This is another hiatus story. As with many others, Annie came back, but she still has to adjust. Told mostly from Auggie's perspective. I don't own these characters.


The first duty of love is to listen.
-Paul Tillich

It was her thrashing in the bed that stirred him first. Auggie sat up quickly, and for just a moment, he wondered why it was so dark. He cursed under his breath for forgetting his blindness. Then he remembered that something had caused him to sit up in bed. He swallowed in an attempt to minimize the sound of his heart pounding in his ears so he could further assess the situation. He heard a whimper and felt the bed jerk again. Auggie took a breath when he put the pieces together.

"Walker," he said gently, and reached toward her side of the bed. He found an elbow and tenderly moved up her arm to her shoulder. He shook her with a firm but reassuring touch. She'd been having these episodes frequently enough for Auggie to know not to be too gentle, too close, or too startling when he pulled her out of her dream land, lest he be considered a threat. In the early days of the nightmares, Auggie dodged quite a few close calls, and even sported a shiner for a few days. Since they came back to the states, Auggie felt like the frequency of these night terrors had increased.

With another firm shake, Annie lurched away from him with a gasp. He gave her just a moment before he replaced his hand on her firmly. "Shh," he whispered to her, "you're OK, Annie." He heard her sigh and felt her move her hand up to her face. She must have cried in her sleep again, Auggie reasoned.

She curled tightly into herself. Auggie slid next to her, his arm moved around her as he pressed up to her back. He placed a kiss in her hair and laid quietly. He'd also learned that Annie didn't want to talk after these nightmares, and he couldn't much blame her. As much as his heart ached to watch her go through this, he remembered his own experiences with night terrors. He was all too familiar with the anxiety of not being able to trust your unconscious mind, and the shame when it betrayed you. He quietly counted her breaths until they came at a steady tempo, then allowed himself to drift back to sleep.

She was gone from the bed by the time his alarm beeped the next morning. He turned off the alarm and crawled out of bed. As he sat up, the smell of fresh coffee met his nose. He slipped on a pair of sweatpants over his boxers and wandered out into the kitchen. He made an effort to keep things light, but he'd decided last night that it was time to talk about this.

"Good morning," he said, his voice light and a smile on his face. He needed to locate her in the room before he delved into discussions about her well-being.

"Good morning," he heard Annie reply quietly, accompanied with the sound of her shifting in a kitchen table chair. He moved to get a cup of coffee before he sat down next to her.

It was typical that their first few interactions after a night like last night were stilted and awkward. Usually, Auggie was able to crack a joke and they would move forward as though the incident never happened. Today, he sat down and paused while he took a sip of coffee and thought about how to broach the subject.

He reached one hand out towards her. The other hand gripped his coffee cup, and he waited for her to take his offered hand. When she did, he took a deep breath and cleared his throat. "Annie," he paused as he felt her hand pull away slightly. "The nightmares, are they getting worse?" Now her hand pulled away completely, and she was silent. He tried to maintain his composure, but he felt his heart race.

Without being able to see her face, he struggled with his next move. He felt his brow furrow in concern, but tried to move back to a neutral expression. His hand remained on the table, palm up- an open invitation.

Auggie waited for what seemed an eternity before he spoke again. "Annie?" he prodded. He heard her shift in the chair.

"Yeah," she replied. Her voice was quiet, distant. Auggie wiggled his fingers again and hoped she would take his hand. He knew what he planned to say next was the real point of the conversation, so he steeled himself and started again.

"You know I'm the first to avoid talking about my feelings," he said, and tried to give a half smile, "but maybe it's time to talk to someone about this. It doesn't have to be someone from the agency. I mean, Dr. Wilkins wasn't bad, but I can understand why you wouldn't want to have much to do with the agency right now. I know some of the guys from Proper Exit have worked with a few local doctors that specialize in PTSD. I'm not diagnosing you," he rushed, his nerves caused him to babble, "I just want to do what I can." He bit his tongue from saying more. He knew pushing too hard could be detrimental, and he was afraid he already had.

He felt his jaw go slack when he heard her chair scrape back against the floor. He started to feel nauseous.

He tried to remain calm. Maybe she just needed more coffee before the conversation continued.

She didn't move toward the kitchen. When he heard her unlock the door he turned reflexively, unable to mask the panic on his face. "Not fair, Walker." He tried not to yell, but only half succeeded. His voice cracked. "You can't run out on a blind man and expect him to chase you!" He heard the anger in his voice, but there was nothing he could do to contain it.

He hated to play the blind card, and he hated himself almost immediately for making it about him. When he heard the door close, he wasn't sure which side of it she was on, and he stayed frozen in his seat, his hands cradling his head. Auggie blinked back tears and cursed quietly. He'd run the possible scenarios in his head, and he knew this was one of them, but he'd pushed it aside. He sighed.