Switch: 4. Saved


Mulder awoke in pain, closed his eyes and allowed the pain to claim him and smiled. He was warm, he could feel someone’s hands clasped around him. He opened his eyes again. Skinner. It wasn’t a dream. He had been saved. He belonged somewhere, for the first time that he could remember. This was a kind of heaven, to be hurting, to be safe, to be loved. He closed his eyes again and slept.


Skinner got up and went wearily downstairs. He hadn’t slept much. He didn’t know what to do about this. Mulder seemed to think it was simple, that all it took was for Skinner to claim him and he’d be safe, but Skinner was sure that he couldn’t begin to give the other man what he needed. How could he have been so stupid as to allow Mulder that choice 4 months ago? Why had he been fooled into going along with yet another of Cancerman’s plans when he, more than anybody, knew just how dangerous they were? It had seemed simple enough at the time. Cancerman took what he wanted or Mulder ended up out of the bureau. Now it seemed less clear cut. Maybe he should have been more shocked by Cancerman’s suggestion. Somebody else would have been but not him. He hadn’t liked it, but he thought Mulder deserved to hear it, to make his own decision. Couldn’t Skinner have foretold something like this might happen? Why was he still so susceptible to Cancerman’s suggestions after all this time? Was he maybe, still “owned” as Mulder wanted to be owned, did he still dance to Cancerman’s tune? He took a beer from the fridge and rolled the cool can across his forehead. Damn you for making me go through this again, Mulder, he cursed for the hundredth time. He leaned back, resisting the images that fought in his head, then turned and went back upstairs.


Mulder looked like an innocent child while he slept but he wasn’t, Skinner thought grimly to himself. He’s a grown man, older than I was when I made this choice. He sat down on the bed beside Mulder, one finger gently touching the other man’s hair. His tender feelings surprised him. What exactly was Mulder expecting from him? Just pain, just someone to hurt him? He wasn’t capable of that any more. He supposed he might be able to bring himself to deliver such pain for pleasure, but not for its own sake, not just for retribution or punishment. Not under these circumstances. That would merely send Mulder even deeper into the abyss.


Mulder wanted kindness as well, he wanted to be owned, he had said as much. Did he envisage a sexual relationship? Skinner considered that. He found he liked the idea, wondered if somehow he could make sex take the place of pain, maybe create some fantasy S&M scenario that would keep Mulder’s worst instincts in check. With a sigh he dismissed the idea. Mulder didn’t want pleasure from his pain. He just wanted oblivion. Skinner wouldn’t beat a man into oblivion, even if that was what he wanted. It was against all his instincts. An S&M relationship required a meeting of equals with carefully negotiated needs, however unequal the relationship seemed to outward appearances. Mulder wasn’t an equal. He was damaged. In need of help. What else? What else could he possibly do? Convince Mulder that he was loved, safe? Hope to alleviate the guilt that way? Surely that was too complex. Mulder was too subtle an individual. And one thing Skinner was sure of – if he didn’t get it right, Mulder would go back to Cancerman, go back for good maybe. Leave everything behind, the bureau, Scully, him. Even the X Files. Become totally Cancerman’s creature in order to get what he craved.


Mulder opened his eyes and held his breath. Skinner was looking at him, an incomprehensible expression in his eyes.


“Kind of early to be drinking isn’t it?” He nodded to the beer Skinner was holding.


“You could drive a man to drink.” Skinner told him. Mulder stared up at him, wishing Skinner would rustle his hand through his hair as Cancerman had done to Krycek. Wishing he had tangible proof of what Skinner had told him last night, that he was owned, that he belonged to someone.


“What will happen to me?” he asked in a small voice.


“I don’t know yet.” Skinner got up abruptly.


“You’re going to report me. You’re going to send me for a psych evaluation, you’re going to get me thrown out.” Mulder said, realising that last night had been an illusion, Skinner placating an injured man, buying time.


“No.” Skinner said firmly. “Don’t second guess me, Mulder.”


“What then?” Mulder held his breath, wanting to feel hope, not daring to.


“I’m going to make you breakfast,” Skinner said, “and I’m going to rub some of that stuff into your back, the stuff the doctor gave you last time.”


“It’s at my apartment.” Mulder told him.


“I went out and bought some more while you were sleeping last night. And some dressings.” Skinner looked down on the bloodstained towel and bed linen with a frown of distaste. “Then you’ll take some painkillers,” he said.


“No.” Didn’t Skinner understand anything? He needed the pain. No point enduring it if you couldn’t keep it.


“You don’t seem to understand. I wasn’t giving you a choice.” Skinner said. “I was telling you how it is.”


“You can’t make me…” Mulder began.


“I own you.” Skinner told him roughly. Mulder stared at him. “Well, don’t I?” Skinner asked. Mulder nodded, his eyes big.


“You’ll keep me then?” He asked.


“For now.” Skinner wished he hadn’t said that. The fear and insecurity in Mulder’s eyes were agonising to behold.


Mulder was obedient for the next few days whilst he recovered but Skinner knew it wouldn’t last. Mulder was just desperate to hold onto the person he had chosen to cling to whilst this storm raged around him. At some point they had to go back to real life though. They had to return to the Hoover building and he had to assign Mulder to cases and pretend that he didn’t know that this man was a grade A, fuck-up head case.


When Mulder’s wounds were on their way to healing, Skinner sat him down on the couch and perched next to him.


“Now we talk,” he said.


“Yes.” Mulder got up and sat down on the floor beside Skinner, needing to recapture the way Krycek had been with Cancerman. Skinner frowned but bit back his terse comments before he spoke them.


“Tell me what happened.” Skinner said. “All of it. In detail.” Mulder swallowed, tried to refuse, wanted to refuse but did not dare to in case Skinner told him to leave. The way Cancerman had told him to leave. The way his father had once told him to leave. Stay and I’ll hurt you. Leave and you can’t come back. The same old choice. He choked his way through a description but Skinner stopped him.


“Not like this,” he said. “I don’t just need to know what happened. I need to know how it made you feel when it was happening.”


“How I felt?” Mulder went cold. How could he explain that? It was too sick and besides one of the reasons why he had wanted it to happen was to avoid having to feel anything at all. “I needed to be in that numb place, where nothing exists. Away from being rational, away from instinct, emotion, knowledge.” He said, closing his eyes, remembering, yearning to be back there. “I wanted…obliv…”


“Oblivion, yes. You’ve told me before.”


“I had no idea such a place existed.” Mulder admitted. “Before…” he flushed. Skinner gritted his teeth.


“Yes,” he said tersely. “Before I showed you.”


“And him. You and him. Then once I knew, well, I guess I’m an addictive personality.” Mulder grinned.


“You don’t say?” Skinner put a tender hand on the other man’s shoulder and Mulder leaned into the embrace, remembering Krycek. Skinner pulled back sharply and Mulder’s eyes registered the rejection. “Let’s get one thing straight, Mulder.” Skinner told him. “I won’t hurt you. I am not going to string you up and beat you into a pulp.”


“Why not?” Mulder asked. “You did it once.”


“But not again. I wouldn’t, I can’t. It is addictive if you have certain emotional problems. And you clearly do. I’m sorry. It’s my fault…I should have known, I should have known it would have this effect on you.”


“Then you don’t care.” Mulder got up.


“Where are you going?” Skinner demanded.


“You can’t give me what I need. I was wrong.” Mulder told him bitterly, going to fetch the bag they had collected from his apartment, with his few belongings in it.


“You can’t leave.” Skinner told him abruptly. “And I won’t give you what you want because it won’t do you any good. When will enough be enough? When your body gives out? When you’re covered in scars?”


“Leave me alone. What do you care?” Mulder yelled furiously, charging towards the door, finding his way blocked by Skinner’s wide body. “You don’t know, you don’t understand, you don’t care…” he screamed, tears blinding his eyes as he struggled to get past Skinner and failed. Skinner put his arms around him.


“I do know.” His fingers were gentle but firm on Mulder’s tense shoulders.


“How?” Mulder raged, “how can you possibly know?”


“Because I’ve been there too.” Skinner’s dark eyes looked into Mulder’s and the younger man took a sharp intake of breath, confused by the sadness he saw in Skinner’s eyes, the trace of a memory too painful to endure.


“What?” He asked. “What do you mean?” Skinner let go of him, returned to the lounge, sat down on the couch.


“Vietnam.” He said. “Have you ever wondered what it feels like to be the only person left alive when everyone else in your unit is dead? It’s called survivor’s guilt I believe. It nearly sent me mad. Some people commit suicide, others turn to drink. At my most vulnerable I was approached by someone who offered me another way of dealing with it.”


“Cancerman?” Mulder whispered.


“Yes.” Skinner nodded.


Mulder tiptoed over to the couch, sat down beside Skinner, reached out a hand, wanting to comfort, not knowing how.


“He seems to have an instinct for these things, Mulder. I blame myself for letting him get his claws into you, though. That was unforgivable. I know the way he works. I should have realised that he had seen in you what he saw in me. With you I presume it was your sister?”




“Shit. That’s a long time to carry around such guilt, Mulder.” Mulder nodded, not taking his eyes off Skinner.


“Tell me about what happened to you,” he asked, needing to know. Skinner nodded, took a deep breath, leaned back.


“I’ve never told anyone else. I wouldn’t be telling you now but it’s important that you understand. Cancerman is quite a few years older than me. I never knew his name back then either. Usually he just got us to call him sir.” Skinner grimaced.




“I wasn’t the only one he kept,” Skinner told him. “Even back then he had these links, shady links with big business, with the military, with the FBI. I could never be sure who it was he worked for. That hasn’t changed.” He shrugged. “He found me as I was considering suicide, talked me out of it, made me feel secure, offered me a way to relieve my feelings. I was 19.” Skinner shuddered. “I didn’t know such men existed. He would summon me, at his time and convenience. It started off small. A threatening hand, a warning look when I upset him. I thought he wanted my company, that he liked me. He’d clearly been in the military, maybe still was, and I thought he understood what I was going through but he was just softening me up. He seemed to know so much about the world, he was hard, invulnerable. I guess I even liked him. For a bit. I was a skinny kid and he was a fitness fanatic. Always a smoker though, but a hard-muscled son of a bitch. I’m not sure I could have beaten him in a straight fight then. I could now, but not then. I wasn’t very streetwise.” Skinner grinned. “One day I annoyed him, I don’t know what I’d done. Half the time I never knew what I’d done to annoy him, and he just hit me, across the jaw with the back of his fist. I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it, and I blamed myself. I felt I needed his friendship, that I couldn’t afford to antagonise him. He made me feel like that. He was as nice as pie for a couple of weeks and I confided everything to him – about all my friends being wiped out in that ambush, about how I felt for having survived. That was when he told me he could relieve those feelings. He asked if I’d consent, told me he’d punish me and I found myself agreeing. I suppose he had me so much under his spell that I couldn’t see how weird it was, and like you, I probably wanted it. I felt I’d deserved it. He made me feel like that. It was what he kept saying.” Skinner paused, got up, stretched his tense muscles while Mulder watched.


“Go on.” Mulder whispered. “Please tell me. I need to know.”


Skinner swung around. “The first time hurt me so much I cried,” he said savagely, his expression one of agonised rememberance. “I cried for hours. Me, a big, strong marine. I couldn’t believe he’d taken me to a place where it could hurt so much. I suppose I cried for more reasons than physical pain though. I cried for my lost friends, I cried for myself and my fear of death. He let me cry, he didn’t make me ashamed of it. It felt almost…like a relief. Like therapy or something. It actually made me feel better, but it was a drug, for him as well as for me. Later on…his methods become more brutal. And then, like now, he didn’t enjoy actually doing the deed. He would watch. Sometimes he’d talk to me, tell me that this was what I deserved…you probably know it all, all that crap.”


“Oh yes.” Mulder closed his eyes and sighed.


“And once he was sure of me…there were other games he’d play. Other men he introduced me to. He’d watch us…well some of the things he had us do are things I’d prefer to forget. It didn’t occur to me to disobey him. I was 19, I was used to following orders and he could give me something I wanted. I went along with it.” Skinner looked wearily despairing. “Not only that, but he had me hand it out as well. Like Krycek did with you. He showed me where, and how, and how hard, and for how long, and all that. He was a master at it. Still is I suppose. He hasn’t changed.”


“You got away from him though. You escaped.” Mulder said, feeling hope inside.


“Yes. One of his other…” Skinner hesitated “…’boys’, rescued me. Or rather we escaped together. We fell in love.” He made a face. “And being loved made a lot of difference. I needed the pain less. I felt worthwhile. I got promoted at work, my self-esteem started to climb and he couldn’t keep his hold on me. I got away. I thought I’d got away forever until he showed up in my office a few years ago and I was given strict instructions from on high to co-operate with him. He still had some power over me. He could still find a way back into my mind. After all these years.” Skinner shook his head. “You’re lucky, Fox. You found a way of resisting him, the only way of resisting him, before he got too much of a hold on you.”


“What do you mean?” Mulder frowned. “I don’t feel like I resisted him at all.”


“Of course you did. He needs to own you, but you wouldn’t let him. He won’t keep you unless he owns you completely, body and soul. As soon as his grip on me weakened, I was out of there. He didn’t contact me again. It was the same with you. You wouldn’t accept him fully, completely, and he needs that. That’s the way he gets to escalate it, to move things on. You were clever or lucky or…I don’t know. I don’t know how you did it but somehow you convinced him that you were already “owned” by someone else. By me. It worked.”


“It was how I felt.” Mulder told him. “It was what I wanted in my head. Not him. You.”


“And now what?” Skinner asked wearily. “I’ve already told you that I can’t give you what you want. I promised myself I wouldn’t go back there, be that person again. All I can give you is what was given to me. A way out. Someone to love. Is that what you want?”


“I don’t know.” Mulder shook his head. “Until Krycek…that is, I never…with a man… ” He closed his eyes, remembering the rape, wishing it would shock him, or sicken him but instead he just accepted it, his just punishment, his due.


“I can give you love.” Skinner crouched down beside him. “I’ll protect you, keep you safe. I’ll go through all this stuff with you, take it apart, give you some of yourself back again, but I won’t beat you. If that’s all you want, or all that will satisfy you, then you really are lost, Fox, because there won’t be any way out if you go back to him.”


Mulder sighed. “I don’t know what I want,” he said. “After what you just said…I know I still want the oblivion, but I don’t know if you can give me a substitute for it. I will try though.”


“I’ll accept that much then.” Skinner smiled.


“Will you…that is…I think I want…” Mulder leaned forward, wanting, needing physical proof that he was owned, taken care of, safe. Skinner caught him up, kissed him.


“After what happened… it might be too soon,” Skinner murmured.


“Please, I want to.” Mulder remembered the awful pain as Krycek thrust into him, closed his eyes, knew he wanted that pain back. Would Skinner guess he was using him for that? Would he know? Christ, when did I become such a sorry, deceitful specimen? he wondered. Skinner didn’t know, he didn’t guess. With a guilty heart, Mulder pulled the other man close to him, his hands urgently undoing Skinner’s shirt, his belt, his trousers.


“Hey, slower…easy…” Skinner stopped his questing hands. “We have time…”


“Want you now…” he muttered, wondering at these new sensations, feeling a man’s lips against his, not the more familiar female ones he was used to. Skinner pulled him and caught hold of the back of his head, holding him tight against him, kissing him passionately, his thigh grinding into Mulder’s, exciting him, arousing him. He could feel the hardness of the other man’s erection, wanted that hardness inside him, hurting him. If Skinner wouldn’t hurt him any other way, at least he could hurt him this way, pretending at pleasure.


Skinner broke free from the embrace, pulled Mulder’s arm, took him upstairs to the bedroom, laid him on the bed, undressed him, stroked his back gently, teasing at his sore shoulders with his tongue.


“Just fuck me,” Mulder begged. “Now. Fuck me.”


Skinner turned him over onto his back. “Not yet.” He leaned down, kissed Mulder’s mouth, his hands pumping Mulder’s cock until he felt he would burst.


“Now.” Mulder moaned, “Please, now.”


“You’re very demanding.” Skinner sighed, and then grinned. “I suppose the finer arts of seduction are beyond you? It’s just straight in there?”


“Don’t play with me. Just do it.” Mulder insisted. “Now.” Skinner rolled him over again with big, deft hands, found lube and condoms in his bedside drawer, thrust careful fingers inside Mulder, massaging gently. Mulder bit his lip. He was still sore, but he wasn’t going to let Skinner know that in case he stopped.


“You’re tight.” Skinner told him, “You’re not used to this, Fox. I don’t think it’s a good idea right now…there’s other stuff we can do.”


“No.” Mulder growled. “Do it.” Skinner’s fingers were hurting him and he knew his hard cock would hurt even more, the way Krycek had hurt him.


“Fox?” Skinner stopped, rolled the other man over, bent over him and looked deep into his eyes. Mulder tried to evade that searching look but it was no use. “No,” Skinner whispered. “You can’t fool me, Fox. I’ve been there remember? I know all the tricks. Listen to me. You don’t need this. You don’t need anybody hurting you, you don’t need punishments or pain. You don’t need it or deserve it.”


“I do…” Mulder began but Skinner silenced him with a look.


“No.” Skinner smoothed back his hair, kissed his forehead gently. “You wanted to be saved remember?” He whispered. “I can save you. If you trust me enough, I can.”


“Saved…Save me…love me…” Mulder began, remembering the litany, repeating it, gazing into Skinner’s dark eyes. “Hurt me…” he finished. “I can’t help it.” He reached out to draw Skinner’s gaze back to his as the other man averted his eyes and sighed. “That’s just how it goes.”


“If I can give you two out of those three things, isn’t that enough?” Skinner kissed his neck gently, then his mouth, his hair. “I won’t let you go without a fight, Fox. Do you hear me?”


“Yes.” Mulder lay back against the pillow, his sore shoulders hurting badly. He felt comforted, safe. It was a good feeling. Better than the pain. Being loved, being saved. Maybe between them they could cancel each other out, maybe Skinner was right. He had escaped so maybe Mulder could.


“I’ll take good care of you. For as long as you need to sort it out, Fox,” Skinner whispered. “Then you can go if you want, but until then, I’ll own you like you want me to. I’ll keep you safe.” He picked Mulder up in his arms and held him cradled against his chest. Mulder clung there, hoping.



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