The Weakness in Me
Written November 2001
Synopsis: What’s the history of the Paul/Madeline/Charles Sand triangle? Here’s one version, also shedding light on “In Between,” “Adrian’s Garden,” and “End Game.” Takes place approximately ten years before “Adrian’s Garden.”
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
Paul glanced up at the Perch as he headed to Systems. Adrian and Charles were deep in conversation. Probably talking about Madeline, he thought bitterly. After he had left her apartment that Tuesday, two months ago, he had uncovered a handful of secret communiqués between Adrian and Charles. Each of them mentioned Madeline and her changing personality. They were using the Valentine missions to weaken her, just as he had suspected. And so far, it seemed to be working.
There was a briefing scheduled in an hour; hopefully she would be there. He had brought the proof with him. Maybe she would believe him; maybe she wouldn’t. Either way, he had to try.
As he turned the corner, he spotted Madeline heading for the elevator. No one else was around, so he darted after her, slamming his hand between the doors as they started to close. She frowned at him then looked away, her head held high.
“Madeline, we have to talk.”
She pressed stop on the elevator and faced him, arms across her chest. “Yes?”
He opened his mouth, but a small mark on her cheek silenced him. He reached out to turn her chin to get a better look at it, but she backed away from him. “Madeline, is that a bruise? Did someone hit you again?”
“You wanted to speak to me?”
He sighed sadly, reaching in his pocket. “Give me your panel.” She did so, and he inserted a disc into its side. “Here.”
“What is this?” she asked, looking at the screen as it came to life.
“Encoded messages between your husband and Adrian. I was right. They have been plotting against you.”
“Where did you get these?”
“It took a lot of digging, plus some help from Comm.”
She removed the disc and returned it to him. “These could have been fabricated.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Madeline, I’m not–” He paused, staring at her. She didn’t believe him, not a word. “You’ve known me for years, Madeline, five years!”
“Maybe that’s part of the problem.” Her voice was level, calm, collected. “You seem to think that, just because you saw me first, you’re entitled to my affections. Well, you’re wrong. We were lovers once, but that time has passed. I’m married now. I feel nothing for you.”
“That’s bullshit!” He paced in a small circle, shaking his head. “How can you stand here and say that when you know it’s a lie?” He stopped and faced her once again. “You once told me that the only part of you that was real was us, our love. Now you say that’s changed, that you have no feelings for me? That isn’t possible!”
She reached in her jacket and held out something silver. “Here. Your house key.”
“So that’s it then? Just like that.”
She blinked at him, as if she didn’t comprehend what he was saying.
“From friends to lovers and back to friends again. Or are we enemies?” He scoffed at the key. “Keep it. You might need it someday.” He pressed the button on the panel to start the elevator again, but he never took his eyes off of her. When the doors opened, he stepped out and continued to stare at her until they closed again.
She exhaled shakily, putting her hand over her eyes. Once she had recollected her thoughts, she reached for her telephone and dialed a number. “It’s done.”
Adrian smiled. “You told Paul that your relationship was over?”
“How did he take it?”
“Of course not. He’ll defend you until his dying day.” She paused. “Did he mention anything else? Anything he may have learned or think he learned?”
“No,” Madeline answered, glancing at her panel nervously. Did Adrian suspect that Paul had uncovered her plot? Would she be able to find out? “But he believes I still have feelings for him.”
“And do you?”
“Good. You’ve done a good job, Madeline. Eliminating your weakness is always difficult, and you’ve done it successfully. There may be hope for you yet.” The line went dead.
“Madeline, come in.”
She smiled softly and entered the office, closing the door behind her. “I was on my way home and wanted to see what time you would be in.”
Charles paused thoughtfully. “I might be able to leave now. We could have dinner at the marina.”
“That sounds lovely.”
Together, they walked through the common area. He kept his arm around her shoulders, and she imperceptibly gazed at the Perch. Adrian was watching them, a satisfied look on her face. Madeline saw Paul, also watching, although he was hurt instead of happy. She briefly shut her eyes; she couldn’t bear that look, not now.
When she and Charles reached their car and began to drive, she let out a heavy sigh. “I don’t know if I can do this anymore.”
“You have to,” he insisted. “Adrian believes that your spirit is weakening.”
“Don’t let it.” Charles glanced at her, noticing the small bruise that her makeup hadn’t effectively hidden. “Your mission, how bad was it?”
“About the same.”
“There are some Demerol injections in the glove compartment, if you need them.”
“Thank you.” She stared out the window, lost in thought. Ever since Charles had confronted her with Adrian’s plot, she had been subjecting herself to all kinds of abuse. Most of it was tolerable–after all, she had been extensively trained in withstanding severe torture–but lately she had begun to lose sight of her goal. And what was her goal? Power? Status? Domination? Even she couldn’t remember.
“Something’s bothering you,” he declared after a long while.
“Did you see Paul’s face as we left?” she asked absently, a distant look in her eyes. “He was so hurt, so shattered. There has to be some way to let him know that I didn’t mean it.”
Charles sighed quietly. They seemed to always argue in circles. “You can’t tell him, Madeline, no matter how much you want to. You’ll just have to disassociate from him, stop talking to him.”
She put her forehead in her hand. “He found the communiqués between you and Adrian. He knows already. He just doesn’t know that you’re helping me.”
“And he can never know.”
“For my protection, and yours, and his. If anyone found out, we’d all be marked for cancellation.” He pulled into the restaurant parking lot and turned off the engine. “I know that you two share a bond, some sort of history that I could never compete with, but you can’t tell him.”
She shook her head. “This has nothing to do with that. I’m trying to help us. Paul has developed some influential friends, he could–”
“No. Madeline, please, don’t argue with me.”
As she reached for the door handle, she felt Charles’s hand on her arm. She turned to face him, and his lips brushed against hers. She tried to relax but eventually pulled away.
“I love you,” he said gently. “I know that you don’t feel the same way, but… Could you try to love me? I wouldn’t have helped Adrian if it was any other woman, and I certainly wouldn’t have broken her confidence. My job is with Section, but my life is with you. At least I wish it was.”
“Charles, there are a lot of things you don’t know about me, and there’s no time to tell you because we’re always being watched.”
“We’re not being watched now. We could talk.”
She chuckled softly. “You try too hard.”
“I can’t help it. There’s so much I want from you.” He kissed her again, and she was more receptive this time. “I know it’s a marriage of convenience for you, but I entered into it on entirely different terms. Section isn’t exactly a place of love or happiness, but I believe we could have both, if we let ourselves.”
Madeline regarded him almost sympathetically. He was being honest with his feelings, but she couldn’t bring herself to do the same. How could she tell him that she loved only one man and that it wasn’t him?
“I don’t expect an answer now,” he continued as if he could read her mind. “I know it’ll take time, regardless of what you decide. I just want you to know that, however long it takes, I’ll be here, waiting for you.”
She smiled and dropped a kiss on his cheek. “How about dinner for starters, and we’ll see where we go from there.”
He grinned. “Agreed.”
End of part 3