When I walked into Langley for the first time, I really didn't know what to expect. I mean I had been training for this for a long time, but who knew what truly went on within these hallways and locked rooms and whatever the hell goes on in the upper floors. I didn't even know what my assignment was yet. My mantra had always been "expect the unexpected" so I assumed I wasn't going in for a basic translating job. I hoped so at least. And when my "neighborhood cruise director", handler, and soon to be best friend had helped explain to me what my assignment was, in some ways, I wasn't surprised.
A simple task that seemed like it belonged to anyone. Not just someone who spoke Russian. And even though all the signs were there showing that it wasn't the man I was looking for, I still followed him like the rookie I was. And all hell broke loose that time.
Let's just say I'm a little more experienced now.
"Hey Auggie, question." I said, walking into Auggie's office.
"Shoot." He said, turning his chair towards me.
"Do we know anything about a guy named Ahmed Tabireeq? His name kept popping up on the Castrid case."
"I can look him up. Although I'm confused as to why you just didn't do that at your desk." He smiled and I just grinned, leaning on his desk. He turned back to his computer and started to type a mile a minute.
"My computer is being used. You know how many people are in the DPD now, we're sharing computers. Sharing. I think it's an invasion of privacy."
"So there's things on that computer that you wouldn't want anyone else to see?" The corners of Auggie's eyes crinkled as he teased me and I rolled my eyes.
"I'm just saying that there is highly classified stuff on there and if someone below that clearance was to hack into my log in and not use theirs-"
"I got a hit on Tabireeq. He's a known weapons trafficker in the Middle East. Says here that he hasn't been found to be doing anything since 1993." Auggie slid hid fingers across the live braille feedback as he read what was on the screen.
"Then why did he show up in a file based in Brazil? And now of all times?"
"Maybe he's expanded his boarders and decided to restart his business. Where did he show up in the file?"
"Just in some basic emails to Castrid. But now that I know this, it's probably all coded messages." I knew I needed to tell Joan. I put my hand on Auggie's shoulder. "Thanks. You're the best." I patted his shoulder and left, walking straight to Joan's office. I stopped at the open door.
Joan looked up and waved me in.
"Annie. Come on in. What's up?"
"So, I was looking through copies of emails sent to Castrid and a name kept popping up so I had Auggie look him up. It's Ahmed Tabireeq, a known middle eastern weapons trafficker."
"I've heard his name before, but not for a long time. Why would a middle eastern weapons trafficker be communicating with a Brazilian diplomat?" Joan wondered aloud.
"That's what I was thinking. I mean we opened this case because of a minor connection to the bombing in Rio, but what if instead of a South American weapons supplier, he's getting it from somewhere a little more eastern?"
Joan raised an eyebrow. "Tabireeq has not been in business for over 10 years. Why would he start up again now?"
"Old friend? Money?" I shrugged.
"Good find. Look more into it and report it directly to me." Joan said as she got back to her paperwork.
I turned and walked back into the main area only to find that my desk was still in use. I huffed and checked my watch. It was 12:20. I could probably go for an early lunch break then at least. I again walked back into Auggie's office.
"Ugh. I just had this breakthrough and now my desk is still in use. What am I supposed to do?"
"Kick em out." Auggie smiled and looked towards me. "I know you can be pretty vicious when you get mad."
"I don't want to scare the girl too bad. She just started less than a month ago."
"All the more reason." He straightened up, smiled, and turned back to his computer.
"Auggie Anderson. Secretly a jerk." I shook my head. "I'm going for an early lunch hoping that by the time I get back, she's gone. Want a coffee?"
Auggie put his headphones around his neck and swiveled his chair towards me.
"Actually, I just finished writing a long and hardass part of a project, so I could go for an early lunch as well. And if she's still there by the time we get back, I can probably get her to leave." Auggie put on his 'flirting' face as he took off his headphones and placed them beside his keyboard.
"God Auggie she looks like she's 20!" I watched as he grabbed his laser cane and walked up to me. I touched the back of my hand to his and he put his hand on my elbow, exactly the same place that it had been for the past 4 years.
"Even better!" His smile grew and I punched his shoulder.
"Pervert." I muttered. He only laughed. We walked down to the cafeteria and I looked around. "I don't even know what I want."
"Well, I know I want a delicious sandwich from that amazing sandwich shop all the way in the corner." Auggie said and I shook my head.
"Yeah I figured as much. I'll get a sandwich too."
As we sat at a table eating our sandwiches, my mind was racing about my new-found connection in the case.
"Walker, stop thinking for a couple minutes. Relax, there isn't any evidence that anything is happening soon with Castrid." Auggie said after taking a sip of his water.
I sighed and picked at a piece of fallen lettuce on my plate.
"I just want to nail this. It's my first case as lead operative in the DPD."
"And you'll do fine. You've already done stuff way bigger than this." Auggie put his sandwich down.
"Yeah I know. Like with Henry Wilcox and Belenko." I sighed, noticing Auggie frown. Both of those weren't good times for either of us. "But this is the first relatively normal case I've had since then and I don't want to let Joan down."
"I promise, you won't."
I put a hand on Auggie's.
"Thanks, I guess I should relax a bit. I've been so high strung ever since I rejoined the Agency."
"Then I think a good beer or three at the Tavern will do you good. How about tonight?" He smiled at me.
"I'm guessing you want a ride?" I smiled at him while grabbing my sandwich and taking a bite.
"No, I was going to drive. But since you are so kindly offering to drive me, I could definitely save some gas money." Auggie said sarcastically. I laughed and put my sandwich down. In all honesty, my appetite hadn't been there since I got back from Buenos Aires. It was tough to see my friends in so much pain from a man who just wanted vengeance for his brother's death. And with the vision of that constantly racing through my mind, I didn't have the stomach to eat as much as I did.
I sighed and leaned against my hand, and bit the inside of my mouth.
"You need to eat." Auggie said, obviously hearing that I hadn't really touched my sandwich.
"I'm not hungry."
"You haven't been hungry recently. Is something wrong? Are you ok?" Auggie paused and leaned in towards me, lowering his voice. "Is it the heart condition medicine? I read that it suppresses appetite sometimes."
"You read about my medicine?" I was shocked..
"I was concerned. Annie, I still think you should do the surgery." He said seriously. I frowned.
"I'll think about it."
"What's there to think about? You do the surgery, take some time off to get your mental and physical health back, and then within the next two months, you'll be back here, just like the old Annie, jumping into everything." He said it, explaining it so simply..
"Auggie, this is a big decision. What if something happens during the surgery and I can't come back as an operative?"
"Annie, I think of all people to talk to, I would know what you're thinking about. At least you get a choice."
I frowned, forgetting that he didn't have the choice to come back after his accident.
"Have you talked to McQuaid about it?"
"We haven't talked in almost a week. Things are kinda awkward right now." I looked down at the table.
"He asked me to marry him and I said I'd think about it. But I don't think I want to marry him. I haven't given him my answer yet." I said slowly, frowning.
"Are you not happy with McQuaid?" Auggie asked quietly.
"I don't know. Can we not talk about this? Have you heard from Natasha?"
Auggie sighed. He and Natasha broke things off after Buenos Aires. She wanted to travel the world unrestrained and he wanted to settle with a family. The same argument that broke them off the first time.
"Some. Last I heard she was backpacking in France." He leaned back in his chair and finished his water. His plate was empty and I looked at mine which was a pathetic little bite into a turkey sandwich. I didn't say anything, just looked around the cafeteria. People were starting to come in for their lunch break and it was slowly getting more crowded.
"Want to head back?" I asked, looking back at Auggie.
"Not until you eat more." He crossed his arms. I sighed and nibbled some more of my sandwich. After a little, I had finished a little more than half of it.
"Ok I ate more than half and if I eat any more then I'm going to throw up." I pushed away my plate as the image of Natasha and Auggie limping, battered and bloody, out of the dusty building flashed through my mind.
"Fine, good enough. But please, do try and eat more, Annie. We're all worried about you." Auggie stood up and grabbed his plate. I stood up and grabbed my plate as well as bumping my free hand to Auggie's so he could place his hand on my elbow. We walked to the trashcan and threw away our things before making our way back to the DPD. Before I could open the door, Auggie pulled me aside.
"Annie, please tell me why you're not eating. Is it the medicine?"
"No, it's not. It's just… I hated seeing you and Natasha come out of that building like that. I mean I was relieved you were alive, I don't know what I would've done without you, but seeing you bloody and bruised... I just don't want to lose you again like that." I wrapped my arms around his toned torso and buried my face in his shoulder. I felt his arms go around my body and his cheek rest against my head.
"I'll be here for a long time, don't you worry Annie. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone's fault except Belenko. Now come on, let's see if that girl is still there." He put his hand back on my elbow as he released from the hug. I smiled and opened the doors to the DPD. Thankfully, my desk was open.
"She's not there. Alright, I got to get this Tabireeq thing solidified. Thanks for listening, Auggie." I patted his shoulder when I got to my desk.
"Anytime, Walker." He smiled, turned and made his way back up to his office. I sat and watched him until he slid his door shut. I turned to my computer and sighed, logging on. Time to dig up some dirt.
"I haven't been here in so long." I sighed as I looked around the tavern. Auggie took a sip of his beer.
"Yeah, it's been, what, a year? I'm honored to sit down with the infamous Annie Walker in such a place like this." Auggie joked. I laughed.
"I'm not that infamous." I looked down.
"Please. Everyone in the agency has heard of your name and I've heard some people I have never even met before talk about you." Auggie leaned in.
"Wow. And you know everybody." I leaned in towards him. He laughed and I leaned back, taking a sip of my beer.
He raised his glass.
"For reuniting in the place we kindled our friendship."
I smiled and clinked his glass, taking a sip afterwards.
"That seems like so long ago." I took a deep breath and looked around.
"That's 'cause it was so long ago. Hey, isn't your birthday coming up?" I looked back at him and he was taking another sip of his beer, but looking very suspicious.
"It may or may not be in 3 days. What? Gonna send me to Paris again?"
He laughed, remembering my first year there where I was sent for a mission in Paris during my birthday.
"Not this year, Walker."
I just smiled at him and took another sip of my beer.
After I had dropped Auggie off at his apartment and got back to mine, I collapsed on the bed, taking a deep breath. I didn't know what I was going to do. The coded emails that Tabireeq and Castrid were sending back and forth were hard to crack, so I didn't have a solid lead yet. And not to mention how awkward things were between Ryan and I. I didn't know what I wanted. I mean, I guess I knew that after Buenos Aires I wanted to return to the agency, but I was starting to question what really influenced that decision.
Was it because I didn't want to work in the Private sector anymore?
Was it because I didn't like the change in pace between working for McQuaid and working for Langley?
Was it because I just wasn't in love with McQuaid like I was before?
There was a knock on my door and I lifted my head to look at it. My senses automatically sharpened and I slowly stood up as the knock repeated.
"Annie? It's Ryan. Are you here? We should talk." I heard Ryan's voice muffled by the sound of the door. I let out the breath I was holding and unlocked and opened the door. There Ryan stood. I didn't know what to say to him so I stood aside and let him in.
"It's been a week." Ryan turned to me as I shut my door. "Have you had time to think?"
I didn't say anything, but I nodded. It was like he knew in that moment what my decision was. He looked down and just smiled.
"I see. Well, I hope we can remain business partners. Or friends. Perhaps a beer once in a while." He walked towards me and I just looked at him.
"I really liked you Annie, but I understand. You've been through a lot and you need to go back to what is familiar. If you ever need someone to talk to or if you ever change your mind, you know where to find me."
He stood in front of me and I hugged him, kissing his cheek, silently thanking him for understanding.
"Good bye Annie Walker. I hope we meet again." He smiled one last time before exiting through my apartment door. I looked at the door for a bit before letting out a breath and walking back to my bed.
Now all I had to think about was that damn Castrid case.
I walked into Langley and it took me less than 10 seconds to have a voice behind me say, "Back to the Jo Malone, huh."
I smiled, rolled my eyes and paused to let a smirking Auggie catch up. I let him grab my elbow before starting to walk again.
"I found a bottle I had bought a couple months ago and couldn't help myself. It's always been my favorite."
"Yeah, I know."
I yawned before opening the doors to the DPD.
"Did you not sleep well last night? Or did you just not have the time this morning to make coffee?" He took a sip of his, smirking, and I eyed his cup enviously.
We walked into his office and I yawned again.
"Jeez Walker, how much sleep did you get last night?" He said as he put his white cane in his drawer to replace it with the laser one.
"Obviously, not enough. Ryan came by after I got home and I just had a lot on my mind after that."
I leaned against his desk as he sat down.
"What did you tell him?"
"Well, technically I didn't say anything. So technically, he broke up with me?" I reasoned.
"So you gave him the cold shoulder?"
"I did not. I mean, we'll still be professional business associates when we work together and I don't think we ended on a bad note."
"You didn't say a single word to him?" Auggie asked incredulously.
"Why? Is that too harsh?"
Auggie just shook his head.
"Annie, Auggie, a word in my office." Joan said from the door.
"Uh, yeah, sure." I fumbled out, standing up. I touched hands with Auggie as he placed his hand on my elbow and we followed Joan to her office.
"Sit down, please." Joan said as we entered. We both sat down and Joan sat behind her desk. She took a couple seconds to gather her words before speaking carefully. "I'm worried about you two. You've both been through a lot recently and I don't want to push you both back into work so quickly."
"Joan, it's been a month. Were fine." Auggie said.
"Auggie, I know that, it's just… We don't usually have people come back so quickly after anything remotely even close to what you two just went through. I just want to make sure that you are ok. Mentally and physically." Joan eyed me and I knew she was thinking about my heart. "Don't hesitate to ask if you need some time off. Or if you think that you can't handle something. I'm your friend more than I am your boss. Always remember that."
"We're fine." Auggie insisted. Joan took a deep breath.
"Fine. You can go." We both started to stand. "Except you Annie. I need a word with you, alone."
Auggie and I paused. I put my hand on his shoulder as he left.
"Let's get right to it." Joan said after Auggie left. "What are you doing about your heart? Annie, I think you should seriously think about a more permanent fix. There's a low risk, high reward for many procedures. They can cure your condition, and you will only be away from the field for about a month."
"But what if something goes wrong? Then what would I do? I wouldn't be able to be a field operative anymore. And I just got leading field op. Joan, I want to keep my job."
"And I think that you will have a better chance at keeping it if you do the surgery."
I leaned back in the chair as I considered my options.
"How about this: We go see a cardiologist, one that the CIA trusts, and have him tell us our options." Joan said, looking at me cautiously. I nodded after a couple of seconds.
"I can do that."
"Ok, then we will go on Friday." Joan said, writing something down.
"That's tomorrow." I said, flustered.
"The sooner the better."
"What about the Castrid case?"
"We can let others look into it during the appointment." She looked at me. "You look tired, Annie. Didn't get much sleep last night?"
"No." I said truthfully. "I broke things off with McQuaid and I couldn't stop thinking about the case. It's like, ever since I went dark a year ago, I need to focus all my energy into one big thing. It's hard to do something so small like this case, because my mind thinks that it's a big one."
"Maybe a month off wouldn't be the worst thing for you, Annie." Joan said softly. "You know Auggie. He's the type that could have the swine flu and still want to come into work saying he's fine."
I chuckled. Sounded like Auggie.
"But you aren't like that. You need a little bit more time to recover. And not just from Buenos Aires. From Henry Wilcox too. You haven't been the same since then and everyone has noticed. Take your time, Annie. The Agency isn't going anywhere anytime soon."
I took a deep breath. I knew she was right.
"Tomorrow, I will pick you up at your apartment at 10, we will go to the appointment and then you will not come into work. Is that clear?" Joan said sternly.
"You may go."
I got up and left Joan's office. I walked slowly back to my desk, thinking.
Joan was right. I was pushing myself way too hard. I never fully recovered from the whole Henry thing, let alone Buenos Aires. I glanced at the folder containing the Castrid case on my desk and tapped my fingers on it.
"That is the sound of a thinking woman." I looked over at Auggie who held out a cup of coffee.
"You're a godsend." I took it and took a sip. I felt the caffeine kick in almost immediately.
"What are you thinking about?" He leaned against my desk.
"Joan is practically forcing me to take time off. And I'm going to see a doctor about my heart tomorrow and she isn't letting me come to work."
Auggie opened his mouth, but shut it and sighed.
"As much as I hate to tell you this, I think she might be right. You haven't been the same."
"Listen, Annie. I don't forget what happened after Henry Wilcox. It was like you were a different person. You were skittish and your emotions were all over the place. I don't want that to happen again."
I sighed, knowing both him and Joan were right.
"How about tomorrow night you can come to my place and we can order a pizza and complain about the woes of our jobs." Auggie gave me a warm smile.
"Sure. Just text me when I can come over." I took a deep breath. "Maybe you guys are right. We'll see what the doctor says tomorrow." I put my hand on his arm and he gave me one last smile before walking back to his office.
I walked into my apartment and sighed. I decided to hit the heavy bag and changed into workout clothes to let out my frustrations. I put on the gloves and walked to the bag. The first punch was unsatisfactory, only causing the bag to move a couple centimeters. I then went at it until the bag was swinging significantly back and forth. I put my hand on the bag, stopping it as I breathed heavily. I took off the gloves and put them on my dresser before grabbing a towel and walking to my bathroom to shower. It was a short night. I almost immediately went to sleep.
The next day, I woke up at 9. It actually felt pretty good to sleep in that much. I woke up feeling relaxed and ready. At 10, a knock on my door announced that Joan had arrived. I opened the door and there the blonde stood.
"Yeah, let me grab my shoes." I motioned her to come in before I went to my closet to grab a pair of sneakers.
"Are those exercise leggings? You will be running." Joan called.
"Yeah. I know the deal."
I put my shoes on and joined back with Joan.
"Ok, let's go." She led the way out and I locked my door after I made sure I had everything. We got in her car and she drove to the doctor's office, which was in Walter Reed. She led the way in and immediately to the 3rd floor. We walked a little down the hallway before we walked into an office of a Dr. Samuel Jones.
"He's an operative who only comes to Langley for special cases, as he likes working here. He's the best around." Joan said before entering. A man who seemed to be in his late 40s sat behind a desk, but looked up as we entered.
"Joan!" He stood and immediately wrapped Joan up in a hug.
"Sam! It's been too long."
"Or not long enough, with the lack of proper medical cases that's come through." He joked. Joan turned to me.
"This is Annie Walker, lead operative of the DPD."
I wouldn't lie, hearing Joan say that was pretty satisfying. I shook his hand and smiled.
"So I hear something about a heart? Kinda rare in the agency, don't you think?" He joked, motioning them to follow him to connected room. I smiled and Joan just shook her head. "Speaking of hearts, how's Auggie holding up? He's got the biggest heart I've ever seen, physically and metaphorically."
"He's fine. Just went through a rough patch recently, but he's holding up in true Auggie nature." Joan smiled.
"Good. Tell him to call me so that we could grab a beer soon. It's been way too long."
We then started the appointment. It was almost identical to what I did with Eyal, except that I could tell him almost everything I've been doing.
"Ok, so from what I see, you do in fact have Myocarditis. However, it's actually almost gone. I don't think you need surgery, just maybe a month of rest and some antibiotics and it'll go away."
I looked up at him in shock.
"Really? That's it?"
"It came up after you went to Hong Kong, correct?"
"That place it teeming with bacteria. I believe that your case was because of said bacteria. I will prescribe you with strong acting antibiotics and it should kick the bacteria out within a couple of weeks. However, you need to relax and not go jumping into anything."
"Well that's better news than what we expected." Joan said, smiling at me. "Thank you so much, Sam. I'll let Auggie know that you want to get together."
We all stood up and shook hands and left.
"Now you don't need the surgery and it will be painless. Glad I made you come?" Joan looked at me almost smugly. I rolled my eyes, but nodded.
"Yeah, I guess the doctor that Eyal got me couldn't have identified the cause like Sam could."
"Exactly. Now I'm taking you home and you will not come to work. Rest, Annie." Joan said as we got to her car. I nodded.
It was almost 6 when I got the text from Auggie that I could go over. I drove quickly and after a few quick knocks on his door, he opened it and let me in.
"Pizza is on the way, beer is in the fridge, and my ears are open for you to complain to." Auggie said as he let me in. I laughed and followed him to his counter.
"Actually, I'm pretty happy. Well sort of."
"Do explain." He said as he opened his fridge and grabbed two beers.
"I don't need surgery." I said as he gave me a beer.
"Well that's good news already. Let's sit on the couch." He led the way as we went and sat on the couch. "And?"
"It's caused by the bacteria from Hong Kong most likely. So I have a month off and antibiotics and it should heal." I shrugged, opening my beer and taking a sip.
"Annie! That's awesome news! I mean, besides having to take a month off, of course. What are you going to do for a month?" He took a sip of his own beer and I sighed.
"Haven't thought about it."
"You might be able to convince Joan to get a temporary desk job in linguistics." Auggie suggested.
"Do you really think that I would stay at a desk for a month without trying to get into the field? You know me better than that." I chuckled.
"Hey, it was just a suggestion. Not a requirement." Auggie laughed. We stayed quiet for a bit as I looked around the familiar apartment. "What are you thinking?"
"It's been awhile since I've been here. I missed it." I scooted closer to Auggie and laid my head on his shoulder. "I'm glad we're back to where we were." He put and arm around me and rubbed my shoulder.
We stayed in that position for the next couple minutes and drank our beers. It was my first full moment of serenity since forever it seemed like. Until there was a knock on the door.
"It's probably the pizza." Auggie said as he got up and walked to the door. He was right, it was the pizza. I watched as he took out his wallet, paid the driver, and grabbed the pizza. Shutting the door, he turned around and walked to the kitchen counter. I quickly stood up and walked there to grab a slice.
"Nothing beats a nice, warm slice of pizza with a beer." I said, smiling as Auggie handed me a plate.
We both grabbed a slice and headed back to the couch. I looked at Auggie and smiled to myself. It was nice to finally hang out with Auggie again.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Auggie said after we sat eating in silence for a few seconds.
"I'm just really glad that we're hanging out again. It's been way too long."
Auggie just smiled and continued eating. Once I was done, I set my plate on the coffee table and brought my knees up to my chest.
"Want to watch a movie?" Auggie suggested.
"Do you have any good ones?"
"There's a bin under the TV that should have a couple."
I got up and went to the TV, pulling out the bin. There was much more than he let on. It was more like 50 movies.
"A couple? Really Auggie? This is like, a lot more than a couple!" I said, sifting through them, looking for one that spoke to me.
Auggie just laughed as he took our plates to the sink.
"Guess I haven't counted in a while."
I picked up 3 movies.
"Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, The Breakfast Club, or Titanic?" I asked, looking at all of them.
"I'm in the mood for some action, how about you?" He said as he came back. I smiled.
"I hoped you were going to say that." I put Lord of the Rings in the DVD player and put the other two movies away. I hopped onto the couch and curled myself into the corner by the armrest. Auggie pressed play on the remote.
He sat a little bit away, but it was enough that I frowned, hoping he would shift near me. Instead, I stayed in my corner of the couch, watching as the opening scenes started to unfold.
"Annie? Are you cold? I can feel you shivering from here."
I looked over at Auggie and bit my lip.
"Maybe a little."
"Come here." He opened his arms and I scooted closer to him, embracing his bodyheat as I snuggled into his side. He wrapped an arm around me and I smiled. "Now that I have successfully gotten you here, I want you to give me play by play. I haven't seen this movie in a long time." He whispered to me.
"Good thing it's one of my favorites." I whispered back. He gave me one of his famous Auggie smiles and I turned back to the screen. "The creepy guy Gollem is squeezing a worm. I don't know about you, but I hate Gollem. My sister and I used to skip through straight to the battle scenes."
"Sounds like you." He whispered back to me.
"And now he's fishing. Still creeping me out."
I gave Auggie the best details I could without interrupting the dialogue. By the time we finished the movie, it was almost midnight. I was much more curled into Auggie's side than I was earlier. As the credits rolled on the screen, I felt Auggie's thumb rub in circles on my arm.
"Did I pass your play by play test?" I asked, looking up at him.
"It was like I could actually see it." Auggie smiled.
"I should probably get going. It's almost midnight." I started to pull away, when Auggie practically pushed me back down.
"No, stay. I wanted you to stay till midnight."
"Well, wait until then. You'll see." He gave me a suspicious smile.
"Well you have 20 minutes."
"Perfect." He took a deep breath and continued his thumb rubbing on my arm. I just looked up at him. I had forgotten how mesmerizing he was up close.
"Staring at me, Walker?" He smirked. I glared at him.
"You're oddly mesmerizing, you know?"
"You've told me before."
"I forgot about that." I said as the memories from my first few weeks in the Agency came rushing back to me. Much simpler times.
"I haven't." Auggie's voice lowered.
"Back when there was no bombs in off-book sites, no extensive missions, Jai was there." I scrunched my eyebrows. I felt Auggie take a deep breath.
"This job gets more complicated the longer you stay in. You get pulled more and more into the circle of trust and at this point, I think you and I are in the middle of that circle. It's hard not to be when Joan, Arthur, and Calder all come to us specifically when they need a very important task done."
"I think I've learned that. It's not easy and it doesn't get easier."
We stayed quiet for a bit.
"Have you tried contacting Danielle?"
"She thinks I'm dead, Auggie. What am I supposed to do? Show up at her doorstep and say, 'Hi, I'm not dead. I miss you.'? It's not that easy."
"I never said it was going to be easy. I just asked if you had tried."
"It's like I'm reading her in all over again, except 10 times over." I leaned my head against his chest and sighed. After a minute of silence, Auggie checked his watch and smiled.
"It is officially 12:01 and I want to be the first to say, Happy Birthday, Annie."
My eyes widened. I had forgotten it was going to be my birthday.
"I hear surprise in your voice. Either you are surprised I remembered or you forgot about it."
"Well, happy birthday."
"You already said it."
"But now you're ready for it." He smiled at me.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and hugged him.
"Thank you. Thank you so much."