It took them six months to get to this point. Six months of hiding their tracks, of dodging Byer’s attack dogs, of really getting to know each other, and finding a rhythm in working together. It wasn’t just gratitude or convenience either. No, this was the natural progression of what started with a smile and holding hands on a boat off the coast of the Philippines.
A lifetime of barely scraping by before four years of war, being torn down and remade, then four more years of deep cover work, this was the most alive Aaron had ever felt.
And he was fucking terrified he was going to screw it up.
Aaron, propped up on his elbows, tilted his head back and inhaled deeply as Marta kissed her way down his chest. He exhaled with a shaky moan as she found a particularly sensitive spot. He felt a little out of his depth and that just wasn’t something he was used to anymore. He fumbled for Marta’s hand and laced their fingers together, letting the familiar contact ground him.
Marta paused with her lips just above his belly button and looked up at him from underneath her lashes. “Aaron?”
He kept his eyes averted, but answered her. “Yeah?”
“Is everything alright?”
He huffed out a breath of a laugh and let himself collapse onto the bed, covering his eyes with his forearm. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
His lips twitched, but he didn’t remove the arm from his face even as Marta made herself comfortable next to him, one hand on his chest and her leg thrown over his. She was warm and soft next to him and he really wanted to get back to what they were doing, but…
With a sigh he stopped hiding and turned his face to look at her. Her lips were red and swollen from their kisses and her eyes were still bright with desire, but he could see concern making its way in. He gave her a lopsided smile as he brushed her hair away from her face, his fingers lingering along her jaw.
“It’s stupid,” he said.
“So?” she answered back with that little smirk of hers that usually had him returning it with one of his own.
Aaron took a steadying breath and let it out slowly. “I’ve never done this before.”
Marta blinked at him for a moment then sat up, curling her legs underneath her. “What?”
He scrunched up his face as he sat up as well, pulling his knees up to his chest and draping his arms over them. “I’ve never had sex before.” When she opened her mouth, he held up his hand and kept talking. “As Vitali Nederov, Michael McHale, Joe Scolero, and other assorted aliases sure. But I, Aaron Cross, I haven’t. We didn’t exactly have a lot of personal downtime. I’m not sure what to do.” He grimaced. “No, I mean I know what to do. I’m just not sure… ah, fuck it.” He rubbed the back of his neck and looked at her a little helplessly. “Told you it was stupid.”
Marta just looked at him, her fingers brushing against her lips. He watched her eyes go unfocused, become shiny with tears and he panicked a little; cupped her face and used his thumbs to brush away the moisture as it spilled over.
“Hey,” he murmured. “Hey, Marta, come back to me. It’s alright, sweetheart. Marta, look at me.”
She blinked a few times and took a couple of shaky breaths before finally focusing on him. “I’m sorry,” she said softly.
His left eyebrow went up in question. “What for?”
“For what they did to you. For my part in it.” Her breathing hitched and more tears spilled over. “I’m so, so sorry.”
Aaron sighed and gathered her close; let her cry. He figured this was a long time coming, and she wasn’t just crying about him. He appreciated the apology, he really did. But without her work, without Outcome, he wouldn’t be the man he was today. He most likely wouldn’t even be alive. He may not have completely understood what he was getting into when he agreed to be part of the program, but he didn’t regret it.
Was he happy that his government was trying to kill them both just to cover their own asses or that they could never really settle down in one place for any length of time? No, of course not. But he at least had the skills necessary to keep them alive and in one piece, and that was worth so much more than knowing what he liked personally when it came to sex.
He was finally learning to live, learning what it meant to be himself, to be Aaron Cross. The circumstances weren’t ideal, but he thought he was doing alright. Now he just had to figure out a way to explain that to the woman crying herself out in his arms.
Just like he had earlier, Marta fumbled for his hand and laced their fingers together. Aaron brought them up and kissed the back of her hand then held them over his heart. Marta took a shuddering breath and went limp against him as she exhaled.
“Sorry,” she mumbled into his chest, surreptitiously wiping at her eyes.
“’s alright,” he murmured, kissing the top of her head. “Sorry I killed the mood.”
She gave a watery laugh. “The timing could have been better, but… I’m glad you told me.”
Marta tilted her head up, resting her chin on his bare chest. Her nose was red and her eyes were puffy, but Aaron thought she was still lovely. He kissed the tip of her nose, smiling a little at the way she crinkled it up.
They just looked at each other for a few moments before Aaron spoke. “I’m still feeling my way through who I am. When it’s just us there are no covers, no roles to play. There’s just me and I’m still not certain who that is yet. Just… just be patient with me, yeah?”
Marta sat up, her eyes soft, and her hand gentle as she cupped the side of his face. He leaned into her touch and responded readily when she kissed him. When they parted she leaned her forehead against his. “We’ll learn together,” she whispered.
Aaron smiled as he wrapped his fingers around the hand still against his cheek. “Yeah,” he breathed, “together.”
He may be learning to live, but he didn’t have to do it alone.