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At Least I'm Not As Sad (As I Used To Be)

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Agent Melissa Matthews unlocked her front door, carefully balancing her briefcase and fast food to-go bag in her left hand. She was tired and hungry and a little annoyed.

She'd had to rush out of New York City earlier than expected this morning. Some intrigue or something going on with the FBI case she'd been assigned to assist on. The short flight to DC hadn't even given her time for a nice cup of coffee, much less actual food. And once here she'd been rushed right into work, pouring over the manifest and setting up automatic flags on all the most likely disreputable sales houses.

Times like this, she almost let herself miss her life in London. The one she'd thrown away for a bit of intrigue. It all sounded so glamorous back then. Being actually down in it. Working in Art Crimes had it's perks for sure. But mostly it was a lot of paperwork and drudgery. Especially early on, when she was settling into her new life.

Times like this, she would sometimes let her mind wander and she'd think of Annie Walker. Annie confused her on a lot of levels. Not least of which was how Vivian, and she still considered herself Vivian in the privacy of her own mind, could feel her body responding to memories of Annie standing close to her. The way it felt when Annie's surprisingly strong hands had touched Vivian and saved her. It made Vivian wonder what Annie's hands would feel like elsewhere on her body. Used with a different intent.

She didn't let herself think of that too often. Annie was CIA, Vivian was now Melissa and had a brand new life being...yet another government drone. Not exciting. But at least this time no one was trying to kill her. And if her new job with the Justice Department's Art Crimes Division kept her in DC, near Langley, well that was just because Annie had inspired her with Annie's own Smithsonian cover story.

That their friendship was able to continue, easy and familiar now in a way Vivian had never had before, well that was just a bonus. When their respective jobs allowed it, they could even meet up for movies now and then or a long lunch. Though they kept their in person meetings to a minimum, at least the ones in public.

Vivian figured the CIA would take a dim view of one of their agents remaining in contact with someone she'd caught breaking the law. Even if Vivian as Melissa was totally reformed now and on the right path and all that good stuff.

Over and over Vivian had been told that she needed to make a fresh start, leave her old life behind entirely. But Vivian didn't want to let go of everything her old life had introduced her to. Some things, Vivian felt, were worth holding on to. Even if they were only possibilities. Scary, wonderful, possibilities. Because Vivian may have been a bit naive, perhaps still was, but it wasn't just her skin that had flushed warm when Annie and she had hugged goodbye two weeks ago when they'd met for a rare night out. And Vivian wanted the time, the opportunity, to find out if there could be more.

So she stayed in DC, and she did her job, and she hoped. Melissa wasn't a bad name, it sounded good when Annie had said it while introducing Vivian to Annie's family. Vivian's job in Art Crimes only helped to reinforce Annie's cover, so there was no risk in meeting Annie's family. Not really.

Dropping her keys on the table just inside the door and toeing off her shoes, Vivian made her way through the darkened apartment to the couch. More by luck than design, she managed to get her brief case and food on the coffee table, while reaching for the remote with her free hand. The tv flickered on, Vivian had decided that Melissa was not the sort to bother with having the latest and greatest tv technology, and the low hum of the Weather Channel anchors filled the small room.

Vivian unwrapped her burger, a rare indulgence, while she thought back to her transformation from the silly fool that Annie had first met to the fairly competent agent she had become. It hadn't been easy, even with the Agency tweaking her background, Vivian had had to do the work. Annie had helped her there too. Tutoring her on art and what to look for when trying to find criminal activity.

In a way it was the easiest thing Vivian had ever done. She felt like she'd been a sponge, just soaking up everything Annie had to offer. And the more she learned the easier it became. By the time her interview at the Justice Department was arranged, Vivian had actually felt competent enough that her hands didn't shake at all as she walked into the imposing building.

She'd aced the interview and in six months had been doing so well her boss was already trusting her with more sensitive cases. And now this, the job for the New York White Collar division. Nazi looted art, that was a big deal. International, emotional. A massive powder keg of diplomatic, legal and personal trauma. She felt honored to have earned the trust of her superiors.

She wanted to call Annie, tell her all about it, but one thing Vivian had truly learned in the process of becoming Melissa was discretion. She never lied to Annie, and trusted that her friend gave her the same respect, but their jobs demanded a certain amount of secrecy and Vivian felt good that she'd finally matured enough to know when and how much secrecy was right for which situation.

Taking the last bite of her fries, Vivian gathered up her trash to drop off in the kitchen. She should go upstairs to bed, but despite the exhaustion she wasn't quite ready to turn in. Sitting back down in front of the tv, Vivian let herself just drift for a few minutes.

It almost felt inevitable when she heard a faint knocking at her front door. Vivian felt the familiar rush of hope move through her as she walked to the door. A quick glance out the peep hole made a smile break wide across her face.

"Annie," she said around her smile, opening the door in a rush.

The look on Annie's face was less joyful and her own greeting muted, but Annie's job wore her down far more than Vivian's ever could. So she took Annie's hand in hers and led her inside. Annie looked a little shell-shocked, actually. So Vivian helped her slip her shoes off and settled her into the couch. Before sitting down she got them both a glass of wine from the box-o-wine in the fridge. Classy, no, but Vivian's love for the high-life had mostly left her. And booze was booze.

Annie still hadn't really said anything. So Vivian started talking. Annie always seemed to enjoy Vivian's rambling, which was confusing but very flattering. Vivian talked about taking a trip to New York City, whispering that it was for 'hush-hush' government work, winking at Annie and pulling a small but genuine smile from her friend.

Ten minutes later Vivian was winding down. Her own exhaustion having truly caught up with her. When she turned to look Annie more completely in the eyes, she was a little surprised by what she saw. Annie, fast asleep, slumped slightly toward Vivian, her face calm and smooth.

Vivian carefully got up, grabbed a spare blanket and pillow and arranged Annie into a more comfortable position on the couch. Turning the television off, Vivian paused next to Annie's head. In a fit of exhausted madness, Vivian leaned down and kissed Annie's soft lips. Just for a moment, not lingering, for all that she wished she could. The taste of the cheap wine on Annie's lips made Vivian smile. Whatever had driven Annie to come see her tonight, Vivian seemed to have helped some.

One last trip to the kitchen for water and aspirin to set on the coffee table, and then Vivian trudged up the stairs to her bed. She hoped that Annie would be there in the morning. That they could have breakfast and talk. Not about whatever had Annie so upset, Vivian was sure that was top secret stuff, but about everything and anything else. Perhaps even about how this thing between them wasn't lessening with time, only growing stronger. That would make Vivian quite happy. Because maybe another thing that Melissa could be was openly bisexual. Something the old Vivian had never felt brave enough to be.