Loud, angry shouts echo from the hall, and Jai and Mark join Annie at the window, where they all look down. They're on the third floor, and there are no fire escapes. Annie slides the window open and points down and to her left.
Mark lets out an epithet. "I guess it's the only way. The concrete ledge here should let us get to the drain pipe. I hope it's secure."
He holsters his weapon and is beginning to climb out when Annie stops him. "Wait."
Annie looks over to Jai, then to Auggie, silently pleading with her eyes. Jai picks up on her meaning, then holsters his own weapon and stalks over to the tech operative. Without preamble, he bends at the waist and lifts Auggie, fireman-style, across his shoulder.
The sudden movement startles Auggie, and he begins to protest. "No freakin' way, Jai!"
Annie quickly moves over to him, rounding Jai to come to Auggie's face that's now on level with hers. She wants to tell him everything's going to be fine and press reassuring kisses all over his face, but instead claps both of her hands onto his cheeks. "Auggie, be quiet. We have to climb down. It's the only way."
He still looks unconvinced, and Annie can feel her anger rising. "You listen to me, soldier. We need to get out of here. You hold onto Jai and keep your mouth shut. Do you understand?"
Even in the embarrassing pose he now finds himself in, Auggie can feel the determination and strength in her words, her touch. He nods and clenches his arms around Jai.
"About time," Jai says. "Mark, you go first, Annie next, then me and Auggie. Let's go."
Quickly, and with sure steps that belie his husky build, Mark climbs out the window and onto the ledge. Another round of gunfire outside the door hastens their movements, and Annie climbs out, placing her feet in the same spots she saw Mark use. The ledge ends a foot from the drainpipe, and with a deep breath, Annie reaches over to grab it. Braces a few feet apart hold the pipe to the wall, and she uses them as a ladder, quickly but assuredly stepping down.
Once she's down about half a story, she can hear Jai step out. She wants to look up, but can't. A niggle of fear runs through her as the "what ifs" run through her brain, but she pushes them away. She can see the ground coming closer, and once she's a few feet from the ground, she can feel Mark's hands at her waist. She lets him help her jump to the concrete below.
Only then does she allow herself to look up. Her respect and admiration for Jai Wilcox grows as she watches her fellow officer bring himself and Auggie to safety. Only half a story to go, and they'll be clear.
Then what she fears the most happens. She sees a dark-haired man in black lean out the window they just escaped from. As he looks down, their eyes meet, and Annie can see the evilness in his gaze. He raises his AK-47, aiming not for her, but for the two men that can't see him.
"No!" Annie yells as she pulls the Smith & Wesson out of her waistband, taking quick, but careful aim. She screams at Jai to watch out as her finger squeezes the trigger.
Half a second quicker, Annie's shot rings true, catching the man directly in the face, throwing his shot off the mark. He slumps half in, half out of the window.
"Jai, let's go!" Mark yells, moving up to the drain pipe to grab hold of the two men. A few seconds later, they're on the ground, and Auggie releases his grip. Jai bends over, breathing heavily from exertion.
"This way," Mark says, sprinting away and around the corner of the building.
They follow, Annie firmly gripping Auggie's hand. Down an alley to the end, she sees a black van waiting. Mark jumps into the driver's seat and Jai in the passenger, so Annie slides open the side door and pushes Auggie in. She jumps in herself and slides the door shut just as Mark floors the accelerator.
The back of the van is empty save boxes of equipment, so Annie slouches down on the floor, striving to catch her breath. Jai's voice echoes back to them, relaying their progress into HQ.
"Annie, did you get the bio-serum?" he shouts back to her.
"Yeah," Annie says, patting the small bulge of her inside pocket.
While he turns back and continues to talk to HQ, Annie looks over to Auggie. Reaching down in the dim light of the van's interior, she finds his hand and intertwines her fingers with his. She hears a metallic jingle, and lifting up her arm, she sees the handcuffs she'd attached on Auggie only a half hour ago.
Fishing the key out of her pocket, she releases him from the metal bracelet, letting it drop to the floor. Instinctively, she begins to rub at the reddened skin. "How'd you get free?" she whispers.
"Broke the pipe," Auggie says.
"But I thought Jai—"
"Came after," Auggie finishes for her. "He wanted to get me out then, but I refused."
"You should've gone with him," Annie says softly.
"And leave you to the same fate as that other woman?"
Annie shakes her head, not believing they're having the same argument again. "We're quite a pair, aren't we? I wonder why Joan hasn't fired us, as many protocol rules we break."
"Because you get the job done," Auggie says, "every time."
"We get the job done," Annie clarifies. "Couldn't do this without you."
"And without you, I'd still be behind that desk, pretending I don't want to be out in the field."
Annie giggles and nudges against his shoulder. "We're quite a team, huh? Like Lois Lane and Clark Kent."
Auggie shakes his head. "Nah. How about Bond and Moneypenny?"
"Moneypenny never left the office, so—"
"Umm, Peter Parker and Mary Jane?"
"Uh-uh. I don't have red hair."
Auggie sighs dramatically. "Okay, then, Daredevil and Elektra."
"That's so cheesy, I'm not even going to dignify it with a response."
"Okay, then, how about—"
Silencing him with a finger to his lips, she leans in close. "How about just Annie and Auggie?"
Moving her fingers away, Auggie reaches over and kisses her quick, catching the left side of her mouth with his.
As they move apart before their actions can be seen, Auggie leans in again to whisper in her ear, "I prefer Auggie and Annie, but we can talk about who gets top billing when we get home."
A/N (Beth): Thanks to everyone for reading and for the kind words. Don't know about Trish, but this challenge fic was very exciting for me to participate in. Hope we can do it again soon. And, with the end of this (unless Trish adds an epilogue), so ends Season 1-based fics from me. I'd wanted to clear all of my stories before Tuesday's premiere and start afresh. Thanks!
A/N (Trish): I had a ton of fun with this challenge too, and I love the way Beth's ended it. So, for now, no epilogue from me. Thanks to Beth for taking up the challenge and helping craft a fun, twist-filled story. I'd totally be up for another! Anyone else? :)
Leave us with some final thoughts. And thanks again for reading!