I've watched Covert Affairs since the pilot episode, yet this is the first time I've had the courage to post anything about the show. Lame.

Disclaimer: Um, this is fanfiction. A disclaimer saying I don't own anything seems like a moot point.

Eggs were pretty much the only thing that Joan Campbell liked fresh from the farm. Farm-fresh people somehow never sounded quite as good. And farm-fresh spies… well, that was usually a disaster in the making.

Annie had perhaps been okay. She was slightly too eager to please at times, certainly inexperienced, and a little impulsive. But all these could be fixed. Actually, most new recruits shared those characteristics, and perhaps they wouldn't bother Joan so very badly if they had the decency to string out their arrivals at headquarters over a longer period of time. In fact, the entire agency would be much better off if they just trickled the new recruits in, one every week or so. Or maybe once a month. A month would probably be better.

But no. Of course her bosses wouldn't be so considerate. They just dumped the entire batch of newly-hatched spies upon the heads of their veteran employees with barely a warning.

And then came the process of dividing them all up. Ten to the department of technology, a couple to support stations, several dozen overseas, one or two to aid the higher-ups, about eight new analysts, and oh, Joan, how would you like a few new faces in your department? And she, oh, no thank you; we're getting along nicely now. But then, of course, the ubiquitous response, I insist.

And just like that, she was the maternal figure to half a dozen baby chicks with no idea what they were doing. Not to mention that she, for about two days, along with everyone else, would have to dodge bewildered, lost-looking individuals searching frantically for their work stations, the bathroom, and their respective bosses' offices to which they were supposed to report five minutes ago.

The majority, of course, couldn't bear to ask for directions. The others would be dying to stop and beg instructions from the nearest manila-folder carrying and slacks-wearing individual who looked like they knew what was going on, but were too afraid of the reprimand they might receive. This was, after all, the CIA. The theory being, of course, that if they couldn't find their own job in a single building, they'd have no hope of finding viable intelligence in a foreign country. This was absolutely ridiculous, but no one ever did ask for directions.

Although, she reflected thoughtfully, she'd probably send them packing if they did ever ask her. So maybe they had a point. Perhaps they could offer an orientation of sorts. College all over again.

Then came Phase Two of working at the CIA. The confidence. The I-figured-out-how-to-get-around-this-big-bad-agency-all-on-my-own-so-nothing-can-stop-me-now kind of confidence. And that usually lasted for a week or so, until they realized that the CIA life was nothing like the glamorized glory and adrenaline of the movies. Or until they failed an assignment or two.

Then came the Deciding Phase, the phase in which morals were reevaluated, in which faith, ideals, and ethics codes were examined and some serious soul-searching was done. Fully half of the new recruits would leave in fewer than five years with an interesting empty spot on their resume that was difficult to explain away. The rest stayed because they learned to live with their job, the pain and the rewards and the ambiguity alike.

Joan supposed that they nearly all had gone through this almost ritual hazing ceremony by now, some faster than others. Maybe she shouldn't judge them all so harshly.

She stepped out of her office, eyeing her people scurrying busily around. The new ones stuck out like sore thumbs. There was one, an average looking brunette woman in her 30s, standing awkwardly by Jai's elbow, listening intently, and the other—a rather attractive 20-something year old male, if the glances snuck at him by her female employees were anything to go by—was tucking into some paperwork with gusto. That wouldn't last long at all.

There would be several more new ones in this room by the end of the day; that was certain. Arthur had spoken of expanding her department, given the ever-rising level of internal issue and more prominent face of the agency. There was also the fact that she had avoided the last two batches and was being repaid this year by six new recruits. Six.

Joan decided she deserved a cup of over-priced coffee to put up with this mess. She headed up the stairs and out of her department towards Starbucks. Walking to the edge of the upstairs railing, she stifled a groan at the mass of people clogging up the walkways. Some idiot had also decided that today was a good day to test the security alarms at the outbuildings and training facilities, giving the hundred or so odd employees who typically worked in said buildings nothing to do and nowhere to be for about an hour.

"This is absolutely ridiculous," she heard a woman's voice, low and scolding, from over her left shoulder, "Just ASK someone!"

Joan turned slightly to see two obvious first-day recruits arguing behind her.

The other, a stressed-looking man, shook his head. "I'm not gonna ask!" he hissed.

The woman rolled her eyes and shook her head, her black curls bouncing around her face. "Fine." She turned. "Excuse me?"

It took Joan a moment to realize that the woman was addressing her. "Yes?" she asked, drawing out the word slightly and rather uninvitingly.

"Could you please tell me where I can find the…" she glanced briefly down at the sheet of paper she held, "Domestic Protection Division?"

Joan eyed her with wary amusement. Either this woman was bold and practical or just plain lazy. "And why do you need to know?" she tested.

"We're assigned to that department."

No kidding. "And you're lost?"

The woman's eyes narrowed slightly and the man beside her stared determinedly at his feet as if he might find a map pasted to the tops of his shoes. "We've been looking, ma'am, but we need to meet with DPD Director Joan Campbell there in five minutes and I'd really rather not be late. If you could point us in the relative direction, we'd be grateful," she maintained a polite tone but couldn't hide the irritated edge in her voice.

Bold and practical was the answer, it seemed. Apparently Arthur hadn't sent her only duds.

Joan motioned over her shoulder, "Those stairs will lead you right to the department. But the Director just left, so you may have to wait a few minutes anyway." She nodded at the two of them and headed on her way, not bothering to look back.

She glanced down at the court below her, blinked at the length of the line for Starbucks, and decided to forego the coffee run. Instead, she walked over to her husband's office.

Arthur's secretary smiled at Joan as she entered the room outside his office. "It'll just be a moment; he's in a meeting that's almost over."

She nodded and took a seat, crossing her legs and flipping through the personnel file of one of her new operatives. A minute later, Arthur's door opened and a man came out.

"How'd it go?" another man sitting in a chair a few feet away from Joan asked him.

"Uh… okay, I guess." He took a seat beside the other man. "They worked out the file mix-up. I'm now working for…" he eyed the paper in his hands, "Director Campbell in the DPD. Think he's related to Arthur Campbell?"

Joan knew that, statistically, the national agencies had a far higher percentage of male directors than female ones. It was still annoying.

The other, a blonde man in a navy suit, snickered softly, "You might as well quit now, Brad. That's Joan Campbell. Meanest agent in the entire building. You make a tiny mistake and you're done. Forever. She'll hang you out to dry. She doesn't like anybody, including her husband." He nodded slyly towards the door that his friend recently exited from.

"The DCS? Arthur Campbell? They're married?"

He nodded smugly.

"Isn't that, like, nepotism or something?"

"Apparently not," he said with a raised eyebrow and casual shrug of his shoulders.

No, Joan decided firmly. She had been mistaken earlier, to think that new employees should maybe be cut some slack, because she'd forgotten one of the worst parts about them: the gossip. The endless gossip, comparing of notes, bosses, salaries, perks, bonuses, assignments… the list was never-ending. They wouldn't learn for months the importance of keeping one's mouth firmly shut.

For the sake of her sanity, new recruits' arrivals really needed to be staged strategically throughout the year.

The gossipy blonde man—and Joan wondered why it was only women that got a bad rep for spreading rumors—glanced around and spotted her. She was still staring straight down at her file, but his quick head turn wasn't difficult to see in her peripheral vision.

"Hey!" he hissed in a whisper that was not quite soft enough, "Brad. See the blonde woman to your right?"

Brad, with a casualness that was painful, eyed Joan. "Yeah?"

"Rumor is, she's having an affair with the DCS."

Brad risked another glance. "Says who?"

"Three of my buddies from the Farm told me."

"How'd you recognize her?"

"Dunno how they knew. They said a woman with bright blond hair in her forties who usually wears dresses. Can't be too many like that here."

"Nah… She's too pretty to be with him."

"Hey, some women'll do anything for power and money."

"You think he's paying her? You think his wife knows?"

The door swung open and Arthur appeared, "I was just about to call you."

Joan ignored the wink from the blonde man to Brad.

Arthur motioned her into his office and shut the door behind them. "I wanted to ask if you could take one more new one on at the DPD."

"The one out there?" she asked wryly, leaning back against his desk. "Because you owe me if I do."

"And why is that?" he smiled, coming up beside her.

"I'm already going crazy with the amount I already have," she said, putting her head on his shoulder. "They're ambitious, gossipy wannabe spies. What more reason do I need?"

"We all were, once," he reminded her.

"No," she replied seriously, "You may have been, but I never was."

He tipped her face up and kissed her. "I'll take that as a 'yes,' then."

"Fine," She shook her head, "But I was listening to them before I came in here. They've somehow got me confused with your mistress."

Wary confusion was clear on his face. She didn't seem angry, however. "Joan…"

"Oh, I know you're not. It was apparently a Farm rumor that a woman matching my description was having an affair with you behind Joan Campbell's back."

He just stared at her.

She smiled. "Gotta love the CIA."

Arthur, no longer on his guard, wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

Joan leaned into his side, "As much as I'd like to stay, I came for the other three personnel files that you promised me weeks ago."

"Ah, yes." He grabbed them from the corner of his desk. "I was gonna bribe you with these if you tried to refuse to take another recruit. Several dossiers were misfiled, or you'd have had these last month."

"So I hear." She stood up and kissed him one more time before grabbing the files and returning to the other room.

Only the blonde man remained in his chair and his friend was nowhere in sight, but as she took another step forward, Brad came dashing back in.

"I can't find any type of map in this whole building, and I was supposed to meet my boss for the first time almost ten minutes ago!" he hissed to his friend.

Joan sighed and spoke up. "Just follow me. We're going to the same place." She continued to walk towards the door, not bothering to look at either of them.

"Excuse me?" the blonde said just as Brad asked, "How do you know where I'm going?"

Joan stopped. She didn't bother to turn around, but just looked at them over her shoulder. Their identical expressions of astonishment were rather gratifying. "Because neither of you talks nearly as quietly as you think you do," she replied in a no-nonsense tone. "Coming?" she asked Brad as she began to walk forward again.

Comments, questions, concerns? The second and final chapter should be up sometime this week.