Author's Note: Greetings everyone, here's the latest chapter. It may contain errors. Please understand, writing for me right now is a stress reliever, but I don't have as much time to edit as I would like. Either way, I hope that you enjoy the next leg of our journey. If you see glaring mistakes and tell me about them, I'll try to change them.
Auggie followed their routine to a tee. With their once monthly trip out with their friends complete and they were waiting for their ride to arrive. The trip, as always, was exhausting for everyone involved, but he and Annie had agreed that they couldn't sit at home all the time. As their ride arrived at their apartment, Auggie waited patiently as the driver lowered the mechanical ramp that would allow Annie out of the vehicle.
Annie had many medical needs now, so Danielle visited frequently and a nurse was there daily to take care of anything for Annie that Auggie couldn't do himself. The last six months since Annie had come home had both flown by and dragged at a snail's pace for the couple.
Auggie's apartment had been outfitted with ramps long ago after Annie had been shot, but now a hospital bed was set up in what had been his living room. Their home was also full of medical equipment that kept Annie comfortable. Normal was a relative term now. Their life had changed drastically, but given the alternative, they accepted what they were given. Annie still had her voice-well, she had a voice. It wasn't her old voice. But they could communicate. Most of their conversations consisted of Auggie telling Annie about his day or Annie slowly recounting for Auggie about how her day had went, which was considerably less exciting then it had once been.
Auggie's days consisted of his continued work for the CIA: half at the office and half at home. Joan had been more than accommodating and empathetic towards their circumstances. Their home had all the latest security technology and Auggie's computers were all outfitted with the best firewall and anti-virus software that the CIA could come up with-some of which Auggie had created himself. If he needed to, he had coworkers come to the apartment for consults, but this occurred quite infrequently.
Annie's days consisted of mind numbing therapy sessions, tortoise-like routines to complete the simplest of activities, and hours of sitting around watching the world go on around her. She wasn't bitter however, just the opposite. She was happy to be alive. It had been touch and go for a while and she was simply happy that she was allowed to still experience life with Auggie every day.
Now the whirls of Annie's electric wheelchair were the only sound around them as they slowly walked their usual path to Auggie's apartment-now shared with Annie. It had taken some work, but Auggie had convinced his complex to put an elevator in so that he wouldn't have to move. Auggie walked behind Annie's wheelchair that she was finally able to control on her own. It had taken her a couple months to be able to control her hands enough to use them for the job, but it made their life easier now.
Annie never grumbled. There was nothing she could do for herself, but she never complained. Breathing was even difficult for her now, but she didn't have to use the oxygen full time anymore. She had laid in bed in a coma for so long that her lungs had become too weak to support breathing for her now completely paralyzed body. As a former CIA agent, Annie had the best equipment money could buy. Both Joan and Auggie had made sure of it.
They had a routine, Auggie was home at the same time every day without exception. It had been an agreement between him and Joan when he had gone back to work a few months ago. He made Joan promise to never keep him at work late. If Danielle wasn't there, then a nurse would be. But Annie was never left alone for long.
He valued his time with Annie now more than ever and while they both recognized the need for him to work, out of emotional necessity, not financial, neither of them wanted to be apart any more than they had to be. Auggie knew that he had almost lost her. In truth, he had lost her for months. Of course, she had been there, but his Annie had not been there. There had been no true life within her. Her body was there, but the coma that had kept her from him. Now he did everything he could to make sure Annie knew that he was there for her, no matter what.
Annie depended on others to help her with everything; from getting out of bed, to feeding herself, brushing her teeth, and showering. However, nothing stopped her from being there for Auggie. Every night they discussed his work and Auggie bounced ideas off Annie about cases. Their conversations were slower now because Annie's speech was more labored and forced than it had been, but her ideas and mind was still as sharp as ever. Auggie was patient with her and waited for her to get thoughts out. Her ideas were excellent and showed the years of experience that no book or manual could convey. She always knew just how Auggie could work one angle or another or what to say to whichever agent he was working with at the time.
Joan didn't protest Auggie speaking to Annie about active cases. In fact, she approved of it, secretly of course. Technically, Annie was no longer part of the CIA and shouldn't be privileged to case information anymore. But she never shared that she knew they did. Her only fear was that Annie might be kidnapped for the information, but she kept this feat to herself.
She was still Annie, but not Annie at all at the same time. She couldn't physically do any of the things she had once done. But mentally, linguistically, and emotionally she was still the hard ass field agent that Auggie had fallen in love with from almost the moment he'd met her. She went at every therapy session, challenge daily task, and medical procedure with the same grit and determination as she had terrorists, gun runners, and drug dealers.
They still did everything together. It was the same, but different. Everything was slower for them now. But there were grateful to have each other. Annie was amazed that Auggie would stand by her in her state of being. She never felt inadequate to be loved by him, but it still amazed her that he would suffer through all of the changes her disability brought for him. Of course, his own disability added to their challenges. And yet, they made it work.
Auggie followed his usual ritual and stayed by Annie's bed until she fell asleep. Holding her left hand, which had more feeling and control than the right, he waited until her slight movements stilled, conversation ceased, and breathing evened out before he made his way through their apartment to his own room. In times like this, he could almost imagine things were as they had been. Before her accident. Being blind, he was able to imagine things as he wanted instead of having to see them. In the stillness of night, just holding Annie's hand, he could also pretend she was just getting home from a mission. If not for the hiss of the oxygen machine that helped Annie breathe and the hard mattress she slept on instead of their old bed, he might be able to keep the image.
Tonight, however was different. Tonight she did not still. Her hand kept squeezing his. She had the ability to squeeze his hand he knew, however, not usually with such force. Auggie was both concerned and enthused with this distinct variation in her abilities.
As he lifted his head from his arm it had rested on, he suddenly realized that he was no in his apartment. As the sleep lifted from his mind he heard the rhythmic beeping and whirls of very different machines than he had just heard. Immediately he realized three things: One: he was at the hospital not his apartment, two: he had been dreaming, and three Annie was squeezing his hand-which she had not been able to do since she had woke from the coma weeks ago.
Annie looked around the room. Her eyes were open, but she only had the ability to leave them open for a few minutes at a time. She knew instantly that she was in the hospital. But what she didn't know was why. Something inhibited her ability to speak or even breathe. A breathing tube she assumed. She understood that her condition must have been serious for that reason.
She saw Auggie next to her. His hand in hers. He was sleeping hunched over with his head resting on his arm. It didn't look comfortable, but was certainly not the most uncomfortable looking position she had seen him in waiting for her at a hospital. She thought about the time she had been quarantined and found him sprawled out on the lobby chairs, flat on his back. He never complained about the circumstances he found himself in because of her.
She stared at the ceiling above her. Aware that whatever had happened was quite serious, she wished Auggie would wake up and somehow notice she was awake. Gently, she squeezed his hand. She immediately noticed that the action of moving her hand was almost painful. Well, not painful in the traditional sense, but tingly or numb, like they'd fallen asleep some time ago.
As she lay there, staring at the blank white ceiling above, she begin to feel her eye lids growing heavy. As she held onto Auggie's hand, she hoped that when she woke again that she would learn what had happened and what injuries she had.
The following evening, when Annie woke up, she was rewarded with the immediate realization that she was breathing on her own without the assistance of a breathing tube. There was an oxygen mask over her mouth, but that didn't inhibit her in the ways the breathing tube did. She glanced around the room, knowing by what she could see that she was still flat on her back and that something around her neck prevented movement. Auggie was still beside her, hand in hers. She squeezed his hand and was awarded with his signature smile.
"Annie?" he questioned quietly but hopefully. "Don't try to talk sweetheart, they've just taken the breathing tube out a few hours ago. Squeeze my hand if you can hear me," he told her.
She did as he asked and watched as his face lit up in the biggest smile she had ever seen.
"I told the doctors I wasn't imagine it. They told me it was impossible, but I knew it wasn't my imagination. They've seen increased brain activity on your imagery for a few days now, so we were hopeful of you waking soon."
Annie wasn't sure what Auggie was going on about. She was just glad to have him next to her. Her eye lids fluttered closed a couple times, but every time she opened them, he was still there beside her.
A few hours later, she woke again. This time, Auggie's hand was not in hers. It was resting on the bed next to her as he listened to something on his computer.
"Augs" she said hoarsely and moved her hand towards his. Moving her hand was a laborious task and she wasn't sure why. She felt like she was moving in slow motion.
"Annie. Did you just move your arm?" Auggie asked, unable to hide the surprise in his voice, as he found her outstretched hand reaching for him.
"Of course," she said, completely unsure why he would ask such a question. While she may be paralyzed, it was her legs that didn't function. He knew that as well as she did. "What happen?" she asked finally. Understanding now that something had happened to make Auggie believe she couldn't move her arms.
"Annie, you were completely paralyzed the last time you were fully awake," Auggie told her, not sure if she had forgotten momentarily or if there was something serious wrong with her memory.
"Oh," Annie said shocked. "I don't remember that," Annie responded in a stronger voice than before. With each passing moment she seemed to somehow be getting stronger instead of weaker.
"You've been in a coma for weeks" he said seriously. Then added jokingly, "Joan was threatening to make me report back to work if you didn't wake soon." He didn't want to get into all of this right now. She was just waking from a coma. He wanted nothing more than to just be with her, but she deserved to know exactly what had been happening. So he continued, "There was an accident, someone ran you off the road, leaving you a quadriplegic. Then you had a really high fever and went into a coma. Now you're waking up weeks later, able to move, but not remembering what happened." Auggie stated the news.
None of this was making sense to him. People didn't just miraculously heal like that, did they? He needed her doctors to come to give him answers as well as Annie. Of course, they were never around when they needed them. It was the middle of the night, they would have to wait until morning for answers.
"Can I have some water?" Annie asked after a length of silence.
"I'm not sure, honestly," he told her. She must be thirsty and he knew her throat would be dry having just had a breathing tube removed, but he wasn't sure if she were allowed to drink anything yet. "Let me get a nurse," he said getting up from his seat. "I'll be right back."
As she watched him leaving, a thought came to her. She needed to know for herself that things weren't as bad as they had been, even if she didn't remember what Auggie was talking about. She decided to ease her mind. She lifted her arms into the air. It took some effort, but she seemed to have control of them. Slowly, she lifted her head a few inches off the bed, then followed that by lifting her neck and shoulders, taking care to move slowly, since obviously she was wearing a neck brace for some reason. Each movement took much more effort than it ever had before and everything else twice as heavy as she remembered them being, but her upper body was functional.
She was afraid to do much more, but as sudden thought came to her, morbid curiosity got the better of her. The next, and final, of her tests was not successful. She had known even before any of her little experiments had begun that she couldn't feel the bottom half of her body like she could her top half. But the thought had come to her, so she had to at least try. Her legs, however, still remained unmoving.