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Interlude

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It was real.

The Tower was almost pitch black when she entered, the faint glow of a myriad of candles the only illumination offered. The candles were scattered throughout the room, providing pockets of light that only served to intensify the darkness in between.

Two candles sat on the table at the far side of the room, casting a dim light over the figure seat at it. He stood and smiled as she approached; getting lost momentarily in the darkness before closing in to stand before her.

"You came." The words were practically a whisper, his breath warm on her face as his hand came to rest lightly on her hip. "I didn't think you would."

His voice was laced with the regrets of the past few months. Those months had been hard on both of them, more so than either wanted to admit. But, she knew that he feared their charade had done irreparable damage to their already fragile relationship.

What could she do to reassure him that nothing had changed?

"I couldn't stay away," she replied softly, trying to ignore the shiver of heat his hand was generating on her hip. "Although, God knows I've tried."

Smiling, he touched the side of her face softly, drawing a line from her cheek down to her chin with the tip of his finger. "I've missed this," he said quietly.

His other hand trailed up from her hip along her spine, taking the heat with it and making her shudder at his touch. He pulled her close and their lips met in a tentative kiss.

She was surprised. The pressure of his lips on hers felt different somehow. Unfamiliar, though not wholly unwelcome. Her body reacted, hungry for his touch. It was as if he were holding her, kissing her for the first time, yet that was hardly the case at all. Her emotions were erratic, and it took her several minutes to understand why.

This was real.

After so many months of play-acting. After so many weeks of feigned passion and harsh touches.

It was finally real again.

It was magic.

For so many years she'd tried to deny how she felt about him. She'd tried to convince him she was indifferent to his advances, to convince herself that she felt nothing beyond friendship and admiration.

Yet one tender kiss, one heated touch broke down her carefully constructed walls every time, allowing how she really felt to slip through.

But only momentarily.

For each time, she willed herself to pull away. Knowing in her mind that it was better that way, but feeling her soul scream in agony as she denied it its one desire. Him.

This time was different. This time the effect of his touch was more powerful than ever. She no longer wanted to pull away.

She'd sacrificed so much for so long. Tonight she wanted to feel his love and let him feel hers in return. Tonight would be theirs alone.

As she intensified their kiss an uncharacteristic thought pushed her onwards.

Damn the consequences

It was calm.

It was his turn to be surprised. So surprised in fact that he broke their kiss and pulled away, leaving her to stare at him in stunned silence. His china blue eyes glittered in the dim candlelight, pain and uncertainty reflecting back at her as she met them.

She knew what he was thinking. She'd had the same debate with herself only moments before. There were so many reasons for them both to walk away; to leave the Tower before things escalated any further.

Section One. Their past trials. Their future safety. Each hung like a dark curtain between them, ensuring they kept their distance, ensuring they never gave in to their passions.

She would not allow the curtain to descend tonight.

He moved as if to speak, his eyes suddenly avoiding hers, his hands clenched at his sides. Resolutely, she raised a finger to his lips, silencing him before he could voice his concerns.

"None of it matters tonight" she said softly, her finger tracing the line of his lips. "Not Section. Not the past few months. None of it. Understand?" The force of her tone was commanding and as she spoke his lips beneath her finger curved into a smile.

"Yes, ma'am" he replied, his mock serious tone standing in direct contradiction to the twinkle that lit his eyes.

Those beautiful blue eyes. They did her in every time.

She allowed a smile to pass quickly over her own lips before returning to her white room voice. "Good," she said, her finger tracing a path down his chest . "Now, what was it you said about missing me?"

He responded with a soft chuckle of amusement and wrapped his arms around her, caressing her back lightly as he held her close against him. She settled herself into his arms, encircling him with hers, allowing her cheek to rest lightly against his shoulder.

They stood that way for several minutes. Silent. Cherishing the power of the one moment, neither wanting to let go. It felt so good to be in his arms again, to feel the warmth of his body against hers and know that tonight, nothing stood between them.

But all at once, a different spell was cast as he whispered her name. It was both a plea and an invitation, a single word laced with passion and utter devotion. As his hand reached up to stroke the side of her face, his lips met hers once again in a hungry kiss.

It was savage.

As their lips met her world shattered into a thousand glass fragments, glittering in the candlelight of the darkened room. Thought and reason vanished. All that remained was instinct. Sense. Feeling.

Every moment moved in slow motion, each sensation exaggerated a thousand fold as long neglected desire brought down the barriers between them. Hands caressed through fabric, seeking solace in the heat beneath, struggling to feel the electricity of flesh on flesh.

What seemed an eternal struggle finally dissolved into rapture as clothing swished to the floor, allowing lips to join hands in wanton exploration. As cool air bombarded hot flesh, they were driven deeper into each others arms. For protection.

For heat.

A moan echoed in the silence, incited by the feel of lips on tender flesh, its owner barely aware of its utterance. The one was quickly followed by another, as if in answer to the first; the two entwining together like the bodies of their owners, forming a solid whole that reverberated throughout the room.

Cool, soft leather supplemented the warmth of hands as they sank into the well-worn folds of an ancient sofa; a part of them as long as they had been part of each other. Proximity exacerbated hunger, blinding them all the more to the world beyond.

Hands ceased their searching. There was nothing that wasn't already before them. With one final caress they were hand to hand, fingers steepled together as their eyes met in silent assent.

It was beyond their control, it always had been. Each moment, every second of their encounter was like fire in their blood, spreading rapidly and bringing them both to the verge of madness. Insatiable passion took control quickly, leaving them both breathless, dragging them both towards the abyss.

As they descended their eyes never once strayed from one another's. Blue eyes met brown with ferocious intensity and undeniable love; and brown eyes returned the gaze, the same emotions, normally well hidden, brought to the foreground by their ardor.

Their fingers entwined together as release came; clenched together in an irrevocable bond, a bond shared in that moment by their bodies, and shared forever by their souls...

It was never enough.

Sentience returned slowly.

They lay together on the sofa wrapped in an oversized fleece blanket, bodies warmed more by their proximity to each other than by their covering. Her head rested comfortably on his shoulder, one leg curled around his beneath the blanket.

They remained that way, in silence, for a long time, his fingers tracing a path up and down her back, while hers found their own trail along his chest and abdomen.

Eventually, she felt him shift slightly beside her, his body turning towards hers until he could wrap both arms around her again. "You'd think after so many years we'd have found a slightly more comfortable place to do this." he chuckled, planting a tender kiss on her forehead.

"You're not comfortable?" she said, the devilish glint her eyes matching the smile on her face.

He cleared his throat before answering, a smile lighting up his face as well. "Not entirely..."

In the moment it took him to complete the final word she had him pinned beneath her, blanket falling forgotten to the floor beside the couch. She straddled his hips, her hands pressed against his chest as she spoke, "Better?"

"Infinitely," he replied, struggling to push himself up so he could wrap his arms around her and reverse their positions.

"Uh uh," she smiled, leaving him pinned beneath her. "This time you're mine." She captured his smiling mouth in a kiss, threading her fingers through his hair. "I think its time for some delicate torture..."

His throaty chuckle was cut short by the ringing of a cell phone on the far side of the room. She placed her forehead on his chest in a show of defeat, before rolling off him onto the floor.

He sighed deeply, and she could feel him watching her as she retrieved the phone and tossed it to him. "Not quite the torture I was looking forward to," he said, a small frown forming on his lips as he flipped open the phone.

"Yes?" he said, his usual business like tone laced with anger. "Ah, thank you , Birkoff. I'll be there shortly." After a short pause he continued, "Yes, by all means call Madeline, she'll want to be kept informed."

He ended the call then, tossing the phone so it landed on the far side of the sofa from where he was now sitting. "The intel we needed on the Perez mission just came in from the Agency. We need to proceed with the mission."

She nodded, "Of course. We knew this would happen. "

"It's always something isn't it?" he said, his tone full of anger and hurt. She sat down next to him on the sofa, using one hand to turn his face towards her, and kissed him lightly on the cheek.

"It will never be enough, " she consoled, running her fingers through his hair. "You know that as well as I do."

He sighed deeply and brushed a stray hair from the side of her face, leaning in to kiss her gently on the lips. "Never," he whispered, as the shrill ring of her cell phone broke the spell yet again.

This time, she couldn't help laughing "We need to work on Birkoff's timing," she said, reaching for her phone.

"Clearly," he replied, brought out of his melancholy by the sound of her laughter.

She struggled to keep her tone serious as she spoke to Birkoff, but found it hard to compete with the smile of the man by her side and his attempts to grasp at her thigh. Finally, she was forced to turn away from him, standing up to walk to the other side of the room.

"Thank you, Mr. Birkoff. I'll be right there." Turning off her cell phone, she leaned over to pick up her dress from its place on the floor. "You, are incorrigible."

"Thank you," he responded, reaching for his own clothing where it lay strewn on the floor. They dressed quickly and in silence, casting each other the occasional gaze as they did so. This was the part she hated the most, having to return to Section after spending the night together. Nights like these were so rare, and it always seemed wholly unfair to have to give them up, to give up everything, when they returned to their lives outside.

She watched him carefully as he pulled on his jacket, tucking his cell phone in the inside pocket. In less than an hour it would be all business between them again, as if nothing had happened, as if they meant virtually nothing to each other.

She blocked out that final thought, knowing it would never be true. Every moment of every day they meant something to each other, even if they were unable to show it.

It was always too much.

She was brought out of the reverie by a hand on her shoulder. She tilted her head towards it, feeling his warmth against her cheek. She placed her hand on his, turning towards him.

"Time to go," she said, the finality of her words tearing at them both.

"Madeline, I -"

She quickly put a hand to his lips, stopping the word before it slipped out to destroy them both.

"Please don't say it," she pleaded, her eyes alone showing the agony she felt. "Please don't make this any harder than it is. "

He removed her hand from its place on his lips and kissed her palm, sending fresh shivers up her spine. "Just because we don't say the word, doesn't mean it doesn't exist, Madeline. Its there. Between us. Why can't you just accept that?"

He wasn't angry. He wasn't hurt. He simply didn't understand. His feelings came so easily.

She shook her head and turned away, not wanting him to see the tears welling up in her eyes. How could she explain what she didn't quite understand herself?

"The world is different outside this room, Paul. You know that as well as I do. In that world, this, what we have here, can't exist."

Her tone changed slightly, from regret to determination, as she realized that perhaps now she finally understood.

"When I come into this room I draw a boundary, between what can happen out there, and what can happen in here. I don't want this to exist out there...

"...because it's a distraction? too much to handle?" His tone was bitter, but she couldn't tell, without looking in his eyes, whether that was due to anger, or sadness.

She turned to face him again, cupping his face between her hands and meeting his gaze, a lone tear creeping down her face.

"No. Because what's out there will change what we have here. Corrupt it. Turn the act we put on for George into truth."

He shook his head at the realization of what she was suggesting. "I would never..."

"Paul. We would. Out there we hurt each other; in a thousand little ways everyday. In here," she said, gesturing to the room and then placing her hand over his heart, "and in here, there is no 'out there'. Do you understand me?"

"I think so. But..."

"No buts, " she smiled, kissing him lightly on the cheek.

She turned away then, walking towards the door that led to Section, leaving behind everything she'd ever cared about.

Pausing in the doorway, she took a deep breath, allowing the light from Section to filter into the room. It cast a shadow over the couch in the corner and blotted out the candles, leaving him standing in a patch of darkness in the opposite corner.

She sighed deeply and closed the door behind her, but before it shut completely she heard it. Quietly, from the far side of the room she heard his voice and the words he spoke pierced her heart like a dagger, causing another tear to run unimpeded down her cheek.

Four words. Harmless apart. Devastating when placed together.

The words she'd asked him not to say.

"I love you, Madeline."