I’ve never been on the 5th floor before. I try not to look too much like a gawping kid as I push open the door to my new office and survey the Maplewood desk, and plush carpeting; it’s a bit different three floors down in Accounts where grey functionality is the order of the day. I take off my coat, and hang it on the thoughtfully provided hook, and then survey my new territory. The desk is neatly organised – pens arranged in one section of the office tidy; pencils, scissors and so on in another; ruler square to the blotting pad, inbox and outbox empty, virginal, and waiting…just like moi.


There’s a coffee percolator on a desk to the side, and a little sink next to it, which is convenient. No more long trips down the corridor to fill up at the faucet in the bathroom – I won’t drink that sludge the machines churn out. It’s the real thing or nothing for me. I’m good at coffee – my previous boss said nobody made it like me. I think that was a compliment. I set the coffee humming, ready and waiting for him. Oh shit, just thinking about him makes my heart drop several feet to land, panting and gasping for air, in my shoes, and not for the first time I wonder why the hell they chose me for this.


I glance at the door connecting my office with his, and decide that the evil moment can’t be delayed any longer, so, taking a deep breath, I knock. No reply. I take another deep breath, count to ten, and then knock again. Still no reply. Taking my life into my hands, I open the door a fraction and peep inside. Nothing. There’s nobody here. Feeling relieved, I slip into my new boss’s office, and gaze around. If I thought my office was plush, his is out of this world. Huge, long expanses of polished desks, and the most enormous black leather director’s chair that you ever saw. His desk isn’t as neat and tidy as mine – and his in-tray is crammed full and has overflowed onto the floor beside his chair. I tiptoe over and glance at his desk, trying to get some measure of the man who almost single-handedly holds the happiness of my next few months in his hands. That’s not an exaggeration – a good boss can mean the difference between dragging your heels to work each morning, nursing zero self-esteem, or skipping onto the Metro looking forward to the day ahead.


The first thing I always look for are photographs. I like to pick up a few personal details about my boss. Married? Wife? Kids? Mistress? Most of them have all of the former – and a good PA knows the names, birthdays and personalities of the whole bunch, to say nothing of being able to pick up an appropriate gift at a moment’s notice, or the right kind of flowers for the occasion. You know – lilies for “I’m sorry”, and red roses for “I’m coming over tonight so don’t bother with underwear”. The wives usually end up with the lilies, and the mistresses with the roses, needless to say.


This guy doesn’t have any photographs on his desk though. Not one. I glance around furtively, but I’m curious, and there’s nobody in sight, so I creep around the other side of his desk and pull open his desk drawer. Oh, please! Like there’s a PA in the world who hasn’t done this! My sneakiness is wasted though – there’s nothing here except for one rather curious item. A wedding ring. I mean, who keeps a wedding ring in their desk drawer? My new boss does, clearly. I pick it up and glance at it, and the inscription catches my eye; Love forever, Sharon. Aw. Sweet. Maybe there’s a mushy romantic side to my new boss, despite all the rumours I’ve heard about Walter Sergei Skinner, scourge of the 5th floor. Maybe. There aren’t any photographs of this Sharon on the desk though.


It’s only half past seven – I was so worried about being late on my first day that I’m absurdly early. He probably won’t show up for another half hour, so I start to relax. Feeling like a naughty kid, I sink down slowly into his plush leather chair, and giggle to myself. Well, what can I say – the chairs in Accounts don’t feel this good, or look this darn impressive either. I press the button on the phone, and bark a few demands into it, in what I imagine is a good imitation of my new boss. I’ve heard he’s a total hard ass, and boy, it feels good to be the one giving the orders for a change. This gives me an idea, so I pick up the phone and dial Cheryl’s extension. She usually gets in early because she has this thing for Mark in Personnel, and he comes in first thing to work out. Cheryl likes to watch. One of these days I’m going to send Mark an anonymous memo asking if he’s aware there’s a voyeur stalking him.


“Cheryl? It’s me, Geri,” I whisper furtively.


“Geri? Oh my god! Oh shit! How’s it going?” She asks dramatically. “How’s Pops?”


“Pops?” I frown, swinging the chair around so that I can glance out of the window, then doing a full circle around and beneath the phone cord.


“It’s short for Popsicle,” she giggles. “Well, haven’t you always thought that AD Skinner’s buns are so tight he looks as if he’s trying to hold a Popsicle up his ass?”


“You are so bad!” I giggle helplessly. She has a point. I’ve only ever seen the guy from a distance, but he has this way of walking, with his butt tightly clenched, that makes the nickname peculiarly apt. “Oh god you’re right though!” I swing the chair around again, and stick my fingers through the Venetian blinds, trying to catch a glimpse of the occupant of the opposite office. “He does look like he’s got a Popsicle up his ass!”


“You better believe it, honey. Okay, tell me everything. What’s happened? What’s he like? Is he as sexy as Moira told us he was?” Moira was my old boss in Accounts. She used to have these monthly meetings with AD Skinner to discuss his department’s budget requirements, and detail any expense account anomalies. She said that AD Skinner was okay – scary as hell, but basically okay. Apparently he’s got a list of legal qualifications as long as your arm, and he had this way of fixing her with a glare through his spectacles and interrogating her as if they were in court or something. She said he was scrupulously polite but she always felt like a criminal – and she was the one who was supposed to be asking all the questions!


“I don’t know what he’s like,” I whisper theatrically down the phone. “He hasn’t shown up yet.”


“Are you kidding?” Cheryl screeches. “The guy is notorious for never going home. Have you checked the bathroom?”


“Uh, what bathroom?” I hiss.


“The one next to his office – all the AD’s have their own private bathroom in their offices,” Cheryl chides. “You did know that – right?”


”No!” I swing the chair around in a panic – just in time to see a door at the far end of the office open, and a tall, imposing figure appear in the door frame. “Oh shit. Gotta go.” I drop the phone, and slide out of his chair, flushing a shade of beetroot red as he stands there, unmoving, just watching me. Shit! He must have been able to hear every word I said while he was in the bathroom. Shit! I think back frantically, trying to remember exactly what I said, and whether any of it was incriminating. Oh god, did I mention him by name when we were giggling over the Popsicle comment? He still hasn’t moved. He’s just looking at me, unsmiling. He’s a big guy close up, broad, and he smells kind of clean, which is how he looks too. I can smell his cologne from here, and I think he was probably shaving in the bathroom. If he doesn’t ever go home then presumably he has to shave here. What nobody told me was how good-looking he is when you see him up close, and my knees do that instant wobbly thing that they always do whenever I meet someone I find attractive. This is a complication I really don’t need. My mind is racing, but my libido is one step ahead, as I take in his square jaw, very dark eyes, and a hard, toned body which is like an unexploded bomb, ticking dangerously. His small nose seems out of place on the rest of his face somehow, and his lips are soft, and fuller than you’d expect judging by the hardness of his body, the forbidding expression on his face, and the way he holds himself. This guy has a sensual side. His cuddly qualities are the last thing on my mind right now though as I face down my angry new boss.


“Do I know you?” He asks after an endless pause. He sounds faintly pissed off, but not actually angry. Yet.


“Uh, yes. I mean no. I mean, that is, I’m your new secretary,” I falter weakly.


“You?” He stands, stock still, his hands on his hips, just looking at me, and I can just see the thoughts going through his head. It’s okay. I’m used to it. I know what people think when they look at me. “You’re my secretary?” He says again, clearly neither convinced nor particularly happy about it.


“Yes, sir. Geri Warner.” I hold out my hand hopefully.


“Geri?” He repeats, as if even my name offends him.


“Yes, Geri,” I say firmly, holding my ground. “With an i.”


He looks faintly appalled by what he clearly views as a pretentious little affectation.


“Excuse me?” He snaps. There’s an aura of barely leashed aggression about him, and it scares the hell out of me. This is clearly a man who has eaten secretaries for breakfast.


“G-E-R-I,” I spell out loud. “Like Geri Halliwell.”


He raises an eyebrow and indicates, with a slight movement of his head, that he hasn’t a clue what I’m talking about.


“Geri Halliwell. Ginger Spice?” I venture, aware that we’re both floundering horribly here. We could be from different universes, he and I. My world is pop culture and dancing to mindless beats at Boom on a Saturday night, while he’s about twenty-five years older, probably with a heavy mortgage, and an equally heavy career in the biggest law enforcement agency in the world. No wonder he has no idea who the hell the Spice Girls are. We stare at each other, aware that we might as well be speaking a foreign language. There’s a look of incomprehension, combined with disapproval, in his eyes. It’s quite clear, without any shadow of a doubt, that he really doesn’t like me – and that kick-starts my temper. Oh, I know what people think of me. I look like an airhead, and that’s how they treat me, but the time has long since passed when I letany man walk all over me.


“Look, I may not be what you were expecting, but I’m here to cover Kim’s maternity leave so at least I’m only temporary,” I snap.


That has an effect. He frowns slightly, and moves into the office. He has a strangely compelling gait – smooth, and restrained, as if there’s all this pent-up something inside. God knows what, but it’s riveting to watch – and a little bit frightening. I take a step back, seeing my career at the Bureau landing with a thud on the sidewalk outside. My tone was just a fraction away from downright insolent. Not a good start.


“I see. You’re right. You weren’t what I was expecting,” he says, in a milder tone than I deserve.


“Oh, I never am,” I reply bitterly.


He purses his lips, and there’s just a faint glimmer of a smile on them. “I can believe that,” he murmurs. “All right…Geri…” he curls his lips around my name as if he’s sure he’ll never get used to it, and fixes me with a dark-eyed stare that freezes me where I stand. “Let me show you something,” he says slowly, as if talking to a very small child. “This,” he waves his hand in the general direction of his desk, “is where I sit, and where I work, and this…” He puts one hand on my shoulder, and turns me around, then guides me firmly into the outer office. “…is your desk. This is where you sit, and where you work, and where you’ll keep your personal telephone calls to a minimum. Understood?” He exerts just the slightest pressure on my shoulder, but it’s enough to sit me very properly at my desk.


“Yes, sir,” I say softly. Well, I did deserve that so I can’t complain.


“Good. Now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, can I just say that I like my coffee black. No sugar.” And so saying, he disappears back into his office, closing his door firmly and pointedly behind him. Now that the immediate danger has passed, I do exactly what any normal person would do in the circumstances – I collapse back into my chair, and wait for my heart rate to get back to normal. Oh shit. What a start.


Call me superstitious, but I think that you can tell how something is going to work out from how it starts – and our first meeting hardly makes us the poster children for good working relationships. Within three hours, he has my desk piled high with files, and he barely says a word, except to thank me for the endless cups of coffee I bring. I will say this; I’ve worked for a lot of different bosses during my time at the Bureau, and he’s the only one who always, unfailingly, thanks me for bringing him coffee. Every cup, every time, that absent, almost reflexive, “thanks.” It isn’t much, but maybe it’s the only reason I hang in there during those early days, when I’m miserable as hell and floundering around, totally out of my depth. I know I should ask him for help, or talk to someone about the problems I’m having, but I don’t do the former because he scares the shit out of me, and I don’t do the latter because I have my pride. So I bury my head in the sand and the situation goes from bad to worse.


Cheryl was right about him working all hours. There’s never a time when I’m there and he isn’t, except when he’s in some meeting or other, and boy, does he have to go to a lot of meetings. This doesn’t help my problem – I’ve gone from being a lowly secretary to the deputy head of Accounts, to being PA of the man who’s second only to the Deputy Director in importance – just two rungs down the ladder from the top guy himself. It’s a culture shock, and I really don’t know how to handle it. The work piles up, and I don’t have a clue how to deal with most of it. My first two weeks in the job are a nightmare, as I drown under the deluge of files. I don’t have any time for the hour-long lunch breaks I used to take with Cheryl and I miss being able to chat with her. It’s hardly surprising that on the Thursday of the second week, I totally flip.


Skinner returns from a meeting late in the afternoon, fixes me with that dark, inscrutable gaze of his, and tells me that he doesn’t want to be disturbed, under any circumstances, for the rest of the day.


“I have a meeting with the Deputy Director tomorrow, and I need to prepare for it,” he snaps, shutting the door to his office firmly behind him.


I make a face at the closed door, wondering if not being disturbed means no coffee. It sounds stupid, but I obsess about whether I should take him coffee or not. I want to do my job properly, but the man petrifies me, and I’m scared stiff of doing the wrong thing. As I sit, pondering the weighty “to coffee, or not to coffee” question, a minor whirlwind erupts in my office, in the form of one of the cutest guys I’ve ever laid eyes on.


“Where is he?” The whirlwind demands.


“AD Skinner is in his office. He’s not to be disturbed,” I reply, startled by the utter urgency of his demeanour.


“Who are you?” He frowns, startled out of his mission for just long enough to notice that he’s never met me before.


“His new secretary.” I stand, hesitantly, wondering who the hell this person is, and why he seems in such a goddamn hurry.


“Ah. Right.” He gazes at me thoughtfully for a moment, a faintly amused look in his hazel eyes. “So you’re Skinner’s new secretary,” he muses, as if it’s a damn good joke – and one that’s common knowledge around the Bureau, if his expression is anything to go by. “I bet he just loves that,” I hear cute boy mutter under his breath, and that makes me flush beetroot red. I decide, then and there, that however cute he is, this man and I are not destined to be friends.


“Yes, and he says he’s not to be disturbed so…” I begin, but it’s too late. The whirlwind has clearly got the measure of me, and he ignores me as if I’m nothing, which probably, in the giant scheme of things, and certainly in his universe, that’s exactly what I am. It isn’t a good feeling.


“This is important,” he says, bypassing my desk and making a lunge for my boss’s door.


“AD Skinner said…” I scramble to the door to stop him, but it’s too late – he’s crashed in on my startled boss. “Sorry, sir, I tried to…” I begin abjectly. Skinner fixes me with a look that says it all. He thinks I’m the most useless secretary he’s ever had – and he’s probably right.


“I thought I said that I wasn’t to be disturbed, or maybe I didn’t make that clear, Geri?” He snaps.


“No, sir. It’s just that…” I gaze helplessly at cute boy, but he just shrugs, and looks pretty damn smug about achieving his objective of an audience with the Assistant Director. Skinner exhales loudly, casts a withering glance in my direction, which becomes utterly world-weary as his gaze travels over the Armani clad form of the whirlwind.


“All right – just get the hell out, Geri. I’ll deal with Mulder,” Skinner growls at me, one tone away from yelling.


“Yes, sir.” I exit, feeling about two feet tall. Mulder. So that’s Spooky Mulder. I’ve heard about him of course, but never seen him before. I can see what all the gossip is about now. He may be cute, but I hate him. I know all about men like him. Been there, done that, have the emotional bruises to prove it. All that charm, and beauty, and sheer wild, unrestrained energy in one package. I know I’m not the first person to have been swept aside by Hurricane Mulder – and I sure as hell won’t be the last either. I give men like him a wide berth – too much like my father. I don’t trust easy charm combined with outrageously good looks – I’ve got reason not to.


I sit listlessly at my desk, and stare at the pile of files that seem to be reproducing at an alarming rate. Then I listen with half an ear to what sounds like a heated argument going on in the inner office. I can hear his voice repeating over and over in my head: Get the hell out, Geri, and remember the look in his dark eyes as he gave me that withering glance. Finally, too on edge to stay, I run for the door, escape along the corridor, dart head first into the elevator, and down two floors. Back on the familiar ground of the second floor, I dive into Accounts, grab a startled Cheryl by the arm, and hiss: “Coffee break. Now.”


She takes one look at me, and nods, guiding me out of the building, and through the huddle of smokers gathered by the Fire Exit. She sits me down on the wall beside a fountain, and puts a motherly arm around my shoulder.


“What happened, Geri?” She asks as I stare stonily into the water.


“He happened,” I mumble wretchedly.


“Popsicle?” She smiles at me encouragingly.


“No, yes, no…Spooky Mulder. He just pushed his way into Skinner’s office, and I couldn’t have stopped him, and now that bastard blames me. He thinks I’m a total waste of space,” I babble pathetically.


“Okay. By bastard we’re talking about Popsicle right? Not Spooky?” She asks.


“Yeah. Popsicle.” I manage a grin at our pet name for him.


“Okay. Look, honey, this doesn’t sound too bad – it’s not the whole story is it?” She asks gently.


“No. It’s me. I can’t do the job,” I admit miserably. “I don’t understand any of it. Nobody has explained it to me. I’ve never worked for anyone as important as Sk…Popsicle before,” I give her a faded, forced smile, “and I don’t know why they gave me this job. I don’t have the experience.”


“No, you don’t,” Cheryl says softly. “I think that’s the point, Geri.”


“What?” I look at her in surprise.


“I overheard something on the office grapevine,” she tells me carefully. “It seems that Popsicle is out of favour at the top. I don’t know the ins and outs, but it’s got something to do with Spooky. Popsicle is supposed to supervise him, but Spooky runs wild, and gets the Bureau into all kinds of hot water. I think Popsicle isn’t toeing the Bureau line – he’s not doing what they expect, but he’s too important for them to get rid of him. Apparently…” Her voice drops an octave, and she leans forward conspiratorially, “…a couple of years ago Popsicle was investigated on suspicion of murder.”


“What?” I sit back, stunned. Okay, so I don’t particularly like the guy, but murder? Somehow I can’t see it. Not that he doesn’t scare the hell out of me, but the thought of those big, blunt fingers pulling a gun on someone, or fastening around a helpless throat just doesn’t seem right. He’s a desk jockey. It’s hard to think of him ever losing that iron-hard self-control for long enough to murder anyone. He’s too restrained.


“The charges were dropped, but apparently that was thanks to Spooky – so Popsicle owes Spooky and can’t get rid of him.” Cheryl shrugs. “Anyhow, the truth is, darling, and I don’t mean this the wrong way, but you were sent to work for him because you’re caught up in a giant game of office politics.”


“You mean…they assigned me to him because they wanted to give him grief?” I stammer. “They think I’m crap, and they want me to make his life harder?”


“Well, they certainly don’t want to make it any easier,” she grins. “But you’re not crap, Geri – just young, and you know, you’ve got sort of a reputation…”


“Because of how I look!” I explode. “For god’s sake – I never damn well do anything. Not any more anyway. You know that.”


“I know, sweetie. I know you’re saving yourself for the right man.” She gives a wry shrug, this concept being beyond her comprehension.


“It’s not that. It’s just…I’ve been hurt. I don’t want to take any risks,” I mutter.


“Life’s a risk, hon.” She flicks a strand of my hair away from my face. “Look – you’re not a bad P.A. Moira never had any complaints, did she?”


“No.” I shrug listlessly but the only thing going around in my head is the fact that they think I’m crap at my job.


“They assigned you because they thought he wouldn’t like you, and that you were too young for this kind of responsibility – but they wouldn’t be able to get away with giving him anyone really crappy,” she says, trying to nudge me out of my funk. “Skinner wouldn’t have gone for it for one thing. You do look damn good on paper, Geri! You have a degree, you can type, do shorthand. You’re not just some dumb, empty-headed bimbo…”


“No, but that’s what they think.” I make a face at her. “And it’s exactly what he thinks. I can see it in his eyes. He hates me.”


“Nobody could hate you, hon. You’re too easy on the eye.” She strokes my hair and smiles. “Look, this job is only until Kim Cook gets back, right?” I nod listlessly. “Well, just do it the best you can until then. Either that, or you just march right back in there, and tell Skinner to reach into his ass, and pull out that damn Popsicle he’s got clenched up there!”


I have to laugh at that, and before long we’re both giggling helplessly. When we finally subside, Cheryl smiles at me, and grabs my shoulders. “You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of, Geri. You’re the sweetest, kindest person I know, and if Popsicle doesn’t appreciate you, that’s his loss. Now go back in there with your head held high.”


“All right.” I square my shoulders and sit up straight. “I will. Thanks, Cheryl.” I give her a heartfelt kiss on the cheek, and we both stand up, and push our way through the smokers to return to the building.


Spooky has gone when I return – or at least I can’t hear him in Skinner’s office. I sit at my desk, and survey the huge piles of paperwork building up, wondering what to do next. I really don’t know where to start, and he’s always too busy to show me. While I’m sitting there, contemplating whether or not to resign, the door opens and Skinner looms over me.


“Where have you been?” He demands tersely. He looks angry, and still keyed up after his argument with Agent Mulder.


“The bathroom.” I stand up, and face him. I’m tall – not as tall as he is, but tall enough to be able to look him in the eye. “I want a word with you, sir. Look, I know we got off to a bad start, but I refuse to allow you to intimidate me. I don’t work well like that, and…”


“What the hell…?” He interrupts me, his forehead creasing into a frown, but I put up my hand.


“Give me the courtesy of allowing me to finish,” I tell him firmly. He looks startled, but backs down, and folds his arms across his chest, indicating that he’s going to hear me out.


“I know I’m not what you want here – and there’s no way I’m going to be as good as Kim, but I’m a fast learner, and I’m prepared to learn. That’s the important thing, isn’t it? If you don’t like me because of the way I do my job, then that’s fine, but at least treat me with respect. I know they assigned me to you deliberately to make your life harder, and I can see why that would piss you off, but that’s not my fault and I’d really appreciate it if you didn’t take it out on me. I can’t work for someone who obviously despises me so much, and if you have a problem with me, or the fact that you’re more used to a female secretary, or because I’m gay, or whatever, then I’d prefer it if you’d request a different secretary, and allow me to return to my old job, because I sure as hell can’t continue like this.” I run out of steam, and stop. I’m breathing heavily, but I’ll be damned if I let him see how upset I am. It must be obvious from the way my chest is heaving up and down, but I’m proud of myself all the same. I’ve said my piece and, even if I end up losing my job, at least I’ll hang on to my self-respect.


He blinks behind his spectacles, and for a moment I have no idea what his reaction is…but when it comes, suffice it to say that it’s not what I’m expecting. He slowly removes his glasses, and rubs a weary hand over his eyes.


“Geri, it’s been a long day in an even longer week. You clearly have some issues with me so why don’t we take this into my office where we can discuss it.” He opens his office door, and gestures me inside. I go, nervously, and hover in front of his desk. He doesn’t follow, and I wonder what the hell he’s doing as I stand there, anxiously awaiting my fate. He’s probably phoning security to get them to take me away. A few moments later, I hear the door shut softly behind me.


“Take a seat, Geri,” he says in a polite, almost friendly tone. I sit down in front of the desk, and he walks over and hands me a cup of coffee, which at least explains the delay. “Not as good as the way you make it, I’m sure,” he says with an apologetic shrug. “White – one sugar, right?”


“Yes.” I’m surprised that he’s noticed the way I take my coffee. He sits down, not behind his desk, but in the chair next to mine, nursing his own cup of coffee. This close up, and without his glasses, he looks…tired. I suddenly wonder about his lifestyle. The endless cups of coffee, the long hours, the fights with Spooky, and the vicious office politics, and pressure from above.


“You shouldn’t work so hard,” I say, before I can stop myself.


He gives a strange, barking laugh. “That’s what my wife used to say,” he mutters.


“She was right.” I feel a sudden empathy for the mysterious Sharon, and remember the romantic inscription she had engraved inside his wedding ring. What kind of man would inspire such unashamed devotion, I wonder? “Your health is the most important thing,” I tell him vacuously. “What does any of this matter at the end of the day?” I gesture to his files.


“It’s my job.” He shrugs. “All these files are cases, Geri – they relate to real, criminal activities, and for most of these files, there’s a victim. That’s why it matters.”


“Sorry. I was…look, it isn’t my place to tell you what to do.” I shrug, feeling embarrassed.


“No need to apologise. It’s been a long time since anyone cared enough to tell me to take it easy,” he says in a wistful tone, and we both smile at each other uncertainly. “Geri, I’m really sorry that you haven’t been happy working for me. I had no idea,” he says. “I’m a busy man – I can’t nursemaid my PA. I suppose I just thought you knew what you had to do and that you’d get on with it.”


“I really want to be useful but I don’t know anything about this job,” I confide. “I know you’re busy, but if you could just spare a few hours to explain some things to me then I could go from there. I find you so…” I hesitate, and he frowns.


“Unapproachable? Forbidding? Distant?” He suggests, raising an eyebrow. I think he’s laughing at himself – he knows how he comes across.


I give an embarrassed half laugh. “Well, yes,” I admit.


He sighs, and rubs his hand over his wide forehead. “Okay. I’ll admit I was surprised when they assigned you to replace Kim.” At least that’s out in the open. “I was used to Kim – she’d worked with me for years, and I liked her. To be honest, I didn’t know what the hell to think about you.” Guys like him never do. God knows why it’s always the big, macho men who find me a threat. “That has nothing to do with you though, Geri, and more to do with…look, you said it yourself: this is all about politics.  I wasn’t sure if I could trust you.”


I stare at him, open-mouthed. It never occurred to me that he might think I’d been sent here to spy on him. I know his work is sensitive, but I had no idea it was this hush-hush.


“Sir, you have to believe that I would never, ever, betray your trust. I know I gave you the wrong impression at the beginning, but I don’t gossip – none of what goes on here will leave these four walls. I have a very professional attitude towards my job and I take it extremely seriously.”


“All right. I believe you,” he says, and to be honest, I don’t think he’s got much choice. He’s stuck with me unless he wants to make a big fuss with Personnel, which he could – but then again, he could end up with someone even worse. “And, Geri – let’s make one thing clear,” he continues, in a determined tone, only the red tinge of his ears betraying the fact that he’s embarrassed as hell, “your sexuality is your own affair. I don’t discriminate, and I don’t judge. Ever.” His expression is profoundly solemn, and I don’t doubt for a moment that he is completely sincere. I swallow hard, feeling ashamed of myself for throwing the bigotry card at him. “Shall we agree to start again?” He suggests, and I nod, feeling relieved beyond belief. “I might not always be the easiest person to work with, but I have the utmost respect for you,” he says, and I notice that, without his glasses, his eyes are the warmest, deepest shade of chocolate brown. They’re also totally sincere. He is, I realise suddenly, and in a moment of profound revelation, a genuinely good man. “Let’s shake on it.” He holds out his hand, and I take it, and I don’t know if he feels it too, but to me it’s like an electric shock zooming up my arm and straight into my heart. He looks faintly startled, and smiles to cover the moment. His fingers are broad, and blunt and so warm, his tanned flesh dark against my pale, slim fingers.


“You’re a lot younger than Kim, and of course you don’t have her experience. You’re right – I should have put some time aside to show you the way I like to work. I had no idea how swamped you were. I know it’s late, and you probably want to get home, but if you’d like to stay late tonight then I’m happy to go through the work with you,” he offers, and that’s the precise minute I fall in love. Yup, it’s that easy. If this were a movie, a swelling orchestra would rise around us, and play something suitably sappy – as it is the moment is frozen forever in my mind. Him, offering to help, his fingers still wrapped around my hand; me drowning in the moment, holding on just a bit too long. I find my voice from somewhere, and, when I finally speak, it’s as if it’s someone else. I barely recognise myself.


“Sure. That would be fine. I don’t mind staying late. I just want to do a good job. I told you – I’m a fast learner.” It’s not as if I’ll be missing out on a hot date either. My life isn’t exactly filled with eager guys queuing around the block. Oh, I could always get a date if I wanted, but the fact is I don’t. I’m not unaware of the way I look, but sadly, the guys who are attracted to me aren’t usually the kind of guys you want to get involved with. I gave up men last year – I always fall for the wrong type, and it was starting to get painful. They were either total bastards who treated me like shit, or unobtainable – just like Walter Skinner. The number of married, straight, or otherwise out of my league guys I’ve fallen for is a joke, and I hate myself for making the same mistake all over again. I have a weakness for guys who offer to help me too – maybe because my father never offered me anything but money. I remember going skiing two years ago, and falling crazily in love with the instructor because he kept plucking me out of the snow when I fell over. That’s all there was to it. He wasn’t good looking or charming, but he was just…nice. No judgements, no ulterior motives – he was my knight in shining armour who came swishing up to me every time I fell over, and helped me get back on my feet again. No wonder I fell for him. He was straight too as it turned out. It’s the story of my life. Unobtainable men or complete bastards – and now there’s Walter Skinner, who I thought was the latter but who, it turns out, is merely the former. That’s no help to me though.


We spend the next three hours going through the work. I manage to ask some intelligent questions, and I can see myself visibly going up in his estimation. I take notes, dreamily enjoying his deep, attractive voice, and wry, self-deprecating humour. I don’t know why I never saw it before – too busy painting him as the big, bad wolf, I suppose. Who needs a hot date when they can be locked up all evening in an office with a man this drop-dead gorgeous? Not me. I’m hopelessly, utterly, and completely head over heels in love.


“Geri – what made you think you were assigned here to make my life harder?” He asks unexpectedly as the tuition session draws to a close.


“Something a friend of mine said,” I shrug.


“Ah. The all-knowing Cheryl.” He nods sagely, and I almost choke. “The Popsicle lady,” he adds, a wry glint in his eye.


“Oh god. You know about that?” I stammer, flushing what I’m sure is an extremely unattractive shade of bright purple. God, I hate this pale skin sometimes.


“What can I say?” He shrugs. “The bathroom walls are thin – and your voice carries. Oh, on that subject, I’ve been meaning to ask about your accent.”


“My mother was English – I have dual nationality,” I reply, happy to change the subject away from the dangerous Popsicle area. “Mum brought me up, and whenever I go back to the UK everyone tells me I sound American, but over here, I sound English.” There’s a whole story behind that but I have no intention of boring him with all the details. Besides, I much prefer the sound of his voice.


“It’s nice,” he says, and the compliment almost makes my heart stop. “Look, Geri, I don’t know what exactly Cheryl said to you, but so long as you work hard, and give this job your best shot, then I’ll back you all the way. That’s the speech I usually give to my agents,” he adds, with a little grin. “I think that it’s just as appropriate in this situation though.”


“Cheryl thinks they assigned me to you because they know I’m not up to the job – they want to inconvenience you,” I tell him honestly. There’s silence for a moment, and a profound sadness creeps into his eyes. I wish I hadn’t just said that.


“Maybe Cheryl is right.” He shrugs. “I don’t imagine I’m very popular in some areas, but I’d be lousy at my job if I hadn’t made a few enemies along the way.” He looks dejected, and I realise that Cheryl was indeed right – and he knows it. I can’t imagine what it must be like coming into work each day knowing that there are people who hate your guts, and want you gone. Suddenly my own work problems seem like a walk in the park compared to this kind of nightmare workplace scenario. I wonder how he keeps going in the face of such hostility.


“Fuck them,” I say, throwing propriety to the four winds. “Look, sir, if that was their plan it’s going to backfire because I have no intention of being their stooge – I’m worth a damn sight more than that, so if they sent me here hoping I’d screw up, they can take a running jump because I’m not damn well going to.”


He has a stunned look on his face after this little outburst, and I realise that now might not have been the best time and place to show him my grasp of the more colloquial expressions in the English language. I close my eyes, kicking myself mentally, but I open them again when I hear a sound I’ve never heard before; it’s his laugh, and it’s a deep, bass sound that ripples like sheets drying in a strong wind. I love it.


“Geri – you’re right. Fuck ‘em,” he snorts. “You know…I think that you and I are going to get along just fine,” he adds, still chuckling away to himself, shaking his head slightly.


“I hope so, sir, and uh, thanks for taking the time for this,” I manage to mutter as I back out of the door. “I really appreciate it.”


“No problem.” He waves his hand at me, and then returns to his work, burying himself in his files again. I watch him for just a few seconds longer, knowing that because he took the time to show me what to do, he’ll end up having to stay half the night to finish his own work, and I resolve then and there that I’ll be the best damn secretary he could have.


It’s late by the time I get home. I’m too hyped up to sleep, and too tired to eat, if that makes any sense. God, what a day! I feel as if I’ve been hit by a truck, and given the best gift in the world, at one and the same time. I pull off my tie, and gaze at myself in the full length mirror in the corner, wondering if there’s anything about this person that someone like Walter Skinner would find interesting. To him, I’m a cliché. A male secretary in a job that’s largely the province of women. A male secretary who looks like this. I undo my shirt and survey myself critically in the mirror; I’m about five feet ten, very slender, hard, toned body, flat waist. My pale blond hair is worn maybe a bit too long but I slick it back with gel at work and I always look neat. I try to dress conservatively too – at work anyway. Maybe there’s something about the cut of my suits, the style of my shirts…maybe I’m too obviously a fashion victim. I study my face intently, wondering how it could ever appeal to a man like him. Truth is, it’s too perfect. Pronounced cheekbones, wide set blue eyes, clear skin, firm jaw…kind of plasticky. Like one of those stupid, flawless men in those really bad daytime soaps. There’s no character, nothing to imply that I’m anything other than the airhead people generally take me for. I am though. I’m much more than that if only people would give me a chance. I’ve led a life that’s interesting, if nothing else, and I’ve seen more than most in my time on this earth. None of that shines through. I can’t blame him for not seeing the real me underneath. Why should he? All I can do is to try and win his respect by keeping my promise to be the best PA I can be. At least that way he might see something of the person underneath. Someone who isn’t a quitter. Someone hardworking, punctual, and, above all, loyal.


Of course, in a movie we’d be able to skip forward six months to show me fulfilling that promise to myself, but hell, this is real life, and it’s damn hard work trying to fill Kim’s shoes. She’s a classy act to follow. I stay late every night, and work my socks off, but there are times when I just stare at those damn files, and want to scream. I’m not saying it’s always a hardship – hell, working late means spending more time with him after all. Just knowing he’s next door gives me a thrill, and I love listening to the deep rumblings of his voice as he conducts meetings and briefs his agents. I fall more deeply, hopelessly, and unrequitedly in love with him each passing day. I look forward to work so much that I’m in by 7 am every morning. I don’t even feel tired – all this unrequited love puts me on a total high, and I’m overflowing with excess energy. I live for the time, first thing in the morning, when he goes over all the day’s work with me, because that’s when we get a few, uninterrupted minutes together before the phone starts ringing and all the meetings begin. I run up the stairs to the office every morning, unable to wait the extra seconds for the elevator, sling my coat onto the hook, put the coffee on, then poke my head around his door with a shy “hi.” He’s always busy working, just as he was when I left the previous night, almost as if he hasn’t even moved, but he always smiles when he looks up to greet me  – and for a man who doesn’t smile easily, or often, each one is like gold dust, believe me.


It’s the stupid, mundane things that I notice; the way he holds his coffee in both his hands, staring into the black depths as if searching for answers to some unfathomable question. The way his broad shoulders hold the weight of the world so effortlessly, and yet he still finds time to deal with the concerns of one unimportant secretary. The way those same broad shoulders fill out every last inch of his shirt, stretching the fabric impossibly over that broad chest, and revealing the faintest hint of nipple. Yes, I noticed. Sue me. I love the way the corners of his mouth quirk up when he doesn’t want me to know he’s amused by some hopelessly innocent, or naïve comment I’ve made. I’m pretty streetwise, but all the same, I’m only 24 – and he’s older, and wiser, but he never once makes me feel patronised. Then there’s the way he stands, looking out of the window, when he’s dictating a letter to me, and the way the late afternoon sun shines into the office, backlighting him as if in a movie, washing away the worry lines and tiredness, and illuminating his wide jaw, and the endless sweeping plains of his head. I love the way he’s so still and concentrated in his work, the way he frowns when he’s reading a report, and the way his index finger gently strokes the side of his face when he’s deep in thought… It’s all mesmerising, and I could just sit and watch him forever. Sometimes I do just that, and he doesn’t even know. I imagine planting a kiss on that naked scalp while he’s sitting poring over papers. I daydream about tiptoeing up behind him, leaning over, and pressing my lips very softly, very gently, against that smooth expanse of skin. Then reality kicks in, and I wonder what the hell his reaction would be if I did that. It doesn’t bear thinking about, and really, I’m not that brave. So, I’m consigned to my delicious little prison of unrequited love, and it’s safe, and it’s comfortable, and it hurts, damn it. It hurts.


A couple of weeks after our big discussion, I receive a phone call in the middle of the day. He’s busy going over a case file, and has asked not to be disturbed, but I know him well enough by now to be sure that he’ll want to hear this news as soon as possible, so I knock on the door with a wide grin on my face. He looks up, surprised.


“Boy. 10 pounds 3 ounces. Born at 9:14 this morning,” I tell him. “So, I think that’s 5 dollars you owe me,” I add with a grin. He gives a shout of laughter, and stands up, looking genuinely delighted for the first time since I’ve known him. I add this new expression to my list, a snapshot of straight white teeth standing out against tan skin, with little crinkles at the corners of his mouth.


“Is she on the phone now?” He asks, reaching for the receiver.


“No – that was Martin. He says it was a pretty tough labour so she’s sleeping, but the baby is doing fine. They’re calling him…” I pause because this is the good bit, “James Walter,” I finish. I’m not sure what the word is for how he looks at this moment in time. Startled seems too mild – he’s completely and utterly taken by surprise, and it’s a full minute before he regains his composure.


“James Walter?” He repeats, as if he didn’t hear it right first time.


“Yup. Martin said to tell you that Kim’s blaming you for the baby being so big because you kept buying her those fudge brownies she had a craving for. They felt it was only fair in the circumstances that the kid got saddled with your name for giving his mom such a hard time during labour!”


“James Walter!” He gives a smile that stretches from ear to ear, and I wonder why he and Sharon never had kids, and whether he’s sad about that. He’d make a great father. Yes, of course I found out he hasn’t got kids, and yes, I do know that he and Sharon are divorced. I’m in the throes of passion here – I’ve found out everything I can.


“D’you want me to go out and buy a gift?” I ask.


“No…I’ll get it. Um…should I send flowers? Or baby clothes? Uh…” He looks endearingly out of his depth.


”I think it’s nice if you buy a gift for mom, as well as baby,” I tell him. “She’s done all the hard work after all!”


”True…what kind of gift?” He asks with endearing helplessness.


“I’ll go and find something.” I’m good at this kind of thing – it’s my forte in life. I might not know Kim, but I have a fair idea what kind of presents girls like. I’ve always had dozens of girlfriends. My father once remarked that it was a waste – all these pretty girls around me and I make no attempt to get into their panties. I think he missed the point. That’s precisely why they like hanging out with me.


“No…I mean…I think it should be something personal,” he says, calling me back. I’m astonished – every boss I’ve ever worked for has been happy to let me choose and buy even the most intimate of gifts in the past. This is a novelty. “Look, it’s nearly lunch time.” He glances at his watch. “Why don’t I come with you to the mall, and we could have something to eat while we’re out? How does that sound?”


It sounds like heaven. I smile, wondering if my knees are going to turn to jelly, and make a swift exit. Okay, so it isn’t a date, but I can pretend can’t I? I’ll be eating out. In a restaurant. With a man I am hopelessly, crazily in love with. I think this might be as good as it gets.


“It’ll be a good opportunity to find out how you’re coping with the job,” he adds. Okay, so that spoiled it a little, but not much – I’m walking on air right now. One part of me has jumped ahead to the bit where he tells me what a completely fascinating and bewitching creature I am, and how he longs to take me in his arms and make passionate love to me, while another part is wondering what the hell I’m going to say to him during lunch. I just know that I’ll sit there like a dumb klutz, and end up being a huge disappointment.


It is so weird being with him outside the office. I sit nervously in his car, casting glances at him as he drives. I am now at the totally sappy stage of infatuation where I find even the sight of his hands on the wheel almost blindingly erotic. He has such nice hands; very blunt, square fingers, immaculate nails, and golden-hued flesh. I can just imagine these beautiful hands touching my body, those big, capable thumbs resting on each of my nipples and sweeping possessively over my naked skin, claiming and loving me, making me his. I open the window, and take a deep breath of air – being so close to him, thighs nearly touching, is killing me.


There’s an awkward silence hanging between us. This is the first time we’ve been together without the buffer zone of work to talk about. Maybe he doesn’t feel it. Maybe it’s just me. I rack my brain trying to think of something to say but nothing comes to mind except work stuff, and I really don’t want to talk about that right now. Luckily the mall isn’t far, and he parks the car, and we both get out. We’re walking side by side, and I wonder how we look together, and whether people will think we’re a couple. I hope they will. I wish I could grab his hand, and show the world he’s mine, but that’s just my fantasy. As it is, I feel like a kid trotting along behind Dad. He’s got these long, purposeful strides, as if he can’t waste even a fraction of energy – it all has to be directed towards his ultimate goal – even if that’s only shopping for baby clothes. I struggle to keep up without actually running, having to do an absurd hop and skip every few strides just to stay abreast with him. I catch a glimpse of us in a store window, and my heart leaps. We look so good together, walking along, shoulder to shoulder, me a few inches shorter than him, my blond hair contrasting with the small fringe of grey around the back of his head. I have expensive tastes in clothing, so we both look impeccably tailored and elegant, with our starched shirts, and exquisitely cut dress pants and suit jackets. I’m wearing a soft-toned  grey, that complements my colouring, while he’s in dark navy blue. We look like we’ve stepped from the pages of GQ magazine and we turn a few heads as we walk. I’m used to turning heads – either because of the way I look, or the fact that people are making assumptions about my sexuality, so I’m surprised and delighted to find that this time not all the looks are directed at me. He receives several admiring glances, from men as well as women, and this makes my heart glow. I even find myself on the receiving end of a few envious glances as a couple of men clearly make an assumption that we’re together. Maybe we look like a cliché – boy toy out with his sugar daddy. I don’t mind fitting their stereotype. It isn’t true, but just the thought of being mistaken for a couple makes my heart skip a beat.


We get inside the mall, and he stops, and looks at me for guidance.


Victoria’s Secret,” I tell him, grabbing his arm, and pulling him in the right direction.


“Are you sure?” He looks as if he’d rather walk into a drug den than brave being seen next to racks of women’s underwear in public.


“Yes – they do these really nice bath products – totally pampering stuff.”


“Oh. Right,” he nods, still looking as if he’s about to sink through the floor and I can’t help smiling. Shopping is my thing in life. I could shop for America, and frequently try to do just that. Well, I have to find some way of spending Daddy’s allowance after all. Now, at last, I have my usually hardass boss helpless and terrified on my territory. A small, evil part of me can’t help being delighted that the roles have been reversed. I push him into Victoria’s Secret and straight into a rack of bras. He fumbles around pathetically trying to extricate himself, flushing an ever more gorgeous shade of russet. It’s so good to know that I’m not the only one who can blush effusively. I abandon him to the double D cups, and slip easily towards the bath products, waiting for him to follow. He’s such a big guy that he has trouble navigating the tiny aisles between the underwear, and I swear it’s like watching a comedy show seeing him alternately bumping into rows of panties and amused female shoppers. He finally, and much to his obvious relief, finds his way over to my side, and takes out a handkerchief to mop his brow.


“Shopping is hot work,” I grin, and he smiles feebly. “I suggest we get her these.” I gesture to the little gift assortment I’ve selected, and he nods without even looking at it, clearly just wanting to pay and get out of here. “This stuff is delicious,” I croon, holding up some strawberry body mist, and spraying it in the air for him to smell. He looks faintly ill.


“Good. Yes, that’s great, Geri. Can we go now?” He hisses urgently.


“Wait! They have a new vanilla range. Hang on. I love vanilla.” I grab a bottle of bubble bath and thrust it into the shopping basket. “Have you tried any of their bubble baths?” I ask him. He looks as if I’ve asked if  he’s ever walked on the moon.


“No,” the poor hard ass mutters.


“Then you must. Let me buy you the vanilla one. I insist.” I put another one in the basket and smile at him sweetly, just daring him to argue. He looks as if he wants to protest that big, hard, strong Assistant Directors don’t take bubble baths, but that tough guy act doesn’t fool me. He’s just a guy underneath the suit – oh boy – that’s not a good thought. Now is not the time to fantasise about undressing him. He opens his mouth, and then caves in before my eyes which is so cute. He has the last laugh though – he raises a knowing eyebrow and I realise that he knows exactly what I’m doing. The corners of his mouth are twitching suspiciously and we share a moment that I wish could last forever. I’m aware that some of the female shoppers are casting fond glances in our direction – they all think we make a good couple too. If only.


After Victoria’s Secret, I drag him to various children’s stores, looking for just the right outfit for his namesake. Walter selects a pastel blue jumpsuit which I firmly replace.


“We don’t want to gender stereotype baby James Walter Cook, do we?” I grin maliciously. “I mean, just because he’s a boy there’s no reason why we should buy blue. He might grow up to hate pastels!” I give that announcement a degree of degree of camp theatricality that almost makes him laugh. I often overdo the camp act around really macho guys like him. It’s not really me inside, but for some reason it makes them feel easier around me –  less a threat, and more a harmless, amusing eccentric.


“You surely aren’t suggesting pink?” He ripostes, looking appalled.


“Honestly this whole blue/pink thing is absurd. If baby James is going to end up gay, it won’t be because his Mom dressed him in a pink jumpsuit when he was a baby. Trust me on this. I know what I’m talking about.”


“I didn’t mean…” He looks so endearing when he’s embarrassed that I take pity on him.


“I suggest red!” I announce, holding up the cutest pair of baby dungarees, in a manly shade of dark red. Walter looks relieved and immediately gets out his wallet, anxious to leave both the shop and the discussion behind.


The shopping over, we finish up at a small Italian restaurant in the mall, and he orders a glass of white wine, while I opt for a sparkling mineral water.


“You don’t drink?” He looks surprised.


“No.” I shrug. “I don’t like the taste – or what it does to people.” I shrug again. He looks interested, and I kick myself for giving way too much information. “Well, that’s not quite true – I can usually manage a few margaritas on a Saturday night,” I grin, trying to deflect his interest.


“Drink’s fine – so long as you control it, and you don’t allow it to control you,” he murmurs.


“Well, maybe I’m worried that I have an addictive personality,” I smile. “I’m a bit of a control freak so the whole being drunk on your ass thing doesn’t appeal.”


“You’re far too young to be thinking like that,” he chides.


“Oh, my generation are all born again stick-in-the-muds. How else can we rebel against the generation who gave us the Sixties?” I laugh, and he gives a wry grunt. “Seriously, I sometimes wonder what it must have been like growing up in the Sixties. All that great music, all those mind-altering substances – it was all new then too. It must have been so exciting.” I look at him expectantly, and he gives a sad shrug, and shakes his head slightly.


“No. It wasn’t that exciting. I grew up in a small town so the Sixties more or less passed me by.”


“Why did you decide to leave?” I sip my water and gaze at him intently, drinking in every detail, hungering to understand him, and find out all there is to know about him. “Was it the lure of the bright lights, and big city?” I prompt, when there’s no reply.


“No.” He grunts again, as if the very idea is ridiculous. “I was a naïve kid, with the stars and stripes in my eyes. I left to fight in ‘Nam.” There’s an uncomfortable look in his eye as if he’s surprised he just shared that with me.


“Oh god. I’m sorry. I had no idea. The whole idea of being drafted…” I shiver.


“I wasn’t drafted,” he says quietly. “I enlisted on my eighteenth birthday. I always wanted to believe in something, I guess.” He gives another of those wry grunts, as if he’s laughing at some private joke. “Unfortunately that war wasn’t it,” he adds softly, in a tone of regret.


“You didn’t go back home after though? Back to the small town?” I hold my breath, feeling sure that I’m pushing my luck with this strand of conversation. It’s obvious he isn’t comfortable talking about himself, and I keep expecting him to change the subject.


“No, I didn’t go back home. I didn’t have a choice,” he shrugs. “I was a year in a VA hospital – and there wasn’t one anywhere near my home. By the time I got out, well, I tried going back.” There’s such sadness in those dark eyes as he talks, and I long to put my hand over his, and encourage him to share that sadness with me. I want all of him, the sad stuff as well as the rest. Yeah, I know, I’m a total sap.


“What happened? Had everything changed?” My tone is barely more than a whisper. He looks up, straight at me, and gives a strained smile.


“No. On the contrary. Everything was exactly as I’d left it. I, however, was not.” He clenches his jaw, in that famous Walter Skinner expression of emotional unease. I know all his expressions – I live for them, and turn them over in my mind every night, analysing each and every last one. “I’d changed. Maybe you can never go back,” he says softly. Then, as if aware of the mood of melancholy that’s settled over us like a cloud, he lifts his glass to mine. “You don’t want to hear all this ancient history!” He growls. “We’re here to have one for the baby. Here’s to James Walter.”


I smile, and chink my glass against his. He is so damn pleased with himself about Kim naming the baby after him. I’m pleased for him too. Kim must have seen the same man I’m seeing now, and not the surly, scary ogre of FBI folklore. Not that he still can’t scare the shit out of me on occasions, and I sure as hell feel sorry for some of the agents he reams out in his office, but underneath the hard assed AD image, in private, he’s this man, and I love him for it. Oh god, listen to me. I’m like that girl in the film Jerry Maguire. Any minute now I’ll be standing on the table shouting: “I love him. I love him for the man he wants to be, and the man he almost is. I love him!” Not. I do have some instinct for self-preservation.


“Why did you decide to leave England and live over here?” He asks, clearly trying to change the subject away from his life story. I shrug. Now it’s my turn to feel uncomfortable.


“I didn’t decide. My mother died, and I came to live with my dad.”


”Oh, I’m sorry. It must have hit you hard for your mom to die when you were just a kid.” His dark eyes are full of sympathy.


“It wasn’t a good time, no,” I tell him honestly enough.


“It must have been a culture shock coming over here.”


“Not really. I had quite a cosmopolitan upbringing. Mum dragged me all over the world when I was growing up. She hated standing still. She and Dad didn’t make it beyond my first birthday. I think it was more of a culture shock for him, suddenly having this fifteen year old kid descending on him.” Not that he changed his lifestyle appreciably to accommodate me, but I can’t complain really. He did his best, totally inadequate though it was.


“It must have been hard for both of you,” he says, and I swallow hard, because it was. It so fucking was, and it’s a time I really don’t like thinking about too much, let alone talking about. His sympathetic interest is almost more than I can bear.


“You don’t have kids?” I ask, although I already know the answer, but I just have to say something, anything to change the subject.


“No. My wife and I weren’t…lucky enough.” He gives a strained smile. Shit, now it’s my turn to dredge up his painful memories. There must be some safe subject we can talk about.


“I’m sorry.” We stare glumly at the table for several minutes.


“I did think it might happen,” he adds as an after thought. “We’re divorced now though, so I guess not. Besides, I think my time for raising the little monsters is fast disappearing.”


“Are you seeing anyone?” I wish I could have stopped myself asking him that. Trust me, I’m kicking myself soundly under the table. A strange look creeps into his eyes and there’s something there I don’t understand. Something complex, dark, and powerful – and painful.


“No. You?” He deflects quickly.


“No.” I take a deep breath and wade on, knowing I’m probably making a big mistake. “I always fall for the wrong guys so I gave up on relationships awhile back.” He flushes, and glances around for the waiter, his face screaming out his confusion. That was probably way too much information, but what the hell do I care? Okay, so maybe he’ll guess that the “wrong guys” comment includes him, but most men are pretty dense so maybe not. A part of me wants to just tell him, but another part knows that I’ll probably be out of a job if I do, to say nothing of the pain and heartache of the inevitable rejection.


“Oh.” The poor bastard looks like a frightened rabbit caught in my headlamps. I hope that didn’t sound too much like a come-on. It’s a total nightmare. There are things you say when you’re crazily in love that you’d say in just the same way if you weren’t – but somehow they have a depth of meaning when you know you have a hidden agenda. We’re both shifting uncomfortably in our chairs now, and, thank god, the waiter chooses this moment to arrive with our meal.


We eat, and, to his credit, he tries to get the conversation back on track.


“I’ve been wondering – is Geri short for something?” he asks, which is at least a safe topic of conversation.


“Yes,” is my only reply.


He gazes at me quizzically for a moment. “Okay, let me guess, it’s short for something so horrendous that you won’t tell me what it is?” he hazards.


“Got it in one.” I grin.


“I could find out.” His mouth is doing that twitching thing at the corners again.


“I bet you could. You’re an AD at the FBI. If you really wanted to find out it’d probably take you about ten minutes.”


“I won’t, of course. I can’t believe it’s that bad though.” His eyes have crinkled up at the edges, and he’s teasing me. It feels…good.


“Oh yeah. It is,” I tell him with a heartfelt sigh. There’s another silence, and I rack my brain for something else to say because I can’t bear the thought of my dream date turning awkward. We both open our mouths to say something at the same time, and we laugh, and he gestures for me to continue, but as I really wasn’t about to say anything very interesting, I demur, and he goes first.


“So, you travelled a lot as a kid. That must have been interesting.”


“I’d like it say it was, and maybe it was. I’m probably being ungrateful, but sometimes I just longed for a regular home you know? I wanted a house and two parents who were there for me. Mum’s parents died when I was a baby and she inherited a lot of money, but she blew most of it on drink, travel, and hotels.” That about sums it up. My childhood was an endless succession of planes, hotels – and her boyfriends. I’d have to put her to bed when she went on one of her binges – usually when she was “between” men. She always needed someone in her life to make her complete. I guess I wasn’t enough for her, and I can understand that really. We all dream of the big love affair after all, and loneliness can be a powerful emotion. It was sad to watch her throwing herself into one doomed relationship after another, but I did love her. In fact I adored her. When she wasn’t drunk, she was the best mother in the whole world: witty, vibrant, full of amazing stories – and so beautiful. I miss her.


“Maybe the grass is always greener,” he smiles. “I know that I would have loved to have travelled as a kid. Maybe, deep down, that’s partly the reason why I enlisted. I just wanted to get out of that small town, and see a different country.”


“I can understand that.” I smile at him, and we seem to have found a connection, some common ground in our respective experiences. It’s a good moment.


“What does your father do?” He asks.


“He’s Jackson Warner – head of Warner Technologies. You’ve probably heard of him.” I shrug. Most people have. He’s been on the cover of Time magazine.


“I have. Well damn – I had no idea.” He looks at me with a new respect in his eyes, and I almost hate him for that. I’m not an extension of my father’s goddamn rags-to-riches success story. I’m me. This is my life. I have nothing to do with him and his stupid company.


“Didn’t you want to go and work with him?” Walter asks, all unawares. I can’t help laughing out loud.


“Hell, no. Dad didn’t even ask, and I couldn’t stand working in that place. I’m happy making my own way.” I probably sound more acerbic than I mean to, but that’s what talking about my father does to me. I think he’d have a heart attack at the very idea of me taking over at Warnertech. He credits me with having the same kind of concentration span as my mother, and he’s more than happy to pay me a huge allowance every month just to keep me away. Let’s face it, I’ve always been a disappointment to him – from the minute I climbed off that plane as a world-weary, sophisticated, and most of all gay 15 year old, and he saw what the little kid he remembered had turned into. I was precocious, no doubt about it – I’d seen too much, done too much. I think he knew that despite my tender years, I’d already had boyfriends. The idea of me being promiscuous scared the hell out of him, even back then. I was this strange, exotic, uncontrollable creature who had showed up to rock his carefully controlled boat. He’s always so damn scared I’ll get into the papers and show him up. As if I would – but then he never took the time to really get to know me. I take his money, though. I figure he owes me that at least.


“His loss is our gain,” Skinner comments. “I’ve been meaning to say how pleased I am with your work since our, uh, initial misunderstanding.”


The sun shines over my world as I bask in this unexpected praise. ”Thanks.” I duck my head. I’ve never been very good at accepting compliments.


“I mean it. Keep it up, and I’ll be sorry when Kim gets back,” he grins.


“Nah. You won’t.” I shrug. “But thanks anyway.”


“Aren’t you hungry?” He gestures with his head in the direction of my virtually untouched Cannelloni. I shrug. How the hell can I tell him that losing your appetite is one of the symptoms of hopeless infatuation?


“Too much talking I guess,” I mutter instead.


He calls for the check, and I devour him with my eyes. This might be the last time we ever eat in a restaurant together. Our first and last “date.” I want to savour every detail of how he looks now, sitting opposite me at the table. He’s wearing a navy-striped shirt, looking as crisp and cool as ever. His ties are always ever so slightly surprising – they’re never as conservative as you think they should be. Today, he’s wearing one with a bold navy, red and white pattern on it, swirling dramatically. On someone else it might clash with the shirt, but I’ve never known him make a fashion mistake yet. He’s wearing cuff links, in the shape of two tiny gold boxing gloves, which intrigue me, and I can’t help reaching out a finger to touch one. It’s too intimate a gesture, but they’re so beautiful, so perfect, so him.


“Gift from my wife,” he says, seeing my interest.


“You box?”


“Yes. Not as much now as I used to, but I belong to a gym across the block. I like keeping in shape – it helps me blow off my negative energy as well – in a safe place.” He says that last sentence with a kind of grim intent, and I’m aware then that the way he holds himself, with that endless sense of physical energy restrained, is exactly what’s going on inside. Having seen the kind of crap he has to put up with at work, I’m not surprised he sometimes has to go and slug the living daylights out of a punch bag. He’s a big man who is totally aware of his own strength, and how, if it’s misdirected, it could hurt those around him. My heart goes out to him. There really is something of the gentle giant about him, although I’m sure he has a ruthless streak too. There’s no way he got to be an Assistant Director of the FBI without having some raw steel in his make up.


I wish lunch could last forever, but all too soon we’re driving back to the office, then he’s knee deep in meetings and firmly back in AD mode, distracted, and distant, and there’s no trace of the off-duty man I glimpsed back at the restaurant. It’s been a good day though. I wander home on a high of total infatuation, and throw myself down on my couch, gazing dreamily at the ceiling as I relive every single last comment, gesture, and look. I’m so caught up in this delightful pastime, that the sound of the door buzzer takes me totally by surprise. I open it, fantasising that I’ll find a tall, bald, handsome prince on the other side, to find Cheryl standing there. She takes one look at me and sighs.


“Oh god. You’re in love!”


“How did you know?” I smile dreamily, letting her in.


“Because we’re supposed to be going out tonight and you haven’t even changed. You forgot all about it, didn’t you?”


“No,” I lie guiltily.


She laughs. ”You are the worst liar I ever knew, Geri. Now come on, tell me all about it while I find you something to wear.” She shoos me into my bedroom like a mother hen, and rifles through my wardrobe pulling out clothes, and putting them back, while I shrug myself out of my work suit and take a quick shower. When I come back, she’s sitting on the bed expectantly, beside the ripped, stonewash jeans, and white tee-shirt she’s decided I should wear.


“Come on. Gossip, Geri. Talk,” she commands as I pull on the jeans. “Who, when, where, how. I want the full story. I mean you’ve been working all hours recently, when on earth did you meet anyone?”


“Ah. Well, you see…” I begin apologetically, and she opens her mouth wide in total astonishment, one jump ahead of me in affairs of the heart, as always.


“Oh no. Please god, tell me it isn’t Popsicle? Oh shit, I don’t believe this, Geri! The man is so totally not…”


“I know.” I shimmy into the tee shirt, and survey myself critically in the mirror. “He’s so totally not anyone I should get involved with. Totally out of my league. Totally not gay. I know that.” I think. I mean, he’s divorced so in my rich fantasy life there’s a possibility that he’s gay but I don’t get a vibe off him, and he’s never once checked out my ass which seems to be pretty conclusive evidence against.


“Does he know? You’ve lost weight.” She pokes my ribs critically. “Oh god. It must be bad if you’ve stopped eating over him.”


“No, he doesn’t know. Do you think I have a death wish?” I growl, swatting her fingers away from my ribcage. “Look, it’s just a little crush, that’s all.”


It’s just, a little crush, not like everything I do, depends on you,” she croons, mangling Jennifer Paige horribly in the process.


“I think you missed a line.”


“Whatever.” She grins. “So come on, what’s so special about an old, bald guy who wears glasses?”


“You’ve obviously never been up close to him,” I sigh, lying face down on the bed, and cupping my jaw in my hands. “He’s just so…gorgeous. He has these amazing eyes, and this deep voice, and when he talks to me…it’s like the world just stops, you know? It’s like I’m the only one who exists for him at that moment in time. He’s so…intense.”


”Yeah. Right,” she mutters, unconvinced.


“No, really – you have to get to know him. I know I hated him to start with, but I think we just got off on the wrong foot. The man is a total god.”


“Oookay.” She’s obviously determined to remain unconvinced.


“He boxes, he was in the Vietnam war, he likes white wine, and grew up in a small town,” I babble.


“And he’s married!” She points out.


“And divorced,” I parry back.


“Yes, but…” She begins, but I wave my hand to shut her up.


“Cheryl, just let me have this okay? I’m not going to do anything about it. I’m just enjoying now. I haven’t felt this high since that fiasco with Richard, and that was two years ago. I deserve some fun don’t I?”


“Fun, yes, but this is just you falling for one more totally unobtainable guy.” Cheryl points out like the good friend she is. “When I think of all the totally available guys out there who fall over themselves to flirt with you whenever we go out, why did you have to fall for him for god’s sake?”


“I didn’t do it on purpose! It just happened!” I protest.


She sighs and strokes my hair. “Honey, I just don’t want to see you get hurt again. You are too trusting, and sweet natured for your own good. You either fall for total bastards like Richard, or unobtainable guys like Skinner. Oh god.” She holds up the writing pad she’s found on my nightstand. It contains my shopping list, and is decorated around the edge with his name. “Oh. My. God.” She holds up the damning evidence. “Just a little crush?” She raises an eyebrow at me.


“Okay, I love him. I’m totally crazy about him. Is that what you wanted to hear?” I ask.


“No. We are going to go out tonight, and we are going to get you laid,” she insists.


“I don’t think so. I don’t do casual sex, remember?” I grin. Well, we all have to rebel somehow, and my mother and father practically made one-night-stands their life’s work, so this is probably my protest, or something.


“I think it’s about time you did,” Cheryl says ominously.


Needless to say I don’t. Every guy who chats me up looks like nothing compared to Walter. They’re all too young, or too short, and they definitely all have too much hair. I gyrate in time to the beat at Boom, dreaming about dancing with him, although the very idea of Assistant Director Skinner hanging out at a place like this is absurd. I’m not one to let reality get in the way of a good fantasy though.


The weekend is a nightmare. Two whole days without seeing him! I’m tempted to go in to work but that’s just too obvious, so I dutifully call my father, and he grudgingly issues an invitation for Sunday lunch, which is the usual disaster. Dad is one of the best looking men I’ve ever known. When I was a kid I thought he was  some kind of god, because he’d show up every year or so, bearing gifts, spoil me rotten, and take me out, showing me off, and people just couldn’t take their eyes off him. He packs a lot of charm and charisma along with the looks, so it’s hardly surprising he’s never been short of female admirers – and he’s taken advantage of every single one of them, believe me. I’ll never forget him taking me to a restaurant in Saint Tropez when I was ten years old, and the waitress drooling all over him. He flirted with her outrageously, and, after dessert, made his excuses to go to the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, just as I was wondering whether I should report him missing, he emerged, his hair all mussed up, and smelling of sex. It was obvious he’d just had a quickie with the waitress, and it made me want to be sick. I was jealous as well – this was our time together, and he just had to go and ruin it because he couldn’t pass up a piece of skirt. I hated him. And, of course, I loved him too. That’s the way it’s always been between us. You know, sometimes I think it would be easier if I could just hate him, but I don’t. When he turns the charm on me, I melt, just like everyone else. He can be such good fun, and so entertaining, and he’s always been incredibly generous – with his money, if not with his time.


He lives in an enormous house, with a swimming pool, tennis courts – the whole deal. He’s looking as good as ever too, his silver hair gleaming against his tanned skin, his blue eyes glittering affectionately. I know he does love me. I’m just not what he wanted. Oh well. He’s not what I want either so I guess that cuts both ways.


“Geri.” He puts an arm around my shoulder and squeezes. He’s in charm offensive mode today, which bodes well. “You’re looking good,” he comments.


“I’m in love,” I tell him bluntly. “With my boss.”


“Moira?” He looks startled. “Is there something I should know? Have you changed your sexual orientation?” He’s joking, but there’s just a hint of hope in his eyes.


“Not Moira, no.” I glare at him. “Walter Skinner. I’m working for the Assistant Director now – remember. I told you. It’s a very important job. He’s an important man.” I will him to remember, and he pretends he does but his eyes are totally blank.


“So, who is this Skinner person?” He asks, picking up his paper, and glancing at it, the charm offensive clearly over.


“He’s 49, bald, and lives in Crystal City.”


“Uh-huh. And what? You’re getting married, or something?” He laughs, making fun of me.


“No. Oh god, what’s the point? You aren’t interested.”


“Aw, Geri, what do you expect? Look, I don’t pry into your love life, and you don’t pry into mine. That’s just the way we like it, isn’t it? Let’s face it, you don’t really like the idea of me having a succession of girlfriends, and I really don’t like the idea of you sleeping with men period, so it’s a subject that we’re better off avoiding.”


“Whatever,” I snap, sullenly.


“Oh come on, Geri!” he explodes, in typical fashion, those blue eyes suddenly turning deadly cold. I’m reminded of his reputation for ruthlessness at Warnertech. I wouldn’t like to be his PA, that’s for fucking sure. “Look – why make such a point of this guy’s age and looks? Is this just another of the legendary Geri guilt trips you like to throw at me? What are you saying? I’ve been a bad father? You’re looking for a better one? Well fine. Whatever. I know I don’t measure up to your exacting standards. I know you think I totally screwed up your childhood…”


“You left me alone with a fucking alcoholic!” I yell at him. “You have no idea what it was like following Mum around from pillar to post. I was never settled! I just wanted to fucking belong!”


“Well you don’t, and you never will. Live with it.” He shrugs. “Who the hell wants to run with the herd anyway? I never have, and look what it got me.” He waves his hand expansively around the wood-panelled dining room. “Look, Geri, go with this Walter whatsit if he’s what you want, but don’t damn well try and make me feel guilty about not being there for you. I did my best. I always sent money.”


“Yes, Dad. You always sent money.” My tone drips with studied insolence.


“I still do,” he points out, glaring at me. “I’d like to see you indulge your expensive tastes on the peanuts you bring home from the FBI. Just remember whose damn money keeps you in that expensive condo, and pays for all the goddamn clothes you buy.”


“Fine. You’re right,” I snap. “At the end of the day our relationship comes down to dollars. Thanks for reminding me.” And I storm out. Just another typical Sunday lunch.


I go from the frying pan into the fire. Monday is the day from hell. It starts off at 9 am when the Deputy Director descends, unannounced, and looking mad as hell. He sweeps into Walter’s office, abruptly declines my offer of coffee, and for the next hour I hear him giving my boss a grilling. Walter’s voice is never raised, but there are moments when the Deputy Director’s tones are clearly audible, and from what I can gather he’s taking my boss to task over something to do with Agent Mulder. I have no idea why Walter always defends that guy, but he’s at it again. I catch small snippets of the conversation, and it’s always Walter on the back foot, making excuses, taking the flak that as far as I can see, should rest firmly on the shoulders of Agent Spooky. God, I hate that guy! He reminds me so much of my father. They let nothing and nobody stand in the way of what they want. They think one charming little smile, a self-deprecating shrug of the shoulders, and a few minutes of sweet talk will make up for everything. I wish Walter would tell Spooky to take a running jump. I’m not sure what the upshot of the meeting with the Deputy Director is, but he finally sweeps out, looking as grim-faced as when he went in. I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do, but my heart is aching for my boss so I finally decide to risk any fall-out from the meeting, and edge hesitantly into the office clutching a cup of coffee. Walter is sitting tapping his pen on his pad, over and over again, looking thoughtfully into space.


“I thought you could use this,” I murmur, leaving the coffee on his desk.


“Thanks,” he mutters absently. He continues staring into space, and I want to put my arms around him and hold him, because he looks so lost.


“That didn’t sound too good,” I offer, fully expecting him to tell me that it’s none of my business. He doesn’t. He winces slightly, his jaw clenching involuntarily, then nods at me.


“Not good, no. Necessary, but not good.” His whole face is closed, completely blank, as if he’s shut down in order to protect himself. “It’s all part of my job though. It’s why they pay me the big bucks,” he tells me, trying to make light of it.


“Yeah. I guess.” I shrug. He doesn’t say anything else, but turns back to his work, clearly signalling that I should leave. I take the hint, but as I go out I notice that he’s just staring at the file in front of him, not reading it.


Half an hour later, he leaves his office at a half run, grabbing his coat as he passes my desk.


“Sir? Where are you going?” I run after him. He has four meetings scheduled today so where the hell is off to?


“Agent Mulder has been taken to the hospital. I have to go,” he says, struggling to get his arm into his raincoat and fumbling with the sleeve, which is turned the wrong way.


“Here.” I grab his coat and guide his arm into the sleeve. It feels so good to be touching that muscled flesh, and I savour the moment. “Do you want me to re-schedule your meetings?”


“Yes. Thanks, Geri.” He looks completely and utterly distracted, and I wonder why the hell he’s so worried about Spooky Mulder. I mean, I know he’s visited other agents who’ve been wounded in the line of duty, but never like this, taking off as if it’s his own mother in the hospital, and looking so upset too.


There’s nothing I can do except return to the office, and make a few calls to rearrange his meetings. There’s no word from Walter, and I start to wonder whether Agent Mulder might have died or something, but then, just before 7 pm, when I’m wondering whether to stay or go home, Walter returns.


He looks so tired, and dejected that all I do is press the proverbial cup of coffee into his hand, and gaze at him sympathetically.


“Is Agent Mulder going to be okay?” I ask gently, as he plops down into his chair, still wearing his coat.


“I don’t know.” He grips his cup tight, his knuckles turning white. “I hope so,” he mutters, and his voice is choked with worry.


“I’m sorry.” I don’t know what else to say, and he’s not in a talkative mood, so after a silent couple of minutes, I tiptoe out of his office. I don’t think he even notices I’ve gone.


I’m just packing up to go home, when the door to my office from the corridor opens silently. I have my back to the door, but I stiffen, sensing danger. I swing around quickly, to come face to face with one of the prettiest men I’ve ever seen. “Pretty” is the only way to describe him. He has dark hair, and flashing green eyes, and his lips are slightly moist as if he’s wearing lip-gloss. I feel like I did when I was 8 years old and came face to face with a snake in Tunisia. This man is dangerous. It’s evident from the look in his eyes, to the way he’s dressed. He’s got a compact body, lean and devastatingly attractive, and he’s wearing jeans, a white tee shirt, and a black leather jacket. Despite his looks, I’m not remotely attracted to him. I stand, staring at him, transfixed.


“I don’t know you,” he says softly.


“I don’t know you,” I retort, finding my voice. “Or what you’re doing here,” I add pointedly. “AD Skinner isn’t expecting you – I’m his secretary.”


He smiles – it’s an eerie sight, and it doesn’t reach his eyes. He looks at me as if I’m prey. “Go home, little secretary. I have something to discuss with Skinner.” He never raises his voice as he gives me his order, but he clearly fully expects me to obey. I refuse to be intimidated by this punk, and besides, there’s no way I’ll allow someone this dangerous to be alone with Walter.


“I don’t think so,” I reply, and he just smiles, and raps a black-gloved hand against Skinner’s door, and then, without waiting for a reply, enters.


“Sorry, sir. He just…” I begin, following on behind. Then I stop. Skinner is looking at this man with a kind of hatred I’ve never witnessed in my boss before. They’re like two wild animals facing off over their kill, neither wanting to back down…only…only Walter is the weaker one here. I don’t know how, or why, I just know that he’s helpless, and mad as hell about it.


“It’s all right, Geri. You can go home,” Walter says softly to me, never taking his eyes off this man.


“Do you want me to call security, sir? I have no idea how he got in here.”


“No, that’s fine. Don’t call security. As for how he got in here…” Skinner shrugs. “He used the sewers, like all good rats.”


I don’t know what the hell that’s all about, but the man in the black leather jacket just smirks, sits himself down, and swings his boots onto Skinner’s desk. There’s nothing I can do except back hesitantly out of the office, but there is no way in hell I’m going home, and leaving my boss in there. I’ll stay to make sure he’s okay.


All right, I know I’m a bit of a drama queen, but I have visions of coming in tomorrow morning to find Walter’s blood-stained corpse of the office floor. I’m loyal, and I’ll stand up to anyone if a person I love is threatened. I sit in the outer office, thrumming my fingers on the desk, and gazing anxiously at the clock, watching the minutes tick past, but I can’t hear anything in the other office. After about fifteen minutes, the door opens, and leather jacket man emerges, another smirk on that pretty, rosebud mouth. Who would have guessed that someone so beautiful could be so damn evil?


“Still here, Geri?” He asks with an incline of his head, mischief in his eyes. “I could have sworn he told you to go home.”


“I decided to stay.” I pull myself up to my full height, and I’m easily as tall as he is – probably taller.


“How…sweet. Skinner has a little lap dog,” he grins, and then he turns on his heel, and goes. As soon as he’s out of the door, I make a dash for Skinner’s office, and peer inside, convinced I’m going to find my boss bleeding to death on the floor. He isn’t. He’s sitting at his desk, his shoulders hunched, an expression of dark anger in his eyes.


“Sir? Are you all right?” I venture. He glances up sharply.


“Yes, I’m fine, damn it! For god’s sake, go home like I told you to!” he roars. I can usually take a hint, but on this occasion I think he needs me. He sure as hell needs someone, so I stand my ground, and wait. After a few moments his expression changes. “Geri. I’m sorry,” he mutters. “Look, I’m fine. It’s just been one hell of a bad day.” He gives a self-deprecating shrug, takes his glasses off, and rubs his eyes wearily. “And, unsurprisingly, I have one mother of a headache,” he adds wryly.


“Here. Let me get you some Advil.” I rummage in my desk drawer, and return to his side with a glass of water and the two tablets. He swallows them down, and then tries to straighten his back, wincing. His muscles are clearly all bunched up with tension, and I’m not surprised after what he’s been through today.


I don’t mean to do it, but I’m just acting on instinct and I find myself standing behind him, and putting my hands on his shoulders. I’m good at back rubs – I used to give them to my mother, and it’s such a pleasure to be touching his wide, strong neck and powerful shoulders. He jumps slightly as I touch him, but he doesn’t ask me to stop, and, duly encouraged, I dig my fingers deep into his taut flesh, smoothing away all the knotted tension of the day. It might be inappropriate in view of our working relationship, but he needs this, and I want to give it to him, and he’s too tired and depressed right now to give a damn about what’s appropriate or not. This is like a dream come true for me. He leans back in his chair, and closes his eyes while I work, my hands finally making contact with the body I’ve dreamed about. His flesh is warm through his cool, cotton shirt, and his scalp is so enticing it’s all I can do not to plant a kiss there. He stays still, unmoving, and gradually he loosens up beneath my caress.


I could massage him for hours. I exist on a different plane of existence entirely as I stand there, behind him. It’s just him and me; the rest of the universe has ceased to be. It’s almost as if time has frozen, leaving us alone in this moment. Finally, after about fifteen minutes, he clears his throat, and the mood is broken. I step back, reluctantly relinquishing my hold on a body that I long to touch, and adore, and smother with my love.


“Thanks, Geri. I appreciate that,” he murmurs, rolling his shoulders experimentally. “Now, it’s late, and you really should go home,” he chides.


“I’ll go. If you’re sure you’re all right,” I say softly. He smiles, and nods.


“I’m fine. Just go. I’ll be fine.”


I wish I was convinced, but there’s nothing I can do, so I wander towards the door, then turn, unable to stop myself.


“Sir, if you’re in any trouble, or there’s anything you want to talk to me about…well, I’m here.” I shrug. It sounds a bit pathetic to be honest. I mean, whatever he’s involved in is serious. What the hell use would I be? “That guy who was just here…” I bite my tongue as he looks up, with a baleful stare.


“Krycek. His name is Krycek,” he says.


“He’s a snake. He’s dangerous – very dangerous.”


Walter looks at me for a moment, then laughs. It’s a strange, mirthless sound. “Oh, Geri, I know that. Trust me. I really do know that.”


“You should take care,” I whisper.


“It’s too late for that.” He rolls his shoulders, still trying to get the cricks out of his neck. “Far, far too late,” he murmurs, gazing into space.


“I really want to help,” I state uselessly.


“There’s nothing you can do. This isn’t your problem. It’s mine,” he says softly. “I’ll deal with it. One way or another.”


I don’t know why but his words send a chill down my spine. One way or another. I wish I knew what he meant by that.


I can’t get his words out my head, and they reverberate around inside my mind. I stand there, staring at him for a while, my heart aching for him. He’s so lost, and alone. His eyes are red-rimmed, with dark shadows underneath, and he’s pale, and looks so tired. I long to just go and wrap my arms around him, and tell him he’s loved, but  I know I wouldn’t be welcome. I don’t think he really has any idea that I even exist. I’m just his secretary, part of the furniture, the person who brings in the coffee and types up his memos. I feel so damn helpless, and scared – for him, and for me, getting in this deep. I’ve been an idiot, but I can’t snap out of it.


I brood on the subject of this Krycek person for a couple of weeks. I really don’t know what to do next, but I’m sure that my strong, silent boss is in deep shit, and doesn’t have anyone to turn to. Don’t ask me why I feel like this – intuition I guess. I mean, although I don’t know Walter in any great personal depth, I do spend most of my waking hours with him, and I have gotten some measure of the man beneath the AD persona. He’s in trouble. I know he’s in trouble – and I’m desperate to help.


An idea occurs to me and, sick to death of being passive, I make my move. That’s how I come to be dandling little James Walter in my arms at Kim’s house a few days later.


“Geri, don’t get me wrong, but is there a reason why you’re here?” Kim asks, looking at me intently with her blue eyes. She looks tired, but radiant and she’s completely devoted to little Jamie. She has every right to ask – I mean I barely knew her before she went on maternity leave, beyond saying “hi” when we passed in the corridor.


“Yes.” I smile at Jamie, and tickle him under his chin. He stares back at me with that puzzled, unfocused look tiny babies have.


“Well?” That’s Kim. Direct as ever. No wonder she and Skinner hit it off so well.


“It’s the AD,” I venture. “I’m worried about him. There’s this man…” I pause, and chew on a fingernail for a moment, unsure how to continue. “He’s called Krycek,” I begin again, and stop almost immediately as she stiffens. “You know him?”


“Yes. I know him. He used to work at the FBI, and I didn’t like him then either. I never really found out what happened, but I think he was some kind of spy. He came to visit the Assistant Director?”


“Yes, but…there’s something weird going on, Kim. I’m really worried about Walter. Krycek is dangerous, and Walter doesn’t seem to have any friends except Agent Mulder, and Agent Scully. He’s under pressure from all sides, and I’m afraid he’s going to crack. It doesn’t help that he has so much work piled on him either. He’s always there, working those crazy hours, and I’m concerned about his health.” I pour all this out in a torrent, and Kim is frowning, nodding slightly, as if she understands exactly what I’m talking about. When I finish, she tucks a red curl behind her ear, fixes me with those blue eyes, and asks, completely out of the blue: “How long have you been in love with him?”


Well, I said she was direct!


“Oh shit.” I hand the kid back to her and bury my flaming red face in my hands. “Is it that obvious?”


“To me – yes.” She gives me a sympathetic smile.


“I don’t want him to know. I don’t want to make a total idiot of myself. I know I don’t stand a hope in hell with him. I know he was married, and I think he’s probably still in love with his wife…”


“No,” she says, surprising me. “No, he isn’t. I don’t think there was any love there for a long time.”


I look up, sensing something unspoken. “Are you saying…there’s a possibility…uh…?” I flounder.


“No, Geri.” She sighs, shaking her head. “Look, I’ll tell you this in confidence, because I don’t want you to get hurt, but between you and me, I think the Assistant Director is already in love with someone else. Someone who isn’t his ex-wife.”


“Who?” I ask blankly.


“I can’t tell you that. I only say that based on my own observation – I have no actual facts. I mean, he never confided in me.” She laughs out loud as if the whole idea of Walter confiding in anybody about his love life is completely absurd – which it almost certainly is. He isn’t that kind of man.


“Is it Agent Scully? She’s very beautiful,” I murmur, remembering the cool, self-possessed red head. Kim shrugs.


“Look, I’m not going to sit here while you go through a list of everyone who works at the Hoover building,” she chides. “I won’t compromise him any more than I already have. I just thought you should know. It’s up to you to figure out the rest. Geri…” She puts her hand on my arm as I get up to leave. “You’ll find someone else. You can’t be unaware of how attractive you are,” she smiles. It’s a clear attempt to bolster my ego after dropping such devastating news into my lap, but it falls short of the mark. Looks mean so little at the end of the day. My father’s living proof of that. I know that Walter won’t look twice at me because, even apart from the fact that he isn’t gay, I’m too young, and too naïve, and really it’s laughable to think of me moving in his high-powered, dangerous world. There’s so much at stake with him, so many nuances, so many mysteries, and my reality is boring, everyday routine – getting up in the morning, going to work, the occasional night out with friends, movies, dancing – while’s he’s negotiating shadowy conspiracies, and entertaining dangerous people in his office. We could be living on different planets.


“Thanks, Kim. Jamie is a cutie, just like his mom.” I drop a kiss on the little guy’s head, and he screws up his tiny red face, and whimpers at me.


“You’ll meet someone else,” Kim repeats firmly, as she walks me to the door.


“Not like him. There’s nobody like him,” I reply, and she shakes her head sadly, and kisses me on the cheek.


“Good bye, Geri. Good luck.”


Miraculously, Agent Mulder survives. I never do find out what exactly was wrong with him, but on sneaking a peek at his personnel file, I discover that he’s prone to pulling these kinds of stunts at regular intervals. My god, and I thought I was a drama queen. This guy beats me hands down. I can’t believe all that worry and emotional energy invested in him. I wonder if he even knows how upset Walter was. Probably not. If he does, would he care?


I soon realise that Spooky must be back when a 302 appears in my in tray for Walter to sign, requesting permission to investigate the sighting of a some kind of yeti in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Honestly, I don’t know how Walter keeps a straight face processing this kind of nonsense. The 302 is duly signed though, so whatever Spooky has on Walter must bereally big. A few days later, Spooky returns, triumphant, and does his usual trick of barging his way into my office, and demanding an audience with my boss.


“He’s busy,” I snap, because by now I really, really hate this guy.


“Not too busy to see this!” Spooky exclaims. “He’s going to love this!” He holds aloft something that could be…well, anything. It looks like a bear paw in a plastic bag, but I’m no frigging expert on yetis, so it could be one, or part of one. He raps on Walter’s door, then heads straight on in.


“Look what we brought home!” he yells excitedly, brandishing the bag.


“I’m sorry, sir, I tried to stop him,” I tell Walter over Spooky’s shoulder.


“That’s okay, Geri.” Walter smiles, but not at me. He’s smiling at the ridiculous bear paw in the bag, and he’s smiling at…Mulder. He’s smiling at Spooky, and it’s the most tender smile I’ve ever seen on his face, and suddenly Kim’s words make sense, and it all falls into place. Oh shit. I can’t believe I’ve been so blind. I feel as if I’ve been slugged in the gut, and I just want to disappear into the nearest bathroom, close the stall door, and cry my fucking eyes out. Walter isn’t protecting Mulder because his spooky agent has something on him. He protects him because he loves him.


“Is this…surely it can’t be…proof? Not after all these years! Are you trying to give me a heart attack, Mulder?” Walter teases his agent, and Spooky laughs, his hazel eyes full of that deadly charm I know so well from my father. Poor Walter didn’t stand a chance. Nobody ever does with these types of men. I realise now that my antipathy towards Mulder arose more from my subconscious knowledge of the fact that he holds Walter’s heart in thrall, rather than any genuine grievance against the man himself. I’m big enough to admit that.


I’m not surprised to find out that Walter is at the very least bisexual. Maybe on some level I convinced myself he wasn’t purely in order to avoid inevitable disappointment. If Walter is bisexual then that’s fine by me. I’m not one of those gay men who thinks it’s a kind of denial. I recognise that everybody is different, and we all have our own experiences.  I’ve suffered too much from being labelled to categorise, and put other people in a box. I’ve hated the way people look at me for so long, especially men, and I’ve longed for them to like me, the person, Geri, and not just the façade.


Poor Walter. Poor, poor Walter. I’ve seen the way Mulder looks at Agent Scully too – the guy just can’t help flirting witheverybody. Maybe he is genuinely fond of Walter, but it isn’t going to go anywhere – Spooky has no room in his life for romance. Not with Walter, not with Scully, not with anyone. I think, probably, that he doesn’t even think he’s going to survive. He lives too close to the edge – his goddamn medical record is testament to that – and there is no way he’s going to cause anybody the pain of losing their lover. Nor, less altruistically, does he want to have to change his death-defying habits in order to take a partner into account. Oh shit. What a fucking mess.


I do what any person would do; I make an excuse to go home early, buy two bottles of liquor on the way back, and take to my bed with a glass in one hand. Okay, so the liquor I choose is a cocktail bottle of ready-mixed margarita, and not the heavy-duty stuff like whisky that I’m sure most people would choose in the circumstances, but that’s just me. At least I don’t dowse the outside of the glass in salt.


I’m not used to liquor, and god knows I don’t hold it well, so I throw up most of what I down, and then sit on the toilet seat, staring at myself pathetically in the bathroom mirror. I look like shit. I look a total and complete mess with my red-rimmed eyes, and blotchy skin. A wave of anger sweeps through me. Fuck him! Fuck Walter, and Spooky, and the whole damn Hoover Building. It’s a Friday night, and I’m young, I’m single, and I am, let’s face it, not bad looking. Cheryl is right – it’s time I went out and got laid. I take a long, hot shower, soaping myself all over, until I’m feeling halfway human again, and then dry myself slowly. My cock is resolutely limp; after the dozen or more jerk-off fantasies a day  – all of them featuring Walter – that have sustained me for the past few months, now it’s as if all the life has been drained from it. I gel my hair so that it looks sleek, and apply dramatic black eyeliner in thick swathes around my eyes. Some strategically placed body and face glitter gives me sparkle, and a touch of lip-gloss makes my full lips shine like a beacon. Skin-tight leather trousers that hug my flat waist, and a skimpy, see-through mesh tee-shirt complete the ensemble. I look…stunning. Okay, so it’s much more overt and over the top than I usually dress when I go out clubbing, but tonight is about getting laid, so my clothing suits my mood just fine. Walter fucking Skinner doesn’t know what he’s missing.


Boom is heaving when I get there, but for some reason, instead of feeling feisty, and out to pull, my heart sinks. I get four offers before I even reach the bar, but they all look like kids. I down a coke, and eye up the talent. A slim, dark guy smiles, and beckons me onto the dance floor. What the hell! I shrug, and start gyrating towards him, and he grins and dances around me as if I’m some prize he’s just won. I dance with him until a slow number comes on, but he grabs my arm, and pulls me back when I try to leave.


“You can’t go now. Tease,” he grins, and before I know it he has me wrapped up in his arms, my chin on his shoulder. It feels good. It feels like comfort – holding on tight to solid flesh. If I close my eyes, I can imagine it’s him, and not some pick-up whose name I don’t even know. I move my hands down, and cup his butt cheeks, and he whispers something I can’t hear in my ear. I nod, willing him not to ruin my fantasy that I’m dancing with Walter. We slowly rock our way around the dance floor, me with my eyes tightly closed, his hands running up and down my back. He’s wiry, and slight, and he doesn’t feel like Walter would feel, but I can pretend. Finally, as the song draws to a close, he moves his face. and catches my mouth with his. He tastes of beer, and smoke, and sweat, and even with my eyes closed, I know Walter doesn’t taste like this, and he doesn’t kiss like this, and this guy isn’t Walter. That realisation makes me feel physically ill, and suddenly I’m swaying, gasping for breath, trying to push him away, and his hands are all over me, trying to hold me still. I stamp on his toe, and shove him hard in the stomach.


“Fuck off,” I snap, and then I push my way desperately through the thronging bodies towards the exit. If I don’t get some fresh air I’m going to pass out. At least he doesn’t pursue me, the poor bastard. I’m gasping for air by the time I emerge into the night, and I collapse against the wall, breathing heavily. This wasn’t such a good idea after all. My little ‘crush’ is ruining my fucking life. Oh, who the hell am I kidding? My so-called life was hardly in a very healthy state before.


I stagger along the street, trying to calm down, and turn into the next block, and that’s when I remember that his gym is near here. Yes, I checked out where his gym is. Some stupid, self-destructive impulse takes hold of me, and I cross the street and walk purposefully in the direction of the gym. It’s an all-night place, and I know that he goes there every Friday, so it’s possible, just possible, that he’s there now. It’s late, but he likes going late. Maybe it adds to his sense of danger. It certainly isn’t in a very nice area. That should stop me, but I’m too worked up to think clearly. The fact that I’m not dressed for this kind of neighbourhood is the last thing on my mind as I turn into the dark street where the gym is located, and then, taking my life into my hands, open the battered, metal door, and step inside. There aren’t many people around, and those that are here are testosterone-fuelled freaks with enormous muscles. I wonder why I’m getting more stares than is normal, and then remember what I’m wearing, and turn my usual bright red in embarrassment. One guy almost bumps into me, laughs, and then lets out a crowing wolf whistle. I snarl at him to fuck off, and determinedly make my way to the sparring room.


The floor is wood, and I don’t want to be noticed if possible, so I slip off my shoes, and tiptoe quietly into the room. There are still quite a few guys here, and there’s a bout going on in the ring, so all their attention is focused on that. I edge over to the ring, still holding back, and I really don’t know what is going through my mind, or what the hell I’m hoping to achieve by this. I catch a glimpse of the men sparring, and my heart does a somersault, landing upside down, panting for air inside my chest. It’s so sudden, and so strong, that I almost fall over. He’s there. He’s in the ring, feinting, and ducking, and punching, and I’m transfixed, eating up every inch of him. He’s wearing an old white tee shirt, grey sweatpants, and a pair of red boxing gloves, and he’s so smooth and easy on his feet, so fit and strong that I fall in love with him all over again. As if I needed that. He’s still controlled, every movement shrieking his self-discipline, and ability to fight with his head as well as with his hands. He isn’t so muscular that he makes your stomach turn, like some of those freaky guys with the huge veins pulsing away under the skin, but he is beautiful, like some highly charged stallion, flanks covered by a thin sheen of sweat, broad chest heaving. His dark eyes are completely fixed on his opponent, every ounce of his concentration fixed on the fight. He jabs, and dances, and whirls, his long legs giving him a slight height advantage, but he could do with more weight to his hips, as his opponent leans into his punches, and pushes Walter back towards the ropes. I hold my breath, forgetting it’s only a sparring match, nothing riding on the outcome, and it’s then, in that moment, that his eyes meet mine. At first it’s clear I hardly register in his consciousness; his eyes flicker over me, then return to his opponent, and then, a few seconds later, return to me – fully aware that I’m there, and startled as hell. The look on his face is a sight to behold, and he drops his guard for a moment, and his opponent closes with a right hook that he barely ducks. I don’t hang around waiting for the outcome. I feel like I’m standing in a spotlight, and reality crashes in around me, crushing me under its weight. What the hell am I doing here? I turn and run, still holding my shoes in one hand, out into the hall, up the small flight of stairs, and then out of the door and into the street.


I put my head down, and half run, half walk up the block, and turn into the next street berating myself the whole time under my breath. I don’t even see the gang of youths until I walk right into them.


“What’s this?” One of them asks, laughing, as he pushes me under the light of a street lamp to take a closer look. He’s wiry, hard, and stupid, with a shaved head, and an ugly leer on his face.


“Fuck off.” I slam my hand into his chest, and try to keep walking, but he grabs my arm and slams me back into the wall.


“What are you? Some kind of freak?” He wipes his finger over my kohl-lined cheek.


“I said fuck off!” I yell at him.


“Or what? You’re gonna beat me to death with your purse?” He sneers. I’m not carrying a purse, but he’s clearly not going to let that get in the way of a good line. “Give me a kiss, sweetheart.” He leans in, and I’m dimly aware that he smells of beer, and that his mates are laughing and jeering, when his hand finds my crotch. I explode, bringing my knee up sharply into his groin. He gives a growl of pain, and turns decidedly nasty, back-handing me across the chin, and sending my head cracking back against the wall. I shut my eyes, waiting for them to close in. I’ve been such a stupid idiot. This is my fault – I’m usually so careful about avoiding situations like these, but my looks alone always make me a target for the worst kind of mindless trash. My experience of queer-bashing has been limited, but I’ve heard plenty of horror stories on the scene.


“Leave me alone you stupid bastard…” I struggle to free myself, lost in the melee, and suddenly frantic with fear, and the next thing I know my assailant has been dragged off me bodily, punched squarely on the jaw, and thrown into the gutter.


“Anybody else want a taste of that?” a hard, deep voice asks, and my heart does another somersault as I see who my saviour is. Oh shit, like I need him to do the whole knight in shining armour routine when I’m already this much in love with him.


The other youths eye him up, but he’s got that air of quiet, almost deadly authority about him, and a kind of pent up, Clint Eastward, “make my day” quality to his stance. They glare at him, uncertain whether their pride can stand backing down, but the man in the gutter is getting up, and his pride is already too badly dented to give up, so he hurls himself at Walter. For the first time, I see my boss without his self-imposed restraints, and it’s clear that there’s a part of him that loves this. He’s got a chance to fight a raw, ugly battle, without the civilised safety of the arena where he was so recently boxing. He’s like a dog let off his leash, and he snaps a hard left hook, and a body blow to his opponent who goes down without another word.


“Again?” Walter asks, and I think he almost wants the other man to throw himself at him again, but this guy isn’t totally stupid. Walter looks too confident, too big, too strong. One of his friends helps my attacker to his feet, and they all run off down the street as if they’re scared he’ll turn on them if they hang around, despite the fact they outnumber us.


Walter turns back towards me, a puzzled frown on his face. “Geri, what the hell are you doing here?” He asks.


“Just passing?” I riposte feebly, flushing up to my eyeballs. “Look, thanks for that, sir. Please, let’s just forget this.” I push past him, and limp up the street, still holding my goddamn shoes. I must look totally pathetic, my eye make-up running down my face, and my clothes dirty and torn. He’s not so easily shaken off though, and runs to catch up with me.


“Geri, don’t be stupid,” he growls in his best AD voice. “You’re upset about something, and you’re in no state to run into that gang again. Let me call you a taxi.”


“No. I’m fine. Please, let me go,” I implore, but he grabs my arm, pulls me into the nearby park, and sits me down firmly on a bench. “Ouch,” I mutter resentfully, glaring at his fingers, which are digging painfully into my arm.


“Geri, what the hell are you doing here?” He asks again, and from the puzzled look on his face it’s clear that he has absolutely no idea how I feel about him. My whole world has been him for the past couple of months and he doesn’t know. He doesn’t even have a fucking clue. “You went home early. You weren’t feeling well,” he says as if there’s some clue there. “Are you feeling better now?”


“Yeah. Right.” I hold my hand against my aching, bruised jaw.


“Are you in some kind of trouble?” He asks in desperation.


“No. Are you?” I throw back.


“What the hell does that mean?”


“It means that I’m not the one entertaining Mr. Krycek in my office,” I yell, because attack is the best method of defence.


“I don’t have a choice in that, and what the hell business is it of yours?” He’s starting to look seriously pissed off now, and clearly completely and utterly flummoxed by the evening’s events. He takes a deep breath, and calms down. “I’m sorry those men attacked you. I think you should report it,” he says, trying to get back onto good old AD territory, where he feels happiest, and away from all these emotions, which make him uncomfortable.


“No. It was my fault. I was careless,” I shrug.


“You are dressed…uh, well…” He clenches his jaw as he surveys my see-through, mesh tee-shirt, and the skin-tight, nothing-left-to-the-imagination, leather pants.


“Yeah. I know. I expect I was asking for it,” I snap angrily.


“That’s not what I meant,” he protests. “It’s just…well, maybe this isn’t the best neighbourhood to be seen dressed like this.”


“You think maybe I should just make an effort to blend in with everyone else? That I should pretend to be something I’m not? Put up a front, an appearance, like you do? I can’t live like that even if you can.”


“What do you mean?” His voice is low and angry.


“I mean that I am not the one in the fucking closet. I’m not the one with the hots for Agent Spooky,” I snap, and immediately regret it. I’m just so off balance that I’m hitting out at the one person who has shown me some kindness. He doesn’t deserve this, but it’s too late. I think he seriously considers hitting me. It certainly goes through his mind. He stands up, his muscles hard and bunched, and there’s a rage in his eyes, almost a madness. Most men would be offended at being accused of lusting after other guys after all. Even if in his case it’s true – maybe he hasn’t faced up to the full implications of his feelings for Spooky, or then again, maybe he’s out cruising for trade every night of the week. Then slowly, visibly, the anger drains away as he realises that I know, and there’s no point in denying it, and maybe he doesn’t even want to deny it any more. Maybe he’s lived with it for so long that he’s desperate not to have to hide it any more. The tension flows out of his body, and he sits down with a thud, looking completely wiped out.


“I’m sorry, please, I’m sorry,” I tell him pathetically. “I didn’t mean to say that. Just forget it. Please.”


He sits there, staring down at his hands for a moment, then clears his throat, and turns to face me.


“Does anyone else know?” He asks, in a low, choked voice.


“No. I haven’t told anyone. I only realised it myself today.”


“Will you tell anyone?” He looks at me, his dark eyes shadowed and weary. Maybe he expects me to blackmail him with it. I wouldn’t be surprised if his view of human nature was that low right now.


“No! I’d never use it against you. I’d never do that!” I protest. He gives a grunt of disbelief, and he clearly doesn’t trust me. I put a hand on his arm, because it’s important that I make him believe. “Please. I wouldn’t,” I insist. “I wouldn’t put you through that. I know how hard it is for you, and I wouldn’t make it any worse.”


“You know?” He sneers, his fists clenching and unclenching spasmodically. “You don’t know. You have no idea.”


“Of course I do. I know what it’s like to be in love with a man who doesn’t even know that you exist,” I say quietly, looking straight at him. He just stares at me, startled, and then understanding dawns, creeping slowing into those beautiful, dark, haunted eyes.


“Oh shit.” He shakes his head. “Geri, I’m sorry. I had no idea.”


“Doesn’t matter. It’s a total cliché – the secretary falling for the boss. In our case it has a little 21st century twist of its own, but it’s still, basically, the same old cliché.”


“Geri…” he shrugs helplessly. “I wish I knew what to say.” He looks totally out of his depth, poor bastard.


“Don’t say anything. You know…I’m not the one you should be feeling sorry for here, sir, Walter…whatever. I think, right now, that I feel sorrier for you.” I stand up, and look down on him coolly. “He’s never going to change, Walter. Even if he returns your feelings he’s not going to act on it, and neither are you. What the hell use is it for you both to waste your lives? At least you could have me. I’m real. I’m flesh and blood, and I’d do anything for you. ”


“Geri, even if I wanted to, you must see it’s crazy. We work together…”


“I’ll resign,” I say quickly, making a joke of myself. He smiles in reply, and shakes his head.


“It’s not possible,” he tells me.


“Why, because you don’t find me attractive?” I look down at him, and he swallows hard, and then looks away.


“No. You’re…pretty damn attractive,” he mutters. “You must know that. When I first laid eyes on you I couldn’t believe someone so damn perfect existed outside of a movie.”


“It doesn’t matter though, does it? All the looks in the world can’t give me what I really want, and that’s you.” I’ve gone beyond saving my pride here, and I have to believe he’ll be kind at least. He knows what it’s like after all. He knows all about unrequited love, and how that feels. Do men like him feel the same way? Does age and authority make your feelings less intense? I’d like to ask him, but it’s a question too far.


I reach out, and touch his chin gently, turning his face back to look at me. “What does it matter if I’m not him? If you want me…I’d settle for that. I’d settle just for sex. I don’t care.” Yup, I’ve sunk that low. And I’m just about to sink even lower – literally. I get down on my knees, and before he knows what I’m doing, I’ve tugged down his sweatpants a few inches, and released his cock from his jock strap. I bury my face in his groin while he’s still too surprised to react, and by then I’ve got my mouth wrapped around his cock, and he’s hardening. I hear him give a start of surprise, and then he moves his hand as if to push my face away, and ends up wrapping it in my hair instead, moaning softly in the back of his throat.


“Geri…stop. This isn’t…” he mutters, but I’ve blown a lot of guys in my time, and I know exactly what I’m doing. This is cock paradise for him, and he can’t quite bring himself to really draw away. His cock tastes so good too. Salty, sweaty from his sparring match at the gym, and it’s big, just like I knew it would be. He’s cut, and his flesh is silky over the hardness, like swallowing warm velvet. I deliver the Geri special, and before long he’s ramming his cock hard into my throat, his hand still in my hair, and I’m loving it. He draws back as his breathing quickens, but I grab his thighs because I want him to come in my throat. I want to taste every single last drop of his come. He explodes in my mouth, and I can feel the warm semen trickling down my throat.


“Oh shit,” he’s saying. “Oh shit, Geri, we shouldn’t have done that. Oh shit.”


”I wanted to,” I tell him, drawing back, and glancing around. It’s dark, and there’s nobody here – we weren’t seen. “What does it matter whose mouth, Walter?” I ask him desperately. “We could make it work.”


“No.” He adjusts his clothing, his eyes full of confusion, and I can see he bitterly regrets what he perceives as his own weakness.


“You’re flesh and blood too. Don’t you deserve someone?” I ask him desperately, still kneeling there, my hands on his thighs. “Why should you just be a footnote in someone else’s drama? Why shouldn’t you have someone who is there just for you? I’ll be that person, Walter. I’ll be there to wrap my arms around you every night, and take care of you when those bastards threaten you. When you’re depressed about work, and when you need someone to hold you, and just be there for you. Would Mulder give you that? I would. I’d be your refuge, Walter, your haven. I love you.” I stare up at him helplessly, and his dark eyes devour me, but I know, even as I say it, that it’s no use.


“You don’t even know me,” he replies in a hard tone. “I’m not what you think, Geri. I’ve done some…questionable things in my time.”


“So have I!” I grin.


He reaches down, and flicks a strand of hair away from my face. “You’re so beautiful. I wish…I wish I could be what you want, Geri. I wish I could feel what you want me to feel, but I…”


“I know. You’re in love with someone else. I understand.” I get up, and pull away from him.


“Geri…” he tries to call me back, but I’m holding on to the last vestige of my pride here.


“I’ll see you on Monday, sir. You can pretend this never happened if you want. I won’t embarrass you, if that’s what you’re worried about.” And then I flee. I run as fast as I can, and I’m light and lithe, so even without my shoes, I’m soon out of his reach. I’m not even sure if he tries to follow me anyway. I get home without any further incident, strip off my clothes, step into the shower, and stand there, shivering, even though the water is steaming hot. Monday. I have to face him on Monday. Oh shit. This is why people avoid office romances. I wish I was strong enough to resign, but I’m not. The idea of not seeing him is even more painful than seeing him. He’s my fix.


I use the weekend to decompress. Maybe the stupid, naïve side of me holds out some ridiculous hope that he’ll call but of course he doesn’t. On Saturday, staring at my pale, drawn face in the mirror, I decide I need a radical change, and go out on a whim and have my hair cut – really short, with just a little floppy fringe. It makes me feel better, as if I can be a different person, and not the Geri who behaved like a total idiot on Friday night. On Sunday I get up early, and, on a whim, steal my father’s boat and go out sailing for the whole day. It feels good, just me, alone on the water with the breeze blowing around my face. It’s what I need. Monday morning comes, inevitably, and after a sleepless night I get up, and dress in the most conservative clothes I have. I steel myself to walk into that office, and put the coffee on, but somehow I know I have to stick to a familiar routine, or I’ll fall apart, so I do what I always do – I stick my head around his door, and say a muted “hi.”


He’s sitting there, as he always is, and he looks up, startled. Maybe he wasn’t seriously expecting me to come in today.


“Hi,” he replies, giving me a deeply strained smile.


“Do you want the case files for your meeting with Agent Leeman later today?” I ask, making it clear that I’m putting this on a determinedly professional footing.


“Uh, yes…” He clears his throat. “Geri, about…” he begins, but I forestall him.


“Remember you have a meeting with AD Cassidy at 2 pm to go through that report on International Terrorism.”


He closes his mouth, and nods, slowly. “Of course. Thank you for reminding me. Can you make sure I have several copies of the report to distribute at the meeting?”


I nod, and then exit. That’s the worst part over. Thank god.


It does get easier. We’re icily polite, and completely professional, and nobody looking at us would know I had his cock in my mouth last Friday night. It breaks my heart to be this cold and formal with him, and I long for our old, easy relationship, but it’s too late for that now. I screwed it up, and can’t have it back.


After two weeks I can almost believe that it never happened. It takes on a surreal, dream-like quality in my mind. In fact, I can almost believe my whole crush never happened. I feel switched off, frozen, as if my feelings no longer exist – any feelings, not just the ones I had for him. I have no interest in anything and move listlessly between work and my apartment because I have no energy for anything else. It’s a relief, to be honest, not having to feel anything, after the crescendo of emotions that has been building for so long. I feel like a watercolour painting left out in the rain, washed out and faded, no colour or spark left. It’s restful, and I think I could go on like this forever, when my emotions are kick-started again by circumstances. It’s 6 o’ clock, and I’m getting ready to go home. I don’t stay really late any more; I just do what I have to in order to get the work done. Nothing more, nothing less. I hear a noise in Walter’s office, and it sounds like a groan, followed by a cry of pain. Startled, I’m on my feet in seconds, and I run next door to find him bent double, clutching his stomach. The outer door to his office is open, and someone is running…I catch a glimpse of long, straggly hair and a beard, but the hairs on the back of my neck are standing on end, just as they did in Tunisia when I saw that snake, and a few weeks ago, when I first met Krycek, and I know, without any shadow of doubt, that it was he who just left here. My immediate concern isn’t Krycek though; it’s Walter. He’s bent double over his desk, and he looks ill. His skin is clammy, and his veins are standing out darkly against his flesh. He’s holding on to the desk, as if he’s been hit in the stomach, and at first I think that’s what’s happened, but it soon becomes clear that it isn’t. He looks up, and tries to speak, takes a step towards me, then falters, sways, and falls to the floor with a thud.


“Sir? Walter?” I’m by his side in a second, and I open his collar, and tear off his tie. His eyes loll in his head as he tries to focus on me.


“Scully…” he mutters, and then he’s out cold. His face is now criss-crossed with thick, angry, pulsing dark veins, and it’s scary, like something out of a horror movie. I don’t know why he wants Scully, and not the paramedics, but I scramble towards his desk, and punch in her extension, and a few minutes later she runs into the office, her red hair bobbing around her face.


“When did this happen? Did you see who did this?” She yells at me.


“No…yes…it was Krycek,” I tell her, because I’m convinced that it was and she nods grimly, clearly not surprised.


“Call the paramedics,” she orders and I tell her I’ve already done that, before going to kneel beside him again. I’m surprised to see that she’s holding his hand, and talking to him as if she’s genuinely fond of him. Maybe she is.


“It’s all right, sir. We’re going to get you to the hospital. Hold on. You’re going to be fine.”


I wish I had her certainty. He looks terrible. The paramedics arrive, and carry him away on a gurney, and she runs along beside him, and I’m running along at the other side. We get to the elevator, and she tells me to go back, and inform all the right people what has happened, not even thinking for a second that I might want to go with them, and of course I don’t have that right. I stare at her, standing stock still, as they wheel him into the elevator and away from me. I’m nothing in the scheme of things. My feelings don’t count for anything. He’s not mine. We have no relationship that anyone would recognise, and I can’t even be with him when he needs someone. I swallow hard, turn, and walk back to my office in a haze of pain. Now I long for that numbness again – where is it when you need it most? I push open the door to his office, and survey it blankly. There are papers on the floor where he pushed them when he fell…and his glasses have fallen under the chair. I go and pick them up, thinking he’ll need them…and then it occurs to me that he might not, that whatever has been done to him might kill him, and that’s when I curl up into a ball beside his desk, my knees hugged up against my chest, and cry my eyes out. I don’t cry easily, and I don’t cry often – I’ve lived too exotic a life, and seen, and felt too much for that, but this has slain me.


Half an hour later, I manage to pull myself together enough to find his file – the one that states who his next of kin are, and who should be called in an emergency. There’s only one name on his file: Scully. She’s the person he put down as next of kin. Doesn’t the man have anyone who really loves him in the world? It breaks my heart to see her name there. His next of kin is someone he doesn’t even call by her first name. I wish it could be my name, but it isn’t, and never could be, and I hate this fucking, screwed-up world for that. Love is love, and what the hell does it matter what gender you choose to love, or live with, or who you name on your file as next of kin? It’s absurd, but it does matter in this society. There is no way an Assistant Director of the FBI is going to come out.


I call the Deputy Director, and leave a message with his secretary, and there’s nothing else I can do. Agent Mulder rushes in ten minutes later, and asks me a lot of stupid questions. To his credit, he is genuinely upset, but that won’t help Walter. Mulder keeps giving me these curious looks. Maybe he’s wondering why my eyes are so red. I’ve heard he has an intuitive gift for understanding what motivates people, so maybe he’s guessed about my hopeless infatuation for Walter. I don’t know, and I don’t care.


When I’m finally allowed to leave, I go straight to the hospital. Don’t ask me why – I just know that I can’t go home. Scully’s still there, and she looks at me in surprise when I enter his room.


“Geri?” She raises a flawless eyebrow.


“I thought he might need these.” I hand over the wirerims with nerveless fingers, and she takes them, thanking me softly.


“That’s very thoughtful, Geri.”


“How is he?” I gaze at him. All his strength has faded. All that vitality, and carefully controlled energy has gone. He looks pale and weak, and I’m reminded of an illustration I once saw in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, which was my favourite book when I was growing up. It was of Aslan, tied up on the table of stone, shorn of his mane, and bereft of his power, while the forces of evil danced around him, gloating. That’s how Walter looks now. “Is he going to be okay?” I ask Agent Scully, and she gives a sad little smile.


“We think so. This has happened before, and it looks as if this time it was an…object lesson.”


“What do you mean?” I frown.


“I mean…” She hesitates, as if unsure how much to tell me. “It means that he did something that upset someone. This is their way of punishing him.”


“What did he do?” I take hold of Walter’s hand without even thinking, not caring how it looks to her. “What on earth could anyone do to deserve this?” I stare at her, uncomprehending. How can such evil exist in the world? I just don’t understand.


“He purposefully gave someone wrong information in order to protect Agent Mulder’s work,” she tells me, her blue eyes kind. Maybe she’s guessed how I feel about him. Maybe it’s obvious. It probably is. I can’t hide it any more.


“Agent Mulder.” I shake my head bitterly. I might have known. It always comes down to Agent goddamn Mulder.


“The Assistant Director probably saved Mulder’s life,” Scully tells me, her love for Mulder radiating out of every word she says. What a bunch we all are: all these unspoken emotions, all these dysfunctional people. What a total fuck up.


“Let’s just hope Mulder appreciates that then,” I say tersely.


“He does. Mulder is a good man,” she replies, her voice strong, and full of belief.


“So is Walter,” I snap, squeezing his hand firmly, as I stand my ground, and stare back at her.


There’s silence as we get the measure of each other, and then she nods, briefly, understanding me exactly. We both stay all night. I think, under different circumstances, that we might even be friends. I do like her, but I can’t help hating her, just a little, for being part of this labyrinth that has swallowed the man I’m in love with. I wish I could follow him in there, maybe I already have, but I’m hopelessly lost, and I don’t understand any of it. We make small talk, and by the morning, Walter is looking better. His eyes flutter open, and he sees her, and smiles.


“Hi,” she says, pressing a glass of water to his lips.


“Hi,” he croaks back, and then he sees me, and looks confused.


“Hello, sir. I uh, brought you your glasses.” I’m unsure how else to explain my presence. He manages a wry grin.


“I hope you didn’t bring my paperwork as well,” he jokes feebly. “I don’t think I’m up to that.”


“No. I just thought you might need them,” I mutter lamely.


“Thanks, Geri.” He tries to sit up, and I help him, plumping up the pillows behind him. It’s obvious that he wants to talk to Scully in private, so I make my excuses and leave. What else can I do? I go home, take a shower, change, and then go back to work. This is where I’m supposed to be after all. Holding the fort in his office in his absence, rescheduling his meetings…only I don’t. I just sit there, staring at the four walls, and at 2 pm I decide I’ve had enough. I don’t care if they fire me – I grab my coat, and leave, heading straight for the hospital.


Agent Scully isn’t there, and I feel irrationally angry with her. He shouldn’t be left alone. What if Krycek comes back? There isn’t even a guard posted to his door. I slip in, and he looks up, and I think I see a glimmer of a smile on his face.


“Geri, you shouldn’t be here,” he chides.


“I know. I don’t care. I can’t sit at work doing nothing,” I tell him honestly, and I think he’s actually rather touched that anyone cares enough about him to visit. “I brought you some things. Here’s some books, and grapes, of course,” I smile. Grapes are obligatory in hospital after all. “And some decent toiletries. Everyone should have nicely scented soap when they’re ill,” I wink. He looks faintly horrified by my act of arch camp, and then laughs out loud. He only sees the surface, but then again, maybe I never allow him to see underneath. Maybe I’m hiding behind the act just to keep myself safe. Being rejected for my manner is a lot less painful than being rejected for me – the real me – after all.


“Thanks, Geri. What are the books?” He glances at them. “Sharpe?” He raises any eyebrow. “What’s that about?”


“You haven’t heard of Sharpe? I thought they might be the kind of thing you’d enjoy.” I shrug. “It’s set during the Napoleonic wars, and Sharpe is fighting for the Duke of Wellington. It’s undemanding, and there’s lots of battles, adventures, tales of derring-do, that kind of stuff. Sean Bean plays him in the TV version, and he’s totally gorgeous. I have them all on tape if you want to watch them. The books came first though, and I love them.”


“I’ll try them. It’s been a long time since I read anything other than case files,” he comments.


“Well, then you need to. All work and no play…”


“Makes Jack a dull boy, I know, and I am very dull,” he says.


“Not to me.” I pour him a glass of water, and then sit down beside his bed.


“You’re staying?” He raises an eyebrow.


“I can’t leave until I know you’ll be all right. You nearly gave me a heart attack back at the office. I thought you were dead. I thought my coffee couldn’t be that bad,” I joke feebly.


“No. Not dead. Just…” He moves and winces, “in a bit of pain,” he mutters. “Which, I think, was the whole damn point. I’ll get better, Geri. This has happened before, and I do get better.” I can tell it hurts like hell, but he’s doing the macho thing and not giving into it. He’s looking better. Still pale, and those dark veins are still raised on his skin, but they aren’t as angry as they were when Krycek first did this to him.


“If I see Krycek, I’ll kill him,” I state unexpectedly.


“What?” He does a double take.


“Krycek. If I ever see him again, I’ll kill him.” I mean it too. I know I could.


“How do you know it was him?” Walter has a deep frown creasing his wide forehead.


“I know. I’d know him anywhere.” I shiver. “Sir – what’s this all about? What’s going on? Why did Krycek do this to you.”


He looks at me for a moment, then presses his fingers over his eyelids in an infinitely weary gesture. “Geri, I wish I could tell you,” he sighs, “but sometimes I’m not even sure I understand it myself. It’s long, and it’s complicated, and it…it’s just something I’d rather not talk about.”


“If this guy is poisoning you in some way then you should go to the police,” I tell him firmly. He looks dumbfounded and then his face breaks into a smile, and he shakes his head as if I just said the funniest thing.


“I wish I still lived in a world that was so simple,” he says softly. “I’m not patronising you,” he adds quickly, as I start to bristle. “I mean it. I really do want to get off this rollercoaster and rejoin the real world, but it’s too late.”


“I could help you,” I offer but he shakes his head sadly, and changes the subject.


We make small talk, nothing heavy, and I leave him in the evening, when his eyelids start to droop, but I’m back there again the next day, and the next. Sometimes I read to him, when his eyes are tired, and he seems to really enjoy that, which surprises and delights me, and probably encourages my worst drama queen instincts as well – I do have a captive audience after all as the poor bastard can’t leave the bed. Agent Mulder drops in for half an hour one day, lazily sits in the armchair, and fills Walter in on the search for Krycek. Scully visits every day, and stays for an hour or so each time. I think she’s smoothed things over for me at work, because nobody is yelling at me to return, and I believe Kim has offered to come in to cover, placing the baby in day care.


“Isn’t there anyone else I should tell?” I ask him one day. “Anyone who cares about you, and who should visit?”


“Mulder and Scully are it,” he says with that sideways clench of the jaw. “They care.”


“You should have someone for you, Walter. You deserve that much.”


“No. I probably don’t. I drove my wife away, and I lost most of my friends in ‘Nam. As for the rest…well, we lost touch over the years. My fault, probably. My parents are dead.” He shrugs again. “I don’t need  people, Geri. You’ll understand when you’re my age. It’s just…less important.”


“I don’t believe that,” I tell him softly. “I could be here for you.” We stare at each other in silence for a long time, and then he sighs, and rubs his hand over his eyes.


“Geri, we’ve talked about this. It would never work,” he states firmly.


“I don’t see why not.” I have no idea why I’m getting into this again, but my pride obviously thinks it has no place else to go but down right now.


“Because you’re 24 years old, Geri, and I’m 49 for starters.” He says.


“Why is that important?” I snap at him.


“Don’t be naïve, Geri,” he chides.  Then he does something unexpected; he cups the side of my face, and strokes my cheek softly with his fingertip. It’s a beautiful, tender, fond gesture, and I wish the moment could last forever, but he spoils it with what he says next. “I’m old enough to be your father, and isn’t that partly what all this is about? You’ve told me enough about your childhood for me to read between the lines. You’ve been looking for a father figure for a long time, and I won’t be that to you, Geri.”


“It doesn’t matter. None of that matters. All that matters is that I love you, and, trust me, I do not need another goddamn father. I’ve already got one, and that’s definitely enough. I want you as a lover, and a friend. Yes, I’m young, but through me, you could see the world through different eyes, Walter. You’ve been  immersed in betrayals and conspiracies for so damn long that you’ve forgotten what it’s like to enjoy your life, and take pleasure in the simple things – like being with someone you care about.”


”Maybe.” He shrugs. “Maybe I don’t know how to lead a normal life. It’s all been so crazy for the past few years.”


“I could show you that.” I grab his hand. “There’s so much we could do together. I’m willing to bet that I could teach you as much as you could teach me, despite your advancing years, old man.” I poke him playfully in the ribs and he grins. I can’t believe I just did that. The boundaries of boss and secretary have gone forever. I can’t see him as anything other than Walter now.


“You’re probably right.” He shrugs, and then his grin fades. “Look, Geri, it’s not that I’m not flattered, but there must be other men out there, men your own age. Don’t tell me that you couldn’t have anyone you want.”


“But I want you,” I insist, with the stubbornness of youth.


“I’m not what you think I am. You have this crazy romantic vision of me and I’m not like that,” he insists. “I’m not this fantasy person you’ve dreamed up. I’m just an aging, bald guy who’s made way too many mistakes in his life.”


“Don’t make another one then. Don’t make this one,” I tell him insistently.


“Geri, there’s another reason why I don’t want to get involved with anyone.” He suddenly becomes very serious. “My wife was involved in a nasty car accident a few years back. Only…it wasn’t an accident.”


My hand goes to my throat, as I remember what Cheryl said about him being charged with murder. “What then?”


“Someone was trying to set me up, and get me fired – and they didn’t care who they hurt in the process. Anyone I get close to is a target. I couldn’t allow that to happen to you, Geri.”


“Isn’t that up to me to decide?” I ask stiffly, still trying to process this new information.


“I’d never forgive myself if you got hurt. I wouldn’t put you at risk,” he replies. ”You’re so young, you have your whole life ahead of you. You’ll find someone else, someone better than me, Geri.”


“So that’s it? You’re condemning yourself to this life of emptiness because you’re scared of what might happen? That’s an excuse, Walter, and we both know it. If you don’t want me then fine, but don’t hide behind that shit.”


I’m not going to change his mind, the stubborn bastard. Maybe he really does think he’s protecting me but I don’t damn well want to be protected. Not from him anyway. We stare at each other, having reached stalemate, and he gives this little shrug. Damn him, he’s such a bloody man.


“Okay. Look, I don’t want to embarrass you any more than I have done.” I wince when I think what all this unwanted attention must feel like to Mr. Emotionally Dysfunctional here, not that he’s very different from most men in that. “It’ll be too much of a pain in the ass for you to train a new secretary now, and Kim will be back for good in a few weeks, so let’s just agree to brave it out until then. After that, we need never see each other again, and I think that will be best. Don’t you?”


He doesn’t reply, but there’s a look in his eyes that makes me wish he’d just take a chance. My mother used to tell me that you only regret the things you don’t do, not the things you do, and, okay, she was using that as justification for putting out for every dazzling smile, and tanned body she came across during ten years globetrotting, but there’s some wisdom to it all the same. I wonder what Walter will feel about this when he’s old, unless, like Mulder, he isn’t intending to live that long. I don’t want him to regret anything. At least I know I tried, and I said my piece, and beyond that, there isn’t any more I can do. I can’t make him love me. I wish I could make him give us a chance though.


He’s discharged a couple of days later, although he’s still shaky on his feet. I’m there of course. I’m not going to abandon him now. I want him to know what it’s like to have someone in his life who cares about him, and, less altruistically, if I only have another few weeks with him then I sure as hell want to make the most of them. It’s hospital policy that all discharged patients are wheeled to the door, for some weird reason, and he hates the wheelchair because he’s got some macho shit going on, but submits after a brief argument with the nurse. She flashes me a grin, as if to ask how the hell I put up with him, and for a moment I bask in that warm glow of imagining we’re a couple, but it’s stupid, and once again, I know I’m heading for a fall. I haven’t lost it this time though. Somehow, and I don’t know how, I’ve regained some self-respect through all this, and I’m not rushing around like a giddy kid any more. I’ve tackled my feelings, like an adult, and I’ve accepted that I can’t have what I want. I’m older, and sadder, but I’m definitely wiser too, and I’m resigned. I’m not kidding myself any more.


I wheel him to the entrance, where Mulder and Scully are waiting with the car. Mulder is going to drive him back to Crystal City, which as far as I’m concerned is the least he can do to make up for his fairly low visitation record. According to Walter, Mulder hates hospitals and won’t spend more time in one than is absolutely necessary. Well, that’s fine, but to my mind, visiting Walter is absolutely necessary. Oh, don’t mind me, I’m just being bitchy. I don’t really even hate Mulder any more. I think I was wrong about him. He isn’t like my father. He’s someone who cares, but he’s too caught up in his quest to have enough time, or love, or energy for anything else. I feel like a stranger, washed up on the shore of a strange world, not really understanding the rules, or what’s going on, beached among all these beautiful, lost souls. It’s ironic really, because I’ve probably found the one place where I finally belong – and I can’t stay.


As we near the entrance, I can see Scully talking to Mulder. He’s tall, and he’s looking down on her with this benign twinkle in his eye, and then he makes some remark, and she gives a little giggle, and thumps him in the stomach, and he mocks a groan of pain, which makes them both giggle. As they straighten up, he reaches out and tucks a stray strand of hair behind one of her ears, and it’s the most beautiful, innocent, and yet intimate gesture that I’ve ever seen, and it’s quite clear in that one moment that he loves her, and she loves him. Even if they never do anything about it, there isn’t room for Walter in their universe except as an onlooker, and occasional participant in the intrigue that surrounds them. He doesn’t say anything, but I know he’s seen it too, and I put my hand on his shoulder and squeeze gently. I know how that must have hurt. I know how I’d feel in his position. He still doesn’t say a word, he doesn’t even look at me, and as soon as we get to the entrance he gets up out of the wheelchair and walks slowly, shakily, to the car, sinks down in the seat, and clearly just wants to go home.


I don’t think Mulder really knows what to make of me. They’re all inhibited in the car, as if they want to talk about something, but can’t, because I’m there. Like I care about any of it. We get to Walter’s apartment block, and help him to his living room. Scully’s been shopping, and there are plenty of groceries, and Mulder’s contribution seems to have been to stock the fridge with beer, which makes Walter smile.


After checking he’s okay, we all hang around aimlessly, not really knowing what to do next, and then Walter tells us he’s tired, which is clearly his signal that we all disappear. Mulder and Scully take the hint, but I don’t. I wait until they’re gone, then write my phone number on the pad by the phone, and tell him that if he wants anything, he should call. He won’t. That damn, stubborn, macho pride is already kicking in, and he’s in growling mode. I think he’s also embarrassed that his secretary has seen him like this, although I’m not sure why. Kim’s told me that he’s been in the hospital before, and she always went to visit him, and saw him at his lowest, and weakest, but I know what a private man he is, so yeah, I guess this isn’t easy for him.


Finally, he snaps over all my fussing, and tells me to go. Bluntly. Just like that. I think I’ve taken one knock-back too many from this man, and it must show on my face as I grab my coat, and walk with a determined stride towards the door.


“Geri,” he calls me back, and I hesitate. “I’m sorry. Look, I really need to be alone right now.” He comes over to stand in front of me, and I have a sudden, vivid flashback to me kneeling before him in the park, sucking his cock. What a time to have that flashback. Walter puts his hands on my shoulders and gives an apologetic smile. “I wanted to say thanks. For everything. You’ve been great,” and so saying, he leans forward, and plants a solid kiss on my forehead. It’s entirely chaste, just one friend to another, but all the same my knees feel like they want to give way. Friends. That is, I suppose, as good as it’s ever going to get. I smile, not trusting myself to speak, slide out from under his hands, and run away.


I go home, and this time I’m not an emotional wreck. This time, I actually feel pretty together. I call Cheryl and fill her in on the latest, but I’m not laughing or gossiping this time, I just tell it straight. The days of endless hours spent analysing his every last move, gesture, and word are gone. I know what he thinks, and what he wants, and the latter certainly isn’t me. Cheryl wants to take me out, but I’m not ready for that yet, so I tell her to come around, and drink pina coladas with me, and eat pretzels, and watch a sappy movie because that’s all I want to do right now. I think she’s surprised by how well I’m taking it, and maybe I am too, but I in a way I feel free of it all. I have no regrets. Maybe, at the end of the day, that’s all we can hope for.


As it turns out, I don’t even work for him again. Kim manages to get a permanent day care place for Jamie a couple of weeks earlier than planned, and before I know it, I’m shunted back to the second floor, and my life is removed from his orbit forever. It’s probably for the best. My life returns to normal, whatever that means. Not that I expect to get over him that quickly, but I’m not putting any pressure on myself. In fact, somehow this whole crush has had a profound effect on me. For the first time I actually sit down and take stock of my life. Where am I going? What do I really want to do with my life? The FBI has been fun, but I know, deep down, that it isn’t going to satisfy me forever. I want more. A lot more – and maybe being around Walter has had the effect of making me more focused on my life. Almost as if my experience of dealing with my emotions, and loving him so much has given me a new kind of strength and clarity of vision. I’ve travelled widely in my life so far, but now it’s time to make an inner journey. I start making plans – and handing in my notice at the FBI is first on my list.


That’s the reason why I’m sitting on my balcony one Tuesday a few weeks later, looking at the job ads in the paper. I’m not expecting anyone, so I’m surprised when there’s a knock on the door. I’m even more surprised when I open it to find him standing there, looking profoundly terrified, as if he has no idea what he’s doing here.


“Walter?” I gaze at him, taken aback. He’s looking good – stone-coloured chinos, and navy cotton shirt. I do a double take, and he shifts uncomfortably. “Sorry – I’m just surprised to see you out during daylight hours. I thought you were some kind of FBI vampire,” I grin. “Only allowed out of the office at night,” I qualify for him as his wide forehead creases up into a puzzled frown. He relaxes slightly, but frankly, the name Popsicle was never more apt. He looks as if he has a whole platoon of them clenched up his ass right now. “Would you like to come in?” I offer, standing aside and holding the door open, and he gratefully steps inside and wanders aimlessly into the living room. “I didn’t realise you even knew where I live,” I murmur, and he has the grace to flush.


“It wasn’t hard to find out.”


“Not for an AD at the Bureau at least.” I shake my head wryly, and he nods, still looking profoundly uncomfortable.


“Nice place,” he comments, going to stand on the balcony. “I mean, really nice place,” he whistles, staring out over the water.


“Yeah. Can I tempt you with some of my famous coffee?” I ask.


“What? Oh…yes. I’ve kind of missed it.”


Oh god, this is terrible. The atmosphere is so strained you could cut it with a knife. I set the coffee going, and then watch from the kitchen door as he wanders around the living room, gazing at the paintings on my walls. He does look good. Those long, lean legs, the wide chest. I still want him. I never doubted that I’d feel any other way.


“You have quite a collection here,” he observes, surveying the pictures critically.


“My mother loved art. Most of this is stuff she bought. She had a real eye for it, and we have similar tastes. I’ve invested in some myself since she died – I love trying to find new artists that I think are promising and follow their careers.” I return to the living room, and hand him his coffee.


“I didn’t know you were interested in this kind of thing,” he muses.


“Well, we don’t really know each other very well, do we, Walter?” I point out softly.


“No.” He clears his throat. “I suppose not.”


“So, you’re playing hookey?” I ask, sipping my coffee, and folding my legs elegantly beneath me. I’m wearing what I call my ‘Edwardian Boy’ outfit – wide, white cricket trousers, and a plain white, sleeveless tee shirt. With my floppy fringe of blond hair, I look like something out of a Merchant Ivory film.


“No,” he laughs.


“You’re not ill again?” I can’t keep the anxiety out of my voice, and for the first time since he arrived here, he starts to relax.


“No. I just flew back from a meeting in Dallas, and the sun was shining so I thought – what the hell, I’ll take the day off.


“Unheard of.” I raise my hands in horror, and he grins. “Why are you here, Walter?” I ask softly. Seeing him is painful, and I can’t think what he wants from me. He fixes me with that dark-eyed gaze, and I drown in it, as I always do.


“I heard you’d resigned. I just wanted to make sure that…”


“It wasn’t because of you,” I finish for him, feeling angry. “Well, rest assured it wasn’t. Not directly anyway. My world does not revolve around you.” That’s almost true.


He looks pained, puts his coffee down, and gets up to go. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come here…I just wanted to make sure you were okay.”


“I’m fine. I’m just getting on with my life,” I snap and he inclines his head, and strides quickly towards the door. I get there first, and open it for him haughtily, and, just as he’s about to go, he stops, and looks at me, and his jaw does that sideways clench I know so well, and I know that expression means he’s hiding some deeply felt emotion, and somehow that floors me. “Wait.” I put my hand on his arm. “Look, it’s a nice day as you said. Why don’t we go for a walk on the waterfront?” I don’t want us to part on bad terms. I love the guy, after all. He smiles, and nods, and I grab my wallet, and we walk down into the street.


I live in the old town area of Alexandria, right on the waterfront, where it’s expensive. We walk down to the jetty, just enjoying the warm, early Summer sun, and stop at a cafe for a soda.


“So what are your plans?” He asks.


“I’ve applied for a few jobs in retailing.” I draw up one leg and hug my knee, resting my chin on it. “I’ve always wanted to run my own business – maybe I’m more my father’s son than either of us gives me credit for. I’d like to get some experience under my belt first though. I’ve been looking into classes in business studies as well, in order to get some more qualifications. In the meantime, I can work my way up from the inside as a PA.”


“That sounds great.” He looks impressed. “If you don’t mind me asking – why did you join the FBI in the first place?”


“Al Capone.” I smile. He raises an eyebrow, his lips twitching in amusement, prompting me to continue. “I went on the FBI tour, and Al Capone featured in a starring role. I’ve always had a thing for old gangster movies, and…”


“Me too!” He exclaims, leaning forward, his eyes lighting up eagerly behind the wirerims.


“Don’t tell me that’s the reason you got into the FBI?” I laugh.


“No. At least…I hope not.” He looks genuinely doubtful, and then breaks into a grin to show he’s only kidding, and we both laugh out loud.


“Sean Connery in The Untouchables,” I sigh. “I saw it when I was a kid, and while my mother was swooning over Kevin Costner, I just couldn’t take my eyes off Sean. Al Capone and gangster movies may have been a fair enough reason for joining, but it isn’t a good enough reason for staying though,” I tell him, still smiling. “I really enjoyed my time there, but it was my first proper job, and I had no intention of becoming an agent, or even PA to the Director, so it was time for me to move on – and find something more me. I have a good degree, and some skills to market, so I’m going to be fairly choosy about my next career move.”


“That sounds sensible.” He plays with the wet rim of his soda bottle with one blunt finger, and I think it’s the most erotic sight I’ve ever seen. “I didn’t know you had those kinds of ambitions.”


“No – but then we’ve never really talked have we?” I put my head on one side, and survey him. “I was always too busy hiding behind my act, and you have your own mask very firmly in place. I don’t think we really know each other at all, to be honest, Walter.”


He looks at me with a new respect. He’s seeing the real me today. I’m not putting on an act, or camping it up for laughs. I’m being serious, and thoughtful – the way I often am, and I realise he’s never seen me like this because I’ve never let him. It’s almost as if dealing with my feelings for him has liberated me to be me. Maybe it was time I grew up anyway. I can’t be that lost, volatile 15 year-old forever. There comes a time when you have to move on.


“You’re probably right.” He nods, and takes a long, deep sip of his soda. The way his lips hug the phallic shape of the bottle makes my cock stir hungrily inside my pants. I can’t help my physical reaction to this man, and I’m not ashamed of it. “I’m really pleased you’re pulling your life together like this, Geri. You did a good job as my PA, and I miss you. I’ll write you an excellent reference if you want to put my name down.”


“I will. Thanks.” I smile at him, and he smiles back, and we bask in the sun for a moment. This feels good. This feels…comfortable. For some reason I havean urge to screw it all up by trying to clear the air between us. “Look, I want you to know that I’m over my crush on you,” I tell him honestly because I am. It’s not a crush any more. It hasn’t been just a crush for a long time. It’s the real thing. Love. I won’t tell him that though. He has the strangest look on his face. Kind of shy, very endearing, bashful, afraid of what I’m going to say next, maybe. “I always fall for the wrong guys. Men I can’t have, usually. I think I do it to keep safe. A lot of men have chased me for my looks, and even more have wanted me for my money…” He looks up, startled, a question in his eyes. “Oh, I’ll inherit Warnertech one of these days. My father won’t like it, but he’ll leave the whole damn estate to me. I know him. He threatens to cut me out of his will virtually every other day, but he won’t. That’s just the way we are, the way we relate to each other.” I smile, and shake my head. “The truth is that he’s always expressed his love with his money, and I do know he loves me. Very much.” I shrug, feeling a bit shaky, surprised to realise that I do know that.


“You’ll have enough money to start your own business then,” he smiles, leaning back, easy with the conversation.


“Maybe, but first I want to have made something of me. Not my father’s son, or even my mother’s son, but me.”


“You’ll do it. I have every faith in you.” He raises his soda bottle, and taps it against mine, then gulps down the last of his drink.


“What about you? Why do you stay there?” I ask, genuinely wanting to know.


He shrugs, and stares out at the water for a moment, then bows his head. When he lifts it again to look at me, his dark eyes are full of some complex sadness I can’t begin to unravel.


“There’s something going on. Something I can’t turn my back on. I wish I could. I wish I could turn back the clock so I’d never heard of it, but I can’t do that either, so I just keep going on, putting one foot in front of the other, and hoping I can somehow make a difference.”


“It sounds…so important.” I look at him searchingly, and he doesn’t flinch from my gaze.


“It is. If it’s true…then it could be the most important thing on this planet. I can’t walk away from it, Geri. I have to stay, and see it through.”


“Alone?” I whisper.


“If necessary.” He shrugs.


“Isn’t that too big a sacrifice?”


“Not if Mulder is right. If he’s right, then no sacrifice is too much.”


“And if he’s wrong? You’re a good person, Walter. You deserve to be happy.”


I place my hand on his arm, and look at him. He seems almost surprised, maybe even a bit choked that anyone would care about his happiness, one way or the other, and then he’s immediately embarrassed by that emotion. I let out a wry laugh. “It’s all right, Walter. I saw beneath the macho mask a long time ago.”  He gives an equally wry grunt, and turns his face away to look at the water again. When he turns back, his face is composed once more.


“Walter, you were only partly right about me looking for a father figure,” I tell him softly. “Maybe I was, maybe part of me always will. But then again, maybe a part of you needs someone young, and fresh, and not tainted by this darkness that’s eating you up, and swallowing you whole. Maybe we always need people because of what they represent, as well as what they are. I know I didn’t just fall for you because I was looking for someone to fill a niche in my life. I fell for you because I saw you were a good man, doing a hard job, for little or no thanks. I still think you should give yourself a break, and allow yourself some happiness. Don’t worry…” I raise my hand. “I’m not coming on to you again. That’s just some advice, from a friend.”


There’s a wistful yearning in his eyes as I say that word, and I remember what he said back at the hospital, about losing touch with his friends. “Well, friend,” he grins at me, his white teeth gleaming in his tanned face. “It’s getting late and turning cold, so I think we should head back. I’m pleased we had this talk.”


“Me too.” I nod. “Me too.”


We walk back together slowly, aimlessly, just enjoying the sun, and the cool breeze coming off the river. We stop and watch one of the boats leaving the jetty.


“I love the water,” he sighs, his body relaxed, and the most peaceful I’ve ever seen him. He still has that pent-up, restrained energy, but the weary lines around his eyes have gone, and he doesn’t even look like the same man I used to work for. “Maybe that’s one of the reasons I joined the marines.”


“I didn’t know you were in the marines. Do you sail?” I ask eagerly. “I love sailing.”


“I haven’t been sailing for years, but it always used to be such a pleasure. Sharon never liked it, so I’d sneak out, and go alone whenever I had the opportunity, which wasn’t very often. That’s my idea of a perfect day – on the water.”


We look at each other, and exchange a smile of recognition. I wonder how long it’s been since he just hung out, and indulged his hobbies? His whole life has become that damn job.


“My perfect day would be a late brunch, followed by a morning looking for antiques and paintings. I’d sail all afternoon, and then have dinner with a charming, handsome companion.” Followed by hot sex, but I don’t add that – and he’d be the companion in question but he already knows that. His dark eyes reflect the sunlight and water back at me as he smiles.


“Sounds good,” he murmurs. “I mean, really good.” He looks surprised. “I’d forgotten how good lazy days can be. I miss sailing,” he says, with a tone of deep regret in his voice. He’s missing a lot of things, but I don’t want to labour that point, so I just shrug, and we continue walking.


Gentleman that he is, he walks me to my door, then says goodbye. I know that this time, it’s for good. We won’t see each other again. He’ll go back to his maze of darkness, and conspiracy, and forget about me. I won’t forget him though. I’ll never forget him. He smiles down at me, and I smile back.


“So long.” I place a hand on his chest, and he leans down to kiss my cheek. I move my face, and his mouth brushes my lips, and I feel those same electric sparks I felt when he first shook my hand. He draws back, with that same faintly surprised look on his face.


“So long,” he echoes, and then he turns to go. I watch him as he walks back down the corridor. I watch him all the way to the stairs at the end. I savour my last look at him; that familiar stride, with that pent-up energy, and purposeful, leashed power. Only when he’s vanished from sight do I close the door, and lean with my back against it, trying to recover my breath.


A few seconds later, the sound of footsteps outside permeates my consciousness. It takes me a while to figure out what that can mean, and then I find myself  wrenching the door open, an incredulous look on my face, to find him standing there again.


“I don’t really want to go,” he says, with a wry shrug, a small smile twitching at the corners of his mouth, and I give a whoop of sheer delight, and launch myself bodily into his arms like a lunatic. I grab his neck, and wrap my legs around his waist, holding on for dear life. He’s laughing as he carries me back into the apartment, and kicks the door shut behind us.


“You’re such an idiot,” he tells me affectionately. We look into each other’s eyes for a moment, and then slowly, deliberately, I lean forward, and plant a kiss on that wide forehead.


“You have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” I tell him, in a husky tone.


“And I’ve wanted to do this all day,” he mutters in reply, pushing me up against the wall, and capturing my mouth with his own, kissing me tenderly, his mouth softer than I expected, his kiss sending a wave of electricity through my body. When he finally draws back, I’m glad I’m hanging onto him because I feel like I’m going to collapse. He laughs at the expression on my face, and lowers me gently to the floor.


“Do you want a drink?” I ask, remembering my manners.


“Not necessarily,” he replies, reaching out to caress my neck. “I think, to be honest, I just want you. Is that okay?”


“It’s more than okay.” I pull him close, and then I’m drowning inside those warm, solid arms, crushed against his hard, muscular chest. I pull him backwards towards the bedroom, kissing him all the way, and he’s laughing, and necking at the same time, and, because I’m walking backwards, I end up half falling onto the bed, pulling him down on top of me. That’s when we pause.


“Do we know what we’re doing?” He asks, a note of uncertainty creeping into those dark eyes.


“Yes,” I tell him firmly, pulling his head down so that his lips meet mine again.


He treats my neck to a series of nipping little kisses, and then drags my tee-shirt over my head, leaving me naked from the waist up. He looks as if he wants to consume me whole, as if this is the culmination of too many long years of denial and as if he can’t believe he’s actually having some of the happiness he’s denied himself for so long. He moves his long legs, straddles me, and gazes down on my waiting, eager body.


“What do you want?” He asks softly, his eyes full, if not with love, certainly with affection, fondness, and need.


“I want you,” I tell him honestly. “Listen, Walter, I’ve been around the block a few times, and I’ve sure as hell had a lot of boyfriends, I won’t lie to you.”


“I wasn’t exactly expecting you to be a virgin,” he grins.


“Well, that’s just it, see, because I am. Technically at least. Losing my cherry was always a totally big deal for me, and I’ve never trusted anyone enough to…well…you know,” I shrug. “I’ve given any number of blow jobs, and been on the receiving end of a fair few as well, but nobody’s ever been anywhere inside my body, except my mouth. I want you to be the first.” He looks a bit stunned, and I reach up and caress the side of his face. “Now, don’t tell me that you’re a virgin too,” I tease.


“No,” he acknowledges. “I’m just…are you sure about this? Maybe it’s too big a deal for the first time.”


“No,” I say adamantly. “It’s what I want. You’re what I want. Inside me. Coming inside me. Look, I have all the stuff.” I lean over, open the nightstand, and drag out my rarely used stash of condoms and lubricant. He smiles, and lowers his face to capture my lips again, and I moan, and press up against him, my cock aching with need. His feels pretty desperate too, and I reach up, and undo his chinos, and it springs up, tenting his briefs. I get rid of them pretty damn quick to reveal his cock in all its glory – and this time it’s daylight so I can see how gorgeous it is. I touch it reverently, and then lift myself on my elbows, and wrap my mouth around it.


“Oh shit.” He puts his head back, and he looks so beautiful, his Adam’s apple bobbing, and his cock feels so damn good in my mouth. A few, long sucks later, and he pushes me away. “If you want me inside you, then you have to stop that. Now,” he grins, pushing me down again, and lowering his head to suck my nipples.


Oh god that feels good! I arch up against him, moaning and thrashing around energetically, and he starts to laugh, that beautiful, bass, rumbling sound. He’s still sitting astride me, and I reach out and idly start unbuttoning his shirt. I don’t want to go too fast. I want to savour this moment, like unwrapping a long awaited gift. Finally it’s undone, all the way down, and I slowly, oh so slowly, push it off the side of one shoulder, to reveal his beautiful, naked, golden flesh. My cock is so hard that I’m sure I’ll come in my pants just from looking at him. I snag a nipple between my fingers, then tangle my hand in his furry chest hair. I don’t have any hair on my chest, and I’m not sure I ever will to be honest. He doesn’t seem to mind me that way if the look on his face is anything to go by as he gazes down on me. I push the shirt away from his other shoulder, and he shrugs it off, and throws it onto the floor. Oh god, he looks beautiful like this. His shoulders are so wide, and perfect, his arms so muscled and toned. I can’t believe that he’s really here, in my bed, making love to me. Although it’s been the feature of my fantasies for so many months, it doesn’t seem quite real.


“What?” He looks down at me, sensing my mood.


“Sorry…I just can’t believe this is actually happening.”


He gives a snort, and shakes his head. “Me neither, but it is.”


I hope I’m not a disappointment to him. I hope I can be all that he wants, and needs. I hope that…he dispels my doubts with another warm kiss, deep and loving, and I forget all my worries, and lose myself in him.


I stroke his chest lazily, and he puts his head back again. I always knew he was sensual and uninhibited beneath all that iron self-control. I mean, it had to be hiding something, right?  I reach out and remove his glasses, then still his protest with a kiss, and he laughs into my mouth, and fumbles with the fastening of my pants. He finds it, and undoes them, then pulls them from my body in one swift movement. My cock is long, weeping, and hard, and he surveys it for a moment, then takes it firmly in his big palm and I’m not kidding, within 3 seconds I’ve come all over his hand.


“Shit. I’m sorry,” I mumble, and he just laughs. “To be honest, I don’t think it’ll be long before I’m hard again,” I promise, and I’m not wrong. Within five minutes, I’m rock hard.


“Miracle boy,” he scolds. “I hope you don’t expect me to have that kind of ability.”


“At your age, grandpa?” I mock, and he growls and mimes a swipe at me. I laugh, and twist in his arms, removing his pants and socks, and then we’re both naked. He rolls me down underneath him, and takes me in his arms, and this is the moment I’ve waited for all my life. Him and me, our warm bodies entwined, breathing in time with each other as we suck, and lick, and nibble, and kiss, and it’s so, damned good! I catch a glimpse of our naked flesh in the corner mirror. We look as if we belong together, the different shades of our skin contrasting and complementing, his darkness against my paler body, his hairiness against my smoother skin. We are, as we’ve always been, like chalk and cheese, but beneath the superficial differences, I think we have a lot in common.


We kiss for what seems like hours, our hands and tongues never still. Finally he places me on my back, puts a pillow under my butt, strokes my legs open, and then lubricates his hands and plays with my opening. Those big, blunt fingers are so gentle, and sensitive, as he enters first one, then slips another in, stroking inside me, insistent, but tender, and it feels like heaven. I’ve been fingered before, but not like this, by someone I love, with an expression of such affection in warm, chocolate-brown eyes. My cock is weeping again, and I know I want him in my body. I can’t wait any more. I’ve waited 24 years for this, and it’s the right time. Wordlessly, I hand him a condom, and he slides it onto his large, hard cock, and covers it with more lube, then he nudges it against my anus. He doesn’t do more than just press it against the opening, back and forth, and each time, the muscle relaxes, wanting to welcome him in, but each time he draws back. My legs are resting on his shoulders, and I feel so comfortable that I think I could lie here forever, as his hard cock presses against me; back, then forward, back, and then, suddenly, his eyes never leaving mine, he slides it in. I’m ready, and I want him, and his cock feels so right, gliding home, up to the hilt. I gasp, and throw my head back, my fingers plucking at the sheets.


“Are you all right?” he asks, and I just nod, frantically.


“Please…it’s so good,” I gasp, because it is. I feel stretched, and filled, but it’s a beautiful sensation, because it’s his cock inside me, his cock loving me, and making love to me, and I want to swallow him whole, deep into my body. He shifts position a bit, and that hurts a little so I moan, but then he moves again, out, and a little way in, and he touches something that sets off lightning flashes in my body.


“Oh my god. What was that?” I whimper.


“Good?” He smiles, and moves his hips fractionally again, setting off another round of electric shocks and bright lights.


“Good isn’t the word…” I moan. “It’s wonderful. Please, again. Faster. Harder.”


He doesn’t need telling twice, and is soon pumping into me with long, deep, hard, fast strokes that hit that spot every time, until I’m in a frenzy. I can barely see or speak, and I’m only dimly aware that I’m coming again, all over my chest and his, and he’s still thrusting into me with these blissful strokes, and my whole world is his large body between my open legs, and the expression in his dark eyes as he takes what I’ve wanted to give for so long. He keeps going for what seems like hours, and I find that I’m coming again, which is a record, even for me. Then his thrusting becomes more urgent, and he reaches a crescendo, shuddering as his own climax claims him, and then he’s done, and his face is just above mine, the sweat covering his forehead in a fine sheen. He gives a sigh, and smiles down at me, and I smile back, full of love. Then he slowly withdraws, and sinks down beside me, gathering me in his big arms, and nuzzling at my face, kissing me. I curl up against him, lost in a kind of rapture.


“There’s something you should know,” I murmur, just before we both drift off on a haze of sated sleep.


“Hmmm?” He mutters absently.


“My name is Gervais.”


We wake later that evening, and just lie there lazily, enjoying being together, before I feel the need to get clean after all the sticky lovemaking. I go and run the bath, filling it to the brim with vanilla scented bubbles, just to torment him.


My bath is just about big enough for both of us. He goes in first, and I slip between his legs, resting my back on his hairy chest. He lies back with a sigh, linking his hands over my chest, and occasionally dropping one to play with my cock and balls. My cock, needless to say, starts to harden again.


“You’ll wear me out,” I scold, and his body spasms beneath me as he laughs.


“No, you’re supposed to wear me out,” he replies. “You’re the young one in this relationship.”


I can feel the tears pricking in the back of my eyes. Relationship. Just the word makes me want to cry. He seems to sense my mood, because he kisses the back of my neck, and strokes me gently.


“Now, I was only half awake,” he murmurs, “and I might have been dreaming, but did somebody tell me that his name is Gervais?”


“Yup – and you’re lucky. I’ve never told anybody that before. I always introduce myself as Geri.”


“You told me though.”


“Of course. I wanted you to know who you’d just made love to.”


He squeezes his big arms around my body, acknowledging the honour he knows I’ve bestowed on him. “Gervais. It’s an unusual name.”


“My mother went through a French phase,” I sigh.


“But it’s nice. You shouldn’t be ashamed of it.” He picks up the soap, and starts to lather my body.


“It means ‘spear vassal’. I think, after what we just did, that’s quite appropriate – don’t you?” I twist around in his arms, and grin at him, and he gives me a vanilla scented kiss, and daubs some bubbles on my nose.


“Yes, very appropriate.”


“So the spelling of Geri isn’t a campy little affectation,” I tell him.


“Did I say it was?” He sounds aggrieved.


“It’s what you thought – it’s what everyone thinks, but it’s a genuine shortening of my name.”


“Hmm, I can see this is important to you.” His voice is teasing, full of smiles.


“Did you know that Walter means ‘army ruler’?” I tell him. He snorts, his hands catching mine, the water splashing everywhere. “I think it suits you. I like it. When I first saw you, there was something of the warrior in the way you stood. I thought you were hot even then. I know what you thought of me.”


“Is that a fact?” he sounds amused.


“You thought I was an airhead bimbo who’d been sent to screw up your life for a few months and you were angry as hell about it.”


“I did not!” He protests. “Besides, you had me stereotyped too. Does the word Popsicle mean anything to you?” He pinches my butt and I giggle helplessly in his arms. I have a feeling that I’m never going to live the Popsicle comment down.


“Does this mean I don’t get to call you Pops then?” I tease.


“Try it and die, boy,” he snorts.


“Seriously, it looks like we were both guilty of some pretty bad stereotyping,” I comment, gazing at him thoughtfully. “I never try to hide my sexuality, and people usually assume I’m gay. I never really even had to come out. My mom knew I was gay from the moment I was born I think. She more or less set me up with my first boyfriend when I was 13. I told you – she was unconventional. Maybe it was a good thing. I don’t know. At least I never had the heartache of her rejecting me because of my sexuality. What about you?”


“What about me?” he asks, his hand closing around my cock. “I want the full details.” I dig my elbow into his ribs. He’s thoughtful for a moment, and I sense that talking about himself is never exactly going to be easy, but I’m young. I have the energy to invest in making him talk.


“I had sex for the first time when the guys in my unit set me up with a prostitute in ‘Nam,” he tells me stumblingly. “It was a disaster. One of my friends asked me what had gone wrong, and I told him, and one thing led to another…and we ended up having sex. We carried on a furtive liaison for months before he was killed. When I got home, I dismissed it as a youthful phase. I met Sharon; we got married, and after a few years I realised it hadn’t been a phase after all.” His voice is full of regret, and I turn around in the bath, making a sploshing noise, and lie face down on his chest, kissing his lips as I rearrange myself. God, this feels comfortable. I could stay here forever. I hope he lets me.


“I’m sorry.” I stroke his chest hair softly, and suck on a nipple. He runs his hand along my back, and ends up at my butt, playing with my crease.


“I never cheated on her while we were married, but after the divorce…well, I went to a couple of gay clubs and had a couple of one-night stands, but I hated it. I’m not very good at casual encounters, and I was worried about being found out.”


“Well, J Edgar Hoover was not only gay, he was a raging transvestite,” I point out. “There’s no reason for you to feel ashamed of who you are.”


“No, but the truth is…I didn’t know for sure what I was. I’ve slept with women, and I’ve slept with men…so what does that make me?”


“Don’t put yourself in a box, Walter. You’re mine, and that’s all that matters to me.”


I kiss him again, and then get out of the bath, and haul him out after me. He takes the towel I give him, and dries himself, slowly. I can see some scars on his body, evidence of old wounds, and it just makes me love him all the more. I know he doesn’t love me yet, because I know how much he cared for Mulder, and still does. Maybe I’m just someone for him to play with, while he figures out his sexuality, but I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s the kind of guy who plays at anything. He either does it, or he doesn’t. There’s no middle ground. It doesn’t matter. I have him for now, and that’s all I want. One day, I hope he can accept everything I have to offer, and give me the same back in return, because I think in his heart he knows that for him, I might be as good as it gets too – and I don’t think I’m too bad a catch, really.


I’m overflowing with love, as I watch him dry that magnificent body. I don’t love him just for that though. I love him for his kindness to a lowly secretary who had been sent to make his life harder, and for his polite sense of decency. I love him for the way he wants to do what’s right, even when he isn’t sure what that is. I love him for his loyalty, and the way he stands by his friends, even when it half kills him, and yes, I love him too, just a bit, for his authority, and his sense of belonging in the world, and the comfort and protection that those big arms offer. I don’t know what the future holds for us. I don’t know if it’ll last. The odds are certainly stacked against us. I’ll take what I can get for now, and give what I can give. Both of us have something the other one needs. Maybe we can each heal a small part of the other’s damaged soul.


I can live for the moment, because if this is all I ever have of him, it’s enough. He sees me looking at him, and, sensing my mood, holds out his hand to me. I take it, and he draws me close, and kisses me deeply on the lips, our tongues clashing, needy, and devouring. Then he leads me back into the bedroom, and I go, willingly, wanting nothing more than to lie down naked in his arms forever.


The End





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