Thank you all so much for the kind reviews on my previous chapter! Every time I come back from the dead to update this fic I'm simply blown away by the fact that people are still reading it! Y'all are the best. Timeafanx, in particular, you get a gold star for going back and leaving a review on every chapter :) Also it occurred to me that I mentioned my book in the last chapter but I didn't include a link. I don't think hyperlinks work on this site but here it is anyway: She-Writes-Anthology-Poetry-Other/dp/B0984124NM I published this book this summer as my high school senior project, and it is a collection of things I wrote over the past five years. Most of the works are poems, but there are also a few short stories at the end, so if you enjoy reading my fanfiction perhaps you will enjoy some of them as well. It's still on sale for $8.50 as of December 2nd, I will probably end the sale tomorrow (normal price is $10), but the thing with amazon self-publishing is that things take a while to update so the price might stay the same for another day or two after that. I never know lol.
Thanks for all the support! This chapter picks up where the last one leaves off; Elizabeth is in a bunker in Iran, Stevie is babysitting Ali and Jason, and Henry is at work. Henry just got off the phone with Stevie, letting her know that Elizabeth is missing, and Stevie has to break the news to Alison. Enjoy!
Henry hung up the phone and let out a deep sigh. He couldn't imagine the talk Stevie was having with Alison right now. He could remember all-too-clearly the day he'd had to explain to his daughter that her Mama wasn't going to get better. He wondered, would this conversation go similarly? Would Stevie sit Alison down, tell her she had some bad news? Would the words she'd run over in her mind fall apart the moment they came out of her mouth? Would she clasp her hands to keep them from shaking?
That's enough, he told himself. This was not the same. Alison was fifteen, not four, and her mother wasn't dying. Please, he thought, please let that be true.
God, what was he thinking, comparing his missing boss to his dead wife? This was not a line of thought he wanted to pursue any longer, and as he looked around for something else to put his thoughts on, his eyes fell on the time displayed in the corner of his laptop screen. Nadine had asked for updates every half hour; that left him five minutes. It was just enough time, he thought, for what his heart was calling him to do.
He looked at the door to his office. It was shut securely, and no one would come in without knocking. Henry closed his laptop and his eyes, clasped his hands, and began to pray.
"That's the best I can do until you can get to a real hospital," said the medical officer as he finished with the bandages on Elizabeth's arms, having already done what he could for her back.
"Thank you, Doctor," Elizabeth replied in Persian. She was a bit rusty in the language, but the basics had at least stuck with her. She stood to leave, knowing he had plenty of other patients to deal with. As she made her way to the other side of the basement, she walked by a man who was passing out blankets. He caught her eye as she passed, holding up a blanket and speaking in words she could mostly understand; she got his intention, anyway. "Thank you," she said, accepting the blanket, a small act of kindness for which she was incredibly grateful. He just nodded and smiled, and she kept walking, back to that same gray couch.
She wrapped the blanket around herself, thankful for the warmth and also for the covering over her back; she didn't have a shirt to change into, and the one she wore was stained. She was fully prepared to dispose of this blouse as soon as she was able. Some things, once stained, would never be clean again.
She didn't know how long she sat there, leaned against the side of the couch, with no way to count the passage of time and no idea what was happening in the outside world. It must have been at least a few hours. She didn't sleep, but her mind was so numb and her body so exhausted that she was pretty out of it when she heard a voice that brought her out of the fog.
"Excuse me, Secretary Adams."
She looked up, almost flinching in her surprise when she saw the Iranian president in front of her. "President Shiraz," she said weakly, rising to her feet and feeling her joints protest. "I'm glad you're okay."
"I can say the same of you." She gave him a tired smile.
"Please," he said, gesturing for her to sit down, which she did gratefully, as he pulled up a folding chair.
"Should I assume since you're here that the coup has failed?"
"Yes," he said, sitting down. "In part because of the information your government provided. If you hadn't come, we might have assumed the United States backed it."
She was quiet for a moment. "Minister Javani is dead."
He nodded slowly. "Yes. A tragic loss. Zahed was my friend. And partner."
She sighed, rubbing a hand over her face. "Mine too. I'm sorry."
"He respected you.'
Elizabeth couldn't think about Zahed Javani without thinking of what he died for. She pulled her exhausted mind together enough to be the Secretary of State for a little while longer. "I'm speaking on behalf of President Dalton when I say that I hope that our peace talks will move forward."
"I share this hope," he said. "But now I fear...there will be too many bodies to bury."
She didn't know what to say to that, didn't want to think about how many bodies lay behind them, so she moved on. "Mr. President, I haven't been able to get in touch with my government since before the…" she trailed off; there were no words for what had happened at Javani's house. "Is there any way you can get me in touch with President Dalton?"
"Yes," he said, nodding. "I will have someone get you a secure line."
"Thank you," she said, breathing a sigh of relief. She was one step closer to home.
When Stevie had cleaned up every trace of the laffy string war, she went upstairs to check on the kids. She rapped lightly on Jason's door and, hearing nothing, figured he was asleep, so she went next door to Alison's room.
"Alison?" she called out softly as she knocked. "You awake?"
"In here," she heard, and she turned around when she realized the sound was coming from the master bedroom.
"Hey," she said, opening the door and seeing Alison on the bed, red-eyed and wrapped in her mother's comforter.
"My room doesn't have a TV," she said by way of explanation.
Stevie nodded, glancing at the screen, which was showing news coverage of the coup. "Is there anything I can do for you?" she asked. "I saw some ice cream in the freezer."
Alison smiled weakly, but shook her head. "No. But thank you."
"Okay," Stevie said, starting to back out. "I'll leave you alone."
"You don't have to." Alison looked up at her. Her voice was soft but her eyes were pleading. "If you want to stay in here? Just for a little bit."
"Sure," she said with a gentle smile. Alison scooted over, holding up one side of the covers, and Stevie joined her underneath them. They sat in silence for a moment.
Suddenly Alison was sitting up straight. "I don't remember if I told my Mom I love her," she said, looking up at Stevie with eyes blown wide. "When she called this morning."
"She knows you love her," Stevie said. "She knows."
Stevie's heart broke for the girl, but knowing there was nothing else to say, she simply wrapped an arm around her. Ali leaned her head against Stevie's shoulder, thankful for the presence of her new friend, but wishing her mother would come home.
Without speaking about it, the senior staff had decided to camp out in the conference room. No one wanted to go back to their office right now. There wasn't much work for them to do anyway, but no one wanted to go home either, so they stayed, finding things to do, things to distract them from what they were all thinking about.
Daisy and Jay were huddled with Matt around his computer, watching the news, while Henry and Blake sat on the other side of the table on their own laptops.
"Where's Nadine?" Matt asked, breaking the long silence.
"She went to get her phone charger," Blake said softly.
"That was a while ago, right?"
"Maybe she got hung up with something?" Henry suggested. "A phone call?"
"I guess so," Matt replied, and the heavy silence fell back over the room.
Henry continued scrolling through the work emails that were constantly piling up, but the more time that went on, the harder it was to focus on the words on the screen. After a few more impossibly long minutes, the doors behind him slid open, and he looked up and then stood when he saw Nadine rushing in, a smile on her face.
"She's okay." she said, breathless. "The Secretary is fine."
Henry felt all the oxygen in his lungs force its way out. He looked upward, sending a silent thanks to the God to whom he'd been praying. His eyes caught Blake's, and he could practically see the wave of relief that had rushed over him—over all of them. Henry sunk back into his chair, surprised to feel tears stinging the back of his eyes.
Someone had asked Nadine a question. He forced himself to pay attention to the answer. "She was separated from her DS agents, but somehow she got to a bunker, and she's been sheltering there. A member of her detail is on his way to retrieve her, and there's a team of helicopters on its way to retrieve her right now. She's coming home."
It was almost midnight, and Stevie was beginning to wonder if she should offer to leave Alison alone for the night, when her phone rang on the nightstand next to her. The two of them looked over at it.
"It's my dad," Stevie said as she answered it. "Hello?"
Alison sat straight up, watching Stevie's face.
"Okay, thank you. I'll tell Alison. Yeah, love you too."
Stevie put the phone down and looked at her, smiling. "Your mom's okay. She's coming home."
Alison couldn't stop the joyous laughter that escaped her, not that she wanted to. She leaned forward, giving Stevie a hug. "Thank you," she whispered.
It was morning in Iran when Elizabeth left the bunker with John Kendall, the DS agent who'd finally gotten in contact with her. She stared out the car window, watching Tehran pass by, and the damage done by the coup was evident. They drove by too many damaged or destroyed buildings to count, and everywhere there were people walking around, looking lost and afraid. Even worse were the bodies strung up everywhere she looked, those of government officials and soldiers and God knew who else. As she took in all the visual evidence of what she hadn't been able to prevent, she couldn't help but remember what President Shiraz had said to her.
I fear there will be too many bodies to bury.
Vincent Marsh. George Peters. Samila Mahdavi. Fred Cole. Zahed Javani. The names of those bodies left to bury echoed through her head throughout the drive.
The next 24 hours were a bit of a blur. She was moved from a van to a helicopter to a plane, and she managed to sleep for about an hour on the flight to Landstuhl. Then she was taken to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, where she received an exam from a U.S. army doctor, Captain Ross. Once she had cleared Elizabeth, she finally—finally—found herself on a flight back home.
She was completely exhausted, but it took her half of the 7-hour flight to fall asleep. She kept hearing Abdol's screams. Every time she closed her eyes.