Switch: 1. Part One


Mulder stood outside Skinner’s office for a long moment, adjusted his tie, took a deep breath, and knocked.


“Come in.” You couldn’t tell anything from the tone of voice, but Mulder didn’t really need to. When you had made the sort of mistakes he had made over the past week, you had no doubts about being in deep shit. He was surprised to find that the didn’t even feel nervous. There were no explanations that would be satisfactory. His job was on the line and that was all there was to it.


“Agent Mulder.” Skinner was seated, as ever, behind his desk. He didn’t offer Mulder a seat. Instead he just stared at him, as if deep in thought. Mulder found he could not meet that gaze and he looked down at the floor. “This one, Mulder, is big.” Skinner said tersely.


“Yes, sir. I know.” Mulder squirmed inside.


“Too big.” Skinner said. Mulder looked up questioningly, realising that deep inside he had imagined that nothing would be too big for Skinner to save him from. That somehow Skinner would find a way to swing it, to cover it all up, to protect him as he usually did, no matter how much humble pie he had to eat or how many tirades he had to sit through to make that happen. He smelt a sudden whiff of smoke and whirled round. Cancerman was seated in a dark corner of the office, puffing away.


“What Skinner says is right, Mulder.” Cancerman smiled. “You’ve gone too far this time. Who can save you now?”


“Well not you, you son of a bitch!” Mulder rounded on him angrily.


“Who can tell?” Cancerman smiled a sinister smile and stubbed out his cigarette, getting to his feet. “You don’t know if it’s in my interests to see you go down. And you will go down for this, Mulder, if it reaches….certain ears.”


“Sir…” Mulder looked back at Skinner beseechingly. “Please…I was acting…”


“In the best interests of the truth. Yes, we’ve heard it before, Mulder. Save it. Please.” Skinner got up and stared out of the window for a long while. Mulder could almost feel Cancerman’s breath on his neck as he stood behind him.


“What’s going to happen to me?” Mulder asked at last, scared by the silence, by the grim tension between these two men.


“He’ll have to be dealt with.” Cancerman lit up another cigarette and crossed over to where Skinner stood. “You can cover it up with my help, but I’ll need him dealt with.” Skinner stiffened and turned round angrily as if about to say something, then bit his lip.


“Yes,” he murmured. Mulder looked from one to the other, fighting a rising sense of panic.
“What does ‘dealt with’ mean?” He asked. Cancerman smiled.


“Punished, Mulder. You can’t get away with this.”


“I didn’t expect to.” Mulder shifted uneasily from one foot to the other.


“And if Skinner covers this up for you, then you get away scot-free don’t you?” Cancerman had a creepy smirk on his face. “Skinner can’t put anything on your file if he’s covering this one up. He can’t give you an official reprimand or a punishment detail. Nothing. And so you get away with it. It doesn’t seem fair.”


“I’ll make it up to him.” Mulder said, speaking to Cancerman but looking appealingly at Skinner. “I’ll do my best from now on. I won’t get into any more trouble…” Skinner snorted morosely and carried on staring out of the window. “It’s true!” Mulder protested. “I promise. Please…” He hadn’t wanted to sound like a child in front of Cancerman, but he was scared. The X Files were at stake, which was close to saying that his life was at stake.


“Then there’s me. I know what went on.” Cancerman walked up to Mulder and stood close to him, too close. “And I could let your superiors know. Any cover up would require my implicit consent.”
Mulder shook his head.


“You’re saying I’m finished then?”


“No. Not at all, dear boy.” Cancerman shrugged. “I’m saying I want to see you reined in. Brought to heel. Punished.” That last word had an edge to it that sent a shiver down Mulder’s spine.


“What do you mean?” He asked. “What does he mean?” He addressed himself to Skinner. His boss shrugged, moving away from the window, coming back into the room, adjusting his spectacles.


“He means exactly what he says.” Skinner informed him. “It’s up to you, Mulder.” He shrugged again, frowning deeply.


“Tell me!” Mulder turned back to Cancerman again. The other man took a deep inhalation from his cigarette and blew out languidly.


“Let me tell you a story,” he smiled. “About you.”




“Yes. As a child. You don’t remember me but I saw you a couple of times when you were growing up. I was always rather fond of you. My friend Bill was strict with you wasn’t he?”


“Where is this going?” Mulder frowned.


“I remember once he put you over his knee and spanked you after some piece of mischief. That amused me. I often remember that when I see you running around, still getting into mischief.”


“You’re proposing spanking me?” Mulder asked incredulously.


“Not exactly.” Cancerman grinned. “I have certain…specific tastes, dear boy. And you have been asking for certain treatment for a long time. It’s my fault I expect. I gave you just a little too much freedom. It’s probably time to remind you who runs you.”


“Nobody runs me!” Mulder protested.


“Whatever you want to believe.” Cancerman waved his hand airily. “So. I have a proposition. Bear in mind that you don’t have to accept of course. Nobody’s forcing you. But I want to see justice done. I like watching justice being done in fact. I like it very much. And you have pushed your poor boss once too often. Mr Skinner is a patient man, but all the same, he has his limits. I’m sure he wants to see you punished almost as much as I do.” Skinner crossed his arms and looked deeply, darkly furious. Mulder quaked.


“So what…” Mulder looked back at Cancerman again, “…is the damn point you’re taking so long to get to?”


Cancerman laughed.


“Still he pushes away at our patience! And when he’s in so much trouble too!” He gave a delighted smile at Skinner who didn’t return it.


“He wants to beat you.” Skinner told Mulder tersely. “Or rather, he wants me to. He just wants to watch.”


“What?” Mulder was outraged. Skinner shrugged again.


“Like he says, take it or leave it, Mulder. You’re in his hands.”


“Beat…with your fists?” Mulder had a sudden image of being pummelled by those big hands and flinched involuntarily.


“No, no. Something more subtle.” Cancerman smiled. He returned to the dark corner of the room where he had been sitting and drew out a package. “Here.” He opened the brown paper and pulled out a long, slim switch. He handed it to Mulder who took it, looking questioningly from Skinner to Cancerman.


“I’m supposed to agree to this?” He ran his fingers over the switch, imagining it biting into his flesh – which part of his anatomy…? Oh god, of course. Cancerman wanted the full works, the full humiliation. “No. It’s sick. I can’t believe you’d have anything to do with this,” he said accusingly to his boss.


“It’s not my choice, Mulder.” Skinner said firmly. “It’s yours. I’m just letting him outline the options. I thought you deserved to hear them. It’s your future we’re discussing.”


“My future…rests on one sick pervert’s fantasies?” Mulder spat. Cancerman chortled delightedly and Skinner shook his head grimly.


“That’s about it, yes,” he said. “Think about it, Mulder. Very carefully.” Mulder did. He was reeling from this “choice” he had been given. He had seen and heard some bizarre things in his time, but this? It was madness, ludicrous. His belly contracted as his fingers gripped the switch. This would hurt. So would losing the X Files. Could this really be happening to him?


“Alright.” He said at last, flushing a deep red. “I agree. There, satisfied now!” He threw the switch down onto Skinner’s desk.


“Not yet, dear boy, but I will be.” Cancerman grinned. “I always knew you were sensible, Mulder. A little bit of pain, soon over, and then you can go back to your boy scouting around the country, digging up things that should remain buried.”


“Mulder…can I have a word?” Skinner crossed the room and put a hand on his shoulder, taking him off into a corner of the office for some privacy. “Mulder, think carefully about this.” Skinner said. “Cancerman wants his pound of flesh on this one. If you go through with this…that switch is vicious. It’ll cut the skin. I’m not saying this to scare you, but to make you realise that this is not a game or a joke. It’s going to be painful, more painful than I think you realise.”


“What do you care?” Mulder said angrily, then wished he hadn’t as he saw the flash of guilty sadness in Skinner’s eyes.


“I couldn’t protect you from this.” Skinner shrugged. “You made too many mistakes. Cancerman has your ass, Mulder. Literally. But just be aware of what will happen. Be prepared mentally.” He put his index finger against Mulder’s forehead for a second. “It might help you deal with it.”


“How do you deal with something this sick?” Mulder asked him. Skinner sighed.


“You’re asking me?” He shook his head. “I’m just trying to help. You don’t have to go through with this.”


“Yeah, I do. He’s got me over a barrel. I can’t lose the X Files, sir. I just can’t.” Mulder shrugged, feeling like his heart would break at the very thought.


“So you’re sure this is your choice?” Skinner questioned him.


“Some choice!” Mulder shook his head. “No real choice, but yes.”


Skinner nodded and returned to the desk, picking up the switch and turning round. “Alright, Mulder, now you’ve made your mind up, let’s get started.” His whole tone and demeanour had changed and he seemed bigger, stronger and quite frightening. Mulder felt a sense of dread. “Get into the next door room. Now.” Skinner ordered taking charge of the situation. Cancerman smiled, and Mulder swallowed down his fear and hatred, turning to open the door to the conference room that led off from Skinner’s office.


It was a big room, dominated by a large table. Cancerman pulled a chair away from the table and sat himself down. Skinner got hold of Mulder’s shoulder and frogmarched him down the other end of the table. “Get your trousers off, Mulder.” He ordered peremptorily, turning away and swishing the switch through the air experimentally a couple of times. Mulder flinched at the sound. Slowly he undid his belt and unzipped his trousers, dropping them to his ankles and stepping out of them, flushing furiously. Cancerman licked his lips eagerly and sat back in his chair.


“And your shorts.” Cancerman said, taking another cigarette out of the pack.


“What?” Mulder looked outraged.


“Bare skin.” Cancerman said. “The skin has to be bare, dear boy, if the switch is to bite properly.” Mulder shivered and looked questioningly at Skinner who nodded.


“Quickly, Mulder.”


He divested himself of his shorts, grateful that his shirt covered his modesty to a certain extent and then stood there, feeling more exposed and humiliated than he ever had in his life.


“Now bend over the table.” Skinner told him tersely. Mulder felt light-headed as he did as he was told, half-heartedly bending forwards. Skinner’s hand slammed into the small of his back, pressing him down.


“Right over.” Skinner said coldly. Mulder could feel the coolness of the table against his stomach through the thin fabric of his shirt and he reached out with flailing hands.


“Hold the sides, Mulder.” Cancerman said, getting up. “Let’s get it quite right shall we?” He guided Mulder’s hands to the side of the table. “Hold on tight.” He smiled. “If your hands go back to stop the blows then I’ll have Skinner hit them as well. If you move, or try to get up, I’ll have him go on for longer.” Mulder could smell the cigarette ash as Cancerman leaned over him to give him these instructions. Then he felt a leg kick him between the knees, until his ankles were some way apart. “That’s better.” Cancerman whispered. “Yes. I think that’s about right, Mr Skinner. You can proceed now.”


Cancerman returned to his seat. Mulder wondered about that. Cancerman’s chair was at the other end of the table, facing the proceedings. Somehow Mulder thought that wasn’t right, that Cancerman would want to see more of the action but then he realised that what Cancerman wanted to see was his reaction, his face. He put his head down against the cool wood of the table, stifling the whimper of fear he felt in his stomach. He felt Skinner’s hand on his back and the switch against his backside, taking aim, then it was raised….a whistling sound and then the most atrocious blaze of pain he had ever felt in his life. Suddenly he regretted his decision, knowing he could not stand this. How many strokes did Cancerman intend to inflict on him? One hurt so much that he could hardly breathe and then almost immediately he had to prepare for the second. That whistling sound again and then the sort of pain that makes you want to jump and scream. He managed to stop himself doing either but his hands felt clammy and sweaty, sliding along the edges of the table as he gripped it to keep himself in the same position. Now he knew why Cancerman had warned him about putting his hands back. It was all he wanted to do. Anything to protect himself.


He heard Skinner grunt as the next blow was delivered and this time he screamed, feeling the sweat running into his hair. Looking up, he saw Cancerman’s expression. He was loving this! He was savoring that scream, his pupils dilated with his pleasure. He caught Mulder’s eye, and smiled at him. Mulder looked back down, waiting…the next blow knocked all the air out of him. How could he stand much more? The switch was vicious, deeply cutting, almost like a knife. His skin felt as if it had been split open and he found that he was crying. Skinner paused and Mulder tried to rein the sobs back in, biting down on his lip, ignoring Cancerman’s lascivious grin of enjoyment.


The next blow forced a yelp from inside him. One more and he lay dazed, a sobbing wreck on the table. Skinner stopped and he sighed with relief. Cancerman got up and wandered over to him.


“Six is traditional of course.” Cancerman said to Skinner, surveying the damage. “But I think he can take more. I don’t think he’s learned his lesson just yet, have you, Mulder?”


“I…please…no more,” he whimpered. Cancerman laughed and returned to his seat. “Proceed.” He instructed.


Skinner leaned down over Mulder’s prone form. “Don’t think of the pain, Mulder. Think of hate,” he said, smoothing the other man’s sweaty hair out from his eyes. “Hate me, or him, or both of us. Hold onto it.” Mulder gritted his teeth.


“Why don’t you put less effort into it?” He ground out. Skinner snorted.


“He’ll know if I do and then it will go on longer,” he said. Mulder looked up at Cancerman again and the man grinned, blowing out a puff of smoke.


“Mr Skinner is quite right, Mulder,” he said. “I know exactly what I want. He’s a wise man, Mr Skinner. Very wise.” He stubbed out the cigarette and reached for the pack, pulling out another one, lighting it, grinning at Mulder. “You look distressed, Agent Mulder. I do hope you are learning something from all this.”


“Oh yeah. I’m learning something.” Mulder spat, thinking about what Skinner had said about hate. The next blow struck before he could say anything else and he sobbed, biting his lip. He imagined the switch going right through him and ending up in Cancerman’s face, and welcomed the next blow, sending it straight to Cancerman, obliterating that evil smile, smashing away those cigarettes…The next stripe made him lose his grip on the table, his sweaty hands sliding away from the edges. He tried to roll sideways, to get up but Skinner’s hand knocked him back down, holding him there for a moment.


“Nearly, Mulder.” Cancerman smiled. “You nearly broke our rules there, didn’t you?”


“Son of a bitch.” Mulder managed to rasp out, glad that Skinner was holding him down or else he might have gotten up and taken a swing at the cigarette smoking bastard. He waited expectantly for the next biting swipe of agony and lost control in the wait, swinging one of his hands back to deflect the blow as it came whistling down, sure that he could take the pain anywhere but on his aching, burning butt. The switch cut across his hand with a resounding sting of pain and he gasped. Skinner took hold of his hand and forced it back down to the table.


“Keep them there,” he hissed fiercely. Mulder stared at the long red welt on his hand, the skin slightly cut. God knows what his butt must look like if his hand looked like this. He closed his eyes as the next blow fell, sure that he couldn’t endure any more, his knees giving way. The next few minutes passed in a haze of unbearable agony and he slumped down, utterly defeated.


“Twelve.” Cancerman got up. “Well I think that will do.” He stubbed out his cigarette. “I’m sure, Agent Mulder that your behavior will not improve as a result of this little, “discussion”. However, it certainly hasn’t done you any harm. And of course, I reserve the right to use similar methods in future….” He grinned down at Mulder who lay on the table, exhausted, unable to move, his face soaked in sweat and tears, his whole body on fire. “I’ll let you see to the poor boy, Mr Skinner. Be kind to him. He really has suffered.” Cancerman smiled and stubbed out his final cigarette, moving quietly to the door and closing it behind him. Mulder fell to the floor, unable to move.


“Come on.” Skinner crouched down beside him and pulled him up. “Let’s get you dressed again.”


“I can dress myself.” Mulder protested feebly.


“I don’t think so.” Skinner helped him into his boxer shorts, carefully easing them over his tortured flesh. Mulder screamed and held onto his boss’s shoulders, his fingers digging in.


“Okay. Slowly.” Skinner held him up for a moment, then guided his feet into his trousers, fastening them for him as carefully as he could. Mulder stood there for a moment, swaying, all the blood draining away from his head, making him feel faint. He held onto the table and watched as Skinner picked up the switch and, holding it in both hands, brought it down over his knee with a crash, splitting it in two, before chucking it into the waste paper bin.


“You shouldn’t have done that.” Mulder said. “He might want it back.”


“He can have it back. In pieces.” Skinner got hold of Mulder’s arm and put it round his shoulders, helping the beaten man back into the other room. “Now sit down and wait here. No, stupid of me. Lean against the wall.” Skinner helped him to the wall and then left, returning a few moments later with a glass of water, a wet handkerchief and a tube of something. Mulder downed the drink in one go and gratefully wiped the sweat and tears from his face with the handkerchief. Skinner’s face was closed and grim as he watched.


“Well, you probably got to fulfill an ambition today.” Mulder told him with a sickly smile. “Finally getting to give me what I’m sure you’ve always thought I deserved.”


“No.” Skinner took his glasses off and rubbed his eyes wearily. “I just went along with what you wanted, Mulder. I didn’t want to make it any harder for you.”


“Seemed like you meant it to me, when you ordered me into that room.” Mulder muttered angrily.


“Yes. I didn’t want you to worry about anything other than yourself. You didn’t need to know how much I was hating it.” Skinner told him seriously.


“You…” Mulder thought back. Somehow he had considered Skinner to be part of it, enjoying it maybe, but he saw that he was wrong. Skinner had been as much a victim of the whole thing as he had and he hadn’t even screwed up to deserve it. “God, I’m sorry,” he said wretchedly. “I never thought…you poor bastard.”


“Don’t waste your sympathy on me.” Skinner shook his head. “You’ll survive. I’ll survive. But, Mulder, please…please don’t ever put us in this position again, okay? Scenes in my office, angry shouting, even your goddamn petulance, I can cope with. But I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t know what image you have of me, but I’m really not the sort of man who gets off on that kind of thing.”


“I am sorry.” Mulder muttered, staring at his shoes. “When you said to hate you…”


“I was giving you a way of getting through.” Skinner shrugged.


“Yes. I see that. I tried to send every one of those blows to that bastard. I hope he felt them.”


“We’ll get him. One day. I promise.” Skinner said earnestly. “Now here. You should put something on those cuts. I mean it.” He held out a tube of medicated antisceptic gel. “They could get infected if you’re not careful. The skin was torn a bit. I would suggest that you went to hospital to get them checked out but I’m not sure you’d like all the explanations you’d have to give.”


“No.” Mulder looked at his boss properly for the first time and grinned. “No, I don’t think I would much,” he said. “But I…can I ask you a favor?”


“After what I just did to you?” Skinner raised an eyebrow. “I’d have said so. Yes.”


“Can you help me? It hurts when I move. I’m not sure I can reach. I know it’s a lot to ask but hell, after what we’ve just been through…”


“Alright.” Skinner helped him to push down his pants and shorts again and then applied the cool gel to his flaming backside.


“That feels better.” Mulder carefully pulled his clothing back on again. “Thanks.”


“You’re welcome. Now go home, Mulder. Take a couple of days off. You won’t be sitting down at your desk again for a while anyway. If I were you I’d get a few good videos in and lie yourself face down on your couch for the next few days. I’ll call to check up on you.”


“No need.” Mulder said, making his way slowly and carefully to the door. Skinner accompanied him, a gentle hand on his shoulder.


“Every need,” he said softly. “Every need, Mulder.”





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