Note: Thanks to everyone who has stuck with this story through my years of writers block. I hope the ending lives up to your expectations. It is what was always planned, but then I like to write happy endings.
The only thing I know about growing olives or being an artist is learned from the internet, so please have patience with my errors. This took longer than I expected after posting the last chapter, but it grew by over 3000 words.
Note 2: Bourne Legacy has a tiny mention toward the end, but no story is planned to follow up on it.
Ch. 7 – Forbidden Pleasures
Watching your eyes
As they invade my soul –
I'm afraid to make mine.
Dangerous Game – From Jekyll And Hyde
That night when they met in the living room for their session, Jason began before Nicky sat down.
"You won't tell me much about your memories of me and I get that. This is a record of what I've been able to piece together over the years." He handed her the journal Marie and he had been keeping. "I need to know if that is who I am...was...what ever." His words were bitter and sharp.
"Okay." She sat in her usual chair. A slight frown marred her brow as she gripped the diary. "Why did you wait to show it to me? We've been working for weeks."
"It's not a lack of trust." He ran his hand over his face. "I figure you know the worst there to know about me. It feels like I've…well…been gone for years and the things in there…the things that Marie and I pieced together from nightmares, intuition, and news stories tell a tale of destruction," he answered. "I need to know if I killed all those people. That book is the closest thing to a memory I have of that part of my life."
"All right." Nicky carefully read through the pages. "You were the agent tasked with these assignments." She had promised him honesty despite how much it hurt.
"Were there others?" he snapped.
"Only one other, that I know of, a Turkish diplomat," she whispered, her throat too tight to speak properly.
"How could you have anything to do with me?" he demanded. "What kind of monster was I...am I?"
"You're not a monster Jason and you never were. You are only seeing part of the picture. This journal isn't all that you were and even if it was, you are forgetting that you were acting under a mandate from the United States Government as a duly sanctioned agent. Most people would call you a patriot and many a hero." She insisted. "You were used a time or two by unscrupulous men, but that was not your fault."
"That's bullshit and you know it." Jason couldn't believe Nicky was trying to put a positive spin on what they had done in Europe.
"Sit down and we'll talk about this." She took a deep breath and pushed all of her emotions deep inside of her. It was necessary that she be his therapist to get him through this. Any feelings she had for him or about their jobs in Paris would only undermine what she had to say.
He settled in his favorite chair and glared at her. "Don't you feel any responsibility? From what you've said, you handed out kill orders to all of the Treadstone agents." It was a low blow and he knew it, but he was desperate for answers of any kind.
"We'll talk about me later." She promised.
"Today, not some nebulous future," he demanded.
"Yes, today, but we're going to cover this first." She tapped the leather-bound pages in her lap. "That Turkish diplomat I told you about was one of the few I had background information about. He was a spy more that an ambassador. He facilitated weapons deals to extremist groups in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. I'm sure that was why he came to the attention of Treadstone. But he had a darker more despicable business that made my skin crawl. Due to his munitions dealings, he controlled most of the mountain passes in the area. A few times a year, his men would sweep out of their hiding places and raid the villages for preteen children. No one between nine and thirteen was safe. Occasionally a body would be found." She shook her head not wanting to remember the pictures she'd seen.
"That bastard needed to be taken out, but how was it my decision, or yours?"
"It wasn't. The decisions came from the United States Government or what we thought was the government. Despite your training, skill, and cunning, you never harmed anyone unless ordered to or in self-defense."
"'I was just following orders' is a trite excuse." He glared at her.
"You are thinking like a civilian." She smiled gently, unsure if this was progress or not. "We were following orders. I received the assignments and passed them on. You and the others did as you were instructed. We…I did it because I believed I was helping my country. This journal you've compiled only lists the deaths, not the reasons behind them. Like the Turkish 'diplomat' someone in the CIA made the decision and we carried it out. I realize that private citizens don't think that way. Following orders is no excuse in their world. Society is supposed to rise above violence, arrest terrorist and let the law take care of it. Civilians are allowed luxuries and choices that the military and government organizations aren't. To ignore an order can cost lives and we are seldom told why."
"What kind of person was I that I could do those things?" his voice was filled with pain.
"An honorable one who did a difficult job because it was necessary. You were no different than a sniper for the Armed Services. You took an order and followed it."
"Nicky, no." He pulled the book from her hands and leafed through the pages. "Most of these aren't clean kills like those guys. Very seldom does it tell of a bullet through the head, or center mass. It paints a picture of car bombings, stabbings, drug overdoses, fires and a strangulation mixed in with an occasional kill shot. There isn't anything honorable about what I did."
She was up and out of her chair as he spoke. Moments later she knelt beside him, and reached for his hands. "This is a journal of terrible things. But the way these people died appeared to be accidents, local crime, or carelessness. When we were in Paris, I believed to my core that it was necessary so there was no trail that led to the United States Government. I am a woman who saw, heard, and felt The World Trade Center fall. It still haunts my dreams. I never ever want something like that to happen again, anywhere in the world. I did my job to try and stop terrorism on an international scale. My actions were limited to support staff, but we were a team. Everytime one of you were on assignment, you took a small piece of me with you."
He leaned back in his chair studying her expressive face. He analyzed each tone and inflection in her voice as she defended the man represented in his journal. It made him wonder about the woman she'd been at the time. "When I cornered Ward Abbott in Berlin, he accused me of being a killer and nothing else."
"I know, Landy wanted my take on what was said." Nick's voice cracked as she remembered that cold morning in Germany.
"So what was your take on the whole thing? Should I have killed Abbott?" His words were smooth as silk, totally lacking in emotion.
"Oh course you shouldn't have. You did the right thing when you walk out." She was shocked he'd even ask. "Haven't you been listening to what I've been saying? It was never our job to choose the target. We carried out the directive."
His features slowly relaxed as he realized she was speaking the truth and trying to make him see that things were not black or white, but that sometimes people lived in shade of grey. "It is a hard concept to grasp," he muttered. He wasn't ready to accept it yet, but it was an idea to think about.
She blinked tears out of her eyes so they wouldn't fall. It was almost as if he was testing her, but she didn't know why. "The information I learned in Berlin, about the way you and the other Treadstone agents were used, made me question my actions. I had to decide how best to come to terms with the deceit and my part in it. If I was going to move on, and leave it all behind me, I needed to accept the mistakes I may have made."
"It's difficult to do that when everytime I stick my head up for air, someone takes a shot at me." He glared. "Not exactly the retirement plan the Armed Services have."
"Secret organizations do like their secrets to be kept. Treadstone, Blackbrier, and any program that may have grown out of those initiatives went too far," Nicky admitted. "But I think that is only part of the reason they want us both dead. Ward Abbot admitted that he and Conklin used Treadstone operatives for their personal gain. The information you released to Landy was powerful enough to bring down the Director of the CIA, and the head of the CIA's Deep Cover Anti-Terrorism Bureau. Now the US Senate is using a witch-hunt to try and gain control over the intelligence community. People are terrified of being exposed. I get the feeling we are only the tip of the iceberg."
"There has to be more to it than that. Too many people have died."
"Money and power are powerful motivators. They are the reasons innocent men have been sent to war through the ages. But we'll save history and philosophy discussions for another time." She'd broadened Jason's limited horizons on the subjects in Paris. When they weren't making love or going through practice drills, reading and discussing history and its causes were favorite pastimes. Treadstone had only provided him with the basics. Looking back she wondered if the added knowledge might have caused him to question the way he lived his life. It was one more tiny way she may have damaged the man she loved. "To answer your question, we have knowledge that could destroy careers and send people to jail, if they are allowed to live long enough to even testify." She squeezed his hands and went back to her chair.
"You have knowledge." He glared at her across from him. "I don't have any memories, or have you forgotten."
"You are living proof of how far some people will go to take control. A lot of that stems from 9/11. After the Twin Towers were destroyed there was panic and finger pointing in positions of power. Things were legally sanctioned and privacy rights were over-looked. In their fear, citizens didn't seem to care. Treadstone was one of many underfunded projects, with only a few agents that gained from panic caused by an attack on the continental US.
"Now that things are cooling down and the public is demanding that the Government stop surveillance without court orders, pushing for Gitmo to close, and generally taking a closer look into some of the indiscretions that followed the attack on New York City, no one in power wants anymore secrets brought to light. It doesn't matter if your memory is intact or not and it doesn't matter that you volunteered. What was done to you and the others was wrong, in a Dr. Mengele kind of way."
"Did I really volunteer for this crap? Did I know what I was getting into?" He gripped the journal that contained the horrors he'd committed.
"All I have to go on are bits and pieces I learned from Daniels. I was only with him a matter of weeks but he was terrified. He drank too much and when he was drunk seemed to think I knew as much as he did, so he talked." Nicky believed greed, guilt and fear had driven Neal Daniels. Having her there, a psychologist, and a past member of the same organization had been a source of relief for him. "One of the things he told me was that all of the Treadstone operatives were volunteers. I don't know if they were briefed on the extent of their mandate, but he stressed that they were carefully screened."
"Their screening process couldn't have been that diligent if they had to hire you because sexually abusive agents were leaving bodies scattered across Europe."
"That's not the main reason I was recruited, but you are correct, looking back, I don't think Conklin was as careful about his vetting process as he should have been, but that did not include you."
"How can you be so sure?" He was beginning to doubt the few things he knew about himself. It was made worse by sporadic nightmares he'd been having. Erotic dreams where Nicky was naked beneath him. Her hands clasping a headboard or her delicate wrists gripped in one of his much stronger hands and pressed into the mattress above her head. Once he had her helpless, he teased her body while she screamed and begged.
He'd dreamt about her sexually since before he was able to put a name to the blonde woman in his bed, once he knew who she was they had intensified. He wasn't sure when the occasional dream of dominance slipped in among the other, but it bothered him. He knew that during times of high stress he needed everything under his control. No mater how much relief Jason believed it would have given him, he'd never once attempted it with Marie; instead he spent hours running up and down beaches and over trails.
"There is more to Jason Bourne, than the agent in this book." She leaned forward and spoke quietly, breaking into his thoughts. "There is the man who came in for his regular check-up at the Safehouse. He broke in once, because I hadn't unlocked the door. He'd brought breakfast and didn't want it to get cold. This man allowed me to ask intensely personal questions as part of my job and treated me as a professional." She bit her lower lip and tried not to let the memories eat her alive. "Then he noticed that I wasn't really trained to protect myself for the job I was doing. If I'd been working in some CIA office in the states, then maybe, but not…not…oh my God!" Nicky finally zeroed in on the terrible truth, the puzzle that had been slowly drifting together for the last year.
"You saved my life," she gasped. "Alex Conklin never meant for me to be able to take care of myself. He extracted me from the farm a few weeks into training, saying it would be completed onsite. There was an…ah…issues with his man in Rome. Conklin pulled him out of the field to a safe facility in Paris until he could defuse the situation and had me begin working with him immediately."
"When was your training concluded?" He could read the answer in her eyes. Their bosses had left her alone in a foreign country, corralling strong agents, with very little protection.
"There wasn't much." She smiled sadly. "I was terribly naive about the whole thing. The Farm had taught me defense skills. But I wasn't worried because most of my work revolved around my abilities as a psychologist and coming up the learning curve to be creative with computers. You recognized my deficiencies and made sure I survived. We weren't simply hiding our affair, but everything else too." Her voice cracked as the full implications of what might have happened hit home.
"It sounds like Conklin and Ward screened their agents to include at least one sexual deviant on purpose." Jason glared.
"Yeah they did but I knew the issues those men had. It was part of my job to keep them under control, along with everyone else." A shiver ran up her back and her eyes were huge. "I think they wanted them in the mix so if I became a liability, one of them would be triggered. Either one could have killed me in such a way that it appeared I'd failed at my job."
"It explains why a small, slim, attractive, young woman was into a position where she was the main contact for a group of psychopaths." That one ate at him. She could have been brutalized so easily.
"No. Don't say that. We've talked about this before. None of you were psychopaths, though two men came close. The hallmark of that particular mental disorder is senseless violence perpetrated against a random victim for self-gratification. There was nothing senseless or random about any of Treadstone's assignments and none of you felt self-gratification about your work." She glared at him, tired and emotionally spent. They'd covered this territory before and she wasn't up for it tonight.
"How can you be so casual about a plot to rape and kill you?" he demanded, furious at the thought of her being harmed.
"I'm not, but it didn't happen, those men are dead, and when they were alive, they always treated me with a respect." She knew just how brutal two of them had been before she'd taken control of the Hub. The possibility of what might have happened made her sick. "When you disappeared, I think that if Conklin hadn't been killed on the street, the night you came seeking answers, he would have tried to shoot me, once we finished cleaning out the Safehouse. If he'd succeeded, the blame would have fallen on you. He had my weapon, not the one you gave me, but the only one he thought I had. He took it when he went after you."
"If you were a liability, why weren't you disposed of instead of simply being reassign? Ward Abbot was still alive." He was sure she was right, but he needed answers for his own peace of mind.
"Because of you." She smiled gently because it always seemed to circle back to Jason Bourne. "As long as you were on the run, I might be of some use to them. I'm sure at some point the scales would have tipped. Conklin and by default Abbot knew I had a photographic memory. The longer you were out there, the more dangerous it was for me to live. Then Landy's men were killed in Berlin and you were framed. They came digging for any information I might have that they missed."
"I can't say you're correct, but from what I've learned about these people, you probably are." He wished he could remember and give her reassurances.
Exhausted she handed back his book. "If I were you, I'd destroy that journal. I realize that it is a connection to Marie, which is important, but it's a collection of violence. There is so much more to the man you were, otherwise reading it wouldn't bother you. Learning to accept Jason Bourne the operative and the life he led, may go a long way to helping you remember. I know that sounds backward, and you hate it when I say it, but it is true. I can assure you that other than Marie's murderer, you've only harmed in self-defense. You told them to leave you alone. If they had, you wouldn't have surfaced again."
"Well I plan on staying good and hidden this time." He had his arms folded across his chest and looked deadly serious. "You're right about the journal, it needs to be burned. It is full of my handwriting, if it were found and seen by the wrong people, it would sign our death warrants.
"It's been a long day, would you check to be sure we're set for the night? I'm going to bed."
"Not a problem. I've got something to do, anyway." He held up the book that told a graphic picture of his past life. "Nicky…" he wasn't good with words, but knew this needed to be said. "I don't remember doing it, but I'm glad I recognized your situation and made sure you could take care of yourself." He tugged gently at a strand of her hair and then wrapped it behind her ear. "I'm glad you are here helping me sort this out."
"Yeah, me too." Her mouth went dry, needing to touch him. "It wouldn't have been a good end," Nick whispered, unaware she was speaking out loud.
His dreams…oh God, his dreams… What if they had missed the obvious? "Was I…am I one of those men?" He demanded.
"No, oh no, you weren't. We had an affair. You never hurt me, ever." Dark brown eyes challenged blue ones to disagree with her.
"Conklin planned for one of the Treadstone agents to brutalize and kill you." He caressed her upper arms to transmit his worry without having to admit he dreamed about controlling her body as she was reduced to a puddle of need. "Are you sure they didn't plant some hidden trigger in me as a back-up plan?"
"If they had, we would have set it off during our time in Paris." She gripped her hands to keep from touching him in return. She needed to badly, but what she'd learned had unsettled her to the point her composure was almost nonexistent. "You needn't worry. Everything was consensual." Her breath rattled as memories assailed her. "We have covered enough territory for tonight." Her eyes were sad and her features drawn as she quickly left the room, realizing too late she'd revealed more about their sexual relationship than was wise.
That night after Nicky went to bed, Jason built a small fire in the living room fireplace. He slowly and meticulously took apart his journal and assigned every page to the flames. When the ashes were cooling, he put on gloves and scrubbed the leather binding with bleach to remove any DNA. Once that chore was completed he cleaned out the hearth and buried the ashes and cover in the compost bin next to the mountain trail. It would take months to decompose, but then there would be nothing left.
It was after he was in bed, listening to the quiet breath sounds of Nicky pretending to sleep that he realized she hadn't wanted him to explain his fears of being one of those men, one of the ones that might have been chosen to harm her. It was out of character for her; especially when she felt it necessary to add that their actions in bed were consensual. It made a man wonder…and his groin tighten.
The next day they drove down the twisting hill to Positano's bustling business section. They had a shopping list and planned to explore the town. They were both tired. Neither of them had slept well the night before, but both were avoiding talking about it.
Jason stopped at the Internet café and spent time catching up on international news, while Nicky went to her favorite vegetable and fruit vendor. He read with interest that another covert black ops program was exposed to the press. The shit was really hitting the fan this time, due to the killing of five American research scientists on U.S. soil. Cleaning up after Outcome should keep them busy for a while, but Jason decided he and Nicky would be wise to add thermal imaging cameras to their security net.
They met up for a late lunch, careful to hold hands as they walked together.
Instead of exploring as they'd planned, Nicky suggested that she go off in one direction and he try to find her, an Italian version of their game from Paris. It turned out more challenging for her than she had expected.
While they were eating, a cruise ship arrived in port. Hundreds of tourists were tendered ashore to enjoy a few hours in Positano. The town was filled with noisy, excited vacationers. Nick had problems focusing on what she was doing, as hoards of people clogged the small steep streets. Jason found her shaken and pale an hour later. He put his arm around her and she curled against his side, as they made their last stop at the butcher before heading to the car where all their previous purchases were stored.
That night Nicky had her first nightmare since they'd moved upstairs. Jason woke to her thrashing and an almost silent moan. At the distinctive sound of the clip popping into her Glock Compact he leapt across the room.
"Nick," he called out as he tumbled her half-kneeling form across her mattress. Both hands gripped her wrists and his body covered hers, pinning her with his weight.
"Noooo!" she screamed and tried to wiggle out from under him. "Let me go."
"Nicky, wake-up. It's Jason. You're safe. I'm not going to hurt you, but you have to let go of your weapon." He emphasized his words by holding her right wrist more securely against the mattress. "Come on Babe, let it go."
Her eyes were finally open and she was fighting to breathe. "Ja…Ja…Jason," she cried out his name and loosened her fingers around the grip of her pistol, letting it slip out of her hand. "Oh, God, I…wa…would…have shot you…you…" she cried. Her whole body shook and she pulled her arms free to wrap them around his neck. Every inch of her pressed against him and it felt like coming home after being away for a very long time.
He shifted so he could pickup her Glock, place it out of her reach and still remain holding her. She was small and slim and it was so familiar to have her in his arms like that. "Easy does it." He curled her against him encouraging her to calm down. "Take deep breaths."
"I'm sorry." Her voice trembled and her body shook. Nicky's face was buried against his neck and chest seeking comfort that she knew could send her emotions into a tailspin once she was thinking clearly. But for now they lay on their sides tangled together and for just a short time she would allow herself to pretend.
"It's okay. You had a nightmare." His hands seemed to know exactly where to touch her to give her comfort. The soft cotton of her sleep tank made his palms itch to wander further. He only had dreams of exploring her body, but was sure he knew exactly what her silken skin and gentle curves felt like beneath the fabric of her clothes.
"I almost shot you." She whispered. Her warm breath caressed his ear, but she was too lost in panic to realize what she was doing to him.
"Look at me," he demanded. Jason cupped her cheek and raised her face to his. Her scent made forgotten memories echo and disappear in his mind so fast he was blinded by pinpricks of white light. In that moment he knew without a shadow of a doubt that the woman in his arms had belonged to him in a forgotten past and he ached to have that part of his life back. "Nicolette, I've got you." Old words of reassurance slipped easily from his lips. His hands tightened against her as he fought the overwhelming need to role her beneath him and discover if his dreams were true. Did he really know all her sensitive places? Could his touch make her cry out his name in pleasure and cause her to beg for more?
Jason squeezed his lids closed until the blinding fireworks of want, half-remembered dreams, and growling desire faded. Now was not the time.
"I'm so s-sorry."
"Not your fault. Just a normal reaction." His words were husky, but he forged ahead, making his muscles relax until he was holding her gently. "Tomorrow night it could just as easily be me pointing a weapon at you." He was very glad they had decided to keep the clips out of their side arms, when they'd moved upstairs. He favored a Glock, but it had a passive safety, pulling the trigger released it. If the sound of her sliding the magazine home hadn't woken him, she might have shot him.
"I should move downstairs, put some distance between us." Nick chewed on her lower lip, aware there wasn't a part of her body that wasn't pressed against his.
"We can work this out." He carefully slid one hand to her shoulder and the other to her cheek as much to keep her with him as to allow some space. "We discussed the possibility the night I arrived? 'Look before you shoot' is kinda hard with your eyes closed in sleep." Jason felt her nod her head at the memory. Small strands of hair caught in the stubbles on his chin and her damp cheek moved against his palm. "We're both sleeping better and the nightmares are a fraction of what they were." He knew the improvement in his rest was a mix of things, the crazy desire that made him brush against her every chance he got, the way listening to her breathe at night filled him with feelings of home, and just her, knowing that she was there, sharing the darkness. "Would you feel safe if we kept our weapons by the windows instead of under out pillows? We would have to get up to reach them, but they would be close enough if we were under attack. A few feet away should prevent a repeat of tonight."
"The security system has been complete for a while now. We'd know if someone broke into the house and we put in enough sensors that alarms go off if anyone is twenty meters from the garden walls." She was talking to herself; more than Jason, stating logical, practical reasons, instead of the emotional one that shouted don't let me leave. Finally, Nicky's chin rose in defiance, her decision made: she would stay with him as long as he would have her.
"I'm surprised this is the first time we've had this problem." He picked her up and sat her on the edge of her mattress a few inches from his side. He immediately missed her warmth, but knew holding her longer than necessary would only take them down a path they'd left behind in the spring. "It's almost a relief to get it out of the way."
"As long as you're safe from me." She shivered slightly at the thought of harming him.
"Babe, I appreciate the concern." The endearment slipped out unintended and neither seemed to be aware of it. "I don't mean to undermine your skills, but I still coulda taken you down." He grinned at the indignant expression on her face.
"Hmmm," she rubbed her brow in defeat. "Then in that case, maybe you should leave your weapon downstairs."
"Thing is, I am the weapon." He hoped teasing with a bit of the truth wouldn't upset her more.
"But not to me," she whispered tiredly as she moved to the windows. Jason wasn't sure if he was supposed to have heard, so he sat and watched her. She popped the clip of her Glock Compact and checked to be sure the chamber was empty. When she was sure it was secured, she left it with her go-bag five feet from her mattress. Everything was handy in case they had to run in the night.
"I need to know that you're safe." She moved slowly to her bedding and straightened the linen. Refusing to contemplate a future without Jason alive and well.
"Nick," Bourne sighed searching for the right words while he put his side arm under the window at the other end of the room where his escape gear was stashed. "I…" He knew what he wanted to say, but it was too much, too soon. Instead he muttered, "I don't want to hurt you either." It was the truth and far better for the time being.
They settled on their respective mattresses, each missing the other, but neither willing to say the words that would bring their careful peace crashing down around them.
"Would it help to talk about your nightmare?" Jason knew he wasn't going to fall asleep anytime soon and the reason was the small blonde woman five feet away.
"I…uh…it was a mix of things," she sighed. Nicky grabbed her pillow, and moved it to the foot of her bed before lying on her stomach with her chin resting on crossed arms. She hoped if she tried hard enough she could convince herself that this was just another teenage sleepover with her best friend Rachel Young and that her body didn't yearn for the man who no longer remembered they had belonged to one another.
"I'm listening if you think it will help to talk about it." Jason mirrored her pose. There ware only three feet of flooring separating them as they talked.
"It was like Tangier and the first time we played escape and evade in Paris, along with the nightmare that finally drove me from Rome." She drew patterns with the index finger of her right hand on the hardwood floor in the area where her mattress ended and his began.
"What do you mean?" He gripped her hand with his to stop her nervous movements.
"You remember the operative chasing me through the back alleys in Tangier?" She started with the newest event. Almost sure he remembered, but given the state of his memory she never took anything for granted.
"That was kind of hard to forget." He squeezed her hand in conformation.
"I think tonight's episode was triggered by our trip to Positano. It was too much like Africa. We need to learn the town, but I'm going to have to take it slower. I know we cover more territory when we work separately, but could you… would you be willing to explore together? Once I get it locked in my mind, I'll be fine. It is something I need to do. The huge crowds that were there today are good to hide in, but they clog all the streets." She shivered.
"Of course." He'd been surprised when she suggested they split up. They didn't know the area well enough yet, but there was also the need to be able to get lost in strange places. "I'm glad to help you and it will make our cover more secure. We are supposed to be a couple."
"Yeah, there is that." It had been the main reason she'd wanted to separate. She wasn't sure if she could play his lover when she wasn't, but wanted desperately to be.
"What does that have to do with Paris and a dream in Rome?" Jason wanted to understand how she thought. He was feeling so many things for her and knew desire was only part of it. He wasn't the Jason who had been her lover, but he wasn't the one who had shown up at her door furious, positive she had deceived him.
"When we were in Paris and you'd been on a mission, you didn't trust yourself to...well spend time with me as other than a profess-"
"Date you?" he cut in. "Make love to you? I didn't trust myself with you in an intimate situation."
"Yeah...that." She stumbled over her words and went on. "The first time you returned after we'd become lovers things were…. awkward." She chose her words carefully hoping he wouldn't ask further questions.
"Did I hurt you?" The journal he'd burned the day before painted a graphic picture of his abilities. Her comment added credibility to his dreams and a new meaning to her assurance that their sex life had been consensual.
"No you did not. How many times do I have to tell you that?" She glared into the darkness. "That first game of hide and seek was a little scary. I didn't understand what you were doing and that you weren't yourself. You'd just returned to Paris and you were driven." She stumbled over the memory of their lost past. In the Now, he was close, touching her hand. There was the crinkle of sheets beneath her body when she moved and the sound of his voice speaking softly to her in the dark. If she closed her eyes she could imagine they were in another time and place, but that was all it would be, a fantasy of what had been. "Anyway, it caught me off guard." That was all that she wanted to tell him about that night. Though it was the emotions of their argument followed by frantic almost feral sex that she was sure was the basis of the dream now and the one she'd had in Rome. "When I have that dream since Tangier, you and that operative change back and forth. One second it was you and I was safe, the next it was him and I was running for my life until you finally catch me." She whispered the last few words carefully editing the ending of the dream.
"What aren't you telling me?" He gripped her hand and pulled her toward him. "What did I do to you that night in Paris that you aren't telling me about?"
"You didn't do anything." She insisted. "My memories won't do you any good. You need to have your own, not my interpretation of them. Besides, this is just a mixed up PTSD dream of mine, not yours."
"I'm not asking about me. It's you I'm worried about." He turned things around demanding she dig through what was hurting her. "Talk to me Nick."
She stared at his dark outline against the lighter stones of the fireplace, knowing he was correct. "I…all right, but part of it is about you," she sighed. She told him about that night in the backstreets of Paris, but left out the intimate details in his apartment. "You were determined that the only way to keep me safe was to chase me through the alleys and shortcuts among buildings. I think you wanted me to be frightened so I'd take things seriously, or you were trying to scare me away from involvement with you, I don't know…Afterward we had a heated argument. As I said, you weren't yourself. Later you told me it was because it was too soon after your assignment. Our game of you being a hunter had become too real and you didn't trust yourself. After that we always waited longer to get together when you returned from business."
"You're not telling me all of it." He'd heard her voice tremble with passion as she'd spoken. They had made love that night and he doubted he'd been careful with her. He knew what his body craved when he was being driven by stress. Though he had no memory of enjoying a woman like that, just his frantic dreams of Nicky Parsons.
She pulled away from him and sat back on her knees in the middle of her bed. "I only have one other thing to say about that night. I had a Masters in psychology and had almost completed my PhD. I should have known that it was too soon, but guess what? I had never been in that situation before and neither had you. It only took one time for us to learn that you had problems reintegrating with a lover. After that we avoided it, though I am confident that we could have worked it through. After all, that was part of my responsibility in Paris, but you refused to take the chances."
"I wasn't gentle with you." He insisted. Afraid his nightmares were a mixture of dreams and memories.
"Oh stop it! I am a consenting adult and no shrinking violet who would let a man take more than I am willing to give. You. Never. Hurt. Me." She shook her head exasperated. "I'm tired and I'm through having this discussion." She flopped back onto her bed and turned away from him.
Summer was a warm golden time. Nicky and Jason slowly mastered Positano. Despite the tourists and Nick's claustrophobia, they liked the unique town.
As the days progressed, they learned all of the trails for miles in any direction. They discovered any nook or cranny that could provide cover in a chase and even stocked some of them with non-perishable provisions.
Any likely looking hidey-hole with a view of their plateau was marked on a map and sensors hidden among the undergrowth and rocks. Once they felt comfortable among the crowds of tourists, every shopping trip to town became of a game of hide-and-seek or a scavenger hunt, until they knew every corner, turn, mean dog and dead-end Positano had to offer.
With a map imprinted in her memory, Nicky's movement through town appeared to be just like anyone else's. But if the hoards of shoppers were particularly rambunctious, her claustrophobia would flare. On those days she'd hold tight to Jason's hand until her breathing was under control. A quick smile to let him know she was fine and they would continue as if nothing had happened.
By late July they had mapped, explored, and laid sensors to the point it would be suspicious to keep covering the same ground over and over again. Instead they went fishing and swimming in the mountain lakes and streams.
At least once a week they took a picnic dinner to the high peek above the cottage to eat and stargaze late into the night. They lay side-by-side on a blanket and learned all the constellations. Nicky used the excuse that it was so they could navigate through the mountains by starlight if need be, but Jason simply laughed pointing to the compasses they always carried and enjoyed the nighttime sky. One night they were treated to a meteor shower.
Much to Bourne's surprise he discovered Nicky and he shared the same dry sense of humor. Unlike Marie who had rolled her eyes and smiled politely at his puns and wordplay, Nick understood and often encouraged his moments of fun.
Occasionally Jason would join one of village fishermen and go out for the day. He enjoyed his time on the water and was glad to lend a helping hand where needed. He never accepted money for his efforts but always came home with fresh fish for their dinner table.
On the days he was gone, Nicky would set up her easel and spend the time lost in painting. She usually went to their room. The light was excellent and they'd installed one way netting that made it impossible for anyone to see in, but she had a clear view out. The one time she'd tried working on their cliff, the itch between her shoulder blades was too distracting. She found it frustrating that she was bothered by both claustrophobia and wide-open spaces. It just didn't seem fair.
From her secure perch in the Gatekeeper's Lodge, she liked to capture the rooftops of Positano on canvas. They formed steep terraces on the craggy cliff heading toward the ever-changing blue water below. The work she was doing helped her stay centered while Jason was enjoying his time on the sea. Comparing the progress she was making and improvement in her technique brought her a sense of deep personal satisfaction.
Every evening they discarded their new lives. She became a therapist and he the man with a fractured memory. They sat in their living room and tried to piece together Bourne's past.
Nicky had been correct. The brutal exercise routine that both had independently adopted had been overkill. It had kept them fit, but so finely honed that it had been impossible to relax. Now, they were as strong and fast as ever, with an increase in mental acuity. After countless drills, they could be out of the house and away by multiple routes in a matter of seconds.
September was olive time. Count Dinapoli, his son's and workers came together to bring in the harvest along with Jason Weston and Colette Benoit. The timing was critical. The fruit needed to be ripe, but not so much so that it would produce poor quality oil. The group started on the exposed plateau and moved inward to the Count's trees. It was hard work, interspersed with laughter, jokes, songs in Italian, and wonderful food and wine.
The nights became slightly longer and cooler as late September slipped into October and everyone recuperated from long hours spent climbing ladders and handpicking olives.
The two people hidden in the Gatekeeper's Lodge were eating and sleeping better, especially after all the hard work. Occasionally, one or the other would have a nightmare, but it would be short lived and easily dealt with. They were still sharing the large top floor room and neither wanted to think about what would happen when that changed.
Life was good. They trusted their surroundings and each other, and were slowly being accepted into a small group of locals, but despite all their months of work, Jason's memory was as damaged as it had been on his arrival.
"I don't know what to tell you." Nicky felt she had failed him once again. "We aren't any further along than we were months ago. I think we are dealing with more than one kind of amnesia."
"Can you be more specific?" He steepled his fingers, unsure where she was going with this.
"There was the original damage done by the drugs you were given and sensory deprivation during Treadstone training. It wiped your past clean so Conklin and Abbott, with the help of Dr. Albert Hirsch, were able to build a new personality. After Wombosi, you forgot any sense of self you'd been allowed to retain, or had created on your own. You didn't even recognize your reflection in a mirror. That is the hallmark of selective hysterical amnesia, but it's usually short lived. Yours has gone on for years, with old memories occasionally leaking through.
"Given the scars on your scalp I believe you also have some combination of dissociative and traumatic amnesia. Both kinds have complete loss of anything that happened before the trauma, but the patient has no problems making new memories. Traumatic usually doesn't last long, but has been known to linger. Dissociative explains the gaps but is a harder one to pin down. It is obvious that you can change short-term memory into long on most subjects, but not on others. When Marie was killed you went from being the hunted to the hunter. It was almost as if you were reclaiming part of the man you were in Paris. As much as you hated everything you believed Bourne stood for, you needed his skills to stay alive."
"Waking up to him was no picnic." He grunted. "One minute I'm just this guy with no idea of who or where I am. The next thing I know I'm a fighting machine, driving like a mad man, and using weapons I only vaguely recognize, but handled with deadly accuracy."
"It couldn't have been easy, but that only adds to the problem." They had touched on this subject before and he didn't like it, but she knew they needed to take it more seriously. "I don't think you want to remember Jason Bourne and that is adding emotional pressure to any physical aspects of your memory loss."
"That's ridiculous. I know what kind of man Bourne was. He killed for a living. I can't very well hide that from myself when I've seen the articles and read the reports." His temper was unraveling and he knew that wouldn't help. "You verified every kill in my journal. That man is hard to miss."
"Jason, there is a difference between knowing something intellectually and accepting it emotionally. That's what you are fighting."
"No, no, I don't believe it," he argued.
"And that is adding to the problem. You won't even try." It was Nicky's turn to pace the living room, something she didn't do during these sessions. "We never really learned why your memory shattered. What I've told you is only my best understanding, based on what I know about you, your head injuries, and my working experience."
He could see there was something that worried her terribly. "There's more. I can see it in your face."
"Yes." She sighed and stood dejectedly in front of him. "I can't promise that you will ever get back the missing years."
"This could be it then?" He reared back in surprise. He'd been so sure they were making progress. His life had never been better, but he wanted it all, including knowledge of his past. He needed to remember so he didn't trip over his past and get Nicky killed.
"I'm sorry." She knelt beside his chair. Her eyes were glassy from fighting tears. "A recent MRI or even some blood work might give us more answers. A scan is out of the question. It would be like lighting the Batlight in the sky, telling anyone who looking for you exactly where we are. I'm too afraid to leave a blood specimen anywhere. I don't know if the CIA has your DNA." The more she talked the quicker the words tumbled out. "I'm certain they have mine from my apartment in Spain. I helped clean out your place in Paris but I wasn't alone. I didn't see…I wasn't…my focus…" She was shaking at the memory of going through his personal things and trying to look as if it was nothing more than business. "I'm sorry. I should have been more careful, but you were missing, a Treadstone agent was dead on the street outside your window...and your landlady had been killed." She wiped away a tear she couldn't contain. "I had to keep quiet and under control when all I wanted was to…"
"Easy Babe." He put his arms around her, holding her close. "It's all right. We have to assume that they have DNA samples from both of us." He cupped her cheeks and used his thumbs to wipe the tears off her face. "So bottom line, things may never get any better in my scrambled head? Can it get worse?"
"Without knowing the underlying cause of the loss, I can only guess. Your memory has been stable since climbing out of The East River all those months ago, I doubt there will be any new problems as long as there are no new traumas. " She smiled gently and pulled back to sit on the floor looking up at him. "My advice is to get plenty of rest, stay out of high stress situations, avoid using your head as a battering ram, and learn to accept the man you were, when stationed in Paris. Denying him is denying part of your life and it is the only avenue left open to us at this point."
"Will that give me back my memory?"
"I don't know, but it can't hurt. Start by working on letting your mind accept that you were following orders from a superior officer. It may take time, but it would free you from the mountain of guilt you've been carrying since you learned about Treadstone." She smiled gently. "That's what I believe about the orders I passed along. It is what allows me to sleep at night. When I went to work for the CIA I realized that some of the things I might be asked to do would appear to be morally ambiguous if look at by the man on the street. But I wanted to protect that man who might judge me harshly."
He looked her in the eyes, unsure what to say or do.
She could read pain in his expression. "I understand why it is more difficult for you. Our jobs were very different." It was harder for him because he'd physically ended lives and she'd only passed on the orders to do so. Though in reality, they were equally to blame, his actions were more personal.
"You're probably the only other person who ever has." He leaned forward to reach for her hand. "It means a lot to me." There was sorrow written all over his face.
"I blame that damn journal you kept. All it showed was violence." Nicky finally lost her temper. "There is this guy, Jason Weston. He has spent the last two and a-half weeks on S. Martini's fishing boat, helping him bring in his catch, because the fisherman's gout was so bad he could hardly walk. Never mind that the young man was tired from the repetitive motions and long days harvesting olives most of the month before. He saw a need and was willing to help. The only reason this Jason accepted a few Euros a day for his work was so the old man's pride wasn't hurt. Well, he used to live in Paris under a slightly different name. He is a gentle kind person who…who." She could feel her emotional control beginning to break, so she quit while she still had her pride. "I could go on, but since I can't provide any of it with news reports or clippings, you won't believe me." Nick threw her arms in the air and headed upstairs to bed.
Jason sat in her rocker. The house was locked tight with no lights on. He knew she was right. He'd been carrying around guilt for years. It was made worse because he was a hypocrite. As much as he'd condemned the information he'd discovered about his Treadstone self, he'd made good use of every skill they had taught him for his personal need. Between self-defense and revenge he'd amassed a sizable body count. He understood his nature well enough to know that he'd never simply give up, but there had to be a happy medium.
This summer had been the best he could remember. For a short time he'd stopped running and hiding. They'd been cautious, carefully securing their home and adding depth to their covers simply by existing as flesh and blood version of their paper trail. Though he'd been nervous at first, their neighbors had slowly accepted them. He gave Nicky most of the credit for that. She began sowing tiny seeds of friendship with the Dinapoli household as soon as she felt safe in Positano, about the time he had agreed to stay to work on his memory.
The time had flown by. They were a succession of warm days and nights full of hard work mixed with fun, and laughter. Through it all, Nicky Parsons was at his side. He knew he cared for the small slim blonde in more ways than were wise. At one time a simple affair would have been easy, but at this point he wasn't willing to settle for so little.
Everytime he tried to think about more, he bumped against his amnesia. He had to face the fact that this may be it. But one way or the other, there was something he needed to do before he could explore the possibility of a life with her and he was almost out of time.
It was necessary to end one life before he could think of starting a new one.
Nicky woke unusually early to the smell of fresh coffee. Jason's go-bag was missing and so was he. She bounded out of bed, determined to find him.
She arrived in the kitchen moments later. One look at the way he was dressed with his filled pack next to the table confirmed her worst fears. "You're leaving."
"Yes." He depressed the plunger on the French press before he looked up. His expression was blank, his tone unwavering. "I promised I wouldn't just disappear."
She froze halfway to the counter. She'd been here before. They'd done this in the past, except it had been in Paris and he was going on his last mission.
"Take me with you." The words slipped out before she could stop them and she was glad.
"I can't." He came around to her side and held her gently by the shoulders. "I've got something I need to do before I can attempt to leave Operative Jason Bourne behind. I'll move faster and it will be safer if I do it alone."
"Who are you hunting this time?" She wrapped her arms around her body to keep from trembling. Since Paris, she hadn't been what he wanted. He was always bent on revenge and each kill only did more damage to him.
"No one, or maybe me, you know that other Bourne you're always talking about." Damn he wanted to kiss her, but he wasn't sure he'd be able to make it back, so he didn't.
"What will you do when you find him?" She'd never seen the slightest indications of suicidal tendencies in all the years she'd been his therapist, but the way he was talking frightened her.
"Not sure." He grinned and brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Maybe buy him a beer."
"Are you coming back?" Her eyes filled with tears that she blinked away.
"I don't know if can. I won't take any chance of leading anyone here." His mouth was set in a straight line that added years to his face.
"I love you," she whispered. She'd always regretted not saying it that last morning in Paris and she loved him so much more now. She was going to be damn sure he knew.
"Nick," Jason's voice was hoarse, like ground glass and for one second his face showed everything he was feeling. For one second Nicky was sure he would say it too. Instead he wrapped his right hand around the back of her neck and pulled her close. His mouth buried in her thick hair
"Jason," she breathed his name, gripped the front of his shirt and fought tears. She'd promised him she wouldn't cry, but it was so damn hard when she was surrounded by his familiar scent for possibly the last time. For one tiny instant she flashed back to when he pulled her against him when they were under Alexanderplatz Station in Berlin.
"Stay safe," he whispered. His lips moved through her hair in an almost kiss. Jason was trying to imprint the memory of her in his arms, so if the worst happened, he would never forget her again. He pulled away, grabbed his pack and was out the door.
"Oh God," Nick cried out and lowered herself to the floor. It was Alexanderplatz Station without the shouting, but instead of being a new beginning, it was the end. She let go and cried. There was no one to see or hear her. It didn't matter anymore. She'd kept her promise, just as he'd kept his.
Jason Bourne had taken three weeks to get to the town of Panaji located in the State of Goa, India. It was a little over a year, since Marie had been killed by a bullet meant for him. She'd been driving so their car had run off a bridge into the Mandovi River.
He knew he was taking a chance coming back here, especially so close to the anniversary of her death, but it was something he had to do. He'd spent the summer trying to get his memory back to no avail. If he was going to move on with his life, he had to let go of the past.
Bourne spent a week watching the bungalow where he'd lived, the small section of town and the bridge. There was nothing out of the ordinary, no one appeared suspicious and no one looked at him twice. He was dressed as a tourist. In khakis, t-shirt, sunglasses and baseball cap. He carried a camera. It looked like he was taking pictures, but he was really using the long lens in place of his usual spotter scope to check the market and along the river.
On his last night, under cover of a moonless sky, he slipped into the yard of the tiny house where he'd lived and picked some of the strange yellow flowers that had been Marie's favorites. The town slept on as late night became very early morning. He made his way to the underside of the bridge.
Jason tossed the flowers into the water, one-by-one, and watched as the current caught them. "Thank you," he whispered. He didn't looked away until the last bright colored bloom was carried out of sight in the dark.
Not moving from the rocky shore, Bourne pulled a small burner cell out of his pocket and called a number he'd used it for only once.
"Hello," Pam Landy answered with trepidation. She'd kept the burner Jason had planted on her, as he swept past, that grey dismal morning when her men were still combing the East River for his body. But she never expected to hear from him again.
"You can throw away the phone, Pam, there won't be anymore calls. Leave me alone, and I'll never bother anyone again." As he flipped the lid closed he could hear her calling his name. Moments later he cracked the small cell against a metal strut of the bridge. He crushed the memory chip beneath his boot and threw the smashed and broken bits into the river to disappear forever. Bourne climbed the bank and slipped away from the sleeping town undercover of darkness.
November 2008 – Langley, Va.
The first thing Landy did when the phone rang was to discretely look out her windows. When she didn't see Bourne staring back at her from any of neighboring roofs or black-coated figure walking quickly away, she checked the time. It was 4 PM in Langley.
She had inserted a tracker in the burner almost a year ago; once activated she looked for any breadcrumbs he might have left. Bourne had a habit of sending hidden messages and Pam was going to find it if it was there. She grinned with success when she discovered he hadn't disabled his GPS. It allowed her to trace the call to a main cell tower in India, but no further.
He had called her at approximately 1:30 AM his time, nothing significant about that. The pieces fell together when she double-checked the date and compared it to her report from a year ago. He'd wanted her to know his general location. It was a subtle reminder of why his demand should be taken seriously.
Pam had a meeting with her immediate superior, CIA Director Charles Jennenings, in twenty minutes. That gave her time to pull further background information.
When Jennenings was still Acting Director, he'd moved the CIA's Deep Cover Anti-Terrorism Bureau from New York to Langley where he could keep closer tabs on it. The A.D.'s next step was to appoint Pamela Landy as Senior Agent In Charge, when Noah Vosen was placed on investigative leave and consequently arrested.
Landy and Jennenings sat in comfortable chairs around a small worktable in his office. Her department had been in shambles when she took over. It was an embarrassment to the Agency and the government. She and her boss had worked diligently to untangle the mess they'd inherited from Vosen and past director Ezra Kramer.
"Looks like you're making good progress." Jennenings was pleased with the way things were improving.
"Thank-you. I have one other item and it's not on the agenda." She placed the burner cell between them. "Jason Bourne called me today."
"You're sure it was Bourne?" Jennenings asked.
"Yes, Sir, I know his voice." She confirmed.
"These special ops guys are going to give me an ulcer." He was glad the man was still alive, but the idea of another renegade agent resurfacing so soon after Aaron Cross and Marta Shearing, was the last thing he wanted to hear. He could see the headlines now. "What did he have to say?"
"He wants us to leave him alone." Landy pulled out her tablet and sat it on the table between them, while she repeated exactly what had happened and been said when that phone rang. "You can hardly blame him after everything that happened. He's no different than Aaron Cross."
"In theory," he sighed. "Where is he?"
"I'm not sure, it's been over an hour since he made contact and he's a master at disappearing. I traced the call to somewhere in India, which isn't surprising considering that's where it started for him a year ago."
"Is he out for blood, again?" The Director looked at Pamela over his reading glasses. She was the closest thing he had to an expert on the man.
"No. I think he meant what he said. He wants out, off the grid. If Ward Abbot and his cronies hadn't farmed him in Berlin, none of that mess would have happened in New York. I believe he let us trace his call to remind us what happens when we screw with him." Pam lightly touched the keyboard of her tablet, entering a code. An icon for locked and encrypted document appeared on her screen. Another password and a personnel file appeared followed by the report Landy had written in January that officially ended the CIA's search for their missing agent. "This is every piece of evidence I have on Jason Bourne." She handed the iPad to her boss.
"The boy is damn good at making a point." He huffed, tallying last year's body count in his head as he moved through the screens. "If we're wrong we could have another disaster on our hands. That doesn't even count public relations. I want to be prepared for whatever he is planning." The press and social media were just starting to calm down after the frenzy caused by Aaron Cross and Dr. Marta Shearing, walking into the Senate hearings with concrete proof of the atrocities committed by Eric Byer.
"If he were out to get us, bodies would have been dropping long before this and there wouldn't have been a courtesy call." Landy advised.
"We don't know if we've found them all," Jennenings wasn't as trusting. He didn't like uncertainty and this case reeked of it from the beginning. "What about the other agent? The female who is still missing? She was his handler-psychologist, Parsons? Is she hiding or do you think she became a causality when Bourne ripped apart Treadstone?"
"I…ah…" She shook her head. "I don't believe she is dead. He wouldn't kill her."
"I need to be read-in on anything you've got on the man." The Director leaned back in his chair and watched the woman across from him. Pam Landy was hiding something.
"Sir, there's no proof on any of this." A female in a male dominated profession didn't have it easy. The last thing she wanted was for her boss to accuse her of using 'woman's intuition' and that wasn't what this was.
"Just spit it out."
She took a moment to gather her thoughts. There were too many ideas flying around and they needed to be presented in the right order. "Nicky Parsons is the only person connected with Treadstone who has had contact with Bourne, since the Wombosi mission went south, and lived to tell about it. There were three times that I know of, when he has shown up out of nowhere, and gone directly for her."
"Sounds damn factual to me. What's your conclusion?" There was something about what he'd just been told that made him uncomfortable.
"That part is fact, though it is scatter through a number of different reports. Here is where it gets murky." Pam continued. "I keep asking myself why? Why didn't he kill her when he confronted Conklin? She was there. Why not in Berlin? He was angry enough. I heard part of their conversation before her wire went dead. Why not in Spain, or even let Desh do his dirty work for him in Africa?"
"You've got a theory. I can tell." The Director rested his chin in his fisted-hand and put his elbow on the arm of his chair. He was sure he wasn't going to like this.
"All I can come up with is that he was looking for her from the start, but with amnesia he didn't recognize her." There, she'd said it and sat back and waited for the explosion.
"Are you saying they were involved in Paris? I find that hard to believe. Jason Bourne killed unflinchingly for years. He's got to be one cold bastard. It was the hallmark of Treadstone operatives." None of what Landy said made any sense to him.
"I agree, for the most part." She leaned forward in her chair, not at all convinced she wasn't about to talk her way out of a job. "But something changed Treadstone's number one asset and I'd lay odds it happened before he went on that last mission. Hell, it was why the mission failed."
"If he hadn't left a string of bodies from Germany to Russia, to New York, after Kreutz was shot, I'd think he just burned out. It happens. Sane men can only go so far and then they snap." Jennenings knew because he'd been there. He'd been a SEAL sniper. Just thinking about that time in his life made him tired. "But you think it might have been the girl? Somehow, because of her, he grew a conscious?"
"All I really know is that he keeps circling back to Parsons. Jason protects those who help him. He did his damnedest with Kreutz and when he failed, he went gunning for anyone who had anything to do with Treadstone, except Nicky." Pamela shrugged, unsure what else she could say.
"For us, the big question is how much trouble is this going to cause?" The Director swiped through his information on Bourne. "I agree with your assessment that he isn't hunting us anymore, but can he hurt us another way?" He knew the answers to his questions but Pam was a good sounding board where Bourne was concerned.
"The Senate hearings were closed, so they kept most of the detailed files from Albert Hirsch's computer, outlining Treadstone training and initiation from public scrutiny, but Vosen let bits and pieces leak to make Jason sound mentally incompetent." Landy was angry with the tactics that had been used to try and justify issuing standing kill orders on the two agents who had escaped an assassin in Tangier. "Because of that and the instability of his memory over the years the man is not a credible witness. Unlike Marta or Aaron were."
"If his testimony was corroborated by Parsons it could be damning." The Director scanned through Nicky's file. He stopped and scrolled over the previous section, reading through it again. "Well at one time it stated she had a photographic memory. With that and her professional credentials she'd be damn credible." He glared at Landy's tablet. Something was wrong with the source document. There had been changes made to these reports since he'd read them as Acting Director.
Jennenings flipped between two personnel files on the screen, stopping and scroll back to reread sections "Well shit. I'm guessing these have been tampered with to the point of being useless. That sort of thing was right up Ezra Kramer's alley. It was discovered he made changes to records and case reports when it was to his benefit. It must have been a last ditch effort to cover his butt. He hadn't been able to kill his renegade, so he made it harder to find him. One less witness."
"It could be simpler than that." Landy took a deep breath, and ignored the voice inside her that was relieved because she was sure they were together, safe and in hiding. "Nicky Parsons has the computer skills to slip through firewalls and bypass our security. We taught her how. At one time she had passcodes and clearance, that with a little creative finagling, allowed her get in even farther. I saw her in action when they were in Tangier. She was changing Vosen's orders and giving false reports from her laptop. She made it appear like the information was coming from the North Africa local." Pam gazed at the picture of the unassuming woman with long blonde hair. "It could have been done at the spur of the moment, but if the changes are as vast as you've indicated, it would have taken time to implement or they would have been detected, no matter how good she was."
"No wonder he's protecting her." It made the most sense to Jennenings. "I hope for her sake his gratitude lasts."
"I agree he is protecting her, but I'm not convinced there isn't more to it than that, but it doesn't really matter. We don't have a shred of evidence, just supposition." She didn't tell her boss about Jason's request in New York, about needing to get a message out. She didn't tell him about the emotional pain Parsons tried to hide, but that had kept slipping through occasionally, when Pam had debriefed her in Berlin. "What do you want me to do about Bourne, Sir?"
He thought for a moment about all the lives, money, and time that had gone into chasing a mostly innocent man. "As long as he keeps out of trouble, we leave him alone. I'll be damned if I'm gonna take a page out of Kramer's playbook and start terminating people because a discredited branch of the CIA wanted to play God. All that does is get good men and women killed and have the press accusing us of terrorizing our own people."
"Yes, Sir." Landy was relieved the interview had gone as well as it did. All Wants, Warrants, and TSA alerts had been on pulled Bourne and Parsons the previous January. As long as they were careful, she believed, the two ex-agents had their lives back.
The Director took a moment to use his personal encryption to seal the agents' files. He was tempted to redact the originals of all the documents involved, but decided his code was enough. If anyone went searching at a later date, all they would find was misinformation that appeared to be the real thing.
He handed Landy her iPad and the burner cell. "Keep the phone close, I'd rather be forewarned if he is going to go hunting again."
"If something happens to set him off, he isn't going to ask my permission, Charles, anymore than Aaron Cross would ask yours. You may have struck a deal with him so he and his wife, Marta, are safe, but that doesn't mean you control him any more than I do Jason."
"Then we better keep our people in line and make sure no one is looking for payback." Jennenings lips pucker like he'd tasted something sour. The damage that had ripped through the US Intelligence community due to Treadstone, Blackbrier, Outcome and LARX was still being felt. Powerful men were under scrutiny. When Eric Byer had committed suicide and a week later Ret. Gen. Turso had died of a stroke it had seemed a bit too neat for The Director's liking, but he had no mandate to operate within the US, so he'd let it go. "Pam, anyone else know about this…for lack of a better word, I'll say protectiveness Bourne has for Parsons?"
"I don't think so and if those files are as corrupted as they appear, I doubt anyone will find out." Landy put the burner in her pocket and closed down her tablet. "I know about it because I was there for a lot of it."
"The fewer people who suspect any of this, the better." Charles Jennenings frowned. He was well aware that since coming back from the Wombosi mission, Jason hadn't initiated any violence, he'd only responded to attacks. It alleviated the need to force the CIA's hand and begin hunting the man again. "I don't what to contemplate the ten different kinds of hellfire Bourne would rain down on our heads, if someone goes after anyone he feels protective toward, again."
"Good God no." She felt a tingle of worry at the thought.
"Good night, Pamela, though I'm not sure if I should thank you for bringing this to my attention."
"Good night, Sir." She left the CIA Director's office, with a lighter step than she entered it and a small prayer that the burner in her pocket never rang again. Back in her office with her door closed she was able to admit that she hoped this time Jason Bourne was truly off the grid for good and a brown-eyed blonde was at his side.
Pam laughed out loud thinking about the look on her boss' face when she intimated that there might have been a relationship between Jason and Nicky. Charles Jennenings was well aware of the deep well of affection between Marta and Aaron, but he wasn't able to accept that the Treadstone legend might have human feelings as well. She shrugged and decided it would only make the two missing people harder to find. If someone went looking, they wouldn't be looking for a couple.
December 2008 - Positano
Nights were getting cooler. The wind chill factor on the plateau made Nicky shiver and she kept a fire burning in her fireplace. There was a damp bite of fog most evenings. She was glad they'd installed some thermal imagining devices along with the night vision cameras. The fog made the cameras almost useless.
She kept a packed knapsack, boots, heavy socks, pants and a coat beside her bed. She'd practiced and could be dressed and out of the house in under two minutes. Every time Nicky drilled, she aimed to beat the times set when she was doing it with Bourne. It helped, knowing she could do it on her own. It made it a bit easier as another day passed and he didn't return.
Nick was putting the final touches on a painting she'd begun just before Jason left. At that time she'd planned a scene of the steep street in front of some of the more touristy shops. It looked upward at people, and businesses as they angled up the cliff that was Positano. The crowd was dressed in bright summer clothes and they crammed the twisted walkways.
When Jason left, Nicky's fingers itched to commit his likeness to paper or canvas. It was a selfish yearning that she knew wasn't safe for either of them. Instead she slipped him into her street scene. Where the crowd was thickest, between a flower cart and a trendy café she never frequented, she placed the back of a dark-coated figure. You had to look carefully between groups of relaxed people to see the material stretched across well-muscled shoulders. A hanging sign from the cafe almost obscured the back of his head that was covered in short light brown hair.
She sat back on her stool, pleased with her work. She'd drawn Bourne, the man who lives in the shadows. From across the room, the dark man blended into the wood of the café. It had taken her two days of mixing colors to come up with the exact shade that would work for both his coat and the wood of the door.
She knew she was looking at her best work to date and that she could never sell it. Nicky stretched to loosen muscles that were cramped from sitting so long as she worked. She left her canvas on her easel to dry. Her light was almost gone and she was hungry.
She felt content for the first time in a month. There was something about finishing that painting that gave her hope. He was coming back. He had to be. She made pasta, and seasoned her sauce with herbs from her garden. As she cooked she wondered if it would be safe to occasionally slip him, well hidden among a crowd, into other works. She could do it and be the only one who knew he was there by simply painting something over him. It would be like he was hidden behind a tree, building, or door. Only the bottom hem of his black coat would show as he moved through the shadows, unable to take part in the brightly colored life he guarded.
December 2008 – Valencia, Spain
Jason had been in Valencia for three days. He was exhausted when he arrived and slept the clock around. No new memories had surfaced since his personal memorial service for Marie, but some of the guilt had eased. Being back there has been strange. He compared the tense life he'd led always running, hiding, moving every few weeks and pushing himself physically as hard as he could, to the one he lived in Positano. Nicky was right all along. He'd been killing himself in stages and had not been as invisible as he had believed himself to be.
He lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Why the hell was he still in Spain? Nick had said she loved him. She'd wanted to come with him without even knowing where he was going. "Damn." He punched his pillow trying to get comfortable, but it was hard when the room was so quiet and she was so far away. He needed to figure out what was keeping him from taking the ferry to Rome.
He'd known she'd loved the man he'd been in Paris. He'd read it in her eyes the first night he'd confronted her at the Gatekeepers Lodge. Jason had found it hard to reconcile the cold killer he believed he was with the man who had loved Nicky Parsons enough to create an escape plan for them both. It didn't fit with the way he'd viewed life after waking up with no memory.
He closed his eyes and visions of her moved lightly through his mind. He saw her laughing in the sun as they moved heavy rocks. He saw her as they worked in the kitchen side-by-side. He grinned at the memory of her dancing with the broom as she swept the hall, and the determined look on her face when she lifted free weights and he pushed her to do just one more rep, while carefully spotting so she wouldn't get hurt.
The next morning he boarded the boat for Rome. Somewhere in the early morning hours he'd come to realize how much he loved that slim blonde woman. There might be danger, but there would be fun too. It was too important a decision for him to make on his own. They would figure it out together like they had everything else this summer.
Nicky sat in the living room with her thick pad and pencil. There was a bright light shining down on her work. It wasn't the best way to sketch, but the idea had kept her fidgeting all evening. She didn't want to wait for daylight to see if she could capture Jason's hands in her practice book. When she started, she planned for the final product to be done in watercolors. The more she worked to see if she had the ability to create what her mind saw, the more she believed watercolor pencils would be a better medium. She would use them wet to hint at the woman's waist, slightly arched back, rounded hip, and pearly skin tone and dry to emphasize strength as his firm male palm cupped her iliac crest. His long, fingers would spread along her waist, and pointed toward her back. The slightly callused thumb appeared to be frozen while stroking a slim flat belly. All that would be seen was a man's hand caressing small section of a woman's naked hip and back. She was lost in her drawing, a memory from long ago and her pencil moved with a mind of its own.
Nick held up the pad and examined what she'd started. The man's hand and the way he touches her was the focal point of the drawing. She was getting there, but her practice drawing wasn't right yet. She flipped to a blank page in her book and began again.
Suddenly her watch vibrated. It has been activated by one of the thermal imaging cameras. All thought of drawing flew out of her mind.
She ripped out the incomplete drawing and dropped her pad. The heat signature of a man moving through the shadows showed on the face of her watch. He was careful to avoid any of the other sensors in the yard and he'd known how to get through the gate without tripping alarms. "Jason?" she whispered. Nick blinked twice to clear the hallucination, but he didn't disappear. He was here. He'd come back.
She quickly folded the drawing and stuffed it in her bra, gripped her Glock Compact and flipped off the lights on the off chance she was wrong.
"Nicky, don't shoot," he whispered as he opened the door and pulled her into his arms. Moments later he was kissing her as if his life depended on it. "I love you." The words mixed with his kisses.
His rough coat rubbed against her cheek as his mouth covered hers. His fingers tangled in her hair. His tongue swept past her lips, against her inner cheeks and danced with her tongue.
Her fingers dug into his collar and gripped the back of his neck. Tears of joy filled her eyes as she let him devour her.
"You remembered, you remembered," she exclaimed with joy, as her shaking fingers worked his coat buttons open.
"Wait, Nick, no, I don't." He pulled far enough away so he could see her face, but kept her in a gentle embrace. She needed to know the truth.
"You didn't get your memory back?" She gasped and pulled free. "I don't understand?" She wrapped her arms around her body to keep from breaking completely. What game was he playing?
"My memory hasn't changed, but I'm in love with you. I have been for a long time." He'd practiced the words all the long way from Spain.
"That's impossible. You love Marie." She insisted. She'd heard the tape Pam Landy had played for her in the hotel in Berlin. She'd heard the anguish in Jason's voice as he spoke of the woman who had died in his place.
"No, Nicky, I didn't love her. I cared for deeply and tried like hell to love her, but there was always something missing." He pulled off his coat and stood inches away from her. "I liked and respected her. She kept me sane in an insane world. I always thought my emotions weren't free because we were on the run and there was no time for me to just let go. But that wasn't it. I didn't love her because she wasn't you." He smiled gently and caressed the curve of her cheek. "I wish she were still alive, but I've known from the moment I arrived last spring we…well…we had something that had prevented me from letting anyone else in."
"You don't remember Paris, and you love me, anyway?" She was crying and didn't know why.
"Yeah. I figure the man I used to be loved you, and I know for a fact that the one who spent the summer here in this house loves you. Does it really matter if I remember?" It was something he didn't have an answer to. People are made up of their pasts and he didn't have much of one. "The only important question is if you meant it when you said you loved me?" he asked, hesitantly.
"I do love you. I regretted that I didn't say it that last morning before you left Paris," she sighed. "I've loved you for years. But you've got to stop leaving me behind. I can't take it."
Jason held her close as she cried. She was looking thin and ragged again and it was his fault. "I'm sorry. I promise, never again." He kissed his way down her temple to her neck.
"Wait, please, where have you been all this time?"
"I went back to India. I needed to put an end to that part of my life, the part where I was always on the run. I left flowers in The Mandovi River where she was killed." He stumbled slightly over the explanation, because he knew his actions were out of character for him, but it had felt right.
"It sounds like you were looking for closure. Did it work?" she asked.
"I wouldn't be here if it hadn't." He laughed feeling free and happy. "Our life in Paris is still a blank. Are you willing to let last summer be our beginning?" He kissed her and held her close. "I've known since July that you were very important to me. I'm sorry it took me so long to put the pieces together."
"You really mean it? You aren't just telling me what I want to hear?" Nicky studied his face, looking for any doubts. She'd been hurt too many times by him in the last few years. She wasn't going to simply jump in unless he was sure.
"I love you and can't imagine a life without you in it." He pulled her close and nuzzled her ear punctuating his words with biting kisses. "What is this?" He reached into her shirt and pulled out the crumpled paper she had hidden in case it hadn't been him at the door.
"Take a look," her voice was gravelly and filled with need. He moved to the light slowly unfolded the paper. A wicked smile formed on his face as he saw what it contained. "Why Ms. Parsons, have you been drawing sexy pictures of us?"
"Ah…that could be anybody." She protested, but her dark eyes sparkled making her words a lie.
"I want you, Nicky Parsons." It moved with careful hunting strides until he was in front of her.
"I want you too." She melted against him touching and kissing. "This isn't a dream?"
"No, Babe, we finally got it right." He ran his fingers through her hair, so very glad to be where he was, no matter the twisted road it had taken getting there.
Together they checked the locks and blackout drapes. Once they were upstairs they armed the inside security system.
He lite the candle on the mantel over the fireplace and looked around the room. The hearth was prepared for a fire. There was extra wood stacked in a basket. One lone mattress sat in the middle of the floor. Nicky's empty easel was in front of closed blackout curtains. But those were things they could talk about later.
"Nick, come here." His voice was rough with desire. "I don't have memories of making love to you. I don't know what you enjoy or where you like to be touched."
While he talked he pulled her long-sleeved t-shirt over her head. "But there were times…not sure if they were dreams or fantasies. You have to tell me if I am doing something you don't like."
"You won't hurt me. I've always loved your touch." She sighed when seconds later her bra joined her shirt on the floor. She pulled his sweater over his head and explored his exposed muscles, scars, and skin with her tongue and lips.
He picked her up and laid her on the bed, making quick work of her shoes, socks, jeans, and panties. "You are so beautiful. I don't know how I could forget you." Jason stepped back to admire the way shadows and light from the candle danced over her skin. He pulled off the rest of his clothes and joined her.
To test an old theory he ran his hand under her left breast and found a small mole. He'd known it was there from the moment they'd fought that first night in the living room downstairs. It also made her moan.
"So that was a good spot?" His grin promised more.
"Oh, yeah." She returned the favor by nuzzling a small patch of skin on his collarbone. It made his nerve endings sizzle.
"You definitely have the advantage." His laughter was heavy. "I want to learn your body all over again."
"It would be my pleasure." She pulled him closer for a deep kiss while her body screaming for his touch.
He slipped his hand between her legs and found her wet and ready. Nicky moaned his name and arched against him. "I …ah…may not be able to hold out like I used to." She gulped in air and fought the need to simply let go. "I love you and always have. There hasn't been anyone since our last time in Paris." Her eyes filled with tears and she trembled at the admission.
Nicky's words hit him hard. "Oh Babe, so that's what you meant when you told me you didn't have casual affairs?"
"I love you and after everything that happened, I couldn't." She lightly grazed his hard flat stomach with her nails. "Make love to me. It's been so hard to have you close and still be alone." She shook her head unable to believe that she'd made it through to the end. "I thought I'd die of frustration this last summer."
He laughed as he rolled her body beneath his. "You weren't the only one who had a tough summer." Jason held her cheeks between his palms and kissed her. "I love you and want you now." He felt her legs wrap around his hips and groaned in pleasure. Moments later he thrust into her. Jason Bourne knew he was finally home as they tangled together on that mattress on a small plateau on the Amalfi Coast.
Hours later he took time exploring her body in exhaustive detail. It was a game they both enjoyed playing. This time there was no frenzied drive for control. He found it much more rewarding when he was relaxed and could absorb every detail of her response as he slowly drove her wild again and again.
In some distant part of his mind he thought that Nicky would probably tell him his new attitude had to do with acceptance of a forgotten past and relieving of guilt. It was something that they could discuss much later. Right now he was much too busy.
Jason positioned himself careful above her squirming body. She was still on her back, touching him everyplace she could reach and trying desperately to catch her breath. Her knees were bent when he slipped between her thighs. He placed her right heel on his shoulders and clamped her bent left knee to the mattress.
"Oh God," she whimpered. He had her trapped and if felt like heaven.
Leaning forward he ran his tongue over the shell of her ear. "You're right," he thrust deeply. She screamed in pleasure and wrapped her arms around him. "You are no shrinking violet." He thrust again. "And I love you." He buried himself deep inside of her.
"Jason," she cried and gripped his bottom tightly to keep up with him. "I lo…love…you too." She panted.
"Okay Babe, once more and then you can let go." He leaned forward to kiss his way to the sensitive spot he'd recently discovered behind her right ear.
"Pleassee." Her glistening dark eyes met his as he drove into her for the last time and they both exploded, together, watching the joy, pleasure and primitive need fill the other's face.
In the weeks that followed, they took the time to create an escape plan, much like Jason had for Nicky. They picked Crete and slowly began to build the necessary covers. It made them feel safe to know they had somewhere to go if anyone came hunting them.
Methodical examinations of their finances showed that between the two of them, if they were careful, they could live on their hill and never work again. They agreed it was a lifestyle neither wanted. It might attract attention and wouldn't leave them extra cash if they needed to run without liquidating. The immediate answer lay in the olive grove on their property. While Nicky worked to improve her artwork, Jason was in charge of their cash crop. It took research, physical labor and help from other local growers, but by the end of their second year, they were able to live easily off their earnings and save their stash of money for emergencies.
Nicky wasn't comfortable setting up an art stall for tourists and Jason agreed. Instead, she contracted with one of the local cafes to display her work for a small commission.
Two months after Jason Weston returned to Positano after supposedly helping a fellow comrade in arms through a difficult time, he and Colette Benoit were married in a small ceremony attended by Count Dinapoli and his family, Sylvie his housekeeper, and the fisherman S. Martini and his family.
They lived, loved, and raised two daughters on that plateau, never having to make use of their escape plan.
As time went by occasional rumor of Jason Bourne would circulate, but nothing ever led back to them and no one ever showed up at their door.
In all the years that followed, Jason never regained his memory. Occasionally there would be flashes, but they all centered on Nicky. As far as he was concerned, he remembered the best parts.
Agents who lived through the death and destruction caused by Treadstone, Blackbrier, Outcome, and the like, aged and moved upward or into the private sector. They remembered and respected the few powerful men and women who had survived those terrible years. But younger members of the CIA smiled and swapped rumors over beers, believing Bourne, Parsons, Cross and Shearing's exploits to be Urban Legend, entertaining, but exaggerated. Stories to keep the newest Rookies on their toes, "Watch your back or Jason Bourne will get you."