Restitution (3/4) (Chapters 5+6)
Deslea R. Judd
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
ARCHIVE: Sure, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Herrenvolk to The Truth.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: Angst, romance, mythfic, resfic, Skamperfic, Krycek/Marita.
SUMMARY: Sometimes, to face the future, you have to face the past.
CONTENT WARNING: This work includes references to rape.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Spooky Awards 2003 eligible. Recommended at Museans and Bright Shiny Objects.
"Do you ever think about the oil?" she asks him over dinner.
He doesn't look at her. "I work very hard not to think about the oil."
"It's a lot like rape," she tells him.
He nods. Doesn't answer.
"Being entered by another. Being consumed. Against your will."
He drops his chopsticks with a clatter and pushes back from the table. "Marita, if you need to talk about this, you're going to have to journal it or something. Because I just can't. I'm sorry."
She fights down hurt. "Okay," she forces out. Her eyes sting with tears. She stares down at her food and picks at it with her chopsticks. Feels fleeting resentment for it, although truthfully, that's mostly knee-jerk malice. It's not like he ever asked her to take his limitations and make them hers, anyway.
They eat in sullen silence.
"You know how you used to seize up?" he says abruptly. "In your legs? And - you know - inside?"
She looks up at him. Nods.
"I do that. Even now, sometimes, when I think about it. In my nostrils. And behind my eyes."
"I get sinus headaches sometimes," she says. "And my vision gets dark when it happens. Like the oil film on my eyes when I was infected, but not as dark."
He nods. Eager. "Like an old fracture that still gives you trouble when the weather's damp."
Her eyes are grave. "It never totally leaves us, does it?"
He shakes his head. "Maybe it's just as well we can't have children, Marita. Maybe it's better if it dies with us."
She swallows hard. "Maybe." They fall silent.
"There's adoption," he says after a while.
He never struck her as the type to want kids badly enough to adopt. She wonders if the suggestion is for her benefit. "I guess."
"Some kid who lost an arm from a landmine or something," he says conversationally. "Some kid who needs someone who *knows*."
She stares at him. Completely stunned. He reminds her of one of her fellow peacekeepers, talking about starting an orphanage back in their Chechen days. Equal parts conviction and longing.
He can still amaze her. Even now.
"I'd like that," she says when she finds her voice. "We could do that."
"Really?" he says. "You don't think it's projecting?"
She shrugs. "Maybe it is. But it would be a good thing to do, Alex. And I want to spend whatever time we have doing good things. I think we owe that."
"Me, too." His smile fades. "It's gonna be hard to let go of the fight, Marita."
She sighs. "We were only ever cogs in the wheel. There's more hope now than there ever was - and some of it because of us. I think we're going to have to trust that that's enough."
"It's coming along that well, then?"
"I think so. Jeffrey's told me a bit. They've rounded up some of the people from the old operation. There are plans to get the vaccine into the water supply over the next five years. It's all coming together."
She knows more than this, but she keeps that fact to herself. No need to make it any harder for him to be out of the loop than it already is. The resistance, in fact, is in its prime. Aside from the Kurts working the vaccine, there is a core of good people in the FBI, and plans to get them in place on the X Files in the year to come. She knows, too, that their opposite numbers have similar plans.
It will be exciting times for the people doing the work, but Marita has accepted that they will not be among them. The infiltration problem has forced the issue, but even before that, there were some who felt that their hands - Alex's in particular - were too dirty with the Syndicate's work for them to be completely trusted. It hurts, but she can't really blame them.
He nods. "I think I can let go," he says. "Knowing that."
Relief washes over her.
"I love you, Alex," she says abruptly. Something always understood between them, and rarely said.
He gets to his feet. "Love you too," he says matter-of-factly, picking up her plate and stacking it on top of his. Voice neutral. He takes them to the sink and rinses them.
She smiles to herself, and she leaves him there.
They get up late the next morning. They stay in bed for a long time, just looking at one another. Spender will send Alex on his latest wild goose chase in a few hours, and that will mean separation. After so long apart, the thought makes her stomach tight and hard. She thinks it will be a long time before she can accept that they won't be parted that way again.
Finally, however, they rise. She dresses in her heavy suit with its stiff, tailored lines, and pulls back her hair and pins it up. The harsh hair and make-up add ten years to her appearance. She thinks of Diana Fowley, with her exaggerated eyeliner and her heavy lipstick, and she thinks she understands her better now than she ever did in life.
Alex watches her, sitting on the vanity while she does it. His eyes are grave. Does he understand what goes through her mind when she does it? The need to cover up everything vulnerable in the presence of that man? She thinks he probably does, but he doesn't say anything. Just watches her with that solemn look on his face, and lets her fuss with her appearance until she feels ready to go.
They pick up Alex's new socket on the way, and a new prosthetic to go with it. Its capabilities are more versatile than the old one, and he plays with it in the cab like a little kid, opening and closing the artificial hand. Marita laughs at him. Delighted by him, despite her worry about what is to come. Her tension eases, just a little.
Her good humour fades when they enter Spender's apartment building. Much of the meeting, in fact, washes over her. She retains the salient facts, but she can never remember the details of how they are conveyed. One image does stay with her, though - the old man's nurse, Greta, pumping him full of that green shit he needs these days to stay alive. He'd tried some experiment on himself a year ago, and it backfired, and now he needs daily transfusions of alien blood to keep on going. Some days she dreams of going to Greta's apartment and setting his stockpile of the stuff alight.
She is quiet on the way to Reagan National.
"You okay?" he wonders when they walk into the terminal.
"Yeah," she says. "Those needles he has give me the creeps."
He reaches out. Draws her into the crook of his arm. "The tests?"
They hold each other until his final boarding call.
She regained consciousness eleven days after she was infected.
She doesn't remember the boy infecting her, and that may be just as well. She has a vague idea that it hurt, like a blow to the face, but that may just be her mind filling in the blanks, based on the agony in her sinuses in the aftermath. What she does remember is the dark, filmy curtain that fell over her vision in those final moments before she blacked out.
The first thing she saw was a red...patch. Just a blob of red in a sea of green. Gradually, she managed to fix her focus on a red- haired woman in a green surgical gown.
"You're awake," the woman said. "How do you feel?"
"Hurts," she said. "Behind my eyes." Her voice sounded thin and shaky. "Where am I?"
"You're in a quarantine unit at a military installation in Maryland. You're being treated here under CDC guidelines-"
"I'm at Fort Marlene?"
"Yes. You were infected."
Her head hurt. "Want to talk to the Duke."
The red-haired woman frowned a little, but she nodded readily enough. "All right."
Marita was asleep before she left the room.
It was fourteen weeks before she spoke to the Duke.
Her early lucidity was fleeting, and much of the intervening time was spent in a blood-red fog of agony. Every cell in her body hurt. Her nerves jangled a constant, discordant symphony of pain. She felt every pulse in her wrists, like tiny particles of glass being forced through a funnel. Her bones felt as though their marrow had been replaced with hot, molten lead. Her eyes and nose streamed constantly. Her menstrual blood was tinged with black, and it seared when it left her. Her flesh was acutely sensitive to touch. She spent much of the time incoherent with pain. When she spoke at all, it was to cry out for God, or for Alex.
She gropes for metaphors, but none of them really describe what it was like. Her sense of invasion was acute. Her body was not entirely hers. She was ravaged - assaulted from within by a predator. The vaccine killed it, but it was a long, hard battle. Now and then, she wakes in the night in a cold sweat thinking about it.
Finally, the worst of it was over. There came a day when sleep was just sleep, and not pain-induced unconsciousness. She slept for twenty-six hours. When she woke, she felt better. Not great, but...better. And the Duke was at her side.
"You've done well, young lady."
"How did you..." she trailed off. Her chest was still tight; her breathing was laboured. She still had a long way to go.
"You were given vaccine."
He nodded. "He gave it to me, yes. He wanted to be here, if that matters to you, but I'm sure you understand that wasn't possible."
She closed her eyes. "Did you kill him?"
"No. On the contrary, he works for me now." She would have laughed at that, if she'd had the strength. That would piss him off beyond words. "But enough about Alex. Let's talk about the future."
"What are you going to do with me?"
The Duke made a non-committal noise. "Clearly, the vaccine is in need of refinement. Your ordeal is not to be wished on anyone. For the record, I commend you for withstanding it."
She blinked back sudden tears.
If he noticed, he didn't mention it. "More testing is needed, and more development. I have few people I can trust. I would like your assistance."
She stared at him. "You're asking me to work for you?"
He nodded. "You and Alex both. The group is unaware of your recovery, Miss Covarrubias. They believe you're still infected."
"And do what with it, if not give it to the group?" she demanded.
The Duke looked away. "I intend to share the refined vaccine with the resistance. I trust you have no objections?"
"N-no," she said. Still staring at him. "None."
"Very well," he said. "Get some sleep. You're going to need your strength."
It was too good to be true.
Looking back on that conversation, it has a dream-like quality. Sometimes she thinks that perhaps she imagined the whole thing. She hopes she didn't. It was a moment of kindness in a horrible time, and she wants to believe that it was real.
In any event, it didn't come to pass. Four days later, she woke to find herself being strapped down on her bed. It was so fast that she didn't have time to panic until it was done. There was no sign of the red-haired doctor who had been treating her.
Spender came into view, smoking the inevitable cigarette. Marita stared at him, wondering whether this was all a particularly vivid nightmare. Spender was dead, last she'd heard. He was shot - wasn't he?
"Where's the Duke?"
"The Duke is dead," he said. "Car bombing. Most unfortunate."
The rest of the conversation - indeed, much of the next eight months passed in a blur. Her ordeal of infection and healing was repeated, over and over again. Pain was a constant companion. Sometimes she was lucky, and the newest version of the vaccine improved her recovery time. Twice, a bad version slowed her recovery to a crawl. She learned later that the red-haired doctor had objected to Spender's plans, and been summarily shot for it.
And what of Alex in this time? She knows that he worked for the group, and rose up in the ranks, and that he knew little of what they did to her. She knows he was told that she was still recovering from the original infection. She wonders, sometimes, whether he asked Spender for updates on her condition. Whether he got drunk in bars at night, or hired women for quick, soulless fucks in alleyways when the bar closed up for the night. She has never asked, and she doubts she ever will. She can't bear to hear how he coped, or didn't cope with the pain in those awful months.
It's all she can do to live with her own.
She spends the night at home alone.
She considers and then discards the idea of going out for dinner. She's become more insular since her ordeal. She likes to stay close to home.
Not that this is really home. It never was, except when Alex was here with her. It's a way station, nothing more. She doesn't even have any books here.
She pulls out her laptop and goes online. Surfs a few Swiss real estate sites. Checks her email. There's one from Alex - just a brief one, completely unsentimental, but it makes her smile anyway.
She shuts down her computer after twenty minutes. She feels restless. At a loose end.
The truth is, she's been shying away from the way they left things after the night of El Rico. About the way he left her at Fort Marlene when he found her. But he will be home tomorrow, and they'll need to go back there. The idea of it scares the hell out of her. She doesn't know if she can go through with it. If she can walk through those doors. And what will it do to them if she does?
They've never talked about it, just like they've never really talked about the way she took the boy from him. She wonders if this is how married couples deal with infidelity. The hurts they've inflicted on one another are so great.
Can they still pretend it never happened, once they go back there?
She tosses and turns in her cold, empty bed, and when dawning light seeps through the darkness, she still doesn't have an answer.
"We need a car."
He shoots her a glance. "To get to Fort Marlene."
She looks straight ahead at the hire car desk. "That's right. It's too far for a cab." That, and she wants to be able to get away when it's done.
"You got the requisition order, then."
He doesn't sound all that enthused, considering the fact that it will ensure his survival.
She nods. "He signed it this morning."
"After the standard bullshit, I suppose."
"Yeah. Human creation, alien ancestry, the works." In fact, Spender managed to completely unnerve her with his conviction, but she doesn't say so. Once they have the vaccine, they need never see the old man again.
She fills out the forms for the car and hands over her credit card. Alex stands there, leaning against the desk, fidgeting. He shifts his weight from one leg to the other. Looking around. It annoys her.
The drive is quiet and desultory. She drives, and she thinks he wants to pick a fight with her about it, but he lets it pass.
"I missed you last night," he says nervously when she takes the turnoff.
"I thought about calling you."
"Figured you might be asleep."
She feels his gaze on her as she stares at the road.
They are perhaps ten minutes from the compound when he says abruptly, "Pull over."
She makes a frustrated sound. "Oh, God, why?"
Damn him, can't he just let her get through it?
"Just do it. Please."
Frowning, she does as she's asked. Drives over onto the gravel shoulder. Pulls the brake and switches off the ignition.
He leans back in his seat. "I can't do this, Marita," he says. Eyes closed. "I can't have the vaccine."
She stares at him. Wondering if he's taken leave of his senses. "You what?"
"It just - it feels like profiteering," he mutters.
"What?" she bursts out. Incredulous. "Since when has that stopped you?"
"Not off them. Off you. Off what they did to you."
She hears the unspoken part, that he let them do it. She lets out a shaky sigh.
"Yeah." He looks out the window. Cars rush by.
"You did the right thing, you know," she says after a while. She doesn't really know if that's true, but he has to have that vaccine. He *has* to.
The utter loathing in his look chills her. It chills her a second time when she understands it is for himself. He doesn't answer.
"Mulder wouldn't have done it," she says. "He would have let the world rot to save Scully. Don't you remember? We said we wouldn't do that. We said we were better than that."
He looks out the window again. "I didn't know..." He sighs, a low, tired sound. "I didn't know what it would cost."
"Would you do it any differently, Alex? If you had to do it over?"
"I don't know." He sounds tired. Terribly, heart-rendingly tired.
She doesn't think he's going to do it. The realisation terrifies her.
"Alex, I'm immune," she says. Trembling. "I'm going to survive it now, and I can't do it on my own. I'm alone in a dying world here. You can't do that to me, you can't leave me here." Heat and salt rise up in her face. "For God's sake, let it be worth something."
He stares at her. Pale. Remorseful.
At last, he nods.
"All right," he says, no louder than a whisper.
Hot tears of relief slip down her cheeks, and she switches on the ignition once more.
That's what she remembers most about this place, the cold. She walks down the hallways, Alex at her side, the sound of her tapping heels reverberating in her ears. She tries to summon the warmest memories she can muster. Saunas. Hot tubs. The balmy air in Tunisia. None of it helps.
Alex walks beside her, moving in long strides. His hand is shoved into his pocket. His face is pale.
"Name?" the guard says when they leave the elevators on Level Six.
"Marita Covarrubias and Alex Krycek."
He recognises her name. Looks up at her in surprise.
She feels herself drawing inwards. Her shoulders hunching over, like they did when she was in here. She feels dirty and ugly and naked. Used. More used than she felt when they raped her. That was nothing compared to what they did to her here.
"You look good," he says finally. There's respect in his voice. When she forces herself to meet his gaze, she sees it there, as well.
The moment is broken. She feels her shame fall away.
She draws her shoulders back. Takes comfort in her heels and the feel of her pantyhose, snug around her hips. Her crisp linen suit. Things that cover her and warm her.
He clears his throat. "Well. Company or institution?"
"Federal government," Alex says, but he says it looking at her. He has that same, gently proud smile he had for her in Tunisia.
She smiles back. "Purity control."
The guard holds out a pen. "Sign in, please."
They pass through the checkpoint and make their way to virology. They round a corner, and she nods to a door on their right. The entrance to the fire stairs.
"You came down those the night of El Rico, didn't you?" she says. "To avoid the lockdown in cryology. That's why you were here."
A nerve in his jaw twitches. "That's right."
She decides not to press him further.
She remembers Jeffrey's coat.
Poor Jeffrey. Hopelessly naive, even then. Even as he came to understand the monster his father was, and the terrible things the old man had done to the people he encountered along the way, he didn't comprehend the bigger picture. The ways his discoveries changed the world. The universe.
Jeffrey would learn, even harder than she had.
But back then he was young and fresh and handsome, and even kind, in his clumsy, bumbling way. He put his coat around her, over her dirty, tattered gown, and tried not to let her see how much he hated touching her to do it. Marita had to force herself not to flinch when he did it, so she supposed they were about even.
And then Alex. Alex, who saw her broken and dirty and - and exposed.
And this time he couldn't help her.
She thought he was going to punch Jeffrey. He was that hurt, that angry, that tightly wired. Poised. Ready to kill or be killed. That told her that something was terribly wrong. Something even more than seeing her like that. This wasn't the man who nursed her when he found her, raped and beaten. This was...something else.
The shock when he told them swept even her anguish, her desperation aside.
"They took it?" Jeffrey demanded when Alex turned on his heel and left them. "What did he mean? What does that mean?"
"It means it's over," she said, shrugging off his coat, and she turned and shuffled away.
They pass Jeffrey's mother's room, the room where he left her that night. Oddly, it is Alex who flinches. She's surprised he remembers which room it was at all.
They pass her old room a few minutes later, and at that, she does flinch. Her steps grow faster, and Alex has to hurry to keep pace with her.
Finally, they arrive.
The procedure is brief. They present their credentials and the requisition order. A bored lab assistant fetches the vaccine and injects it into Alex's shoulder. The assistant is matter-of-fact - even casual. It relieves her. Clearly, he has no idea what he's dealing with.
"Where we do go now?" Alex wonders when it's done.
She doesn't know. But she knows where to begin.
"Anywhere but here."
When she woke, dawn was breaking. Light seeped through the little barred window of her room. Jeffrey's coat was draped over her, and Alex was sitting on her bed beside her.
"He wanted you to have it," he said, smoothing back her hair. Breaths hitching. Face working. He swallowed hard.
She sat up. Put her arms around him. "Alex," she whispered. Tears came, and she wept against him in silence. Shaking. His arm held her close, hand in her hair. Somewhere along the line, she realised that he was weeping, too.
Finally, she pulled away. "What happened?"
"There was a firestorm. Like Kazakhstan." He was still stroking her hair. Fingers shaking. She thought, oddly, that he was more upset than she was. "It was at El Rico Air Force Base."
She stared up at him.
"They got the Syndicate? All of them?"
"All but the old man." His voice was low. Raw. "It's over, Marita. The deal is off. There won't be any hybrids, or any drones. They'll just invade and destroy."
Her chest grew tight with fear; her stomach ached with it. "What about the vaccine?"
He wiped her tears with trembling fingertips. Ran them over her face. More tender than he'd ever touched her before. "The rebels got the samples. There's nothing left. Just whatever's in you. That's all there is."
Suddenly she understood. She grabbed his shirt with her fists. Breathing hard. Terrified. "You're going to leave me here, aren't you?"
His face was red. Eyes haunted. "Marita-"
"You can't leave me here! They'll just keep going until I'm dead, Alex, can't you see that?" She twisted his shirt in her hands.
"Just 'til there's a useable vaccine, Marita," he said urgently. "I'll get a sample for the resistance. We'll get you out, I swear I will."
"I'll submit to tests with the resistance," she argued. "I will! Just not here. Not him!"
"They don't know enough! They can't synthesise it!"
She felt terribly, terribly cold. "Alex, even if he gets it, he'll never give it to you. It's hopeless. We should just go away and take whatever time's left."
"I would if I could," he said. He cradled her face with his palm. "You don't know much I wish I could."
"Alex, we'll find someone who knows. We'll bribe one of the scientists here to come with us. Anything. I just - I can't go through this any more, Alex, please-"
He grabbed her hands with his. He stared down at how thin they were, at the way they both fit in his one, and that seemed to break him somehow. He said wretchedly, "The place is in lockdown. I couldn't get you out now anyway."
"Is that why you came now? So you couldn't?"
"I came because I had to see you. No-one else understands." His eyes were unnaturally bright. "I miss you so much."
"Alex," she wept. Holding his hand with hers. "Alex, please-"
"Marita, I can't, Jesus, I can't."
"Yes, you can." He really wasn't going to help her. Her chest ached with the realisation.
He tugged his hand, but she held on tight. "I can't. I *can't*." He got up. Dragged it out of her grasp. "I'm sorry."
He looked down at her. His face was a ghastly, pasty white.
"I love you, Marita. You don't know how much."
She realised that he didn't expect to see her alive again.
END OF PART 3