Auggie realized two months later that he still had a planned vacation coming up, and he hoped that he could still go, and maybe Bella could come with him. She didn’t have a doctor’s appointment scheduled, and Danny was busy with building their new house in Fairfax County after getting a good deal on some land there that was surrounded with woods. That project was in his brother’s safe hands and all he and Bella could do was twiddle their thumbs.
They weren’t too happy about being so close to work, but they couldn’t really tell Danny that, seeing as they were supposedly working for the Smithsonian. However, it was a good deal and the area seemed perfect for what he and Bella wanted. Something secluded, private, but with access to all major roads.
He loved how Bella was dealing with her pregnancy. Or not dealing with it. Every time she discovered something new about her pregnancy, she either dealt with it or not. She barely made it to Langley these days, as the smell of coffee set off her nausea and she had to go to the bathroom to throw up. He wasn’t even allowed to make his coffee at home anymore, and if he wanted coffee, he had to go out and drink it at the coffee store. Alone.
The first time this happened, Annie, Joan and Jai were watching and that’s when Annie found out about Bella’s pregnancy. Bella refused to go back inside the DPD that day and he noticed her not breathing when she passed the Starbucks stand. A part of him was happy that she was spending more time at the Smithsonian now so she could make other people’s lives hell instead of his. A ban on coffee, how preposterous!
Joan made her way through the desks in her division, eventually finding her way up to his office to drop off a couple reports for him. “Auggie,” she greeted as she set the folder on his desk.
“Joan!” He greeted her with a smile. “I was planning to come see you today.”
“You were? Any reason I should be concerned?” she asked.
“No, just an inquiry, really,” he said as he spun in his chair to face her, or at least where her voice came from. “Harmless.”
She hummed suspiciously as she studied him. “How is Bella doing?”
“Still making people’s lives hell with her aversion to coffee,” Auggie grinned. “She was cursing me this morning for having to buy yet another bra.”
“An unfortunate necessity when it comes to being pregnant,” she replied, amused.
“Unfortunate?” He smiled widely. “I love the bigger boobs!”
“I’m sure you do, but I can’t imagine that she’s that comfortable with the changes she’s going through for the baby. I know her father is quite – happy,” she said.
“Did you know that morning sickness doesn’t happen in the morning?”
Joan smirked. “It’s only a phrase Auggie.”
“Yeah, we discovered that when she got it the first time during us having some fun in bed, ending the activities before you know,” he grinned. “I felt so bad for her.”
“Yeah, I get the idea. If it helps, I can take her out for a spa day. It may help with some of the symptoms, and her mood swings.”
“Well, this is why I wanted to see you, really,” Auggie said, a little hesitant. “I know that Bella and I have been gone for two months after her mission and I’m grateful that you gave me the time off as well, but can I still take my vacation to Istanbul? I put it in last year, so…”
She hesitated as she thought about it. “And you’re wondering if Bella can go with you? There isn’t much going on that we need the both of you so I don’t see why not but before you plan for her, I suggest that you make sure she’s okay to travel that far first.”
“I have, but I just wasn’t sure if you were still letting me go. And if you’d allow Bella to come with me.”
“Don’t expect anymore time off for a long time after this. Except for Bella, once the baby comes.”
“I know, I know, and we’ll only be gone for a week. I can still do some work if you need me to, I just really wanted to go to the festival,” he said with a smile. “And in all honesty, you don’t have to say yes, but it’s what I’ve been looking forward for quite some time now.”
Joan reassured him it was alright. “No, go. It’s probably going to be the last chance you get to attend for several years. Possibly for the next eighteen. Just be careful.”
He blinked at her. “I hadn’t thought about that. Damn. This could be our last vacation ever!”
“Kids are expensive, and you’re having a new house built. Don’t forget the possibility if you have another down the road. Lots of things to bear in mind. Tell Bella to call me when she’s feeling a little better.”
“I will, thanks, Joan. She’ll be happy to know that we both will be going to Istanbul and thank you for raining on my parade.” He sighed.
“Just a healthy dose of reality. Have fun though!”
Sighing, he looked for the folders that Joan had dropped off and heard her leave. He then dialled Bella’s number to give her the good, or maybe not so good news while he continued to work.
“August! I have this bump now and my pants don’t want to fit anymore! I’m confiscating your sweats!” Bella answered the phone out of breath and irritated.
“Aren’t you supposed to be at the Smithsonian?”
Auggie laughed at that.
“August…if you know what is good for you…So help me God…”
“You still up for that trip to Istanbul?”
Bella was silent on the phone, but her breathing was still heavy as she tried not to snap again. “Can we afford it?”
He thought for a moment and nodded. “One last huzzah before we can’t go anywhere anymore.”
“Except Disney. We must do Disney. I don’t give a shit. We can take out a loan for vacation to do Disney.”
“We will definitely keep doing Disney. Every year. Don’t care if our child is still a baby. The sooner we instill Disney in its mind, the better.”
“Istanbul is on? Joan really okay’d it? I guess I should call the doctor to see if I can get in asap then…”
“Yep, Istanbul is on and Joan asked me to ask you to call her if you’re feeling better,” he smiled as he put the folders away. He could cancel his ticket and buy two tickets, which would be cheaper. The apartment was still good enough. “Just a nice week, enjoying the music, the sun and some good drinks and food… non-alcoholic.”
“Let’s hope I can eat the food. Not like the Chinese we ordered last week.”
“There was nothing wrong with the Chinese we ate last week.”
She huffed in denial. “I could smell it. It was bad food. Just because you have an iron gut, doesn’t mean I want to be poisoned.”
“Fine. And buy yourself some maternity pants, they grow with you, they have these elastic bands.”
There was the sound of her breath hitching. “You did not just say that. I’m going to pretend you did not just say that. I will deal with you when you get home.”
“I just want you to be comfortable, gorgeous,” he smirked. “You’re beautiful, and I want you to be comfortable. There are fashionable maternity clothes out there.”
“Maternity clothes are fucking UGLY! And not comfortable. I’ll just wear yours.”
“Okay, love you. Don’t forget to call Joan.”
“Yeah, yeah. You might want to take a taxi home so that you can go buy more sweatpants,” Bella rushed out before sneezing again. “Fucker!”
“I will buy more sweatpants, I promise. I’ll talk to you later.”
She mumbled out a goodbye before hanging up, frustrated and distracted by having to change yet again.
Auggie let out a breath and hoped that she’d wind down some once they were away. He found her hilarious, but she didn’t like it when he laughed at her. Or complained about coffee. She even locked him in the bathroom because his breath smelled like coffee. And Mark had assured him that his wife had been in denial when she was pregnant with their first kid, but that eventually she’d come around. With more than half of the pregnancy to go, Auggie wished that she’d come round soon.
“How are you feeling?” Auggie asked Bella as they got off the plane. “Do you want to go to the apartment and get some rest or are you feeling good enough to just dump our belongings and walk around some?”
Bella wrapped her hand around his arm as they had stopped off to the side and looked around. Drawing in a careful breath to test her resolve, she nodded to herself. “I think I’ll be okay. As long as we just take it easy and stay close.”
“Of course,” he smiled at her. “There’s a great plaza near the apartment with some tiny restaurants. We could just go there and sit. Watch people.”
“Great. Let’s go get our luggage,” she replied. “Get out of here before I stab a stewardess in the eye with your stick.”
“Easy,” he laughed as he continued to stroll towards the baggage pick up. “Positive, happy thoughts. We’re on vacation.”
“I’ll be positively happy when the bitch acknowledges that you’re being accompanied with someone who is clearly your fiance. On top of that, we stressed as soon as we got on that I needed the aisle seat in case I needed to make the run for the bathroom because I am pregnant so she if she is on our return flight, she can be expected to meet my fist if she tries coming onto you again.”
“They’re just doing their job, Bella,” he gently bumped into her before continuing their way.
“Says the player that I had cancel dates before I moved in,” she muttered.
He smiled. “But I’m engaged to you. You’re pregnant with our baby and you’re beautiful, so why worry? I’m not going to stray. I’d never do that.”
Bella grunted as she knew he was right. He wouldn’t do that to her, especially after all they’d been through and realized about their relationship over the years. There were still moments that crept up on her that set her off more than others, more often recently.
“I am yours, completely yours,” he said again as they turned a corner to go to the luggage area. “I am not going to leave you because there’s no one better than you. The grass isn’t greener and never will be.”
She hummed an acknowledgment that she heard him. Narrowing her eyes as she stared ahead, her fingered tightened on his arm. “So you’re not denying the thought has crossed your mind?”
“Yes, I am denying it because once you used your cute, tiny, little feet to tiptoe back into my life and confiscate my apartment, I haven’t had a stray thought since.”
“Maybe staying at the room would be a better idea?” she voiced her thoughts out loud, her hand slipping from his arm to his back and down to his ass.
“And miss Jan Babou? Hell no.”
Letting out a sigh, Bella rolled her eyes as she kept her hands to herself after that. “You’re sleeping on the couch and I need an alka-seltzer. I ought to go visit the construction site when we get back to check on your brother. We haven’t heard from him.”
“The last thing I heard was that my parents made a sizable donation towards the mortgage that will be on that house, and I told them to take it back. Of course, they refused,” Auggie sighed as he waited for the bags to come out. “I mean, we wouldn’t have agreed to the location if we didn’t have the money to actually live there.”
“Which makes me wonder if someone didn’t try throwing their own input in. The only question is who? We made him promise not to tell anyone the location until we were ready to share with people,” she frowned. When she spotted their bags passing them, she reached out to pull them off the turnstile with a grunt. “Alright. Let’s go.”
“I could easily find out by hacking into his bank account,” Auggie said as he took the backpackers backpack carrying their clothes and the trolley carrying his equipment in his free hand. “Just say the word.”
Bella’s lip curled at the thought, sorely tempted. “I think showing up and catching him surprised would be more fun. That way I can bitch him out when I see what he’s done that we didn’t ask for.”
“Don’t worry, Danny’s a man of his word, what we set out for the house, he’ll make sure it gets there.”
“Still, it doesn’t hurt to check.”
“Fine,” he laughed. “Do whatever your heart desires.”
They took a taxi to the apartment, dropped their stuff and Bella had found the comfortable bed and had already nodded off. He didn’t have the heart to wake her, so he decided to set up his computer and other gadgets that would make it easier the next day to start digitising the future recordings.
He then called a delivery service to deliver them some food in a bit, nothing too spicy for Bella, and crawled onto the bed with her to just relax.
Auggie was glad that Bella seemed to be feeling better the next day, and took her out for breakfast on the plaza with a nice cup of Turkish tea accompanying them. The sun was warming his entire body, he could feel the intensity and combined with that, and the scent coming out of every restaurant that was already open, he found himself in heaven.
There was a father playing with his child a few feet ahead of them, the simple joy in both their voices echoed throughout the area, only to be drowned out by a passing marching band.
“This is nice,” he smiled widely.
Bella finished off the bread she ordered and hummed her agreement. Swallowing, she looked up at him. “It is. With all the traveling I’ve had to do, I’ve never actually been to Turkey. It’s different. I like it.”
“Friendly people, good food, excellent tea… and this weekend, great music.”
“Food is still in the air, but I can say the tea is helping with the residual nausea from everything. If we can bring some back, I’d like to,” she said a bit more excited.
“There’s this tiny Asian market in Georgetown that sells this tea.”
“First stop on the way home from the airport,” Bella stated, leaving no room for argument.
“Sure,” he smiled and took a sip of his tea. “So, the plan is to go to Kasim after breakfast. He’s my buddy and working at the stage where I want some microphones placed. With a little luck, he’ll allow me to plug my recorder into the sound board, too. Four parabolic microphones to really capture it all.”
She stared at him with a frozen smile on her face as she nodded, humming along as he spoke. “Wow…”
“Sorry,” he grinned. “Not a lot of places allow me to do this kind of things and I’m geeking out about it.”
“No, it’s okay. It’s your Disneyland. I get it,” she said and stood to lean across the table to kiss him. “I’m along for the ride.”
“When you can’t see anymore, you find the beauty and wonder in other things, like music. I like listening to the various instruments playing a song and mixing them correctly so that the music becomes a musical orgasm, of sorts,” he smiled at her. “I’ll show you tonight.”
Bella grinned at that and leaned on the table as her eyes hooded over at him suggestively, even if he couldn’t see her. “You are very skilled at creating orgasms.”
“Oh, I know,” he smirked widely. “Just keep your panties on for now, you’ll get yours tonight too.”
“Is that a promise?” she murmured as she looked around, picking up her tea as she was cautious of eavesdroppers on their very intimate conversation. “Because I should warn you that after last time, I’ve been getting a bit more sensitive…”
“Oh, that’s definitely a promise, let’s see if we can break your record of orgasms in one session,” he said playfully, sipping his tea. “I think we can do that.”
Feeling a bit flustered, Bella suddenly was anxious to get the day started. “Um…” she started, clearing her throat. “So, what time does this thing start again?”
“Feeling a little anxious, aren’t we?” He grinned. “Here’s a promise; I’ll wind you up all day, maybe even sneak in a sneaky little touch here and there underneath a table…”
Blinking, her tongue ran over her lip as she stared at him. Breathing a little heavier, she let out a sigh. “Isn’t the concert outdoors?”
“Oh yeah,” he grinned and finished his tea. “Wide out in the open, and we’ll be slap bang in the middle of watching the concert, right in full view of the band.” He got to his feet and put some money on the table before getting his trolley. “So, are you ready to meet Kasim?”
She was in a daze as she looked up at him. “Huh? What? Kasim?”
“My buddy who’s going to set up the mics for me,” he held out his hand for her to take. “Come on, gorgeous, let me show you some more of Istanbul.”
Shaking her head clear, she put her hand in his and shouldered her bag. “This is going to be one wild week, I think. If I didn’t think Algiers was going to be adventurous enough…”
“Algiers was nothing, just camping,” he mused as he started to walk towards the far end of the plaza. “Oh, you mean, your first interaction with a blind person, yeah, that was funny.”
“There was always my own attempt at functioning in your world at home. You had to have thought I was crazy for insisting on it.”
“Yes, but you also surprised me. I mean, no one ever asked me if it was okay if they could try and be in my world with me. Ever. Made me love you even more,” he smiled. “And it was totally unnecessary.”
Pressing herself alongside him as they walked, she kissed his neck. “I felt it was. We aren’t exactly on equal footing out here in most cases, but at home we can be as much as possible. I still want that even when the baby comes. We can sew bells or something onto its’ clothes or tie them around its ankles when he or she starts crawling.”
“And again, you really don’t have to do that, but -”
“We’re getting married, Auggie. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. I don’t want to be any more capable than you are. It’s one of the reasons my parents failed and my mother took off and I never heard from her again.”
“If you take off, I’ll have my ways to find you and bring you back to me, so don’t even think about leaving,” he squeezed her hand and smiled. “How did I get so lucky, though? With you?”
“I think that we’ve just been fucking around, waiting on each other to come to each other’s senses,” she mused. “At least that’s what people keep saying. Or that we’ve been secretly in a relationship all this time and only now announced it only because you knocked me up.”
“Well, I think that’s the truth, though. I mean… even with Helen… I was always searching for something. I was just too blind to see that what I was looking for was in you.” He then snorted. “My last relationship was frowned upon by the CIA, that was awesome.”
“I don’t think they like anyone that isn’t one of theirs,” she admitted. “I mean, look at Joan and Arthur.”
“Whatever we do, or are going to do, I do not want to end up like them.”
Bella frowned as she thought about how he pictured the couple she considered like parents in many ways. “They aren’t that bad,” she said quietly.
“No, they’re great, especially Joan, but they’re not only married to each other, but also to the job. They have this threesome going on – the job always comes first, and that’s not who I want to become. You should come first. Not the job. I can live without the job. Not without you.”
She walked alongside him for a bit, but watched him instead for several paces as she considered what he said. She couldn’t help but agree with him and sighed. “What do we do about them because they won’t let us go all that easily. Mom and Dad would accept it but the job would insist on using whatever resources they know of, wherever possible. We wouldn’t be able to get away McAuley for example.”
“Well, he was right to leave, but yeah, if a certain set of skills or knowledge can only be obtained from someone who used to be with the agency…” Auggie sighed. “Oh crap, we will never get away from them.”
“I’m afraid not. Not at least from Joan and Arthur because as long as you’re with me, they are family,” she grinned.
Auggie shrugged. “We’ll just go in deeper. Once I’m confident that Barber’s not going to screw things up anymore.”
“Barber is more paranoid about screwing things up than you are of him screwing your stuff up,” she grinned. “Give the guy a break. He doesn’t even go into your office when you’re away.”
“Yeah, he does. When we returned after those two months away I found cookie crumbs in my keyboard and I hope it was a blob of jelly on the mouse, other thoughts are just simply disgusting.”
“Did you have someone go through security footage?”
“Of course. It was Barber.”
She was surprised at that. “Wow… I really didn’t expect that,” she said, turning forward and looking around. They were approaching an open square and she was still reeling a bit over their colleague. “I think I may ask Jai or Walker to stick something rank in his desk or something when he’s away.”
“Nah, don’t worry about it, I put some dirty socks from the gym in his drawer before we left,” Auggie smiled and stopped walking. “Now, where’s the big stage?”
Bella steered him to face the direction. “Just this way, straight ahead.”
They continued towards the stage and it didn’t take long for Kasim to call out for him. “Auggie!”
“Hey!” Auggie smiled widely as he lead Bella into the direction of the voice. “How are you doing?”
“Fine, fine, I didn’t think you were coming this year.”
Auggie briefly let go of Bella to hug his friend. “Of course, I wouldn’t miss it. This is my fiancé, Bella. Bella, this is Kasim.”
She smiled tensely as she looked around and reached out to shake the man’s hand. “Pleasure to meet you. He hasn’t shut up about this trip all week,” she shared as she tugged on her shirt uncomfortably.
“Welcome to beautiful Istanbul,” Kasim greeted her with a smile before turning to Auggie. “You have three mics?”
“Four, please? And can you plug in my recorder into the sound board? I am trying something new here.”
“Of course, allow me,” Kasim said, taking the trolley from him. “Sit, sit, trust me, I will make sure the mics will be properly positioned.”
“Thanks, Kasim,” he smiled at him before leading Bella to a nice little brasserie. “Now, if I’m not mistaken, you’re looking around like a scared animal and you want to oversee the entire thing, right?”
“What? No-no…” she stammered, shaking her head. “It’s just, I don’t know. He’s fine. I just had a weird feeling is all. I don’t know. Maybe just the unfamiliarity of everything and this being something new for me?” she suggested.
“Bella, I swear, if you’re looking for a job to do here, please don’t. Let’s enjoy this week,” he found an empty chair for her to sit on. “Relax.”
She let out a breath and sat with a frown. “I wasn’t looking for a job,” she objected. “I don’t know. I never felt that feeling before. It was a weird…flutter? Nerves maybe. You know it’s hard to just relax.”
He pulled another chair close to hers and sat down as he folded his cane. “Flutter? You mean in your stomach?”
Bella scowled at him and sighed. “Yeah?”
“Maybe it’s the baby,” he smiled widely. “According to the book I’ve been listening to at work, around this time you should start to be feeling something.”
She hadn’t begun to read any of the ones she bought yet, having been keeping busy with her NOC, doctors appointments, and visits to the bank for their mortgage on the new house. “You think that’s what this is?” she asked as her hand came to rest on her stomach. Even as she’d been slowly accepting the pregnancy, she couldn’t help but to find herself starting to smile.
“Or gas,” he said with a shrug. “But probably baby.”
The smile fell. “You’re a dick. I think you’ve been hanging out with Jai too much lately.”
“Or maybe he’s been hanging out with me too much, but really, it could very well be the baby,” he gently placed his hand on her growing stomach and caressed it. “Our little nugget.”
“We need to find him a girlfriend. You think Walker would be into him?”
“She has a type,” he muttered. “You can’t tell me that she hasn’t slept with Eyal. Then there’s Mercer…”
Bella grunted. “She hasn’t slept with Eyal. And her type, I’m aware. It’s not just the bad boys. It’s ones with a purpose. You stay away from her.”
“I am a bad boy, what are you doing with me, huh?” He said playfully.
“Yes, and everyone knows that. Including Annie. She adored the Valentine’s Card you sent her. What was on it? ‘Your Valentine is not my Auggie.’ That was funny.”
Bella smirked and leaned into him until her lips were a breath away from his. “Yes well, everyone knows that a way to a man’s heart is through their stomach and she comes into a building that is predominantly men frequently with food. It pisses me off. She doesn’t bring me anything to the loft.”
“But I never take the food because I’m usually behind my desk,” he replied and softly kissed her lips. “I buy my own food. I’ll have something delivered to you next week.”
“Next time she brings something of her sister’s in, you bring it to me. Your nugget wants food.”
“Or I could just call Danielle to ask her if she wants to make something especially for you.”
She scoffed. “Now that would just be plain rude to disturb her like that. We’ll just bother Annie and make her go out of her way to make a special delivery before work.”
Auggie ordered two orange Sherbets and some Pide when a waitress came to take their order and thought for a moment. “We could ask Danielle to bake stuff for our wedding or the baby shower.”
“We’ll see later,” she smiled and kissed him. “Let’s focus on our house for now. I think that will keep us busy until the baby comes.”
“Very busy,” he grinned and answered her kiss, his hand teasingly travelling underneath her stomach, his fingers applying a little bit of pressure before removing his hand again.
She let out a small moan, frowning at the loss of his touch. “You are such a tease,” she whispered to him as she crossed her legs. “I will so get you back for this. Somehow, some way.”
They spent some time walking around the square while the music played and when the band he came for was done, he showed her some more of the city before returning to grab his things and they headed back to the apartment. Bella grew tired more easily, so while she was taking a quick shower to refresh herself and head to bed for a nap, he decided to play with his new toys.
He couldn’t believe how crisp the quality of the audio was with an extra microphone and his recorder and relived the music that he had heard that afternoon through his headphones, the nuances more clear now and it was goosebump inducing, so beautiful. “Bella, are you back?”
“Coming out now,” she answered as she left the bathroom, wrapping a towel around her.
“Here, listen to this,” he smiled as he transferred the music from his earphones to the speakers. “Those musicians are speaking to each other, like I told you, but maybe you can hear it better now. They’re talking about the struggle to stay hopeful after a loss. That there’s always a better way possible.”
She smiled at that. Bella walked towards him and put her arms around his neck, softly nuzzling his skin. “It is beautiful, but unlike you, I only hear the melody and the vocals.”
Auggie let out a snort. “Let me finish this mix and then we’ll see if we can break that record of yours,” he said playfully. “Deal?”
Leaving a kiss to his jaw, she grinned. Pulling away, she headed for the kitchenette to heat some water. “Deal. I’m going to make myself some tea. You want?”
“Yeah, sure,” he said, slightly distracted as he popped his headphones back on and frowned. “That’s strange,” he said, rewinding his tape to make sure he heard it correctly. “This shouldn’t be on there… one of the mics must have picked this up…” He rewound it again, and again.
Bella finished their teas and made her way back over, her eyebrow raised in concern as she set his mug down and brushed her hand over his to get his attention. Taking in his expression, she pulled a chair closer and sat down, waiting for him to figure out what is bothering him. Dropping her hand to his knee, she gave it a squeeze to let him know she was there, waiting before sitting back to drink her tea, just watching silently, worried.
“There’s a voice on this recording,” he explained, rewinding it again, he was unable to make a clear identification, because it should be impossible, but it was the same voice.
“You recognize it?”
“It’s the voice of the man who blinded me.”