Cruel To Be Kind: 1. Cruel To Be Kind



Fox Mulder stared at his shoes, crossed his legs, then uncrossed them, leaned back in his chair, leaned forwards, looked up at the ceiling and then back at the floor again. Anything to avoid looking at the expression on his lover’s face.


He supposed that this moment was inevitable. It had been four months since he had surprised himself by falling hopelessly in love with his boss and since that first sweet consummation of their passion he had been as well behaved as he possibly could be. He had followed every procedure to the letter, written detailed, thoughtful reports without his usual scant attention to the scientific data, and he had been prompt and polite in every work meeting which involved A.D. Skinner. Even Scully was totally surprised by his attitude.


“Has Skinner got something on you or are you auditioning for the FBI agent of the month title?” she asked him quizzically one day.


“Don’t be silly,” he muttered, beavering away at another report. The truth was that he just wanted to make things as easy as possible for his lover. Ever since the pair of them had been holed up in a safe house alone for a few days he had come to see a different side to his boss. Whilst A.D. Skinner might be a trifle surly, abrupt and prone to getting cross about small matters like FBI procedures, Walter, his Walter, was kind, thoughtful, sensitive, intelligent and amusing. He had also demonstrated an interest in his young agent that went beyond professional concern and it had taken Mulder all of one night to be convinced that he had finally found the “truth” he had been looking for and in such an unexpected place.


Fox Mulder in love, was like Fox Mulder in the grip of any of his other passions; totally absorbed. He couldn’t be sure that Walter returned his affections with the same ardour though. The other man was a much calmer personality, he didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve like Mulder and sometimes Fox worried that his feelings weren’t reciprocated with the intensity he would have liked. Fox was a man who liked strong gestures. His manner of laying everything on the line for his feelings and beliefs left him open and vulnerable and he yearned for tangible proof of his lover’s affections. He had taken to spending every weekend at Skinner’s apartment but that meant he spent every weeknight alone in his own. Sometimes, in desperation, he phoned his lover for some much needed telephone sex which was always forthcoming, but that wasn’t enough. Neither were snatched glimpses of the object of his affections in the FBI corridors and offices. Mulder was not a man used to restraining himself and his discretion was being stretched to the limit. In desperation he had argued that he needed at least one week night with Walter as well and Skinner had readily agreed. They couldn’t risk any more than that, but one night…well Walter wanted it as much as Fox did. They had settled on Wednesdays and Mulder lived for them. Not this Wednesday though. This Wednesday he wished he hadn’t been born.


Mulder examined his fingernails and twitched at his tie, glancing at Scully who was sitting beside him. She looked as calm and collected as ever, but then she wasn’t the one in trouble. He could have cursed his impulsive actions the previous evening but looking back he knew he’d do the same thing again. No, this moment was just inevitable and they should have known it would crop up sooner or later. Mulder shifted in his chair and darted one small glance out of the corner of his eye at his boss. Skinner was looking at him, perturbed, his fingers gripped around his pen as he knocked it on his pad over and over again, forming an angry little mass of dark blue dots in the centre of the page. Mulder looked down again immediately, feeling himself blush. Around the table were those other faceless FBI people who always seemed to get to attend these meetings. “The bodies” Scully called them. People who only crawled out of the woodwork when somebody had screwed up – usually him, Mulder thought wryly, but not for ages. He had really been trying not to cause Walter any trouble ever since their relationship began. He realised that some of his attitude problems towards his boss in the past had been as the result of unresolved and unadmitted sexual attraction on his part and it pained him to remember some of the things he had said to Skinner in the heat of the moment. Not that Walter seemed to be holding a grudge, but still, Mulder felt guilty all the same. He chewed on his bottom lip and glanced up again. Scully gave him the smallest of smiles and he sighed with relief. He couldn’t bear to have her mad at him as well, although she had every right to be.


“Do you have anything to say about this, Agent Mulder?” Skinner asked as one of the bodies came to the end of the interminable litany of his “crimes” of the previous evening.


“Well…I think I’ve covered it in my report, sir,” he mumbled, gesturing, still not meeting Skinner’s eyes. “I thought I was acting in the best interests of the truth, sir.” He added, by way of an explanation.
“The truth?” Skinner’s stillness was in sharp juxtaposition to Mulder’s own hopeless fidgetting. Only the endless dotting motion of that pen betrayed his anger. “And what exactly is the truth, Agent Mulder?”
Mulder took a deep breath and looked up, straight into Skinner’s eyes. They were masked, as ever, behind his glasses but there was no affection in them. Nobody would have guessed that these two were lovers, that Skinner was a man who could make him come within 15 seconds of touching him.


“That there has been an attempt by the government to hide a conspiracy from the American people…” he began, ignoring the sighs around the table as the bodies exchanged their usual “here we go again with the mad paranoid loony routine” glances with each other. “….and furthermore, that there is evidence to suggest that the suspect I apprehended last night was in fact, not human..”


“What evidence? And where exactly is this suspect?” Skinner demanded. “We have 3 dead bodies in a warehouse and an extremely angry law enforcement officer who says you handcuffed him to the wheel of his car, but nobody in custody and certainly no evidence. Unless there’s something you’re not telling us?”


“Um…” Mulder hesitated. There was something, but he was sure that if he told them he’d be in even greater trouble than he was now. “No.” He said at last, crossing his fingers under the table, and twitching his shoulders into an approximation of a shrug. He looked down again. That was the first lie he had ever told his lover, after 4 months of exchanging life stories, talking in the early hours of the morning about their thoughts, hopes and feelings and recounting some of the most difficult and distressing parts of his life. He hadn’t shirked any of that, had shared even the hardest, saddest confidences but now he was lying to avoid getting into trouble and he felt wretched about it.


“Well, Agent Mulder, I don’t think you need me to tell you that your report is not satisfactory, either in its conclusions or the evidence it presents, or lack of it.” Skinner said tersely, still glaring at him. Mulder shrugged helplessly. “Futhermore I have had to make a personal apology on behalf of the FBI to the police department. I trust you understand how…” Skinner’s face twitched irritably, “uncomfortable that was for me,” he said.


“Yes, sir.” Mulder murmured. He didn’t want Walter to be uncomfortable because of him. He only wanted praise and kind words from his boss.


“You didn’t follow procedure, you didn’t clear any of this either with me or your partner, you seem to have jumped to a lot of unsubstantiated conclusions and you have no hard evidence. Neither is this the first time that you have acted in such a fashion.” Skinner paused and Mulder bit down so hard on his bottom lip that he tasted blood. Skinner wasn’t pulling any punches and it was made even worse by the fact that Mulder would have crawled through a burning building for this man who was so totally chewing him out. “I’m putting you on report, as of today, Agent Mulder.” Fox jerked his head up, astonished. This was humiliating – going on report was rarely heard of and usually a reprimand only given to green agents who needed babying for a while. “You’ll report to me every morning at 9am to let me know what actions you intend to take during the day and again at 5pm, starting this evening, to let me know what actions you have taken during the day. In addition you will write a half page daily report of your activities for our afternoon meetings which I will keep on file. We’ll review your progress in 4 weeks. Dismissed.” Skinner got up from the table abruptly and Fox shook his head, trying to fight back the conflicting waves of resentment and apology that were coursing through him. Scully saw the anger in his eyes and got hold of his arm, trying to tug him away. One of the bodies grinned at him, the malicious grin of someone glad to see a thorn in their side get his comeuppance and he snapped.


“This isn’t fair, sir.” Mulder said hotly. Scully gave a little groan. Skinner spun round, his face hard and cold.


“Don’t push me on this one, Agent Mulder. You’re on very shaky ground.” He said in a tone of barely repressed fury.


“I didn’t make a mistake last night. I did everything I could to apprehend someone I thought was a danger to…”


“Save it, Agent Mulder!” Skinner’s voice cut across his protest like a knife through soft clay.


“You’re already in enough trouble, don’t make it worse.” There was an almost desperate quality to the intense gaze that Skinner gave him that made Mulder back down, but not before he got an inkling of Skinner’s raw anger. Suddenly scared that he had lost the other man’s respect and affection, he squashed his own rage back and turned on his heel, not quite slamming the office door as he left.


Mulder sat in his car for ages, trying to decide what to do. He had been so angry that he had completely forgotten about attending the 5pm meeting with Skinner. He had stormed back to his own office, with Scully in tow, ranted for half an hour and then taken himself off to the scene of last night’s debacle to see if he could pick up any more clues. After a couple of fruitless hours of searching he had given up and driven around for an hour before he found himself outside Skinner’s apartment at 7.30 pm. It was the time he usually arrived and he knew he would go there, even under the present unpleasant circumstances. He just couldn’t stay away and yet he wanted to. Subconsciously he wanted to punish Skinner for the way he had treated him during that meeting, but more than that, he knew he was scared. He was petrified that Skinner wouldn’t want to know him, that he’d still be angry and distant and they’d end up having another row on one of their rare, precious evenings together. He didn’t want that. He wanted to go in and be comforted in his lover’s arms, to be cherished and loved in a way he could never remember having been before. His childhood had been a muddle of tortured emotions. His mother’s pain at losing his sister, his father’s remote, dysfunctional grief, his own guilt and anger, all had tarnished him, leaving him desperate for a straightforward, unconditional love that he thought he had found in Walter Skinner. Only now he wasn’t so sure that Walter’s love was unconditional and right at this minute their relationship was certainly far from straightforward.


Fox stayed in his car for half an hour, chewing it over, before deciding that it had to be faced. He didn’t take his overnight bag out of the trunk of his car. He knew people, he knew what they were like. Everybody had an agenda, nobody had ever loved him for what he was. There were always if’s and but’s and proviso’s. Skinner was no different. He would be angry, there would be a row. Fox would lose his temper, as he always did, completely unable to cope with his own emotions and then he’d storm out. They wouldn’t talk again – instead he’d be imprisoned in a daily torture of going to work, seeing his ex there every day and knowing it was all over between them and he’d been the one to screw it up.


With a sullen face he made his way reluctantly to the elevator and pushed the button, leaning against the wall as it took him up to Walter’s apartment, feeling totally despondent. He hesitated outside the door, wavering. Perhaps it was better not to have the scene at all. Perhaps they should just call it a day now, without even bothering with the row. There was no way this relationship was ever going to work. Walter probably wasn’t even expecting him anyway, after what had happened. He put his forehead against the cool door frame, thinking, then with a sigh, took his life in his hands and knocked.


“You’re late.” Walter smiled as he opened the door. “I thought we’d eat in tonight. I’m cooking and don’t screw up your face – sometimes my cooking’s okay.”


Fox stood there, sullenly, taking in the sight of Walter dressed in jeans and a red and black checked shirt, with an apron on. He remembered Walter wearing an apron back in the safe house, back when he first fell in love with him. He was the sort of man so assured in his muscular masculinity that an apron did nothing to lessen his macho appeal.


“I wasn’t sure…” Fox paused, uncertain what this reception meant.


“Where’s your bag?” Walter asked, his eyes friendly, open, genuinely puzzled.


“In the car.”


“Well go and get it then!” Walter laughed and pushed him back out of the door again. “And hurry up. Dinner’s nearly ready.”


So, one minute he’s snapping my head off and treating me like a schoolkid and the next he’s Mr Friendly Sensitive Lover. Mulder stomped off back down to the parking lot. I can’t keep up with this, he thought sourly to himself. It was just too confusing. How could Walter compartmentalise pieces of himself so thoroughly? Mulder was sure that in the office earlier Skinner had been genuinely angry and by tomorrow morning probably would be again. But here, in his own apartment, he was Walter, not angry at all, not even vaguely phased by their confrontation at work. It was all too much. He grabbed the bag out of his car, muttering to himself and sloped back up in the elevator. The apartment door was ajar. He went in and threw his bag down, wandering over to the kitchen.


“Smell’s nice,” he commented neutrally.


“My speciality.” Skinner grinned. “A sort of casserole.”


“Sort of?” Mulder wrinkled his face into a frown. “That sounds suspicious.”


“Old family recipe.” Skinner leaned over and kissed his lover on the lips, passing him a beer from the fridge at the same time in one smooth movement. Mulder stood there, unresponsive.


“I can’t do this!” He said, suddenly, pushing Skinner away.


“What’s the matter?”


“You are!” Mulder took his jacket off and slung it on the back of a chair, then loosened his tie. “How can you do this?”




“Be two different people! At work you’re this raging, surly, hard man and here you’re all sugar coated candy floss! It’s unreal. I can’t hack it.”


Walter was silent for a moment and then he sighed, taking off his apron.


“We don’t have much time together as it is. You want to spend what we do have talking about work?” he asked, sitting down opposite Mulder at the table.


“No. But we can’t pretend work doesn’t happen. Or at least, I can’t, even if you can.”


“I just find it easier this way, that’s all.” Skinner shrugged. “It’s worked alright so far, hasn’t it?”


“So far yes. But that’s only because I’ve been a good boy for 4 months. It’s been easy to keep up this little illusion when it’s never put to the test!” Mulder exclaimed.


“And now it is being tested?” Walter asked.




“And is it a test our relationship will fail? Its first real test and we flunk it?” He wanted to know. Mulder shrugged.


“I don’t know. I just know that I’m angry and I can’t pretend I’m not and you’re angry and you can pretend you’re not. That’s the difference between us.”


“And hasn’t it been the case that you’ve never yet had a relationship that can withstand the test of your anger or other people’s anger with you?” Skinner asked, perceptively. Mulder stared at him. “You can’t see beyond it, Fox. You think people will stop loving you because they’re angry with you or because your own anger offends them. I don’t feel that way. We can have an argument about it right here and now but the only place you are going to sleep tonight is in my bed, in my arms. You don’t escape from my life so easily. Not when I’ve waited so long for you. So fire away. Shout at me. I can take it.” And he sat back, crossing his arms, waiting. Mulder just sat there. “Well? You want me to start?” Skinner asked. “We can do this. We can go over every stupid thing you did last night. We can do it here, now, while our dinner burns, or we can do it tomorrow morning, in my office, where this argument belongs. Always assuming you show up tomorrow morning. I’m not very happy about this afternoon’s missed meeting.”


“Oh. I forgot about that.” Mulder went red.


“Well I didn’t. You walk into trouble like other people walk into a bar, Fox. Now do we eat or do we argue?”


“Eat.” Mulder leaned back with a sigh. “Definitely eat. But we do have to talk.”


“Fair enough.” Skinner shrugged, getting up to serve out the dinner.


“I was scared I’d lost you.” Mulder confided, between mouthfuls. “I was scared you were so angry you wouldn’t want me.”


“Don’t be an idiot.” Skinner gave his lover a sympathetic look. “I can’t pretend I’m happy about the situation you’ve landed us in, but let’s face it, this isn’t the first time we’ve crossed swords at work and it won’t be the last. You’re always going to be doing things that tick me off. I accept that. It makes life more fun and it sure as hell irritates the leeches.”


“The who? Oh, Scully calls them the bodies.” Mulder grinned.


“Always did like Scully.” Skinner smiled. “I don’t have much say in them being around but you shouldn’t let them wind you up. You have more talent and integrity in your little finger than the whole lot of them combined.”


“You really think that?” Mulder stared, surprised.


“Of course. You are so unaware, Fox! You are an amazing person and I adore you. Why do you believe the people you love will always push you away?”


“Because…they usually do. After Sam disappeared it was always like Mom didn’t want to risk caring for me, in case I went too. And Dad…well Dad was always distant, even before Sam went missing. I could never do anything right in his eyes. I was always one walking disappointment. We argued about everything. Sometimes I think I argued with him just to get his attention. Maybe I still do that with people I want to notice me…” Mulder paused and glanced at Skinner who gave a wry chuckle. “Dad liked to lay down the law and you know me, I hate that. There was a time when he seemed to be tanning my hide over something every day of the week.”


“Your father used to beat you?” Walter asked, grasping Mulder’s fingers lovingly in his own.


“Yeah. I hated it but…but at the same time I sort of liked it as well because it meant he noticed me. I suppose I sort of provoked him into it half the time. And afterwards he’d be really nice to me, because he felt guilty maybe, I don’t know. We sort of had an agreement. I’d be a pain in the butt, he’d whip my ass and then it would all be over. He wouldn’t have a go at me about it after that, it would be totally forgotten. I used to have a friend at school – no I did, really. One friend…” Mulder grinned “…and he was shocked that my dad used to hit me. But his parents used to send him to his room and wouldn’t talk to him for weeks at a time if he ever screwed up. Then they’d bring up stuff he’d done years ago, throwing it back in his face the whole time, punishing him for it over and over again. I couldn’t bear that. All those long, cold silences.” Mulder shivered. “I think I preferred it my dad’s way. At least it was over quicker.”


“My mom used to keep this damn great wooden spoon on the wall.” Skinner told him with a short bark of a laugh. “And if we played up she’d chase after us with it and put us over the kitchen table. My dad was a kind man. He hardly ever raised his voice to us, let alone his hand, except…” Skinner paused, his voice shaky and Mulder stared at him intrigued, wondering what had upset his lover.


“Go on.” He squeezed Skinner’s fingers.


“Except once. Just once. I did something so awful…” Skinner paused and for the first time since he had known him, Mulder thought he looked vulnerable. “I stole his car. It was just a prank. I must have been about 15. I took it out, got drunk, drove it back and crashed it, damn nearly mowing down some people in the process. Dad had to come and pick me up from the jail. The sherriff was a friend of the family. He knew me, so he let me off with a caution. But I’d never seen dad look like that. Disappointed in me. Desperately, desperately disappointed. He took me home, never said a word, sent me up to bed and in the morning he took me down to the barn and told me that I was a disgrace to the family. He didn’t shout. Just told me quietly that I could have killed myself and other people, my mother had been beside herself with worry and that I had behaved like a fool. Then he told me that he was going to give me a whipping I’d remember for the rest of my life. He was right.” Skinner shuddered and Mulder gripped his fingers even tighter. “He put me over a hay bale, took his belt off and hit me so hard, for so long, that I could hardly stand up afterwards. When it was over, I was sobbing, and I mean really sobbing. And when I looked at him I saw he was crying too. He just gathered me up in his arms and said “Remember this, Walter. Because this is how much I love you. I’ve been cruel to be kind, son.” Skinner sat back and shook his head. “I understood what he meant. He was a gentle man, Fox. He’d never harm anything. It must have broken his heart to do that to me but he thought I was going off the rails, getting into trouble, that I’d kill myself and maybe someone else if I ever pulled another stunt like that one again and he wasn’t about to stand by and let me do that. I tell you though, I couldn’t sit down for 5 days afterwards. And he was right. I’ve never forgotten it. Or what it cost him.”


“I can’t imagine you being 15.” Mulder grinned at him, still stroking his fingers.


“You, on the other hand, behave as if you still are!” Skinner grinned back.


“Perhaps you should give me a good hiding then.” Mulder laughed. “Then you wouldn’t have to be angry with me any more.”


“Sounds like a sex game to me, Fox. You never mentioned this kinky streak before.” Skinner ran a hand through his lover’s thick hair. He loved doing this and Mulder tolerated it amiably enough.


“No way!” Mulder said, pulling a face. “Pain doesn’t turn me on at all. Although…” he paused.


“Go on.” Skinner ran his fingers along his lover’s ears and Mulder sighed, leaning back into the embrace.


“Well, I did use to feel a lot better when it was all over. It was sort of cathartic, I guess.”


“Are you serious about this? I don’t think I could hurt you.” Skinner said, still fondling. Mulder made a noise like a contented little rabbit, nestling up for a cuddle.


“No. Forget it.” He made a face. “I just remembered how much it damn well hurt!” He pulled Skinner’s face over and kissed his lips firmly. “But we’re no further forward on how we deal with stuff are we? And it’s no use pretending that it’s never going to happen again because we both know that I can’t be good forever. I have been trying though. Honest.”


“I know. I’ve been very impressed. All these amazing reports whizzing over my desk. Reports that actually made sense for once! All the technical data attached, not submitted three weeks later in a crumpled brown envelope. It’s been…different.” Skinner poured them both another glass of wine. “However…” he looked at Mulder seriously over his glass as he raised it to his lips. “You can’t expect me to treat you any differently just because of our relationship, Fox. It wouldn’t be fair for a start and while you have your integrity, you must allow me mine. So if you screw up, or act…imprudently, you’ve got to expect me to tell you so and knock you back into line. That’s my job. I can’t compromise it.”


“I suppose.” Mulder sighed. “But about last night…”


“I will protect you as much as I can.” Skinner interrupted him. “I know you only act out of the best motives – I just wish you’d think before you jump sometimes.”


“I really did have that guy. He just…morphed into something else under my hands.”




“Yes. Totally changed shape. I was so surprised I let him go.”


“You didn’t mention that in your report.”


“Can you imagine what the leeches would have made of that?”


“Yes. But all the same you should have mentioned it. I believe you, even if they don’t. You’ve been right too many times before for us to discount this sort of thing. Even so, you should never have gone there alone, you should have taken Scully. You should have informed me and you should have phoned in for back-up. And you most certainly, should not have handcuffed that patrolman to his car. You have no idea how much that apology cost me.”


“Yeah. I know. Sorry.” Mulder sighed. He got up and sat down at Skinner’s feet, taking the other man’s hands and putting them on his shoulders – his unsubtle way of asking for a neck-rub.


“So, is there anything else you didn’t put in your report? I can’t protect you if there are things I don’t know about.” Skinner started massaging him, his big hands devouring the tension in Mulder’s shoulders.Mulder thought about it for a moment. It was nice, sitting here, being massaged. He didn’t want it to stop and it would stop if he mentioned the other thing. The thing he hadn’t put in his report. The thing that would make Skinner go bright red and hopping mad.


“No,” he said, crossing his fingers for the second time in a day. “No. That’s about it.”


“Good.” Skinner leaned forwards and kissed his head. “Then I think we’ve successfully tackled our first big challenge, Fox. We’re okay aren’t we?”


“Yes.” Mulder leaned back and let those strong fingers soothe away his guilty lie. “We’re okay, Walter.”


This, Mulder thought as he lay on the couch, his head on his lover’s shoulder, was bliss. This was what he had wanted all his life but had never thought he could have. Walter had one of his big arms around his chest and had insinuated his hand into Mulder’s shirt and was stroking one of his nipples, idly, as they lay, watching TV. It had taken him a while to persuade Walter to watch porn with him and even now, he knew that Walter wasn’t really watching. He was dreaming, enjoying the sensation of his lover’s hair against his cheek. Sometimes he read a book, surreptitiously, while Mulder watched.


“I could understand it while you weren’t in a relationship.” Skinner had groaned. “Watching porn probably helped relieve some of your more…basic urges. But you’ve got the real thing now. Why bother with the porn?”


“I just like it. It helps me relax. It’s so…undemanding.” Mulder had told him. “I like looking at bodies. I especially like looking at your body. I’m visually fixated.” Skinner had laughed. He found porn boring, but he also found Mulder’s interest in it endearing. Yet another example of how he had never quite grown up and was still a hormonal 15 year old at heart, fascinated by peeking.


The phone rang and Mulder was jolted out of his comfortable reverie. He moved his head to allow Skinner to answer it and lay back on the couch, his head in the warm spot that Walter had just vacated.


“Skinner.” He half listened, half watched. “Uh-huh. Yes. I see. Yes. When was this? Are you sure?” A long silence. Mulder glanced up. Skinner was watching him. “Can you repeat that?” Skinner asked, his fingers rubbing his jaw. “No, no. I just want to be clear. You’re sure there’s no mistake?” Mulder felt suddenly very worried. Skinner had turned his back on him as he talked and he couldn’t see the expression in the other man’s eyes, but his shoulders looked tense and his voice was brusque. Finally Skinner slammed the phone down and stood there for a moment, looking at it.


“Walter…?” Mulder asked. Skinner turned round to face him.


“When were you going to tell me?” Skinner walked slowly back towards the couch. “Or were you hoping I wouldn’t find out?”


“Find out what?” Mulder sat up, feeling unsafe.


“I’ve just had the ballistics report back on the bodies in the warehouse. A report which suggests they were all killed by your gun.”


“Oh.” Mulder took a deep breath. “Okay, I’m sorry. I should have said. But my gun was stolen. I swear it. It was a set-up.”


“A set-up? By whom? The amazing morphing man?”


“No…yes. I don’t know!”


“So you lied instead? Did you think I wouldn’t find out?”


“More sort of hoped you wouldn’t really…” Mulder gulped. “Look, I’m sorry, Walter. Really. I shouldn’t have lied.”


“Fox, you sat here less than an hour ago and swore to me that there was nothing else. I told you I needed to know in order to protect you for god’s sake! I’m not doing this on purpose to make your life more difficult than you make it for yourself!”


“I know that. I know.” Mulder got off the couch and backed himself up against the wall as Skinner advanced on him.


“How – can – I – protect – you – if – you – won’t – trust – me.” Skinner got hold of his head and thudded it gently against the wall as he said each word.


“I’m sorry.” Mulder felt a wave of horrible guilt sweep over him. He should have said. Whatever trouble he would have been in couldn’t have been anywhere near as bad as the trouble he was in now.


“What can I do to get the message into this thick skull of yours?” Skinner flicked his fingertips against Mulder’s forehead. “Perhaps you were right in what you said earlier. Perhaps I should take my belt off to you. Would that work, Fox?”


“Um…” Mulder stared into his lover’s eyes. He did feel horribly wretched about the whole thing. “I suppose I deserve it,” he mumbled.


“Yes. You do. Come here.” Skinner pulled him over to the couch. He undid his belt and pulled it though the loops in his jeans with a horrible swishing sound. Mulder felt himself trembling.


“Don’t.” He whispered, his mouth dry. “I won’t do it again. I’m sorry.”


“Here.” Skinner said sternly, pulling him close and undoing his trousers, pushing them down to his ankles. Mulder stepped out of them. They had only undressed each other before as a prelude to sex but this was different. This was agonising!


“Please…” Mulder begged but Skinner ignored him, pushing down his boxers then seating himself on the couch. “I’m scared.” Mulder said. “It’ll hurt…I don’t want to be hurt…”


“But you deserve to be hurt.” Skinner told him. He had his work face on. That implacable one. The one you couldn’t argue with. “I mean it, Fox. I’m angry and you’re guilty. My dad was right. Sometimes you have to cruel to be kind. Now get your sorry ass over my knee and prepare yourself for a damn good hiding.”


Mulder crept over like a terrified puppy and lowered himself reluctantly over his lover’s knee.


He twisted his head back and watched as Skinner doubled up his the belt and gripped it firmly in his big hand. Then Skinner pushed his head back down and he found himself staring dismally at the carpet. Here we go again, he thought to himself, remembering vividly the red and brown pattern on the carpet in his father’s study. He had had ample opportunity to study it over the years.


“Ready?” Skinner asked and he tensed, nodding.


“I suppose.”


“Good. Keep your hands down and don’t move or you may end up getting a swat somewhere more painful.”


There was a whooshing sound and then the belt made painful contact with his bare backside. Mulder yelped. This was harder than his father had ever hit and Skinner was a far bigger and stronger man than his dad had ever been. Another whoosh and another streak of agony across his backside. He yelped again and gripped onto his lover’s legs for support as his whole body flipped into the air. Another blow caught him in the join between buttocks and thighs and he screamed.


“Well hold still then. Or they’ll all miss.” Skinner hissed, his big hand pressing even tighter on Mulder’s back. He got into a slow rhythm, bringing the belt back down again and again allowing Mulder to holler and get his breath back between each blow until Mulder was a quivering, yelling wreck. Skinner paused and about 30 seconds later Mulder realised that the onslaught had stopped and quit shouting.


“Finished?” Skinner queried.


“Um…yes. Have you?” He asked hopefully.


“No.” That belt came back down with another swishing sound and this time Skinner went faster, not allowing him time to breathe or scream between blows until he was begging for it to stop, tears coursing down his cheeks.


“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” He moaned, over and over again.


“Alright. I think you’ve learned your lesson.” Skinner flipped him off his knee and he knelt on the carpet, still crying. Skinner smiled at him gently and gave him a kiss. “I do love you, Fox.” He said. “And now you’ll feel a whole lot better won’t you?”


“I don’t know.” Mulder rocked back on his heels. “Ow!” he exclaimed. “You damn well hand out tough beatings, Walter.” He complained. “I won’t be able to sit down tomorrow.”


“You’ll be fine.” Skinner leaned back and surveyed the results of his handiwork with some satisfaction. Mulder’s backside flamed a bright red, like a beacon. He got up and fetched his lover a glass of water, watching as Mulder eased himself back into his boxers and trousers. When he sat back down on the couch Mulder edged forwards timorously, nudging at his lover’s elbow with his head.


“You do still love me don’t you?” He asked anxiously. “You’re not cross with me any more? I’m forgiven?”


“I love you more than ever!” Skinner laughed, hauling him onto his lap face down and playing with his hair again. “But if you ever make me this angry again I swear I’ll give you a beating that makes that one seem like a light spanking. Do you understand, Fox?”


“Yes.” Mulder relaxed with a sigh. All the anger and tantrums and the unbearable guilt had gone. He felt happier than he had done all day.


“Breakfast!” Skinner appeared at his bedside with a tray.


“What?” Mulder mumbled, his tousled head appearing from under the quilt. “I thought you deserved a nice breakfast in bed. You’ve got a tough day ahead of you.” Skinner informed him.


“I have?” Mulder squinted at him.


“Yes. Trust me. You have. Now eat up.” Mulder tried to sit up and immediately let out a yelp.


“Damn you and your goddamn belt.” He complained, squinting as Skinner opened the curtains. His boss was already dressed for work in a nice crisp shirt and tie. Mulder hated the way his lover would be up and ready in 3 minutes flat while it took him half an hour just to get his bearings in the morning. He also hated it when Skinner got dressed before he woke because it was damned difficult to get the man back into bed for a quick session once he was dressed. Skinner always resisted because it upset his sense of order and it meant he had to go and get another shower which made him late and he hated being late. It had become a sort of game between them as to whether Mulder could entice Skinner back to bed, a game that Mulder usually won.


Mulder managed to topple out of the bed and onto all fours before clambering back onto the bed and kneeling gingerly to eat his breakfast.


“What time is it?” He asked.




Skinner sat down beside him and flicked through his newspaper, smiling at Mulder every now and again over the top of it. Mulder really was very endearing first thing. All that messed up hair and big morning eyes. It was a shame he wouldn’t be able to touch him again until Friday night. He watched as Mulder crunched on a slice of toast, the crumbs disappearing down into the bedclothes. Skinner sighed – he’d have to change those tonight. But his lover really did deserve some spoiling. He felt a little bit guilty about the beating he’d handed out, even if it had all really been Mulder’s idea. He had been certain that he could never have harmed a hair on his lover’s beautiful head and instead had found himself quite enjoying the sensation of the younger man wriggling and sobbing on his lap. He had also been overwhelmed by the strength of his anger and might have been more severe than he had intended. Certainly Mulder’s backside still bore the stripes and would do for several days if he was any judge. He remembered the thrashing his father had given him well enough to know how much pain Mulder would be in for the next few days. He hadn’t delivered anything like as hard a whipping as his father had but all the same, it had been bad enough. He wondered what effect, if any, it would have on his troublesome agent’s behaviour.


“I’m going in a minute.” He informed the younger man. “There’s some stuff I want to get done first thing. Now don’t go back to bed and remember that I want to see you in my office at 9 o’clock or there’ll be trouble.”


“Yes, boss.”


“And let’s keep it formal, Fox.” He bent to kiss his lover gently on the head. “Work at work, fun at home. Yes?”


“If it means no more spankings, then yes.” Mulder said hopefully.


“Uh-uh. I think you’re right about that, Fox. They are cathartic.” He grinned and kissed the other man again on his outraged open mouth.


One of the leeches was in Skinner’s office when Mulder presented himself a couple of hours later. “Come in, Agent Mulder. Sit down.” Skinner was his normal workday self but all the same he couldn’t hide the slight tug of a smile that nudged around his lips as he gave that invitation. Mulder hesitated.


“Couldn’t I stand, sir?” he asked, glancing at the man in a dark suit who was seated next to his boss at the table. “I’ve got a bit of back pain you see…”


“Nothing serious I hope?” Skinner asked slyly.


“No. I’m sure it’ll be fine in a couple of days,” he replied carefully avoiding meeting his lover’s eyes.


“Well if it’s not serious, I’d prefer it if you sat. This might be quite a long meeting.”


“I see.” Mulder shot his boss a vicious glance and eased himself carefully into a chair, wincing as his sore backside made contact with the hard leather.


“We’ve got the ballistics report back.” Skinner threw it down on the desk. “It’s a good job you reported your weapon missing a couple of days ago, Agent Mulder, or you would be in big trouble right now.”


“Missing?” Mulder picked up the file and flicked through it. “Yes, sir. Missing.” He gave his boss a grateful smile. “I’ve been thinking, sir. About my behavior yesterday,” he began. Skinner looked alarmed. “And I wanted to apologise.” Mulder said. Now Skinner looked surprised. “I behaved badly and you were quite right to throw the book at me, sir. If I could apologise to you as well and perhaps you could pass my apologies onto the other people who were at that meeting.” Mulder directed his query at the man in the dark suit who looked quite startled.


“Well, yes, Agent Mulder. I’ll do that,” he said.


“Good. Should we run through my workload for the day then?” he asked, getting out a file. Skinner leaned back in his chair and the two exchanged a long, completely expressionless stare.


30 minutes later the man in the dark suit left the office, pleasantly surprised by the change in Agent Mulder’s attitude.


“You know…” Skinner mused once they were alone. “I’ve been sent on dozens of personnel management training courses, spent the past 7 years overseeing agents and dealing with man management issues and I now realise I’ve been doing it all wrong.”


“How’s that, sir?” Mulder asked, getting up slowly and cautiously to return to his office.


“Corporal punishment is obviously the answer, Agent Mulder. I’ve never seen such a change in a man. Perhaps I should try and institute spanking as an official FBI disciplinary procedure from now on….”


Mulder fled.




End Part One


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