Title: The Corner Office or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Job
Author: Beth Pryor
Summary: This scene immediately follows Joan and Auggie's conversation at the end of Season 2 Episode 2 "Good Advices" and explores the relationship between the two characters before the knowledge of Season 2 episodes 3 and 4. Originally planned as a one-shot, but may be extended given the events of Episode 4.
Disclaimer: Covert Affairs and its characters belong to the USA Network.
A/N: I've enjoyed the stories in this fandom for a while now and finally had/took the time to write one.
The Corner Office or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Job
Chapter 1: Hook
"It's not easy, is it? Making decisions that affect your friends' safety." She lingered on the s a second, but Auggie wasn't sure if the emphasis was supposed to be on friends or safety. Either way. He got it.
"No. It's not."
"I've got news for you. It doesn't get any easier." She didn't even slip the photograph back inside the envelope before she stood.
Auggie listened to her heels clip as she turned to walk out of the concourse and back into the DPD's main room. He sat there a moment longer. Annie's voice, not panicked but resolute and determined in the face of crisis, played over and again in his head. She'd done a good job today. A really good job. Like she always did. But damned if Joan hadn't cut right to the point. Like she always did.
He stood now, turning to follow Joan, and found her behind her desk flipping through the report that he'd completed just before she'd found him.
"This was good work, Auggie," she said, still looking down at the papers as he found his way to a chair. "Not that I'm surprised, but I am sorry I missed it." She was looking up at him now and he could tell that she had broken into a little smile.
"Well, I told you to avoid the OJ trial." He tried to make his voice sound light, like today had been just another day with just another round of useless intel and routine paperwork.
She dropped the papers back into their folder, straightened them and placed them in her desk. He heard the lock engage.
"I can look over these tomorrow. I'm sure things are fine, and the Paris station now finally has something to go on. You're all finished here, right? Why don't we call it a day?" She stood and came around the desk stopping by his chair.
He stood quickly. "Yeah, sorry. I'm done. I'll see if there's a driver still here. I can call from my desk." He backed toward the door a step. Joan placed her hand on his forearm to stop and steady him.
"I can give you a ride if you'd like. I'm not in a hurry." She removed her hand.
Auggie nodded. "Sure. That would be okay."
"Good." She sounded satisfied. "I'll give you a minute to get your things."
He nodded and turned, suddenly a bit disoriented before he remembered the laser cane in his hand and the fact that he'd long ago memorized the floor plan of the DPD headquarters. He headed to his desk, stowed the laser in favor of the old fashioned white cane and slipped his bag over his shoulder. Joan knocked on the glass of the open door just as he secured his own desk.
He was. He took her arm and they made their way to the lobby and then to Joan's car, which was waiting for them at the front of the building.
"Nice parking spot," Auggie muttered as he slid into the passenger seat.
"I was only going to be here for a few minutes. They didn't make me go all the way down to my real space." She backed out and drove them through the gate but waited until they were well onto the highway before she spoke again. "You didn't want to go out with Jai and Annie?"
He shook his head. "Just wasn't feeling it tonight."
Joan didn't say any more but instead kept driving. After her next turn, Auggie's brow furrowed. He turned toward her again. "Where are we going?"
"Are you hungry?"
"Not really," He answered.
"Well, I am. I missed lunch and dinner, and Arthur's in New York until the day after tomorrow, and you're riding with me, so you'll just have to go along with it."
"There are places to eat in Georgetown. Why are we going to Arlington? That's the way we're going isn't it?"
Joan turned the car again, left this time. "Yes. It's 10:30 pm and we're going to Arlington. You have anything better to do?"
Auggie shook his head. "Drive on."
After 15 more minutes in silence, Joan pulled the car into a parking space and turned off the ignition. "Ok. We're here."
"Where's here?" Auggie inquired as he cautiously opened his door. Joan was quickly at his side to guide him inside.
"A diner on Columbia Pike."
"Bob and Edith's?"
"Yeah. You know the place?"
Auggie laughed a little. "Sure. I've been here a couple of times. Gutierrez couldn't stand to eat in the clubhouse. He always said he felt like they were going to ask him to bus the tables." Joan didn't immediately answer, so he explained. "The Army Navy Country Club is about two blocks that way," he pointed. "At least I think it's that way."
They continued through the door and Joan directed them to a booth in the corner. A waitress asked for their drink orders as she handed over two laminated menus. Joan asked for decaf and a glass of water. Auggie decided on orange juice. As she left with their orders and in search of a Braille menu, Joan returned to their last conversation thread.
"I forgot you golfed, and I'm sure I didn't know you were a member there. Arthur should have invited you to play. Were you any good?"
Auggie smiled at her. "Not bad, I guess. I was a 6 handicap. Now I'm just handicapped," he finished with a chortle and a shake of his head.
"That's terrible, Auggie," Joan asserted, finding herself also laughing at the bad joke. "Some people would find that very distasteful."
"But not us," he pointed out. "We specialize in the stuff that others don't want to do or talk about or even admit exists."
Joan reached forward and placed her hand on his fist, opening and closing in front of her on the Formica tabletop. She didn't have anything to say. This time, he was right.
"At least Annie's safe," he finally exhaled. "I don't know how you do that Joan, being such a critical part of the action without being able to control anything that's happening." He shook his head again.
Joan pulled her hand back as the waitress arrived with their drinks and Auggie's menu. He thanked her but ordered a BLT without looking at it. Joan chose an omelet.
Auggie started again when she was gone. "It was like that cartoon with the angel and the devil on my shoulder today. Only it was Jai versus what I thought you would do."
"And you went with?"
"Jai, obviously. There's no way you would have let Annie go to the train station much less try to rescue Eyal."
"Hmm. You think?" He heard Joan ripping her napkin into long strands.
"What's that supposed to mean? Of course you wouldn't have. You wouldn't have let me do that."
"And I'm sure you would have headed straight to Charles De Gaulle with no regard for your fellow operative. Or for the opportunity to grab a great piece of intel or to meet a possible asset?"
"You would have gone, too."
"Of course I would have. And so would you. And so would Annie."
Auggie nodded. Joan was absolutely correct. It's what a good field operative had to be able to do. "It doesn't make it any easier to be the guy on the other end of the phone, though."
"No. It doesn't." Joan took a long pause and then sighed, her voice catching slightly. "And the closer you are, the harder it gets." Auggie heard her fingernails tapping the table top.
He reached across to silence them. "Shit, Joan. No. We're not doing this. I told you a long time ago."
"I know." She sounded more composed now. "But …"
"No buts. I volunteered to go. You had nothing to do with it." He breathed deeply. "Nothing to do with where I went or what we had to do and you certainly did not have my dumb ass get out of the truck to look at that fucking dog." His fist clenched and released again.
"No," she whispered, "I didn't. But I could have stopped you from going."
"I had to go."
"I could have helped out with Natasha."
He shook his head. "Couldn't have been helped. Even without the secrets and mandates, it wouldn't have worked. Besides, you've done everything in your power to get me back into the swing of things. I like my job. I'm good at it. What more could I ask for from you? From all this?"
"Arthur's in trouble," she almost blurted. She didn't have clearance to read him in, but she had to explain.
"I know he is." Auggie struggled with his own knowledge of the Liza Hearn situation but pushed on. "But it will blow over. This stuff always does. Besides, he doesn't have the skeletons in his closet that Henry Wilcox has." For Joan's sake, he prayed this was true.
"It's serious, Auggie, and I don't know if he'll make it out of this one."
"With his job, you mean."
Joan nodded. "Yes. Someone has it in for him. Someone at the top or at least with top-level information."
Auggie knew for a fact that was true. Arthur himself had confirmed it with the false info they'd fed Liza. "Ok, and if that happens, what does it mean?" Before she could answer, realization spread across his face. "They've already asked you."
"You know I can't comment on that, but what I'm saying is there could be changes within the DPD."
As she spoke, the pieces of the puzzle fell in place in front of him. "And the new boss may not feel so kindly about the friendly neighborhood blind guy in Tech Ops."
"That's not necessarily what I mean. You've more than proven your worth since you've been back. There's no way that anyone could deny that or deny you your current position."
Auggie squeezed his eyes closed and shook his head. "I'm not following you, Joan. So you're moving up and I can most likely keep my job. Is the new guy gonna be that bad?" She took another breath to answer when it finally hit him and he groaned. "Jai. Right. Why the hell not?"
"I don't know it for sure, Auggie, but it's my suspicion. He's done a good job of distancing himself from Arthur since he's been with the DPD. He'll most likely skate right through."
"And he does have that amazing pedigree."
"I'm speculating, but the two of you are the most senior staff if the DCI chooses to stay in-house, and despite my best efforts …" she trailed off again.
"He'll let me play with the computer but not run a department. Got it."
"Not the DPD, no. I'm sorry, Auggie."
He let his head hang down for a moment before raising it to face her. "I appreciate that, Joan." He stopped then, not sure at first how to continue but slowly gathered momentum. "When I joined and in those first years out in the field, I thought that's what I'd always do, that they'd have to bring me back in a body bag or something. I'd thought I'd rather die than work in an office. And when I almost did, I thought there's no way anyone will let me come back. I just didn't see how it could happen, but it did. And I'm used to the way things are. I actually look forward to work again on most days. And if I never do more than what I'm doing now, it'll be okay. I'll support Annie and whoever else you or Jai or whatever director has out in the field. I can do that. I'll do that."
Joan was nodding as the waitress approached, setting two steaming plates in front of them. "I know you will, Aug."
"Are we done with all of this, now?"
Joan grinned and nodded, picking up her fork. "Yes. And I promise never to bring it up again."
"Good, because I can't handle hearing you talk about feelings. I prefer you breaking balls."
"Right. Good to know. Now eat your sandwich before I leave you here to find your own way home, although, the way the redhead across the room is looking at you right now, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have to stay here."
Auggie ran a hand through his hair and turned a bit in his seat. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. Why don't I go wash my hands and give you two a minute?" She asked as she slid out of the booth.
"You're the best, Joan," he said as she stood. She chuckled, but he grabbed her hand as she walked by. "No really. The best."