Concealer and Clubhouses
Annie stood in the ladies room, staring at her reflection in the mirror over the sinks critically. The Russian assassin had really done a number on her earlier that evening; she had a truly impressive ring of hand shaped bruises around her neck forming. Bruises that her v-neck shirt most definitely was not going to hide from her highly inquisitive sister. The bruises had started out as a mellow reddening of the skin that easily could have just been a flush, but were now starting to color in with various shades of purple, black and blue. Annie sighed and leaned her aching body against the counter for a moment to consider her options.
She didn't have any concealer with her, which meant she would have to stop on her way home to buy some. Which also meant she'd have to tolerate the curious and pitying stares of complete strangers who would see the state her neck was in. Resigning herself to that fate, she bent to wash her hands free of the finger food remnants from the small awards party. As she did so, the bathroom door swung open and in the mirror she saw the familiar countenance of her co-worker, Auggie.
"Well damn…perfume again. That's twice in one day," the blind tech commented, utterly unconcerned.
Annie snorted as she finished washing her hands and moved over to the automatic towel dispenser mounted on the wall while speaking.
"Is this turning into our own little clubhouse, Auggie?"
He grinned widely at her, "I always wanted a clubhouse," he enthused, "but I think the other ladies may take offense."
"Or rather, the other boys would get jealous," Annie pointed out while tossing her used paper towel in the trash.
"It's certainly possible," he admitted, still smiling. His expression changed however, growing serious. "I heard that you got knocked around quite a bit. You okay?"
"Oh I'm fine, but I've got some pretty magnificent bruises. Looks like I'm going to have to start buying concealer in bulk."
Auggie came closer to where she was standing by the sinks, "Well hopefully the rest of your time here won't be as…exceptional. Where's the worst bruising?"
"My neck. That Muscovite came close to choking me to death before that agent shot him," she answered trailing off as she once again, in her mind's eye, saw Ben stepping off the platform onto the train, tucking the gun he'd used to kill her attacker back into his jacket.
"May I?" Auggie asked, holding up his hands.
Annie shrugged, "Sure," she took his hands and guided them to her neck making sure to be gentle when placing them there. Auggie made a soft sound of concern as his cool, dry hands ever so carefully traced the lines of her neck. He could feel the extreme heat under Annie's skin, almost feverish where the bruises were still forming.
"Those are quite nasty," he said as he traced the tips of his fingers over the entire extent of the bruising, from the base of her neck all the way up to the bottom of her jaw where he paused, "Fell free to refuse if it makes you uncomfortable, but would you mind if I feel what you look like?"
Annie blinked in surprise; she knew of course that to "see" what a person looked like the blind explored with their fingers. However, she hadn't even considered him doing that to her.
"Go ahead," she answered, confident. She honestly was more than a little pleased he'd asked. She enjoyed the tech's company and his dry sense of humor immensely; she liked the idea of getting to know him better and vice versa.
At her consent, Auggie ghosted his fingertips from the back of her jaw forward to her chin tracing the bone and the line it formed. From there, he went up, mapping out her lips, nose and cheeks. Annie watched him, fascinated by the look of intense focus and concentration that she'd only thus far seen him wear while working at his computers. He was silent, eyes staring blankly ahead while his fingers did the seeing for him. When those gentle fingers reached her eyes, she closed them out of reflex. He swept his thumbs over them, brushing through her eyelashes. The sensation was heightened with her eyes closed, she imagined she could almost distinguish every cell that he touched and realized how intimate this really was.
Honestly, the last man who'd touched her like this…she pushed that thought away, strangely uncomfortable with thinking of Ben when she was like this with Auggie. Instead, she merely relaxed into the sensation of being ever so carefully explored by someone she was starting to genuinely trust.
Auggie finished by running his fingers through her hair, feeling its weight and texture before pulling back. "My initial assessment has been proven true," he said smiling softly at her, "you're beautiful."
Annie, normally confident and bold around men found herself blushing red at his honest and heartfelt compliment.
"Thanks," she replied.
"Now," he said much louder, changing the atmosphere of the small room completely, "We need to do something about those bruises…"
He moved purposefully across the room to the wall opposite the door which was bare except for one of those built in old stainless steel paper towel dispensers that had obviously been abandoned in favor of the new automatic model. Auggie however, headed straight for it. He raised a hand, feeling for it along the wall; once he found it he gave the locked top part where the towels are usually stacked inside so that one can draw the towels from the bottom and gave the locked door a solid thump. The door sprang open and Annie walked over to have a look.
What she found surprised her: inside the dispenser was a narrow plastic basket full of make-up supplies, including a full range of concealers.
"The women here share a certain unique kind of camaraderie, being in the minority," Auggie explained, stepping aside so she could peruse the contents of the makeshift locker. "A few of them on our floor started up this little stash after some rough cases a few years ago. It's a joint project to keep it well stocked for instances just like this."
Annie felt…well, she wasn't sure what the word for it was, but she'd felt it earlier that day, in this very bathroom, with this same man as he had murmured a handful of treasured words to her ("…you're doing it well…"). A wonderfully comforting feeling, something that comes to you when you realize that your troubles aren't so bad because you're not alone.
Annie took a shuddering breath and picked out a bottle of concealer that matched her skin tone. "This is really…smart," she said, stumbling over the adjective and then laughing at herself.
"It can never be said that the women here aren't practical. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's in your job requirements," Auggie quipped, chuckling. Annie smiled at that, opening the bottle and dabbing some on her fingers. It was quality product she noticed, and she made a mental note of the brand so she could replace it later. As it was, she was probably going to use half of this bottle.
"Good to know," she answered, "I was at a loss as to how to explain the bruises to my sister Danielle. Can't imagine many interactions with an international assassin while working at the Smithsonian, tonight being the exception of course."
"Your cover is the Smithsonian?" Auggie asked, surprised.
She glanced at him in the mirror, "Yea."
"So's mine," he said, his grin returning to grace his features.
"It is? What do you supposedly do there?"
He smirked at her, "My official title is Cultural Liaison. Supposedly, I'm the person that negotiates the terms of exhibits on loan from other museums around the world."
"Oh," Annie said, mentally summoning a picture of Auggie comfortably situated in a plush office full of priceless and interesting artifacts, effortlessly charming the pants off other museum representatives. She snorted, "You'd be good at that."
"Probably," he acknowledged, "And it certainly makes for better dinner conversation than talking about a division of the CIA no one's ever heard of, or god forbid, my time in NCS*."
"Yea, I know what you mean. My sister asks be how work is going and all I can do with stare at her blankly," Annie admitted ruefully, as she flipped her hair over her shoulder to get it out of her way. However, it only slithered back over said shoulder. Annoyed, she looked about for something to hold up her hair while she worked, and spied a slim pen sticking out of Auggie's pant's pocket. She darted forward and nicked it from him.
He started at her movement that he could only hear, and then jumped at the feel of her nimble fingers taking his pen.
"Just borrowing it," she said cheekily, while using it to pin up her hair out of the way. She went back to covering her bruises, having a little over half done.
"Just make sure I get that back," he grumbled good naturedly.
"Why do you have one?" she asked, curious.
He grinned roguishly at her, "Never know when a damsel in distress might need one."
"Do I qualify as a damsel in distress?"
"Considering you stole the pen rather than waiting for it to be offered? No Annie, You undoubtedly qualify as capable."
She felt that rising flush once more at his praise, and felt for a moment like a grade schooler who had just earned the approval of a favorite teacher. She wasn't sure what to make of the affect his compliments had on her, but she glowed at them nonetheless.
"Thanks, Auggie," she said just as sincerely as he had delivered the praise. She returned once more to fixing her bruises, working on layering and then blending the make-up over the discolorations.
"James McNeill Whistler," Auggie said after a long pause of silence.
"Who?" she asked.
"He was an American born, but British based painter in the late 1800s. The Smithsonian's Freer Gallery currently has a special exhibit on him and his art work that closes in a little less than two weeks, on the 25th," Auggie shrugged," Something to talk about with your sister?"
Annie again blinked at him in total surprise, "Why do you know that? Where did you learn that?"
He smirked at her, "Dinner conversation, remember?"
"You do research for your cover?"
"Sure. And so should you. There's tons of exhibits on-going at the Smithsonian. Half a hour online and you'll be able to talk your sister's ears off."
"That's good advice," she replied, putting the last touches on her make-up and returning the bottle to the towel dispenser turned locker and closed the door.
"Why yes it is, thank you for noticing."
Annie's comeback was interrupted by the bathroom door swinging open to admit one of the data analysts from the DPD that Annie hadn't met yet.
"Auggie!" she yelped in surprise, "What are you doing in the ladies room?"
"Being lost, I'm afraid," Auggie answered without missing a beat and flashing his charming smile at the brunette analyst, who came into the bathroom with an uncertain look on her face.
Annie stepped in smoothly, brushing the back of her hand against Auggie's so he could easily take her elbow. "I'll take you out, Auggie," Annie volunteered cheerfully.
"Why thank you, Annie," Auggie replied equally as cheerful. The pair sauntered from the bathroom, matching grins on their faces.
"Auggie," Annie began as they walked down hall back towards the DPD offices, "I have the feeling this is the start of a beautiful friendship."
Auggie chuckled," I should hope so, Annie. We have a clubhouse and everything, after all."
"We need a secret handshake then. Can't have a clubhouse without a secret handshake."
"Well of course, we're CIA, secret handshakes are in the orientation guide."
"Really? I missed that chapter."
They teased and bantered back and forth all the way down the hall.
A beautiful friendship, indeed.
A/N: Okay, so this is getting more than a little ridiculous. Do you know what I'm supposed to be doing right now? I'm supposed to be doing research for my final term paper on the NATO humanitarian intervention in Kosovo in 1999 and the legal ramifications for international law caused by that intervention which acted without the consent of the U.N. Security Council. That's what I'm supposed to be doing. But no. I'm here posting this because the stupid little plot bunny won't stop gnawing on my ankles until I do. Gods I'm such an idiot.
Well, it's not my best work, it's actually the result of another single sitting and a caffine high. I hope you guys enjoyed it anyways. :)
As before, a big thank you to everyone else who has written in this category. You guys are my inspiration. Really.
*NCS stands for National Clandestine Service, which is a sort of independent organization within the CIA that is responsible for all clandestine operations that happen in the U.S. intelligence community. Auggie, in the pilot episode, says that he was Special Ops in Iraq when he was blinded; he also says later in the same episode that he could still see when he first started working at the CIA. So, I did a best guess and wrote him as working for one of the NCS's Paramilitary Special Operations groups who do everything from on-the-ground intelligence gathering to psychological operations. I'm probably wrong, but oh well. :)