So here is the last chapter to this story… I am finally finishing it! Thank you, all of you, who stuck with this through the end. Let me know what you think please :)
It feels amazing. To have Annie accepting her in a role that she has wanted to be in for most of her adult life is great. Her body can't keep up with her mind's elation because her body is paralyzed with happy surprise, if that even exists. Right as she is about to wrap her arms back around Annie she feels Annie tense up, and start to stumble back, out of her arms reach. Joan quickly pulls Annie back into her and embraces her.
"I forgive you." A whisper is all she can muster as her emotions overwhelm her. Annie relaxes and for a few seconds it is just something resembling a mother hugging her daughter- no emotional complexities or thoughts of boundaries being broken. But the moment cannot last forever for the real world is calling. She hesitantly lets go and Annie steps slowly back.
The young woman looks anywhere but at her. Normally it would irritate her, to see someone almost ignore her presence, but she can see how nervous and shy Annie has suddenly become. Both of them are obviously feeling vulnerable at their new relationship. Annie is the first one to say anything to break the silence.
"So now what?" Joan takes a deep breath and smiles. She is smiling because her thoughts are no longer riddled with guilt or angst over this part of her life, and realizing Annie wants her in her life makes her happy.
"Well… now you have to go debrief."
"But-" Annie starts to interrupt, but she quickly cuts her off, smiling.
"And later we can grab coffee." She watches in amusement as Annie tries to contain a smile. All the negative, self doubting thoughts vanishing in that instant, in seeing Annie's smile, makes her feel lighter and for once in a long time she feels truly content. Annie finally makes solid eye contact with her and with it comes an outreached hand. Joan doesn't waiver as she grabs hold and squeezes it reassuringly. All of this might be new and frighteningly vulnerable, but something tells her she has the strength to endure this step in her life. They only maintain eye contact and the hold for less than a minute before Joan's phone rings and the real world comes crashing in on their parade. Joan struggles to withhold from some cliché motherly gesture like sweeping a stray hair tendril from Annie's face as she takes a second to settle in and transfer back to her CIA duties. Soon that second is over with her job waiting and Annie is already walking towards the door. A fleeting shimmer of fear that this was all in her head makes her call out.
"I will see you at 4 for coffee!" Annie turns back around briefly and laughs softly as she nods. Joan notes that Annie's features have signs of visible relief at her words so she must have been worried it couldn't be real too. Taking a deep breath Joan lets the happiness, hope, and something close to love fill her with strength.