Chapter 04

They were at the tavern way past their bedtime and when the following morning his alarm clock started to scream the time, he wanted to throw it away. His head hurt and Bella was still half on top of him. “Hey, if you haven’t noticed, the alarm clock is screaming at us. We need to get up,” he said, gently drumming on her back with his finger tips.

“My car was stolen by a panda bear,” she mumbled, wrapping herself around him tighter, her leg burying between his. “You try feeding me cotton?”

“You need to wake up,” he groaned as he managed to roll the both of them over. “Come on, Bella. You need to be at work too.”

Landing in a bright stream of sunlight, she grimaced as she covered her face. Moaning in protest, she pushed on his shoulders. “Fine, fine. Remind me to never to get tequila again on a school night,” she mumbled as she laid there for a moment before slowly, and painfully sitting up.

“Noted,” he grinned as he got off the bed and turned off his alarm clock. “You can ride into work with me,” he said as he started to move through the apartment, going to the kitchen first to start the coffee.

“Coffee,” she mumbled incoherently before leaving the bed to start getting ready, reluctantly. “Bathroom.”

“All yours,” he snorted, he could only imagine her looking hungover like hell, her hair all wild from the turning she did for most of the night and looking dishevelled as she shuffled towards the bathroom. Luckily he had moved some of his things into the kitchen so he could freshen up there. He switched on the coffee maker and moved to the sink to find his toothbrush and toothpaste and started to brush his teeth.

It took Bella only about twenty minutes to make herself work appropriate, but she had no desire to go above and beyond any level of effort that morning in her appearance. Making her way into the kitchen, she made a beeline for the coffee pot in hopes that it would be ready. “Bathroom is free now,” she announced quietly, still tired from their night.

She was anxious for the coffee and didn’t want to wait, sliding a cup underneath the drip while she poured some from the pot into another for herself and Auggie before swapping the pot back under. “You take yours black? Right?”

“Just a little bit of sugar,” he said as he stood in his closet, feeling around on the clothing labels to make sure he wouldn’t look like a clown at work.

Mixing it for him, she brought it over to him, brushing her hand over the back of his arm. “You look like you need this almost as much as I do,” she smiled as she handed him the mug carefully so that he could take the much needed sip. “Want me to pick something for you while you finish there?”

Taking a sip of the coffee before carefully placing it on the nearest shelf, he smiled. “I’m good, thanks.”

“No problem,” she yawned before moving away, tempted to crawl back into bed and saying Fuck it with work. Pulling herself up on the stool in the kitchen, she called over to him. “How pissed do you think Joan would be if I called out for us?”

“Very,” he replied as he picked out a light blue shirt for comfort and ease, not bothering too much in figuring out what to wear. “Although we could blame it on the Chinese food, but since we’re not the only ones who have drunk our asses off…”

“Oh no. Jai and Blondie are on their own for their excuses.”

“No, it’s kinda obvious if we call out and they don’t. Or if they call out at the same time. We’re going to be the good little soldiers and go to work.”

Bella pouted in thought then smiled as she turned to watch him. “You know it would only feed Blondie’s twisted little mind if we did. She’d be wondering what we were doing. She’s convinced we’re together still.”

“Fine, you call out, I’m going to work. I’m not going to protect you from Joan.” He found the mug of coffee and took another sip as he made his way back.

“I’m not calling out. You’re no fun today,” she rolled her eyes, exasperated.

“Don’t roll your eyes at me, I’m merely looking out for you,” he smiled widely as he set the mug on the counter. “It’s your first real day and all.”

She looked over at him confused and suspicious at his ability to see.

“Your tone of voice and then that tiny little sigh at the end of the sentence is what tipped me off about your eye rolling. That, and I know you and you don’t like it when I’m right,” he explained with a grin on his face.

“You don’t have to be so smug about it,” she frowned before reaching over and pinching his belly, hard.

“Oh, I’m smug,” he laughed as he pushed her arm a little. “How about you can kick my ass in the gym after lunch as a punishment for me being so smug?”

“Sounds like a deal. I need more coffee and depending on how much Mom has waiting for us, I might be annoying you in your office all morning. I actually don’t have a desk of my own yet so you get my charming company that much longer,” she smirked as she brushed against him on her way to the coffee pot to fill her tumbler to go.

“You know, you’re not good at making things sound like a threat. That sounded like fun to me,” he smiled as he finished his coffee and then went about to gather his things.

“Just wait Auggie. Just wait,” she replied in a sing-song voice. “You want one to-go? Or are you almost ready?”

“No, I’m good. Annie brings me coffee every morning,” he replied and sighed. “I can’t find my keys, where did I put them last night?” Sometimes getting drunk off your ass was good, but most of the time, he misplaced his own things.

“Um…” Bella responded, scratching her head. “I don’t exactly remember getting home.” She started looking around for them, everywhere she would think he might have put them. “Any ideas where two drunk idiots would have tossed them?”

“Well, if you don’t remember and I don’t remember…” he turned around and leaned against the chest. “Uhh… it’s likely you took the keys from me. Check your purse.”

“Why would I do that? It’s not like you could drink and drive,” she replied as she went to dig in her bag. Blinking, she paused as she pulled out the keys, but also a strip of condoms that she knew came from Jai’s present. “I’m going to fucking kill that bastard. Oh – I need to think of something and it’s going to be huge.”

“What? What did he do? And who’s he?”

“Jai.” Without the ability to say another word about what he did, she took his hand and put the condoms it. “You ready to leave?”

“Oh yeah,” he said, putting the condoms on the dresser and as he folded out his cane, his mind already racing with countless possibilities. Maybe get him a subscription on Playboy or something. Order him pizza while he hasn’t ordered. Or something bigger that he hadn’t ordered. Maybe… maybe it was better to leave it as it was, ignore it and see what happened. Auggie was the bigger person.

Bella was rattled by the surprise gift, and smiled as Auggie made his way back to her. Wrapping her arm into his, slid her sunglasses on and let him lock the door before they headed down to wait for the shuttle as she thought about what might be waiting at the office. It would certainly prove to be a long day.

~o.O.o~

“Oh,” Annie sounded slightly disappointed when he walked into work with Bella on his arm. The smell of coffee greeted him and he had to smile.

“Oh, what? She’s staying with me, of course we ride into work together,” he said playfully, letting go of Bella and had Annie guide him in further as she held on to the coffee.

Bella’s eyes looked around behind her sunglasses that she’d yet to take off, her migraine growing that morning. “Where’s Jai? I have a hot latte to dump in his lap,” she sighed as she fell into a chair and kicked her legs up onto the desk.

“Running late, that’s what my guess is,” Annie replied and set the coffee down on Auggie’s desk. “You need to check your email, Auggie.”

“Why do you sound as if you haven’t had a lot of tequila?” Auggie questioned as he sat down in his chair and typed a few commands on his keyboard to open his mail.

The girl smiled at him and shook her head. “I’ve already had like four cups of coffee this morning. Plus my sister has a great recipe to cure hangovers. You both look like you’ve had hell of a night. Didn’t you get any sleep?”

“Sleep yes. Slept like a log. I think. I can’t remember,” Auggie replied as he put his headphones on and had the computer recite his emails to him.

“Which is part of the reason that Jai is getting a hot drink in his lap,” Bella said with a twisted smile that promised nothing good.

“Nothing else happened?”

“Annie,” Auggie warned her with a pleasant smile on his face, but his tone said otherwise.

The brunette agent raised an eyebrow at the question, wondering if she was accusing the wrong friend. “Perhaps my suspicions are off. It may not have been Jai after all,” she mused thoughtfully as she eyed the woman. “Auggie. You don’t suppose Annie might be the guilty party. Do you?”

“I really don’t care,” he put down his headset and grabbed his laser cane from a drawer as he got up. “Excuse me, I need to take care of something.”

“Have fun,” Bella commented as she stared at Annie until he was out of earshot. “Were you the one to stick the condoms in my purse?”

“You guys were so drunk last night, I thought it would be a safety measure for the both of you. Who knows what could have happened?”

“One, we didn’t have sex. Even that drunk, which wouldn’t be the first time. Auggie and I are only friends. I don’t know how many times we have to tell everyone. Two, don’t ever, ever, touch my things again. I don’t think I need to explain the invasion you made there. The line you just crossed with me. Three. Why the hell does everyone keep going on about Auggie and I? You seemed rather cozy with Jai last night but I wasn’t shoving you in his bed all night. Same with Auggie. You were acting like a jealous cheerleader yesterday here, now all of a sudden, you want me sleep with him? I’m getting whiplash here,” Bella snapped, grateful for the semi-privacy that his office provided because if they were going to be forced to work together, they were going to have to hash out their problems, and fast.

Annie pursed her lips as she leaned against the desk and looked at Bella. “I only did it because I don’t know you, but I do know Auggie. He’s my responsibility as I’m his. I was looking out for him. Now, if he has a problem with that, he’ll tell me that himself.”

“He won’t because he doesn’t want to hurt his friend. He won’t try to get caught between you and I,” Bella pointed out knowingly. “You think you know him, and you probably do. To a certain extent. However, you only know him for what? Four? Five months? I’ve known him for years. Auggie and Jai are my best friends. It’s really a shame they don’t get along, but what can I do about it?”

She was quiet for a moment and laughing shook her head. “I think we both have to agree that we’re slightly territorial when it comes to Auggie.”

“Perhaps. He makes you want to protect him, he’s that lovable. But for me, it’s more than that. I didn’t know about his loss of eyesight until this year as he kept it from me because he didn’t want to worry me while I was on my assignment. You want to talk territorial? Ask anyone that knows about our friendship, and see what they say. I don’t think you can compare to what I would do when it comes to him,” Bella warned evenly as she stood, taking her and Jai’s coffee from the desk. “Anything else?”

“Yeah, you need to loosen up.”

“And you need learn to play with others.”

“You know, if you wanted this building to blow up, I think that a bomb would have been more effective,” Auggie said as he walked into Joan’s office. “Are they done talking yet?”

“No. Bella looks as if she’s ready to throw her coffee at Annie however,” Joan sighed in frustration. “How did last night go?”

“We were drunk, we all got along swimmingly,” he said as he rubbed his temples. “Any chance we can be reimbursed for the alcohol we had?”

“Not a chance. Perhaps you can convince Arthur,” she suggested with a smile.

“Eh, it was worth a shot,” Auggie said with a shrug and then thought for a moment. “When was the last time Bella had a fitness test or an assessment for her combat skills?”

Joan turned to go around her desk to open the agent’s file. “Overdue. Two years ago was the last time she was stateside. You think you’re up for the task? She looked as if she’s raring to take on the Hulk – and win.”

He smirked. “I think that Annie would be perfect as a sparring partner. She might learn something.”

“I thought you liked Annie. What did she do to upset you?”

“Oh, I like Annie and she didn’t do anything, whatever is going on, it’s between those two. Maybe having them duke it out in a safe, controlled, environment will help. I’ll be there to referee, of course.”

Joan was quiet as she eyed him for a moment before looking back over towards his office, where there was some gesturing in their direction. “Some friendly advice, Auggie,” she started lightly. “Whatever is between them, I believe involves you.”

“No kidding,” he said with a huff. “They both act as if they have the sole claim on me.”

“I don’t know about Annie, but you know how I feel about Bella. Off the record – what exactly is going on between the two of you? I know she says you both are friends, but I can’t help but wonder sometimes if it could be more…”

Sighing, he sat down on the nearest chair and fumbled with his laser cane. “The thought has crossed my mind. Ever since you sent her to find me… I don’t know. It put things in perspective. Problem is though… the way I feel about her, and when I’m around her, is so different as my previous relationships. Tash… well, she grew into some sort of obsession or addiction and I’m still reeling from the experience from the last week. I’ve dealt with Helen but…”

Joan smiled as she pulled a chair beside him. “This is Bella we’re talking about. Do you really think she’d let something like that change things? What would the harm be in giving it a try? You never know.”

“I’d risk losing a great friend.”

“Or you might realize that the one you’d been looking for has been there all that time. If you and Bella did give a relationship a try, I wouldn’t object…just saying,” she murmured nudging him in the shoulder with hers. “Think about it. It might even settle her anxiety around you with everyone as well.”

He was surprised to hear this from her. “Thanks… I guess…” he said slowly and sighed. “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”

“Now, if you do decide to have Bella go through her fitness test, leave Annie out of it before she gets a broken bone?” Joan said playfully as she opened the door.

On that cue, Auggie rose from the chair and headed out. “Will you pretend that this was your idea instead of mine?”

“Neither. She won’t know. Just let her know she has her fitness evaluation today please,” she said with a sigh as she saw Bella shove passed Annie, heading their way. “Or I’ll just tell her now… Bella.”

“I told you this was going to be a bad idea,” the agent sneered, struggling to keep her voice low. “I do not want to work with her.”

“Tough,” Joan said simply and crossed her arms over her chest. “You’re going to have to.”

“I make no promises that she’ll survive in the field.”

“That’s okay, that’s why Auggie’s her handler and not you or Jai,” she replied and then smiled. “You’re needed in the gym for your fitness evaluation.”

Bella’s lips twitched as she glanced at Auggie before looking to Joan. “Do I get to borrow Blondie as my dummy?”

“The person evaluating you will be your dummy. Annie’s not as proficient as you are in hand to hand combat. But I believe you’ll be starting on the treadmill like anyone else.”

“Then can I request Jai? I feel like breaking someone’s balls.”

He tried to keep his face as neutral as possible. Auggie hadn’t expected it to be a walk in the park, but he was going to bring his A-game if he wanted to survive her punches.

“Bella, you’re in no position to request anything and Jai’s called out.”

“Chicken shit wimp. It was only tequila and Auggie and I had more than he did. I’m going to hunt his ass down and get him a huge birthday present when the time comes,” she muttered.

“Gym. Now.” Joan laughed, shaking her head.

“Now? Can’t it wait until after lunch? When I’m like – sober? And I don’t have as much desire to kill someone? Have some mercy on my evaluator.”

“Yes, please, have some mercy,” Auggie said as he turned to face Joan.

“Is that what you’re going to say to the bad guy when you’re on a mission? ‘Sorry man, I can’t fight you right now because I’m tired and sick, but if you can wait until I’m feeling better, that would be swell!’ You know that won’t work. It’s your own fault that you drank on a school night.”

Auggie groaned as he walked off. “Thank god it’s the weekend after today!” He was probably going to have to ice his balls all weekend.

Bella stood there as she blinked after him. “Auggie’s evaluating me? Great. You do know I’m living with the guy right now, right? This is a really bad idea. Almost as bad as that team.”

“Are you afraid he won’t be as accurate in communicating his findings?”

“No. He would, but I don’t want to beat the shit out of him!” she hissed. “I can’t do that! I…I…”

“You what?” Joan mused as she walked into her office and motioned for Bella to follow. “Love him?”

Bella’s eyes grew large and quickly looked around before she rushed inside and closed the door behind her. “Where the hell did you get a crazy idea like that? I’m getting tired of everyone asking if we’re dating or not. It’s not just since I got back either.”

“It’s not a crazy idea at all,” Joan said, leaning against her desk. “In truth, if there were two other people behaving the way you and Auggie do when you’re around each other, or not even around each other, you’d come to the same conclusion.”

She stood there silently as she was unable to deny her reasoning. Staring back at her boss and mentor, she held out her arms in defeat. “Okay? So you believe that I’m in love with Auggie. It doesn’t mean anything because we’re not together. I do care, deeply, for him, but it’s doubtful that he feels for me on the same level.”

Joan blinked at that. “Have you two ever talked about this?”

“That everyone is crazy to think we’re dating? Yeah.”

“No, about your feelings for him?”

“No. Why would I?” she scoffed. “Like it would amount to anything. Besides, I have to go suffer through my eval and try not to beat up a blind man. I’ll talk to you later. Maybe take you and Dad out to dinner during the week?”

“If we’re not busy, sure,” Joan smiled. “But aside from you changing the subject; talk to him about your feelings. Auggie’s a great listener and fair, at that.”

Bella rolled her eyes, heading out the door. “I’ll think about it, Mom.”

~o.O.o ~

Bella walked into the gym, biting her lip as Joan’s words continued to echo in her thoughts. As much as she didn’t want to think about them, she suddenly found them difficult to push away. Setting her water bottles and towel down on the bench, she let out a sigh when she found the room empty. At least there wouldn’t be an audience like usual.

“So, what do you want to do first?” Auggie said as he walked into the room and put his things down. “Threadmill? Run for a couple of miles? Or would you rather start with hitting a dummy?”

Lifting her head at his voice, she held her breath. “You’re the boss,” she breathed out, closing her eyes. “I’m likely to tire out quicker with the treadmill, so less likely to cause you some lasting damage,” she said lightly, trying to keep things humorous after the confrontation with Joan upstairs.

“Ah!” Auggie grinned as he rubbed his hands together. “Don’t want to beat up the blind guy, huh?” He walked over to her and held out his hand for her. “Come on, I’ll allow you to beat me.”

“More like I don’t want to hand Auggie his ass,” she teased.

“Auggie is very much capable of protecting his ass, thank you very much,” he pulled her to the mat. “It’ll be fun.”

It’ll be fun,” she mocked as she moved to stand before him. Raising her eyes to look at him directly, she sighed, shaking her head as they took in every detail, wishing she hadn’t. “You say that now.”

He put his hands on her shoulders to see where she was and took a step back before taking a defensive stance. “Or would you rather have the playing field leveled?”

“You are rather at a disadvantage. Skill set aside,” Bella acknowledged. “What do you have in mind?”

“Pretend I have eyes and can see you. Don’t worry about me.”

“I know you have eyes, but it’s rather hard when I can tell you track me by sound,” she replied, moving around the mat as she watched him cant his head slightly to follow her. She tapped his ear to point out the detail as proof.

“And this is a disadvantage, how?” He grabbed her arm before she could retract it and pulled her in close, taking her in a headlock and grinned.

Bella elbowed him in the gut, then up into the neck before stepping away quickly and pulled her sneakers off. Tossing them aside, she watched as he quickly got back up to his feet, trying to listen for her location.

“You know there are several ways that I can tell where you are,” he said, pointing at the mat. He turned to her and struck out, but only to fall flat on his face when she stepped quickly stepped aside. He grabbed her by the ankles and pulled her down.

She wrapped her legs around his to lock them, twisting until her foot was in a precarious position. “Don’t move Auggie. I’m not going to go buy you ice if you do.”

He grabbed her foot and tickled it before pulling off her sock and tossed it aside. With her distracted for a moment, he managed to get away from her and got back to his feet. “Is that the best you can do?”

Bella yanked her other sock off as she glared at him. She hadn’t gone hand to hand with him in over two years and had to think of something else. All of her frustration was coming to the surface as she attempted to observe him as an opponent.

“If you’re not going to make a move soon, I’m going to switch off the lights and put a blindfold on you.”

“Into BDSM now, are you? I wouldn’t have guessed.”

“If it levels the playing field, sure,” he grinned and caught her fist as it swung at him. “That was sloppy.”

Bella let out a sigh, knowing how much it was, but said nothing to deny it. Her knee came up to his side, her other arm wrapping around his neck.

He grabbed her by her shirt and twisted out of her hold as he threw her over his shoulder and landed her gently on the mat. “Bella, I’m not fragile. I’m not going to make this easy on you by calling in someone who can see you,” he said as he kneeled down and held her down by placing a hand on her chest.

She swallowed as she laid there, blinking up at him. “Are you sure?” she asked softly.

“Two days ago, I kicked the asses of two people on a moving train and they got a few proper hits in as well. I’m still here.”

Nodding, she deliberated the thought for a minute. “Alright,” she agreed eventually. Without warning, she threw her legs up and wrapped them around his neck, pulling him down to the side awkwardly. As his legs came up, she twisted them together and pushed them back until he was on his stomach. Reaching for the closest flailing arm, she pulled at it, she folded his hand back painfully, grimacing, hoping he would call it off or break her hold quickly.

He rolled into her instead of away, pushing her aside and releasing the hold she had on his hand and used their twisted legs as leverage to put her on her back. With the release of the legs, he climbed on top of her and straddled her waist as he looked for her arms to pin down. When she shifted, he lost his balance a little and had to hold himself up incase his head would fall on top of hers. She was so close, he could feel her breath on his skin. Grabbing her by her shirt, he started to pull her back, hoping to roll her over him, away, but she did a good job in fighting it.

Bella smiled to herself as she suddenly stopped fighting and slid her hands up his torso to his shoulders. Her legs came up to rest on either side of his waist, hugging him, and she let out a sigh. “Auggie? I prefer being on top…”

Her hand gripped on one shoulder, nails digging in and pulling down while the other pushed up. Her thighs mimicked the same motion as her body followed in the movement to push him off as she rolled them over until she was on top.

He let out a snort as he took a deep breath. “I know you do, you need to win everything,” he smirked, wondering where that came from. She was so close, and it surprised him how good it felt. “Hop on the treadmill, we’ll continue this after half an hour of running.”

She smiled as she patted him on the face. “Sure thing, buttercup.” Climbing off him, she reached for his hand to help pull him up before making her way over for some water. Her eyes frequently found their way to him on their own, but she could feel her heart racing after the recent encounter. And it wasn’t due to the workout.

Not knowing what else to say, she moved straight over to the treadmill to get started. Programming the machine for audio updates so that he was apprised of her progress, she only hoped it wouldn’t give away too much of how he was affecting her as she hooked the monitors onto herself as she started.

He made his way over to his bag and grabbed a towel and a water bottle before finding something to sit on near Bella as she was running. They had sparred before. Wrestled before. Why did this feel different? “Tell me about your exercise regime while you were away,” he said, wanting to hear her talk.

Bella thought about it for a moment and took a breath. “I ran mostly. Not a lot of gyms. Plenty of landscapes for nice views and fresh air. The last year has been quiet so a lot of cardio.”

“I can hear that, you have a steady, confident pace,” he took a sip of his water and fell quiet again as he listened to the sounds the machine was giving off. Her heart rate seemed off. “When was the last time you had a health check?”

“I went to the doctor in Italy about a couple months ago,” she muttered as she glanced at him. “I’m fine.”

“Okay, just asking,” Auggie replied as he leaned against the wall. “When we were sparring, earlier… I kinda got the idea that you were bothered by my blindness.”

“No,” Bella answered easily as she continued running, staring forward. That was the probably the only issue she didn’t have coming into the gym after her conversation with Joan. Only she wasn’t about to broach that topic there, as her heart skipped at the thought.

“But you were hesitant to fight me, why? You’ve never done that.”

She ran for probably another quarter mile before she answered his question. “I’d been given some things to think about that I hadn’t considered before coming down here. I was distracted.”

He blinked at that. “Since when do you allow yourself to be distracted by something?”

“It’s been known to happen,” she murmured, breathless, as she picked up her pace a little harder, almost as if she tried to run from him. A fruitless attempt on a treadmill.

“Would you like to talk about it? I mean, if you’re going to be in the field with Annie, I’d rather have you on top of your game than distracted,” he asked, knowing that he was pushing a button there, but her pace had changed, her heart was beating differently. “Or not here? Over dinner tonight, maybe?”

“Or not at all. Why does it have to be said?” Bella questioned as she stopped the machine, slamming on the controls and ripping the cords off her, growing irritated as she turned to face him. “What would it change?”

“I don’t know. Peace of mind? Taken a load off? How certain can you be that whatever it is won’t affect you in the field?”

“It hasn’t before,” she refused stubbornly, turning her head away from him.

“Okay, good,” he said as he got to his feet and looked for her arm to take her back to the mat. “Then make it stop distracting you for this next bit,” he said as he let go of her and found his bag to retrieve a scarf out of it. Auggie found her again and held up the scarf. “Blindfold yourself.”

She took the scarf and held it skeptically. She knew where he was going with this and gave a weak laugh. “Back to the BDSM. You know, if you wanted to tie me up, all you had to do was ask.”

He hesitated for a moment before replying; “I’m sure that would be lovely but I merely want to take your eye sight away.” He might be flying too close to the sun right now, but he didn’t care.

“Yeah…” she sighed, lifting it to tie it around her head. “If I break my neck, you’re telling Mom.”

“I’ll be gentle,” he smirked. “Are you done?”

“You tell me. I thought we’re supposed to be even now.”

He reached out for her and carefully used her arm to lead the way to her head so he could be sure that the scarf was around her eyes. He could feel her shiver as his hand travelled upwards. “Seems secure,” Auggie muttered as he took a step back. “Okay. Find me.”

She stood there for a moment, trying to think back and draw on her early training that was mediocre at best. Remaining still, she gave herself time for her other senses to catch up to the restriction of her eyesight and waited for him to give any hint to where he might be. A slight sound and shift in the mat, she turned to her left, reaching out with a quick jab, immediately finding herself off balance. “Shit…”

He managed to grab a hold of her before she fell, but she stumbled into him, causing him to fall down with her on top of him. “Good job,” he laughed as he held on to her. “You okay?”

“Yeah. A bit unsettling,” she said as she remained still until everything was still again. “Again.”

He helped her to get off of him and got to his feet before pulling her back up. After making sure she was steady on her feet, he took a few steps back. “Alright. Find me.”

Bella rolled her neck as she held her hands out, taking slow, careful steps, listening to any sounds in the gym. When she made her way closer, she debated on her approach, reaching out slowly. Her fingers grazed his shirt and grinned, grasping the material before holding on tightly, twisting until she could get her arm and leg locked around him.

He swallowed hard. There was something about her touch now that she was temporarily hampered in her vision and it unnerved him. He wasn’t quite sure if that was in a good way or a bad way. “Nicely done, you found me. You think you can get my ass on the floor?”

She let out a growl as one hand moved to his ribs and her fingers dug between the bones and one of her feet wound behind his knee to press against it to force it to bend forward. Perhaps not to his ass yet, but she’d start with him kneeling.

He tried to resist her for as long as possible, but she really had strong legs and she had him tightly and he had no choice but to have his body follow her direction. As he did, he put an arm around her and started to pull her down with him, hoping to get her off balance too. All it did was for her to hold him even tighter, pushing her warm body against his and he really had to focus on what he was doing. Auggie did not want his heart to take over his head. Not here. “At least someone around here remembers the things I try to teach them,” he said jokingly.

Bella lowered her head slightly, her mouth near his ear, though she couldn’t quite see as she let out a low chuckle. Bending herself back, while she maintained her hold, she attempted to lean their weight back so that they would fall to the mat.

There was only so much pushing back that he could do in their position and decided to give up, causing himself to slam into the mat by force. “Congratulations,” he breathed. “You passed.”

Laying there, tired and out of breath, she found herself unable to move as she nodded. “I had a great teacher,” she said as she patted him on the chest… at least she believed it to be his chest from their positions.

“Uhuh,” he smiled as his hand was on her lower back now. He reached for her head with his other hand and tugged on her blindfold. “We definitely need to talk when we get home.” The words were out of his mouth before he knew it. He was far too comfortable on the mat lying like this, even though her legs were still entangled with his.

He was going to curse Joan for ruining sharing a bed with Bella. There was no way he was going to survive the cuddle monster at night now.

She let out a long suffering sigh as she reached for his hand. “What about, Auggie? If this is about what happened earlier with Walker, I’ll deal with my issues with her and do what I have to, to get the missions completed. I just can’t promise to be her friend.”

“Not about her,” he removed her blindfold and gently brushed her hair out of her face. “But I don’t want to discuss this within CIA walls. Work and private should be separated.”

Bella wasn’t sure what to think at his words as she sat up to look at him, her mind racing over the implications. “Should I be worried?”

“Worried? Ha! I’d be absolutely terrified. Oh wait, I am,” he got to his feet and helped her up.

“Auggie…” she frowned at him.

“Don’t worry, okay? Everything’s going to be alright. I promise.”

“Yeah well, you tell someone that you need to talk to them, it gets them concerned. Now I’m wondering if I’m going to have to find somewhere else to stay after this talk,” she muttered.

“No, forget it. I shouldn’t have said anything,” he said as he walked over to his bag, nearly tripping over it, before lifting it up. “I’m going to hit the showers. See you at lunch.”

Bella sighed as she followed him before he could escape, grabbing his arm. “No. Tell me how you would take that coming from my perspective,” she whispered gently. “Just assure me it isn’t you wanting me out and we’ll be fine. Okay?”

He thought for a moment, trying to pace his thoughts. “If it was up to me, you’d never leave me again,” he said, flashing a smile and continued his way to the showers. Now he was scared that he was going to scare her off. As if he was some sort of stalker, or a clingy friend. Ruin their friendship. But he had to take the chance. Otherwise he wasn’t ever going to sleep again. At least not in his own bed.

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