Rating: PG (triggers for rape)
Summary: Renee and Larry post-Vlad
A/N: Don't own 24.
Renee lay on her side in the hospital bed, eyes closed, legs curled almost to her stomach. She felt numb, but not numb enough to mask the pain of her broken ribs and the bruises on her face. She chose not to think about where else she hurt. The medication was helping by making her drowsy, and she’d been dozing on and off. She wasn’t even sure how long she’d been here.
The door opened and she tensed, but the familiar rustle of scrubs told her it was just an orderly. “Go away.”
Ignoring her, the orderly moved to the machines beside her bed.
“Jesus Christ, what did he do to you?”
The voice startled Renee. Disoriented and frightened, she opened her eyes and followed the green cloth up the body standing next to her bed up, seeking a face. Relief coursed through her veins when the face turned out to be Larry’s. Just in time, she stopped herself from saying his name. She wasn’t sure who else might be near enough to overhear.
He bent over, pretending to adjust the tubes of her I.V. His face was close to hers, his eyes full of concern and something else. Anger.
“I’m taking you out. Now.”
Renee shook her head, still not sure if it was safe to speak.
“You’ve done enough,” he hissed. “We’ve got what we need to move on Vlad.” His voice cracked. “If nothing else, we can book him on assault. Jesus,” he repeated.
She noticed he hadn't said rape, even though he obviously knew. She was grateful; she didn't want that in the file. Fair or not, it would change how people saw her when she finally returned to the agency, and it wouldn't change anything about how Vlad was treated. A rape charge would mean a trial, and that would mean destroying the cover she'd worked so hard to build. The rule was, never give up a cover unless it's absolutely necessary. You never knew when you might need to go back in.
“Larry, don’t.” If he’d mentioned Vlad, it must be safe to talk, but she kept her voice low just in case. “It’s okay.”
He shot her another look. “It is not okay. If I had known, I never would have sent you back in there.”
“Dammit, Renee, how could I have let this happen?”
“Larry.” She moved her hand to his arm. “I know what I’m doing. It’s too soon. I’ve come too far to get out now.”
He didn’t have anything to say to that, but she could see the muscles of his jaw moving. One of the things she loved about him was that he was usually willing to let her decide how far she was willing to go for an operation, even if he didn’t always agree with her choices.
“I don’t like this, Renee. He’s getting more violent. It’s not safe.”
“We never thought he was a kindergarten teacher,” she said, grimly.
He didn’t dignify that with a response. “No. It’s gone too far. You’ve already done more than we could have asked of anyone. I’m pulling the plug. I’ll give the order for his arrest.”
“I don’t want him going free,” she warned, barely controlling her rage by pushing aside the memories of past few weeks. There would be time for that later.
“He won’t. Renee, so help me, if he goes free, I’ll kill him myself.”
A nice thought, but she knew he wouldn’t, really. Vigilante justice was not his style, no matter how much monsters like Vladimir might deserve it. Even if they didn’t have enough, Larry would find another way. She needed to believe that. There was always another way.
Fatigue stole over her and she needed him to leave, now. She didn’t want him to see her like this. More importantly, she didn’t want to see him move from anger to pity and rip away the tissue-thin shreds of dignity that covered her like bandages.
All through her leave he had kept in close contact, dropping by with coffee or soup. Sometimes she’d felt like talking, but more often not. She didn’t need his help to lick her wounds. It turned out she was stronger than she’d thought. Still, being with him helped in some way she couldn't define.
Once she had returned from the bathroom to find him pacing in her living room, his back to her as he spoke on the phone.
“I don’t know. As long as I need to.”
Renee stopped and retreated a few steps. She had the feeling she shouldn’t be hearing this.
“Don’t. Christine, just… don’t. I’ll be home when I’m home.” He snapped the phone shut in a gesture of exasperation.
Renee waited a beat before re-entering the room, this time with more noise.
He sighed. “Yeah. That was – never mind. It doesn’t matter.”
She moved to him and put her hand gently on his arm. “You should go home.”
He’d been careful, when she’d returned to work. Careful to treat her like any other agent who had been injured on the job. He knew that the collective scar tissue of that place was a mile thick. Making a big deal of her case would not help her heal any faster. Instead, he somehow managed to convey that he recognized the full extent of what had happened to her without turning her into a victim.
Still, she flinched a little at his concern, especially so long after things had returned to normal, at least on the surface.
“Are you sure you can handle this?”
“I can handle Bauer.” Renee tried to take his question for what it was: guilt. She knew he hated leaving her alone with a man who had such a violent history. She appreciated it that he believed her. She wasn't the one he doubted. He proved it by not backing down when Jack got in his face. She could see how much he hated men who used physical force and intimidation to get what they wanted. Especially if they might use them around her. All the same, she wished he’d calm down. Jack was supposed to be one of the good guys.
If only they’d both been better at recognizing which were the good guys.
“Make decisions you can live with.”
That’s what Jack had said. He hadn’t said what to do about decisions other people made, how to live with those.
Janice had been right: Larry would have hated what she did to Wilson. But that wasn’t the worst part. The worst part was that he wasn’t there to yell at her.
There were times when she picked up her phone and hit speed dial without thinking. It wasn’t until she heard the message that his number was no longer in use that she remembered. That was after the FBI had finally removed his voice mail message. She wished she’d thought to record it first. Sometimes even just the sound of his voice would have been comforting. Something familiar, some way to pretend none of this had happened.
By now they’d probably given the number to someone else, someone else who was sitting at his desk, hanging his coat on Larry’s hook.
Jack’s voice on the machine was a raw reminder she couldn’t face. Not yet.
And now it turned out it had all been for nothing. Larry was dead; Jack had probably given up on her; Vlad was still free. They hadn’t had enough, as it turned out. She had to go back in. But she wasn’t the same person she’d been then. The first time had been horrible, but she had believed, then, that what she was doing was worth it. That her sacrifice was for the greater good, and that good would ultimately prevail.
She didn’t believe that any more.
Renee’s left hand went instinctively to her right wrist. The shrink had said she hadn’t really wanted to kill herself; that it had been a cry for help. The shrink had been wrong. Across for hospital, down for death. Isn’t that what the Moonies had taught their followers to do in case of kidnapping for deprogramming? As if. As if there were some magical formula that could turn her back into the person she once was.
She’d done it right, but she had failed anyway. Another failure to add to her growing list. But she wouldn’t make the same mistake this time.
This time, she wasn’t coming out.