This ain’t goodbye
It’s not where our story ends
But I know you can’t be mine, not the way you’ve always been
This Ain’t Goodbye – Train
Seattle, Spring 2005
The excitement rippling through her body is almost visible. In two days she will turn sixteen and they will make love. Any moment he will be here to plan for the weekend. In the meantime, she lays back on the freshly mown grass and soaks up the first rays of sunshine for the season and throws her arms around herself trying to contain her feelings.
A shadow passes over her face and she smiles, knowing it is him. Expecting him to join her on the ground she is momentarily confused by his hesitation. When she opens her eyes to look at him her smile falters as she sees the look in his eyes.
“Hey, what’s up?” She sits, grabbing his hand and pulling him down to her. Handing her a lilac flower, he doesn’t kiss her, he doesn’t smile, he barely looks at her, instead choosing to stare off into the distance. Glancing around she can’t see anything that he could be looking at, just a couple of guys having coffee across the other side of the quad. Slowly, he moves his focus to her face and she sees him looking at her the way he does when he is committing something to memory.
“Mia…’ He stops, almost looking like he wants to touch her and then looks up at the table again. She follows his gaze but the men are gone. They are completely alone now. “I…we shouldn’t see each other any more.”
At first, she doesn’t believe him. But his eyes are hard, his mouth a thin line. The sucker punch knocks the wind out of her. “What? But we … why?” Desperation and tears are hovering and she is trying hard to hold it all back. No one has known that they were more than friends and study partners. If this is what she thinks it is, then no one will ever know what this means to her now, not even him.
“I’m sorry…I just…can’t do this any more. All this sneaking around. It’s not worth the trouble.” He hasn’t looked at her. Why won’t he look at her? “I’ve been offered this spot in a course on the East Coast and I have to leave in a month. It’s an opportunity that I can’t refuse and I’ll be gone a couple of years. It…we…just won’t work.”
“No, you’re wrong. We can do this. We can see each other in the breaks and it will all be fine.” She hates sounding this desperate. What else can she do?
“You’re so young. You don’t understand how these things work. Sooner or later one of us will meet someone new and then we’ll hurt each other with lies. Long distance relationships never work out. It’ll be so much better if we just make a clean break now. Who knows if one day…”
“You’re a prick, Ethan Kavanagh. You’re too scared to fight. You’re letting them win. Well, you can walk away from us if you want but I will never forgive you. Kid yourself that you will forget me in time but I will never, ever forget you.” She throws the flower down in his lap and then she was gone, so she never heard his choked whisper.
He picks it up and watches her walk away. They threatened to expel him from the college for having sex with a minor. When he tried to tell them she was a virgin they pointed out that she was in breach of her scholarship and would be kicked out as well. Besides, did he really want to subject her to an internal examination? They’d make sure that she wouldn’t get picked up by another university. Not in her field. It was in her and his best interests if he took them up on their offer. They would arrange early exit on his transcript – a completion of his undergrad. He would go straight into a postgrad program on an all expenses paid psychology project at Harvard. His family could never know the details so as far as they were concerned, he was completing his undergraduate honours at VSU. Another secret that Mia and his family would never know about. Give Mia time to grow up they said. If they still felt the same in a few years then she would be free. They weren’t giving him a choice. And Mia must never know the truth.
“No, Mia, I will never forget you.”
Paris, May 21 2011
Six years of missing him, eleven months of training with him, five weeks of sharing a suite and I was ready to combust. I knew that about myself. I understood the pent up lust. But it just made me so goddamned angry and horny, all the time. So I’d been ready. When he threw down the gauntlet in the restaurant, I figured the anger would keep me safe. I was so ready to just fuck him in that bathroom and get it out of my system but then he had to pick up on my cues.
Now we’re here kissing and, unlike the restaurant or the club, or the thousand of public kisses to build our cover over the past few months, this is gentle and tender and real. So loving it scares me. I didn’t want to fall in love with him, again. He walked away from me once before and that hurt, if he walks away again, it will break me.
“Stop. Please.” I move off his lap and sit on the bed not touching him or looking at him. What the hell am I going to do? “Can you give me a moment please?” He nods and I move off the bed and walk into the bathroom.
Staring in the mirror, I see in my reflection that young girl who was on the brink, starving for love and insecure, mixed in with the woman I am now, confident, poised and pissed off at the world for years. My mother, my real mother would be advising me to be sure, take my time. My birth mother would be encouraging me to go for it, leap in, fill my boots, you only live once, but then crush him when you’ve had him. I don’t want to think what my brothers would say. As for my father, I don’t really give a shit.
Ethan Kavanagh is the only man I have ever truly wanted. The one who has haunted my dreams for almost a decade. The one who hurt my so badly that I wanted to die. I was a zombie for months, barely walking through my life. Finally, it was the agency that saved me. My work saved me. When we were told that we would be posing as a married couple I figured it was an opportunity to put it all behind me. And perhaps, to get some revenge. I could protect my heart and walk away at the end. We might even have some fun and when the assignment was over, he would move on and I would too. And maybe, he would be out of my system.
Now, we would go back to Seattle as ourselves. No fake marriage, not even a fake relationship. There would be no more connection between us than bystanders watching as Ana and Christian or Kate and Elliot brought us all together. My family never knew about him back then, so they wouldn’t wonder. Ethan would become friendly with Christian and he wouldn’t need my help to get close. I should be glad. I didn’t have to compromise my relationship with my brother to get the job done. But hearing that the plan had changed set off a reaction in me. I wanted my chance. I wanted to be with him. I wanted Ethan back in my life and not just as a job. I had become a liability.
But what did he want? All these months of planning. The last few weeks of living together, I knew that he found me attractive but it couldn’t be more than that, could it? Every public kiss that we had shared to maintain our cover had been cold. Convincing from the outside but then he would pull away and his green eyes would be hard. Unfeeling. Then tonight, that kiss…I touch my mouth at the memory. And when he had washed my face, and…oh, shit. I’m reading too much into it.
Now, I have to decide if I’m going to give myself to him. He could still do so much damage. But after that kiss, did he still feel something? Have I got it wrong? The day we broke up, when he made me walk away, my memory is of him choosing his study over me. Telling me that it was all too complicated to keep fighting for. Was I wrong?
When I walk back into the room he has stripped down to his briefs and dimmed the lights. Shit, confident or what Kavanagh? He smiles and walks towards me to take my hand. His fingers push my hair behind my ear and he plays with my earlobe for a moment. I can’t help but lean my face into his hand, closing my eyes to soak up the sensation of his touch. It calms me.
“I want you, Mia. I want to be the one.” His choice of words causes me to open my eyes and look into his. The ‘one’ is different from the ‘first’. God, don’t read too much into this Mia, he will hurt you. I had done my research, I knew that he had several girlfriends over the last few years, some more serious than others. He’s not a player like my brother, Elliot but he’s not a monk. He didn’t wait for me so I can’t assume that he means anything when he says ‘the one’.
I’m shaking when I turn around so that he can unzip my dress. His hands make slow work of it and my senses go into overdrive. He kisses my shoulders as he pushes the dress off, making me gasp. I lean my head back on his shoulder as his hands feather over my stomach. Kissing my neck in the club was amazing but this is beyond anything I have ever experienced. Every smart-mouthed piece of resistance that I have come up with in the past few weeks flies out of my memory and there is only me and him, right here, right now. His hands cup my breasts and gently massage and I thrust them into his palms to ease the ache. It feels so goddamn good.
“Are you okay with this, babe?” His breath is hot in my ear but sends shivers down my spine. His left hand crosses to my right breast and he wraps his right further around my waist. I look up and see us reflected in the mirror, his eyes intense and dark. “Look at yourself Mia, you are so incredibly beautiful. I want you so much and I want this to be good for you. Do you trust me?”
Did I? Maybe not with my heart, but with my body. Yes. Making sure that he sees me I hold his gaze. “Yes, I trust you.” He turns me in his arms and kisses me again.
“Come.” This time it’s a suggestion, not a command. Leading me to the bed he pulls me down with him, gently laying me back and looking into my face. My body shudders, not out of fear but because the sensation and anticipation is almost too much. For all my research and false bravado, I feel out of my depth. “I want you to know that you can stop this at any time. Any time. Do you understand me?” I nod my head.
I have shared this suite with him, I know his body is beautiful but it is a whole different sensation having him pressed against me, skin on skin. His body is so hot which is good because my shaking is getting out of hand.
“Baby, it’s okay. We don’t have to do anything.” His hands still on my arms and he looks into my eyes again.
“No, I’m alright. I just can’t stop shaking.” I give him a weak smile but I can’t get the words out without stammering. They sound less than convincing. “Please, don’t stop, I don’t want you to stop.”
“I’m so glad that you said that but nothing changes. Any time, no means no. You got it?” Once more I nod. We begin kissing again and this time I move my hands over his body just to see if I can bring some calm to mine. It begins to work and I feel the rise and fall of his chest. He breathes deeply with my touch and it gives me confidence. I press my hips up into his leg hoping that he can ease the ache between my legs. Taking the hint his hand slides down and touches me. It feels so good and I encourage him with my movement.
“Sweetheart, I want to take all of your clothes off now. Is that okay?” His gentleness touches me deeply and once more I panic. I push him away yet again. I know why. This isn’t forever, it’s for now and that’s not the way my heart feels about Ethan Kavanagh. This is a mistake. He’s waiting for me to say what I want.
“What?” He looks like he doesn’t quite believe me.
“No means no.” I can’t quite believe it myself. “I can’t do this.”
I saved myself for him. All these years I waited for him to come back and now what? I have him here, what the hell am I waiting for? I can feel his eyes on me but I can’t turn around and face him. I feel so stupid and if he makes one wise crack, one smart remark then the CIA will be hunting for a rogue agent cos I swear I will take him out.
“Why?” There is no anger, just a quiet question.
“You said I could stop it. You said I could say no. Any time.”
“And I meant it. I just want to know why.” The gentle coaxing in his voice is meant to break me. I can tell he’s using his mind-meld tricks on me.
“I changed my mind. That’s all.” Confidence is at zero, here, Kavanagh. Just let it go.
“Why?” Soft. Insistent. I can’t lie to him. Or myself. I won’t let my body go where my heart can’t follow.
Because…”I still love you.” I whisper. “I thought I could use sex to forget you but…its not going to work. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to lead you on.” Please, just drop it! My heart is screaming at the top of my lungs but there’s no sound. I wipe my eyes with the heel of my hand, tired of the silent scrutiny.
“Do you mean that?”
I nod. There is silence. Then I feel him shift off the bed and start to put his clothes on. I don’t sense any anger or frustration, just resolve, as he throws my dress at me.
“Get dressed, Mia. We need to pack and get out of here.” His voice is eerily calm which is more off-putting than if he simply made fun of me. Before I can answer he is on the phone to the airport and in fluent French he books tickets to Denmark. I look at the dress and decide to change into something more practical but he looks at me and frowns interrupting his conversation. “Wear the dress.” I frown but do as he says waiting until he hangs up the phone.
“Denmark. What the hell is in Denmark that we have to leave tonight?” I refuse to pack until I know what is going on. One minute we are about to make love and the next we are on some half-assed quest with the Danes. Jesus, I can’t think of one reason why our assignment should take us there.
“We need to be in Denmark for three days and since we are due back in the US in a few days that doesn’t give us much time.” He continues doing up the laces on his shoes. “Come on, Grey, get your stuff together. Take what you need for a few days. I’ll get the hotel to pack up the rest and have it ready for when you get back.” I jump as he barks the order and for reasons I don’t fully understand I am moving around the room removing all traces of myself into my suitcase.
Once we are packed he stacks the bags by the door. “Right, we need to check out. Ready?”
I nod. Either he is stark raving mad or I am. He looks nervous and I wonder what it is that I have missed. Did he get some intel somewhere in our evening that I didn’t pick up on? Why are we suddenly changing all of our plans? I go back over the evening. Early dinner at Maxims at 7.30pm. We entered the club at 9.00pm. There was no contact that I saw although he was texting on his phone. I should know better than to question it. If he says we have to go then we do. The job comes first.
My mind is racing as we grab a cab outside the hotel and I am completely distracted as we race towards the airport. He grabs my hand and pulls me through check in and security to make our 10.20pm flight.
After boarding, Ethan is sitting back looking at me, he fiddles restlessly with something in his pocket. I figure he must be waiting for a call. The air steward delivers two glasses of champagne, the perk of a nearly empty flight and a premium upgrade. I keep my eyes focused on the bubbles when Ethan is out of his seat and moves in front of me. I wonder where he’s going when he suddenly drops to his knees.
“Mia,” I wonder if he’s hurt as he stares down at where he has grasped my hand, “baby, I’ve waited so long for you. You said you would never forget and neither did I. I just hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me.” My heart is pounding so loud I could start a conga line. I can’t believe it. He is going to do it again. Just because I wouldn’t sleep with him tonight. Fuck. I can’t look at him then I feel his fingers under my chin as he tips my face. When I stare into his eyes I see all the longing and the love that I remember from long ago. “Marry me.”
Oh dear God, he can’t be serious. I pull my hand away and he grips it hard. “I mean it Mia. You have always been and will always be the one for me. I can’t do this any more. I want to be with you forever, I want to sleep with you, I want a life with you, I don’t ever want to have to walk away from you again. Marry me.”
“But we don’t have to pretend. Jean-Claude said…” He places a finger on my lips to shut me up. I’m so confused.
“I’m not talking about the mission. I’m talking about us. For real. Marry me.”
“But we need permission. We can’t just…”
“Stop. Baby. Please. I’m not asking them. I’m asking you. This is fucking killing me and this ring has been burning a hole in my pocket for weeks.” He slips it out and onto my finger. It’s a beautiful marquis diamond in a platinum setting. “We can get married straight away. We just need three days in Denmark. Once its done they can’t stop us from being together. Please, Mia. I know you still love me. And God knows I never stopped loving you.”
“But the mission…”
“Fuck the mission. We’ll go back to Seattle and we’ll play their stupid game. We’ll connect them with Christian and then we’ll walk away. As man and wife.”
“But why now? Why not wait?” If he’s fucking with me, I will kill him in his sleep, but I need to know. The guilty look as he glances down at my hand says it all. “You had this planned all along.”
“No. I…I hoped. I thought maybe you might forgive me. But you wouldn’t let me in. Not until tonight.” He leans his forehead against mine. “Please, Mia, I love you. Please, marry me.”
Now the tears come and I can barely whisper, “Yes!”
He runs his hands over the ring on my finger. I cry hard now as I throw my arms around his neck and kiss him. I am sure that my nose is running into his mouth but it is still the most romantic moment I have ever had in my life so I hope that he can forgive me.
Finally I pull away from him and he lifts me up placing me on his knee as he sits back down and hands me my glass. We toast, “To us Mrs Kavanagh.”
“Sir, you both need to take your seats for take off.” The steward is hovering and we scramble to get our belts on. Then he winks as he removes our glasses. “And on behalf of Scandinavian Airlines, congratulations.”
A/N: Welcome to a 2016 revised chapter. Thank you for reading and please review.
You might have noticed by now that the dates are getting more accurate. One of the problems with following not one but two stories with their entwined timelines is that it is really easy to get lost and to find you’ve disappeared up your own exhaust pipe. I’m not averse to pushing and pulling time around for the sake of a good narrative but getting you completely lost doesn’t help you to follow what’s going on. So watch for the dates if you’re lost.
There are big changes here. The first is in the flashback. In the previous version we knew that Ethan was told to break up with Mia. I felt I needed to set up for you the reasons why Ethan didn’t fight back. It just felt like there needed to be a bigger threat. In the body of the story there are a couple of changes. One is the proposal at Moulin Rouge is gone. This was a timeline issue. This is partly about what is happening back in Seattle and the time it would take for the CIA to find out. This means that they have less than a week between leaving Paris and leaving Denmark to keep them in line with FSoG timelines. Also, they need to be on the last possible flight out of Paris for the three day licence (yes, that is a real thing), so that meant there was no time to have dinner, go to the club, go back to the hotel and then get to the Moulin Rouge. So I’m sorry about that. I found the proposal on the plane was more romantic anyway, so I hope that you did too.
A little character point. The issue of trust is a theme for Mia. While she still loves Ethan and even says she trusts him, you’ll see it come again and again for her.
Thanks, again. Sasha xxxx