Author's Notes: So... I'm finished. I'm not entirely happy with how this turned out, but I can't seem to wrestle anything else out of it. I hope you like it as much as I liked writing it (as laaaame as that sounds)!
You could create a scene where Bourne would realize from what Nicky was saying that they had a past together. And that past would be ambiguous, but meaningful… – Feature Commentary, Bourne Ultimatum
They post her with Daniels after Berlin. Landy put in a good word, apparently. Her first meeting with Neal goes smoothly, and it feels sickeningly like he's just her latest asset. They meet over coffee. Discuss business. Talk in codes.
She's feeling him out. Asking loaded questions. She can't take a step forward if she isn't 100 percent certain because she only gets one chance. (And he was high up in Treadstone. Call her overcautious, but she won't make the same mistake twice.)
Finally she makes the move. "I have a friend," she says quietly, before taking a sip of lukewarm tea, "Simon Ross. Ever heard of him?"
Neal raises his eyebrows, mildly disinterested. "A journalist, right?"
"Yeah. Nice guy. He's looking to do a story on Jason Bourne. Trying to find out more information on Treadstone."
Neal stiffens, his eyes flying to hers. She keeps her blue eyes pinned to his face, not allowed him to look away. She went to school to learn how to get inside people's heads and she's doing it now like she never even wanted to before: she's been putting words and thoughts there since she met him and now he's finally ready.
"I can set up an interview with him, if you'd like," she says casually. Like it's nothing.
Neal is quiet for a long time. Then he nods.
The day after Simon Ross is killed, Nicky goes to Neal's apartment. He wanted her to grab some things for him, some clothing, some pictures. (She figures she owes him this much, at least.)
She opens the door and walks in and there he is. Pointing a gun at her head, just like last time. (But this time is different, too.) The phone rings and she answers, eyes on his gun as she says, "Everest."
He keeps the gun steady, point blank between her eyes, and she thinks how he used to kiss her there, where her forehead meets her nose. It's the only place she'd want him to put a bullet, if he had to.
"How long do I have?"
"Three minutes." She hesitates for a minute. Most of her is screaming to let him go, just let him walk away. Maybe he'll even make it. Is it possible to give up an entire life for a man you knew for two years? For a man that doesn't love you, doesn't like you, doesn't give a shit if you live or die?
She knows how this will end. She'll be dead, or she'll be in hiding, without him, unable to contact those that would have once made the separation bearable. He still won't know about the mornings they spent making fun of her next-door neighbors or that she still buys strawberry-scented shampoo (because it was his favorite).
She gives it all up anyway.
"My car's outside. I know where Daniels is."
He lowers the gun.
She'll never say it out loud, but it feels almost—almost—like it did before. Pausing before the door, searching for keys, where are you parked?
They go to a restaurant. For the first time in four years, Nicky Parsons orders coffee. He doesn't even recognize what he's doing as he hands her two creams and a sugar packet—just the way she likes it, the way she always did; but she doesn't disillusion herself. She knows he doesn't remember, won't think anything of it. It's just the way it is with him.
She makes herself brave as she asks, "Why did you come back? Why are you looking for Daniels?"
He hands her a picture and starts to explain, slowly, looking at her in a way he hasn't since the amnesia. Like they are back at the beginning, she is his handler and he is having headaches.
She gives him what he's been looking for: a reason why he was what he was. A reason he was ever cold enough to terminate human lives without a second thought. "Daniels said that training was experimental. Behavior modification. They had to breakdown the agents before they became operational. He said … he said you were the first one."
What she really means is: it's not your fault. They did this to you, it's not your fault.
His voice is quiet, like it was when he asked if she ever regretted doing the job they did. (She'd change her answer a million times over, if she could.) "Why are you helping me?"
And she knows David Webb, knows him inside and out, so she doesn't bother trying to lie. Even an innocent lie will make him unable to trust her, and Nicky can't risk that. Not if she wants to survive. She looks down at her coffee cup, running her thumb along the edges, still tasting it in her mouth. It has been a long time.
"It was … difficult for me, with you."
Words she could have used in place of 'difficult': excruciating, unbearable, devastating. Lonely.
He simply looks at her, hearing but not quite understanding, eyes still far away. And despite knowing the answer already, she can't help but ask, "You really don't remember anything?"
David looks sad. "No." A brief pause. His eyes flick over her shoulder. "We have to move."
He doesn't know what that means, "difficult", but he's not an idiot. He knows the look that Nicky was wearing when she said it. It was the same look Marie got when she watched The Titanic and Jack drowned in the end.
That look like you're holding on and letting go at the same time.
She can't help herself. She talks into the silence. "Do you still get headaches?" She asks, sitting Indian style in the front seat because she knows he always hated it. (What does it matter now? He doesn't remember.)
He looks at her from the corner of his eyes, suspicious. She smiled tiredly. "I was your psychologist, D…Jason. Consider it professional interest." She pauses. "You don't have to talk about it if you don't want. I just want to help you in the best way I know how."
There's a long silence, and she knows him well enough not to press. So she waits for a good five minutes before he says softly, "Yeah. They come when I haven't had enough sleep, mostly."
She nods, biting her lip. "That's what caused them before." She points to the side of the road. "Pull over."
He blinks. "What?"
"Pull over," she repeats firmly. "It's getting dark. I'm driving."
He shakes his head. "You don't know where we're going. No."
She rolls her eyes, exasperated, and says, "I'll look at a map. We both know that the headlights hurt your eyes and I'm sorry but I am not going to come all this way just for both us to die in a car wreck. It's stupid. You don't have to sleep, you can even be a backseat driver if you really can't help yourself. Just let me get behind the wheel."
He's so startled that he obeys, pulling over and switching seats silently. It's a while before he says, "You remember?"
She looks at him. "Remember what?"
"Me. The sensitivity to light, the—the headlights. I can't drive with them."
Nicky smiles sadly into the dark. "Jason," she says, "I remember everything."
The questions start slowly, but as he asks they come quicker and more excitedly. She wondered when it would occur to him that she would know the most about him, about his old life.
She tells him about where he lived, about his favorite rugby team (football, he used to tell her, is for cowards), about what he did in his free time. (She leaves herself out of it. It's ground they don't need to fall through.)
It takes him a while to finally ask, and she's unprepared when he does. "How did we meet?"
She holds her breath, wondering how to say it. You tricked me into falling in love with you. "I helped you stop your headaches," she decides finally.
He looks interested. "How?"
Nicky can't help the little smile that spreads across her face, remembering. But for the first time, she really understands. He can't give her what she wants, and she doesn't have what he needs.
(An accent. The last name of Kruetz.)
"You know," she says with a slow, sad grin, "I can't seem to remember. Sudafed, I think?"
She pushes the through the crowd, heart speeding, breath heavy. What would David tell her? Be strong. Don't be scared. Keep a clear head. Stay where it's crowded, keep people between the two of you.
Find a place to hide until I can find you. You can't outrun him.
She breaks into a house and hides in the bathroom, afraid that the sound of her heart is too loud. He must be able to hear it. All of Tangier must be able to hear it.
Nicky realizes that she's waiting for David. She's waiting for him to swoop in and save the day.
She takes a deep breath. She can't wait forever.
He sees the empty table and her phone torn to pieces in the street. And he thinks, Oh God, Nicky.
Less then a month ago he almost put a bullet through her brain, but that was before she turned those eyes on him—those big blue eyes that make him want to tell her everything. That make him want to hear her say that it's okay. That everything's okay.
He thinks he might believe her if she did.
Fist, palm, elbow.
All of these, smashing into David's face.
Nicky doesn't think. She just follows her body as it leaps at Desh, jamming her fingers into his mouth and dragging him off of David. His elbow finds her chest and she hits the floor, blinking dazedly up at it.
Somehow thinking, I suck at fighting.
She staggers slowly to her feet and to the bathroom; Desh is dead on the floor, his blood on David's hands. Wordlessly, she takes his hand and leads him to the car. "Let's get you cleaned up," she says, and presses a hand to her chest where Desh got her. It aches.
They drive to a hotel and she goes to the bathroom to get a towel for him. (She's thinking of the first time this happened. The first time she told him her real name.) He's studying his hands as he starts speaking. "I can see their faces. Everyone I ever killed. I just don't know their names. Marie used to try to … help me remember the names. I've tried to apologize for what I've done, for what I am. But none of it makes it any better."
She can't stop herself. She reaches out and grabs his hand. It's the only thing she can give him, for now. He won't take anything else. (There's no room left in him for Nicky Parsons. He gave it all to Marie. She's learning to accept this.)
"They'll come for you again," he tells her softly. "You're going to have to run now."
She knows David Webb inside and out, and she knows when she's being sent away. "I'll be right back," she promises, and gives his hand a squeeze.
She's dyeing her hair. It's black and cut short.
He almost can't breathe for a minute, because it's Marie all over again. It's Marie only this time he isn't taking care of her, not really; Nicky Parsons can't fight and can't even really take a hit, but she's smart and she knows what she's up against.
She dyes her hair without being told, she cuts it without asking for help.
She is unassuming, sweet-tempered, and has a face and body so petite he thinks she belongs in a dollhouse. (Marie was never like that; being around her was like standing in the middle of a hurricane drinking margaritas. It's what he loved best about her; her life.) But there's something else to her, too, something made of iron and steel and brick. He catches her eyes in the mirror and she just… looks at him, like she's drinking him in, like she's not afraid of anything, not even him.
He thinks about what she said in the restaurant. It was hard for me, with you. He wants to know why he knew how many creams and sugars she'd want for her coffee, why she threw herself at Desh, how she knew just the right way to take care of him.
He wants to know why she cut her hair. It was long and full, in Paris.
She puts it on his bed before they leave. She's carried it since Paris, her copy, not quite able to let him go, not until now. He's waiting in the car, so he won't see it until he gets back.
Her parting gift. A goodbye. (They didn't get one last time.)
She turns to look at him one last time before getting on the bus. It might be the last time, she knows that.
There are a million things she wants to say, but none of them to the man who doesn't know her. None of them to Jason Bourne, all of them to David Webb, so she takes a deep breath and turns around.
Ever since they met, all she's done is hurt him. And she has to be in the best place for her, even if it hurts.
His voice stops her: "It gets easier."
He's never been a good liar. Not to her. She boards the bus.
She doesn't say anything when he drops her off at the station. It doesn't even look like his words have helped at all.
He drives back to the hotel to clean up, leave nothing behind. There's something on the bed, something that wasn't there before. A file. On a post-it, Nicky's written in small, concise handwriting:
You're target history. Names for the faces.
She enrolls at college as Rebecca Nichols. She's studying to become a kindergarten teacher. She lives on the beach and sometimes when she stares out at the ocean, it's like he's looking back.
She'll never forget him, her David; he is a part of her that she can't simply erase. The truth is that she's changed, is Nicky Parsons. She is not the same unassuming, sweet-tempered young lady she was at the beginning.
There is more to her, now. She's careful with those eyes of hers, of turning them onto people. She knows the dangers of taking someone's hand and saying that it's okay, that everything's okay (I am so, so proud of you).
Still, it is what it is. She's not twenty-six anymore. Maybe some things just aren't meant to—
"Rebecca Nichols again, huh?"
She turns, book falling out of her hands.
He's standing in the doorway, looking at the floor, hands in his pockets.
He's holding a cup of coffee.
There are a lot of things to take care of, with his memory back. Marie still haunts him from around corners and the passenger seats of cars, still speaks to him sometimes in his dreams.
But Nicky does, too.
Nicky, and her long blonde hair that she cut off for him (because of him). Nicky, who'd called him David when he asked and fixed him when he was bleeding. Nicky, who always smelled of strawberries.
Nicky, who he'd been in love with since he first set eyes on her, making jokes about Superman and talking about his job like he was anyone else on the street. Who'd confessed, blushing, to hating tea and missing coffee, who ate Tostitos with red wine.
Nicky, who'd given him everything she had and when she was empty, given more. Who had been forgotten, abused, who gave him to Marie despite what it meant for her. He has put a gun to her head, has threatened to kill her (has meant it), has steamrolled over her heart and her mind and what is left of her innocence.
So he finds her. You can find anyone if you look hard enough.
She's holding a hand against the wall, waiting. "What's wrong?" She asks. "I saw the news, about Blackbriar." She hesitates. "Congratulations."
He's just looking at her, in a way that is so achingly familiar. In a way he hasn't since he had any idea who she was.
"Nicky," he says softly. "I wanted—" He pauses. She waits. Then, "Two creams, one sugar, right?"
She smiles, bewildered, taking the drink. "Yeah," she says, "But I have to tell you, I don't really like French coffee."
"It's all right. I got it from Café Paris. We decided it was the perfect cup, don't you remember?"
She doesn't catch it at first, but then her whole body goes rigid. "The Café …?" Her hand goes to her mouth. "Do you—what do you—are you—David?"
The name rips out of her, tearing her throat as it goes.
Her voice breaks on his name—his name, his real, honest-to-God name—and then she's falling onto her knees.
She still iron and steel and brick but she's looking at him with those eyes—those eyes with the sky inside them—and there are tears in her eyes and he's praying, God, don't let me hurt her again.
Don't let anyone hurt her ever again. Let it all just be okay.
He kneels before her and takes her hands in his, holding them against her chest. And she's bawling, bawling like a little baby. She can't help it. Six years of loss and hurt and grief and now here he is, kneeling before her and saying, "Nicky, Nicky," over and over again like he used to, like he knows her, like he loves her.
It will take time, she knows; time to overcome what six years of loss and separation has given them. To overcome the guilt—on both sides—and to relearn the other.
Because he is no longer simply an asset, and she is no longer simply a handler. They are iron and steel and brick, they are David Webb and Nicky Parsons, they are human beings. And that is the most dangerous, and the most wonderful, things that they can be.
She leans into him, not caring about anything but feel of his arms finally, finally back where they belong.
Nicky Parsons is home.