Personal Time: 1. Part One



Doggett took the final 8 stairs to the 5th floor two at a time, and sauntered along the corridor to the AD’s office, scarcely out of breath after having jogged all the way up from the basement. He was whistling cheerfully to himself, a newspaper tucked under one arm as he burst through the door to Skinner’s secretary’s office.


“Hi, Kim, is he free? Can I go straight in?” Doggett was halfway towards the door to his superior’s office by the time Kim replied.


“Agent Doggett, I’m sorry. Did you have an appointment with him?” She asked, glancing at a burgundy leather diary on her desk. “It isn’t in his appointments book – I’ve cancelled all the ones that were marked.”


“Cancelled…?” Doggett paused, his hand on the handle of the door leading to Skinner’s office. “No, I don’t have an appointment…I just…” He stopped short, puzzled. While he didn’t have a formal appointment with the Assistant Director, he had taken to stopping by at lunch-time to see if the big man was free to visit the small Italian restaurant just around the corner from the Hoover Building. More often than not Skinner was free for lunch and they walked to the restaurant together and consumed a tasty meal while reading their respective newspapers, pausing occasionally to read out a particularly interesting – or outrageous – article. Doggett had been delighted to discover that his boss was as much a news junkie as himself. It gave them a lot to talk about and he had come to enjoy their lunches so he was non-plussed when he pushed open the door to Skinner’s office and found it empty. He stood, considering the matter for a moment. It wasn’t important – their lunching together had been more of a casual arrangement than a formal one after all, but usually Skinner mentioned when he was going to be in a meeting or out of town, and on those occasions Doggett grabbed a sandwich and ate it at his desk. Somehow it wasn’t the same going to the Italian restaurant without Skinner.


“Agent Doggett? Can I leave a message for the Assistant Director?” Kim asked.


“Hell, no, it isn’t important. I’ll catch up with him tomorrow.” Doggett smiled and turned on his heel.


“Agent Doggett?” Her voice stopped him mid-stride again. “I’m afraid the Assistant Director won’t be in the office tomorrow. He’s…” She hesitated, a catch in her voice. “He’s booked some personal time. He’ll be away for two weeks.”


“Personal time?” Doggett turned back to gaze at her quizzically.


“Yes, Agent.” She nodded, closing the diary and replacing it on the side of her desk.


Personal time. Doggett pondered that for a moment. He had seen Skinner just last week and the big man hadn’t mentioned anything about taking personal time – and something about that phrase was bothering him. He nodded to Kim and walked slowly back to the stairs, chewing it over thoughtfully. Personal time…not vacation…personal time. What the hell did that mean?


Doggett was queuing to pay for his sandwich in the cafeteria when he suddenly realised why the phrase ‘personal time’ was eating at him so much. ‘Personal time’ was the euphemism Skinner had given for Scully’s disappearance for a couple of days, early in her pregnancy. Doggett had later discovered, purely by chance, that Scully had been in the hospital undergoing tests during those missing days. Was that where Skinner was right now? And if so, then why? Last time Doggett had seen him, his superior had been looking fine. True, Skinner still seemed shaken by the events leading up to the birth of Scully’s baby, some of which he refused to talk about – including how Alex Krycek had ended up on the floor of the parking garage with a couple of bullet wounds in his body and a hole in his head, but Doggett hadn’t pushed the big man on that subject. He didn’t give a rat’s ass, literally, if a low-life scum like Alex Krycek never drew breath again, and he had no intention of causing Skinner any problems within the Bureau on that score. Hell, he owed Skinner – big time. The man had been the only one who had had the decency to explain to him what was going on in the whole mess surrounding Mulder’s disappearance. It had been Skinner who warned him about his career, and about the conspiracy within the FBI that meant Doggett was doomed to fail in his investigation. Doggett had grown from distrusting the man at the beginning to coming slowly to respect him. On a few occasions he even called on the AD to help him with a case – and found his boss not only made the time for him, but seemed to actively enjoy being able to get out from behind his desk and do some investigating in the field. Watching Skinner work, even when he thought the other man was wrong, Doggett had come to appreciate just how Walter Skinner had attained the rank of AD at such a young age. He was meticulous, patient, thorough, and utterly professional – all qualities that Doggett admired in a man. Hell, he had grown to not only admire Skinner but to like him and count him as a friend. Now, it seemed, his friend might be in trouble.


Doggett paused in the cafeteria queue, glanced at his plastic-wrapped sandwich with sudden distaste, then turned and jogged swiftly back up to the fifth floor again. He opened Kim’s door without knocking and put his head around it.


“Which hospital is he in?” He asked.


She looked up, an expression of surprise on her face. Doggett fought down a wave of impatience. He knew his direct approach sometimes took people by surprise but if he had a question then he asked it – he didn’t see the point in wasting time beating around the bush first.


“Agent Doggett?” She raised her hand to her throat, but Doggett had interrogated enough people in his career to know when someone was playing for time.


“Kim, you and I both know he’s in the hospital. I just want to know which one. If you’re worried that you’ll get into trouble for letting on then don’t be – I just want to make sure he’s okay.” He smiled at her and she smiled back, uncertainly.


“He left strict instructions that nobody was to be told. I don’t think he even wanted to tell me,” she said hesitantly, “but he had to in case of an emergency. I think…” She paused and bit on her lip. “I don’t think he wanted Agent Scully to find out. I think he thought she might worry.” She gave a little grimace, but whether that was because she thought Agent Scully was unlikely to be remotely worried, or whether it was because she was scared she’d said too much, Doggett wasn’t sure.


“Kim, I won’t tell Scully. I won’t tell anyone. I just want to check that he’s okay,” Doggett said gently. He liked Kim. She had worked for Skinner for years, and as far as he could tell she had always done her best to be loyal to her boss – and loyalty was a quality that Doggett appreciated in his colleagues. Also, it was pretty clear from the expression on her face whenever Skinner was around, that Kimberly Cook thought her boss was one of the good guys and they had an excellent working relationship. That had been one of the reasons why Doggett had been prepared to trust his boss in the first place – in his experience you could gauge the measure of a man by how he treated those under his command and how they responded in turn, and Skinner’s secretary clearly thought the world of her boss. As she worked with him day in, day out, and had done for years, Doggett was inclined to trust her judgement. Kim was clearly doing some weighing up of her own, because she gazed at Doggett for a moment, then nodded and reached for her notepad. She scribbled something on it, tore off the sheet, and handed him the piece of paper. Doggett glanced at it. Betheseda Naval Hospital. So, he had been right. Whatever ‘personal time’ Skinner was taking, it sure as hell wasn’t a vacation.


“Thank you, Kim,” he said softly.


She gave a hesitant little smile, still clearly unsure whether she had done the right thing. Doggett crumpled the sheet of paper between his fingers, stuffed it in his pocket, and then set off once more back to the stairs, cursing as he went.


Christ, what the hell was it with these people, he thought to himself as he rode down the elevator to the parking garage. Scully was as close-mouthed as a clam – she’d shut him out more times than he could count, no matter how much he tried to prove to her that he was trustworthy. Mulder, once they’d resurrected him from the dead, had proved to be even worse. Doggett trusted Scully’s judgement that Fox Mulder was another of the good guys but he didn’t like the way the other man had treated him when they’d first met. Hell, what made all these people so paranoid? Skinner at least had treated him with some courtesy and had made an effort to fill him in on what was happening in the X Files department. Maybe Doggett had interpreted that the wrong way, made too much of it, thought that he genuinely had Skinner’s trust when it was clear that the man didn’t even think enough of him to tell him he was going to be in the hospital for a couple of weeks – not just a day, but a couple of weeks. That had to be serious and it made Doggett angry as hell to find that Skinner hadn’t told him what was going on. It brought back all those memories of his early days on the X Files when he felt as if he had been walking around in the dark with just about everyone, including his own partner – especially his own partner – keeping information from him and going behind his back. This was a unique experience for John Doggett. He was used to being pretty much liked wherever he went. Whatever his faults – and he knew that he could be irascible and almost tactlessly blunt on occasion – he wasn’t a man who lied, hid behind half-truths, or dissembled for political reasons or career advancement. If he thought or felt a certain way then he said so, however unpopular his opinion. He’d made a few enemies along the way for that very reason, but most of his colleagues appreciated knowing exactly where they stood with him.


Doggett got into his car and sped out of the Hoover building towards the Bethesda Naval Hospital. He was a little surprised by just how angry he was feeling and he jumped a couple of red lights on the journey, which helped ease his frustration a little. He had eaten lunch with the man just three days ago, on Friday, and Skinner hadn’t thought to mention that he was going to be in the hospital for the next two weeks? What the hell was that about? Whether Skinner liked it or not, Doggett had no intention of being fobbed off with talk of ‘personal time’. As far as he was concerned one of his friends was in trouble, and whether Skinner wanted his help or not, he was damn well going to get it.


Skinner was in a special unit of the military hospital undergoing ‘tests’. Nobody would tell Doggett what the tests were for – even when he flashed his ID around aggressively. However they did, finally, after much talking on his part, agree to let him see Skinner. Doggett was coiled up like a spring by this point, utterly puzzled by the cloak and dagger way the staff and, by implication, Skinner, were treating him. He pushed open the door to Skinner’s room and barged inside, barely managing to contain all his angry energy…and then stopped short. His anger left him in one go, leaving him almost breathless. Whatever he had been expecting, it wasn’t this.


Skinner was sitting in a bed, his skin as pale as the white sheets – in stark relief to the dark, angry veins that were standing out like a network of black lines all over his face.


“Sir? Walter?” Doggett whispered, stunned beyond belief. “Christ, they said you were undergoing tests but…what the hell kind of test is this?”


While Doggett’s anger might have dissipated, Skinner’s was clearly only just beginning – an expression of outraged shock had appeared on his face the moment he set eyes on his agent.


“What the hell are you doing here, Agent Doggett?” he asked in a furious tone.


“I came to see you,” Doggett explained, standing his ground. “When you weren’t at the office today…Kim said you took some ‘personal time’ and you weren’t expected back for a couple of weeks. I figured out the rest myself – but I had no idea that you’d be undergoing this, whatever this is.” He looked at Skinner hopefully, wanting the other man to fill him in on what the hell was going on. He was to be disappointed.


This is none of your business, Agent,” Skinner snapped at him. “Kim was right – this is personal time, with the emphasis on personal. If I’d have wanted you to know I’d have damn well told you.”


Doggett stared at the other man. Skinner was perfectly entitled to his privacy, and if it hadn’t been for those livid veins in Skinner’s flesh then Doggett might have backed off, but as it was, he found he couldn’t.


“Sir…I’m sorry for interfering, but I’ve never seen anything like this before. It looks to me like you need some help, and I’m sorry if it pisses you off, but I’m here to do exactly that.”


“Why the hell do you think I’m here if not seeking help?” Skinner snapped at him. “Medical help, Agent. There’s nothing else going on here.”


“With all due respect, sir, I don’t think that’s entirely true.” Doggett walked over to the bed, wincing as he got closer and saw how sharply pulsing the veins were. He couldn’t imagine what it felt like to have them lancing through your skin like that. Skinner’s dark eyes were veiled, the anger in them made raw by the pain he was in. “Whatever this is…it’s clearly outside the normal realms of medical science. I’d say that almost made it an X File, sir.”


“Damn it, Doggett.” Skinner’s voice was raspy, and his jaw made that sideways movement that Doggett had come to know so well. “You are not turning me into some kind of case file. I am fine. These are tests. That’s all. It’s routine.”


He choked on that last word, and reached up to grasp his own throat. Doggett was by his side in seconds, handing him the glass of water that was on the nightstand. He put a hand on Skinner’s shoulder as he guided the big man to drink and was shocked by how heated his boss’s flesh was beneath the thin, hospital robe.


“Walter…I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I don’t want to cause any trouble for you. That’s not why I’m here. I don’t view you as a case – I’m just concerned about you. If you’d prefer it, I’ll leave – and I promise I won’t say a word to anyone about what I’ve seen here. It’s just that I view you as a friend, and I like to help my friends if I can.”


Skinner finished drinking and Doggett replaced the glass on the nightstand for him.


“If you need me, then just call,” Doggett said softly.


Skinner ignored him as he settled back against the pillows, his breathing coming in wheezing gasps. Doggett sighed. He had handled this badly. He had genuinely meant to help, but Skinner, doubtlessly infected by the same paranoia that Mulder, Scully, and the whole X Files department exhibited, clearly didn’t know whom he could trust any more. Getting no reply, or even a sign that Skinner had heard him, Doggett turned, and walked resignedly towards the door. He had his fingers on the handle, when Skinner spoke, in a low, hoarse voice.


“Krycek infected me with a kind of poison using sophisticated nano-technology. He implanted nanocytes in my bloodstream and used them to control me, to get me to do what he wanted. He could do this to me – take me to the brink of death at the push of a button if I didn’t obey him – and he frequently did before I shot him.”


Doggett paused, his back going rigid as he tried to take in this information.


Skinner took a deep, rasping breath and continued. “After I killed him, the first thing I did was search his pockets for the palm pilot he used to control the nanocytes. I brought it here and booked myself in for these tests to see whether we can use the palm pilot to neutralise the nanocytes altogether – maybe even to kill them – or whether we need some other mechanism for that. I’d willingly put myself through anything, however painful these tests are, in order to be free again. Krycek may be gone, but that’s small comfort if there’s someone else out there who decides they want the services of an Assistant Director at the FBI. I can’t live like that any more. I won’t.”


Doggett turned slowly back to face the other man. Skinner was paler than ever, and his eyes were like two dark, angry jet stones in his pallid face.


“How long…and who else knows?” he asked softly, coming to stand by the bed. Skinner closed his eyes and put his head back.


“Almost two years. And Mulder knows – or at least he thinks he does. He has no idea about the reality. Scully knows some of it, although not all.”


“Two years…?” Doggett mused. “Christ, Walter – all this time and you didn’t tell anyone? All this time workin’ together and you didn’t even tell me?” He couldn’t keep the tone of reproach out of his voice. “I might have been able to help.”


When Skinner opened his eyes again, the anger had gone, to be replaced by a look of utter bleakness.


“No, John, nobody could help,” he said in a tired tone. “And I didn’t tell you, didn’t tell anyone, because I’m ashamed.” That comment blindsided Doggett, and he raised a questioning eyebrow.


Skinner sighed. “I’ve done things…” His voice trailed off and his jaw slid sideways again and locked there. Doggett gazed at him intently. “Well, let’s just say that I’ve done things to stay in the game, to stay in my job, in a place where I could be of some use to Mulder and Scully and the X Files…” Skinner trailed off again, and gazed, sightlessly, out of the window. When he started talking once more there was a tone of intense self-loathing in his voice and he bowed his head so that Doggett couldn’t read the raw emotion in his eyes. “I tell myself that’s what it is, but in my darker moments I wonder whether I haven’t just been trying to save my own hide.”


“Bullshit!” The word was out of Doggett’s mouth before he could stop it – and he wasn’t sure he wanted to anyway. “Walter, I might not have known you as long as Mulder and Scully, but I’ve known you long enough to figure out what kind of a man you are. You’re not the kind of man who runs away from a fight, and if this is what you’ve been going through for two years then you’ve sure as hell had a battle on your hands. Even the most hardened warriors become battle weary after that amount of time. You shouldn’t doubt yourself.”


Skinner gave a wry, hopeless smile at the military jargon and Doggett’s heart did a little leap of concern. He so rarely saw Skinner smile and in these circumstances the gesture seemed out of place – and all the more heart wrenching for that.


“So, tell me more about these tests.” Doggett drew up the armchair by the bed and sat in it. He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees.


“There’s not much to tell. They’re trying out a variety of drugs using different levels of nanocyte activity to see if anything’s effective. They’re also working on the palm pilot itself. They told me it wouldn’t exactly be a walk in the park and it isn’t.” Skinner grimaced and gazed at his black veined hands. “That’s it. There’s nothing you or anyone else can do, Agent Doggett. There’s no point getting anyone else involved – that’s why I didn’t say anything.” Doggett considered that for a moment. He knew that statement wasn’t entirely true – although Skinner might think it was. The truth was a much more complex mix of his superior not wanting anyone to see him weak and vulnerable and an almost pathological need for privacy, combined with a not insignificant desire to make sure that nobody the Assistant Director cared about was hurt any more by their involvement with him and these damn nanocytes – whatever they were. Doggett decided that now was not the best time to treat Skinner to these personality insights though.


“Well, I might not be able to do anything practical, but you’ve shouldered this particular problem alone for far too long, so from now on, I’m sticking around.”


Skinner’s eyes betrayed a flicker of surprise – Doggett guessed that his boss wasn’t entirely used to people giving him their wholehearted support.


“It’s not your problem – it’s mine,” Skinner growled, seeming almost embarrassed by the offer.


“Well that’s where you’re wrong,” Doggett replied. “Because the way I see it this is an X Files problem.” Skinner opened his mouth to protest but Doggett continued talking. “Would you be here if it wasn’t for your involvement with the X Files?” He demanded. Skinner gazed at him sharply but finally exhaled loudly and shook his head. “Well then – it’s an X Files problem, and I’m in charge of the X Files so that makes it my problem.” Doggett gave a grimly pleased with himself smile, challenging his boss to disagree with him. Skinner just shook his head ruefully and managed a faded smile.


“Thanks, John,” he muttered, turning his face away slightly. Doggett wasn’t sure what had embarrassed his buttoned-up superior more – the unexpected offer of support, or his own overwhelmed reaction to it.


Doggett spent the next few days alternating his time between visiting Skinner in the hospital, and researching whatever he could find about nano-technology. At Skinner’s request, he kept what he was working on secret from both Scully and Reyes, both of whom were preoccupied elsewhere anyway, Scully with her baby and Monica with an old case of Mulder’s she was fascinated by, so they didn’t ask him many questions about what was suddenly taking up all his time. Doggett found himself so intrigued by his research into nano-technology that he often stayed up late into the night, tracking down science articles on the internet. Visiting Skinner took up the rest of his time – the tests were taxing on Skinner physically, and there were numerous side effects to the combination of drugs they were experimenting with – including blurred vision. While the doctors had assured Skinner that this particular side effect would only last a couple of days, it wasn’t an easy thing to endure all the same. Skinner wasn’t exactly a model patient either, and although he was never less than scrupulously polite to the medical staff, Doggett saw the man’s frustrations build as day followed pain filled day. He arrived at the hospital one morning towards the end of the first week just in time to witness Skinner throwing the TV remote control against the wall where it shattered into smithereens.


“Well you certainly showed the remote who’s boss,” Doggett commented calmly. Skinner jumped, and Doggett guessed that the other man’s eyesight had deteriorated to the extent where he hadn’t even seen Doggett enter the room. He must have imagined himself to be alone because Doggett was pretty sure that a man as self-controlled as Skinner wouldn’t allow anyone to witness that display of temper.


“Fucking CNN,” Skinner growled.


“What’s wrong with CNN?” Doggett asked, surprised. Listening to the news on the television was Skinner’s only way of keeping up with current affairs while his vision was so badly impaired – and as a fellow news junkie Doggett knew how important it was to have a daily dose of CNN.


“It’s all just words – I want to hear some analysis,” Skinner snapped. “They repeat the same things over and over again until I could…”


“Throw the remote against the wall?” Doggett supplied with a smile. “You’re just bored being cooped up here with doctors pushin’ needles into your arm every five minutes. Who wouldn’t be? Especially now that drug they’re using has affected your eyesight, but at least that’ll wear off in a day or two and then…”


“Thanks, John,” Skinner interrupted sarcastically. “I am aware of the fact that my situation isn’t ideal right now. I do know why I’m pissed off.”


“Well, if you’d just hear me out,” Doggett said, in calm, steely tones, “I was about to offer to read you the articles in all the main papers.”


“Oh.” Skinner looked a little abashed. He lay back against his pillows with a wry smile. “Sorry, John. I’ve always been the world’s worst patient. I’m trying not to take it out on the staff here because god knows I’m sure they’re not enjoying this any more than I am, but…”


“I’m here, and you needed to holler at somebody. I understand.” Doggett smiled, seating himself in the armchair. “For what it’s worth, I don’t think I’d be as polite a patient as you are, Walter. I have a lousy temper and I hate hospitals.”


Skinner grunted in heartfelt acknowledgement and Doggett opened the newspaper and began reading out loud. It was a surprisingly enjoyable way to spend the morning, Doggett thought as, after he finished reading, Skinner began dissecting the article and before long they were both involved in a vigorous debate. Doggett found in Skinner a worthy partner for his own news obsession and he thoroughly enjoyed the way Skinner debated so energetically and intelligently. Strangely, considering that he lived in one of the most news-obsessed cities in the world, Doggett had rarely come across anyone with the same passion for discussion and analysis as Skinner. It kept the other man preoccupied as the doctors increased the amount of active nanocytes in his bloodstream, causing the veins all over his body to start pulsing in a way that made Doggett wince. He had no idea how Skinner could stand it, but beyond throwing the odd TV remote at the wall, Skinner never once complained.


It was interesting, Doggett thought as he sat watching while Skinner emptied a glass of water and then leaned back on the pillows waiting for his agent to start reading again – interesting being able to watch Skinner without Skinner knowing he was being watched because of his temporary virtual blindness. Doggett realised that he had never seen his boss in an unguarded moment before, had never witnessed Skinner being anything other than in control, hiding behind the façade he presented to the world. Even when sitting in Kersh’s office, taking a reaming out or listening to Doggett take one, Skinner’s features were always perfectly arranged, his suit immaculate, his glasses always hiding his eyes – and what he was truly thinking and feeling. Now, though, Doggett knew he was witnessing the man himself. Skinner wasn’t wearing his glasses – no point as they couldn’t have helped him see while the drug they were experimenting with was obscuring his vision.


Doggett leaned forward and surveyed the other man in more detail. Skinner’s brown eyes were curiously vulnerable without his glasses. They shimmered with frustration and pain, but beneath that, Doggett caught sight of something profoundly wistful, a kind of deep-seated sadness, almost a sense of being lost, that Skinner kept well hidden during the normal course of events. Doggett wondered what that was about – it was hardly something he could ask his boss, but it fascinated him. Skinner’s whole personality fascinated him if he was honest. He sensed a man such as himself – someone who worked hard, who tried to obey the rules but would break them if necessary, someone combative, who was prepared to fight in his own corner and fight it dirty and tough if need be, but that was where the similarities ended, because while Doggett was newly arrived on this particular battle scene, Skinner had been on the battlefield for 8 years, and it was obvious that he was close to being shell-shocked. In unguarded moments his hands shook, and his eyes betrayed a weariness that went bone deep. He had fought, and fought, and fought, on so many different fronts, both at the office and closer to home, but the battle had intensified over the past couple of years, and the presence of the nanocytes in his bloodstream effectively meant he was now fighting on his knees, with one hand strapped behind his back. He was, quite simply, exhausted – so much so that Doggett wasn’t sure that Skinner even knew how serious his situation was. He just kept on putting one foot in front of the other and didn’t know how to take a step back, and look at the broader picture.


“John?” Skinner’s softly spoken enquiry startled Doggett out of his introspection. “You still there?”


“Yes. I haven’t left. Sorry…I was…miles away.” He opened one of the many newspapers and news magazines he had brought with him and began reading again, but part of his mind remained preoccupied. How much more, seriously speaking, could Skinner be expected to take without falling apart? And what could John Doggett do to make sure that never happened?


Doggett was still pondering this question when he arrived home late that evening, after squeezing in a few hours at the office following his visit to the hospital. He took a long, refreshing, hot shower, and rested his head against the tiles as the water pummelled into his skin. He could sense something about Skinner – something he understood, something familiar, something that responded to his own manner, which bounced off him in a way he hadn’t felt since…Doggett rested his head against the tiled wall with a sigh. He knew where this was going and couldn’t see that it would do him any good. He had worked with Tony Larsen for 3 years in the NYPD. Tony had been his partner in the office and out of it, and Walter Skinner, for all the fact that he was considerably older and wiser than Tony, somehow shared an essence, a trait, asomething with his old partner that Doggett found extremely attractive. Tony Larsen had been green, impulsive, and prone to running off and getting himself into trouble without a second’s hesitation. Superficially, he couldn’t have been more different to a man like Skinner who was much older, more experienced, and infinitely more measured in his attitude to both life and work. What they shared…what they shared was a kind of unexpressed need, Doggett decided. Walter Skinner had that same lost look in his eyes that Tony had once had. Only it was a damn sight easier taking a young, green agent under your wing and looking out for him, than doing the same for a big, bad Assistant Director of the FBI who not only happened to be several years your senior, but was also more than capable of taking care of himself…or was he? Doggett ruminated on this for several long minutes. Did Skinner really need what he could offer him, or was he fooling himself, simply because he found his boss so damn attractive? Doggett sighed, unsure where the truth lay on this particular subject. He never lied to himself – it wasn’t in his nature. He was as ruthlessly honest with himself as he was with the people around him, but even so, sometimes it wasn’t easy understanding his own motivation.


Doggett slid his hand down his body and found his cock rock hard and waiting for his attention. He wasn’t surprised to find that just thinking about Skinner had aroused him. This was an attraction that had been building up slowly for a long time, and he knew it wasn’t going to just go away. At first he had viewed Skinner as no more than a good boss, someone who could help him on the X Files. Then they had started their lunches, and before long, he had found himself enjoying the other man’s company above that of anyone else. He looked forward to seeing Skinner every day – in fact it was the highlight of his day – and somewhere along the way he had fallen in love without even realising it. Doggett had been surprised when he had first found himself waking in the night with a hard-on that could only be relieved by thoughts of his boss. Skinner couldn’t have been more different physically to Tony Larsen, who had been a wiry, slender man, with a mop of almost white-blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. There was no similarity there at all…but Doggett had never been a man to fall for the obvious and, as he looked back over the previous patterns of his relationships with other men, there was never an obvious ‘type’ that he went for…although, thinking about it, he was aware that the important ones had all had something in common – that indefinable something that he was struggling to understand right now. Could Skinner ever want from him what Tony had wanted, Doggett wondered. He had a sudden flashing mental image of himself pushing Walter Skinner against a wall, holding the other man’s arms against his sides as he claimed a deep, long, satisfying kiss from his boss…and then laughed out loud at his own stupidity. Christ, he made it a rule never to fall for straight men – or men still in the closet – and he wasn’t sure which of those Skinner was but he was certainly one or the other. Doggett wasn’t interested in anyone who wasn’t honest enough to admit his sexual orientation. His experience in the military and taught him that no purpose would be served by broadcasting his homosexuality to the world in general and the FBI in particular, but a man had to be able to admit certain things to himself. Skinner had given no indication that he was gay – hell, the man had even been married according to one of Mulder’s X Files, not that, as Doggett was all too well aware, that necessarily meant a thing. Doggett winced as he remembered that particular file. No wonder Skinner didn’t want to risk becoming a case file again. That particular case file culminated with his wife’s death. Perhaps the man’s paranoia was understandable when placed in that context. Doggett grimaced; the death of Skinner’s wife had been one of the more serious body blows his boss had suffered during this long, seemingly unending battle. How long before one of these body blows proved mortal? Or perhaps an accumulation of all of them? How much longer could Skinner stay on the battlefield when he was already fighting on his last legs?


Doggett turned the shower dial to ice cold with one savage flick of his hand. He didn’t want to masturbate in the shower with thoughts of a man he was so close to but couldn’t quite have. You either did something about your feelings or you let them go; you didn’t keep dredging them up like this and re-examining them. That didn’t do anyone any good. Damn but he missed Tony. He missed having someone who liked what he could do for them – hell, what he enjoyed doing. He had once wondered whether his relationship with Tony had been born out of their roles at the office, out of Tony being younger, requiring guidance, and leaning on his older, more experienced partner for support, but now, with these new feelings about Walter Skinner surfacing, Doggett could see that wasn’t the case. What he had been responding to in Tony had nothing to do with age or experience and everything to do with personality. His mind went back to the events of the day, to Skinner throwing that remote against the wall – Doggett utterly sympathised with the emotions behind that outburst, but somehow he had the feeling that it would take a lot more than one broken remote to relieve the feelings Skinner had kept locked up inside for so long.




The doctors wanted Skinner to rest over the weekend, before resuming the gruelling tests the following week. The tests had been bad enough during the week he had endured them thus far, but the doctors had been honest with the Assistant Director, informing him that what he would undergo would be even worse during his second week. Skinner took the news as he might a lecture from Kersh; his eyes became veiled and guarded, and his jaw performed that sideways lock that Doggett knew betrayed an emotion of some depth.


“If that’s the case, then I want to at least get some exercise,” Skinner said to his doctor. “My eyesight’s nearly back to normal. If I’m not on the drugs for a couple of days then I want to work out in the gym.”


The doctor agreed that some exercise wouldn’t do him any harm after sitting in a bed for the best part of a week, although she made him promise to take it easy as he wasn’t in the best physical shape after the tests. She directed this plea more towards Doggett than Skinner – clearly believing the agent was more likely to ensure that the A.D. didn’t push himself too far than the man himself. Doggett nodded, signalling that he understood the meaning behind the look  – there was no way Skinner was going to do himself any harm on his watch, that was for sure. The doctor seemed reassured and Doggett was duly despatched to Skinner’s apartment to pick up some gym clothes for him.


Doggett felt strange letting himself into Skinner’s apartment. He hadn’t intended to snoop, but inevitably he found himself looking around the place, trying to get some measure of a man he knew himself to be becoming increasingly infatuated with. Skinner’s apartment was tastefully decorated – there were paintings on the walls, leather bound copies of first edition books on the shelves, and several examples of beautiful Oriental art and sculpture. Doggett was fascinated, and pondered the Oriental influence as he trotted up the stairs to where he assumed Skinner’s bedroom was. There were three doors on the landing – one was a bathroom, and one clearly a spare room. The third opened onto a bright, airy room, decorated in the same tasteful style – obviously Skinner’s bedroom. Skinner was clearly a man who liked harmonious surroundings, and his apartment was as neat as his personal attire. While Doggett approved of that on one level, another part of him couldn’t help but wonder at a man who kept his life under such a tight degree of control – he knew his own apartment to be a lot more lived in than this one.


Doggett opened the closet door and swiftly located the sweatpants, hanging neatly on their hanger – he would have expected nothing else. He was reminded of the last time he had visited a man’s apartment when he wasn’t present – Fox Mulder’s apartment had been a damn sight more untidy. Mulder’s chaotic approach to life had been reflected in the many layers of his existence that had been left out on display, classic signs of a life interrupted. Clothing and various journals, papers, computer accessories and other paraphernalia had all been spread out around his apartment. Skinner’s depths were hidden away in drawers and cupboards – out of sight but still there, tantalisingly beneath the surface, beckoning to Doggett who longed to know more about his elusive superior. He liked the mystery, the challenge that Skinner presented – it intrigued him despite himself.


Unlike that time in Mulder’s apartment, Doggett wasn’t investigating a case – he was just picking up a few clothes for a friend, and yet the investigative side of his mind refused to switch off and he found himself noticing certain things about the apartment and drawing conclusions about Skinner’s personality as a result; the books piled untidily next to Skinner’s bed looked out of place in the neat apartment. They suggested a man who, having trouble sleeping, tried reading book after book in the middle of the night only to find that none of them served as enough of a distraction.


There was the bottle of whisky lying beside the bed – unopened. As if the man wanted desperately to let go and drink himself into oblivion, but was stopping himself by sheer willpower alone – as if he knew that one day that resolve might falter and if it did then it wouldn’t just be a matter of one or two glasses of whisky, it would be the whole bottle.


There was a pair of broken spectacles on the dresser, perhaps waiting to be mended, but when Doggett moved them he saw a thin layer of dust around them, testament to the fact that they must have been lying there for several months, as lost and abandoned as their owner. Skinner was a busy man, and Doggett figured that he hadn’t had time to take them to be mended, but all the same, there seemed to be something wistfully symbolic about them.


Doggett opened the dresser drawer searching for tee shirts and located a pile of them, neatly folded. He drew out a gray one then turned to go – when something caught his eye. The tee shirt had some lettering on it. Frowning, he unfolded it to see what was written on it, and felt as if some great divine hand of fate had just swung into motion. USMC. Four simple letters, but they revealed a connection he had neither expected nor anticipated.


“United States Marine Corps.” He had a tee shirt very similar in his own dresser. Doggett sat on the bed, fingering the lettering thoughtfully. Suddenly the Oriental influences in Skinner’s apartment made perfect sense – on closer examination he was sure he’d find that the fine artwork he had noticed downstairs was Vietnamese in origin. It wouldn’t surprise him in the least if he discovered that his boss was a veteran of that conflict. In fact, it made perfect sense – it also made sense of this connection he’d felt to Skinner ever since he’d met him. Doggett was a man who understood other men – he liked their company both professionally and personally. He knew himself to be the kind of gay man who had the utmost respect for women but found it easier to unwind and relax with other men. With other men he knew where he was – and with a military man he knew exactly where he was.


USMC – not just any branch of the military but the US Marine Corps, where he had started out his own military career – and would have stayed too if he hadn’t found the ordeal of living a “don’t ask, don’t tell” lifestyle too abhorrent. Damn, but every time he though he could conquer his feelings for Skinner, something like this turned up and knocked him right back into his obsession. Surely this was too much of a coincidence? Doggett wasn’t the kind of man who saw fate or conspiracy in a coincidence, but this one spoke to him on a very deep and personal level. He exhaled loudly, folded the tee shirt, put it in the sports bag with the other clothing, and then set off back to the hospital.


“Here.” Doggett slung the bag onto the bed, and watched as Skinner eagerly rummaged through the contents. “I didn’t know you were in the Corps,” Doggett said softly, as Skinner pulled on his sweatpants under his hospital gown and then reached for the gray tee shirt. Skinner glanced at him, and shrugged.


“It isn’t a secret,” he said in a tone of voice that implied he would prefer not to talk about it all the same. He removed his hospital gown and Doggett had a brief glimpse of a magnificent, toned chest before Skinner pulled the tee shirt over his head.


“‘Nam?” Doggett asked softly. Skinner paused for one second, his body taut.


“Yeah,” he growled at last.


“I was in the Lebanon – part of the peace-keeping force,” Doggett said quietly.


Skinner pulled on his socks and sneakers, not even sparing Doggett a glance. “I know. Whole different kind of military experience I’d imagine,” Skinner grunted, his back to his agent.


“Yeah. I’d imagine so,” Doggett replied. “You knew I was in the Lebanon?” He asked, as Skinner finished tying his shoe-laces and stood up.


“Sure. I make it a rule to always know the agents under my command. I read your file. Several times.”


“I didn’t know about you – being in the marines, being at ‘Nam,” Doggett said slowly.


“Does it make a difference?” Skinner straightened, and faced Doggett full on for the first time in the conversation.


“Frankly – yes,” Doggett said, and noticed the way Skinner’s eyes widened at the reply. Maybe he’d expected a polite demur but that wasn’t Doggett’s style.


“In what way?” Skinner asked, his dark eyes intense.


“It just makes sense of a few things. You have… a military bearing I guess. I enjoyed the military. I was a career marine.”


“And yet you left to join the NYPD.” Skinner turned, and walked slowly towards the door. The comment didn’t require an answer but the question – why? – hung between them anyway.


“Yes.” Doggett followed Skinner out of the room. Two people could play at the elusive game, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to give away all his secrets just yet. Skinner didn’t press him and they walked down to the gym together.


Skinner’s eagerness to work out wasn’t matched by his physical fitness. The days of tests had left him run down and in too poor a condition to do anything very energetic, although his eyesight was back to normal at least. After a brief warm-up, Skinner made a beeline for the weights – only to find Doggett blocking his path.


“Uh-uh. Ten minutes slow jogging on the treadmill first. I want you properly warmed up before you try lifting anything.”


Skinner held his ground, his dark eyes rebelling at being given an order by someone under his command. Doggett eyeballed him – he had no intention of backing down. Skinner studied him for a moment, as if testing his resolve, and then gave a wry grunt and backed off.


“You remind me of my drill instructor,” he muttered, turning away and going to the treadmill. “Mean son of a bitch – used to push us until we were ready to drop and then sent us out on a ten mile run. I could have killed him sometimes. Wanted to most of the time during training – then afterwards, in country, offered up a prayer of thanks to him every single night of my life for getting me fit enough to endure what we faced out there.”


Doggett chuckled and got on the treadmill next to Skinner. “Drill instructors the world over are the same – you hate ’em at the time but want to shake their hand after.”


“I met him again several years later – couldn’t believe this frail, white-haired guy was the same one who had scared me shitless in boot camp,” Skinner grimaced. “I thanked him to his face and he laughed, said he was just doing his job. I don’t suppose he even remembered me. He must have seen so many of us passing through.” Skinner shrugged, even the gentle jogging making him breathless while he was talking.


“What was it like – ‘Nam?” Doggett asked softly, curious to share experiences of warfare with someone who knew what it was like, who understood.


“Hot. What was the Lebanon like?” Skinner shot back, neatly avoiding the question.


“Hot.” Doggett grinned sideways at his boss and Skinner shot him an uneasy smile back.


“Actually, that’s a cliché about ‘Nam. It could be hot enough and humid enough to boil your eyeballs, but there were times when it was so cold out in the mountains that I thought my balls would freeze off,” Skinner offered, perhaps to offset his earlier facetious remark.


“Were you drafted?” Doggett asked, wanting to know this man running beside him, to really know and connect with him on some level other than as merely agent and AD.


“No. I enlisted on my 18th birthday.” Skinner gazed ahead, the broad planes of his face settled into moody lines. “My father thought I was crazy and my mother wept. I think…it was either the biggest mistake I ever made or the best thing I ever did. To this day I’m still not sure which.” He turned his head back to face Doggett again. “How about you?” He asked.


“Like I said, I was a career marine. I joined the military both wanting and expecting action, and I sure as hell got it in the Lebanon. It wasn’t a war like ‘Nam. I didn’t have to see my buddies go home in body bags…but I did see some fighting.”


“I don’t think you can compare the two,” Skinner shrugged. “Any man who sees real action, whether as part of a peace-keeping force or a full-blown war experiences the same emotions whether ten or ten thousand die.”


“Yeah.” Doggett nodded, remembering the adrenaline rush of battle, the roar of the helicopters and the feeling of his gun in his hands. “You were 18 years old when you fought out there?”


“Yeah.” Skinner stumbled slightly, then regained his footing. Doggett reached over and altered the programming on the other man’s treadmill, slowing it down. Skinner glowered at him.


“Too much, too soon. Pace yourself,” Doggett ordered. Skinner’s eyes flashed with rebellion again and Doggett had to suppress a very real urge to take the big man in his arms, push him against the wall, and…He tore himself away from imagining how those sensuous lips would feel pressed against his own. He knew he wanted this man more than he’d ever wanted anyone in his life. He wanted Walter Skinner, body and soul. He wanted to make love to him, to take care of him, to find a way past those walls to the sweetness he was sure was inside and lay Walter Skinner bare to himself, in a way he had been hiding from during all these long, weary years of battle.


“Yessir,” Skinner muttered under his breath. Doggett had to breathe very deeply to ensure his cock didn’t respond to that particular mode of address. To have a man such as this kneel before him, and address him in such a way…Tony used to do it, with that sweetly submissive look in his beautiful blue eyes but that hadn’t been hard for Tony – in fact he’d been the one who suggested it, who admitted to being turned on by it. Skinner was very different…Skinner would fight it, not understanding how much he needed it – how much he needed someone to take control – no, how much he needed to give up the rigid hold he had on his life, and bring himself back to himself. Not to have the control taken – but to surrender it freely, with trust. Doggett thumped the switch on his treadmill and hopped off the side of it. The idea of Walter Skinner ever looking at him with that kind of trust in those lost brown eyes was impossible. It wasn’t a good idea to dwell on it.


“How long were you in the Corps?” Skinner asked, as Doggett reached for a towel and took a long, distracting swig of water.


“A few years. You?” Doggett watched those long legs stride on the treadmill, the broad chest heaving with the unexpected exertion after the previous few days in bed.


“Ten months, three weeks and 6 days,” Skinner shrugged, the precision of the numbers belying the casual way he was speaking.


“And then?”


“Medical discharge.” Skinner shrugged again.


“You were wounded in ‘Nam?” Doggett paused, the water bottle held to his lips.


“Yeah. Whole squad went down in an ambush. I thought…I thought I was dead too. Should have been dead…was dead.” Skinner’s breath was coming in hard pants. “Was dead,” he murmured again, his eyes faraway, seemingly lost in thought. “When Krycek…when he first infected me with these bloodsuckers, he killed me. I mean, literally – I was declared dead, just as I was in ‘Nam all those years ago.” He stumbled again and Doggett reached out an arm and helped him off the treadmill. Skinner leaned heavily on him, his breathing erratic, the weight of his body pressing on Doggett’s shoulder and arm. Doggett held him easily – he was in pretty good shape himself, and he was as tall as Skinner, even if he didn’t have the big man’s breadth.


“Well I won’t let you kill yourself in here,” he commented wryly, sitting Skinner down on a bench. He knelt in front of him and handed him a water bottle. “Okay?” He asked as Skinner finished drinking. Skinner nodded.


“I died myself once,” Doggett commented.


Skinner nodded. “I was there. That soul eater case.”


“Yes. It was the weirdest thing – I’m not sure what my thoughts are on the existence of souls, but I was still there even when, technically speaking, I was dead. I remember seeing my body lying on the ground.”


“I have the same memory,” Skinner said softly. “Both times. Back in ‘Nam, I was floating in the sky, just watching my body far below, covered in blood and bullet wounds. Second time, a couple of years ago, I was hovering on the ceiling of the hospital room. Both times…” He ducked his head. “Both times someone made me come back.”


“Someone?” Doggett rocked back on his haunches. “A person?”


“Yeah. An old woman. She picked me up and carried me back to my body. That’s the only way I can describe it.” Skinner looked profoundly uncomfortable, as if this wasn’t a revelation he really wanted to share. “You?” Skinner asked, unable to meet Doggett’s eyes.


“I wish I could say something that interesting happened to me but it didn’t,” Doggett sighed. “I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up good as new in the soul eater’s cave. Do you have any idea who the old woman was? Did you recognise her?”


“No, but she sure as hell made it clear on both occasions that my time wasn’t up just yet. Maybe she’s someone they send to all the people who have to go back.” It was said with a wry grunt but Doggett wasn’t entirely sure it was meant to be a joke. He got up.


“I probably said too much. I don’t usually…uh…I don’t usually mention the out of body stuff. It freaks people out too much – hell, it freaks me out too much,” Skinner said with an apologetic shrug, clearly thinking he’d scared Doggett away with the direction the conversation had gone. Nothing could have been further from the truth – Doggett was even more fascinated.


“No. I’m interested. I know you must shake your head and wonder about a guy like me, basically a disbeliever, working on the X Files after Mulder believed so much of this stuff. I don’t take anything on trust but if someone has a real experience, first hand, well that’s interesting to me. I’m prepared to accept it a lot more than someone banging on about intuition or some new age crap they read in a book.”


“I didn’t always like Mulder’s methods, or his beliefs, but he was a damn fine agent. The best I’ve ever known,” Skinner told him. He raised his head and looked Doggett in the eye, and there was a sense of such loss there it was almost tangible.


“I know. And I won’t let him down,” Doggett said softly. “Look, we could try some gentle weights but nothin’ too strenuous. I think you’re over-estimating what you’re capable of right now, Walter.”


“You’re a kind of an anti-drill instructor,” Skinner groused. “He used to push us too hard and you won’t let me push myself at all.”


“Left to your own devices I think you’d push yourself harder than either of us ever could,” Doggett commented quietly. Skinner gave him a look of surprise, clearly taken aback at having been so expertly analysed, and Doggett could have kicked himself for his words. Skinner didn’t say anything, he just followed Doggett over to the weight stack, and the rest of the session progressed in silence.


Doggett couldn’t shake off a feeling of guilt for the rest of the day. Skinner had, in some respects, laid himself bare during their conversation. He’d offered up the kind of personal information that he wasn’t comfortable with, had shared a very important part of himself with his agent in relating his near death experiences, and Doggett was acutely aware that he hadn’t been nearly as honest back. He had sidestepped the question of why he had left the marines in order to go into the NYPD. He wished he could share that particular detail of his life with Skinner, but to do so would open up a can of worms he wasn’t sure he was ready for.


Doggett pondered the discussion later that evening as he lay on his couch, idly flicking through the television channels for something worth watching. He wondered whether Skinner had shared the details of his out of body experiences with anyone else – especially the second one. The first he could dismiss as a result of his injuries, or maybe even as a hallucination caused by the drugs he would have received in the hospital before he regained consciousness, but the second out of body experience rendered the first much more solid and real. Doggett wondered how much that would bother Skinner. He seemed uncomfortable with both experiences – and yet he also wanted to talk about them, to make sense of them in some way. Doggett had the very real feeling that this wasn’t a subject Skinner had spoken about with anyone else and he felt as if his own response had been somehow unsatisfactory. All he had done was stress that he didn’t believe – even though he was prepared to accept Skinner’s account at face value he couldn’t provide the same kind of validation for the experience as, say, a man like Fox Mulder could. Doggett fought off a wave of jealousy. Fox Mulder had been everywhere before him – the X Files, Scully’s partner, and also, unless he was very much mistaken, Skinner’s heart. He wasn’t entirely sure what kind of love Skinner had felt for Mulder, whether it had been the love of brotherhood and comradeship he had seen so many times in the military or something deeper, but either way, now that Mulder had taken off once more Skinner seemed to have lost his footing. He was hanging out there, buffeted by the cold winds that were gathered around them all, with nobody to turn to for advice, solace or anchorage. Doggett sighed and closed his eyes, trying to switch off from examining the enigma that was Walter Skinner. Tony had been a piece of cake in comparison. All loud ties and flashing smiles – easily reined in, brought back to earth, and taken care of. Skinner was a much harder proposition.


Doggett arrived at the hospital early the next day bearing a bag of bagels – only to find Skinner’s hospital room empty. He waited for a few minutes, thinking Skinner was in the bathroom, but when the other man didn’t appear he grew concerned. Dumping the bag of bagels on the nightstand, Doggett went in search of the medical staff, but none of them seemed to know where Skinner had gone. Doggett fought down a wave of panic. This was absurd – Christ, this was just what Tony used to do to him all those years ago. Disappear without a word, turn up the worse for wear a few days later full of babbling news about some stake-out or other he’d been on, without a thought for how dangerous it was or the need to take someone to watch your back. Doggett reasoned that it was very unlikely Skinner could have gotten into any trouble in a hospital, but you never knew…no, that was absurd. Skinner wasn’t a Tony Larsen or a Fox Mulder. He didn’tdo running off. He did do silent self-reproach though – was a master at it in fact, and Doggett suddenly knew exactly where the other man had gone.


He raced down the stairs to the gymnasium and looked in through the window on the door. Skinner was on the treadmill running as if he was in a sprint. Sweat was pouring off his body, his skin was pale and mottled, and his breathing was coming in harsh gasps. He was clearly pushing himself way beyond his body’s current capabilities, his gaze fixed and glassy as he stared straight ahead, lost in the punishing rhythms of his own body and completely oblivious to the way his limbs were shaking with exertion. Doggett felt a surge of anger. Damn it – if the man would only let someone in, allow someone to help him, instead of repressing it all in this kind of self-punishment!


Doggett slammed through the doors, charged over to the treadmill, banged his hand down on the control panel to stop the swiftly moving ramp, grabbed Skinner’s arm and hauled him off the machine sideways.


“What the hell do you think you’re playin’ at?” He demanded. Skinner’s eyes came slowly back into focus, wide with shock.


“I could ask you the same damn question!” he growled out in reply, his breathing coming in harsh, retching pants. He gasped for breath, and then, without warning, keeled over. Doggett still had one hand firmly gripping Skinner’s bicep, but it wasn’t enough to hold up the weight of the big man as Skinner literally crumpled in front of him.


“Christ, there was no need for this – if you’d just taken it easy and paced yourself like I told you.” Doggett managed to get Skinner into a sitting position, but the other man was shaking uncontrollably, his teeth chattering so violently as to be audible. Doggett grabbed a towel, wrapped it around Skinner’s shoulders, and then began rubbing hard and furiously. He wondered if he should run for help, but he didn’t want to leave Skinner who was clearly in a state of shock after pushing himself too far, too fast.


“How long have you been in here? Huh?” Doggett asked as he rubbed Skinner’s clammy flesh with the towel, drying the sweat and warming the other man. “Were you lifting weights without anyone to spot you? Why the hell didn’t you wait for me – you knew I’d be here today and I’d have worked out with you.” Then this wouldn’t have happened, Doggett thought to himself. He wasn’t really expecting an answer to any of his questions; he was just thinking out loud because Skinner had given him such a scare. The big man’s trembling had started to subside, but his body was nerveless, his arms as heavy as lead when Doggett tried to lift them. The pallor of his skin had receded slightly however, and he looked as if he was coming round, his dark eyes full of pain and anger at being so helpless.


“Don’t ever do this to me again,” Doggett said as he frantically continued rubbing the towel over Skinner’s cold flesh. “D’you hear me, Tony? Are you listening to me? Huh?” He stopped his frenzied movements and took Skinner’s face between his hands. “Whatever is going on inside that thick skull of yours, this is no way to deal with it. We have to find a better way. D’you understand that? I’m not going to let you do this to yourself. Even if you don’t give a damn, I do.”


Skinner’s dark, glazed eyes suddenly focussed on Doggett as if those words had penetrated his foggy mind.


“I mean it,” Doggett said. He pulled Skinner against him, wrapped his arms around the big man’s shoulders and held him tight against his body to share his own warmth, all the time running his hands over Skinner’s back as he rocked him to and fro, still trying to rub some life back into the listless, shaking man. Skinner’s bald head was pressed into his shoulder and the big man seemed to be drawing some kind of comfort from the contact as he slowly came to. “Hold on. Just keep holding on, Walter, because I’m not going to let you fall, I’m not going to let them destroy you…just keeping hanging on in there.” Doggett wasn’t even sure what he was saying, just that he needed to convey some kind of soothing comfort to Skinner at this moment in time. He stroked Skinner’s back for a long time, holding the other man against his own body until finally there was movement under his fingers, and Skinner drew back, shakily.


“It’s okay. I’m okay,” Skinner murmured softly. “I’m feeling better.” His skin did feel warmer. Doggett let go, took a step back, and settled onto his haunches, as he surveyed Skinner intently.


“Can you walk?” He asked. “If not I’ll call for a wheelchair.”


“In that case I can definitely walk,” Skinner growled, as if even the thought of being pushed thorough the hospital corridors in a wheelchair offended him. He took several deep breaths and then held out his hands to be helped to his feet. Doggett hauled him up and Skinner almost fell straight over again. Doggett dragged Skinner’s arm over his shoulder and held him upright.


“It’s okay. I’ve got ya,” he said, guiding Skinner towards the door.


“Legs feel like jelly,” Skinner explained apologetically, as he leaned on Doggett for support.


“Hardly surprising.” Doggett glanced at the dial on the treadmill as they passed it and winced. “45 minutes, Walter? You were running like that for that long after the kind of week you’ve had? What the hell were you thinking?”


Skinner’s mouth settled into a straight line. “That’s none of your business, John,” he snapped.


“That’s where you’re wrong, Mister,” Doggett snapped back. “This is my case file, whether you like it or not.”


“I told you before, I’m not a goddamn case!” Skinner growled.


“And I told you that I’m here as a friend but you wouldn’t accept that, Walter. You can’t have it both ways. I’m here as a friend – or as the SAC on a case file. Either way don’t tell me to butt out because I won’t – either as an agent on this case or as your friend.”


Skinner made no reply, but when Doggett stole a glance at him the big man’s eyes were downcast, his expression contrite.


Doggett managed to get Skinner safely to his room and helped him into bed, then sat down in the armchair with an exhausted sigh. There was silence between them for a moment, and then Skinner turned his head, his jaw doing that sideways clench that was so familiar to Doggett.


“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to worry you. I didn’t realise I’d been running that long to be honest. I just…blanked out.”


“That’s not quite true, Walter,” Doggett replied, in his usual blunt style, not wanting Skinner to get away with the half-truth, needing the other man to face up to himself. “You knew I was coming to visit today. Why not just wait for me? Presumably because you wanted to do precisely what you did – drive yourself into the ground. I accept it got out of hand, and you didn’t anticipate what would happen – hell, I saw you down there on the treadmill and you were completely out of it so I also accept that you didn’t realise how long you’d been running, but the fact you were there on your own in the first place leads me to believe that you knew exactly what you were doing when you went down there.”


Skinner’s jaw was now clenched so tight that Doggett thought it might snap.


“Who the hell appointed you as my keeper?” He asked. “Look, I’ve told you I’m sorry if I worried you, but this was just an accident, that’s all. There’s no need to make such a big deal out of it.”


Doggett made no reply, he just stared at Skinner intently for a long time, until, unable to bear his scrutiny, Skinner dropped his gaze down to his hands, grimacing slightly.
“Sorry,” he said again, and this time he sounded as if he meant it.


“Okay then. Just don’t pull this kind of stunt again,” Doggett said firmly.


Skinner nodded, and rested back on his pillows. “Just some kind of crazy way to convince myself I’m fine I guess,” he said with a little shrug.


Doggett saw no reason to join in Skinner’s self-delusion – the episode in the gym went a long way beyond that piece of pop psychology. Skinner looked deflated – his skin was still paler than it should be and his eyes held an infinitely weary expression.


“You need some rest,” Doggett said softly. He got up, and walked to the door, intending to call the doctor to check that Skinner was okay, but the big man stopped him dead in his tracks with what he said next:


“Who’s Tony?”


Doggett froze, his hand reaching for the door handle. After a long pause, he turned.


“Sorry?” His voice didn’t sound real to his own ears.


“Tony. You called me Tony back there. Who is he?”


“I don’t remember…I didn’t realise…” Doggett took a deep breath, and swallowed hard. How many of this man’s questions was he going to avoid? He didn’t have anything to hide, or anything he was ashamed of. Maybe working in the X Files department turned you into someone who existed in a permanent state of denial, but that wasn’t him and he was damned if he was going to turn into that kind of person. Doggett came back to the bed and sat down in the armchair again. “Tony was my partner in the NYPD,” he said softly. “He was also my lover.”


There was a long silence. Skinner just stared at him. Doggett took a deep breath and started again.


“Yesterday you asked me why I left the Marine Corps and I didn’t answer you. The truth is that I left because I was tired of living what, to my mind, amounted to a lie. I didn’t like it then and I don’t like it now. I’m a homosexual – and I was a damn good marine. The US, as you know, has a “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule for gays in the military, but it just got too hard living under that kind of embargo. There was a time when I wasn’t as upfront about what I am as I am now – not because I was ashamed of it because I’ve never been that – but because it was the only way to remain in the military. I’ve known I’m homosexual since I was a boy. It’s just part of me, like the fact I have blue eyes or my name is John Doggett. I’ve always sought out and enjoyed the company of other men. I’m not remotely like the gay stereotype the media likes to portray and to be honest I’m not usually attracted to that kind of gay man either. In fact, I believe I follow a tradition of homosexual men in the military – a certain kind of gay man has always flourished in that kind of tough, all male environment. I used to…” Doggett paused, but Skinner still wasn’t saying anything, so he continued. “This may fall under the heading of too much information but as a kid I used to read Homer’s Iliad. I loved that story – loved reading about the battles, the heroism…and I found a role model there in Achilles. His relationship with Patroclus was one I always wanted for myself. It was my ideal. Two men fighting next to each other; warriors, friends, and lovers…that was partly why I joined the marines in the first place, but I didn’t find what I was looking for there. Instead I found the only way I could stay was to hide what I was, and I was never comfortable with that.” He fell silent again, waiting for some response – any response.


Skinner gave a little grunt. “You were married,” he said finally, in a very quiet voice.


“Yes I was. Debbie was a soldier too. We met in the military and just clicked. She was a good friend – still is. I still see her occasionally, although…it’s harder for us now, after Luke – our son. After he died…” Doggett took another deep breath. This wasn’t easy. “Debbie was gay too. We got on so well that people thought we were seeing each other. She was the one who suggested we got married – she was worried that her sexuality might compromise her career. I wasn’t particularly interested in covering up my sexuality but when she suggested that we have a child – it woke some yearning inside me I hadn’t even realised I had before that. I wanted that child as much as she did and I wanted him to have parents who were married, and who would always be there for him. Debbie and I were never physically intimate – she was in a very loving relationship with a woman outside the military in any case, and I just don’t work that way. I provided what was necessary and Debbie did the rest. We were both committed to Luke though – however unconventional our relationship, we loved that boy. It was partly because of him that I left the marines. I wanted him to know who is father was – and I didn’t want him to be ashamed of a father who hid something as fundamental as his sexuality. Debbie was out of the military by this point, and, when I was wounded in the line of duty shortly after, I followed her. We both lived in New York for a while, although not together, until…until Luke was murdered. That nearly destroyed us. After that there didn’t seem any point in even remaining married, so we got a divorce.” Doggett dried up – those were just the bare facts of his life but they didn’t really get close to the truth and reality of it. He gazed at Skinner, wondering what the other man’s reaction would be – and when it came it surprised him.


“I’m sorry. I’ve lost people too. I know what that feels like,” Skinner said softly. “Sharon and I…she had some miscarriages. Each time it happened it hurt…but it isn’t quite the same as what you went through. I can’t imagine what losing Luke was like for you.”


“I read about Sharon in Mulder’s files. I’m sorry for your loss,” Doggett said, and Skinner’s jaw did that sideways clench again.


“Mulder’s damn files,” he grunted. “And you wonder why I don’t like being written up as a goddamn case file?”


“No, I don’t wonder why – I agree with you, it’s frustrating and it’s a violation of your privacy, but I guess that when you get involved with the X Files your whole life becomes a case file. It goes with the territory. Look, do you have any problems with this?” Doggett asked bluntly, aware they were getting away from the point. “It doesn’t affect my work, and I hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable, but if it does, then I’ll be honest with you – that’s your problem, not mine. I’d hate to lose our friendship over this but I am what I am, Walter, and I won’t apologise for…”


“I don’t have a problem with it,” Skinner interrupted him “I’ve worked with gay agents before, John. It’s not an issue for me. Do you have anyone in your life right now?”


“No,” Doggett said firmly. “Not since Tony. How about you? Anyone for you since Sharon died?”


Skinner shook his head. “No,” he said softly, gazing at his fingernails intently as if this kind of personal conversation was intensely difficult for him. In fact, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he felt guilty about the incident in the gym, Doggett doubted that Skinner would have opened up to him at all. Maybe his own intimacies had led Skinner to feel he had to give something back.


“Well, now we’ve got that out in the open, perhaps we can watch a game or some news or somethin’,” Doggett said cheerily, breaking the mood. He wasn’t someone who liked sitting around talking endlessly about his past or his feelings, and he guessed Skinner was much the same. The other man certainly appeared relieved as they turned their attention to the latest report from CNN. Before long they were discussing current affairs as if the past hour hadn’t just happened – but Doggett knew something had changed between them forever. Whether for the good or ill he didn’t yet know.


The following week was one of the best and worst of Doggett’s life. Best because he got to spend almost the entire time with a man he knew himself to be falling very much in love with, worst because it was hard to just stand by and watch that same man in so much pain. Skinner, as usual, didn’t complain – he just fell more and more silent to the point where he barely spoke at all. Doggett didn’t question that the tests were necessary – he understood what was driving Skinner to want an answer to the problem circulating in his own bloodstream, but all the same, the tests were tiring, complicated, and invasive. Doggett made himself useful reading to Skinner when the big man was too tired or in too much pain to even watch the television. Doggett wasn’t sure it helped, but Skinner never asked him to leave, and he seemed soothed to some degree by the sound of Doggett’s voice as he trawled through every article he could lay his hands on, trying to find something, anything, that would distract Skinner from the pain in his body. There were times when Doggett knew that if Alex Krycek wasn’t already dead he would have put a bullet through the bastard’s skull himself.


“I’m only amazed it took you so long,” he told Skinner one evening towards the end of the week. “I’d have put a bullet through his eyes 2 years back if he’d done this to me.”
Skinner gave a tight, tired smile.


“It’s complicated,” he murmured. “And I have some old fashioned ideas about bringing people to justice and the proper uses of a Bureau issue sidearm – it took me a long time to accept that Krycek was never going to be dealt with by conventional means. Besides, even if I had killed him when he first infected me, I’d still be here suffering these tests – until I can find a way to neutralise the nanocytes I can never rest easily.”


“I guess.” Doggett shook his head, the anger rising again. “Just seems to me after all you’ve been through you deserve a break.”


“I haven’t lost a son,” Skinner shrugged. “I haven’t been through anything worse than you.”


“I disagree. I’m not saying losing Luke didn’t hurt me – it damn near crushed the life out of me – but I haven’t had to fight every day of my life the way you have these past few years. You’ve been under the kind of pressure that makes a man snap in two, Walter.”


“You think I’m heading for a nervous breakdown, John?” Skinner asked, the hint of laughter in his voice implying that he was joking. Doggett pursed his lips thoughtfully.


“I think that you don’t realise just how close you could be to falling apart, Walter, yes,” he said honestly. Skinner’s jaw clenched and he turned his face away.


“I’m fine. Next thing you’ll be suggesting I see a goddamn shrink.”


“No. I don’t set much store by shrinks. I think a man can help himself by finding an outlet for his problems though – working through them with a friend, maybe even just admitting them to himself and not bottling them all up inside.”


“I deal with things the only way I know how,” Skinner growled.


“Maybe that’s not good enough any more,” Doggett told him. He knew he was pushing the other man, probably further than Skinner was able to go right now, but he wasn’t about to be soft on him – too much was at stake.


The tests continued until the Friday of the second week, although they lessened in intensity on the last two days.


“How long before we know what the results are?” Doggett asked the doctor, as Skinner finished dressing to go home. She smiled.


“A week – maybe two. We need to analyse the results of some of the tests we ran. Mr. Skinner will be getting a full report on our findings.”


“Okay…but how do you think they went?” Doggett asked. “I mean – do you have any clues to how we go about defeating this thing?”


“We have some avenues of investigation,” she replied, sidestepping the question smoothly. Doggett glared at her, remembering all over again just why he hated the medical profession so much. “Take good care of him – he’ll need a few days to get back to normal. He’s going to be pretty weak for the next 36 hours or so.”


“I’ll see to it that he rests and takes it easy,” Doggett promised.


“One thing before you leave,” Skinner said, as the doctor turned to go. “The palm pilot.” He held out his hand to her and she smiled.


“Of course. I can understand you wanting to keep that safe,” she smiled. “I’ll bring it in for you in a moment.”


“I was assured you’d also keep the data from the past two weeks under lock and key,” he said, and she nodded.


“Of course. We have security procedures in place for you, Mr. Skinner.”


Skinner gave a curt nod, but Doggett didn’t blame him for being so concerned on that subject. The doctor left the room, and Skinner went to pick up his bag.


“I’ll take that.” Doggett took it from him.


“You’re going to drive me home and insist on buying me groceries as well, aren’t you?” Skinner sighed.


“You got it.” Doggett gave his most infuriating grin. “I told the doctor I’d see to it that you take it easy and I will.” He ignored the look of irritated disgust Skinner gave him – although he picked up on an underlying sense of affection beneath the look and that warmed him. For all his protests, he got the feeling that Skinner genuinely liked having him around.




“Why don’t you go through to the living room and I’ll bring us some coffee,” Doggett said, dumping Skinner’s bag in the hallway of the big man’s apartment. By the time he took the coffee in a few minutes later, Skinner was already fast asleep on the couch. Doggett smiled and put the coffee mug down on the table, then pulled the comforter off the back of the couch and covered the sleeping man. There were weary lines etched around the edges of Skinner’s eyes but apart from that he looked better than he had in a long time – maybe because now he had hope. After two years at Krycek’s beck and call, freedom was at last within his grasp. Doggett turned on the TV to catch up on the day’s news, and tuned the volume down low so as not to disturb Skinner. Every now and again he turned his attention from the news to the sleeping man on the couch. Skinner was a damn good-looking man, although that wasn’t what had initially attracted Doggett’s attention. Now though, he allowed himself to just enjoy the sight of that big body lying stretched out in all its glory, the shirt slightly open at the neck to reveal a few stray curls of chest hair. Doggett was only human – he couldn’t help but enjoy the view.


Skinner woke with a start two hours later.


“That was one hell of a nap,” Doggett laughed, amused by the big man’s startled expression. “I didn’t want to wake you but you must have gotten yourself cramped on the couch. I think you should go to bed. It’s nearly 9 anyway.”


“9? I don’t think I’ve gone to bed at 9 since I was in the eighth grade,” Skinner groused.


“You will tonight,” Doggett told him firmly, getting up and stretching. Skinner shook his head, an amused light in his eyes.


“You never let up do you, drill sergeant?” He said. Doggett laughed.


“No I don’t, marine,” he replied. “Now get up those stairs.”


“Yessir.” Skinner mocked a salute and Doggett laughed again.


“What rank were you when you left the marines?” He asked, out of interest.


“Corporal.” Skinner got up and swayed slightly. Doggett reached out a hand to steady him.


“Well, I guess I outrank you then because I was a Staff Sergeant,” Doggett said with a grin.


“You’re trying to pull rank on me now?” Skinner asked, in an amused tone.


“Why not – you pull rank on me every day in the office,” Doggett replied.


Skinner grunted a wry laugh and began walking to the stairs. “Just you remember that on Monday morning, agent,” he said. “I’ll be back in charge then.”


Doggett followed Skinner towards the stairs, deciding to keep one step behind in case Skinner’s footing failed him again – he certainly wasn’t very steady on his feet. They were about halfway up when Skinner paused and hung onto the banister for a second.


“Okay?” Doggett asked anxiously, putting down the bag he was carrying and holding onto Skinner’s arm. “Can you make it the rest of the way or do you need some help?”
“I’ll be fine.” Skinner took a deep breath. “If the ground would just stay still this would be a lot easier. And I’m really not tired. I won’t sleep now. I slept it all out – and I have just spent nearly 2 weeks sitting in a hospital bed.” He took another step and swayed again. Doggett moved in and held him up.


“You seem to have an almost pathological dislike of going to bed,” he commented and then he remembered those piled up books and that bottle of whisky. Maybe he wasn’t far wrong about that.


“Hate the fucking insomnia, that’s all,” Skinner growled, confirming his suspicions. “Hate that feeling of being wide awake when everyone else is fast asleep.”
“Is that why you work those absurd hours? The night Krycek died I couldn’t believe you were in your office at that time of night – and only a couple of hours after being discharged from the hospital. Hell, if I wasn’t here right now to stop you I think you’d go right on over to the Hoover building, wouldn’t you?” Doggett waited patiently for Skinner to feel he could continue the journey up the stairs.


“I expect so. Beats sitting around waiting for sleep that doesn’t come.” Skinner shrugged. His face was very close and he wasn’t wearing his glasses. Doggett was suddenly aware of seeing his boss in one of his rare unguarded moments.


“How long you had insomnia?” He asked, tightening his grasp on Skinner’s arm. The other man shrugged.


“Since I was 18 years old. It comes and goes,” he replied. “Sometimes it’s worse than others. Used to wake up screaming about a 10 year old kid loaded with grenades who I shot in ‘Nam. Recently it’s been other things – Mulder when he was abducted. Scully when she was nearing the end of her pregnancy. They were screaming like that boy, screaming while I shot them, or while faceless people tortured them – and I could never stop it. Never could stop it.” He bowed his head, his face betraying that little flicking grimace he made whenever he was upset.


“You can’t keep everyone in the world safe, Walter.”


“I can’t keep anyone safe, John,” Skinner replied, his eyes dark.


 Doggett gazed at him for a moment, lost in the sense of sadness radiating from the other man. He so much wanted to reach out, and give comfort. Skinner turned back to the stairs, and they were nearly at the top when the big man stumbled against Doggett. The agent threw the bag onto the landing and held Skinner up…held him close, and then Skinner was too close, falling against him and Doggett couldn’t help himself. Their lips touched – soft at first, and then, when he wasn’t pushed away, Doggett grew bold. He wrapped his arms around Skinner, pulled him closer still, and kissed him full on the mouth. Even as he was doing it a part of his mind was yelling at him to stop, while another part couldn’t have stopped if he’d tried. All the time he expected Skinner to shove him off, but instead, much to his surprise, Skinner’s hands came to rest on Doggett’s jeans-clad backside, and he held on for dear life as the kiss continued. When they finally parted, Doggett had no idea what to expect.


“I’m sorry,” he said. “I guess I’ve wanted to do that for a long time.”


“It’s all right.” Skinner sat down on the stairs with a weak smile. “I didn’t exactly stop you.”


Doggett gazed at the other man, genuinely stumped. “Walter, what are you telling me?” He asked, the room reeling around him. He had never thought he could actually have Walter Skinner. It had been a dream, a fantasy – was Skinner telling him different now? Skinner lowered his eyes in that downcast way that Doggett found such a turn on. The big man looked so thoughtful and vulnerable like that – almost shy – his thick eyelashes obscuring the warm brown eyes.


“Just what I said. I’m not…” Skinner gave up, and shrugged, helplessly. Doggett sank down onto the landing, one step above where Skinner was sitting, and took the other man’s face in his hands.


“Walter, you gotta tell me something here. Do you want us to take this into the bedroom? Because if you do I should warn you that I don’t do one night stands with people I care about. Sure, I’m no angel. I’ve slept with guys I met in bars – too many times, probably, but this is different. This means something. Now, do you want to take this into the bedroom or not? If the answer’s no then I’ll forget this ever happened – and I’d be grateful if you did too.”


“No.” Skinner looked up too quickly, and Doggett caught the look of need in the other man’s eyes. “No, I’d like us to…” words failed him again but he nodded his head in the direction of the bedroom.


“Walter.” Doggett raised Skinner’s face to look into the other man’s eyes. “Have you ever been with a man before?” He asked.


“Yes.” Skinner nodded, his jaw doing its usual sideways clench. “A long time ago. After ‘Nam…I went a little crazy. I needed to prove I was alive I suppose. I experimented with a lot of things – drugs, sex. Hard to believe now I know, but I went through a wild 18 months. I had a male lover during that time. It was a good experience.”


“Why did it end?” Doggett asked gently, sensing this wasn’t something Skinner had talked about in a long time – if ever.


“He finished it…because I was so mixed-up at the time. Then I met Sharon and she put me back together. I decided to make something of my life. She saved me back then. She was the only one with the patience to take me on back during that crazy time. She pulled me through. I’d never have cheated on her for that reason alone…but I often thought about my lover. He was a good man.”


Doggett smiled, and gently caressed the side of Skinner’s face with his fingers.


“Is this what you want, Walter?” He asked. “I know it’s what I want, but is it what you really need right now? You’ve been through a lot lately – I don’t want to take advantage of you if you’re not sure.”


Skinner shook his head, and then, hesitantly, brought his hand up to rest on Doggett’s chest. He stroked Doggett’s nipple softly through the thin fabric of his sweater.


“John, I’m not very good with the words, and it’s been a long time since I was with anyone, let alone another man, but it is what I want. I’ve appreciated you being here for me these past 2 weeks. I’m not sure what I’m feeling, not sure I’m feeling anything at all to be honest…but I want to. Things have been so numb, John.” He raised his head again, his eyes full of yearning but no less lost for all that. Doggett couldn’t help himself. He pulled Skinner’s head towards him and claimed the other man’s mouth with his own, plundered it, worked open the lips and entered his tongue inside, lost himself in the pleasure of the kiss, of feeling Skinner’s tongue clashing and dancing against his own as he reciprocated the embrace. They parted, reluctantly, and Doggett stood up.


“You well enough for this, Walter?” He asked, reaching down to help Skinner to his feet.


“I don’t think I’m exactly going to be doing any acrobatics,” Skinner said with a wan smile, “but…well, you’re the drill instructor and I’m betting that you’ve done this more recently than I have so…” He paused again. “I’m in your hands,” he said softly.


Doggett’s heart skipped a beat at those words. They were such sweet words of trust and surrender.


“I’ll take very good care of you, Walter,” he said firmly, as he led the big man into the bedroom.


 He helped Skinner to sit on the bed, and then went and closed the drapes. He turned back to find Skinner unbuttoning his shirt.


“No.” Doggett strode across the room and put his hand on Skinner’s fingers. “I want to do that,” he said firmly. “I’m in charge here, Walter. I want you to go with the flow – just let go.”


“I’m too beat to do anything else, I think,” Skinner commented with a wry smile, allowing Doggett to push him back onto the bed. Doggett sat astride him, and started unbuttoning Skinner’s shirt. He went slowly, claiming a kiss between each button, delighting in the soft warmth of Skinner’s mouth under his own. He had never thought this could ever happen in a million years and he wanted to get it just right. Skinner was in no shape for anything strenuous, but after the past couple of weeks of pain Doggett wanted to remind the big man what it felt like to experience pleasure. He finished unbuttoning the shirt and smoothed it off Skinner’s shoulders, revealing that beautiful, broad chest in all its glory. Doggett lowered his head and took one nipple in his mouth, kissed it gently, then caressed the nub of flesh more firmly with his tongue. Skinner gave a throaty growl, and reached up to wrap his arms around Doggett’s body.


“Uh-uh.” Doggett drew back and disengaged himself. “I’m in charge here, Walter. I’m the Staff Sergeant remember, Corporal.”


Skinner gave him a bemused look, but allowed his weary arms to drop to his sides again.


“I’m the one doing all the work. You’re just going to lie back and let me take care of this magnificent body,” Doggett purred. He was aware of Skinner’s cock hardening through his pants as he spoke. So, his boss liked the idea of giving up control did he? Doggett had never doubted that would be the case. Someone as buttoned up and in charge as Skinner was most of the time had to want a rest from that every now and again. He stroked Skinner’s chest softly, toying with one nipple while he bent and sucked its twin. He went slowly, languorously – this was a feast that he wanted to savour. His mouth trailed over warm, golden flesh, covered in little twists of hair, down towards the groin area, and Skinner pushed up against him as he went lower. Doggett paused again.


“What did I say, Walter? You give it up to me – all of it.” Doggett’s voice was low, and throaty and he loved the effect his words had on Skinner. The big man gave a moan of arousal and lowered his hips again. Doggett slowly, tantalisingly, undid Skinner’s pants and reached inside. He could feel Skinner’s hot, eager cock through the other man’s briefs. “Now you can lift your hips for me. Let’s get rid of these.”


Doggett slid Skinner’s pants and briefs off his thighs, threw them on the floor and then went back for a look at the treasure he had revealed. Skinner’s cock didn’t disappoint. Large, broad, cut and pulsing, Doggett looked forward to the day when he could take it in his ass, fast and hard, but that day hadn’t arrived yet. Doggett had something a little more sedate in mind for Skinner’s first sexual experience with another man in close to 30 years – especially considering the big man’s current physical condition. He bent his head and took Skinner’s cock in his mouth and Skinner groaned, and thrust up into him. Doggett drew back immediately.


“What did I tell you, Walter?” He asked, with mock severity.


“Feels so good,” Skinner muttered.


“Yeah, and it’ll keep on feeling that way for as long as you do what you’re told. Okay?” Skinner nodded, his eyes dark and trusting in the dim light from the lamp. Doggett smiled. “You’re doing good, Corporal,” he said. “Real good.” He sat astride Skinner once more and began slowly unbuttoning his own shirt. He slid it off his shoulders, never breaking eye contact with Skinner. He didn’t usually do the whole seduction routine, but then he was never usually so concerned about pleasing his partner as he was tonight – usually it was just a matter of fast, hard and urgent. Tonight was something different. Skinner looked up at him, a longing look in his eyes.


“Can I touch you?” He asked. Doggett smiled. There had been an unspoken ‘sir’ at the end of that question and he liked that – it turned him on.


“Go ahead.” He nodded, and Skinner reached up questing hands and slid them down Doggett’s hard, toned body. Doggett smile grew even broader as Skinner’s fingers lingered on a nipple and then went lower, down the back of his pants and over the crease between his buttocks.


“You like that huh? You want to go there?” Doggett asked. Skinner nodded, and Doggett knelt up and undid his pants. He quickly disposed of them and his boxers. His own cock was a fraction longer than Skinner’s although without the other man’s breadth – he was also uncut. Skinner reached out and ran his hand over Doggett’s shaft, moving the foreskin with his fingers, and Doggett placed a hand over the other man’s, stopping him.


“I didn’t say you could touch that,” he purred. Skinner looked startled.


“Sorry,” he whispered. “Can I touch it?” he asked, the ‘sir’ now almost tangible. Doggett grinned.


“Not yet. First I want to play with you some more.” He turned and, raising his backside in the air, ducked his head and took Skinner’s cock in his mouth in one smooth motion. Skinner groaned and bucked up against him, but this time Doggett allowed him the movement. He grinned to himself as he worked, guessing that Skinner was enjoying the view. Sure enough a few seconds later he felt hands on his backside, gently stroking, and then parting his buttocks and dipping inside. He hadn’t given permission but he liked the sensation too much to quibble about it at this point.


Doggett teased Skinner’s cock with his tongue and lips for several long minutes until the other man was groaning under him. Then he turned around, and laid down next to Skinner, their bodies pressed close. Doggett raised himself on one elbow and looked at Skinner’s naked body, lying next to him in all its glory.


“You sure are a sight for sore eyes,” he murmured, sweeping a hand over Skinner’s taut flesh, across his torso, and down his thigh. Much to his surprise, he noticed that Skinner was trembling slightly. “Okay, Walter?” He asked gently. “You cold? Want me to stop?”


“No,” Skinner replied through gritted teeth. “Just…” He lowered his head, unable to meet Doggett’s eyes. Doggett sighed – this was a habit he was going to have to break, endearing though it was. He lifted Skinner’s chin so that the other man was looking at him. “Nervous, I guess,” Skinner admitted. “It’s been a long time. Are you going to…?” He gestured vaguely with his hand in the general direction of the lower half of his body.


“No,” Doggett smiled tenderly, and brushed the side of Skinner’s face with the back of his hand. “Not today. Would you like that though? Another day?”


“Maybe. Yes.” Skinner shrugged, his eyes downcast again.


“Good. When you’re ready – huh? Tonight I have something different in mind. Now just lie there and enjoy this, Walter.” Doggett pressed his lips against Skinner’s and the other man’s parted easily beneath his embrace. As he kissed, Doggett reached a hand down and took Skinner’s hard cock in his hands. He squeezed it, and then began pumping more vigorously, all the time kissing Skinner soundly, exploring the other man’s mouth with his tongue. Skinner moaned into him as he expertly aroused the other man towards climax, but Doggett sensed something wasn’t right – Skinner wasn’t letting go. He drew back, and looked Skinner in the eyes.


“Walter, any time you want to come, you just shoot, okay?” He said.


“What about you?” Skinner asked. “I haven’t done anything for you.” Doggett suppressed a little smile. However surly the big, bad AD Skinner acted in the office, in the bedroom he was proving to be a total pussycat.


“Don’t you worry about me. This is about you,” he said, his long fingers caressing the side of Skinner’s face tenderly. “Now, just let go, Walter. You deserve it.” He lowered his head and began kissing Skinner again. Skinner opened up under him with a sigh, as if he had needed permission to enjoy himself. Doggett found the other man’s lips looser, his body more relaxed and welcoming under him. He reached for Skinner’s cock again, and began massaging it once more, with slow, languorous strokes. Before long Skinner was making moaning sounds into Doggett’s mouth, and then he was trying to pull back as his climax grew near, but Doggett wasn’t about to allow that. He covered the top part of Walter’s torso with his own body, keeping him pinned underneath him, and set about kissing him in earnest, all the time sliding his hand up and down that warm, solid cock. Skinner finally surrendered, and gave himself up to the sensations, no longer trying to fight them. His body seemed to sink further into the mattress as he became more and more relaxed, and then he was coming, spurting into Doggett’s hand as they continued their passionate kissing. Finally, Doggett released the other man, drew back a little, and looked down on Skinner.


“Good?” he asked.


Skinner was panting from the exertion, but there was a broad smile on his face. “Very good, Sergeant,” he murmured.


Doggett laughed. “Good – then let’s clean up and get some sleep, Corporal.”


They took turns in the bathroom, and then Doggett helped Skinner into the bed. Doggett pressed his naked chest against Skinner’s back and held the other man against him.


“Don’t you want to…?” Skinner asked, as Doggett’s still aroused cock pressed into his buttocks.


“No. I don’t want to do anythin’. This suits me just fine,” Doggett replied into the other man’s ear. “Now go to sleep, Walter.”


“Yessir,” Skinner said in a wryly amused tone. Doggett smiled. Skinner was clearly unsure how to take all this concern for his welfare combined with the not entirely joking orders he was being given. Doggett wrapped his arms more tightly around his new lover’s body. He had what he had wanted most in the world, right here beside him in the bed. He couldn’t have been happier, but, having tasted Skinner once, he knew that he was now more hopelessly in love than ever before. A wave of foreboding went through him. The future, their future wouldn’t be an easy one, he knew that much…and he’d fight to keep this prize he’d so unexpectedly won, no matter how hard the battle might be, or who it might be against.




Doggett woke early the next day to find his face nuzzled against Skinner’s shoulder. He looked around blearily, and then came to with a blissful smile. Skinner was still fast asleep, one large arm slung over Doggett’s thigh. Doggett smiled and spent a few moments gazing at his new lover. Skinner was already looking better than he had at any point during the past two weeks. A healthy glow had returned to his skin, and the pain lines on his face had faded. He looked a lot younger than Doggett was accustomed to seeing him as well. Doggett spent a long time just watching the other man sleep. He had never imagined that the day would ever come where he woke up in Walter Skinner’s bed, with a naked, utterly trustful Walter Skinner by his side, and he wanted to savour the moment.


Finally, he dragged himself away, slipped quietly to the bathroom with his clothes, and got dressed. He let himself out of the apartment, went to a local diner, and returned bearing breakfast. Skinner woke with a start when Doggett took the meal up to his lover on a tray, along with a carrier bag full of various other goodies.


“Hey, sleepyhead,” Doggett grinned. “I don’t know about you but I’m starving – we didn’t get anything to eat last night.”


Skinner looked at him for a moment, as if he wasn’t quite sure where he was or what the hell Doggett was doing in his bedroom. Doggett held his breath. If Skinner turned around to him in the cold light of day and did the denial thing he had become so accustomed to since working on the X Files then he knew he’d explode – and things would get very messy indeed. Skinner stretched and sat up in the bed, his expression neutral – so Doggett had no way of judging what was going on in his head.


“You’re a gourmet cook?” Skinner raised an eyebrow at the feast laid out in front of him.


“Hell, no. Most I can manage to cook for breakfast is pop tarts. I’m hopeless in the kitchen. No, I bought take out.”


Skinner gave a grin, and Doggett couldn’t help himself – he leaned forward as he handed Skinner the tray, and kissed the other man full on the lips. Skinner’s mouth was hesitant at first, and then opened up to him, willing and soft. Doggett drew back, a satisfied smile on his face. That answered that question at least.


“Thought I might have changed my mind?” Skinner asked quietly gazing at the contents of the tray appreciatively. Doggett sat down on the bed, and picked a buttered bagel from the tray.


“Well, last night was a bit of a surprise – for both of us I think. No telling what might happen once the moment passed. I didn’t know if you were going to wake up viewing me as a huge mistake.” Doggett took a bite of his bagel and watched as Skinner began to eat voraciously from the variety of foods on the tray.


“I’ve made a few huge mistakes in my life but I don’t think last night was one of them,” Skinner murmured between mouthfuls. “I’ll be honest with you though, John. I’m not sure I know what last night was all about, or how I feel about it.”


“Fair enough.” Doggett nodded. “Honesty I can handle. You just keep being honest with me, Walter – that’s all I ask of you.”


Skinner met Doggett’s gaze speculatively, as if surprised by that comment. Finally he nodded, and continued eating. Doggett sighed internally – while he was sure that Walter Skinner was a fundamentally honest man, he was also a very private man – and right now Skinner was so lost and confused that he felt sure that the big man didn’t even have the capability of being honest with himself, let alone anyone else. Skinner was adrift, floating out at sea with nothing to cling to. Doggett intended to be the other man’s anchor because he was damned if he was going to allow Skinner to drift so far out into the cold that he would never be able to find his way back.


“Breakfast wasn’t all I bought,” Doggett said, changing the subject with a grin. He reached for the bag he’d slung on the bed. “Here.” He emptied the morning’s newspapers out of the bag and Skinner’s face widened into a broad grin.


“I think you’re spoiling me,” he said, laughing.


“I think you’re worth spoiling,” Doggett replied, handing the other man a paper. “How are you feeling, Corporal? Are you tired today, or raring to go?”
Skinner stretched his arms over his head and considered that for a moment, then relaxed.


“You, know, I’m feeling pretty good,” he said. “I can’t believe I slept all night. I’m feeling much better than yesterday. The drugs must be more or less out of my system I think.” Doggett was pleased to hear it – and it was certainly true that Skinner was looking a damn sight better than he had at any time over the past two weeks. Skinner opened the paper, and they both sat in a mess of food, tray, drink, and newspapers, reading avidly, and catching up on the lastest news. They’d been quietly eating and reading for half an hour when Skinner suddenly glanced up.


“John – what’s with the whole Corporal deal?” He asked. “Last night, as I recall, you were fairly…assertive in bed.”


“Does that bother you?” Doggett asked carefully, taking another bite out of his bagel, and flicking over a page in the newspaper he wasn’t really reading. Skinner thought about it for a moment.


“No…” he answered at last, uncertainly. “I’m just not used to…”


“Giving up control. I know.” Doggett smiled at him. “A big guy like you, powerful job – it’s kind of expected of you to take charge everywhere isn’t it? The women you’ve been with probably brought those expectations to sex didn’t they?”


“I guess so. I’ve never really thought about it.” Skinner shrugged. “I’ve always been so much bigger and stronger than my partners…I had to take care of them…I suppose I did always take the lead in the bedroom.”


“Well, isn’t it nice to experience it from a different angle?” Doggett put his head on one side and considered the other man for a moment. Skinner’s jaw did a sideways clench, so Doggett guessed that whatever was going on inside was something Skinner wasn’t entirely at ease with.


“Yes,” Skinner answered finally. He didn’t look very comfortable with that admission but Doggett was sure that he was at least being honest.


“Look, Walter, I enjoy taking charge of personal relationships – I have a clear idea of what I want, and what I want to give, and I go for it. That’s just me. I don’t mean any disrespect by it – quite the contrary in fact. You see, I think, Walter, that right now you need to give it up, to let go, and just enjoy someone else calling the shots for a change. Is there any part of your life you haven’t had to rigidly control for these past few years?” Skinner’s jaw slid sideways again, and locked into place. His eyes were downcast as he struggled with the answer to that question. “Walter?” John prompted. Skinner looked up at him from under his eyelashes – even without his glasses, Doggett noticed that Skinner still needed some way of hiding his true emotions.


“No. No, John. You’re right.” Skinner gave a tight smile.


“And you’re so weary of that…desperately tired – anyone can see that, anyone who cares about you at least – and I care. I’m not asking anythin’ of you, Walter. I’m just giving – for as long as you need to keep taking. I want you to lean on me all you need right now but I want to tell you this.” Doggett leaned forward and put a hand on Skinner’s arm. “You don’t need to worry that our relationship will cause any problems in the office. I respect you, Walter – whether you’re butt naked in bed taking my orders, or dressed up in a suit in the office giving me orders. Respect’s what it’s all about. You’ll never find me takin’ advantage of what we have between us – you just keep me in the loop, and you can rely on me to be honest with you in return. Hell, you know enough about my honesty by now, having been on the receiving end of it a few times, to know I won’t pull any punches. I’m not Mulder or Scully, Walter. You need to be told something and I won’t let rank keep me from givin’ it to you straight.”
Skinner gave a wry grunt. “I’d kind of figured that much,” he said with a little grimacing grin.


“Good. Are we done here?” Doggett surveyed the wreckage of their meal. “Because if we are, I have some plans.”


“Okay.” Skinner put the tray on the nightstand and began to pull back the sheets.


“Hold it – who said my plans involved you getting out of bed?” Doggett asked with a grin. He swept the newspapers onto the floor, and toed his shoes off. Skinner answered with a smile of his own – a shyer, more desperately insecure smile than Doggett could ever have imagined the other man was capable of.


“You gotta relax, Walter. I’m the one who’s in charge of making it good,” Doggett said, climbing onto the bed. “You just gotta lie there and do as you’re told.” He quickly disposed of his clothes and then reached for the last couple of items left in the bag he’d brought up to the room. Skinner eyed the tube of lube and packets of condoms nervously.


“You ever do anal sex with your lover all those years ago, Walter?” Doggett asked.


Skinner shook his head. “I, uh, went inside him a few times, but I never wanted to…be on the receiving end.”


“You mean that even back then you never wanted to give up control to that extent,” Doggett said bluntly. “Well, we aren’t going to do anything you don’t want to – but I sure as hell intend to take you to the point where you want to. Last night you said you were in my hands – I can show you a hundred different ways to enjoy yourself if you still feel the same way this morning. So, Walter, will you let me? Are you going to give it all up for me again, Corporal?”


Skinner made a little face at the mode of address, and he was clearly uncertain where this was headed – but at the same time, there was a need in him to surrender that was almost visible in his brown eyes. Doggett smiled. He leaned over, and kissed Skinner firmly on the lips, pushed his tongue inside and gently explored within. Skinner opened up for him so sweetly and that was all the answer he needed.


“I’ll take that a ‘yes’ then,” he said when he’d finished, gently brushing his hand over Skinner’s cheek. The other man looked embarrassed by the affection inherent in the caress. Doggett wasn’t surprised – so many of his own gender understood the dynamics of sex and need, but were apprehensive about the emotional aspects of sex. Doggett enjoyed a fast, frantic fuck as much as the next guy, but he’d long ago come to realise that when it was good, really good, it was as a result of genuine affection between the two participants. He had therefore long since left embarrassment about expressing that affection behind him. He didn’t play games in relationships, or pretend to feel less than he did, or commit less than he felt for fear of scaring the other person away. He was just himself, take it or leave it.


“What’s the matter, Walter? You think that stuff’s just for women? Don’t go fooling yourself this is just about sex, because it isn’t. You were honest enough to tell me that you don’t know what you’re feeling right now, but I can tell you that I’m feeling pretty damn happy. I’m in bed with a fantastic looking guy who just happens to be someone I know, respect, and care about. I’m not askin’ for anything back from you, I told you that already. This is what I want to give – if that changes I’ll tell you. You won’t have to read it in my body language, or arguments, or what’s left unsaid between us. Understand me?”
Skinner looked overwhelmed.


“I think so,” he said at last. Doggett guessed he’d never been in a relationship where people talked to each other like this – so this was going to be something of a learning curve. Well, what the hell, Walter Skinner’s heart was a prize worth waiting for. He could be patient.


“Okay then. I want you to roll onto your front.”


Skinner thought about it for a second, and then did as he was told. Doggett pulled back the sheets to reveal the most beautiful sight he thought he’d ever witnessed. Last night it had been dark in the lamp-lit bedroom, and he’d not really had the opportunity to check out his lover’s ass, but now he was viewing it in all its glory; Skinner’s long limbs ended in the most beautiful, taut, plump, rounded buttocks that Doggett had ever had the pleasure to witness. He let out a long, low whistle, and Skinner looked up at him, startled.


“What’s the matter?” He asked.


“What’s the matter? Only that there’s a crime been committed all these years and I never even knew about it!” Doggett replied with a wide grin. “You’ve been hiding this under layers of cotton and wool all this time, Walter!” he chided. Skinner looked at him as if he’d gone out of his mind, and then let out a deep, low, rumbling laugh of amazement. “Looks to me like you’re a man who’s not used to being complimented. Your past lovers have been holdin’ out on you, Walter,” Doggett said, grinning broadly. Skinner was looking noticeably more relaxed, if still very embarrassed. “Okay – you’re going to have to let me play with my new toy for a while,” Doggett told him. “I want you to just lie there while I get to work. I don’t want you doing anything but what I tell you.”


He slid down the bed, and ran his hands over Skinner’s firm, golden buttocks. It was an experience of sheer sensory delight, and he went slowly, massaging, kneading, enjoying the feel of all that beautiful flesh under his fingertips.


“Open your legs, Walter,” he ordered, and Skinner moved them a little. “Wider, Corporal – I need some access here,” Doggett said. Skinner was hesitant, but did as he was told. “Good man. Now just hold on tight to the pillows because I’m betting you’ve never experienced anything like what I’m about to do next.” Doggett smiled, and grasped Skinner’s buttocks lovingly in his hands, then parted them, and bent his head to the dark opening he’d revealed. The effect was instantaneous. Skinner jumped into the air, a startled sound dying in his throat. The force of one of those long limbs kicking him knocked Doggett back.


“At ease, Corporal,” he ordered softly, pushing Skinner back down onto the bed. “There’s no way this hurts so just lie back down again.”


“Christ…was that…was that your tongue?” Skinner asked.


“Yeah – and it’s going back in there so you’d better get used to it, Corporal. I want to spend quite a long time drinking from this particular well so lie still.”


“You enjoy this?” Skinner asked, sounding bemused, as Doggett returned to his former position and began parting Skinner’s buttocks again.


“You bet. Now be quiet, Corporal – just relax and enjoy.” Doggett grinned to himself as he sank his tongue back into Skinner’s ass. He loved rimming and was damn good at it – Walter Skinner was going to find himself rimmed by the best. He wanted to give his new lover an experience he’d never forget. He dipped his tongue into the sensitive opening, back and forth, and felt Skinner tense under him. He knew the big man was finding it hard to just relax and be made love to like this, so Doggett stroked Skinner’s buttocks gently, soothing him until the body beneath him began to sink into the mattress. Doggett went slowly, teasing the little pink opening, enjoying the way it was relaxing under his ministrations. Before long, he heard little noises emanating from Skinner’s throat and his own cock hardened at the sound. God, he loved doing this! He loved the feel of Skinner’s body responding to what he was doing to it, loved the sensation of this big, buttoned up, in-control man giving it all up to him. It turned him on so much. His tongue was moving faster now, pushing deeper into the crevasse he was exploring. Skinner was moaning in earnest, his body moving rhythmically in time to Doggett’s questing tongue. Doggett savoured the sensations of Skinner’s buttocks under his hands and the scent of the big man’s body. Finally, judging that Skinner was now very relaxed and receptive, he pulled back, sat up on his haunches and looked down with some satisfaction on the man he’d just brought such exquisite pleasure to. Skinner looked as if he’d been flattened by a steam-roller, his body loose, his limbs akimbo, an expression of amazed bliss on his face.


“Oh shit,” he muttered. “That was so good. Thank you, John.”


“You’re welcome. Now turn over. I haven’t finished with you yet.” Doggett reached for the lube.


Skinner raised an eyebrow, as if surprised by the command.


“Did you think I’d make love to you this first time without being able to look into your eyes?” Doggett asked. “Come on, Corporal, move this ass.” He slapped Skinner’s butt lightly a couple of times, delighted by the way the skin went a soft pink in colour. Skinner rolled over as ordered, and lay looking up at Doggett, one arm over his forehead, partly obscuring his eyes.


“Move the arm, Corporal,” Doggett ordered firmly. “No hiding in this bedroom.”


“I wasn’t…” Skinner moved his arm. “I was just resting it there,” he murmured.


“I know what you were doing,” Doggett said softly. He straddled Skinner’s body and began stroking the big man, moving down slowly, inexorably, towards his groin. He was pleased to note that Skinner’s cock was already hard and weeping. Doggett tangled his fingers in Skinner’s chest hair, snagged at a nipple, played with it for a while, and then moved lower, sliding back along Skinner’s legs as he did so. He took Skinner’s hard cock in his hand and massaged it firmly, but didn’t stay there for too long in case Skinner came before he wanted him to. Instead he sat up, and tapped Skinner’s thighs.


“Open your legs for me, Corporal,” he ordered. Skinner did as he was told, faster this time than the last. Doggett pushed the large, muscled thighs further apart, and then smeared lube on his fingers, all the time looking Skinner in the eye. “Okay…I’m not going to do anything to hurt you. This is all about you enjoying yourself, so I want you to just relax and let me show you my moves.” Doggett grinned and Skinner, reassured, smiled back. “The only thing I want you to do is keep your eyes on me. That’s all. Just keep connected so I can see how you’re reacting.”


Doggett grabbed a pillow with his un-lubed hand and ordered Skinner to lift his hips so he could push the pillow underneath. Then, when he had the big man comfortably arranged, he began playing, very gently with Skinner’s balls. After awhile, his fingers dipped down towards the other man’s buttocks, and then, without warning, he slipped one finger inside. Skinner tensed and then relaxed as he realised this wasn’t uncomfortable. Doggett smiled, and reached for Skinner’s cock with his free hand. His lover moaned as Doggett took it skilfully in his hand and rubbed it up and down in time to the thrusts of his fingers. Skinner was being so expertly pleasured that he barely noticed when Doggett put another finger inside him. “I’m going to go deeper – hold on,” Doggett said, sliding his fingers as far as they’d go. He moved them around, all the time watching for Skinner’s reaction. The other man’s anus was fully relaxed under his ministrations – he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the sensations of his own body. Doggett risked inserting a third finger and Skinner wriggled on his fingers, clearly happy to take the extra digit.


“Does this feel good, Walter?” Doggett asked.


“Yes…” Skinner looked almost beyond coherent speech.


“We can finish this soon if you want – I can bring you off, or we can take it further. Would that be too much too soon for you, Corporal?”


“I don’t know.” Skinner looked at Doggett uncertainly.


“Okay.” Doggett nodded. Skinner had said he was numb, and Doggett had accepted that Skinner wasn’t in a place where he was too sure of anything right now. All his certainties had been eroded over the past few years, until he found himself in the position of not being in touch with his own wants and needs or even the most basic desires of his body. That was understandable – so it was up to Doggett to see that he found himself again. “All right – you’re enjoying this so much that I’m going to lube myself up, and we’ll see if you want to take me. Going in it might burn a little, but you’re nicely relaxed and so slippy inside that it shouldn’t hurt for long if it does at all. If you don’t like it, just holler and I’ll stop.”


Doggett undid a condom package and slid the rubber over his rigid cock. He longed to make love to Skinner with his cock, to show him the stars, as he always thought of it, when the world exploded around you in sexual ecstasy. Doggett smoothed a generous quantity of lubricant over his condomed cock, and then positioned himself between Skinner’s outstretched thighs. He lifted Skinner’s legs onto his shoulders, then took hold of Skinner’s buttocks in both his hands, and slowly edged the tip of his cock into the entrance. Skinner was gazing up at him, apprehension evident in his dark eyes. He furled his fists by his side, clearly determined to take whatever was going to happen to him. Doggett stopped and reached out to unfurl one of those fists. He covered Skinner’s hand with his own.


“None of this is going to be an endurance test. You’ve just been through two weeks of that. This is about enjoyment. If you don’t like it, we stop. It’s that simple,” Doggett told him firmly. “Understood, Corporal?”


“Yes, Sergeant,” Skinner said with a genuine smile.


“Okay then.” Doggett began pushing slowly into Skinner’s body, revelling in the way the big man’s narrow passage opened up to him. Skinner was tight and warm and Doggett knew he’d have to exercise some self-control to keep from coming on the spot. He slid in further and further and then, without warning, pushed all the way in and, as he did so, propelled his entire body forward and placed his hands on either side of Skinner’s chest. Their faces were now so close as to be almost touching.


“Okay…just breathe…” Doggett said soothingly, as Skinner’s eyes registered something close to panic – more Doggett suspected, from the unexpected sensations than from being in any distress. “Keep looking at me, Corporal, and keep breathing,” Doggett ordered, looked into Skinner’s dark eyes the whole time, never breaking contact. Skinner nodded and the panic receded from his eyes. “Okay…this feels so damn good. You are so damn sexy lying here like this, under me, around me,” Doggett purred, feeling like the cat that got the cream. He shifted his weight slightly, angled his cock in a little deeper and Skinner gave a gasp.


“Good?” Doggett asked.


Skinner nodded frantically. “Oh shit,” he whispered.


“That’s your prostate – wait until I thrust, it’ll drive you wild. First though, I want you to just adjust to the feel of me inside you.”


Doggett lowered his head and stole a kiss from Skinner’s lips and the big man opened up immediately to let his tongue in. When the kiss ended, Doggett pushed himself back and withdrew his cock a little, then slid back in…small strokes, just to get Skinner accustomed to the sensations of penetration. Only when he was sure his partner was ready, did he begin to push in hard, with long, slow, rhythmic thrusts.


“Touch your cock – bring yourself off,” Doggett instructed, panting as he moved harder and faster. Skinner’s gaze never left him, brown eyes locked with blue, and soon the big man was sighing with pleasure underneath him, his hand pumping desperately between his legs. He began crying out on every inward thrust as Doggett unerringly hit his prostate each time, and then Doggett could tell that Skinner was on the verge of coming, as his eyes glazed and his voice became hoarse. His own climax was close and he stepped up a level and was now thrusting so hard and so fast that Skinner’s face was a blur. Doggett put his head back as he felt his climax take him. Sweat was flooding off his body, and then he was coming hard, sheathed inside the beautiful body of the man lying underneath him. He slumped down and claimed Skinner’s mouth with another kiss, aware of the other man’s sticky come on his stomach between them, and pleased that Skinner had reached his own orgasm. Doggett lay on Skinner’s chest for a moment, utterly sated.


“Oh shit,” he said at last. “That was mind blowing. Thank you, Walter.” He kissed Skinner again. Skinner’s eyes were dark with pleasure, but it was clear from the expression on his face that he was too far gone to say anything in reply. Doggett smiled happily. “Looks like the earth moved for you too, Corporal. Stay still, I’m going to withdraw…”


Doggett slowly disengaged himself, removed the condom, tied it, and threw it onto one of the dishes on the tray on the floor. Then he slid back down to lie beside Skinner, his body pressed close to that of the man he had just made love to. He took Skinner’s head in his hands, and pressed it against his own body, kissing the bald head tenderly. Skinner came easily – he seemed utterly boneless and beyond coherent speech. Doggett was content to just rest there with him, both of them sweaty and sated beyond expression.


They dozed, and then, after a long time, Skinner moved his head and angled up his face for a kiss. Doggett obliged, squeezing Skinner’s buttock affectionately with his free hand.


“Well…” Skinner’s voice sounded husky. “When you told that doctor you’d take good care of me, I’m not sure this is what she had in mind.”


Doggett laughed out loud, and squeezed Skinner’s buttock again. “Oh boy, you’re right about that, but I said I’d get you back to health and a little light exercise combined with some bed rest is just what the doctor would have ordered I think. Hell, it’s about the only way I’d manage to keep a patient as stubborn as you in bed!”


Skinner’s laugh was a low, bass, rumbling roar that bubbled up deep inside his chest and then exploded to the surface. They both laughed together, hands clasped around each other, and then, exhausted once more, sank back into silent contemplation of what had passed between them. Doggett thought that particular session of lovemaking was the most intense he’d ever experienced in his life – and not one that he’d ever forget.


“You’re mine now,” he whispered to the dozing Skinner, his lips brushing Skinner’s naked scalp. “You hear me, Corporal? You’re mine now – body and soul. I just made you mine, just claimed you for my own, and I ain’t ever letting you go again.”


Skinner, half asleep, burrowed his head deeper into Doggett’s neck and let out a low, contented sigh.


They spent a lazy day together. Doggett was not only wildly attracted to Skinner physically – he really enjoyed being with the other man as well. They finished reading the papers, went out for a walk and then returned to the apartment. It was comfortable – they didn’t talk about their relationship, or anything heavier than an article they’d both read in the morning papers. Doggett knew that their relationship wasn’t a subject he wanted to be just ignored, like so much else in Skinner’s life, but he also didn’t want to rush anything. So he was surprised when after they’d eaten their evening meal, Skinner pushed back his plate, looked at him thoughtfully for a moment, and then said:


“What happened to Tony?”


Doggett pushed his own plate away with a sigh. “It’s a good question. Sometimes I wonder about it myself. We just went wrong, Walter.” He paused. “No, that’s not quite true – there were reasons. Tony needed a lot of my attention. He was younger than me, greener than me – and he had a kind of wild flamboyance that had to be reined in if it wasn’t going to get him killed.”


“Sounds familiar,” Skinner grunted.


Doggett smiled. “I can assure you Tony wasn’t anything like Fox Mulder,” he said.


“Ah, but you didn’t know Fox Mulder 8 years ago, when I first met him,” Skinner replied softly, a faraway expression in his eyes.


“True,” Doggett conceded. “But somehow I don’t think Tony and Mulder would have had much in common, even back then. Tony was a good man, but…he wanted me to be something I wasn’t. You asked earlier about me calling the shots in the bedroom – Tony was attracted to that side of me. Over time he wanted more than that though – and he started taking me into territory I wasn’t comfortable with.”


“Are we talking kinky stuff here?” Skinner shifted uncomfortably.


“Yes.” Doggett nodded. “You see, for me, the turn on was in the power play between me and him. Tony liked things a little rougher.”


“Don’t tell me he wanted you to spank him?” Skinner chuckled, although the pink tips of his ears betrayed the fact that he was embarrassed.


“Oh, he wanted a lot more than that. Spanking, rough sex – that’s not hard to deliver. I don’t need it but I can sure as hell enjoy it. I even turned my hand to bondage every now and again when he needed it…but he wanted something else. He liked a kind of extreme verbal humiliation and I couldn’t deliver that – and he tried to provoke me into hitting him a few times. He had a fetish about gut punching that again, I just couldn’t deliver.” Doggett shrugged. “I sensed he had a need to go deeper and darker and I didn’t want to go there. Then…” He shook his head. “Then Luke died,” he said softly. “And Tony didn’t know how to cope. He was used to me taking care of him you see, and suddenly I didn’t have the energy for that any more. I threw myself into the search for Luke’s killer, against orders, against all good sense. It became my obsession – I literally didn’t care about anything or anyone else, including him. He felt neglected, and started behaving badly in order to get my attention. I just didn’t have time for that kind of bullshit. I reacted angrily and told him to leave. Sometimes I regret that…but I think we were heading for the rocks anyway. We were pulling in all kinds of different directions.” Doggett paused and gazed at Skinner for a moment. “You know, that’s why I figure I understand the place you’re in right now, Walter. Tony wanted me to be strong for him all the time, to always be that person for him, and that placed me under a lot of pressure. Usually it’s fine – it’s a pressure I can not only cope with – I actually enjoy it. But when Luke was killed…I needed someone to look out for me…Tony couldn’t be that person.”


He sighed, took a sip of water, and then looked back at Skinner who was staring at him intently. “You’re in that place I was in, Walter. You’ve been doing the taking care for a long time. You’ve been takin’ all the responsibility, trying to keep people safe, hiding the truth so it doesn’t hurt people, trying to make the best of a bad situation, always being the strong guy, holding others up. I saw you at Mulder’s funeral, holding Scully up, and I knew how you felt watching that coffin disappear into the grave. You blamed yourself for Mulder being abducted in the first place, but you couldn’t even allow yourself to experience that grief while Scully needed you to be strong. I understand that, I really do, but at some point you have to let it out –you have to let it go, or you’ll go insane. I know. I looked madness in the eye during that time after Luke died. I was a mess. It was Debbie who pointed it out to me eventually. She said she’d lost Luke and she didn’t want to lose me too – our friendship meant too much to her for that. So I pulled myself back together but it wasn’t easy. I had to stop chasing after shadows in order to find the man who did that to Luke…” Doggett felt his jaw tightening as he said that. “I was partly doing all that chasing just to avoid the depths of my own grief. Only when I stopped did I allow myself to really feel the full sorrow of what happened to my son. It was harrowing and painful, but in a way facing up to that grief saved my life. Eventually I was able to come out the other side – it’ll always hurt, sure, but at least I’ve been able to move on. That was partly why I came to DC – to make a fresh start. I’m glad I did.” He looked meaningfully at Skinner. Skinner smiled a gentle smile. He didn’t say anything but one of his big hands came to rest over John’s fingers and he squeezed, silently.


Skinner seemed almost completely recovered by the time he returned to work on Monday. In fact, he seemed exceptionally bright. There was a burning energy that radiated through him continuously. Doggett wanted to flatter himself that it was because of their fledgling relationship, to even hope that it might be a result of Skinner starting to reciprocate his feelings, but he knew in his heart that wasn’t the case. Skinner was riding high on hope; he’d killed the man who’d been torturing him for two years, he’d recovered the palm pilot, and undergone those gruelling medical tests searching for a cure. Skinner was a goal-oriented person and Doggett could see that while he was taking steps towards reaching the goal of eliminating the nanocytes from his bloodstream, he was happy. At least now he could do something, instead of being the passive victim, sitting around waiting for Krycek to show up and press his buttons all over again. Skinner was allowing himself to believe that he’d turned a corner. Mulder had taken off into the unknown and was no longer Skinner’s responsibility, his relationship with Doggett was getting him in touch with his body’s needs and his own emotions after a long period of crippling numbness following the death of his wife, and soon he would get the results of his medical tests. Doggett was concerned that Skinner’s euphoria was misplaced – a false hope that would bring him crashing down if anything went wrong. There was a lack of resilience behind it – all that was keeping Skinner going was a brittle façade of strength – and it was a façade that Doggett could see through all too easily.


Doggett left Skinner’s apartment on Sunday night. He didn’t see his lover again until lunchtime the following day when he ran up to Skinner’s office as usual to see if he was free for lunch. Kim waved him in with a smile, and Doggett wondered whether his eager affection showed on his face. He knocked on Skinner’s door and then poked his head around it…and stopped dead in his tracks. He had seen Skinner in his suit countless times, but somehow it was different for him now that they had become lovers, now that he knew what lay beneath the tailored lines of the trousers and the stiff bleached cotton of the shirt. Skinner looked, quite simply, breathtaking to him, standing there in his office, a file in his hand, and a distracted look on his face. Doggett was relieved when Skinner broke into a smile upon seeing him.
“Is it lunchtime already?” Skinner glanced at his watch.


“Yes – but I can see you’re up to your eyeballs in work.” Doggett glanced at the four mounds of paperwork on Skinner’s desk and the several files around his chair.


“Two weeks worth of catching up to do. There’s no way I can make lunch today, I’m afraid.” Skinner shook his head.


“Need some help?” Doggett gestured at the files. “I could grab us something from the cafeteria and we could work through some of these together. You were intending to eat, I take it?” There was a dangerous edge to his voice.


“Yes, John, I was intending to eat,” Skinner said with a grimace. “And if you don’t mind giving a hand I could really use the help.”


“No problem, sir.”


Skinner looked at him as if the “sir” surprised him, but Doggett had told him he’d respect Skinner’s rank at the office and he intended to do just that.


“Thank you, John,” Skinner replied softly, and Doggett was sure the “thank you” was for more than just the offer of help – it was also for keeping his word about not letting their personal relationship affect their work.


Doggett returned to the basement after their working lunch, and didn’t see Skinner again until they had a budget meeting with various department heads at 4.30 pm. Doggett was there as head of the X Files department. When he’d first taken over the duty of attending these meetings he’d checked with Kim for memos of previous departmental meetings and had found that Agent Mulder’s attendance had been sketchy at best – and when he had been there, there had always been some kind of Mulderesque outburst that the AD had diplomatically smoothed over but which caused problems with the heads of the other departments. Doggett sympathised with Mulder – budget meetings were always tiresome – but if Mulder wouldn’t take the time to attend and play the diplomatic game, then it was hardly surprising that his requests for more funding were often denied or overlooked – although Doggett suspected that Skinner frequently worked some kind of deal behind the scenes to ensure the X Files department got more than they otherwise would.


It was a kind of delicious purgatory to be sitting in Skinner’s office, watching his lover go through the meeting’s agenda, gazing appreciatively as the light from the window lit Skinner’s burly shoulders, illuminating his domed head, square jaw and dark eyes. Doggett allowed himself a moment or two to indulge and then pulled himself together and concentrated on the meeting – he prided himself on his ability to be professional and his working life was important to him.


“Sir, the budget allocation for the X Files department is the same as last year’s,” he pointed out as Skinner sat down at the conference table.


“That’s right, Agent.” Skinner nodded.


“With all due respect, sir, we now have three members of staff working on the X Files when last year there were only two.”


“I don’t see why the X Files should be given more money just because of empire building,” one of the other departmental heads murmured.


“The caseload has increased – that’s hardly empire building,” Doggett shot back.


“No, it’s not,” someone else said. Doggett was about to flash a smile for the support when the man continued. “It’s just that now that Mulder’s gone it takes them twice as long to solve their cases. It takes two agents to fill old Spooky’s shoes.” There was a little ripple of laughter around the table. Doggett sighed; this looked like being a long meeting. He held up his side of the debate though, shot down their arguments, and then sat back and waited for Skinner’s final word on the subject.


“Agent Doggett, I appreciate the reasons behind your request,” Skinner said in measured tones, “but I can’t approve more money for the X Files. It’s already a very expensive department to run, and we do have other costs that take priority. However…” He cut Doggett short. “I will promise to review that decision in 6 months time rather than waiting the usual 12. If there needs to be an alteration at that time, I’ll do my best to push it through.”


Doggett considered that for a moment, but it was fair – and exactly the kind of response he would have expected from Skinner prior to their relationship.


“Thank you, sir,” he said quietly. It wasn’t the outcome he’d hoped for, but it was something.


The meeting finished late, and Doggett began following the other department heads out of the door.


“Agent Doggett.” Skinner called him back.


“Sir?” He shut the door and turned back. They were alone in the room.


“I was wondering whether you were free this evening, John,” Skinner asked quietly. “I thought maybe we could go out to eat and then…” He left the sentence hanging. “That is if you’re not too pissed off about the outcome of the meeting we just had.”


Doggett laughed. “Agent Doggett’s pride is still a little wounded, Walter, but John wouldn’t let a little thing like that stand in the way of seeing you tonight. Your invitation sounds good.”


Skinner gave one of those shy smiles that Doggett had come to find so endearing.


“Great. If you want to meet me in the parking garage in a few minutes, we can drive back to my place for a…drink before heading out.”


Doggett grinned, his cock twitching in anticipation. He was fairly sure he knew what the word ‘drink’ was a euphemism for.


Doggett endured the drive home impatiently. Ever since he’d set eyes on Skinner in the office in his suit earlier he’d wanted to do nothing but prise the big man out of all that wool and cotton. He spent the entire drive fantasising about thrusting Skinner up against the wall and kissing him soundly. They were silent in the elevator in Skinner’s apartment building – both men just stared at each other, and Doggett saw his own longing reflected back at him in Skinner’s hungry eyes. They paused outside Skinner’s apartment while the big man fumbled for his keys until Doggett wanted to yell because he could hardly bear it, and then the door was opened and Doggett surged forward intending to push Skinner against the wall as he’d fantasised about…but instead he found two large hands on his shoulders and then he was the one being thrust back against the wall. Skinner’s fingers were all over his body, his mouth hard and warm on Doggett’s lips. They kissed passionately for a few seconds, while Doggett tried to get his brain back into gear, and then, pausing to draw breath, he put his hands on Skinner’s broad chest and without warning pushed him backwards against the opposite wall in the narrow hallway. Skinner went back with a thud, clearly surprised, and Doggett closed in and kissed him soundly, passionately, enjoying taking control again. A few seconds later he was surprised to find himself propelled backwards against the opposite wall, Skinner’s large body keeping him pinned against the hard surface. The big man’s hands were insistent on his body, as he tore off Doggett’s tie, opened his shirt, and pressed his clothed body against Doggett’s naked flesh while continuing to kiss him with a wild lack of restraint, over and over again. Doggett almost laughed out loud wondering where this particular power struggle was going to end. He waited for a long time, allowing Skinner to suck on his neck, and lick a trail of wet kisses along the top half of his torso and then, without warning, he moved again, and, grabbing Skinner, he turned the big man around and thrust him face forward against the wall. Skinner’s hands and forearms landed with a thud flat against the wall, his face turned sideways. Doggett pinned him there with his own body, having the benefit of both surprise and the fact that Skinner was in a disadvantaged position with his front to the wall. Doggett held Skinner in place with one hand and reached for the other man’s belt with the other.


“You’re going to have to let me win this round I think, Corporal,” he said.


“Like hell I will.” Skinner growled, trying to turn back. Doggett thumped him back against the wall before he got too far.


“Oh yes you will, Corporal,” he purred into Skinner’s ear. “Because I’ve got a condom and lube in my coat pocket and I’m going to rip these pants off your ass and fuck you into the wall – would you like that, Corporal?” Skinner’s groan of helpless arousal told him that he’d won. “Good man,” he grinned. “Would you like this hard and fast, Corporal, or do you want me to go slow and tender like we’ve been doing these past few days?” He undid Skinner’s pants, and pushed them down his legs along with the other man’s briefs, exposing his naked bottom. He caressed it for a moment with one hand, while he kept his other arm against the back of Skinner’s shoulders and neck, keeping him pinned into place. “I think you want it hard, don’t you?” He asked in a throaty tone. “I think you want to stand against this wall with your pants around your ankles and be fucked into next week. Isn’t that what you want, Corporal?” He punctuated this question by sliding one finger into Skinner’s ass.


“Fuck, yes!” Skinner moaned. “Hurry…” he panted.


“Patience, Corporal. Wait for it,” Doggett said with an evilly sexual grin. He reached into his pocket for the lube and coated his fingers liberally, before thrusting them into Skinner’s waiting body. The other man writhed against them and it wasn’t long before Doggett was satisfied that Skinner could take him. He released his own rigidly stiff cock from his pants, slid a condom onto it and then applied more lubricant. “You still with me, Corporal?” he asked, slamming his hand onto the back of Skinner’s neck again, and thrusting him forwards against the wall once more. He loved the way Skinner’s hands were spreadeagled against the hard surface and the other man’s body was so submissively accepting beneath him.


“Yes, sir,” Skinner breathed heavily, and Doggett felt a wave of pure arousal spread through him at the words. He hadn’t expected to be called, “sir”, didn’t need to be addressed that way, but hell it was such a turn on for this man, who he’d been addressing as “sir” just an hour ago in his office, to now be using the same word to address him. Doggett grabbed Skinner’s firm, golden buttocks in both his hands, spread the other man’s legs with one of his own feet, and then nudged his cock into Skinner’s waiting body. He sheathed himself in Skinner’s musky warmth so fast that he didn’t think either of them were still breathing when he ended up lodged to the hilt in the other man’s body.


“Oh shit,” Skinner murmured. Doggett grasped Skinner’s hips and began pumping into him as he’d promised – hard and fast, barely pausing to draw breath, so urgent was their need. Skinner’s head was thrown back and with each thrust Doggett found his face level with the side of Skinner’s cheek. He stole a kiss here and there, his hands never leaving Skinner’s hips as he thrust into him over and over again. Then he was coming and Skinner was still pushed up against the wall, and Doggett was still lodged deep inside the other man’s body as he exploded out his climax. He could feel Skinner’s body heat through the other man’s shirt as it pressed against his own exposed stomach. When he’d got his breath back a little, he put one of his hands over Skinner’s where the other man’s hand was still pressed against the wall, angled his head around to kiss Skinner’s mouth and, with his other hand, took Skinner’s cock in his own. God it felt good, standing here with his softening cock still lodged deep inside Skinner’s ass, one hand covering Skinner’s hand, his lips claiming Skinner’s lips, his other hand working Skinner’s cock to climax, and all the while the weight of his body keeping Skinner pressed face up against the wall. It felt as if the world had stopped turning and there was just the two of them, and Doggett had never felt so good in his life. He heard Skinner moan and then felt the other man’s sticky come on his hand. They stood there for a long time, trying to get their breath back, and then, slowly, Doggett withdrew. The plopping sound his penis made as he disengaged almost made him laugh and he looked down on the pair of them in their dishevelled state and shook his head.


“After that, dinner is going to be a real anti-climax,” he commented, removing the condom and tucking his cock back in his pants. Skinner grinned and pulled up his own garments. He rotated his shoulders with a wince as he fastened his pants. “I think we’re both going to feel all that wall slamming in the morning,” Doggett said, with a wry laugh.


“I can feel the bruises starting already,” Skinner confirmed. He fastened his trousers and gazed at Doggett thoughtfully. “Are you ever going to let me have the control, Sergeant?” He asked. Doggett pursed his lips as if considering the question.


“If you’re very good then maybe,” he conceded. “But not yet, Corporal, so you’d better get used to it.”


The expression on Skinner’s face implied that the big man didn’t think that getting used to it was going to be a problem at all.




In retrospect, Doggett supposed that he should have known it was all too good to last. He had gone into this relationship with his eyes open, knowing that Skinner was a man on the edge of the abyss, with many unresolved issues in his life. Their first week at the office had gone well – they’d met for lunch every day, seen each other every evening, and enjoyed some of the most mind blowing sex Doggett had ever experienced in his life. Doggett managed to get some tickets for a football game on Saturday and they made arrangements to meet in the afternoon – only Skinner didn’t show up. He called Doggett’s cellphone instead, and curtly offered his apologies, informing the other man he wouldn’t be able to make it but offering no reason why. Puzzled and angry, Doggett got in his car and drove straight to Skinner’s apartment. He pounded on the door until Skinner opened it and then pushed his way inside.


“What the hell is going on, Walter?” Doggett demanded. Skinner looked like shit – he hadn’t shaved and he smelled suspiciously of alcohol. “Have you been drinking this early in the day?” Doggett demanded. “Why?”


Skinner’s eyes were completely different to those he had looked into when they were making love the previous night. It was as if the shutters had come down. Skinner wrapped his arms around his own body and stared moodily at the carpet.


“It’s over, John,” he said in a low tone. “I can’t do this any more.”


“Can’t do what?” Doggett asked. “Can’t enjoy yourself? Can’t have a good time? Can’t allow yourself to be loved by someone? What?”


Skinner lifted his head at the mention of love, his eyes full of a light that died almost as soon as it began to be replaced by a dull, dead look.


“Can’t see you like this. Can’t continue like this.” Skinner remained in that self-defensive pose, his gaze fixed on a spot on the carpet. Doggett had to fight a very real urge to grab the other man’s head and pound some sense into it. Was this what he’d done to Sharon towards the end of their marriage, he wondered? Had Skinner shut down like this? Retreated behind those famous walls of his and refused to let her in?


“That bullshit might have worked with your wife, but it doesn’t cut it with me,” Doggett growled. “What’s going on here, Walter? What’s happened?”


Skinner’s lips pursed into a straight line, and he shook his head slightly. Doggett knew the other man wouldn’t tell him an outright lie – and something had clearly happened – so he was just shutting down, going silent on him.


“Walter.” Doggett grasped the Skinner’s shoulders. “For god’s sake – I can help you. Don’t you understand that?” He said desperately.


Skinner shook his head. “It’s over, John,” was all he’d say.


“Talk to me, damnit!” Doggett slammed Skinner against the wall, in a bitter parody of their lovemaking of less that a week before. The big man went back with a thump and while he made no attempt to retaliate, his dark eyes remained resolute and Doggett knew it was no use. He would get nothing out of Skinner.


“It might be over for you, Mister,” Doggett said in tones of quiet anger, “but it’s not over for me – not by a long shot. I’m going to keep hanging in here, buddy, because you sure as hell need someone right now, whether you’ll admit it to yourself or not.”


He stared at Skinner intently, willing the other man to crack but there was no reply. Skinner’s eyes were haunted, full of ghosts and demons as he stood there, his arms still wrapped tightly around his body. After several long, intense minutes of staring at each other, Doggett finally gave up. He went to the door, and, with one last look at the man he knew to be the love of his life, he left, slamming the door shut behind him.


End of Part One


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