I’m done.”
Mulder gazed at his Master in surprise. He had never heard Skinner talk like this before.

“You can count on it, Master,” he stated.


“Thank you,” Skinner said quietly. He picked up the phone, and then retrieved a card from the pile of papers related to House business that were still spread out on the table. He called a number, and then waited. “It’s Skinner,” he said. “I have a proposition for you. Be here in half an hour.” And then he put the phone down. Mulder gazed at him steadily.

“I’m sure I should be one step ahead here, but I’m not. What are you planning on doing, Master?”

“A trade – and not a nice one. Stay here. I’m going to get properly dressed and then I’m going to tell Lee to stay in his room. When our guest arrives, you’re to remain silent, Fox. Whatever I say, and whatever I do, I don’t want you to be involved. You can be present, or you can go out. What do you want?”

“I’ll stay. Whatever it is you’re going to do, I’m going to be right beside you, complicit or not,” Mulder said firmly.


“Thank you,” his Master said again, in that same firm tone he’d used earlier. He disappeared up the stairs, leaving Mulder to puzzle what the hell was going on. Skinner reappeared twenty minutes later. He had clearly taken a shower as the fringe of hair on the back of his head was damp, and the blood on his chin had been washed away. He was wearing a black sweater and black chinos – and a black cloud that seemed to hang over him like a visible shadow. He would have looked totally hot if it hadn’t been for an air of deadly danger that was so serious it went far beyond the erotic. Mulder had never seen his Master more grim-faced and utterly intent before. A few minutes later there was a buzz on the entry-phone.


“Stay here and don’t say a word throughout,” Skinner told his slave. “Can you do that?”

“Yes. I promise,” Mulder replied.


“Good.” Skinner grabbed his slave’s face and bestowed a kiss on his lips. His Master’s hands were cold and hard, and Mulder had an intuition that Skinner was about to do something that would have a profound effect on their lives. Skinner pulled away and went to answer the door, and a few seconds later returned with a man in tow. It was all Mulder could do to stop himself from getting up and asking what the hell was going on – because the man Skinner had invited into their home was Franklin.


Franklin took the seat Skinner offered, settling himself into an armchair opposite Mulder so that the agent had plenty of opportunity to examine their guest. Franklin wasn’t as tall as Skinner, and he was well built – he clearly worked out and had hard, well-defined muscles. He had a swarthy complexion, and was dressed in tasteful clothes. His nose was aquiline and he was, by any standards, a handsome man. No wonder Lee had been so enamored of him.


“Well, Skinner. What is this proposition? I trust it involves the return of my slave?”

“No. I have something more…attractive than that for you,” Skinner said smoothly. Mulder glanced at his Master, wondering what the hell he was getting at.


“And what is that?” Franklin asked.


“Lee is a nice looking kid, but let’s face it, he isn’t exactly more than a little bit of a brat, a little bit willful, is he?” Skinner said. “He isn’t a challenge – he’s easy.”


Franklin frowned, clearly wondering, just like Mulder, where this was going.


“He’s young – and a little malleable, I’ll admit,” Franklin murmured.

“What you’d like is the real thing; someone who would really fight you – someone who you’d have to make obey you. Someone with fire – someone dangerous,” Skinner said.


Franklin smiled, and inclined his head. “I’ve never made any secret of my inclinations,” he said.


“You want the thrill of taming someone. Someone wild. You don’t want one of these eager little subs who’ll beg to kiss your boots and enjoy the touch of your whip. You want someone you really have to subdue so that it would mean something to finally bring him down and make him submit to you. I have someone like that for you,” Skinner said in a hard, flat voice.


The last piece of the jigsaw slotted into place for Mulder, and he stared at his Master open-mouthed – too shocked to speak even if he hadn’t given his promise that he wouldn’t.


“Is that so?” Franklin raised an eyebrow. “Who is this someone, and what is his price?”

“His price is that you leave town and never come back. In fact, I’d have to insist that you left the country – and took him with you.”

“Would this…mystery slave be agreeable to such a thing?” Franklin asked.


“No, he wouldn’t. However… you don’t need to worry about kidnapping charges as nobody will come looking for this man.”


“I can’t imagine that any slave would be attractive enough to make me want to abandon my business affairs and leave the country,” Franklin snapped.


“I agree. The slave is the carrot. The stick is this: if you stay I’ll have your business dealings investigated. I’m sure that everything will turn out to be above board but I’m equally sure you can imagine how damaging it would be to your reputation to suffer an in-depth investigation by the FBI – to say nothing of the loss of trade suffered while we shut you down pending further inquiries.”


“You wouldn’t.” Franklin gave Skinner a hard, assessing look.


“I would,” Skinner replied flatly. “However, if you accept my offer then you can run your business from abroad – and you can appoint someone in this country to take care of it in your absence. You’ll be busy anyway, breaking in your new slave.”


“And what does he look like, this new slave? I won’t waste my time on someone who isn’t to my taste,” Franklin said.


“Oh, I think you’ll like this one. It’s true that he’s maimed – but I think you’ll find that not only does that add to his charm, but also that it makes him a little easier to control. You’re going to need that because he’s very dangerous. If you let him off his leash for one second then he’ll kill you. I mean that.” Skinner leaned in close, his eyes deadly serious. Franklin gazed at him for a moment, and Mulder could see that Skinner had his complete attention. “I want to be very clear on this, Franklin, because I’m giving you a choice. You can have the FBI breathing down your neck for the rest of your life, and accept that the BDSM scene is more or less closed to you in this and any other city in the US, or you can take this slave and leave the country. Be in no doubt though – this man is dangerous. He will kill you if he gets the chance.


“Well you’ve laid your cards on the table. I can see that I under-estimated you, Mr. Skinner,” Franklin murmured. “Can I see this person before I make my choice?”


“Of course. Fox – go and unchain Alex and bring him down here.”


Mulder stood, gazing at Skinner steadily.

“Or if you would prefer not to, I’ll get him,” Skinner said. “That wasn’t an order.”

“No. I’ll get him,” Mulder said softly.


He went up the stairs and into the bedroom. Krycek was lying on the bed, his eyes open.


“About fucking time,” he snapped when Mulder came in.


Mulder stared down at him for a moment, wondering how he felt about this. “Krycek, you stupid, sorry son of a bitch,” he said, shaking his head. “He warned you, time and again.”

“Oh, I’m so scared,” Krycek snarled. “Mulder, you and I both know that all he’s going to do is hang me up by my balls and punch me a few times. Then he’s going to throw me out onto the street with a warning not to be a bad boy again. It’ll hurt, sure, but I’ll get over it, and then I’ll be back to haunt you all over again. There’s nothing else he can do – being who and what he is – and there’s nothing else I can do, being who and what I am.”

“He’s more than you know. He’s got a certain…responsibility,” Mulder said, still gazing down on the captive man. Could he do this? Could he take Krycek down there, to face a future as Franklin’s unwilling slave? Could he do that to anyone, even this man?


“Mulder, you stupid fucking faggot, you don’t get it, do you? I’m always going to be with you, old friend. You’re never going to get rid of me,” Krycek hissed.


“Oh, I think we might have found a way,” Mulder murmured, a grim resolve kicking in. He unfastened Krycek from the bed, hauled him to his feet, and then shoved him out of the bedroom, down the stairs, and into the living room. Franklin’s head jerked up when he saw what they’d brought him and Mulder had to admit that Krycek did look the part. The assassin was dressed in a black tee shirt, black jeans, and a black leather jacket. The bruise on his jaw just made him seem all the more sexy and dangerous.


“Who the fuck is this?” Krycek growled looking at Franklin. His good arm was handcuffed behind his back to his prosthetic but he was safe enough within the bonds.


“This is your new Master,” Skinner said softly. “I didn’t like your old masters, Alex, so I’ve found you a new one. I don’t suppose you’ll find him any less demanding, but he will have a different agenda for you.”


“What the fuck are you talking about, Skinner?” Krycek snarled.


“This.” Skinner put an arm around Krycek’s shoulder and led him into the corner of the room. Mulder was just close enough to overhear what was said.


“I’m giving you a choice, Alex – not a very nice one, but a choice nonetheless. This man is a brutal, abusive sadist, and he’s looking for a new slave. Someone he can dominate, and hurt. If you agree then you can leave with him, and be his slave.”

“Why the fuck would I agree to that?” Krycek asked.


“Because if you don’t, then I’ll kill you,” Skinner said, in a quiet, deadly tone.


“What?” Krycek’s head jerked up.

“Did you think I wouldn’t? I told you before that there would be consequences. I accept that somehow you’ve managed to become above the law, and I accept that my only alternative is therefore to take care of you outside the law – which is the way you live your life, so presumably you must understand the risks. I will do it, Alex. Don’t make any mistake about that. It might be kinder to put a bullet through the back of your head than hand you over to Franklin so I want you to think very carefully about this choice. He will treat you like a slave – a sex slave. He will beat you, and he will hurt you. He’ll almost certainly rape you.”

“You’re bluffing, Skinner.” Krycek drew back a little way and gazed at Skinner, clearly trying to see whether he was serious.

“No, I’m not. I just want you to be clear about what’s on offer here, Alex. There’s either the bullet – I’d make it quick, one bullet to the back of the head, you won’t feel a thing – or there’s Franklin. I’ve already told you what you can expect at his hands and I’m not lying. His last slave ended up in the hospital after Franklin rammed a bottle up his ass.”


“You aren’t serious.” Krycek shook his head. “I know you, Skinner. I know how people like you behave. You might knock me around a little, but you won’t kill me, and you sure as hell won’t give me to this bastard.”


“I can and I will,” Skinner said quietly, in a tone of such deadly earnest that Krycek’s eyes widened in shocked realization. “You see, you can push and push, but if you push too far then even people like me retaliate,” Skinner told him. The arm he had around Krycek’s shoulder tightened, almost affectionately. “I’m sorry, Alex. It isn’t a choice I’d like to face myself – the instinct to survive is so strong that it over-rides all other considerations, but I don’t want you to be in any doubt about what will happen if you choose to live. Franklin will take you out of the country. While you might one day escape from him, I don’t suppose it’ll be any time soon – and a lot will happen to you during that time.”


“You bastard.” All the color drained from Krycek’s face.


“Yes.” Skinner nodded, accepting the insult. “So what’s your decision, Alex?”

“I have to make it now?” Krycek glanced at Franklin, licking his lips nervously. The swarthy man returned the look with a lustful one of his own. Krycek turned back to Skinner.

“Yes, you do. We’re not playing a game here, Alex. This is for real. What’s your choice?”

“Oh, you already know what I’ve decided.” Krycek’s eyes burned with a dark kind of knowledge. “Not that it’s really any kind of choice is it? Life or death – only one of them offers the option of escape so yeah, I’ll take your twisted little deal. I’ll say this for you, Skinner.” He looked at Mulder’s Master with a profound respect in his expression. “I never took you for a real player before but it’s clear that I was wrong. I won’t misjudge you again.”


“You won’t be coming back, Alex. This is a one-way ticket to hell. Next time there won’t be a choice – there will just be the bullet,” Skinner told him flatly. “No warnings, and no reprieve. You come anywhere near me or Fox, ever again, and I’ll kill you without hesitation.”


Krycek nodded, a grim understanding reflected in his green eyes. Skinner propelled him back towards Franklin.


“Your slave awaits – if you want him,” he said to the other man. “You might want to inspect him further. He’s missing his left arm but apart from that he is, I think you’ll agree, an attractive proposition.”


“Yes. Oh yes,” Franklin purred. He made a circuit of Krycek, circling him like a tiger circling prey. He placed a hand on Krycek’s ass, fondling him in a way that was both crude and intimate, and the assassin snarled and jerked away. Skinner pushed him back.


“You made your choice, boy. Live with it,” he said. “It’s going to get a lot worse than this.”


“Definitely wild,” Franklin murmured affectionately. He took a handful of Krycek’s hair and pulled the assassin’s head back, to examine his face. Krycek struggled, pointlessly, his bound arms offering him no escape from the inspection.


“You can see that he’s going to be a challenge,” Skinner commented.


“Yes. Oh yes,” Franklin grinned. He slid his hand down the front of Krycek’s jeans and the assassin gazed at Skinner with desperate eyes. Mulder watched as Skinner turned to look away, and then, by some great force of will, made himself turn back to witness his own handiwork. Krycek’s jaw was clenched shut but his eyes gleamed with an intense revulsion as Franklin toyed with his cock.


“Make the most of it,” Krycek hissed to his prospective new master. “Because every time you touch me I’ll be keeping score in my head. I won’t forget any of it and I’ll make you pay one day. That’s a promise.”

“Ah, he is a fighter. I like that!” Franklin purred. He removed his hand from the front of Krycek’s jeans, only to slide it around the back. “Is he a virgin?” He glanced at Skinner, who shrugged.


“I have no idea. I suggest you ask him – but not here. Make up your mind, and decide, Franklin, so that we can get this over with.”


“He is very tempting.” Franklin withdrew his hands regretfully and pondered Krycek, his head on one side, still circling. “Very pretty…very bad. I like bad boys, Alex,” he murmured, stroking Krycek’s cheek. “I like them very much.” Krycek moved his head suddenly, without warning, and snapped his teeth at Franklin’s fondling fingers, only narrowly missing them as Franklin pulled his hand away just in time.


“Oh yes,” Franklin purred. “Yes. I must have him. He’s beautiful. You have yourself a deal, Skinner.”


“Do you agree to my terms?” Skinner asked.


“I’ll need to stay a few days to wind up my business interests.”

“Not acceptable. You leave tonight and you take him with you. You can appoint someone else to clear up your business affairs. I’ve heard that you have some business interests overseas – you can go and pursue them – if you have the time. I suspect you’ll be kept fairly busy training your new slave. Are we agreed?” he asked.

Franklin gazed at Krycek for a long time, a deep frown furrowing his forehead, but Mulder could see he was hooked. Finally, he nodded.


“Agreed. We’ll leave the country this evening. You can keep that sniveling little brat, Lee. I’ve a feeling that this boy will prove to be far more entertaining.”


“You can’t do this, Skinner!” Krycek yelled, the true extent of his situation seemingly sinking in as Franklin placed a hand on his shoulder and started to push him out of the room.


“I just did,” Skinner said, his face like granite. He escorted them to the door, and then held out his hand to Franklin. “Goodbye, Franklin – and good luck,” he said, his face like a mask. Franklin took his hand and shook it, that same grudging respect that Krycek had displayed evident in his eyes.


“I meant what I said,” Skinner said softly. “Don’t ever turn your back on him for a second, Franklin, or he’ll kill you. This isn’t just some erotic scenario I’m spinning for you – he’s that dangerous. He’s killed men before – easily. He won’t think twice about killing you.”


Mulder swore that Franklin’s pupils dilated – the idea of his new acquisition being dangerous turned him on. Alex was like a walking wet dream to him. An unwilling slave, one he literally had to subdue with his own hands, one who, if he submitted, would do so only because of the force of his Master’s will, and not because he wanted to. Franklin nodded curtly at Skinner and then he took a dog lead and collar out of his pocket, and held them up. “I brought these with me thinking I was going to get Lee back. I’m so glad they won’t go to waste. I think these accessories will suit you, Alex – although I’m looking forward to buying some new ones, just for you.” He slipped the lead and collar around Krycek’s neck with some difficulty, as Krycek thrashed and twisted in his grasp, but the bound man was no match for the determined, experienced top and Krycek was soon collared. “Come to heel, boy. You and I are going for a little walk,” Franklin said, grinning as he pulled Krycek out into the hallway with him. Skinner closed the door on them both, and then stood there, with his back leaning against it.


“Shit. That was…” Mulder began.


“Please, Fox. Don’t.” Skinner held up his hand. He looked terrible.


“You did what you felt you had to,” Mulder said softly.


“What I did was immoral, illegal and evil,” Skinner replied. “Don’t think for one second that I’m proud of myself. I’m not. I love what I am, Fox,” Skinner whispered, gazing at his slave. “I love being your Master. I love commanding you and having the gift of your submission. I love that you give yourself to me freely. Your consent, as you’ve pointed out to me before, is important to me. The idea of someone taking what we do, and turning it into some travesty of a BDSM relationship, using it to break and abuse…it sickens me. Even if it’s Krycek on the receiving end, even after all he’s done to us – I still wouldn’t ever have wished that on him.”


“Krycek will survive. He always does.” Mulder shrugged, not entirely sure what his feelings were on this subject. He was still too stunned and confused by the turn of events.

“I know. Franklin however, will not.” Skinner crossed his arms over his chest, as if trying to comfort himself, or ward off evil. “Franklin will have his fun with Krycek for a while and Krycek will hate it – but like you said, Krycek’s a survivor. Next to him, Franklin’s just an amateur. Krycek will escape one day – and then he will very slowly and very thoroughly kill Franklin – or maybe, if we’re lucky, they’ll both kill each other.”


“Shit.” Mulder bit down on his lip as he considered the implications of that comment.


“None of this is on your shoulders,” Skinner told him insistently. “It was my decision. I take full responsibility for it.”


“I didn’t stop you.”


“You couldn’t.” Skinner spread his arms helplessly. “It was a way out. It was…expedient. It was wrong, deeply and profoundly wrong – and I’d do it all again.” He walked past his slave, went down the hallway, disappeared into his den, locked the door, and didn’t come out again all evening.


Skinner’s silence grew deeper as the days passed. Mulder despaired of ever getting through to his Master. It worried him that Skinner was unable to talk. Mulder couldn’t help comparing himself to Andrew Linker, and felt himself to be lacking. Andrew could have gotten through to Skinner – could have found the man inside the lost soul that was currently inhabiting Skinner’s body, and he could have brought him back. Every day Skinner worked late, and every night he hid himself away in his den. He emerged only when it was past midnight, and then he would slide into bed beside Mulder and lie there, not touching his slave, as if he thought he might sully Mulder with his own guilt just by association. He wouldn’t talk, and refused all Mulder’s entreaties to do so – sometimes with a curt, snapped order, and sometimes with a plea. Both broke Mulder’s heart. 


Mulder was aware that this was the most profound test of his slavery so far. Not any of the games they’d played, not his betrayal of his Master and subsequent attempts to win back the other man’s trust – but this. In this issue resided the truth about what they had together, and whether it transcended those contracts that Mulder kept in his nightstand drawer, which he knew by heart.  


Mulder sat on the bed the following Friday evening, and opened his nightstand drawer. He pulled out the contracts, and looked at them, nostalgically. Once they had meant everything to him, to the extent that when his Master had withdrawn the rights enshrined in them, he had been distraught, and desperate to win them back. Now he saw them for what they were – pieces of paper. Surely what he and Skinner had built together transcended that? The contracts represented a truth about their lives, certainly, but Mulder was suddenly profoundly aware that it wasn’t the whole truth – or anything near it. Skinner had once told him that he would take his slave down to the depths of himself and then guide him all the way back. It had felt good to have a guide, someone who put himself back in touch with his own soul when he had been so dangerously at sea. Did it just fall to Skinner to be the guide, and Mulder to be guided? What about his Master’s needs? What happened when the Master needed a guide of his own? Was it impossible for Mulder to fulfill that role, and if so, then who the hell else had a right to fill it?


All Mulder knew was that when Krycek’s gun had gone off, and he had thought Skinner dead, he had felt as if his own life was over. If that didn’t give him the right then he didn’t know what did. With a regretful sigh, he folded the contracts carefully inside a protective tee shirt, and placed them in his suitcase, which he pulled out from under the bed. He had been clinging to them as if in them resided some basic truth about their relationship, without which it meant nothing, or even ceased to exist, but that wasn’t true. Their relationship transcended the contracts. It always had, but he just hadn’t seen it before. They were more than two pieces of paper – a lot more. No one relationship could be enshrined in a few words. The contracts had been there for him when he needed a rigid structure to hang onto, during a period of his life when he was lost. Now his Master was lost – and it was his turn to be the guide, and not the guided.


A shadow fell across the doorway as he finished pushing the case back under the bed. Mulder looked up, hoping it was his Master, and instead found it was Lee.


“Don’t look so disappointed,” Lee reproached him. “I’m probably more fun than he is these days. Boy, is he always this moody?”

“No. You know he isn’t. He had to make a tough decision and now it’s eating him up inside,” Mulder replied tersely.


“Maybe he needs some TLC,” Lee said with a suggestive leer. “If you aren’t willing to give him that then I could. Sex is always the best distraction.”

“He doesn’t want sex, and he sure as hell doesn’t want sex with you.”

“Are you so sure about that?” Lee smiled.


Mulder was suddenly aware that Lee was dressed to kill, in a pair of tight leather pants and a see-through black mesh vest. “It’s a Friday night and I’m bored,” Lee purred. “I figure it’s about time someone went down there and reminded our Master what he’s missing.”

Our Master?” Mulder shook his head. He felt strangely distant. In the past he knew that he’d have felt a jealous rage exploding inside him, but not any more.


“It’s what I want – now that my old Master is out of the picture.” Lee grinned. “It’s convenient. I like living here, and Walter’s fond of me. If that man hadn’t shown up last Saturday, Walter and I…well, let’s just say that things were just starting to heat up. I had my hand…”


“Lee, you were both asleep when Krycek showed up. That’s how he managed to overpower Walter in the first place. Remember?”


“Oh, Walter might have been dozing – or pretending to – but I wasn’t,” Lee laughed, shaking his dark head. The blond-tipped ends of his hair danced tauntingly. “I was fondling him in a very intimate place and he was responding. Another few minutes and…”


“He thought you were me. Like you said, he was asleep.”


“Fox, wake up and smell the roses. Walter is a man – and he’s a top. You aren’t enough to keep him interested forever. You and I both know how our faithless little eyes stray at every passing beefed-up body that we see. Walter’s no different. I’m fully healed, I’m looking pretty again, I want some action, and I intend to go and get it right now.”

“I don’t think so.” Mulder stood up. He was surprised that he had ever been jealous of this boy. Lee was just that – a kid. He wasn’t a threat, and he never had been. Walter wasn’t remotely interested in him. “Come with me, Lee.” He grabbed the youth’s arm, and propelled him across the hallway to the spare bedroom. He found a bag, and pushed Lee’s meager belongings into it. “You’re leaving, Lee,” he said in a low, firm voice. “Walter’s going through something pretty big right now and I’m not having you fuck with his mind even more.”


“You can’t make me leave. It’s Walter’s decision!” Lee protested. “He’s in charge here!”


Mulder shook his head, a grim smile on his face.

“No, Lee, that’s where you’re wrong – it’s also where you don’t understand what any of this is about. Walter’s the top, yes. He’s the Master – but we’re equals in this household, even though that may seem strange to you given the fact of my slavery. Walter and I are lovers, and we’re friends. I’m not some helpless boy toy who doesn’t have a say in his own life. Walter doesn’t want that from me. If he wanted to take another lover – or if I did – then we’d talk about it, and what it meant for our relationship, but to be honest, I don’t think that’ll ever happen.”


“You’re his slave,” Lee protested. “You don’t have a say in it!”


“I’m also a human being.” Mulder shrugged. “If we both found it hot for him to give me to someone else, or for me to watch him with someone else then I’m sure it might happen, but right now it isn’t what either of us wants. I know that because, yes, I am his slave, and I know him better than anyone else on this planet. Yes, he is the Master, and he is in charge – but he rules by my consent, and I surrender my will to him freely, knowing that he would never trample roughshod over it or do anything that would make me genuinely unhappy. You’re leaving, Lee. With the way things are right now he won’t even notice you’re gone.”


“You can’t do this!” Lee wailed, seeing that Mulder was in deadly earnest. “I don’t have anywhere to go!”
“I’ll find you somewhere. Pack your things. I’ll have someone here to collect you within the hour.”


“You don’t have the right…” Lee began.


Mulder stepped so close to the younger man that they were almost nose to nose.

“Yes, I do, Lee. I don’t think you understand that I only give up power over myself to Walter – nobody else. I give myself to him as a gift, because it turns me on, and he takes that gift, because it turns him on to do so. Don’t mistake what I have with Walter for what I am with you, or anyone else, or you’ll find me a very dangerous adversary indeed. In fact…” Mulder paused before continuing, finding something inside himself that he had always known, but had never acknowledged before. “In fact, underneath the roles you’ll find me a harder person than him, so don’t fuck with me, Lee. Under that tough exterior of his resides a very gentle man. I’m a lot more temperamental than he is, and I love submitting to him, but underneath it all I’m just as tough. I think that’s partly why he likes me – partly why it works so well. I’m certainly more than a match for you. I’m not the great big softie he is – I can see through you and all your shit. Now, get your ass in gear, get packed, and get downstairs.”


With that, Mulder turned and went down to the living room. He found Skinner’s House papers, searched through for one particular name and phone number, and made a call.  


An hour later, the entry phone buzzed. Mulder escorted Lee into the hallway, ignoring the petulant, slightly scared expression on the young man’s face.

“You’ll be fine,” Mulder told him, with a wry smile, as he went to answer the door. A fat man stood in the doorway, an expectant look on his face. “Hello, Mike,” Mulder told Lee’s former master. “Thanks for dropping by at such short notice. I have something here that needs taking care of…unless you want to take care of yourself for a change, Lee?” He looked at the young man questioningly. “I’m sure you can do it – but if you can’t, I know Mike would love to have you back. Perhaps you could discuss it between you. You’ve outstayed your welcome here.”
Lee gazed at Mike, and then at Mulder. Finally he shrugged, and picked up his bag.


“Hi Mike,” he whispered. He sidled up to the large top, put his arms around him as far as they’d reach, and bestowed a kiss on Mike’s cheek. The other man melted, visibly. Mulder sighed internally – he wasn’t sure that Mike and Lee were good for each other, but maybe they were as good as it got considering their respective personalities and shortcomings.


“It’s so good to know you’re coming home, baby!” Mike exclaimed. “I always knew you’d come to your senses! Boy I should take the skin off your ass for what you did, walking out on me like that.”

“Go easy on him,” Mulder told Mike. “He’s had a tough time of it lately. Make him tell you all about it – and don’t let him get away with bullshitting you.”


 Lee glared at him, but Mulder ignored it. Instead he offered him his hand.


“Goodbye, Lee.”


Lee looked at the proffered hand as if it were something he’d stepped in on the street. “Go to hell, Fox,” he said sweetly.


“Mulder,” Mulder corrected firmly.




“Fox is the name my Master uses for me. Mulder’s the name you’ll use.”


“Whatever.” Lee shrugged, and handed his bag to Mike. “I misjudged you,” he said to Mulder, his eyes narrowing.


“Maybe I misjudged myself. Take care of yourself, Lee,” Mulder said softly.


“Yeah.” Lee shrugged.


“And if you ever want to talk to me, without all the bullshit and the cozying up to Walter, then you can. You haven’t had it easy in your life, and I’ll help you in any way I can, but I won’t put up with any of your crap. Understand?”


Lee bit on his lip, his eyes filling with tears, which he blinked away angrily.


“Yeah,” he whispered. Uh…thanks for…you know, when Ian first brought me here.” He looked profoundly awkward. Mulder remembered how the young man had held onto his hand for dear life, needing the comfort and support of human contact. “And…I guess for letting me stay…Mulder.”

“No problem.” Mulder smiled and opened the door for them to leave, and then he shut it after them with a sigh of relief. That was one problem taken care of – now for the other.


Skinner was in his den. Mulder knocked but then entered anyway without waiting for a reply. He wasn’t going to give his Master any opportunity to rebuff him.


“Fox.” Skinner looked up, a startled expression on his face. “I’m busy right now,” he said curtly, glancing back down at the open case files in front of him – work he’d brought home with him.


“Like hell you are,” Mulder said.


Skinner looked up again, even more startled this time.


“Listen, Walter, I might not be Andrew Linker, but I know when you’re hurting and I know that it doesn’t do you any good to deal with it alone. I won’t let you deal with it alone, Walter, so start talking.” Mulder sat down on the side of Skinner’s desk and gazed at his Master expectantly.


“Since when did we swap roles, slave?” Skinner asked.

“We didn’t. I figure that being your slave means taking care of your needs – and that extends to even when you don’t want them taken care of. I also figured that the times when you try to push me away might just be the times when you need me most. This doesn’t just work one way, with you taking care of me and all my dramas. You’re a real person as well as being my Master, and you’ve got a very real issue that you need help with.”


Skinner sat back in his chair with a sigh. “I’m sorry, Fox. I didn’t mean to push you away. This one was big,” he murmured.

“I know. I was there,” Mulder acknowledged.


“You disapprove of what I did?” Skinner’s dark eyes were full of a complex mix of emotions that Mulder couldn’t begin to unravel.


“It wasn’t my decision to make,” he replied neutrally. “You’re the Guardian – and you did what you thought best.”


“But if it was, then you wouldn’t have taken the action I took.”


“I don’t think any of us can really know how we’d react unless we’re in a certain situation. I’ve made some questionable decisions in my time, some of them right, and some of them most definitely wrong. The name John Lee Roche springs to mind,” Mulder grimaced, referring to a child serial killer he’d once had released from prison and then managed to lose – thereby endangering a little girl who Roche had subsequently kidnapped. The reference wasn’t lost on Skinner, who gave a tight little smile.


“That was different,” he said.

“In what way? I had a choice and I made it. I was wrong on that occasion. I’m not saying that you were wrong on this occasion – but I am saying that I honestly don’t know what action I’d have taken in your shoes. You were the one who had to make that decision. It was a tough call. It’s done now – for good or ill. You slayed our two greatest threats with one inspired stroke – whether that proves to be the right thing or not, I don’t know. Whether it was morally or ethically wrong bearing in mind that neither of them was going to be restrained or punished for their actions in any other way – I also don’t know. I do know that you made the decision as best you could and for the good of as many people as possible, not just yourself.”


“Maybe.” Skinner shrugged.

“You can let it destroy you, or you can carry on trying to do the right thing. One thing’s for sure – if it was either Krycek or Franklin who’d made that decision, you can rest assured that they wouldn’t be beating themselves up like this about it. They’d be congratulating themselves on having gotten rid of two enemies. It says something about you that you’re giving yourself a hard time about this.”

“Yes, it says that I know what’s wrong and do it anyway. That doesn’t make me better than them, Fox, it makes me worse.”


“Who’s judging? Just you,” Mulder told him. “Nobody else – certainly not me. You’re always your own harshest critic, Walter.”


“I know. I guess we have that in common.” Skinner gazed at his hands for a moment, and then looked his slave in the eye. “Fox, I’ve been struggling with it but I can’t any more. I think…I know…I need to go and see Elaine,” he said softly.


That winded Mulder. He remembered every detail of the last, terrible time his Master had needed to see Elaine in this way, and it still gave him cold sweats.


“Walter…are you sure? Can’t we just talk this through?” he asked gently.

“I’m sure.” Skinner took Mulder’s hand and curled it tenderly in his own. “I’m sorry. You don’t have to come and you don’t have to watch. I’ll take care of it myself. I don’t want you to suffer any fallout from my actions.”

“No.” Mulder reached out and caressed the side of his Master’s face. “No, Walter. I don’t want you to go and see Elaine. If there’s something that needs to be done, I want to do it for you.”

Skinner looked up at him in surprise. “Fox, I’d never ask you to…”

“I know. You’re not asking. I am. I want to take care of your needs, Master. I have that right, don’t I? I know what you want, and I can give it to you. I know you doubted that before, but we’ve both come a long way since the last time you needed this. You don’t need to doubt me now. I can take care of you, in any way necessary.”

“I don’t know.” Skinner shook his head.


“Walter – this won’t change anything between us, and it won’t change the way I view you. I’ll just consider it…another service I can offer to my Master. One I would very much hope he didn’t seek elsewhere.”
Skinner gazed at his hands for a long time. His face was lowered so Mulder couldn’t read the emotions in his Master’s expressive eyes but Skinner’s shoulders were hunched, and tense. Mulder reached out and soothed them. “Master, I want you to go upstairs to the Playroom. Get whatever you need, and lay it out for me. I promise I’ll continue until you say my name – then I’ll stop.”


Skinner looked up. His eyes were dry with need. He nodded. “What about our guest?” He asked.


“Lee left this evening,” Mulder informed him.

“He did? Where did he go?” Skinner looked startled.


“I called Mike and asked him to pick him up. He’d outstayed his welcome and he needed to get on with his own life. He seemed to be holding out some hope that you were going to invite him into your harem. I told him that was never going to happen.” Mulder gave a wry smile.


“Damn. And there was I looking forward to training a new slave,” Skinner said with a hollow grin of his own.


“I figured it was a complication you didn’t need right now.” Mulder reached out to caress his Master’s cheek again. “Go upstairs, Master. Take your time. Get to where you need to be mentally. I’ll be along in a little while.”


His Master looked at him searchingly for a long time, and then nodded. “Thank you, Fox,” he said softly, and then he got up and left the room.


Mulder reached for the phone on his Master’s desk and called Elaine. He filled her in on the problem, and asked for her advice.


“Go in hard, Fox,” she told him, with a little sigh. “This isn’t an erotic spanking. He doesn’t need warming up – it just agitates him if anything. Don’t go easy on him thinking that you can trick him into accepting less punishment – it never works. It just takes longer for him to reach where he needs to be. If anything go as hard as you can – he’ll get there quicker and it’ll be over sooner for both of you. Be courteous. Make sure he knows he can stop it at any time. Don’t for god’s sake tie him or try to engage him in any kind of ‘scene’. He isn’t doing this to get his rocks off. He won’t be aroused and you won’t make him aroused by beating him. He isn’t wired the way you are. Just…do what he needs and then take very good care of him afterwards.”

“Oh, I will. I can promise you that,” Mulder said, wondering what the hell he was doing. He had promised his Master that he would see him through this but would he be able to? Did he have it in him? He remembered what he had said to Lee about the difference between himself and his Master and he knew that he could do this. He knew he had a streak of pure steel inside himself – he had developed it over time to deal with all the many disappointments and sheer horrors that life had thrown his way, and probably he had been born with it as well. Where Skinner had developed a hard outer shell to hide his soft center, Mulder knew that his own center had always had a kernel of steel deep within that often surprised those who under-estimated him. He could handle on this – he had no choice but to handle this because his Master needed him, and he would never, ever let his Master down. Last weekend he had come close to losing him, and now he knew just what Skinner meant to him. He’d do anything for him. Anything. Whatever it might cost him personally.


“Honey – take care of yourself as well. I’ll call you tomorrow to see how you’re both holding up,” Elaine said softly. Mulder smiled. He wasn’t alone. Neither he nor his Master was alone. They had some good friends around them. They’d pull through this, as they’d pulled through all the other crises they’d been through, and they’d find their way out the other side.


“Thanks, Elaine,” he said, and then he put the phone down.


Mulder sat there for a moment, staring into space, and then he took a deep breath, squared his shoulders, and began the long walk up to the Playroom.


Skinner was already stripped by the time Mulder arrived. His Master was pacing the room, lost in his own world. Mulder wasn’t even sure Skinner noticed him when he entered the room. His Master hadn’t even bothered to turn on the lights in the Playroom, and Mulder left it that way. This was Skinner’s show – he didn’t want to change any of it. Maybe his Master needed the semi-darkness. Mulder closed the door softly behind him, and walked over to the table to see what implement his Master had chosen. A heavy rubber whip was laid out on it – he had expected as much. It was the same implement that Skinner had requested at Elaine’s last time this had been necessary. The rubber was heavy, and it packed an incredible punch, causing quite severe bruising. Mulder knew that was what his Master wanted, but even so, he flinched a little at the thought of causing it himself. Skinner was muttering something to himself as he paced, as if he couldn’t have kept his limbs still if he tried.


Mulder rummaged in one of the cupboards for the big, protective belt that he knew was there, found it, and then located the leather genital pouch that his Master had used on him before during marking. He was new to this, and he wanted to make sure that he didn’t cause any unintentional damage, even if he was being over-cautious. David hadn’t had to take such protective measures but then he was an expert with the whip, and Mulder was not. He would prefer to be safe rather than sorry where his Master’s well-being was concerned. 


He went over to his Master, and placed a hand on his shoulder. Skinner stopped pacing, and looked at him, his dark eyes glazed and unfocussed.


“I want you to wear this belt to protect your kidneys, Master,” Mulder said, fastening the belt around the other man’s torso. “And the pouch.” He encased his Master’s genitals in the leather pouch to protect them. Skinner didn’t pay him much attention. He accepted what his slave was doing, although his feet barely stopped moving and it took all Mulder’s concentration to fit both belt and pouch correctly in place.


“Where do you want to stand for this, Master?” Mulder asked deferentially when he was done.


“At the post. I’ll hold onto the chains.”

“Okay.” Mulder walked his Master there, keeping one hand on the other man’s shoulder, trying to be a reassuring presence. He waited while Skinner got himself in position, his legs apart, his body leaning against the post, his hands clinging onto the chains that hung from the cross-section and which were usually used to tie Mulder into place on it.

“All right, Master,” Mulder whispered, keeping his tone deferential. He stroked Skinner’s bare shoulders softly, noting how tense they were, and equally knowing that there was nothing he could do right now to make the other man relax except to use the whip that Skinner had laid out for him. He would have preferred to stay and fondle his Master but he knew that he was just delaying what had to be done.


“I’m going to start now. I want you to say my name when you’re done. Just say my name and I’ll stop. If there’s anything you need when we’re doing this then just ask me. I’ll do whatever you say. This is your show, Master – you call the shots.” He soothed Skinner’s back and neck with his fingers, and then, reluctantly returned to the table and picked up the whip. Skinner had often allowed him to play with the implements in the Playroom, but Mulder had never done more than flick them through the air a few times. He wasn’t trained, as David had been, but he did have a very good memory so he knew how David had used the whip, where he had placed his strokes, and the effect each one had. He focused on that memory, needing to get this as right as he could – it was too important for him to screw it up. 


Mulder held the whip for a moment, to get used to the weight and feel of it in his hand. It was heavy, and he knew how powerfully painful it would be if thrown with his full force – but he also knew that he had to give his Master that, and nothing less. He took a deep breath, composed himself, and then walked forward. He marked out his paces carefully, so that he was close enough to land the strokes accurately, but not so far away that they wouldn’t reach. Then he raised his arm.  


Skinner didn’t even seem to be aware of him. He was just hanging there, still muttering something to himself under his breath. Mulder flicked his wrist, and brought the whip forward as hard as he could. It connected with a loud thudding sound that took Mulder by surprise. He was startled also, by how the impact jarred back along his arm. His Master didn’t emit more than a grunt and Mulder examined his handiwork to gauge the effect of the first stroke in order to judge how to deliver the next one. There was a dull, red mark on Skinner’s back, which seemed about right – but it was just a beginning.  


Mulder stepped back and brought the whip down again – and this time he didn’t pause to examine his work. He raised his arm again immediately and delivered the next blow, and then the next. His Master was moving in time to his strokes, leaning into the post as each one hit and then pushing himself back to receive the next. His eyes were closed, and he still seemed lost in a world of his own. Mulder intensified the pace, leaving no part of the back of his Master’s body untouched. His whip scoured Skinner’s flesh, from the top of his shoulders to the back of his knees, covering his buttocks, thighs, and upper back liberally, but avoiding the area covered by the belt that was protecting Skinner’s kidneys. The whipping seemed to be taking forever. Mulder was aware that he was sweating, and panting with each stroke delivered, and that Skinner’s body was now covered in a fine layer of sweat as well as dozens of thick red stripes. Mulder needed, for his own sake, to check in with his Master, so he walked over to the post and put a gentle hand on Skinner’s shoulder.


“Master, how close are you? I don’t want this to continue much longer,” he said softly, anxious not to cut into Skinner’s mood too much but needing some feedback.


“I’m fine. A little bit longer. Step it up…you can hit harder, faster…I’m close…close…” Skinner mumbled.


“All right.”


Mulder stepped back and began anew. He did as ordered and delivered the blows even faster and harder than before, finally starting to see a change in his Master. Skinner began to do more than grunt as each stroke hit home. He was bellowing out loud and then the roars of pain turned into what sounded like a choking sob at the end. His knees were bent and he was hanging onto the chains by sheer force of will alone. His whole body was shaking, and all Mulder’s instincts told him to stop, to gather his lover in his arms and hold him tight, but he knew that wasn’t what Skinner needed so instead he continued with the punishing blows. His arm ached in earnest now, but still he didn’t stop. He felt at one with the semi-dark room, and his Master’s quivering, shaking body. The whip had become an extension of him – part of his arm, part of his soul. The moment seemed to go on forever, until finally there was some kind of resolution. Skinner’s throaty yells became sobs, and then he just seemed to break in two. He let go of the chains and sank to his knees.


“Fox,” he gasped and Mulder stopped immediately. He hadn’t been sure, in the midst of all this, whether Skinner would say his name or Andrew’s as he was more used to. He would have stopped whichever name his Master had used as a safe word, but all the same, he was grateful, on some fundamental level, that Skinner had been aware that it was his slave serving him in this most intimate of ways.  


Mulder dropped the whip and ran forward to catch his Master before Skinner fell completely to the floor. The big man lolled in his arms, his body smelling of sweat, and his eyes now wet with tears of sheer pain. It had been a necessary catharsis though – Skinner’s face looked less drawn and tense, and his eyes were no longer dazed and unfocussed.


“Hold on. I’m going to walk you down to the bedroom. I have some towels soaking in the bath,” Mulder told his Master. He hauled Skinner up, draped one of his Master’s arms around his neck, and then escorted Skinner out of the Playroom and down to their bedroom. He dropped his Master face down onto the bed, and then went to get the cold towels.  


He used the towels to cool his Master’s burning flesh, changing them regularly for an hour or so as his Master’s body warmed them, and then he covered Skinner with thin sheets to keep him warm without placing too much pressure on his skin.


“More cold towels,” Skinner said, gripping the pillow with his hands.


“No. You’ll get hypothermia. This will do for now. I want to warm you up for an hour and then I’ll resume the cold towel treatment. We can keep that up for most of the night – judging by the level of bruising that will be necessary. Just lie still and let me take care of you,” Mulder said. He slid under the sheets beside his Master, rested his head on his hand and gazed at Skinner lovingly. “Are you all right? Are you feeling better now?” he asked, gently soothing Skinner’s bare scalp with his fingertips. “Inside I mean. I assume you’re feeling pretty shitty physically.”


“Yeah. Thanks,” Skinner grunted. Mulder smiled, and pressed his lips against Skinner’s forehead.


“It’s passed. Whatever happens it’s out of your hands now,” he told his Master. “Franklin and Krycek deserve each other. They chose their own fate. Remember what I told you about that mock-rape scene we acted out? How even in the middle of that you needed my consent? It was the same with Krycek and Franklin. You couldn’t even resist giving them a choice.”


“It wasn’t much of a choice – for either of them.” Skinner made a face.


“You gave them more than they’ve ever given their victims,” Mulder said firmly. “Walter, you made a hard decision. Let it go now – you can’t take it back even if you wanted to. Remember that kid in Vietnam? The one with the grenades strapped to his body? You shot him. You took the hard decision then, and you’ve been doing it ever since because you’re the kind of person who is strong enough to do that, in order to keep the rest of us safe. That’s just you. I know it’s also you to give yourself a hard time about it, but it’s over now. Let it go.”


“I’ll do my best.” Skinner gave his slave a wry smile. “That’s an interesting analogy you make to Vietnam.” Skinner gazed thoughtfully at his slave for a moment. “That whole damn war seemed to be one big issue of consent, Fox. Maybe that’s partly why, as you keep pointing out, consent is so important to me.”


“Partly? I think there’s another reason too,” Mulder commented.


“Maybe.” Skinner nodded, his eyes darkening. “Yeah. Maybe,” he repeated softly.


“Wanna share?”


“I don’t know.” Skinner shifted slightly and took a sharp intake of breath as the pain kicked in.


“I wanted to say…thank you, Fox, for what you did this evening.”


“I’m glad to be of service. Always. I’m your slave after all. I exist to serve.” Mulder kissed his Master’s lips gently. They were quiet for an hour or so, and then Mulder got up and resumed the cold towel therapy. He kept it up for another forty-five minutes, and then, when Skinner started shivering, he covered him in the sheets again, and got into the bed beside him once more.


“I’m curious.” Mulder stroked his Master’s head with gentle fingers. “What is it you find when you need to be whipped this hard? What place do you reach inside your head?”

Skinner shifted, and winced. “That’s a good question. I’m not sure I can put it into words.”

“In your own time. If not now, then maybe tomorrow? We’re not going anywhere all weekend, after all. On that subject, I hope you realize that sooner or later I’m going to subject you to my home made clam chowder.”

“Oh god. That’s great. I love your clam chowder.” Skinner smiled. Mulder had spent several months learning how to perfect this one dish because he knew his Master loved it, even if the slave remained resolutely useless at everything else in the kitchen.

“You never did tell me how my Texan boy’s folks came to be running a seafood restaurant in Maine,” Mulder teased gently. “If you’d prefer to sleep we can add that to the list for later as well. I figure we’re going to have plenty of time to just lie around here chatting. It’s not often I have your undivided attention at a time when your right arm is out of spanking action,” Mulder grinned. “Do you want to sleep now?”


“No…I think I’d like to talk,” Skinner replied. “It’ll take my mind off the pain – and you have the right to ask. You of all people have the right to ask. I suppose there’s a lot of stuff we forget to talk about because we’re so busy with our everyday lives.” Skinner moved his arm, and grabbed Mulder’s hand. He held his slave’s fingers in his own, curling them both up together and rubbing little circles onto Mulder’s skin. “The subject of the Seafood restaurant in Maine, my need to experience this kind of severe whipping occasionally, and, I suppose, even the issue of me needing consent are kind of related anyway. At least I think they are.” Skinner frowned. “Andrew asked me about it. He didn’t understand why I needed such levels of pain – and you have to remember that when I first fell into his hands I needed it on what felt almost like a daily basis. He wouldn’t give it to me that frequently, but I woke up every day wanting it. You see…” Skinner hesitated and closed his eyes. He seemed suddenly very vulnerable. “Where to begin?” He sighed.


“Wherever you like. We have all weekend – just the two of us. No interruptions,” Mulder said, pressing his lips against Skinner’s forehead once again. “There’s no escape for you – you’re in my evil clutches for the next couple of days, oh helpless victim,” Mulder said, wild eyed and manic. He punctuated the point by launching into his ‘mad professor’ cackle. Skinner laughed out loud – and then winced again.


“Shit – don’t make me laugh – and that’s an order, boy,” he commanded.


“Sorry,” Mulder chuckled.


They both settled down in the bed again, and relaxed. Mulder waited expectantly, and a few minutes later, Skinner began.


“Okay…the beginning…or at least, a long way back. Let’s start with my father. He was a marine in Korea. For a long time – for a very long time – I thought he was a hero. Maybe he was. He certainly talked up his war experiences so that I thought he defeated an entire army single handedly…and he had a medal. Oh boy did we all know about that damn medal. It was a Bronze Star and I think it was the only thing he’d ever really won in his life – so we practically had to worship that medal.” Skinner shook his head wryly at the memory. Mulder smiled, encouraging him to continue.


“I looked up to my father, but he was a perfectionist – and nothing I did was ever right. When I was a kid I thought he was ashamed that his eldest son wasn’t as clever or as brave as he was – but that wasn’t true. The truth is that he never achieved much his whole life beyond that medal. He was a brilliant man – but he could never sit down and apply himself to anything. The same thing happened with jobs. He had one job after another and he was always fired – he used to come home and blame the bank manager, or office manager, or whoever it was who had fired him and I used to believe him. It was never his fault. Ever.” Skinner sighed. “So when he was tough on me, I used to think that I deserved it, that I didn’t live up to his expectations, and would never be the great man he was. I think he had a mild form of ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder – because he could never settle down long enough to achieve something tangible. He was a good man – don’t get me wrong – he did a lot of work for charity and would give the clothes off his own back to folks less well off than him. His duality was, I think, what was so confusing to me as a child.” Skinner closed his eyes, lost in thoughtful contemplation.


“Did he beat you?” Mulder caressed his Master’s face with his fingertips. Skinner opened his dark eyes and sighed again.


“Yeah. Oh yeah. Which I guess brings me on to the issue of consent. In fairness, that generation did beat their kids, especially their sons, so I don’t think he thought he was doing anything wrong. Maybe he wasn’t, but he was a lot stricter than the other kid’s dads and he whipped me for things that I couldn’t really help. I wasn’t very good at science, but if I didn’t get straight ‘A’s in all my subjects at school I knew I could expect a whipping when I got home. He would freak out if my grades weren’t up to scratch, and then we’d make that walk down to the woodshed – and his whippings were extremely hard. I didn’t realize just how much they went beyond what was normal for the times until I was older. It was almost as if he needed to take out all his frustrations on someone – and I was the one he chose. Maybe because I was the oldest, or because he saw something of himself in me, or because he didn’t want me to screw up my life the way he had his. I don’t know. Maybe in some way he was punishing himself for never achieving anything, for wasting his promise…”

“Or maybe it was because he saw in you what he could have been,” Mulder interrupted. “Maybe that’s closer to the truth. You were the one who got the good grades, and who could concentrate enough to be a high flyer.”

“Maybe there’s a grain of truth in that,” Skinner conceded with a wry grunt. “It got to how I was almost scared to breathe in the house. If I made so much as one mistake, said one thing the wrong way – he’d take his belt off to me.”

“What did your Mom say about all this?” Mulder asked.

“Mom was great – she often protected me, but she had my brother and sister to take care of as well.”

“You have a brother and sister? All this time and there’s still so much I don’t know about you,” Mulder murmured.


“I know. My fault probably. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t know but I don’t see them very often and the subject just never came up. I’d like you to meet my sister. She’d love you – she always did have a thing for stray pups.” Skinner grinned.


“I’d like to meet her some time.” Mulder grinned back.


“Well, we’ll see what we can arrange then.” Skinner nodded. “Anyway, getting back to Mom – she didn’t approve of what my dad was doing, but times were hard, and just keeping body and soul together took up most of her energy. She had a husband who was out of work more often than not, and she had to work herself, as well as take care of us kids. I came to view myself as a casualty of the war that was their marriage. She’d have huge arguments with him, and it was me she’d turn to after. Maybe he even took his anger out on me because I was the one she confided in. I was the oldest and she and I were on the same wavelength. We talked a lot, she and I, after my brother and sister were in bed. I think that infuriated Dad because he was the other adult but she seemed to prefer talking to me.”

“You told me once that you enlisted for ‘Nam because you wanted to get away. Was this what you were getting away from?” Mulder asked.


“Yes. Partly. I also wanted to be the big war hero like my father. I wanted to do something to finally make him proud of me and instead…it must have driven a stake through his heart when I got awarded the Silver Star, because I’d stolen the one piece of glory he’d ever had. When I got home and showed him my medal he gave me a look that cut me to the bone. He still wasn’t proud of me and I think I knew then that he never would be – that with him, nothing I did would ever be good enough. I didn’t understand why then, although I pieced it all together later when I went to stay with my Mom’s parents in Maine, and they told me a few home truths about my dad. He thought I was just showing up his inadequacies, and all the time I was trying desperately to win his approval, to be good enough to win his affection instead of his anger. That sense of perfectionism never left me. That’s why I understand you so well.” Skinner squeezed on his slave’s fingers, and Mulder gave his Master a smile of recognition. 

Skinner took a deep breath and then continued. “After Dad had made a mess of everything and was up to his eyeballs in debt, he had to do the most humiliating thing of all – he had to leave his beloved Texas behind and go and work for my Mom’s parents in Maine. That was just after I got back from ‘Nam. It was my grandparents’ seafood restaurant he and Mom went to run when her folks got too old. My parents needed the money but boy did it upset him. I was pretty much grown up by then, but I helped out at the restaurant to make some money before I went to college. And getting back to your original question – what stayed with me all my life was the way those sessions in the woodshed were the inevitable consequence of me not being good enough as a kid. At some point during my childhood I guess they became my conscience, and I suppose that’s why I found myself needing them in the aftermath of Sharon’s death. I’d had other outlets before then – usually drink – and it wasn’t until I came crashing down after Sharon’s death that I found myself needing the kind of extreme pain I’d experienced when I was punished as a teenager.”

Mulder put a hand on his Master’s arm, and stroked him gently.


“Don’t get me wrong – I hated it,” Skinner shivered. “My father beat me hard and often, so when Sharon told me she wanted me to spank her as a sex game I took some convincing. I wasn’t comfortable with it at first, but she showed me that there was a world of difference between a consensual erotic spanking and what I’d experienced as a child. I came to appreciate that some people do experience spanking and some other kinds of pain as pleasure – and that others find the thrill of submission profoundly sexual, so that even if they might occasionally hate being punished, they need it on some level. Perhaps partly to reinforce the rest of the fantasy – but for other reasons as well. People are complicated.” He gave Mulder a little smile, and his slave grunted in recognition.


“I didn’t have a choice as a kid though. I couldn’t say no. I suppose I’ve reclaimed that experience as an adult – now I only receive a whipping on my terms, but back then…” He shivered. “Well, I suppose that’s why consent is so important to me. I know how it feels to have something that painful done to you against your will.” He took a deep intake of breath. “Maybe I’m making it all sound too emotive – I didn’t have a unhappy childhood by and large. There were good times too – great times in fact. My father could be an incredibly amusing, and entertaining man. He was a really fantastic person to be around, and as my friends were occasionally whipped by their fathers too – probably with good reason when I think back on some of what we got up to as kids – I didn’t think too much of it at the time.” Skinner gave a little laugh. “I didn’t know that what got meted out at my home was a little more extreme than most, and certainly more often than most, but that sense of perfectionism my father instilled in me left me with an ability to concentrate, and saw me through school with straight ‘A’s and the same at college.” He sighed. “So maybe my father did me a favor. Anyway, at the back of my mind, there was a sense of that deep, intense physical pain somehow inevitably following on from some failure of mine, and at the same time relieving the burden of that failure  – and that was what I came back to time and again with Andrew. He let me get away with it at first, but later he would only allow me to ask for that kind of pain to relieve really strong emotions of guilt. As he made me talk about my problems – and face up to them – I found that I needed it less and less frequently, until it’s gotten to how it is now – a fairly rare occurrence. I understand myself a whole lot better now as well. I wish I didn’t need it at all. I have to fight hard not to hate myself for it because it feels like a weakness, and most of the time I’m a strong person so this side of myself appalls me. Andrew told me it was okay for me to admit to feeling weak occasionally but it’s not always that easy.” Skinner shifted uncomfortably.


“It is okay. You’ve told me the same thing often enough. If we can’t occasionally ask for support from the people who love us then it isn’t much of a love.” Mulder cradled his Master’s head in his arms, and gazed down at the other man, who lay there trustingly.


“Yes – but the dynamic we have here, and the kind of person I am at the office, makes me worry about this side of myself even more,” Skinner admitted honestly.


“Don’t.” Mulder shook his head. “Nobody at the office has any right to know about this side of your life, and I’m your slave. Tonight was about me serving you in the way you needed it most. In that sense it’s no different to how I’ve served you by giving you a massage, or more personal services.” He gave his Master a knowing wink. “You let me top you a few weeks ago – that didn’t change anything between us. We evolve, Master, and I don’t think I’d want it any other way. When I think what a selfish, self-obsessed brat I was when I first came here I’m glad that’s happened.”


“You were in crisis then – just as I was when I first came to Andrew.” Skinner shrugged, and then winced, a hiss escaping from his throat as the movement pained him. Mulder pulled back the sheet and examined the back of his Master’s body. Skinner’s flesh was red and raw, and obviously very painful, but nothing more serious than that. Mulder disappeared into the bathroom and started the cold towel treatment again. When he finished, he settled back in the bed beside his Master and pulled the sheets up around them both once more.


 It’s weird,” Mulder commented, “because I was never spanked at all. I can’t think of any childhood experience that would explain my sexually submissive kink. I’ve always been wired this way. What you need looks so intense and painful. I wish you could experience it the way I do – so you’d get some pleasure from it.”

“It does what it needs to.” Skinner shrugged. “I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it, but – catharsis is really the only word that sums it up. It helps. It helps relieve the negative feelings. Sometimes I can get a similar relief from a hard boxing session, or a really vigorous work out but sometimes, when it’s something very big, it takes this to help me come to terms with how I feel.”


“That’s fine. I hope you can ask me if you ever need it again.” Mulder kissed his Master gently on the forehead.

“Fox – do you regret not going after Krycek’s UFOs?” Skinner asked suddenly, out of the blue.


Mulder thought about it for a while. “No,” he said finally. “I mean, I suppose a small part of me always will, but you see, if I’d gone, I’m not sure whether I would have come back. I don’t know why, I just know it’s true. I think something bad would have happened. Something I might not ever have recovered from.”


Skinner exhaled sharply. “You felt that too? That’s what I felt,” he said. “It’s such a strange feeling. I’m glad you chose not to go.”

“It was never really a choice. You cured me of that one, Master – that old Pavlovian response I had whenever Krycek dangled Samantha, or some other aspect of my quest under my nose and I just used to go running off, and end up needing to be bailed out by either you or Scully.”


“Speaking of Scully – how is the great romance between her and Doggett going?”


“Fine, if anyone can really like a man with hair that spiky,” Mulder groused.


“You’ve had some questionable haircuts yourself in your time,” Skinner teased.


“I must point out that you are hardly any authority on hair,” Mulder replied with a pointed glance at his Master’s bald scalp. He punctuated the comment by leaning down to kiss his Master’s bare head again – and then again. A few seconds later, a furry head insinuated itself between them, also demanding to be kissed. They lay there, in the dark, cat, Master and slave, wrapped up together, a tangle of limbs and fur and hot skin.


“Is it just me, or does it seem as if you’ve undergone something of a transformation these past couple of weeks?” Skinner murmured.


“Oh, I don’t think it’s been a matter of weeks. I think it’s taken nearly a year,” Mulder replied, “and I think it began right about the time I signed a certain contract.”


“How do you feel about it?”


“I think I detect a note of anxiety in your voice.” Mulder laughed. He leaned forward and kissed his Master again, a reassuring kiss this time. “I feel good,” he commented. “I feel as if I’ve found some part of myself that’s been missing. It’s strange that by becoming your slave I’ve been set free to be myself on some level. That all finally slotted into place for me today. It all made a strange kind of sense. I remember you once told me a story about a Master and slave complementing each other, each being a support and comfort to the other, each living their roles in such a way that they it made them both stronger. I feel as if I can finally understand that, as if I can see it, touch it, and inhabit it. All this time, you’ve been sorting me out, and helping me find what I can be – what I am – and it’s so liberating.”

“That’s good,” Skinner said softly.


“Yes it is.” Mulder felt his Master draw another circle on his hand with his fingertips.


“I think,” Skinner said, “that you’re finally ready for that last step now, Fox. The one we’ve discussed many times before. I think you’re ready to be branded.”

Mulder felt his heart skip a beat. This was what he had wanted and what he had feared for a very long time, and yet somehow it felt very right. If it had happened before it would have been too soon. He had finally become that slave inside that he had always longed to be and with that knowledge there came a sense of strength and serenity that he didn’t think he’d ever lose. He might have found that in himself, but it had been his Master who had guided him to it.


“You know, Master, I think you’re right,” he said, laying his head on the pillow beside Skinner’s bald one and Wanda’s furry one. “When?” He asked simply.


“Well, Christmas isn’t all that far away and we’ll be able to take a few days off work then. That would seem like a good time.”


“It sounds good to me too.”


“We’ll talk about it some more tomorrow. Over that clam chowder you promised,” Skinner murmured.


“Yeah.” Mulder chuckled. “Master – as we seem to be in the mood for confessionals, there’s one thing that’s been on my mind.”


“Mmm?” Skinner’s voice sounded profoundly weary.

“I’ve been wondering why it was so important to Krycek’s masters, whoever they are, that I should investigate those UFO’s. I wonder why they wanted me? What did they intend to do to me?” He shivered, having a sudden image of himself, strapped down, being experimented on, as he had read about in so many reports on alien abduction. The image was so real that it was almost like a memory, and he felt as if someone had walked over his grave.


“It doesn’t matter,” Skinner growled. “They can’t have you, whoever they are, because you belong to me.”

Mulder felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as his Master said those words. He knew, although he wasn’t sure how, that being Skinner’s slave had somehow saved him from a fate too cruel to contemplate, and now another future had clicked into place for him – a better, kinder one.


“Yes,” he said softly. “I might doubt a lot of things in this universe but I don’t doubt that. I’m yours, Master. No questions, no doubts, and no regrets.”


“I’m glad to hear that, boy,” Skinner said, his voice fading in the darkness. Mulder glanced at the clock on the nightstand. It was very late.


“Sleep, Master,” he murmured.


“Yeah. G’night, Fox.”


“Good night, Guardian of the House.” Mulder replied, knowing the other man was already asleep.


He reached over, turned off the lamp on the nightstand, and then settled down in the bed beside his Master and his Master’s cat. He lay there, silently, watching his Master sleep. He had no intention of sleeping himself. He owed a lot to this man, and he was glad that he finally had the opportunity to give something back to him. Mulder stroked Wanda’s head softly, never taking his eyes off his Master. He felt strong and peaceful inside. He had finally become the slave he had always aspired to be, and he was completely at one with himself, and his own submission. Skinner was right – there was only a joyful, liberating strength to being a slave – although Mulder suspected that you had to be with the right Master in order to appreciate that. He was as much his Master’s protector as his Master was his – and soon there would be a branding to celebrate and deepen their bond.


Mulder kissed his sleeping Master’s head and smiled. He couldn’t wait to accept his Master’s mark on his skin. They had survived so many trials together, including those thrown at them by Krycek and Franklin, and he knew that they’d survive anything else that fate sent their way.


Nobody would ever take him from his Master’s side. He was exactly where he belonged.

End of Part 24

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