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.
The front door creaked open and closed softly. The paranoia instilled by Section life made him a light sleeper, and he awoke with a start. Slumped in his armchair, he reached for the gun at his hip and waited, listening. There was a clatter on the kitchen table then footfalls on the linoleum into the carpeted living room. He unlatched the safety and peered at the intruder out of the corner of his eye. The shadowy figure walked through the room and into the bedroom. Silence…then running water. The sounds changed, and he realized the shower had been turned on. Paul frowned. Why would an intruder break in to use his shower? Perhaps it wasn’t an intruder after all; only one person had his house key…but why would she come here?
He put his weapon away and slowly walked to the bathroom. Over the sounds of the water, he could hear gentle weeping. Alarmed, he pushed through the door and saw a familiar woman huddled in the corner, shivering beneath the steamy downpour, her face buried in her hands. “Madeline?” He pulled aside the frosted glass door and climbed in, fully dressed. “Madeline?”
She collapsed against his chest, sobbing. Paul was terrified; he had never seen her cry before. He held her tightly, rocking her back and forth, his mind a mixture of concern and fear. He shushed her, patting her wet hair tenderly. She wrapped her arms around his waist, and his eyes caught a glimpse of her bare shoulder. A dark bruise was clearly visible, and he saw fresh scratch marks down her back. He touched one gently, and she trembled.
“It’ll be all right,” he whispered, “I’m here.” He embraced her until her crying subsided, then he helped her out of the shower. Gingerly, he patted her with a towel until she was dry, silently examining her for any other signs of abuse. She continued to shake, covering her chest with her arms modestly. He stood after drying her legs and studied at her face. A black circle surrounded her right eye. “Are you okay?”
She nodded, reaching for the robe that hung on the back of the door. She covered herself with it and shied away from his touch. “I’m fine.”
Tears pooled in his eyes. This was not the Madeline he knew and loved. “I won’t let them do this to you ever again. I promise you.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep, Paul.” She finally looked at him, her face void of all emotion. She was like a robot. No feeling existed in her eyes; they were dark, hollow pits that stared at him blankly.
He noticed finger marks surrounding her throat, and he gasped. “Oh, my God…” He reached out to touch her, but she drew back protectively. “Who did this? You could’ve been killed!”
“I told you, I’m fine.”
“Like hell you are. Look at yourself! The bruises, the scars–they get worse every time you’re sent on a mission. And it’s not all physical. Emotionally, you’re a completely different person. You’re so distant. I never see you anymore. You don’t smile, you don’t laugh…”
She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror and gasped. She barely recognized the person staring back at her. Her bruised skin was pale where it wasn’t purple, she was too thin… “I had no idea…”
Paul watched her quietly for a moment. “Listen, there’s something I need to talk to you about. Can you stay a while?”
She nodded, finally turning from the reflection. “I was supposed to stay all night,” she answered, referring to the mission. “I couldn’t.”
“Good. Let me get out of these wet clothes, and we’ll talk.”
She left him alone in the bathroom and sat on the edge of the bed. She looked around curiously. The room had changed since she had last been there, on her wedding night. It was sparsely furnished, having only a bed and nightstand and bookshelf. Something caught her attention, and she walked to the shelf. A small silver picture frame had been nestled between some books. She picked it up and squinted. The woman in the photograph was her, years ago, leaning against a wooden guardrail as she looked out over the ocean, her hair blowing carelessly in the wind. She frowned at it.
She turned, startled by Paul’s voice. “I don’t recall.”
He chuckled, taking the frame from her. “We were after an arsonist who targeted military establishments. We traced him to Florida. He owned a boat; we were waiting for it to return. I had a camera and took your picture without you knowing.” He put it back in its place. “It’s the only one I have.”
“You’re not supposed to have one at all.”
“I couldn’t help it. You looked so beautiful.” He glanced at her, his voice softening. “You still do.”
Madeline turned away, sitting on the bed again. “What is it you wanted to tell me?”
He sat next to her, folding his hands in his lap. “There’s been talk. People are unhappy with the way Adrian is running things. They’re thinking of a takeover.”
“They want me to lead it. They want to put me in charge.”
“You’re not seriously considering this, are you?” The expression on his face was all the answer she needed. “Paul, it’s dangerous! Adrian is too powerful. She has total backing from Oversight; it would never work.”
“I have to try! I can’t live another day the way things are now. Section used to be someplace important, an organization that would make the world better. I believed it; that’s why I joined, and I know that’s why you did, too. But now, when’s the last time we did something worthwhile? Our numbers are down, recruitment is at an all-time low. Adrian is slipping, but George will never replace her. It’s time to act, to save Section and everything it stands for.” He took a breath. “But I can’t do it without you by my side.”
“We’re the perfect team. When we’re together, things get done. It would be like that if we were in charge. Together, we could restore Section’s founding principles.”
She shook her head. “I don’t know. The chances of us succeeding are infinitesimal.”
“Will you at least consider it?”
“Thank you.” He paused, folding his hands in front of him uncomfortably. “Well, I guess you want to go now. Get back to your…husband.”
She ignored the contempt in his voice. “I can’t go home, not after what happened tonight. Could I stay here? I’d be more than happy to sleep on the couch.”
He was pleasantly surprised by her request and smiled. “You’re always welcome here, Madeline. You can have the bed; I’ll sleep on the couch.” He pulled an extra pillow and blanket from the closet and took them to the living room. When he returned, she was still in the same position as she had been before, a decision obviously on her mind. “Is something wrong?”
“I know that we’re not…involved anymore, but we’re still friends and…” She hesitated, avoiding his gaze. “I’d feel safer if you slept with me.”
Paul cleared his throat nervously. “Okay.” He turned out the light and pulled back the bed sheets, laying prostrate. Madeline rested next to him on her side, her hands neatly folded beneath her head. He glanced at her. The short distance between them felt like a mile. “Good night.”
“Good night.” She sighed quietly, her mind burning with memories. Playing along with Adrian’s scheme had been the hardest thing she’d ever had to endure. Everything had been real: the abuse, the emotions, even the tears. And because of it, she had almost lost Paul. But he was here with her now. Through it all, he hadn’t given up on his love for her. That said more about his character than anything.
He was the right choice to lead Section in a revolt. If she helped him, what would happen? They would have the power to do almost anything. And what would happen to Charles? Since she couldn’t tell Paul the truth, he would still believe Charles had some sinister role in Adrian’s plot. There had to be some way for her to convey that she cared deeply for her husband. She couldn’t let Paul get in the way, not when Charles had done so much to help her, to help them.
Paul lay awake, staring at the ceiling. He listened to her breathe, watched her eyelids flutter as she dreamed, and wondered what she was thinking about. Every dream he had involved her. Nothing–not Charles, not Adrian, not Section–was going to change the way he felt about her. She had made her feelings for him perfectly clear in the elevator, and he hadn’t had the sense to defend his position. He loved her more than anything, and he wasn’t sure if she knew that or not. It took all of his strength not to hold her in his arms as she slept. After all, she was married, and they weren’t ‘involved.’ He scoffed at that. He wanted to be involved with her; hell, he wanted to be married to her. He might have asked, had he thought she would accept. But that time had passed. They were friends now–business colleagues–nothing more.
Madeline gasped and sat up in bed, shuddering. Paul immediately rose, concern clouding his features. She looked at him and smiled a little. “Just a bad dream, that’s all.”
He allowed himself to relax, propping his head up with his hand. “What was it about?”
“It’s…” She shook her head. “Someone is chasing me, and I’m trying to get away, but he always catches me. Every time, I run a different direction or climb a different fence, choose a different door, but in the end… it’s always the same. He wins. I lose.”
He couldn’t take it anymore. “Madeline…could I hold you? Please? I just–” He sighed in frustration, unable to think of any reason that she might accept. “I can’t stand not holding you.”
She slid over and nestled her head in his shoulder, placing her hand on his chest. He put one arm around her shoulders and wrapped the other around her waist, careful not to touch any of her bruises. “I’m glad you asked. I wanted you to.”
He sighed contentedly. “Thank you.”
There was a comfortable silence for a while, and Madeline thought he may have fallen asleep. “Paul?” she asked softly.
“You’re still awake?”
“Yes. What is it?”
“I’ll do it.” She lifted her head and met his curious gaze. “I’ll help you overthrow Adrian. I’ll be your second-in-command.”
He grinned broadly. “Would you mind pulling double duty? I’ll need a chief strategist, and I can’t think of anyone more qualified.”
“I’d be glad to.”
He kissed her forehead then brushed his lips across hers without thinking. When he realized what he was doing, he pulled away hesitantly. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.”
“It’s okay,” she whispered coyly, her face dangerously close to his, wishing he would make the same mistake twice. But he wouldn’t, not anymore. They stared at each other, each hoping the other would make the first move. Nothing happened. She put her head on his chest once again. “Good night, Paul.”
He gave her a gentle hug. “Good night, Madeline.”
During Section’s first year with a new leader, mysterious ‘accidents’ claimed the lives of numerous terrorists. No one suspected anything, but had anyone done any digging, they would have found a connection between the men. Each of them had been the unknowing participant in a Valentine mission led by Madeline.
Paul looked over his new domain from his lofty position in the Perch. He had already increased Section’s success rate by 12%, an “astonishing” figure according to Oversight. Most things in his life were falling into their proper place.
He saw Madeline at Comm and smiled down at her. She caught his gaze and waved very slightly with her fingers. She seemed so much happier now. No more bruises, no more Valentine missions. She was a damn good strategist, too. But she was still with her husband, and he didn’t understand that. He had assumed that, with Adrian out of the picture, she would divorce and they could be together, but none of that happened. Her marriage actually seemed stronger.
He noticed Charles Sand walking across the common area, on his way to Van Access for a mission targeting Red Cell. Of course, he wouldn’t be coming back; Paul had made sure of that…