Hi all! Here is the final part of this story. I appreciate those of you who read, and those of you who took the time to review. It means the world to me. Enjoy some ArJo!
The Campbell Residence
"Arthur!" Joan called eagerly as she opened the door.
"I won't apologize for sending Ben Mercer!" The response was quick, and Joan couldn't help the smile that played at her lips as her husband came into the front hall. The small smile turned into a grin as he rambled off an apology for going behind her back and how he just wanted her to stay safe. It tickled her that he didn't even try to hide the speech that he wrote. Joan finally cut him off with a shake her head, pressing her lips to his for a long moment.
She pulled away, seeing the confusion in his face. Joan smirked, knowing that he expected her to be angry about going behind her back. A display of affection was the last thing he thought he would be greeted with. Joan pressed her lips to his again briefly.
"I love you Arthur," Joan breathed against his lips. She rested her forehead against his for several long moments. "So much," she added. Pulling away from him, Joan met his softened gaze and looked into the dining room, where an impressive dinner was spread out on the table.
"You cooked dinner?" Joan asked, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice.
"Delivery," Arthur admitted. "But I tipped the delivery boy very well!" he added.
Joan laughed heartily, leaning back against her husband as his hands snaked around her waist. He rested his chin on her shoulder. "I'm glad you're home," Arthur told Joan, kissing her neck. "I missed you."
"I missed you too," Joan answered, leaning her head back so she could turn and look him in the eye.
"When that camera went out…I was scared," Arthur admitted. "The only other time I was that scared was…" he trailed off, knowing that he was going into dangerous waters.
"Switzerland," Joan finished, meeting his gaze.
Arthur blinked, quickly covering his surprise. It wasn't a word she spoke often. The scars from that mission burned deeper than the marks on her stomach. Joan turned, wrapping her arms around his waist and laying her head against Arthur's chest.
"I told Annie about Switzerland," Joan said quietly. Arthur managed to keep his surprise in check once again. "I told her the whole story: from the car accident to the hospital to the aftermath. The…injuries and torture and the escape…I told her everything, Arthur. I trusted her and I opened up."
Arthur smiled slightly into Joan's hair. "That's a good thing, honey," Arthur soothed. "Your counselor said that it's important to talk about it. It helps you heal."
"It was painful to talk," Joan admitted. "And the memories hurt more than I thought. But it helped."
Arthur wrapped his arms around Joan's waist, pulling his wife close to him. He didn't miss the grimace that crossed her face. "Joan?" he questioned, concern covering his gaze.
"Meg and I had to fight off five assassins," Joan told Arthur, unable to keep the proud note out of her voice. "One kicked me in the ribs." Arthur's hand immediately dropped to her flat stomach, gazing at her through concerned eyes. He finally saw the faint finger marks around her throat, as well as the bruise under her eye that was evident despite makeup.
"Oh, Joan," Arthur said softly, pulling her to him and holding her as tightly as he dared. "Are you okay?"
"I think I'm fine, Arthur," Joan chuckled. "I could just go for a nice meal, a hot bath, and a heating pad."
"I think that I can take care of that," Arthur answered, guiding her to the table. "Any other injuries I need to know about?"
Joan quietly held her hand up, showing him her bruised knuckles. Arthur carefully took her hand in his, looking at the limb before pressing his lips carefully to the skin. Joan remembered how he did the same thing so many years ago. "I don't think anything is broken," Arthur told her. "But we should get it x-rayed just in case."
"Tomorrow," Joan responded firmly. "Right now, I just want to enjoy being home." She could tell that Arthur wanted to argue, but the single raised eyebrow was enough to silence him…at least temporarily.
"Then come on," Arthur said, placing a hand on her back to guide her to the dinner table. "Let's eat."
An hour later, Joan stood in the shower, enjoying the feel of the warm water massaging her body. Now that the adrenaline of the trip had worn off, Joan could feel the soreness settling in her body. Her ribs and hand ached pretty badly. Joan was incredibly grateful for the Advil that Arthur had gotten for her, knowing that the pills would help to offset some of the stiffness in the morning. Of course, she wished for something stronger, but that was a Joan Campbell of the past.
With a sigh, she finally shut off the water, reaching out to grab a fluffy towel. Joan quickly dried off, gooseflesh popping up on her skin despite the steam in the bathroom. She ran a comb through her long blonde hair, allowing the damp strands to settle against her shoulders.
A protective hand against her ribs, she grabbed her underwear and carefully pulled it on, followed by her blue and green sleep boxers. Joan picked up her favorite Penn State shirt, hesitating.
Walking over to the full length mirror, she used her hand to wipe away the condensation. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, Joan frowned slightly.
She gently touched the scarred skin underneath her breasts and her along her torso, remembering the feel of the hot knife as it was pressed into her skin. That was probably the worst pain she had ever experienced, with the exception of the surgery and PT that had followed Switzerland. Luckily, over time, the scars had faded to just a slight puckering of her fair skin. Arthur, God bless him, never mentioned them when she finally allowed him to take off her shirt when they were making love.
Joan ghosted her fingertips over the fresh bruises on her stomach. She was relieved to see that no bones seemed to be protruding out of her skin, indicating that there were no broken ribs.
With another heavy sigh, Joan tugged the dark blue shirt over her head, hiding the skin and scars along her belly. Her eye was swollen already, a spectacular shade of purple already. Angry black and blue marks lined her delicate throat. Scarves and a good make up job will be needed when I go back to the office, Joan thought to herself. Luckily, she had plenty of practice throughout her career.
Opening the bathroom door, she padded into the bedroom, instantly making her way to the bed and snuggling underneath the heavy comforter. A contented sound came from deep in her throat.
Arthur watched her, amused, over the top of his reading glasses. He wasn't surprised when Joan quickly sidled up to him, wrapping her arm across his stomach and resting her head against his shoulder. She smiled at him tiredly.
"How are you feeling?" Arthur asked her. He could see the toll that the long trip had taken on his wife. Her black eye looked ten times worse than when she had arrived home now that her makeup had been washed away. He brushed his thumb across the bruised area carefully.
"Sore," Joan admitted, swatting his hand away from the sensitive skin. "It's been awhile since I've gotten that physical."
"You don't have Meg as a sparring partner anymore," Arthur told her, the teasing in his tone evident to his wife. Joan and Meg's friendship was clear to everyone that they ran into at Langley, but their sparing matches were legendary. Friendship overrode the fighting, but there were many times where other operatives saw the two with gloves on and would stop to see who won. In the end, they were fairly even in wins and losses.
Joan snickered as she replied, "I think Meg and I did more damage to each other than any terrorists ever did."
The unspoken statement about Switzerland being the exception hung over them awkwardly. "You look tired," Arthur finally said. It was probably the most obvious thing he could have said, but it did the trick. Joan flicked her gaze towards her husband.
"I forgot how exhausting the field can be," Joan admitted quietly after a few moments. "Mentally and physically."
Arthur set his book down and reached over to shut off his reading lamp. He shifted carefully so that he could wrap his arms around his wife. He pressed his lips to her forehead before speaking. "Did you miss it?" Seeing the confusion in the dim moonlit room, he elaborated, "The field?"
Joan thought before carefully working her response. "I didn't really miss it, per say. That surprised me more than anything. I thought it would have been like riding a bike, but the entire time I was very…apprehensive of going to Mexico and even going in the building was tough. I didn't like the fear I felt, and having Annie and Ben there made it worse." Seeing Arthur expected her to be angry about Ben, she clarified, "Not that I was upset they were there…I was afraid that I would have an anxiety attack in front of them."
"Why did you go then?" Arthur asked. "Why put yourself through that?"
"For Meg," Joan admitted. "She was there for me after Switzerland, and I owed her. I may be twelve years late, but…she was there." Blinking, blue eyes rose to meet blue eyes. "And so were you."
Arthur chuckled softly, holding Joan as carefully as he dared. "Where else would I have been?" he asked.
Joan didn't answer; rather, she lifted her head to press her lips to his briefly. "I love you, Arthur," she whispered.
"And I love you," Arthur replied. Seeing the exhaustion in her features, he kissed her one last time. "Sleep, sweetheart. I think you've been up over twenty-four hours now. You're tired."
Joan nodded, closing her eyes. She was asleep within moments, the first deep sleep she had in years.
She finally felt safe.
End part 7 of 7. Thanks to everyone who has read! I'm thinking of doing a couple Joan/Arthur one shots over my winter break. We will see what comes to my mind. If you have a suggestion or idea, please let me know. I like writing angsty, dramatic romance. :)