Personal Time: 3. Part Three


Doggett wasn’t sure what Skinner’s reaction would be to their conversation about Mulder and Scully – and particularly the implications of his comments about Mulder. At first he thought there would be some immediate repercussions, or at least further conversations on the subject, and, while a part of him dreaded them in case Skinner decided to end their relationship as a result of analysing his feelings for Mulderr, another part of him knew he’d prefer to get the issue out in the open and deal with it, even if he ended up getting hurt as a result. However, as the weeks went by and neither of them spoke about it, it became clear that Skinner was falling back on another of his tried and trusted methods for avoiding personal issues he was uncomfortable with – he buried himself in his work.


Their relationship continued – but the opportunities for them to spend time alone became increasingly few and far between. At first Doggett didn’t realise what was going on, but as the weeks went by and he watched Skinner work long into the night most evenings, and saw how grey faced and haggard his lover was becoming, Doggett decided that he had to step in. He knew Skinner had several mechanisms for dealing with his emotions. One was to drink, but he only did that under extreme stress – Doggett didn’t think Skinner was anywhere near being a bottle a night alcoholic but drink was obviously an occasional crutch for him. The other was to punish himself, embarking on physical exercise routines that were nothing short of self-torture – just as he had in the hospital. The third way was denial, and in order to keep up this level of denial he had to have a distraction – which was where work came into the equation. Doggett was something of a workaholic himself – it was only when Luke had been born that he’d woken up, taken a good look at himself, and found that there was more to John Doggett than being a cop. He was a rounded person, with many interests outside of Law Enforcement, and he owed it both to himself, his son, and his career to lead as varied a life as possible. Watching Skinner work himself into the ground, Doggett knew his lover was effectively combining methods two and three of dealing with his emotions – he was working ridiculously long hours, not taking good care of himself, and thus effectively punishing himself in the process. It had to stop.


Doggett decided that it was time to remind his lover who was calling the shots in this relationship. He knew it wouldn’t be easy but if he didn’t act then he was sure Skinner would end up back in the hospital – only this time it would have nothing to do with nanocytes. Doggett intended raising the subject on one of their increasingly rare dates, only to find, when he arrived at Skinner’s apartment to pick him up, that his lover wasn’t home. He let himself into the apartment with his spare key, waited for fifteen minutes, his temper rising as each second passed, and then, finally, he got out his cellphone and called Skinner’s office.


“Skinner,” his lover answered, in a snappy tone. Doggett gritted his teeth – he had hoped that Skinner was in his car on his way home, but if he was still in the office then it looked as if he’d forgotten their date altogether – or was avoiding it.


“Walter – we had a date,” Doggett said calmly, thinking that maybe a genuine crisis was claiming the other man’s attention.


“John? What time is…? Oh, shit. I’m sorry. I got caught up in something I’m working on,” Skinner said apologetically.


“Anything urgent?” Doggett asked in a deceptively casual tone of voice, keeping a firm check on his temper.


“No – just complicated. I don’t want to leave it now, since it’ll be tough to pick up my train of thought again in the morning. I’ll be another hour.”


“No you won’t,” Doggett snapped. “You’ll be 15 minutes. Get your ass into your car and get home now.”


There was silence on the other end of the phone as Skinner considered his lover’s tone of voice and none-too-gently expressed command.


“John, I’m busy,” he said finally. “And I’d like to remind you that you agreed never to interfere with my work.”


“As a matter of fact I didn’t, Walter,” Doggett told him firmly. “I said I would always treat you with the respect due to your rank at work, but I’m not at work right now and you shouldn’t be either. Now get your ass home or I’ll come and get it – and believe me, I’ll be in a very bad mood indeed if you drag me out to the Hoover Building tonight.”


“Fuck this, you don’t own me, John. If I say I have to work then I do,” Skinner responded angrily.


“Your wife might’a bought that bullshit but I don’t,” Doggett snapped. “I know your work, Walter, and I know that right now you are using it as an excuse. I also know that if you keep this up you’ll wind up back in the hospital – or worse. I’m not giving up on you, Walter. You either come home or I come and get you but I’m not dropping this and we will talk about it. So you can either have this discussion in the privacy of your own apartment, or you can have it in your office. It’s up to you.”


There was another silence on the end of the phone, and then Skinner growled an angry “fine” into the phone and slammed it down. Doggett replaced the phone in his jacket pocket. He didn’t know whether the “fine” meant that Skinner was coming back or not but gave the other man the benefit of the doubt, and was rewarded, twenty minutes later, when he heard Skinner’s key in the lock. Any doubts about whether he’d done the right thing were expelled the moment he saw Skinner’s face. The other man’s eyes were red-rimmed from lack of sleep and overwork, his cheeks were hollow, and his breathing was shallow from relying on caffeine alone to keep him going. His face was haggard and his skin almost grey. He slammed the door shut, threw his keys into a tray on the hall table, and then strode into the living room, his whole body trembling with emotion.


“Don’t you ever do this to me again,” he growled, coming to a halt in front of Doggett.


“Ever do what? Care about you enough to notice that you’re working yourself into the grave? Sorry, Walter, but that’s a promise I won’t make,” Doggett replied calmly. He sat down, thus defusing some of the tension in the room and giving Skinner no chance to escalate it.


“Damn you, John. My work is important!”


“I know. I also know that if there’s this much work to be done then the FBI is cutting costs by not employing enough ADs because right now you’re doing the work of at least two Assistant Directors, Walter. So either you speak to Human Resources, or you admit to yourself that you’re trying to hide behind those walls of yours again.”


Skinner glared at him, his eyes dark and angry behind the wirerims.


“I am not…” he began and then he took a deep breath and held onto the couch, swaying slightly. Doggett was on his feet in seconds. He put a hand under Skinner’s elbow, and held him up.


“Not what? Not relying on caffeine to keep you going? That argument might work better if you weren’t struggling to stay on your feet right now. When did you last eat, Water?”


“This morning,” Skinner growled, clearly angry with himself for showing any sign of weakness.


“Well it’s 9.30 now so that was at least 12 hours ago,” Doggett told him.


“I’m just tired,” Skinner muttered.


“I rest my case.” Doggett shrugged. “You are tired, and you need a break – and I’m going to see that’s exactly what you get. You’re going to eat the take out I’m about to order for you, then I’m putting you to bed and you’re going to stay there until I let you get up. When you go into work tomorrow you’re going to inform Kim that you’re taking a few days leave. You’ll take Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday off. I’ll pick you up at 8am on Thursday morning – that’s the day after tomorrow in case you’ve lost track of time – and I expect you to be waiting downstairs for me with a bag full of casual clothes packed for a few days in the hills.”


“I can’t,” Skinner said flatly, sitting down heavily on the couch as if his feet would no longer keep him upright. “I can’t possibly go away at such short notice. I have meetings planned, appointments to keep.”


“Kim will cancel them,” Doggett told him firmly. “Walter, do I need to remind you that you agreed I’m in charge in this relationship until you get a handle on your life again?”


Skinner looked up at him sharply, his dark eyes flashing rebelliously. Doggett held his gaze steadily. After a while Skinner sighed and looked away.


“John, I’m just going through a busy patch, that’s all,” he said wearily. “There’s no need for you to worry about me.”


“There’s every need and I’ve asked around – you’re no busier than usual. You’re just refusing to delegate so you can bury yourself in your work. That way you can avoid some of the issues you’ve been struggling with. But I have news for you, Walter – they ain’t goin’ anywhere. And neither am I.” Doggett crossed his arms firmly and looked down into the other man’s dark eyes.


“Well, then we don’t agree,” Skinner said, refusing to back down. “What are you going to do, John? Tie me up and drag me on vacation with you?”
Doggett looked down at him steadily. “If need be,” he replied firmly. Skinner gave a grunt.


“I don’t believe you,” he said but his eyes showed a glimmer of uncertainty.


“Just keep pushing me and you’ll find out exactly what lengths I’ll go to in order to keep you healthy and safe, Walter,” Doggett replied. “Now I ain’t discussing this any more – I get little enough time with you as it is and I’m not going to waste it arguin’. I’ll expect you to be waiting for me outside your apartment at 8am on Thursday. Don’t push me any further on this, Walter because I am not in a good mood.”


Doggett ordered food, and they ate in strained silence. Then Doggett, true to his word, ordered his lover into bed. Skinner was so tired by this point that he could hardly keep his eyes open so he obeyed Doggett without demur and within seconds of laying his head on the pillow, he was fast asleep. Doggett sighed, and lay on the bed, fully dressed, beside his lover. He put one arm around the other man and pulled him close, then gently stroked the side of Skinner’s smooth scalp with his fingers. Skinner was so tired he didn’t wake up. Doggett gazed down at the other man and saw the lines of exhaustion etched on his face.


“Why d’you do this to yourself, huh?” He whispered softly. “The trouble is we’re both too strong willed,” he murmured. “Both of us like two bulls goin’ at each other until we’re worn out. Trouble for you is that you’re already dog-tired before you even start, so you don’t even stand a chance of winning. I like your fire, Walter, but I think you need me to be stronger than you right now, so that’s what I’m goin’ to be, however much it pisses you off. Better hold tight, Corporal, because I think this particular roller coaster is going to get mighty bumpy.” He bent his head and kissed Skinner’s smooth scalp fondly. “Christ I love you, Corporal,” he whispered. “But I’m going to be one mean son of a bitch if that’s what it takes to get through to you. I expect people usually just see the big, strong guy with the no-nonsense, take charge manner, and back down, figuring that you’re too much to take on. Well, I’m takin’ you on, Walter. Even the big, strong guys need takin’ care of occasionally, after all.” He smiled, his fingers gently soothing Skinner’s forehead. “I ain’t backing off like all the other people in your life. I’m not scared of you, Walter Skinner – I can see right through those walls of yours and the view ain’t anywhere near as bad as you think it is. Just hold on, Corporal. I’ll see you don’t fall. Just hold on.” And he kissed Skinner’s head again, lost in thought about what to do next.




Doggett had no idea whether Skinner would be waiting for him on Thursday morning or not. He hadn’t spoken to the other man in the meantime, and while he wasn’t entirely sure what he’d do if Skinner wasn’t there, he knew he’d think of something. He was hoping it wouldn’t come to that though. When he rounded the corner in his jeep dead on the dot of 8am and came within sight of the Viva Towers his heart sank. He couldn’t see Skinner. With a sigh he pulled up in front of the building…and that was when he saw the tall figure sitting on a low wall by the entrance, a baseball cap pulled down over his eyes, and a bag resting at his feet. He was wearing a red and black plaid shirt and black jeans, and Doggett’s heart did a little flip. He got out of the jeep, and Skinner looked up at him from under the brim of his baseball cap.


“Thank you, Walter,” Doggett said softly.


“For what? Being here?” Skinner growled. “I don’t know why I am here. It took Kim all of yesterday just to clear my diary and god knows how much work will pile up while I’m gone.”


“Even Assistant Directors are entitled to vacations,” Doggett commented mildly. He picked up Skinner’s bag and threw it into the back of the jeep, then got in himself and waited. Skinner eyed him, his jaw crunching almost audibly as he fought an internal battle over his co-operation, and then, finally, he gave in, swung the door open, and got in beside Doggett.


They were silent for the first hour of the drive. Skinner hunkered down in his seat, pulled his cap down over his eyes, and promptly fell asleep. He awoke with a start when they were well clear of DC and looked around, befuddled.


“Am I allowed to ask where we’re going?” He said, pushing back his cap and glancing at Doggett.


“Sure. I was wondering what was taking you so long,” Doggett replied with a grin. He was already starting to relax. It felt good, being out on the open road, driving along with the radio blaring out at full blast. “We’re going to the Silvermist Mountain Lodge. We’ve still got a long way to drive, Walter, so why not lie back, chill out, and start relaxing.”


“Silvermist Mountain Lodge? What kind of a place is that?” Skinner asked.


“It’s nice – set in the hills, nobody for miles around. We get our own cabin so we can make as much noise as we like,” Doggett grinned, and deliberately touched Skinner’s thigh as he changed gear. He was rewarded when Skinner’s pants tented slightly in response and he grinned even more widely at that. “There’s an en-suite Jacuzzi, huge fireplaces, and you can order food to be brought to the cabin if you don’t want to get dressed.” He winked at Skinner who grunted in reply. “The hills are fantastic – lots of great walking trails, and there’s a sports complex as well in case you feel like a rematch in the boxing ring, Slugger.”


He paused to allow that to sink in – he knew that Skinner had to have the same fond memories he had about the fantastic sex that had followed their last sparring match.


“It’s relaxed – the cabins are spaced out so you don’t have to see anyone else if you don’t want to – except me of course. The scenery is magnificent – lots of local wildlife. It’s the perfect place to relax and get away from it all.”


Skinner nodded. He gazed at the road ahead of them for a moment then spoke again.


“Did you go there with Tony?” He asked and Doggett’s mood came crashing down. He glanced at Skinner angrily, but it was clear from the expression in Skinner’s eyes that he hadn’t intended it to be a malicious or mischievous question. There was a sense of uncertainty in those dark eyes, and Doggett wondered what that was about.


“Yes, I did,” he replied. “Although it was wasted on Tony. He was your original city boy – he liked the bright lights too much. He hated the quiet out in the woods, hated the walkin’ I insisted we do…he enjoyed the sex though. It was kind of liberating being in a remote little cabin on a hillside – nobody to hear him scream he said, and he used to save his kinkiest ideas for when we were at Silvermist.” Doggett glanced at Skinner again to see how well that piece of news had gone down.


“Did you tie him up?” Skinner asked quietly. Doggett knew that Skinner had a strange kind of fascination about the impromptu bondage session of several weeks previously. Doggett had never tied him again, and Skinner had never asked him too, but sometimes Skinner brought it up in conversation, as if it was something he wanted to explore but didn’t know how to admit that to himself – or to Doggett.


“Sure. He used to bring a bag load of stuff with him. Had to sit me down and explain how some of it worked, and I never could be bothered with half of it – it just got in the way.”


Skinner’s jaw did its sideways slide, and Doggett knew that this was something that they had to address – and Silvermist was the best place for that.


“I might tie you up again at Silvermist, Walter,” he said softly. “How d’you feel about that?”


Skinner’s body tensed, but his eyes told a different story. “I don’t know,” he shrugged.


“Just as part of sex – nothin’ more. Nothing like last time. This time it’ll be for fun,” Doggett said, in a low, sexy voice. “I know how to make it really good fun, Walter.”


He had the feeling that Skinner needed, now more than ever, to be given permission to let go. Skinner had spoken of finding bondage liberating and if ever a man needed to be liberated right now it was Walter Skinner.


“I’m not sure,” Skinner muttered, turning his head and glancing out of the window, perhaps to avoid meeting Doggett’s gaze.


“Well, that’s okay – it’s my decision anyway, Corporal,” Doggett said. He intended to play the heavy during this mini-vacation so he might as well start now. Skinner’s head snapped around, his expression surprised. “I won’t do anything you can’t handle, Corporal,” Doggett told him firmly. “I told you that before. I might extend your comfort zone, push you a little further than you’d normally go, but that’s all. You’ll be quite safe with me – you might not feel that way but you will be.”


“You’re saying I don’t have a choice?” Skinner asked, his brow furrowing slightly.


“Yup – you gave up control to me remember, Walter.”


“How can I forget? You keep reminding me every five minutes,” Skinner growled, but Doggett had come to realise that his lover’s bark was definitely worse than his bite so he just smiled to himself and kept on driving.


Skinner was silent for most of the rest of the long drive. He didn’t seem to be sulking – Doggett had long ago realised that sulking wasn’t Skinner’s style. He did have a tendency to go very quiet though, which was precisely what he was doing now. He was polite and answered questions when asked, but simply didn’t have any conversation beyond that. Doggett knew this pattern all too well – those walls of Skinner’s were in place and holding, but he also knew that with time away from the distractions of work in which to really think, Skinner might have a difficult few days, and he intended to be here to support the other man in any way he could – including by being tough on him if necessary.


They reached Silvermist in the late afternoon. Doggett felt all his cares and worries slip away as they drove further and further into the hills. It was beautiful and serene up here, and he loved the place. It had been to Silvermist that he’d driven one night after the investigation into the murder of his son had yielded yet another dead end, and it was here where he’d broken down, gone to pieces, lost himself in his tears, guilt and pain, and then slowly started to build himself back together again. The stillness and beauty of the hills had soothed him, and it was here that he’d resolved to make a fresh start of his life, and find some meaning to it even after his great loss. He hoped he could help Skinner find a similar resolution to his problems up here away from the pressing issues of work.


Doggett drew up outside the main lodge to collect their key, then drove them out into the hillside and drew up outside their cabin. Skinner got out of the car and stretched. He looked at the pretty, wooden cabin, buried deep within a copse of trees. A small pond was just visible in the distance and some ducks were aimlessly waddling around it, quacking as they went.


“This is a beautiful place, John,” he commented and Doggett could see some of the tension dropping away from the other man’s body already.


“Wait until you see in the cabin,” he replied with a grin.


He opened the door and ushered Skinner inside. An open fire was already blazing in the fireplace, waiting for them. The cabin was warm and cosy – just one large bedroom with a King-sized bed, a kitchen, living area complete with TV, and a huge bathroom, with a Jacuzzi as promised. Doggett found the bottle of champagne he’d ordered chilling in the fridge and got it out with a smile.


“Are we celebrating something?” Skinner asked with a frown.


“Sure. Our first vacation together – and the achievement of dragging you away from your work,” Doggett replied, his smile broadening into a grin. Skinner managed a faded smile of his own, and accepted the glass of champagne that Doggett gave him.


“No toast?” he murmured as Doggett began sipping his drink.


“Maybe before we leave we’ll have something to toast,” Doggett replied. Skinner gave a little grunt and his shoulders hunched uncomfortably again. Doggett decided he really needed to do something to distract Skinner and get him in the mood for the vacation – and sooner rather than later. “Go and get the bags in from the car, Corporal,” he ordered. “I’m going to call for some food, and then we’re going to get down to business.”


“And what exactly is business?” Skinner asked.


“You’ll see.” Doggett nodded in the direction of the car and Skinner turned, reluctantly, and went to bring in the bags.


The food was delicious. They ate on the floor in front of the fire, watching CNN. Both men sat, engrossed in the news, chewing silently. Usually they’d talk, discuss the day’s news events, indulge in some light banter, argue over some issue or other in the news – both of them loved doing that, but on this occasion they were silent, each lost in his own thoughts. Doggett was preparing for what he knew would be an evening of surprises for Skinner – he just hoped he’d get it right. While he had always been forceful in the bedroom, he’d never actually taken Skinner where he intended on taking him tonight and it was a risk. He knew if he told the other man what his plans were then Skinner might refuse and yet he was fairly sure this was what Skinner needed. He just hoped he was right.


It was dark outside by the time they’d finished eating and cleared away. Doggett got up, grabbed their still unpacked bags, and took them into the bedroom. He slung Skinner’s onto the bed and began unpacking his own. Skinner followed and started hanging up his clothing, then paused, and watched, warily, as Doggett pulled out the padded leather cuffs and set them on the nightstand.


“John, about what you said in the car…” Skinner began.


“Walter – don’t worry about it,” Doggett replied softly but firmly. “I’m taking away your choices, Corporal. You don’t have to think about this, or wonder whether you want it or not. It’s just going to happen.”


Skinner swallowed hard, and glanced at the cuffs again.


“Corporal – just relax and trust me. This is going to be good, but first you have to let go. I know that isn’t easy for you, but that’s why you need it so badly.”


Doggett finished unpacking and pushed his bag into the closet. Then he went over to where Skinner was standing, unmoving, still gazing at the cuffs, lost in thought.


“Come on, Corporal – finish unpacking. I want this done by the time I get back from the bathroom,” Doggett ordered. He went to the bathroom, peed, and then took a brief shower to wash away the journey and to give himself time to think. His cock was already starting to ache at the thought of what the evening would bring so he jerked off quickly and efficiently in preparation – he wanted to keep going for a long time and he didn’t want to worry about coming too soon. Then he dried himself, put on a robe, and walked back into the bedroom. Skinner was standing beside the bed, almost at attention, his arms hanging stiffly by his sides.


“Walter,” Doggett said softly. Skinner jumped as if he hadn’t even been aware Doggett was in the room.


“Sorry, John. I was miles away.” Skinner gave a faded, strained smile that tugged at Doggett’s heartstrings. If only Skinner would just give himself up to it he knew the other man would enjoy himself, but Skinner was still thinking too much and avoiding his feelings as a result. “John…I know you’re pissed off with me right now. I can see I’ve been shutting you out and I apologise. I’m not sure what you have in mind for tonight but I’m assuming you want to…” Skinner paused and took a deep breath. “I don’t know. Punish me in some way for screwing up these past few weeks, taking on too much at work…and I accept that. If you feel you need to use your belt on me again then…”


“Walter,” Doggett interrupted him. Skinner stopped the torrent of words and looked at his lover uncertainly. “Shut up,” Doggett said.


Skinner closed his mouth, and his jaw did a sideways clench. He looked as if this was some kind of nasty ordeal he had to endure in order to atone for what he perceived as all his many sins.


“Listen to me, Corporal,” Doggett rapped out, going to stand in front of Skinner, invading his territory so they were almost nose to nose. “I told you I wouldn’t let you use me to punish yourself, or indulge in any kind of self-torture or loathing. That isn’t going to happen so don’t think for a second that tonight is going to be about that. It isn’t. I’m not going to use my belt on you. I never had any intention of it. Tonight is about control. It’s about you giving it up to me, willingly, and me taking it and using it to break down those walls of yours and finally get you to relax. There’s only one rule you need to obey tonight, and that’s doing as I say – immediately, without question. That’s all you have to remember.”


He put his hands on Skinner’s shoulders and the other man jumped and stared straight ahead. Doggett stroked Skinner’s shoulders softly until his lover relaxed a fraction.


“Good man. Now, do you understand what I just said to you?” He asked.


Skinner still avoided his gaze. He shrugged, and glanced at the floor instead.


“I guess. I’m not sure what the hell good you think this will do, John, but…” Skinner shrugged again, his eyes wary and guarded, his face closed off. Doggett sensed the walls being fortified against imminent attack and knew he had to do something to throw Skinner off-guard, and find a way in.


“I’m going to undress you,” he said softly. Skinner’s gaze met his own, uncertain, and questioning. “Slowly, Corporal,” Doggett said. “Very slowly.” He ran his fingers over Skinner’s arms, up to the collar of his shirt, and began unbuttoning it. “Just relax, Walter. Arms by your sides,” he ordered as Skinner’s hands came up automatically to rest on his butt. Skinner removed his hands and Doggett continued unbuttoning his lover’s shirt. He went very slowly as promised, and Skinner stood there, his face stony, his eyes dark, as if he was being subjected to something unpleasant, and not simply being asked to stand still while he was caressed.


“I said relax,” Doggett purred, nuzzling Skinner’s neck. The big man tensed. Doggett slapped him lightly on his jeans covered butt. “Obey me, Corporal. This is goin’ to happen – it’s just a question of how long it takes.”


Doggett was prepared for it to go on all night if need be, until Skinner had given up control to him, because only then did he think he could find a way past those walls. Skinner gave a low growl – Doggett knew the problem his lover was having. They had made love in many different ways during their time together, but while Doggett had always been assertive and forceful in the bedroom, he’d never insisted on this degree of control before – and Skinner had never been less in a frame of mind to give it up.


Doggett finished unbuttoning the big man’s shirt and pushed it aside gently. It never ceased to arouse him to reveal the acres of broad, tanned flesh that lay beneath the clothing and he took a few moments to appreciate it – much to Skinner’s chagrin. Doggett knew his scrutiny embarrassed his lover but he ignored Skinner’s embarrassment at the open admiration. He gently teased a nipple with his fingers and Skinner gave a little gasp of arousal. His hands came up to rest on Doggett’s hips as he steadied himself. Doggett slapped his jeans covered rump again.


“Hands by your side, Walter. Just go with it.”


He eased Skinner’s shirt from his shoulders and let it slide to the floor, then bent his head to tease Skinner’s nipples with his mouth. He spent several long minutes licking and sucking and gradually he felt Skinner unwind slightly, his body twisting and undulating under Doggett’s insistent caress. Finally, Doggett released him. Reaching up, he scooped off the wirerims and placed them out of harm’s way on the nightstand.


“You don’t need to see anything, Walter,” he said, cutting off Skinner’s objection just as it began. “You just need to experience. Now hold tight.”


Keeping one hand on Skinner’s body, Doggett moved around to stand behind his lover. He kissed Skinner’s shoulder blades gently, then sucked on his neck. Skinner bowed his head forward and Doggett slapped his butt again.


“Keep in position, Corporal,” he commanded. Skinner obeyed, and Doggett felt the energy beginning to build between them. It was so good to have this big, strong man, bending to his will, doing as he was commanded, and giving in to his own sexuality. Whatever doubts Skinner might have about his enjoyment of sex with another man, Doggett wanted to dispel them once and for all. However Skinner might feel about it mentally, he wouldn’t be able to deny how good it felt physically.


Slowly, Doggett licked Skinner’s back, from the top of his broad shoulders to the waistband of his jeans. He spent several long, languorous minutes just trailing his tongue over the naked flesh, enjoying the slightly salty taste. Then he stood up close behind Skinner, his cock pressing through the front of his robe and nestling against Skinner’s jeans.


“You feel that, Walter?” He purred. “Soon I’m going to put you on your hands and knees and fuck you. How do you feel about that? Hmmm?” He kissed the back of Skinner’s neck and felt the other man shudder with arousal. “You want that? Hmmm? You want me to take you from behind, with you on your hands and knees. Would you like that?” Skinner arched his back as Doggett ran one sharp fingernail down his spine. “I think you’d like that,” Doggett whispered, digging his fingernail in deeper. Skinner fought it for a moment, his body arched and rigid and then gave in, and hung his head again.


“Yes, sir,” he whispered. Doggett felt a thrill of arousal at the word ‘sir’. Skinner rarely addressed him in this way but it made his cock instantly hard to hear it.
“I thought you’d like that, Corporal. My cock inside your ass – you on your knees, takin’ it, submitting to me – I thought you’d enjoy that.”


He put his arms around the front of Skinner’s chest and took a nipple between thumb and forefinger, pinching lightly. Skinner stiffened against his chest.


“Hold it, Corporal. Let me play,” Doggett whispered, relaxing his grip on the nipple without letting go. With his other hand he took Skinner’s other nipple in his fingers and pinched down hard. Skinner stiffened against him again. Doggett sucked on his neck, relaxing him at the same time as keeping up the pressure on his nipple. Skinner gasped, and pressed back against him.


“Good, Corporal, just keep in position,” Doggett murmured. He kissed Skinner’s neck, and then released the abused nipple – only to pinch the other one tightly instead. Skinner barely had time to relax before he was gasping again as the new nipple began to pain him. Doggett enjoyed the way his lover leaned back against him, relying on Doggett to hold him up, allowing him to play with his body. This was good – Skinner was already giving up control to him. The energy between them was starting to glow and grow, becoming almost tangible. Doggett hoped Skinner felt it, hoped the other man wasn’t just enduring this, enjoying the hurt as some kind of punishment for his perceived failings. He released his hold on the nipple, and kissed Skinner’s neck again, then, instead of squeezing the nipple he’d neglected for the past few seconds as Skinner was obviously expecting, he pinched the one he’d just released again. Skinner gave a little roar in the back of his throat and tried to pull away – but Doggett held on tight.


“Back in position, Corporal!” he rapped out.


“No…fuck this…let me go,” Skinner hissed, starting to struggle.


“I said – back in position, Corporal,” Doggett commanded in his most authoritative voice. Skinner struggled with it for a long time, his body rigid. He tried to pull away but Doggett had his arms wrapped tightly around him, and there was an uncertainty about Skinner – he clearly wasn’t sure whether he wanted to be released or not. Part of him did – part of him was fighting giving up control, but another part of him longed to give in.


“Just let it happen,” Doggett purred. He wasn’t doing more than pinching hard and he knew Skinner needed to be taken down before he could give anything up. It wasn’t seriously hurting but Skinner was skittish and unsure and needed firm handling. Skinner’s struggling slowed and then stopped, and he stood there, his chest heaving as he tried to adjust to Doggett’s firm fingers, digging into his nipple.


“Good man.” Doggett released the nipple and rewarded Skinner with another kiss. Then, without warning, he seized the other nipple and began pinching again – harder this time, pushing Skinner to react. Skinner gave a moan, his body quivering, but this time he didn’t break position. “That’s good, Corporal. That’s very good. Give it all up, give it to me,” Doggett murmured into his lover’s ear. “Don’t tense – just let me do the thinking and acting. Let me do it all.”


He released the nipple, gave Skinner the kiss of reward, and then played with both nipples, gently rubbing them for several minutes. At first Skinner was tense, despite Doggett’s command not to be – he was clearly waiting for the next pinch. Finally he started to relax and that was when Doggett struck again, squeezing both nipples hard this time – harder than before, holding them for a long beat and then releasing one of them but maintaining his hold on the other, so Skinner was never quite sure where the pain would come from next.


Doggett kept up the nipple squeezing for several minutes and eventually Skinner began to go with the flow, and stopped anticipating which nipple would be pinched. That was what Doggett had been waiting for. He released both nipples, moved his hands down to the waistband of Skinner’s jeans and began undoing them, remaining in position behind Skinner, their cheeks touching.


“How you doing, Corporal?” Doggett asked, turning his head sideways to look at his lover. The other man’s eyes were closed but his face was still a little too strained for Doggett’s liking. He was still trying to figure out what would happen next, instead of just accepting Doggett’s commands. “Don’t think,” Doggett whispered. “Just feel. Don’t anticipate, just respond.” He finished unbuttoning Skinner’s jeans and slid his hand down the front of them. Skinner’s cock was hard and straining so he was obviously aroused by his submission – something that Doggett had never doubted for a second.


“Okay, here’s the deal, Corporal,” he said, in low, throaty, deeply sexual tones. “This cock is mine tonight. I don’t want you touching it. I don’t want you coming until I say you can. You have to keep goin’ for a long time and it won’t be easy. Any time you think you’re going to come then tell me – I’m sure I can find a way to discourage it.” He squeezed hard on Skinner’s cock head as he spoke those words and Skinner let out an enraged growl. “Dampens down the need, huh?” Doggett purred, still squeezing hard. Skinner struggled again.


“I can’t do this, John. I don’t know where we’re going…I don’t know what you expect of me,” Skinner hissed, his muscles bunching tight.


Doggett released Skinner’s cock and began caressing it again. It wavered for a moment, but soon returned to its fully erect state.


“Yes you do, Corporal,” he told the shaking man, “because I already told you. I’m going to be givin’ you orders and you’re going to obey them. You understand all about obeying orders don’t you, Corporal?”


Skinner was silent, his head bowed, his face screwed up as he struggled with the idea of giving up so much control.


“I asked you a question, Corporal!” Doggett rapped out. “I need an answer,” Doggett insisted. “All you have to do is obey my orders. That’s all. I’m not asking any more of you. Now, can you do that?”


Skinner let out a huge sigh and then gave a reluctant nod. “Yes, sir,” he whispered.


“Good. Now, what order did I just give you?” Doggett asked, seizing lover’s cock again and squeezing it just hard enough to be mildly painful. Skinner tensed.


“Not to come, sir. Not to touch my cock, sir,” Skinner managed to say between clenched teeth.
“Good, Corporal.” Doggett released his cock and began stroking it gently instead. Skinner relaxed against him, and Doggett spent several minutes playing with his lover’s balls, fondling them and caressing them until Skinner was boneless with arousal once more.


Doggett finally released him, and, still keeping one hand on his lover’s body, walked back around to face him once more. He removed the big man’s shoes and socks, then pushed Skinner’s jeans and briefs down his body, and ordered the big man to step out of them. When Skinner was completely naked, Doggett took hold of his hand and led him over to the bed. Doggett sat on the bed, opened his legs wide, and pulled Skinner between them. He closed his legs around Skinner’s body, and then resumed his stroking. Skinner’s thick cock was now straining with need, but Doggett ignored it for several minutes. Instead he stroked the other man’s inner thigh, tangled his hand in Skinner’s chest hair, and then finally placed both his hands on Skinner’s buttocks. He fondled those twin globes of flesh for a long time, before suddenly moving his head forward and taking Skinner’s cock in his mouth. The big man gasped and put his hands on Doggett’s shoulders to stay upright. Doggett drew back immediately.


“Hands by your sides, Corporal. And don’t come. If you feel you’re going to shoot then tell me,” he ordered. Skinner nodded, his eyes glazed with arousal.


Doggett resumed sucking Skinner’s cock. He loved the feel of the smooth skin stretched over the hardness, and soon he felt Skinner’s balls start to constrict.


“Sir…I need to…” Skinner muttered, in a strangled tone. Doggett drew back and squeezed Skinner’s cock head hard enough to prevent him coming.


“Deep breaths, Corporal,” Doggett purred. Skinner obeyed. Doggett smiled, and got up. “All right, Corporal, it’s time for me to fuck you,” he said in that same low, throaty tone. “I’m going to take you from behind and fuck you hard up the ass,” he purred. Skinner looked at him, uncertainty etched in his expression. “Get on the bed on your hands and knees. You’ll have to stay that way to keep balance so you won’t be able to touch your cock,” Doggett informed him. Skinner swallowed hard, still clearly unsure about where this was going – would Doggett even allow him to come, or was tonight all about Doggett taking his pleasure and Skinner being denied his? His confusion was evident in his eyes and Doggett slapped him lightly on the rump to stop him doing too much thinking. “Just do it, Corporal,” he ordered.


Skinner hesitated.


“We’ve done this before, Corporal,” Doggett reminded him. They had – but never like this, with Doggett insisting that Skinner obey him, and never being taken from behind in such an exposed and vulnerable way, and with it being so clearly a matter of dominance and submission. Skinner’s cock showed his arousal but his eyes showed his fear.


“Do you want me to get tough with you, Corporal?” Doggett asked. He moved fast and slapped Skinner’s backside sharply. Skinner jumped at the sting and turned on his lover angrily.


“Fuck you,” he hissed but Doggett felt the words lacked any real fire.


“No, I’m going to fuck you – now do as you’re told and get on the bed,” he insisted.


“No,” Skinner snapped, although his eyes and cock told a different story.


Doggett stepped forward, pulled Skinner into a rough embrace, grabbed the other man’s buttocks and kneaded them hard at the same time as kissing his lips with a force that was almost savage. Skinner struggled for a moment, and then surrendered to the embrace. Doggett kissed him for a long time, his hands active and masterful on Skinner’s body. He knew from the hardness of his lover’s cock that Skinner was enjoying being made to submit – even that the struggle was part of what turned him on, and he felt it was safe to continue. He drew back, turned Skinner around, and slapped his ass hard again.


“I said get on the bed, Corporal. Do it. Now!” He ordered.


Skinner glanced at him over his shoulder from under his eyelashes, but he did as he was told, climbing onto the bed and getting into position. Any doubts Doggett might have had about how turned on Skinner was by the scenario were dispelled by the way Skinner knelt, his ass held provocatively in the air, wiggling slightly as if to encourage Doggett. His turned his head to look at Doggett again and his eyes were light and glowing in invitation, signalling that he was ready and willing despite his apprehension. Doggett stood for a moment and just enjoyed the sight of Walter Skinner kneeling in such an exposed position, waiting for his lover’s attention. His cock almost screamed with need he was so aroused.


“Get that butt up higher, Corporal,” he ordered. “Offer it up for me to fuck.” Skinner obeyed, raising his smooth golden buttocks even higher in the air. “That’s good, Corporal, you look good like this, ass up, waiting to be fucked,” Doggett purred. He placed his hands on Skinner’s buttocks and kneaded them firmly. Skinner’s legs were at the foot of the bed, and, raised as he was by the mattress, Doggett was in the perfect position to mount him while standing behind him.


Doggett reached for the lubricant and condoms, and opened his robe. His erection was large and purpling and he was longing to relieve it. He had every sympathy with Skinner’s own straining erection but he didn’t intend to let the big man come any time soon. He lubed his fingers and entered Skinner, massaging his anus. Skinner opened up to him quickly, leaning back onto Doggett’s fingers, and before long Doggett was sliding his condom into place, and then lubing it.


“Ready, Corporal?” he asked, stroking Skinner’s back and buttocks. “Are you ready to take me up the ass, Corporal?” he demanded more insistently when there was no reply.


“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir,” Skinner panted.


Doggett smiled, the energy between them almost tangible. Skinner was finally letting go, giving in, giving it up to him and it was such a good feeling. He seized the big man’s buttocks in his hands and parted them, then nudged his cock into Skinner’s entrance. His lover gave a gasp as Doggett’s cock breached the ring of muscle but once he was in, Doggett sank himself smoothly up to the hilt in Skinner’s warm tightness. As he slid home he almost lost consciousness – it felt so good. He paused for a moment to get his breath back, and held on to Skinner’s hips for support. He didn’t slide his hand under the big man’s body to touch his cock – he had something else in mind for that.


“How does that feel, Corporal?” he asked, adjusting his position slightly. It felt damn good to him! Skinner on his hands and knees submissively on the bed, Doggett standing behind him buried to the hilt in his lover’s body. It felt wonderful.


“Feels…oh shit…” Skinner murmured as Doggett shifted slightly and rocked his weight forward, knowing he would be brushing Skinner’s prostate in the process. “Oh god, it feels so good,” Skinner breathed. Doggett grinned; Skinner had a submissive streak that he kept well hidden, but he knew the big man found the position – being on his hands and knees, ass in the air, being ridden while being denied the opportunity to come – as arousing as the actual physical sensations. He began to rock in and out, going maddeningly slowly. Skinner raised his head and looked straight ahead, breathing heavily.


“Take it, Corporal, take it real slow,” Doggett murmured, sliding in and out at a snail’s pace, enjoying the sight of the dark red flesh of his cock as it disappeared into his lover’s body and then emerged again. Skinner gasped and put his head back, sweat pouring off his forehead.


“Please, sir…I need to come,” he whispered.


“Not yet, Corporal.” Doggett moved his hand around to Skinner’s cock and pinched the head. The big man gave a groan of disappointment. Doggett kept up the pressure for some time until he was sure that Skinner had lost the immediate urge to come, and then he returned his attention to his own cock. He grabbed Skinner’s buttocks and began to pump into his lover in earnest.


“Can you feel this, Corporal – you’re being fucked, hard and fast,” Doggett panted as he slammed in and out. “D’you like this? Huh?” He demanded, needing an answer.


“Yes, sir!” Skinner almost shouted.


Doggett laughed as he pounded, going so fast now he was a mass of sensation – Skinner’s tight muscle clenching around his cock, Skinner’s flesh warm and smooth under his hands, the scent of their arousal in the air, the noises Skinner made with every inward thrust, his own sweat running down his face…then he was coming, deep inside the other man’s body. Coming and coming over and over again inside his sweet Corporal’s tight, warm flesh. Doggett keeled forward and held onto Skinner’s back as his climax subsided. Skinner remained where he was, his own neglected cock still hard with need. Finally Doggett dismounted.


“At ease, Corporal,” he said softly, and Skinner flopped down on the bed, and looked at him with dark, passionate eyes.


“Thank you, sir,” he said, and Doggett suspected that Skinner was living out his own submissive fantasy, enjoying calling his lover ‘sir’, and totally relishing giving up control to him.


“I haven’t finished with you yet, Corporal,” he said, going over to the nightstand and picking up the cuffs. “I’m going to tie you to the bed,” he said, giving Skinner plenty of time to get used to the idea. Skinner’s eyes registered panic tempered by the fascination he’d had with the cuffs since Doggett had first used them on him. “Hands out, Corporal,” Doggett ordered. Skinner’s jaw did another sideways clench.


“I’m not sure about this, Sergeant,” he whispered.


Doggett felt a warm glow at being addressed as ‘Sergeant’. It showed how into the scene Skinner was – and he was sure that the resistance was only token. He knew that Skinner feared the loss of control implicit in being tied up, but he also knew that Skinner craved it as well. He wanted to have the control taken from him but he needed help in getting there.


“It’s an order, Corporal, not a discussion,” Doggett told him firmly. “Obey me!”


“John…” Skinner’s eyes were agonised.


“What’s the problem, Corporal?” Doggett asked in a much softer tone, caressing Skinner’s arm gently with his fingers. “What’s going on?”


“I’m not going to be any good at this, John,” Skinner admitted, shamefaced. “I have to fight it. I can’t stop myself. I need to fight it. I’ll let you down. I’m not Tony,” he said in a hoarse tone. “I can’t be what you want me to be.”


Doggett remembered Skinner’s uncertain look in the car when they had discussed Tony – so this was what that had been about? Skinner didn’t think he could live up to Tony’s prowess in the bedroom? Doggett almost laughed out loud. Skinner couldn’t be more wrong.


“Corporal, I don’t want a carbon copy of Tony Larsen – I’m much more interested in Walter Skinner,” he said firmly. “As for fighting it – you can, as much as you like. That’s part of what the bondage does for you. It gives you a safe place to let all that frustration out. I know you don’t like being tied, I know it makes you feel helpless, vulnerable and anxious, but I also think it’s exactly what you need right now, and that you’ll feel great about it afterwards – but you have to trust me on that. Do you trust me, Walter?”


Skinner searched his face for a long time and then sighed. “Yeah, I trust you, John,” he murmured. “I still don’t want to be tied but I do trust you.”


“Good. Then hold out your hands,” Doggett ordered.


Skinner hesitated for only a second before obeying. Doggett sat down on the bed, and fastened the cuffs onto Skinner’s wrists, taking his time, making sure the cuffs were comfortable and tight enough not to slip. When he’d finished with Skinner’s wrists, he moved onto his ankles and spent a long time fastening the cuffs there as well, going slowly as before.


“Lie on your back, arms and legs stretched out,” Doggett commanded when he was done, and Skinner obeyed without hesitation this time. The bed had a wooden headboard with slats in it and it was an easy matter to fasten the cuffs to the headboard. Skinner panicked the moment they were fastened, and pulled on the cuffs hard, looking to Doggett for reassurance.


“It’s okay, Walter…you’re safe,” Doggett told him softly, stroking his body to calm him. “Fight it all you like – you won’t be able to get free.”
Skinner’s eyes flashed defiantly and he pulled desperately on the bonds for several minutes, panting and struggling. Doggett watched, making no move to either stop him or calm him. Skinner needed the struggle, and Doggett had to allow him to feel it – it was a vital part of the process. Skinner tugged on the cuffs, panting hard, until finally, exhausted, his movements slowed, and then came to a halt. He glared at Doggett like a feisty colt waiting to be tamed by a patient master.


“That’s good,” Doggett said softly. He reached out and ran a hand over Skinner’s body and the other man struggled again but this time the resistance was brief and token. “That’s very good, Corporal. Now give yourself up to me. Just relax. You can’t move, you can’t do anything except accept what I do to you. Trust me.”


He held Skinner’s gaze, trying to impart his utter trustworthiness through his eyes and expression. Skinner stopped fighting the cuffs and visibly calmed down, but even so, Doggett spent a few minutes stroking him until he was sure it was okay to proceed to the big man’s feet. There was no footboard so tethering his ankles was a more complicated matter. Doggett fastened each ankle cuff to a belt, and then tied the belt around the legs of the bed. Skinner lay there, spread-eagled, looking like a starfish, his meaty cock standing fully aroused in the middle of his body. Doggett grinned.


“This is a good look for you, Corporal,” he murmured.


“Yes, sir, thank you, sir,” Skinner replied, lost in role. His body was shaking slightly from the effort of not fighting the bondage. Doggett slid onto the bed beside his bound lover, and began playing with Skinner’s body again.


“Give it up to me, Corporal,” he murmured. “You’re mine – I’m going to enjoy this body – and you can’t do a thing to stop me. You’re out of control, Corporal. You can’t make any decisions. You just have to accept what I do to you. How does that feel?”


Skinner’s dark eyes met his own, and Doggett realised, with a jolt of surprise, that Skinner’s eyes were free of want and care for the first time in all the time he’d known him.


“It feels good, sir,” Skinner whispered hazily. “You can do what you like to me, sir. I can’t stop you,” he said, dreamily.


“Good man, Corporal,” Doggett purred – and then he moved into action. He swarmed over Skinner’s body with tongue, teeth, hands and fingernails. First he sucked on Skinner’s nipples, bit on them until Skinner moaned and thrashed around in his bonds but the big man couldn’t get free and soon his moans subsided into sighs of acceptance. Then Doggett scratched his fingernails along Skinner’s hard, straining cock. The big man shuddered and tested his bonds again, only to find that they remained firm. Doggett blew on Skinner’s balls, and on the sensitive flesh of his inner thighs, then worked his way down to the big man’s toes, which he sucked enthusiastically. Skinner writhed and sighed under the many caresses but he could neither resist nor break free.


Finally, judging Skinner had been tormented and brought to the edge of climax often enough for one evening, Doggett reached for condoms and lube again. Skinner gazed at him in a calm haze, clearly not even aware of what was going on, let alone thinking about what would happen next. Doggett straddled his lover’s body, and lubed himself, stretching his ass muscles with his fingers. He was going to enjoy this. Finally he slid a condom onto Skinner’s straining cock, and then positioned himself over it. He held his own buttocks open and he slid down on Skinner’s shaft and the big man let out a hoarse cry of surprise and arousal as Doggett engulfed his whole length in one go. Doggett paused, enjoying the feel of Skinner inside his ass, buried deep within him. He was still in control, and he intended to use that control.


“Don’t come, Corporal. I want to ride you for a long time,” he purred.


Skinner blinked sweat out of his eyes and nodded. He was utterly helpless, tied down to the bed, and couldn’t move as Doggett rose up and down on his hard cock. As soon as Doggett thought Skinner was close to coming he would slow right down, or stop completely.


“You have no control over this, Corporal,” he told his lover firmly. “You’ll come when I let you…but for now I just want to ride you.”


Doggett wasn’t sure how many times he slid up and down, impaling himself on that beautiful, large cock – he felt lost in the most delicious dream, his hands resting on Skinner’s washboard stomach as he rocked up and down. Skinner gazed up at him, his face contorted with arousal, his dark eyes wide with pleasure and Doggett smiled as his own eyes locked with that dark gaze, and they joined together in a communion that was bringing them closer together than they’d ever been.


Doggett showed Skinner no mercy – he rode him for a long time, not allowing him to come even though Skinner begged for release. Only when he was satisfied that Skinner had surrendered everything to him did he finally allow the big man his climax.


“Any time you want, Corporal,” he ordered, riding his cock as fast as he could. Skinner cried out and his entire body seemed to lift off the bed despite his bonds and the weight of Doggett on top of him. Doggett could feel Skinner’s climax though the condom, could feel the big man shuddering as he ejaculated for what seemed like forever, before finally slumping back down on the bed, thoroughly exhausted. Doggett sat astride him for a little while longer, then disengaged himself, and removed the condom from his lover’s now sated penis.


Skinner seemed completely out of it while Doggett released him from his bonds. The other man was still unmoving when Doggett pulled the comforter over them both, and slid onto the bed beside him. He took Skinner into his arms and kissed him on the lips, demanding entry with his tongue. Skinner surrendered easily, his whole body limp and exhausted in Doggett’s arm.


“Tell me who you belong to, Corporal,” Doggett asked softly when he drew back.


“You, sir,” Skinner replied blindly, his lips nuzzling at Doggett’s neck.


“Who is in charge of you, Walter?” Doggett demanded, his arms wrapped around his lover’s sweaty body, keeping him close.


“You sir. You are,” Skinner whispered.


“Good.” Doggett rewarded Skinner with another deep, loving kiss. The other man’s face had lost its grey pallor and he looked better than he had for weeks. “We’ll get there, Corporal, just as long as you keep remembering that,” he said, holding Skinner tight as they both fell fast asleep.




Doggett woke the next day feeling energised and looking forward to a few days wrapped up with his lover – only to find that the bed was empty. He came to quickly, and called Skinner’s name. There was no reply, so he got up, ran a hand through his tousled hair, and looked in the bathroom. Nobody. It was the work of a few seconds to look around the small cabin but Skinner was well and truly gone.


Doggett sat on the side of the bed, trying to figure out what had happened. He felt a pang of guilt as he recalled the previous night’s activities. He’d been trying to bring Skinner down, to breach those walls to the point where Skinner could come to terms with some of the issues that he had been trying to avoid, but looking back Doggett could see that he had seriously misjudged the situation. He had waded in like a bull in a china shop. Skinner was already struggling to come to terms with his homosexuality – to make him also face his submissive side and enjoyment of surrendering control had been taking his lover too far, too fast. Doggett could have kicked himself he was so angry. He remembered taking Skinner from behind, making the other man kneel on all fours – suddenly, instead of being erotic, that seemed humiliating. He didn’t blame Skinner for walking out on him. He’d tied Skinner down not as he had done before, to get through to him and stop him being a danger to himself and others, but on a whim, to prove something to both of them without giving Skinner any choice in the matter. Doggett grimaced as he recalled the way he’d made Skinner thank him for taking him up the ass. He had been arrogant and stupid and he had fucked things up between them – maybe for good. He knew that Skinner didn’t love him but he’d been hoping that in time love would come. He knew that Skinner had so many problems in his life right now that love wasn’t exactly a priority, and then of course there was the spectre of Fox Mulder, casting his shadow over Doggett’s life wherever he went.


Doggett took a shower, trying to figure out what to do next. He knew Skinner couldn’t have gone far because the jeep was still parked outside; the big man had to be around somewhere. Doggett had just finished in the shower when he heard the front door open and then shut again. He wrapped a towel around his waist and ran out into the hallway, still dripping wet.


“Walter? Christ, where have you been? I was worried,” he said more angrily than he’d intended. The big man was standing by the door, fully dressed, his boots muddy.


“Sorry, John. I couldn’t sleep. I got up and went for a walk. I needed to clear my head. I watched the sunrise. You’re right – it’s beautiful out here.”


“Are you okay?” Doggett asked, walking swiftly towards his lover, and inspecting him closely. He looked weary but more at peace than he had done for a long time.


“I’m fine. I…needed some time alone. Last night raised a lot of issues for me. I needed to think about what happened,” Skinner replied, looking into Doggett’s eyes sharply, his expression full of meaning. Doggett felt his heart do a flip. He knew he’d been right in his first estimation of the situation.


“Did you come to any conclusions?” He asked softly. Skinner was silent for a moment, and then nodded gravely, his eyes never leaving Doggett’s.


“Yes, John, I did,” he said simply.


“Anythin’ you want to share?” Doggett asked, his stomach full of jitters. However much Skinner had given himself up to him last night, this Skinner standing here was a man back in control of his life again. Whatever conclusions he’d come to, Doggett didn’t think that the big man’s future plans would include him.


“Yes. I think so,” Skinner said slowly. “But…not here. Why don’t you get dressed and we’ll go out walking? I’ll call for breakfast while you’re getting ready.”


Doggett nodded, his heart somewhere in the region of his feet. He knew, logically, that whatever conclusions Skinner had come to didn’t have to mean the end of their relationship, but Skinner’s tone had been so serious, and his expression so grave, that the signs weren’t good. Doggett squared his shoulders and pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater.


“What was it you always said?” He berated himself as he dressed. “Never fall in love with straight men or men in the closet. Serves you right for breaking your own cardinal rule, John Doggett. You deserve everything you get.”


He ran a comb through his hair and then returned to the living room where Skinner had laid out breakfast. Doggett ate, but he might as well have been chewing on a lump of wood. He wanted to get this over with, whatever Skinner might have decided – he needed to hear it and get through it.


After they’d eaten, they walked out into the hills. Doggett followed Skinner – the big man seemed to finally know where he was going after all. The silence between them remained though. Skinner didn’t say a word, and the further they walked the more Doggett became convinced that the other man was delaying their chat because he had bad news to deliver. Doggett’s natural impatience came to the fore and he was almost on the verge of opening his mouth and demanding to know what the hell was going on – but he stopped himself. Skinner didn’t need to be harangued right now. He had said he wanted to share so presumably he would – in his own time.


“The view from up there is amazing,” Skinner said, pointing to a steep hill. Doggett eyed it cautiously.
“You climbed up here in the dark last night?” he asked.


“Yes.” Skinner nodded. “I watched the sunrise from the summit…and suddenly everything clicked into place.”


“Let’s go then.” Doggett nodded gruffly.


Overhead, storm clouds were gathering ominously, and the sky was getting darker, not lighter as the morning wore on. Skinner set off towards the hill, and Doggett trailed along behind. They passed one of the small walkers’ huts at the bottom and the big man pointed to it.


“I nearly ran into that in the dark. Scared the shit out of me.”


Doggett grunted in reply. Usually he loved walking out here, but the dark clouds overhead just added to his feeling of impending gloom. The mountain air was fresh and the wind was sharp. Skinner’s long legs ate up the ground and Doggett was grateful momentarily for a companion who liked walking as much as he did, remembering Tony’s heavy sighs whenever he had suggested going for a hike. That only served to remind him of what he was sure he was imminently about to face – that Skinner was about to end their relationship. They reached the top, and stood there, panting, the wind whipping around their faces.


“Beautiful,” Skinner called over the sound of the wind, gazing out at the surrounding countryside. Doggett had to admit that it was – they could see for miles, and the colours of the darkening sky against the green grass below were particularly vivid.


“Walter,” he said, unable to stay silent any more. “Please – I need to know what’s going on…and to apologise.” Skinner turned his head to look at him, his eyes dark behind the wirerims. “Last night…I went too far. I’m sorry if I freaked you out. I guess I was treating you like you’re Tony, and I forgot how little experience you have with this kind of thing. I’m sorry,” he said again, but the wind whipped the words out of his mouth.


“What?” He could see Skinner’s mouth make the word, but he couldn’t hear it. The wind had now reached a wild crescendo and big spots of rain were sliding down the front of Skinner’s wirerims.


“Shit – it’s going to pour. We’d better run!” Doggett cried above the sound of the rain. He wasn’t sure Skinner had heard him, but his action spoke for itself as he started to run back towards the hut at the bottom of the hill. The rain started to fall in earnest before they were even half way down. Huge, fat droplets fell on his head, and before long he was soaked to the skin. He burst through the door of the hut and then turned to find Skinner hard on his heels. He slammed the door behind the big man and then peered at him in the gloomy interior.


“Christ – you’re soakin’!” He exclaimed.


“So are you,” Skinner pointed out. He was looking at Doggett and grinning strangely, his teeth gleaming very white in the dingy hut.


“What?” Doggett asked, running a hand across his forehead and sweeping off a fistful of water that was drizzling out of his soaked hair.


“You. You look good wet,” Skinner said, and then, without warning, he grabbed Doggett’s wet jacket, pulled the other man close, and kissed him hard. Doggett’s initial surprise gave way to a warm feeling of the most intense relief, and he surrendered to the kiss and returned it in full measure.


“That answers one question at least,” he murmured when Skinner finally released him.


“I like your hair spiky this way,” Skinner grinned, running his hand through Doggett’s wet locks. He kissed Doggett again, his hands fumbling at the agent’s wet clothing. “Need to get you out of these,” Skinner growled, his voice husky with need. Doggett almost lost his balance as Skinner pushed him back towards the wall, his hands shoving Doggett’s pants and briefs down to his knees.


“You want to try it against the wall?” Doggett allowed Skinner to hold him against the wall. Skinner felt large and damp, fully clothed against Doggett’s half-naked body, his eyes glowing with need.


“I want to be in you…damn…we don’t have anything to use,” Skinner said, his breath warm on Doggett’s wet skin, his hands cupping Doggett’s exposed buttocks.


“Fuck it…I want you in me too,” Doggett replied. “Use spit – it won’t be the first time I’ve tried that. Forget the rubber. I’m clean and I’m sure as hell you are too. Think you can do it here – at this angle?”


“Think you can?” Skinner challenged.


Doggett grinned widely, all his earlier fears melting away at Skinner’s uncharacteristic rashness.


“If you can, I can,” he replied, grabbing hold of Skinner’s shoulders and hoisting himself onto the other man’s hips, his back resting against the wall. Skinner balanced him there, and then opened his own pants, and Doggett felt his hard cock, warm and dry, bumping against his buttocks. Skinner spat on his fingers and drove them into his lover’s anus and Doggett wriggled, wanting – needing – Skinner inside him.


“Just get on with it Corporal,” he hissed.


“Wait for it, Sergeant,” Skinner replied, an amused light in his eyes. He hoisted Doggett’s legs further around his own hips, and then parted the other man’s buttocks with his hands. A few seconds later Doggett felt Skinner’s cock nudge his entrance. It took them a few seconds of manoeuvring to get themselves aligned, then Skinner thrust up and Doggett took him deep into his ass in one go. Doggett held on for dear life as Skinner pounded him against the wall. It felt good – raw and painful but so good too. Skinner’s clothing was wet against his body, and they were both cold but the impromptu sex session was fast and frenzied. Doggett’s own cock was nestled between them, being stimulated by the rough dampness of Skinner’s clothing with every forward thrust. Neither of them could have maintained that position for long and soon Skinner was coming and Doggett found himself climaxing at almost the same time. They stood there recovering, Doggett’s legs slung around Skinner’s hips, his back pressed against the wall, the big man’s cock softening inside his ass, both of them panting.


“Ouch,” Doggett commented, hanging on to Skinner’s broad shoulders.


“Shouldn’t have done it without lube,” Skinner grunted, looking at Doggett anxiously.


“It’s not that. My leg’s gone to sleep,” Doggett replied with a grin. Skinner grinned back.


“My back hurts,” he commented.


“Energetic sex in unusual positions during thunderstorms is probably an activity best saved for the young,” Doggett observed.


“Yeah. That was wet. And sore.” Skinner manoeuvred Doggett off his cock and helped him stand back on the floor again.


“Yeah. And…sticky.” Doggett commented, feeling Skinner’s come trickling out of his ass and his own come sliding down his jacket, mingling with the rainwater in a soggy mess. He glanced up at Skinner and they both stared at each other for a moment before bursting out laughing.


“Oh fuck that was good,” Doggett moaned, resting his head on Skinner’s shoulder and wrapping his arms around the big man’s large body.


“It was so fucking good!” Skinner gasped, his chest vibrating as he laughed. “You’re cold though,” he commented, his hands coming to rest, as they always did, on Doggett’s naked ass.


“You too,” Doggett replied.


“There’s a fireplace over there,” Skinner said, drawing away and going over to the chimney. “Christ knows why but there is.”


“It’s a walkers’ hut in case anyone gets lost out here – or stuck in a thunderstorm,” Doggett informed him pulling up his clothing. “Silvermist keeps them stocked.” He opened a cupboard and found basic survival supplies – a blanket, and food rations, some kindling for the fireplace, and matches. They threw some kindling into the fireplace and lit it, and the hut soon began to warm up. Then they stripped off their wet clothing and huddled under a blanket together.


“Are you ready to talk yet?” Doggett asked. “When you brought me out here I figured you were really pissed off about last night and had decided to finish it between us. Maybe go to Mulder and…I dunno what, or maybe just resign yourself to living without him, maybe try to find yourself a girlfriend and slot back into the mainstream again – I don’t know. I’m kind of assuming that isn’t what was goin’ on in your head?” He squinted at Skinner in the dark hut. It was lit only by the glow of the brazier and he could just make out the other man’s white teeth and the shape of his face.


“No, it isn’t,” Skinner said softly. “I had no idea you were thinking that, John, or I’d have said something before. I was just enjoying the walk, enjoying knowing you were beside me and we were comfortable enough with each other not to talk. You always seem to have everything figured out and you’re so self-assured – I didn’t guess that was what you were thinking.”


“Well, I’m only human,” Doggett grimaced. “And last night was pretty intense. I didn’t know if you were angry with me for showing you how much you enjoyed it…because it seemed to me that you did enjoy it, Walter.” He wrapped the blanket more tightly around them both, slid his hand gently over Walter’s body and rested it on his lover’s thigh.


“Yes I did – but you’re right, it did freak me out a little. When I woke up, I was stuck in the middle of those questions that, as you made no bones about pointing out, I’d been doing my best to avoid.”


Doggett winced. “Yeah. I’m sorry, Walter. I know I pushed you but I could see you sinking with this one and not coming back up again.”


“I was headed that way,” Skinner admitted. “Last night, when I was out walking, I’ll admit I was scared by how good what we did yesterday evening felt. Today…just now, I think I needed to remind myself that I can still take charge again when I need to.”


Doggett grinned. “Walter, that really ain’t an issue,” he said. “Anyone who’s seen you in the office can testify to that!”


“Maybe it’s not an issue for you but you’re so much more sure of yourself with all this than I am. You’ve had a lot longer to get used to it,” Skinner murmured. “The power games I mean, not the sex, which we’ve been doing pretty constantly for the past few months anyway! But I never knew the power games, the giving up control, letting you take charge of me, even letting you hurt me a bit – I didn’t know that could turn me on so much. It blew me away. At first I thought it was just one more thing to worry about, but then, as the sun came up this morning, everything kind of slotted into place.” He glanced at Doggett with a wry smile, then leaned closer and kissed him. “Last night was almost like a metaphor for my life generally I suppose,” he continued. “I thought – why am I questioning this relationship or my sexuality when I’m having such a good time, and when it feels so right? When you ordered me around, pinched me, fucked me like that with me on all fours, tied me up – I fought you each time but when I gave in to it – it blew me away how fantastic it made me feel. I figured this whole relationship is the same. When I fight it I’m unhappy, but when I give in and go with it – I have the time of my life. So why the hell am I fighting it?”


“Good question, Walter – I’m glad you found the answer,” Doggett said, stroking Skinner’s thigh with his thumb. “But that’s just one part of what was botherin’ you. We never talked again about what I said about Mulder but I know you’ve been thinking about it. Did you come to any conclusions about that?” He scanned Skinner’s face anxiously for an answer to that question – the question that had been worrying him most these past few weeks.


“Yes, I did,” Skinner said slowly. “Mulder…” He paused, his jaw clenching, then bowed his head for a second before looking up again and continuing. “You were right in a way, John, but not completely. Yes, I did love Mulder – still do, as you said, but maybe not in the way you think. I fell in love with his energy, his passion, and his commitment to his work. I used to feel that way once, before ‘Nam. I was passionate about joining up; like I told you, I wasn’t drafted – I enlisted. I did that because I believed in serving my country but somewhere along the way I lost all my beliefs out there in the jungle, along with my dead comrades. After ‘Nam everything was about duty and responsibility – my passion for a cause had gone. Don’t get me wrong – I do feel passionate about justice and about my work, but when Mulder came breezing into my life he reminded me what it’s like to have a cause – something to believe in. I admired his brain – he’s clever and intuitive. You’ve seen him in action; you know those mental leaps he takes. I fell in love with the agent – the agent I wished I could be, the agent I might have been if I hadn’t gone to Vietnam.”


“I didn’t know you felt like that,” Doggett commented, never ceasing the gentle stroking of his thumb on Skinner’s thigh.


“I’m not sure I knew it either,” Skinner admitted with a wry smile. “Not until you slapped me around the face with my feelings for Mulder and forced me to see what had been going on right in front of me. I’m not denying there was a sexual attraction between me and Mulder but…I was never really Mulder’s friend outside of work – we never ate together, saw each other socially, or even talked much as friends, not like you and I did even before we became lovers.”


Doggett felt a wave of total relief wash over him – he hadn’t realised just how much this issue had been bothering him. He had been living in Mulder’s shadow in so many different ways that he’d become accustomed to it but that didn’t mean he liked it. He couldn’t stop himself leaning forward and claiming a deep kiss from his lover’s willing lips. When he drew back, he found himself laughing from the sheer relaxation of tension.


“What?” Skinner gazed at him. “Something I said?” He asked.


“Nope, just me thinking what an idiot I’ve been. When I woke up this morning and you were gone I thought I’d pushed you too far last night and you’d taken off. Boy, was I worried. I should spank you for that, Corporal.” He felt Skinner’s cock rise up slightly and nudge his hand as he said that. “Corporal?” he questioned.


Skinner made a face halfway between a smile and a grimace, his white teeth gleaming in the dimly lit hut. “Sergeant, you can spank me any time you like,” he said, bowing his head slightly with embarrassment.


Doggett grinned broadly. “I will then,” he said. “When we get back to the cabin. I promised you an erotic spanking once before, and an hour or two playin’ with this ass of yours could never be called time wasted.”


Doggett rolled Skinner down on the wooden floor beneath him, and held his lover there while he kissed him again, their bodies warm where they were pressed naked together. Doggett felt horny just from being addressed as ‘Sergeant’ in Skinner’s deep baritone. He liked the nickname and the power play inherent in their different ranks, and he loved that Skinner liked it too.


They dozed for a while until the rain finally stopped beating on the roof of the hut, and then they got up, got dressed, and stowed the supplies back in the cupboard. It was wet underfoot outside and the storm clouds still glowered overhead, but they no longer seemed to be harbingers of doom and Doggett felt light-headed with relief and happiness as they walked back to the cabin together.


Once inside they stripped off their damp clothes, got into robes and ordered some food. After they’d eaten they retired to the Jacuzzi. Doggett pulled Skinner between his legs. His lover came easily, and rested his naked scalp on Doggett’s chest. Skinner was tired after his nocturnal ramblings and he slept for half an hour while Doggett just held him, enjoying the feel of the warm water and the weight of his lover’s body pressed against him. Skinner’s skin felt good under his fingers and Doggett was unable to resist stealing several little kisses from Skinner’s scalp. When his lover woke they were both relaxed and Doggett thought it was time to remind Skinner of his promise back in the hut.


“Okay, Corporal,” he said, pushing his lover away and rising from the tub. “It’s time to deliver that spanking.”


Skinner got up, his cock already starting to show some interest in the idea even as his brain kicked in with doubts.


“Sergeant, I’m not so sure about this now,” he began. Doggett held out a hand and dragged him from the Jacuzzi.


“Corporal, who’s in charge?” He asked patiently.


“You, sir,” Skinner said, slipping immediately into role.


“That’s right. So get your ass into the bedroom.” Doggett put an arm around Skinner’s shoulder and escorted his hesitant lover into the other room. He knew he could make this good for Skinner, and, judging by the other man’s reactions the previous night, he was fairly sure that Skinner was going to enjoy this once he overcame his usual initial struggle with his own submission.


Doggett sat himself down on the bed, retrieved lube and condoms from the nightstand, and arranged some pillows on his lap.


“Over my knee, Corporal,” he ordered. Skinner raised an eyebrow, clearly baulking at the idea of assuming such a position. “Now,” Doggett commanded, reaching out to grab Skinner’s wrist and pull him close. The other man looked as if he was finding the whole thing absurd, to say nothing of embarrassing but he made no demur as Doggett pulled him down onto the pillows. Doggett paused once Skinner was in place, and contemplated the feast in front of him. He had always found Skinner’s ass to be an object worthy of worship – it was very round, the two buttocks curving deliciously where they met the thigh, and the skin was stretched taut over the muscle beneath. Doggett spent several long minutes just caressing the beautiful bottom proffered so sumptuously to him. Skinner was now utterly relaxed, so Doggett began to tap the other man’s butt gently. He went slowly, soothing and tapping and soothing again, and gradually the flesh beneath his fingertips began to heat up and Skinner began to move rhythmically in time to the slaps. Doggett increased both the tempo and the strength of the slaps now, so that his hand delivered a real sting, and Skinner began to moan as he wriggled under Doggett’s hand. Sometimes he tried to move his buttocks out of the way but Doggett held him firmly and every aimed slap hit its target. Skinner’s bottom was starting to glow a deep rosy pink colour in hue, and Doggett felt his own cock harden in response. One thing he had always loved when he was with Tony was burying himself up to the hilt in a warm, glowing backside.


“How do you feel, Corporal?” He asked, delivering a stinging slap and then smoothing away the skin afterwards for several seconds before delivering another stinging slap to the opposite butt cheek.


“Good, Sergeant,” Skinner replied, his voice muffled by the pillows. His body writhed and arched under Doggett’s insistent caresses, and Doggett could see how hard his cock had become every time he rose up to meet his hand.


“You look good, Corporal,” he murmured. “You ass looks good this colour. I think I’ll have to spank it more often.”


Skinner didn’t make a coherent reply but somehow Doggett didn’t think he was objecting. He stepped up the spanking, wondering how much Skinner could take and the man on his lap began to grunt with each slap that hit home. Doggett knew he was taking Skinner closer to that line that separated pain from pleasure so he slowed down again. There would be plenty of time to explore Skinner’s limits in the weeks and months ahead. For now, he just wanted to show his lover the many ways in which they could have a good time together. He was so turned on by the sight of Skinner’s long limbs kicking frantically, the feel of his warm butt, and the way he was offering himself up so sweetly in his submission that he knew he had to bring the spanking to an end. He slowed down until all he was doing was stroking, and then he reached for the lube he had placed on the nightstand.


“This will be cold, Corporal,” he warned, spreading the lube liberally on his fingers. Skinner nodded and clutched the bed sheets in his fingers. Doggett parted the rosily glowing buttocks and slipped his finger inside. He loved the juxtaposition of the cool lube on his finger and the warmth emanating from Skinner’s bottom. He wiggled his finger around and then slid it in and out in a rhythmic movement. He went slowly, finger fucking Skinner for several long minutes with two and then three fingers, until he was so aroused by the sight of that warm, red bottom rising up and down to meet his fingers that he couldn’t restrain himself any more. He pushed Skinner off his lap onto the bed, still with a pillow underneath him, slid a condom into place on his own erect cock, and then took those inviting buttocks in both hands, parted them, and pushed his penis in right up to the hilt in one smooth motion. Skinner gasped and his hands clutched the sheets again. Doggett grinned, and began to thrust hard and fast, unable to go slowly, needing his release. He was lost in the sheer sensory delight of the warm buttocks beneath his hands, the tight muscle enveloping his cock, the scent of his lover’s arousal and sweat, the sound of Skinner’s moans as he was mounted, and the sight of his lover’s broad bare back beneath him. Doggett came vigorously, and then knelt where he was for a moment, blinking sweat out of his eyes. “You still with me, Corporal?” He murmured.


“Yeah…” The voice was hazy.


“Good.” Doggett rolled Skinner over and engulfed his cock in his mouth, sucking hard. Skinner cried out and bucked up into him once, twice, and then came. Doggett swallowed every single drop, enjoying the sensation of his lover’s come sliding down his throat. When he was done, he took Skinner in his arms and they both lay looking up at the ceiling.


“So…how did you like your first spanking, Corporal?” Doggett grinned, squeezing his lover.


“As if you need to ask, Sergeant,” Skinner replied, grinning back. “I wish I knew why it turns me on so much letting you order me around left, right and centre but being over your knee, knowing you were in charge and I was helpless and at your mercy…it just did it for me.”


“Don’t question it, Corporal, just enjoy it,” Doggett murmured, depositing a fond kiss on his lover’s nose. “You know what?” He pondered, gazing over Skinner’s shoulder at his rosily glowing backside. “I think we finally have something to toast with that champagne, Corporal.” Skinner looked puzzled and raised a questioning eyebrow. “Your red ass!” Doggett announced, grinning. “Hang on, Corporal, I’m going to get us some champagne!”


He ran to the kitchen, returned with a bottle of chilled champagne, opened it, and then ordered Skinner onto his front again. The other man did as he was told, grinning as he figured out what Doggett intended to do. The agent sat astride his lover, and poured a small amount of the fizzy liquid onto Skinner’s glowing bottom. The big man arched up, cursing, as the coldness assaulted his warm backside.


“Hold still, I want to enjoy this toast!” Doggett told his lover. He bent his head and licked the cold champagne from Skinner’s hot bottom, loving the juxtaposition of the two temperatures, and the feel of liquid on skin under his tongue. Skinner wriggled, a sound suspiciously close to a giggle escaping from his lips and Doggett laughed out loud and poured more champagne onto that glorious butt. “Oh yeah,” he murmured as he lapped at Skinner’s ass. “This ass is definitely somethin’ worth toasting – first with my hand then with the champagne!” Skinner groaned at the appalling pun, and then they both collapsed into a fit of laughter.


They spent the next few days exploring the hills, eating, and making love so many times in so many ways that Doggett lost count. Sometimes they’d talk about the news or some other easy subject, and sometimes they’d talk about Luke, or Sharon, or Mulder. Sometimes they would be completely silent, and Doggett would hold Skinner in his arms and doze with him in front of the open fire. Their time at Silvermist passed all too quickly, but by the end of it Doggett was gratified to see that Skinner’s face had lost its haggard, grey cast, and his eyes were brighter and much more alive. It pleased him more than he could say and sometimes he would steal glances at his lover just to witness the change in him, delighted by his new vitality. Although he knew they hadn’t figured everything out, and he was sure Skinner hadn’t yet fallen in love with him – and maybe never would – he did know that they had come to an understanding and that nothing would ever be the same again as a result. Doggett had given Skinner the love, care and healing that the big man so desperately needed. The agent knew it wouldn’t be long before they were both sucked back into battle again, but at least his lover had managed to recharge his batteries, and build himself back up for the next round of fighting. He had figured out some of his problems, and even if he couldn’t solve them all, he had come to some kind of acceptance and understanding of them, and laid them as much to rest as he would ever be able to. More than anything else, Doggett knew that whatever happened in the future, they would always have these perfect few days to remember.




As it turned out, they only had a few weeks of normality upon their return to DC, before they were thrown back into the fray once more. Doggett was working at his desk, making some calls about a case he was working on, when his cellphone rang. He glanced at it, saw the caller ID, realised it was Skinner, and frowned. His lover rarely called him on his cell when they were both at work – they usually saved their cellphones for private conversations and they were both too professional to have many of those at work. Doggett swiftly finished the other call he was on and answered the cell.


“Hi, Walter.” He could hear Skinner breathing heavily down the phone. “Walter – you okay?” He got to his feet. “Where are you?”


“I’m fine, John. I’m at Bethesda. They’ve…they’ve had an incident. A security breach.”


“What?” Doggett grabbed his jacket and shouldered himself into it as he ran for the elevator, his cell phone still nestled against his ear. “Where are you?”


“I’m at the hospital now.”


“Why didn’t you call me?” Doggett demanded, getting into the elevator.


“I tried – your phone was busy and I was at the DOD in a meeting when I found out so I couldn’t just come and tell you. I drove straight here, John. I couldn’t wait. I had to find out…John, they’re gone.”


“What are? Walter?” Doggett broke into a run as he exited the elevator and headed towards his car.


“My medical records…” Skinner’s voice broke up.


“Walter – I’m on my way.” Doggett turned off the phone, threw himself into his car, and screeched out of the parking garage.


Skinner was sitting in a room in the hospital, gazing sightlessly at the floor, his collar loosened at the throat, his tie askew. Doggett’s heart did a flip – his lover never looked anything other than immaculate at work, and seeing him like this was heartbreaking. Further down the corridor there was an open door, and various Naval Investigative Service personnel were walking in and out of it, talking and making notes. Skinner seemed remote, disconnected from the investigation that centred around him, lost in his own thoughts.


“Walter,” Doggett strode into the room, crouched down in front of his lover, and touched the other man’s knee. Skinner looked up. His eyes were full of anger and despair. “Tell me exactly what’s goin’ on,” Doggett said.


“I got a phone call a couple of hours ago from the hospital. They called the NIS of course but they let me know because…because I’m the only person affected and because of my position in the Bureau. There’s been some kind of security breach – not a break in, but somehow, and nobody knows how, my medical records were stolen yesterday.”


“Your medical records…that’s all?” Doggett felt as if he’d been kicked in the stomach so he had an idea how bad Skinner must be feeling.




“All the results of those two weeks of tests?” Doggett grimaced. Bad enough that someone had access to that information, but its loss to Skinner was incalculable. He knew that the other man had been secretly hoping that a cure would one day materialise but with the notes missing those two weeks of tests and the ordeal his lover had gone through now seemed like a complete waste of time – and worse, it seemed as if they might help furnish his enemies with new ammunition to use against him.


“Yes. The whole file – and not only that, all the biopsies and blood samples and everything else they were keeping in the freezer,” Skinner added.


“Okay. Who’s in charge of the investigation?” Doggett got up and went to the door.


“I already spoke to them – they’re prepared to let the FBI be involved in the investigation in a minor way as a professional courtesy but beyond that…” Skinner shrugged. “You know how territorial these NIS guys are,” Skinner explained. Doggett nodded, and they both stepped out into the corridor and along to the room that had been broken into.


The NIS allowed Doggett and Skinner to examine the crime scene, and talk to security staff and medical personnel but by the end of the day Doggett had a feeling that this was all going to turn into one big dead end. Nobody had seen anything, there were no fingerprints, nothing had been picked up on camera and the security staff were as puzzled as everyone else. There was absolutely nothing to go on, and he could feel Skinner’s tension rising as the bad news kept getting worse. They went back to Skinner’s apartment late that evening with a heaviness hanging over them that was almost palpable. Skinner didn’t speak a word as he slammed the door to the apartment shut behind him, and then strode over to his liquor cabinet. He poured himself a glass of whisky and downed it in one go, without even sparing Doggett a glance. Doggett didn’t blame him and he didn’t say anything to stop him. When he’d finished his drink, Skinner growled something about taking a shower and then disappeared up the stairs.


Doggett sat on the couch staring moodily into space for a long time. He knew how much this was hurting Skinner but he didn’t know how to help the other man. All his investigative skills seemed to count for nothing – there were no leads so what the hell was he supposed to do next? He felt his own frustration rising in the pit of his stomach. This was just what had happened with Luke. Months of searching had proved completely useless and he’d had to accept failure and defeat in the end – galling and heartbreaking though that had been. He couldn’t bear the thought of it happening a second time; there had to be something he could do. An idea struck Doggett. He dismissed it at first, but his reasons for doing so sat uncomfortably with him. Surely he was a big enough man to admit that he was at a loss – but that somebody else might be able to help them out? Wasn’t asking for help one of the things he’d been insisting Skinner do since they started their relationship? Was he too arrogant to take his own advice? When Skinner returned to the living room a few minutes later, Doggett handed him his cell phone.


“Walter, I want you to make a call,” he said.


Skinner took the phone and raised an eyebrow. “Anybody in particular? Or did you just figure out the phone number of those bastards who stole my medical records?”


“No, but I think I know somebody who might be able to help us track them down. Walter, I want you to call Mulder.”
Skinner’s eyes clouded over behind the wirerims, and he didn’t take the cell phone Doggett was handing him. “I don’t want to do that, John,” he murmured.


“Why not? Mulder knows these people as much as anyone. He’s also been out on his own for months, digging around. He might know something we don’t. He’s worth trying,” Doggett insisted.


“I don’t want to drag Mulder into this,” Skinner said with a shrug.


“Why not? He’s happy enough to drag you into his problems when he needs you. Christ, Walter, what is it with you and all this damn secrecy? I don’t understand why the hell you didn’t tell Mulder the moment you found out Krycek was going to blackmail you with the nanocytes in the first place.”


“I couldn’t!” Skinner snapped. “It would have endangered him – and Scully – and anyone else who knows. Christ, I wouldn’t have told you if you hadn’t tracked me down to the hospital. This is my problem, John, and I take care of my own problems.”


“And sometimes you can’t and that’s when you ask your friends for help,” Doggett snapped back. “We don’t mind being endangered – god knows we’ve called on you for help often enough and you’ve always been there for us. For me, for Scully, for Mulder – for all of us. How dare you deny us the opportunity to help you in return?”


Skinner’s jaw slid sideways at that, his eyes registering surprise. “I’ve never exactly viewed the situation that way before,” he murmured.


“I know, but it’s time you did. I don’t know whether Mulder will be either willing or able to help – it’s a risk, sure, but you won’t know unless you ask him.”


Doggett handed Skinner the phone again, and this time the big man took it. He looked at Doggett for reassurance, and the other man nodded, encouraging him to continue. Skinner considered it for a moment, and then punched a number into his cell phone.


Doggett watched as Skinner left a message with Scully. Then they both sat and waited. A few minutes later, the cell phone rang. Skinner answered it, then looked at Doggett and nodded – it was clear that he was talking to Mulder. They talked for a few minutes while Skinner outlined the situation and then the call ended.


“What did he say?” Doggett asked.


Skinner sat down heavily on the couch. “He’s going to do some digging. He’ll be in touch.”


“Well that’s somethin’.” Doggett put an arm around his lover’s shoulders and squeezed encouragingly. “Walter, I know that wasn’t easy for you but you have to give your friends a chance to show how much they care about you sometimes.”


Skinner gave a faded, wry smile, and Doggett crossed his fingers behind his back. He just hoped that Mulder came through for them, hoped that the ex-agent really did care about Skinner, and most of all he hoped that Mulder had access to some information that they did not. Skinner’s future depended on it.


They fell asleep on the couch and were woken by a knock on the door a couple of hours later. Skinner opened it and a few seconds later he ushered Mulder into the living room. Mulder looked a lot better than the last time Doggett had seen him. His hair, while still very short, had grown back a little and now stood in spiky points on his head and he had shaved off the ridiculous moustache. He looked very fit and well and Doggett fought off a pang of jealousy as Mulder gripped Skinner’s hand briefly and the two men shared a look that spoke of a long history and shared experiences. There was no doubt that Mulder cared about Skinner’s welfare and was concerned about his current predicament. Mulder’s hazel eyes took in everything – raking over Skinner’s face, observing the other man’s pale skin and tense body language.


“D’you have any information for us, Mulder?” Doggett asked, breaking into the mood between the two men.


Mulder nodded. “I have more than that,” he said quickly. “I have an address – but we don’t have much time. I don’t think they’ll be there for long.”
“Who’s they? Who are the people who did this?” Skinner demanded.


Doggett got out his gun and began checking it even as he started striding towards the door.


“I’m not entirely sure,” Mulder grimaced, getting to the door first and opening it. “I don’t even know whether the information I have is worth anything. It’s information obtained from down the barrel of a gun so it could be a trap or a red herring, but it’s all I could find.”


Doggett glanced at Mulder searchingly – he had never considered Mulder to be the kind of man who could do the really heavy stuff; getting information from someone by pointing a gun at his head didn’t seem to be Mulder’s style – but Doggett guessed that his months outside the FBI had forced him to adopt new methods.


“Where are we going?” Skinner asked, as they travelled down to the parking garage in the elevator.


“A house.” Mulder rummaged in his pocket for a piece of paper and handed it to Skinner. “That’s the address – but Skinner.” He grabbed Skinner’s arm as Skinner charged out of the elevator. “Be very careful,” Mulder warned. “These people aren’t amateurs and they aren’t scared of much. Shouting ‘FBI’ and waving a badge around is more likely to make them laugh than anything else.”


Skinner grunted. He shook off Mulder’s arm and jogged towards his car like a very angry rhino intent on tracking down whoever had wounded it. Mulder shot a pleading glance at Doggett. Doggett nodded, understanding the unspoken message. He caught up with Skinner by the car, grabbed the other man’s arm, swung him around, and thumped him bodily against the car.


“Mulder’s right. We take this slow,” Doggett said firmly. Skinner’s eyes flashed angrily behind his wirerims.


“These people are after me, John. They’ve stolen a piece of my life and I want it back. Not only that but they might be able to lead me to the bastards who did this to me in the first place.” Hope flared in Skinner’s eyes and Doggett had a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach. Skinner was pinning too much on this and he wasn’t sure the other man would be able to handle yet another disappointment.


“Walter, I know all that, but if you go blundering in there and get yourself killed then it won’t matter whether there’s a cure for the nanocytes or not, will it?” He asked. Mulder had reached the car and Doggett was aware of the ex-agent watching their exchange with curious eyes. “Walter – I mean it. Just slow down and start thinking,” Doggett insisted, pushing Skinner’s shoulders back against the car with a thud to emphasise his point. Skinner hung there for a moment, then all the air seemed to deflate out of him, and he nodded.


“All right, John,” he ground out in terse tones.


“Good man.” Doggett moved his hand and cradled the back of Skinner’s head affectionately. “We’ll be with you,” he glanced at Mulder for confirmation, unsure whether the other man planned on accompanying them, but Mulder nodded quickly. “We’re three trained and experienced FBI agents so we stand a good chance against these people, whoever they are, as long as we keep our heads. Huh, Corporal?” Skinner gave a faded smile and only when Doggett was sure the message had sunk in did he release his lover.


They got in the car and Mulder drove them to the address he had been given. Skinner was silent throughout the journey – Doggett glanced at him occasionally but the big man seemed lost in thought. They pulled up outside the house and looked at it for a few seconds, trying to evaluate the danger. It looked like a fairly ordinary house and it was in complete darkness.


“Front door’s not very secure – looks like just the one lock,” Mulder said.


“There’s probably a back entrance as well,” Doggett pointed out. “One of us could cover the back while the other two kick their way in through the front.”


“No,” Skinner interrupted firmly. “Christ, I’m still an FBI agent and I’ll be damned if I just kick down a door without knocking on it first.”


“Fair point,” Doggett acceded.


Mulder gave a slight smile at Skinner’s insistence on playing by the rules, and nodded. They got out of the car, and all three men approached the front door. Skinner knocked, and they waited – but there was no sound from inside the house. Skinner knocked again but there was only silence in response.


“I don’t think we have a choice now,” Mulder said. “We have to go in, Walter.”


“I agree,” Skinner nodded.


“I’ll go around the back…” Mulder began but Skinner interrupted him.


“No,” he said firmly. “Look, we don’t have a warrant to enter this house and at this point this stops being a legitimate FBI operation. It’s also dangerous. I don’t mind taking that risk myself, but I don’t want either of you two taking it. Go back to the car and wait. I’ll keep in contact with you by cellphone.”


“Walter this is crazy,” Doggett said forcefully.


“Agent Doggett – this is my mission. I’m in charge here. Do either of you disagree with that?” Skinner growled. Doggett exchanged a glance with Mulder who shrugged and shook his head.


“No, sir,” Doggett sighed. “But it’s crazy to go in there alone, without backup.”


“I’ll have backup – like I said, I’ll talk to you on the cellphone while I go around the house – but I don’t want either of you to risk your lives in what Mulder has already pointed out could be a trap. This is a risk I’d prefer to take alone.”


Doggett opened his mouth to protest again but something about the look in his lover’s eyes stopped him.


“I’m not arguing this, John,” Skinner told him in a low tone. Doggett knew that when Skinner got this forceful there was no moving him. The other man had an obstinate streak a mile long and twice as deep.


“All right. But we’re coming in at the first sign of trouble damnit,” he growled.


Doggett returned to the car with Mulder, and they sat, watching, as Skinner drew his gun. The big man attached the hands free cord to his cell phone, pressed the other end in his ear, dialled, then put the phone back in his pocket. A few seconds later Doggett’s car phone beeped. He put it on hands free so that they could both listen to it, and then watched as Skinner stepped back, and crashed his foot into the doorframe. The lock burst on the first kick, and Skinner glanced back at the car and waved his hand before stepping cautiously into the dark house. Doggett sat as still as a rock in the car, all his muscles tense, listening to Skinner’s breathing through the cell phone connection as the other man walked slowly around the house. Mulder felt the tension differently, and fidgeted incessantly until Doggett had to fight off an urge to slap the ex-agent and yell at him to be still.


“I’m in a hallway, going towards the kitchen. Nothing in here. Looks very ordinary. I hope you got the right place, Mulder,” Skinner was saying. Doggett felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end. He tightened his grip on his gun, one hand on the car door, ready to run in there at the first sign of trouble. Silence, save for Skinner’s heavy breathing, and then a thud.


“What was that? Walter?” Doggett cried out.


“It’s okay,” Skinner replied. “I just had kicked a door open. Nothing in here. Okay…I’ve done the downstairs. I’m going up now.”
Doggett glanced across at the house, hating the inactivity, wanting desperately to be in there with his lover.


“Just passed the bathroom – nobody in there,” Skinner said, his footsteps reverberating on what sounded like bare, wooden boards. Mulder let out a long exhalation of breath. He glanced up at the house speculatively for a moment, and then frowned.


“What?” Doggett asked.


“Something about the sound…”


They both listened to the sound of Skinner walking on the floorboards for a moment and then Mulder suddenly sprang into action.


“Skinner – get yourself out of there, now, there’s someone in there with you!” He yelled.


Doggett was already out of the car and running towards the house before Mulder even finished the sentence. He ran up the stairs two at a time, and slid to a halt at the top. The sounds of struggle drew him to one of the rooms, and he burst through the door to find Skinner lying on the floor on his back, an ugly gash across his forehead, fighting with a masked man who was sitting on top of him. The man had a gun and Skinner was desperately trying to keep it aimed away from his own body. Doggett let out a low roar of rage – something exploded inside him at seeing his lover in such danger and he flung himself across the room, picked up the man on top of Skinner, and slung him bodily against the wall. The gun fell to the floor and Doggett kicked it towards Skinner before pursuing the masked man who was running towards the door…and straight into Mulder, who threw him back at Doggett. Doggett grabbed the man’s sweater and punched him over and over again, his mind filled with an almost murderous rage.


“Doggett! Doggett! JOHN!” Dimly Doggett heard Mulder’s voice over the buzzing in his ears and stopped punching. The man fell to the floor, retching as he clutched his stomach where Doggett had pounded into him with his fist.


“Walter? You okay?” Doggett turned anxiously back to his lover who was sitting on the floor, wiping blood from his forehead.


“I’m fine. I found the samples.” Skinner pointed at a desk in front of the window, and Doggett saw a case containing several vials of blood. “The medical notes have to be around here somewhere,” Skinner said as Doggett hauled him to his feet.


“We’ll find them,” Mulder said. “I’ll look in the next room. Doggett – make sure this guy doesn’t go anywhere.” Mulder waved his gun at the masked man panting on the floor.


Doggett nodded grimly. He went over to their attacker, pulled him to his feet, and pushed him against the wall.


“Just stay there,” he growled, training his gun on the man. He glanced over at Skinner who was busy opening all the desk drawers, searching for the notes. It all happened so quickly that Doggett didn’t have time to think. He saw something flash across the street through the window, and instinct kicked in.


“GET DOWN, WALTER!” He screamed as he abandoned his captive and threw himself over to where Skinner was standing, exposed, in front of the window. He flung himself on his lover and threw him to the floor at the same time as the window exploded and he felt a great tearing pain in his shoulder. He landed on top of Skinner and was momentarily winded and then the pain kicked in in earnest and he screamed as the momentum of his fall sent him rolling onto the wooden floor where he landed on his wounded shoulder. He must have blacked out for a moment because the next thing he knew he was staring up at into a pair of concerned dark eyes, and Skinner was slapping his face.


“John – John, stay with me,” Skinner said.


Doggett blinked and grimaced as the pain swept over him again in a dizzying wave.


“S’alright…” he muttered but he could feel the blood trickling down his back and arm. “S’okay,” he said again, struggling to get up.


“Don’t move,” Skinner said, tearing at his shirt. He pulled it open and pressed his hand on the wound that was steadily leaking blood. Doggett blinked sweat out of his eyes and banged his head back on the floor, struggling to stay conscious. He could see Mulder frantically pressing buttons on his cellphone, could see the worry in Skinner’s eyes and he wanted to tell the big man that he was okay but he couldn’t get his lips to work. Dimly he was aware that he was staring at something under the chair he was lying beside but he couldn’t figure out what it was or why it was important.


“We have to get him away from the window,” Skinner was shouting to Mulder. “They could fire again.”
“I don’t think so. I saw two people running out there so I’m betting the sniper is long gone by now. We’ll take him downstairs and out the back,” Mulder said. “The paramedics will be here soon.”
Skinner nodded, and then moved into Doggett’s field of vision again.


“I’m going to pick you up. Hold on, John. Stay with us,” Skinner said and his voice sounded as if it was coming from a great distance.


Doggett was swung up from the floor into a standing position. He swayed against Skinner’s shoulder for a few seconds, and then he felt himself being lifted again. He realised that somehow, and he wasn’t even sure how because he wasn’t a lightweight, Skinner had managed to lift him into his arms. His vision kept blurring and coming back into focus and he fixed his gaze on his lover as the big man carried him down the stairs and out to the back of the house. Skinner’s jaw was clenched and his face was pale with worry. He kept murmuring something that Doggett couldn’t quite hear. They crashed out of the house and Skinner sank to his knees on the grass and gently deposited Doggett on the ground. He loomed over Doggett, protecting him with his body, pressing on the wound once more to stop the bleeding.


“Hold on, John…it’s okay…hold on for me,” he said. Doggett felt the world come back into focus.


“It’s okay, Walter…it isn’t life threatening,” he managed to choke. “It just hurts so damn much.”


Skinner nodded, but the anxiety didn’t leave his face. A few seconds later Mulder came into view.


“Paramedics are on their way.” Mulder crouched down beside Doggett. “We lost that man though – he ran off when you committed your act of heroism,” he said in his usual ironic monotones.


“Did you find the medical notes?” Skinner demanded.


“Not yet.” Mulder shook his head. “I’ll go back in.” He got up and paused for a moment, looking down on Skinner and Doggett, his expression unreadable. Then he seemed to nod to himself, and returned to the house.


“Paramedics won’t be long, John,” Skinner told him, caressing the side of Doggett’s face with blood-stained fingers.


“Mm.” Doggett could feel himself starting to shake and knew his body was going into shock. Skinner removed his jacket and placed it over him, then pulled Doggett over and held him close to his own body for warmth. Doggett felt safe, nestled in his lover’s big arms…but something was still niggling him…something about the house…something he’d seen under that chair.


“Oh shit! Walter, get him out of there! There’s a bomb in there!” Doggett cried, the memory coming flooding back in. Skinner looked down at him with an expression of total shock and then he dislodged Doggett, and ran towards the house. Doggett held his breath and he could have sworn that time stood still as he watched his lover disappear and then waited for them both to return, hoping that he had been wrong and hadn’t seen what he thought he’d seen. A couple of minutes later he heard a loud bang. There was an explosion of glass above him and then a plume of flame licked out from the upper storey of the house.


“Shit…oh shit…” Doggett tried to crawl back towards the house. He was half-way there when the two men emerged, coughing loudly. They collapsed onto the grass beside Doggett and looked at the burning house in shocked dismay.


“I guess someone really wanted to hide whatever was in that place,” Mulder commented quietly. Skinner nodded, his shoulders hunched. “Good thing I found these before you got me out of there,” Mulder said, drawing a sheaf of papers in a file from under his sweater. Skinner smiled and took the medical notes. “Let’s just hope nobody had time to make any copies,” Mulder said. The two men shared a grim look and that was the last thing Doggett remembered before unconsciousness claimed him once more.




He woke to the low hum of voices. He felt tired and his entire body ached, but he knew instinctively that he was going to be fine. He opened his eyes and looked around to find himself in a hospital bed in a private room. Mulder and Skinner were sitting talking to each other in low tones – it had been their voices he had heard. He gazed at them for a moment, and experienced a familiar pang of intense jealousy. He was getting used to that sensation when Mulder was around. The two of them looked so good together, so natural; two people who had known each other for a long time, talking with the ease of long association. Doggett moved his head and Skinner got to his feet immediately and loomed into view. He was wearing a blood-stained sweater and there was a large dressing on his forehead.


“John – you okay?” he asked, his hand finding Doggett’s where it was resting on the bed.


Doggett cleared his throat experimentally.


“Yeah,” he said blearily. “I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson but apart from that, yeah.”


Skinner smiled, and squeezed on Doggett’s hand gently.


“What’s the damage?” Doggett asked.


“You’re going to be fine. The bullet went straight through. They operated on you a few hours ago and expect you to make a full recovery.” The relief in his eyes was palpable and Doggett squeezed his hand in return to reassure him. He knew the last thing Skinner had wanted, going into that house, was for anyone to get hurt and he also knew how much his lover liked to give himself a hard time. He guessed Skinner was beating himself up about this big time.


“Did you find anyone?” Doggett glanced over Skinner’s shoulder at Mulder who was watching the tenderness between the two men with a curious expression on his face.
“Did you find the people behind this?”


Mulder stepped forward, shaking his head.


“No. The sniper who got you was long gone by the time we went looking for him, and the man in the house got away as well. I’ve been back to look at the place but it’s badly burned so I don’t think we’ll find any clues there. Story of my life.” He grinned ruefully. “Always nearly find what I’m looking for,” he explained as Doggett frowned.
“A day late and a dollar short!”


Doggett returned the rueful smile with one of his own. “Yeah, I read the files,” he said. “You kept goin’ though. That’s somethin’ to be proud of. Persistence is a virtue.”


“And I wish I could say it’s its own reward but…” Mulder shrugged. “Every now and again I’d just like to lay my hands on some goddamn proof!”


The three men exchanged wry smiles and then a silence fell over them. Doggett struggled to sit up and Skinner helped him.


“I could do with some water – could you find me some?” he asked Skinner, wanting to talk to Mulder alone.


“I’ll go and ask.” Skinner squeezed his hand again and then left.


Doggett gazed at Mulder for a moment and the other man gazed back at him. Doggett found he couldn’t hate his rival no matter how hard he tried.


“I just wanted to say thanks for comin’ through for him,” he said. “I know it means a lot to him.”


“One good turn…” Mulder shrugged, making light of it.


“No, it’s more than that. He doesn’t like asking for help but he’s been drownin’ for a long time,” Doggett said forcefully. “I know he’s got to be feeling pleased that you helped him out. He thinks the world of you and Scully.”


“And we’re pretty attached to him.” Mulder grinned. His grin faded, and with it went the ironic veneer. “Seriously…” He shifted uncomfortably, then looked straight at Doggett. “You’re good for him, John. Scully’s told me he’s never looked happier than he has these past few months.”


Doggett nodded, accepting the compliment and with it the implicit acknowledgement of their relationship without embarrassment.


“He deserves to be happy after all he’s been through. What about you, Mulder?” He asked, curious about his rival. “Are you happy?”


“Me?” Mulder looked surprised to be asked. “I guess so,” he shrugged. He bit on his lip as if considering something, scuffing the floor with his shoe, and then looked up again. “I know you’ve been…concerned,” he said, “but me and Walter – that was never going to…” He paused again, then looked straight at Doggett, his hazel eyes sad and resigned. “Let’s just say that I wouldn’t have made him happy the way you do, John.”


Doggett’s stomach did a flip. He had no idea how on earth Mulder had guessed about his jealousy but he knew from reading the X files that Mulder had an uncanny knack for figuring out the weirdest things. He somehow wasn’t surprised to find out that Mulder knew at least something about Skinner’s feelings for the ex-agent, or that Mulder seemed entirely at ease with the idea, as if it even could have been possible. Doggett had always felt a strange vibe from Mulder, and he guessed that the other man was bisexual, or maybe possessed of his own spooky sexuality where gender really just didn’t matter.


“Mulder, you’ve got Scully. You make her happy,” Doggett said softly. Mulder gave him a wry, faded smile.


“John, I don’t really make anyone happy,” he said sadly. “It comes with the territory, it comes with being me and what I am. I love Scully with all my heart but I can’t be what she wants just like I couldn’t be what Walter wants, although I was tempted to try a few years back. I’m just not someone who should ever be in a relationship. I’ve known that all my life. With Scully…it’s complicated.” He gave a sad smile. “She and I have been together so long as partners, have faced so much together, and there’s so much love there. I know she should be with someone else, someone who’d be there for her, not someone like me, always on a quest, always searching for something just out of reach. Walter lucked out with you, John. Scully drew the short straw with me.” He shrugged.


“Don’t sell yourself short, Mulder,” Doggett said, suddenly feeling profoundly sorry for his rival. Mulder wasn’t indulging in self-pity – he was just telling it like it was, and Doggett admired the man for that. Suddenly he saw that his jealousy had been misplaced. He had built Mulder up into this bogeyman figure, the man who had been everywhere before him, both in his work and his personal life. Oxford educated, good looking, an amazingly intuitive agent with deductive powers bordering on genius levels – and yet despite all that, Mulder knew the weaknesses at his core, the flaws that meant he could never have the kind of relationship that other people, like Doggett, took for granted, and the aching sadness at his own centre that could never be healed.


“One thing I was wondrin’,” Doggett murmured. “Back at the house you knew something was wrong – how?”


“Footsteps,” Mulder said with a smile, perhaps relieved to be back on more familiar territory. “There was a double echo – like someone was shadowing Skinner, trying to match their footsteps to his.”


“You’re some agent,” Doggett whistled, deeply impressed.


“So are you. You saved his life and mine back there,” Mulder told him. “I’m glad he’s in such good hands. Makes me feel less guilty for screwing up his career and then taking off and leaving him to deal with all the crap I left in his life.”


“He doesn’t see it that way,” Doggett commented, although personally he didn’t disagree with the assessment.


“Then he’s kinder than he should be,” Mulder said.


At that moment Skinner returned with a glass of water. “The doctor said you have to sip it,” he instructed Doggett. “No gulping or you might be sick.”


“Christ, just give it to me. I’m parched,” Doggett grumbled. “Damn doctors with their damn orders.”


Skinner grinned and held the glass against his lover’s lips.


“Uh-uh. Just a sip,” Skinner instructed.


Doggett grabbed Skinner’s arm and tried to manoeuvre more of the fluid into his mouth but Skinner took it away with a mock-stern frown. Doggett laughed. He knew his whole face was lit up with the sheer exhilaration of being alive to share this moment with the man he loved. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Mulder’s lips twist in a brief expression of regret, then the other man smiled, and slipped quietly from the room.


End of Part 3


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