Subterfuge: 1. Part One


The blood running down my jaw isn’t as distracting as the smell of vomit – that makes me retch. I pound uselessly on the door for a while, asking to be transferred to a cell that doesn’t have a pile of puke in one corner, or at least for them to come and clean this one up, but instead I just get shouted at to shut up. Which is fair enough I suppose, in the circumstances. They’re busy and I’m just another Friday night drunk who’s been involved in a brawl. Only I’m not, drunk that is, and as for the brawl – it really wasn’t my fault. Explaining that might just prove to be a little difficult though. Not for the first time I wish I’d done the paperwork first, and started the investigation second. Ass first again, Mulder. Scully will be furious – if I’m lucky. It’s when she doesn’t care that I get worried. All the same, I’m concerned about Lenny, and I have to get out of here soon – even apart from the puke, and the blood, and the way my jaw hurts, there’s definitely something going down, and Lenny’s been a good informant. He might need some back up if my identity is revealed. Which is why I didn’t take my gun or my ID to that club, and which is also why nobody here believes me when I tell them I’m with the FBI, although the desk sergeant does agree (grudgingly) to phone my boss to check.


“Name?” He asks wearily.


“Fox Mulder.”


“No. Your boss’s name. You’ve already told me yours,” he sighs.


“Oh. Skinner. Assistant Director Skinner.” Now I’m the one sighing. This is one of those moments in life when you really wish you’d done things differently. It’s 3 a.m. or near enough. If Skinner is actually at home, sleeping (do the undead sleep?) then he’s not going to be happy to be dragged out here to pick me up. Lying to them by saying Scully is my boss is a tempting thought, but really I’m in enough trouble right now without making it any worse – and Skinner’s going to find out about all this at some point anyway.


So, back to the vomit hellhole, ensconced between 2 drunks and an exceedingly butch leather queen who keeps smiling at me in a way that I’m starting to find threatening. He’s not drunk. I’m beginning to wish he was, especially when he comes over, sits down next to me, puts a hand on my knee, and stares deeply into my eyes.


“I saw you at Krypton didn’t I?” he asks.


“Not necessarily.” I’m torn between keeping my cover and decking him to save my chastity – although he’s pretty big and I’m definitely feeling the worse for wear. My head hurts, the cut on my jaw has started to bleed again, and the room occasionally swims around like Esther Williams on speed.


“Oh yeah. You were there. I noticed you. You were with Lenny.” His hand moves up my leg and rests, proprietarily, on my thigh. “Now Lenny’s a sub and you’re a sub, so you two boys can’t be involved,” he leers, his other meaty arm going round my shoulder. Not again. I’ve had enough of this for one evening.


“A sub? No way. Not me.” I try to sit up and look mean, but my head hurts too much to carry it off convincingly. I can kick ass with the best of them – I’m a trained FBI agent for god’s sake, but I’m not at my best right now. I’m not dressed as a dom, but then it suited me to be ambiguous on this initial foray into the sado-masochistic, homosexual underworld. Maybe I was naive. And under prepared. Yes, I accept that – I made a couple of mistakes.


“Yeah. You are,” he grins, his fist ending up in my hair, pulling my head back. I have to admit that I yelp, and the room is still swimming alarmingly or I’d fight back. “I’ve been on the scene for 30 years, son. You’re a sub, even if you don’t know it yet.”


“Let go.” I’m feeling very threatened here!


“Why? Is the touch of a strong guy turning you on too much?” That hand on my thigh moves up and rummages around in my crotch. I can assure you that it finds nothing incriminating. I am NOT turned on by this, just feeling very, very sorry for myself, and promising that if I get out of this cell alive I’ll file 302’s, complete forms in triplicate, accept five burly agents in back-up, and brief Skinner on every trip I so much as take to the washroom on my next mission. I am just about to get felt up by Mr. Butch when salvation arrives. I’ve called him my beacon in the night before, but trust me, this time he IS. Butch Daddy Two looms in the doorway and saves me from Butch Daddy One.


“Mulder.” He stands there and looks at us both expressionlessly for a moment. “I got a call,” he murmurs, his eyes fixing Mr. Butch with that cold glare he usually saves for agents who haven’t filed their reports on time. Mr. Butch locks stares with him, and I feel like I’m involved in some sort of ancient rutting ritual between two stags or something. Finally Mr. Butch backs down (let’s face it, he was never going to win), and he grins, releases my hair, and removes his hand from my groin.


“Looks like your master’s come to reclaim his property,” he chuckles. “Let’s just hope he doesn’t punish you too bad when he gets you home. He looks pretty pissed. Maybe he didn’t give you permission to be out pulling other guys this evening.”


This is just SO embarrassing, and I get to my feet and lurch towards the door to escape. The stench of vomit is overpowering, and I’m really feeling ill – that’s my excuse anyway.


“You lied to me, pretty boy!” Mr. Butch calls after me. “You should’a said someone already owned you.” I notice a slight tightening around Skinner’s mouth, and his glare intensifies. Turning, I see that Mr. Butch is looking less butch by the second. “I don’t want any trouble,” he moans, holding up his hands towards Skinner in surrender. “I was just playing. He didn’t say he belonged to someone already. I didn’t know.”


I’m impressed. Skinner’s got this guy fooled and he’s hardly even said a word.


The room is still swimming, and I crash into Skinner as I pass. He doesn’t move but his blank, threatening stare is now fixed on me, and suddenly I know why Mr. Butch was so scared. I stagger out into the corridor quickly.


“He one of yours?” The desk sergeant nods his head in my direction as we head for the exit.


“Yes.” Skinner fixes me with a speculative, faintly irritated stare, and then sighs. “He is.”


How small am I feeling at this point? Oh, pretty small, not far off the ground to be honest. Skinner escorts me to his car, and gets in without saying a word, and I slink in beside him. He angles the car out onto the road, which is empty of traffic at this time of night, and then clears his throat. I wait for it.


“I’m sure you have a very good explanation for this, Mulder,” he says neutrally. “Would you like to give it to me back at the office now, or later on tomorrow after you’ve had a chance to rest up and…” he considers my blood-stained clothing with distaste, “change?”


“Now.” I reply firmly, thinking about Lenny.


“Did they take you to the Emergency Room first, Mulder? I’m concerned about your face,” he says, not taking his eyes off the road.


“Officer Stevens didn’t seem to think it was bad enough to do any long-term damage to my dating prospects,” I grin, trying to lighten him up, and failing. “So they didn’t take me to the E.R. Don’t worry – I’ve washed the blood off a couple of times, it isn’t as bad as it looks. We should go back to the office – there’s a whole lot of stuff I need to tell you.”


He glances at me thoughtfully with just a hint of an unspoken ‘better late than never’ in that stare, but he doesn’t say anything, and I know he won’t until I’ve explained myself. That’s the enigmatic Walter S. Skinner for you – when you expect him to chew you out he’s trying to take you to the hospital as if he’s your mom, and then, when you least expect it, he’s hauling your ass over the coals about something. We don’t speak for the rest of the journey. I need to get all this straight in my head, and he’s obviously thinking that if we start now he’ll end up succumbing to his own version of road rage, and crash the car.


The light is on in his office, and his jacket is over the back of his chair. I notice that he’s still wearing his dress trousers, and a shirt and tie, so I guess I didn’t wake him. What is it he finds to do at 3 o’ clock in the morning? And I thought I was a workaholic!


“Sit down.” He gestures to a chair, and I clutch my handkerchief to my cut jaw, which has started bleeding again. It isn’t much use as my handkerchief is already soaked with my blood. Skinner disappears for a moment, then reappears with a cup of water and a medical kit. He perches on the desk in front of me, dips a cotton ball into the water, and, taking my chin in his hand, he starts clearing up the wound.


“I have no 302 filed, I don’t recall giving you a case involving gay night-clubs, and there is no record anywhere of your intention to work undercover on an investigation this evening,” he says as he works. “I’m presuming this has nothing to do with your social life, or at least I hope not – I do not expect to be called out to rescue my agents from every drunken brawl they get involved in after hours. I’m also assuming that the fact that you took neither your gun, nor your ID with you to this club was not just one of your little Mulderesque oversights, along with the complete absence of any back-up. I’m sure that you have very good reasons for all these actions, and I expect to hear them outlined to me in full just as soon as I’ve finished here.”


He’s speaking in a low, even tone, and he doesn’t seem too pissed off. His fingers are actually gentle as he washes off all the blood and surveys the cut underneath.


“You were right. Looks worse than it is,” he tells me, smearing something on it then snapping the medical kit shut and going to sit down at his desk. He leans back expectantly in his chair.


“It’s about these ritualistic cult murders of gay men,” I begin.


He frowns. “Mulder – there haven’t been any cult murders,” he says.


“Yeah there have.”


“Are you talking about the men who were mutilated and dumped in the Potomac?” he asks. “I don’t recall anything about that being ‘ritualistic’. And anyway, we have a team working on that case. I assigned them myself.”


“Yeah. I know.” I have the grace to flush a bit, then charge on. “But Agent Roberts showed me some of the photos a couple of days ago and something about the way they were mutilated – it just stuck in my head. I couldn’t work it out until yesterday. That’s when I called Lenny.”


“Lenny?” he frowns.


“Lenny’s into the S/M scene in DC. He used to be an informant for me before I worked on the X Files. He’s a nice guy.”


“A purely professional opinion I take it?” One raised eyebrow. Is he making a joke? Surely that’s never happened before – I ought to get the moment taped or something.


“Yeah. Lenny’s not my type,” I smirk and there is just a trace of knowing amusement in those dark brown eyes before they go all grim again.


“What was it that caught your interest?” He leans forward, genuinely wanting to hear my insights on this case. It always surprises me how broad-minded he can be. Despite his tedious obsession with following the letter of the law and orthodox procedures, he’ll take that leap of faith if I can give him enough hard evidence to warrant it. Flukemen spring uneasily to mind.


“The mutilations weren’t random – they were specific. A specific symbol. It wasn’t noticed because the symbol is fairly obscure, and there were so many other cuts on the bodies. Here.” I take a pen and sheet of paper, and draw the symbol for him.


“What is it?” he frowns, picking up the paper.


“It’s an astrological symbol representing the star sign Taurus – the bull. I checked with Lenny – all the men who were killed had at some point been on the S/M scene here in DC. They all disappeared some weeks before they were killed. Or at least, some weeks before we found their bodies.”


“So the killer has a knowledge of new age symbolism. That necessitated you going to this nightclub why?” he asks. It’s a good question.


“Oh no reason. I just wanted a walk on the wild side,” I answer flippantly. He frowns. I sigh inwardly – that one brief joke of his was obviously an aberration. “All of the guys who were killed were part of the Mithras ring.”


“Mithras?” Never let it be said that he allows ANYTHING to pass unquestioned.


“It’s the name of an ancient cult religion – the worship of a bull god in an exclusively male environment, and a particularly popular cult amongst ancient Roman soldiers, probably for some fairly obvious reasons.”


He’s giving me a ‘skip the classical history lecture and get on with the facts’ look.


“Okay, it’s also the name that a fringe group of sadists have adopted for their secret society. They’re a scary bunch, but so far as we know they haven’t stepped outside the law before. They’re also very select – you need to be a high level player to get in, and most of the guys at Krypton last night would have given their right arms for the honor, or their left ones – if you’ll forgive the joke,” I grin, thinking of Krycek; it’s just the sort of place he’d feel at home. Skinner gazes at me quizzically for a moment, and then almost breaks into a smile but catches himself just in time.


“Krypton’s pretty way out as these S/M places go. It attracts a certain kind of clientele. Lenny said that some of the Mithras tops occasionally cruise Krypton looking for suitable slaves to drag back to their lair. Only the prettiest and most subservient need apply I gather. I thought that I might be able to check them out. If Lenny could point them out to me, I could do some research on them, and…”


“Wait a moment.” Oh shit. Now it’s coming. He’s furious. When did that mood swing take place? “Are you telling me, that you went to this night-club on your own, without telling anyone, without even sharing ANY of these insights either with me, or anyone working on this case? That you put yourself into a potentially life-threatening situation where you knew it was possible you could bump into a serial killer with a penchant for the sort of men who hang out in that place, and you still didn’t deem it necessary to take any back-up?”


“I wasn’t going as bait!” I protest. “I didn’t intend to be picked up or anything!”


“Mulder, judging by the attitude of that man in the cells when I arrived to bail you out, bait is exactly what you were, whether you consciously knew that or not. I’m not being personal here, but if ‘Mithras’ were cruising for new recruits they would have found you an interesting proposition. If you can’t see that, then you’re kidding yourself, and I think you’re smarter than that. Now I’m interested in the angle you have on this case, and I’d like to assign you to the team, but first of all I want to make one thing clear.” He pauses for a moment then fixes me with a grim, almost life-threatening stare. “No more maverick tactics. I have no idea what the hell you thought you were doing, but don’t let it happen again. Tonight’s escapade was foolhardy and stupid. Your complete lack of regard for FBI procedures can be very tiring, Mulder. Now I’ve tolerated, to a certain extent, your methods of investigation on the X Files, but while you work on this case, you’ll do as I say. And I mean that this time. Oh hell, I mean it every time, but this time you’ll report directly to me. Do I make myself clear?”


Oh yeah. Very clear.


“Yes, sir,” I mutter. Damn. I hate teamwork – I always end up shooting my mouth off, and upsetting everyone. I thought I might get a head start on this one that would prevent me having to listen to the slow thought processes of my fellow agents. I don’t mean to sound superior, but sometimes I get way ahead of myself and I just have to run with it. I can’t stop, and that really pisses people off. Skinner’s understood that in the past, but he’s reining me in right now and I suppose I can’t blame him under the circumstances.


“Now none of this explains what you were doing at 3 a.m. in the drunk tank,” he points out. I was sort of hoping he’d forgotten about that.


“It was nothing. Just a little misunderstanding. A bit of a brawl, the police were called.” I shrug. Nice try, Mulder, but Skinner’s one of those ‘no stone left unturned’ guys – it’s probably how he got this far in the Bureau.


“Since I’ll have to file a report on this whole incident, I think I’d like it explained to me in full,” he says, tapping his pen on the desk impatiently. I’m blushing as I take a deep breath, and then plunge right in.


“I was being…um…pestered by someone. Lenny explained to me that sometimes it’s better to take along a top to…protect you from unwanted advances – Krypton’s that sort of place. I told you, it’s on the far side of weird. So after a while we…we…” This isn’t easy! “We decided I’d act like I was Lenny’s top, so that we could get rid of this guy.” I stop. There is silence. Skinner waits. I realize that there is no way out. “All right, the guy didn’t buy it. In fact none of them did. Apparently I do not make a very convincing top.” There, said it. One of his eyebrows is nearly leaping off his face in a ‘you don’t say?’ expression. “It was a tense situation. I think I was accused of being a “tease”, giving off some mixed signals. People were drunk, it got out of hand, punches were thrown, the police were called, you know the rest.”


I think he wants to laugh. I really think he does. In fact, I think that if he could he would throw himself around the room and howl hysterically, but that masterly self control kicks in and he just sits there for a long while, staring at my head impassively. I sense he’s fighting an inner battle. He wins.


“Right.” His tone is a bit low and choked. “I think that about covers it for now. You need to go home and get some rest.” I open my mouth and he fixes me with a cold stare. “That’s an order, Mulder.”


“But what about Lenny?” I say quickly. “He wasn’t arrested and neither was that other guy who was bothering us. I don’t know what happened to Lenny, but we did sort of draw attention to ourselves. If anyone found out I was FBI, or if that other guy is still mad at me, then Lenny might be in trouble.”


“Do you know where Lenny lives?” he asks me.




“Then I suggest we go and check out whether he got home safely. After that I’ll make sure that you get home safely.”


“Yes, sir.” I’m not sure if he’s being sarcastic here but it doesn’t seem wise to argue.


So I find myself knocking on Lenny’s door furiously an hour or so later, with Skinner standing forbiddingly behind me. There’s no reply, and am on the verge of drawing my gun when finally Lenny opens the door, and gazes at me sleepily.


“Yo! Mulder! You okay, buddy?” He peers at the cut on my chin. “I was worried about you.”


“I’m fine, Lenny. I was just checking up on you.”


He stands aside to let me in and then catches sight of Skinner – and you can just see him going weak at the knees as his eyes travel over and devour every inch of my boss’s large frame. I’ve never seen such naked lust – and directed at my boss as well. It startles me.


“Who’s the big guy?” he asks me coyly, simpering a bit.


“Assistant Director Skinner. FBI. My boss,” I tell him.


“Lucky you.” He purses his lips. Skinner clears his throat.


“You’re Lenny?” he asks.


“Guilty as charged.” Lenny flirts outrageously, and I wonder how Skinner will take this but he just fixes Lenny with what is nearly a smile, and Lenny melts.


“I’d like to thank you for your help this evening, Lenny. Agent Mulder has told me all about it. I think your input on this case will be valuable to us. Would you call me tomorrow and arrange a time to come in and advise us? I’ll see to it that you’re…reimbursed for your time,” Skinner says, handing Lenny a card with his number on it. Lenny accepts it as if it’s his invitation to heaven. He’s pretty – blond curly hair, blue eyes, a bit thin and not very tall. I have no idea why people weren’t convinced that I was a top, but he’d have been even less successful in the role than I was.


“Oh, I’ll call!” Lenny gushes.


At that moment there’s a sound from his bedroom, and a man staggers into the room, looking around blearily.


“Lenny – where’d you go?” The man calls. Then he sees me, straightens up and a murderous look leaps into his eyes. “You!”


It’s the guy who started the brawl, the one who was pursuing me and wouldn’t take no for an answer.


“Lenny how could you!” I murmur reproachfully. Lenny shrugs and grins.


“Well, once you were out of the picture…” he mutters, not even having the grace to look remotely abashed.


The guy is advancing on us menacingly. “I’ve still got a score to settle with you,” he tells me, looking mean. I can handle myself but I’ve already lost one fight with him tonight, my head aches, my jaw hurts, and I’m really not in the mood for another brawl. I only back up a little way before I find myself bumping into Skinner.


“We don’t want any trouble. Why don’t you and Lenny just go back to…bed and we’ll be leaving,” Skinner says smoothly. Lenny’s belligerent lover gives Skinner a speculative look, and then nods and shrugs, backing down.


“Come on, Lenny.” He pulls Lenny back in the direction of the bedroom, and with one last, lingering look at my boss, Lenny goes.


What is it with Skinner and these dom guys, I wonder to myself as we leave the apartment in silence. Is it the physique? I mean I’m just as tall as he is and they don’t all back down when I stare at them. Is it that grim-faced, unsmiling look? Maybe I’ll have to work on that. Or the bald head? The air of authority? Whatever it is, so far this evening he’s out-topped two experienced tops, so it’s pretty convincing. I feel a vague pang of envy. I wish I had this knack – it would come in useful in everyday life and might stop me getting screwed over by so many people. Oh you know who I mean – Cancerman, the whole Consortium, even goddamn Krycek.


Lenny is looking his winsome best for the meeting the following afternoon. Jeans, cowboy boots, blue denim shirt – this is his “on the range” look. Of course he wouldn’t know one end of a horse from the other, but Lenny’s not one to let reality stand in the way of a good image. It’s wasted on Skinner of course, who it’s aimed at. He’s his usual terse self. He briefly outlines my recent investigation to the team, and Roberts shoots me a reproachful glance. I guess Skinner’s already chewed him out for letting me see those photos. However they’re all interested in the conclusions I’ve come to.


“What happens next, sir?” Roberts asks. “Is Mulder going back to the club?” He looks questioningly at me, then at Skinner, and finally at Lenny, who winks at him. Roberts blushes.


“Well this Krypton place seems to be our best way of locating the main players in the Mithras circle, so yes, I suppose another trip to the club is warranted. This time with proper back-up.” Skinner shoots me a cool glance, and Lenny grins at me, and nudges me with his foot. I wish he’d stop giving everything a sexual context, and I especially wish he’d stop casting me in the role of fellow gay sub lusting after my boss. It isn’t true, and it’s distracting.


“We’ll need to take Lenny’s advice on how best to avoid an occurrence of last night’s debacle,” Skinner says. Lenny smiles delightedly.


“Well – I did try and warn Mulder about Krypton,” he says and I sigh inwardly. Go ahead, Lenny, throw me to the lions. “Krypton’s pretty far out as these places go. It’s for the more possessive types. There’s some posturing – the doms try to steal other men’s subs – it’s part of the fun. It’s a kind of macho thing. The tops who go to Krypton are a bit over-blessed with testosterone,” Lenny grins. “They like to show how powerful they are. And the subs that go are really into being owned, and having men fight over them. So it’s the way out end of the scene, like I said. I’d suggest that next time Mulder goes as a sub and takes a top with him. And they both dress appropriately!” He smirks at me, and I have a vision of myself in full collar and chains being dragged around at the end of a lead. Trust me – this vision does nothing for me.


“Right. That makes sense – it will also give us two men in the club. We’ll have others on stand by outside.” Skinner nods. “Agent Kendall, I suggest that you accompany Agent Mulder inside and…”


“With all due respect, sir.” Lenny rolls that “sir” over his tongue as if he’s making love to it. “And nothing against Agent Kendall, who I’m sure is very strong, and tough and all.” He smiles at Kendall who is a lean, wiry guy with a moustache. It’s his turn to blush now. “But I think you underestimate the sort of thing that goes on in Krypton. That’s the mistake Mulder made last night. And if you do get as far as being accepted within the Mithras ring – that is your aim isn’t it?” he looks at Skinner inquiringly. Skinner nods. “Well then you’re going to need someone who can really pull the role off, sir. Or Mulder could find himself in big trouble.”


“That won’t be a first,” Roberts mutters, and someone splutters. Skinner silences them with a glare.


“All right. I’m well aware of the delicate, and embarrassing nature of this investigation,” he says. “But however personally distasteful or uncomfortable you find it, there have been five men killed, and we have a job to do. So forget the sniggering, gentlemen, please.” He glances round the room, and everyone nods solemnly. “If any of you have a problem with the particular nature of this investigation, I suggest you say so now.” He regards the assembled agents impassively, and of course nobody says anything. “All right then. What are you suggesting, Lenny?” he asks.


“I think you should be Agent Mulder’s top on the mission, sir,” he says. “I think you’re the only one here who could really, well, carry the role off.”


A dreadful silence falls over the room. Everybody suddenly feels an urge to examine their ties. I don’t. This amuses the hell out of me, and I give Skinner a wide grin, which he studiously declines to take any notice of whatsoever, and of course after his last little speech Lenny has thrown him right in the big middle of it. He thinks about it for a moment then nods.


“Very well,” he agrees. Not that he really had much choice. No point bringing Lenny in and asking his advice if you don’t take it.


“Goody.” Lenny claps his hands together. “I have the perfect outfits for both of you. Oh and you’ll need me along too. I’ll be able to point out the Mithras guys to you. It’ll give you more kudos as well.” He grins at Skinner, who raises an inquiring eyebrow. “Two boys in your harem!” Lenny smirks. “And both of us quite adorable if I do say so myself!”


“Lenny…” I can see Skinner considering his words carefully, “this is an undercover investigation – not real life. It could be dangerous, and it could also blow your cover as an informant if these people suspect that we’re FBI. In addition we have a dangerous serial killer at large. I don’t think you’ve really considered the implications of your involvement. Now I’d be grateful for your help in the club, but you could very well be putting your life at risk. Please think very carefully about that.”


“Well technically speaking Mulder and I aren’t at any risk from the serial killer are we? I mean you will be, but not us.” Lenny looks slightly confused.


“What do you mean?” I ask, glancing at the other agents in the room. Everyone is looking at Lenny with puzzled expressions.


“Well the serial killer… I mean – those guys whose names you ran by me.” Lenny looks at me, and then at everyone else. “I don’t think I’ve got anything wrong here have I?” He points to the file on Skinner’s desk, gets up, and plucks out a couple of the photos. “I knew a couple of these guys, and I’d heard of the others. Sean Flynn, George Redman, Phil…” His eyes get watery, and he seems choked. “Phil,” he shrugs. “They’re all tops – all these guys who were murdered were tops. Did you think they were subs?”


He glances round the room, and takes in our stunned silence. “It’s amazing how easy it is to stereotype isn’t it? Aggressive, sadistic men who like tying up and beating poor defenseless boys – how easy for one of them to go too far and end up killing. Right?” Lenny looks as if he’s about to get on his soapbox, which, for someone so empty-headed and vacuous, is quite an achievement. “Well sorry, folks, but life’s not that simple. I don’t know much about these murders, but I don’t see how they could be the result of a scene going too far. All the tops I’ve known have been very safe – I’m sure there are some psychos out there, but I’ve never been with one. And nothing ever happens to me that I don’t want to happen.” I’m sure he’s going to get on a chair and scream “I’m submissive and I’m proud of it!” but luckily Skinner cuts him off before he reaches a crescendo.


“That’s very interesting, Lenny. Thanks for pointing all this out to us. It strikes me that perhaps our perceptions are colored by a lack of understanding of the rules of this particular…er…subculture. Before we go back to Krypton, I think you had better make sure that we have a full understanding of them so that we can avoid any reoccurrence of last night’s fiasco.” Ah, any excuse to get in a dig at me; I didn’t even see that one coming.


We spend an embarrassing couple of hours going through the “rules of this subculture” as Skinner so elegantly words it. As far as I can figure out, this means that Lenny and I get to simper and flirt so long as we do as we’re told and ask permission to breathe, while Skinner gets to wander around looking menacing and snarling orders – so no big change for him then.


Finally we’re all sent off on our separate ways with orders to meet up again at 11pm to prepare for another visit to Krypton. Skinner’s outlined the plan down to the last detail – I’m not surprised, but I am impressed, as I usually am, by his meticulous attention to planning. His methods really are the complete opposite to mine. I usually like to improvise, make things up as I go along, play it by ear, but he doesn’t like surprises and of course he has the safety of his agents to think about which adds a dimension to his work that I don’t have to worry about.


We’re all going to be wearing wires, and the backup team will be sited in a van outside the club so there’s little possibility of us coming to any serious harm. At this point it’s all still a joke to me. I know there’s a serious element, but, let’s face it, the situation is absurd and highly amusing. I’m sure Skinner must think so too. I’m even looking forward to it. Undercover missions are exciting and scary and it’s amusing to pretend to be someone else for a while -must be the thwarted performer in me. I know some guys have been murdered, but maybe I’m not taking this as seriously as I might if it were an X File. It all just seems so absurd, and it is at least a vacation from mutants and aliens – although frankly, not all that much different, judging by those rules that Lenny ran by us.


Lenny turns up with a whole trunk full of clothes. Skinner takes one look at the tight leather trousers, and chain mail vest that Lenny has picked out for him, and shakes his head.


“Lenny, I don’t question your judgement,” he says smoothly. He doesn’t? I do! It’s clear that Lenny is just itching to get Skinner dressed up in his favorite fantasy outfit. Lenny is enjoying all this far too much. “But from what I’ve heard about the Mithras club, they’re not this obvious are they? They’re select? Elite?” He glances at me, and I nod. “So I need to look like I’m a real player – not just someone who’s looking for some action on a Saturday night. Right?” Very well played, Skinner. Shame about the leather trousers and chain mail though – I could have taken photos and used them for blackmail purposes next time he questions something I do with the X Files.


“I suppose,” Lenny says sulkily.


“So what would you suggest – from your expert knowledge of these people?” Skinner’s diplomacy can be breathtaking sometimes. Lenny is easily mollified.


“Something low-key,” Lenny shrugs. “But totally dom. Black – obviously.”


He rummages around in his trunk again. I don’t believe this – Skinner is going to get away with dressing like some elegant matinee idol, and I just know that I’m going to end up in something skimpy and humiliating. I’m right – Skinner is soon attired in black chinos, a black polo neck, black suede waistcoat, and his own pair of shiny black shoes. His only real concession to being masterful is the pair of handcuffs that Lenny makes him wear hanging from his belt, and the dog lead he attaches to the buckle.


“Just in case,” Lenny says. In case of what, I wonder? In case we find a stray dog? Still, he looks elegant but threatening – quite the part.


I get to wear a pair of shiny PVC pants, and a revolting itchy mesh vest. The vest is also see-through – did I mention that? Oh and I suppose I ought to add that Lenny buckled a collar around my neck as well, just to finish off my total humiliation. Lenny has chosen a black leather chest harness, and a pair of tight leather shorts. Yes. Shorts. Still, he’s used to it – I’m just glad he didn’t suggest them for me. So, suitably attired, we set off.


“I still think you should have brought that riding crop.” Lenny grumbles at Skinner as we arrive at the club. For someone who labels himself “submissive”, he has a knack for making demands. I’m revising my opinions of this “subculture”. Clearly it’s not the tops who have all the power, clearly there is a good deal of manipulation that goes on. Lenny has been trying to get Skinner to bring the riding crop for the past two hours, and you can see that he still hasn’t quite given up on the idea. If I were Skinner I’d have yelled at him to shut up about it by now, but Skinner remains steadfastly unmoving in his decision which he has explained once, and refuses to discuss again, leaving Lenny to complain snidely at every opportunity to no avail. In fact I think he’s rather enjoying the struggle, pointless though it is, but if he’s hoping to provoke my boss into a display of erotic bad temper he’s wasting his time; Skinner is scrupulously polite to him.


The club is even more packed than last night, but I have to say there is a huge difference in the way I am treated. I still get ogled constantly, but Skinner’s presence seems to ensure that nobody actually makes an approach, and he isn’t even behaving any differently from the way he behaves in real life which is alarming. He buys us all drinks, although he won’t let us have anything stronger than a coke, not even Lenny, who pouts a bit about this. I think this is Lenny’s standard technique with men he finds attractive – he just wants to provoke them into being masterful. He’ll have a long wait with Skinner – he hasn’t even been terse with Lenny yet.


Nothing much happens for a while. Lenny flirts a bit, then someone takes a liking to him and asks him to dance. Lenny looks at Skinner who says quietly: “I don’t think so,” which sends Lenny into paroxysms of delight until Skinner explains to him in an undertone that he doesn’t want Lenny getting out of sight on the bustling dance floor – it isn’t wise for us to be separated at this point. Lenny pouts. Again.


“Don’t you feel…threatened in this place?” I ask Skinner, as yet another guy brushes too close to me and fondles my butt.


“No,” he replies, then the faintest flicker of a grin crosses his face. “Although if I was dressed like you are I might.”


“Thanks.” I find myself pouting and stop quickly. It must be catching. Skinner is watching everything that goes on, but without the smallest trace of shock or distaste, as if he’s seen it all before. Maybe he has. Maybe after Vietnam, and a long career in the serious crimes division of the FBI nothing surprises him. I must admit to feeling faintly alarmed myself though as a ‘side-show’ is announced. A cage is lowered to the floor, containing a nearly naked young man. Another man, dressed from head to foot in rubber, opens the cage door and cracks a horsewhip around. The submissive crawls from the cage and licks the other man’s shiny boots. He’s hauled to his feet and tied up to a post.


“Shit, I can’t watch this,” I murmur.


Lenny shakes his head, grinning at me.


“Oh relax, honey! This is just for show. The real stuff is going on in the upstairs rooms,” he says.


“What real stuff?” Skinner asks.


“You know.” Lenny winks. “Should be starting just about now.” He glances at his watch. “You want me to show you?”


“Yes.” Skinner nods, and I find myself following them both up the stairs.


It’s a relief to be away from the noise of the dance floor but there are different noises up here that worry me. The thud of something on human flesh for example, although there isn’t much screaming, just some grunting. Lenny ushers us into a room where a man is strapped to a bench, a gag in his mouth – which explains the lack of screaming. He’s being soundly beaten with a strap, but he doesn’t seem to be in any distress. I assume it’s consensual.


Skinner frowns. “Recognize anyone from Mithras?” he asks Lenny.


Lenny looks around, shrugs. “Not yet. I’ll keep an eye out.”


Skinner and I watch the beating without speaking. I don’t think either of us knows what to say to be honest. It doesn’t turn me on, and he looks as expressionless as ever – I never know what he’s thinking anyway. I don’t think it’s exactly his scene either though. Something makes him look around.


“Where’s Lenny?” He asks me.


“Oh shit.”


Lenny has disappeared. We go back out onto the gallery, and looking down on the dance floor I see Lenny gyrating with the guy he was talking to earlier.


“Not very obedient is he?” I wisecrack to Skinner.


“Oh I’m used to that,” he deadpans back meaningfully, nearly making me choke.


“Do you want to go down there, sling him over your shoulder and bring him back?”


“Not really,” he shrugs, and then he notices the man watching us. His eyes skim over my shoulder and I see him stiffen. “Remember what you were saying about being bait?” He asks. I nod. “Well I think the time’s come, Mulder. Why don’t you go downstairs and rescue Lenny, and we’ll see what happens.”


I’m not sure what he’s seen but I nod, feeling curiously enlivened by this exchange, my heart thudding in my chest. At last – action!


I set off, conscious of being watched, and just get to the bottom of the stairs when a tough looking guy with a scar down one cheek blocks my way.


“We want a word with you,” he says.


“With me?” I start to back up, only to realize that another man is blocking the stairwell. I’m trapped.


“Yeah.” Without warning the guy behind me licks my neck which disgusts me, and without even thinking about it I turn around and take a swing at him. My arms are grabbed by Scarface before my fist makes contact, and I’m thrown over the banisters.


“Looks like you’ve already been in some trouble,” Scarface murmurs, running a finger over my bruised jaw. “You don’t want to get into any more.”


“What’s going on here?” I’m relieved to hear Skinner’s voice.


“Nothing. Stay out of our way!” Scarface snarls.


“I don’t think so.” Skinner pulls me off the banisters. “You okay?” he asks, and I nod.


“Don’t interfere.” Scarface puts his face too close to Skinner’s, invading his personal space. “We’ve taken a liking to Hotlips here.” Hotlips? Ugh.


“Well you can’t have him,” Skinner says firmly.


“Why not?” Scarface asks menacingly, obviously expecting Skinner to back down.


“Because he belongs to me.” Skinner puts a hand on my shoulder to further illustrate the point. All right, this is the weird, creepy bit – that whole exchange sends a shiver down my spine. I relive that “because he belongs to me” moment several times in the next ten seconds, and each time it makes me tingle. I have no idea why.


“Oh, does he?” Scarface grins. “Well I think it’s time to negotiate a change of ownership, don’t you?” He puts out a hand to take my arm but Skinner grabs his wrist before he can touch me.


“No. I don’t,” he says firmly.


“Looking for trouble?” Scarface asks.


“No. But I’m willing to hand it out if need be.” Skinner out-machos the man, and there’s a sense of stalemate for a while. Scarface seems to consider this, then finally he nods and stands aside grudgingly to let us pass. I’m heaving a sigh of relief as we do so, when suddenly I find my arm grabbed by Scarface’s accomplice, as Scarface swings his fist towards Skinner’s stomach. Skinner seems to be ready for this and side-steps the man neatly before swinging his own fist into his opponent’s abdomen and kneeing him efficiently in the groin. The whole exchange takes place in nearly total silence and is over so quickly that I hardly have time to register it. Scarface lies moaning at Skinner’s feet and I elbow the accomplice in the ribs and step over Scarface’s body to catch up with my boss.


“Mission accomplished,” he murmurs, glancing up at the gallery. I notice the two men watching us silently.


“You know – I think you’re actually having fun,” I comment as we cross back over to the dance floor to get Lenny.


“Are you kidding?” He almost grins. “This is the first time I’ve been out from behind that desk in months. I don’t usually get the chance to dress up and assume a cover. Of course I’m having fun. Hotlips.” And with that he charges onto the dance floor and recovers the hapless Lenny. I’m left standing there, speechless.


“You know, Lenny,” Skinner says thoughtfully as he ushers back our wayward friend. “I’d be grateful if you could stay where Mulder and I can keep an eye on you. There’s something going down here tonight and it could get rough. If you’re with us then we can look out for you.”


“You can look out for me any time,” Lenny purrs seductively. Skinner smiles indulgently for a second, and then the grin fades, and he reaches out swiftly and wraps his hands in Lenny’s harness, lifting him off the ground.


“Just do as I say, Lenny,” he growls, “and then everything will be fine.”


“Yes, sir.” Lenny’s eyes are wide with awe-struck lust as Skinner puts him back on the floor, and I’m completely startled.


“Okay, you’re enjoying yourself entirely too much now,” I murmur to my boss as we walk over to the bar.


“Not at all,” he replies in a brisk undertone. “Lenny’s a loose canon – but if I treat him in the right way then I’m sure he’ll do everything I say. That way we can keep him safe. I don’t want any civilians endangered in the course of this investigation.”


“That’s your excuse anyway,” I murmur, feeling somehow pissed off. Don’t ask me to explain my emotions at this point – I haven’t got any understanding of them myself.


A tall blond guy approaches us as we stand by the bar again. I tense myself for another proposition but this guy ignores me completely, and instead flings himself theatrically at my boss’s feet. I think that for a moment, for just one second, Skinner is phased. He glances at Lenny who shrugs and pokes the blond guy with his foot.


“All right. You’ve got his attention. What is it?” Lenny asks. Blondie looks up and smiles, flashing a set of glistening white teeth.


“Master, I’ve come here looking for a new owner. Would you accept me, please?” He asks.


I splutter into my coke, and Skinner shoots me a grumpy look which turns into an almost malicious semi-grin. I’m startled for a moment until I see that we are still being watched and he’s obviously trying to play his part as well as he can. He leans back and looks Blondie up and down, as if seriously considering the proposition.


“What can you offer me?” he asks.


Blondie edges forward eagerly, his hands going to my boss’s belt. “Let me show you,” he says.


Skinner knocks his hands away. “No, you’ll tell me. Do you usually try to touch without being given permission first? I don’t think your last master had you very well trained.” He glances at Lenny over Blondie’s head. Lenny gives him a surreptitious thumbs up sign. I can hear Roberts and Kendall dying of laughter in the van through the wire I’m wearing.


“Forgive me, Master.” Blondie hangs his head in mock shame.


“You’ve blown it,” I remark, gesturing with my head that he should withdraw, and nudging at him with my knee. Blondie looks appealingly at Skinner, who frowns at me and turns his attention back to the man at his feet.


“I’m happy with the subs I have right now – I don’t have the time or inclination to take on anyone new,” he remarks. “However if that situation should change…” He shoots a meaningful glance at me and Blondie smiles and nods, then gets to his feet and, with a sneering, smug smile in my direction, pushes past me to return to the dance floor.


“Very good!” Lenny claps his hands together gleefully. “I’m impressed. You’ve really got some flair for this!”


“A compliment to die for,” I comment sourly, still feeling out of sorts for no reason I can put my finger on. Skinner glances at me, then grabs hold of my arm and walks me off to a quieter corner of the bar.


“Agent Mulder is there some sort of problem here I’m not aware of?” He hisses in an undertone. “Because we really need to be convincing in these roles if we want to find out anything more about this Mithras group. If you can’t handle this can I suggest we call in a replacement?”


“No. I’m fine. It’s just this place makes me nervous,” I say with a shrug. “I’m tired of getting looked at like I’m a piece of meat.”


“It’s just a front, Mulder,” Skinner tells me, his dark eyes surprising me with their understanding. “You’ve been on dozens of undercover missions before – this one is no different. Is it?” He glances at me questioningly, and I shake my head.


“No. Sorry. Of course not.”


“Good. I think the men we’re looking for will approach us soon. We seem to have done enough to draw attention to ourselves.” He jerks his head at the two men who have been watching us from the gallery, and I have to agree with his assessment of the situation. From all that Lenny has told us, there is nothing we can do to infiltrate the Mithras group except interest them in some way. Nobody approaches them – they make all the moves.


At that moment another side-show is announced, and the theme music from the ‘Superman’ films blares out. A well-muscled, over-endowed man makes an entrance onto the cat-walk, clad in a skin-tight superman outfit.


“Superman returns to the planet Krypton,” a voice announces. Really it’s so cheesy that I have to laugh my head off. Soon “Superman” is being fawned over by a troupe of dancing slave boys, and I’m so engrossed in the absurdity of this spectacle that I lose concentration for a moment, and am surprised when Skinner nudges me and murmurs, “Ready, Mulder?” I look around and see a well-dressed man approaching us. He doesn’t look like any of the people here – no leather, no chains – he isn’t even dressed in black. Instead he’s wearing a plain gray suit, and behind him are the two men who have been watching us from the gallery all evening.


“Ready.” I nod.


The well-dressed man reaches us, and smiles.


“Let me introduce myself. I’m Aaron Saunders,” he says in a cultured English accent. He holds out his hand, and Skinner takes it.


“Walter Skinner.” He nods. We did discuss assuming different names but decided against it. We have however placed some fake ID’s in the system, so anyone running a check on us is not going to find out that we are FBI agents.


“We have business to discuss,” Saunders tells him.


Skinner nods. “Yes. I think we do,” he murmurs.


Saunders leads us off to an upstairs room, which is relatively quiet and the door is shut behind us. I’m glad of the wire because I’m feeling rather vulnerable without my gun.


Saunders waves Skinner to an armchair. No notice is taken of me whatsoever, and no chair has been provided – it’s clear that I have no status with these people. I look around for a moment, wondering what to do, and then Skinner makes a brief, irritated gesture to the floor, and I hunker down beside him, going with the role and taking the opportunity to study Saunders in more detail. He’s not a particularly tall man, but he has a meaty look, which shows that he can take care of himself if need be. He has a long, hooked nose, and is good-looking in a sharp, hawk-like way.


“We’ve been interested in the way you’ve handled yourself here tonight,” Saunders says. “We have a proposition that might interest you.”


“Really?” Skinner raises a polite eyebrow.


“You’ve heard of the Mithras Brotherhood?” Saunders asks.


“Of course.” Skinner nods.


“We first noticed the sub last night – he drew attention to himself.” Saunders isn’t looking at me, and it takes a while before I even realize he’s talking about me. “He was playing games – a bit dangerous in this sort of place.”


“Yes. I think he learned his lesson,” Skinner remarks, his eyes flickering over the bruise on my jaw.


“We were curious – we found him interesting but what’s another pretty submissive?” Saunders shrugs. “They’re easily come by after all. Just take a look at the dance floor down there.” He grins. “However, when he came back here again with you this evening – that was more interesting to us.”


“Why is that?” Skinner asks.


“Mithras isn’t just some tedious forum for macho posturing. We have specific rules – and we tend to view ourselves as ‘lifestyle’ doms. Our subs are the same. They belong to us in every real sense of the word – dull rules about safe words and negotiation aren’t a feature of our society. If a submissive belongs to you, he’s yours to do as you want with – so long as you’re strong enough to keep him.”


“Isn’t that just a bit dangerous?” Skinner asks.


“Danger is the ultimate thrill, isn’t it?” Saunders counters. “How much of a player are you, Mr Skinner? You have no credentials – we’ve never seen or heard of you on the scene before. And as for this…creature…” He casts a disparaging eye over me. “He really shouldn’t have been allowed out alone.”


“He wasn’t,” Skinner remarks. “I took care of it. Believe me.” He sounds so cool and hard that I’m impressed.


“A man who can’t control his submissive has no place in our organization.” Saunders frowns.


“Fox?” Skinner’s hand twines itself in my hair, pulling my head back just like my cellmate last night did – which is where he obviously picked up the idea. “Tell the man about our little game.”


Oh thanks! He’s obviously pissed off with doing all the work here. I think fast.


“My name’s Fox,” I mutter. “Sometimes my master likes to hunt me. He gives me a head-start around the bars and clubs, and then he comes after me. If he catches me with another man he can be very cruel. I like to leave a trail – sometimes I like to be caught. Last night I think I made too much of a commotion. My master had to bail me out from the police station. He wasn’t very happy about that.”


In an absurd sort of way, this is partly true. Maybe that’s what’s so weird about all this pretending.


“How entertaining.” Saunders is clearly taken with this whole idea. Maybe I have a flair for this as well! I almost wish Lenny were here to congratulate me. Skinner takes his hand out of my hair, and flattens it down again. I find myself leaning into him like a cat or something, wanting to be fondled. You could put it down to trying to keep our cover as convincing as possible, but I have to say that I don’t do it consciously. Perhaps I’m starting to absorb the “rules of this subculture” by some sort of process of osmosis. “He’s an amusing piece – classy, Mr. Skinner,” Saunders muses. How flattering. “We don’t see many like him. I’m sure a lot of our other members would be interested in him.”


“He’s not available,” Skinner says warningly. “He belongs to me.” Again, that strange flicker inside me. It unsettles me.


“And that isn’t negotiable?” Saunders asks.


“No. Absolutely not,” Skinner says firmly. Saunders’s eyes light up. He looks satisfied by this information.


“And the submissive? What does he say? Is he happy in his current situation?” Saunders asks, looking at me. I open my mouth to speak, but Skinner knocks his knee against my shoulder and interrupts me.


“He’s happy if I say he is,” he replies.


Saunders raises an eyebrow. “Are you sure?” he asks.


“Yes.” Skinner nods.


“And if another man were to take an interest in him – you’d fight for him?”


“Yes.” Skinner nods again.


“Then I think you might find our organization to be just the sort of challenge you’d enjoy.” Saunders smiles. He hands Skinner a business card. “Call me tomorrow to arrange the details – if you think you’re up to the challenge that is. It may be out of your league, Mr. Skinner, although…I don’t think this particular submissive would still be with you now if that were the case. I think you’ve got the potential to be a very interesting player, Mr. Skinner. I look forward to hearing from you.”


And with that, Saunders gets up and leaves the room, his two flunkies following on behind.


“A hunt around bars and clubs?” Skinner mocks with a raised eyebrow when we are alone.


“I was improvising! You left me hanging out there.”


“Well it was inspired – Saunders really bought it.”


“Good. Does that mean we can leave now?” I make a face.


“And there was I thinking you were having a good time.” I’m sure that’s what he says, although he’s walking out of the room as he talks, so it’s possible he says something else. Really I’m seeing a whole new disturbing side of him this evening. Or is it a disturbing side of myself I’m seeing? He seems to be simply playing his role as well as he can – staying alert, making all the right moves to get the information we require. I, on the other hand, have been freaked out by my reactions to being in this whole role-play scenario with him. I’ve pouted, become – what? Jealous? – sulked, brooded, and felt some very strange sensations in my gut. I feel seriously worried about all this, and take it out on Lenny.


“We’re leaving.” I grab him, and drag him off the dance floor where he has resumed diddling with his leather-clad friend.


“All done then?” he asks, looking surprised by my manner.


“Yeah. Trap set.”


“A trap for who? Them or you?” he pouts and that makes me even more bad tempered for some reason.


“Just get a move on, Lenny. Skinner’s waiting for us.”


“And we wouldn’t want to keep our master waiting. Who knows how he’d punish us.” Lenny begins flippantly.


Something inside me just goes ballistic. I reach out and grab Lenny’s arm.


“Just shut up. Shut up about all this stuff. I don’t care what sort of fantasy you’re creating about Skinner, but none of it is true. He’s not gay, he’s not a dom, he most certainly is not into this whole alternative lifestyle stuff, and you stand no chance whatsoever of becoming his house-boy, or slave boy or whatever else you’ve gotten into your head. Understood, Lenny?”


Lenny is staring at me.


“I was just fooling around, Mulder,” he says quietly. “I can tell the difference between real life and a sex game. I think you’re the one who has trouble with it.”


“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” I turn on him angrily.


“Oh, Mulder, you’re not that stupid.” Lenny shrugs. “I’ve watched you with Skinner – you do your damnedest to draw attention to yourself. You behave badly, or brilliantly, or both, and you just push and push at that guy. He must have the patience of a saint to put up with you. He must be tempted to just throw you over his knee and spank you sometimes!” Lenny grins.


“Are you saying that I have some sort of sick fantasy about my boss?” I demand furiously.


“Who are you calling sick? I think you’d be sick NOT to have some sort of fantasy about that walking hunk of testosterone. He’s got the soul of a top, even if he doesn’t act it out – the fact that he isn’t into this stuff is partly what makes him so attractive. The best tops are demanding and strict, but they’re protective and caring as well. The divine Skinner just exudes these qualities and he’s not even role-playing. Why wouldn’t you respond to that?”


“Because I’m not fucking gay! I’m straight!” I explode, pushing Lenny against a wall, my fingers clenched tightly around his arms.


“Some things are just primeval. All that alpha male stuff. You’re into all this clever psycho-crap, Mulder. You figure it out.” Lenny is shivering. “Please, Mulder, you’re hurting me,” he whimpers.


“Well why not? You like to be hurt don’t you?” I say nastily, slamming his head back into the wall.


“Not like this. Not by you. This isn’t like you, Mulder.”


“You don’t know anything about me. You’re wrong about me,” I snarl, digging my fingers into his wrists even harder. Suddenly I feel two hands descend on my shoulders, and I’m propelled back forcibly away from Lenny.


“Gentlemen. Time to be going,” Skinner says urbanely, ushering us both towards the exit, a hand on each of our shoulders.


I don’t know what he overheard, or what the guys in the van have made of this exchange, and I don’t much care at this point. All I want to do is get out, get away, run as fast as I can, find an X File, grab Scully, and put a lot of distance between me and this whole scenario. I can’t do any of these things, so I sink into a grim sulk instead, just daring anybody to talk to me. They get the message and the ride back to the Hoover building takes place in a tense silence.


Skinner decides to defuse the situation slightly by dropping Lenny off on the way, but there’s no escape for me. We have to debrief – there’s no getting out of it, so I struggle to push all this turmoil to the back of my mind and concentrate on what we have to do to catch the killer.


“Why don’t we get changed and meet in my office in about half an hour,” Skinner suggests quietly, addressing me as we enter the building. I nod tersely and disappear to the basement, relieved to be alone.


Scully’s left me a message: “Hope you and the boys had fun on your night out. Think of poor me, sitting at home writing a report on my laptop – next time make it a case a girl can join in on!”


It should cheer me up but it doesn’t. I don’t think anything would right now. I screw it up, and throw it at the wall, savagely. Attention-seeking behavior? Moi? I resist the implications of what Lenny said to me, and pull that revolting vest over my head, then shoulder myself into my nice, normal shirt. Real Life settles back around me; familiar, comfortable, safe.


“I can tell the difference between real life and a sex game. I think you’re the one who has trouble with it.” Lenny’s words echo endlessly in my head. Lifestyle doms, Saunders called the Mithras circle – with lifestyle subs in tow. “You’re a sub even if you don’t know it yet,” that guy in the drunk tank said. I don’t want this going on in my head, I don’t want these feelings stirring inside me. Have I manipulated my relationship with Skinner to give me a rush without even knowing it? Have I really been pushing him all these years just to get some perverse sexual thrill?


“Mulder. It’s been an hour. You didn’t answer your phone.” Skinner is standing in the doorway looking at me with some concern. I didn’t even notice that the phone had been ringing. “What’s going on, Mulder?” he asks, coming into the room. “You’ve been on edge all evening. Are you brewing some masterstroke of analysis that will help us catch this killer?”


“I wish I was.” I shrug. At least he’s given me a simple motive for my behavior. Has he noticed the way I’ve been behaving since I’ve known him though? Has he ever read anything more sinister into it? I feel self-conscious, like I’ve been put under a spotlight and I’m analyzing every move I make now. It’s inhibiting.


“What is it then?” His concern is touching. “You’ve seen worse places than that club, surely?” He asks, perching himself on the edge of my desk.


“What? Well, you gotta admit that place was weird.”


“True.” He shrugs. I wonder suddenly if he’s overheard the tape of my conversation with Lenny and I can’t stop myself flushing. I notice that he’s changed back into his shirt and tie, and I can see why Lenny was attracted to him. I feel as if my eyes have been opened, as if I’ve been fighting something that’s been in my head for as long as I’ve known him – maybe something that’s always been inside me, but that I’ve denied for a long time. Lenny’s lifestyle doesn’t appeal to me at all, but the idea of belonging to Skinner, the memory of his hand in my hair, kneeling at his feet – why does that all seem so right all of a sudden? This realization is matched almost immediately by the knowledge that it doesn’t matter if Lenny is right because Skinner is not going to be interested. If he knew what was going on in my head he’d be revolted, disgusted. As I am. I hate myself.


“I was thinking it all through,” I say briskly, shrugging off this introspection. “We have to find these Mithras guys. We have to infiltrate the group and…”


“Not so fast, Mulder. I think that’s far too risky. We’ve come up with some facts on Saunders, which the team are going through right now. I’d rather go and knock on some doors in the time-honored fashion, than throw either you or me into the lion’s den.”


“You won’t find anything,” I tell him, sure that I’m right. “Every single one of these Mithras guys will be clean – not so much as a driving violation. And they’ll go very quiet on you, clam up completely. They’ll close down, ship out, and then this will start all over again somewhere else a few months down the line. But by then we’ll have lost our leads.”


“You seem very sure of that.” Skinner frowns.


“I am. It’s just a hunch. My hunches aren’t usually wrong,” I inform him.


He sighs, takes off his glasses, and rubs his eyes tiredly. I realize he has probably had as little sleep as I have in the past 24 hours. “Well – I’m in no condition to make this decision tonight,” he informs me. “I’ll leave the team working on it and think about it tomorrow. I suggest you go home and get some rest as well. If we do end up having to continue with this charade then we’ll need our wits about us. I’ve a feeling that our Mr. Saunders will prove to be a fast worker.”


He nods to me and leaves the room, and I just gaze after him, wondering if I’m crazy, or stupid, or both, to suggest continuing with what he calls ‘this charade’. A charade that is having a serious effect on my mental well-being, a charade that has revealed to me a darkness inside that I never even suspected existed before. I should be running away from it as fast as I can, but instead I’m throwing myself right into the middle of it. I can’t keep doubting myself, and second guessing my motives all the time – he’s right, I need some rest.





~ I love receiving friendly feedback! If you enjoyed this story, please leave a comment below. ~

Submit a Comment

12 Comments on Subterfuge: 1. Part One


Buy Xanthe's original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet now!

Paperback on Amazon

E-book on Amazon

Smashwords in various formats

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons