Bad Luck Comes in "Threes"
Please note: I apologize for any errors, this did not go through the same editing process as some of my other stories. It was just me editing, not someone else (there usually is someone else to help catch the mistakes).
A very special THANK YOU to Finlaure13 for helping me. She encouraged me more than she knows to get this one out there. Without further ado...
As they walked around data-tech, Auggie explained to Annie how different attendee's clothing identified them to different groups who attended the conference. Auggie couldn't believe his luck. Of course his ex-girlfriend would be behind one of the biggest mass communications hacks in history. Now it was his job to convince her to hand the hack over to him and the CIA. His biggest fear right now was seeing (so to speak) her again after what he did to her.
It simply was not fair. He couldn't tell her when they were a couple that he was CIA, but now, that the CIA needed something from her, they were more than willing to let Auggie read her in on his full involvement with the CIA.
Listening to Natasha's voice for the first time in two years was astonishing for Auggie. The moment the first word left her lips, he immediately knew it was her. He didn't have to see her to know it was her, her voice told him it was so.
Finally, the opportunity arose for Annie and Auggie to initiate contact. Auggie was extremely nervous. Would she remember him? Would she talk to him? Could he handle being around her after knowing the pain her caused her?
No time to ponder, she was right there.
"She's right in front of you" Annie informed him.
"Hold up. Tash?" Auggie said anxiously waiting for a reply, trusting that Annie had not told him the wrong person. Waiting for a reply was torture as he was unsure if she had noticed him or just walked away as soon as he spoke.
Natasha stood there for several moments. Thoughts, questions, and emotions all came at her in waves as she saw her former lover standing before her as he had two years ago. So much had happened since then, yet, standing here, in this place-it seemed as if nothing had changed. There was so much she wanted to tell him. Needed to tell him. Things he deserved to know. Things she should have told him years ago. As she continued to stand there anger began to boil inside her as he just stood there waiting for her to do something. Shouldn't he be groveling on his knees right now for what he did? She thought to herself. This was a moment for action, not words.
As he feels a hand forcibly meet his face, at first he is shocked, but then he realizes that the slap to his face must have come from Natasha. The anger behind the slap was evident as his cheek stung for several minutes later.
"Didn't see that coming." He stated matter-of-factly, not intending to mean he didn't deserve it, but that he indeed did not "see" it coming to mentally prepare for it.
"You should have, Auggie. Do you know what I've been through the last two years?" Natasha added irately. Before she could continue, Auggie added, just to clarify for her.
"No, I meant I didn't see it coming because I'm blind, not that I didn't deserve it." He stated as he displayed his folded up cane in front of himself. He heard Natasha gasp as he showed the cane. His cane really was an almost unmistakable symbol of his disability.
"I'm, I'm sooo sorry, Auggie." Natasha began to stammer, clearly unprepared to see Auggie and even more astonished for the development of his blindness.
"No it's not your fault. I buried the lead." Auggie said trying to sound more confident in his speech then he actually was. As the moments passed in silence between them, he needed to keep the conversation going. He needed to know she was still there. "How are you?" Auggie asked awkwardly out of necessity to feel the void.
"This isn't fair. You can't come here after what you did to me and expect me to feel sorry for you." Natasha stated in a hostile manner.
Of course she would assume he wanted pity. That was everyone's automatic reaction to his blindness. Well, everyone except maybe Annie. To Annie it had always just been a part of who he was. Not bad, not good, just was. However, it was different for Natasha. She had known him when he could see. She had something to compare his current self with.
"I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I just wanna talk to you. Please." Auggie almost begged. Need coming from every pore. Hearing her voice again brought all the passionate feeling he once held for her back to the surface. He needed this more than he thought. He needed closure as much as he suspected she did. This might be the only chance he got for that peace. He needed to keep talking and more importantly, keep her talking.
"Auggie, I can't. I sat there. I sat there at Kinkead's, waiting for you, and you never showed. Two days later, I was arrested by the FBI. It was a hell of a week." Natasha almost laughed to spite herself at this last part remembering the week she lost her boyfriend and was arrested for illegally accessing the department of agriculture's servers. Of course, bad luck comes in threes, so there was one more thing had happened that week that Natasha was reluctant to mention to Auggie, especially since he was blind.
She had promised herself that she would tell him if she ever saw him again. But this was not the same man she knew in 2006. This was not the same Auggie Anderson she had loved. His voice brought her out of her thoughts.
"Tash. I can explain everything." Auggie again was practically begging that she just hear him out. It broke her heart to hear him acting this way. The Auggie she knew was always in control. He would have never needed to plea for anything. He would have grabbed her and passionately kissed her into submission, which she would have willingly given him anything. She loved him and wanted nothing but greatness from him. But this Auggie was much different. What could he do to help her? Or even himself?
"Don't bother, I'm walking away now." Natasha said as she went to walk away unable to continue looking into his unfocused eyes a moment longer. But Auggie sensed the direction she was walking by hearing the sound of her footsteps and rustle of her clothing. As she went to pass him, he grabbed her arm with surprising accuracy surprising her. He said in almost whispered to her "I know you're behind the hack today. I want in."
Natasha looked at Auggie still astonished that he had flawlessly stopped her from walking away and with understanding said "Not here." She would give him a chance. He deserved that much.
As Natasha went with Auggie and Annie outside of the conference area Natasha seemed to realize for the first time that she and Auggie were not alone. Finally acknowledging Annie she asked, "Who's she?" Natasha questioned. "Your seeing-eye dog?"
Auggie scoffs at this, but answers what he is pretty sure was supposed to be a rhetorical question.
"Natasha, this is my business partner, Annie Walker." As Natasha looks Annie up and down assessing her and then replies "Don't be fooled by his act. He's a good hacker, but a lousy boyfriend."
Annie laughs at the Russian beauty's automatic judgment of their relationship. "I can assure you, our relationship is purely professional." Did she really think there was something more going on? Annie thought to herself suddenly a little self-conscious, but made sure not to let on to Auggie.
Natasha scoffs as she hears the word 'professional'. What kind of profession could a blind former hacker be into? She wondered.
"Define professional." She answers coldly, but with true curiosity.
Auggie answers with the pitch he was instructed to use, even though he knew it would not be affective with Natasha. "The kind of professionalism that can offer you $2 million dollars."
Natasha stares at Auggie as if seeing him for the first time. "I can't believe you don't know me well enough to know I'm not interested in money." Natasha's father had been a prisoner under the Brezhnev doctrine. This caused her to have a strong hate for the government at a young age that just grew as she got older and become more aware of the world's injustices around her.
Of course, he did know her well enough to know exactly that. He had pointed out that exact fact to Joan just hours ago when he was briefed on the mission. He understood that offering her money from the government would just cause him to stonewall more. "I have to ask for my company, Natasha." He stated reluctantly.
"Tell your company they can have my code tomorrow when I release it wide at noon. No group, no person, should get to control information any more than they should control all the world's oil or food supplies." Natasha spat out growing more passionate about the cause as she talked about it. This was something Natasha had always been passionate about. This was why she did what she did; why she fought so hard despite the consequences and potential danger. But she had planned for this to be her last major hack.
"You know that's simplistic, Tash." Auggie retorted, but he knew Natasha did not see it that way. That was Natasha's way-simplistic. In everything she did, but he continued in his mission. "There are groups in there that want to destabilize personal security, government security. It would be complete chaos." He continued, not convinced himself that he could actually persuade her to give him the hack. He needed more time with her.
"I'll turn over my code when your company releases its copyrights." Natasha snapped.
"That's not the kind of company I work for, Tash." Auggie replied hesitantly.
"What do you mean?" Natasha's interest suddenly peaked ever so slightly.
Auggie sighed. He knew this time would come. He'd been mentally preparing himself all morning. But now that the moment had come, he just wasn't ready. Annie put his hand on his shoulder to support him, but at the same time, he heard her walking away. She understood that this was hard on Auggie and was giving him space to speak with Natasha as privately as she could. He also knew she would be there in an instant if he needed her. That was just how Annie was. She was always there when he needed her. He never had to ask and she never made him feel belittled that she was doing things for him. They were like a well-oiled machine-all the cogs, nuts, and bolts working as one together, each part working with the other. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly as he prepared himself for another second for the truth he had to spill on her.
"I'm CIA Tash. Always have been. I'm sorry. I couldn't tell you until now." He blurted out without hesitation.
Natasha seriously had to fight the urge to slap Auggie again. Not caring that he couldn't see it coming, and almost liking that he'd be completely unprepared for it, as she was with what he had just told him. This was going on complicate things for her much more than she anticipated.
"Auggie, No. I can't do this right now. You have no idea what the past two years have been like for me. No idea what I had to go through." Natasha stated with emotion in her voice that surprised Auggie.
As Auggie listens to Natasha walking away, he wonders what exact she meant by her statement. To his knowledge, she had been in prison the last two years. "Well, that could not have gone better." He said as Annie seamlessly came back up beside him at the exact moment he expected her to be there.
In Annie's car later, Annie tried to get more of the story behind Natasha. She really didn't want to pry, but she could tell her was hurting. Stewing beside her in silence. He needed to talk and she would listen.
Annie started with "So Natasha was just someone you had fun with back in the day?"
"No, maybe I undersold the relationship a little."
"You think?" Annie said sarcastically keeping her answer short to hopefully get more out of him. She was rewarded with a little story about how they met.
"Four years ago, I was breaking in my cover talking tech to random people. So I was in a Laundromat in Adams Morgan, and Natasha was reading snow crash while she waited for her whites. We dated a little over a year, and now I wish I hadn't liked that book so much."
"So you broke her heart?" Annie asked
"I didn't want to. I loved her."
"I'm not buying it. You don't break up with someone you're in love with." Annie stated, truly believing what she said. Experience had told her that when you loved someone, you did anything and everything to keep them and if you didn't love them-you left them.
"You know what, when you work at the CIA, you do." Auggie said in response, frustrated with having to open up about his feelings. It was something he usually did not do, but this was Annie. She always seemed to be able to get him to open up before he knew what he was saying.
"I put in for a close and continuing with a foreign national, and the agency told me to cut off all contact." He continued giving her the facts.
"Well, I can't imagine they'd be too happy about you dating a Russian anarchist."
"Well, I knew she was rebellious, I just didn't know how rebellious." Auggie confessed. "I didn't know the FBI had her in a sting."
"Which is why she thinks you abandoned her." Annie stated more than questioned.
"I did abandon her." He said confessing it to himself as much as to Annie. "All I wanted to do was protect her, and I couldn't."
The rest of the trip back to Langley there was silence between them. Auggie was lost in thought and Annie was respecting his need more space. She understood, without him saying it, that he did not want to talk about everything that just went down. He needed time to process and figure out their next move.
Back at Langley, Joan was not as accommodating to Auggie's need for space. She needed the mission to be successful. Despite Auggie telling her that the mission was a failure, Joan pushed and told him he needed to try again. There was a small part of Auggie that wanted to do the same. It gave him a small little peace to be back into contact with Natasha. She reminded him of better days-days when he could still see. Reluctantly he agreed to try again tomorrow.
The next day, Annie came to his apartment to take him to the meeting place that had been arranged with Natasha. He was certain there was something Natasha was not telling him, he could only hope she would tell him.
The coffee shop meeting place was perfect. It was public, but not so public that they could not be away from prying ears. He chose a table away from the crowd, but one that could easily be seen by Annie and Jai. They were there to back him up. After checking that it was as secluded as he thought with his cane, he sat down near the exit to await Natasha's arrival.
"I'm here. Happy?" He finally heard her say.
"Thank you for meeting Natasha." He replied as he heard her sit down across from him.
"So where is your all -seeing CIA?" She asked him knowing he would not be alone.
"They're right here." Auggie said showing her where the bug was hidden on his shirt, trying to show her that he really was trying. "Tash, I know you don't have any reason to trust me. But you have to know I never wanted to break up with you. The CIA made me do it." He confessed to her.
"So they control your love life too?" Natasha asked in disgust.
"I'm not gonna defend it. Leaving you was the hardest thing I've ever had to do." He told her not waiting to reveal so much of himself, but knowing honestly was the best way to get her to trust him.
"Wow. So you're the victim?" She said wanting to leave, but having too much to tell him and hear from him to do so.
"Tash, I almost quit the agency. When they told me I couldn't see you again, the only thing I could do was get as far away from here as possible. I went to Iraq. Six months later, I was blind." Auggie told her knowing it was the most honest thing he could tell her and the most vulnerable she would ever have seen him. She only knew him as the expert hacker who left her to be arrested by the feds.
Suddenly, Annie told him that FBI was approaching them. He knew then that he had to tell Natasha now so that she would see that he was being open and honest with her.
"Tash, I don't want you to freak out, but there are FBI agents across the street coming this way." He told her openly.
"What did you do?" She asked looking around
"I had nothing to do with this." He told her honestly. "But as long as you're with me, they won't do anything. If you walk away, I can't protect you."
"So this isn't a negotiation. You're here to dictate terms." Natasha told him with anger in her voice. She couldn't be arrested again. There was too much at stake now.
"I want you to do the right thing." He replied.
"Sorry, Auggie. But I have more to live for now than just myself." She said finally beginning to open up, He needs to know she thought to herself.
Suddenly, Auggie heard the screeching of tires coming at them. Acting quickly, he said "Tash. Tash! Give me your hand."
As she hesitated and looked at him, she saw the man she once knew. Even with unfocused eyes. She saw that she could still trust him. Trust him with the truth that she had not yet told him. The truth she never expected, but now that she knew it she wouldn't change for the world.
"Now, now! Tash! Your hand!"
As she grabbed him hand and he pulled her away from the approaching vehicle, she released him as soon as they were out of harm's way and was gone. She would see him again though. She now knew that he could be trusted. Now that she was sure he had her best interest at heart and that he deserved to know the truth.
Later, after debriefing Joan on the day's events, Auggie headed home feeling quite defeated. When he opened the door, she spoke
"As a security professional, I would advise you to change the locks after you dump a girl who has your house key."
"Jesus, Natasha." Was all he could get out as he tried not to show just how freaked out and shocked her being there in his apartment was for him.
"Who was in the car?" She asked getting straight to the point
"What?" Still recovering from the shock of her spontaneous visit to his apartment. She really had no idea how to deal with his blindness. Announcing yourself so boldly without warning was not something he was used to people doing to him
"Was it CIA?" She asked deliberately.
"No, of course not." He replied shocked at her accusation. "It was the Russian mob."
"Oh, God. They found us." Was her reply.
"What did you do? Why would the Russian mob want to find you? And what do you mean 'us'?" Auggie's mind was whirling with the possibilities of what she was saying.
"Before I lived here, before I was pirate bureau, in university in Moscow, there were these guys.
They had flashy clothes, lots of money. At first, it was nothing. Translating bits of code for them." She confessed to him.
"But then they drew you in. First with money, then with threats." Auggie added for her. He had seen this before with other assets he had worked with.
"Ever since then, everything I do they think they have a piece of."
"And they want you to turn over the hack only to them." Again he seemed to be able to finish her sentences seamlessly. This gave her a tiny bit of comfort.
"They feel they own me. Own my code. They said they would kill us if I didn't turn it over. When they saw me talking with you—" She didn't need to finish the sentence for Auggie to get a complete understanding of what was happening. The mob didn't like playing second chair.
"Jesus, Tash, you're in danger. Let me take you in." He said as he took his phone out preparing to call Joan with this.
"No, CIA got us into this." Taking his phone away and disassembling it.
"Who is 'us'?" Auggie said. As he said that as if on cue Auggie became aware of another person in the room. This one sitting near Tash babbling to himself about someone called SpongeBob.
"Tash-why do I hear a child in my apartment?" Auggie asked in disbelief that he had not noticed him earlier. He had been completely quiet, but still now Auggie became aware of an unfamiliar smell that he could only identify as a mixture of baby powder, green beans, and guava juice.
"Those mob guys will not stop until they get the hack, Auggie. I need to protect my son." She finally told him part of the truth.
"Your son?" Auggie blinked a couple times before regaining his composure enough to say, "The CIA can protect you- both of you." He said still stunned and unsure as to why there was a child in his apartment.
"Auggie, we do need protecting. That is true. But I can't accept CIA's help and if you work for them, I cannot accept your help. I am who I am and the CIA will not let you be with us. You said it yourself; the CIA will not let you be with me."
"Natasha, who is this child? Why is he here, in my apartment?" Auggie asked for a second time, somehow knowing the answer, but almost fearing to hear it out loud.
The time had come-for the truth. Auggie deserved to know. She picked the young boy up from the seat beside her and set him on the floor in front of Auggie. She was nervous. More nervous than she had been when she found out she was pregnant. At the time she had wanted to end the pregnancy, never wanting to be a mother. But now, it was something she wouldn't change for the world. He was her everything. Her reason for existing. And without Auggie, she would not have that. He deserved to know him too.
"Go see the man." Natasha said to the boy in a tone that he had never heard from Natasha. It was almost sweet, motherly if possible. As Auggie braced himself for the child's arrival in front of him, he felt a little hand on each leg. Auggie cautiously reached out for him.
"Can I pick him up?" Auggie asked in Natasha's direction.
"Of course." She said. Auggie heard a smile in her voice.
As Auggie picked up the child he realizes how small he is. He couldn't be more than a couple years old, Auggie thought to himself. At first the child fusses, squirms, asks for his mom, and almost starts to cry as Auggie tries to hold him. But as Auggie talks to him, the child surprisingly calms down.
"It's okay little buddy, I won't hurt you." Auggie tells the boy doing his best to sooth him. "Who is this little guy? How old is he?" He asks Tash.
"He is my son. He was born July 15, 2008." She said.
"Natasha, who is- I mean-" Auggie tried to ask the question that was weighing on his mind, but the words simply would not come out like he wanted them to.
"Yes, Auggie. He is your son." Natasha said knowing what he was trying to ask. "He just turned two years old last month"
Auggie takes the time to slowly explore the child's small hands, arms, shoulders, and face. The boy is patient. Auggie is flabbergasted that the boy seems to understand that he needs to do this to see him. When Auggie reaches his hair he is surprised to feel how long it is. His silky-smooth hair reaches just below his ears. Auggie slids his fingers over the boy's features and is surprised when the boy puts his own hands on Auggie's face and holds them there.
"What color are his eyes and hair? Is he healthy? Natasha, why didn't you tell me two years ago?" He asks her, needing to know more.
Natasha understood what Auggie needed. She may not know how to deal with his blindness, but describing their son was definitely something she could do for him. It shocked her to think about him being their son, not just hers. She had been alone in this journey so far, it was a welcomed relief to have someone to share the burden with, even if it was just right here, right now.
"His eyes are brown, his hair is light brown. He looks a lot like you. He has your eye color, ears, and nose. He has my round shaped face. He wears his hair long as I imagine you might have done as a child. He is very healthy. Auggie, I found out I was pregnant the day after you left. It was not planned as I am sure you realize. I didn't know at the time that you had broken up with me, I had planned to tell you when I saw you again. The next day I was arrested. I told you, it was a hell of a week for me." Natasha said calmly and honestly. This was what she needed to say. He needed to know all of this. He deserves to know he has a son.
"Natasha, you should have told me sooner. I had a right to know. I should have been helping you with him." Auggie said softly as the boy in his arms begins to squirm again. He looks down into his arms as if looking at the boy. She knew he was not actually seeing their son, but it was a sweet moment she would cherish no matter what happened for them next.
"Momma, down. Me want play." The young boy's soft voice was like music to Auggie's ears. He had never been around kids very much and not at all since he had went blind. Auggie couldn't explain it, but this boy seemed to calm him and make him forget all the pain, worry, and hostility that he had within him.
Auggie carefully put the child down on the floor making sure his feet touched the ground before letting him go. As he let him go, he heard the boy's soft footsteps walk over to where Natasha sat and then heard the dump an unknown set of objects hit the floor.
"What's his name?" Auggie asked inquisitively.
"I call him James. But his full name is Auggie James Petroverson." She replied softly, but proudly looking at her son as she answered him.
Auggie simply smiled at hearing the child's name-his child's name. Multiple thoughts assault his mind as he considers what all this means. He has a son. Auggie Anderson is a father.
Author's Note: So what do you think? I'll be completely honest this might just be a one-shot. I haven't decided. I'm leaving it as "complete" for now. But I might come back and add more to it later, assuming I can do that.