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TITLE: To Sir, With Love
AUTHOR: Kristen K2
FEEDBACK TO: k2_fanfic@yahoo.com
SUMMARY: A glimpse into a working relationship.
KEYWORDS: Skinner/other UST, Kim Cook, a bit of Krycek, a lot of angst
SPOILERS: All, up to the end of S8, especially Avatar, Zero Sum, SR 819, Requiem, Within/Without, and <shudder> Existence.
SERIES/STANDALONE: standalone
ARCHIVE: anywhere okay, just let me know
RATING: NC-17 for loving discipline. If spanking doesn't appeal to you, then hit your back button now. Don't come crying to me about how you didn't know - this is your only warning.
NOTES: Per Xanthe's challenge on another list, I tried to write a snippet about the real-life FBI missing guns and computer snafu, but this is what came out instead. Angst instead of humor - sorry about that. I guess you could say I'm still upset about the events of Existence, and this is my way of reconciling with that. Also, for my regular readers, I should warn you that this is a very different Skinner, Krycek, and Kim from the LAG universe.
DISCLAIMER: I certainly don't own them. If I did, I never would have had to write this. CC, Fox and 1013 can be blamed for Season 8, not me.
DEDICATION: For Xanthe. As always, thanks to Ursula for her beta.


Days like this made Kim wish she hadn't wasted all her vacation time earlier in the year. Spending the day lounging by the pool at her apartment building was a much more appealing prospect than sitting here trapped at her desk, trying to block out the yelling barely muffled by AD Skinner's door.

Her beleaguered boss was getting reamed out by that nasty I'm-the-DD-now-and-my-head-is-too-swelled-to-fit-through-the-door Kersh. Words like "bad for the Bureau" and "blood stains in my parking space" seeped through the wooden door. The man infuriated her. Alvin, you big jerk, she wanted to run in and scream at him, leave him alone! He didn't have any choice! He's been through enough the last few months; let him find a glimmer of peace.

Just when she thought it wasn't possible to loathe Kersh more, he sunk to a new low. He didn't even have the decency to dress Skinner down in his office upstairs, instead opting for destroying Skinner's one sanctuary within the Hoover. How cruel was that?

The high regard she held for Skinner was thousand-fold in comparison to the disdain she had for his boss. Whenever Kersh would call Skinner's office and announce himself, it took all of her self-restraint not to buzz AD Skinner and say, "*Alvin's* on the line, Sir." Sometimes she wanted to do it just to see Skinner's expression. Unbeknownst to everyone else in the Bureau, Walter Skinner had a very charming smile, and a deep laugh that flowed through her veins like melted fudge whenever she was able to coax one out of him. Lately, she hadn't succeeded often enough.

Her shaking fingers slipped against the keyboard, and she stopped typing to clasp them together in her lap. It wasn't fair that of all the people whose lives had been torn apart by the X Files, Walter Skinner was the only one denied his measure of happiness. Mulder and Scully were busy raising their son, and Doggett and Reyes hadn't come on board until after the hardest parts were over. Only Skinner remained of the original group, battle-fatigued yet still defending the fortress.

The yelling died down, and ol' Alvin stomped out, not even glancing in her direction as he headed back to his office. He left Skinner's door ajar, and after a few moments of hearing no sounds emitting from the other office, Kim screwed up her courage and peeked over the edge of her desk to see inside.

Her boss sat at his desk, two fingers pinching the bridge of his nose. His posture was ram-rod straight, and his shirt and tie were immaculate as always, but all around him hung an aura of defeat, as if he'd just gone fifteen rounds in a boxing match and lost on a technicality.

Oh, no. This was very bad.

She hated when he looked like this. Failure and impotence were two words she never associated with AD Skinner, and to see him looking broken and weakened was a frightening vision. Kim could count on the fingers of one hand all the other times she'd seen him like this, and each one gave her goose bumps.

Time to earn her keep, she thought sadly as she rose from her chair and went to her outer door, locking it with a snick of the button. The workday had ended for most people already, but she wouldn't allow anyone to interrupt what she knew was about to happen. This was too intimate, and she knew Skinner would be horrified if his secrets lay exposed to the public. She paused at the entrance to the inner office. A few minutes passed before he acknowledged her mute presence at the doorway.

"Sir."

She spoke his name as a statement, not a question. He knew why she did it, and his response would tell her all that she needed to know.

"Yes, Kimberly."

Message received. She tore her gaze away from the brown eyes peering at her, grateful and weary, through his wirerims, so he wouldn't see the sorrow in hers. The first time he had asked her to do this, she had balked. She tried to write it off as surprise, since he'd never come to her apartment before, but he'd seen through her ruse. She remembered how his shoulders had sloped downward as he had turned to go, like a all-too-human Atlas, unable to support the burden of the world a minute longer. How soft the sleeve of his sweater had felt against her palm when she reached out her hand to stop him from leaving.

He hadn't cried that time. He had only whispered his wife's name with each crack of his belt. Sharon, he had said in between the spaces. Sharon, I'm sorry.

Did Sharon used to do this for him, before she died? Kim yearned to know, but knew better than to ask.

Another time, he had begged forgiveness from someone named Jane. Kim didn't recognize the name, and she hadn't inquired; it wasn't her place. Then he had whispered to Mulder, after Oregon. When the name on his lips had been Gibson, it was the only time she had heard Walter Skinner cry. His tears broke her heart, and she had nearly stopped the punishment right then and there. The one thought that had kept her arm in motion was that this was what he needed. It didn't matter to him that he'd nearly been permanently blinded and killed for his efforts; all Skinner saw was his failure. He'd lost a boy he had been entrusted to protect. It was in listening to Skinner's tears that Kim realized the person he was seeking absolution from was himself.

The hushed slide of his chair wheels over the carpet brought her attention back to the present. He was standing, his hands hanging loosely at his sides, as if he didn't know what to do with them. Walter Skinner wasn't a man who functioned in idle gear.

She locked his office door, doubly insulating them from the outside world, then stepped to the other outside door and locked it as well. As she crossed back toward the desk, he removed his glasses and rested them in his in-box. She had purchased those very glasses for him while he lay recovering in the hospital; she thought he looked very handsome in the new style. Less aloof. The setting sun glinted off one spectacle when she drew closer, blinding her momentarily.

He stood statue-still as she stopped a few feet from his side. Waiting for her signal. It struck her as strange that in the few times they had done this, they had already created rituals.

In accordance with their private tradition, she tapped her index finger on his belt buckle. Words weren't necessary now. He understood.

He looked at her with a grave expression for a long beat, before nodding his head in submission and unbuckling his belt, handing it to her folded in half. This was the only area of their relationship where she was in charge, and she supposed in some ways that was what appealed to him. Here, in this moment that was just between them, he didn't make any decisions. Nothing was expected of him, and no one treated him with anything less than the respect and admiration he deserved. There was no one to battle with here, no one to protect and save. There was just Kim.

When the ceremony of transference was complete, he turned toward the desk to get into position. She lifted her gaze from a spot on the floor as soon as she saw his slacks and briefs bunched around his ankles. His hands rested on parallel empty spots on the front portion of his desk, the tension in his arms holding up his upper body. In giving him the time to get into place, she gave him back his dignity. Yes, he was half-naked in front of her, and, yes, she was about to spank him, but he didn't deserve to feel demeaned.

He deserved anything he wanted, was her un-asked-for opinion. If he wanted it, he could have her heart.

She lifted his shirt tail over the small of his back, giving her access. Any other occasion, she might have paused to savor the view. During coffee breaks, the phrase "could bounce quarters off it" was often mentioned in conjunction with his ass, but Kim never joined in on the other secretaries' discussion. Maybe it was being snotty, but she felt talking about this man in that way was beneath both of them.

The loneliness in his quiet stoicism tore her spirit to shreds. Her arms ached to hold him, to reach for his head and pull him against her breast. To caress his torment away. The awkward mental image of doing so, of him standing there with his underwear hitting his wingtips and his broad shoulders hunched over so he was lower than she was, was disturbing and undignified.

Instead, she gave him the one thing he had ever asked of her.

He remained mute when the first blow found its target, only allowing a small gasp to escape between his clenched teeth. Kim watched as a red welt formed over the upper contours of his ass, then sent the belt ripping through the air again, so it landed just centimeters below the first. Afraid of doing permanent damage, she had practiced on a pillow after the first time.

By the time she reached the lower curve of his cheeks, strangled grunts were emerging from his lips in time with the rhythm of the leather. It took a moment to comprehend his garbled murmurs, but when she did, Kim had to fight back her own tears.

Her beloved Sir was muttering his dead enemy's name.

"Krycek," he was whispering. "I'm sorry, Krycek."

He killed you first, she wanted to remind him. He trapped you into subservience, and murdered people, and lied to everyone. He doesn't deserve your regret.

But the words never left her mouth. The facts of Krycek's existence weren't the issue. Skinner's reactions to his former nemesis caused him this anguish. Kim understood her boss well enough to grasp that the "what-if's" haunted him. His gentle soul rebelled against what he'd been forced to do, and this was the only way he knew to make peace with it.

Moreover, Kim believed that, perhaps, Skinner was right to mourn Krycek in this way. Maybe the man did deserve a farewell, however unconventional it was. A faded memory, of a young agent with flashing green eyes, slipped through her mind. The image was difficult to reconcile with the jaded and hard man, his gaze dulled with pain, that she'd seen just days ago. On her way into work this morning, she had deliberately parked on another floor, not wanting to see the yellow police tape fluttering around the spot where he had lain only three nights prior. For the first time, Kim wondered about his life, or lack thereof, and an arrow of loss stabbed her heart. Maybe, in his death, Krycek found the serenity that had been missing from his life, too.

She wiped her eyes dry with the back of her free hand, and let her other hang helplessly by her side, gripping the belt in her sweaty fingers. Skinner gasped once when it became clear to him the punishment had ended, and his great gulp of air shifted into a pained sob. His forearms shook mightily, as if holding up his torso were too much for his exhausted muscles. Her hand crept through the space between them, until it found his clenched on the desk, and came to rest on the top of his knuckles. Experience had taught her this was the only time he would allow her to touch him, and she was careful not to overstep her boundaries.

Sometimes she feared speaking at this moment, that he would hear the love in her voice, and draw away from her. This was when they were the closest, and yet there was always a distance between them. He didn't want her love or her kindness or her respect. He had them, of course, but such intimacies made him shy away, so she took great pains to hide them. They emerged anyway, whenever she said the word she thought of as his name. Everything she felt for him was bundled into one tiny syllable.

"Sir."

At her soft-spoken tone, his entire body seemed to release all its tension at once. A loose paper on his desk collected the teardrops that ran down his face, tears he didn't bother to wipe away on his own. With his face turned away from her, Kim understood that if she tried to comfort him any more than she was, she would be swiftly rejected. This was as far in as he could let her, and she convinced herself that it was enough for both of them.

His hand relaxing under hers a few silent minutes later, flattening against the desk, was his signal that he was ready to stand up on his own again. Kim stepped away from his side, staring at the same spot on the carpet as he re-dressed, willing herself not to flinch when she heard him hiss as he tugged his briefs back over his hips. He cleared his throat when he was composed, and she handed him the belt, thus ending the ceremony, and restoring power to its rightful owner.

With a sense of dread, she waited as he looped the loose end of the leather into his slacks. The last ritual was the most painful for her, yet she couldn't *not* let him do it. If only, she thought fleetingly and hopelessly as he took a step toward her and cradled her face in his large hands, if only he would kiss me anywhere else.

He tilted her face upward, and she met his gaze for a brief second. It gave her hope when she saw the life in his eyes again. She couldn't make him happy, or be the woman he reached for when he woke up in the middle of the night, but this...this she could do, and she did it as well as she could.

His lips were warm and soft against her forehead. She tried not to imagine how they would feel against hers, and failed.

"Thank you," he breathed against her skin, and she nodded her head, feeling like a fool because it thrilled her so much to hear the restored confidence in his voice.

"You're welcome, Sir," she replied.

They separated, and Kim headed back to her desk, still feeling the warmth of his hands against her cheeks.

She told herself that she had helped him in a way that no one else could, and that she was as important to him as he was to her. By the time she got home that night, she almost believed it.

THE END


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