Welcome To The Harem

The Gates Of Ivory by Vanzetti
Summary: Marita goes on a quest. Krycek/Marita resfic. The Truth, PG.

Title: The Gates of Ivory
Author: Vanzetti (vanzettis@hotmail.com)
Rating: PG (language, violence)
Category: K/Ma. Angst, then shmoop. OK,
actually, I couldn't produce shmoop, but
hey, at least it's resfic.
Spoilers: The Truth.
Disclaimer: If they were mine, I wouldn't
have to write resfic.
Thanks: To Bardsmaid for beta.
Dedication: To my Ph.D. committee. If only you knew.
Summary: Marita goes on a quest.

Aeneas and the Sibyl leave the Underworld
(Virgil, Aeneid 6.893-899):

There are two gates for dreams; the first, they say,
Of horn, gives easy exit to true spirits.
The other gleams perfect, carved of white ivory,
But sends false dreams from the dead to the world above.
To these, then, Anchises led his son and the Sibyl,
And sent them out through the ivory gate.

In her dream he was staring at her as she
gave her testimony, standing just by
Mulder's side. When she woke, the book
Marita Covarrubias had fallen asleep reading
had been laid neatly next to the bed, her
place marked by a bookmark she didn't
recognize. Still half-asleep, she opened
the book to look at it.

And threw them both, book and bookmark,
across the room. The book slammed against
the far wall, the bookmark fluttering to the
floor after it. She sat curled up on the
bed, one hand pressed over her mouth and the
other pulling the sheet and blanket up over
her knees to her neck. She would not cry.
She would not. She would not.

She had walked into that bare courtroom
unwillingly. I'm not a bad person, she told
herself. She didn't actively want Agent
Mulder to be killed, and in some other
situation she might have told everything she
knew, put her own life on the line in one
last gamble that maybe this time it would do
some good. But not for Walter Skinner. She
had her pride. Very little else, but she
had her pride.

Staring at the judges, though, she'd
thought, oh, what does it matter, they'll
kill me anyway sooner or later. Maybe
someone in the room would care enough to do
something with what she knew, that with the
Syndicate gone the aliens had taken over the
colonization plans for themselves. Maybe it
would do some good. Once upon a time, she
had trusted Mulder.

Alex never had. He'd liked him, in his own
strange way, but he'd never trusted him
except to comment, once, that if he wanted
Mulder to go north all he had to do was tell
him south. "That man," he'd said,
whispering it into her hair, "that man will
be the death of me." She'd brushed her palm
against the bones of his hip and asked,
"What's Agent Mulder doing in bed with us?"

Alex had been right. So when she heard
Mulder tell Skinner to let her go she hadn't
said, "No, let me help you. You need to
know this." She'd picked up her purse and
walked out of the room. The other agent--
Doggett, his name was, Alex had pointed him
out to her once--tried to persuade her to
talk to him off the record, making all kinds
of promises about safe houses and witness
protection. She'd smiled at him, let him
hand her into her car, and driven away.

So here she was, two days later, alone in a
motel room in St. Louis. She had two
changes of clothes, three passports, five
credit cards she might be able to use once
each and almost seven thousand dollars cash.
And now, a note on a white card in his
handwriting lying on the brown carpet. She
sighed in defeat and got up to look at it
again. It really was his handwriting, on a
plain three by five card, and it said only

Tunguska. It might as well have said
"Hell." Tunguska was at the heart of
everything that had gone wrong, everything
that was wrong: she should have known from
the first that saving the world couldn't
involve such horrors, that she couldn't
accept them without them becoming part of
her. And of Alex: Tunguska was at the heart
of everything that had gone wrong with Alex,
as well.

Marita used one of the credit cards to buy a
ticket for Mexico City and hid there for a
week in her great-grandmother's apartment
where two old aunts cooed over her as if she
was an infant and she wondered whether she
was going insane. Alex was dead, and
whatever was waiting for her in Tunguska, it
wouldn't be Alex. No matter what the card
in her pocket promised. She took it out and
looked at it again; it was getting soft from
all the times she'd run her fingers over it.

Since receiving it, she hadn't dreamed about
Alex at all. Before then she'd dreamed
about him almost every night. He never said
anything, but that was all right because
he'd never said much when he was alive.
Sometimes he would lie down next to her and
wrap both arms around her, so that she knew
it was a dream. Sometimes when she woke she
could still feel the warmth and weight of
him. Now she woke up alone in a narrow
wrought-iron bed like her aunts' narrow
wrought-iron beds, in a room with lace on
the dresser and a lace bedspread and a
little portrait of her great-grandmother
staring down at her from the wall.

She could stay here forever, if she wanted
to. Marita shuddered. Tunguska. It was a
death sentence. Nothing good had ever come
out of Tunguska.

She flew to Moscow and then to Krasnoyarsk.
In Krasnoyarsk a truck and a gun were all
she needed: she drove out of town and kept
going until it was dark and she was too
tired to go any further. Lying in the back
of the truck she shifted her shoulders
against the metal ridges of its surface and
stared up at the stars. They stared back
down, as if innocent, on herself and on the
camp she was heading for, until she had to
turn away from them. There would be nothing
but death waiting for her in Tunguska; there
had never been anything in Tunguska but

She woke on her side, her hand resting on
the gun. At dawn the forest looked
harmless: the pine trees reached straight up
to the sky and the fresh green of the plants
growing between them shone in the light
slanting down on them. She could hear a
bird singing nearby; a crow called out and
another responded. There was an engine in
the distance; it got closer and resolved
itself into the clatter of some kind of
truck bouncing along the road. It passed
her and faded away again.

Breakfast was a little brown bread and dried
cheese she'd bought in Krasnoyarsk. She
splashed some water onto her face and tied a
scarf over her hair. Then she climbed back
into the truck to drive up the hill and back
onto the road. The steady beat of the
engine displaced the sense of calm she'd
felt before and sent a vibration traveling
through her arms and up to her teeth. This
was a fool's errand for a dead man. Fool,
fool, fool, fool, the truck said back to
her. Dead, dead, dead, dead.

She kept driving. In the middle of the
afternoon she found a rutted dirt road she
thought would lead to the camp. A little
way down it she pulled over and inspected
the track: in use, but not in frequent use,
she thought. She kept going, slowly and
stopping frequently to listen for the noises
her engine would drown out. When the sun
began to set she stopped and hid the truck.
She could sleep here, she imagined. Or she
could turn around and go back. If she went
in she might not come out. Would not come
out. If she was lucky, they would kill her
outright. If not, she might survive for
years in their labs.

No, she would go on. She took a drink of
water, determined to ignore the way the
canteen shook in her hand. Her stomach
clenched against the food she tried to choke
down. Oh God, it was easier to think about
dying than to face it, now, when she was
still shaking and her whole body ached. And
for what? She forced herself away from the
truck, one foot after another, the straps
from her cheap backpack digging into her
shoulders. A fool's errand, a dead man, and
at the end of the road, Tunguska.

As the forest became darker, though,
everything seemed clearer. So what if death
was waiting in the camp for her? Sooner or
later it would find her, whatever she did.
Whatever she did, wherever she hid, the
limping rhythm carried her forward.

At first she hardly noticed the light
growing in front of her. She blinked her
eyes at it and it was still there, far too
soon for sunrise. And now she could hear
the faintest sound of machinery. She went
on more cautiously from one tree to another,
under a fence and on and on through the
trees, her eyes fixed on the glow before her
as it grew stronger, and as the scattered
noise became the steady hum and crash of

The light saved her. Without it she would
have stumbled over the edge and fallen into
the pit below; the light and noise guided
her to the edge of the cliff and let her
stop there, hidden in the upthrown shadows.

It was like looking down into Hell: the
glare of lights, the small shapes of the men
below her dwarfed by the three-footed
structure shuddering up and down at the very
foot of the cliff.

The scene resolved itself: she was lying on
the edge of the rockface where the prisoners
had once mined and broken open the Oil-
bearing rocks. Now there were only a few
men there, observing the rhythmic motion of
the machine they were tending. A pump? A
drill? At a sign she didn't see they sprang
into motion: the machine was lifted even
further on its legs and tilted back, away
from the cliff. A metal cylinder, about
three feet long and half as wide, was
carefully dragged out of it and carried by
four men to a waiting truck; it only took
two to carry a new cylinder back and insert
it. The machine straightened up and settled
back down in its original position as the
truck began to drive up out of the quarry.

They were mining something at the site, and
Marita thought she knew what it was. The
same thing the Russians had wanted: the Oil.

Her shudder took her by surprise. Directly
below, it was waiting for her, hidden in the
stones, eager to creep out and catch the
unwary, to take a life which thought it knew
itself, thought it had a purpose and give it
a new self, a new purpose. A new life,
even, as the new body destroyed the old.
She'd seen it. She'd felt it.

Now she understood: this had to be
destroyed. Had Alex somehow sent her the
message that led her here, knowing that she
would recognize that necessity? The Oil was
something they shared, although they'd never
spoken of it. It was probably something he
had tried not to remember. It was for her.

She would have to destroy the pump, or
whatever it was working away down in the
pit. Not with the men around it: even if
they weren't replicants, she could never
succeed against them all. And she was
almost certain that they were replicants,
and indestructible. No need for rest, so
they'd never stop working.

She needed a distraction, she thought, as
she watched the truck carry its load to the
top of the pit and drive away from her. At
the end of that road lay the rest of the
camp. The end of the road. She smiled for
what felt like the first time in a year.

Careful to stay outside the circle of the
lights she made her way around the quarry to
the road at the other side of it. The camp
would be the best place to make her
distraction. She reached it in time to see
three men leaving one of its large wooden
buildings. One got into the truck and drove
back down the road; she had to flatten
herself to avoid its lights. When she
lifted her head she saw the other two
entering another building, where a light was
shining, two down from the first. In the
whole camp, that was the only light she
could see. The barracks, which had once
housed the prisoners and the soldiers who
guarded them, lay empty.

She checked a couple, to be sure, and stared
at the empty iron frames in the barracks she
found before closing the door behind her and
leaving. The second building she checked
included some empty offices and a storeroom
which still had a rack of folded sheets.
She put a few of them into her backpack; she
might find a use for them.

At the far edge of the camp she found an
open hangar, now used as a garage. Should
she steal a truck? Too hard to get it back
through the camp, although they were
tempting, six big trucks in a row and a row
of keys handing on the wall behind them. Of
course, no one in Russia would break into a
gulag, even to steal a truck. And
certainly, not this gulag.

The gasoline, stacked in two-gallon jugs
along the far wall, gave her an idea. A
fire--a big fire, a whole building going up
in flames--would be a perfect distraction.
And she knew just the building. She put two
of the jugs into her backpack, wincing, and
picked up one more. That first building
she'd seen, the one the three men--
replicants, she corrected herself--had left,
was ideal. A big, old wooden building, and
near to the road leading back to the mine.

It was only because the camp itself was so
quiet that she heard a door closing. A
couple buildings away, her mind told her as
she froze against the nearest wall. She put
the gas can on the ground and pushed it and
then herself into the empty space under the
building. The smell of the gasoline was
overpowering: surely the patroller would
notice. She saw the light of his flashlight
as he walked along the other side of the
building. Or the gas smell would gag her,
and she would make a noise to betray
herself. She stuffed the sleeve of her
jacket into her mouth and bit down as her
eyes watered so much that she could hardly
see the light and the blood roared in her
ears so loudly that she couldn't hear
anything else.

After an eternity she relaxed her jaw and
wiped her eyes. She couldn't hear or see
anyone, but she would crawl the rest of the
way under the buildings. Slower and harder,
but safer.

When she got to the warehouse her knees and
elbows felt raw and her palms were scratched
and bleeding. She sat crouched by the
stairs and rubbed them on her filthy jeans.
Who among her old acquaintance would
recognize Marita Covarrubias now, she of the
tailored suits and two inch heels? Even in
the field she'd never had a hair out of
place. She smiled at the thought of her old
colleagues' faces. Only Alex might have
known her.

Alex would never recognize her again.
Unless they met in Hell, and even that
seemed too easy. With that thought she
pushed herself up from under the stairs and
tried the door. The latch gave under her

This building didn't have the same air of
neglect as the others. No dust on the
floor, and she bet that if she tried the
switch by the door the lights would go on.
Here at the back was a set of rooms, offices
or storerooms, she guessed. She ignored
them and headed for the main room of the
warehouse. When she got to it, she stood

It was full of cylinders like the one she'd
seen before, stacked one above another in
row upon row. There must be a hundred of
them. Almost despite herself--knowing what
was in them all she really wanted was to run
away--she went to the nearest and placed her
palm on it. It was warm to the touch and
she imagined could hear the quiet rush of
the substance in it against the metal,
trying to get through it to her. She
snatched her hand away and jumped back.
This wasn't going to be just a distraction.
This fire would have to be very hot, to
ensure that all this Oil was destroyed.

She laid her backpack on the ground and went
back to the other rooms to see if they held
anything flammable. It was an old wooden
building--it shouldn't be that hard to burn,
once it got going.

The first room was an unused office. It
held a metal desk and there were still some
old papers in the filing cabinet. In the
second, someone had hidden two empty vodka
bottles in the desk. She grabbed them and
kept going.

The third door was locked. She stopped in
surprise--the first locked door she'd found
in the whole camp--and tried it again.
Still locked. Then, staring at it, she
realized that it was locked from the
outside: the bolt was right in front of her.

How strange. She put down the bottles and
opened that bolt, and the two others, one at
the top and one at the bottom. They gave
easily enough. She pushed the door open,
the gun in her hand.

At first she thought that the room was
empty. It was so dark, and she couldn't see
any furniture. But when her eyes adjusted,
she saw a shape huddled on the floor.

A prisoner? She took a few careful steps
into the room, knelt down to roll the person
over and nearly lost her balance.

It couldn't be. He was dead. Dead and
buried thousands of miles away. She ran her
hands over the familiar shape of his face,
now thin and covered in the growth of a
beard, then down his neck and chest. His
heartbeat was faint, but present.

He was missing one arm. Surely a replicant
would have two. She raised his head.
"Alex," she whispered. "Alex, can you hear

There was no response. She shook him
slightly and spoke more loudly. "Alex?
Wake up!" Had his eyelids flickered? It
was so hard to see. "Damn it, Alex, what's
wrong with you?" She ran her fingers over
the back of his neck. Smooth. Could it
really be him? "Give me some kind of sign,
here, Alex," she muttered, taking his hand
and rubbing it.

It looked like his head had moved. She
dropped his hand and bent over him. "Come
on, wake up. I can't carry you out of here.
I need you to wake up. I need you, Alex, I-
-" Oh, God. The sob caught in her throat
and she squeezed her eyes shut. This was
not the time. Her tears seemed to have
other ideas, and pushed out past her
eyelids. The deep breath she took to calm
herself turned into another sob, and then

Something other than her own tears brushed
her cheek, and she opened her eyes. He was
staring up at her, his eyes open. "Mar..."
His voice was hoarse.

"It's me, it's Marita," she said.

His hand was still resting on her cheek.
"You came," he said. His eyelids drifted

"Wait," she said. "Stay with me, Alex. We
need to get out of here." She wrapped his
arm around her shoulder and tried to stand.
They stumbled out of the room together.

Despite the weight he'd lost, Alex was still
too heavy for her to carry. She left him by
the door. "I'll be right back," she
muttered at him, and grabbed the vodka

end 1/2


She did what she could, but destroying the
Oil didn't seem as important as it had. She
poured some of the gas along the front wall
and some more at the center of the
warehouse, then used the vodka bottles as
homemade firebombs. The flames roared up as
she ran back to Alex.

He was lying very still. She stared at
him, uncertain. Had she hurt him when she
moved him? "Come on, Alex," she said as she
lifted him again. "We have to move now."
He mumbled something she didn't catch but
managed to keep his feet moving alongside
hers, and that was enough for Marita.

It was a little late for stealth,
considering how loud the fire was. She ran,
half-dragging Alex along with her, stumbling
every few paces. The hangar. They needed
to make it to the trucks.


She didn't turn around at the voice. Alex
was so heavy. She stumbled. There was a
shot, but she didn't feel it. Had he
missed? Had he hit Alex?

"Hey!" the soldier shouted again. One more
step, then another, she thought. He shouted
a third time but his voice was drowned out
by a crash and great howl from the flames
behind them. The fire roared even more
loudly; she half-turned to look back she saw
the roof blazing as a great blast shook the
walls and the air around her. The heat
burned her cheeks and the wind blew at her.
The soldier opened his mouth again but not
to shout at her. He let out a great high-
pitched wail, and echoes of the same wail
came back from all over the camp. As it
faded he turned away from her and ran back
to the burning warehouse.

She turned and kept running, stumbling and
almost falling and catching herself with her
one free hand, the hand that wasn't keeping
Alex next to her. Or stumbling and being
kept upright as Alex fell against one of the
buildings. He grunted at that; she had
never been so relieved to hear him in pain.
There were more explosions from the

At the hanger she pushed him into the first
truck they came to and ran to grab the keys.
The third set she tried started the engine;
she let the others fall down by her feet.
Thank God the tank was full because they had
no time. She glanced over at Alex just for
reassurance and then floored it and drove
right out of the hangar and straight through
the rusty fence of the prison camp in a
shriek of metal.

They bounced down the road. Alex was
slumped against the door on his side. Could
he have passed out? He started to slide
down but his eyes flew open and he pushed
himself back up, grabbing the door for
leverage. "What--"

"I set the warehouse on fire," she said.
"The one with the Oil."

He turned to look through the back window.
"They won't come. There's some kind of

"Between the Oil and the replicants?" she
asked. That would explain the way the
soldier had let her go. They bounced over
something in the road; she clutched the
wheel and hissed in pain as one of the
scratches on her hand opened up. "But
they'll come after us?"

"Eventually." He shrugged and slumped back
into the chair, white-faced and tired
looking. She kept driving; when she looked
over at him he had passed out again.

In the middle of the morning they stopped at
a nameless little town to buy gasoline and
whatever food and water they could. The
people there looked at her suspiciously and
she wondered what they saw: a crazy woman
covered with dirt and smelling of gas, her
hands and clothes filthy and torn. She
washed in a sink behind the town's only
store. When she got back to the truck she
found Alex sitting up in it and glowering
threateningly at the idle men who'd gathered
to look at them.

"Let's go," she said as she climbed back in.

"I need a gun," he answered. "Next time we
stop, I'll have to buy one."

They settled into silence as the town
disappeared behind them. It wasn't
comfortable, not like the silence in the
dreams she'd had of him. Alex was awake
now, and edgy. "How did you find me?" he
asked. "Who sent you?"

'You did,' she almost said, but bit the
words back. "Don't you remember?" she

"Remember what?" His voice was sharp.

"Alex, I... that is, you..." It couldn't hurt,
to tell him, could it? "You sent me a
message." She looked over, and saw him
staring at her, but at least he looked more
confused than angry. "I thought you were
dead, but one morning there was a card, and
I didn't know what to do. I thought you
were dead."

"A card? Like, a postcard?"

She reached into her pocket and handed it to
him. "It was in my book one morning."

"I didn't write this."

"Well, you wanted to know how I found you.
That's how." She risked another glance
over at him. He was holding the card
between his fingers and his thumb, rubbing
at it.

"You decided to come to Tunguska because of
this? Seriously, Marita, who sent you? Did
Spender track you down?"

"Spender is still missing." Damn it, he'd
barely been awake three minutes and she was
already telling him everything she knew.
"Nobody sent me."

"Or whoever wrote this card did." He
flipped it between two fingers.

"Give that back to me," she said.

"Why?" he mocked her. "Does it have
sentimental value?"

She blushed, and cursed her pale skin. Only
Alex could make her blush. "You didn't
write it, so what do you care?"

"It is my handwriting."

"Easily faked."

"Which makes you easily misled." He folded
it in half and put it in the pocket of the
army jacket he was wearing.

"Something you should be grateful for," she
shot back.

"I'd have escaped sooner or later."

"Later, then," she said. "It's been almost
a year."

When he didn't respond, she glanced at him.
He was staring at her, his face pale and his
mouth slightly ajar. "A year?"

She struggled to hold onto her irritation.
"Eleven months."

"It can't be," he said, more to himself than
to her. "It can't be a year."

"Didn't you at least notice the seasons?"
she asked. He was still very pale. "You
don't remember," she said softly. "Alex,
what happened to you in Tunguska?"

"I don't want to talk about it." He was
breathing unevenly.

"Do you even know?"

"I said I didn't want to talk about it. Let
me drive."

She was tempted to let him, if only to give
him the illusion of control. "Why?" she
asked instead. It was enough to let him
change the subject.

"Do you know where you're going?"

She was damned if she would admit that she'd
been choosing her roads at random. "Do

He muttered something she didn't catch.
"Yes," he growled. "Let me drive, Marita."

She'd been awake a long time, she reminded
herself. Since the day before. "Fine," she
muttered, and braked hard, bracing herself
against the wheel.

The bumps in the road and the truck's uneven
grinding should have kept her awake, but
when she opened her eyes again the sun was
setting and Alex was staring at her, his
face expressionless. They weren't moving.
"Where are we?" she asked, rubbing her eyes.

"An abandoned house. Should be safe."

She looked out the window and stared. It
looked like something out of a fairy tale:
the sunset light colored the weathered gray
boards of the little house, highlighted the
trim carved under the eves and gave a
magical air to the clearing they were parked
in. She looked behind them and could barely
make out the track Alex had driven down.

"How did you find it?" she asked, as she
followed Alex out of the truck and up the
stairs to the enclosed porch.

"There's an abandoned factory and village
not too far from here. We used it for
target practice and training." When he'd
been in charge of the soldiers at the camp,
she guessed.

The house was tiny; just the porch and a
single room to be bedroom, kitchen and
living room. But whoever had lived here had
intended to come back: they'd left the
blankets folded on the bed and the plates
and cups on a shelf above the table. The
stove must have served for cooking and
heating, and the pump outside for water;
there was no sink.

Alex was staring at her again. For a moment
she had the ridiculous notion that he was
going to ask her how she liked the house.
She busied herself taking the food she'd
managed to buy out of her backpack and then
stared at the sheets which lay at the
bottom. Two could go on the bed but the
third... she was sure she'd seen a metal
tub by the wood stacked out on the porch.
"Help yourself," she said. "I'm going to
take a bath." Too bad she didn't have any
clean clothes.

She rinsed the tub and filled the tub with
buckets of cold water from the pump,
stripped off and stepped into it. It was
refreshing, she decided, and sat down before
she could change her mind.

The door banged closed and she twisted
around in the tub, splashing water on the
boards around her and grabbing for the
sheet. "Alex!"

He stood just inside the porch. "I found
these in the house," he said. "I thought
you'd like something clean." He laid some
folded clothes--white and drab olive--on the
bench next to the tub, not really looking at
her. "And this." He reached into his
pocket and pulled out a bar of soap.

It was old and cracked. He met her eyes as
he passed it to her and she felt herself
blushing. "Thank you." She cleared her
throat. "I'll fill the tub for you when I'm
done. If you like." The soap smelled
faintly floral.

She scrubbed at herself, aware of him
sitting behind her on the bench. Nothing he
hasn't seen before, she reminded herself.
"So you got that card and decided to come
looking for me," he commented.

It was really a question. "I don't know. I
didn't really think it was you. I mean, I
thought you were dead. I only found you
because I was looking for something that
would burn."

"What were you going to do, burn the
warehouse and then rush back to the mine to
sabotage it too?"

"If I could."

"They'd have killed you." He sounded

"At least I destroyed the warehouse. That
was more than you managed." She made
herself stand up and reached for the sheet,
wrapping it around herself. She picked up
the clean clothes and stalked into the house
to dress.

When she came back out he had dragged the
tub outside and emptied it, and was filing
the bucket at the pump. She stood on the
steps and threaded her belt through the
clean trousers to keep them up. His arm on
the pump handle went up and down smoothly.
He didn't seem to have noticed her, but this
was Alex. He would know exactly where she

"Do you want help?" she asked. She knew how
much he hated that question.

"No." He looked up at her without changing
the rhythm of his arm. "Not your usual
style," he commented.

"No," she agreed. They were boxy, Soviet-
style workpants and a man's shirt, many
sizes to big for her. "But they're clean."
She left the sheet on the porch and went
back into the house to make the bed and
light the storm lantern Alex had left on the

The clothes were too big on Alex as well.
He came back inside after his bath, rubbing
his hair irritably with his old shirt, and
stared at the food on the table. It didn't
look any more appetizing: some day-old bread
and a tin of mystery meat. "I hate
Siberia," he muttered.

"What were they doing in Tunguska?" she
asked again.

It didn't catch him off-guard. His head
snapped up and he glared at her. "You saw
for yourself. Figure it out."

"Mining at the old crash site," she said.
"I saw that. Why?"

He stared at her as he chewed, swallowed,
and stuffed another bite into his mouth.

She sighed to herself. "There's a
connection between the Oil and the

He nodded slowly, like a teacher pleased
that a dense student had managed a problem.
The blood rushed to her cheeks again. "For
God's sake, Alex, this isn't a game! It's
not twenty questions! We're in this
together. Give me some help here!"

He crashed to his feet. "Together? What
the fuck do you mean by that? I was on my
own in that camp for nearly a year! What
were you doing?" He got his breathing back
under control. "Admit it, Marita. You
hardly thought of me."

"Jesus, Alex, I thought you were dead. And
you... you let me believe that you were dead
for a whole goddamn year! I wish I hadn't--"
She choked off the words.

"Hadn't what, Marita?" His voice was rough.

"Forget it." She should have realized that
the Alex she'd been dreaming about wasn't
real. "I'm going back outside."

From her seat on the porch steps she could
see a patch of sky full of stars. They
weren't all unfriendly; just the ones that
counted. They blurred as she stared up at
them, and she blinked to clear her eyes.
Blur and blink, blur and blink. Damn Alex,
anyway. All he'd ever known how to do was

Memories rose up to contradict her: moments
of peace snatched in the hectic days of the
last two years, even as the web around them
grew tighter and as one attempt after
another to find a weakness in the replicants
or to understand their agenda failed. That
was the problem with aliens, Alex had joked
with her one day when she'd returned
dispirited from another wild goose chase.
They thought like aliens. "We'd have an
easier time understanding them if we were
aliens too." Or the time he'd come back,
even more discouraged, from a meeting with a
former KGB agent assigned to Lebanon in the
mid-eighties. "We'll fight them anyway,"
she said prosaically. "I don't have
anything planned for the next ten years. Do
you?" The tension in his face had eased and
he had reached for her.

The screen door closed softly and Alex sat
down at her left side. "The replicants are
dependent on the Oil. They need it to be
created, but they need the consciousness in
it, too, to direct them. It's a hive mind.
So the Oil needs a host. A human host."

"Oh my God," she said. She knew better than
to say, 'Oh, Alex.' "You were the host."

"Because they couldn't make me... like them.
A replicant. Because the Oil had had me
before. Small favors, right? I was
conscious at first, while it had me. I
could sit in the back of my mind watching it..."
His breath hitched. "But after a
while I learned how to shut myself off from
it. So when the Oil took me, I would black
out, like I was asleep and dreaming."

She cleared her throat. "Do you remember

"Crazy stuff. Talking to Mulder. You."
She glanced at him, but he was staring
straight ahead. "Just an image here and
there. Probably hallucinations."

"Last year," she said, more to the air
around her than to the man next to her, "I
used to dream about you. When I thought you
were dead, I mean. The dreams seemed very
real, as if I could still feel them when I
woke up. I suppose that was why I came to
Tunguska. If the card was real, it would be
a sign that the dreams were real as well.
It would give me something to believe in."

"Guess you were hallucinating too," he said.

She gasped at his words. "Alex, if I had
known-- But I saw the tape. It was
genuine. I had every test I could think of
run on it. Skinner shot you, and you died."

"Don't kid yourself, Marita," he said,
although his tone was gentle enough.
"Anyway, who do we know who's been staying
dead these days?"

She wasn't willing to give up yet. "Then
how do you explain the card?" she demanded.
"And when I found you in the camp, the first
thing you said was, 'You came.' As if you
expected me."

He stared up at the stars for what seemed to
her a long time. "It doesn't seem very

"That you would call me or that I would

"Marita, don't." His voice was rough again.

"Alex, I believed you were dead. It was... It
wasn't like before, when I knew you were out
there somewhere. This last year was

"Our choices are still the same. Fight or
die. Not much room for anything else."

"I know that. I just wish..."

"I wish it too."

They sat in companionable silence, staring
up at the sky. The thought, when it came to
her, made her laugh softly; he looked at
her, one eyebrow raised. "Star-crossed
lovers," she explained.

He grinned, his teeth flashing. "Good thing
neither of us is the suicidal type." Then,
more seriously, he continued, "I don't
understand how you found me, Marita, what
kind of crazy thing made you go to Tunguska,
but I'm not sorry... I mean, I'm glad..."

"You're welcome," she said. He scowled and
she smiled back.

"A whole year, though," he said.

She wished that she could offer him a
platitude: it doesn't matter, it will be all
right. But Alex had never been one to take
comfort from falsehood. She leaned her head
against his shoulder; after a moment he
wrapped his arm around her. They sat a few
minutes more before going in to bed.

In the morning his one arm around her was
better than any dream.


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