Her watch read 9:15. Special Agent Grace Pachelli breathed in a sharp sigh as she stood in the doorway, trying to gather her thoughts and feelings into a neatly organized stack. Awe on the top, followed by lust, anger, frustration, amusement and hope. It was rather like her laundry at home, she thought briefly, with awe being the official white blouses, lust being the slinky lingerie, anger and frustration the unmended skirt, and amusement and hope the Taz nightshirt.
She shook her head at these stupid, distracting thoughts. To return so soon to such an emotionally charged atmosphere as Skinner's office annoyed and frightened her; consequently she pressed her mouth into a thin line as she waited from him to raise his eyes from the folder in his hands. She suddenly caught sight of something just in the line of vision under the desk, and bit her lip.
The damn thing was still there!
"Pachelli." He finally looked up, and it was like a lifeline tossed to her.
"Sir. About last--" She muttered quickly, softly, coming forward and looking down. He interrupted her, ignoring the chagrined expression on her face
"--Here's your schedule for the next eight weeks."
"Sir?" Grace took the paper, glancing over the neatly typed sheet that Skinner had handed to her. What she saw wiped away the entire carefully prepared speech she'd planned to say to him. She ran a manicured nail down the itinerary and winced. Skinner leaned back in his leather chair. His expression remained his usual stone wall with no hint of the passion of nine hours ago.
"Do you have a problem with this, Pachelli?"
"Uh, well. It seems to be a full schedule of refresher work." Oh my God-- today alone: firearm range work with Mandale the maniac? Custody Procedures and Legal Documentation? Fingerprinting 101--again?
"Agents who work under me don't get suspended very often," Skinner seemed to bite off each word. "And this little remedial is why. Iexpect you to report daily to each assignment and instructor without fail."
"But this goes until eight o'clock each night!" she pointed out. " I do have other commitments, sir." And my damn underwear is still lying under your desk!
"Not for the next eight weeks." He gave her one final glance and returned to the work on his desk. Pachelli felt the flush of temper race up her cheeks.
Without a word she bent down, scooped up the silk thong under the desk, and flung it at him over her shoulder as she stormed out.
Without losing a beat, Skinner wadded the silk up in one hand and tucked it into his gun holster behind his weapon.
xx xx xx
The nerve of the man! He wants me to put in over three hundred and twenty hours for my transgression! All of it drudgework!" She fumed, hitting the cubicle wall with her hand.
"Bad fortune." Her partner, Damien Kanahoe commiserated as he packed up a carton on his desk. Absently Grace helped him load files as she continued to air her grievances. She looked up at her partner appraisingly.
Damien O'Onea Kanahoe stood six feet two inches in his socks, all two hundred and sixty pounds of him. From his Hawaiian mother he'd gotten the smiling good looks of a native islander, from his Samoan father, the strength and build of a trim sumo wrestler. Damien Kanahoe was a great sloe-eyed bear of a young man; an asset to the Bureau. Grace liked him. He was fun, considerate, patient and protective.
He was also gay.
Grace didn't mind. It was good to have Damien as a partner. He was like family, like one of her brothers, and even if they did both lust over Tom Cruise, it was all in the spirit of camaraderie. In the two years they'd been together, they'd moved up through the units fairly quickly.
"Well you know where I'm going for the duration, right?" Damien commented . Grace shook her head as agent Fox Mulder peered around the cubicle.
"Damien. You can leave most of your stuff here--we don't have a lot of room in the basement, and I think you'll take up most of it anyway."
Grace didn't miss the little lift in her partner's eyes; she gave him a warning look as Mulder disappeared down the hall. Damien shrugged and tried to look innocent.
"Fraternization is not a policy encouraged by the Bureau, Damien." She warned lightly.
"Shakespeare to you, Missy."
"You know, Pachelli, protesting too much and all?" Damien gave her a sharp look and Grace felt a blush pinken her. He suspected something was up--that was the problem with having a good partner. "Besides, it wouldn't be much of a fox hunt--he's got Scully with him now."
"Har dee har har. Well just take it easy on them , huh? See you in two months."
Damien hugged her, resting his chin on the top of her head in the long moment that they clung to each other. "Take care, Grace--and keep your cool."
For three weeks Grace lived, breathed, ate and spat back Bureau policies and standards. She attended the refresher courses, she put in her hours on the firing range, the labs and the gym religiously. At night she fell into bed cursing the AD, only to have him lurking in her dreams, turning them in to sensual battlegrounds.
If only became her litany of regret. If only. She wondered if it would have changed anything if they'd actually made love instead of hurrying to the hospital. But when the donor call had come in on her pager, she knew she had to respond.
Rebellion grew in her soul; every time she saw Skinner pausing in a doorway, or walking through the firing range she gritted her teeth. Checking up on her no doubt. It was galling to see the man enjoying her misery. He'd pop up at the most unexpected times and in the worst situations, study her intently for a long moment and disappear again. Grace never knew when to expect him, and her annoyance warred with her lightning flashes of lust. Even at a distance, even through her anger, he could still make her pulse race.
Then on the twentieth day of torture, a phone call. Vittorio's birthday.
little Graziella please come to
see the show at the
Yes, Tio. I'll be there. Sounds wonderful. Fuck you Skinner, I'm taking the night off.
xx xx xx
A beep broke in.
Grace looked from her calamari to her pager, and smiled apologetically at her tablemates. Her uncle shrugged understandingly, and motioned to her with a fork full of salad.
"Go, find out who it is, then tell them to go away. I don't turn seventy one every day, right?" The aristocratic old man grumbled.
"Right. This will only take a minute, Tio." Grace rose slowly, kissed the top of her uncle's head. Mario started to rise, but Grace shook her head at him, then sauntered to the hall, inwardly fuming.
It was the FBI switchboard number. Which meant it had to be him.
The door opened, and she looked up in annoyance.
"This one's occ--"
"You missed your interrogation and weight-lifting classes, agent Pachelli."
Skinner pushed his way into the phone booth and glared down at her. She looked up at him, stunned for a moment. The man was a monolith. His dark trenchcoat was streaked with rain, and there were wet smudges on his glasses.
He slid the door shut behind him with a definite click and turned back to her.
"Uh, yes I did. I take full responsibility for it. I can make it up Saturday or Sunday if need be." She shot back, gripping her purse a little tighter than she needed to. The booth was suddenly quite small, and Grace leaned back, the cold receiver of the payphone pressing into her spine. Skinner glowered at her, moving closer.
"This Friday you will report to the gym at 8:00 p.m. sharp. Do I make myself understood?"
"Yes sir." Her hand rose and plucked the glasses off of his face. He ignored her as she nervously wiped the lenses dry on her blouse and gently replaced them.
"Stop it. Cute won't get you out of this."
"I know, but they were wet, and I . . ." She trailed off helplessly, locked into his relentless gaze like a bird would be by a snake's. She bit her lower lip; the effect was electric, bringing back a flood of erotic memories for both of them. Skinner sighed harshly, and pulled back.
"Who is your dinner date?" He rumbled, placing his arms on the wall behind her, caging her with them.
"The man out there--who is he, Pachelli?"
She almost laughed--Skinner? Jealous?
Or was it? She straightened up, and grabbed his tie, tugging his face back down to hers, drinking in the sudden flare of lust in his dark eyes.
"Is this your interrogation style, sir? Mine's better."
With all deliberate slowness, she leaned forward, her tongue sliding past his unresisting lips to clash with his. In a fraction of a second, he responded, dropping his powerful arms around her shoulders as he opened his mouth to hers. They fell against the wall, knocking the phone off the hook as they devoured each other. Grace groaned; Skinner's powerful kiss had her quivering against him. The scents of misty rain and musk steamed up the booth. When they finally were forced to stop for breath, Grace glided her tongue up to his ear. Shakily she whispered, "He's none of your business."
In that moment, Skinner paused, then he narrowed his eyes and murmured softly, "You're full of shit, Pachelli." He forced her away to arm's length; his fingers squeezed her upper arms hard enough to leave red marks.
"I'm so glad to hear your high opinion of me, sir." Grace replied, her breathing ragged. She hung the phone back up with trembling hands and prepared to push past him out of the booth. He blocked the way with his arm. She lifted her chin defiantly.
"We'll see how much you can lift on Friday." he warned.
Grace gave him her best dangerous smile, deciding to throw caution to the wind. "I bet I can hold up a two hundred pound man with my stomach.
"Bull's-eye. Skinner pressed his lips together a little tighter.
He let her stalk back to the table as he straightened his tie. He caught a glimpse of himself in the polished surface of the payphone. Quickly he pulled out a handkerchief to wipe the traces of lipstick from his mouth.
xx xx xx
Damien's voice rambled on; Grace shifted the receiver from one ear to the other as she dressed.
"So then Mulder starts teasing her, ragging on about her buying the thing when she's always been on his case for his video collection. And there SHE is, insisting that it's not hers and that she'd never waste money on a copy of PLAYGIRL. It was funny to see they sniping like that."
"Did you 'fess up?"
"Yeah. Had to, since they were moving into a mutual freeze-out."
"What happened then?" Grace grinned as she pulled on her sweatpants and tied the drawstring.
"Scully just looked at me and burst out giggling--and I mean really laughing.
Mulder went kind of pale, but he started laughing too--after a while."
"I'm glad to hear it. But don't get too comfortable down in the basement, okay?"
"Don't worry Grace--I've seen their files, and believe me, it'll be nice to get back to bank robberies and bombings. Listen, I gotta go."
"Hey, enjoy the three day weekend, okay?" He hung up, leaving Grace's thoughts racing. A three day weekend. Eight o'clock on the Friday of a three day weekend meant that the gym was sure to be closed, locked up.
Fat chance. Not with Skinner in charge.
Grace sighed and picked up her gymbag, slinging it over one shoulder.
She got there early, and looked around. The huge main room was lit, but empty and quiet. Grace dropped her bag on the inside of the door and strode across the mats towards the weight racks and Nautilus machines. The gym smelled faintly of sweat and disinfectant. When she caught sight of herself in the mirror, she studied her reflection for a moment.
Her dark glossy hair was tied up in a loose topknot with soft tendrils wisping around the sides of her face. She wore a tight green sportsbra topped with a cropped tee-shirt that read ITALIAN : YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT? And of course, the tattered grey sweatpants rode low enough to reveal her navel and the delicate gold thread chain that loosely circled her tight abdomen.
She stuck out her tongue.
"When you're done making faces at yourself Pachelli, you can start warming up." She spun on her heel and looked at Skinner.
Oh my. He wore a tattered black cut-off tanktop with USMC stencilled in yellow across his huge chest and matching black sweatpants. Skinner's bare shoulders and arms were pale in the harsh light, but beautifully muscled. On one shoulder he carried a leather weightlifting belt. He crossed over to her, pulling on his fingerless padded gloves, wrapping the Velcro fasteners tightly around each thick wrist.
"I thought Dave Hantford oversaw the gym schedule." Grace found her voice.
"Agent Hantford is on his way to the Cape this weekend."
"Oh." Grace couldn't stop staring, especially at the way his curly chest hair narrowed to a V shape around his navel and continued to descend into his sweatpants. Skinner motioned with his chin to the center of the gym.
"Start with stretches. We'll move to crunches after that."
"Wait a minute--" sucking in a deep breath, Grace looked up at him and plunged ahead. "We've got to talk."
"This is a workout, Pachelli, not a counselling session." he replied testily. She refused to be put off by his bad temper, and placed her hands on her hips, planting herself in his path.
"We were doing great a month ago--headed for the bedroom as I recall, but ever since I had to back out, you've been riding my ass like it was the Matterhorn at Disneyland. I don't get it. I know you still want me, and I sure as hell want you. Why are you doing this?"
His jaw worked for a moment as he stared down at her. Finally, reluctantly he muttered, "Because you're a subordinate and I'm your immediate superior--Jesus, Grace, I was part of the committee that reviewed the fraternization policy two years ago. Can you imagine how it looks to them for one of their ADs to go panting after an agent?" A pause.
"You're bullshitting me--sir." she fired back. "The fraternization policy is a joke, and everyone understands that. It's unrealistic to believe that the normal, healthy consensual adults would EVER allow the Bureau to dictate their personal lives."
He refused to meet her eyes, and she shook her head in frustration.
"There's more to it." Skinner finally admitted. She looked up again, waiting for him to continue. The words came slowly, reluctantly.
"In my life, I've always gotten whatever I go after. I work hard at keeping things clear and uncomplicated. But you come into my jurisdiction and keep throwing challenges right in my face. You don't jump when I bark, you don't tow the line the way a good little agent is supposed to."
Stunned by the urgency in his low voice, she could only study his face.
Skinner gave a hard humorless laugh at his own expense.
"I drive you hard not just because it's what I'm supposed to do, but because it's what gets the response. "
They drifted close enough to each other to feel the heat rising between them;
Grace could see Skinner's pulse hammering at the hollow point of his throat.
Her lips were suddenly dry as all the wetness of her body headed south in one surge.
"Stop it. Cute won't get you out of it." she echoed back to him. Skinner stiffened at the direct challenge in her tone. Grace reached up and with a finger, flicked the edge of his cut-off tee shirt. "You said crunches. How many?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" his anger threatened to rise up again.
"Stomach crunches. The way I see it then, the only way we're going to make this thing work is to follow a few rules. So you better drive me a little harder, sir. " She licked her lips slowly. "I do one hundred crunches--and you lose the shirt." A light dawned in Skinner's eyes as he caught on. "One hundred and fifty."
"Hold my feet." she ordered over her shoulder. She walked to the center mat of the gym and dropped down, pulling off her sneakers. Once she'd discarded them, she lay back, laced her fingers behind her head and waited.
Skinner dropped his weight belt and followed her. When she was ready to start, he got on his knees, grabbed her bare feet and squeezed them in his gloved hands. Grace trembled and he gave a wolfish smile. His fingers pressed against the arches of her feet, stroking the sensitive undersides before bringing them down to the cold mat.
Grace took a breath and began. It took thirty before she found her rhythm, dropping into a slower, trance-like movement. She met Skinner's eyes each time she came up; the sight of him leaning over her knees sent a fresh surge of heat through her. She hit seventy with no pause. Skinner leaned harder on her feet.
"Pick up the pace, Pachelli."
She did, snapping up so hard that her hair whipped her face. Her breath came out in soft grunts, a trickle of sweat ran down her cheek. Grace passed the one hundred count, and smiled briefly. Skinner gave a grunt of acknowledgement. She continued.
By the time she'd finished, she flopped back, sucked in a deep breath and exhaled it noisily. Skinner crawled over her supine form on his hands and knees. He stared down into her red face.
"I've been had."
"Not yet--but soon." she softly promised, reaching up to pull off the tee- shirt. He shook his head. Instead, he rose and stood waiting to see if she was watching. Grace rolled on her side to face him, scrutinzing him from ankles to shoulders, a smile on her face.
"The shirt?" she reminded him politely. Skinner's mouth twitched. With one quick tug he had it off and in one hand. He tossed it at her face. She tore it away from her eyes and feasted on the sight of him : Tall and muscular with a perfectly gorgeous chest of dark hair. With the sweat pants and fingerless gloves, he looked like a Roman gladiator.
"Now--" she managed to ask.
"Now curls. You use the fifteen pounders. Fifty reps for each arm or I get that green top under the tee-shirt." he rumbled, heading over to the racks of weights on the far wall.
"Move it Pachelli, or I'll--" the unspoken threat hung lightly in the air. She slowly got up and followed him to the rack where he was selecting the weights. In the mirrored wall she could see her bright eyes, her flushed face. It wasn't the exercise making her look this way.
Wordlessly she took the dumbbells from him and stood facing the mirror.Skinner stood behind her, a hair's breadth from actually touching her and commanded, "Go."
These hurt. Grace grunted with the efforts of hoisting each dumbbell alternately up to each shoulder and bringing it down again in a controlled move. The feel of Skinner's hot breath on the top of her head didn't help either; all the fine little hairs on the back of her neck stood. By thirty reps she knew she was in trouble, at thirty-seven she gasped.
The dumbbell in her left hand dropped to the mat with a soft thunk; her entire arm was quivering with spasms. Grace didn't dare turn around, but concentrated on the right hand. The other dumbbell dropped from nerveless fingers at forty-three reps.
Twenty short. Penalty.
She waited. His hands slid up the middle of her back and under her shirt, unhooking the sports-bra. She watched in the mirror as Skinner slid the straps down and off of her arms without disturbing the tee-shirt. He tossed the bra away. A shiver ran through her.
The tee-shirt was short. Too short. Both of them could see the full roundness of the bottom halves of her breasts peeking out. And if she had to raise her hands for any reason--
Skinner brought one hand up and cupped a breast. The rough suede in the glove's palm made her skin tingle.
"Looks like we can skip the chest expansions and go right to chin ups."
For once she didn't have a comeback, and the pink color raced down her face to her throat. Almost meekly she followed him to the chin up bar which jutted out from the wall three feet above her head. He motioned for her to face him instead of the wall.
"I'll--" God she hated to admit it, "I'll need you to boost me."
He grabbed her hips, fingers digging in. Grace reached up as he lifted her, and her shirt rose as well, leaving her with little dignity.
Skinner chuckled deep in his throat, a predator's sound. She gripped the bar angrily.
"Count?" she snapped, trying to ignore the fact that her bare chest was now on display for him. She could feel her nipples rucking up and tried to pretend it was the air conditioning.
"I'd be impressed if you could manage twenty."
"Thirty-five and I walk away with your sweats, SIR."
"Thirty-six and and I'll let you can take 'em off yourself."
"Arrgggh!" Grace growled as she started to haul herself up the bar. Her actions were smooth and steady for the first twenty two chin ups. From below, Skinner watched, his hands resting on his hips. Then Grace made the mistake of peeking over the bar at him, and nearly slipped. His expression looked hungry.
"Falling to get out of the workout is not acceptable." he warned. Grace cursed quietly, but steadied herself. She began to slow down as a new crisis loomed.
The slipknot on her sweatpants drawstring began to work loose. she could feel gravity teasing at her, making each chin-up a test of Newton's law. The pants began to inch down. Thirty one. She tried flexing her stomach to keep them up. Thirty three, and gravity won. The pants slid down her legs and off her feet to the mat below.
Skinner bit back a small sigh, and Grace remembered what she was wearing.
Oh yeah--the sale at Victoria's Secret and the pink lace thong.
Dammit, three more! Pulling, Grace hauled herself up on shaky arms, and clenched her teeth as she finally finished. Thirty six. She let go of the bar and dropped--
Right into Skinner's arms. Her legs wrapped around him, her hands locked behind his back. The contact of his chest to hers was more than she could stand, and with soft whimpers she buried her mouth at his neck. One of his gloved hands gripped her hair, pulling her head back. She refused to cooperate and continued to lunge forward for his throat. Skinner pulled harder. Her head went back, her eyes met his. Her feet slid down until she was standing.
"Goddamnit, you're a handful at times." he hissed unsteadily.
"NOW, or I claw your eyes out--sir." She hissed back, her hair falling out of the topknot. "Dio mio, I won, didn't I?'" She slid her hands to the back of his neck and pulled his open mouth down to hers. Skinner returned the kiss, his tongue driving deep to duel with hers. She whimpered into his mouth, and the sound electrified him, he staggered forward with Grace trapped in his arms until they slammed into the mirrored wall under the chin-up bar.
She tugged his sweatpants down as she kissed him, they dropped to his ankles . Grace broke away from him for a moment and took a breath. His cock was magnificent, surging towards her like the prow of a ship. Her hand caught it, caressed it. Skinner inhaled in a groan as he caught sight of them in the mirrored wall : Grace, dark hair atumble, clad only in a tattered tee-shirt and a pink lace thong, the gold chain at her hips glittering in the light, and himself naked, sweats around his ankles, muscles flexed, gloved hands braced on the wall.
Grace dropped to her knees and took him into her lips. The heat of her mouth nearly made Skinner's knees buckle. He bit the inside of his lips to keep himself from groaning. Grace lapped the head of his cock gently, then looked up at him. Her eyes flared.
"Only a little, this time. I want you in me too much--"
He nodded tightly. Her mouth slid down the length of his shaft and he braced against the wall. Waves of hot pleasure rolled over him; unnoticed, blood trickled out of the corner of his mouth. He could feel the maddening bumps of her lip-covered teeth caressing his cock, her tongue stroking and caressing him. After a few minutes, he reached down and tugged on her hair with one hand as he pulled off and tossed away his glasses with the other.
Instantly she rose up, her hands sliding though the thick fur on his chest. Skinner roughly grabbed her ass and without hesitating, lifted her up, pushing her against the wall. The cold glass made Grace arch her back, and he dropped a hot hungry mouth to her breasts. The stubble on his chin scraped her.
She was whimpering, cursing, praying in Italian, and the sound of it carried in the gym. Skinner supported her ass with one hand and tore away the thong with the other. Grace reached down to guide him into the dark curly wetness between her thighs.
Oh, there. There. She closed her eyes and hung onto his shoulders and he thrust into her, bouncing her lower back against the mirror, leaving moist marks in a woven pattern on the surface. She opened her eyes and her mouth formed a perfect O as a low howl rose up from her depths. She shuddered, her nails clawing his shoulders. Within a minute he pressed his mouth to hers, sucking hard on her tongue as he exploded within her. Grace yelped as his fingers pinched her ass.
Exhausted, they slid to the mat in a tangle. Grace let her head fall to his chest, listening to the frantic pace of his heart slow down to normal. One of his hands groped away to the left; she realized he was searching for his glasses. She sat up, only to be pinched again by the other hand.
"Some agents never learn, do they?" The hand softly stroked the plump cheek.
"What are you talking about--sir?"
"Looks like you'll be going back to self-defence classes, Pachelli." Skinner's voice was smug, self-satisfied. Grace snorted and rubbed her tender bottom.
xx xx xx
"So what do you mean you've got extended refresher work?" Her partner's voice sounded indignant on the phone.
"Damian, it's just the self-defence course in the evenings."
"Oh. You know, I think Mulder wanted to take that one again--did you know Scully shot him once? Man, that's a strange partnership."
"Maybe she had a good reason." Grace pointed out.
"For shooting a gorgeous man like that? Now if he was MY partner, I'd . . . " Damian rambled on, oblivious of the fact that Grace was no longer on the line.
A strong hand had reached for her, pulling her back to bed.