“Hey. Annie, we need to talk.”
“Auggie. I have told you before—”
“I know. But you haven’t heard me out. I need to talk to you.” Auggie paced behind the island in his kitchen, running his free hand along the edge of it.
“There’s nothing to say.”
“You’re wrong. There’s lots to say, heaps, and I can’t keep going like this until I say ’em. Where are you?”
“Annie. I’m not putting up walls anymore. I have enough of them as it is. Now where are you?” He braced himself against the island, leaning on his elbow, rubbing his hand down his face.
He heard her pause. He held his breath, waiting.
“I’ll meet you. Bar?”
“I’ll meet you there. But I need to go somewhere quiet. Really talk, Annie.”
He hung up the phone and took a deep breath, holding it in, letting it out slowly. Then he turned and went to his closet and took out his leather jacket. The silence around him made the process of putting on the jacket and getting his bag, his cane, and his keys almost ridiculously loud. Maybe it was the silence in his head that made it seem so obnoxious. All his thoughts had been dulled into a white noise. He was on autopilot.
He locked the door after he slid it shut, and he made his way from his building to catch the next bus downtown. There was no-one else at the bus-stop, no telltale scuffing of shoes, no uncomfortable throat-clearing, no hands pulling him when the bus arrived. He found the open doors with his cane and held it upright, feeling each step before his feet. He held out his pass and it was returned to his hand momentarily. He turned, carefully avoiding any passengers and finding a seat near the front. He checked with his cane and then felt the seat, turning and sitting.
He knew there was something in her that was terrified. But he also could feel it with every fibre of his body that she still had feelings, good feelings, for him. He could feel it in the way she touched him. He could feel it when he asked her a question and when she answered, she was looking at his face, he heard her voice directly, not coming from a bowed or turned head. He could feel it in the pause before she answered, when he knew she was taking advantage of being able to look at his face without him seeing her own. He knew it when she called him every time she was at a loss, or needed back up or support. He knew it when she lied to him.
She had run back to protect him in Barcelona. He thought it was because he was a liability and needed her help. But it was because she loved him. He had been so angry then.
She had lied to him so many times. And none of the lies were cruel or thoughtless. She had always lied to protect the ones she loved. She had protected him all along. Not because he was incapable, but because he meant that much to her. He knew this. In the end, she always came back to him. Always.
He remembered the night she had been shot. She was going to leave with Simon. He was going to take her away, and Annie almost went. He didn’t know what had happened between his phone calls to her that night, but he knew that in the end, she called him and told him she was coming in. She always came back.
The street was announced and Auggie stood up, carefully making his way up the quiet aisle, finding the stairs with his cane. He stepped onto the sidewalk and took two steps ahead, then he turned, sweeping his cane in an arc to find the edge of the sidewalk.
“Auggie,” she said.
Auggie couldn’t help the way his mouth quirked into a grin. “Annie.”
Her hand brushed against the back of his and he took her lead. “There’s a place,” was all she said, and he followed her with trust. After several minutes of silent travel, she paused, and climbed four stairs and continued. She opened a door, which, when he passed through and held on to it, he found was very heavy and wooden. Their footsteps echoed as they passed into the interior of the building.
“A church?” Auggie asked her, puzzled.
“It’s quiet. It’s a safe place.”
He stopped her. “You don’t like safe places.”
She started forward again, and then placed his hand on the back of a pew. She slid in first and he followed.
She waited for him to say anything. She had come to listen to him. He bit the bullet and held out his left hand, palm up. He needed to connect with her, and this was his only option, without seeing her eyes. He was grateful, after a moment, when he felt her slide her hand into his. And held on. He could see her now.
He started. “I know all of this went so very wrong. I meant it back before all this, Helen was wrong. She was wrong, Annie. You can have it. You know what happened when you were gone? Joan and Arthur, the ones we didn’t want to end up like because we wanted to do better, they had a baby. A little, warm, snuggly, gurgling baby. Have you seen Arthur with Mac? The two of them are... they are doing it, Annie. Because they want to. You said you wanted your life outside to be more important than your life inside Langley. Then do it, Annie. You are not Langley. You are allowed to have a life outside. We can have a life outside. We can work together on it. Annie, I know you want to be in the field, so do I. But it is dangerous for you. And without you, it’s dangerous for me. We have so much more to offer them. Hell, if not, we can work in the private sector. I don’t care anymore. I don’t care about Henry Wilcox, or Lena, or Khalid. They did not kill us, Annie. You’re there. I’m here.” He squeezed her hand.
“I’ve been alone, really alone, for a long time. When we were together, I...” He chewed his lip, thinking of a way to explain it. “I didn’t feel alone. I felt home. I didn’t have to impress you, Annie. I didn’t have to be flashy. And I knew this, God, Annie, I knew it from the start. I didn’t want to impress you, not after that first day. I stopped trying to impress you. I just was me. And that was so fucking different than anything I’ve been doing for years. And you were still impressed, I heard you tell me that. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, because I never set out after that first day, to impress you. And... the days you weren’t there, the days you were just the voice in my ear, it felt like I was just a little outside of everything. I mean, except for Joan, she always is my best ally there, and she’s...” He stopped. “I miss you. I always miss you. You’re right here with me now and I miss you.” He put out his other hand. “I don’t know how to stop needing you.”
She took it, holding both his hands in hers, still silent.
“I don’t think I can, Annie. All I want to do is to love you. To protect you and guide you as best as I can. Like I always have. I will never leave you behind. We can start again. It was taken away from us so fast, we never had a chance to even try. I feel like... we didn’t end the relationship. Wilcox did, and why does he get the last word, Annie? Why should he win? He wanted you to not trust me; he did everything in his power to make you turn on me. And you let him, in a way, and in another way, you killed us by protecting me. What do those two things mean?” He took a breath, holding her hands, feeling her life in them, knowing she was searching his face with her eyes. He wanted to do the same, but instead, he caressed the backs of her hands with his thumbs. “It means you care about me more than you are admitting.
“You said you couldn’t be attached to anyone. And you keep jumping from one unattachment with someone to another. For sex, companionship, hope, I am not sure, and I don’t even care. But you can have every one of those things with me. And I won’t turn my back on you. I’ll never choose anything in the organisation over you. Ever.
“What I did, Annie, was wrong. I didn’t know where you were, I thought... I thought I was meeting you that night with... with Helen. I had a text message. I thought it was you. I took that bus and when I got off and it was Helen, I was sad. I had hoped. Against all hopes, obviously, I’d wished it was you there.”
He felt the fingers in his own tighten.
“I told her... after... that I had wronged her, as well as you. She knew. How could she not know I loved you? Everyone can see it.” He smiled, trying in effort to pretend to peer at her. “Except me, obviously.” There was a small breath of a laugh and he continued. “Joan’s been hinting all along to me about how we are such a great team, and how we need to work together and asking about you, and me, and, it’s crazy, coming from Joan. She’s practically putting us together with handcuffs.”
Annie did laugh then. It sang in through Auggie’s ears straight to his heart.
He leaned in close, his head bowed. “I love you, Annie. I’ve loved you since the day I met you. And I have been in love with you since almost as long. I didn’t want to hurt you. I didn’t want to lie, or have to cover up anything. It’s all this other shit, that comes back to haunt my life now. And all I want my life now to be is with you. In the agency, out of the agency, I don’t care now. You are more important to me than any of it.”
“But you love it,” she whispered. “I love it.”
“You haven’t loved it since Wilcox dropped that note on your desk. All your joy in that job was pulled out of you.” He let go of her hand and moved his right hand tentatively up to meet her cheek. To his absolute relief and joy, she leaned into it.
He leaned closer. “Annie. I need you. I love you. I don’t want to be alone, I don’t want to be without you. I don’t want anyone else. I’ve been searching, Annie. Searching for bodies to fill your place, warm arms to wrap around my neck, warm stomachs to wrap my own arms around. And every time I did it, it was you I woke up to. I’d open my eyes and it was you there with me. It didn’t have to not be you for that first little bit, because I could imagine you. It’s easy to imagine something else when you can’t see what’s there in front of you for real.”
There was silence, and he let his hand stroke her hair and cheek. He knew this would break him if she left now.