Inspired by the song "Heart of Stone" by Iko. I wanted to try a slightly different writing style. It's a bit angsty, FYI. Let me know if you think I should continue.
Annie bites her tongue, because it's all she can do to keep from screaming.
She and Auggie are on the couch, tangled up in each other, still dressed in what they were wearing the night before. After what can only be described as a marathon make-out session, they retired to the couch and talked, for hours, until they fell asleep.
But when Annie woke up, she remembered the file. The file that held the end Arthur and Joan's careers at the Agency. The end that she agreed to help Henry Wilcox begin.
Why the hell did she do that?
Probably because the file included a post-it note stuck to a picture of Arthur and Joan in his office, one that looked ten or fifteen years old. They were kissing passionately, the strap of Joan's emerald green lace bra hanging off her shoulder, and Arthur's hands on her ass.
The note said: There are no secrets in our business. And no one can guarantee the safety of his or her loved ones. If you don't do this, Anderson will play the price.
And that picture was just the tip of the iceberg. There were dedicated mission reports, bank statements, and various legal documents. All of them had Arthur Campbell's name on them, and with every one Annie felt her heart grow colder.
It was Auggie or Joan. Her best friend/soulmate or her…. Her what? Boss was not the right word, there was more to it. Friend? Too simple. Sister? No, she had an older sister already. Mother, no, because Joan was not old enough to be her mother. And Annie still held onto the hope that she would mend fences with her own mom.
Auggie stirred beside her, and Annie put Joan and the file out of her mind. She looks down at him and smiles.
"Hey," he says back, his brown eyes warm. Annie feels like they are piercing her soul, even though she knows that he's just looking straight up, not at her specifically.
"Um, Auggie, I was thinking about what you said. About Joan. I'm going to talk to her today, apologize," Annie says, surprised she can say it without conveying what she is feeling. It does help that Auggie can't read her face.
He smiles, proud of her. "That sounds like a great idea. See you at the office?"
"Yes," she says. He leans in for a kiss before getting up from the couch. She rushes to follow him, handing him his cane.
"Glad we talked," she said, echoing her sentiments from the night before. He nods.
She waits before she hears the cab drive off to collapse onto her bed. She screams into her pillows, sobbing and yelling and sniffling. She doesn't stop until she has to come up for air. When she does, she catches a glimpse of her face in the mirror. She looks like hell.
And she's in hell, too.
An hour later, she has showered, blow-dried her hair, and dressed in a gray tunic, jeans, and riding boots. She slips on her key necklace, wishing she could talk to Simon. Strange as it sounded, she felt like he would be able to give her the right advice if he was here. She still misses him deeply, which confuses her.
She dials a number she hasn't used since Amsterdam, and holds her breath.
"Joan." She lets it out, exhaling, and suddenly, her insides begin to churn.
"Annie." Joan sounds surprised, but pleasantly so. "How are you?"
"Fine," Annie stammers, trying to steady her voice. "I was wondering if I could talk to you."
"Okay, sure. Are you still at home, or on your way to work?"
"Well, then stay there, I'll be over in 20 minutes. I'm on my way to work."
"Isn't Arthur with you?"
"No, he went in a few hours ago for a meeting."
"Oh. Well, I guess I'll see you soon."
"Great." Joan hangs up and Annie's legs give out. Fuck.
When Joan arrives, she lets herself in. She looks perfect, in a red sheath dress with black pumps and her straight blonde hair half-up. She enters Annie's room and sees the young operative sitting on the bed.
Annie jumps up, not sure what to do with her face. She ends up smiling nervously, standing to face Joan.
"Joan, I just wanted to apologize for everything. For always bucking your authority, sometimes going too far, for yelling at you a few weeks ago, and… and for yesterday."
Joan frowns, puzzled. She can't recall anything happening between her and Annie after the ceremony for Jai. In fact, they didn't even see each other after that.
Annie's heart is racing, frantically beating against her chest as if it is trying to fight its way out. For a second, she hopes that it succeeds, just to spare herself from the pain this conversation will most likely lead to.
"Annie, what do you mean?" Now Joan looks worried, and Annie wants to vomit.
"Henry Wilcox asked me to meet him at Vesta last night."
Joan's face relaxes and she sighs. "Oh, that's horrible. What a fucked up thing to do, after everything that's happened." Her face has softened into a warm, almost motherly smile. "I'm so sorry, Annie. Did you go?"
Annie nods. "I did. He had a proposal for me… and at first I refused to even open the file. But he pushed it, and my curiosity got the best of me."
Silence. Neither knows what to say, or how to say it. Annie is scared out of her mind, and Joan is confused and trying to work through the worst things Henry could do in her mind.
"It's compromising," Annie finally forces out, running her hands through her hair. "And… it's about you and Arthur."
Joan's eyes widen and for a second, Annie thinks her boss is going to start yelling. But instead, Joan takes a deep breath and asks, "May I see it?"
Annie nods, relieved that Joan isn't exploding with rage. She pulls it out from under her pillow and hands it to Joan, her eyes apologetic. Then she closes them, hoping that when they open again, everything will be different. She'll be somewhere else – anywhere else.
After a few seconds, Annie opens her eyes, and sees Joan, sitting on the bed, flipping through the file, pain in her eyes.
She looks up at Annie, and Annie's heart cracks, because she can see tears in Joan's grey-blue eyes.
"You said yes, didn't you?"
She nods. It's evident that Joan read the post-it, and knows Annie didn't agree out of spite. Complete silence falls over them as they each consider what Annie's "yes" means.
Joan stands up, wiping away a few tears. She looks at Annie sadly, then puts her hand on Annie's left shoulder.
"I understand, but… I wish it didn't have to be this way."
More cracking. Annie feels like her chest is on fire. She nods, tears gathering in her eyes now. Joan bites her lip and then pulls Annie into a hug, much like the one they shared in this very room the night before Annie left for Russia.
When they let go of each other, Joan looks more hurt than Annie has ever seen anyone. She takes a few steps back, then walks to the doorway. Annie waits for the noise of Joan's car engine before collapsing onto the floor, gasping for breath as she sobs.
Her heart breaks, and tears flow from her eyes like blood from an open wound.
What has she done?