Subterfuge: 4. Part Four


I lie awake all night, just listening to each breath that he takes, nudging him if it seems too long since his last breath, just to make sure that he’s still alive. It’s the longest night of my life. Each slow hour ticking past like an eternity. Finally he stirs.


“Fox,” he mutters, his eyelids fluttering open. He seems to know who he is, and who I am, and I’m grateful for that much. “Did he…?” It’s his first thought.


“No.” I try to sit him up. “I’m fine. So are you. Can you get onto the bed? You’re too heavy to lift.”


“I’ll do my best. If you help me.” Between us we manage to get him onto the bed, and I bring him a bowl of water and a washcloth. I take his pants off, then wash him down gently, removing sweat and blood, and I clean up wounds and bruises as best I can. When I’ve finished, I cover him with the blanket again.


“You’re sure you’re okay? He didn’t…?” he rasps. His little finger moves in my direction, finds my hand, and rests on it. It’s the closest he can come to a caress.


“No. He didn’t,” I say firmly. “He let me go. Now drink.” He takes a sip, and then falls asleep again.


Our door is unlocked at 10 a.m., and Saunders appears.


“How is our invalid?” He glances over at Skinner.


“He’s ill. He was ill before the fight. He fought in Vietnam – it left him with an injury. If he’d been well he’d have mashed your face into the sand last night,” I tell him coldly.


“Really? How unfortunate for poor Mr. Skinner,” Saunders remarks with all of his usual insincere charm.


“He needs a doctor,” I fume at him.


“Does he?” Saunders smiles, and comes over to the bed. He pulls the sheets back, but Skinner doesn’t stir. “He does look quite ill.” Saunders places a hand on Skinner’s forehead. “He has a fever. It could be quite serious.” He glances at me. “You’re right, Fox. He does need a doctor.”


“You’ll call one then?” I ask hopefully.


He purses his lips, and shakes his head. “No. I don’t think I will.” He smiles. “I do hope he’s fit by tomorrow evening though. That’s when the really serious event will take place.”


“What the fuck are you talking about?” I demand angrily.


“His initiation fight. Didn’t I mention it?” He leans languidly against the armchair. “We like Mr. Skinner. He’s shown himself worthy of joining Mithras. Unfortunately, we’re full. There’s only one way in.”


“And what’s that?” I ask, not following any of this, and just thinking about how much Skinner needs a doctor.


“Dead man’s shoes.” Saunders shrugs, but his words chill me to the bone as I remember the dead men we fished out of the Potomac. “So let’s hope he’s well enough for that little fight, Fox. Or…” he trails off, and smiles at me.


“Or what?”


“Or else.” Saunders’s mouth has settled into a grim line.


“You cannot be serious!” I snarl, advancing on him. “He’s ill for fuck’s sake. He’ll never be well enough for some, what, fight to the death? Is that what you’re suggesting?”


“Not quite.” Saunders squares up to me, pulling me up short. “But near enough. It’s more…interesting than that. He will have to fight though.”


“He can’t!” I yell, unable to contain myself any more. “Not unless you bring in a fucking doctor!”


“Ah well…” Saunders smiles at me again, reaching out a finger to flick a lock of my hair from my forehead. “You know, if you want something from me, you might have to offer something in return, Fox.”


“Offer…? What the fuck are you talking about? What do you want from me?” I shout.


“You know what I want. Make sure you ask nicely.” He grins again, and leaves the room, shutting the door quietly behind him as he goes.


The bastard. The fucking bastard. I weigh this up in my head as I sit on the end of the bed, watching Skinner take gasping breaths, his face disfigured by bruises and cuts, his body even worse. So, Saunders wants what he has sought from the beginning, what I have never given anyone but Skinner. He wants more than I’ve even given Skinner. He wants more than just my submission – he wants to break me, and he wants me to ask him for that. No – he wants me to beg him. And if I don’t, Skinner doesn’t get a doctor, and very probably that means that somewhere along the line he ends up in the Potomac minus parts of his anatomy that both he and I are very attached to. I wonder how close the ‘team’ are to finding us, but Skinner is right. You can’t expect the cavalry to show up just in time to save you. You have to save yourself.


“What should I do?” I ask him.


He’s asleep, and I’m not expecting a response, so I’m not disappointed. I crawl over and lie against him. His skin is clammy, and his body is still generating a great heat. “What do you want me to do?” I ask him. He has dark shadows under his eyes, and he looks like a vulnerable child. I never thought I’d say that about him, but it’s true – and there is nobody but me to take care of him. He’s always so vital, so full of energy and purpose. He’s never needed anyone to take care of him. I remember Sharon, and the way she seemed to long to look after him. Not a chance. And now he’s mine, or I’m his, or maybe it’s the same thing, and what was it I said about responsibility running both ways?


“Sweet dreams.” I get up, stretching cautiously as my heavily welted back protests. “‘Tis a far, far better thing.’, ‘the needs of the one.’ blah, blah and all that crap.” I bend over and kiss him. “Oh, what the hell, I’ll do it. After all, I’m just going to get exactly what everyone thinks I’ve deserved for a long time, even you, I’ll bet. You can see why he wants to break me. I bet that every so often you dream yourself about taking me down to the level of Fox Mulder, obedient slave-slut. Yeah, I’d be the man of your wet dreams, all right. Trust me, if I let him do this, it’ll be even better. Just think – no more temper-tantrums, no more mouthing off. By the time you get me back I’ll be a model agent. You’ll be able to order me to do anything. No more chasing after UFO’s. No more government conspiracies or endless arguments over expense reports. It’ll be “yes sir” and “no sir” from now on. He can do all the hard work, and you can reap the rewards. Yeah, it’s perfect. I’ll be exactly what you’ve always wanted. Manageable, controllable, obedient. I’ll sit beside your desk, and you can pat my head occasionally, and toss me a few sunflower seeds. Do you think I might be delaying the inevitable with all this babbling?”


No answer is forthcoming. His chest rises and falls, and rises and falls, and he doesn’t even wake up when my stupid tears drop on his face, sad bastard that I am. “Okay, okay, I’m going. Don’t ever say that I never do anything for you. Selling yourself into slavery must be pretty high on anyone’s list of devoted acts. Maybe someone will write a poem about my selfless sacrifice one day. Maybe…oh shut the fuck up, Mulder.”


I’m not defeated yet. Not quite yet. I think I can still give the loathsome Saunders a shock, even if I have to give in to the inevitable eventually. I dress for success, just like a top, including a pair of shoes, which, after a few days barefoot, seem like a luxury even if they are a size too big for me. Then I comb my hair neatly, and brush my teeth. Finally I arrive at Saunders’s door and knock. He opens it himself, which throws me, and a quick glance around is sufficient for me to realize that Nick is not present.


“Come in, Fox.” Saunders studies my clothing with a frown, trying to get a handle on the game I’m about to play. He seats himself in the armchair, and studies me. “You had something you wished to ask?” He smiles.


“Yes.” I sit down on the end of the bed without being invited to do so, watching the frown crease his forehead again, and the flash of anger in his eyes. His fingers jerk involuntarily, and I know that he’s longing to reprimand me.


“Well?” He folds his hands patiently and waits.


“I’m a psychology student,” I begin. “And this place is an interesting area for study. However, that’s all it is to me – something to study. Human behavior here is at its most basic. There is an interesting dichotomy at work. This is a ritualistic society supposedly avowing a policy of ‘no rules’, when in fact there is a very complex system of rules, all of them designed to maintain a hierarchical structure with extremely paternalistic foundations. I find that fascinating.”


“Well, I always knew you were clever as well as pretty,” Saunders smirks patronizingly. “And it pleases me. It makes you a charming addition to my collection. When the fucking is done, it’s enjoyable to be entertained by conversation. I like a healthy discussion, Fox. You won’t find me a harsh master in that respect.”


“I’m sure that intellectual, post-coital conversations would have their pleasures for you, but I was trying to prepare you for something else entirely. Please hear me out. “I glance at him and he inclines his head gracefully.


“By all means, I’m intrigued as to where this is going.”


“Well, I am not what you think I am.”


“Really?” He raises an eyebrow.


“I came here out of curiosity. Curiosity takes me many places. Perhaps it also takes me to places where I shouldn’t go, and where I do not belong.”


“A-ha.” Saunders nods, and smiles. “And you think that you do not belong here?”


“That’s right.” I smile back, as pleasantly as I can. “I came here from motives other than those I led you to believe. Skinner is not the sort of man you believe him to be either. I am not his “slave” in any sense of the word, any more than I am yours. I attend school on a full scholarship, carry a full course load in many challenging subjects, have an interesting life and enjoy many varied activities. I do not harbor fantasies of possession and ownership. The idea of men fighting over me is even less appealing. I do not view myself as a sexual plaything, a toy to be used by older or stronger men. If it would help you to be convinced, I’d happily fight you myself. I’m not a complete slouch when it comes to fighting.” I’m not, either, although admittedly I’m not exactly known for being a street fighter.


“I’m sure,” he nods, his smile growing wider.


“Skinner followed me here because he believed me to be in danger from my own intellectual curiosity. He is well aware of the trouble it has got me into before. There is no sense in which Mithras fulfils any of my sexual needs or desires. I misled you on that matter in order to gain access to this place. I apologize for that. However, you are, in effect, asking me to enter into some form of consensual bondage to you. I sense, from what you have said, that my consent on this issue is of some importance to you. Maybe you regard it as the first step towards, as you put it, ‘breaking’ me or maybe you have more noble motives in this respect. I don’t know.”


“No. Indeed,” he murmurs, his eyes boring into me as I speak. “And?”


“I cannot give you the subservience you require because it is not in my nature. I accept that I have led you to believe otherwise, but I ask you to now accept that I speak the truth, and to arrange for a doctor for Skinner. Alternatively, blindfold us and return us to Washington DC. We do not know the location of this place, and would, therefore, pose no threat to you, or to Mithras.”


“Splendid, Mr. Mulder.” He gets up and invades my space, standing too close to me.


“You’ll do as I ask?” I can’t believe it will be that easy, and I have noticed his term of address.


“No. Of course not,” he smiles. “Dear Mr. Mulder. You see, I’m happy to accord you the respect of a title. When you speak so eloquently I find that I am sincerely moved by you.” He looks as unmoved as ever. I don’t believe the man has any more emotions than your average cat toying with a mouse. “And it is an interesting game that you’ve chosen to play. If you are not, and you say you are not, a submissive, then are we to believe that you are a top?”


“No. I’m not that either. I’m not into any of this stuff.” I wave my hand around in a wild gesture, trying to regain some control of the situation.


“And do you seriously think you could beat me in a fight?”


“No,” I reply honestly. “I’m not sure that I could, but if it would prove anything, I’d happily challenge you.”


“And if I defeated you, would you then offer me your submission?” he asks, stalking me with his eyes.


“No.” I shrug. He laughs out loud, a delighted laugh of wry amusement.


“Oh, Fox. I’ve had enough of this,” he says when he’s finished chuckling to himself. “The truly amazing thing is that I think you believe it all. Poor deluded boy.” He shakes his head ruefully. “Why so scared, Fox? Why are you so scared of finding out what’s underneath all your clever words, and what’s behind everything you do and say?”


“I’m not scared…” I begin, but in a lightning flash of movement he forces me against the wall, putting his wrists on either side of my head, leaning into me.


“Yes, you are. Now stand still, and listen to me, and when I’ve finished, we’ll start again. And the only words I’ll be expecting from you are these: “Please break me, master.” Understood?”


I open my mouth to protest, and he shuts it with a flick of his finger. “And you’ll say those words on your knees at my feet. And when you say them you’ll have removed all these trappings of Mr. Mulder.” He waves a hand at my clothing. “And you’ll be naked. And then, and only then, I might deign to fuck you. Now listen to me.”


I close my eyes, feeling his warm breath on my cheek as he talks, the rub of his silky shirtsleeve against my ear.


“You may not want to accept who and what you are, but you’ll be happier when you do. Let me tell you about my method for breaking slaves. It’s worked many times before. Admittedly on less spirited submissives than you, but it’s never failed me yet, and I don’t anticipate that it will. You’ve seen Nick. He wasn’t always so well-behaved. When I first knew him, he was vain, and sulky. He believed he could manipulate me. I taught him the hard way that he could not, and now he is not only a model slave, he is also much happier. The same methods will work with you, despite all your denials and protestations to the contrary.” He pauses for a moment, and I am aware of the coolness of the wall against my shoulders in sharp contrast to the threatening warmth of his body as he leans over me. Then he begins speaking again.


“First of all, you’ll be denied clothing. You can earn the privilege of clothes if your behavior is acceptable, but it’s unlikely that I’ll grant it quickly. I expect that I’ll keep you naked for several weeks – partly to humiliate you, partly to reinforce your status – you have none – and partly simply because I enjoy looking at you. You’ll only be fed on my orders. Sometimes I’ll make you beg for food, or water, or both. Sometimes you’ll go for days without food, if it pleases me, or if you’ve angered me. Soon you’ll come to realize that pleasing me is a necessity – not an optional extra. When you’re fed, you’ll take the food from my fingertips, like an animal. You will lick them clean afterwards, and thank me for feeding you. You will be allowed to sleep only when I give you permission. I’ll whip you regularly – daily to start with, and not as a punishment, but simply to make you understand that you are in my power. I might perform the beating myself, or I might have Nick whip you. Nick is a sweet-natured boy, but you shouldn’t allow that fact to make you believe that he’ll go lightly on you. He won’t. I have him well trained, and he will hurt you as much as I would. In addition, I will also punish you in this, and a variety of other ways, for any slowness in serving me, or disobedience.”


My eyes are tightly closed, and he isn’t touching me but he still has me pinned against the wall, his hands flat against it, his body in front of mine, leaning at an angle. I can feel his heat, and sense the rhythm of his breathing. I could be in hell, listening to the devil, his words searing into my soul.


“Sometimes it will please me to whip you all day. Not continuously, but on and off, during the course of 24 hours. There may be no reason for this whipping, other than that I desire to see you weep, and cry, and beg. You do beg very prettily, dear Fox. As regards sex…” I tense and his voice changes, caressing me like silk. “You’ll be available for my use at all times. Occasionally, my attentions will be perfunctory – no more than a physical release on my part. On such occasions, it is a matter of supreme indifference to me whether you obtain any pleasure from the act or not. You will simply allow me to use you, in any way I wish. Whether you find this painful, or distasteful, is irrelevant, and none of my concern. You won’t ever complain. If you do, you’ll wish you hadn’t. At no time could any of this be considered rape. Your consent, as you so rightly pointed out, is important to me, but once I have it, I will view it as a consent to anything that I might wish to do to you. In time, you’ll yearn for my touch, but in the beginning I anticipate that you will find it exceedingly painful, as well as personally repugnant. I would imagine that your behavior will improve within days, but I think that it will take several months to break you fully. You will not find me mindlessly cruel, though. I can be a very good master to serve. I will pay for your studies, and allow you to keep your apartment after you have been broken. I will visit you whenever I wish, and summon you when I require your services. At times, I will also give you to various of my friends – women as well as other men. You will serve them as well as you serve me. If you do not, I will hear about it, and you will be punished accordingly. When I tire of you, and it is very likely that I will tire of you at some point, I will arrange for you to be sold. You will have no say in who your new master is. From the point of your entering into your bondage with me, you become nothing more than a possession.”


I’m lost, and alone in the dark with his voice, and what he’s offering. And I hate him. I hate him for tapping into my soul, and finding depths to it that I never knew existed. I’m not tempted. I don’t hate him for that, but for finding, taking and twisting my desire to belong to someone, to be loved and owned, and making it into something so evil. He’s right that I’m scared. Who wouldn’t be?


“Have you finished?” I ask him, as insolently as I dare, opening my eyes.


“No. And those were not the words I wanted to hear from you. I don’t mind that you disobey me at this stage, but you should be warned that you will pay for it later, after you have spoken the words that I expect to hear you say very soon.”


“As a trade-off? In order to get medical aid for Skinner? What sort of consent is that?” I ask him.


He sighs. “Have you ever studied acting, Fox?” he asks, moving quickly, sliding his hands away from me, and pulling himself up, returning to the armchair. I’m flustered by his quicksilver body language as usual.


“Not really.” I shrug.


“Saying the words can set the scene, Fox.” He looks at me keenly. “If you say them and I make you say them often enough, and with enough meaning, sooner or later, you’ll come to believe them. It’s that simple. You don’t believe me?” He notices the incredulous look on my face. “You think you could never truly submit to me? That I could never break you?”


“No. I do believe you – but it’s more complex than that. I’m a student of psychology. What you just explained to me is a textbook method of influencing behavior, which, I believe, you could use to turn almost any reasonably intelligent human being who is at a vulnerable place in his life, into a slave. It’s a more sophisticated version of brainwashing called mind control. There’s nothing unique about this system, Saunders – it’s pretty commonplace. A form of mind control is used in everyday life in many legitimate settings, especially in the military and in psychiatry. It’s also the preferred method of behavioral control used by destructive religious cults.”


Saunders looks as if he’s in serious danger of exploding but I’m in full rant mode, and anyway, this guy could benefit from my psychological observations. If evidence that I have a mind of my own will help me to convince him that I’m not just a sex object, then that won’t do my case any harm either. And then, of course, there’s always the outside chance that I can bore him to death.


“By controlling a victim’s environment, what information he receives, where he lives, what clothing he wears, what food he eats, how much sleep he gets, and by indoctrinating him with phobias of impending physical harm if he should disobey any cult orders, it’s a simple matter for a cult leader to break down his victim’s real personality and replace it with one with the cult’s stamp of approval.”


He’s tapping his fingers on the upholstery of the armchair, allowing me my say, but I can see a Scullyish hostility to my display of verbal gymnastics in his sharp blue eyes.


“By all means, do please continue.” He smiles at me and I nod, pacing around the room, gesturing frantically.


“Your pride is misplaced, Saunders. It is not by dint of your macho charisma or an exceptionally powerful method of behavioral training of your own personal invention that you are able to enslave others,” I pause and he raises an inquiring eyebrow. “No. Rather, your ability to do this is derived solely from following tried and tested methods of other cult leaders before you, just as a housewife would follow the recipe of a great French chef to make a souffle.”


“Really? Fascinating,” he murmurs. “Tell me, Fox – did you subject your former master to these egotistical little tirades?”


“Uh…yes.” I can vividly recall throwing this sort of psychobabble at Skinner on more than one occasion. Oh shit, this reminds of me that time when we were dealing with that other crazy cult – The Temple of the Seven Stars. I remember spouting whole reams of shit about the Book of Revelations and Dissociative Identity Disorder. The guy must have wondered what hit him. His eyes did glaze over, now that I think about it.


“Poor man,” Saunders murmurs. “My respect for him is increasing by the second. I do hope he invested in some sturdy gags to curb your worst excesses.”


“Where was I?” I ask Saunders, ignoring his comment, determined not to be side-tracked.


“I was rather hoping that you’d finished,” he murmurs.


“No. I was just getting to the point,” I tell him firmly.


“Soufflés then. I believe soufflés were important.” He gestures with a languid hand.


“Right. Yeah – however admirable the culinary results might be from a housewife following a recipe for soufflé,” I incline my head towards him and he sighs theatrically, “it wouldn’t indicate that she possessed an ability to do more than follow directions. The same would apply to following the steps to induct and enslave a potential cult member. The method that you described would work with me, undoubtedly, as it worked with Nick. That means nothing. It’s just a recipe. You know that, and I know it.”


His face has grown dark and angry, and he’s clearly decided that he’s had enough of Professor Mulder’s lecture.


“I just follow a recipe like a housewife, do I?” he snarls and it is the first time that I have seen him close to losing his self-control. It’s not a pretty sight.


“Yes. But if it is the only way to get a doctor for Skinner then I’ll willingly undergo your mind control indoctrination and enslavement program. Just so long as you remember that your victory is hollow since my consent is not freely given.”


“Fuck you.” He clenches both his fists, and advances on me. I stand my ground, waiting for the blow, but it never comes. Breathing heavily, he raises his fist, but stops just short of lashing out at me. I can see him visibly win the struggle to curb his temper, and he smoothes his hair back into place, and smiles once more. “I’m waiting, Fox,” he says. “I’ll make the call, just as soon as I have what I want from you.” He gestures with his head in the direction of the phone. “And then we can get on with preparing that soufflé,” he adds, with a vicious smile.


Touché! So that’s it. Words, my final weapon, have proved useless. I don’t really need to think about it. I came here prepared to do this, and even after his speech from hell, I know that I’ll still pay whatever price is necessary to get a doctor for Skinner. I find myself nodding, and he sits down in the armchair, watching me.


I unbutton my shirt, slowly, my eyes never leaving his. I transmit a message of pure hatred to him via my body language as I slide the shirt from my shoulders, remove my socks and shoes, then undo my pants and step out of them. Finally, naked, I kneel down and crawl over to him. My mouth is dry as I come to the end of the road.


“Break me, Master. Please,” I ask.


“And?” he demands, his eyes devouring my body, his muscles tensed as if ready for violence or flight, savoring his victory.


“Fuck me, Master.”




“Whip me, Master. Fuck me. Do what you want to me. Please. I’m begging you.”


“Very well. I accept your kind offer. Undress me.”


I do as he says, firmly, without shaking. If Skinner’s life depends on this, then I’ll give him the performance that he wants. He might know that I’m faking every last sigh of pleasure, but he’s wrong about the acting. Simulating it will not make it real. Not ever. When he’s naked, he takes me in his arms, and kisses me, and I respond with mock-passion, then he pushes me onto the bed, his mouth roving over my nipples, his hand playing with my cock. I reach out and wrap my arms around him, running my hands down his back. I’m moaning, and he’s grinning at me, sucking on my lips and neck. “Slut. I knew it. Slut,” he murmurs.


“Fuck me. Fuck me please,” I beg, rolling him over underneath me – and then I strike. I’m a couple of inches taller than he is and about 15 years younger. I pin him down, put my hands around his throat and squeeze, hard.


“I’m nobody’s fucking slave,” I hiss, listening to the sounds of him choking with more pleasure than I would have thought possible. “And now you are going to listen to me. In a minute, when I’m through with you, I’m going to let you up. Then you’re going to call those guards of yours, and order a limo. You’ll get Skinner placed inside it, and you’ll give me the keys to the car. Then you’ll let us leave here, you frigging nightmare.”


His eyes are bulging in his head, and he’s nodding frantically. I loosen my fingers, settling my weight firmly on his torso, keeping him held down as he recovers his breath. He’s panting, and still choking – maybe I did more harm than I thought. A sudden memory of Duane Barry assaults me and I shift my weight off him for just one brief second. It’s in that moment of vulnerability that he strikes; somehow he manages to free one arm and punches me hard on the jaw. I fall back and he twists out from under me, and knocks me flat on the bed. He opens the bedside dresser drawer, pulls out a set of handcuffs, and fastens me to the bed before I can recover. I lie there, my eyes dull, knowing that I face a painful retribution. He sits down next to me.


“I was wrong about Skinner, Fox. He hasn’t handled you wrongly at all,” he whispers, his voice still choked, and an ugly bruise forming around his neck.


“Oh?” I raise a polite eyebrow. He doesn’t have anything to say that I want to hear. I’m just waiting for the punishment to begin.


“No. He’s won. I suppose I knew that he would from the beginning, but you can’t begrudge me my try, can you?” He smiles, regretfully, and leans in to kiss my lips softly. “I could take you by force, but it wouldn’t be the same.” He shakes his head. “Matt enjoys that, but I don’t. That’s why I liked Mr. Skinner as soon as I saw him. He understands the subtleties, the finesse. And he’s been so wise in his treatment of you. I’m not a fool, Fox. I know that Nick would go to anyone strong enough to keep him. And his love, as you say, is engineered by me, to my design and specifications. But Skinner keeps you on a very long leash indeed. So long that half the time you probably don’t even realize he has it around your neck. Then, maybe he just jerks it gently, quietly, and you come running back to his side. He’s ruined you for anyone else. He keeps you panting, perpetually on the edge, in a state of slavery that is so benign that you don’t even realize it exists. Half the time you probably even believe in the myth of your own autonomy. You are a submissive, Fox, despite your protestations to the contrary, but you have found yourself a very unusual and particularly powerful master. One wise enough to give you the slack you need, and strong enough to carry you to safety when it all goes wrong. You’ve been lucky. And of course, by treating you in this way, he’s bonded you to him more strongly than I could ever hope to.” His hand is stroking my body, possessively, covetously, and I submit to the embrace, powerless to refuse him anything. “You are that rare thing, Fox – a slave who cannot be bought or sold. Very rare. Very beautiful. I envy your master, and hope he never tires of you, because I do not see how you can ever be whole without him. Love can be so very touching.”


I flinch, not from his insistent caress, but from his words. He glances at me in surprise. “But surely you knew that you loved him? I knew, the moment I saw you that first time in Krypton. How strangely compelling a study you are, Fox! So aware, and yet so naive. Did you think that it was just a physical thing? Just a need to feel his hands upon your body, or to hear him claim you? Foolish boy!” He shakes his head in disbelief. His hands are under my butt cheeks, and he pulls me down the bed towards him. “If I said the price for his life was that you let me fuck you, now, would you agree?”


“Yes. You know I would,” I tell him through gritted teeth.


“And if I ask you to become aroused, and jerk yourself off for me to watch, would you do that?”


“Yes.” I grind out.


“Very well.” He undoes one of the cuffs. “Play with yourself, Fox.” He sits back, watching, and I close my eyes, wondering what jerk-off fantasy to use. Usually, it involves enormous-breasted blonde women, but somehow I’m not in the mood for that right now. I remember that first time Skinner ‘took’ me, and the wild animal roar as he came. I think about those bites that marked me, and that first bath, his body floating against mine, his heavy, naked scalp on my bare chest. My cock is hard, swollen as I savor these memories, and I pump myself effortlessly to climax.


“Bravo.” Saunders claps slowly, sarcastically. “You’ll do for him what you wouldn’t do to save yourself last night. I’m impressed.”


He walks over to the telephone and picks it up, and I listen in disbelief as he requests the services of a doctor.


“Thank you,” I mutter when he finishes. He grins.


“For what? Let me tell you a secret, Fox; I like Mr. Skinner – he’s the sort of man I approve of. Tomorrow night he will have to prove that he is strong enough to join us. I hope he is. I need the challenge of a man like him, to keep me interested in the thrill of the fight. Of course, theoretically, his choice of opponent is completely random, but I’ve never been terribly keen on leaving things in the lap of the gods, so to speak.” His mouth turns up at the corners in a grim, humorless, utterly ruthless smile.


“The man I have in mind for him to fight is strong, so if Skinner is to stand any chance at all, I’ll have to see that he’s fitter than he is right now. You were just the icing on the cake. I’d have called for a doctor whether you agreed to be mine or not. I always intended to. I was just intrigued by you, and thought that I’d test your limits. I’m pleased to say that you remain one of the most interesting submissives I’ve ever met.”


“You bastard,” I say quietly. “You put me through all that because…”


“I wanted you. Yes,” he shrugs, “and I very nearly had you.”


“What sort of a man are you?” I ask him, as genuinely intrigued by him as he has been by me.


“Extraordinary, I believe.” He grins.


“Didn’t you ever want a normal life? To settle down, with one person.”


“Oh I have a wife.” He laughs at my surprise.


“Does she play these sorts of games with you?”


“No. Oh dear me, no!” He laughs again. “She’s another top, dear Fox. I believe she has her own little harem of slaves – girls as well as boys. I don’t inquire too much – that’s entirely her affair. I give her notice when I intend to visit and she sees that they are discreetly out of sight during my stay. We’re very fond of other, although we don’t actually live together – we appreciate each other more this way.”


“And kids?” I ask.


“Two. A boy and a girl. Both flown the nest now, and doing very well in their respective fields.”


“And if they ended up in a place like this? What would you think then?” I can’t help but be fascinated by him.


He shrugs. “That would be their choice. Everyone must find their own way to fulfilment.”


“You do know that you’re fucking crazy, don’t you?” I say, because I can be crazy too, but he doesn’t even look angry at that remark.


“No more so than a man who can sleep next to someone every night, and yet never realize how profoundly in love he is.” He grins at me, and then the smile fades abruptly, and he fingers the bruise on his neck. “Now, what shall we do about this?” he asks, looming over me threateningly. “The penalty for striking a master is usually severe.” He is looking at me intently. “A spell in the Zone usually works.” A knowing smile plays around his lips. He knows how fucking scared I am of that place. “What do you say, Fox? Technically speaking, you still belong to me, and if I want to put you in the Zone, I can. Does it appeal, hmm?” He strokes my hair softly, like a kind lover, not the crazy pervert I know he is.


“No. You know it doesn’t,” I choke.


“And would you beg me?” he whispers. “Beg me not to put you there, Fox.”


“Please. Don’t put me in the Zone. Please, master.” I beg, with total honesty. I’m completely freaked by the thought of ending up in the Zone and he knows it.


“It could be just what you need,” he says, caressing my face lightly. I close my eyes and clench my fists, taking a deep breath. “Does it scare you?” His voice is sibilant in my ear. “I like your fear, Fox. Tell me how much it scares you.”


“I’m fucking scared. Please don’t do it. Please,” I tell him sincerely. He looks at me for a long time, and then laughs.


“Well, how sweet. Poor boy – you really mean that. I think we’ll save the Zone for another day. I like teasing you with the threat of it. One day I might show you the reality, but I’m going to let you sweat a little bit more first. It’s more fun this way.” I breathe a huge sigh of relief as he undoes my other cuff.


“Run along now, Fox. You’ve amused me enough. Go back to Mr. Skinner. The doctor will be here shortly. Next time I see you, I expect you to be dressed according to your status,” he warns, and with that, he hands me my clothes and ushers me peremptorily from the room, closing the door behind me.


Skinner is still asleep when I return to our room. He has a spread of yellowing bruises along the left-hand side of his jaw, and a series of purple ones by his cheekbone. One of his eyes is slightly puffy, and there’s a cut on his forehead. If I pull the sheet down, I know I’ll find dozens more cuts and bruises. The location of each and every one is etched in my memory – I could tell you where any single one is without even looking. I wonder if he looked like this back in Vietnam, after he nearly died. I try to picture him scared and vulnerable, but I can’t. He isn’t any of those things to me. Even lying here, wounded and in pain, he still retains those qualities that make him the person whom Saunders is convinced I am in love with. In love? With this man? A week ago I’d have said anyone suggesting it had to be crazy. Now, I don’t know. I pull on my designer slave boy jeans, and take up a protective position at the foot of the bed, watching him sleep.


The doctor arrives an hour or so later. He’s young, and nervous-looking, and quite clearly he’s undergone Saunders’s “breaking” treatment at some point in his past. His examination wakens my bleary-eyed lover, although I’m not convinced that he really knows what’s going on. Saunders stands back by the door, watching the proceedings with his usual predatory air.


“He needs to be in the hospital,” the doctor mumbles, unable to look Saunders in the eye.


“We all have needs that can’t be met,” Saunders shrugs. “He has to fight, Adam. Tomorrow evening. You can fix him up well enough for that, can’t you?”


“Well…I…” Adam looks at Skinner and back at Saunders. Saunders steps forward, and puts his arm around the young man’s neck, soothing him.


“It’s okay. Just one fight. If he wins, he can go straight to the hospital.”


“And if he loses?” I ask hotly.


“Then it won’t matter,” Saunders shrugs. “So, Adam, just get him well enough to fight. The rest is out of your hands.”


“I could give him something.” Adam bites down on his lip. “It will help him in the short term.”


“Well then!” Saunders beams. “That’s all we care about isn’t it?”


“No,” I state flatly. “It isn’t. What is this stuff you’re planning on giving him?”


“It’s…” Adam won’t meet my eyes either. “It’s a drug that you won’t have heard of. I can inject him and he’ll feel better but…”




“Sometimes there are side effects later. And he won’t really be better. I mean, the underlying causes of his illness will still be there. You said something about a damaged kidney?”




“Well, he needs to get that checked out in hospital. He might need some special medication, or even an operation.” He bites his lip again, his eyes sliding in all directions. I sense a serious battle between his medical ethics and his obedience to Saunders.


“This drug you’re planning on giving him – is it dangerous?” I demand. Adam shifts anxiously from foot to foot.


“It can be,” he says uneasily.


“Then the answer is no,” I say firmly. “Saunders this has to end. He has to go to the hospital.”


“Nonsense.” Saunders puts his arm around my shoulder now, and leads me away to a corner of the room. “Perhaps I haven’t made myself clear,” he tells me in a low tone. “When Skinner leaves here, he will either have become a fully initiated member of Mithras, or…” he shrugs.


“Or what?” I hold my breath, already knowing the answer.


“Or he’s nothing at all,” Saunders states ambiguously.


“I see.” I stare him straight in the eye. I’m dealing with a crazy man here; there’s no sense reasoning with him.


“So what’s it to be?” Saunders asks. “Do we give him the medication, or do we just leave nature to take its course and hope that he can stand, let alone fight?”


“Give him the fucking medication.” I turn away, unable to watch, knowing that I might have just signed his death warrant, but convinced that I have no other option.


“All done.” Saunders taps me on the shoulder a few seconds later. “Adam is leaving a second dose by his bed. You can administer that to him yourself tomorrow.”


“No fucking way.” I shake my head.


“Well, as you wish,” He laughs, and ushers the pathetic Adam out of the room.


The difference in Skinner is amazing. He’s up within hours, pacing around the room, his pupils dilated.


“I’m fine. I feel fine.” He can’t sit still for a minute. “I could fight now. Hell, I could fight ten men right this second.”


“A few hours ago you couldn’t even stand up,” I tell him. “It’s just the drug talking. Sit down and conserve your strength.”


“Nah. This is great. Nothing hurts. I feel like…I feel like I could fly.” He grins broadly, and flexes his muscles.


“Well you can’t. So just lie down, and shut up.”


“What’s up with you?” He does at least manage to sit down for five seconds, grabbing my face, and looking me in the eye, before his restless legs make him resume that pacing.


“I’m thinking.”


“Don’t worry. I’m going to win. I’m going to beat this guy, whoever it is, and…”


“It’ll be Matt,” I tell him.


“How do you know that?” He frowns, pausing by the armchair, and then sets off for another circuit around the room.


“Because Saunders doesn’t like him. Saunders told me that your opponent is supposed to be an arbitrary choice – I’d guess he’s probably chosen by lot. But Saunders will manipulate the draw, and it will be Matt. Saunders wants to get rid of Matt, and, for some inexplicable reason, he’s taken a liking to you.”


“Inexplicable?” He raises an eyebrow. “I’m a likeable person.”


“Have it your own way.” I shrug. “If you think it’s a compliment to be liked by a crazy, sadistic, madman who is, in all likelihood, a murderer, then that’s up to you. Personally, I prefer my testimonials to come from more reputable sources.”


“Like Mufon? Or the Society For Disadvantaged Mutants?” He grins, doing some irritating little jogging steps, and jabs a punch at an imaginary opponent. I could grow to seriously dislike him when he’s like this. “So, you think Saunders is our murderer?” He lunges at his non-existent assailant, but his body isn’t anywhere near as agile as his mind thinks it is, and he stumbles and falls on top of me, all 200 pounds of him, crushing the breath out of me.


“For fuck’s sake, just sit down and be quiet,” I gasp, pushing him off me. He lies on the bed, winded.


“I can see grapefruits,” he tells me, pointing at the ceiling.


“Grapefruits?” As drugs go, whatever he was given obviously lacks some of the more psychedelic delights of say, LSD, or hash. Not that I’m a frigging expert, I hasten to add.


“Yeah. Big yellow ones. God, I could murder for something citrus right now. Go and get me something, Fox.” He turns his big brown eyes on me, and for the first time in his life, I suspect, he has a winsome, appealing, almost puppyish look on his face. It’s not a pleasant sight. It doesn’t sit well on those blunt, stern, no-nonsense features.


“Oh, all right. But only if you lie there, and don’t move until I get back.”


I set off wearily for the kitchen, and find him some oranges. When I return, I find him out of breath, and he has a guilty expression on his face. He launches himself at the bed, trying to pretend he never left it, so it’s gratifying to note that I’m not the only one who has trouble with this whole obedience thing. I toss him an orange, and he misses it.


“Here. Follow my finger.” I wave my index finger in front of his face, and he follows it for a second with his eyes, and then they wander over to the dropped orange. “I said, follow it.” I jerk his attention back, but he clearly has the concentration span of a small child right now, so I give up, and recover the orange. He takes it eagerly but his fingers are shaking, and he drops it again. I retrieve it with a sigh, and peel it for him while he goes for another run around the room. He’s making me dizzy. “If you sit down and stay quiet you can have the orange,” I bribe quite blatantly, and he nods, and sits down on the bed, opening his mouth for me to feed him segments. I’m not sure he could manage the co-ordination required to actually place the food into his mouth without dropping it, or crashing it into his nose.


Then, suddenly, without any warning, he just drops, falling back on the bed as if the life has been sucked from him. I look at my watch. His burst of energy lasted a little over an hour. My eyes travel over to the medicine that Adam, the so-called ‘doctor’, has left. Skinner’s concentration might be shot to pieces, and his co-ordination minimal, but the drug might represent the best chance he has. I resolve to save it for the last minute and I know that I’ll use it if I have to, despite my earlier protestations to the contrary.


“I hurt,” he moans as the pain comes flooding back into his body and his raw nerve endings scream with the shock of it.


“It’s okay,” I whisper. I pull him up the bed to make him more comfortable, hold his limp body cradled loosely against my chest, and kiss his smooth scalp.


“Damn well…hurts.” He writhes for a moment, and I figure that this must be a side effect of the drug, and that whatever pain he’s experiencing must be intense. He’s never exactly been the sort of guy to complain about physical discomfort after all; I’ve seen him after he’s been shot and he didn’t even notice the wound until I pointed it out.


“Okay. Just lie still.” I stroke my fingers against his head as he twists and turns. Sweat is beading his naked scalp and I wipe it off, gently. Finally he calms down.


“You were saying something about Saunders being the murderer,” he mumbles at last, trying to distract himself.


“Yeah. He’s certainly the brains behind this whole sick organization. And he’s ruthless enough to be the murderer, but the final piece of the puzzle hasn’t slotted into place in my head yet. I’ve worked some of it out. I know Saunders wants to get shot of Matt. I know he’d prefer it if you took Matt’s place, and that’s why you’ll find yourself facing Matt tomorrow evening. Saunders has implied that this is a final, deciding fight.”


“A fight to the death?” Skinner moves his head, and looks up at me. His eyes are cloudy and tired, but he’s still trying to follow what I’m saying.


“I’m not sure. Saunders indicated something different. That’s the part that’s eating me.” His body convulses unexpectedly in my arms, and I hold him down until the fit passes. “It’s okay. I’m here,” I murmur, stroking his head softly, but I’m freaked out by his state of health. Surely one more fight will kill him? He’s not superhuman, much as I like to project that image onto him sometimes. That makes me laugh, as I remember Krypton and that cheesy Superman routine we witnessed.


“What?” he mutters.


“I just had a mental image of you – in blue tights, with a big ‘S’ on your latex-clad chest.”


“You don’t think I could carry off the tights?”


“With those legs, Mr Beefcake? Are you kidding! I’d take photos and distribute them around the Bureau for everyone to admire.”


“Nobody would recognize me without my glasses,” he points out. “That’s the whole thing about Superman. That’s what you’re talking about isn’t it? ‘S ‘for ‘Superman’? That loony Krypton thing?”


“Nah. ‘S’ for Skinner.” I kiss him tenderly on the head, and watch as his eyes close. I’m not sure that I recognize him without his metaphorical glasses. He’s everything I knew him to be, but in ways a hundred times more complex and compelling than I would ever have imagined. Now has been a really stupid time to fall in love.


His health has improved marginally by the following afternoon. With three hours to go until the scheduled fight, I outline our options to him, the syringe and small vial of medication held between my nerveless fingers.


“The way I see it, there aren’t any options,” he sighs wearily. He looks like death – as white as one of his own dress shirts, making the multi-hued bruises on his face stand out in stark relief. “I can’t fight Matt, or anyone, like this. Hell, even you could beat me right now.”


“I’m not a complete wuss,” I reply stiffly. “I have been known to win the occasional fight.”


“Next you’ll be telling me you never drop your gun either,” he teases.


“Ha, ha. I always knew that grim exterior hid a sense of humor, somewhere, several layers deep. I’m so glad I never made an effort to find it before. Are you always this flippant when facing life and death situations?”


“You’re never satisfied are you? Last time we were facing a fight, you bitched that I wasn’t flippant enough!” he exclaims. “It’s the only way to be when you’re looking forward to either the welcoming hug of initiation into an insane cult or summary castration, though.” He shrugs. “So, when do you inject me?”


“There is another option,” I state carefully, looking at him.


“What’s that?” His head jerks up in surprise.


“Have you considered telling them who we are? We might be able to scare them into letting us go.”


“Are you kidding?” He shakes his head.


“It might be worth a try.”


“Fox,” he interrupts me. “I won’t pretend that I haven’t thought about it. I’ve rolled a lot of options around in my head, and this is one of them, but it’s not a good idea. It’s a huge gamble – they might just cut their losses, kill the pair of us, and run. They are unlikely to just let us go. Let’s be frank about this – I’m the only one who stands to die in the next few hours. The sensible decision has to be that I take that risk. At least you’ll still be around by the time help arrives to tell the investigative team what happened, and give evidence. It’s a simple evaluation of risk. We either put both our lives in jeopardy, or just mine. No contest really,” he shrugs.


“Shit.” I bury my head in my knees, and lace my arms together over my neck.


“Fox?” His head appears in front of my knees as he tries to see what’s going on with me.


“Back in your office, days ago, you said that you couldn’t evaluate the risk to yourself. You warned me, Lenny warned me. Everybody warned me but I wouldn’t damn well listen.” I mumble incoherently into my jeans.


“It’s too late for regrets now.” He disentangles my arms from around my neck, and lifts my face up. “We’re here. We have a job to do. Don’t wallow in guilt, Mulder. I need you sharp for the next few hours. I’m not sure I’m thinking as clearly as I could be. If it’s any consolation, I promise that if we ever get out of here alive, I’ll make you regret disobeying my orders, big time. How’s that?”


“Fine by me.” I smile weakly.


“Good.” He picks up the syringe and vial, and hands them to me. “Time for my medication, Doctor.”


Saunders makes an appearance a little while later.


“Feeling better I hope, Mr. Skinner?” he asks. Skinner nods, his knees already beginning to twitch with energy, which I’m grateful for. It means I timed the medication right.


“Is it time to go?” Skinner asks.


“Not quite yet. I came here to get Fox,” Saunders beckons to me.


“Why, where are we going?” I demand, fighting down a wave of panic.


“Just follow me, Fox. You’re in no position to argue.” Saunders looks at Skinner who sighs, and nods.


“Do as he says.” He shrugs wearily. I want to do something embarrassingly mushy, like kiss the lips right off his face, but I restrain myself. Skinner just isn’t that kind of guy. I never thought I was that kind of guy either. The heady combination of sex and fighting, and the constant threats of fates worse than death are clearly having a mind-altering effect on me. It could be a good topic for a thesis, if I live to write it. I follow Saunders to the slave-pen where I’m surprised to find the entire submissive population of Mithras assembled.


“Sit down on one of the bunks, Fox.” Saunders nods his head pleasantly.


“Why? What’s happening? What’s going on?” I sit down as instructed and he grabs my hand, and before I know it I find myself handcuffed to the bunk. “Let me go. Fuck, what is this?” I tug on the cuff, and he smiles at me, and pats my head.


“We know what you’re like, don’t we, Fox?” He sighs with mock regret. “It’s safer to have you firmly locked away so that you’re not tempted to pry where you shouldn’t.”


“You can’t do this. Please, let me be with him, if he’s going to die. Please!” I pull on the cuff, but Saunders takes no notice and, with a smile to Nick, he turns on his heel and leaves the pen.


“Nick – what’s going on?” I ask desperately when Saunders has gone.


“I don’t know,” he shrugs. “Every so often we get put in here and told to wait. Later on they let us out. It’s no big deal.”


“It is a big deal, Nick,” I tell him forcefully. “While you’re all locked away in here, they are doing something crazy. You have to help me to escape.”


“I can’t do that.” He looks aghast at the very thought of disobeying Saunders.


“You have to,” I tell him urgently. “Nick – haven’t you noticed that one of the tops always disappears after these sessions?”


Nick licks his lips nervously, and puts a finger over his mouth.


“Ssh, Fox. Don’t talk about that. They just leave, they move on. That’s all,” he says, in a frightened tone of voice.


“Nick, they don’t move on. They’re killed – in the most brutal manner you could possibly imagine. You have to help me.”


Nick stands there, looking agonized. “Killed?” he whispers.


“Yes. Castrated. They bleed to death.”


“Who would do that? Not Aaron, he couldn’t.” Nick’s voice trails off, and I know he doesn’t really believe that. The strength that he so admires in his lover could easily lend itself to a more extreme form of violence than could be sated in the Arena. “Are you saying that Aaron…?” he whispers, his eyes horrified.


“No. No, I’m not,” I tell him, suddenly figuring it all out in that one moment. The final piece of the jigsaw clicks effortlessly into place, and I now understand why what Skinner said to me, and what I said to him, back in his office, days ago, has been bugging me. “It isn’t Aaron, although he’s almost certainly the one behind it. Nick, please. You have to help me. If you don’t you’ll be an accessory to murder. Please,” I beg him frantically.


“Okay. Okay,” he whispers, casting an anxious glance around the rest of the room, but there won’t be any opposition from the other subs. “How can I help?”


“Is the door locked?” I ask him. He nods.


“Get a piece of wire – from a coat hanger or something like that.” He quickly finds something that will do, and I instruct him to twist it, and insert it into the cuff. He pokes around ineffectually for several anxious minutes until I’m practically crying with frustration. It’s past eleven now. The fight might have already started. Please god, no! One of the other subs comes over to us.


“I can do it,” he offers. I recognize Matt’s slave, and smile at him encouragingly. “I, uh, used to be good at this sort of thing,” he says mysteriously, without elaborating further. Within seconds, he’s sprung the lock, and I’m free.


“What about the main door? Could you do that too?” I ask him and he nods, pleased to be of use. Soon that lock yields to his expert touch as well. “Do you know the way to the Arena from here?” I ask Nick, and he nods. “Take me there.” I command, and he hesitates for a moment, but he’s come this far, so eventually he nods, and leads the way. I break into a jog beside him, forcing him to hurry. It’s twenty past eleven. Skinner could already be dead or dying.


I’m not sure what I intend to do, just that I must let Skinner know what I’ve figured out, because he doesn’t understand what a no-win situation he’s in. I skid to a halt outside the Arena. It’s deathly quiet – none of the usual roaring of the crowd, but I can hear the rasping breathing and slugging sounds of two men fighting. This is stupid. I should try something else. Perhaps, go back to the Bat Cave, try to get out that way. Even if I’m caught, it could be a diversion, a distraction from what is about to take place – but it’s too late. As I turn around, I find myself face to face with one of the guards.


We’re marched into the Arena at gunpoint. I could kick myself again – of course Saunders would have his guards out in full on a night like this. The flames of the torches in the Arena are low, and I pause, stupefied by the sight that greets me. The tops are standing around the edges of the Arena, giving the two combatants plenty of room to maneuver, but that isn’t what alarms me. Everyone, except the fighters, is wearing masks – stupid, ridiculous masks in the shape of bull’s heads, complete with horns, that totally obscure their faces. I feel like I’m in a bad “b” movie, and any minute now a half naked, heaving-bosomed girl will rush past screaming “It’s alive!” and point at a slithering, blood-sucking reptilian life form, or a killer vegetable. No such luck. Instead I’m pushed into the Arena, and the fighting comes to an abrupt stop.


“Who interrupts our ceremony?” A voice I recognize as Saunders’s demands from behind a mask. He strides angrily towards us. “So, Fox. Your curiosity might finally be your undoing. And as for you.” His eyes glare at Nick from behind the mask, and Nick wilts, seriously scared by the bizarre nature of the proceedings, and throws himself at Saunders’s feet in misery.


“I’m sorry. I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry!” he sobs.


“The punishment for this might well be more than you can survive,” Saunders tells him coldly, picking him up, and throwing him bodily across the room towards the post. He fastens the hapless Nick there with a cuff, and then returns for me. “As you wanted to be witnesses, then by all means, join us,” Saunders hisses, taking hold of my hair, and dragging me across the room, before handcuffing me as well.


Skinner barely spares me a glance. His entire being is focused on Matt, who is his opponent as I predicted he would be. All Skinner’s waning energy is fixed on the fight that he knows he has to win if he wants to stay alive. Only it won’t make any difference. Winning will just hurl him into a different nightmare. There is no oil on their bodies, no melodrama, just a grim, intense fight to decide who stays alive, and who dies. Matt knows what the penalty is for losing, and Skinner can guess, but he doesn’t know all of it. I try to attract his attention with my eyes, but he’s stubbornly focused.


“The fight will continue,” Saunders announces grimly, and Matt and Skinner stop eyeballing each other, and return once more to the cold, quiet battle that will end in the death of one or other of them. I find I even miss the atmosphere of the other fights, the drama and excitement. I’ve seen some sights in my time that have scared me witless, but none more so than standing in this silent room, watching these two men fight in front of all these silent witnesses in their masks.


The only sound is the grunting, rasping noise of the fight and Nick’s scared, muffled sobs as he crouches against the post, his head buried in his knees.


Matt slugs a blow at Skinner, who side-steps it easily, the medication filling him with that same buzzing energy that he had yesterday. Only he can’t control his movements, so his side-step ends in a sloping fall to one side, and he ends up near my feet. I crouch down beside him.


“I’ve finally figured it all out,” I whisper as he shakes his head, his eyes fixed on Matt, who’s advancing on him.


“Oh yeah?” He gets to his feet, and lumbers back into the circle like a bear who’s been swung around until he’s dizzy. Matt launches himself at him, and Skinner gets in a powerful blow to Matt’s body, throwing him off to one side with a roar. Skinner follows him, but Matt escapes and dances around the edge of the circle. Skinner is soon back within earshot as he chases after his opponent.


“Yeah – Saunders isn’t the murderer. At least,” Skinner ducks to avoid a blow, and it lands on me instead, hitting me square on the jaw and flinging me back against the post. “Thanks, boss,” I mutter under my breath, but the fighting has moved away again. I rub my jaw, and watch as Matt dances around while Skinner tries to focus on him. I remember the orange yesterday. Skinner’s focusing skills are not exactly finely honed at the moment, and, without his glasses, they’re probably practically zero. Matt doesn’t realize this though, and he wears himself out, dancing around while Skinner just stands there, patiently, waiting until a target looms into view, and then flailing his fists at it for all he’s worth. Matt ends up in the floor at my feet, and Skinner throws himself on top of him, pummeling his face into the sand.


“So, who is the murderer?” Skinner grunts, getting hold of Matt’s face, and head-butting him squarely across his already bruised nose. Matt squeals. Skinner delivers a backhand across Matt’s jaw, another going the other way, a third under Matt’s chin, and Matt finally lies still in the sand, out cold. Skinner gets up and staggers over to me, looking at me questioningly. “Well?” he whispers.


“Tonight? You are,” I tell him.


The room is suddenly galvanized into action. Matt is swept up onto the shoulders of half a dozen of the tops, and a low humming begins. Skinner looks around in alarm, and Nick’s sobbing goes up a decibel. I wish he’d shut up.


“Now might be a good time to tell them we’re FBI agents,” I hiss at Skinner.


“No. I told you. That’s not an option.” He frowns at me.


“You don’t understand.”


“Yes. I do.” The stubborn bastard shakes his head. At that moment Saunders appears.


“Congratulations, Mr. Skinner.” He holds out his hand. “Welcome to Mithras!” He refrains from giving one of those long, sinister laughs so beloved of the villains in all good ‘b’ movies, which I personally find disappointing considering the circumstances. Instead, he shakes Skinner’s hand, and draws him towards the chapel.


“Oh shit,” I mutter under my breath. Nick starts to whimper, looking up at me with scared eyes.


“Bring them. They wanted to see, so let them see, everything!” Saunders says, and the guards unfasten us from the post and drag us bodily behind the grim, humming, line of men as they carry Matt’s prone body into the other room. We then form a procession, going down the aisle of the chapel with Matt’s body raised high in front of us, before ending up by the locked door at the end of the room. Oh shit, it’s the one where we weren’t allowed to go before. If this were a movie, now would be a really good time to be rescued. It doesn’t happen.


Saunders unlocks the door, and we find ourselves in an empty room – empty save for a huge iron grille suspended over two blocks of stone. On the floor under the grille, there are ominous signs of spilt blood. Hanging on the wall, is a huge sacrificial blade, and above that, is another of those murals depicting a bullfight. Only this time, the bull is already dead, its blood spilling out, and bathing the naked initiate standing below.


“Oh fuck.” Skinner says, coming to a sudden halt, making me bump into him. Saunders goes on ahead, and leads the procession to the grille. He lays Matt out on top of it, and the group of tops start undressing the semi-conscious man.


“Yeah,” I whisper. “That’s what was bugging me. You remember that you said that one of the features of the ancient Mithras religion was being bathed in bull’s blood?”


“Yeah.” He’s nodding and swaying at the same time.


“And I said that you don’t find too many bulls roaming down your average street in Washington, DC?”


“Yeah. I remember that bit too.” He nods again.


“Well, I think they’ve found a substitute bull,” I finish. He looks at me, his eyes aghast as the full horror of it sinks in.


“Complicity,” I whisper. “They’re all murderers. Everyone who has joined – although I suspect they’ve been on recruitment drive recently, hence the plethora of dead bodies in the past few months. Saunders might be behind that.”


“I’m supposed to…I’ve got to…?” His face is deathly pale.


“Yeah. It will ensure your silence. They all have too much to lose. Most cults use shared guilt as a means of ensuring their members’ loyalty and silence, but the Mithras method is particularly effective in a uniquely grotesque way. It’s pretty neat.” I grin. He’s not the only one who can smile in the face of fates worse than death.


“And if I refuse?” he whispers.


“Guess who ends up in the hotspot then,” I murmur. He staggers against me, and I hold him up. The drug has obviously started to wear off.


Matt has been secured tightly to the grille, and his head starts to move. He’s groaning weakly, and his eyes open. He realizes what is happening, and screams at the top of his lungs.


“NO. You can’t…NO!!!” He tries to struggle, but he must know that it isn’t any use.


“First the carving,” Saunders announces, taking down the sacrificial knife. We lean closer, in awed and morbid fascination, as Saunders inserts the knife into Matt’s flesh, clumsily carving out the Taurean symbol we saw on those dead bodies we fished out of the Potomac. Matt screams, more from fear and knowledge of what will happen next, than real pain, as the cuts are only skin deep. Saunders finishes his task, and hands the blade to the next man. We watch in mute horror as the carving takes place, and then Skinner is beckoned forward.


“No,” he says firmly to me, and I shut my mouth before I can even open it. “You do not tell them. I am still the only one at risk here,” he mutters grimly. He goes up to the grille, and Saunders holds the knife out to him.


“First, you carve the symbol in his flesh, then you offer him up as a sacrifice,” he murmurs to Skinner. I wonder if Skinner is the only one on drugs here this evening. Either that, or the sinister, scarily sane, albeit sociopathic, Saunders, is able to psyche himself into this sort of madness at will. Skinner stands there, looking down on Matt’s body. “Death by castration,” Saunders whispers. “An offering to Mithras. Then you will disrobe, and stand beneath the grille to be soaked in the sacrificial blood. Only then will you be accepted into our brotherhood.”


“And if I refuse?” Skinner asks.


“Then you will take his place on the sacrificial table. There must be an offering tonight.”


“NO!” Matt screams again and beside me, Nick sinks to the ground, a gibbering wreck. Skinner takes the knife, and stands there, looking down on Matt’s body, and I know he can’t do it. He’s spent his life upholding justice and the rule of law, I don’t think that’s about to change now. He’d rather die than be complicit in this murder. He takes a deep breath, raises the knife, then turns, trying to grasp Saunders, to hold the knife to Saunders’s throat, and take him hostage, but his co-ordination isn’t up to the task, and Saunders side-steps him, making Skinner fall clumsily to the ground. I’m not physically able to breathe as Saunders stands astride Skinner, and relieves him of the knife. If there wasn’t a gun pressed into the back of my neck, nothing could stop me from running forward at this moment.


“So, Mr. Skinner, is that your choice?” Saunders asks.


“It’s the only choice I can make,” Skinner shrugs, trying to get to his feet.


“How disappointing,” Saunders murmurs, starting to untie Matt. “I had such high hopes for you, Mr. Skinner. Prepare him.” He gestures with his head in Skinner’s direction, and the other members of the cult begin that keening hum, descending on my lover.


“Stop!” someone shouts. I’m as surprised as anyone to discover that it’s me. I take a careful step forward, aware of the gun pressed against my neck. “This has to come to an end right now,” I tell them. “Nobody is going to die here this evening. I’m a special agent with the FBI, and this is the Assistant Director in charge of Criminal Investigations. That makes him a powerful and important man. I promise you, that if you kill him, you’ll have more federal agents chasing you than you have any chance of evading, to say nothing of every police department in every state in the country. There won’t be anywhere you can hide. We’ll track down each and every one of you.”


Saunders is staring at me, clearly unsure whether to believe me or not. Skinner is sighing.


“I mean it,” I tell Saunders. “The first body was fished out of the Potomac 3 months ago. Then nothing for several weeks. Then 4 more bodies in quick succession. We soon knew that we were chasing a serial killer. Immediately I recognized the ritualistic elements of the murders, such as the mutilations and the use of the bull symbol, I was assigned to the case – and the Assistant Director here took personal charge of the investigation.”


The information I have given him is enough to make Saunders think twice. He pauses, and glances at Skinner, who pointedly refuses to speak.


“Do you feel lucky?” I ask Saunders. “You could kill us, but our investigative team knows who you are, and they’re searching for us. You don’t have much time, Saunders.”


He hesitates for a long moment, weighing up his options.


“Why not run another check on us,” I tell him urgently. “Make a few phone calls, ask a few questions around my apartment block. You know where I live. You’ll soon discover that I’m telling the truth.”


Saunders removes the bull mask, and looks keenly from Skinner to me, and then back again. “I think,” he murmurs, “that we have a small hiccup in the proceedings.”


“I suppose it’s too much to hope that one day you’ll follow one of my orders,” Skinner grumbles as we are ushered down the corridor at gun-point.


“I was buying you time. Three more minutes, and you’d have lost a part of yourself I’ve grown pretty damn fond of – another five, and I’d have lost you altogether.”


“As it is, guess where we’re both going to end up,” he murmurs.


“Oh shit.” I can feel myself start to tremble as Saunders stops outside the Zone, and unlocks the door.


“Fuck, fuck, shit.”


Skinner puts one arm around my shoulders as we are pushed inside, and the door is locked behind us. Saunders escorts us into the darkness of the Zone, and then unlocks another door. I stand on the threshold, my hands on either side of the door frame, resisting the inevitable for as long as possible. The guard raises his gun high to thwack it across my head and force me inside, but Skinner intervenes smoothly; he unhooks my fingers, pushes me through the door, and then follows on behind. In the center of the room is one of those racks we saw that guy attached to. I find myself swallowing convulsively.


“Later,” Saunders says, and it’s a threat.


“Later,” Skinner shrugs, standing up tall, and looking Saunders calmly in the eye. I breathe a sigh of relief as the door is shut behind us and locked, and I hear footsteps moving away, back up the corridor.


It’s dark and damp, but at least nobody has tried to hook us up to anything. Skinner slumps wearily down on the ground, his legs giving out, while I pace the confines of our cell, looking for a way out that I know doesn’t exist.


“Why did they put us in here?” I ask him.


“Because it’s the most secure area in this place, and given your Houdini abilities, he clearly doesn’t want to take any chances.”


“What do you think will happen next?” I finish my circuit of the cell, coming to the reluctant, if inevitable conclusion that there aren’t any hidden doors.


“Saunders will run some more checks. He’ll find out that you are telling the truth. Then he’ll decide whether or not to kill us,” Skinner informs me bluntly.


“And will he?” I ask, my fingers idly scraping black mould off the walls. “Kill us, I mean?”


“He might. He’ll have to weigh that against allowing us to go free knowing what we know. My guess is that he’ll do something else entirely.”




“He’ll just leave us here,” Skinner says with a deep sigh.


“What? Forever?” I can feel myself starting to shiver. He isn’t telling me anything I haven’t worked out for myself, but hearing it spoken out loud just confirms it.


“That’s right. He’ll close down this whole operation and move on. They’ll all scatter – new names, new identities. Saunders knows he’s had his fun with this particular little operation.”


“And what about Kendall and the cavalry? Supposing they don’t get here in time?” I sit down next to him.


“Well you don’t need me to answer that,” he says, the whites of his eyes just visible in the dark. “We can survive for a few weeks without food, although you’re a bit on the skinny side.” He pokes my bare ribs. “But as for water…unless we can lick some moisture off the walls, I’d give us less than a week.”


“I thought you said Kendall was good,” I accuse. “I mean how long have we fucking been here? If he’s your idea of good.”


“I didn’t say he was fast – but he is very thorough.”


“Great. So, by the time he gets here, all that will be left of us is our bones, but at least he’ll have dotted all the i’s, crossed all the t’s, and obeyed all the right rules, and followed procedure,” I rant, with as much sarcasm as I can muster. “Have you ever wondered if you have your priorities straight? I mean, you chew out your think-on-their-feet type agents, and pat the plodders on the back. Is this fair?”


“Mulder, I’ve been more than fair to you over the years,” he states patiently. “You have no idea what pressure has been put on me to close the X Files at various points in your illustrious career.”


“You did close the X Files once,” I remind him.


“And then I opened them again. Your point is?”


“Oh, nothing. I’m hungry already. And cold. And I hate this damn place.” I shiver violently, and he reaches out a tired arm, and drags my body against his for warmth. I can hear the beating of his heart against my own – like me, he isn’t wearing a shirt. His heartbeat is too fast, and I wonder what havoc that drug is wreaking in his bloodstream. Maybe he’ll die before I do, and I’ll have to sit for days in the dark with a corpse. That thought just makes me shiver again, even more violently than before, and he wraps both his arms around me, and holds me tight.


“When we get back, the first thing I’m going to do is make myself a massive bologna sandwich,” he murmurs, fantasizing idly.


“Really? When we get back the first thing I’m going to do is put on a damn shirt and some shoes,” I tell him.


“No point doing that when the second thing I’m going to do is take them all off again.” His lips nuzzle my ear.


“This sounds more like it. The second thing I’m going to do is undress you. Slowly. The third thing I’m going to do is lick you all over, the fourth thing I’m going to do is to wrap my mouth around…”


“All right, Mulder, don’t labor the joke,” he interrupts, shifting uncomfortably, but I can feel the sudden hardness in his pants. That’s my man – even after three grueling fighting sessions, a high fever, being drugged up to the eyeballs, forced to participate in a macabre, cult sacrifice, threatened with possible castration, and imprisoned in a damp dungeon, he can still get a hard on. I’ve chosen well here.


“Did you think you’d die like this?” I ask him. “I always thought I’d die from a bullet to the head, courtesy of the Consortium, or from some genetic mutation that speeded up my ageing process, or maybe as the victim of rampaging killer bees.”


“Did you? I always thought you’d die 52 light years away on some alien planet,” he remarks. “That is, after all, where you seem to have been living for the past few years.”


“You know, there’s something very disturbing about a man who only discovers his sense of humor in life or death situations,” I remark pointedly. He doesn’t reply because he’s suddenly wracked by a series of those spasms that he experienced yesterday. I can hear his rasping breathing, and inarticulate chokes of pain. I think I’d sell my soul several times over to be able to help him right now, but I can’t do anything except allow him to grip my hands in time to each spasm, nearly breaking the bones in my fingers. Finally, the spasms pass, and he lies back weakly.


“How about you?” I prompt desperately, trying to distract him from the pain. “How did you think you’d end up dying?” Granted, it’s perhaps not the best topic of conversation to use as a distraction, but I’m improvising here.


“I feel as if I already died once. In Vietnam. After that, every day has been a bonus.”


“Yeah. But what I mean is, that I didn’t think I’d end up dying here, lost, alone and forgotten in some dark prison cell.”


“Lost? Maybe. Forgotten – with your record? I don’t think so! And as for alone.” He kisses my hair. “Surely not that.”


“No. Maybe not.”


We’re silent for a long time, then I hear footsteps in the corridor, and get up, prepared to face the worst. The door is unlocked, and Saunders enters. He could be a different man his demeanor is chilling; the sexual teasing has gone to be replaced by a cold, ruthless, business-like killer.


“Cursory checks seem to confirm your story. I must say I did wonder whether it wasn’t all a ruse to save your lover.” He looks at me sharply. “But it would seem that I have as my guests, Special Agent Mulder and Assistant Director Skinner of the FBI. You, in particular, Agent Mulder, seem to have a very dubious reputation. If I had known earlier what illustrious guests I was entertaining, I would have tried to make you feel much more at home. I’m sure it can’t have been easy sharing accommodation at such close quarters, and play-acting your little love affair. Or was it play-acting?” He tilts his head on one side, and gazes pointedly at the fading bite-marks on my body.


“Cut the crap,” Skinner growls from the floor behind me. “Just tell us what you’re going to do with us.”


“Do with you?” Saunders doesn’t look at Skinner; his intense, blue eyed gaze is fixed on me. “I can tell you what I’d like to do with you…” His eyes flicker over to the rack in the center of the room, “…for interrupting my enjoyment and insinuating yourselves into our happy little community, like a virus.” He’s snarling now, genuinely aggrieved by our interference. Like psychos everywhere, he’s shocked to find that he’s subject to the same laws as everyone else. “Would you like me to talk you through every torment this device can deliver, Fox?” He hisses, grabbing hold of me by the scruff of my neck, and dragging me over to the rack. “The straps would hold you immobile. The gag would stop your screams.” He pushes me against the contraption, and I feel sick. “There are various ways in which this can be used,” Saunders informs us, waving his hand expansively. “Personally I enjoy a little electricity.” His hand rests lightly on a small battery pack with leads running from it, culminating in two sets of clamps. “Random current, differing in intensity,” he informs me briskly. “The clamps can be attached in a variety of different places on the body, but I think here, might prove to be fun.” He brushes a metallic clip against one of my nipples and flicks a switch, sending a jolt of pain searing through me. I jump back, screaming out loud.


“Of course when you’re tied into the rack, escaping from the pain is impossible,” he tells me, in that low intense voice. Skinner gets to his feet, and lurches painfully over.


“Stop this,” Skinner says forcefully. “We’re not scared, Saunders.”


“He is.” Saunders nods his head in my direction, and he’s right, I’m shaking. “The question is, would it be better to strap him in, and make you watch, or the other way around? The other tops like to visit the occupants of the Zone, and with two such illustrious guests, I’m sure there would soon be a queue outside the door. I imagine that they’d enjoy taking another top as well, Mr. Skinner. Which would be the most distressing, I wonder – watching the gang bang, or enduring it? We could tie one of you to the wall, and make you watch while the other is raped. Repeatedly.” I weigh up the full horror of those two options, before deciding that watching would be worse; like watching Sam flying out of my life forever, like watching Scully in a hospital bed, dying. Powerless to help, unable to intervene and save the people I care about most. Yes, it’s definitely worse to stand by and watch.


“Neither option is going to happen,” Skinner says firmly. “You have no intention of doing this, so you’re just getting off on the power trip.”


Saunders considers this for a moment and then, suddenly, the charm is back in place, and he laughs, silkily. “You seem very sure, Assistant Director,” he murmurs.


“I am. The way I see it, your only possible use for us now is as hostages.” Skinner shrugs. “You could kill us, or you could just clear out of here, and leave us, but the fact that you haven’t done either of those things already, suggests that you’ve decided we have some value to you. I would have said that puts us firmly in the category of business, not pleasure, and I sense that you’re not a man who likes to mix those two concepts. So you won’t hurt us. You need us.”


“Quite right,” Saunders nods. “I intend to use your lives as a bargaining chip, to arrange safe passage for myself to a country that doesn’t have extradition agreements with either Britain or the US. And you needn’t imagine that a rescue is imminent, because this place is very well hidden. So, make yourselves at home.” He waves his hand around expansively. “You could be here for a very long time indeed.”


And with that he leaves us. Skinner sinks back down to the floor, leaning exhausted against the wall, breathing heavily.


“How does anyone get to be such a sick freak?” he asks me wearily.


“I don’t know. But I think you’re being unfair to freaks. He’s way beyond that category.” I move back from the rack, cautiously.


“People like him are the reason why I joined the FBI,” he says. “I hate them… I want to.” His hands are balled into fists and, even in his weakened condition, I can see the burning desire for justice in his eyes. Shit, I love that about him. Sometimes when he’s reading reports, and sitting behind his desk holding meetings, it’s hard to remember what the man is really about. There have been times when I’ve been certain he’s been put on this earth for the sole purpose of making my life more difficult. Okay, so I sometimes have a Muldercentric view of the universe, and I’m convinced that everyone is out to make things hard for me. That’s just me. Paranoid’s my middle name. But there are times when I’ve reduced him to the status of “immovable object” to my “irresistible force”, and, to my shame, I’ve stopped seeing the man and the motives underneath. Not now. I kneel down in front of him, and kiss him tenderly on the lips and he lies there, startled.


“What’s that for?” he asks when I draw back.


“Reminding me,” I state cryptically, sitting between his legs, my back pressed against his chest. He shifts to get into a more comfortable position.


“Fox, something’s been bugging me,” he murmurs.


“Hmm, what’s that?” I ask.


He closes his arms around me, and I suddenly find that I can’t move.


“What did you have to offer Saunders in order to get that doctor?” he whispers.


I stiffen, but I can’t pull away from him, he’s made sure of that.


“Nothing,” I reply. “He wanted Matt to lose – he was happy to call in the doctor. I didn’t have to give him anything.”


“Don’t lie to me, Fox.” His voice is silky and dangerous next to my ear.


“I discussed the whole thing with you at the time,” I mutter.


“I was unconscious at the time,” he protests.


“That doesn’t mean I didn’t discuss it with you.”


“Mulder. Just tell me,” he insists.


“He wanted to own me – not just in name. He wanted me to be his, and to do that he had to break me – and he wanted to make me ask for that.”


“And did you?” His arms tighten even more.




There’s silence for a long while.


“So what happened to make him change his mind?” he whispers eventually.


“I tried to strangle him.”


“You did what?” he asks incredulously.


“I punched him, and tried to strangle him. See – I can fight.”


“I’ve never disputed your ability to throw punches right, left and center whenever the mood takes you. That’s not the same thing,” he counters. “However I’ll happily concede defeat on this one, if, in the next breath, you can tell me that the reason he let you go was because of your superior fighting ability.”


There is another long silence. I see no reason why I should tell the truth about this. He’d never find out.


“Well?” he asks.


“Oh, all right, so he fought back, and I ended up handcuffed to the bed. Happy now?”


“At the thought of you handcuffed to someone else’s bed? What do you think?” he growls. “So, why did he let you go?”


“Because he knew he couldn’t have what he really wanted.”


“In what sense?” He sounds genuinely puzzled, and I pause for a moment, considering what to tell him, but we’re locked up in a cell, and we’re very probably about to die. Maybe now is the right time to talk about this. When the hell else will we get the chance?


“In the sense that I couldn’t really be his when I’m in love with you.”


His grip around my body loosens. “Love?” he mutters, stroking my arms.


“Didn’t I mention that?” I twist and look at him but it’s too dark to read the expression on his face.


“Yeah, okay, it’s sappy, but under the circumstances I thought I should bring up the “L” word, seeing as our situation is fairly hopeless and the outlook bordering on bleak.”


“Yes. Bleak,” he says thoughtfully. “Thank you.” He kisses my hair again but he doesn’t say he returns my feelings, so I don’t have a clue whether he does or not. He just holds me tight, and at some point we drift off to sleep, which is all there is to do, really.


“Well isn’t this a cute sight!” An incongruous voice wakes me. Someone small and blonde is clapping his hands, and pointing at me. “Ooh, Mulder, you always were a lucky bastard! Lying there in the arms of the divine Skinner! Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.” The face winks at me suggestively.


“Lenny?” I sit up, too quickly, my head spinning.


“That’s right, honey, although you can just call me angel if you like. As in “guardian”, or “face of an”. I’m not picky about which,” he simpers at me, helping me to my feet. “Ouch!” He catches sight of my still heavily welted back. “Someone’s been having fun with you, sweetie. I hope the pleasure wasn’t all one-sided!”


“Never mind.” I find myself flushing furiously, and he stares at me.


“You know, I get the distinct impression that you’ve gotten a few things sorted out, honey,” he grins. I turn back to Skinner who is jerking awake, his face confused.


“Lenny?” He squints through the darkness at our savior.


“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out!” Lenny pauses for a moment, and allows his salacious gaze to travel over Skinner’s naked, if somewhat bruised, torso. “Mmmm. You do have good taste, Mulder,” he whispers to me.


“Lenny, just shut up, and tell us what’s happening,” I growl, putting out a hand to help Skinner up.


“Oh, yeah. Sure. The macho boys are all in that big hall place with the sand,” he says.


“The Arena.” I exchange a glance with Skinner.


“That’s right,” Lenny grins. “Agent Kendall was busy rounding them up when I last saw him. Now, he’s a guy who knows how to take charge,” he sighs dreamily.


“Lenny!” Skinner snaps.


“What? Oh, yeah. So he was doing that, and the scary little red-haired woman was charging around looking for you, Mulder.” Lenny winks at me again.


“Scully’s here?” I feel a sense of relief wash over me. Being reunited with my best friend is exactly what I need right now. I want to see her blue eyed gaze, hear that steady voice, and have her fuss over me. I could really enjoy someone fussing over me after the few days I’ve just lived through. Of course, I’d never let her know that. She fusses, I bat her away – but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it!


“And meanwhile, I found a room with all these keys in it, so I thought I’d wander around investigating. Do you have any idea how big this place is?” He asks, as we push past him towards the door.


“Yes, Lenny. We do,” I murmur. “We’ve lived here for the past few days, remember?”


“Oh. Yeah.” He runs to keep up with us, as Skinner discovers some remnants of energy, and strides purposefully in the direction of the Arena. “Well, it’s amazing. If it weren’t for the circumstances, I could really enjoy myself in a place like this.” He gives me a sideways grin, and nudges me in the ribs. “I bet you enjoyed yourself just a teeny bit, Mulder,” he says with another wink. Shit, I’d forgotten just how irritating Lenny can be.


“Lenny. Please. Shut up,” I say desperately, hoping he doesn’t talk like this when Scully’s around. I really can’t handle her raised eyebrows and tart comments on the subject right now.


“Aw, now, you should be nice to me. I’m the reason you guys are free,” he pouts.


“You are?” Skinner stops and turns around.


“Yeah. Kendall’s gorgeous, I’m not denying that,” Lenny smirks, “but he’s not always very smart is he? He was doing all of this complicated search stuff and database sifting type thingamajig. God, you could have still been here at Christmas by the time he’d gone through all that stuff.”


I give Skinner a meaningful glance that he completely ignores. Lenny continues. “Anyway, I got to thinking about Saunders, and asked around, and found out that he’s got a few “boys” he’s friendly with, if you get my meaning. I checked up on them and one was this doctor, Alec, or something.”


“Adam?” I ask, in a tone of frank disbelief.


“Yeah – that’s the guy. Skinny, light-haired thing. Oh well, I staked his place out for a day or so, and someone sent this limo for him, and I thought – hello, what’s this? An ER doctor with a chauffeur-driven limo? Yeah, RIGHT! So I followed it for quite a way, before I lost it, then I told Kendall where to start looking for it. It took me ages to persuade him that it was worth a try. He kept going on about APB’s, and 302’s, and SAC’s, and all these other stupid initials until I could have screamed at him. Actually, I think I did. Several times,” Lenny grins. “And I’m really good at screaming – I’ve had lots of practice. So, anyway, they found you soon enough once I got them out here looking. Thank god I did because you have no idea how isolated this place is. Could have taken them years to find you,” he rambles on quite happily until I shut him up by putting my hand over his mouth.


“Thanks, Lenny. We owe you,” I tell him. Skinner grunts sourly. I elbow him sharply in the ribs.


“Yeah, all right. We owe you. Thanks,” he echoes grudgingly, as if it pains him to say it. And I guess it does! All his best agents working on it, and it’s Lenny the airhead who shows the most initiative. He must be deeply wounded. It gives me considerable pleasure to think about how often I’m going to bring this subject up in the next few months.


“Mulder!” We no sooner step inside the Arena than I find Scully hurtling towards me. She throws her arms around me, sending a wave of pain shooting down my back.


“Ow.” I disengage her gently. “Scully, am I ever glad to see you,” I tell her, grinning stupidly.


“Shit, Mulder.” She wrinkles her nose at me. “What’s happened to you?” She takes a step back, and looks me up and down. “Not that this isn’t a good look for you, but, oh god!” She examines the bites on me, and her eyes rake over my scarred back. “Oh, Mulder. Are you all right?” I can guess what’s going through her mind. Kendall must have told her everything about these guys, and the way they operate.


“I’m fine, Scully,” I tell her firmly.


“But…” She can’t take her eyes off the liberal marks on my body.


“Really. I am fine. It all looks worse than it is.” My eyes search the room anxiously for Skinner, but he’s back in Assistant Director mode, seeking out Kendall, rapping out orders, seemingly oblivious to his state of undress.


“Lenny – can you do me a favor?” I beckon him over. “Could you find us both a shirt each? And some shoes, please?”


“Sure thing, Mulder. I just lurve helping you FBI guys out. You’re all so cute and clueless.” He rushes off as commanded, and returns a few minutes later with the requested items. I shrug myself into the shirt, luxuriating in the dignity it affords me, and slip the shoes on, then take the other shirt over to Skinner. I help him into it absently while he continues both briefing Kendall and listening to Kendall’s own briefing, then I kneel down, and tie his shoelaces for him. It’s only when I finish doing this that I notice the strange looks I’m getting and back away, flushing furiously. What seemed like the most natural thing in the world during our time in this place is a serious faux pas back in the Real World. It might take some time to adjust back again.


“Right – how many still unaccounted for?” Skinner is asking. Kendall looks down at his notebook, which is crammed full of copious notes in neat handwriting.


“Only two. Most of them didn’t even put up a fight,” Kendall replies.


“So much for the tough guy stuff,” I mutter.


“And we found about thirty in one of the rooms. They didn’t even make a move,” Kendall shrugs.


“They’re the subs. They didn’t know anything about the murders,” I inform Kendall.


“They’ll all have to be taken in,” Skinner says firmly. “I want everyone thoroughly questioned. Mulder, have you made sure that the guy we saw a few days ago, in the other cell in the Zone, is free?”


“Yeah – it’s the first thing I did. No sign of him – he must have been returned to the slave pen at some point,” I shrug.


“Good. Kendall, I want those two missing men found. Now.” He barks, and Kendall scurries off.


I catch sight of Saunders over the other side of the room, his arms handcuffed behind his back. Something inside me just snaps, and I charge over there.


“So, Agent Mulder. It seems you got lucky after all,” he murmurs, seemingly undaunted by his situation, retaining that same air of dangerous elegance that is his trademark.


“Yeah. Looks like it. How does it feel to be the one in handcuffs for a change?” I ask him. He smiles.


“How does it feel to have discovered what you truly are?” he whispers, slyly. “You should be thanking me, Fox, not taunting me. I’m guessing that you and Assistant Director Skinner didn’t, uh, consummate your delightful passion before you came here?”


“You can guess what you like,” I spit back at him.


“Come now, don’t protest. I saw the bite marks on your body. You didn’t make those yourself. Isn’t that taking undercover work just a bit too far?” he smirks. I take great pleasure in sinking my fist deep into his stomach, and he gasps, and drops to his knees. I pull him back up.


“My words must have struck home to get that reaction.” He hisses into my ear. “Or was that for winning you, and nearly possessing you, Fox?”


“Oh that wasn’t for me,” I snap back. “That was for him. And so is this.” I smash my fist sharply across his jaw, holding him still so that he can’t pull back, and a satisfying bruise rises quickly on his flesh. “That was for making him fight when you could see that he was ill, and for calling in your useless pet quack, and for having me pump him full of god knows what drug, and…I could go on. I’m nowhere near settling this score yet.” I draw my fist back again, only to find it grasped from behind.


“Go make yourself useful somewhere,” Skinner hisses. “We’ll all turn a blind eye to those two, but no more. Now go.”


“Your self control is, as ever, enviable,” Saunders grins at my boss. “And of course I’ve always admired your handling of your hot-headed…” he pauses, and his eyes rake over me gleefully, “…what shall I call him? Colleague?” He imbues that word with as much sarcastic disbelief as possible.


“It’s over, Saunders.” Skinner growls, not anywhere near being goaded by this maniac low-life. “If I were you, I’d just shut up and keep your head down. After what you’ve put us through during the past few days, you really don’t want to piss me off any more.”


“My dear Mr. Skinner,” Saunders purrs. “What could you possibly do about it legally if I chose not to keep my mouth shut? I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose by telling the world about you and your pretty colleague.”


Skinner smiles, and it is the nastiest, most evil smile that I’ve ever seen on his face. “You don’t know anything, Saunders. And what makes you think that anybody would believe scum like you?” He dips his head, and speaks softly into Saunders’s ear. “I would also advise you to ask yourself if you’d really like to see me with nothing left to lose. I know a lot of people, and I’ve earned a few favors over the years. I’d happily call them in. Mulder may not be the only one inclined to express his loyalty to me in such a… vehement way.” He glances at my bruised knuckles.


Saunders isn’t a fool. He recognizes real-life authority when he sees it, and his blue eyes flash angrily, but he closes his mouth, and doesn’t say another word. Skinner gives me an impatient look, and gestures with his head for me to leave. I walk away, passing a handcuffed Matt. So that bastard is still alive – it looks like “Mithras” didn’t get his sacrificial offering tonight after all. I just get to the door when I see Skinner swaying in mid-conversation with Agent Roberts. I’m back beside him in nanoseconds, one hand under his arm to stop him falling over.


“This can wait. You need a doctor.” I gesture to Scully; Skinner’s eyes have clouded over again, and I can see that he’s having trouble focusing. I hold his head between my hands, and try the finger trick again, but he’s dead on his feet, and can’t follow it. “Kendall can wrap this up. It’s right up his alley. Lots of paperwork,” I grin. “You’re not needed here.”


“Neither are you,” Scully tells me tartly. “You both need a thorough medical examination, and complete bed rest.”


“Don’t count on it, Scully,” I murmur, turning away to call Kendall over, and tell him to finish everything up. “I think we’ve probably spent more than enough time in bed.” Luckily, she doesn’t hear this, and five minutes later we’re on our way to the hospital.


We get separated in the ER. Then next thing I know, he’s been taken off to a renal unit in a different hospital, and I’m discharged with pain killers and some disapproving looks from the doctors concerning the nature of my injuries. Scully sends me home and tells me that I am, under no circumstances, to set foot in the Hoover building for the next three days at least, and she’s probably right, but we both know there’s no way I’m going to obey that order.


All the same, it’s a relief to open my apartment door and step inside. It feels like a different life, a different place, a different time. If I close my eyes, I can almost believe that none of it ever happened. Only, the trouble is that there are some parts of it that I’m glad happened. There are parts I want to re-live forever, and others that make me want to scream, and permanently erase them from my memory. I take a shower, remembering the shower I took with him, and feel the water washing away the scent of Mithras, with its underground tunnels, and corridors, and distinctive smells. It feels strange to put on my own clothes (hey! underwear!), to feed my fish, to be sitting here, as if none of it ever happened. Strange and curiously empty. I have no companion, nobody to hold me, nobody to talk to, or spar with. I miss him. Now that both the danger, and the dizzying sexual madness have passed, my adrenaline levels adjust back down to normal, leaving me floundering in the worst low I’ve ever experienced.


Exhausted, hungry, and lonely, I give in to the tears that want to claim me as surely as he ever did, and my misery swamps me. I lie on the couch, just crying, for endless long, empty hours.


When I finally track him down, I am informed that he’s in a “stable condition”, but he’s not allowed visitors. Then Kendall needs my help, and anyway, I want to make sure that my report is completed in order to nail Saunders, and the other crazies as soon as possible. So, I end up returning to work the following day, as Scully knew I would. She goes through the motions of deep disapproval anyway, pursing her lips at me, shaking her head, and giving me frosty looks every hour, on the hour, to make sure that I know I’m not getting away with anything.


After five hectic days of interviews, interrogations, report-writing, and general cleaning up of details, I hear on the grapevine that he’s been released from hospital and told to recuperate at home for a few days. He doesn’t call, and I don’t know what to do. Maybe it’s best to let it drop, and pretend that it never happened. Maybe it can all be put down to the time spent in that crazy environment, a kind of madness. Maybe he’s convinced himself that was why it happened in the first place, and now things are back to normal. Fuck, I don’t know. I just know I miss him.


Predictably, he doesn’t recuperate at home as instructed, and is back at work the day after his release from hospital. I only see him once, in the corridor, and he’s looking better. The bruises on his face have almost faded, although I could still point out where each one was; I don’t think I’ll ever forget. He nods at me as he passes, deep in discussion with Kendall. A nod? Is that all I’m worth to the guy now?


Fuck, but I’m not sure whether I hate him or love him at this moment. He’s Mr. Repressed, back-in-his-box, A.D. Skinner and I want to scream at him, only I’m sure I’d just see incomprehension and steely self control in those dark eyes of his if I did.


The following day, he summons the whole team to a de-briefing, and goes over the report that he has written, along with the one that I have supplied. Oddly, both are missing some fairly salient details. I can’t think why. The meeting is a new kind of torment. He is his normal workplace self again. I see no flashes of the man I came to know so intimately; the one who claimed me and held me. The man whose sense of humor asserted itself at the most bizarre and inappropriate times, whose fascinating depths were revealed to me layer by layer, as we were stripped of everything but our most basic selves. The man with the strangely compelling habit of roaring like a tiger at the moment of orgasm, to say nothing of possessing a dazzlingly arousing body odor, is totally absent. I try to put these thoughts out of my head as he sits there, looking as grim and businesslike as usual, but it’s hard. He doesn’t even look at me. It’s as if I mean nothing to him, and maybe I do.


I’m surprised to see Lenny at the briefing. He’s looking gorgeous, resplendent in a flowing white shirt and tight dark jeans, his blonde curls flowing loose down his neck. This is his ‘Lenny-the-romantic-hero’ look, and he plays the part for all it’s worth.


“Lenny, I just wanted to thank you personally.” Skinner nods at him. “For all your help on this case.” He glances coolly at Kendall who suddenly finds his own shoes of particular interest.


“That’s okay, Mr. Skinner, sir,” Lenny beams. “I was glad to be of help. You FBI guys, you’re all so strong, and tough, and clever, but sometimes you forget it’s all about people, you know. Too many of those fancy databases, and not enough rubbing shoulders with the little guys, like me. I know what some of you boys thought of me when Mulder first brought me in on this. I may be small but I’m cute, and cute can get answers too.” I think it’s very likely that he’d go on forever, but Skinner has allowed him his moment of glory, and interrupts smoothly.


“Well, thanks again, Lenny. We’ll remember that in future.” He nods gravely as if he’s been given some very sage advice and scribbles something on his notepad. I can just imagine it reading something like:


“Note to self: New FBI directive. Instruct agents to be cute at all times. Cute is good, cute gets results. Initiate new “cute offensive” and investigate sending all agents on ‘discovering the cute you’ course.”


I’m so busy with that reverie that I completely miss his next question.


“…Mulder?” He’s staring at me. So is everyone else in the room.


“Sorry, sir?” I blink and smile weakly. He frowns.


“I was asking where your medical data is. You were writing up that report with Agent Scully?”


“Yes sir. Um, that’s not finished.” I can’t stop my eyes traveling over the massive expanse of white dress shirt, wondering what it would be like to undo the dark tie, unbutton the shirt, slowly, maybe starting at the cuffs, or perhaps at the neck, or be daring, and go straight for his pants, bypassing the shirt altogether.


“Why not?” he asks.


“Because I had to complete the other report. And I was busy compiling the data from the interviews. I didn’t have time to do everything,” I tell him resentfully.


“Get it done,” he tells me brusquely.


“Yeah, well give me more than 24 hours in the day, and I’ll work faster,” I mutter insolently.


His head snaps up at that, and he glares at me, making me wish I hadn’t spoken.


“24 hours is exactly how long you’ve got,” he tells me, a look of thunder on his face. I bite back another smart response, and notice Lenny glancing from me to Skinner. A feeling of deja-vu descends on me like a black cloud, making me even more depressed.


Finally, after another excruciating half-hour, the meeting is over. I get up to leave with the rest of them, but he calls me back.


“Not you, Mulder. I want a word with you.”


“Sir?” I sit down in the chair opposite his desk, wondering what will happen next. Damn, but this is as bad as being back at Mithras. Everything is out of my control, and dependent upon the actions of someone else.


“I’m putting a commendation on your file as a result of your work on this one,” he tells me, his expression not lightening for a second. “You put yourself in a position of great personal danger in order to solve this case, and that should be recognized. Your observations were, as always, correct, and your hunches panned out with unerring accuracy.”


“Thank you, sir,” I murmur, knowing that I put him in as much danger as I put myself, and not feeling particularly proud of that.


“I’m also putting a reprimand on your file as well.” He pauses, and sighs. “Probably the first time someone has been issued with both for the same case, but I suppose it was inevitable it would happen to you at some point. I don’t dispute your brilliance, Agent Mulder, but your judgement can be called into question on a number of occasions, and I refuse to turn a blind eye to your blatant disregard for Bureau procedures, including, and most particularly, the chain of command.”


He glares at me meaningfully and then proceeds to give me the most thorough chewing out of my entire career, in a flat, monotone voice, completely devoid of anything like those sexy, erotic, command tones he used on me back at Mithras. I struggle between wanting to lose my temper with him, and accepting that most of what he is saying is probably true. My mind goes back to that deal we made when I was wallowing in guilt before the last fight, and I decide on the latter course. He did, after all, nearly die because of me. I haven’t forgotten that. I feel so deflated that I almost wish I was facing a life in the slave-pen and not back in the basement, although, thinking about it, maybe there’s not that much difference.


“Do you have anything to say?” He asks me when he’s finished.


“No.” I shrug. “You seem to have covered everything with your usual attention to detail. Sir.” I imbue that last word with as much rebellion as I can muster, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. The expression in his dark eyes is furious.


“Very well. You’re dismissed then, Agent Mulder.”


That’s it? Just dismissed? No, ‘Let’s make wild passionate love on my desk, Agent Mulder’? No ‘Get your clothes off, and get over here, Fox.’? No ‘Thank you for your personal services, and the stunning use to which you put your tongue during this mission, Agent Mulder.’?


I leave his office consumed by a maelstrom of misery and only just manage to stop myself slamming the door on my way out. So that’s the way it’s going to be. Well fuck him. Fuck him! He clearly wants to put the whole mess behind us and move on. My feelings are probably far more profound than his anyway. He just felt frustrated and aroused by that massage I gave him, lost control, and now regrets his impulsive actions. That’s fair enough. He never exactly talked about a relationship” after all. I was the one who brought up the “L” word, and I could kick myself for that now. It all seems so different when you’re staring death in the face.


I kick open the door to my office, still muttering to myself, to find Lenny sitting in my chair, swinging around in it, and whistling to himself.


“Hey buddy!” he grins.


“Lenny. You shouldn’t be here. You’re not allowed to just wander around the building on your own, it’s against the rules,” I tell him coldly, finding my file of medical data, and flicking through it to see how much more work it needs.


“Oh well, you know what they say about rules,” Lenny winks. “They’re made to be broken. Hey, you should know that, Mulder. It’s your motto isn’t it?”


“No. My motto is ‘trust no one’. Now what do you want, Lenny?”


“You can trust me,” he pouts. “And I wanted to know what the hell is going on between you and the divine love god of the upper floors.”


“And who would that be?” I glare at him.


“Oh come on, buddy! This is Lenny you’re talking to!” He shakes his head. “The sexual tension whizzing between you two in that meeting had enough sparks to blow up large buildings. What is it with you guys? I thought you’d sorted everything out.”


“It wasn’t sexual tension,” I tell him through gritted teeth. “It was professional tension. Subtle difference.”


“Looked like the same old U-S-T to me,” he grins. “Unresolved Sexual Tension,” he explains, upon seeing my blank look. “See, this initials stuff is catching. Must be something about this building. Now tell me, Fox, honey – you did sleep with the guy, right?”


“What?” I frown, still pretending to look through the file.


“Oh, you don’t need to worry about me. I’m as discreet as they come. Hand on heart.” He places his hand over the pocket of his flowing white shirt to illustrate the point.


“Somehow I doubt that,” I tell him. “You don’t exactly strike me as the secretive type, Lenny.”


“Aw, you can tell your bestest friend in the whole world,” Lenny wheedles.


“Lenny, since when have you been my best friend?” I demand.


“I don’t see anyone else competing with me for the job. Maybe there’s a vacancy.” He smiles and leans back in the chair, putting his feet on the desk. “So anyway, I think you need some advice from Uncle Lenny. Who else is gonna help you, huh? Did you tell the scary little red-head about any of this?”


“No, of course not,” I hiss.


“Ah, so there is something to tell?” He isn’t gloating; his expression is genuinely concerned. With a sigh I sit down on the edge of my desk and shake my head.


“I don’t know what to do about it, Lenny,” I tell him, wretchedly. “Since we got back, he hasn’t said a word to me about, you know, everything.”


“Well, have you said anything to him?” Lenny asks. I shake my head, and Lenny groans and rolls his eyes around. “Clueless. I thought as much. You FBI guys are just so dumb. I’m gonna sort this out, right now.” He charges out of the basement and along the corridor before I can stop him.


“Lenny!” I shout frantically. “Lenny stop! Oh shit!”


He slips into the elevator just as the door closes, smiling sweetly at me, and leaving me pounding pointlessly on the door. I have no doubts as to where he’s going. Shit, fuck, shit! I make for the stairs, flying up them three at a time, and crash through the door to Kimberley’s office just in time to see Lenny march past her, and open the door to Skinner’s lair. I sink down in one of the chairs, burying my head in my knees.


“Will you be at home tonight, about 8pm?” Lenny asks my astonished boss.


“Uh, yeah. I suppose,” I hear him reply, obviously taken aback.


“Good. Make sure that you are. Expect a nice little package, special delivery from me at that time. I don’t want to find out tomorrow that it had to sit out all cold and lonely on your doorstep all night.”


Lenny closes the door again, and grins at me, giving me a thumbs-up signal. “We’re cooking, Mulder!” he laughs, dragging me back out of Kimberley’s office. Kimberley watches us go with a resigned shrug. She’s used to me bursting into Skinner’s office, making a scene. Lenny’s just a variation on a familiar theme to her.


“I am not doing this,” I tell Lenny as he sits in my apartment later that evening, poking his finger into my fish tank curiously.


“Do they bite? Of course you’re doing it, Mulder.” He flicks the water experimentally. “Faint heart never won fair sex god,” he grins. “I should know. Sometimes you just have to take the initiative.”


“He knows where I live. He could have phoned me,” I mutter resentfully.


“Oh, who cares?” Lenny wipes his fingers on his jeans. “Just get over there, and point your bottom lip at him, honey. Bet it takes him about three seconds to melt. Are you going to wear that?” He glances at my work suit suspiciously, but I have no intention of changing, and anyway, jeans might look like a proposition after Mithras.


“I’m not changing,” I growl.


“Oh all right. If it works you won’t be wearing anything for long.” He grins, then gets hold of me, and bundles me out of the door. “Deep breaths, baby. Trust your Uncle Lenny. It’ll all work out for the best in the end.”


We manage to get to Skinner’s apartment block, but I get a sudden attack of nerves in the elevator.


“This is stupid, Lenny. He’s made it quite clear that he doesn’t want anything more to do with me. It was just that place, those people, all the danger. We both lost it. We’ve got our careers to think about. This is never going to work. He’s going to tell me all this, he’s going to tell me to leave.” I hold onto the elevator doors, and Lenny pries each of my fingers open, and then smacks my hands away.


“Mulder,” he says firmly. “Do as I say, and nobody will get hurt. Not unless they want to be anyhow,” he winks knowingly. “Now move!” He shoves me from behind.


“For a little guy with a taste for being submissive, you really know how to be tough,” I grunt at him.


“Oh, Mulder, for a clever guy, you sure can be dense. I don’t know what goes on in that supersonic brain of yours sometimes.” He rolls his eyes. “It’s about getting what you want, not about being weak. And I am tough. Very. Now come on.” He drags me along the corridor to Skinner’s door, and I hesitate, holding my hand up, unable to knock. Shit, I’ve been here before and it was always so easy. You just rap your knuckles against the door. Simple. Why can’t I do it now?


“I can’t,” I moan, leaning my head on the door.


“Uncle Lenny to the rescue.” Lenny takes the decision away from me by knocking sharply on the door before I can stop him.


“I’m going,” I start to turn, and Lenny lunges for my neck, hangs on, and stops me bodily by placing his feet on mine. That’s when the door is opened.


“Special delivery for you. The nice, little package as promised,” Lenny says, patting my ass. He thrusts me past a bemused Skinner, and through the open door, before skipping off down the corridor, and leaving us to it.


I feel like I’ve been abandoned in a lion’s den. This is worse than being trapped at Mithras. I stand there helplessly in the hallway, swallowing convulsively.


“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have come,” I mutter to him weakly. He’s still dressed in his work suit as well. White shirt, dark tie. Immaculate as ever. And the expression on his face would make many a grown man quake. I watch him slam the door shut behind me, and I flinch. He advances on me, his eyes dark, and I back away from him, nervously. Then, without any warning, I find myself pinned against the wall, his arm across my chest, his hand in my hair as he kisses me savagely. My nervous terror evaporates, and with it goes all the strength in my legs. Luckily, he’s holding me up. I dangle there for a second, his mouth pressed urgently against mine, sucking all the life out of me, his tongue thrusting into me passionately.


“Hello, Mulder. Nice to see you, Mulder,” I murmur pointedly when he lets me draw breath.


“I’m not very good with words,” he grins, that feral grin I’ve never seen at the office.


“You were good enough with them this afternoon,” I point out.


“That was different. This is personal. God, I’ve been stuck in a hospital for a week thinking about nothing else but you.” His hands are running over my body like he’s some sort of starving animal that’s been deprived of food.


“You have? Why didn’t you call?” I ask.


“Why didn’t you visit?” he counters.


“They wouldn’t let me. Then Kendall wanted me to – oh hell, it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t sure where I stood.”


“I don’t want you standing anywhere.” He sucks my neck, then propels me up the stairs, and into the bedroom. “I’ve missed you,” he whispers, closing the door behind us, and coming to stare into my eyes.


“Then why didn’t you say anything? I thought it was over,” I whimper, as his fingers gently caress my neck.


“I wasn’t sure how to handle it. I’ve never been in this situation before. I didn’t want you thinking I’d exploited you,” he says, holding my face in his hands, and kissing my throat.


“Exploited me how?” I gasp.


“You were vulnerable at Mithras. You were dependent upon me for everything there. You weren’t even allowed to feed yourself, couldn’t defend yourself. I was always cast as the conquering hero who had to fight to save you from sexual predators, right and left. After we were rescued, I started to wonder if you felt as though you had any real choice in what had happened between us. For all I knew, you had started to hate my guts for it. That was the impression I had in that meeting earlier today. Then, when Lenny barged into my office, well, after figuring out that you were the “nice, little package” he was referring to, I was pretty damn pleased. I went out shopping especially for the occasion.” He nods at his bedside table, where I can see a tube of lubricant, and a whole king-sized box of condoms.


“What, no sex toys?” I berate, allowing him to lick down the side of my neck. “No whips, gags, chains, or handcuffs? I’ve come to expect the full works you know.”


“Your call.” His hands are urgent on my body, caressing me all over. “I don’t need any of it, but if you want to experiment, buy whatever turns you on, and we’ll see what we can do with it. Safely.”


“Sounds good to me, sir.” I feel a warmth spread inside me at his words, because they imply that this is something that’s going to last, something on-going, not just a series of wild and unrestrained sexual encounters. Although I hope there’ll be plenty of them too.


“You can’t keep calling me ‘sir’. You call me that at work.” He gently strokes his hands down the sides of my arms and I reach out to undo his tie, then the top button of his shirt. “Call me Walter. Or Master,” he grins.


“What?” I growl, distracted momentarily from the sheer pleasure of easing him out of one of his dazzlingly white shirts, and finding the honeyed flesh underneath.


“Depending on what sort of mood you’re in. I know what you’re like.” His grin widens. “Speaking of work…” His face immediately grows serious again, “…We need to think up some ground rules on that. I won’t be showing you any special favors.”


“I wouldn’t ask for any.” I shake my head.


“Good. Then it’s like I said back at Mithras. Work at work – we keep this stuff for our off duty hours. I don’t want you confusing the two. Stop that.” He swats my insistent, fumbling hands away from his shirt.


“But I want to.”


“I know. You can’t. I had something else in mind for tonight.”


“Oh yeah?” I challenge, luxuriating in the scent of Eau de Skinner as it wafts over me, overwhelming me with its raw, sexual pheromones.


“Yeah.” He pauses, looking stupid.


“Well?” I prompt.


“Well, uh, like I said, I’m uh, not very good with words, and all this personal stuff. You know, the emotional crap.” He’s flushing a peculiar shade of red. “You know, back, um, in the Zone, you said something that, uh meant a lot to me, and I wanted to…shit. Look, I’ll show you instead. Close your eyes,” he whispers.


I do as commanded, and hold my breath as he walks behind me. Then I feel his arms cross in front of my chest, and he undoes my tie, loosening it slowly, sensuously, before pulling it out from my collar. I can feel his cheek pressed against mine as he works, the smoothness of his bare scalp against my hair, and the side of my face. His lips are on the back of my neck as he unbuttons my shirt, slowly, button by button. His fingers tease my flesh as he goes, and my cock pulses into life. He gently pushes the shirt down my back, allowing it to fall to the floor. Then he kneels down in front of me, unties my shoes, and helps me to step out of them, before peeling off my socks.


“There’s no danger here, Fox,” he whispers, standing behind me again, his hands on my pants, unbuttoning them. “Just you and me. No psychopaths, nobody telling us how to run our sex life. You can relax now. We’re safe.”


His words are soothing, caressing me, turning me on. I sigh, and lean back against his chest, luxuriating in the feel of that cool shirt against my bare skin. He unzips me, and then pushes my pants slowly down my thighs, his mouth traveling down my back as he goes, ending up at my butt.


“Step out of them,” he whispers and I obey, lost in an erotic world I don’t ever want to leave. Then I can feel his fingers in my boxers, tracing their way around the waistband, dipping down towards my cock, gently playing with my balls, making me gasp.


“Oh god,” I moan, leaning back into him even more. He takes my weight on his hips and chest, his mouth still exploring the back of my neck and my hair. Then his fingers twine in the fabric of my boxers and they follow the rest of my clothing onto the floor, leaving me standing there, naked.


“Keep your eyes closed,” he whispers, and then he guides me onto the bed, and pushes me down onto it.


He disappears and, a moment later, he returns, and rolls me onto my front. “Make sure you keep them closed,” he murmurs, and my cock immediately gets even harder at his tone. I feel his fingers on my shoulders, sliding down my back, massaging me with oil. “I wanted to return the favor,” he whispers. “Keep still.”


Either he’s an expert in personal massage, or just being touched by him is a sensory delight. Either way, those blunt fingers find every last muscle in my body, caressing me with long, sensuous strokes until I’m abandoned to a place of total bliss. Finally he kisses my fingers and my arms, then down my back, lingering on my butt, before ending up at the soles of my feet, and the gesture isn’t lost on me. I remember doing this to him, turning that massage I gave him into an expression of the love I didn’t dare to vocalize. That’s when I realize what he’s doing and, abandoning all pretense of being macho, I have to report that it turns me into a quivering sap.


He rolls me over and starts on my chest, down over my abdomen, ignoring my swollen, eager, cock and ending up once more at my feet. Then he gently massages my face, and his fingers probe my scalp for endless blissful moments. When he finishes, it’s very likely that I’ve been transported to Mulderheaven. I open my eyes, and kiss his forehead and his nose and his mouth, repeating his response to me after I massaged him a couple of weeks ago to show him that I understand the message. Then I pull him closer, wanting him to devour me as he did that first time we made love.


“No, not tonight. You see, I wanted to show you…I, uh, can make love without going completely nuts you know,” he mutters, looking shamefaced.


“I like it when you go nuts,” I protest.


“Yeah. But I need to show you what it’s like when I’m gentle, so you have something to compare it with,” he grins.


“I don’t need anything to compare it with. I haven’t complained before have I?” I grumble.


“Not until now, no,” he says, shaking his head. “But you’re going to enjoy this, so just do as you’re told. Lie still. I still want to own you, to consume you.” He grins wickedly as he says those words. “But in a different way. Give yourself up to me, Fox.”


“Like I don’t want to,” I grin, and he slides down behind me, his hands caressing my flesh.


“Relax completely,” he orders. He runs his oiled fingers lightly over my butt, and then pushes them inside me, slowly, teasingly. I find myself moaning as he inserts another finger, and massages inside me, finding my prostate and making me gasp and buck against him with the pleasure. He brings me to the point of climax with that slow, teasing, massage, and then removes his fingers, leaving me trembling on the brink. He lifts me up gently. “Undress me. Slowly. Like you said you would,” he whispers and my nerveless fingers fumble with his shirt, my lips finding all the fading bruises and cuts on his body, the faint marks on the inside of his elbow where he must have been attached to a drip in the hospital. I undo his belt and his pants, and he’s kissing my hair all the time as I slowly push them down his body, and find his cock. I want to take it in my mouth, but he stops me.


“No.” He strokes my hair, gently disengaging me, and kicks the remains of his clothing onto the floor.


“I want to.” I start protesting again but again he stops me.


“Sssh…just do as I say.” He pushes me back, unresisting, onto the bed, and I give a squeal of pure sensory delight as I feel him take my cock into his mouth. He’s never done this before, and it’s exquisite, like being wrapped in dark, warm, liquid chocolate.


“Oh fuck.” I thrust up against him. “Shit…can I come?” I ask. His mouth gently, softly, slides back up my shaft to the tip, and he rolls his tongue over it, giving it a lazily flick that makes me shudder.


“Any time you want,” he whispers, before returning to the task. It doesn’t take long. Another 10 seconds and I come in his throat, hearing a deep, rumbling chuckle emanate from him as I do so. Then he takes hold of my hand, and guides it down to his thick, hard, cock. “Do you want me inside you?” He asks throatily.


“Ask a stupid question,” I choke. He rolls me onto my stomach, and I expect to feel his hard cock against my ass, so I’m taken by surprise by his warm tongue as it separates my butt cheeks, and licks inside me.


“Oh GOD!” He works for several minutes, dipping into me, his tongue sliding around, until I’m hard again. Nobody has ever done this to me before, and it’s breathtaking. “You could have warned me,” I gasp in protest as he finishes by licking his way up my spine to the base of my neck.


“I didn’t specify which part of me I was going to put inside you. It’s not like you to make assumptions based on ambiguous data, Agent Mulder. Or is it?” he grins.


“Bastard, bastard, bastard.” I mutter, but that last “bastard” turns into a high pitched squeak as his hand closes around my stiffening cock.


“Don’t call me names when I have a sensitive part of your anatomy in my hand.” He rubs my cock gently with his thumb until it’s fully erect again. “You see, that’s what I like about you, Fox. Totally rampant. Do you think that you can come on command?” he whispers silkily. “I’d like that.”


“I’m not sure,” I pant, as his fingers move faster and harder over my cock.


“We’ll try it and see. Of course, in the bedroom, unlike at work, I expect you to at least try to be obedient.”


His strokes are pumping me, and I sense him maneuvering with his free hand to find a condom. He opens it with his teeth, slides it onto his cock, and then wipes lube onto it, all the while maintaining that steady pressure on my cock with his other hand. God, he’s good at this! “Gently,” he whispers, and I can feel his cock gliding into my ready, waiting ass; smoothly, without pain. He’s warm within me, stretching me sensuously with his long, slow thrusts, like a lazy cat, taking his time, and all the while that insistent caress is bringing me to the brink of orgasm again.


“Faster. Harder,” I pant, and he slows down to almost nothing, his cock barely moving within me, his hand just wafting along my dick, totally languid. “Damn it, I said harder,” I moan, pressing myself back against him.


“Yeah, I heard you. Isn’t it good, holding back, wanting more, trembling, waiting?” He nuzzles the side of my neck.


“Oh yeah, it’s good.” He’s right about the trembling. I can feel my whole body convulsing with the need to climax, and the teasing, nudging, maddening slowness of his cock and hand.


“Do you like it slow?” He grinds his thighs against my butt in a dizzying circular motion that makes me break into a sweat.


“Yes. Oh yes! YES!” I scream, desperate for my orgasm.


“I said you would. You should listen to me more often.” His fingers tip-toe along my shaft, and his cock shifts inside me. I can feel my muscles clenching on it, milking him, but still he retains that control, holding on, not thrusting, just moving gently. Maybe he is superhuman after all.


“Now, are you ready to come?” His fingertips are like gossamer on my cock.


“No, more, more, please,” I beg.


“One more thing we might like to re-cap on,” he whispers, barely touching me. “Who is it you belong to?”




His hand suddenly closes around my penis, giving one long, hard caress at the same time as his cock angles up in a quick thrust against my prostate.


“Now,” he says, and I can’t believe it when I find myself spurting out on cue. He bellows with laughter, holding me close, and continues his slow, effortless thrusting until he also reaches climax, but he’s so tightly controlled that he doesn’t shout his sexual release this time. He withdraws gently, holds me tight, and kisses my sweaty neck. He’s so gentle, so loving, and I know that he’s poured all of his being into making love to me tonight. It feels so good to be wrapped up in his arms and, as I lie there, lost in him, I remember that moment when we were in the Zone and I told him I loved him and he just thanked me and said nothing about how he felt about me; and that’s when it hits me that he’s just made his reply, delivering it in the only way he feels comfortable with.


“I’ll accept that in your case actions can speak louder than words,” I murmur. “But one day, I may have to make you actually say it.”


He gives a little laugh and kisses the back of my neck. “Maybe I will. One day,” he replies.


The End


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