He first noticed it in the lobby of his building, near the mailboxes. The smell was light- floral with just a hint of citrus. Not grapefruit, but close enough to make his heart beat a little faster. That time, he chalked it up to wishful thinking, and continued to his apartment.
Two days later, the smell came again, this time as the elevator doors opened on his floor. It was possible that the guy across the hall had a new relationship, but Auggie hadn't heard any change to his pattern in the last few months. He arrived home around 6:30 each night, food was delivered around 7, and then no one came or left until the next morning.
Full of hope and with only the smallest bit of trepidation, Auggie left his patio door open when he went out for his usual Sunday morning brunch. He arrived home to find the door closed as he left it. Nothing seemed out of place as he walked around, ghosting the various surfaces. Auggie smiled when he realized where the floral scent was strongest- his pillows.
The truth was, he'd been waiting for contact for some time now. After Calder "took care" of Annie, Henry Wilcox made him his right hand man. It allowed for Calder to expose Wilcox from the inside, with, Auggie suspected, substantial help from his outside source. The process took upwards of six months, but it was done. Upon exposure, but before he could be captured, Henry Wilcox committed suicide. The results of the investigation uncovered a long line of payoffs, bribes, and blackmails. Senator Pierson resigned from office. A few weeks later, Joan was taken off administrative leave, and returned as DCS. Auggie, too, was offered his position back; a large step up from the scrub work he was assigned to while investigations were pending. Calder was promoted, a move that would keep him in Washington for good. It wasn't Auggie's first choice, but he did have to admit that the take down of Henry was enough to at least earn the man some respect.
In the year, she'd only used their protcols for communication with him twice. He knew she wanted to protect him, but it didn't stop Auggie from thinking of her safety day and night. The first three months were the worst- when the people around him grieved and he had to endure the condolences, the pity, and the constant urge to tell people she'd come back. He couldn't bear to see Joan as heartbroken as he knew she was, not to mention Barber and the rest of the guys in the department. He knew, though, that keeping her safe was his first priority. He also knew that if she wasn't safe, Calder would tell him. They hadn't discussed it, but it was understood.
After that Sunday, his patio door remained unlocked. Waiting for the floral scent to waft through, and the warm body that would accompany it.
Three nights of restless sleeping- waking at every sound from the street, the building, and the weather. Auggie wanted so badly to smell the floral notes again, to have her climb into the bed beside him and wrap his arms around her. On the fourth night, his exhausted body betrayed him. He slept heavily, and didn't recall waking even once.
He dragged himself out of bed the next morning with labored steps. Still in his pajamas, he moved across the apartment. When he reached his destination, his brain perked up. It was the smell he'd longed for. He turned around, facing out of the kitchen and into the apartment beyond. "Annie?" he croaked, his heart beating quickly.
The response was silence and stillness. More than a little disappointed, Auggie turned around again and continued with his morning routine. As he pulled the carafe from the coffee maker, he heard the soft thud of a stack of papers hitting the counter. He reached down and felt a 6x9 envelope. The coffee forgotten, Auggie pivoted to the kitchen island, and carefully opened the envelope. He meticulously took out each item and placed them in front of him, mentally cataloging the contents so he wouldn't miss anything when he put the envelope back together.
The contents of the envelope included a passport, two boarding passes, and a note. Auggie ran his fingers across the surface. "IAD, 4PM Friday. ORD first UA," it read. He ran his fingers over the smooth boarding passes and found numbers printed in Braille in what he assumed was the bottom right corner of each pass. Auggie couldn't help but let a huge smile spread across his face.
At the office later that day, he finally plucked up the courage to talk to Joan. He knew his cover story, but the idea of continuing the lie any further was agonizing. Especially because his cover story relied on playing on her feelings for not only him, but Annie as well.
"What can I do for you, Auggie?" Joan asked, a hint of concern in her voice as she took in his downtrodden appearance before her.
"Joan, I've done the mandatory counseling, I've gone through all the grief support groups I can handle, and the truth is, I am still not OK," he began, as he sank into a chair for good measure.
"Oh Auggie," Joan replied, while she sat down next to him and placed a hand on his forearm. The two sat in silence for a moment before Auggie continued.
"I thought that finishing what we started with Henry would somehow make things better. I thought that if I could go back to how things were before, that I could move forward. But-" his arms were now supporting his head, as he leaned his elbows on his knee. He let one tear fall at the thought of really losing her before he continued, "I don't know if I can do it."
"Auggie, I am so sorry," Joan responded, and Auggie could hear the tears in her voice. He swallowed hard because he couldn't stand to see his friend in more pain. He knew, though, that he had to follow through. Annie's choice in the way she reached out to him meant that he had to keep the secret. She wasn't ready to read anyone else in, and he had to respect that, no matter how difficult.
Joan took a moment before she cleared her throat. "I think it would be good to get some distance on this place. After your accident, you were so eager to get back here, that we all forget you aren't a permanent fixture." He opened his mouth as if to protest, but she continued. "You need to take some time away from DC. Go home to your family, go someplace no one knows you- just go where you can mourn your loss. We will muddle through without you for a few weeks." She took his hand in hers, and this time a real tear slipped from his eye as he thought about how much this woman cared for him. "You need to do this, Auggie. For you, and for Annie's memory." Auggie squeezed her hands with his own before he nodded. He rose as if in a daze, and made his way out of the office. His plan succeeded, but he wasn't sure he liked the cost.
Auggie wrapped up a few things in his office, his emotions conflicted. He knew he had to play downtrodden, and there was a part of him that was. But the excited butterflies he had were difficult to conceal. He let a few subordinates know that he would be out of contact for a while. He heard Barber start to choke up a bit before Auggie was enveloped into an awkward hug. Glad his goodbyes were over, Auggie headed home to pack. He had an assumption as to his final destination and packed accordingly. One duffel was all he dared bring besides his messenger bag. A few burner phones in various pockets. He set up his car service, withdrew money from the bank and his safe, and made sure all his finances were in line. If his suspicions were correct, he wouldn't be doing online banking in the near future. He was surprised when he saw a charge to his account from an airline. Somehow she'd managed to put the first leg of his flight on his credit card to avoid suspicion. Clearly, this year forced her to learn a few new tricks, he thought, with a touch of pride.