I started experimenting with a new type of writing in this chapter, particularly in relation to how I write 'flashback' scenes. I don't particularly enjoy separating them from what's going on unless absolutely necessary, and I absolutely hate italicizing whole pages of a scene—it hurts my eyes when I read it after a while, but that's just me. So I tried integrating flashbacks into the writing, as I've seen from a number of my favorite authors. Let me know if you think it works, or, alternately, doesn't. I don't want to make this more confusing than necessary. This is only smut, after all. XD
Hey, Love, live it up
'Cuz I'm getting closer
And I want love, give it up
These poetry and prose and words are not enough
'Cuz you're more than melody to me
- "More Than Melody," by Anna Nalick
Wednesday morning was just as satisfying, if not more so, than the day before.
Her muscles were still sore, but her body felt so loose and languid she barely noticed the pain. Even better, she woke up in her own bed this morning so there was no rush to grab the spare set of clothes in her car. Which reminded her, she needed to pack a new set because the one's she wore yesterday were definitely meant for the wash.
Annie did feel a surprising twinge of regret when she remembered Auggie calling a cab and heading back to his own home—but, if they were going keep this going as friends with benefits, there were to be no more adult sleepovers. She just appreciated the extra body heat more than she remembered.
Sliding out of bed, she stretched her arms towards the ceiling and let out a long sigh. Her face screwed up when she felt an out-of-the-ordinary twinge in her neck. If she and Auggie were going to keep up this same rate, she was going to need to pick up yoga again.
After their romp on the couch, they had decided to have a more detailed conversation about their non-relationship. It wasn't easy, because by that point she had pretty much been slumped across the couch with no desire to move, much less think.
"This going to be a regular thing now?" Auggie asked first, testing the waters. Her legs were still sprawled across his, and even though she felt like passing out right where she lay, she cracked one eye open to get a serious look at him.
Inhaling slowly, she weighed her options. She answered carefully. "I'm game if you are."
"We're going to have to be really careful." He answered kind of fast, like he had anticipated her answer, and it made one corner of her mouth curl up. He had since adjusted himself, and she realized that meant she should probably fix her skirt. But if he couldn't see her anyway, what was the harm?
"You're right," she said softly, pushing more of her hair out of her face. "So we'll stick to the rules we set this morning."
Auggie nodded. "No jealousy, no emotions, no sleeping over, no one in the DPD finds out," he recited, ticking each off his fingers. "Think we can manage that?"
She repressed a smile as she recalled the events that took place at the bar and just a few hours ago in this same living room but refrained from pointing out that they had already kind of broken the first rule. "Hopefully," she responded instead.
He chuckled at her optimism, or lack thereof, and pressed a button on the side of his watch. It was earlier than she had expected, but then she remembered that they had left Allen's pretty early after the shenanigans with Jai and then Auggie's tiff. That had left them with a lot of time on their hands.
She had to grin at their dexterity though. They'd had sex one and a half times, and yet somehow had managed to remain fully clothed. Well, mostly. "Do you want me to call a cab then?" she asked, stretching a bit in her spot on the couch. "Because I was planning on showering before I crash."
That hadn't been an offer, truly, but when Auggie glanced over at her with that glint in his eyes she had to reconsider her statement. "Don't start," she said with an over-the-top groan. "We're both too old."
"I beg to differ on that," he disagreed with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face. His fingers were walking a steady path up her legs, which twitched involuntarily when he reached the backs of her knees.
Annie sat up, grabbing his hands before they could travel much farther. "Somehow, I'm not shocked that you don't agree," she replied sarcastically, giving his hands a squeeze. "Shower sex always sounds better in theory. There are a lot more bruises in reality."
One of Auggie's eyebrows arched, and she knew she was in trouble. "Is that a challenge?"
"No," she said with a laugh, "But knowing you you're gonna take it as one anyway."
Chuckling to herself, Annie stripped down to her underwear and headed to the bathroom. She wound up proving him wrong, but they had a hell of a time before that happened. Eventually, they weren't going to be able to keep up this record, but she figured until that happened they might as well have as much fun as they could.
She splashed water on her freshly washed face and tried to remember the last time she'd had so much fun with no-strings-attached sex. Even with her actual relationship with Ben, it had been enjoyable, but it had been so short that she spent more time crying over him than she did with him.
Frowning into the mirror, she realized that she and Auggie had only been sleeping together for the past two days—it seemed longer than a paltry 48 hours—but their friendship went back much farther than that. She'd been having fun with him since before this week, only now she could say they had fun with and without their clothes on.
Annie threw on a simple red wraparound dress and the first stilettos she saw. Even if this was the best mood she'd been in in several months, she couldn't let it show. The last thing she needed was Jai or Barber noticing a change in her mood and asking questions. Especially Jai. He was probably still pissed off from the way she talked to him last night.
He would probably be even more pissed off if he ever found out what happened between her and Auggie right after. She traced her rims with dark brown eyeliner, gnawing on her bottom lip as a picture of Jai with an expression of pure terror floated around in her mind. It wasn't particularly nice of her, but that image filled her with more amusement than she would admit to anybody.
Capping her lipstick, she tossed the tube in her oversized patent leather bag and slung it over her shoulder. She unplugged her iPhone from her charger as well, running her fingers through her hair once more. There was no way Jai was ever going to find out, though. Right after they left the shower, Auggie got dressed and called a cab. If and when they ever went back to his apartment, she knew she would drive home once they were done. If they never stayed over, it was less likely they would fuck up.
Being back at the guest house was both the same and completely different. Sure, she missed the guest house and loved being back, but now Danielle knew what she did for a living. It would always be weird when she announced she was heading back to work and her sister would give her this look that made her feel ten different kinds of guilty all over again.
But she could never feel that guilty after Stockholm. She didn't know where she stood exactly—she was plenty pissed at Michael, if only because he was stupid enough to cheat on her big sister with his slutty secretary. But even when she was at her most sisterly, she couldn't quite let Danielle off scot-free. She had been in contact with her old ex-boyfriend, and Annie just couldn't justify that in her mind.
Annie slid the glass door shut behind her, not surprised in the slightest to see an empty kitchen. Lately, things had been really tense, and while she knew both Danielle and Michael were trying to put on a good face for their kids, they couldn't fake it all the time.
She hadn't yet worked up the courage to ask if the D-word was on the horizon, but judging by the general temperature of the room, it seemed like it was inevitable. Pouring coffee into her travel mug, she ruffled her hair again. She didn't like sticking around the house for too long; the simmering anger felt like an explosion could go off at any second.
"Annie! There you are!"
She jumped and nearly spilled the steaming hot coffee all over the place. Worse, the loud noise had triggered something in her and for a truly wild moment she imagined going for the .9mm in her purse. As quick as that impulse came, she pushed it away, setting down the coffee with a shaking hand.
"Jesus Christ, Danielle," she muttered under her breath, spinning the cap onto her travel mug as she turned to face her sister. She could feel her heart still in her throat, but her face was neutral save for wide dark eyes. "Please try not to scare the shit out of me in the future."
Danielle's expression went slack at her comment. She usually tried to keep the cursing to a minimum when she was in the main house, because you never knew when Katia or Chloe could be scampering around. Olivia had warned her a few times before she might get jumpy, and while that did happen sometimes she had never taken it out on her sister before.
Letting out a short sigh, she smiled tightly. "Sorry for snapping at you," she apologized automatically, putting her travel mug down on the kitchen island. "You just—scared me."
Danielle's light brow crumpled in sympathy. "Oh, I'm sorry too, Annie," she said, coming up to her sister and laying a gentle hand on her shoulder. "I forget sometimes that you're—you know." She finished quickly, throwing a ridiculous superstitious glance over her shoulder for good measure.
"I know," Annie replied, not needing her sister to get into that once more. She didn't want to rehash what was already still a fairly sore subject. "I should leave for work before I'm really late."
"Wait!" Danielle said, grabbing her arm tightly before she could move a muscle. "Who was that guy that was over last night?"
Annie's mouth fell open instinctively, but she snapped it shut and rearranged her expression to something vaguely innocent. "The guy?" she asked softly.
Danielle's blue eyes narrowed. "Yeah, the guy that you drove home with you," she added unnecessarily, battling a grin. "C'mon, tell me. You know you want to. I'm so bored anymore. I need someone to live through vicariously."
She stepped back, trying to put some room between herself and her sister. "It's a shame I've got nothing for you to live vicariously through," she lied, smiling like she really did feel bad for having nothing to tell. "And the guy was just Auggie."
Danielle's jaw dropped open so wide Annie could practically count her molars. "Auggie?" she repeated incredulously. "As in the Auggie that you're madly in love with that ran off to Africa for some bimbo?"
In a rare moment of weakness, after she parked the cherry Corvette in the Brooks' driveway her sister had run out demanding to know how she had wound up with the car and she wound up confessing everything. Or, at least the everything that involved Auggie leaving for a different country.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa," Annie said, throwing up her hands in the universal sign for slow down, stop, crazy person. "I am not madly in love with Auggie. I might have had a brief—there really needs to be an adult word for crush—whatever, but I was never in love with Auggie."
Swallowing thickly, as the words had felt funny and jumbled on her tongue, she added, "And I wouldn't call that girl a bimbo. I really wouldn't call her anything, because I don't actually know her."
Danielle looked at her blankly, processing all the new information that had just been thrown at her. "Wait… so are you and Auggie dating right now?" she asked, uncomprehendingly.
"No," Annie answered shortly. "Listen, I've really got to get to work before I'm late—"
"But did you sleep together?" Danielle persisted. How she consistently managed to do this, Annie could never understand.
"Danielle," she said, eyes widening in alarm. "I can't believe you—I have to go—"
She didn't let go for a second, laughing like this was all one big joke. "Oh, c'mon, Annie. Did you guys have sex?"
Heaving a long sigh, she ran her hand through her wavy hair last time. "You know what, I don't have a whole lot of time, but I'll be honest with you. Yes."
Her sister—her big, motormouth sister—had actually been stunned into silence. Apparently, she was all good with joking with her baby sister, but when presented with the cold hard truth, she couldn't handle it. Pressing her lips together, she added, "And before you ask, we're not going to date, we have no intentions of dating. Just two adults having consensual, strings-free sex. That's it."
Grimacing to herself, she regretted announcing it that way almost instantly. "It's not anything you need to worry about. I'm going go to work now, but we'll talk more when I get back. Okay?"
All Danielle could do was nod weakly, but Annie took that as a positive sign. She smiled bravely, hugged her sister goodbye, and left. She really would talk to Danielle about everything when she got back home.
Slamming the car door shut behind her, she started the ignition. One glance in the rearview mirror, and she immediately realized the error of her ways. In the heat of the moment, she'd blabbed to her sister about her and Auggie. Oops.
Well, maybe she didn't really break the rule. It mostly applied to their coworkers, anyway, which exempted Danielle. So it didn't count. But it probably wouldn't hurt to not mention it to Auggie, just in case.
She hadn't even walked through the double doors and Annie could already tell shit was going down. The place was humming with activity, something she hadn't seen in a long time. It was rare they received a mission that had the whole DPD in a frenzy.
She didn't know what had everyone running around, but she knew history and booked it to Auggie's office. When all else fails, she could always go to him for questions. And she definitely had a few questions to ask, particularly why everyone in the bullpen looked ready to shoot on sight.
"So, I'm about ten minutes late to work, and it looks like I missed the throw down of the century," Annie announced as she stepped into Tech Ops. Barber and the rest of the guys were nowhere to be found; whether that was a good thing or a bad thing had yet to be seen. "What gives?"
Auggie didn't tear his attention from his computers for a second. "That, Miss Walker, would be because you did miss the throw down of the century," he replied, his eyebrows furrowing as he typed away furiously on his keyboard. "The Furies have descended."
She rounded the side of his desk, her mind racing with possibilities. "Okay, I remember Greek mythology from high school, but I'm not really making the intuitive leap between scary hags crossed with birds and our office." She leaned her hip against the glass edge, carefully studying the intense expression on his face.
"Oh, that's not nice," she chastised when the joke finally dawned on her. She ineffectually slapped his shoulder with the back of her hand, hoping that made up for the grin forming on her face.
"Probably not," he quipped. "But I'm hardly the only one thinking it. Wilcox's force is attempting to work alongside the DPD and what he doesn't seem to comprehend is that he's fucked in every sense of the word."
Annie straightened in surprise. That explained the murderous looks on everyone's faces. "How's that possible?" she asked, risking a glance behind her through the glass walls at their coworkers. "Isn't he like our superior or something?"
Auggie shook his head, for the first time tearing his attention away from his supercomputers and focusing on her. "It's not that kind of promotion," he answered. "And even if it was, we still fall under Joan's purview first. So if no one volunteers to work with Wilcox, it's up to her to decide whether or not she wants to force one of us."
"Wow," she muttered. She wasn't sure if she was unbelievably impressed by her coworkers' faithfulness, or kind of scared. For a company that was built on deception and subterfuge, they took betrayal very seriously.
Auggie sighed, rolled his eyes, and turned back to the computer. She was immediately pulled from her thoughts and a bit taken aback by his sudden dismissal. "What?" she asked.
"You're going to volunteer," he said, sounding a little annoyed. It wasn't a question though. He said it like he already knew her answer.
"I didn't say any such thing," she replied defensively, standing up straight.
"I know you didn't." His answer was short, and she could see a wrinkle forming between his eyebrows. "But I know you and I know what you're going to do."
She wanted to get angry at him for his assumption of her, but she knew he was right. Looking away from him, she asked, "Are you going to get all pissed off again?"
His mouth quirked into a wry grin. "No," he said. "If only because I don't feel like having Joan fire me today."
It took her a few seconds to understand her mistake, and her face colored in response. "That's not what I meant," she replied hotly.
"I know what you meant," he told her, wheeling around in his chair, his knees brushing hers. "Which is why I'm going to opt to only say that you don't need to do this. You don't need to prove yourself, and you especially don't need to prove yourself with this job. Now is not a good time to get into something with Wilcox."
"I'm not trying to prove myself," she assured him. "But if no one else will take this mission, I'm going to. Other people are involved in this besides Wilcox, right?"
At his out of character silence, she nodded. "That's what I thought," she replied, crossing her arms over her chest. "I'm not any happier about the way Jai is behaving than you are, but I'm not going to let some interdepartmental boxing match kill a bunch of people that, for all I know, are more innocent than everyone in this entire building."
"So you're right," she finished authoritatively. "I am going to leave and go to Joan's office to volunteer my services for the mission. If someone happens to volunteer or is chosen before I reach her doors, well, then no harm, no foul."
Feeling rather proud of herself for her little speech, she turned on her heel to do just what she said she would. Before she could reach the sliding glass door, Auggie's voice stopped her. "Don't do this, Annie."
Anger built up once more, and once more Annie ignored it. "It's just another mission, Auggie," she said, spinning back to face him. "This one just happens to involve Jai. It's not going to be any different than before."
He looked so serious, for a second she considered taking everything she said back and staying with him until all of this blew over. But that just wasn't in her nature, and no number of dead assassins was going to change that part of her. She was never going to be the girl that backed down because she was too afraid.
She couldn't bear to leave things between them on a bad note, particularly now that he was back once more. "Wish me luck," she said softly, going back to a time when things were a little less complicated for the two of them.
For a heartbreaking second, she didn't think Auggie was going to go for it. Then, with a heavy sigh, he replied, "I didn't think you were the type to need it." He tried for a half smile, but it was too weak. She appreciated it anyway.
"I'm not," she said. "Only for you."
As it turned out, she needed every ounce of the luck Auggie gave her.
She should've saw it coming in retrospect, because at this point she was starting to agree with the running joke he had about chaos circling her at all times. She didn't really like to think she was a magnet for all things unpredictable, but she was having a damned hard time disproving it anymore.
Truth be told, she hadn't expected Joan to go along with it. It had barely been 24 hours since she was cleared for duty, and she was already volunteering for a new mission. If this had been any other job, she would've bet her next paycheck that Joan would've turned her down. It was only the circumstances and the very small possibility that Joan trusted her a little bit more than the average agent that gave her the edge to be approved.
Plus, at the time, it was only supposed to be surveillance work. The CIA had received intel that one of Jai's operatives was in danger of being burned, but until they received more information, they couldn't move forward. The intel said that there was a Pakistani faction being set up in New Jersey, of all places, and they would just need to do basic surveillance from a hotel to keep an eye on them and see what else they might be able to gather.
So she was assigned to the job. And promptly regretted it.
Though, if she had been capable of proper foresight—or listening to Auggie—she might not have been so willing to volunteer. While it was rewarding to see Jai at his most grateful, she in no way expected this to be the biggest pain in the ass job she'd ever attempted.
The worst part easily had to be being stuck in the world's shittiest hotel in Atlantic City. Worse, she was stuck in the world's shittiest hotel in Atlantic City with only Jai, a tech guy, and a lot of computers to keep her company. For six days.
Yeah, that's right. She was stuck with Jai and Spock for a whole week. There was nothing painful about that in the slightest. She could practically hear Auggie's laughter in her head.
There was no practically about it. The three calls she'd sent his way had all started and ended with him laughing at her as she threw thinly veiled threats and growls Jai's way. To say Wilcox had gotten insufferable about missions in the last few months was possibly the biggest understatement of all time.
But she should've known better to think that this was going to be the only crappy part of her mission. She really needed work on that whole 'foresight' thing.
Two emptied clips, a bullet-grazed shoulder, and a few dislocated knuckles later, Annie was sitting on a plane back to D.C. and counting her blessings that she didn't have to spend any more time confined with Jai and Leonard. That was seriously Jai's tech guy's name. Leonard.
Allowing herself a little smile, she tilted her head all the way up until she was staring at the bland ceiling of the plane. It wasn't that horrible of a drive, but after the week she'd had she would have rather gone back to that warehouse and taken a bullet to the head than spend an extended car ride with Jai and Leonard. The plane ride cost a little more, but Auggie and Joan hadn't argued with her on the subject so she was allowed a quick redeye flight back.
Even better, because it was 3 in the morning on a flight to a city that could've been done in the span of a couple train rides, the plane was almost empty. Just her and a few businessmen that all appeared to be sound asleep.
Actually, now that she was surrounded by all of this silence, she realized she hadn't heard much of anything from Auggie. Not since the day everything hit the fan and they were trapped in that dusty old warehouse. Auggie had been in her ear, like always. And, like always, she was positive that without him she would've died.
But after that, she couldn't remember a single instance when they spoke. All calls she made to the DPD had been handled by Stu, and once Barber, plus a few times Joan had been around and updated her on various information. Which meant that either Auggie had disappeared—again—and no one had told her, or he was going out of his way to not talk to her. She couldn't actually decide which option bothered her more.
But fortunately enough, one of the few positives of being back on a surveillance mission was the opportunity to give serious consideration to her non-relationship with Auggie. While she did have six days to contemplate jamming a Bally's hotel pen into Jai's eye socket, she also had six days to think about how having sex with Auggie on a regular basis was going to have an effect on her day-to-day life.
To start, there was no way they could possibly keep up this once-a-night thing. She was a far cry from old, but this job had a way of doing a hell of a number on her body and, most importantly, sleep schedule. She was doing a surveillance mission and in about six days she had barely gotten more than four hours sleep each night.
Her body would find so many different ways to punish her if she tried to repeat what happened on the first night—or the second—every night. Plus, Danielle would probably start to wonder where she disappeared every single night for only a couple hours.
Immediately, Annie winced. Danielle. Her sister had called her a few times during the week, and every time she had let the calls go to voicemail. Once she got back, the first thing on her list was to have a long conversation with Danielle. She knew she wanted to talk more about what Annie had admitted on Tuesday. Danielle did not let things go easily, particularly when they had to do with her baby sister and the guy she was currently screwing.
But Annie was confident that Danielle would understand. Obviously Auggie was not just any guy, and she didn't make it a habit of hooking up with random men. Plus, Danielle had been the one to point Annie in this direction all those months ago.
This probably wasn't what Danielle had intended when she first pointed out that her voice apparently 'changed' when she spoke to Auggie, but this was how the chips happened to fall. And she didn't mind this outcome, regardless of what Danielle might have to say about it.
Shutting her eyes, Annie resolved to do two things after she was debriefed and left work: talk to Auggie and talk to Danielle.
"Hey, Joan, where's Auggie?"
Several hours had passed since she left the plane, and at the moment she wished she could still be there. That brief, 20-minute snooze had been the best of her life, and coming back to do paperwork just seemed like rubbing salt in an already gory wound. But, as she continued to remind herself every minute, at least it she wasn't trapped in a small hotel room with Jai and Leonard anymore.
"I sent him home," Joan replied in a clipped tone, taking the proffered papers from Annie. She knew Joan's annoyance wasn't reserved for her; according to Stu, she had been murderous ever since Jai had single-handedly sent the mission into a tailspin. "He hadn't gotten much sleep in the last 48 hours. I suggest you do the same."
Annie nodded and wisely kept her mouth shut. She wasn't going to look a gift-day-off in the mouth, but she couldn't help catching Stu's eye. She didn't know him as well as she'd like to, but the last two months had given her the opportunity to work with him in a closer manner. He wasn't Auggie, but he also didn't try to be, and she appreciated him for that.
Stu shot a hand out towards her, and she realized there was a folded piece of paper clutched between his fingers. "I didn't read it, don't worry," he said, and she couldn't tell if he was serious or joking as she gingerly took the note from him. "I wouldn't want to risk the malware and broken nose from Auggie. When Joan said she sent him home, she really means it was that or threatening to have him forcibly removed from the building."
At her hiked brow, Stu gave a small shake of his head. "It's better that you didn't see it," he muttered, backing up towards the Tech Ops. "He was practically foaming at the mouth at one point."
Annie's mouth dropped open slightly, her fingers wrapping around the note. What had she done during the mission to get Auggie so angry? Plenty of ridiculous bullshit had gone on, but she couldn't remember a single thing that she did wrong.
She headed back to her car, fingering the strap of her overnight bag thoughtfully. The note Stu had given her was burning a hole in her back pocket, but she wasn't going to read it until she was alone in the car. She didn't know what Auggie had to say to her, but just in case she didn't want anyone she worked with to see a visible reaction.
Shutting the car door behind her, Annie shifted until she was sufficiently comfortable behind the wheel in her little car. She wasted some time arranging her bag and purse and leather jacket in the passenger seat next to her, delaying the moment she had to unfold the small square of paper that would undoubtedly reveal her fate with Auggie.
A dark voice in the back of her head pondered if he was breaking off their non-relationship, but she knew that was preposterous. There was no way Auggie was cold enough to do it that way, especially not when they would still need to see each other at work every day.
She unfolded the square slowly, ignoring the sight tremor in her hands. Before she could even read the words, she knew something was off in Auggie's writing. He couldn't see, so frequently what notes he wrote her would always be written in wide-spaced, neatly blocked print. Right away, she could see his writing was more hurried, slanted, like he was in a rush and his hand couldn't scribe as fast as his brain could think.
Come to my apartment when you're done. Auggie. That was all the note said. Annie's eyebrows hiked as she flipped over the paper, examining it on both sides, but to no avail. That was it. One simple command. Come to my apartment. If she hadn't been so curious and more than a little fearful, she might have been a little pissed at him for expecting her to drop everything and run to him.
Thrusting her key in the ignition, she shrugged to herself. He did tell her to come to his apartment, only once she was done. Done was a pretty large umbrella, which could include everything from paperwork to Joan to a finally having that chat with Danielle.
She winced at the inadvertent reminder as she pulled out of her parking space. That was a conversation that could be put off until the following morning—she loved Danielle, but she already had a pretty good idea of what she was going to say. The stuff with Auggie, however, was a complete question mark, and therefore required all of her attention.
She wondered if he wanted to talk about Jai. Her week in Atlantic City had been aggravating on a number of levels, and it had started off on a pretty awful note to begin.
"So I hear Anderson didn't go home with the coed," Jai announced halfway through unpacking all their belongings in the shoebox-sized hotel room. She could hear the unspoken question at the end of his sentence—he went home with you?—but she didn't dignify it.
"No, he didn't," she replied shortly. There was no point in lying to Jai, not when she could tell he already knew the bare bones, so she settled on a half-truth. "Not that it's any of your business, but we hung out at my house and then I took him home."
Leonard—though she didn't know that was his name at the time—seemed like he was trying to look too busy fiddling around with his computers. It was a smart move. Jai had managed to find the one subject that would set her off more than anything, and it was better if he stayed out of the line of fire.
There was a nasty smirk on Jai's face, but she didn't let him say whatever he was thinking. Instead, she angrily threw her small duffle bag on the bed and announced, "I really thought we had gotten past this last night."
"This?" Jai repeated, going from conniving to innocent in the span of a breath. My, what a lifetime education in espionage could do for a man.
"This," Annie said again, ripping open her bag more forcefully than necessary. "Whatever pissing contest you and Auggie have been locked in, I want no part of it. You can be bitch to him all you want, but you leave me the hell out of it. I'm helping you, remember?"
That did the trick, she was pleased to note. She had noticed a while ago that Jai didn't like owing people favors, an odd trait in a business that used favors and debts as currency. He took her not-subtle-at-all hint to drop it, and luckily he was intelligent enough not to bring up the topic of Auggie Anderson again the length of their mission.
That was one of her few strokes of luck she thought as she flipped on her left signal, driving to Auggie's address on pure autopilot. Everything else had gone to hell in a hand basket, and she wished she could've seen it coming better.
The only rule about this mission—and this was the rule that Joan drilled into everybody's head—was that under no circumstances was Jai allowed to leave the hotel building. They didn't know how far up the information had been leaked, but no matter what no good could come from him showing his face around AC.
Annie pretty much took it upon herself to become the courier; she tracked the two Pakistani terrorists that the CIA knew about, dropped off some listening devices in a few particular bars, and brought food up to the hotel room. While this did sound interesting on paper she could only leave their hotel at very specific hours. And those hours only lasted about 20 minutes.
She did understand Jai's frustration—she didn't get to leave the room often, but that was still more than he was able. Unlike the guys like Barber and Leonard, she and Jai were not people that were meant to be locked indoors for hours and days on end. Sitting still for ten hours was more excruciating that chasing or being chased by assassins.
So Annie did empathize with Jai and his growing frustration. But as the week wore on, that empathy only went so far because she was still trapped in a room with him as he proceeded to act like a little bitch.
And all the empathy in the world could not make her understand him going into the bathroom and sneaking out of the room. Yeah. Like he was 13 and she was his strict dad.
Annie pulled into a parking spot. She had gotten back to Auggie's faster than she had anticipated. She had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that driving had become secondary. Hopefully she hadn't been speeding too much.
She hazarded a glance in her rearview mirror, more out of habit than anything. There was no particular reason to bother. Her hair was still a mess and pulled in a ponytail, half to get it out of the way and half to look semi-presentable for her flight. She was in jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt for comfort, so at least she didn't look as fucked up as she felt.
After Jai had snuck out it had taken approximately ten minutes for everything to go to hell—coincidentally just long enough for her to on the phone with Auggie and demand he activate Jai's GPS.
Annie smiled at the elderly woman walking her chubby Corgi—she didn't know her name, but she had seen her around Auggie's apartment complex several times. Plus, she had just about the world's cutest fat dog and there was no way she could be unfriendly to that.
"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" Annie hissed. With the help of Auggie and the tracker on Jai's phone it had only taken her about ten minutes to locate him crouched behind a crate in a warehouse that distinctly smelled like it used house find. She crouched behind the crate next to him, glaring pointedly at the Glock clutched in his hand.
Jai's jaw clenched, and it looked like he was fighting the urge to curse until he was blue in the face. "This was my mission," he hissed, resting the back of his perfectly coiffed head against the wooden crate. "These are my people. I should be the one interrogating these assholes if they're in danger."
Shifting uncomfortably in her heels—seriously, why did the floor look slimy?—she shot him a furious glare. "So you're going to what? Shoot them until they tell you if they know your people that are supposed to be their people are spies?"
When Jai didn't answer, she took it as confirmation. "I'm sorry, Jai, but are you high?"
Those were the last words out of her mouth when the whole world exploded around her. See, Jai's asshole friends had AK-47s. And Jai had a goddamned Glock.
Auggie had barely gotten them out of dodge—Jai had tried to tell her not to call him, but with crates exploding all around them left and right and him sporting a fresh bullet graze, she wasn't planning on listening to his advice. Auggie was able to point them in the right direction while simultaneously sending a whole fleet of FBI, CIA, and New Jersey State Troopers descending on the building.
She could still hear him shouting into her cellphone as what seemed a lot like hell rained down all around them. He couldn't get to her because he was back at Langley, but that didn't mean he was going to use everything in his power to get her back safely.
And she did get back safely, barring a few cuts and bruises on her torso and an ugly scrape on her left bicep. But she had been injured much worse in the past, and she was happy to get back in as decent condition as possible. Now if only the same could be said for Jai…
Annie stopped at Auggie's door and took a deep breath. With the following exhale, she let her muscles relax, feeling the best she had in the last six days. Even if Auggie wanted to stop sleeping together—annoying, but doable—she could handle it, just like she could handle every other curveball in her life. She raised her hand and rapped her knuckles on his door three times.
She had left her duffle bag and jacket in her car, and as she heard movement on the other side of the door, she wondered if she should have grabbed it. Too late now.
The door slid open, and she only had a few moments to take in Auggie's appearance. He somehow looked worse than her, with bags under his eyes and shadow on his jaw that had to be more than a day old. He was also wearing possibly the rattiest sweatpants she'd ever seen. That was about all she was able to absorb, because then Auggie reached out, catching her arm with startling accuracy, and yanked her towards him.
She didn't have much time to react—all she got out was a strangled half-syllable of a noise—because Auggie's mouth covered hers. Her back hit the cold metal door, but she didn't know when he had closed it behind them in the first place.
He flattened her body between him and the door, trapping purse between their shoulders. She bet the heavy chain strap was digging into his skin, but he didn't seem to notice, much less care. She might not have cared as well if he hadn't pinned both her arms to her sides.
She hadn't had the opportunity to kiss him back before he yanked his head back. Annie felt like she had left her brain by the door as she stared at the devastated expression on his face with bafflement.
"I thought you were going to die," Auggie whispered, and he sounded like he was in so much pain that she wanted to kiss him, hug him, do anything to make him feel better.
He had her arms pinned, and she wasn't sure what he would do if she kissed him, so all she said was, "But I'm not dead."
"I know." His forehead dropped down until it rested against hers. "I just heard gunfire and explosions."
"I know," she repeated, repentant. His fingers dug into the skin above her elbows, but it didn't feel controlling. "But this happens all the time, remember? She tried to laugh, smile, to translate her poor joke, but it failed pretty badly.
"I know that," he said, and she was startled when his dark eyes flashed and his grip tightened. "I remember that. Why do you think I left for Africa? I'm tired of listening to you almost dying and not being able to do anything!"
Her mouth fell open and it felt like he had just pulled all the breath out of her body. Auggie squeezed his eyes shut even though it didn't make a difference. "I tried to stay there but every day I missed D.C. more. And my job. And Joan. And Stu. And everybody else. Just not Jai."
She didn't know if it was appropriate, but a burble of laughter past her lips involuntarily. Actually, it was probably completely inappropriate.
"But mostly, I missed you."
The laughter died. His eyes opened slowly as a sigh slid out. "I couldn't stay there knowing I had run just because it hurt too much to hear you in danger. That wasn't fair to you. That wasn't fair to anybody. Hell, that wasn't even fair to me. I was tanking my career all because I couldn't listen to the sound of one agent being shot at."
He continued, letting his forehead rest against her for one comforting moment. "Even worse, once I was with Parker in Africa, I couldn't think of anything but you. You drive me to leave the continent rather than deal with listening to the sound of you repeatedly almost dying, but the second I'm away it's like the whole thing never happened and I just wanted to turn back and go straight home."
Her lips parted, but no sound came out. For him to throw this all at her seemed too sudden, too abrupt. "Why didn't you tell me this before?" she asked quietly. Her dark eyes were huge and it felt like her inhales weren't bringing nearly enough oxygen into her body.
The question seemed to frustrate him. "I don't know why I'm telling you this now," he said, his fingers digging into her arms again.
She still couldn't figure out what to tell him—he had left to get away from her, but not for the reason that she might have assumed. Hesitantly, her hands slipped up under his arms, gently cupping his jaw. Her thumbs brushed over his cheekbones and she whispered the only words that she could think might help. "I'm sorry," she said genuinely.
Auggie's eyes slid shut and on impulse she closed he distance between them, kissing him sincerely. A noise escaped his throat that sounded like a sob but she didn't pull away.
With a helpless groan, he released her shoulders and wrapped his arms around her waist, bringing her flush against his body, and finally allowing her to drop her purse. This time, she groaned, her fingers slipping from his jaw and brushing against the ends of his shaggy hair.
He pulled her away from the door, but she hardly noticed the difference as he backed them up. Auggie had such a secure grip on the small of her back that she couldn't separate from him, not that she was going to try. Her hands moved, completely threading through his hair and encouraging him to deepen the kiss.
He didn't push her, even when his tongue parted her lips. He was being purposely gentle, his fingers tracing little circles on her back over her shirt. She felt like he was treating her like she was breakable, made of glass, like if he didn't hold her just so she would fall to pieces. His behavior was making her knees shake but she knew there was no way he was letting her fall.
When he finally let her up for air, she realized that he had managed to travel them halfway across his apartment. His kiss hadn't felt demanding or controlling but now that he had pulled away she felt a lot like she was drowning. Her head came down to rest on his collarbone. "I am alive," she murmured, shifting to wind her arms around his neck.
His fingers curled into her t-shirt, exposing more of her skin. "I know," he whispered, and she gasped when the pads of his fingers brushed against her back.
"So long as you're around, the chance of me not coming back goes down to almost zero," she told him. He might not have wanted to hear it but it was something she had always known.
Before he could start to argue, her head tilted, lips brushing against his neck. He went very still, which meant she had to go still in response. She continued to trace his collarbone, a small smile forming as he let out a heavy sigh. Her nose brushed against the tendons in his neck, teasing him as much as applying her own silent apology to his skin.
He didn't let her get much further when her lips came into contact with the soft material of his t-shirt, twisting his neck and catching her mouth effortlessly. Annie kissed him back automatically, but the gentleness remained as before. She realized how much she missed this after being gone less than a week. As heat spread throughout her body, it was remarkable how familiar this had become for her.
He still tasted like coffee and beer and something sweet, and when he nipped her bottom lip a zing still shot down her spine. They had only hooked up a few times but like with their jobs, it hadn't taken long to find a perfect rhythm between them.
They broke apart with a smack and he muttered, "You can't die on me." Annie tried to inhale as much air as possible before he dipped his head down and kissed her again.
"I won't," she whimpered, her back arching as his fingers continued to dance along her skin. "I promise."
The backs of her knees hit his bed and she would have fallen if not for Auggie's lock on her waist. When they had started moving towards his bed again, she had no clue.
He inched her shirt along her lean waist, asking as gently as he could muster. She didn't have patience for that, and quickly ripped her shirt over her head without any more prompting.
Oddly enough, he didn't seem to appreciate her haste. He crowded her, knocking her onto the bed before she could blink. She let out a soft laugh and attempted to wrestle him for the top, but he had her pinned before she could put up much of a fight.
"Stop squirming so much," he instructed, planting a kiss on her still parted lips.
Annie tried to follow his instruction, but it wasn't easy when his hands ghosted along her sides. His tongue traced the swell of her bottom lip and he turned it into a kiss before she could get antsy.
"I made Barber cry," he muttered between kisses. He was mapping her stomach with his finger pads, noting every time a muscle twitched or shivered.
"W-what?" she asked, tilting her head against the pillow so she could better see him. She knew what he had said but she was sure he had to be kidding.
"After we got you out of Jersey, I made Barber cry," he elaborated, kissing the side of her nose affectionately.
His thumb brushed over the fabric of her bra, and she found that she still shivered like he had touched actual skin. "W-why?" she stuttered, running her hands back and forth across the planes of his back.
"He was being difficult," he said with an offhanded shrug. His eyes were shut, and she was mildly confused to see concentration on his face. She couldn't help but watch him fascinatedly as he traced her features with his nose and lips.
"He asked why I was so angry," he continued, one of his hands sliding under her back while his other slid one of her bra straps down her shoulder. Her eyes closed on their own when he kissed between her brows. "That made me angrier."
"So you made him cry?" she asked disbelievingly, pulling her head from the pillow to examine his expression. "You shouldn't have yelled at Barber because of me." She threaded her fingers though his hair and brushed his bangs out of his face. It was redundant, but this definitely felt different than their last few times together.
"Oh well," he replied simply, pulling his head up and planting a quick kiss on her lips. His eyes still looked so serious, even though they were joking around like usual. Before he could pull away from her completely, she tugged his hair and kissed him deeply.
Once he kissed her back, she released him, letting her hands slide down his back and pulling his shirt out of his pants. Annie pressed her palms in the hot, smooth skin of his back. He groaned into her mouth, his fingers digging into her sides.
They broke away just long enough for him to gasp her name. Just like in the past, his voice made her shiver even though she was far from cold. He hooked his hands under her knees and pulled her closer. When his hips pressed into hers, she whimpered helplessly.
"You have got to stop trying to get yourself killed," he muttered again, tearing his mouth away from hers. His fingers had moved to the snap of her pants, but when he didn't immediately do anything, she realized he wasn't waiting on her to reply.
She sucked in some air and said, "I'm not trying to get myself killed."
Auggie kissed her hard in response, his teeth catching her bottom lip in punishment. His hands moved away from her pants but slid behind her back, deftly unhooking her bra. Encouraged, Annie pushed his shirt up, exposing more deliciously familiar skin to notice what it sounded like.
He didn't even have her bra off before his thumb found her nipple. She gasped into his mouth, her back arching as her fingers dug into his skin. Some sort of noise escaped the back of her throat, but she was too focused on the feeling of his skin to notice what it sounded like.
But she would've bet most of the money in her bank account that Auggie had been paying attention to exactly what that noise sounded like. He continued to stroke her skin until she could feel her blood start to heat up and she gasped out, "Auggie."
The pressure of his fingers increased and sped up, making her shiver and writhe. There was no way she was going to stop him long enough to remove his shirt, so she abandoned that plan, letting her hand slide down his sides, his front, his back, until she settled on his waistband. When her nails had scraped his ribcage he inhaled through his nose, and she catalogued that reaction for later on.
Auggie broke the kiss long enough to rack a lungful of air for the both of them and then covered her mouth with his again. His hands cupped her skin until she whimpered and hurried her movements, shoving his sweatpants down as quickly as her fingers would allow. Annie's hands slid under his boxers, brushing against his hipbone, and continued lower.
His head yanked away from her, his blank eyes black with lust. She much preferred this over the serious look from earlier. She didn't stop or let go, her breath leaving her mouth in heavy pants. Her neck tilted back against the pillow, eyes shutting momentarily.
When she changed her rhythm he dropped his head into the crook of her neck. She froze when he let out a noise. That was the closest sound to a whine she had ever heard escape his lips. Annie chuckled evilly and changed the rhythm again.
Auggie didn't let her continue much longer. He unbuckled her jeans and shoved them off, catching a little where her hips pressed against hers. It didn't take him long to correct the problem. He shoved everything off her in one go, and she used her foot to help him once he hit her knees.
She returned the favor with his ratty sweatpants while he yanked off his t-shirt and the second they were done they returned to their positions. Auggie drew her close, letting his forehead fall against hers like earlier before. Their breath mixed together, and she cupped his head in her hands.
There was a moment of pure stillness between them, and before it could end, he whispered, "I missed you."
Her heart clenched once more, out of sync with the steady pulse of want that coursed through her body. "I missed you, too," she replied.
They both let their words sink in, and then Auggie reached for his nightstand. Her fingers threaded along the back of his neck, and her ankles hooked around the back of his knees, drawing him even closer. When he brought back the condom, she gently pulled it from his fingers. Annie's hand closed around him, and he hissed weakly.
Once she was finished, she pulled him back in for one more kiss. He tilted his head, his tongue meeting hers in the middle and tangling together.
Annie's breath caught in her throat when he entered her. She had been prepared for it, obviously, but the inherent closeness after everything that they had said to one another knocked the wind out of her. As her legs tightened around him instinctively, she could feel a sting behind the corners of her eyes that couldn't possibly tears…
She didn't get the chance to decide, because Auggie started to move, and another gasp tore out of her throat. It had only been a week, so there was no reason why she should feel so sensitive, but maybe this time it had less to do with her body and more to do with her mind. She locked on even tighter around him, her fingers stroking his jaw in perfect time. The separation proved too much for him, and he dipped his head down, sealing his mouth with hers.
When they broke between kisses, she whispered his name, and he kissed her even harder. Her body felt slick, and every time he moved a particular way she felt her nerves misfire pleasantly. "Please," she whimpered.
Annie's back arched just a little more, taking him deeper and making her cry out instinctively. She cursed as tiny shocks coursed down her spine. "I need you to—please—move—"
He tilted his hips and she moaned in appreciation. He stayed like that, panting heavily along with her. She moved against him in tandem, nearly slipping a few times as she gripped his shoulders tight enough to bruise.
Half-mindedly, her head tilted, lips catching on his throat and licking and tracing the sweat along his skin. Her nails bit into his back, and began whimpering his name like a mantra directly into his ear. Annie couldn't possibly last much longer.
"God, I missed you." It didn't make any sense to say, but it clicked in her brain and tumbled out of her lips before she could think about it. Auggie seemed to appreciate it, because he picked up an even quicker pace than before.
He groaned, finding her lips again. "Annie," he murmured. His voice was tight, strained with desire. Their bodies were moving so instinctively that there was no way that they could ever stop. "Annie, I can't—I won't be able to—"
Annie hushed him, lacing her fingers through his hair and pulling him back for one more kiss. Their foreheads touched together, noses bumping as the air seemed to heat even further. "Shh, it's fine," she whispered, her lean legs locking even tighter around his hips.
Auggie's eyes locked with hers, and she had one of those wild moments when she could've sworn he actually could see her, and then he buried his head into her neck, groaning her name like a curse, a plea, and a prayer all rolled into one.
When they finally slowed down and he collapsed, panting over her, she didn't let him go, not for a while. Normally the weight felt suffocating to her, but tonight it was anything but. She needed to be this close to someone. This close to Auggie.
Annie didn't technically have a release, but as she lay there panting with him her body was so relaxed and boneless that it felt like she might as well have. Her mind felt cloudy and everything hummed pleasantly.
Even after he got up and disposed of the condom, she still didn't want to leave. But that was part of the deal they had made, even if they had already broken the first two—three?—rules. So reluctantly, Annie sat up out of bed, marveling at their inability to ever actually get under the covers when they were—whatever they were.
Doing a quick scan of the room, she tried to locate all of her clothes. Her bra was easy enough to find, as it was next to on the bed, and her underwear and jeans had to be somewhere on the floor, but as for her top, she was way less sure. And, actually, when had she taken off her shoes?
Without even having the ability to see her, Auggie somehow sensed that she was preparing for her exit, because the second he was in reach of the bed his hand clenched around her wrist. His heavy eyebrows were drawn together, and he was every bit as serious as he was before they fell in bed. "Stay," he said, asking without words. "Please."
Even before they started having sex—she needed to find a word that was less clinical to describe this—she never could have said no to him when he said please. Now she was absolutely hopeless.
"Okay," she whispered, letting him draw her in for one more kiss, which chaste and sweet compared to everything they had done in the past. This time, when they slid into the covers, they automatically sought one another out, wrapping limbs together as close as possible.
They were breaking one more of their unbreakable rules. But, she thought before surrendering to sleep, was that really a problem?
Oh my God, this took FOREVER, and that was totally my fault, but I do cite a number of circumstances. Life, the real-fiction book I'm attempting to write (well, let's see how much I can finish…), and my short story submission for my college's lit magazine (ya'll would be proud of me, it's Buffy-inspired)… but I was determined that after I finished all of that I would complete Chapter 3 of More Than Melody. This is one project I am not giving up on, goddammit.
There should be only one more chapter left to go, provided everything goes the way I'm picturing in my head on paper. It'll probably be yet another long'un, but I'm finding it damn near impossible to do anything short with this sucker.
Also, before you all click the review button (haha), I want you to FOCUS:
In the next month, Operation CAFÉ on Livejournal will be posting the nominations of the 2011 Distinguished Awards. Spyridon (who runs the whole it, lovely thing that she is) has quite an array of nominations up for grabs, ranging from Outstanding Depiction of Auggie and Annie (and one for other characters) to Author of the Year. There's even a nom for Outstanding Erotic Fiction. ;)
Anyway, you can nominate anyone (and everyone) until April 27th, at which point voting begins. All stories/authors are up for grabs, because she's including fics that have been created since the start of the show. So if you know someone that deserves a shoutout (and I'm sure you do, because there are so many talented people in this fandom), I suggest trekking over to her site and casting your nomination. We'll really appreciate it. :D
In case you guys have forgotten the website, it's operation-cafe. livejournal . com. Just remove the spaces and tell them who you think rocks on CA!