Everything Looks Better In the Light of Day
"We do love each other, right?"
"Okay, that's the important stuff. Getting to know you, that's-that's the fine print, that's what we're doing now."
"I'm not ready for this."
"No, no, do not leave tonight, not like this. This is not what engaged people do."
"What do they do?"
"They work it out. They work it out. They talk things through, their differences, like adults, they work it out."
"I don't know."
"Just stay tonight. Not tonight, please. Please. Everything looks better in the light of day."
He wanted to chase after her. He wanted to put everything right again, wanted, needed to go back to yesterday, or the day before, or one day when things were right. He knew there was no time as he stumbled up his own steps, needing to put on some clothes to run after her. He knew there was no running after her as soon as he started. Everything stopped that. He was unable. He grabbed handfuls of clothes and hangers, pulling them down in anger and violent frustration. He collapsed in despair and panic against the wall.
He wasn't sure how long he sat there, how long it took him to get his breath back. It was one of those moments when everything was unmanageable, unthinkable, impossible.
Eventually, the floor became solid under him. His back hurt where he was slumped against the wall. His eyes stung from tears, and his sinuses blocked his nose. There were clothes all around him, thrown down in his anger at not being able to go after her, not being able to just throw on clothes like he should have been able to, like anyone else could, and run after her.
He pulled a shirt that was clenched in his fist, and pulled on a pair of jeans, not caring about the rest of the clothes scattered around him. He didn't want to think about it. In fact, he wanted to not think about it. He wanted to forget about everything as fast as he could. He found his watch, his shoes, his phone. It was still mid-morning. He wasn't due in to work until later, since he'd spent so many extra hours in the office the night before. He thought they were okay, they would be okay, and he came home and it couldn't be more obvious than the suitcase she'd left in his path. He didn't want to work, didn't want to go to the place that had destroyed all his relationships, didn't want to pretend it was fine. It wasn't fine, it wasn't going to be fine. He headed to the door, stopping to pick up his cane and his keys and wallet. On the way down the hallway, he called for a cab to come take him to the only place he wanted to be.
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
The brunch crowd was in. Auggie had never been in Allen's at this time of day, but one of the waitresses he knew was on duty. She took him to a free table, and then brought him a beer and a double shot of tequila. She didn't question why he declined her offer to tell him the lunch menu.
"Just the beer and the tequila, thanks," he said, impatiently. "And you might as well keep them coming. I have no plans on driving." He didn't crack a smile at his own joke. Nothing was funny about any of this. He wanted to drown it all out as fast as possible. It was too much for him to carry anymore.
He located the lime slices in the small bowl beside him and downed the first shot. It warmed him from his stomach outward, but he felt his face scrunch up with the bitterness, the sourness. Such was life.
He listened to the people around him. The daytime crowd. Auggie missed out on this happy scene of normalcy most days.
Normalcy. What was that? It sure wasn't anything in his life, that was certain. And it didn't look like it would ever happen. No-one wanted to be with a man with so many secrets. No-one wanted to start a life with a man who had a double one. And he was damn sure him being blind hadn't helped with Parker. She'd never gotten it, he mused, nursing his beer. She'd never really accounted for it. She acted around it. She barely ever acknowledged it. She wanted to pretend it didn't really feature in their lives, but it did. It wasn't something one could pretend away.
Auggie finished his first beer, and the waitress, Kelly, she'd reminded him, had replenished him with another. He sat forward, thinking about Eritrea. He remembered the flight from the kidnappers. It had all worked out, and they had all made it home, but at the time, if he hadn't been so deeply in thought of their next move, he would have let his frustration out on Parker. He'd fallen off curbs, crashed in an alley, hit the stairs without warning. He knew she was panicked; she was scared, she was too afraid to remember he couldn't see those things. She was just trying to run and get them to safety. All he could do was hold on and try not to pull them both down. His thoughts were of her. He'd thought of how to save her, so Billy's parents didn't lose another kid because of him. She had been thinking of him only in that he'd lied to her. He'd already distanced her with his revelation; everything else was her slowly trying to push herself away from him. She didn't want to let him in any more. She hadn't wanted to put her trust in him to make that jump. He knew he'd asked a lot from her, but she wanted to not have to trust him any more.
She'd been looking for a reason. He looked back now and it was plain as day. She'd wanted to say goodbye after their first little tryst, but then things... happened. And then she went away. They'd decided they would get on with their lives, and if they were still single when she came home, they'd see what developed. He was the one to go all in, he'd told Joan he wanted to do a close and personal report, he'd tried to rearrange where her time would be spent helping others, he'd bought the ring and flown off in a wild, blind decision to ask her to marry him. She tried, he had to give her that. She had repeatedly stepped back from her determined plan to go off without him, had tried to make it work between them for him. For Billy. She'd let him believe he could have it all with her, when she knew it wasn't what she wanted now. Maybe not ever. She loved the idea of marrying him and having children with him. But not for the present. Too much commitment in the present, thought Auggie. She didn't have to commit to his lies, his blindness, his children, his job.
The ring sat on the bedside table.
He'd have to return it.
He had told Annie it was crazy to buy the ring literally blind. But he'd had hope then that it didn't matter, that she'd love him through all of that, and that they could work it out. It's what people who loved each other did.
"Can I get you anything else, Auggie? A sandwich maybe? It's pretty early to drown all your sorrows in that beer."
"It's too late not to," Auggie replied. "I'll take another beer and another double shot of tequila," he told her, leaning back from the table, letting her take away the bottles and the shot glass.
"Are you sure? I mean, is there anyone I can call?"
"No, Kelly, there's no-one you can call. I'm a paying customer. I just want you to serve my order. Don't worry, you'll get a big tip from me, but I don't need the speech right now, so you can lay off that part."
"Okay, Auggie, whatever you want. Another beer and a double coming your way."
She brought him his order and left him to it. He took a deep breath and then a big swig of the beer.
Annie had asked him if he wasn't acting too soon, if he wasn't having a gut reaction to Jai's death, and trying to pull things close before he lost anyone else. Annie had seen his misgivings, had called him on it before he let himself see them.
It had been such a different way with her, every time he was in the field. Instead of being a hindrance, she'd worked with him. She always worked with him. They worked together better than anyone. Why hadn't he listened to her?
When he was in the field with Annie, she never forgot to tell him what he needed to know. She'd given him the sights, she'd given him warnings of stairs and guns, and faces in the crowd, and thought of his safety before herself. Just as he thought of her safety before his own. Why hadn't he listened? He needed to talk to her now. He'd invited her to meet them here, and he was glad now that they hadn't had drinks together, the three of them. Parker had already decided by that time, and meeting Annie would have been the most ridiculous idea. Why would he want his best friend to meet someone who clearly had a different agenda? Annie had sight. She would have seen it straight away.
Why wasn't she here now? He needed her. His fingers danced across the table top in front of him, looking for his phone, careful not to spill the drinks. He missed her. He hadn't had those drinks with her for too long. Since before Barcelona. They needed to get some things out in the open. They were both running away, and Auggie had no idea what from. He knew he had no right to question Annie about her private life, especially when he hadn't taken her opinions of his into account. But he cared, probably way too much, about making things right between them. He'd missed her while he was away. He'd thought about her when they were flying home. He had let his mind wander even as he'd held Parker's hand on the plane.
He wanted nothing more than to talk to her. To hear her as she told him he would be okay. And he'd believe her. She had gotten really good at those pep talks.
He picked up the phone and then he hit the power button. He could barely hear the phone above the noise of the tavern, but he dialed through to her, hoping she was close by in town.
"Hey, you ready to do drinks?"
"Now? Where are you?"
"It's lunch time."
"Well, I'll be happy to fill you in, once you get down here and have a beer. Or three."
"Whatever you're about to do, don't say you're sorry. I've had my fill of apologies today, just tell me you're on your way."
"I can't right now. Maybe later?"
"Call me when your schedule frees up."
Auggie hung up bitterly. He didn't want to hear her disapproval or apologies or excuses. He needed someone to tell him he was wrong, that he wasn't a hopeless case as a partner. He needed her comforting words. He needed that way she had to calm him when he was scared or angry. He needed the way he could talk to her without having to lie about who he was.
This is why spies kept their dating within the walls of Langley. At least then, the lies were on the table, part of the deal, like it or not.
He set the phone down and let his fingers graze the top of the shot glass directly in front of him. He knew he was going down a very deep hole, but he picked up the glass anyway, and downed it in one go. His head felt like he was in a wave, being buoyed and rocked by the alcohol in his system. What the hell did any of them know? They didn't know how hard it was to get up every day, when the light did not come. They didn't know how hard it was to go from being able to run a mission with speed and success, to sitting in a chair, listening to other spies, spies that were less-skilled in the field, tell him what had gone wrong. And he couldn't do anything. They didn't know how hard it was to hear his bosses tell him he was unfit for field work, when he felt inside like he was more fit than anyone else. They didn't know how hard it was to trip over a fire hydrant in plain view of everyone, when it would all come crashing back that he wasn't more fit than everyone else. He was not able. It killed him. Annie was the closest thing he had to that excitement he'd had before. And now, he wasn't even on the same floor with her. He'd lost her, too. She was working for Lena; he was upstairs with Arthur, working from Jai's desk. And everything about the CIA had become less exciting, less interesting, and less okay, without her there to check in with.
Kelly kept the drinks coming. The world was getting muddled around him; sounds were loud and then quiet again. Kelly had asked him at one point if he wanted to talk about what was bothering him. He shook his head. He only wanted to talk to one person.
He should have wanted to talk to Parker. He did want to talk to Parker. He wanted her to come back, to come to Allen's and find him and tell him she was wrong, and she was sorry, and she wanted to marry him and have his little Auggie children like she had said. He needed her to tell him she needed him, that he was the best thing that had happened to him, that she missed him when he wasn't around. He wanted her to tell him that he was the one, that he was what she thought about when she wasn't with him. He needed her. He needed her to tell him he was worth everything. That his life with her outside the Agency would be everything they both needed. That she could trust him. That she would calm him, and give him pep talks and he would do the same for her. That they would work together always. He wanted to come home to her. He wanted to be able to hear her voice when she was thousands of miles away.
But it was Annie's voice he was hearing. And he realised it wasn't Parker he was thinking about at all.
He set down the glass, his hand scanning over the others. Five. He'd asked Kelly to leave them so he could keep count. He slowly moved his hand to the right until it bumped into the cold beer bottle. He picked it up and then moved his other hand over. Two beer bottles there. She had taken away two and another shot glass at the beginning before he remembered he them to keep count. Five shots and three beer bottles. One shot and two beer bottles. How many shots and how many beer bottles did it take to forget everything?
That was the hardest one. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't forget her. He needed her. He needed her more than anyone.
"Can I get a beer please," rang out a female voice directly to his left. He barely registered the sound, only that it wasn't Annie. "Oh I just shouted in your ear, didn't?"
Auggie didn't have the energy to move a muscle except to keep the beer in his hand. "Oh, that's alright, I'm beyond the point of caring," he slurred. He even sounded drunk to himself, he realised.
"I'm Debra, by the way." He wasn't sure if she was inviting herself to sit with him. He didn't bother to ask. He just wanted to be left alone, but he couldn't just ignore her.
"Nice to meetchya, Debra," he slurred, hoping she'd get her drink and go. He didn't need any more women taking his time and then rejecting him.
"Hey," said another voice. A man's voice. "Don'tchya see me here?"
Auggie took a slow breath and turned to the voice. Was the man just being obnoxious or was he just ignorant? "No. I don't see you there, 'cause in case you haven't noticed, I'm blind." He knew his cane was right there beside his hand where it always was. He knew they could see it, that his unfocused gaze wasn't just the alcohol. He took another drink of his beer, thereby finishing his participation in this conversation.
But the other voice wasn't done. "I'd advise you to pay a little more attention to your surroundings, or you might end up saying something to the wrong guy." The man actually had the audacity to pat him on the back.
"I'd give you the same advice."
"Look, I'm trying to help you out."
"I don't need your help," Auggie mumbled. What was this man's problem? He obviously had some anger issues. Maybe this Debra woman was a constant cheat. Who knew, thought Auggie. He just wanted them to go. But the man still had a bug up his ass. He was trying to provoke Auggie. He wanted to get a rise from him.
"I don't care what you need." That was all Auggie could take. How dare this guy come over and ruin his perfectly good inebriation for some sort of issue with Auggie not being able to see him standing there? He wasn't going to take it sitting down anymore, that was for sure.
"Calm down, Clark," said Debra. "Let's just get a table." Auggie stood up, a look of consternation on his face.
Clark did not calm down. He pushed a little further. "No, this guy doesn't get a pass, just because he's handicapped."
"I advise you to stand down, Clark," said Auggie, hoping his threat was perceived through his calm delivery. Stay calm. Stay thinking. Strike when they least expect it.
"Look," said Clark, pouring salt in war wounds. "I'm equal Opportunity. I'll treat you like any other jerkoff."
Auggie had one last warning to give. "I'm not gonna say it again."
A hand came out of the dark and pushed his left shoulder. Physical provocation. That was the last straw. In a flash, Auggie's hand automatically flew up to Clark's wrist, and in an instant, he'd located one of the empty beer bottle with his right hand, and he smashed the bottle against the other man's head. Auggie was fighting mad now. He'd had it with everyone. How dare this man call him out like that? It was like he was angry with Auggie for having a disability, and Auggie wasn't willing to hear any more of it. Immediately, before he could lunge forward again to show this jackass what a man with a handicap could do, he felt someone grab him from behind, pinning his shoulders. Auggie wanted to show this condescending asshole how it felt to hurt, as much as he was hurting right now. There was too much.
"Get off!" he yelled, kicking his feet up, hoping to contact the other man one last time. "Get off me!" He shouted again, trying to shake them off, but then the wave of intoxication spread over him again, and he realised he had no fight left to give. He stopped kicking and raised his hands in surrender. Why fight any more. Why fight anything?
They handcuffed him, and someone found his cane, but he wasn't allowed to have it. Instead, two officers walked him, one on each side, to the squad car, and he let them. What did it matter? Home was empty. It would always be empty. He knew he had failed everything. Everyone. His life had been a string of failures. One of the officers put their hand on his head and guided him into the back seat of the police cruiser. Auggie slumped down in the back, hoping the ride to the Metro Police Station was long and quiet.
It wasn't nearly long enough. They each locked onto him again once he had pulled himself out of the vehicle, and he was led into the station. He was fingerprinted, photographed, his possessions were taken from him as he was processed, and then they threw him in the drunk tank. He waved his one phone call. Who would he call? There was no-one to call. He'd already called her and she hadn't come.
He was alone. Apparently there weren't any other drunken fighters at lunchtime. At least not yet. He heard the slam of the door behind him, and then the footsteps of the guard. He closed his eyes and rolled back his head. Livin' the dream. He put his hands up, one to the front, one a bit off to the side, and moved forward, unsteadily. He was so tired. He found the wall, and bent down, his hand searching for a bench or something. He moved to the left and found nothing, so he stepped to the right, scanning the air, needing to sit, needing the spinning to stop.
Bingo. His hand hit the bench he was looking for and he slid along it to the corner, letting himself fall into it. He slumped there, closing his eyes, willing himself to stay upright, consciousness hovering around him. He hadn't been this intoxicated for a long, long time. Probably a few years, when he was in the darkest time of his life, and he thought alcohol could dull the pain. It hadn't then, either. It just made it harder to walk.
He had to sleep it off. Then he needed to figure out how to go back to work and stop feeling. It hurt way too much to feel life anymore. The noise of the precinct dimmed in his ears as he bubbled under consciousness.
"August Anderson. Time to go. Bail's been posted."
Auggie didn't move. He barely had the incentive to speak out loud. "By whom, I didn't call anyone."
"You wanna ask him yourself?" asked the guard.
Auggie knew that voice instantly, and he felt his whole body drain of pride and fill with humiliation. He pulled himself to his feet with dread.
"I trusted you, you know," said Arthur, disappointment tainting his words.
"But that's past tense," Auggie pointed out, trying to clear his head, which was already starting to bang and explode inside.
Arthur spoke with contempt, pacing around him. "I gave you an entire division. An opportunity half the building dreams of. And an investigation into Jai's death, one of our own, on our own soil."
"Arthur, let me explain." What would he explain? That his life had just finally gone down the toilet? That he was ready to call it quits? That he'd be fine in the morning? What could he say to this man who had never given him a break, who had expected nothing but top drawer work from him, and had never been lenient around Auggie's disability? Auggie often wondered if Arthur was trying not to dwell on his disability or if he was trying to pretend it hadn't happened. He wasn't sure, but Arthur always seemed angry with him for something unsaid. Auggie thought more than once that Arthur was angry at him for ruining his own brilliant career in the field. He stood and let Arthur rant at him, knowing he deserved it. He knew the bottle was too far. He should have just punched the guy.
Arthur continued it for him. "And the, you reward that trust with a dangerous trip to see your girlfriend. And a public incident of drunken assault."
"She was my fiancé," Auggie said quietly. "Also past tense."
Arthur came and stood directly in front of him. Auggie tried to hold onto his pride somehow, tried to keep that wall up to Arthur, not wanting him to see how broken he was. He stood defiantly facing Arthur.
"Good operatives become careless drunks right before they become burnouts. Or doubles."
At the last words, Auggie became indignant. Arthur had no right to say this. This was the worst thing a spy could do. The worst thing was to be suspected of such a thing. There was too much toxic history with double-agents, and Arthur knew it. He went right for the nerve. But he wasn't finished.
"I'm taking the OSP away from you. You're gonna go back to the DPD and work hard for Joan. Show me I wasn't wrong."
Auggie heard Arthur turn and walk out of the cell. Auggie stood for a minute and then he moved forward, his hand out. "Guard?" he called out, completely defeated. He had to suck it up, he had to take what he had coming to him, and go back to the DPD with his hat in his hands.
The guard came in and he took Auggie's arm, instead of the other way around, and Auggie let him. He didn't have the energy, anyway. He felt them push his wallet and his phone and his cane into his hands and he was free to go home. He managed to get someone to call him a cab and direct him to it, and then, once more, he sat in misery in the back seat and let the vehicle take him home, the home where nothing was, where no-one waited, where no-one would hold him, and tell him today was just one to get through to make it to tomorrow.
If only tomorrow had Annie in it, he would get there. If he only had one day, he wanted it to be tomorrow, with the chance that she would come back to him, even though he'd messed everything up. If he only had one day, he wanted to be able to spend it with her.