The Agreement: 3. Taming The Fox


Skinner lay back on his couch with a sigh. It had been a long and grueling few weeks and he was pleased to rest up, listen to some soothing music, drink a nice mug of hot chocolate. He was a man of simple tastes but he rarely got to indulge himself like this. His stomach still ached from that punching Krycek had given him but the bruises on his face were fading. It was a shame about Alex Krycek, he thought to himself, a great shame. The man had potential, he was sure of it, if only someone could rescue him from the hole he had dug for himself. Skinner understood what made Krycek tick and he wanted to reach inside the other man’s black soul and draw him into the light. As Krycek had stood in front of him, snarling and angry back at the hospital, Skinner had known why his former colleague was so upset. Krycek was jealous. Jealous of the place Fox Mulder occupied in Skinner’s affections, jealous that Mulder had someone on his side, someone with integrity, someone who would help him in a crisis. Krycek had lost his way and he wanted what Mulder had – the calming, steadying influence of an older man, someone who would take the time and trouble to discipline him when he deserved it, praise him when he deserved it and above all look out for him. Skinner understood Krycek only too well.


And what about Mulder? Skinner rubbed his forehead, tiredly. He wished he could switch off from worrying about Fox Mulder but he couldn’t. The boy was trouble. Always had been, always would be. But you knew that when you took him on, Walter, he chided himself. And now you’ve made him one of your own, you can’t abandon him. He needs you. He had been hard pressed to support his protégé recently though – just a few short weeks ago he had nearly washed his hands of him. Nearly – but not quite. In truth he wasn’t sure there was anything Mulder could do that would make him really wash his hands of him. The boy was just too intriguing, too promising, for that.


Skinner considered the problem again as he sipped his drink. Mulder needed him now more than ever. Yet how to approach this latest fiasco? The consequences of Mulder’s behavior towards him? He loved the young agent like a son, a comrade in arms and you didn’t abandon your friends, even when their behavior disturbed or upset you. Skinner closed his eyes. He needed to think this one through.


Skinner was rudely awakened by an impatient knocking on his door a couple of hours later. He got up, bleary-eyed, glancing at his watch. Half past one in the morning? Who was calling on him at this hour? He wasn’t at all surprised to open his door to Fox Mulder, or to find himself pushed out of the way as Mulder charged into his apartment.


“Why are you doing this to me?” Mulder demanded angrily before Skinner had a chance to speak.


“Doing what, son?” He asked gently, watching as Mulder paced around the room, his lean body suffused with tension.


“Making me wait like this! Do you think I don’t know the sort of trouble I’m in?” Mulder queried. “Do you think I’ve forgotten about our agreement?”


“No. I don’t think that.” Skinner stood silently, watching the younger man.


“Then why? It’s been days since we got back. Days. And not a word from you. I thought after you agreed to come and meet us at Charlotte’s Diner that you’d decided to help me. I thought that you were still on my side!”


“And now you’re not sure?” Skinner queried, picking up his empty cup from beside the couch and taking it into the kitchen.


“No. I’m not sure. Of course I’m not sure!” Mulder shouted.


“Don’t raise your voice to me.” Skinner told him in a warning tone. “I don’t appreciate being yelled at in my own home.”


Mulder swallowed and got a visible grip on his temper, his body shaking with the effort of it.


“I’m sorry,” he muttered. Skinner rinsed his cup under the tap and shook the water out. Mulder flinched at the movement, as if he feared a blow.


“Relax.” Skinner told him. “You’re all wound up like a tightly coiled spring. Now let’s go back to the beginning shall we?”


“All right.” Mulder hopped from one foot to the other. “I just want you to know that I don’t want to be punished. I really don’t want to be punished.”


“I know that.” Skinner nodded thoughtfully.


“But I’d rather that than…” Mulder broke off awkwardly and resumed his pacing.


“Than?” Skinner prompted.


“Than to feel you’d cut me loose. That you don’t care any more.” Mulder shivered, glancing at his boss with helpless eyes.


“Mulder I traveled a long way to rescue you, endured a beating on your behalf, put my job and my life on the line. Are those the actions of someone who doesn’t care?” Skinner asked him softly. Mulder’s face was twisted with misery.


“I… I don’t know,” he muttered.


“Why? What’s at the heart of all this?” Skinner queried.


Mulder hesitated. He had felt driven to come here, driven by his own fear. This time he had gone too far – he knew that. He was sure that Skinner had decided to have nothing more to do with him after…after…He didn’t even like to mention it, scared in case it would bring back Skinner’s anger, remind Skinner of what he had said, of the way he had said it. Mulder didn’t want to be whipped, but he would rather endure that than feel that Skinner had given up on him and Skinner’s silence for the past few days had seriously unnerved him. He had been both awaiting and fearing his punishment and when it didn’t materialize he had started to worry about why not.


“You…I…” He stood quite still, feeling suddenly weak and wretched.


“Yes?” Skinner asked.


Damn Skinner! He wasn’t going to make this easy.


“I punched you.” Mulder felt himself flushing at the memory.


“Yes. I remember.” Skinner rubbed the side of his face where the bruise had been.


“And you said…that we were done. You meant our agreement was over, right? I knew that was what you meant. That you weren’t here for me any more. I’d gone too far, crossed over the line.”


“So why are you here?” Skinner asked, sitting himself down at his kitchen table, staring quietly and calmly at his uninvited guest.


“Because I don’t want it to be true! Please, sir, give me another chance. I want another chance!” Mulder exclaimed in despair.


“And do you always get what you want?” Skinner queried with a raised eyebrow.


“No! Hardly ever in fact!” Mulder told him.


Skinner sighed.


“Well I was angry with you,” he told Mulder. “Very angry indeed until I realized there were mitigating circumstances.”


“That’s it?” Mulder looked as if he would topple over with relief. “You’re not blaming me? You’ve forgiven me? There’ll be no punishment?”


“I didn’t say that.” Skinner told the other man sharply. “To be honest, although there were mitigating circumstances I still don’t think they were adequate to excuse you for taking a swing at me the way you did. And I was very angry – I said what I did in the heat of the moment. It’s very rare for me to give up on someone once I’ve taken them on and to be honest, you’re special to me, son. I care what happens to you. We thought you were dead…you have no idea how distressing that was for me.” Mulder stared at his boss, a bemused expression on his face.


“You cared?” He whispered. “You cared that I was dead?”


“Of course. I may be hard on you, Fox, but I certainly care. That’s why I’ve been as tough with you as I have been in fact. However, like I said, the fact that you were drugged at the time does not excuse your behavior towards me. And I didn’t like being on the receiving end of your gun either. I thought we had some trust going here, Fox.”


“We did. We do. I just…I find trust hard.” Mulder admitted. “Especially…”


“Especially when you’re being asked to trust someone with authority over you?” Skinner queried shaking his head. “Damn – I’m sorry that your father is dead because I wish I could get my hands on him for what he did to you. He did a good job of screwing you up, son.”


“We just didn’t get on. It probably wasn’t all his fault.” Mulder sighed. “I wish we could have been closer – I wanted to be closer but…we just wound each other up.”


“I can see how you would have been an exasperating child to rear.” Skinner gave one of his rare smiles. “But still. I think he made a lot of mistakes with you. Mistakes that I keep having to rectify. He’s given me a lot of hard work.”


“What happens now?” Mulder asked fearfully, expecting the worse. Skinner got up and Mulder felt all the muscles in his body tense. It had been hard for him to come here like this. He hated being punished but he hated being abandoned more. “You’re going to whip me, aren’t you?” Mulder wished his voice didn’t sound so pathetic. “That’s OK. I can take it.”


“I hope you can because I have something very particular in mind.” Skinner told him, standing in front of him, his dark eyes stern.


“I thought you would. I thought it would be worse than last time even. I thought it would have to be. I mean, this wasn’t just disobeying orders, this was taking a swing at you. I know it’ll be the worst ever. I can get through that. I can.” Mulder wasn’t sure who he was trying to convince, Skinner or himself.


“It will be worse.” Skinner told him. “Although not in the way you might expect, Fox.”


“What do you mean?” Mulder asked anxiously.


“I mean that I won’t hurt you as badly as I did last time – that was a special circumstance. I needed to break you down, find out what made you tick, reach inside you and I couldn’t do that while you were still justifying yourself and hiding the truth within. This is different. I understand you better now and, like I said, I’m prepared to make allowances because of the circumstances. Not enough to let you off completely, but a little. However, we almost lost you and I’m glad to have you back. I don’t want to beat the crap out of you and just send you on your way. That’s not what I’m about. You must know that by now.” Skinner sighed and shook his head. How much would it take to get through to this young man?


“So what then? Why do you say it will be worse and then say it won’t hurt as much?” Mulder asked, confused. Skinner gave Mulder a long, hard stare.


“Because I’m going to give you something your dad never did,” he replied. “I’m certainly going to discipline you but it’ll be punishment without reproach. Enough to make you know you’ve done wrong, delivered in a way to make you realize that you’re loved.”


“I don’t understand.” Mulder swallowed convulsively.


“I think you’ll find this harder.” Skinner told him, his eyes still boring into Mulder’s. “Because it’s not just pain. Pain you can deal with – punishment delivered with affection, designed to make you understand how much your behavior upsets the people who care about you – that’ll be harder for you. That means you accepting more of a share in the way you treat people. People like me and Agent Scully.”


Mulder wanted to run away. He could already feel the tears pricking at his eyes. He didn’t want to feel that he was understood. He didn’t want to trust.


“Ever the suspicious fox?” Skinner queried with a harsh chuckle. “Scared of being hunted down? Torn apart?”


“I told you that you wouldn’t tame me.” Mulder replied, shaking his head. “And you won’t.”


“We’ll see.” Skinner said. “Now do you want to leave or do you want to stay and accept what I have in mind for you?”


“I’ll stay.” Mulder said evenly. “After last time there is nothing you can do to me that would be any worse.”


“All right then.” Skinner shrugged. “Now get your pants off.”


“Just my pants?” Mulder queried. This was different. Usually Skinner had insisted on him being butt naked. He would have liked to imagine this was because his boss was a perverted madman but the truth was something different. He never got the impression that any of this turned Skinner on in any way. On the contrary. Sometimes he felt that it was a burden to the other man, an irritation and a source of sadness to him that he had to resort to such desperate and drastic measures.


“That’s what I said.” Skinner told him sharply. “Hurry up, Fox. You know I hate to be kept waiting.” He went and sat down on the couch and Mulder did as he was told as quickly as possible, feeling as stupid as usual as he stood there in his boxer shorts. “Now come here.” Skinner said tersely.


“What are you…” Mulder began and then stopped as Skinner glared at him.


“Just do it, Fox.” Skinner sighed.


Mulder edged towards the couch, feeling sick inside his stomach. Surely this couldn’t be worse than the trip to the glade? Than being strung up and whipped? Skinner didn’t even seem to have any implements on him – not a paddle or belt or ruler or whip or anything in sight.


“Right. Over my knee.” Skinner told him as he reached the couch.


“What?” Mulder blinked.


“You heard me!” Skinner stated implacably.


“No way! Like a kid?” Mulder queried. Being tied up or bent over a table wasn’t so bad – being made to go over his boss’s knee like he was 10 years old, well that was worse than humiliating.


“I thought we had an agreement.” Skinner said, getting up. “It seems I was wrong.”


“No, wait!” Mulder licked his lips, thinking. “All right. I’ll do it. But I don’t like it, all right?”


“Why? Because it makes you feel like a kid again? Well you behave like a kid, Fox. Or because it seems too intimate? Well, yes, it is a different dynamic, I’ll give you that. Or maybe – maybe it’s because that’s how your dad used to punish you when you were a kid?”


“Maybe.” Mulder could feel himself flushing bright red.


“I’m not him. But you’ve given me a similar authority over you.” Skinner informed him. “Now what’s it to be?”


“Can’t you just have me bend over the couch or something?” Mulder asked desperately.


“Who is in charge here? You or me?” Skinner demanded.


“You.” Mulder sighed. “All right. I just don’t like it, that’s all.”


“No, son. You’re not supposed to. That’s the point.” Skinner sighed, sitting down again. “Now, are you ready?”


Mulder swallowed and nodded, tip-toeing forward and standing pathetically beside his boss, struggling with what he was being asked to do. Finally he knelt down on the floor and levered himself over his boss’s muscular thighs. He felt Skinner’s hands on his hips, pulling him into a more comfortable position.


“Brace your right arm against my knee.” Skinner told him. “That’ll keep you steady. I’ll take your left one.” He pinned Mulder’s left arm back along Mulder’s torso. “That’ll keep you from being tempted to flail around too much or push yourself off. Now.” Skinner smoothly pushed Mulder’s boxers down his thighs, leaving them somewhere around Mulder’s knees. “This may only be my hand, son, but it’s a big hand and it’s hard. I promise you that you’ll feel it. Try and keep steady.” He raised his hand and then Mulder heard a sound like a clap and a sharp pain resonated in his backside. He squirmed, tears of humiliation smarting in his eyes.


Skinner’s hand worked fast and furiously, covering every spare inch of Mulder’s buttocks with a series of stinging blows. After a while Mulder didn’t care if nothing more damaging than a hand was being used. A hand could still hurt like hell! Especially when applied over and over again, in an endless torrent of blows to a defenseless butt. He was dimly aware that Skinner was talking to him but he wasn’t sure what was being said. His whole body was tensed as those slaps descended on him. There was a brief pause and he wondered if it was over – then he realized that Skinner was asking him something. He struggled to listen.


“I want you to stop tensing.” Skinner was saying. “Just loosen up. Tensing hurts more and you have a long way to go yet. Let go of it, Fox, stop fighting it. It’s going to happen anyway, you’re just making it worse for yourself.”


Mulder nodded and tried to loosen up as directed. Skinner waited, his big hand caressing Mulder’s back gently until Mulder’s muscles gradually relaxed. Then the blows began again – slowly at first, then harder and harder. Mulder could feel himself panting and sobbing, sagging against Skinner’s broad thighs, his right hand scrabbling for purchase, sliding on and off of Skinner’s knee as he tried to stay in position.


“Fox.” Skinner stopped again. “Try and keep still. You can’t escape them. They’re going to just keep on coming so accept them.”


Easier said than done, Mulder thought to himself, hearing a feeble wail start up in the back of his throat. He did try though, and he was surprised to find he succeeded. Skinner was right – every slap was reaching its destination, it didn’t make any difference how much Mulder tried to slip and slide to avoid it. He stopped trying to evade the stinging smacks and accepted them, just as Skinner had advised.


“It hurts but it’s for your own good.” Skinner told him, his hefty hand still walloping down the spanks.


“One day you’ll thank me for this…this hurts me more than it hurts you…any more old clichés?” Mulder snapped between yelps. “I’m not in the mood for clichés.”


“No it looks like you’re in the mood for insolence.” Skinner thwacked him harder and Mulder let out a cry of pure pain, wondering how much more he could endure. “And I intend to make you thank me for this very soon. And as for hurting me more than it hurts you – I sure as hell doubt it if the color of your ass right now is anything to go by. I was just about ready to stop, but seeing as how you’re so smart-mouthed, let’s see if we can’t teach you a lesson about what is and is not a good thing to say when you’re having your hide tanned.”


His hand continued with its work until Mulder felt as if he didn’t have the breath to keep himself alive, let alone to make wisecracks with. He felt exhausted, humiliated and totally chastened by the whole experience. Finally it finished. Mulder felt his boxers being replaced over his totally sore backside and then Skinner’s hand was on his back again, soothing him. It ended up in his hair, wiping the sweaty locks away from his eyes. Mulder lay there for several minutes just panting.


“You feel able to get up?” Skinner asked him at last.


“I’ll try.” Mulder tried to lever himself to his knees but he had been in the same position for too long and his whole body protested. Skinner got hold of him and aided him and finally Mulder managed to perch himself against the couch. He couldn’t meet Skinner’s eyes. He felt too tired and curiously daunted by what he had experienced. “You were right,” he muttered. “That was worse than the glade.”


“More personal.” Skinner told him. “More of a child’s punishment. Back in the glade you could convince yourself this was some sort of military style discipline. An endurance test. Here today, though, this was just a straightforward spanking, son. Nothing more or less. Dented your pride a little I guess.” He reached forward and pulled Mulder’s chin up, looked into the other man’s eyes. “Well?” He asked.


“Well what?” Mulder looked down, still unable to meet that dark gaze.


“Look at me.” Skinner’s fingers dug into his chin, forcing his head up until he met his boss’s eyes. “I’m waiting, Fox.” Skinner told him.


“For what?” Mulder muttered.


“An apology.” Skinner sighed. “And a thank you.”


“Oh. I’m sorry.” Mulder flushed. “For hitting you and the gun thing.”


“And for nearly getting yourself killed?” Skinner asked. Mulder’s eyes dropped again and again Skinner’s fingers dug into his chin.


“Yeah. I suppose. For nearly getting myself killed.” Mulder agreed reluctantly.


“That’s good. That’s an important part of it.” Skinner told him. “I don’t want you getting yourself killed, son. Now – what else do you have to say to me?”


“Thank you.” Mulder muttered sulkily, feeling like he was regressing in age the more this punishment went on. He had started off as a grown man of 34, been rapidly reduced to the age of 10 and was now hovering somewhere about 6. Soon Skinner would have a sulking toddler on his hands.


“For what?” Skinner asked.


“For…” Mulder tried to pull his head away from Skinner’s hand and failed. “For…I don’t know!” He snapped. “For being such a mean son of a bitch, for making me feel like a kid, for hurting me so damn bad I’m not going to be able to sit down for days, you bastard?”


His feet didn’t touch the ground. One minute he was kneeling on the floor and the next he was upside down over Skinner’s knees again, his boxers once more around his knees and Skinner’s hand belting down on his upturned ass with an angry speed and efficiency that he was already too well acquainted with. He shrieked, kicked and struggled but Skinner didn’t let up until Mulder was once again a gasping, tear-stained wreck. Then he was flipped back onto his knees. He cautiously replaced his boxers again, glancing up at his boss from under tear-fringed eyelashes.


“Sorry,” he murmured. Skinner nodded at him tersely, his arms folded as he waited for more. “And thank you for taking the time and trouble to sort me out when I’m such a jerk.” Mulder hung his head, feeling distinctly subdued.


“Have you learnt your lesson?” Skinner asked him.


“Yes.” Mulder said. He could feel the sobs wracking his body and then he broke down completely, crying like a baby and only partly because of the pain and humiliation. “I should go home,” he muttered. “I want to go home…” He tried to get up, howled in pain, stumbled to his feet and found his way blocked by Skinner.


“Not yet. Not like this.” Skinner told him.


“Just let me go. Dad used to let me go, I want to go!” Mulder yelled, one step away from stamping his feet in frustration. He felt Skinner’s big arms go round his shoulders, holding him tight and comforting him. “Let me go,” he muttered feebly into a large expanse of chest.


“No. I do things differently.” Skinner said. “Now you’ll stay because you’re upset and you hurt.” Mulder stood there for a while, his head buried in Skinner’s shoulder, sobbing quietly. Then Skinner led him back to the couch and helped him to lie down on it. “Your punishment’s over now.” Skinner informed him. “So just take a few minutes to get yourself back together again, son. Then we’ll talk.”


“Talk? About what?” Mulder buried his head in a cushion, wishing he were dead.


“About you. About how you’re going to be the best agent an assistant director could wish for, about how you are never going to risk your life doing something stupid again, never punch me again, never hold a gun on me again, never again disobey a direct order.” Mulder couldn’t see his boss but he just knew that the other man was grinning.


“About how my boss is living in a fantasy world?” He suggested.


“Yeah. Ain’t that the truth!” Skinner ruffled Mulder’s hair with his hand. “So, Mulder, my injured fox. Eating out of my hand yet?”


“I came here didn’t I?” Mulder’s voice was muffled by the cushion. “I let you do that to me. I guess you have tamed me after all.”


“Maybe. Not quite, but maybe.” Skinner’s dry chuckle was delighted. “But I seriously suspect that you might prove to be untamable, son. And I think we have a long way to go yet.”


“You know what I was saying about preferring the glade to this?” Mulder took his head out of the cushion and looked up. “You knew I’d feel this way about it. Don’t you get sick of being right?”


“No. I only get sick of you disobeying me and harming yourself.” Skinner told him. “And as for the glade – well my hand’s not quite as efficient as a whip. You’ll be sitting down again quicker than you did last time although not any time soon! But that’s not what bugs you is it? It’s how it made you feel.”


“Yeah.” Mulder gulped down another wave of misery. “But even that’s not as bad as how I felt when I thought you’d given up on me. Promise me you won’t ever give up on me, sir.”


“Oh, I think that’s pretty unlikely.” Skinner said seriously.


Mulder sat up slowly and nudged his way cautiously along the couch until he was next to his boss. Then he curled his long body up into a position that was as painless as he could manage and allowed his head to duck against his boss’s shoulder, until his face was buried in the tear-stained fabric of Skinner’s shirt. Skinner sighed and put his arm around the other man. Eating out of your hand, that’s what you wanted, Walter, he thought to himself. And this was as close to it as he was going to come. A few moments with the injured fox, a few brief moments before the feral creature was off out again, running wild, getting into trouble. They were moments to be savored none the less. He stroked Mulder’s hair gently, wishing he could keep the other man safe like this all the time – knowing that he couldn’t…




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