NML Enigma cover art by Deslea

Not My Lover: Enigma *NC17* 1/?
Formerly Love Will Keep Me Alive

Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2000

DISCLAIMER: Situations not mine. Interpretation mine. Deal.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Season 1-2; mytharc spoilers to Closure. This instalment is Alex's version of the events of Erlenmeyer Flask to Ascension.
CATEGORY: angst, mytharc, romance - Krycek/Marita (explicit), Marita/Other (historical), Mulder/Krycek (a little).
RATING: NC17 for sexual situations and language.
SUMMARY: Prequel to Not My Lover. The death of Marita's protector and a startling discovery about her past leads her to the brink of darkness in her search for the truth. But can she let in the one man who would stand at her side? Alex and Marita's account of Seasons 1 and 2.
NOTE: This story can be read without reading Not My Lover, but if you haven't done so, it will be helpful for you to know that the dark man is X, Maxwell Donovan is the Well Manicured Man, and Diana Donovan is Diana Fowley.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. deslea@deslea.com
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Finalist, 2001 Spooky Awards (Outstanding Unfinished Work, Outstanding Krycek Characterisation, Outstanding Marita Characterisation, Outstanding Krycek/Marita Romance).


She was afraid of touch.

Afraid to touch, afraid to be touched - it was the same thing. So desperately craving that which she feared. And so alone.

So painfully alone.

It is difficult to think of Marita as she was back then. Even now, when she is beautiful and strong, it hurts to think of her as she was, manipulated and deceived by people who believed in control as a form of love - people who intended her safety, yet held her captive, body and soul. She was an enigma, a child-woman thrust into adulthood before she was ready, yet kept childlike and dependent by those who sought to guide her.

Larissa, Michael, the dark man - all of them had a hand in her paralysing fear of touch. They saw her unguarded beauty, her passionate love for others; and they sought, misguidedly, to suppress it. Rather than teaching her to fear that which was dangerous in others, they taught her to fear the humanity in herself. They were right, in a way; but they were also terribly, terribly wrong.

I can't quite bring myself to hate them, though.

After all, they loved her too.

No story has a single beginning. Mine began in 1967, when Larissa Covarrubias stumbled across a Soviet operation to defeat the Black Cancer. It began in 1971, when she offered her information to the Americans in exchange for power and asylum; when she crawled over the Soviet-Turkish border, Marita on her back. It began in 1984, when my father went into local politics, kick-starting the chain of events that would lead me to the FBI. It began in 1993, when my mother's medical insurance ran dry, and I accepted a standing offer I had long refused. It began even earlier, with Roswell, or Tunguska; and later, with Mulder.

But I will begin with none of those beginnings. I will begin where it all began for me - the moment my life became entwined with hers. That was my beginning.

She was my beginning.

And, God willing, she will be there at my end.


I spoke casually, conversationally, knowing perfectly well that she was. That was why I was here, after all: to find those who might have been sympathetic to the cause of the one who had died; to shed light on the affair which had led to my newest assignment. She was family; but distant enough that she might not be stricken with grief, might not resent my intrusion.

The woman looked up, brushing aside a curtain of brown hair. "Yes," she said mildly, rising awkwardly, one hand clutching the side of her chair, the other at her swollen belly. "He was my husband's uncle."

"I'm sorry." I spoke the words in their conventional tones - mildly somber, yet perfunctory - but I genuinely meant them. Michael Harrington, from all accounts, was a decent man, at least as Consortium men go; and he died protecting another. Not a bad epitaph.

"Thank you, but I didn't really know him. We live overseas." She held out a hand. "Diana Donovan."

It struck me that it was faintly ridiculous to shake hands at a wake. I took it and gave it a slight squeeze, which seemed marginally less idiotic. "Alex Krycek."

Diana nodded by way of belated greeting, letting go. I nodded to the seat, that she should sit again, and she did so with a grateful look. "Did you know Michael, Alex?" she asked, settling back, her hand resting back on her stomach. I guessed she was due any time.

"No," I admitted, a little apologetically. "I'm playing driver to Spender."

Her head jolted up, and her expression darkened. Her eyes flashing, she said in a low voice, "That man has no business being here. He did this. It's insulting."

Privately, I agreed; but I made a noncommittal sound. "Michael stole the EBE. He offered it for ransom for Mulder. I'm sure he had his reasons," I added with a sympathetic undertone - one that was deliberate, but genuine enough - "but the fact remains, he betrayed the group."

Diana watched me coolly, thoughtfulness etched into the lines of her face. I'd expected that - I'd revealed myself as someone who could be persuaded to her point of view. She was pondering whether I could be used, or whether I was worth using. "He betrayed a faction of the group," she corrected, at last. "That's not the same thing."

"You're loyal for someone who didn't know him," I challenged; but my voice was mild. The connection had been made. We were going through the motions now. Anything else would be a bonus, nothing more.

"I was married to the man he saved," she said evenly.

"You were married to Mulder?" I demanded, instantly on the alert. I knew Mulder had been married, but not that his ex-wife had remarried into the group. That changed things, but I wasn't sure how.

"Briefly. Why?"

"I've just been assigned to partner him at the FBI," I revealed. I wasn't sure if Spender wanted that to be general knowledge, but now that my intention to network was out in the open, my position needed clarifying.

"Does the FBI know that?" she said, dryly.

I grinned a little. "They will by this time tomorrow."

She was nodding. "Fox got too close this time. They want you to keep him under control." She said mirthlessly, "You must have impressed someone in Spender's camp."

"Or really pissed someone off," I retorted grimly.

She laughed at that. "So which camp are you, Alex Krycek?"

I shrugged a little. "I haven't decided. Which camp are you?"

"My own," she said, smiling a deliciously intriguing smile. She was a beautiful woman, though not really to my taste - I liked them softer than that - and I liked that she preferred an air of mystery to outright deception. Mysterious people, when they do consent to speak, usually speak the truth.

"Don't be cryptic," I reproved mildly.

She watched me, frowning a little with indecision. Finally, she said conversationally, "Michael was the one who led Fox to the X Files to begin with. Do some digging - find out why. Make up your own mind." She half-turned from me, looking into the distance, signaling the end of her willingness to discuss the matter.

"All right." I nodded my thanks, something she saw from the corner of her eye but chose not to acknowledge. I turned a little to follow her gaze. She was looking at a huddled group of mourners - not people going through the motions, but the genuinely bereaved.

There were five of them. Behind the chaise like a sentry stood a man in his thirties, tall and black. I recognised him as Spender's newly-employed right hand man - the one they called the dark man - and it suddenly occurred to me that he must have been Michael's right hand before that. Perched precariously on the arm of the chaise was a woman in her forties or fifties, her silvery-blonde hair pulled back in a severe knot. Could that one have been Michael's wife, I wondered? She fit the picture, but somehow I didn't think so. She was drawn and haggard, obviously grieving; but something was missing - something I had seen in my mother after my father's death. Some shock, some bewilderment about just how she might go on. Her grief was not that of a spouse, I was sure of it. But who she was and how she might fit into the picture, I couldn't have said.

On the chaise itself sat two men, clearly father and son, both fair, one old and one young. The younger one, I thought, was probably Diana's husband, Michael's nephew. That made the elder Michael's brother, although I guessed he was a good fifteen years older than Michael had been. They flanked a shell-shocked teenager, attentive to her, yet reserved and dignified. They had to be British, I decided.

My attention was drawn to the girl. She was clearly the center of the group - the one closest to Michael. She had the position usually assigned to the wife, but that was surely impossible. She was dressed in black from head to toe. Even her jewellery was black - onyx, I guessed, or maybe polished iron ore. The only thing disturbing her picture-perfect portrait of bereavement was a mass of blonde hair, almost to the waist. It drifted in waves over her shoulders, marring her stark attire.

"Is that the family?" I said conversationally.

"Yeah. Michael's half-brother, Maxwell Donovan - my father-in-law. He's a voting member of the group." Different surnames - they shared a mother, then. That sort of detail probably didn't matter, but mentally filing the information came as naturally as breathing. "The younger one is my husband, Edward."

"Who's the girl? Michael's daughter?"

"Marita Covarrubias." Her tone was affectionate. "His fiancee."

I stared at her in disbelief. "His fiancee? She's what, seventeen?"

"Twenty-three. Her mother is Larissa Covarrubias."

"The Soviet defector?" I queried. That must be the older woman with the silver-blonde hair. I could see the resemblance.

"That's right."

I thought on this. "Arranged marriage?"

Diana shrugged. "I guess so. We were at college together, and they got engaged pretty much as soon as she came home." She said reflectively, "I think he was good to her, though. She's pretty lost."

"Poor kid," I said pityingly.


A voice intruded - a voice I already despised. It was Spender, his voice smooth and autocratic; and yet, as always, with a smug undertone. "Alex."

I turned. "Yes, Sir."

"I'm ready to leave now."

"Certainly," I said briskly. "My condolences again, Mrs Donovan," I said to Diana with bland insincerity.

"Thank you, Mr Krycek," she said indifferently, taking my cue. "Spender," she said coldly.

"Diana," he nodded. "Come, Alex." My gaze drifted to the blonde fiancee once more.

"Yes, Sir."

The packet arrived five days later.

It was three years before Diana finally admitted to sending it, but I was certain of its origins the moment it arrived. I was not so naive as to think that she trusted me at this stage, but clearly my visit to the funeral had paid off: she had thrown a little information my way in hopes of bringing me over to her side - whatever that was.

The packet contained an unlabelled pass card and a slip of paper printed with a Maryland address. Frowning, I slipped them into my pocket. I skipped out of the Hoover a couple of hours early and drove to Westminster, finding the address easily on a private road. I parked my car among many others, suddenly conscious of its shabbiness, and got out. I followed the pathway, sandstone pebbles crunching agreeably under my feet, immaculately green lawn at either side of me. I came around a neatly manicured hedge, and a house came into view. I came to a sudden halt, staring up at it in disbelief.

Here's an X File, Mulder. How did I get deposited into the middle of the English countryside?

The house - and I use the term loosely - was an old sandstone mansion. Its architecture reminded me vaguely of pictures I'd seen of seventeenth-century English churches. The grounds were immaculately kept; the drapes were heavy burgundy velvet. Feeling slightly surreal, I walked up the steps, crossed the expansive courtyard, and came to a heavy oak door adorned with a gold plaque, marked with the legend, 'Members' Entrance/Guests Use Next Door'. The door had a card swipe, and I took a punt, using the card I'd been sent to gain access.

I drew my weapon and went inside cautiously, uncertain of what I'd find or who would challenge me; but no-one did. People came and went easily, paying me no heed. I walked from room to room, absorbed each room's atmosphere, and I felt my anxiety lessen. This was not a secure facility - it was a social club.

A Consortium social club.

Although most of the guests were older and apparently wealthy, there were also men and women like me - younger sidekicks and errandboys, some with their employers, and some alone. I passed through sitting rooms, lounges and bars with varying dress codes, from casual to formal; and at last, I stopped in one and sat at the bar for a drink. There was no charge, but the waitress asked to swipe my card. A little nervously, I allowed it, and after a few minutes had passed without the ambush of security personnel, my wariness eased.

"You're new, aren't you?" the waitress said conversationally. I looked at her, raising an eyebrow, and she laughed. "You've got that awe-struck look about you. It is very beautiful here."

"It certainly is," I said, draining my drink down in a single gulp. "Who owns this place?" I wondered whether she would be suspicious of the question. I doubted it. This wasn't a Consortium chick. She was just an ordinary waitress who would probably finish her shift and go to a PTA meeting.

She looked at me, a little askance. "Do you know, I'm not really sure. It was Michael Harrington, but he died a couple of weeks ago. Sad thing really - driveby shooting, you know. His executor says everything will continue as normal. Someone in his family will get it, I expect."

I nodded, frowning. Either Maxwell Donovan or Marita Covarrubias, I guessed. I thought of the girl I'd seen at the funeral, and the almost regal way in which she held herself, even in the extremity of grief. I could see her here. She was probably a member already. "Ancestral home?" I asked, mostly because the waitress was clearly waiting for me to say something.

"I think so. It's been The Den for over thirty years, I believe." A man with an empty glass looked at her expectantly, and she excused herself. I nodded absently as she went.

I turned from the bar and watched the room, drinking, taking in the big picture. I let the atmosphere wash over me, let the comings and goings and the scents and sounds settle into a pattern, waiting for impressions to present themselves, as they usually do.

And in time, one did.

What I noticed was that, while some were content to drink alone like me, in general people were pairing up and leaving. The pairings were mostly straight, but by no means all. I didn't see any lesbian pairings - perhaps because there weren't enough women to go around. Or maybe lesbians are too sensible to get involved with the Consortium to start with, I speculated with a grin. Some of the younger partners were prostitutes, I thought, but mostly guests were leaving with one another - and clearly, there was somewhere to go.

I went to the door at the far end of the room, where the couples had gone, and passed through it. I came into a room remarkably similar to a hotel lobby, with a grand staircase winding down the center. I was stopped by a woman asking for my pass card, and I handed it over, this time with less apprehension than before.

"Mr Krycek," she said, swiping it over a barcode reader, looking at the screen. I looked at her, startled, expecting that it would be in someone else's name, but nodded. "You're entitled to the use of a room if one is available. I don't have any fantasy suites free, but I have something on the third floor. Is that all right?"

"Fine," I said absently. "Thank you."

Feeling slightly dazed, I took the key she offered and made my way up the incredible staircase, marvelling at the delicately carved banister. Incredible workmanship. I lingered, touching the wood admiringly. It was not the darkwood I would have expected of its era, but a caramel-coloured palewood. I reached my level, but I looked further up the stairs, running my hand over it, savouring it, puzzling over its origins. And then another of my senses was caught by something equally exquisite.

Marita Covarrubias.

She was on the fourth floor landing with the dark man. She wore a long white dress - something I might not have noticed particularly, but for the sharp contrast with her mane of cornsilk hair, flowing gloriously down her back. They had clearly just come out of a suite, but I didn't believe for one minute that they'd slept together. There was something else going on between them, and I couldn't put my finger on what it was. Her gaze moved over the open area automatically, passed over me without registering my presence, and moved on.

Unsettled, I turned away, and I went to my room. I found without surprise that it was an opulent bedroom, decadently furnished in deep navy and magenta. The pillows were huge and edged with heavy gold tassels. There was a tiled platform in the corner with an elegant cylindrical shower recess. There was a handcarved wooden box on the dresser, which I guessed contained condoms and the like. I opened it and found I was right.

There was a small leather folio in the bedside drawer, which was of interest, but not particularly enlightening. It outlined the exact privileges accorded to each level of membership - mine, based on the colour of my card, gave me complimentary access to most privileges but did not entitle me to bring guests; a lower level of membership required payment for use of suites and sexual services. There were more conventional recreational services, too - a gym, aquatic center, ice rink, and shooting range. There was no casino, and that didn't surprise me: group players gambled with their lives, not with their money. The Den operated twenty-four hours a day and was euphemistically termed a recreational facility.

More useful was a map of the mansion. I noted a private wing, which I presumed had been Michael Harrington's home, and details of the dress codes of the various wings. I had been in the smart casual zone; there were formal and casual zones, and also a zone discreetly named 'minimalist'. I presumed, from its proximity to spas, saunas, and the fantasy suites, that this area was nudist or close to it. There were assurances about daily sweeps for cameras and listening devices. There were rules about smoking and drinking, about the appropriate treatment of staff including courtesans, about which recreational drugs were tolerated and where. There were ground rules for an array of sexual situations, from BDSM to group sex, each marked with the statement, 'These rules are in force unless explicitly agreed otherwise by all parties, INCLUDING TOP TIER MEMBERS AND COURTESANS'. Top tier members were exempt from all rules except this one.

I lay back on the bed, mulling over what I'd read. From a social point of view, it was an amazing place. It was an anthropomorphic wonder - a manufactured haven from the minefield of navigating relationships in the Consortium. Here, the group and their subordinates could not only network, but indulge in almost any recreational or sexual taste - with courtesans or each other - without risk of information leaks or blackmail. Counting back the years, I realised that The Den had sprung up in the 1960s, presumably in response to a string of scandals and breaches arising out of the sexual revolution. The whole thing offended me on a number of levels; but it pleased me, too, with its neatness and its practicality.

I wondered why I had been given membership. Clearly, Diana - or whoever - had thought I might benefit from the access this place would provide; and her interest was probably not in my sex life. She expected me to dig, find out what I wanted to know about the group and its aims, and choose a faction. That was all right: that was my agenda, too. Whether my choice would be her faction or not, I couldn't say; but I was willing to follow her trail of breadcrumbs for a while and see where it led.

At last, I put the folio back in its place and went to the door. And then I stopped short.

There was an envelope stuck to the back of the door with my name on it. I withdrew a note, read it, and smiled broadly.

'Have a good time - but keep your eye on the ball.'

Laughing, I switched off the light, and left.

My FBI assignment was tedious.

I was already treated with some contempt in the Bureau, but that sentiment was magnified by my apparent choice to work with Spooky Mulder. Once a homage to his ability to solve impossible cases, that nickname had taken on less complimentary overtones over the last year; and I was tarnished by association.

Not that my reputation had far to fall, though: I was seen as a glorified errandboy, though my credentials left my contemporaries' for dead. Not even a Harvard education could save me from looking like a schoolboy dressed up as a man. The clean-cut dress code of the Bureau didn't work for me - it never had - and it conspired against me, reducing me to a parody. I didn't care anymore, though: I could see that my days there were necessarily numbered. Once that would have bothered me; but not now.

There was a time when the Bureau had dominated my ambition. No - not just dominated it; defined it. I'd left college with an offer of a position in the British government, and another from Harvard itself lecturing in political philosophy. I turned them both down when I got into Quantico. I had stumbled across criminology and social order during my studies; and, with youthful idealism, I wanted to Make A Difference. My father had shaken his head, no doubt thinking of all the night shifts I'd taken to supplement my scholarship, only to take an entry-level job on entry-level pay; but he only smiled and said, "That's great, son," the way he always did. I'm glad of that, because he was dead within the year.

I hadn't expected much of the Bureau. I was the only agent in my class from a top university, but there were others with something more prized - law enforcement experience. I was no more special than anyone else, and I'd recognised that. But I had hoped that my choice, and my sacrifices in making that choice, might be acknowledged. I had hoped that my background might be taken into account, that I might be placed in some area of the Bureau where my strengths might be used. I didn't mind working up from the bottom, but you've got to be placed there to work your way up. You can't do it from the professional and existential limbo of wiretapping.

But if it had been as simple as that, I would have simply walked. The jobs I had turned down were gone, but there were others. My disenchantment was not the problem. The problem was my mother, stricken with leukaemia within a year of my father's death. And that problem led me, after repeated refusals, to at last accept the approaches of Section Chief Blevins and a mysterious figure named Spender.

The specifics of the work were vague, but I understood that illegality was involved. Spender represented some arm of the US government, and his department, for want of a better term, was affiliated with the CIA and the military. Loose phrases about national security and classified information were used. I was of interest because of my academic background, they said; and while I had no doubt that was true, I was not deceived. Spender's work might well be dedicated to defense, but that didn't necessarily make it in the national interest - any political theorist will tell you that.

So I said no; and I kept on saying no until the money ran dry. And then it was too late to get a more lucrative job: it was almost Christmas, and no-one was willing to hire until New Year, and the Soviet regime had fallen, and my mother was sinking fast, and she wanted to go home to Latvia to die. So I called Spender, and I told him I would work for him after all. My mother died in Daugavpils, and I came home to life as a hired gun, and I hoped that, wherever she was, she was not too disappointed in me.

Monitoring Fox Mulder was a welcome lull in the storm. As companions went, he outclassed thugs like Luis Cardinale by miles; better yet, I was not required to undertake work outside the Bureau during this time, lest Mulder should become aware of it. I had not yet been asked to kill, but I'd injured a few people in the course of my work - something I did not relish. As for killing - that request would come, and then I would have to make a decision. I wouldn't know the answer to that dilemma until I reached it, but right now, I thought I would refuse, and flee. I had a little house in Daugavpils - not much more than a cabin - and that would do for a new beginning. I thought my mother would approve. In the meantime, I sought information - both significant and minute. The most minute of details could be crucial to solving the enigma that was the work.

I learned a great deal at The Den. I learned, through trial and error, the best times to go, and the best people to listen to. I learned a lot about Marita Covarrubias, who was indeed the owner of The Den. She worked as an aide to one of the Special Representatives to the Secretary General of the United Nations, a position apparently normally allocated to people ten years her senior. This meteoric rise was attributed, not to sleeping her way up, but to a gift for analysis that was considered almost eerie. Marita Covarrubias was the Fox Mulder of the United Nations.

I managed to stay out of Senator Matheson's bed, but I led him on for long enough to learn that the leads that resulted in Mulder's discovery of the X Files had been orchestrated by Michael Harrington. Michael and his faction - which I guessed included the Donovan family, Bill Mulder, and possibly Larissa Covarrubias - had wanted someone on the outside, putting pressure on the activities of their opposing faction, which included Spender.

Poor old Mulder was a Consortium operative, and he didn't even know it.

But I was still unclear on the agenda of the Donovan faction: they obviously wanted to prevent the hybridisation of the alien and human races, and I hadn't the ghost of an idea why. The hybrid project, after all, would ensure their survival and that of their loved ones, surrendered to the alien race as hostages in 1973.

While I pondered this problem, I continued to monitor Mulder; and it was then that I made my first kill - not in malice, but in defense of another. I killed Augustus Cole without hesitation, because it was clearly him or Mulder; but the killing - both its finality and the ease with which I did it - the killing disturbed me. I sat in a bar that night, drinking shot after shot of Benedictine, my hands shaking. Mulder found me and took me home, and then he took me to bed.

I loved Mulder. It was not the love I would find with Marita, but it was the greatest love I'd had to date. Our relationship was companionable and, I think, genuinely caring - certainly, I cared for him. For him, I think now, it was more complicated; and it pains me to know that he perceives what I did as a betrayal.

Hell, it was a betrayal. But what I knew left me with little choice.

If I had done nothing, I'd have been worse than them.

"I shouldn't have married her."

I looked up from my mail. "What was that?" I asked, bracing myself. Mulder got introspective after sex. God knew, I didn't begrudge him it; but sometimes I wished he'd just roll over and go to sleep like a normal man.

"Diana," he mused, turning and leaning up on his elbow, watching me. "I shouldn't have married her. I knew I was gay." He picked at his godawful sunflower seeds indifferently. The bowl was perched precariously on the coverlet, and I just knew they were going to wind up littered through my bed.

I set aside a bill and put it on a growing pile on the nightstand. "But did you really, Mulder?" I wondered, looking at him. I ripped open an quarto envelope emblazoned with the Harvard logo. Alumni magazine, I guessed, eyeing it critically. "I mean, it is possible to feel passion for both sexes, and you obviously felt it for her."

"I suppose. But when I was with Matheson, it was different - and that was while we were engaged. I knew better - or I should have. It felt right in a way it didn't with Diana. Do you know what I mean?"

"Not really," I said truthfully. I was flipping through the magazine when a familiar name caught my eye. Marita Covarrubias.

"You still think about women?" he asked with interest.

"I adore women," I said fervently. "They're exquisite."

"And men?" he demanded.

"They're exquisite, too. Humanity is a glorious thing, Mulder, no matter what the sex." I looked back down at the flyer. Our condolences to science alumni Marita Covarrubias (1985-1987). The New York Times reported the death of Michael Harrington on May 7. Marita and Michael were to be married next month...

Marita Covarrubias went to Harvard in 1985? What was she, fourteen?

"So what happens when you meet the woman of your dreams?" he mocked, intruding on my thoughts. "Whatcha gonna do, settle down and be straight?" There was a slight sneer in his voice.

"I'll always be bisexual, Mulder," I said with a withering look, setting the magazine aside. Sexual politics were among his current list of dead horses to flog. I, on the other hand, was indifferent to the whole thing: if I was letting the gay side down by loving women, or vice versa, I didn't give a shit. "Forsaking all others is something we've all got to do sooner or later, whether we like men, women or both. It's always a sacrifice - a discipline - because no one person will ever be everything we want or need."

"You sound like a fucking preacher."

"You asked what I was going to do if I met the woman *or* man of my dreams, and that's what I'm going to do," I countered. "I'm going to forsake all others. If you don't like it, too bad. My sex is not accountable to your politics." I shook my head disgustedly. "You're an arrogant prick sometimes."

"Aw, do you really mean that?" he asked solemnly. "Or are you just saying it?"

I burst out laughing. I couldn't help it. "No, I really mean it." I turned back to the nightstand, picked up my cup, and took a mouthful of coffee.


I swallowed the mouthful hurriedly to make my comeback. "Prick."

"My prick, your asshole. Not a bad idea." Such fucking wit.

"Don't be vulgar."

He looked at me critically. "You're a prissy little thing, aren't you? First monogamy, and now I have to refer to your molten tunnel of love?"

I choked. "Jesus, Mulder, don't do that when I'm drinking." The bastard was laughing at me. Thinking of his earlier comment, I said, "Where did you meet this wife of yours, anyway?"

"Ex-wife," he corrected. "We were at college together. I'd just come out of a bad relationship with a vamp masquerading as an English rose, and we just sort of fell in together."

"Diana went to Oxford?" I said slowly. Diana had gone to college with Marita Covarrubias, by her own statement; and the magazine at my side said Marita went to Harvard. I wondered who was lying, and why.

"Yeah. She was a year behind me. She followed me home when she graduated."

I put my cup back on the nightstand, frowning a little. "It's funny how you bond with people at college, isn't it?" I observed casually, hoping I didn't sound too idiotic. "There was one guy at school with me - one of those child prodigies," I said deliberately, "you know, the ones who graduate high school at twelve. Fucking brilliant."

He fell for it. He mightn't have normally, but sex made Mulder mellow. "Yeah, we had one of those. Marita Ekaterinberg, her name was." I blinked a little, not quite believing my luck that he remembered her name. I don't think I knew about his eidetic memory at that stage. "I never met her, but Diana took her under her wing a bit. She was totally out of her depth," he added. "See, what people don't understand is that you can be ready academically without being ready emotionally, or socially," he said fiercely. I'd hit his psychology nerve, and he was off and away.

I tuned him out. Marita Covarrubias had attended both Harvard and Oxford at the same time - an impossible feat. One of them was a smokescreen, but which one? And more importantly, why?

"I mean, just think of the psychosexual implications. A child going through puberty, surrounded by bonking teenagers, with no adult role models..."

She probably went to Oxford under the false name. Mulder remembered her name, and Diana reported knowing her personally. That made sense. She had befriended Diana and presumably introduced her to Edward Donovan at some point, whom Diana would eventually marry. Maybe Marita spent her holiday breaks with the Donovans, arranged by either her mother or by Michael. Maybe she had invited Diana along.

But if Marita went to Oxford, who went to Harvard?

"...then there's the relational context. How does a teenager learn to relate as an adult if she is deprived of nurturing adult contact..."

If Marita had applied to Oxford, she'd probably applied to Harvard and Yale, too. She had accepted the offer at Oxford, but someone else accepted her Harvard offer and went in her place, with or without her knowledge - but almost certainly with the blessing of Larissa Covarrubias.

"...not appropriate, when they're that young, to leave them without role modelling..."

A false history at Harvard gave Marita an alibi - a reason for being away, as well as a diversion from her real location. But why would a fourteen-year-old prodigy need to go into hiding? Could she have done something, and been at risk of retaliation?


"Sorry - I was just thinking," I said hurriedly. "What do you think are the long-term developmental implications of something like that?"

"You know, I've been thinking about that, and I keep coming back to Freudian principles..."

I was an idiot. Marita hadn't done anything. Larissa had done something, and she had smuggled her daughter off to England, with the help of Michael Harrington and the Donovan family. That combination alone suggested that whatever she had done was factional - and just might shed some light on the Donovan agenda. She had falsified the Harvard academic record to suggest that Marita was still in America at the time.

But would a non-existent student - a mere name - rate a mention in an alumni magazine?

Mulder had stopped speaking. He was watching me expectantly. "I never thought of it like that," I said ingeniously.

Who went to Harvard in Marita's stead? And did it matter? It might not...but it might. My blood was pumping, alive with purpose. If I could find out what Larissa Covarrubias had done, I might know enough to do something useful. I might find whatever Diana Donovan hoped to lead me to - whatever it was that had led her to abandon her work with Mulder. And if I could do that, maybe I could make a difference after all.

"Mulder," I said wide-eyed, "you took the words right out of my mouth."

I'd pushed the false sincerity too far, and he knew I was humouring him; but then I was touching him, and he didn't care anymore. And when we were done and he was asleep, I crept out of my bed, and I left him there.

I went to Mulder's.

I put a cross on his window in masking tape as I had seen him do, and I left a note on the floor. I waited there in the shadows, drowsing, my watch alarm set for five a.m. I had to be home before Mulder woke.

His informant arrived in the early hours of the morning, knocking, then nervously opening the door. In the dim light from the corridor, I recognised him as the dark man - Spender's right hand. That made sense, I reflected - he'd been Michael's man before that. His weapon drawn, he opened the door fully to the wall, and positioned himself with his back to it. He bent carefully and picked up the note, then rose, reading it. He looked anxiously around the apartment, and fled.

The note was an e-mail address and password - not one of mine, but one for him. It was a way for me to contact him that didn't involve the window or face-to-face contact - something Mulder would have arranged himself if he hadn't been so in love with the idea of being a shadowy crime fighter meeting with mysterious informants. As far as the dark man was concerned, his correspondent was Mulder - a deception that would not last long, but might last long enough for me to find out about Larissa Covarrubias.

I waited a while to be sure he was gone, and then I went home to Mulder. I let myself into the apartment and undressed as quietly as I could. Mulder was sprawled out over the bed, the sheets twisted around him; and, yes, the sunflower seeds were scattered everywhere. Smiling wistfully, I swept what I could onto the floor, and lay down beside him, curling my body against his; but my good humour faded. I felt the lines of my face settle into something hard and hurtful.

Never before had I used him for my own purposes.

And that made this the beginning of the end.

Whatever my future held - whether the Consortium or Daugavpils or death or some other alternative not yet known - Mulder, necessarily, would not be part of it. Not like this. I'd never really thought Mulder and I would be forever, but that didn't dull my pain at the fact.

I forced myself into a fitful sleep, but I was troubled in mind.

"I didn't know where else to go."

I stared at Mulder for a long, long moment, not sure what I could say that wasn't trite. At last, I reached out to him, took his hand, and drew him to me. I hugged him, not so much as a lover as a friend.

Some friend.

"It was on the radio," I said at last. "Duane Barry, known psychopath, takes hostage. They didn't give her name, but I recognised her description."

His voice was muffled against me. "Fucking son-of-a-bitch. I should have killed him when I had the chance."

Wordlessly, I nodded, kicking the door closed with my foot. "I know," I whispered. I held him tighter.

"I can't lose her," he rasped, his voice harsh with pain.

"You're not gonna lose her," I said in a low voice, right next to his ear. "Scully's coming home to you. I don't know how, but I know." I knew because I'd bring her home myself if I had to. To see him like this was more than I could bear.

"Yeah?" he said, pulling back to look at me, his face hopeful. His hands gripped my shoulders painfully, but I couldn't bring myself to pull away.


He kissed me then, hard, his hands searching clumsily for me. "Mulder," I protested. He ignored me, groping blindly under my jacket, drawing my shirt out of my jeans and snaking up my back. A little stunned, I let him for a moment; but then I pushed him away. "Mulder!" I said, not unkindly, "This isn't about me."

He stared at me in childlike bewilderment for a long moment, but then he nodded. "No," he admitted. "I suppose it isn't." Then, hesitantly, "Do you mind?"

Frowning, I watched him for a long moment; but at last, I shook my head. "No, I don't," I relented. I could give him that much, I supposed; and it would probably be the last time I could give him anything.

And then his mouth was on mine, devouring, taking from me, and I allowed it because I loved him. He whispered the words that turned him on and turned me off, and for once I didn't mind. He fucked me hard, and I hated it hard, but I allowed that too. And I came in spite of it all, in spite of his fumbling, grieving clumsiness, in spite of my aching ass, in spite of my guilt and my sorrow. Because I loved him.

When it was over, and he was sleeping fitfully, I rose. I felt dirty and I wasn't quite sure why. Puzzling over it was stupid, I decided, when I could just fix it; so I ran a shower. I stepped in when steam began to form, the water coursing over me in a rush, and I gave myself up to the heady warmth of it gratefully.

Standing there, not bothering with soap, just relishing the cleansing heat, I was struck by random thoughts, none of them really connected. I remembered my first time with a man, and how it tortured me, how I thought I was losing the joy of loving women, and how long it was before I understood that it was possible to love both. I remembered a college friend - a woman - complaining about her boyfriend's penchant for rear-entry sex. It made her feel like he wanted to be with someone else. I'd made comforting noises, but I hadn't really understood. But I thought I understood now. Because Mulder hadn't wanted me back there.

He'd wanted Dana Scully.

I didn't think he was in love with her - I didn't think he was capable of that kind of love for a woman, even her - but I knew he loved her above all else, in a way that transcended his sexual boundaries, if anything ever could. She dominated his passions, and in his grief over her loss, she dominated even the desire he normally reserved for me. I wasn't jealous, or resentful, or even hurt - not in the circumstances.

But I still felt dirty.

So I stood there in the steaming hot water until my skin was red, and then I wrapped myself in my robe and went out onto the balcony. It was a puny balcony, for a puny apartment, and I rarely went out there - not since my mother died - but I went out there now.

We'd sat out here a lot, she and I. I'd sold the house after her medical insurance ran dry, and she'd spent the last year of her life living here with me. We got on each other's nerves in such cramped quarters - and I in particular had been on a hair-trigger, without even a bedroom of my own - but sitting on the balcony had alleviated that strain. Every time I thought I'd go nuts if I had to sleep one more night on that damn couch, she would invite me out here with a steaming cup of tea, and we would talk until it was close to dawn. And the irritation of raw nerves abrading against one another would dissipate.

I wondered what she would think of me now. She'd known about the men, I think, but we'd never discussed it. Tatiana Krycek didn't discuss sex - not directly - and I think that conservatism had a lot to do with my own. But she'd have had a lot to say about me working for Spender. It was that which I wished I could hear now. Home truths, perhaps uncomfortable ones, but truths that would guide me. The dilemma I had been anticipating was upon me, and I still had no idea of how to proceed.

I wasn't privy to precisely where Dana Scully had been taken, or where she would be taken when the exchange was made, but I had been instructed to prevent Mulder from catching up with Duane Barry. I was to leave no witnesses to my handiwork; and I was to kill Duane before he could be interrogated. I didn't think Scully would be killed, but I had heard sufficient rumours about the hybrid experiments to know that the fate that awaited her was a bad one. I was prepared to kill Duane Barry if I had to - the guy was a walking timebomb and a danger to everyone he came in contact with - but I still didn't know if I was willing to be a part of what was to happen to Dana Scully.

But if I chose Mulder and his work - if I ran, and if first I told him what I knew - I still didn't know enough for him to prevent it. And if I did as I had been told to do, I might get enough information to get her back.

But I wasn't sure that was reason enough. I didn't have enough information to do the things I wanted to do in the group, and possibly I never would. That made the price of a man's life - even Duane Barry's, and especially so soon after taking down Augustus Cole - it made that price hard to reconcile.

Either way, though, my time here was coming to a close. Soon, I would run, one way or another - either fleeing the group, or fleeing the law. If the former, I would return to Latvia; if the latter, I would go to my suite at The Den until I could work something out. I had a ticket booked for Riga, just in case. Right now I thought I would use it.

Sighing, I rose, and went to the sliding door. I paused there, looking wistfully at my mother's empty armchair, weathered and threadbare. It would be in storage the following evening, like everything else. I wondered if I would ever see it again. And I would, years later in Tangier; but right now I doubted it.

I closed the door.

There is something cliche about the last-minute intervention.

It is a sign of a poor writer, it is said, to contrive a direction-altering coincidence at the crucial moment. If so, God is a poor author indeed, because they happen in real life all the time. And that's what happened to me.

What happened was that I received a packet I'd ordered from Harvard. It was among the mail I retrieved from my maildrop at lunchtime, in anticipation of leaving for Latvia. I opened it hurriedly, and withdrew an academic transcript issued in the name of Marita Covarrubias. I scanned it, frowning. Lots of biotechnology and genetic subjects. Even the arts subjects had a definite slant, one I didn't like: 'WWII, Hitler, and Eugenics: A Historio-Ethical Analysis'. 'Medical Ethics For The Twenty First Century'. 'The Use And Abuse Of Genetics'.

There were yearbooks in the package, too - something I had not been able to afford in my own time there. I put the transcript to the bottom of the pile and opened the yearbook, flipping pages hurriedly. I passed over the formal portraits, which might have been faked, and skipped to the Science Club pages. There, in a group photo, I found a picture of the girl who had posed as Marita Covarrubias. I put my hand to my mouth in disbelief; and, belatedly, stifled a sound of shock. And in that moment, my choice was made.

I chose Marita.

That sounds melodramatic, when you consider that at this point I had not met her; but looking back on that time in my life, I believe now that I was in a holding pattern while I put all the pieces together - pieces that would lead me to her. I was, not loving her, but waiting to love her. Perhaps I'd been waiting for that all my life. Perhaps we were souls together. I am not a religious man, nor a particularly sentimental one, but I know no other way to explain why it happened the way it did.

Whatever the case - God, fate, or blind luck - I was presented with a choice. Choose Mulder and his search for Scully, save Duane Barry, and lose my access; or choose the work, with a chance now of blowing it wide open, and lose Mulder. I chose the work.

I chose Marita.

That night, as I took refuge in my suite at The Den, the blood of two men on my hands, I thought again of that yearbook. I thought of the girl who went to Harvard as Marita Covarrubias, while the girl at the funeral was at Oxford as Marita Ekaterinberg. That Marita was the Marita Diana knew, the one who had studied a melting pot of anthropology, philosophy, and politics, and who used it in her work at the United Nations. The other, the elusive scientist, of whom I was more and more sure Marita knew nothing - she haunted me. It was impossible, but there was proof.

It was another Marita.

And Marita was the only one who could lead me to her.