Welcome To The Harem
Not My Lover by Deslea R. Judd Part 1 of 9
Summary: In a world of changing allegiances, only Alex and Marita will have the strength and permanence with which to lead the Russian project. But will they have strength to survive the American agenda? Tells S3-7 from Alex and Marita's perspective. Please note chapter 1 will be revised. There is a prequel, Not My Lover: Enigma (in progress) but the stories can be read independently.
Not My Lover *NC17* 1/7
Deslea R. Judd
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name on it.
DISCLAIMER: Characters not mine. Interpretation mine.
RATING: NC17 for sex and language.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Mytharc Ascension to Requiem.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: romance, angst, mytharc, Krycek/Covarrubias.
SUMMARY: In a world of changing allegiances, only Alex and Marita will have the strength and permanence with which to lead the Russian project. But will they have strength to survive the American agenda? Tells the mytharc from Alex and Marita's perspective.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Top 3 Finalist, Spooky Awards 2000, Outstanding Krycek Characterisation and Outstanding Other Series Character Romance. Commended in the B.I.T.T. Awards 2001. Cover Art was a finalist in the 2000 F.O.X. Awards (Outstanding Krycek Story Cover Art)
Not my lover.
Marita was not my lover.
A colleague, a fellow conspirator, a foil. And, yes, an enjoyable companion, whether bantering at my side or sighing beneath me, or in the company of decadently naked friends.
But not my lover.
The dark man introduced us. He was playing both sides against each other - feeding information to one side, preserving the lies of the other. He was grooming Marita to be his successor when his deception became known, as deception always does. For the dark man, ideology was delineated by truth and lies, good and evil - black and white, if you will. He didn't know that Mare's ideology was more concrete - vaccines and deals. Where the dark man hoped fruitlessly to prevent colonisation, Mare hoped to survive it.
For my part, I was a lackey of the team he had neatly designated "lies". As such, he made himself known to me, and delegated me to his would-be successor. Mare was to keep an eye on me, and so she did. I didn't mind. I was young and naive, but I understood one rule of the game already: watch, listen, and be prepared to switch sides to live. It was the one rule which Mare and I considered sacrosanct. Trust was necessarily fluid, disclosure never total.
And so she was not my lover.
She would become my beloved, my heart, my soul.
But not my lover.
I turned, closing the flip of my cell phone with a snap. "There you are. I've been looking for you."
"And I've been looking for you," she said playfully, threading hands through my pockets. She pulled my hips to hers, her touch maddeningly close to my groin. "I was hoping to whisk you away-"
Something in my face must have communicated my distress, because she suddenly let go, withdrawing her hands, and used them to take my own. "Alexi?" she asked quietly. "What is it?"
I gently extricated one hand, holding up my cell. "That was Spender." Then, tentatively, I explained, "He wants me to take care of Bill Mulder and Dana Scully." That I was reluctant to carry out my orders was a concession in itself - one I didn't like to share - but I intuited that it was safe to share this with her.
Her voice was gentle - uncharacteristically so. "Alexi, I'm sorry. Are you all right?" My fleeting fear that she would not understand dissipated, forgotten.
I shook my head; said at last, "Bill Mulder is one thing - he's up to his neck in this - but Scully's an innocent." Then, my voice hoarse, I rasped, "I never wanted to kill anyone I knew, Mare." A flicker of compassion lighted on her features, and she wound her arms around me.
"I know," she said, her voice muffled against my neck. I felt so cold. I could feel her hot breath on me, and it seared through me, comfortingly. I heard her whisper at last, "I hope that's not something ever asked of me."
I pulled back roughly. "If it is," I demanded, taking her by the shoulders, "you tell me. I'll do it for you." Her eyes widened; her lips parted, but no sound came out. My hold on her arms tightened. "Promise me you'll never kill, Mare. Only in self-defense."
She stared at me for a long moment, as though puzzled by the strength of my reaction, or perhaps deliberating my words. At last, though, she nodded. "I promise." She slid arms around my neck once more. "You're so cold. Let me make you warm."
I nodded, burying my face in her hair. "Mare," I breathed, smelling it. "Oh, God, Mare, please."
She turned her face to mine then, and kissed me; first my cheek, then my mouth; her lips warm, her mouth warm, and she made me live once more. My throat constricted as she cradled my neck with her hands, adoring me, and I remember a flash of something more, some empathic passion, something to do with her, her face, her heart; but it was gone before I could grasp what it might be.
There were no preliminaries. No long, languid strokes; no massages or kisses in all those strange and beautiful places a woman has - the point where her ribs end, the inside of the elbow. Shirts were pulled over heads; jeans were tossed heedlessly in both directions. We clasped one another, naked, falling onto the bed, our mouths at war, tongues dancing against one another, each seeking possession of the other. She started to pull away at one point - perhaps to take me into her mouth, I don't know - but I pulled her back, holding the length of her body against mine. "Don't go," I said mindlessly; and again, she understood, content to kiss, to hold and be held. No preliminaries, but we stayed there, touching faces, holding one another's gazes, exposed and raw. I explored her face with my fingertips in wonder, wonder that she would let my bloodied hands touch her.
At last, I kissed her forehead, and started to move towards the nightstand. She stilled me with a touch.
"I want you bare," she whispered.
My eyes flew open. In an instant I understood what she really was asking. Monogamy, if not actual, then symbolic; for neither of us would risk the other by doing this unprotected with anyone else. I understood, too, the gift she was offering. Acceptance...belonging. She was prepared to own me, and allow me to own her, despite the things I had done...the things I would do. I stared at her in shock; took in the guarded, hunted look she gave me.
"You're sure?" I asked, at last.
She nodded, her lips drawn tight, seeming not to trust herself to speak.
So I entered her, bare, as she had asked; and as we moved in rhythm, I stared into her eyes, searching for answers; because my own held none. I knew only that her gift made me need her even more. That, and that the intoxicating shudders radiating through my body were but a fragment of what I felt for her. And when I came, it was not an expletive or a deity or a mindless sound on my lips, but her name; and I kept saying it, kissing her, until she was asleep in my arms.
I was preparing to leave her when she stirred. "Alexi?" she said softly, peering out beneath half-closed eyelids.
"Hush, Mare," I said quietly, tying my shoes. "Sleep."
"You don't have to do it," she whispered earnestly.
I stared at her. "I don't understand."
"Something could go wrong. She could outsmart you. You could get the wrong person." As I watched her with sudden understanding, she whispered, "You don't have to get it right, Alex. This is not your fight."
I frowned; then, rising, I said evenly, "I have to go. I'm meeting Cardinale in an hour."
She opened her mouth to speak again, but then she closed it. She nodded. I went to her, and kissed her forehead. "I'll be okay."
She nodded again. "If anything does go wrong-"
"It won't," I said, with more surety than I felt. I smiled at her fondly, and went to the door. She called my name, and I turned.
"Don't let Cardinale leave you alone."
Frowning, I nodded, and I left her.
Not my lover.
Not my lover, but I remembered her words when I shot high over Scully's head at Mulder's. I remembered them when my surveillance indicated that Melissa Scully would arrive at Scully's home when her sister was out. I remembered her words when I stood over the woman, also an innocent, and couldn't stifle a sound of remorse. It wasn't my fight...none of it was.
I remembered her words when Cardinale left me alone in the car, and when the clock flashed zero. I remembered them when, after making it clear of the blast, I felt in my pocket and discovered I still had the digital tape containing the MJ-12 documents. I remembered them when I fled, an outlaw. And when I had nowhere else to go, it was Mare I trusted.
She sheltered me in Baltimore. She took leave from the United Nations. For weeks, we poured over the data on the tape, consulting computer and Navajo experts alike. We worked all day; we loved, newly tender by night.
She worked hard.
And she haunted me.
Then came the day when I watched her from across the room.
She wasn't doing anything special. Flipping through CDs, her straw-coloured hair falling across her profile. She tucked it back behind her ear absently, and looked up, her fingers marking a Phil Collins case. Her lips parted as though to speak, but then she stopped, her eyes meeting mine, marking me.
"Alexi?" she asked in a whisper.
God only knew what she saw on my face. I was aware of nothing there - no love, no scrutiny. I was just watching. And yet her voice and her gaze freed in me some awe, some enthralled fascination; and I crossed the room in three strides, capturing her face between my hands. "I *want* you," I declared, and I knew it was the wrong word, both diplomatically and descriptively; but I said it with such surprised wonder, such cherishing awe that she knew, had to know, that it was love that I meant.
"I want you, too," she whispered earnestly, her smile gentle. "So much."
I leaned down and kissed her, tenderly, as though for the first time. After a long moment, she pulled away, and smoothed back my hair lovingly.
"Let's get back to work."
At last, we decoded it. The knowledge we gained from that tape left us, in the extremity of it, cradled together, spooned around one another as we puzzled over what it all meant. For two days, we stayed in bed, drinking, talking, arguing about what to do with what we had learned.
It had not been my fight, but now...it was our fight now.
She milked the information for her own uses; I knew that. Equally, she assisted me, connecting me with Jeraldine Kallenchuk, whose ability to sell information was rivalled only by her preparedness to engage in treason. For some months I sold useful information from the MJ-12 files to interests all around the world.
But we kept the real secrets for ourselves.
I'm still an American, dammit.
Jeraldine's death was the purest of bad luck. Selling the location of the American submarine, the Zeus Faber, had seemed like easy money. I had been impressed that she'd found a buyer for it, in fact. I knew of the unusual occurrences on board the Faber, of course; but it had never occurred to me that the lifeform on board could stay alive for forty years.
Much less escape.
The first I knew of the catastrophe was when Jeraldine turned up at our Hong Kong rendezvous handcuffed to Mulder. As I ran off, leaving Jeraldine dead and Mulder to an uncertain fate at the hands of the Consortium lackeys, I quickly made all the necessary connections and understood that something had gone very wrong on the Zeus Faber. I did not fully understand the significance of Mulder's presence until he caught up with me at the airport. Predictably, he wanted to kill me over his father; less predictably, he let me live because he wanted the digital tape. That meant he was becoming more aware of the nature of the Consortium and its involvement in his investigations. Mulder was finally becoming a player.
He threw me a few punches, of course; no escaping that. I took them and didn't fight back. I guess he'd earned a few free blows. When he was done, I went to the bathroom to clean myself up, and that was when I was infected.
Being infected with the alien pathogen was an interesting experience from a scientific perspective, though I wouldn't recommend it. I was conscious throughout the alien's possession of my body. It gained my knowledge in an instant, and while there was no telepathy, I somehow knew Its will and was compelled to obey. I saw, though my sight was dark and filmy. I saw, I think, through the lens of the alien organism, rather than my own; but it's hard to be certain. My voice was my own, but I had no control over my speech. I was Its voice. Despite this, I retained my own will throughout the ordeal. It was as though the connections between the will and the body were irrevocably severed. I gained a unique insight into what it was to be a drone; and it terrified me. I had seen the collapse of the woman who had infected me after it was done, and I was certain I would die in the same way when I was no longer of use. That she lived was something I would learn only much later.
Fortunately for me, I was of considerable use to It. I obtained the digital tape and took it to the Smoker. It wanted to return to Its ship, and Spender was happy to oblige by way of trade for the tape. The deal was done, and I was thrown into the missile silo with the salvaged UFO. My fear turned to cold, flint-like terror. I knew that the UFO was radioactive, and I also knew that once I was no longer infected, my protection from the radiation would disappear. Once that occurred, I had about a two-minute time window in which to escape without becoming burnt or seriously ill. During that time, the alien enzymes that interrupted the abnormal cell reactions associated with gamma radiation would be slowly absorbed by my T-lymphocytes, leaving me defenseless. Even if I got out during that time window, I had a fifty-fifty chance of contracting multiple cancers. I was used to living on the edge of death, but cancer isn't a pretty way to go. Neither is radiation sickness.
Knowledge is not always a good thing.
As I coughed and sputtered, as the black evil thing left me, I tried to make some sort of sense of my life and my death. Mulder and Scully's voices drifted in to me, maddeningly close, and then other voices spirited them away. Scully screaming out that there were men in there with radiation burns. It occurred to me that if this was what colonisation would be like, if this was what it was to be a drone, perhaps I had been spared.
At last, it was over. I was myself again. If my eyes and mouth and lungs hurt, that was insignificant, because I had only minutes to live. At least I would die in my right mind and in control of my body. I stared at my watch in the dark. Its performance was affected by the alien craft, but it was still possible to use the seconds' needle to mark the passage of time. One hundred seconds...ninety...eighty...seventy.
At sixty seconds, I heard what sounded like a clattering sound. It became louder through fifty. At forty, I heard a series of gunshots. At twenty-five, I heard her voice.
"Alexi!" she screamed. "Alexi!"
I ran to the door and banged. "Mare! Silo ten-thirteen! I'm with the UFO!"
She came flying down the corridor and wrestled with the door. "How long have you got?" she cried through the thick window.
"About fifteen seconds to nil protection. Sixty seconds off lethal levels. Hurry, goddamn it!"
She stared at me in horror for a precious second, then worked the bolt with renewed fervour. I stopped watching my watch, not wanting to know how close to death I was anymore. Finally, she wrenched the heavy door open. I grabbed her face between my hands and kissed her. "Am I glad to see you," I cried.
So saying, I grabbed her hand, and we ran.
We made it.
I collapsed outside the base, writhing with pain. Marita struggled to take care of me, fighting back the hysteria that threatened to overwhelm her. In a moment of clarity, I felt empathy as I perceived her fearful panic, before my pain overtook me once more. She manhandled me into a car I didn't recognise, and we sped off.
"I heard gunshots," I said weakly.
"There were men with radiation burns," she said softly. "Two were still alive. They were in agony," she added haltingly. "I know what we said about killing-"
"That's not killing, it's euthanasia," I said thickly. "You did the right thing." I doubled over in spasms of coughing, wiping bitter black oil from my mouth. "Where are we going?"
She started to answer; but I passed out.
The next few hours passed in a blur.
I came to in a motel room, eyes hurting, sinuses agonising. Marita was there, pushing and pulling me into the shower, both of us still dressed. She pulled my ruined clothes off me and washed me, tenderly flushing my eyes with saline over and over. She made me blow my nose, again and again until the stringy trails of black oil stopped coming. She dried me off and tucked me into bed with the tenderness of a mother. I drifted in and out of sleep fitfully.
She was still crouching at my side when I woke an hour later, when I looked at her and really saw her for the first time that day. Her white suit was wet and stained with oil. Her hair was damp and straggling. Her makeup was ruined with water and tears. And in that silent way she had, she was weeping.
I sat up. "Mare - God, get those clothes off," I said vaguely, knowing I was attacking the wrong problem, but wanting to do something for her - anything. I stripped her off and wiped her face, and realised she was shaking - from cold or shock, I couldn't have said. I pulled her into the bed, both of us naked, and guided her down next to me. I held her, trying to warm her and calm her down. She wasn't crying anymore, but she was still trembling. She clung to me silently. I buried my face in her hair, troubled by her distress.
We stayed that way for a long time. "What's wrong?"
She gave a short, dull laugh. "Just where would you like me to begin?" she asked bitterly.
"You know what I mean," I said evenly, smoothing her hair back off her face. I cradled it, making her face me, moving my thumb back and forth across her cheek. "Talk to me."
She was very still for a moment, the twitching muscle in her cheek the only hint of the tears she held at bay. At last, though, she spoke, in a more even voice than I had expected. "I just can't do this anymore, Alex. I can't lurch from crisis to crisis as though it's just us playing strategy games with the Consortium. What we know makes demands of us. We have a duty to do what we can. Otherwise what happened to you today will happen to us all." Her voice was fearful, tentative; yet paradoxically strong and resolute.
"I know." I kissed her hair pensively. "I got a birds-eye view of the life of a drone today. Profiteering doesn't seem so important right now." I felt her sigh gratefully, and I knew she had feared I would object. Rightly, perhaps. But that was before today.
"We have money, thanks to Jeraldine," she pointed out. "We could use it to find a vaccine. The Americans will never find one - they're too busy holding up their part of the hybridisation deal. That's not our problem. We could go to Russia and set up operations there. It's cheap, and there's the old UFO crash site near Norylsk that could be a good source of the pathogen for testing."
"Tunguska. Yes, it's possible," I said. Then, at last, "It's risky."
"We'd probably both get the death penalty for treason if we were caught," she agreed, but her objection was without conviction. We were going through the motions - playing devil's advocate.
I shrugged. "The Consortium would never let us get to trial. I think we'd probably both get a nice painless injection myself."
She shot me a filthy look. "That consoles me no end," she said grimly.
"The risk is more to you than I," I said in a low voice. "I'm already wanted for murder, and I've no doubt Mulder will add treason to the charges when he makes it back to Washington. I have comparatively little to lose, besides the money. But you-" I broke off. "Right now, you're safe."
"I don't want to be safe," she protested. "I want to do what's right." Then, softly, "I want to be with you."
I drew her close then, my arms around her, and kissed her hair. "Are you sure?"
I pulled back and held her face between my hands once more. "Then marry me." She stared at me in shock. "What's the matter, Mare? You think a guy like me can't make an honest woman of you?" But I spoke teasingly, because I knew that wasn't it at all.
She stroked my cheek. "Marriage sounds so *normal*. It's one of those things like having babies or going on camping trips - things that happen to normal people. They don't happen for people like us."
"They can," I told her. "We can make them happen."
"Do you really think so?"
"Maybe not the camping," I teased.
She smiled faintly. "You really want me to be your wife?"
"Mare, you're my wife already. I just want to make this one part of my life right. Will you?"
She looked at me in bewilderment, as though not quite understanding that an answer was called for. I felt bubbling mirth at her expression. "Of course, I'll *marry* you," she said in astonishment, as though that was already settled. I did laugh then, and after watching me quizzically for a moment, she laughed, too. And then I was kissing her, and we were making love, and I felt as though there was hope for us both after all.
We were married in Russian Georgia.
We found a little Russian Orthodox chapel in Ateni dating back to Byzantine times. The church was in communion with the Roman church, so we were able to be married there in a Catholic ceremony concelebrated by Catholic and Orthodox clerics. Marita had been raised Catholic, and I Russian Orthodox, so it suited us well. She spoke only halting Russian, but the Roman priest spoke fluent English, and he assisted the Orthodox cleric, who spoke none. We were able to take advantage of a provision in Catholic law for secret marriage where danger existed. That meant that the marriage was binding, but record of it was retained in the Bishop's secret archive at the Curia. That extra protection gave us peace of mind, for our marriage must be kept from the Americans at all cost, lest we be used as leverage against one another.
That secrecy was painful for us both; so, in the comparative safety of Georgia, we flaunted our marriage. Marita signed her name beneath mine on the marriage register, 'Marita Krycek', embracing my name in a way she could never do in life. We used our own names at the hotel, and we wore ostentatious matching wedding rings. I even had our marriage certificate framed, if you can believe that, relishing the look of our names, Alexei Nicolai Krycek and Marita Elena Covarrubias, entwined in Cyrillic lettering. Who'd have thought sleazy old Alex Krycek would turn out to be a sensitive new age guy, hopelessly in love with his wife?
I guess there's a little hope for everyone.
We travelled to Kazakhstan and met with the highest comrades of our opposing numbers. I had assumed that we would have to bargain for power, that we would be taken in by a larger force with similar aims to our own; but we found the former Russian operation in the same disarray that characterised the rest of the region. Worse, it was in the same abject poverty. They were happy to give us whatever people and information we needed to run the project, and I could have total control - but we would have to fund it ourselves.
That made for some major changes to our planning. Our capital would establish the project, but to a large extent its ongoing costs would be funded by Marita's income from the Consortium and whatever money I could obtain myself, by fair means or foul. Fortunately, labour and supplies were relatively cheap, and there was no shortage of weaponry left over from the old regime in old warehouses and storage facilities, just waiting to be smuggled overseas and sold. The Russians gave me diplomatic immunity with a tacit approval for these activities, with the proviso that the weapons were not to be sold to political forces or terrorists who might target the region.
Marita stayed in our homeland with me for a month, helping me to establish the operations in Tunguska, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan before returning home. She hoped to align herself with the Englishman, Donovan, who was working half-heartedly on the vaccine in America. When she left me, I felt as though I was ripped in two; for who knew when we would be as man and wife again?
She was not my lover.
My sorrow, my joy, my life, my wife.
But not my lover.
GO TO PART II: MARITA AND THE DARK MAN - BETRAYAL AND IDEOLOGY