Title: Strangers Undercover
Summary: AU. Some days he doubted her disappearance and his days off were a coincidence, but others they were too busy fighting each other. He had forgiven her because she just handed him the best puzzles to entertain him during his vacation. Who expected him, a CIA agent, to sit still for a second anyway?
Word Count: 4,970
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my ideas. Besides that, I know little to nothing about the FBI, being a PI or anything really, so all this is fiction (in case you had forgotten)
AN: Thank you to all of you reading and leaving your thoughts. :)
Honestly, he hadn’t tried to purposefully be an asshole. It was all about security measures that she needed to know about. Her cover had been already blown to pieces, but not his. Her credit card could have been tracked by anyone with the right knowledge, so she might have as well posted her activity on her Facebook and Twitter account. But his whereabouts were absolutely unknown for anyone.
When he had departed from Washington, he had told his neighbors that something had come up with UNDP and he had to make an emergency trip. His mother believed he was in L.A. for one reason or another and his sister hardly cared what he was doing as long as he brought her souvenirs from the countries he visited.
Boy he had a hard time coming up with something when he visited Afghanistan a few years prior.
Despite how light he had packed, he carried everything he needed for every situation he could find himself into. So at six fifteen next day he was already on his way to Rachel’s room.
He knocked just because he felt polite that morning and he believed he had already done enough snooping around the previous day.
“I hate you,” was the first thing Rachel muttered as a greeting.
Noah only smiled unabashedly at her.
Despite her surly words, she looked quite good early in the morning. Actually, he dug her makeup-free face and her hair falling straight around her shoulders, unlike the sultry waves she had donned the previous day. The outfit she had picked was also pretty adequate with those typical convertible pants, much like his, though in a shade of beige while his were navy blue. His only problem was that those loose pants shouldn’t have looked good on anyone. He had no idea how she pulled it off until she turned around, rummaging for something in those small cases where women keep their cosmetics.
His eyes zeroed in on her ass on their own volition.
“I had to go to shopping after you left yesterday,” she spoke conversationally while taking a few products in her hands. “I honestly believe that if I keep spending money this way, the profit I’ll make solving this case will be a red number. It won’t be worth the trouble. And it will be worst if I don’t solve it because I won’t get the other half of the payment.”
“But how can you put a price to having met me and spending time together?”
She looked over her shoulder. He luckily had the decency to stop staring at her buttocks and caught the look on her face. Rachel scoffed at him, shaking her head as she returned to study her makeup.
It was a little offending to be honest. There were women all across the globe that had actually gotten rid of their panties before he even said hello, and among those there were many of the most deathly spies. Indeed, most of them were crazy but that didn’t mean a thing other than hot once (and if) they made it to bed.
“And that list you made was extremely long. Plus my Spanish is embarrassing. Luckily I found a group of tourists doing some shopping as well; they helped me.”
She plopped down on the ottoman next to the window, and with a small mirror she started to apply foundation or whatever it was women put first on their faces. Noah looked at her attentively. There was something utterly attractive about a woman primping herself.
She kept on talking but he was mesmerized by the way the brushes swirled across her face and how she expertly applied mascara to her already long lashes.
“I thought women did this in the bathroom.”
She gave him a curious look, knowing quite well he had not listened to a thing that had left her mouth. “Natural light is better.”
“My bathroom has a skylight.” It left his mouth before he had any say in the business. Not that it was a lie. His love for the outdoors had forced him to make of his house a very luminous place, always keeping in mind to guard his privacy from neighbors; he had favored skylights. Plus, he loved the warmth of sunlight on his naked body whenever he hit the shower after strenuous workout.
He shook his head and stood up, checking his watch as he did so. “We should hurry up. There are only fifteen minutes left and, even if it’s not very far from here, I’d hate to be late.”
When she gave him that look that mixed surprise, amusement and curiosity, he decided to ignore it. The last thing he wanted was for her to start asking questions, because this would be the only time they would share together. As soon as the case was solved, and she was back in the US, they would never see each other again. Besides, he wasn’t one to share about his life.
Not even Mike had seen the inside of his house.
“I’m ready.” Rachel checked the ties of her shoes, tightening the laces and then smiled brightly at him. He was about to reciprocate the gesture in a much manlier fashion when she pointed towards the corner of her room. “Could you help me with my backpack?”
The gigantic monstrosity she had picked as a carry-on was almost as big as she was and seemed to be full to the brim.
His glare fell upon her full force but she was unfazed by it. She actually did not wait for an answer before thanking him.
He snorted a laugh. He probably deserved to be treated like an ass; donkey and the regular.
She had never been the adventurous type. She was a city girl through and through. There was something she felt it didn’t fit with her when she was in open spaces, with clear skies and not in a sea of people and cars, surrounded by skyscrapers. The noise that was not there bothered her a bit in the beginning, even if it was seven in the morning and she’d had too little sleep the previous night.
Years before she had imagined herself happy in New York, posing for pictures and starring Broadway shows. She loved acting and singing but after so many years of trying to make others see it, feel the emotion she exuded, she soon realized there had to be something more she was missing. Producers claimed her main problem was the lack of emotional connection with the people she worked with. Zero chemistry, in other words.
And so she found herself then, in a train going to Machu Picchu as part of her new part-time job that had now become a full-time thing, apparently.
Looking at her side, she watched her new and very strange yet incredible handsome companion. His eyes were eagerly drinking the beautiful scenery but from time to time he took a few seconds to scan the cart and the people.
She had to admit he was exquisite, so much she actually decided he was a better view at times than the wonderful nature outside. Those broad shoulders and the telltale clothes that hinted to his outstanding physique had attracted more than her eyes on him. It was his personality that put a halt to her daydreaming.
He was rough around the edges and nothing like the man her fathers had described over the phone. He did of course spoke a vast amount of languages but he was not soft-spoken and shy or nerdy at all.
“Stop looking at me,” he muttered in a plain voice that infuriated her.
Noah was conceited and she hated that he had the right to be.
“I wasn’t looking at you.”
He smirked. Those mischievous golden freckles in his hazel eyes almost shone under the sunlight. “You’re sitting by the window, a perfect view just at your side. And you’re turned towards me?”
Honestly, she hated his quick wits and how unapologetic he was. After struggling for words a moment, she decided to try her best and not let him win. “I was trying to sleep for a few minutes and the sun was bothering me.”
“Right,” he drawled in a deep voice.
Fortunately, he let it go.
A few minutes later, food was offered to them. Everything was from the local cuisine, which thankfully for her contained a wide variety of vegan and organic products. They ate mostly in silence until the couple sitting across from them, sharing their table, looked at them and tried to make small talk.
“Where are you from?” the woman asked with a heavy Dutch accent. Rachel was not surprised to see her almost white hair and her rosy cheeks as she smiled in a friendly gesture.
“Wa-“ Rachel was about to reply when Noah interrupted her.
“Portland, Oregon. United States,” he said easily.
Rachel frowned at him but had to recover quickly, smiling at the woman and her partner, a handsome man of light-brown skin who seemed a bit shyer than the woman.
“I’m a ballet dancer and he owns a brewery,” she provided. “What about you?”
She noticed out of the corner of her eye how Noah smirked down at his plate before shoving a rather large piece of fruit into his mouth.
If he ever thought she was stupid and would ruin their plans, he was sorely mistaken. She just had to get used to this lying game she had gotten herself into. But her background as an actress helped, even if it would have been much easier with a script to follow.
“We are on our honeymoon,” the Dutch man provided. He happened to be the owner of a book store in Rotterdam and she worked for a travel agency so they were making a trip around South America. He was in love with Mario Vargas Llosa’s books so Peru ranked high on their list.
Noah replied before she could and she was a little surprised when he draped an arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to his side. She could smell his spicy cologne and the fragrance of after-shave that still lingered on him. “We just moved in together.” His lips pressed softly to her temple and a warm sensation flooded her from that point through her entire body. Noah’s chuckle forced her to look up at his face. Their eyes locked together. “I must admit this was my idea. She’s not very outdoorsy, but she’s a great partner.”
A blush bathed her cheeks. Rachel could feel it and she couldn’t help it while pressed against him and wrapped in his scent and arm, hypnotized by those mesmerizing hazel eyes.
The Dutch woman visibly melted at their loving interaction, going as far as saying they were perfect for each other.
Rachel only decided she had discovered that Noah was also a great improviser because she could almost believe him for a second that he was a man infatuated with her.
Elijah and Natalie, the owner of the brewery and the ballet dancer from Portland, Oregon, told their new friends from Netherlands that they would let them know when they got married. Their email addresses were of course fake which made Rachel feel a little guilty but not enough to confess the truth.
She had to admit it was an exhilarating experience to pretend to be someone else without the repercussions.
“Why Elijah?” She murmured as soon as they started climbing up Machu Picchu. The guide was a young woman with a nasal voice that bothered him, since it reminded him of Johanna Fried, a woman his mother had tried to introduce to him; he just hated her nose, obviously surgically improved.
They kept walking behind the group, even if Rachel had no problem keeping up, unlike a bottle blonde woman who kept complaining to her better half.
Noah smiled at Rachel from behind his dark sunglasses.
“You need to pick names related to you, so you don’t forget your lies,” he whispered, loving the expression of awe she wore before grinning at him.
It was a real technique that he had learned long before his official training as an FBI agent, when he still used his abilities with the women he met while still in college. Apparently he was great with mnemonics, which was why he was also great at learning new languages. His mentor agent had been quite pleased and surprised that he was so good at picking up details and memorizing descriptions, but it all came with the practice of checking out girls and not making the mistake of confusing the two or three women he was seeing at the same time.
“I picked Natalie for Natalie Wood.” She grumbled when they encountered a particularly steep route. “I played Maria in a high school when we decided to perform West Side Story. She’s an icon.” She almost tripped over a rock but she held onto his backpack, forcing him to turn around quickly and take her by the arms.
They had already abandoned the group, deciding to do an expedition on their own. Well, he had chosen the route and Rachel, distracted with the chat, just followed him.
“Careful,” he admonished. The last thing he wanted was for her to get hurt now. He was not about to take care of her when they needed to proceed with their investigation.
She thanked him and straightened up, huffing a bit.
“So why Elijah?”
“My father,” he replied plainly, before taking long strides to get away from that nosy woman.
“You two are close?”
“Shut up,” he hissed, getting on her face, so close she had to take a step back. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Sorry,” she breathed out. “I’m sorry.”
They kept on climbing in silence and, as the stubborn man his mother had always told him he was, he refused to turn back. Noah had to give it to Rachel because, out of spite, he led them through the steepest paths he could see, which were less trodden, and she did not complain at all, even if it was becoming increasingly difficult, even for him.
One thing had always been clear for him: family was a sore subject. That meant he could boast about how smart his sister was and what a hard worker his mother had been all her life, even before marriage and the subsequent split with his good for nothing father. What he had never been able to do was speak about the problems, about how he had started to work at young age and that led him to a job akin to prostitution, similarity he could not see at the time. Apparently, according to the psychology courses he had taken, offering his services to clean pools and landscaping to end up sleeping with older women was based on the lack of affection (again, not something he could blame on his mother, since she was trying to put food on the table and make ends meet). He had abandonment issues that were only reinforced when every girl he wanted to get serious with only wanted to have fun with him, and ditched him whenever things got too real.
In reality, Rachel had not done anything that people generally didn’t. But he usually handled it better than just snapping and taking it out on her.
By the time he turned around to check on the little Broadway wonder, he did not meet the perfect looking petite wannabe actress but a girl sweating buckets and struggling to keep up. She was actually using her hands to stop herself from falling and her hair was stuck to her forehead.
Had he been a dick he would have laughed.
To patch things up though, and erase the deep crease between her eyebrows, he reached for her to help her and sit on the ground and have some water and maybe one of those cereal bars she kept in her backpack. It was then that he noticed she had scraped her knee and a trickle of blood had dried down her leg.
“Shit,” he muttered before rummaging through his much smaller backpack in search for a first-aid kit. “You should have told me.”
“And then what? You would have laughed at how clumsy I was and tell me to suck it up.”
Her sour mood was obvious to him. It was his fault after all.
“Well, your physical condition is lacking, sweetheart.”
The audible gasp she let out made him widen his eyes at her. She looked horrified by his words and absolutely humiliated. It was as if he had insulted her in some way when he was only pointing out an observation.
“I’ll have you known that I go no less than three, three times a week to the gym,” Rachel hissed, lifting her fingers for emphasis. “And my weight it’s perfectly normal while my body fat percentage is very low.”
Smiling, he gently cleaned her wound with some saline solution before sticking a band-aid to cover it.
“I’m not saying you don’t look good,” he clarified at which she gave him a cute little snort, turning her head; she was a huffy girl scout at the moment and he could not say he hated it. “Because, baby, you look fine.”
She shot him a shy glance, only to verify if he at least looked like he was being honest.
He chuckled and handed her a bottle of water. “But working out at the gym does not train you to be at more than seven thousands feet above sea level. The air is thinner and your resistance is tested.”
“And what? Have you climbed the Everest or something?” Snappy. He knew he had a problem when he pictured her clawing at his back. Just to be clear, he was not a fan of whips and chains.
Shrugging casually, he said, “I’ve thought about it but I don’t have time or money and it’s too much publicity for me.” Apparently his winsome grin did not work on his favor, but then he would have been pissed too if she had, let’s say, made him carry fifty pounds of crap wherever they went. Wait. She did.
It took them a few minutes of silence and drinking water before they could do anything else. It was rather frustrating that the next thing they did was talk. Again.
“You should have just told me it was a sore topic,” she mumbled surly. Rachel shook her head and then looked at him apologetically, softly placing a hand above his on the grass. “Talking about adoption and my birth mother is… difficult for me, as well. I’m sorry.”
The sight of her small yet dirty hand on his only made him nod in silence as he swallowed the lump in his throat.
He had read her file, of course. For the better part of the last week, Rachel had been the only thing he had been reading and thinking about, which meant he knew everything about the adoption and her birth mother. What he had no idea about was if Rachel even knew she was living in the same city as the woman or if she knew the name.
Setting his eyes on the horizon, he frowned. “I hope you can make it down on yourself from here because there’s no way in hell I want to be seen with the mess you are right now.”
With her tired and weak arms she shoved him to the side, both laughing at how much of a douche he sounded.
By the time they made it back to Aguas Calientes, it was late enough so their investigation would look too suspicious; they decided to look for a place to spend the night and go back to Cusco the next day.
Falling back into their roles of Elijah and Natalie, the adorable couple from Portland, Oregon, they searched for a hotel.
The only thing Rachel wanted was a nice warm bath and a comfy bed where to rest her exhausted body. So, of course, she let Noah do the talking because his Spanish was flawless and, in reality, she just did not feel like talking all that much when she wanted to put her head on a pillow or stuff herself with a huge veggie burger.
When the sight of an upscale hotel greeted her, she only stared before tugging on his backpack to make him stop.
“I’m not paying for this!” she hissed, afraid that stepping into the place would cost her enough to blow up her credit card limit. It wasn’t like she did not like luxury but with the money she made as a PI she couldn’t really live at large.
Noah chuckled. “Well, I am. My treat for being a good sport,” he quipped, punching her lightly in the arm but making her stumble to the side with just that little.
The glare he earned himself wasn’t free. It bothered her that while her feet were aching and swollen, while she stank and had greasy hair, he was as fresh as if he had only gone for a little walk.
While Noah spoke to the woman at the front desk, he quickly apologized for everything he said, looking at her and motioning to their backpacks. If Rachel was guessing correctly by his actions and tone, he was saying something along the lines of screwing up with his girlfriend and forgetting to make reservations for a romantic night together. The woman just looked at him shaking her head, probably telling him that they were completely booked but then Noah leaned over the desk and put his hands together in a pleading gesture. The woman tilted her head to the side, her mouth curling into the tiniest of smiles before sighing and nodding.
Noah turned around and waggled his brow.
She wanted to laugh at how juvenile he was but she only ducked her head and covered her mouth with a fist to hide her smile.
Soon they were led to an amazing suite, at least three times the size of her apartment back in New York. There was a fireplace with a fluffy couch right in front, some colorful handmade throws that called for her to wrap them around her.
“Cool, huh?” Noah had handed a few bills to the bellboy and was now unpacking some of his things; toiletries and a pair of clean underwear.
She just sat there in an armchair with the bag at her feet, too tired to move much. And so she rummaged through her bag looking for something that could serve as pajamas for the night while trying not to think too much about how he would look on those black boxer briefs Noah had pulled out of his bag.
“I’ll hit the shower quick and then leave the thing so you can take your sweet time cleaning the grime off,” he told her and walked into the huge bathroom.
He only laughed and closed the door.
As Noah took his shower, Rachel made a quick tour around the place. Everything was rustic but with style and combined with expensive looking details that made it a perfect place for a retreat. She liked it, except for one thing. There was a lovely California king bed that looked extremely comfortable but it was one bed, and as attractive as Noah could look parading around in his boxer briefs (she guessed he did that and was waiting to confirm it) she was not about to get into bed with him and give him the wrong idea.
She did not want to give up on the bed, though.
“Everything ready,” Noah called about twenty minutes later. And just like she had imagined, he was only wearing underwear, which was like torture. No man should have looked that good and confident while his complete anatomy was on display; seriously, those briefs were outlining everything she was not supposed to see. “I found some salts so I let the water run and mixed them up.” He smirked when she started to feel heat rising up her neck. “You okay?”
“Fine,” she squeaked and rolled her eyes when he turned around, letting her see his spectacularly defined back and hard as steel buttocks. “I’ll just, I, I’ll take a, uh, bath,” she stammered and dashed into the bathroom, hoping that being in different rooms could cool off her hormones.
She had had a boyfriend and lived with him for little over a year, but that had ended almost ten months before. He claimed things were going too fast and he couldn’t spend all his free time with her even if they were together because he had a life. The nerve! He clearly did not include her in his life, and so she decided to extricate him of hers.
For months she decided to mourn. All the time and effort had been an investment for her, but in return he couldn’t even give her his support whenever she went to auditions. He had never even offered her a cup of coffee when she worked until late at night doing research for her cases when she started as a PI. He actually complained about it and asked often why she did not make more money, or why she spent her whole day at home.
Since then she hadn’t dated or… well, nothing because she had been busy making ends meet. And it wasn’t like she was good at flirting, so whenever Kurt and his boyfriend invited her to go somewhere or threatened her to set her up with someone, she made up excuses or ended up having a disastrous time.
Sighing, she sank deeper under the warm water. It felt quite wonderful on her aching muscles and the smell was very relaxing.
What wasn’t as relaxing as the bath was the fact that she was about to share the bedroom with a stranger; a man she had known for a day and who had been lying about his work to her parents for years. Even worse, Noah was so attractive it almost hurt to look at him with those defined muscles and confident swagger. In just his underwear, he belonged to a billboard in New York, while she belonged to a hole in the ground in her oversized shirt that worked as pajamas.
Before making it out of the bathroom, she blow-dried her hair and knotted it in a ponytail.
“Feeling better?” Noah asked, without lifting his gaze from the cellphone he was checking and typing on.
She nervously crossed her legs and tugged on the hem of the shirt before folding her arms over her chest. “Yes. I feel human again.”
He looked at her, smirking. His gaze fell onto her legs and she nervously rubbed one foot over the other. She cleared her throat and scratched behind her ear.
Noah just hummed. “You take the bed. I’ll sleep on the couch.”
It was mildly disappointing that he did not even try to convince her into sharing a bed. Until that moment, nothing had led her to believe he thought of her as a repulsive or ugly woman. Who knew? Maybe he had some morals after all.
“Are you sure?” Rachel dared to ask. “The bed is big enough and we both are adults with developed self-control-“
“Save it, sweetheart.” He scoffed. “If I get into that bed with you, in less than two hours I’ll be trying to take a peek and see what that NYU tee is hiding underneath. And in a little more, I will try to get acquainted with N and U.”
Looking down at her shirt, she noticed those letters fell right over her breasts. She blushed furiously and wanted nothing more than to run into bed and hide.
“You’re disgusting. I’m just being nice and polite but you-“
“It’s bullshit!” He got up and grabbed a blanket. “I mean, sure. Boys and girls can be friends and that fuckery. But sharing a bed is… different.”
“Intimacy issues?” she smugly asked.
“No! Fuck no. I’m intimate with many-“
“But I don’t share my bed when I’m sleeping.” He pulled a gun from his bag and showed it to her. “Besides I’ll play bodyguard for my Jewish-American Princess. So let’s keep things professional.”
“Yeah,” he waggled his brow before snickering as he fluffed a pillow and laid it on the couch.
“Don’t call me that. It’s extremely rude,” she chastised him lightly as she pulled back the covers to get into bed.
“I’m Jewish, as well,” he replied flippantly.
“May I say you are hot?” Noah was already lying on his back on the couch, looking at the ceiling from what she could see.
She snorted a laugh. “Guess so,” Rachel said hesitantly. It was upsetting to see how he was disarming her defenses; he was such a charmer.
“’Cause I have a thing for original Jewish noses that it’s really weird but… damn!” His head popped up over the back of the couch, his eyes meeting her with that spark of mischief that made him look younger and carefree instead of the serious agent he should have been.
She did not reply and instead took a pillow and threw it at him, not going even close to his head; but he caught it and chuckled.
They turned off the lights and Rachel closed her eyes to finally sleep. Her eyelids felt so heavy, it was a wonder how she hadn’t fallen asleep in the bathtub.
“Good night, Princess.”
She smiled into the pillow; his voice was velvety and sweet, like a dark chocolate.