Characters: Jack, Renee, Dr. Macer, Janis
Warnings: Mild language, spoilers for 7x16 and possibly the preview for 7x17.
Summary: “Oh who the hell was she kidding? After everything Jack had gone through today, she’d eat glass if he asked her to before she’d let him slip slowly away from reality in this horrible antiseptic room.”
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. If I did they’d stop doing this to me.
A/N: I’m still feeling hugely funny about posting this, and if it bothers you, Rachel, I will take it down in a heartbeat. I finally decided that given the amount of fanfic I’m probably going to write during the long dry spell between May and January, I’d better start learning to deal with my own imperfections. Adrienne, to say that you go above and beyond doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Also, I’m sure I’m taking some medical liberties here. That’s what happens when you’re an English major. Apologies in advance.
The first thing Renee did, once Dr. Macer firmly kicked her out of the room and told her not to come back for at least twenty minutes, was walk calmly and quietly down the white-tiled hallway to the women’s restroom. She couldn’t hear anyone else inside, but at this point it didn’t matter. She pulled the stall door shut behind her, slid the silver bolt into the locked position, and managed to drop to her knees and pull her hair back before she vomited all of the antioxidant vitamin water she’d guzzled and the granola bar she’d eaten while cooling her heels waiting for Larry in holding.
Under normal circumstances she was borderline phobic about vomiting. Yet right now it felt almost good, as if this at least were something she had the option to purge. After thirty seconds or so of gagging on her own spit, she finally let her hair go and sat back on her heels, sweaty and shaking. Just as she reached forward, pushing the lever to flush the toilet, she heard the creak of the main door hinges. Renee closed her eyes. One more minute and she could have been out of there unnoticed.
She took a few more deep breaths, pleasantly surprised at how quickly her stomach seemed to be calming down, although the knot of terror that had taken up residence inside her the moment she’d seen Larry’s face and realized what he was about to say hadn’t loosened a millimeter.
She had to leave the stall eventually, so she stood up and ran her hands through her hair, trying not to think about exchanging polite chit-chat with some clueless coworker. Wiping her mouth with some tissue paper, she stepped out and walked around the corner to find herself face to face with Janis. She was holding a toothbrush in one hand and a tiny tube of Colgate in the other, the kind you get at the dentist.
Renee stared for a second at the red and white label.
Janis looked at her thoughtfully, extending her hands. “I thought you might need these. I always keep an extra toothbrush in my desk.”
“Thanks.” Renee rubbed at her eye before accepting the offering. The tiny tube of toothpaste felt smooth and cold in her hand. She walked to the sink, observing that her knees hurt from where they’d hit the floor.
She wondered what they were doing to Jack, what was going on at Starkwood, but figured this was one of those situations where not brushing really wasn’t an option. On any other day she would have laughed at her reflection in the mirror, her impressive paleness made even more ghastly by the greenish tint of the overhead fluorescent lights.
Renee squirted a large blob of toothpaste onto the brush and stuck it in her mouth.
Janis hadn’t moved. Their eyes met in the mirror and Janis said after a long beat, “Are you gonna be okay?”
Renee continued brushing, breathing in the mint scent that calmed her stomach even further. When she finally leaned over and spit the foam in the sink, she said softly, “I don’t know.”
Mercifully, Janis let it go. “I’m going to make sure that everything’s still running smoothly with the feed.” She paused. “Dr. Macer says you can see Jack now.”
Renee pivoted rapidly, clutching the edge of the granite-colored formica on the sink when her head began to spin again. “I’m on my way. Or-” She dug her fingernails into her palm, knowing she needed to ask the question. “Do you need me out there right now?”
Janis shook her head slightly. “No. I’ll come get you if anything changes. Larry hasn’t backed down yet, but nobody’s firing. It’s under control for the moment.”
Twisting the white cap onto the toothpaste, Renee said, her voice more unsteady than she would have liked, “Thank you. Really.”
Janis looked away for a moment, then back at Renee, her expression so pained that Renee wanted to shut her eyes against it. “You’re welcome. No one should have to do what he’s doing. Go.”
Shoving the toothpaste into her pocket, Renee followed Janis out the door.
Her knees still hurt as she walked, and she concentrated on that, fiercely, because it seemed infinitely better than thinking of all the other places that hurt, the places that wouldn’t be fixed in a couple days by the magic of coagulation and white blood cells.
She didn’t know what to do about those places.
When Renee reached the doorway to the room where they’d put Jack, Dr. Macer was waiting for her. She skipped all the bullshit, which was fortunate, because Renee wasn’t sure what she’d do right now if someone started in with the platitudes.
“We’re running more bloodwork," Dr. Macer began, glancing down at the chart she held in her hands. "The results should be back within ten or fifteen minutes.” She paused. “You look awful.”
“I’m fine. Go on.” Renee fought the urge to bite into her lip; she knew Dr. Macer would notice.
“Okay.” The doctor held the chart by her side and looked directly at Renee. “You already know there’s no cure. There isn’t a treatment plan for this disease. Mr. Bauer is already beginning to experience the first signs of dementia and loss of gross motor control.” She broke off. “How well do you know him?”
Renee wanted to laugh, the hysterical kind that isn’t funny at all. How well did she know him?
But Dr. Macer was calmly waiting for an answer so she said, “I met him this morning, when I pulled him out of a congressional hearing to get his help on what we mistakenly thought was a domestic terrorism case. But we’ve-” She didn’t even know what she wanted to say. “We’ve worked very closely since then.”
Shifting the chart into her other hand, Dr. Macer said, “What I’m getting at is this. He’s extremely agitated, which isn’t part of the disease profile, based on the information we’ve gathered so far. If you’re going to send someone in there with him, it needs to be the person in this building least likely to make him more upset. We’ve already had to sedate him, and he fought it like you can’t believe.”
“No. I can.” Renee crossed her arms over her stomach. “Look, there’s no one here Jack trusts more than me. If I could get his daughter here I would. We’re trying to contact her. Let me talk to him.”
“Fine.” Dr. Macer glanced down at the chart again. “I can’t promise you he’s not going to become violent. Dementia has such different effects in each patient. While I don’t know a lot about him, my guess is he could be dangerous if he feels cornered right now.”
Renee coughed, the residual toothpaste sticking in her throat. “I can handle him. Open the door.”
Dr. Macer swiped a card through the reader and Renee watched as the light went green. “We didn’t restrain him,” added Dr. Macer, “But if he gets any more worked up than he is now, I’m afraid we’re going to have no choice. I have to go check the labs, but my assistant will be right outside. If anything happens, you yell. Do you understand? It’s not airborne, but if you come in contact with his blood or bodily fluids, I can’t guarantee anything. We don’t know enough yet.”
“I understand.” Renee swallowed, arms crossed over her chest.
Dr. Macer pushed the door open and let her walk through.
Renee heard the door click shut behind her before she had the chance to absorb any information about the room before her. There was a small bed on her left, low to the ground with a metal railing on the side and restraints hanging from both the hand and foot positions. Of course Jack wasn’t in the bed. He sat on the floor in the corner, back to the wall, arms around his knees.
He was shaking, especially his hands, and he didn’t look up.
She took a few steps forward, fighting the new wave of nausea that rose up in her. It was ridiculous the way her body was reacting to this. She’d run countless field ops where she could have been killed and never felt so much as a butterfly. Adrenaline, sure, but this was different.
He looked up and she watched while he struggled to focus, his eyes bloodshot. “I knew this would happen,” he said after a long pause.
Her mind flipped through a super-sized index of possible meanings for that sentence. “What are you talking about?”
“You’re not really here.” He made that sound that would have been a laugh coming from anyone else. From him she wasn’t sure what to call it. He continued, his voice raspy and exhausted. “It’s the drugs. Plus they said dementia. It makes sense, don’t you think?”
It didn’t make sense to her at all, but she decided to be noncommittal. “In what way?”
“You were already dead when I apologized.” He rubbed his trembling hands over his face, his knees knocking together in a consistent rhythm. He seemed to notice all of the sudden and stopped them temporarily by holding them more tightly to his chest. “You never knew what I wanted to-” He broke off, swallowing hard.
Renee stood, unmoving. Maybe she shouldn’t have come in here at all.
Oh who the hell was she kidding? After everything Jack had gone through today, she’d eat glass if he asked her to before she’d let him slip slowly away from reality in this horrible antiseptic room.
She still couldn’t quite convince her brain to move to the dying part.
He looked up at her. “Will you sit down with me?” The slight slur in his words would have been unnoticeable to anyone who didn’t know him. To her it felt like one of those training exercises at Quantico, when your partner held you underwater and you had to try to escape.
“Okay.” She walked over slowly, sliding down the wall to the floor a few feet away from him. The room wasn’t cold, but she was already shivering.
“You’re cold. Come on. I’ll warm you up.”
This time Renee did bite into her lip, because Dr. Macer was gone and Jack probably wasn’t going to notice. What the hell was going on in his mind? Panic flooded through her for a few seconds as she frantically tried to figure out the right way to play this. If there even was a right way. Obviously he didn’t know who she was. But if he wanted whoever he thought she was to come closer, was it okay to move?
They hadn’t covered this at Quantico.
Or anywhere she’d ever been.
“Are you still mad?” he asked quietly, and this time his eyes fully focused on hers.
“No.” My guess is he could be dangerous if he feels cornered right now.
“Then why are you all the way over there when you’re freezing?” He reached his arm out towards her.
Oh god. I don’t know what to do. But she moved, sliding a few feet over until she was next to him. His arm draped over her neck and his hand trembled on her shoulder. She couldn’t breathe. The nausea had been replaced by a breathtaking ball of pain in her stomach, and she tried to focus on that so she didn’t have to fully be here, in this moment.
It didn’t work.
Jack pulled her closer, the tremors in his fingers rendering his grip much less powerful than she knew it normally was.
“It was my fault. Everything.” His voice was hoarse. “I should have known. Stopped her.”
He was pulling at her now, surprisingly strong despite the muscles that were beginning to disobey and fail him. She relaxed her body to see what he would do, and wound up with her head against his chest, one of his arms circling her back and ribcage, the other touching her face.
She shut her eyes and prayed that the guy stationed outside would be smart enough to realize that Jack wasn’t hurting her.
Not physically anyway.
She had to say something, so when she’d swallowed four times in an attempt to keep from choking on her own words, she went with, “Jack. It’s not your fault. Everything’s okay.”
His hand smoothed over her hair, so gently that her eyes filled with tears. She tried to remember the few times in her life she’d somehow managed to come out of her body and watch herself from a distance, sort of in the third person. Like at her mother’s funeral.
She needed to do that now.
“I missed you. You don’t know-” His arms tightened so forcefully that for a second she couldn’t breathe, but she didn’t struggle. “I used to lay there at night. Look at your side of the bed and think that if I'd come a minute earlier-” His voice thickened, each syllable becoming more difficult. “Even if you’re not real, I’m glad you’re here.” He lifted her chin. “I wanted you to be able to look at me when I said ‘I’m sorry.’”
His eyes filled with tears, and Renee was grateful that she had already thrown up. She couldn’t bring herself to look away, forcing herself to remain silent despite the primal scream from her mind she was surprised they couldn’t hear downstairs in ops.
He thinks you’re his dead wife. He thinks you’re Teri.