Here's finally the ending of 'Auggie's cheerleader'. I've written the final chapter as sort of an epilogue. I've had a few requests for a sequel, and I'm not completely closing the door on that option, but at the moment I don't really have any clear ideas for that story. Thanks to all of you that have followed this story! Reviews and alerts are great motivations and I really appreciate them. :o)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own anything, I just like to play with the characters. :o)
Three weeks after his return to the DPD Auggie was sitting in his office working on a decryption. It had been giving his team trouble for a while and he'd volunteered to check it out. At the moment there were no ops going on and most of the team were shutting down their computers and clearing their desks, eager to get home for the weekend. He listened to them chatting for a second, then he turned his attention back to the decryption, he was getting somewhere with it, but progress was slow and he had to focus hard to follow the flow of code on his refreshable Braille display. With the use of his eyes he would probably have cracked the code already. "Stop it Aug," he thought. "You're not going down that road."
In general the transition back to the DPD had gone smoother than he'd dared to hope for. Although the prospect of being chained to a desk for the rest of his career was sort of frustrating to him he realized that he should be grateful that he still had a job with the CIA. So far there had only been one incident that had felt like a slap in the face; a field officer had refused to work with him when he realized he was blind. No matter what Joan said it hadn't made a difference and he'd ended up handing the case over to one of the guys on his team. It had been a few days since the incident now, but it still stung and even Joan's reassurances hadn't helped. He'd been prepared for incidents like that, but when it happened it had still felt like a major blow to the face. He needed to speak to Annie about it, but she was in London on a mission. To his relief the Tech Ops team didn't seem to have any problems with having him as their boss. Auggie was a natural leader and he had always had the ability to gain the trust and respect of his subordinates almost immediately. Fortunately it didn't seem like being blind had changed that.
Late Friday afternoon Auggie was waiting for Annie to arrive, she was due back from her mission that evening. A while later Annie walked through the front doors at Langley. When she entered the DPD she passed Auggie's office on her way to drop the intel off at Joan's office. She couldn't help smiling at the sight of her best friend behind his computer. Earphones were covering his ears and his fingers switched between typing lightening fast and swiping across the Braille display beneath his keyboard. His brows were furrowed with concentration. Joan's voice pulled her out of her musings; "When you're done staring at Auggie I'd like to see you in my office." Annie quickly straightened her suit and walked purposefully into Joan's office, trying her best to hide the embarrassment of being called out on staring at her best friend.
After debriefing and dropping off her intel with Joan Annie headed for the Tech Ops office. As she slid the door to the office open Auggie pulled his headphones down to hang around his neck and swiveled his chair towards the door. He inhaled deeply and a big smile spread across his face.
"Miss Walker! You're back!"
"Yep! How's it hangin'? You up for a few beers at the Tavern tonight?"
"How 'bout beers and a pizza at my place? It's been a long week and I don't really feel like going out. Is that ok with you?"
"Sure! I'm actually tired from the flight and I'm still on London time, so just hangin' at your place sounds nice." Annie was tired, but she also had a feeling that Auggie needed to speak to her in private. It seemed like something was bugging him.
"It's a deal then. Give me 10 minutes and I'm ready to go."
"Sure, I'll go check my email and then we'll head out."
Auggie couldn't help smiling as he turned his attention back to the decryption. He'd missed Annie, even though they'd talked several times a day while she'd been in London. It wasn't the same as having her around, riding with her to work, her bringing him coffee, them having lunch together or hanging at the Tavern or Auggie's place after work. After a few minutes he realized he wasn't going to finish the decryption today anyway and saved his progress so far and shut down the program. He quickly pulled up his email and checked it before he logged off and powered down his computer. After retrieving his folded white cane from the desk drawer and locking his laser cane, his new favorite toy, away he made his way to Annie's desk.
"Ready to go?" he asked as he perched himself on the corner of her desk. He could hear her typing.
"Yeah, I'm ready. Just let my shut down the computer."
About an hour later they were comfortable on Auggie's couch, they were on their second round of beer and the pizza should arrive shortly. Auggie had changed from his office clothes into a pair of sweatpants and a worn Atari t-shirt and he'd loaned Annie a similar outfit. One of Annie's favorite things about Auggie was how she could just be herself around him, it had been that way since she first got to know him and she knew the feelings were mutual. Annie noticed that Auggie was a bit quieter than he normally was and she decided to cut to the chase.
"What's going on Aug? I've got a feeling something is bugging you."
"Not long after you left I got assigned to handle a rookie, Steve Jenkins, do you know him?"
"Nope. I've heard about him, but never met him. Didn't it go well?"
"Epic fail would be the best term. I met him at the initial mission briefing in the conference room. As soon as he realized I'm blind he told Joan to assign him to a different handler. He flat out refused to work with me."
"What did Joan say? I'm fairly sure she wouldn't let him get away with that, would she?"
"There was an argument and it wasn't pretty. Since the op was time sensitive and they didn't have the time to brief another officer Joan assigned him to Barber."
"What the 'f'? She actually accepted that he refused to work with you because you're blind? I can't believe Joan let him get away with it."
"She wasn't happy about it and I've talked with her about it. She claims that the only reason she backed down was the fact that we needed to get the mission rolling ASAP."
Auggie leaned forward and rested his forearms on his knees. He sighed heavily and bowed his head. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Auggie lifted his head and turned to face Annie. His eyes were red rimmed and his cheeks were wet. Annie didn't know what say; the Jenkins incident had obviously hit him hard. She simply pulled him in for a hug while she gathered her thoughts. Auggie was the one that broke the silence. He sat up and leaned back, pulling a hand through his hair. Then he spoke quietly; "When I returned to work I was aware that something like that would happen sooner or later, but it didn't make it any easier when it actually did. I'm not sure I should be doing this job. Jenkins is right you know; it's not like I can see the damn surveillance monitors and warn you guys if something happens."
"Aug, you know Stu or someone else on your team has that covered for you. It's not an issue. Every field officer I know that you've handled since you returned has expressed that they think you do a great job. Joan hired you because of your field experience, tech knowledge and because she believes in you. Don't forget she fought to keep you on. Joan wouldn't have done that if she didn't think you were capable of filling the position. This Jenkins guy is obviously an ignorant asshole. Don't let his ignorance get to you. You're a great handler and I trust you implicitly. Blind or sighted, you're one of the best officers the CIA has ever had. Don't forget that."
Auggie's mood had lifted slightly by the end of Annie's monologue. Even though he felt she might be going a bit overboard he knew she was right about most of it. He knew that Joan wouldn't have fought to keep him on if she didn't feel that he was capable of doing the job. He knew he needed to brace himself for more incidents like the one with Jenkins, it was bound to happen again and it was just something he had to deal with. Deep down he had to admit to himself that he would probably have reacted the same way if he'd been assigned to a blind handler a year ago, he really couldn't blame the guy for having his reservations.
Auggie also knew that he was still adjusting to his new situation. He still had a hard time accepting that he was now considered 'disabled' and that he would never see again. Life wasn't as bad as he'd expected when he woke up in the dark six months earlier, but things were still far from perfect and he knew it would take quite a while before he would be able to accept what had happened to him. Annie's words from their weekend in Virginia Beach a few months ago came to his mind; he was lucky to be alive. He realized that he couldn't let himself wallow in self-doubt and self-pity; he needed to try to make the best of the hand he'd been dealt. He owed that to the guys in his unit and their families.