The rest of the trip to the Hilton was made in silence. Annie turned her phone over and over in her hands, unsure if she wanted it to ring or not. Wondering whose voice she would hear if it did, and how she'd feel about it. Something told her that there was more to this than just a pass off... Ben wasn't finished saying his piece and Annie was sure that his piece would be uncomfortable for all concerned.
"Go grab the key," Annie said when the taxi pulled up. "I'll hold the cab."
"Me? Why me?"
"Because my feet hurt and because this is the most simple task I can possibly give you to do on your own. Scoot." She waved her hand at him and watched him almost tumble out of the cab.
With a slightly trembling hand, Annie flipped through the numbers in her phone until she saw Auggie's name.
"Which pot again?" Tom asking, his head poking in through the window.
Annie fumbled the phone and it started dialling. "Oh my God, are you kidding me?" Auggie heard quite clearly when he answered.
"Sorry, sorry, something... unexpected happened right as I was dialling. Tom, just... just work it out. Please?" She gasped.
"Right." Tom's head disappeared again.
"You alright Walker?" Auggie asked.
"I... not really. I don't know." She rested her head on her hand and closed her eyes.
"You wanna talk about it?" The question was tentative, and Annie hated that he should tread so lightly around her when he never had before.
"Not over the phone. I'll be home soon..."
"OK... I'll see you soon, so to speak."
When Tom returned, sweaty and haggard looking but clutching a small silver key in his hand, Annie barely looked at him. "Found it." He handed it over and she noticed that his hands were filthy. "I ah... I forgot where it was supposed to be exactly, so I had to,"
"Tom..." she interrupted him and patted his knee consolingly. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have yelled at you. That was unfair, and none of my crap right now is your fault."
"It's OK, I mean, I get it. As much as a lonely geek who only moved out of his mother's basement a year ago can."
The train station was crowded and Annie led Tom through a series of evasion exercises mostly just to give him some experience. She'd been careful, watchful, since Ben had said he was being followed and she had no idea who might be interested in his movements, but there had been no sign of pursuit. While she was sure that somehow, Eyal might still be able to find a way to follow her without her knowing, just about anyone else should have given themselves away somewhere.
She grabbed the package, a slim manilla envelope that couldn't hold more than a dozen pages. With it tucked safely into her handbag Annie hailed another cab and she and Tom chatted about the weather and their families on the way to the airport. Security was nothing, and soon they were wandering around looking in boutique gift shops until Tom coughed uncomfortably and nodded towards Annie's left.
When she turned, Ben was standing there with his hands clasped in front of him. "Jesus." She hissed in annoyance. "I knew this wasn't over."
"You want me to... ah..."
"No, it's OK. Just um, just grab me a coffee, yeah? I'll be done by the time you get back." She clapped him on the shoulder and he took the out gratefully. "What do you want Ben?"
"To see you... to talk to you. I couldn't leave like this, not again." He closed the distance between then and reached for her hands but she pulled them back.
"We've been through this before, in Mexico..."
"Not this." He grabbed her hand before she could pull it back. "I want you to come with me."
"Come... what? Where? What are you talking about?"
"I want you to come with me. You're an amazing operative, Arthur realises that. There's a place for you on my team, if you want it." He stared down at her intensely.
"A place... but what about Joan? The DPD?"
"Arthur's OK'ed it. There's nothing she can do. You'd still be serving, still be doing what you love... and we could be together."
"Ben, it's not... that's not going to happen. I'm sorry, I,"
"You said yourself this guy hasn't been around long, you and me, we were,"
She held up a hand and shook her head. "Please just stop. Ben, it's not about, about time or opportunity. I don't want you to think that I'm angry with you, because I'm not. I get it. In your place I might have done all the same things had our places been reversed, but you have to understand... I wouldn't do them now." She sighed and took a deep breath before plunging on. "You were... the most exciting person I ever met. And we were exciting together but that can't be all it is. Auggie is... he's the cavalry when I need to be saved, but he's still around later when it all dies down. He's got my back at work, he knows what I like for lunch and he slept on uncomfortable hospital chairs all night just so he'd know, right away, that I was OK. He's someone I can trust to put me first, always. And he's someone I can put first..."
Ben swallowed hard and looked down at her. Though his face remained calm she had the impression he was suffering greatly underneath and she felt horrendously guilty for it.
"He's ah... someone, maybe, who'd fly across the country, just to get to see you three hours sooner..." Ben said quietly.
Annie frowned and cocked her head to the side, "what're you...?"
"There's a blind guy over there... who's trying very hard not to seem like his who life hinges on this conversation." Ben nodded and Annie spun to see Auggie leaning against the wall about fifteen meters further into the terminal looking simultaneously elated and guilty.
"Auggie!" Annie rushed forward and Auggie held out his hand which she took, tangling their fingers together, and flung her other arm around his neck. "I'm sorry I didn't say anything." She gasped into his neck, only to sigh in relief as he wrapped his other arm around her waist and held her tight. "What're you doing here?"
"Well... it depends. I'm either being incredibly romantic, or indulging my inner insecure jerk." He brought her hand to his lips and kissed it gently. "I know you and Ben have a profound history... and I guess I just couldn't wait another three hours to find out if, given the choice, maybe... maybe it wouldn't be me."
"Auggie..." She turned her face and kissed him gently. "It's always been you..."
After kissed her back he pulled away smiling and pulled an envelope out of his pocket. "In that case, I pulled a few strings and,"
"First class upgrade!" Annie gasped, yanking the envelope from his hand. She looked at him slyly. "What happened to being insecure?"
"I can't be insecure and hopeful at the same time?"
They laughed, and Annie turned in his arms to look back, but Ben was gone. She wasn't surprised, and smiled slightly. She wouldn't have wanted him to hang around and watch, it'd be like rubbing it in. "OK, I need to go to the bathroom. You wait here for Tom and I'll be right back." She half danced off sing-songing 'first class' under her breath.
"I thought she was going to forget I was here." Tom said as he sat next to Auggie on the uncomfortable blue airport chairs.
"It's nice you think I'm that distracting. Survive OK?"
"I think so." Tom coughed uncomfortably. "So uh... I suppose I'm heading back to cattle class?"
"You think I'm going to fork out for an upgrade for my girlfriend's partner? The partner who shared a hotel room with her last night?" Auggie asked coldly with a raised eyebrow.
"Right... no, of course not." Tom coughed.
"No, of course not. But, when I told Joan that Annie wouldn't be needing her ticket any more, she turned a blind eye when I got that one refunded and rolled it into a first class spot for you." He grinned.
"Oh thank God! I could feel myself getting deep vein thrombosis on the way here! That was the longest three hours of my life!"
When Annie came back from the bathroom, Auggie was still chuckling softly. "Ready to go?" she asked.
"Yes." Auggie stood and smiled as she slid her arm around his. "As promised, there is Pizza and beer waiting at home."
"Mmm, that sounds amazing, and since you kept your end of the bargain, I suppose I can see my way clear to fix that bed situation you were having."
"I'm overcome with gratitude... among other things."