Characters: Jack, Renee, Chloe, Kim, Little!Teri
Word count: Around 1500. Depends on whether you ask Word or gdocs.
Summary: My take on Jack and Renee in six scenes from the first four eps (mostly 8x04 – shocking).
Warnings: Language, violence. Spoilers through 8x04.
Disclaimer: They’re so not mine. I wish.
A/N: Under the cut.
A/N: So my fantabulous friend lowriseflare clued me in to this theory on writing that more or less says it’s like . . . baseball! The metaphor is much more extended than I’ll get into here, but basically it involves accepting that you’re not going to hit a home run every time, and that sometimes, you win just by icing your wounded shoulder and staying in the game. This is my attempt to do that. If I go any longer without attempting to write new!Renee, it will become a thing with me, so for better or for worse, here we go. Thank you beyond belief to lowriseflare and adrenalin211, who are awesome enough to beta fics (and offer me HUGE moral support) when I randomly decide to write them on a Sunday night. I heart you guys.
Song title is a lyric from “Even Born Again,” by Sarah Jaffe.
“But if something terrible happens, and you could have done something to stop it, I don’t think you’d be able to live with yourself.”
Three images, projected simultaneously on the split-screen of his mind.
Chloe, arms crossed, eyes filled. Waiting. He didn’t deserve her faith.
Kim pleading, the hitching tremor in her voice.
Teri, grinning and oblivious in her car seat. He still felt the warmth, the bemused wonder at the way her entire tiny hand wrapped around his index finger, holding on tight.
The yearning to step forward, move toward the car, was so visceral it felt like being shoved from behind.
But he couldn’t say no to the daughter who, despite the incalculable number of fuckups he’d made in his life, loved him with such power she’d defied his own wishes and saved him because . . .
Because somehow, she was just like him.
He strode away, the muscles in his neck locked, forward propulsion and blinders.
One glance back, and-
The businesslike, excessively enthusiastic (but then again she thought that about everyone at the moment, so who was to say) CTU agent called when Renee was an hour and a half into her daily two-hour workout.
She avoided mirrors now, but when she did catch a glimpse, she liked the hard new angles and shadowy hollows in her face.
Her treadmill was state-of-the-art, a gift to herself from part of the generous “severance package” she’d received upon her exit from the FBI.
Hush money, but no one was going to say that.
She almost didn’t hear the phone over the cacophony of Pink Floyd on her iPod.
When she heard herself agreeing to come in, there was a surreal suspension, a second where she wondered who the hell was operating her vocal cords.
Without time for a full shower, she rinsed quickly and stuck her still-damp hair up while she scoured the apartment for a clean pair of jeans.
Laundry hadn’t been a big priority recently.
Before she left, she brushed her teeth, scrubbing at them with a vigor that would have displeased her dentist.
Gripping the purse she hadn’t picked up in days, she watched the red-lined numbers on the elevator’s digital readout continually subtract one.
She wondered if this would be boring, too.
“What’s that got to do with Renee?”
He watched the worried scrunch of Chloe’s cheeks as she replied, “He asked her to go back under with the Russians.”
He turned his head, silently observing as Renee swung her chair back and forth, just a little, but enough to suggest she didn’t want to be there, didn’t want to sit still.
Jack recalled, oddly, the last attempt he’d made to get in touch with her. He’d been sitting on a bench in the obnoxiously flowery garden at the rehab center, exhausted and shaky after swimming laps. He remembered holding the phone in his sweaty hand while he dug a trench in the dirt with the heel of his boot.
He’d promised himself that it would be the last time, but that only made it harder to open the phone. He had her voicemail message memorized, which should probably have embarrassed him but only left him careening back and forth between depression and guilt.
So he’d stared at the phone for a few more minutes, sipping at his blueberry-flavored vitamin water, before finally muttering to himself, Fuck it.
The second he heard the pathetically familiar, “Hi. You’ve reached-” he’d smashed the phone shut, the plasticky snap more jarring than he’d anticipated.
Still, there was now no escape from the obvious, which was that whatever her reasons, she didn’t want to talk to him even though she knew he wanted to talk to her.
So he left it.
Now he heard Kim’s voice. Dad. I don’t believe you. I have never known you to walk away from something like this.
Even louder, his own. Try to make choices you can live with.
Had she misinterpreted him that badly? Or had she honestly tried to follow his advice and (as had so often happened to him) everything had gone horribly wrong?
All he wanted was to get on that goddamn plane.
“What is it?” Chloe asked, puzzled.
In another circumstance he might have laughed. He was going through some insane mental checklist as if there were choices here, but he’d made his decision the moment Chloe told him what Hastings wanted Renee to do.
In one day of hell, no matter what the fuck he’d done to her, she had never turned her back on him, never walked when he needed saving.
He walked toward the door.
“I wouldn’t have signed up for this if I wasn’t ready.” She could feel her voice tensing, and for some reason that pissed her off even more.
“I don’t think you are.”
Well. Thanks for the vote of confidence. Good thing nobody asked you. She was about to retort when she felt the warmth of his skin, fingers pushing up her jacket. He held her wrist, softly, his thumb skimming over the scar.
The fact that he knew where to look didn’t surprise her at all. What did surprise the shit out of her was the abrupt rise of tears, the closing of her throat, the way that him standing three inches away and talking to her like this made her want to throw this entire day in the recycling bin and start over.
This was why she had never answered his calls, even though each time she recognized his number she’d had to put the phone down and walk into another room, turn on the television, look for her iPod, wait for the inevitable chime indicating he’d left a voicemail message.
She hadn’t listened to a single one. Because if she had, she would have called back, and he didn’t need that.
Neither did she.
“Renee, this is so important. You need to let them take care of it. They will.”
The tears vanished as rapidly as they had appeared, replaced by the welcome flood of familiar cold nothing.
She waited a split second longer, irritated as hell by how much effort it took to be sure she’d schooled her face before looking up.
When she met his eyes again, she knew hers were empty. And okay, maybe that emptiness didn’t reflect the full spectrum of truth, but she was practiced enough by now to know how to sell it.
Even to Jack.
“So here we are. Me and my babysitter.” She didn’t attempt to squelch the sarcasm.
Too much effort.
His expression and his silence sliced like a razor blade (jagged and more rusty than the ones she was familiar with) but she had to give him points for having the grace not to contradict her.
She glanced at him one final time, taking in the set of his jaw and the way he was suddenly entranced by the road ahead of him, concentrating on the minimal traffic as if the world might end if the right front tire got a foot too close to the curb.
She hadn’t requested his presence in the first place, but she’d given him two openings now and been shot down both times, hard.
The passenger seat didn’t fit her body or something, and she shifted against both the cheap curved upholstery and whatever unwelcome entity had resumed its twisting, uneasy motion inside her.
She didn’t have a name for it, but it had remained inert for months, and she preferred it that way.
She listened to Jack’s breathing and tried not to think at all, but of course that worked about as well as it ever did. Maybe when this waste of a day was finally over, she’d sign up for one of those meditation classes where you learned to wipe your mind completely blank.
She saw herself striding down the hallway toward Dubaku’s headquarters, gun pointed steadily.
He’d been behind her, and he’d thought nothing of letting her take point.
Now he wasn’t even looking at her, but he was watching every move. The concept would have been paradoxical for someone other than Jack.
Finally she slouched, the temporarily submissive arch of her back somehow more fitted to the goddamn seat.
There was nothing to say, so she stared out the window and watched the whitish glare of oncoming headlights approaching and fading, flickering on and off in the darkness.
“Find something to cauterize that wound.”
Jack stared at the hole where the Russian’s thumb had been two minutes ago and listened to the fading tap of Renee’s shoes. The cloth she’d been using to calmly wipe the spray of blood from her hands lay on the table.
He was sweaty, breathing too fast.
His body felt as if he’d slammed a handful of amphetamines and washed them down with Red Bull.
He took in another breath, eyes darting around, trying to triage.
The specifics didn’t matter.
She was walking away.
And he would follow her.