He had found the spare key that Charlie had hidden in a planter, and he was not going to put it back for safety reasons. Who still hid their spare keys outside for people to find? It was ridiculous! Ben helped him to get his stuff in the kitchen, quietly and stealthily, and had switched on the coffee pot because Auggie couldn’t find it.
Ben then left, leaving Auggie to find his way around himself. It was a good thing that Charlie wasn’t big on change, but with him crashing into the dining table caused some empty beer bottles to knock over at 7.45 am and he cursed loudly. So much for a stealthy entrance.
The sound of a rifle being cocked and footsteps coming down the stairs echoed in the air. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll know that you broke into the wrong house Buddy,” Charlie grunted as he started to round the corner into the kitchen.
“Don’t shoot! I come in peace!” Charlie and his guns. He should have known. “The coffee’s already on.”
Blinking at the sight of the boy, the man lowered his gun and cussed. “Son, what the hell are you doing? Why didn’t you call? Someone woulda come picked you up! You didn’t need to give us heart attacks here! I could have blown your head right off! Then what good would that have been for my girl?!”
“Well, you’d have new paint on your walls,” Auggie said casually and pointed around him. “Good to see you again, sir, good to know you haven’t changed,” he said with a big smile on his face.
“See? Oh hell. Bella told me what happened. You okay?” he asked, his eyes squinting on him in scrutiny.
“Am I getting the famous Charlie Swan squinting examination right now?”
The man growled. “August.”
“Oh shit, I’m in trouble,” he said with a grin, taking a step towards the sound and tried to find him as he reached out to him. “I’m fine. We can still go fishing and while I’m here, I’ll make myself useful and upgrade your computer system at work and get you faster internet. Ease you into the 21st century. It’s about time.”
Charlie frowned, his mustache twitching. “I should have known you would have known I was bluffing. I had to get you here somehow. You’re here and that’s what counts. Bella and her friend are still asleep.”
“Good, then we have the coffee pot all to ourselves,” he found Charlie’s arm and found his shoulder to pat him gently.
“And you can fill me in on this nonsense about this engagement bullshit with Jai Wilcox.”
“Yeah, sucks, doesn’t it? I mean, who would have thought? Jai and Bella! I now have to like the guy and it’s not easy.”
Charlie ran his hand over his face and shook his head. “Don’t bullshit me like she tried to. I don’t believe that load of horsecrap and I know it’s a work related story. Tell me I’m wrong. If I am, then you and I have some meddling to do.”
“Why me?” Auggie asked, finding a chair and sat down.
“Because I think you’re a better fit for my daughter and I’d rather -”
“Not you too!” he whined. “Seriously, why does everyone want us to hook up? I mean, she’s gorgeous, and she’s awesome, but we’re better off as friends. Besides, I’m blind. You know how clumsy I can get?”
Charlie stared at him, smiling. “You do know she said something almost identical but both of you deny this so hard. Makes me wonder…”
“Whatever. At least Bella and I know that it’s not going to happen.”
“Because it already has?”
Right. He had forgotten that Charlie was good at sussing things out, or at least manipulating people in telling him what he wanted to hear. “I think the coffee is done. I could do with a cup.”
“I’ll take one too. So, how long have you been sleeping with my daughter now that you’ve avoided that question?”
“Not? We’ve only started hanging out since she came back stateside and back at the Institute. Mostly with Annie and Jai,” he replied, gratefully finding a cup of coffee placed in his right hand. “We’re having a lot of fun though, it’s like the old days just fucking about.”
“And you two live together, don’t you? I understand that you have a one bedroom apartment? So where do you two sleep?”
“She commandeered my apartment, yes,” Auggie laughed. “And we do sleep together in the bed, she’s still the same old octopus as before. It doesn’t mean we have sex.”
Charlie nodded and hummed. “So then you won’t object if I were to set her up with one of my deputies. He actually graduated with Bella. Perhaps you remember him, Michael Newton?”
Auggie cringed. “Surely you could find someone better than him, I still owe Mike a punch to the nose.”
“I’d like for Jacob, as I’m best friends with his father, but last time I tried that Bella dumped a hot pot of coffee in his lap. Maybe he forgave her…”
“Or maybe… Bella might not be into men at all,” Annie said from the stairs, winking at Charlie and made her way over to Auggie to hug him. “Hi!”
“Like I’d believe that one,” Charlie snorted. “I still would like Auggie to give it a try.”
“I could give it a try but Charlie, I love her as my friend, how the hell am I going to love her as a potential lover?” Auggie took a sip of his coffee. “Besides, do you honestly want a blind guy for your daughter?”
“Can you imagine your life without her? Your blindness is not important to a relationship if you’re going to use that as a basis. Bella is bigger than that and you know it. And Blondie, while I have every respect for gays and lesbians, I am certain that my daughter is not and may pretend for work.”
“What if Auggie’s gay and actually Jai’s lover?” Annie winked.
Charlie smiled at that. “Half of that I would believe and be ecstatic about because it would mean that Bella’s story is a total lie and would make her available to go on a date with Auggie tonight!”
“Why am I going on a date with Auggie?” Bella grumbled sleeping as she walked into the kitchen, heading straight for the coffee maker.
“Because he thinks we should be together!” He held up his coffee cup. “Looking for this?”
She turned to look at him confused, blinking. “I’m hallucinating. When did you get here?”
“Fifteen minutes ago, your dad pulled a shotgun at me and he hasn’t shut up about us dating and you and Jai being engaged for work.”
She looked over to her father, then back at Auggie and then to Annie. Blinking her eyes again, she took the mug from Auggie and walked out of the room. “I’m too hungover for this shit. I’m going back to bed. Tell him whatever the fuck you want.”
“I might have to if he doesn’t drop the subject because it’s getting a little bit annoying.”
“Not my problem!” she called back.
Auggie sighed. “Annie?”
“It’s really not her problem, she said she didn’t care last night so, good luck,” she grinned, taking her coffee out of the kitchen.
Crossing his arms as he leaned on the table, Charlie smiled at the younger man. “So…you gonna tell me what this is all about? I know you can’t tell me about work, but you can tell me the truth about my daughter’s relationships.”
“Joan made us do it,” Auggie said after a moment of silence.
“And I will have it out with her. Now are you and my daughter together or not? And this thing with Jai? Work related?”
“Jai was winging it during a work thing, pissed Bella off but she didn’t have a choice but to go along with it and now has to stick with it for other work things that are connected to the other work thing,” he explained. “And Bella and I have been together for a couple of months now, nearly a year, I think.”
Charlie nodded, pleased. “Great. Just two more questions then you can do what you came here to do and babysit me while Blondie and Bella go off and do their work stuff.”
“I’m not going to like the questions, am I?”
“Maybe, maybe not. First, when are you going to propose to my daughter, not this fake work bullshit. And when am I going to have some grandbabies to spoil?”
Auggie swallowed hard. “Well, for me to propose to your daughter, I’d have to ask you for permission first.”
“Charlie, you’re known as a hardass, why aren’t you being more hardassy about this?” Auggie whined.
“I like you and Bella needs to get out of this field. I’m not stupid, I know where it’s brought Joan and Arthur. I’ve known them both for years and as much as I respect the both of them, I don’t want her to be like them in twenty years married to her work. She needs her family and she forgets that. You remind her of it. She smiles when she talks to you, of you. Really smiles.”
Auggie slowly nodded. “We’ve talked about this, of course. We plan on taking a sabbatical once this particular job is done and dusted, just to figure things out, see what we want to do, have fun, explore the world without looking through work tinted glasses. For her sake, I hope it’s sooner than later. For my own sake, I wish it’s sooner than later because frankly, this job has cost me too much and it’s not just my sight. We both hate that our job has to come first, you know… it just…” he sighed as he ran a hand through his hair. “As for your grandchildren… not for a while.”
“I had to ask. Still doesn’t hurt to plant that seed though,” he laughed. “How long do you think this trip will run?”
“Ah, well, this week will be spent gathering intel, canvassing, that sort of thing and then we get down to the hard part. Might take a month. I really hope it won’t be more than that, mostly for Bella’s own sanity.”
Charlie sighed and pulled his coffee across the table. “It’s the Cullens, isn’t it? I always felt that family would haunt her.”
“I can’t tell you that, Charlie, but it’s kinda suspicious, isn’t it? Your daughter coming back around the same time they come back to town?”
“I know. I know. I figured as much. Would it help if you had one of our units wired up for when we patrol past their drive? We do make trips up there periodically,” he shared. “I can’t get you inside, but gives you something.”
“Oh, yeah, that would be great and it’d save me some time as well, I would have hacked you anyway,” he said with a grin. “And they’re still refurbishing. One of our operatives is part of the crew and he’s going to help us out with inside. And for that to work, you need to call your internet provider and have them give you fast internet asap,” he added playfully. “Or you know, I could do it illegally.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Charlie agreed. “Just do what you need. You can call in my name.”
“Okay, good. Now, if you’d excuse me, you’re off sick today with a stomach bug and I’m going to crash for a couple of hours.”
“You remember where Bella’s room is. Don’t be loud. You’re sharing with Blondie.”
Auggie rolled his eyes at Charlie as he got up. “Don’t worry, if your daughter and I want to have some private time, we’ll leave the house entirely because the walls are too thin.”
“Thanks for the gesture. Plenty of woods in the back. Just go deep enough, don’t break your neck and no one will hear you…hopefully and especially me.”
“D’aww, all this talk about me and Bella hooking up and you’re squeamish about sex. Good to know.” Auggie laughed as he found the stairs and started to climb them.
“Just because I know it’s happening doesn’t mean I need to hear it! All I want are the grandbabies as the result!”
He felt Annie’s familiar hand take him by the arm and lead him to Bella’s room. “I’m going into town. Get some bagels or whatever.”
“Okay, thanks,” Auggie smiled as he felt for the bunk bed. “She on the bottom?”
“Yeah, she zonked out last night.”
“How much did she drink?” he questioned, concerned as he sat beside her.
“At least half a bottle,” Annie replied and squeezed Auggie’s shoulder. “It’s really good you’re here, Auggie. Take a nap, we’ll chat later.”
He gave her something of a nod before sliding over closer. Feeling over Bella’s body, he moved her hair away from her face, leaning down to kiss her before pushing his shoes off to join her. He could hear Annie leave the room as he managed to maneuver himself onto the bed and pulled Bella closer before nodding off in a light sleep himself.
He woke up when Bella rolled into him, her elbow colliding with the side of his head. “Ow, careful, the bed is small, you know,” he said with a groan and rubbed his head.
Bella sat up, her eyes blurry with sleep, and look around. “The hell? My dad will find us like this…” She whispered, moving to get out of bed.
He wasn’t letting go of her and pulled her back. “Yeah, you see, the thing is… he knows. There’s no fooling him and no matter how hard I tried to evade him, he just knew. It was like the Spanish Inquisition, but then with more humor and evasive maneuvers that were for naught.”
She fell back until her head rested on his chest. Sighing, she reached for his hand. “That must have been fun. At least we don’t have to lie to him about that. How did Joan take her loss?”
“Her ego was slightly dented, but she drove me to the airport anyway. Your dad knows more than he lets on, you know. He knows you’re here for a job and that that job involves the Cullens. I swear, I didn’t say anything,” he ran his fingers over her back. “And that he’s glad that I’m here so that you’ll be slightly happier and safer.”
Bella rolled over so the she could lay along side him. As her fingers toyed with his shirt, she was quiet for a minute, thinking. “After this trip, I don’t want to come back, I think. He can come visit wherever. Maybe do Disney World.”
“All of the Disney Worlds? Get all kinds of happy thrown at us?”
“Collect Goofy hats and Mickey ears. Why not?” She teased.
“Deal,” he said with a big grin. “We’ll bring back a princess dress for Jai.” He softly kissed her and ran his hand through her hair. “How’s your head?”
“Still hard. How’s yours?” Bella asked back, turning enough to look up at him. “What are your plans with Dad today? And where is Annie?”
“Well, since I wanted to take a nap and find space for my stuff, I told your dad that he has a stomach bug so he’s downstairs. Annie’s out for bagels, doing some exploration while she’s at it. Today will be a slow day.”
She shifted until she was back fully on the bed with him. “She’ll be disappointed that the bagels here suck. I’m surprised my dad let you come up here and not make you sleep on the couch.”
“He said, and I quote, ‘You remember where Bella’s room is. Don’t be loud. You’re sharing with Blondie,’ so I guess we’re safe,” he sighed and laughed. “Hey, since I gave you my coffee this morning, shall we go downstairs to make a fresh pot?”
Sighing, she shrugged. “Sure. Why not? Then maybe we could find out his real reason for wanting you here.”
“He wanted to use me to get between you and Jai – if the Jai thing wasn’t a work related thing and he believed it was.”
“Figured as much,” Bella snorted and sat up. “Now he can breathe easy.”
“Oh, I hope so. Your dad can be quite scary when he wants to be,” he laughed as he reached with his hand above his head as he got up from the bed, careful not to bump his head against the bed above them. After they both got off the bed, they made their way downstairs where Charlie had already made a new pot of coffee and Auggie could smell fried eggs and bacon.
“So, the next time you two lie to me about your relationship status, I will shoot you,” Charlie stated sternly. “No matter if you’re my daughter. I will shoot you. Your work has nothing to do with your private stuff, you hear me?”
“Good morning to you too, Dad,” Bella muttered as she shuffled to the counter to plate up for her and Auggie. It wasn’t as if she’d been happy about not being able to share things with her father. There had been many instances over the years where she wanted her father to come to wherever she was and she’d spill her guts and he’d tell her that everything would be okay. Or that he’d take care of it. At least he was happy about Auggie. Greasy eggs and bacon smelled so good right now.
“Sue’s bringing over her chicken soup and lasagna for dinner tonight. She heard about the stomach bug I’m supposedly ailing of. Nice woman, that Sue. She’s very strong and has two lovely kids. You remember Seth and Leah, don’t you, Bells?”
“Sounds great. You dating her too, Dad?” Bella questioned as she sat beside Auggie and placed a plate with his food in front of him.
“Oh, I don’t think you can call it dating at my age, Bella,” Charlie said, his face slightly reddening. “She’s great company.”
“He’s blushing,” Auggie stated. “No doubt about it.”
She smirked as she stared her father down.”Yep. He’s sleeping with his dead friend’s wife. Interesting…”
“I’m not blushing, how do you know that, Auggie?”
“You do realize that what you just said is double, right? First denial, then admittance?” He countered with a smile on his face, folding his sandwich and took a bite. “We definitely have to meet her, to see if she’s suitable for you. Otherwise we might have to do something.”
“I think Ms. Peters at the library has had her eye on you for years.””
“Ms. Peters smells of old socks and cats,” Charlie said as he furrowed his brow. “Sue knows all about fish. It’s amazing. She even goes fishing with me and Billy if the weather’s not too bad.”
Auggie smirked. “I’ll definitely have to do a background check on her. She sounds too good to be true!”
“No kidding. I’ll have to let Joan and Arthur know about this. Who knew trout was a criteria for getting laid?” She questioned rhetorically.
“She and I haven’t – she – no.” Charlie spluttered as he poured them some coffee. “We simply enjoy each other’s company, so far without that.”
Bella feigned a pout and rested her chin on her boyfriend’s shoulder. “That’s a shame because it would have been nice to have a baby brother or sister to spoil some.”
Charlie huffed. “We’re too old for that, Bells. Besides, it’s time for the younger generation to make the older generation grandparents,” he winked. “When are you going to give me one?”
She snorted a laugh. “Not anytime soon, I assure you of that. Work kinda gets in the way of that kind of thing Dad. Not that I wouldn’t like one someday, there’s too much going on to have to worry about a kid too.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s what he said too,” Charlie took a sip of his coffee. “But hey, can’t blame a father from hoping, right?”
“Our immediate future plans after this job is to visit all the Disney parks in the world,” Auggie grinned as he caressed Bella’s back. “But back to you and Sue. I wasn’t kidding on the background check.”
Bella was still stuck on her father talking to Auggie about children with her as she stared across the table. “Rewind here… When was this? Auggie and I are barely finding our feet together with work trying to complicate things and you’re wanting to make us parents?”
“I had him cornered this morning. Might as well ask everything I want,” Charlie shrugged.
“He’s not fucking Santa Claus, Charlie!” She argued. “It was out of line!”
“Hey,” Auggie said as he put his arm around her and pulled her into his lap. “It’s okay. Your dad doesn’t see you that often and he’s excited, happy, for you. That’s all.”
Bella shook her head and pulled away. “So are you going to tell me you like his ridiculous suggestion despite everything going on?”
“We haven’t talked about having kids yet and I told him that we have other things to do first. Like having fun. Live.”
She blinked as she caught much more of what he said and processed it before turning to her father. “Exactly. We haven’t talked about the future at all. Who’s to say this doesn’t work with us and we’re better as friends, what? Five years down the road? Don’t make decisions for us when we haven’t even crossed certain bridges ourselves.”
“You need to forgive your old father for being happy to see his little girl finally in a happy relationship with the guy she brought over so many times. And yes, Auggie’s right, I’m simply very excited and he was very diplomatic in answering every question that I had. You don’t have to worry about anything. I’m just very happy for you.”
“We were only friends then,” she growled. “Don’t pull this shit again because taking decisions about my life away from me like that just makes no better than they are,” she hissed and pointed out the window.
“I’m not making decisions for you, Bella.”
“Were you not trying to coerce grandchildren?”
“I merely said it would be nice. I didn’t say you should have them now.”
“Sounded like a strongly advised suggestion when it’s mentioned to both people in the relationship, Charlie.”
Charlie sighed exasperated and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m going to clear out the office so Auggie can settle in with his things there,” he mumbled as he got up and headed to the small area in defeat.
“Make sure you don’t pass that bug. Who knows? Maybe Leah will get knocked up,” she quipped, turning to her food. “Won’t be me.”
Auggie pushed Bella’s hair aside and softly kissed her neck as she was still in his lap. He could feel how she was a big bundle of nerves and needed to relax. “How about we go for a walk in the woods later?”
She let out a sigh and nodded. “Sure. Anything away from him for awhile,” she murmured, turning to him. “You didn’t come out here for this.”
“I came out here for you. To make sure that you get through all of this in one piece and with only minor dents in your armor. And apparently to make sure that your dad stays safe throughout all of this as well because he doesn’t think Annie’s cut out for bodyguard duty,” he put his forehead against hers and smiled. “I would do anything for you, even chew off my legs if I have to. Dealing with your father’s enthusiasm is only a minor thing.”
Bella smiled back at him, her eyes looking into “his. “I do love you,” she said softly. “But he already has us having kids when we just admitted to being together and it hasn’t even been a full year. It’s a little…”
“Too much, I know,” he smiled. “But not everyone sees it that way, you know. They think we’ve been dating for years and years. Best thing is just to ignore them and focus on us. Our speed.”
“And the only way I’d voluntarily go to the doctor to take out my IUD is only if I had a ring on my finger,” she joked, kissing him. “So Dad has a long time to wait.”
“Careful, don’t say that out loud too much because he might run to the nearest candy machine and get you a ring from those surprise thingies,” Auggie snorted.
“Should I specify a diamond then?” Bella teased. “You know that doesn’t interest me.”
“Could pay for a ring tattoo for you,” he mused. “No fuss with jewelry because you get stuck anyway or hurt yourself. Or me.”
She huffed. “So I get stabbed repeatedly with a needle. I’m still trying to find the win here. Diamonds and needles don’t sound that great.”
“I guess I’ll have to get creative when the time’s right.”
Bella sat back and looked at him surprised. “You’re serious?” She asked, ignoring the sound of the front door opening and closing as Charlie left the house. “You’re thinking about this?”
“No,” Auggie huffed. “That’s future talk. Our nearest future is finishing this job and go to Disney parks.”
Her eyes flickered over his face for a minute as she digested what he told her. Leaning in to kiss him heavily, she drew in a breath before breaking apart. “Disney as soon as this whole assignment is over,” she agreed.
“Yes, that’s as far as we’ll go when looking into the future. Baby steps.” Of course, he already knew that one day he wanted to ask her to marry him, it was simply a matter of the right time and it definitely wasn’t the right time. “Now, am I right in assuming that your dad left the house? Where is he?”
“Hm, either on his way to the station or the reservation to see Billy. We’ll worry about stalking him a little later. I think a little distance to cool off might be a good idea today,” she murmured as she tucked her head into his neck.
“Wanna go to bed and do some more sleeping?”
Bella groaned and shook her head. “I slept enough but you probably should get more rest from your flight.”
“Nah, I’m fine,” he smiled and ran his finger over her back. “Get dressed, let’s go for a walk.”
“I need to shower,” she muttered before grinning against him, kissing his neck. “Care to join me?”
“Sure,” he laughed before he heard his phone go off. “It’s Annie. I’ll join you in a bit, I suppose.” He felt how Bella reluctantly left his lap and he picked up the phone. “Walker, what’s going on?”
“Agent Doucheface recognized me while he was with the Cullen girl and didn’t hide it. She saw that and he introduced me as an old friend of his. I mean, seriously? He took the last bagels too!”
“Yeah well, the bagels aren’t that great anyway. And this complicates things,” Auggie said as he rubbed his eyes. “You were supposed to be Bella’s friend, anonymous – a nobody. Fucking FBI.”
“We could play it on coincidences, I mean, he did say I work for the Smithsonian so that is still in place,” Annie’s voice sounded. “I’m on my way back. We need to talk. We all need to talk because I found out some information.”
“Fine,” Auggie sighed. “See you in a bit.” He hadn’t heard Bella go up the stairs as he was on the phone, probably waiting for him as he disconnected the call. “I uh, I better set up my stuff.”
“Walker and Whitlock are cockblockers,” she announced from the doorway. “We should set them up with each other when this is over.”
“Yep. Now, where’s my stuff?”
“Some bags are in the living room, others upstairs. You want me to get anything?”
“Nope, I got it,” he said as he pocketed his phone and got up from the chair. “Go take your shower, hot stuff. I’m going to set up and make do with your dad’s internet connection. Oh, he did say that I could call the provider so I might do that later.”
“Wow…he really does want you in the family,” she grinned. “I’ll be back down shortly, sexy.”
He carefully moved around in the living room until he found his two laptops with the accessories he needed and then went to the office space. He was grateful for Charlie to have cleared the pah and the desk so that Auggie had all the space he needed. He just needed to remember that the desk had corners and that it still hurt to bump into one. He was just glad that he didn’t walk straight into it but more skimmed it with his leg.
If he’d been smart, he would have used his cane to walk around but to be fair, Charlie didn’t change much in his house and Auggie was quite familiar after having spent quite some time as a seeing person in the house. The minor bumps in the road – so to speak – were expected and he’d learn eventually.
He’d just finished setting up and was starting to figure out what Charlie’s provider was – it would have been nice if he’d told him – when Annie came back inside the house and Bella down the stairs. “Hey, perfect timing!”
“Yeah well, you’re not going to like what I have to say so grab a beer,” Annie muttered as she pulled chairs into the office.