After the fire, the fire still burns
The heart grows older, but never ever learns
The memories smolder, but the soul always yearns
After the fire...
The fire still burns...
It's Adam's birthday today. He's seven years old. Seven is one of the numbers in the Bible that signifies completeness. I don't feel complete, though. When I look in his eyes, all I can see is everything I was never able to do for him. Every day, I hate my past a little more. Anger isn't a good emotion to let simmer, especially when it's directed at an organization like Section One. I know it's useless to hate something so vast and powerful, but I do it anyway. It keeps me from hating myself even more than I already do.
Adam doesn't understand what's happened. He doesn't really know about how I "died" that day in Elena's hospital room. He doesn't grasp the concept of Section One and the insidious little power struggles that are still going on there. Mostly, he doesn't know how I broke Elena's heart, time and time again, by being forced to live multiple lives. I'll tell him someday, when he's old enough to decide for himself whether to love me or hate me for being who I am and doing what I've done. Old enough to walk away from the smoking ruins that I call my life now.
There was a time when all I wanted was to have Adam back with me, safe and free. I didn't dare allow myself to factor in Nikita - she's always been her own person, sometimes fiercely so. Now, though, I have a hollow place inside me, and it echoes like a cave. It was once filled with Nikita. It's filled with only memories of her now. We haven't been in contact since she set me free for the second time. I know she knows how I feel about her. I was barely able to choke out the words when we said goodbye at the train station. After I'd said them, I felt her whole body clench and then relax in acceptance of what we both knew was true.
My difficulty in telling her I loved her wasn't because I didn't believe the words - I did, and still do, believe them - I feel them to the marrow of my bones, every second of every day. No, the trouble was in the fear I harbored that she wouldn't believe me. I've lied to her, manipulated her, misled her, used her, and almost destroyed her, all for Section's so-called "noble" purposes. After all that, how could I even hope to win Nikita's trust? Rhetorical question, I know, but valid.
And, despite all my abuse, Nikita still loves me. She loves me. Her whispered words, as we stood wrapped in each other's arms in the train station, moved me as nothing has ever touched me before. I'd thought I'd been dead inside, and only partially awakened during those few times Nikita and I were intimate. I was painfully wrong. Remembering her words, her embrace, her ultimate gift to me, reminds me I'm alive. Not just existing, but living, for the first time in a million years.
I miss Nikita. I knew I would, but I thought Adam would be enough of a wonderful distraction to keep me from dwelling on the loneliness of a life without Nikita's physical presence in it. Again, I was wrong. I'm discovering that I'm not as certain of anything as I was when I was Level Five in Section. It's no secret that I was the heir apparent, while Paul Wolfe was still alive. Things changed so drastically so quickly that I'm still not quite finished processing all the details. Nikita as Operations - it's an image I never once believed I would see in my lifetime.
But then, I also never believed I would be free again. I'm forced to "unlearn" over a decade of carefully cultivated thought-processes, and it isn't easy. Adam helps me, with his childlike perception. He pulls me back from the darkness and makes me smile. He's such a beautiful boy - he's carrying the very best of his mother with him. I don't know how much of me he carries with him. He's a quiet boy, but curious, and he has a temper that I'd never been around enough to experience until recently. He wanted to play in the park after sunset, and I wouldn't allow it. He ran away from me. I hadn't realized how fast a little boy could run, but I received quite a lesson. He managed to elude me several times before I finally captured him, kicking and squealing, and wrestled him back to the car. A few adults watched sympathetically - apparently, Adam's tantrum was not unique to children in general.
All this thinking about past events has brought me to a new awareness. I'm not an "instant father." I took care of my sister, but it didn't make me any more of a father than having Adam during a Section-orchestrated relationship did. I learned, though. I'm still learning, and my teachers are as diverse as the lessons being taught. I've learned that despite the wise expression in Adam's eyes, he's still not farsighted enough to realize that I can hear him even though I can't see him in another room. I've learned that his tears can break my heart, even when he's only crying from a skinned knee. I've learned that I become feral when Adam is threatened in any way. This trait frightens me, and I have to keep reminding myself that I'm in the real world now, and not the world of Section One. It would be a very bad idea to shoot a man whose only crime was that of muttering that his son deserved the lead in the school play instead of Adam.
Now, because it's Adam's birthday and he's seven, and because he asked for this, we're sitting by a bonfire on the beach in front of our fourth home in eight months. I don't know how to explain to him why we have to keep moving. Part of me wants to protect him from all the things that led up to our present situation, and another, more ruthless part of me wants to sit down with him and tell him everything, leaving nothing out. I'm still not sure how a seven year-old boy would respond to a story like that, but I have a feeling it would take a long time for him to fathom all of it, and even longer for him to believe it.
As I stare into the flames, I think of Nikita, and how she loved the warmth and brightness of a fire. She was always beautiful, but more so, in my eyes, when her hair was haloed by the glow from a fire. I remember how she would lean into the heat, dangerously close, and I'd catch myself holding my breath in equal parts awe and fear. I have loved three women in my life, in various degrees. Simone, who was the first to capture my heart and give me a reason to live. Elena - a devoted, sweet, innocent woman who deserved far better a life than she had with me. And Nikita. She eclipsed everything and anything I'd ever known before, from the moment I saw her in the white room, pale and luminous in white against white. I can't even count the number of times I've smiled to myself when I remember my initial reaction to her. I'd thought she would be easy, and I'd gone into the room with an over-confident air. I'd taught her about going for the kidneys, but she'd taught me about going for the heart. To this day, I'm not sure who won that initial round.
Adam has just stuffed a toasted marshmallow in my mouth, giggling. My God, how I love this child. And how much I ache to have a child with Nikita. Adam has taught me the value of hope - I haven't given up on the possibility that Nikita and I will be together as a normal couple, with children of our own. There have been quite a few changes at Section, just as she'd planned. Perhaps there will be room for Adam and me in her life again soon.
The memories smolder, and the soul always yearns. It's true - at least in my case. There are times when I can feel the voice of my heart leave my body and fly straight to Nikita's heart. We connect on a plane that is not of any world known to humankind. We've always been able to do it, and physical miles don't interfere with the quality of our connection. This capability is what has kept me from impetuously attempting to go back to Section One. Nikita keeps me out here, but never so far that we cannot touch, in our hearts and minds.
Someday, we'll be together again. I don't allow myself to doubt it, and Adam doesn't know how to doubt. We sit side by side and stare into the flames, each of us thinking our own thoughts, dreaming our own dreams. Adam no doubt dreams of a new bicycle, or a home where he can live for more than a couple of months at a time. I dream of a blond-haired, blue-eyed woman who conquered the world and took no prisoners, and who holds my soul tenderly until she can deliver it to me in person.