Series/Sequel: First in a possible series.
Disclaimers: Not mine, but maybe one day.
Notes: Thanks to XFreak for proofing and for being so supportive.
Summary: Mulder and AD Skinner try to figure out the terms of a relationship beyond the workplace.
Warning: Starts out fun, gets serious and deals with Mulder's history with his father.
Walter Skinner stared out his office window, the ache across his forehead even worse than before he took any aspirin. He turned back to his desk, trying to focus on the forms, but the words and figures blurred in the low light. Taking off his glasses, he dropped his face to his hands, rubbing the edges of his temples as the throbbing stretch of pressure behind his eyes grew stronger.
"Go away, Mulder."
"It's after ten, sir. Shouldn't you be gone already?"
"Shouldn't you be haunting another building?" Walter kept his eyes closed, willing himself to ignore the persistent young man still standing in his doorway.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Lifting his head, he put on his glasses and met the concerned eyes, the intensity making him uneasy. "What did you need, Agent Mulder?"
"I stopped by this afternoon with the Dawson report, but you weren't in."
"And I was just wondering if you got it."
"I got it. I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but I'll do that tonight and let you and Agent Scully know what I think in the morning."
Mulder stepped through the door, his lean form moving gracefully into the seat in front of his desk. He looked down at his watch and spoke casually. "There's no hurry."
"If there's no hurry, why are you here?"
"I was working late, too, and just thought I'd see if maybe you wanted to have dinner or something."
Tilting his head, Skinner puzzled over the question only a few seconds. "What are you up to, Mulder?"
The light expression darkened as Mulder's voice strained his words. "I'm not up to anything, sir. I just thought if you hadn't eaten, maybe we could get something together."
"What makes you think I haven't already eaten?"
"Because you came back to your office around four and haven't left since."
Closing the folder, Walter pushed back from the desk suddenly wary, his hand to his chin. "Are you spying on me?"
Mulder stood up, his face no longer relaxed. "Forget it. I just thought if you were hungry, we could get some food. God, and they call me paranoid."
As he started to leave, Walter cleared his throat and frowned, his words going before his better judgment. "You buying?"
Sipping the end of his third beer, Walter smiled at both the story and the teller. "And you should've seen Dawson by the time Scully finished chewing his ass. God, he was one seriously frayed suspect."
"I can imagine."
"Wicked thy name is Scully on a tear."
"I'd agree with you, but I'd be afraid she'd find out. Let's face it, Mulder. Your partner's tougher than both of us."
"Yeah, she is."
During the lull, Walter ate the last of the huge slice of pepperoni pizza. "This is really good. I don't think I've ever been in here. A bit off the main path."
"Yeah, it's one of those places that hasn't been discovered yet. Let the yuppies find out, and damn, the place will go retro or some such shit."
"I hate that." He glanced around, took in the plain quietness of the place and nodded approval. "But this is nice. Nothing fancy, just good food at reasonable prices."
"Want to make a commercial?"
"What? And have the rest of the world horn in? No way. Besides, you look better in front of a camera."
Flushing slightly, Walter remained casual, avoiding the handsome face that always drew his attention. "Don't pretend you don't know it, Mulder. You're more the image for ads than I am."
"Depends on the ad, sir." Before he could answer, Mulder leaned forward, his voice calmer and more quiet, the tone dangerously husky. "So, is your headache better?"
"I'm fine, Mulder." He finished off his beer and signaled to the waitress for another. He'd forgotten how good a brew tasted when mixed with real pizza.
"You driving, sir?"
"On if I sit here long enough after I finish drinking." He wiped his mouth and thanked the waitress before she left. "This was a good idea, Mulder. I didn't realize I was so hungry."
"Or so thirsty."
Walter looked up, Mulder's eyes focused and clear. "What's your point?"
"No point. Just thinking."
"About the fact that if I were a trained observer, I'd say something was bothering you." Taking another long swallow, Walter turned his line of sight to the window, the sidewalk outside reflecting his general mood lately, dark and empty. After a few minutes of silence, Mulder pushed again. "So, is there?"
Breathing steady took determination, but he did it. He willed himself to do what he usually did whenever Mulder got too close or tried to, imagine it didn't matter. "It's nothing serious. Pressures of the job, all the things I should be used to."
"Any particular pressure?"
"Not really. Besides, why spoil the meal by talking about it?"
"Yeah. That's probably true. Being honest could really fuck up an evening."
Walter watched Mulder cross his arms as he sat back in his chair, his face still impassive, but his body stiff. He took a deep breath to measure his patience. "I appreciate the concern, but there's no big secret, no conspiracy here. I'm just tired, that's all."
The younger man relaxed slightly, but his voice still carried extra tension. "So, is that why you went to the doctor today?"
Putting down the beer, Walter leaned in, his face flushed with anger. "How the hell did you know about that?"
"Why are you keeping it a secret?"
"Because it's none of your fucking business. Damn it, Mulder. Why do you do this?"
"Make everything into some kind of mystery, like the world revolves around trying to fool poor Agent Mulder."
Instead of anger, Walter saw stubborn concern mixed in with the hurt. "You didn't answer the question. What did the doctor say?"
Suddenly more exhausted than ever, Walter slumped back into his seat. "High blood pressure."
"High blood pressure? How high?"
"Not too high."
"Borderline, but just on rough days."
Mulder shook his head, bracing himself forward on his crossed arms. "You're an assistant director of the FBI, sir. Every day's a rough day, especially with the X-Files."
"Tell me about it." He picked up his beer again and this time let the cool liquid settle and burn in his stomach, the heat welcome and added to the general haze that a good buzz delivered. He didn't indulge much, but he liked the sensation, enjoyed the muffled ease it gave to the harsh world around him.
"Did he give you pills to take?"
"No, I just have to have it checked over the next few weeks. If it stays up, then maybe."
"So, meanwhile it's diet, exercise, and stress relief, right?"
He glanced up to see Mulder's smile, the smile that warned him right before some of his more dangerous adventures. "Well, I've done what I could with the diet. Let me drive you home and we can see about the others."
"I don't think so."
"Why not? Your car's still back at the Federal Building. My car's here. What's the problem?"
"I'd have to get a cab to work tomorrow."
"Not necessarily." The soft words didn't miss their target.
"You heard me. Let me take you home. I think we need to talk about some things, don't you?"
Biting his lower lip, Walter shook his head, the pressure building all over. "Not really. There's nothing to say between us that can't be said here or in the office."
"You really believe that?"
Meeting the gaze, the hazel eyes never wavered, and not for the first time, Walter recognized the truth and the offer in that candid vision. "Mulder, it's not a good idea."
"And when has that ever stopped me?"
"So, come on, Walter. Let me drive you home. We'll just talk if that's all you want. Honest."
But even as he stood, Walter Skinner knew talk wasn't all he wanted from Fox Mulder, and now he realized Mulder knew it, too. And that scared him, made him shake with more than excess drink and fatigue. He put the tip on the table, avoiding the eyes watching him, avoiding the truth taunting his own miserable heart.
Walter dropped his briefcase on his desk before turning to see Mulder on the couch keeping an eye on his every move. "Enjoying yourself?"
"Immensely. Nice view." He looked around as he added, "Nice apartment, too."
"You've been here before."
"Yeah, well, pulling Krycek off your balcony and sneaking him past the police didn't leave much time for viewing. The other times, well, the other times, I was too distracted to notice." He didn't look away when he said it, the words hammering home the painful reminder of when he thought Walter betrayed him.
"You want a drink?"
"What are you having?"
"Whiskey, but I can make some coffee."
"Coffee's good. Just not a whole pot. Can't handle it like I used to."
"Getting old, Mulder?"
"Older, but not necessarily wiser."
"More impatient though."
Avoiding the hungry expression, Walter headed for the kitchen. As he replaced the filter in the coffee maker, the heat of Mulder's body behind him stopped his movements. "I can do this without help."
"But do you want to?" The words pushed a warm tingle to his left ear. "Walter, you and I both know I didn't come here for coffee."
Still turned away, his arms bracing against the counter, Walter closed his eyes. "What do you want from me, Mulder?"
A hand touched his shoulder as Mulder stepped even closer, only a thin layer of air between them. "I'm not sure yet. Something more than a working relationship, more than a friendship, but I keep getting mixed signals."
"You shouldn't be getting any signals except keep your distance. I'm your boss."
"But despite all the rumors to contrary, you're still human."
"Listen, if you want me to leave, I'll leave, but I don't want to. I just need to know what's going on here. Do I go or stay?"
Squeezing his eyes shut, Walter struggled to contain the rebellion. The urge to turn and hold Mulder fought the wiser choice of staying safe, of sending him home as quickly as he could. He took a deep breath, the air too think, too full of the scent he wanted to drown in. "You're not helping my blood pressure, Mulder."
An arm snaked around his waist as a chin rested on his shoulder. The throaty voice tickled his ear, the words hushed and packed with promise. "But I could, if you let me."
"Please what? You could pull away, but you haven't. Tell me this doesn't feel good."
A shudder ran though his body, his cock beginning the slow ache of pitiful begging. "I'd be a liar if I said that."
"Then why are you fighting so hard?"
"You know why, Mulder."
"Relax and the pressure's gone. Sounds to me like I'm what the doctor ordered."
The easy grind against his backside claimed his resistance, his mind foggy and his gut tight with need. "Jesus."
"Let me stay."
Turning, Walter faced the man who tempted him beyond all reason. He spread his legs and drew him nearer, his groin pressed against his own, still rocking gently. Cupping his cheek, the whiskers burned his palm as he whispered, "Are you sure?"
"Why not now? We both need someone."
"What about Scully?"
"What about her?"
Running the back of his hand up the jawline, Walter drank in the heat and the sweat, the growing weight against him. "I know you're close, that you love her. So, why me and not Scully?"
"Scully's my partner."
"I'm your boss."
"She's not my type."
"And I am?"
Rubbing harder just before he kissed him, Mulder sang the words, "Oh, yeah."
Full lips covered his, a tongue probing in, the slick heat filling and eager. He combed his fingers through dark hair while Mulder worked to find a rhythm, grinding and pumping, erections paying attention. Pulling back, the younger man gasped, "Bed?"
"Good plan." Both men moved up the stairs faster than a runaway Russian.
Pulling off his shoes and shirt, Mulder lay on his back, one arm stretched above his head, his eyes inviting. Slowly, Walter took off his tie and unbuttoned his shirt before slipping off his shoes and socks. The whole time he watched the younger man slide his hand up and down his chest, teasing his nipples, pinching and rolling. Standing at the end of the bed, he took off his glasses and pants and then kneeled between the spread legs, his hands to both sides of Mulder's head. He lowered his weight, hips coming up to meet his, his mouth meeting Mulder's, his tongue wrestling while hands cupped his ass to draw him closer. The scrape of teeth against soft tissue added resistance, added the pleasure to the soft moans filling his throat. His hands held the head steady while he plundered, sucked and ran his tongue deep into his lover's hunger.
Raising up, he quickly removed his briefs and then concentrated on Mulder. Jingling of the metal buckle thrilled him, the added sound of unzipping strangling his anxious cock with the extra turn on of seeing Mulder swallow so hard, his eyes so needy. Hips lifted as he slid off the clothes, the erection bouncing up, the cut crown a glistening invitation in the low light. Gently he touched it, registered the twitch and groan and then did it again, running his finger along the pulsing vein before cupping the scrotum.
"Oh, god, Walter."
"You're beautiful, Fox."
"Not Fox, please." Urgently, Mulder closed his eyes, his head back as he pulled his knees up, his body flushed and sweaty.
"You're beautiful, Mulder." Wrapping one hand at the base and stroking evenly, he fondled the tight balls with the other, the damp curls wiry against his hand. "Fucking beautiful."
Leaning over, he licked the tip, the satiny fluid tangy against his tongue, his throat washed with craving for more. Lapping at the cleft, he took in the head and then suckled gently, the pressure eased as he let Mulder fuck his face, let him surrender to his desire to go deeper. His own body protested, grew tighter, every muscle complaining at the strain, his jaws aching. A strangled cry warned him, but he held Mulder inside, held on as the spasms wracked and shook him through his release. As soon as he settled, Walter arched upward, capturing a nipple, drawing it up between his teeth. A whole litany of curses and prayers filled his ears as he played and tickled, enjoyed an easy bath back and forth and then down to the navel.
Once again he draped himself over Mulder, captured his mouth, the delicious lips swollen. His gut tightened and coiled, the muscles protesting frustration as he rubbed his cock against his lover's spent one, the wetness a velvety heat as he thrust harder. Sweat slicked the flesh as Mulder held him, urged him on with nibbles and kisses, his shoulder devoured while he worked to build the pressure, to bring himself off with the heat and tautness of their locked bodies. Eyes closed, he focused on nothing but the roar growing inside, the power zapping down his bones to his center, the flash of release that exploded all pretense into one meaning.
The blast came in thunder, the burning air delivered in the sizzle of lightning. He never believed the dazzle of color, the raw power of coming until it happened. Nothing matched the glory of release, the hint of heaven that carried with it the price of addiction, the never-ending need to do it over and over.
Drained and stretched out, he fell on his back as Mulder lay beside him. A head rested on his chest as lazy fingers traced up the middle of his belly and then settled over his racing heart.
"Damn, Walter, remind me about why we waited."
"Because if anyone finds out, we're fucked."
"Fucked for fucking. Kind of ironic."
"And kind of dangerous."
"But worth it, right?" The anxious tone traced his heart, wove wonder around it to create confession.
"Yeah, Mulder, it was definitely worth it, but now what? Go back to being AD and agent?"
"Depends on what you want. What do you want, Walter?"
Fear robbed his tongue of the words of love nearly spoken. Instead, he smiled and kidded. "A good night's sleep to start. I've got an early meeting."
"I'll drive you."
"Drive me crazy more likely."
"What's sane anyway? Damn boring from what I hear."
A stickiness itched and pulled at his crotch as Mulder's hand still roved in slow teasing sweeps through his chest hair. "We should clean up."
"I can't move and if you do, I'll have to shoot you. Feels too good just lying here together."
In his mind he agreed as he took a deep breath and pulled up the sheets to cover their cooling bodies. "Goodnight, Mulder."
Sliding his arm around the thinner shoulders, he drew him closer, kissed the top of his head, and closed his eyes. Rare sleep waited to take him, let him slide in without even a wrestle, his spirit tamed for the moment as Mulder lay awake and breathing contentedly beside him.
The smell of coffee woke him, the teasingly familiar aroma a beacon to a new day. He rolled over and opened his eyes, the space beside him empty, his heart clenching at the memory of the night before. A quick panic snatched his air until he glanced at the blurry form standing in the doorway. "Mulder?"
"I hope that's a rhetorical question, Walter. Maybe you should put on your glasses."
"What time is it?"
"Six. Hope you don't mind, but I already made coffee and took a shower."
"No, that's fine." Taking several deep breaths, Walter sat up and rubbed his face with both hands. Morning stiffness weighed and restricted his muscles, made his arms twinge and his body want to crawl back under the sheets.
"I can wait downstairs if you want."
"That's okay. I'm just not a morning person."
"I kind of figured that."
"And that's because?"
"Because I've always hated those early morning meetings. You're a much nicer person in the afternoon. You only scare me half as much then." The teasing words matched the smile the younger man wore, his face already shaved, his hair still damp from the shower. He stepped closer and sat down on the bed while he handed over the cup of coffee. "Here."
Bitter liquid burned his tongue, the taste rich and jarring without the dilution of cream or sugar. "Thanks. Black. Just the way I like it."
The intimate tone brushed at his sleepy cock, the mix of memories and seeing his brand new lover so near, a kind stroke. Walter drank more of the coffee in silence, the concern knotting his gut and withering his hope. "Mulder, I'm not sure about all this."
"I know. I got that feeling."
"I'm not saying I'm sorry it happened, because I'm not."
"That's at least something."
"But is it enough? I mean, we're on very dangerous ground here, you know that."
Mulder stood up, his face grim. "Yeah, I know. You've said that, but you know what? I don't really give a shit. So, what if people find out? Is that what you're afraid of?"
"Partly." He put the cup down on the table and put his glasses on. "But that's not all of it."
"What's the rest then?"
He cleared his throat, his body geared up, all his defenses on alert. "Look, maybe we should talk about this later. I need to take a shower and get dressed."
Frowning, Mulder crossed his arms and nodded. "Sure. I'll be downstairs."
"I shouldn't be long."
"Take all the time you need. I'll be waiting."
Before he could answer, Mulder picked up his cup and left, the flat sounds of his footsteps heavy on the stairs. Lowering his face to his hands, he imagined tasting once again every part of that lean body, the bitter saltiness with just a hint of musk and oil, the flavor that seduced and held him under its spell. God, he couldn't do this, not again. Love hurt too fucking much, and loving Mulder meant taking that risk one more time. Shit. Why couldn't he just stay on his side of the line, play fair and not change the damn rules when he'd managed to isolate himself so nicely?
Taking a deep breath, Walter got out of bed and headed for the shower, preferably a cold one. He couldn't think straight with the heady mix of Mulder's scent married to his and neither could his rebellious slut of a cock.
Hopeful indecision clouding his thoughts, Walter entered the kitchen to find Mulder drinking coffee and eating a cream puff. The white powder fuzzed his lips and he looked like child having his own party. "Morning. Where'd you get the pastry?"
"There's a great all night bakery just around the corner."
"Yeah, I know. When did you go out?"
"I went for a run around five and found it. Thought I'd treat you to breakfast. There's pecan Danish with your name on it on the cabinet."
Pouring the coffee, Walter frowned as he picked up his favorite morning treat. Mulder's knowledge of his habits unsettled him, made him wonder how much more the man knew. "So, did you sleep at all last night?"
"Not really, but if it's any consolation, I don't sleep much anyway. You were pretty much out of it though. Tired, huh?"
"Yeah." He sat down at the table, enjoying the quiet moment between them. "So, you borrowed my key to get back in?"
"Hope that's not a problem. I had to go down to the car to get some clothes, too. I always keep a travel bag, and it came in handy. Wouldn't do for me to wear the same clothes two days in a row. Scully's no slacker."
"Would it bother you if Scully knew?" The silence brought his head up, his eyes meeting Mulder's. "What?"
"She already knows I'm attracted to you."
"Yeah. We've even talked about it, sort of in a round about way. She knows I like men, and she's fine with that, though she bitches about my choices sometimes. Calls me a self-destructive schmuck and says I need to find someone more stable. Of course, with her record on dating, she can't push it too hard. Still, your name's been on the list of best candidates for awhile now."
"And are you?"
"Am I what?"
"Self-destructive when it comes to relationships."
He paused, blinking several times as he looked away, his voice lower. "Sometimes, but then you already know that. Isn't that why you're afraid? You think I'm too unstable to risk it, right?" Meeting his eyes, he reached over and took his hand, his long fingers touching the skin like firebrands. "Do you think I'm nuts for wanting to be with you?"
Turning his palm up, Walter gripped the hand in his and then leaned forward, his mouth close to Mulder's. "I refuse to answer that." His tongue flicked out, the lips sticky and sweet. The kiss lasted only a few seconds before he pulled back, his body screaming to stop being such a godawful tease.
He continued to hold his hand while he spoke, his voice hushed, but deliberate. "This won't be easy, Mulder, because neither of us are easy people. Add in the circumstances, and we'll be lucky to survive even a week, but I'm willing to risk that if you are." Before Mulder could interrupt, he squeezed gently and continued, "And I won't deny that the idea of being with someone as erratic as you scares me, but don't think that it's just you. It's not. I'm a real coward when it comes to this whole love business, always have been. Even with Sharon, I kept part of myself locked away."
"Everyone does that."
"Sure, but you can't let it stop you from ever trying again, to try to grab something good when it's offered."
"And are you offering?"
Smiling slyly, Mulder wrapped his fingers around the back of his neck, drawing him closer. "What? You need an engraved invitation?" The kiss stole his breathing, stirred his whole body into a starved frenzy. The tongue ravishing his mouth hammered home the fact that he really wanted this thing with Mulder to work out.
Finally pulling apart, a teasing finger wiped the edge of his mouth as his befuddled mind cleared just a little. "Guess we should be getting to work, huh, sir?"
"God, Mulder, this is going to be hard."
"Already there, sir. Just think of it as added motivation to finish work early. I do believe I'm free tonight if you're interested in continuing this conversation."
"Word play, foreplay, what's the difference?" With the confidence of a man who knows he's got the upper hand, Mulder grinned and walked out of the kitchen.
"Jesus. I'm fucked."
From the living room, he heard the rare and pleasant laughter. "After me, sir."
Short of the morgue, nothing brought mortality home like a hospital. The mournful cries, the reek of blood mixed with antiseptics, the commotion just on the edge of chaos all demanded attention. No matter how many calls came in, no matter how many agents went down, Walter never got used to it. Never.
Standing with his arms crossed and his head down, Walter closed his eyes and waited, waited and prayed that Mulder would live. A hand lightly touched his shoulder and he heard Scully's voice. "Are you all right, sir?"
Taking a long calming breath, he opened his eyes to meet stark blue ones. The depth of that stare always amazed him every time he saw it. "I'm fine. How's Mulder? They wouldn't let me see him." His voice faltered on the choked words, the worry clawing through every soft tissue and squeezing his bones.
"He should be okay. The concussion's not as bad as some he's had, but the left wrist's broken. I'm amazed there wasn't more damage, not that he won't be sore as hell for awhile. Leave it to Mulder to get his ass kicked by a possessed Harley."
"But he's going to be okay?"
"Yes, sir. He's just going to need some extended leave and some extra attention." Her voice softened as she stepped closer, her words as soothing as the touch to his sleeve. "Sir, may I speak frankly and off the record?"
Turning to face her, but keeping his voice low, he nodded, "You usually do, Agent Scully."
"Then take this for what it's worth. The first person he asked for when he woke up was you. Not AD Skinner, but Walter. I'm just wondering if it means anything."
He didn't look away, not from Scully, and nodded. "It might."
Her expression stayed neutral, cool and unfazed as always. "Okay, so, let's just say we both want him cared for. We could take shifts, or I could just stay out of the picture all together unless you need me to step in on the medical front. Meanwhile, this might be an opportunity to get to know him better. He's easier to pin down when he's in plaster and bandages. Kind of evens the odds."
Relieved, he smiled at her playful tone. "Sounds a bit unfair though."
Suddenly more serious, her arms crossed, she spoke plainly. "I've discovered with Mulder it's best to press your advantages whenever you have them, sir. He won't stay down long." Then she smiled sweetly and added with the most innocent of tones, "Unless he has a reason to."
"Don't worry, sir. I'm good with secrets."
Flushed and unsure, he opted for simple. "Thanks."
"Besides, he's been mooning over you long enough. I figure it'll either work or it won't, but at least with you, he'll know where he stands." She patted his arm again and then rubbed the back of her neck, the strain showing in the paleness of her fragile features. "He should be in his room in less than an hour. I'll tell the nurse to let you know when he's ready."
As she turned, he held her arm a bit longer. "Scully, I mean it. Thanks."
"Just don't hurt him anymore than you have to, sir. That's all I ask."
"I'll try not to hurt him at all."
"Yeah, well, we all try."
As she left, he realized once again why Mulder loved his partner so much.
Sitting by the bedside, Walter studied the bruised and sleeping face of the man who only hours ago kissed him. Nothing quite prepared him for the powerful impact, the swelling of emotion that claimed him while he watched the simple act of even breathing. The reality of loss always made survival sweeter, the clinging to this world so much larger than the moment before death.
He stood up and braced himself on the rail, his fingers gently touching the bandage across his left temple to the middle of the forehead. So close, the thin layer of bone a mere shield between this world and the next, a harder impact the door to grief. A soft groan and movement held him still until eyelids fluttered and cloudy hazel eyes looked up into his. Clearing his throat, his words sharp-edged and raspy, Mulder managed, "God, my head hurts."
"It usually does when you go head to head with concrete and steel."
His tired eyes closed as Walter traced the back of his hand up the puffy cheek, the whiskers still burning his skin. Mulder's face turned to press harder, searching for more contact. Cupping his face, the older man rubbed gently and whispered, "You're going to be fine."
"I know, but this wasn't exactly what I had in mind for tonight."
"Don't worry about that. I'm just glad you're alive."
Mulder stared up and then took his hand, bringing it to rest over his heart. "You're not pissed?"
"Of course, I'm pissed. You should've been more careful and called for back up, but that's not the point right now."
"What is the point?"
"That I'm a selfish bastard who just wants you well enough to come home. I can enjoy kicking your ass later."
A small smile worked against battered lips as Mulder closed his eyes, his body relaxed and his breathing slower.
"What the hell are you so happy about?"
"Just thinking about you playing doctor."
Squeezing the hand gently, he shook his head as he leaned in closer. "Go to sleep, Mulder. You're delirious."
Suddenly anxious, the young man tensed and opened his eyes. "Stay awhile longer, Walter, okay? I hate hospitals."
Petting back the hair, his body longing to draw his lover closer, Walter spoke in a soothing hush. "I'll be here as long as you need me."
"I want to believe that."
"Then believe it."
Swallowing hard, Mulder closed his weary eyes again and then turned his head on the pillow, his face growing slack after a few moments. Still combing his fingers through the fine dark hair, Walter finally understood that despite all his bravado, Mulder was just as scared as he was. He smiled at the irony that somehow being afraid together made them both stronger, his heart muscle pounding harder to second that unexpected, but welcome twist of emotion.
Braced against the doorway, Walter watched Mulder rub his cast and flex his swollen fingers, his face sullen and distant. "You okay?"
"You want to lie down?"
"The doctor said..."
"Give it a rest, okay?"
Warned by the tone, Walter stepped to the edge of the sofa and sat down in the far corner. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong, except I don't need a nurse maid. I'm thinking this was a bad idea me staying here while I'm on leave."
"Why? You've got a better deal somewhere else?" He tried to make the tone light, but failed, his voice catching slightly.
Glancing over, Mulder frowned as he quickly looked away again, his head lowered. "No, it's not that. I'm just not good when I'm like this."
"Just forget it."
"Mulder, I know it's hard for you to take it easy. I've got the letters from personnel on my desk about your unused vacation time to prove it, but this is different. It's only for a week or so."
"And then desk duty. Shit, I hate being stuck in an office."
"Yeah, but it'll give you a chance to finish all that paperwork you've been promising to turn in."
Instead of taking up the tease, Mulder slumped back and held his arm to his chest. "It'd been such a long time. I'd forgotten about it."
Puzzled by both the words and the sad tone, he pushed harder. "Forgotten about what?"
Mulder looked up and met Walter's eyes, his own misted, hesitating a few moments before he answered quietly. "About the last time I broke my arm."
Just the haunted way he said it chilled him, the slightest of shudders preparing him for revelation. He put a hand on Mulder's shoulder before he spoke, his voice a strained whisper. "Tell me."
"You don't want to hear this."
"Yes, I do, and from the sound of it, you need to tell me."
Nodding, Mulder glanced away again, this time his eyes trained on the past, his voice low and uneven. "I didn't even remember until this morning when you offered to wrap the cast so I could shower."
He replayed the scene of Mulder's suddenly tight body, his pushing away and leaving the room without any real explanation. "Are you saying you didn't remember breaking your arm before then?"
"Then what exactly?"
"I remembered the cast, remember how much I hated it because I couldn't get it wet, but the details of how it happened, and what came later, well, it just sort of all came back this morning."
Shit. "What came back?"
"It was after Samantha." He wet his lips, his voice raspy and dry. Swallowing harder, he worked to form the words clearly as he stared off, avoiding the present. "You have to understand, my father was different after she was gone. Mom wouldn't talk to either of us. We all lived together, but we were just bodies in the same house, you know, not talking about what was tearing us all apart. One afternoon I went outside and my father was working in the garden, digging a hole. I'm not sure why I did it, but I kept asking him when Samantha would be back. I wouldn't shut up and he got so pissed. I can't blame him. I mean, I just wouldn't shut the fuck up." His voice choked on the words, his body pulling in as he stopped talking.
"Mulder, what happened in the garden?"
"He had this shovel. I saw it coming and put up my arm. It cracked the forearm in three places."
"I don't remember it hurting, but I remember the look on my father's face. He hated me. At that moment, he hated me and regretted picking Samantha."
"Jesus." Walter stretched his arm around Mulder's shoulders, easily defeating the momentary resistance as he pulled him in close. His hand to the back of the younger man's head, his face pressed to his chest, he whispered, "Mulder, I'm sorry."
"I can't believe I forgot that." The muffled words vibrated through his bones as Mulder wrapped his own arms around Walter's waist, a hushed sob pushing out a simple statement. "He was my father."
A forehead rubbed against his skin as Mulder burrowed in closer. "I'm so tired."
"Go to sleep then." Tightening his embrace, he kissed the brown hair, the short silky strands teasing his lips. "You're safe here."
Ghosts played through the shadows, the rainy afternoon casting grey light across the bedroom to make the proper stage. Mulder lay stretched out on his back asleep, his face twisted and contorted by whatever nightmare held him. The soft whimpers brought Walter closer as he sat on the edge of the bed to nudge the shoulder gently. "Wake up, Mulder. It's okay."
The surprised gasp came with sudden jerking up quickly followed by an uneasy groan. "Shit. My back."
"Just lie still. I'll get you another muscle relaxant."
"No, wait." A panicked hand grabbed his arm and stilled him. "I was dreaming."
"I know. I could tell." He ran his fingers through the damp bangs, his impotence at watching Mulder suffer frustrating. "You want to talk about it?"
"It started out the way it always does, when Samantha was taken, but then it changed."
Wild hazel eyes met his, the lingering fever of the vision still strong. "We were all together in your office, you, me, and Scully, and then the light came and you were both gone. I could hear her calling my name, but I couldn't move or do anything to stop it."
Petting back the hair, he kept his voice low and then took Mulder's hand, the shaking calmed by his touch. "It was just a dream, Mulder. We're not gone. Scully's at the office and I'm here."
Mulder squeezed his eyes shut, his hand gripping harder. "I know, but I hate it. It's so real." He suddenly pulled away and turned over on his side, his back to Walter. "I hate you seeing me like this."
"Like I can't hold it together."
"Being vulnerable's not a sin."
"It was to my father."
He steadied his voice as he carefully rubbed the younger man's back and shoulders. "I'm not your father, Mulder."
"Oh, shit." Rolling back over, he took Walter's hand, his eyes rounded and more serious. "I didn't mean that. Don't ever think I meant that."
"What? That because I'm older, that's the attraction? Some kind of father figure?"
"It's nothing like that."
Smiling at the concerned stare and the anxious expression, Walter leaned down and kissed his lips, his tongue tip lightly licking the lower one before nipping at the edge and drawing it up between his teeth just for a brief moment. Sitting back up, he slid a teasing finger down along the jawline. "Never thought that for a minute."
"Thank god." Mulder bit his own lip, his breath a bit quicker, his eyes darker as he finally grinned. He shook his head as he slid his palm slowly across the broad chest. "Because heaven knows, I want you to have the right idea here."
"I'm crazy about your body."
"I heard you were just crazy."
"Yeah, well, you've seen plenty to support that theory."
Capturing Mulder's roving hand, Walter brought it to his lips and kissed the palm, the salty flavor a rush to his groin. Staring down, his body aching to crush the younger one beneath him, he reined back his desire. Mulder's injuries needed tending, not extra bruising. "Want to hear a secret?"
"I live for secrets."
"I've always admired your wild spirit."
"I'll probably regret telling you this later, but I've always wished I could be more like you, be able to look at things I'm afraid of. I'd never be able to do some of the things you've done."
Relaxing, Mulder shook his head. "You're the bravest person I know next to Scully."
"Not brave enough."
"Brave enough to take a chance."
"Or scared enough not to."
"God, Walter, and I thought I was the one tough on myself." Tugging hard enough to draw him down beside him, Mulder rested his head on his shoulder. The older man shifted to cuddle in close, his arms wrapped tightly around the fully clothed man, his arousal not hampered in the slightest by the cloth barriers. "This is really strange."
"And you'd know strange, huh?"
"You'd think. Seriously, who would've thought a few days ago, I'd be lying here snuggling up to the most butch AD on the planet."
He chuckled, the description nothing close to his own amazement at the reality in his arms. "Do you really expect an answer to that?"
"Not really." Taking a deep breath, Mulder relaxed against him, his heated weight a comfort. After a few moments of pleasant silence, he asked, "So, have you had your blood pressure checked again?"
He tensed, the question not what he expected. "I haven't had time."
"Then stop chasing demons on Harleys."
Instead of laughing, Mulder pushed away and sat up, his damaged face solemn. "I mean it, Walter. No fucking around here. Have it checked."
Nodding, Walter reached out and guided the younger man back to his arms. "Just settle down, Mulder. I'm not in any danger, but I'll see about it tomorrow."
"Okay, but if you don't, I'm telling Scully."
"Bringing in the big guns?"
"If I have to, yeah. She can check us both out when she comes by tomorrow. She's got a great bedside manner." He rubbed his leg up against Walter's, his body suddenly warmer beside him. "Not as good as yours though."
"Behave, Mulder. You're injured, remember?"
"Like I could forget. Every time I move, it's a toss up between cramps or spasms." He nuzzled his face into the side of Walter's neck, the short rub of whiskers like stolen kisses down his belly. "But I'm a fast healer."
The desperate tone brought a short laugh and Mulder's arm draped over his lap. "My right hand's not broken, Walter. I wouldn't mind doing the favor."
An eager hand stroked his erection through the fabric, the touch like a slow clench and shudder to his spine. Using all his willpower, he stopped the delicious rub and shook his head. "I appreciate the offer, Mulder, but I think I'll wait."
"For what?" Incredulous hazel eyes met his, the surprise and disappointment obvious.
"For when you can join me."
"I really don't mind."
"But I do. I'll wait until you're ready."
The small answering smile pleased him as Mulder lay back down, his body a solid shield against the loneliness invading his life too often. The husky voice whispered, "You know what?"
"This might just last longer than a week."
"Predicting the future?"
"Just a feeling."
A feeling Walter Skinner wanted to drift in forever, his faith pressured to believe in the pleasure and promise offered by believing in Mulder one more time.