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Well Kept Man 2: Armani Weekend, Chapter 4: Monday

by Mice

A Well Kept Man 2: Armani Weekend
Chapter 3: Sunday

(Disclaimers in Chapter 1)


PARKER MERIDIEN HOTEL
ROOM 1246
SUNDAY MORNING

Doggett ran a lazy hand down Byers' back. Most of the redness had gone, leaving only a stripe or two on Byers' ass where he'd used the belt on him.

Even though it was morning, the heat of the New York summer had started up in earnest, and he'd forgotten to turn on the room's air conditioning the night before. The heat in the room as morning had broken meant that both of them had kicked the covers away before Doggett had awakened, and Byers was lying on the bed, nude and exposed. Just before Doggett had gone to bed last night, he'd called the hotel desk to have their suits picked up, cleaned and pressed, and delivered back to their room before noon.

Doggett knew that Byers would sleep late this morning, as he'd been exhausted after their play last night, and fallen asleep quickly. Byers would still be sore, but that soreness would probably be gone by the time they were back in D.C. He'd held back with the flogger and the belt, even though Byers had begged for more, and for harder blows. A massage and a hot shower would help him cope with the lingering ache, and Doggett had aspirin for him as well, if it was needed.

Byers stirred under Doggett's hand and made a soft grumbly noise, but didn't wake. His face was partly buried in his pillow, hair rumpled, muscles relaxed. Doggett considered waking him, but didn't. He was enjoying simply looking at him; his dark lashes a handsome contrast to his pale skin, those warm, soft lips slightly open, the little mole on Byers' cheek that gave his face character, the slow pulse beating at his throat. He let his hand trail up from Byers' shoulder to brush away the errant chestnut bangs from the man's face. Byers was usually so serious, so neat and orderly -- hair perfectly done, clothing just so --seeing him relaxed and unguarded like this was a delight. Asleep, Byers' youthful appearance seemed even more so.

Doggett smiled to himself, pleased. He was glad he'd brought Byers along, and very pleased with how things had been going. Byers was good company, and the sex had been powerful and satisfying. The reality of Byers in that Armani, sucking him off, had been everything he'd hoped for and more. His sub's willingness and desire had left Doggett's knees weak. The man really was gorgeous dressed like that, in the heat of passion.

Byers' eyes fluttered open, then squeezed shut as he moaned.

"Still sore?" Doggett asked.

"Mmm-hmm," Byers replied.

"Where?"

"My ass," Byers mumbled, barely audible. "Shoulders and back."

"How's your chest?"

Byers didn't reply for a moment, obviously assessing himself. "Seems okay," he said eventually.

Doggett caressed his face, and Byers snuggled his cheek into Doggett's hand.

"I brought stuff to give you a massage if you want. Got some oil to sooth the aches down some. It'll help, and then when we shower, you can wash the oil off."

Byers nodded.

"It's got a little scent to it, but nothing real strong," Doggett said. "Just a little light musk and a tiny bit of patchouli. No girly smells." He fished around in the bedside drawer until he found the small plastic squeeze bottle. Opening it, he held it near Byers' nose.

Byers took a small sniff. "Smells good," he said. He opened his eyes again, less strain showing around them. "Do you have aspirin? I hurt; my shoulders are stiff."

"Yeah, hang on a sec." Doggett rose from the bed and padded to the bathroom. He relieved himself and then brought a glass of water back to Byers, along with two aspirin.

Byers was sitting up in the bed when he returned, and Doggett handed the glass and the pills to him. Byers took the pills and drank the entire glass of water. "Still thirsty," he muttered, obviously still half asleep.

"Go get some more water and take a piss, then come back and I'll do that massage for you. You'll need to stretch afterwards, while we're in the shower. It'll help you loosen up, "

Byers nodded and headed for the bathroom. Doggett watched as the man walked, noting his stiff movements. He'd probably need to work on Byers for about half an hour or so to get out most of the kinks and soothe his aches, and by that time, the aspirin would be kicking in. He'd make sure Byers carried more aspirin in his pocket for later in the day.

While Byers was in the bathroom, Doggett called down to room service to have breakfast sent up. He remembered what Byers had ordered the day before, and simply requested a repeat of yesterdays' breakfasts for both of them, sans Brentali's company and the surly waitress. The staff would have breakfast ready and delivered about the time he was done working on Byers' sore muscles.

Byers returned and collapsed face down on the bed with a groan.

"You ready?" Doggett asked.

"Mmm," Byers mumbled, nodding.

Doggett squirted out some oil into his palm, then rubbed his hands together to warm it. Laying them on Byers' shoulders, he started spreading it smoothly over his sub's back, shoulders and sides, adding more oil as he needed it, so his hands would slide effortlessly over Byers' skin. Byers sighed and relaxed into the slowly deepening strokes, breathing deeply.

The long movements of giving the massage felt good, and Doggett stretched himself into them, leaning his weight into Byers' hips and up his back. He enjoyed doing this, feeling the slick, oiled skin and muscles under his palms, his legs open to straddle Byers' body. Byers was making low, quiet, happy sounds, along with the occasional yip or hiss as Doggett struck a particularly sore spot. Working his way along, Doggett kneaded and twisted Byers' arms and shoulders, loosening them and working the heels of his hands or the balls of his thumbs into tight places, using his knuckles and the tips of his fingers to get into knots and ease them.

The pain in Byers' face faded as he melted into a puddle of warm, pliant flesh under Doggett's gentle, experienced hands. The aspirin was probably starting to work too, Doggett thought. Byers was nearly purring. It was a sound Doggett liked very much. It was, in fact, a sound that was stirring his groin, but he doubted that Byers would really be ready for that after what he'd taken last night. He'd pounded into Byers really hard toward the end, and knew that if he'd been fucked that hard, he wouldn't want anything even remotely dick-like near his ass for most of the next day. They'd have to settle for other forms of pleasure, though this wasn't exactly a hardship.

Doggett leaned down and kissed Byers' neck, and the slender man sighed and smiled. The oil on Byers' skin smelled great -- rich and masculine, almost unbearably sensual. He was about to move to Byers' ear when there was a knock at the door. Byers startled.

"Huh?"

"It's okay," Doggett said, kissing his ear quickly. "It's just breakfast. Stay there, I'll bring it in." Doggett rose and tossed a robe on, then went to answer the door. Room service wheeled the cart in and left it in the living room, departing quickly and discreetly.

Doggett pulled one of the lap trays from the cart and put their food on it, then carried everything into the bedroom. "Okay, sunshine," Doggett said, setting the tray down next to Byers, "roll your ass over. It's breakfast." Doggett sat on the bed with him and poured coffee as Byers stretched and rolled over onto his side.

"Looks good," Byers said. "Smells good."

"You about ready for full sentences yet?"

Byers shook his head, picking up his fork. "No. Massage good. Hungry. Coffee," he grunted, eyes alight.

Doggett laughed. "You must be feelin' better."

"Yeah. The massage really helped, and I think the aspirin kicked in too, because I'm not nearly as stiff and achy as I was when I first woke up." Byers got up on one elbow and took his coffee, sipping it, then sighing. "Ahhh. Feel the power of the caffeine." He smiled.

"You look like you feel better."

Byers nodded. "Where did you learn to do that? The massage, I mean."

Doggett shrugged, taking a couple of bites of his eggs. "A guy I was seeing for a while. Was a medic, then studied massage when he got outta the service. Said Somalia messed with his head so much that he just really needed to do something that didn't hurt people."

"I think I could understand that," Byers said. "You do it well."

"Turned out to be a real useful skill. I'm gonna teach you how to do it too, that way you can do it for me." He looked at Byers, wondering what his response would be.

Byers looked up at Doggett and smiled, a pleased expression on his face. "That sounds like a great idea."

Doggett grinned back at him. "Of course it is." He chuckled. "We'll need to find somebody for me to demonstrate on, though, so you can see what I'm doing."

Byers smirked. "I doubt that'll be too hard. I suspect Ringo wouldn't mind being a guinea pig."

"Ringo?" Doggett was confused.

"Oh, sorry. Langly. He goes by Ringo usually. He's never much cared for being called Richard." Byers sipped his coffee again. "Then again, I think he'll be really surprised when I tell him who's going to be teaching me. Of course, he'll probably decide he should learn it so he can use it on Skinner."

Doggett nodded. "Wouldn't surprise me. Those two have gotta be the oddest couple I've ever laid eyes on."

"Isn't that the truth." Byers sighed. "I think Mel and I both about passed out when we found out about it. Frohike hassled him mercilessly for weeks -- Lord Manhammer and the Great Bear." He chuckled and shook his head.

"Lord Manhammer? What kinda stupid crap of a name is that?"

Byers started laughing. "It's his D&D character, believe it or not. He's been playing the same damned character in the same game with most of the same gaming buddies since before I met him. I think last time I heard, they'd become some deific pantheon and were out trying to solve the problem of the ultimate elimination of evil or something."

Doggett couldn't help but laugh as well. "Jesus, Langly as some kinda god. That is so wrong. Doesn't that beat all."

"All but Skinner," Byers said, a wry grin on his face. "Ringo says that Walter can be really rough on him sometimes, but they both seem to like it." A moment of something that might have been regret ghosted over Byers' face, but it was gone so fast that Doggett wasn't sure he'd even seen it. "Skinner's all about being the boss."

"Tell me about it," Doggett grumbled. "He's been on my ass lately about being more careful with this whole supersoldier investigation. I'm surprised he hasn't asked me to drop it entirely."

"What's been happening with that lately?"

"Last week, me and Monica found some really weird assed evidence." Doggett sighed and shook his head. "Looked like... jeez, like some kinda metal vertebra. We hauled it in for safekeeping, and were gonna have Scully look at it the next morning, but it was gone. No evidence of a B and E, no prints, no nothing. It's like the damned thing never existed."

"You should probably get used to that sort of thing," Byers said, looking troubled. "Mulder and Scully's evidence was constantly disappearing into the system or being stolen or destroyed. God only knows what happened to most of it. And then there was the office fire. The guys and I spent months working to recover fragments of the files, doing our best to piece things together from what was left in the file cabinets, and the stuff we'd collected in helping them out over the years. It was a tremendous loss, and a devastating blow to their work." He nibbled at his breakfast.

Byers paused, then looked into Doggett's eyes. "I know that you don't believe a lot of what they found, but I can tell you that the danger surrounding the Files is very real. This isn't like anything you've ever done before, Jack." His voice quieted. "If you let them get too close, they'll try to kill you. I mean it." He reached out and took Doggett's hand. "No matter how paranoid you are, you're not paranoid enough. Listen to Skinner. He won't talk to Langly about it, but Ringo's sure Skinner knows more than he's ever been willing to let on. Please, be careful."

Doggett squeezed Byers' hand and let it go. The man was obviously serious, and very troubled about the whole thing.

"I'll be careful. I always am."

Byers sighed, looking doubtful, but nodded. He turned his attention back to his Eggs Benedict and the slice of bacon that he'd snagged from Doggett's plate.

"That's my food you're messin' with."

"You snooze, you lose."

Doggett snorted. "I think you got an attitude problem, boy."

"I think I belong to myself right now," Byers said with an evil grin, "and I'm having a craving for another slice of bacon. You weren't eating it, so I figured it was my duty to keep my strength up after what you did to me last night." He chuckled.

Doggett mussed Byers' already rumpled hair with one hand and laughed. "You have a point. Speaking of which, how are you feeling? Not your body; I know how that's doing. I mean inside."

Byers looked up again, thoughtful. Shifting his weight, he sat. "I'm fine, actually. It was really different from what happened Friday night. Last night was a lot more like what I've done before. I mean, it's never been quite like that, and I've certainly never done anything that intense, but I knew enough about what we were doing that it was comfortable for me. I could cope with it. Though I'm glad you weren't as hard on me as I asked."

Doggett nodded. "You don't have enough experience to know your own limits yet. It takes a while, and I don't want to hurt you while you're learning. It would be really irresponsible to push you too far. A good Dom always takes care of his sub, Johnny." Doggett laid a hand gently on Byers' shoulder. "I want you to know that, to be sure of it, no matter where you go or who you end up with. Never let a Dom hurt you or force you to do anything you don't actually want to do, or that you haven't negotiated beforehand. If it does happen, get out the second you can. Walk away from the guy -- run if you have to -- and don't go back unless you got somebody who can mediate. If you ever have a bad experience, I promise that you can always talk to me or Sergio. We'll help you, whatever it is, okay?"

Byers laid a hand on top of Doggett's, nodding. "Thanks," he said softly. "That means a lot."

"I don't want to see you get hurt," Doggett said, "not by anybody. Especially not by me."

Byers shifted closer, sliding an arm around Doggett's waist, and Doggett pulled him close and held him. Byers turned his face to him and they kissed. It was a savory kiss, tasting of bacon and coffee and eggs. Rather than arousing Doggett, the kiss left him feeling a warm tenderness for the man. Byers was no fool, but sometimes there seemed to be an innocence about him that belied his years and experience.

Doggett worried that some unscrupulous asshole would take advantage of Byers' desire to please someone, to find acceptance from someone he could respect and serve. Despite Byers' paranoia, he could see those desires burning in him. He thought that those wants and needs might bypass Byers' reason and his self-protective instincts, and land the shy, quiet man in serious trouble if he didn't learn how to rein them in.

This weekend Byers had done -- had let Doggett do -- things that surprised him; things he wouldn't have expected from a man whose paranoia was one of his defining characteristics. Perhaps in wanting so much to be able to trust, Byers was forgetting himself. Doggett wondered if it would all be over Monday, when they went back to their homes and their daily habits. Was it just a fluke of circumstance?

Doggett released Byers, then moved the remains of breakfast off the bed. He lay on his side and patted the bed in front of him. "C'mere," he said.

Byers slid close and lay beside him, sliding a hand from Doggett's shoulder to his wrist. "What would you like?" he asked.

"Come spoon up with me," Doggett said, raising his arm so that Byers could curl up against him. They shuffled for a moment, snuggling close together, and Doggett wrapped his arm around Byers' thin waist, angling up until the palm of his hand lay cupped over Byers' heart. He sighed, tightening his grip on his companion.

"Feels good," Byers whispered.

"Mmmhmm." Doggett breathed in the warm scent of the massage oil on Byers' skin. He could feel Byers' slow, steady heartbeat in his palm. The difference in their size was just enough that Byers fit perfectly against the curve of his body. He didn't think he'd had such a pleasant Sunday morning in years. There was no rush, nowhere Doggett had to be, nothing he had to do. He could just lie there, holding Byers, savoring the physical contact and the pleasure of being with him. They could shower later, maybe go for a walk in the park again, or perhaps Byers would have something in mind he'd like to do. For now, all Doggett wanted was this. He took a deep breath and kissed the back of Byers' head, smiling.

"You make me feel good, Jack," Byers said quietly.

"I'm glad," Doggett told him. "You deserve that."


NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY
5TH AVENUE & 42ND STREET
MID-DAY

"What's so great about a library?" Doggett asked as they passed between the stone lions and climbed the stairs to the library's doors.

Byers looked at him, an eyebrow raised. He was dressed in jeans again, and a brick red shirt. "This is only one of the most magnificent public libraries in the world, Jack. The architecture is amazing late 19thearly 20th century Beaux Arts, and this is the epicenter of literary history in the United States. So many famous authors worked in the writing rooms here you'd think it was a university."

"But it's a library, Johnny. It's a bunch of books. It could be anywhere and it'd still be a bunch of books."

Byers snorted. "And The Cloisters is just a bunch of old stuff."

Doggett rolled his eyes. "Okay, so you got me there. But I know you and the guys can get into the Library of Congress when you need to, so what's the big deal about this?"

Byers shook his head sadly. "It's about the history here." He opened the door and stepped in, followed by Doggett. Byers took a deep breath. "Smell that?"

"Smells like books and the great unwashed."

"Precisely. That's the smell of history, Jack. Well, except maybe for the great unwashed part." Byers smiled broadly. "Those books represent a massive collection of knowledge, the passage of time, and the creation and fostering of one of the world's most impressive modern literary traditions. Think of the people who have passed through those doors. Think about the collections of letters and papers of hundreds of American writers. Think about all the secrets that are hidden here, just waiting to be discovered." It excited him, made his heart beat faster, thinking of all the famous, infamous, and talented men and women who had passed through those portals before him.

Doggett looked at Byers. "If I was gonna see a library, I'd want to see the one at Alexandria, before Caesar's men burned it for campfires when they trashed the city."

Byers nodded. "That's always been a wild fantasy of mine. If only time travel was feasible. Well, without horrible consequences anyway." He thought of the case Mulder and Scully worked on involving a scientist who had traveled back in time to murder himself. Bizarre.

"You've been watchin' too many Back to the Future marathons, Johnny."

Byers chuckled. "Yeah. Stepping on a bug and causing the universe to shift on its axis isn't really my idea of the best way to travel."

"Why here though? There are so many things to see in the City. Lots of bigger, more impressive stuff, really."

"I'm not so sure about that. Don't you want to see Jefferson's manuscript of the Declaration of Independence? The original Gutenberg Bible? What about the Reading Room?" Byers tilted his head, walking toward a stairway.

Doggett shrugged. "Haven't been anywhere near the place since before it was renovated in '95. They even had the lions wearin' hard hats. It was a mess before that. I mean, yeah, it must have been a nice room way back when, but now?"

"Everything I've seen suggests that the restoration is really impressive. Mark Twain was here, Jack, and the beat poets and Barbara Tuchman and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dylan Thomas and... well, pretty much anybody who's anybody in literature that's been in New York has been here at one point or another." Byers wasn't sure why this sort of thing didn't seem to excite Doggett the way it excited him.

Doggett gave him a small smile. "I guess the literary life never really did much for me. I read a lot more when I was a kid than I do now. These days, I barely have time to keep up with what I need to know for work, much less spend time reading because I like to." He kept pace with Byers on the stairs. "I wish I could. I miss it, you know? Reading things for fun or just to make me think."

"I don't think I could survive without it," Byers said. "If the only things I ever read were related to my work, I'd curl up into myself and never stick my face out the door. But if you stop and think about it, everything is related to the work I do. There are clues everywhere, and when the guys and I are researching our stories, sometimes we have to look in the most unbelievable directions. I need to know a little about as many different things as I can to make sense of what we find. One story we did about six years back involved a scientist's stolen research that coded DNA sequences for a newly discovered psychoactive substance in musical compositions to keep them concealed. I couldn't believe that music theory ended up being useful for our work, but in that case it was worth more than all of our knowledge of cryptanalysis and cryptography combined. Once we had it broken down, it was elegant; an exquisite example of crossdisciplinary work on the scientist's part." Byers chuckled. "The music wasn't bad either, though Langly still says he prefers the Ramones."

Doggett looked at Byers, surprise in his eyes. He shook his head. "You amaze me," he said. "Music theory and biochemistry?"

"I like knowing things," Byers said. "I want to follow knowledge like a sinking star. It's about the only thing I have going for me."

"Will you give that a break?" Doggett said, annoyed. "You're always saying shit like that about yourself. You've got no goddamn sense of how different you really are, do you? Quoting Tennyson like everybody should know that poem? I can't believe half the stuff you and the guys manage to come up with. You're all a bunch of geniuses -- well, except that Bond guy you picked up a few months ago -- and the only reason other people don't notice is because you're always talking about this conspiracy stuff, like mandroids and Teletubbies and implanted microchips in people's brains. If you were anywhere other than publishing that paper, Johnny, you'd be golden."

Byers sighed. It was hard for him to hear things like that. He'd never thought of himself as anything special; he was just a man who wanted to do the right thing. Byers knew he was intelligent, but he didn't think he came anywhere near genius. Langly, maybe, when he was hacking or coding, or Frohike when he cobbled those inventions of his out of spare parts, but not himself. All Byers felt he was really good at was knowing multi-syllabic words and connecting the dots between different bits of information. "I doubt that," he said.

Doggett shook his head. "There you go again. What did I tell you about needing to learn how to take a compliment?"

Byers looked over at Doggett, coming to rest on the third floor landing. He snorted. "Thank you, Sir."

"You're still a smart ass, and you still don't believe me."

"How am I supposed to believe you when you're saying things that outrageous?"

Doggett sighed and shook his head, continuing up the stairs. "Maybe one of these days it'll sink in. C'mon, let's go look at this stuff you wanted to see."

As they were making their way up the fifth floor steps, Byers spotted a familiar face. He cringed and tried to hide behind Doggett as they walked, hoping not to be noticed.

"Hey, Munch!" Doggett said.

Detective John Munch turned to look, squinted, shook his head and waited for the two men to get to the fifth floor landing. "Hey Doggett, what the hell are you doin' with this loser?"

Doggett looked over at Byers with an arched eyebrow, then back at Munch. "Research."

Byers shifted uncomfortably, knowing that attempting to hide behind Doggett was only going to look weird at this point. "You two... uh... know each other?"

Doggett looked at him. "I was about to ask you the same thing."

Munch smirked. "I arrested him once. And why aren't you wearin' that aluminum foil hat, Byers?"

Byers glowered at Munch, embarrassed. He could feel himself blush.

Doggett's eyes widened. "Aluminum foil hat?"

"Keeps out the government's mind control rays," Munch said with a shrug. The detective was grinning and Byers was convinced it was at his expense. Munch turned to Doggett. "So how's the basement at the Hoover? And that Mulder guy?"

"Mulder's retired now," Doggett said. "I'm doin' okay though, thanks."

"Mulder still seein' little green men?"

"Grey," Byers grumbled.

"Yeah, well, whatever he's seein' I just hope he's keeping his clothes on," Munch said.

Doggett's eyebrows climbed to his hairline. "God, I hope so." He looked over at Byers with a 'this I've got to hear' expression on his face.

Byers tapped at Doggett's elbow. "Agent Doggett, we really have to get back to work..."

Munch shook his head. "So what are you guys researching here?"

Doggett blinked and looked at Byers, then back at Munch. "Uh... genetic mutations."

"Wouldn't the sciences library be more useful for that?" Munch asked.

Byers shuffled and said, "Actually we're dealing with ethical issues in this case."

Munch snorted and gave Byers a sidelong glance. "A guy who breaks into warehouses is worried about ethics?"

Byers glared at Munch, irritated and showing it. "We broke into that warehouse because what was happening in there was unethical."

"Yeah," Munch said, chuckling. "And extraterrestrial."

Doggett looked confused but put a hand on Byers' arm. "Easy, Byers."

Munch smiled. "Nah, it's okay. You and your pals stayin' out of trouble, Byers?"

"Why would you care?" Byers said. He crossed his arms in front of him.

"'Cuz I've been subscribed to your rag for years now." Munch winked.

Byers sputtered. "What?" He shook his head. "Your name's not on our subscriber list."

Munch laughed. "You think I'm stupid enough to put my real name on your subscriber list? I'm listed as Richard Belzer. You guys even printed one of my articles a few years back about the Gulf Breeze sightings."

"Belzer?" Byers was stunned. That was, in fact, one of the names on their list, and they had published just such an article by that reader. "But I thought you --"

"Turned out you guys aren't nearly the nutcases I used to think you were," Munch said. "You've published some good stuff since '89." He offered a hand to Byers.

Speechless, Byers took it. He gaped at Munch.

"I really gotta be goin'; lunch break's over and I gotta get back to the office. Nice to see you again, Doggett." Munch shook Doggett's hand, then looked back to Byers. "You and the guys keep uncoverin' the conspiracies, Byers. But that new guy? Bond? What a flake." Munch grinned and headed off down the stairs.

Doggett turned to Byers. "What the hell was that all about? Aluminum foil hats? Naked Mulder? When did you meet Munch, Johnny?"

Byers stood watching Munch's back disappear around the corner of the staircase, his mouth open.

"Johnny?"

Byers shook his head. "I don't want to talk about it," he said quietly, burying his face in one hand. "I just really don't want to talk about it. Not here, not now." He moaned. "God, he's one of our subscribers."

Doggett laid a hand on Byers' shoulder. "You gonna be okay?" There was concern in his voice.

Byers sighed and looked up, seeing a worried and deeply confused expression on Doggett's face. "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. It was just... something of a shock, that's all. That was not the best day of my life."

"Munch arrested you?"

Byers squeezed his eyes shut, then took a deep breath and looked calmly up at Doggett. He nodded. "I'll tell you about it later, all right? Let's just go up to the reading room. I really need to sit down for a few minutes."

Byers felt Doggett's hand slide to the small of his back as they climbed the two remaining flights of stairs up to the huge reading room. The touch was comforting and reassuring after his rather distressing run-in with the past. So much for any desire to time travel, he thought. The last thing he ever wanted to do was end up back in that warehouse with a gun at his head. The thought left him panicked and sweaty. By the time they got to the reading room, Byers had his panic under control, but really needed to sit.

"You're lookin' really pale, Johnny. Are you sure you're all right?" Doggett sat next to him and took one of his hands. Byers let their joined hands rest on his thigh.

"I really don't want to talk about this in public," Byers said. "It was one of the worst experiences of my life."

"I'm sorry."

Byers turned his eyes to the table before him. "You had no way of knowing. I didn't know you knew him. If I'd had any idea he would be here --"

"He's really not that bad a guy," Doggett said.

Byers looked up at him. "He wasn't the problem, Jack. He was just doing his job. It was the rest of it that was awful. He just reminds me of the whole mess. Please, don't make me talk about this right now."

Doggett nodded. "Sorry, Johnny. Are you sure you still want to be here right now? We could come back another time if you like."

Byers shook his head. "We won't have time before we have to head home."

Doggett squeezed his hand. "I didn't mean it had to be this weekend. Maybe we can come back together another time."

Byers sighed and sat back, taking in the huge room around him. It was richly, even opulently furnished. Along the edges of the room were desks with computer terminals for research and writing. The ceiling had an incredibly realistic painting of a cloudy sky framed by wood and molding in its center. He lay his head on the back of his chair for a few minutes and just stared at it, taking it in.

Come back another time? It seemed like Doggett was interested in continuing their relationship, whatever that meant, after they got back home. He thought about what that might be like, having someone to be with, someone to turn to now and then when he really needed it.

Finally, Byers looked back down at Doggett, who had been sitting patiently, watching him. "No, it's okay. The memories are always with me, Jack. I can't just dump them in the stairwell if we leave the library. And I really want to see the manuscript draft of the Declaration."

Doggett nodded. "Okay. I think it's over there." Doggett pointed off to one side of the room. The two stood, and Doggett led the way. They eventually found themselves standing before a climate-controlled cabinet lidded with glass, kept behind a rope barrier. "Here it is," Doggett said.

Byers looked down at the ancient, stained document. He felt a sense of reverence welling up in him, knowing that Jefferson had written it. The hands of a great man had made the document in a time of incredible social upheaval, under circumstances he could barely imagine. Byers saw it as a testimony to what was best and brightest in the human species, to the spirit of men who risked everything against a massive power far greater than their own to gain freedom from tyranny. He hoped that, in some small way, he and his friends were contributing to that ongoing struggle. He stood and stared at the draft for a very long time.

Eventually, he felt a touch on his shoulder and startled. Turning, he saw it was Doggett.

"You been here for about half an hour, Johnny. Is there anything else you want to see or do here, or can we go get some lunch?" There was a slight touch of impatience in Doggett's voice.

"Sorry," Byers said. "Yeah, let's go eat." Upon being reminded, he could feel his stomach rumble. "I didn't realize I'd been here so long, and I'm hungry too."

"You doin' better now?"

Byers nodded. "Yeah, thanks. I needed some time to let it go."

"You maybe want Korean barbeque?" Doggett asked. "I know a decent little lunch place not far from here where they do it pretty good."

"Not sure my stomach could handle kim chee right now. Russian maybe? Some piroshkys?"

Doggett nodded. "I guess we could do that."


PARKER MERIDIEN HOTEL
ROOM 1246
AFTERNOON

"Talk to me, Johnny."

Doggett hung their clean suits up in the closet. They had been waiting on the bed for them when they arrived after lunch.

Byers sighed, kicked his sneakers off, and folded himself onto the bed to sit. He'd been quiet and withdrawn since they'd met Munch at the library. Byers had said that Munch had brought up a lot of bad memories for him, but Doggett had been hoping that lunch would help him relax a little. He looked a little less haunted than he had, but Byers was still in a very dark mood.

"It must have been pretty bad," Doggett said quietly, seating himself next to Byers.

Byers nodded. "I'm sorry," he said. "I shouldn't be acting this way. It was years ago. There's no reason for me to still be effected by it like this."

"It's not that unusual when somebody's been through a trauma," Doggett said. "It can stay with you the rest of your life."

Byers closed his eyes, lowering his head. "I hope not."

"What happened to you?"

Byers looked up at Doggett. "Everything I believed in was stolen from me or destroyed, and I was on my knees in a warehouse with a gun at my head, knowing I was going to die." Byers was pale and quiet, but steady. "I lost everything that day. My job, my faith, my plans for the future, my heart, my family --everything."

"It sounds terrible," Doggett said.

Byers nodded. "Yeah, you could say that."

"How did all that happen?"

Byers sighed. "That's a really long story. It... it involved Susanne, and Mulder, and Munch. And it was the day I met the guys. It opened my eyes to the conspiracies, to the truth of their existence and how dangerous they are. We tried to stop their plans. It almost cost all of us our lives. Well, not Munch. He just questioned us afterwards."

"Who were 'they,' and what plans were those?"

"The same people behind the supersoldiers, the alien colonization plans, the shapeshifters, and pretty much everything else we've run across over the years," Byers said. "In that particular case, they were attempting to test a chemical that Susanne had developed that caused paranoia in those exposed to it." He looked at Doggett with an expression that said he knew Doggett wasn't going to believe him.

"This Susanne was the woman you--"

Byers nodded. "I have no idea what came over me. I fell for her the minute I saw her. The irony was, everything she told me was a lie. She was trying to get information from an encrypted DARPA file about the test of an ergotamine-histamine gas she'd developed under threat to her life while she was working at the Advanced Weapons Facility in Whitestone, New Mexico. The conspiracy had framed her for the death of her co-workers and an MP. By the time we were through, we'd stopped the conspiracy's test, but Susanne was snatched off the street right in front of us by the same man who was going to execute us."

Doggett wasn't sure what to say. It all sounded confusing, but he certainly could see how it effected Byers. "But the guy obviously didn't kill you. What happened?"

Byers shivered. "I still don't really know. Much later, we found out that the man was one of Mulder's informants." Byers' voice dropped away to a bare whisper. "He had the gun to my head, Jack. He pulled the trigger on an empty chamber. I... I still hear that sound."

Doggett moved closer to Byers and put an arm around him. "I'm sorry, Johnny. "

Byers looked at him, startled and angry. "Don't touch me." He slid away from Doggett, shaking his head. "I can't talk about this anymore."

Doggett looked at Byers, concerned about his pain and his distance. "You don't have to say anything else about it. I'm sorry you went through that." Byers was pale and upset, his body tense and stiff, but he wasn't shaking. His face was cold as granite. "It was over years ago," Doggett said quietly, putting as much reassurance as he could into his voice.

Doggett had his own share of moments like those. Lebanon, and the loss of his son lived too vividly in his mind, replaying like loop tapes in his nightmares. He understood the fear and the anger and the selfloathing that came with all of it; the helplessness of those situations, and their feeling of terrible inexorability. Doggett had been where Byers was far too often.

"It's not over," Byers said. "It surrounds me, every day. All the things that were going on then, they're still going on. The players change, but the conspiracies continue. It doesn't seem to matter how many years pass, it's all right here." He tapped his head with a finger. "I wish I could forget. I wish I could erase it all."

The sadness and anger in Byers' eyes was profound. This, Doggett thought, must be where his habitual solemnity was rooted, and the calm, sorrowful expression that usually occupied his face. He knew Byers was, at heart, an idealist, and from what little had been said, it seemed that much of the man's belief in things being good and right in the world had been shattered that day. Byers sounded like he'd never really recovered.

He wished there was something he could do to offer Byers a little ease and comfort, some shelter from the internal storm, but the bearded man was cold and distant, unwilling to be touched. The dissociation was another feeling Doggett knew too well. When Byers was ready, maybe he'd talk more about it. That, however, might be a long time coming.

"We've still got a few hours before dinner and the show, Johnny. Did you want to do anything, or would you rather just lie down for a while?"

Byers was huddled tightly into himself, sullen. "I don't know," he said quietly.

Doggett sighed. "I guess we'll stay here for a while, then. Do you want company, or should I leave you alone?"

Byers looked at him and his face softened. "Please, stay."

Doggett nodded.

Byers sighed and lay on his side, still looking troubled. He wrapped his arms around himself. Doggett slid closer to him, laying a hand tentatively on his shoulder. "Is this okay?" he asked.

"Yeah." Byers closed his eyes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you."

"I know what it's like, Johnny. I have my own shit to cope with, and I've done way worse stuff than that when I've been in that mood. I wish you'd let me help." He squeezed Byers' shoulder and raised his hand to Byers' head, quietly stroking his hair.

Byers started to relax slightly, then sighed deeply. "This helps," he whispered. He looked up at Doggett, overwhelming sadness still darkening his clear blue eyes. Doggett wondered if he was lying. He really didn't want to see Byers stay in this mood.

"Move over," Doggett said. He kicked his shoes off and slid onto the bed next to Byers, and they both moved a little more toward the center of the mattress. Doggett lay on his back. "Okay, c'mere," he said, sliding an arm around Byers.

Byers scooted to Doggett's side, laying his head on the man's shoulder. He draped his arm over Doggett's broad chest. Doggett could feel the tension in Byers' body as he wrapped his arms around him, holding him close. "Try to relax a little," Doggett said, slowly running his fingers through Byers' hair.

Byers sighed and settled, still tense. "I wish it was that easy."

"Just breathe, Johnny. Close your eyes and breathe slow and deep. It helps."

Byers lay still, taking slow, deep breaths for a while. Eventually, the tension in his muscles started to seep away, but he groaned softly and fisted Doggett's shirt in one hand.

"What's wrong?" Doggett asked.

Byers' reply was quiet and strained. "I have a headache, and my body is really aching too."

Doggett nodded. "You want some more aspirin? The aches are partly left over from last night, but I'm gonna guess that the headache's just from stress, and that ain't helping the muscles much either."

"You're probably right," Byers said. "I don't get headaches very often that aren't from stress, unless I'm down with something."

"Hang on, let me get you some aspirin. You go ahead and stay here."

Doggett slid out from under Byers, bringing back water and aspirin from the bathroom. Byers sat to take the pills as Doggett lay down on the bed next to him again. Setting the glass down on the bedside table, Byers lay back down as well. He settled into Doggett's embrace, slightly more relaxed this time.

"Thanks," Byers said.

"You gonna be okay?" Doggett asked.

Byers nodded. "In a while. Maybe I'll be in a better mood when I don't hurt so much."

"Probably." Doggett ran his fingers over Byers' cheek, and Byers looked up at him. Doggett bent his head down and kissed him softly, their lips meeting with a quiet breath. "Just rest for a while. We've got a lot of time before we have to be anywhere." Byers nodded and lay his head down to rest.

Some time later, Byers asked, "Jack, why are you being so good to me?"

"I like you," Doggett said. "I've been havin' a good time with you. Why shouldn't I be good to you? Did you want me to be a stressed out asshole or something? I could probably manage it if you insist."

Byers snorted and smiled. "No, that's okay. I guess I'm just not used to it."

"Maybe you should be." Doggett's fingers slipped slowly through Byers' soft hair, his touch a caress.

"I wouldn't mind that." Byers' voice was sad but hopeful, as though he didn't believe there would ever be a reason to be used to it.

"I meant what I was sayin' earlier," Doggett said. "I really think you sell yourself short, Johnny. You got a lot goin' for you, but you refuse to see it. Maybe you should try just relaxing, being yourself around other people sometimes."

Byers shook his head gently. "It's too dangerous. You know that."

"Yeah, there's risks, but I don't keep myself locked in a warehouse basement workin' around the clock, either."

"That's true." Byers slid his hand along Doggett's chest, letting it come to rest at his hip. "I'm not you."

Doggett chuckled. "God, I hope not. One of me is enough for most purposes."

"I'm not so sure about that," Byers said, his voice taking on a slight tone of mischief.

Doggett smiled. "Oh? And what did you think you'd need two of me for?"

Byers snickered. "I'm sure you'd think of something."

Doggett drew Byers closer. "Oh yeah, I suppose I could think of a few things." He laughed, imagining two of him with Byers, one fucking, one being sucked. It sent a tingle down his spine, creating a slight stirring in his groin. "You got a dirty mind, Johnny. That innocent-looking face of yours don't fool me."

"I have no idea what you mean," Byers said. Doggett heard him snicker again under his breath. This was good. A returning sense of humor was a sign that Byers was probably starting to feel better, both physically and emotionally.

Doggett ran a hand down Byers' back, starting to massage the slender man's muscles and tendons. He felt less tense than he had when they first lay down together. It wasn't long before Byers was much more relaxed, and mumbling quietly about how good it felt. Byers' back was warm, and he was starting to melt under Doggett's hand. A few minutes later, Doggett tugged at Byers' shirt, pulling the hem out of his pants, then slid his hand underneath, caressing the soft, bare skin.

Byers sighed. "So nice," he said quietly. His own hand stirred from Doggett's hip and started to caress its way down the outside of Doggett's thigh, moving slow and tender.

Doggett could feel Byers' breathing deepen, still slow and relaxed, and his own kept a similar pace. Their motion was soft and languid, unhurried but sensual. He could lie in this space for hours, drifting in the quiet eroticism of slow moving hands and the soothing sound of gentle, aroused breath. Content, he would let Byers decide if things went further, not wanting to push if the contact was meant more for comfort than passion.

Doggett knew from his own experience that at times like these sex had the potential to be healing and give great pleasure, but it could also hurt someone in a fragile, vulnerable state of mind, as Byers had been. There could be a lot of satisfaction in erotic play that didn't lead to more involved sexual acts, and if that was what happened, he was all right with it. On the other hand, if Byers wanted an intense, bodyshaking fuck, he'd be more than happy to provide that as well -- or anything in between.

Byers' hand followed the line of Doggett's thigh to his knee, fingertips tracing the muscles under the faded jeans. Slowly, they trailed back up from knee to hip, sliding down along the curve of Doggett's ass where it met the mattress. Doggett tilted his hips slightly toward Byers, raising his knee and resting his leg on Byers' hip. He sighed at the feel of Byers' slim body on his inner thigh, and held him a little more closely. Byers moved with him, slipping one leg between Doggett's thighs, and moving his fingers along Doggett's ass to where the muscle met his back. With a soft motion, Byers palm cupped the firm curve.

"What do you want, Johnny?" Doggett asked quietly. The touch was awakening arousal in him, and he wanted to have some idea of where this was going before he made any decisions.

Byers looked up at him. "I just... I guess I just want to be here for a while like this." He sighed. "My headache's a little better, but I still don't feel quite right. I like how this feels, what we're doing."

He slid his hand slowly up Doggett's side to his shoulder, pulling him closer. Doggett answered the movement by holding Byers tight to his body, and Byers made a little rumbly purring sound. Doggett's fingers moved on the bare skin of Byers' back, and Byers tucked his head next to Doggett's cheek.

"This what you need?" Doggett asked.

Byers nodded. "Yeah."

Nuzzling in Byers' hair, Doggett closed his eyes. "I like how you feel," he said. "You have a such a good body; warm, strong, comfortable." He stroked Byers' cheek as he let his other hand roam Byers' upper back. "This is good, spending time with you like this."

Byers squeezed him hard for a moment, then lay a hesitant kiss on Doggett's neck. "Thanks," he said. "It's been years since I could just... since anyone's been with me like this." His voice quieted, barely a whisper. "I've needed this so much."

Doggett nodded. "A lot of guys I've been with aren't much into it, but I like it. Some of 'em, all they want is a fuck, and then it's 'get outta my face.' I never understood that. I mean, sometimes, yeah, I've felt that way, but really only if the guy's been a lousy lay or a jerk. Mostly it feels good to hold somebody, to have 'em next to you like this."

Byers shifted his weight, and Doggett loosened his arms to let him move. With a little grunt, Byers picked himself up and lay fully atop Doggett's body, sliding his arms under Doggett's shoulders. Doggett could feel Byers watching him and opened his eyes as he slid his arms back around Byers' body.

"When I hear you talk about having been with those other men, all these guys you've been with, sometimes I feel a little envious," Byers said.

"No," Doggett shook his head. "You don't want to envy that, Johnny. There wasn't much to it, just sex. Most of it didn't mean anything. There was never any kind of connection. The few times there was, there were other reasons that things didn't last. It's like the difference between chips and pot roast. Chips might fill your stomach, but they don't really feed you."

"Langly might disagree with you on that," Byers said with a soft chuckle. "You just... you have so much more confidence than I do, so much more experience. I guess that's what I wish I had, when I think about it."

Doggett took Byers' face between his hands. "You'll get there. You're a good man, Johnny. Someday you'll meet the right person, and you'll feel confident with him -- or with her -- I don't know what you really want and only you can know for sure. It makes a difference though, feeling that way with somebody, and once you feel it you can learn to hang onto it. Don't think that just because you're a sub you won't feel it, or just because it hasn't happened yet, it never will."

Byers looked into his eyes, a thoughtful expression on his face. "When I'm working, I have a lot of confidence. I know I'm good at what I do. I've faced so much over the years and gotten through. It's just when I'm in situations like this, when it's... intimate..." Byers hesitated, blushing.

"But you know what you want, Johnny." Doggett traced a thumb along Byers' cheekbone with a soft, slow stroke. "You've asked for what you wanted this weekend. You weren't sure about what you could actually take, but you knew what you wanted. That's where it starts. It takes a lot of courage to ask, especially when it's something that most people think of as weird or dangerous, like they do with this kind of thing."

Byers nodded.

"You were so beautiful last night," Doggett said, his voice quiet and rough, "so hot. What we did, that was some of the most intense sex I've had in years." He watched as Byers' pupils dilated, heard Byers' breathing quicken. He felt Byers' heart race as he held him. "It was more than just a fuck. There's --" Doggett couldn't say another word. The feeling was sharp and dangerous and touched something in him too deeply. He pulled Byers down to him and kissed him hard, sliding his tongue into the man's mouth.

Byers responded, moaning and sucking on Doggett's tongue. Doggett wanted him, wanted to rip his clothes off, pin him down and fuck him face to face, long and slow. His blood was burning with desire for it, pulse pounding fast and hot as he held Byers and moaned into his mouth. He wanted to feel Byers' legs wrapped around him, chest to chest, his rod buried in that hot, tight ass.

They broke the kiss and Byers was gasping. "Want you," Doggett growled, "god I want you so bad."

"Yes," Byers hissed. His eyes were half-open, glassy and shining. The two men rolled on the bed, pulling each other's clothes off as fast as they could.

"Do you want it, Johnny?" he asked, pulling Byers' shirt over his head. He sucked on Byers' neck as the shirt came away.

Byers' hands were pulling at the button of his jeans, tugging the zipper down. "God, yes." Byers was panting, lust in his eyes.

Doggett lifted himself up as Byers pulled his pants down from his hips. "Do you want me?" he growled, urgent, then realized he'd asked aloud. The question had fallen from his lips before his mind had even framed it, but now it loomed before him, frighteningly important.

Byers had left off tugging at his pants and was pulling at his shirt now. "I love what you do to me, Jack, how you make me feel." Byers' voice was husky and deep. He kissed Doggett, swift and hot. "I want you." With another tug, he pulled Doggett's shirt over his head. "Go easy, I'm a little sore."

Doggett shed his pants then pulled Byers' off, as he had already unfastened his own jeans. "Johnny, do you trust me?" It was quiet, tentative, another question he felt a terrible need to have answered.

Byers looked at him, frustration on his face, breathing hard. "Don't ask me that. I don't... I can't answer. I don't know." He grabbed Doggett's wrist, heat in his eyes and in his voice. "I don't want to talk right now. I want you. I want to forget everything but this, everything but right now. Please, just help me forget. I don't want to think, I just want to feel you in me, feel your body on me." Byers' eyes pleaded with him, and Doggett pulled a condom and lube from the bedside drawer.

With a sigh, Byers closed his eyes and leaned back, letting go of Doggett's wrist. After applying the lube and condom, Doggett spread his body over Byers, lying between his open, waiting thighs. He could feel Byers' hardness against his own, two hot, erect cocks sliding slowly against each other. Byers groaned and took Doggett's ass in his hands, kneading at the muscles.

They clung together, kissing and touching, their bodies flowing in the deep, slow rhythm of their desire. Their need for each other expressed itself in touch and the rough sound of their quickening breath.

"God, Jack, you have such an amazing body," Byers growled as he moved with his Master. He slid a hand up from Doggett's ass along his back. "Gorgeous muscles," Byers' voice was deep and breathless but quiet as Doggett caressed him with the naked length of his body. His eyes were closed, but he could hear Doggett's deep breathing. Byers was lost in sensation. "Hard and strong, so powerful." His hands continued their journey from Doggett's ass to his shoulders. "Love the way they move under your skin, like a tiger, god, graceful..."

Doggett's mouth was at his throat, hot and wet. "Yes," Byers whispered. Doggett was hard and dangerous, all muscle and bone and sinew, and he moved like a predator in Byers' arms. His weight burned Byers' flesh, driving away the memories and the fear Byers hated so much. There was nothing else: the summer heat, the bed beneath him, his Master's powerful body driving him to ecstasy. If there was darkness in Byers now, it was only the blind intensity of his need.

Doggett rumbled above him, slick, hard shaft moving against Byers' own. He raised his knees and spread himself wide, inviting Doggett to enter him. He felt Doggett move down his body, a hand sliding between them, down between his legs. Fingers caressed his balls, then carefully slicked his opening as his Master sucked at a nipple. Byers moaned loud and his cock jerked as the sensation shot through him.

One finger entered him, and Byers yipped, still tender. Doggett moved slowly and stretched him carefully, still sucking his nipple. It was exquisite distraction as his Master slid a second finger into him and started thrusting, slow and gentle. The motion continued until Byers cried out, nearly weeping with want.

"God, Jack, I need you in me, please." He couldn't control the whine in his voice, or his desperation. The way Doggett broke his control every time they did this left Byers willing to do anything to have more of his Master's touch.

Doggett moved on him, panting. "Easy, Johnny. You want my rod, I'll give it to you slow and deep."

Doggett took Byers' ankles in his hands and held him wide open, ass raised and exposed, pushing his hot, thick shaft into him.

"Yes, god, yes," Byers wailed, "ahhhhhhh..." Chest heaving, mouth wide open, Byers fisted the bedspread under him as Doggett kept moving deeper in one long, slow thrust. The motion didn't stop until Doggett was buried in him to the root, his balls resting against Byers' ass, hot and heavy. Byers couldn't stop moaning and thrashing his head from side to side with his body's abandon.

"God, Johnny, god, you're so hot and tight." Doggett's voice strained with the effort of his stillness, and Byers reached out to take Doggett's wrists.

"Please," Byers gasped, "don't stop. Let me feel you move in me."

Doggett took Byers' hands in his, pinning them beside Byers' head, then started pumping into him at a torturously slow pace. Byers wrapped his legs around Doggett's waist, following the intense, deep movements, crying out wordlessly. His opening was still sore, but the penetration was unbearable perfection. His every nerve was burning with the sensation, and the fullness of Doggett's cock in him seemed to fill his whole body. His hips rocked with his Master's gentle, endless thrusts. His hands clung tightly to Doggett's, fingers intertwined.

Byers felt entirely possessed. His body was consumed in the intensity of their union, leaving no room for anything else -- he felt no fear, no regret, no paranoia -- nothing but heart-deep satisfaction. Byers was lost in the dizziness of flight and the ecstasy of fullness, and the only physical sensation that really registered was the agonizing, gloriously slow friction of Doggett moving inside him.

His grunts and cries became keening as he moved slowly with Doggett's deep, languid strokes. Byers lay, pierced by his Master's body, on the blade sharp edge of eternity. Time lost its meaning, and he had no idea how long the intimate dance of their pleasure continued. It flowed over and through him like a tidal force and the sound of Doggett's voice groaning and calling his name slid into his bones like bonfire heat. Where his Master touched him, fire remained. His kisses were blazing coals in paths along Byers' skin.

Doggett's skin slid along his, sweat slicked and hot, the broad spread of his body caressing Byers from hips to shoulders. His weight was a welcome anchor as Byers' senses whirled, and then hot, sharp cries as Doggett came inside him, thrusting into him deep and strong. The throbbing cock inside him stroked him to his own peak and threw him down, shouting and jerking as he shot gouts of hot, sticky come between their bodies.

Doggett was still on him for a time as they panted and gasped together. Eventually, Byers felt Doggett slide gently out of him, hands stroking his sides, his chest, his waist, calling him back to his body. Doggett's mouth, wet and soft, played slow along his skin. It was a long time before he opened his eyes.

"Where are you, Johnny?" Doggett's voice was caring, compassionate. Byers felt a hand stroking through his hair. It felt good. He looked up into his Master's face, eyes still half closed.

"I'm here," Byers said, but all he could manage was a hoarse, shaky whisper.

Doggett took the water glass from the bedside table, where Byers had set it after he took his aspirin. Propping Byers up against his body, Doggett held it to his lips. Byers tried to move to take the glass, but his limbs were limp as wet string. He sipped slowly.

"Thanks," he said, his voice steadier but still quiet. There was no energy left in him at all, and he was heavy with need for sleep.

Doggett set the glass down again and kissed him. It was very slow and careful, almost sweet. "Rest," Doggett said.

Byers nodded, slipping back down to the bed as Doggett lay him down and curled around his body. They held each other and Byers fell into warm, comforting darkness.

Doggett looked over at the clock. There was still more than enough time for a nap and a shower before they had to dress for dinner and the show. He was too drained to rise and clean them up just yet. It wasn't like a little semen was going to hurt anything.

Byers' soft, slow breathing and the calm expression on his face were reassuring. He was sure that Byers would sleep peacefully, pleasantly exhausted. It seemed unlikely that the man's memories of his experiences in Baltimore would be so pressing when he woke. Doggett doubted that anything fearful or distressing could have made it through Byers' ecstatic state.

They had been joined, rocking together in their need and desire, for a long time. Doggett had been rather surprised that he'd been able to sustain their coupling for so long. He wasn't old, but he sure wasn't getting any younger either. What Byers did to him, how he reacted to his... his friend, left him wondering what he wanted when he got home. He knew he wanted to keep seeing Byers. That much was obvious. It seemed Byers was open to it, at least. They were good together; their erotic needs and desires meshed well, their personalities surprisingly complementary. He'd be a fool to let Byers walk away without good reason. The quiet man sleeping next to him had gotten under his skin with disturbing facility.

The whole thing left Doggett uneasy, but strongly and undeniably attracted. He knew that the weekend and the suit were expensive gifts, but even with Byers' earlier moodiness Doggett felt it had been well worth the price. It wasn't as though Byers had simply had some petulant mood swing, and Doggett had his own share of demons that threatened to consume him now and again. He found he had a lot of empathy for Byers, different as they were.

He watched Byers sleeping, a quiet snore escaping every so often. For someone so paranoid, he was letting himself be incredibly open and vulnerable. Shy, guarded, and withdrawn in so many ways, Byers was -- intentionally or not -- offering him something deep and precious. Was it his trust, action moving ahead of intention without conscious choice? Doggett felt a strange sense of privilege in receiving such a gift. The cost of a suit or a weekend in the City could never match the emotional value of such a thing.

Doggett sighed and shook his head. There was too much paradox involved. Maybe if he was better at thinking the way Mulder did, he'd understand more clearly what was happening. As it was, the whole thing seemed on the verge of becoming its own odd sort of X File. Perhaps a little time and emotional distance would put things back into perspective, he thought. Maybe it would be best to think about it after he'd been home for a while.

He closed his eyes, intensely conscious of Byers sleeping in his arms. It felt right.


STUDIO 54
WEST 54TH STREET
6:30 PM

"Papers, please. Let me see your papers." The request, and the German accent, left Byers with a creepy feeling. He knew the play was set in pre-war Berlin, but he didn't really think he needed to feel like he was there. Doggett presented their tickets to the man at the door, who was dressed in a German military uniform. The man examined them, handed their ticket stubs back, and said, "Thank you. I hope you will enjoy your stay in Berlin."

Byers looked over at Doggett, nervous in the crowd. They were both dressed to the teeth, Byers in his new suit, Doggett in one that was equally expensive and attractive.

"Don't worry, Johnny," Doggett said with a grin, "we get out before the war."

Byers smiled back and shook his head. "Damned good thing, too. You know what they'd have done to us."

"It was over before either of us were born."

Byers looked up at Doggett. "Just don't say 'it can't happen here,' okay?"

"I wasn't goin' anywhere near that," Doggett replied. "C'mon, let's find our seats."

Byers followed Doggett through the filling theatre, down to a table near the stage. They sat, and Byers looked around. The seats must have been expensive, he thought. They were only one row back from the stage. Things were likely to get loud, and probably intense as well. That was fine with Byers. He'd have time and space to wind down at dinner after the show, and later back at the hotel. Sunday's opening was at seven, and they'd be out around nine thirty; not too late for a decent dinner by any means.

"So what do you think?" Doggett asked.

Byers chuckled. "I think we're so close to the stage that the Kit Kat girls will flirt with you."

"That is sorta their job," Doggett said, grinning.

"And you look like it would be such a burden."

Doggett flagged down a waiter and ordered drinks for them, then turned to Byers. "Having women flirt with me. A terrible job, but somebody's gotta do it." He made a very ineffective attempt to adopt a martyred expression.

Byers laughed.

"Besides," Doggett said, "with this show, maybe the guys'll be flirting with me too." He grinned a pleased, evil grin.

Byers rolled his eyes. "I trust you weren't planning on grabbing anyone's ass in public."

"They don't pay the actors enough for that. Besides," he gave Byers a seductive look, "I already have a cute ass to grab."

"Not in public you don't," Byers said, blushing.

Doggett chuckled. "It's okay, Johnny. I won't do that to you. Way too public here."

Byers nodded. "The park was too public Friday, if you want my opinion."

"Nah," Doggett said, shaking his head. "Nobody would even notice us there unless we were ripping each other's clothes off in the middle of the jogging trail. This ain't Virginia."

"And you and I aren't cover models for 'Out.'" Byers gave Doggett a rueful glance. "It's not like we've got nothing to lose."

"You worry too much. Why not just enjoy the show?"

The waiter returned with their drinks, and winked at Doggett when he paid.

"What did I tell you?" Byers said. "They're flirting with you already."

Doggett snorted. "It must be my stunning good looks or somethin'."

"You won't get an argument from me on that one," Byers muttered.

Doggett grinned broadly. "Unless they're tryin' to get your attention by flirtin' with me." He took a sip of his beer.

Byers tasted his own. A German lager; no doubt ordered as much for atmosphere as for the flavor. "Yeah, right," Byers said, "I'm more likely to be trampled in the rush for your attention."

Doggett shot Byers a sharp glance. "Stop that shit," he said. "I'm not gonna listen to you run yourself down. You wanna do that, do it in front of Frohike or something. He might believe you."

Byers gave a dry chuckle. "Did I ever tell you that Frohike thinks he's a 'chick magnet?'"

Doggett laughed. "That's a good one. Then again, if Langly's been with Skinner and you're seein' me, he's probably the closest thing to a chick magnet you guys got."

"Oh?" Byers said, arching an eyebrow. "You seem to have forgotten tall, buff Jimmy of the astonishing pecs."

"I was sorta tryin' to," Doggett said. "Good lookin' kid, but he doesn't seem to have the brains god gave your average amoeba."

Byers shook his head. "Give him a break, Jack. He's not stupid. He's just... a little scattered is all. He thinks with his heart, not his head. He's a good kid, and he tries really hard. If you ever talked to him, you'd know his heart was in the right place. And besides, he's the only thing keeping us in the black right now."

"Okay," Doggett conceded, "so he's about as smart as a Golden Retriever."

Byers rested his chin in his hand and glared at Doggett.

"Sorry," Doggett said with a chuckle. "I know you like him, and he's helping out the best he can. It's just kinda hard to take him seriously sometimes. Especially when he was goin' on about that blind football team of his." Doggett shook his head, amused.

Byers nodded, knowing he wasn't going to get anything more out of Doggett on this one. He did like Jimmy. Yes, he found their resident jock insufferably annoying sometimes, but at least Jimmy cared. Jimmy believed in what they were doing, and it was hard to find people who did, who regarded any of them as more than a joke. Sometimes he thought he saw a little of his own lost hope and idealism in Jimmy's eyes, and he wasn't sure whether to be sorry for the young man or for himself. Byers' own innocence had fled in 1989, taking too much of him with it.

As the house lights went down and the opening lines of 'Wilkommen' rang out with the spotlight on the Emcee, Byers felt Doggett's hand slide into his lap. He covered it with his own. In the dark, with everyone's eyes on the show, Byers thought it might be private enough for this indulgence. The warmth and intimacy of the touch was comfortable, and Doggett's hand didn't stray this time. He was certain, however, that when they got back to the hotel, more than Doggett's hands would be straying. He would welcome it then.

Byers wished he didn't have to hide. Given his choice, he'd far rather be leaning against Doggett, his Master's arm around his shoulders, both of them comfortable and open about who and what they were. Sometimes he wondered if the price for what he did with his life was too high. He didn't honestly believe he could walk away from it. The price of his silence and complicity about the conspiracies would only be higher. It was not an acceptable option.

Cliff's negotiations with Fraulein Schneider over the cost of a cheap room made Byers laugh. "Reminds me of my place," he said, leaning into Doggett's ear.

"That's because it looks like your place," Doggett said. "All it needs is a dozen computers and a Ramones poster."

Byers snorted, almost spewing his beer. "Don't do that to me," he said when he caught his breath.

"You started it," Doggett hissed. "Now hush, I wanna watch the show." He grinned at Byers.

Byers managed to maintain something resembling silence, watching as much of the audience sang along with the cast. When Sally talked her way into Cliff's room, however, he couldn't help laughing again.

"Oh god, that reminds me so much of Jimmy when he came to stay with us. But at least he pays the rent," he said, hiding his face in his hand for a moment.

"Oh really?" Doggett asked. "So which of you guys is he sleeping with?" He gave Byers a wicked grin.

Byers tilted an eyebrow at him. "I think he's more interested in women than in any of us, thank god."

"I didn't think he was your type anyway," Doggett said, and turned back to the show.

"And what, pray tell, do you think is my type?" Byers asked.

Doggett just smiled.

When Fraulein Schneider and Herr Schultz went into their duet of 'It Couldn't Please Me More,' Doggett looked back at Byers. "Pineapples."

Byers chuckled. "They're great in sweet and sour pork."

"What, you want I should bring you one?"

Byers grimaced. "Not if we have to sing that song."

Doggett laughed. "Half the audience already is."

Byers shook his head. "I can't sing."

"How do you know? You ever try?"

"Yes. It was hideously embarrassing."

Doggett looked at Byers, a doubtful expression in his eyes. Byers wondered if this meant an attempt to prod him into singing might materialize at some point. It wouldn't work. Nothing would get him to sing. He settled into silence again, watching the show and Doggett until the cast sang a chilling reprise of 'Tomorrow Belongs to Me' and went into the intermission.

"So what do you think so far?" Doggett asked.

Byers shuddered. "It's very well done," he said. "Maybe a little too well done."

"I really like the authenticity though," Doggett said. "The costumes are great. Really good acting. It's supposed to effect you like that."

"I know. That doesn't mean I have to be comfortable with it." Byers looked up at Doggett. "I think I'd like another beer. Something not German."

"How about a Guinness or something?" Doggett asked.

Byers nodded. "Sounds about right." He didn't usually drink much, and figured he would probably be a little tipsy by the time they got back to the hotel, but he didn't really think Doggett would mind. Maybe it would crack a few of his inhibitions and let him think about some of the things that were bothering him. Trust. Closets. Fear. Silence. Desire. Intimacy. He squeezed Doggett's hand, still in his lap.

Doggett squeezed back, warm and reassuring. He ordered a Guinness for Byers and another German lager for himself when the waiter hurried over.

Byers just hoped that if they had more to drink at dinner, he wouldn't end up with a hangover. He hated them with a blazing passion because they kept him from being clear-headed enough to work. He didn't want to even consider how they made the inside of his head and his stomach feel like they were filled with hot, whirling sand. Byers doubted that it would be an issue for Doggett, who was larger and rather bulkier. The athletic man could probably put away several more than he could without even noticing. He sipped slowly, letting the bitter richness of the thick, dark stout roll over his tongue.

"Thanks," Byers said. "This is better."

Doggett nodded. "No problem. What's on your mind? You got that far away look again."

"A lot of things, really," Byers said. He hadn't realized he was that obviously lost in thought. "I'm sorry."

"Why are you apologizing?"

Byers lowered his eyes. "I should be having fun. You went to all this effort and expense, and I'm sitting here brooding." He looked back up at Doggett.

Doggett's eyes were kind and understanding. He leaned closer to Byers. "I've been getting the impression since I met you that you're just that kinda guy, Johnny. I don't expect you to flick a switch and be all sunshine and light, you know. Are you enjoying yourself at all, or would you rather leave?"

"Oh, no, not at all. I'm actually quite enjoying the play, it just --"

"Makes you think," Doggett said, anticipating his words.

Byers nodded, his mouth still slightly open. He would have expected that from Frohike or Langly, but not from John Doggett. It was an odd feeling; almost too intimate. His body tilted closer under its own volition, and he barely noticed. He wasn't sure what to make of the feeling, whether to be happy or terrified. They were so close to each other now, their faces only inches away. Their eyes locked for just a moment and something deep and unspeakable flashed between them, setting his heart pounding. He saw Doggett's eyes widen for an instant, dark with desire, then Byers pulled away, knowing how close he'd come to kissing the man in public. He shoved down a wave of panic and took a deep breath, picking up his Guinness.

"Johnny," Doggett asked quietly, "are you gonna be okay?"

What the hell did he want from himself, Byers wondered. The whole weekend he'd been doing things he'd never even consider doing with or around anyone else. "I'm not sure," Byers said. "I think so."

What was it about Doggett that brought these things out of him? He'd thought at first that he understood what was happening, that it was just about sex and having someone to talk to and be with now and then; that Doggett would help him get away from the office sometimes and show him a few of the nicer things in life. Now it was confusing and a little frightening and he was having a hard time focusing on anything but the man holding his hand under the table. He sipped at the stout to cover his nervousness.

Doggett squeezed his hand again. "If you want to leave, just let me know. Now would be the time for it, before we get into the second act."

"No, no," Byers said. "I'll be fine. I want to stay. There's just been so much on my mind this weekend that I guess I'm having a hard time focusing." On anything but him, Byers thought. Doggett's strong hand in his, squeezing, gave him a center in the midst of his confusion.

Doggett nodded, looking doubtful. "Well, if you're sure..."

"Yeah, I'm sure. I'd like to see the rest of the play. It's really well done. It would be a shame to miss it just because I'm in a weird mood." He sipped at the stout again, then looked back at Doggett. What he really wanted was to be sitting with Doggett's arms around him, but he couldn't even ask for that under the circumstances. He hated having to hide it all, hated having to conceal and deny such an integral part of himself.

If he were sitting here with a woman, any woman -- even one in Doggett's position -- no one would notice such a thing. It would be commonplace, expected that a man and a woman out together might hold each other. And yes, this was New York, and 'nobody' would notice, 'nobody' would care, but there was so much at risk, not the least of which was Doggett's job and his security clearance. If the Bureau found out -- Federal policies might state that they couldn't discriminate due to sexual orientation, but Federal policy meant nothing if someone was looking for an excuse. He knew Kersh was gunning for Doggett's ass, having stuck him in the basement to begin with. If nothing else, Byers' own history would make him a very questionable person to be sleeping with an FBI agent, and who knew what the shadows would do if they found out.

The lights went down and the Kit Kat Band began playing. He tried to lose himself in the music, but the whole theme of the show only pushed his silence and what he tried to hide about himself into his face.

He wondered how Doggett could sit there so calmly, smiling and obviously enjoying the show. He envied the man's contentment in this environment, his easy willingness to take risks. Byers wondered why they were being so blatantly... together in public. This was nothing like going out for a beer with the guys, nothing like seeing a movie or going to dinner with them. It felt dangerous and forbidden.

Fraulein Schneider's 'What Would You Do?' ripped at his conscience. He did his best to expose the lies and the conspiracies that the government perpetrated, but what of the secrets he kept about himself? Was he really any less complicit than German Jews who denied their history and heritage, letting their people be dragged off to their deaths around them?

As the show continued, racing toward its inevitable prison camp conclusion, Byers wondered about the complicity of his own silence about his desires for men as well as women. Could he genuinely justify hiding like he did, when others were dying around him? Did being in the closet actually make him any safer from the powers behind the conspiracies, or would it simply make it easier for him to disappear during some covert pogrom? They were hard, disturbing questions.

He finished his Guinness, sitting silent as the audience applauded at the curtain calls. Dinner would be a welcome relief. He found he didn't really want to think any more, at least not right now. He'd managed to work himself into a fairly ugly depression, and wasn't sure if more alcohol would help or make things worse. Frohike had told him more than once that he was a maudlin drunk. It probably meant that alcohol with dinner would just make things worse. Coffee was probably his best bet at this point.


THE PLAYWRIGHT TAVERN & RESTAURANT
10:00 PM

Finally seated in the second floor dining room, Doggett sighed and looked over at Byers. His companion had gone from uneasy to broody to depressed during the play. He realized that Cabaret probably wasn't the greatest idea he'd ever had, but he couldn't exactly have predicted the day's events when he made plans for the weekend.

"Johnny, I think we really need to talk."

Byers looked up at him, fear and disappointment in his eyes, as though he were expecting to be whacked on the nose with a rolled up newspaper.

Doggett shook his head. "It ain't what you're thinking," he said, offering a hand to Byers over the table.

Byers looked around, skittish, then reached out tentatively and took the offered hand. "How do you know what I'm thinking?" he asked.

"You look like you're expecting the big kiss-off or something. That's not what I want to say at all, okay?"

Byers relaxed visibly. He nodded. "Okay, you're right. That was what I thought was coming. I'm sorry."

Doggett nodded. "You don't need to apologize. This isn't your fault. You've been having a rough day since we ran into Munch at the library, and a play about the rise of the Third Reich wasn't exactly the most restful thing we coulda seen tonight. We should have just skipped it. I really wish you'd said something at the intermission when I asked. I'm not a mind reader."

Byers blushed and cast his eyes to the table as the server appeared. "It wasn't really the play, Jack. It was just... well... everything."

Doggett ordered coffee for both of them, along with the seafood salad. It didn't look like Byers needed another beer. At this point, Doggett was worried that it would just make Byers more depressed, and that he'd end up having to carry him from the elevator to their room. The last thing he wanted was a depressed, drunk, passed out bed partner. There was time enough for Byers to sober up before they got back, and he hoped that dinner and trying to talk through it might dig Byers out of his funk.

Byers opened his mouth, but Doggett cut him off. "I don't wanna hear the words 'I'm sorry' from you again tonight, do you understand?"

Byers blinked, then nodded. "Yes, Sir," he said quietly.

"No," Doggett said. "It's not Sir right now, it's Jack. You're... we're friends, John, and you don't have anything to apologize for right now. You need to understand that before we can really talk."

Byers looked up at him, curious. "Are you sure?"

Doggett held Byers' hand tight. "Yeah, I'm sure. How is it your fault for having a bad day?"

"I... I guess it isn't," Byers said.

Doggett nodded. "That's better." He sipped his coffee. "You know that I got no way of knowing what happened to you unless you talk to me about it, but from what you've said, I know it was pretty bad. You don't strike me as a guy who talks too much about what he's feeling, especially when you don't feel safe. I don't blame you."

Byers tried to look away, but Doggett tugged on his hand and Byers looked back into his eyes.

He continued. "But sometimes you have to, or you disappear. I know, Johnny. I've been there. I nearly got killed in Lebanon, and it took me a long time to get through that. Same with after Luke died." He paused, watching Byers holding his breath. "It's just looking like it's time for you to talk about whatever it is that's bugging you so much. Maybe not right now, over dinner, but tonight. Just think about it until we get back to the hotel, okay?"

Byers nodded, then gently pulled his hand away. "I'll think about it," he said with a heavy sigh. "Maybe you're right. I can't say I feel very safe, but maybe it is time."

"Is there something that would make you feel good to talk about?" Doggett asked.

Byers looked thoughtful for several minutes, then a tiny smile stretched his lips. "Yes, actually, there is." At that, he launched into a lengthy, enthusiastic, and complicated discussion of the story he'd been working on for the last two weeks; something involving nanotechnology that Doggett couldn't follow half of.

After Doggett ordered dinner, he would interrupt Byers from time to time to ask questions, trying to understand what he was saying, and Byers would find other ways to explain things. Sometimes Doggett would ask Byers to go over a detail several times, and Byers would use different examples and analogies until he was able to grasp the complex concepts. By the time the rack of lamb had arrived, he was grateful for the silence while Byers ate, feeling like his brain had just run a marathon. Fortunately, the tactic had worked; Byers was much more cheerful now that he was focused on something he knew well and felt confident explaining. He also seemed almost entirely sobered up, probably from the combination of time and food.

Doggett found himself astonished at Byers' technical and theoretical knowledge, and his patience in explaining the intricate, difficult aspects of his subject. While he might have the academic alphabet soup after his name, Byers' intellect was clearly a steep step above most other people's.

"Where the hell do you learn all this stuff, Johnny?" Doggett asked. "You seem to know all kinds of shit. And this -- this just blows me away. You actually got me to understand most of it."

Byers smiled shyly. "Like I said, I read a lot. I know how to look for things, and where. I was blessed with a good memory too, so it doesn't all slip away after I read it. Most people forget about 80 percent of what they read within a week or so of having read it, from what I understand. I don't. I mean, I don't have quite the eidetic memory Mulder does, but I think it's close. He tends to remember in a little more detail than I do. And I'm good at connecting the dots. I see patterns in data and information really well."

"You'd be a brilliant intelligence analyst, you know."

Byers shook his head and bit his lower lip. "They're all working for Them, Jack. I could never do that."

Doggett sighed. "You may be right about that."

"I'm sure of it. I'm not saying all of them are aware of it, but we both know where the information goes." Byers' eyes were fierce.

"I've got a pretty damned good guess, at least," Doggett conceded. Byers' fire and passion were intensely magnetic. It was hard to think when he looked like that. Doggett could feel the pulse in his wrists, his heart was beating so hard. Damn, the man was distracting. Byers, like this, was enough to make Doggett forget everyone, everything else. Good looking, brilliant, articulate, passionate, and very sexy, it would be hard to ask for more. Of course, Byers was also moody, paranoid, twitchy, neurotic, and distant. Doggett sighed. One thing he could say for shallow guys; they were a lot simpler to deal with.

"How's dinner?" Doggett asked.

Byers looked up from his plate, finishing his bite before he said anything. "It's really delicious. Thank you. This was a great idea."

Doggett smiled, relieved. The lamb was rich and tender, melting off the bone. "Save a little room for dessert," he said.

Byers gave a little smile. "Dessert?"

"How does Bailey's cheesecake sound?"

"Mmmmm." Byers grinned.

"I thought so," Doggett said. "You look like you're feelin better. How are you?"

Byers nodded. "Yeah, talking about the story helped get my head out of it. I needed that."

"You gonna be okay to talk when we get back to the hotel, do you think?"

Byers looked a little worried. "I'm not sure." He shifted uneasily in his seat. "I'll try, but I can't really promise anything."

Doggett stroked his fingers over the back of Byers' hand. "There's no guarantees in life. Trying is good enough for this, okay? I don't want to drag you back into it, I just want to try to understand what's going on with you."

"I appreciate that," Byers said, quiet. He lifted another bite of lamb to his mouth and paused. "I just can't help wondering why you even want to go through the effort, though. I mean, you've said yourself you don't usually see men for very long." He put the bite in his mouth and ate.

Doggett nodded. He looked over at Byers. "I know. But it wasn't from lack of trying." He took a deep breath and let it out. "It's different. You're different. Don't ask me to explain that, because I don't think I can, but... I'm lousy at this, Johnny, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't want this to be over when we get back to DC. Hell if I know if anything's gonna come of it, and maybe it's not gonna last too long, but you're worth spending my time with. That's why I think you're worth the effort, okay?" He stuck a forkful of food in his mouth so he wouldn't have to say anything else.

"It was about closets," Byers said quietly.

"Huh?"

"At the play," Byers said. "I was thinking about closets, and complicity, and silence. About why I don't want to let anyone know this about me, why I've been so nervous when we're out in public together. I was thinking about how we're risking your job and how easy it would be for someone to use this... this time we're spending together against either of us."

Doggett nodded, understanding how easily the play could lead to thoughts like that. "Heavy stuff," he said. "You know the government has anti-discrimination policies about it."

"We both know those policies aren't worth the paper they're written on when somebody's looking for a reason to can you," Byers said.

Doggett nodded. "True enough."

Byers sighed. "And don't tell me you believe for an instant that the shadow government won't use anything they can get their hands on against either us if they're looking for a lever of some sort."

"I know," Doggett said. "That's why I keep a low profile at work. Clinton's whole military 'don't ask, don't tell' policy's cost more people their careers than when they were just beatin' up faggots because they felt like it."

"So does hiding even matter?" Byers asked. "Does it actually do anything to protect either of us, really?"

Doggett looked at him. He understood why Byers was feeling that way right now, but he also figured that there was a lot more to it than just this. "It's not like neither of us is doing anything to try to make the world a safer place. It's not like Berlin in the 30s. We're not sitting silent while people are being dragged away. You're trying to sound the horn, and I'm trying to enforce the laws that guarantee people their rights. In or out, we'd be doing the same things. Right now, I really just think it's easier for both of us to do our jobs if we don't let people know it's personal."

Byers' brow wrinkled. "I suppose that's true. But what would you do if somebody went to Kersh and suggested that you were being... indiscreet with a known felon." He looked away. "Like, say, me. Don't you think he'd try to use that against you?"

"At this point, I got no idea where Kersh stands, but he sure doesn't seem to be playing on a level field," Doggett said. "You're a damned good source though, and I doubt he'd be able to touch you. You and the guys provide some of the best tips that we get in our division. I don't think he's quite ready to toss my career down the shitter over something like that. If somebody did tell him, and he asked, I wouldn't deny it. Don't think I wouldn't document him askin' about it, either; if he tried to use that -- or you -- against me, I'd have his ass up before the Ombudsman on discrimination charges so fast he'd think I was Superman."

There was relief in Byers' eyes. "I guess I thought that since you weren't telling them, you might be vulnerable to blackmail."

Doggett chuckled. "I'm not tellin' 'em because it's none of their goddamned business who I sleep with. It's not so much my job I'm worried about, it's somebody trying to use you -- or anybody else I might be with --to get to me. But the straight agents have to worry about the same shit, you know. Hell, you've seen what Mulder and Scully went through. You've know 'em both a lot longer than I have. You were there for all of it."

Byers nodded. "That's true. I guess I hadn't looked at it that way."

"Because you're paranoid, Johnny. You think everybody's out to get you, and anything could be a valid reason." Doggett shook his head. "And yeah, in your case, there are people out to get you, but I really don't think this has anything to do with it. I don't think we've got any immediate worries about the FBI. Now, the conspirators, that's another story. Unfortunately, with them, no matter how deep you hide, if they want to find out something about you they will, so again, in or out doesn't really matter, does it?"

Byers sat there, looking rather uncomfortable with the whole thing, but there was no sign of his dark mood returning. Doggett was relieved. He hoped that Byers might be able to let it go, at least for a while.

"I guess I'm too used to hiding," Byers said.

"More than likely. What about when you were married?" Doggett asked, trying to put it in perspective for Byers. "You were doing this back then. What did you do about all this stuff? Did you hide the fact you were married or something?"

"No," Byers replied. "I just took what precautions I could and hoped for the best. The apartment had good security in it. I kept on top of our privacy as much as possible, and the guys and I covered our tracks as carefully as we could at work."

"Same as anybody else with common sense," Doggett said, "except you're way better at the security and personal privacy stuff than most people." He looked into Byers' eyes. "The work we do, both of us, we run the risk of getting hurt sometimes. That doesn't mean either of us is gonna quit."

"I guess I have a lot to think about," Byers said quietly.

"Finish your dinner," Doggett said, gesturing with his fork. "It's gonna get cold. And I still want dessert."

Byers smiled and tucked into his dinner again.


PARKER MERIDIEN HOTEL
ROOM 1246
NIGHT

"I mean, I know Langly and Skinner had to deal with some of this too," Doggett said as he closed the door behind them. "Have they been havin' any serious problems with it that you know of?"

Byers sighed. They were still talking about privacy and closets and risks, as they had been at dinner. Explaining Skinner's entanglements wasn't an easy task. "Not really," Byers said. "But I think Skinner's situation has been fundamentally different than yours, and he's higher up in the power structure. We suspect, but we're not sure, that he's got people in... powerful places that may be keeping an eye on him. There are some things he just never talks about, not even to Langly. I mean, Ringo's under the impression that Skinner doesn't talk at least partly to protect him. I think that may be true."

"He's had my back, Johnny. I trust Skinner." Doggett took his jacket off and tossed it over the back of the couch.

"So does Langly, at least most of the time," Byers said. "But that doesn't mean we don't keep an eye on him. He's been doing his best to distance himself from some of his more problematic contacts."

Doggett gave Byers a hard stare. "Just what kind of accusations are you making here?"

Byers shook his head as he headed for the bedroom. "I'm not, exactly. It's just... well, I don't think he would ever do anything to hurt Langly, ever. I know he's fought hard for Mulder and Scully over the years, and that sometimes it's been at the risk of his own life, but that's something you should discuss with Agent Scully, if she'll talk about it. But because of his position with the FBI, he's been in a very precarious situation on a number of occasions. We're fairly certain that at some point somebody in the conspiracy had their hooks into him. Mulder's seen the smoker coming out of Skinner's office. That man is seriously bad news. And I can tell you that Krycek used some of that nanotech I was talking to you about over dinner to kill him -- and bring him back."

"Krycek?"

"Our very own one-armed man." Byers shrugged out of his suit jacket and hung it up. "Alex Krycek, possibly also known as Valery Arntzen. We have no idea of his real name, his true agenda, or who he's working for. He's a wild card in all of this. He was a junior agent at the Bureau when Scully was missing for several months, and has been a serious and deadly thorn in Mulder's side ever since. Once in a while he actually does something helpful, but god only knows why. The information we've gotten from him has never been complete, but sometimes it's been enough to crack something open."

"Killed him and brought him back?"

"It's really complicated."

Doggett shook his head, looking doubtful. "It would have to be, wouldn't it?"

Byers looked over at Doggett and held his arms out to him. "Look, I'm not saying that Skinner is working at odds with us, just that he's been compromised in the past, and that he's still in constant danger. None of us knows who might try to pull his strings, or when. We keep an eye on him because we're trying to protect him, and he doesn't talk because he's trying to protect Ringo."

The anxiety in Doggett's face eased, and he went over and hugged Byers. "Skinner's one of the good guys," he said.

"I know," Byers said, leaning his head against Doggett's shoulder, arms around him. "All I'm saying is that there are a lot of issues that Ringo and Walter have to deal with that you and I don't, at least not directly. You're one of his agents, and he'll go to the wall for you if he can. But understand that there are forces working in his life that he can't talk about, and that may cause problems for you later. You need to be aware of this so that you can be prepared in case something happens. I don't want you getting blindsided."

"So this is what you were hinting at when you said I should listen to Skinner about the whole supersoldiers thing, right?" Doggett asked, running a hand through Byers' hair.

"Yes."

"Thanks for letting me know, then," Doggett said. He chuckled. "Skinner and Langly. I wonder what they look like when they fuck?"

Byers closed his eyes and blushed for all he was worth, trying not to picture Skinner with Langly. "I have no idea. I'm not sure I want to know." God, Langly... He took a deep breath.

"Skinner's pretty damned hot for a bald guy," Doggett said, smiling.

Byers shook his head. "Langly says he's... big." He turned in Doggett's arms and held his hands out, spread apart in an absurd indication of length.

Doggett raised an eyebrow. "Nobody's that big."

"Not according to Langly," Byers said. He chuckled.

"Johnny, you're weird." Doggett's voice was amused and affectionate.

Byers turned back into his Master's arms and pulled Doggett closer. Doggett tilted his chin up with one hand and kissed him. Byers melted against him, responding warmly. It had been a stressful day, and he was tired. More than anything, he really wanted the reassurance of physical contact. They breathed together, eyes closed, tongues slowly caressing. Doggett tasted of coffee and cheesecake, a comforting combination.

Doggett's strong hands caressed his shoulders and his upper back. It felt good, helping ease the lingering soreness from the previous night's activities, and his stress from the day. Byers sighed into their kiss. He regretted that this would be the last night they spent together here. He didn't know when they'd find another chance for more than a few hours stolen out of their complicated lives. Both of them were busy, and both ended up on the road more often than Byers liked.

Byers broke the kiss gently, moving his attention to Doggett's neck, while Doggett nibbled at his ear. The heat of his close breath sent a shudder down Byers' spine straight to his groin.

"You in the mood to play a little?" Doggett whispered.

Byers nodded, loosening Doggett's tie without taking his mouth from the soft, hot skin of his Master's throat. He moaned at the warmth of Doggett's hands roaming his body, loosening his own tie, tugging at the buttons on his shirt.

"Then stop undressing me," Doggett growled, low and rough, his hands still opening the buttons of Byers' silk shirt. "But you can keep doing that with your tongue." Doggett nipped at Byers' neck as Byers' tongue traced the inner edge of Doggett's ear.

"Mmmmmm..." Byers' hands fell away from Doggett's buttons and instead slid around the big man's back. He caressed the sapphire blue silk of Doggett's shirt, taking in the moving muscles of the strong body beneath. The combination of softness and rippling solidity stole his breath. He tilted his head back as Doggett's tongue slid, wet and demanding, from the hollow of his throat to the edge of beard at his chin and shivered.

Doggett bit down sharp but soft at the top of Byers' throat, a wide hot presence across his neck, and Byers melted. "Uhhhhhhhhh!" Everything in him was at attention now; cock, nipples, his wildly beating heart. He felt Doggett catch his weight as his knees buckled, powerful arms bringing them body to body in a tight, erotic embrace.

Doggett sucked for a moment there, growling as Byers panted, his hands fisted into Doggett's shirt as his legs came back under him. "Let go," Doggett snapped, and Byers did. Doggett quickly pulled the shirt from Byers' body, then shoved him roughly to the bed.

Byers could only moan in response, eyes closed, waiting for more. His shoes and socks were pulled off. Urgent hands at his belt, and his pants were stripped from him equally quickly, followed by his silk boxers, and he lay before his Master, naked and hard.

A moment later, Doggett rolled him onto his stomach and bound him with the leather wrist restraints. "Thank you, Sir," he whispered, tugging at them. He spread his legs for his Master.

Doggett's hand stroked his cheeks and a finger slipped along his crack from balls to spine, then vanished. "A very tempting sight, Johnny, but not what I want just yet." Doggett's voice was low and hot with desire. He rolled Byers onto his back again.

Byers opened his eyes, watching as Doggett kneeled next to him on the bed. His Master's eyes were dark, half closed and watching him as his breath caught. Doggett caressed Byers' chest and stomach with a palm, fingers following the curves of Byers' muscles and the hardness of his ribs. Byers sighed at his Master's sensual touch, arching up slightly as the hot palm crossed the peaks of his nipples. Doggett's fingers pinched and pulled, twisting, and Byers groaned deep in his chest, his eyes falling shut again.

The hand slipped away, replaced by the cold pinch of nipple clips, first on one sensitive nub, then the other. Byers cried out wordlessly, then gasped when Doggett sharply tugged the chain joining his nipples. His cock leaped at the sensation, steel hard with want, and he writhed on the bed.

"So beautiful, Johnny." He could hear the ache in Doggett's voice. "You're so hot like this."

"Mmmm... uh... more, Sir," Byers begged.

"Oh, don't worry, there's more."

A hot hand on his shaft, and he could feel Doggett binding him with the cock and ball harness again, fastening the leather loops tight around him. Byers bucked into it, unable to resist the intensity of the dense, throbbing near-pain that pushed him to ecstasy without letting him fall into orgasm. He cried out again, and Doggett's broad hands stilled his moving hips. It was good, so good.

"Oh, yeah." Doggett's low voice was almost a purr.

Doggett's hot mouth explored him, wet and soft, lips and tongue and nipping teeth, from his forehead to the bridges of his feet as Byers moaned and writhed. Torturously gentle hands slid along his skin, teasing his sides, his abdomen, the ticklishly sensitive insides of his thighs. He couldn't form words, not even coherent syllables, as Doggett drove him deep into his submissive space. It was bliss, giving himself to his Master's will and his powerful body. Byers was empty of everything but lust and desire, and the need to submit. In this space, even his immense physical and emotional vulnerability didn't frighten him; it only drove him deeper.

He felt Doggett's arms slide under him and lift him up, and he opened his eyes. He was barely conscious of being carried until he was set gently on his knees, his head and shoulders resting in a chair in the living room of their suite.

Doggett's hand rested for a moment between his shoulder blades. "Close your eyes, Johnny, and wait here for me."

Byers did as he was told, trembling with anticipation and need.

Some time later -- it could have been a minute or an hour, Byers didn't know -- he heard Doggett return. There was the crinkle of a foil packet, and a tearing sound; was Doggett putting a condom on? His Master's hands roamed his back and his ass, smooth fingers, blunt nails, broad palms caressing and scratching him. A tug on the chain dangling from his nipples shot pleasure through him with a shock, and he yelped. It left him gasping.

The first slap of his Master's hand stung his ass, and he shouted, "Ahh -- yes!" Byers was panting hard now, his entire body tingling from his Master's constant touch. His dick ached, it was so hard and bound so tightly, but that felt good too. He needed this, needed to carry it home with him for the god-knew-howlong it would be until he could have it again.

He could hear Doggett's rough breath behind him, coming hard and fast. "You want more, don't you, slut?"

"Yes, Sir. Please, Sir." Byers could hear the whine in his panting, shaky voice and didn't care. If it pleased his Master, if it brought more of the harsh pleasure, his dignity meant nothing.

The slaps fell harder and harder until Byers was sweating, his ass radiating heat, and then a new sensation; the soft leather strands of the flogger slid over his burning flesh. Doggett made their motion a soft caress, a tingle and a tickle and a decadent gentleness that was pure torment in Byers' deep, frantic arousal.

"Do you want it?" Doggett asked, his voice harsh and rumbling.

"Please, Sir," Byers groaned.

"Convince me," Doggett said.

With a sound that was half a sob, Byers begged. "Make me burn, Sir -- hit me. God, I'm so hard, please, I need it." He could hear Doggett's breathing grow deeper, more aroused. "I'm aching for it, Sir, please, hit me, let me feel your power in it --"

The leather strands fell, the sharp snap stinging across one cheek, then the other. Byers wanted to come so badly he could taste it. He felt Doggett's body close to his again, and his Master pulled at the chain on his nipples, applying a steady pressure as the flogger struck him again, then again. Byers shouted, gasping, then let out a long, low moan as the pull on his nipples continued.

"Yes," Doggett groaned, striking Byers again. "Let me hear you," he commanded. "Let me hear that sound."

Byers let the sound continue, falling from his lips with each breath, torn from his soul as the blows came, hard and delicious. He loved the feel of the leather falling on his ass, but the pain in his nipples was building, and he soon he was shaking from it.

"Yellow," he moaned.

He could feel Doggett pull the next blow, slashing by in the air next to him, and releasing the chain he held. "What do you need?" His Master's voice was in his ear, soft and concerned, a gentle hand on his back. "Are you all right, Johnny?"

Byers panted and nodded. "Clips... too much..."

Doggett's hands loosened the clips slowly, removing them with care. The returning circulation sent a bright shaft of pain into them and Byers shuddered and hissed, a tear of pain leaking from his eye. His Master's hot palms rested on his chest, covering and soothing the aching nubs.

"Is that better?" Doggett asked a moment later. His clothed body covered Byers, comforting; his hard rod pressed against the back of Byers' thigh.

Byers nodded, still panting, close to the edge. Feeling his Master like this only made him want more.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, Sir," Byers whispered. "Everything else... okay... that was just a little too much."

Doggett kissed him, licking the tear from his skin. "Good, Johnny," he whispered. "Always tell me. Do you want the flogger again?"

Byers nodded again. "Please, Sir, I'm so close. I need more. Make me come, please. I want to come for you."

He could feel the heat of Doggett's breath on his neck as his Master chuckled. "You will, Johnny, oh, you will. I'll give that to you in time." His Master took a breath. "You're so beautiful," he whispered, "what you give me is so beautiful." Doggett kissed his neck, then rose and caressed Byers' ass with his hand again.

A gentle slap with a hand, and then the flogger fell once more. Byers gritted his teeth and groaned loudly. "Ohhhhhh, please..."

Doggett brought the flogger down again and again, and Byers bucked into the air under him, crying out with need. The only thing keeping him from release was the tight harness binding his cock, separating his balls. He could feel it building in him, fever and intense pressure, his body glistening with sweat. He struggled with the restraints at his wrists, needing to move, his body unable to contain the raw, animal passion burning in him.

"Do you want the belt, Johnny?" Doggett's voice was straining, panting.

"Fuck me, Sir," Byers groaned, "please!" His ass was blazing, his cock pounding and about to burst, and he needed to be filled like he needed to breathe. Everything in him was focused, laser sharp, every nerve screaming for release.

Doggett quickly slicked Byers' opening, sliding a lubed finger in and out of him before he could react, then took his arms and lifted him to his feet. "Oh, yeah. God, you're so ready."

Byers felt himself pulled around, then down into Doggett's lap. His Master's hands spread Byers' legs over his own, laying him wide open, and pulled him back into Doggett's chest. It was like Friday, at the club, and his raw, burning ass felt his Master's shaft in the crack, hot and slick, the latex tight around his thickness.

"Yes," Byers gasped. "Please, Sir, I need you in me, fuck me, please..."

Doggett's hands lifted his ass, settling Byers over the blunt tip of his cock. "Remember Friday?" Doggett growled, "remember Sergio begging me to fuck you in front of him?"

Byers shouted and struggled to push himself down on his Master's thick rod. "Yes! Yes, Sir, please!" He could see Brentali, feel the man's hands on his skin, hear his voice begging Doggett to fuck Byers while he watched. It burned in him like a solar flare. God, he wanted it more than he'd ever wanted anything, wanted Doggett inside him.

"This is what I wanted to do to you," Doggett snapped, and shoved his well-slicked shaft into Byers to the root with one hard, fast stroke.

Byers howled as Doggett drove into him, his Master's hands loosening the harness on his cock and balls. He came with his Master thrusting into him deep and hard, fucking him mercilessly, still growling in his ear.

"This is what I wanted to show him," Doggett gasped, "what I wanted to give you. You're mine, Johnny, mine." Doggett's hips rocked into him, fierce, and Byers kept coming, gasping and crying with the intensity of his release. His Master's hands were everywhere on his body, moving fast and pressing into him hard with the force of his own orgasm.

Doggett shouted and spasmed under Byers, driving in harder, biting his shoulder and stroking Byers' throbbing, spurting cock. Byers' head thrashed, bumping against Doggett's shoulder as he lost all sense of himself. Only burning bliss was left.

Gasping and shuddering, they spiraled down from the heights. Their hearts were pounding staccato rhythms, eyes closed, mouths open as their motion slowed.

Doggett held Byers' body against him. He was dizzy, and Byers' tight, sweet ass was still squeezing him hard. His fist was still around Byers' shaft and their chests were heaving together. Byers was starting to go limp in his arms, moaning quietly. He'd probably have to carry him back to bed, once he thought his own legs would be steady enough to bear their weight.

It was obvious to him that if he ever had the chance, he'd have to get together with Brentali to play with Byers. His sub's reaction to the idea was intense, and it was easy fantasy fuel. His own reaction to the idea of taking Byers in front of Brentali was a strong one, and there was no real reason not to follow up on it at some point. He knew Brentali would be enthusiastic about it. Friday night had been more than enough evidence.

He looked down to Byers' shoulder, pleased that he hadn't drawn blood or left a serious bruise. With one trembling hand, he caressed the spot gently.

Finally able to breathe well enough to speak, he kissed Byers' ear softly. "How are you doing, Johnny?" he asked quietly.

Byers was still coming down from full-body shakes. "Unnh..." was all he managed, but it was a content sound. Doggett chuckled and squeezed him tight, still buried in his body.

Carefully, Doggett loosened his arms. Byers lay slumped against him, head lolling back on his shoulder. He slid his hands between them, separating the wrist restraints, and pulled Byers' hands in front of them. There was no need for the bondage now, and they would both be more comfortable this way while they rested. He unbuckled the harness and removed it from his sub's cock and balls completely, and for once, Byers didn't even whimper about it. Doggett had fastened it more tightly this time than he had before, after seeing how much Byers liked it.

With a gentle hand, Doggett caressed Byers' softening shaft.

"Sweet," Byers whispered.

Doggett grinned. "It lives."

Byers' head shook gently as he rested it on Doggett's shoulder. "No it doesn't," he muttered. "I think it shot its last load."

Doggett laughed quietly. "I hope not."

"For tonight, anyway," Byers said. He was still trying to catch his breath. "You're still in me," he whispered. "God, feels good."

"Mmm," Doggett replied, "not much longer though." His pants were going to be a mess. He'd have to have the suit cleaned when he got back to D.C., as there wasn't enough time for the hotel to have it done before they'd have to be up in the morning. They were booked on an early commuter flight so they'd be back in time for Doggett to be at the Hoover Building for work. They'd have to get to bed soon.

Doggett slid his hands under Byers. "Pick your ass up a little. I need to pull out of you."

Byers grumbled but did so, his legs shaky. Doggett grabbed the end of the condom and slipped out of him gently.

"Wish you didn't have to do that," Byers muttered.

Doggett kissed his cheek as he pulled the full condom off himself. "Me too, but it's done now. We need to go get cleaned up and get into bed."

Byers closed his eyes and groaned. "Do we have to?"

"What, go to bed?"

"No, get up right now."

Doggett grinned. "You're gonna be asleep in about three seconds if we don't, and you know it."

"Wanna sleep here." Byers pouted his lips.

"Oh, don't even try that shit on me, boy," Doggett said, laughing. He poked his hips up under Byers, jostling him. "Get your skinny ass outta my lap so I can get this messy suit off. You came all over the place."

Byers looked over at him and blushed. "I'm --"

"Don't even say it," Doggett said, a warning tone in his voice.

Byers looked sheepish and leaned forward with a groan. Doggett put a hand on his back to steady him. After a moment, Byers rose to his feet.

Doggett could see how red his sub's ass was. The stripes stole his breath. If he hadn't just come, they would have aroused him again. He ran a hand lightly along the smooth roundness of each cheek, then slid his arm around Byers' waist and pulled him close. He kissed the still-hot flesh gently.

Byers sighed. "That was so good," he said, quiet, a tiny shiver running through his muscles.

"You're so hot, Johnny," Doggett whispered, letting him go.

Byers turned to him. "So are you." A tiny, shy smile curved his lips.

Doggett's heart skipped a beat, and he smiled back with a contented sigh. God, what Byers did to him should be a federal felony. He rose, sliding his arm around Byers' waist, and they went to clean up.

~~end chapter 3 of 4~~


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