Bella arrived at Auggie’s apartment, pushing the large door open with a grunt. Her eyes glanced over the open layout, not finding her temporary roommate in the vicinity before she headed for the kitchen to set the bags on the counter.
Before even pulling the Chinese out of the bags, she went straight for the drawer for the corkscrew to open the bottle of wine she had picked up as her meeting with Arthur had went exactly as she anticipated. Her mission had stalled and while she wasn’t completely pulled from it, it was still hers. It was just on hold indefinitely. Which means she was to remain stateside until further notice.
“Auggie!” she called out, pouring them each a generous glass of red wine. Symbolic of the blood she strongly desired to spill of the family she hated most. She set the glasses aside as she started to unpack their food.
“Welcome home,” he said as he appeared from the shower wearing nothing but his sweat pants. He effortly moved through the apartment as if he was sighted and stood at the counter. “House rules; don’t move anything big without my knowledge because I will hurt myself. Other than that, my house is yours.”
Looking up, her eyes flickered over him, cheeks heating slightly. “Uh, yeah sure. Wine at your 3:00. I’m not an idiot,” she muttered.
“Just saying,” he said with a small smile on his lips and nearly knocked over the glass before picking it up and taking a sip. “And a red one at that. Tell me, who are we killing today?”
“Blondie, Jai, Mom, Dad, Italian scumbags, take your pick.”
Bella set his plate in front of him and purse her lips thoughtfully, her eyes narrowing on him. “Well, you’re safe. I happen to like you. And I’m sleeping with you tonight so I need my human pillow and my accomplice when we go to the Tavern to annoy Jai later.”
“Damnit, you’re making me get dressed,” he muttered as he felt around for a fork.
“Yes, such a shame for me,” she sighed dramatically. “But you could always strip back down after. You won’t hear any complaints.”
“Sure, I’ll be your wingman,” he said as he found chopsticks and started to eat his food. “Great cooking, by the way. Was it crowded when you went to pick it up?”
“PF Chang’s? Always. That’s why I call ahead and tell them it’s for the Campbells,” she said wisely. “In and out.”
“PF Chang. I’m impressed,” he smiled widely. “I usually go around the corner.”
“You should come to Italy with me. There are a couple places that you would really enjoy. Small cafe’s that have absolutely the best food. Not anything like the stuff here,” she shared, a wistful smile on her lips as she thought about her time away.
“Oh, I know,” he said, musing. “I remember my time in Rome as mostly a pleasant experience. The tiramisu was to die for.”
Her finger traced around the mouth of her wine glass as she stared at it. “I miss the espresso. The shit here sucks. That crap they serve in Starbucks is nothing compared to what they have there. Even though I was working, I still took what I could of the life and enjoyed it. But – I’m home now.”
“I’m not surprised, you were gone for a very long time. I would have done the same,” he took a bite of his food and sighed. “And I’m so glad you’re home.”
Bella smiled and ate some in silence, glancing at him occasionally. “So what do you think about this team idea? I warned her that it might not work out the way she is hoping.”
“Well,” he took a big gulp of his wine and sighed. “Either we’re going to be a kickass team or we’ll tank. But I think it’s good for Annie.”
“And by tank, there will be bloodshed. She doesn’t strike me as a team player. What’s her deal? She was like – all – I don’t know. She just seemed super nosey about us.”
“Annie… she’s great. However, she also has this massive chip on her shoulder because she was pulled off the Farm one month before her graduation. Joan fawns after her. Jai… has taken a special interest… she’s the golden child at the moment and she doesn’t see that she can’t handle that. She’s taking unnecessary risks in the field and I fear that it’ll be the death of her.”
She rolled her eyes at that and drained the rest of her glass. “I’ll be more than happy to knock her ass right into place.”
“Ah, that will be easy, she’s not very good at hand to hand combat yet,” he smirked. “Her mind is still befuddled with the stuff they teach at the Farm, no matter how many hours we spend perfecting her skill.”
“It has nothing to do with the Farm. It’s all about her ideals and what she thinks about herself and others. She’s over confident in herself and what she brings to the table. At least, that’s what I’m able to determine from my small amount of time so far. What bothers me the most is the way she seemed to think she has some sort of claim on you. Have you given her any indication that you and her have anything more than a friendship?” she asked. “As far as I knew, you’ve had your girlfriends but no one in the agency.”
“She trusts me and I trust her, but yes, even I have discovered that she thinks that there’s something more going on. Then again, I think she fell hard for that Mossad agent too. What if she falls for a target? Ruin the op? She comes from a loving family so I’m not quite sure how this behaviour came to pass.”
“Mossad? Are you fucking joking me? Who?” Bella asked.
“Uhh… Eyal Lavin,” he replied with a smile. “She finds it endearing that he calls her Neshama.”
Bella sat back on her stool and refilled her glass before reaching over and doing the same for his. “The bitch has a death wish. He does the same for all of his female contacts. He calls me that too whenever we deal with one another, but I don’t make the mistake of trusting the bastard – no matter how attractive he may be.”
“Attractive?” he blinked. “Seriously? Mossad hires attractive people now?”
“CIA hires them too. Have you seen Jai?” she grinned.
“Jai’s face looks like it’s been beaten – repeatedly – with a spade,” Auggie murmured, taking another sip of his wine. “And that hair of his… how many jars of gel does the guy use a month?”
She grinned as she raised her wine. “But who am I snuggling up with tonight, Auggie-bear?”
Smirking, he raised his glass to her. “The guy who willingly shares his apartment with you and calling off my casuals under the guise of my cousin being in town… indefinitely. So yeah. No idea when I’ll ever get laid again, thanks.”
“Just say when you would like and I’ll charge a room for you and your hook up at the Hilton for the night, but I’m staying here,” she smirked. “I’ll even give you the condoms I was going to buy Jai for his graduation to adulthood.”
“When did that happen?” He blinked at her. “His balls have dropped? Finally?”
“Well – I’ve only talked to him today in person, being back and all. He admitted that he moved out of Daddy’s house into his own place so yeah, I had to celebrate his independence. Make it a spectacle. That’s when you returned to DPD and everyone was silent because I embarrassed the pants off of him.”
Auggie burst out in laughter. “Oh, that’s so good! Buy him the condoms, I’ll buy him a razor and some shaving cream.”
“Don’t forget the KY. We’ll even bring gift bags tonight. Oh hey! We can be each other’s dates so that no one can try get one of us to leave. Deal?”
“Deal,” he smiled. “Just like old times.”
“Awesome. So, I’ll just clean up and get my bags from the car then get ready. You just sit there and look pretty until I relinquish the bathroom,” she said cheekily, pecking him on the cheek as she passed him on her way through the kitchen.
Arms looped, he allowed her to guide her through the mass of people in the tavern. According to Bella, Jai had already secured them a table and it was conveniently all the way in the back. “Hey Auggie!” he registered the voice as belonging to Ricki. “Are we still on for next week?”
“Hey Ricki,” he smiled as Bella continued to pull him along. “I’m afraid not! Sorry!”
“Looking fine, Auggie!” Of course Jessica was there as well. He then heard her giggle as her friend muttered something inaudible.
“I hope you used protection with each of them, Auggie,” Bella murmured in his ear as she smiled sweetly.
“I didn’t do anything with them, Bella,” he replied sweetly. “Yet.”
She snorted as she rolled her eyes, saying nothing else as she looked around. Nearly every single woman had their eyes on him and it annoyed her immensely. “You are insatiable with the ladies. Isn’t there one that can keep you grounded yet?”
“Well, let’s settle for you right now, shall we? I mean, you made me cancel my dates.”
“I’m not asking you to put a ring on my finger and you’re not actually sleeping with me like that.”
“I only do that to stave off boredom. Now that you’re back, I’ll no longer be bored.”
Bella hesitated at his words and the way they made her feel, not wanting to consider what they could possibly mean. “Then let’s have some fun and make things interesting by giving Jai our presents,” she smiled, her voice wavering slightly, even though she tried to sound as strong as she normally was.
“He’s going to kill us,” Auggie snickered as she continued to guide him through the people before slowing down. “Hi Annie, Jai,” he greeted them.
“Blondie, my Little Helper,” Bella smirked as she held out a shiny, silver gift bag for the man. “I promised you a present. I keep my promises. Go on! Open it!”
Jai looked at her suspiciously as he didn’t even dare to take the bag from her.
“Don’t worry,” Auggie said as he held out a blue gift bag. “Mine’s safer!”
“Oh no,” Jai muttered and shook his head. “The terrible twins are at it again?”
“I’m hurt,” Auggie said as he felt around for a chair and pulled it back so Bella could sit down. “Madame, your chair awaits your beautiful ass.”
Bella grinned as she turned and pulled him to sit first. “Thank you kind sir, but my ass prefers the padding of its knight.”
“Very well,” he sat down and pulled her into his lap. “Is your ass satisfied?”
She wiggled on his lap, exaggerating her movements before leaning against him. “Now it is,” she answered and kissed his cheek. Turning back to face her friend, she pouted with disappointment. “Why haven’t you opened our presents?”
“Because honestly, I’m scared,” Jai laughed as Annie quietly put down two glasses of beer in front of Bella and Auggie.
“I know where you work. You can’t possibly be scared of a couple of presents from friends,” the woman deadpanned. “From your father, I could understand. I’m still working on figuring out what to do for him. I’m hoping to pull his name for the Christmas Secret Satan.”
“He no longer works for the Agency, so you’re safe there.”
“So?” she blinked. “Get his name in the basket. I have ideas that will haunt him.”
Auggie put his arms around her waist and leaned on her shoulder with his chin. “Open the presents, Jai.”
“And what if I refuse?”
“We’ll open them for you in the next ops meeting with Arthur and Joan present,” Auggie smirked.
Annie looked back at Jai, concerned. “Can they do that?”
“They’ve done it before,” he said with a sigh and reached for the blue bag. “Conrad refused to open one of their gifts in a semi-private meeting and then they proceeded to take it with them into the meeting with the DCI present. He received a blow up doll.”
“Oh yeah! That was fun!” Auggie laughed.
“Dude, you couldn’t even see the DCI’s face.”
“I did. He was warned and he still refused. Best suspension I ever received, even if the DCI got a kick out of it himself. He did comment to Conrad to keep the pranks out of meetings in the future, so – Jai. Open it. I don’t want to get suspended again,” Bella warned, knocking on the table before reaching for her drink, toasting to Annie in thanks.
“It’s not as bad as the blow up doll, I promise,” Auggie said as he shifted a little to be able to reach around Bella and looked for his drink.
“Razors and shaving cream?” Jai said incredulously. “I- hmm… thanks?”
“Don’t mention it. Bella said you finally grew up and got a place of your own, so…you became a man,” he shrugged.
“You already know I have a place of my own, Auggie.”
“I know,” he smirked. “I’m just playing along here. Hence why I gave you the saver presents.”
Annie couldn’t help but laugh. “I like this playful side of you, Auggie. It’s more brazen. Less PG.”
Bella smirked and pushed his hair back from his face. “Don’t let him fool you. He’s always been this way. If he’s been reserved, then he’s been hiding something big. Haven’t you dear?”
“Or I’m just trying to be professional in the workplace,” he smirked and planted a kiss on her cheek before taking a sip of his beer.
“Never stopped me before.”
“Yeah well, you haven’t been living under Mom and Dad’s roof for years.”
“You haven’t actually lived with Mom and Dad, so let’s just drop that ball there.”
“I’m still not hearing Jai opening the other bag. Maybe Annie will do it instead, won’t you, Annie?” Auggie smiled widely. “Aren’t you the least bit curious?”
Annie smirked as she reached into the bag and held up a bottle of lube. “Now that’s just wrong,” she said as she dropped it on the table. “So wrong.”
“The lady at the store said that it’s pretty popular. Supposed to warm to the body heat or something. That shit costs $30,” Bella complained.
“It’s great for when you accidentally run out of hair gel, too,” Auggie smirked.
“I hate you both,” Jai said as he quickly put the lube back in the bag and held up a box of condoms. “Seriously?”
“Pleasure Pack. Auggie selected the box. It was my idea though. If you enjoy them, thank him.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this was taken off his bathroom shelf,” Jai countered dryly before setting the bags on the ground. “Thank you, for your… considerate presents.”
“Yeah well, I hid his supply for as long as I’m living with him.”
“Joan and Arthur will kill you both when you end up pregnant, you know,” Jai said as he took a big gulp of his drink. He needed to get drunk off his ass. Now.
Bella let out a sigh as she turned on Auggie’s lap. “Why does everyone think we’re fucking each other? I mean seriously. Do we give off like some kind of vibe that we’re going to go running into every closet or something when we’re around one another?”
“It’s stupid, isn’t it? Can’t a good looking guy be friends with a good looking woman?” He rolled his eyes.
“We just sleep together for fuck’s sake.”
“Exactly! Well, we haven’t slept together for like… six months but yeah!”
Annie blinked. “I have been at the Agency for four months… what happened?”
“Classified,” Auggie said with a nod, but with a warning tone towards Jai. Because basically, thanks to him, Auggie had gotten into that mess in the first place. “Involved a tent in the middle of nowhere.”
Jai shifted in his seat uncomfortably as he looked at Auggie. “A mission went awry, but yes.”
“We didn’t fuck,” Bella repeated as she rested an elbow on Auggie’s shoulder. “Nor have we ever. And before we continue any of this conversation, I will go on record that I have not had any relationships with anyone from the Agency, and I certainly don’t get involved with or trust any of our allies.”
“What about sleeping with an asset or target?”
“That’s different,” Jai said as he refilled their glasses. “Maybe we should order something stronger.”
“I don’t sleep with them. I’m picky enough with my boyfriends. I’m not going to get that intimate with some asshole just because my boss says it’s okay. There are other ways to get what we need,” Bella huffed as she looked around for one of the waitresses. She certainly was in agreement with her former handler that stronger drinks were in order. “What are we having? Wine or tequila?”
“Tequila,” Auggie agreed, still feeling the need to drown out Tash. She had gotten under his skin so many years ago, and he had started to see her differently, not just as a target, but as someone else. Maybe it were just his hormones fucking with him, and Joan said it was okay to have the emotions but if he had to be honest, he sucked at relationships. Sure, Tash had gotten under his skin, but why did he feel like this when he wasn’t even sure what love was? Had he really, truly, loved Helen back then or had she been a substitute? Still a sore memory at that? “Tequila,” he said again and downed his beer.
Reaching for her purse when the waitress finally came by, Bella held out a large bill. “Bring out a bottle of Patron please, and four shot glasses. Thanks,” she winked. “Keep the change.”
“Alright. So…” she turned back the rest of the table, eyeing Annie. “Have you been filled in by Mother?”
“What? Joan?” Annie said confused. “About?”
“So she didn’t tell you that the four of us are about to be one happy little family? She might still be working out the kinks in her grand plan then,” she shrugged nonchalantly.
“Auggie? What is she talking about?” Annie asked him as she took a sip of her beer.
“Joan wants to try something else for a change. You three are going to be in the field together, as a team. I’ll still be your handler, but we’re going to have to work with Jai and Bella for a while.”
She smiled slightly as she looked over at Jai, who appeared apologetic. “I don’t understand why things have to change. Everything was going good, right?”
“It’s mostly a transition assist. I’ve been solo for too long. Sometimes they will put a team together to help ease back into other habits, or work with others in building theirs. My mission is stalled so until I’m sent back, I’m stuck home with the family, not that I’m complaining. I’m just hoping Joan and Arthur don’t literally send me home.”
“You’re not in touch with your family?” Annie blinked. “I don’t know what I’d do without my sister, really.”
“My relationship with my parents is like most American families,” Bella smiled. “If they do send me to see my dad, either Jai or Auggie is coming along to suffer with me.”
“No way,” Auggie shook his head. “I’m not going back there again. The Quileutes are insane. They look like hippies and they stink. I swear, they were behind the boat sabotage that got me and your father stranded in the middle of the pond.”
Bella smiled and tugged on his ear. “You enjoyed the cliff diving though.”
“Yes, that was fun, but other than that? Well, maybe the barbecue but that’s it.”
“Camping? Endless hiking trails.”
“We were followed by that pup Jake the entire time.”
She rolled her eyes. “Harmless crush.”
“If I do have to return with you, I will grab him, tie him to a chair and push enough sedation in him to not hear a peep out of him for our entire stay.”
“I won’t stop you. I might even assist,” she grinned.
Annie was intrigued. Auggie had met Bella’s parents! “So, have you met Auggie’s family too then?”
“His brothers are just as nuts as him, but value their balls much more,” Bella replied. “I won’t be spending Christmas with them anytime soon.”
“I take that as a ‘yes’,” she grinned.
“When she came with me, Mark managed to get the jump on her, tied her legs together and hung her upside down as if she was a fish,” he snickered. “You should have heard her scream. It was loud. Until Rich cut her down, of course. And then proceeded to blatantly flirt with her.”
“And I punched him in the balls for that. And Mark, too.”
“And yet, they’re not dating,” Jai said to Annie, amused by the same stories they liked to share. There was more behind it all, but it was great.
“Guaranteed, if you called Rich, he’d ask if the bitch is still around,” Bella murmured. “Do it. I’m curious to know if his balls are still fractured from those suspenders.”
Auggie sighed as he pulled his phone out of his pocket and clicked the home button. “Call Rich. Turn on Speaker,” he said as he placed the phone on the table. “For some reason I think this is a really bad idea…”
“Augusto! How’s life? Hope you’re not calling home for some money, bro. You still with that hot chick?”
“What? You have money to spare? Because if so… send it my way. And what hot chick?”
“Uhh- shit….you fucker. Is she there with you?”
“Oh! You mean Bella?”
“Of course I mean Bella. You haven’t brought any other hot girls home. Has she wisened up yet? The crazy bitch broke my shit. Twice! I don’t know what is wrong with you to stick with her! Why you calling anyway?”
“So you are saying you didn’t like the suspenders I got you? I’m sad now Richie,” Bella commented.
“Ah shit. Stay away from me.”
“I’m in Virginia. Where the fuck are you? I can have Auggie mail you a special present I got for you and Mark. I got it while I was overseas and thought of the two of you special. You can even share!” she grinned, running her hand along Auggie’s shoulder.
“I was just calling, Rich. People don’t believe I have brothers. Thought I’d prove it to them.”
“I’m not your brother. Are you drunk?”
“I might be and you are my brother. Don’t make me call mom because you’re denying my existence again.”
“Yeah well, you have one crazy bitch of a girl there. You have a harder time convincing people she doesn’t belong in a mental hospital. She broke Mark’s and my balls, literally. I didn’t even know our balls could be broken. Did you? Because that shit hurts.”
“Yep. They teach that shit in the army dude.”
“I want to learn that,” Annie grinned as she looked at Bella. “Can you teach me?”
“You grab, twist, and pull hard. If they are strapped up in something, isolating, it makes it even easier. Just don’t ask what Rich was doing during that bit that I walked in on. There isn’t enough brain bleach in the world to fix that mental image,” Bella sighed. “Auggie had to pay quite a bit to get me acceptably drunk that night and for a hotel because I refused to go back to the house.”
“Yeah that was…-“
“Bye Rich!” Auggie tapped his phone twice to break the connection and pocketed his phone again. “Remind me not to ever have you two in one room together ever again.”
“I’ll just break his balls again, Darling,” Bella answered demurely.
“Hmm…” he pulled her closer against him and put his chin back on her shoulder. “Where’s the tequila?”
She rested her head back against his and hummed in agreement. “Yes, where is Mr. Patron?”
“The waitress is just coming our way,” Jai replied. “And as for more revelations, let’s just keep those personal things personal, shall we? We’ve divulged enough already.”
“You haven’t,” Annie pointed out.
“My father is a dick, what else is there?”
Bella snorted. “Everyone knows your father is a dick. He’s the king of dicks. Maybe I’ll buy him a dildo for Christmas. Maybe one that vibrates? What do you think?”
“Here’s a question,” Jai said after the waitress left and leaned into the table to get a bit closer to her. “How do you know so much about sex attributes? Did you really have nothing else to do on your mission than to browse through websites or magazines?”
She sat there and smiled back at him, slowly grinning. “You would like to know that, would you? I thought you already knew, Jai. During that one stretch – I learned something. Italians really do it better. Speaking of which – I need to order that espresso machine and have it imported.”
“I found fetish gear in the closet when I was on a mission and hiding out… you should have seen the face of the contact I was with, it was hilarious,” Annie tried.
“Bet you were blushing like a schoolgirl,” Jai snorted as he poured them shots.
“I walked into a safe house that I had to share with my contact once. He got there first, and he walked around in nothing but a towel most of the time. The guy was an ass. Charming, but still a snake underneath. I couldn’t wait to finish the exchange and get back to my regular detail,” Bella shared.
“But did you know that that gear is great for repelling down an elevator shaft?” Annie grinned. “That was such a rush.”
Bella’s hand at the back of Auggie’s shoulder slid up his neck and squeezed lightly at her words. “I’m sure it was. At least you got out without incident, right?”
“Shots,” Auggie said. “I heard someone pour. Hit me,” he said, quickly changing the subject and holding out his hand for someone to place a glass in it.