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Off The Grid - Ch 3 - Counting The Cost

Disclaimer: See the first chapter.
Rating: R - note rating change!
Pairing: Bourne/Nicky
AN: There are spoilers for all three movies in this chapter.. I had hoped this would be the end, but Nicky and Jason had minds of their own. This is a bit darker than planned. Again, blame Nicky and Jason, and maybe Pam Landy, too.

Off The Grid

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by
Lattelady

Ch 3 - Counting The Cost


All I know is’ I’m lost,
And I’m counting the cost,
My emotions are in a spin!
I don’t know who to blame…
- Dangerous Game - from Jekyll & Hyde


....................................................................


Tangier, Morocco – January, 2007

As the bus pulled out of the station, Nicky Parsons slumped in her seat. She was numb. It felt as if her physical world was moving in slow motion. Her feelings were left frozen in a café where she and Jason Bourne had stopped for coffee halfway between Madrid and the Strait of Gibraltar. Rational thought was lost in the twists and turns of the back alleys of Tangier. With fingers that shook, she side her sunglasses on her face and waited for her mind, body and emotions to catch up. She was terribly afraid that once that happened, she would crumple as she had when she was left alone in a cold room under Alexanderplatz Station, six weeks earlier. But this time there was no locked door to hide behind.

She could remember Jason’s voice from years ago as he’d said, ‘Ya gotta keep it together, remember that, Babe, no matter what happens, never fall apart, especially in public.’

‘I’m trying. I really am,’ she thought and stared out her window in hope of catching one last glimpse of him, but he was gone, as she knew he would be. She was left watching the empty place on the platform where he’d been moments earlier and tried not to acknowledge the emptiness that threatened to close in around her. She was on the run, off the grid and now very much alone.

Nicky wished she could pinpoint the exact moment in the last few week when her life had become surreal. It was too much, too much. She remembered thinking that same thought in the storage closet in Berlin, but this time refused to give in to it. That way led to tears and loss of control, none of which she could afford right now. Her chin rose and a look of determination crossed her face. Maybe she was better off if she kept her feelings locked away, at least for the time being.

The bus moved slowly through heavy afternoon traffic. Through the open window, she heard a background buzz of Arabic highlighted by honking horns. Nicky was on her way to Ceuta, one of the Spanish owned cities along the North African coast. The plan had been for her to head out from there, to lose herself in one of the many ports of the Mediterranean and the countries beyond. She figured she had approximately twelve hours before the CIA realized it had been fooled and discovered it was their assassin who had been killed in a bathroom in Tangier, not Bourne or her. Time was running out and she had to keep moving. She’d crossed the line when she’d thrown in her lot with Jason and helped him escape in Madrid. The false messages she’d sent diverting Daniel’s killer would be tracked back to her, as well. There was no doubt in her mind that sometime in the next eighteen hours another kill order would be placed and her name would be on it as well as Jason Bourne’s.

Before the Wombosi mission, she’d created false identities, slowly liquidated her American assets, laundered the proceeds through untraceable CIA connections and set up a Swiss account. But it had been done to give Jason peace of mind. He’d needed to know she had an escape route if things went bad.

After Paris, and the destruction of Treadstone, she’d understood why he’d been so insistent. Someday the powers-that-be were going to look in her direction and realize that she knew too many hidden secrets to be left alive. When that time came, she had to be able to drop off the grid and stay lost or die. So she’d begun the process of changing the funds in her hidden account into Euros and transferring them to the main branch of Banca d’Italia, under one of her new identities.

In the six weeks since Berlin, Nicky had spent the time waiting and watching. She’d known her time was running out. But looking back on all the careful preparation over the last four years, she realized she’d left out one important detail. She’d never really believed that when the time came for her to run, that she’d be doing it by herself. Her heart had always believed that Jason would be by side. Instead he had sent her on her way and he’d gone hunting.

He’d been hunting Neal Daniels when he’d arrived in Madrid, not looking for her, so what else should she have expected?—‘Don’t think about it, don’t think about him or what a nightmare the last twenty-four hours has been.’—She clenched her teeth to bite down on her emotions. With a shake of her now dark hair, she forced her thoughts away from their conversation in the café outside of Gibraltar. Away from the careful man, the observant man, the one who had been chasing his past for two years, but who looked away and pulled back, rather than examine clues that might lead to his previous life which involved her.

‘This isn’t helping,’ she chided herself. She needed to plan ahead, but kept wondering where Jason was going. What he would do when he got there was a forgone conclusion. She looked at her reflection in the bus window and squarely faced her dilemma. She had to know how this all ended, that he was all right, that he survived. Then she would drop off the grid.

Her sharp mind and excellent memory quickly sorted facts. The debacle that had been Treadstone was already being hinted at in the news. One small push in the right direction and it was going to spit wide open. She knew that Bourne planned on doing a hell of a lot more than pushing. In seconds her mind was made up. She would head for Palma, the largest city in Majorca. The island was a perfect place to hide temporarily. It was Spanish, full of tourists, especially young ones, and had daily broadcasts of MSNBC. She wouldn’t get twenty-four news like she could, if she were in America or Canada, but most of Europe had daily updates of that station. She would watch from there.
…………………………………..
New York – January 2007

He hit the water so hard it took his breath away. It felt good to let go, to just float in the cold depths. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he’d done it before. He could feel the throb of pain from a bullet wound growing numb as time slowed and it became difficult to think.

A flash of white light sparked behind his eyelids. He could see her, the woman from his dream. Her long blonde hair was still covering her face as she lay across his bed, and her hand reached out for him, imploring him to take it. It was a hand he knew. It was familiar and for some reason he could see it curled around his hands…his hands with bloodied knuckles and broken skin….

Emotion surged through his body and he kicked out, fighting his way to the surface. His lungs burned from lack of oxygen. He was almost there, he could do it and then he did, as he gasped for air. Along with the air, his memory returned. He knew who he was, or who he had been, but the rest was still blank.

He was David…David Webb. He shook his head and refused to let his mind dwell on the still lost memories of most of his life as Jason Bourne. With swift sure strokes he swam through the fridged water of the East River. The current was strong, but he moved though it at a diagonal. He knew he’d been shot in the thigh. He’d felt the bullet’s impact, but his limbs were growing numb from the cold. If he didn’t make shore soon, he’d be swept out to sea.

Luck was with him, the tide was out. There were patches of rock and concrete at the base of the retaining wall to FDR drive. They gave him something to grab onto. He climbed out of the water, shook himself and kept right on going. He was Webb now, but it was Bourne’s instincts that keep him alive. He closed his mind to the pain and cold and made his escape.

An hour later, curled in the basement of an old building, wearing dry clothes he’d stolen from a small retail sporting goods store, he fell asleep. His last thought was that he was Webb and glad the memories he had of Bourne began when Greek fishermen had pulled him out of the Mediterranean.

He slept soundlessly until just before dawn, when he moaned and turned in his sleep trying to pull away from the dream that was filling his mind. Desire heated his blood and his body responded. He wanted desperately to go back to bed and the woman who had curled in arms all night long. With a sigh, David gave up the battle and dreamt Jason’s dream….
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As he walked from the kitchen into his bedroom in Paris, he knew it was early, not yet dawn. With a smile on his lips, he watched the slim blonde woman pretend to sleep. She lay on her stomach, with her face buried against his pillow, her arm flung out and her hair trailing over her cheek and brow. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Her pale skin shimmered in the setting moon, against his deep blue sheets.

“Jason,” her voice was groggy as she held out her hand for him.

“Time to wake-up.” He rested a knee on the mattress and caressed her naked back.

“You have such wonderful hands,” she sighed and arched into his touch.

“We need to talk…” He frowned, unsure what was going on. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her hand resting in his. Suddenly he felt like he was an observer as well as a participant in the dream. Something was wrong; this wasn’t how it went!

“I know, I’m sorry…we agreed…” Nicky Parsons turned over and pulled the sheet to her chin as she interlocked his fingers with hers.

“Noooo….”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
New York – January 2007

“No!” David who had been Jason gasped as he shook himself awake in a cold basement in New York. “Marie, it should have been Marie!” he cried in anguish. He’d known for weeks that the woman in his dream wasn’t the one who’d died in India, but this was too much. The discovery he’d just made filled his mind with flickering images that he wanted to deny, but couldn’t…..

……..the way he couldn’t stop looking at Nicky, with her long blonde hair and tailored sweater suit, when he’d confronted Conklin at the Safe House two years ago…..

………his anger and need to get off the gird. The bits and pieces he’d learned about his life, but couldn’t defend because his memory only went back three weeks. But even with his need to run, he was choked with the thought that he was leaving something essential behind……

……..dark eyes that begged him for recognition, as he left her alone in the Safe House with Treadstone falling down around her head…..

………the shock that had been like a tiny electrical charge, making him pull back and take his finger off the trigger, as he recognized the slim short-haired blonde woman caught in the scope of his Sig Sauer 3000 as she stood beside Pamela Landy in Berlin…..

………the overwhelming need to be with that woman, to touch her and talk to her, even as he grieved for Marie All the time he told himself it was only to get information…..

……….anger that had burned inside of him as he shoved Nicky against the wall and shouted at her. The need to hold Marie’s name between them as he made the girl cry when he had his weapon pressed to her head……

………the tiny voice inside of him that had taunted him with the sure knowledge that no matter what happened he could not pull the trigger…..

………the sorrow on her face as she stared across a desk in Madrid and met his eyes when he once again pointed his 9mm Glock at her…..

……….sitting in a café, in southern Spain, her silences had said more than her words. The way her eyes looked into his, and the dead tone in her voice when she asked him, “You don’t remember anything do you?”…..

……..his refusal to delve any deeper, though he knew he should. The sudden need to look away, unable to see the pain in her eyes or ask the questions that hung between them……

………the fear and fierce need to protect her when he realized that she was being chased through the alleys of Tangier……

……….her hand as it covered his bloody knuckles, sitting in a cheap rented room…..

……….her hand as it had appeared in his dream……

…….....her hand……

“Nicolette?” her name tumbled from his lips and made him shudder. It meant something, but God it hurt to believe that it did…that she did. Part of him wanted to insist his discovery was an hallucination, or something rooted in his imagination, created because he’d been with her so recently, but he couldn’t. There were too many clues to be ignored. Sometime in the past, when he’d lived in Paris, they had been lovers. How and what it meant he wasn’t sure.

When he’d been in Moscow he’d swore he’d find the woman in his dream, but now since he knew her identity it felt like a betrayal to Marie’s memory. He’d already betrayed her enough. Maybe there was a compromise? There was one thing he could do for Nicky that wouldn’t touch Marie. It would be dangerous, but the more he thought about it, the greater the need grew inside of him.
……………………………..
Pamela Landy was exhausted. She’d been up all night, tying up loose ends, and doing damage control on a story that she would have rather had shouted from the rooftops. It was ten in the morning and she had to pack for her afternoon flight home, to Washington D.C. She walked the few blocks to her hotel, but she couldn’t make herself hurry. Something was nagging at the back of her mind. She’d missed something, but didn’t know what it was. When she rounded a corner, a man gently bumped against her arm and the purse that hung over her shoulder. It startled her and she automatically turned taking a step toward him to defend herself if need be. But he never looked back or to the right or the left. He simply went on as if she didn’t even exist. Her first thought was, ‘Yeah, that’s right, I’d forgotten I’m in New York, the city of rude and rushed…’ But there was something about the set of his shoulders and the way he held his head that was familiar.

“Jason?” she whispered as she reached into her bag. She knew she would either discover that her wallet had been stolen or….”Yes,” she murmured as her fingers closed around a cell phone that hadn’t been there moments earlier.

Even as she was thinking about it, the phone rang in her hand. “Landy, here,” she answered quietly.

“You still look tired, Pam. The last time we talked like this, I thought I suggested that you should get some sleep?”

‘Yeah, well a lot has happened since then.” She looked around and didn’t see him anywhere, but knew he couldn’t have gotten far. “What’s this all about, Ja—David? Playing phone tag is getting old.”

“I need to stay dead.”

“That’s hard without a body, are you sure you wouldn’t rather come back in?”

“You and I both know that isn’t a good idea.” He was guilty and would deserve any punishment they gave him, but they had to catch him first.

“You were drugged. Your mind had been tampered with. Conklin and Abbott used you for their own gain.” She tried to convince him that he would be safe. “We’ve got documentation to prove it.”

“So I should pled innocent by reason of insanity? I don’t think so, Pam. I’ve already spent enough time letting them play with my brain.” He looked off into the distance and finally voiced his real worry. “Once they’re through with Blackbrier, they’ll be after anyone who had anything to do with Treadstone. My coming in will make them want to dig deeper, sooner”

“Ahh…” suddenly she heard the words he wasn’t saying. He knew, like she did, that eventually Nicky Parsons would be dragged into all this. The fact that the girl was on the run only served to make her look guiltier to people who didn’t know the secrets beneath the system. “I’ll do what I can to keep her name out of it.” If she expected a response on the other end of the phone, she didn’t get one so she went on. “But there have been whispers in the press about Jason Bourne. That reporter who was killed in London didn’t help matters. I can’t give you any guarantees about either of you.”

“I understand.” It was as close as he came to admitting that some of his actions weren’t purely self-motivated. “I need a favor. It would be easier to get out of the country if you could keep me clear of it for a few days.” It wasn’t true. He came and went, when and where he pleased, that was one skill he remembered, but the less anyone in authority know about it the better. “After that I need a message sent.”

“What kind of message?”

“Give me two, maybe three days and then leak it to the press that my body was never found. That should be enough.”

“David…’

‘I’ve got to go. Keep the phone. You never know when it might ring.”

“Wait, just tell me that she’s safe,” but her words were wasted, the line was dead. Pamela Landy felt old and dirty as she pocked the cell and walked slowly through the doors to her hotel. Up until six weeks ago she’d loved her job and really believed she was doing some good, now she found herself in a mess of conspiracy and death.

As she ran her keycard through the locking mechanism, with one hand and balanced a cup of coffee with the other, she had a moment of déjà vu. It was like it had been in the Berlin Westin, when she was standing in the corridor, waiting for a dark-eyed girl to open her door. ‘Nicky you’re better than anyone ever knew,’ Pam thought with a flash of insight. It hadn’t been Conklin who’d given Parsons the extra training, but Jason Bourne.

For the first time in weeks the section chief smiled. She didn’t know what there had been between Parsons and Bourne but whatever it was, it had kept the girl alive and she had to believe that it would continue to do so.
…………………………………
Three days later Pam was making coffee in her kitchen in Georgetown when the early morning news began. She’d been getting questions about Bourne, from the press, each night when she left the Senate hearings, but she’d refused to talk about anything that was going on. Last night that changed, she’d instructed media relations to release a statement crediting David Webb as the source of the information behind Blackbrier and to state that he’d fallen ten stories into the East River three days earlier. His body had yet to be found.

“There, I hope that’s sufficient,” she whispered. Part of her wanted to believe that somewhere in the world a young woman with short, dark-blonde hair and even darker eyes was listening and found relief in what was being said.

“Pam, are you all right?” Jonathan Landy put his arms around his wife and kissed her temple.

“It’s been a rough few days and it’s not over yet.” She quickly blinked away tears that had threatened to fall and leaned against his reassuring weight. “I love you and I don’t think I’ve said it enough over the last few years. You’ve made it possible…well, knowing that you love me and are here for me has kept me grounded and human in a world that too often is inhuman and cruel.”

“Hey, now, what’s this all about?” He swept his fingers through her hair. He’d loved his wife for every moment of their twenty year marriage, but recently she’d become more and more the agent. “I know you can’t tell me what really happened in New York, but whatever it was, I’m glad it gave me back the woman I married.”

“I’m sorry for the way I’ve been since Jenny left for college two years ago.” Like so many of the women she knew who worked in male dominated careers she’d applied extra energy to her job in an effort to turn empty nest syndrome into feathering the professional nest. No one was going to accuse tough, hardnosed Pamela Landy of acting like a mom missing her daughter. “I became too focused on my work and took you for granted.”

“Well you’re back now.” He could see that she was still upset and wasn’t sure how to help her. It was hard being with a woman whose job forced her to keep secrets, but he’d known that was part of the deal when he’d married her. “I’m not sure I’ve ever told you, but I’ve always been very proud of you.” He nodded to the TV and the continued coverage of Noah Vosen and Albert Hirsch’s arrests and the possible indictment of Ezra Kramer. “But never more so than now.”

“Promise me, that no matter what happens, you won’t let me forget how important you are to me?” As the words spilled out, she froze, suddenly sure that was what had happened to Jason Bourne. When he’d lost his memory, he’d forgotten the one person who made him whole and complete. There wasn’t a shred of proof in any of the files, not even a hint that his relationship with Nicky Parsons had been anything but professional. Over the last few years, fate kept bringing them together. Pam wasn’t a romantic by nature, but she had to believe it had been for some reason and she hoped it was a better one than death and deception.
…………………………………

David Webb sat in a dark corner of a small waterfront bar in Marseilles. He was dressed in the rough clothes of a fishermen with a cap pulled low on his forehead and a three day growth of stubble. He was drinking harsh local wine and eating an early dinner of fish and cheese when the news caught his attention. No one else appeared to care that the Americans had another scandal in their CIA, or notice that a trained killer was sitting in their midst. The men in the bar had more important concerns, like the weather, how their local soccer team was doing, and the fluctuating price of fish.

He sat for over an hour, after the MSNBC broadcast, to be sure that no one was watching him. When he left, he cut down an alley and waited, but he wasn’t followed. Landy had done as he’d asked, but what in the hell had he been thinking when he’d made the request? His mind had been too full of that odd dream about Nicky Parsons and he’d acted foolishly.

Nicky…His reasoning had been clear in New York, but what he’d done went against all his training. Something inside of him had needed to let her know he was still alive. He’d called it a compromise, but it went deeper than that. He shook his head at how dangerous it had been. The rash action on his part was a threat to them both and it was one more reason he was angry at her. It was bad enough that she’d withheld her knowledge of his past, the last time he’d seen her. A little voice inside of him tried to tell him that he hadn’t wanted to hear anything she had to say, but he squished it. Anger and frustration had been his constant companions since Marie’s death. He wasn’t about to let them go, they protected him against feelings he didn’t understand and didn’t want.

It was hard enough dealing with the sudden return of chunks of his memory, without having to deal with emotions too. He was David Webb, but as hard as he tried to be that man, the name didn’t fit. Memories before he’d been Bourne were like a story he had read in a book. He knew that Nicky was the bridge between his past and his present. That knowledge added resentment to his anger. She’d known the killer who he couldn’t or didn’t want to remember.
…………………………………
Nicky Parsons was in her usual spot in a touristy café in Palma. Majorca had been a good choice. The weather had been unseasonably warm, so the island had been mobbed with Europeans on holiday. It had been easy to hide among them. She was traveling under a Spanish passport, as Isabelle Salvatore, a student from The University of Salamanca, who was taking some time off.

It had been three days since she arrived and she was getting restless, but she knew that she couldn’t move on until she knew where Jason’s trail had led him. The news broadcast broke into her thoughts and she looked up fascinated at what was happening in New York.

What she saw on the large screen made her feel light headed. He was alive, she was sure of it. She couldn’t stop the smile that accompanied the thought. Closing her book, she sat back and let the sensation wash over her. He had gotten away once again. Now she had to do her part and get away too. Her moment of joy was marred by a stark shaft of loneliness. She shook her head and refused to let her emotions take control. There was still too much for her to do and too many miles for her to travel before she could rest.

The next morning she boarded the ferry for the mainland. She had purchased a train ticket to Salamanca, but wasn’t going to use it. When the she arrived in Valencia she changed identities and destinations. Half an hour later she boarded a boat that would eventually take her to Rome, where she planned to spend the next few months lost among the hoards of artists trying to capture that city on canvas.
……………………………………
Rome – February, 2007

Nicky settled into a small two room flat. She purchased art supplies carefully, never too many items from any one store. Everyday she headed out for the ‘old city’, where she’d set-up her easel and work with sketch pad, pencils and paints. She wore a large hat that protected her from prying eyes and the sun. She wore a bulky sweater to keep her warm, and add weight to her slight frame. Her baggy pants were dotted with paint and had been chosen more for ease of movement and warmth than style. She didn’t look anything like the tailored professional who had run the Safe House in Paris, nor the stylishly dressed young woman who’d worked in Amsterdam and Madrid. Now she melted into the crowd of art students as if she belonged.

She smiled with pleasure as her pencil moved in quick sure strokes over the paper. She was drawing the rooftops of the city and felt at peace for the first time in a long while. It had been years since she’d had anything but a passing interest in art. When she was in elementary school, it had been a huge part of who she was. Then they’d discovered that she didn’t simply have a good memory, but an eidetic one. Her mother had placed her in a special school to be sure she didn’t let that talent go to waste. Her new classes may have fed her intellect, but they left no time for drawing.

She sighed and smiled to herself, refusing to think about her childhood with sorrow. If she’d been studying art in Paris, instead of working on her PhD in physiology, it would have been necessary to leave that part of her behind her forever. As it was, by giving it up as a child, she could return to it now, safe in the knowledge that there was no record of that particular talent. She could use it to hide behind and help build a new life.

It took her three weeks of painting and watching her back-trail before she was comfortable enough to go to the bank where she had a safety deposit box. It had been two years since she’d been there, but she had travel documents she needed to retrieve. Once that was done she would have complete control over when and where she would go next.

The short dark-haired woman shivered as she entered the large double doors of Banca d’Italia. Her skin crawled and it felt as if there were a thousand eyes on her, but she knew it was her imagination.

Twenty minutes later she was sitting in a small private room and one of the clerks had brought her the locked box. With fingers that shook she turned the key and opened the lid. Her breath caught when she saw the large bulky envelope that took up most of the interior. She’d never seen it before, but she recognized the handwriting on the address label. It had been written by Jason Bourne!

“Jason, what did you do?” she whispered as she dumped the contents onto the table in front of her. Tears filled her eyes and she had to brush them away to see. He’d left her a large pile of cash, the bills neatly banded together, a number of legal documents and a letter, which she immediately picked-up.

Nicolette,

If you’re reading this, I’m dead
--“No!” she gasped, “I won’t believe it. They didn’t find your body. You’re still alive, you have to be!” Her breathing was ragged as she fought emotions that were flooding her. She closed her eyes, rotated her head to the left and then the right and reached deep for the control he had taught her. Then she picked up the letter and began again.

If you’re reading this I’m dead and you’re on the run. Remember everything I taught you. It will keep you alive and safely off the grid.

Over the last eighteen months, you’d never accept anything from me but a weapon and advice. I need more than that. I need to know that you’ll be safe when I’m no longer there. Call me selfish if you like, but I want you to have the contents of this envelope.

Along with the money, there is a deed to a property in Positano, Italy. I purchased it in the name of Jean-Paul and Colette Benoit. It was a cash transaction that can’t be traced. There is an olive grove on the land behind the house, which turns a small profit. It has paid for the upkeep over the years when no one has lived there.

Jean-Paul’s death certificate is among the legal documents. It will allow you to live the life of a single woman and maintain the guise of a widow. It’s one more layer of protection to keep you hidden and off the grid.

Everything that I’ve left you was mine. I was careful to separate my personal and professional identities, and funds. There is nothing here that was used by that other man, the one you tried so hard to protect me against.

There’s so much more I would have liked to have given you, but it appears I’ve run out of time.

Be happy and live for both of us,

J


The letter was dated a week before Jason left Paris on the secret mission that she later realized had been an attempt to kill Wombosi. Nicky didn’t want to think about the ramifications of the timing of the note. Her mind went blank as she calmly packed the contents of the box into the canvas tote she used to carry her art supplies. She was numb again, as she’d been on the bus leaving Tangier. Her world moved in slow motion and her emotions were tangled and lost somewhere in the past. Each breath she took felt new, as if she was learning to breathe all over again. It was hard to reconcile this man, her Jason, with the cold cruel man in Berlin and the strange quiet one in Madrid and Tangier

On her way to her flat she stopped in the marketplace and bought some bread and cheese for dinner. Her stomach was tied in knots and she wasn’t hungry, but she knew she had to eat. She made her purchases quickly, unable to completely put aside the oppressive closeness of the tiny streets of Rome, or the crowds which pressed in all around her.

Later she crawled into bed, too exhausted to think about what to do next. Her options were endless, Jason had seen to that. Nicky fell into a restless sleep. She lost count of the number of times she’d drift off and suddenly waken to find herself staring at her small travel clock sitting on the rickety table beside the bed. Finally about 3 am she fell into a deep sleep. That was when the dream hit her.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
She was running through the back alleys of Tangier. The operative Desh was chasing her. She fought fear that was threatening to make her useless and kept on running, knocking over anything on either side of her that might slow him down. She ducked into doorways and ran up a flight of stairs….Suddenly everything changed and she was in Paris again…running through backstreets and hidden places. It was dark instead of blindingly bright. Instead of the chatter of angry Arabic in the background, she heard a saxophone from far away. It was playing the slow, sad, song ‘Smoke Gets In Your Eyes’. She looked over her shoulder and instead of Desh, Jason Bourne was three feet behind her. His eyes were frozen blue, glittering in the moonlight.

He slammed her against a wall and his lips covered hers. Desire ripped through her and she met him kiss for kiss as she tried to tell him about the killer on her trail. Then it didn’t matter because his hand had moved beneath her sweater and against her skin. Everything shifted slightly and where his warm hand had been, she felt cold steel pressed under her left breast. Desire gave way to fear when Jason pulled the trigger as she screamed his name…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“No!” she cried out. She woke shaking and covered in sweat. Her stomach heaved as she gagged and she ran for the small bathroom. She threw-up the small amount of food she’d been able to choke down the night before and kept on retching until she lay exhausted on the floor. “Oh God, oh God,” she muttered. It had finally caught up with her. She’d been wondering how long it would take before the emotional trauma of the last few months caught up with her.

Her body felt tied in knots from dry heaves, but she couldn’t go back to bed. In the last few minutes her room had begun to close in on her, like the city had been doing the night before. Breathing carefully through pursed lips she grabbed jeans and a heavy sweater and climbed out her window, up the fire escape to the roof.

She sat shivering in a dark corner, letting the breeze blow through her hair while she stared at the wide expanse of sky. The claustrophobia that had driven her into the chilly night loosened its hold and she began to relax.

“It was only a dream,” she repeated over and over to herself, but deep inside, she knew it wasn’t simply a dream. It was rooted in fact and enhanced by feelings. As the moon set, she let herself think about Paris and the first time she had to send Jason on a mission after they had become lovers…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Paris, 2003

Jason and Nicky had been together for two months. Their explosive beginning when he’d pushed her to the breaking point while practicing with her Glock Compact outside of Paris had never stopped. They knew it was unprofessional and didn’t care. They new it was dangerous and took every precaution either of them could think of and made-up others along the way. They tried to call it sex, but both knew it was much more than that. They were hip deep in a love affair and closed their eyes to everything else but maintaining complete secrecy when together.

The day Nicky had been dreading had finally come eighteen days earlier. She’d had to send him on a mission and it had been more difficult than she ever imagined it would be.

Two weeks later she received his mandatory check-in. It indicated his assignment was completed, but was nothing more than a coded text message. All of her instincts told her he was back in Paris, but the night before he’d left, he’d instructed her that she wasn’t to come looking for him. He would find her. Her nerves jumped, unsure of what she should do. She wanted to see him, to see for herself that he was all right. But more than that, she wanted to feel his body against hers.

It was dark when she left work. She hadn’t gone more than ten steps from the door of the Safe House when she became aware of someone behind her.

“Keep on going,” Jason, muttered as he drew along side. “Turn right at the end of the block. I’ll be waiting for you.” Then he passed her to move quickly on his way.

She watched his broad back disappear in the evening rush of people heading home and her heart soared. She followed his instructions, which led her down a small winding street, but didn’t see him anywhere. A cat meowed off to her right, but other than that it was quiet, almost deserted. She looked carefully around, but all she saw were shadows until he suddenly appeared before her. He put his arm around her and turned her quickly until her back was against the side of the building.

“Hi,” his voice was deep and slow as he ran both hands through her hair at the sides of her face.

“Hi, yourself,” she could hardly speak her heart was pounding so hard. “I’ve missed you.”

“I want to spend time with you, but first you need to understand.” He knew he wasn’t making much sense, but she needed to know what she was getting into, if they continued as they had been.

“Jason--” She frowned not sure what he had in mind.

“I’m going to give you a three minute head start.” He looked at his watch. “See if you can lose me.”

“You’re kidding?”

“No, and you’re wasting time. You now have two minutes and 56 seconds.”

Nicky turned and fled. She felt the adrenaline pounding in her blood as she moved quickly out of the alley and down the next street. She was sure this was another one of his lessons, but she wished he could have waited. All she really wanted to do was be near him.

Their game of hide and seek started out as fun, but it didn’t take her long to realize it was a very serious game, and then it became terrifying. Just when she thought she couldn’t take it any longer, fear and desire tingled along her nerve endings each seeming to feed on the other. She began to wonder if he wasn’t taking her through some kinky form of foreplay. It certainly had the desired effect, though a good backrub was more to her taste.

Three times she tried to return to one of the well-lighted, busier streets, but each time she was driven away. Once she heard something snap as it was crunched under foot. Sure it was Jason, she wheeled around and headed back into the dark where she’d come from. Ten minutes later she could see a street light down the next block. As she headed toward it, a small potted plant fell to the ground fifteen feet to her left and she swerved the other way. Finally, she could hear the bustle and laughter of people on the next block. All she needed was to go down one small stretch of dark alleyway and she’d be with them, but she heard foot steps accompanied by an oddly chilling whistle. It was between her and the crowd. She turned and fled, completely lost and confused, no longer sure which way she should go.

Nicky stopped to catch her breath and tried to get her bearings. She could hear the wail of a blues sax coming from a window high above her. On two sides there were tall buildings beginning to fill with the sounds of people coming home from work. At her back was a high wooden fence. She was boxed in except for the way she’d come and a crooked little street that appeared to lead nowhere.

“This is ridicules,” she chided herself for the fear that was making her lose all sense of where she was and what she was doing. But words didn’t help; her hands still shook as she slowly walked toward her only untried option. To steady them, she dragged her fingers lightly against the brick building at her right shoulder and she picked up speed. The street had more twists and turns than she realized. Suddenly she was cut off from any light except from the stars and some windows high above her head.

She screamed as she realized the cool brick under her hand had been replaced by the feel of wool. An arm wrapped around her waist and a palm covered her mouth. She kicked and scratched, but the man wouldn’t set her free.

“Nicky,” a harsh whisper filled her ear. “It’s me.”

“Jason,” she gasped as he turned her in his arms. She couldn’t stop shaking and held on tightly because her knees felt like rubber. “You frightened me,” she accused.

“I meant to. You need to know what the dangers are,” his voice was harsh. He’d killed too recently. Even as he inhaled her perfume, he remembered the scent of blood. What he’d meant as an object lesson for her had become real for him and toward the end he’d been hunting. All his senses were sharpened, colors brighter, needs intensified.

“Are you all right?” She caressed his cheek and her touch set him on fire.

“Come with me.” He gripped her hand and led her through the door he’d pushed her against.

“Where are---” She was almost sure she knew where they were. If she was right, he’d herded her almost two miles by way of backstreets and alleys to his apartment.

“Quiet,” he warned as they soundlessly ran up the backstairs of his building. He quickly unlocked his door and shoved her into his hall. “Stay here,” he whispered as he relocked the deadbolt and pressed her against the wall beside the surveillance box where he punched in his code.

He didn’t turn on lights, but she could see the hard blue glitter of his eyes as he slowly turned toward her. Something like fear and pain rushed through her when she realized that for one quick second she was looking at Jason Bourne the Treadstone asset. This was the man Conklin prized and if he had his way, this was the only version of Jason who would exist.

“Are you all right?” she asked again, but even as the words left her mouth, she knew he wasn’t. He had slipped back behind his Paris mask, but it was thin and could crumple at any moment.

“Who’s asking, the clinician or the woman?”

“Jason,” she gasped. “It’s not like that and you know it!”

“Are you so sure, Nicky?” His words were hard and cold as he pressed his body against hers. “Maybe it’s a bit of both?” He yanked her coat off her shoulders trapping her arms at her sides with the garment. “The psychologist is always looking and watching as the woman fucks the killer? It would make for an interesting study in the sexual appetites of an assassin.”

“Are you crazy?” Her palms were flat against the wall as she struggled to get hold of her coat so she could pull free.

“There’s always that possibility,” he murmured as he ran the back of one knuckle lightly against her left nipple

“No!” she cried out. Desire shot through her and she arched, driving her hips against his. “No! Stop!” Tears filled her eyes as she looked into his frozen blue ones an inch away from hers. “You aren’t crazy, I won’t believe that.” She could see he knew exactly what he was doing to her body. “Please, Jason, this isn’t you.”

“Are you so sure?” he whispered as he dragged his lips against her ear.

“Yes.” Nicky refused to meet violence with violence so she put it all on the line and did the only thing left to her. She worked her arms out of her coat and wrapped them around him with her face buried against his neck. She felt his body tremble against hers.

“You’re wrong,” he growled and cupped her face so he was looking her in the eyes again. “You have to realize this is part of me too. I’m not kind or gentle. I’m what they made me into!”

“That’s Conklin talking!” she shot back, her fingers curled around his wrists. “You’re more than that, much more.”

“Nicky, don’t push me, not now. You’ll only end up…end up…” He gritted his teeth and fought the almost overpowering need to take her. “Oh God, do you realize how close I came to hurting you.” He tried to pull away from her, but she wouldn’t let go. “Damnit, let go of me!”

“No.” She shook her head and held on tighter.

“Look at me! Don’t you see what I am?” His lips crushed hers beneath his; needing to taste and touch her all the while knowing it was a mistake.

She leaned into him nibbling at the corner of his mouth as his tongue swept deep into hers. She pulled at his coat until it landed on the floor at their feet.

“No, wait.” He pulled back, kissing her neck and ear. He had to catch his breath and give her a chance to know what was really inside him. “I should have waited a few more days, but damnit, I needed to feel your skin against mine. It’s not safe to be with me when I’m like this.”

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“This isn’t like before,” he tried one last time to explain. “I’m not who I was, when I pushed you too far that day target shooting. At times like this, control is all that keeps me in check. You make me want to forget all about control.”

“I know, and I don’t care.” Her blood pounded. He was back and still wanted her that was all that mattered.

“You should!” He gripped her shoulders to keep from stripping off her clothes and taking her where they stood. “You haven’t a clue what’s beneath the civilized veneer of the man who meets you every four weeks at the Safe House.”

“Maybe not, but I know a lot about the man I've been sleeping with for the last two months and tonight I’ve seen what lies beneath. He doesn’t frighten me.” She blinked tears of frustration and confusion out of her eyes, refusing to cry. “You don’t hurt women, Jason, no matter how dark or intense you get.”

“No, I just kill them!” His voice was bitter and his words shot through her. He was balancing on the edge between the killer and the man, but she had to see, she had to know what he was really like.

“We both do.” Nicky couldn’t stop her tears from running down her face as the truth came pouring out. “I’m as much to blame as you are, more so, if you think about it. I give others their assignments, not just you! I may not pull the trigger, but that doesn’t make me any less guilty.”

Deep blue eyes met dark, almost black ones. They were two people who killed, one by giving orders and one by following them. Fierce needs surrounded and filled them. In two swift movements he unzipped the back of her cashmere knit dress and pulled it over her head.

“Please, I want to feel your skin too,” Nicky’s voice was hoarse with desire. He pulled away from her and tossed his sweater beside her dress. Her fingers moved under his shirt as he unfastened her bra and slid his hands around until they were filled with her breasts.

“Oh yes,” she moaned and kicked off her shoes as his touch set her on fire.

“No more,” he growled and pulled her down the hall. They made it as far as the kitchen. As he lifted her up on the cool surface of the counter, his hands slid down her body and pulled off her pantyhose. She reached for the hem of his shirt, but he was too impatient to pull it over his head. “I want you now.”

She reached for his belt and zipper, to set him free as he pulled off the scrap of lace she wore as panties.

“I missed you,” she whispered and she ran her hands over his chest. He separated her thighs and pulled her closer.

“Hold on,” he warned as he held her slim shivering body against his. She buried her face in the crook of his neck and locked her arms around him. As he filled her, she cried out and shattered into a million pieces, but wouldn’t let go. He couldn’t stop moving and she wouldn’t have let him if he’d tried. They were driven by primitive needs that burned away anger, guilt and hurt. It left fertile ground for much more binding feelings to begin.

Later, spent and sated, he carried her to bed. Once he’d undressed, he lay beside her and pulled her into his arm. As he gently kissed her, she looked at him and ran her hand over his face.

“Don’t ever do that to me again,” her voice was raw and shook. “Don’t try to scare me away. If you want me gone, just tell me and I’ll go.” Tears filled her eyes.

“Hush, Nicolette, I’ve got you.” He pulled her closer. “It won’t ever happen again.”

And it didn’t. Nicky still sent him out on missions, but Jason was always careful. He made sure that the killer in him was back in his box, before he’d let her come to him. It was another of their unspoken rules. He’d return from an assignment and the first morning back, she’d see him at a distance, usually on one of the running paths. But he took the time he needed to become human again.

They played escape and evade in any number of cities and small towns in Europe. Nicky was never able to completely lose him, but she learned a number of tricks along the way.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Rome – February, 2007

Nicky had sat on her roof for hours remembering. It was a relief when darkness was driven away by gray low hanging clouds of very early morning. She still felt trapped, hemmed in by the city that was waking up six stories below her, but she was too cold to care. Exhausted she climbed down the fire escape and fell into bed.
………………………..
Washington D.C. – 2007

The Senate investigation into the CIA’s ‘alleged criminal activities’ dragged on through February and into March. As each day passed Pamela Landy felt more disheartened. Albert Hirsch, Noah Vosen and Ezra Kramer were indicted, but she felt like the prisoner. She was trapped in hearings when all she wanted was to get back to active duty. She’d made a career out of being invisible, now she was forced into the limelight and didn’t like it.

By the middle of March she faced the truth, she’d never be able to do undercover work again. She’d been offered Deputy Director in charge of the new Anti-terrorist Division that was growing out of the ashes of Vosen’s old New York teams. Acting Director Charles Jennenings was moving it back to Langley where he could keep a closer eye on its actions and felt she was the perfect person to take the lead.

In many ways it was a plum assignment. It kept her in the DC area which was good for her marriage. Her husband had recently accepted the chairmanship of cardiac surgery at Georgetown University Hospital. It was something he’d wanted for a while. Though he was happiest when he was in the operating room, he now had a chance to shape a department. In many ways Pam was being given that same chance. She knew she could do a better job than Vosen and wanted time to prove it. She wanted to believe she could run a clean department and still get the job done. After all, what was the sense of fighting terrorism if they were reduced to committing the same crimes?

The one thing she refused to think about was the cheap black cell phone hidden in the bottom of her purse. One day it would ring and David Webb would be on the other end. When that happened she didn’t know what she was going to do.
……………………………………

February, 2007

David Webb worked his way down the coast of France and through Spain. He’d been traveling for three weeks. He was restless and moody. He spent his days in constant activity, but only slept a few hours each night. He would waken knowing he’d dreamt, but unable to remember what he’d been dreaming about.

Instinct left over from Jason Bourne told him he was safe, hidden, off the grid, but he had no more answers than when he’d left Marseille weeks earlier. No matter how hard he tried to convince himself he really was Webb, the name didn’t fit. It was ironic; he’d spent the better part of the last two years trying to remember who he was. Now that he did, he was more comfortable thinking of himself as Jason. But he couldn’t accept what it was rumored he’d done during the missing years. A little voice in his head told him that was why he still couldn’t remember all the pieces of the puzzle that were his life as an assassin.

He was confused. He missed Marie and all that she’d represented, but when he closed his eyes it was Nicky Parsons’ face that filled his mind. One night laying in the dark, trying to fall asleep he made himself look at every aspect of his life with the German woman. Had she really loved him or were they two people with ruined lives who had clung together for support in an uncertain world?

“No, no, she really did care,” he muttered. He had been the one who had short-changed her. As much as he’d wanted to love her, he hadn’t been able to. Up until now he’d always thought it had been because he had to keep his mind free of entanglements so he was able to see danger if it came their way. But he’d almost missed the danger and Marie had died for his mistake.

Lately he was haunted by fleeting memories of a laugh he could almost place; dark eyes that looked at him and knew who he was; a warm smile that accepted him in all his guises; and a slim lithe body that moved against his as they lived a secret life. As much as he needed that woman to be Marie to appease his conscience, he knew it wasn’t. It was Nicky Parsons.

By the middle of March he was trimmed down to muscle and bone, a man who hardly slept and only ate because his body needed feeding. That was when he began to dream about the sunlight. He would waken remember seeing a small city that rose almost straight up out of the ocean. It looked as if houses and buildings had been built one on top of another, up the side of a mountain.

After five nights he was able to put a name to the area, if not the town. It was the Amalfi Coast in Italy, south of Naples. He didn’t remember ever being there, but then there was a lot he didn’t remember about his years as Bourne. He still saw faces of the dead, why shouldn’t he let himself see that beautifully city too? But it was more than that. The place that invaded his dreams was important. He hadn’t had something that really mattered since New York. He made a decision, he was going to Italy.
………………………..
Rome – March 2007

The last month had been hard for Nicky. She tried to paint everyday, but she wasn’t able to concentrate and the activity that had given her so much joy, had become a chore. Everything had changed when she’d gone to her safety deposit box and discovered what Jason had left her. In her mind she tried to think of him as David Webb, but she’d loved Jason for too long. She wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to make the transition.

She fought claustrophobia night and day. Rome was crowded and people seemed to hem her in. It was only sheer strength of well-power that prevented other panic attacks like the one that had driven her to her roof a few weeks earlier. She wasn’t eating because her stomach rejected anything but tea and light toast. Dreams of violent Jason waited for her when she fell asleep, so it was easier to simply stay awake.

By the middle of March she knew that she had to leave or go crazy. The question was where to go? Her mind always answered with one word: home. But she didn’t know where that was anymore. New York City had ceased to be home when two planes had hit the towers and ash, smoke, fire and paper had rained down around her. Like so many others, that moment had changed her life. She’d been set to take a job with the FBI when she completed her masters. The advent of terrorists on American soil enlarged her thinking and made her ripe for Conklin’s offer six months later.

For a while Paris had been home, but Nicky knew it wouldn’t be safe to return there, even if her emotions would have allowed her to. That was where she and Jason had been happy and she wanted to remember it that way. Tears filled her eyes and she could almost hear his voice saying, ‘We’ll always have Paris.’ Oh she was definitely going crazy, mistaking Tangier for Casablanca and Jason Bourne for Rick of Rick’s Café.

With a sigh she picked up the deed to the property in Positano. She didn’t know if she’d find home there, but it was something from him. Part of her wanted to hold on to it and keep it secret. It was like her Glock Compact, a gift from Jason for her protection but if she used it and it was discovered, she would have to leave it behind. As she looked in the mirror, at how thin she’d become, with dark circles under her eyes, she realized now was when she needed to make use of her resources. She would make her plans and by this time next week she would be on the Amalfi Coast in a small town that towered above the ocean. She would be safe there, hidden, and off the grid.

Ch 4 - Silence Speaks

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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