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Covert Affairs Fic: Reasons 1/3

January 8th, 2012 (07:37 am)

Title: Reasons

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: I wrote this for sendintheklowns, who is celebrating her birthday today. Taking time to talk about her awesomeness should be a daily event but it deserves extra notice today. There are few people in this world who let me squee quite like she does and she has so thoroughly enabled my obsessions this year that this fic is really a pittance of what I owe her.

A/N 2: A beta was provided by geminigrl11. Any lingering mistakes are because I fail at typing. Also, I apologize that the title is so lame. I also fail at titles. And summaries.

A/N 3: This is set after the S2 finale and has spoilers thereof.

Summary: It’s not the intel that matters most when Jai and Auggie embark on a mission together.


Ever since he’d been injured and lost his sight, Auggie had understood what it meant to get the short end of the stick. After all, the stick he’d drawn in Iraq had been really, really short.

Maybe that was why, now that he was with the CIA, he made a point never to be the odd man out when it came to assignments. He couldn’t be in the field – that would never change, no matter how hard he worked or how badly he wanted it to – but that didn’t mean he had to be stuck with scut work.

The benefit to being blind was heightened other senses; he could hear and smell and feel things more acutely now, and that often gave him a tactical advantage, especially when it came to predicting which assignments to avoid and which ones to gravitate toward. He knew when Joan had a dud by the tone of her voice and he knew an operative had an assignment worth jumping in on by the bounce in their step as they walked.

Plus, no matter how many years he’d been there, people still took pity on the blind guy. As a general rule, he was opposed to being coddled but if it got him out of mindless hours of monitoring Arabic diplomatic cables, he was really all for it.

Most of the time, it worked.

Sometimes, however…sometimes it just really didn’t.


“You have to do what?” Annie asked again. Even without his sight, Auggie could tell from her voice that she was giving him a look.

He sighed in moderately melodramatic fashion. There was no need to oversell, not with Annie. “One of my correspondents from Moldova has finally made a Stateside visit,” he explained, not for the first time. He’d already had to explain this to Joan in great detail to get any clearance to make contact at all. “He’s brought some sensitive equipment with him, things the CIA can use.”

“So why don’t we set up a meet?” she asked, and she was clearly frowning at this point.

“We have,” Auggie said.

“And?” she asked expectantly.

“And,” Auggie continued with due tolerance, “he’s insisting that I’m his contact.”

“Ah,” Annie said. “Which is why you’ve had to go through all the red tape.”

“Exactly,” Auggie said. “I’m not a field operative so I technically don’t have that kind of clearance.”

“So I’m still not following what I have to do with this,” Annie said.

Auggie smiled, hoping it was adequately disarming and apologetic all at once. “The location is remote,” he said.

The small movement in the air let Auggie know Annie was nodding. “No public transit,” she concluded. “You need a ride.”

She sounded somewhat gleeful about it for some reason, and Auggie suspected she was amused both by his eagerness to make the meet and his chagrin at needing a chaperone to get it done. His pride could handle that, however, as long as she agreed. “Will you?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” she said, hedging. “My day’s pretty full.”

“Annie Walker, you’re teasing me,” he said.

She reached out and squeezed his arm. “Just a little ribbing,” she said.

He could feel the touch coming but somehow, when it was Annie, it still always surprised him a little, his heart fluttering in his chest.

She squeezed again. “Of course I’ll take you,” she said definitively before letting her hand fall away.

Auggie beamed. “Thanks,” he said. “I’ll make it up to you.”

Chuckling, Annie started to walk away. “You better believe it!”


Annie joined the CIA for many reasons. She wanted to see the world; she craved the sense of action. She wanted to make the world a better place; she wanted a chance to challenge herself and forget about Ben.

In general, it had been good for all those things. She had seen a lot and learned a lot since she joined up; more than that, she had changed a lot, mostly for the better. To sum it up, she really liked her job. For all its stresses and dangers, she liked it.

Except on days like today.

The life of a field operative certainly seemed glamorous--and sometimes, it was. She could jet off to foreign countries at a moment’s notice, be undercover in the world of international politics and crime.

Most of the time, however, she was sitting at Langley, doing grunt work and sitting in briefings. Those USA-bound days could be more than monotonous: they could be downright painful.

And not for the lack of something to do. There was always something to do. Usually it involved fifteen forms and three tiers of approval. On those days, Annie had to remind herself that doing busywork was just as important to national security as working in the field.

She reminded herself of that often, in fact.

It didn’t really help.

Especially since they all took the paperwork so seriously. And there was just so much of it.

Today, she had to finish her report from her mission to Beirut last week. Then, she had to clarify a few points on the mission to Ethiopia last month. Plus, she had to file preliminary paperwork on a lead she’d picked up in Turkey, which had also resulted in a consultation with a special division to see if there was possible joint interesting--

In short, Annie was in over her head. So when Joan walked by and dumped a new file on her desk, all she could do was stare.

“I need you read in on this immediately and then prepare a presentation for strategic development,” Joan said.

Annie stared at the file a long moment. It was so large that it was almost bursting out of the binding. In fact, there was an extra rubber band around it just to keep everything in place. It took all her self-control to close her mouth and look purposefully up at Joan. “I can have it by next week,” she said diplomatically.

Joan’s smile was bemused. “Try tonight,” she said.

Annie couldn’t help it; she raised her eyebrows. “But I have all this--”

Joan shook her head. “I need you on this. Now,” she said. “I had Operative Davis on this but he’s been recalled to an emergency situation in Afghanistan. If you think your paperwork is more valuable than his support of troops--”

Annie rolled her eyes, nodding her head. “Okay, okay,” she relented. Then she forced a smile. “Tonight.”

Joan nodded with a perfunctory smile. “Very good,” she said. “Five PM, sharp.”

She was already walking away, heals clicking on the tile, when Annie remembered her promise to Auggie.

But as she mounted her mental defense, Joan was already gone and Annie resigned herself to the inevitable.

Sighing, she looked at her desk. Maybe there was a chance she could finish the report early, still keep her promise.

But when she moved to open it, the rubber band snapped and she knew there was no way she’d get that lucky.


Sometimes, Jai really wondered why he joined the CIA.

In a lot of ways, it had been natural. It had been the only real connection he’d had to his father. At least, the only thing Jai had marginally respected.

Which was probably Jai should have run as far as he could in the other direction. Everything his old man touched, turned brittle and fell apart, and Jai had seen the living proof in his mother. But when he’d been recruited – when they had come and told him he had potential, that he could have a career at the Agency – it had been too tempting.

He had told himself it was one last I told you so, metaphorically spitting in his father’s face. His father had made no secret of his disappointment with Jai, and it seemed fitting to show his dad that he could do it despite everything.

And he couldn’t help it if he still secretly hoped that someday his father would see it and be proud. See it and be proud of Jai.

He was a grown man and there he was, still trying to gain his father’s approval.

More than that, he was still failing at it.

He’d managed to avoid exile to Arizona but, sitting in his office, the isolation still felt like the same thing. He was alone here as much as he’d be alone in Arizona, and the knowledge that this was at least self-imposed was only meager consolation.

The thing was, Jai couldn’t totally remember how it got to this point. In all his efforts to please everyone, he’d managed to make enemies of everyone, from his father to Joan. Sometimes he thought his father was right: he was a complete disappointment. To himself, more than anyone.

And yet, here he was. Private office with a view and responsibilities to boot. He couldn’t be sure he was the best man for the job, but it was his job, and even if it was about thirty years too late to prove anything to his father, he liked to think he could still manage something with the rest of the Agency.

Besides, it wasn’t like he had much else.

Continue his rise in the Agency had to be his primary objective. He’d tried playing nice; he’d tried making friends. He’d tried following orders and doing the right thing. And it’d gotten him nowhere.

Arthur’s good graces ran hot and cold; Joan preferred him to be gone. His father had only loved him as an asset to his own career. Jai was on his own, for better and for worse. It was a lesson he’d learned the hard way and one that he was determined not to forget no matter how his conscience sometimes pushed him otherwise. He couldn’t make a difference if no one trusted him; if he could get above their control, then, maybe he’d finally be at a place where his work mattered.

At least, that was the only pep talk Jai could use on himself in order to come in each morning. He didn’t like seeing his father get taken in and he didn’t like turning his nose up at Arthur’s approval. But these people had used him, and he would use them. This was how it had to be done. He’d fake his confidence and duplicity along with everything else in his life.

He just had to work the system. Which was why he tried not to give a damn when he called Joan about the intel gathered in Beirut last week. She hadn’t sounded happy to talk to him, but she’d promised to send someone up that morning to talk to him.

As far as Jai was concerned, that much was a step in the right direction. If he was going to make it here, he needed that much.

Still, when his assistant said that someone was here to see him, he wasn’t sure what to expect.

When Annie came in, he was pleasantly surprised. “Annie,” he said as he got to his feet in a show of innate politeness.

She smiled at him, walking in, almost cautious. “Nice,” she said in approval. She turned her eyes to him. “You certainly traded up.”

Jai looked around with a noncommittal shrug. Sometimes, sitting in here, he still felt more embarrassed than proud. He’d never started out for the perks, but it seemed like that was all he had sometimes. “Looks more impressive than it is.”

Annie snorted a little. “Given the view from where I’m at, it has its appeals, trust me,” she said.

It was easy to hear the frustration in her voice. Of all the people he knew at the Agency, Annie was one of the few he was still on good terms with. He intended to keep it that way. If he was working on making some enemies, he could spare some time to keep some friends, too. It wasn’t perhaps necessary to what he claimed his objectives were, but then again, he liked Annie. And for some reason, she still seemed to like him. Given how few friends he had these days, that was saying something. “Something wrong?” he asked.

Annie seemed to realize herself and shook her head, hand flitting through the air. “Just a busy day,” she said. Then she held up the file in her hand. “Joan said you needed access to the re-port.”

Jai reached out, taking it gratefully. “You didn’t need to come all the way up,” he said. “I could have sent someone.”

The sentence ended awkwardly when he realized how pretentious he sounded. He knew this was part of the job, part of who he was trying to be, but it still didn’t come easy.

Though, really, nothing in Jai’s life seemed to come easy except screwing up and alienating peo-ple.

Somehow, Annie seemed to take pity on him and just shook her head. “Nah,” she said. “Trust me when I say I needed the change in scenery. Sometimes I think I have more to do when I’m here than when I’m in the field.”

Jai had to smile at that. “The CIA is full of such peculiarities,” he said knowingly.

Her smile widened. “Yeah, so I’ve learned,” she said. “Anyway, did you have any questions I can answer about it?”

Jai glanced at the file briefly before shrugging. “Not off hand,” he said. “If I come up with something, I’ll call you.”

“Great,” she said. “Just not today, though, because I’m booked.”

He probably should have left it at that, because that was what people in his position did. But de-spite everything, Jai still wanted to help out. Especially Annie. “Anything I can help with?” he offered.

She laughed. “Unless you can read me in on Mission Capricorn and prepare an updated dossier on its current status by five tonight, probably not.”

Jai winced. He didn’t know a lot about the mission except to know he didn’t want to know any-thing about it. Cases regarding embassies and money laundering were wished on no one. He shook his head. “Sorry, not my area of expertise,” he said. “But if there’s something else?”

The offer was out there.

And then Annie’s face lit up. “You know,” she said. “Maybe there is one thing.”

It was an offer he’d meant; he’d do just about anything for Annie. For all his climbing and back-stabbing, he still couldn’t help himself. But something in the tone of her voice, the expression on her face--he knew he wasn’t going to like this.

“It’s sort of silly,” she said, cheeks flushing a little bit. “But before this whole Capricorn mess came up, I promised to help Auggie make a semi-official meet with an asset.”

Jai worked to keep his face neutral, even as his eyes narrowed. “Semi-official?”

“It’s hard to explain,” she said. “The asset’s in the country for a short period and wanted to provide Auggie with some hardware that could be pretty valuable. He’s got approval from Joan to make the meet after hours since he’s not technically a field agent.”

There was more to it than that and Jai just needed to wait for it.

“The thing is, it’s a remote location,” Annie continued. “I said I’d take him but with this meeting, I’m completely tied up.”

“And you want to know if I’ll take him,” Jai concluded for her.

She looked sheepish but she still smiled persistently. “It’s two hours, tops,” she said. “And I know Auggie would appreciate it.”

Somehow, Jai doubted that. Things weren’t quite unfriendly between them but they had both been quite content to keep their distance. Auggie certainly hadn’t been planning any going away parties when his transfer had been made public and there had been no love lost when Jai got his promotion.

“Please?” Annie asked, and Jai swore she was batting her eyelashes at him.

He sighed, smiling. “Of course,” he said. “Anything for a friend.”

Annie’s face brightened. “Thanks!” she said. “You’re a life-saver!”

As she left, he could only hope he hadn’t just made another mistake.


Usually Auggie liked it when he got to work offsite.

Of course, usually that didn’t involve two-hour car rides with Jai Wilcox.

Granted, he didn’t actually know Jai all that well. But what little he did know had never been all that impressive to him. Jai’sfield work was hit and miss, ad the fact that the was on the outs with Joan only solidified Auggie’s initial misgivings. It didn’t help that the guy smelled like semi-expensive aftershave and walked in carefully measured steps--the guy was trying too hard and in Auggie’s experience, that was never a good sign.

Besides, he was a Wilcox, and Auggie had more than a little disdain for that style of leadership. He didn’t have much evidence to suggest that Jai was his father’s son, but, then again, he also didn’t have a lot of compelling evidence to the contrary either.

In short, he didn’t actively dislike Jai. But he also didn’t actively like Jai either. And, off the top of his head, he could think of at least a dozen people he’d rather spend a two-hour car ride with.

And yet, there he was. Riding shotgun in Jai’s too-new smelling car. Auggie couldn’t see, but the rest of his senses were screaming out at him. The too-vertical seat and the recycled smell of the air through the filters; smooth floors and the faint scent of polish. Clearly, Jai worked to keep his car up.

Which, to Auggie, meant that Jai had too much time on his hands.

“I can turn on the radio,” Jai offered.

It wasn’t the first friendly overture Jai had made in the time they’d been on the road. All of their interactions so far had been benignly polite and it made Auggie want to roll his eyes. As if it wasn’t bad enough being stuck in the car with Jai, the guy wanted to act like nothing was wrong.

Technically, nothing was wrong, but Auggie wouldn’t call any of that right and he was fairly cer-tain that the radio wouldn’t help matters much. Especially since Auggie was somewhat loathe to find out what kind of ridiculous radio stations Jai listened to.

Auggie forced a smile. “I’m okay,” he said. “I mean, if you want to—“

“No, no,” Jai said quickly. “Just thought I’d offer.”

That was something, and Auggie knew it. Jai was trying to make this less awkward. He was trying to be nice. He clearly didn’t want to be doing this any more than Auggie did.

He was doing it for Annie; they were doing it for the job. True, Auggie had pined for this small opportunity of field-related work because it was different – new textures and new smells and new anything – but the fact was, it was still all part of a mission. Still about gathering intel and furthering the cause of American security.

And besides, it was just a job. It was hard to remember that sometimes, but easier these days. When he’d gone to Africa, he’d been more than somewhat pleased to find his advances wel-comed. He loved her, and she was coming back for him, and not even Jai Wilcox and a two hour car ride could make that worse.

“Is it too hot?” Jai asked, disrupting his thoughts. Auggie could hear him fiddling with the dials on the dash. “We can turn the air on.”

This time, Auggie couldn’t help but groan. “I’m fine,” he said.

Jai shifted in his seat; Auggie could hear the sound of fabric rubbing fabric. “I’m just trying—“

“I know,” Auggie said shortly, because he really did know. He knew that Jai was trying hard to be nice, trying hard to do the right thing, trying hard to be polite. He was trying to do a favor for Annie, trying to do his job. All Jai ever did was try. And with all that, Auggie had yet to see real results.

Over the last year, they had made some strides. Well, more like baby steps. Auggie didn’t actively hate Jai anymore and could manage to share a drink with the man without sniping. At least, without sniping too much. But Jai had proven himself increasingly unreliable in ways Auggie couldn’t quite pinpoint and he had been hearing whispers that didn’t reassure him much. In truth, Auggie had been just fine with Jai’s transfer to Arizona. Even getting him up in a private office upstairs really suited Auggie in as much as it removed Jai from his normal work area.

They were both friends of Annie’s and they could pull off that mutual friendship without much trouble. But Auggie didn’t need new friends; especially not ones on the outs with Joan; especially not Wilcoxes.

He turned his head toward Jai with purpose. “And you don’t have to,” he said. “This isn’t a social outing. This is a mission. And you and I can’t agree on much, but I think we’ve always been able to agree on that.”

There was a silence, and Jai seemed to be weighing his response carefully. Finally, he took a small breath. “Okay,” he said in a perfunctory fashion. “The mission it is then.”

Auggie smiled a bit, sitting back as comfortably as he could in the stiff seat. It wasn’t perfect but in a few hours, it would be over and Auggie wouldn’t have to think about Jai Wilcox again for a long, long time.


No wonder Joan had wanted to pawn this off on her. There were reports from at least fifteen missions here, all based on a convoluted assortment of intel drawn up from multiple assets over a span of nearly twenty years. There had been at least five case officers and two field agents involved in this case.

This was good in the sense that they had a lot to go on, but very bad when it came to condensing the facts down into a coherent presentation for future review.

And Annie had to do it all by the end of the day.

Running her hand through her hair, she frowned at the papers spread out over her desk and glanced at her watch. It was already mid-afternoon; she was running out of time.

Wearily, she looked at her work again. Under all the papers, her desk was barely visible. She was barely visible. This case was literally going to consume her if she wasn’t careful.

It could also get her in a lot of trouble if she didn’t find some way to wrangle the facts together and finish her presentation.

She had survived in the field; surely, she could survive paperwork.

Determined, she set back to her work, picking up the next paper in the file. This was the most recent one, intelligence regarding the movement of an asset. She was scanning it when a name caught her eye: August Anderson.

This was one of Auggie’s assets. It wasn’t so surprising, really, to see that cross-referenced here. The spy world, while it reached far and deep, still ran in pretty thin lines. An asset with valuable intel in one arena is certainly likely to have intel in other arenas as well.

Still, something about it made her look again. Then, her eyes settle on the location: Moldova.

It was possible Auggie had multiple assets in Moldova.

Something told her that it wasn’t likely.

Frowning, she skimmed the rest of the report. Then, she saw the note of the case officer in the area.

Asset has given notice of relocation to Germany. No gaps in intelligence expected as the asset will work continuously for previous employer.

Then, below it, one more note. Transfer complete. Handling duties have been transferred and report no delay in intelligence.

Then Annie looked at the date. The last note was from yesterday.

She stopped, brow furrowed. If Auggie’s asset was in Germany as of yesterday, then it wasn’t likely that he was in the States today.

More than that, in the details, there was no mention of a stop in the US. That was a big detail to overlook.

Unless it wasn’t overlooked. Unless the asset had never come to the States at all.

Which meant…

Which meant that whoever Auggie was meeting, it wasn’t his asset.

The sudden jolt of panic had Annie reaching for her phone, her paperwork forgotten. She needed to double check, see if Auggie had another asset, if somehow the details had been mixed up. There could be a totally logical explanation, Annie reminded herself. But just in case…

She wasn’t about to take a chance, not with Auggie’s life. Not with Jai’s either. Joan could have her head if she wanted it; Annie needed to make sure that Auggie and Jai were okay – no matter what.


Jai had always been mildly skeptical of Auggie’s professionalism. Not his skills – it was clear that Auggie was gifted at what he did – and not even his commitment, since Auggie had never shown anything less that full dedication when a mission was at hand.

In this case, however, Auggie was proving a new kind of mettle to Jai. They’d driven with purpose and he had no objections to such silence. More than that, when they’d finally gotten to the remote coordinates provided by Auggie’s asset, there had been no sentimentality in getting the job done.

In fact, Auggie was ready to go in, no questions asked, but Jai told him to wait just a minute.

Auggie raised his eyebrows. “I thought the point was to be done with this quickly,” he said.

Jai smirked a little, somewhat grateful Auggie couldn’t see it. “Yes, and if we walk into some kind of set up unwittingly then that’s really going to bog us down.”

Auggie rolled his eyes. “I know this asset,” he said. “He contacted me on our secure datastream.”

“Datastreams can be hacked,” Jai said, ducking his head to get a look out the window.

“And have we forgotten who the tech expert in the car is?” Auggie asked.

It was Jai’s turn to roll his eyes. “And have we forgotten who is actually a cleared field operative in the car?”

Auggie inclined his head. “Touche.”

Jai scanned the area. They had driven well out of the city and into the wooded hills in Virginia. It was rural, and the half-mile lane they’d taken off the two-way highway had been all but deserted. It ended here, at a small clearing amid the trees. The home was old but in decent repair; there was even a decade-old Taurus parked in the grassy knoll alongside.

It didn’t look overtly suspicious – a remote location made sense for a nervous asset visiting from out of the country. It didn’t look overtly safe, either. With the trees, there was ample space to hide, which made this a perfect spot for an ambush.

Such thoughts were paranoia, but spies stayed alive due to their paranoid leanings. Jai had spent too many years being idealistic about his job to doubt it now.

Still, the asset had checked out; Jai had read the off site request Auggie had filed. He hadn’t gone quite so far as to check in with Joan on her approval, but even if he didn’t trust her personally, he trusted her with missions.

Nodding, he fingered the gun holstered at his side. “Okay,” he said. “We’re going to get out and go in together.”

Auggie looked vaguely bemused. “So now you’re more chaperone?” he asked. “I’m flattered but I don’t really swing that way.”

Jai sighed, exasperated. “I’m doing this as a favor to Annie,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t be a very good friend if I let you get hurt.”

“Aw, Jai, you’re getting positively sentimental,” he said.

Jai shook his head. “Do you want to get this done?”

“Yes, yes,” Auggie said readily, his wry humor fading. “More than you do.”

“Then, let’s go,” Jai said, opening the door and stepping out. On his feet, his hackles flared, nerves prickling in the open. Alert, he scanned the trees again, looking for any sign of something worthy of his concern.

There was nothing. The sound of insects; the occasional chirp of a bird.

On the other side of the car, Auggie was on his feet, his high tech seeing guide in front of him. “Can I assume you’re enjoying the view?”

Jai frowned, still eying their surroundings warily. “Just being sure.”

“Well, if you’re done being sure, I could use some direction,” Auggie said.

Jai looked at him.

Auggie lifted his hand. “I may be able to find my way around the Agency with no problem, but in a new location, I sort of need a push in the right direction.”

“Oh,” Jai said, realizing his mistake. “Sorry. The house is nine degrees to your right, about fifty feet.”

“Front porch?”

“A small stoop, three steps,” Jai said.

Auggie took a tentative step forward. “Sounds quaint,” he mused.

Jai rounded the car, falling into step alongside Auggie, not touching him but standing close enough to guide by proximity. “Positively provincial.”

“You mean it’s not your style?” Auggie joked. “What, not expansive enough?”

“No,” Jai returned. “Too quiet. I like background noise.”

“Ah, so we do have something in common,” Auggie said. “I find it’s easier to hide when there are so many people that no one thinks to look for you.”

Jai inclined his head, pausing at the steps, making sure Auggie knew they were there. When it was clear Auggie was ready for the first step, Jai stepped up first. “Spoken like a true spy,” he said.

“And compliments, too?” Auggie said. “Well, then, this is a red letter day.”

At the top of the stoop, Jai turned his attention to the darkened windows with fresh trepidation. “I’d tell you not to let it go to your head, but I know you better than that,” he quipped.

Auggie nodded. “And there’s the Jai I know and love.”

Settling himself uneasily, Jai nodded toward the door. “Let’s just get this over with,” he said.

“No better words were ever spoken,” Auggie said, reaching forward. He searched for a moment but when he found the wood door, he made a fist, rapping on it once, then twice.

Jai kept himself tense, fingers on his gun even as he tried to look relaxed. He watched for movement, but the interior of the house was still.

After a moment, Auggie leaned forward, knocking again.

“Does your asset have a history of being unreliable?” Jai asked.

Auggie frowned. “No, he’s punctual,” he said. “He’s a little OCD about it.”

Jai felt his heart skip a beat. “So there’s no reason he’d stand you up now?”

Auggie shook his head. “If anything, he’d be more worried about it out of his comfort zone.”

Jai stepped forward, knocking hard himself. When there was no reply, he took a breath, making a decision. Reaching his hand out, he tried the knob, surprised to find it unlocked.

His silence must have been telling. Next to him, Auggie asked. “What are you going to do?”

“Door’s unlocked,” Jai reported, voice hushed. “I need you to go back to the car—“

“No way,” Auggie said immediately.

Jai looked at him, annoyed. “You’re not a field operative.”

“But this is my asset,” Auggie insisted.


“You can order me, and I’ll ignore it,” he said defiantly.

Sighing, Jai pulled his gun, moving back toward the door. “Fine,” he muttered. “But stay be-hind me.”

“And if I can’t see?”

“Shut up and just be quiet then,” Jai snapped, hand on the knob again.

With tacit obedience, Auggie stayed close to him, one hand feeling at Jai’s elbow as Jai cautiously turned the knob. When nothing happened, he pushed it opened. Gun in hand, he waited just a moment before he pulled himself through, gun aimed, sweeping the room immediately for any possible threats.

But there was nothing. The house was quiet, dusty. The furniture wasn’t new but it wasn’t out of date. Someone did live here, but not consistently.

And not now.

Behind him, Auggie was still edging in. Jai moved in, trusting the other man to keep himself safe. There was no immediate threat, and as Jai moved through the small rooms, he concluded that there wasn’t any threat at all.

Because no one was here.

Turning back toward the doorway, Jai frowned.

“What is it?” Auggie asked in Jai’s general direction. “Is he here?”

“No,” Jai said. “No one is. It’s empty.”

Auggie frowned. “But that’s impossible.”

Jai moved back toward the door. “But true,” he said. “There hasn’t been anyone here in weeks.”

“But I verified the location,” Auggie said. “Twice.”

Jai peeked out the window. The car was still parked, untouched. There was nothing else there. “I know,” he said.

“So then what could it be?” Auggie asked.

“I don’t know,” Jai admitted. “But I don’t think we should stick around to find out.”

“If we go back to Langley, I can get in contact with my asset,” Auggie said. “I’ll need an encrypted line to figure out what’s wrong.”

“And we can send a full detail back to scour the place,” Jai agreed.

Auggie sighed. “Well, so much for my latest foray into field work.”

Jai had to grin, patting Auggie on the arm as he moved back out toward the car. “It’s never as glamorous as it seems.”

To that, Auggie didn’t disagree. In fact, the tech specialist was more subdued than normal as Jai navigated them back to the car. He still felt uneasy, eyes trailing the tree line even as he backed up and started to move the car back down the desert country lane.

Back on the highway, he tried to relax, forcibly letting his shoulders drop as he tried to let the tension drain from his body.

“Something must have spooked him,” Auggie said suddenly.

Jai glanced at him.

“My asset,” Auggie clarified. “He wouldn’t lead me on a wild goose chase.”

“Maybe he had a change of heart,” Jai suggested.

“No, I know him better than that,” Auggie insisted.

Jai smiled. “We all think we know our assets,” he said, remembering Ben.

“You don’t need to be condescending with me,” Auggie snipped. “I know him.”

“I wasn’t being condescending,” Jai said. “I’ve been there—“

“And just because you’ve had your share of foul ups, doesn’t mean that I have to, too,” Auggie countered.

Jai felt his defenses flare. “Remember this is your wild goose chase, not mine,” he shot back.

Auggie was ready to protest when his phone rang.

Jai kept himself still as Auggie pulled it out, answering, “Hello, Annie.”

The mention of Annie’s name made Jai feel duly chagrined. He was acting childish, whether or not Auggie had started it.

“No, no one was there,” Auggie said, and Jai’s ears perked up at the one side of the conversation he could hear. “No, he didn’t contact me.”

There was a pause and a few more seconds passed by, the engine rumbling.

“Wait, what?” Auggie asked, his face screwed up in surprise. “That’s not possible.”

Jai divided his attention between Auggie and the road.

“No, there was no one there,” Auggie repeated. “And what you’re saying doesn’t make sense.”

Jai couldn’t help it. “What doesn’t make sense?” he asked.

Auggie looked somewhat annoyed but lifted his chin over the bottom of the phone. “Annie says my asset never contacted me at all,” he explained. “But it must be some kind of mix up.”

The confirmation of his doubts made Jai’s stomach twist. He thought about the empty house, the deserted lane. The dense trees. Perfect for hiding.

Just because no one made a move to attack them didn’t mean there wasn’t anyone there. It could have been a spy trap, a way to ID them. Or a chance to see their procedures.

Or a chance to tail them.

Controlling a spike of fear, Jai looked in his rear view mirror. It was empty.

Frowning, he looked at the road again.

Auggie was still talking to Annie. “No, I mean there was no sign of anyone,” he reiterated firm-ly. “At least that’s what Jai told me.”

And that was what Jai had believed.

But maybe Jai had been just as wrong as Auggie had. If someone wasn’t there to ID them or to tail them, then maybe they planted something on them. Not their person, of course, but—

Jai swore.

Auggie stopped talking and looked at him.

Jai turned to him, fresh panic blossoming in his chest. The car. The car had been unattended and vulnerable.

But before Jai could say it, before he could do anything, an explosion rocked the back of the car. Jai struggled for control, but it didn’t matter. As he jerked the wheel, the tires left the road and Jai saw the pavement tumbling by as they flew over the guardrail and into the deep, hilly culvert below.


Annie was still holding the phone.

The line was dead now, the call disconnected from the other end. The silence was almost deaf-ening, but she could still hear the call reverberating in her mind. The sound of Auggie’s voice, Jai’s in the background. The sound of someone yelling and a series of thumps and then nothing.

Just nothing.

That was all Annie could think. As long as she stood there, phone in hand, she wanted to believe she was still connected to them, that maybe the worst hadn’t happened.

But she was a spy. Spies couldn’t afford that kind of luxury.

No, something had happened – something bad – and she was the only one who could do something about it. Which meant she was the only one who could possibly save Auggie’s and Jai’s lives.

Which meant that she couldn’t be standing there, clutching her phone like some kind of lifeline when there was actual work to be done.

She knew that, but convincing her body to move was another story entirely. Because she knew the implications and as long as she stood there, listening to nothing, then maybe they didn’t have to be true. Maybe it didn’t have to be—


She flinched, jarred from her reverie. Reluctantly, her hand dropped as she turned her head and saw Joan.

“Something wrong?” Joan asked, more discerningly this time.

Annie stared at her, mouth open.

“How is your presentation coming?” Joan prompted.

Annie shook her head. “That meeting you cleared for Auggie,” she said instead. “Did you check the authenticity?”

Joan frowned. “Of course,” she said. “The frequency of the transmission was secure and we had remote verification of the location. It all checked out.”

Trembling, Annie reached down and picked up the file, holding it out. “Then how do you ex-plain this?”

Joan took it, eyeing Annie uncertainly. She looked down, perusing the file. Then her face went from critical to blank. She pressed her lips together. “We hadn’t had the chance to go over this in any detail,” she said, shaking her head. She looked up at Annie. “Did you confirm this with Auggie?”

Annie shrugged helplessly. “I just tried to,” she said. “He knew nothing about it.”

“This intel is solid,” she said. “This case officer wouldn’t have made this up.”

“And Auggie wouldn’t have either,” Annie countered.

“So someone is being played,” Joan said, thoughtful. “Has Auggie made contact with his asset?”

Annie shook her head. “I just got off the phone with him,” she said. “No one was there.”

Joan’s concern was barely noticeable, but there, clearly in the lines around her eyes and the set of her mouth. “That sounds like a set up.”

“I know,” Annie agreed.

Joan seemed to gather herself. “Once he gets back—“

Annie shook her head. “That’s the thing,” she said. “The call was disconnected.”

Joan’s face froze again.

Annie wet her lips, still hearing it in her mind but afraid to say it. Gathering a breath, she con-tinued. “But before that, there was yelling, the sounds of a collision,” she said.

Joan regarded her carefully. “You think the vehicle crashed?”

“No,” Annie said. “I think it was tampered with.”

“You’re certain?” Joan prompted.

Annie suppressed the desire to shudder. “Yeah,” she said.

Joan’s expression was stony. “Okay,” she said. “We’ll need to hit this from multiple angles. First, checking out the message Auggie got to see how the asset was compromised. We also need to send someone out to the drop site and see if we can pick up a trail. Then, we need to get someone out there, find the crash site.”

Nodding, Annie reached to her desk to grab her things. “I’ll head out to the crash site.”

“I don’t recall assigning you,” Joan said.

Annie barely hesitated. “I was supposed to be with him,” she said. “I was the one who asked Jai to go in my place.”

For a second, Annie was afraid Joan wouldn’t care. But finally, she nodded. “Okay,” she said.

Feeling relieved, Annie got to her feet.

“But Annie,” Joan said, stopping her cold. “You know if you wanted to get out of the meeting this badly, there were certainly better ways to go about it.”

It was a dark, quiet humor. Annie felt her stomach roil bitterly. “Yeah,” she said. “I know.”


Like most things for Auggie, it started with sound.

Something was hissing. It was distant but persistent, hanging in the forefront of his mind be-cause he couldn’t readily place it. It seemed familiar, but not like anything he’d experienced recently. Something from his days in Iraq, maybe. Something more.

He was so intent on figuring out that sound that he didn’t hear the voice right away. Even when he became aware that there was a voice, it was difficult to discern. It was louder than the hissing, but for some reason, Auggie couldn’t quite make it out. But he could tell it was worried, frantic even, by its tone.

He knew that was probably important; it was probably something he needed to deal with. But the hissing was more perplexing and he couldn’t tear himself away from fixating upon it.

In his mind’s eye, he remembered a bomb in Iraq, taking out the truck in front of him in a convoy. He remembered tearing out, mindful of the gunfire, intent on reaching his friends in the tipped vehicle. On his knees, he could see inside and there had been a hissing noise, just like this, from the battered engine still burning in the aftermath.

The memory triggered a more recent thought, and Auggie opened his eyes, the remembered image giving way to the darkness of his reality. With new clarity, he remembered what had happened. He remembered his asset being a no-show. He remembered getting back in the car to head back. He remembered Annie’s call. He remembered Jai’s voice right before an explosion and then not much at all.

And suddenly, the sound that had held his attention faded to the back of his awareness. In its place, there was pain – and lots of it.

At first, it was too overwhelming to identify where it came from. The pain seemed to encompass him, throbbing and aching and splitting with every enunciated beat of his heart.

His breath staggered and he forced it out, sucking in again with effort. The oxygen helped fuel his brain and as the pain sharpened, so did his understanding of it. His head felt like it was on fire, blood rushing in his ears, now eclipsing the hissing of the engine as it died. His chest felt tight and his stomach was queasy with the biting agony.

Groaning, he tried to move, tried to find some way to minimize the feeling. The small movement, however, bought Auggie’s attention to another wound – the painful discomfort of a badly broken arm.

Grimacing, he squeezed his eyes shut. It didn’t make any difference except to exacerbate what he could only imagine was a grotesque looking gash across his forehead as a fresh trail of blood that slipped over his eye and down his cheek.

“Auggie?” the voice was asking. The same as before, but the words were clear. “Auggie?”

Jai, Auggie remembered. Jai had been the one driving the car.

This was as reassuring as it was disappointing. Because if Auggie was going to get nearly blown up and left to die, he would very much prefer it not to be with Jai Wilcox.

Then again, given the amount of pain Auggie was in, he probably shouldn’t be so picky.

Swallowing took some work; getting some saliva back in his throat was even more trying. But after a moment, he was able to put together something coherent. “Jai?”

Coherent, yes. Overly insightful, no. But Auggie was working up to that. He had just nearly blown up, after all.

“Auggie,” Jai said again, this time his voice breathless with relief. “I’ve never heard you silent for so long. I was beginning to worry.”

It wasn’t particularly funny, but somehow, given the situation, Auggie still had to laugh. The movement ripped through his body and it choked off with a wince. “Now you decide to find your sense of humor,” he said, his throat tight. “You really need to work on your timing.”

The rest of Auggie’s senses were coming back to him. He could hear Jai breathing, harsh and grating, and he shifted in his seat, the leather squeaking slightly.

“I’ll get on that,” Jai said, and his voice sounded distinctly strained now. “When we get out of here.”

Auggie didn’t find himself agreeing with Jai often, but in this case, it seemed prudent. “I’m all for that,” he rejoined. He shifted slightly in his seat, trying unsuccessfully to control the pain that even that small movement caused. “I could use some direction, though. I’m flying more blind than usual.”

“I can tell,” Jai said. “You look pretty bad.”

“Head wounds,” Auggie tried to quip, even as he felt the blood dripped down his cheeks. “Worse than they look.”

“Well, this one looks like your brains could start leaking out at any moment,” Jai said.

That description wasn’t exactly pleasant, but it did explain the throbbing. “Well, it sort of feels that way, too,” Auggie conceded. “But we can deal with that when we get out of here. How bad off are we?”

Jai sighed audibly. “Bad,” he said. “We’re lucky that we landed right way up, but that’s about the only thing we have going for us.”

“And you’re okay?” Auggie asked.

“I’m not going anywhere soon,” he said. “But I’m alive.”

That was something, anyway. “And how far down are we?” Auggie asked, trying to mentally reconstruct the landscape from what he remembered of the surrounding area. He absently reached his good hand up, wiping at his face before palming the excess on his shirt.

“Far enough,” Jai said tightly. “We nicked a guard rail, so that should be some kind of tip off, at least, but someone will have to be looking to see us.”

Given how Auggie felt at the moment, that kind of news wasn’t exactly what he wanted to hear. But, the bright side was that someone would come looking for them. They were CIA, after all. Operatives who don’t turn up are generally quickly sought. And he’d been on the phone with Annie—

“Have we tried calling out?” Auggie asked. “Might speed things up.”

“I thought about that,” Jai said, and his voice sounded pained.

“And?” Auggie prompted.

“And,” Jai continued with obvious effort, “I don’t suppose you have yours handy.”

Auggie frowned at that, trying to hone his senses through the overwhelming pain. With one arm incapacitated, the other was still free. But, in the crash, he’d lost his phone. “In everything, I think I misplaced it,” he said candidly. “What’s wrong with yours?”

“Nothing,” Jai said, breathing heavily. “It’s in my pocket.”

“Well, that’s perfect then,” Auggie said, gritting his teeth as his headache ratcheted up a notch. “One call and we’ll see just how fast the CIA response time is.”

Jai shifted again, and the sharp intake of air was a giveaway of his discomfort. “I can’t get it, though,” he said. “That side of the car – it’s damaged pretty badly.”

Auggie tried to form the mental picture. The car would obviously have sustained damage, but it was hard to visualize how that would impede Jai so much. “Damaged how?” Auggie pressed.

Jai laughed breathlessly. “It’s completely caved in,” he said. “My entire left side is stuck.”

“Stuck?” Auggie asked.

“As in, I can’t even move my arm to try to get my phone,” Jai continued. “And my leg is completely trapped. I’m stuck.”

Auggie processed this. The imagery wasn’t pretty; the reality was disconcerting. This meant Jai was likely significantly injured. More than that, it meant they had no means of getting anywhere. Because Auggie’s blindness would make attempting to get out of the car a near impossibility.

Which meant they really were stuck. Blind, trapped, disconnected, and injured.

The thoughts were dizzying; then again, his near-brain-leaking concussion probably had something to do with that.

They were so screwed. And Auggie still didn’t know why or how or even who. If his asset had betrayed him; if his asset had been compromised; if he should have seen this coming.

There were a lot of if’s. And all the subsequent then’s were something to consider.

Because they weren’t just stuck, they were screwed.

It wasn’t entirely rational, but somehow, this blunt reality was actually kind of funny.

“Great,” Jai commented. He sounded tired. “Now you’re delusional.”

Auggie just shook his head, still chuckling. “I’m not.”

“Then why are you laughing?”

“Because,” Auggie said, gesturing helplessly with his good hand. “This.”

There was a small pause. “This?”

“All the covert ops I’ve helped organized; all the missions you’ve gone on. And here we are. No more than an hour from Langley and facing extreme peril,” Auggie said. “I survived Iraq for this.”

There was another lull. Jai seemed to move slightly against the seat. “Well,” he said, a little wry. “You did say that you were looking for more action.”

And Auggie had to laugh again. “So I have to be more careful what I wish for?”

“I think we all might,” Jai said.

Auggie’s laughs faded and he sighed, resting his head against his seat. He closed his eyes, letting the muscles in his forehead relax as much as he could. The pain was worse now, pounding in his head and there was no escape. “I don’t mind a little action,” he said. He swallowed back the pain. “I could do without the injury, though.”

Jai’s breathing seemed to hitch just slightly. “You have done quite a number on yourself,” he said. “Your head and your arms are pretty obvious. What about your chest and abdomen?”

“Probable broken ribs,” Auggie confirmed. “Not sure about internal bleeding.”

“If there’s a doubt, then usually it’s with reason,” Jai said. “We’re going to have to get you out of here.”

“Well, thank you for that insight,” Auggie joked. “But I think we already went over how we’re not going anywhere.”

Jai sighed, a weary, weathered sound. He wasn’t just tired, he was hurting, too, and as acute as Auggie’s senses were, there were some things he couldn’t tell without seeing them.

Since that wasn’t an option, he’d have to settle for asking. “What about you?”

Jai started slightly; the question clearly caught him off guard. “Me?” he asked. “I’m fine.”

The words were too quick, too composed. Auggie couldn’t see, but he could spot a liar. “I’m blind, not stupid,” Auggie said.

Again, Jai sighed, though he seemed to try to hold it in somewhat. “I told you, my side is pretty well trapped.”

Auggie opened his eyes, turning them in Jai’s general direction. He couldn’t see the other man, but he was well aware of the power of a knowing look.

“Okay,” Jai relented. “I can’t see how bad it is.”

“Well, neither can I,” Auggie said. “But how does it feel?”

“Not great,” Jai admitted with a weak laugh.

That small concession said more than anything else. Jai was still downplaying it, but Auggie knew now that the other man was probably more hurt than he was letting on. And, if the strained sound of his voice was any indication, it was probably worse than either of them could afford given the circumstances.

Gathering a breath, Auggie regained his calm. “Any other injuries you’d like to share?” he asked.

“That’s the worst of it,” Jai said.

By his voice, Auggie knew that much was probably true. Yet, it still wasn’t much consolation.

“So,” Auggie said. “My brain may be leaking out of my head, your entire side is mangled, and we’re stranded at the bottom of a ravine with no way to get out on our own. Does that about cover how screwed we are?”

“Don’t forget that we somehow walked into an ambush and there may or may not still be some-one after us,” Jai added.

Auggie chortled even through the pain. “Well, yes, that, too,” he said. He took a breath, then another. “I suppose it could be worse.”

“Really?” Jai asked, sounding genuinely curious. “How?”

Auggie frowned, closing his eyes again. “Well,” he admitted. “I may have to get back to you on that one.”



Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: January 9th, 2012 01:26 am (UTC)
Auggie & Jai


Humor and hurt and...and...and...you're killing me! In a good way.

*tackle hugs*

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: January 13th, 2012 04:28 am (UTC)

I'm just so glad you like it!! For real. I'm still not as comfortable with these characters as some of the ones I write, so I angsted a bit about whether or not this would be up to snuff for you big day :)

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