A/N: I apologize for taking so long to post a new chapter but real life has a funny way of intruding! Thank you for all who have continued to follow and favorite the story. I hope you like the direction I'm taking the characters in!
The wind whipped Pam Landy's hair as she stepped out of her apartment building. November was turning out to be unusually cold and she wrapped her scarf tighter around her neck as she crossed the street and headed into the coffee shop. Caffeine was probably the last thing she needed but she wasn't sure what else to do with herself. She would be appearing before the Senate Committee the next day and she had already met with her attorney to go over her testimony. He advised her to get some rest today. Pam had almost laughed at him. Her whole life was hanging on the outcome of the hearing and he thought she would be able to kick back and relax. Lawyers, she thought.
The shop was close to empty. She stepped up to the counter and the barista took her order. Pam moved down the line to wait for it. When her name was called, the young woman handed her the latte and a pastry bag.
"I didn't order this," said Pam, holding the bag up to her.
The barista shrugged. "Just take it. It's on the house."
Pam sighed and headed towards an overstuffed chair. She wasn't ready to face her empty apartment just yet. She took a sip of her coffee and opened the bag to find a cell phone. She quickly looked around the shop; there was an elderly couple sharing a muffin and two high school students who were obviously skipping school but trying to be casual about it. Pam knew that she was being monitored and was sure that there was at least one CIA agent watching her at that moment. Her back was to the window that looked out onto the busy Georgetown street and she didn't want to draw any suspicion by turning to look outside. Instead, she sunk down deeper into the chair so that only the top of her head was visible. She was about to open the flip phone when it suddenly rung.
"Don't speak" said a male voice on the other end. "Just listen. Treadstone and Blackbriar aren't the only programs you should be concerned with. Inside this phone is a memory chip with classified documents on it. Take it to a public place and access them. "The voice paused. "You felt that Jason Bourne deserved more than what he got. I feel the same way about the people who were involved with these programs. I think together we can do something about it."
Pam heard a click and the line went dead. She turned the phone over in her hand and popped open the cover. She removed the memory chip and put it in her pocket. Putting the phone back in her purse, she stood up and walked out of the shop, throwing the empty coffee cup and bag away in the nearest garbage can.
Across the street a heavy-set man with blonde hair and glasses hung up his phone. Arthur Ingram watched as Pam continued down the street and went in and out of several shops, even making purchases in a clothing store. Every time she reappeared on the street, a black Suburban kept up with her. He stood up and threw out the wrapper from the hot dog he had bought from the street vendor. He hoped he had made the right decision. He sighed and walked down the block to the Metro station. Deep down Arthur knew he was right though. He couldn't live with himself much longer. Knowing what had happened to the people involved in Outcome was keeping him up at night and when he could sleep, he had nightmares. Byer and his people were out of control. They had to be reined in. Arthur just hoped that he and Pamela Landy would be able to do it and keep their lives.
Light was streaming through the porthole in the cabin but Marta had been up for hours before the sun had risen. Although she had the bunk all to herself, she had a fitful night of sleep. She couldn't stop her mind from racing about what the next day would bring. She also couldn't stop thinking about Aaron and what had passed between them the night before. For the past ten minutes she had listened to the sound of footsteps outside the cabin and on the deck above. She got off the bunk to peek out the porthole and saw a small island coming into view. They were probably only twenty minutes out, if that she thought. As she made her way towards the bathroom, Marta inhaled sharply as pain radiated from her bruised ribs. She kept forgetting that she had been hurt too. As the pain subsided, the door opened and Aaron walked in.
"You're awake," he said closing the door behind him. "It's still early; I thought you would still be asleep."
"I couldn't sleep anymore," she replied. "Besides, I thought we needed to get off the boat as soon as it docked. I wanted to be ready." She was holding the clothes she had worn the day before.
"We need to talk," Aaron said, taking a seat on one of the chairs, motioning for Marta to sit as well. "We won't be getting off the boat this morning."
Marta sat down in the chair opposite of him and asked, "Why? What's happened?"
Aaron shook his head and quickly said, "Nothing. It's just that this island is smaller than I thought. If we get off the boat with Eugenio, we'll be putting him and his family in danger as well as ourselves. We're going to need to stay until it gets dark."
"I hadn't thought about that," Marta replied. "So, we get off tonight. Then what? If the island is as small as you say, where are we going to go?"
"Eugenio told me that the CEO of MERALCO, the main utility company of the Philippines, has a vacation home on the island. He was just arrested on corruption charges and the house was locked up by the police as part of the investigation. It's empty."
Marta nodded her head slowly. "Alright. But how are we going to get there?"
"We're going to use the dinghy to get ashore. Eugenio told me where the house is and I'm going to map out the exact route we need to take."
"Sounds like you have it all covered," Marta said with a smile. "What do you need me to do?
"Well, since we can't really go above deck, we're going to have to hang out down here. If you could scout around and see if there is anything of use for us then that would be good. After our run-in with that gang yesterday I'm pretty sure Eugenio doesn't buy our story about you being kidnapped anymore."
Marta gave a chuckle. "I guess he saw you up close and in action. That would do it."
Aaron looked at her, his brow furrowed in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Marta stood and stretched her legs, trying to ignore the pain from the cut on the back of her leg. "I mean, after watching you fight it's pretty obvious that you're not the average man."
Aaron was quiet for a moment. When he had come for her at her house, Marta hadn't really seen him take down the other agents. She had been scared too concerned for her own safety. But at the lab, she had watched as he had brought down those three security guards in a matter of seconds. She was probably disgusted by the violent actions he had taken.
He looked down at his hands and said, "That's who I am Doc. That's the side of me that you didn't see in the lab—the killer. That's what the chems did."
Marta took a step toward him. "You're wrong."
Aaron looked up at her. "What do you mean?"
She knelt down so she could look directly in his eyes, taking his hands in both of hers. "That's not who you are Aaron. That's what you do. There's a difference."
He looked at her intently. "Is there?"
"I hope so," she said. "If not, then I'm not at all happy with the person I've become."
Aaron smiled, "You're a good person Marta."
Marta arched an eyebrow up at him. "Oh really? I'm not so sure anymore. Not after what's happened the past few days. What type of person is so caught up in their job that they are willing to turn a blind eye to what is really going on?" She stood up and sighed. "It doesn't matter anymore, does it? The only thing that matters is staying alive."
Just as she turned from him, Aaron grabbed her hand and stood. "It does matter. I think in your head you see yourself as some sort of Dr. Frankenstein playing fast and loose with science. Just remember one thing Doc—you didn't create Outcome, it wasn't your idea. You didn't turn me into the monster, alright?"
"You're not a monster," she said, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "I have no idea what type of missions you were sent out on but I'm sure that our world is probably safer because of what you did."
"Do you really believe that, about me not being a monster? You looked pretty shocked back in the lab." His eyes searched hers imploringly.
Marta pulled back from him. She could hear the fear in his voice and knew that the fragile ties of their relationship could be severed depending on how she answered. "I wasn't shocked or horrified by your actions. I was in awe of your actions. Besides, a person generally isn't comforted by a monster's presence are they?" Or want them to sleep beside her, she thought.
Aaron laughed softly, "No, I guess not." He could feel some of the tension leave his body. He sighed. "I should go above deck and get anything we're going to need to take with us later."
Marta nodded looking down at her hand still in his and squeezed gently. "Alright." Letting go, she walked toward the bathroom door.
"You know," said Aaron, "we're going to have to come to some sort of understanding."
Marta gripped the doorknob tightly and slowly turned around to look at him. Aaron was looking at her intently and she could feel her heart beat more rapidly under his gaze. "What do you mean?" she asked.
Aaron walked to her and said, "I mean we can't go on apologizing and feeling guilty for how we ended up here. What's done is done. It's time to move forward." He reached up and caressed her cheek. "Sound good?"
"Sounds good," Marta whispered. Moving forward into what, though, was what she wanted to ask. His hand on her cheek was comforting and she closed her eyes. She could feel warmth radiating throughout her body just from the feeling of his hand on her face.
Aaron moved his thumb down her cheekbone, until it reached her lips. He had been up almost all night, most of it thinking about her. He had kicked himself for even leaving her alone in the cabin. It had taken most of his self-control not to go back down and crawl into the bunk besides her. He had talked himself into being able to stay detached, trying to remain physically distant. But now that he knew she wasn't horrified by him, he also knew it would be impossible to do.
Marta's eyes fluttered open as Aaron's thumb reached her lips. Aaron leaned in closer until his lips brushed against hers. A small sigh of pleasure escaped Marta. Aaron smiled against her mouth before moving his mouth close to hear. "We're going to have to do something about this too Doc," he whispered before nipping her earlobe with his teeth.
Marta's fingers dug into Aaron's shoulders. She couldn't find any words to respond to with. She felt like she was losing control, something she never did. The surprising thing was that she liked it. Marta knew though that the time wasn't now and so using all the willpower she had, she took a step back from Aaron, moving away from the door.
She was saved by having to say anything by the sound of Eugenio calling out to Aaron. They would be docking in minutes and he would need to go above deck to secure any items they would need.
Aaron looked over at where Marta stood, a slow smile spreading across his face. "I'll be back," he said and then he was gone.
Marta watched as the cabin door closed quietly behind him. She dropped down into the nearest chair and put her head her hands. It was definitely going to be a long day, she thought.
"Is that it?"
Aaron nodded. "I think so. According to the map it is. Let's move in a little closer. I wanted to check it out by myself before we both go in." He grabbed for Marta's hand and they began to cut through the rough foliage that bordered what appeared to be a long driveway.
The day had passed quicker than Marta had thought it would. After saying goodbye to Eugenio and the two boys, they had gone through the bottom of the boat packing any items they thought would be of use to them. Aaron then spent the rest of the day mapping out the route through the island to the house. When the sun had finally gone down they had hopped into the small dinghy attached to the fishing boat and Aaron had rowed them ashore. From there they entered the jungle and hiked the rest of the way.
They had been walking for an hour when the house came into view. It wasn't very large and it wasn't what came to Marta's head when she heard "vacation home". It was a simple two-story bungalow painted white with green shutters. There was a carport big enough for two cars but there were none under it. No lights were on as well. The only thing either of them could see was yellow police tape going across the front door.
Aaron turned to her and said, "Stay here. I'll be right back."
Before Marta could reply, Aaron had disappeared into the dense growth. A variety of noises were assaulting her ears, none of them familiar. She tried not to think of the different creatures that were responsible for making those sounds and instead focused on the spot in the foliage where she thought Aaron had disappeared. When that didn't work, she looked at the bungalow trying to spot him. Five minutes had almost gone by and she was just starting to get worried when he reappeared.
"Alright Doc. It's all clear. Follow me."
They crossed onto the driveway and headed up the front steps. Marta was about to go to the front door when Aaron grabbed her hand and shook his head.
"The tape," he said. "If anyone comes by to check the house and sees that the tape has been disturbed it might raise suspicion. Follow me; there's an unlocked window on the side of the house."
Aaron walked around the porch to a side window and lifted it up. "C'mon Doc, you first." He held out his hand to her. She grabbed it and let him help her over the sill before following her in.
"No lights," said Aaron. "I'm not sure how close our neighbors are, if there are any, and I don't want the house to be seen lit up by anyone who is out on the water."
"The water?" repeated Marta. She felt like they had walked miles away from the water. As she made her way through the house, however, Marta realized how wrong she was. On the outside, the bungalow had looked plain and unassuming. The inside was a different story altogether. The two of them stood in what appeared to be a great room. The house had an open-floor plan with cathedral ceilings. The kitchen and dining area were combined and there was a spiral staircase that led to a loft space above. The rear of the ground level was floor to ceiling windows that opened onto a deck. Marta walked back and gasped at the view. There was path that led down from the house to a private lagoon that opened into the sea.
"Wow," was all she could say.
Aaron smiled. "Not too shabby, right? Why don't you go take a look upstairs?"
Marta grinned and went up the staircase. The loft space had an overstuffed chair next to a bookcase and led to a small hallway. She looked in one room to find a small home office. The other room was the master bedroom. It had a large four-poster bed that was facing the windows looking out onto the water. Through a door was a bathroom with a glass shower stall and stand alone tub. It almost seemed too good to be true.
She headed back down to the kitchen, her growling stomach jolting her back to reality. There hadn't been too much in the way of food left on the boat. Marta hoped there was some in the fridge. As she came down the stairs she realized something—there had only been one bedroom. She didn't want to worry about it now. The only thing she was interested in was filling her stomach.
Downstairs, Aaron stood at the dining room table unpacking his black bag. Marta watched as he removed three guns, ammunition, his kit of knives, and variety of other tools. She turned and walked into the kitchen. She had her hand on the refrigerator door but paused a moment before opening it.
"Is it okay if I open this?" she asked, turning to look at Aaron. "It's going to give off some light."
Aaron replied, "Its fine. I'm hungry too."
Marta opened the door and smiled. The fridge looked like it had recently been stocked. She reached in for some fruit and yogurt and then smiled wider. Wrapped around the bottle of milk was a familiar gold watch. She took out the bottle and brought it over to show Aaron.
He looked up from his inventory and smiled. "Eugenio. He tried to give it back to me before he left the boat this morning but I insisted that he keep it. He's a good man."
Marta nodded and sat down at the table with a banana and a yogurt. In the morning she would investigate the pantry but for now this would do. She had brought one of each for Aaron as well and pushed it toward him. He sat down across from her and they ate in silence.
"You must be tired," Aaron said. "You were up early this morning." He tried not to smile as he watched her cheeks flush knowing she was thinking about their kiss.
Marta looked over at him, inwardly cursing her inability to remain as calm and unassuming as him, and replied, "Yes, pretty tired. The trek across the jungle in the middle of the night didn't help." She smiled and then continued. "I used to think I was in shape but the past few days have proven me wrong."
Aaron laughed. "Don't beat yourself up Doc. I think you've done great for someone without any military training." He stood, picking up his empty yogurt container and banana peel, reaching for Marta's as well. He walked into the kitchen and threw them out
"Why don't you go upstairs and go to sleep? I just want to take another look around outside." He went back over to the table and took out a gun, handing it over to Marta. "Keep this with you until I get back."
Marta stood and took the gun, turning it over in her hands. "Okay." She walked over to the staircase and then turned to look back at him. "Be careful."
Aaron watched her go up the stairs. When he heard the bedroom door close, he grabbed his bag and headed out the door. He just wanted to do a quick recon of the property. Aaron still felt confident that they were off the grid but he wanted to get a better lay of the land.
Upstairs, Marta went into the bathroom and ran the water for the tub. While it was filling, she walked back into the bedroom and went to the closet. It contained a limited selection of both men and women's clothing to her great relief. There were a variety of shorts and t-shirts as well as dresses although she didn't see anything in the way of pj's. Her tank top and Aaron's boxer shorts would suffice until she was able to get something else.
Marta caught a glance of the clock on the nightstand and saw that it was close to one in the morning. She went back into the bathroom almost turning on the light before she caught herself. She slid into the tub and sighed. The cut on her leg was finally scabbing and the water didn't sting nearly as much as it had the day before. Her ribs also felt less sore, the hot water offering great relief. Marta could feel herself drifting off but knew she would regret it if she fell asleep in the tub.
She toweled off and got dressed, going out into the bedroom. She pulled back the sheets on the bed and slid in, reveling in the cool feel of the cotton against her skin. The house was cool as well and Marta supposed that Aaron had turned on the air conditioning when he had first investigated. From where the bed was situated, Marta could see the water. It was calm with no sign of boats. She wondered how safe they would be there and how long they would be able to stay. Aaron hadn't told her but she was sure he had some sort of plan figured out as to where they would go next.
Aaron entered the house from the same window they had entered from before. The first thing he did was call out to Marta to let her know he was back. He then did a quick check of all the windows and doors before going upstairs. On his walk outside he saw that they were at least three miles from a village with no immediate neighbors near the house. He had laid down some traps, though, around the perimeter just in case. The last thing he wanted was to be caught by surprise.
Aaron knocked gently on the bedroom door before opening it slowly. "Just me Doc; don't shoot." When he walked into the room he saw Marta sitting up in the bed lowering the gun he had given to her. The sheets were tangled around her waist—she seriously had no idea how beautiful she was, he thought. "I think we're good for the night but why don't you keep that gun on the nightstand next to you." He stood in the doorway, one hand on the doorknob, the other braced against the frame.
Marta nodded and put the gun down. "I found some clothes in the closet but no pajamas. I hope you don't mind me borrowing your boxers again." She drew her knees up against her body.
"Consider them yours," he replied. "They look better on you anyway." He could see that she had bathed; her hair was still wet and as he walked closer to the bed, he could smell the clean scent of soap.
"Hmm," Marta responded. She could argue the point with him having seen him in them too. She watched as he moved closer to the bed, her heart beating a little quicker as every step he took brought him closer.
Aaron dropped his black bag on the other side of the bed and looked down at Marta. "How are you doing?"
Marta smiled as he sat on the edge of the bed. "Fine. My leg feels a lot better. How's your shoulder and leg? Rowing and hiking are not activities suited for recovering from gunshot wounds."
"Not bad actually," he replied with a smile. "But then again, I'm not a good judge."
"Right," grinned Marta. "I almost forgot."
"How was the shower? Better than the one on Eugenio's boat?"
Marta laughed, "It looks fine but I took a bath. My legs were sore from, well, from everything I guess! I'm lucky I've been able to keep up with you this far!"
Aaron smiled. "Don't knock yourself Doc. You've kept up just fine." He glanced over to the bathroom door. "I think I'm going to hop in quick. Be right back."
Marta watched as he grabbed some clean clothes out of his bag and went into the bathroom. She sighed and fell back against the pillows. She could hear the water turn on and she tried to block any mental images of Aaron naked from entering her mind.
Aaron stepped into the shower and almost groaned aloud as the hot water hit him. It felt good. He braced his hands against the wall and rolled his neck feeling his muscles begin to loosen. He was trying not to think of Marta in the bed in the next room but was failing miserably. Every time he closed his eyes all he could think of was the feel of her lips on his and the softness of her body. He shook his head slightly to clear it; he would have to change the hot water over to cold if he couldn't stop the direction his thoughts were taking.
As the water ran over him, Aaron replayed all of the physical moments he and Marta had shared over the past five days. In the grand scheme of things, five days was not a normal amount of time to develop such a close bond with someone but there had been nothing normal about the time they had spent with one another. Aaron worried that the attraction between them was nothing more than the need for two people to cling to each other through difficult times. The next few days would be telling. They would be safe and not have to worry about being found. Would the attraction between them remain or fade with an increased sense of security?
Aaron knew he should just get out of the shower, get dressed, and head downstairs to sleep on the couch but the thought had no sooner left his mind when he realized that it would also be impossible for him to do. Fuck it, he thought as he turned the water off and wrapped a towel around himself. He was far from an expert on relationships but Aaron knew that honesty was always the best policy.
Sleep had been so close minutes earlier but Marta had begun to toss and turn in the bed while Aaron was in the bathroom. Sighing, she stood and crossed the room to where sliding glass doors opened onto a balcony. She opened them and dropped down into one of two chaise lounges. The sea was calm and there wasn't a boat around for miles. There was no moon; Aaron had actually commented on it, saying it would make their escape into the night easier. The stars offered some light, however, and Marta observed the calmness of the water, a calm so unlike what she was feeling. She knew that Aaron had a plan but was holding off on telling her. For a split second she thought that maybe he was considering leaving her here but she immediately knew she was wrong. He could've left her behind in Manila, he could've let the cops arrest her in that alley but he didn't. She would be a liability to him now but he didn't seem to care. It made her wonder why.
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Marta turned to see Aaron standing in the open door. Even from where she was sitting she could smell the crisp scent of his soap and aftershave. "Just thinking about the future," she replied. She paused for a moment, looking out at the water and then continued. "I know that you have some sort of plan already and I was just thinking that maybe you'd be better off without me."
A look of concern came across Aaron's handsome features. He dropped onto the chair next to her and asked, "Where is all of this coming from?" Maybe he was wrong about her feelings for him, he thought. Maybe he had read too much into their physical interactions with one another. It was entirely possible; he wasn't all that experienced when it came to things like this.
Marta sighed. "I just don't want to hold you back from whatever you're planning. Even I know it would be much easier to do whatever you're going to do by yourself," she said. Before he could reply, she laughed and said, "Maybe I'll find my true calling—doctoring the people of a developing nation."
Aaron clasped his hands in front of him and leaned forward towards Marta. "You're not holding me back Marta. Give yourself a little more credit—I told you kept up fine, more than fine." He paused for a moment. "And you're right; I do have a plan but it is a plan that includes you."
Marta looked away from him. Aaron reached over and gently guided her face so he could see her eyes before dropping his hands back down. "What it comes down to is whether or not you want to come with me. I'm not going to lie to you—it's going to be dangerous. I'm not going to vanish and pretend that the government tried to have us killed; I kind of thought you wouldn't want to either." He looked at her searchingly. "I'll understand if you don't want to come. I'll do my best to find a safe place for you but once I'm gone, I can't guarantee that safety. Do you understand?"
Marta nodded slowly. "I understand but you're right, that's not what I want. I'm terrified about what might happen but I can't just slink away and hide." She smiled. "I guess you're stuck with me then."
Aaron felt relief wash over him as he returned her smile. "You mean we're stuck with each other." He grabbed her hand and held it in his. His smile faded, however, as he became aware of the intimacy of the moment. They were both wearing next to nothing and sitting so close to one another. He leaned in even closer and brushed his lips against hers. She sighed against his mouth and he felt her hands come up his arms to rest on his shoulders. Her lips were soft and yielding, exactly how the rest of her body had felt under his when they were sharing the bunk.
The moment was broken though by a shrill noise coming from the dense foliage surrounding them. Aaron stood quickly but then sat back down with a smile. "Just some sort of monkey letting us know we're not alone."
Marta laughed. "Wow. That' something I never thought I would hear someone say to me!" She went to stand up to go inside but Aaron waved her back down.
"No," he said, "let's stay out here for a bit." He pushed the lounge chair he had been sitting on against Marta's.
She smiled and softly replied, "Alright." He continued to surprise her, she thought. She was ready to give herself over to him, ready to climb into that big bed and throw caution to the wind but he showed restraint. Probably due to all the military training, she thought.
Aaron sat back on his chair and sighed. "What's wrong?" Marta asked.
"Nothing," he replied. "Just reflecting on things." He paused for a moment. "I've always felt like I was rushing through life. Rushing to finish a mission, rushing to meet a contact, rushing to make a drop-off." He gave her sly sideways glance. "I felt like I was missing the little things because I was always headed to the next big thing, the next big moment. There's so much to be said for appreciating the anticipation, you know, the build-up."
Marta couldn't find her voice to respond. As he had been talking, Aaron had been tracing the long line of her bare arm with his fingers from her shoulder down to her hand. She had been in a trance watching him, trying to suppress the desire that was coursing through her body.
Aaron gave a chuckle. "The opposite is also true too though."
Marta swallowed hard and asked in a hoarse whisper, "What do you mean?"
Aaron turned on his side to look at her with his piercing gray eyes. "I mean, that sometimes waiting isn't worth it. Just going out and taking what you want is the best thing to do. Immediate gratification."
Marta almost shuddered with desire but instead closed her eyes, trying to will away the images that were dancing in her head. Images of naked limbs intertwined, hands grasping, and mouths exploring. Was he challenging her, she thought. Did he want her to act on her feelings?
Aaron smiled as he watched Marta bite her bottom lip and shift on her chair. He could see the physical reaction his words were having on her: the goose bumps on her arm and the way the thin cotton tank top revealed the hardened tips of her breasts. He was having a hard time controlling his own rising desire. He settled back more comfortably on the lounge chair and closed his eyes. "Night Doc."
Marta remained quite. She laid still letting his words run back and forth in her mind. Maybe staying behind was the better option, she thought. She opened her eyes to see Aaron reclined next to her, the lean hard lines of his body outlined in the shadows of the night. But then again, she thought, maybe not.