A Son for a Son
Author's Note: I'm used to having story ideas get their claws into me and not let go. This one, however, dug its claws in, locked me in handcuffs, and beat me over the head. It's the first time I've ever stopped writing a story in the middle and started and finished another instead. I'd never even considered writing a Covert Affairs fic either. (I've basically fallen in love with Joan Campbell. Sneaky spy caught me a bit off guard.) This is my first one, and it's my first one shot. Though, it's probably longer than most one shots since I still have an inability to write anything short.
Working for the CIA there had been many times when Joan felt the stress bearing down on her, times when fear and urgency reigned and there were no answers. The higher up she'd gotten in the agency the heavier those stresses became, but she dealt with them. She found a way and looked forward no matter how dark the situation was. At least she had until now.
Now while she was standing in that dark room with no answers there was even more to contend with. Water was pouring in from all directions. If there was a way out she hadn't found it yet, and she was barely managing to keep panic at bay. Her life at the moment felt like that room, and just like there, she could find no way out.
The sudden knock at her door nearly made Joan jump. She quickly clamped down on her flaring nerves and headed to answer it. She was in her own home, she was safe, but that didn't mean she wouldn't be cautious. Especially now. Especially when her nerves were jangling and the generally impossible had happened anyway. Joan gently pushed the curtains over the window aside to reveal her husband. Only a few days ago she'd told him that for her, the baby didn't change things between them. Now just the sight of him seemed to provide the security her home was suddenly lacking.
The moment the door opened Arthur knew. Something was wrong. As in control as she looked, her shimmering eyes gave it away. He knew her too well not to see it (when he actually bothered to look, and he was definitely looking now). It felt like his own fears were being mirrored back to him in Joan's eyes. But she couldn't know, could she?
"What did Henry do?"
The answer he received wasn't really an answer, but it gave him more insight into the severity of what was happening than anything else would have.
"I think you should come back home now, Arthur."
Something had definitely changed, and changed for the worst. He would have to find out what, but for now, that wasn't important. Joan was. His arms slid around her and he pulled her close. She returned the grip, holding him tightly and resting against him.
They stood together like that longer than Arthur normally would have felt comfortable doing, but he did it anyway because Joan needed it. Finally he spoke up.
"Let's go inside."
Her arms tightened around him for a moment, and he wondered whether he would need to walk in the door with her still wrapped in his arms or if she'd eventually let go. She rested her head against his shoulder once more. He could feel her take a deep breath and slowly release it before she released him too and backed away. They managed to get far enough in to close the door before Arthur pressed her with the same question again.
"What did Henry do?"
"Something he shouldn't have been able to. I have no idea how, and I can't prove it, but I know, Arthur. I know it was him. He had a hand in this, if not two."
"A hand in what?"
"The death of two Chinese nationals that were under our protection. They were working for Henry. Annie turned them."
Arthur frowned. Sometimes in their line of work things went wrong. It was a risky business. As awful as it was, assets were killed every now and again. It wasn't that unordinary and definitely not a cause for the level of unsettled energy Joan was displaying.
"In our safe house, Arthur. A safe house nobody should have known about. Under our protection."
Her voice had risen slightly in volume, and Arthur understood why. The implications of what she had just told him hadn't even begun to tally up in his head. No wonder Joan's normally cool and collected personality had slipped a bit.
"Damn it. How?"
He started pacing around the room as he attempted to come up with some feasible way Henry could have known. Joan watched him, her mask mostly in place despite the churning in her stomach that had nothing to do with the baby. At least not directly.
"And you didn't tell anyone unnecessary? Let it slip somewhere?"
Her eyes were hard. In one word she'd made her opinion of that question very clear. How could he even ask that?
"No, of course not. You wouldn't. After everything that's happened you wouldn't trust anyone you didn't have to."
"After everything that's happened I don't trust anyone but Annie and Auggie," she corrected.
"But more people would have had to know about the safe house. Still, how could it have leaked?"
Joan knew it was a rhetorical question so she didn't even bother answering him. Instead she stood there watching him try to puzzle it all out while she tried to lock down on her own thoughts and prevent her fears from escaping onto her face. What had happened with the two Chinese assets was eating at her, but it wasn't swallowing her whole. Whether or not she would reveal Henry's other play was still to be determined. Part of her desperately wanted to. Arthur could have the answer to the riddle. Unfortunately, she both wanted and didn't want the answer.
Arthur's fingers gently touched her cheek, and her eyes snapped to his. She could read the worry in his blue eyes and the sad, soft look on his face.
"What else did Henry do, Joan?"
There was something else. He couldn't be 100% certain, but he would have bet a large amount on it. Her eyes flickered, the depth of her pain coming to the surface and confirming his suspicions. He gently cupped her face in his hands.
Joan slipped away and left the room. A pang of hurt slammed through Arthur. Was she really going to push him away and handle whatever this was on her own? Had he seriously screwed up bad enough that she wouldn't trust him with whatever was hurting her so badly? He was about to go after her when she came back into view carrying a piece of paper about half the size o index card. She looked up to meet his eyes and held the card out to him. His usually rock solid wife was trembling. It was so subtle that he doubted anyone else would have noticed the unsteadiness in her hand, but it was there. He could see it. Arthur took the card but looked at her curiously before redirecting his attention to what she'd given him.
His heart nearly stopped when he read the words.
Congratulations, Joanie. I hope it's a boy. – HW
Henry threatening Arthur's child in front of him was one thing. Doing it in front of Joan was another. Anger mixed with fear boiled up with him. Before he needed to tap it down to prevent it from exploding Joan spoke.
"He sent flowers to the house today. That was in them," she explained. "What does it mean, Arthur?"
Because it had to mean something. It was Henry Wilcox. Nothing was ever simple with him. There was always an ulterior motive, always a plot. Joan knew that. She just couldn't figure out what this one meant or what it could possibly lead to.
"I'm sure it's nothing, Joan. He found out about the baby. That's all."
It was lies, all lies, but please just believe him. Joan was too smart for that though.
"It's never nothing with Henry Wilcox."
"It's just Henry being Henry." Her eyes narrowed dangerously at him. "If anything happens I'll handle it," he added.
Instead of easing her fears and calming her down like he'd hoped, his words backfired. Joan's eyes widened in surprise and her mouth hung slightly open before she spoke.
"You know, don't you?"
Disbelieving, hurt that he wasn't telling her.
"I have no idea what it's about, Joan."
"Stop lying to me!"
"Joan," he tried to soothe, but it did no good. She caught his collar and got right into his face.
"What. Does. It. Mean?"
His face softened and he rested his hand on the side of her head, using his thumb to smooth the skin near her cheek.
"Joan, you're pregnant. I don't want to worry you. It's not good for you."
If his voice hadn't held the soft ring of truth, if she hadn't known for sure that he wasn't playing her, Joan would have slapped him. Since that wasn't the case she refrained, but she was still going to get answers.
"You're already worrying me by not saying anything."
Her eyes drilled into his, begging him, pleading with him to tell her the truth, to tell her what was going on. This wasn't a time for secrets. This wasn't about CIA security, secret operations, or clearance levels. This was about her life. Her baby's life.
As much as Arthur wanted to protect her, he couldn't deny her this. Not unless he wanted to lose her again. He took a deep steadying breath and told her about his meeting with Henry earlier that day.
"He blames me for Jai's death. He knew about Teo and said I had no idea what it was like to lose a child. He's already taken my job and my marriage, but that's not enough payment to even the scores. Not according to him. He said it's just the beginning, and then he told me almost the same words he wrote to you."
It took Joan less than a second to understand what that meant, what Henry had threatened to do. Her face went pale and blank as her arm curled protectively around her stomach. A moment later her legs gave out and she collapsed.
Arthur lunged forward and caught her before she could hit the ground. He slipped her arm over his shoulders to support her weight and near carried her to the couch. Her face still had that dead look to it like she wasn't even seeing what was around her. It scared him. Aside from the solid steel look of a head CIA operative, he'd seen a lot on her face. Hurt, disappointment, fear, regret, fury, pride, love. But never this. Never this complete lack of anything. He lowered her down onto the couch and knelt in front of her, his hands gripping her arms.
"Joan. Joan, are you alright?"
Her eyes lifted to meet his. The light in them was back but flooded with deep, bottomless fear.
"Alright? Arthur, how could I be alright? Henry threatened our child. To kill our child. How could I possibly be alright?"
By the fourth sentence her voice had risen in volume and bordered on hysteria. There wasn't much control anymore. The instincts of a mother had overridden those of a CIA agent. She was the mother whose child had just been targeted. Worse yet, her child had been targeted by a man that was cold blooded enough to actually follow through with his threat, likely in the worst possible way simple to prove his point. There was nothing alright with that.
"Take a deep breath. Nice and slow," he replied. "Try to calm down."
"Do not tell me to calm down!"
The fury was only covering up her fear which was edging the anger out in places. He wished there was a way he could reach out and miraculously make this better for her. The weight that Henry had thrown onto Arthur was heavy, and Joan had near demanded Arthur put it on her too. He could have refused and lied to protect her, but he'd done enough of that lately and it hadn't worked out well. It wasn't time to look backwards. He had to look forward and find a way to convince her they would be alright. Somehow. It was kind of hard to do when he wasn't sure he believed it himself.
"There's time yet. The baby isn't due for another few months. We can figure out a way to beat Henry before then."
"Since when have we ever been able to beat Henry Wilcox?" she demanded.
It was true. He had always been at least one step ahead of them. Just when they thought they got the upper hand he proved them wrong. Usually in a terrible way. The guy was like a cockroach. A smart cockroach. He was indestructible and always found a way to come out on top.
"There's a first time for everything."
Joan apparently didn't appreciate that answer. She looked away from him, her face set like stone.
Arthur sighed. So far he was failing miserably. He only had one card left to play and he wasn't sure it would be enough.
"Look at me." When she didn't respond he gently touched her shoulder and repeated himself. "Look at me, Joan."
Slowly her eyes slid over to meet his. He reached up and cupped her face with both hands, preventing her from turning away.
"I want you to listen to me because I've never been more serious about anything in my life. Do you understand?"
He received a gentle nod in return, and her eyes stayed locked on his.
"No matter what it takes, no matter what I have to do, I will protect you, Joan. I'm not going to let anything happen to you or the baby. Do you hear me?"
Again he got a nod, but it wasn't enough. Not this time.
"Do you believe me?"
That time the response took longer. She wanted to say yes, that she believed him, but trust had never been a strong point in their relationship. Lies and hidden truth and hostility had ruled. Could she believe him even if she wanted to? She saw no deception, but…
"Is this your demonstration of transparency?"
"Yes. This is me being so transparent there's nothing between us. Not even glass. If I could let you walk into my head to prove it I would. Please, Joan, believe me."
And she did. As much as their track record ran toward disbelief and mistrust, she had to accept his words as truth. They were too genuine not to be. Plus, she desperately wanted to believe him.
"I believe you."
He leaned up and kissed her lightly before joining her on the other side of the couch. Instead of keeping the middle between them, she on one side and he on the other like they usually did, Joan closed the distance. Right now she needed to be close to him. She gently lowered herself down so she could lie with her head in his lap and tucked her feet up under the arm rest where she had been sitting. Arthur was slightly surprised at first but quickly dropped an arm around her. They stayed like that, Arthur holding her and stroking her hair for a long time. A few hours had passed by the time they stirred.
"Promise me something?" Joan asked softly.
"Promise me you'll come back from this, whatever scheme you're going to use to beat Henry."
"Scheme?" he asked indignantly, almost teasingly.
Joan shut him down right away. She wasn't in the mood for games and she wasn't joking around. He needed to understand that this wasn't a time to lighten the mood.
"Stop. I'm serious. Promise me."
He had no idea what she was talking about, yet she sounded so serious. So concerned.
"Yes," she answered. "You've started to develop this annoying habit of sacrificing yourself for what you believe is my sake. That can't happen this time, Arthur. It can't. I need you."
Joan was still resting on his lap and facing away from him when she finished, but he needed her to see his face when he answered.
"Look at me."
She rolled slightly so she could look up at him as requested. Once she did he reached down, took her hand, and planted a light kiss on her palm and then at the corner of her eye.
"I'm not going anywhere, Joan."
Joan ran the tops of her fingers down the side of his face and smiled gently. After receiving a loving smile in return, she rolled back over. She didn't know how yet, but somehow they would win. Together.
As Arthur went back to stroking Joan's hair his other hand drifted slightly toward the swell of her stomach and rested there. Nothing was alright yet, not by a long shot, but it would be. He would make sure of that. He'd lost enough already, and Henry Wilcox had won one too many times. This time Arthur Campbell would be the victor. He'd make sure of it.
For the baby.
For his family.
Henry Wilcox would not win this one.