Healer *PG13* 3/5
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.
THREE: THREE SPECIES (DEADALIVE)
How I love the cold.
Forty years of exile on this hot, wet planet, and still I haven't completely adjusted. The heat radiates off my body; the dampness lingers on my flesh like slime. It no longer drives me mad as it did for the first decade; but still I long for the comfort of the cold.
The snow came a week after my first meeting with the Kryceks. I revelled in it, and although the climate was more of a challenge to them than to me, they seemed to enjoy it, too. We stopped sleeping outdoors, and I missed that; but otherwise things progressed as they should.
For four days after we healed Felicia Derringbar, there were no signs of recovered abductees. Nothing on the CB, nothing on the police scanners, nothing in the news. I suggested we might use the time for attending to personal matters, and both were agreeable. We drove south-west to Reno overnight; and on the fifth day, Alex and Marita were married. They both seemed a little lost, as though not quite sure how to deal with the reality of doing something for themselves; but they seemed happy, too. I wondered how long they had been dreaming of things they wanted to do together, all the while convinced they could not be done.
We eschewed the truck and the succession of cheap motels for a pair of luxury suites, and indulged at the finest restaurant we could find. It was a nice change from the rough living we'd been doing. They ate heartily and excused themselves early, and I retired early myself, pleased with the events of the day. Human marriage still mystifies me, but equally, it awes me, and fills me with hope. It felt good, after so long spent rambling from place to place and healing to healing, to do something other than merely survive - to bear witness to a commitment to something more. I felt an optimism that had been missing from my life for some time.
I was awakened by a series of pounding knocks at an unconscionably early hour in the morning. I stumbled to the connecting door and flung it open. Through my sluggish, half-awake haze, I beheld Alex standing there in his track pants, his chest gleaming with droplets of water, hair dishevelled, eyes wide with fear.
Those two words were like a bucket of cold water. Awake now, I pulled on my clothes and followed him into their suite. "What happened?"
"Nothing, as far as I know," he said grimly, picking up his prosthetic limb and strapping it on. I watched him, fascinated by the dexterity with which he accomplished the task. "I went to have a shower. She was sitting there eating breakfast," he said, nodding to the lounge. There was a room service tray with a half-eaten fruit platter on the coffee table, along with an open newspaper. I went and inspected it. "When I came out, she was gone."
He came over. "What is it?"
I pointed to the newspaper splayed out. "Washington Post. There's a piece on Mulder's funeral." At his look of blank incomprehension, I said, "Look at the picture."
He came and stood beside me, buttoning his shirt. "Where?"
I pointed. "Scully. She's got her hand on her side. Ligament pain." He looked down, then back up at me, eyes wide with horror, their colour tinged with dark remorse. "Marita knows what that means - she does it often enough herself."
Alex closed his eyes. "Oh, God. She knows Scully's expecting." He bowed his head; combed his fingers through his hair. It stood up comically. "Go on, Jeremiah - say it."
He sighed. "'I told you so.'"
I laughed then. I couldn't help it, but it was kindly meant. "I would never say that to you." And I wouldn't. Poor, weak humans, I reflected; mistake after mistake after mistake, and only rarely did they learn. It would have been annoying if not for their childlike humility after the fact.
He snorted ruefully. "You'd think it, though."
I laid my hand on his shoulder. "Let's just find her."
We found her three hours later.
I will gloss over the intervening time, if only because I am unsure how to interpret it; how to describe it. Alex was grimly focused, systematically looking over maps and landmarks. His behaviour, once the initial shock had passed, gave no hint of what he might be going through; no hint that this was his wife and his unborn child, all he had in the world. He might have been looking for a lost dog, or a wallet. I came as close as I would ever come to disliking him that day.
When we found her, though, all that changed, and my ill-feeling evaporated, leaving me ashamed. When we saw her, huddled on a park bench across the road from a baby store, all his defences melted away. He went to her and knelt in front of her, whispering to her in Russian, taking her hand in his; and she nodded, and allowed him to kiss her. I hung back a little, but even from a distance, I could see her cheeks were flushed and wet; her eyes were unnaturally bright.
At last, she pulled away, and she lifted her head to include me. I came closer, then sat down beside her. She started to speak, and faltered. She made a little hitching sound in her chest, then started again. "You knew," she said, her voice thick and husky. "Both of you knew."
I nodded. "Yes, Marita. We knew."
"Why didn't you tell me?" It was a whisper, raw and aching.
Alex swallowed visibly. "I didn't want you to worry." His voice was gentle.
She gave a thin laugh, but it came out as a sob. "You didn't want-" she shook her head in dismayed disbelief. She ran a slender hand over her face and sighed. "What else do you know?"
"Not much more than you," he admitted.
I said reluctantly, "We know that she's pregnant, and that her doctor has been experimenting with making women pregnant."
"Pregnant with what?" she said hesitantly.
Alex took her hand once more. "Greys. We think he's working for the Colonists. But we don't think that's what happened to her. She's had a difficult pregnancy, but none of the hallmarks of a Grey pregnancy. This is something different."
She thought on this. "Are they trying to hurt her?"
He shook his head. "If anything, they're trying to keep her safe - at least until she delivers." He went on reluctantly, "They're very interested in this baby of hers."
Marita's brow was lined with worry. "Skinner had his arm around her. It could be Skinner's, couldn't it?" She sounded hopeful, and I understood why. If Scully's baby were Skinner's, then it was probably different to her own.
"No. Not unless Skinner is immune." At her questioning look, I explained, "Immunes can only have children with other immunes."
"You mean they can't conceive with a non-immune?"
"No. They can conceive, but they can't carry to term. The father determines the baby's immunity. An immune mother and a vulnerable father make a vulnerable baby. And a vulnerable baby is consumed by the residual oil in the mother. Since Scully has carried successfully this far, both father and mother must be immune."
"Mulder," Alex said pensively.
"Could be. There aren't many immunes left. The Purists killed most of them along with the hybrids. I don't think they really cared either way about the immunes, but unfortunately, most of the vaccine facilities existed side-by-side with hybridisation ones. The immunes were collateral damage."
"So what does that mean for our baby - and Scully's?"
Alex bowed his head for a long moment. "Well, our baby, and hers, are both children of two immunes - two people who have each been infected. Why that's of interest to the Colonists, I don't really know. But I bet Jeremiah does." They both looked at me expectantly, and he said, "Well?"
I gave a low sigh. "I don't know - not for sure. But I can make a pretty good guess. There's a resistance double, or rather triple who can be trusted - a woman named Reyes. I can probably get more from her."
"Not Monica Reyes?"
"Yes. The FBI woman. She's working for the Colonists, but she's really resistance. Her brief is to protect Scully and her baby."
"Why don't I know her?" Alex demanded.
"Alex, there's a whole body of resistance that worked very hard to stay out of the field of vision of the strictly political interests. You know all the powerbrokers, but you've never even scratched the surface of the grass-roots revolution. Rebel clones like some of the Kurts, abductees, and just plain ordinary people who stumbled across something they weren't supposed to, and couldn't walk away."
That shocked him. "Wow."
Marita said thoughtfully, "I knew there were renegades, but I didn't realise they were so organised." She looked at me with a level gaze. "You said you could make some guesses, Jeremiah. So - guess."
I stared down at my hands. "The Colonists will want to know if an immune mother can bear an immune baby safely, because they feel an immune mother might also gestate one of our own species safely, as well. They don't necessarily want to hurt Scully or her baby, and as far as I know they wouldn't have any reason to take the baby; they only want to know if it can be done. The Kurts are still major players in the Colonist regime, so I'm guessing there will be a push to protect Scully, and Monica Reyes is part of that agenda."
"That's good news," Alex said, but he didn't sound reassured. He went on grimly, "What's the bad news?"
Reluctantly, I said, "The bad news is, these babies are hybrids. Naturally occurring hybrids, almost totally human with traces of Purity in their gene code. They'll still be human," I added hastily, "if anything, more human than human. But the Purists remain opposed to diluting the species. They will want to kill Scully's baby, and preferably Scully too; but they will want it born first so they can use its body in tests on a weapon against the Greys, who I think by now they must recognise as a threat."
Marita held herself very still. She demanded, "And the Greys?"
"The Greys will want to kill Scully's baby immediately because its oil immunity will make it a biothreat to their race. As far as they know, Scully is the only female immune, and she was supposed to be infertile, which is probably why they haven't worried about her. But now, they'll want her sterilised or killed."
"Are you saying they don't know about me?" Marita said urgently.
I shrugged. "I can't say for sure, but I really don't think so. I didn't, and I kept my ear very close to the ground in those days."
Alex spoke. "The Englishman tried very hard to hide you from me, and so did the Smoking Man. They were using your location as leverage." The muscles in his throat contracted. "In the process, maybe they inadvertently hid you from everyone else, too."
"But won't they sense it? Jeremiah did."
I shook my head. "No, I only sensed that you were pregnant. Neither you nor your baby's concentration is high enough for us to detect it. I put together your immune status from Alex's, and the fact that you hadn't died in early pregnancy."
"She can't have that baby," Alex murmured. For an instant, I thought he meant Marita; but he was holding Marita's gaze with his own, and I realised he meant Scully.
Marita was appalled. "Alex!" she burst out in reproach.
"If she doesn't carry to term, they'll assume it can't be done. But if she has that baby, and it lives, they'll see us and our baby and they'll work out that our baby is the same, just like Jeremiah did. You and this baby will be at just as much risk as her and hers." He traced the wedding band on her finger. "You're four months along, Marita. We only just got married. As long as Scully doesn't carry to term and you do, they'll think it isn't mine. And that means they won't know you're both immune."
Marita was very pale. "Alex - you're not going to kill her baby - are you?"
He looked at her steadily. His expression was haunted.
"Alex, promise me you won't kill that baby. Promise me you won't lay a hand on Scully."
He watched her for a long moment, frowning. At last, he said very deliberately, "I promise I won't lay a hand on Scully." He enunciated the words very properly, and I wasn't sure he planned to keep that promise in anything but its most precise form. If he could find a way of taking that baby from the redhead without touching her himself, he would do it - I was certain of it.
Marita didn't look convinced either, but she nodded. She got to her feet, bracing herself with one hand on the bench. "Come on," she said abruptly. She nodded to the shop opposite. "Let's go baby shopping."
Alex looked at her dubiously. "Is that meant to express hope, or invoke guilt?"
Her expression was fond, yet grave. "Both."
She turned away and walked on ahead, leaving us to consider.
I ignored him, pushing the warmth out of me, through my palms, urging it into Mulder's flesh. Touching him, I felt a violent ripple of distaste. He'd been dormant - effectively dead. His flesh was cold and clammy. I had seen many wounds in my life, and I would see many more; but this chilled white thing before more bothered me more than any of them.
"Look at him," Alex whispered with unconcealed awe. "Three months in the grave, and yet he lives. How can that be?"
"The oil," I said grimly. "That's what we didn't take into account."
"The fourth faction," he mused. Funny - those words had only been a throwaway line, but he used them often, like an invocation. He said finally, "How do they fit into all this?"
"I honestly don't know," I said absently, laying my hands on the dimpled scar tissue covering Mulder's cheeks. "But I have my suspicions."
"You gonna share them?" he demanded, stalking over to the door and peering out. "Still clear," he added as an afterthought.
"Well, think about it. You've got this oil, and it can either stay oil or mature into greys within its human hosts. Which is better?"
"They both seem like pretty crappy choices, really. Limited power to act versus the likelihood of being used as breeding stock." He said it with the resigned air of someone who knew about crappy choices.
"What if there were a third option?"
"What if they've found a way to somehow transform the human host into a permanent vessel? With the power of my species, their own near-indestructability, and the use of human faculties-"
Alex's eyes were wide with realisation. "There's nothing they couldn't do."
I looked up from Mulder's prone form, nodding grimly. "The one thing I don't think anyone counted on was the oil's own desire for evolution, for self-actualisation. After survival, it's the most primitive instinct. For millennia, it has been trapped - under the ground on earth; in the wastelands back home. But now-"
"Jesus." He looked down at the man before us, seemed to hesitate, then pulled a stiletto from his pocket. He toyed with it. "Are you saying Mulder is one of them?"
I shook my head hurriedly. "No. I don't sense the oil in him at any great strength. Just a faint trickle, like you." He nodded, and pocketed the stiletto once more. "But it's getting stronger. It's hard to explain, but there's a throb to it that isn't there in you. It's doing something - building something."
"Building itself." He ran his hand over his jaw, sighing. "Can you fix it?"
How the hell should I know? I felt a surge of irritation, but I quelled it. "I can bring Mulder back from his current state, but I don't know if I can give him what he needs to defeat the oil as well. I've never tried." I went on hesitantly, "Presumably this was happening to Theresa and Felicia and all the rest of them, as well, and I healed them; but they weren't this far gone. I just don't know, Alex."
"He already has immunity," he pointed out.
"That might be enough," I conceded. "It might not."
"I've got vaccine with me. Would that help?"
He fumbled in his pocket for a moment, then drew out a vial and a hypodermic needle. He gave a sardonic laugh. "Who knew, when I offered it to Skinner, that it would be of use? Shit, I just wanted to know where the bastard was." He drew up a dose from the vial and moved towards the inside of Mulder's elbow, then stopped short. It was already occupied. "Fucking IV," he muttered. He inspected the man's hands, checking for possible entry points between the fingers, but those were covered with an array of little sensors, taped thoughtfully into place. Alex looked at them doubtfully, then pulled up Mulder's sleeve instead. With a sound of satisfaction, he eased the tip of the needle into the ripples of Mulder's smallpox scar.
"Is placement important?" I asked with interest.
Alex shook his head. "Nah. Normally I'd hide it between the toes or in his scalp, but there are tubes everywhere. I don't want to touch anything I don't have to." He put the used needle neatly into the sharps bin, which inexplicably amused me. He shoved the half-used vial into his pocket. "Come on - let's go." He headed for the door, then stopped short. "God damn it, it just gets better and better. Here's Skinner."
"I'll play doctor," I said, but I wasn't confident of my chances of success.
Alex negated this. "No - he'll know everyone dealing with Mulder's case. Hide in the bathroom - I'll keep him away from you."
"You're going to talk with him?" I said with a ripple of irritation. Honestly, he could be like a schoolyard bully sometimes. I wondered idly whether there'd been some history between Skinner and Marita - I seemed to recall her mentioning that their paths had crossed. If I was right, that might explain a few things.
"Just going to fuck with his head a little, that's all." He laughed at my expression. "Don't worry about it, Jeremiah. I'm not going to hurt him, just scare him a little. Teach him not to hold out on me again. We don't need the delays."
I had my doubts, but I did as he said, going to the bathroom and pulling the door shut behind me. I shot him a baleful look over my shoulder on the way.
I couldn't hear anything for endless moments. I heard hushed voices, but couldn't make out what was said. That worried me. The door was a thin one - they had to be almost whispering for me not to hear. But why would Alex be whispering?
At last, the door was yanked open, and Alex bundled me out. "Come on - now. I go left, you go right. I'll meet you out the front in an hour." He led me to the door between Mulder's room and the corridor.
I made a sound of frustration. "Damn it - what the hell are you up to, Alex?"
"You don't wanna know," he said, peering out the window, left and right.
"No, I'm sure I don't. But what are you up to?"
"Just trust me, all right? We're on the same side, here - remember?"
I sighed, and nodded. "Yeah, all right. But Billy Miles-"
"There's no time! Just go, damn it!"
His urgency finally transmitted itself to me, and I did as he said.
"Sorry about that. I underestimated the strength of Doggett's involvement. He came after me for the stupid vaccine."
I peered out the car window at the misshapen front panels. "Hence the collateral damage." Privately, I wondered whether it was as simple as that, but I decided it didn't matter much. Whatever games Alex was playing on the side, I still had no doubt that he and I were fundamentally playing for the same team.
"Pity about Billy Miles," I said thoughtfully.
Alex made a noncommittal sound. "I spoke to Marita while I was waiting. She got into the hospital records. Whatever change was happening in him had already taken place by the time we got there. There's an entry about a seizure and a brief double-heartbeat." He breathed out in a rush. "We couldn't have prevented it - and we might have showed our hand. Worked out for the best."
"Que sera sera. At least we know to watch him - see exactly how they operate." That didn't seem to cheer him much, so I said brightly, "Hey - the car rental people are going to love you."
That aroused a ghost of a smile. "Not as much as Marita will. We took it on her credit card."
"It's not in her real name, surely?"
"Course not. But she'll object on principle." He laughed with genuine fondness. "Might be just as well. Make her feel part of it. She hates not pulling her weight, as she puts it."
"That's absurd. She's seven months pregnant."
He nodded. "Yes, it is. But she spent a lot of time being powerless. Doing her bit seems important to her."
"She hacked into the FBI to get Mulder's location - and the hospital records," I added as an afterthought. "She's not exactly sitting on her laurels."
He laughed. "I like you, Jeremiah." His expression darkened. "Dragging her into the field - that's not negotiable. Deskwork, fine. But not fieldwork." I wondered if he was conscious of his language, that he still used the vocabulary of his days with the FBI.
"I'm inclined to agree. If Scully's pregnancy is anything to go by, Marita could be at risk. Of course, Scully may just be predisposed to prenatal complications."
He shot me a curious look. "Have you been healing her, Jeremiah? Is there something I should know?"
I shook my head. "No, I haven't. I would, of course; but there hasn't been a need."
"Just as well - you'd have to fight her to be allowed to do it," he grinned. "You don't want to get rumbling with Marita, Jeremiah. She can kill a man more ways than I can." It was a threatening statement, but his voice wasn't predatory - if anything, it was benignly proud.
"Has she ever?" I said thoughtlessly, then instantly wished I hadn't. It didn't particularly matter at this point, and if she had, I didn't want to know.
"Not that I know of, though I imagine she might have to get out of that place."
I shot him a puzzled glance. "I thought you got her out."
He shook his head, looking at the road rather than me, even though we were stopped at traffic lights. "I eased her path," he corrected. "I killed a few guards. Left her an empty corridor. But I didn't do enough."
I looked at him curiously. "She thinks you did."
He did look at me then, but only shook his head with a bitter smile. "No, she *says* I did. Just like I say it's okay that she tried to sell me out to Mulder because it was the safest thing for her to do at the time." I didn't know exactly what that referred to, but I decided not to ask. "Doesn't make it okay," he went on grimly. "It just means we shut the door on the fallout."
I stared at him. "How can you just close the door on something like that so neatly?"
He shrugged. He said mildly, "I dunno. I just love her, man."
I thought it was the most mundanely poignant thing I'd heard anyone say in my life.
"I hate this."
I rested a companionable hand on Marita's shoulder, and as an afterthought, I drew her into the crook of my arm. "He won't be long, Marita. He's doing it for you - and your child."
"He's doing it because he doesn't know how to walk away," she said bitterly. I thought that was probably true.
Alex slammed the trunk of the four-wheel-drive, then came around the vehicle to meet us. "I'm set," he said gently.
Gently, she broke free of me and went to him. "You're not going to hurt Scully's baby, are you?" she whispered. "You promised."
He shook his head, and as much as I had felt it necessary to extract the same promise from him myself the night before, I believed him. "I'm going to protect that baby, Marita. And maybe when it's born, we'll have some answers, too." He kissed her then, fiercely tender, his hand resting over hers on her belly, and whispered to her in Russian. She held on tight to his jacket, holding him close, and nodded, letting go reluctantly when he pulled away.
At last, he turned to me, and shook my hand. "Look after her, Jeremiah."
I nodded. "See you in New York." It was a pathetically inadequate expression of what it meant to me that he entrusted her to me, but it would have to do.
We stepped back, and I drew her against me once more. We watched as he drove away.
"Do you believe him?" she ventured at last. "About Scully?"
"Yes," I said firmly. "The Purists know about her now - we know that from our surveillance of Knowle Rohrer. There's no gain in killing her or her baby. If he did it, they would wonder why. It could lead them straight to you." I didn't tell her about the promise I had extracted from him myself - she was worried enough already.
She nodded thoughtfully. "The Purists have Knowle and Crane, and the Colonists have Reyes. What about the Greys?"
I shrugged my shoulders. That was in the category of the unknowable. "We have to assume, from the actions of Billy Miles, that they know enough to be damn afraid of Agent Scully."
Marita nodded, pulling away from me and leading me back to the motel. "There's something disturbing about how Miles behaves," she said gravely. "Something automatonic. He doesn't seem to have the consciousness of the Purist replicants."
I followed her into our room. "The Greys, as we knew them, no longer exist," I said, sitting down on one of the beds. "By remaining in their larval state, they remain essentially primitive. Their replicants are drones, trained only to kill and to survive."
Marita started pulling clothes out of drawers and laid them out on her bed. "That makes sense. What about the Purists?"
"I don't know what the difference is there. Maybe they're using immature oil. That might allow the replicants to hold onto their own memories and intelligence."
Marita fetched her suitcase from behind the door and laid it out on the bed. She started to put her clothes into it. "Well, if he thinks he's going to a city full of alien drones without backup, he's got another think coming."
I made a sound of frustration when I realised what she meant to do. "Marita, no. Alex is right."
"Alex is protective. He's right to be, but that doesn't change one fundamental fact. Going into something like this without someone watching your back is suicide. We haven't come this far - achieved so much together - to split up now."
"So you'll rise or fall together." She nodded, and I countered fiercely, "I won't let you. I promised him."
"You promised you'd look after me," she argued, quietly implacable. "I'm going to DC, with or without you. You'll find it easier to keep your promise if you choose the former." Unbelievably, she smiled at me with great affection as she issued this ultimatum.
I didn't like it, but she didn't leave me much choice; so I went with her.
COMING IN PART IV: TWO MEN (EXISTENCE)