Title: "Weights"
Author: JiM
Date: 4/99
Rating: PG
Archive: X/, slashX, all others please ask.
Feedback addy: jimpage363@aol.com
Note: A birthday gift written to spec for Karen, a fun lady. Slight spoiler for "S.R. 819"
Summary: Sweaty men checking each other out in the gym.

* * *
by JiM, for Karen's Birthday
* * *

It's not hard, Skinner told himself. It's simple, really.

He set the weights on the bench press, finally back up to what he had been lifting a year ago, before Krycek and his deadly toy. Rebuilding his strength had been a jaw-crackingly slow process. Finally, he was beginning to feel like himself again, only to realize he had become someone he didn't recognize.

The repetitions soothed him, helped to clear his mind. Breathe out, flex and lift, hold, feel his muscles humming with life again, suck in air, let the weights slide home again, the stack gently kissing the base. Do it all again. And again. Again. Once more. Again.

It hasn't been so long that you don't remember what to do, he thought. The rules can't have changed that much. But it wasn't the rules that had changed.

He rolled to his feet and grabbed his towel, running it over his face and head. The clean scent of his own sweat was reassuring, like the heated feeling in his muscles. The back of his neck itched and he turned to meet the gaze that had been stalking him for weeks now. Mulder stared at him for one breath, then his gaze slid away as he flexed his legs and began his own reps. Mulder's stack of weights lifted smoothly and cleanly, his concentration almost a physical thing. It had been the intensity of that focus that first caught Skinner's attention when he had begun using the gym at work again.

It was late, eight o'clock on a Friday evening. Even the ass-kissers had gone home. Why was Mulder still here?

He had followed doctor's orders and stopped boxing, even though he knew his illness had had nothing to do with taking too many headshots. But the safe haven of a city gym where he was just another guy with fast hands and an iron jaw was gone, stolen from him. With a sense of bitter resignation, he had returned to working out in the Hoover's gym. It hadn't been as bad as he'
d thought; he'd growled at the couple of toadying agents who'd broken the unspoken rule of the gym and they'd backed off, leaving the ass-kissing for working hours. Now they mostly ignored him, other than sugared greetings or too-eager offers to spot. All except for Mulder. Mulder, who could never be like any other agent. Mulder, whose gaze prickled him like the sweat that crept down his body. Mulder, whose secret smile could contain all and nothing.

Secrets, he thought with disgust. They weight a man down.

Skinner moved to the rowing machines, needing something that would account for his sudden shortness of breath. He programmed a moderate workout, then tried to lose himself in the rhythms. Not long into it, he realized his mistake. The rowing machines were ranged along the mirrored wall. Mulder had moved to a Nautilus machine directly behind Skinner. Every time he took his eyes off the blinking lights of his machine, he met Mulder's steady gaze in the mirror. Every time Mulder curled his forearm up, his breath sighed out across that full lower lip.

After a time, Skinner realized that he was stroking in time to Mulder's outbreath. The thought startled him so much that he lost his rhythm and he slid to a stop, ignoring the machine's protesting beeps. He stalked over to stand in front of Mulder. The younger man paused, his arm still curled, breath already gone from his lips. He met Skinner's gaze steadily and simply waited.


Skinner reached out and gripped Mulder's fist, pulling it slowly down again, feeling the resistance of the weights pulling at both of them. Then Mulder was rising, letting the stack crash home. He stood there, so close that Skinner shivered from the touch of Mulder's breath on his heated skin. The younger man reached out slowly and took one end of the towel slung around Skinner's neck and ran it across his own brow. He buried his face in it and Skinner could hear him take a deep breath. Then he let go of the towel and stepped back.

"I'm done waiting." Mulder's quiet voice was even. "Are you?"

Skinner nodded once. He turned and headed for the locker room, knowing that Mulder was only a step behind him. His muscles hummed with life again, his head was light and clear. The rules hadn't changed and neither had he, really.

No more waiting.

* * *

Feedback always cherished at: JiMPage363@aol.com