Restitution (4/4) (Chapters 7+8)
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.
They are silent on the way home from Fort Marlene. It should be a time of celebration, but the holocaust is a long way off, and right now the memories are closer.
They cook. She stands there in the kitchen, chopping tomatoes while Alex chops onions. He's adapted to his new prosthetic remarkably well.
"I turned up some interesting stuff in Oregon," he says.
Marita makes a noncommittal sound.
"It's in Bellefleur, you know. Where Mulder and Scully had their first case."
She nods. Makes another, equally neutral noise.
"I don't think this is just a wild goose chase, Marita."
She turns to him. "Give it to Mulder and walk away."
"I really think there's something worth looking into there."
"I said, give it to Mulder. We are out of this now."
"Marita, I can't just walk away-"
"Yes, you can!" she shouts at him. "You have to!"
He stands there, chopping hard. Quietly angry.
Her own anger ebbs as quickly as it had risen. "Alex," she says. Gently. "This time it's all right to walk away."
He looks up at her. Agonised. His eyes are suddenly wet. She doesn't think it's the onions.
She turns away from him. Washes her hands. She does it slowly. Wipes them on a dish towel. Not looking at him.
He says in a strangled voice, "I'm gonna go for a walk, Marita."
She nods. Still looking down at the dish towel. "I'll be here. When you're ready."
Hot tears rise up in her face when he flees. She tells herself it's the onions.
She hears the door when he finally comes back.
She lies there in the dark, waiting for him. She hears small rustling sounds as he removes his clothes, then his arm. Feels the dip of the mattress when he climbs into bed behind her.
He tugs her hard against him and buries his face in her hair. "I'm so fucking sorry, Marita," he whispers. Breaths hitching.
She kisses his hand. "I know."
What else is there? That's all right? It isn't, and they both know it. I understand? I forgive you? She does, and she has, and yet it seems so cheap, so meaningless to say those things about something so cataclysmic. And saying them will only shame him more.
There's nothing she can say.
She holds his hand, and lets him cling to her, and waits while he rides out the storm.
Somewhere along the line, his mouth finds her shoulder. Kissing. Sucking. There is a shift, from grief to wanting. She feels a flare of righteous anger. How dare he want her to comfort him? How fucking dare he?
But God. She was so afraid of losing him again, when this finally came up. God.
She thinks, after all that's happened, they're lucky to have any love left at all.
She swallows her irritation, and she turns to him, and soon she wants him too.
Spender freed her ten months later.
He brought her to Diana's old apartment at the Watergate. A nurse lived there with her - Greta, the same nurse who now nursed Spender himself - and after four weeks, she was declared as good as new. In fact, she was aware of residual weakness in her bones and teeth, and she doubted she would ever be completely as she had been, but she kept that information to herself.
But she was well enough to re-establish contacts and make enquiries. It seemed that Spender had been behaving erratically since the night of El Rico. He had been physically well at that time, but his actions pointed to a gradual loss of judgement. The last straw was when he allowed Dana Scully into the building that had taken the place of East 46th Street as the centre of operations. That had been an expensive breach, and he was summarily dismissed for it.
It had taken them a while to get all his security clearances pulled from the system, though, and there had been enough time for him to free Marita. His reasons, of course, were not altruistic. He wanted a lackey, someone who still had knowledge and access, and she was the only one desperate enough to take the job. He held Alex's location over her head for months, until finally, he needed Alex, too.
Spender had not been forthcoming about the reasons for Alex's imprisonment. She knew only that Alex had been set up, that he had been caught selling intelligence in the Middle East, and that he had been sentenced to life imprisonment in a penal colony. Others in the resistance told her more: that Spender was afraid of Alex; that after El Rico Alex turned feral. Gone were the clean, painless kills that had once set him apart from his fellow operatives. He embarked on a campaign of brutality - one hit was found decapitated, another burnt to death. He was louder. More confrontational.
"He never got over leaving you there, Marita," Jeffrey warned her in hushed, confidential tones just before she flew out for Tunisia. "He changed. The old man was scared to death of him." Jeffrey had thrown himself into vaccine research since his rescue, and, oddly enough, seemed very happy despite his injuries. In the resistance, peopled by failed experiments of every kind, he had found acceptance and warmth. It was she who was an outsider here.
She tried to imagine Alex like that, and couldn't. "Do you think he'll still be like that?"
"Not necessarily. Nine months of hard labour might have burnt it out of him. Especially now that you're back in the picture."
"But how will I know?" she wondered. Thinking of the hotel and the flight and the hire car. The supplies she'd bought for the apartment, the appointments she'd made with his specialists. Suddenly she felt horribly naive. What if she'd worked so hard to get him back, but the man she knew was no longer there?
Jeffrey placed a hand over hers. His flesh felt withered and old. "You'll know."
She wakes to sunlight streaming through the windows, and Alex at her side.
"Hey," he says, stroking back her hair with tender fingers.
She smiles. "Hey."
"What do you think our chances are of getting a flight out to Zurich this afternoon?"
She'll fly the plane herself if she has to. "I'd say they're pretty good." She strokes his cheek with the back of her hand. "You're sure?"
He nods. "You're right, Marita. It's time to walk away. I'm ready - at least as ready as I'll ever be."
She smiles. Draws him close. Laughs out loud. "Thank God," she says.
They make love. Smiling. Laughing. Teasing. A celebration.
They dress and pack, and leave the apartment for the final time.
The best that can be said of their meeting at the Hoover is that the food is good.
It makes her nervous, being in that building. So many people there would love to arrest Alex and put him away. It would be painfully ironic if, after all they'd endured, he were to be caught by some rookie right there in the FBI.
She takes his hand compulsively when they walk into Skinner's office. He doesn't pull away.
They stay there through lunchtime, telling what they know. They don't tell of the resistance work or their plans to walk, but they tell everything else. The collapse of the project. The rise of new people to power. The old man's pathetic manipulations. That the cloning experiments continue, even now. She recounts as much as she can bear to tell of the tests, in conversational tones while they eat. She looks studiously at her food while she does it, and she can feel his eyes on her. Sees that gently proud smile again from the corner of her eye.
She feels lighter when they leave.
"I want to go to the Watergate," he says when she pulls out into traffic.
The breath catches in her chest. "Alex, it's over. Let's just go."
"We'll still make our flight. It won't take long."
So she drives to the Watergate, against her better judgement. Jeffrey's warning is fresh in her mind when they knock on Spender's door.
There are no preliminaries. Alex advances on him. Takes the handles of his wheelchair, over Greta's protests. Marita watches. She pushes Greta back when she tries to follow.
"Don't," she hisses. "I don't know what he's going to do."
She will never know what it is that makes Greta obey. Perhaps she believes Marita is afraid of Alex. Who knows? She is afraid, it's true, but her fear is for him, not of him.
She follows Alex out of the apartment. Stands by him when he pushes the old man down the stairs. She draws grim satisfaction from the clattering sound of his tangled body and wheelchair tumbling down the stairs. She didn't want this - but then, part of her did, as well.
She stares down at Spender's crumpled body at the foot of the stairs. She thinks it isn't enough. Not nearly enough for what he put them through.
Alex begins to walk, and she does the same. Keeping pace with him. Suddenly sounds are sharper. Colours are more vibrant. She can hear their footsteps thudding in her ears. Can sense the primitive blood thirst coming off him in waves.
They pause when they reach the old man's crumpled form.
She waits. She can feel him, deliberating. She feels him poised. Watches, heartsick, waiting for the first kick. The first punch. Braces herself for his fury and his pain.
The moment fades.
He steps over the body. Walks on without looking back.
Thank God, she thinks. Thank God.
"Should we make sure he's dead?" she wonders when she catches up with him.
He shakes his head. "It doesn't matter any more."
Warmth washes over her. Relief, strong and sweet. "It's over, isn't it?"
He takes her hand and squeezes it. "Yeah. It's over."
The call comes on a rainy day.
Marita and Grisha are looking at photographs of Grozny. They are the Grozny of yesteryear, a more peaceful, less bloodied Grozny. Grisha points excitedly at landmarks. He shares memories in a garbled mix of English, Chechen, and Russian. He points with his hand and his prosthetic, each one as clumsy as the other. Marita looks down at him, smiling, and then up again when Alex comes into the room.
"Is there anything we can do?" he says into the phone. Holding her gaze. Frowning. "No, I know. Yeah. I'll tell her."
"Alex?" she says when he rings off. "What is it?"
"Talk about your blasts from the past. That was Jeffrey," he tells her in Arabic.
Worry rises up in her, and not only because of the identity of the caller. Arabic is the only language they share with one another, and not with Grisha.
"Jeffrey Spender?" she says. "You're sure?"
He nods. "He had the right pass codes, and he checked mine. It was him. Seems our old friend Mulder broke into a military installation. They're saying he killed a man - a man Jeffrey says is one of the alien replacements."
She frowns. Bewildered. "It has to be a frame-up. The replacements can't be killed."
"That was what I said, but Jeffrey thinks there is a way now. But that's not what happened here."
"So he's standing trial?"
"Of sorts," Alex says mirthlessly. "He's been court-martialled by the military."
She stares at him. "What? But they have no jurisdiction!" Her diplomatic sensibilities are outraged.
"They have documents saying he enlisted. Forged, I imagine. Jeffrey's going to testify for Mulder, but he doesn't think it will be enough."
Suddenly, she understands. She goes pale. Tense. Grisha looks up at her curiously. "He wants me to testify for Mulder, doesn't he?"
Alex shrugs. "He's desperate. Mulder's his brother."
She looks down at Grisha's upturned face. Ruffles his hair. "Alex, if I tell even one-tenth of what I know, they'll kill me."
He passes his hand over his face. "Well, it's up to you. You don't have to. You certainly don't owe Mulder anything." He sighs. "If you want to do this, Marita, we'll find a way. We'll go somewhere else. Somewhere safer."
"I don't think anywhere will be safe enough." She looks up at him once more. "Do you think I should?"
His voice is kind. "You know I can't answer that."
She thinks about it. About all the choices she made. Obeying the Syndicate. Taking the boy. About all the times she chose safety over what was good or right. She thinks about the way she hates herself for that now.
"We'll need to charter a flight," she says at last.
"In that much of a hurry?" he says. A little taken aback.
"Let's just get there before I change my mind."
Night is falling when they arrive at the apartment in Maryland.
Alex takes Grisha from her arms and puts him to bed. She barely notices. Stands there at the window, looking out. Thinking.
"Do you want me to go track Skinner down?" Alex asks, coming down the stairs. "Let him know you want to testify?"
She looks out. Sighs. "I suppose."
He comes and puts his arm around her shoulders. "You really don't want to do this, do you?" he murmurs.
She shakes her head. "No," she says. "I don't." She wants to be home in Lausanne with her husband and her son and the life they've made together. She never wanted to come here again.
"Then why are we here?" His voice is gentle.
"Because I keep thinking about what I did. The way I gave in. The way I gave up." She looks at him. "I should have fought for us, Alex. I was weak and scared, and I cost us everything."
His arm tightens around her. She sinks back against him, into his warmth, and tears spill over her cheeks. "You have nothing to be sorry for, Marita." He kisses her temple.
She nods. Sniffles. "I still need to do this, Alex."
He holds her, warm and still. "Okay."
They are interrupted by a knock at the door. They look at each other in alarm, breaking apart. Alex draws his gun when she goes to the door.
"It's Skinner," she says, unbelieving, when she looks through the peephole.
He relaxes a little, but he doesn't put down the gun. "What the hell is he doing here?"
She shrugs. "Only one way to find out." She steels herself, then she opens the door.
"Miss Covarrubias," Skinner begins, cordially enough, but then he sees Alex behind her. His face turns dead white. "You son of a bitch!" he says, pushing past her. "How the hell did you do it?"
Alex's expression darkens. "Keep the noise down, Walt. My kid's asleep upstairs."
"Yeah, and I'm Flukeman. How did you get out of that garage?"
She steps forward, between the men. Alarmed. "Mr Skinner, our son is a Chechen refugee. He's very traumatised, and he is afraid of loud noises. Now, either lower your voice, or leave."
Skinner looks at her. Clearly waging some inner battle. Finally, he breathes out through his nose. "Fine," he says in a low voice. "But I want some answers from you," he says over her shoulder, "starting with how you saved your sorry ass."
Alex's voice is gravelly with irritation. "Look, I haven't seen you since that day in Mulder's office two years ago. I have no idea what you're talking about."
Skinner goes pale all over again. "A super soldier," he says in recognition. "It was a super soldier."
"You mean an alien replacement?" she says. "It's possible. We know they have one of Alex. That was why we had to get out to begin with. So it couldn't pose as Alex to infiltrate the work on a vaccine."
Skinner looks at them in confusion. Recovering a little. "It had the controller," he argues. Marita looks at Alex in query.
Alex shifts uncomfortably. "It's not important. I'll tell you later," he tells her. To Skinner, he says, "The controller was seized by the Tunisian authorities three years ago. I don't have it." Skinner grimaces. Clearly dismayed.
"Mr Skinner," she says, bypassing the curious matter of the controller for the moment, "why are you here?"
He blinks. Shakes his head a little. As though remembering something he'd forgotten. At last, he says, "I came to ask you to testify before a military tribunal. About what you know about the conspiracy."
"The conspiracy," she says. Aghast. "That's not his defence, is it?"
"This *is* Mulder we're talking about," Alex says mirthlessly.
Skinner looks from one to the other. "You know about it then?"
"I know a little," she says. "How did you get this address? It disappeared from the database years ago, when I left the United Nations." Not that she really left, so much as vanished.
"Mulder gave it to me," he says. "I don't know where he got it."
"He got it years ago," Alex supplies. "I saw him write it down."
"Would he remember?" she wonders.
"He might," Skinner says. "He has a photographic memory. And I don't see how else he could have gotten it from in the brig."
"Well, it hardly matters at this point." She turns to Skinner. "How is he, anyway?"
"Drained. They've been beating him. Trying to brainwash him. He's pretty lucid, considering."
Marita nods. "You didn't answer my question. The conspiracy isn't his defence, is it? Is he *trying* to be executed?"
Skinner shakes his head helplessly. "The whole thing's a farce. He's not going to get off. I think he wants to go out with a bang."
Alex turns on him. Angered. "Why should she help him do that?"
"Because you know. You know the truth, and it deserves to be heard. Even if we're the only ones who are willing to believe." He looks at each of them in turn. "Please tell me you acquired some decency along with this son of yours."
"You don't know anything about us," she says in a low voice. "You never did."
He doesn't look convinced, but he doesn't debate the matter of their decency or lack thereof. "So does that mean you'll testify?"
She narrows her eyes at him. "Maybe," she says. "Goodnight, Mr Skinner."
She has no idea what good it will do, for Mulder or anything else, but she does it.
She falters when Skinner pushes her, and Mulder intervenes and stops him. A little part of her feels white-hot resentment when he does it. Is she supposed to be grateful to him now? After all he did, all he failed to do? All he cost them with his worthless, pointless quest? Does this make up for the rape, and the tests, and Alex's arm?
But then she thinks of Jeffrey. Her friend Jeffrey, who asked this of her. She thinks of Alex and Grisha, and how Mulder's intervention might - *might* - allow them safety for a little while longer.
She thinks that she has no business passing judgement on him, any more than he does on her. They all wound up in a hell of someone else's making, and they all walked in the flames as best they could.
She allows him a single nod of thanks, and he gives one to her. She feels a door within her close.
She leaves the tribunal easier in mind.
When she walks out of the gates of Mount Weather, Alex is standing there, leaning against the car by the side of the road. Picking at a long stem of wild grass, throwing seeds at the barbed wire fence. He looks peaceful, and for so long, she hadn't dared believe she would see him like that. She realises that she isn't the only one to come out the other side here, and the knowledge makes the breath catch in her throat and her eyes fill with tears of joy. She feels silly for it, and she wipes them with the back of her hand.
She remembers the night he found her. She remembers him in a makeshift infirmary in Tunguska. Remembers making love with him on a ship. A quarantine ward. A prison. A thousand other moments along the way. Some are important, some are not. But realisation sweeps over her, that every one of those moments has led them to this one now.
As epiphanies go, it's pretty much a no-brainer.
But it carries new weight - that's the thing. New force. She feels a clarity she's never felt before.
She is ready to face the future with him at her side.
She goes to him. The gravel crunches beneath her heel. "Hey," she says. She can't stop smiling.
"Hey," he says. He waits for her, and he holds out his arm for her when she comes into reach.
They hold each other in the morning sun.
"How'd it go?" he says when she finally draws back to look at him.
"Okay," she says, and she means it.
"What do you think will happen to Mulder?" he wonders.
"I don't know," she says. "I don't want to know. It's over."
"We've said it was over before," he reminds her. Gently.
"It was over for you," she says. "But it wasn't over for me. It took this -" she waves a hand back at the installation "- to make me see it."
"I've given back...what I needed to give back. Or gotten it. Or both." She doesn't know how to explain it any better than that.
He holds her. Smooths back the hair from her face. Eyes grave. "Doesn't seem right, you know. Just walking away like that."
She knows what he means. She feels it too. "We wanted to save the world, Alex, but we were only ever cogs in the wheel. We did what we could. That's all anyone can ask." She touches his cheek. "Even Mulder realised that in the end."
He nods. Sighing a little.
She nods in the direction of Grisha's sleeping form, inside the car. "How's he doing?"
"Not bad," Alex says. "Good, actually." She looks at him in query. He explains, "A couple of military vehicles went by. He didn't get upset. I was sure he would."
"He's healing," she says.
He kisses her forehead. "I think we all are."
They hold one another. Eyes tender. Things unspoken, yet understood, just the same.
"It's time to go," she says at last.
He shines her that crooked grin, the one that makes her melt.
"In a minute."
He kisses her. Slow and tender. Just an interlude. A few stolen moments along the way. They break apart reluctantly. Linked hands promise a lifetime of moments to come.
"Home?" he says.
She nods. "Yeah."
They get into the car, and drive off into the morning sun.
Well, it's good to be back.
I've been pretty stuck with writing Krycek and Marita since Existence, and particularly since The Truth. I've written the two of them, yes, but it's tended to be short pieces set in the past (Trace A Random Star, The Anointed), angsty pieces told from an external POV (Strange Bedfellows, Signs Of Life), or little throwaway pieces written mostly as a self-imposed challenge (Arrested Momentum). I've had lots of things I've wanted to write, but none of them really came together. And that's despite being firmly of the belief that a plausible case can be made that Alex didn't die. I've written dead characters before - that's not usually a stumbling block for me - but his position in the Season 8 arc is problematic in a number of ways, and it's taken a while for me to fit them together with what went on up to Requiem.
What finally broke it was a Mulder/Diana post-col I'm working on, Metanoia. (It's been on the backburner while I write this, but I want to finish it). Metanoia has Alex and Marita in the background, with a backstory that explains Alex's survival. Much to my surprise, this seemed to resolve my long-standing writer's block for these two. I think I needed to actually write a scenario that still made sense in light of The Truth, not just think one up.
This one started out without a plan, unlike most of my work, but I got one fast. It pulls in a lot of threads I've wanted to work with and haven't had a chance. In some ways, I think it revisits what I tried to do three years ago with my first Krycek/Marita work, Not My Lover. That story ran side-by-side with canon, exploring their past until Requiem, and closed on them after the work was over. This one does the same to The Truth.
But there are differences, too. In NML, they were the movers and shakers, who brought about the end of the colonist threat. They had to accept that their work was done and let go of their need to take responsibility for the path the world took afterwards. Conversely, in Restitution, they are cogs in the wheel. They must accept that they have done everything they could, and that their part in the work is done, and trust others to continue it after them. In NML, their actions were reinterpreted and almost always noble. In Restitution, they still have that noble spirit I see in them both, but their actions are more flawed - more human. The stories are two sides of the one coin, but I think, overall, that this story is a more mature treatment of the same basic idea. They each have their merits, and NML will always have a very special place in my heart, but I think Restitution addresses a lot of the flaws I've perceived in NML with the passage of time.
It would be poetic, then, if Restitution were to be my swan song as an author in XF. But somehow I don't think that's going to happen. I've got too many stories to tell for you to be able to get rid of me just yet. So let's say I'm reinventing myself in light of the end of the show, instead.
Big thanks to my LiveJournal friends. This is the first long story I've completed "live", so to speak - sharing installments in first-draft form. It was a scary thing to do, because first drafts are sketchy and unimpressive, and I did fear that people would not bother to read the story in its final form because they already got the main gist of it. But it worked out really well.
Thanks to others of you who quietly support me along the way as well, whether close friend or reader-from-a-distance. I've been a total ingrate the last year or so. It's been a hard twelve months, and a lot of people who deserved thanks and time didn't get them. But it was never for lack of love on my part - only for lack of equipment.
Thanks finally to an LJ friend for the Russian help - Maria (Alita), whose name I will probably always mistype as Marita. *grin*