Title: Happily Ever After Depends on Where the Story Ends
Author: Beth Pryor
Universe/Timing: Written in the Anderson Family Universe of "Duck and Cover," "The Sword of Time," "Eyes That Know Me," "With Wind at Our Heels," and "Rewind." This is my continuation of an altered version of Season 4. Annie dealt with Henry Wilcox without going dark, and I just couldn't kill Teo. I have followed canon until Season 4 episode 9 or 10, but there are major departures from there, obviously. If those things bother you, scroll on. If not, I hope you enjoy!
Summary: This is the continuation of Annie and Auggie's story from where With Wind at Our Heels and Rewind left off. The first order of business is a trip home for a highly-anticipated wedding. But as the title says, the illusion of happily ever after depends on where the story ends. Features the Chicago Andersons of my previous stories.
Disclaimer: Covert Affairs doesn't belong to me. Clearly. And don't get me started on the "myocarditis."
A/N: I started to wait until I'd watched Season 5 to finish my story, but then realized it would completely change my perspective. So I'm doing this first. I hope you'll read and review. It probably helps to explain the others if you've read the previous stories, but you wouldn't really have to.
"You sure you want to do it like this?" Annie asked as she took the Titanium band from Auggie's outstretched hand.
"It's Max and Sam's day, week, whatever. There's no way I'm stealing their thunder. We can tell them later."
"Okay," she agreed as she removed her own ring and placed them both in a small wooden box on the dresser. She looked back across the room to where her husband of the past three and a half months stood shirtless, his left thumb intermittently touching his fourth finger in the spot the ring had previously occupied. "But if you keep doing that, they'll figure it out."
He stuffed his hands in his back pockets. "They might."
Annie crossed the room and snaked her arms underneath his, pressing her chest against his bare back. "It's okay if they do, though. Right? Because Dana's gonna know."
"She'll keep quiet if I ask her."
"Maybe we should tell her and Brendan."
He turned so their chests were touching. "Maybe." He kissed her head and pulled away to grab his t-shirt from the bed. "You ready?" He touched the face of his wristwatch. "Tommy will be here in 15 minutes."
"I'm ready." She retrieved her purse from the chair in the corner. "The bags are by the front door." When she turned, he was sitting on the bed. She ruffled his hair. "You're nervous."
"There will be a lot of people I haven't seen for years. It's always kind of awkward."
"I'll be there. We all will." She knew that didn't help much, but it was all she had to offer.
"I'll still get yelled at a minimum of three times by someone who thinks I've also lost my hearing," he sighed.
Annie shrugged as she slipped her hand in his and pulled him ever so slightly toward the door. "Par for the course. But it will be good to see the others."
He nodded, ducking his head. "I've actually missed them these past few months. It's been a long time since I've missed being home."
Annie loved the way he expressed himself with body language even after all these years. "You're more invested now. And about to be a godfather."
Auggie shook his head but couldn't keep the grin from his face. "I know. What is Rhett thinking?"
Annie pressed her lips to his shoulder. "He's thinking that he wants to have a good reason for you to come around more often."
A text vibrated Auggie's phone before he could answer. He pulled it out and flashed the screen toward Annie.
"Tommy's early," she reported.
Auggie continued toward the front door. "Well, we're ready. Let's get this show on the road."
"Uncle Auggie, Annie, over here!" They looked left to find Emmett, who'd grown about four inches since Christmas. His voice sounded about an octave lower, as well. He stood eye to eye with Auggie, and pulled his uncle into a hug. Brendan collected the bags as Emmett and Auggie caught up.
"He's with Mom taking his driving test. He failed the parallel parking last time," Emmett revealed with a sad shake of the head. "He didn't ever practice in the van before he went to the DMV." The boys had turned 16 in May.
"So I take it you're the driver today," Auggie mused. Emmett pulled the key ring from his pocket and shook it.
"I know what I'm doing," he assured as Annie and Brendan returned with the bags. They were already engrossed in conversation, bypassing the two men without so much as a glance. Emmett tapped the back of Auggie's hand as they nearly jogged to keep up with his dad and Annie as the four of them headed toward the parking structure.
About 45 minutes later, Emmett pulled the car up to the circle drive in front of Jim and Gwen's place. Auggie sat beaming in the passenger seat. "That felt really smooth, Emmett. Not bad at all."
"Thanks," the boy beamed as they opened the door and spilled out into the summer sunshine.
Jim emerged from around back a few moments before Gwen opened the front door. The five had collected Auggie and Annie's bags and were mounting the front porch steps when she met them on the verandah.
"I'm so happy to see you two," Gwen exclaimed as she kissed Annie's cheek and reached to squeeze Auggie's hand. "How was the trip?"
"Excellent," Annie offered.
"And safe," Auggie added, tipping his head toward his left where Emmett still stood. "Is anyone else here yet?"
Gwen ran down the list. "Leah and the girls are on their way. Troy will be here after work. Max and Sam get in around seven. Rhett, Ruth, and the baby are staying home tonight."
"Let's get you two settled in while we're waiting on the others, though," Jim added as he took the bag from Annie's hand and led the way into the house. "Gwen's got you guys in the Auggie's old room if that's okay."
Auggie snorted, recalling their last few nights in that night over Christmas vacation. Annie elbowed him, a blush creeping across her cheeks. "That will be fine," she managed. Brendan dealt with the rest of the bags while she and Gwen trailed behind with Auggie and Emmett still on the porch.
"What are those two up to?" Gwen asked as she directed Annie to the kitchen and a glass of lemonade, glancing back toward her youngest son and eldest grandchild.
"They've been deep in conversation since we landed, and I know they've been emailing some lately, too, but I'm not exactly sure about all the topics." She shook her head. "Auggie said something about Boston, but that's about all I know."
"He's a lot like Auggie," Gwen revealed. "I know Dana sees that, too."
"Is that bad?" Annie wasn't sure where Gwen was going with that.
The older woman smiled. "No. Not bad, just unpredictable." She poured her own drink. "Eamon's more like Troy and Brendan. He'll be fine with status quo. Emmett has this faraway look that I saw in Auggie's eye for the first time when he was six or seven."
"What about Max?"
Gwen shook her head. "It was different with Max. He and Auggie pushed one another relentlessly. And now I realize he was trying so hard to be someone he wasn't. I never knew exactly what he wanted, but I don't think he did either. I think he's just figuring that out now."
Gwen chuckled. "He's so much like Jim it's not even funny." She shrugged. "I just let Jim deal with him or asked him to tell me what I should do."
"Is that a valid parenting strategy?" Annie asked, rapt with curiosity.
Gwen lifted her hands in a gesture of surrender. "I have no idea. All I can say is I got all of them out of the house, and they're productive members of society in loving relationships."
Annie laughed this time. "I'd say that's a great marker of success."
"You both look much more rested than the last time we saw you," Gwen remarked.
Annie thought back to that day in December and the ambulance meeting them on the tarmac of the small regional airport to whisk Auggie off to an ICU for treatment of dengue fever. "He does know how to make an entrance," she decided.
"I won't ask because I know you can't really tell me, but I'm just going to assume that things are okay." They had also briefly discussed Gwen's understanding of Auggie and Annie's profession during that visit.
"We're doing well. Both of us," allowed Annie.
"That's good. Jim and I have to get down to see the house. The before and after photos are amazing!"
Annie laughed. "Auggie is so glad to be rid of that downstairs sink. He bumped something on it every time he entered that bathroom. For some reason he just never could get the dimensions down."
"Are you talking about that God-awful sink?" Auggie asked as he and Emmett entered the kitchen. "I've never been so foiled by an inanimate object in my life!" Annie laughed, and he found her easily, slipping his arm around her waist before he kissed her neck.
She blushed again and scolded him. "Auggie!"
He located her cheek this time and left a little peck. "Let's go out back. The heat is so much less oppressive here. We could all use a little Vitamin D conversion, right Mom?"
Gwen rounded the counter and placed her hand on her son's forearm. "Absolutely. Emmett, go find out what your father and grandfather are up to and tell them to come join us." Emmett turned toward the stairs as Annie and Auggie followed Gwen into the back yard.
"Were you surprised they decided to do the wedding here," Auggie asked once they'd all found seats. "I thought all the plans were for California."
Gwen shrugged. "I'm not sure what happened. Not long after you boys left in January, Max called and said they'd changed their minds and wanted to do things here. I was thrilled, of course, so just left it at that."
"Well, this is a great time of year to be here. Better than the winter." Auggie didn't really miss the Chicago winters.
"You're just getting soft after all your years in DC," Gwen ribbed. "You've forgotten what real winter is."
"And I'm happy to let you all keep it. Snow kind of sucks for navigation by sound. It dampens everything but does pad corners." Auggie reasoned as his father, brother and nephew joined them.
"Troy just called," Jim began. "He left early and got home just as Leah was packing up the girls, so they'll only be a few minutes more."
"How adorable is the baby?" Annie asked. She was excited to meet her newest niece and nephew.
"She's cute but she cries a lot!" Emmett exclaimed.
"Oh?" Annie inquired.
Gwen agreed. "Leah thought Althea was her difficult child. Callista has been harder. It also doesn't help that Cole is so easy-going."
"And Leah already had her hands full." Annie added.
"Well, the baby is only two weeks old, so here's to hoping things get better," Auggie offered, raising his glass.
Emmett clinked his against it. "Let's hope so, because if you spend enough time with her, you're gonna wish you were deaf, too."