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Love Knot

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The apartment seemed huge--and empty. Simone had never been allowed to live alone. She had gone from her parents to a confining and abusive marriage to prison to the Section; she was uncertain what to do with herself here. Still in a slightly battered evening dress, she walked from chair to chair in her living room, trying to feel her way emotionally into this space.

It wasn't that she really thought she was alone, though. Simone looked around the room, wondering where the cameras were; there were too many of them throughout Section for her to believe herself free from them here.

Simone was used to surveillance. Five years in a marriage with a man like Chuck had taught her to expect it. Section wasn't much different, really--except for Michael.

Simone stopped wandering--brought to a pause by the thought of him. Michael had made Section bearable--had made her life worth living.

She hadn't cared much what her fate was after she shot Chuck and his friends. She had taken her destiny into her hands when she walked into the bar that night with his gun, still bruised and in pain from his latest abuses. She had decided, finally, that she wouldn't let him win--she wouldn't let him kill her. She had only intended to shoot him, but--listening to his friends mock her again as his "stupid little slant-eyed wife," remembering all of their taunts--all of their goadings to Chuck to "teach her some manners"--she had snapped. She had shot them all.

She had been deemed insane, of course, but not insane enough to avoid prison. She had stopped caring about the future.

Waking up in Section had not changed that. She remembered lying on the gurney in the white room, while some new man who thought he owned her--Robert--strutted back and forth:

"We're giving you another chance," he had said, his back to her.

"Another chance at what?" Simone had answered, propped up on one elbow, looking blase'.

Robert had turned back to look at her and smiled. Then he told her about Section One. "We begin training at 5 a.m.," he had concluded.

"So, what time is it now?" she had asked.

"Midnight," Robert informed her.

She nodded and laid her head back on the gurney. "Fine. Wake me at 4:45."

Robert had smiled again and left.

Hands behind her head, Simone had assessed her situation. He hadn't hit or raped her yet; that was a plus. Otherwise, one prison was very much like another.

She had set herself simply to the task of surviving, until she met Michael. Simone rubbed the leather of the back of the chair she had stopped near. Michael was different; in some ways, he had changed everything for her.

He had thick walls around himself, but he had let her in. To her surprise, she had done the same with him. In meeting him, she almost felt that she had met the missing part of herself, and she knew he felt the same about her.

He knew her whole story--her past, partly from her files and partly from her, but he didn't blame her for it; he didn't see her as damaged and useless. It was a unique experience.

They weren't lovers--had never even kissed, but they were much more than friends. In many ways, they were both cyphers to the rest of Section, but their souls held no secrets from each other. Nothing had to be said, though many things were; they always just knew.

Simone sat down in her new apartment for the first time. Having Michael close by had allowed her to begin to understand happiness, but it also reinforced just how confining the walls of Section One were. She knew the rules. Even their friendship had made some people unhappy. She knew they were unlikely to ever share anything more.

Simone leaned back in her chair and sighed. "God, Michael," she thought, "we are trapped, aren't we?"

When she heard a soft tap on the door, she forced herself to get up--half wanting to see him, half understanding how much more painful his proximity made things for them both.

"Come on in, Michael," she said, as she opened the door.

Michael noted her dress, as he entered and closed the door. "I thought you would have changed by now. I was trying to give you time to."

Simone smiled. She had figured he would be by soon, when Robert had presented the apartment to her a few hours ago. "I haven't felt like it yet."

Michael looked at her questioningly. "By all reports, the mission was a success. Did they leave something out?"

"No." Simone shook her head.

Michael looked at the floor and then back at her. "Are you angry with me?"

"What for?" she questioned, a bit confused.

"For not telling you this was coming," he replied.

Simone laughed softly. "What, like I believed Bob suddenly had the urge to take me to an embassy party?" She shook her head again. "It was pretty obvious it was a mission."

"Then what . . .," Michael began. He looked around the room, comprehension setting in. "It's the apartment--getting used to having your own space."

"Familiar sensation?" she smiled.

Michael smiled back, confirming her theory.

Simone pointed to the living room. "Want a seat?"

Michael smiled again, and they went in to sit down. "So, how'd it go?" he asked, once they were sitting near each other.

"I'm guessing you mean for me, rather than in general," Simone theorized.

"Yes," Michael nodded. He was caressing her face with his eyes.

"Fine," Simone shrugged. "Bob said to kill the ambassador and run down the hall to the right. I shot the guy and ran down the hall to the left."

Michael laughed slightly.

"I figured if Bob told me something, it was sure to be a lie," she supplied. "So, did it create any waves?"

Michael was still smiling slightly. "Operations was annoyed, but I think Madeline liked your spirit."

Simone smiled back. "So, I'm not being cancelled yet."

Michael shook his head slightly, a tense smile on his face. "Not yet." He was trying to furiously repress the thought of ever losing Simone. He had known for a year and a half now that she supplied the parts of himself he had lost; he could never willingly let her go. His soul was like a house of cards--built with mirrors, and Simone was its base. Without her, it would collapse and destroy itself--leaving behind nothing but fragments and reflections.

Simone watched him evaluatingly. "Should you really be here, Michael?"

"Do you want me to go?" he asked.

"That's not what I mean, and you know it," she returned. "We're still being watched, aren't we?"

Michael looked saddened. "Yes," he replied softly.

"Have they told you to stay away from me?" she wondered.

Michael looked away. "They don't like the frequency of our contact."

"Why don't you listen to them?" she continued.

He looked back at her. "Do you want me to?"

"No," she replied simply.

"Then, I won't," he responded.

"I don't want you to get in trouble because of me," Simone pressed.

Michael's eyes were caressing her face again. "I'm not that unselfish, Simone." He looked deeply into her eyes. "I want to be here--close to you."

With those words, though, all of Simone's prior experience with men resurfaced. "Figured my apartment was your chance?"

Michael looked a bit hurt. "I didn't come here to seduce you," he said softly, shaking his head. "It doesn't matter to me if we're never any closer than this. I just want to be close by."

Simone closed her eyes and then looked at the floor, angry at herself for allowing her past to override her instincts. "I'm sorry, Michael. I didn't mean it."

Michael leaned toward her. "You have *nothing* to apologize for." He spoke quietly but with great emphasis.

Simone, still angry with herself, closed her eyes.

Michael unconsciously reached out his hand and softly stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers. Realizing what he was doing, he started to pull back his hand.

Simone opened her eyes and caught his retreating hand, before he could retrieve it. She looked up at him.

Rather tentatively, Michael opened his hand and cupped her face. Simone closed her eyes and rubbed her cheek against his palm.

Suddenly, Michael looked rather frightened; he had never intended to be even this close. He gently but firmly pulled back his hand.

Simone looked up at him.

"I should go," Michael said, rising.

Simone rose as well and caught him by the arm. "No." She stroked his sleeve.

Michael closed his eyes, emotions warring. "Let me go, Simone," he pleaded softly.

Simone came up closer to him and put her hand on his face.

He looked at her, desperately afraid of the emotions she was creating in him.

"Do you love me, Michael?" she asked quietly.

Michael closed his eyes again. He knew the answer--had known it for well over a year. Admitting it, though, was different. Section, though not happy about their friendship, had allowed it. He had no idea, however, what they would do about two operatives in love; as far as he knew, it was unprecedented. He guessed they wouldn't take it well. "This is dangerous, Simone," he whispered, eyes still closed.

"Answer my question, Michael," she insisted.

Michael knew he should lie--for both their sakes, but he couldn't. Of all the people he had known in his life, Simone was the only one he had ever been honest with; he couldn't bring himself to destroy that. He looked back at her. "Yes, I do."

Simone smiled softly, running her fingers over his cheek. "Then stay with me tonight, Michael."

Michael put his hands on her shoulders, meaning to push her away but instead holding her closer. "We can't do this."

"You're afraid?" she asked.

"I'm terrified," he admitted, "of what they might do."

Simone looked desperate to get her point across. "Michael, they could separate us at any moment. They could kill us. They can do anything they want." Her hand began stroking his hair, while her arm wrapped around him. "I *love* you, Michael. You're the only person I could ever truly say that of." She took a deep breath, looking intensely at him. "If they tear us apart, I want--I *need* the memory of at least one night with you--one decent, beautiful thing in the whole of my entire, miserable life to hold onto."

Michael closed his eyes, knowing he should go but knowing just as well that he couldn't. He held her gently but even more tightly, his arms encompassing her. He looked back at her, tears in his eyes.

"For once," Simone went on, "just for once in our lives, we should be allowed to share our love--to know what that's like."

"I don't want them to hurt you because of me," he almost whispered.

Simone put both her arms around him and held him closer. Her mouth was near his ear. "We'll fight them," she whispered. She looked at him. "We'll do everything they ask, but we'll do it as a team."

Part of Michael knew that this was the biggest mistake of his life. The rest of him, though, understood that asking him--or Simone--to turn away from love as strong and real as theirs was the gravest sin which could be committed against them.

If Michael had known for certain what Section would do to Simone because of his love, he would have left; he would have done anything to save her life. Michael, though, was no seer. He had never imagined himself capable of love like this, the sort of love few people ever achieve--and which, he thought certain--then, he would never experience again. He gave in--incapable of foreseeing the evil Section One could create out of something so beautiful. It was a mistake he would never make with them again.

************

One arm still holding Simone, Michael brushed back the hair from her face with the other. He put his hand on her cheek and leaned down to kiss her lightly.

The sensation of that brief kiss was so intense, so all-encompassing that they both paused for a second after it, still near each other, eyes closed. Then, they leaned in again, brushing their lips together with feather-like sensation, astonished at the depth of emotion which so simple an act could create. They looked at each other deeply before sharing a much deeper and arousing, but very soft, kiss, Michael's hand running back to stroke Simone's hair.

After a minute, when they looked at each other again, they could feel their hearts pounding.

"I haven't even been in the bedroom yet," Simone said.

Michael kissed her again and then refocused on her. "Would you like to see it?"

"Yes," Simone replied firmly. Her eyes were full of love but were very clear.

They kissed again. Michael's arms encircled and lifted her before one arm ran down to catch her under her knees, sweeping her into his arms. He broke the kiss to look at her.

Simone smiled softly at him. She had no objection to this means of transport.

Michael carried her into her bedroom and returned her gently to her feet, while Simone kissed him, one hand on his face. Michael broke the kiss gently. "Just a minute," he said, pulling away softly, his hand stroking down her arm. He looked around the room and then spotted something in a corner. He took a chair over to it, and, standing on it, he proceeded to rip out a small surveillance camera. He got off the chair, walked over to the bedroom door, tossed the camera out, and shut the door.

Simone smiled. "Thank you."

"They'll know anyway," Michael said, returning to her.

"We'll handle them later, Michael," Simone assured him. She ran her hands up his chest, feeling her way. She slipped off his jacket and tossed it in a corner.

Michael, usually fastidious, smiled. He put his hands on her shoulders, running his thumbs down her upper arms, while she untucked his shirt.

Simone smiled, beginning to run her hands lightly over his chest and back. Then, she pulled the shirt up and, with his help, over his head, discarding the garment on the floor.

Simone examined his chest lovingly, running her hands over its outlines. She had studied its nuances through Michael's clothes before, wondered what it looked like, but this was the first time she had been able to see it. He was beautiful. Her hand ran over one hardened nipple, and Michael took in his breath. Simone smiled and kissed his shoulder, rubbing her thumb lightly over his nipple. She kissed her way to his neck, her other arm around him. Michael closed his eyes.

Simone ran her tongue up his throat before kissing the underside of it firmly. Michael held her closer. She kissed her way back down his throat before nipping her way up the side of his neck to his ear. She took the earlobe gently into her mouth and pulled at it slightly with her lips.

Michael swallowed.

Simone kissed behind his ear and then moved over his cheek to his mouth. He kissed her delicately but passionately. She pulled back and continued to his other lobe, before tracing down from behind it with her tongue, stopping to kiss along his neck before kissing down to the nipple she had been stroking, tracing it lightly with her tongue before encompassing it with her lips.

"Simone," Michael whispered, holding her to him gently.

Simone continued to lavish her tender attention there before kissing her way over to worship the other one. Her hands traced his back before running in front of him to unbuckle his belt and unfasten his pants. She pushed them down his legs, while Michael removed his shoes and socks and stepped out of them. Her hands held his hips, as she kissed her way back to his lips.

Michael kissed her deeply, then teased her lips with his lips and tongue before deepening the kiss again. His hands caressed her back before unzipping the slightly battered, pale blue velvet evening dress she wore. He kissed his way down her cheek and neck before kissing over to her shoulder, as he pulled back a strap to reveal it. He ran his tongue back up--up the side of her neck before nipping his way back down it and moving to kiss up her throat, nipping a bit at its underside. One hand caressed the skin of her back; the other ran lightly over her shoulder.

Simone held onto him, sighing, as he continued to lavish attention on her neck. He then kissed down to her other shoulder, tracing with his tongue the skin revealed, as he moved off the strap. Moving to kiss her breastbone, he very slowly lowered the dress to the floor. Simone kicked it away.

Michael kissed back up her throat before kissing her deeply. He pulled back to look at her. She was wearing a strapless, lacy bra; lacy, delicate underwear; and gartered silk stockings. He looked back at her face, and she shook her head disgustedly. "Madeline," she informed him.

Michael smiled. It was a joke only Section's operatives could really understand; real people got to choose their own underwear.

Michael kissed her deeply again, his arms surrounding her. He lifted her, as he had before and carried her to her bed, laying her on it very gently. Sitting beside her, still kissing her, he ran a hand down the inside of her thigh to her ankle, removing the stockings, as she pulled each leg toward her, in turn, to help. Simone ran her hands through his hair.

Michael then kissed down her neck again, while his hands stroked under her garter belt lightly before removing it.

Starting under her chin, he ran his tongue down her throat and breastbone, while his hands unclasped her bra and removed it, tossing it onto the ever-growing stack of clothes on the floor. He looked up to take her in, his hands roaming slowly up her stomach to run lightly over her breasts. Her beauty amazed him; none of his fantasies had really come close.

Simone took his hand, as she moved further over on the bed, allowing him more space. "Michael," she whispered.

Michael felt tears coming to his eyes. He felt unworthy of her; she was so beautiful. He climbed over closer to her and kissed her lovingly, his hand stroking her face.

When the kiss ended, Simone saw the tears. "What is it, Michael?"

"I love you," he whispered.

Simone pulled him to her and kissed him deeply.

Michael finally pulled back and looked at her lovingly before kissing down her cheek and neck to her breast. His hands stroked her back before pulling her slightly closer, taking her into his mouth. He worshiped there--his tongue, his lips tenderly arousing her.

"Oh, Michael," she breathed. She felt a tear run down her breast. "Ohhh," she moaned, running her hands in his hair, holding him to her, as he suckled. Simone continued moaning, as he went on to give her other nipple the same tender devotion.

After quite a while, Michael kissed his way further down Simone's body. Her hands covered his, as they removed her underwear. He took in the sight of her before kissing her stomach and running his tongue down past her abdomen to caress the tender skin between her legs. Simone moaned. His tongue and lips worshiped there, as he listened to her beautiful sighs and moans. He ran his tongue down further, teasing her with it slightly before letting it enter her, tasting her. His hands fondled her from behind.

Simone let out a deep groan, throwing her head back into the bed. She clawed the sheets. Michael was so gentle, so passionate--so *good*, she could feel herself being driven over the edge.

Simone was holy to Michael. He was certain he was unworthy of her, but--as an acolyte might a goddess who had come to him--he would worship her. He touched all her deepest, most tender parts with his tongue, giving his thanks for her presence, until she gave a throaty cry of delight and moaned deeply.

Michael moved away reluctantly but then worked his way back up her body, savoring her, until he reached her face. Her eyes caressed him. They were both almost afraid of the depth of love in each other's eyes. They kissed deeply, passionately.

Simone broke the kiss to look at him. "Please let me touch you," she begged.

Michael kissed her again, and they rolled over until Simone straddled him. She pulled back and smiled at him before kissing him again. Then, she kissed her way over his cheek and ran the tip of her tongue down his neck, her hands caressing his arms and chest. She continued downward until her tongue stroked his nipple again. She suckled there, as her hands continued down to remove his underwear, dumping them on the pile. Placing a kiss on his other nipple, she then continued to run her tongue down his stomach and beyond, tracing down his sides with her hands.

Finally, she sat straddling his legs, holding his hips. She looked at him; he was so beautiful. She had only ever been given pain by men before. She had rarely ever even acted on her own desire--only on others' demands; she had never acted out of love. Now, however, the man lying before her was the embodiment of her love, and she wanted him.

Michael looked up at her. "Simone," he whispered, reminding her that he had made no demands.

She smiled at him. "Yes," she said, leaning down to run a circle around the tip of his penis with her tongue.

Michael groaned and closed his eyes, his head pressing back on the bed. He was truly unworthy of this, he thought. He moaned in deep pleasure, as his goddess worshiped back.

Simone's hands ran behind Michael, as her tongue traced down his shaft. She pulled him up closer to her once he was in her mouth. Michael almost screamed.

Simone continued there, loving the sensation of him against her tongue and lips. She couldn't stay there for too long, however; she wanted him too much. She ran her tongue back up his shaft, placed a final kiss on the tip and then worked her way slowly back up his body.

When she was back to his face, she saw that he was crying slightly. "I love you, Simone," he said impassionedly, eyes looking into her soul.

They kissed passionately, and Simone rolled him back on top of her.

Michael broke off the kiss and looked at her. "Simone, we need . . ." he trailed off.

Simone got his meaning but had nothing which would help their situation. "Do you . . .?" she asked.

He shook his head. "I'll check the bedside drawer."

"What?" she wondered, sitting up, as he moved away from her only long enough to look.

Michael found and pulled out a box of condoms from it.

"How did they get there?" Simone asked.

"Section puts them in most operatives' apartments," Michael explained. "I think they're there for your few days off."

Simone laughed slightly and shook her head. "For once, I want to thank the miserable bastards for something."

Michael smiled back, and she leaned over and kissed him passionately. She helped him cover himself, and he crawled back over to her and kissed her again, his hand running down her side.

She broke the kiss. "Please, Michael," she begged.

Michael kissed her again, one hand on her face, the other at her hip.

Both of Simone's hands were on his lower back and running lower to pull him into her.

He hovered near--almost entering her.

"Michael," Simone groaned in desperation, half-insane for the feeling of him inside her.

He began entering her slowly, watching her face, every inch a revelation to them both.

Simone wrapped her legs around him, as he held himself deep inside her. "Oh God--Michael," she moaned. Then she pulled him even deeper inside her and heard him groan. She smiled.

They began to move, every stroke idyllic. They kissed again, deeply, holding each other in the embrace, their free hands wandering.

Michael looked at her again--his goddess. He wanted--he needed to please her--to fill her with nothing but joy. He kissed down to her throat and ran his tongue down to her breast. He ran his hands down to her back and held her close, suckling. He continued, as well, his long, deep strokes.

"Oooo, Michael," Simone moaned, running her hands in his hair. "Mmmm," she smiled. This felt *so* good.

Michael continued like that for quite some time, listening with incredible pleasure to the beautiful sounds she made. This, he was sure, was heaven.

After a while, Simone moaned, "Oh, more." Michael ran his mouth back to her neck and nipped at it, while stroking deeper, one hand on her hip to pull himself further into her.

She groaned. "Oh, yes."

Michael sped up, bringing her along, watching her face with wonder, dipping from time to time to nip at her throat or nipple.

Simone moaned, her hands pulling him more deeply within her and then groaning throatily.

Michael gave her everything she wanted and more. Seeing how close she was, he got faster and then thrust deeply, filling her even more. He held still; he shook slightly from the effort of not moving, but he would have done anything to give her joy.

Simone yelled out in something which was half a cry and half a groan, her arms holding Michael to her as though she could never let go, her face the most beautiful mask of ecstasy Michael had ever seen--or imagined seeing.

Her eyes opened, as she smiled at him. "Oh, Michael," she grinned.

Michael smiled back, sweat running down his chest with the effort of not moving.

Simone kissed him deeply and pulled him further into her with her legs. He broke the kiss to groan, and they began moving again.

Every stroke was incredible, as they kissed each other, half-insane to make the lines between them disappear. They held each other so close, both crying slightly. They hadn't known until now that such love existed in the world--that it was possible; their lives had revealed no hint of it until this moment.

Their strokes got deeper still, as they clung to each other. This was religion--a total union of souls.

The lines between them blurred. They were melting into one another, into a whole. Nothing in the world would ever be the same after this.

Those last few strokes were some of the closest either one would ever feel to God. They watched each other's eyes, lost in the depths of love held there.

Then, like a bright star having reached its height of intensity, they began to collapse in. They closed their eyes and held each other desperately, their cheeks pressed close together.

"I love you," Simone whispered, before arching in a spasm of joy, groaning.

"Si-mone," Michael breathed, before pressing his face into her neck, crying, losing himself in her scent.

For several minutes thereafter, they both cried, clinging to each other--too filled with joy and love to give a damn what Hell might come upon them.

Back at Section headquarters, Madeline had had the following conversation with Operations, when Michael had torn out Simone's bedroom camera:

"Call them in," he had insisted.

"No," Madeline refused.

Operations was unused to outright rebellion, but he had learned to trust Madeline's instincts. "Why not?"

"Let's see what happens with them," she had suggested.

"They'll forget about the Section," Operations opined.

"If they do, we'll deal with it," Madeline assured him. "Until then, let's see if we can use this."

Operations wasn't happy, but Madeline was right more often than she was wrong. "Wait 15 minutes till they're done, and call them in," he said.

Madeline smiled softly. "I was thinking more along the lines of a few hours."

Operations looked disgusted and left.

Madeline smiled to herself. In the end, she gave them the rest of the night.

At Simone's apartment, she and Michael were still staring softly into each other's eyes half an hour after they had come down. They interspersed this with gentle kisses, stroking each other's faces. They were so tensionless that their bodies ached for sleep, but they were simply too happy to give in.

They knew the axe would fall for them, but, until it did, they were together. They had already shared more love than most people got in a lifetime; whatever came for them--whatever awaited, no one could destroy that fact.

They were in love; the future be damned.