Disclaimer: Not mine. Title and inspiration come from the song "The Lightning Strike" by Snow Patrol
A/N: So I just couldn't stay away. I had to try my hand on at least one more story for this wonderful pairing. This story will be three parts. My recommendation is to find the song "The Lightning Strike" and listen to it in conjunction with this story. It's a three part song and each part connects with each part of this story. Not only is it a completely amazing song but it will probably make reading this story better. Thanks to everyone who reviewed my first story and I hope you enjoy this one!
(i) What If This Storm Ends
When Aaron finally drifts off to sleep, it's a relief, not just for Aaron but for Marta as well. She needs time to process his words in silence, to mull over the things he's said to her without worrying about what he's going to say next. She knows it's just the fever talking, that he wouldn't be so open with his thoughts and feelings if his body wasn't trying to survive. She knows that he's been trained better than that.
But that doesn't make it any easier to stop thinking about the things he's said. Marta goes to stand by the window overlooking a crowded alley full of trash and God only knows what else. Her eyes keep darting toward the jacket Aaron mentioned earlier, the one now carelessly tossed onto the ground along with the grey pullover she's been wearing. It's far too hot for that now. Marta hopes that taking in the view outside the window will give herself something to focus on other than the jacket.
Aaron's words and what she now knows is hidden in the jacket have now become the elephant in the room. Marta knows it would be easy, so easy. She could take the money, the passports, try and start over. She's gotten a picture of how her life is going to be from now on and it terrifies her. She can't stand the idea of people out there trying to kill her, hunting her down like an animal, desperate to put a bullet in her skull. She's worried the weight of it will drive her crazy. Aaron has offered her an escape, a way out, the chance to live a life she's always wanted. She could take the money and live on some beach somewhere, immerse herself in paradise. Her hands itch with the desire to rip open the lining of the jacket and Marta curls her fingers into fists in an attempt to fight down the urge.
Marta wonders if Aaron expects her to take the money and run. The look in his eyes was begging her to do just that. To leave him in this wretched hotel room in Manila and walk away from it all. He might have known of her for four years but he's really only known her for a few days. His faith in her abilities is startling. He certainly doesn't see her for the coward she is. That's probably a result of the fever.
Marta spins away from the window and grabs up the jacket. She can't feel anything out of the ordinary, which is the point. No one but Aaron would know what lies in the lining. Her hands shake as she holds the garment in her hands. Her eyes shift to Aaron, still sleeping fitfully. She wonders what he's dreaming of.
Quickly, Marta tosses the jacket aside. She might be a coward but that doesn't mean that she has to act like one. You're a warrior. No, she's a scientist. She's the one who made Aaron into the person he his now, she manipulated him with her desire to truly understand the human genome and to see what happened when you added A to B. How can she possibly leave him now?
Marta moves to Aaron's side, gently resting her hand against his forehead. He's still hot and sweaty, lost in the grips of a fever. He could die, she knows. Suddenly, that idea of being alone, without him, petrifies her. How could she possibly consider leaving?
Marta picks up the last of the water bottles she purchased from a kiosk on the street and wets the washcloth once more. She presses the cloth against his forehead, cheeks, neck and chest. Aaron shudders and mumbles something in his sleep but he doesn't wake. Marta is trying to remember everything from her childhood, the way that her mother and father cared for her and her sister when they had a cold or the flu. This is not the type of doctor she sought out to be. Unfortunately, they're lacking many of the things she remembers from her childhood illnesses, including chicken soup, Disney movies and a cat named Bobo, who always curled up at her feet. All Aaron has is her.
Marta pulls the rickety wooden chair over to the side of the bed and sits down as gently as possible; it hardly looks stable. She's exhausted and overwhelmed but knows it will be impossible to sleep now. She hasn't really slept since…since Dr. Foite became one of their puppets and shot everyone she'd been working with for years. It seems almost hard to believe that she's been existing on adrenaline and powernaps. Though, she figures running for your life makes you the opposite of tired.
Aaron starts mumbling again and Marta ignores her internal mullings to give him her full attention. Aaron's eyes flutter open and he looks confused, disoriented and painfully child-like, like a little boy afraid of the dark and the monsters under his bed. Without thinking, Marta reaches for his hand. He squeezes her hand with a strength and desperation that catches her by surprise.
Before she can convince him to remain where he is, Aaron is sitting up, holding tightly to her hands, like he's afraid to let go of her. "I'm sorry." He breathes out, his eyes round and watery. Marta just looks back at him, unsure of how to respond. She's not sure what he's apologizing for or why he thinks anything that's been happening is his fault. If it wasn't for him, she would have been dead back in that horrible house in Maryland. "I'm sorry." Aaron says more urgently, clearly not pleased with her silence.
Marta offers him a weak smile. "It's-"
But he doesn't let her finish. "I was stupid I…" Aaron closes his eyes and shakes his head. "Ms. Monroe…I…"
Marta blinks, surprised. It's the fever, she knows, but it's still startling. Aaron doesn't know where he is or who he's talking to. He's looking at her and seeing someone else entirely.
"Aaron, I'm not…It's Marta." She gives his hand a squeeze, hoping to bring him back to the present, at least a little.
But it's like he doesn't hear her. "I never should have gotten behind the wheel." Aaron continues on and Marta can see the tears in his eyes and it's breaking her heart and she's desperate to end this conversation, not for his sake but for hers. She doesn't know how much she can take. "I'm so sorry." Aaron bows his head and presses Marta's hands against his face and lips and she can feel tears fall onto her skin.
"Aaron, it's okay." Marta's voice threatens to get stuck in her throat but she forces the words out, hoping to pull him from this fever dream. "You're dreaming."
"You were the only one who believed in me. You were the only one who said I could do better." Aaron presses on, lifting his head so their eyes meet. Marta swallows, feeling a lump in her throat, like she can somehow understand and share in this personal tragedy of his. "And I let you down."
Marta isn't sure what prompts her to respond, "No, no you didn't," but it seems like a good idea at the time. Especially when Aaron looks at her with his eyes so full of sadness, begging for some sort of understanding. Marta rests her palm against his cheek. "You didn't let me down."
Aaron closes his eyes again and tears drop onto his cheeks. "Ms. Monroe…you told me I could do better. But I didn't do better." He shakes his head. "I didn't do better."
"Yes, you did." Marta assures him and Aaron gives her a dubious look. "You joined the army. You're a hero." That word seems to catch Aaron by surprise and Marta can see his eyes brighten slightly. "I…" She swallows down that lump again. "I'm proud of you. Kenneth."
Aaron pulls her into a hug and even though the action surprises Marta, she doesn't try to fight him. She can feel his skin, hot and feverish against her own. She prays this is the lowest point, the moment before his fever breaks and he comes out of the woods. She can't consider the alternative.
"I'm so sorry." Aaron whispers against her hair. "I never meant to…I…."
Marta strokes his hair and the back of his neck. "I know. Shh…it's okay." The skin on her shoulders is wet from the few tears Aaron has cried. It just makes her pull him closer to her. She wants to be stronger for him, she desperately wants to be stronger for herself to relieve him of some of the burden of taking care of her.
They stay like that for a few moments longer and despite the insufferable heat of the room and Aaron's body against hers, Marta does not want to pull away. But she can feel Aaron's grip on her start to loosen, she can feel his body start to tremble from the shivers brought on by the fever. She gently moves away from him. His eyes are dull and unfocused and when he looks at her, Marta can tell he's not seeing her or June or anyone.
"Lay back." Marta says gently, guiding him back toward his sweat soaked pillow. She wishes she had a fresh pillow or even sheets for him, but she can't even give him that. He lays on a mattress that has seen God only knows how many years of use.
Aaron doesn't fight her, he's shivering too hard to really put up much of a struggle. Marta gets up and picks up the jacket she tossed aside earlier, laying it across his chest in lieu of a proper blanket. Aaron shrugs it off immediately despite his chills. He grabs her hand as she moves to pick the jacket back up. "Doc," He seems to forget what it is he wants to say next.
Marta gives him a soft smile and caresses his cheek with her free hand. "Shh, you need to rest." She says gently. "You'll never get better if you don't rest." She's still praying that he gets better at all. If he dies from this, Marta thinks she'll just sit in this room until the program finds her and finishes what Dr. Foite started.
Aaron smiles at her faintly, squeezing her hand. "Stay." His voice is soft, but Marta can still hear that one word. Is he second-guessing his previous instructions for her to take the money and run? Marta knows that he would never be selfish enough to ask that of her if he was thinking clearly. But she doesn't care if it's the fever talking or not. Somehow, that singular word is all the fortification that she needs.
"Of course." Marta whispers but Aaron is already asleep. It's as though her presence was what he needed to finally succumb to sleep.
Marta stands there for a moment, watching as his features start to relax and his shivering starts to subside. She tries to pull her hand from his but even in sleep his grip is unnaturally strong. Instead of trying to fight him, she slips into bed beside him, curling up so she's not hanging off the mattress. She feels a little foolish as she tucks herself against Aaron but he doesn't seem to mind her presence so she's not going to dwell on it.
It's only now that Marta is finally able to drift off to sleep, holding Aaron's hand in hers like a security blanket. In this dingy room in the middle of the city, she finally feels safe.
Now it's found us, like I have found you/I don't want to run/Just overwhelm me.