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Title: I Was A Ghost Before You Came
Author: Bigsciencybrain
Fandom: The Bourne Movies Series
Rating: R
Summary: Unable to trust the CIA, Bourne and Landy go into hiding after he escapes from the training facility.
Spoilers: Post-Ultimatum
Pairings: Bourne/Landy
Disclaimer: None of the characters are mine. Bourne belongs to the Ludlum Estate and Universal Pictures. Landy, Vosen, Hirsch, Kramer, Paz, etc. belong to Frank Marshall, Tony Gilroy, and the rest of the series writers.
Notes: Written as a back-up gift for [livejournal.com profile] ficangel who requested... Jason Bourne/Pam Landy, or even gen featuring the two of them.



Despite the softness of his voice, Dr. Albert Hirsch’s low drawl echoes with surprising weight. “This is the end.”

“We can start over...rebuild,” Vosen argues.

Hirsch turns away from the window, shaking his head slowly. “In a matter of hours, there will be people searching every inch of this office. You’re lucky Jason stole your files.”

The comment rubs salt into an already oozing wound. “They’ll be after you too.”

“I’ve given all I could to this program.” He looks toward the window again, almost wistfully. “Jason Bourne was my greatest success. Methodical, resourceful. Such determination. None of the others made me as proud as he did.”

Vosen grimaces at the nostalgic ramblings. None of this is going to stop the bleeding hearts on the oversight committee from dismantling Blackbriar just when they need it the most. The only hope he, and anyone else at the Agency has, of surviving the maelstrom of Jason Bourne was to fight back with every resource they have. If they couldn’t stop one of their own, how could they expect to stop anyone else?

“Do you know what makes him different from the others?” Hirsch asks suddenly. “I didn’t comprehend the truth until he was standing in front of me. All this time, I thought I made him what he was.”

“Is there a point to all of this introspection?” Vosen asks, his irritation growing almost as rapidly as his panic over the impending subpoenas for his records. “Preferably one that will help me catch him.”

“Stop looking for Jason Bourne.”

“Who exactly should I be looking for?”

“I suggest you start looking for David Webb.”

“Captain David Webb. Army. Delta force. I’ve read the file; everyone’s read the goddamn file,” Vosen snaps, frustrated by the psychological mumbo-jumbo. He wants data and facts that he can organize, that make sense.

“Exactly. If you want to find him, look for what isn’t in the file.”

“Assuming they won’t be pulling his body out of the East River any moment now.” As he says it, Vosen knows it’s too much to ask for. Jason Bourne is the monster from a bad horror movie that keeps coming back, spawning sequel after sequel. Even if Hirsch is right, it doesn’t help to tell him to look for a ghost. Captain Webb is officially dead, killed in action during an operation in Somalia more than a decade ago; his very existence purged upon entrance into the program. Then again, there might be another option, a much more tangible option. “If he’s not dead then he climbed out of that river and disappeared. And I’m willing to bet that he didn’t do it alone.

Hirsch finally turns to face him directly. “You think he had help? From whom?”

“Pamela Landy.” Vosen allows himself a brief moment of victory. “And while the intimate details of David Webb’s life were officially erased, there is nothing in Landy’s life that isn’t available to me. Friends, boyfriends, family. As far as I’m concerned, she’s just as high a priority as Bourne and she’ll be easier to find.”

A rare, almost amused, smile appears on Hirsch’s face. “Would that bright-eyed Athena should care to love you as once she cherished the mighty Ulysses.”

It’s the final straw for Vosen. He’s not sure if meeting Jason Bourne face to face actually drove Albert Hirsch mad or if the man has been suffering from dementia for much longer than that. There’s no point in asking for clarification of this latest cryptic comment. First, he’s supposed to look for David Webb instead of Bourne even though they’re the same person, then he’s supposed to search out the hidden meaning in what sounds like bad Greek literature.

“If there’s anything I can do to help you...” he trails off, looking at his office door expectantly. The Justice Department might be preparing to arrest him, but it’s still his office and he’ll be damned if he’s going to spend his last hours listening to epic poetry.

The amused smile is still there but, thankfully, Hirsch starts toward the door. “Neither of us will be getting those stars now,” are his parting words, no less cryptic than everything he’d said before.

Wills holds the door open, watching Hirsch leave with annoyance. “Sir, the satellite download to the archive is complete.”

“Sever all access. Anything beyond level 4.” He sees hesitation in Wills expression. “I doubt the Justice Department’s goons will care than pulling us offline without the proper preparation could endanger hundreds of American lives. This way, we’re cooperating and we’re also protecting our citizens. That’s our job.”

Reassured, Wills nods his compliance. “And the asset?”

“He’ll be on standby until this is over.” It’s an optimistic prediction that he doesn’t truly believe, but he holds onto the hope that not everything they’ve worked for is going to be lost. “This country needs us, now more than ever. Not even the Justice Department can deny that. This is only a bump in the road.”

Once Wills is gone, Vosen has one last task to perform before he begins the subtle dismantling of his own file system. Hirsch is right about one thing; the most damning documents walked out of his office with Bourne. All that’s left now is damage control. The cell phone in his desk drawer will be destroyed immediately after he sends what might be his last target identification to the asset. He can’t deny the feeling of vindication, however small, there is in hitting the send button. Pamela Landy can run all she wants, but regardless of what happens to him or Blackbriar once the investigators arrive, the asset will find her and he will complete the assignment.

She may have won the battle, but he’s going to win the war.

***

David Webb has survived years of being an active CIA assassin and years of being hunted by the very agency that created him. Pamela Landy has to remind herself of those facts every five minutes to keep from wondering if he’ll still be alive when she returns. If he managed to survive all of that, he can survive her bumbling surgical technique.

In her plans for going into hiding, it never occurred to her that she wouldn’t be alone. As she’s walking down an aisle in the supermarket, she realizes that she doesn’t know what she’s looking for. What was his favorite food? Did they program that into the assets as well? There is too much she doesn’t know about Treadstone and Bourne’s origins. Too many questions without hope of answers. She forces those thoughts away; she has to focus and get back to their hiding place as soon as possible.

There’s one part of her life, and possibly the only part, that isn’t available in any of her files and Vosen won’t be able to find it in her townhouse or her credit card statements. For a brief three months between fall and spring semesters of her junior and senior year in college, she fell in love with Rick Saunders.

He wanted to join Doctors Without Borders and save the world. She was on the fast track to the Agency and a life of counter-intelligence. Even then she’d known there wouldn’t be time for anything but her work. Married to the Constitution, Rick would tell her, teasing and serious at the same time. And once the summer was over, she’d gone back to Brown and he’d gone on to Harvard Medical.

Occasionally, a postcard from a faraway place would arrive in her mailbox. It’s summer here, was all the postcards ever said. She didn’t keep them; she didn’t believe in sentimentality.

Years later, when there were databases of names and people at her fingertips, she discovered that he followed his dream and had half a dozen third world countries on his resume. And he still owned the hunting cabin in upstate New York where they’d whiled away lazy summer days so many years before. It was always closed for the winter, carefully maintained and prepared in anticipation of spring, and the closest neighbor was nearly twenty miles away.

The only person she ever told was her roommate at the time, a soft-spoken theology major named Marianne Harris. Ten years after they graduated and went their separate ways, Marianne lost her battle with breast cancer and Pam’s secret went to the grave with her.

She’s surprised that coming back is stirring up so many vivid memories. The past is something she doesn’t dwell on, preferring to stay in the present and move forward.

Pushing away the memories crowding back in, she hurries to the checkout line. She pays in cash and is polite, but not polite enough to be remembered, to the teenager scanning the items. Canned food; a sweatshirt, plain t-shirts, and sweatpants she hopes will fit David, as well extra socks; deodorant, a toothbrush. She’s never shopped for a man in her entire life and feels completely inadequate in her choices. An over the counter antiseptic cream and a bottle of painkillers aren’t unusual in the midst the rest of her purchases. She hopes it will be enough.

What she really needs is a very strong cup of coffee.

Even the drive back to the cabin is distracted with visions of the past. It’s not the first time she’s thought about Rick, not even the first time that she’s wondered if she made the right choice, but it’s the first time she’s been free to consider the possibility of new opportunities. The career she chose over everything else is on shaky ground and could be yanked away from her along with her freedom.

She’s not as devastated as she thought she would be.

Perhaps discovering what was lurking beneath the surface and exploiting the people who truly believed in the Agency’s mission softens the brunt of the blow. Then again, perhaps she’s merely in denial. As she rounds the last corner and the cabin comes into view, she sees David’s silhouette in the far right window. Maybe there will be a day in the future when he won’t have to keep looking over his shoulder.

Her mind is heavily occupied with more ideas than she knows what to do with as she brings in the supplies and begins unloading the contents of the shopping bags onto the kitchen table. The air is much warmer than it was when she left and the faint crackle of a fire catches her attention.

“I found the wood,” he says, leaning against the kitchen doorframe for support.

“You need to take it easy.” She gathers together the clothing and other purchases meant for him. “Here. They didn’t have much of a selection. And I bought more painkillers.”

He takes the pile awkwardly. “You should get some rest. I’ll keep watch. We’ll take turns.” He still sounds like a fish out of water, clumsily trying to integrate her into his survival without knowing where she fits.

But she’s not going to argue against sleep. Now that the fear of being caught has begun to fade into the back of her mind, the exhaustion is creeping in. The rest of her purchases can wait to be organized or stowed away until she’s slept off the hours of driving. Ceding to her own tired muscles, she leaves the disarray in the kitchen for a warm spot on the couch in front of the fireplace. Her scalp stops itching the moment she pulls off the wig. It’s a necessary evil, but evil nonetheless.

“There’s a bed,” he says, still standing in the doorway.

“This will be fine for now.” She nearly tells him that there are too many memories lurking in the cabin for her to face the bedroom. Once she’s feeling less like the world is falling down around her, she’ll be able to face all of those ghosts. And then, after she’s exorcised her demons, she’ll tackle his. There’s still a stack of files and notes from Vosen’s office waiting to be sifted through; if she’s lucky, she’ll discover who she can trust. The implications of whether or not Ezra Kramer is on that list are too daunting to consider without sleep.

A heavy wool blanket spread over her helps keep the chill at bay as she nestles into the couch. She tries closing her eyes but finds herself unable to keep her mind away from where he is and whether or not he is all right. Giving up, she opens her eyes again. He’s sitting in the chair across from her, still too pale for her liking.

“How are you feeling?” she asks. It’s awkward. She’s not sure why she expected it to be anything else. They’re strangers thrown together by unbelievable events, even if it feels as though she knows him almost as well as she knows Tom Cronin. “I want your honest assessment. If I need to hold up a pharmacy, I’d like to plan ahead.” For a moment she thinks he might actually smile at the joke, but it’s gone in the blink of an eye and replaced with the endless stillness that seems to emanate from him. She pushes up onto one elbow, watching him carefully. “I know I wasn’t part of your plan, but you’re stuck with me until I’m convinced that wound is going to heal.”

“Thank you.” He’s looking down at his hands, his voice low and raspy enough that she’s not sure she heard him correctly. “For the first time, I haven’t had to think about where I was going and how I was going to get there. I’ve been running for so long...”

It’s a veritable soliloquy for a man who redefines the strong and silent type and she finds herself strangely touched at his stumbling attempt to tell her something he probably didn’t understand himself. There’s a raw intimacy in his ramblings; she’s witness to the hesitant steps of a man reclaiming his humanity piece by piece.

“You’re welcome, David.” She uses his name deliberately; hoping that if she says it enough, it will help him reclaim what was taken from him. He’s moving away before she’s finished the sentence, but strangely, she feels less anxious just seeing him mobile. She can close her eyes and breathe easier, believing he’ll still be there when she wakes up.

***

Tending the fire only occupies so much of his time and he’s convinced that, for now, they’ve eluded the people chasing him. He doesn’t know what happened after he gave the backpack to Pamela Landy or how she’d anticipated this eventuality. He underestimated her; the odds are good that Vosen will underestimate her as well. And if this place truly can’t be traced to her, then they’ll be safe long enough for him to formulate a new plan.

Surging pain in his back makes his head spin, forcing him to stop and rest. The painkillers keep the edge off but no more. A single bullet wound isn’t going to kill him and he could run if he had to, but he’s relieved to have a chance to lick his wounds in peace. Keep moving, keep breathing, keep fighting. That’s what they programmed into him, that’s all he knows. He doesn’t know how to be different.

You volunteered.

He’s given up hope that filling in any more of the pieces will do any good. His past is a time bomb, ready to destroy everyone around him. Marie, Nicky, Simon Ross. People died just for knowing his name.

At least he didn’t have to dig the bullet out himself this time. No desperate fumbling, fingers slick with his own blood and choking on the bile rising in his throat, like that night in Moscow, reeling in pain and wanting more than anything to make it all end. The only reason he’s alive is because of Treadstone. Everything he is, every breath he takes, is because of what they did to him.

How long can he keep living this way?

A sudden shiver reminds him that his clothes aren’t quite dry and despite the heat from the fire, the damp is preventing him from staying warm. Gingerly, he scoops up the clothing Landy purchased and slips into the back bedroom as quietly as possible. The checkerboard patterned quilt is comfortable and homey, it’s a quilt purchased to build a sanctuary.

He sheds the fabric that has almost become a second skin; injured muscle and skin in his back burns with each movement. The gauze bandage is stiff with dried blood. He leaves it as it is. Soft, warm clothing slides over shivering skin; he has to sit down to slowly inch the t-shirt over his head and shoulders. The bone-chilling cold that has been coiled at the pit of his stomach since he climbed out of the river begins to fade.

It’s habit that drives him to check all of the windows once again, watching the early morning shadows drift over the snow. The winding back road leading to the cabin is almost obscured by drifting snow and from the look of the sky, there’s more on the way. That part of the trip is blurred.

Beyond the cabin is thick forest that seems to contain only deer, birds, and possibly rabbits. There’s another thin trail of smoke barely visible in the far distance, the only sign that they haven’t escaped civilization completely. In his initial search of the cabin, he turned up fishing gear, which meant there was a stream or lake nearby. The overhead fixture doesn’t respond when he tests one of the light switches; there must be a generator. Whoever owns the cabin has money to spare; it’s visible in the elegant furniture and the high-end appliances.

It’s perfect.

He ends his rounds in the living area where Landy is sleeping soundly on the couch and returns to the leather chair beside her. The room around them looks as though he’s stepped into a magazine. Wood panel floors, thick sheepskin rugs, and even the artwork on the walls seem orchestrated to create a feeling of warmth and tradition.

A little voice that sounds like Marie echoes inside his head, when did you become an interior designer?

He’s almost used to the voice in his head and the bitter reminder than she’s not there. It might mean that he’s finally lost his sanity along with his past, but he doesn’t dwell on that possibility. His very existence is a mockery of all that’s considered sane and normal. Shaking his head doesn’t silence the voice or the feeling – instinct – that the entire room is staged to present a specific image.

You’re paranoid, Jason.

It’s on the list of symptoms of all Treadstone agents. Anger, depression, paranoia. Like any other lab rat, he has unwanted and unanticipated side effects.

He’s been outside normal society for so long that he doesn’t recognize or understand it any longer. He recognizes interior design as something that people do, but doesn’t know how to process his environment without seeing the deliberateness of the setting. All of his training tells him that something is wrong with the room; wrong in a way he doesn’t understand. He almost wishes for Landy to wake up, to talk to him about anything that’s part of a normal life in the normal world. He needs someone, anyone, to tell him that there’s nothing wrong with the room or the art hanging on the walls. This is how normal people live. They worry about rugs and appliances and checkerboard quilts.

The only thing wrong with the room is him.

Uncomfortable in his surroundings, he leaves the living area and retreats to the bedroom toward the back of the cabin. He can lie, carefully, on his side and look out the bay windows at the clouds floating across the sky. Even lying still, he feels as though he’s running. Without a target – who’s planning the missions now? - he’s adrift, cut loose from anchor and pushed out to sea. He doesn’t know what to do.

Marie would know. She always knew him better than he knew himself.

His gaze drifts around the room, looking for anything to distract him from the pain in his back and the more painful memories in his head. Thick curtains frame out the bay window in dark green, a color that is picked up and scattered about the room in perfectly spaced intervals; bits of green in the soft quilt, more green in the picturesque forest scene painting and the thick rug. Another overstuffed leather armchair, a heavy oak trunk, and more dark wood floors gleaming even under a layer of dust. There’s a painting of a lighthouse on the wall directly in front of him, almost obscured by a floor lamp. It’s the only piece of the room that isn’t perfectly straight and perfectly level.

Ignoring the pain, he eases off of the bed and reaches out to straighten the painting. It scratches against the wall, stays level for a moment, but falls back to its skewed position immediately after he lets go. He lifts it off of the wall in search of the reason for its failure to stay straight. Tucked into the frame behind the painting is a heavy paper envelope, its metal clasp the source of the scraping against the wall.

He replaces the painting on the wall, it sits perfectly now that the weight is evenly distributed, and returns to the bed with the envelope. The dark manila paper is worn and turning brittle with age. The contents shift and then come sliding out when he tips it to the side.

Photographs.

He recognizes the cabin in the background of several pictures, the trees thick with leaves and a cloudless sky above them. There’s a young woman in all of them, smiling at the camera as though it possesses all the happiness in the world. Strangely compelled, he begins shuffling through the stack of photographs, envying and pitying the carefree innocence he sees in them. Bitter hunger he’s tried so hard to avoid gnaws at him once again, making him ache for the way Marie would run her hands over his skin, the way she brought light into his life every time she smiled.

His hands stop on one picture in particular and he has to blink several times before he realizes why the woman looks so familiar. It’s the expression on her face, the way she’s looking at the camera with determination sharp enough to cut like a knife. Her hair is longer and pulled back into a ponytail, but the sharp cheekbones are unmistakable. He’s looking at a picture of Pamela Landy. A men’s Oxford shirt hangs loose over her thin frame, long bare legs stretching out over the couch. There’s a book in her hands, thick and leather bound.

The tip of his index finger traces her outline absently, wondering how long ago the picture was taken and who took it. It’s turning sepia with age; the dark circles and hard lines are conspicuously missing from her face. Whatever memory is captured here, it’s important enough that it stayed a secret. He remembers the deep breath she took before unlocking the front door – the spare key is hidden in the porch lamp – and the way she closed her eyes, visibly steeling herself for whatever was inside.

In his wandering, he hasn’t found any pictures of the mysterious owner. If they have a family or a spouse who mustn’t know about past guests, there isn’t any sign of them. In fact, he hasn’t found any personal effects in the cabin at all. All weather clothing in the closets, men’s coats, jackets, and boots, but no monogrammed towels, no family photos on the walls or mantle. The question of why the pictures were hidden and the intimacy of the photograph stop him from turning through the rest of the stack.

He keeps coming back to the same nagging feeling that the appearance of the cabin is entirely too perfect. Frustrated by his inability to dismiss the irrational worry and by his lack of understanding of what any sane person would consider normal, he carefully slides the photographs back into the envelope before they can raise more questions he has no business in asking.

There is no doubt that they’ll come after her, like they came after Nicky and Simon Ross. Just for helping him, just for knowing his name. Or they’ll come for him and she’ll be collateral damage. The longer they stay together, the more likely it is that she’ll meet the same fate as Marie.

Restless, he returns to the living area and the leather chair. She’s lying on her side, curled in on herself like a child. Sleep softens the hardness of her features. Maybe it’s his training, maybe he simply got used to having someone to watch over while Marie was with him. As long as he’s watching, he can believe that nothing will happen to her.

He has to believe he can change what he is.

Date: 2008-03-03 01:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bacchae23.livejournal.com
It's a shame that not many people have commented on this -- it's a beautifully done piece of work with just the right amount of tension to keep the story moving yet isn't frantic. Your characterizations are beautifully done. Hirsch is frightening more in this fic than in "Ultimatum", and it's eerie to read his conversation with Vosen and realize that the guy is really off his nut.

And the angst with Bourne (sorry -- David) is perfect; it isn't overly sloppy or emo but it isn't entirely cold-hearted and emotionless. You convey the difficulty of a screwed-up guy attempting to adjust to things that he hasn't really had in the last two, three years.

Landy is excellent, too. Nice to see some background on her -- her character isn't usually that deeply examined by people, and it's cool that you're expanding so much on the past.

So far? Good job. I certainly want to read more.

Date: 2008-03-03 04:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alice-1005.livejournal.com
Beautiful job. You have done a wonderful job with characterization, and I loved the last line about watching over Pamela.
(deleted comment)

Date: 2008-03-04 05:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] bigsciencybrain.livejournal.com
I'm glad you're enjoying it! I have read a draft or two of Ultimatum. And I get why they cut or changed what they did, but there were some incredible moments in those early drafts. :)

Date: 2008-03-09 04:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] aabbey.livejournal.com
Just caught up on this...it's the best Bourne fic I've read in a really long time. Can't wait to see what happens next, and love your Landy!

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