Disclaimer: I own nothing related to the Bourne series. Any and all original characters and/or plotlines are my own and not intended to represent real persons or events. Any similarity is entirely coincidental and not the intention of the author.

Author's Note: So, here's my first Bourne series story. After watching The Bourne Legacy, I found myself intrigued with Aaron and Marta's relationship and the possibilities. This story starts out slower than most, but I do promise it's not all angst and romance. There is some action in it. It is a Bourne story, after all. A huge thanks to Ani-maniac494 and theicemenace for beta-ing, listening to my brilliant ideas, and giving me the chance to whine when writer's block set in. Due to events in life, there will be two updates per week at present: Mondays and Fridays.

Also, this story is a sequel to my one-shot "Christmas In Sydney." I don't think it's necessary to read that one, but some events will be referenced throughout the course of the story.

A quick glossary:

JSOC: Joint Special Operations Command
NRAG: National Research Assay Group

All that said, I hope you enjoy the story, and let me know what you think!

oOo

Johannesburg, South Africa. A city of four to ten million, depending on the census and area included. As the largest city in South Africa, it also forms one of the biggest economic centers in the world. It claims the right as the largest city in the world not near a river or coastline, though numerous streams and tributaries run through the suburbs. And it is a wonderful place to hide.

Andrew Riordan walked quickly through the streets, heading to one of the poorer neighborhoods. There, no one looked twice at two men in a fistfight, gunshots were a regular occurrence, and neighbors left others alone. No one wanted to know what the other person was involved in.

The setting sun cast long shadows as Andrew rounded a corner. He watched his shadow stretch in front of him, knowing he could use it to his advantage. Breaking into a light jog, he put some distance between himself and his pursuer, ducking unexpectedly around the corner. Pressing his back against the wall, he inched close to the corner and waited. Several other people walked along this path, but he'd already identified them as civilians. No, the man chasing him was professional. An operative. Someone Andrew respected and feared all at once.

How had they found him? Andrew pushed the thought from his mind and focused on his current situation. His hand crept under his knee-length wool coat and closed around the grip of his sidearm. Drawing it out of the holster where he kept it at his back, he flicked off the safety and let out a deep breath.

The operative wasn't casting a shadow. That worried Andrew since it meant the other man knew he was hiding somewhere. He listened, breathing softly, as he heard footsteps on the gravel. The operative—whoever he was—made no attempt to disguise his approach though he did take precautions not to be killed instantly.

When he got close enough, Andrew struck with speed and strength. It had been almost three years since he'd left the States, and he'd dodged several others searching for him in that time. But this man was different. About his height, maybe an inch shorter, the operative matched him blow for blow. There was a strength and gracefulness to his movements that Andrew admired, and he saw the focus on the other man's face even as the operative disarmed him.

The fight raged down the dead end alley, neither man giving ground as they struggled for dominance. But something struck Andrew as odd. While the man did everything to prevent himself from being harmed, including knocking Andrew across the alley, he didn't attack. Not even when Andrew left him an opportunity. That confused him. Why would this man—this operative—go to the trouble to track him down if he didn't want to fight?

The fight ended as quickly as it began. Andrew finally gained enough room to roll and grab his discarded gun, though he could have used any of his knives. As he came to his knees and then his feet, weapon aimed at the other man's head, he blinked. The operative had also drawn his weapon and sited it in on Andrew's head.

Breathing a bit harder from the fight, Andrew frowned. "What do you want?"

"To talk." The operative's voice was rough, though he showed no signs of injury or weariness. Andrew studied him. The other man wore jeans, a gray t-shirt, and a tailored leather jacket. Combat boots completed the look, and gray-blue eyes stared out of a face as determined and hard as Andrew's own. This man had seen life and death and had come out victorious.

"So talk," Andrew replied. "How did you find me?"

The operative quirked a grin. "I have my ways. Took me six months, though."

"You here to kill me?"

"No." The man released his hold on his gun, showing Andrew the palm of his right hand as he used his left to obviously flick the safety back on before stashing the gun at the small of his back. He used the same slow, easy moves that someone would use when gentling a spooked animal. "I really am here to talk."

"Who are you?"

Those gray-blue eyes blinked once. "Aaron," he said softly. "My name's Aaron Cross."

"Cross?" Andrew tried to place it in his mind. "You're Treadstone? Blackbriar?"

"Outcome." Cross's face hardened for just a moment. "Same idea as Treadstone and Blackbriar, only for JSOC, not the CIA."

"They send you after me?"

"Nope."

Another long moment passed as Andrew studied the other man. Cross's face was open, and his eyes honest. Though it could be an act. He had no idea what Outcome was, but Cross had received similar training in his lifetime. Finally, he nodded and lowered his weapon. "Jason," he said. "My name's Jason Bourne."

oOo

Jason Bourne, a.k.a. Andrew Riordan, lived in a modest apartment near the business center of Johannesburg. He unlocked his home and warily allowed Aaron Cross inside. Cross moved with an awareness of his surroundings at all times, his face staying open and friendly in spite of the way he assessed the windows, escape routes, hiding places for weapons, and how far he had to fall if he went through a window. It was instinctive, Jason knew, and neither man could turn off that side of their brains. Treadstone and Outcome—whatever that was—had drilled it so far into them that they'd die before that instinct faded.

Moving to the refrigerator, Jason pulled out two beers and offered one to his guest. Cross accepted it and, after raising it in toast to his host, took a long drink as he perched on one of the stools near the counter. "I'm sure you're wondering why I tracked you down."

"Yeah, I am." Jason stayed in the kitchen, knowing he had three knives within arm's reach should Cross try anything. "Who sent you?"

"I did." Cross lifted his eyes from where he'd been studying the label on the South African beer and met Jason's confused gaze. "I came to tell you it's over. You can come home."

"Home?"

"To the States, if you want. You're free."

"Men like us are never free."

A sardonic smile touched Cross's face. "Maybe, but they're not looking for you anymore. Or me."

"You? Why'd they go after you?"

"I didn't die." Cross sighed and pushed aside his drink. "I was part of Project Outcome, a program similar to Treadstone except they used chems—medications—to help them 'upgrade' their people. They took people like me, those who should have died but didn't and couldn't think for themselves, duped us into joining the program, hopped us up on all these drugs, and turned us loose. When the Senate and Landy's little stunt got too close, Ric Byer shut it down."

Jason knew well what "shutting down" a program meant. "They killed everyone."

"Except me."

"So you went after them?"

"I went after chems." Cross shrugged. "Downside to the enhancements is you gotta keep taking the meds. I found Marta," he said softly, "and she helped me viral out."

"What's that mean?"

"My enhancements are permanent." Cross met his eyes. "It took us two years to hide from Byer and bring them down. But we did. I went home, bought a house, and started looking for you."

"Why?"

"Why find you?" Cross reached for his drink and lifted it to his lips. "You're Jason Bourne. In our circles, you're a legend. Why not bring the legend home?"

Jason laughed at that. The idea that he was a legend. . . .It was preposterous, at best. Besides, he wasn't sure he wanted to go "home." The United States wasn't exactly the friendliest place. And Marie had been German.

Then, he thought about Nicky. Where was she? Had she survived? What had happened to her life since he put her on that bus in Tangier and told her to hide?

Cross clearly saw the thoughts moving through his eyes. The man stood. "Think about it," he said as he tapped the countertop. His hand left behind a card with an address in Arlington Heights, near Chicago. "You need anything, you'll find me there."

Jason watched as Cross left his apartment, not looking back and clearly unconcerned about being attacked. He stood in place, his own drink growing warm in the heat as he picked up the small card and studied it. The address memorized, he used the sink to run water over the card until it became a pile of mush. Dropping it in the trash, he downed the last of his beer and braced his hands on the counter.

So, he could go home. Now what?

oOo

The spacious two-story house with dormer windows sat on a quiet street in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Halfway through the afternoon, the place was deserted as parents were at work and children were in school. Very few saw the beat-up Ford pickup ease into the wide driveway. It rumbled briefly as the owner turned it off, not parking it in the two-car garage, and then a slender man stepped out. He reached behind the seat and yanked out a black duffel bag. Tossing the bag over his right shoulder, he sorted through his keys with his left hand until he found the right one.

Aaron Cross stood just inside the door of his home and looked around. Directly in front of him, a hallway led to the stairs, a bathroom, and his office to the right. To his left, the L-shaped living area held traditional, worn furniture scattered over the hardwood floor. The kitchen sat directly in the center, the walls broken by archways and cut-outs to give one a line of sight through the entire place. Only the bathroom and office were completely closed off from everything.

Aaron sighed deeply as he dropped his keys into a tray resting on a long table to his right. His wallet and a bit of loose change joined his keys, and he let his duffel bag thump on the floor while he wearily pulled off his leather jacket. International travel always wore him out, even if he rarely allowed it to show. He'd done it for so long now that the jet lag and time zones barely affected him physically. No, he hated the mental strain, the questions of whether he'd be stopped at customs and detained or allowed through. Until six months ago, that possibility could have meant his death. Or Marta's.

A light blinked on the answering machine near his keys, and he pressed the button. A moment later, Marta's voice came through the speakers. "Hey, it's me. I know we were supposed to have dinner tonight, but something came up with work. I've got to stay here late, get these tests run so. . . ." Her voice trailed off as if distracted by something. He heard her type a couple of words before she returned to her message. ". . .so maybe we can reschedule? I'm really sorry, Aaron, but you know how work can be. I'll see you soon."

Aaron's heart fell as he replayed the message. He and Marta had talked on his way to the airport. She had sounded eager to join him for grilled steaks and twice-baked potatoes. Visiting Johannesburg had stirred memories of their time there, and he found himself anticipating her smile and the quiet conversation they would share. But things had changed. Six months ago, the President of the United States had granted both of them amnesty for their actions during their time on the run. Neither of them had returned home save for the moment that Pamela Landy contacted them. How she found them without tipping off Byer and the National Research Assay Group still confused Aaron, but he appreciated it. Through his and Marta's testimonies, Landy's hard work, and the files they'd painstakingly gathered over the years, Project Outcome and all of its beta programs had been officially closed down, Ric Byer and his cronies had gone to jail, and people like Aaron and Marta were free to return to their lives.

At first, Aaron and Marta had celebrated. They talked about picking a city at random but landed in Chicago when the government arranged for Marta to resume her work in virology. Her eyes had sparkled, and she'd cried on Aaron's shoulder that day. They hadn't known what to do for him, so they agreed to set him up anywhere he wanted to go, in any job he wanted, and with enough of a monthly income to satisfy any needs he might have until he was able to adjust. It had been the most natural thing for him to follow Marta to Chicago. They had settled in a small but luxurious apartment while he searched for a house and she began work. It took a month to find the right house, and Aaron had happily purchased it in spite of the work it needed.

And that's when things began to fall apart. Marta hadn't wanted to move outside of the city proper. She loved her job and needed to stay close, but Aaron felt crowded. The constant press of buildings and people was too much after their time on the run. He needed space. So, he moved into the house he'd bought for them and began renovating it while Marta found herself a spacious apartment. Aaron liked Marta's new home, and, for a time, he showed up before she got home from work to cook dinner and just unwind. But as he settled into life as a business owner and she got caught up in work at the lab, they grew apart.

So, maybe we can reschedule? Marta's question on the answering machine rang through Aaron's head, and he picked up his duffel bag to carry it upstairs. At one point in time, he'd thought they would last, that they had something that would carry them the rest of their lives—however long or short that might have been. When he told her he loved her that night in Sydney, Australia, he meant it forever. There wasn't another woman for Aaron Cross. Just Marta. Now that they'd been allowed to live like anyone else, he found himself considering his options. He looked at Marta and wondered if she would let him change her last name from Shearing to Cross. Life for men like him was never easy, but he had found ways to cope. Surely they could work something out?

After depositing his dirty clothes in the hamper, he took a quick shower in the massive master suite, pulling clean jeans and pull-over from the beautiful cherry wood dresser in the bedroom. The house had been owned by a couple and her aging mother. When the mom passed away, the couple and their two kids sold the place. Aaron loved every bit of the layout, even if the wallpaper all over the house got on his nerves. He'd managed to get the carpet up and restore the hardwood flooring that had been underneath—not to mention the decrepit plumbing, worn roof, and drab exterior. His next project would be the kitchen.

Heading back downstairs, Aaron entered the office he'd set up out of the home's ground-level bedroom. He'd used the government's money and help to start a home-restoration business. His garage was filled with equipment, some of it for his own use here and some for use in his job. He now had a crew of three guys he employed, and he made good enough money that everything was covered. He stashed a healthy portion of his income—both from the job and the government's payout—in caches all over the world. Some things about his life before Marta were just ingrained. The multiple caches, weapons hidden around the home, the state-of-the-art alarm system with a password that changed weekly, keeping burner phones around, always checking his surroundings and knowing who was where at any given time. . . .These things would never leave him. They had kept him alive and had become such a part of his life that trying to stop doing them was like trying to stop breathing.

Moving from one task to another, he slipped onto the back porch and started the grill. Before he left for South Africa, he'd begun marinating some steaks, and he now chose one to cook along with his twice-baked potato. As he ate, he ignored the ache in the region of his chest that said things should have been different. But they weren't, and he could do nothing to change it. Not now. He just needed to find a way to live with circumstances as they were and continue loving Marta in spite of her obvious desire for space. One day, maybe she would understand what he offered, why he bought this home, and how much it meant to him that he give her what he felt she deserved.

oOo

Life had not been easy for Nicky Parsons. After leaving Jason in Tangier, she had bounced from city to city in the United States, always working menial jobs with just enough of an income to keep her head above water. The gypsy lifestyle wore on her, but she managed to stay off the grid. She did everything with cash, used burner cell phones, and changed her name and hairstyle each time. After nearly three years, the routine was familiar. Arrive, rent a small apartment or house, get a job, work for six to eight months, get spooked, and leave. Rinse and repeat.

But this time was different. Nicky had found a job at a coffee house in Seattle, and the work appealed to her. She liked the opportunity to visit with the patrons, to make the biscotti and cheesecake and muffins, to create new and interesting drinks. No, it wasn't working with computers or the international career she'd had with Treadstone and the CIA. But it was peaceful. She had friends here, something that she'd tried to avoid. And the owner of the shop had recently mentioned making her the manager while they opened a new branch elsewhere in the city. Plus, it had been six months since anyone even triggered her fight-or-flight response.

The day everything changed was sunny and cool. A recent rain had just washed the city, leaving everything sparkling for a change. Nicky finished a half-caf caramel latte for the lady in the drive-thru, setting it to the side of the cash register as she smiled. She loved it when the sun came out. The coffee shop's bright white tile, blue-tinged walls, and ice cream parlor feel made it a unique place to relax. Other than her tiny apartment, she liked it here best.

Giving the lady at the drive-thru her total, she took the credit card, ran it through, and passed out a receipt along with the drink. No one else waited at the speaker, and she glanced to check on the only other barista at work that day. The girl, half Nicky's age, was making coffee for the shop's insulated pots. That left Nicky to rinse the dishes recently used and get ready for the next customer. The door jingled as she began to do so, telling her she had yet someone else wanting coffee.

"Hello, Nicky."

She stiffened at the soft words. No one in Seattle called her that! She whirled, her coworker looking at her funny since everyone here knew her as Chloe, and blinked when she met a familiar pair of blue eyes. Her heart jumped into her throat as she rushed the counter between them. "What are you doing here?"

Jason Bourne stared back, wearing a black wool coat and looking utterly lost. "It's over."

Nicky blinked. "Excuse me?"

"Everything. It's over." He stepped forward, putting his hands on the counter near the register. "Treadstone, Blackbriar, Outcome. . . .I just left New York. Landy confirmed it."

Nicky stared at him, her mind whirling as she tried to accept what he told her. She suddenly couldn't breathe, and the coffee shop was a bit too closed. She called her coworker, silently apologizing to the girl for the way Jason glared. "I've got to step out. Watch things."

Then, she grabbed Jason's arm and dragged him outside. The clouds had moved back in, promising more rain, but Nicky ignored that. Once on the crowded street, she spun on her heel to face Jason. "You're sure?"

"They're all dead or arrested."

"How'd you find out?"

"Some guy tracked me down." Jason pulled out the chair at a sidewalk table and sat down, not minding the water still in it. "Said they'd brought down everyone and I could come home. Nicky, he was one of us."

"Treadstone?"

"An operative. From Project Outcome."

"What is that?"

"I didn't get it all, but it's like Treadstone. Only with medications."

Nicky perched on the edge of a chair, unable to stop the way she glanced at the people around her. "And you're sure it's safe for you to be here?"

"Have the paperwork and everything." Jason frowned. "Pam Landy said it was amnesty, but I'm not sure. Doesn't feel like amnesty." He shook his head. "How do I go back?"

She couldn't answer him. Not really. Not when she hadn't gone back to a normal life. Instead, she reached over and took his hand, feeling how cold his fingers were and wanting to put some warmth into them. "Come back inside. I'll buy you coffee and you can tell me everything." As if to punctuate what she'd said, it started raining again.

Over the next hour, she and Jason dried out while Nicky took the occasional break to fill orders. But the weather kept most people in their cars, something that her coworker could handle. Nicky learned of Aaron Cross and how he'd found Jason in Johannesburg, how Jason had come back to the States and went directly to Pam Landy, and how Landy had finally, with the help of Cross and a doctor named Marta Shearing, taken down every program that wanted them dead. By the time she left for home that night, she'd been so stunned that she didn't pay attention to her surroundings. Jason did, however, as he insisted on walking her back to her apartment. She saw the disdain on his features for the tiny place she called home, but she simply told him to sit down while she made dinner. They ate, neither one wanting to discuss anything related to Treadstone.

Finally, Jason stood. "I should go."

"Why don't you stay here tonight?" Nicky asked at the same time. She waited while he blinked at her. "It's small, but. . . ." She shrugged, unable to keep speaking.

Jason eyed the apartment. "Why don't you come with me?" He hesitated awkwardly. "To the hotel, I mean. I'll pay for your room, and you can find somewhere better than this."

Nicky looked around the apartment again. It really was small, but she'd settled here. She saw pieces of herself even though she hadn't become that attached to anything. She'd miss the chipped Blue Willow teapot, but not because of any sense of ownership. It just reminded her of her grandmother and had been here when she moved in. The furniture suddenly looked tired instead of welcoming, and she remembered nights spent in Paris, in a nice apartment and comfortable bed. She remembered Madrid and Tangier and any number of places around the world—places that held both joy and regret. Turning back to Jason, she saw the slightly hopeful glint in his eyes and made her decision. "Okay."

He didn't smile. Instead, he just nodded and waited while she gathered up a few personal effects. She'd come back here. . .maybe. After she'd had a chance to absorb what had happened and how life had suddenly changed. She might stay here after all, buying new furniture and settling into life as the manager of a coffee shop. She might track down Pamela Landy. She might leave with Jason. She might. . . .She had no idea what she needed to do. Just like she suspected Jason had no idea what his next step would be, either.

They checked into the hotel, and Jason left Nicky at a suite bigger than her apartment. He slipped into the room next to hers, saying he'd be close if she needed him. Then, he closed the door, unaware of how those words affected her. Once upon a time, they hadn't stayed in separate rooms or separate beds. Once, before he lost his memory and met Marie, they had shared something bigger than either of them separately. Seeing Jason again. . . .He managed to revive all of those memories by simply saying her name.

Sighing deeply, Nicky Parsons closed the door on the world and found her way to a hot bath. As the water soothed tense muscles from the afternoon, she let her eyes drift shut and the tears she'd held at bay fall down her cheeks. Life had changed for Jason—for the better. Too bad it hadn't changed for her.

~TBC