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Postcards II: Love's Triumphs

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Postcards II: Love's Triumphs

Postcards II: Love's Triumphs

by Jo B

Title: Postcards II: Love's Triumphs

Author: Jo B

Keywords: M/Sk slash

Rating: NC-17

Category: romance, relationship

Summary: Mulder moves in with Skinner, life is finally looking up for the two of them.

Spoilers: Yes

Disclaimer: The X-Files are the property Chris Carter, 1013 productions and Fox Broadcasting.

Warning! This story contains romance between two men. Turn back now, if the subject matter offends you.

Archive: Okay to archive just leave my name attached.

Web site: http://slashingmulder.com/JoB/

Author's notes: Continuation of my Postcards Universe. The stories in this universe are meant to be self-contained and are not WIP.

For this universe, let's pretend that Mulder isn't on the run, the Gunmen are alive, there are no such thing as supersoldiers...oh heck let's just pretend that season 9 never happened, and that season 8 ended after Vienen. The baby isn't Mulder's and he never had sex with the redhead! Well that makes me feel so much better. :-)

Oh yeah, and a schmoop advisory is being issued for this story, too.

Major thanks to Joey for beta-reading this story.


Postcards II: Love's Triumphs

Atlanta, Georgia
Thursday, February 20, 2003

Detective Morris walked around the baseball diamond looking for any clue to the grisly discovery made that morning. The crime scene was taped off and the victim had been rushed to the hospital in critical condition.

They didn't even try to remove the man from the cross he'd been nailed onto. Instead they dug the cross up and transported the victim and it to the hospital.

"Morris, did you find anything?" Detective Ricci asked.

"No." Morris looked back toward the pitcher's mound. "I'd love to get my hands on the sick pervert who crucified that poor bastard."

"The FBI called, they're sending down a team of agents from Washington. It seems this wasn't the first crucifixion. There have been four others in the past fourteen months. In all the other cases the men were dead by the time they were found. This is the first time the victim was found alive."

"Fuck. Do they have any leads?"

"Don't know. You can ask them yourself."


New Orleans International Airport
Thursday, February 20, 2003

The airport around the two men hugging goodbye was bustling with activity. Parents with their unruly children in toll, businessmen and women dressed in expensive suits talking on cell phones, foreign tourists speaking their native languages, senior citizens, and college kids all contributed to the loud drone. The sounds of planes taking off and landing mixed with the sounds of the public address system announcing departures and arrivals, these sounds and sights were all strangely comforting to Mulder who had spent a great part of his life in airports across the country and around the world.

Mulder pulled away from Skinner at the departure gate. They had spent six days together filled with love and companionship, more than either man had had with another person in years. It was hard to say goodbye no matter how briefly. Skinner was using the airline ticket Mulder had purchased for him to fly back to D.C., while he was driving back.

"I'll see you in two days, Fox," Skinner said, "And don't speed. I want you back in one piece."

"Don't worry, I'm not taking any chances now that I have you in my life." The only possession Mulder had right now of any worth was the SUV he had purchased when he returned to the U.S. It was a Landcruiser. He had wanted a vehicle that he could use off road if needed.

Skinner smiled and touched his lover's cheek. "Call me tonight."

"I will, on your cell phone." Mulder wanted to kiss Walter but it wouldn't be appropriate at their current location. So instead he stood and watched his lover board the plane. Then he watched, standing at the window of the terminal, as Walter's plane taxied down the runway and finally lifted off into the sky.

After it had vanished into the heavens, he turned from the window and headed out of the airport to where his vehicle was parked in a distant lot. It was six o'clock in the afternoon. He planned to find a place just outside of New Orleans to stop for the night.


Skinner arrived back at his apartment late in the evening. The place was spotless, he had a maid who came once a week to vacuum, dust, and mop. He decided to cleanout part of his closet and dresser to make room for Fox.

He packed up some of his old clothing for Goodwill. While he was cleaning out the closet he found a box that contained a crucifix and a small painting of Jesus that his grandmother had given him when he married Sharon. He'd never taken it out of the box, but now, he saw a reason to hang it up in the bedroom. Hoping it might provide some protection to his lover.

Skinner walked into the guestroom, if he gave the bedroom furniture to Goodwill then he'd be able to turn the room into an office for his lover. Skinner smiled. He'd telephone the local Goodwill and arrange with them to stop out tomorrow to pick up the furniture.

Afterward he'd go shopping for office furniture and a computer for Fox. He wanted everything to be in place by the time Fox arrived Saturday morning.


Seattle, Washington
Friday, February 21, 2003

Special Agents Tom Matthews and Anna Jones stood outside the autopsy bay and waited for the coroner to report his findings.

Doctor Grant stepped out of bay and held up a plastic envelope with a plastic capsule inside. The capsule was bright green two-inch in length and one-inch in diameter. "It looks like you have another one."

"Oh great," Jones sighed.

Two years they'd been working on this case and they were no closer to finding the maniac who had brutally raped and tortured six women, then killed them by shoving a plastic cylinder down their throats cutting off the flow of oxygen to their lungs.

The cylinders all contained a note taunting the police to catch him before he killed again.

"Ann, we still need to wait for the DNA tests on the semen and hair samples from the body to make sure we don't have a copycat killer."

"I hope the crime lab will be able to discover the victim's identity from her fingerprints," Jones said. All of the previous victims had been prostitutes and drug addicts. A couple they never were able to id. The ones they had identify their families seemed to have expected that their daughter's life would end tragically. The crime lab had been able to determine that the unsub had held his victims for at least a week before killing them.

"We need a better profile...I'm going to contact BSU and see if we can get another profiler assigned to the case," Matthews said as he held the door open for Jones as they walked out of the morgue.


Viva Towers
Crystal City, Virginia
Saturday, February 22, 2003
5:30 p.m.

Anxiety churned in Mulder's stomach as he rode the elevator up the seventeen floors to Walter's apartment. After all they had shared the past week he shouldn't be feeling apprehension, but a part of him still couldn't quite believe that the past week had actually happened and that it hadn't been some weird dream. Mulder half-expected when he knocked on Skinner's door it would be opened by a baffled A.D. Skinner wondering why he was there. Mulder had a canvas suitcase slung over his shoulder and carried a larger heavier suitcase in his hand.

The door to Skinner's apartment flung open as Mulder approached it, and Walter stepped into the hallway.

Walter reached for and took the suitcase from Mulder's hand while hurrying him inside the apartment with a hand on the small of his back. He closed the door with his foot, dropped the suitcase, and all in one fluid movement pulled Mulder into his arms and kissed him.

After Mulder recovered from the initial surprise, he sighed happily as his apprehensions dissolved and he returned the kiss with needy passion. They were breathless by the time they came up for air.

"I guess you missed me."

"Damn right." Skinner took the canvas suitcase from Mulder's shoulder and set it on the floor next to the other suitcase.

Mulder shrugged out of his leather jacket, Skinner took the jacket from him, and hung it in the hall closet.

"I hope you're hungry."

"I'm starving. I didn't stop for lunch." Because of a snowstorm it had taken Mulder six additional hours on the road.

"Good, I have dinner in the oven."

"You know how to cook?"

"I can cook a few things...nothing too elaborate," Skinner said. "How about you?"

Mulder followed him into the kitchen, the room smelled delicious...homey. It had been a couple of months since he had a home cooked meal. "After Samantha was abducted my mom stopped cooking and I had to mostly fend for myself. So I taught myself how to cook and tried to help her by making dinner after school. Then my parents separated and my mom finally recovered to the point that she was cooking again, but she still allowed me to help her until I left for college."

Skinner smiled. "I never imagined you as having any domestic skills."

Mulder chuckled. "If I didn't then I'd never have a clean thing to wear and my apartment would have been condemned by the health department."

"I have a maid who comes on Monday, but I do my own laundry." Skinner looked in the oven. "I hope you like roasted duck."

"Mm, I love duck."

"Why don't you take your bags upstairs to the bedroom and unpack while I finish preparing dinner. I made room for you in the closet and the right hand side of the dresser."

"Do you think I'll have time to take a shower?"

"Yes. Dinner won't be ready for an hour."

Skinner had wanted everything to be perfect for their first night together. He'd gone grocery shopping after the furniture deliverymen had left. At the grocery store he had purchased the ingredients to what he'd hoped would be a romantic meal.

When Mulder had not arrived by one o'clock Skinner had begun to worry. Then he checked the weather report and road conditions and found out about the traffic jams cause by the snowstorm. He went ahead with dinner hoping that Fox would be there before it was done. He kept his eyes on the small monitors he had installed in the kitchen and living room they were hooked up to the building's security cameras that showed people entering the building from the lobby and getting off the elevator on his floor. It was how he knew when his lover had finally arrived. Mulder still had the key to the lobby that Skinner had given him years ago.

Mulder carried his bags up the steps. This was the first time he'd been upstairs at Skinner's apartment. He glanced inside the room at the top of the stairs. It was Walter's bedroom. There were two more rooms at the end of a short hallway and a louvered closet. He'd check them out later. Mulder walked into the bedroom and flipped on the light switch. It looked like his lover had expensive taste in furniture. He moved over to the dresser and set his bags on the floor then ran a hand over the highly polished cherry wood. There were several framed photographs in the dresser. The men in the photos bore a close resemblance to Walter. They must be his brothers and father. The women all resembled the older woman in the photographs. There were several photographs of children of various ages...nieces and nephews. It looked like his lover came from a large loving family.

The only item that seemed out of place in the bedroom was the crucifix and a small painting of Jesus. He never pictured Walter as being a religious man.

He placed his suitcases on the bed and transferred his few clean clothes into the dresser drawers. The dirty clothes he left in the suitcase. He would have to do the laundry tomorrow; he was down to his last clean pair of boxers. He placed the suitcases out of the way in the closet then stepped into the bathroom to take a shower.

When he walked downstairs, almost an hour later, wearing jeans and a T-shirt, Walter had the dining room table set, candles were lit, and wine was poured into crystal wineglasses. The stereo was on and Rod Stewart's rough sexy voice rang out of the speakers, singing an old 1940's love song.

Skinner walked out of the kitchen carrying a couple of small salads. He noticed Mulder listening to the stereo. "I bought that CD yesterday after hearing one of its songs on my car radio...it reminded me of how I feel about you." He set the salad bowls on the table.

"Which one?" Mulder had the CD case in his hand reading it.

Skinner walked over to him, wrapped his arms around Mulder's warm body from behind, and rested his chin on the cotton-covered shoulder. He nuzzled his nose in the shower-dampened hair smelling the scent of his own shampoo on the silky strands. "The Very Thought of You."

Mulder smiled as he leaned back into the strength and comfort of his lover's arms. "I never would have thought you could be so romantic, farmboy."

"Only for you, cityboy," Skinner said hugging him affectionately. "C'mon, let's eat, then I have something to show you upstairs."

Mulder could feel the hard press of Walter's erection against his ass. "Why does it have to wait until we get upstairs? You could show it to me down here."

Skinner chuckled and kissed the side of Mulder's face. "That's not what I want to show you."

They walked over to the table and sat.

"Now you have me curious," Mulder said as he picked up the salad fork.

"I hope you'll like it."

"If it's from you, I'm sure I will." Mulder speared the lettuce. "Are you going into work Monday?"

"Yep."

"So do you want to keep our relationship a secret?"

"No. Fox, I'm not ashamed of having you for a lover and companion. I'm going to tell my assistant Kim, on Monday," Skinner said.

"How do you think Kim will feel about it?"

"I'm not sure." Skinner ate the salad and looked up at Mulder. "John Doggett suspects that we're already involved. He thinks you're queer."

"God, he's good. What did you tell him about us?"

"I denied we were involved or even interested. This was before I received your postcard from Wisconsin and realized you weren't playing some kinda mind game on me." Skinner stood and carried the empty salad bowls into the kitchen.

Mulder followed him. "Can I help you with anything?"

"You can help by telling me what part of the duck you like." Skinner started carving the roasted duck.

"I'm not picky, but I do want some of that crispy skin."

Skinner filled two dinner plates with the duck then added steamed asparagus, mashed sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce to the plates. "Do you want to grab the bread basket?" he said as he carried the plates into the dining room.

"This smells great," Mulder said, sitting back down at the table.

After they finished eating, Mulder rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher then started on the dirty pots and pans, while Skinner put the leftovers away then cleaned the counters and range. It felt comfortable doing these simple household tasks together.

Skinner surveyed the kitchen and determined everything was clean and in order. He took Mulder's hand and pulled him out of the kitchen, toward the stairs. "C'mon, Fox, it's time for your surprise."

"If this doesn't involve sex, I'm going to be disappointed," Mulder said.

"I'll fuck you through the mattress after you see what I bought for you."

Mulder followed Walter upstairs then down the short hallway to a second bedroom. The room only had a computer desk, with a computer on it. He thought that was strange since Walter had a desk and a laptop downstairs.

"Welcome to your new office. I picked up the computer yesterday. I purchased the best system they had in the store. The deliverymen dropped off the computer desk this morning. I hope you like it," Skinner said. "I figured you'll want to decorate the rest of the room."

Mulder walked over computer. "Walter, this is too expensive."

"I have plenty of money, Fox, and I wanted to get you something. You're going to need a computer to carry on your fight against them."

Mulder smiled, walked over, and kissed Walter. "Thank you. Now you mentioned something about fucking me through the mattress."

"Are you sure you're ready?" Skinner asked. They had decided to hold off on Mulder's first experience as a bottom until they returned to D.C. Skinner was concerned about his lover being able to handle his girth and wanted to make sure if something were to happen that he could take Mulder to visit his Doctor in D.C.

"Walter, I'm sure. Not that I don't mind fucking you, but I'd like to experience being fucked. Call it a long time fantasy."

"Okay, but we are going to take it extremely slow and you will tell me if I'm hurting you," Skinner said firmly.

Mulder wrapped his arms around Skinner's body and nipped at his lips. "Don't worry, farmboy, I'm a quick healer."

Skinner squeezed his buttocks affectionately. "There's not going to be anything that needs healing."

"Well then lets go try out your mattress...."

"Our mattress, cityboy."

They walked back to the bedroom and started to undress.

"I like your bedroom furniture. I never was able to get my furniture to have a coordinated look."

Skinner chuckled. "After I moved here, I stopped at Ethan Allen and pointed to one of their bedroom floor displays and told the sales person I wanted everything from that display, including the bedspread, drapes, pillows, and paintings. I didn't have time to fart around shopping for matching accessories."

"Oh so that's how it's done." Mulder folded his jeans and placed them in the dresser. He wasn't about to get on Walter's bad side by right off the bat by dropping them on the floor.

Skinner watched Mulder with amusement. He figured in time, his lover would feel comfortable enough living here that he'd stop being so damned careful. Skinner tossed his jeans and sweater on the chair in the corner. His socks and underwear he threw in the laundry hamper located in the hall closet next to the washer and drier. "Fox, if you have any dirty clothes you can toss them in the hamper out here."

Mulder stepped out of the bedroom, carrying the remainder of his clothes. His eyes lit up. "Wow, you have your own washer and drier. You don't have to share with hundreds of other residents? And you don't have to hike all the way down to a smelly dimly lit basement?"

Skinner was amused by his lover's obvious excitement. "Fox, we're both naked and you want to talk about doing the laundry?"

Mulder shrugged then grinned. "I've always wanted to do it on top of the washing machine during spin cycle."

"Keep that thought, cityboy," Skinner growled as he pushed Mulder up against the washer and kissed him. Their erections swelled between their bodies.

After several minutes of kissing and groping, Mulder moaned, "Bed...I'm ready for you."

Skinner smiled in satisfaction at the look of naked arousal on his lover's beautiful face. He caressed Mulder's ass. "Go lay on your back on the bed, I want to watch your face while I fuck you."

They hurried into the bedroom. Skinner strolled into the bathroom to get the tube of KY. Mulder had the bedspread pulled down and was lying on his back on the crisp designer sheets while slowly stroking with his cock.

Grabbing a pillow off the top of the bed, Skinner brought it down to Mulder's hips. "Lift up, cityboy, and put this underneath your hips then pull your legs up against your chest."

Skinner climbed on the bed between Mulder's legs and opened the tube. He wasn't going to take any chances so he inserted the nozzle into Mulder's anus and squeezed a generous amount of lube up his rectum. Mulder wiggled uncomfortably as the cold lube filled him. Then Skinner proceeded to smooth the lube down his crease before he greased a finger and inserted it into the tight opening.

"Fuck, Fox, you're too tight...there's no way I'm going to get my dick inside without hurting you."

"Just stretch me, farmboy, I'll be fine." Mulder hoped his lover bought that little lie, and that his face didn't visibly wince when Walter inserted a second thick finger into him. He thanked God that his lover was being solicitous and taking his time stretching him. It felt like his bottom was on fire as his sphincter muscle clenched around the intruding digits.

"I'm hurting you," Walter said after he unsuccessfully tried to insert a third finger.

"N-no...you're not."

"Then how come you've lost your erection?"

"Walter, I love you...just do this for me."

"Fox." Skinner started to pull his fingers free.

"I'll tell you if it hurts too much. Trust me," Mulder pleaded.

Skinner gazed down at Fox's sweaty face then sighed, "Okay."

He squirted more lube onto his fingers and continued to prepare his lover it took several more minutes before he was able to get a third finger into him.

Mulder closed his eyes and lost himself in the painful burn. Then the fingers were pulled away.

"I'm going to enter you now, Fox. Tell me if I'm hurting you," Skinner ordered.

Mulder nodded as he felt the impossibly large head of his lover's penis press against his small opening. He tried to relax as the pressure increased until finally a fiery pain filled his lower body as the cockhead breached his anus. Mulder clenched his teeth as tears ran down his cheeks.

"Fox, I'm going to pull out." Skinner's panicked voice reached Mulder through the pain.

"No!" Mulder shook his head. "Give me a moment to adjust."

Skinner stayed completely still waiting for Mulder to relax. Only the feel of the clenching muscles and the internal heat prevented him from losing his erection.

After what seemed like an eternity, Mulder raised his legs from his chest and rested his calves on Skinner's shoulders. That seemed to help ease the pain a little. "Okay...I'm ready."

Skinner watched Mulder's face as he starting pushing slowly into him.

A new warm feeling started spreading from his anus through his belly. Mulder felt the throbbing of Skinner's cock inside his body...it felt incredible. A small smile spread across Mulder's lips as blood flowed back into his penis.

"I'm going to start thrusting," Skinner said as he watched his lover's face go from pain to pleasure.

As Walter started thrusting into him, Mulder savored the feeling of being fucked. He still felt some discomfort but it paled compared to the feelings of fullness and the sheer pleasure he felt when his prostate was hit each time Walter reentered him. Even his toes tingled with delight.

"Oh God, Walter, it feels so good."

Skinner was close to coming. It was a miracle that he had lasted this long against the tightness of the viselike muscles squeezing his shaft. He grasped Fox's cock and started jerking him off. The organ twitched in his hand then milky strands of come erupted from the tip. Skinner cried out as he followed Mulder over the abyss against the pressure around his buried cock.

A few seconds later Skinner returned to consciousness, eased off Mulder, and slowly pulled out of his body. A great sense of relief filled him that there wasn't any blood on his shaft. He carefully examined Mulder for tears. When he was satisfied that he hadn't done any damage to his lover he climbed off the bed to get a washcloth.

Mulder's eyes were closed as he floated in a cloud of sweet sated bliss. His whole body was a tingle with pleasure. He felt a washcloth on his belly and chest, then the dampness as it moved to clean his ass and balls. The pillow was removed from beneath his hips. Then a blanket was pulled up over him. A few minutes later, he was wrapped in Skinner's arms.

"I want to do that again," Mulder murmured.

Skinner's arms tightened around him. "Tomorrow night."


Hoover Building
Monday, February 24, 2003
9:30 a.m.

D.D. Kersh sat uncomfortably in front of the Director's desk. Next to him was A.D. Sam Carlson from Violent Crimes.

"Twenty-eight active serial murder cases and not even one potential suspect on any of them. This is unacceptable, Sam. What are you going to do about it?" the Director asked.

"Sir, my department has lost a lot of skilled agents to the bureau's new terrorism task force. The new agents that replaced them aren't up to the task yet, and our profilers are lacking in the skills it takes to put together an accurate profile."

The Director frowned. "Why hasn't Section Chief Schmidt been able to train them adequately? Some of these profilers have been with his unit for three years."

"Sir, may I be frank?" Carlson glanced nervously over at Kersh then back at the Director.

"Go ahead, Sam."

"Bill Patterson was the driving force within the BSU, Schmidt doesn't have what it takes to handle the job."

"Sam, Bill Patterson was committed to an insane asylum eight years ago why has this become an issue now?" The Director leaned back in his chair.

"Up until a year ago, we still had a couple of profilers working in the unit that had been trained by Patterson. Plus we used to be able to consult with Agent Fox Mulder on our more difficult cases. His input had been instrumental in apprehending the killers on all of those cases."

The Director glared at Kersh who sank visibly in his chair. "I want a recommendation for a replacement for Schmidt on my desk by the end of the day tomorrow."

"Yes, sir."

"You may leave, Sam. Alvin, I want a word with you in private."

After A.D. Carlson left, Director Cole turned to Kersh. "I want Fox Mulder rehired."

"Sir, Fox Mulder was nothing but trouble. He had no respect for authority...."

The Director's eyes narrowed in anger. "Fox Mulder was one of the best damned agents to ever work for the FBI! I saw no indication that he lacked respect for authority. He may have irritated and pissed off some incompetent assholes that stood in his way on a few cases, but he got results and convictions! I have a pile of letters sent to me from law enforcement agencies around the country that commended him on his professionalism and ability to work with their detectives and police officers. Reggie Purdue, Bill Patterson, and Walter Skinner all gave his performance top marks. Only Scott Blevins and you gave him low marks, and we both know that Blevins was up to his eyebrows with rogue elements within the FBI. What about you, Alvin?"

"Sir?"

"You know what I mean."

Kersh swallowed, he had no idea that the Director had knowledge of his involvement with the syndicate. "Sir, I was blackmailed into helping them."

"What do they have on you?"

Kersh looked down at his shoes and sighed. "They have photographs of me in a compromising position with another man."

"Is that all?"

"Isn't that enough?"

"Goddammit, Alvin! You became their personal shoeshine boy because you were afraid of being labeled as a homosexual?"

"It would have destroyed my career! What was I to do?"

"You could have taken the criticism and bigotry like a man and stepped up to the plate. This isn't the military. Being viewed as gay would have only been a bump in the road to your career, it would have eventually blown over."

"Look what they did to Walter Skinner when he tried to stand up to them," Kersh argued.

Director Cole shook his head. "It blew up in their faces mostly thanks to Fox Mulder."

"Skinner's career is at a dead end because he didn't play along with them."

"I'm aware of that, but at least he still has his honor and integrity." Cole stood and walked over to the window and looked outside. It was snowing again.

Ronald Reagan had appointed him to the Directorship in 1983. He was the longest serving FBI Director since Hoover. This rogue element had been unable to touch him. He had too many powerful friends in Washington. Unfortunately Cole could not extend that protection to those under him. He could only encourage them not to sellout to blackmail or give into a false sense of patriotism that this group's lies had fostered. Fox Mulder had been like a beacon in the chaotic storm the bureau had become...a lone light that had stood against the darkness within the FBI. If Cole hadn't been on a two-week vacation in Europe when Kersh had fired Mulder, he might have been able to overrule the agent's termination. In the past, he had protected Mulder's job against countless other attempts to kick him out of the FBI.

"Alvin, I suggest that if you want to keep your position in the FBI you start keeping your nose clean, and see that these twenty-eight serial murder cases are solved or we'll both be out on our asses!"

"Sir, I have no idea where Mulder is or even if he'd be interested in having his job back."

"You work for the FBI, use our resources and find him."


Hoover Building
AD Skinner's Office
Monday, February 24, 2003
10:00 a.m.

Kimberly sat on the sofa next to Skinner.

"Sir, your personal life is your business."

"Kim, I want to make sure you don't have a problem with me being involved sexually with Fox. There may be times when he will call me at work or even stop by to visit."

"If I did would it matter?"

Skinner sighed, "It would matter to me on a personal level, but I would not allow it to affect our working relationship."

"Sir, as long as you're happy it doesn't bother me that you're gay. It seems most of the good-looking men are today," she sighed.

Skinner smiled with relief. "Thank you, Kim."

"No problem. So how is Mulder doing?"

"He's fine. He seems happier than I've ever seen him before."

"Does he have a new job yet?"

"No. He's talking about picking up some consulting jobs with the local PDs."

"He'd be good at that." Kim stood and smoothed her skirt. "Sir, give him my best wishes."

"I will, Kim." As his assistant left the office Skinner stood and walked over to his desk. He had a lot of work to catch up on due to the week he'd taken off.


Viva Towers
Monday, February 24, 2003
3:00 p.m.

Mulder pulled the wet sheets and towels from the washer and put them into the drier. He had been happy when Walter had shown him the side-by-side washer and dryer in the hall closet across from the master bedroom. Simple things in life made him happy, not having to hassle with trudging down to the basement and sharing the machines with the other tenants.

He walked into his office and sat back at the computer. It was going to take him a bit to get all of his old contacts into his new email address book. Luckily he had all of them memorized. Frohike had been the first person he had entered then emailed to tell him that he was back living in the D.C. area and would stop out to visit them tomorrow. Amanda had been the second person, he wrote her a long email about how stupidly happy he was and how he had her to thank. He promised her that one-day he'd bring Walter to Australia so she could meet him.

Mulder wondered if he should call Scully to let her know where he was staying and about his relationship with Walter. Maybe he'd call her from the Gunmen's tomorrow, he didn't quite trust Walter's telephone not to be bugged. He needed to purchase a cell phone when he got the chance.

Mulder turned around in the chair and looked around the room. The office needed a file cabinet and some bookshelves. A small television set would be nice. Maybe he could get another fish tank, watching the fish swim and listening to the sounds of the air pump had always been soothing. He'd see if Walter would have any objections tonight.

Yesterday, Walter had shown him where the swimming pool and exercise room was located in the building. They spent over an hour working out together. When they had returned to the apartment, they shared a shower then had another bout of sex. Afterward they had the left over duck for lunch. The remainder of the afternoon was spent cuddling on the sofa while watching movies and talking, they ordered a pizza for dinner. It had been a nice relaxing day of just enjoying each other's company. Mulder found himself watching the clock anxious for Walter to get home. After he put the dried sheets and towels away he headed downstairs to see what he could whip up for dinner.

Skinner arrived home, on time, at six o'clock. When he entered the apartment, the pleasing aroma of bacon frying greeted him. He shrugged out of his overcoat and hung it in the closet then carried his briefcase over to the desk. The stereo was on and tuned to some rock station. Skinner wandered into the kitchen. Mulder was sitting at the island counter reading.

He looked up and smiled. "You're home. I didn't want to put the pasta on until you got here."

Skinner leaned down and kissed him. "What are you making?"

"Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Why don't you go and change while I finish dinner."

"You're going to spoil me, cityboy."

"I'm home while you're working, it's the least I can do."

"We'll take turns. On my way home from the gym tomorrow night I'll pick up some Chinese takeout at Wong's."

Skinner hurried upstairs and changed into jeans and a sweater.

Mulder had the meal on the table by the time he made it back downstairs.

"How did Kim take the news?" Mulder asked as Walter sat at the table.

"She was understanding and sends you her best wishes." Skinner twirled his fork in the spaghetti then brought it to his mouth. "Mm, good," he mumbled as he tasted the first forkful. "Besides making me fat what have you been up to today?"

"Don't worry about getting fat I'll work those calories off you tonight." Mulder leered then answered the question. "I've been entering data onto the computer you bought me. Would you mind if I bought a fish tank for my office?"

"You don't have to ask me, Fox, it's your office."

"I may need you to feed them if I have to leave town to track down a lead."

Skinner picked up the glass of iced tea. "I don't think I'll have any problem feeding your fish a couple of times a day. It's not like I haven't done so before."

"I know...thanks." Mulder went back to eating for a few minutes before setting his fork down. "I'm going over to the Gunmen's tomorrow. I want to call Scully from there and tell her about us."

"Why don't you call her from here?"

"I'm not sure how secure your phone line is and I rather not risk our enemies finding out we're involved. Telling our friends is one thing."

"And family. I'm going to tell my family about you."

"How are they going to feel about you shacking up with another man?"

"I have no idea. My parents aren't bigots but I don't know how they'll react to my being in love with you."

"If it's going to upset them then maybe you shouldn't tell them."

"No. I visit them at least two times a year, and my brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews usually come to D.C. to visit me at least once a year. I don't want to hide our relationship from them."

"I would hate for our relationship to hurt your family."

"Fox, I'm going to turn fifty-one this year. If my family can't accept my choices at this point in my life that's their problem."

Mulder reached across the table and touched Walter's hand. "How do you plan to tell them?"

A slow grin spread across Skinner's lips. "I think I'll send them a postcard."

Mulder chuckled and went back to his meal.


Hoover Building
DD Kersh's Office
Monday, February 24, 2003
Midnight

Kersh looked over Mulder's financial records for the past three months. Mulder had used his credit card on Christmas Eve Day to purchase a one-way airline ticket at Perth International Airport in Australia to Dulles International Airport in D.C. So Mulder had arrived back in D.C. on Christmas. Kersh wondered what he had been up to in Australia.

On January 14, Mulder used a cashier's check to purchase a Landcruiser at the local Toyota dealership in D.C. then he withdrew a thousand dollars from his savings account. Kersh whistled as he looked at the balances in the several bank accounts, stocks, and mutual funds that Mulder owned. He knew that Mulder's parents had been well off and left their only son everything in their wills. He just never realized how much they had left to Mulder.

The next time Mulder used his credit card was in Muskegon, Michigan on January 28. He rented a room for the night at an expensive bed and breakfast on Lake Michigan. Kersh noted that on January 30, Mulder stopped at a bank in Madison, Wisconsin where he withdrew another thousand from his bank account. It was obvious that Mulder was paying cash for almost everything to cover up his trail.

There were no more records of his activity until February 12 when he purchased a two-way airline ticket from D.C. to New Orleans then back to D.C. from New Orleans with an open return date. The only problem was that Mulder purchased the tickets in New Orleans. Kersh was baffled. There were several more credit card purchases in New Orleans in the French Quarters from February 14 to February 19. It had been five days since the last time he used his card and no financial trail to follow. Kersh would send an agent to New Orleans tomorrow to see if he could locate Mulder in the city. He had scheduled a meeting with Skinner for seven-thirty in the morning. If anyone would know how to get in touch with Mulder, other than Dana Scully, it would be Skinner.


Viva Towers
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
5:00 a.m.

The only light in the darkened room came from the digital alarm clock on the nightstand. The glowing digits on the clock were large enough to allow Skinner to read them without his glasses.

Skinner lay awake as he relished the feel of Mulder's warm sleeping body in his arms. They both smelled of sex. He'd spent the night sleeping on a wet spot, too worn out from the workout Mulder had put him through to make it to the bathroom for a towel. Not that he minded too much, he had the added pleasure of wearing his lover out even more. Mulder fell into a sated slumber moments after his second orgasm.

Skinner sighed as he looked over at the clock, then reluctantly pulled away from the warmth of Mulder's body and slipped out of bed. His job called. Kersh had scheduled a 7:30 am meeting with him.

The sudden lack of a hot body sleeping next to him and the sound of a shower awakened Mulder. He rolled over on his back and looked up at the ceiling then threw off the covers and climbed out of bed. He looked toward the open bathroom doorway and debated joining his lover in the shower or going downstairs to make a pot of coffee. He rubbed his aching ass and decided on coffee, neither of them would be up for sex this morning, not after last night.

He quickly pulled on a pair of sweatpants and an undershirt then headed downstairs.

When Skinner came downstairs forty-minutes later, shaved and dressed in one of his Brooks Brothers suits, Mulder had the coffee made along with French toast and sausage links.

"How did you know I was starving?" Skinner asked as he sat at the breakfast table in front of a steaming mug of coffee and the plate full of food.

"I'm starving so I figured you'd be, too." Mulder placed the maple syrup on the table and sat across from him. "Sex always makes me hungry."

"If that's the case our grocery bill is going to bankrupt us." Skinner was aroused again just looking at his lover. Mulder's hair was mussed from sleep, he had a nice morning shadow, and his lips were kiss swollen from last night.

"I'll be at the Gunmen's around noon. If you need to get in touch with me, I don't have a cell phone yet."

"Would you like me to pick one up for you? I could put you on my plan."

"No. Walter, I may be unemployed but I'm not hurting for money."

"Fox, if you need anything just ask me. You don't have to be proud about needing a helping hand." Skinner took a sip of coffee and ate the French toast then pushed away from the table and stood. "I need to get into the office. I'll see you tonight." He bent and kissed Mulder goodbye.


Hoover Building
DD Kersh's Office
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
7:30 a.m.

"Walter, come in and have a seat," Kersh said as he moved from the window over to his desk.

Skinner took a seat in front of the desk.

Kersh had watched the sun rise an hour ago. He'd been standing there ever since as he contemplated his life. The Director had made him think about the mistakes he'd made by allowing himself to be blackmailed. It was hard being a gay man working for the FBI. It was even harder being a gay black man. As he took his seat behind his desk, Kersh glanced at Skinner. What would a manly man like Skinner think of him if he knew of his sexual preferences? Kersh had had a tough enough fight gaining the respect of his colleagues being the first black man to rise through the ranks to the level of Assistant Director then to Deputy Director. It burned his butt whenever he heard the snide comments behind his back that he only made it to where he was because of quotas and affirmative action. He'd worked his butt off to get those promotions; it wasn't because of some government program. That only made Director Cole's words all the more painful. Kersh had sold his soul to keep what he had gotten through hard work and integrity.

Kersh rubbed at the stubble on his jaw. "I need to get in touch with Fox Mulder, and I know you were friends with him. Do you know where he is?"

That was the last question Skinner had expected to come out of Kersh's mouth.

"What's this about?"

"Do you know where he is or not?"

"I'm not telling you anything until I know why you want to get in touch with him. No offense, sir, but I don't trust you."

Kersh sighed. He had brought on that mistrust himself by his behavior. "The Director wants him rehired."

"Why?"

"You'll have to ask the Director. I was only directed to locate Mulder and offer him his job back," Kersh said.

Skinner was torn between wanting Mulder as far away from this viper's nest as possible, and wanting Mulder back in charge of the X-Files. "Does his former job mean he'd be placed back in charge of the X-Files?"

"That, along with helping the VCU." Kersh watched Skinner's face and realized that the bald man knew exactly how to contact Mulder.

"Fine, setup a meeting for Mulder and me tomorrow morning with the Director."

"He's in D.C.?"

"Mulder will be here tomorrow morning, whether he wants his old job back is his decision."

"Okay. I'll arrange the meeting for ten o'clock upstairs in the Director's office," Kersh said.

Skinner stood and walked out of the office. He'd try to get in touch with Mulder over lunch.


Lone Gunmen Headquarters
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
Noon

Mulder used chopsticks to pick a piece of sesame chicken out of the white cardboard takeout container as he sat on top of a desk talking to his friends.

"You could come and work for us, Mulder," Byers offered.

"Dude, we'd even set you up with a desk," Langly chimed in.

"How come you never offered me a desk?" Bond asked.

Mulder smiled. "Guys, I appreciate your offer but Walter already gave me a desk and an office at his apartment."

Frohike came back into the room followed by Skinner.

"Hey, what are you doing here?" Mulder asked.

"Lunch." Skinner took the carton of food from him along with the chopsticks then started eating. He chewed and swallowed. "Why did you order Chinese for lunch? Don't you remember I'm stopping at Wong's for takeout tonight?"

"You came here to eat my lunch and remind me about dinner?"

"I came here to tell you that we have a ten o'clock meeting tomorrow morning with the Director. He wants to offer you your old job back."

"Why does the FBI want me back?"

"My guess is because of the growing number of unsolved serial murder cases in the VCU." Skinner snagged another piece of chicken with the chopsticks as he talked.

"So they want me back working for the VCU? What about the X-Files?"

"Both. You'll be put back in charge of the X-Files and both you and John will help VCU on their backlog of cases, too."

"John Doggett?"

"I'm going to recommend that he be assigned as your partner."

"Walter--"

"Fox, I'm not going to allow you to work alone. John's an exceptional agent. You both could learn a lot from each other. At least I trust him to watch your back."

"If we don't kill each other first," Mulder muttered.

"So does that mean you want to be reinstated as an agent?"

Mulder frowned and looked around at the faces of his friends. "What do you, guys, think?"

Langly tossed his empty takeout container in the trash. "Tell the feds to take their job and shove it. You don't need them."

Frohike could tell Mulder wanted his old job back. "Mulder, you'll be on the inside again. You'll have all of the resources of the FBI to back up your investigations into the aliens and paranormal, and think of the lives you could save by getting those serial killers off the streets."

Byers nodded. "Mulder, it's your life, do what makes you happy."

"Walter, what do you think?" Mulder asked.

"Fox, it's your decision."

"No, it's our decision. If I take my old job back, we're going to have to tell the Director that we're living together. I don't want to chance someone using that information against us," Mulder said.

"Okay, Fox, we'll tell the Director tomorrow. It might exclude me from being your boss."

"We'll work it out with the Director, if he wants me back at the bureau it will be under my terms."

Skinner handed Mulder the takeout container back as he looked at his watch. "I need to get back to work. I'll see you tonight." He kissed Mulder on the lips then headed for the door.

"Eeew, I thought you were pulling our legs about the Skinman being your lover," Langly said.

Mulder ignored him as he looked into the empty carton. Shaking his head he chucked it into the trash. "Guys, I'll see you later. I need to go clothes shopping."

"I thought you wanted to call the lovely Dana?" Frohike said.

"I'll call her some other time." Mulder felt anxious about returning to the FBI. He wasn't sure if it would be a mistake going back.


Hoover Building
Director Cole's office
Wednesday, February 25, 2003
10:00 a.m.

Kersh watched from his place at the conference table as Mulder and Skinner entered the Director's office. He was surprised by Mulder's looks. The man actually looked younger than when he had fired him almost two years ago. All physical evidence of Mulder's abduction and torture were gone and he carried himself with confidence. He was dressed in an expensive steely gray suit with a solid forest green tie that brought out the green in his hazel eyes. Kersh had always been sexually attracted to Mulder, but knew he'd never stand a chance with the man, so he covered up that attraction with anger.

Sitting next to Kersh at the conference table was A.D. Sam Carlson who stood as they entered. "Mulder, it nice to see you again, how are you doing?" he asked, holding out his hand.

Mulder shook it. "I'm fine, sir."

"I tried to get in touch with you last summer, but you had moved."

"I spent the past year in Australia."

"Doing what?"

"Visiting a friend and her family...taking a long overdue vacation."

The Director walked into his office from a side door, followed by two of his bodyguards. "Fox, thank you for coming."

"Sir." Mulder shook his hand as the bodyguards left the office to wait out in the Director's reception area.

Kersh finally stood and walked over to them. He held out his hand to Mulder. "Mulder, I made a mistake firing you. I hope you'll be willing to consider our offer for reemployment."

Mulder hesitantly shook Kersh's hand. "It depends on the offer and if you'll agree to any changes I'd like made to it."

"Let's sit down and discuss it," Director Cole said. He took his seat at the head of the long conference table.

Mulder and Skinner sat on one side while Kersh and Carlson sat across from them.

"Here's my offer, Fox," the Director began, "You'll be placed back in charge of the X-Files with a substantially increased budget. However I'm going to require that you assist the VCU full time until the backlog of their serial murder cases have been reduced by seventy-five percent. Then you can start dedicating seventy-five percent of your time to the X-Files and twenty-five to the VCU. In addition, we're willing to compensate you with full back pay for the nineteen months you were unfairly dismissed."

Mulder hadn't expected the compensation. It seemed they were really desperate to get him back. "Would I still report to A.D. Skinner?"

"Yes. I see no reason to change that."

Skinner cleared his throat. "Sir, may I speak?"

"Go ahead, Walt."

"Fox and I are living together...we're lovers."

Kersh's head whipped up from the notes he'd been jotting down in his portfolio. "You're both gay?"

The Director looked stunned for a moment then his features softened. "Walt, if you can keep your personal relationship from affecting your professional relationship, I see no reason why Fox should not report to you. Actually it probably would be a bonus."

"Sir, I won't allow our relationship to interfere with my supervision of him and the X-Files," Skinner said with relief, he'd expected it to go a lot worse.

"Sam, do you have a problem with what has just been revealed here?" Director Cole asked.

"All I care about is getting Mulder's help on these serial murder cases. I don't care if he and Walt are playing house in their off hours."

"Alvin, what about you?"

Kersh had been glancing across the table at the two men, imagining Mulder on his knees sucking Skinner's dick. "Aw...no. I don't have a problem with it. I am rather curious how long they've been involved."

Mulder became worried that Kersh was trying to set up his lover. "Don't worry, we weren't involved when I worked for Walter."

The Director glanced at his watch. "I need to be at the Capital by noon, shall we wrap this up?"

Mulder nodded. "Sir, I'll agree to return as long as I can have it in writing that once the VCU cases have been reduced by seventy-five percent, that I'll be allowed to spend one hundred percent of my time on the X-Files."

"Okay, Fox. However, if the VCU caseload rises again, you'll be required to help them out."

"That shouldn't be a problem, sir."

"I've arranged yesterday with Facilities to relocate the X-Files to a larger area on the second floor," Director Cole said. "This will allow you to work more closely with the other departments and allow for two additional agents to be assigned to the X-Files."

Mulder frowned and before he could ask the Director why he wanted to expand the X-Files, Cole stood to leave.

"Now, if you'll excuse me, Gentlemen." Director Cole picked up his briefcase and headed out the door.

DD Kersh stood after the Director had left. "Mulder, you are scheduled to start on Monday. Enjoy the rest of you time off, come Monday, you'll be extremely busy." Then Kersh headed out the door.

Carlson reached out and shook Mulder's hand again. "It's good to have you back with us, Agent Mulder."

"Thank you, sir."

Mulder and Skinner stood as Carlson walked out of the office.

"Walter, do you have any idea what the Director meant by expanding the X-Files?"

"No. I only found out from the Director this morning, by email, that he'd arranged with Facilities to relocate the X-Files office. C'mon, I'll show you where the new offices will be. I think you'll like them, it will give the X-Files department more credibility and visibility."

Mulder followed Skinner to the elevator. His heart was racing with excitement. He couldn't wait to get back to work. They stepped on the elevator and rode it all the way down to the second floor. Heads turned as they walked down the corridor to a large corner office space that was off the hallway leading out to the parking ramp. Mulder grinned at the knowledge that he'd be able to make a quick escape if need be.

The main room was covered in tarps and two men were painting the walls. Mulder guessed it wasn't every day that the Director called Facilities with an order. The main room was four times as large as the basement office. It had two private offices off it. Mulder walked into one of the offices. The smell of fresh paint was strong. The room had windows looking out over the courtyard below. Walter was right this was prime office space.

"Do you like your new office?"

Mulder nodded.

"The other office is John's, although you have seniority and will be technically in charge of the X-Files, I still want you to work as equal partners. He's currently out of town on a case, so he won't know about the new changes until he gets back," Skinner said.

"What about Agent Reyes?"

"Reyes had put in for a transfer in November to go back to the New Orleans field office," Skinner said. "I couldn't approve her transfer until I found someone to take her place."

"I take it not too many agents were clamoring to be assigned to the X-Files."

"Not too many as in none." Skinner watched Mulder walk around his new office space. The room was slightly smaller than his X-Files office, but most of the equipment he had down in the basement would be located in the next room, with plenty of room for two cubicles for the additional agents.

"Fox, do you want to go down to the cafeteria for lunch?"

"No. I have a few stops to make then I want to stop at the liquor store for some champagne." Mulder glanced through the open doorway at the painters and whispered, "My boyfriend is going to help me celebrate tonight."

"Your boyfriend is going to be hungry tonight, I hope you have something special planned for dinner."

"How about a pork tenderloin? That way you can take a pork sandwich to work tomorrow, then you won't have to go to the cafeteria and be ogled by all of the secretaries."

Skinner enjoyed the possessiveness he heard in his lover's voice. He hadn't taken a bagged lunch since he was in high school. "So are you going to pack me a lunch?"

"If that's what it takes. Scully and I used to go out to the mall and eat our lunches when it was warm enough. I'll stop at the grocery store and pick up some sandwich bags."

"I used to have a Gunsmoke lunch box as a boy," Skinner said. He remembered how excited he had been when he opened it on his ninth birthday.

"That would be worth something today if you still have it," Mulder said as they headed out of the office. "After I spent weeks begging, my dad finally broke down and bought me a Star Trek lunchbox. It's one of the few items that the Gunmen are storing for me."

Mulder's coat was up in Skinner's office, so he rode the elevator up with him. Kim was at her desk when they walked into the office.

"Mulder, I've been getting a lot of telephone calls from secretaries and agents wondering what you're doing here."

"As of Monday, I'll be back working here as an agent," Mulder said, pulling on his coat.

"Congratulations," Kim said.

"Thanks, Kim." Mulder smiled and turned to Skinner. "Call me if you're going to be late getting home tonight."

"I will, Fox, see you tonight." They restrained themselves from kissing, instead stared longingly into each other's eyes.

Mulder left the office and headed out to shop for some new suits. The suit and long coat he was wearing he had purchased yesterday, but being a clothes hound he wanted several more suits before he started back at the bureau.


Hoover Building
Skinner's Office
Friday, February 28, 2003
1:00 p.m.

When Doggett and Reyes arrived back at their basement office after spending four days on a case in California, there was a message on their voice mail to see A.D. Skinner.

Reyes sighed. She'd been looking forward to taking off early...as soon as she finished her report. Working on the X-Files had started off as an adventure, but soon it had become boring and predictable. Eighty percent of the cases, it seemed, turned out to be hoaxes. She wondered if it would have been different if it had been Fox Mulder who had been selecting the cases, instead of her and John. To make matters worse, she and John were getting on each other's nerves. The basement office really wasn't meant for two people. Then A.D. Skinner had started enforcing the bureau's dress code and forbid her from wearing her leather pants and certain tops to the office.

Even the respect from fellow agents that she used to have was gone. They looked down at the X-Files as a waste of bureau resources in this time of terrorist threats. Reyes missed New Orleans, where she had the freedom to dress the way she wanted and had the respect of her peers.

"Maybe the A.D. finally found someone to take your place on the X-Files," Doggett said as they rode the elevator up to Skinner's office.

"God, I sure hope so! It's been almost four months since I put in for the transfer," Reyes said. "John, why you don't request a new assignment."

"I'm not a quitter," he said simply. However, the truth was far from simple...Doggett knew the X-Files were important. He'd read all of the case files that had survived the suspicious fire years ago. The X-Files was the key that would unlock evidence to a large conspiracy that had spanned over fifty years. Looking at the evidence, Doggett was sure Mulder had been close to bringing down the conspirators and exposing the truth.

They arrived at Skinner's office.

"Go in, he's expecting you," Kim said.

Doggett and Reyes strolled into the office and took their places in front of the A.D.'s desk.

Skinner passed Reyes an envelope. "Agent Reyes, I've approved your transfer request. It's effective Monday, March 3rd."

"Does that mean you've found someone to replace me?"

"The Director has rehired Mulder, he's being placed back in charge of the X-Files."

"What!" Doggett said, sitting up straighter in his chair.

"John, Mulder will technically be in charge, but I expect you both to work as equal partners." Skinner stood and picked up his suit coat that was draped over the back of his chair, and pulled it on. "Come with me."

They stood and followed Skinner out of the office, taking the elevator to the second floor. Doggett was annoyed that he hadn't been informed of Mulder's potential return, he supposed Mulder would want the large desk in the office. They stopped in front of a pair of office doors and his eyes fell on a sign on the wall outside the office that proclaimed 'The X-Files Department'.

"Sir, what's going on?" Doggett asked.

Skinner handed him a small envelope that contained four keys. Two were for the outside office door and two his personal office inside.

"These are the new X-Files offices. The Director thought the department deserved a bit more respect and visibility." Skinner unlocked the door and they stepped inside.

Doggett glanced down at the new navy blue Berber carpet. The walls were painted a pale eggshell blue instead of the usual off white. The area smelled of fresh paint and newly laid carpet. On one side of the room were two stand-sized cubicles, next to them, in a corner of the room, by the windows, was a conference table, new projection equipment, and teleconferencing equipment.

A large open space had a light table against the wall, file and storage cabinets, a small refrigerator, and counters with miscellaneous lab equipment. His eyes fell on two office doors. His name was on one, and the other had Mulder's name on it. Doggett crossed over to the door with his name and used the key to unlock it. The office furniture was all brand new, no second hand castoffs like in the basement. A large oak desk with a new computer and an executive leather chair was the centerpiece of the office. A small round table with four chairs was fitted into the space next to the door. The office had a bookcase and a large window behind the desk.

"Wow, John, it looks like the X-Files is finally getting some recognition," Reyes said slightly envious that it would come after her transfer had been approved.

"So when does Mulder start?" Doggett asked.

"Monday."

"I'd like to call him and touch base this weekend, do you have his phone number?"

Skinner wanted to tell Doggett that Mulder was living with him, but he didn't want to do so there or in front of Reyes. "Why don't you come over to my place tomorrow for dinner, Mulder will be there and you can talk to him then."

"Okay, would you like me to bring some wine or beer?"

"That won't be necessary. Dinner will be at seven you can come early for cocktails." Skinner looked up at the wall clock. "If you want, John, you can start packing up your office. Then contact the move crew and have them bring the boxes up here. Agent Reyes, good luck on your assignment," he said, shaking her hand.

"Thank you, sir."

Skinner nodded and headed out of the office.


Viva Towers
Saturday, March 1, 2003
6:00 p.m.

Doggett waited outside Skinner's apartment for the door to be answered. The door finally opened, and Doggett stared into Mulder's amused eyes.

"Come in, John," Mulder said as he stepped back to allow the other man room to enter.

"Mulder, it nice to see you again. Where's Walt?"

"Kitchen...he's in the middle of sauting the ground Italian sausage for the lasagna." Mulder opened the closet as he spoke and pulled out a wooden hanger. "You can call me Fox if you like."

"I thought you didn't like your first name." Doggett shrugged out of his jacket and handed it to Mulder. He noticed they were both dressed in faded jeans and old sweatshirts. His was an USMC, while Mulder's was an Oxford sweatshirt.

Mulder smiled. "Mulder sounds funny the way you pronounce it."

"Okay, Fox. So where are you staying?"

"Here with Walter. As of today, I've been here a week."

"You two involved?"

"Walter said you already guessed my sexual leanings. He invited you over to tell you his. I hope you don't have a problem with having a bisexual partner. I promise that I'll try not to check out your ass."

Doggett followed Mulder into the kitchen. "I don't have a problem with it."

"What me checking out your ass?" Mulder quipped.

"Either," Doggett said as he stared unwaveringly into Mulder amused face.

Mulder's smile faltered as he looked quizzically back not sure if Doggett was joking or not.

Skinner was spooning the sausage into the lasagna pan over a layer of noodles. He looked over at Doggett and smiled. "John, would you like something to drink? We have a bottle of Merlot opened, there's beer in the refrigerator, or I could make you a mix drink."

"Wine would be fine."

Mulder snagged a wineglass from the overhead rack and filled it halfway with the dark full-bodied red wine.

"So how did you get the Director to give you your old job back, Fox?" he asked. He took the wineglass from Mulder and sat on a stool at the center island.

"The Director approached me. I think the new office space was his way of apologizing for Kersh firing me."

Skinner finished layering the lasagna and covered pan with aluminum foil before putting it into the oven. He picked up his wineglass and walked over to the island counter.

"John, the Director wants Fox to help out on the backlog of serial murder cases in the VCU. I need you to work with Fox on these cases and watch his back."

"So we get to play with the big boys?"

"You and Fox are two of the best agents working for the bureau. This is your opportunity to show the brass and your peers just how good," Skinner said.

"John, there is a couple of things you need to know about me," Mulder said.

"Other than you being queer and sleeping with the boss?"

"Other than that. When I'm working as a profiler, I tend get inside the unsub's mind to the point where I'm thinking like him or her and can predict their next moves."

"Yeah, I heard that's where you got the nickname spooky," Doggett stated.

"Yeah, it was."

"What's the second thing?"

Mulder looked over at Skinner and sighed, "John, it seems the months I spent buried in the cemetery brought on a new ability. I can see and talk to the dead."

"What do you mean?"

"I can talk and interact with ghosts as clearly as I'm talking to you."

Doggett frowned. "That's what I thought you meant."

Skinner placed his hand on Doggett's shoulder. "Fox doesn't just talk to them, he's been attacked by some violent spirits. As his partner, we wanted you to know this, in case he's attacked while you're on a case together."

Doggett had been through so much weird shit working on the X-Files that he was willing to accept what they were telling him. Not that he believed it, that was quite another thing. "Okay, so if I see Fox being thrown across a room by an invisible force, I'll assume he's being attacked by one of these evil spirits. Just how am I supposed to defend him?"

"Get him out of there and to a church if possible."

"So we're dealing with God fearing ghosts?" Doggett asked doubtfully.

"It seems that most have a fear of crosses and churches. A couple didn't, but my guess is that they were of another religious persuasion or were atheists before they died," Mulder said as he sat next to Doggett on the other stool.

Doggett watched as Skinner placed his arm casually around Mulder's shoulders. He hadn't thought his boss capable of such a warm comforting gesture. And Mulder seemed to enjoy it; he relaxed, leaning against Skinner's broad chest.

"Then I think we should add crucifixes and holy water to the X-Files budget," Doggett quipped.

"Are you a religious man, John?" Mulder asked.

Doggett shook his head. "No. My folks are Southern Baptists, but I've had no use for religion."

As they talked, the timer went off on the stove and Skinner removed the lasagna. He peeled off the foil wrapper then place thick slices of mozzarella over the steaming noodles and tomato sauce before placing it back in the oven along with a foil-wrapped loaf of garlic bread.

"Fox, do you want to get the salad on the table?"

"Can I help?" Doggett asked.

"Everything's under control. Let's go into the dining room and enjoy the salad."

Doggett was enjoying himself as he observed Mulder's and Skinner's behavior toward each other. The two men were clearly in love and appeared to be comfortable with their feelings for each other.

They continued to talk about the X-Files and VCU cases while Skinner went into the kitchen to dish up the lasagna.

"Fox, I'm looking forward to working on these serial murder cases with you. You had quite the reputation before you became involved with the X-Files," Doggett said.

Mulder toyed with his wineglass. "It's going to be strange going back to work...it seems like such a distant part of my life now. John, I appreciate that you're going to be my partner. We didn't get off to a very good start last time we worked together. I'm sorry if I offended you."

"Hey, no problem. I hope that we won't be jumping off too many oilrigs. And, Fox, if you ditch me, I'll bust your ass."

Skinner chuckled as he placed a full plate of food in front of Doggett. "John, you don't know how much your being Fox's partner has put my mind at ease."

The rest of the evening passed with friendly conversation. Mulder and Doggett learned a lot about each other that would make working together a little easier...maybe.


Viva Towers
Monday, March 3, 2003
7:00 a.m.

Mulder shook out some fish food into the aquarium and watched as the multi-colored fish swam to the surface and started feeding on the flakes. Unlike his old aquarium, this one had its own base and was a twenty-gallon tank instead of the small ten-gallon he had at his previous apartment.

"Are you ready, Fox?" Skinner asked from the doorway. They were driving into work together.

"Yes. I can't believe I'm so keyed up."

"You'll be fine."

They picked up their coats and briefcases from the closet by the front door.

Skinner placed his hand on Mulder's arm as he reached to open the door. "I just hope you won't have to go off into the field right away. I've become too damned comfortable having you to snuggle up to at night."

Mulder smiled and tilted his head to capture Walter's lips in a quick kiss. "Hopefully I'll be able to pull together the profiles from the evidence they have on file. I don't want to go out of town if I can help it."

They left the apartment and rode the elevator down to the underground parking garage. Skinner opened the doors to his Lexus and they put their briefcases in the backseat. He had requested an additional parking space in the garage for Mulder's SUV. He didn't like it being parked unprotected in the front lot.

It only took them twenty-five minutes to drive to the Hoover building.

Skinner accompanied Mulder to his new office. They heard a lot of talking as they approached the open double doors. Skinner could make out Doggett's voice above the clamor.

When they entered the office, Mulder was greeted by dozens of agents and administrative staff, including Skinner's personal assistant, Kim. The A.D. smiled as he realized who was responsible for this surprise welcome.

"Welcome back, Agent Mulder," Kimberly said while the other people took turns shaking Mulder's hand.

Skinner could see balloons and flowers in his lover's office. It appeared Mulder had been missed more than either of them realized.

Skinner moved over to stand beside Doggett who watched with amusement. "Sir, word is out that the Director wants to hire two more agents to work on the X-Files, I've already had five inquiries this morning into the positions."

"I spent four months trying to find a replacement for Reyes with no luck. Why do they want to work here now?"

"Face it, sir, Mulder has become a legend within the FBI. It's also gotten out that the Director himself was responsible for rehiring Fox, and some of the vultures now see the X-Files as a way of getting the attention of the Director and maybe a quick promotion."

"That's just great," Skinner grumbled. It was going to take him a while to eliminate the vultures from the agents that were truly interested in working on the X-Files. Not to mention there were still members of the syndicate within the FBI. "I better get upstairs." He glanced one final time over at Mulder as he left the office.

An hour later the last of the greeters had left and Mulder was finally able to settle down in his office. He spent the next twenty minutes reading the cards that had been left on his desk.

Doggett walked into the office carrying a large pile of case folders. "Are you ready to get started? A.D. Carlson has sent down copies of several of their serial murder cases."

"I've been ready for months." Mulder smiled, it felt good to be back. With luck, he and John would make quick work of those serial murder cases then they could get back to working on the X-Files.


The End


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