AN: *Waves* I haven't posted anything in a long time, but this story just sort of demanded itself be written. It's fully finished on my hard drive, so I'll be posting a chapter a week or so. It was time for a change of sorts, and I've had a lot of fun writing this. Huge thanks for Divine Inspiration for prereading and general hand-holding throughout the process.
Covert Affairs is not mine.
1. In Which Our Lies Tell The Story
Annie Walker was restless.
In the relative quiet of her sister's Georgetown backyard, the hustle and bustle of the vibrant city offered no distraction. Sure, she could go down to Allen's, listen to the band play, throw back a few rounds with her coworkers, but that wasn't the itch she wanted to scratch. She wanted excitement, her pulse throbbing in her ears, or the deep contentment that came with a pristine sunset in a far-flung locale. Georgetown, with its quaint brick buildings and colonial charm, just wasn't getting her there.
The trouble was that Georgetown was where she was unceremoniously stuck. Sure, there was the daily drive in and out of Virginia, but that was a straight path to and from Langley. Joan had been very specific in her orders to lay low. No high profile missions – in fact, not so much as a simple intel drop until chatter died down.
Annie chafed at the command. So her last mission hadn't gone off as well as she would have liked. So she had caused a scene in central London. So Joan had had to go to bat with the seventh floor suits to lean on their MI-6 contacts to smooth things over. It wasn't Annie's fault. If Joan hadn't saddled her with that new tech guy, if she had just listened to Annie's request to speak to Auggie when things had begun to head south, well then maybe she wouldn't have ended up running barefoot from a proper disaster in the middle of Oxford Circle.
Glaring out at the warm summer night from her spot on the guest house stairs, Annie downed another few gulps of her beer. In the main house, she could make out Danielle and the girls. Michael was off on yet another business trip. It seemed he traveled almost as much as Annie these days, but there was nothing suspicious there. Michael wasn't smart enough to be a spy, and Annie knew it. In fact, Annie knew more about Michael's extra travel plans than she wished to. She was trained to read people, and Michael wasn't all that careful. If only Danielle would start to look... but it wasn't Annie's place to blow up her sister's marriage. Danielle knew there had been "indiscretions" as she had called them, but she wanted to believe Michael had changed. Who was Annie to ruin that for her?
For Danielle's sake, Annie would stick to being in the middle of a sordid mess across the ocean. Running barefoot from an explosion definitely won over sisterly interference.
Annie had considered talking to her sister about her problem, but brushed the urge off. Reading Danielle in had been bad enough, as had the months she had lived in her safe house. While her sister had accepted Annie's preference for a job with whizzing bullets, it didn't mean she liked it. It wasn't like Annie could tell her everything anyway. The half-truths would probably only piss Danielle off more, and they were finally back to a good place together. Annie was sleeping in a real bed again, with access to her sister's five-star kitchen. Returning to her futon didn't sound all that appealing.
So it was that Annie found herself wearing yoga pants and drinking beer alone on her steps. The morning would bring yet another stack of paperwork, translations Joan piled anew each day. Annie knew full well there was a team of translators with security clearances seriously above her pay grade, and every time Joan brought her another boring assignment, she wanted to scream.
Joan wanted her to lay low to keep her safe, but in a rare moment of pique, Annie wondered since when did the agency give a damn about her safety? There were still missions that needed doing, and Annie was still a damn good spy. So London had been a bust. It was one mission. What about the dozens of other missions over the years? Didn't that mean something?
Frustrated, Annie blew out a rush of air that was half a sigh, half a huff. She needed a distraction, but what was there to do? In that past, she could call Auggie and talk his ear off about whatever agency issues were eating her, but he was on board with Joan's insistence Annie keep to DC for the time being. That only pissed Annie off more – of all people, shouldn't Auggie understand her frustration at being banned from the field? If he did, he was burying it under lackluster attempts to convince her it was time for a break. When he wasn't busying doing that, he was lost in his own thoughts. Talking to Auggie was out.
Not that Auggie had exactly been easy to talk to lately. He hadn't talked about her much, but Annie knew about his trip to Africa to see Parker. With a wince, she recalled how quickly Auggie had returned to DC. He hadn't been the same since, not that she could get him to admit to it. He made the same jokes and adopted the same easy manner as always, but his smiles no longer reached his eyes. In empty hallways and on late nights, when he must have assumed no one was looking, Annie had seen the mask drop off. The emotions on his face in those moments scared her.
Annie knew Auggie's story better than anyone else at the agency. Gifted operative, impressive Special Forces soldier. She knew how it had all come to a horrific ending, the IED in Iraq, the years it had taken him to recover some semblance of who he had been. But she had also been with him when few others had, in crowded public places where his frustration escaped in quick glimpses at the struggle she knew it was for him to go through each day without his sight.
Sitting on the hood of his car that day after she had returned from Stockholm, Annie had been ready to lay it all out on the table. Danielle's soft push had forced her to examine her feelings for the man, and Annie had been shocked to find how deep they ran. At the Farm, they had been big on compartmentalizing any detail that could interfere with the mission. Annie wondered if that was what she had done over the years with Auggie. Every feeling that had burst to the surface had been much too deep to dismiss as a new infatuation.
There had been a spark that first day, but they were coworkers, and then they were friends. Best friends. Auggie was the voice in her ear keeping her alive in the field. There was a neat niche in her brain for places in her life Auggie could be – and those he couldn't. Danielle, in her one simple comment on Annie's voice, had changed all that.
I might not be a spy like you, but your voice changes when you talk to him.
The words echoed in Annie's mind as she downed the last of her beer and leaned back on her elbows to stare up at the night sky. If only that conversation had happened; if only Annie had told Auggie how she felt about him before he went running off to Africa.
But would that have changed anything? Auggie hated depending on anyone, but to travel to Parker's remote location, he had to have needed help along the way. Airline travel was a personal thorn in his side, but he was willing to fly halfway around the world for Parker. Auggie, womanizing Auggie, was willing to do that for one girl. Who was Annie to try to stop him? It had pissed her off that he wasn't there for her, but even in that moment she had known jealousy for what it was.
So she had swallowed her feelings and driven away in the car he had given her. Hands gripping the smooth, worn leather of the steering wheel, she had carefully navigated out of DC and into the Maryland countryside. In the middle of the open fields and horse pastures, she had floored it until the sound of the engine and the wind drowned out her tears. And when she was all cried out, she had given herself a very firm glare in the mirror and put it all away, just like when she'd had to move as a kid.
Or at least, she told herself that's what she was going to do. But everything that had once so easily been locked up in her mind refused to go back behind the wall. Annie went back to work, and Auggie came back from Africa, but there was a distance between them that hadn't been there before. At first, they still went on coffee runs together, and there were still the after work drinks at Allen's, but in Annie's mind, Auggie's hand on her elbow wasn't as easy anymore. He used the laser cane instead of taking her arm more often than not, and though she tried to ignore it, that stung. They found themselves talking about work when they went out, or the god damned weather. They had become strangers to one another.
She knew it wasn't fair to be angry with him. He couldn't possibly have known how her heart was breaking that day on the roof of the parking garage while he had joked about hearing her smile. It wasn't Auggie's fault that Annie had come to realize her feelings too late. It wasn't his fault that he'd had a plane to catch when Annie had wanted nothing more than to talk to him until the crushing cloud of gloom had lifted from her heart.
Even now, months later in her sister's backyard, if Annie closed her eyes she could still see the flash of Danielle's red coat, hear the bang of the shots, smell that acrid burning...nothing quite compared to the stench of gunpowder. Or the lifeless gaze of a man whose life you had ended.
She'd known on signing up that the day would come – all those lessons at the Farm on weapons training hadn't just been for show. Annie was trained to be deadly, and that day she had saved her sister's life. Maybe her own. She had acted and it had been the right thing to do. The thug in Sweden had not been the first whose life she would take in the line of duty. It was a sobering reality. At the Farm, they had talked about compartmentalizing, about remembering all the reasons why she was doing a good thing, but even in her shrink visits, the words rang hollow. She had known being in the CIA came with a body count, but she hadn't been ready for it. Annie doubted there was any way to really be ready to take a man's life.
Joan had even offered a rare moment of praise upon her return. So though protocol had sent her through a number of evaluations and appointments with the shrink, she'd been quickly cleared to go back in the field, so back into the field she'd gone. Up until the disaster in London, Annie had thought Stockholm was firmly behind her.
Funny how a building going up in a fireball could put a damper on things so easily.
Annie sighed, forcing herself up and off the stairs. She had a long day of busy work ahead of her in the office. After Stockholm, she had done such a good job of keeping her head down, staying on book, and not pissing off Joan. London had ruined all of that progress, but Annie was determined to get back on track. She needed to get back into the field before the tension with Auggie made her crazy.
But instead of sleep, the nightmares returned. Annie wasn't foolish enough to think shooting a man would come without consequences, but it had been months. She had successfully gone back into the field. She had talked to the shrink. It had helped, but ultimately, not enough to make the dreams stop.
What she wanted more than anything was to talk to Auggie. The company doctor was nice enough, but Annie couldn't force herself to let her guard down with him. She wanted her best friend. She wanted the ex Special Forces solider who had been through this particular hell himself. Annie liked the doctor just fine, but all the medical training in the world wasn't preparation for how heavy that gun had felt in her hand after pulling the trigger. Auggie would understand. Auggie would help her find her way back to herself.
But that wasn't an option. Her fumbling attempt at bringing the topic up with him had ended just as quickly that day on the roof. Auggie's dismissive suggestion that she talk to the shrink still stung. Even when she had tried to explain, he had changed the topic. Too caught up in his own thoughts, he had completely missed the boat with her that day. Annie couldn't remember a time Auggie had ever gotten it so wrong. As much as she knew it wasn't entirely fair, it really pissed her off. Auggie went through women like water. What had been so special about Parker that he hadn't been able to take five minutes for his best friend?
Or perhaps it was worse than that. Perhaps Auggie had never really seen Annie as anything other than one of his rotating harem and finally given up on getting into her pants. Annie didn't want to think that lowly of him, and deep down she knew it wasn't fair, but the mere possibility only fueled her anger.
Annie's rage kept her from spiraling, and so she clung to it. The combined lack of sleep and stir-craziness was making for a short fuse. She wanted to turn off her alarm, go back to sleep, and forget all about Stockholm and everything that had come after.
But that wasn't an option. Annie forced herself out of bed and into the office. Once there, she made a beeline for her desk and started in on the latest stack of classifieds out of Moscow.
It wasn't long before Auggie stopped by her desk, a puzzled expression on his face. "You avoiding me, Walker?" he asked lightly, crossing his arms and leaning against her desk. "No coffee love for your buddy Auggie anymore?"
Annie fought the urge to be snide, reminding herself that Auggie hadn't done anything to deserve her bad mood. Not lately, anyway. "I've been here," was all she offered in reply. She didn't want to get into it with him under the watchful eye of the DPD. In her fatigue from her poor sleep, she had simply forgotten to grab Auggie's coffee like she usually did.
"I'm heading down to grab one. Care to join me?"
"I just went a little while ago, thanks."
Auggie's eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement, but he went without her. Annie wasn't about to explain herself. He was a perceptive man. Let him figure it out. She willfully ignored the exhaustion etched into his features. If he wanted to talk to her about it, he would. But he hadn't offered, and Annie was not about to ask. That would violate their newfound inability to discuss anything more personal than what they wanted for lunch.
Even months later, it still hurt that Auggie was shutting her out. He was the first person to get truly close to her, closer than any of the men she'd dated – in some ways, almost closer than her sister – but when it came down to it, Annie was going to have to find a way to put him behind her like everyone else. The walls she had so carefully built up around herself had kept her safe for years, but somehow Auggie had managed to weasel his way in. Fat lot of good that had done her.
But walking out to the parking lot that night, it seemed Auggie wasn't quite ready to let it go. "I gotta give it to you, Walker, you're doing a fine job staying out of trouble," he commented. "You wouldn't be trying to lull me into a false sense of security or anything like that, would you?" His voice was light, and the grin he wore friendly. Annie heaved an internal sigh, wondering to herself how it had been so easy to drive space between them. It wasn't so long ago she would have had a snappy response ready, but that night, she didn't have the energy for a verbal sparring match.
"Nah, nothing like that."Annie offered Auggie her arm, surprised when he took it. It had been a long time since she had lead him around. "Just trying to keep my sister from having a heart attack."
"How is Danielle?"
"Good," Annie answered after a beat. Auggie hadn't asked about her family in a long time, either. "Girls are good. Michael is...not. But that's nothing new."
"Sorry to hear it."
"Don't be. Danielle is strong. She'll be okay."
There was an awkward silence as they arrived at Annie's car. Annie wanted to scream. They were still having a conversation like two strangers making awkward small talk, regardless of Auggie seemingly making an effort by asking about her family. How had this happened?
"So, Allen's? You up for it?" Auggie's expression was all cool confidence, but Annie could see a hint of hesitation lurking in his eyes. He had noticed her stilted reaction, but he wasn't saying anything. This from a man who had once followed her into a ladies bathroom, determined to get to the bottom of her unhappiness.
"Sorry, Auggie. I promised Danielle I'd help her make cupcakes for Katia's bake sale. She'll kill me if I show up late from a bar." The lie came easily. This was what she had trained herself to do – lie under pressure. It helped that Auggie couldn't see the uneasy look on her face or the fact that her eyes were empty of emotion. "I'll drop you off on my way though. Get in."
Annie kept the volume up on the radio during the drive in from Virginia, determined not to get sucked into a conversation with him. With her dark mood, it could only end one way, and that wasn't fair to Auggie. He went along with it, somehow seeming to sense that it wasn't the night to push her.
Getting out of the car, he turned back to lean in through her open passenger's window. "I'll be here if you change your mind."
"Have fun," she called as she put the car in gear and drove away. She knew he would be there – with some woman hanging off his arm he was sure to take home. Parker had put a damper on things for awhile, but Auggie was back up to his old tricks. Annie, in her charitable moments, figured it was his version of a rebound, but she was tired of being the wingman and she was tired of being charitable.
Annie didn't return to the bar.
Of course, after congratulating herself on a successful evasion of an awkward night out, Annie could have slapped herself the next morning for being too tired to pay attention.
"According to the news, Georgetown didn't burn down overnight so the baking must have gone well," Auggie said by way of greeting as she dropped off coffee for his team. "Bring me anything?"
"The bake sale..."
"Oh! Right! No, Danielle, you know how she is. Everything went to the school." Annie laughed, trying to cover her lie and flaming cheeks. Auggie frowned, but didn't say anything. When he turned for his office without another word, Annie was certain he was too angry to speak to her.
Being the new kid, staying observant had helped her land on her feet her entire life. So much of what she did these days included watching, waiting, and she had been trained to hone those skills. She was used to it. But door watching, as it turned out, was far less interesting than people watching.
Auggie didn't leave the Tech Ops room the rest of the day. Annie had been hoping to catch him in the hall, to apologize for the lie he had obviously caught her in, but no such luck was to be found.
There were no further invites to Allen's that week. If anything, Auggie seemed decidedly cooler toward her. Even their awkward, polite conversation dwindled to a forced greeting in the morning.
Chafing at the restriction from Joan and more hurt than ever by Auggie's behavior, Annie threw herself into work. She showed up early and stayed late. She didn't go off book and piss off Joan. She read intel reports, listened to crazies on walk-in duty, and scoured international classifieds for coded messages. When red flags popped up, she sent them up the chain and then let them go.
In short, she did everything she could to be the model servant of bureaucracy.
She didn't joke with Auggie in the halls. She didn't bring him – or his team – coffee. She worked through her lunch, spending exactly ten hours at her desk before returning to Georgetown. Her casual greetings ceased. If she could just manage to force herself to stop looking in Auggie's direction several times an hour, she figured in another few months she would be entirely over the betrayal of his friendship.
For his part, Auggie didn't quite know what he had done to piss Annie off, but he knew it had been something. He was blind, yes, but he had been a perceptive man even before the accident. His experiences with women, and with Annie in particular, had clued him in big time that she was upset with him.
The problem was that he had no idea how to fix it. Most of the time, the women he slept with didn't have a reason to be angry with him. He was honest from the start that he wasn't looking for anything serious, and the ones who didn't leave at that point knew what he was willing to give and what he wasn't. When there were disagreements, he either simply walked away or used his charms to make the problem go away.
But Annie wasn't someone he could walk away from, nor could he flirt his way out of it. Her silence ate at him, but what was he supposed to do? He knew things had been strained between them since her return from Stockholm and his trip to Africa. He had tried, inviting her to Allen's, but she had lied to him instead of agreeing. Auggie was the one person Annie never lied to...or at least he had been. What had he done that had warranted it?
His anger kept him stubborn enough to let Annie grow further and further from him. The first member of his team to remark on her unusual absence had been treated to a tongue lashing on minding his own business Auggie hadn't seen fit to deliver in years. Ops were run with the sort of quiet, tense precision that had marked most of Auggie's life in the days before Annie Walker had come waltzing through the doors, but he wasn't ready to admit how badly he had come to rely on her. Losing Parker had been bad enough. He couldn't process Annie being gone too.
Besides, she wasn't really gone. Auggie could smell her perfume in the air, practically sense the hostility exuding from her desk, but he kept quiet. Annie would come around in her own time. He was determined to let her work through her issues before he bothered her. It was safer that way.
In the back of his head, a tiny voice protested that Auggie Anderson never took the easy way out, but he simply turned the music up a little louder.