...you felt your heart grow still while your eyes swept the
you felt the pages thickening to the left and on the right-
hand growing few, you knew the end was coming
you knew beyond the ending lay
your own, unwritten life
--Adrienne Rich, "The Novel" (1986)
Leaving Fort Marlene was a long nightmare for Marita. She remembers trying to stop the tears that poured down her face as Alex walked away, and she remembers Jeffrey, his face suddenly hard, grabbing her by the elbow and pulling her back to the entrance and waving his gun around and actually shooting one of the guards at the door before pushing her through and dragging her out and into his car.
He drove for five minutes before he had to pull over and vomit by the side of the road.
He brought her back to his own apartment, put her in the bed and wrapped scratchy wool blankets around her. He fed her broth one spoonful at a time. They weren't safe and she knew it and meant to tell him, but it was so warm and soft and for the first time she didn't hurt, only ached, and she was asleep before she could get the words out.
The voices woke her. Alex's voice, anyway, shouting, "Are you insane?" She forced herself to sit up and wrapped a blanket around her.
"I'm going to take him down," Jeffrey said. "Are you willing to help me?"
She could hear Alex's bitter laughter.
She kept one hand on the wall and made it out of the bedroom and back to the living room, leaning against the doorway to catch her breath. "Alex? What's going on? What happened?"
He stared at her; she tried not to look away. "It's over. They're all dead." His gaze shifted the Jeffrey. "It's too late to destroy your father."
Jeffrey swallowed. "He's dead?" he asked, his voice faint.
Alex waited a moment before answering. "No." Jeffrey's shoulders slumped. "But the Project is finished. It's a whole new game out there."
"Isn't that good?"
"Not necessarily," Marita answered. "The goal of the Project was to ensure that at least some humans survived the invasion."
Jeffrey's throat bobbed again. "And now?"
"Now no one's survival is assured," Alex answered.
Marita let go of the doorframe and tried to take a step into the room; her knees buckled under her and it was Jeffrey who rushed forward and half-carried her to the sofa. Alex stood there, never taking his eyes off her. Once she was settled, he continued. "He's still dangerous," He glanced again at Jeffrey. "He left you to die, you know. He and his cronies went off to get the alien genes and left you to die with the rest. He tried to save Mulder, but not you."
"What's your point, Krycek?" .Jeffrey asked, straightening up from arranging the blanket over Marita's legs.
"My point, Jeffrey, is that I'm not sure your father trusts you any more."
"He never trusted me," Jeffrey said. "He wanted Mulder more."
A muscle jumped in Alex's cheek at Mulder's name. "You need to make him trust you again," he said. "We need to know what he's up to."
"You want me to spy on my father for you."
"Do you have a problem with that?"
Jeffrey turned back to stare at Marita. She watched his face gradually harden. "No," he said. "No, I don't."
"Good," Alex said. "Do whatever he tells you and don't ask questions. I'll be in touch."
Jeffrey didn't turn around as Alex left the room. He stood there motionless until they heard the apartment door close. Then he sank down on the sofa next to her and put his head in his hands. She could see how white his face was through the fingers.
"Jeffrey?" She placed a hand on his knee.
He sat back up and grabbed it so hard that she had to bite her lip as the bones rubbed together. "My mother."
Did she owe him the truth for rescuing her, or a gentle lie? "I don't know," she said slowly. "But the rebels were opposed to the hybridization project. If they took her..."
His lips were almost as pale as the rest of his face. "But they left her alive before, when they killed the doctors."
"It was a trap, I think." She took a deep breath. "They wanted to bring the conspirators together, so they could destroy them."
Jeffrey bent his head. When he saw how hard he was clutching her hand he let go all of a sudden, making Marita gasp. "I should put you back to bed," he said. "You aren't well. You need to rest." He started to stand up.
His jaw clenched again. "Come on," he said, and lifted her up with him.
In Kersh's office the next day, Jeffrey interrupted Mulder's explanations. "The fact is that these two agents, acting entirely outside their remit, recklessly interfered with an investigation. They may not be directly responsible for this massacre, but Agent Mulder certainly was aware of it and took no action to prevent it." He sat back in his chair.
"Is this true, agents? Were you aware of the gathering at El Rico Air Force Base?"
Mulder's mouth opened, but Scully interrupted him. "Agent Fowley informed Mulder of the gathering. And I remind you that Agent Fowley is still missing, and that her body was not found at the scene."
"Agent Fowley is not missing," Kersh said. "She has been in Atlanta investigating a biohazard incident in which the two of you were involved."
Mulder and Scully glanced at each other. "She was in Washington on the night of the firestorm," Mulder said. "And she was almost certainly present at the scene."
"Can you prove that, Agent Mulder?" Kersh asked. "I didn't think so. Agent Spender, thank you for your report. Agents Mulder and Scully, stay here." He walked Jeffrey to the office door and shook his hand. "Good work."
He felt dizzy. Was this really going to work? All the way back down to the X-Files office he kept asking himself the question; at the door he paused before putting his hand to the doorknob. He could smell the tobacco smoke already. Now he'd find out,
His father was sitting at his desk and paging through the report. "Very nice, Jeffrey."
Alex's last warning rang uselessly in his ears. "Is my mother dead?" he asked.
The old man shrugged and dropped his cigarette into Jeffrey's coffee mug. "We may have suffered a setback."
Jeffrey took a few unsteady steps across the room and leaned over the desk. "Didn't you ever love her? She was your wife!"
"Love is a luxury. If you don't know that now, you'll find it out soon." He lit another cigarette and stood up. "Give my regards to Miss Covarrubias. Your rescue of her was quite a surprise. Perhaps you do have some potential." The door closed behind him with a click.
Jeffrey sagged forward, holding himself up by the arms. When he died, his tombstone would probably read, "Jeffrey Spender: Not Entirely Useless." Laughter bubbled up inside him at the thought, and although he tried to choke it back it forced its way out, three great barks of laughter that turned, as he'd feared they would, into sobs.
Jeffrey slept on the sofa until Marita was strong enough to argue with him. "It doesn't bother me," he said, "And you need the bed."
"I've taken up too much of your time as it is," she said.
No, he wanted to say, without you here, without someone else to take care of, I would have gone crazy. "I don't mind," he said.
"I'll be gone by next week," she promised.
The thought of coming home to an apartment full only of his own fear made Jeffrey go pale. "You don't have to go if you don't want to. You can stay here." His tongue seemed to stumble over the words.
She sat still and watched him, the way he'd caught her watching him again and again over the past weeks.
"Unless," he took a deep breath. "Unless you're going to Alex?" Alex, who ended every meeting with a long pause and an offhand question about Marita. Jeffrey wasn't a complete idiot.
She was silent for a little while. "I don't think that would be a good idea."
"I think he cares about you," And so do I, he added silently.
"That doesn't matter. Alex and I... It's too late for that."
"Then where will you go? Oh," he said, realizing what the problem must be. "You can't tell me. Because of my father. It would be dangerous."
"I'm worried about the danger to you, Jeffrey. It isn't safe for you to let me stay here."
"But he already knows that you're here. I told you that." And had seemed pleased about it, in his creepy way. Maybe that was a reason for Marita to leave, after all. "But then, maybe you should go. Go somewhere he can't find you, I mean. Would you do that?"
She shook her head. "You know I can't. I can't stop fighting now."
"Then stay here," he said. "Stay here and help me. I..." I need you, he thought. "I could really use your help. And if it makes you feel better, I could buy a sofabed."
He watched as she began to smile. "It would," she said. "It would make me feel much better."
Jeffrey had never lived with a woman, aside from his mother, so he had no idea whether the way Marita made him feel was typical. Marita herself was anything but typical, of that he was certain. Her presence amazed him. He would never cease to wonder that he could look up from working on a file or reading a book or vacuuming the floor to find her sitting there in one of his old shirts and a pair of trousers. He watched as her face gradually filled out and she stopped wincing in the light and her hair grew back like golden silk. Sometimes as he traced her metamorphosis she would have to repeat whatever she was saying two or three times before he would realize that she was speaking to him. Then she would draw her eyebrows together in a frown and he would have to invent something that he could say he'd been thinking about.
He never told her how her nightmares woke him, not because she screamed or cried but because he's become sensitive to the slightest change in the sound of her breathing. He never told her that he would listen for a little while and then creep into the bedroom to hold her hand or stroke her hair to soothe her, or how he even, only once or twice, lay down next to her on the bed and held her until she was sleeping quietly. Only then would he return, ashamed and uncertain, to the sofabed.
He learned her moods, what she liked to eat, to come and get her if she stood too long in front of the bathroom mirror. The first time he came home to find her missing he panicked, pacing and fretting and gathering the courage to confront his father, until she burst in an hour later with shopping bags and stared at him. "I couldn't wear your clothes forever," she said. She did her own laundry, but every now and then he'd find something lacy drying in the bathroom and force himself to look away.
She almost never touched him, which he felt was merciful. He knew what was happening to him but told himself it didn't matter. So when Pointer, one of the thugs his father made him work with, turned to him in the middle of a very dull night of surveillance and said, "So, I hear you're screwing Krycek's piece of ass. You got some kind of death wish?" no one was more surprised than Jeffrey to find himself grabbing the other man by the collar and bashing his head against the wall, again and again, until Louis pulled him off. Pointer slid down the wall, still trying to apologize.
He never told Marita about that, either.
She ran her fingers down the pages of a file he'd brought home to study. "I've seen this before," she said.
"There was an attack by a swarm of bees a few years ago in South Carolina. Walter Skinner should know about it; he was there, cleaning it up for your father. Is that who gave you this file?"
"Skinner used to work for my father?" His voice rose in disbelief.
She stared at him. "Didn't you know? Well, it doesn't matter now. Have there been any attacks?"
He was lost in a fantasy of confronting Skinner. She repeated the question. "Huh?" he said. "No, no attacks. Just the arson."
"What else do you have?" she asked. He handed her the file and watched her page through it. Her eyes still bothered her, but she bent her head and read through every page, pausing to frown and make notes and going back two or three times to check something she's already read. "Something isn't right here." she murmured. "Oh, here it is." She handed him the page.
It was a list of expenses for one of the five laboratories the file covered. "What am I looking for?"
"The fourth item. An order of larvae. The bees in the program are all bred by the Consortium. Why would one of these labs place an order with a commercial dealer?"
"To cover something up? A loss?" How dangerous were these bees, anyway?
"Or their deaths. Something might be killing off the bees there."
"Thanks," he said. "I'll look into it on Monday."
"Monday will be too late. Something is destroying a vital part of the Project, and we need to know about it. There's a lab just outside Baltimore that isn't mentioned in this report. I think we should go take a look at it."
"I know what to look for," she said. Her eyes were shining and she was smiling at him. "Come on."
"Are you sure you're strong enough?" he asked.
The smile faded. "I'm as healthy as I'll ever be," she said.
The lab was already burning when they arrived. Jeffrey stood by the car and cursed at it.
"I wonder who set that fire," Marita said, as if to herself.
Her voice reminded him that he still had a job to do. "I'll go talk to the firemen, see if I can get a copy of the report. There might be some kind of clue in it."
He found the fire chief standing by one of the trucks. "FBI?" the man said when Jeffrey introduced himself. "We just pulled one of your guys out of that building."
Jeffrey closed his eyes briefly. "I'd like to see him. And when the arson investigators get here, I'd like to talk to them as well."
"Sure," the fire chief said as he walked them over to the back of one of the engines. "But I've got to tell you, right now it looks like an accident. Some bad wiring in there. Here's the agent I told you about."
Of course it was Mulder. He stood up as Jeffrey approached. "Well, well, well. Agent Spender," he drawled. "Did you set the fire yourself, or are you just here to make sure that the cover-up was successful?"
Jeffrey felt his teeth grinding. How did he do it? It was ridiculous how easily Mulder could get to him. "Agent Mulder. Care to explain what you're doing here?"
"I don't think I owe you any explanations, Spender."
"You're interfering in an FBI investigation. This fire is connected to an X-File."
Mulder's mouth twitched. "I know that you don't take your orders from the FBI. It must be tough, working for him, when you know he killed your mother. But then, you handed her over to him, so maybe you don't care."
The whole world narrowed down to Mulder. Jeffrey's feet carried him forward and his hands clenched into fists. Just as he was ready to throw himself at the other man he felt the pressure of a hand on his arm and heard a familiar voice in his ear.
"Agent Mulder," Marita said.
The world opened up again. Marita was standing next to him, Mulder in front of him. He could hear the fire and smell the smoke.
"Marita," Mulder said. The catch in his voice made Jeffrey look at him more closely, but his face was as blank as ever. "You look... much better."
"No thanks to you," she said.
Jeffrey shook off her hand as the sense of their exchange sank in. "You knew she was in there? You saw her in there, in Fort Marlene, and you left her there?" His voice was rising. "Jesus. What kind of..."
"Jeffrey," Marita interrupted. "I've spoken to the investigators. They'll send you the report as soon as it's ready." She reached out and pulled her arm through his. "Goodbye, Agent Mulder." She walked the two of them away, her side pressed up against Jeffrey.
The awareness of her body touching his so closely began to displace the anger in Jeffrey's blood, although his heart seemed to be pounding just as hard. As soon as they were out of Mulder's line of sight he pulled away from her. She looked surprised. "I'm sorry," he said automatically. "It's just... I'm not used to..." He gestured at her arm.
"Of course," she said. Her voice sounded clipped. He couldn't read her expression. "I won't let it happen again." She turned her head away and kept walking to the car.
He hurried to catch up. "Marita, what's wrong?"
"Nothing," she said.
"What did I do?"
"You didn't do anything. I forgot that you'd seen me in the labs too. No wonder you don't want me to touch you."
"Don't want you to-- What?" He stopped dead, and had to run again to catch up with her. He grabbed her and turned her around to face him. "You think I don't... Marita, do you have any idea how I feel about you?"
She kept her face averted. "I think it's clear enough."
He let go of her shoulders and took her hands. "Marita, I think you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen. I look at you sometimes and I wonder why you're even talking to me, and I'm terrified that one day you're going to wonder that too and then you'll be gone. And I'll never see you again." He stopped. What had he just said? Oh God. This was his worst nightmare, come to life. He let her hands fall. "Oh. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have... Now you'll really want to leave."
She raised her head. Her eyes were glittering. "Say that again."
"I'm sorry," the words tumbled out. "I should never have told you how I feel. I didn't want to put any pressure on you. I know that you're... that I'm... well, you know."
"No," she said. Was she smiling? Had he ever seen anyone smiling like that? "How you feel. Tell me how you feel again."
"I..." This was it. "I think I'm falling in love with you. Or maybe I already have. I don't know. I've never felt like this before, and it terrifies me."
She was still standing in front of him. She hadn't run away.
He stood there frozen as the smile reemerged and she placed her hands on her shoulders and leaned up to kiss him. Her lips pressed dryly against his. If he moved, would this all vanish? Almost before he'd framed the thought his arms had wrapped around her and pulled her against him; her hands were around his neck and her insistent mouth was alive under his. All of her felt warm and solid under his hands, not fragile as he'd feared.
As soon as he felt her pull away, he let go. Then, uncertain, he put his hands back on her waist; hers were still on his shoulders. "Why didn't you tell me sooner, Jeffrey?"
"I thought... I didn't think... I didn't think you could care about me. Like that."
Her brow creased. "You're so different. So..." she seemed to be casting around for the word. "So good. And you feel so strongly. How could I not?"
He closed his eyes against the force he felt in his chest, as if his ribs could hardly hold his heart in; then the same pressure forced his eyes open again and he leaned down to kiss away the line across her forehead, to kiss her closed eyes and her cheeks and all the rest of her face until she bent her head forward and murmured into his ear, "Jeffrey? Take me home now please."
Fade to Black/The End
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X-Files are the property of
Chris Carter, 1013 Productions and Fox Television. All original
elements are my own. No infringement of copyright is intended.
Written for Christy, for the Harem Secret Santa 2002.