4

The moonlight bounced off the wetness of her hair creating a perfect silver line that traced every strand of her brunette mane. They hung together, as if one body, in the calming ocean as the tides subsided into gentle wavelets. Her lips unceasingly massaged his; their tongues danced to their eternal passion. Her arms gently hung around his neck as he alone kept them afloat a little too far from shore to be safe, but she was. For him, she always was. For hours having a chance to speak, they had chosen not to. And while both knew that their precarious situations desperately needed a resolution, neither wanted it to end just yet.

Her skin, soft to the touch, still warm from the waning sun sent his blood rushing. Her soft coos, excited him in ways he had not experienced in years. The depth of feeling he felt for her in this moment, betrayed all that he knew about human experience and the mechanism of time. He thought he knew well enough, after years of training and the nature of fates' plans for him, the difference between his dreams and the reality bestowed upon him. For he was, of all things a man without an identity, a ghost, a wanderer, and probably meant to die in his turn as with all of his kind. And a man like that, much less than a man, all things considered, without contacts, without mourners, without a real life but merely a shadow of one, had no right to dream.

Yet there she was, every kiss; destroying his world.

"Hey," Aaron managed to say in the moments she chose to breath.

"No," she replied abruptly for she knew his mind.

"I'm just—," Aaron again tried to plead with her but again there she was; adamant.

"No," she insisted. "I know, what you're thinking and I know what you're about to say. I appreciate it, I do. But not now. Not this moment. I think… after everything that has happened… I deserve this."

"Okay," Aaron said in his comforting voice. That voice that he had so often used with her.

With her legs still tightly wrapped around his waist, her arms departed from his neck. She reached behind her own neck and untangled the golden strings that held the black fabric that concealed herself from his eyes. But not yet, her hands held them in place even as the strings fell from her neck and floated gently upon the water. She leaned forward again, forceful yet gentle plant more kisses upon his lips, which knew nothing but to receive their gifts.

"Take… me…" She said in between each kiss and pausing for a moment before continuing, "back… to… shore…"

Without words, he obliged her. She hung to him, eyes closed, enjoying every moment, committed it all to the gallery of her mind; the best moments of her life, she was sure this would displace any previous contenders, as he began to move. She could feel the water upon her back displacing as she simply hung to him as if he were a boat that could take her anywhere she wished. He may very well indeed, she thought, be that.


"Wow, this is swanky," the enthusiastic slim blonde sat down in the chair opposite of Alfred's desk. "Who'd you have to kill to get an office like this?"

"Aaron Cross, apparently," Alfred answered with a slightly deflated tone.

The girl's eyes shot at him like a laser when that name registered in her mind. She shuffled a little in her seat, realizing what kind of meeting she had exactly been called in to.

"Really?" She said in a hush tone, practically mouthing the words.

Alfred nodded back with wide eyes.

"Does this have anything to do with the Treadstone trial?" She asked excitedly.

"Yes and no," Alfred answered. "Look, do you have the set of names I asked for."

"Yeah, but these weren't easy to get," she protested a little, "if you want them, I need to know more."

Alfred hesitated for a moment and considered his options. They were few, it had been a lot harder to get than he expected to get the resources he needed. Apparently the bureaucratic red tape of legend was more like a reality of life that he had to now, more than ever, contend with. One day, he supposed that this would all be the work of gophers and low-level analysts and his true talents would prove himself useful. But for now, with little more than a badge, he had to call in favours. Favours he would rather not use at the moment, but already, in a few hours in, he was at the end of his rope.

"Look, Colleen," Alfred said leaning forward on his desk as if to communicate an urgent point, "I want to tell you. I really do, but this isn't Annapolis. This shit is real."

"Not good enough," Colleen said leaning back on her chair, "not gonna work this time. You don't think I know this is real? I've looked at the list, ex-SEALS, SAS, Liberian veterans. I know you can't get these guys. You mean have your fancy Operations badge now but if you want my help and you want these names, you're going to have to let me in. I'm not falling for it this time, Alfred."

"When I said I was sorry, I mean it," Alfred tried to sound genuine. "Look, can't we let bygones be bygones, you're here, I'm here. Things worked out, right?"

"Tell me," she insisted.

Again Alfred hesitated.

"Alright, tell me what you already know," Alfred consigned himself to her terms.

"About Aaron Cross? Nothing official, just company rumours. Something to do with Outcome; apparently having something to do with the massacre in Manila. But again, nothing official," Colleen said.

"Well that's about all you can know without knowing anything I suppose," Alfred said rubbing his face with his hands.

He tapped on his laptop and turned to screen to face her. Colleen took to the screen with great interest, examining and committing to memory the photo and the basic info.

"Aaron Cross is Outcome 5. He's the only one left." Alfred said. "He's still at large."

Colleen didn't have words to reply. She merely looked down at her hands and the folder she held in them. A silence fell over the room as a battle of trust and conscience raged inside of her mind. Could she trust him again?

"Please, I need those names," Alfred insisted.


The waves crashed upon them, gentle yet cold. But neither of them minded. For him, it paled in comparison to the harshness of conquered terrains just days previous. For her, it had been the stuff of myths; now living it in full. Who would believe her? Who cares, she thought. His arms still wrapped around her, gently brushing the sand off of her shoulders. Both of them breathing heavily, trying to regain the energy that had both so vigorously spent just moments prior. He had been gentle with her, she noted. Still it was far more powerful than anything she had ever experienced or even dreamed. If she had been a doctor for the past ten years of her life, tonight was the night she was reborn as a woman again. Had she only been able to see the wet sands upon which they lay; a physical sculpture of their passion. With every curve of her body remembered, every thrust etched into repetitious ridges, every statuette spontaneously created by her grasping hand; every texture cast from her hair writhing in pleasure, every fissure created by the curling of her toes into the firmament announcing her ecstasy, even air obliged her a memory as each sweet moan from her lips danced away as a momentary ballerina into the cold air of the night.

"That… was… amazing," the cliché left her mouth, well deserved and satisfied.

Their collective silence and the stillness of their bodies agreed with the sentiment. His hand intertwined with hers; gently enveloping her slender fingers.

"It was bound to happen," Aaron replied panting, resting his head on the sands beside her neck.

"Oh yeah?" Marta asked. "When did you figure that?"

"Two nights ago," Aaron answered.

"You mean the night you were in a febrile delirium?" Marta asked still trying to regain her breath, "the night that you told me to leave?"

"You stayed," Aaron replied with a devilish smile.

"Yes… I did," Marta replied with a smile, still wearing the afterglow of her passion.

"I didn't mean sex…" Aaron clarified, "I meant how I felt about you, I knew then."

"I knew too," she replied gently as if whispering a secret to him.

"Thank you… for not leaving," Aaron said.

"You don't have to thank me for that, you'll never have to thank me for that," she replied sweetly.

Aaron smiled again and collapsed his head back onto the sand, his breath still colliding with the side of her neck, sending chills down her spine. Her naked body, only partially enclosed by his arm, rolled in towards him as her leg found just enough strength to wrap around his. Her hand stroked his face, caressing the deep folds and scars along with the stubble that had appeared since they met. His features were not alien to her, but it felt like the first that she had truly known them. Seconds turned into minutes, minutes drifted into hours, she watched him as he fell asleep, as she done two nights before when he was viralling off, as she had done yesterday when his bullet wound was at his worst. She wondered if he thought of her as his saving grace; his angel?

"Aaron," she whispered into his ear. "I know that you feel like I saved your life. But I need you to know, to really know, because I don't think you do yet, that you did the same for me."

She sealed her words with a kiss.


He felt refreshed but not completely recovered. His fatigue had subsided and his shakes were gone but the headaches, intermittent as they were during the previous day, had increased in severity and frequency. He woke up to the silence of his home, in a bed far more comfortable than his couch at work. But here, alone with his thoughts, alone with the deep machinations of his mind, alone with the ideas of what he would do; he feared for this own life. Everything in his house was in order, the portrait of his grandfather who had served in World War II, with his neatly polished china inherited from the days before electricity, along with his files, both digital and hard, everything in its place, everything encrypted, a confluence of old time tradition and modern aptitude dressed in a layer of subdued patriotism, convincing himself that all that he had dedicated his life to, had been worth it.

He thought of them as ungrateful bastards when they arrived at his door, but he, being who he was and unavoidably analyzing all sides of a situation could not fault them for their impudence. The door rang, he knew they were coming, and he knew they would show up early in the morning. Most Americans suffered from some sort of depression, most pronounced in the mornings, he was no exception. And despite knowing this, he couldn't shake the feeling impending dread. Slaves to our sense we are, he remembered.

Still he knew if he could just tough out the morning, it would all be okay. He opened the door and let them in. They, nameless despite their badges and their declaration of identity, he couldn't give a fuck who they were, stood in that fashion that seemed to be unconsciously adopted by all government officials, thinking themselves greater than the peons they had unquestioning authority over. After all, he was the best at their game.

"It's a bit early," Byer said in his morning voice, "even for you guys."

"Let's not beat around the bush," one of the two men said, "you know why we're here."

"Wasting my time?" Byer said as he moved into the kitchen.

"I think you have that backwards," the other said dropping an envelope onto his dining room table.

Byer stared at it for a couple of moments, assessing the blank faces of the men across from him.

"You guys work quick," Byer stalled.

"The whole house of cards is falling," the first man replied. "You wanna be caught in the rubble?"

"It's cute how you think you know what you're talking about there, Starsky," Byer said feeling his dread lift and his sarcastic wit return to him. Just in the nick of time.

"Frankly, I don't give a fuck. I do my job, that's why I'm here," he replied with admirable professionalism. "Ever wonder how you got yourself into this predicament?"

"Don't get sanctimonious with me. You couldn't do what I do. That's why I've got the big house and you're playing sheriff for the Intelligence Committee," Byer said casually as he poured himself coffee into his usual Sunday morning mug. "Coffee?"

"No thanks," he replied. "You're due in court Monday."

"I'll see you guys there," Byer said with a wink as he sipped his steaming hot coffee.

"Good day, colonel," the man replied.