Disclaimer:  Knight Rider and its characters are the property of Universal.  I just took them out for a spin.  Okay, I put a couple of dings in them, but I’m not the first one to do that. By KR2K they were already looking a little worse for the wear.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Tomy.  This story would never have left my hard drive if it weren’t for you.  I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but we’ll see.  ;-)

Note:  This story takes place a month or so after Knight Rider 2000.  It is canon to the movie but everything you need to know is spelled out.  It is firmly a Knight Rider story – Russ and Shawn are only mentioned in passing.

The ~~~~~~~ symbol indicates a shift in time.  The astericks are a normal scene change.

WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!  This story is rated R but it has some very disturbing adult content dealing with rape and aftermath.  Nothing is graphically described but there is a very nasty twist to it.  If you would like more information before deciding whether or not you want to read this story, the spoiler warning appears at the bottom of this page (click here). 
 
 

Disintegrate






American Heritage Dictionary:
dis·in·te·grate
verb
1. To become reduced to components, fragments, or particles. 2. To lose
cohesion or unity

Cambridge Dictionary:
dis·in·te·grate
verb [I] 
to become weaker or be destroyed by breaking into small pieces
 
 

Michael sat down at Devon’s desk, overcome with the sense that there was too much unfinished business, that things ended much too soon.  He really didn’t want to rifle through Devon's things, but then, he sure as hell knew he didn’t want Maddock doing it.  If anyone was going to sort through Devon’s personal effects, it was going to be him, or no one.  Michael had managed to go through everything else, but for some reason Devon’s desk bothered him.  It was the only major item that Devon had had shipped from Los Angeles to Seattle -- for some reason, he had left the rest of his belongings behind.  The desk looked completely anachronistic in the modern glass and steel building, but it was Devon to a tee.  The warm, old wood and the carefully selected pictures resting on it gave Michael the sense that Devon was about to walk through the door and scold him for having no respect for privacy. 

And for the first time this morning, it occurred to Michael that there was someone missing in all of this.  There wasn’t even a picture of her on Devon’s desk.  Michael knew he should have called her, but a part of him couldn’t.  It had been too long and he didn’t think she’d want to hear from him.  She had probably gone on with her life and wouldn’t want to look back.  But at the same time, how would he feel if Devon died and no one told him about it?  He didn’t think he could get to a point where that wouldn’t tear him to shreds.  But then, things had been different between them.  He couldn’t blame her for wanting to put that part of her life entirely behind her.  It was probably best to leave her alone.

Sorry old friend, Michael thought, as he carefully slid open the first drawer.  It was filled with Foundation papers and a couple of letters.  Michael reverently laid them on the floor, sorted into business and personal piles.  He found a few pen sets and a pocket watch that he vaguely remembered Devon carrying from time to time.  He flipped it over and noticed that there were the tiniest remains of an inscription on the back.  It was unreadable, having been worn almost completely smooth.  Devon must have carried the watch a lot more often than Michael had realized.

He took his time, not wanting to rush through the task.  Kitt was out on a case with Shawn, and Maddock had wisely left him alone.  He knew this was the last time Devon would be able to say anything new to him, and he wanted to take his time and hear everything.

Michael worked his way around the desk, tossing out pens and carefully sorting papers, until he got to a drawer with an old fashioned lock.  He hadn’t run across any keys among Devon’s other effects and this one probably would have stood out.  He pulled out the lock picking set that he had had the foresight to bring with him.  Inside the drawer there was a lockbox and a couple more letters.  He flipped through them and stopped, feeling his heart sink.  This was definitely something he didn’t want to find.  He stared down at the plain, off-white envelope.  “Bonnie Barstow,” it said, clearly in Devon’s handwriting.  Damn. 
 

Michael leaned back against the wall and rested the envelope on his knees.  Now he had to decide what to do with it.  He had no way of knowing when Devon wrote it, although it looked like it had been handled frequently.  The envelope was creased and folded, worn smooth in some areas.  He didn’t know if it was something that Devon had ever meant to send or if it was one of those letters that gets locked up in a drawer to keep the angry feelings at bay.  Michael was afraid it might be something hurtful or even cruel.  It was probably better to just throw it out and never tell her it existed. 

But what if it was something else?  What if Devon had finally found the courage to apologize, to try to make everything right?  What then?  He had no right to open it and he knew he wouldn’t be able to deliver it if he did.  But what if this was Devon’s last chance to make things right.  He couldn’t deny his friend that opportunity.

Michael leaned his head back against the wall and tried to rein in his wandering mind.  He really didn’t want to think back to that night.  He had scars as well, and too often, they gnawed at him.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Michael and Kitt arrived at the semi in a storm of dirt kicked up as Kitt slid to a stop.  Michael flew out of the car and ran to the side door.  It had been kicked open and there were several bullet holes puncturing the metal.  Michael carefully peered past it and saw that office area was a mess. “Kitt?”

“There’s no one inside, Michael.  But there is a message for us on the table.”

“What does it say?”  Michael asked, looking around.

“’Why don’t you join us?  Old Knight Industries compound in Lancaster.  I’m looking forward to having the gang all here.  Garthe,’” Kitt read.

“He’s got Bonnie and Devon, buddy.”

“You know this is a trap.”

“Yeah, but we don’t have a choice.  How long to Lancaster?” he asked, jumping down from the semi and trotting back to the car.

“Twenty-two minutes,” Kitt replied. 

Michael was frustrated.  He had had an idea that Garthe was behind all the little incidents of sabotage they had been suffering the last month or two, but part of him couldn’t believe that Garthe had survived going over the cliff in Goliath.  Michael had wanted to believe he was dead, but Garthe seemed to get way too many second chances.  Michael wished he had listened to his instincts on this one instead of reasoning them away.

Kitt drove most of the way at high speed but once they arrived, Michael wanted to take some time to think things through and size up the situation.  They stopped on a barren hill overlooking the compound.

“Garthe probably knows we’re here, so give me everything you can get.  Can you locate Devon and Bonnie?”

“My sensors are being scrambled.  Whoever is down there, knows the frequencies I use.”

Michael sighed.  This was not going to be easy.  “More proof that it’s Garthe we’re dealing with.  So you can’t see anything?”

“No, Michael, I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay, buddy.”

They watched as one of the garage doors opened and Garthe appeared, flanked on either side by his hired muscle.

“Hello, Michael.  Kitt,” Garthe yelled across the desert sand.  “Wonderful to see you again.”

Michael hit the button for the external speaker.  “The pleasure’s all ours Garthe.  What do you want?”

“Well, for starters, I’d like you to get out of the car.  Secondly, I’d like Kitt to drive through the open door here.  I’ve made several upgrades to this place.  I think you’ll like the lead-lined garage.”

“And if we don’t do as you ask?” Michael asked.

“Oh, you’re a smart man, Michael.  I think you can figure that one out for yourself.” 

A few more men appeared at the entrance, pushing Devon and Bonnie, holding guns to their heads.

Michael punched the speaker button off.  “Any ideas buddy?”

“I’m afraid not.  It seems likely that anything we do will get Bonnie and Devon shot.”

“Right,” Michael said, not liking the situation at all.  They were likely to get hurt one way or another unless he could get to Garthe, but right now his hands were tied.  Michael pushed open the door.  “Be careful, buddy.”

“Do we have a plan?”

“No.  We’re going to have to play this one by ear.”

“But in a lead-lined garage, I won’t be able to communicate with you.”

“I know.  Just stay alert, pal.  And try to think of a way to get us out of here.”

Michael slowly got out and shielded his eyes from the sun.  He started walking down the sandy road toward the compound.

“That’s right, keep it slow and easy, Michael.  When he’s done, Kitt, I want you to slowly drive toward the garage.  And don’t try anything,” Garthe warned.

Michael reached Garthe and was promptly pulled in front of a machine gun. Kitt slowly drove down the road and disappeared into the shadow of the garage.  They all watched as the heavy door closed ominously behind him.

* * *

Michael, Devon, and Bonnie sat huddled in a cell, with nothing to do but wait. 

Garthe was preening in front of them, thoroughly pleased with how clever he was.  "I've done a lot of work on this place, trying to make it homey.  I had this jail cell specially constructed, just for you.  I have this thing for prison motif."

"We'd be happy to send you back to jail so you can get a look at the latest styles," Michael quipped.

“Not necessary. I’ve spent enough time there," Garthe said as he walked back and forth in front of them, pacing restlessly.  "So, you left me for dead.  Oops, or maybe not.  The famous Michael Knight gets careless.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t make that mistake again,” Michael said keeping his voice calm.

“You won’t get the opportunity.” Garthe’s voice had a low, threatening timbre to it.  “Try to entertain yourselves, kids, I’ll be back later for the real fun.”

He disappeared from their field of view and flicked off the lights, leaving them in total darkness.

“Are you both all right?”  Michael asked, this being the first opportunity they had to talk.

“Yes,” Devon’s disembodied voice responded.

“Any idea what he wants?”  Michael asked.

“Nothing more than revenge, I’d say.  He wants to torment us, scare us a bit.  I don’t know if he has any grander plans against the Foundation, but it seems that this is personal.”

Michael lifted the comlink.  “Kitt, can you hear me?”

The only response was a crackly silence.

“I guess Garthe wasn’t kidding about the lead-lined garage.  We need to find a way out of here,” Michael said.

* * *

Garthe flipped on the lights and sauntered into the room, an unreadable expression on his face and two lackeys with guns at his side.  “Take her,” he said, motioning toward Bonnie.  Then he sized up the two men.  “And take the one who defiles my family name.”

The guards grabbed them both and hustled them through the cell door.  Garthe smiled wickedly at Devon.  “Be back for you later, Miles. You’re just going to have to wait your turn.”

Michael and Bonnie were led through a narrow, dimly lit hallway and roughly pushed through a door on the left.  “What do you want, Garthe?”  Michael asked.

“I want my life back.  But, since I can’t have that, I’ll settle for making your life a living hell.”

Michael was used to Garthe's delusions, but this time he was worried.  Garthe had nothing left to lose -- not even a grand plan to take over the world.  It made him dangerous.

Garthe flicked on the lights in the room and Michael’s fear started to grow.  It had no windows or other doors.  There were heavy chairs, tables with restraints, and what looked like medical instruments, scattered around the room.  In the back of his mind, Michael had assumed that Garthe was going to torture him, but he hadn't taken it seriously until now.  He felt his stomach tighten.  There were plenty of ways to create a living hell.  He looked over at Bonnie and saw that she had gone a shade paler and was staring at a set of long, nasty-looking needles that had been spread out on one of the nearby counters.

"This is another one of my customizations.  It took me a while to find just the right implements."  Garthe laughed, seeing Bonnie's expression of horror.  “Oh don’t worry, I have no intention of marring your pretty little face . . . tonight.  Actually, it’s really too bad April isn’t here.  I liked her.  She was who I had in mind, but you’ll do,” he said, stroking Bonnie under the chin.  “I think he likes you better anyway.”

Now the hair was standing up on the back of Michael’s neck.  This was not good.  It was bad enough to be tortured himself, but he couldn't stomach the idea of Garthe hurting Bonnie.  Michael desperately wished he had a way of contacting Kitt.  They needed to get out of here now.

Garthe pushed Bonnie back toward an empty corner of the room.  “Have a seat,” he said before sharply punching her in the stomach.  She doubled over, gasping, and he hit her again, forcing her to the ground.  One of the guards stepped forward and put a gun to her head.  She looked back up at Michael, clearly terrified.  Michael wished he had some reason, any reason to reassure her, but there was nothing he could do right now. 

“So, Michael, you’re quite the ladies man, or so I hear.  Seems you’ve got one of those faces.” Garthe laughed darkly, amused with his own joke.  “So, the deal is, you’re going to put on a little show for us tonight.  The boys have been out here a long time fixing the place up, and we don’t get any of the good cable channels, if you know what I mean.”

Michael felt ill as the reality of what Garthe was after sunk in.  “Not going to happen, Garthe,” Michael said, feeling a surge of adrenaline.  If Garthe hadn’t had a gun pointed at Bonnie’s head, he would have attempted to overpower him.  He flexed his fingers and waited, hoping that Garthe would let his guard down for half a second.

“That’s your choice.  But if you don’t, her brains will be all over that wall there.  Dead or fucked -- it’s up to you.”

Michael recoiled inwardly at the word but tried not to react visibly.  He couldn’t even look at Bonnie; he didn’t want to see the look on her face.  This was worse than anything he had been preparing for.  “As I’m sure you know, it doesn’t quite work that way.”  He tried to keep the shake out of his voice.

Garthe’s smile was hideous.  “Better find a way to make it work if you want her to live.”

“No.”

The gun clicked as the guard made a show of removing the safety.

Garthe lashed out and kicked Michael hard in the back of the knees, dropping him to the floor.  Michael looked up and saw that Bonnie’s eyes were squeezed shut and she was shaking.  He couldn’t do this.  There was no way.  But he couldn’t let Garthe kill her.  There didn’t seem to be any other options at the moment.  He had to at least stall.  But a frightened part of his mind wondered what there was to stall for.  He was the one who was supposed to come to the rescue.

He crawled over to her and gently touched her hand.  Bonnie’s eyes snapped open and the direct eye contact was too much for him.  He wished that Garthe had made killing him an option instead. 

She swallowed and squeezed his hand.  “It’s okay,” she whispered.  “We’ll get through this.”

* * *

Michael was roughly pushed back into the room that was their cell.  He couldn’t bring himself to look at Devon. 

"Your turn, Miles," one of the guards said as he pulled Devon out of the cell and callously escorted him from the room. 

When they were gone, Michael leaned his head against the bars of the cell, feeling the cool, round metal against his forehead.  It was something of a comfort, but not much.  He felt like he was going to be sick, and his thoughts were racing a mile a minute, trying to catch up and make sense of what had happened. 

But he didn’t want to make sense of it.  He didn’t want to think about it at all.  It sickened him, and there were too many images seared into his mind that he couldn’t bear to look at again.

Slowly, in a haze, he walked over to the wall and slid into a sitting position.  He put his head in his hands, grateful for the quiet solitude.  He couldn’t face anyone right now; he felt like a monster.  He wished that Garthe would turn the lights out again.  The dark would be comforting now – a cloak to hide his shame and fear.

He didn’t know how long he had been there before his comlink beeped.  He hit the button and was rewarded with a burst of static.  The noise continued for a few seconds before he could faintly make out Kitt’s voice.  “Michael . . . can you . . . Michael. . . hear . . . ?”

He held the watch up to his mouth.  “Yeah, kind of, Kitt.”

“The . . . seal isn’t . . . cracks . . . boost power . . . comlink to get through.”

“You’re really hard to understand, but keep talking.  Do you have any idea how to get us out of here?” Michael said wearily, finding that he just didn’t have the energy to have this conversation.  It seemed almost pointless now.

“. . . trying to . . . local authorities but  . . . Where are . . .” filtered through the static.

Michael was suddenly hit with a horrible thought.  He looked at his comlink, afraid to ask the question.  “Can you scan now too?”

“No . . . enough to allow for . . .” 

Michael bitterly thought that he had never been so relieved to have one of Kitt’s functions incapacitated.  “Kitt, we need to get out of here as soon as possible.  If there’s anything you can do.”

“The garage is . . . could turbo boost . . . if I try, he’ll kill you.”

“Probably.  Can you get a message to either the Foundation or the local authorities?”

“. . . try . . . too far . . . very limited.”

“Try.  If that doesn’t work, we’ll have to think of something else.  We have to get out of here tonight.”  Michael was afraid to attempt a breakout knowing that Garthe had Devon and Bonnie.  He squeezed his eyes shut, trying not to think.  If Kitt made a break for it, Garthe might kill one or both of them right there.  If they tried to escape when Garthe was asleep and they were all back in their cell, it might give them enough buffer time to get out alive.
 

* * *

Michael shrank into the darkness that blanketed the back of the cell when Garthe returned with Bonnie and Devon.  He had been dreading this.  He just couldn’t face them, and from the way they were staring at the ground, he was afraid they weren’t in any better shape than he was.

“I hope you all had as much fun as I did,” Garthe said, in his low, rough voice.

Michael glared up at Garthe from his spot on the floor, wanting to kill him.  He hadn’t felt this strongly since Durante had killed Stevie.  The hatred was eating at the back of his throat, curling up in his stomach, making his head pound.

The guards opened the cell and shoved Bonnie and Devon inside.

“Get some rest tonight, I’ve got more activities planned for tomorrow.”

“You’ll pay for this, Garthe,” Michael said in a low, eerily calm voice.

“I doubt it.”  Garthe eyed at him evilly.  “I just gave you what you’ve always wanted.”

Michael couldn’t help cringing.   Garthe laughed as he and the guards walked out, leaving them alone.  Devon turned and claimed the far side of the cell, away from Michael.  Bonnie hesitated before folding up and sitting somewhere in the middle.  There were acres of space between them.

* * *

The silence was painful.  It went beyond tense or uncomfortable to the point of being a constant irritant in Michael's mind, chaffing at all of his thoughts.  He wanted desperately to break it, but he didn’t know what to say.  He was completely lost.  They had gone over the plan shortly after Garthe left.  Kitt was going to break out of the garage once they felt that Garthe had let his guard down and possibly gone to sleep.  After that, there had been nothing but silence.  Michael knew what he was feeling and had a pretty good idea that Devon was feeling something similar.  But he had no idea what was going through Bonnie’s mind and that scared the hell out of him.  He was trying hard not to think about it.

For the third or fourth time, he heard her take a deep breath, like she was about to say something, but then let it out, the words unspoken.  Each time, he tensed, afraid of what was coming.  “What?” he asked softly, finally reaching the limit of what he could take.  “Whatever it is, say it.”

“It’s just . . . This is exactly what he wants.  For us to be sitting here, not able to talk to each other,” she said in a flat voice.

Michael knew she was right, but he still didn’t know what to say.  It was just too much right now.  Her words hung there, unanswered.

* * *

Michael checked his watch -- 3 am.  If they were going to catch Garthe off guard, now was as good a time as any.  He hit the button on his comlink.

“Kitt, go for it.  We’re in a little room on the south side of the building.”

“I’ll . . . find . . . when I’m free . . .”

They waited several long minutes, and then an alarm sounded, followed by yelling and footsteps.  Garthe burst into the room with two guards.  “Give me the comlink!  Now!!”

Michael slowly stretched his arm out in front of him, but before he could remove the watch, there was an enormous crash, followed by Kitt’s prow obliterating the wall on the far side of the room.  Kitt slid into position, knocking Garthe and the two guards to the ground.  He microjammed the locks on the cell and they all quickly ducked behind Kitt as Garthe whipped around with his automatic weapon and started firing.  He quickly rethought his strategy when the ricochets darted off Kitt’s shell.

Michael took the opportunity to rush forward and slam into Garthe, shouldering him hard in the stomach.  When he doubled over, Michael hit him between the shoulder blades, knocking him to he floor.  Then he stomped on Garthe's shoulder to keep him down.  Michael kicked him onto his back and pounced on him, hitting him several times.  He felt the satisfying crunch as Garthe's nose broke.  Then Michael stopped and backed up, suddenly overwhelmed with a desperate need to just get out of there.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Michael was surprised that he had gotten away with borrowing Kitt, and with Maddock’s permission, no less.  He had played the Devon card and told Maddock that he was running an errand that Devon would have wanted done.  Michael didn’t know how many more times he would be able to get away with that, but he’d take it while he could. 

It was nice to be on a road trip with Kitt again.  It gave them a chance to get reacquainted, without Maddock and the Foundation interfering.  It would have been nicer if the circumstances had been more pleasant.  They were somewhere in the middle of the country, on their way to a suburb in Boston.  Michael was getting the sense that Kitt’s anger at having been dismantled was slowly burning away with the miles.  It felt like Kitt’s attitude had softened and Michael hoped that maybe Kitt was even willing to forgive him.

Michael felt horrible about how he had left things with Kitt ten years ago.  He had been selfish and so wrapped up in his own issues that he hadn’t seen what was clearly on the wall for Kitt.  He had pretended that Kitt would just get a new partner and carry on, not because he had believed it, but because it was easier than dealing with his responsibilities.  If he had known that Kitt was going to end up dismantled, sold off, or junked in a wooden crate, he couldn’t have left.  Or at least, he hoped that was true.  He knew at the time he was so overwhelmed that maybe he would have just left, damn the consequences.  But Kitt deserved so much better than that from him.

Michael had just gotten tired of being responsible for others.  And he had gotten to the point where all of his relationships with people were so strained.  He had been tired of friendship being so difficult.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Michael stepped out onto the veranda and stopped when he spotted Bonnie sitting at a table in the far corner, by herself, staring at a cup of coffee.  They hadn’t talked since that night and it had been over a week.  It was funny, he had always thought the Foundation grounds were huge, but it was amazing how much they shrunk when he was trying to avoid someone.  He hesitated, but it was stupid to keep running away from the situation; they were going to have to deal with it somehow.  It was just that he was afraid of what would happen if they did start talking.  Sometimes he thought the uneasy silence would be better than about half the scenarios his mind came up with.

It was late in the morning so there were only a few people sitting on the veranda.  Michael made his way over to Bonnie's table, noticing that she had picked a spot away from most everyone else.  He stopped awkwardly in front of her.  “Mind if I join you?”

She looked up with her eyes, without moving her head.  It almost looked like she didn’t have the energy to lift it.  “Not at all.”

He sat down, lost about where to go from there.  She was sitting with her hands folded around the outside of the saucer, still staring into the cup that was resting on it.

“Look, Bonnie,” he started and instinctively put a hand on top of hers.  He was startled when she immediately jerked her hands away, spilling her coffee, and causing the cup to clatter against the saucer.  Michael quickly pushed back his chair.  “Nevermind,” he managed to force out abruptly and turned to make as quick an exit as possible.  He was surprised at just how deeply that stung.

He had gotten to the door when she called out, “Wait.  Please don’t go.”

He paused.

“Please.  I’m sorry.”  She said it in a plaintive voice.

He turned around hesitantly, noticing that a few people had looked up, but most of them were engrossed in their newspapers or conversations.  He walked back over to the table, stopping to stand next the chair he had just pushed back.  He watched as the spilt coffee slowly seeped into the linen tablecloth.

“I’m not . . . I’m not afraid of you . . . or anything like that,” she said, haltingly.  “I just.  I’ve been jumpy lately.  I haven’t been sleeping well and I didn’t expect that.  I’m sorry.”

 Michael nodded, still wary.  He didn’t want to sit down.  The patio and table were too confining.  He wanted to be able to move and he didn’t want to have to sit across from her -- it would be better if they didn’t have to face each other.  “Can we take a walk?”

“Yes,” she said immediately, sounding relieved.  She folded up her napkin and quietly followed him down the porch steps and then along the reflecting pool.

They walked quietly for a while.  Michael didn’t know where to go or what to say, but he just couldn’t let things stay the way they were.

“I hate feeling like I can’t talk to you,” he said, tentatively. 

She nodded.

“So what can we do about that?”

“If I knew, I’d tell you,” she said sadly.  “I don’t know where to start either.”

She stopped and sat on the stone lip of the reflecting pool.  He had wanted to keep walking -- movement was comforting for some reason -- but at least they weren’t sitting at the table. 

Michael took a seat next to Bonnie, and the horrible silence that separated them returned.  Maybe if he just started talking, it would all tumble out and this awkwardness would be over.  But he couldn’t even think of the first few words.

“So what are you afraid of?” she asked.

It took Michael a long time to decide on an answer.  He could have brushed off the question, but maybe it was one way to start talking.  There were so many things that scared him, but at least he could name them.  “I’m . . . afraid that you hate me.”

She looked up sharply.  “Why would I hate you?” she asked.

“Why wouldn’t you?  You have every reason to hate me.  I. . .”  He took a deep breath but couldn’t continue.

“I don’t hate you.  Not at all.  It was a horrible situation and there was no good way out of it.  You’re one of the most important people in my life, which is why this hurts so much.” Her voice cracked.

“I want you to know, Bonnie, I would never, ever have done anything like that if he hadn’t had a gun to your head.  I swear I wouldn’t . . .”

“I know that,” she said forcefully, looking up at him with very troubled eyes.  “Michael, of course, I know that.” She looked like there was more she wanted to say, but she stopped and looked away. 

There was another long pause before Michael decided to continue listing the things that scared him.  “I’m afraid to talk to Kitt.”

She nodded.  “I don’t even want to think about that right now,” she said, her head down.  He let it drop.  That was something they were all going to have to figure out.  Right now there was too much to settle between the three of them, much less trying to add a fourth person to the mix.

“I’m afraid that only a hideous person would have done what I did,” he said, very softly.

“Michael, you didn’t do anything wrong.  This was done to all of us.  We were all. . . raped.”  She took in a deep, shaky breath and released it.   “You were forced to do something horrible and you did it to save my life.  And it makes me feel so guilty.”  Her eyes welled up.

Michael sighed. In a lot of ways, it was a big relief to hear her say that.  “Don’t feel guilty, Bonnie.  This is terrible and awkward, but awful as it is, its better than mourning you.”  He looked at her with very sad eyes.  “We’ll get through this.”

She wiped away the tears that had started to overflow her lids and stared off in the distance.

Michael wanted to keep the conversation going.  “So what are you afraid of?” he asked.

“What am I not afraid of?” she asked, desperately.  “I’m afraid of everything.”

“Like what?”  He wanted to get her talking too.

“I’m afraid you think I’m a horrible person.”

Michael smiled bitterly.  “That sounds familiar.  You aren’t.  The situation, remember.”

“But, I was the one who, who basically made the decision.”

“It was a mutual decision, Bonnie.  We both decided.”

There was another long pause.  “I’m afraid of Devon.”

“Can I ask?  Was it. . . was the situation the same?”

She nodded. 

“I assumed, but . . . I was hoping not.  Have you talked to him at all?”

“No.  I haven’t seen him for days.”  More quiet.  “I’m afraid of what he thinks of me.”

“This wasn’t your fault.  There wasn’t anything any of us could have done.” 

She turned to sit sideways and ran a hand over the water in the reflecting pool, looking miserable.  He reached toward her, wanting to stroke her hair, but remembered her early reaction and stopped.  She wasn’t able to hold back the tears anymore and brought her hands up to cover her face.  Then she slowly leaned into him and rested her head against his shoulder.  “I’m afraid that things will never be the way they were,” she said.

Cautiously her wrapped his arms around her.  “All we can do is try, sweetheart.  We just have to keep trying.”

He was relieved when he felt her body relax against him, returning the hug.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When Michael awoke, the scenery rushing past the windows had changed from the barren Western desert to the flat farmland of the Midwest.  He blinked as Kitt slowly reduced the tint of the windows to let in more of the late morning sunshine.

"I take it you slept well?" Kitt asked.

"Yes, thanks," Michael replied, sitting up and giving his neck a quick stretch.  "Where are we?"

"I90, west of Chicago."

"We're making good time."

"It helps when I drive," Kitt said matter-of-factly.

"Yes, it does."  Michael rolled his neck back and forth a few times, thinking he was getting old.  He also thought that it was well past time to talk to Kitt.  He had been thinking about the letter that he was carrying and it made him realize that he had some apologizing to do too.  And it would be much better if he said the things he needed to say before someone had to carry a letter to the people he loved. 

"Kitt, look, I've had a lot of things on my mind the last few weeks.  And one of them is how I treated you.  I think I have as much apologizing to do as Devon did."

"I wouldn’t know, since you insist on keeping me in the dark about what happened with Devon."

Michael took a deep breath.  That was not how he wanted to start this conversation.  "Kitt, look, I'm really very sorry for how I treated you.  I'm sorry that I up and left with no warning.  I'm sorry I didn't take into account what would happen to you.  It was wrong and selfish.  You were my friend and my partner and I let you down.  I hope you can forgive me for that."

"Why, Michael?  Why did you leave like that?"

Michael glanced down at the voice modulator, knowing that behind the sharp, angry words, his partner was deeply hurt by his actions.  He wanted to explain, but he didn’t know how much Kitt would accept.  "I just couldn't take it anymore.  I was so overwhelmed that I just didn't care about anything."

"Including me," Kitt said.

Michael sighed.  "It's not that I didn’t care about you.  At the time I just felt like I had so much resting on my shoulders."

"So I was a burden?"

"Kitt, I'm trying to apologize."  Michael’s temper got the best of him.

"And I'm trying to understand."  Kitt’s tone softened a bit.

"It's not that you were a burden.  Kitt, I felt like the people I cared about were expecting so much from me.  It felt like I kept letting you all down.  I got it into my head that it would be better for everyone if I left.  I really didn’t think that you would be dismantled."

"We were partners.  If you were feeling that way, why didn't you talk to me about it?"

"I just couldn't, Kitt."  Michael suspected that he had just gotten into the habit of keeping things bottled up.  After what had happened, he had gotten used to hiding his feelings and not relying on those he loved.  He hadn't meant to, but since so much seemed to stem from the one thing he couldn’t talk about, he had just stopped talking about everything.  "I don't know why.  But I am really sorry.  I screwed up. And I hope that you can forgive me for that."

"Of course I can forgive you.  But that doesn't mean that everything will be the same as it was."

"I know that.  But you forgiving me is a start, right?"

"Yes, Michael.  I'm also sorry I've been so churlish lately.  Being reactivated into the situation as it was, wasn't easy and I took it out on you."

"You had a right to.  And I should have expected that.  I thought you would be the same as you were when I left.  I should have known better.  I'm sorry for being impatient.”

“Why now?” Kitt asked.  “Why are you telling me this now?”

“Because, Kitt. I don’t want to end up like Devon.  I don’t want to know there are people out there who I hurt and never made amends to.”

"Thank you, Michael, that means a lot to me." 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

Michael spotted Devon standing at the end of the hallway, talking with one of the Foundation’s larger contributors. They hadn’t taken on any cases since escaping from Garthe, but Devon had been finding more than enough work to keep himself too busy to talk.  The few times that he had run into Michael in the hallways, he had mumbled a few stilted pleasantries, but he refused to acknowledge Bonnie even that much.  He seemed to be trying to operate in his own little vacuum, away from the rest of them. 

Michael understood that.  He knew it would probably be easier to just surround himself with the normal routines and everyday people and not deal with the things that were difficult.  But Devon's distance was upsetting Bonnie and he had agreed to try to pin him down and talk to him.

Patiently, Michael waited until Devon finished his conversation and then tried to catch his eye.  He could have sworn that Devon saw him, but turned the other way to leave anyway. 

"Devon," Michael called out, quickening his pace to catch up.  He was not in the mood to play games and he was tired of Devon blowing them off.  It was starting to make him angry. 

The older man missed a step and turned.  "Yes," he answered formally.

"Can we talk?"

There was a resigned pause.  "Of course."

Devon led the way to his office and ushered Michael in.  He immediately took the chair behind his desk, putting several feet of mahogany between them.

"Look, this isn't helping," Michael started.

Devon just raised his eyebrows.

"You know what I'm talking about.  You can't keep pretending she doesn't exist."

"I'm afraid I *don't* know what you're talking about," he said.

Michael tried to control his frustration.  "Yes.  You do."

Devon made a show of pulling out his watch and checking the time. "As much as I'd love to continue debating whether or not I can read your mind, I have a meeting in ten minutes, so perhaps we should get to the point."

"This isn't a ten minute conversation."

"Then I'm afraid it will have to wait."

"It's waited too long as it is," Michael said, frustrated with how this was going.

Devon got up and headed for the door.  Michael thought about just letting him go, but this was ridiculous.  Without turning around he said, "You're hurting her more this way, you know."

He heard the footsteps on the carpet stop.  "What do you mean?"

"I mean, that I think she can live with what happened.  But she can't live with you turning your back."

Michael heard him take a few steps away from the door, into the room.  "And that is something that I really don't understand."

Michael turned around to look at him and took a deep breath.  "I think, in some ways, this whole thing is easier for her.  I mean, not easier exactly, but less . . . ambiguous.  She was the one with the gun to her head.  I think she saw what needed to happen and accepted that on some level."

"I can't.  Just accept it, that is," Devon said, looking at the floor.

"We have to."

Devon shook his head.  "Not possible."

"So what are the options?  We go around pretending that we don't see each other?  Pretending nothing happened?"

"And why not?"

"Devon.  That's not a good way to treat the people you care about.  And it doesn’t solve anything.  You know as well as I do that it just doesn’t work that way."

"But it is working."

"Don't kid yourself." Michael was trying very hard not to let his frustration show.

"It seems to be working for Bonnie too.  She seems fine."

"Have you looked at her recently?  Have you noticed the dark circles under her eyes and the fact she's lost at least five or ten pounds?  She's not fine."

"No.  I hadn't noticed,” Devon said, sounding ashamed.

"I said I thought it was easier for her, but that doesn't mean it isn't incredibly hard on all of us."

Devon was quiet for a long time before he came back into the room and sat down on the couch, facing away from Michael.

"How does one say one's sorry for something so hideous, so incomprehensible?" Devon asked.

"I don't know that sorry is necessary.  But if it makes you feel better to say it, I think that's a good place to start.  I think right now she'd take any acknowledgement."

Devon shook his head.  "So much more than sorry is necessary."

"Well, if you feel that way, at least tell her that.  This is hard, but things are only going to get worse if we don't talk.  Devon, if we want to get passed this, we will.  This doesn't have to change everything."

"Of course it does,” Devon said, sounding frustrated himself.  He stood again, restlessly.  "I have that meeting," he said and quickly left the room.

Michael let him go, hoping that it was at least a start. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael turned on the vents so that he could breath in the wonderful pine scent of the deep green Pennsylvania forests.  They were getting closer, but things with Kitt had gotten strained again as they approached the East Coast.  Michael assumed that Kitt was probably reliving as much of the past as he was. 

 “Why did Bonnie leave?” Kitt asked a few hours later, confirming Michael’s suspicions.

He didn’t answer.  Kitt had asked that question several times in the past, but they had agreed not to tell him.  For good reason, Michael thought.  He couldn’t even fathom trying to explain.  But he felt bad for Kitt, who had had to watch the rift between them all widen, not having any idea what had caused it.  Michael knew that Bonnie had good reasons for leaving, and it had still been painful for him to watch her go.  He could only imagine what it had been like from Kitt’s perspective.

“It’s in the past, can we leave it there, please?” Michael replied.

“Why wouldn’t you ever tell me?”

“Because I couldn’t, can’t, Kitt.  It’s between the three of us, and it needs to stay that way.”

“You don’t trust me.”

“That’s not true.”

“I know that Bonnie and Devon weren't getting along, but I still don’t know why,” he said, indignantly.  “Before her last few months at the Foundation, they almost never argued.  I don’t understand what changed.”

“It’s complicated,” Michael said, feeling guilty about his evasive answers but not knowing what he could say that would satisfy his friend.

“Maybe I could have helped,” Kitt said.  “It affected me too.”

Michael stared out into the dense forest around them.  “I know that, Kitt.  And I’m sorry, but there was nothing you could have done.  Trust me.”

“That isn’t as easy to do as it used to be,” Kitt said, sadly. 

Michael knew there was nothing he could say to that.  It amazed him that a group of people as unified as they were could get to a point where they couldn’t even talk to each other.  It had all happened way too fast.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael wound his way through the corridors towards Devon’s office.  He and Kitt had been off working on a small case. A counterfeiting scheme, nothing too taxing, but it felt good to get back to the old routines.  It was soothing in a way that he hadn’t been expecting; the time away from the Foundation had helped him to put things in order. 

When he entered Devon’s office, the relief and hopefulness drained away.  Bonnie was standing next to her computer, with her back to the rest of the room, waiting for a file to finish printing.  Devon was at his desk.  It was fairly obvious that they had staked out neutral corners.  These days there were always corners tucked into the edges of very large rooms.

“Ah, Michael.  How are you?”  Devon’s voice was cheery and light, but Michael knew it was a practiced front, a polite facade.

“Hi, guys.  How’s it going?”  Michael asked slowly, feeling like he was walking into a minefield.

Devon didn’t answer.  Neither of them did.  Devon looked up at him in a way that was almost pleading and it broke Michael’s heart.  He was supposed to be the mediator, the calming presence, the sage who kept them all sane.  To have Devon looking to him to smooth over a delicate situation was a role reversal that Michael wasn’t prepared for.

“How are things going with the case?”  Devon finally asked.

“Fine.”

Bonnie ventured far enough from her computer to hand him the printout.  “I was going to send this to Kitt, but since you came in. . .” she said, her voice trailing off.

“Anything else?” Michael asked, pointedly.  Devon had called and requested that Michael come back to the Foundation, so obviously there was something he needed to say.

“I talked to the lawyers this morning.  Garthe was arraigned on charges of kidnapping, trespassing, and weapons possession.  They are also going to charge him with crimes related to his exploits prior to being presumed dead.”

There was a long pause.  Michael decided to probe the unanswered question.  “Are we all okay with that?”

“I thought it best,” Devon said, fumbling with his pen.

Michael turned to Bonnie.  “Do you agree?”

“Yes,” she said softly, not looking in their direction.  “Assuming he’s convicted of the other crimes, it wouldn’t add much to his sentence anyway.”

Michael nodded.  He couldn’t fathom how hard it would be to explain to anyone, much less a jury.  They were having a tough enough time as it was.

“I think it’s probably best if we just try to put this behind us,” Bonnie said.

Devon glanced at her and Michael tried to decipher the strange look on his face.  “I assumed that would be your opinion,” he said evenly, but there was something underlying it, an anger that had Michael worried. 

“What do you mean?” Bonnie asked, tentatively.

“Nothing.”  Devon lowered his eyes and shuffled the papers on his desk. 

Michael didn’t like the direction this was going.  “We just have to hang in there, guys.  We’ll get passed this,” he tried.

“How?” Devon said sharply, the single word loaded with anger.  He got up from his desk and stood in front of the window, turning his back to them.  Michael was shocked by how quickly and negatively Devon reacted.  He was clearly struggling to keep himself together and it made Michael very uneasy. 

“I don’t know, but we will.  We’ll work it out.” Michael tried to infuse his voice with a confidence he wasn’t feeling. 

“I’m sorry,” Devon said softly, retreating again.  “I know I haven’t been dealing with this very well.”

“It’s okay, we’re all having a tough time.”

Devon turned and looked back and forth between them.  “I just don’t understand how you two can just carry on like nothing happened.”

“We aren’t,” Bonnie said carefully.

Michael sighed, wishing he knew what Devon needed to hear.  “It’s just a matter of trying.”

“I see.  And I’m not trying hard enough, I take it,” Devon said, despondently, this time. 

Michael was normally good at handling people in a crisis but this was well beyond him.  He didn’t know how to navigate all the unspoken emotional undercurrents that kept seeping into the conversation.  And Devon was so unlike himself that Michael wasn’t even able to gauge his reactions.

“I’m not saying that. Not at all,” Michael said, trying to bring down the level of tension in the room.

“Devon, what would you like us to do?”  Bonnie asked softly.

“I’m afraid there is nothing that can be done at this point, is there?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, the choices have been made, haven’t they?”

“I still don’t know . . .” Bonnie started.

“Of course you do.  You made your choice in Lancaster and now we all have to live with it.”  There was a coldness and a distance in Devon’s voice that sounded utterly foreign. 

 “Devon?” she asked plaintively, her eyes wide.

“It would have been better for all of us if you had simply taken the bullet to the head.  There would have been more dignity in it,” Devon said, his voice simmering with quiet fury.

Bonnie’s head snapped back and she stared at Devon, stunned.  Michael flew toward him, feeling wounded himself even though the comment hadn’t been directed at him.  “Devon!!  You know that isn’t true!”  Devon briefly returned Michael’s angry stare and then turned away, not able to hold the eye contact.  He crossed his arms defensively and went to his desk, hiding behind the mahogany.  Michael was livid.  He knew that Devon was hurt and trying to protect himself, trying to hide his own feelings of guilt, but he had no right.  Michael turned to look at Bonnie.  She was frozen, staring at where Devon had been standing. 

“Devon, this isn’t . . .” he started, more calmly.

“Don’t bother,” Bonnie said, her voice was flat, emotionless.  She turned sharply and quickly found her way to the door.

Michael glared at Devon.  “You know that isn’t true and you have no right to say it!  Do you honestly want her dead?!”  Devon sat at his desk, willfully ignoring him.  “Damn it!  Why in the hell do you think that hurting her is going to make things any easier for you!”

Devon continued to ignore him so he turned to go after Bonnie instead.  He slammed the door behind him and saw her miss a step and flinch even though she was well down the hallway.

“Bonnie, I’m sorry.  He doesn’t mean it.”

“Don’t . . . Don’t apologize for him,” she said angrily, but Michael could also hear the tremor beneath it.  He quickened his pace to catch up with her.

“He just doesn’t know how to handle this.”

“And you think I do?”

“No, but . . . Will you just stop a minute.”

She stopped, but kept her back to him.  “I’m leaving.”

“What?” Michael asked, taken aback.  He knew she was upset, but . . .

“I’m leaving.  I can’t stay here anymore.”  She seemed to be gaining certainty as she spoke.

Michael was jarred by the finality of it.  If she left, things would never be the same.  “Don’t do that.  Bonnie, please.”

“I . . . can’t . . . stay here.”  Her voice broke and Michael felt ill.  He wanted so badly to fix everything between them and he just didn’t know how.  The more he tried, the worse things got. 

“How am I going to work with him?  He’d rather I was dead!”  She had wrapped her arms around herself and was obviously crying.

“He didn’t mean it, Bonnie.  I know he didn’t.”

“He blames me.  You saw what it was like when you came in.  He won’t even talk to me.”

“Give him time,” Michael said approaching her slowly.

“It’s too hard.  It’s easier for you, you’re on the road with Kitt.”  She paused and took a deep breath.  “I can’t be in the same room with him knowing that he can’t even stand to look at me.”

“He’ll get over it.  Please don’t go like this.  We’ll find a way, I promise.”

She slowly spun around to face him and Michael was frightened by the despair in her eyes.  “I can’t.  I’m sorry.”

He watched as she continued down the hallway alone, praying for someone to give him the right words to say.
 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael checked the address again and slowly climbed the stone steps that lead to the front of the modest brick house.  He rang the bell and heard kids running and yelling inside.  Bonnie opened the door and her friendly smile faded as she caught sight of him.  A little girl with long brown braids, who looked to be about 6, ran up behind her. 

“Hi,” Bonnie said guardedly.

“Who’s here?” the little girl asked.

Bonnie turned and put a hand on her head.  “Becky, why don’t you take your brother out in the backyard to play for a bit.”

Becky ran into the house and Bonnie turned her attention to Michael.  “Come in,” she said, moving away from the door.  Michael followed her and wasn’t surprised to find that the front room was tastefully, but somewhat sparsely, decorated.  It had a practical, lived in feel.  Neither of them took a seat.

“I’m sorry, I probably should have called.  How are you?”

“Fine.”  She shrugged slightly, peering through the front window.  “So, you’ve either destroyed Kitt and need my help.  Or, he’s dead.”

Michael was suddenly very uncomfortable.  It was awkward to see her after all this time.  He realized he didn’t know anything about who she was anymore.  She hadn’t changed much, physically, aside from being several years older.  Her hair was shorter and she was thinner, but the changes weren’t drastic, on the outside, anyway.  “Devon died four weeks ago.”

She sighed softly.  “How?”

“We were on a case. The guy we were after kidnapped and poisoned him.”

She nodded.  “And you came all the way out here to tell me this?”

Standing here looking at her, Michael wasn’t sure what he was doing.  He didn’t know what he had expected, but this wasn’t it.  “Well, yes.  That and I was going through his papers and I found this.”  He dug the letter out of his jacket pocket and handed it to her.  She looked at the writing on the envelope, but didn’t take it from him.  She backed up and sat on the couch instead.   “You could have saved yourself the trip and mailed it.  Or you could have saved me the trouble and circular filed it.”

Michael followed Bonnie’s lead and sank stiffly into a green chair next to the couch, not wanting to tower over her.  “If it were me, I’d want to know that he died.  I’d also want to know what he had to say to me.”

“Things were different between us.  That letter isn’t going to say anything I want to hear.”

“I thought about that,” he said carefully, “but its obviously been handled a lot.  I think he kept it with him.  And Devon wasn’t the kind of person to carry around something angry.  But an apology that he was trying to find the courage to send?  That sounds a lot more like him.”

Uncertainty clouded her face.  “Michael . . .”

“Look, I took a chance.  I didn’t want to just throw the letter away if it was Devon’s attempt to make things right.  He deserves that chance.”

“Not if he decided to wait until he was dead to apologize, ” she said bitterly.

“Look, I know he said and did some awful, cruel things.  And I’m not going to pretend that I know exactly how much that hurt you, but if he really wanted to make amends, what’s the harm in hearing it?  He’s dead," Michael said, as gently as he could.  "There’s a time to let things go.”

She stared silently, thinking it over, he hoped.  After a long wait, he decided he wasn’t getting anywhere and it was probably better to let her have some time to work through things.  “Just, think about it.”  He stood and tried one more time to hand her the letter.  She refused to take it so he started to let himself out, pausing at the door.  “I’ll be around for a couple of days, if you change your mind.”

“He was better after I left,” she said, a statement and a question.

Michael paused.  “On the surface, yes.  He seemed to get back to his normal self, but I don’t think that’s how he felt.  He missed you too, Bonnie.”

* * *

Michael sat on the brown, wooden bench, waiting for Bonnie to find him.  He had left her a message that he would be in the park if she wanted to talk.  He didn’t want to force the issue – she would probably just get defensive.  But once she had enough time to really think about it, he was pretty sure she would change her mind.

It was a nice day so he was enjoying spending the afternoon outside.  He had picked a bench with a view of the park’s little manmade lake.  Two ducks were swimming peacefully back and forth, and he had a book to keep him company while he waited.  He had picked up reading as a hobby shortly after he started the bass charter.  There was a lot of downtime with nothing else to do.  Michael glanced at the paperback in his hand.  He had bought it on a whim, remembering that Devon liked it and how it had been the clue to help get them out of a jam once.  He didn’t know if he was getting any wiser with age, but he was actually seeing some things in the story that made sense to him.  Who would have thought, Michael Knight reading Moby Dick?  This is your fault, old friend, he thought.  He smiled thinking that Devon was probably somewhere, secretly pleased with his influence.

Michael happened to glance up in time to see Bonnie approaching down the main path.  She looked more relaxed than yesterday, and there was something approaching a smile on her face.  It helped put him at ease.

“I knew you were going to hound me,” she said, in the tone of their old banter.

“Have you ever known me to give up?” he asked as he stood to give her a quick hug.

“No.”  She sat down next to him on the bench and took a deep breath.  “Look, I just want to say I’m sorry for the way I acted yesterday.  I just wasn’t prepared to see you standing on my doorstep.”

“I know.  And I dropped a lot on you, all at once.  I should have called you first.  But I was afraid you’d just tell me not to come.”

She smiled sadly.  “So, I didn’t even ask.  How are you?”

“I’m doing okay.  It’s been a crazy couple of months, but things are starting to settle down again.”

“How are things at the Foundation?”

“Different.  Very different.  I don’t think you’d recognize it.  The headquarters moved to Seattle, you know.”

“No, I didn’t.”

“There have been a lot of other changes too,” he said, thinking that it was too much to go into right now.  “How about you?  How are you doing?”

“Alright.  I like being back in Boston.”

“So how old are your kids?  Your daughter’s a cutie,” he said, wanting to get a sense of what her life was like now.

She smiled, “She is, but they’re my sister’s kids.  I watch them every other Saturday while Jessie does a weekend shift at work.”

“Oh,” he said, a little embarrassed.  Part of him was sad that they weren’t her kids.  He had taken that as a good sign that she had started over and managed to make a clean break from the past.  He didn’t want to think that she was alone out here.

“So what were things like after I left?” she asked quietly.

“It was tough.  It was hard not having you to talk to, in all honesty.  Kitt was angry about being kept in the dark and I started to feel like I was walking on eggshells most of the time.  Actually, I left two years after you did.”

She looked at him, surprised.  “Why?”

“It just got to be too much.”

She stared at him, obviously waiting more.  He didn't want to tell her that her leaving had a lot to do with it.  It certainly wasn't the only thing, but it figured in pretty strongly.  “It was a lot of things and it was a long process.  There were a couple of blown cases and this thing with a kid that RC asked us to help.  You remember how he started that youth center in Chicago?”

She nodded.

“Well he had a kid who was really promising and he asked us to give him an internship.  He said Rob just needed to get away from the bad influence of his friends in Chicago.  So he sent Rob out to us and the kid was great.  He was rough around the edges and hard to get through to sometimes, but he was a good kid.  The summer ended and he went back to Chicago.  RC called again in October to say that he had been killed in a gang fight.”  Michael felt the frustration returning just talking about it. 

“I’m sorry,” Bonnie said.

“It just started to look like I was kidding myself by thinking I could make a difference, you know?  It started to feel like I was digging in sand.  For every shovel full I dug out, more was just sliding back into the hole.  I just couldn’t change anything in a way that lasted, and it started to seem like a waste of time to even try.  I was afraid I was letting everyone down.  So I left.”

“I’m sorry things got so bad, Michael.  But you’re back now?”

“Not really.  Kind of.  Kitt and I aren’t partners anymore.  He’s working with a woman named Shawn.  Things are different.”

She seemed to be taking it all in, thinking about what he was saying.  “So if you haven't been at the Foundation, what have you been doing all this time?”

Michael smiled.  “I run a bass charter in the mountains.”

“You fish?” Bonnie asked, incredulously.

“Well, and have other people pay money to fish, yeah.”

She looked at him, grinning.  “You fish for a living?” 

“Yes.  There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said as she started to laugh outright.

“I just can’t see you doing something that requires that much patience.  I have this image of you trolling with your boat in Super Pursuit Mode or something.”

Michael rolled his eyes.  “If only the fish could keep up with me,” he said, noticing how good it felt to laugh with her.  It was something he missed terribly. 

As the laughter died out, there was an awkward pause.  “I suppose I’m just trying to delay the inevitable,” Bonnie said.

Michael pulled the envelop out of his jacket and handed it to her.  She carefully turned it over, running her hand across the thick paper.

“You really think I should open this?” she asked, eyeing it warily.

“Yeah.  I think you owe it to yourself.  Things weren’t good when you left.  Maybe he found some clarity in the years since.  Maybe it will make things easier.”

“And if it doesn’t?” she asked.

“If it doesn’t, well, you can cry on my shoulder or do whatever you need to do.  But you won’t be any worse off, right?”

“I don’t know about that,” she said.

“Do you want me to give you some time alone?” Michael asked.

She thought for a minute.  “No, that’s okay.  I think I’d rather have you here.  But I’m sure I’m going to end up crying, no matter what it says.”

“I can handle a few tears.”

She ran her fingers across her name and then turned the envelope over again.  She slowly opened it and pulled out the single sheet of stationary paper.  Michael had expected it to be longer for some reason.  He didn’t want to stare at her while she read, so he looked down at his hands and waited, occasionally glancing over to make sure that she was okay.

The tears were streaming down her face as she read.  She leaned to the side of the bench and rested her elbow on the arm, propping her forehead up with her hand. 

She finished reading and set the letter down on her lap. 

“You okay?” he asked.

She nodded.

“Was it an apology?” he asked tentatively, not sure if she wanted to talk about it.

She nodded again and looked away, handing him the paper.  Michael took it gingerly, waiting a beat to be sure she really wanted him to read it.  The thick paper had a comforting weight to it and when Michael finally committed to reading it, he noticed that the meticulously aligned rows of words provided a sense of calm and order.  Devon’s handwriting had always been elegant, but it looked like he had written the letter several times before committing it to this sheet of paper – every word was carefully crafted in simple black ink.

Dearest Bonnie,

I’m so sorry.  I know that saying that will never make up for all the pain I’ve caused you, and it seems so inadequate, but I don’t know where else to start.  You were like a daughter to me, and for selfish reasons, I pushed you away.  I never could have imagined that things would end the way they did, and I don't think I can ever express how much I regret my actions.

Even at the time, I knew that the honorable thing, the right thing, to do was to try and come to terms with what happened.  I wanted to work things out, but I just didn’t know how.  I couldn't face the person I felt I had become, and because of that, I couldn't face you.  That was no excuse for hurting you and causing you to leave, but I had convinced myself that it would be easier for all of us that way.  Of course I was wrong.  I have tried throughout my life to admit my mistakes, but for some reason, this time I just couldn’t. 

 The things I did and said hurt us all and I wish that there were some way I could make amends.  Please know that I never meant any of the horrible things I said to you.  It was my fear and shame speaking.  You are and have always been a lovely and intelligent woman with impeccable integrity and a genuine kindness.  It amazes me that somehow you were able to survive this situation with your character intact.  I wish I could say the same about myself.

Please know that I love you and I'm sorry I couldn't find the courage to say this in person.

My sincerest and deepest apologies, and my love,

Devon

Michael handed the note back to Bonnie and stared quietly at the lake in front of them.  He didn't know what to say.  He watched the rollerbladers and people walking dogs, living normal lives.  He felt like he had spent the last twelve years either trying to figure out what normal was or trying to avoid it entirely.  Bonnie took the letter and carefully folded it back into its envelope.

"Michael, when he told me I should have died, I wanted to.  It hurt so much to know that he thought that lowly of me, that he thought I was that damaged or contemptible."

Michael gently put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her closer.  “I know he didn't feel that way about you.  I think that’s how he felt about himself,” he said, grieving for all the things that Devon had carried around with him.

“It still hurt to hear him say that,” she said, quietly.

“I know, but Bonnie, he was the least able to adapt of all of us and I just don’t think he ever really accepted that we were all victims in this.  He couldn’t let go of the idea that he was at fault somehow, that he had done some something hideous.  That didn't make it right for him to take it out on you, but he was hurting himself too.” 

"I know, but that doesn't make it any easier."

“At least he said he was sorry,” Michael said, gesturing toward the letter.

They sat quietly for a while.  "Are you going to be okay?" Michael asked, finally.

"Yes.”

"Are you glad I came?"

Bonnie turned to face him.  "Yes.  I missed you.  It's good to see you again."

"And the letter?"

"I’m still working on that," she said, uncertainly.

Michael nodded, thinking that if the roles were reversed, he'd need a lot of time and distance to work through everything too.  But he didn't want to leave her out here alone like this.  Granted, he didn't know anything about what her life was like now, but he didn't get the sense that there was a lot keeping her here.  She seemed a lot like him, sequestered away, interacting with people but still alone.  "Bon, drive back with me to Seattle."

"I can't just up and leave," she said, surprised.

"Why not?"

"I have a job, Michael, and Jessie needs my help."

"You have vacation, don't you?  And I’m sure your sister could get by without you for a little while."

She didn't answer and he suspected that she had more vacation saved up than she'd like to admit.

"We don't have to make it a direct trip.  We could stop off at my cabin, do some fishing, and make a vacation of it.  Or if you need to get back, we can drive straight through.  It's just that it's been a long time and I'd like to catch up with you.  I do miss you, very much."

“Michael . . .” She looked at him and smiled sadly, but he got the sense that she was wavering, just on the edge of agreeing to go. 

"Besides, I know Kitt would love to see you again," he cajoled, playing his ace.

A beaming smile spread across her face.  "I was wondering if you brought him. Is he here now?" she asked, looking toward the street.

“No.  I wasn’t sure if you’d feel comfortable talking if he was around, so I asked him to go for a drive.”

She nodded vaguely.  “I do want to at least say ‘hi.’”

"You’d better do more than that.  In fact, for my safety, you’re going to have to come with us.  I don't think he'd forgive me if we came all the way out here and he didn't even get to spend some quality time with you."

"Oh, well, if Kitt wants me to come . . . " she said grinning.

Michael looked skyward, "For Kitt she'll come along.  I'm just chopped liver."

"I need some time to get some things together, call my boss.  When were you planning on leaving?"

"Tomorrow, but if you need more time, we aren't in a hurry."

"No, that's okay,” she said, "tomorrow would be fine."

She got up to leave and Michael stood with her, engulfing her in a big hug.  "I can't say how much I missed you, Bonnie."

"I missed you too," she said and gave him another quick squeeze before breaking away.

He watched her walk away down the path and felt more at ease than he had in a long time.  He didn't realize how much like family they really were.  Even after all these years, it felt like home to be near her again.

* * *

Michael strolled up the walkway to Bonnie's front door and rang the bell.  She opened it and turned to go back into the house, clearly still searching for the last odds and ends that she needed to take.  He saw her bag sitting on the floor and hoisted it over his shoulder as she grabbed a set of keys off the table next to the door.

"Okay, I think I'm ready," she said as he stood back to let her pass first.  She stopped dead in the doorway, catching her first glimpse of the red Knight 4000 vehicle.  She looked at Michael, incredulously.  "What did you DO to him?"

"This isn't even the half of it," Kitt said, dryly.

Michael smiled.  "And I'm sure he'll be happy to fill you in, in excruciating detail, on the trip back," Michael said.

"Happily," Kitt replied.

"Just remember that I was not responsible for most of it.  Maddock has that honor," Michael said.

"Who's Maddock?" Bonnie asked.

Michael laughed.  "Who’s Maddock? Well, basically, he took over Devon's job.  It's kind of a long story."

"The short version of it is that he's an ass," Kitt said, pulling no punches.

"Kitt?!"  Bonnie scolded, clearly surprised by his swearing, and easily falling back into her role of mothering him.

"He's gotten a little more. . . uh. . . colorful, recently," Michael explained.  “In more ways than one.”

"I think I'm entitled," Kitt said petulantly.

She looked him and shook her head.  "I don't want to know, do I?"

"Just don't ask about the Chevy, okay?" Michael quipped.

She gave him one of those old, familiar withering looks and started down the sidewalk to the passenger door.

"Bonnie it's wonderful to see you again," Kitt said, his voice infused with a sincerity that Michael hadn’t heard from him in a long time.

"You too, Kitt. I really missed you," she said, taking her place in the passenger seat.

* * *

Michael wandered back to Kitt and leaned against the door.  He watched from the safe distance of the road that snaked through the cemetery, wanting to give Bonnie as much time and space as she needed.  She was standing next to the simple marker, holding a bouquet of purple tulips.  As Michael watched, she tossed the flowers gently toward the headstone and turned to walk back over the rolling lawn between Devon's grave and the road.

"Why here?" she asked as she joined them, leaning against Kitt next to Michael.

"He bought the plot a while ago, back in the early days," Michael said, having questioned himself why Devon would have chosen to be buried in Los Angeles.  It might just have been the accident of timing -- Devon had lived in a lot of places.  But Michael wondered if it was more than that, if maybe Devon felt he had left something of himself in the place where they had first tried to realize Wilton Knight’s dream.  Perhaps that was why he hadn't bothered to move most of his possessions to Seattle.  Maybe he had hoped that someday they'd end up back home.

"I'm still angry with him," Bonnie said.

"I'd be surprised if you weren't," Michael replied, remembering how angry he had been with Devon after she left.  "It's going to take time."

He pushed himself away from the door and walked around to the driver's side as she got in.  "At least you know he was trying," Michael said.  "And as long as you're trying too, I don't think there's anything more anyone can ask of you."

The three of them rode in silence as they followed the picturesque cemetery road back out onto the streets.  Michael guided the car through traffic toward Pacific Coast Highway. 

Kitt was the first to break the silence.  "Since we've made this a site seeing tour, do you think we could make one more stop?"

"Sure, where?"  Michael asked.

"You'll see."  Kitt guided the car through the city and Michael slowly realized where they were going.

The pulled up the circular drive and stopped in front of the red brick mansion.

"Looks the same," Michael said.

"Not exactly," Kitt replied.  "There’s a new building on the grounds and the garage has been upgraded into a full addition."

Michael looked over at Bonnie.  "Lots of memories here, huh?"

"I really wish we could have found a way to make things work.  I missed this," she said, staring out the window.

Michael put a hand on her shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze before putting the car in gear.  Slowly they pulled around the circular drive, through the canopy of trees, and left, the view of the past still large in the rearview mirror.

----------------
- knightshade 
May 27, 2002

 

SPOILER WARNING:  Garthe forces Michael to have sex with Bonnie at gunpoint.  Then the scenario is repeated with Devon and Bonnie.  None of it is described, but it is firmly implied and the rest of the story is how they deal with it. (man, I cringe having to spell it out like that)

 


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