Paper Cuts

by Jane Davitt

"It's completely unacceptable to handle the case that way. Give it to me. Make it an X-File." Mulder slammed his hands down on Skinner's desk and leaned in close to the man's face, frustrated past the point of prudence by Skinner's palpable lack of interest in what he had to say.

He'd expected that invasion of personal space to get Skinner's attention; cold brown eyes focused on him, some spark of emotion -- something to work with, but Skinner continued to stare at the papers on his desk, what little Mulder could see of the strong features registering nothing but indifference. Impatient now, Mulder shifted position, his hands slipping slightly as the papers on the polished desk skidded sideways and out.

One sheet tore, parting in a ragged line, the densely packed lines of script divided like Gaul. Mulder caught his breath, aware of a line crossed and an apology he was going to hate making. Before he could frame the words, Skinner finally looked up.

Mulder swallowed dryly. Skinner never looked pleased with him, ever, but this was taking disapproval to a whole new level. Deep disgust and a tired, fierce anger, out of proportion to the offence, which made Mulder wonder just how much pressure Skinner was under and what it would take to put cracks in the granite-hard exterior.

Well, he knew the answer to that last part.

"I didn't mean to do that," he began, his tone as conciliatory as he could make it, which, judging by the hissed-out breath from Skinner didn't even come close to placating the beast.

With exaggerated care, Mulder began to straighten, to remove the pollution of his hands from what was undoubtedly Skinner's territory.

"Keep them there."

The words were innocuous enough but the way they were spoken lit a fire along Mulder's spine, arrowing down to his ass, licking hot and hungry around his balls. Fuck, why did Skinner always sound like someone who should be dressed in leather, when he'd probably been born in a suit and tie?

"Look, I said I was sorry --"

"No, you didn't," Skinner said. Mulder just had time to register the fact that his hands were still resting against paper and wood as his body had seemingly decided to obey that snapped, growled out command before Skinner added casually, "But you will."

Okay, that was just -- Mulder's dick was filling fast, strong pulses of blood stiffening it inexorably as fatigue -- just how long had it been since he'd slept or eaten something substantial anyway? -- prevented him from responding in the way he should. Which didn't involve the worst-timed erection he'd ever had.

Skinner got out of his chair, muscling it out of his way with a controlled shove that never came close to making it topple backward. With quick, long steps, he walked around the rectangle of his desk and paused at Mulder's side, the two of them filling the small area between the desk and the two guest chairs. Mulder hadn't been invited to sit in either of them when he'd stormed in. Big surprise there.

Mulder risked a glance to the right and flinched when he realized just how close Skinner's mouth was, lips set in a grim twist of a smile. "Sir, I --"

"'Sir'," Skinner said contemplatively. "You don't say that often enough, Agent Mulder. You make demands, you force yourself into this room, into my space, but you're not often polite about it."

True enough. Courtesy was too often seen as weakness, even if Mulder did usually take care to couch his insults in words that avoided outright insubordination or swearing.

Mulder could smell Skinner now, feel the heat coming off him. For a man who could freeze the air with a single, icy word, he gave off one hell of a lot of body heat and a clean, spicy smell that reminded Mulder of nothing in particular but still managed to complete the task of getting him fully hard.

A few words and a deep breath to get him aroused, erect...if Skinner touched him, Mulder might come just from that. The thought was intriguing, terrifying, but still too much of an impossibility to be a true threat.

This wasn't a bedroom, curtains drawn, a bed handy and an anonymous stranger waiting to ease Mulder past whatever emotional crisis was blocking his way with the slow, ruthless insertion of seven inches or so of rigid flesh into his ass, over and over, until he climaxed with a resentfully grateful grunt.

This was Skinner's office, lit, this late at night, with a single desk lamp, partially illuminating a room that reflected its owner's status. There were shadows all around them, spilling out of the corners of the room, holding them both in the pool of light and the silence that filled the lighted spaces. The illusion of being alone, the only people still working, was convincing. Mulder told himself, just to see the effect it would have, that he could scream for mercy and not be heard.

His dick liked that idea more than he thought that it should.

"I'd like to hear you be polite to me," Skinner said meditatively. The crisp white of Skinner's shirt was blinding Mulder. He closed his eyes against the dazzle and concentrated on breathing, the dry smoothness of cool paper becoming a damp, smudged crinkle against his sweating palms. "Say something...apologetic, Agent Mulder. Make me feel forgiving, because right now, I'm feeling imaginative instead, and trust me, I can come up with far worse ideas than cleaning latrines with toothbrushes."

"No more wiretapping," Mulder begged, remembering those tedious days with a shudder.

Begging came easy with his eyes closed and each breath bringing him the knowledge of just exactly how Skinner smelled when he was roused to anger, how the small, contained movements of his body translated to sounds; cotton and wool rustling, rubbing...

Skinner chuckled, a dark, scary laugh that made Mulder's eyes flicker open. He'd been trained not to hide from monsters under the bed, after all. "I said 'imaginative'. I don't repeat my punishments."

Visions of chastisements delivered, discipline imposed, the ruthless curbing of every impulse to rebel danced in Mulder's head. They wouldn't work, but oh, it would be fun watching Skinner discover that he couldn't break Mulder that way.

Though the wiretapping had come close.

"I'm sorry," Mulder said agreeably, easily, aggravatingly smoothly. "I won't do it again."

Skinner's eyes darkened. "You're starting to really annoy me."

Was that a point to him or was the leap and jerk of Mulder's dick a point to Skinner? Mulder's briefs were sticking to the head of his dick now, pre-come and pressure proving an adequate adhesive. He wanted to adjust himself as desperately as he wanted to lick his lips, but he gave into neither impulse. "Sir?"

"Sincerity is impossible to miss, but I didn't get a hint of any from you. Try again." Skinner's gaze swept over Mulder's position, making Mulder acutely aware of how he must look bent over like this, his hands flat, his legs spread. A naughty boy waiting for a cane to swipe the taut seat of his pants; a lover waiting for hands to part his cheeks, expose him -- they didn't fit. He was hard, but he didn't make the mistake of thinking that Skinner was anything but furious or seeing him as anything but an agent in need of reminding where he came on the ladder.

What would happen if Skinner glanced down, looked where he wouldn't normally dream of looking, at Mulder's engorged, swollen, ripe -- God, would he smile, would he touch? Or would he lean back against that desk of his, arms crossed over that deep chest, his thigh nudging the nameplate, and make Mulder jerk off in front of him, spray semen over the paper-scattered wood, make Mulder clean up every drop with his tongue, or a pristine square of cotton from Skinner's pocket --

A moan slipped past Mulder's lips and Skinner's eyes widened, startled. Fuck.

"I've been working longer hours than usual and I was out of line. I'll write out the page I ripped and it won't happen again." The words rushed from him, a swift patter of distraction (don't look down, don't see how flushed I am, how I'm sweating, how I keep staring at your mouth, don't --) "I know you think I'm an asshole at times, but you know I'm not a liar. I'm sorry, okay?"

Skinner just looked at him, his gaze taking in everything Mulder was trying to convey with his expression. "I didn't think it would be that easy," Skinner murmured, more to himself. He sounded almost disappointed. "Go home, Agent Mulder. Get some sleep. That's an order."

"It's not a very imaginative one."

Okay, he hadn't meant to say that aloud.

Skinner tensed, every muscle going hard; Mulder could almost believe he heard them tauten and snap. "What the hell?"

Fatigue made Mulder reckless, something Scully had told him once explained a lot about the way he worked. He twisted his hips to the side without moving his hands, and drew Skinner's gaze south. When Skinner was staring, his lips parted in surprise, Mulder glanced down, too.

The impudent thrust of his dick looked obscene, unmistakable.

"You have got to be kidding me."

Mulder ran his tongue over his lips -- finally, God, they'd been so dry. "Sir?"

"Sit," Skinner said, his voice a rough rasp. "Sit down."

Again, Mulder found his body slaved to Skinner's voice, his ass hitting the smooth leather before he'd processed the way Skinner had failed to jerk back, punch him, ignore him -- all reasonable responses to what Mulder had given him to deal with.

Skinner took up the exact position Mulder had chosen in his fantasy, leaning back on his desk, closed-off, forbidding. "Going to explain what's so damn hot about pissing me off?"

"Nothing," Mulder said. He reconsidered. "Nothing usually," he amended, trying scrupulous honesty as a tactic. "Like I said; I'm tired. Kinda punchy." He smiled up at Skinner. Charming him. "Just as much of a shock to me."

"You can't walk out of here like that," Skinner said with arid distaste. "Get yourself under control and do it fast."

Mulder watched Skinner walk around the desk, sit in his chair, and go back to work as if he were alone in the room. It was insulting enough to be sublime, that complete indifference, and Mulder gave Skinner all due appreciation for his composure even as he plotted to shatter it.

"The fastest way would be to take care of it," Mulder said when the faint scratch of pen on paper became unendurable. "In the won't take long."

"No." Skinner glanced up briefly, meeting Mulder's eyes and then, without troubling to hide it, dropping his gaze to Mulder's groin. "Stay there, please. My washroom isn't going to feature in your next jerk-off session."

"Hey," Mulder protested. "This isn't all down to me. You got me going and I refuse to believe it was completely unintentional."

Skinner set his pen down with an air of finality and leaned back in his chair. "What are you saying, Mulder? That I was flirting with you? Coming on to you? Would you like to file a report for sexual harassment?"

"No, no, and no." Mulder shrugged. "I take back the intentional remark. Maybe on a subconscious level, though... You do give off a strongly dominant vibe and --"

"And you get off on that?" Skinner rolled his eyes and snorted incredulously. "You?"

"Sometimes," Mulder said, his voice soft, "but I was going to ask if you did."

Skinner didn't get flustered by that, but Mulder hadn't really expected him to. The man had himself under a control as rigid as Mulder's dick -- which was persistently refusing to dwindle.

"I'm not aware of any leanings in that direction, Agent Mulder." The reply was surprisingly mild. "How's your little problem?"

Ouch -- though the flash of humor was encouraging. "Still there. It's as stubborn as you think I am."

"If that's the case, we could be in for a long wait."

Skinner stood, snapped off the desk lamp, and plunged them into a fleeting darkness. There was enough light filtering in from outside to allow Mulder to track Skinner's progress from desk to the chair beside him without effort, even if Skinner was a dark shape, featureless, indistinct. When Skinner sat down, Mulder couldn't restrain a shiver of relief as the glint of light off the frame of Skinner's glasses gave darkness form.

"Are you gay?"

Skinner's blunt question carried no censure; hell, it didn't even hold much curiosity, but it was most definitely a question. Mulder shook his head, not caring if the gesture was visible. "I sleep with women mostly. Men are for when life gets...difficult."

Skinner grunted, a noncommittal sound. "Does it get difficult often?"

"I can go months, even years." Mulder laughed, the sound sharp in the dim room, a flash of brightness. "Hell, most nights, I'm too tired to even see to myself. And I know how risky it is. Things have to get close to breaking point for me to go that route."

"How close are you to breaking now?"

The question flicked at him; a wet tongue across the head of his dick, a slashed stroke from a whip on spanked-pink skin... It exposed him, peeled him open, so that he felt pinned under a spotlight, wincing away from incurious brown eyes, cool, unreadable.

How close? Close enough.

"Let's just say I was planning what to wear to get me laid."

"You could walk into a bar in your suit, badge in hand, and still get offers," Skinner said indifferently enough that it didn't register as a compliment. "You know that."

"Offers, yes, but the type of man I need isn't all that easy to find."

"And they're like me?" A hint of disbelief there? Was Skinner flattered but dubious? Or insulted and about to explode into hectoring rhetoric about how goddamned straight he was?

"In looks, no. I don't have a type. Well... Always older than me. Always...capable of taking control and walking away afterward without looking back. Men who trust me to know my limits without wasting time asking if I'm sure." Mulder added the bitter twist to the final word, mimicking too many men who hadn't been up to the task in the end. Disappointments.

"Sex isn't worth losing your job, or getting the X-Files closed down again."

"Sex isn't, no. It's never about getting off. It's more than that."

"A safety valve."

He knew that Skinner would get it based on very little. "Exactly."

Skinner leaned over and put his hand on Mulder's face, forcefully enough that what might have been intended as a touch became a slap, emphatic, rough. Mulder's head was jerked around and he exhaled, open-mouthed, captured, claimed.

Or maybe just rebuked.

"It's not very safe," Skinner murmured. The skin under his hand tingled and Mulder leaned into what was already an insistent pressure. "Have you gone down that road recently?"

"If you don't know, it's pretty safe," Mulder replied. "And, no, not recently at all. That's why --"

"I get it." The weird thing was, Skinner sounded like he did. "In case I haven't made myself clear already, I forbid you to do that again. No more men. No more bar pickups. No more one-night stands with strangers. That ends."

"Now, wait a minute --" Mulder freed himself from the hand cupping his jaw, a warm hand, gripping him, holding him positioned perfectly,  and stabbed his finger at the bulk and hulk of Skinner. "That's personal. That's off limits."

"Not to your enemies." Skinner sighed. "Nothing about you is too trivial to be unworthy of note and this isn't trivial. It has to stop, Mulder -- you know it does, and you know the consequences of discovery as well as I do. Since you apparently can't give it up without help, I'm making it an order. Imaginative enough for you?"

"I won't obey it," Mulder said flatly.

Skinner leaned back and crossed his legs, lounging like a well-fed lion. "Oh, come on, Mulder. We both know that's why you came here tonight. Why you showed me just how desperate you were. Classic cry for help. Well, I'm listening and I'm helping. Say thank you any time you're ready."

Dry as dust, that delivery, but even as Mulder choked on the truth, he became aware of the fact that Skinner was being kind in his own way. It allowed him to answer politely.
"I can stop barhopping, but the reason won't go away, even if the risk does. And if you think it's easy to give up because I can go months without it --"

"I don't," Skinner said calmly. "If it were an itch you scratched as regularly as our friend lights cigarettes, I think you'd cope better, in fact, but as it is...It's like telling someone allergic to bee stings that because he gets stung once every five years, he doesn't need to deal with the reaction."

Mulder held out his hand and felt it tremble. He grabbed Skinner's hand, groping for it in the dark, and brought it up to his shaking, tremulous fingers. "Feel that? It's going to get worse. I'm not sleeping. Can't eat. If I do fall asleep, I'll wake up wet, sweating, my throat aching as if I've been screaming, exhausted. It's not the sex I need, it's..."

"Catharsis," Skinner said, separating the word out into its syllables, drawling them. "I get it."

"But I won't if I obey you." He wasn't pouting over it, but he had to make Skinner see --

"And then I'll lose you another way? Is that what you're saying?" Skinner chuckled. "The devil and the deep blue sea... Mulder, you're more trouble than every other agent here, you know that?"

"I like being trouble," Mulder said. "I don't mind getting into trouble, either, not if it gets me what I want."

"And I still don't know what you want from those men who remind you of me."

"You've gotten that backward."

"Stop avoiding the question. What do they do to you? Do you have a set routine? A ritual?"

"Again, sir, that's pretty damn personal."

"Need to know, and I do. And don't you think that after showing off how hung you are, this coyness is a little unconvincing?"

Mulder caved, addressing his words to the darkness and the shadows, his voice a whisper that didn't need to be louder because Skinner was so close now, his hand on Mulder's thigh for a moment before he moved it to Mulder's hair, carding through it with an unhurried touch, rhythmic, soothing. They'd both crossed lines now; there was no need to fear the moment of leaving a place of certainty, safety when the grass really was greener on the other side.

Mulder pushed up, cat-like, against Skinner's palm and began to speak.

"They strip me and stay dressed themselves. I never see them naked. I want them to tie me, but I don't -- I can't go there with strangers... I lie on my stomach and I hold the ropes I've tied to the bed and I pretend. It's enough. I won't let go even though I could. it trust myself, if I don't trust them.

"They don't talk to me. Sometimes, they -- I ask them to -- it's not to punish me, it's just to push me --"

"They spank you." So strange to hear it spoken aloud. "They hurt you just enough to..."

"They don't break me. Nothing does. I don't want to be broken. I just need to rest and I can't do that while I'm still connected." Mulder smiled, and knew that it would show in his voice. "I want an out-of-body experience so I make my body too hot to handle. They hurt it, they fuck it. I can feel them sweat and work, but I'm floating, I'm gone. The room's always paid for through the week, but they don't know that. They leave and I lock the door and go to sleep. Even if I'm bleeding or crying, I just go to sleep. It's wonderful. You have no idea how deeply I sleep after they've gone."

"Jesus, Mulder..." Skinner's fingers paused for a moment and then slid down to the back of Mulder's neck. "If that's all, there are other ways to get there, you know."

"Don't work. Tried meditation, self-hypnosis, natural remedies, drugs... They just don't do it."

"But a spanked, fucked ass does it every time?"

"Taken me a long time to work out a winning system, but, yeah," Mulder said, and swallowed a yawn.

"Is this the point where I offer to take one for the team?" Skinner asked, his fingers kneading muscles that were twisted knots of tension. It hurt, but in a good way; a faint echo of what Mulder craved, and he sighed deeply and dropped his head down, wordlessly asking for more without answering the question. It didn't need answering. Exchanging the men for Skinner wouldn't help; it would just get both of them fired eventually. They were an indiscretion; Skinner was career suicide.

Skinner stood and walked behind Mulder's chair and without commenting, began to deliver a neck massage with a certain amount of skill and an ungodly amount of unleashed, but tangible strength.

Neck to shoulders, shoulders to upper back, and then the chair got in the way... Mulder made a grumbled protest, but he was already relaxed more than he had been for weeks, his eyelids drooping.

"You must think I'm easy," he said drowsily. "You get me hard without trying and now you're turning me to Jell-O with a neck rub."

"I don't think you're easy in any sense of the word."

"I tried massages, too," Mulder offered. "Didn't help."

"Is that because they wouldn't let you fall asleep on the table?"

Mulder thought about it. "Maybe. I'd get home and be wide awake again."

"So get someone to massage you at home, on your bed."

"Are you volunteering, sir?" He could get away with that when he was yawning, his jaw cracking with each one -- couldn't he? There was an ominous silence behind him and he felt a sickening lurch as adrenaline tore down what they'd built.

Fuck. Why did he always have to needle someone to their limit and beyond? He heard Skinner sigh, long-suffering, impatient, then just as Mulder was about to haul himself out of his chair and stumble toward the door,  head down, dick disappointed, aching, Skinner spoke.

"Go home, Mulder. In a cab. Take a bath, jerk off, go to bed. Call me if you can't go to sleep and I'll come over and read you a goddamn bedtime story." Skinner's mouth tickled Mulder's ear in an almost kiss. "That's an order. All of it."

And because Skinner didn't care who got the last word, Mulder smiled and whispered, "Yes, sir," before yawning again, mouth open, eyes shut.

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