Disclaimer: Since I pretty much own everything by now, and this is the last chapter.
Bourne stirred, than sat up. Fragments of his interrupted dream floated around him as he looked around, getting his bearings back.
He was sitting on a recliner-style chair next to a slated window. A cheap lamp on the table beside him gave out a yellowish light. Two beds, one occupied, filled up most of the rest of the room.
He got up and peered out the window to the darkened lawn outside. There were footsteps and two nurses, chattering quietly in an unknown Chinese dialect, walked past. He glanced down at his watch and noted the time before looking over to the bed where Paz had lain since coming back from his third surgery in the last two days.
As for the would-be assassin, he was also in surgery at the moment-Bourne was guessing one of his shots had damaged his lungs; he'd been chronically short of breath ever since they'd been together.
Against his will, Bourne had forced him to keep talking the entire three-hour boat ride, just as much to keep him conscious as much as Bourne awake.
Dominic he'd said his name was. He was soft-spoken and reticent to a fault. Born in Slovakia; moved to the States when he was twelve with his family. Did poorly in school, either he was gifted or undisciplined. Originally tried to join Outcome, he'd said, but wasn't accepted because of his poor grasp of English. Unexpectedly invited and accepted into Blackbriar and had been stationed in Asia for several years.
His car was exactly where he'd told Bourne—beside the public boat docking area. Dominic didn't trust the closest hospital, so another hour was added to the trip.
There was stunned silence when they burst through the hospital's door, but the money Bourne offered (and his promise of more) answered most of the unasked questions and the blood dripping from Paz's body answered the rest.
Now it was quiet. The privacy was enviable and Dominic's grasp of Mandarin was invaluable.
Across the room, Paz moved his head, searching for Bourne.
Bourne took up a chair beside him as his dark eyes settled on him. Paz tried to speak, but the breathing tube prevented him.
His eyes were pleading, but Bourne could only hold his hand and imagine how he felt.
Bourne cleared his throat. "Paz,…I wanted to…thank you…for saving my life." Paz blinked, but stayed focused on his face.
"I'm sorry for doubting you; you didn't lead them on to me intentionally, it was all a set-up."
Paz's eyes lost focus, Bourne sighed and for a moment all was quiet save for the steady beep-beep of the machines. When he looked up again, Paz's eyes had closed. Bourne got up and was halfway out of the door when a chill overtook him.
He looked back and noticed a white pallor had taken over Paz's face. At the same time, a jarring alarm started sounding from one of the machines beside his bed.
The scream that erupted from his throat was barely human and brought nurses and doctors alike running.
Bourne grabbed the nearest doctor. "Do something!" his voice cracked, "Don't you dare let him die!" The doctor stared uncomprehendingly at him before shoving him aside and rushing over to the bed.
Bourne ducked outside and started running. Where, he did not know, but he had to get away.
When his aching lungs begged for a rest, he found himself on a small beach.
He dropped down on the warm sand and watched the waves roll in and crash on the surf. The beach reminded him of another one, many miles away, where he had proposed to the only love of his life: Marie. He wondered what she would think of him now. Picking up a handful of sand, he watched it sift through his fingers. That's how fast life is. Then it's gone… quickly forgotten forever.
He decided Marie would be pleased with him; after all, he'd tried to save both Paz's and the assassin's lives.
Only a loud thunderclap answered his thoughts.
I'd better get going.
Although he was still unsettled, his racing heart had returned to normal and he smoothed out the sand and got to his feet.
The angry clouds poured down rain before he had gone long.
"Just my luck," he muttered as he crossed a slick street and glanced behind him before he came in the back gate of the hospital.
His bravado held out until he was at the doorway. The drawn curtains across the door seemed to guard an unknown threshold - one he feared to cross.
"Who's there?" a small voice inquired from inside. Bourne swept aside the curtain and entered the dim room. The assassin, Dominic was lying on the first bed, flushed and exhausted.
But more important was the breathing person in the bed beside him.
"He's alive?" Bourne exclaimed in relief.
Dom's voice was flat with fatigue. "I don't remember; when I woke up from surgery they were still working on him. Something about massive internal bleeding, I thought they plugged all the holes yesterday…" his voice trailed off.
Bourne looked over at him, sleeping; then took up a chair beside the other bed.
A little bit of color had returned to Paz's face but his closed eyes and his face still looked absolutely drained.
"Don't do that to me again buddy; I'm getting a weak heart from this." Bourne took one of his clammy hands in his to convince himself he was really breathing and chuckled unconvincingly.
He gave one more look over at Dominic, I need to question him, but that can wait.
A crushing load had been taken off his chest and he settled in to spend the rest of the night in watchfulness.
Bourne tapped his foot to the beat of the small jukebox nestled on the window amidst several potted flowers. Seated on the table in front of him, Dom took several experimental deep breaths. A doctor watched carefully and jotted notes on his clipboard. After checking his lungs once more he smiled broadly and spoke to Dom. By the tone of his voice, Bourne could tell he was pleased.
Half an hour later, walking slowly beside Dom down a quiet garden path in the hospital courtyard, Bourne asked what the doctor had said.
"The lungs are healing properly. The bullet that passed through damaged both of them, but they don't think I will lose much volume. The other bullet didn't hit any organs…I was very fortunate."
His breathing quickened and they sat down on a bench.
Dom became reflective and Bourne watched as he took a small silver ring from his pocket and held it up to the sunlight.
"It was an accident," Dom said softly, in return to Bourne's quizzical look. "Two weeks after I had proposed to her. In the confusion following a flashbang she was mistaken for a terrorist and shot by her own partner. Both lungs. She had no chance." Dom's face twisted and he turned away.
The questions Bourne had meant to ask died away on his lips and he instead put his hand on Dom's shoulder for a moment.
"I'm sorry; I do know what it feels like, believe me."
Dom's shoulder did not soften.
Bourne cleared his throat- after all, apologies were not his forte- and walked back along the cobbled path and through a set of double doors into the cool interior of the hospital. Paz was reclining on a chair and a nurse was trying to help him hold a small glass of water by himself. Paz's furrowed brow indicated he was trying and indeed the glass was almost steady.
Bourne smiled and sat down facing away from Paz. The sun was warm and his eyelids drooped for a moment.
Bourne almost fell out of his chair. Against the cement floor, the broken water glass had been startlingly loud; almost like…a gun?
He whipped around to see Paz slide to the floor and a tall man take his place, brandishing a silenced Glock. The unexpectedness of the breaking glass had broken his surprise attack and Bourne reacted instantly, picking up the chair and hurling it at the man just as the man's gaze settled on him and he fired at him. The chair seemed to explode in midair, showering everyone with wood and sending the gun skittering across the floor.
There was a scream from somewhere in the hospital. Although the gun was across the room, Bourne dived for it, as did the gunman. A shadow flitted across the doorway, and the gun was scooped up.
Bourne rolled to his feet. Dom had the gun and was pointing it at the gunman's forehead.
"Get up." Dom's voice was menacing. The gunman slowly rose to his feet.
"I didn't know you were still alive?" Dom growled. The veins on his neck stood out, but his aim didn't waver. Bourne reached down and pulled Paz out of the way.
The gunman matched Dom's gaze with as much venom. "Hah! You…you were such a traitor! Going along with everything the agency told you, backstabbing your loyal partner, me!" His voice shook with fury. "You left me for dead and basked in the hero treatment back home…you'd do anything to cover your tracks right? Even if it means ingratiating yourself with your own target."
He turned to Bourne. "I hate you too, skipping out of the program, messing up all our lives; you know how many agents were killed all because of you two?! I hate both of your guts!"
He spat at Dom and lunged at Bourne. His attack took them both off guard and Bourne was knocked off balance. The gunman tripped and crashed on top of Paz, pulling a knife out of his sleeve. There were two loud bangs and the gunman gasped once and went still.
Bourne shakily got to his feet. "Dom, give me the gun," he said quietly. Dom only stared at the dead gunman, his whole body shaking as the adrenalin left him.
Bourne's voice was low and authoritative and brooked no argument. He reached out and closed his hand firmly around Dom's. Dominic's shoulder's sagged and he released the gun. Bourne slid the safety on, tucked it in his pocket and reached down and rolled the dead gunman off turned to Dom. "Grab our stuff."
Paz was covered in blood and appeared to be in shock.
Bourne picked Paz up and carried him outside. He deposited him on a deck chair and sprinted around the side of the building to their car which was still parked there.
He pulled up outside their room just as Dom, breathing raggedly, emerged with a duffle. Bourne carefully settled Paz in the back, and with Dom in front, he took off. A quick glance behind showed a flood of hospital personnel taking in the carnage they had left behind.
Indeed the morning hadn't gone as Paz had planned. Against his own premonitions, he had allowed the nurses to get him to sit almost upright in a chair. He had become dizzy and his back and chest hurt, but the nurses couldn't understand him. They were also trying to get him to drink by himself. They gave him a small glass and he gripped it for all his worth, not wanting to let Bourne see how much he was struggling. At least they didn't try to make him stand up, they knew he had no feeling in both legs, courtesy of the bullets they had kindly removed out of his back.
Someone called and the nurse left Paz alone. He wanted to put the cup down, but couldn't stretch out his arms to reach the table beside him. He lowered it slowly to his lap as his ears caught the sound of someone in the doorway.
His skin prickled with fear as he recognized the soft careful footsteps of an asset. He lay back against the chair, feigning sleep.
It was too quiet; he could feel the man's eyes boring into him. His mind raced, he had to distract the gunman without getting shot. If his legs worked, he could kick him, but they were useless. Paz opened one eye; the gunman was behind his bed now, out of eyesight, looking at Bourne. Paz had summoned all his strength and hurled his water glass at the gunman and in the same instance gripping the edge of the chair, stiffly rolling off it.
Time slowed: the gunman whirled and let off a shot at the chair Paz had vacated seconds ago, than turned just in time to see Bourne hurling a wooden chair at him. The gun went off, both men had dived for the floor and Dom burst in just in time to scoop up the gun.
Right underneath everyone's feet, Paz had tried in vain to wriggle out of the way.
Paz could hear the acrimony in Dominic's voice as he commanded the gunman to get up. There was a warm hand on his shoulder and Bourne slid him away from the assassin. Above the pounding of his heart, Paz could barely hear what Dom was saying to the gunman. The gunman yelled something back at Dom, but Paz didn't recognize his voice. The gunman lunged forward, than backwards, tripped and suddenly he was crashing downwards towards Paz, trying to pull something out of his pocket as he went. Paz didn't have time to protect himself and winced as the full weight of the gunman slammed into him.
The gunman's green eyes pierced through Paz's for a minute, and then there were two sharp gunshots and Paz closed his eyes from the blood that splattered him. He had recoiled from the warm skin of the dead gunman above him.
A crushing weight had been lifted off and he was picked up and deposited in a chair outside.
He had blinked and realized his whole body was shaking violently. Despite the warm sun, he was shivering with cold. Dom shuffled out of the room carrying something just as Bourne pulled up with their car. Paz had obediently ducked his head as Bourne shoved him in the back seat where he flopped to his side. The seat cushion was soft and comforting and he let his body sink deep into it.
Save for the sound of the engine, the car was quiet. Dominic rested his head against the window and Bourne chewed his lip thoughtfully.
He glanced in his mirror at Paz sleeping in the back and looked sideways at Dom, who, for his part, sighed loudly.
"Is it true what he said?"
"Not entirely," Dom acknowledged. "I really did think he was dead, I mean, the gunman was a good shot, and I couldn't wait around and check…I never liked him, and I was suspicious of him, but in the end, he wasn't a traitor like I thought…I did hear later he returned, but I never admitted my part. He couldn't remember what happened, so never told on me…I guess he remembered now," Dom gave a small smile.
Bourne sighed deeply and decided against a retort. "You never did tell me about how you found us though."
Dom's smile faded. "I don't know how much he has told you…I didn't know much about him until he was flown to Hong Kong…I knew he'd been a big pain to the agency, though not as big a pain as you were," he said without smiling.
"His story had produced several meetings and they were eager to wrap him up quickly since they'd gotten hands on him.
"Their plan was for him to take out a certain Chinese man who they thought could upset the current government plans they had in mind. He was supposed to take out this man, and my job was to take him out after that.
"Neither the agency nor I had any idea you were going to be there…he must have recognized you, and it sunk in what was actually happening. In the confusion that followed I lost him. I was dreading as to what would happen to me for missing such a high-priority target until I was contacted and told I was going to be given another chance…not Paz again though; an older man who lived outside the city.
"After I arrived and disturbed the man's breakfast I realized he must be related to the whole Paz case. He readily admitted to working for the agency, but he and another man had become disillusioned with it and tried to separate themselves from it…he accused them of killing the other man and said he knew they'd find him eventually. "After they took my family, I knew it was only a manner of time before they got me" were his actual words. Before I could question him further about this, I heard a car stopping nearby.
"I killed the man and hid nearby. I watched as you two searched the house, and when you came out I shot at you… I didn't realise you were wearing a vest though.
I wasn't very scared of Paz…I knew the agency had been working on him and he didn't seem in very good shape; he couldn't even hit me from a few feet away!
"You grazed my shoulder and I think I hit Paz, but then you shot me again, right under my arm. " Dom seemed to realize how much he was saying and grew quiet for a few moments.
When Bourne didn't say anything and the silence grew uncomfortable he started again.
"I didn't know anything about there being another assassin in the helicopter. When they started shooting at me I suddenly realized my 'second chance job' was a 'last job', and all the rumors I'd heard about agents disappearing after jobs suddenly made sense.
I started crawling downhill to safety, but got one more bullet to the chest before making it there. I think I laid there for about half an hour, because when I came to myself, it was getting dark and there was no one in sight. I knew I still had the boat that I'd arrived in, and surprisingly, I could still walk.
I couldn't get in, so I brought it close to shore, which is where you found me…" Dom swallowed. "What were you doing in the meantime?"
"It took me a few minutes to get myself together after the helicopter left," Bourne answered readily "…I found Paz, rolled him over, and realized he'd been hit multiple times from the helicopter while shielding me." Bourne blinked quickly a few times.
"He was unresponsive and bleeding like crazy. I tore up my undershirt and tried to stop the bleeding as best I could. I noticed you then…I'd actually kind of forgotten about you…and followed you. It was very convenient of you to come by boat; otherwise you two would probably be dead."
Bourne looked at Dom seriously. "Killing you was never really an option, it may have felt good for a moment, but I would only regret it later. Me, you, Paz, we were all pawns to the agency. I experienced freedom first, but it took me a little while to realize the responsibility that freedom brings. Revenge killing will only get you so far; the most beautiful woman in the world taught me that.
"I think Paz has learned that already, underneath his strong exterior, he really does have a heart." Bourne grinned, than looked over at Dom, who had a strange look on his face.
"Well Dom, you probably thought that agent deserved to die after he accidentally killed your girlfriend, right?
Except he didn't know it was your girlfriend, so he felt justly betrayed when you failed to protect him during a mission, am I correct?"
Dom's face turned white, but he didn't say anything. "I can't totally misplace the hate he had against you…you let personal vengeance get in between you and your work." Bourne looked over at Dom's guilty face. "You, Dom, were the actual traitor, your girlfriend didn't actually work for the agency…that ring you have from her is the insignia of a smuggling organization in Slovakia.
I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and say you were trying to bring her in, turn her. Maybe she was listening to you, I don't know. But then your partner killed her…and the bottom of your world dropped out. Maybe he guessed something, but you did nothing to help him when those two guards burst around the corner. You left him for dead, covered your tracks, and returned to the States a hero."
Bourne cocked his head at Dom, who had a single tear track down his face, "I think you regretted it; revenge lost its sweetness and became bitter. You worked hard, did your best as an agent, rose through the ranks in Asia, where no one knew you, but still you felt the guilt. Because underneath, I think you have a heart, like Paz. You had your doubts about the agency didn't you?
"And now it's your turn to feel the sting of betrayal."
Dom closed his eyes and reflected for a while. Finally he looked at Bourne in the eye, a spark of hope glittering in his dark eyes. "I admit it all, I am, I mean, I was a traitor…so why did you let me live, to tell me all this now?
Bourne gave him the faintest of smiles, "Because that agent was a fanatic, a real piece of work; he wasn't a total patriot either, and besides, he's dead now, along with many other agents. That life, your life, is a closed book, history, gone, burnt out. You're on the threshold of something new and great, but you're still living in the past…you were coming to your end of the rope in Asia anyway.
"You have here an opportunity to start over; very, very few people get that. Use it wisely."
And behind him, face hidden by the bag, Paz smiled.
Don't forget to read the Epilogue!