Author: Noirceur
Betas: Livvy, Xanthe
Date: Written: June 1999
Posted: April, 2000
Pairing: Skinner/Krycek
Rating: NC-17
WARNING: BDSM and some of the ugliness of life

Archive: No. Sorry. Please, no archiving. Thanks.
Comments: jmann@mondenet.com
or if you're getting bounced, try jmann@spam.mondenet.com

DISCLAIMER: The main characters are the property of
CC, Fox and 1013. Other members of that world appear
in cameo roles.

SPECIAL THANKS: To Olivia for reading it and then
offering to beta it. Grand merci, chere amie.

Extra note of thanks: To Sister Loretta May who caught
me reading John O'Hara (So controversial in those days,
so forgotten now!) at the back of the class and forced
me to read the Lives of the Saints and Martyrs -- one
of the great collections of BDSM.

Chapter 1

It was late for the doorbell to be ringing. Skinner
dropped the file he was studying onto the table and
considered for a moment not answering the summons.

But things weren't normal any more in his life. He
couldn't take the chance that the late-night caller was
here on business.

Since the Consortium had destroyed itself in internal
warfare, his life had taken on a surreal aspect. Now a
Deputy Director -- the Upper Floor hadn't had much
choice in the appointment, too many ADs and at least
two DDs had appeared in their informant's material --
he found he had a foot in too many camps.

Because of his new posting, the Upper Floor expected
him to support them in any decision they made. On the
other hand, he had spent too many years supervising the
X-Files to passively approve a government cover-up, no
matter how sensitive the issue of inter-planetary

Then there were the facts. There was the fact that
people who had actively tried to overthrow the
government were now seeking its protection. There was
also the fact that those who had killed innocent
people, been involved in hurting them were getting away

He opened the door to find one of the latter kind on
his doorstep.

"What the fuck are you doing here?"

Krycek slouched against the door jamb, not trying to
come in. "They released me today. I guess after four
months they've run out of questions to ask me."

The disdain and sarcasm of his tone didn't go down well
with Skinner. "Stop bitching. You're getting immunity
and witness protection in return for all the
information you syphoned down to us."

Krycek shrugged. "I turned down witness protection."

Skinner paused in the act of closing his door on the
informant. "Why? A sudden quirk of conscience?"

Krycek gave one of those half-smiles of his. "Ask me
in and I'll explain it to you."

The last thing Skinner wanted at that particular moment
was to allow Alex Krycek into his house. However, one
of the security team that sat outside his house these
days started showing some signs of interest. He could
feel Krycek's eyes on him as he signalled them away,
opened the door wider and, with a gesture of his head,
invited him in.

Krycek stood in the foyer, looking casually around,
not coming in any further than necessary for Skinner to
get the door shut. Waited for Skinner to come around
him, go into the living room and turn on one of the

"What do you want, Krycek?" Skinner was obviously not
in a good mood.

"Bad day?" Krycek wondered how far he could push
Skinner tonight.

"Yes. You could say that. You'll appreciate this,
Krycek. The irony of the whole situation."

Krycek realized then that Skinner was banking a great
deal of anger.

"CGB Spender has been offered full and total immunity.
In return for which he will forget where certain bodies
are buried. Bodies which could prove to be an
embarrassment for certain members of the governing
establishment. Oh, he *will* be available for some
time to answer questions, but, unlike you it seems, he
*is* willing to participate in the witness protection
program. With a new face."

Krycek didn't seem too surprised. "Yeah. That sounds
like Spender."

Skinner didn't appreciate Krycek's nonchalant attitude.
"Why are you here? What do you want, Krycek?"

Krycek looked down, seemingly interested with the

"Krycek!" Skinner snapped. "Get to it! I've got at
least another couple of hours of work to get through

Krycek looked up, face bare of emotion. "I want you to
punish me."

Skinner closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Give me
that again."

"You're angry. You need to hit something. Someone.
I'm offering myself." And waited while Skinner

"What makes you think I'd be interested?"

"There's a place in New York. Just off the financial
district. The Warehouse. Caters to people interested
in punishment. In taking it. In giving it. You have
quite a reputation there."

Skinner was too tired to even attempt to bluff this one
out. "And?"

"And I want to see if you're as good as they say you


"Let's just say I want it." Krycek slouched against
the entry to the living room. "Come on, Skinner.
You're on the way to an ulcer. You need to get rid of
that work-related stress. Add a taste of revenge, say
for the beating I gave you."

"The nanocytes?" Skinner bit out. "For 'killing' me?
For being involved with Scully's abduction? For your
part in Melissa Scully's death?"

"For all that, if you want. For any of that." Krycek
waited then added when Skinner didn't continue. "I'm
giving you first refusal. If you don't want, I'll find
someone else. I just thought that since you're already

"Shut up a minute. Let me think." Skinner examined
the man standing in front of him. He didn't
consciously consider Krycek's offer, just let his mind
blank out. Waited for what was lately an over-
sensitized gut to tell him if he should take the man up
on his offer.

Why not, he thought finally. It's been too long since
I paid New York a visit. My gut or his back. Not
really a hard decision.

"It's Wednesday. Be here Friday at 10 p.m. Use the
back door and make sure they," he nodded to the front
of the house, "don't see you. Bring whatever you'll
need with you."

"I'm moving in?" Krycek raised a brow at the idea.

Start as you intend to proceed, thought Skinner. "If
you want me, boy, that's the way it is." In his best
Marine voice.

Krycek raised his chin slightly. Thought. Then
nodded. "Okay." Then, surprisingly, "Thank you."

His hand was on the door knob when Skinner called out,
"10 p.m. Any later, and I don't let you in."

"I understand."

"Krycek. Safeword. What's the safeword you use?"

The younger man looked over his shoulder as he opened
the door. "No."

"No? That's your safeword?"

"No. No safeword. I'll accept whatever you dish out."

Chapter 2

Krycek was punctual.

Skinner hadn't really expected him to show. Or had he?
He'd certainly prepared for the eventuality.

He took the small gym bag from Krycek without comment,
checking the contents for a weapon. None. Only a pair
of jeans, a couple of shirts, a sweater, underwear and
socks. Travelling kit. Skinner placed the kit on the
kitchen table.

The only light on in the kitchen was the soft one over
the stove. Skinner looked his "guest" over.

"No clothes unless I give you permission to wear them.
Everything off."

Krycek stripped, handing Skinner each item of clothing
as he removed it. Skinner carefully folded and then
placed them in the gym bag along with the knife sheath
and the small weapon that was holstered in the back of
his belt. Boots by the bag.

"Arm off, too. You won't be needing it."

Skinner took the bag, boots, arm and locked them in a
small cupboard in the mud room.

He opened the door to the downstairs and indicated with
his head that Krycek was to precede him.

Skinner had been busy in the time he had. He's
installed a pulley system to the main support beam,
bolted a couple of rings to the floor. In a nearby
corner, there was a thin bare mattress on the floor,
with a plain, utility blanket folded at the foot. To
one side, near the mattress were two battered dog
bowls, one already containing water.

He waited for Krycek to comment. Got nothing.

"Bathroom." He pointed to a small utility room:
toilet, small sink, plain shower stall.

Krycek stood waiting. He had yet to say a word.

Skinner assumed his Marine voice, spoke softly.

"Whenever you hear me in the kitchen, you will assume
the proper waiting position. On your knees." He
waited until Krycek had complied. "Sitting on your
heels. Feet flat on the floor. Knees spread wide
apart. Wider than that. Arm by your side. Hand open.
Head down. Eyes will be down at all times. You do not
have permission to look me in the face unless I give it
to you. Understand?"

Krycek's head dipped a bit further down.

"And you may not speak to me unless I give you
permission. Is *that* understood?"

Again the bowed head dipped.

Skinner turned on an overhead light and examined the
man. The position he was in would become quickly
uncomfortable. Too bad. If he stayed, which Skinner
doubted, he'd get used to it. The light shone down on
the brown-black hair. The bent head revealed the man's
unprotected neck which somehow gave him a look of
innocence. What an illusion that was!

The body was good. Muscle definition was lighter than
his own: the body of a man who actually used his body
rather than just exercised it.

The stump with its puckered scar tissue would be off
limits. He had no intention of using it against the
man. He had a momentary feeling of generosity at the
concession he was making for the other man.

"Stand up."

Krycek rose a little less gracefully than he had knelt.
Stood, head still bowed. Legs apart without having to
be told: he'd obviously played this game before.

"I want you to shave all your body hair off. Now.
You'll find a safety razor in the sink, lather too."

Krycek slowly moved into the bathroom. He filled the
sink with hot water. With some awkwardness, he
lathered the parts of his body he could reach and
shaved himself.

The left side was easiest to do. The legs were easy
enough as well. Shaving his groin took more time: he
had to be careful with the blade. Safety razors could
provide nasty cuts. His balls, ass were slow work. He
had no second hand to pull things out of the way.

Finally he had done all but his right arm and armpit.
At that point, Skinner, who had spent all this time
watching stone-faced from the doorway, took the razor
and lather and finished the job.

He tossed the items into the sink. Waited while Krycek
cleaned the razor, recapped the lather, rinsed the hair
from out of the sink.

"Shower. You'll find an enema bag in there. Use it
every time you take a shower."

The shower stall had a transparent door. He watched as
with the one hand Krycek washed himself in and out.
When the man was done, he tossed him a large thick
towel. With the same expressionless face, watched him
dry himself.

Skinner stepped away from the door and Krycek went out
to take his waiting position without being told.

Skinner walked over to a cupboard in the far end of the
windowless room that had been used as a den by the last
owner. He took some keys out of his jeans pocket,
unlocked it and opened the door to his "toy"
collection. He had something in his hand when he came
to stand in front of Krycek. Who stayed still, head
down. Skinner smiled to himself. Not only a player,
but a trained one.

He put a finger under Krycek's chin, brought the face

"You may look at me. See this dog collar. It's
yours." He put it around the man's throat, felt him
swallow. Skinner waited till he had accepted the feel
of it before buckling it on, tight but still loose
enough to fit one finger under it.

"You never take it off except in the shower. You
remove it only in the bathroom, and you put it back on
before you leave the bathroom. If I ever see you
without it on, you're out. Is that understood? Boy."

Krycek nodded.

"No. I asked you a direct question, boy. You answer
direct questions. Let's try this again. Do you
understand, boy?"

"Yes." Krycek's voice had no inflection in it at all.

"Yes what, boy?"

"Yes. Sir."

Skinner pushed Krycek's chin down and he assumed the
correct position.

"Tonight, we will start the punishment you so rightly
deserve. The punishment that *you* have asked me to
administer. Are you certain that you don't want a
safeword, boy?"

"No, sir. No safeword."

"If you ever ask me to stop, I will. But that will be
the end of it. Do you understand, boy?"

"Yes, sir."

Skinner passed a hand along the man's jaw, up to his
ear, around to the back of his head. He grabbed a
handful of hair and pulled backwards. Krycek kept his
eyes down.

Skinner's voice was softly threatening. "Who do you
belong to? Boy?"

"To you, sir."

"Good." Skinner gave the hair a sharp tug. "Let's see
what you're made of, boy."

Krycek stood arms tied above his head. Skinner had
buckled a lined wrist restraint around his right wrist
and tied one end of the line to it, now pulled taut.
Around his left upper arm, he had a strap contraction
that was also linked to the line thereby holding it up
alongside of his head. It would effectively stop him
from spinning to one side.

His ankles were also braceleted with lined leather,
attached to the rings bolted into the floor. His legs
were stretched as far apart as possible and still be
supporting him.

He wore a bit gag in his mouth, a black cloth band with
eye pads tied tightly over his eyes, wax plugs in his
ears. Mute, blind, deaf.

Now Skinner was taking his time adding some of his
particular favourite toys. He didn't think that Krycek
would be here in the morning so he intended making this
a session the ratbastard would never forget.

The nipple clamps were screw-ons rather than spring
controlled. Krycek's head had snapped back when the
first had gone on. Skinner had given him no time to
adjust to it when the second had bitten into the
sensitive nub. His nipples would be severely bruised
by the end of the play.

The cock ring that buckled on was a thin leather strap
that would cut into tender flesh when it was erect. At
the front of the circumcised cock, from the ridge that
edged the glans, Skinner hung two more nipple clamps.
Krycek's hips jerked back at their addition.

Skinner stood back, admiring his work. Isolated,
Krycek would not be able to brace or prepare himself
for whatever "treat" he had in store for him. The
clamps would become progressively more painful, the
cock ring would impede any orgasm from happening until
or even if he decided it should occur.

He left the man hanging there to change his clothes for
a pair of sweat pants, and to fetch himself a bottle of
juice from upstairs. When he returned he was pleased
to see that in the time he had been gone, the bruising
was beginning to be apparent.

Skinner looked over his collection of whips and crops
in the cupboard. He rejected some as being too brutal:
he wanted Krycek to last a long time. To get the full
advantage of his punishment. Some he rejected as being
too mild: the suede flogger was for discipline, not
punishment. He settled on a riding crop. The effect
of the blow would depend on the strength with which it
was delivered.

He took a walk around the suspended man. Decided that
he would swing a little too much from a decent blow and
tightened the line to the pulley. Watched Krycek rise
onto the front of his feet, the muscles of the right
arm pulled even tauter. The left's harness was
basically there to hold the stump out of the way.

He knew from past games that first blows were usually
directed to the back. Skinner swung his across the
already painful nipples. Was very pleased by the
muffled sound Krycek couldn't prevent.

It went on from there. Some were closely placed on
Krycek's body, in time. Others landed helter-skelter.
Some were delivered with less force than others: there
were no soft or gentle blows. Each time the crop
landed, it left a mark. After a time, it drew blood.

And no part of Krycek's body was spared. The welts
appeared over his torso, his back, his buttocks, the
back of his thighs, the front, his legs. Skinner only
avoided the upraised arms, the head, the nape of the

He had even paid a small bit of attention to Krycek's
groin, careful only not to do any permanent damage to
the now upright penis.

He finally stopped for the last of the juice: this was
thirsty work.

Through it all, Krycek had made sounds, but they were
sounds drawn out of him rather than offered by him. He
may have screamed, but not so that Skinner had noticed.
Not that he had been disposed to notice.

He walked around the man, rather pleased with his work.
He usually did this sort of stuff with one of those
floggers that did no particular damage, merely pinkened
the skin, a routine that released endorphins so the
prickling of the whip turned into pleasure. He didn't
think that endorphins were going to help Krycek much.

He slipped his hand into the sweats, roughly passed
over his own erect cock. He had liked this kind of
work in the Warehouse. It always aroused him. More so

He put the empty bottle down on the floor, went to
stand in front of the man. He waited until Krycek
realized that he was there. Smiled as the man braced
himself. Smart move, he thought.

Roughly, his hands explored the body open to him. This
time, Krycek moaned loudly, jerked back then sagged
against the line keeping him upright.

Skinner moved around him, still roughly caressing the
welts that marked the bruised skin. When he realized
that Krycek was on the verge of losing consciousness,
he pulled back to give him time to recover.

While he watched the ribs painfully push air in and out
in shallow breaths, Skinner was pleased to find that
his gut which had hurt all week -- especially when the
news of Spender's immunity had been passed on to him --
was no longer paining him. This was much better than
the bottles of antacid he'd been drinking down all

He slowly stroked himself into full erection. They'd
fucked him around all week too. He took a condom from
out of the cupboard, rolled it on himself. Reached for
the lube. Stopped. He took the small bottle, tossed
it into the air. He didn't let himself think about his
next move. Put just a dab of the stuff on the pads of
two fingers and returned to stand behind Krycek.

He placed his left hand against Krycek's lower abdomen,
to keep him from moving. With the two fingers, he
lubed Krycek's asshole, roughly entering the tight

Krycek was alert enough to tense, but Skinner pressed
hard, ignored the muted sounds. What little lube was
left, he smeared on the tip of his cock.

He stood behind Krycek, used one hand to grip his hips,
the other to position himself for entry. He began
slowly, entering just enough so that he could release
his cock and use the freed hand to hold Krycek steady.
Then, in one brutal move, he buried himself in Krycek
to the root.

He thought Krycek's scream would be heard by the
security team. He waited, still buried in the man,
till he was certain that no one was coming to
investigate. He pulled out, feeling the drag of barely
lubricated tissue gripping him. Pushed back in again.
And enjoyed the next muted groan even more.

He took his time, drew it out, reaching orgasm.

He tossed the used condom into the wastebasket by the
cupboard, put himself back into the sweats.

He casually removed the "toys", put them away in their
places. Removed the ear plugs, threw them away.
Removed the blind, folded it back onto the shelf.
Removed the gag now sodden with saliva, put it away.

He released the ankle manacles from the rings, removed
the manacles. Released the line which was the only
thing holding Krycek up, removed it from the manacle,
the manacle and harness from the man. Put them back in
their places. Locked the cupboard doors. Put the key
back in his pocket.

He crouched by Krycek, watching him slowly revive. He
stood, grabbed him by the underarms and dragged him
over to the mattress where he dropped him. After a
moment's consideration, he filled the juice bottle with
water and tipped it into the man's mouth. Krycek
coughed then swallowed.

Skinner grabbed his chin in his hand, dragged the face
up. Waited for Krycek's eyes to focus on him.

"Is this what you wanted, boy?"

Krycek had to try twice before the words came out.

"Yes. Sir." Almost whispered.

"And is this what you want *more of*, boy?"

Skinner released Krycek's face, waited for him to tell
him what he wanted was out.

Krycek's body was trembling, hurting. He raised his
head, met Skinner's eyes. "Yes. Sir." And let his
head drop to the mattress.

Chapter 3

Skinner turned off the television. Saturday football
wasn't as much fun to watch these days, not when he had
a more intense game going on downstairs.

He strolled into the kitchen and rummaged in the
freezer compartment for some ice. He dropped some into
a glass, added some scotch.

In the two weeks since Krycek had arrived, his ulcer
had calmed down enough for him to get away with the
occasional drink. Who'd have known?

He put together a sandwich, finished it before picking
up the glass, heading downstairs.

The one recessed light on provided just enough
illumination for him to make out the pose he had left
Krycek in before the game had started. He sipped some
of the scotch, sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

The morning after the first session, Skinner came
downstairs to find Krycek in the proper waiting
position. It was obvious that he was in pain, but he
stayed in position while Skinner walked around him,
occasionally dragging a finger along a welt.

Skinner was pleased to see that his body retained the
marks well and that the places he'd drawn blood were
already scabbing over. Krycek's nipples were an
interesting combination of blue and black: they would
be very tender for some time.

Without a word, he went back upstairs, returning in a
few minutes with an opened can. He dumped the
congealed mass that was supposed to be stew into the
second of the dog bowls, went and topped the water

He stood in front of the bowed head. "I'm busy today.
When I'm not interested in you, you stay on the
mattress. You may get off it only to piss or to
shower. Remember when you shower to clean yourself
inside as well. If I come down here, and find you're
not in position or on the mattress, I can promise you
won't..." He left the rest of his statement hanging.

"Get to the mattress. No, not on your feet. I didn't
give you permission to stand. That's better, knees and
hand, boy. Eat if you're hungry. I'll feed you twice
a day. If I feel like it."

He turned and left Krycek "waiting" on the mattress.
At the top of the stairs, he turned off the light, shut
the door.

He gave Krycek till the next afternoon to recover. Not
out of kindness, but because Bureau work came first.
Even on a weekend.

When he came down that afternoon, Krycek's hair was
still wet from his shower. The light shone on the
little trails of water that ran down his back, some
detouring around the scabbing tissue.

He began by blindfolding him: between the lights being
kept off -- he had replaced the light in the bathroom
with a 25 watt bulb -- and his being blindfolded when
they were on, Krycek was spending a lot of time in the
dark. There were no windows in this part of the

Then, the gag. But before he placed it in his mouth,
Skinner forced his chin up. He asked what was becoming
part of their ritual every time he gagged Krycek: "Who
do you belong to, boy?"

Krycek's voice seemed numb. "You, sir."

"Good. Shall we see if you care to continue this
agreement?" He tightened the gag.

Next the ear plugs. He really like the fact that
Krycek wouldn't be able even to anticipate any of his
moves from sound.

This time, he strapped a narrow belt around his waist,
snapped the wrist restraint to it, to a ring at the
back. Then he attached a very short line from that ring
to one of the floor rings causing Krycek to lay on his
back. He left the other arm alone.

He attached the pulley line to one ankle bracelet; the
other bracelet to the second floor ring. When he
pulled on the line, Krycek's hips were lifted off the
floor, his weight rested on his shoulders, legs spread
painfully far apart, This would allow him full range
from ankle to ankle.

He crouched between Krycek's legs, passed his hands up
inner thighs from the knees and back down again. Just
so the boy would have an idea that after this session,
there would be no part of his body he hadn't attended

The toys he added were chosen more to remind Krycek of
potential pain. The nipple clamps were actually quite
gentle, the cock ring just a bit tighter than normal
games. The last item he added was a bath towel he had
folded into a thick pad which he dropped over Krycek's
genitals. He had no intention of castrating the boy.

This time he had chosen a switch to make his point. It
would sting rather than cut, allowing the game to
continue for as long as he, Skinner, wanted it to.

Krycek had braced himself for the first blow when
Skinner had tucked one end of the pad under the waist
belt. But this time, Skinner began almost gently. He
held back the power of his swings, but he covered the
skin from knee to groin on both thighs.

Then he stopped. Removed the pad. Left Krycek
hanging. He rewarded himself for getting through the
next couple of tedious reports by returning downstairs.
The vibrations of his footsteps on the floor warned
Krycek, but no sooner had the pad been dropped into
place, when the switch fell, much harder this time.

By the fourth visit, Skinner removed his boots before
coming down, could drop the pad and swing the switch
pretty much at the same time. Krycek's body writhed in
its bonds, trying to pull away from the fire that was
raging in his thighs whenever Skinner returned.

Skinner waited till just before he was heading for bed
for his last visit. This time the gag barely muted the
sounds Krycek made. Skinner smiled to himself, feeling
that he would be well prepared to put up with the acute
stupidity of dealing with Justice at tomorrow's

At the end of the session, he released Krycek, made him
crawl back to his mattress before grabbing him by the
hips. This time, he covered his condom with lube, even
used some to prepare the ass hole he pushed himself
into. When he finished only then did he remove the gag,
blindfold, the ear plugs.

It was mid-week before he had time to be more than just
momentarily concerned with Krycek. Wednesday had
proved to be long and tedious. Longer and more tedious
than usual. It was almost midnight when he came down
the stairs. He could feel the anger radiating off
himself and was more than passing pleased when he saw
Krycek visibly brace himself to meet it.

Without a word, Skinner opened his fly, pulled out his
cock. He grabbed Krycek by the hair, pulled his head
back. Krycek didn't open up fast enough. Skinner
grabbed him by the jaw and pressured his mouth open.
He rammed his stiffening cock down to the back of
Krycek's throat, almost choking him. All he wanted was
a hot wet hole to suck him erect. When it was, he
pushed Krycek to his shoulders, quickly rolled a condom
on and rammed himself into Krycek.

Krycek screamed. Muffled the sound against his arm.
When Skinner was done, he tossed the condom in the
wastebasket, zipped his fly as he went upstairs, left
Krycek where he lay.

The weekend saw another session that lasted pretty much
all of Saturday. Skinner left Krycek hanging most of
the day, using the crop on him whenever he visited.
Krycek was barely conscious when he dropped him to the

That week was taken up with the Bureau's side of the
Spender deal. Spender seemed to enjoy the fact that
Skinner had been delegated to inform him of the steps
the Bureau was taking to ensure his safety. Skinner's
only revenge was in refusing the man permission to
light up in front of him. When Spender ignored him, as
he had always done, Skinner grabbed the cigarette out
of his mouth and snapped it in half.

His ulcer flared up, he drank more antacid, went home
and took his frustrations out on Krycek.

Skinner sipped the last of his scotch and stood up to
see if Krycek was still conscious. He'd lost
consciousness twice so far this week. Skinner was
beginning to feel a bit uneasy.

Krycek's hand was behind him, snapped onto the waist
belt. A short chain from that clasp attached to the
still shorter chain that joined the two ankle bracelets
through the floor ring. His back was arched from the
pressure, his knees wide apart. Small tremors shook
his body almost continually. He bore the usual
accroutement of clamps, rings. This time, Skinner had
added a thick dildo to the collection. His body was a
map of welts, colourful bruises.

Skinner crouched between the boy's legs. He doubted
that Krycek knew he was here. He doubted that Krycek
was aware of anything beyond the pain in his body. He
reached out and stroked the arc made by knee to knee.
Krycek's body arched even more at the feel of his hands
on skin that reacted even to a breath.

Why the hell was the boy still here? wondered Skinner.
Why hadn't he left a long time ago? The doors weren't
locked: he could easily get out. Why was he accepting
all this? The Krycek he knew wouldn't have. He would
have fought back, counter-attacked. He would have been
long gone.

He released Krycek, noting that the blind was wet with
tears of pain, that the gag was showing definite signs
of teeth wear. He dragged the boy to the mattress, got
him some water which he could barely swallow, covered
him with the blanket and left him alone.

Monday, he got a break from the Spender Affair: VCU
had gotten a request to investigate a series of murders
and, since one of the suspects was the son of a
Senator, he had been asked to verify their conclusions.

"As you can see from the evidence we've gathered, we
can place Thomas McCloud in the vicinity of the crime
sites at all the correct times.

"And though the Senator seems to think that we're
overreacting to those 'coincidences', let me add that
he also doesn't believe that his little boy could do
anything like we've seen in the pictures. In spite of
the fact that the pictures were found in his bedroom."

Skinner did his stone-face routine, casually picked up
the dossier with the pictures. Froze.

"The Senator finds it hard to accept that his son gets
off on torturing people before he cuts their throats."

Under his desk, Skinner pressed a small button. Ten
seconds later, his office phone rang. "Thank you, Kim.
I'm sorry, Agent Astley, I'm going to have to ask you
to wait outside while I deal with this."

He waited for the door to close. He found himself
taking a deep breath. Picked up the photos again.

Agent Astley had used the term torture. Looking at
these pictures, he, too, would have used the term

The bodies were covered in welts, bruising.

Like the body on the mattress in his basement.

Skinner turned on all the basement lights.

The man curled in a fetal position on the bare mattress
never noticed.

Skinner made some noise as he approached, not to
startle Krycek. He didn't react.

Carefully, Skinner lifted the blanket off the
sleeping/unconscious man. The body before him could
easily have fit McCloud's m.o.

Skinner passed the back of his hand over his nose. He
reached out and gently lay his hand on the side of
Krycek's face. It didn't need a medical degree to
realize the man was ill.

Skinner stroked the bearded cheek. After two weeks of
not shaving, Krycek was well on his way to a full

He needs care, thought Skinner. But not down here.

He wrapped the blanket around the man. With some
difficulty -- Krycek was dead weight -- he managed to
get him to his feet, and then over his shoulder in a
fireman's hold.

At the top of the stairs, he grabbed a clean sheet from
the pile of laundry on the kitchen table and somehow
got it spread out on the living room couch. He
carefully dropped Krycek onto it.

The light here was better. Better to see *his*
handiwork. His stomach churned uncomfortably.

Well, first things first. He needed to check out the
medicine cabinets. Realized very quickly that a finger
band-aid wasn't going to do the job. He pulled a
blanket from the linen closet, covered Krycek with it.

Leaving the lights on in case the man woke up, he went
out to visit the all-night pharmacy in the local
shopping centre.

The couch was empty when he returned. Skinner dropped
the bag he was carrying and quickly checked the other
rooms. He didn't think Krycek could have gone far in
his condition.

The basement door was open. He found Krycek slumped in
his waiting position at the bottom of the stairs.

"Jesus Christ, boy! Why the hell didn't you stay where
I put you?" Not that he expected a reply.

But he got one. Offered in a raw voice, barely
audible. "Not allowed on furniture...beat me." Krycek
gasped as Skinner helped him to his feet, got him back
up the stairs.

"If I put you on the couch, you stay on the couch. Do
you hear me, boy?"

But when Skinner tried to get Krycek to lay down, he
pulled away in fear. "Please," he begged, "not there.
Please! He'll beat me!"

Skinner's gut wrenched. Shit! He'd never beaten the
boy for sitting on the couch. He wanted to settle
Krycek before he medicated him, but it was obvious that
would never happen with Krycek this panicky about that
idea. He half-carried, half-walked Krycek into the
kitchen. The light would be better there anyway.

The only way Krycek was partially comfortable was lying
on his left side. Because of the stump, Skinner had
paid a bit less attention to it for fear of damaging
the arm. Before he touched Krycek, he got him to take
a couple of codeine capsules, knowing that they would
knock him out. Once he was certain that the pain would
be less felt, he applied medicated ointment to the
welts and covered the worse ones with gauze.

Looking, really looking at Krycek, Skinner had to admit
that he had lost weight. Then he realized that he had
thrown out most of the food he had placed in that dog
bowl, that Krycek had barely eaten in the past days.

He found a bottle of apple juice in the fridge, got
some of it into a surprisingly still conscious Krycek.
Took advantage of that fact by getting him to swallow
one of the multi-vitamins he had added to his purchases
at the last moment.

He left Krycek on the kitchen floor, lightly covered
with the sheet. The sound of the doorbell shocked him.
Shit! It was after midnight. Who the fuck...

He answered to find that it was one of the security
team that staked out his house whenever he was home.
Was everything all right? They'd arrived late -- some
mix up on rota -- and were just checking in.

Krycek had nearly made it to the basement door. God,
thought Skinner, the ratbastard has a one-track mind!

Krycek didn't seem to understand that he was not being
returned to the basement, but at the same time, got
frantic at the idea of the couch.

Finally, Skinner gave up. Ordered Krycek in his brisk
Marine tones to stay exactly where he was. Which was
on the kitchen floor. Ran upstairs to find the thick
comforter stored in the empty second bedroom, a remnant
of the last Christmas he and Sharon had been married.
One of those bath sheets, a white one, from the
bathroom cupboard. Grabbed the blanket off the couch
and entered the kitchen to find Krycek where he had
left him.

He turned up the heat in the laundry room, just off the
kitchen, unfolded the comforter into a pad, covered it
with the towel. With some difficulty, he got Krycek
onto it, covered him with the sheet and blanket.

"Now listen to me, boy. This is where you're sleeping
until I tell you differently. You got that, boy?"

Krycek nodded, semi-stoned from the coedine finally
hitting him.

"There's a bathroom just the other side of the washer.
That's the one you use. Got that, boy?"

Krycek nodded slightly, eyes dialated, unfocused.

Skinner sat in the kitchen, watching Krycek sleep.

What the hell had happened to them? Why were they both
acting this way? Had the Consortium finally won in
spite of being destroyed?

What the fuck had happened to Krycek for him to be
behaving the way he was? Damn, the boy was many
things, but he'd never been a masochist. At least as
far as *he* knew.

Why was he so accepting of the shit Skinner kept on
dishing out? Since when had he been hungry for pain
and humiliation?

And God! When the fuck had *he* turned into a sadist?

He'd been a player in these sorts of games before. Had
used them as an outlet for the frustration that built
up in his work, even in his marriage. He knew he had a
bit of a reputation at the Warehouse as being available
for some of the more extreme stuff, but he'd never gone
this far. He had always been in control of his
actions. Was known for that control. But, here and
now, he had to admit at least to himself, he had lost it.

He hated Krycek, true, for what he had done to Scully,
to Mulder, to himself, even to the Bureau. But hadn't
he made some reparation with the information he'd
passed on to Mulder? At no little risk to himself.

Hell, was this a case of the messenger being killed?
It wasn't the boy's fault that men and women who had
sworn an oath of loyalty had betrayed that oath.
Wasn't his fault that the Bureau was such a mess with
agents and ADs disappearing or being arrested, with
their names popping up on documentation that proved
they had been buyable, or treasonous.

Then there was the fact that along with the hardcopy
data that had been delivered in the package to his
office was one of those bubbled packs addressed to him,
personally. Contents, one de-powered palm pilot and a
CD of information on the life span of nanocytes.
Which, it seemed, was short if not periodically
activated. Which they hadn't been since his "dying"
episode. Scully had been taking blood samples from him
every week, testing the veracity of that documentation.
Proving it right.

Krycek started to shift position in his sleep and
gasped. He settled down while Skinner crouched over
him, not touching him, just waiting till it was obvious
that he was deeply asleep.

And then there was the fact of his promotion. Before
the data dump, he had realized that his career had gone
as far it would probably go. He had lost any upward
mobility with his support of Mulder and the X-Files.
But now the Upper Floor had had to admit that the
Bureau had been infiltrated, that Mulder had been
right. And there were offices to be filled. His
promotion had come, not because they thought he
deserved it, but because necessity had ordained it.
And that too was not Krycek's fault.

He turned the bathroom light on, placed a small open
bottle of juice within reach, made sure Krycek was warm
on his bed. Tucked the blanket a bit more around the
ointment-slicked shoulders.

"God, Krycek," he whispered, "what have they done to us?"

Went to bed. Didn't sleep.


Chapter 4

"Thank you, Kim."

Skinner waited till his office door closed before
dealing with the pile of files that his assistant had
located for him.

All, in one way or another, dealing with one Alex

Somewhere in them he hoped there would be a clue as to
Krycek's behaviour.

Going through the first dossier, a Bureau personnel
file, he was reminded that Krycek had had potential as
an agent. He had done well at Quantico, had produced
good results in the cases he had been assigned to. His
reports were concise and clear, unlike some others he
could choose to mention. If it hadn't been for the
cigarette butts Mulder had found in the ashtray of
Krycek's car...

The next file contained a series of reports, most of
them written by Mulder, some by Scully, dealing with
any contact either of them had had with Krycek from the
time of his "departure" from the Bureau to the day the
package had shown up in his office, addressed to
Special Agent Fox Mulder c/o AD Walter Sergei Skinner.

That was also the day their, his and Mulder's,
computers were effectively out of service as all they
did was accept downloads from a variety of internet
sources around the globe.

He'd shown up at Mulder's the next night, requesting
immunity in return for providing them with the codes to
open up all those files.

Skinner shook his head in grudging admiration. They
had held off giving it to him, keeping him in a secure
room here at the Bureau, until finally their decryptors
informed him that it would take years of work to break
open the security codes Krycek had placed at the
beginning of each file.

And the stuff had been dynamite. The repercussions
were still being felt and would for a long time to

The thickest of the dossiers came from the
investigative team. In spite of this being the
computer age, Krycek's "easy" accessibility to even the
most hidden of Consortium files had resulted in a new
wave of paper at the Bureau. Numbered sheets, non-
copyable red ink.

Four months of questioning took up lots of paper.
Skinner scanned the dossier rapidly. Just the usual
dry give and take of interrogation reports.

"Kim. Would you know if any of the team that worked on
Krycek are in the building today?"

"I'll check and get back to you, sir."

Agent Rachel Madison was one of the newer members of
the Bureau. Being called to the Deputy Director's
office made her feel she had done something wrong even
when she knew she hadn't.

Skinner asked Kim to serve coffee to make for a more
comfortable atmosphere. He wanted her observations on
Alex Krycek: not on the material covered by the
report, but on his behaviour, his relationship with the

Agent Madison had been one of the minor members of the
team, but was appreciative enough of this singling out
to give the DD all the details she could.

No, Krycek hadn't been a problem, except when the team
leader asked the same question too often. Krycek would
call him on it every time, no matter what indirect
route Connors took to get to it.

Yes, he had chaffed a bit at the restrictions which had
been placed on his life. That was normal, to be
expected. More grousing than anything else.

Personality change? No. Not really. Well, he did get
quieter at one point. Joked around less. They had
been at it thirteen weeks at that point: hard for
anyone to maintain good humour that long under the
circumstances. The team had been on rotation, but
Krycek had had to deal with the situation seven days a

Had anything happened around then that was different?
A break in the routine?

Well, they had gotten that file from Justice, with its
own list of questions. Remember, Justice hadn't been
allowed access to Krycek until almost the end. Most of
the questions were repeats. Krycek hadn't been too co-
operative at that point. She remembered he'd asked for
the list, told them he'd only answer anything that was

Connors had just tossed him the whole thing and told
Krycek to take the night to look it over.

They were all pretty tired by then.

Personal stuff on Krycek? Well, apart from the
conference room she hadn't been with him anywhere else.
They had their meals brought to them. Whoever was on
the team that day ate with him. Oh, yes. (She smiled
at the memory.) He'd finish her dessert if it were
chocolate. Cake or pudding, it didn't matter. She
only tasted dessert. Didn't have much of a sweet
tooth. Neither did Krycek, unless it was chocolate.

That was all she could think of. Would any of that
help with his problem?

Skinner smiled at the casual way she had slipped that
in. He hadn't told her why he'd wanted this
information and gave her points for having held onto
her curiosity as long as she had.

"Thank you, Agent Madison. I appreciate the thought
you've put into my request."

Agent Madison accepted that her question was not going
to be answered with better grace than he would have in
her place.

Kim's research into the Justice file came back
"Returned to Justice per their request".

It took him two days of finagling to get his hands on it.

Two nights of watching Krycek sleep, doped to the
gills. It was the only way he could get the boy to
stay quiet, to accept the time to heal.

He could get the boy to drink everything he gave him to
drink, but it had taken him a whole day to figure out
why he wasn't eating. He'd had Krycek lie flat out on
his stomach, touched the swollen tissues around his
anus. Krycek's first impulse had been to try and
escape the threatening finger. Then he'd forced
himself to accept.

Skinner had made him swallow one of the perscription
pain-killers he'd gotten, waited till the man was
stoned before lubricating the finger of a latex glove,
smearing it with medicated ointment, and examining him.
Even drugged, Krycek felt it, made a sound into the arm
he held against his mouth. Skinner grimaced at hearing

He increased Krycek's liquid intake. And left the man

The Justice file was not easy to get. Only the fact
that the request came from a Deputy Director, the one
with particular links to the case, and the one with the
proper security clearance was what got it onto his

Whoever had gathered the information had assumed the
request included the Justice Department's own files on
Krycek, gotten courtesy of CGB Spender. As part of his
deal for protection, Spender had turned over his own
few private files on Consortium doings to Justice.

The one Skinner had originally request contained, as
Agent Madison had stated, nothing more than several
pages of questions, most of which bore the notation
"FBI". He assumed that this meant Krycek had already
answered this for the Bureau. Here and there, there
was a sentence or two. Terse answers in a clearly
written cursive. Answers as much to the point as his
reports had read.

He flipped through the paper, stopping occasionally to
read an answer. Smiled at the "See pages 2, 9, 17, 21.
Don't you get tired of asking the same question?"

That was one of the things missing in the Krycek that
had appeared at his door that night, that sarcastic
humour, the edge that made so much of what was
unacceptable in Krycek's behaviour tolerable.

He was about to toss the dossier on the table when he
realized that there was something stuck between two
pages toward the end of the document. He tugged gently
at what turned out to be a photo. Not particularly
big. About three by five.

He stared at it for some time, then turned it around to
read the hand-printed label on the back. Carefully
placed it in the top drawer of his desk.

After a bit, he picked up the file that Spender had
compiled on Alex Krycek.

There were photos in this one too. Several of them, of
a boy about fourteen, maybe older. Posed. Probably
for some prostitution catalogue. In the last one,
Krycek looked to be in his late teens. The body was
that of a man not yet filled out, but well on the way.

Skinner had expected something like this, but seeing
actual pictures made it all the more real.

Shit! What the hell chance had Krycek had, if this was
his background? It was a tribute to some inner decency
that when he finally had understood just what his
masters were up to he had decided to turn on them and
help put an end to their plans.

He lay the pictures face down on his desk.

Surprisingly, the next part of the dossier contained
high school report cards. From several schools. From
the north-east to the mid-west. They'd moved him
around a fair bit, but someone (Spender?) had seen to
it that he regularly attended school.

Krycek's success at Quantico had not been a fluke. The
majority of the marks were A's of some kind, a few were
B's. Attached to all of them was a photocopy of a
letter from a doctor that excused Krycek from any phys-
ed activity.

Of course, thought Skinner, his body would be marked.

He was ready to go onto to the next batch of documents
when something caught his attention about the high
schools themselves. He had to think a bit. They were
all member schools of the same teaching order of
Brothers. An order that in the eighties had found
itself the focus of quite a few court investigations on
charges of sexual abuse.

The university transcripts were another surprise, but
expected if he thought about it. Good university near
a strong central-european enclave of population. Four
year program done in three. Krycek had attended full
time, 12 months a year. His only time off would have
been school holidays.

His majors were less surprising: Political Science
major with a minor in Computers. Partial scholarship
maintained throughout his entire time there. 80% plus

The boy had brains. Why hadn't he used them to get
away from the Consortium? Shit, why the hell wasn't he
using them these days?

The next batch of papers were medical reports. About
broken bones (once an arm, another time some ribs),
concussions (at least four of those). Detailed reports
on abrasions and anal damage. Which made him wince.

Last was a listing of names and dates. It took only a
moment to recognize some of the names as being members
of the Consortium; most of middle importance, some of
the higher eschelons. Krycek's tricks.

Into the second page a name began appearing: Peskow.
Coming with more and more frequency until it was the
only one listed. Skinner calculated that Krycek had
been about 16 when Peskow's name first appeared. Was
about 20 at the end. So the boy had been exclusively
Peskow's at that point. And Skinner knew what Peskow's
use had been to the Consortium. At least Spender had
acknowledged Krycek's intelligence by having him
trained in his profession by one of the best assassins

He put all the material back together, made the copies
himself of what he wanted, had Kim courier it back to
Justice. All except for the photo in his desk drawer.

Skinner took it out and looked it over carefully, as
objectively as possible, even though bile was
threatening to overcome him. The boy in the photo
couldn't have been older than ten, maybe eleven. He
was beautiful. Nude. Wearing a dog collar and
bruises. From the body language, afraid but handling
it. Even in this small photo it was obvious his eyes
were green. Obviously Alex Krycek.

So why did the label on the back identify the boy as

Chapter 5

Skinner sighed when he saw Krycek "waiting" for him by
the basement door. He'd come home last night to find
him back downstairs, in position, waiting in the dark
for...what? More abuse?

He'd ordered him back upstairs, locked the basement
door and sent him back to his bed. And made an issue,
apart from feeding him, of ignoring him the rest of the

God, but he was tenacious!

Skinner ignored him, went upstairs to change and came
back down to prepare a meal.

"Please, sir, may I speak?"

Skinner was taken by surprise. That was the first time
since he'd arrived that the boy had initiated a
conversation. He turned from his preparations, settled
a hip against the counter, crossed his arms. "Yes.
You may speak."

"I'm fine, sir." Krycek spoke softly, kept his eyes on
Skinner's face, not really looking him in the eyes.


"There's no reason I can't return downstairs, sir."

Skinner kept his face expressionless. "And?"

Krycek paused a bit before continuing. "Please, sir.
When I came here, I told you I needed to be punished.
Why have you stopped?" He met Skinner's eyes. "I
haven't asked you to stop, sir."

"And?" Skinner held his gaze. After a moment, Krycek
dropped his.

"Please, sir, if you're not going to punish me, I'll
need to find someone who will."

He said nothing. Just waited for Krycek to continue.

"Please, sir," Krycek's voice softly begged, "I need

Skinner desperately wanted to ask Krycek *why* he
needed this so badly, but a good master knew when to
stay silent. He used the time to think. He couldn't
let Krycek leave and go find himself a new master.
He'd probably end up getting killed.

And, in spite of everything, Skinner felt Krycek didn't
deserve that.

Damn! He should never have agreed to start this stupid
"punishment" shit! Now what the hell was he supposed
to do? He had to keep some form of discipline ongoing,
something that would keep the boy here, until he could
figure out just what the hell was going on in that mind
of his.

Until he could figure out the connection between Alex
Krycek and Danny.

He owed him at least that for the way he'd treated him.

He pushed away from the counter and came to crouch in
front of him. He took Krycek's jaw in his hand,
gripped it just this side of pain and raised it so he
could look into those green eyes that had so little
life in them.

"What," he too spoke softly, "makes you think you're
not being punished right now?" He added a little touch
of sneer. "Boy."

He released Krycek's jaw, passed a finger along his jaw
line from ear to chin. "It seems to me, boy, that you
like the whip just a bit too much for it to be real
punishment." He stroked the other side of Krycek's
face. His smile was not kind. "Maybe you should
practice being patient for the next little while.
You're going to find that you'll need it in the coming

He watched doubt appear in those eyes, knew that if he
didn't do something, Krycek would be gone soon.

"Tomorrow I won't be going in to work until late.
Tomorrow morning, we'll test just how patient you can
be. Boy. Now, I'm going to fix something to eat. And
you *will* eat it all. And then you will go to your
bed. I'll allow this evening's behaviour because I'm
in a generous mood. But don't test me too often, boy."

In the morning, he went downstairs to his toy cupboard
and came back with some items in his hands. He closed
the curtains in the living room, had Krycek join him.
Made him wait there while he had breakfast. Then he
sat in his favourite armchair and spent some time just
looking at the man.

"Have you showered properly this morning?"

Krycek nodded. He'd even shaved his body again.

"Good." Skinner got up and went to the small writing
desk in a corner of the living room.

He put the blindfold on first. Could almost swear he
felt Krycek relax at its touch. Stroked his cheek with
the bit gag. "Who do you belong to, boy?"

"You, sir." And opened his mouth for the gag.

The nipple clamps were next. Tight enough for Krycek's
breath to hitch at their closing on sensitive skin.

He made him sit up, belted the strap around his waist,
snapped the wrist restraint to it in the back. Stroked
the boy's chest, abdomen with the tips of his fingers
until his penis twitched in reaction. He took Krycek's
cock in his hands, stroked it into erection. He was
nicely built in that area too. A good length,
thickening nicely under stimulation. He paid some
attention to the balls hanging loosely in their sac,
rolling them just enough to add dimension to the
darkening cock.

Krycek's hips began to move in counter-rhythm to the
movement on his cock. Skinner put a halt to that with
a hard grip of his hands on Krycek's hip bones.

He reached for the lube, put some on his hands and
continued working Krycek into a full erection. Then he
slipped on a cock ring, one that opened into several
attached sections.

With one hand, he pushed Krycek so that he lay back on
his heels, knees splayed, hips raised by the position.
He passed his still lubricated fingers over the
sensitive perineum, teased the puckered muscle at its
end. Krycek tensed, took a deep breath through his
nose and forced himself to settle.

Skinner added more lube to his fingers, began the
opening process with a lot more care than he had shown
the boy until then. He slowly worked in one finger,
made sure the path was well greased before adding a
second finger. Made sure to rub Krycek's prostate
enough for those hips to jerk, for a small gasp to be
heard from behind the gag. He removed his fingers,
replaced them with a large enough anal plug which he
linked to the clasp that held Krycek's wrist.

He stood, pulled Krycek back up to the usual "wait"
position. Stroked the side of the boy's neck in a
reassuring gesture. Played a bit with the dog collar.

"Now, listen to me, boy. You look very beautiful done
up this way. Very beautiful. I have to go to work
now. I want to find you looking this beautiful when I
come back tonight. In exactly the same place. You're
lucky. I'll be home early. This time."

"I realize that this waiting is going to make you a bit
nervous. You'll find yourself listening for sounds,
for signs that may help you with the time, with my
coming home. I don't think all that tension is good
for you. You have enough to do keeping yourself
beautiful for me. This will help keep out the sounds
that may distract you from doing that."

Skinner placed a set of headphones on Krycek's head,
the sort with the ear plugs on both sides. It needed
no connector to the CD player, worked on some kind of
radio wave. He made sure that they were securely on,
tied a blindfold around them to keep them in place. He
had put five CDs into the player, all of them of white
noise. Krycek had a good six hours of isolation in
front of him.

Before he left for the office, he passed a hand down
Krycek's body, played with the ringed cock, gave the
plug an encouraging twist.

Chapter 6

It took two days to arrange for an interview with
Spender. In one of the new no-smoking areas of the
Complex where he was being held under tight security.

"Mr. Skinner. To what do I owe the pleasure of this

Spender sat down across from Skinner at a table bolted
to the floor. The chairs were also bolted to the
floor. Not the most comfortable of rooms for an
interview. Both men knew that their conversation was
being taped: Skinner had in fact requested a copy of
it to be given to him on his way out of the Complex.

Spender was a bit taken aback that the purpose of this
interview was one Alex Krycek.

"Now why that topic, Mr. Skinner?"

Skinner smiled coldly. "I believe the final decisions
about security have yet to be taken, Mr. Spender.
*You* give me the information I want. *I* only tell
you what you need to know." He paused, enjoying
Spender's frustrated acceptance. "So begin. All you
remember about Alex Krycek. From the first day you got

He'd gotten Alex when he was about fourteen.
Definitely Alex. No, he had never heard about a Danny.

Skinner found that hard to believe, especially
considering the slight grin Spender wore just then.
The Danny picture had, in fact, come from *his* files.
Skinner didn't call him on it. He recognized that
there were limits to Spender's co-operation.

Well trained, continued Spender, recognizing the anger
building behind the closed face, not really knowing why
but revelling in the fact that Skinner could do nothing
but sit there across from him and listen.

Lots of stamina. Very popular with some of the
quirkier members of the upper ranks.

School? Well, it was obvious the boy had brains. Read
a lot. Analyzed well. It was useful to educate him.
Surprised at how well he did? "Well," Spender smiled,
"Alex is very...good...at multi-tasking. Alex is very
good at whatever he's told to do. Surely you have some
experience of that, Mr. Skinner."

Peskow? Yes, Peskow also had some experience of that.
He'd been treated to Alex by one of the Elders as an
unexpected fringe benefit. Was quite impressed with
our Alex. Thought he had potential. That he'd work
well in Peskow's profession.

Peskow had been right. Alex was very cool about it.
Even though he started quite young, about 17 at the
time of his first kill. Never seemed overly bothered
by any of it. Never seemed bothered by much of
anything he could remember. Well, not at that time.

His mistake with Alex was trying to take him out.
Until then, he had been theirs. Why take him out? "I
thought he was getting just a little too cocky. Too
interested in moving up. I thought he would eventually
be trouble. I was right, wasn't I, Mr. Skinner?"

After that attempt, he was a loose cannon. Thinking
back, if he had to do it over again, he would order
Alex killed at the silo. But who knew he'd manage to
get out.

The next time he saw Alex, he was with the Brit. The
Brit liked him, brought him back into the system.
Might well have been able to control him, but then he
gotten blown up. And by that time, Alex was higher up
than he ever should have been allowed. Look at the
information he had passed on.

Alex before he had gotten him? He'd have to come from
the sex trade pool. One of the handlers was still
around. Tommy Glenn. "You've got him somewhere in the
system, on other charges."

Skinner left the prison, tape in pocket, and with an
overwhelming urge to scrub himself clean.

It took several days to track down Thomas Glenn, up on
fraud, of all things. And another to arrange a deal
with the man's hot-shot lawyer in exchange for an

Thomas Glenn was not what Skinner was expecting to see
in someone who had trained and handled young boys for
purposes of prostitution. He looked like Santa Claus,
round, bearded, jovial until you realized just how cold
those pale blue eyes were.

He knew nothing about an Alex Krycek. Had never heard
of the man. Skinner showed him a copy of the Danny
picture. Glenn thought a bit. Came up with a name:
Daniel Alyosha Gorshok.

He was 10, maybe 11 when Glenn got him. Through one of
the area controllers. Long dead. If he remembered
well, his mother had passed him on to the controller
who had passed him on to Glenn. Father was some minor
cog who died or got himself killed and the mother
didn't want the boy.

He was beautiful. So, of course, they took him.

"He was easy to train. I just had to remind him that
his mother had sent him to me for punishment."

"Punishment for what?"

Glenn shrugged. "Never knew. If he started getting
out of hand, I just had to remind him of the fact that
he deserved all this because of what he'd done. Worked
every time."

"So how did Danny get taken out of your...care? What
happened to him?"

"One of the Elders requested him. He never came back.
Well, that particular Elder had a reputation for being
quite nasty with some of the boys. Sometimes they
didn't come back. Still, I figured Danny would. He
had a high threshold for pain. Mended quickly, too.
How old was he? About thirteen, I guess."

Skinner had a tape of this meeting as well. He'd
driven about a mile from the prison when he stopped to
throw up.

Agent Madison was both surprised and pleased to be
called into the Deputy Director's presence. Business
this time, no social cup of coffee.

A special assignment for her, should she be interested.
Not a direct assignment, so something she could maybe
attend to should she have some free time.

Like hell, thought Madison. What the DD wanted, he
would get. He wanted her to juggle her regular
assignments with this one and to keep quiet about it.
And he wanted results. She would get them for him.

Aloud, she admitted to having some free time on her
hands these days. What would the Deputy Director like
her to do?

Skinner handed her a file. One sheet of paper. At the
top, in his own hand-writing: Daniel Aloysha Gorshok,
aged 10 or 11, 1972 or 1973.

The rest of the sheet was blank.

"What I would like you to do, Agent Madison, is to fill
that sheet of paper with whatever you can find out
about that boy, from pre-birth to 1972, 1973."

"Am I looking for anything in particular, sir?"

"Whatever you find, no matter how minor a detail, I
want to know about it."

"Do we have a description of the boy, sir?"

"No." He had no intention of showing her the photo.
"Do your best, Agent Madison. And let me know what you
find when you can. My assistant will give you an
appointment whenever you ask for one."

Agent Madison knew a dismissal when she heard it.
Nodded. On her way out of his office, she was already
planning a line of investigation.

Chapter 7

Skinner dropped the last file on the living room floor
by his armchair. He removed his glasses, rubbed his
eyes hard. The only things he was getting out of this
promotion were an ulcer and a possible case of
blindness. He found himself thinking more and more
these days about retirement.

Hell, he'd put in more than his twenty years, and the
way things were changing at the Bureau -- all those new
interns to replace the agents who had disappeared, been
arrested or forced into quitting/retirement. God, the
average age of the average agent had to be high
twenties. He was feeling *his* age these days.

He put his glasses back on, examined the man mainly
responsible for all the changes at the Bureau. Krycek
was in what he now referred to "isolate-mode", in
position, completely cut off from sight and sound,
adorned, partially erect.

He was having limited success in having Krycek accept
this as punishment. Two nights ago, he had come home
to find that the restlessness he'd sense in the man had
come full front.

"Please, sir," he'd whispered, "please, make it hurt."

Krycek had almost looked relieved when he'd told him to
go wait downstairs, that he'd come down when *he* felt
like it.

He'd strung up the boy like he had in the past, but
this time used the suede cat on him. Pain and
pleasure. He'd taken the boy roughly, not allowing him
to reach orgasm. Then he'd ordered him upstairs, to
wait in the kitchen, warning him that he did not have
permission to touch himself. He'd made him wait a good
hour before allowing him to masturbate, in front of
him, then ordering him to bed.

After that, he seemed calmer. More willing to accept
this new form of game.

Skinner crouched in front of the man, wondered what
world he had put himself into, in his isolation.

He reached out with a finger and stroked the bare cheek
under the gag. Krycek started a bit, caught himself.

"What the hell could a ten year old boy have done,"
Skinner asked the deafened man, "to deserve punishment?
Especially that kind of punishment? And to feel he
actually deserved it?"

His finger moved along the jaw, down the throat to
trace the dog collar.

"Because this is what this is, isn't it, boy?
Punishment you feel you deserve. But why now? Not
like you've spent the time between university and now
looking for punishment." The finger traced the hollow
at the base of his throat, moved along the collarbones.

"Mind you, it might explain why you're so accepting of
things that happen to you. Like that Oilian
possession: I don't know many people who could have
tolerated that as well as you have. The diver and his
wife certainly haven't."

The finger was now tracing a pattern around clamped
nipples. Krycek's breathing was more audible.

"You didn't bitch much about that night on my balcony,
though it certainly wasn't one of the warmest we'd had
that fall. And your arm."

The finger traced the webbed scarring caused by fire
and blades. The muscle in the upper arm twitched.
He'd never touched the arm unless it was to put the
harness on. Now he investigated it, looked at the
muscles that seemed smaller than it had when these
games had started. Of course. He wasn't using it: it
was atrophying. He'd better get him on an exercise
program and soon. He'd need whatever use he still had
with the arm in the future.

"You didn't strike any of the team debriefing you as
someone who needed 'punishment'. They may not have
liked you, boy, but a couple of them feel some sneaking
respect for what you did, for your attitude."

He left the arm for the chest, tracing a middle line to
the belt holding the other arm behind his back. He
teased the navel, smiling at the slight sound that made
its way past the gag. The boy was just a bit ticklish
at that spot.

"So what happened, boy? Was it the picture? Why would
the picture make you react like that?"

He moved past the shaved groin to stoke the finger
along a now full erection.

"And what the hell made you come to me, Krycek? You
certainly picked the wrong time to do that. I'm still
angry, but it's more under control now. Then, dear
God, did you have any idea of what I might do to you?
Yeah, I supposed you did have: if only for the

He passed the finger lightly under the man's balls
making them twitch, then moved behind them, gently
stroking the perineum, teasing the tight muscles around
the anal plug. Krycek's hips bucked.

"And now, we're both caught in this little game we
started, aren't we? If I end it, you'll go and find
yourself someone who just might end up killing you. Is
that what you wanted, boy?

"Well, you're not going to get that here. I don't mind
using the cat on you, but I hope that'll be enough.
The crop may have done my ulcer a lot of good, but it
didn't do much for my conscience."

Skinner's watch beeped. He smiled. "Football. A good
way to spend a Saturday afternoon, eh boy?" He grabbed
the remote from the coffee table, turned the set on.
Went and got himself a large bottle of apple juice from
the fridge, added a bowl of pretzels and set everything
up by the couch.

"Got a good game going here, boy. Two teams that need
to score big to make it into the Super Bowl. Should be

He went to stand behind Krycek, removed the
headphones -- this game would be too good to miss --
placed his hands on his shoulders and nudged him to his
feet. Directed him over to the couch, pushed down till
he got the idea of sitting down on it. Skinner had
piled a bunch of small pillows against the arm of the
couch, made Krycek lie back on them. Took his right
leg and placed it up along the back of the couch. Left
the other foot flat on the floor.

While he watched one game, Skinner kept the second one
going by paying occasional attention to the display
next to him. He knew that several times Krycek was
close to orgasm, especially since he'd removed the cock
ring some time ago. But he'd already made it clear
when he'd started this new stage of the game that
Krycek had to wait for permission to come.

So far, he hadn't had to devise a punishment for
disobedience. But today, he had to admit he was
pushing hard, so when he felt it necessary, a tight
squeeze to the base of the cock, a sharp pulling on the
balls helped the boy stay out of trouble. Occasionally
hips would buck and then a slap to the side of the
nearest thigh got the message through that that
behaviour was not acceptable. Once, he placed the cold
bottle of juice against the boy's groin, to help him
cool down.

He wondered if sexual frustration rated as high a
punishment in the boy's mind as a whipping.

When the game was over, he directed Krycek into the
laundry room. At the back end of the room was a double
washtub that stood on metal rods that were adjustable
for height. He made the boy lie down, attached the
ankle bracelets, one to each rod so that he lay legs
spread apart. He slipped one of the smaller cushions
under his hips, so he would have some support for his
back. And left him there.

Periodically, throughout the evening, he would come and
check, offering a helping hand to keep him erect. But
never satisfied. Finally, at bedtime, he unsnapped the
cock ring, released Krycek's legs, turned him over and
satisfied himself: Krycek wasn't the only one who had
spent the evening hard and frustrated. It didn't take
either one of them long to climax. He'd pumped
Krycek's ass only a couple of times when he felt the
inner muscles of the man grab him tight, heard the
muted scream of a man long waiting for release. He
came only moments later, grunting his orgasm against
the nape of Krycek's neck.

They both lay still and then Skinner rolled off Krycek,
got rid of the condom, helped the man to his knees. He
stripped him, pushed him toward the bedding on the
floor where he still slept. And went to bed.

The next time, he pushed the notion that sometimes no
punishment *is* punishment.

He had Krycek waiting by the kitchen table that
evening, while he sat there, plowing through yet
another incompetent report. He knew there was
something he was missing in this one, but he was tired
and he'd read it through twice already and hadn't found
what was bothering him about it.

He looked at the man who was sitting still, head bowed,
lost in some world of his own making. What the hell,
thought Skinner. He poked Krycek on the shoulder.
"Here, you read it. See if this makes any sense to

Krycek slowly raise his head, not seeming to understand
what was being asked of him. Skinner playfully tapped
him on the head with the report. "Earth to Krycek.
Are you in there?"

"Sir?" Krycek hesitated, then looked at him.

"Read this. There's something screwy about it,
something I should be picking up and I'm too tired to
find it. See what you can do with it. Well, take it.
And sit down properly. You'll find it easier to read.
On your ass, boy."

Out of the corner of his eye, as he was working through
yet another report, he watched Krycek begin to read.
After a page or so, he gave his head a little shake, as
if he were quick starting some brain function, trying
to get it to connect. Started over again.

He didn't seem to be having an easy time of it. True,
thought Skinner, for the past six weeks, he'd done
absolutely nothing with his brain. And that report
needed blue-pencilling in a bad way. Still, he
realized that on his second complete read-through
Krycek was flipping back between pages as if searching
for something. Skinner waited until Krycek closed the
report and set it down on the floor. "Well?"

"The guys at VCU are covering up for the SAC. But
they're got him in two different places at the same
time. Here, " he pointed to a page in the report,
"they've got him supposedly supervising in Virginia,
but four pages later he's in New York City at the same
time, dealing with the cops. Considering the precinct,
I'd say he was in New York paying off some loan sharks
or dealing with his bookie. Maybe even taking care of
VCU business."

Skinner took the report from Krycek, verified the
information. Nodded, made a few notes. He added the
file to the others, stood up, stretched. Krycek was
back in position, head down. He missed the speculative
look he got from Skinner.

The next evening, Skinner came home carrying a box
topped with a bag of what was obviously take-out.

He changed into jeans and a henley, nuked the spicy
Thai to the right temperature. Krycek was in position
by the laundry door. "Get in here."

Skinner fixed two plates with food, but instead of
giving one to Krycek for him to handle whichever way he
could, he placed the plate on a kitchen chair, handed
him a fork. He tackled his with chopsticks.

Krycek didn't eat right away. He watched the
chopsticks and then looked at the fork. For a second,
there was a flash of the old Krycek, ready to give his
opinion about eating Thai with a fork, but he caught
himself and ate. Skinner hid his smile behind some

After they finished eating, Skinner removed a handful
of files from the top of the box, then dropped it to
the floor next to Krycek. He went into the living
room, and returned with a cushion from one of the
armchairs. Dropped that next to Krycek, too. He
grabbed a chair for his feet, made himself comfortable.
Smiled down at Krycek.

"See all those files in the box?"

Krycek nodded.

"Read them. I haven't got the time to read them all,
so you're going to do that for me. When you're done
each one, I want you to sum it up for me. Only the
salient points. In one sentence or less would be nice.
Let me know when you're ready with the first."

"Oh, and get comfortable on the cushion. You're in for
a long night. These all have to be done before we can
get some sleep."

Skinner picked up the first report on his stack,
pretended to ignore Krycek's confusion. After a
minute, the man sat cross-legged on the cushion, slowly
picked up the top file in the box. Across it, in large
red letters, was its level of security clearance.
Krycek looked even more confused.

"Sir?" He waited till he had Skinner's attention to
point to the lettering.

"Boy," smiled Skinner, "you're going to find that
you're familiar with most of the contents anyway. Most
of these are fall-out from your little information
dump. See if you can find anything new in any of

By the end of the box, Skinner appreciated that Krycek
had taken his request to heart: each oral report had
been brief, sysinct. Better yet, he was relaxed, his
eyes actually looked alive.

"You did that well, Alex. Very well."

Krycek said nothing, just lowered his head.

Skinner reached out and stroked the side of his face.
"Alex, what do you say when someone offers you a

Krycek looked up, surprised.

"Thank you. Sir."

Chapter 8

Skinner tossed the report -- God! yet another report --
at the pile spread over the foot of the bed. He'd had
Krycek read another load this evening, but these were
of a vastly different variety, one that he himself had
to pay attention to. He stretched his body, wondered
if his back would one day pop and freeze him in that

God, he was tired of all this shit. It made him long
for the days of the X-Files. Now Dana Scully was
teaching forensic investigation at Quantico and Mulder
was being farmed out to any investigation that was
dealing with the Consortium.

He got up, scratching his stomach. Maybe a warm cup of
milk would soothe the ulcer and help him get to sleep.
Krycek probably wouldn't hear him if he went down to
the kitchen. He'd gotten one of those soliflex
exercise machines and made Krycek work out on it
several times a day. After all this time of not really
doing anything, he'd found that an hour on the machine
in the evening helped Krycek sleep soundly. That left
arm was already beginning to look a bit better.

He had taken to leaving Krycek with a daily schedule of
things to do. Not just exercising, but dumping more of
those files on him. Kim was very impressed with the
fact that the backlog of files was potentially dropping
down to a managable level. Skinner smiled. Krycek was
beginning to appreciate just what the consequences of
his actions were. Even made bold to comment that it
was sad that so many trees had given up their lives for
so much bull-shit.

He also seemed to be very accepting of the fact that
there was a lot less game-playing apart from the normal
everyday stuff. There had been no return trips
downstairs since he'd started him on the reports.
Maybe they were punishment enough in themselves.
Skinner snickered at the thought. He certainly found
them so.

He was pouring milk into a mug when he realized there
was a whimpering sound coming from the laundry room.

It was obviously a nightmare. Skinner went in to try
and wake him when Krycek began speaking. Almost in a
child's voice. Skinner felt the hair on his arms rise.
He crouched to listen before deciding whether or not to
rouse the man.

The words were difficult to make out. The speaker was
panicky, afraid. The word "please" was easy to
understand: it was being repeated over and over again.
Then, more clearly, "I didn't do it."

Skinner leaned over, carefully placed his hand on
Krycek's shoulder. The voice spoke louder,
desparately. "Please. I didn't do it. I swear I
didn't. Please tell moma I didn't do it. Ask her to
let me come home. Please!" Louder, more panic,
"You're hurting me! Please! I didn't do it!" Almost
a scream.

"Krycek! It's all right. Wake up, boy!"

But the dream had Krycek too deeply in its claws and he
just tried to pull away, now screaming, "I hurt!
Please, I hurt!"

"Danny!" Skinner spoke in tones of authority. "Stop
it, Danny! Do you hear me? Stop it."

The noise dropped in volume, screaming replaced by soft

"You didn't do it, Danny. I know that. It's all
right. Danny." Kept on repeating the same words and
watched as Krycek slowly settled back into quiet. He
kept his hand on the shoulder, waiting until he was
certain that Danny/Krycek was soundly sleeping.

The hand gently stroking the side of his face woke
Krycek. "Sir?" His voice was thick with sleep.

"Alex. Who's Danny?"

"Danny?" Krycek sounded confused, still half-asleep.
"I'm sorry, sir, I don't know any Danny. Did he write
one of the reports?"

"It's all right. Go back to sleep. I was just
checking up on you. I thought maybe your left shoulder
was hurting tonight."

Krycek settled back down. Closed his eyes and yawned.
"No, it's just tight. Sir."

Skinner sat in the kitchen, sipping his milk. Did
Krycek really not remember having a nightmare or was he
just pretending?

Either way, Skinner felt he had better find out just
who Danny was.

Chapter 9

Skinner let the phone ring twice, then hung up. He
redialled the number, let it ring until this time it
was answered.



Skinner was attending a series of meetings out of town.
Krycek was home alone.

Before leaving, Skinner had set up a pretty intense
schedule for Krycek to follow. A couple of boxes of
reports to read: some of them only included to fill up
the man's time. This time he had requested a written
report on each. More time-consumming.

Then there were the times for exercising. Eating. And
he'd even scheduled in sleeping time. And every night
at nine o'clock, he checked in to be sure Krycek was
still there.

"How are the reports coming along?"

"They're coming." Krycek's tone was disparaging. "Who
let these kids out of Quantico without making sure they
could use Spellcheck?"

Skinnr laughed. "Patience, grasshopper. They come
from a different time. We'll get them trained
eventually. Have you got any blue pencils left?"

"Yes." Then very quietly, "Sir? When are you coming

Skinner hoped he wasn't hearing the possiblity of
Krycek's disappearing. In a colder tone than he'd used
till then, "It's Wednesday today. I should be back
very late tomorrow night. Don't wait up for me."

"No, sir."

Skinner had a feeling of unease. He had had to take
these meetings, hadn't been able to get out of them.

"Boy. Who do you belong to, boy?"

He heard a sound like a small sigh, then almost relief.
"You, sir. I belong to you." There was a pause.
"Sir? You *will* be back tomorrow night?"

"I will be back at the house tomorrow night, boy," he
promised, comforting.

It was almost midnight when the Bureau car left him at
his house.

"Sorry, sir, but since the storm hit last evening, this
whole area has been without electricity. Are you sure
you want me to drop you off here, sir? Your house will
be freezing by now. Especially with this cold front
Canada sent us."

"I have a fireplace, Agent Edison. Thank you anyway."

"Your security men aren't here, sir."

"No. I had them dismissed some weeks ago. There's
better use for them elsewhere. By the way, I noticed
that the lights were on west of here?"

"Yes, sir. Seems their electricity feed comes from
another location."

The house *was* cold. Before leaving, apart from the
kitchen and the laundry room, he had turned the
thermostats down low in the rest of the house. He
hoped that Krycek had had the good sense to put clothes
on. He hoped Krycek was still here.

He found the man asleep, huddled under his bedding,
curled up in a tight ball.

"Alex?" Skinner shook him awake. "Come on, Alex, wake
up, boy!"

Krycek moved, raised himself up on his elbow. "Sir."
The relief in his voice was slight, but it was also on
his face. Skinner shook his head, not believing that
Krycek would still be obedient to the point of freezing
rather than putting on clothes.

He got up, went to the cupboard where he'd stored the
man's clothes, unlocked it and handed him the
prosthesis, the gym bag with his clothes. The reaction
he got took him completely by surprise.

"No!" Krycek scrambled to his knees. "Please! No!
Please...tell me what I've done wrong. Don't send me
away. Please, sir!" He sounded like he had the night
he had been Danny.

Skinner crouched, awkwardly reaching for the man.
"Alex. Stop that! I'm not sending you away. Shit
sake, boy. Get a grip!" He grabbed Krycek by the
shoulders and literally pulled him to his feet. Shook

"Listen to me, boy. Are you listening to me? Boy."

Krycek nodded, head bent, body trembling.

Jesus Christ, thought Skinner. Carefully he pulled the
man close to him, wrapped his heavy coat around them
both. Stroked his hands up and down the tense muscles
of Krycek's back.

"Alex. I am not sending you away. I am not angry with
you. You haven't done anything wrong. Got that, Alex.
You've done nothing wrong. The house is cold and I
haven't eaten supper yet. It's midnight. There's an
all night diner over where they still have electricity.
You're going to get dressed. We're going to the diner
to get a hot meal. Then we're coming back here. We
can make a fire in the fireplace. For the rest of the
night. Have you got that, Alex?"

He pulled away enough from the man to see his face.
Even in the dark he could make out the fear. He cupped
his head and drew him close again. Waited till the
trembling was more or less under control. "All right
now, boy, get dressed."

The diner was a fifteen minute drive away. Skinner
worried all the way there about Krycek's reaction,
thought about it through the meal he had to make Krycek
eat, did some more worrying about it on the way back.

At the diner he had to tell Krycek to keep the scarf
he'd wrapped around his neck on so that the dog collar
wouldn't be seen. It made him realize how much part of
Krycek it had become that the man wasn't aware he was
wearing it. Ten seconds after the kitchen door had
closed behind them, that was all Krycek was wearing

He made him move into the living room, got a fire
going. There was enough wood for a couple of days, but
he hoped it wouldn't come to that.

Krycek was wrapped in a couple of blankets, a lump
huddled against the front of the couch. Skinner
decided not to force the issue tonight and let him stay
on the floor. He waited until he sensed Krycek was
calmer, then went and felt his forehead as if checking
to see if he were fevered. Krycek flinched as if
expecting a blow of some kind. He ducked his head;
Skinner left him alone.

He made himself a bed on the couch. He was tired: the
conference had been a waste of time for someone like
himself who hated the politicking required by his
position as DD. And he found it very stressful being
polite to idiots who had no idea why there had been
shake-ups in so many government departments.

Krycek's nightmare woke him up. The Danny dream again.

Skinner slipped to the floor, dragging his bedding with
him. He covered himself and Krycek before he began
bringing the man out of whatever terror Danny was

Kept repeating, "You haven't done anything wrong. I
believe you."

Krycek was quiet a long time after he awoke. Skinner
yawned. Checked his watch. It was after four a.m.

"I'm sorry, sir." Krycek was back to his normal voice.

"It's okay. Alex, what's the dream about?"

"I don't know. I know I have it. It leaves me feeling
...I don't know...hungry for something."

"For punishment?"

Krycek shrugged. Skinner pulled him close, spooned
himself behind the man. Went back to sleep. After a
some time, Krycek brought his hand to rest on top of

Chapter 10

Skinner looked up from the budget proposal he was
trying to decipher and accepted the report Alex handed
him. He scanned the pages, snickering over the
comments Alex now added to his editing.

*He* enjoyed the comments: he wasn't sure the writer
would. Still, he appreciated them not just because
they were right on, but he knew Alex added them to make
him laugh.

Alex was watching his reaction from under his

Skinner finished reviewing the report, tossed it onto
the others they were both working their way through.
"Does it seem to you that the more of these things we
get through, the more of them there are?"

"Maybe you shouldn't keep them together in those boxes.
Close proximity and all that."

"Encouraging reproduction you mean? God, who knows?
That's as good a theory as anything I've heard." He
pulled a thick one out of the box. Opened it up, read
the title page, grimaced. After a thought, he pulled
off the top sheet and handed it to him.

"Here. Read this and just circle the salient points."

He kept an eye on Alex during this one. Watched with
growing amusement as the man's level of frustration
grew. He flipped back through the report often,
frowning, trying to find something. Was pleasantly
surprised to hear him muttering to himself: Alex never
made noises while reading. Watched him scratch his
head with the pencil he held in his hand.

When Skinner laughed out loud, Alex looked up. "Is
this for real?"

"Oh, yeah," Skinner grinned. "Real real." He handed
Alex the title page.

"Spender! What the hell is Jeffrey Spender still doing
at the Bureau?"

"Writing massive reports that kill more trees than the
spruce bud worm." He snorted at Alex's expression of
disgust. "We had to keep him, Alex. He was shot on
Bureau property while on duty and some felt that it
wouldn't be fair to him to make him pay for his
father's transgressions. But they have put him behind
a desk where he's quite happily producing these things.
Where he's of no potential danger."

"Except to my sanity," muttered Alex. He sighed, went
back to work.

Skinner rummaged around in his briefcase. He waited
till Alex muttered something again. "Alex? Close your
eyes and raise your head. Now, open your mouth."

He could tell the exact moment when Alex's taste buds
signalled chocolate to his brain. There was a moment's
surprise, then it was as if his entire body went
boneless. He made a soft little sound in the back of
his throat, closed his eyes even tighter.

Skinner was reminded of a character on a cartoon show
he remembered seeing with his kid brother: Quick Draw
McGraw's tracking dog. The only way Quick Draw could
get the dog to track the criminal was to offer him a
dog biscuit. The dog then went through contortions of
ecstasy, ending with a levitation into the air and a
feather-like floating down to the ground.

He grinned, brushed his fingers over Alex's cheek.
"Does that help?"

Alex just nodded in sheer bliss, eyes closed, savouring
the very expensive chocolate melting in his mouth.

Skinner rubbed his thumb against Alex's cheekbone.
"I'm glad. There's the second half of that piece for
when you're finished."

The chocolate helped with the report, but not with the
nightmares. They were coming with more frequency.
Skinner had added a monitor to the laundry room and had
its double in his room so that he could hear Alex when
he was having one.

And they weren't all Danny-dreams. The ones where he
was caught in the silo, or having his arm cut off were
more prevalent too. That one intrigued him: Alex
didn't dream of the actual cutting off of his arm but
of the arm itself after its amputation. Lying alone in
the forest, ants and other insects crawling all over
it, the hand twitching in supplication, in silent

Often, after the worse of the dreams, Alex would wait
by the downstairs door, silently asking for punishment.
Skinner gave it to him -- they seemed to make him more
easy -- but never with the cruelty of their first
games. And whatever games they played, he now made
certain Alex climaxed before leaving him.

He watched the man sleeping under the blankets,
peacefully this morning. No nightmares last night.
He bent over and poked him. "Alex? Get up." Watched
as Alex stretched out, twisted with that little gesture
he did, almost like a cat. He enjoyed watching Alex
wake up.

He was about to put all that good feeling to a test.
He handed Alex a cup of coffee, watched him take it
warily, sip it.

"Good?" he inquired.

Alex nodded. "Thank you, sir."

"You're welcome. Problem is that's the last of it."

Alex looked up from under his lashes, still sipping the

"And we're out of lots of things." Waited again.

Alex finished the coffee, placed the mug on the floor.

"Problem is," sighed Skinner, "I haven't got the time
to get the stuff we need today. And I certainly am
going to want more coffee before the day is over."

He could see Alex beginning to understand where he was
headed. He jumped in before he could react. "Seems to
me the best solution to this problem is for you to put
some clothes on, take my car and go run the errands
that need to get done."

He crouched, passed his hand over the dog collar.
"Wrap a scarf around that before you leave."

He got up, tossed the cupboard key onto the bedding and
left the room. He waited in the living room, with the
ubiquitous report in his hand, for twenty minutes
before Alex hesitantly come out of the room dressed.
And armed.

Skinner looked up casually. "You'll find the list on
the table along with some money. I drew you a map of
how to get to the nearest shopping centre. Oh, and
Alex, try not to take more than a couple of hours, will
you? I'll need the car this afternoon."

He waited until he'd heard the car keys being picked up
before calling out. "Oh, Alex, the list says ice
cream. Get me some of that butter pecan thing Ben &
Jerry's make. And pick yourself one of the chocolate
things they concoct."

From the time the car left to the time it arrived one
hour forty-seven minutes fifteen seconds later, Skinner
wondered if he had done the right thing. Maybe Alex
hadn't been ready to go out on his own. The night
they'd gone out to the diner, it was just he hadn't
clung to him.

He went back to his chair, pretended to be working,
letting Alex bring in all the groceries by himself,
even put them away. He waited till he was almost done
before joining him. He said nothing, just picked up
the coffee and made a fresh pot.

Alex handed him back the change, went into the laundry
room and took his clothes off. Took his position
waiting by the door. Skinner made some sandwiches,
handed Alex's to him and went off to change for his
command appearance at some afternoon do with the

Alex was quiet that evening and the next day. Too
quiet. Skinner found Alex's eyes tracked him around
the room, even when he was sitting, his head down. He
couldn't decide if Alex was depressed or afraid.
Definitely apprehensive.

By Sunday afternoon, he decided some reassurance was in
order. He waited until Alex had finished yet another
report -- he was ready to challenge Kim with the notion
that he was being given not just his reports to read,
but that of the whole damn Upper Floor.

"Alex. On the table."

He'd picked up the table at a garage sale someone
moving down the street had. It was round, low, made in
the days furniture was made with real wood and

Its height meant that Alex was more conveniently placed
for casual attentions, and its solidity assured safety
for the more active moments. Besides, it meant Alex
was more on display and Skinner was honest enough to
admit that Alex made a beautiful picture whenever he
looked up from work. Delayed gratification was a good
incentive for getting through reports that were
irritating him more and more.

He kept the toys down to a minimum these days,
gradually leaving them out. The only things he used
today was the belt to keep Alex's hand behind his back
and the blindfold.

"Who do you belong to, boy?"

"To you, sir."

He held Alex's face in his hands, stroking the
cheekbones with his thumbs until he heard Alex sigh and
felt him relax into the mind-set for the game.

Skinner took his time arousing Alex. The boy started
when he took a nipple into his mouth -- a first in
these games, he usually only used his hands -- and
tongued the nub into hardness. He tested its rigidity
with a flick of a finger, eliciting one of those little
sounds Alex made at the back of his throat. Skinner
smiled. Pleased to get another of those little sounds
while he worked on the second nipple.

He moved his mouth slowly down, crouching, teasing the
ticklish navel. He had to hold Alex's hips, keeping
them still while he worked lower down. He played
around the hardening cock and the heavy balls without
ever touching them.

He had to admit that this was easier to do with Alex
shaved, but the bareness of Alex's body was beginning
to bother him. He realized that the thrill associated
with this was the pre-pubescent look, but Alex was not
a boy, was a man. Still, it was nice to play around
like this and not end up with a mouthful of hair. He'd
have to think about this some more.

While his mouth had been busy, his hands kneaded ass,
stroking and lightly running over sensitive skin. Alex
was particularly reactive to the tips of fingers barely
skimming along the skin of his inner thighs. Nice
vocalizations as well.

Skinner sat back on his heels and looked at the erotic
picture he had composed for his own pleasure. Alex had
his head back, throat revealed as if in submission.
Skin flushed a pale pink from groin to throat, and not
as a result of the cat. His hips bucked now and then,
as though he couldn't control their desire for touch.
His cock had thickened and was riding high, twitching
for attention, the glans leaking pre-come.

Skinner rubbed a hand along the erection beginning
behind his jeans, sighed and pulled his hand away.
There were still some things he wanted to do before he
attended to *that*.

He went into the kitchen, rummaged around a bit,
knowing that Alex could hear him and would be
wondering. Alex no longer slipped into that world
isolation had given him. Didn't seem to need it as
much any more except for the times he needed to deal
with the dreams.

It seemed to Skinner, the "better" Alex was getting,
the harder the dreams hit. The Danny ones left him
anxious, almost frantic. He wondered how Agent Madison
was coming along with her research.

He stood in front of the table, stroked Alex's lips
till they parted. "Nice, Alex. Keep them that way."
He dipped a finger into the preparation he had been
concocting in the kitchen, smeared it thickly over
Alex's lips, dipping just the barest touch into his
mouth. Then he sat back to watch what Alex would do
about the chocolate on his lips.

He hadn't ordered him to leave the chocolate alone, but
he also hadn't given him permission to lick it off. He
almost missed it when the show began. Just the barest
hint of pink as a bit of tongue flicked into a corner
and pulled back in.

Skinner put down the report, sat back in his armchair
and waited. With bare, tiny cat licks, the chocolate
began disappearing off Alex's lips. Just the tiniest
bit of pink drawing back with an even tinier bit of

Alex's tongue appeared here in the corner, there at the
upper lip, then at the lower. He never once brought
his lips together; just a gradually clearance of
chocolate and the reappearance of lip.

After twenty minutes, Alex's lips bore only a chocolate
outline and Skinner's erection was beginning to demand
attention. Instead he went back to Alex, dipped his
finger into the chocolate and held it close to his
mouth. Alex's tongue shyly came out to investigate,
ready to pull in should this not be acceptable.

Skinner let him lick his finger clean. He dipped it
again in the chocolate, gently placed it inside Alex's
mouth. And had his finger seduced by Alex's tongue.
All he could think of was the play of that tongue on
his cock. And he knew Alex was very aware of that.
The way his tongue played with his finger, cupping it,
slowly drawing the tip along its lower side, giving it
little flicks, gently sucking until Skinner pulled the
finger out. Skinner placed his mouth over Alex's,
rubbed hard, smearing the last of the chocolate over
both their lips.

Alex's face became marked with chocolate, his throat,
even his nipples bore some stain. The soft sounds that
accompanied his explorations went directly to Skinner's
groin. His hands skimmed flesh, causing their own
reaction until Alex's whimper kept time with his
bucking hips.

At that point, Skinner reached up and pulled the blind
off. He wanted to see Alex's eyes, their expression
when pleasure wiped out all conscious thought. Quickly
he unsnapped his jeans, pulled them down.

Alex began rolling over, ready to support his weight on
his shoulders, presenting his ass for penetration.
Skinner grabbed his hips to prevent it. "On your back,
Alex." Alex hesitated: this wasn't their usual
position. Skinner pushed against his hips, got him on
his back and raised his legs so that they now rested
over his shoulders. He grabbed a pillow, shoved it
under Alex's hips. Found the lube where he had placed
it at the beginning of the game and spread it on his

Alex's head bent back exposing his throat as the first
finger entered him. When he added a second finger,
Alex gasped loudly, raised his hips to meet the
penetration. Skinner slowly fucked Alex with his
fingers, smiling at the gasps of pleasure whenever his
fingertips stroked Alex's prostate. Watching his cock
deepen in colour, pre-come weeping over the glans. He
didn't touch it, knew Alex couldn't, not with his hand
still bound behind his back.

He pulled his fingers out. Alex keened their loss,
face in a tight grimace. Skinner rolled the condom on
himself, wiped the lube off his fingers onto it and
holding tightly onto Alex's hips, slowly entered. When
he was fully in, he clutched Alex's cock by the base,
using his grip like a cock ring, denying him
completion. Drove himself to his own.

Alex almost wept. It had been weeks since he hadn't
been allowed to orgasm in their encounters. Skinner
almost smiled at the sounds of frustration and
disappointment that Alex couldn't prevent. He raised
his head, dared to glare at Skinner who now did indeed
smile. Kept on smiling as he slowly raised Alex's hips
higher and then dropped his mouth on to Alex's cock.

He placed his hands under Alex's ass, fingers gripping
as the tight muscles flexed in reaction to his sucking,
to his playing with Alex's cock as Alex had played with
his finger. He raised his head enough to see Alex's
body arch, resting only on the shoulders, hips still.
Frozen in time. Then Skinner could feel the first
taste of come in his mouth and Alex screamed.

Skinner waited until Alex's cock softened before giving
it a last suck. He lowered Alex's feet to the floor,
leaned over Alex's still panting torso and kissed him.
Heavy-lidded green eyes were watching him when he
raised his head. Skinner rested his hands on either
side of the body under his, smiled. "I've got to feed
you chocolate more often."

He reached behind Alex, removed the belt, the
restraint. Alex raised his hand, hesitated a moment
then settled it on Skinner's shoulder. The tip of his
tongue came out and passed over his lips. Skinner's
eyes followed the action. "I'd like that," Alex

Skinner glared at the clock by the bed. He'd only
slept a couple of hours. Now, he was awake, restless.
And the cause was probably sound asleep on his bed in
the laundry room.

There were no sounds coming from the monitor so he
assumed Alex was sleeping soundly, untroubled by
nightmares. Maybe it was time for some warm milk. He
pulled his bath robe on, headed downstairs.

Alex was sound asleep. He could make out the top of
the tousled head from under the blankets. Because of
the nightmares, he left the bathroom light on so that
if Alex woke up, the presence of light helped him
orient himself more quickly. He slouched against the
kitchen entry, not going in, just wondering what the
hell he was going to do with Alex Krycek.

Whenever they played the game, he always began with
having Alex state that he belonged to him. A form of
ritual. Except that it had become more. Alex did
belong to him. Was his to play with as he pleased.
His to enjoy.

But had also become his as a responsibility. Someone
to take care of. Someone to protect.

Alex raised himself on an elbow, turned to look at the
man watching him. Skinner kept on looking for a
minute, then slowly came into the room, crouched by the
man so seriously meeting his eyes.

Skinner pulled the covers off, examined the body laid
out before him. Alex lay down on his back, arm away
from his body. He waited as if in surrender, as if in
anticipation of some judgement.

Skinner bent, took his face between his hands and
kissed him. Not in judgement. Not in a show of
mastery. But as a lover would. Gently, eliciting a
response, waiting for that response as permission to

Alex brought his hand up Skinner's arm, stroking what
skin he could reach under the sleeve. Raised his head
to facilitate their kissing. Skinner one-handedly
removed his robe, tossed it to one side, never losing
contact with Alex's skin. His hands shaped the body
beneath him, his mouth aroused it.

Alex rubbed his body against Skinner's, used his mouth
to taste whatever portion of Skinner's body was close,
revelling in being allowed to touch as much as he was

Skinner had the advantage: he already knew where to
touch, how to arouse. Alex learned quickly.

Skinner blindly sought his robe, dug into its pocket
and found the lube and condom he'd put there some time
ago. Alex took the condom from him, tore open the pack
with his teeth and expertly rolled on the latex.
Skinner pulled him into his arms, mouth devouring, his
fingers preparing Alex. Then, slouching against the
wall, he positioned Alex so that the man's knees were
on either side of his lap, so that Alex could control
his own penetration. Alex smiled as he gripped
Skinner's cock with his inner muscles and watched
Skinner's reaction to that manoeuvre. Skinner's hand
in turn duplicated those actions on Alex's cock. Alex
came first, his orgasm sending Skinner over the edge.

Alex sagged into Skinner's arms. Skinner slowly slid
flat to the floor. After a while, Skinner managed to
slip off the condom, to drag the bedclothes over them.

Alex settled his head over Skinner's heart, rubbed the
side of his face against the slickened skin. Skinner's
hand came up and cupped the back of Alex's head; he
rested his cheek on it.

Chapter 11

It was later than normal when Skinner got home the next
night. For once, he wasn't carrying any reports but he
did have something which he tossed onto the couch.

From the laundry entry, Alex was quietly waiting in
position. Usually the two men exchanged greetings of
some kind when Skinner got in, but tonight neither man
spoke. In fact, both of them were particularly tense.

Skinner tossed his coat on the armchair, turned on the
lamps by the couch. "Alex, would you come in here,

Alex flinched as though he had been hit. Skinner
realized he didn't usually *ask* Alex to do something.
Added to the tension with, "No. On your feet, Alex."

Alex slowly walked into the room, almost braced
for...what? a blow, thought Skinner. He sat down on
the couch, signalled Alex to kneel between his knees.
He began by stroking the hair off Alex's face. It had
been long for Alex when he'd arrived here. Now three
months later, it was almost too long.

He moved his hands to Alex's throat, down to his
shoulders. Alex's eyes had held his all the this time.

"Alex. I'm taking the dog collar off."

And watched pain lace through those eyes. Followed by
panic. Skinner gripped him hard, pushing down at the
same time as his knees tightened around the distraught

"No, please, don't." He tried hard to pull away from
Skinner, but Skinner just tightened his hold. His
voice rose, panic obvious in its tones. "Please, sir,
no. Please don't send me away! Please!"

Then he just suddenly stopped struggling, let his head
drop to Skinner's chest. The voice was Danny's when he
begged, "Please, please, let me stay."

Skinner wrapped his arms tightly around Alex, held him
close, made soothing noises. When he thought Alex
would listen, he tried to continue. "Alex, look at

Alex shook his head against Skinner's throat.

Skinner almost had to force his head up so that Alex
would look at him. Alex's face was bare, his eyes dark
with despair. Skinner winced at the effect of his
words, soothed the tight face with his thumbs as he
held Alex's face in a gentler hold.

"Please, " whispered Alex, turning his head, trying to
kiss the hand holding him. Skinner leaned over, rubbed
his cheek against Alex's.

"Alex. Pay attention. I want you to look at
something. I need you to translate something for me.
Will you do that for me?"

Alex finally nodded slightly. Skinner released his
head, reached for the package he'd tossed on the couch
when he'd gotten in. It was a jeweller's box. He
opened it, took out a thick silver chain. There was a
medallion hanging from it.

Skinner held it so that Alex could read what had been
etched into the back of the medallion. "It's in
Russian. You do read Russian, don't you, Alex?"

Alex nodded, almost tiredly.

"I'd like you to read it, tell me what it means in

Alex's eyes tracked to the medallion, read. Read it
again. He looked up at Skinner, a frown on his face.

"What does it say, Alex?"

Alex hesitated. Then, "I belong to W. S. Skinner."

"Is that what you want, Alex?"

Alex slowly nodded, his eyes needing reassurance that
this was not some game.

"Better check out the front before you decide if you
want to wear this."

Skinner turned the medallion around, Alex waited a
moment before looking. Skinner watched the beginning
of a small smile, a wary smile, but a smile.

"Nice whiskers," said Alex.

"Fine whiskers. I thought it was appropriate," agreed
Skinner. He placed the chain on his lap, carefully
unbuckled the dog collar. Alex flinched, forced
himself to stay still for it. Skinner placed the chain
around Alex's throat, clamped it. He passed his finger
over the medallion, over the etched rat with the fine
whiskers. "It stays on all the time, Alex. Even in
the shower."

Alex closed his eyes in relief. Nodded. Slowly, he
sat back on his heels, rested his head on Skinner's
lap. Wrapped his arm around Skinner's waist. Skinner
dropped a kiss on Alex's head, stroked the tension out
of neck and shoulders.

After some time, he raised Alex's head, smiled at him.
"Who do you belong to, Alex?"

"You, sir. I belong to you."

Skinner cupped his face with his hands. "My name,
Alex. Say my name."


Skinner stroked Alex's mouth with a thumb. Alex opened
his mouth, let the thumb in, sucked on the side of it.

"Who do you belong to, Alex?"

Alex smiled. "To you, Walter. I belong to you."

Skinner got up, pulled Alex to his feet. He passed his
finger along the chain, smiled at the man in his arms,
kissed him gently.

"Come on." Skinner took Alex by the hand, headed out
of the living room. In the foyer, it was obvious Alex
was heading was the laundry room. Skinner tugged his
hand. "Upstairs, Alex."

Alex looked once into the direction he had been going,
then turned and went with Skinner upstairs into his
bedroom. Skinner turned on the light, took Alex's face
between his hands and began the delightful chore of
arousing him.

At one point, when they'd dropped to the bed, Skinner
pulled away from Alex long enough to say, "This is my
side of the bed. Sorry, but you have no say in that.
You're just going to have to be happy with the other

Alex laughed.

Alex wasn't laughing the next morning.

Skinner woke to find himself being examined by a pair
of seriously wary green eyes. Alex was propped up on
his elbow, looking down at him. Skinner closed his
eyes. He knew they had things to discuss. This might
be the correct place and time to do it.

He reached up, rubbed the palm of his hand against
Alex's stubble. Alex's face turned into the hand,
eyes never leaving his own.

Skinner sat up, piled a couple of pillows behind him,
made himself comfortable against the head board. Alex
stayed as he was.

"We need to talk about the new rules," began Skinner.

Alex took a deeper breath, nodded.

"The game stops at the bottom of the stairs, Alex. It
never comes up here, It doesn't have a place in this
room, never in this bed. Is that acceptable to you?"

"Does this mean," Alex seemed to be feeling his way,
"that last night will happen again?"

"I'd like to think it will happen most nights. Well,
maybe not most nights. I don't spring back like a kid
any more. And I'm at an age where a bed is often used
for just sleeping, Alex. Will that disappoint you?"

Alex looked down at the bed, a slow smile suddenly
appearing. "So," he said cautiously, "those stories
about baldness and higher levels of testosterone are
just that, stories." He looked up. "Is this what
you're telling me. Walter."


Welcome back, Alex, Skinner thought.

He smiled and nodded ruefully.

"Just for sleeping." Alex continued.

"Sometimes the two of us just sleeping," agreed

"But the two of us?"

Skinner nodded.

"I'd like that," Alex offered, almost shyly.

"Now as for the game."

Alex grew still.

"From now on, clothes, Alex. Beautiful as you are,
distracting as you are, from now on, get dressed." He
held up a hand, stopping Alex from talking before he
even began. "If I'm in a mood to play the game, I'll
tell you to take your clothes off. If you're not in
the mood, you don't. Got that. We've both got to be
in the mood together or there's no playing. I won't
kick you out if you say no, Alex. It's a game. We
play it for pleasure, both of our pleasures.

"And, if you're in the mood, you'll let me know by
taking your clothes off. Either way, you pick out the
toys. You know where the key is. I reserve the right
to pick what I want to use from among your choices, or
not to use anything at all. And if I'm not in the
mood, I also reserve the right to say no. Is all that
agreeable to you, Alex."


"But? Ah, but what about the times you want to be
punished?" Because Skinner knew that wasn't going to
go away, maybe not until the dreams were settled, maybe
never. He let his voice hardened a bit. "Then, you
will do just what you have already been doing. You
will strip. You will assume the correct position by
the basement door. You will wait for instructions.
And you will obey them. Is this understood?"

Alex looked relieved. He nodded. "Thank you, sir."

Skinner reached for the phone by his side of the bed.
Hit a speed dial button. Listened to some voice mail
message. "Kim, Walter Skinner. I won't be in today so
see what you can do to re-arrange my appointments. You
might like to offer the ones that you can't to Jana
Cassidy. If anyone asks, I'm running away from home
and therefore will *not*...got that Kim?...*not* be
available even by cell phone. Thank you, Kim."

Skinner watched Alex smile, then as a lock of too long
hair dropped on his face, he grimaced, pushed it back
behind an ear.

"Why don't you just get a haircut, Alex?"

Alex looked taken aback. "I thought you wanted me to
wear it long."

"Well," Skinner seemed to be thinking about it, "it's
your hair, Alex, if you don't like it long, do
something about it. Just so it isn't one of those
stupid-ass haircuts that seem to be so popular these
days. You can take care of that while we're out

Alex's wariness was back. "Out?"

Skinner moved out of bed, stretched properly, turned in
time to see Alex's eyes darken. He was surprised and
pleased to find that Alex reacted to him the same way
he reacted to Alex.

"Out. You need clothes, Alex. And we'll have to pass
by a bank."

"I have money," Alex followed him out of bed, did his
own stretching routine, carefully checking that
Skinner's eyes were following him.

"Do you?"

"In the bottom of the gym bag."

Skinner stopped what he was doing, questioned that with
a raise of an eyebrow.

"Well, I don't use banks much, except for safety
deposite boxes." Alex seemed uncomfortable again.
"Walter. I *can* pay my way."

Skinner decided that Alex's finances were none of his
business. Well, not those of the past. He didn't
think he'd have to worry about future sources if his
plans worked out. So, over his shoulder, on the way to
the bathroom, "Good. You get to buy lunch."

Chapter 12

"I understand that congratulations are called for,
Agent Madison. SAC Spencer reports that you went over
and above the call of duty."

"Thank you, sir." Agent Madison seemed to be quite
unemotional in her acceptance.

"That your actions probably saved your partner's
career. Should I offer my commiseration for that,
Agent Madison?"

Agent Madison sighed. She sat down in the chair
indicated. "Is this meeting off the record, sir?"

Skinner nodded.

Her dutiful FBI mask dropped. "The man is such an
idiot. Just because I'm new...and a woman..."

Skinner grinned. "You've got to understand, Agent
Madison, that the men attracted to this kind of work
are not Sensitive New Age Guys. I doubt, if push came
to shove, you would want one of those covering your
back. Give us time, Rachel. When I started here,
women were only the secretaries. Now we've got one in
line for the Directorship."

Agent Madison smiled. Strange that she felt she could
vent here safely. This was the DD. But it *was* off
the record, as was the report she handed him.

"I'm sorry it's taken so long, sir. And I'm afraid
it's not complete."

Skinner looked at the unlabelled dossier in his hand.
"Perhaps you'd like to sum it up for me, Agent
Madison." He wanted to hear how her mind worked; he
had plans for Agent Madison.

Daniel Aloysha Gorshok was the son of Nicholai
Alexandrovitch Gorshok and of Zaneta Ilaria Bazarov.
He was born in Chicago, 1964.

On September 28, 1975, the boy came home late from
school to find his father in the garage dead of a
shotgun blast to the head. The death was ruled

"But..." Skinner wondered, wasn't disappointed.

The man was left-handed, the shot had come from the

As for the boy -- because this was about the boy,
wasn't it? -- when they tested the shotgun, his were
the only prints they found on the weapon.

"He picked up the gun," said Skinner


He'd come home, found his father's head blown off,
blood and brain tissue all over the back of the garage.
Of course he would pick up the gun. And of course his
prints would be on the gun.

That wasn't quite the way the story went. She had
interviewed some of the neighbours.

Skinner was pleased that his hunch about Agent Madison
had been correct.

The neighbourhood was one where the people bought
houses after marriage, raised their kids and then
retired to them. Some of the neighbours had lived in
the area for thirty, forty years. Some of them even
remembered the Gorshok affair.

According to them, the boy had been in shock for
several days, but no one seemed to be taking care of
him. "She", and the neighbours never referred to her
by name, just "she", held centre court the entire time.
Had no time for the boy who had found his father. His
much loved father.

These same neighbours remembered both the boy and his
father by name: Danny and Nick were an item in the
neighbourhood. The man spent his spare time with the
boy, organized all sorts of activities for the kids.
Street hockey, baseball. Once he piled the car with
kids and took them all to the circus. Most of them had
gotten sick when they'd come home, because of the junk
he'd let them eat, but some of them still remembered
the outing fondly.

And Nick didn't keep guns around the house. Well,
maybe his work had called for them, they hadn't known
exactly what it was he did, but not around the house.
No way, said the neighbours, that Danny would have,
could have killed his father. Even by accident.

No matter what "she" hinted at. Because that was what
she had suggested, often, after the boy disappeared.
For his own good, she'd said, sighing like some soap
opera diva. Of course, she herself was soon gone. Not
a month after Nick's death. Just like the boy. There
one day, gone the next. Good riddance. But it was sad
about the boy.

"I'm sorry, sir. I haven't been able to trace either
one of them down. The boy just seems to have vanished,
and I managed to track down the woman's family, she
still has a sister living in Chicago, but she hasn't
seen or heard from her since Nicholai Gorshok was
killed. The only lead she could give me was someone
named Davey, no last name. I just can't seem to get a
lead on Zaneta Bazarov Gorshok."

"Try Jane, or any variant on that. That's what the
anglicisation of Zaneta would be." Skinner offered.

Agent Madison nodded. "There's a photo of the boy and
his father at the back of the file. One of the
neighbours still had it in her collection."

Skinner flipped to the photo. It wasn't very large,
just black and white. A small boy, laughing happily,
leaning confidently against the father crouched next to
him, arm protectively holding the boy close. Also
laughing. Father and son looked very much alike.

"No one had a picture of the mother. No high school
photos, she didn't finish high school."

"Thank you, Agent Madison. I would appreciate it if
you keep on trying to locate the woman."

"No problem, sir." She stood to leave, hesitated.
"The boy is Alex Krycek, isn't he?"

Skinner looked up from the photo. Nodded.

"For what it's worth, sir, I don't believe Danny
Gorshok killed his father, even by accident."

"Neither do I, Agent Madison." He watched her leave.
Went back to staring at the photo. "Question is did
Danny believe it? Does Alex?"

Chapter 13

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
in his.

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 hestitant 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
phones off.


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
your father?"

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
nerdy ones."

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."

Chapter 14

"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 assigment, 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 apppreciation. "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
committment to Wilson-Jones and free lance the rest of
the time."

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
black tie."

As the second period of the game began, Alex scratched
his groin through his jeans. "So when are you done at
the Bureau?"

"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."

Chapter 15

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
was happening.

"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
before that.

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?"

"Yes, sir."

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?"

"Yes, sir."

"You will do nothing that calls attention to the fact
that there are people in this room. Nothing. Do you
understand *that*?"

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 scenerio, 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

"Thank you."

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
minutes enough?"

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
previous case."

"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
still suicide."

"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
knew that."

"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
meant it."

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
them again."

"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 harrassement! 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're sure?"

Alex nodded.

"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.

Chapter 16

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
first night.

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
now. Unless...

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
in time.

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
small blessing.

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
fucking mind!"

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
been done.

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
call her.

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

"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
understand that?"

He nodded.

"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
from Alex.

"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
day? "

"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.

Chapter 17

Alex was sleeping, or pretending to be sleeping, on the
couch when Skinner got home.

Sighning, 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
stopped him.

"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
second, okay?"

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
way. Ever."

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
understand that?"

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.
Understood? Good."

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
his beer.

"We are going to discuss," he said in his best DD-
chairing-a-meeting voice, "why this sudden need for
pain, Alex."

He held up a hand forestalling anything Alex might want
to say.

"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
no pain."

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
scream away?"

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
completely lost.

"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
the garage."

"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
he say?

"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
passed them."

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
to, Alex?"

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,
even now.

"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
over Alex's.

"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
Skinner's throat.

"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
tranquillizers 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
on it.

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
a suit.

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
the Monster.

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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