Annie and Joan had a long drive back to DC. Annie was fidgeting again.
"Anything you can talk about?" Joan asked.
Annie turned toward her and nearly had tears in her eyes. "I'm worried about Auggie."
"So am I." Joan replied softly. "Though I have a feeling it's for different reasons."
"What's yours?" Annie was a little shocked.
"Auggie doesn't seek help, he doesn't like to talk about his feelings. Emotionally, he's been through a lot these past few months. He is strong, emotionally as much as physically. Everybody in this job has to be. But, eventually something is going to be too much for him to handle. I was worried, when I talked to him about Helen this morning, that her death was going to be his breaking point." Joan gave Annie a glance. "I didn't know that he still had you."
"Does he?" Annie asked. "Because when I saw him last night, it wasn't the same."
"Was that your first time back?"
"Yeah. I think I forgot to say 'Hello' and went straight to telling him his lover was dead."
Joan lifted an eyebrow.
"I get it, of course. I didn't expect him to wait for me. Well, I kind of expected it. But it's Auggie, you know. I know he has a reputation for getting around and stuff. I just thought he was over that."
"Annie, if Auggie was with Helen-"
"He was." Annie interrupted. "I got to see the freshly rumpled sheets."
"But you have to know that for him, that wasn't like picking up some floozy in a bar."
"Yeah, it's worse. There's an emotional attachment. I saw it all over his face. He was really torn up, Joan."
"I don't think either of us can imagine what's going on with Auggie's emotions these days." Joan said, softly. "But I don't think he ever stopped caring for you."
"Caring and loving are two different things."
Joan sighed. "I am sure what you have gone through isn't easy, and you have probably missed Auggie the handler as much as Auggie the lover. Maybe more. I've noticed that sometimes Auggie shocks me with his insecurities. Let him be your handler for now, and I'm sure that you will help each other find yourselves again."
The thought gave Annie peace. "Thanks Joan."
Joan gave Annie a warm look. "I'm glad he has you right now, as a friend. I'm sure he's there for you, as well. He always has been. Just remember to let him know how you feel, out loud. I can't handle the two of you dancing around unspoken emotions for another three years."