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Mark Of Cain *PG13*
Deslea R. Judd
Copyright 2001

DISCLAIMER: Situations not mine. Interpretation mine. Legal mumbo-jumbo in five words or less.
ARCHIVE: Yes, just keep my name and headers.
SPOILERS/TIMEFRAME: Requiem missing scene.
CATEGORY: Romance, angst, vignette, Krycek/Marita.
RATING: PG13.
SUMMARY: Alex muses on hands, gloves, and deeper things. Mood piece. This is a companion piece to Silent, but can stand alone.
THANKS: To Kristen, who played sounding board, and Sarah, with whom I've been talking over Krycek and displacement for a while. This one's for you both.
MORE FIC: http://fiction.deslea.com/
FEEDBACK: Love the stuff. deslea@deslea.com
AWARDS/ELIGIBILITY: Finalist, 2001 Spooky Awards (Outstanding Krycek/Marita Romance).


-- And the Lord said, "What have you done? Listen - your brother's blood is crying out to me from the ground; and now you shall be driven from the ground." Cain said to the Lord, "Today you have driven me away from the land; I shall be exiled from your presence. I shall be a wanderer, and anyone who comes upon me will kill me." And the Lord put a mark on Cain, so that no-one who came upon him would kill him. -- from Genesis 4:8-16.

She hands me my glove in silence.

Did she know I would want it, I wonder? She bought clothes before she came for me, and she says it was just to save time; but the clothes she bought are the sorts of clothes I used to wear, back when we were normal people with normal lives. I don't know whether her point is that we can still be those people, or the reverse; but I know that she has one.

Nothing else she bought was random - logically, therefore, the glove is not random either. I don't ask what happened to the right-hand one; it is needless in the temperate conditions. That leaves only one, a single scrap of leather, crafted not for my hand, but for the hand that is not.

But how did she know I would want it?

Watching her, holding it out expectantly, I tick over the times I have worn one. You could count them on one hand; and that thought strikes me as darkly funny. She looks at me quizzically, and I realise the corners of my mouth have turned up a little. So I take it from her, running my fingers over the cool fabric. It's soft leather, and that seems even funnier - don't want to scratch that fibreglass hand, now, do we?

I wore one when I punched Mulder out, the night she was infect-

no, I won't think about that.

the night I forged my alliance with the Englishman. I remember pulling it on, another black leather glove much like this one, and thinking that I'd delay the moment of truth until I had him down on the floor. Shame him with it. Why not? It was better than his pity, or - worse - grim self-righteousness. I wore one with Skinner, too, now that I think of it - once in the car park of the Hoover building, and then the handful of times I was at his office. There's that word again, hand. Any minute now, I'm going to start laughing, and she's going to think I'm laughing at her. I don't want to do that to her.

But all those times, I was on my own.

That thought brings me up short, and my humour drains away in an instant. Marita wasn't with me then - she was at Fort Marlene, padding around in a cotton gown and paper slippers, slipping from room to room like a tormented ghost. So how did she know?

I shoot her a curious look, and I see that she's waiting, so I start to put on the glove. It's an awkward task, even with the zip in the side. I know that she wants to help; yet she won't offer, because she knows that would irritate me. So she just watches me, a troubled look flitting over her delicate features. It occurs to me that I can afford to let her help me; that it costs me nothing and that it binds her to me - and whatever else has passed between us, I need her with me now.

I'm reluctant to break the silence, but I nod my head a little, catching her attention. I hold out the hand that is not, flexing the muscles in my stump to straighten the fingers. With my good hand, I hold out the glove; a single, stupid gesture not at all deserving of its implied importance. A flicker of her eyelids betrays her surprise; but she merely nods, running her fingers over the cool leather absently as she takes it from me.

She's gentle, as though the thing were my hand, and not a lump of fibreglass over metal and myoelectric cables. As she does it, I look down at it, wretched thing that it is, and it occurs to me that I never felt a need to hide it in Kazakhstan. It was a battle scar there. Something to bear with bittersweet pride. The Russians even gave me a medal for it, which I promptly lost track of. She probably has that, along with all the other souvenirs she thinks I don't know about.

So why hide it now?

She raises her head sharply, and I realise I've spoken the thought out loud. I expect a shrug or a dry retort, but she surprises me all over again with the ways in which she has changed. She rests her hand on my shoulder, the bad one, and slides it down to where my arm ends and my prosthetic begins. Through the thin fabric of my shirt, I can feel her tracing the join, looking at it pensively; and once I would have asked her to stop, but now I just wait, because I genuinely want to hear what she has to say.

"I won't have them looking at you that way," she whispers at last. I stare at her, only half-comprehending. She shifts a little under my scrutiny. "They look at you, and they look at this, and they see something you deserved. They see you branded with your own treachery, like a mark of Cain. They don't see what I see." Her gaze is averted, and her cheeks are flushed, like she's just admitted her most shameful secret. She insists, "I won't have them looking at you like that."

Once again I have misunderstood her. Last night, I thought she was silent for me, when she was silent for herself. This morning, I thought she had anticipated my need to hide this from our opposite numbers, when really it was something she needed herself. But does that really change things? Does the selfishness of her need to protect me mean that she loves me less - or more? Who the hell knows?

Does it even matter?

I watch her, at a loss for words. With her clumsy metaphor, she has stumbled onto something that strikes a thousand chords. As I dig through my memories, my rusty Sunday-school brain produces a mental picture. The mark of Cain wasn't really the brand of the wrongdoer, so much as the brand of the exile, wasn't it? Is that me? Exiled from my place in the human family by the compromises I have made? I used to think so. Now, I'm not so sure.

She begins to draw away, looking a little ashamed of her outburst; but I catch her hand and draw her back. "Do you look at me like that, Marita?" I demand, softly, without rancour.

Tears spring to her eyes faster than she can hide them, and she blinks them back. "Sometimes," she admits, and after all that's happened, I can't really blame her. "But most times I see you wounded," she goes on, voice husky, fixing her gaze on my arm once more. I don't think my arm is what she means. That should bother me, but it doesn't. Not from her.

"Then I don't care what they see," I tell her. That's a lie, and she knows it, because I leave the glove where it is; but in another way, a more important way, it is absolutely true. She looks up at me once more, a watery smile lighting on her lips; and when I reach for her hand, she is there, as she has always been there. If I am the branded one, the displaced one, then it is she who brings me back into the fold.

"Are we going to go and do what we have to do?" she asks me at last.

I raise her hand to my mouth and kiss her there, palm and back. "Yes. Yes, we are." I tug on it, drawing her against me, and slide my hand into her hair, teasing it free of pins. She looks up at me with an indulgent smile. Dipping my head to kiss her, I murmur against her, "Soon."

Maybe there is life after exile. Maybe not.

Either way, I mean to find out.

END


AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm still mulling over this Mark of Cain business. I suspect there will be another companion piece, because there are more layers to this that I want to explore. Hope you liked it!

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