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Quonochautaug, RI

X moved behind the overgrown white meadowsweet, eventually ducking behind a small clump of grey birch trees.  It was far enough from the house, enough to escape the attention of the wandering parties who moved around the property. 

He watched as the older woman made her way through the doors of the small beachside home, and wondered what kind of a life she used to live here. Thoughts flashed through his head. Thoughts of a young, vibrant brunette, eager and hopeful, laughing with friends, sipping cocktails under the stars. Another thought emerged, this one of a smiling young woman who was watching her children play on the beach as her husband and his best friend water skied the afternoon away. What a different world this poor older woman was in now. A dark world of shadows and secrets, one in which she knew too much and could never breathe a word of it. She moved cautiously, as if she were being hunted. In a way she was.

A few tendrils of smoke preceded the tall man in the dark coat as he wound around a bank of shrubs and fruit trees. From his vantage point, X could see the Smoking Man's eyes narrow as he looked towards the house. For the briefest of moments, X could swear that he saw a smile touch the older man's lips.

But pleasure was, as he would say, fleeting. He greeted her from a distance. She didn't look happy to see him.

They spoke briefly, and things seemed to escalate quickly.

X could just make out the occasional phrase.

"How dare you!" Teena was visibly upset.

X watched them. He'd never seen the Smoking Man so riled up before, and he couldn't help but marvel at the potential power this woman had over her old flame. More words exchanged before the wind brought him a bit more of the conversation.

"I gave you everything you said you wanted."

"You gave me everything you thought I wanted. Everything except my daughter."

X frowned. That got ugly fast. He watched them argue, wondering why he was there. "I need it," he heard. X doubted the Smoking Man was demanding sex.

The next thing he heard was, "You'll never…"

Teena turned around, and stormed off. And the Smoking Man followed her, shaking his finger at her, yelling at her.

Teena responded, turned on her heel, elegant in the way only she could be, and went back to her home, ignoring the man ranting behind her. The door slammed, and he stood, alone. After a few moments, he walked off. But from where he stood, X could see Teena Mulder pacing the living room. And he saw her reel, and then she dropped, disappearing from view.

X's footsteps were quick, and soon he had made his way through the previously locked door, and was kneeling beside the elder woman. She looked so peaceful, so patrician, even while lying unconscious on the wood floor of her summer home. He put a few fingers to her neck -- she still had a pulse. In an instant he was on the phone with emergency services, and it couldn't have been more than a few minutes later that he heard the wailing sirens approaching the house.

By the time the flashing lights could be seen through the living room windows, X had slipped out the back door and was off to talk to this poor woman's son. The agent may not like what X had to say, but he needed to hear it.

********************

Marita pinched the bridge of her nose and took a deep breath. The last page of the hellishly long document she had been working on all day was finally finished. She clicked off the desk lamp, and shuffled the pages back into order, all the while her mind on Xavier. He had called her not too long ago, letting her know of the day's events, and telling her about Mrs. Mulder's ordeal. Marita couldn't help but feel sorry for the woman, knowing that Teena was, in many ways, just as trapped as she and Xavier were.

She also couldn't help but worry about Xavier. He had planned to meet in the shadows with Agent Mulder, betraying his superiors, telling Mulder things that were forbidden from being spoken outside of the Syndicate walls. It made her nervous, she could admit that much to herself.

After a fairly brief conversation, she and Xavier planned to meet that evening. Xavier promised to tell Marita all about what had happened, including what steps were necessary at this point in the game. Marita slipped on her shoes, gathered up her things, and made her way down the hallway. Hopefully she could get home in time to have drinks with Xavier, maybe even a quick bite to eat if she was lucky.

Over the past few months X and Marita both working 15 hour days, and trying to squeeze in time together when schedules permitted. Travel, tension within the Syndicate, and talk of "changing plans" kept them both busy most of the time. On the occasions that Xavier did manage to stop by Marita's apartment, their time together was a fury of passion that consumed them both. Hours blurred together as they explored one another's bodies, and whispered words that would never be spoken once they left the apartment building.

Still, sometimes as they lay twisted in Marita's crisp cotton sheets, she couldn't help but notice a darkness in his eyes. Something was happening within the group. Something big. And the tension and uneasiness of the situation lurked just below the surface, waiting to pounce. Problem is, neither of them knew exactly what "it" was.

Marita absentmindedly thanked the taxi driver who smiled at the sizable tip she left behind, and made her way into the apartment building she called home. After a quick "hello" to the doorman Henry, her mind began to drift again. It drifted to Xavier's deep brown eyes, to her body writhing under his, to their future together, and finally to their roles at work.

They were both on the outskirts of the Syndicate organization. Fringe members for now. Pawns to be used until they fully proved their worth, or died trying. Marita could feel it, too. She could also feel herself changing inside. Growing hard and colder with every job that needed to be done. Xavier had once said that the group slowly froze a person's heart until there was little else left but ice. She believed him.

She just hoped that was all the Syndicate took. A chill ran up her spine, and she wrapped her arms around herself, glancing out of the window of her apartment. It was a fairly quiet night out there in the Upper West Side. A light rain drifted down from the sky, dancing against the orange hued streetlights as it fell.

Time passed, and Marita looked at the mantle clock. Where the hell was Xavier? He should have been here hours ago. Something was wrong. She fought back the panic that knotted her stomach, and tried not to think about how close she had let herself get to a man who was as disposable to the Syndicate as she was. A queen and a bishop on the Syndicate chess board, as X once said. So easy to wipe off of the playing field.

And that was why she had been so against X going to talk to Agent Mulder. After everything that had happened, Mulder would be like a caged animal. He wouldn't be thinking rationally, and would likely be hostile to anyone he perceived as a threat to his mother's deteriorating health.

But X had stood firm in his decision. And while Marita admired his strength and conviction, she now sat alone in her apartment, fearful for his safe return. The shadow men of the Syndicate were everywhere, and it was patently unwise to betray them.

Another shiver overtook her slender frame, and she got up to close the window, even though she knew logically that the shuddering did not come from the cold air breezing in past the sheer curtains.

When the lock clicked behind her, it made her jump, and she whirled to face the door.

"Xavier? My god, what happened to you?"

She moved forward to see X bloodied and pained, obviously injured from punches. Thoughts raced through her head as he staggered in, slammed the door behind him, and shook off his overcoat. Had the Smoking Man found out about his betrayal in helping Mulder? Was it the First Elder teaching him a lesson in loyalty?

What X said next made Marita's mouth drop open. "Mulder and I had an...altercation in the parking garage. Things did not go as planned. I wanted to stop home and get cleaned up before coming here, but I didn't want to keep you waiting any longer. I was already late."

She helped him remove his coat, jacket, and tie, "Let's get you into a nice bath, and you can soak. It'll help you feel better."

He nodded, "That sounds nice." He moved close for a kiss, "It's good to see you."

She led him into the bathroom, "It's good to see you, too. I was getting worried about you, and apparently I had good reason. Are you all right?"

He removed the rest of his clothes as she started the water for the bath, "I'm okay. I've been beat up a lot worse than this - and I've done even worse than that to others."

She turned to look at him, "He owes you better than this."

"He does. And I returned the favor - he'll be wanting a nice soak, too. And he doesn't have anyone to prepare it for him. Or enjoy it with him."

She turned to smile at him, but couldn't hide her expression at the bruises showing on his dark skin. "Xavier, I'm so sorry..."

He kissed her, "Don't be sorry. This is an ugly business sometimes. He's frustrated by what's happened to his sister, and his mother, and he doesn't want to let go of what little hope he has for her."

"How can you forgive him so easily?"

"I've been hurt much worse than this, Marita. It's okay. I'm okay. Why don't you get in the bath with me?"

Steam swirled in the cool air of the bathroom, and a smirk touched Marita's lips, "And you really think *that* is going to make you feel better?"

He stepped into the deep, clawfoot tub, nodding, "Much, much better." He grabbed her hand, and Marita couldn't help but think of the affection of the touch. She could sense it just beneath the skin. In answer to his comment, Marita squeezed his hand before releasing it.

X sank into the tub, as Marita lit a few candles and flicked off the harsh glow from the incandescent bulb overhead. She tried to tell herself that it was more romantic this way, but it was a lie. She couldn't stand to see the bruises.

After slipping off the day's clothing, she slid into the tub in front of X. Her slight frame barely changed the water level, and he found himself wondering if she ate when they weren't together. She never talked about a particularly good meal that she had when they were apart.

His mind wandered from concern over her dietary habits, to stirring desire upon feeling the curve of her lower back as her slender form pressed lightly into his chest. It felt good to be with her, and he knew how close he came tonight to being shot. X closed his eyes to allow himself to take in all of the sensory stimuli around him. Lavender steam wafted into his nostrils, and warm water washed the ache from his muscles. X moved his hand through the warm water, and ran it along Marita's arm.

When she caught his hand in hers, and grazed the palm with a kiss, he couldn't help but smile. Despite his comments to the contrary, he was shaken. Not so much from the fight. Hell, he'd had his ass kicked worse than that. No, he was shaken in a way that he hadn't been in years. Not for himself, but for her. He hated coming here, making her worry. He hated the thoughts of what could have happened in that parking garage. Of potentially leaving her all too early because a fed lost his temper.

X placed an arm around her waist, and pulled her closer to him, wanting every inch of her in contact with his body. Marita shifted and lay her head against his chest, "I'm glad you're alright," she murmured into his warm skin.

"Me too."

Nothing more was said as they sat together in the warm bath, watching the candlelight bounce off the walls. Nothing more needed to be said. They both knew what this job was like. What could have been taken away from both of them. Neither of them wanted to ponder the dark possibilities. Instead, she showed her relief with fluttering kisses across his body, and he showed his appreciation with gentle touches. It was a language they were both comfortable with, and the only one that seemed right under the circumstances.

When they finally went to bed, the kisses deepened, and the touches were like fire against her skin. There was an urgency to his movements that were almost unrecognizable, an urgency that she could only attribute to the adrenaline that was still coursing through his veins. She rocked back and forth against him, one leg on either side of his hips, arching her back as his hands squeezed at her breasts.

A pleasured yelp escaped Marita's lips as X's thrusts intensified, and she wondered if he was erasing his anger or pain with every movement. The sound only served to encourage X. With another few hard thrusts, sweet pain erupted within her core, and warmth spread over her entire body.

X followed shortly thereafter, and the two lay together panting, sweat still beaded on their skin. Marita looked over, and in between breaths, "You know, until you, I never," she felt suddenly self-conscious and couldn't continue. X didn't need her to.

Eyebrows raised, and his deep voice sounded mildly amused, "You're kidding. Really?" She moved closer, draping a leg over his thigh, "Really. Well, not with anyone. I mean, sure, alone, in a hotel in Russia or Morocco or Afghanistan..."

"And now I know why your battery budget was so high."

Marita playfully slapped one of the few non-injured areas of his arm, "Funny, Francie."

"Hey," he warned, but smiled, "Why not, anyway?"

Marita's eyebrows raised in confusion, but lowered again once the question became clear, "Too much vulnerability in those few moments. In case you didn't notice, I'm not the trusting type."

"You're kidding?" X feigned shock, but understanding soon covered his features. He obviously wasn't the trusting type either.

He thought about the first time he stayed over at her apartment. She looked nervous making the offer, and he looked apprehensive accepting. It was one thing to trust a person with your life during your waking hours, it was something else entirely to sleep beside them.

He stroked her hair absentmindedly, lost in thought. He kissed her head, "I suppose I understand. And I'm honored by your trust."

She moved closer to him, "As I am honored by yours."

He sighed, "I'm afraid I've gotten accustomed to spending lots of time with you."

"Is that a bad thing?"

He chuckled, "Yes and no. It's very habit forming." He kissed her head, "What do we have for dinner, anyway? I'm so hungry tonight."

CSM: Nothing vanishes without a trace...burn it!

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