So, Christmas stories are almost required for anyone who is into any ship. Props to Beth-GeekChick for coming up with the same Idea for me at the same time I did. I love it when a plan comes together.
This meringue refers to the light fluffiness of this story. It also has another meaning.
Have yourself a merry little whatever. Peace on earth to us all!
The DPD was a riot of color. The unofficial Holiday party was in full swing. Joan pretended not to notice everyone walking around with red cups. She also ignored the Santa hats of varying variety on heads that should be filled with spy business. Joan would have ignored the Christmas music blaring from computers had it all been in unison. As it was the cacophony of sound was too much. She finally walked around turning off speakers.
"I can stand a little background music, but really? Must everyone play something different? At least come to a consensus."
At that the remaining computers at once all began to play the same song. No one had to ask. Auggie had solved their problem for them, again. The party re-commenced.
Annie stopped dead at the door, blinking in shock at the scene. She had just come back from a 6 days of hell in Istanbul that should have taken 3 days. She had hoped since the CIA no longer needed to draw out Mercer, she would get assignments that would go smoother. For a while, that had seemed the case. But this last one was a killer. No one had told her about this party. Usually Auggie clued her in better than this.
She drank in the sights. CIA or not, it was a typical office party. Desks were decorated. Women were wearing sweaters that sparkled and men were wearing ties with Santa's and holly. Clearly this had been going on a while. The atmosphere was pretty loose. She smiled at the Mistletoe fueled embraces. The riot of Holiday color was almost overwhelming. Except for one glaring exception.
As usual, her eyes immediately sought out Auggie. She used to tell herself it was for clues as to what was happening. He had been her personal guidepost through her time here. Lately, she found herself just looking at him for the sheer pleasure of it. On the long quiet waits for an agent, he was the voice in her ear, keeping her grounded and secure. Her change toward him had been gradual. At first, she tried to deny it to herself. He was a good friend and colleague she would scold herself. Her heart began to laugh softly at those words. Lately, she stopped even saying it and let her heart smack her head around. Somehow, she had fallen for the guy. It was crazy. He was a ladies' man and never even perceived her that way. Fighting her urges around him had become a full time job for her head.
In the barrage of silver, gold, red, green and the occasional Chanukah Blue, his black and grey stood out. He was sitting in the middle of a group of women who were all insisting that he was under Mistletoe and needed to kiss them all. He had a big smile on his face. He took none of it seriously, she could tell. Cataloguing his smiles and expressions had become a hobby for her heart. Gradually, the somber colors he wore were brightened by the lipstick smudges on his cheek. A few brave souls aimed for his lips, but he unerringly turned each time. While she wanted to kill all those women, she was glad to see none had captured his lips.
She tip toed over to the group, placing her finger over her lips in a gesture of silence. The women all got it and watched as she leaned over to kiss his cheek. A gasp arose as he turned his head at the last moment and kissed her full on the lips. The kiss only lasted a brief moment. It was a collage of soft lips, firm pressure and a slight hum of satisfaction. It liquefied her knees nonetheless. His smirk was arrested on his face. He looked a little dazed too. The women all exchanged knowing glances and melted away. Auggie had made his choice. They were all clearly placeholders.
When she was able to recover, Annie saw they were alone. She leaned against the desk next to him. He tried to regain his composure, and smiled finally.
"Ok, I'll bite. !2 women around you, kissing you on the cheek. Did you know it was me? How? Don't even tell me my cologne. I put that on 14 hours and a continent ago."
"Oh Annie, of course I knew it was you. And yes, that perfume is still unique around here."
He didn't tell her he found himself sniffing the air several times a day surreptitiously looking for it and her. He didn't tell her the kiss almost knocked him over too. He originally thought kissing her on the lips would break up the cadre of women attacking him. Their collective scents were making him a little nauseous. He didn't tell her that he thought he could just kiss his best friend on the lips and it would be just fine. He underestimated again her effect on him. It had taken all his years of self discipline and training not to pull her into his arms and thoroughly kiss her. He forced himself to calm his breathing and keep it light. Annie was not interested him in that way. She was still nursing a broken heart.
"One day I will wear something really obnoxious and fool you."
They smiled a moment, each trying to regain momentarily lost equilibrium. Annie looked around at the slightly controlled mayhem around them.
"I thought we were a government agency and not allowed to do this?"
"Yeah, the infamous Scrooge memo? We get it every year. Sometimes it even arrives before January 13th. We are not having a party. This isn't happening. Joan sees nothing. As long as no one runs with scissors or gets seriously hurt, and everyone has ride home, it isn't happening."
"I get it. What I don't get is you."
"You're going to have to narrow this down a little."
"So, I understand your whole grey, black white color palette you have going on here. It makes sense, given the fashion crimes a blind man could commit. Hell, Jason is committing a whole slew of them and he has 20/20 vision."
Let's just say a red satin jacket trimmed in fur embroidered with "I'm your gift", with a bright green 4 foot light up tie and blinking Christmas tree hat looks good on NO ONE. And when you are Jason, well, maybe less should be more"
Auggie laughed at Annie's vivid description. She always managed to bring to his mind the pictures of what he couldn't see. It wasn't done in drippy detail. It was the essence that she captured. It was one of the many reasons he was in….whoa, stop there Augie, he thought. She sees you as a buddy. Don't do that. Then she touched him.
"Auggie, so the only color on you now is some really questionable shades of lipstick smeared on your cheek. Hold still; let me get the rest of it off you. Wow. Not only is this shade of bright fuscia hideous on Gretchen Warner, it's even worse on you. Does this woman not have a friend to take her makeup shopping?"
She held his face in her hand and began wiping the lipstick off with tissues purloined from the nearest desk. He stood still, a small smirk on his face. He usually hated people doing things like this for him. But Annie's touch was heaven and hell, so he permitted the service. He wanted nothing more than to turn his cheek into her hands and nuzzle them like a dog. Pathetic, he chastised himself, just pathetic.
The slight scrape of his five o'clock shadow abraded her hands deliciously. She tried not to imagine how wonderful it would feel against her own cheek or other interesting body parts. She allowed her hands to drift ever so slightly to his ears and brush an imaginary crumb away from his broad shoulders. Stop it Annie, this was the way to madness. Auggie doesn't think of you like that.
The moment was broken by a loud bark of laughter a few feet away. They each startled a bit and held themselves a little apart. Theirs had always been a tactile relationship. So much had to be said via a small touch when your best friend couldn't read your eyes. Lately, Annie was a little glad of that. She knew he was too astute to not see what her eyes would tell him.
"Anyway, my question is why no holiday color, save the really bad make up smears. Surely you could allow yourself a hat or something? For heaven sake, even Jai has one of those hideous ties with the huge knots in a festive motif. Oh my God, Auggie, I just realized the pattern is teensy little elves on a navy blue background. The man has the weirdest taste."
"Yeah, I know the black looks a little funereal but the first year I was blind, I wore one of the sweaters my mom always sent for Christmas. Apparently I went a whole day before someone told me it had MRS Claus on it holding a tray of cookies. I got sent the sweater meant for my Aunt Gloria. I decided then and there not to try the theme clothing again. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. It was a hard blow to my new found and fragile sense of independence. "
"Oh Auggie, really I am not laughing at you, ok yes I am. But really? Mrs. Claus? Why would your mother think that ANYONE, male or female would want to wear that?"
"Because the ugly Christmas sweater gift exchange has been a tradition with my mother and aunts for years. It took a united revolt on the part of my brothers and cousins and I to get out of it."
Annie leaned into him and bumped his shoulder with hers. It was a move she had done a thousand times before, but in light of that kiss, it seemed like a spark flew from her arm to his. They both inhaled sharply. She tried to ignore the tingling that went down her spine at the innocent touch.
"Well, as it happens, I am wearing a red sweater, so I guess I am ok then. There is nothing like stumbling into a Christmas party looking like a Scrooge. And yes, Auggie, I am looking at you. So what's in the red cups?"
Auggie smiled a little at the babbling tone to her voice. He had heard her gasp at their touch. It was nice to know she was effected too. This was a subject he would revisit, but not in the middle of a party in the DPD.
"The red cups, officially hold glasses of water or juice. Unofficially, it's a Christmas punch made with heated cider and enough rum to float a small fleet. Usually someone decides to spice it up a little and adds some other liquor. Anything from Gin to Vodka to the occasional pint of moonshine. If you're smart, you will avoid it at all costs. I carry a cup and fill it with water. By the end of some of these parties, sometimes I am the only one qualified to drive."
Annie laughed at the image he painted. She looked around. The crowd was getting happier. It looked like a fun night, but she was really too tired for any of it. The conga line singing the 12 days of Christmas decided for her. She was done.
"Auggie, I wish I had more energy for this, but I think I am going to have to bail. This was too long a mission for me to put on my happy holiday face, ya know?"
"I understand. I am willing to bribe with a little bit of heaven for a ride home. The car service I normally use is swamped."
"A little bit of heaven? Do I want to know? Either way, of course I will give you a ride. Let me check in with Joan really fast and I will meet you in your office?"
Within 10 minutes they were sitting almost shoulder to shoulder in Annie's little car. It was a feeling of quiet coziness they each appreciated. After the madness of the party, the easy calm was a welcome relief. As they pulled up to Auggie's building and she put the car into park, he turned to her and smiled.
"So, I promised a little bit of heaven and it's in my apartment. Are you tired to come up for a minute?"
"I am intrigued. But fair warning, if I get too comfortable, I may crash on your sofa."
"Fair enough. Bring your bag up. Do you have to call your sister?"
"Actually, I never even got a chance to tell her I was back in the states. I spoke to her before my flight. I wasn't sure I was even getting on one, so I told her to expect me in another day."
"Ok then. Come on up. I promise it will be worth it."
"Is that what you say to all the girls? Smooth line, Anderson!"
Their flirty teasing banter seemed so normal to Annie. She tried so hard to keep it light. If he only knew how much she would love to really spend the night with Auggie, it would make things weird. He didn't see her that way. If she were the type to sit on Santa's knee, she knew what would top her list. So, she smiled and joked and tried to hide her heart.
Auggie was very proud that he invited her to stay in his apartment without sounding desperate, needy or begging. What he wouldn't give to have Annie really stay with him tonight. Having her one room away at night would be heaven and hell. But she didn't see him that way. He kept his smile wide, and his heart guarded.
Up in his apartment, Auggie opened a plastic container with slightly pinkish white confections. They smelled minty.
"Close your eyes and open your mouth"
"Seriously? You want me to have my eyes closed? The blind feeding the blind?"
"Har Har. Just do it."
She couldn't say no to him. She complied and a sweet, minty confection began to melt on her tongue. She closed her mouth and hummed as it dissolved in her mouth.
"Oh my God, what is that?"
He smiled at her tone. He wished again he could see her face at moments like this.
"Hells yes. These could be seriously addictive. Come on, give. What's the deal?"
"You know Mrs. Donovan in Human Resources? Well she makes these every year. They are homemade meringue kisses. She makes them in Chocolate Chip and Peppermint. She knows I love them and makes me a personal batch every year. I keep her kids laptops virus free and working for her. I think I am getting the better end of the deal."
"Oh My God! Chocolate Chip?"
"Ok, close your eyes again"
"How would you know?'
She again complied and was rewarded with a little piece of heaven. He wasn't kidding. These were amazing. They were light and delicious. They should be too sweet but were just perfect. She could overdose on these easily.
"I love the chocolate chip, but the peppermint ones are what breath mints should feel like, but don't. I would love these year round. Can you imagine kissing someone who has just eaten one?"
As the words left his mouth, he cursed himself. What the hell was he doing discussing kissing with Annie? She was going to run for sure now. She surprised him yet again.
Maybe it was because she was overtired. Maybe it was because she was hungry and had only eaten pure sugar and was little hyper and giddy. Maybe it was the scent of his cologne. Maybe it was his cheeky smile. Maybe it was because she was secretly in love with him and horny as hell. Probably it was all of the above.
"Ooo, an experiment! If we each eat a different one would it taste like chocolate chip mint ice cream?"
His head shot up at her words. Those expressive sightless eyes widened. A small smile played at the corners of his mouth. Yeah, she had shocked him. He was always so in control. It was kind of fun to throw him off. The smile widened.
"Ok, science gal, you're on!"
They each popped a meringue kiss in their mouths. Annie ate a peppermint one and Auggie had a chocolate one. They each savored the flavor and then awkwardly stood for a moment. Finally, Auggie took a deep breath and slid his arms around Annie pulling her up close to him. For a heartbeat, Annie thought it was amazing he knew exactly where she was. Then his lips were on hers and she forgot how to think.
At first, his lips sort of teased and tasted hers. Then his tongue first asked permission and then once that was granted, stormed in. The mix of peppermint in her mouth and chocolate in his was secondary to the taste of each other. Their arms twined around the other's body. They couldn't get close enough. What had become a playful experiment with a Christmas confection had rapidly morphed into a passionate embrace. When air overcame their need for each other, they pulled back.
Their lungs pulled in air in gasping gulps. Neither was sure if it was due to the lack of oxygen or the kiss. Neither one cared. Time hung in suspense for a long moment.
The gasped question was followed up by slight nipping kisses along his strong jaw line. She hummed without awareness as her hands wound up through his soft brown hair. She pulled him closer. It was crazy, but she couldn't get close enough. The tiny bit of sanity left questioned him and herself. The rest of Annie didn't care. She was wrapped in his arms in his apartment.
Auggie was stunned. Having Annie here, in his arms, kissing him like this was the stuff of his dreams. He was terrified and elated. He wanted to give her the chance to pull back, but his arms refused to listen to his brain. He answered her question with one of his own.
"Annie? Are you sure? Because…I, well, I am."
She pulled back and forced herself to look at his face. He was looking toward her, his heart in his eyes. It was ironic that the windows to his soul were the only part of him that didn't work. But he looked a little nervous. It was sweet, endearing and all Auggie. She laid her head against those surprisingly wide shoulders.
"You promised me a little piece of heaven. If you only meant cookies, ok. But if you mean something else too? Hells, yes!"
This little oversized one-shot has a story of its own. I am actually the lady who makes these every year. I can't make those cookies like everyone else. I tried to make the ones with the gun? They came out like weaponry.
The other portion of this story is that I have made these for years for a dear friend's sons. Each liked a different flavor. One of those young men, a 24 year old volunteer firefighter lost his battle with cancer this year. I am still making them for his family. So, this year, when the petty crap starts to overtake the true meaning of the season, remember to be grateful to have family who loves you enough to drive you crazy.
"God Bless us, everyone."