Just as he had expected, Joan forbade him to go on missions. He wasn’t a field operative anymore, he was merely technical support. There was no need for him to go on missions and his last mission had been her mistake.
There was more to it, he could hear sincere worry in her voice and duly spent the days in his office without any objection. He’d find a way to go back into the field every once in awhile, but for now, he decided to be the obedient soldier and provide support from where he sat.
The debrief from that failed mission was brutal, but they had gathered enough intel to know that this hadn’t been Ben Mercer’s job. No, shit. He hadn’t expected it either, Ben was a lot of things, but he would not harm his former co-workers like this. Auggie and Jason had uncovered a small time drug operation by accident and it got Jason killed.
Joan and Arthur assured him that they’d find a different way to get to Ben and that he should just let it go. And he did. He had a week off to heal up and returned to work with his arm in a cast, but ready for work. He missed Bella, a lot. Spending time with her had made him realize that he needed to see her more often. She was a great friend and she was on the other end of the world. It wasn’t fair.
To celebrate his cast coming off, he arranged for Bella to have a champagne breakfast, delivered to her by some guy with a mule. It wasn’t a horse, but it was a promise of some sort.. Granted, he wasn’t to know her exact location, but he had his ways of finding out and it was fun to surprise her.
And then Annie Walker happened. Joan decided to give him an operative to handle and Annie was a whirlwind he wasn’t quite sure how to contain. It didn’t help that her first missions were hard on her but then again, not every CIA op was a breeze.
He had to fight back a smile when Joan sent Annie to butter up to McAuley and get him back into the CIA for his contacts. A lot of people had tried to bring him back into the agency, but the overall word was that they all failed. Technically, they did, apart from one person and he was curious as to how Annie would fare with him.
There were a few similarities between Annie and Bella, and they both had their own talent, their own approach. Despite being shot at, being hauled up with a Mossad agent and being involved in high speed chases, Auggie knew that this was going to be Annie’s toughest mission yet. Hazing rituals were fun!
He wasn’t surprised that Annie managed to bring him in. Granted, it took her a bit longer than it had taken Bella, but like everyone else, he was impressed. McAuley even came in after the op at the docks for a debrief, and that was special. The entire senior staff was watching. McAuley came by his office after he was done. As it happened, Annie was with him, to make sure he’d make it out of the building okay.
“Hey Auggie,” he greeted him like an old friend. Auggie could hear Annie frown and fought back a smile.
“McAuley, nice of you to stop by,” he greeted in return. “Are you coming back?”
“Nah. I have more important things to do.”
“Wait, you guys know each other?” Annie couldn’t keep quiet any longer. “Auggie!”
“What? We’ve only met once, briefly,” he said defensively.
“This is true,” McAuley said to Annie. “I had dealings with Bella Swan before. She was nice. Is she around, Auggie? She’s long overdue for an afternoon of fishing.”
“Sorry man,” he smiled at him. “She’s on a mission, but I’ll send her out your way as soon as I can.”
“Wait. You said that no one has been able to get McAuley to come in!”
“I did and that’s true. He never came in,” he said with a nod.
“Bella had me convinced to come in though, but instead she said that we’d go fishing.”
“Which is funny because I really can’t see Bella fishing,” Auggie laughed. “She’d have a terrible time trying to get the worm on the hook because of the slimey stuff. You’re lucky to get her to go camping.”
“Yeah well,” McAuley slapped Auggie on his shoulder. “You can’t see much of anything, can you?”
“Touché, well played good sir,” he grinned.
Annie escorted him out of the building at the end of the day and he could feel that she was worked up about something. “Something on your mind, Walker?”
“Who is this Bella anyway?”
Bella knew it would only be a matter of time before she would get the order. When she had given Jai three consecutive reports that there had been nothing going on, Mommy Dearest, called her home.
As much as she’d come to love Italy for its culture and environment, she did miss home. She missed her friends, her family. No matter how dysfunctional DPD and the CIA was.
Auggie had told her in their last phone conversation that the family moved offices, to one with windows. She was skeptical about it, remembering the memo but deleted it with a roll of her eyes.
Walking into headquarters and stopping for her latte, she sighed after taking her first sip. It was certainly nothing like the coffee and espresso she enjoyed in Italy. Idly, she wondered if she could get one of their machines imported for her personal use as she started to make her way to the new DPD offices.
Stepping inside, she couldn’t help but be mildly impressed. Looking around, she wondered where her desk would be as she continued to drink her coffee.
“Excuse me. Can I help you?” a young blond woman questioned her, as Bella had been standing in the middle of the sea of agents’ desks aimlessly.
Bella smirked, raising her cup to her lips as she gave the woman the once over and looked away. “Nope.”
The woman frowned, sitting straighter in her chair. She was about to say something in response when someone else approached from behind Bella, causing her to smile as he spoke. “You just can’t wait to start stirring up trouble, can you?”
“Awe, Jai. I’ve been gone way too long. I’ve got a lot of time to make up for. I know everyone just misses Hell,” she smiled as she turned to face him.
He laughed as he pulled her in for a hug. “I’m glad you’re back. But you should be aware that Joan has a soft spot for Annie here. You might want to be careful with how much Hell you give her.”
Bella turned to look at the gaping woman again, her eyes perusing her speculatively. “Is that so? But you know, I’m still Mom and Dad’s favorite. Tell me. Where is Auggie?”
“Eh, he’s being debriefed,” Jai replied with a sigh and started to walk her towards Auggie’s office. “Seriously, why do you like him so much?”
“Why do you have to be such a dick? Get off that stick before I hit you with it,” she replied with a raised eyebrow.
“Hey, he doesn’t like me, remember? He thinks I’m like my father and whatever I do to prove him wrong…”
“That’s because your father is the loaded end of a horse’s ass that’s been fed a bottle of magnesium citrate. You can’t blame him, especially when you don’t exactly endear yourself to everyone. I know you better Jai, but he didn’t work with you the way I did. It’s not easy to get over misconceptions, especially long ones like that. You have your own about Joan and Arthur. Don’t deny it,” Bella lectured him, putting him in his place easily. “Just don’t ask me over for dinner again because I won’t promise that I won’t throw my glass of wine on your father’s expensive suit again. The prick pisses me off too.”
“I don’t live with him anymore, Bella, I moved out of his basement a long time ago,” Jai said playfully.
She turned to him, drawing in an exaggerated gasp. “Oh my god! Jai Wilcox! You put your big boy panties on finally?! I’m so proud of you!” she exclaimed as she hugged him. “This calls for a celebration. Drinks at the Tavern tonight?”
He hadn’t missed this. Not at all. They were in the middle of the bullpen and she had made a scene and now all eyes were on them. He looked around like a deer caught in headlights and he could see Joan’s big smirk on her face. He turned back to Bella and sighed. “Fine.”
“Woah, it’s quiet in here,” Auggie remarked from the bullpen entrance. “Like… did something happen or something?”
“Oh, thank God,” Jai let out a relieved breath.
“Or someone… That sounds like… Satan is home?” Auggie made his way down the stairs and walked towards the sound that Jai had made, but was stopped and nearly tackled on his way over. “Oh, hello,” he said with a big goofy grin on his face. “It’s about time!” Oh, he was so relieved that Bella was back. This last mission, the one that involved Natasha, had made him doubt himself, his actions, his entire being. Again. The last time he ran as far as Iraq to get her out of his system, and now she was back in. Bella had returned at just the right time.
“You know me. I had to make an entrance,” Bella replied as she wrapped her arms around him. “How’s the arm? Healed up alright? Hope you didn’t get into too much trouble when you got back.”
“For a while I did. Now I’m using my operative to get out in the field every once in awhile,” he grinned.
She smirked as she pinched his side. “Sneaky. I like it. So what’s the gossip mill I missed? Who are the new couples and shit?”
“Eh…” he said as he scratched his head. “Classified.”
“Oh really?” she asked curious.
“Yeah, we’ll talk about it later.”
“Oooh, yes. I promised my little helper drinks at the Tavern tonight for becoming a big boy finally. I’m so proud,” she said, wiping a false tear from her eye and laying her head on Auggie’s shoulder. “My boy is becoming a man. I should buy him a box of condoms too. I need to find him a girl. You think that blond will go for him?”
“Please make her stop,” Jai muttered as he walked off.
Annie wasn’t sure what was going on, or who this girl was. She marched in there as if she owned the place and then proceeded to knock Jai down off the pedestal he had been on since coming to the DPD. Satan and Satan’s Little Helper made a lot more sense now. She initially thought that Satan had been Henry Wilcox, Jai’s father, but now she could see why it was his favourite nickname. However, this woman – Bella – sounded as if she was the biggest bitch ever. Even bigger than Joan. And Joan was smiling widely, almost as if she was patiently waiting for this scene to be over with so she could go over and talk to her.
And why was this Bella all over Auggie – who had the biggest, goofiest grin on his face?
Annie pushed herself off of the desk she was leaning against and approached Auggie and Bella. “Hi, Annie Walker, nice to finally put a face with the name. I’ve heard so much about you.”
Bella turned her eyes to her and smiled, lifting her head, but didn’t leave her friend’s side. “I’m sure you’ve heard of me, but not so much. Most of the guys around here like to keep my details low key for the full impact when I come home. Makes it more fun,” she admitted as she held her hand out. “Bella. You must be the girl that they think they could try to replace me with but there is no substitution for the real thing. But I’m sure we’ll get along splendidly regardless. So much fun to be had with these boys.”
“Be nice to the woman who’s been getting me out of Langley every once in awhile, will you?” Auggie smiled at Bella. “She’s as talented as you are in the field and a good friend.”
“I’m always nice to the nanny. Just hope you didn’t change the locks while I’ve been away and you best call your girls and tell them any dates you’ve made are cancelled. You’re sharing with me because I’m not paying for a hotel,” Bella grinned and kissed him on the cheek. “I’m going to go check in with Mom now. I’ll see you soon!” With that, she turned and trotted off for Joan’s office.
Annie stood there, her arms crossed as she watched the woman make just as a spectacle of an appearance for Joan. Only the woman appeared simply amused by it and greeted her with a hug and closed the door behind her, before dropping the shades for privacy.
“What the hell was that Auggie?” she asked, confused by the whole display. “She just comes in like she owns the place and imposes on your life regardless if you had something planned?”
“Yes,” he said as he took her arm and started to walk towards his office. He had some phone calls to make. “And that was Hurricane Bella. Just let it happen,” he laughed. “What did Jai look like? Tell me! I can imagine him being all flustered and embarrassed.”
She was flabbergasted herself by the event and blew out a breath of air from her cheeks. “Yeah, to say the least. He looked like he wanted to find the quickest way out but we were in the middle of the floor and she wasn’t exactly quiet about her announcement about him putting on big boy shorts when he moved out from his dad’s place. It was quite embarrassing to be honest.”
He snickered as he rounded his desk and sat down. “Bella likes to make an entrance.”
“Yeah. She said that a couple times,” Annie commented, her eyes narrowing on him.
He could feel her staring at him. “No, we’re not dating. We haven’t ever dated. She’s a great friend and a great operative. Yes, I trust her and so should you.”
“I didn’t say anything,” she remarked innocently, turning to lean against his desk.
“You don’t have to say anything, I know you, Walker. You’re afraid that you’re not my only girl anymore, are you?” He smirked. “Don’t worry, there’s plenty of me to go around.”
Annie rolled her eyes and smiled. “Fine, fine. This – Bella – seems to be well aware of your suave moves with the ladies. She seems to think you have a number of calls to make? Especially if she’s staying with you.”
“And she’s right, I had planned for dinner with a lady tonight. And I had plans for this weekend with the same lady. Then lunch with a completely different lady on Monday… and I have to call my maid service to make an extra sweep of the place in case she missed something.”
“Mmhmm,” she hummed before something dawned on her. “Wait. You have only one bed. Where is she going to sleep?”
“In my bed.”
“Also in my bed,” Auggie mused, he could only imagine the look on Annie’s face.
She blinked as she looked at him, trying to piece the relationship together again. “I’m confused. I thought you said you weren’t seeing one another, but you’re going to sleep together?”
“Well, I’m obviously not seeing her, Annie,” he rolled his eyes at her. “We’re sleeping together, yes. But we do nothing more than sleep. And cuddle. Bella likes to cuddle when she’s passed out. Nothing sexual about it but she’s one hell of a cuddler.”
She gaped at him, not sure what to make of that and shook her head. “You do know what she looks like, right?”
“Of course I do, she’s gorgeous!”
“But hey, Annie? If you’re so interested in her, go and make a pass on her, I’m sure she’ll love it.”
She closed her eyes as she turned to head for the door. “I have a feeling that you are going to be impossible with her around for awhile,” she laughed lightly. “Make your calls. I’ll come find you later, Auggie.”
Annie made her way back to the floor to her desk and sat down to gather her thoughts. No sooner after she got comfortable, Jai returned to her desk, sitting on the corner and leaning over towards her as he peered towards Auggie’s office.
“So how did the interrogation go?”
“She has him cancelling his dates because she’s planning on staying with him. Not asking, the woman just told him,” she stared in disbelief.
“Good,” Jai said lightly. “That means less work for Joan.”
Annie looked up at him, wondering if he too lost his mind. “What does that mean?”
“Auggie and Bella are so open with each other that they discuss their… adventures. The moment Bella gets the hint that something turns serious, she tells on him to Mom, who then uses her sources to vet the girl,” he replied as he looked at her. “You haven’t noticed that he appears to have a new girl every week?”
“Of course. But he isn’t serious about any of them.”
“Not anymore, no,” he replied with a smile. “There was one girl in particular that rubbed Bella the wrong way, especially after what happened to the girl prior to her. She didn’t even pass Mom’s inspection and they’ve been keeping an eye on her ever since that time. But yeah, no serious stuff since then, Bella read Auggie the riot act.”
“But what’s so special about Bella that she gets all this leverage? Joan doesn’t really treat Auggie all that different from the rest of us, other than keeping him grounded,” Annie quietly argued. “He is even different with her.”
“The bond that Auggie and Bella share is a little hard to explain, but to Joan and Arthur, she’s family. But I expect them to treat Bella like any other operative on the job, so not to worry about that. They still give her tough jobs, like you or I. They don’t sugar coat things with her either. They just – accept her odd sense of humor a little easier than most.”
Annie accepted that a bit, assuming that there was more to their history for their relationship. “So, do you know how Auggie and Bella met?”
“Of course I do.”
She smiled up at him and raised an eyebrow as she leaned toward him, crossing her arms on her desk. “Would you care to share that little bit of information? Considering everything that I witnessed today with the big boy panties she put you in, Jai. I’ll buy you a beer.”
He smiled at her and shook his head. “They met at the Farm.”
“On a farm or like the Farm?” she blinked.
“The Farm. They made a great team together and were practically joined at the hip from day one,” he replied and then turned to her. “You know how you were told you had the best scores in a decade? Before you, there was Bella who came really close to beating those scores. She did things outside of the box, which is how she caught the attention of the CIA. She completed a double major in college in just two and a half years. She’s very driven, task orientated.”
That bit of information was news to her. There was more than just a standard friendship between the girl and Auggie she realized as she looked over towards Joan’s office where she found her boss and the woman speaking and looking out towards them.
“You know, when she was here with Auggie, she was all over him. I could have sworn that they were together the way they acted.”
“They’re not, but they sure as hell are territorial when it comes to one another.”
She glanced up at him. “You don’t think they might secretly have the hots for one another? Total denial or something?”
“I don’t know. It’s been years since they’ve been together like this. Where Auggie is quite adventurous when it comes to dating, Bella’s more careful. Believe me, I tried, but it never stuck.”
“He made a comment about her being a hell of a cuddler. Who says stuff like that?” she mused.
“Well, she is,” Jai laughed. “Some people talk in their sleep, she cuddles.”
Annie stared up at him. “I am not going to ask. I do not want to know. Actually, I’m wondering if this might be one of the reasons why Auggie doesn’t like you now…”
“There’s a long list of reasons why he doesn’t like me, sure, why not add that to the list.” Jai looked up to Joan, who motioned for him to come over. “Now, excuse me, I’m being summoned. Finish your paperwork.”
“Great. Yep. Try to get your devil friend under control. We’re supposed to be professional here, you know,” she hissed after him.
“Says the person who’s acting like a jealous schoolgirl,” Jai winked at her before walking up the stairs to meet with Joan. “So, what kind of drugs did you take to think that bringing Bella into the DPD was a good thing?”
Bella smirked back at him. “I’ve always been a part of DPD, even if I’ve been abroad. You know what my last mission entailed Jai. Even if it went cold there for awhile. I’m still hoping it’ll heat up again eventually.”
“I’m well aware and while I’m glad you’re back, it seems that Annie has some territorial issues.”
“Eh. She’ll get over it. I’ll just keep pissing on my rocks. They were mine first,” she remarked as her eyes shifted over his shoulder to look at the mentioned agent.
“Are you two done?” Joan asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Of course,” Jai replied. “What do you need, Joan?”
“How would you feel if I made you Bella’s handler again?”
Bella rolled her eyes but remained silent as he looked at her curiously. He opened his mouth and closed it before speaking. “I’d be happy to. It’d be like old times… However I don’t think that is quite what you have in mind with this.”
Joan shook her head. “Even prior to Bella’s arrival, Auggie talked to me about Annie’s tendency to throw caution in the wind. Now, I’m not saying that taking initiative is a bad thing, we all love that, but I’d like for you two to be an example to her. And to Auggie. Work as a team, the four of you. Tell me your assessment of Annie in a couple of weeks.”
“Are you having second thoughts about her?” Jai questioned, surprised, really. “You could always just send her back to the Farm.”
“That won’t be necessary as I know that we’ve made the right decision when it comes to her, but she’s still new. I don’t want to risk cultivating an operative who takes things too far. She could take things too far and we won’t be able to cover it up.”
“But Auggie can handle it.”
“Sure he can. But I want your assessment as Auggie’s known to be overly cautious or overly secretive.”
“What if I say ‘no’?” Jai responded, crossing his arms over his chest. “Sure, I’d like to work with Bella again, but not at Annie’s or Auggie’s expense. Surely you had to know this would be a bad idea.”
Bella attempted to smother the smile that threatened to surface as her eyes flashed up to Joan, who sighed. “Those were almost Bella’s exact words, but I believe the opposite. You want to work in my division, this is a good place to earn your trust with me Jai.”
“Auggie’s not going to like it.”
“I don’t care,” Joan replied.
“I’ll smooth Auggie’s tail feathers tonight if this is how it’s going to go,” Bella murmured quietly.
“No need,” Auggie muttered from the door. Sure, make my day even worse, he added in thought. “I’m fine with it.”
Bella looked over her shoulder and sighed. “Tequila y cerveza?” she asked, offering an unspoken apology.
“No, I said I was fine with it. I should have known something like this would happen when I voiced my concerns to Joan,” he said as he held up his folded cane. “I’m going home. It’s been a long couple of days.”
“I’ll meet you there later. I’ll pick up some wine and dinner on my way. I still have to stop in by Arthur before I leave myself,” she grimaced, glancing to Joan.
“I’ll drive you home,” Jai offered to Auggie, but his face turned even more sour. “Or you can take the shuttle bus, like always.”
Auggie nodded and quietly left.
“Stupid Natasha,” Jai muttered to Bella.
At the name, her head whipped around. “Did anyone put a bullet in her?”
“Auggie let her go after gaining the key we needed to disrupt her hack, don’t worry, I already told him not to do it again,” Joan said as she moved around her desk.
“Of course he did,” she frowned as she stared out the door where the man had disappeared. “What else do you need from me? Because I still have to visit Dad and that isn’t going to be a fun one. I’d rather go home and have dinner.”
“Sure, go. And do I have to remind you to call your real father now that you’re back in the country?”
Bella rolled her eyes. “Sure, sure. I’ll give Charlie a ring. Maybe while I’m in with Arthur so that he can be a witness for you.”
Joan just smiled at her and sat down in her chair. “I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”