Where love is great, the littlest doubts are fear; Where little fears grow great, great love grows there.
As the car pulled away from the curb, Annie realized that she'd just made it a lot harder for Auggie by asking him to ride with her to the airport. It was a little selfish. All she thought about was that she wanted him by her side a little longer. She just didn't want to say goodbye yet. He had clearly made his peace, and now she was drawing out his misery.
Auggie sat staring blankly ahead, brows creased in worry. He hadn't said a word since he closed the door to stay in the car. It was breaking her heart to see him stew like this. Her hand still rest on his arm, where she'd caught it to stop him from leaving. She stroked the fabric with her thumb, looking up at his face. He sat back, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath. Annie swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump in her throat. She had to do this. She'd never be at ease until Lena was brought to justice, either incarcerated or dead. It was a dangerous mission. She knew that. But she just couldn't leave this unfinished.
Annie unbuckled her seatbelt and scooted into the middle seat, leaning her head on his shoulder. Auggie startled slightly. He'd been so deep in his head that he hadn't heard her move over. He lifted his arm up and over her head, wrapping it around her shoulder. Her forehead tipped onto his chest.
He was warm beneath her cheek, and the steady thub-dub of his heart was very calming. Okay, this was a bad idea. Snugly wrapped in his arms, she felt safe. Safe enough almost to delude herself that she might be okay with not going to Russia. Almost. Every so often, the peaceful moment was broken by him taking a deep breath in with a sharp exhale, telling Annie that he was still brooding. She twisted the hem of his dress shirt between her fingers and rubbed her knuckles up and down his chest.
Auggie squeezed her shoulder. His other hand caught hers and stilled it. "That tickles," he told her, a hint of amusement in his voice.
She chuckled, giving his fingers a squeeze. "I forgot."
"You always forget."
True. Whenever she sat with her head on his chest—and she'd had a few opportunities during her convalescence—she tended to trace patterns there with her fingertips. "I'm sorry," she murmured.
"For tickling me?"
"For making you come to the airport with me. I know this is hard for you."
Auggie sighed. "It would be hard either way."
That damn knot in her throat was back. She swallowed hard. He ran the heel of his hand up and down her back, in a comforting way, but that comfort only hastened her tears. She blinked furiously, trying to clear the moisture from her eyes, grateful she had not put on eye makeup this morning. Annie curled closer to Auggie.
She had definitely made it harder for herself too, by asking him to come along for the ride. She had been steeled for her mission, having spent the evening packing and prepping, but, without even trying, he was able to get under that armor. He always could. Auggie kissed the top of her head and rest his chin on in her hair. He was taking very even breaths—too even. She suspected that if her face was not buried in his shirt, she'd see that he was on the verge of tears as well. Before the shooting, she had never seen him cry, but lately it didn't take much for either of them to get emotional.
"I know you need to do this," Auggie told her, lifting his chin from her head. She sat up and looked at him. "I understand wanting revenge so badly you'd risk your life for it. I've been there."
This situation had so many parallels to his going off grid in Istanbul a year earlier in pursuit of the man responsible for blinding him. He had scared the hell out of her on that trip, so she had a pretty good idea how he felt now.
He continued, "It doesn't make it any easier to watch you head off on a mission like this. I…" He took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "I just watched you fight for your life. I don't want to have to do it again-"
"There is no way you can guarantee that. Not and still go. I'm not trying to talk you out of it. Not really. I get it. But its just hard not to be able to make this easier for you." He sat forward with his head in his hands. Annie put a hand on his back. She nodded. He always went above and beyond to help her.
"And you can reach a point where you've gone too far, where the risks aren't worth what you'll get in return—"
"I want to bring Lena to justice."
"At what cost though? You've got to think about where that line is. Is it worth getting shot again? Imprisoned? Burned? Worse…?" He raked his hand through his messy hair.
"I don't know," she admitted. "I guess any of those outcomes you listed are too far."
"Just keep that line in mind."
"That line can be hard to see in the moment," she told him.
"I know," he sighed. "I know. Try. Please." There was a hint of desperation in his voice. "Please try."
"I will," she assured him, even though they both knew it was far easier said than done. The car was just pulling up to the terminal. "Here we are."
Auggie turned in towards her, placing one hand on each shoulder. "Watch your back. And take care of yourself." His hand drifted to the top of her scar.
She lay her hand on top of his there on her chest. "I will. As best I can." It was an inherently dangerous mission, and no amount of false promises would make it less so. She leaned in and gave him a light kiss on the lips before climbing out the door that the driver was holding open for her.