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Not My Lover by Deslea R. Judd Part 9 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. There is a prequel, Not My Lover: Enigma (in progress) but the stories can be read independently.
THIS CONTINUES CHAPTER 7.
I looked up as Mulder sat down at my side. He was holding a folder emblazoned with the UN logo. It had a broken security seal. He was ashen.
"Mare told you?" I said, nodding to the folder. Mare shot me a glance from across the room, then made a beeline for Skinner and Scully, engaging them in conversation, carefully positioning herself so that they faced away from us. I gave her a nod of thanks.
Mulder looked confused for a second, but then realised I spoke of Marita. "Yes. There's a working vaccine - it goes out in eight months." He said dryly, "Bet you cashed in on that."
How could he know me so well and so badly at the same time? I shrugged indifferently. "Nowhere near as much as we could have. Enough to take care of Mare and the children, that's all."
Mulder stared at me in disbelief. "You have children?"
I nodded. "Four of them." I nearly laughed at his expression, and I watched him wrestle with the math before relenting. "They're adopted."
"You *adopted* children?" He looked at me as though I had suddenly morphed into - well, a little grey alien, I suppose.
I did laugh then. "I'm not the monster you think I am, Mulder."
He shook his head. "No, I never thought that," he said reflectively. "Many things, but not that." He looked at me sharply. "This alien ship - it's a threat, isn't it?"
I nodded. "They're the only ones close enough to start colonisation before we can get the vaccine out." I cautioned, "If they were to find out about Spender-"
"I understand." He toyed with the folder for a moment, then met my gaze. "You know, in Oregon, there was this place where Scully was struck down. Like the energy field you described. She was denied access to the craft. It didn't want her," he realised. "*They* didn't want her."
I half-turned to face him. "But you, Mulder - you had the hybrid genes," I said earnestly. "I think it will let you in."
He stared at me, thunderstruck. "You want me to go aboard and stop it. You want me to kill the colonists." He looked to me for confirmation, and reluctantly, I nodded. I said gravely:
"I think you might be the only one who can."
"They're looking at us like we have two heads."
Mare laughed, turning with me. "Let's give them something to look at, then," she said, leaning up to kiss me tenderly. I shot her a smile, tucking a stray tendril of hair back off her face, but said nothing. I was troubled.
The evening had been Mulder's idea - dinner and drinks before he and Skinner left on a late flight to Oregon. He'd made it sound casual, but I wasn't deceived. Mulder knew the lay of the land. It saddened me to think of it; but it was better that he went prepared. Mulder was going to die with his boots on, facing his quest head-on - and perhaps that's the best way to die. He was dancing with Scully across the floor, his gaze fond; and I thought he was saying goodbye to her in his heart.
"Penny for your thoughts," Mare said softly.
"Not sure they're worth that much." She laughed a little at that, and out the corner of my eye I saw Skinner cut in on Mulder and Scully. Mulder passed us, watching curiously. I met his gaze for a fleeting moment. "What about yours?"
She hesitated, moving fluidly with me; but finally, she spoke in a low voice. "I was wondering why we haven't made love since we got here," she said at last. She said tentatively, "Is it about-"
I put a finger to her lips. "It is," I conceded, "but not in the way you think." At her bewildered look, I said gently, "I want us to be away from all this when we do that - away from Spender." Her breath caught in her throat, her eyes widening, and I ran my palm over her cheek. She leaned into it, her eyes closed in sudden pain. "It *was* Spender, wasn't it?"
Her eyes grave and hurting, she nodded; and I drew her close. "I'm sorry, I'm so damn sorry," I whispered into her hair. "I'm sorry you went through it all, I'm sorry I didn't look for you, I'm sorry I gave up."
She broke then, weeping in silent, wracking sobs. She shook against me, almost imperceptibly. "I closed my eyes," she whispered. "I thought that would make it easier - that I could imagine that it was you - or at least that it wasn't him. But he didn't smell like you or taste like you and I felt so ashamed-" she broke off miserably.
"You have nothing to be ashamed of, Mare. Nothing at all." Her hair muffled my voice. I pulled back, wiping her tear-streaked cheeks with my fingers. "*Nothing.*" I don't know if she believed that - or if she believes it even now - but she nodded, and she let me draw her close, let me press her against me protectively.
We danced in silence for a long time, but at last, I said quietly, "I would have raised it, Mare. I would have loved it because it was yours."
"I know that, Alexi," she said, looking up at me with a sad little smile.
At last, she pulled away, her eyes a little red but otherwise betraying no sign of the recent storm. "I'm going to clean myself up," she said, touching my cheek tenderly. She motioned to Mulder, sitting with the Gunmen, watching us. "I think there's someone you should talk to." I nodded to him; cautiously, he returned it. She said with an odd undertone, "You two have unfinished business."
"You don't mind?" I said piercingly.
She shook her head, smiling faintly. "No."
I kissed her forehead and released her. I watched her leave, and then I went to him. The Gunmen looked up at my approach; but Mulder just stood, and wordlessly led me to a far booth. He sat opposite me, playing with his drink morosely; presently, a waiter brought one for me. It was a Dom Benedictine.
"You remembered," I said, oddly touched. He said nothing. Frowning, I withdrew a stiletto weapon from my pocket and set it down before him, along with a couple of vials of vaccine, vials of nitric acid and glycerine, and some lengths of colour-coded wire. "It was all I could get together on short notice. You should be able to do something with what's there." He nodded, bundling together the items and putting them away, careful to put the acid and glycerine in separate pockets. Still he said nothing.
We drank in silence for a long time; but at last, he set his drink down on the table. His voice was grave. "This is a suicide mission, isn't it?"
"I think so." I watched him, feeling deeply sad.
He nodded, frowning. He toyed with a coaster, turning it over and over in his hands. Finally, he said in a low voice, "We were on the same side all along, weren't we?"
"We were," I agreed, "but you chose a higher path."
"I'm not so sure of that anymore." He sounded bitter.
I shrugged. "It doesn't matter anymore. What you're about to do will cancel every debt left behind. Be sure of that." I didn't know if that was true, but I hoped it was. I watched him for a long moment; said quietly, "I really loved you, Mulder." I didn't know if that even mattered to him anymore, but it mattered to me. And though I love my wife, I suspect it will always matter.
"I really loved you, Alex." His voice was grave, and a little sad.
I leaned forward across the table and firmly kissed his lips, intimately yet chaste; and when I pulled away, there were tears for both of us - not many, but a few. I covered his hand with mine for a long moment, and then I got to my feet and walked away without looking back; leaving my past to return to my future.
Mare was watching.
She was leaning on the bar near the Gunmen, playing with a cocktail umbrella. "Better?" she said softly; and I nodded, taking her hand in mine. How is it that she can know what I need better than I do myself? I leaned in and kissed her, long and lingering.
I said apologetically, "I know how it must have felt to watch that-"
She cut me off. "You have no idea how it felt to watch that." Her voice was calm...almost mild. Could it be that she was smiling? "We've come through a fire together, Alex, and for a long time that man you were when you were with Mulder got lost." I nodded, frowning. "Seeing you with him - it's as though that's all starting to come together again."
I bowed my head. "Maybe that's true," I said; and haltingly, clumsily, I expressed a little of the guilt and remorse that had begun to come into sharp focus. She listened, as she always listened; and she was my comfort.
At last, she kissed my fingertips lightly. "I love the man you were, Alexi," she said thoughtfully, "but I love the man you're growing into even more."
I think I like him better, too.
Spender was devastated.
"We've failed, then. Perhaps you never meant to succeed."
I looked on the old man coldly. In the face of Mulder's explosive death, splattered in accusatory pictures of light and fire across the newspaper, Spender's wretched pathos at the loss of his shot at immortality struck me as horribly offensive. Looking at him, I was struck yet again by his peculiar detachment from the richness of humanity. One way or another, I reflected, all four of Spender's children - Jeffrey, Samantha, Mulder, and Mare's child - all had died at their father's hands. Even the gift of creation - the most divine gift of all - even that could not remain sacred in the face of Spender's particular brand of darkness.
"Anyway...the hour is at hand, I presume," Spender said in a low voice. I looked on him steadily, Mare at my side; and then I went to him.
I took the handles of his wheelchair in my hands. I remembered running from the burning car and the missile silo. I remembered shooting the dark man so that he wouldn't kill my wife. I remembered her tears for her mentor and for her mother.
I pushed him forward. I remembered Skinner, meeting me at Dulles with the news of the miscarriage. I remembered Diana breaking the news of her death. I remembered scattering ashes I'd believed were hers.
I shouted at the nurse when she tried to stop me. I remembered finding her, broken and frail. I remembered Jeffrey, saying grimly that he expected to die. I remembered breaking the news of Diana's death to her children.
Mare stepped in the nurse's path, holding her back with a single venomous stroke. I remembered her tears as we danced the night before. I remembered Scully an hour earlier, as she told us of her pregnancy, terrified of that which should bring joy. The thirst for blood was roaring in my ears - the thirst for vengeance. And though I had not the benefit of my peers, I was certain that this sentence was just.
"This is for a lot of people," I said solemnly, wheeling him down the corridor. "It's for Larissa Covarrubias, and for Mulder, and for Diana Donovan, and for our children," I told him, my voice dull and raw. "But most of all, it's for raping my wife."
"Rape?" he said mockingly as Mare fell back in step with us. "Is that what she said?"
"You had the power of life and death over her," I hissed. "That makes it rape no matter what she said."
He frowned at that, but whatever flicker of conscience he'd had was gone in an instant. As we reached the top of the stairs, he said calmly, "As you do to Mulder and to me, you do to all of mankind, Alex." I suppose that was his idea of dying an honourable death. It made me mad, that he could inflict such horror on so many, and that he still had the nerve to try to die with dignity.
Steeling myself, I gathered my strength, and pushed him away from me, flinging him down the stairs. He crashed to the floor, tangled in his wheelchair, tumbling violently over and over again, his eyes glazed from the first strike of his head. Mare and I watched in cold horror as he came to rest; then, hand in hand, we walked down the stairs and stepped over his body together.
We walked until we reached the light of outdoors. Then, we stopped, and I drew her close, right there on the sidewalk; and we were laughing and crying at the same time, rejoicing in our freedom, mourning what we had lost, regretting what we had become. And then we went home, man and wife for better or worse, and we made love.
It was over. We had survived, and we had been avenged.
And I will never kill again.
"I look small," Mare said critically.
"Small short or small thin?" I queried, linking my hand with hers over her stomach. It was still a little rounded, even now. I liked it, the way I liked her hair long. It made her look softer. Samuel clambered up onto the arm of the lounge and balanced there precariously. "Careful, Sam."
"Both," she mused, stretching her legs, sliding them against mine teasingly. I tickled the underside of her foot with my toes, and she shooed me away, laughing.
"I'm being a superman, Mama," Samuel declared.
"You'll be a splatman in a minute," Mare reproved.
This set him off in a paroxysm of giggles. "Splatman! Splatman!" He clambered down over both of us and ran off outside, yelling, "Splatman!"
"We're just splats on the highway of life," I sighed.
Gibson wandered in, munching an apple absent-mindedly. "What are you watching?" he asked; then, before we could answer, he sighed, "Oh, not *that* again," with a heaven-help-me face.
"Spoilsport," I countered. "Go play with Elizabeth if you don't want to watch."
He shook his head. "She keeps asking to play chess," he complained.
Mare enquired, "What's wrong with that?"
Gibson made a face. "She's learned to shield her thoughts. Sticks up pictures in her head of the sky or brick walls or -" he shuddered "- Leonardo DiCaprio." I laughed uproariously. "I keep losing."
"It will do you good to lose now and then," I said mildly.
He made a face. "Ugh! You've been reading those parenting websites again, haven't you? Dear Abby, my son is an omnipotent telepath, what should I do?"
"Are you going to stay and watch, or not?" I demanded, smirking.
He shrugged. "Yeah, I'll stay." He settled down on the floor in front of us.
I held out the remote control and flicked up the volume. "We're on."
-- "United Nations Under-Secretary General, Marita Krycek and Alex Krycek of the World Health Organisation will read from a prepared statement. They will accept questions afterwards."
Gibson frowned. "I still say that's a rotten hairdo, Marita."
She reached down and ruffled Gibson's hair. "And what are you, Leonardo DiCaprio?" she teased. He shot her a filthy look, but laughed anyway.
-- "...seven year covert operation involving the FBI and the World Health Organisation reached its conclusion in New York. Members of an international pressure group known as The Syndicate were apprehended and charged with a total of 9,327 offences related to biological warfare..."
"You're thin there," he said clinically, turning to look Mare over thoughtfully. "No stomach at all, and a month later you'd sprogged."
Mare's eyes narrowed in mock irritation. "Sprogged?" she echoed. "Has Shane been teaching you British slang again?"
"Experienced the miracle of birth," I corrected loftily.
"Hey, I've watched birth videos. The only miracle is getting something that big out of something that small."
"He's got a point, you know, Alex," Mare grinned.
"Would you like to watch Elena's birth video?" I offered ingeniously. Gibson shot me a look of abject horror, shaking his head urgently. I laughed.
-- "...seized a stockpile of biological agents from their headquarters. The centrepiece of this stockpile is a new bioweapon created by the group, dubbed Dmitri Syndrome, for the first known fatality. A vaccine was also found. We understand that the group intended to release the weapon and then demand a ransom..."
Gibson shifted, looking up at me. "Dmitri wasn't the first fatality. He didn't even die of the oil," he protested. I wished he didn't know quite so much about our work - it was a bit like living with an omnipresent demi-god.
"Well, we had to call it something," I pointed out. "The whole idea of misinformation is to give wrong information to get a desired response."
-- "...voted to take the preventative step of launching a worldwide vaccination program. The first stocks of vaccine have already been distributed to every country in the world and are available now. The success of this program depends entirely on the participation of the public..."
Gibson frowned. "So talking about The Syndicate is giving wrong information to get people to have the medicine."
I shrugged. "Basically, yeah."
"Why not just tell them about the aliens?"
Mare explained, "Lots of people wouldn't believe. They might not take the vaccine."
-- "...concerns that the vaccine has been fast tracked without reference to proper protocols. Can you comment?"
-- "Certainly, we have fast tracked the program. I think that's appropriate, given the nature and severity of the threat. But the FDA and other authorities have considered the seized data at length..."
"I like this bit," I said gleefully.
Mare tilted her head up to look at me. "Egotist."
-- "...weren't you wanted on multiple counts of murder and treason until very recently?"
-- "I can answer that. Those charges were laid in co-operation with the FBI as part of the covert operation. They have now been dropped. Mr Krycek has sacrificed much, not least of which being his good reputation for the greater good. The international community owes him a debt..."
I smirked. That bit got me every time. "You laid it on pretty thick, you have to admit."
She shrugged. "You're my husband. I'm allowed to be biased."
-- "...do you have any data on genetic effects of the vaccine?"
-- "Yes. The first child was born to a vaccinated woman this week..."
Gibson said curiously, "You don't say very much in this, Alex."
"Mare's the political brain, not me. I'm more of an action man," I added, lifting my arm and flexing a bicep theatrically.
"Or a splatman," said Mare, dissolving in laughter. I smacked her hand playfully with a look of mock reproach.
-- "...is it true that the child's name is Liberty?"
-- "I can say only that the child is female and that she was born to an American couple..."
"Liberty," Mare said disgustedly. "I thought Walter, at least, had better taste."
"Elena is much more dignified," I agreed.
-- "...you're the man and woman of the hour. How does that feel?"
-- "I think that denigrates the innocent victims of this operation. The real heroes are those who gave their lives..."
I pointed the remote and flicked the television off suddenly. Mare shot Gibson a look, her eyebrows raised, speaking to him silently. He nodded, got up and walked away, leaving us alone. Having a telepathic child was handy - sometimes.
Mare's hands closed over mine. She drew it up to her lips and kissed it tenderly. "You know, there's only so long you can beat yourself up about this."
I shook my head morosely. "I killed forty two people, Mare."
"And saved all the rest."
"A few years ago I might have thought that was enough," I said quietly. "I don't now. And neither do you."
She sat up, turned to face me. She looked at me thoughtfully for a long moment; then admitted, "No. But we can only keep trying to be the best people we can be. The best parents," she added, nodding out the window to Gibson and Shane, playing ball in the fading light.
I sighed. "Maybe."
"I think Elizabeth is thawing," she said, deliberately changing the subject. "I was in her room this morning. You know that photo Gladys took of us all at the hospital with Elena? She's got it taped to the wall."
I nodded thoughtfully. "That's good, I guess."
"Baby steps, Alex," she counselled.
In this brave new life of ours, those are words to live by.
I shook my head, said absently, "Juice is fine." Mare was nursing, and I didn't like to drink in front of her when she couldn't. I flicked off the lights and went to her side, taking the glass she offered. "Thanks."
"Come outside," she whispered, leading me. "It's a beautiful night."
"I was hoping to make love to you," I said mildly, following anyway.
She shot me a gorgeous smile over her shoulder. "You can."
Smiling faintly, I followed her, out over the lawns, down to the gazebo. We settled there on the oversized chaise, overlooking the water. The ocean was rough, and the sky was dark. The sound of rolling waves was soothing. Gently, I drew her against me, and she leaned into me with a sigh; turning a little to touch my cheek with her fingertips.
And then her kiss was cherishing me, not an invasion, but a caress. Her taste was silk; it was snow; it was wine. A kiss as though the first, a declaration of passion, of abiding love. I held her, hand entangled possessively through her hair, locks of molten silver between my fingers. "Mare," I breathed against her lips. Her touch was scorching, branding me, claiming me as her own; and I could only draw her up in pursuit, claiming her in return. I cradled her face with my hand, kissing her cheek and her hair and her ear with fascinated tenderness. I left a trail of caresses down her throat, and she gave a shocked moan of wracking need. My fingers traced the curves of her, strong and fine. My need was a white-hot flare, caressing and giving and demanding all at once.
And then suddenly the turbulence subsided, replaced with slow wonder. She met my gaze, and we stayed there a long moment, our faces inches apart, expressions a war of urgency and tenderness. "Love me, Alexi," she said softly; her voice low, ragged with desire.
"I do," I murmured. "Oh, Mare."
She leaned up to me, her mouth forming an exquisite smile in the dim light; and I put my hand on her as she asked, my mouth upon hers. She arched for me as I teased her throat, her breast with my palm. She unbuttoned her dress; and I parted its folds, exposing her to the cool night air. She gave a single cry of aching need, her breath coming in ragged sighs. She pulled my shirt over my head, discarding it; and then I felt her long, slender palms stroking me with gentle relentlessness. I slid questing fingers down to the dank warmth of her, and found her slick and ready, waiting for me to unite with her, waiting to draw me in, to own me as hers forever.
She gave me a gentle kiss and sank back on the chaise, one hand stretched out to me. I took it in my own and leaned down to her, meeting her, my lips on hers. I was swamping her, engulfing her; yet she welcomed me, wanting me, trusting me. She teased my body with her fingertips, and my fingers lifted to her breast, caressing the swell of flesh there; but it was done absently. Our eyes fixed on one another, we beheld one another in love, desire, and finally strength. And even in our nakedness, our gaze remained locked, lovemaking in its own right. I leant into her, truly mystified that she could engender such love in me. I felt bewilderment, and deep gratitude, that such a thing could have been revealed to me; and I kissed her with awe. She slid her arms around my neck, drew me down to her, tasting me as I tasted her.
I held her close, and my body found hers unerringly, waiting patiently until she opened up for me, until her body made space for me within her. And then I was inside her, moving with her in a rhythm as old as time, her body rising to meet me, her arms wound around me, holding me to her. I teased at her hair tenderly, treasuring her, worshipping her.
The heat within her was delicious, the strength of it exquisite. And when she came, she cried out, her passion a prayer of hope. I filled her, filled her with a giving over of myself that could never be erased; body against body, soul against soul.
When it was over, and we came to rest, we lay together, my body cradling hers, my arm around her, crossed protectively over her stomach. We were silent, but the silence was not a parting, but a final joining of pure understanding of one another.
And in the silence, there was love.
"Why do you let me touch you?"
Mare opened her eyes. I was teasing her hand lazily with my fingertips. "Well," she said slowly, a little taken aback, "because you're my husband. Because there's a space in a woman's body for the man who fills the space in her heart," she added, her brow furrowing. She was struggling. "I'm not making a lot of sense."
"You're making perfect sense," I mused. "But Mare...my hand is covered in blood."
"And washed in tears," she said in a low voice. I wondered what that meant, but I didn't ask. "You're still thinking about the press conference."
"Yeah." For no other reason than an odd feeling that it was vaguely relevant, I wondered aloud, "How did we wind up adopting four children?" At her look, I said, "It's not a rhetorical question - I really want to know."
She looked perplexed, but she indulged me, thinking it over. "I think," she said slowly, "that it happened the same way everything else happened. Because when you see something that has to be done, you do it, no questions asked. When these children came to us in need, you made the hard decisions that needed to be made, because that's just what you do."
"What does that make me?" I demanded. "Some kind of hero?" My voice was bitter.
She shook her head. "It makes you someone capable of great evil - and great good," she added with gentle emphasis. She gave a rueful laugh. "You know, everyone thinks it's their job to save the world, and we were in the odd situation where that was really the case." I laughed a little at that. She went on gravely, "Now that it's not, we've got to have the humility to be the best people we can be, and just let it all unfold." She had a wistful look, as though in memory. "I have to believe that's why we were spared, Alexi - to find a way of being something more, something better than the people who did those things."
I said nothing, but only cradled her, kissing her hair, breathing its scent, because I didn't know whether such a thing was possible. Even now, as I write this, Mare asleep at my side, my precious Elena at her breast - gifts I could never have deserved - I still don't know if it's possible.
But I know we can try.
Deslea R. Judd
May 29 - October 8, 2000
Lawrence James Judd
May 7, 1946 - March 27, 2000
SEE ALSO AUTHOR'S AFTERWORD, AND WATCH MY WEBSITE http://fiction.deslea.com FOR A PREQUEL AND MISSING SCENES.