Welcome To The Harem

Grace by bardsmaid, aka LoneThinker
Summary: After her unexpected reprieve from testifying at Mulder's trial, Marita returns home, though perhaps not as much alone as she believes. PG, Krycek/Marita, The Truth.

TITLE: Grace (post-ep for *The Truth)
AUTHOR: bardsmaid (aka LoneThinker)
E-MAIL: bardsmaid@imagesmithstudio.com
DISTRIBUTION: Yes, but please let me know where.
DISCLAIMER: The X-Files characters in this story are the official property of 1013 and Fox, though they rightfully belong to the actors who have brought them to much fuller life than was written into the pages of their scripts.
SUMMARY: After her unexpected reprieve from testifying at Mulder's trial, Marita returns home, though perhaps not as much alone as she believes.
THANK YOU: for conscientious, thorough beta to Spica, Vanzetti and Candace.

A more visually-pleasing version of this story is available at: http://www.sandarsdimension.com/excavations/XFfic/Grace.htm


Marita closed her eyes briefly, succumbing to hot, dry darkness, and
waited for the traffic light to change. Without looking she could
feel it--that set her mouth fell into when she wasn't consciously
making it do something else. *Dour*, her father used to say when
she'd meet him for dinner during her first year with the Consortium.
Then he'd chalk it up to working hard at her new career and say
something light in an attempt to raise her spirits. All she could do
was play along. There was no explaining the things she knew.

Even Alex had called her on it occasionally. You look grim, he'd
say, seemingly out of the blue. But how else was she supposed to
look, knowing what the future held?

Three more blocks. She could make it that far.

Marita opened her eyes and glanced into the rear view mirror. She'd
watched the entire way and as far as she could tell, she hadn't been
followed--a small but welcome mercy. Traffic began to move through
the narrow streets of the worn neighborhood and Marita accelerated
with it. Once this area had been a prosperous downtown, but how
easily change did its work: the needs of a city shifted, alliances
switched, up became down. *Take your cards, play your hand. But
don't cry over the result.* She could almost hear Alex speak the
words. She smiled grimly and braked, allowing a car at the curb to
merge into traffic. Quickly she maneuvered into the just-vacated
spot. Across the street, the late afternoon sun splashed liquid gold
on a window--her window--above a hardware store. She switched off
the engine and fought the impulse to glance into the rear view mirror
one last time. Those who mattered would have no need to follow her:
they'd implanted a chip in her during her time at Fort Marlene. It
was efficient, like house arrest with an electronic leg band but more
discreet. Eventually her leash had been handed to the current powers-
that-be. If they wanted her for something, they knew where she was.
Otherwise they were content to let her live out her life in this
obscure little walk-up.

Marita reached for her purse on the seat beside her and hesitated.
She wasn't necessarily safe. Someone who wanted to help Mulder had
obviously managed to find out where she lived. She studied her
surroundings more carefully this time, looking for loiterers, men in
dark suits, unmarked vans. But there was nothing suspicious. A
stray lock of blonde hair slipped forward into her face; she smoothed
it back behind her ear and grimaced as she peeled herself away from
the heat of the seat back. Her eyes burned. Her skin felt
smothered. Even her bones ached, as if they had somehow absorbed the
entire burden of the last four years and held it now, silent and
unable to displace their load. She squinted at the upstairs window
again. She only wanted to lie down, but she'd run before. It would
be no loss to leave--not this place or any other.

It was the way it was destined to be: a series of locations, each
only until she was discovered--intentionally or inadvertently--by
someone naive enough to think they could use or help her, until
finally the inevitable arrived. She'd played her hand. Now she had
to live with the results.

*Go up.*

The words came to her almost as if they'd been whispered. Curious,
she turned to look behind her but the back seat contained only the
things she'd been carrying around for weeks: a blue towel, a half-
empty water bottle, a pair of cheap sandals she'd worn at the beach,
searching for... solace, inspiration, something without a name.
There had been only the lapping of weak gray waves and a hint of
humid breeze, like the faded remembrance of a lover's breath.

*Go up.*

Marita's shoulders eased and she reached for her purse. If someone
were waiting for her... Somehow she didn't think so; perhaps she was
just beyond caring. She reached for the door handle.

At the top of the stairs she let herself quickly into the apartment
and locked the door behind her. It was a working-class flat: basic,
worn, uninspired, the kind of place where struggling receptionists
lived, or weary graying women who tended to whisker-chinned men
nursing beers on threadbare sofas. Spender would smirk if he could
see her now, condemned to this small, insignificant life. Alex would

If he were alive.

No, Alex would probably only shrug the shrug that said *your
responsibility: you make your move, you have to roll with the ripples
it creates.* He'd been philosophical that way--when he wasn't being
cheated. And they'd ended on fairly even footing.

This was where her move had brought her. This was her ripple to ride

Marita made herself move from the entry. She hung her purse in the
closet and slipped off her shoes. The portable ironing board sat on
the kitchen table where she'd left it after pressing her blouse this
morning for Mulder's inquest. Now she folded it, then took the iron
from the counter beside the sink and began to wrap the cord around it
absently. It was Mulder who had told her of Alex's death, speaking
in low tones, uncharacteristically subdued; he'd thought she might
want to know. "I'm sorry," he'd added as he turned to walk away, but
she couldn't tell whether he was sorry to be the bearer of bad news
or sorry about what had happened.

Uncharacteristic of him, knowing what he'd thought of Alex. As was
this, today. What quirk of fate had made him change his mind at the
last second and let her go? He could well have been her executioner.

Iron and ironing board secured in the cupboard, Marita drifted to the
refrigerator. On the front, held up with a magnet advertising a
local pizzeria, was a crayon drawing, a gift from the little Puerto
Rican girl in the apartment across the landing. In it, flowers
sprouted vigorously from a window box in bright colors: salmon pink
and turquoise and yellow. Behind them, in the window, was a brown-
haired girl with a smile that looped quite literally from ear to
ear. Marita let one finger trail lightly across the paper. But
she'd played her hand. And the world now was no place to raise a


She shrugged her shoulders, stretching, and leaned her neck to one
side and then the other. Her stomach held an insistent emptiness,
though possibly of the variety food would fail to fill. Sleep, on
the other hand, would dull the overarching ache that surrounded her.
Temporarily, at least. And she was exhausted. She turned and
started down the hallway to the bedroom, unfastening her blouse as
she went.

She'd gained five pounds since coming here, a small victory after her
time at Fort Marlene. But the reason was obvious enough: there was
nothing to do to worry away the pounds now. They'd 'relieved' her of
any obligation to concern herself with what would be coming. None of
her former contacts, no participation or passing of information of
any kind. These days she grasped at small, fragile pleasures: the
music of a little girl's voice, a new leaf on her potted vine, a good
cup of tea taken by the window in the warmth of morning's early light.

In the mirror she looked deceptively healthy, strong. Her face was
tan; her cheeks were fuller now. Marita reached behind her head,
worked the clasp there and let her hair fall loose around her face.
Alex had actually worried about her thinness once. She'd wakened in
the dark and was easing herself to the edge of the bed--it was the
morning after one of his flights in from Russia--when she was
surprised by warm fingers tracing her ribs.

*You're too skinny, Mare,* his voice had come quietly after a
moment. *You should eat more.*

*Foil the invasion and I'll have more appetite,* she'd been ready to
reply, though when she'd turned to face him, she was stopped short by
the look on his face, a softness filling it she'd never seen there
before. He'd flushed, cleared his throat and lay back down again in
the shadows. On her way to the bathroom she'd told herself that it
only made sense to ensure the strength of someone you were working

They'd both been so careful to remind themselves that their alliance
was strictly strategic--never meant to last, not destined for
tenderness. Still, she'd found herself wanting to conjure him up as
she fell asleep at Fort Marlene--strong arms around her, sheltering
her from what they did to her during the day in the labs. She always
failed, though, realizing what she must have left him to when she'd
stolen away with the boy Dmitri, and how he must hate her now.

She'd feared for their reunion as well. On the flight to Tunisia
sleep had eluded her, her mind unable to untangle itself from images
of her betrayal aboard the freighter. But he hadn't mentioned it.
He'd barely spoken, overwhelmed by his ordeal and the abrupt end it
had come to. When they reached the Mediterranean coast, they'd
rented a suite of rooms in the best hotel in Zarzis. After pacing
from room to room and from balcony to window, Alex had excused
himself to take a second shower, then had gone immediately to bed in
the smaller room, leaving her to eat dinner with a Frenchwoman they'd
met in the lobby. When she'd returned and looked in on him, he'd
waved her away. Nightmares, he'd mumbled; he might hurt her. But
past three in the morning, with moonlight reaching in soft fingers
into her room, she'd heard him cry out and when she approached his
bed, he'd let her in without protest or speaking. They'd spent the
rest of the night clinging to each other like orphaned children, Alex
returned quickly to sleep, she awake, listening to the panic in his
breathing gradually fade, soaking in the rich, reassuring scent of
him--hair and warm skin and the soap he'd used--her mind easily
forming the images it had refused to allow her at Fort Marlene.

When she'd woken to sunlight washing the room, he was already half-
dressed. After that they'd taken care of their business: returned to
the U.S. and visited the hideous old man, then met with Mulder and
Skinner and convinced them to return to Oregon to seek the cloaked
ship. Surely Mulder's forward charge would send the ship fleeing and
the old man would have no chance to make another self-serving 'deal'
with the colonists.

Except, of course, that things had turned. In the end Mulder had
been taken, leaving Alex tight-lipped and moody. *I won't be able to
contact you again, Marita,* he'd said. It was deliberate, the use of
her full name--a distance meant to make it easier for both of them to
do what they had to. She was, for all intents and purposes, wired;
his work required secrecy. And they couldn't punish her for what she
didn't know. She hadn't seen him again, had known nothing until the
day Mulder met her in a Baltimore park with the news that Alex was
dead. Somehow she'd always believed she'd see him again--one last
time, at least. The shock of knowing he was gone had been hauntingly
disconcerting, like a novel with the final page torn out.

Marita stared at her image in the mirror, gilded at the edges by the
dying light of approaching evening. Ironic that the sight should
make her think of the haloed frescoes of Byzantine saints; she'd been
far from anything like that. Circumstances had pulled her life into
that path that... But she'd known the risks in what she did. Her
responsibility. And in the end, her sentence.

She shrugged the blouse off her shoulders and hung it in the closet.
Slowly she removed her bra and laid it on the dresser. She reached
for a thin cotton nightgown on the hook in the closet and slipped it
over her head. In the bathroom she brushed her teeth and splashed
her face with water. Fatigue had nestled itself into lavender half-
moons below her eyes.

*Don't look.*

She turned away from the sight and went to the doorway leading into
the bedroom. It was such a small room--an anonymous room. Even
leafing through her neighbor's old copies of home decorating
magazines hadn't given her the heart to do anything to make it more
her own. It had a motel room's air of transience; tonight the
feeling was stronger than usual. Maybe it was the sight of Mulder
and remembering a time when she still held cards that could be played.

Marita drew the curtains and lay down in the unmade bed, pulling the
sheet and faded thermal blanket up around her. Curling onto her
side, she closed her eyes and gradually felt the hot dryness behind
them go liquid and warm. If she had one card left to play--one
small, insignificant card--say, if she were able to see Alex one
final time... what would she say?


She listened to her own breathing in the quiet, in and out, and the
muffled rhythm of her pulse against the pillow. Pipes groaned
somewhere inside the wall and the sound of the upstairs shower could
be heard. Swallowing against a sudden pressure in her throat, she
reached for the extra pillow and pulled it close against her. Their
encounter at Fort Marlene had been completely unexpected. Certainly
he hadn't helped her escape; she wouldn't have expected him to. But
there had been a look on his face beyond disbelief at what had
happened to her: not repulsion or anger but regret. For an unguarded
moment those green eyes had revealed how deeply she'd been stamped
into his life, no matter their relative betrayals or how the cards
had fallen. If, in her own imagination, she were to see him again,
she would thank him for that look.

It was something to cling to tonight, that memory. She let out a
shuddered breath and loosened, letting the stuffy quiet of the room
settle over her. Gradually the image in her mind began to reshape
itself. He was bending over her now, as one might lean over a
sleeping child. She could almost feel the warmth of the hand that
moved across her forehead, smoothing the hair from her face. Warm
wetness crept across her eyelids, sealing them.

*Just rest, Mare.*

grace: unmerited divine assistance; an act or instance of kindness,
courtesy, or clemency.