AN: So I totally love one of the art pieces on the wall of Auggie's apartment, and while rewatching Comm BD this morning I finally got a good enough look at it to realize what it said, and instantly this story came to me.
The Writing on the Wall
Annie closed the apartment door behind her, and turned back in time to watch Auggie walk his way around the counter toward his bedroom. "Thanks for giving me a ride home to change," he said when he paused in the doorway.
"How could I not? You looked so miserable," she said teasingly. She could still clearly picture Auggie's stunned face as he sat in his desk chair, cola soaking through his jeans. And then, of course, the stream of irritated cursing he'd aimed at the owner of the soda can.
"Yeah well Barber is banned from ever entering my office again. Ever. He's just lucky none of the equipment fried." He grimaced and drummed his knuckles against the doorframe. "I'll hurry and then we can hit the Tavern." When Annie made a short affirmative noise, he disappeared into his bedroom. Seconds later she could hear the shuffling sounds of him wandering through his closet.
Curious, Annie peered around the apartment. She'd been there a few times already, but never under any situation when she'd been inclined to really stop and admire it. Everything was perfectly arranged and coordinated, with matching colors and shapes all the way down to the appliances and dishes on the countertops. She briefly wondered whether the place had looked like this before Iraq, or if he'd had it redecorated since.
There wasn't a lot of decoration, but what he had was eye-catching and bold. Next to the front door she saw what looked like something that would normally be found inside a computer, painted white. Brushing her hands over it, she decided it was the sort of art Auggie could appreciate; something he could feel. After all, it wasn't like a flat canvas would serve any purpose to him. Not to mention the tech nerd in him must love the idea of having a motherboard on his walls, or whatever piece of technology it was.
Turning around, she saw another, larger mural hanging beside the kitchen. It was also white, and the surface was covered in raised bumps. Braille. She smiled as she examined them, recognizing a pattern well enough to tell that it was the same line, printed twice. A soft smile, torn somewhere between appreciation and sadness, touched her lips as she stared up at the domes and wondered what word she was seeing.
"Okay, sorry, I'm ready to go now," Auggie announced, coming around the corner into the kitchen, still fastening the buttons of his vest. He hesitated when she didn't answer. "Annie?"
"I'm here," she said and he faced her direction. "What does this say?"
Auggie smirked as he crossed the rest of the distance to her. "Let me just put on my reading glasses," he said sarcastically.
Annie bit back a small laugh and shook her head. "No, I was just looking at this painting," she said.
A grin curved across Auggie's cheeks. "Oh, right, the Times New Braille, 4000 point font," he said jokingly. "The manufacturers didn't figure that it's a lot harder to read it when the letters are as long as your arm."
"So does that mean you don't know what it says?" Annie asked, raising a challenging eyebrow even though it was wasted on him.
"Of course I do," Auggie replied, turning around and leaning his back against the mural. He just continued to smirk at her, folding his arms over his chest.
"You're not going to tell me, are you?"
"Of course not," he said simply. "You'll never learn anything that way."
Annie wanted to argue that she really had no point for learning Braille, but she bit the words back before they could leave her tongue. After all, there was probably a time when Auggie had thought he had no reason to ever learn it either. Normally he was really relaxed about the subject, but she still wasn't sure how he'd react to her comment and didn't want to risk it. "So are you going to teach me then?" she asked curiously.
In response, Auggie's fingers found her shoulder and he moved around to stand directly behind her. With his right hand still on her shoulder, he held his left hand out in front of her, palm up. She tentatively laid her hand on top of his. "'Kay, lead my hand to the first letter," he said calmly. "Left to right, just like reading a book."
Annie nodded and took a step forward, Auggie following her motion a half-second later, and then she placed her palm on the highest dot of the first letter. "Get a feel for the letter," he directed and put the slightest pressure on the back of her hand. Annie followed the hint and ran her hand down the length of the three dots, feeling the rise and fall beneath her palm. "Three dots in a straight row," Auggie said. "That's the letter L. Next?"
Taking a step to the side, Annie reached their arms up again and this time traced the zigzag pattern of the dots. She distantly wondered if, with his chest pressed so closely to her back, Auggie could feel the way her heart was racing inside her ribs. She hoped not because she wasn't even quite sure why it was happening. "This pattern, with one on the top left, one on the middle right, and one on the bottom left, this is an O," he said. If he noticed the tension building in her body, he wasn't commenting on it.
They moved on to the third letter, and Annie regarded it curiously. "Shouldn't this one be an L?" she asked in confusion. The four dot pattern looked just like a capital L. Auggie laughed quietly in her ear and shook his head. Lifting her hand himself this time, he brushed their fingers down the line of bumps.
"That would probably make sense, but no," he corrected. "This is actually a V."
Annie made a small noise of understanding, trying not to be distracted as Auggie's other hand slipped from her shoulder down to rest more comfortably on her upper arm. The both of them took a sidestep, and Auggie took the lead again as he moved their hands to follow the final two dots. "And this one, this is an E," he finished.
Struggling to straighten out her scrambled brain, Annie reminded herself what they were doing. Right, the letters. She'd been so sidetracked that she hadn't been paying attention to what word they were spelling. L-O-V… Her breath left her in a quiet gasp. "Love," she murmured. Pulling her hand from Auggie's, she twisted around to face him. He was hardly inches away from her, and there was something withdrawn, almost hesitant, in his normally confident gaze. "It says Love," she concluded.
Auggie grinned. "Right in one, Annie Walker," he said. "Told you you could figure it out." She watched his eyes flick around for a moment, and then he straightened up. "Of course, it does help to have an amazing teacher," he added with a smirk.
"Don't be modest, really," Annie joked. He just kept grinning as he wound his way back to the counter, hunting down his cane and cell phone. Pensively, Annie turned around again and looked up at the wall. It seemed so strange, the meaning of those twelve dots. To her, all she could see was a row of bumps. But to Auggie, to him it was something so much more. She smiled as she ran a hand over one of the white domes gently. It didn't look at all like she expected, unlike anything she had ever known and in a league all of its own, but that didn't change the fact that it still meant Love.
"You ready to go?" Auggie asked curiously. She looked at her best friend, with his warm eyes and playful smile and dependable comfort, and grinned.
"Of course," she agreed, walking over and slipping her arm through his.
Because she might not have seen it at first glance, and maybe it would take a little more learning and investigation to really be sure, but that didn't mean that it wasn't still Love she was looking at.