One chapter left! Sorry this took so freakin' long, school & life had been hectic... but I promise this chapter is worth the wait! :) I also threw my fave book in there, fyi. Enjoy & review!
"Ughh, I need a shower," Joan said when they got home. She tugged on her hair. "I'm disgusting."
Arthur smiled. "Lucky for you, I haven't been home in 2 days, so I need a shower too." Joan grinned.
"Oh, which reminds me..," Arthur said, opening Joan's car door for her. "London station called, they have your bags. They'll be mailed in the next few days."
Joan nodded. "Good. I don't know if we had any sensitive info besides the passports, but better safe than sorry."
Arthur nodded, then surprised Joan by sweeping her up into his arms.
"Arthur!," she shrieked, smiling. "What are you doing?"
"I'm acting like a goofy newlywed with my beautiful wife, who I was afraid I was never going to see again," he said, kissing her. She kissed back, and the second they were in the front door, she slid out of his arms and began to run down the hall and up the stairs to their bedroom. Arthur laughed and set his things down, then ran after her, chasing her into their bedroom. When he arrived at the bathroom door, he heard water running and saw Joan's dirty clothes strewn about the floor. He grinned and shed his clothes, opening the shower door and wrapping his arms around his wife.
Joan smiled and kissed his arm, letting the hot water envelope them for a few minutes before turning around to face her husband, kissing him with even more passion than before, if that was even possible.
When they got out of the shower, Joan tied a towel around herself and began hunting for her comfiest pair of pajamas.
"Sweetheart, aren't you hungry?," Arthur asked her as he put on his boxers and a clean black t-shirt. She nodded.
"Yes. My gosh, I don't think Annie and I have eaten since yesterday."
"What do you want? Pizza? Chinese?"
"Yes," Joan said with a smile. She kissed him. "All of it."
He chuckled and put on a pair of jeans. "I know a few places that are open this late. Think you can handle half an hour without me?"
"It will be hard," she admitted, pulling him to her for one more kiss. "God, I've missed you."
"Mhmm," Arthur nodded, kissing her neck. He finally tore himself away. "Okay, I'll be back before you even have time to miss me."
Joan nodded and waited for the sound of the car backing out of the driveway before continuing her pajama hunt. Ever since Jai's accident, she was jumpy when starting the car. Arthur had driven them to work every day for 2 weeks after it happened, Joan didn't even want to put the key in. It wasn't like her to worry over small things, but what happened had just put her on edge.
She found a pair of comfy gray jersey pajama pants and a Penn State t-shirt, and pulled them on. Then she put on some Frank Sinatra and brushed her hair, savoring how clean she felt. There was nothing like the smell of shampoo after 4 days without a shower.
When she finished brushing her hair, she grabbed a book off her nightstand and took it downstairs to read so she could be there when Arthur got home.
Joan was on page 17 of The Beautiful and Damned when she thought she heard a creaking noise coming from the garage. Had Arthur come home without her noticing? It wouldn't be the first time she was completely consumed by a Fitzgerald book.
The noise stopped, and Joan put her book down, confused. She stood up, taking a few steps towards the kitchen.
Joan was about to flick the dining room lights on when she felt a hand on her mouth. She tried to scream, but the arm the hand belonged to wrapped around her neck, drawing her close to her attacker.
"Welcome home, Joan," Lena whispered darkly, her breath hot on Joan's neck. "You got in just a few hours before I did – if it wasn't for that goddamned Annie Walker, you'd still be in London… or maybe you'd be dead."
The final piece clicked into place in Joan's mind and she gasped, but it was muffled. Lena laughed.
"Well, I guess it doesn't matter. You'll be dead soon anyway."
Joan's eyes widened and fear took over her mind, numbing her. Before she could think of a way to get out of Lena's grip, she felt the cold, hard barrel of a gun in her side. She started to squirm, but not thrash. Lena just laughed again and moved the gun to Joan's chest. Joan frantically tried to remember if she had heard Lena click the safety off or not.
Using all the strength she had left, Joan dragged herself to the ground, knocking her and Lena off their feet. The gun slid a few feet away, and the second they were off balance, Joan scrambled to get up. She managed to run a few steps before Lena grabbed her ankles and pulled her back down. With her elbow, Joan aimed a solid Krav Maga jab to Lena's face, breaking her nose. Lena grunted angrily and pulled Joan towards her, kicking her in the stomach.
The kick was all Lena needed to weaken Joan for a few seconds, long enough to drag her up off the floor and pin her against the kitchen wall. Lena held Joan's chin in her hand, squeezing her cheeks together so Joan couldn't talk.
"You're going to regret that," Lena said, blood gushing out of her nose. "I'm going to kill you, and then when your fucking son-of-a-bitch husband gets home, I'll kill him too. It will look like Annie did it, of course. That blind tech op will never forgive her – by the time she's dead, no one will care."
Joan's eyes widened. "Don't worry, I'll leave your techie alone," Lena whispered. "I don't really give a shit about him. Not like he could ever track me down once you and Walker are gone."
Joan braced herself for what she knew was coming next. Lena reached for the gun, which she had re-holstered after Joan knocked it away, and pushed the barrel against Joan's chest, right under her heart.
"Just give me a few more seconds to enjoy this," Lena whispered, sending shivers down Joan's spine." She backed up a few paces, still holding Joan at arm's length. She clicked the safety off, and Joan squeezed her eyes shut. This was it.
BANG. A gun fired, but Joan didn't feel a thing. She opened her eyes and saw Lena in a crumpled pile in front of her, blood pooling out of her chest. Joan looked up, her face frozen in horror, and saw Arthur standing in the kitchen doorway, lowering his gun.
Joan stepped over Lena's body and wrapped herself in Arthur's arms. He kissed her hair and whispered, "You're okay. It's all gonna be okay."
Suddenly, Joan felt weak. She wobbled and then her legs gave out. Arthur held her as she slid to the floor, tears streaming down her face as waves of pain washed over her.
"Joan? Joan, what is it?" Arthur was scared and confused. Realization dawned on his face as he saw the dark spot growing on Joan's pants, right above her left hip.
"Arthur…" she whispered, her voice hoarse. Her eyes and cheeks were glistening with tears. "I feel so… there's so much pain… I…"
"Joan?!," Arthur cupped Joan's face in his hands, stroking her cheek. "Joan, baby? Can you hear me?"
Joan's eyelids fluttered closed, her face looked pale.
Three hours later, Arthur, Annie, and Auggie sat in the waiting room of the hospital, waiting for updates on Joan. When Arthur had shot Lena, her finger had tensed up on the trigger, and Joan had gotten shot in the abdomen as Lena went down. Arthur had called 911, then Auggie and Annie, and together they had spent the last 2 hours waiting. And waiting. Joan had been rushed to surgery the second the ambulance pulled up to the ER, and Annie's little red car had pulled up just minutes after.
Annie handed Arthur a paper cup of coffee and sat down next to him. Auggie sat across from them, his head in his hands.
"Arthur, she's going to be okay," Annie whispered. She put her hand on his shoulder. "She's strong."
"I shouldn't have left her alone," he muttered, wringing out his hands. "It's all my fault."
"No, it's not," Annie said soothingly. "Don't say that."
Auggie's head shot up, and Annie and Arthur raised their heads to see a kind-looking male nurse with a clipboard.
"Your wife is out of surgery. She's asleep, but you can see her if you want to. Along with her gunshot wound, she had a few broken, but there's nothing we can do to heal them until she wakes up."
"When will she wake up?," Auggie asked, speaking for the first time since he and Annie had arrived at the hospital.
"Hopefully soon," the nurse said with a smile. "There's no brain damage or anything for us to think she will be comatose. But this surgery is very hard on the body, so she may need some rest."
Arthur nodded. "Thank you."
He stood up and looked at Annie. "Thank you for being here."
Annie nodded and looked over at Auggie, who looked very sad and lost. "We'll stay until she wakes up."
Arthur smiled slightly and stood up, walking down the hall to Joan's room. Annie got up and sat down next to Auggie, lacing her fingers through his.
"Hey, she's gonna be okay."
"I know, I just…. Something doesn't fit. There's something we missed. And if I had found it, I could have prevented this."
Annie shook her head. "No, you couldn't have. This is not your fault, and it is not Arthur's."
Auggie sighed. "Well, no matter whose fault it is, Joan doesn't deserve to be lying in that hospital bed. "
Arthur sat beside Joan's bed in a chair one of the nurses had pulled up for him. Someone had pulled her hair into a messy ponytail, and all of the dried blood had been wiped from her face and hands. She was pale and still, eerily so. He held her hand in his, watching her chest move up and down slowly as she breathed, with the help of a machine beside her bed. He had been alarmed when he first saw it, but the nurse assured him it was just to facilitate the flow of oxygen throughout her body so she could sleep better.
He had been there for about 6 hours when Annie crept in. She pulled her gray cardigan sweater close to her body and shuddered.
"It's cold in here," she whispered. Arthur turned and saw her. He nodded.
"How is she?" Annie leaned against the foot of the bed, looking at Joan's pale and fragile sleeping body. Arthur sighed.
"They say she'll be fine once she wakes up, but no one will tell me when that will be. There's no brain damage, and she is breathing, but with help."
"She looks so small," Annie breathed, her voice sad. "I wish I could do something for her."
"Me too," Arthur said, leaning forward to place a kiss on his wife's cheek. He turned back to Annie and frowned, the picture of a broken man. "But all we can do is wait."
And wait they did. For 2 more days, Joan slept and Arthur went crazy. Auggie refused to leave, and Annie stayed with him. They had perfected the art of sleeping soundly in the stiff chairs of the hospital waiting room. Every time a nurse or doctor told Arthur he needed to leave Joan's room, he played the CIA card and they shut up.
The same doctors checked on Joan every few hours, looking for any indication of when she might wake up. They tripled-checked that there was no brain damage keeping Joan asleep. And every time, they came to the conclusion that all Arthur could do was wait for his wife to wake up.
"Arthur?," Annie asked Tuesday night, entering the hospital room. "I brought you a cup of coffee, and a sandwich." She placed a tray with the food and coffee on the table next to Joan's bed, knowing Arthur wouldn't eat it but hoping she was wrong. "Please, eat."
Arthur just shook his head. He looked like shit. There was dark stubble covering his jaw and cheeks, his hair was dirty, and he had been wearing the same clothes for days. Dark circles and large bags under his eyes showed the lack of sleep he had gotten.
Annie sighed and sat on the edge on the bed, looking Arthur straight in the eye.
"Sitting here blaming yourself isn't going to change anything.," she said, firmly but kindly. "Some things just take time."
"It's been three days," Arthur said sadly, his anger gradually slipping away. "I just want her back."
Arthur had spent the last few days thinking about all the fights he and Joan had, all the times the Agency had come between them. The nights ending in broken plates, complete silence, or him sleeping on the couch.
Did they really spend all that time and energy fighting over such useless things? Pulling rank on each other, playing games that neither wanted to play? Even though those fights had become less frequent in the last year, it still felt like a waste of time. A waste of their life together.
Arthur looked back at Joan, watching her eyelashes flutter and her chest rise. Then he turned back to Annie. They looked at each other silently for a few moments, then Arthur stared at the wall.
"Arthur." Annie's hand shot out and grabbed his arm. "Did you see that?"
"Joan.." Annie said, getting up from her chair and taking Joan's hand in hers. "She moved her arm."
Arthur jumped up and put his hand on Joan's cheek, stroking her skin.
"Joan, honey? Can you hear me? Move your arm again if you can."
The room was still as Annie and Arthur both held their breath. After 45 seconds, Arthur's face fell.
And then, like a miracle, Joan squeezed Annie's hand. Her eyelashes started to flutter, and she cracked her right eye open.
Her voice was raspy and cracked, but it was still her voice. Saying his name, after all these days of waiting.
Annie grinned and Arthur's face broke out in relief. He knelt down beside the bed and kissed her cheek.
"Oh, honey, you're okay. I'm so glad you're okay."
Annie smiled at Joan and Arthur. "I'll give you guys a minute." She stepped out into the hallway to find Auggie, and Arthur kissed Joan again.
"Oh, I was so worried."
"What happened?," Joan asked, opening her other eye. She sounded as if she was forcing the words out, as if she barely had enough energy to speak.
"Lena shot you. But don't worry, she's dead now."
"You killed her?"
"Yes," Arthur nodded, kissing her forehead. Joan smiled weakly, then closed her eyes again.
"I feel… very… weak…" she trailed off, wincing and shifting her body slightly. She took a deep breath. "Arthur, it all hurts."
"You have a few broken ribs, honey. The doctors said they couldn't be fixed until you woke up. "
"Ohh," she frowned. "I hate hospitals."
"I know, darling. We'll get you out as soon as we can."
Annie stepped back into the room with Auggie on her arm.
"Joan?," he asked worriedly. Joan smiled and opened her eyes. She tried to sit up, but it hurt too much.
"Auggie," she croaked out, grinning. "Hey, come here."
Annie led him to the bed and Joan took his hand. He grinned.
"I'm so glad you're okay."
"Thanks," she whispered. Arthur handed her a cup of water that Annie had just handed to him.
"You just had to go out in style, huh?," Auggie joked. Joan laughed weakly and nodded.
Arthur and Annie smiled at each other, and they all sat there for hours, making small talk and laughing. Arthur couldn't tear his eyes away from Joan; even with her deathly pale skin and her cracked lips, she looked beautiful.