Title: All I Can Give

Author: KinkyGrrl Diane (kinkygrrl1980@yahoo.com)

Website: http://www.angelfire.com/extreme4/kinkygrrl1980/

Keywords: Krycek POV, K/Sk, slash, h/c

Feedback: Always welcome and appreciated!

Spoilers: Vaguely sprinkled references, nothing major.

Archive: Ask, please.

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Chris Carter and Them, yadda yadda. No copyright infringement intended, I write for love and feedback, not money.

Summary: Krycek tries to come to terms with what Spender is forcing him to do to Skinner.

Notes: This was written because Xanthe wanted a Beautiful!Walter fic. I, of course, had to put lots of h/c in. Once I got started writing, I realized that those two concepts blended even better than I had thought they would.

Dedication: To Xanthe, for all the reading pleasure her wonderful stories have given me. Many, many thanks to my two splendid beta readers, Peach and Amazon X!

All I Can Give


The lash falls across Skinnerís naked back, again and again. I accidentally misjudge my stroke, and blood trickles down to mix with the sweat already soaking the big manís body. Skinner no longer cries out with each blow, but only fights for breath and consciousness, his body writhing uncontrollably in its bonds. I lower my arm and check the stopwatch. Nine and a half minutes. Close enough that Spender probably wonít call me on it, even if he knows what I am doing. Which he probably does.

"Time." I toss the whip to the ground with an audible thunk and Skinner sags in the ropes, eyes closed, trying to control the tremors that grip him in the aftermath of his punishment. Spender catches my eye, and with a cold, cruel smile holds up one finger.

One more. Now, when Skinner isnít expecting it. Isnít braced. I pick up the whip as quietly as I can, knowing that if Skinner is warned and able to control himself Spender wonít get the reaction he wants, and there will be worse to follow. I swing the lash back and bring it down with all my strength on Skinnerís back.

Skinner convulses with a genuine scream, and a violent spasm that looks as painful as it sounds.

"Next time I ask you to erase a set of files, perhaps you will see fit to obey me. I ask so little of you these days, Skinner. One would think you are deliberately trying to evoke my wrath. Perhaps youíve gotten a taste for that sort of thing."

Spender deliberately blows a cloud of smoke directly into Skinnerís eyes, smiling calmly as Skinner jerks his head aside. "Clean him up and take him back to work." Spender flicks his cigarette butt dismissively onto the floor beneath Skinnerís feet, then turns and walks out of the room. I have long suspected it amuses him to think of Skinner in his office, in too much pain to do anything useful but too proud to give in and go home. To admit to his weakness. Occasionally Spender drops by to chat and leave a miasma of Morley in Skinnerís office, then arranges something to goad Mulder into visiting Skinner with some complaint or other, just to watch Skinner trying to deal with his agony and Mulder at the same time. The office is bugged, of course. One of my jobs. Skinner knows this, and he hates it, but thereís nothing he can do about it. Itís all part of the package.

Why the fuck do you do this, Skinner? How can she possibly be worth it?

Of course, it isnít just Scully any more. Since all the old guard got fried at El Rico nobody much cares about the publicity value of one dead federal agent, even one as high profile as Mulder, and none of the new Project know Bill Mulder as more than a name, or care about his son. If Spender wanted Mulder dead nobody would object. So Skinner is held hostage by two living shackles and a bloodstream full of nanocytes. Spenderís private one man entertainment source.

Everybody thinks they know what Spender really wants from Skinner, of course, but Skinner has so far chosen one hell of a lot of pain and humiliation over that. Spender could just have him tied, and then fuck him as long and as hard as he wants, but it wouldnít be the capitulation that Spender is holding out for. From the beginning, it was Skinner that Spender has wanted to dominate, but there is an unyielding core in Skinner that refuses to break, no matter how many times he is bent.

I release the ropes that bind Skinnerís arms, and Skinner collapses to the floor, struggling up to his hands and knees with a labored manner that makes it look as if he is moving in slow motion. I can smell the pungent scent of fresh urine. Fuck. It was the last one that did it, wasnít it? You poor bastard. Spender was really fucking furious this time. Iím surprised that Skinner is still conscious, but today is Monday, after all, and Spender hates to violate his own rules.

"Lie down, Skinner," I order, keeping my voice as monotone as I can.

"Fuck you, Krycek." Skinner props himself up, hands flat on the ground to give himself better support.

It has almost become a ritual. I give orders and Skinner fights them, knowing that with a single word I could have a dozen men in to manhandle him into any position I deem "necessary". Knowing that he is completely in my power in this room once Spender leaves. Spender only has two rules regarding Skinner; no anal penetration, and no injuries that will show at work. Anything short of that, any humiliation or torment is allowed according to the whims of his current "handler".

Skinner knows that, but it doesnít stop him from fighting, if only to prove that he still can.

"Okay, Skinner, you want this the hard way? Suits me." I gather up a length of rope and approach the man, watching as Skinner staggers to his feet, fists clenched, prepared to fend me off. The anger in Skinnerís eyes is diluted by pain and the dawning physical shock of his beating. He is just going through the motions of resistance, unwilling to submit to me even though he knows it will bring an easing of his pain.

Skinner swings at me as I move in close, a glancing blow that I take on my left shoulder. Fuck, that hurts. My stump is more sensitive than a normal shoulder would be. I yank Skinner hard, sending him sprawling on the ground and with a speed honed over many years of fighting to survive I have the big manís arms pulled up and lashed together behind his back. Hard to do with the prosthesis, but Skinner isnít in any shape to put up much of a fight. Not surprising after the beating Iíve just given him.

I linger for a moment, feeling the hard, muscular heat of Skinnerís thighs radiating out, feeling the rage coiled in Skinnerís muscles. I half expect the man to struggle beneath me, and find myself a little disappointed when Skinner merely lays passive. You are one pathetic little shit, Krycek.

"You enjoy this, donít you?" Skinnerís voice rasps, his breathing labored.

"Yeah. I do." Itís the truth. Almost.

Skinner sags. There is a look in his eyes, as if his last door has just been closed.

For a moment I canít breath. Donít look like that. Please, Skinner. Youíll never know it, but Iím doing the best that I can.

"I thoughtÖso. You donít get off on hurting orÖhumiliating me like the others did." It's a painfully open observation, and I can see how much it costs Skinner just to make it. "Is it just the struggle? OrÖme?"

"This is a very strange conversation to be having here like this, Skinner." I try to distance myself from him emotionally, aware that my heart is beating with an almost painful intensity and the erection straining against my jeans is giving me away for the sick fuck that I am. I dismount from Skinner with a single fluid motion.

"I suppose," Skinner says wearily. "But Iím so tired, Krycek. Iím so tired of waiting and not knowing when, or what. Just tell me what you want. You want to rough me up a little? You want me angry? That wonít be hard. Iíll play this however you want. I donít beg, though. And I wonít suck you off."

I nearly stumble as a wave of sheer sexual heat chases Skinnerís remark across my groin. I pick up my handy backpack handler kit and carry it back to Skinner, setting it down beside him and fumbling with the straps. However you want. I force a chuckle as I extract a jar of aloe salve, and settle myself cross legged beside Skinner. I school my voice to indifference. "If you wonít suck me off and Spender wonít let me fuck you, what exactly is it that you think youíre offering, Skinner?" I twist off the lid, remove my glove and gather a generous fingerful of the cream and begin spreading it across Skinnerís reddened back.

Skinnerís eyes mirror his sudden despair. "I thought I was giving it to you. I struggle untilÖI canít struggle any more and then youÖlet me go."

My fingers suddenly still mid-stroke. "Thatís why you fight me, Skinner? Because you think I want you to?" I canít keep the edge of panic from my voice. Fuck. This is so twisted. How did we ever come to this?

"Donít you?"

Donít you? Yes. I do. But not because I enjoyed hurting him, not because I want to see him humbled. Because I know that when he stops struggling it will be because he is dead.

"Iím sorry. I shouldnít have said anything, should I? Fuck." Suddenly the trembling is back, in waves that break over Skinnerís helpless body. His bound hands jerk impotently against the ropes that bind them.

Weíve been doing this dance for so long; in some warped way his pain has become my pain, and there is only one easing I can think to give him. I shove the backpack and salve aside and scramble up on my knees. "Easy, Skinner," I whisper. I touch the back of his neck, the only unmarked expanse of skin I have easy access to. My thumb traces soothing little circles over the slight undulations of Skinnerís upper vertebrae, and the stubble of his neck. "Itís okay. Relax. Donít assume that you understand what I want, though. You donít know me well enough for that."

The tremors gradually subside. Skinnerís eyes stare out across the floor, half lidded and dull. "Will you tell me, then, or am I supposed to guess?"

"Iíll tell you." I fight to keep my voice even. Fuck, Skinner, you have no idea what you do to me. What power you could have over me if you only realized it. What do I want? What do I tell you? "I wantÖobedience."

"Obedience? What do you mean?" A spark of hostility kindles in Skinnerís voice, and the sound of it warms me immensely. The anger will bring him out of shock much more quickly. He needs to get warm, though. And a shower. "Just what I said. I tell you to do something and you do it."

"Fuck you, Krycek! Iím not catering to your sick little slaveboy fantasies."

I canít help chuckling. "Well," I say, "you did ask. Besides," I reach back for the salve. "If I tell you to do something and you really donít want to, you can always say no."

"I suppose." Skinner takes a quiet breath, and tries surreptitiously to ease the discomfort of his position.

"Okay, then. Thatís the deal. No guessing games. No macho bullshit. I tell you to lie on the floor and you do it. I tell you to sit still and you do it. I tell you to take a showerÖ"

"Öand I do it. I get the idea, Krycek. You donít have to rub it in. I know I smell like piss." Skinnerís voice is tightly controlled.

"And you donít fight me. Whatever I do to you, you donít fight me."

"Youíre insane."

"Yeah. Thatís what they tell me. I had an alien in my body once, you know," I confide. "Mulder probably told you. If he knew. I think he suspected. In Hong Kong. The car crash. Never mind, not important."

Now Skinner is looking uncertain. "Are you trying to creep me out, Krycek?"

I laugh outright. Itís such a Skinner thing to say, so straightforward and honest. "Yeah, Skinner. Iím just fucking with you." I lean over him, working at the knots I just finished tying. "Iím going to take these off now. Then youíre going to sit up and let me finish with what Iím doing."

Skinner absorbs this with an almost thoughtful air as he waits for me to finish loosing him. He gives a pained grunt as his arms slip to the ground.

"Stay still," I order, and I experience a small spurt of pleasure when Skinner obediently stills. I spend a few moments massaging his shoulders to work out the muscles cramps. "Now sit up."

Skinner struggles into a sitting position, his legs poking stiffly out before him.

"Can you sit cross legged?"

"Not easily. I was never very flexible."

I give a snort of laughter. "I think you underestimate yourself, Skinner. Okay, flex your legs and bend forward. Arms around your legsÖtuck your head. Thatís good." I position Skinnerís body to be as comfortable as I can, thrilling to the quiet submission that he is showing. Daringly, I steal a moment to run my hand lightly down the length of his spine, enjoying the sudden, wary tension that stiffens his back. I like keeping Skinner on edge, sometimes. Tense, and relax. Tense, and relax. Deeper and deeper, Skinner. One day youíll let yourself fall back, and I'll be there to catch youÖ

What the fuck are you thinking, you little shit? Spenderís holding your strings. You donít even fucking think about doing things like that to Skinner. Heís got enough fucking nooses around his neck already. Donít put yours there too. He doesnít deserve that.

I smear the cream across Skinnerís welts, working it gently in, reveling in the fact that I donít have to hide my pleasure in the act, enjoying the feel of Skinnerís warm flesh beneath my fingers, enjoying the scent of the man. I lean forward into the heady combination of Brut and aloe and Skinner-sweat.

By the time I am finished, Skinner is deeply relaxed. His breathing is slow and even. I wonder if he has fallen asleep. "Skinner?"

He raises his head, and his chest rises and falls in a long sigh. "Yes."

"Time to go. Iíll take you home so you can shower and change."

I watch him rise to his feet. Not particularly graceful nor fluid, there is a sense of leashed power about the man. His movements are abrupt and precise, thrusting him upright, a sudden breathtaking flexing of the powerful muscles. I stand, enjoying the view until Skinner turns to stare at me questioningly. I rummage through the pack, bringing out a t-shirt. "HereÖput this on. You donít want to get this shit all over your dress shirt. I know how much dry cleaning costs."

Skinner stiffly drags the shirt on over his head, thrusting his arms into the short sleeves.

Silently, I catch my breath. It is black, and tight, clearly outlining every rippling muscle. A sprinkling of salt and pepper hair shows above the scooped neckline. It looks every bit as good on Skinner as I knew it would.

"Something wrong?"

"Little tightÖon you." Breathe, Alex. "Youíre a little wider in the chest than I am."

"It feels fine."

"Letís get going, then. Iíve got a schedule to keep. Here, carry this." Kicking the backpack at Skinner, I stride past him, hearing the rustle as he lifts the pack and falls in step behind me. I realize that I'm not planning on just dropping him off and leaving. What are you doing, you dumbfuck? Going to his apartment? Hanging around while he showers? If Spender finds outÖ

What is Spender likely to do? Itís hard to say. Iíve never been able to predict the old manís moves. Hell of a chess player. I canít even be certain that this seeming obsession with Skinner is anything more than another of his manipulations, though it is hard to predict who it is aimed at. Is he setting Skinner up to look like some kind of weakness of Spenderís, inviting one of his enemies to strike, thereby revealing himself?

A savage knife thrust of fear tears into my gut. It would be just like the old man, the fucking cunning ruthless heartlessÖ

Iíve always secretly suspected that Spender was behind the El Rico massacre. Especially since it leaves him as the oldest and most powerful of a reduced but still to-be-feared secret organization. The old man allowed his wife to be tortured and driven insane, and cold-bloodedly shot his own son, just because Jeffrey wouldnít allow himself to be controlled any more.

Iíve always been careful to make it clear to Spender that Iím willing to be held on his leash, ever since the silo. I still have nightmares about it, but it taught me obedience and because of it Spender allows me more freedom than his other lackeys are allowed. It makes me hated and resented, but it also makes me feared and obeyed. There are always compensations.

I press my thumb against the identi-pad and throw my weight against the door when the green LED lights up. Gun drawn, I slip down the dark stairwell to the basement, always expecting trouble, always alert. There is no such thing as safe, nowhere that an enemy canít get to you. Or a friend. That snarky little saying has it all wrong. A friend is just an enemy whose price hasnít been met.

My car is waiting for me on the second floor. Black, sleek, smoked windows, V8, power fucking everything. Top of the line stereo and security system. Like I saidÖcompensations.

Whenever Skinner is summoned to his office, Spender always insists that he be driven to and back by his handler. Thereís no good reason for it, just another way to make Skinner feel helpless. Take away a manís car and you steal half his power, someone once said. I donít know if Iíd go that far, but thereís at least a kernel of truth in it.

I pop the locks and slide in. Skinner settles himself without comment, buckling up the seatbelt but leaving himself enough play that he can lean slightly forward in the seat.

His back probably still hurts like hell, but heís bearing up well. Itís going to be one fucking long day at the office, though.

He lets us into his apartment, and I canít help throwing a glance at the glass panel taking up one wall of the living room, and at the iron balcony outside. He notices the direction of my gaze and gives a short, humorless laugh.

"Iím still thinking warm thoughts, Skinner," I tell him, just to see if heíll flinch.

He doesnít, just grunts and disappears into the kitchen. After a while he reappears, with a half filled bottle of scotch and two glasses. He sets them down on the table, pours about an inch into each and hands me one. I can smell from his breath that heís already been sampling the goods.

I take it, wondering whatís gotten into him. He doesnít usually drink this early in the day, and never before work.

"To the good old days," he taps his glass to mine and throws back the scotch in a single gulp, wincing at the burn.

I sip at mine a bit more cautiously. "What good old days? I wasnít aware that we had any."

"The good old days," he repeats. He gestures toward the balcony. "When you still had both arms, and I still had my balls."

The anger that burns in me at his casual reference to my mutilation is diluted by his obvious self mockery. I say nothing, because there is nothing to say. Heís right. Like the saying should go; every day in every way things are getting worse and worseÖ That makes every day before today the good old days.

I should probably go, butÖI donít want to. Iím tired, and Skinnerís drinking, and he doesnít act as if he wants me to leave. I wonder if I could get him drunk enough that he wouldnít remember in the morning. All my survival instincts are screaming at me in panic, but thereís something in me screaming even louder, something that burns worse than the scotch. A hurting kind of burn, but one that feels so good at the same time.

I sip slowly, wondering what heís thinking. What heís planning. If anything.

He drains his glass and pours himself another, disappearing into the kitchen for a while before reappearing with his empty glass. "You arenít drinking, Krycek. Donít like my scotch?"

Heís in a strange mood. It makes me a little uneasy. The one thing Iíve been able to count on in my dealings with Skinner has been his predictability, his strong sense of self. I suppose every man has his breaking point, though.

"Someoneís got to be fit to drive when youíre done beating up your liver."

He gives a non-committal grunt and refills his glass, and I watch as he sips it, hardly even aware of what heís doing. His attention is turned inwards, contemplating his own private hell. The hell we share, though he doesnít know that, of course. He thinks heís alone, and I intend to keep it that way. Anything else would beÖworseÖthan hell.

He shifts slightly, trying to get comfortable. The cut I gave him is probably starting to sting from the salt of his sweat, his back probably aches like a son of a bitch, and he smells like piss.

Why do you let him do this to you, Walter?

"Why? You know why, Krycek."

I give a little jerk of surprise. I hadnít even been aware that Iíd been speaking aloud. Fuck. Anger at my own carelessness makes me snap at him. "Yeah. Our two prize agents. I will say this for you, Walt, you are soooo fucking dedicated to your job. And your job is sooo dedicated to fucking you. Or are you hoping to get lucky with the little redhead some day? Hell of a price for a piece of ass, Walt."

Skinnerís fury burns white hot for an instant, then melts strangely to ash. "Itís not like that, Krycek. Donít judge everybody by your own standards."

Every nerve in my body comes on the alert. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"You heard me." Skinner stares at me challengingly. "I have eyes, Krycek. I saw the way your eyes used to follow Mulder around. Mulder probably never noticed," he takes another sip of his scotch, "but I did."

I relax. Mulderís neutral ground as far as Iím concerned. "Yeah. Well. Mulder never really noticed anything but himself and his own problems. Hyper-focus. Made him a highly effective agent, but heíd have made a lousy lover. He was pretty, though. Still is."

"I suppose," Skinner agrees reflectively. "Not my cup of tea."

"You like women better?"

"I was married for nineteen years."

Thatís not an answer, Walter. I watch him in silence, brooding. What do I really know about Skinner? Other than the fact that heís so damned hot I thought my tie was going to catch fire the first time I shook hands with my new boss, way back when I was just-graduated Agent Krycek. Other than the fact that Skinner is willing to allow himself to be tortured and humiliated to protect the lives of his agents.

That could have been me, if I hadnít made the choices I did. If I had stayed squeaky clean Agent Krycek heíd have laid himself down beneath the stroke of Spenderís whip for me, too. I take another sip of scotch, forcing it down past the tightness in my throat. I hate them. God, I hate them for taking for granted what he goes through to protect them.

"Iím not sure, anymore, sometimes. It all seemed so clear in the beginning. I believed in what they were doing. I thoughtÖ" Skinnerís mouth curves in a smile filled with self-mockery "Öthat if I only paid the price that was asked, sacrificed enough they would eventually come to trust me." He lets out a long breath, and his eyes turn sad. "Iím tainted, though. Tainted by association, tainted by choice. Theyíll never see beyond that. And maybe they shouldnít. So they continue their fight without me, and I try to cover for them as best I can. If Iíd erased the files Spender ordered me to, hundreds of people would have died before Mulder caught that murderous bastard. The Consortium doesnít care about that, of course. It just wants to hide its dirty laundry." He swirls the scotch around and around, a tiny whirlpool in a curved glass prison. "If I stop fighting, someone else will be put in my place. Probably someone hand-picked by Spender." He snorts. "Someone who knows how to do what heís told. I keep paying the price because if I give up now, everything Iíve accomplished and every price Iíve paid up to this point will have been for nothing."

I keep paying the priceÖyeahÖI hear you there, Skinner. Isnít it funny, the sort of shit life throws at you? I could almost believe in karma.

"You want to know why I put up with this, Krycek? Why I let Spender and his pack of sadistic lapdogs treat me like shit?" Skinnerís eyes met mine, solemnly, and without a trace of self-pity. "Because itís the right thing to do. Sometimes, thatís all that gets me out of bed in the morning." His look turns suddenly thoughtful. "How about you, Krycek? Why do you stay? Is it the money, or the power trip? Or are you going to tell me that you donít have a choice, that thereís only one way out of the Consortium and thatís in a pine box? Or maybe itís the thrill of running around in a black leather jacket shooting people."

Heís drunk. What has he hadÖthree, no, four? Four and a half. FuckÖSpenderís going to kill me. I canít take him to work like this.

"No? None of them? I thought Iíd covered all the bases. Is there something Iím missing, Krycek?"

Everything. Not that Iím complaining, mind you. I rise, and stalk across the floor, trying to look menacing. "Youíve had enough of this, Skinner." I pluck the glass from his fingers, and he doesnít even try to stop me. "You seem to have lost most of your native caution. Maybe a cold shower is in order." Not that the shower is going to make him any better able to function, but the thought of him, with that wet black shirt plastered to his chest, his nipples erect beneath the cold sprayÖ

Fuck. I surreptitiously check to make sure my jacket is pulled down far enough to hide the direction of my thoughts. Besides, I want to see how far heíll go. How much heíll put up with from me.

Skinner is gazing up at me, his eyes unreadable. I want to drown in them, to pay whatever it costs to have him. Heíll never really be mine, though.

"On your feet, Skinner. Now."

Still without a ripple of emotion, he rises to his feet. I could come just from watching him move like that, all control and precise movement. I almost couldnít do it, that day at the boxing ring. To bring him low like that, to watch that powerful body crumple into helplessness. Iím not him, though. Iím not willing to suffer the cost of defying Spender. Iím not proud of that, but I like to think thereís some virtue in honesty, at least.

"Bathroom," I order, and wait, tension bunching the muscles of my shoulders, to see what he will do.

The steadiness of his gaze never wavers. "Are you sure you want to do this, Krycek?"

My pulse beats a frantic warning against the leather of my collar. I must be insane. "We had a deal, Skinner. Donít fuck with me." I canít seem to bring myself to stop, though. Iím helpless to deny what he offers, all unconsciously.

Skinnerís lips twitch. "I canít help it, Krycek. Youíre just so damned fuckable. You always were."

He turns away from me, which is a good thing because my knees are buckling to the point that I have to sit down. I toss back the rest of his scotch, then realize, too late, that it was a really dumb thing to do.

Skinner thinks Iím fuckable? I set down the glass before it can slip from my suddenly trembling fingers.

How the fuck did I let this happen? Iíve always been so careful. Never touching him without a good reason. Never going easy on him unless I can hide it somehow. Spender has guessed, heís too canny a bastard not to have, but Skinner..? He hates me. He fucking has to. Iím the one who lays his back open with Spenderís whip, Iím the voice and hand of the man he hates above all else, I even killed him once.

He hates me. I chant the words like a mantra. Theyíre all that can save me, can force me to leave now, before I do something thatís going to get me killed. Or worse. He hates me and I want him and I am so fucked, so eternally fuckedÖ

Why is he doing this to me? Normally Iím a pretty sharp guy when it comes to figuring out peoplesí motives. Comes with the territory. For some reason, though, my mind just keeps turning in circles like a dog in a box and I canít think of anything at all except the memory of his words, and the taste of his scotch on my tongue.

Heís waiting for me, standing in the doorway. I canít lie to myself any more. He knows exactly what heís doing. He knows where this is leading. I just donít know how far, or why, and Iím not sure which question is more important. Though, I know which one should be.

I compose myself before I stand up. I should walk out the door, now. Heíll still knowÖit will be an obvious and ignominious retreat, but at leastÖ

I canít. Iím not strong enough anymore. Like him, IímÖworn down.

Does he see that in me? A kindred spirit, in a twisted, villainous sort of way? Or does he just see an opportunity, a weakness that he can exploit in one of his enemies?

Heís still waiting, and I guess Iím just putting off the inevitable. My decision was never really in doubt.

He precedes me down the short hall and into the master bedroom, left turn into a bathroom. Iíve seen it before, all blue tile and masculine décor. Mulder shoved me in here for a few minutes before he dragged me off to Tunguska to get my arm cut off. Thanks, Mulder.

With the casual confidence of a man who isnít ashamed of his body, Skinner strips off the shirt and reaches down to unzip his slacks. The whip marks have faded to a faint blush; Spender chooses his whips for pain rather than damage. His stripes donít seem to be bothering Skinner much as he bends at the waist, letting the slacks slide down to puddle on the floor. His back muscles ripple as he straightens.

I canít look away. He knows it, too, the bastard. Heís putting on quite a show. What the hell is going through his mind?

He reaches into the shower and turns the water on. If it was any other man standing there, dressed in nothing but stained briefs and ankle socks heíd be looking ridiculous, but Skinner just looksÖlike a god. I get to see his naked back frequently, but it isn't often that I get to see the rest. Heís got nice legs, a swell of muscle high in the calf, a fighterís leg, not a runnerís, and a powerful pair of thighs. I have sudden vision of them wrapped around my head and the thought spikes directly down into my cock.

The anticipation of it steals my breath. The tight briefs donít hide much, but there is something unbearably erotic about the thought of seeing the naked line of his back, smooth and unbroken from shoulder to buttock to bare feet. Iíve given up trying to pretend that what heís doing isnít arousing me. Iím so hard I must have a zipper print running up the side of my dick by now.

I used to watch him, in his tailored suit, day after day, so formal and controlled. I used to dream of seeing him stripped, of seeing the anger boil away his emotional armor. Not because I wanted to see him brought low, but because I wanted to see him. Naked. To see the man beneath the suit, beneath the A.D.

Be careful what you wish for. Now that I see it on a regular basis, see him stripped down and emotionally violated, I carry a hell of a load of guilt. I know it isnít my fault but it seems like it is, because I wanted it and now itís happening and I hate myself for getting hard every time I see him lying there on the floor, hurting, helpless, in my power. It almost makes up for what I have to feel for putting him there.

He tests the water, then looks at me. "Cold enough?" he asks. The message is plain; whatever happens here, in this room and in the other, is under my control. My responsibility.

I can feel the chill of it from where Iím standing. He canít be looking forward to this. If he goes in there after the beating heís taken his muscles will seize up and he knows it. Not to mention the fact that fact that heíll be shivering and chilled to the bone.

Iím his Ďhandlerí. Itís a sick little game Spender plays with those who heís got enough on to force them to play, but who wouldnít do so willingly. I started out with a handler, too, way back in the beginning, back when I was barely out of Quantico. He had shit on me that might have gotten me kicked out of the F.B.I. if it had been made public. Some dumb kid thing that barely registers on my radar any more. If Iíd known back then what I know now Iíd have told him to get fucked. I didnít, though, and with every act I committed at his orders I just sank deeper and deeper.

My handler, Jack, was a sadistic piece of shit who taught me to deep throat without gagging, how to give a killer massage, and other useful party tricks, and nearly crippled me once by leaving me tied up for almost an entire day after a whipping. He said he was drunk, but it might just have been forgetfulness. Or indifference.

I shot him through the back of the head three times, a few years ago. It was my reward from Spender for doing his old friend and former partner, Bill. That was the night I graduated from handlee to handler, and the night I learned that CGB Spender is a truly cold blooded son of a bitch.

Skinner waits impassively for my judgment. It canít be pleasant, thinking about climbing into that frigid spray. He knows Spender will be pissed if I cramp him up and donít get him back in working order by the end of the day, but heísÖdaring me. Testing me.

Itís something I would have done in his place. Something I did do. Jack was easy. All he wanted was a tight hole and someone to do shit to when he was pissed. Did I say easy? I meant the mechanics of it were easy. The reality wasÖsomething I have trouble forcing myself to think about, even now. Looking back, I can see why Spender gave me to Jack. I was a cocky little bastard, full of education and pride and just enough idealism to be self righteous. Jack taught me things about myself and others that I never would have been able to face otherwise. Not pleasant, but I survived.

My face is starting to get damp from the fine, cold mist filling the bathroom. I cross the floor and reach past Skinner to crank the handle to the left. My shoulder bumps against him, and from this position I notice that heís not erect.

I donít know why I expected him to be. Iím not his friend or his agent, or even a guy he picked up in a bar last night. I wish to hell I wasÖat least Iíd have a chance with him. Iím just a leash around his neck.

I need to be honest with myself, or this will kill me. What heís doing is a calculated attempt to pad the collar, to introduce some give into the leash. I canít blame him for that. I canít.

The spray turns warm, steam replacing the mist. Our eyes meet, and I canít guess what heís seeing in mine. His are guarded, perhaps with a slight edge of bitterness. He knows how far heís fallen already into the pit that Spender makes us dig for ourselves. He knows what heís doing, and he knows I do as well. And he knows Iíll let him.

He just doesnít know why.

Iím going to let him, because then it will give me an excuse. Iím going to give him something to hold over my head, because it will give him back a little control over his life. Iím going to give him a strong motive for wanting to keep me, for working to convince Spender that I have everything under control. He knows that if he fights me too determinedly Spender will just reassign him; heís gone through five handlers already.

I retreat to the doorway. "Take a hot shower, get yourself clean. Iíll be in the bedroom."

He doesnít bother nodding, just strips off his socks and takes down his briefs. I canít look away. God, heís beautiful. It isnít just his physique, impressive though that is, itís my knowledge of the man himself. Itís the sense of controlled power that surrounds him like a cloud of supercharged pheromones. The best lovers are the ones who can stay in control, even in the heat of passion. Who only lose that control when they choose, as a gift to their lovers. At least, thatís what Iím told.

He steps into the shower and pulls the glass door shut. Still I watch him, a pale, smudged figure moving beneath the spray, my memory filling in the details that my eyes no longer need. After so long, I know him by heart. I know the way he carries himself, the rhythm of his walk, the way he moves. I know that he twists to the left when he throws a roundhouse. I know how much power he can put into a punch, and how much he held back that day that Mulder dragged me to his apartment for Ďsafekeepingí. I know how hard his stomach muscles are. I know how his face twists in the extremes of pain, the shape of his fists clenched in impotent fury, the open, vulnerable look of relief when itís all over, when the whipping is finished, or the day is done and everyone is still alive. I never wanted these memories, and yet I cherish them and sometimes I hate myself for that, too.

I wonder what heíd do if I stripped down to my t-shirt and pulled open the shower door and thrust myself beneath the cascading water with him. If I took the soap from his broad, sure hands and worked up a lather and took possession of his body with my fingers. No, I donít really wonder. I know.

Heíd let me do it, allow my control over him, putting away whatever aversion he might be experiencing during the process, knowing that every act I exercise hands him a little more power over me. Heís got to knowÖwhy else would he be allowing this?

My balls are starting to ache. I turn away, and retreat into the bedroom. Itís a spartan enclosure for a man whose life is contained elsewhere. Just a bed. A dresser. A nightstand. I check the drawer; paper, letters, pens, photographs. No condoms or lube.

Maybe itís a sign. I didnít bring anything with me, and I wonít ask him to trust me that way. Iím pretty sure Iím clean, but he has no reason to believe that.

Disappointment gives way to relief. I can almost feel that the decision has been taken out of my hands. Heíll know, of course, what it is that I really want; my erection alone would have told him that, even if I hadnít just spent the last ten minutes staring at him with my own need practically bleeding from my pathetic eyes. Perhaps this evidence of my own self control will reassure him. Perhaps not.

The sound of the shower shuts off, and I hear the shower door click open. I imagine him stepping out, reaching for a towel, water glistening and dripping down his skin. My mouth is suddenly dry, and I imagine what it would taste like, licking the warm drops from his body. Then the bathroom door shuts, and I hear a small click, as of a door being locked.

Does he merely need privacy to answer the call of nature, or is he in there making preparations? Another wave of heat shudders through me at the thought.

Will he stride out naked, without guile or pretense, or will he find some reason to emerge, wrapped only in a towel, to allow meÖto force meÖto take responsibility for what he expects to happen?

If I knocked on the door, would he let me in? Not that I would invade his privacy that way. One of his first handlers used to do that to him, I know. Forced him to use the toilet in front of an audience. Gave him enemas when he refused to perform. I happen to know that was on Spenderís orders, and everyone assumed it was because Spender was planning on fucking him and wanted him clean.

The man I was, years ago, would have been horrified at the thought of working for a man like Spender, but time and familiarity have made me callous.

Spender is not a man who allows himself to be ruled by his emotions. Itís one thing he and Skinner have in common; probably the only thing. Itís also the reason Iím sure thereís a lot more on his mind than fucking the ass of the one man who has resisted being broken by him, even after so many years of being controlled.

Iím losing track of my own resolution, and I find myself pacing. Unless I can get back under control, Iím about to cross a line that should never be crossed. Not by me. Spender values Assistant Director Skinner of the F.B.I. very highly, that much I am certain of. Thatís why he gave Skinner to me. He knows Iíll never push Skinner past the point of what he can take, or leave him tied so long that itís days before the feeling entirely returns to his fingers.

But he expects me to maintain my ability to control him. If I lose that, heíll give Skinner to someone else, and thatís why I need to give Skinner a reason to want to keep me. The power of blackmail. I wonít even have to fake my fearÖI donít like to think about what Spender will do to me if he finds out I broke one of his precious rules.

FuckÖIíve just talked myself back into trouble again. How much control can I afford to lose, and what happens if I go too far? I pull the zipper of my jacket up a little farther, as if the heavy leather can armor me against my own desires.

Heís taking an awful long time in there. A sudden, irrational fear strikes me. What if something Iíve done, or Spender has forced him to do, has pushed him over the edge? What if heís lying in there on the floor, blood pooling beneath his wrists?

I bang on the door. "Everything all right in there?"

"Fine." His voice is brusque. Tightly controlled. Not the voice of a man intent on ending his own existence. More like the voice of a man who is having a difficult bowel movement and he wishes like hell that Iíd mind my own business.

Now I feel like a complete fool. As a distraction, I amuse myself by going through the suits in his closet. Nice. Very nice. He has an innate elegance and sense of style, or perhaps he just has a good tailor. Thereís one I particularly like, a sleek steel gray, almost black. I unsling the hanger and carry the suit to the bed, laying it carefully across the pillow. If that doesnít get the message across, nothing will.

Heíll walk out of the bathroom and Iíll casually gesture at the suit. Get dressed, Iíll say as I walk back out to the living room and Iíll wait for him and then Iíll take him to work and everything will go on the way it was. Heís going to be a little more relaxed than normal but with any luck no one will notice. I check the clock. Ten thirty. His secretary isnít expecting him until one. Iíll take him by Dennyís first, for a little breakfast and a few cups of coffee.

I turn, and heís standing there, framed by the doorway, like a painting; a work of art no mortal hand could have created. Flesh and blood and banked fire. Scattered drops of water still glisten on his arms, the towel wrapped so carelessly about his hips that I expect the very act of walking to loosen it so that it slides downÖ

His face is a mask of casual inquiry as he glances from the suit to me. He takes a step forward, and then another, until he is so close I imagine I can feel the burn of his body heat even through my jacket. "Well?" he says "What next? Youíre in charge, Krycek."

His nearness and his words turn my bones to water. His presence is the only thing that keeps me upright, like a satellite spinning out of control but still trapped within the gravity of the planet it orbits. I canít break free.

Get dressed. Two words would free me. I canít say them. Instead, as if my lips have suddenly developed a will of their own I hear myself whispering "Bed."

He turns and crosses the floor, dropping something onto the nightstand and reaching down to pick up the suit. He gazes at it for a moment, then at me. "Iím surprised you remembered," he remarks as he reaches up to hook the hanger on the end of the curtain rod.

At first I donít know what heís talking about, but then I do, with an ease that tells me it was what was in my mind all along. Itís the suit he wore back in the days when I was Agent Krycek to him, back when I reported to him and called him Ďsirí. Then he turns and pulls the towel away, tossing it to the ground as if it is the most natural thing in the world that he should be naked in front of me. He eases himself down onto the bed, leaning back against the headboard and swinging his legs up, his body a breathtaking temptation.

His arms hang loose at his sides, not even crossed; heís not trying to protect himself in any way. Heís giving me the illusion of complete control, telling me that I can do anything I want to him.

Breathe, Alex, I remind myself when I realize Iím running out of air.

As I approach the bed I notice that the nightstand now holds lube and a condom. Just one.

He glances from it to me, and inquires casually "How do you want me, Krycek?"

I half-fall, half-crawl onto the bed because I know if I donít Iíll be lying on the floor in a moment. He knows that what Iím about to do is going to let him slip a leash of his own around my neck, and heís got to know that Iím aware of that. When Spender makes a rule you fucking well donít violate it, not if you have any sense of self preservation at all.

"How do you want me?" he repeats. Thereís an edge to his voice Iím not sure how to interpret.

"This is fine," I tell him. "On your back."

His face goes rigid, then the mask is back. Heís not pleased with my choice, but he accepts it as his part of our bargain. He scoots himself down until his head rests on the pillow. One leg is stretched out behind me, the other is drawn up to avoid crossing my legs.

We both know what this is going to cost. Heís willing to pay his part of the price, but what I donít understand is how he knows that I am, as well. Have I been that fucking obvious? Yeah, I guess I have.

I take off my shoes and drop them to the floor, then go to unzip my jacket but I canítÖI canítÖIím not ready to be naked on this bed before him. Iím not ready for him to see me. My arm, yeah, thatís part of it. The scars. Iíve gotten used to ignoring what I see in the mirror every morning but that doesnít mean Iím unaware of what I look like.

He notices my hesitation and says harshly "You donít have to take anything off. Just unzip. Iíll make it easy for you. And use the condom." He tosses the little packet at me, then draws his knees up.

His anus is glistening, already lubed. I get to my knees between his legs. He doesnít move, but only stares at the ceiling, holding his knees. My hand reaches for him, I canít help myself. I touch him gently, running my fingers through the prickly pubic hair, over the smooth skin of his cock, feeling the limp flesh lolling in my hand. He endures my touch without comment. I let him slip from my fingers and slide my hand lower, over his inner thigh, across the delicate, hairy sacs of his scrotum and between them, and down. I slip one finger inside him and he tenses involuntarily, then forces himself to relax. Heís been thoroughly lubed. I add a second finger, then a third, barely penetrating the outer ring. His face is like stone but it doesnít seem to be causing him too much discomfort.

Thatís what he was doing, all that time in the bathroom. He was opening himself up, making himself ready for my cock. He didnít even trust me to take the time to prepare him first, just expects me to ram myself into him like a fucking rapistÖ

I pull away from him, wiping my fingers on my jeans, cursing myself because it suddenly hurts so fucking much that this is what he expected of meÖ

Öwhat the hell did you expect, you dumb fuck? Youíve forgotten what you are to him. Youíve forgotten what youíve done to himÖ

I canít do this. Why did I ever think I could? It will destroy me to let myself get this close to him.

You pathetic little shit. Did you think all you had to do was give it to him up the ass and all would be forgiven?

Sure, I could take the time. Heís only human. I could work him with my tongue and my lips and my fingers and have him hard in no time. I could probably even bring him off, watch him spasm and writhe with my cock up his ass.

It wouldnít change a fucking thing, though, and heíd hate me all the more for what I made him do. Because heíd be afraid that I thought he wanted this.

Tears are trickling down my face, and I turn away so he wonít see. I slide one leg down, reaching blindly for the floor, then stagger to my feet. "Get dressed. Iíll be waiting to take you to work." My voice is hoarse, but thereís nothing I can do about that. I hate to leave him like that, itís got to be humiliating, but have no strength left to make it easier.

Somehow, I make it to the living room and find a spot on the sofa. All I really want to do is curl up in a closet somewhere, or maybe go find Mulder so he can beat the shit out of me. Anything would make me feel better at this point.

Instead, I force myself to sit upright and cross my legs so that if he looks in on me it will seem as though I havenít a care in the world, but I just canít seem to stop that damning trickle of tears so I close my eyes and I try to think warm thoughts because Iím so cold insideÖ

After a moment I hear the floor vibrate at his approach.

Fuck, I think, but I donít dare let him see how much Iím hurting. I steel myself and open my eyes. "Get dressed, Skinner. I donít plan on waiting around all day and I donít plan on giving Spender a reason to cut my dick off."

He sits on the arm of the sofa. I can see that heís put on a bathrobe, dark blue silk that clings to the lines of his damp body.

He canít have missed the tear tracks and I am so fucked I canít stand itÖ "GodDAMN it Skinner, just get the fuck dressed!"

"Or what?"

Or what? Heís hit upon the crux of the problem. We arenít in Spenderís office any more. Iím all alone here. Iíve got one arm, heís got two. Thereís nothing I can do to force his obedience. I could lodge a complaint with Spender, but thatís a sword that cuts both ways.

I donít have an answer. I canít move, canít breathe because I know if I do it will come out in a sob and I think Iíve already humiliated myself enough for one day. I wrap my arm over my head to hide my eyes and then I think Jesus, Krycek, could you possibly have been any more obviousÖ but itís too late to do anything about that now, so I just lie there and pray that heíll get bored enough to go away.

For a long time there is no sound but the rasp of my own breath.

"Shit." He soundsÖweary. "This isnít what I expected from you, Krycek."

"I know." My throat has closed up so tight Iím lucky I have a voice at all. I guess thereís not much point in trying to hide any longer, is there?

"I donít understand. Iím trying to give you what you want, Krycek. You know why Iím doing it, Iím not going to pretend otherwise. IímÖnot good at pretending."

"You canít give me what I want." The words are out before I realize they are much too dangerous. Because I know what his next question is going to be.

It hangs in the silence between us, and I hear his breathing harshen. "Fuck. Krycek, you little shit. Donít do this to me."

I donít know what heís thinking and Iím afraid to ask. Can it be anything worse than the truth? "Iím sorry," I say, because I am and I always will be and maybe I wonít have to tell him whyÖ

Heís suddenly on his feet and his fist slams down, a grab, not a punch. He shoves me back against the couch and I can see the rage in his eyes but Iím not afraid of him. Thereís nothing he can do to me that hurts worse than what I do to myself over and over, every time Spender uses me against him.

"Damn you, Krycek! It isnít enough for you to order me around like a dog, to undermine my authority, to steal my dignity from me in every way possibleÖnow youíre trying to take away the one thing I had left to hold on to." He pulls me against himself, then slams me back into the headrest. "Do you expect me to forgive you for what youíve done? Just because you haveÖfeelingsÖabout me? You sick little shitÖyou beat me until I lost control of my bladder this morning. I pissed all over myself, like aÖ" His voice is hoarse with rage and humiliation. "How can you even pretend to be a human being?"

He yanks me off the couch and hurls me to the floor, standing over me with fists clenched, his face contorted with anguish.

All I want to do is curl up in a fetal position and beg for his mercy, to tell him why I have to hurt him, but I wonít do that to him. I wonít. I disguise my pain as rage, and force myself to snarl "I told you, Skinner. Donít assume you know what I want. Youíre not willing to play my gameÖfine. Weíll go back to business as usual." I rise to my feet and step back out of his reach, my face a perfect mask once more, my insides screaming for something I refuse to allow.

His stance shifts slightly, uncertain and slightly lost. "I donít understand."

No, you donít. Itís the only thing I can give you. "You donít need to understand. Just do what youíre told. Youíre too fucking drunk to drive yourself to work, and Iíve got better things to do than wait around until you sober up, you pathetic shit. Stay home. Thatís an official order. If you disobey it, Iíll have to bring it to Spenderís attention, and you know where youíll end up. Iíll tell him youíre sick."

"Donít do me any favors, Krycek." His sneer lacks certainty. Heís still a little bewildered, as if the ground isnít quite stable beneath his feet.

"I wonít. Iíd just as soon he not know what a fucking lush you are, or Iíll probably end up having to monitor your cupboards for alcohol. Like I said, I have better things to do with my time." I stalk to the door, throw it open. "Get your act together by tomorrow, Skinner, or youíll be sorry."

I slam the door behind me, and the finality of it severs my last hope. My legs grow heavier with every step, but I force myself to keep moving. I need to get out of sight, at least. Somewhere dark. Somewhere I can hide, and let the pain gnaw away until Iím empty inside, until Iíve gone beyond the hurting and the wishing and the shattered fantasies.

Somehow, I have to find the strength to face him tomorrow, and every day, for the rest of our lives. It helps a little, knowing that this is something I can share with him, even if he doesnít know it. If he can endure for them, I can endure for him.

It helps.

I open my door and look out. No sign of Krycek in the hall. The elevator isnít moving, and it hasnít been long enough for him to have reached the ground floor if heíd gone that route. That means he took the stairs.

I make my way down the empty hallway to the door to the stairwell. Good thing the floor is empty; Iíd feel a little silly being caught out here in my bathrobe. Not that I havenít been in more embarrassing situations, wearing less. I turn the doorknob carefully and open the door as silently as I can.

Krycek is huddled at the bottom of the straightway, his arm wrapped tightly around the metal bars. Poor little shit. I close the door again, leaving him alone there, leaving him with the illusion that heís succeeded in his attempt to fool me.

Iíd like to say heís a much better assassin than he is a liar, but I donít think itís true. Heís normally an excellent liar. I guess his heart just wasnít in this one. He tried, though.

I want to join him down there, to put my arms around him and tell him that I understand. I really do. Itís something that Iíve suspected for some time, something in his eyes. His sneer is just too desperate, at times, his face too much a mask. If he truly enjoyed causing me pain heíd have nothing to hide.

It never even occurred to me, what he really wanted. Not until he ran. He was expecting to make love to me, and I offered him a fuck.

Iíd like to pull him to his feet and bring him back upstairs, to my bedroom. To let him make love to me. I suspect heíd be a very considerate lover, incongruous as that might seem, considering his chosen profession. Heís conscientious and careful. His hands can beÖgentle. I donít think Iíve ever met anyone better than he is at reading people.

Iím not bad at that, myself, and heís not all that hard to read right now. I could break him with my pity. If I went to him and offered him another chance to compromise himself, he wouldnít be able to resist, especially if I was willing to admit that Iím not at all indifferent to him. Heíd get what he wants, and Iíd have what I want. Fair exchange.

Sometimes I look at myself in the mirror and I wonder how I can live with what Iíve become. What Iíve let myself be made into. How strange, to suddenly realize that thatís something I have in common with a man who has dedicated his life to hurting me.

No, itís not pity that I feel. Closer to sympathy, I think. Weíre both in hell.

I turn, and walk back to my apartment.

Itís the only thing I can give him.

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