Here it is, the sequel to Breathe! For title inspiration, I went with another song, this time Marchin' On by OneRepublic. I think it fits Arthur and Joan pretty well, at least the way I view them. If Joan's a bit OOC, it's all for good reasons. It's 1 am as I post this and I've been working on this for days, just had to get it out there! Please give feedback, it is truly appreciated!
I asked all of you guys your opinion on a time jump, but then I got inspired by Kari Matchett when she's a mom on Invasion, and I went with that. There will be flashbacks to when the baby is a newborn throughout the story, I promise. And I didn't want to make half the dialogue nonsensical baby-talk, so hopefully Joan's daughter isn't too vocally developed for her age. I'm gonna try my hardest to balance family stuff with CIA drama. Overall, I hope you guys enjoy the sequel.
I relaxed into a lawn chair in the spacious backyard of the large suburban home Arthur and I had lived in for close to 10 years. And, as of 3 years ago, the house had a third member. Serena Anne Campbell, our daughter, had been born in March three years ago, and had become the center of our lives. Auggie often joked that she was the most well protected child in Virginia, due to her two high-profile CIA parents, when he came by every Sunday afternoon. And I liked it that way. I had never thought of the possibility of having children until I got pregnant with Serena. The emotional rollercoaster had been a hell of a ride, but every day I couldn't believe I had this wonderful blessing in my life. Being pregnant had caused me to reevaluate my life, and my job. It had been a welcome, and practically necessary change.
Things definitely had changed at the CIA in the last 3 years. Shortly after Serena was born, Jai took off for another rotation in London. He had had enough of people's talk and attitudes towards his father and what Henry had done. Reva, who had very briefly done Auggie's job, was now doing most of the running around in the field with Annie. Auggie had been flirting with the idea of being OCA for months, but was still hesitant. Arthur had managed to hold on to his DCS job, and I been offered a promotion, but had turned it down in favor of making sure I was home enough for Serena.
I watched my baby run around the backyard, the skirt of her pink dress fluttering in the breeze.
I brought my hand up to my face to shade my eyes. Serena was giggling and jumping around.
"What is it, baby?"
I laughed and slid off the lawn chair, dropping to my hands and knees on the fresh green grass. I crawled a few feet towards Serena and gave her a big grin.
She pointed up at a thick branch of the tree a few feet a way, in the right-hand corner of the backyard.
"Can we build a treehouse? Pleeeaaase?"
I laughed and pulled her into my lap, stroking her fine blonde hair. She had my hair, but she had her father's piercing blue eyes.
"We'll ask daddy when he gets home, ok?" Arthur and I had gotten lucky with our schedules. I left early on Fridays and had weekends off, and Arthur came home early (relatively) on Saturdays and went in a few hours later on Sundays. For the first year after Serena was born, I only worked 7 or 8 hours a day on week days, and I had been thinking a lot lately about resuming that schedule now that Serena was more perceptive.
"K. Can we make cookies?"
"Sure, baby," I said, picking her up and walking back towards the house. I planted a kiss on the top of her head.
"Chocolate chip or oatmeal?"
I balanced Serena on my hip as I opened the sliding glass door, entering the house. Walking through the hallway to the kitchen, I heard my cell phone ring. I sat Serena down on the kitchen counter and told her not to move, then I rushed to the couch and picked up my phone.
Serena giggled. For some reason, she found it hilarious to hear me referred to anything but "mommy."
"Joan? It's Auggie. I want to talk to you about something."
"Who is it?," Serena shouted from the kitchen. "Is it daddy?"
"No, it's Uncle Auggie," I called back, covering the receiver. "Give me a second, sweetie."
"Sorry about that," I said to Auggie. "She wants her daddy to build her a treehouse."
Auggie laughed. "She keeps her eye on the prize and never gives up. Like mother, like daughter."
I smiled. "Do you want to come by and talk?"
"Yeah. I'll have Annie drop me off."
I exhaled. "Great. I'd offer to come pick you up, but I kind of have my hands full."
"Totally understandable. See you guys soon."
I went back into the kitchen and put my hands on my hips. I grinned at Serena, who was staring out the window.
"Okay, baby. Let's get out the chocolate chips."
About an hour later, the doorbell rang. Serena abandoned her crayons and paper on the coffee table and ran to the door.
"I wanna get it!"
I was in the middle of pulling the freshly baked cookies out of the oven. I placed them gently on the counter, then slipped off my oven mitts and ran after her. She was reaching for the doorknob but couldn't reach it, so I reached out and helped her open the door.
He laughed and bent down, then held his hands out, allowing Serena to step into them. She gripped his arms tightly and he lifted her up, holding her close to him. Besides me and Arthur, Auggie was the person Serena trusted the most in her life. She understood he couldn't see her, but that was as far as her knowledge of blind people went.
I waved to Annie.
"Do you want to come in?," I yelled to Annie. As Serena's godmother, Annie was a regular fixture at our house, almost as much as Auggie. Between watching Serena and playing with her nieces, Annie was set up to be the perfect mother, when her time came.
"No, but thanks," she yelled back. "I have dinner with my sister! But say hi to Serena for me!"
I nodded and watched her little red car drive down the street and turn the corner. When I closed the door and turned back around, Serena was showing Auggie her half-finished drawing excitedly.
"Hey Auggie," I said, wiping my hands on my white cotton sundress. He looked in my direction and grinned.
"Hey. It smells good in here, did you guys make cookies?"
"Yes!," Serena squealed. "You want a chocochip cookie, Uncle Auggie?"
"Sounds good, kiddo," He said. Serena jumped up and took off for the kitchen. Auggie and I laughed, and I grabbed his arm and led him to the kitchen. I handed Serena a cookie off the sheet and bent down so I was at her eye level.
"Honey, Uncle Auggie and I need to talk. Do you want to watch a movie?"
I sat her down in front of The Little Mermaid and then returned to the kitchen. Auggie was eating a cookie with a grin on his face.
"Sorry, stuff gets a little hectic around here," I apologized, biting into a cookie.
"You manage it pretty well. The DPD is running smoothly as ever, you make it home by 7 every night, your daughter adores you, and you still have time to make a mean cookie."
I laughed. "It's harder than it looks."
We were silent for a minute. "What did you want to talk about?," I asked him.
He cleared his throat. "The OCA job. I know I didn't want it, and I know when they offered it to you, you choose not to accept it. "
"Yes, that's right," I nodded.
"Well, my feelings about it have sort of changed. I really want the opportunity to do more in the field, but I don't think that's going to happen. And Arthur came to me again about the job. I just want to know what's left for me in the DPD."
I sighed. "Honestly, not much. Though you are an excellent operative and you're proved to me that you can do fieldwork, not everyone who I report to agrees with me. Do you want my opinion?"
"Take the OCA job. Three years ago you were the perfect candidate, and you still are. Paxton, the guy who's doing it now, knows he wasn't the first choice and probably would prefer to be training everyone over at The Farm."
Auggie smiled. "You always give the best advice."
"Thanks. And I know you're worried about Annie, but don't be. She's your best friend, she will understand."
"And you read minds," Auggie laughed. I started to laugh, but it turned into a yawn. A large yawn.
"Tired?," Auggie asked.
"Exhausted. And it's only…" I looked at the clock on the microwave. "… 5:15." Suddenly, an idea dawned on me. "Hey Auggie, want a drink?"
I grabbed Auggie a beer from the fridge and poured myself a glass of white wine. Unfortunately, the quiet, peaceful atmosphere in the kitchen did not last too long.
"Mommmmy!" Serena came running in from the living room. "What are you making for dinner?"
She snuggled herself into Auggie's lap and looked up at me with bright and expectant eyes. I took another sip from wineglass and sighed.
"Mommy's not making dinner tonight, sweetie. I was thinking we could order a pizza."
A grin spread across her face of obvious pleasure. She slid out of Auggie's lap and started to skip around the kitchen, singing, "Pizza, pizza, pizzzza." She stopped for a second to ask, "Can Uncle Auggie stay?"
"Yes, I can stay as long as you want," Auggie said to Serena, smiling at me. I smiled back. Serena gave a little squeal of excitement and then continued singing. I took out the number for the pizza place and went to grab the phone.
"Auggie, what kind of pizza do you like? We usually just order cheese, Serena is in a phase where she isn't very open to new foods. Arthur sometimes likes pepperoni, but I don't know where he is…."
Auggie stood up and held his hand put to me. "Slow down there, Super Mom. You dial the number, I'll call and order. You can set Serena up in front of another movie and call Arthur."
I smiled. "Sounds perfect."
I found Serena at the coffee table, drawing a pizza with a bright yellow crayon. I ran my fingers over the spines of the dvds sitting next to the tv. My fingers stopped randomly on Alice in Wonderland, so I popped that in. Serena's focus immediately switched from her drawing to the tv, and I placed a kiss on the top of her head. I could hear Auggie on the phone with the pizza place in the kitchen, so I picked up my cell phone and went upstairs to the bedroom.
"Hey Arthur, it's me. "
"Joan! Oh, it's good to hear your voice."
"Work that bad?," I asked sympathetically.
"Yes. Bill is either an asshole in general, or an asshole because he's been campaigning for the OCA job for quiet some time and I still refuse to give it to him. The crap I get for holding out for the one guy who can do the job well is ridiculous."
"Well, you want to talk to Auggie when you get home. Speaking of which, when will you be home?"
"Wait, I'm a little confused. Is Auggie at our house?"
"Yes, he came by to talk, and I invited him over for dinner."
"Good, because I probably won't be home til 8. Maybe a little after."
"Arthur! Serena really wants to see you, and you know her bedtime is 7:30."
"Joan, I'm sorry. Things are just a bit hectic here."
I put my available hand on my forehead and rubbed my temples. I sighed.
"Ok. I'll see you when you get home."
"I love you."
"I love you too," I whispered as I hung up. I took a deep breath and exhaled. I could hear Serena explaining the movie in detail to Auggie and I didn't want to go downstairs and tell her that daddy wouldn't be home for dinner. It was important to me that Serena not be one of those kids who gets used to her parents coming home late every night, not being around often. My heart always sank a little when I came home on weeknights to relieve her nanny. At least I got to take her to preschool in the morning before work.
I sank down onto the bed, tired and upset. It reminded me of another time, just a month after Serena was born. She had the most awful sleeping pattern, which meant I basically lived in sweats, getting in 30 minutes of sleep whenever I could. It was 11 pm, and I had just put her back to sleep when I heard Arthur's car in the driveway. I just sat on the edge of our bed and waited, not bothering to hide my frustration and exhaustion. He had come in, taken one look at me, and seen the scowl on my face.
"What did I do?"
"It's what you didn't do, Arthur. This is the third time this week you've gotten home after 9. I can't do this all by myself."
"Joan, you know how difficult work can be."
"Is it more important than family? Because I've been sleeping for an hour or so at every available moment, handling a newborn baby all on my own, and you've been schmoozing politicians on the golf course and sitting in your office telling people what to do all day."
"Dammit, Joan, that is not true."
Tears were flowing freely down my face at that point, but I didn't care. "My understanding when I got pregnant was that we were going to cut back on work and be a family. You were excited then. Has the novelty worn off for you?," I had snapped cruelly.
Arthur had just stared at me with wide eyes. I had never been this much of a bitch to him, even when I had the right to. When we fought, I often got angry with him, but I was never mean. I cried harder, but did not apologize. He walked over to the bed and sat next to me, putting his arm around my shoulder. He kissed my cheek and stroked my hair, letting me cry.
"I-I can't do this alone, Arthur. I just can't."
"You won't, I promise. I'll give some of my work to Jai, whatever's in his clearance level. And I'll be home as soon as I can. Ok?"
I had nodded and started to wipe tears away. Arthur kissed me again and got up to take his suit off. I had fallen asleep soon after, only to wake up to a note that said, "Went it early so I could come home early." And he kind of did. He came home at 8 that night.
A ringing doorbell startled me out of my thoughts. I grabbed my wallet off my nightstand and hurried down the stairs, knowing I had seconds before Serena started to yell for me. I opened the front door, took the pizza and paid the guy.
2 hours later, Serena had said goodnight to me and Auggie and I tucked her into bed. She craned her neck up to my face and rubbed her nose against mine. She called it a "smokiss," because she couldn't say eskimo too well. I grinned and kissed her cheek.
"Goodnight, baby. I love you."
"I love you more, mommy!," she piped up as I turned her bedroom light off. I went back downstairs and sat down next to Auggie on the couch.
"I'm sorry Arthur isn't home yet, he usually is by now. I can give you a ride if you want…"
"No," Auggie said firmly. "You need to rest. I'll be fine, I can call a cab."
I frowned. "No, you shouldn't have to do that."
"It's fine. Besides, do I really want to be here when Arthur gets home?"
I laughed. "It depends. If you're in the mood for one of our regular arguments about work schedules…"
"Nope, I'm good," Auggie said immediately. I laughed again.
"Ok, I'll call a cab. But let me at least pay for it."
Auggie raised his hands in mock surrender. "Fine. You win."
I called a cab and handed him a few bills from my wallet. He held his hand out, and led him to the door.
"Thanks for coming over today, Auggie," I said, hugging him. "You're a really good influence on Serena."
He hugged back. "Thanks. She's a great little girl."
I nodded and opened the door. "Your cab is here. Goodnight."
He squeezed my hand. "Goodnight, Joan."
After Auggie left, I went upstairs and put on my nightgown. I stared at the clock. 9:02. I wasn't even mad at Arthur right now. I just missed him. It was Saturday. He was usually home by 6, and we all had dinner together.
I froze and turned around. Arthur was standing in our bedroom doorway with an apologetic look on his face and a bouquet of roses in his hand. I slammed my hand over my heart, which was beating rapidly.
"Holy shit, Arthur, you scared me!," I whispered. He came up to me and kissed me, and I kissed back, confused and upset as I was. He handed me the roses.
"I'm so sorry I missed bedtime, and that I couldn't give Auggie a ride," he said, looking deep into my eyes. I sighed.
"Arthur, I just don't want her to get used to you working late every night."
"I know. And unfortunately, you're not gonna like what I have to say. There's a meeting Monday morning. You, me, Paxton, and the DNI."
I rubbed my eyes. "Shit. Why?"
"He won't tell me," Arthur said, a hint of anger in his voice. "So I told him I'm not coming in until noon tomorrow."
A smile slowly crept onto my face. "Really?"
"Really," he nodded, undoing his tie. He changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, then we got in bed. I leaned over and kissed him for a very long time.
"I love you, Arthur."
"I love you too."