My latest endeavor: Based upon the 1982 version of the movie Annie, this takes place right after Annie is kidnapped by her 'parents' and subsequently rescued. It will, for all intents and purposes, be a multi-chapter work.
Disclaimer: I do not own 'Annie', nor profit from the writing of this fic.
Chapter 1: Orphans Are Boys!
"You didn't say you wanted a boy, sir. You just said an orphan…so I got a girl!"
Oliver Warbucks sat across the desk in his study from the New York chief of police and chewed at the end of his cigar, which he had specially imported from Cuba. Or rather -he mused- Grace did, just as she maintained all other aspects of his estate. It had been a long, emotionally taxing evening, and as Oliver leaned forward to dip the tip of the Montecristo into his brandy glass, he allowed himself to wonder just when exactly his private secretary had gone from 'Miss Farrell' to 'Grace' in his mind.
The minute hand on the clock upon the mantle emitted a steady tick as slowly the remainder of the evening had waned into the wee hours of the night in the aftermath of the day's events. The huge manor -though usually silent at this hour save for the wandering patrols of his bodyguards- was lit to high heaven and still bustling with activity. Oliver heard the click of heels outside the study door and found his attention immediately drawn to the sound; he felt his face grow warm as Grace slipped through the door and knew the burning heat at the tips of his ears had nothing to do with the decanter of brandy at his right hand. Clearing his throat, he sat up a little straighter as Grace turned to close the door behind her. She bowed her head, eyes downcast, quietly crossing the study to take her usual chair at the far corner of his desk as the police chief continued his dictation.
Oliver found himself staring, and quickly averted his focus to the portly man in front of him. Though Grace had been very much by his side throughout most of the evening's events, Oliver had barely spoken with her -really spoken- since she had pressed the Tiffany's box containing Annie's engraved locket into his palm the day before. A strange tightness had settled over his heart when Annie had rejected him, and in that moment Oliver had done merely what he did best: he had settled into the business of finding Annie's parents.
The rest of the day had passed in a blur; Oliver called for Grace and barked orders at every attendant within shouting range, ringing up J. Edgar Hoover, the chief of police, Walter Winchell, and even William Randolph to aid in spreading the word in the search for Annie's parents. In fact, Oliver had expended so much energy in an effort to dull the painful tugging of his newfound heartstrings that he had neglected to consider how this new turn of events would affect his secretary. It was Grace, after all, who had first convinced Oliver to house the orphan, though Oliver had wanted to exchange Annie for a boy. Why, it was Grace who had put the idea into his head when she'd asked if they could keep her permanently. Had he taken the opportunity to inquire as to her state of being throughout the ordeal, he would have realized that for Grace, these last forty-eight hours had been a special kind of hell…
Grace Farrell beamed as the Tiffany's clerk wrapped her purchase, unaware of the stares gained by her radiance. She was positively glowing, and her heart seemed to swell with happiness: Oliver was going to adopt Annie!
Grace carefully tucked Annie's new locket into her breast pocket, patting it for good measure as the manager wished her well. An attendant held open the door for her, and Grace nearly forgot to fasten her hat pin in her excitement. She thanked the man, gushing, and took The Asp's proffered hand, allowing him to help her into the Duesenberg from his vigilant and awaiting place upon the sidewalk.
When she'd returned, Grace had pressed the Tiffany's box into his palm, and Oliver had been so nervous. Annie was summoned from her karate lesson and Grace had excused herself, leaving Oliver and the young girl alone. But something was wrong. Oliver stood and walked onto the veranda, and Annie followed. Soon they returned, and when Oliver bellowed her name Grace had somehow known it wasn't a call to celebrate the happy news. He wanted the chief of police, and as Grace took the stairs two at a time, slipping deftly into secretary mode, her heart was already beginning to break.
The following morning, Grace had stood looking out from the balcony with a growing sense of despair. News of the search for Annie's parents had spread far and wide thanks to a special evening slot on Burt Healy's Radio Hour, and there was madness at the front gate.
"We've got to get her out of here, Mr. Warbucks! We can't expose her to this!" Grace's plea had turned to temporary relief when Oliver had nodded and asked her to prepare the autocopter. He'd whisked Annie away for a day at the White House, and as the autocopter pushed away from the ground and began its steady ascent, Grace found herself wishing she could go along, and never return.
…She'd interviewed 865 couples over the course of the day, and none of them had known about the other half of Annie's locket.
Grace had never realized how many dishonest people there were in New York.
Now, late into the night -or, rather, very early in the morning- Grace sat across from Oliver in his study as the chief of police finished his dictation and toasted the night's heroic rescue, draining the last of his snifter in one gulp. Grace looked up from beneath the soft wisps of her hair and found herself caught up in Oliver's stoic gaze. She blushed, and then pointedly cleared her throat, causing Oliver to start. His chin very nearly slipped from his palm and -effectively pulled from his reverie- he stood to shake hands with the Chief and thank him for the concerted effort of his officers. Grace folded and unfolded her hands in her lap as Oliver walked the man to the door of his study, whereupon Punjab waited to see him out. Oliver thanked the Chief a final time and, after a brief farewell, quietly closed the study door after them.
They were alone.
The study was quiet save for the same steady ticking of the clock, and Oliver moved further into his study, giving pause near Grace and seeming to wager internally before moving to the other side of his desk. The silence seemed to stretch between them as another minute ticked by and neither spoke.
"You're all wet."
Grace jumped as Oliver spoke, though his tone was warm. He seemed merely inquisitive, and she blushed deeply and bowed her head as she realized that her blouse did indeed cling damply to her in several spots.
"I bathed Annie myself, sir." She glanced at him briefly, though her gaze never quite met his own, "I gave Mrs. Greer the night off, I...I just couldn't seem to part from her."
Oliver seemed to absorb this, and nodded, his gaze traveling over her timid expression. The silence stretched between them again, and Oliver watched as emotion seemed to slowly overcome Grace and her eyes grew bright with unshed tears. He understood her fear: they had very nearly lost Annie that night. A moment passed; the last of its kind as Oliver resolved for good to do away with his vociferous, rigid front and admit his feelings.
"Grace?" he finally spoke, and Grace's gaze jerked up to stare at him hesitantly.
Oliver reached across his desk to still the worrisome movement of Grace's hands as she folded and unfolded them upon her lap.
"Call me Oliver."
The night was dark and warm. A gentle breeze stirred the lilac trees, and the fragrance from their carmine purple blossoms lent a sweet scent to the air. Oliver stood with Grace on the terrace and offered her a tender smile, reaching carefully to brush the backs of his fingers along the line of her jaw. Grace shivered, and Oliver pulled her close, allowing his gaze to drift out over the sweeping garden below as she laid her head against his shoulder. A dim rustle signaled Punjab's arrival -having found the study no longer occupied- as he took his place of watchful duty near the double doors leading to the grand hall. Grace sighed softly, so softly that the sound was almost lost amidst the distant hum of cicadas in the trees, and after a moment, Oliver spoke:
"She thinks of you as a mother, you know."
"Oliver?" Her voice was questioning, and he could hear the hope suppressed beneath her tone.
"Annie," Oliver continued, "You've been like a mother to the girl. Surely you've noticed the…attachment."
Grace bowed her head, a shy but pleased smile tugging at her mouth.
"Yes," she admitted softly. Deep down in her heart of hearts, a part of her Grace knew was selfish wanted very badly to be Annie's mother. She glanced at Oliver carefully. He gazed down at her, his brow furrowed, and Grace thought that he might speak.
"Tonight, at the bridge…" Oliver's expression remained thoughtful, "I thought we'd lost her."
Grace's eyes grew suddenly bright and she bit her lip.
"It made me realize," Oliver became aware that he had taken Grace's hands in his own, and he plowed on seriously, searching for the right words, "That I…don't want to lose you…I-Don't cry!" he implored futilely, consternation leaking into his tone as, to his great bewilderment, Grace's bright eyes gave way to tears and she began to cry in earnest.
"I'm sorry, sir-"
"Oliver," Grace corrected.
Tenderly, Oliver reached forward to cup her cheek in his palm.
"You care very much for her, don't you?" he asked softly.
Grace nodded, laying her hand over Oliver's own upon her cheek. She cast her glance downward, summoning the courage to look up and meet Oliver's gaze, her expression earnest.
"And for you," she admitted softly.
Oliver's dark eyes searched Grace's own cerulean gaze in the shifting moonlight that filtered between the gently swaying trees. With great care and adoration he leaned forward and placed his lips against her own. He smiled as he pulled away, his fingers gently brushing at a stray wave of her hair.
"I love you, Grace," Oliver confessed austerely.
Grace's voice was tender, and infinitely shy as she replied:
"I love you too, Oliver."