A/N: I think this will be the end for this one. Ideally, I'd love to write the story of these two in Istanbul, but I don't see that happening in the very near future unless I have a huge burst of inspiration. Either way, thanks for continuing to read this one, even though it's taken a while to get to the end.


Chapter 22

"I can't believe how tall Katia has gotten," Annie sighed as she stowed their suitcases in the front closet.

"They both seemed so grown up," Auggie agreed as he selected vinyl for the turntable.

"They did, and we were there less than six months ago!" She turned toward him. "We're going to miss a lot, aren't we?"

"We are, but we'd also be missing that if we stayed in DC."

"Except this time we'll be half a world away."

"Or more," Auggie pointed out.

"Not helping," she pouted as she closed up the closet and crossed the room to join him.

"Two years will go by fast." That was the offer the two of them had decided they would give the Agency.

"Yeah."

His phone buzzed, turning his attention away from the jazz just now emanating from the speakers whose installation he had carefully supervised. He tapped the phone's screen before placing it near his ear to hear the text. "It's Teo. Joan wants us to come over for brunch tomorrow."

"What time?" Annie asked as she folded herself into a pretzel-like ball on the couch.

"Noon. We can sleep in."

"Okay."

Auggie sent their affirmative reply before he moved toward the bar. "White or red?"

"Surprise me."

"Tequila it is."

She stretched herself out on the cushions and let him bring the shot to her. He sat beside her as she clinked her salt shot glass against his. "To whatever this is about to be."

"An adventure?"

Annie's brow crinkled. "We don't fare so well on adventures, Babe."

"Should we refer to it as 'an opportunity' then?"

"You prefer that to calling it our last hurrah?"

His free hand found her legs and pulled them onto his lap. "It doesn't have to be that if you don't want it to be."

"But it will be yours." He didn't answer, so she pressed. "Won't it?"

He nodded, slowly at first, then more resolutely. "Yeah. It will."

Annie sighed. "You'll have my back out there in the meantime?"

"Always. Even after I'm gone," he vowed.

"Joan and Arthur have to have secrets now. More secrets than before."

"Hey," he rubbed her calf. "Let's just live these next few years before we worry too much about things we potentially can't tell each other two years or more in the future."

She folded her legs beneath her bum and leaned against his chest. "I don't like not being on your team."

"Understandable, but remember when we didn't make plans for more than two days in advance? In some ways this is better, right?"

"Yeah. Of course. This is definitely better."

He contemplated a second shot of tequila but decided against it. "We should go to bed."

"In our own bed in our own house."

"Kind of crazy."

"Extremely." She placed her hand on his face. "I only ever wanted this with you."

"I didn't know I could even have it until there was you."

She rolled her eyes. "You're trying to get me naked."

He raised an eyebrow. "Is it working?"

"Yes."


"Should we have brought something?" Auggie asked as they stood on Joan and Aruthr's doorstep early in the next afternoon.

"Yes, but we didn't have anything at the house, and we didn't get up in time to stop on the way here. And I still feel weird asking Tommy to pick up things on his way over to pick us up," Annie rationalized.

"He would, though."

"I know he would. But we didn't ask, so too late now." She reached forward and rang the bell.

Teo answered a few moments later, baby Mac perched securely in his arms. "Hello my friends. Come in."

"This guy is so big," Annie exclaimed as she lightly squeezed the baby's foot.

"He has recently discovered guacamole. No avocado in a 10 mile radius is safe."

"He's got good taste," quipped Auggie as he crossed the threshold. "It's good to see you, Teo."

Teo reached forward to clap his friend's shoulder. "And you, Auggie. Even now it's too long between our meetings, and you haven't even taken your new post yet." Auggie nodded as the color drained a bit from Annie's face. Teo realized this wasn't the correct way to start the afternoon and quickly changed the subject. "Joan's got things set out in the sunroom, if you'll follow me."

They followed Teo through the house to where Joan and Arthur waited on the screened in porch. Joan hugged the approaching couple.

"Welcome Home, you two! How was the wedding?"

Auggie found his chair after shaking Arthur's hand. "It was good. Max and Sam seem very happy." They'd decided upon this as their united front on any questions regarding the family.

"The ceremony and the reception were beautiful." Annie agreed as she placed her hand on Auggie's shoulder. "And we danced all night."

Joan raised her eyebrows and bit her lip, shooting an uncertain look in Auggie's direction.

Annie laughed. "I know. I couldn't believe it myself."

Auggie twisted in his seat to face her, a playful scowl directed toward Annie and then back to Joan. "I can dance."

The women locked eyes and laughed, but Joan coughed, forcing composure. "I know that you can. Quite well as I recall."

"Thanks," Auggie sighed as Arthur encouraged them all to take their seats.

Teo had situated Mac in the pack 'n play beside the table before serving mimosas. He made Auggie's with Patron rather than champagne, though. Auggie sniffed his glass before taking a sip.

"Good call on the tequila," he confirmed with a nod toward his friend.

"I thought you'd enjoy that as a memento from the old days."

"Definitely. Speaking of which, did Joan tell you I ran into Charlie Schinderman?"

"We didn't discuss the specifics, just that you'd accepted the job."

"Well, Charlie was our contact at the facility there. He seems good."

Teo cleared his throat. "I talked to Tony a few weeks ago about clearing up that whole warlord terrorist thing with State. They had some questions. Obviously."

Auggie smiled. "Obviously. How is Tony?"

"Good. Really good, actually."

"I've been meaning to call him." He turned toward Annie. "I need to make a list or something."

Her hand rested on his shoulder, reassuringly. "We'll make sure we catch up with everyone we need to before we go."

"How did your sister take the news?" Joan asked.

"As well as possible, I think." Annie shrugged a little hopeless gesture. "I'm sure she keeps her expectations tempered where it comes to me, or us."

"It's good that she knows what to expect this time." Joan's voice took an encouraging tone.

"We told my family, too," Auggie revealed. "We felt this was a big enough move that they needed to know. All of them." He shook his head. "All those times before, and no one knew. Not except for Brendan and Dana and not until after Iraq."

"This is considerably different," Arthur agreed. "It's a little more difficult to reconcile without it being a military posting."

"Yeah. It was always pretty easy to blame the Army. That and I only saw my parents every few years."

"Did they have any idea?" Teo asked.

"Yeah. Of course. How could they not? Especially with this one being so amazing all the time." He touched Annie's leg beside him. "I think she tipped them off."

"But they weren't surprised," Annie confirmed.

"No," Auggie agreed. "I've always been able to keep a secret."

"They look for that, you know? In recruits." Arthur added, a sly smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

"So that's what put me over the top," mused Auggie.

"Must have been," Joan agreed with a grin across the table to Annie. "It's not like you had any other desirable skills."

Auggie nodded before he explained their family time a bit further. "We told them the whole thing rather than just billing it as a State posting. We thought about telling them that and just leaving it, but the truth appealed to both of us."

"And that's your prerogative." Joan confirmed.

"Yeah. It is, but does this get any easier?" he asked, turning from his left to right, as though searching for answers from the others present.

Arthur also surveyed those at the table before he spoke. "The older you get, the smaller your inner circle becomes. You keep the important people close and the others matter less over time. But the people you hold close, you want to give them the world."

Joan stared across at the younger couple. She sighed a little before she spoke. "I've wanted to be able to give you an opportunity like this for a long time, Auggie. And you deserve a posting of this magnitude, Annie. Of course Berlin was the obvious choice, but I pushed for Istanbul. You two are part of our circle, and while this makes it smaller for a bit, we can't wait until you'll come back again to help us complete it again."

Teo winked at Annie and placed his hand on Auggie's arm. "A toast then, to family, the ones we're born into and the ones we choose." He raised a glass and the all clinked together.

Auggie replaced his glass in front of him after taking a sip. "As long as we're speaking freely here, we're going to miss this, or at least, I'm going to. I can't ever remember feeling I was leaving anyone or anything behind when I would go before. This is new, and I'm not sure that I like the way it feels."

They sat silently for a moment before Teo spoke. "I understand that sentiment." He reached toward a squirming Mack.

Annie squeezed Auggie's leg. "Hey. I'm here, and we're in this together."

Auggie placed his hand on hers. "I know. It just feels different."

The others murmured in agreement but let this topic of conversation fizzle as Joan moved to serve their brunch. After eating and another round of drinks for everyone, Annie and Auggie bade the others farewell and slid into the back of Tommy's car.

Annie waited until they'd pulled away before she slid the privacy shield into place and angled her body toward Auggie's.

"This feels different because it is, Love. And I'm not Helen or Billy or any of the others. I'm coming home with you, and when this is done – when you're done – I'll stand beside you and support whatever it is you want to do."

He dropped his head. "How did you know?"

"That every disastrous mission would be crowding its way to the forefront of your mind? Maybe because I know you."

"If I, if this move puts you in unnecessary danger…" He couldn't finish the thought, shaking his head instead.

Annie's hands cradled his face. "Hey. Do you trust me? Do you think I'm good at what I do? If you had to choose someone to send into the field, would you send me?"

Auggie pulled in a deep breath through his nose. He nodded once. "Yes, of course. To all three questions."

Her hands slid behind his neck and her fingers crept into his hair. "Okay. Then trust me to do my job, and I'm going to trust you to do yours. Deal?"

"Deal." He reached forward and dropped the privacy partition. "Let's go home."

FIN