People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within. - Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
As first times went – and Auggie was still trying to figure out if it was a ‘first time’ or ‘the one time’ – it wasn’t anything special. It barely qualified as exciting. But sometimes it wasn’t about learning every place that made your partner moan or finding out which words could send their pulse racing before you even touched them.
Sometimes sex was just a means to an end. Sometimes it was political, sometimes it was to get close to an asset. Sometimes it was to push someone too exhausted to stop moving for two seconds over that edge so that they could sleep.
The sex hadn’t been elegant or glamorous or even the fun kind of frenzied, but it had done the job. Annie was curled up next to him, finally sleeping.
She’d mentioned that there had been nightmares since she’d been shot. She’d confided in him about the torture in Russia and the use of sleep deprivation to try and break her. She’d finally, after being sent on yet another twenty-four hour turn around to Europe for a package exchange, admitted that she hadn’t slept for more than four hours at a time in so long that she’d literally couldn’t remember if there’d been a night where she had since she’d been taken off the morphine in the hospital.
Like any good operative, Annie didn’t call out in her sleep when the nightmares started. Auggie might not have even noticed if she hadn’t buried herself against his chest as soon as Auggie had disposed of the condom and crawled back in bed with her, but now she was shaking and he could feel the double time of her heartbeat where her chest was pressed against his. He could feel the change in her breathing against his skin.
He ghosted his fingers over her face, noting how tightly closed her eyes were and the way her mouth worked as if she wanted to scream or say something but knew, even in sleep, that it might not be safe to do so.
Auggie slid his fingers through her hair, gathering her even closer with his other arm. “Annie?” No response. “Annie, it’s okay. You’re safe; you’re here in D.C. In my apartment. It’s okay.”
“Come on Annie. Wake up. You’re having a nightmare. It’s okay.” He slid his hand down to weave his fingers between hers, just in case she was the sort to wake up violently from a nightmare. He didn’t need to be clocked in the jaw, making things even more awkward than they probably already were.
He pulled their joined hands between their chests. She was laying so that his other arm went under her neck so he shifted just enough to be able to trace light patterns up and down her spine as he spoke to her, trying to quietly, slowly bring her up out of the hell her mind was trapping her in. “Annie, it’s okay. Wake up. It’s just a bad dream, come on.” He was starting to wonder if gentle and subtle was going to do the trick at all when he felt her body tense and heard her suck in a breath. He tightened his hand on hers, keeping her from flailing.
“I’m awake. I’m… I’m okay,” she finally whispered, but he could feel her turning her head on the pillow as if she couldn’t establish where she was. She squeezed his hand before pulling away. After a second he felt her fingers sliding over his face the way his had gone over hers when they’d first tumbled from the living room into the bedroom. He closed his eyes and let her touch him.
It was at least a full minute before her hand dropped and she rolled away. “I’m sorry.”
The room was suddenly much colder than the three inches between them could account for.
“For?” he asked tentatively.
“Waking you up,” Annie whispered to the other side of the room.
Auggie let out a relieved sigh before shifting closer to her, spooning up behind her, his fingers tracing lines from her hip up her ribs and back again before the worry that there might be more to it than that set in. “Just that?”
Annie went very still as if she’d been caught off guard. “What else did you think I might have meant?”
Auggie wondered if either of them were ready for the discussion they were headed for, but he couldn’t see a clear way out of it. He wrapped his arm around her waist and pulled her back against his chest. “Just making sure you didn’t think this was a mistake. We didn’t exactly talk this through.”
Annie rolled to face him, careful not to dislodge the arm around her. “We didn’t, and we should. But right now I’m far too comfortable, far too relaxed to think about doing that now. Just tell me you don’t think it was a mistake.”
Auggie squeezed her tight. “Not even for a second.”