TITLE: Pure Morning
AUTHOR: winter baby
FANDOM: The X-Files
SPOILERS: One Son
SUMMARY: Marita in the aftermath of Fort Marlene.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: The softer side of Alex Krycek, because he will be missed. RIP Ratboy. The story title belongs to Placebo.
+  Pure Morning  +
I have trouble focusing my vision on things, and the only digit I can make out on my alarm clock is the six. The minutes are red blurs.
The sun creeps over the horizon, so slowly that I don't realize it's morning until light begins to shine through my window.
The alarm goes off. Loud buzzing fills my head and the pain is almost too sharp to bear. I pull the plug out from the wall socket with one desperate yank and throw the clock across the room. It lands with a soft thud on the carpeted floor. I don't have the strength that I once had. Before, that clock would have hit the wall and smashed into a thousand plastic pieces. Now it's just an intact blur on the floor.
I climb out of bed, slowly because any sudden movements will make my head throb. Carefully, I take small steps to the bathroom. I still walk like I did at Fort Marlene, stooped over and with my arms wrapped around my body. I walked like this because it wasn't safe there and it was always so cold. Here, in this small house, it is warm. And safe. Or at least Alex says it is.
But old habits are hard to break. I've spent what seems an eternity walking like this, avoiding torture but always getting caught. This house could be a trap. A beautiful trap disguised as my salvation.
It has only one floor. How considerate of Alex to know that I'm not strong enough yet to climb stairs. It also has blue walls and white carpets that feel soft under my bare feet. He's moved in a lot of my stuff from my apartment. My bed, my dresser, the photos of my family, my clothing, the paintings that hang on the walls, my blankets. It
almost feels like home.
He set this place up so I could recuperate hidden from the smoking bastard and everyone else who had ordered those tests on me. Or he could have set this place up to trap me here, so those same men could come and take me away again. But it's too nice in this house. Everything is set up so elaborately to please me, even the rose petal
potpourri in the bathroom. It can't be a trap.
How I want to believe that Alex could care about me this much.
I slip off my nightgown and climb into the bathtub. The warm water runs over my body, and I can almost fall asleep in here. I wash myself carefully with a soft bath cloth and Dove soap. He even knows my brand of soap. I could laugh at all the details he's gotten right but it's been so long since I've laughed that I'm afraid I've forgotten how. Anyway, even talking hurts my throat so laughing is out of the question.
But I can still cry. I can weep like a madwoman at what has happened to me. I look at my naked body now, shrunken and pale like an Auschwitz survivor. Bruises cover my arms from all the blood transfusions and injections. The virus, the vaccine, the virus, the vaccine. Back and forth and my body was falling apart with each shot. It could have gone on forever and I could have been in that living hell forever.
I didn't always look like this; I used to be beautiful once. Or maybe that had just been a dream. My life before Fort Marlene, maybe I had made it all up while I was strapped down and the doctors performed their tests. Maybe I was born in that hell, always some kind of guinea pig and my memories of freedom were just an illusion.
It was real. I had a life before Fort Marlene, and for a short while I even had love. I can't keep on going if none of that was real, if Alex's kisses weren't real.
The water is beginning to cool now. I climb out of my bathtub and wrap a towel around my body. Soft and warm, like everything in this house except me. I dress in sweatpants and an old tee shirt, not very flattering but everything else is too big. I lost so much weight that nothing fits anymore.
I make my way slowly to the kitchen. It has everything a kitchen should have – a stove, sink, oven – but I use none of it. The only thing that matters is the refrigerator because inside it holds the one food that I can eat. They starved me at Fort Marlene, giving me next to nothing so that I would barely survive. Now I have the diet of an Ethiopian child being saved by the Red Cross. Some disgusting liquid that has all the nutrition my body needs tenfold. I have to drink it every two hours and in very small quantities. I drink it now, and throw away the paper cup. It tastes horrible but it's saving my life.
Not that it's worth saving. My life is a joke and I'm nothing but a mangled piece of flesh. I don't know what Alex is getting out of this but whatever it is, it has to be worth a lot. He's wasted so much time and energy already trying to keep me alive.
I move to the living room and curl up on my couch, contemplating whether or not to fall asleep again because there is nothing else to do in this house. My days are empty and so boring. I don't even have a TV because Alex never brought me one.
It's better that you don't know what's going on out there, he said when I asked for a television.
He brings me magazines because he knows I can only see the pictures, and even then they're just hazy shapes of color. I don't even pay attention to the words anymore, or try to read them because focusing on one thing too long gives me a headache. I have a tall stack of magazines next to my coffee table, every single one unread but always looked at.
There's no one to talk to either. This small house is somewhere out in the country, where there are no neighbors. Just miles and miles of open fields in every direction. I don't know where this is, but I do know that I'm still on the continent because we drove the whole way. It's safe and quiet and lonely.
Alex is the only other person I ever see. He comes about every week or other week to check that I'm ok and always brings me more food. I feel like a cat he's been hired to feed for his vacationing neighbors.
But he's so kind. And tender. He's never acted like this towards me. It's all out of pity, I know. Some strange mix of pity and guilt. I should resent it, that he thinks he has to take care of me like this but it's true; he does have to take care of me.
I can resent him later. For now I need his touch.
And like some kind of ghost, Alex appears behind me. I didn't even hear him come in, but my hearing isn't what it used to be and Alex has been trained to sneak around. I turn to face him and smile, placing my hand on the kitchen table to steady myself. He is carrying a brown paper bag, filled with more nasty liquid and magazines.
Alex asks how I'm doing and he sounds like a doctor but I know that he's concerned.
I nod as I say, Better.
He smiles and sets the paper bag down on the table. Alex puts the carton of my nutrition drink in the fridge and stares at the old one. He quickly does the math in his head and slightly nods when he sees that I've drank all that I should since last time.
You look stronger, he tells me quietly but I know it's a lie. I look exactly like I did last time – weak and tired.
Still, I thank him. For the first time ever, he lied to spare my feelings. Before, his lies were meant to destroy me, but I was strong then and able to fight him. Now all I can do is hold onto his only hand like a small child. It's so warm and it's been such a long time since I've felt the touch of a real human hand.
I have to go, he says gingerly. I only stopped by to see how you were, Marita.
He untangles his hand out of mine and turns to leave but stops when he hears the crash. I knock the bag of magazines off the table and they spill everywhere on the kitchen floor.
I am not an errand to be checked off on your list, I say through clenched teeth.
This is absurd. I'm angry because he's leaving but he's always leaving. What's so different about today?
But there it is anyway, this anger that sits in the pit of my stomach like one of those horrible nutritional drinks.
What's wrong? he asks, also surprised by my outburst. I shake my head.
I don't know, Alex. I really don't.
But he sees it with his shrewd eyes, the loneliness that must hover around me like a dark cloud. He could always read me like I were an open book.
I'll be back soon, he says. I promise.
His promises are empty but still reassuring. I let him leave without an argument this time. The house is empty again. I stand in the kitchen like a hollow thing with no soul, only haunting memories of who I used to be.
I remember making snow angels when I was nine. My white Christmas had been late that year, but it was here finally and I was going to play in it until I was too numb to move.
I remember Mark Donnelly, my first boyfriend and how he broke my heart. It was stupid really. What did I know of love back then? But I thought I had loved him, and sometimes just thinking it was enough.
I remember the smoking man and his promises of power and answers. I was young and foolish, and his future of survival after the coming apocalypse lured me in. Somehow that coming apocalypse never came.
I remember Fort Marlene, where I lost something vital of myself and would never be able to fully regain it. Inside that hell, I doubted for so long that I was even living. I was always so tired and keeping up the pretense that I was alive was exhausting. Breathing, walking, talking – they were all just taking up energy when all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep forever. Die forever.
But there was hope, a spark when I saw Jeffrey Spender wandering the halls, searching desperately for his mother. I could help him, if he would just get me out.
What I remember most of all from that day is Alex, and how he saved me from the tortures of Fort Marlene. At first, he left Jeffrey and I behind to rot, and I had expected as much. But then he returned like a fallen hero and helped us both escape. We ran to his car, Alex and I in the back seat and Jeffrey driving. I leaned on Alex's missing arm, and soon fell asleep despite the hardness of his prosthetic limb. It was a deep and dreamless sleep, something I hadn't experienced in such a long time, not since before Fort Marlene. When I woke up, I was here in this house. Jeffrey was gone, probably after his mother, but Alex stayed behind with me.
He told me where everything was and what to eat, and then left with a promise that he would be back. I was alone in this place, my body too weak to do anything but lay in that bed. But I found, somewhere deep inside of myself, the strength to get up and walk. I was finally free, out of that hellhole and I wanted to be alive again.
I felt the wooden smoothness of my dresser with shaking hands; ran my fingers against the walls as I walked down the hallway; felt the cool dampness of the bathroom tiles under my bare feet. In the small kitchen, I pressed my cheek against the refrigerator door, and let its mechanical humming course through my fragile body.
No one would ever know how good that felt.
He half-dragged, half-carried her to his car with his one arm. She was so skinny but still she was dead weight. Her feet wouldn't cooperate; she couldn't walk. He pulled her into the backseat and Spender climbed into the front. Within a few moments, they were fleeing Fort Marlene as fast as Krycek's car would let them, down a deserted highway.
Slowly, ever so slowly, her eyes began to droop and she leaned gently against Krycek's missing arm to sleep and maybe even to dream.
He carefully brought out a syringe from his jacket pocket, and searched intently for a vein on Marita's arm. Spender watched him in the review mirror.
"What is that?" he asked suspiciously, ready to slam on the brakes at the first sign of foul play. He needed Marita alive because of what she knew.
"The vaccine. I stole it from the lab," Krycek answered. "And don't worry, I know where your mother is too."
Spender stared at him in disbelief through the mirror. "Why are you doing this? I thought... I mean..." He couldn't find the words. He sighed and after a small pause, started again. "She said you wouldn't help us. She said you hated her."
"You don't get it, do you?" he asked as he caught Spender's gaze in the mirror. Obviously he didn't.
Krycek's voice was low and soft, as if he were confessing a dark secret. "I would do anything for her." He turned back to the sleeping woman and watched as her chest rose and fell with each breath. How pale she looked, how small.
Krycek slowly pushed the needle into her right arm, and Marita didn't even stir. She wouldn't be healthy for a long while now and even then, she would never completely recover; but this was the first step in making her alive again. And when she woke up, she would want that, more than she ever realized.
"She's my one weakness," he whispered with what sounded like regret or longing, but most likely both. Krycek dropped the syringe onto the floor of his car and it rolled under the passenger seat.
Spender didn't know how to answer, so instead he turned his attention to the highway and no more was said between the two men. As the car traveled over steep hills, the syringe rolled in and out from under the passenger seat. Krycek caught it under the heel of his shoe, and it cracked beneath the pressure. He turned back to Marita, and made sure that her bare feet didn't touch the broken glass. He gently brushed the hair out of her face and then clutched her small hands, almost as if she would disappear if he were to let go.
The road stretched on forever, leading to nowhere but at least she would be safe. And in the end, that was all he ever wanted for her.
[ end ]
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