A/N: I'm trying something a little different…just playing around with my favorite dynamic duo. This is a little AU. This is a story I wrote a long time ago, but Annie and Auggie just wormed their way into it, and now it belongs to them…. Please review and let me know what you think. As always, I apologize for errors.
Auggie couldn't help it; he was drawn to her from the minute he laid eyes on her. She sat at the counter in the cafeteria. Not at a table like most of the wayward agents in this place. He caught sight of her deep brown eyes as she cased the room. He walked in her direction and sat down next to her, leaving one seat vacant between them. He thought of a million different opening lines as he sat, but then decided to try the direct approach.
"So, what sob story brings you here?"
"I'm sorry?" The beautiful young agent asked.
"Well, you're here at the CIA's most secretive recovery and rehabilitation center. What's your story?"
"You really like to jump right in, huh?" She chuckled softly.
"Auggie Anderson." He extended his hand. She watched his warm brown eyes take her in. She knew an operative when she saw one. He was cataloging the details.
"So, Annie Walker…you wanna talk about it?" He asked as he picked up his coffee cup and drank.
"No." She turned slightly away from him and watched the action behind the counter at the commissary.
"Maybe I came on too strong. I didn't mean to pry."
She looked back at him. His face was honest and open, but obviously he was in the CIA, as was everyone here, so she kept her guard up.
"That's okay. I'm not a big talker."
"Huh. You might need to work on that for 'group.'
"Yeah, group therapy."
"I don't do that."
"Ohhhh, you're one of those. I get it."
"What are you here for?"
"Oh, now who's getting personal?"
She laughed. Despite her initial weariness, she liked him. "Sorry, I just got here and I don't really know much about how this works."
"Well, it's your lucky day. I've become a bit of an expert around here. I'll show you the ropes."
"I can manage on my own, but thanks."
"A loner? Okay, I can take a hint."
"I didn't mean it like that." She blushed.
"I'm just teasing you."
Just then Annie heard Auggie's name being called. He got up and signaled to the man in the suit waving to him from the doorway. "That's my cue. I'll see you around, Walker."
She watched him walk away, threading his way around the various tables in the cafeteria. She couldn't help but admire the view. His jeans hung low on a nicely sculpted backside and his long-sleeved t-shirt didn't quite hide the chiseled chest underneath it. He was almost to the doorway when he bumped into a chair that was pulled out from the table. Auggie quickly righted himself and moved on. She watched as the man in the suit spoke to Auggie. His response was a quick, firm shake of his head, and then they were gone.
Annie sat at the counter contemplating her possible new friendship with this Auggie Anderson. What kind of name was 'Auggie' anyway. She wondered if it was short for something. Hmm. She chided herself. She wasn't here to make friends. She had been recruited by the CIA after they become aware of her vigilante behaviors. She's been a one-woman assassination team for the past two years. She was getting close to her target, but he still alluded her. Then, out of the blue, a woman approached her as she sat in a coffee shop. Lynn, was her name. She sat down with her coffee and spoke.
"Hello Annie. I'm Lynn. I'm with the CIA."
"Please, let me finish and then you can ask all the questions you like."
Annie glared at the woman and simultaneously calculated how fast she could run to the emergency exit.
"We are aware of your activities involving Aamir Abbas. You've been tracking him for approximately two years and have managed to eliminate several close member of his entourage."
Lynn paused and watched Annie's reaction. When the young woman said nothing, she continued. "You've managed to elude police and homeland security quite effectively. You have skills."
"What do you want?" Annie's voice was steady and did not betray her emotions.
"We want you to work for us."
"You haven't even heard our offer."
"I don't care."
Lynn exhaled and took a sip of her coffee. "We know about your husband…how he died. We know why you do what you do."
"You know nothing."
"I'd hoped you'd see this as an opportunity to work together for a shared common goal. Your target is a threat to American interests. Eliminating him would help keep our citizens safer."
"That's not my objective."
Again, Lynn sipped her coffee. She turned to the window and watched people passing by. "I'm not sure I believe that, Annie, but in any case, we have enough evidence to put you away for a long time."
"If that were true, you would've done it already."
"Won't you consider working with us? You'd have sophisticated resources at your disposal."
That point perked her interest. She had skills, no doubt. Her husband had taught her well, but she lacked equipment and funding.
"Can I think about it?"
"Not really. The exits are covered by the way."
"What happens when my mission is complete? Will you just let me walk away?"
"I don't know. That's a matter for people with higher clearance than myself."
"That's not comforting."
"I hate to point this out, but you don't really have a choice."
The next day, Annie found herself at a nameless facility in Santa Barbara, California. She'd been given a physical and mental evaluation. She was told practically nothing as she was moved from test to test. Finally, she was taken to an office and told to wait.
"Ms. Walker?" A short, older man in a blue pinstripe suit entered the room carrying a thick file.
"Yes." She stood and smoothed the sleeves of the nondescript black sweatsuit she'd been given.
"I'm going to be in charge of your case. My name is Richard. Please have a seat."
Over the next hour, Richard, who was also a medical doctor, Annie learned, outlined the course of action that would prepare her to continue her mission. There was concern, he said, about her mental state. Before she could be 'in the field' they needed to make sure her mind was sound. A little therapy, he said.
Annie was skeptical, but, it was pointed out again, she had no choice, really.
That was yesterday and today was to be her first therapy session. She finished her coffee and headed back to her dorm room. She walked slowly through the hallways. The place seemed more like a spa than a CIA compound, but she supposed they knew what they were doing. She couldn't help but wonder about the other 'residents', Auggie in particular. Was he 'unstable' too?
Auggie was frustrated and taking it out on a heavy bag in the gym. This morning's session had proved beyond difficult. Attempting to master adaptive technology was not only a tough task, it was forcing him to confront the coming darkness, and that, he simply wasn't ready for.
He'd gotten more time than the doctors had originally predicted. Six months was the 'best case scenario,' but here he was, one full year later, still able to see. Of course, that depended on one's definition of 'seeing.' He was getting used to having practically no central vision. They told him that would be the first to go, but now the peripheral vision was starting to fade. He found himself crashing into things more and more frequently. Every time he thought about what was happening, his stomach flipped, his palms grew sweaty and his chest tightened.
His boss had kindly suggested that it was time for Auggie to put in his paperwork and accept his pension plus a disability bonus. After all, it was the job that set this unfortunate chain of events in motion. Auggie didn't really know what to do, but he certainly didn't think there would still be a place in the CIA for a blind operative. Luckily, the human resources representative had different ideas. She assessed his skills and told him that with the proper training, he could absolutely still be a valuable asset. He'd been excited, feeling for the first time since the diagnosis that there might be light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak. That is, until he got here, to The Spa, as it was dubbed.
"Hey Aug." Auggie stopped the motion of the heavy bag. He was almost certain it was Alex; 'the wonder instructor.' The man had been hired to work one-on-one with Auggie. Auggie swung his head around toward the doorway. Despite the huge black blob in his central vision, Auggie was able to recognize Alex's electric green running shoes.
"Alex." Auggie resumed working on the punching bag.
"You know we have a session now."
Auggie grunted as he landed each punch. "Not now." As Auggie was about to make contact again with the bag, Alex moved it away. Auggie felt the whoosh of the air as his glove missed. The momentum carried him forward and he landed on his knees.
"Now." Alex spoke.
"I think you should give me a break after what happened this morning." He spoke as he got back on his feet.
"Auggie, did you think you'd master these skills the first time around?"
Actually, Auggie just assumed it would be easy. Anything computer related had always been easy for him. Struggling through basic computer skills left him feeling depressed and angry.
Auggie didn't answer the man.
"Well, right now I was thinking we could work on leads."
"Right. Well, I didn't bring my leash." Auggie snapped back sarcastically.
"Lucky for you, I did. And I don't want to practice walking. Let's go for a run."
Auggie's interest was piqued despite his best effort to act noncommittal.
"Meet me outside in fifteen." Alex said as he headed for the door.
An hour later, Alex and Auggie lay on the grass outside The Spa wheezing and trying to catch their breath.
"I thought I was in shape, man, but that was intense. I think I almost died about a mile back." Alex spoke while gulping air.
Auggie was thinking the same thing, but didn't want to admit it. He loved the feeling of running outdoors and had missed it severely since his vision had declined. His chest was heaving and his heart was thundering, but he couldn't seem to slow down. Alex had shown Auggie how a small length of rope held between them was really all the assistance they'd need. Alex matched his pace to Auggie's and that was really all there was to it.
"Wow, who's that?" Alex asked.
"Could you be a bit more descriptive?" Auggie asked. He tried to train his eyes in the direction Alex was looking, but all he could see were the dark blobs in his central vision.
"Um, blond, young-maybe mid-twenties. Walks fast. Geez, she's headed over here."
"I was just about to go for a run. Is this where the path starts?"
"Oh, um, yeah."
"I'm Alex, by the way." He stood up and extended his hand.
"Sorry, um, Alex, this is Annie."
"I've got to get going." And with that, she was jogging away.
"What's her story, man?" Alex nudged Auggie's arm.
"Do you know any of the basic rules of the CIA?"
"I'm a civilian, remember?"
"Yes. I remember, but you were thoroughly screened and you signed a million confidentiality disclosures."
"Right." Alex began to stretch. "So, do you know, but you can't tell me?"
The next day Annie endured her usual round of therapy. She'd hoped she 'passed' whatever tests they were giving her. All she really cared about was getting back into the field and resuming her mission to bring down Abbas and his team. It was coming up on two years since Daniel died. Murdered by Abbas. Danny hadn't been the intended target, just an unfortunate casualty. Danny was with the Secret Service protecting some foreign diplomat. Abbas's men blew up his car. Danny was dead and there was no justice at all. The government could give her no answers and Aamir Abbas walked free.
Annie pushed those thoughts out of her head and decided to take advantage of the services offered at The Spa. She was capable, no doubt, but brushing up on her skills wouldn't hurt. She wondered down to one of the computer labs. The room was empty, so she took a seat in the back and entered the temporary code she'd been assigned. She practiced using the CIA databases that were accessible to her. She was absorbed in her work and had lost track of time. It wasn't until she heard a crash in the hallway that she looked up from her computer.
Annie walked to the doorway and looked down the hall. There, she was Auggie tangled up with a chair.
"Oh my God! Are you okay?" She pulled the chair away from him. He quickly righted himself and was brushing himself off. She watched a red tint appear in his cheeks.
"Fine." He stood straight and appeared to look past her down the hallway. Annie swung around to look behind her, but there was nothing there.
"Did you hit your head?"
"No, I'm okay. Just clumsy."
Annie seriously doubted he was clumsy, especially if he'd been a CIA operative. "Okay."
She waited but Auggie didn't move. He put the back of his hand against the wall. His breathing was shallow and he seemed anxious. Annie reached out and touched his arm. She felt the muscle jump under her fingers.
"You're not okay." She said softly. She watched him swallow, then lower his head. "Do you need help?"
He turned to look at her. She saw his dark brown eyes were widely dilated. In the brightly lit hallway, that was odd. He squinted at her and then ran his hand roughly through his hair.
"I just lost my balance. They said that would happen."
Annie was alarmed, but stayed quiet. What was wrong with him? He laughed a little. "I really am fine. Thanks for your help." He smiled at her and then continued down the hallway, leaving his hand in contact with the wall.
Annie went back into the lab and logged off the machine she'd been working on. She gathered her papers and headed back to the elevators. As she rounded the corner, she stopped, hearing Auggie's angry voice.
"What was I supposed to do, Alex? Wait for you?"
"Yes, Auggie. That's exactly what you were supposed to do. Your vision is not dependable anymore. Until you've learned basic mobility, you need a guide."
"Mobility? Guide? Was Auggie going blind? Oh, God, Annie thought. How tragic. Her heart lurched and she wished she'd helped him before. She watched as Alex took Auggie's hand and placed it on the back of his arm. They walked down the hallway and away from her.
Annie rode the elevator up to her floor and entered her dorm room. As much as she felt pity for Auggie, she reminded herself that she'd been on the receiving end of pity when Danny had died. She'd been absolutely repulsed by people and their condescending words. "I know what you must be feeling," and "Danny's in a better place." It was all she could do not to spit in their faces. Well, if there was one lesson she'd learned, it was not to offer pity.
At dinner that evening, Annie spotted Auggie at the same counter. She took a deep breath and headed over to the empty seat next to him. As she sat down, he turned to look at her.
"I take it you've discovered my big secret." He spoke to her without turning his head.
"Um, yeah. Although I'm not sure how long you could keep it a secret." She unfolded her napkin and arranged her silverware.
"It was a bad day."
"Uh huh." She was reading the menu card. Roasted chicken or lasagna. Neither seemed particularly appealing. "What are you supposed to do if you're a vegetarian?"
Auggie was surprised by her sudden turn in conversation. He looked over at her. Luckily his 'black out' from earlier was over, at least for now. From what he could tell, she was reading something, probably the menu. "The lasagna is meatless."
Despite himself, he laughed. "You're hard to please, Walker."
"No, not usually."
"So, what'll it be?"
Annie put down her menu and turned to face him. His brown eyes were so warm and alive. She found herself being drawn in to him. She felt a familiar thump in her heart that she hadn't felt in a long time-connection. It had been missing so long. She's been cut off from everything except achieving her goal—murdering Danny's killer. She could almost feel her heart coming to life again and the emotion threatened the cold, protective walls she'd built up.
"I'm not hungry after all. I'll see you later, Aug." She got up and touched his shoulder as she passed by. There was no mistaking the heavy emotion in her voice. Auggie had heard snippets here and there about the mysterious Annie Walker. She was a loner, they'd said. She didn't like to talk to people, especially the shrinks. She was only here because the CIA could use her and vice versa.
"Hey Anderson, what'll it be? Chicken or Lasagna?" Auggie swung around and saw Charlie, the kitchen chef standing in front of him. As with most people here, Charlie was well aware of Auggie's condition and had gone out of his way to assist him.
"Tell me this, Charlie…is the lasagna really meatless?"
Charlie laughed out loud and mumbled something to himself about kids today. Auggie wasn't sure he'd actually gotten an answer, but a few minutes later a thick slice of lasagna was in front of him.
"Here you go, son. Lasagna is the only thing on the plate. A small salad at 10:00. A dinner roll at 2:00."
Auggie nodded to the man and then began eating. He could still see the plate. Well, he could see some of it. Auggie ate without tasting his food. Everything single thing he did was going to be affected by his fading vision. Usually, he could push those thoughts away, but right now, it overwhelmed him. About half way through, Auggie pushed the plate away and got up. He walked around the perimeter of the room this time, rather than weave in and out of chairs and tables. He walked outside and down the path that lead to one of the outer buildings. He gulped in air and tried to calm the paralyzing fear that was over taking him. He leaned against the back of a shed and tried to stop the tears from coming.
Finally, when he had himself under control, he turned to head back inside. He realized suddenly that he'd been outside too long and now the sun was almost completely down. He looked toward the main building, but could see only dim lights in the distance. The path between him and the building was nothing but blackness.
He took a deep breath and stepped forward. So far, so good, he thought. He took a few more steps and successfully found the concrete path that lead to the building. He walked slowly, but with a little more confidence that he could make it.
"Where you going?"
Auggie stopped suddenly. Annie. Shit. She knew his sad story and now probably pitied the poor, lost blind man.
"I'm going back inside."
"You're walking toward the boat house."
Annie watched him as the frustration bubbled to the surface. Despite herself, she cared about him. "Turn around if you want to go back to the main building."
Auggie said nothing, but followed her instructions. She watched as he walked away. About twenty steps away, he started to head diagonally across the path and soon stepped into the grass. She was at his side in an instant.
"Shouldn't you have a cane or something?" She took his hand and pulled him back onto the path.
"I don't need it yet." He said tightly.
Annie didn't answer. She didn't feel like pointing out the obvious. She released his hand. "Go ahead. I'll watch you til you get in."
He took another few steps and then stopped and turned. "What are you doing out here?"
"Oh, I don't know. Clearing my head."
"Are you okay? You don't have to talk to me, if you don't want…I just…" he laughed. "If we were anywhere else, I'd offer to buy you a beer and we could drown our sorrows."
Annie laughed. "It's been a long time." She said wistfully.
"Another time, another place…" Auggie trailed off.
"Yeah, maybe in another life we knew each other." She smiled.
"You believe in that stuff?" Auggie was looking away from her.
Annie swallowed hard. She didn't used to believe in Heaven or Life After Death. She and Danny believed firmly in the 'here and now,' but ever since he died, she'd hoped and even prayed there was more than just this one life. She'd do anything to see him again. "I don't know, Auggie. I hope so."
Auggie put his hands in his back pockets. "I just hope I'm not blind in my other lives."
Annie looked at him and could see the pain that he'd tried so hard to hide. It was pure grief and she recognized it.
"My husband died." After the words came out of her mouth, she was stunned. She hadn't talked to anyone about Danny, besides Lynn the recruiter, in almost two years.
Auggie turned and seemed to stare directly at her. "Is that why you're here?"
"Yeah. At least, I thought it was." She looked at his tanned face with its hard, masculine planes and fought a strong desire to touch him. "I feel confused now."
"What do you mean?"
She exhaled and shook her head to clear her mind. "Things don't seem so clear anymore."
Auggie laughed. "That makes two of us, Walker." He extended his elbow, "C'mon, I'll walk you back to your room."
Now it was her turn to laugh. She linked her arm with his and gently guided him back to the main building.
The next morning, Annie actually felt herself somewhat excited at the thought of having breakfast with Auggie. Her feelings confused her, but at the very least, she decided it was okay to let someone in. She'd been driven to avenge Danny's death, and nothing would change that, but if she were being honest with herself, she'd been lonely. Terribly lonely.
She headed downstairs to the main lobby and passed a very distraught looking Alex.
"Alex? What's the matter?" She grabbed his arm.
"It's Auggie, Annie. He's been hospitalized. I'm heading there now."
"What? What happened?"
"I don't know exactly. I'll know more when I speak to the doctors. All I know is he woke up this morning and all of his remaining eye sight was gone."