Chapters 13 - 18
Skinner reached over the man sleeping in his arms and
hit the "off" button before the alarm could sound.
After last night's, no, this morning's nightmare, Alex
was in need of sleep. So was he, but then all he had
done was hold the man through the after-effects of yet
another Danny dream.
He'd wakened, trembling, not knowing, so he said, what
the dream had been about. Skinner had grunted, just
pulled him into his arms, let him settle on what he was
now thinking of as Alex's spot, head over his heart,
arm snaked tightly around to his shoulder. Alex had
muttered "Sorry" several times until Skinner calmed him
down. He didn't know which was harder, hearing Alex
apologizing for something that haunted him, or Danny
begging for someone to believe him.
Jesus! It was times like these that he wished he could
have just a few minutes alone, unsupervised, with
Thomas Glenn, or even with Spender to show them how he
felt about what they had done to a young boy, raping
and beating him into becoming something evil.
He placed a kiss on the head tucked under his chin.
Still, they hadn't completely won, had they?
But, one way or another, the dreams had to be dealt
with. And it was hard asking anyone for advice about a
situation that shouldn't exist with a man who had,
according to the Bureau, just disappeared.
And worse was yet to come. By the time he got home
tonight, Alex would be wanting punishment as he had
both those times he had had Danny dreams since he'd
moved into this bed.
Maybe it was time.
He wasn't surprised to find when he got home that Alex
was nude, waiting by the basement door. He kept his
head down, didn't react when Skinner passed his hand
against the shorter hair in a caressing gesture.
Skinner left him there, went upstairs to change out of
his Bureau uniform, put on comfortable clothing. He
made himself something to drink, some hot tea, made
certain there was lots more of it that could later on
be heated up in the microwave.
He closed the basement door behind himself, not
permitting Alex to come down. Come back up with some
things in his hand. He pulled out a heavy wooden
armchair that he had inherited from somewhere along the
line in his travels. It had a wide base, solid arms
and carved back. Sharon had used it to stand on for
hanging curtains, anything that was up high. She had
hated ladders and this chair was so stable it was
almost impossible to tip or overturn.
He pushed the table back so that there was ample free
space around the chair. Nothing to get in its way, nor
Alex had remained in position, unmoving, head down
throughout all of his preparations. Now he made him
move. "Come here, boy. Stand up." He buckled the
belt around Alex's waist, the restraint around his
wrist, then clamped the restraint to the back of the
belt. Alex was used to this, expected it. It was part
of their ritual.
"Sit in the chair."
Alex hesitated, then complied. This was new.
"Make sure you're in solidly." Skinner threaded
another strap through the carved back, under his arm,
across his chest and back again to buckle behind the
chair. He passed a second strap across his lower
abdomen, also buckling in the back. He bound his
ankles to the lower portions of the legs.
"Can you rock the chair, boy?" Alex couldn't.
Skinner pulled some familiar items out of his pockets.
First the gag. Skinner stroked his thumbs across
Alex's mouth, bent and replaced them with his own
mouth. It struck him this may be the last opportunity
he would have to do this, depending on how his plans
worked. He bent again, took Alex's mouth in a
demanding kiss, got a hesitant response. He made sure
the bit gag was placed so that Alex could bite into it
if need be.
He kissed the closed eyes before tying on the
blindfold. At this stage, he knew Alex was expecting
ear plugs, but he wasn't too surprised when the
headphones went on, to be tied in place with another
Skinner let Alex sit there, just to get used to the
situation. He went and got a portable tape recorder
from the hallway closet, the tape from his coat pocket.
He set up the recorder, dropped in the tape, and, with
a deep breath and a prayer, he hit the play switch.
Alex didn't react at first. His head was slightly down
as it was whenever he prepared himself for what was to
follow. When he realized what he was hearing, he made
a sound like an animal, and began struggling to get out
of the chair, to rid his head of the headphones.
Skinner had been waiting for this, grabbed Alex from
the back, tried hard to keep him still. The gag muted
the worse of the sounds that Alex made in reaction, the
leather straps held him as close to immobile as
possible, the chair neither rocked nor tipped over even
while he struggled to escape.
Skinner winced at the animal sounds coming from the
bound man. He held him down by the shoulders, trying
to prevent him from hurting himself against the thick
straps that kept him in the chair, listening to the
composite tape Skinner had put together.
A tape that began with the interview Skinner had had
with Spender, went on to the one with Thomas Glenn,
then to his own voice reading the report Agent Madison
had given him.
Eventually the tape reached the end and stopped.
Skinner crouched awkwardly, held himself close to Alex,
just trying to hold him through the tremors which shook
his body. Gradually the keening faded to a sort of
Skinner reached out, hit the rewind button. Alex
hadn't listened, just reacted. He needed him to
listen. And, God, he hoped he was doing the right
This time, apart from an initial groan and what seemed
to be an involuntary reaction, Alex didn't move.
Skinner stroked his chest, his shoulders, letting him
know he wasn't alone. This time when the tape stopped,
all he did for several minutes, was stroke Alex's neck
along the chain. Then he reached up and took the head
Alex made a slight whining sound.
"Alex. Listen to me. They lied to you. You didn't
kill your father. You didn't deserve to be punished.
You never did anything to deserve what they did to
Alex shook his head, frantic. Skinner caught it in his
hands. "No. They lied to you. They wanted to control
you. To make you do things you didn't want. They lied
to you, Alex. Do you understand? Alex, they *lied* to
He removed the gag, the blindfold. He cupped the back
of Alex's head, waited till he raised it himself.
He spoke gently as if that would make this whole
nightmare easier, " Did she tell you that you killed
him? Alex, did your mother tell you that you killed
Alex rested his head against Skinner's cheek. Didn't
answer for a long time. Then, almost at a whisper,
"Not me. She told Danny."
Skinner cupped the face next to his, "She lied, Alex.
She lied to Danny. Danny didn't kill anyone. I swear
to you, Alex, Danny didn't kill his father."
He got some strong sweet tea into Alex, moved with him
onto the couch. Wrapped a blanket around him and
settled himself with Alex in his arms along the couch.
Alex lay very still, only the occasional tremor, breath
hitching to show how he had been affected by the whole
scenario. Skinner would almost have preferred it if
he'd cried. At least that way, he would have let some
of the pain, the fear out.
And this had to be finished.
"Alex," he rubbed his cheek against Alex's forehead,
"why did Danny think he'd killed his father?"
Alex made a little settling motion, sighed, spoke, his
voice raspy. "She told him only his prints had been
found on the gun. That he must have done it, why else
would they be on the gun. She had an alibi. He
didn't. That everyone loved Nick. No one had a reason
for wanting him dead. Except for Danny."
"Alex, what reason would an eleven year old boy have
for wanting his father dead?"
"Danny wanted to go fishing. His father had promised
to take him. Then he'd backed out. Wouldn't give him
a reason. They'd had an argument about it. Danny was
"Children don't kill their parents for refusing them
something, Alex. There'd be no parents left anywhere
if that were true."
Alex ignored him. "She told Danny the cops wanted to
question him about the prints. Danny begged her to
tell them that he couldn't have done it. That he loved
his father. She asked him how could she do that. She
wouldn't lie to the cops for him. All she might be
able to do was get him away before the cops came to get
Skinner clamped down his anger. Right now it wouldn't
help. He kept his voice as calm, as level as possible.
"So she passed him on to his father's controller. Who
passed him on to Thomas Glenn." Skinner felt Alex nod
against him. He waited a bit before continuing.
"Then, one day, Glenn sent Danny to one of the Elders.
What happened there?"
Alex turned more into Skinner, who gripped him harder.
"The Elder wasn't too happy with Glenn. He liked them
a bit younger and he'd thought Danny was too old. Then
Glenn told him who Danny's father was. The Elder knew
Nicholai Gorshok. Called him a beautiful man. Said at
least in that his son wasn't a disappointment. He'd
been a good man, and the Elder really regretted his
"That he'd been very much a man. A man's man. Not
like his fag catamite son. Wondered what Nick would
have thought of his fag son. Wondered if that was why
he'd been killed? Because he'd looked at his son and
saw him for what he really was, a disgusting pervert.
Pity the wrong Gorshok had been killed. Pity the fag
son had killed such a good *man*.
"Danny protested. Said it wasn't true, that he hadn't
killed his father. The Elder told him of course he
had. His mother had told him the whole story. How he
even refused to admit it. That it was so convenient
for him, but what about his mother. Left alone without
anyone to take care of her. He deserved the most
severe of punishments because patricide was the most
reviled crime on the face of the earth."
Skinner wanted to say something, but he didn't know
what would erase any of that from Danny's memory. All
he wanted to do was hit someone. Alex must have sensed
something because he caught a sound in the back of his
throat. Skinner realized he was holding Alex in a
painful grip. He released it a little. Said nothing,
just rubbed his cheek on the top of Alex's head. After
a moment or two, Alex went on.
"He said it was up to him to punish Danny properly.
And he hurt him. Danny started screaming. The Elder
didn't like it, told him to stop. But he didn't. He
kept on screaming. He wanted to stop but he couldn't.
He couldn't. He just kept on screaming. No matter
what the Elder did to him. I couldn't stand it any
more. I had to make the screaming stop."
Skinner braced himself. This was the first time Alex
had personally involved himself in the narrative. "How
did you do that, Alex?"
"I killed him. I killed Danny."
Dear God, thought Skinner. He fought down the nausea
that was building in his throat. He'd never expected
this. How the hell was he to deal with this piece of
Alex began speaking again. "I remember being sick for
a long time. The handler who took care of me called me
Alex; he already had another boy in his stable called
Danny. When I got better, I was sent to Spender. He
put me into service. Then Peskow got interested in
"Alex, did Spender use you?" He wanted an excuse, any
excuse to hit someone he could get his hands on.
"No. Not like what you mean. He's a watcher, not a
"He sent you to Mulder." They were beginning to tread
on delicate ground here, but Skinner wanted this all
out of the way.
Alex moved his head back, finally looked up at Skinner.
"Yes. But he wasn't interested. Is that what you
wanted to know?"
"Actually," Skinner rubbed the knuckles of one hand
against Alex's chin, "what I would like to know is how
someone as intelligent as you seem to be could be so
stupid as to forget to clean out an ashtray?"
There was a long pause, then "I didn't, forget that is.
The ashtray was empty and clean when I left the car."
Neither of them said anything, just thought about that.
"You were good, Alex. You had the makings of a top-
notch agent. Good combination of street-smarts and
brains. Sometimes the brainy ones don't work out.
Good at school but not much use anywhere else. The
Alex gave a sort of sigh. "I was one of those, a
Skinner grabbed the chance to lighten the atmosphere.
"I can't believe that you were ever a nerd, Alex."
"Well, I didn't have much choice. I was under orders
not to participate in anything other than classes. In
high school, I spent too much time in the
administrators' offices to be trusted by the other
"What were you doing in the administrators' offices,
"Blow jobs mainly. Dropping my pants now and then.
The ones I dealt with all had ties of some kind with
Spender. They kept an eye on me while I was out of his
reach, and he had me pay them back that way."
Suddenly Alex got anxious. He raised himself up a bit.
"The marks were mine. Really mine. Not because of a
blow job or because I took it up the ass. I worked for
them, the real way."
Skinner was surprised by how important this was to
Alex. How it worried him that Skinner might think he'd
whored for marks. He just raised an eyebrow. "I doubt
very much that a university would hand out a
scholarship or Quantico, recommendations, in exchange
for a blow job, Alex.
"And I don't think the ability to take it up the ass
would have deciphered the DAT tape. Or encoded the
ones you dumped on us. Some were so convoluted
...Williams is still rather in awe of some of the
circuitous routes some of those files took before you
opened them up for us. He's told me that he's sorry he
can't use you officially in his department. He's been
hinting that maybe you could be used unofficially." He
smiled at Alex. "Maybe as a consultant?"
Alex shrugged. "Yeah, right." Tone sarcastic. "As if
the Bureau would let me anywhere near one of their
He settled back again in Skinner's arms, needing their
comfort. Skinner held off asking the one thing left he
wanted to know until he felt Alex was calmer.
"Alex. I need to understand. I know why Danny would
think that he had killed his father, but why would
*you* believe it?"
When Alex finally looked up, his expression was bleak.
"I didn't remember Danny until I saw a photo of him in
the file Justice wanted me to answer. If I didn't
remember him, didn't remember what his life was like,
didn't remember killing him, maybe I couldn't remember
killing my father. Maybe killing was easy because I
started so early. It makes sense, why would killing
bother me when I'd killed the only person who ever
lo..." he caught himself, "who ever wanted me?"
Skinner shook his head. "I don't believe you killed
him, Alex. Neither you nor Danny killed Nicholai
Gorshok. We'll find the truth, Alex. I promise you."
"I want to thank you, Mr. Skinner, for the
recommendation. I'll try my best to be deserving of
"You may find that after a while you may not want to
thank me for putting your name forward, Agent Madison.
You're not being assigned the easiest of partners."
"No. sir. But I understand that life is never dull when
your partner is Special Agent Mulder."
Skinner laughed. "That's a delicate way of putting it.
But seriously, you might like to arrange for a meeting
with Dana Scully. She has regular hours now that she's
been permanently assigned to Quantico."
"Thank you, sir, but she's already contacted me. We're
meeting for lunch next week. She asked me how much
First Aid experience I had." She smiled. "She was
laughing as she asked me. I told her I had five
Skinner nodded. "Well, if he becomes too much trouble,
you can always do what Scully did."
"She shot him."
"Did she? I must try that some day with my brothers."
"I'll wish you the best of luck, Agent Madison. I'm
sure you'll find a way of keeping Mulder from getting
himself into situations like the one last week. And I
want to thank you again for the fine work you did for
me, tracking down that information."
"Sir, may I ask? Is the posting because of the work I
did for you?"
"Pay-off, you mean? No, but I did take into account
the efficiency you demonstrated. No, Rachel, you
earned this yourself. Besides, I won't be here much
longer. So if your posting proves to be too
troublesome, you'll have to let me know soon enough.
I'll find you a new assignment, it won't be held against
"Thank you, sir, but I think any assignment after
Special Agent Mulder would be rather boring."
When she left, Skinner settled, uncomfortably, in his
chair. It had been too long, he thought, he'd
forgotten. He was used to being the stuffer, not the
Still, he smiled, it was worth it. He'd also forgotten
the pleasure being well-fucked could bring. And Alex
had certainly done that. God, it was well worth a
little discomfort for the look on his face when Skinner
had rolled the condom on him. First the surprise, then
that wicked gleam he'd gotten in his eyes.
Skinner could feel himself harden at the memory. Shit!
He was fifty years old. He wasn't supposed to be able
to react this way at a mere thought. Especially after
last night. Come to think of it, he also wasn't
supposed to be able to get it up twice in one night,
but then maybe the ones who came up with these
"supposes" had never shared a bed with Alex Krycek.
The phone on his desk rang and brought him back to
"Sir. Deputy Director Cassidy wonders if she could
have a few minutes of your time. In five minutes?"
Jana Cassidy was the woman Skinner had told Madison was
in line for the Directorship. He liked her, respected
her and not just because when the whole fiasco had
started, she had been the only one to welcome him
personally to the Upper Floor.
"I'll get straight to the point, Walter. There's a
rumour circulating that says you're thinking of
Skinner smiled. "Nice to know the grapevine is alive
and well. And accurate. I went to see the Director
only this morning."
Cassidy settled back in her chair. "I'm glad."
Skinner raised his eyebrow.
"To be honest, I was about to put out a contract on
you. You're the only Deputy Director who isn't six
months behind on reading his reports. Makes us all
look bad, Walter. Your office is nice and neat, no
reports piled in the corners. It's not natural."
"Oh, well, I won't be getting away from them
"New job already?"
"Actually, I've been approached by Wilson-Jones."
Cassidy made a sound of appreciation. "Not bad,
Walter. Status think tank. Not too conservative, not
too liberal. Nice comfort zone."
"I'm thinking of attaching myself to them only as a
consultant. I want time to do other things. Take on
other assignments that are interesting."
"Sure you won't miss this place, Walter?"
"The reports? The necessity of being polite to jerks?
Jana, I want a life of my own again. I want to go
fishing. Take a trip. Not have to worry about hiding
"You've got somebody in your life."
"Yes. A somebody I want time with before I'm too old
to enjoy the relationship."
Jana Cassidy laughed with him. So the rumour that old
Stone Face was in a relationship was true. She
wondered with whom, that it would be considered
inappropriate here at the Bureau. The young woman who
had been top of the pool was on her way to Mulder.
"So what do you think, Alex? Just a part-time
commitment to Wilson-Jones and free lance the rest of
They were lying on the couch, Alex in Skinner's arms.
The hockey game was between periods and they were just
lazing through the afternoon.
"Why ask me?"
"Because in a relationship there's such a thing as
discussion. We are holding a discussion. My wife
accused me often of not wanting to discuss things with
her and I don't intend making the same mistake twice."
Alex twisted around so that he could see Skinner's
face. Quietly he asked, "So, this is a relationship?"
Skinner nodded, very serious. "That's what this is,
Alex. A relationship. Any objections."
Skinner never thought he'd see the day that Alex would
blush. "No. No objections."
"Wilson-Jones finds our counter proposal..."
"*Our* counter proposal?"
"Yes, that of my partner and I. As I was saying, our
counter proposal of being available to them on a part-
time basis very acceptable. Especially when I told
them who my partner was."
"You told them...it was acceptable?" Alex was stunned.
"Of course, Alex. I told them that I had no intention
of hiding my partner. That he would be equally
involved in whatever project they handed out. They
weren't bothered by that in the least. Said they were
quite looking forward to meeting you. Even when I
informed them that there was also a personal
relationship involved between us."
Alex sat up. "Are you out of your fucking mind,
"No. Alex, Wilson-Jones is not the Bureau. Moreover
when I told them that any necessary socializing had to
include both of us..."
"You *are* out of your fucking mind. Do you have any
idea what people will say if you're seen anywhere in
public with me?"
Skinner pulled Alex back against him, rubbed his hands
on Alex's bare chest. He had just come out of the
shower, pulled on a pair of jeans, and was still a bit
"They'll either be envious or they'll be shocked.
Either way, they won't bother us, and Wilson-Jones
assures me we won't be the only male pair attending
their functions. So better start thinking about
shelling out for a tux. Their get-togethers are very
As the second period of the game began, Alex scratched
his groin through his jeans. "So when are you done at
"In two weeks." Skinner unzipped Alex's jeans,
scratched around Alex's cock where the hair was growing
back in at the prickly stage. Of course, there was
more of a reaction than just Alex's sigh of pleasure.
"I told Kim that all reports except crucial ones were
henceforth banned from the office. To pass them on to
Cassidy." Alex's hips were rubbing against his hand.
He could feel his own cock responding nicely to Alex's
shoulder rubbing against his fly.
Alex reached over and unbuttoned Skinner's fly,
liberated his cock. He turned his head and played it
into his mouth. Which fell into rhythm with the hand
on his cock.
It was a nice way to spend a lazy afternoon.
After Alex asked, "Do you think Wilson-Jones might
approve if we did this at one of their soirees?"
"Just remember, boy, no one touches you except me."
The man accompanying Deputy Director Skinner raised a
few eyebrows. But only a few; the back way into the
upper floor was sparsely populated. But enough that
word would quickly make its way round the offices.
Skinner just ignored them; Krycek wore his "dare you to
say anything" face. But he wasn't quite sure what he
was doing here.
Skinner held the door to his office open, let Krycek
precede him. Kim looked up from her desk, smiled
absently, caught herself. Gave them a second look.
The two people who had been waiting for Skinner's
arrival stood. They and Krycek froze. Skinner just
continued on into his office as if nothing particular
"Kim, whatever happens, I'm not available until I tell
you otherwise." He paused at the door to his office.
"People? In here, please." And went in, almost
pleased that he'd managed to surprise not just Alex but
Scully and Mulder as well.
The three of them were eyeing each other warily.
Mulder hadn't seen Krycek since the night he'd arrived
to deal immunity for passwords: Scully, since long
Skinner was examining a file he had taken out of a
drawer, looked up at them and indicated the chairs with
a gesture of his hand. For a moment he was reminded of
three cats ready to take each other on.
Time to defuse the tension a bit. "How's Agent Madison
working out, Mulder?"
Mulder stopped glaring at Krycek long enough to glare
at Skinner. "So you're the one I have to thank for
siccing that bitch on me."
Skinner looked shocked. Scully actually giggled.
"I think," she snickered, "the appropriate term would
be *terrier*. You know," she addressed Skinner, "like
in *fox* terrier. Hard to dump one of those, isn't it,
Skinner got it. "Finds you, does she? Before you get
into trouble?" He and Scully exchanged understanding
Scully, he was pleased to see, was more relaxed.
Quantico was doing her good. And he knew she was being
fast-tracked to taking over when the Head of Forensics
retired next year.
A phone rang. Skinner reached into his inside suit
pocket, took out a thin cellphone. Listened. "Thank
"Would the three of you come with me, please."
He picked up the file, went out the back door of his
office, down a private hallway to a conference room.
The three following him were equally confused. Silent
questions, shrugged answers united them.
The conference room was not a particularly large one,
but it did have a special feature: a small room off
it, disguised to pass as a bathroom, which was actually
a viewing room. The large stained glass artwork by the
door doubled as a one way window into the conference
"Mulder, would you familiarize yourself with this?" He
passed over the file. "Dana, would you and Alex come
with me." He led them into the viewing room. Closed
the door behind the three of them. He turned and
addressed Krycek in his strictest game voice.
Krycek's head went back at the tone, then his eyes
dropped. Scully wondered just what the hell was going
"You will stay here, in this room, no matter what
happens. Do you understand me?"
Krycek started dropping his head. Skinner grabbed his
chin, forced his head up, forced him to look at him.
"You will not try to leave this room. Understand?"
"You will do nothing that calls attention to the fact
that there are people in this room. Nothing. Do you
Krycek's face had become a mask, the one he wore when
they moved the game into the basement.
Scully was bewildered by the whole scenario, but
recognized the tone Skinner used as one not to argue
Skinner released Krycek's jaw, stroked a gentle thumb
along the area he'd held. He addressed Scully in his
regular voice. "Would you stay here with Alex, Dana?"
She nodded, "Yes," not too sure where this was all
Mulder looked up from the file at the sound of the door
closing. "What do you want me to do?"
"Look intimidating. Maybe help me out if I need it.
Be a witness if it's necessary. To be honest, I don't
know what will happen."
He went back to the file. "Start by letting her wait
outside." Then, "He doesn't know."
Skinner shook his head.
"That's why you've got Scully in there with him."
Skinner sat in the chair behind the desk, nodded.
"Has he been with you all this time?" Mulder didn't
look up from his reading.
Skinner smiled at the casual tone of the question.
"Yes." Mulder looked up over his glasses. "And he'll
be staying with me."
Mulder nodded, went back to the file. Well, that
explained the early retirement. He'd have thought they
would have had to carry Skinner out feet first to get
him away from a Bureau desk.
The phone rang again. Skinner looked to Mulder. "Ten
When Mulder finally opened the door, a woman entered.
A woman who was clearly unhappy with the way her
morning had developed.
She was slim, hair tastefully dyed a white blond,
conservatively made-up. She was wearing the type of
clothes, shoes a woman wore when she entertained a day
of shopping. In her early to mid fifties. A sort of
brittle beauty to her. Looking just what she was, the
wife of a some middle manager who was in town,
accompanying her husband at a conference.
She seemed neither afraid nor intimidated by having
been stopped by two FBI agents who had requested she
accompany them as there were some questions that she
could help them with.
Skinner reached under the desk, pressed the switch that
turned on the monitor in the viewing room. Slowly he
got up to greet the woman.
"Mrs. Davidson Christie? Mrs. Christie, thank you for
coming in. We appreciate that you could take the time
to come and answer some questions we have about a
"Did I have a choice? Mr....?"
Mulder stepped in. "*Deputy Director* Skinner, ma'am."
The title impressed her. She sat down in the chair
Mulder pulled out for her.
"What is this about, Deputy Director?"
Skinner thought she must do her husband proud when they
entertained the bosses. She certainly had just the
proper tone of awe in her voice as she said his title.
Even looked a little flirtatious.
"Mrs. Christie, we're thinking about re-opening a file
into the murder of Nicholai Alexandrovitch Gorshok."
He had to give her credit: she didn't even bat an
"I'm sorry. I don't understand how I could possibly be
of any help to you."
"Why should that be, Mrs. Christie? Aren't you even
the slightest bit interested on why we would be re-
opening the file into your husband's death?"
"My husband is very much alive, thank you." She stood
Mulder tossed a piece of paper onto the desk in front
of her. "Marriage certificate. Nicholai
Alexandrovitch Gorshok and Zaneta Ilaria Bazarov.
That's you, Mrs. Christie."
She glared at the two men but sat down. "I prefer
Janice. And it was suicide, not murder."
"Left-handed people don't blow the right sides of their
faces off, Mrs. Christie." Mulder took the chair
between her and the desk.
She snapped back. "The verdict of the coroner was
"That's not what the boy was told." Skinner was in
full Deputy Director mode.
She turned a querying look at Skinner. "Boy? What
"I'm sorry. I don't know any Danny."
"Your son, Mrs. Christie."
"I don't have any children by that name, Mr. Skinner."
Mulder tossed another document onto the desk. "Birth
certificate. Daniel Aloysha Gorshok. If necessary we
can prove it with DNA testing. We have blood samples
from the three of you."
Janice Christie sat back in the chair. "What is it
exactly that you want from me, gentlemen? I do have
plans for the day and would like to get to them
"You told Danny that he was responsible for his
father's death and then you passed him on to his
"If it will get me out of here. Certainly I passed the
boy onto to someone who wanted to take care of him. I
didn't want him. I couldn't stand the sight of him."
"Why was that, Mrs. Christie? What was so wrong with
the boy that you couldn't stand the sight of him?"
"I spent eleven years married to a man who disgusted me
because of that...boy."
"From the timing of his birth, I'd say you were
pregnant when you married his father."
"Yes, I was."
"Are you saying it was rape?"
"No. Even my idiot parents wouldn't have forced me to
marry him if it had been rape. Besides they knew Nick,
knew he didn't have to resort to rape. He had anyone
he wanted whenever he wanted. All he had to do was
smile at a woman to get her into his bed. Everyone
"So he smiled at you, and you ended up in his bed. And
pregnant." Mulder didn't sound sympathetic at all.
"It wasn't supposed to end in my marrying *him*."
"Who were you supposed to marry? Davey? That *is*
what you call your present husband."
"Yes." She crossed her legs. She wanted this over
quickly. Spoke staring at the abstract sketch that
hung on the wall behind Skinner. "Davey and I were
seeing each other. My parents didn't approve of our
associating with people from outside the neighbourhood.
And Davey's people didn't approve of his associating
with ethnics. They insisted he date the daughter of
one of their friends. I could tell it was beginning to
be serious. I didn't want to be just his little jaunt
into the ethnic pool. So I decided to make him
jealous. But we went too far.
"I wanted to get an abortion. Davey and I had made
plans for one, but my parents caught us. They forced
me to carry the brat, told Nick and he decided to do
the noble thing and marry me so his bastard would be
legal. Davey married his parents' choice.
"But that didn't work out. He still loved me. He was
getting a divorce when he came to see me, to ask me to
come away with him. I knew that Nick would never give
me a divorce: God knows I'd asked often enough. He
kept telling me a mother's place was with her child.
And that he would never let Danny leave."
"How convenient for both of you," mocked Skinner,
"that Gorshok stopped being a hindrance to your plans
at just that time."
She had no trouble whatsoever meeting his eyes. "Yes,
wasn't it. And how convenient that we both had water-
tight alibis for that entire afternoon."
"Except for Danny."
"Yes," she agreed, "except for the boy."
"So you told him you were sending him away for his own
good. And you passed him onto your husband's boss."
"I *contacted* Nick's boss. He was always interested
in the boy. Always asked about him. His eyes always
followed the boy whenever he came out to the house. So
I called him. Explained how only the boy's prints were
on the gun. He understood right away. He told me to
bring the boy to him. That he'd take care of him."
"What did you think he was going to do with Danny?"
She shrugged, obviously not caring.
"I'll tell you, shall I." Skinner's voice was colder
than anything Mulder had ever heard from him. "They
beat him. They raped him. They prostitued him."
"Poetic justice," she snapped back. "That's what his
father did to me. He claimed he had rights under
marriage and he took them whether or not I wanted.
Once, when I punished the boy, he beat me. Told me
he'd kill me if I ever touched *his* son again. And he
Mulder leaned over. "Why would he do that, Mrs.
Christie? How exactly did you punish the boy?"
She turned to him, graced him with a cold look. "The
same way my father disciplined us. With a belt."
"So Gorshok cared for Danny." Skinner said.
"He doted on him. Ignored me unless he wanted
*something*. Spent his money, his time with the boy.
Came home every night, supposedly to put the boy to
bed. *I* knew he was just checking out the boy's body.
The boy thought Nick walked on water." She was having
a harder time controlling her emotions.
"The *boy* didn't kill his father." Skinner wanted her
to say it.
"I never said he did." She dared him to contradict
Mulder stepped in. "Mrs. Christie, according to the
documents we have, your husband, your present husband
that is, was cut off without a cent by his family when
he ran off with you. That his and his wife's family
paid off all their debts, but he never got a cent from
"No." She spat the word out. "Never."
"And Gorshok didn't even leave that." He looked up at
her. "So, Mrs. Christie, where did your husband get
the money he used to buy into the franchise?"
Skinner sat back in his chair: he hadn't caught that.
She said nothing, just continued glaring at Mulder.
"Mrs. Christie, how much did they give you for Danny?"
Skinner reacted before she did. "You *sold* your son?"
He was incredulous. "You *sold* your son to a pimp?"
"Seven thousand dollars, wasn't it, Mrs. Christie. A
lot of money to come out of nowhere."
She smiled coldly. "Ten thousand actually. We used
the remaining three for a downpayment on our house. It
was the least Gorshok's *legacy* could do considering
he'd taken eleven years of my life."
There was a long silence after that. Finally, having
gotten himself in hand though all he wanted to do was
put his hands around the woman's throat, Skinner leaned
forward in his chair. "And the boy, don't you want to
know what happened to him?"
She condescended to answer him. "Why would I care what
happened to a whore?"
Skinner slowly stood up. "Actually, he only did that
for a few years. Then they trained him to kill people.
He's very good at that."
She came up to her feet, spitting. "Are *you*
threatening me? Who the hell do you think you are?
I'll have you up on charges of harassment! Of
threatening me with murder! You bastard!"
Skinner ignored her, looked at Mulder who had also
stood up. "Special Agent Mulder, do you remember this
meeting taking place?"
"No, Deputy Director, I can't say I do."
"And have you ever heard of...someone called Janice
"No, sir, I can't say I have."
Skinner turned to the woman, his distaste obvious.
"Sorry, madam, you seem to have lost your way. That
sometimes happens to visiting tourists. Mulder, could
you have this..." he sneered the word,
"person...escorted out of the building."
He went back behind his desk, picked up the documents
on the desk and began replacing them in the dossier.
Mulder went to open the door. He nodded to the two
agents who had waited in the hallway. "See her out to
the front door, agents."
Both men ignored her as she left.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Skinner was at
the door of the viewing room.
Krycek was sitting on the floor, back against the wall.
Head tipped back. Eyes closed. No colour whatsoever
in his face.
Scully crouched beside him, her hand on his shoulder.
She looked up at Skinner, shook her head slightly,
shrugged, indicating she wasn't quite sure. She gave
Krycek's shoulder a last squeeze, rose and went out to
join Mulder in the conference room. She closed the
door behind her.
Skinner crouched next to Alex. Hesitated, but then
just placed his hand on the side of Alex's face.
"Alex?" He waited. "Alex? Are you okay?"
Alex slowly moved his head off the wall, opened his
eyes. Consciously pulled himself back from wherever
he'd been. He met Skinner's eyes. "Well, I wanted to
"You didn't kill your father. Neither you nor Danny.
More likely they hired someone to do it. Probably
through your father's boss." Skinner thought it made
sense. Gorshok stood between the controller and the
boy. And the money would ensure the wife's complicity.
"Alex, do you want me to push it? We could probably
get enough to officially re-open the case."
Alex dropped his head onto his knees. "Do they have
"Yes. Three. Two boys and a girl. Ages 21 down to
Alex said nothing. Skinner slowly stroked the back of
his neck. After a while, Alex raised his head. "No.
Not worth it."
"You going to be okay?"
"Yeah. Walter, can I go back now?"
"Sure, if that's what you want. I'll drive you home."
"No. Maybe Scully or Mulder could do it. You have
work to finish before you leave next week." He gave a
sort of smile. Got to his feet. Skinner looked
worried. "I'm fine. Really I am, Walter. I just want
some time to myself. Okay?"
Skinner nodded. "Okay."
Scully drove him back to the house. He was quiet all
the way there, just staring out of the side window.
Scully didn't say anything until she let him off at
Skinner's house. "Are you sure you don't want anyone
to stay with you, Krycek? We don't need to talk or
Krycek's smile managed to be a fairly good one this
time. "No, thanks. I'll be fine. Go catch up on the
gossip with Mulder." He closed the car door and let
himself into the house.
The house was almost dark when Skinner arrived home.
No lights on except for the one in the foyer. He felt
a frisson of disquiet crawl up his spine.
He moved carefully, making sure, for the first time
since Alex had arrived, that his weapon was easily
From the foyer he could see the basement door. He
almost expected to find Alex waiting there for him.
But there was no Alex, no lights on in the kitchen, in
the laundry room. He wondered if Alex were down in the
basement, but there was no one there either.
He found Alex in the living room.
And a nightmare he hadn't even remotely considered.
He stood still by the couch, by the light he'd turned
on and wondered just how the hell he was going to
handle the situation.
Alex was kneeling in position in the far corner of the
living room. Arm bond behind his back. Blindfold on.
Dog collar. Gag. From where he stood, Skinner could
only assume that he wore ear plugs.
There were two thin lines of blood trailing from the
nipple clamps that hadn't been used since that very
Skinner moved forward enough to see that Alex had also
used the thin strap he had used as a cock ring that
night too. At least he thought that's what it was; he
could barely make out the buckle in the swollen flesh.
However tightly Alex had buckled it at first, only
hours of wear would have caused the swelling he saw.
Skinner closed his eyes and swore softly. He had
thought that with the morning's revelations, that Alex
might be a bit distraught, but this was more than that:
this was Alex back to his original masochism.
Jesus! What the hell did Alex think he needed to be
punished for this time? And why to this extent?
Before he released Alex from his bonds, Skinner went to
get the medical supplies he had gathered for dealing
with injuries during those early days. He hoped that
all there were were the ones he could see. Maybe he
should call Scully and ask her to come over with her
bag? But no, they had dealt with this from the
beginning by themselves; they would continue to do so
Skinner poured himself a stiff drink, tossed it back
and went to deal with Alex.
He began by crouching in front of him, to let him know
that he was back. Alex seemed to be in that world of
his too deeply to notice. Skinner wondered if, in
fact, Mulder and his psychology background wouldn't be
a better choice right now than Scully.
He lay his hand on the truncated shoulder, only to
notice that the end of the stump was purpled. As if it
had been hit against something. Something solid.
Skinner winced, stroked the shoulder until he felt a
small shiver shake Alex's body. The head moved
slightly. Okay, he thought, coming back to this world.
He took the dog collar off first. Stroked the neck
where the bruising had already begun showing. He'd
have trouble swallowing for the next few days.
Apart from the involuntary shivering, Alex didn't move.
Then the blindfold. Alex kept his eyes closed, even
when Skinner ran his thumbs across the lids. He didn't
insist that Alex open his eyes.
The gag. The back of his lips were raw. How the hell
had he managed this with only one hand?
The ear plugs, thank God, had done no damage. He had
just put them in.
He unscrewed the clamps. They were on so tightly that
he had trouble getting them started. He knew his
attempts must have hurt like hell, but Alex barely
flinched. The wounds began bleeding again. He reached
for the gauze and quickly taped temporary bandages over
the torn nubs.
The cock ring was even more difficult. The flesh of
his cock was deep purple. Shit, he had heard of guys
who had effectively castrated themselves by doing this.
He would have to pack ice there. And hope he had been
Unbuckling the strap was not easy. Alex finally jerked
when he had to pull it tighter to release the bit, but
he was most afraid of what would happen as the
circulation was restored.
Alex didn't faint, but he did collapse forward, into
Skinner's arms. Which is how Skinner discovered the
rest of the damage.
In the toy cupboard downstairs he had a collection of
dildos ranging in size. One he had picked up in
Bangkok, during R and R, while in the Marines. The
sort of thing an eighteen year old youth buys on a dare
from his buddies. Made of teak, it ended in a small
rod for use as a handgrip. It was huge. And it was in
Alex. And there was more blood streaking the backside
of his thighs, the soles of his feet where he had
rested his ass.
First things first. He lay Alex on his side on the
carpet, covered him with the blanket they kept on the
couch. The shivers were beginning to change into
In the kitchen, he put ice into a couple of plastic
bags, went and packed them on his groin. The mere
touch of the bags caused Alex to jerk. He placed his
hand on Alex's hip, held it there while his body got
accustomed to the feeling of coldness hopefully numbing
the pain of blood recirculating.
He used that time to unbind the hand. Alex had used
not the wrist restraint but the handcuffs. Easier for
a one-handed man hellbent on abusing himself. He
hadn't been able to snap them on too tightly. One
Another was the fact that he hadn't thought of self-
flagellation. Thank heaven for small mercies, thought
He reached over to work out the dildo gently when he
realized something was missing. "Jesus Christ, Alex.
No lube. You didn't use any lube. Are you out of your
He was amazed at the amount of anger in his reaction.
He had to walk into the kitchen, pace a bit before he
calmed down enough to even try to figure out what he
would have to do to get that piece of wood out of
Alex's ass without causing more damage than had already
And considering the amount of time that thing had been
in, let alone the way it had found its way in -- God,
he didn't even want to think of that! -- the inner
tissues must be raw and swollen.
He was going to have to call for help after all. Shit,
the situation was bad enough as was. How would Alex
react to the presence of someone else?
He thought a moment, had an idea. If it didn't work,
he would have to call Scully. He might still have to
Why the fuck hadn't he come home with Alex? And why
hadn't he considered just how violently Alex would
react? He always reacted badly. The night they had
gone to the diner. The time he had changed the collar
for the chain. Which he still wore. At least he
hadn't taken *that* off.
Sharon had gone through a stage of cooking with
marinated meats. Not just sitting in marinade, but
injecting it into the piece of meat. The gadget she'd
bought for that was still around. He seen it recently,
wondered how come he had ended up with it. Hadn't
thrown it out. Found it.
It was like a thin turkey baster, with a nozzle that
was larger than a syringe needle, but smaller than the
baster's. It would probably hurt, but it was better
than pulling the thing out dry.
He found the baby oil that he sometimes used for oiling
delicate tools. Filled the marinader.
Alex was obviously uncomfortable. He had drawn up his
knees, just a bit, head was curled close to his chest.
He moaned softly to himself.
Skinner checked the ice and decided to add a couple
more packs. He moved the light so that he could see
properly. Checked Alex's eyes. The pupils were
dilated, hopefully from pain, not from any drugs he
might have taken.
"Alex? Can you hear me, Alex?"
Alex made a sound that seemed to indicate he could.
"I'm going to move you onto the couch. And you're
going to help me. Got that? First: did you take
anything? Any drugs? Okay, that's good. I want you
to swallow these." It took some time for Alex to
swallow the codeine pills. A more than ample dosage,
but he wanted him feeling as little pain as possible
when he began working on the dildo.
"Alex, don't fight the codeine. Let it work. I'll
come get you in a minute."
Skinner removed the middle and end cushions from the
couch, dropped one to the floor, the other on top of
the remaining one. He stacked the ice packs at the
edge of the pile. Alex would be lying face down. His
groin still needed the ice. His nipples would have to
bear the brunt of his weight, but he needed Alex on his
Getting him onto the couch was unpleasant, but was
accomplished with far fewer sounds from Alex than
Skinner would have thought possible. *He* would be
screaming his head off by now. But then, as Thomas
Glenn had said, Alex had been popular for his ability
to endure pain.
His plan to settle Alex on the couch was enough of a
success. As was, eventually, his plan of getting
enough oil around the dildo in order to facilitate its
removal. Actually, he found that Alex had used some
lube on the thing, on the first part of it, but it was
enough with the oil to get it out with as little damage
as was possible.
There was bleeding, but a lot less than he had
expected. He even managed to get a fair amount of
antibiotic cream up Alex's ass before he felt he had
played around with the damage enough for the moment.
He checked the ice packs, covered him with the blanket
and left him alone.
Then he seriously considered getting drunk, but decided
that wouldn't be very productive.
Instead he settled by the couch and tried to decide how
he was going to handle Alex when he woke up.
It was around four a.m. when Alex did wake up. He made
some noise which woke Skinner up, a crick in the neck
from the uncomfortable position he'd been sleeping in.
Skinner got Alex some water, a couple more codeine
pills. "You are going to explain to me just what this
was all about, Alex."
When Alex finally spoke, his voice was hoarse. "I
"Can't as in won't? Or can't as in you don't know
"Alex, you don't do that sort of damage to yourself and
not have an inkling why."
Alex just shook his head.
"Alex, there's no reason for punishment. You're not
responsible for your father's death. Do you at least
"Is it because of her?"
Alex seemed to shrug, mumbled, "Don't know."
Skinner was irritated. He'd had a trying evening, had
slept badly, had a neck that he knew would ache through
the meetings he *had* to attend this day, and he wasn't
sure he could trust Alex alone all day.
"So you got home, felt an overwhelming urge to injure
yourself, to go overboard on pain, and you don't know
why." He meant it sarcastically but got another nod
"So what do we do about today, Alex? I mean. I have to
go in. Do I cuff you to the bed? Do I tied you up?
Do I get in Scully?"
"No!" Alex looked up, frantic. "Not Scully. I'm all
right. I don't need a doctor. You don't need to tie
me down or cuff me, I won't move. I'll stay right
here, I promise."
"God, Alex, can I trust you? To stay on the couch all
"I swear. Walter, please. I don't know what happened
to me. I just freaked out, I guess. Please, sir, I'll
Skinner felt he really didn't have much choice right
now. "Okay. I'm moving upstairs to the bed. The
alarm's going off in two hours and I want some
comfortable sleep. Call me if you need anything."
He left late for the Bureau. He checked Alex over,
changed dressings, agreed with Alex that except for
some swelling and discolouration, he didn't seem to be
in jeopardy of losing any essential body parts. He
left him with a bottle of juice, some of the codeine
tablets, a cellphone for him to call if he needed help.
Crossed his fingers and hoped he wouldn't regret this
decision of leaving Alex alone.
Alex was sleeping, or pretending to be sleeping, on the
couch when Skinner got home.
Sighing, Skinner decided to leave things alone for a
while. He needed more time to think about the
situation and what with having seven days left at the
Bureau, he was overwhelmed there with all the last
minute details he had to deal with before leaving.
The weekend was coming, and he knew Alex would probably
not be wandering much off the couch until then.
But when he asked Alex if he preferred to spend another
night on the couch or to try and make it up the stairs,
Alex opted for the bed upstairs.
It took some time, but when he dropped onto the bed
Alex gave a sigh of relief, stretched out slowly making
little noises of almost contentment. Skinner had long
ago realized the couch was not the greatest place for
sleeping. He guessed Alex knew that too now.
When he got into bed that night, he did what he often
did, he spooned Alex into his arms. Alex was startled,
as if he hadn't been expecting it. But he curved into
Skinner, like he usually did, and placed his hand on
Skinner's arm. But it was some time before he relaxed,
almost as though he was braced for something to happen.
It was a small thing, but it nagged Skinner throughout
the day, eventually prodding him into making some
connections he should have some time ago.
Saturday, he got Alex back downstairs, settled on the
couch. He dropped a thick report, a pencil onto his
legs, getting his attention. "Your last chance at a
Spender report. He took particular exception to your
last set of comments. I think you'll find that he
addresses all of them in great detail throughout this
Which meant that Spender had added pages upon pages
pointing out the various reasons he had included the
data he had in the way he had.
For the first time since he'd abused himself, Alex
groaned, really groaned. "I have nightmares where I'm
locked in a room," he said, "and Spender's reports are
blocking the only way out. Except every time I toss
one away, two take its place."
Skinner laughed. Okay, he thought, Alex is back. Now,
where do we go from here?
He got another connecting line that night in bed, after
he'd fallen asleep. He was wakened by his body's
reactions to the mouth on his cock. He raised himself
onto his elbows, watched the concentration on Alex's
face as he worked bringing him to orgasm.
Skinner dropped back down on the bed. God, but he had
a gifted mouth!
But when he had recovered enough to open his eyes, he
realized that Alex was watching him, expression
serious, eyes afraid. He reached up with his hand, but
when he went to touch Alex, he visibly braced himself.
Skinner stroked the wary face with a finger. "Sorry I
can't return the favour. You're still too sore."
Alex looked embarrassed. "It's okay. I wasn't
expecting anything." He turned to move back to his
side of the bed, but Skinner's hand on his shoulder
"You got something against cuddling, Alex? You always
seem surprised when all I want to do, hell! all I have
the energy to do, is cuddle."
Alex gave a sort of half smile. "It's not why I'm
usually in someone's bed."
Skinner pulled him back, got him settled against his
chest, wrapped his arms around Alex and gave a bit of a
squeeze. "I told you when you moved up here that
there would be nights without action. That didn't mean
without touching. I enjoy sex with you, Alex, but I
like this kind of thing, too. Especially with you."
He had almost fallen back asleep when he heard a faint
voice ask, "So you won't be sending me away?"
Skinner's eyes opened wide. Well, that was one answer
to one question. He made his voice sleepy, forced
himself to answer casually. "No. Why would I do
that?" He gently rubbed Alex's back under his hand.
"Because of what you did to yourself?" Got the feel of
a head nodding against his skin. "Like my father used
to say, Alex, you're allowed one really stupid move in
a lifetime. You've had yours. Just don't try for a
Alex was silent for a long time. Skinner thought he'd
finally gone to sleep. "That's what the game is for."
"Yes, that's what the game is for," agreed Skinner.
So why the hell was he so surprised, when he returned
from picking up some beer the next afternoon, to find
Alex, nude, in position by the basement door.
Alex looked up, "You said I could ask. Please, I'm
Skinner said nothing, just considered his options.
Then, he nodded. "All right, Alex. Go down. I'll put
these away and then I'll join you."
He ignored Alex's whispered "Thank you, sir," and
waited until he heard Alex go down the stairs before
cursing. One way or another they were going to get to
the bottom of this.
He hung Alex from the pulley, both arms above his head,
feet spread as far apart as possible. He put the ear
plugs into his ears, gagged him, blindfolded him. He
felt Alex brace himself because he *had* made his
displeasure known by the brusqueness of his movements,
by not stroking eyelids before covering them, by not
plundering a mouth before muting it.
Alex, he knew, was on the verge of entering that damn
world of his, the one pain sent him to. Well, the boy
was just going to have to wait. He turned and went up
the stairs. He had things to do and Alex was just
going to have to bide his time.
He gave it an hour, then, removing his boots at the top
of the stairs, so that Alex would have no warning
whatsoever, he went and took up position behind Alex.
The first Alex knew he was there was when the flat of
his hand came down hard on an ass that still ached.
Before it properly registered, his hand came down
again. Then again. And continued until Skinner felt
the palm of his hand tingling. He checked it out. It
was just a bit paler than Alex's buttocks.
He went back upstairs and put ice on it. He was going
to put it to lots of use before the afternoon was over.
The second time, Alex reacted quicker to the first
spank. Skinner had left him enough lee-way for his
body to sway forward a bit with each contact between
cheek and palm.
The third time, Skinner knew what his father had meant
when he'd quoted that old saw: this will hurt me as
much as you, my son. He switched to using his left
hand. It didn't have the impact of his right, but by
then he didn't think Alex would notice much.
He waited till the tingling in his hand was gone before
he went back down.
This time, he placed his hand on Alex's hip before he
hit him. Alex tried hard to avoid the blow.
"Well, what do you know! Not off in your alternate
universe, Alex? Maybe this *is* going to work after
He moved his left hand to Alex's abdomen, pushed
slightly against it so he had to go in the direction of
the next blow. It landed hard, Skinner winced, but
Alex also made a noise that sounded very much like a
Skinner stepped back. That was the first time in all
the times they had played any of the games that Alex
was protesting. He smiled.
He removed the blindfold to be glared at by a pair of
very alive, very wary, very green eyes. Next he
removed the ear plugs. He had something to say and the
man was going to listen to him.
"So, Alex, do I have your attention?"
Alex just looked at him.
Skinner smiled, brought his hand down hard. "Do I have
your attention *now*?"
Alex opened his eyes, nodded.
"Your full attention?" Another swat, lighter this
time, but he didn't think Alex appreciated the fact.
The nodding was more enthusiastic.
"Good." He placed himself in front of Alex, rested his
hands on Alex's hips. Both men were aware of the
proximity of those hands to sore ass. "Listen to me,
Alex. No, look at me. Now pay attention, I have
something to say about all this."
He took a deep breath. "Danny did nothing wrong.
Nothing that deserved punishment. He did not deserve
what they did to him. No matter how often they told
him that. They lied. Have you got that, Alex?"
He was slow to respond, so Skinner encouraged him with
a slap. Alex winced, nodded.
"But do you believe it?"
He let Alex think about it. He wanted his answer to
be wholly from Alex, with no "encouragement" from him.
Alex raised his head, met his eyes, and nodded.
Finally! thought Skinner. "All right, Alex, do I still
have your attention?" Another slap, another wince.
"Let's talk about Alex and his need for punishment.
"Well, Alex, I'll grant you, you're no saint. Far from
it. And some of the things you've done we will never
talk about. They're in the past, and that's where
they'll stay. But a lot of what you did, you did to
"I know you've killed, but hard fact is some of those
you killed needed killing. I don't condone what you
did, but again, that's in the past. You were given
immunity and frankly, you deserved it.
"Because, let's be honest here, we would have never had
the material to take down the Consortium if it hadn't
been for you. I know you put your life on the line to
do it. If Spender or any of the others had known what
you were up to, well, it wouldn't have been an easy
death, would it, Alex? I'm not saying that excuses
your past, but it does balance the equation a bit
better. 'Nuff said."
Alex's head had dropped as if he wasn't sure how he was
supposed to feel about all this. Skinner rubbed his
hand briskly across the tender skin. Alex looked up
"Good. You're still paying attention. Now then, Alex,
my father helped raise three sons. While we weren't
hellions..." It was obvious Alex didn't believe him;
his eyes were very expressive about that. "Well, we
weren't outright hellions, but we did give him good
reason to lose his hair. He rarely laid a finger on
us, but when we did something stupid, something really
stupid, he had no second thoughts about taking us for a
little walk to the woodshed."
Skinner brought his hands up to either side of Alex's
face. Held it in a gentle grip.
"Alex," he said, his voice intense, "what you did to
yourself was stupid. So very fucking stupid. Did you
ever think for one minute what it would be like for me
to come home and find my lover..." Alex jerked his head
back. "Yes, Alex, my *lover*...mutilating himself?"
He let that sink in.
"Christ, Alex, you have *no* right to do that to
yourself. You do *not* need to be punished. Not that
He stroked the side of Alex's face with his thumbs,
still holding his head so he would have to look at him.
"You want to play games. That's okay. I like playing
games. I like the fact that my lover likes playing
those same games with me. But that's all they are, all
they're ever going to be, Alex. Games. Do you
He released Alex's head. Held his eyes until he got
the nod he'd been hoping for. He gave a sigh of
"The reason for this spanking is the same reason my
father spanked us. To get a message into our thick
skulls. Stupid things are dangerous things. And
you've got to pay a price for doing stupid things.
He reached up and began releasing Alex.
"When this stuff is all off you, you are going to do
what Dad made us do when we got in from the woodshed.
You're going to *sit* on a chair in the kitchen and we
are going to discuss the situation. Got that?"
Alex was smart enough to keep quiet. He just nodded
and headed for the stairs.
"Alex. Put some clothes on first."
Skinner waited till he heard Alex going for his
clothes. He looked around the room, noticing for the
first time how depressing it was. Maybe, now that he'd
have time, it would be a good idea to redo the whole
basement. Maybe move the exercise equipment down here.
It would need more light, but the height in these older
houses was a bonus.
He got a stool from the other part of the basement,
stood on it and removed the pulley from the beam. One
way or another it would have no place in his house
He found Alex dressed in a pair of his old sweats --
the material would be softer against his skin -- and
sitting on chair at one end of the table. He looked
rather sheepish all of a sudden. Skinner thought that
boded well for the rest of it.
He got a couple of beers out of the fridge, uncapped
Alex's before giving it to him.
He sat down at the side to Alex's right, took a sip of
"We are going to discuss," he said in his best DD-
chairing-a-meeting voice, "why this sudden need for
He held up a hand forestalling anything Alex might want
"Don't try and tell me you've always been into it. You
may have had no choice under Glenn and Spender, but
until I laid the crop on you, you hadn't played around
with that in years. Probably not since you were sent
out on your own after university."
Skinner put down his beer bottle, reached over and
placed his hand on Alex's. "When you're being
punished, you go into another world. What's in that
world, Alex? What draws you there?"
Alex was staring at the table top. His hand twitched
under Skinner's. At first, Skinner thought he was
going to try avoid answering, but then realized that
Alex was having trouble finding the words to answer.
Finally, "Nothing. There's nothing there." The answer
wasn't satisfactory. Not to Alex. Not to Skinner.
"Nothing as in...what? No people. No responsibilities
"No pain." He said it softly.
Skinner hesitated before continuing. He kept his voice
even, calm, realizing that this was very delicate
territory. "You need pain to get into a world that has
Alex didn't react.
"Alex. Why not just avoid the pain in the first
"Can't. It's there."
Skinner took a breath, felt he was going out on thin
ice. "This all started with the photo of Danny. About
your not remembering him. About being afraid that
you'd killed your father. You needed the physical pain
to deal with the pain of the remembering. Is that it,
"Yeah. I guess."
"Alex, why didn't you just cry, throw things,
scream..." Oh, God! This had to do with Danny and
screaming. Danny who had started screaming and
couldn't stop. "The pain, does it take the need to
Alex dipped his head a bit more.
"The day with..." Skinner couldn't bring himself to use
the word mother, "Mrs. Christie. You wanted to scream
that day, too."
Alex stayed very still. Skinner gripped his hand
tighter, used his other one to stroke up and down his
arm. Trying to increase contact: the next few minutes
were going to be hard.
"What hurt the most, Alex? The fact that she didn't
want you or the fact that she didn't care?"
Alex looked up, face totally unmasked, eyes devastated.
He tried to speak, but his throat was so tight that he
could barely be heard.
"She has other kids. She loves them. Couldn't she
have...just a little..."
God, thought Skinner, cry, Alex. For God's sake, cry.
Instead Alex just looked at him, like a child
"Alex, the love of a child is a treasure. She had a
treasure and she was too self-centred to see it. To
want it. She did her best to break it. But, Alex,
your father loved you. Surely you remember that?"
Alex shook his head. "No. I don't. I don't remember
much about Danny's life before he found his father in
"Alex," Skinner's voice got intense. "Your father
loved you. Everyone still in the neighbourhood talked
about how much he loved you."
"No. He loved Danny. I doubt he'd find much to love
in Alex." His acceptance of that was painful to hear.
Skinner forced himself to stay calm. God! What could
"Alex? Why did you come to me in the first place? For
Alex looked up, relieved at the change of subject. "At
the Warehouse, a sub who'd gone with you told me that
you weren't a safe choice, but that he felt safe with
you. That you seemed to know limits and never pushed
Skinner looked a bit incredulous.
Alex continued, "He said that your idea and his of
limits were different, and that he'd never go with you
again, but that he didn't regret the experience.
Sounded like a good recommendation at the time."
Skinner sat back, thought about that. He reached over
and rubbed his finger along the chain at Alex's neck.
In his best Marine voice, he asked, "Who do you belong
Alex relaxed, answered as he always did. "You, Walter.
I belong to you."
"Why do you belong to me?"
Alex tensed up. Said nothing.
"Ever wonder why I even let you in the door? Those
early days, you showed me a side to myself I didn't
particularly like. That I'm still uncomfortable with,
"So why didn't I just boot you out, Alex? Would have
made sense. Hell, why should it have mattered that
you'd just find yourself someone else to beat the shit
out of you? That's what you wanted, wasn't it? Would
probably have served you right?
"But for some reason, I let you stay. I kept you here."
He looked up. "Now, I would hate it if you decided to
go. Why would I feel like that, Alex?"
He sat back in his chair. Alex just looked at him as
if he were hungry for something yet expecting it to be
taken away from him.
Skinner continued. "Is it so hard for you to think
that someone could want you, Alex?"
He got up, went round to Alex, took his face between
his hands, gently pulled him up. Stroked his mouth
"Is it so hard for you to accept that someone could
love you? That I could love you?"
He brought Alex close, wrapped his arms around him.
Alex dropped his head onto Skinner's shoulder. Wrapped
his arm tightly around Skinner.
"Not just for your body, beautiful in spite of the
scars, Alex. Your spirit. Your mind. Your sense of
"Ever think of the pleasure you give me when you light
up for something silly like chocolate?"
"Chocolate's not silly," Alex whispered, voice thick
with suppressed emotion. Skinner chuckled. Inside, he
gave a sigh of relief.
"When you're muttering to yourself over Spender's
reports, slashing them."
"No more of those." Alex rubbed his cheek against
"When I come home at night and find you here, waiting
for me." Skinner kissed the head by his mouth. Then
he pulled back just enough to see Alex's face. "And
why are you still here, Alex? No one was stopping you
from leaving. It's not like it was four months ago,
but you're still here. Why is that?"
Alex shrugged, opened his mouth to say something, then
closed it. Skinner saw the frustration, the fear rise
in him. Pulled him close again.
"It's okay, Alex. Just so long as we both know why."
He rubbed Alex's back, went a bit too low, felt Alex
wince. "Want me to put some lotion on your ass? It
might numb the pain."
Alex shook his head, actually laughed. "No, that's
okay. It just tingles."
Skinner caressed his face. "Alex. I don't like that
game. I won't play it ever again."
Alex accepted his decision. Tried to explain.
"Alex, any time you need to scream, just do it. You
can scream, cry, yell your head off. It won't scare me
"And if I can't stop?"
"Alex, Danny couldn't stop because he was alone.
You're not alone. I'm here, with you, and I don't
intend going anywhere. And *if* it happens that you
can't stop, well, just remember, Scully is only a phone
call away and she's had lots of experience with
tranquilizers and needles. Okay?"
Alex gave a wet sort of chuckle, went back to his head
on Skinner's shoulder. "Until you tire of me," he
Skinner was ready to shake him. "Alex! Shit! Why
would I tire of you? Chances are more you'll tire of
me long before I tire of you!"
Alex held his head back, raised a disbelieving brow.
"Christ, Alex, I am *fifteen* years older than you. At
one point I won't have the energy to keep up with you.
Don't you think I'm afraid you'll look to younger men?"
It was obvious that Alex didn't believe that. "Never."
Skinner smiled. "Never say never, Alex."
Alex passed his hand over Skinner's jaw, caressed the
side of his face. He seemed to be thinking about it, a
hint of a smile, a real Alex smile, on his face. A
smile that spread to his eyes. "Okay, Walter. Maybe
when I'm 100 and you're 115. Maybe then."
Skinner laughed. "I love you too, Alex."
Chapter 18: Epilogue
Dana Scully was rushing to finish some errands on her
lunchtime when she heard the motorcycle. Considering
the neighbourhood she was in, it wasn't too surprising
that she recognized both the Harley and the men riding
Waiting to cross at a red light, she watched the
passenger hop off the back, pull off the leather jacket
he wore and drop it into the storage bin.
Alex wasn't wearing his prosthesis much any more,
claiming it got more in the way than it helped. He
usually wore it only when he had to represent Capitol
Security Consultants. And then only if he had to wear
He was laughing as he pulled off the helmet.
Skinner looked rather impressive in his leather jacket.
He too took it off. The fall weather was still warm,
but Scully knew from experience it was cold riding on
Officially, it was Alex's Harley. Skinner had thrown
an incredible conniption fit at the thought of Alex
driving it. "You've only got one fucking arm, boy!
How the hell do you intend controlling that monster
with only one arm?"
Alex had waited until Skinner had calmed down enough to
point out that, while it was true he had only one arm,
he did live with someone who had two. So while it was
Alex's bike, it was Skinner who drove it. Grumbled
about driving it. Loved driving it.
Their other vehicle was a big Chrysler that was
Skinner's. Scully had teased him once about why hadn't
he exchanged the big vehicle for a sports car. He had
the excuse of his age, mid-life crisis and all.
"*I'm* Walter's mid-life crisis," Alex had growled.
"And I don't tolerate competition."
Scully tried to get their attention, but the traffic
was too loud. She watched Alex nudge Skinner with his
hip, saw Skinner laugh openly at something Alex said to
He looked well, she thought. No more ulcer problem.
As the men turned to go into the restaurant, both
casually dressed in jeans and dark shirts, the sun
caught on the heavy silver chain Skinner wore around
his neck. Alex had one like it too. Only the animals
etched on the medallions were different: Alex's a rat,
Skinner's a bulldog.
Oh, well, they hadn't seen her. And her light was
green. She was going to be late as was getting back to
Quantico. This Head of Department business was putting
a severe crimp into her free time.
She found her car, dropped her parcels in the trunk.
Darn, she'd forgotten the wine. Barbecue at Skinner's
this weekend. And it was Alex's turn to do the food.
Which meant red meat. Skinner provided other choices
like fish or chicken when he was in charge, but Alex
was a firm believer in red meat.
On the other hand, it meant that there would be
something chocolate for dessert. Decadently chocolate.
She must remember, she noted to herself, to pick up a
couple of bottles of good red wine.
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