bigsciencybrain: (cheshire muse)
[personal profile] bigsciencybrain
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.




Spartan.

Somehow he knows that word is the key to everything. That it is why he’s here, sitting alone in a seedy motel room with a gun in his hands.

The metal is cool to the touch, always cool. Running his fingertips down the barrel, he tries to dig through his memories for one that rings true. He’s never thought about it before, never questioned anything inside his head. At the same time, that little voice – the one whispering on the roof that Bourne was telling the truth - is now telling him not to believe everything he thinks he knows.

Is Paz even his name?

Pieces of him feel real: the desire, the hunger, and the urgency to fight back against the world pushing down around him. When it’s quiet, like it is now, a feeling of childlike helplessness wells up from deep inside; he doesn’t know where it comes from, can’t touch it or take it apart like his gun and figure out how the pieces work. Slippery as an eel, it slithers away into the back of his mind when he tries to focus on where it comes from, attempting to pinpoint details that might lend credence to his reality.

He sets the gun aside and tries to focus on the target instead of his internal misgivings. The phone is silent. No new orders or useful pieces of information have come to point him in any particular direction.

Pamela Landy.

He has more information about her than he’s had about any other target, right down to the dish she orders most often from the Chinese take-out flyer posted on her refrigerator. Phone records, financial records; he has an entire disk of material that makes up her life. None of is useful. He can tell from the changing numbers in her bank account that she was preparing to run even before Bourne arrived in New York. She has no family or friends within driving distance of the deep cover office – she hasn’t called anyone outside of the CIA in months - and the voice is telling him the car is a ruse. There is nothing useful in her day planner and her townhouse gave up no secrets, everything clean and modern and perfectly organized.

Her escape would be just as organized; she would have had everything she needed already prepared and waiting. The car was found walking distance from a bus station. It would have been easy to walk in, open a locker, and leave without being noticed.

He opens his phone and pulls up her picture. Tall, blonde, commanding; she’ll stand out in a crowd wherever she goes and she’s smart enough to know that. Is Bourne with her? That’s the question lurking in the back of his mind. He wants to know if Jason Bourne also has memories of a past that may or may not be real. He wants to ask questions.

Look at us. Look at what they make you give.

It’s unshakable; the feeling that what Bourne was trying to tell him is vitally important. But he doesn’t know what it means and that keeps his mind turning the words over and over, trying to give them meaning.

Will you commit yourself to this program?

He knows that voice, knows the face that comes with it, but they feel like words from a dream rather than his own life. It wasn’t as simple as signing his name on a dotted line, but the details are blurred and fade away when he reaches for them. Does Bourne have those memories as well? If he can determine what memories they have in common, if any, then he’ll know what it all means.

The creak of a loose floorboard outside his door is nearly inaudible but it’s the reason he chose that particular room.

He has time to reach for his gun before the door splinters and a bullet hits him in the chest like a sledgehammer. Gasping, the breath rushing from his lungs as he falls back, he presses his hand against the wound as hard as he can to stop the bleeding. The air in his lungs feels heavy as lead. Too much pain. He tries to force it back, to keep his mind clear in spite of the burning in his chest. A silhouette of a man moves through the doorway, edges blurred by the weak, yellow light from the parking lot.

A familiar face – he remembers that scar – fills his blurred vision. “Sarge?”

“The war’s over, Pazinski,” the man standing over him says. The gun multiplies, bouncing back and forth like an echo as he spins the silencer off of the barrel. The disk containing information about Landy disappears into the man’s coat pocket along with his cell phone.

He can taste blood in the back of his throat, blinking repeatedly in an attempt to clear his vision. Jacob. His name is Jacob Pazinski. It’s not the name on his passport but he knows it’s his, he knows it’s real. The door shuts quietly. That was always the Sergeant’s way, in and out like a shadow. Taking shallow breaths, he feels for the motel phone on the end table, lifting the receiver and dialing blindly.

A tiny voice comes out of the speaker. “Nine one one, what’s your emergency?”

***

“Captain Webb.”

“Yes, sir.” He notices the scar first and then the way the man in front of him wears the scar like a Medal of Honor; it’s a mark, a war trophy, carried in plain view. One of the files in the man’s hands folds shut. He sees his name on one of them and recognizes his personnel file. The second document is labeled only with the word TREADSTONE.

The man motions for him to follow. “You have an impressive record. Resourceful, courageous under fire.”

They walk beyond the grassy area where the men are training. There’s a hill at the edge of the base where the ground falls off and a valley view spreads out around them. He keeps stiff, at attention, waiting for the unusual meeting to be explained. His curiosity is percolating; he’s learned to keep it in check.

“At ease, soldier,” the man finally tells him, breathing in deeply as he looks out over the view. “You have another tour coming up.”

He hesitates. “Yes, sir.”

“The enemy’s changed, Captain. The whole world has changed,” his tone softens, becoming reflective. “There are nuclear warheads for sale to the highest bidder. Tanks and assault rifles on the black market. We can no more stop a suicide bomber with a missile than we can stop a bomb with an umbrella. It’s only a matter of time before lives…American lives…are lost.”

All of this he knows too well: the threat of proliferation, the reality of terrorism. “I understand, sir.”

“Do you?” the man with the scar asks. Whether or not the question itself is unsettling or if it’s merely the man’s crooked smile, he doesn’t know. “Do you know what kind of weapon it takes to deal with that kind of enemy?”

Again, he hesitates. If there is a point to the questioning, it will be explained soon enough. He makes note of the lack of markings on the man’s uniform, nothing to give away his rank or affiliation. Earlier, however, he noticed deference – almost unease - in the way his superiors addressed the man with the scar.

“The kind of weapon you could be, Captain Webb. You fit the profile. You’re everything we’re looking for.”

In the background, he can hear a bird chirping from inside the cover of a nearby tree and further off, the sound of the men training. “What is Treadstone, sir?”

“The best chance our country has to protect its citizens.” The man closes the file, preventing him from seeing any of its contents and making it that much more tantalizing. “Are you interested?”

He doesn’t hesitate this time. “Yes, sir.”


The burning pain in his back dissolves the dream – not a dream - and wakes him just as quickly as a slap of ice water against his face. His head is pounding, as it always does when bits of the past claw their way forward into his present. Throbbing, insistent, and damning, he forces himself to think through the fog of pain and reach for the glass of water.

His fingers, heavy and clumsy from sleep and fatigue, close too soon and send the glass tumbling off of the chair. The crack of breaking glass booms like thunder in his oversensitive ears.

From the pale light cast by the lamp in the living area, he sees that it wasn’t loud enough to wake Pamela. She’s fallen asleep in the midst of reading through Vosen’s files. Reluctant to wake her, he rolls onto his side and eases his aching body off of the bed. The wood floor is cold and smooth against his skin.

One piece at a time, he collects the shards of glass and places them carefully back onto the chair. Skimming his hand over the floor, he makes sure he’s found all of the pieces. By then, he’s exhausted – tired of living – and has to rest. It’s easier to sink down onto his side and lay his head against the floor, soaking up the welcome cool from the wood and the spilled water.

You fit the profile.

He doesn’t know what that means, what profile it was that damned him. Young and gullible perhaps, willing to believe the promises that he would be saving American lives. These new memories aren’t bringing clarity. No longer David, no longer Jason; they’ve left him with no identity to call his own.

Who am I?

The flames cast long flickering shadows into the bedroom, each one a shadow to jump at, a potential enemy lurking beyond his sight. There’s no one there, there’s no one there.

Wind rustles outside, adding its voice to the night. For an instant, it reminds him of Goa and the nights without dreams, the moments of peace in a life of blood and violence. If he moves the spell will be broken and he’ll have to remember that there is nothing for him outside these walls but death; that it won’t be over until he can rip Jason Bourne completely out of his skull. That Marie is still gone.

Every inch of his body aches. From the car crash, from the fall, from the bullet Pamela dug out of his back. There isn’t a single bit of him that doesn’t hurt to move or touch and it’s getting harder to force the pain into the background, but it distracts him from the emptiness inside and he considers that an acceptable trade. He’d rather feel the bruises and cracked ribs than the broken heart.

Keep moving.

He’s been still long enough. Palms flat against the floor, pushing up despite the internal protests of torn and bruised flesh; he’s shaking as he gets to his knees and then, ever so slowly, to his feet. The sweat on his skin cools him quickly. As quietly as possible, he moves through the living area and stokes the fire, adding another log to take the chill out of the air. Landy is curled up on the couch once again, shivering unconsciously against the cold. He slips the operations brief from her hands and awkwardly pulls the blanket up over her shoulders.

Easing his battered body down into the leather chair once again, he flips through the pages, scanning over them in the dim light. Exactly what he’s looking for, he doesn’t know; a memory, a name, an explanation.

“You can’t go back,” Landy says softly, surprising him. She smiles just slightly, eyes still partly closed with sleep. “David Webb is dead, officially; killed in action during a covert operation in Africa. They erased who you were and gave you a new identity. One that couldn’t be traced back to them.”

“Was there a Jason Bourne?” he asks, wondering if they traded him in for a newer model or if they’d merely fabricated the assassin they needed. What about the man he killed? Did he take his place?

“I don’t know. There’s a reference to a supplier. It’s vague.” Keeping the blanket snug around her shoulders, she pushes up into a sitting position and reaches for another file. “At first I thought Daniels recruited you, but he was just the contact point inside Treadstone. Someone else hand picked the assets and brought them to Daniels. Someone outside the Agency, with extensive military contacts.”

“I remember a face. Not a name. I don’t think I ever knew his name. I fit the profile.” The words blur on the page, fading in and out with the flickering of memories. “Ross said it all started with me. I was square one. What does that mean?”

“You were what made them realize it would work,” she answers bluntly. “You weren’t their first attempt, just their first success. It’s all in here. Hirsch documented everything. You might not agree, but compared to what happened to the men before you, you’re the lucky one.”

“Did I…do I have a family?” It seems insane to ask. Even if he did, he’s long dead to anyone who might want him back.

“Your file lists parents and one sibling, a sister. But there’re no details.” The look on her face doesn’t give him hope for any happy reunions in his future. “They would have had to make sure no one could ever identify you. I’m sorry.”

“You think they killed my family?”

“I think it’s a distinct possibility. Vosen and Kramer are the kind of men who hate loose ends and who have a great deal to hide.” In the warm glow from the fireplace, she looks tired and terribly sad. “This wasn’t just a dirty section chief; this was years of research and hundreds of millions of dollars. This was approval from the highest levels of government.”

“You have proof?”

She nods, but that only seems to deepen her sadness. “Enough to send Vosen and Kramer away for a very long time. And enough to be signing my own death warrant when I go forward.”

“Then run.”

“The American people have a right to know what they’ve done. What they did to you.” Her tone is firm and there’s no trace of fear in her eyes, only sadness that it has come to this. “There’s no cell phone reception out here. First thing tomorrow, I’ll drive into town and find out what’s going on. If I can get what I know to the Justice Department, that’ll be enough. Once I make that call, I won’t be able to come back here without putting you at risk.”

“They’ll kill you before you can testify.”

“Then I’ve served my country.”

There’s a trace of bitter humor in her voice that he doesn’t understand, but he doesn’t need to. The world is simple. His world is simple. He envies her faith in her country and her conviction in the ideals it was founded on. The truth, the reality, is the blood on his hands and the scars on his back. Everything else is idle politics and lies. Even the thought of being part of that system turns his stomach and darkens his vision with disgust and hatred. The system did this to him. They did this to him. They took Marie away.

“How are you feeling?” Her question stops his downward spiral into angry despair.

He doesn’t tell her about the burning pain in his back or the aching everywhere else. It’s only pain; they’re only bruises and a bullet wound. That part of him will heal. The rest of him will be shattered and broken for the remainder of his life.

The lamp beside her blinks; a question mark to punctuate her question and his inability to answer her. Pushing aside the blanket, she swings her legs off of the couch. “I’ll be back. If you’re feeling up to it, why don’t you take a shower? Towels are in the cabinet next to the sink.” She tugs on her shoes and then gathers up the remaining stack of files, placing them on the end table beside him. “You’re welcome to look through these if you think it will help. It might bring something back.”

Once she’s gone, he eyes the files distrustfully. Pandora’s box has already been opened; he sees no reason to shake its contents out onto the floor. He takes her suggestion instead, leaving the comfort of the fire and leather chair behind. Every motion is stiff and painful, reinforcing the nearly overwhelming desire to hide. It takes conscious effort to remind himself that he is hidden. Swallowed up by forest and snow, he’s hidden away in the depths of someone else’s past, someone else’s memories.

No amount of convincing eases the tension between his shoulder blades.

With stone tile, marble countertops, and a spacious walk-in shower, the bathroom is the same luxurious perfection that feels too carefully planned to be anything but a trap. He ignores the hissing paranoid curling up his spine like a snake, pushing it as deep as he can into the darkness it came from.

Focus on the target, Soldier.

He jerks involuntarily as the voice echoes in his head, the ghost of Conklin returning to torment him. He forces that away too, refusing to acknowledge it. Reaching an arm in, he swivels the shower handle to On. The sound of pounding water makes it a little easier to ignore the ghosts. He strips away his clothing quickly, focusing completely on the action of push and pull against the fabric.

The gauze on his back is once again stuck to his skin with dried blood; he leaves it. Heat and steam envelope him as he steps into the shower, stinging his skin and lungs with each inhalation. Reaching out, palms flat against the tile walls, he steadies himself against the bombardment of water and lowers his head under the stream completely. All he can hear is water rushing past his ears and, briefly, he can pretend the world has faded away. Hot water washes away the dirt and blood, the smell of the East River, but never touches the darkness under his skin.

“He’s all yours, Daniels.” The man with the scar is there again, smiling a crooked smile that holds no amusement or humor. Neil Daniels stands beside him, lips moving but no sound coming out.

He’s in a lobby, glass doors behind him. 415 East 71st. He can see the black Suburban that brought him here just beyond the entrance.

“Good luck, Captain.” In that moment, he sees something in the scarred face, some hint of softness and humanity that wasn’t there before. Regret; as though the Pied Piper was suddenly rethinking his vengeance.

He doesn’t understand; he’s serving his country.

Daniels leads him down the hallway, looking back over his shoulder. He can’t hear the words.

Water.

His head is covered with black cloth; he can hear the water running. He can’t breathe.


Searing pain in his nose and throat – he’s drowning - breaks through the nightmare. He’s choking on real water this time, grasping for anything solid to claw his way out and gulping down air. Hands pull at his shoulders. Keep fighting. Shoving against his captor, pain lancing through his back, he manages to twist around and lash out. He has to make it stop. His hands close around their neck, gripping tight.

Cold metal hits the side of his head with a brutal crack, splitting open the skin at his temple and momentarily stunning him. His vision is blurred but he can see the familiar shape of a gun pointed right between his eyes. Tendrils of long, blonde hair are wrapping around his hands and wrists. Pamela. He pulls his hands away and stares helplessly down at his fingers. They’re trembling violently, whether from the memories or from what he’s just done, he doesn’t know.

Her eyes are wide; the spray of water from the shower creates false tears on her cheeks. The gun is still pointed at him as she waits for him to make the next move.

“Please,” he manages to choke out. His whole world is spinning out of control and has been ever since they killed Marie. The memories come unbidden now, hitting him and tearing him into pieces without warning. He can’t stop them, he can’t push them away. Water hits his back, digging into the bruises and bullet wound like scorpion stingers, but he can’t seem to move at all.

Slowly, she lowers the gun to her side. Her hair and clothes are soaked through; blood tinged water dripping down her chin from a cut on her lower lip. The expression on her face is defiant, almost furious. Very slowly, as though trying not to startle him, she reaches down to pick up the bar of soap sitting innocuously by her foot.

“Here,” she tells him. Her voice trembles just slightly and her knuckles are white. “I’ll be here…if you need anything.”

His hand moves to take the bar of soap, the only indication that he hasn’t frozen into stone. Closing his eyes tightly, he turns his face back into the stream of water and scrubs at his skin in a futile effort to shed the blood stained husk of Jason Bourne. He’ll never be clean enough, never be able to wash it away. If he ever doubted it, he’s now convinced that he has to remain far away from anyone who might be stupid enough to want to help him.

Once the water begins to chill, he sets the soap aside and shuts it off. He dreads leaving the cocoon of steam and heat, unable to loose his tongue from its dead anchor against his teeth. Words don’t change anything.

She’s standing beside the vanity; her shoulders back and chin set with determination. He takes the towel she’s offering, suddenly acutely aware of his nakedness. She’s changed her clothes, now dressed in a too large flannel shirt and a pair of jeans. Her long blonde hair has curl to it, subtle and gentle, that he hasn’t seen before. It seems out of place with her hard lines and sharp edges. Barefoot, she stands eye to eye with him.

“Let me take a look at your back.” She motions for him to turn around, her voice crisp and authoritative. It’s the tone she used with the field officer in Naples.

He grips the marble edge of the vanity countertop, resting his weight on his palms and bracing himself for fresh pain. Tape peels from his skin, he can feel it give way inch by inch, and her fingers are cool when she touches his back. The antiseptic cream stings, just slightly, before fading into a dull throbbing. Her fingers slide down his arm, tugging gently to signal that she’s finished. He turns to the side, trying to look anywhere but at the blood on her lower lip.

“How’s your head?”

He winces as she dabs a piece of gauze against the cut on his left temple. “I could’ve killed you.”

“Easily,” she answers calmly.

“Why didn’t you shoot?”

Stabbing pain digs into his temple as she covers the cut with cream and presses gauze against the wound. “Lethal action is always a last resort.”

Catching her wrist – he could break it with one twist – he stops her. “This isn’t a mission or an operation you can control. I’m dangerous. To you. To everyone.”

She surprises him by smiling; the sad, soft smile that’s becoming achingly familiar. Her cheeks and face are flushed, pale skin turning pink. “Contrary to popular belief, I don’t shower with a firearm unless I might need it.” When he doesn’t respond, she continues. “You weren’t trying to kill me, you were trying to kill whoever put you through hell. What they did to you isn’t your fault.”

“It’s not worth it. Everything you’ve done--”

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think you were worth it,” she retorts hotly, the color in her cheeks darkening.

“Damn it, Marie.” He blinks, realizing what he said.

Awkward silence is broken only the occasional drip and splash from the shower. Apologies are useless and he’s unbearably tired of trying to make amends with the dead. I’m sorry, doesn’t mean anything coming from an assassin. I’m lost without her, doesn’t explain why he can’t bring himself to let go of her wrist.

Failing to find the right words, he reaches up to tentatively wipe away a trickle of blood from her lip. His fingertips drop to her throat and the first hint of bruising. His hands did that. She swallows; he watches the muscles in her throat move, tracing the line of her neck. She’s fragile in his hands and he can feel her heart beating fast against the heel of his palm. His joints feel rusted into position as he leans forward incrementally. For all her edges, her sharpness, her skin is soft against his. The enticement of that warmth – life – pulls him closer. The raw hunger for contact is tearing him apart.

Her fingertips brush against his cheek; eyes wide open, she’s searching his face for something. He has no answers or reasons to give her; he simply doesn’t have the energy to do the right thing and let go of her. He’s collapsing under the weight of his very existence and wants more than anything to banish the whispering voice in his head.

“All I have are ghosts,” he whispers, abandoning the effort of trying to put the words together and give them sense. Heat from her skin soaks into his hands, intensifying the emptiness inside and making it impossible to pull away. She’s real, warm, and solid. Alive.

Ever so gently, her lips press against his. In that instant of contact, the voice in his head finally ceases its whispering. He slides his hand to the back of her neck, winding his fingers into her hair and pulling her tight against him.

She kisses without hesitation, despite the blood he can taste on her tongue. He’s waiting for her to say something – tell me to stop, tell me to stop – or for her to remember what he is. Instead, she’s pulling him deeper into the haze of heat and skin. The aching in his muscles fades just enough to remove the razor edge of pain, her hands pushing it away as they travel across his body.

He just wants to forget.

Date: 2008-03-21 12:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alice-1005.livejournal.com
Wow. This is amazing. I felt so sorry for Jason and Pamela's characters following the end of Ultimatum (not so much Nikki; wasn't a big fan of her) and reading this makes me think that there's hope for both of them to be happy, so to speak. Obviously not in the fluffy happily ever after sense, but you know what I mean.

The kiss also had some of the most beautiful imagery I've ever read in a Bourne fic. Can't wait to read the next part.

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March 2012

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