"Auggie, what do you think about that," Dr. Wilkins asked, and Auggie took a moment to think. They were in their second session, and she'd asked them about the assignment from the previous session. Annie went first and said their greatest strength was their ability to work as a team. It was the answer Auggie wanted to give, but the more he thought on it, the more it didn't sit with him.
Auggie took a deep breath. He felt conflicted. He could agree with Annie, get through the rest of the sessions, and hope time helped smooth out the conflicts they both were stuttering through. He knew it was a cowardly way out, but the discomfort of not knowing the outcome if he disagreed made it seem a more desirable choice.
He turned in towards Annie. "Honestly?" he asked, and he wanted to hear it from her. Of course she would say yes in the middle of a counseling session, he reasoned, but he needed to hear her give him permission.
He was right about her answer. He took a deep breath. "I'm not sure we've been a team for a long time," he said and let the rest of the air escape in a sigh. He heard a quiet cough from Annie and a shift across the table. Was the doctor handing her a tissue?
"Auggie, this sounds like something you've put thought into. Would you elaborate?"
Auggie ran a hand through his hair as he ticked through the mental list he'd come up with over the week. All the times when she made choices without him in the last year- not just on the job, but ones that affected their personal lives, too. It seemed petty to give her a list of offending moments. Auggie tried to be vague. "There were just a lot of choices that were made without both of us," he starts because he doesn't want to throw her under the bus. "I feel like we fell out of being a team almost as soon as we'd managed to figure out we wanted to be one." It was almost the truth, although if he had to admit it, the team relationship at work had suffered quite a few blows even earlier than that.
"You mean going dark?" Annie asked, and Auggie detected some coldness in her voice. Auggie shrugged slightly in response.
"You made that choice on your own," he said quietly. He didn't add how he sometimes cursed her name for it on those long lonely nights.
"I did it because I had to!" Annie exclaimed. Dr. Wilkins must have signaled her to calm down because her next words were low and restrained. "I had to keep you and Joan and Arthur safe."
"Yea," he said, unable to hide the anger that bubbled to the surface. He wanted to remove himself from the situation. Talking about his feelings was never easy.
The tension between them was thick. Dr Wilkins broke the silence. "OK, let's take a moment and take a deep breath. Before things get heated, I want to remind you both that this is a safe place to express your feelings, and the other person should not invalidate those feelings. It's obvious that Annie going dark had ramifications for you both, which impacted you differently. But that doesn't make your experience more valid than your partner's." Auggie nodded. "Now Auggie, I'd like you to share with Annie what you remember about your thoughts and feelings when you realized her plan was to go dark."
Auggie tried to stay factual. "I started to piece it together when she called on the burner phone," he explained. "I didn't think she'd really do it, though, so I pushed the thoughts aside and kept working to find a way to take down Henry. When she called my cell, I knew the choice was made." Auggie thought back to that moment. He still remembered her words, felt his panic, heard the shots.
"Did you mean it?" he asked quietly.
"Mean what?" Annie asked, her voice equally low.
He didn't want to do this in front of the doctor, but the question escaped of its own volition. "What you said on the phone. I meant everything I said," he added. He hoped she remembered the exchange between them. He hoped she wasn't acting for the audience that day.
"I meant it," she said. Auggie's heart skipped a beat as he ran a hand through his hair. One of his many unanswered questions finally had an answer. He released a breath, and a small chuckle escaped. In an act of unfiltered adoration, he reached out a hand in her direction. He needed to know she was really there.
He felt her hand for a moment, then the connection was broken as she spoke. "Did you ever doubt it?" she asked. Auggie could only shrug in response. A silence fell between them, Auggie retracted his hand.
"Auggie, you did a good job about rehashing that day, but talk more about the feelings involved. How did you feel when she called on your personal line?"
Auggie swallowed. This was exactly what he wanted to avoid. "Uh," he ran his hands through his hair and leaned forward again, "panic, mostly. I remember being absolutely terrified and trying to find something that I could say to change her mind. Despite all my training, all the experience, I couldn't figure out a way to get a step ahead. And then the shots." Auggie paused as he thought about that moment. His stomach still dropped out, even though he knew she was next to him. He decided to leave out the part where he tried to further destroy his already tossed apartment and the half bottle of Patron he drank before two agents showed up to escort him to Langley for questioning.
"I am sorry you had to hear that," he heard from his left. Annie's voice was quiet. "I should have told you the plan before, but I thought it might make me second guess myself."
Auggie sighed. "You're an agent, you'll always do what you need to for the mission. Neither of us can deny that." There was more of an edge to his voice than he'd intended.
"You say it like it's a bad thing," she responded. Auggie couldn't tell the emotion behind it. Was she masking anger, or actually hurt? Either way, he knew this was not going to make things easier.
"No," he said flatly. "It's not a bad thing, it's just the nature of our work. It consumes us, and it has to be priority number one." Another silence lingered between them.
"You sound like your priorities have shifted," Dr. Wilkins pried. Dammit thought Auggie. They do certainly hire the best around here.
He shrugged again. "I don't know. I've just been thinking there's a lot of people I've worked with who go home to an empty apartment every night. And even those who do find someone, there's an awfully high," he paused to search for the word, "combustion rate that I can't help but notice."
"Joan and Arthur made it," said Annie from his left.
Auggie chuckled. "That they have. Although I for one can say it's not a path I want to emulate. It's been trial after trial for them. Plus, one couple squeaking by compared to the hundreds of failed marriages that have fallen apart in the last five years alone in this building? The odds aren't good.
"Are you saying we won't make it?"
Auggie balked. His mouth clearly got ahead of his brain. He processed everything he said, only to realize that he believed it all. He knew that part of what drew him to Parker was the possibility of a normal life. One that didn't rely on shop talk over dinner. Auggie relished the idea that he could leave Langley and his work too. It backfired on him with Parker, because he couldn't tell her enough. It failed miserably with Annie because partners working together was what they knew, how they interacted.
Auggie shook his head. "No, that's not," and then he realized that maybe it was exactly what he meant. "I don't know," he finished lamely.
"I think we've hit on something really important here. I want you each to take your time and think about the question I ask you. Don't answer until you are ready. The question is, do you both want to continue with your personal relationship?" Dr. Wilkins' voice was quiet, her question hung heavily in the air.
"Yes," came the voice from beside Auggie, accompanied by a sniffle.
Auggie clenched his jaw and ran over the same thoughts he mulled over since she went dark. Could they be a typical couple- whatever typical meant for spies? Did she put an expiration date on them when she went dark? And despite all the rationalizing he did for his benefit, would he really have slept with Helen if he loved Annie half as much as he claimed to? And yet. And yet he thought about the moment in Barcelona when he pulled her from in front of the car and when she came back to him on the stairs. He thought about her lying in the hospital bed, about waking up in her bed after their first night together, about the nights at Allen's.
"Yes," he breathed quietly as he sat up straight.