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Chapter 99: Shane's Regrets - Kim (Part 1)

Today was the day.

Through the door, Shane had heard one of the guards giving instructions about removing him from the cell.  Sooner or later, they would come.  That is when he would make his escape attempt.

How should a man actually prepare to die, Shane wondered.  A quote popped into his head, "Despise not death, but welcome it, for nature wills it like all else."  He tried to remember who said it or where he heard it before, but his mind was too unfocused, his emotions too jumbled.  Before he made his attempt, he would have to set aside those emotions, but for the moment, they threatened to overwhelm him.

And he kept picturing Kim.  After thinking about all his mistakes, all his regrets, he kept coming back to Kim.

His biggest regret.

She had ripped out his heart when she walked out on him.  Shane had told Kayla that he responded by shutting off his emotions, that they made him vulnerable and weak.  But the truth was that emotions hurt.  If he allowed himself to feel, it seemed to only leave him in withering pain.  That pain had never gone away.  He had tried to bury it beneath the relationship with Kayla and, when that failed, underneath work and duty.

Shane knew he had received more than enough chances to fix things.  When he was told the baby was Cal's, he could have just accepted it; he could have forgiven Kim for keeping it a secret.  She was scared, he knew that, but he refused to forgive her lies and secrets.  She had lied to him again; she had refused to trust him.  And beneath that, he had been angry -- angry at himself for getting caught by Jericho and, though he tried not to admit it, angry at Kim for so quickly finding her way into Cal Winters' bed.  Was her love for him so weak that he could be replaced so soon?  That only magnified the pain.

Yet he still could have tried.  Even after the divorce, Kim still wanted him.  If he had left Kayla, he could have reunited with Kim.  But the pain had still been too strong, her leaving him too fresh, and the wounds too raw.

Then, a year later, she had returned to Salem engaged to Phillip.  If Shane had just told her how he felt -- if he had just said that he still loved her and wanted her -- he knew Kim would have stayed with him.  But at the time, what life could he give her?  He was still in the wheelchair; all the same doubts and fears that had led to his break-up with Kayla were still there.  By the time he had recovered, he had already pushed her to Phillip.  By then, it was too late.

That was assuming he even wanted to try.  Seeing her with Phillip had raised another issue, something that he had tried to bury after the Jericho mission -- the fear of leaving Kim and his children behind, of leaving them alone.  Wouldn't she be safer with Phillip?  Wouldn't having another man to take care of her protect her from having to mourn him if he died?  In a way, it was easier to see her with Phillip -- someone who at least seemed capable of caring for her -- while he was alive than to imagine her choosing another Cal Winters to "replace" him if he died.
 
But that was only part of it.  Maybe that was just an excuse.  Now that he could look back at it, the more important thing was that letting Kim go meant that he would never have to face the pain of losing her again.

He had received one last chance to change his mind in 1995.  Over the past few days or weeks, or whatever it was in this timeless hole, he had thought often about that time, wondering what if things had turned out different. 

It was after Eve had fled Donovan Manor in September.  Simmons and a hired nurse had overseen Shane's recuperation.  Most of the time, though, he had spent alone in the giant house, surrounded by little more than the ghosts of his ancestors and replaying the disastrous mission that had nearly cost him his life. 

Things were looking up, however, as the holidays approached.  He was nearing a full recovery, physical therapy was making him stronger, and his superiors were beginning to discuss his return to the field.  But that would be after the holidays, which Shane planned on spending in Los Angeles; it was Kim's year to have the children for Christmas.  Unfortunately, his doctors and the ISA refused to let him travel.  They wanted him to remain in England for monitoring.

Then, to his surprise, Kim offered to bring the children to England.  No fuss.  No argument. 

That should have raised red flags, but he had been so excited at the prospect of seeing his children that he did not even question her reasons.  Andrew and Jeannie arrived with their mother shortly before Christmas and, for a few days, life seemed to return to a semblance of normalcy.  Shane had his Andrew and Jeannie with him.  What could be wrong?

He had taken them to Stratford one day to see a matinee, briefly slipping away to check on Drew.  His brother had sulked about being trapped in this dull village, but he also introduced Shane to the new man in his life, a pub owner named Geoffrey.  That spoke volumes about Drew's adjustment and, for the first time in years, Shane was optimistic that his brother might be able to survive in hiding.

All in all, things seemed to be good.  He was finally getting fit, Drew seemed to be settling in, and the children, as always, brought an energy that provided some happiness amidst the turmoil of his life.

During those first few days, he had been cautious around Kim.  She had come alone with the children because Phillip was in Tunisia preparing to start a new film.  Her plan was to travel there with the kids for a few days around New Years.  As usual, their visit started awkwardly, with stiff acknowledgments and brief exchanges.  Then, after a little while, their comfort level would improve and they would talk.  Never about anything too serious, though.  It was more like two friends shooting the breeze.

For those first few days, everything felt normal.  They had their Christmas.  A tall tree from the estate's grounds sat in the ballroom, the sound of popping Christmas crackers echoed in the cavernous room, and Andrew and Jeannie piled up the crackers' contents into small piles as they ran around the manor.  By 8 p.m., both children had collapsed from exhaustion and were sound asleep in their rooms.

Shane had watched them sleep for awhile.  Having them at Donovan Manor for those short periods of time always raised a jumble of emotions.  He loved having them at the house, but seeing them always reminded him of how much of their lives he was missing.  Every time he saw them, it was like someone had fast forwarded a movie.  He got bits and pieces of their lives, but missed everything in between.  Andrew was already 10; Jeannie was 6.  They weren't little kids any more.

Returning to the ground floor, he had found Kim in the sitting room, standing in front of the fireplace and drinking a cup of tea.  It was still one of her favorite spots in the house.  He had fond memories of it too, not just from his childhood, but also of time spent with Kim in this room, time they had held each other and made love in front of the flames.

She had looked at him as he entered and, for the first time since he arrival, he noticed a sadness in her eyes.  She had feigned a smile, but he could tell it was just for show.

"Kim?" he had asked, as he took a seat on the couch.  He was moving a little stiffly, most likely from overdoing his physical therapy.  "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine," she had said.  "I guess I should be asking you the same question."

Was he okay?  Physically or mentally?  That was a loaded question.  "Yes," he had answered, but in his hesitation, she had seen how troubled he was.

"When Eve called and told me to prepare Andrew and Jeannie, I was so worried."  She had not  looked at him, but had stared into the fire.  "How many more times is this going to happen?  How many more times am I going to have to prepare to tell my children that their daddy died trying to save the world?"  She had turned around then.  "Look at yourself, Shane.  You're not a young man any more.   You're not going to be able to outrun the bad guys forever."

Her choice of words had been ironic.  He was still pretty fast.  In fact, that had been the only reason he was still alive.

"Sooner or later, Shane," Kim had said ruefully.  "I already had to tell Andrew his father died once.  Do you really want to put him through that again?"

"Of course not," he had said.

"Then why don't you leave?  Or put in for a desk job?"

He had almost told her that he had, but hesitated.  For the first time, he had inquired about openings in Operations.  There was just nothing available at his level right now.  Shane had heard rumors that Baker, the Head of European Operations, was going to retire soon.  Peachy's sources said the job was Shane's if he wanted it.  His last mission would make no difference.  After all, from the ISA's perspective, it had been a success.

"Why won't you answer me?" Kim had asked.

Shane had sighed.  There was no point mentioning his inquiry.  That would have just gotten her hopes up.  "I don't know what you want, Kim.  This is who I am.  You knew that when you fell in love with me." 

Something in his voice must have tipped her off.   "You're thinking about it, though."

"Maybe."  He had tried to sound as noncommital as possible.

Kim had walked over to the couch and had taken a seat next to him.  She had leaned against the arm of the couch, and pulled her legs against her chest.  "This was a bad one, wasn't it?  I could always tell."

"You don't want to know," he had said.

"I do, Shane.  I really do.  Tell me."

He probably shouldn't have told her, but the mission was over and the bad guys were behind bars, so there really was no reason to hold back.  He probably had needed to talk, to let it out as if exorcizing the past.  But the only way he could do that was to distance himself from the events.  He had to describe things as if they happened to someone else.

Shane had begun with the plan.  The ISA had learned of an operation to smuggle nuclear-grade plutonium out of the former Soviet Union.  The investigation had focused on Elmar Brauer, a German national who operated an extensive white slavery operation that trafficked women to the Middle East and Asia.  Shane had suspected that Brauer intended to use his existing network and contacts to obtain and deliver the plutonium.

His mission was straightforward.  Shane would pose as a trafficker delivering two women to Brauer for possible sale.  Both of the women were young ISA agents -- Diana Rappaport, a leggy blonde from California who looked like she had just stepped out of a swimsuit calendar, and Meredith Hockers, a fresh-faced girl from Wisconsin.  Shane and his "bodyguard" James Terrone, another ISA agent, would use their cover to access Brauer's house in Walluf, Germany, and find evidence of the plutonium smuggling.  Simple enough.  Shane had done operations like that dozens of time before.

"And it went bad?" Kim had asked.

Shane had nodded.  "We got in without a problem.  Everything seemed fine at first."  He had stood up from the couch and walked over to a tray near the mantle that held the decanters.  He had picked up a snifter and poured himself a large brandy.  His doctors would have objected to his drinking, but he had needed one.  "Brauer liked to sample the merchandise.  Oh, I did the typical evasion, arguing that he couldn't, but he had a security force.  At least 10 men with uzis.  You can't really argue with that."  Shane had taken a deep drink from the glass.  "It wasn't supposed to bother me.  The girls had been warned it was possible; they went in there knowing. . . ."  He had stopped, remembering a time he had asked Kim to take on a similar mission.  "Well, you know."

Kim had just stared at him impassively, but she had to be thinking of Leopold Bronski.

"When Brauer took the girls, I decided it was our chance to search the house.  We found Brauer's office and I cracked the safe.  The documents were there and I photographed them.  It actually was all pretty easy."

"But?"  Kim had known there was a "but" coming.

Shane had drained the rest of his glass.  The brandy burned as it went down.  He spoke evenly, trying not to think too hard about what he was saying.  "But while I was searching, Diana was being gang-raped.  She broke.  She just wanted it to stop, so she told them we were ISA."  He set the glass down and stared into the fire.  "I can't really blame her for that."  He sighed.  "Brauer's men ambushed us as we were leaving the office.  James was in front of me.  They nearly cut him in two."

"How did you get out?"

"I jumped out the window of Brauer's office.  It was on the second floor, but a hedge broke my fall."  As he had talked, he could almost feel the branches as they scraped at him and he began running toward the Rhine.  "We had a boat on the river.  I don't think I mentioned that.  Brauer's estate was right on the Rhine.  Hank -- you remember Hank, he was part of the Pawn mission -- he was monitoring sounds from the house and heard the shooting.  I ran as fast as I could. . . ."

Shane had been able to picture it, seeing himself running as if he were an observer, like he was watching a movie.  He had stumbled when the first bullet struck his shoulder, but managed to stay on his feet and keep running for the river.  The boat was in sight and he was probably only about 10 feet from the water when the second bullet pierced his lower back.  It had spun him around and he had staggered backwards.  Then the third bullet struck his chest and sent him falling into the water.

"That was the last thing I remember until I woke up at the hospital.  I was told that Hank dove in and some other agents on the boat kept Brauer's men at bay long enough for him to get me out.  I still had the camera on me, so the ISA and German police had raided the place while I was still in surgery."

Shane had poured himself another drink and drained it in one gulp. "The girls were dead."  He said without any emotion; he could have been describing the weather.  "Throats cut.  They didn't tell me that at first.  I only heard about it after Tarrington congratulated me on a successful mission."

He had looked at Kim, who looked back at him with a mix of horror and pity.  She had seemed unable to find any words.

"You wanted to know," he had finally said.

Her expression had softened.  "You're right.  I did." 

The room had fallen silent, as Shane had set down the glass, returned to the couch, and took a seat.  He had not wanted her pity or a lecture about the ISA.  He knew what she would say -- that it was destroying him, that it wasn't worth the costs.  There was nothing she could say that he didn't already know.  He just didn't know anything different.

But she had not said any of that.  She had set down her teacup, reached out and taken his hand in hers.

"You described it like it was nothing," Kim said.  "Like it was something written in an ISA report.  But I know you, Shane.  As hard as you try, you can't really bury your emotions.  Are you angry?  Frustrated?  Hurting?"  When he did not respond, she asked again.  "Tell me, please.  Tell me how you feel."

Shane had shaken his head.  "I can't afford to feel."

She had sighed, disappointed, and had let go of his hand.  Then she had looked into the fireplace, and he had noticed the way the flames illuminated her face and the light red of her hair.  "Since this seems to be the hour for true confessions," Kim said.  "I guess it's my turn."  She had picked up the teacup, and then set it down; it had long since been emptied. 

"I don't love Phillip."