He went off, and I collected the paddle from my dresser drawer and left it in the living room.
I helped clear the dining table but left the kitchen to Krycek while I continued cleaning and reorganizing the rest of the penthouse.
I moved slowly in the kitchen, cleaning dishes and putting them away. It gave me plenty of time to think, to remember, to analyze.
Compared to my first time with a woman -- hell, compared to every time with a woman -- my first time with Mulder was out of this world. Obviously I'd been scared at first; who wouldn't be? But the master had made it all okay. And then he made it beyond okay; he made it amazing. He took me to a place where reticence didn't exist, just heat and desire.
And when the fever cooled, the desire remained: a desire to touch, to arouse, to reciprocate as an equal would.
Only I didn't know how. Some things carried over -- paying attention to responses to see what was enjoyed best -- but this was so entirely new to me that I didn't even know what to try. The options were overwhelming, even, or perhaps especially, when the master iterated them.
I was glad when he put off my forays into more proactive territory. But that choice being, like all others, in his hands reminded of my place here. Kneeling and reciting the rules reinforced that awareness.
I wasn't an equal. Not a lover, no matter how much he made me enjoy it or made me respond. I was his pet.
I stopped cleaning the counter, suddenly nauseous.
A pet. A puppy rolling cheerfully on its back to beg for a belly rub.
I'd never behaved like such a slut before -- writhing in abandon, making noise to wake the dead. I reminded myself of Marita, who never hesitated to use sex as a tool or a weapon. If she hadn't been so blunt in her other criticisms, I'd worry that she also faked it.
She wasn't my idea of a positive role model.
Yet there I'd been, under Mulder, hollering my lungs out and thrashing about like a whore.
My shame didn't stop me from wanting to do it again.
I wiped off the counter and got out the materials for lunch.
More surprising that anything else was my reaction to his teeth digging into my skin. It drilled perfectly into the heart of me, and for an instant, it felt as if I was completely, wonderfully subsumed in him -- a chosen part of his sacred whole, desired and desirable. And the apparent connection directly to the rising heat of orgasm from the point where his teeth reshaped my flesh had broken loose my last barricade against my own wanton behavior.
That was the point where I'd shuddered free of my own resistance, completely helpless to stifle my exuberant vocalizations. I'd never been that overwhelmed before, and at that moment, I had been beyond caring.
It was now a stark contrast between the joy and ecstasy of lovemaking and the cold certainty that I wasn't -- wouldn't ever be -- Mulder's partner in any way.
Yet I craved him, craved his approval, craved his touch as I'd never wanted any woman. A voice inside me whispered a denial, but I didn't care whether it made me gay or not. I was no longer part of the world that cared about any of that. This penthouse was my new universe.
The voice protested, but I ignored it. Down that path lay too much risk, and I wouldn't even think about it.
Instead, I focused on the positive. I summoned to memory the master's sweet words of praise and -- if you tilt your head and squint -- love. Maybe I was just a pet, but I was his pet. His chosen one.
And he was my master.
Following Krycek's mood while I absently arranged books on shelves was like riding the swinging dragon boat at the carnival -- not quite as nauseating as a roller coaster, but certainly no Ferris Wheel. And some of it baffled me. I knew he had a soft spot for compliments. Most people did, though he was softer than most. But the intense self-deprecation seemed out of character from what I knew of him before, back when he'd been a green field agent and my partner. Had he hidden it that well, or had something changed? Or was it a reaction unique to sexual situations?
The last two seemed to fit the best. A great actor, Krycek had never been.
Krycek brought lunch to the table. I sat down. He returned with drinks and knelt gracefully at my side. I combed my fingers through the hair behind his ear.
In silence, I fed him a few bites, kissed his forehead, and gave him a plate so he could feed himself. I ate one-handed, letting the other rest easily on Krycek's shoulders.
Krycek finished before I did. He set his plate on the table and turned to rest his head on my thigh. I ruffled his hair and petted him until he sighed, content. I put my hand gently on his neck. Krycek stilled for just a moment before stretching his chin up to expose more to my hand. I found his pulse and enjoyed the way it beat strongly under my fingertips.
When I finished eating, I took the dishes into the spotless kitchen. Krycek had worked wonders.
"You do good work," I said, and I felt him glow with pride. I helped him tidy up, and then he started toward the living room. Quick-stepping behind him, I touched his arm and told him to stop. He obeyed, and I pressed myself against his back. I pulled him back against me and nuzzled the side of his neck. He sighed and leaned back, and though the movements were infinitesimal, I could sense him opening himself to me, waiting for my direction.
I caressed all I could easily reach of him until he squirmed back against me. I let him move that way for a moment then pressed him gently away. "We can finish cleaning today if we don't dally too much."
"Yes, Master," he breathed, still leaning backward until he had to straighten or else lose his balance.
He looked over the living room to decide the next place to start, and immediately spied the paddle on the coffee table. He blanched and sank to his knees.
"Did I do something wrong?"
"No, precious. It's something we're going to try later." I came up to him and leaned over to kiss him. "Don't fear. All I want are your honest reactions. Remember?"
"It will be okay."
He nodded again.
"Stand up, precious, and let's clean the house."