To my wonderful reviewers, thank you so much, for giving me feedback; it's kind of like a payment for the time and effort of creating stories for free. It gives writers, like a wage, the incentive to keep on trying our best for you. I love to hear from anyone who reads my stories.
When I say my stories, obviously I don't mean I'm making profit off of them, other than reviews, because I don't own the characters or Covert Affairs. If any of you do, please see me after the show.
"Annie!" Auggie called out as he entered the loft. He'd worked late and he knew Annie had punched out much earlier. They'd spent every night this week packing boxes with Auggie's things in preparation, and while Auggie absolutely hated the prospect of the upheaval of the move, Annie's help and positivity kept him looking forward.
"I'm down here," he heard her muffled voice down by the island. "I'm sorting."
Auggie smiled, shaking his head, and putting his things on the credenza. "You really could have waited. I don't want you having to do everything."
"No," she said. "I like to. It makes me think of the good things that are going to happen." She stood up, meeting his embrace. "I'm getting excited."
"Well, you should." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a tag with keys on it, holding it up to her with a grin.
He felt Annie reach up and touch them, as if to make sure they were real. "We have keys," she said softly.
"We have keys," he said, grinning.
"We have a house," Annie smiled.
"All ours," Auggie said.
"Wow." Annie slid her hand down his arm and took his hand, and they walked over to the other side of the island and sat on the stools. "This is big, Auggie."
"I know it is. A house. We're like real grown-ups now."
She giggled. "I'm scared," she said.
"Nah, you don't need to be scared. We're in this together. We're the best team ever, this is going to be all right."
"I know. We're so ready for this," she said. "Though I don't know why you got Eric to bring a truck on Saturday. I mean, why didn't we just hire a moving company, Auggie? I don't know if we should be trying to do this ourselves."
"Why? Because it's the way you do things. Moving companies are the easy way out, and they cause way more trouble in the end. I want hands on."
"Yeah, but..." She stopped and then leaned toward him, putting her hand on his cheek for a moment. "You got it, Babe. We'll do this the old fashioned way. Did you ask James?"
"Big strong guys like Barber and Decker you ask before you decide against a moving company," Auggie smiled with a twinkle to his eyes. "Eric is also bringing two of his friends from some gaming group to help."
"Nerds!" Annie teased, throwing up her hands. "A whole team of nerds. Good thing I'll have James to talk about normal non-dorky stuff with."
Auggie grinned and leaned forward for a kiss, which she took the opportunity to respond to quickly.
"Did you call Danielle?" Auggie asked.
"Yup. She's going to come out the whole weekend to help move the small stuff and to help make it homey."
"Yeah, I'm not going to be much good at the details," Auggie said. "I can't tell you if the art is straight."
Annie smiled. "You do everything else," she said. "I'll let the art slide."
"Should anything be painted before we move stuff in?" Auggie asked. "It would be easier that way, if we do. Not that I'm offer my services for that, either."
"I think everything was pretty white or basic. We'll have a look around... right? Can we go tomorrow after talking to the kids?"
"I was hoping you'd suggest that. I want to get a layout before the furniture goes in. I just want to see it."
"No, of course, Auggie, I want to see it, too. We can go plan where to put and... oh, Auggie! We have a house!" Annie practically squealed as she jumped forward and wrapped her arms around Auggie's neck again.
The Walkersons are moving up," teased Auggie, referring to Annie's playful cover name from Vienna, and she laughed, remembering.
"Class act," she replied.
"Now, since we are such a class act of domesticity, do you think you could help me make something fantastic to eat that doesn't involve a microwave or cereal?"
"Bachalors," Annie teased, running her hand along his forearm and standing up.
"Did you eat?"
"I can always eat," Annie said. "I had some soup when I got home," she told him. "So I'm ready for something else."
"You didn't pack everything yet, did you?" Auggie didn't even know how he was going to cope with the confusion of everything being moved and removed from their usual places. Usually, any upheaval in his life was due to travel and was never ongoing. He couldn't wait for everything to be moved, unboxed, and memorised. And yet, in a way, the excitement of it all was different, and unexpected, and he knew that the memories of moving into this home would be very strong for him. He decided it would be better if he didn't let any of it get the best of him, and that he could deal with a few weeks of having to ask Annie where everything was. He'd decided that once everything was moved in and in place, he would take a day when Annie wasn't home, and go through every inch of that house until he could move around as freely as he could at the apartment or his office. The notion of groping around the house inch by inch in front of Annie did not appeal to him, and though he knew she would probably say something that would make him love her even more, he'd decided he'd rather do it when she wasn't there to see him.
"No, most of the kitchen stuff is still intact. I'll do it later in the week, maybe when Danielle gets here. We'll try to get through with as little chaos as we can," she said, hopefully.
"Annie, we're moving house. There is no such thing as a little chaos there."
"Whoever said we stick to the norms?" Annie asked, opening the fridge. Auggie shook his head and just laughed.
Annie sat down on the sofa beside Auggie, who was booting the laptop up. She put Auggie's coffee mug in the spill tray on the round hassock in front of them, alerting him to its being, and curled up with her own.
"How is it you look so good in the morning and I look like a ragdoll?" Annie asked, trying to smooth her bed-head hair into an elastic.
"I guess I'm just really lucky," Auggie deadpanned, and then he turned and grinned in her direction. "Or maybe that's you that's really lucky," he added, hearing her blow an exasperated laugh from her lips. He smiled at teasing her like that, he loved to hear her laugh, and he'd made jokes at his own expense since the moment he'd met her. It was easy, with her.
"Okay, you're gonna have to aim it," Auggie said, as Annie took the laptop between them on their knees. He let her adjust the angle and set the call up to Gianna.
The little girl and her grandmother appeared onscreen and Annie greeted them both. Auggie called out a hello to the little girl and she started off in a story about her new friend. It was mostly in Italian but she threw in English she had been learning and Annie and Auggie both were amazed at how talkative and intelligent the small girl was.
"How's your dancing?" Auggie asked her when one of them could get a word in.
"Oh," the little girl exclaimed, and Auggie heard footsteps running away.
"She be right back," laughed Gianna's grandmother.
"How are you all doing?" Annie asked her in Italian.
"Good, good, it's been an adjustment for all of us, but we are getting on the best we can. She's a wonderful light for us. We thank you both so much for bring her back to us, to our family."
Auggie could hear emotion in the woman's voice. To lose children but to not lose the grandchildren, it would be a terrible and wonderful gift.
"Here!" called Gianna. Then, to her grandmother, in Italian, she asked about turning something on.
Auggie smiled, taking Annie's hand. He wasn't sure what the little girl would to this time, but he was intrigued.
Music started playing over the laptop, and though it was choppy and cut in and out, Auggie and Annie could make out an old jazz tune from the 1920s.
"What's she doing?" Auggie asked Annie quietly.
"I can't see her. Wait, she just came back in the picture. Gianna? Che cosa è questa canzone?"
"This is my song for dancing," the girl replied. "Sono in uno show," she said. "I cannot see Auggie my dress," she said. "So I hear him the music."
"This kid kills me," Auggie said, laughing. "I love it, Gianna. I love jazz music, did you know that?"
"What is jassmusik?" she asked, which made Auggie laugh even more.
"È perfetto," Auggie said. "I love it."
"We both do, it's beautiful," Annie said.
After another five minutes, they finished off their call with Gianna and moved on to Violet's family, who had just returned home, and who had a very cranky baby on their hands.
"Aw," Annie said, "Well, you can hear her, Auggie."
"I sure can." The crying got loud and Auggie knew they had brought her in front of their webcam. Instantly, both Annie and Auggie felt the inclination to try to calm Violet down. Auggie desperately longed to hold her and quiet her. "How big is she now?" he asked.
"Um," Annie said, turning toward Auggie. "Here," she said, positioning his arms the way Violet's cousin was holding the baby. Then she touched his arm where Violet's head would lie, and touched his other arm, telling him how far her feet reached. He smiled, as Annie asked Valeria how much the little girl weighed, and how she was progressing. They were told that Violet was in the healthy range for everything, and showed no signs of the trauma of the plane crash. Auggie felt a wave of gratitude wash over him for these little lives that had been spared.
The third Skype call rang and Auggie reached over, looking for Annie's hand. She enveloped it around his as the call was answered in Italy once more.
Auggie heard a prompting from a female voice, and then he heard a little song sung so quietly that he and Annie both leaned forward, as Annie raised the volume. Auggie didn't know the song, it was in Italian, but a smile crept over his face as he listened to the little girl. She had ways of connecting to him in her own quiet manner. He felt Annie's fingers tighten around his, and he patted her hand between his. When the little girl finished, they both clapped and cheered for her, along with the rest of the family in the room with her. She disappeared for Auggie then, her shyness overtaking her, but Annie whispered that she never left, and was looking directly at them.
She was very quiet, her aunt told them, and she was very intense at the things she loved. She loved to draw and colour, they told Annie and Auggie, and Auggie thought of the picture she had drawn for them that final morning in the hotel in France. Alessia was terribly shy, they said, but she was doing well. She liked to sing, and play outside, and she liked cats.
"You'll have to visit us one day soon, Kiddo," Auggie said. "Annie and I have a real house now, and you and your... cousins... can come stay." He wasn't sure how they were referring to themselves with her. "It even has a back yard. We can send you pictures."
The little voice, speaking in soft Italian asked, "Does it have a swing-set?"
Auggie heard Annie giggle.
"It might," said Auggie, and he felt Annie turn towards him and he just grinned, knowing it would get her. He also hear Alessia say yay on the other side of the screen, and it made him smile even more.
After they had caught up with how Alessia was doing, they made one more Skype call to Alannah and Sam. Both the children greeted Annie and Auggie immediately, though Sam hogged the screen with stories about soccer.
"I think you must like soccer," Auggie teased him.
"Yeah!" Sam said, excitedly. "Do you play soccer, Auggie?"
"Well, Kid, I haven't played soccer for a long time. And now I can't see the ball, so..."
"When we get to visit, we'll bring a ball with a beeper in it so Auggie can play with you," Annie said, and Auggie heard the smile in her voice this time. He rolled his eyes and nodded, conceding. There was no getting out of anything with Annie on his team.
"Cool," said the boy. "Hey, you get that laptap fixed, Auggie?"
"I did, we're using it right now to talk," Auggie told him.
"Nice," said Sam.
Annie interrupted the boys to ask Alannah how school was going, and what she was reading. The little girl told them about the books her teacher was sharing with them and about the sleepover she had with her best friend. It all was so normal, thought Auggie. The children's mother was also there, and she updated Annie and Auggie of her husband's and her own recovery. They were both back at work now, and the world went on for them. Auggie shook his head the third time the woman thanked Annie and him for taking care of everyone, especially her kids.
"I've already got my thanks, just listening to you guys talk about your normal, old, everyday lives," he said.
"Not everyday," the woman responded. "You don't hear about a family returning from a plane crash intact and okay. It will always be something to be thankful for."
Auggie dipped his head. He knew that feeling. He stroked the back of Annie's hand. They'd come out of a couple of plane crashes and somehow, they'd come through intact, and nothing about their relationship was normal or everyday. And, Auggie thought to himself, he was very thankful, indeed.
"Corvette?" Annie asked.
"I know you want to," Auggie said.
"If we take my car over to the storage unit, we can leave the 'Vette at the house, in the little barn or garage or whatever that building is, and take a bus back to get my car. I mean, we can make sure it can be secured, but... it'd be kind of... cool... to have something there. You know. Makes it ours... a bit."
Auggie laughed, pulling his T-shirt down and tucking it in. "It's ours, Annie. No-one will stop us."
"Eeeee!" Annie said, and Auggie knew she was switching from foot to foot excitedly before she ran into him and squeezed him, hopping up and down in his arms.
"Let's go see our house," Auggie said, as he turned and headed down the steps, with Annie following behind. They headed out the door and down to Annie's vehicle. Auggie could feel Annie almost pulling him in her eagerness.
"We'll be in for the beautiful evenings, Auggie. On the verandah."
"You love that verandah, don't you?" he asked her as he climbed into her car.
"I love the whole idea of it. Let's put up a hanging bed like the one in Sardinia right away so we can sit there."
"What, no rocking chairs?" Auggie asked.
"I can't cuddle into you in a rocking chair," Annie said, backing out the car. "And I wanna do that as I tell you what every sunset we watch together looks like."
"You may regret saying that," Auggie said. "I won't hold you to it."
"What? No, I won't. You think I'm going to get tired of seeing things for you? I may not want to do it every minute, and maybe I'll take some breaks, but I promised you my left eye. Have I let you down yet?" When he shook his head, she continued. "When we're out on our verandah together watching the sun set, I'll always describe it to you, Auggie. How could I not? But don't expect me to always describe the sunrise. Although," she mused, "That might be fun, too."
"So now on my way home I get to picture you in a... semi-see-through white cotton summer dress, sitting in the evening setting sun on the verandah waiting for me," Auggie said, schooling his face into thoughtful daydreaming.
Annie laughed. "What are you talking about?"
"What do you mean, what am I talking about?"
"I mean, how are you picturing me on any verandah right now? I mean, if I think about it, Auggie, you've never actually seen me."
"No, I can't say as I have. You're just realising this now?"
"No. I just find it funny."
"You find it funny that your fiancé has never seen you?" Auggie tried to look hurt.
"It's funny because you know me better than anyone. You could touch my hand and know it was me. You could touch my knee and you'd know it was me."
Auggie grinned lasciviously.
"But whatever picture of me you have in that head of yours isn't me," she debated him.
Auggie smiled at her. "Yes, it is," he said.
Annie obviously realised it was pointless to argue that logic, because she just reached over and squeezed his knee. He smiled. She could never know if he was close in his image of her, and he could never know if he was close, so they would have to agree on a draw. He knew he was right, he could see her exactly as she appeared to him. Of course, she was right, too, if he were suddenly gifted with a flash of sight to take her appearance in, it would possibly surprise him. But, like Schrodinger, they would never know how close he was, if he was right, or if he was way off. In a way, he was glad. It kept her a mystery in a way, something that he would always want to know, and yet, because he knew her so well in every other way, no-one else could ever have the kind of relationship they had.
They switched vehicles and Annie drove a little more responsibly this time around. There would be plenty of time for road trips in their future. She followed the directions she'd recorded in her phone and found the driveway hidden between the trees.
"Well?" Auggie said, as they climbed out of the 'Vette. "Does it look even better now that it's ours?" He unfolded his cane and stepped forward slowly, until his felt Annie's hand bump against his.
"Auggie, it looks like... it looks like home. I can't believe it's ours. It's all ours."
Auggie couldn't stand it anymore. "Come on, let's go in, so I can see it, too."
Annie walked forward, placing his hand on the railing of the steps. "What do you want me to do?" Annie asked. "Do you want to walk around with me, or just on your own?"
"I'll check it out myself, but... just stay close." He tried to sound sure, but he'd never really done this before, seeing a house from corner to corner so he'd know every inch... at least, he'd never done it by touch before. He knew his apartment, but he'd seen it, and it wasn't new and unknown when he'd come back to it. He'd taken to his office slowly, learning it when he figured he was alone. But he wanted to know this house because it belonged to them, he needed to see everything in the ways he could, just as Annie wanted to see where she would add pictures and colours and find out where the light hit.
They reached the top stair and Auggie made a step and a half when his cane hit the wall. He moved the extra step ahead and reached out, feeling part of a screen door. He felt to the left and came to the handle. He pulled out the key and turned to Annie, holding it up, and flicking his head to motion her over to him. She moved in and he found her hand, putting the key into it, and then wrapping his hand around her smaller one, they inserted the key into the lock together.