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Knowledge Gained

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Fiona hates seriousness. It’s her truest and most sincere enemy, the phantom trying to nail her to the wall whenever she’s determined to kill without taking names. Serious reminds her of starched-white Sundays wearing gingham dresses in the first row of her little Protestant church, palms folded neatly together and her eyes turned heavenward while her mind worked through the wicked thoughts spinning through her head.

Whenever Michael starts talking about having a ‘serious conversation’, she starts looking for a way out. He has to spring it on her while they’re doing more important things. Perhaps disarming a bomb or creating C4 – all of that simple, boring, meaningless busy work that kept them on their toes and in the spy game.

This time, they were snuggled together in bed, facing the wall, under a threadbare blanket as they waited for the room to cool enough for slumber.

“Hey,” he mutters into her neck.

“Mmmph,” comes her quiet response.

“We need to chat, Fiona.”

“Chat?” it was a mumbled question, but a question audible and quite clear to Michael’s ears. “Are you taking me to tea? Are you offering me cream scones?”

“I’m fresh out of jam. Wake up,” he encourages.

“Mmm.” She stretches and sighs, rolling her shoulders. “If we’re having a cuppa, I ought to get dressed.” Fi sits up and reaches for the bathrobe she’d discarded only moments before.

Her motion is halted by his grasping hand. “Sit and stay,” he demanded. “Nobody’s having tea tonight.”

There passed a thick silence between them before he took up her hands. Se automatically rested her head against his shoulder. “Do you remember what Sam told you everything I’d learned about gathering intelligence during my time in the machine?”

“Yes, Michael. I’m not an idiot,” she muttered against the curve of his shoulder.

“Good.” He pushes her gently away. “What I’m going to tell you is strictly classified. Not even Sam knows about it.”

Fiona sits quite still, sarcastically obeying his request, a tiny smile drifting across her features. Michael frowned.

“I know you didn’t enjoy the idea of my going to breakfast with Bly. But you understand why I had to, don’t you?”

“Because you have a duty to this Kinder-Egg wasteland, Michael. I definitely know.”

“You don’t, not yet,” he said, sitting up, gathering the sheets around his chest. “I had to do things, Fi. Things I’ll never be ashamed of, but things that might change your opinion of who I am.”

She shifted onto her elbow. “When I met you you were posing as an arms dealer. You told us some absurd lie about how you’d kidnapped a flotilla of heiresses and were ready to sell us plastic explosives. When I fell in love with you, you weren’t exactly the most moral man in the IRA.”

Michael raised an eyebrow, but his smile was a dead giveaway that he’d been charmed by her memory. “No, I wasn’t.” He buried his face in her hair. “I’ve done a lot things with a lot of people, but I’m in love with you.”

Fiona stopped moving against the sheets, her restlessness dying away a she considered the context of his statement. “You’re not talking about buying plastics and arms, are you, Michael? You’re talking about sex.” He frowned and looked away, but she couldn’t resist prodding him. “Hmm. It wasn’t just a social call with your ‘agent’ when we were broken up, was it?”

“No,” Michael admitted, pulling away from her back, settling into the sheets. “I wouldn’t cheat on you. What happened before I met you – the comfort I took with everybody I met then – was just a way to stay warm in the ditch. And no, it wasn’t always for the jobs, but when I was with another man I wasn’t with you.”

“Michael…” She shook her head. “You’re confusing me.” And the fact that it was Michael confusing her – rock of Gibraltar Michael, steady as the waves at Galilee- made Fiona intently watchful and tense with a burst of sudden neurosis. She pulled even further away from him, her gaze steady but brimming with wariness.

“I’ve already given you all of the information you need,” he said, sliding quickly back into efficient, super-agent Michael mode. “There’s nothing especially sacred about the life I led before you were here. You’re smart, Fi, figure it out.”

Fiona turned toward the consistency of the moon, away from his accusatory eyes, before finally dredging up the right words. “How many?”

“Fewer than the women.” She watched him, awkwardly quiet, before he said, “a dozen. If this is going to be a problem, you have to tell me right now Fiona.”

A chill passed through her, redoubling her pain, irritating her very soul. For as big as her heart was, as many multitudes as it contained and the general generosity of her countenance, how could she touch Michael without remembering that Sam’s hands had been where hers once lay, that he had rested his lips against spots she had tenderly caressed. It was enough to force her into a defensive position, recoiling at the enormity of what Michael had told her.

“So where does this leave us?” she wondered. She thought of the ivory saints she’d prayed to, their eyes cast toward a beatific heaven that would never claim them.

“Together,” Michael said, taking her fingers in hand and kissing them gently. “It leaves us together.”

Fiona nodded, softly, imperceptibly. When Michael pressed his lips to her neck she imagined briefly what it had felt like for him to kiss Sam’s lips; had they been dry, had they scraped gently along the secret silk of Michael’s neck? But her lover persisted, and in spite of her old teachings the world fell away, and she turned toward the rush and pull of his eager lips and hands, the blotting erasure of his passionate skills.

Later, she lay in quietude and wondered if she could look at him the same way. If it was a sin to see him differently because of his bisexuality, but she couldn’t stop herself from imagining it and shivering, angry, jealous.

He’d asked for her to love him, to walk on the water of his love without condition and she’d failed the test and tumbled face-first through the waves.