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Category: Christmas fic
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Disclaimer: Technically Chris Carter owns both of the characters you'll recognize, but it seems pretty clear that he's done with them.
Summary: Two and a half years after Alex's death, Marita has an unexpected Christmas Eve visitor.
Author's notes: 1. Though not a prequel in the typical sense, this story nevertheless inhabits the same fictional universe as my wip "Misbegotten Sons."
Off The Beaten Path
After Mulder's trial, Marita ran. She cashed in all her funds and took a greyhound bus, the world's most anonymous form of public transportation, and headed for the hills, literally. There'd been quite a lot of money because getting your hands dirty wasn't without its perks. Alex had left her some too, but those dollars had never seen the inside of a bank. Eventually she settled in a small Midwestern town, and took up a life that was comfortable, if not terribly exciting.
In fact, the only excitement she'd had all of December came the night of a bad snow storm. The power had flickered twice and come back on before it went down for the third count and didn't come up again. Her house was older, and lost heat quickly, which was why she found herself pulling on her boots two hours in, and heading for the woodshed.
The beam of the flashlight bobbed unpleasantly as she made her way across the yard, and staring at it too intently was starting to unsettle her stomach. She decided to look elsewhere, and thought she caught a hint of movement, but whipping the flashlight in that direction didn't reveal anything, so she decided she'd probably been fooled by the way the wind kept picking at her hair and clothes. Surely it had been a stray, and rapidly dampening, lock of her own blonde hair that suggested the phantom motion.
Even though it was pitch black in the shed, it was a relief to step into it. Both the wind and the furious snow were safely outside as she loaded her bag full of likely logs, and tried to fill up the spaces between them with a sufficient amount of kindling. There had been power failures often enough in her recent past to sell her on the importance of kindling to start a stubborn fire.
When she had the bag crammed as full as she could, she turned back towards the door to the shed. And just beyond the strain of her flashlight beam saw the outline of someone standing in the doorway.
For a moment her heart hammered in her chest, and she wondered if she could use a log to club the intruder if they proved to be one of the tatters of the Consortium comin' a calling, but two seconds of the flashlight on her would-be attacker's face revealed the fact that the person standing in the doorway, framed by a flurry of snow, was not actually a stranger.
At least not entirely.
What was his name? she wondered as she stared at the face before her. He looked concerned, but he had every moment she'd seen him before, so she didn't consider that to be telling. "Gibson," she said slowly, thinking that it was his name. Gibson, Fender, Ibenze, the poor kid had been named after a guitar company, that much she recalled.
His expression betrayed the smallest amount of relief. "I wasn't sure that you'd remember me." Gibson's voice was a little deeper than she recalled, but he'd gotten older and heavier since the last time she'd heard him speak. Perhaps a couple of inches taller, too.
She raised her eyebrows. "It's been a couple of years, but you don't forget someone you hatch a jailbreak plot with."
"No, you don't."
"I'd say it's nice to see you, but..." She shrugged. "You really don't expect to see an old ally in your woodshed during a power failure."
"I guess you wouldn't-" he started to say, but was interrupted by a noise that seemed to originate near his ribs.
The sound made Marita look down for the first time; until then she hadn't realized that the boy was shielding something with his coat. Her first thought was that it might be a puppy, but Gibson shifted so she could see and she found herself looking down into a pair of sleepy green eyes that belonged to an infant about six months old.
"He needs someone. I thought maybe you'd want him," Gibson said quietly.
"Me?" she asked, surprised to be at the top of anyone's list of potential infant caretakers.
"During Mulder's trial you were thinking about how bad you felt when you lost your baby-"
"I didn't lose a baby," Marita snapped. "There was never a baby."
"I know." Gibson nodded very slightly. "But you thought there was. You still felt a sense of loss."
Her eyes flashed dangerously, but she couldn't quite bring herself to deny what the kid had said. For four long days she'd been convinced that tender breasts and a missing period meant that she and Alex were going to have a baby. It couldn't have happened at a worse time, but she'd found herself imagining the future as a mother, not as someone who'd had an abortion because the timing was wrong. Of course, her period showed up on the fifth day, without excuse or apology...and when Alex died three months later, the possibility of motherhood was buried with him.
"Eavesdropping on my thoughts almost two years ago made you think I'd want to be given some random baby?" Marita asked, half laughing at the absurdity of it.
To her annoyance, the boy's eyes widened in surprise. "He's not some random baby," Gibson eventually sputtered.
A thrill of fear ran through her, and she found herself studying the infant's face by flashlight, looking for signs of herself in his tiny features. She didn't see any, but she recalled being told that Dana Scully's hybrid child had more closely resembled her dead sister than herself. "What do you mean?" she asked, hating the fact that her voice wasn't steady. "Are you trying to say that he's-"
It surprised her a bit when Gibson shook his head, then she remembered that he read minds. How could she have forgotten in the two minutes since she last thought of it? "Yours? No."
"Look at him. Doesn't he remind you of anyone?"
She brought the beam of the flashlight closer to the baby's face, and felt badly when he winced. After a moment he seemed to get over it, and stopped squinting. He looked... "No." It was a rejection of what she just realized, not an answer to his question.
There was a lot of pity in the smiled at the boy gave her. "I'm afraid so."
"Did he know?" Of course he didn't. He wouldn't have allowed it.
"No. Alex didn't know."
As soon as Gibson said his name, she felt like she was deflating. The confirmation pierced her.
"Did he know the mother?" For moment her gut twisted as she imagined Alex in the arms of another woman, but she forcefully pushed that mental picture way. The child was far too young to be the product of a night's betraying passion.
"The mother?" Gibson's brow furrowed, obviously confused.
This irritated her. "I know you didn't stay with yours long, but I assume that you're familiar with the concept. Female parent, gives you half your DNA?" she prompted, aware that she was being cruel. For all intents and purposes, Gibson hadn't had a mother since he'd been given to a "chess coach" at age six.
The boy's eyes dropped the baby. "He doesn't have one."
"She's dead?" Marita asked, feeling like she was beginning to understand both his strange reaction to her question, and why he'd brought the baby to her. Obviously a dead woman could do nothing for her child, and Alex's family, at least the part that had emigrated from the former USSR to the US, had long since predeceased him.
"No, you don't understand," Gibson protested. "There was never a mother. Not ever."
If she'd lived another life, she would have automatically retorted that such a thing wasn't possible... but she'd live the life she had, a life full of impossible and unpleasant possibilities. "You're saying that they cloned Alex."
Looking relieved for the first time since he got there, Gibson nodded.
"Why?" she asked plaintively.
Gibson shrugged. "Because they could? Because it seemed like a good idea to them at the time? Because there was no one who would stop them? You tell me. You worked with them, I didn't."
Because they could was probably reason enough, she realized. So many of the things the Consortium had done were embarked upon like the experiments of a conscienceless child given a new chemistry set. They had no use for soft things like regard for unintended consequences or the destruction wrought by careless endeavors. "Because they're monsters," she said at last.
Gibson gave an almost imperceptible nod. "More now than ever."
"What you mean?" she asked, filling with a foreboding curiosity.
He sighed. "The men who led the Consortium were not good men, but they *were* men. Being harsh, pitiless, that let them rationalize many things, but not everything."
Marita shivered, thinking about what horrors conscience might have kept them from. "And now?"
He shook his head. "They're not men anymore. They came back changed, alien inside."
He meant the returned abductees, she realized, the ones whose existence had driven her underground. "Are there more? Like this child?" Her horrified imagination pictured dozens of tiny Alex Kryceks out in the wide world, and her on a macabre scavenger hunt to find them.
"Cloned from Alex? No."
The way he framed his answer bothered her, though she wasn't sure why she cared. "But there are more?" she persisted.
A pained look what came in. "I gave two to my mother."
Before she could express surprise that the woman was still alive, she clamped down on the thought. "Why?" she asked instead.
"They're me. Well, not exactly but-"
"You gave your mother your clones, copies of yourself?"
"Yes. They're so little, four, five, and I can't look after them, not without a lot of questions."
Because people would assume that they were his children rather than his triplet brothers, she surmised, which would be difficult to explain considering Gibson's young age. "She wanted them?"
"Yes." His eyes were full of agony she couldn't understand. Before she could ask if he wanted to keep them himself for some strange reason, he went on. "And she told me to leave, not to come back ever."
"Oh." In her mind's eye she could see it clearly: Gibson's mother, older and grayer than he remembered, being overjoyed to get her little boy back, times two, but wary and suspicious of her real son, almost an adult now and a stranger. Hugging the little clones, but chasing Gibson off like a malicious ghost of her own misdeeds... Marita shook her head to clear it, wondering if Gibson could send thoughts as well as read them. "I'm sorry."
He wouldn't look up at her, but she thought the flashlight beam glinted off of tears. "I guess I knew. I've known since agent Scully called her to get me when I was twelve and she didn't come." Leading to his capture and unnecessary experimental brain surgery, Marita thought. "But to be told to leave so that I didn't cause them to be made into monsters too..."
She winced, and regretted her earlier use of the word monster. She barely knew Gibson, but she wished that she could cure the bitterness that his mother's rejection had filled him with. "Some parents suck. Obviously yours does."
To her surprise, he shook his head. "She was good to me when I was little-"
"Before she sold you?" she asked acidly.
Gibson ignored her. "And I think she'll be good to them too, because she doesn't see them as damaged. And I said... I said I'll only stay away as long as she takes care of them herself." The implied threat that selling them too was not acceptable and would be dealt with harshly went without saying.
"And you'll take good care of him," Gibson said, nodding with his chin.
She looked down, surprised. Without her quite realizing it, the baby had ended up in her arms. Eventually she'd become aware of his warm weight, but could never quite pinpoint how he had gotten there.
"I will." Until then she thought of herself as growing old slowly, always alone. She was still young enough to find someone else, to have children, but it wasn't a part of even her most secret daydreams. But now, with that baby in her arms...
"Good. It's settled. There are more kids, somewhere. I don't know where to begin to look. But they're not clones like this baby or my - I just don't think I'll ever find them." His tone suggested that finding them was not a task he intended to dedicate his life to, and she supposed that she couldn't blame him. If someone planned to clean up all the Consortium's messes, they'd better have a decade or two set aside.
"How did you find the three you did?" Marita swayed when the baby began to fuss, but she didn't really notice that she was doing it.
"You don't want to know," he said darkly, and she found that he was right. It didn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. He straightened up, as if matters between them were settled and said, "Thank you, Marita. Goodbye."
Before she quite realized it, he had left her standing in the woodshed holding the baby. But as he started to walk away, she called to him and went after him before the storm swallowed him whole. "Gibson, do you have anywhere to be?"
The boy's shoulders rose and fell in an inelegant shrug.
"Stay. Stay for Christmas."
"Why?" Gibson asked. He looked curious, as if he couldn't delve the answer from her thoughts. Perhaps he couldn't.
"I don't need charity," he said mulishly, reminding her of how very young he still was.
In response, she heft the baby up higher in her arms. "It's no more charity than giving me him."
He paused, apparently thinking it over. Then, a slow smile broke out across his face. "One act of kindness for another. Like the Magi's gift, but less painful."
Marita nodded in agreement, but she was thinking that he was one strange kid. And she didn't feel bad about that - if he didn't want to hear something like that, he shouldn't be eavesdropping anyway.
"Come on, I have a gas stove so I can make cocoa even without power." She gestured towards the house with her free hand. "I can't be the only one freezing their butt off out here."
He grinned at her. "I'd like that."
Suddenly she wondered how he'd gotten there. He must have parked at the end of her long driveway. "You didn't happen to bring a crib with you, did you?"
Four Years Later
"So, what do you think, sledding after dinner?" Jake Goodall asked, before frowning when he realized that Marita wasn't listening.
"Hmm?" she asked, still looking out the window. A car had just pulled into her driveway.
"I was asking if you thought we should bring Xander sledding later on," Jake repeated patiently.
Jake was fair, forty, and good-looking, and reminded her of Alex almost not at all. In their own ways they were each good men, but Jake lacked the ruthless streak that had so attracted her to Alex. Still, she'd been dating Jake for eight months, and had grown to care for his quiet strength, something that served him well as a veterinarian.
"That sounds good," she said just as there was a knock on the door. "My guest's here."
A green-eyed streak raced down the stairs as she opened the door. "Hi Gibson."
"Uncle Gibson!" Xander shrieked before launching himself at Gibson. Gibson laughed and went to the coat closet while Marita's son talked at him.
"Uncle Gibson?" Jake asked, giving her a look. "Is he your younger brother?"
Marita shrugged. "Not by blood. We had the same foster father for a while, though," she explained, thinking about how both she and Gibson had once been in the smoking man's clutches. "He passed on quite a while ago."
"That's too bad."
It's really not, she thought, but didn't say. "Come on," Marita said, steering Jake by the elbow. "As soon as he's done being pestered by Xander, I'm putting you both to work in the kitchen."
"Sounds good," Jake said, laughing.
She couldn't help but smile back.
End Notes: find the longer fic, "Misbegotten Sons," set in this story universe here
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