AN: This is just a little tag to the episode "Welcome to the Occupation." So obviously spoilers for that episode.
"I turned Ben down."
Auggie lowered his half-raised glass of beer again, but that was his only visible reaction to the news. "Did you?" he asked complacently.
"He wanted to go away together," Annie explained. She wasn't sure why she was spilling all of this to Auggie, but she couldn't stop herself now. She hadn't been able to talk to anyone else about it. After all she could hardly tell Danielle that she'd been thrown into the middle of a hostage situation in a Mexican oil company with her mysterious spook of an ex-boyfriend. Honestly, she had a hard time even saying that in her brain, let alone out loud to the sister who thought she worked at a museum. "Take that two weeks of leave and go spend it together on some isolated beach together."
"Sounds nice," Auggie said. She could tell that he was being purposely vague, just listening to what she said without casting any judgment. And she almost loved him for it.
"And I wanted to say yes," she admitted. "I really wanted to just say yes and hop on the first available plane and disappear off the grid for a while. Remember what it was like before I started working here. No limitations, just fun and adventure and passion. I was so close to going with him."
She trailed off at this point and Auggie waited for a second. When she didn't say anything more he took a swallow of his beer and then prompted, "So why didn't you?"
"Because I just knew," Annie responded, like she'd been just waiting for him to ask. Like she wanted to be able to explain all of the reasons for why she didn't go to a tropical beach with the gorgeous man who had stolen her heart and held onto it so tightly. Like it was a decision that needed to be justified. She wondered whether she was trying to justify it to Auggie, or to herself. "I knew that if I did, then we would have two glorious weeks. It would be perfect, just like it was all that time ago. We would have the best two weeks, and then I'd wake up on the last day and he'd be gone again."
She leaned back in her chair with a sigh and downed half of her beer in one swallow to steady herself. When she set the glass down again she stared at the way the grains of the wood tabletop were distorted through the rippled glass. "I've realized it'll always be that way with him," she continued, more softly. "As much as I try to tell myself that he'll change, that he'll stay and we can be happy, I know in my heart it's not true. At the end of the day he's always going to leave."
Auggie traced his fingers over the rim of his glass, a thoughtful expression on his face. When he finally spoke again, all he said was, "I'm sorry."
Annie gave a shallow smile, because that was all she needed to hear to know that he understood her. "Me too," she said.
With a short nod, Auggie picked his beer up and tipped the rest of it back, then gestured vaguely over his head to signal to the bartender that they needed refills. Annie almost laughed when she saw an over-eager waitress nod and bolt for the tap. Once their new, full glasses were in front of them, Auggie asked, "So how's it going with Dr. McDreamy?"
"His name is Scott," Annie said even as she felt a blush creep up her cheeks. "As you well know since you ran a thorough background search on him, remember?"
"I remember," Auggie said. "I just think it's funnier to call him Dr. McDreamy. And you didn't answer my question."
"It's fine, thank you," Annie said shortly, but she was still smiling. Auggie just waited, his chocolate brown eyes fixed on her expectantly. "We're going rock climbing in the morning. Try not to interrupt it this time, would you?"
"Wouldn't dream of it," Auggie said, holding up his hands innocently. "Besides, it's not me you need to tell, it's the terrorists. They're the ones who like to ruin your extracurricular activities."
"You make it sound so dirty when you say it that way," Annie informed him.
"It's not hard. Rocks, hardness, boulders, mountains, peaks, harnesses and rope," Auggie listed off. "Rock-climbing is an activity just fraught with innuendos."
Annie tried to ignore the fact that her ears had gone red at his suggestions, as well as the fact that it had put a lot of scandalous images in her head. She took an over-large swallow of the frothy beer to compensate for her prolonged silence. "You're incorrigible," she finally informed him lamely.
"Probably, but the ladies still love me," Auggie answered with a shrug, smirking at her over his beer.
"Speaking of the ladies," Annie said suddenly, leaning forward in interest, "what about your little layover lover? You still going to meet her in Barbados?"
Auggie chuckled. "After what happened the last time I took a vacation, do you really think Joan's going to give me another holiday?" he asked rhetorically. Annie had to agree with Joan there; she didn't want to live through the terror of hearing Auggie's farewell again. If something had happened, and he hadn't made it back from Turkey... Annie shuddered. She really didn't want to think about that. "It's alright, I don't think she'll be there anyway."
"Why not?" Annie asked curiously. From the way she'd heard it, she couldn't imagine why the woman wouldn't want to meet her tall, dark, and mysterious on the sunny Caribbean beach.
"Because she doesn't actually expect me to show up," Auggie said simply. "She may not know everything, but she knows there's more to me than a music journalist. Enough that she accepted that she'd never see me again the moment we parted ways at that airstrip."
"I'm sorry," Annie said and she reached over to pat Auggie's hand gently.
"I'm not," Auggie said and shrugged again. "It's the way things happen when you're in this line of work. I'm used to it. James Bond, remember?" Even though she was acting nonchalant, Annie could tell that it bothered him much more than he let on. She let it go though; the last thing she wanted was for Auggie to think she was pitying him. There couldn't possibly be a faster way to alienate her best friend.
They finished their beers in a companionable silence, and then Auggie stood up. "Alright, I don't know about you but I'm tired just from listening to you run around all day," he said, tossing a folded bill on the tabletop. Annie paid for her drinks too and then offered him her elbow, leading him out of the emptying bar.
"Do you need a ride?" Annie asked.
Auggie shook his head. "I texted my car service, they're on their way."
"Well I'll wait with you," Annie said. Auggie smirked but didn't argue, and they stood there on the sidewalk with their arms intertwined. Three minutes later a sleek black SUV pulled up to the curb. "That's your ride," Annie said and it was so oddly reminiscent of their first day working together that they both smiled.
Auggie headed for the car but he'd hardly taken a step when he stopped and turned back to Annie. He took her hand and squeezed it. "Annie," his voice was soft and his dark eyes were compassionate, "I know that it hurt, but for what it's worth, I think you made the right choice."
Annie smiled. She stood on her toes and grabbed the lapels of his jacket, and the pressed a kiss to his cheek. When she was flat on her feet again she said, "Thank you."
"You're welcome," Auggie said. Then his grin turned mischievous and he added, "I'll see you next week. Have fun climbing Dr. McDreamy." And with a wink he slipped into the back seat of the SUV and closed the door behind him. Annie was left laughing on the sidewalk before she headed to her car. Her phone vibrated and she pulled it out to see a text from Scott, asking if she was still on board for their climb. She was smiling as she sent back an affirmative and then stuck her keys in her ignition.
Walking away from Ben had hurt, but she wasn't scared anymore. She had people here to support her and help her. Danielle, Scott, Joan. Auggie. She was going to be okay.