Category: implied M/K, angst
Rating: G
Disclaimer: not mine, and they're lighting a candle to CC in thanks.
Spoilers: Tunguska, Terma, S.R. 819
Warnings: death of a minor character. Nasty implications for a truly Shakespearean body count. Depressorama.
Summary: some souvenirs of the War cost more than others.
Notes: Leonid Andreyev is God, and Claude Lefebvre is his chosen prophet. This one can be blamed on reading Andreyev's "The Seven That Were Hanged" before going to sleep, the dream that followed, and listening to Lefebvre's version of the song "La Partance" for the past twenty-four hours straight. So I named it after one of the culpits, and now I'm going to sit around feeling sorry for myself.


*
La Partance
by Ladonna King
lking@agora.rdrop.com
*

If I'd known. It's the question I can't seem to shake, that follows me from waking to thin, ragged nightmares, when sleep itself eludes me. I lie awake at night in this cell, listening to your slow, even breathing, and I can feel it hovering just beyond the bars, like an old grey dog no amount of kicks and curses can frighten away. If I'd known. Would I be here now? Would I ever have stayed, let the beatings gentle, your hands on me turn soft, your hate and grief become something quiet and strong and needful... Necessary. If I had known.

Le Vraux was here again this morning. Watching. Asking questions. I'm sure he knows about the two of us, about why I'm here with you. Possibility our old friend told him, through a puff of triumphant smoke. Certainly, Le Vraux has poked into every other aspect of our lives, wrung every confession he could from us, wearing us down over months that felt like years, until rambling foolishly about philosophy and family pets seemed second nature. We stopped questioning his lack of interest in the war ages ago. We all know that when his mad interrogations stop, so will we. Permanently. We're enemies of a state that no longer exists, but revenge must always have its day.

I think Scully's going to crack soon. I hope we're dead before you have to see it.

Sometimes, when I can't escape even my own questions, when the half-waking dreams can't distract me, I let memory creep up on me, reliving again those last days. Constant fighting, the stench of blood ingrained in our clothes, breathing the acid reek of dead invaders boiling dry in the sun through the constant pall of dust in the air, as the shelling continued night and day. Theirs and ours. The dull earthquake thump of our mortars, and the muffled thud of all the air being sucked out of an area as it erupted into flame. The very air alight. The air itself.

Did I ever tell you I lived for that? The terror of it singing in my blood, battle ahead and death behind, and the only choice left was pushing forward into the teeth of it. I know you thought I was crazy or fearless, but that isn't it at all. I was never running into battle. I was running to meet Death. Because I had this crazy idea, you see, that He was a lot like you.

Run away from you, resist-- it's an invitation to savagery. But when I take that step, close the gap, stand too close to hit, to hurt-- you're disarmed. And I stepped in. Into your arms. Into the thick of war. And Death held me closer than any lover but you has ever tried, and sheltered me with the same fumbling care.

To abandon me, finally, here. With Scully, who weeps quietly in the night when only I am awake to hear. You'd comfort her if you knew, so she waits, knowing I'm awake, knowing I understand. Some things you can't comfort. Some things you only endure.

With what's left of Skinner, who still refuses to believe that his strength, his wits, aren't enough to win us free of this prison. Even I can tell he's not the same man that entered this war. The man who cuffed me to his balcony for a night, who faced me so courageously one evening with his own blood become a poison, had more sense. We don't point out the obvious hole in his escape plans. That there is nothing for us beyond these walls even if we do make it out. In the near-utopia of hybridization, there is no need for slavemasters, for rebellion. Humanity's remnants are a sullen band of men who were promised power over what was left, and they are all that remains, making war on each other while the rest of the world passes them by.

With a shattered wreck of a man you call Langly, who will only speak one name, that of the man who died the first night we arrived, whose body had to be pried from Langly's grip. The Smoker takes little notice of him, but the doctor, Le Vraux, seems to like him, almost appears to take pity on him from time to time. I wish I'd known Byers before; I would like to have met, just once, the man that could inspire such grief and love at once.

And, of course, with you. We touch, but we're so careful, and there's nothing like privacy in this goldfish bowl anyway. One large cage, six bunks, one conspicuously empty. You told me you don't want to remind the others of what they don't have, but your eyes always tell me the truth. You're afraid if you touch me like you want to, you'll break. That Fate will remember you were never supposed to be happy and take even this from you. That I could have been on the other side of the bars, but for you.

But if I had known... If I had had any inkling that standing with you would bring me here, imprisoned with people who have been my deadliest enemies and only brothers, awaiting an execution that could come tonight, or tomorrow, or years from now... Would I have done it all anyway?

And I don't know. I can't ever know. But right now, this moment, I'm happy to be here. I'm where I belong. And it's not the answer to the question, but it's the only answer I have.

Sometimes it even takes the place of sleep.

***

I'm singing for you when Le Vraux comes the next morning, anything to pass the time, everything from Led Zeppelin to commercial jingles to Russian barracks songs I know you won't understand. It's sheer coincidence that I'm singing the Marseillaise when the doctor walks in. Even when I see him freeze, standing stock still with an enraptured expression slowly transforming the dour lines of his sad face to joy, I don't stop. For some reason, he's taken a fancy to me, the only cripple of the bunch, at least so you could tell. When I indulge the man, it's easier on all of us. And I know he loves to hear me sing.

"Thank you, Alex," he breathes when I'm done, actual tears standing in his eyes. "I never... I never thought to hear that again..."

I can't answer. There's nothing to say. A tiny voice of sheer perversion whispers a suggestion in the back of my mind, that I could follow the anthem up with "Deutschland Uber Alles," but this isn't Casablanca. Not in my lifetime.

"More questions?" you ask, sounding so resigned, it makes me hurt to hear it. "Haven't you picked us apart by now?"

"No, Mulder," Le Vraux says slowly, and as the cold knot draws tight in my gut, I find myself wondering redundantly why I'm the only one here who has a first name. "No more questions. I have what I need."

And the room goes deathly quiet when it sinks in, that the doctor is through with us, that our time has run out. Le Vraux's face is strained, hang-dog, almost apologetic as he stares from face to face, reading the knowledge of our own deaths in our eyes. "I see," you say after a moment, and the doctor flinches, his gaze seeking mine with a desperation I can't help but find ironic. Does he expect *me* to absolve him of whatever it is he's done?

"I... you should see. The end product. The reason you were kept here, the questions..." He doesn't mention the tests, or the more subtle torture of waiting, wondering if there is truly any purpose beyond morbid curiosity for the whole debacle.

And the truth is, I think I already know. When he retraces his steps to the door, holding it open for *someone* else to enter, I know for certain, even before they file in past him. The Smoker wanted momentos of his victory, and he wanted them as accurate as possible.

There are six of them, though I think the Smoker will only play with four. And I don't think I *ever* looked that young, but you... You have often looked that lost, and strong through the bewilderment, and the way our mirror images aren't quite touching, but standing so close, so connected... Our doubles, our clones, could be us in that respect, at least.

Langly, the one in the cage with us, takes one look at the slight smile of the sixth duplicate and begins to shake. I can't tell if he's going to fling himself at the bars or away. Scully plants herself between him and the silent vision behind Le Vraux with an implacable stare, ignoring her own double with staunch determination, her eyes fixed with baleful promise on the doctor. Skinner... cracks. This is his mortality. This is death, and it wears his face. I can see the fight go out of him when those rigid shoulders finally slump, his head bowing as his eyes slip closed.

You approach the bars, your clone, and stick out your hand. "Fox Mulder," you say, your lips quirking slightly, and I've never admired you more.

"Yes," Le Vraux smiles excitedly. "Feel free to question them--I've tried to make them as much like you as possible, give them your mannerisms, everything you know..."

I didn't want to look at myself, but I can't help it. My first thought is confirmed with a glance, that if these cardboard-cutout men are like us, then Le Vraux is harboring a viper in his counterfeit nest. That Krycek's innocent smile, the gallows humor darkening too-familiar eyes... Someday soon, someone will wake to find a knife planted in his back, and two missing clones. I don't think Krycek will leave without Fox. Not ever.

All those questions. He just wanted to get to know us better, to make the most perfect copies he could, so our cancerous friend could gloat over his momentos in glorious Technicolor realism. I never thought the Smoker would be the sentimental type, but I suspect nostalgia has nothing to do with it. It's simply that, in this day and age, it's bad form to mount the severed heads of one's enemies on the battlements. And a dead trophy will never kiss his feet.

Fox approaches you with a shy hesitancy I've always found endearing, claiming the proffered hand in a polite grip. "It's... good to meet you," he says quietly, and the sight is so surreal... You're wearing the same clothes, exactly, though Fox looks more rested, less confident. One on each side of the bars, one free of the cage and one soon free of the world. It's like watching a man reach through the thin barrier of the mirror's glass, to clasp the hand of his silent doppleganger.

"No," you say with a calm smile. "But it is interesting."

As if your words break a deadlock, the others approach one by one, all but the sixth, trying to meet the eyes of their trapped originals. Skinner's spine stiffens slowly, his head coming up, to stare with unconcealed hostility into the face of his opposite, who regards him with a cool stare that won't admit to the embarrassment Skinner would feel in his place, any more than Skinner would. They must know what they are. They know we're going to die. This feels like a goodbye, last rights and farewell and apology in one. The way John looks from Ringo to Langly and back, with wistful sorrow and mild confusion, tells me all I need to know.

Scully looks her clone up and down and sneers. Dana's eyes flash. They don't speak.

And Krycek... Bastard that he is, we saunter up to the bars together, moving in unison even I find eerie. His lips twitch in ironic amusement the same moment mine do, and I can't help but wonder what it is that makes me the way I am, what indefinable quality Le Vraux managed to isolate and distill to create such a success. Perhaps Krycek is only copying me very, very closely, wanting me to *think* he's a perfect double, just to mess with my mind.

And isn't that all the confirmation I need that he *is?*

I don't have anything better to do. And I know Le Vraux likes to hear me sing. I begin the Marseillaise again, belting it out for all I'm worth, and Krycek's right there, singing with me in a perfect duet. Everyone turns to watch, and Le Vraux's eyes go round with delight as he tiptoes closer, watching *me,* not Krycek. He's entranced, enthralled, holding his breath as he drinks me in with his eyes, and it fires something in me that feels remarkably like rage. I thought I'd let go of that months ago, the day I realized our capture made no difference, but now...

Six perfect doubles and five to be killed, and it doesn't change a thing. I think Le Vraux would keep us if he could. I think I'd *let* myself be kept, if it meant one more night alone with you. But in the end, it doesn't matter. What exists outside these walls has nothing to do with us, has no *room* for us, or for the men who made the eerie twins we face today. Our doubles will outlast them all. It isn't immortality, but it's the kind of irony I can appreciate. And as for me...

As the anthem builds to its climax, I fall silent, and Krycek finishes the song by himself. It's blatant and petty and utterly satisfying, and I know the message isn't lost on Le Vraux. His happy expression crashes into woe, and I see his lips move in a silent plea, "Alex..."

You turn away from the bars, turn towards me, and you're smiling that special smile I know so well. The one that means I've done something wonderful to surprise you, even if I'm not entirely certain what it is I did to inspire it. And the anger is just suddenly *gone,* and the rest of the world can follow for all I care, because you're holding your hand out to me this time, and I go to take it with a smile of my own.

And if this is goodbye, then I have still had all I ever wanted, all I ever dreamed, more than any parting can ever tear from me.

Ever.

***
end
***

partance: /nf *en partance*/ (of train) due to leave; (of aircraft) outward bound; (of ship) (just) sailing