To Seek The Next Handhold (A Season Seven)

Chapter Nine

I make no money from this chapter posting, because I do not own the rights of Covert Affairs.

If I win the lottery, I will buy the rights and I will get an apartment in Toronto and I will hire the cast and crew of Covert Affairs and they will be on our screens again. I promise.

Chapter Nine

Auggie was pulling crew-neck long-sleeved shirt over his head when he heard her say his name groggily.

"I'm here, I'm going in. Barber just called me. Stay in bed, it's still early."

"What time is it?" she asked groggily.

"It's just five now. Stay there." Auggie crept to Annie's side of the bed, feeling for her shape under the blankets. He sat down to pull on the socks and shoes in his hand and then he moved his hand along up her back to her neck, finding her lying on her stomach. He leaned down, his hand brushing her hair away before he kissed the back of her neck.

"What's going on?" she asked, sleepy-voiced, after a moment of enjoying his attention.

"Just a big ta-do about an operative stuck in a church basement in Ukraine," Auggie whispered. "Nothing I can't handle." She'd turned over and leaned up to kiss him. "I'll see you in there," he said. "Bring me a coffee and a cruller." He kissed her once more and headed down the steps. He almost could sneak out on her when he had to come in early, but he hadn't been successful yet. It made him grin. She was too alert for all sounds. She had the great skills of a mother in the making. Auggie had one point in his favour: he never woke her up with light. He figured he'd eventually be such a subconscious sound that fell in her comfort zone, she'd stop hearing him, too. He hated to wake her when he had to stay late or come in, and yet, he himself wouldn't let himself sleep if he knew she was coming home or leaving.

The car was waiting for him when he got to the sidewalk, and he was glad, because it was raining and he didn't feel like being damp all morning. He checked in with Joan on the way to Langley and listened to his messages, and then he sat in silence, thinking his own thoughts.

The morning was fast, interesting, only slightly dangerous, and successful. By eleven, Auggie's operative was safe in a chopper crossing into Odessa to be extracted across the border in Moldova.

Annie hadn't appeared with his coffee, and he wondered about her morning. Joan had her down in Archives translating a document that had been previously thought to be junk intel, that much Auggie knew. He hoped she was not hunched over a table since she'd arrived or he'd be in for a good forty-five minutes at least, rubbing the kinks out of her shoulders.

"Yo, Auggie. I'm gonna go out and get some lunch, you want anything?" Barber asked from the doorway.

Auggie felt his watch. "No. Thanks, Barber. I'm going to go find Annie."

"Uh, she left."

"She left?" Auggie glanced toward his friend. "When?"

"About an hour ago. I saw her leave." Barber sounded slightly uncomfortable.

"Oh. Okay." Auggie sat back. Usually Annie stopped in before heading out for a mission. He hated that she wasn't in his ear anymore; he hated not collaborating with her in the field. But it was only right that they didn't work together like that anymore. He was too involved with her to be rational about any given situation, and they both knew that was a liability. He trusted Joan with Annie, but it didn't make him miss her any less as he worked.

Later, as Auggie tried to decide whether he was hungry enough to eat at the cafeteria, there was a knock on his door.

"Auggie?" said Joan, thereby letting him know who it was.

"Hey, Joan, what's up?"

"Do you have any news about the Cuban guns?"

"Belenko's? Yeah. We've tracked them back to him. There's a trace to Chechnya. I think he's using an old address of his previous collaborator, who, by coincidence, is also dead. It's funny how that seems to happen with him."

"And where do you think he is? In Chechnya?"

Auggie shook his head. "No. I think he is here, or close by. Biding his time."

"Cuba?"

"No, it's being watched too closely right now. He would only have his contacts there, and as it is, there's probably minimal contact."

"Mexico? Or in the States?"

"That's what I'm trying to work out right now. Last sighting was in Belize. We lost him before we got anyone close enough."

Joan was quiet for a moment. "You should be careful," she said finally.

"I always am," he said, but then silence that followed made him smile at her warmly. "I know, Joan. But we're going to find him." He didn't have to hear her say it, but he knew she'd feared for Auggie when he'd been kidnapped, just as she'd feared for him in Eritrea and Iraq. He sighed. "I'll take extra precautions," he assured her.

"What about James?"

"I have him reeled in," Auggie said. "He's working on the Atlanta case right now."

"Good. Keep an eye on him, will you?"

"I will keep two proverbial eyes on him, Joan." He winked at her for good measure. He didn't want Joan to see the worry that he kept inside about whether he could stop Decker if the man got it in his head. Each one of those men in that unit had the fire in them to go as far as they could to get the job done.

"You're not really making me feel better, Auggie," she said. "Will you take precautions?"

"Yes, Joan. I will take precautions. Now, can you tell me where Annie is?"

"I sent Annie to Arlington. She'll be back before you leave, don't worry."

"I wasn't worried, Joan, I was merely curious." He tried to school his features into a somewhat blank slate of emotion.

"Of course," she said, looking at him before she sidled back out the door. "Oh, Auggie," she said, turning around. "The paperwork has all come through regarding the house. You're both covered as for your employers and the mortgage and the down payment. You and Annie will need to sign it with your bank, but it's all taken care of."

"Thank goodness our jobs at the Smithsonian didn't let us down," Auggie said. "I can't wait until this all goes through. I'm so tired of talking to the realtor and the bank. I just want this to be done with. And so do the sellers."

"You'll have it soon enough," Joan said. "And then you'll be complaining about the pipes under the sink leaking and needing your lawn mowed."

Auggie grinned. "I can't wait," he said.

He missed the smile that crossed Joan's face before she headed out the glass doors.

Auggie turned back to his keyboard. He started to shut the computer down as he heard the door open again.

"Eric?" he asked.

"No, Brother, it's me."

Auggie smiled. "Hey, Decker. Where've you been?"

"Joan had me looking through friggin' parking ticket records," James replied.

Auggie grinned, reaching for his laser cane and putting it in his drawer, taking out his white cane. "Such is the exciting life of a spy," he said. "How about I take you to lunch? Make up your week of tedium? Although, I hear Atlanta was a highlight."

He heard a sound resembling disappointment and he chuckled, slinging his messenger bag over his head.

"You pick," Auggie said, putting out his hand. James had a particular manner of backing himself into Auggie's hand to bump his own elbow against Auggie's fingers, so Auggie learned to wait for it.

"Jeez, man, I could go for tacos in the street right now, I'm so famished."

Auggie shrugged. "Whatever you want, Man," he told James, letting his cane drop open.

He needed to get James to keep him informed. He knew that his friend was keeping his eyes and ears to the ground for all and any intelligence in regards to Belenko. James was still wanting to protect Auggie, to keep him in the dark, and he was still not sure that Auggie could even help with anything other than tech support anymore.

When they made it outside the building, James stopped for a moment.

"What?" Auggie asked.

"Where do they park the taco truck here? Or is it a vendor? I don't know where I'm going, Auggie, man."

Auggie grinned. "That's okay. I do," he said.

"Yeah?"

"Damn straight. Have I ever led you off yet?"

"No, man. You never have."

Auggie nodded. "All right, then," he said, giving his friend's arm a gentle tug. "We go left." They started walking. "We head to the end of this block and we cross one street straight through, and then at the end of the second block, we turn left. And there, my friend, we find the best taco truck anyone has set up in D.C."

"How'd you come across that?" James asked him.

"Followed my nose," Auggie replied. He waited a beat. "You're rolling your eyes at me, aren't you? Well, you may scoff at my wit, but I assure you, if it's the scent of tacos in the street, you have a tracker dog at your elbow, Brother."

At the crosswalk, Decker pushed the button for the signal and they waited for a moment.

"How the hell do you do this, Auggie?" Decker asked as they reached the opposite side. "I don't know how you do this."

"It took time," he told Decker. "Believe me, it was the scariest thing in the world. Busiest intersection in town, they trained me there. Thought I was going to be hit, clipped, knocked-down, and flattened." He sighed. "It took a lot of time."

"You're tougher than I could be," James mumbled.

"Ah, Decker, you'd be surprised. I mean, you've been through shit that you worked through. Stuff that I think I couldn't handle. We all just deal with what we get the best we can. Some people just work harder to keep afloat," he said.

James was quiet as they continued through the pedestrians enjoying the break in the morning's rain. Auggie let him have his thoughts. He was trying to work out how to keep Decker from being bullheaded, and he needed to get to know the man all over again.

"Was it worth it?" Decker finally asked.

Auggie shook his head. "I don't know how you mean, Man. Was it worth it how? In terms of the battle, I never saved my men, Decker. I got what we went for, but I lost way more in my own life. In the bigger picture, we stopped someone that needed to be stopped. We succeeded. How do you decide if that was right or wrong? You don't. I did my job. I had to move on, no matter what."

"What if you could go back?"

"No, James. You don't go back. There are no what ifs. There is what is. You start from there, and you go forward."

They were at the corner and Auggie laughed, "Ah, now, ya smell that? Ya can't miss it, right?"

James grinned. "Shit, you're right, Man."

"What'd I tell ya," Auggie boasted.

They made their way through the line to the front, where a man greeted Auggie.

"Hey, P," said Auggie, holding out his hand. "We've come for the best tacos in town."

"You got it, Auggie," said the other man, slapping his hand against Auggie's and giving it a good shake. "How you been, man, haven't seen you for a while."

Auggie shrugged. "I went on a pre-wedding honeymoon," he said.

"Hey, that's fantastic, congratulations."

He worked on their lunches and then wrapped everything up in paper, putting it into a paper bag, which Decker took while Auggie paid. He broke a twenty and folded the paper change the usual way before putting it into his wallet. He knew James was watching the whole process and he was glad. Let Decker see how Auggie managed quite well, let him know it wasn't the end of the world and that he was a capable man and co-worker, those were Auggie's objectives.

The moved along the path in the green space nearby, and then James stopped.

"There's a bench in front of us, Auggie," he said.

"Oh, great." Auggie stepped forward, his cane making contact, and he sat down, folding it up.

James sat beside him, carefully taking the contents from the bag and handing Auggie's food to him.

"We can get a coffee on the way back," Auggie said, making a plate out of the paper wrapper on his lap.

After a minute, James spoke. "You need anything?"

"Uh, are there any napkins here?"

He heard the paper bag crinkle and then James said, "Here."

Auggie put out his hand. Here was potentially in front of him. He felt the napkin against his fingers. "Thanks."

"I just can't... get past how hard this must be for you," James said. "I mean, still."

"It's been over seven years, Man. I'm used to it."

"But... it doesn't change things."

"Nope. It just means I have to change things. And I do, all the time."

"Would you do all of it over again? Would you join the Company if you'd known?"

"What, all the lives I've helped to save? The excitement, the thrill, the meaning of making things safer? Yes. I'd do it all over again, James. Shit happened along the way. It does, to everyone. We deal with it and then we learn. We become more. I'm a better person now, I'm more than I was in those days in a lot of ways. And you know what else? I would never trade any of it because I'm the happiest I've ever been in my whole life. All of it. I finally got the girl. And what a girl, I know you've eyed her up and down, you can't tell me you're not a little jealous."

"Aw, man, I'll give ya that," his friend said, and Auggie heard the smile in James's voice.

"We got a house," Auggie said.

"You got a house?" echoed James.

"We sure did. Down payment, mortgage, the whole nine yards. Legit homeowner now. White picket fence and all. Well, I don't know if it's white. I don't even know if it's a picket fence. But there's fence."

"You guys are really doing the whole thing."

"The whole thing," Auggie said. "It's... it's what I've wanted for a long time. And I couldn't be happier. So, yes, if I would to this over again to be where I am right now, damn straight I would."

"I admire you, Auggie. I wish I could say the same."

"It'll be okay," Auggie told him. "You just have to settle in. You've been running for a long time. You don't need to look over your shoulder anymore."

"Yeah, so you say, Auggie. But you and I both know that's not true."

Auggie crumpled up the paper in his hand. He took the napkin and wiped his mouth, never sure how much of a mess he was making, always taking precautions against wandering about with food on his chin. He turned to Decker.

"What have you learned?" he asked in a low voice.

He heard James crumple up the bag and paper, his voice quiet. "Well, we know Cuba is just a red herring."

Auggie rolled his eyes. "Nice," he said, acknowledging the double entendre. "He's moving the guns back and forth," he said. "He's fortifying the Russians. Do we know where the guns are coming out of the States?"

"Biker gangs, mafia, he's not picky."

Auggie sighed. "I'll get someone into one of the clubs down there," he said.

"Come on, Man, you know I know this better than anyone," James pleaded.

"No, Brother. You're too close. I've told you that, I've told Annie that. I'm not risking either one of you. Belenko knows you both. He's gonna track us all down, I know this, I'm not naive. I don't want to put you directly into his path. I'm not going to. I need you to keep close." He scrambled his hand through his hair and then brought his palm down his face, pressing the heel of it into the corner of his eye. He tasted the words in his mouth before he spoke them. "I need you to keep watch here. Because I can't. The last time... I had a bodyguard that Annie and McQuaid set up, and he still got to me. I don't want him getting Annie. I don't want him getting to any of us. So I need you here, Brother." He set his gaze toward his old teammate and friend. "Can I ask this of you?" Auggie chewed his lip, never liking to need anyone. Anyone but Annie, he thought to himself, knowing he'd come a long way since he'd met her.

Decker reached out and clasped Auggie's shoulder. "Anything you need, Auggie," he said.

"I know you want to go find him, Decker. I know, because I feel the same. But I told you about revenge. It doesn't cut it. Belenko's getting himself a big title now, since this whole Ukraine thing blew up. He's moved in as one of the backers and is supplying half the Russian army. He's still moving guns through Chechnya, but he's on to bigger things."

"Damn it, Auggie, you should have let me take him when we had him. I would have taken the fall, just to get him erased. I can't do anything, I'm pinned down, and the goddam suits at Langley keep their suspicions about me. I never turned. I never turned."

"I know that, Man," Auggie assured them. "We know that."

"And now, I'm scared, Auggie, because he took you already. He wanted to lure me, and that would do it this time. He'd have us both. I'll be damned if he takes you again. It scares me shitless that you can't see, Auggie. So yeah, I'll stick close, because I owe you at least one more."

"I'll be fine," Auggie said. "Annie and I are taking precautions."

He heard Decker take a deep breath and let it out. He had made his decision, thought Auggie to himself. He would not leave his post. As much as Auggie hated to give him the reason why he needed James, he was glad he had a reason to keep Decker out of trouble. It seemed a noble and honest enough reason, and he knew Decker would hold to it.

"But thank you," Auggie said, patting his friend's arm. He knew he didn't have to say any more.

He popped open the crystal on his watch, feeling the time under his fingers. "I guess we should go back. I don't dare leave Barber there too long unsupervised. I'll never get the Chee-tos stains out of the furniture." He stood, opening his cane. "Is there a trash bin around here?" he asked.

"Uh, yeah, it's at the end of the bench there, beside you, do you want me to-?"

"Nope, got it," Auggie said, finding it easily, and turned as Decker came close to toss his trash. "You know, there may be one tiny teeny little small other favour I might ask you soon."

"Just tell me," James said, hearing the obvious less-than-serious tone in Auggie's voice, putting his elbow into Auggie's path.

"You're a big strong guy..." Auggie said with a grin breaking across his face.

"I'm carrying a bed, aren't I?" Decker sighed.

Auggie pursed his lips together, cocking his head. "I guarantee there will be alcohol and a very pretty woman for company and you can see what sort of adventure I'm taking on next. Might be my scariest one yet."

"You're gonna do fine," Decker said. "You're gonna have a great family. You're gonna be a great Dad."

Auggie smiled faintly. "I hope so," he said.

"Aw, you kidding me, Man? After everything I see you do? Not gonna surprise me when you show that kid how to wrestle and hack into iTunes before he's five. You're gonna be a great father." He turned back to their main route.

"Well, I guess I'll wait to doubt myself at least until it happens," Auggie said.

"Doubting is what every new father does, I've seen it," Decker said. "You aren't different there, Brother."

Auggie just chuckled. It was funny how a full stomach, a trusted friend, and the prospect of a new adventure changed how he felt as they returned. The old adage of the weight off his shoulders was overused, but in this instance, Auggie knew it was appropriate.

"Woah, woah, Decker, hold up. Coffee," he said, a sly grin on his face.

"Damn, Auggie," said James, seeing the coffee truck around the corner as they came to the crosswalk.

"Aw, if it makes you feel better, you can buy," Auggie said, laughing, as they turned down the street.

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