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Not My Lover - Enigma by Deslea R. Judd Part 8 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* 5/?
Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2001, 2002
DISCLAIMER: FANFIC = (characters x 1013) + (interpretation x deslea).
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
RATING: NC17 for sexual situations, adult concepts, and language.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Season 1-2; mytharc spoilers to Closure. This instalment is Alex's version of the events of Colony/Endgame.
CATEGORY/KEYWORDS: angst, x-file, romance, mythology, Krycek/Marita, Samantha, Diana.
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 it will be helpful for you to know that the Dark Man is X, Diana Donovan is Diana Fowley, Maxwell Donovan is the Well Manicured Man, and Michael Harrington is Deep Throat. More notes at the end of this chapter.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com, or get updates in your in-box from firstname.lastname@example.org.
FEEDBACK: Cherished and answered, but I can take a while. Please forgive me - I get a lot of email. email@example.com
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Finalist, 2001 Spooky Awards (Outstanding Unfinished Work, Outstanding Krycek Characterisation, Outstanding Marita Characterisation, Outstanding Krycek/Marita Romance). Spooky 2002 eligible.
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, the Den, 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). An imposter went to Harvard using her name and became a scientist. When Scully was abducted, Alex had to decide whether to co-operate or walk away. He had new information that might blow the work open: Marita and her imposter were identical. So he co-operated with Scully's abduction and took refuge at the Den, 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 balked at the idea of using the Den, but decided it was worth it to find her sister. Because she was inexperienced, X placed her as a dominatrix, making her less accessible, sexually, to those from whom she sought information. (Please see author's notes about the BDSM angle, but suffice it to say, BDSM is not really explored here). 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 found Samantha Mulder's diaries and discovered that she and Elena were lovers. Elena was recovered by Michael (Deep Throat) from a UFO crash site in 1983/84 and initially cared for at the Den by Samantha (herself hidden there after the events of Closure), and the then-teenagers made a pact to bring down the project. Both apparently wound up working for Spender and Strughold. They posed as enemies within Strughold's operation but secretly made a colony of Samantha clones who served as the personnel for their work on a bioweapon against the Colonists. They were also sheltering the Dr Gregors, the clones we met onscreen in Colony, in exchange for intelligence that could be used in their work. Samantha committed suicide in 1992, and since then Elena has presumably continued the work with the help of the Gregor and Samantha clones.
Alex and Marita fell in love during the investigation. However, Marita experienced lingering effects of her childhood, her involvement with Michael, and her work at the Den, manifesting in trust and intimacy issues. Alex was patient with her, and in turn, he was touched by her strength and her willingness to fight her own demons to be with him. It was four months and several traumatic botched attempts before they successfully consummated the relationship. The ordeal strengthened their relationship, to which only Diana, Diana's husband Edward, and X were privy. The Dark Man (X) was absent for much of this time, investigating a UFO whose origins were unknown to both the Consortium and the Colonists.
Alex and Marita found Samantha's cache of alien weapons but don't yet know what they are. They also have a log file on Mulder's email. While investigating Elena's past, Alex and Marita met her academic mentor, professor and variola expert Bonita Charne-Sayrre, and learned of a friendship with lecturer-in-residence Sally Kendrick. Since then, it's become clear that Marita still has some issues with intimacy - and that as Alex compiles their account in the present day, those issues are echoing in their life together with their family (which includes Gibson Praise and Diana's children). Now, Alex takes up the tale.
Thank God she wrote it down.
I've relived that first time with Marita a thousand times, but I could never have written it down. What I felt that night is not something that comes easily to me in words. Reading her journal, I can feel the love infused in the things she wrote about us; and that brings me to my knees in a way that six years in hell could not. It brings me an odd kind of grief - grief for something so fragile and exquisite that it must necessarily be no more. That is, until I look at her, and realise I still have it, deeper and stronger than ever before.
Melding with her softness that night was glorious. Part of the exhilaration was just her - her breath melding with mine as she whispered my name, her face warm and serene beneath my fingertips, her eyes bright with longing as I threaded my hands through her hair. We men fill the void in a woman's body, but let me let you in on a little secret: it is we who are incomplete, not them. That's why we madden women the world over with our silence in the aftermath; that's why we sleep. It's because at last we're whole.
So that was part of it - the jubilation that every man feels, whether he will admit to it or not, at joining with the woman he loves. But part of it, I have to admit, was the stupidly, criminally naive belief that it was all behind us now. That the barriers between us were no more.
I should have known.
Twenty-three years of damage are not undone by a stolen moment in the night. Making love to her was a step - but it was only a step. I should have known that the fight had only just begun.
But I didn't. I was oblivious to her disquiet when we returned from Boston. Worse, I concealed disquiet of my own. I was falling into exactly the same trap as everyone else around her - and I couldn't see it. Somewhere, beneath layers of consciousness, I knew the truth about her, and glimmers of that knowledge were making themselves known to me, and like so many well-meaning people before me, I didn't tell her. I didn't tell her until I'd all but lost her.
I don't know exactly when my knowledge began. There was no one clue that made it all make sense. There was her extraordinary intelligence, her physical strength; there was her mother's distance and the question marks over her name. All I know is that it took a single name, a familiar name to bring forth a host of fears, fully-formed to the forefront of my consciousness. That name was Sally Kendrick, and it was a name that opened the way to a legacy of truths buried deep in the X Files - truths about Michael, about Larissa, about Marita. Truths I feared would destroy her.
But it was fear, not truth, that nearly ripped us apart.
And in the end, it was truth that saved us both.
When I woke, it was dawn.
She was sitting at the dresser, laptop open, peering intently into the screen. Faint streams of light came in the window, illuminating her hair here and there. She had it tied back in a loose knot, and threads of it trailed out at her neck and behind her ears, gleaming in the morning light, framing the slope of her neck. She was dressed already, all in black, and her slender hands moved purposefully over the keys. I was half-awake and drunk on her, and she was beautiful.
"You're up early," I said, rising and turning to hunt for my track pants. I found them, stretched, then sat down on the side of the bed to put them on. "Couldn't sleep?"
"Something like that."
I stretched my legs out before me, rubbing my eyes. She went to the minibar and poured us both glasses of juice. She brought mine over, setting it down beside me on the bedside table. "Have some vitamin C," she said. "You look like death warmed up."
"Thanks." I took it and followed her back to the dresser. "What are you doing?" I wondered, looking over her shoulder. "Backtracking over Elena?"
Her eyes gleamed in the light of the screen. "Just going over old ground."
I rested my hand on her shoulder and, leaning forward, I kissed her hair. "We'll find her, Mare."
She turned to look up at me, her expression warm, and nodded. "Yeah, we will." She nodded to the glass in my hand. "Have your drink." She lifted her own from the dresser and sipped it, holding me with watchful eyes.
I did as she said, then I took both our glasses back to the bar and returned to her side. I ran my hand lightly over the back of her neck. "I haven't seen your hair like this before. I like it."
She smiled faintly. "Thanks."
"Hey," I said, watching her, familiar warmth streaming through my body. She turned to look at me more fully, and I felt something in myself go loose and free. "I love you, Mare."
The smile grew wider, more real, less automatic. "I love you, too."
I leaned down to her, turning her on her swivel chair until she faced me. I kissed her lips, just once, and she took my hands in hers. Rising, she said, "I can't, honey. I have to go. I've got that appointment in D.C. this morning. Didn't I tell you?"
"Yeah - Michael's estate." I stroked back her hair. "You sure? Probably wouldn't take long, the way I'm feeling," I teased, raising my eyebrows at her with an amiable grin.
"That's not necessarily a mark in your favour," she laughed. "I have to go. I'm sorry."
I shrugged. "Okay," I said easily. "See you tonight?"
She leaned up and kissed my cheek. "Wouldn't miss." She pulled her hands away and headed for the door. Turning back, she blew me a kiss and left.
I watched her go, and then I lay back on the bed, a huge grin spreading over my face. Who knew it would be that easy?
She loved me. She really did.
I opened my eyes. My eyelids felt unnaturally heavy; their sockets felt dry. I turned, blinking, fighting off disorientation.
"Mare," I said at last. "I thought you were in Washington."
"I was. Have you been asleep all day?" she wondered, her voice tinged with mirth.
I frowned, looking past her hovering form to the window. The sun was low in the sky - mid-afternoon, I guessed. I struggled to sit up. "Apparently."
"You must have needed it. Benedictine?"
"Not two minutes after waking up, but thanks anyway." She nodded, going to the bar and pouring herself a glass of wine. I got up and pulled on a sweater, stretching a little, and pushed my feet into my trainers. I yawned. "I feel like I'm hung over."
"Maybe you're coming down with something," Marita suggested. She picked up the two glasses from that morning and looked at them, her brow puckered.
"God, I hope not. I hate being sick." I followed her to the bar and slid my arms around her waist from behind. I nuzzled at her neck contentedly.
"Mmm, that's nice," she whispered, arching her neck, giving me access. She put the glasses down, leaning back in to me.
"I missed you this morning," I murmured. I tugged her blouse out from where it was tucked into her trousers, soft and white between my fingers. "You changed your clothes."
"Hmm?" she said as my hand slid over the soft flesh of her belly, but then she sighed. "Oh, that's good." She turned to face me, a smile lighting over her features, and slid her hands up over my shoulders. Her fingers stroked at my neck. She turned her face up to me and touched her lips to mine.
I returned the kiss, pulling her closer, cupping my palms over her shoulder blades and down her back. "So beautiful, Mare," I whispered. I felt her body go loose against me, felt her lean in to me. "So beautiful."
"Alexi," she breathed, pulling back a little, teasing her fingers up through my hair. Her eyes were shining.
I tucked her hair back behind her ear; said with contented ease, "Love you." I leaned forward to kiss her once more.
I felt her go tense in my arms. She drew back, watching me with sudden caution. She smiled uneasily, then pulled away a little, and turned back to the bar. She picked up the glasses again, the lines of her body taut and harsh.
I watched her with growing bewilderment. Something was wrong. I moved closer, and I touched her shoulder. She bowed her head with a sigh. "Please don't, Alex."
I felt my face grow warm and flush, and my stomach go tight and hard. Just beneath the surface was fear - fear that, whatever she'd said that morning, she wasn't ready for what I had to give her. It was the same fear that had kept those words unsaid for months now - fear that would have left them unspoken if not for a moment of sleep-befuddled weakness. Now, I wondered if I'd made a terrible mistake.
I watched her fussing over the glasses for a moment, and then I spoke. "Marita, have I done something wrong?"
She turned to look at me. She suddenly looked very vulnerable. Cornered. "How could you just drop that on me, Alex?"
I sighed. "Look, I know it was sudden, but you know, you were sitting there working, and the sun was on your hair and I was half-asleep and, damn it, I just loved you, all right?" Her brow creased, and then her gaze darted from me to the bar, then back again. "If you felt this way about it, why didn't you say so this morning, Mare?"
"This - this morning?"
"I know you had to go, but surely it could have waited a few minutes. You didn't have to sit on this all day."
The lines of her face smoothed out in a rush, and she looked at me, expressionless for a long moment. A look of recognition passed over her features. She looked down at the two glasses in her hands once more, then lifted them both and held them against the light. "Alex," she said gently, turning back to the bar and setting one down, "I had a meeting in D.C. at seven-thirty this morning." She poured the dregs of the drink in her hand into the one on the bar. "I drove down. You were still asleep when I left." She turned back to me, and handed me the glass she'd emptied. There was a grainy sludge in the bottom. "You must have surprised her. She drugged you so she could get away."
I stared down into the glass, then looked back up at her, uncomprehending. "What? What are you talking about?"
Marita pushed past me and went to the laptop. She opened it and booted it. "She must have been looking for something," she said urgently, settling into her seat.
"She?" I demanded. I looked back into the glass, and it all started to fall into place. "Elena?"
She swivelled around to face me once more. "Just how many twins do you think I have?"
"Hey, this is not my fault. I'm not the one who decided to subdivide when I was a blastocyst." It was a stupid response, one guaranteed to provoke an argument, but I felt used...manipulated. And just underneath that was worry. Our suite had been breached. Our sanctuary. If Elena had done it, who else had done it as well?
Perhaps Mare considered that too, because her response was rude - and Mare isn't given to rudeness. "Fuck you, Alex," she snapped. She turned back to the computer.
I walked towards her, my voice sharp with rising anger. "Marita, have I done something wrong? I mean, you seem pretty pissed."
She swivelled back to face me again. She looked up at me, her jaw set firm, then rose in an instant, forcing her way into my space. The effect was intimidating. "No, Alex, everything's just fine. My sister was here with my..." she faltered for a moment "- with whatever the hell you are, and not only did you not realise it, you told her you loved her." She demanded in disgust, "Did you screw her, too?"
I stared at her, disbelief melding into fury. "No," I said coldly. "She said she had to go. Which makes a lot more sense now, by the way, since she bats for the other team."
"But you wanted to screw her."
Jesus, she was jealous. Unbelievable.
I took hold of her arm. "I wanted to make love," I said with emphasis, "to you." Some of my anger receded, and my grip loosened. More gently, I said, "It doesn't matter who I said the words to, Marita. I meant them for you."
Her features softened. The lines of anger were gone, replaced with wariness. She said in a low voice, "Well, I don't know what to say to that."
"And that's what you're really pissed about."
She had the good grace to look chastened. "Maybe." She turned away and went back to the bar, and started fiddling with the glasses again. I felt like stalking over and throwing them against the wall, one after the other.
At last, I spoke. "Did it occur to you that you don't have to say anything at all, Marita? That you could accept it for what it is?"
"You'd take that to mean that - that -" she stopped.
She was very pale. "That I didn't love you."
"Are you telling me that you don't?" My head was pounding.
She made a sound of exasperation. "I'm not telling you that!" she said, upset. "I'm telling you I don't know what to say and that you're going to put your own interpretation on it anyway!"
"No, just go away, Alex! You had no business putting that on me now-" she broke off with a hiss, and she looked down at the bar. My gaze followed hers. The glass was shattered in her bloodied hand.
"Jesus, you're hurt," I said, the fight forgotten. I came over and took her hand in mine, picking the shards free.
She allowed it, her brow puckered. "I don't know my own strength," she said uneasily. She let me look over her hand for a moment, but then she pulled away. "Don't fuss, Alex. They're only shallow." She pushed past me and went to the basin on the dais, leaving me to stare down at the pieces of glass.
"She was in our room," I said at last.
"I know that," she said tersely. She rinsed her hand. The water ran streaky pink with blood.
"She was in our room, Marita! What if she's not the only one? What if they know?"
"I don't know!" she snapped, turning to face me. "My sister was here, Alex! Why are you making this about you?"
"It is about me! I know too much - and not enough. I'm a gamble with no payoff. If Spender finds out that we're together, really together, they *will* kill me." She stared up at me, stricken. "It's worth it, Marita. You're worth it - but only if this means something to you. I can wait for the rest, but I need to know that much right now."
She hung her head in her hands. "Goddammit! Just go, Alex!"
I made a sound of disgust. "That's what I thought."
I banged the door when I left her.
Why the hell did I bother?
I walked across the grounds in long strides, my hands clenched into fists at my side. My nails dug into the soft flesh there; I felt dampness there in my palms. Probably just sweat, but I wondered whether I'd drawn blood. I was certainly angry enough.
Goddamn complicated bitch. She fought and she fought and she fought. Everything was such a fucking battle. Why did I bother?
I felt angry, and more than that, I felt embarrassed. My face flushed, red and warm when I thought of how she'd pulled herself away from me. She'd acted like I'd done something wrong. I felt a nagging sense of shame, and in that moment, I hated her for that.
I pushed my way into the rink. It was deserted as usual. I could hear the murmurs of the little television from the manager's office. I waved a hand at her as I passed the glass partition; she waved back and turned back to her serial, hunkering down with her chin on her hands. You like drama, Lorena? Let me tell you 'bout my life sometime.
Bypassing the stands, I went into the club room and dropped down onto the bench. I stared down at my palms. They were red where I'd pressed my fingers into them, but the dampness was just sweat after all. Sighing, I wiped my hands on my pants and I put on my skates, but I didn't go out on the ice. Not right away. I just sat there, breathing heavily, fighting down waves of nausea and sadness.
I didn't normally come in this part of the rink. The last time had been with Marita, and that was months ago. We'd stood here, turning over Samantha's skates in our hands. Working together. Her brilliant mind, my knowledge. We achieved so much - more than either of us could have done alone. And then I'd kissed her for the first time.
How could she let that slip away? She was killing what we had - suffocating it with her silence and her distance. She was the strongest person I knew - how could she be so fucking weak? I'd thought all this was behind us now, that we could move forward - but now she seemed further away from me than ever.
I got to my feet and went out into the arena.
Stepping onto the ice, it occurred to me that I was getting a little old to be doing this. Racing around an ice rink suddenly seemed like a childish thing to do. I was in the big leagues now. Playing for keeps. And sacrificing the normal, the mundane, the comforts of routine - sacrificing those things was part of that. I'd known that for a long time now, and I'd fought it - wasn't that why I still came here every day? But I didn't know what else to do, so I skated anyway. It might not help, but if nothing else, it would clear my head.
I heard the glass door open. Air escaped the seal with a hiss, echoing through the arena. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her, pushing her way into the rink. There was a cloth dressing on her hand, and she was wearing my jacket. I felt like going over to her and stripping it from her. She wasn't mine. She didn't want to be mine. She had no right to wear that.
She came over to the boards. "Alexi."
I found my voice. "Don't call me that."
A stricken look passed over her features, but she complied. "Alex, please come and talk to me."
"There's nothing to talk about," I called. She walked around the rink, following my course. I picked up speed.
I skidded to a stop and faced her. "No!" I snapped. "No, Marita! I can't do this any more! I can't watch you pull away from me and say, 'That's okay, Mare, I know this is hard for you.'" I stroked over to the boards to meet her, and I leaned over the barrier, pushing into her space. "Sooner or later you are going to have to find it within yourself to meet me halfway."
She stared at me, her face flushed with fury, eyes dark. Closed to me. God, I wanted to kiss her or slap her or fuck her hard right there against the boards. Anything to make her see me and feel me and feel for me again. In that moment, I think I would even have welcomed her hatred.
Her voice was deathly quiet. "What do you want from me?"
"I want you to feel! I want you to care, like you used to!"
That touched her. She blinked a couple of times, and the flush of anger faded a little. "I do, Alex. How could you think that I don't?"
"Because back there, you treated me like an intruder. You treated me like some guy who was forcing some attention on you that you didn't want. You treated me like one of your submissives."
She flinched. I'd wounded her.
She stood there, trembling a little, and she opened her mouth to speak a couple of times. She faltered, and then she turned on her heel and strode away.
I watched as she stormed into the clubroom, banging the door behind her with surprising force. That pissed me off, too. Damn it all, why did she have to go in there to cry or think or whatever the fuck she was doing? She'd have to pass me again to leave. Why couldn't she have gone back to our room, and left me alone?
I took off around the rink in a perfect fever of fury, but that didn't last for long. One lap, two, a slower third. I came to a halt in the middle of the ice, and I stood there, my arms crossed over myself, my head bowed low. The adrenaline of the argument was easing off, and the magnitude of what had happened was beginning to creep over me. It settled over me like lead weight through my limbs.
I'd lost her.
Could it be fixed? I had no idea. But I had to try. I lifted my head and turned towards the stands. And then I stopped.
She was wearing skates - Samantha's skates, by the look of them - and she stepped onto the ice and glided over, a little cautiously. She was pale, and she had an uncertainty about her that I'd never seen from her before.
She came to a stop in front of me. My eyes held hers.
"You mean everything to me," she whispered. "That's all I can give you right now."
The tension fell away. I felt it dissipate, relief rushing through my body. I searched her face for a long moment. "Yeah?"
She nodded. Her eyes were bright. She took my hands. "I'm sorry I've been pushing you away, Alexi. I never meant to do that. I never want to do that." She leaned up diffidently to kiss my cheek, but I turned my face and met her with my lips. This kiss was light, tentative, with the caution of new lovers who haven't yet worked out all the rules.
We stood there, silent and still together, watching each other. At last, she pulled away, letting go of one of my hands, still holding the other. Tugging a little, she led me off the ice, past the boards, up into the stands. She dropped down, and I did the same. We sat there, side by side, leaned forward, elbows resting on knees like painfully shy children. Her thigh was comforting and warm against mine.
We were silent for a while, but at last, I turned to look at her. "Why is this so hard for you?" I said without rancour. "Was it this hard with Michael?"
She pressed her lips together, thinking it over. She shook her head. "No. But Michael didn't matter the way you do. Michael...Michael was something I did because it was expected of me. But you - you make demands of me, Alex." I opened my mouth to speak, but she turned her head to meet my gaze. "I don't mean like that. I don't mean you pressure me. You've been -" she suddenly looked very young. She slid her hand around mine, holding it tightly. "You've been wonderful, Alexi. I don't always act like I know that, but I do. But you make claims on my heart. You make demands on me just because of who we are together. And I don't always know what to do with that."
She looked so lost, and I felt vague, nagging shame for making her look that way. "I'm sorry this happened the way it did," I said. "I'm sorry about Elena and I'm sorry I upset you and I'm sorry I pushed."
She shook her head, putting her free hand on my arm. "You didn't do anything wrong, Alex. I was ungracious and I was unkind, and I never want to be those things with you. I'm sorry." She looked bereft. "Just don't give up on me, all right?"
Relief washed over me. "I'm not going anywhere, Mare."
"Because you love me," she said. Her voice was tentative, but not threatened like before.
I nodded. "Because I love you."
"Oh, Alex," she sighed, and she didn't return the sentiment, but her hand tightened on my arm. She leaned in, and she kissed me tenderly, and suddenly everything was all right again. Suddenly it didn't matter that the words were more confronting than she could accommodate. I meant everything to her, she'd said so; the rest could be worked out.
We stayed there, holding one another silently for a while. It was a good silence - a healing one. I was still unsettled, and I thought she was too, but the gulf had been breached. I was glad.
We were still sitting there when her cellphone shrilled. Reluctantly, I pulled away from her so she could answer it. "Marita Covarrubias," she said, opening it. There was a pause. "Yes, all right. Half an hour." She closed the flip.
"You have to go?" I said.
"We have to go," she corrected. "That was the Dark Man. He wants us to meet him in Samantha's suite. He said to get some dinner and bring it - it's going to be a late night." She shifted away from me and untied her boots.
I frowned. "Did he say why?"
"No. He just said something had come up." She eased her boots off her feet.
I picked one of them up. "Samantha's?" I said in query.
She gave a sheepish look. "I was in the club room when I decided to come and talk to you. Her locker was there. It was just easier than passing you to get to the hires."
"God, we're a pair of idiots," I said, laughing ruefully. She laughed too. I said, "Do you want me to put those back for you? You can pick up some dinner and meet me at the suite."
She rustled in her pocket and handed me the master keys. "You don't mind?"
I shook my head. "Your feet okay? No blisters?"
"No. You'd think I was born with them." She stood in her bare feet. "I'll see you up there?"
I nodded. "Sure."
I watched as she treaded cautiously along the stands. She stopped a little way along, slipped into her shoes, and continued on out of the rink. She wasn't hobbling, so the skates had been a good fit. That was something.
Frowning, I bent to untie my laces. I felt uneasy and I wasn't sure why. I pulled off one skate, then the other, and rested them beside Samantha's. And then I stopped short and picked one of them up.
-- All I know now that I didn't know when you left is that Samantha had unusually large feet.
-- Nice custom boots.
-- You'd think I was born with them.
"They're not Samantha's," I said in wonder. "They're Elena's. That's how-"
That was how she knew someone was onto her. Because she came to her locker - hers, not Samantha's - and found that the diaries weren't there. I breathed out in a rush, getting to my feet, both pairs of skates in my hands. I had to tell Marita and the Dark Man.
I started down the stands, my mind racing. Elena was onto us. Somehow she'd figured out that it was Marita, and that was why she had searched our room. That meant that she-
That meant that Samantha might still have a locker. One we hadn't found.
I made an about-face and ducked around the Zamboni into the club room. I put Elena's boots back into her locker, stopping to wipe the condensation from the blades. Old habits die hard. Then I went through the other lockers - the ones we hadn't searched the first time, believing we'd found what we were looking for.
I identified Samantha's locker, a few bays along, almost at once. It had a faded Polaroid of Elena stuck to the back of the door. Inside, there were skates - large ones, I noted, with dance blades - and a thin manila folder. I drew the folder out, closed the locker, and sat down on the bench.
The folder was old and tattered, spots of mildew and rust along its length where it had rested alongside the blades. Emblazoned on the front in red marker was the legend - ELENA.
I opened it.
It contained loose-leaf paper covered in Samantha's sprawling handwriting - random pieces of varying size and quality. There were crisp quarto printing sheets, and foolscap sheets brown with age. There were little notepad pages and restaurant napkins and, wonder of wonders, even a couple of McDonald's trayliners, spotted with oil and covered with a grid of creases. An image rose in my mind: Samantha, writing down her observations and speculations, maybe while Elena was in the ladies' room; and folding them up, tucking them into her pocket out of sight. That must have been an early one, then, before they were lovers. She wouldn't have risked Elena finding them in her clothes when they made love.
I pulled a very old piece from the back of the file. The edges were tattered, and they felt cool and brittle with encroaching moisture. The handwriting was less fluid than on most of the sheets - it was big and straggling, almost adolescent. This was early, I thought...maybe her earliest thoughts on meeting Elena.
'E. interests me a great deal. She is incredibly smart, both in the native sense and in the sense of factual knowledge, and she has strong scientific leanings. As far as I can make out from her confused account of her captivity with the alien race, she received no formal education. She is very strong for her age (13) and seems unaware of how unusual her physical strength really is. It makes me wonder about what happened to those who remained in alien custody after my release. What were we exposed to? At any rate, she will need guidance if she is to function in normal society. For God's sake - the girl can't even use a knife and fork.'
A leisurely wave of discomfort rolled over me. Samantha seemed to attribute Elena's strengths to the alien race - but Mare had never been in alien custody, and she shared at least the intellectual ones. Everyone seemed to take her prodigious leanings for granted, but they were there - and wasn't everyone's lack of comment on that a little odd, when you really thought about it? And as for physical strength...well, she was no superwoman, but she could take me down, which was more than any woman had at the FBI. If she really worked at it - if she did weights and track - well, who knew what she could do?
I flipped through other pages. Random fragments caught my eye. 'E. threw a cup at a plate glass window. Broke the cup - and the window. Not sure how much more I can take.' For a moment, I thought of Mare's hand, covered in blood and glass, and I shivered. 'Michael says puberty a factor. Says it will get better. I hope so.' Then, further down the same page, 'Michael says Marita shows no sign of E.'s strength. Odd. I never asked if she had. Is he hiding something?' A few pages on, Mare's name caught my eye once again. 'Larissa put E. on the contraceptive Pill. Told her it would settle her skin. Michael says modulating her hormones will help with these outbursts and the strength that goes with them. But I saw another box with Marita's name, too...is that how they know what to do? Because they've been through it with Marita already?' And, most damning of all, much further on, 'Michael and Marita are together. They look all wrong. Not like lovers. Like brother and sister. God forgive me for wondering...but is he sleeping with her so she'll stay on the Pill?'
What had that report from the embassy in Istanbul said? Something about Larissa lying about the children's paternity to protect her husband? What if she and Michael had been hiding something more sinister? Was that the terrible secret that Diana was so desperate to keep from Mare?
Eugenics, I wondered desperately. Cloning. What is a twin, after all, but a naturally-occurring clone? But Larissa had shown signs of giving birth. What if she'd made a switch? What if she'd been a KGB surrogate? What if she wasn't Marita's mother at all? There had been cases in the X Files, after all...the Adams and the Eves. Hadn't Sally Kendrick been unusually strong?
I closed the folder abruptly. It made a slapping noise between my palms. I put it down on the bench beside me and rose. I paced the room. My mind was racing.
It had been there in front of me all the time. Sally Kendrick was Eve Seven - and she knew Elena. She had probably sought Elena out in her own quest for answers. And the Eve project, our response to the Russian eugenics project, had been connected with Michael Harrington - who exchanged intelligence with Larissa Covarrubias during the Soviet rule.
It all fit.
In that moment, I felt absolute affinity with Samantha Mulder. She had faced this dilemma before me. She had known what I knew now: that the women we loved were Russian Eves. She had never told Elena - I was certain of that. If she had, Elena would have this file too. This was a secret Samantha had carried to her grave, probably never knowing that Elena had found out from Sally Kendrick anyway.
But if Marita wasn't Larissa's...if Marita was somehow different...did I really want her to know that? I tried to think about it strategically, but I just couldn't. All I could think of was the effect such a revelation might have on her. She was so afraid, so fragile. One more shock and she might slip away from me forever. And I couldn't lose her. If I hadn't known that before today, I knew it now.
I decided not to share my speculations with Mare.
I arrived at Samantha's suite with an uneasy mind.
Mare was in the kitchen, fussing with takeout when I let myself in and shut the door behind me. She looked up at me, shot me a smile, then went back to what she was doing. I watched her for a moment. I felt sick, watching her, knowing what had been done to her, and what I had to do to keep it from her. Not an hour ago I'd begged her to let me in - and now I had to shut her out. At least from this.
I went to her and slid my arms around her from behind, holding her around her shoulders. She didn't pull away, but she protested, "Alex, the Dark Man will be here any-"
"I don't care," I said. "I need to hold you."
She sank back against me with a sigh. She crossed her hands over mine, holding onto me with unexpected force. I didn't want to think about it - I wanted to just revel in her, take comfort in her - but I couldn't help wondering how strong she really was. The strength Elena had demonstrated could have been merely a manifestation of puberty as Michael apparently believed...but maybe there was more. Much more. It was a frightening thought, especially when I considered the horrible legacy of the American Eves. Madness, homicidality, suicidality...my hold on her tightened.
"I don't want to lose you," I murmured. I wasn't even sure if she'd heard. I half hoped she hadn't.
"You haven't," she whispered, turning to face me. She slipped her arms around me. "You won't." She smiled at me with such fondness that the weight lifted from me - just a little.
The door opened just then, and we looked up in unison. It was the Dark Man. I had the uncomfortable sense of being sprung by a protective father, but he didn't comment. He just nodded to us in greeting and shut the door behind him. We broke apart, but Mare kept her hands loosely at my waist. In an odd way, that made things better - even more than our discussion at the rink had. It was as public an acknowledgement as our lives would allow.
She spoke. "What's happened?"
He set his briefcase down by the door. "We've had a security breach. You and I left for D.C. at five-fifty this morning. Your security codes were used at six-forty-seven."
Mare and I exchanged glances. We said at the same moment, "Elena."
He watched us, frowning. "Say again?"
"You're behind the times," I said grimly.
"She was in our room," Mare explained, extricating herself from me, and his eyelids flickered when she said 'our'. "Alex found her on my laptop. He thought she was me." Just for a moment, I remembered kissing Elena's hair, and I felt vaguely guilty. "We only put together that it was her when he mentioned it this afternoon."
"I was an idiot," I said abruptly. "She called me honey - she mustn't have known my name. God, I even said myself that I'd never seen you with your hair like that. Even half-asleep, I should have known better."
"What did she say?" he asked, coming over to the kitchen bench. He picked up the takeout and took it to the table. Mare and I followed.
"I doubt she expected me to be there, if that's what you mean. She knew about your meeting," I added over my shoulder to Mare. "She said she had to leave to drive down there. I probably scared the shit out of her."
"Did she seem surprised?" he asked, setting down our food.
"I don't know - I was getting dressed. I had my back to her. If she did, she had it under control by the time I looked at her. I'm lucky she didn't shoot me." Marita gave a wan smile, but she didn't seem amused.
"She was on the laptop?" he said. "What was she looking at?"
"She was looking at our report to you - our summary of information to date. I don't know what she saw before I woke up, of course." I held out a chair for Mare, then sat myself.
"Was anything tampered with?"
Mare shook her head. "Everything seems intact. She only looked."
The Dark Man nodded, his expression thoughtful. "So she knows that we know."
"Apparently." Mare's voice was tight; the lines of her body were tense.
"So why doesn't she make herself known?" I wondered.
The Dark Man shrugged. "Maybe she's trying to work out whether we're friends or foes."
Mare said with an air of affront, "I'm her sister."
"A sister she hasn't seen since infancy," I pointed out. "You can't blame her for being cautious."
We ate in silence for a while. At last, the Dark Man said, "I have another development I need to speak to you about, as well. The two may be related."
"What's that?" I said, taking our trash back to the kitchen.
"There has been a series of arson attacks on abortion clinics," he said as I sat down again. "One in Anchorage, plus ones in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Among the missing are six doctors - one from each clinic. Each of them is one of the Dr Gregors-" Mare and I exchanged glances, and the Dark Man nodded. "Yes. The ones who worked with Samantha and Elena." He slid a sheaf of grayscale photographs over the tabletop. "The surveillance footage at the Anchorage clinic survived the fire. We got an image of the arsonist."
Mare picked them up and flipped through the pile. She held out a clear image so I could see it. "I've seen this guy. He was on the news the other day. He was picked up by a freighter on the Beaufort Sea. They said it was a miracle he survived."
The Dark Man nodded. "Very good. What you don't know is that he was not rescued from a shipwreck, but from a crashed UFO - the one Edward has been tracking. The UFO engaged with an air force fighter plane, and they both went down."
"I'm guessing this guy was the sole survivor," I said.
Mare spoke. "If he came from the rebel craft, does that mean he's an alien?" She spoke the words a little sheepishly, and I understood why. We knew they existed; we'd seen documents and been privy to some of the work...but there was a sense of the ridiculous about it that was too culturally ingrained.
The Dark Man nodded. "It seems that way. The form he's taken is identical to that taken by other EBEs in the past."
I blinked. "What do you mean, the form he's taken? Are you saying he can modify his appearance?"
"Within limits. They can't radically alter their body mass - they could not, for instance, take the form of a small child. But when there's no need to modify their appearance, this is the form most of them seem to take."
Mare looked from me to him, frowning. "Do we know why?"
"I must confess that I don't. It may be that they are clones - much more advanced ones than the Gregors. Or maybe they have another form again, but this is the human blueprint they're exposed to in their training - in whatever orientation they receive prior to coming to this planet. I have no idea." Just for a moment, I saw a crack in the Dark Man's all-seeing, all-knowing facade, and I caught a glimpse of how big this whole thing really was. Even our own intrigue was probably just a minor cog in a huge machine. "Whatever the case, our information suggests that they have exceptional strength."
I glanced nervously at Mare. I didn't really think she was some kind of shape-shifting alien, but the similarities sent my already-jangling alarm bells onto high alert. I changed the subject. "If he's torching the abortion clinics," I said hurriedly, "maybe he's the one carrying out the hits on the Gregors. The deal Samantha alluded to in her journals."
The Dark Man nodded. "My thoughts precisely."
Mare's eyes widened with alarm. "That means Elena could be in danger."
"Yes," the Dark Man agreed, "Elena, or the first clone. Samantha's second-in-command. What was her name?"
"Carolyn," Mare supplied.
"Yeah," I said. "They're hiding the Gregors, after all. They could get caught in the crossfire."
The Dark Man nodded. "Actually, I think one or both of them might be acting on this information in their own way. That's something that could lead us to them."
"What do you mean?" Eagerly, Mare sat forward.
"I took a look at the log you put on Mulder's email, Marita. Someone sent him the obituaries for four of the Gregors. He's been in Syracuse investigating the most recent death. I don't know who sent them, but I think it's at least possible that it was Elena."
"Trying to get some protection for the Gregors," she suggested.
"More than that. Trying to get him to take this guy down." I turned to the Dark Man. "What else do you know about this guy?"
"Not a lot," he admitted. "I can find out, but I'm in biointelligence. Colonist counterintelligence has never been my field. I'll have to be careful who I ask - what I ask - especially now."
"Why especially now?" Mare wondered.
The Dark Man leaned forward in his seat. "Samantha's journals suggested that the execution of the Gregor clones was part of a deal. If that's the case, then it's being done with the consent of both the Colonists and the voting circle. I can't be seen to undermine that."
I nodded in understanding. "How long will it take?"
"I don't know. I might have to fly to Tunisia again. It could take time."
"What can we do in the meantime?" I asked.
"I'd like you to drive up to Syracuse, Alex. See what you can find out about the victim there. You might be able to tap into his associates. I'd also like one of you to plant some listening devices in Mulder's telephone and his apartment. If Elena or Carolyn are hoping to solicit his help, we might get something that way."
"I'll handle that," Mare offered.
"Mare," I began, but she shot me a withering look.
"You can't go there, Alex," she said. "Not with your history with him. He'll kill you. If he catches me, I can play the mystery informant card." I didn't like it, but she was right; so I shrugged and held my peace.
The Dark Man nodded, a look of grim satisfaction flitting across his features. "All right. Marita, you might as well sleep. You won't be able to do anything at Mulder's until he leaves for work tomorrow."
She nodded. "I'll leave first thing. It'll only take me a couple of hours to get there."
"And me?" I said.
"You leave tonight. You might be able to get something from Dr Gregor's house. Here's the address," he said, handing me a card. He frowned, seemed to hesitate, then handed me another card as well. It contained just a telephone number. "If you're caught-"
"I know," I said. "I'm on my own."
"Not necessarily." He shot a glance at Mare. "I can't make any promises, but if you call this number, I'll do what I can." I was suddenly quite sure that this was something she'd asked of him.
"Thank you," I said, pocketing them both. "I'll go straight away." I started to rise.
Mare stayed me with her hand. "Be careful out there, Alex."
I squeezed it. "I will." Then, conscious of the Dark Man, I said lightly, "Hey. Careful's my middle name." I raised my eyebrows at her.
She laughed, and even the Dark Man raised a small smile; but they were sharing a worried look when I left them.
CHAPTER 5 CONTINUES IN PART 9.