I feel like this week's episode covered a lot. So much happened in an hour I had trouble figuring out which way I wanted to take this episode. Is it me, or did they start this ep on possibly the weirdest note ever, what with Auggie's apparent "walk of shame" which was not covered at all in the rest of the hour (did I hallucinate that part? No, 'cuz it's still there on my DVR…).

I want to attribute that little waste of a scene on next week's episode, when they finally introduce his ex, because then I'll feel like it served a purpose to the plot. Not often do my English major skills cause me to get picky about TV show episode plots, but I had to call a big WTF on that one.

That initial rant aside, I thought it was a cute episode. At least cute with the Annie/Auggie moments, if you ignore the short Jai parts. XD

And, as usual, I really didn't have an idea going into this one, mostly because there were like a billion different angles I could have chosen to write this one, and it's a little like playing roulette in my mind where I'll pick something and roll with it. Clearly, I could use a new system… ;)

Spoilers for Houses of the Holy.

$4$

Sometimes I feel the fear of uncertainty stinging clear
And I can't help but ask myself how much I let the fear take the wheel and steer
It's driven me before, and it seems to have a vague, haunting mass appeal
But lately I'm beginnin' to find that I should be the one behind the wheel

- "Drive," by Incubus


They had been sitting there in comfortable silence for over fifteen minutes.

Not a particularly long period of silence- he had been subjected to worse, and the silence was sometimes calming- but he knew there was something bothering her, making the quiet less and less relaxing with every passing second.

"Normally I'd be more patient with you, but I'm pretty tired tonight so do you mind asking whatever is bouncing around in that pretty head of yours already?"

Maybe he sounded a little too antsy, maybe he should've left out that 'pretty' part- though no one needed to hear the way Jai Wilcox talked to her to know she was gorgeous- but he truly was beat after the last few nonstop days at work on Operation Goliath and was beyond waiting around for her to work up the nerve.

There was a heavy, guilty sigh, and he knew that whatever she wanted to ask wasn't going to be all that enjoyable for him. He heard her shift, sitting up in her seat and leaning closer to him from across the small wooden table. He heard an almost silent scrape as she picked up her glass- she was drinking rum and diet Coke tonight, stronger than her usual two Guinness- and drained it, apparently in need of some more liquid courage.

"Do you miss it?"

Wasn't that a sucker punch to the gut. He fell back against his own chair, stunned by her question. She almost never brought up his blindness, opting instead to let him discuss it on his own pace. He respected her so much more than everyone else for that simple fact, so to hear her ask him the one question that plagued him every damn day felt a lot like rubbing salt in a barely healed wound.

In short, nothing he needed after the last 32 hours of hell.

Even though every cell in his body wanted to get angry with her, maybe even storm out of the bar and call up that cute bartender, Alice, who really seemed to like him despite how he usually never stuck around afterward, he couldn't make himself leave. He spent all of his time getting to know Annie instead. He had to answer her.

"Every single day," he said bluntly, shoulders automatically squaring as his posture straightened. For a moment, he morphed back into the soldier he left back in the dust all those years ago. Anything to make this situation suck less.

"Really?" she said, sounding surprised. He knew he put up a tough front over everything, opting to joke about his disability rather than throw a pity party every day. That didn't explain why she would actually be surprised, though.

"I don't know, it looked like you haven't talked to them in a long time and I thought you would've contacted them earlier. I mean, I get that it was a former dark ops mission, but-"

"What?" he said sharply, cutting off her rambling. His shoulders tensed, the old fight-or-flight kicking in even though he physically wasn't in any danger. "What are you talking about?"

There was silence for a second, and then he heard her fidget, spinning her glass on the table. "Being a soldier?" she said, her voice uncertain and confused.

Stunned again. She kept doing this to him on a more and more regular basis. He groped for his bottle of beer, finding it and taking a heavy drink. "Sorry," he said, gruff. It was his fault for overreacting- though it might have helped if she hadn't been so vague in the first place. "I misunderstood you."

"You did?" she asked, and laughed, but it sounded more nervous and awkward than her real laugh- because he loved the sound of her real laugh. "Wh- wait, what did you think I was talking about?"

He was silent, and he looked down, towards the table. He couldn't see but he was confident that he wouldn't be able to meet her eye line at this point, anyway.

Just like earlier in the day, when she had suddenly busted out an impressive inspirational speech to kick his ass into gear, she connected the dots, reading his mind like it was the most natural thing in the world. "Oh, Auggie…"

Before he could bristle and overreact yet again- that sounded a lot like pity, and he wasn't going to put up with pity, even from Annie- her hand covered his on the table, soft skin transferring warmth and comfort. Two things he had learned to expect from her almost 24/7.

"I would never-" she stopped herself, fingers wrapping around his hand and squeezing reassuringly. "I wouldn't ask you about that. I'm not that tactless."

He chuckled, and quickly laced his fingers with hers, thumb making small circles on her hand. "Sorry," he apologized, leaning closer to the table and her. "Seeing my old Army buddies still out there fighting while I'm stuck behind a desk made me bitter, I guess."

Her grip on his hand tightened. There was a scrape, her chair's feet generating friction against the cobblestone path, and he felt as much as heard her stand up. He heard the fabric of her clothes stretch against her as she moved, and his only hint as to what was going on was her free hand catching his jaw. Then, her lips pressed against his, way too light and gentle for his liking. He would much rather kiss her for real.

Annie pulled back, and her close presence was sending his senses into overdrive, making focusing on anything but her very difficult. "You're the best tech ops agent the DPD will ever hope to have. You don't even need to see to be pretty freakin' amazing."

She kissed his forehead, just as teasing and soft as before, and he wanted to pull her close and show her the right way to do this. She pulled away and he heard her flop back in her chair, letting out a soft snort. "And this is the last pep talk you're getting from me, by the way. I'm starting to feel like a cheerleader."

He didn't know what she looked like- something that bugged him a lot more than he would ever let on- but he had this adorable image of what he guessed she looked like, all dolled up and holding pompoms.

That alone made him grin. "I feel like you wouldn't make a great cheerleader," he said diplomatically, trying his best not to laugh at her expense.

Luckily enough for him, she didn't take it personally and laughed along with him. Auggie wished he could listen to that sound all the time, whenever he was feeling crappy. "I was a horrible cheerleader," she agreed, tightening her grip a little more on their twined fingers. "I tried out for the junior varsity squad once, when we were in Florida my freshman year because my sister was like a co-captain or something and I wanted to impress her. Instead I wound up accidentally kicking the actual captain in the face."

"It's for the best," he said, smiling. "I'd rather hear another inspirational speech from you than receiving one of your pointy heels to my jaw."

She laughed again, and it was amazingly easy to forget all of the fear and regret Operation Goliath had caused when he listened to her. "I would hate to have to do that to you," Annie agreed, and he was sure her smile was as gorgeous as the rest of her.

They continued like this for the rest of the night, swapping cute anecdotes about their past and inhaling some of the tavern's quality booze. All the while, their fingers stayed laced together, holding on despite everything that happened. Despite everything that might happen in the future.

Because, despite it all, they were always going to be great together.

$4$

It took me about an hour and a half to finally figure out the "Do you miss it?" line, and from there everything sort of fell into place. I really didn't expect this oneshot to end this way, and I was especially careful to not repeat a lot from my past oneshots. It really is difficult after a while. XD

I make no promises, but I feel like half of these ep-oneshots take place once the episode is over, so I'm going to attempt to remedy that for next week, when we finally get to meet Auggie's old fling and see him in just a towel.

Proving that USA really does know what brings in the viewers. ;)