It took careful consideration on their decision, and they knew it was a big change they would be making in their lives when they agreed but having their papers printed and signed with their names already in hand when they returned to the office, Bella and Auggie were prepared when Joan called for them the moment they stepped through the DPD doors.
“Are you ready for this?” Bella asked as she lead them past the desks and up to the office.
“It’s still a frightening idea, but I’m up for a challenge,” he smiled at her. “It’s all we’ve known for the last 13 years or so.”
“A new adventure,” she breathed out before they entered Joan’s office, unprepared for her attack.
“This is the second event in a very short span of time that you two got into trouble. Once it was part of an ongoing CIA mission, and now this! You two need to get your head sorted out! Or how about a refresher course at the Farm to observe protocol at all times?!”
“Um, Joan? Should we hand in our resignations now or wait until the end of your lecture?” Bella asked, holding up the folder she came in with, waving it slightly. “All signed and ready.”
“What? You’re not resigning, you can’t resign,” Joan said, baffled. “You’re too valuable to the Agency – to me – to resign.”
Stepping forward to set it down on her desk, Bella shook her head. “And we’re done. You know I love you Joan, but we have other priorities to think about now, and the Agency isn’t one of them. Not anymore. We have to put ourselves first, starting with resigning.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“Yes, it is,” Auggie calmly spoke up as he held out his folder for Joan to take. “And you’re going to accept our resignation.”
“Then we will go to Arthur,” Bella replied, taking her folder back and reaching for Auggie’s elbow.
“And he will do the same thing. Refuse. Well, he might let you go, but Auggie?”
“The DCI won’t. He hates me.”
“And he hates me,” Auggie grinned. “I’m sure he’d welcome our resignation.”
“Now you’re just childish,” Joan said as she blocked the door with her body. “You’re not going to Arthur and not to the DCI.”
Bella sighed as she ran her hand through her hair. Shaking her head she held out her arms. “What do you expect us to do? We can’t be here. We can’t do our jobs, to serve the company that we aren’t entirely happy at anymore. That we aren’t safe in. We’re having a baby, Joan. That is our first and only concern-”
“The CIA has excellent daycare.”
“And if one of us gets sent on a mission and doesn’t come home? I can’t handle that possibility.”
Joan sighed and rubbed her temples. “As your family, I can understand, but as your boss…”
“As our boss, take our resignation and find someone else to replace us,” she insisted. “There are other good agents out there. Being in the field like I’ve been doing doesn’t work anymore. And you know that I don’t fit behind a desk.”
“As your boss, you will allow me to come up with a different alternative, beneficial for the both of us. I need a day,” Joan said kindly. “If I can’t find something, I’ll accept your resignation.”
Bella stepped back and took Auggie’s hand to pull him towards the window a few steps. She wasn’t happy but if it gave Joan some sense of closure over their leaving, she’d be able to live with it.
“She wants to stay in control,” he murmured. “She needs to be in control over us leaving, can’t blame her for that. Let’s give her a day, see what she comes up with, and we can always refuse.”
“It’s a reasonable compromise but if she does find something? Do you want to hear it out?”
“We can always refuse.”
She nodded slowly. “We could.”
“So let her believe she’s in control,” he smiled at her. “We’ll see what she comes up with. I mean, who knows? We might actually like the idea, and it would save us the hassle of finding something to do.”
She scrunched up her face. “What if it’s something like Bluebonnet duty? I’ll kill you in your sleep if that’s what she comes up with.”
“If it’s Bluebonnet, we’ll sneak into Joan’s house and kill her in her sleep,” he grinned.
Looking back over at Joan, she appeared distressed and worried; Bella squeezed Auggie’s hand. “Deal. We’ll come in tomorrow and see what you come up with. No promises, though. We’ll still have our letters with us in the case that we decide to leave.”
“Just know that we’re making this decision with a sound mind and that this has been in the making for quite some time,” Auggie calmly spoke. “This isn’t a decision made lightly, but it’s what we think is best for us.”
“I understand, and I appreciate it that you’re allowing me time to find something you could find yourselves in. Thank you,” Joan said nervously as she stepped away from the door and opened it. She was going to have a hell of a day and Arthur wasn’t going to be happy about this either.
Bella nodded as she walked out, straight for Auggie’s office, intending to stay isolated in with him for the work day. While she’d been able to get over the aversion to some of the coffee scents most recently, she still hated being in the office for any lengthy period.
He went to his office, knowing Bella was there and sat down in his chair. Auggie then smiled. “Come sit on my lap, let’s go and look for some furniture for our house online.”
With such simple words, the stress from what happened moments before eased off as she made her way over and she settled on him, wrapping her arm around his shoulders and laying her head down. “I love you.”
Smiling, he kissed the top of her head. “I love you too, now, what did you have in mind?”
She turned her head, her nose brushing along his jaw. “Leather sofa won’t work anymore. Not when we have baby formula and spit up coming. It’ll just be a disgusting mess. But I always wanted a sectional. Some fabrics later would be better, standing up against stabbings and pulls by a child.”
“Oh, a sectional… how about two? Make it go round the living room, that would be so comfy,” he smiled widely. “Like… you know… when you go camping, and you’re all sitting around a fire? That would be so cool to have that inside the house. Just one opening and be in a circle. No one would feel left out in a conversation either because of it. With a round table in the middle and squares in the breaks of the sectional to make a corner, and the kid can’t hurt himself on it.”
Bella grinned as she envisioned the concept for the area of the loft they had, as it would only be larger in the house. “I like that, a lot. Helps keep things contained when you’re home alone.”
“Yeah unless it learns how to climb stuff, then we have to put safety nets all around the sections just to be on the safe side,” he said with a grin.
“We just build us a little zoo pen. It’ll be fun to see you trapped in with a screaming toddler.”
“Oh yeah, well, as you may know, I’m good with kids. I entertained an entire class of third graders last year,” he said smugly. “And my nieces and nephews like me.”
“I remember,” she said, amused. “You had a particular monkey on your back at the museum, and they kept trying to take your cane.”
“Yep and you saved me,” he smirked and kissed the top of her head again. “Okay, so where do we start looking for that sectional?” he asked as his hands moved to his keyboard and opened up the browser.
“A furniture store where we can sit and test the comfort in person, but I think I’m game for a trip to IKEA for new accessories this weekend.”
“I went to IKEA once with you,” he stated, horrified. “During that trip, you left me alone a few times to test things out, I got run over by kids, bumped into everything despite my cane and I got lost.”
Bella pouted as she played with the button on his collar.
“If we’re going, you’re wearing a bell,” he stated with a nod. “Or I’ll put you on a leash.”
The thought actually caused her to flush. “Would that include a collar? Because I think we could make that work later…” She asked suggestively, her finger running along his neck.
“Bella,” he cooed. “Do I need to remind you that we’re at work and that my office isn’t particularly closed off to the public?”
“You’re the one that mentioned leashes. You can’t hold that against me,” she argued. “IKEA has about everything we need. Whatever we don’t find or like we can go somewhere else, like Ashley Furniture or something.”
“Yes, you’re right,” he said with a nod. “Fine, IKEA this weekend. You’re wearing a bell. And we need to ask Danny what his plans are for the sizes of the rooms.”
“I’ll call him when we get home and get the details. Whatever we find, if we get it now we can have put into a storage unit until it’s ready to be moved in. I’m going to get some sandwiches. You want?” Bella asked, kissing his cheek as she moved to get up.
“Yes please,” he smiled widely. “And coffee. But tea’s fine too.” He had switched to tea around Bella, mainly because of Bella’s aversion to coffee and there was caffeine in tea, he just had to drink more cups to get the same effect.
She agreed on her way out, passing by her desk only to see if she’d left anything of hers there. Ignoring paperwork, she kept going on her way out to the cafeteria. It wasn’t the best food, at least that her new tastes preferred but she was suddenly hungry, and she wasn’t leaving without Auggie. Not after everything.
“Oh! Bella!” Annie said as she caught up with her, holding a big box. “How are you feeling today?”
Bella turned around on her way through the hall back to DPD with lunch and drinks and smiled. “Been better. Been worse too. How’s things going?”
“It’s quiet,” she shrugged and looked apologetically. “I have something to confess…”
Having been in the process of attempting to get into one of the sandwiches to sneak a bite, her eyes darted over to the blond and frowned. “What did you do Walker?”
“I may have accidentally told Danielle about your pregnancy over the weekend…”
Bella stopped short at that, having just reached the doors to their department. “How? Why? I mean, it’s not like it’s a secret but we’ve been trying to take time to adjust to this ourselves. We told our family only to get it out of the way but fuck Annie! Your sister?!”
“I know, I know,” Annie winced and held up the box for her. “Danielle pried it out of me. She made you this.”
“How the hell did she pry it out of you? What did you say that set her mom radar off?” Bella asked, eying the box, lifting the corner with her finger. “What’s this?”
“Cupcakes. For a baby shower… that she wants to cater free of charge…” Annie said carefully, knowing that Bella and Auggie likely weren’t going to have one. “And she told me she hadn’t done a baby shower yet with her catering business and your pregnancy slipped my mind… it was out before I knew it, I swear.”
Bella growled, shaking her head. “You get to turn your sister down. I don’t care how.” She said setting her sandwiches and drinks on top of the box and taking it from her. “But I’m keeping these.”
“I’ll tell her to make more as an apology for intruding,” she nodded. “Less baby themed.”
Bella paused at that. “Knowing her, it would be wedding themed. No. Not ready for those details yet.”
“Not wedding themed either,” Annie laughed. “I promise. Maybe I’ll tell her to make them rainbow cakes.”
She shrugged and pushed the doors open. “Whatever. You might have to deliver them at home, though. Just a heads up.”
“Or I could just give them to Auggie; he can take it with him.”
Bella hesitated to respond to that, slowing in her step as they reached the steps. “Same thing, Annie.”
Annie paused as she looked at Bella. “I know that your trip to Istanbul turned into a working one, but I can’t believe Joan is giving you another week to compensate.”
“No. We tried resigning, and she asked for a day to find an alternative to keep us from leaving. Just don’t let anyone know,” Bella whispered as she leaned into her.
Annie blinked at that before stomping off to Auggie’s office. “You can’t do this! We need you here!”
“Indoor voice, Walker, or close the damn door,” he replied annoyed as he turned around to face her.
Bella slipped in, pissed off at the tantrum that their friend and colleague was throwing and went to set the food down. “A little support would be nice, but I guess our friendship doesn’t mean that much.”
“No, you don’t get to ask for support,” Annie said as she closed the door and looked at the both of them. “Not until you give me a reason why.”
“You don’t get to demand answers for what we decide we need for our lives,” Bella responded, trying to remain calm. “You should realize already why we came to this decision.”
“No, no, you get me wrong,” Annie said as she looked at Bella. “I can completely understand why you want to quit, but Auggie? Is your beef with the CIA’s bureaucracy that out of control?”
“Annie,” Auggie said calmly. “First, Anything I do, someone else can do, perhaps even quicker, so you don’t have to worry about not getting the proper support. Secondly, not everything is about bureaucracy, Annie. Yes, I have my grievances with it, but it’s not the reason for me to resign. Bella and I have been doing this for 13 years, if not more. It’s all we know. The CIA demands that they come first, and that’s not what we want. We simply can’t make that sacrifice anymore. We’re tired. We’re done.”
“Wow, Auggie. I thought of you like everything, but not a quitter.”
Bella let out a huff and shook her head. “Of all he said, that’s what you took from that? Joan refused our resignations asking for a day for alternatives. We agreed to hear her out, but there is no guarantee that we will agree to it. We might accept it, but it is slim at this point. We are thinking about our future and the future of our baby. I’m sorry to say that your feelings do not factor in on this and if you feel otherwise, there is the door.”
“Look, Annie, this shouldn’t have come as news to you. I’ve told you before; there have been many times over the last years where I wanted to quit. Do something else.”
“I know that, but I didn’t think you were going to go through with it.”
“Well, I am. We are. I understand you’re upset, but this has nothing to do with you,” Auggie said kindly. “We’d appreciate it if you could keep this to yourself, okay?”
Annie looked between Bella and Auggie. Bella looked severely annoyed, and Auggie has his ‘explanation face’ on. On top of that, he looked very determined. She took a deep breath and nodded. “Fine. Good luck with whatever comes next and I hope we can remain friends.”
“Use your brain before opening your mouth and we should. You’re a smart girl,” Bella snapped. She didn’t entirely blame her; she knew the young agent was upset by the news, but Bella was angry by how she reacted. Making herself comfortable in the extra seat in the office, she pulled out one of the blue cupcakes Danielle made, licking the frosting from her fingers. “Tell Danielle they’re good but the answer is still no.”
“Yeah, I kinda figured that,” Annie muttered as she made herself scarce.
“Well, that was interesting,” Auggie said out loud. “What are you eating?”
Bella smiled before taking another bite, answering with a full mouth. “Cupcake!”
“Danielle’s?” He held out his hand. “Give me!”
“No. Henry Wilcox’s. Of course Danielle’s. Mine,” she refused, putting his sandwich in his hand instead.
Auggie huffed as he unwrapped his sandwich and took a bite off it. “Yum, cupcake.”
“I’ll give you a cupcake, Cupcake… I did get you your coffee. But you’ll have to wait for your treat.”
“My treat?” He smiled widely as he pushed his chair away from his computer towards Bella and held out his hand for his coffee. “What treat?”
Passing him his coffee, she smirked and took a cupcake from the box and hit him in the nose with the frosting before wiping it off. “I’m sure you can come up with some ideas. Later.”
“Oh, frosting… hmm….” he smiled and rubbed his nose before picking up his sandwich again. “Whipped cream on your breasts…” Auggie shook his head and took a sip of the burning liquid to re-focus. When his phone rang, he managed to compose himself well enough to pick it up. “Anderson… Yes, I can do that. It’ll be in your mailbox in ten minutes… Yep, don’t worry about it,” he said before hanging up again and stuffed the remaining piece of sandwich in his mouth. “I need to do something really quick,” he said, turning to his computer and found his headset to listen to the guidance.
“Go on, earn your paycheck. I’ll just sit here and get fat,” Bella shrugged and pulled out her sandwich. Bella kicked her feet up on the sill and had her lunch open on her lap, wishing she had her cell phone with her as she mentally thought about things that they still needed to do.
“Thank you both for coming back,” Joan said relieved as Auggie and Bella entered her office. “You didn’t have to, and you could have sent me your resignation letters in the mail.”
“And that’s not how it works,” Auggie replied, following Bella to the couch to sit down. “You’ve always treated us well, and we don’t want to part on bad terms.”
“Well, I hope that my offer to you means we don’t have to part at all.”
Bella raised an eyebrow as she looked back at her. “You know what our position is. It really depends on what you suggest that can convince us that will make staying worth the effort.”
“Do you like your NOC at the Smithsonian, Bella?” Joan wondered as she sat down in the chair next to the couch, looking at her with a smile. “I mean, would you like a different position there or are you enjoying yourself?”
She couldn’t help but wonder where she was going with that. “I like it well enough. It has its moments, but I like the times I go in.”
“Would you like something else? A better position, perhaps? A different department?”
“My position is fine. I have no complaints about it. What is your proposal, Joan?”
“If you resign, you’ll lose your position at the Smithsonian, seeing as it’s only your NOC and not your day job,” Joan explained kindly. “You’d have to look for a different job yourself. You could reapply at the Smithsonian, of course. No doubt they’ll let you in, but why go through the hassle? I could put you on inactive duty, give you a pay rise and nothing else has to change, other than you’re not doing your job for us anymore unless we really need you.”
Bella sighed and shook her head. “It’s not about the money. I don’t need or want a raise. How can I do work for you and still get what I want? It’s impossible. I can’t be behind a desk, and I’ve been in the field too long, too much. I know how they can go…”
“What part of inactive duty don’t you understand? You can keep your NOC that way if you’re attached to it, but let it sink in for a few days, think about what you want, okay? If you still don’t want it, I’ll accept your resignation but under protest.”
“I think she has an ulterior motive for offering you that,” Auggie said as he gently squeezed her leg. “Don’t you, Joan?”
He could hear the smile in Joan’s voice. “That’s correct.”
“So what is it? What’s the problem?”
“You are. Well, not to us, but for yourself,” Joan responded kindly. “You’re too valuable to us. You’ve worked so hard, and you’ve made yourself indispensable, which is probably why you get away with so much. Over the years, because of your hard work, you’ve managed to paint a target on your own back. Some cases in your past could rear its ugly head and come to bite you in the ass, provide a danger to you.”
“I don’t care; you can’t keep me against my will.”
“Because of your work, you have more knowledge about the CIA and its structure than any other operative in this building, likely even more than me and Arthur. What if you get kidnapped and get tortured for that information?”
“Joan, you know as well as I do-”
“What if they do break you, Auggie?”
This was bullshit. “This is bullshit, Joan. You can’t keep me here,” he said annoyed. “I know I’ve threatened to leave over the years, even came close to handing in my resignation the last time Tash came to town but seriously, I’m serious. I want a change of life. I want a different pace.”
“You love adventures; you love your job and the people coming with it. You’re excited about the unknown and leaving the CIA will be just that, but l believe that you’ll be working for a private contractor within three months because of cabin fever or you’d call me to give you your old job back. Auggie, I understand why you want to leave, and I’m proposing a compromise.” Joan hated this. She had told Arthur that too, but she realized that her husband was right. In order for allowing Bella and Auggie to create the life they wanted to have, some rules needed to be bent or slightly damaged. “Forgive me when I’m wrong but I believe that one of the reasons you want to leave is to make sure that your fledgling family will be safe. I can understand that. I wish I would have been able to make that step because I’ve lost so much myself. If you resign, you’ll be giving up that safety and resources at your disposal to make sure that Bella and your unborn child are safe.”
“Our home will be secure, Joan, we’ll be safe.”
“Inside your house, yes,” Joan nodded. “But what if one of your skeletons comes out of the woodwork and decides to abduct Bella from her job at the Smithsonian or whatever she chooses?”
“I’d call the cops.”
“Auggie,” she sighed, rubbing her eyes.
“What, Joan? What do you want me to say? Do you honestly think that your scare tactics work?”
“They’re not scare tactics,” Joan countered. “Our analysts ran a provisionary risk assessment on both of your lives should you leave. Would you like to read their report?”
“Very well, I’ll have them email you a copy. Now, until then, could you hold your tongue and hear me out?”
“Fine,” he threw up his hands in defense like a petulant child.
“This is highly unconventional, but we’d love it if you’d continue to work for us. If you can make the connection secure, we will allow you to work from home. Be present at meetings via computer, help us over the phone. You can choose your own hours and we won’t-”
“Joan, I don’t know what Bella’s decision will be but I’m sticking with my answer, and that’s ‘no.’ Yes, I love my job. Yes, I love working with everyone, and I really appreciate you for giving me some space to wiggle in when I need it, but for years the CIA has been my number one priority. I allowed you to dictate who I could date, who I couldn’t date. How or where I lived. Working for the Agency has a price, and I’m no longer willing to pay for it. I am proud to serve my country, but I’ve had enough. I’m tired. I don’t want to die one day and realize that I haven’t lived my life to the fullest.”
“What about your safety?”
“We’ll be safe, in and outside the house. Whatever pops up – if they pop up at all, we’ll deal with it then, but nobody knows the future, and those analysts only work with statistics and odds, but I feel like the odds are finally in my favor, and I’m not worried.”
Joan was exacerbated and looked to Bella, who remained quiet, and marginally upset. “Bella? What do you want?”
She looked at her with a small smile. “I want everything and we can’t have it. There has to be sacrifices and compromises and to me, this isn’t a question if I’m willing to through with it. I know Auggie would never ask me to stop to make him happy, but I am so that we can be together. I know I could make my NOC work further, like a regular job, but it would remind me and make me miss the field too much. The answer is no Joan. I’m sorry.”
“So you’re only resigning because he is?”
“No. I’m leaving because it’s what is best for me and our relationship,” Bella answered, her voice firm and starting to grow warm with anger. “I won’t entertain any other excuses now. Is there anything else? I already cleared my desk.”
“Alright, then I wish the both of you a lot of luck in your new personal adventure,” Joan said, defeated. “If you need help with anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Bella nodded, reaching to take Auggie’s hand. “If we did, in that way, of course. Otherwise, you are simply family. Not my boss anymore.”
“Thanks, Joan,” Auggie said as he got to his feet and extended his other hand towards Joan. “For everything. You’re the best boss someone could have.”
“Good luck, really,” Joan said, shaking Auggie’s hand and then Bella’s. “Hand in your passes at security and Auggie, don’t forget to clean out your desk as well. We’ll think of something for all the additional technology you used, but they’re staying.”
“I’ll go help him with his office now. Thanks for everything,” Bella smiled. “We do have a lot to deal with even with our time freed up now. So…”
Joan pointed to the door. “We’ll have a family dinner soon, I promise.”
Bella soon made her way out of the office with Auggie and let out a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Her hand gripped his hard, as her eyes drank in the department floor. “Holy shit… Did we really just quit?”
“Uh… I think we did…” he said slowly and then laughed. “I can’t believe we’re free.”
She turned to look at him and grinned at the pure joy on his face. “We are. We are free.”
“I can’t believe it was that easy but yeah, we are free. Shame you can’t drink to celebrate.”
“You’re drinking double for that… Asshole.”
A/N: And that’s it! The last chapter of this story! We do have a sequel in the works because surely, it can’t end this way? However, before we work on that, we are going to finish one of our WIPs first. It’s the least we can do.
Thank you for reading!
Meeko & Buggy