Healer *PG13* 1/5
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Situations not mine. Interpretation mine. Deal.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: To Existence.
CATEGORY: X Files, mythology, Jeremiah Smith POV, Krycek/Marita.
SUMMARY: Four factions. Three species. Two men. One woman. SUMMARY FOR CRYPTIC-PHOBIC: What if Jeremiah Smith eluded capture in DeadAlive? This story is a response to the Purity Virtual Season "What If?" challenge.
THANKS: To Rachel Anton, who hauled me out of a mid-fic crisis and assured me this was a story worth writing. I'm glad she did; I've enjoyed it.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Spooky 2001 Eligible. Recommended by IOHO (June 2001). Second runner-up, "What If?" challenge, Purity Virtual Summer Season, June 2001. This story was featured in the quarterly multi-fandom zine Worlds Away And Time, October 2001.
PROLOGUE: THIS IS NOT HAPPENING
The room is silent.
The far-off cries of the FBI woman recede. The panicked movements of my companions fade. As white light fills the room, I feel, within the fear, a kernel of wonder and longing. My kind...coming to take me home. And though that home is death for me, there is a small, primal part of me that reaches out.
The window splinters, and I don't hear it; but dimly, I feel shards of glass scatter across my feet. I turn, stupidly slow, and I see the hurried movements of an elbow pushing wafers of glass out of the way. It is a woman's elbow, and her pretty blouse is streaked with blood from all the glass. In another lifetime, I would have reached out to heal it. But now, I stand there, looking at her through a sluggish haze.
She clambers in the window. Her mouth is moving, but I can't see what she is saying. It moves too fast, and my mind is slow. She shoves her way through the forcefield, and for a moment, I wonder how that can be; but then I feel the life force emanating from her. She is with child, this one; dark twin to the one carried by the redhead. And because of what she carries, she has been allowed through. Equally, though, she does not share in my paralysis, because the part of her that is affected is not herself. She pulls me, imparting her volition, and I feel myself walking after her, walking free of the forcefield and scrambling out the window after her.
The cool air hits me abruptly, and suddenly, I feel my strength return. She's running, her hand splayed protectively over the life she carries, and I'm running too. I can still feel the immense warmth of the light behind me, and its white glow illuminates the wastelands ahead. Then, suddenly, it vanishes, and I find myself stumbling blindly in the dark, groping for the woman and she for me. Her slender hand slips neatly into mine as the merest sliver of light streaks across the sky, leaving me behind.
The woman slows. Her breaths come in heaving pants. I slow too, but then I hear a scream far behind me, the scream of someone's soul shattering in the night. I risk a look back, but of course all I can see is the house.
"Scully. Damn it. Mulder's dead." Her voice is not accusing; merely dismayed.
I feel an unwarranted flush of defensive anger. "They barged-" I stop, recognising that my unexpected saviour is not to blame; and I breathe out, forcing myself to seem neutral. "They barged in before I could help him."
"We'd hoped to get him out in time for you to finish what you began to do for him."
"That place is crawling with Feds. It's no small task." My eyes are adjusting to the dark now, and I release her hand.
She slows to a walk, and I do likewise. "Tell me about it." She nods to a rundown old truck a short way away. "There's our ride."
That was how I met Marita Krycek.
ONE: PURITY IN RETROSPECT
I surveyed the man at my side.
He stared intently at the wasteland, driving without a road to guide him, following some internal compass. Was that the gift he was left with? It certainly wasn't regeneration - he was missing an arm - but I sensed the faint trickle of my species, diluted through his own. Obviously, the child the woman carried was his; and that meant the woman must have the Purity strain too, but too weakly for me to sense it. How else could she have carried it this far without being consumed?
I turned to her, and I reached for her bloodied arm with an outstretched hand; but she surprised me, pushing me away. "Don't do that," she said curtly. "Conserve your strength."
"You were hurt helping me, Marita. It's the least I can do." I felt bewilderment, and, strangely, a sting that felt like rejection. No-one had ever refused to be healed before.
"Don't be ridiculous. They're minor. They'll heal in a day or two. They don't warrant the use of your strength."
The one-armed man spoke at last. "Listen to her, Jeremiah. Plain old sensible risk management."
"But she's pregnant," I protested.
"Not in her elbow, she isn't," he said dryly, and I waited for her to say something indignant, but instead, she laughed. The sound was vibrant, full and infectious, and the one-armed man and I laughed too.
"What happened with Mulder?" she asked finally.
"I tried to get him out, but the Feds got there before I could get him in the truck. Mulder's gone."
"Dammit!" she burst out. "He could have helped us."
So they were resistance fighters. Well, that much was pretty obvious, anyway; they were undermining the Colonists, just like me. But I didn't think they were with the Purists, either. That made them true resistance - human idealists. Considering neither of them were completely human themselves, that struck me as pretty funny...and intriguing. The woman might have been a test subject, I supposed; but the Purity concentration in the man suggested a time of full possession. I wondered how that had come about - and how he had lived to tell the tale.
"Where are we going?" I said finally.
"Trapper Park, just on the Idaho border. Middle of the Bitterroot Range."
Marita leaned forward, her expression eager. "Alex?"
"It came through on the scanners. Another Bellefleur abductee has turned up. Name of Felicia Derringbar. Usual story." He turned to me. "You still in the game, Jeremiah?"
The fire was warm.
There was a camp stove in the truck, but Marita wanted to stop and rest, and Alex and I wanted to stretch our legs. So we paced while she made a fire and a rudimentary meal for us all.
"She never liked cooking in New York," he said, watching her. His voice was fond. "We were always eating in overpriced restaurants. Now it seems like she does it all the time."
She didn't look up. "I like normalcy a lot more now that I don't have it," she said ruefully, a smile lighting across her features. "Besides. I have hormones now."
He snorted. "You're telling me."
"You want to eat dry bread, Alex?" She was smirking.
He held up his hand in mock surrender. "Far be it from me to criticise any hormone which yields a home-cooked meal."
By unspoken assent, Alex and I sat down, cross-legged like children, watching her. She knelt there, tending the fire, the lines of her elegant and smooth. She wasn't showing, but her hand went protectively to her belly every time she bent forward. She seemed to embody everything that I loved about humanity; everything that made me fiercely protective of these poor relations of ours. It was just another fragment of a moment in a lifetime, but like so many of them, it reinforced in me the value of my mission.
Alex intruded on my thoughts.
"What's your story, Jeremiah? Is that really your name?"
Reluctantly, I turned away from the woman to face him. "My given name is not pronounceable in your vocal range. Jeremiah is my adopted name - it will do."
"Why Jeremiah?" Marita asked, openly curious, her lips curling into a smile. It occurred to me that she smiled a lot - like someone who had only just recently learned how to do so. I was taken aback by the question - I didn't think anyone had asked me a simple, personal question since my days undercover at Social Security. I was certain I had never been asked by anyone who knew what I really was.
I smiled back. There was no way you could look at her and not. "The words of the prophet Jeremiah were my first exposure to human writings during my orientation."
She looked back down at the fire, poking at the wood with a stick. "How old were you?"
"Ten of our years. Eighteen of yours, give or take." At her frown, I explained, "Mars' orbit of the sun takes 686 of your days. Our years - the passage of seasons - are almost twice the length of yours."
Alex rested his chin on his hand. He looked intrigued. "Must have been one hell of an adjustment."
I'd thought the woman would pick up on that before the man, but I supposed an amputee, of all people, would know about adjustment. "It felt like time was speeding up for a while, yes."
"Why did you come here?" he wondered, pouring out hot tea from a thermos. "That's what I don't understand. Why did any of you ever want to come here?"
I am always slightly astounded by the inconsistencies of human insight. How can they be so developed and yet have so many gaps in their collective understanding? Forty of their over-fast years, and they still have the power to surprise me completely.
I took the mug he offered, and I answered his question with a question. "What do you have here that is in short supply on Mars?"
His brow creased. "God, that could be anything. Thanks, Marita," he added, taking two plates and passing me mine. "Water, nitrogen, oxygen..."
"Argon," Marita chimed in. "You name it, we've either got it, polluted it, or destroyed it."
I shrugged. Humans haven't cornered the market on that particular failing.
I turned to Alex, who by now I knew was a one-time Project henchman. "How many aliens have you met, Alex?"
He thought it over. "I don't know...a few dozen, I suppose." Maybe a bit more than a henchman, then.
"Ever met a female?"
Alex was silent for some seconds. "No," he admitted finally. "I haven't."
"Ninety percent of our females were killed in a civil war at the turn of your last century. We're a matriarchal society," I explained. "It is the responsibility of the ruling females to protect the males and the children."
"So the women fought - and they died," Marita said pensively. She began to eat, but her good humour had faded. Her expression was moody.
"That's right. Our population is dwindling - our gestational period is even longer than yours. Nearly two years. Even with the emphasis on repopulation, females bear only six to seven infants in their lifetimes. Meanwhile, they have larger communities to govern. The Colonists believe we must repopulate using other races. The Purists would rather repopulate naturally, even though that runs the risk of extinction. This is good," I added, nodding to Marita. She accepted the compliment with a gloomy nod.
"Damn good," Alex agreed with a winning smile, but it didn't have much effect on her demeanour. "You were a Colonist?"
Was I? I'm not certain, even now. "Of sorts," I said at last. "I don't think I thought very much about it, except that I wanted things to change." I still did - I didn't want our mothers to have to care for such large communities; I didn't want them to have to have so many babies. Our women were tired, and they were our queens, and they shouldn't have had to live like that. But - like this? "When you're young and you can't see the outcomes of your ideals, it's easy to be zealous. But now..." I trailed off.
"So you came here. To help make it happen." She looked vaguely disappointed.
"That was a long time ago, Marita," I said quietly. "Things change. You start to care for the ones you're sent to betray. Loyalties change."
At that, she glanced uncomfortably at Alex, nodded, and said no more.
Phobos is red.
So big and close, moving lazily across the sky like a craft, the light of the sun rebounding from her in golden rays, glittering as she spins idly by. So beautiful. So damn beautiful.
"Women! Bloody women."
I opened my eyes, staring up at the moon. So small and white and still. I tried to imagine Phobos in her place, but the image just wouldn't form.
"Men! Bloody men!"
Annoyed, I turned in the direction of indignant voices. Alex and Marita stood, equidistant from me and from each other, facing in opposite directions. Marita's arms were crossed, and she stared up at the moon. Alex's shoulders were hunched, and he was kicking stones mindlessly. Why the hell did I bother with these stupid, infantile creatures? Was it really worth it?
The air grew cold, bringing up goosebumps on my flesh. Shivering, I pulled my sleeping bag around me. I watched them, each of them braced against the cold, neither of them willing to take shelter from the cold with the other, neither able to do so alone. They were like children, piteously wounded and pathetically needy.
She looked at him over her shoulder, and then the tension in her shoulders eased. Her hands strayed to her belly. Gradually, I felt my irritation whittle away, replaced with bittersweet affection.
His feet stilled, and he pulled himself up purposefully. He turned and went back to her. "I'm sorry," he said softly. "I was an idiot."
Her head drooped a little, and she turned to face him. "Me too."
"Baby's paining me a little, that's all." She ran a hand down one side.
"That's not what I-"
"I know what you meant. I'm fine. Don't fuss, Alex."
He cupped her cheek with his hand, and leaned in to kiss her. It felt good, seeing them like that. When, gently, he began to touch her, I rolled over and closed my eyes once more.
Yes, it was worth it. Every moment of it.
I went to sleep.
COMING IN PART II: AN OBJECT LESSON IN FOUR FACTIONS (May 19)
NOTE: Geographic information about Mars, including air pressure, air composition, orbit, and its moons all obtained from http://seds.lpl.arizona.edu/nineplanets/nineplanets/nineplanets.html.