Persistence of Memory
Written February 2002
Synopsis: Madeline develops amnesia, and Paul releases her until her condition improves. However, a new terrorist organization is determined to make her re-integration into Section as difficult as possible.
Disclaimer: The characters within are property of LFN Productions, Warner Bros., and USA Network. No infringement is intended.
Paul discussed the latest development with Michael in the Perch, all the while thinking up a way to ask him about Madeline. Michael seemed to see and hear everything; what better place to go than to the man who knew all?
“What do you think? Do you think the bombing was actually an assassination of Makvanaya?”
Michael didn’t take long to consider it. “Yes. Dark Moon has proven to be ruthless in getting what they want. They would kill eleven hundred people to get to one man.”
“But why? Kyrgystan doesn’t have much to offer. They’re planning something.” He paused, finding just the segue he needed. “I’ve already discussed this with Lydia, but I would like to inform Madeline as well. Have you seen her?”
“I saw her with Nikita about an hour ago.”
Oh, that wasn’t good, not good at all. Surely Madeline wasn’t befriending Nikita! “Thank you. I’m going to take the night off. The doctors said I needed to limit my activity due to my injury, and they suggested rest.” That wasn’t true, and Michael probably knew it, but Paul wasn’t concerned. He promised Madeline a few hours of his time, and he was going to give them to her–whenever he found her.
“I’ll call you if there is an emergency.”
“I would appreciate it.” Stifling his emotions, he casually exited the Perch and increased his pace when he reached the hallway. If Madeline had been with Nikita, she may as well have told her the whole truth about her amnesia. Nikita had a sixth sense, and she knew the old Madeline rather well. She would know something was different about her, and she would probably use it to gain an advantage over them. Damn it! Why couldn’t she just stay in Section like he had asked?
He went to the nearest wall terminal to see if she had been assigned a room. He had neglected to do that earlier; a part of him had hoped she’d want to stay with him. After their discussion in the hallway, he knew that wasn’t a possibility, but she had walked off before he could give her a place to stay.
He found her quarters and hurried to them. They were on the same level as his and Michael’s and other high-level ops. At least she wasn’t staying with Nikita. He stopped outside the door and knocked. There was no answer. The rooms were rather soundproof, so he couldn’t tell if there was any movement inside. Turning to the keypad, he punched in her old password: 2-7-9-8-3. The day they met: 27 of September, 1983. Access was denied. Of course, she wouldn’t remember that date. He tried a few more sets–her birthday, Rufus’ birthday, her address, phone number, Cam’s address and phone number. Nothing worked. He could easily look it up, but his actions would be logged and he didn’t really want anyone to know that he was trying to get into Madeline’s quarters without permission. He knocked again, but there was still no answer.
What code would she have used? He stood at the door and thought about it, shifting his weight from foot to foot. He tried 2-7-9-8-3 again. The computer beeped at him. That was the standard order for dates. In most of the world… But he had placed Madeline in the United States, where the month was given first instead of the day. He pressed 9-2-7-8-3, and the door clicked open.
“Madeline?” he called softly. He glanced around at the mess. How could one person destroy a room in under an hour? Clothes were strung all around, price tags still fixed to them. What did she do, buy out the whole store? “Madeline?”
She stepped out of the bathroom, wearing a short terry cloth robe, a towel wrapped around her head. Her eyes met his, and she gasped, squeezing the robe shut by her neck. “How did you get in here?”
“You used the same password you always do.” He lowered his gaze, examining her less-than-dressed appearance. The blood was already rushing toward his groin. Did she have any idea what she did to him?
“What does it mean? The password, I mean. 9-2-7-8-3. A date of some sort?”
“Yes.” He looked into her face again. “It’s the day we met.”
“Oh.” Madeline moved past him, selecting an outfit from the array of clothing on the bed. That seemed like too obvious of a password to her. She would have to change it when she got the chance. “What are you doing here?” The image of Lydia flashed through her head, and she pressed her lips together. “Don’t you have other things to do?”
“No. I took the night off. I thought we could talk.”
“Just…talk?” She could feel his eyes on her, roaming all over her, and she knew he had other things in mind. Well, she wasn’t going to fall for that one. She had already made her decision; she couldn’t love him. It was too confusing, too scary, too difficult.
“I have no plans to seduce you, Madeline.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Of course you have plans to seduce me, Paul. That’s been your whole plan all along!” She spun around, nearly colliding with him. When had he gotten so close? “But I’m on to your scheme. I know where your affections really lie.”
“With that Amazon woman with the poorly dyed hair!”
Paul frowned. “Who?”
“Lydia! Did Cam write ‘An Even Deeper Ecstasy’ based on you and her?”
For a moment, he was confused. When had she met Lydia? “What? I hardly know Lydia! What would give you that idea, the names in the novel? You think I planned that?”
Madeline stood akimbo, half-glaring at him while she fought with herself. Did he have a reason to lie? He’d never lied to her before, so he probably wouldn’t lie now that he had her right where he wanted her. “No. I saw the two of you coming out of your private dining room. What kind of meal did you prepare for her?”
Sighing and shaking his head, he removed the rose from his pocket and handed it to her. “Dinner was for you. You didn’t show up and Lydia did, and I thought it would improve our work relations if we dined together.”
“Oh.” She took the flower and stared at it, then up at him.
“I had your favorite: pears and sushi.”
Madeline wrinkled her nose. “I’m kind of glad I missed it. Sushi–yuck.”
His grin deepened into laughter. “Are there any other questions, any doubts, any fears?”
“I have many.” She sat on the end of the bed, and he joined her. “Nikita asked me why I would return to Section after having a taste of freedom. I didn’t know how to answer her. What do I have here that I couldn’t have out there?”
He had forgotten to scold her over Nikita. “Madeline, going with Nikita was not the smartest thing you could have done. The two of you weren’t exactly friends, and she probably saw right through you.”
“I don’t think so. I said a lot of things about how great Section was and how much I loved my work. I think she believed me. Plus I gave her a very psychological view of my personality changes.”
His lip curled into a peculiar smile. “Just–be more careful next time, okay?”
“It’s not easy,” she said, looking at her hands. “Cam was such a great friend to me, and I miss her. Nikita isn’t the same, but she’s a strong, intelligent, friendly woman. I couldn’t help myself.” She gave a small grunt. “Why am I justifying this to you? I can be friends with whomever I want, do whatever I want. I don’t answer to you, you’re not my–” She swallowed the word ‘husband’ and replaced it with the much more neutral, “Keeper.”
“I have to protect everyone in this organization, even those who don’t think they need protecting.”
“What protection? She had a gun; we were fine.”
Since they were on the topic… “Dark Moon probably has agents in every major city in the world. They could’ve been walking around Paris, seen you, and killed you. We don’t know what they’re planning, but it’s something big.”
“Did you find anything else out about the bombing?”
“Yes. The keynote speaker was one of the presidential candidates in the upcoming elections in Kyrgystan.”
She paused. “That country borders China, doesn’t it? It was a member of the former USSR.”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
“What would Dark Moon want with Kyrgystan?”
“That’s what we can’t figure out. It’s poor, and the terrain is rugged and unstable. But they obviously want something to do with it.”
“You seem very passionate about your work.” She hadn’t really noticed it before, the intensity that filled his voice when he spoke, but it was there, and it was incredible.
Paul nodded, as if just realizing it for himself. “I have an important position. I can’t let the world be overcome by terrorists. It’s my duty to protect the public, no matter what the cost.”
Bowing her head, she closed her eyes. Everything was falling into place. He had to answer those phone calls, he had to plan things with his chief strategist and his second-in-command. To save the public, to save people like Cam and David and Jenny and all of her friends. Without him, without Section One, the terrorists would win. There would be a nuclear holocaust or biological warfare or worse. I’ve been so selfish…
He knew exactly what she was thinking, and he reached out for her. His fingers gently caressed the side of her face, trailing down her neck. The touch was tender, and Madeline sighed, tilting her head to the side. “But it isn’t easy. There are interruptions, unwanted but necessary, and I’ve had to put a lot of important things on hold.” He turned her cheek toward him with his other hand and framed her face. “That doesn’t make them any less important or any less desired, but it does make them more special when the time comes.”
For a moment, the world seemed to stop. Everything hinged on her response. She wanted him desperately, but she was afraid. Give in or give up? It shouldn’t be a difficult decision, but making up her mind was impossible. Why did she have to fall in love with the one man who held the entire world in his hands?
Abandoning her sensibility, she leaned into his embrace and kissed him warmly. Any doubts she might have been having once again disappeared with the first touch of his lips. Paul put a hand on her hip and pulled her closer to him. He traced her mouth with his tongue, nibbled with his teeth, and her body went into a wild spin. Slowly, his fingers found their way to her chest, and they slid under her robe, cupping her breast.
Paul stopped immediately. “I’m sorry.” He folded his hands in his lap, over his growing erection. If she was going to have second thoughts, he needed to figure out why. “What’s wrong?”
She slid his coat off his shoulders and reached in the pockets until she found his cellular phone. “No interruptions.” She found the power button and switched it off, tossing the phone to the floor, hoping it broke so they would never be distracted again. “Now then, where were we?”
Hungry with desire, Paul almost pounced on her, pushing her back on the bed and pinning her hands beside her head. His mouth was hot against hers, his tongue probing and searching with an almost violent intensity. Madeline gasped, her body responding to him as if she had no control over it. Was it possible to want someone so much that it physically ached?
“Paul,” she sighed, and he lifted his head. Her cheeks started to turn red again under his aroused gaze. He’s probably waiting for a refusal, she thought. Well, he wasn’t going to get one. “Make love to me.”
His lips curled into a smile. “Oh, I intend to.”
A laugh tickled her throat. “That’s a bit confident. What if I had told you no?”
“Would you have told me no?”
“Then I’m entitled to be confident.” He grinned again and knelt above her, slightly sitting on her thighs as he loosened his tie. Madeline could see the erection poking through his pants, and she wanted to reach for it, but she was frozen.
“I’m not. I’m not confident. I’m terrified.” She chuckled nervously. “You’ve…been with me before. What if it’s really boring or-or really bad?”
He looked at her, raising an eyebrow with amused surprise. “What?”
“I’ve never done this before. Well, okay, I have, but I don’t remember it. I don’t know any special techniques, except what Cam put in her novels, and I don’t know if I could do any of those.”
He slid beside her, propping up his head with his hand. “I think you’re afraid that I’ll be comparing you with your old self. But you’re not that person anymore. I’ve made love to her. I’ve never made love to you.” He kissed her softly. “I want to make love to you. Don’t be afraid.”
Her whole body tingled from his words, and she blushed deeply. Her foolish thoughts were the only thing standing in the way. “I’m sorry. I guess I’m just nervous.”
One corner of his mouth twitched upward. “Oh, really?”
Something about that smile was mischievous and exciting at the same time. He didn’t say anymore. His hand moved along her calf, to her knee, up her thigh. Madeline’s heart raced. She wasn’t wearing anything beneath her robe, and he was about to find that out. She was warm and moist, and it didn’t have anything to do with her earlier shower. “I–I don’t think you’re doing anything to relax me.”
Chuckling, Paul reached for the knot around her waist and untied it, watching the robe fall open around her. His roving gaze should have made her feel self-conscious, but instead she felt incredibly sexy. He made a small groan of approval deep in his throat, and she sat up, leaving the robe and the towel behind. Her hands shook slightly as she reached for the buttons on his shirt and began to undo them. She hesitated when she reached his belt buckle. Did he expect her to do certain things? Sure, he said she was not the same person, but she was and she undoubtedly had performed particular acts that he probably enjoyed. How was she supposed to know what they were or how to do them? Why didn’t sex come with some instruction manual?
Paul’s hands grasped hers before she had a chance to decide on her next course of action. “Madeline, you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. We can stop at any time.”
“It’s not that, it’s…” She sat with her mouth open for a moment, trying to form the words. “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing,” she finally announced in exasperation. “Can’t you just tie me up or something?”
“Next time,” he promised with a lopsided grin. “But as for now, the only advice I can give you is don’t think, just do.” He gently guided her hand to his erection, and she almost jumped in surprise. “You don’t need to be shy.”
She rubbed him through the fabric of his pants, slowly at first, then with more rhythm. His breathing became somewhat erratic, and deep groans accompanied each gasp. She grinned broadly, knowing she was the cause. “You like that, don’t you?”
“What was your first clue? The moaning, or the fact that my eyes rolled into the back of my head?”
She laughed, pushing him over and pressing her lips to his in a renewed embrace. Every kiss felt different somehow, like he was working his way deeper into her heart. Lust spiraled through her, and it drowned out everything else–her nervousness, her shyness, her fear–until all that remained was love.
Paul’s attention shifted from her lips to the other parts of her face, caressing and tickling her with kisses. Although she was no expert, she was certain that Paul was the master of foreplay. Until that moment, she hadn’t known that it was possible for someone to kiss every inch of her body. She had no idea of the time, but it must have taken him hours to travel the length of her with his lips. And he didn’t even seem to mind; he was actually enjoying it, moaning with her, paying careful attention to the places that received the most positive feedback, asking her what she liked and disliked. Whoever said men weren’t considerate in the bedroom had never met Paul.
Madeline felt relaxed and aroused at the same time, although it didn’t seem possible. It felt like he had given her a full body massage that bordered on the sensual. She couldn’t decide if she should sleep or make love to him. The thought made her chuckle, and Paul gazed at her from his position at her feet.
“Am I tickling you?” he asked, kissing her instep gently.
“No.” She smiled up at him. At some point during their time together, he had managed to undress himself, and she admired his muscular physique. She wondered what kind of exercise regime he must have to maintain it. “How’s your shoulder?”
He glanced at his bandaged wound. “It’s fine.”
“Are you going to be okay? I mean, if we–”
“Do you think you’re going to be so wild that we end up in the infirmary?” He covered her body with his, skimming her ribs with his fingertips. “So you’ve been hiding your true nature under the cover of naïveté.”
Laughing again, she put her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Is this what it’s like?” she asked gently.
“What’s that?” came his quiet reply as he stroked her hair.
“Being in love.” She could hardly believe the words had come out of her mouth, and from the look on his face, Paul was surprised as well. “I’ve never felt this way before.”
“Good.” He captured her lips again while his hand moved between her legs. She parted them instinctively, and he finally touched her. Madeline gasped, breaking their kiss. It was like a bolt of electricity had just raced through her. His fingers caressed the inner folds as he trailed his lips along her jawbone. She continued to pant as he delicately spread the wetness up and down, making patterns and causing her to shudder.
She began to rock against him, arching her back and neck as he increased his speed. An incredible pressure was building inside of her, bringing with it a fire that spread through her veins. A finger slid into her, and she released a small cry. In and out, slowly, while his thumb caressed her clitoris in a circular motion. He could read her emotions, changing the pressure and speed to suit her without ever receiving any requests. She was thankful for that; forming a complete sentence would have been impossible now.
Paul was speaking to her softly, but she had no idea what he was saying. All of her energy and concentration had been taken by the pressure between her thighs. He nibbled on her neck, driving her even further toward the edge. It was too much; she couldn’t take it anymore. Her back was completely off the bed, her breath had all but left her, and she was screaming, she knew she was screaming. And like an earthquake, the pressure simply exploded into wave after wave of pure agonizing bliss. Her body collapsed onto the bed, and her legs clamped around his hand. She lost all conscious thought, whimpering and trembling.
After a full minute, with Paul’s gentle hand still teasing her, she became aware of her surroundings. She hadn’t noticed that she had been clawing at his back and had dug her nails into his flesh. When she let go, he hardly made a sound. Maybe he was used to it. She was too weak to move, except her lips curled into a smile without much effort. “Words cannot describe what you just did to me.”
He kissed her softly, pulling his hand away so he could bring her close to him. “You don’t have to say anything. I can tell that you enjoyed it.” Her lips were full, her skin flushed, and tiny beads of sweat dotted her face. She looked so desirable, so sensual… He slid beside her, crawling toward the bottom of the bed, trailing his way down her body as he went. He stopped at her breasts, bringing a hard nipple between his lips, flicking his tongue across it. Madeline responded with a slight jerk and a sigh, and he closed his mouth over it and sucked gently. It puckered beneath his touch, and he blindly brought his hand to her other breast, massaging it ardently. His penis was so hard it ached, but he wasn’t concerned with himself. There would be time for that later. Loving Madeline in every conceivable way was his only goal now.
She began running her fingers through his hair as he gave her other breast equal treatment with his mouth. They should had done this long ago, but that stupid phone had always prevented her from experiencing such pleasure. She was glad she had thought to turn it off; otherwise, if it had rang, she would have been tempted to bomb something herself. Why had she ever wanted to deny her feelings for him?
Paul continued his journey, stopping only to nip at her navel. She laughed lightly, but her smile slowly vanished as his head got lower and lower. Her body was still sensitive, sending spasms through her every so often. “Uh…Paul…”
“Ssshh.” His eyes turned toward her, and she could see the smile in them. At her nod, he slowly extended his tongue until it touched the tender flesh, and she shuddered. Then again, testing her limits, easing her back into ecstasy. Madeline closed her eyes, reaching for the blanket and curling it into her fist. His mouth moved over her, almost painfully gentle. But it didn’t stay that way. He began to move faster, flicking his tongue across her swollen clitoris. She was still sensitive, but it didn’t stop her from reaching orgasm again. A loud groan of delight escaped her as more ripples quaked through her. The pleasure was so intense, she wanted to cry. Paul held her hips, keeping her in place, as he slowly brought her down from her high, making sure to capture every drop of fluid with his tongue.
She tingled beneath his lips as he slowly moved his way back to her face. She could taste herself as he explored her mouth. Their intimacy was like a dream, and she felt light and weightless as he kissed her. Lightly scraping her nails along his sides, she held him in a serious gaze. Logically, she knew what came next, and he obviously had the same ideas. His penis pressed against her opening, and he gently pushed forward. Madeline drew in a sharp breath, tears forming in the corner of her eyes.
“Does it hurt?” he asked, aware of the tightness.
“No. Fits perfectly.” She released her breath as he pulled out, sucking another one in as he penetrated her again. The fulfillment, the sense of completeness was overwhelming. His caution was unnecessary; it didn’t hurt, it felt amazing. She wanted him, all of him, now. “Harder,” she whispered, “and please don’t go slow.”
Paul laughed, propping himself up with his hands. “You’re so polite.” He plunged deeply into her, literally taking her breath away, and began to pump faster, harder, as she requested. It had been a year, over a year actually, plus one hour of exquisite foreplay…he was surprised he still had the stamina to keep going. Of course, it was all in his head; he knew that, if he focused, he could continue until she was completely satisfied before he finally came. And he was determined to do it, too. Anything for Madeline. “Is that better?”
His response was a strained, “Yes! Oh, yes.”
He moved one hand between them, massaging her, helping her to reach her climax once again. The way she was moaning, it wouldn’t be long. Her muscles had already tightened around him like a silky glove, squeezing him pleasurably. With each thrust, her hips rose to meet his, and their tempo bound them together.
Madeline could barely stand it any longer. Paul was inside her and above her and everywhere, filling her with such delicious agony. The build-up starved her lungs of air, but she didn’t want to let go. However, her body was on the verge of winning the battle with her self-restraint and succumbing to another explosive orgasm. “Paul!” she screamed as she shattered around him, gripping and pulling him with her. He responded with one final hard thrust before jerking against her and collapsing, groaning her name in surrender.
Her trembling limbs clung to him, keeping him as close as possible. She needed him now, more than ever. He obligingly held her tightly, kissing her face with tenderness. “Are you all right?” he asked after a while, wondering if she was still awake.
“I’m fine.” She stole a gentle kiss. “I’m fine.”
Paul moved beside her, an arm around her shoulder, lazily tracing patterns on her belly. “Good.”
Light reflected off the gold band on his finger. She had never found the time to ask him about it, since she had always worried about him not answering. But now that they had shared so much, he would have to answer. “Do you wear that ring for me?”
“But we’re not married?”
“No. It’s…more like a symbol of devotion.”
She smiled briefly, putting her hand over his. “Never found the courage to propose?”
“No, I just never received the right answer when I did.”
The words pained her. She must have been a fool! How could she have turned him down? Didn’t she have any sense? “Why?” she blurted out. “Was I completely stupid?”
Paul chuckled softly, pulling her closer. “You’re the most intelligent person I know, and the most sensible. I never resented your answer because you were right, and I came to agree with it, but it never stopped me from caring for you.”
“I don’t understand.” He didn’t say anything, so she turned on her side to face him. “Paul, please talk to me. I need to know what happened between us before my amnesia. Please.”
With an uncomfortable sigh, he began, “Our jobs at Section are what brought us together in the first place, and they have always been our highest priority. Work first, everything else second. There weren’t very many people, inside Section or out, that made as good a team as us. Of course, it isn’t easy to spend fifteen hours a day with someone and not feel…something. We became lovers, but I wanted more and you might have, but your logic won out over our emotions.”
“What logic? What’s more logical than wanting to be together?”
“At the time, we were still field operatives. Our lives were in jeopardy every day. All the reasons against fraternization in the workplace apply in Section, but add to that list the fact that if a terrorist found out you and your partner were lovers, it would be used against you for the rest of your lives. We became each other’s weaknesses, Madeline. So we called it off for a while, but when I came into power, it was like we had never been apart. From that point on, it became on-again-off-again, typically ‘off.’ Our relationship affected our work on occasion, and we had to be more cautious to keep it a secret from Oversight. Eventually it became another vulnerability, another weakness. You would never verbally admit how you felt about me, so I stopped telling you, and we began to forget why we became lovers in the first place.”
She stared at him in disbelieving horror. She couldn’t believe she had been so cold and callous. Amnesiacs didn’t have complete personality reversals. Was she the only exception? “Why?” She shook her head, blinded by tears. “I don’t understand how I could have been so…so not like myself!”
Paul gave her a regretful glance. “Madeline, about your amnesia… I wasn’t lying when I said I couldn’t live without you, but I spared your life for more reasons than that. You–you’ve always felt guilty about Sarah’s death.”
“Sarah? My sister Sarah?”
“Yes, the one who fell down the stairs. When that happened, there was no one there to tell you that it was an accident. Your mother shunned you, and that lack of love affected your future relationships, including the one you had with me. You couldn’t love me, or at least you couldn’t admit it, because you were still angry at yourself. And when you remembered that event… Oh, Madeline, I had to help you get through it, to convince you that it wasn’t your fault.”
She blinked, ridding her eyes of the tears, and he wiped them away. “You think that–that the way I am now is the way I would have been, if someone had loved me after Sarah’s death?”
“Yes. I know it sounds selfish, that I did it to make you love me, but that’s not true. I did it to help you. You’ve felt guilty about Sarah’s death for almost forty years. It’s time to stop.”
Madeline buried her face against his chest, reeling from his words. As a child, she had been consumed by a guilt that had stayed with her for her whole life. An unnecessary guilt. No one had ever told her that Sarah’s death was an accident. No one had ever let her cry or love. That one event shaped her future, made her think she was capable of torturing and killing criminals, made her feel unworthy of Paul’s affections. And the amnesia…
The amnesia saved her life.
She had a second chance, a rare and special opportunity to right the wrongs she had done. She was no longer driven by guilt; she was free to make her own choices, to live in the future instead of the past. “Paul?”
He stroked her face tenderly and kissed her forehead. “Yes?”
She placed her hand on his cheek, gazing into his eyes, letting every emotion surface. “I love you.”
Paul’s heart skipped two beats. His ears were deceiving him again. Madeline didn’t just tell him she loved him, did she? But the expression on her face, the honesty, the tenderness, convinced him otherwise. “Oh, Madeline,” he sighed, his eyes glistening, “I love you too.”
End of part thirteen