by Tara O'Shea email@example.com
| He was drowning.|
As awareness slowly, painfully returned, he panicked as the still black waters of the Lethe receded only to be replaced by a storm of memory. Fragments knit themselves back together piece by piece, thirty years taking shape from the dim grey expanse of oblivion.
He remembered the man in the dark suit standing by the gate to the garden, hat beneath his arm, his brown eyes rheumy and clouded as he told him his mother and father had been in an auto accident. He remembered thinking fifteen years old was too old to cry, that he must be a man and be strong for little Martine. He remembered the sweat dripping down the back of his neck on the train from Marseilles to Paris, everything he owned in the knapsack at his feet, and how the flies had lazily circled the flowers along the track.
He remembered the screams of the men as they burned when René set off the bomb. When they had set off the crude home-made bomb. The smell of the black greasy smoke hung in the air in his memory, coupled with the grip of the gendarmes as they held him down, cheek pressed against the cold wet cobbles, scraping the flesh across his cheekbone raw. He remembered the taste of blood in his mouth as he struggled in vain.
He remembered the sobs of his sister at his sentencing, her grasping hands plucking at his sleeve as the bailiffs had lead him out of the courtroom. He remembered the hot tears he hadn't shed as they had locked the manacles around his wrists, René watching from the street across the courtyard and on the other side of the fence. René watching as he stepped into the back of the truck. René standing free, while he was lead to prison, the deaths of three security guards and a janitor on his head and their screams still echoing in his nightmares.
He remembered the terror as he'd been roused from sleep in his cell not by the other prisoners, or worse, the guards—but men in white coats who never spoke. Ma soeur, ma soeur... he'd sobbed as they'd strapped him in the chair with nylon restraints and rolled up his sleeve. He'd cried then, as the darkness came to swallow him, and he remembered the calm acceptance of oblivion that was shattered by harsh fluorescent lights as he'd awakened in Hell.
He'd tasted the memory of ash in the back of his throat as Jurgen had handed him the black and white photograph of little Martine, solemn in her black frock which was too short, her hand in René's larger one as they stood beside a fresh grave. There was no headstone, but a plaque. "Michel Samuelle," Jurgen had said, his eyes like chips of ice, utterly cold and unfeeling, "born 1965, died 1985. As far as the outside world knows, you died in prison by you own hand."
He remembered the exhilaration at firing his first gun, the bullets tearing through the paper target. He remembered the horror of shooting another human being, the bullets ripping through flesh as if it were paper. And with a pang of revulsion, he remembered how much easier it had become, with practice.
He remembered Simone's laugh as she'd thrown him to the mat the day they'd met—the electric shock of her touch as she'd offered him her hand to help him rise. He remembered her soft cries of pleasure the first time they had made love. Remembered her screams as she gave birth to their son, and then her tears as the nurse had disappeared with their son before he was hours old, his tiny face mottled, dark hair standing up in tufts around his head. He remembered her stony silence as he'd told her their toddler had died in his sleep with his adoptive parents asleep in the next room. He remembered holding her even though she refused to cry.
He remembered the look on Madeline's face when he had confronted her—her dark eyes empty as he'd raged and screamed and then finally sagged against the wall and cried. He remembered waking from the nightmares alone in his bed, Simone asleep on the couch.
He remembered the smell of the rain and the fresh turned earth as they had stood by the tiny grave, and heady smell of white roses that bruised under the slightest pressure.
He remembered standing outside a small stone church in Marseilles as his nephew had been christened, and not going inside.
He remembered the last time he and Simone had made love.
He remembered waking in the infirmary, Operations standing over him like some great black bird. He remembered the pattern of the tile on the ceiling as he'd been told Simone was dead. He remembered feeling hollow, like a bell. There had been no tears that time. He had just become cold, an empty dead thing with his face.
He remembered the terrified, wide-eyed gaze of a homeless girl as she had awakened to white walls and row eight, plot thirty.
He remembered how, even through her terror, she had blinded him with her life. It spilled from her like light, reaching inside him to chase away the shadows. The harder he resisted, the more he became lost in her smiles, her enthusiasm, seduced by her innocence and sheer exuberance. Like a desperate man he tried warming his cold heart by the brilliant fire of her life. And a tiny spark lodged within him to burn slowly. He despaired of seeing her broken and remade in his image, and jealously guarded her even as he marvelled at how she turned her weakness to strength. He remembered his awe at her hope that never wavered even as her innocence was drowned in blood.
He remembered the fierce need that bound them together. Her thirst for love in a life devoid of caring, and his need to save someone after losing all those he could not save. Not for her sake, at first, but his.
He remembered the betrayal in her eyes as she flung herself into his waiting limousine, bleeding and chilled and terrified. He remembered her tears over the first man she had killed. He remembered her scent from the first time they'd danced in Bauer's house—the clean smell of lavender that had made him flash on that first evening in Paris and a blue-eyed boy selling sachets of the dried flowers from a brightly painted cart on the steps of Notre Dame cathedral. He remembered the way she had tasted, the first time he had kissed her.
He remembered the sound of the helicopter blades vibrating through him as Nikita had told him Sparks had his wife. That his wife was alive.
He remembered crying as he had held Simone's bruised and broken body in his arms in a rat infested cell, the first tears he had cried in so long... He remembered the taste of ash in the back of his throat as Simone had left him—choosing revenge over his love. He remembered how somehow the loss was worse the second time, weighted by the guilt of two years of unspeakable torture and isolation. He remembered wanting to die that night.
He remembered instead going with Nikita to a crowded coffee house and barely speaking, just sitting, her hand in his warm and reassuring.
He remembered realising he had something to live for.
He remembered sitting in a cage in Morocco and realising what had begun as need had become something more—something else. The realisation that the could no longer be a party to the callous destruction of her fragile hope. Even in their cages, weak and bloody from torture, her hope had warmed him. Touched a part of him he'd lost.
He remembered the truth the lies had freed him to tell.
He remembered setting her free, and the months that had followed when he had condemned himself for destroying her.
He remembered the frenzied exploration of each other's bodies when they'd found each other again, the boat bobbing on the waves beneath them as the night gave way to the dawn. He remembered how the spark inside him had flared brightly for a moment, a dim, pale echo of life as she had slept in the circle of his arms.
He remembered the slow, languid lovemaking, becoming reacquainted with one another, spying eyes and cameras forgotten as they revelled in the freedom the game provided them—even knowing it could only be a dream.
He remembered waking before her, and watching her sleep, and the sorrow at knowing it could only ever be a dream.
He remembered looking her straight in the eye and lying about Janick.
He remembered every single lie.
He remembered waking in her bed, not knowing who he was or even who she was. He remembered her smile, the gentle way she had looked after him. The pain in her eyes as they had danced. He remembered that he was the source of that anguish behind her pale eyes. He was its sole author—and there was no one else to blame, not any more.
He remembered trust and pain and longing and hope.
He remember telling her that he loved her.
He opened his eyes, stared at the ceiling. He tried to lean forward and see if she was still there, but fell back against the bed. He heard the rustle of cloth as she came to his side, fatigue making tiny lines around her eyes as she tried to smile.
"How are you feeling?" she asked.
"I've been shot?" he asked, and she nodded.
"Yeah. You were shot yesterday on a mission in Lukenwalde, Germany."
"Germany." He paused. "No, we were in Amsterdam," he lied. "In a dance club. You were trapped in a room. I broke position, then..." he drifted off, bringing one hand to his head, eyes darting back and forth. "Where's Operations? I need to debrief."
"Something happened, Michael," Nikita explained gently. "You were grabbed in Amsterdam and taken to Perez. He did something to your memory; you haven't been able to remember who you are for the last three days."
"Do they know?"
"No, I protected you."
"Thank you," he said, and meant it. She gingerly removed her hand from his arm and smiling awkwardly, turned to go.
He stared at the tile on the ceiling, feeling hollow inside, and tasted ash.
,br> Disclaimer: Michael, Nikita, Section One and just about everything else is © 1996-8 LFN/WB.