The postcards came irregularly at first, no rhyme or reason, no return address, with only a postmark to hint at the identity of the sender. But Max Brewer hadn’t been named to the D.E.B.S. International Bureau at 25 years old because she looked good in a plaid skirt. She had been handpicked by Ms. Petrie, herself, because she was good at her job. The best. Max didn’t need a forwarding address to know who was sending the postcards; she just knew. And every time one arrived on her desk with the day’s mail, she simply smiled and added it to the collection. Good at her job, or not, this was one secret she would take to her grave.
The first postcard had arrived on the day of graduation, just two weeks after Endgame. Janet had found it tucked between Dominique’s copy of Elle and Max’s copy of Guns and Ammo. Just as all the ones that followed, it wasn’t signed, and there was no return address. There were only two clues as to the sender, but for Max, that was more than enough. The front of the postcard was of a sun swept beach with crystal blue water and palm trees in the background. The postmark was from Barcelona, Spain.
It didn’t take a genius.
Max moved often in those first years after graduation. She worked D.C., Los Angeles, New York, Moscow, Dubai, Buenos Aires, Paris, Stockholm. Sometimes she worked solo. Sometimes Dominique and Janet were with her. Even so… it was never quite the same. Their squad was permanently missing a member, and Amy’s absence was keenly felt. In those days, the postcards were what kept Max going. They found her no matter where she was stationed, no matter how dark she was running. They were brief glimpses of a life without boundaries, a life outside the struggle, a life full of light, joy, and beauty. Some days, Max envied the sender, but most days… most days she was simply glad that Amy had gotten out. That she had found someone to love who also loved her and a passion that didn’t leave her mired in the filth of the criminal underworld. She deserved that, and Max was glad she had it.
When she eventually came in from the dark, accepting her promotion to the International Bureau, Max thought for sure the postcards would stop. Surely the sender wouldn’t risk sending those postcards into what was, for all intents and purposes, enemy territory. If those postcards ever fell into the wrong hands… if anyone ever put together the trail of breadcrumbs they constituted and followed it back to the source? There was still an international APB out on Lucy Diamond, after all. That would be a feather in anyone’s cap.
Still, the postcards came. And now that Max was settled more or less in one place, they began arriving with more regularity than they ever had before. Once a month, like clockwork, and on Max’s birthday and the anniversary of the day she and Amy had met. Postcards of beaches, museums, famous churches and artwork; they were postcards you could pick up in any trap of a tourist shop. But then… they changed.
On August 27th, 2014, 10 years to the day that Max had met Amy, the postcard she received could not have been bought in any store. It was one of a kind, individually printed. The photograph on the front showed a woman, long of limb, bronzed by the Spanish sun, being held from behind by another woman, her dark hair hiding her face where it was tucked into the crook of the other woman’s neck. Their fingers were intertwined where they were clasped, and the picture was cropped so that only the barest hint of first woman’s blond hair entered the frame, only the corner of her lips visible to betray the happy smile that rested there. Max would know that smile anywhere.
Leaning closer, Max brushed a finger over the dimple that the smile had left behind on the visible cheek. Happy anniversary to you, too, my love.
From that point on, the postcards were less of the Spanish countryside and historical scenery and more of the one who had sent it. And there was no doubt in Max’s mind of who had taken those photos-turned-postcards. Each of those photos was so lovingly taken that Max could practically feel Lucy’s specter over her shoulder when she received each one. If there was one thing that Max had understood unequivocally about Lucy Diamond, it was her love for Amy. After all, how could one not love Amy? Max had loved her from the second she first laid eyes on her, when her response to Max’s, “That’s my bunk, bitch,” had been to quirk that smile and boost herself up to sit on it anyway, a clear, “Yeah? And what are you gonna do about it?” look in her laughing blue eyes.
They’d been a matched set then, Amy and Max; Little Miss Perfect and Little Miss Perfect Soldier. They’d been unbeatable at games of strategy, unbeatable on the ranger, unbeatable in the classroom. They fought together as easily as they breathed, anticipating each other’s moves as if they shared a brain. They’d moved on to commanding their squad of four just as easily. There had been nothing they couldn’t do, and Max had been in heaven, picturing a future where this life could continue on forever.
And then had come Lucy Diamond.
Max couldn’t even blame Lucy for Amy’s leaving the D.E.B.S. She couldn’t blame Amy, either. She’d found with Lucy the one thing that the D.E.B.S. couldn’t give her—freedom. The squad had been her family, her best friends, but they couldn’t give her that. They couldn’t give her art. They couldn’t give her Barcelona.
So, Max had stepped away, stepped back, and done the one thing she could do that Lucy couldn’t. She set Amy free. And these were her rewards—14 postcards a year, glimpses of the life her sacrifice had allowed Amy to have, and the comforting knowledge that Amy was happy.
And now, here she was, 10 years after her appointment to the International Bureau, 17 years after she first walked into that dorm room at Jameson University, and soon to succeed Ms. Petrie, as the youngest Director to ever run the D.E.B.S. division. Max was satisfied, even please with her life, and yet… Dominique and Janet had been reassigned to headquarters, and that helped, but still… Max was just a bit lonely. It had been over a decade since she’d last seen Amy, and she missed her.
The night of her investiture, Max gave a speech. It was rousing, and it was full of passion; it was everything a young Director should have to say to a world in which international terrorism knew no bounds. And at the height of her speech, standing in the spot where Amy had once made her last stand as a D.E.B., Max saw her. A singly glint of light where it shouldn’t have been drew her attention to the balcony, and there she was, as brazen as she’d been all those years ago when she’d swept Amy off her feet right in the heart of enemy territory, surrounded by hundreds of people who wanted nothing more than to bring her to justice.
And at her side… Amy.
And Max had said nothing. She’d gone on to finish her speech, to accept her applause along with her new title, to enjoy the formal party that awaited her after her speech. She didn’t even allow herself to think on her visitors until late that night when she stepped into her new office for the first time… and then she could think of nothing else.
On the wall opposite Max’s desk, a new portrait hung. It was exquisitely done and Max recognized the artist’s hand immediately.
Max reached out with reverent fingers to brush against the frame, not daring to touch the painting itself, lest she do it damage. The painting should have shown them as they’d been 13 years ago, at Endgame, or 15 years ago, when they’d first become a squad. It didn’t. It showed them as they were now, women in their prime, but still united, staring out of that painting, practically daring the world to do its worst. But underneath that ferocity of purpose, there was more. The bright curiosity in Janet’s smile; the devilish mischief in the cant of Dominique’s hip; the fierce protectiveness in Max’s stance… and firm, but loving arm that Amy had wrapped around Max’s shoulders, a posture mimicked shortly thereafter by the real Janet and Dominique as they stepped up beside her. Max wrapped an arm around each of them in turn, nothing to say, and too choked up to try to think of something.
It was Janet who finally broke the silence, pointing to the glint of light trapped in a swirl at the bottom right corner of the frame. A diamond. Max reached out to touch her finger to the stone, then inhaled sharply at the soft ‘click’ that sounded soon after. Dominque was the one to reach out, then, gently prying open the secret compartment that had been revealed. Inside was a letter.
Max took the letter and read it, passing it along to Dominique and Janet when she was done. Turning away, she pressed a hand to her lips, though whether she was fighting a smile, tears, or some undignified combination of the two, she couldn’t say. What she could say was that the origins of those expressions were emotions she’d never thought she’d feel again where Amy was concerned.
Anticipation… and hope.
You didn’t think there was a chance on Earth that I’d miss this, did you? You were the best squad leader in the D.E.B.S., and you’ll be the best Director they’ve ever had or will have. I know it. I hope you’ll forgive this one relapse into international art theft I’ve allowed certain persons to have in order to deliver your gift… but can it really even be counted as art theft if you’re delivering a gift?
I know you’ll be great. You always are.
I love you.
I miss you.
Take care of our squad… take care of each other.
I’ll be in touch.
Be well… Yours always.~