Covert Affairs Fic. Again.
Rating: T (some language)
Characters: Joan, Annie, Auggie, Arthur
Spoilers: None, I think.
Summary: After a mission gone wrong, Joan evaluates her agents
Disclaimer: Covert Affairs and all related characters and elements are property of NBC Universal. They are used here without permission.
A hell of a day. A hell of a week. Porto had been a disaster. One agent lost, nearly two. It could so easily have been two.
Joan Campbell slumped back in her chair and pinched the bridge of her nose. It was closing in on midnight and the DPD was quiet. She really couldn't take forcing her way through another report, and if she sat much longer she'd fall asleep, so standing, Joan walked to her window and looked out into the nearly empty bullpen. There were no live operations and most of the staff had long since gone home. There was one lone agent left, sitting at her desk, poring over files, looking for that one piece that could explain why everything had gone spinning out of control, and no doubt, questioning herself.
There wasn't much more Joan could say. The intelligence had been intercepted, they knew Annie was coming before she even got on the plane. She'd done the best she could under the circumstances, nobody would find fault with her actions, and she'd made it home alive. All of which Joan had already said, assurances she'd already given, but she knew, sometimes, those words could offer little, and there would still be another star on the wall.
She should send Annie home, give her a few days to get her head around it all, sort through the emotions and questions as much as was possible. But, Joan had been out there herself once, and she knew what it was like to have to sit quietly and search for your own answers in dry intel reports under harsh lights with burning eyes and body jittery with the last remnants of adrenaline and too much caffeine. There was no getting around that need, and sending Annie home now would only leave guilt and doubt eating at her.
Joan was just deciding to give Annie another hour, she'd read through one more report herself, make one more recommendation, before she forced the agent out and went home herself, when the door to the department opened and an uncharacteristically rumpled Auggie Anderson wandered in. If he was back to get Annie to go home, she'd be grateful, but if she had to chase him out, too, she'd give him hell for the foreseeable future.
He'd been on comms with Annie when everything went to hell and they'd lost contact. Word had come in shortly after of an explosion in central Porto, and for the next six hours, until Annie was able to call in again, it had been everything Joan could do to keep Auggie off the next flight to Portugal.
They were a hell of a team, and Joan was not above admitting that she hadn't seen that coming. She expected her people to do their jobs, focus on operations, be smart, efficient, subtle, and set aside any personal squabbles or personality conflicts in the performance of their duties. It wasn't always easy, but it was vital that they do so. Still, they'd bonded surprisingly quickly.
Auggie was good at focusing on the task at hand, but he could be so damned prickly. He could hear it in another agent's voice, or the way they shifted uncomfortably, if they had any reservations about working with a blind handler. His back would go up immediately, and he'd cover his wounded pride with barbed comments, uncomfortable jokes about his blindness, or, her least favorite tactic, his unnerving trick of staring directly through people with sightless eyes. It was all calculated to unsettle and was, frankly, irritating.
Auggie was hers. Not in the way others of the DPD were her, but personally hers. She'd made sure she was one of the first people with him, one of the first voices he'd heard after losing his sight. She'd promised him a place, given him something to work towards. He was far too valuable to lose, but beyond that, she trusted him and liked him. He had nothing to prove to her, but that didn't stop his need to prove to himself, to the agency, to the people he worked with, that he was still a capable man. And if anybody suggested, by tone of voice or body language, at any hint of reservation, he'd go ... well, prickly.
Highly intelligent, perfectionist tendencies, a fit man suddenly disabled, plus a hefty dose of PTSD -- it was a hell of a combination at first, and Joan had been forced to keep him tightly in check. He'd made more than one of his tech people request reassignment, and had not endeared himself to any number of agents. But, with time and a firm hand, the bitter edges had begun to lose their sharpness. He was strong enough to overcome his disability, and Joan knew he was worth the effort, but damned if she hadn't wanted to throttle him a time or two.
Things had been getting better; Auggie was more comfortable, less moody, she'd been subjected to fewer bitter rants about his field fitness, and she hadn't had to threaten him with suspension in months. And then came the new agent. Green, pulled from the Farm before she'd even finished her training, brought in to lure a rogue agent in from the cold. While Joan most certainly didn't like or agree with the reasons Annie had been pulled, she'd had high marks at the Farm and was a magnificent capture for the DPD. Still, Annie was an unknown quantity, Auggie would be her handler, and Joan braced herself for the fallout if the new agent showed any qualms.
Auggie insisted on being the first one to greet her. He didn't say it, of course, but it was his way of feeling out the new 'girl'. A test. See how she'd react before anybody could warn her. If she hadn't had a hundred other things on her plate that day, Joan might almost regret having missed that first meeting. Something had clearly happened. Or, maybe, hadn't happened. Somehow that new, green agent had talked the seasoned veteran into breaking into a morgue with her. If they hadn't been immediately caught by the FBI, Joan would have found the story more amusing.
It would be unfair to Annie to say she didn't care that Auggie was blind -- they were friends, of course she cared -- but rather, Joan suspected that as far as Annie was concerned on that first day, if Auggie was good enough for the Agency, than he was good enough, no question. From Auggie that earned her a chance, for Annie -- well, Joan wasn't sure she knew it, but befriending Auggie Anderson that first day was the smartest thing she'd done on arriving.
Auggie was a charmer, to be sure, and Annie had surely been charmed, but it seemed to go both ways. Annie, unlike other women, was never overly-socilitous or mothering. She also didn't seem to fall into the trap of finding his manful struggle with his war injuries enchanting. She'd straighten his collar, or smooth his hair, but it was with a brisk sort of efficiency -- it needed doing, so she'd do it. She'd also set his coffee at his ten o'clock, a file at his two, she'd mutter descriptions to him, and easily gave him any necessary running commentary. Auggie, in turn, guided her through her rocky first days, and the ups and downs of her transition from trainee to agent. He was steadfastly in her corner; Annie couldn't have a better or more patient mentor.
The symbiosis was interesting -- at least as much for how quickly it had happened, as the fact that Auggie even let it happen.
Being an Army brat, Annie learned to be highly adaptable to new situations and people -- obviously, an excellent skill set for the CIA -- and aside from that rocky start, she'd adapted well. It said quite a lot about Annie's character, though, that she'd adapted to Auggie so quickly. Still training was one thing, and live operations were something else entirely. Quite aside from the trust needed between Agent and handler, Annie turned to him immediately for advice, for comfort, for assurances.
She listened to him, respected him, trained with him, and laughed (or punched his arm) at the blind jokes that made everybody else so uncomfortable - and had her own stable of jokes that made others squirm, and made him laugh delightedly. Joan respected Annie for her skills, but she liked her for that friendship.
And she liked the change she'd noticed in Auggie. Oh, it wasn't anything dramatic, not really anything anybody who didn't know him well was likely to notice. But, Joan had known him before Tikrit, and she could tell in all those little ways. Less wound up, less angry, and less abrasive. Those techs he hadn't driven off, had long since learned to read his moods and avoid the boss when they turned, but she'd noticed a new tactic -- comments in Annie's hearing, followed by relieved sighs if she disappeared into his office when she got the chance.
His temper could still show itself, but seemed more or less confined to those situations which would leaven most people's tempers frayed. He ignored or made only mildly barbed comments at uncomfortably shifting agents. Most now seemed to take a cue from Annie's absolute faith in Auggie, and those who didn't were probably as cowed by her scowl as any comment Auggie might make.
He was, on the whole, less prickly. Part of that was simply time, but Joan had to give Annie credit. Maybe he'd just needed that one person -- the person who believed in him as he was, not as he'd been.
Auggie was perched now on the edge of Annie's desk, nudging her with his cane. She batted it away, and when he persisted, she grabbed it out of his hand. Arthur, with his ever uncanny sense of timing, chose that moment to enter. He greeted them both, eyebrow raised at the small spat. Annie straightened in her chair and shoved the cane back into Auggie's hands.
Arthur spent a few moments speaking with them, then with a gentle pat on Annie's shoulder, made his way up to Joan's office.
"I thought you went home hours ago."
He smiled and shut the door behind him. "I did, but then my wife stood me up for dinner, and wasn't answering her cell. I thought I'd come see if I could help."
"Oh, damn it." Joan walked briskly back to her desk and picked up her phone. "I turned it off during the debrief, then Willis wanted an update, and seriously, can you do something about him? I forgot to turn it back on. You could have called the landline."
"What sort of something would you like done? And I could have, but I figured you were busy."
"I'm sure there's a cliff you could find." She sighed and leaned back against her desk. "It's been a hell of a week."
He crossed the room to her, then brushed a lock of hair back off her cheek. "I know. Think maybe I could lure you back home now, though?"
Joan closed her eyes for a second. Dear God, she was exhausted. "Yes, I think you can. Let me pack up and chase Annie out."
"I was surprised to see her still here."
Joan grabbed up her briefcase and frowned at the files on her desk. "She needs to process. I'll give her a week off. I'd offer two, but I don't know that she'd take it."
Arthur crossed to the window and leaned against the wall. "She took it hard."
"She'll be okay?"
"She'll get through it."
He glanced back at his wife. "That's not what I asked."
"No, it isn't. Would you expect her to be okay? She will get through it, though." Joan decided to ignore the files on her desk for now, it was already tomorrow anyway. She'd get nothing further done either here or at home.
"Are they sleeping together?"
Joan straightened, glanced quizzically at Arthur, and then past him to Annie and Auggie. It seemed he'd gotten Annie to shut down her computer and close the file, though her head was still bowed, and he was leaning over her, talking her through whatever was going on in her head.
"No," she answered finally.
"Are you sure?"
"As sure as I can be." Joan pulled her purse out of a bottom drawer and made a quick search for her keys.
"They look pretty close."
"They've always been close."
"You know what I mean."
She rolled her eyes at him and leaned a hip against her desk again. "Nothing's changed in their body language recently. So, either they've been sleeping together since they met, or they're not."
"You know, you're no fun."
"God, Arthur, you're a worse gossip than my mother."
He laughed and turned around to face her. "Our whole job is gossip."
"Your job may be, but mine is actionable intel. And frankly, if it doesn't interfere with their work, I don't consider that actionable, and therefore, do not care."
He considered that for a long moment, then shrugged. "It has to be said, I really didn't see that one coming, though."
"Maybe if you had, you could have spared us all Jai."
"Hey, now." He looked back out the window. Annie was standing, pulling Auggie into a fierce hug. "He could do worse."
Joan snorted. "And I'm sure he has. They're both still too wounded."
"They've had relationships."
"What?" He walked back over to her, and raised his eyebrows, trying for an innocence he'd most certainly never had.
"I don't think Auggie's done sleeping his way through Georgetown."
"Still burned by Mercer. But, she's getting through that, too." She paused and gave him a narrow look. "No thanks to you."
"Still not forgiven, huh?"
"Not entirely, but given that Annie's already called you on your bullshit, I'm willing to let it go at least a little bit."
Arthur laughed and pulled her purse out of her hands, slinging it over his own shoulder. "Alright, fair enough. Can I take you home now?"
Joan took Arthur's arm, and paused only to shut off the lights, lock her door, and firmly order her agents out.
"Annie, go home. You have the week off. Auggie, make sure she takes it."
"Yes, ma'am." Auggie replied with a brisk, smartass salute in her direction. Annie was noticeably silent.
"Annie, that was not a suggestion."
"I'm going," Annie muttered, pulling out her own purse.
"I'll make sure," Auggie spoke up. "Even if I have to enlist her sister."
Annie replied something that sounded suspiciously like "jackass" and Auggie smirked.
Arthur was chuckling silently beside her as they stepped out into the hallway. She nudged him with her elbow.
"So, odds on when they do start sleeping together?"
"Oh, for God's sake."