Disclaimer: not my characters, just building on what's already owned by others. Deep apologies to Ludlum, Gilroy, Greengrass, Liman and a host of others.
A/N-- I offer this piece just because. It was written at a time when Supremacy occupied my thoughts, as we were waiting for the third installment of the Bourne trilogy. A few liberties were taken, literary license has been exercised. Story takes place right after Jason Bourne leaves Irena Neski's apartment.
Consider this an alternate universe piece, as The Bourne Ultimatum blows this right off the page. :)
I offer the lyrics to Black Lab's This Night.
There are things I have done
There's a place I have gone
There's a beast, and I let it run
Now it's running my way.
There are things, I regret
But you can't forgive, you can't forget
There's a gift, that you send
You sent it my way
So take this night
Wrap it around me like a sheet
I know I'm not forgiven
But I need a place to sleep
There's a game, that I play
There are rules, I had to break
There's mistakes, that I made
But I made 'em my way
So take this night
Wrap it around me like a sheet
I know I'm not forgiven
But I need a place to sleep
So take this night
And lay me down on the street
I know I'm not forgiven
But I hope that I'll be given some peace
Favoring his left leg, he limped along the snow covered walk, putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. He'd long since slipped into self-preservation mode.
If he thought about it, his shoulder ached more than his knee. He'd wadded the towel tightly against the wound caused by the Russian's bullet; he was pretty sure he'd stopped the bleeding. The towel felt stiff with dried blood, and dried blood covered his hands. He kept his hands in his pockets.
He was operating on auto pilot, fighting the desire to find a place to stop, to sit, afraid that if he did, he would not get up again. He was so tired. Couldn't remember the last time he'd slept – really and truly slept, uninterrupted, both eyes closed, all night long. He longed for that deep, dreamless, non-drug-induced sleep. He'd had a few of those nights with Marie, nights when they'd spent the first hours in bed making love. He remembered how deliciously exhausted he'd felt after, as every cell in his body came to rest. She'd snuggled into his arms then, pressing her body against his, and they'd slept past dawn.
Then the dreams began. Marie was sure they were just bad dreams. He knew better. They were pieces of a mission, a mission in which he'd been involved. Dark and haunting, the dreams always ended in gunfire and rude awakening. At first they disturbed only an occasional night's sleep. During the course of the last months, they had come with increasing frequency. And even though events of the past few days had revealed the source of those nightmares, he had not yet shaken the effects of so many sleepless nights.
He knew first hand what sleep deprivation could do to a man. He felt himself dangerously close to that edge and he fought it with every breath. In desperate need of a place to hole up, to nurse his wounds and get some sleep, he had one destination in mind and would keep going until he got there.
The snow covered path he followed led him past tiny shops with glaring neon lights. The light hurt his eyes, he shielded them from the brightness. He kept moving, relying solely on his innate sense of self preservation. His vision blurred, then refocused.
The Moscow train station loomed ahead of him. Relief was a palpable thing.
He kept his head down as he entered the cavernous building, air thick and heavy with the smell of diesel oil and smoke. Train passengers milled about, voices echoing against the walls, their destinations preoccupying their thoughts. No one gave him a second glance.
He had no idea if the local constabulary was still looking for him. He'd shaken their tails earlier, given them all the slip – and had managed to provide himself with a certain amount of satisfaction, extracting his revenge on the man responsible for Marie's death.
He now knew how the assassin had found them in India. Abbott had been behind the whole set up. The killer had come for him and Marie had paid the price. His eyesight blurred with a sting of tears. He blinked rapidly and firmly changed the direction of his thoughts. What Marie's killer had been doing in Moscow was a different puzzle, but a puzzle to be set aside for the moment in favor of his own desire to stay alive.
The sign for the restroom caught his attention. He entered, passing one individual who was on his way out. Otherwise, the facility was unoccupied. He pulled his hands out of his pockets and gave them a scrubbing in the old, worn sink, washing away most of the brown residue of his own blood, erasing evidence of his injury. He pushed open his coat and tugged gently on the towel covering his shoulder. It was stuck to his wound like glue. He pulled his coat tightly about his frame. The dark material hid the blood stains, but not the pain. It was a constant thing, throbbing with each heart beat. He clamped down on the pain and left the tending of his wounds for later.
A glance in the cloudy mirror above the ancient porcelain basin gave him pause. His reflection looked as bad as he felt. He splashed water on his face and neck to help clear the cobwebs and shuffled back out into the concourse.
His luck held out – the train to Berlin was already making preparations to get underway. He stumbled slightly as he made his way up the steps to the car, clutching the return ticket in his right hand. He found an empty seat and finally allowed himself some down time. A sudden thirst hit him, and he cursed himself for his lack of thinking. He'd probably bled enough to be in need of something intravenously, but it would have to wait. He licked dry lips and swallowed hard, doing his best to keep from slipping under.
The ticket puncher appeared, and he managed to hand the man his ticket and his passport without giving away his desperate condition. He said nothing, not wanting his voice to betray him. He knew what he must look like. But his papers were in order, and once again he found himself alone in the car. He leaned back on the seat, clinging firmly to his last shreds of energy, concerned that if he let himself shut down now, he'd never finish what he'd set out to do. But his body demanded rest. Lulled by the train's motion, he succumbed to a fitful sleep, plagued by dreams and images of the past few days which left him restless and edgy.
The train slowed as its final destination neared. He roused from his stupor and, fueled by a burst of adrenalin from fear of discovery, rose from his seat. Nearly all of his muscles cried in agony. The taxi chase through the streets of Moscow had inflicted vicious punishment on his already wounded body. He forced his bruised and battered muscles to move and somehow managed to get off the train without incident.
The Berlin train station was much busier than the one in Moscow, yet once again the crowds were so preoccupied with their own worries that no one noticed how bad he looked. He moved slowly along the corridors and ramps that led to the streets of Berlin. It was early evening and he limped along, hands in pockets, energy reserves down to near zero.
It was through pure reflex that he was able to flag a taxi and give the driver a destination. The cabby shook his head a few times at the condition of his drunken passenger, but he delivered the man to the address as instructed. Bourne pulled more than enough cash from his pocket to cover the fare with a generous tip, and the taxi zipped away, leaving him standing on the walk.
The glaring red of the neon sign on the front of the building cut through the haze that surrounded his brain. He stood across the street from the Berlin Westin Grand where the Americans stayed. He knew which room had been occupied by Pamela Landy. He knew where Abbott had been staying. And he knew in which room he would find Nicky. Nicky. Perhaps the one person in the entire world who knew most of his story, not just bits and pieces. She was the key. He needed to talk with her, needed the information that he was sure she possessed.
However, their relationship had been a bit less than pleasant for her.
He remembered the first time he saw her – actually the first time he really had a good look at her. He'd gone to get answers from Alexander Conklin at the Treadstone safehouse in Paris. He knew he must have had contact with Nicky previously. After all, she handled the logistics end for the Treadstone agents. What he recalled from that Paris meeting was the look of horror on her face as he stood over the unconscious body of her boss, right after he'd pistol whipped the man.
And the second time he saw her, he again had a gun – and had held it against her head, threatening to kill her. She had cowered under his glare, weeping in fear that he really would pull the trigger. But she had not screamed, nor attempted a getaway of any kind either time. He had a pretty good idea that, regardless of her own personal safety, she could keep a cool head under fire.
He was not at all sure that she would help him. Would this third meeting be the charm? He knew he needed to apologize, and maybe that would be a start.
He used every bit of energy and stamina he possessed to gain access to the corridors near her room. His movements were slow. He felt awkward and clumsy, unable to summon his accustomed grace and finesse. But he managed to avoid detection, and found her room. It took more than one try to jimmy the door, but finally he was able to let himself in. His only hope was that she was still there, that she had not yet departed for home, wherever that was.
The room was dark. His eyes adjusted quickly. There was little evidence of occupation, only a few personal toiletries on the counter in the bathroom, and a few items of clothing draped across the bed. He imagined she'd been whisked off to Berlin without so much as a by-your-leave. No wonder the room was bare. She'd probably been given no time to pack. Was Nicky gone, or just out for shopping and supper? He hoped it was the latter.
He chose to wait for her return in a stiff-backed chair, believing its hardness would help keep him focused. He lost track of time, fading in and out. His stomach growled and his throat was dry, but he was too exhausted to deal with either of them. For the moment it felt good just to sit. He rested his head on the wall in back of the chair, only semi-conscious.
The sound of a key in the lock snapped his attention back to reality. He automatically reached for the gun that should have been tucked neatly in the small of his back, the one he'd held when he'd been inside the Neski girl's apartment. As he reached, he remembered he'd ditched it in Moscow, in a trash can outside the project housing where he'd found the girl.
His palms began to sweat. He was taking a huge risk here. If it wasn't Nicky, he'd be in a world of hurt, trying to explain his presence not only to the current occupants of the room, but to the local management and police.
The resident of the hotel room pushed the door open and flipped on the lights. Unexpectedly blinded, Bourne threw up his arm to shield his eyes. He lost his tenuous hold on his balance and tumbled from the chair, landing in a heap on the floor. Unable to catch himself, he hit hard, his injured shoulder taking the brunt of his fall. He heard himself cry out in pain as the lights went out.
Nicollete Parsons climbed the staircase of the Berlin Westin to the third floor, preferring that method over the elevator. It got her heart pumping and blood circulating and gave her time to think, to contemplate the events of the past couple days. It was hard to believe that a chapter of her life she thought forever closed had been opened once again, that she'd been whisked away from her life in Amsterdam, plunged back into the world where men like Conklin, Abbott and Jason Bourne conducted their clandestine affairs.
Treadstone. She supposed it would always be there, haunting her.
She had just spent a pleasant enough evening, catching up with a couple of old friends who now resided in Berlin. Deputy Director Pamela Landy not only had been gracious after her ordeal at Alexanderplatz, but generous. She arranged for Nicky to stay on for several days in Berlin, at the Westin, as a thank you for her assistance. And maybe as an apology, too. It had, after all, been at Landy's insistence that she go to Berlin with them, to deal with Jason Bourne. They'd whisked her away from Amsterdam with literally no time to pack. And they'd had no compunction about sending her off to meet with Jason Bourne in the middle of the busy plaza. She shivered involuntarily, flashing back to the moments with Bourne, as he once again stood over her with his weapon trained to her head. She had been terrified, knowing full well that Bourne was capable of killing her without hesitation – and yet, here she was, still alive.
He had roughly shoved her up against the concrete and steel pylon, in her face about his involvement in the Berlin fiasco. He was incredulous when Nicky told him about the buy for the Neski files, when she asked him why he'd returned. "Last week I was 4000 miles away, in India, watching Marie die! They came for me, and killed her instead!" Even in her fear and terror, she could see the horrible hurt, the unbelievably deep ache of loss in his eyes. That's what haunted her. She could get past the anger and the threats, but she could not shake off the vulnerability of the man.
The look in his eyes still troubled her. The man did not know who he was, or how he had ended up that way. The man was trying to piece his life together from bits of memory, all the while hounded by people who wanted him dead for reasons he did not understand.
He had been a man on the very edge of sanity, eventually leading Landy and her agents on a chase through Berlin and all the way to Moscow. The agents had returned yesterday – without Bourne. And she had been smart enough to ask no questions, even though she had many.
At least they compensated her for her time. Landy had seen to it that she was well paid for her time and trouble, and she'd been able to do some shopping earlier that day. She climbed the ornate staircase with bags in both hands, evidence of a successful shopping trip.
She inserted the key to the room, opened the door and turned on the light, instantly aware of an intruder in her room. As she turned to flee, the yelp of pain stopped her in her tracks. The intruder had fallen to the floor and now lay there gasping, groaning, in obvious pain. His identity hit her like a ton of bricks.
She had the presence of mind not to scream, but quickly shut and locked the door behind her. Aware of the effect of bright lights on Treadstone agents, she flipped off the main switch, leaving a dim light on in a farther corner of the room. Even in that dim light, she recognized the man who had stood over her with a gun.
She dropped her bags and approached the huddled figure cautiously. Curled up on the floor, with knees drawn to his chest in fetal position and right hand clutching his left shoulder, Jason Bourne did not look like the dangerous man she knew him to be.
"Bourne?" Nicky was hesitant to get any closer, suspicious of his moves for good reason. "How did you get in here?" Then she noticed the blood – mostly dried and brown, with some brighter red flecks between his fingers. "You're hurt. What happened?"
Bourne managed to turn and look at her, confusion and pain written plainly on his face. She was stunned. His eyes were sunken, hollowed out, with dark circles beneath. His skin was deathly white. The man looked like he'd been through a wringer, like he was living on borrowed time.
Bourne sensed her fear. "No gun this time, Nicky," he whispered hoarsely, trying to reassure her.
She took a deep breath and knelt down beside him, gently pushing his coat back from his shoulder. "You need a doctor."
"Yeah," he agreed shakily. "I can't – stop you from calling one… " He licked lips with a dry tongue, craving water. Stifling a cough, he continued, his voice raspy. "Thing is – I'm, I'm asking you not to. I'm asking for – your help. Maybe a few hours' sleep. A little time, Nicky. A little…" He ran out of energy to speak. He knew she was scared, he knew he was the cause. He had to do more, say more, to reassure her. "Sorry. I am sorry for – the other day. I had – I – sorry." It sounded lame, but his brain refused to form more words.
Nicky stared at him for long minutes, finally managing a tight smile. "Yeah, well, we'll talk about that later. You can't stay here on the floor." She'd made up her mind. She moved around, helped him sit up. "Can you stand? Can you make it to the bed?"
Bourne nodded and with her help he managed to get upright. His legs almost gave way more than once as they lurched across the room, his injured knee refusing to support his full weight. He was grateful Nicky was there. He sat down hard on the edge of the bed, head hanging, breathing heavily, obviously hurting.
"Okay. Let's get your coat off." Suddenly Nicky was all business. She took hold of the right coat sleeve and slipped it off, pushing the garment behind him. She gently eased his left arm out of its sleeve. He bit his lip against the pain of movement, remembering to breathe again once the coat came off.
Nicky eyed the towel wadded against his shoulder, giving it a gentle experimental tug. He was too tired to hide the wince. "It's going to take some work before this can be dealt with." She paused. "I don't have a medical kit here. Will you let me run out and get a few things?" She held her breath, afraid he might not be willing to let her go now that she knew where he was. "I promise to come right back."
Bourne nodded, leaning back on the bed, closing his eyes. "Go," he whispered. "Need – need water."
Nicky nodded, letting out the breath she had been holding. Apparently, Bourne was putting himself at her mercy, making no attempt to stop her from leaving. From the looks of him, he probably couldn't stop her if he'd wanted to. Weak from loss of blood, he was more than likely suffering from serious dehydration, too.
The hotel room's refrigerator was stocked with bottled water. Nicky retrieved one and opened it while returning to her unexpected guest. He'd managed to position himself on the bed with his head on the pillows. She laid her hand gently on the man's forehead. Fever. She thought he'd felt a little warm as she'd helped him to the bed.
"Bourne, here – it's cold."
Jason moved to take the bottle from her, but there was so little strength left in his body that even his uninjured arm fell limply to his side. He shook his head. Nicky gently curled her hand under his neck, lifted his head and held the bottle to his lips, dribbling the refreshing liquid carefully into his mouth. He swallowed greedily.
"Thanks. Better," he sighed. It was incredibly better, blessed relief for his parched tissues.
"More?" she asked.
"Please." This time he was able to help hold and tip the bottle, sucking its contents dry in several long gulps.
Nicky eyed the empty plastic bottle. She got another one out of the refrigerator and set it next to the bed as she pulled on her coat. "So you're just going to let me go? I mean, I could go to the police, or Landy – any one of a number of people who'd like to get their hands on you. Our – recent relationship – hasn't exactly been a real good one…"
He opened his eyes and looked at her. "No other choice." It was an honest reply. "Do what you think is right."
"You'll be here when I get back?"
His eyes slipped shut as he replied softly, "If I had someplace else to go, I'd be there."
She nodded. "I'll be back as soon as I can."
"Money," he whispered. "In my coat – use it."
She picked up the garment and felt the pockets, coming up with a roll of bills of varying amounts and from various countries. She pulled the German currency from the pack and stuck the rest back into the coat. She was relieved and not a little surprised that her quick search revealed no guns. Grabbing her purse, Nicky left the room, turning out the lights on her way.
Bourne was left alone in the dark. For the first time in days, he allowed himself to relax. He had no control over Nicky and whomever she chose to tell of his unexpected presence, but it was no longer important. He'd accomplished his mission, he'd done what needed to be done, what he'd set out to do. It was time to shut down, to tend his wounds, to recover his strength. He reached for the bottle of water she'd left him, and downed nearly half of the contents. Setting it back on the nightstand, he laid back, closed his eyes and passed out.