[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I'm so SO sorry for not updating this for nearly 3 months. There are no excuses other than being lazy and becoming obsessed with Alexander and Jared Leto fan fictions. What makes it even worse is I only had 2 measly chapters left. Thank you for hanging in there for my lazy muse to get off its butt. I'll try not to wait 3 more months before posting the final chapter.]
Chapter 48 – Michael and Caroline
Michael taped the last box shut and surveyed his spartan apartment. He had lived outside of Section for a few months, yet most of his time had been spent on missions. The apartment was as dreary and utilitarian in function as the day Kendo showed it to him. Now that the few personal possessions have been boxed up, the apartment looked empty with the exception of a few Section issued furnishings. There was little there to give an indication of the type of person who lived there. The apartment feel as empty as he sometimes felt. He thought it appropriate that he would not be leaving any trace of himself behind.
A knock on the door signaled the arrival of his neighbor Carlos. He doubled checked the security monitor anyway, as he was taught, and swung the door open once the visitor's identify was confirmed.
"Hi. Come on in."
"Hi yourself. What's this I hear about you leaving town for a few months?"
"I have to go visit my aunt Reeva who is very ill."
"Sorry to hear that. I hope she gets better."
"So you want me to take care of your plants while you're gone?"
"Sure. If that's not a problem."
"No sweat. You want me to just move them to my apartment?"
"That would be best."
The two transferred the few potted plants to Carlos apartment before returning to share drinks.
"When are you leaving?"
"You're going to be breaking lots of hearts with you leaving."
Michael just smiled slightly as Carlos continued. "You should have seen it the other day; I thought Lysette and Sharon were going to tear each other's hair out fighting over you."
"When was that?"
"The other night when you got called into work. I guess they're both interested in you and had called a girl truce regarding you."
"You know where neither makes a move out of respect for their friendship. Sorta like bro code where bros have priority before hoes."
Michael felt a brief tinge of sadness at the reminder of Adam who had first introduce that term to him. He suppressed the thought and forced himself to stay focused.
"Guess we'll just have to see that cat fight when you get back."
Carlos laughed at his deadpan delivery. "I'll let you get back to packing and good luck on your trip and to your aunt."
Less than a minute after closing the door behind Carlos, there came another knock on the door. Thinking Carlos had forgotten something, Michael opened the door without checking the security monitor.
He thought to himself – never assume; always check who's on the other side.
The elegant redhead stood on the opposite side of the door, surprise evident from Michael's unguarded reaction. "Can I come in?"
Michael held the door open to allow his trainer to come in. "Would you like something to drink?"
"Coffee if you have it."
Michael went into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee as Caroline slowly surveyed the packed boxes and suitcases. There wasn't much left to pack other than a few Section issued furniture
"You're almost done packing. When do you leave?"
"They need me there for a briefing tomorrow morning."
Michael handed a cup to his former trainer and took a sip from his own cup. He was uncomfortable having her there. They hadn't spent much time together once he had completed his training. The last time they were in the same room was for a mission. They had to be much more intimate and less clothed in that mission.
He watched as Caroline fidgeted with the cup, opening her mouth several times to start a conversation before thinking better of it and closing her mouth once more. She took a sip of her coffee before setting it down on the counter a bit too hard and spilled some of the coffee.
"Oh I'm sorry!" She nervously wiped at the spilled coffee.
Sensing she was on a verge of a panic attack, he asked directly: "What are you doing here, Caroline?"
"I…" She opened and closed her mouth a few times but no sound emerged. Finally she choked out: "I wanted to wish you luck at Section One."
"Why are you really here?"
Caroline watched him with huge panic stricken eyes before stammering out: "I wanted…I wanted to tell you that I…" She closed her eyes for a few heartbeats before taking a deep breath. "I…l..love you, Michael."
He looked at her pale face not knowing how to respond before settling on the truth: "I know."
Caroline's eyes snapped open at his softly spoken word, disbelief evident. "You knew?"
"Yes." Not wanting to keep her in suspense he continued: "I'm sorry, I don't feel the same way toward you."
Caroline's semi-hopeful expression fell as her whole body seemed to sag from the disappointment. Her eyes glinted as unbidden tears welled up before she swiped angrily at them. She stared for a long beat with overly bright eyes before raising her chin slightly in a challenge.
"Did you ever feel anything for me?"
- Pity, shame, anger, and helplessness - all those emotions ran through his mind at her question. He felt oddly reluctant to hurt her with the truthfulness and tried to deflect the question. "I respect you as my trainer and colleague."
"That's not what I'm asking, Michael. Did you have any feeling for me as a woman?" She walked toward him until they were only inches away. She looked directly into his eyes, daring him to break the gaze. "Did you ever desire me?"
Again he tried to deflect the question. "You are a very attractive woman."
Caroline raised her hand and placed it lightly against his cheek before drawing close and kissed him. He remained still as Caroline lightly caressed his lips before deepening the kiss. She drew back a little before begging breathlessly: "Kiss me please."
He slowly raised his hands before placing them lightly at her waist before angling his head to kiss her. Knowing it was a goodbye kiss, he put all the conflicted emotions for her into it. Thoughts of their time together flitted through his mind: the first meeting when she informed him of his new role, their first kiss during training, the way she taught him how to feign passion while drawing ecstasy from his partners, the first time they had sex as part of training, and the first time they had to perform on a mission.
He pulled back from the kiss as Caroline continued hanging on, clutching at his shoulder for support. Her eyes opened slowly as her dazed gaze met his. She looked down at his lips and licked her own unconsciously.
"Please Michael, for once make love to me because you want to, because you desire me."
He stiffened at her request, before placing his hands on her shoulder and gently pushing her away.
Her heated glance cooled at his rejection as tears welled in her eyes again, this time to flow unchecked down her cheeks.
She nodded at his whispered apology before turning stiffly toward the door. She paused after placing her hand on the door knob. After taking a deep breath, she turned to look at him. The look revealed the deep unfulfilled love she felt, making him feel guilty and angry at the same time: guilty for not being able to reciprocate, and angry that they had been brought together under such circumstances in the first place.
"I will never forget you, Michael."
"Neither will I."
She smiled sadly before sweeping the door open and stepping through, closing it softly behind her.
Caroline paused outside of Michael's apartment for a long breath before wiping her face clear of tears. Knowing her eyes revealed too much of her turmoil, she put on a pair of sunglasses before walking quickly away.
She reached home quickly since she only lived 5 minutes away from Michael. She poured herself a glass of wine, which immediately reminded her of one of their first lessons together. She closed her eyes as she remembered the way he looked. Michael had worn black pants with a fitted black t-shirt delineating the finely sculpted muscles on his broad chest. His hair was slightly damp from showering after a recent training session.
She had intended to teach him how to seduce using his expressive, mesmerizing eyes alone. Instead, she had been the one seduced instead. That night was when she first realized that she wasn't just infatuated with her material, but rather deeply in love.
She knew she should have reported it to Elsbeth and had another trainer assigned to him. She couldn't bear the thought of another person looking and touching him though. Despite the pain it caused her, she couldn't part with him, even to save her own sanity.
Absently she caressed her lips; still tingling from what she knew would be the final kiss from Michael. Her thoughts took her to memory of their first kiss. She had been teaching him how to seduce while dancing.
Their first kiss had been feather light, a mere grazing between the lips. It left her wanting more, so much more. Even though she pressed closer and more insistently, he had kept their kisses light, giving her a small taste of him, driving her slowly insane. When Michael finally deepened the kiss and she felt his tongue glide lightly against hers, all thought had fled until she was nothing but a mass of need and want.
She had completely lost control and any power over him then. Michael had been completely aware and in control though, never giving away his feeling over the situation. She took another sip of her wine and smiled bitterly. Well now she knew that he had felt nothing for her. Every innocent glance, smile, and touch that had so convinced her that some of the passion she felt for him was reciprocated was now proven to be a figment of her imagination.
It was a bitter pill to take to learn the man she had been passionately in love with for nearly 2 years felt nothing for her in return. She grimaced as she remembered the look in his eyes when she finally gathered the courage to ask him if he had any feelings for her.
Caroline had spent nearly two years watching every move he made, learning all his little tells, all the things he tried to hide from her. He had learned to control his emotions from being exposed. To the untrained eyes, his mask was impenetrable. However, despite how good his Section mask had become, it wasn't good enough to completely hide from her.
She felt tears spill down her face as she realized what he truly felt for her – pity. He had felt pity; she saw it clear as day for a split second before he had shuttered those beautiful expressive eyes. A sob issued unbidden from her mouth and she clamped her hand tightly over her mouth, forcing the despair back.
She wanted to curse at the unjust fate of it all. She had resigned herself to a life of captivity where she had to use her body like a weapon. She had come to almost a serenity of knowing she would never find love and will only know loneliness. Then fate threw a curveball at her by placing Michael in her path.
She couldn't curse too hard though, because even though all the fantasy of having her love reciprocated had been destroyed, she could not regret meeting him, being held by him, of loving him. Another sob escaped involuntarily from her mouth at the reminder that she would never see him again.
Caroline wryly held her glass up in a toast, wishing Michael luck in that snake pit called Section One. She savored the fine vintage, the full bodied flavor lying sensually against her palette. She closed her eyes, picturing Michael the way he looked when she first laid eyes on him.
Michael had been sitting on the bed with his back against the wall with one knee propped up with his arm resting over it. The bright room had lit his eyes, those mesmerizing greenish blue eyes framed by long dark lashes. That strong angular face had been softened by a riot of curls in shades of brown, auburn, and dark blonde.
Those eyes hadn't learned to mask their thoughts yet. She remembered the look in those eyes: caution, resignation, latent passion, and nobility. A sad smile remained on her face as she brought the pistol she had been holding and brought it up to her forehead.
"Michael." The soft word was sighed like a prayer before the mechanical sound of a trigger disrupted the silence, followed by the harsh sound of a gun discharging.
[AUTHOR'S NOTE: I resisted for so long to write this chapter because I always intended to kill Caroline from the beginning. For that I needed to be in a dark mood, but never could get into that dark place…hence the long LONG wait. Sorry again, and I hope to write the final chapter and revised prologue soon….hopefully sooner than 3 months.]