Welcome To The Harem

Not My Lover - Enigma by Deslea R. Judd Part 6 WIP
Summary: This is a WORK IN PROGRESS. The death of Marita's protector and a startling discovery about her past leads her to the brink of darkness in her search for the truth. But can she let in the one man who would stand at her side? Alex and Marita's account of Seasons 1 and 2. Prequel to Not My Lover, but stands alone.

Not My Lover: Enigma *NC17* 4/?
Formerly Love Will Keep Me Alive

Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2001

DISCLAIMER: Situations not mine. Interpretation mine. Deal.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Season 1-2; mytharc spoilers to Closure. This instalment is Marita's version of the events from just before One Breath to just before Colony.
CATEGORY: angst, mytharc, romance - Krycek/Marita (explicit), Marita/Other (historical), Mulder/Krycek (a little).
RATING: NC17 for sexual situations and language.
SUMMARY: Prequel to Not My Lover. The death of Marita's protector and a startling discovery about her past leads her to the brink of darkness in her search for the truth. But can she let in the one man who would stand at her side? Alex and Marita's account of Seasons 1 and 2.
NOTE: This story can be read without reading Not My Lover, but if you haven't done so, it will be helpful for you to know that the Dark Man is X, Maxwell Donovan is the Well Manicured Man, Michael Harrington is Deep Throat, and Diana Donovan is Diana Fowley.
DEDICATION: This chapter is for the 263 people who have waited patiently for email while I got this chapter out of my system. My bad.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. deslea@deslea.com
UPDATES: drjuddfiction-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Finalist, 2001 Spooky Awards (Outstanding Unfinished Work, Outstanding Krycek Characterisation, Outstanding Marita Characterisation, Outstanding Krycek/Marita Romance).

The story so far: When Alex Krycek was assigned to partner Fox Mulder, he attended the funeral of Deep Throat, Michael Harrington, hoping to get more information about the assignment. He met Mulder's ex-wife, Diana Donovan, now the daughter-in-law of the Well-Manicured Man. He also saw UN aide Marita Covarrubias, Michael's young fiancee and a child prodigy. Diana gave him access to information and directed him to a sex club owned by Michael and inherited by Marita. He learned of a faction within the group that was opposed to hybridisation, including Michael, Maxwell Donovan (WMM), Marita's mother Larissa, and Bill Mulder.

Krycek and Mulder became lovers. He learned that Marita, as Marita Ekaterinberg, went to college with Diana and Mulder at Oxford (she knew the former but never met the latter); while an imposter went to Harvard and became a scientist. When Scully was abducted, Alex had to decide whether to co-operate or walk away. He co-operated because he had new information that might blow the work open: Marita and her imposter were identical. Now, Alex is on the run, living at the club, determined to find out the truth about the identical women.

Meanwhile, Marita learned of the existence of a twin sister and, with her mentor, the Dark Man (X), decided to try to find her. They speculated that Elena had been surrendered with the hostages in 1973. Marita had balked at the idea of using The Den, the Consortium sex club she had inherited from Michael; but decided it was worth it to find her sister. Because she was inexperienced, X devised a plan to protect her (sexually) by making her a dominatrix; but Marita found over time that she was affected anyway. When Krycek started asking X about Larissa Covarrubias, he and Marita decided to take him on as one of her public submissives, and as her secret co-conspirator. It is clear now that Alex is writing in retrospect after the events of Not My Lover; but that Marita's account is from her diaries at the time.

Alex and Marita find Samantha's diaries and discover that she and Elena were lovers. Elena was recovered from a UFO crash site in 1983/84 and initially cared for by Samantha, and the then-teenagers made a pact to bring down the project. Both apparently wound up working for Spender and Strughold. It is clear that Diana knows some terrible truth about Marita and Elena which she feels unable to share, straining her friendship with Alex and Marita. Alex and Marita fall in love during the investigation, but Marita appears to be suffering some kind of post-traumatic sexual dysfunction, apparently linked to her childhood, her involvement with Michael, and her work at The Den. So far they have not been able to consummate the relationship, now about two months along. The Dark Man (X) has been absent for much of this time, investigating a UFO whose origins were unknown to both the Consortium and the Colonists. Now, Marita takes up the tale.


I woke in his arms.

I was conscious first of substance, of his comforting weight behind me and over me and around me. My shirt had fallen open in the night, and his flesh was warm against mine, and my unreasoning terror the night before seemed so stupid in the light of day.

With excruciating shame, I remembered. I remembered straddling him, and I remembered his hands on my back, pressing my body to his. I remembered sinking down against him, riding the hard ridge in his jeans, searching his mouth with mine. My cheeks went hot with humiliation when I thought of how far we'd gone, how close we'd been, and how the inexplicable fright had risen in my chest at the very last second. I hated myself for doing that to him, and I hated myself because I wanted him inside me. I wanted him inside me more than just about anything.

Still, the dull, heavy ache for him that had settled in my belly weeks before had eased. It wasn't gone, but it was...better. Alex was with me, despite it all, and he had never once offered a word of reproach. That counted for something - it counted for a lot. Michael had been decent, but he would never have given so much in exchange for so little.

I'd said that to Alex once, not so long before, and I remember vividly the look he'd given me, bewilderment intermingling with disbelief. "Exchange?" he'd echoed. "Jesus, Marita, since when is a relationship an exchange?" I hadn't had an answer for that, and I still didn't; but now, feeling his body cradled around mine, I was beginning to understand that there could be another way.

There was a knock at the door.

"Coming," I called, extricating myself from Alex's arms with more than a touch of regret. He mumbled a little, groping the empty space with his hand, then drifted off again. Smiling down at his sleeping form, I shrugged off my crumpled shirt and pulled on a robe, tying it off around my waist.

I stopped at the dresser to look at my watch. "Six-thirty," I murmured, annoyed. "For God's sake." I reached for the door and opened it, saying, "This had better be good."

It was the Dark Man. "I need to talk to you."

I felt sudden apprehension - and, strangely, antagonism. That was new...something I'd never felt for my mentor before. I didn't question where it came from just then, but I would wonder about it later. "If this is about what happened yesterday, it can wait until a civilised hour."

He held my gaze, his expression cool. "Fine, thanks, Marita," he said deadpan. "I had a smooth flight - thank you for asking."

I flushed. "I'm sorry. It's early."

"Can I come in?" His weight was already bearing on the door, not aggressively, but with casual ease. It occurred to me for the first time how strange that was, that he would assume entry into the room of a half-dressed woman at the crack of dawn. Had Michael been invasive like that? I honestly couldn't remember.

I held the door fast. "I'm sorry, you can't. It's not convenient."

He stared at me as though I'd lost my mind. "I beg your pardon?"

"It's not convenient. Can I meet you downstairs in a little while?"

He looked at me, brow furrowed, and then he asked in a very different tone, "Marita, do you have someone with you?"

I felt horribly, horribly self-conscious; but damn if I was going to let him see it. "Yes, I do."

"Alex?" I sighed, and he persisted, "It is, isn't it?"

"I'm not prepared to discuss this with you. I'll see you downstairs."

He was still frowning when I gently closed the door.

"You need a manicure."

I stared at him with an affront that wasn't feigned. I gaped at him for a full ten seconds before demanding in a shocked tone, "I *beg* your pardon?"

"Your fingernails, Marita," he said patiently. "They're too long."

I looked down at them. They *were* too long - almost to the tips of my fingers. Long enough to tear delicate internal membranes. Shit. How could I have missed that? "Look, this isn't real BDSM," I said, striving to keep the welling defense from my voice. "They're amateurs - dirty old men who want to think they're walking on the wild side. If I ever tried fisting Matheson, he'd probably have a stroke." That thought was mildly amusing, and I suppressed a grin. I had a feeling the Dark Man wouldn't approve of the levity. I was conscious of the weight of his reproof already.

"Matheson? Please," he grimaced, "I'm eating." He pushed aside his plate. He counselled, "Play the part properly, Marita, or don't play it at all."

Of the two options, I preferred the latter, but I didn't say so; instead, I remained silent, sipping my tea. After a long pause, I said, "How was Tunisia?"

He peered at me over his coffee. Steam gathered together and drifted off as he breathed. "Less eventful than here, clearly."

My tone was conciliatory. "Look, if this is about Cardinale, he knows it was a stupid thing to do. It won't happen again. Can we leave it at that?"

The Dark Man stared at me, brow creased with disbelief. "Listen to yourself! 'Can we leave it at that', like he got into a fight in the schoolyard. He punched out his partner because of you! You think Spender's not going to hear about that?"

I set down my tea with an exasperated clatter. "So he comes across as a besotted sub. So what? Fordham would have done exactly the same thing." I didn't think that was really true, but it was plausible. More or less.

"Fordham," he said heavily, "has two wives and five mistresses. He has other loyalties. Krycek, however, has just two: Spender and you. And yesterday he showed everyone exactly which one comes first."

That made me pause. I looked away for a long moment. "Yes," I admitted, more to myself than to him. "He did."

The Dark Man set down his mug. Leaning forward on his elbows, he hissed, "You think this is romantic, Marita? Let's see how romantic it all looks when we're scraping his body off the road. Cardinale is a terrorist, for God's sake! How much do you think he'd like to get his hands on Alex right now? You, too, for humiliating him, for that matter. He'd probably rape you afterwards just for the fun of it." I gasped, sitting back as though I'd been slapped. His expression softened. "Look, I'll handle it, Marita. I've already done some damage control with Spender. But don't underestimate the significance of this."

I shook my head, still perturbed. "I - I don't. I won't."

He nodded, clearly unhappy, but resigned. "All right. I'll talk to Krycek later today."

"No, you won't. I'll talk to him." He started to protest, but I held up a hand, forestalling him. "I understand that there are implications for our work, but fundamentally it's a private matter, and it's going to stay that way." The fact that we were discussing it at all struck me as grossly invasive.

The Dark Man watched me, frowning. His unblinking scrutiny made me uncomfortable. "How deep does this go, Marita?" he demanded. "I mean, are you in love with him?"

I flushed with anger. "That's - that's a very personal question." One I wasn't equipped to answer, even if I'd been willing to do so.

"It isn't just prurient curiosity on my part. This changes things."

My anger flared. "I don't care. There are some things that you have no right to ask me. Under any circumstances." I could feel the tightness in my chest - the same tightness I'd felt the night before. The same intrusion. The Dark Man looked concerned, and I willed myself to get control. I said more calmly, "Look, there are few things in my life which are just mine - just for me and no-one else. This is one of them."

"You know, if I'd known this was going to happen, I would never have partnered him with you." His voice was tight with frustration.

"Of all the arrogant-" I stopped short. "Do you honestly think you did this? You're not pulling all the strings here, you know."

He sat back, crossing his arms across his chest. "No, you've made that abundantly clear."

There was an undertone of defeat in his voice, and that shamed me in a way that his anger had not. I gave him the only reassurance I could. "Look, you don't have to worry about me. He is a decent man."

"Yes, I think he is." He sighed heavily. "I don't disapprove of the match, Marita - I disapprove of your behaviour."

"It's not for you to disapprove of any of it." I leaned forward, holding his gaze. "Hear this: Alex is off-limits to you. You get a say in everything else, but not that. I don't belong to you."

"But you belong to him." It wasn't a question.

I sat back, a sound of frustration escaping me in a rush. "You don't get it, do you? Sixteen years, since I was just a little girl, and you still don't get it. I belong to myself. If I ever belong to him - if I even can - it will be my choice. Mine! Not because that's just the way it is."

That affected him. His shoulders slumped a little; he bowed his head for a long moment before meeting my gaze once more. "Marita, I know you've had to fight to get free of some people to get to where you are now. If I've been one of those people, I am truly sorry." I watched him, stunned into silence. I didn't think he'd ever apologised before. To anyone. He went on in a different, milder voice, "Look, do you remember when Michael got that cat?"

"She was a stray. How is she?"

"She's fine. My upholstery is demanding concessions." I laughed a little, and that broke the mood. He went on, "Michael was one of those people who collected strays - wounded things he could protect and take care of. The courtesans. Lost people like Samantha. And you." I nodded in recognition. "I've only ever wanted to guide you away from that."

"I know that," I said quietly. The antagonism I'd felt was gone; I felt the same fondness now that I'd felt for him since childhood. "But maybe that's something I need to work out for myself."

"With his help."

"No. With him at my side. There's a difference."

He frowned. "Look, you obviously need something I can't give you. I know this therapist-"

"I don't need a fucking therapist! I need to be allowed to grow up! I need to be allowed to make mistakes!"

"You don't have the luxury of mistakes!" He waved a hand at a passing waitress. "If she makes a mistake, she winds up in rehab or on welfare. If you make a mistake, you wind up like Samantha Mulder."

"That's your loss talking," I hissed, and instantly regretted it.

"That may be, but it's also true."

There was nothing I could say to that, so we sat there in silence, drinking. I had a fleeting memory of Alex in bed where I'd left him, and wished I were still there. I wished all of this would go away, if only for a day. Was I seeing it through Alex's eyes - the eyes of someone who came in from outside? Or through my own, merely stripped bare of the conventional veneer perpetuated by the people around me? Either way, I hated it. I hated it all.

At last, the Dark Man spoke. He said conversationally, "What you said before - about me butting out."

"I didn't put it quite like that."

"But it's what you meant." I shrugged by way of concession. "You couldn't have said that to me three months ago, Marita."

I recognised the truth of this. "No, I couldn't have."

"You know, if he makes you happy, Marita, I'm glad about that. Really." I gave him a small smile, and he went on:

"But I don't ever want to hear or see it in public again."

When I got to the gym, Alex was already there.

I watched him warming up in Karen's deserted studio, and I leaned against the mirror, smiling. Watching him, I couldn't help it. He was so damn beautiful. I've never paid much attention to people's bodies, but every part of his had a memory for me. I could almost feel his shoulders beneath my hands; I could almost taste his neck beneath my lips. Is this why teenagers, and grown women, too, get giddy and silly when they're in love? I'd never understood it before, but I thought I did now. Watching him, loving him, I felt rather giddy myself.

I went over and dropped to my knees at his side. I rifled my fingers through his hair. "Hey."

He turned and kissed me, just once, slow and tender. "Hey," he said. "I got your note. The Dark Man's back."


He went back to his stretches, and I did the same, settling on the rubber mat, legs out before me. "He was gone a lot longer than we expected - nearly two months. Did he say why?"

"Eventually," I said sourly. "He chewed me out first."

He winced. "About Cardinale?"

"Yeah." Briefly, I told him what had occurred.

"I'm sorry, Mare. You shouldn't have to wear the heat for that. If anything, you salvaged the situation. 'If I catch you on my turf again, I'll rip your fucking throat out' - that was brilliant."

"It was kind of fun," I admitted with a grin. "Don't worry about it." He nodded, accepting this, and we warmed up in silence for a while. After a few minutes had passed, I said, "You know, the Dark Man suggested I see a therapist." My voice was more hesitant than I'd intended. In truth, I wondered what he thought of the idea.

He turned to look at me, askance. "Jesus, Marita. Is there anyone in your life who *isn't* trying to fix you?"

I thought about the night before. "Maybe I need fixing, Alex."

He shook his head. "That's bullshit, Mare. It's just growing pains."

"Don't patronise me."

"I'm not," he said, and he sounded genuinely surprised that I would think so. "I really believe that. If your development has been a little more protracted, a little more acute than most...well, that's not so surprising." He met my gaze. "There's nothing wrong with you, Marita. You're just still finding your way."

I looked at him, nonplussed. "Does anything faze you?"

"I could ask the same of you." He pulled his sweater over his head and tossed it over to his bag.

"What do you mean?"

He looked down at his ankles, devoting more focus to his stretches than was really necessary. "Mare, I know we have some really nice times - really special times-"

"Yeah, we do."

"But when I get a call and I say I have to go to work, I go out and I hurt people. Are you gonna tell me you never think about that?"

"No, I don't," I said truthfully.

"Maybe you should." He was still staring at his feet, stretches forgotten.

I sighed. "Alex, there are people who are killers - people who are dark right down inside themselves. People who kill just because they like it. People like Luis Cardinale. And then there's people like you and Edward and Max - people who do what they have to do, and sometimes that takes them to dark places." It occurred to me that I didn't know where the Dark Man fell in that equation.

"That doesn't make it okay."

"No, it doesn't. But it doesn't change who you are."

He laughed. It was a scornful, sardonic sound. I'd never heard him like that before. "I don't know who I am. I'm so far removed from the person I thought I was going to be-"

I cut him off. "I know you, Alex," I said, moving closer to him. I put my arm around his shoulders, and he touched his hand morosely to mine. "I know who you are. Maybe you're not the person you planned, but there's a lot of good in the person you are. And I don't think I'd be half the person I am now if your path hadn't crossed with mine." I looked away. "Maybe it's selfish, but even though I know it's cost you, I can't find it in myself to regret that."

He brought his hand to my chin and turned me to face him once more. "I don't regret you, Mare. Everything else, maybe, but not that."

I leaned forward, touching my lips to his. He cradled my jaw with his palm, holding me closer. "Alexi," I sighed. Reluctantly, I broke away. "Do you know, I used to dream about you? Before we met?"

"Yeah?" He broke into a smile.

I smiled too. "Yeah."


I shrugged. "I don't know. I was just - drawn. Maybe because you were different - because you knew my world, but you were from outside it. Because you weren't like them. Maybe I was calling out for someone - the right someone - and you answered." I flushed. "That probably sounds very girly and silly."

He shook his head. "No, it doesn't." He shrugged. "I'm not particularly sentimental, Mare, but I believe in the things you're talking about. I saw them in my family, growing up. My parents had a good marriage. I might not talk about that sort of connection much, but I accept that it's there."

"Do we have what your parents had?"

He smoothed back my hair, smiling a little. "It's infinitely more complicated, but yeah...yeah, we do."

I thought about it. "I wish I'd had that. I think if my mother had ever remarried, if I'd seen her with someone, I might be more...equipped now."

He shook his head. "No offense, Mare, but from what you've told me, I don't think she'd have modelled relationships any better than she modelled anything else."

"Maybe," I shrugged, but I thought he was probably right.

He let it go. "So tell me about Tunisia."

"There's not much to tell - not really," I said. I pulled away a little and went on with my warmup. "No-one recognises the - what is it, radio signature? The thing that identifies the craft?"

"Do I look like an interplanetary air control expert to you?"

"Be serious." He shot me a broad grin, and I went on, "Whatever it is, no-one recognises it. It's not one of ours and it's not from the Colonists. That means there's a rogue EBE out there somewhere."

"Same species?"

"Presumably. It seems to be your standard UFO. The Dark Man couldn't find out much more than that, but he doesn't think anyone's holding out on him. People seem genuinely mystified. Edward's working around the clock."

He frowned. "Maybe they should be looking closer to home."

I stared at him. "Our faction? Do you really think so?"

"I don't know. Just thinking out loud. Makes more sense than an EBE on a joyride, though."

We heard footsteps. "There's Karen. We'll finish this later. Work out of Samantha's suite with me today?"

He got to his feet, held out a hand, and pulled me up.

"It's a date."

"What's all this?"

Alex's hands drifted across my shoulders, and I sank back with a sigh, smiling up at him. "Mmm...that's nice." He smiled too. "It's a prototype for a new operating system that's coming out next year. Windows 95. If it goes into widespread usage - and I think it will - it will make my job a lot easier. There are security holes you could drive a truck through."

He looked impressed. "Excellent."

"That's not what I wanted to talk to you about, though. I wanted to show you something else." I closed out the program and went into DOS. "Watch this."

He pulled up a chair and sat at my side. My fingers danced across the keyboard. "Initialising telnet," he read aloud. "What the hell is this?"

I suppressed a grin. "Just watch."

A smile spread over his features, and he gave a low whistle. He looked at me with admiration. "Tell me you didn't hack into the FBI POP server."

"All right. I didn't hack into the FBI POP server." He laughed. More seriously, I went on, "I've got a log file attached to Mulder's email."

"So we can read everything that goes through his account?"

"That's right. I have one on his home computer, as well."

"Any particular reason?"

"No, it just pays to keep an eye on these things."

He nodded, rising. "Well done. Want a coffee?"

"Hate the stuff. I'll have some tea, though." I kept paging down through the log.

"Okay," he said, walking through to the kitchenette. "Tell me, why did Samantha rate a kitchen when Michael didn't?"

"Oh, my suite is just a standard voting-circle one - room, mini-bar, ensuite. Michael never lived here, so I guess he didn't see any point in modifying it. Samantha lived here on and off all her life."

"Fair enough," he said. Industrious clattering sounds drifted in the background as he located spoons and cups. "Milk?"

"Yes please." I sat back from the laptop, my hand to my mouth. "Oh, my."

"What is it?"

"Just one of Mulder's reports to Skinner," I said, clucking with sympathy. "That poor man."


I shook my head. "Skinner. I wouldn't supervise Mulder for double the pay. Talk about a one-way career track to hell."

"Tell me about it." I heard a cupboard bang. "There's no tea, Mare."

"Damn. I thought I bought some. Don't worry about it, then."

He came out of the kitchenette and grabbed his keys off the table. "I'll go downstairs and get some if you like."

I turned to look at him. "Oh, would you?" I said, a smile spreading over my face. "Wait - you know, I saw this tin in the cupboard above the sink the other day - that could be tea."

He did an about-face, walking back to the basin. "Won't it be, uh, stale?"

I shrugged, though in honesty I hadn't the slightest idea. "If it survived the trip from India, I'm sure it can survive a couple of years in Samantha's kitchen." I reset the log on Mulder's email and closed the connection.


I logged back into the Windows beta. "Mmm-hmm?"

"Mare, this isn't tea."

I looked up, and what I saw made me stare stupidly with incomprehension.

Alex was holding a long, silver cylindrical object. He looked it over, and then a long, thin spike came out the top with a whispering sound. He drew back with a whistle.

I got to my feet and went to him. "It looks like some kind of weapon. What's it made of?"

"I don't know," he said with a frown. "Titanium, maybe. There are more in here - half a dozen of them." The spike retracted, and he handed it to me. "There's a button there you can press. Be careful."

I turned it over in my hands. "I wonder what it's for? There must be something specific - otherwise you'd just use a gun or something."

"I don't know about that - it's pretty efficient. I'd use it." For just a moment I imagined him using it, then shook my head to clear it. I didn't want to see him that way. He'd proven himself better than that - at least to me.

"Maybe there's something about them in the diaries," I hazarded. "Come and we'll look."

"Good idea." He came with me back to the table, bringing the tin with him. He closed it and put it down next to the journals, hesitated, then opened it once more. He withdrew two of the weapons, handing one to me. "You know, if Samantha thought she should have them, maybe we should have them too."

I took it. "You're worried, aren't you?"

He looked uncomfortable, but finally, he nodded. "Look, this combat training business is weird. It isn't SOP, no matter what Diana says. She's preparing us for something. If she's worried, that makes me worried."

His eyes were dark. I held them with my own. "Me, too." I put the weapon in my pocket without further comment.

He picked up two of the journals and held them up. "Pink or blue?"

"I'm feeling pink today." He handed me the pink notebook and kept the blue one for himself. Taking his hand in mine, I led him to the lounge and we settled there together to read.

We were still there an hour later when he spoke. "Here's something."

"About the weapon?" I wondered, shifting in his arms to look at him.

"No - about the hybrids. Listen to this." He cleared his throat.

"'We've done it.

"'We made our first surviving hybrid clone today. I can't explain how wonderful I felt, looking at her. It made no sense, to feel so protective of something that came out of a tank rather than myself, but looking at her, I thought I would die for her if I had to. Is this how parents feel when they hold their children for the first time?'" Alex looked up from the diary. "Okay, I'm lost. Are these the hybrid experiments she was making for Strughold?"

I shook my head. "I don't think so. She wouldn't have been so happy about it if it were for Strughold. I think this is where she was cloning herself with - yes, there it is. Look further down."

He complied. "'Elena says Carolyn - that's what she named her - will need some pretty significant orientation if she's to pass as human, and an adult. I blush to confess that I hadn't even considered that, but of course, she has the mentality of a child. Once we have a few done, however, they can take over the education of their own kind.'"

"They were making an army," I said. "An army of Samanthas."

"Looks like it," he said, frowning. "Why didn't Strughold suspect anything? I mean, it's not the sort of thing you can do in secret very easily."

"I saw something about that when I was flipping through the other night. Can I have a look?" He complied, handing the book over and taking mine. "Here it is. 'Elena and I staged a huge fight today. We got to screaming at each other about embryonic nuclei.'" Alex looked at me quizzically, and I shrugged. "Don't look at me; it's over my head." I read on, "'We each went separately to Strughold to discredit the other. They tried to send us to mediation, but we wouldn't go. Damn funny. We tried to make love in my lab after everyone was gone, but we were laughing too much. Settled for a kiss and a squeeze.'" The image made me smile. They reminded me of Alex and I. "'Strughold and his people are scrambling through nine hundred pages of conflicting reports - none of which even mention the possibility of manipulating the thymine nucleotide base.'"

"Misdirection," Alex said thoughtfully. "They were playing cat-and-mouse, making him think they were at scientific loggerheads, and pointing him in the wrong direction entirely."

I leaned up to kiss him. "A bit like us, really."

He smiled against my lips. "Yeah." He nodded to the journal. "So who knows what right now?"

"Well, Strughold and Spender both know about Elena and Samantha, but not that they're working together. They think they're on their side. Michael knows what they're really up to. The Dark Man knows about Samantha but not Elena. My mother and Max know about Elena, but they might not know about Samantha."

Alex groaned. "My head hurts."

"We've still got to draft a report for the Dark Man yet."

"Don't remind me." He sighed. "What about the others? Say Bill Mulder?"

I shrugged. "Not sure. He's pretty much out of things by now - retirement on ill health - but he might know about Samantha. Teena would know, too, I suppose."

"Now, just situate me again. Are the Gregors in the equation yet?" He nudged me forward, gently, and got up. He went to the bar. "We need to make a timeline. I'm getting lost here."

"No, I don't think so. Hold on." I flipped through pages. "No, that's later. Thanks," I added, taking the drink he offered. He settled down behind me and drew me back against him once more. "Look."

"'Elena returned from the States today. About time, too - I missed her. The clones are in place, working with foetal tissue in abortion clinics as planned. What we didn't anticipate was new information, and a new alliance. For the first time in a long time, I think there may be hope.'" I looked up at him. "It's weird, reading that, knowing she was depressed. Knowing that all these ups and downs were a prelude to her death."

"It's sad," he agreed. "Poor Samantha. Poor Elena, too, for that matter." His hold on me tightened.

I felt grief, fast and fleeting, and I bowed my head. "Yeah." He stroked my cheek, and I kissed his palm, leaning into it with a sigh. I read on: "'There's a rebel faction on the other planet, opposed to hybridisation. They're purists - they oppose the dilution of their race.'" Suddenly, I stared up at him in dawning recognition. "Oh, my God."

His eyes glittered with understanding. "The UFO - the one Strughold's worrying about. It's a rebel craft."

I drained my drink. "My God."

He took my glass and set it down on the floor beside his. "This is-" he faltered, at a loss.

"I know," I breathed. "It's almost too big to-" and then I had to stop, too. I looked back to the journal. "'We know this from a group of clones known collectively as the Gregors - the ones on whom the work on our own clones was based. Some kind of deal has been made allowing the Gregors' execution. The Gregors are aware of our resistance sympathies (a fact which nearly gave Elena a heart attack), but are prepared to trade information for protection. Elena has placed them in the clinics with our own clones, and I have a decade's worth of new data. Better yet -'" the words were underlined "'- the news of the existence of a rebel faction gives me hope that the hybrid project can be stopped.'"

Alex made a sound of admiration. "They were players - both of them. Much bigger fish than either of us. It's pretty damn impressive."

"That's my sister," I said with a flush of pride. Sudden, wistful affection came over me in waves, and I looked up at him, facing him head-on. "Alex, do you really think we'll ever find her?"

He leaned in and kissed me. "I'm certain of it."

Resting there in his arms, I could almost believe that were true.

He held me every night after that.

It wasn't something we really discussed. That night after dinner, when he was about to leave me, I took his hand in mine, led him away from the door to the bed, and turned down the covers. He watched me, perplexed. I didn't look at him - I didn't dare - but I stripped off my skirt and pantyhose, slipped into bed, and lay down on the far side with my back to him. I stayed there, rigid, my shoulder blades poking stiffly against the soft cotton of my blouse. I waited, hoping to God that he wouldn't refuse me. It was hard enough to ask, and I couldn't have done it if I'd believed - really believed in my heart of hearts - that he would say no.

There was a long pause, and then I heard him unzip his jeans and shrug them off onto the floor. The mattress dipped as he slid into bed behind me and pulled the covers up over us. He put his arm around me, and I leaned back in to him, pressing him closer, twining my fingers with his. He kissed my hair.

"You want me to stay with you like this?"

I nodded. I couldn't speak.


I swallowed hard; said in a low voice, "Every night."

"Okay." He kissed my shoulder. "Goodnight, Mare."

"Goodnight, Alex."

It was settled as simply as that. Some nights he just held me, others he touched me; but he stayed away from my most intimate places. Sometimes I felt like taking his hand and putting him where I wanted him, but I didn't. He knew I wasn't ready - perhaps better than I knew myself.

I made some unsettling discoveries about myself in this time. I found that I liked to be covered...cornered. I liked it when he kissed me, hard against the wall. I liked it when he held me from behind in the bed we shared, and when we moved, his warmth spread over me, until his body almost covered mine. I liked it when he stretched me out at the gym, holding me down, and I fought him because that's what we were there to do, but my nipples were hard and my thighs were loose and, God, I wanted him. There was something I craved which was almost like domination, and that scared the hell out of me.

"It's sick," I said to him abruptly one day.

Alex looked up at me from his seat at the dresser. "Why do you say that?"

"It's like those women who grow up in abusive homes then seek out abusive men." That was a truly horrible analogy, and I didn't realise it until a second too late.

His expression darkened. "I hope you're not saying that I-"

"No, of course not," I said hastily, setting down Samantha's journal on the bedside table. "But I mean, I've spent so long trying to get free of being controlled, and now-" it was hard to say it, but I struggled on, "now I'm excited by it. It's sick."

His brow furrowed. Expression thoughtful, he closed the laptop, rose, and came over to the bed. I shifted over a little to give him room, eyelids flickering as I watched his course. He settled down at my side. "I think you're mixing up control with trust."

I turned onto my side to face him, leaning up on my elbow. "What do you mean?"

"There's nothing wrong with giving yourself over - with allowing yourself to belong to someone, Mare," he said earnestly. "It's why we were given our freedom in the first place - to give it to another."

I stared at him in bewilderment. That whole last statement - it could have been said in another language for all the sense it made. I asked at last, "But isn't that abdicating yourself?"

He shrugged. "It is if you do it once and let them do whatever they want with it. But if it's a choice you make and re-make every day - that's commitment, Mare. It's a good thing."

"So you're saying that I want to belong to you, but in a good way?" I looked at him dubiously.

"More or less. But Mare, it goes both ways."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I belong to you, too, you know."

I stared at him in amazement. "How can you say that so casually - like you're asking me to pass you the salt shaker?" He laughed a little. "No, seriously, Alex, doesn't that - isn't that hard for you?"

"No," he said. "No, Mare, it isn't. In my family, commitment was - it was just how you lived, you know? If you really care, I mean. If the person matters."

I thought about it. Alex thrived on commitment. His whole life was steeped in it. Little wonder he was so good at it - God knew, he'd had a lot of practice. Was that the difference between him and me? That people had always been so busy taking my freedom that I'd never had a chance to use it to give?

I was hopelessly ill-equipped to form a decent answer to any of this, so I leaned up and kissed him instead.

He kissed me in return, cupping my shoulder, drawing me closer, and I felt my mouth open beneath his. He leaned in to me, and I pulled back, pulling him down over me. "Alexi," I whispered, cradling his neck in my hands.

He touched my face, lightly, letting his fingertips travel along my jaw. His breath was hot, skittering along my flesh in currents as he sighed my name. He made a path through my hair with his fingers, tracing delicate circles over my scalp. For a long moment his eyes were closed, his forehead resting against mine as he hummed needy sounds into my mouth. He was smiling, and God, I loved it when he smiled for me.

His palm grazed down over the slope of my neck, tracing the lines of my body to my breast. He squeezed me there, just a little, just enough to send bright trails of need racing along my nerves. "You know, I saw how you were at training," he whispered, cradling me there, making my flesh swell and my veins pulse strong and hard. "I had you pinned down at your wrists, and you fought me so damn hard, but your eyes were so bright-"

"I wanted you," I breathed. "I always want you."

He slid his palms up over mine, linking his fingers with mine, and leaned across to kiss the back of one of my hands. He braced them on the bed at either side of my head, firm but not harsh, his gaze holding mine, searching me for a response. I drew in my breath in a rush, arching my body beneath his, and he must have taken that for agreement, because his restraint died, and he kissed me hard. It was sudden and shocking, and I thrust back my head into the pillows, and my jaw fell open to take him completely. I fed on him, moaning as he plundered my mouth. He was more insistent than I'd ever seen him before, but I was undaunted, because his hands were firm enough to hold me but light enough for me to pull away. It was still my game, but he was in control - and that thought alone was enough to make me feverish with need.

"Do you like this?" he asked. His voice was hypnotic - low and harsh and heavy with desire.

"Yes," I whispered. "Yes."

He slid his mouth beneath my jaw, sucking me in that soft, pulsing hollow of flesh on my neck, and I couldn't touch him, but I pressed myself up against him, letting my legs fall open, letting him settle in between them, my skirt hiked up around my waist. I could feel his warmth radiating through his shirt and mine. He lowered his mouth to my collarbone, then lower still, nuzzling the swell of flesh there through the fabric, still bracing my hands at my side. He teased me, coaxing my breast with the wet heat of his tongue until I was deep in his mouth, arching my back, driving up into him.

"This, Mare," he said, lifting his head, eyes dark and demanding. "Do you like this?"

"Yes," I gasped, straining back up towards him, my hands clinging to his. "Yes."

"And this," he said, sliding back up my body to face me. He pressed himself hard between my legs, his jeans chafing over the wet silk of my panties. I made a long, low sound of need, opening wider beneath him. He seemed to lose the thought then, distracted, sinking his head to my shoulder with a sigh. With a hitching sound, he looked up at me; kissed me, just once, fleeting and chaste. "Do you like this?"

"Yes," I whispered. "Oh, yes."

He began to move, teasing me, pressing his hardness into the soft flesh between my thighs and sliding over me. He made a space there, parting me, stroking me where I wanted it the most, silk and denim taking our friction and making it warm. I felt the sudden release, the slick dampness spreading over me as he moved me back and forth, hips in rhythm, mouths meeting in breaths and sighs. I gripped his hands with mine as he rode me, stretching my body to meet his. "-like this?" he managed, barely coherent between deep, hungry kisses.

"Mm-hmm," I sighed, high and keening. "Alexi."

"Which is it, Mare?" he demanded, his forehead pressed to mine, breath hot on my cheeks. The feel of him hard against me was incredible; hot and exquisite.

I arched up to him, gasping with need, barely registering his words. "What? Which is what?"

"Giving up?" he said, his hands kneading mine. "Or giving over?"

"I don't kn- oh, God, Alex!" I blurted, my body opening for him. I wound my legs around his body, pressing him down into me. I'd have taken him through the fabric if I could.

"Is it -" he faltered, leaning his head against my shoulder, nipping at my neck with his teeth "- is it giving in? Giving in to me?"

I shook my head desperately. "No," I gasped, so high it was just a whimper. "I want - I want this."

"Do you choose it?" he murmured against my neck, thrusting hard against me.

"Yes," I choked out, thrusting back, the first waves of my orgasm building. "Yes."

"Mare, oh, God, Mare."

He rocked with me, pressed deep into my flesh, body rigid and taut as I shook and cried out his name. He released my hands, and I leaned up to kiss him, long and deep and wet. "Oh! Alex," I gasped out, cradling his neck, taking him hungrily. It was the first time he'd made me come.

We lay there, sighing out one another's names, his weight comforting over mine as the shuddering ripples in my body ebbed away. He took one of my hands in his and brought it to his lips. My palms were red where we'd braced onto each other. He took the pads of flesh into his mouth and sucked them, so tenderly, so reverently. It made me want him all over again. "It isn't wanting to be controlled, Mare," he said, voice ragged and worn. "It's just wanting to be warm."

I cradled his head there against my shoulder, kissing his temple. I lingered there; whispered, "You make me warm."

He lifted his head, his eyes searching mine. "Mare," he said, his voice husky, "so beautiful, Mare." He ran tender fingertips over my face, and I leaned up to him, eyes closed. I felt adored.

We stayed there for a long time, just holding each other, but finally, he said, "That was okay - wasn't it?"

I teased my fingers through his hair. "It was more than okay." I felt heat through my veins; I felt welling hope. Maybe I was ready to-

"It was the clothes," he murmured against my neck.


"It was the clothes. It felt safe because of the clothes. Because we could only go so far, and no further."

"Maybe," I conceded, but I felt my hope dim. He was right. Tears sprang to my eyes, and I fought them down. "I want you inside me, Alex," I said before I could stop myself. "I want to feel - full - and warm - with you-" and I couldn't say any more than that - I didn't have either the capacity or the vocabulary, and I was mortified by the exposure of saying it at all.

He lifted his head, and I was struck by the compassion in his features. "I want that too, Mare. It'll happen. I believe that."

"But - every time we try, I feel tight in my chest - it's like I can't breathe-" I broke off, and the tears did flow then - just a little.

He slid off of me, onto his side, and gathered me up against him. He held me for long moments, murmuring sounds of comfort into my hair, cradling me. At last, he said, "You can't force it, Mare. Your mind and your heart are working all this out, every day. We just have to wait."

I pulled back to look at him. "I'm tired of waiting. I'm tired of being this fragile doll that everyone has to accommodate. I want to be strong." I hated the petulant way that sounded.

He stared at me, surprised. "You are strong, Mare."

"No, I'm *not*! Look at my life!"

He slid his hands into my hair, cradling me there, making me face him head-on. "You are. Being wounded is not the same as being weak, Marita."

"Then what about us?" I demanded, and the tears were rising again. "You give everything - I give nothing."

"You give more than you know," he said, and he sounded upset. He dipped his head to mine and kissed me, soft and slow. He whispered against my lips, "Do you know what it does to me to watch you fighting for us? To know that it's the hardest thing in the world for you, and yet you do it anyway? No-one's ever fought for me the way you do." He smoothed back my hair, tucking it behind my ear. From anyone else, the paternalism of the gesture would have bothered me, but he did it with such reverence that I basked in it instead. "That night that you asked me to hold you, you were so stiff and scared - but you did it. You did it anyway."

I couldn't speak; but I drew him close, and we held each other.

I thanked God that for him, for now, that was enough.

"Good morning, ladies."

Diana looked up. "Morning, Alex. Join us?"

"Thank you, Diana," he said, slipping into the seat next to me. He took my hand in his for a long moment. He wouldn't normally have done that, but the restaurant was empty. This early, it was officially closed, with only a skeleton staff to attend to the needs of the top-tier members. Diana, of course, was privy to our relationship; it had been the subject of several girl-talks by now. I squeezed his hand before letting go.

"You're up and about early," I said. When I'd left him he'd still been asleep.

"Thought I'd skate before training. Helps me warm up."

"So that's the secret of your success," Diana laughed.

Alex gave a wry laugh. "No, the secret of my success is that I don't want Karen to shout at me. When God made Karen, he forgot the volume control."

Diana sipped her coffee. "Well, you're going to be seeing more of her. There are other courses I want you to take - both of you. Espionage 101 - lock-picking, safe-cracking, forgery, customs evasion, that sort of thing. Guess who's going to be your coach?"

I raised an eyebrow. "She's a regular jill-of-all-trades."

"She'd want to be. She was a black-ops girl for Castro. She makes Cardinale look like an amateur."

Alex frowned. "What's she doing here, then?"

"Castro owes me a couple of favours," she said, grinning broadly. I wasn't sure whether she was joking or not - with Diana, it could have gone either way. "I called one in."

"For us?" I demanded, setting down my cup with a clatter.

She shrugged. "I want you to learn from the best."

Alex and I exchanged glances. "Is there something you're not telling us, Diana?" he demanded, leaning towards her over the table.

It was standard interrogation-by-intimidation, and she didn't fall for it. "Look, you're both pretty young and pretty new and you're in pretty deep. I just thought a crash-course might be in order - one from someone who knows what they're doing. Karen's the best there is."

I was about to comment when I spotted the Dark Man in the doorway. Diana saw him at the same moment, and she held out a beckoning hand. "Darling! Come join us."

I whispered, "This discussion isn't over." She sat back with a smug little smile as the Dark Man came and sat down.

"Morning, ladies; morning Krycek," he said. "I can't stay. I have to drive down to DC. Mulder's running around like a kamikaze. I've got to do some damage control."

Diana snorted. "Fox is being reckless? Gee, that's unusual."

"His behaviour is extreme, even for him. Dana Scully's critical - I don't think he even knows what he's doing half the time." I glanced at Alex, and I could see the way his cheek flickered. I groped for his hand under the table and found it. He closed his fingers around mine and held on tight.

"What's her prognosis?" he asked, voice unnaturally controlled.

"She's not going to make it," Diana supplied. "They're switching off life support today." She made a sound of annoyance. "Whoever handled her tests ought to be shot. She's engorged, for God's sake. If her doctors notice that, it's only a short step to realising her fertility was tampered with. What kind of an idiot returns an abductee before her milk's dried up?"

"It's been a shambles from start to finish," the Dark Man agreed. "She didn't need to die. Goddamn incompetent scientists."

Abruptly, Alex rose, withdrawing his hand from mine. "I have to go," he said, voice neutral. "Excuse me." He turned and stalked off.

I stared at the other two in utter disbelief. I turned on them, hissing, "Damn you both!"

They looked at each other, uncomprehending. Diana said in bewilderment, "What did we do?"

"Alex was part of Scully's abduction," I said, the anger rising in my throat. "He didn't need to hear any of that."

Diana looked contrite, but the Dark Man argued, "Marita, Krycek knew what was going to happen to her. If he can't handle it, he shouldn't be in the game."

"Yes, he did. And he can. But you didn't have to rub it in his face." I got to my feet, my cheeks flaming. "It was cruel - and I've never known either of you to be cruel."

Diana sighed. "Marita, where are you going?"

"To find him." I turned away and hurried off, heels clattering on the floor.

I was conscious of their scrutiny, but I realised that I no longer cared.

I found him where I thought I would find him - on the ice.

The cool air washed over me as I opened the door to the deserted rink. It was used by few since Samantha's death - mostly children of the staff, rather than members - and not even the manager was in yet. I let myself into the office and grabbed a jacket. I pulled it around me, shivering a little, then went out to the main arena.

He was skating around in laps, taking short sharp strokes. He went faster and faster, bent low, his figure cutting through the mist like a knife. I stood at the boards, watching him, hoping he'd see me and come over. He didn't, but about the fifth lap, he raised his head a little, and the grief I saw etched into his expression made me gasp. And there were tears, too, streaming down the sides of his face from reddened eyes. I'd never seen him shed tears before.

I glanced back to the office - I couldn't see any snow boots, and I didn't know where they were kept. Skates would take too long. I couldn't leave him like that. So I went out there, stepping on the ice unsteadily on my heels, the cold rising through my feet in a rush. I stopped in his path. He looked up and saw me. I waited.

He skidded to a stop in front of me. "Damn it, Marita, I could have knocked you down," he yelled, but I put my arms around him before he could finish, and then he was shaking, burying his head against my shoulder, clutching at my hair with his hands, twisting it between his fingers.

"Alex," I whispered. "Oh, Alex, it's okay."

He clung to me, even tighter, arms sliding desperately over my back. "I hate what I've become."

"I don't," I murmured into his cheek. I couldn't feel my legs anymore. I didn't care.

"Why? Why don't you hate me?" he demanded, pulling back to look at me, nose to nose.

He looked so wretchedly bewildered, like a child. I tasted salt in my mouth, not tears yet but the beginnings of them, and there was a driving ache deep in my belly. It hurt me to see him that way. "I only know what you are to me, Alexi," I said, cradling his neck with my hands. "If I have to take the bad with the good, if I have to take the things you do and live with them, then that's what I'll do."

His features contorted with pain. "It doesn't work like that, Mare! None of us can just stand by when someone does the things I do! If you assent to them, then they're your sins too. I can't ask you to do that! I can't ask you to take that on!"

I stared at him with dawning understanding - not only of him, but of my life. He was right. I'd grown up with killers - Michael, Edward, the Dark Man. I'd never questioned any of it. I'd been their silent accomplice. Was I willing to keep doing that? Was I? If I wasn't, then I would have to walk away from him, and that was something I could never, ever do.

"You're not asking," I said at last. "I'm offering. We're in this together." He opened his mouth to protest, and I put my hand to his lips. "Your sins are my sins."

At almost any other time, I think he would have argued; but he only closed his eyes, pain and relief intermingled in his expression. He tried to speak, faltered, then leaned in and kissed me hungrily. He clutched at me, drawing me in with desperate need. He tasted of salt, his own warm tears on his lips, and I drank them in, taking them and making them mine. He pulled back, just a fraction, his face still grazing against mine, and he sighed, "I don't deserve you, Mare."

"And I don't deserve you," I said, and neither of us could argue with that anymore, because we were both killers, we were both takers, and the cold flooding through my veins seemed to prove it. "I guess we got lucky."

"Yeah, I guess we did."

I cradled his head against my neck, and we stayed there holding one another, bound by love and by need and by guilt, and I realised I no longer knew one from the other. We were so far gone that if it took blood to keep us together, then so be it. I would damn my pathetic excuse for a soul before I'd let him face it alone. It hardly mattered, anyway.

I was beginning to see that we were already damned.