Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, just borrowed them for a bit.

Background: I've probably come a bit too late to MI 1988 fandom but never mind! Although I did watch it when it was on originally, it's only recently, since it's been on CBS that I've really got into it. It's the team dynamics that I feel put it above a lot of similar type shows. I recently watched the episode 'The Assassin', and this is my rather angsty epilogue . I haven't written any fanfiction for about four years, so if there is anyone out there who wants to read and review, be gentle with me!

The Assassin - Epilogue

He felt the soft skin of her neck under his fingers, the delicate bones that gave under the pressure as he squeezed harder. As she fought for breath, her eyes met his, full of terror and pleading, but he simply stared at her, his grip increasing . Deep down he knew what he was doing was wrong, but he could not stop, something was stopping him, and the more he tried to fight against it, the stronger his grip on her throat became. He felt her pulse tremble under his hands, as she clawed desperately at him, trying to free herself. It wasn't going to happen. Her life was his to do as he wanted. He squeezed harder...

Nicholas Black sat up in bed, gasping for breath, his hands clawing at his neck and sweat running down his face. Just a dream, no, the dream, again, night after night reminding him how close he had come to killing one of his best friends. As his breathing steadied, his fingers once again explored the skin behind his left ear, searching for the device that had made him so susceptible to the hypnotic power of a ruthless man. Both Jim and Grant had assured him that the device had dissipated, absorbed into his system, but in the darkest hours of the night he could swear he still felt it there, malignant, waiting to take control again, to rob him of his will...Taking a shaky breath, he checked the time on the illuminated hands of his watch – 2.45 am. Another night of broken sleep.

For a moment he just sat there, staring off into the shadows, but the walls of the beach house seemed to be pressing down on him, and he felt the sudden need to be outside in the open air. Moving quietly he slipped into a pair of linen trousers and padded outside, feeling the wooden boards rough beneath his feet, reminding him that this world, not the dream, was real.

The scented warmth of the night washed over him, soothing and calming. The soft moonlight glinted off the sand, and the waves lapped against the shore, a soft singing lullaby. At least this mission had landed them in Florida, not the Arctic Circle. He sat down on the steps leading to the beach, shivering slightly as the breeze blew cool against his bare skin, wondering how somewhere so idyllic could feel like such a prison.

Of course, the others had assured him that it wasn't his fault, that it could have happened to anyone, but it hadn't, he was the one who had lost control of his mind, who had almost murdered Shannon without thought, who woke in the dark hours wondering whether it could happen again.

Now they were here in Florida, another mission, life going on, everyone focused on a new problem, except him. He couldn't stop dwelling on the last case, and he knew it was affecting his judgement, that he was letting the team down again. He also knew that despite their protestations, the others hadn't entirely forgotten what had happened. Yesterday, when Jim had told Shannon that as part of the mission she would be sharing the beach house with him, he knew that he had seen a momentary flash of fear in her eyes, and it had damn near ripped his heart out.

The boards creaked behind him, and he turned round. Shannon stood silhouetted in the doorway, wearing a peacock coloured silk robe, her hair tousled from sleep.

"Nicholas?" Her voice was blurry, still not properly awake, "what's wrong?"

"Nothing," He whispered, "Go back to bed." For a moment there was silence, and he assumed that she'd gone, but of course that wouldn't be Shannon. Instead she sat down beside him, her arm lightly brushing his.

When Shannon looked closely at her friend she was shocked to see the dark shadows beneath his eyes, and the new lines of strain around his mouth. The spark that usually lit Nicholas from within had sputtered and died, leaving him empty. She couldn't believe that she hadn't noticed it before.

"How long has this been going on?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

"Since Westerley." He admitted, without thinking. "Shannon, I'm scared he's still in here." He tapped the side of his head. "Of what he could make me do. I can't lose control again." For a moment she was silent, and he thought that she was angry with him, but finally she replied:

"What was it like?" For a moment she didn't think he would reply, he just sat staring at the waves, so she took a breath and ploughed on. "I need to know Nicholas. When you tried to kill me, I looked into your eyes and all I could see was my death. It was like you weren't there at all." Beside her, she felt him tremble, and slipped her arm around his shoulders. She knew that what had happened wasn't his fault, but somewhere within her nestled a small fragment of betrayal, and she needed to work it out or she would never quite trust him again, and the loss of that trust frightened her . Her physical injuries had faded and disappeared, but the mental scars were proving a little harder to cure. All she could feel was him shaking, so she drew him close. "It's ok, Nicholas."

"No, Shannon, it's not ok. I don't know whether it's ever going to be ok. It's so hard to put it into words. I could see everything, feel everything. I knew it was wrong but I couldn't stop it. Had no control over anything. I felt as though I was being buried alive and would never get out." She heard the catch in his voice, but knew that for both their sakes, she had to let him continue. " I could have killed you – I felt my hands – my hands, around your neck. And I hit you...I don't think I can ever forgive myself for that." He buried his face in his hands. Feeling Shannon move, he thought that he had lost her. Instead, Shannon crouched down in front of him, easing his hands away.

"Nicholas," she said firmly, knowing now what she had to do. "Nicholas, look at me." Reluctantly he met her gaze, ashamed of the glint of tears in his eyes. "What happened was not your fault. You had no choice but to do what you did. Any of us could have been under cover on that mission it could have been Max, Grant, or even Jim."

"But it wasn't. It was me. What good am I to the mission if I can't even trust myself?"

" You tried to fight it Nicholas, you came through." She ran her fingers gently over the side of his neck where the device had been inserted. Such an awful thing, but it hadn't even left a mark, not a physical one at any rate. "It's over." She looked into his dark eyes, seeing something there that looked like hope . "You, Max, Grant and Jim are my family. I trust you with my life. Do you understand Nicholas? With my life." He drew her into his arms, whispering softly:

"Thank you."

Many miles away, seated at his desk, computer open in front of him, Jim Phelps smiled to himself. He didn't feel guilty about installing the microphones in the beach house, after all his only concern was the welfare of his team. He'd realised soon after the Westerley affair how badly Nicholas was suffering, and knew that whatever the others said, the only one who could give him absolution was Shannon.

Swiftly, he de-activated the bugs, and wiped the tape. Max and Grant were worried about their friends but Nicholas didn't need them to hear him bare his soul. Jim would simply tell them that his idea had worked, and that all would be well.

THE END