Title: Times of Trouble (1/1)
"Friends show their love in times of trouble"- Euripides
Annie flopped into the car and took a deep breath, letting her forehead rest on the steering wheel. Beside her on the passenger seat she'd flung a bag filled with a few pieces of clothing and other necessaries to keep her tided over until she figured out what her next step was.
The next step. That was the great question. Or rather, questions, because Annie was sure that the next step for tonight wasn't the next step for her living situation in general. A hotel would do for a night or two, but after that it was time to finally look into getting that safe house apartment that Auggie kept nagging her about. He always knew what to do, Annie thought with a sigh, kicking herself for forgetting the bottle of Patron up in the guesthouse. Though she was still parked outside, there was no way she was going back in for a bottle of tequila. That would have to wait.
She shifted the little red car into reverse and pulled away from her sister's townhouse. And she drove, nowhere in particular, crisscrossing the city on the traffic clogged highways for hours. It was dark out by the time she stopped, pulling into a space along a busy city street not far from where she'd started. She hadn't made a conscious decision to go see Auggie, but that's where she ended up, parked on the street in front of his apartment building.
Annie started to get out of the car and paused. It was not an infrequent occurrence for Auggie to have female company in the evening; probably far more often than she knew about. Better to call first.
He answered on the first ring. "Good evening, Ms. Walker," he greeted her.
"Uh oh. That doesn't sound good."
"I…" she faltered.
"Reading your sister in didn't go well?"
"Understatement," Annie sighed. "Are you alone?"
"Am I alone?" he chuckled. "Yes."
"You need to go get a drink? I could meet you at the tavern. Where are you?"
"Then get your ass up here."
Two minutes later, she smiled as she got out of the elevator on his floor. Auggie was standing in the doorway of his apartment, clad in pajama pants and a tank top, holding a shot glass full of clear liquid. He looked up at the click-clack of her heels coming his way down the hall.
"Hey," she greeted him weakly.
"Hey, yourself." He held out the shot.
She took the glass and knocked it back quickly. "Thank you. I needed that."
"Plenty more where that came from." He ushered her into the apartment, sliding the door shut behind them.
"I forgot my bottle. At Danielle's." She was choking up again at the thought of everything that had gone down between her and her sister. Auggie reached out to find her, patting her arm, then pulling her closer. She launched herself into his arms for the second time in as many days. He squeezed her tightly back, stroking her shoulder with his thumb as she cried into his neck.
"Come on," he said after a minute, as she started to calm down. He led her across the apartment to the living room. "Sit."
She did as she was told, plopping into the middle of the couch. He retreated to the kitchen, returning a minute later with the bottle and another shot glass.
"Didn't want to be left out?" she asked, corners of her mouth quirking up a little as he sat beside her.
"Do I ever pass up the opportunity for Patron?" She placed her empty glass on the table beside his and he filled them both. "To tomorrow being a better day," he said, holding up a glass.
"Yeah…" Annie sighed, and picked up hers. She clinked it against his before they knocked them back in unison. He poured again, and they repeated the gesture.
Auggie sat back against the corner, arms resting on the back and the side of the couch. Annie leaned forward, elbows on knees, head in hands.
"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked after a minute.
No. Yes. Maybe. It was why she'd come over. "I'm probably going to cry again, " She sighed. "You've been warned." She sat up and looked back at him.
He merely shrugged in response. "Whatever you need."
This made her smile a little, despite her melancholy, because she knew he meant it. Annie settled back into the crook of Auggie's arm and he tugged her closer. For a few minutes, she sat there, fuzzy head content to rest against his warm chest. Auggie was letting her stew in silence, and she loved him for it. The heel of his hand ran up and down her back. Between that and the rise and fall of his chest with each breath, she was nearly lulled to sleep.
"You still with me?" he asked softly some time later.
"Mmmhmm," she answered, blinking back to attention. "Tequila's nice."
"No arguments here," Auggie laughed.
A combination of the tequila and the company had left her much more relaxed: more resigned and less teary about her situation. "You were pretty much right about Danielle not taking it well," Annie sighed.
"I never said Danielle specifically," Auggie clarified. "I said, it's a big announcement. She needs time."
"She sure didn't need time to kick me out of the house."
"She said she doesn't feel safe having me there with her kids…" Okay, maybe she was wrong about being less teary. Blinking furiously, she sat forward and refilled her glass.
"Ah, ah." Auggie held out his own glass.
She topped him off and they both downed them quickly. "I don't know why I expected it to go so much better for me."
"You're an optimist." Annie nodded. "Give her a little time. You two are close. She'll come around. Just don't push it. She needs to come to terms with it on her own," he told her. "Now is a good time to set up that safe house that you should—"
"—should have set up a long time ago, yes," Annie sighed. "I'll start looking tomorrow. Tonight, I have to try to figure out where—"
"Tonight, you'll stay here."
"Yeah?" she asked, sounding more surprised than she probably should have. She realized that he probably thought that's why she'd come over. Somehow that hadn't been her intention—or even in her mind. She just needed her best friend.
He chuckled. "You, my friend, have had a lot to drink in a short time. There is no way I'm letting you get behind the wheel of your car. And you have nowhere better to stay anyways. Tonight you can crash here."
"Thank you," she murmured, kissing his cheek and settling back against his chest. Her eyes landed on his ancient TV, which was on—with no sound. "Why is your TV on mute?"
"I forgot about the game!" he pitched them forward to grab the remote off the coffee table and unmuted it. "I turned the sound off when my phone rang. What's the score?"
"4 to 6."
"Shen loved baseball," she told him. "He wanted me to take him to a game. Never got a chance."
"Sorry about that," Auggie's hand had resumed running up and down her back.
"Maybe that's what I should do tomorrow," she said.
"In his honor."
"Twist my arm," he laughed.
Annie closed her eyes. She could easily fall asleep right where she was. The cumulative effects of the alcohol and the day she'd had left her exhausted. Auggie's chest rose and fell evenly beneath her cheek and the Cubs game played on in the background as she drifted off to sleep.