To Seek The Next Handhold (A Season Seven)

By Finlauré

Romance / Action

Chapter Eight

The Disclaimer: I do not own nor make money off of Covert Affairs and its characters.

The Reclaimer: I will never give up on Walkerson or Covert Affairs.

The Exclaimer: I LOVE AUGGIE ANDERSON!

The Proclaimer: I WILL LOVE AUGGIE ANDERSON FOR THE REST OF MY DAYS!

I dedicate this chapter to Sahar Anderson for her awesome new Walkerson video that churned around the idea pot, and I throw my hat and sword down to my friend Emeraldeyedphoenix for always being there for idea bouncing and inspiration and Auggiepics. This story idea was worked out betwixt us two.

Chapter Eight

Auggie woke up, feeling the heat of the sun already warming the bed. He felt Annie curled up close to him, her hair draped over his shoulder. He didn't want to move, didn't want to disturb her. He let his mind drift back to their previous night, mingling his thoughts with ones of the house.

"Morning," Annie said, sleepy-voiced.

"Morning," replied, closing his eyes, smiling. He rolled toward her. "Sleep well?"

"Out like a light," she said. "You?"

"Same. Babysitting apparently kills us. How will we do it all the time?"

Annie smiled. He could hear it. Anyone else would laugh and say he was ridiculous, but she knew he could hear her smile. There was something about that, Auggie thought to himself. It was the same as how he always could pick up when she was near him.

"We can do it. Hey, if Joan and Arthur can do it... They aren't exactly dripping with mummy and daddy vibes. I think we'll muddle through."

He felt her touch his hair by his temple, brushing her fingers through it. He tipped his head.

"Auggie?"

"Yeah," he said.

Her fingers continued to twist through his hair. "There's something I need to tell you."

"Uh oh," Auggie said. He felt his insides somehow leap inside him. "What's happening?" He sat up, instantly on alert. This felt similar to another morning that he didn't want to think about.

"I... don't want you to be mad at me. I wanted to tell you. I... the timing never seemed right. And... you trust me... and I don't want to break that."

"Annie? Just tell me." He kept his voice calm. No need to overreact until she said what was bothering her. It might not be anything. It might not be anything.

He felt her fingers intertwine between his. He squeezed her hand, giving her his okay.

She was silent, gathering her courage. Auggie had a desperate worry growing in the pit of his stomach. He reached his other hand out and she took it.

"You remember... that night you went to Helen's?"

Auggie turned his head away. He still felt the guilt over that. It hadn't been supposed to happen. He thought that text message could have been from Annie. He'd been waiting to hear from her, she was here, she was home, and she didn't contact him. All he'd been able to think about was her. And then the text message sent his hopes up, and the crash he'd felt that it wasn't Annie, it wasn't Annie meeting him to take him home, had messed up his priorities, his emotions, and his scruples. He regretted that it had ever happened sometime before morning. He'd regretted it since. He knew Annie had been hurt when she'd discovered it.

"I was outside your place that night," she said softly, her face still raised, looking at him.

He felt his heart skip. "What?"

"I followed you. I was going to come up, and I was trying to work up the nerve to... and I couldn't. And then you left the building and I followed you."

"Annie," Auggie said, wanting to straighten her facts out, shaking his head. "You couldn't have been there, Annie."

"I was. I followed you to the bus and... I got on. I don't know why. I don't know why I did it. I needed to be near you, but I didn't know what to say. I wanted to come back to you and I was scared. I almost talked to you. I sat by you."

Auggie was shaking his head, in denial. "No, Annie, you couldn't have been there."

Her hands held his even tighter, as if to hold them there, to keep him connected to her as she told him something that would make him pull away.

"I was there. I'm so sorry, Auggie. I wanted to... I wanted to say something and I couldn't. It wouldn't come."

Auggie pulled his hands away, and ran them over his face. She'd been there, beside him, right there beside him... He wouldn't have gone to Helen if she had spoken. He wouldn't carry the guilt of his actions. She'd been there, and she didn't let him know.

A realisation hit him.

She had taken advantage of his blindness. She had taken that trust, the belief he had in her that she would never take advantage of it for her own needs, and she broke it, and she'd never let him know. He felt like the floor had dropped. He tried to make his mouth form some kind of response, but nothing happened. Nothing was forming that would ever explain, never convey that feeling he was experiencing. She'd never taken advantage of his disability before.

Or had she?

Were there other times, times when she didn't tell him she was there?

Were there things she'd kept hidden, only able to do so because he couldn't see?

He knew he'd missed the feelings on her face, her unspoken thoughts. He knew she'd only kept them hidden because she didn't think he felt the same. But this, this was something different. She'd been gone, he'd missed her so much, he'd needed her to come home to him, and for this to be over, for everything to be steady. For them to be together. To work things out. Like people that loved each other did. And she'd been there, she had seen him, she could have reached out and... Auggie's mind whirled. If he had've just reached out, he would have found her. He would have touched her. She would have had to let him know then.

"Auggie? Auggie?" Annie clutched at Auggie's face, her hands framing his cheeks, pulling him back to face her. "Just... I wanted to talk to you so much. And then... I couldn't... and I was trying to get up the courage to just touch you, Auggie. I knew if I touched you, you'd know."

He could hear the tears in her voice. He felt his own lip trembling.

"Why didn't you? Why?" He couldn't believe what she was telling him. "What else did you do behind my back... or in front of my face, as it were?" He was starting to feel anger inside. He roughly wiped at his eye with his arm, breaking her contact with him.

"Annie... you can't do this... not now. Why, why are you doing this?"

"Auggie, I have to tell you. I can't keep it secret anymore. I can't... I don't want secrets. I don't want secrets with you ever again. Please, Auggie."

He felt her hand clutch at him as he slid off the bed, but he brushed her off. He needed space to breathe, to try and understand.

She could have touched him. He would have never let her go again. He would have never gone home with Helen. He would never have had that hanging between them in Hong Kong. They could have just picked up and tried to figure it out from there, instead of all those mistakes. She'd made the decision on her own. She had involved him without him even knowing it.

He thought back to one time, after that, when Annie had been back in DC, and she'd shown up at his apartment. He had almost made it inside before she had spoken. At the time, he'd been surprised that she'd waited that long, and that he'd not felt her standing there watching him approach. He'd chalked it up to his new idea that he couldn't sense her anymore because she had lost herself and was invisible to everyone including herself. He hadn't thought she was trying to use it to her advantage against him. He hadn't wanted to think that. But now... how many other times? How many times did she hide in plain sight from him?

He threw on a T-shirt and a pair of sweat pants and went down the steps from the bedroom. He didn't know what he needed to do, so he figured making himself some coffee was probably the only thing he could do properly at this moment, when his thoughts were so tangled in disarray.

"Auggie," she was following him, stopping to throw on something, too. "Auggie, please, don't walk away from me. I'm telling you this because I want no secrets."

"Secrets?" Auggie snapped. "You're the master of secrets, Annie."

"Auggie," Annie said, sounding defeated.

"No, Annie. You can't just all of a sudden tell me that this whole... thing, that you never would use this against me," he gestured toward his eyes, "and here it is, you did. You did." He shrugged and shook his head in disbelief.

"It was the only time," she whispered. "It was the only time, and I knew it was wrong, and I couldn't stop. I was so scared, Auggie. You looked okay. You looked healthy and safe and... I didn't want to hurt you anymore. I wanted you to move on, and be okay. If the bus had gone a little longer... I might have gotten the courage worked up. I was trying. And then, you got off. I was going to follow you. I had the intention of talking to you, Auggie, it was why I was there. And you got off, and Helen was there. And you looked happy to see her. I thought you were already lost to me. All because I was so scared to talk to you. So scared you would turn me away."

"Like at the door that time. When you came home." Auggie heard her crying, trying to hold her tears back. "You said that was your most terrifying moment." He tried to calm his thoughts, so that he could hear her. People who loved each other worked it out. It's what they did.

"That time... I was a bit stronger. I couldn't do that to you again. I knew it was unfair of me. I'd never done that before, Auggie, so help me. And... after it happened... I couldn't ever do it again. It ate at me. It still is."

He heard her move around the island to him, tentatively putting her hand on his forearm. "It's why I'm telling you now. I wouldn't risk losing your trust, Auggie, not if it didn't bother me so much. I'd have let it go, never told you. But I couldn't. I can't."

He turned to her. He couldn't ask her anymore reasoning. She gave her reasons. They hurt, but they made sense to him, as much as he loathed admitting it to himself. It still didn't take the sting away that she had used his blindness against him. He hadn't expected it of her. Not now, not in the past. But would it be a thought he'd think in the future after this? Had this been irrevocable damage to that intimate trust that he'd shared with only her? She'd been the only one to get behind that door with him, and he felt betrayed.

"Please, Auggie, don't stay mad. Please... let's talk... let's-"

Auggie shook her arm off. "I just need time with this, Annie. Just give me time." He gave up on the idea of coffee and headed up to get dressed. He needed to walk his anger out, and he figured he'd get a coffee at the vender on the street as he went.

He stopped at the closet, pulling on a jacket and his shoes. He grabbed his bag , his phone, his cane, and his keys.

"Auggie," she tried again.

"Annie." He held his hand up. "Just... give me some space. I'll talk to you later."

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Coffee in one hand, his cane tapping methodically in his other, Auggie let the thoughts tumble in progression. First, his anger made everything her fault. He progressed through to deciding whether this broke the deal. He had a fraction of a thought about telling her it did. That he couldn't trust her eyes again, because she had lied to him that day. He worked through that, too. She hadn't lied. She was working herself through whatever war-hell she was going through, and she was coming to reach out to him. The fact that she got that far... and then he'd gotten up and left to meet Helen... He knew what she was like after that, when she did come home for good. And yet, Annie had kept trying. She had kept coming back, even when she couldn't say the words to him. He wondered if Annie had, as she sat beside him on that city bus, hoped he'd know she was there, so she wouldn't have to make the move herself. She was too scared to make the first move, and he was too blind to know to do it for her.

He continued across the street as the alert beeped, knowing where he was but not where he was headed. He just needed to walk. People rarely bumped into Auggie when he walked the sidewalks, because he walked with such determination and intention. They saw him coming and steered out of his way, which was the way he preferred it, having experienced people jostling and running into him all the time when he hadn't been as proficient with his mobility.

What he didn't want to let himself think about was something he had forgotten, something he had put out of his head as soon as he had heard Helen call his name when he disembarked the bus. He didn't want to think of it because had he gone with his hunches then, this might not have happened. He'd written it off as purely a blind man's fanciful imagination, but he remembered the feeling now as he did then... that there had been someone there. He'd sensed something... and yet, he'd kept himself quiet, chiding himself for even wanting to ask... How do you ask? Excuse me, who are you? Hi, is someone sitting here now? Pardon me, you kind of give off a warm fuzzy aura, and I wanted to ask you if you're my girlfriend? He had no way of knowing, and yet, he'd known. He'd known, and he'd blown it. They both had blown it. And everything got lost from there. By then, Annie was Jessica Matthews, and Auggie had a gravestone with Annie's name on it to visit.

Auggie slowed his walk. The Sunday morning crowd was getting active, he could hear a lot of traffic picking up, and people's voices as they began to enjoy the spring weather around them. He turned his head, listening for the air exchange unit that was on one of these buildings near the end of this block. If he crossed at the end of this street, he could stop in at his second favourite place to order breakfast. He wasn't ready to go back and face her.

He wasn't ready to go back and bare another wound to her.

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Auggie slid the door open, listening, a dreadful feeling hanging over him. He had thought, as he climbed the stairs to the loft apartment, that he might go in and find her not there. She had every right to storm out on him for not giving her the benefit of hearing her words and letting her tell them.

He tilted his head, angling to pick up any sound that would tell him she was there.

"Annie?"

Her voice came from a corner of the living room. He turned to her, chewing on his lip. "I'm glad you're here," he said, folding his cane, putting everything in its place. He moved around the credenza and toward where Annie sat. She touched his hand, guiding him down beside her, where he perched on the edge of the chair, his elbows on his knees, his hands laced together. She waited for him to speak.

"I wish it had been different," he said in a low voice. "I wish all that had have been different. It was a bad time, Annie, for both of us. It was supposed to be a good time, and it all went so wrong."

He felt Annie's hand on his back, lightly, her fingers barely perceptible as they moved up and down.

"I understand why... it happened. I wish you had been able to say something to me that night, Annie; I'm always going to regret all of that. But, it happened. We're here now, and I'd rather be here than back there."

"Me, too," she said in a small voice.

He took a deep breath and let it out. He sat there for a minute, but then he turned his body toward her and slid his fingers over, placing his hand on her thigh. It helped, in some weird way, just to have some kind of contact with the people he talked to. Even just one hand, resting on one knee.

"Annie. The part about this that I'm having the hardest time with, is the part where you deceived me. You deceived me right to my own face, you took advantage of me not being able to see. You never have done that, Annie. But now, you tell me you have. And I'll never know if it was the only time."

"It was."

"I have to trust you on that," Auggie said, shaking his head, feeling Annie's hand clasp around his. "And that's where I'm leading to... Annie, trust is huge for me."

"I know, Auggie-"

"No, just listen. Not the kind of trust like... I trust my friends not to stab me in the back. This kind of trust is different. This kind of trust is a kind I hate to talk about."

"You can always talk to me," she said, her other hand reaching up and touching his cheek.

He turned his hand up and wrapped it tightly over hers. "Annie..." This was hard. "I can't ever know some things. I can't ever check and see if what people are telling me is true. People could be lying to me all the time, and I wouldn't know. Or it would take me a hell of a time to figure it out." He fought to keep from dropping his head, fought to keep looking at her. He needed her to see how much this hurt him.

"It took me a long time to trust anyone after this happened. And, gradually, I trusted some people, little by little. I had to tell some people that their white lies didn't help me. But white lies, and what you did aren't the same."

"I know," she whispered.

"Annie, I trusted you. With my life. I have to trust you with a million things that I can't do, things that I need honest answers for. I need your eyes, Annie, and if I can't trust them..." He shook his head, the words failing to leave his throat. "Annie, it's like you ripped a carpet out from under me," he finally stated.

Her hand clutched his, bringing it up to her wet cheek. He felt her chin trembling under his thumb. "I'm sorry, Auggie. I'm so sorry." She took several minutes before she could speak again. "It was the only time; I promise that's the truth. It was a bad time, like you said. I was so scared. I did the wrong thing, Auggie. But I didn't want to hurt you any more than I already had. I know I hurt you so much by that point, I thought..." she sobbed and took a breath, "you'd be better off leaving me in that grave. I never thought we'd get a chance to be here... talking... telling truths. I felt so numb about the whole thing. I was wrong, Auggie. I can't forgive myself for it. I know, Auggie, I know this is big. I know I let you down so much, but I promise you, I have never done that before. Nor since. I've always come clean to you. All those times you called it on knowing what I was doing before I did, and I knew I couldn't ever lie to you. And then, I couldn't... I couldn't not. I won't ever do that again. I would never." She sniffed, trying to sound hopeful. "Remember all those times when we were away, I never lied about anything."

"I know," he said, his voice a little choked. "I know, Annie. But one time that you do that, it puts every other time in jeopardy. I need to trust you. I need to know that when you tell me it's safe to take a step, I can take that step."

"It is," she whispered, her hands limp in his. She was quiet.

"I need to trust you never to mislead me because I can't see," Auggie said to her, softly.

"You can," she said. "I won't ever do it again, Auggie. I love you and you needed to know. It's been eating away at me, and I needed to come clean with you. It's because I love you so much."

"I know," Auggie said. "I realised that there's nothing we can do to go back there, and I've got too much trust invested in you already to just revoke it and give up. But I had to talk about this... I needed to tell you... because it's important. It's something that you have to accept about a relationship with me."

"I do."

"I know you do."

"Can you forgive me?"

"Annie, I already have. I forgave you halfway down the street. But I needed to work it out. I was angry. I get angry. But I try to work it out instead of just going all bat-shit-crazy if I can now. I've gotten hauled off to jail a few times too many." He laughed, trying to lighten the mood. "The thing is, this time we did what we're supposed to do. We talked it out. We came back together and talked it out. We can work through this."

He felt her nodding her head. "Yeah," she gasped. "I love you, Auggie."

He pulled her into a hug, feeling the warmth of her wrap around him. "We're going to be okay," he said. "I'm glad you told me. Not what you told me, but I'm glad you were honest. We're going to be okay, and we're going to be moving into our own home soon, right? And we'll have lots of time for talking. Probably shouting, too, but I'm in this for the long haul, Darlin'."

He felt her chuckle through her tears. "I was scared you were going to come back late and tell me to leave."

"After all we've been through, Walker? You've got to be joking." He gave her a cheeky grin and tipped his forehead down to hers, bringing his hands up her arms, her shoulders, to the back of her neck. "You're not going anywhere. Not without me, anyway."

"Good," she said. "Because I don't want to, ever again."

He grinned. "I guess we're settled on that, then." He pulled her in to kiss her, and she wrapped her arms around his neck and seemed to melt into him.

"Wanna go start the day again right?" Annie asked with a slight tease to her voice. Auggie stood and pulled her to her feet.

"Thought you'd never ask," he said, sliding his hands down her sides, and pulling the T-shirt she wore up over her head in one fluid move, kissing her whenever he could.

As he led her to the steps to the bed, she giggled. "You're really getting good at that," she said.

"Yeah, but it's still not quite right, so I'm just gonna keep trying until it's perfected," he said, grinning at her as he pulled her onto the bed.

"I do admire your tenacity," Annie said, laughing out loud as he ran a finger along her hip bone.

Auggie knew he couldn't have ever kicked her out, in the end. He knew what he had with Annie. There was no-one else for him, and they'd worked way too hard to ever give up on the relationship again. And they were still talking. Auggie knew that no matter how hard, they would never stop talking.

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