Here is part 6. I think I tied up all loose ends. If there is anything I forgot, let me know and I will address it in the final chapter, which will be all Joan/Arthur.
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Somewhere over North Carolina
The silence in the cabin was deafening.
One woman sat quietly, staring out the window. She was lost in her own thoughts, the telling of an ordeal twelve years prior clearly taking a toll on her. The other woman watched her boss – her mentor – worriedly.
Joan finally looked at Annie, seemingly seeing the sadness in the younger woman's eyes for the first time since she had started the tale. Joan knew that Annie had heard that she was an amazing agent, but Annie clearly had no idea what the older woman had been through.
"I, uh…" Joan cleared her throat, sticking her hand back in the ice. "In the end, I suffered a serious concussion, dehydration, burns to my skin from the knife and ropes, a broken nose, multiple broken ribs, a broken left ulna and radius, and a torn meniscus, and a fractured patella. That's not including the multitude of bruises and cuts and a bruised windpipe. Shockingly, the only stitches I needed were to close up the cut on my cheek. When I first came in, doctors didn't think that I would survive," she added. "I was severely beaten and incoherent. I don't remember anything between collapsing on the side of the road and waking up. I found out later that they had to put me in a medically induced coma for four days because I kept trying to fight off the doctors. "
"In all, I spent nearly three weeks in the hospital before they released me, and that is only because I threatened to leave AMA. I was so relieved to get out of there and vowed to never go back to Switzerland. Once I was home, I started physical therapy. There had been significant damage to my knee. It was long and painful, and very difficult to maneuver. I mean, I had my arm in a cast, and a full length brace on my knee, not to mention heavily bandaged ribs. It took several months for me to walk without a crutch or cane. Doctors didn't think that I would ever walk normally again, much less in heels."
"And you proved them wrong, too," Annie said with a small smile. Joan's shoe collection rivaled her own, as Annie knew the older woman held a penchant for Jimmy Choo.
Joan returned a ghost of a smile, bringing her hand out of the ice. She examined her swollen knuckles before gingerly setting her hand down on a dry towel. "My goal was to walk down the aisle to marry Arthur, without crutches, braces or casts," she told Annie. "I did within five months, and we got married shortly thereafter. Believe it or not, it was a small ceremony: just our parents, sisters, and closest friends."
"Did your parents know what had happened?" Annie asked.
Joan sighed, leaning back. Her finger absently traced the wineglass, the liquid inside having turned warm a long time ago. "My family…much like your sister, does not know I am in the CIA. I told them that I was on vacation in Switzerland and had a skiing accident. My injuries, with the exception of the knife burns and bruising from the whip and rope, were consistent with that story. I was able to hide it well. Scarves, baggy sweatshirts, the works…my mom tried to help me rewrap my ribs at one point and I sort of freaked out on her. Arthur was the only person I allowed to touch me. He was the only one that I trusted."
Joan continued, "I spent several years in counseling after Switzerland, too. It took me awhile to accept what had happened, and to know that the men who tortured me could never hurt me again. I still see my counselor once in a while. She has proven to be an amazing friend."
"When I was finally up to it, the CIA gave me several awards for taking out the up and coming terrorist cell. That seemed to be the final chapter of what I went through, but I didn't know what I wanted to do after that. I seriously came close to quitting the agency. I didn't think that I was good enough to be an agent anymore. The beating those three men instilled on me…I was resigned. They broke me. So I figured: what good would I be? One night, I typed out a resignation letter, and had it addressed and stamped. Arthur convinced me not to hand it in, though."
"The head of the DPD at the time wanted me to stay in the CIA, but obviously I couldn't return to the field. I was too much of a risk, mentally and physically. My knee is better, but I still have some issues with it. I'm actually surprised that I was able to fight off those assassins today," Joan smiled. "Meg and Lena remained in the field. A year and a half after the incident, I ended up working at Langley, helping to oversee operations at first. Arthur became the head of the DPD, and then quickly catapulted to the role of DCS. "
"I applied for the head of the DPD, but didn't get it at first. It wasn't until three years ago that I got the job. I also got the title of Ice Queen for my…shall we say, 'take no shit' attitude. It took a while for the whispers about what happened to me to stop, though I still get gazes from senior operatives sometimes." She glanced at Annie, then added, "Sometimes when we get new blood in, it's a relief to not get that curious stare when someone finds out who I am."
Annie shook her head, drawing a slow breath out. "Joan, God…I'm sorry."
Joan smiled sadly, looking at her young operative. "Don't be. Like I said, it's in the past, and not something I talk about often. I went through a very dark time after that, filled with nightmares, pain killer addiction, and PTSD. Somehow, the aftermath proved to be more trying than the actual experience."
"The bones healed, my meniscus was eventually repaired, and the scars have faded for the most part." Joan's fingers trailed over her stomach briefly, whether it was for the soreness presently settled there or the scars that Annie now knew were there, the younger woman wasn't sure. "However…I was damaged. I spent a long time fearing strangers, and did not even want to leave the house at one point. I thought that everyone was working with those three men. I even had a nightmare that Arthur was one of them, and that he was going to hurt me. I think that was the worst part. He had been there for me, and all of a sudden I didn't want to trust him. Everyone, including the one that I loved, was the enemy."
Joan cleared her throat slightly, once again flexing her hand. The stiffness that had settled there was more of an annoyance than anything. "When I saw Meg's name on that file, I immediately thought back to Switzerland. I always wondered what would have happened if we hadn't split up, or if Meg would have been caught instead of me. She was there for me, and continued to be there. This was my chance for redemption," Joan said quietly.
"I would…" she trailed off, sighing softly. "I would appreciate it if you keep this to yourself. Not many people within the CIA know the whole story…including Auggie."
Annie nodded, blinking slightly. She had never expected at the beginning of this operation she would have learned so much about her boss.
Now she was seeing Joan Campbell in a whole new light.
End Part 6