failegaidin: (MicMac closeup)
It's totally [personal profile] scoob2222 's fault. You guys know that, right?

Mac/Michelle for [profile] 50ficlets
#01 - Abyss #02 - Motion #03 - Pain #04 - Sight #05 - Sound
#06 - Parts #07 - Stranger #08 - Proof #09 - Heart #10 - Soul
#11 - Heaven #12 - Hell #13 - Rain #14 - Sun #15 - Wind
#16 - Food #17 - Pure #18 - Break #19 - Blood #20 - Song
#21 - Friend #22 - Lover #23 - Secret #24 - Drink #25 - Telephone
#26 - Glass #27 - Serve #28 - Truth #29 - Lie #30 - Sugar
#31 - Words #32 - Line #33 - Anger #34 - Cross #35 - Speed
#36 - Help #37 - Need #38 - Lust #39 - Passion #40 - Universe
#41 - Paper #42 - Gold #43 - Silver #44 - Play #45 - Rough
#46 - Fire #47 - Earth #48 - Air #49 - Water #50 - Spirit
failegaidin: (tava)
 Okay, guys, since I gave you such a SHORT chapter last time, I decided to update quickly. So here is chapter 20. The next chapter will mark the beginning of S2...and just to warn you, as the seasons go on, this story will move further and further away from cannon with plots and pairings. Hope you'll stick with me, though!

            "How can they not want to negotiate?" Michelle finally asked. "How can they not want anything?"
            "They do want something," Tony muttered. "But they've already got it."
            "And what's that?"
            "Our attention."
            "So what does that mean?"
            "It means," George told her. "That they are going to shoot every single person in that church."
            "But Ava wouldn't let that happen," she objected.
            "What is she going to do?" Tony asked. "She doesn't have a weapon on her. She refuses to carry them into a house of God."
            "Not even her off-duty weapon?"
            "You know her, Tony," Mason said. "She won't just lie down and take this. She'll fight. And she'll probably die doing it."
            The agent turned in surprise when he heard his name called by a familiar voice. His eyes widened when he saw a bearded Jack striding across the room toward him, anger and fear evident in his expression.
            "What the hell is going on?" he demanded. "I just saw the video on the news – Ava is in that church!"
            "We know Jack, and we can handle it," Mason interrupted.
            "We'll get her back, Jack," Tony said quietly.
            "How? Are they negotiating?"
            "Then how do you propose to get her back?"
            Tony frowned as he pondered Jack's question, his worry for Ava weighing heavily on him. Michelle watched the three men nervously, trying to decide if she should say anything. She was still new to CTU, and she wasn't exactly sure where she stood with Mason. But she knew that Tony would give her idea a fair listening, so she decided to speak up.
            "We know for a fact that they're not going to negotiate, right?" she asked. They nodded. "Then what do we have to lose?"
            "What are you suggesting?" Mason asked.
            "We send a team in. Hard and fast. If they're already set on killing all of the hostages, then we can't do anything more to endanger them. Plus," she added. "We have an agent inside. She can catch them unawares while they're focusing on our team."
            "That's assuming that she's still alive at that point," Mason muttered. Tony opened his mouth object, and the director held up his hand to stop him. "I hope she is too, Tony. But if she decides to fight too early or if they just choose to shoot her in the head, there's nothing much we can do." He took a deep breath. "Okay. We'll send a team in."
            "I'm going," Tony said immediately.
            "You're not a field agent."
            "I don't care."
            "He's going," Jack said suddenly. "And so am I."
            Mason sighed in frustration. "Bauer, you're not even an agent anymore."
            "Look, George. We're going, regardless. You can either have us going in with one of your teams, or on our own. Your choice."
            He stared at them for a moment, one hand on his hip. "Fine," he huffed. "But if either of you gets killed or gets in trouble, it's not my problem."
            "You sure you're ready for this?" Tony asked quietly as he and Jack suited up.
            "I have to be. I can't lose her too, Tony."
            "I know."
            Jack looked at him for a moment. "You really care about her don't you?"
            "Yeah, I do."
            "You should tell her." Tony shook his head and Jack sighed in frustration. "Why not?"
            "It wouldn't work."
            "That's bullshit."
            "I'm too old for her."
            "That's even bigger bullshit. What is there…seven years between you? That's nothing."
            "She doesn't feel that way about me. I'm barely even sure of what I feel."
            Jack nodded, understanding both Tony's reluctance and indecision. "Just don't wait too long, Tony. You'll regret it."
            "Yeah, but for now, I just have to focus on getting her back."
            The gunmen were systematic. They spread out among the parishioners, ignoring their screams and pleas for mercy as they coldly fired two bullets into each person's chest. The screams grew louder. Some people tried to resist – but their captors either overpowered them or shot them as they stood. It seemed as though there were no way for them to be stopped.
            "Oh God…we're going to die, aren't we?" Jen whispered, a tear rolling down her cheek.
            "It's certainly looking that way," Ava answered.
            Jen turned to look at her friend in shock.
            "That wasn't exactly the reassuring answer I was looking for. And how the hell can you be so calm?"
            Ava shrugged. "Crying isn't going to save anyone."
            "Sometimes I wonder if you're a robot, you know that?"
            She sighed. "You know me. I'll freak out about it later and breakdown – if there is a later," she mumbled. "Look, I've got a plan."
            "Do you happen to have a gun to go with it?"
            "Then what could you possibly do?"
            "Guns are not the answer to everything. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure they're the source of a lot of the questions. This one, for instance." She paused. "They said they're going to shoot all of us. No questions asked, right?"
            "So what do we have to lose?"
            "What are you saying?"
            "We get up. We fight. We don't take this shit from anybody – especially not some masked gunmen who are willing to throw their lives away for some shadowy man behind the curtain."
            "So that's it…we just fight? See how many we can take down with us?"
            "Well, personally, I will not go gentle into that good night."
            Jen stared at her. "You're going to quote Dylan Thomas to make me throw my life away?"
            Ava gave her a sad smile, but there was determination glinting in her blue eyes.
            "'Rage, rage against the dying of the light,'" she whispered.
            "Amen to that," Jen muttered. "So…are we counting to three or something? How exactly do we initiate this last stand thing?"
            Ava looked up to see one of the gunmen aiming his gun at the chest of a little boy no older than six.
            "Three," she whispered.
            Without looking back, she catapulted herself up from the floor, driving her shoulders into the gunman. He fell back with a grunt, the gun clattering from his fingers. Ava wasted no time knocking him out with a few well-aimed punches and then moved on to the next man, who had begun moving towards her when he heard the commotion.
            Jen was only a couple of seconds behind her. She quashed the fears that had settled in the pit of her stomach, making her feel ill. Figuring that the adrenaline would make it go away, at least for the time being, she launched herself at the nearest of their captors, throwing him to the ground. Before she could knock him out, though, he flipped her over so that he was on top of her, his hands clamping around her throat. Her arms flailed around as she tried to find something to strike him with. Finally, her hand rested on an object, and she immediately swung her arm, slamming him in the end with it. He fell to the side just enough to loosen his grip, and Jen crashed her fist into his face, causing him to lose consciousness.
            She sat up, her eyes roving around the sanctuary. People all around her were fighting back now. It seemed that all they had needed was to see someone else taking a stand – then their courage and will to live returned to them and they took things into their own hands. They weren't winning, but they had halted the merciless executions. Now when somebody got shot, it was because they were fighting, daring to rebel against the fate the gunmen had tried to shove down their throats.
            Ava was in the thick of it. Their captors had almost immediately assessed her as the biggest threat and attacked her. She fought them with everything she had, ignoring the faint ache in her left shoulder. She had only recently been able to use it at full capacity again, and her body wasn't thrilled with the prospect of further injury. But she kicked, punched and bit her way through her opponents, refusing to let herself slow. She knew that her life – and those of the people around her – depended on her ability to take out as many of the bastards as she possibly could.
            Jen disposed of another gunman, hitting him with one of the heavy chairs that rested on the altar. She heard his skull cracked and she looked at the chair appraisingly – the blow had had absolutely no effect on the hard wood. Turning, she prepared to find someone else to fight, but found herself staring down the muzzle of a semi-automatic rifle.
            A sound roared in her ears, fighting for dominance with the pounding of her heart. Then the face in front of her burst into nothingness and the body slumped to the ground, its finger still on the trigger. Breathing heavily and suddenly shaking, Jen turned to find the shooter, and she almost cried in relief when she saw Jack Bauer moving through the room, his gun systematically taking out their captors.
            She watched with overwhelming gratefulness as a CTU team swept into the cathedral, weapons at the ready. Already short in numbers from the fight with the parishioners, the gunmen stood no chance against the government agents. Regardless, they fought back, forcing the CTU team to kill them in order to stop them. Finally, there was only the lead gunman left. They had him surrounded, and it was obvious that there was no where for him to go. Swallowing hard, he closed his eyes and raised a pistol to his head, firing a single shot.
            Ava looked at the man now lying crumpled on the floor, a wave of nausea crashing over her. She just couldn't fathom how somebody could be willing to kill themselves for a cause that wasn't theirs, but belonged to someone whose only goal was power and terror. Sickened, she turned away and found her gaze resting on Tony. Giving her a relieved smile, he walked over to her, embracing her and holding her tightly. Ava returned the hug, closing her eyes and letting the relief wash over her as she realized that she was alive, despite the death sentence that had been clamped down on the sanctuary. Eventually, they pulled back.
            "What is it with you and random gunfire?"
            Ava rolled her eyes. "I wouldn't exactly call that random."
            "True." He looked down. "I'm glad you're okay."
            "Thanks to you."
            "You seemed to handling yourself pretty well from where I was standing."
            She shook her head, her face growing serious. "They were gaining the upper hand. I'm not sure I would have lasted much longer." She paused. "And if you guys hadn't come in when you did, I'd be short a best friend right now. So…thank you."
            Tony gave her a small smile. "You're welcome. I'm just glad you didn't get shot this time."
            "Me too." She looked around the room as the CTU team worked to clean up the bodies. "So do we have a lead on this guy?"
            He sighed. "None."
            Ava looked at him in sharply. "None? How can that be?"
            "He left no tracks. All his men are dead. They accomplished what they set out to do – they took control of a situation and we had no power to stop them."
            "But you did stop them. You saved us."
            "But we have no idea who he is. And no way to anticipate or stop the next attack."
            "You think there will be more?"
            He shrugged. "Do you really think someone like that can just let things lie after tasting that kind of power?"
            "I hate people," Ava muttered.
            "Actually, I think you have the opposite problem. You love them too much."
            "Impossible," she said. "You can never love too much."
            "Final count, thirty one dead," Mason announced as Tony, Ava and Michelle walked into his office.
            "Bastards," Michelle muttered. "Who goes into a church and opens fire?"
            "A nut job," he answered.
            Ava shook her head. "Evil."
            They stood in silence for a minute, absorbing what she had said. The atmosphere grew darker as they pondered, but then George broke the spell.
            "We've done everything we can to try and find this guy."
            "And?" Ava asked.
            Michelle answered. "Nothing. He left absolutely no trace. Nothing in the feed or transmission to give any hints of his identity. The shooters have all been identified as former convicts from all around the world. We're digging into their pasts to find out where they could have crossed paths with this guy. But there's no paper trail. They were paid a great deal of money, but so far, we haven't been able to trace it." She paused. "In fact, we can't even be sure that the person behind this is a man. We're completely in the dark."
            "You're not actually suggesting that a woman could be behind this?" Tony asked, disbelief in his voice.
            Michelle raised her eyebrow at him. "You're not actually suggesting that a woman COULDN'T be behind this, are you?"
            He shrugged uncomfortably. "No, but…I heard what that guy…person…said on the video. I just can't believe that a woman would be that cold and merciless when it comes to the deaths of others."
            "What about Nina Myers?"
            Tony winced and Ava closed her eyes at the impact of Michelle's words. The analyst realized what she said and her eyes widened.
            "I am so sorry. That just slipped out. I didn't think about it first."
            Ava gave her a small smile.
            "It's okay. We know you didn't mean anything by it." She took a deep breath and then changed the subject, the pain on Tony's face like a knife in her heart. "So," she turned to Mason. "What's the next step? How do we find this guy?"
            Any hope that she had died as George shrugged.
            "We wait."
            "You're kidding, right? Please oh please tell me you're kidding."
            "What do we have to go on? What leads can we possibly follow?"
            "There's got to be something," Tony interjected.
            Michelle shook her head. "I really wish there was. But we've got nothing."
            "So we just wait?"
            "You said it yourself, Tony," Ava said quietly. "Once somebody like that tastes that kind of power…do you really think they'll just sit back and retire? He'll strike again. And we have no way to be ready to it."
failegaidin: (Default)
Okay, I realize that this is like, the shortest chapter I have ever written. But it was necessary to up the tension. Hopefully it won't be too long before the next chapter gets posted as well. Enjoy!

            "Everyone to the ground!" one of the men roared, firing off a couple shots into the air.
            The parishioners fell to the floor as one, some screaming, some crying. Ava glanced over at Jen, reassuring herself that her friend was still okay. Jen gave her a small nod, despite the fear looming in her eyes. Looking around, Ava tried to count how many gunmen there were, but all she could really tell from her position was that there were more than seven. She silently cursed the fact that she didn't have any weapons on her – she never brought her gun to church. Something about the very idea was repugnant to her.
            A movement to her right caught Ava's attention, and she turned her head. One of the older priests was moving down the aisle toward the gunman who had spoken. She could see that his hands shook, but he kept his face passive as he approached them.
            "Please, gentlemen," he said quietly. "Why don't you just tell us what you want. There's no reason for any violence."
            Without any hesitation, the gunman lifted his weapon and shot the priest in the head. As the old man crumpled to the ground, the screams in the cathedral rose to a higher pitch. Their captor turned to look at his hostages.
            "We're here to deliver a message," he declared loudly.
            "Tony!" Mason bellowed as he barreled out of his office and down the stairs. "Turn on CNN. NOW!"
            Frowning, Tony did as his boss asked. As the news came onto the screen, he found himself watching a reporting standing outside of St. Patrick's Cathedral in downtown Los Angeles.
            "For those of you who have just joined us, I'm standing in from of St. Patrick's Cathedral. There have been reports of multiple gunshots from inside, and the doors are barred. We have also heard screaming, presumably from the hostages inside. Law enforcement officers are trying to negotiate with the gunmen, but so far have not had any luck. But a source in the police department tells me that CTU – the Counter Terrorist Unit – has been called in."
            "Oh my God."
            Tony turned to see Michelle Dessler standing beside him, a hand over her mouth as she watched the TV screen. She had joined CTU shortly after the attempts on President Palmer, replacing Nina. So far she was working out well, quickly befriending both Ava and Tony.
            "What?" he asked, seeing worry etched across her features.
            She opened her mouth to answer when Mason stepped in.
            "They're releasing a video," he told them.
            "A video of what?"
            "I'm guessing their demands. They won't give it to authorities. They're sending a video feed through the news network."
            "How the hell are they doing that?"
            "Beats me. But apparently these guys are more sophisticated than your usual hired gunmen."
            The two men quieted as the picture on the screen changed. A figure hidden in darkness faced the camera, the shadows obscuring their face so that an I.D. was impossible. When they began to speak, it was obvious that they were using a voice changer to mask their identity even further.
            "You are probably expecting me to lay out my demands here, so that we can negotiate and you can save the lives of the hostages inside of St. Patrick's. But I am here to inform you that I have no demands. I do not want anything from you. There is nothing you can give me that would make me change my mind about what I'm about to do. This is about power, plain and simple. I have it. You don't. I can do anything at anytime, and there is nothing that you can do to stop me. These people inside of St. Patrick's will die – everyone single one of them. No negotiating or threatening will change that fact. My men have no concern for their own lives – their only mission is to prove to you that you are utterly powerless."
            The shadowy figure disappeared, and the inside of the cathedral became visible. Tony realized that they were looking at a live feed now. Mason yelled into the phone beside him before slamming it back down into its cradle.
            "Who was that?"
            "The network. They're trying to figure out where the video is coming from, but somebody is overriding their systems. I think we've just been introduced to a major player."
            One of the gunmen appeared on the screen, his black mask making it impossible to know who he was. Bending down, he dragged a young woman up off the floor, holding her in front of him so that everyone watching could get a good look at her face. She was sobbing, her body quaking with fear as her captor held her in place.
            "This is only the beginning," he growled.
            Bringing up his weapon, he shot her in the temple.
            "Oh shit," Tony cursed, moving closer to the big screen so that he could get a better look.
            "That's what I was about to tell you," Michelle said quietly. "She was supposed to sing during the service."
            "What?" Mason demanded. "What are you talking about?"
            Tony closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. Lifting a finger he pointed to two figures on the floor of the cathedral, their eyes wide as they watched the scene around them unfold.
            "Ava and Jen. They're there. In the cathedral."
failegaidin: (Default)
Here's chapter 18. The song is "There Will Come A Day" by Faith Hill.

            Evanescence rang through the house as Ava and Jen worked in the kitchen. They had decided that a time of baking and eating like pigs was definitely in order, and had set aside an entire weekend devoted to that. They had movie and TV on DVD marathons planned that would let them zone out, laugh, and basically just ignore the world around them for two solid days.

            Jen watched her friend out of the corner of her eye as she stirred the brownie mix. Ava had been quieter than usual, her mind seemingly elsewhere. Her wounds were healing nicely – she could use her left arm without wincing, and most of the bruises had faded. But something was obviously still troubling her, and Jen was determined to find out what it was.

            "Alright," she finally said. "Spill it."

            Ava looked at her in confusion.

            "Spill what?"

            "Whatever's bothering you."

            "I'm fine."











            "Bastard bitch of Barney."

            "Illegitimate Teletubby."

            "Britney-loving prostitot."

            "Tone-deaf mer-slut."

            Jen stopped at that one, shock and admiration on her face.

            "I'm impressed."

            Ava smiled. "It's not mine."

            "You're allowed to steal in the name game. Who came up with that?"

            "Andrea. We were online. After I called her a bottle-blonde band whore."

            "You guys have all the fun without me."

            "Not our fault you're never online."

            "True," Jen conceded. Her smile faded as she looked at Ava more intently. "Seriously, though. What's the matter?"

            Ava sighed. "My dad called."

            "What the hell did he want?"

            "I told you about what he said to Tony, right?"

            "On the day the shit hit the fan? Yeah. You said Tony handled it pretty well."

            "He handled it really well. Anyway, apparently Dad wants to talk it out."

            "Your phrase or his?"


            Jen stopped stirring the brownie mix and turned to her friend. Giving her a gentle look, she spoke with a firm voice.

            "You know he's not going to apologize, right?"

            Ava nodded, her gaze focused on the cookie dough she was putting onto the cookie sheet.

            "He's only going to make you feel worse," Jen continued. "He's going to tell you exactly why he thinks he's right and point out everywhere in your life where he thinks you could be doing better. It's going to end with you crying, and him telling you that you have no right to cry because he's just being honest with you and trying to help you."

            The tears were stinging Ava's eyes even as she lifted her gaze to her friend's. Biting her bottom lip, she nodded.

            "I know. But I still have to go."


            "Because it could be different this time."

            Jen sighed. "I get it, but I wish you wouldn't go. Where are you meeting him?"

            "Café Blair. We're having lunch on Monday."

            "I'm going to be there, too."

            Ava frowned. "Why?"

            "So that I can kick his ass when he starts yelling at you."

            "You really hate him, don't you?"

            Jen took Ava's face in her hands so that she couldn't look away.

            "You are a beautiful, smart, kind, wonderful person, and I hate the man who has made you doubt that time and again." She wiped away the tear that slid down her friend's cheek. "Now get baking. I want chocolate chip cookies, dammit."

            They both smiled and returned to their baking.




            She had only been sitting there for three minutes, and already Ava wanted to leave. Trying to look comfortable, she glanced around the outdoor café, wondering if anyone else could tell how badly she wanted to get out of there. Her eyes rested briefly on Jen, who was sitting across the patio, her nose in a book. But Ava knew that her friend was watching them like a hawk from behind her sunglasses.

            “It’s good to see you,” her father said, pulling her out of her thoughts. “I hardly ever see you anymore.”

            Ava looked across the table at her dad. He sat there, in jeans and a t-shirt, a New York Yankees hat stuffed onto his head. His moustache and sideburns were starting to show gray, and she knew that under the cap, he was starting to lose his hair. Red shaded his round cheeks, and Ava found herself wondering if he had had anything to drink before their lunch.

            Shaking her head, she tried to focus on what he was saying.

            “I’ve been busy,” she answered evasively.

            “It’s almost as though you’ve been avoiding me.”

            She sighed, suddenly realizing that this whole thing had been a catastrophic idea. He was gunning for a fight, and he wouldn’t let it drop until he got it – or until he broke her and she walked away.

            “That’s because I have been,” she finally declared.

            “Excuse me?”

            “Would you rather I lied to you?” Ava asked, staring at her food and picking at it with her fork.

            “I’d like to know why you wouldn’t want to see me.”

            “It might be because you always find a way to belittle me every single time we speak.”

            “I’m just trying to help.”

            “By making me feel like shit?”
            “Don’t you use that language with me, young lady,” he snapped, slamming his fist down on the table. The glassware trembled.

            “I’m old enough to swear now, Dad.”

            “Not when you’re talking to me.”

            “Why did you call me?” she asked, changing tack. “Why did you want to meet with me?”

            “I want to know who that man was.”


            “The one I talked to on the phone. The spic.”

            Ava pointed at her father with her fork.

            “DON’T use those words around me. ESPECIALLY when you are talking about one of my friends.”

            “Are you sleeping with him?”

            “Excuse me?” she exclaimed, her voice rising. People were starting to look at them.

            “Let me put it in language you’ll understand. How long have you been fucking him?”

            “That’s it!” Ava yelled, standing up and throwing her utensil onto her plate loudly. “I could take it when you were just badmouthing me. But I will not sit here quietly while you insult people I care about!”

            Her dad stood, leaning over the table. “How you can you betray me like this?”

            “What the hell are you talking about?”

            “You know how I feel about people like that.”

            “Like what?”

            “Spics. Niggers. Are you getting back at me by letting a dirty rat like that touch you?”

            Her hand lashed out before she could stop it. The slap was loud and sharp, and his face turned a deep shade of purple as his anger boiled over. His right arm pulled back slightly and she saw his hand ball into a fist. She steeled herself for the blow she knew was coming.

            And then Jen was there, stepping between them. With a hard shove, she pushed against Ava’s father and sent him back a few steps.

            “Don’t you even THINK of laying a hand on her!” she bellowed, not caring that everyone was staring at them. “I have sat back and kept quiet long enough. This is OVER!”

            “Oh?” he sneered at her. “And what are you going to do about it?”

            Jen crossed her arms and smiled at him tauntingly. “Go ahead. Hit her. I’ll have the cops here so fast –“

            “You think I’m afraid of a simple assault charge?”

            “Try assaulting a federal agent. Because that’s what your daughter is. Forget the police. I’ll call CTU, and you’ll have a squad of agents on your ass, cuffing you and dragging you out of here in front of all these people. How do you think mommy and daddy will feel about that? Will they come to your rescue like they always do?”

            “You little bitch –“

            “Go to hell, Jim,” she spat, turning her back on him.

            Without another word, she grabbed Ava’s arm and dragged her away from the café.




            That Thursday, Tony showed up for their weekly hang-out. He brought a bottle of Peachtree schnapps after noticing that Ava had been almost out last time he was there. Not bothering to knock, he walked right into the kitchen, surprised when he saw her pulling a tray of cookies out of the oven. When she saw him, she gave him a small smile.


            “Hey. You’re baking?”

            Ava shrugged. “Didn’t really have anything else to do.”

            Tony looked pointedly at her as he set down the bottle he was carrying. “Ava, I’ve known you long enough to know that baking by yourself is not a good sign. What’s wrong?”
            “I don’t want to talk about it.”

            “Well I do.”

            Ignoring her glare of protest, Tony turned the oven off and took her gently by the elbow, leading her through the dining room and into the living room. They sat down on the couch, Ava staring at her hands clasped in her lap. Tony watched her for a minute and then broke the silence.

            “Talk to me,” he said gently.

            “I met with my dead this week,” she murmured, not meeting his gaze.

            Tony’s eyes widened in surprise. “How did it go?”


            “What happened?”

            “He saw I was betraying him.”

            Tony frowned. “How?”

            Ava fell silent again, her eyes fixed on the floor. She mentally kicked herself for telling him anything – her problems with her father were constant and frustrating. She didn’t want to get used to unloading it on Tony. And she definitely didn’t want to tell him what her father had called him. Tony seemed to read her mind, though, and he put a finger under her chin to gently make her face him.

            “I won’t be offended,” he promised. “And I don’t blame you for his opinions.”

            She took a deep breath. “He asked me how I could let…someone like you…touch me.”

            “Someone like me? You mean Hispanic?”

            “Non-white,” Ava corrected.

            Tony smiled at her. “Your dad’s an idiot, Ava. Don’t let him drag you down.”

            “I know. I shouldn’t have agreed to meet with him in the first place. It goes the same way every time. He tells me how much I’m screwing up my life, I get upset, and then he tells me I’m being immature or irrational for getting upset.”

            “Then you won’t go see him again. From what Jen has told me, you’ve given him enough chances. Just step back and wait for him to decide that he’s made a mistake.”

            Ava frowned. “Jen talked to you about my dad?”

            He nodded. “I asked her about him once while you were in the hospital. I wanted to know if he was that awful all the time.”

            She looked down at the floor again. “I hit him.”


            “We were standing and yelling at each other, and I just couldn’t take it anymore. He called you a horrible name and I just snapped. I slapped him.”

            “What did he do?”

            “He was about to hit me back.”

            She felt Tony’s entire body tense next to her. “Did he?”

            “No. Jen got there in time. She stepped between us and shoved him back. Then she warned him that if he hit me, he’d be assaulting a federal agent and CTU would take him in.”

            “We’d kick his ass, too,” he told her, chuckling lightly. Reaching his arm around her, he pulled her against his side. “How about we make dinner and then watch a movie? Your pick.”

            “Something action-y.”

            “That doesn’t exactly narrow it down.”

            Ava thought for a moment. “Die Hard.”

            Tony laughed. “Die Hard it is then.”

            She smiled at him. “Yippie kai-yay, motherfucker.”




            The apartment was dark when Ava let herself in. Kicking the door shut behind her, she moved into the kitchen, setting down the covered platter she was carrying. She turned on the lights and then ventured into the living room.  


            He was sitting on the couch, staring into the shadows. His beard was longer, hanging about an inch below his chin. Ava had tried to get him to shave, but he just wouldn’t be bothered with it – shaving was a trivial concern compared to the grief and guilt he was carrying.

            She walked across the room, standing in front of him until he finally registered her presence. His blue eyes met hers, but there was nothing behind them.

            “What do you want?” he asked quietly.

            “Haven’t heard from you in over a week. Thought I’d check up on you.

            He nodded, but didn’t answer her unspoken question. She decided to try another route.

            “I brought dinner. Spaghetti. Mimi’s recipe.” No response. Ava sighed. “Come on, Jack. You have to eat.”

            “I’m not hungry.”

            The growl from his stomach betrayed him.


            She grabbed one of his hands and pulled him up from the couch. Without a word, she led him back into the kitchen, pushing him into one of the chairs at the small table. Then she turned to the platter she had brought in, and as she pulled off the plastic wrap, Jack saw steam rush up at her.

            “It’s still hot,” he commented.

            Ava nodded. “I cooked it and covered it and came right over. It never tastes quite as good if you have to reheat it in the microwave.”

            She pulled down two plates from a cabinet and put a generous portion on each. Then she poured them each a glass of milk and set the table, taking a seat across from Jack.

            “Eat,” she ordered, digging into her own food.

            He acquiesced and they ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. Ava smiled as she watched Jack devour what she had put in front of him – he obviously hadn’t eaten in awhile. Wordlessly, she stood up and refilled their plates and glasses.

            “How’s Kim?” he asked suddenly, halfway through his second helpings.

            “She’s good,” Ava answered around a mouthful of food. “She has a new boyfriend.”

            Jack raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Who is he?”

            “His name’s Miguel.”

            “Have you met him?”

            Ava nodded.

            “Please tell me he’s better than the last one.”

            She smiled. “Much. I like him. I think he’s good for her.”

            Jack nodded slowly. “Good. So…she’s happy?”

            “Yeah, Jack,” she said softly. “As happy as she can be right now.”




            Ava nearly poked her eye out with her eye liner pencil when her cell phone rang. Whispering a curse, she answered it.


            “Do you always answer your phone in such a business-like manner?” Jen asked.

            “Well, work always manages to call me in at the most inconvenient times. And since this would be very inconvenient, I was expecting them.”

            “Why inconvenient? Do you have plans?”

            “Yeah, actually I do.”

            “I’m hurt. I thought you didn’t have a social life outside of me.”

            “Ha ha,” she said sarcastically. “I’m about to leave for Mass.

            “On a Saturday night?”

            “Yeah. I’m…I’m singing.”

            “What? Why didn’t you tell me?”

            “Because you get weird when it comes to the religion thing. I didn’t want you to feel obligated to go or anything.”

            “Which church?”

            St. Patrick’s.”

            “I’ll meet you there.”




            Jen smiled as she watched her friend step nervously to the microphone. Despite her beautiful voice, Ava was always nervous when it came to singing in front of others. She had a deep-seated fear that she wasn’t good enough, that people were only placating her when they told her how wonderful she was.

            It bothered her that her friend hadn’t told her about her date to sing in church. She knew that she wasn’t always the most open when it came to religion and faith, but she hoped that Ava knew that she would want to be there for her regardless. But they could discuss that later. Jen quieted her thoughts as Ava began to sing.


It's not easy trying to understand
How the world can be so cold, stealing the souls of man
Cloudy skies rain down on all your dreams
You wrestle with the fear and doubt
Sometimes it's hard but you gotta believe

There's a better place, where our Father waits
And every tear He'll wipe away
The darkness will be gone, the weak shall be strong
Hold on to your faith

There will come a day, there will come a day
Wars are raging, lives are scattered
Innocence is lost, and hopes are shattered
The old are forgotten, the children are forsaken
In this world we're living in
Is there anything sacred?

There will come a day, there will come a day
The song will ring out, down those golden streets
The voices of earth with the angels will sing
Every knee will bow, sin will have no trace
In the glory of His amazing grace
Every knee will bow, sin will have no trace
In the glory of His amazing grace
There will come a day, there will come a day
Oooh there will come a day
I know there's coming a day, coming a day


            As the last note faded, Jen found that her eyes had closed during the performance. The words sunk into her subconscious, and she found herself suddenly wondering if maybe Ava was on to something.

            The young woman was nearly back to her seat next to Jen, when a sudden noise caught her attention. Her eyes snapped to the double doors leading outside just as they crashed open and men in black clothing came pouring in.

            The parishioners were in such a state of shock that for a crucial minute they just sat there, slack-jawed. Ava’s eyes roamed around the cathedral, looking for some kind of explanation as to what was going on. Then shots were fired and a woman began screaming.







failegaidin: (Default)
And now I present to you Chapter 17...sorry it took so long to get out. This chapter takes place right after the events of Season 1.

Chapter 17

            The constant beeping and the feel of her hand were the only things that kept him sane. He rubbed his thumb along her knuckles, focusing his gaze on her skin. She had been asleep for two days now, and with each passing hour, the worry in his gut dug deeper, roiling his insides and making him sick.
            His back ached and one foot was asleep, but he refused to move. Aside from bathroom breaks, he never left her side. He dozed fitfully for a few hours here and there, his head resting back against the chair or on the side of her hospital bed. But she just continued sleeping, the rise and fall of her chest steady and constant – his only source of hope.
            He let his eyes roam across the bed and rest on her other hand. Two nights ago, her best friend had come in and gently opened her palm, laying a silver rosary there. Then she had closed her fingers over it. It had been years since he had last prayed, but he found himself reaching over and holding her other hand as well, his head bowing as he closed his eyes.
            "Dear God," he whispered. "I know you have no reason to listen to any request from me. But she loves you and has been faithful to you. Please heal her. Don't let her die like this. She deserves better. Let her wake up, God. Please. Let her wake up…"
            It was the beeping that finally woke up her up. She frowned and winced at the same time – the noise was piercing at first and she just wanted it to go away. It occurred to her that she didn't know where she was or what was going on, and the only way to find out was to open her eyes.
            She did it slowly, afraid that light would blind her or give her an awful headache. But the room around her was dark, and she found it easy to slide her eyelids up, blinking a lot as her eyes adjusted to seeing things again.
            She slid her gaze to her left and saw Jen sitting next to her bed. At the sight of her best friend, she tried to smile, but her lips were dry and they cracked open painfully.
            "Hey," she croaked.
            Jen smiled. "It's about time you woke up."
            "Where am I?" Ava asked, her voice gaining more strength as she used it.
            "The hospital."
            "Nina tried to kill me…" she explained, her memory slowly coming back to her. Her brain jolted as it all washed over her, and she sat up quickly, ignoring the protest of her joints. "Nina!" she exclaimed. "She's evil! She's the mole –"
            Jen rested a gentle hand on her uninjured shoulder and tried to push her back down onto the bed.
            "We already know about Nina. She's been arrested."
            Ava lay back down slowly, her mind struggling to catch up.
            "How long have I been here?" she finally asked.
            Jen paused slightly. "Two days."
            Ava groaned. "You're kidding me."
            "No. You lost a lot of blood. Not surprising that your body decided it needed a rest."
            She nodded. "So they caught Nina in time? The Drazens were stopped? Everyone's okay?" She saw Jen wince slightly, though her best friend tried to keep her face stoic. "What?" she demanded. "What happened.?"
            Jen sighed and took a seat on the edge of the bed, holding Ava's hand in hers. "Not everyone is alright," she said quietly. "Nina killed a few people when she tried to escape."
            "A couple of guards."
            "There's something else. There's something you're not telling me."
            She took a deep breath.
            Nausea crashed over Ava in waves as her mouth went bone dry.
            "What?" she whispered.
            There were tears in Jen's eyes as she explained, but she tried to keep her voice steady. "After she finished with you, she tried to make her getaway. Teri found her – she probably wanted more answers about Kim and Jack. Nina shot her."
            Ava put a hand over her eyes, trying to block out Jen's words. Teri…the woman had become something of a mother to her in the past few months, something that she had desperately needed. They had talked about everything, Teri taking a genuine interest in Ava's life. The news of her death crushed her nearly as much as her mother's had. Suddenly, there was no oxygen in the room. She took gasping breaths, trying to bring air into her lungs. But her shoulders started to shake, and ragged cries escaped her mouth. She couldn't stop the tears that flooded her eyes, and soon she was sobbing.
            Then arms enveloped her, and Jen was there. She rocked her friend back and forth, whispering whatever words of comfort she could find.
            An hour later, Ava's tears had subsided. Her face was pale and drawn, her eyes bloodshot. Jen had again taken her seat in the chair by the bed, but she kept her grasp on one of her friend's hands, gently rubbing her thumb back and forth over her knuckles.
            "Has he been here?" Ava finally asked.
            Jen shook her head. "No. Nobody but Kim has seen him. She visited you a couple times."
            She smiled. "You're her friend, Ava. She wanted to make sure you were alright."
            "How is she?"
            Jen shrugged. "She's trying. That's more than some people." She paused. "She doesn't blame you."
            Ava ignored the comment, looking away. "So…you've been here for two days? Waiting for me to wake up?"
            She looked back at her and frowned. "No?"
            "I would have, but…you had another visitor."
            Her confusion grew. "Who?"
            Jen smiled. "Tony."
            "He's the one that found you. He rode in the ambulance with you and then sat in the waiting room while the doctors put you back together."
            She nodded. "And that's not all."
            "It's not?"
            "Nope. He sat by your side for two days; he only got up to go to the bathroom. I brought him food and made sure that he ate, but he refused to leave you."
            She looked around. "Then where is he now?"
            "He left when you started to wake up."
            Jen sighed. "He told me about the argument you guys had. Right before your fight with Nina. He feels guilty. He knows he let himself be manipulated."
            Ava tried to shrug, but her shoulder quickly reminded her that it was done putting up with her and her unwillingness to sit still.
            "He shouldn't be too hard on himself. Boys are stupid."
            Jen grinned. "Throw rocks at them."
            Ava smiled slightly as her eyes fluttered closed. "I'm tired," she whispered.
            "Then sleep," Jen urged, reaching up to gently stroke her forehead. "Sleep."
            When Ava next opened her eyes, she was surprised to see Jack in her room. He stood with his back to her, his gaze focused at something outside of the window. Looking at his profile, she could see the pain in his eyes, and the weary slump in his shoulders. Stubble was poking out all along his chin, and he looked as though he had slept in the clothes in he was wearing.
            He turned at the sound of her voice, and the grief etched on his face, caused tears to spring into her eyes. She saw the corners of his mouth twitch, as though he were trying to smile, but he eventually gave up when it just wouldn't come.
            "How are you?" he finally asked.
            She rolled her eyes. "Sore. Tired. Restless. You?"
            He shrugged. "I've been better."
            The tears came again, and this time she couldn’t keep them at bay. They rolled down her cheeks as she took in a shaky breath.
            "I am so sorry, Jack," she said brokenly. "Please…I know what you lost. I tried, I swear…"
            His face took on a look of shock as he moved to her side and sat down on the edge of the bed.
            "What are you talking about?" he asked, concerned at her sudden tears.
            "Nina…I tried to beat her Jack. I just couldn't…I didn't have the strength…my body just wouldn't keep going. I am so sorry…"she sobbed.
            He turned to sit shoulder to shoulder with her on the bed, pulling her toward him and holding her against his chest. Running his fingers through her dark hair, he rocked her gently.
            "No, Ava," he whispered. "This wasn't your fault. I don't blame you."
            "But if I had stopped her –"
            "That doesn't matter. You had serious injuries from earlier in the day – which you got searching for and protecting my family. Your body just couldn't take anymore. It's not your fault."
            "It feels like it is."
            He closed his eyes. "A lot of us blame ourselves, Ava. I know Tony blames himself for not seeing it, for defending her. I blame myself for trusting her. George does too. But if we let the guilt overcome us, we'll drown."
            She sniffed and looked up at him. "That doesn't stop you."
            "From what?"
            "From blaming yourself. You're punishing yourself. I can see it in your eyes."
            He shrugged. "I bear the most guilt. Whether I deserve it or not is another question. But it won't just go away overnight."
            "I know. I just want you to know that I'm here. That I won't let you drown."
            He managed a small smile at that. "Thank you." He paused. "I have two favors to ask of you."
            "Anything," she said, laying her head back down against his chest.
            "Keep an eye on Kim."
            "What do you mean?"
            Jack sighed. "She won't talk to me…about Teri. I can feel her pulling away. Will you take care of her?"
            "Of course. And the second favor?"
            He swallowed hard. "Will you…" his voice broke and he struggled to keep his emotions in check. "Will you sing at the funeral?"
            Ava sat up, looking at him in shock.     
            "Are you sure?"
            He nodded, tears streaming down his face. "Teri always…she loved your voice. And she thought of you like a daughter. It would mean a lot…to me, to her…"
            "Of course, Jack. Did you have a specific song?"
            He nodded again, clearing his throat as the emotion threatened to choke him. "The one that always made her cry when you sang it. She said it was the most beautiful and tragic thing she had ever heard. Do you remember?"
            Ava nodded, her own tears falling. "Yeah, Jack," she whispered. "I remember."
            She laid her head back down against him, and they held each other while they cried.
            Ava was already dressed when Jen walked into the room. She was dressed in all black, her hair pulled into a low ponytail. Her makeup was minimal, the bruises still visible on her face and arms. She looked up when Jen entered, her face a mask of pain and weariness.
            "Did you sign all your forms?" Jen asked.
            She nodded. "I'm officially released."
            "About time. What kind of restrictions did that put on you?"
            "I'm supposed to rest for a couple weeks. I'm not allowed back at the gym for a month. I'm supposed to stay out of the field for a month as well, but I talked them down to three weeks."
            "You that anxious to back to work?"
            Ava shrugged, wincing when pain jabbed through her left shoulder. "I need something to do. Otherwise I'll wallow."
            "And we can't have that." Jen paused. "You ready?"
            It was raining, and Ava found that fitting. Teri had always enjoyed the rain, saying that it was a nice break from the heat of the sun. The family and close friends stood under a tarp by the graveside, but there were numerous people standing outside of it as well. Teri Bauer had been well-liked and loved by many, and they had all come to pay their respects. Ava's eyes roamed over the crowd, and she spotted Tony standing near the back. He had no umbrella, and the rain soaked his shirt, but he didn't seem to care. The pain in his eyes was different from Jack's, but it was no less potent.
            She listened to the words of the pastor and tried to take hope from them. She believed in Heaven, and she prayed with all her heart that Teri was there now, in the peace of God. Her hand clutched around the rosary in her pocket as she prayed – not the Hail Marys and Our Fathers, but a personal prayer, into which she tried to pour all the anger and guilt and pain that filled her.
            It was over all too soon. The pastor ended his message, and men from the cemetery moved in to lower the casket. That was Ava's cue. She didn't bother to wipe away the tears that were already spilling out over her cheeks as she opened her mouth to sing.
There's no time for us.
There's no place for us.
What is this thing that builds our dreams,
Yet slips away from us?

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever?

There's no chance for us.
It's all decided for us.
This world has only one sweet moment,
Set aside for us.

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever?

Who dares to love forever?
Oh, when love must die?

Then touch my tears with your lips.
Touch my world with your fingertips.

And we can have forever!
And we can love forever!
Forever is our today.
She heard Jen's voice rise to meet hers in perfect harmony as they sang the chorus for the last time. The tears were falling all around them, and Ava imagined that she could hear them hitting the ground, mingled with the rain.

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever?
Forever is our today.

Who waits forever anyway?
            The gathering at the Bauer house after the funeral was a quiet affair. People milled around uncertainly and talked in hushed tones. They huddled together, as though realizing that they were there on borrowed time, and they craved the feel of other human beings.
            Ava stuck it out as long as she could. But the pain meds were making her drowsy and she was sick of people asking how she was. Jack noticed her fading, and eventually sent her home, promising that he would call her in a couple days.
            Once home, she fell asleep almost immediately. She had drawn all the shades in the house so that it was bathed in darkness and then changed into a t-shirt and a pair of boxers before collapsing onto her bed. Her mind drifted gratefully into the safety of her dreams and she was blissfully oblivious of the real world for awhile.
            Hours later, her head shot up. She looked around groggily, trying to figure out what had awoken her. Glancing at her cell phone, she saw that it was 11:43 pm and groaned. The sound came again, and Ava realized that someone was knocking on her front door.
            She pushed herself up and padded down the stairs, not even bothering to turn any lights on. Until she knew who it was, she didn't want to ruin her chances of going back to sleep by blinding herself with light. Maneuvering through the kitchen, she reached out and opened the door.
            Tony stood on the other side, hands in his pockets. His face was drawn and his eyes sad as he stared at her. They stood there for a moment, neither sure of what to do. Finally, Ava decided that talking would be pointless. Reaching out, she took his hand in hers and led him inside, shutting the door behind him.
            Without a word, she led him through the dark house and up the stairs to her bedroom. Only then did she turn to face him.
            "Shoes off," she instructed. He did as she asked and then stood there staring at her again. "In," she said, pointing to the bed.
            They crawled in, and Ava snuggled against him. Tony wrapped his arms around her automatically, holding her tight.
            "You try anything funny, Almeida, and I'll kick your ass," she mumbled before they both drifted off to sleep.
            Tony awoke to the smell of bacon and eggs. He lifted his head up off the pillow, sniffing the air and frowning in confusion. It took him a couple minutes to remember where he was and then it all came back to him. He remembered showing up at Ava's door late the night before, after having driven all over town. He couldn't shake the guilt and shame that invaded his very being, and the only person he could stand to see was her.
            Pushing himself off the bed with a groan, he looked around her bedroom, trying to get a handle on the woman who confused him so easily. The room was spacious, but cluttered – she obviously wasn't a neat freak. Two bookshelves rested across from the bed, one on either side of the TV; one held books, while the others held movies and TV on DVD. Tony browsed her collection, surprised at how many movies they both seemed to like. The books were mostly paperback fiction, worn and well-loved. On the floor next to the bed was a pile of crocheting and a cloth hamper that was overflowing with yarn.
            He wanted to explore some more, but the smell of food dragged him out of the room and down the stairs. Walking quietly into the kitchen, he saw Ava making up two plates filled to the brim with breakfast food. He smiled as he watched her, his ears picking up her voice as she softly hummed to herself.
            "Tony!" she suddenly yelled, turning around. "If you want breakfast –" She jumped when she found him standing in the doorway. "Ugh! You scared me, you dork!" she scolded.
            Tony laughed, the sound strange in his ears. "Sorry."
            Ava rolled her eyes. "It's fine. You hungry?"
            She handed him his plate before leading him into the dining room. He was surprised to see the table set, with a two glasses of orange juice laid out. They sat down across from one another, and as Ava bowed her head to pray silently, Tony stopped her.
            "Can we…can I pray with you?" he asked nervously.
            She smiled at him and reached her right hand across the table. "Of course," she said as he laid his hand in hers and squeezed gently.
            "Dear Heavenly Father," she began. "Please bless this food that we are about to eat. May it nourish our bodies and heal them, making them strong to do your work. Please heal our hearts and souls as well, Lord. Our wounds run deep and we hurt. Thank you for friends to lean on when we do not have the strength, and friends to lead us when we do not know the way. In Your name we pray, Amen."
            The rest of the meal was quiet as they focused on filling their empty stomachs. By the time they were finished, there was nothing left over and they carried their plates back to the kitchen. As Ava filled the sink, Tony turned to her.
            "You wash, I'll dry?" he asked.
            She smiled at him and nodded. They worked in silence for a few minutes before he finally got up the courage to say what was on his mind.
            "I'm sorry."
            Ava gave him an odd look. "For what?"
            Tony focused on the silverware he was drying. "For the things I said to you. For believing…her."
            She smiled. "I always told you she was evil."
            She had meant it as a joke, but the pain on Tony's face intensified. Turning off the water, she took his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her.
            "It's okay, Tony," she said firmly. "I mean it. I don't blame you."
            "You should."
            Ava sighed. "Did you mean those things you said to me? About me sleeping around?"
            "No," he said, looking at her fiercely.
            "Then we're fine. I just want to be your friend, Tony. Will you let me?"
            He gave her a small smile and nodded. "I'd like that. A lot."
            "Good. We should pick a day."
            "A day?"
            She shrugged. "It's something Jen and I do. We pick a day during the week and we make a point to hang out on that day every week. It's our day."
            "And you want us to have one?"
            "It could be fun."
            His smile widened. "Okay. How about Thursdays?"
            Ava turned back to the dishes. "Thursdays sound great."
            Two days later, Ava lay sprawled out on her couch, mindlessly watching a Law & Order marathon on TNT. She had been watching for more hours than she wanted to admit, and had finally given up her crocheting when a hand cramp overcame her. Now she just zoned, her eyes fluttering closed every now and then as her body told her that more sleep would be a very good thing.
            A knock on the door made her groan. She didn't want to get up, but when the knock came again, she knew that she would have to. Walking out to the kitchen, she opened the door and found Kim standing there.
            "Hey," she said awkwardly.
            "Hey," Kim replied.
            "You wanna come in?"
            The younger girl nodded and stepped inside, while Ava closed the door after her. When the agent turned back around, she saw tears streaming down her friend's face as her shoulders began to shake.
            "She's really gone," Kim sobbed.
            "Oh Kim…"
            Ava took a step closer and pulled her into a tight hug. They stood there like that for a long time, soaking in all the comfort they could get.
            She wasn't surprised when Jack showed up on her doorstep a week later. She knew that he had to spend some time alone while he tried to figure things out, but she also knew that he would eventually seek someone out.
            At first, they didn't talk. He would show up at random times, just walking into her kitchen rather than knocking. She would cook for them, making sure that he at least got something into his system. Then they would go into the living room and sit. Ava would read or crochet, while Jack just sat next to her. She wanted him to talk, to open up to her, but she knew that it would take time – he was still trying to process everything.
            Two weeks went by as they followed their new routine. Finally, one Monday night, he spoke.
            "Have you seen Kim?"
            Ava put down her book.
            "Yeah. We have lunch a few times a week. She comes over every Tuesday night and we watch American Idol."
            "How is she?"
            "I'm not gonna lie to you, Jack. She's hurting. Badly."
            "She won't let me in," he said desperately.
            "Right now she can't. Every time she looks at you, she sees Teri."
            "I just want to make sure she's okay."
            "I know. And I'm keeping an eye on her until she's ready to come back to you." She paused. "She doesn't blame you, Jack."
            He ignored her last comment. "Did she tell you she moved out?"
            Ava nodded. "She's a live-in nanny now."
            "I'm selling the house," he said abruptly.
            "Okay," she said slowly. "Are you sure that's what you want to do?"
            "I can't live in an empty house, surrounded by memories of things I don't have anymore. I might have kept it if Kim stayed, but…I'll get an apartment. It makes more sense."
            "Let me know when. I'll help you move."
            He nodded. "Have you heard from Tony?"
            "He comes by every Thursday."
            Jack frowned in confusion.
            Ava shrugged. "We're doing the friend thing." She paused, looking down at the blanket she was making. "He thinks you hate him."
            "Because of Nina?"
            "We all trusted her…at least professionally," he added when he saw Ava make a face. "He bears no more guilt than the rest of us." He paused then, taking a deep breath. "Will you…will you tell him that I don't blame him? That it's not his fault?"
            "Of course, Jack."
            He nodded and they fell back into silence.
            "Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been one month since my last confession."
            "Rae..." the old man chided. "You're not Catholic…"
            Ava sighed. "Father, why do you insist on calling me by my middle name?"
            "Because, child, you are a ray of sunshine."
            "Har har," she said, rolling her eyes.
            She could see him smile even through the mesh window that was supposed to conceal her identity.
            "I'm serious, Rae. I don't understand why a good little Baptist girl like yourself comes to Confession on a regular basis."
            "We all need to confess, Father. We all sin."
            "Yes, but it's not a part of your faith."
            "That's where I disagree, Father. My faith is in Christ alone. He calls on me to confess. I can't always trust myself to do it on my own, so I come to Confession. Just because we're members of different sects, doesn't mean our faith isn't the same."
            "Nicely put, Rae. Very well, I shall hear your confession."
            She took a deep breath. "I am to blame for another person's death," she said finally.
            "You were finally forced to kill someone in the line of duty?"
            "No. But because of my weakness, someone close to me was murdered."
            "What do you mean?"
            "I tried to stop a traitor, a mole. Someone who had betrayed our trust and had been working against us from the inside. We fought, and she bested me. I tried, Father, I swear to you. But my body was weak, and she beat me. Because of that, she was free to kill the wife of one of my best friends."
            "You cannot blame yourself for that, Rae. You did what you could. I saw you in the hospital, child. I saw your injuries. There was nothing more you could do."
            "Wasn't there? Couldn't I have gotten up one more time? Or managed to get my gun out?" she said, tears streaming down her face.
            "No. You nearly gave up your life trying to stop that woman. If it hadn't been for you, perhaps she would have gotten away. You slowed her down."
            "I still feel guilty."
            He sighed. "Do you believe God has a plan?"
            "Do you believe that it is a perfect plan?"
            "Then you know that everything happens for a reason. That, as tragic and painful as it is, and as cruel as it sounds, this woman's death happened for a reason. We may not be able to see it now, but one day God's plan will make sense to us. When we ourselves are perfect, we'll be able to see the perfection in His plan."
            "That doesn't make it go away," she whispered brokenly.
            "I know, Rae," he said gently.
            "So what do I do?"
            "Pray. And I will pray for you as well."
            "Thank you, Father."
            "Now go in peace, child. Rest easy in the promise of Christ."
failegaidin: (Default)
Season 1 is officially done!! I will be continuing on through the seasons, but this feels like a very big milestone for me. Thanks to all those who have faithfully read and commented - it means a lot to me! Hopefully this weekend I'll make some more Tony/Ava icons, too. 

Chapter 16

            Ava tried desperately to keep from freaking out. After realizing what Nina was doing, she moved away from the doorway quickly, not wanting to be caught. Her mind reeled as she saw the implications of this new information. Everything they had done today, all the efforts that they had made, had all been undermined by someone that they trusted. Even when Ava had found out that Nina had been telling Tony lies about her, she had never suspected that the woman was actually working against them.
            She moved down an empty corridor and leaned back against the wall. Closing her eyes, she tried to steady her breathing and make her brain slow down. Something had to be done, but she wasn't sure what. Her first instinct was to tell someone, but her options were limited with Jack out in the field. She couldn't tell Tony – there was a big chance that he wouldn't believe her, that he would think she was just trying to get back at Nina. If he told her of Ava's suspicions, she might be in even more trouble. The only other option was Mason, but she knew that he would demand proof. That was something she didn't have much of, and her dislike of Nina was well-known.
            Sighing, Ava pushed herself off of the wall and started walking back towards the floor. She was just going to have to find the proof, then. And the only way to do that was to make sure that Nina never left her sight.
            Ava tried to look casual as she sat at her station. She had a Word document open, and her fingers were moving quickly, but she wasn't doing any actual work. The truth was, she hardly knew what to do with her work computer. She had signed on as a field agent, and she had only ever used computers for personal use and taking notes. The machines at CTU completely baffled her. But she could see Nina from her seat, and also hear what George was saying on the phone at a nearby station. He was talking to a highway patrolman, who had found a young girl claiming that she was the daughter of a federal agent. Ava typed the conversation on the computer as she listened. From what she could tell, Kim had been put on the phone and she was telling George something about where she had been taken.
            Her eyes drifted over to Nina. The woman was standing a little distance away, but Ava could tell from the expression on her face and the way her hands idled over the files she was looking at, that she was listening intently to George's side of the conversation. There was nothing overtly suspicious about what she was doing, but Ava knew better. If the other woman was speaking Serbian, then she was talking to the very people CTU was fighting against. She knew those people, and she was passing them information.
            When Mason hung up the phone, Ava logged off her computer and walked towards him. His face was haggard, and she could see that the stressful day was taking its toll on him.
            "What was that all about?" she asked, causing him to stop at the foot of the stairs leading up to his office.
            He turned to face her.
            "That was Kim Bauer. She escaped from the Drazens. Apparently their waiting for Jack. She was the bait to lure him in so that they could kill him."
            "But now that we know she's not there, we can keep him from going in, right?"
            "Hopefully. Nina's going to call him now."
            "I can do it," Ava suggested quickly.
            "No, that's okay. Nina's already making the call."
            He turned away and headed up the stairs. Ava's mind raced as she tried to figure out what her next move should be. Her gaze rested on somebody on the other side of the floor, and an idea formed.
            "Hey, Ava," the young tech greeted her. "I hear you've had quite the rough day. Car accidents, getting shot…"
            "Yeah, and I think it just got even more interesting."
            "Yeah, and I need your help."
            "Okay. What's up?"
            She took a deep breath.
            "I can't tell you."
            "That's not very fair, Ava," he pointed out.
            "I know. But Milo, I don't know how to do the technology stuff. Please."
            "You know you'll owe me, right?"
            She rolled her eyes.
            "Of course. So you'll help?"
            "Yeah. What do you need?"
            "I need to hear Nina's phone conversation."
            "The one she's having right now?"
            "Yes. Can you do that?"
            "Yeah, that's easy."
            "Thanks, Milo."
            "…and the prison schematics were messed with," Nina continued.
            "Are you sure?" Jack asked.
            "Yeah. Tony confirmed it."
            "Only a few people had access, Nina. That means that Tony, Mason or Chappelle is the mole. I need you to find out which one."
            "I'm on it." Nina paused. "Look, Jack…we got a call from the coastal patrol."
            "They found a body."
            "I'm sorry, Jack. It's Kim. They just confirmed it."
            There was silence on the other end.
            "Are you sure?" he rasped.
            He took a deep breath.
            "I have to go, Nina."
            "Jack, what are you planning?"
            "I have to finish this."
            "It's a trap. You know that."
            "It doesn't matter."
            "What about Teri?"
            "I have to go. If I don't come back…"
            The line went dead. Ava quietly hung up the phone and stared across the floor at Nina. The pain in Jack's voice had struck her very core, but the older woman didn't seem fazed in the least. Without any hint that her ex-lover had just told her he was going to sacrifice himself, she turned to her computer and shut it down. Picking up a few files from her desk, she then walked off the floor and down one of the side corridors.
            "What's wrong?" Milo asked when he saw Ava's face.
            "I have to go do something," she said distantly. Then she raised her eyes to his. "You need to go to Mason. Tell him that Jack is walking into a trap. That he thinks Kim is dead and is going to go on a rampage. Tell him now."
            "What the hell is going on?"
            "I'll explain it later. Go now, Milo. I'm serious."
            He nodded and started to move away. Then he stopped and turned back around, a serious look on his face.
            "Be careful," he said quietly.
            She gave him a small smile.
            "I will."
            She moved down the corridor slowly, unsure of what room Nina had gone in. Opening each door, Ava stuck her head in, listening for any noises that would indicate where the double agent had gone.
            As she neared the end of the hall, she opened a heavy door leading into a room full of servers. A movement in the far corner caught her eye and she slipped in silently, moving until she had a clear view of Nina working on one of the computers. Everything looked normal until Ava noticed the gun within reach of the other agent's hand – it had a silencer on the end. Taking a deep breath, she moved out of the shadows.
            "I always knew you were evil, Nina," she said, crossing her arms. "I just didn't realize quite how evil you actually are."
            At the sound of Ava's voice, the older woman's head snapped up, fear in her eyes. But when she saw that she was standing there without any weapon trained on her, she smirked.
            "So you came to play the little hero? Stop me from making my big getaway?"
            "Something like that."
            "I should have known it would come down to this in the end. You always find a way to get mixed up in things that are none of your business."
            "Speaking of butting in, I heard about those lies you told Tony about me. Nicely done. He turned on me faster than you can imagine."
            Nina shrugged. "I couldn't have you two being buddy-buddy in the end. Then you might have figured things out sooner." She paused. "How did you figure it out, by the way?"
            "I overheard a few phone conversations. You talking in Serbian was the big giveaway." Ava took a step closer. "So, you and Tony…did you ever really care about him, or was he just a pawn in your game?"
            Nina laughed. "He was so easy to manipulate. All he wanted to do was come out of things looking better than Jack. You should have seen the light in his eyes when I asked him out. He thought he'd make things work where Jack had failed."
            "So you used him."
            "Don't go feeling sorry for him, Ava. He used me, too. He never loved me. I was something to rub in Jack's face."
            "Please tell me your motivation for all of this wasn't bitterness over something as petty as that."
            "Of course not. It was money – plain and simple."
            "Well, at least your motives were pure." She paused, looking around. "So what do we do now?"
            "You're the one that followed me, remember?"
            "I don't suppose you'd come quietly?"
            "Sorry. Jail isn't exactly my plan for the future."
            "So we duke it out? A duel between mortal enemies?"
            "I don't have time for that."
            Without any hesitation, Nina picked up the gun and aimed it at her. Ava's eyes widened and she leapt to the side, cursing loudly when she felt the bullet rip into her somewhere near her ankle. She rolled when she hit the ground, the force of impact jarring her whole body. Gritting her teeth, she managed to push herself up just in time to see Nina charging toward her, the gun no longer in her hands. Ava turned to face her, throwing a hard elbow into the side of her face. The other woman stumbled slightly, but recovered quickly and slammed her fist into Ava's gut.
            Neither woman held back. There was no mercy, no reprieve. They brutalized each other, both taking out all of their anger and frustration on the other. Blood was drawn with almost every blow, but neither stopped to nurse their wounds.
            Ava could feel her body starting to fail. Wounds from earlier in the day were screaming at her to just lie down and rest, to let them heal before she put them through this kind of torture. Her left shoulder was so bad that she could only throw punches with her right arm, and her right ankle was throbbing. Blood was pouring out of the wound, and she was pretty sure that the bullet was still lodged in her. She tried to put most of her weight on her left foot, but that was hard to do when she was constantly ducking and weaving. Her torso ached; her bruised ribs groaned in protest every time she twisted.
            Finally, Nina landed a punch to her face that sent her sprawling to the ground. As Ava struggled to regain her feet, she looked up to see the older woman swinging a chair at her. It made contact with her back and head, sending her crashing to the floor again. Satisfied that the fight was over, Nina moved back to her computer, shutting it down and putting it in her bag.
            "I'm sorry that I have to leave you," she said, her attention focused elsewhere. "But I have somewhere to be."
            When Ava didn't respond, Nina looked up to see where she was. Her eyes widened in surprise when she saw the younger agent charging at her, a look of rage and desperation in her eyes. Nina reached into her bag, pulling something out. Then Ava slammed into her, knocking them to the ground. Her mouth opened in surprise as she looked down and saw that Nina had plunged a screwdriver deep into her left shoulder, right through the spot where she had been shot earlier. Blood was pouring from the wound and all the strength left her body. Nina smiled at her viciously, and still holding the handle of the screwdriver, she push Ava off of her, effectively driving the tool deeper.
            "I'm leaving now," she said as she got back to her feet. "That was a nice try, though. You almost had me."
            Ava lost consciousness as she heard the door slam shut.
            "Dammit, George! Nina is the mole!"
            "You don't know that, Jack. You have no proof!"
            "She called me and told me that Kim was dead! You said yourself that she knew Kim had been found by a highway patrolman and that she was fine."
            "Yes, but I need proof, Jack!"
            "Then I'll get you some," he growled.
            Mason stared in horror as he watched the video feed that Jack had sent to him. He saw Jamey Farrell sitting in a room, handcuffed to the table. Then Nina slipped in, wearing rubber gloves. Without any hesitation, she moved toward Jamey, breaking the tea cup that was next to her and using one of the shards to slit her wrists. The gloves masking her fingerprints, everyone would assume that it had been suicide.
            He paused the video when Nina turned and looked right at the camera. Reaching over, he picked up the phone and called Division to tell them that there was a traitor in their midst.
            Tony stood numbly as Nina was led away in handcuffs. She had almost made a clean escape, but Jack had driven in at the last minute, forcing her car to crash in the parking garage. His mind reeled from everything that had just happened. He had never suspected Nina, but the proof was undeniable.
            He found himself suddenly wondering about their relationship. How long had she been a double agent? Had she only been with him to use him? Tony silently cursed himself as he realized what an idiot he'd been. More than one person had told him that he was following her too blindly, that he was letting his emotions get in the way. And now it turned out that they were all right.
            His head jerked up and he saw Jack standing in front of him.
            "Are you alright?"
            He shrugged.
            "Do you know where Ava is? I've been trying to call her and she's not picking up."
            Tony frowned. At the mention of her name, he flashed back to the argument that he had had with her just a little while ago. He realized that Nina had been lying to him, that she had been trying to separate him from everybody else. Guilt starting building up in the pit of his stomach as he remembered the things he had said to her.
            "You and she were never sleeping together, were you?"
            Jack shook his head.
            "No," he said gently. "I'm going to go find Teri and Kim. Will you go find Ava? Make sure she's okay?"
            Tony nodded and turned to walk back into CTU. Pulling out his cell phone, he dialed her work cell, but it went right to voicemail. Ava rarely remembered to keep the stupid thing on. He tried her station number as well, but she wasn't there, either. Rolling his eyes, he dialed her personal cell number, realizing that he should have tried that one first – she never went anywhere without it.
            He continued walking, wandering aimlessly, the phone ringing against his ear. His mind drifted back to Nina and the way she had used him. But then a sound reached his ears and snapped him back to reality.
There's no time for us.
There's no place for us.
What is this thing that builds our dreams,
Yet slips away from us?

Who wants to live forever?
Who wants to live forever?
            Tony recognized the song immediately. He knew that Ava was a Queen fan, and something tickled in the back of his mind as he remembered that he had heard the song coming from her phone once or twice. Then he stopped, suddenly realizing what he was hearing. Ava's phone was ringing nearby, and she wasn't picking up.
            He pulled out his gun and moved forward slowly, checking each room on his way down the corridor. Finally, he found the door where the music was loudest. He opened it carefully, his gun out in front him. But he almost dropped it when his eyes rested on the scene before him.
            Ava was lying on her back on the floor in a pool of her own blood. A yellow-handled screwdriver was stuck in her shoulder, and he saw that there was blood coming from her leg as well. He rushed to her side, turning her head and feeling for a pulse. It was faint, but it was there. Hands shaking, he dialed Mason's number and brought the phone to his ear. Then he reached out a hand and brushed the hair out of her face.
            "Come on, Ava," he whispered. "Stay with me."
failegaidin: (Default)
Alrighty, here's chapter 15!! I added a picture link in the story, so that you could see the actress I've decided is Ava more clearly. Hope you enjoy!!

Chapter 15

            "This isn't right," Nina mumbled under her breath.
            Tony sighed. "I agree. But there's not really much we can do about it."
            "Jack deserves better than this. We can track Alexis. We should make the trade."
            "If you think you can convince Chappelle, be my guest."
            Nina frowned. "I can't do that. But I know what I can do."
            Tony watched suspiciously as she picked up the phone and punched in a number.
            "Who are you calling?"
            She stared at him as the phone rang in her ear.
            "Yes, this is Nina Myers. I'd like to speak to Senator Palmer."
            Tony picked up the phone on the first ring, his attention focused on the computer screen in front of him.
            "CTU, Almeida."
            "Agent Almeida? This is the emergency room at St. Matthew's."
            He sat up suddenly, his heart dropping like a stone.
            "What happened?"
            "We have a woman here, she gave us your number. She doesn't have any I.D. on her."
            "She says her name is Ava."
            "Oh God," Tony whispered, closing his eyes. "Is she okay?"
            "She was in a serious car accident, Agent Almeida. She was then attacked and shot three times in the chest."
            His mouth was suddenly bone dry, and he couldn't swallow.
            "Is she…is she alive?" he rasped.
            "Yes. She had on a Kevlar vest. She's bruised, but she's going to be okay."
            "Thank God," he breathed.
            "In our examination, though, we found that she has multiple injuries from previous incidents. Do you know anything about this?"
            "She's a federal agent. She's had a rough day." He paused, something clicking in his brain. "Did she come in alone? Was there a girl with her?"
            "No one else at the scene was alive."
            "Are you sure?"
            "There were two men there along with Ava. They were both shot in the head."
            A tiny bit of hope sparked in Tony's chest. "But there was no girl?"
            "No other female was reported at the scene."
            "Alright, I'm on my way."
            He hung up the phone and raced over to Nina's station.
            "Tony?" she asked, alarmed at his expression. "What's wrong?"
            "The cop car escorting Ava and Kim was hit. The cops are dead. Kim was taken again."
            "What about Ava?"
            "She's at St. Matthew's. I'm going there now."
            "Is she okay?"
            "They think so. She had a vest on."
            "Thank God for that," Nina murmured. "Hey, Palmer got through to Mason. We're making the trade."
            "Good. Look, I have to go Nina. I'll call you when I know what happened."
            She watched as he practically ran off the floor. Frowning, she realized that he had made his decision concerning her ultimatum – he just hadn't told her yet. Nina sighed and walked toward the situation room.
            Teri was sitting with her head in her hands when Nina walked in. The other woman didn't look up, knowing that there was every chance that the agent was only there to deliver bad news. She didn’t know how much more her heart could take.
            "Just tell me," she whispered brokenly.
            "They're going to make the trade for Jack."
            Teri's head shot up and Nina could see that she was afraid to believe her.
            "Really? What changed their minds?"
            "They got a call from Senator Palmer. He persuaded them to make the exchange."
            She breathed a sigh of relief.
            "Oh thank God," she said, a smile gracing her lips.
            Nina tried to return the smile.   
            "I just wanted to keep you up-to-date."
            "Thank you, Nina. Have you heard anything about Kim?"
            The agent hesitated for only a second.
            "You know what? I'll call them and see how far out they are."
            Teri looked at her for a moment. "Thank you so much, Nina. For being honest with me through all this. It really means a lot to me."
            Nina nodded.
            "I'll go make that phone call."
            She backed out of the room as quickly as she could to get away from any more of Teri's questions.
            Ava groaned as she tried to open her eyes and found herself assaulted by bright, offensive lights. She had always hated fluorescent bulbs, and these were obviously right above her, causing an immediate headache to start building. She didn't want to open her eyes the rest of the way, but she could feel a hand holding hers, and she needed to know where she was.
            Her eyes snapped open at the sound of his voice. Turning her head slowly, she saw Tony sitting in a chair next to her bed, holding her hand tightly and watching her with concern flooding his eyes. She frowned in confusion, wondering what the hell was going on.
            "You don't remember do you?"
            She closed her eyes again, fishing through her memories as she tried to recall what had happened. She remembered getting in the cop car, with Kim next to her. They had been going back to CTU, finally safe. Then…lights. Those bright lights again. There had been the loud sound of crunching metal, and then she remembered three pinpoints of pain in her chest.
            "Kim," she suddenly gasped, trying to sit up.
            Tony stood and put his hands on her shoulders, gently pushing her back down.
            "She was taken," he said quietly. "We don't know where she is."
            Ava sagged back against her pillow, tears coming to her eyes.
            "I couldn't protect her," she whispered. "I tried, but I just didn't have anything left in me."
            "It's not your fault, Ava. You did everything you could. You're lucky to be alive."
            "I lost her," she whispered. "How am I going to tell Jack?" She saw Tony wince at the other agent's name. "What? What happened?"
            "Jack's been taken," he said quietly.
            "By who?"
            "Victor Drazen."
            "I'm confused. I thought he was dead. I thought this was all a revenge scheme for his death."
            "He's not dead."
            "So he's running this whole operation?"
            Tony nodded. "Jack found the prison where he was being kept. Then his son Andre broke him out and they took Jack hostage. They want to make a trade for Alexis."
            "Is Division going for that?"
            "No. But Palmer convinced Mason to do it anyway."
            Ava sighed. "Okay. So that's being taken care of. Now we need to find Teri and Kim."
            "We have Teri."
            She looked at him in surprise. "What? How? When?"
            "I sent Monroe to stake out the Bauer house. She showed up there. By the time I got there, another assassin had found her."
            "If Monroe was there, how did the assassin get that close?"
            "Monroe was shot."
            Her face paled.
            "Is he okay?"
            "He's in surgery. We won't know for awhile."
            She nodded slowly, trying to assimilate everything.
            "Okay, so Teri is safe. Jack is being held by crazy Serbians. And we have no idea where Kim is. Is that about right?"
            "Let's go, then."
            "You're kidding, right?"
            "I'm not going to just sit here, Tony."
            "You've been in two serious car accidents. You took a bullet to the shoulder. You're only alive because your vest deflected the three that went to your chest. You need to rest."
            "I'll rest when today is over."
            "You've been up for more than twenty-four hours."
            "So have you."
            "I haven't been injured, though."
            "I can hit you, if you'd like."
            Tony sighed. "What do you really think you can do in this condition?"
            "I don't know, Tony. But I cannot just stay in the hospital while people I care about are in danger. Everything's coming to a head. I promise that when it's all over, I'll get checked out and I'll sleep for a week."
            He eyed her suspiciously, but Ava could tell that he was wearing down.
            "A whole week?"
            She nodded. "A whole week. Bed rest. You can even make sure I don't go anywhere. You can have Jen keep me under lock and key," she promised, referring to her best friend.
            "She's going to yell at you when she finds out how much trouble you got into today."
            "I'll burn that bridge when we get to it," she muttered. "So you'll help me get out of here?"
            "It's not like we're breaking out. You're simply going to refuse to follow the doctor's orders. I think you can handle a little insubordination."
            "He'll yell at me."
            "I hate being yelled at."
            Tony laughed at the ridiculousness of her statement.
            "Come on, Xena. Let's get you out of here."
            "Dammit!" Nina yelled as the blinking light on her computer screen suddenly disappeared.
            "What's wrong?"
            She spun around and found herself face to face with Tony.
            "I lost the track on Alexis. The trade happened just as planned. Jack is on his way in now." She looked over his shoulder and saw Ava sitting gingerly at her station. "What the hell is she doing here? She looks like she's been run over by a MAC truck."
            "She refused to stay at the hospital. She promises to go back as soon as this whole thing is over."
            "I'll believe that when I see it."
            Nina frowned, suddenly hesitant.
            "Tony…there's something I need to tell you."
            "It's about Ava. And you're not going to like it."
            "Look, Nina, I know you don't like her, but-"
            "She's having an affair with Jack."
            Tony looked as though he'd been punched in the stomach.
            "I've seen them…together. That's why I dislike her so much. They've been sleeping together since just before he hired her. That's why he hired her."
            "Are you sure?"
            She nodded.
            "Teri knows. I just talked to her."
            Tony's eyes narrowed.
            "If that were true, why would she trust Ava to find Kim?"
            "Because she knows that, despite everything else, Ava is good at her job. And she'd do anything to get Kim back." She paused. "I'm sorry, Tony. I didn't want to have to tell you."
            He looked down at the floor. "You're absolutely certain?"
            "Before the lockdown, I saw them together. They were kissing, Tony. There was no doubt about what was going on."
            He nodded, his shoulders sagging.
            "So what's our next move? With the Drazens I mean?"
            Before Nina could answer, George came striding towards them.
            "I need you to call Secret Service," he said.
            "What? Why?" she asked.
            "Jack just called in. He didn't sound right. I have a very bad feeling about this."
            "You don't think he's going to do something stupid, do you?"
            "They have Kim," Tony mused. "If Jack knows that, he'd do anything to get her back from them."
            "Call Secret Service. Now," Mason ordered.
            "We have a problem," Tony said.
            "You mean aside from somebody trying to use Jack to kill a presidential candidate and Kim missing again?" Nina replied.
            "I was looking at the schematics to that prison Jack found."
            "They've been tampered with."
            "What? Are you sure?"
            "I'm sure."
            Nina crossed her arms.
            "There's still a mole."
            "And they had to have access to these schematics."
            She sighed. "So who has access?"
            "You. Me. Mason."
            Nina bit her lip in thought.
            "Shut down Mason's access."
            "It's not you. And it's not me. That leaves George. Jack suspected him in the beginning. We should have dug deeper."
            "He's gonna get pissed when he realizes that he's blocked."
            "And more people will die if he's not."
            Teri's head snapped up as the door opened, expecting to see Kim. She froze when she saw Ava, much more beaten and bruised than the last time she saw her.
            "Hey, Teri," she said quietly.
            "My God," the older woman whispered. "What happened to you?"
            "I have to tell you something."
            Teri's eyes widened and fear flooded her senses.
            "Oh God. Kim? Is she okay?"
            "We don't know. They took her again."
            Tears immediately began streaming down her face.
            "How?" she demanded. "How could they possibly have gotten past you?"
            "I'm sorry, Teri."
            "How could you let them take my baby again?"
            Ava closed her eyes, fighting back her own tears.
            "I did everything I could, Teri. The car we were in was attacked. They shot the cops and took Kim."
            "What about you? What were you doing?" Teri's grief had turned to anger, and Ava was the only one for her to vent it on.
            "They shot me too," she said quietly.
            Teri stopped yelling, the anger going out of her face.
            She nodded.
            "I had a vest on. But they had already knocked me out." She looked at Teri earnestly. "I am so sorry, Teri. I did everything I could. But we will get her back. I promise you, Teri. We will get her back."
            Her rage leaving her completely, Teri sank to the floor, her sobs overcoming her. Ava was at her side in an instant, pulling the woman close and rocking her gently, whispering soothing words to her as she combed her fingers through her short hair. Teri clung to her like a little child, her body shaking with the force of her cries.
            "What the hell do you think you're doing?" Tony demanded as Ava left the situation room and headed down the corridor toward the locker room.
            She turned to look at him in confusion.
            "What are you talking about?"
            "After all you're putting her through, you go in and wave it in her face?"
            "I really don't know what you're talking about Tony."
            She turned to continue walking down the hall.
            "I know about your affair with Jack," he called after her.
            Ava stopped and spun around on her heel, her face contorted in anger and confusion.
            "My what!?"
            "I know you're sleeping with Jack."
            She strode over to him, getting right in his face.
            "I am doing no such thing," she gritted out between clenched teeth.
            "Don't lie to me," he growled. "Nina saw you two together."
            Ava took a step back and laughed bitterly.
            "That's what you're basing this on? Nina?"
            "I've seen how you act around him."
            "He's my friend."
            "You know, Ava, now I remember why I didn't like you. You string a guy along and it's all just a game to you."
            "String a guy…who the HELL have I been stringing along?"
            "You?" she asked incredulously, her voice rising. "You're taken! How can I string you along? All I've tried to do is be nice to you! I never tried to take you from Nina!"
            "That's not how she sees it."
            "Yeah, well, that bitch only sees what she wants to."
            "I don't understand how you can pretend to be friends with Kim and Teri, all the while sleeping with Jack."
            "That would be quite the puzzle. Let me clear it up for you – I'm not having sex with Jack."
            "Is that what you do, Ava? You just sleep with the guys you work for? Is that how you get around in the working world?"
            His words stung her, but she refused to let him see how much she was hurt.
            "I'm not sleeping with anybody."
            "Don't give me that bullshit."
            "I swear to you, Tony-"
            "I'm not an idiot, Ava!"
            "Well you're sure as hell acting like it!" she yelled back.
            "I've seen how you flirt with all the field agents. It's like the cheerleader slut who sleeps with the whole football team."
            Something inside of Ava snapped.
            "Dammit Tony!" she roared. "I’m not sleeping with ANYONE! I'm a VIRGIN, for God's sake!"
            He stared at her, disbelief in his expression.      
            "You're trying to tell me that a woman as beautiful as you has never had sex?"
            "That is EXACTLY what I am telling you. So you can cut the bullshit about me having an affair with Jack. I can't believe you would think so little of me as to believe that I would sleep with a married man."
            "I don't believe you."
            She got right up in his face again, poking him in the chest with her finger.
            "You know what, Tony? You need to choose. Either you hate me, or you like me. You can't do both."
            Glaring at him for a moment, she turned around and quickly strode down the corridor.
            Her phone rang and Ava glared at it for a second before flipping it open.
            "What?" she snapped.
            She heard a sigh of relief.
            "You're okay."
            "I know they have Kim, but they told me that everyone with her had been killed."
            "They didn't know I was wearing Kevlar." She paused. "I'm sorry, Jack."
            "It's not your fault, Ava."
            "Teri is safe, though. We have her here."
            "Thank God. Does she know about Kim?"
            "Yeah. We did the hugging and crying thing for a little while. She's handling it as best she can."
            "What about you?"
            "I've had better days. But I'll live."
            "You've seen the report on Palmer?"
            "What report?"
            "Ava, it's all over the news."
            "I'm in the locker room. There's no TV here."
            "Why aren’t you on the floor?"
            "I'm trying to calm down from my screaming match with Tony before I deal with people again."
            "Screaming match?"
            "He accused me of having an affair with you."
            "Yep. Said Nina saw us together. I'm going to kill that bitch."
            "She's just jealous."
            "Of what?"
            "You. She knows that Tony doesn't love her. She knows that he has feelings for you."
            "The only feelings Tony has for me are hatred and contempt."
            "That's not true, and if you think about it long enough, you'll see that I'm right."
            "Whatever. I still hate her."
            "Fine. But we have bigger problems right now."
            "Right. So what report are you talking about?"
            "A bomb went off in Palmer's hotel suite."
            Ava stood up.
            "The Drazens used me to bring a cell phone in. It was rigged. I got rid of it just in time."
            "So the senator is okay?"
            "Yes, but the news is reporting that he died in the blast."
            "Because I'm trying to get my daughter back."
            "So make them think you killed Palmer, and maybe they won't kill Kim?"
            "That was the plan."
            "It's leaking out that Palmer didn't die."
            "So what's the plan?"
            "I have to get her back."
            "You're not thinking of running in there, guns blazing, are you?"
            "I don't have a choice."
            Ava sighed.
            "I know. But call Teri first. Let her know you're okay. That woman has been through hell today."
            "I will. Thank you, Ava. For everything."
            "That sounded an awful lot like goodbye, Bauer. You better not die on me."
            "I'll try my best."
            "You better."
            A couple minutes later, Ava felt composed enough to go back out onto the floor. She knew that she couldn’t do anything yet, but after the Drazens had been taken care of, she fully planned to kick the shit out of Nina for all the grief she had caused her throughout the day.
            As she passed an empty holding room, she heard the other agent's voice as she spoke into her cell phone.
            "Speak of the devil," she muttered.
            She kept walking, but stopped suddenly when she heard what Nina say Kim's name. Retracing her steps as quietly as she could, she moved back toward the room, listening carefully. Her eyes widened as she took in more of the conversation – it wasn't in English, but she was sure that she had heard something like it earlier in the day.
            Then it hit her – Nina was speaking Serbian, and she was telling someone about Kim Bauer.
failegaidin: (tony ava stand)

I told you that you guys would have to wait until Tuesday for another chapter :D If all goes well, S1 should be finished in the next week or two. That makes me VERY happy. 

Chapter 14

            Teri and Tony tried to carry Dr. Parslow as gently as they could toward Tony's SUV. She explained that he was a friend of hers, and that he had been shot by the man that Tony had killed. The agent was suspicious of the doctor, thinking that the concern he showed for Teri was just a little too overbearing, a little too intimate. But he was bleeding, and they needed to get him to a hospital as quickly as possible.
            He called Nina as soon as they got on the road, knowing that she needed to be kept up-to-date.
            "Nina, it's me." 
            "I just saw you put in a call for an agent down at Jack's. Is Monroe alright?"
            "He was shot. He was barely alive when I left him."
            "Left him? Where the hell are you going?"
            "Nina, I've got Teri."
            "Oh my God. Is she okay?"
            "She's a little shaken up. There was a friend with her at the house. He's been shot too. I'm taking him to a hospital."
            "A friend? Who?"
            "I don't know. Some kind of doctor. His name is Parslow. I think he's going to be okay."
            "Well that's a relief. Are you coming back here after you get him to the clinic?"
            "Yeah. That way we can protect her."
            "Sounds good. See you soon."
            "Tony, what is going on?" Teri asked.
            "We thought you were safe at the house. Obviously, we were wrong."
            "Kim and I were in a car accident. We need to go back to the scene, see if she's okay. I blacked out after it happened – I couldn't remember anything. But she could be hurt, or scared-"
            "Teri, Kim is fine."
            "What? How do you know?"
            "She called CTU a little while ago. She wouldn't tell me where she was, but we traced the call and found an address she might be heading towards. Ava is there now."
            Teri breathed an audible sigh of relief.
            "Thank God she's alright." Then she turned back to Tony sharply. "What do you mean, Ava is there? She was shot! Why isn't she in Medical, resting?"
            "Do you want to try and make her lie down? Because I've tried twice today, and she keeps getting by me. But if you think you can get her to stay put, be my guest."
            She smiled a little at that.
            "She always was a stubborn girl."
            "Tell me about it."
            Ava had kept herself calm for most of the ride to the police station. She sat in the back of the cop car, Kim beside her, scolding herself for not getting the two of them out of the house before the shit hit the fan. Her badge had been lost in one of the many scuffles she'd been in earlier that day, and she knew that getting the police to believe she was a federal agent wouldn’t be easy. She doubted whether she could even get them to call CTU to confirm her story.
            So she sat back and tried to come up with a way to convince them and to get herself and Kim out of this mess. If she could just get her back to CTU, she could focus on finding Teri and then go help Jack kick the terrorists' asses. She could sometimes understand what pushed people to the point of doing terrible things to get their message across. But today had been about revenge, pure and simple, and she couldn't understand how anyone could justify killing someone else's family in retribution. It just wasn't right.
            Ava shook her head as she realized that her thoughts were drifting. She was supposed to be coming up with a plan to get them out of there – not musing on the justifications for terrorism. She shifted in her seat, grimacing at the jolt of pain that shot through her left shoulder. Having her hands cuffed behind her back was not doing much for her wound, and the pain was starting to ebb away at her concentration. Beads of sweat were popping up along her forehead, and she was having trouble breathing. The car felt insufferably small, and the air was hot and fetid to her senses. She shook her head again, trying to clear her mind, but the movement only caused her more pain. Her frustration rose with her temperature, and she suddenly found herself loathing the cops who had arrested her.
            By the time they arrived at the station house, she was clenching her fists in anger. She fumed that the cops were interfering with national security – that they were putting peoples lives at risk with their stupidity. She bit her bottom lip as she winced again. Her shoulder was throbbing now, and all she could hear was the roaring of her blood and the pounding of her heart.
            When the car stopped, one of the officers got out and came to her door, opening it and reaching for her. He grasped her upper left arm and yanked her out, her head slamming on the edge of the car as she was dragged out. The pain that flared in her shoulder and head were too much. Stepping closer to the cop, she rammed her knee into his crotch, watching with satisfaction as he crumpled to the ground.
            "Ava!" Kim cried.
            She turned just as the other cop came running towards her. When he was close enough, she spun her body, landing a solid to the side of his face and sending him sprawling across the pavement. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the blonde cop from the house coming up behind her. She spun to kick him as well, but he caught her ankle and held it tightly. Growling in frustration, Ava launched her body into the air and swung her foot into the side of his head. She had forgotten that she would need her hands to break her fall, though, and she cried out in pain as she crashed down to the pavement. She tried to push herself up again, but a gun was pressed against the back of her head. Turning slightly, she saw the blonde guy glaring at her, the area around his eye already turning black and blue.
            "Keep this one away from the others. I want to talk to her first."
            Ava had her forehead resting against the cool table when the blonde cop came walking into the interrogation room. She didn't look up, her shoulder now screaming at her. With her hands still cuffed behind her back, there was no way for her to relieve the pressure.
            "You assaulted three police officers," he commented as he took the seat across from her.
            "Please undo these cuffs."
            "I can't do that."
            "My shoulder is killing me."
            "From being in the cuffs? That's a pretty weak excuse."
            Ava raised her head and looked at him like he was an idiot.
            "Do you see the bandage? I got shot today."
            "What were doing when you got shot?"
            "Trying to get away from terrorists."
            She sighed. "I'm a federal agent. I work for CTU Los Angeles."
            "Where's your badge?"
            "I think I lost it when I got run off the road around midnight. It's probably burned with the rest of my car."
            "That's convenient."
            "You wouldn't think that if you were me."
            "So…if you're a federal agent, what were you doing at that drug bust?"
            "I was there to get Kim."
            "The blonde girl?"
            "Yes. She's another agent's daughter. She's been kidnapped and almost killed quite a few times today. I was supposed to find her and bring her back to CTU."
            "Why was she at that house?"
            "She knew one of the guys – Rick, I think his name was. He helped her and her mother escape earlier today when they were held captive."
            "He was one of the ones who took her and brought her to the compound."
            "Doesn't it seem strange to you that she would go to him for help?"
            Ava tried to shrug, but grimaced and brought her forehead back to the table. "She couldn't find anyone else to help her. Every time she thinks she's safe, something happens and she's running for her life again. She's had a shitty day."
            "This is quite the story. Are you sure you didn't take some of Frank's drugs?"
            "I don't do drugs."
            "Oh? And why not?"
            "Don't you know? They're bad for you."
            "Why should I believe anything that you've told me? You don't have a badge. I found two guns on you, and a switchblade. You were at a major drug bust. You assaulted police officers, including myself."
            "They grabbed me. It hurt my shoulder." She sighed, raising her head again. "Look, I can give you a phone number to call. Please. If the call doesn't pan out, chuck my ass in a cell. If it does, then get these damn cuffs off of me before my fucking arm falls off."
            The cop smirked, amused at the woman sitting across from him.
            "Alright, I'll bite. You give me that number and I'll check out your story."
            "Thank God," she murmured, once again lowering her head.
            Teri followed Tony into CTU and onto the main floor as they headed directly for Nina's station. The agent looked up, giving a small smile of relief when she saw that Teri was okay.
            "How's the doctor?" she asked when they got to her desk.
            "They said he'll be alright." Tony turned to Teri. "I'm going to take you to the situation room. I need you to stay there."
            "What about Kim?"
            "We're doing everything we can to find her, Teri. Ava's good. She'll get to her soon."
            Teri nodded, her fears slightly eased by the knowledge that Ava was looking for her daughter. The agent was young, but she usually managed to do the impossible. Tony gestured for one of the security guards, who gently took Teri by the elbow and led her off the floor. Then he took a position outside the room – his only mission was to make sure that no unauthorized person got in to see her.
            "Are you okay?" Nina asked quietly.
            Tony sighed and leaned against her desk.
            "I was almost too late."
            "But you weren't. That's the important thing."
            He nodded, but before he could answer her, the phone on his desk rang loudly. Sighing again, he walked over and picked it up.
            "Almeida, CTU."
            "Tony Almeida?"
            "Yes. Who's this?"
            "My name is Duncan Shuer. I'm a narcotics cop. I have a young lady here claiming to be a CTU agent. She gave me this number."
            Tony groaned. "Ava?"
            "Yeah. Can you describe her to me? I want to make sure this girl's really an agent."
            "Where the hell is her badge?"
            "She said it's probably burned up with the rest of her car."
            He chuckled. "Probably. She's about 5'8", brown hair, blue eyes. Hell of an attitude. If it's her, I imagine she's assaulted at least one officer."
            "Three, actually. I was one of them."
            "She didn't hurt them too badly, did she?"
            "We'll live." He paused. "Was she really shot today?"
            Tony straightened up suddenly. "Yes. Why? Is she okay?"
            "Yeah, she's fine. She's been complaining about her shoulder. The cuffs must be hurting her real bad, stretching her arms behind her back."
            "Wait – did she assault your men before or after you cuffed her?"
            "Oh God."
            "Yeah, she's a feisty one, alright. Landed some pretty nasty kicks before we got her down. Look, she's got a girl with her."
            Tony closed his eyes, hope flaring in his chest. "Kim Bauer?"
            "Yeah. So she's legit? Your agent said this girl's been kidnapped and almost killed a few times today."
            "Yeah. It's been a long day."
            "Alright, so what do you want me to do with them?"
            "Because of the attempts on Kim's life, I can't have you just release them. I need you to take some men and escort them here. Don't let them out of your sight. Ava can usually handle herself, but she's injured."
            "Okay. We'll be on our way soon. I should probably go get those cuffs off your agent."
            "If you value your life," he responded with a small smile before hanging up.
            "Who was that?" Nina asked as Tony walked back to her station.
            "A narcotics cop. He has Ava and Kim in custody."
            "What? Why?"
            He shrugged. "I didn't ask for the whole story. But they're escorting them back here."
            "Are they alright?"
            "I think so. Ava assaulted three officers, handcuffed. Her shoulder's still hurting her, more so with her hands tied behind her back. They should be here soon."
            "Good. I'll go let Teri know that her daughter is safe."
            "Do you have any news?" Teri asked as soon as Nina walked through the door.
            "Yes," Nina said gently. "We've found Kim."
            "Is she alright?"
            "She's fine, Teri. She got caught in a drug bust?"
            Teri frowned. "How?"
            "I don't have all the details. But Ava is with her. I imagine they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
            "What about Jack? Have you heard anything from him?"
            "Not in a little while, no."
            Teri peered at the other woman closely.
            "There's something you're not telling me," she accused.
            "What aren't you telling me? Where's Jack?"
            "Teri, I can't tell you."
            "Why not?"
            "I just can't. I promise you that as soon as I can, I will come down and explain everything to you."
            "Nina, please."
            "I'm sorry, Teri. But Kim should be here soon."
            Avoiding the pain in the other woman's eyes, Nina forced herself to turn around and walk out of the room.
            "Come in," George called when someone knocked on his door.
            He looked up to see Teri Bauer stepping tentatively into the room. He was relieved to see that she was uninjured, but he could see the fear and tension residing in her eyes. A sudden wave of sympathy washed over him as he recalled all the terrors that she had been through that day.
            "Mrs. Bauer," he greeted, standing up as she walked to his desk.
            "Mr. Mason. I'd like to know where my husband is."
            "I'm sorry. He's in the field."
            "Doing what?"
            "I can't tell you that."
            "Please, Mr. Mason. I need to know that my family is safe."
            "I can tell you that Jack is alive. And your daughter is on her way in, from what Agent Almeida tells me."
            "Yes. He told me Ava is with her."
            "Then you should know that she's safe. Ava would die to protect her."
            "She's already come pretty close today," Teri murmured. She looked up. "What if they find her again? Kim, I mean."
            "Mrs. Bauer, I highly doubt that the people after Kim have any idea where she is. She escaped from the men chasing you and went some place that nobody expected. And now she has police protection and she's on her way here. She's safe."
            "Thank you. But I won't say that until she's here and I can hold her myself."
            "I understand."
            "Thank you, Mr. Mason. Please, if something happens to Jack, will you update me?"
            "I'll do my best."
            She nodded absently before turning around and leaving the office without another word. Mason watched her sadly, wishing that he didn't have to lie to her, but knowing that he had no choice for the time being. Sighing, he picked up his phone and called Tony.
            "You wanted to see us?" Tony asked as he and Nina walked into Mason's office.
            "We've got a problem."
            "What's up?"
            "Victor Drazen just called me."
            "He has Jack. He wants to make a trade."
            "For what?"
            "His son. Alexis."
            "What are you going to do?"
            "Division is going to take too much time to make this decision. We need to move - now. I've sent a team to the prison. Jack told me that there are six of them, and that they're all heavily armed. Tony, I want you to update the team."
            "I’m on it." Tony turned and moved out of the room quickly, and Nina moved to follow him.
            She turned around at the sound of Mason's voice.
            "Are you sure you can do this?"
            She frowned at him.
            "What do you mean?"
            "I mean, it's Jack. Are you too…emotionally involved to handle this?"
            "I can do my job, George," she gritted out.
            "I just needed to make sure."
            "Have you asked Tony that about Ava?"
            George raised an eyebrow.
            "I was under the impression that he was your boyfriend."
            "That's up for debate."
            "I haven't seen anything today to make me think Tony's too involved. If nothing else, I think he might be the most objective at the moment."
            "Shows how much you know," Nina mumbled. "Was there anything else? I have work to do."
            "No, that's it."
            She spun on her heel and stalked out of the room.
            Teri stopped pacing as soon as Nina opened the door to the situation room. Her eyes were at once hopeful and full of fear, her face drawn and weary from the events of the day. She clasped her hands tightly in front of her, her knuckles white.
            "We heard from Jack," Nina said tentatively.
            "And?" She took a step back when the other woman didn't answer right away. "Oh God. What's happened?"
            "He's been taken captive," Nina answered, her eyes locked on the ground, unable to meet Teri's gaze.
            "What do you mean?"
            The agent took a deep breath and raised her head.
            "A man named Victor Drazen has him. He's the one who orchestrated your kidnapping. He wants revenge."
            "For what?"
            "Jack led a mission that resulted in the death of his wife and daughter."
            "Oh God," Teri breathed.
            "He wants to trade. Jack for his son Alexis."
            "You'll do it right? You'll make the trade?"
            "We'll do everything we can, Teri."
            "What does that mean? That doesn't answer my question."
            Nina took a step closer.
            "Teri, we will get him back. Jack's been in these situations before. He'll be okay. I promise."
            Closing her eyes, Teri sank into the chair behind her, her head falling into her hands.
            Tony looked up as Nina approached his station. She stopped when she saw the defeated expression on his face.
            "What is it?" she asked, trying to keep the fear from her voice.
            "They called it off."
            "What? Who?"
            "Chappelle. He called off the team at the prison. He says we can't do the trade. Jack is on his own."
            "You alright?" Duncan asked as he walked Ava and Kim to the car.
            The agent glared at him.
            "I'll live."
            "Sorry about the misunderstanding."
            "Yeah, yeah. You're lucky I'm injured. Otherwise I'd have to kick your ass just on principle."
            He chuckled at that.
            "Well, soon you and Kim will be safe and sound at CTU. Although, from what I hear, you'll probably manage to get yourself into trouble again fairly quickly."
            "I see you've been talking to Tony."
            "He might have said a few things."
            Ava chuckled as she climbed into the back of the car, Kim sliding in next to her. The ride was much more comfortable this time, her arms able to rest in their normal position. Before they had left, Duncan had had someone rewrap her shoulder and give her some more pain meds. Sighing, she leaned her head back against the seat, closing her eyes. All she wanted to do was get Kim back to CTU. She knew that she would be safe there, and then she would have one less person to worry about. Ava didn't have the slightest idea of where to start looking for Teri, but she would burn that bridge when she got to it. For now, she just concentrated on getting to CTU.
            The squeal of tires made her head snap up just in time to see headlights careening towards them, getting impossibly bright before colliding with their car. Kim screamed as the car spun around and was pushed backwards, the hood crunched to half its original size. When they finally came to a stop, Ava leaned forward and checked the driver, sighing in frustration when she found that he had died on impact.
            "Are you alright?" she asked Kim urgently.
            "I…I think so. What the hell is going on?"
            "Apparently we're not out of the woods yet."
            She pulled at the door handle, but was unable to open the door. Cursing, she remembered that cop cars had special locks on the backdoors – they could only be opened from the outside. The door on the other side was suddenly opened, and Ava turned to see someone reach in and grab Kim by the hair, dragging her out of the car. The agent leapt across the seat, making it out of the car before their attackers closed the door again. She struggled to her feet, prepared to fight her way out.
            A crowbar came out of nowhere and slammed into her ribs, stealing the breath from her lungs. Ava doubled over, her hands clutching her stomach. She looked up just in time to see the crowbar slicing through the air toward her head, and she raised her right arm to block it. The pain was intense, and she cried out. Ava balled her fist and tried to backhand her opponent, but she was hit from behind by someone else.
            Her body rebelled against her, sinking to the pavement even as she willed it to stand up and fight. Kim's screams echoed in her ears, and she saw a man put a bullet in Duncan's head as the cop regained consciousness and tried to get out of the car. The shooter walked around the car towards her, and Ava struggled with every ounce of her strength to push herself to her hands and knees. With a snort of derision, the man kicked her in the ribs, knocking her onto her back.
            With one smooth motion, he aimed his weapon and fired three shots into her chest.
failegaidin: (tava wwtlf)
This might be the last chapter you guys get from me until Tuesday - I don't usually write on the weekends, and Monday is Labor Day, so...we'll see. 

Chapter 13

            "Shit, shit, shit!" Ava cursed as she dialed Jack's number again.
            After realizing that Teri and Kim had been kidnapped again, it had taken her a few minutes to shake herself out of her morbid reverie. The pain that her body had gone through and the emotional rollercoaster of the day was starting to get to her, and she felt herself teetering on the edge of despair. It was taking everything she had not to sink to her knees right then and there and break into sobs, the hopelessness and futility of it all overwhelming her. Finally, she had reached up to clutch the silver cross she wore, taking deep breaths and muttering a quiet prayer. When she opened her eyes again, she knew that she could keep going, at least for a little while.
            But now she couldn't get a hold of Jack. She had called him three times now, and every time his phone went to voicemail. She cursed again, momentarily at a loss for what to do next. Finally, she dialed another number.
            "Ava? What's wrong?"
            "Where the HELL is Jack?"
            "He's at the hotel dealing with the Alexis Drazen thing."
            "I need to talk to him. Now."
            "Why? What's wrong?" he repeated.
            She sighed. "They're gone, Tony," she whispered, and he could hear the tears in her voice.
            "They're gone," she repeated, her voice strong again. "The agents are dead. Teri and Kim are gone."
            "Pretty much."
            "So what are you going to do?"
            She walked across the lawn, not even bothering with the path as she headed back to her car in the driveway. Looking out across the road, she stopped suddenly, a frown on her face.
            "I think I know what direction they went in."
            "Skid marks. All over the road. This is a quiet neighborhood. Skid marks aren't the norm."
            "So…what? You're going to drive around, hoping you catch up to them?"
            "Do you have a better plan?"
            "No, but…dammit, Ava! This was supposed to be an easy job. It wasn't supposed to turn into another harrowing adventure."
            She shrugged. "It is what it is, Tony. And with Jack busy, I'm the only one that has a chance of helping them."
            "Alright. Fine. But you keep me updated, you understand?"
            "Yeah, yeah. Talk to you soon."
            Tony sighed as he hung up the phone. It seemed like every time he turned around, Ava was in some kind of peril. He chuckled as he realized that he usually spent most of his time arguing with her and causing her trouble. But something had shifted today. He didn't want to fight with her anymore; he didn't want her to think that he hated her. The truth was, he wanted to get to know her better. She was the most interesting person he'd met in a long time, and he thought that they could be good friends if it weren't for Nina.
            His thoughts shifted as he pondered his girlfriend – or soon to be ex-girlfriend. He hadn't realized that he'd made his decision until he told Ava that he wasn't going to let Nina control him like that. Tony sighed as he realized that he had never loved her – he had just been so surprised when she seemed to show an interest in him. He supposed it had something to do with his inferiority complex towards Jack, but he didn't want to admit that he had taken the man's leftovers just to prove something to himself.
            He was jarred out of his thoughts by the phone on his desk ringing again. Torn between hope and fear, he reached out and picked up the receiver.
            "Tony Almeida."
            "I need to speak to Jack Bauer."
            "I’m sorry, Agent Bauer isn't available. Can I help you?"
            "What about Nina Meyers? Is she there?"
            Something clicked in Tony's head.
            "Yeah. Is Nina there?"
            "No, she's with your dad. We know something happened at the safe house Kim. Are you alright?"
            "I'm fine, but…I don't know where my mom is."
            "Okay, just tell me where you are. I'll come get you."
            "What about Ava?"
            "She's out looking for you. Tell me where you are, Kim. I'll call her and let her know. She'll come get you."
            There was a long pause.
            "No, I don't think so."
            "Kim, you need to trust me."
            "No. I don't know you. You could be working with them."
            "I'll only talk to my dad or Ava or Nina."
            "They're not here, Kim. They're in the field. Just let me-"
            "I'm sorry."
            The line went dead and Tony slammed the receiver back into its cradle, swearing loudly. Mason walked over to him, a concerned expression on his face.
            "Who was that?"
            Tony sighed. "Kim Bauer. The safe house was hit, George. Ava was just there. The agents are dead."
            "She's looking for Teri and Kim and now."
            "Did Kim tell you where she was?"
            "No. She said she'd only talk to Jack, Ava or Nina. I got a partial trace. I'm working on it now." He paused. "We need to call Jack. Let him know what's happened."
            "No," George said firmly.
            "What? George, he deserves to know that his family is in danger."
            "It will only distract him. We need him focused, Tony. The senator's life depends on it."
            "This isn't right."
            "Maybe not. But it's what needs to be done." He frowned as Tony picked up the phone again. "Who are you calling?"
            "Ava. I can update her, right?"
            "Yeah. And keep me posted on what she's doing. I want to know if she finds them."
            "Will do."
            The phone rang a couple times before Ava managed to fish it out of her pocket and flip it open.
            "Any luck yet?"
            "You know, I suddenly have oodles of respect for crime scene guys."
            "Because they focus on the tiniest things, like skid marks, and manage to figure EVERYTHING out."
            "Does that mean you're having trouble?"
            "This shit is HARD, Tony. I keep stopping – wait."
            "Hang on."
            She pulled the car over to the side of the road and got out. It had been a little while since she'd seen any skid marks, but there hadn't been any turnoffs. She was sure that they had come this way. But the marks on the road in front of her were different from the others. The road was straighter here, and there was really no reason for the tires to have made any tracks on the pavement. These looked like somebody had stopped suddenly…
            Turning to her left, she saw a dirt path running back in the direction she had come from. She put the phone back up to her ear as she headed towards it, her heart pounding in her chest.
            "I think I might have found something."
            She froze as she looked over the edge of the cliff – down below were the smoking remains of a car that were still burning in places. Ava nearly dropped the phone as she stared in shock and fear.
            "Fuck," she whispered.
            Then she was scrambling down the rocks, trying to get to the wreckage as fast as she could. Coughing as she breathed in the smoke, she searched the car and then the area surrounding it, relief flooding over her.
            "Ava, what the hell is going on?"
            "I found a car. It looks like one of the Bauers'. It's a burning wreck."
            Tony's heart stopped.
            "Did you find…"
            "They're not here. There aren't any bodies. It looks like it went over the edge and crashed. They must have jumped out."
            He breathed a sigh of relief, and then suddenly remembered why he had called her in the first place.
            "Kim," he said. "She called. A few minutes ago."
            "What? Where is she?"
            "I don’t know."
            "What do you mean?"
            "She wouldn't tell me. She only trusts a few people, Ava. I'm not one of them. I couldn't get her to tell me." He paused. "I got a general area of where she called from, though. She didn't stay on long enough to get a full trace."
            "Are there any payphones in the area?"
            "Two. I've got Milo getting the logs of any calls made recently. We'll find her, Ava."
            "Alright. Call me back as soon as you know anything."
            It didn't take long for Tony to call her back.
            "We found it."
            Ava sighed with relief. "Where?"
            "Down on Somerset. But there was a call made right after she called me."
            "To who?"
            "A woman – Melanie Jackson. She lives in Echo Park. You want the address?"
            "Yeah. The chances that someone else made the call are slim. With any luck, I'll find Kim in Echo Park."
            George Mason looked up as there was a knock on the door.
            "Come in," he called.
            Tony stepped in, shutting the door behind him.
            "I just talked to Ava. She's on her way to Echo Park to look for Kim."
            "Why Echo Park?"
            "A call was made from the payphone Kim used right after I talked to her. It went to an address there. We think maybe she called someone for help and went to see them."
            "That's pretty thin, Tony."
            "I know, but it's all we have right now."
            "Alright. Thanks for the update." He turned back to the paperwork on his desk, but noticed after a few moments that Tony was still standing there. "Was there something else you needed?" he finally asked.
            "I think we need to tell Jack."
            "Look, George, this is his family. They've been in danger all day, and he deserves to know that they're not safe."
            "It will only jeopardize the mission."
            "Dammit, George! Stop treating this like a job for a minute. We're talking about a scared mother and her teenage daughter. They're out there, with people after them who want nothing more than to use them and then kill them. All the trouble they’ve faced today is connected with the hit on Palmer. How can you expect Jack to work this out when he can't see the whole picture?"
            "I said no, Tony. I will not distract him from the task at hand."
            Tony sighed, his shoulders slumping in defeat. "Fine. Then give me some agents."
            "For what?"
            "To search for Teri and Kim."
            "You've already got Ava."
            "She's not enough."
            Mason chuckled. "I'll tell her you said that."
            "I'm serious! Kim and her mother got separated. We have no idea where Teri is right now. We need more than one agent on this and you know it!"
            "And where will you send them, Tony?" Mason asked, his voice rising in anger. "Like you said, we have no idea where Teri Bauer is. Are you just going to send them off on a wild goose chase? We have a serious threat aimed at a U.S. senator. I need all available agents on that and on that only. You're lucky I haven't dragged Ava's ass back here – she's one of the best we've got and I'm letting her run around after Jack's family. Now this discussion is over. Get back down to the floor and back to doing your job."
            He wanted to argue more, but he knew that he had pushed as far as he could with Mason. Resisting the urge to slam his fist onto the desk, he left the room silently. Instead of heading back to his station, however, he veered to the right and went down to the locker rooms. He wasn't sure if any agents would be there, but he was hoping to find at least one.
            When he opened the door, he found Monroe standing with his back to him. The young black agent was a friend of Ava's, and Tony thought he was lucky that it was him he found.
            "Hey, Monroe," he greeted.
            The agent turned, a big smile on his face.
            "Almeida. What's up?"
            "I need a favor."
            "Uh-oh. Higher ups not giving you what you want?"
            "Like usual. You heard about what happened to Bauer's family today?"
            The smile faded. "Yeah, man. We all heard. They okay?"
            "We don't know. The safe house was attacked. All the agents are dead."
            "Ava's out trying to track Kim down. But we have no idea where Jack's wife is."
            "And you need my help?"
            Tony nodded. "I need you to sit on the Bauer residence. There's a chance the people chasing Teri might show up there looking for her. Or she might show up, not knowing where else to go. Either way, it will help us."
            "Why won't Mason assign someone?"
            "He says we need everyone on the Palmer threat."
            "He's right you know."
            "But so are you. If the bastards who have been after the Bauers all day are the same ones trying to kill Palmer, then I don't see how we can lose if we try to find those women."
            Hope flared in Tony's chest.
            "So you'll do it?"
            "Yeah, I'll do it. Just make sure Ava knows she owes me one."
            Ava frowned as she parked across the street from the address that Tony had given her. There were a few cars in the driveway, and she could hear yelling coming from the kitchen. Checking to make sure she was armed, she got out of the car slowly, her balance still iffy from the pain meds she was on. Her shoulder was a little stiff, and she silently vowed to spend the next week in bed after this was all over.
            She moved toward the voices, seeing that they were coming through a screen door that led into the kitchen. As she got closer, she recognized Kim and that guy that had helped them escape from the compound. Breathing a sigh of relief, she moved faster, opening the door and striding into the kitchen.
            The teenager stopped talking abruptly and turned, her eyes widening in surprise.
            "Ava? What are you doing here?"
            "Looking for you. Can't you stay out of trouble for just a couple hours? I'm really getting tired of tracking your ass down."
            "I can't find Mom," Kim told her, her voice wavering. "I just want to find her and get my dad and go home."
            Ava reached out a hand and held it against Kim's cheek. "I know," she said gently. "This will all be over soon. Let's get you out of here and back to CTU."
            "What about my mom?"
            "We'll find her."
            "How do you know that?"
            Ava smiled. "I keep finding you, don't I?"
            She turned Kim toward the door and started pushing her in that direction, grateful that finding her had been much easier this time, and much less painful. As Kim reached out her hand to push the door open, a hand clamped down roughly on Ava's left shoulder and dragged her backwards.
            "Where the hell do you think you're going?" a voice demanded.
            "Frank!" the guy yelled – Ava thought his name was Rick. "Let her go!"
            "No," Frank responded, pushing her into the wall and pulling out his gun. "I said nobody leaves until this thing is done!"
            "You REALLY don't want to fuck with me today," Ava warned.
            "Is that a threat?"
            "What's a little girl like you going to do?" He pressed the muzzle of the gun against her head. "I could kill you right here, right now."
            "No," she replied. "You couldn't."
            A quick uppercut to Frank's chin sent him backwards, and Ava quickly grabbed the hand holding the gun and twisted. She almost had the weapon out of his grasp when she looked up and saw another guy with a gun to Kim's head.
            "Drop it," he ordered, cocking the gun.
            Seething, Ava let go of Frank and stepped away from him, her hands raised so that they could see she was cooperating. Frank stood up and glared at her, rubbing his wrist. There was blood coming from his mouth, and she suspected that he had bit his tongue when she punched him. He walked up to her, and without any change in expression, backhanded her and sent her sprawling across the floor.
            "Nobody leaves," he repeated.
            "Where are you going?" Tony asked as Mason walked past his station.
            The director stopped. "I'm going with Jack."
            "Because somebody needs to keep an eye on him. First Elizabeth Nash goes crazy and almost kills Alexis Drazen. And now our other lead is dead because Teddy Hanlin couldn't put his past with Jack away. There's been too many screw-ups today. The address that Senator Palmer managed to dig up from the missing Drazen file was in the same grid where that guy was supposed to cut the power. It's worth checking out."
            "Alright. You'll keep us posted?"
            "Don't worry, Tony. We won't keep you out of the loop." He paused. "Nina will be coming in soon. Update her and keep looking for other leads. This has got to break soon. One way or another."
            "You've had an exciting day," Tony murmured as Nina walked up to his station.
            "Between trying to keep Alexis Drazen from dying and trying to keep Teddy Hanlin from killing Jack, it's been loads of fun." She leaned against his desk. "So what have I missed here?"
            He gave her a long look before answering. "The safe house was hit."
            Nina stared at him in utter shock. "What?"
            "The agents are dead. Kim and Teri are missing. Ava's hunting Kim down as we speak."
            "Why didn't you call us?"
            "Mason said not to."
            "That's a pathetic excuse, Tony! We've been ignoring orders all day! Jack deserves to know that his family is in danger again."
            "That's exactly what I told George."
            Nina leaned over and picked up Tony's phone, slamming her finger into the numbers.
            "You're an ass, George."
            "Excuse me?"
            "How dare you keep this kind of information from Jack!"
            "Yes, we'll have to check into that."
            "He's there, isn't he? Sitting right next to you?"
            "I see your point."
            "George, you have to tell him."
            "No, no. We'll talk about that later."
            "Thanks for keeping me updated."
            The line went dead, and Nina stared at the receiver with barely-restrained fury. Leaning over again, she punched in another number.
            "Who are you calling?"
            "Jack." She sighed in frustration as the phone went directly to voicemail. "Dammit!"
            "He's not picking up?"
            "I think it's off." She hung up, slamming the receiver back into its cradle. "This isn't right, Tony. He deserves to know."
            "I know."
            "So what do we do?"
            "Nothing." When Nina shot him a glare, he sighed. "There's nothing we can do."
            "This is a stupid idea," Ava repeated.
            "I told you to shut up, bitch!" Frank screamed at her.
            She winced at the shrillness of his voice. His desperation was obvious and growing by the minute. The drug deal that he had set up was falling down around his ears, but he refused to admit it. The suppliers would be there any minute, expecting to be paid for the product they were delivering. But from what Ava could figure out, the money wasn't there, because it was the money Gaines was supposed to pay Rick and his partner. But they had never been paid, and Frank was convinced that their only option now was to rip-off the dealers.
            They hadn't patted her down – just more evidence that they weren't thinking or planning clearly. Her gun was tucked into the back waistband of her jeans, and she had positioned herself against a far wall when Frank ordered them all into the living room. She didn't really think she could take all of them on at once, but if it came down to that, at least she could defend herself and Kim as they tried to make their escape.
            Her thoughts were interrupted as a group of men walked into the room. A couple of them carried large duffle bags, and Ava surmised that the drugs were in there. All the players were in the room then, and Ava's entire body tensed as she realized that things were coming to a head.
            "You got the money?" one of the dealers asked.
            He wasn't a large man, and his curly blonde hair was pulled into a low ponytail that reached to his shoulder blades. She could tell by the way his clothes fell on him that he was carrying, but she doubted that that would change the plan.
            "You got the product?" Frank retorted.
            The blonde man nodded to his associates and they put the bags on the coffee table. One of them unzipped and pulled them open, showing that they were full to the brim with drugs.
            Frank smiled as he looked down at the merchandise, and then quickly pulled his gun, pointing it at the blonde man.
            "What the hell is this?" he demanded.
            "Change in plans," Frank explained. "You're gonna leave the drugs and just walk away."
            "Like hell, man. You're gonna pay us!"
            He pulled out his gun, as did his companions. Frank was now outnumbered four to one, but the smile on his face never faded.
            "Boys," he called over his shoulder.
            From the kitchen came the rest of Frank's guys, each toting at least one firearm. They calmly flanked their leader, keeping their weapons trained on the dealers. The blonde man looked as though he wanted to start something, but then thought better of it. They were outnumbered and out-gunned, and he apparently decided that the money wasn't worth his life. Nodding to his companions, they each set down their weapons and put their hands up.
            "You're tense," Nina observed as Tony paced near his desk.
            "I can't get a hold of Monroe."
            "What do you need him for?"
            "I sent him to sit on Jack's house."
            Nina frowned. "Why?"
            "I figured that whoever is looking for Teri and Kim might watch the house, hoping that one or both of them would show up."
            "Did Mason agree to this?"
            Tony paused. "No. He said we couldn't spare anyone to look for them. He said I was lucky he was letting Ava look."
            "He's handling this wrong."
            "I know."
            "So what are you going to do?"
            He leaned his hands on the desk, silent as he thought. He hadn't heard from Ava since he'd given her the address in Echo Park, and he was afraid to call her in case she was in the middle of trying to rescue Kim. Monroe's silence was unsettling…he was a good agent and always kept in contact with CTU. The fact that he wasn't answering his phone meant that there was something wrong.
            Grabbing his cell phone and keys, he pushed himself away from the desk and headed for the door.
            "Where are you going?" Nina called after him.
            "To check on Monroe."
            Tony knew that something had gone horribly wrong the second he pulled into the driveway. As he got out of the car, he dialed Monroe's number again. Raising the phone to his ear, his arm froze halfway as he heard a cell phone ring from somewhere in the bushes on the side of the house. He closed his phone without hanging up and pulled out his gun, moving slowly across the yard. When he rounded the corner, he stopped in his tracks, shock rippling through him.
            Monroe lay sprawled out on the ground, blood seeping from a gunshot to the chest. Tony knelt beside him, desperately searching for a pulse and breathing a sigh of relief when he found it. It was faint – the agent was very close to death. He called it in as an agent down, keeping his voice low; there was every reason to think that the shooter was still on the premises.
            A sudden yell from inside the house forced him away from Monroe's body as he ran toward the back door. He slowed once he was inside, stepping lightly so that he wouldn't alert anyone to his presence. The kitchen and hallway were clear, and he moved on toward the living room.
            A man stood with his back to him, his gun held out in front of him. Tony craned his neck to see around him, and his eyes widened as he saw Teri Bauer on her hands and knees behind the couch, cringing from the bullet she expected to come at any moment.
            Without any hesitation, Tony took aim and fired three shots, all of which plunged into the back of the would-be assassin. Teri looked up in surprise when she realized that she was still alive, and sobbed with relief when she saw Tony moving toward her.
            As the tension in the room grew thick enough to choke a person, Ava wondered if she could grab Kim and slide out the back. There was no one in the kitchen now, and she doubted if Frank wanted to jeopardize his drugs and his life just to chase them down. If he turned to deal with them, there was every chance that the dealers would pick their weapons back up and open fire. Nobody wanted that – except maybe the dealers.
            Moving slowly, she pushed herself away from the wall and moved her gaze to Kim, trying to catch the girl's attention. Melanie, Rick's girlfriend, caught her eye instead, and she glowered at Ava. The agent got the feeling that she wasn't the easiest girl in the world to get along with. Returning the glare, she continued to try and communicate silently with Kim. After what seemed like an eternity, the teenager finally seemed to understand, and she began to slowly drift toward Ava.
            Just when she thought they might actually be able to get away with it, the game changed. The sound of crashing doors and heavy footsteps suddenly surrounded them as a SWAT team descended on the house. The blonde man pulled another weapon and pointed it at Frank.
            "You're under arrest, asshole."
            It was then that Ava realized the whole thing had been a setup. The dealers were undercover narcotics agents, and they had planned the deal as a bust. She sighed in relief – at least there wasn't going to be a shootout.
            "Arrest them," the undercover cop ordered. "All of them."
            As Ava was slammed into the wall and her arms yanked behind her back, it dawned on her that things had just gotten a lot more complicated.
failegaidin: (tava)
Title: Fighting for Salvation (12)
Rating: R
A/N: There will be 16 chapters in Season 1, so we're almost there! Of course, then things will continue, and there will be some chapters that happen between S1 and S2. Also, please note the wonderful new Tava icon I'm using from [profile] lady_boromir

Chapter 12

            Chappelle had gone across the room to talk to Alberta, and Palmer's back was to him as he walked across the floor. Ryan's eyes widened as he saw the Senator, and he quickly caught Tony's gaze, slightly shaking his head. Tony knew that meant to stall Palmer, no matter what he wanted. Taking a deep breath, he stepped forward to intercept the man striding toward him.
            "Senator," he greeted, shaking Palmer's hand. "I'm surprised to see you here."
            "You shouldn't be. One of your agents tried to kill me this morning."
            "That's not what happened, Senator. We're still trying to sort everything out, but Agent Bauer was actually trying to save you."
            "That's not how it looks. I want to speak to him."
            "I'm sorry, Senator. That's not possible right now."
            "Why not?"
            "He's being debriefed, sir."
            He turned around to find Milo standing nervously behind him.
            "What is it, Milo?"
            "We've got the name of the third shooter."
            "Who is it?"
            "Alexis Drazen."
            Palmer frowned at the name, something tickling at the back of his mind. As Milo turned and walked back to his station, he brought his attention back to Tony.
            "I need to speak to Agent Bauer."
            "I'm sorry, sir. I can't let you do that. No one is to see him until the debrief is over."
            As he spoke, he watched Green walk away from Chappelle and down the hall, toward the holding room where they were keeping Jack. He wished that they would hurry up – distracting a Senator was not his idea of a good time.
            Jack stifled a sigh as Alberta Green walked into the room. He had never really liked the woman, and today she was just getting in his way. She was too concerned with the bureaucratic red tape to actually get anything done. Taking the seat across from him, she busied herself opening a folder and examining its contents. Jack doubted that the file had anything to do with him.
            "You should know, your wife and daughter have been moved to a safe house-"
            He was on his feet immediately.
            "What? Why didn't anybody tell me?"
            "I just told you. We felt that they would be safer in a secure environment, with agents around to keep lookout."
            "Why? What's happened?"
            "Nothing has happened, Jack. We're just taking precautions."
            "Bullshit. You wouldn't remove them from the clinic unless something made you suspicious."
            "Alright. Nina called us from the clinic a little while ago. Said she saw someone. They're checking on it now."
            "And that was enough to make you move them?"
            "To be honest, it wasn't enough for me. But it seems your friends Ava and Tony got to Chappelle and he made the call."
            "At least someone is thinking."
            "If I were you, Jack, I'd watch it. You are in some serious trouble here. You went so far outside of protocol that-"
            The door opened suddenly, cutting Green off. She and Jack looked up in surprise as Chappelle walked in, a frustrated expression on his face. He put his hands on his hips and stared at Jack.
            "Come on, Bauer. Let's go."
            "Where to?"
            "Senator Palmer is here. He wants to talk to you."
            "I'm surprised you're letting him."
            "Believe me, Jack, it's not my choice. He went over my head. Now come on. He's waiting for you in the sit room."
            Ava stumbled a little bit as she left Medical. The pain meds that they had given her were making her a little loopy, but she couldn't stay cooped up there any longer. When the doctor had been pulled away by a phone call, she had snuck out quickly. She knew the guy was only doing his job, but the thought of just sitting down there while a crisis was going on drove her crazy. She was of more use if she was in action, and she was determined to do just that.
            When she got to the main floor, she looked around for Tony, but he was nowhere to be seen. He was apt to yell at her for not waiting for him, and she wanted to avoid a scene if she could. Her face was pale, but she thought she could brush that off as mere tiredness instead of the loss of blood.
            Sighing, she decided that she would go see Jack instead. Whatever was happening, he was sure to be in the thick of it. Looking around, she noticed him in the situation room, talking to somebody. He didn't seem to be in restraints, which was a bit of a surprise considering how badly Green wanted to crack down on him. She moved with confidence toward the room, barely even registering the two men standing on either side of the door until one of them reached out and grabbed her arm.
            Her reaction was an immediate. At the pressure on her skin, something in her snapped and she spun, twisting the guy's arm up and behind his back as she kicked out one of his knees. He fell to the floor face-first, and Ava placed her foot on the back of his neck, still holding his arm. The other man pulled out his weapon and pointed it at her just as Jack and the man he was talking to came bursting through the door.
            "Ava, what the hell are you doing?"
            "He grabbed my arm."
            "Jack, do you know this woman?"
            "Senator, this is Agent Connelly. She's been integral in finding my family and helping us find the people who want you dead."
            The senator turned to face Ava. "Is there a reason you're beating up my Secret Service agents?"
            Ava shrugged, letting the guy off the floor and stepping back. "I've had a rough day. He grabbed me without saying something and I just reacted. I've already been shot once today. Now I'm a little more cautious."
            Palmer smiled at her, amused by her explanation.
            "Since you've been involved in this case all day, why don't you come in and talk with us? We'll need all the help we can get by the time this is over."
            "Sounds good to me. That's what I was trying to do when Sparky here jumped me." Realizing how that sounded, she turned to the agent with an apologetic smile. "Sorry. I didn't know you were one of the good guys. I'm a little jumpy."
            "Obviously," the guy muttered.
            "We found the link," Jack told her as they all sat down.
            "The link between me and the senator. Operation Nightfall."
            "You mentioned that earlier."    
            "I was right. I headed that mission to take out Victor Drazen. Senator Palmer was the head of the committee that gave us the green light."
            "And now somebody wants revenge?"
            "Apparently. Milo found the name of the third shooter – Alexis Drazen."
            "I take it he's a relative."
            "Victor's youngest son. I imagine his brother Andre is involved as well." He paused. "Today is the two-year anniversary of Operation Nightfall."
            "This just gets more and more fun."
            Palmer narrowed his eyes at her. "You have an odd sense of humor."
            Ava smiled at him. "You have no idea, sir." She turned back to Jack. "So what's our next move?"
            "We're going to call a man named Ellis. He was another operative in the mission. He might be able to help us."
            It didn't take long for Ellis to find some information. While he tapped away at his laptop, he relayed his discoveries over the phone to sit room at CTU.
            "Here's something we missed, Jack," he told them. "Drazen's wife and daughter were killed in the attack."
            Jack sighed as Ava let out a low whistle.
            "That would do it," she said quietly.
            "Ellis, is there anything else?"
            "Kind of."
            "What do you mean?" Palmer asked.
            "Well, there's a file missing. I can't figure out what's in it or how it disappeared. This is going to take some more digging."
            "Fine," Jack answered. "Have Milo help you in any way he can, okay?"
            "Okay. I'll call you as soon as I know anything."
            "So what do we do now?" Palmer asked as Jack hung up the phone.
            Jack exchanged a look with Ava.
            "Well, sir…I'm not sure how much we can do."
            "What do you mean?"
            "I've been relieved of my duties, Senator. And I'm sure Ava's pretty close to the edge, if they haven't already taken her badge away."
            "They haven't taken anything from me yet," Ava said. "Of course, that might just be because Green is afraid I'll kick her ass." Palmer gave her another look. "Sorry, Senator."
            He turned his attention back to Jack. "Who do I need to talk to to get you reinstated?"
            Jack's eyes widened. "Ryan Chappelle is the ranking agent on staff, but…"
            Palmer was already up and out the door. Jack and Ava followed, sharing a nervous glance.
            "Agent Chappelle?" Ryan came walking over quickly. "I want you to reinstate Jack Bauer and make sure that Agent Connelly is clear as well."
            "Sir, I-"
            "Ryan, this is a matter of national security. We need these agents running at full capacity, and that can't do that with their hands tied behind their backs."
            Shooting a venomous look at Jack, he nodded to the senator. "I'll go take care of it, sir."
            "Thank you."
            As Chappelle walked away, Jack turned to Palmer.
            "Sir, I think you should still leave the state."
            "I'm not going anywhere."
            "This threat to your life is real, Senator. They know you're here, and they're going to find a way they can get to you."
            "I’m sorry, Jack. But I'm staying here. We're putting an end to this whole thing. Today."
            They waited anxiously for Ellis to call back. Until they had more information or could locate Alexis Drazen, there were very few moves they could make. At least while the senator was at CTU, they knew he was safe.
            Ava jumped slightly when the phone rang. Sitting around was starting to make her tired, and she found herself dozing. She shook her head to wake herself back up and tried to focus on what Ellis was telling them.
            "I still haven't found out what was in that file," he told them.
            "But you've found something else?" Jack asked eagerly.
            "Well, it turns out the file was removed deliberately. Somebody got access to it and removed just that one piece."
            "How long do you think it will take you to find out what was in it?" Palmer asked.
            "Not sure. But I'll keep working on it."
            "Do you need anything from us?"
            Ava frowned as a muffled sound came through the phone. She leaned in closer, trying to decipher what exactly the sound was.
            "Ellis?" Palmer stood up, leaning his hands on the table. "Robert? Are you there?"
            Ava thought she was just about to figure out what she was hearing when there was a loud clatter on the other end.
            "The phone's been dropped," Jack murmured.
            With a click, the line went dead. Milo came bursting into the room, worry evident in his eyes.
            "We lost him. Jack, I think he was just killed."
            Jack slammed his fist into the table. "Dammit!"
            "But we've got new information."
            All three heads snapped up as they looked at Milo in surprise.
            "We've found Alexis Drazen."
            "Where?" Jack demanded.
            Milo looked at Senator Palmer nervously. "Sir…one of the members of your staff recognized him. She's been…sleeping with him."
            "Who?" Palmer asked.
            The younger man looked down at the paper in his hands. "Elizabeth Nash."
            "Get her on the phone," Jack ordered. "Now."
            "Jack. Ava."
            At the sound of his voice, both agents turned to find George Mason standing behind them, a tight smile on his face.
            "George," Ava replied. "What are you doing here?"
            "I'm taking over command of CTU."
            "What about Green?"
            "She's going back to Division."
            Ava sighed. "Thank God."
            Mason chuckled. "She warned me I might have a problem with you. Said you were disrespectful and insubordinate."
            "I'm always misunderstood," she mumbled.
            "So," George said, getting back to business. "I hear we may have a plan."
            Jack nodded. "Let's talk about it in my – I mean, your office."
            As they walked toward the stairs, Ava swung by Tony's station and grabbed his arm, dragging him along.
            "What are you doing?" he asked.
            "We're discussing our next move. You're coming."
            "You were supposed to wait in Medical until I came to get you."
            "I got bored."
            "I hear you almost took out a Secret Service agent."
            "He tried to stop me. Grabbed my arm. You know I don't like to be touched by strange men."
            She closed the door behind them as they filed into the office. George immediately took the seat behind the desk, while Jack and Tony stood in front of him. Ava headed for the couch and sank down, her dizziness getting to her. She hoped they caught these guys soon – she wasn't sure how much longer she could last.
            "So what's the plan?" George asked, leaning back in the chair.
            "Elizabeth Nash is on Palmer's staff. She's been sleeping with Alexis Drazen and inadvertently passing him information about Palmer's whereabouts."
            "Do we know where he is right now?"
            "No. But he's supposed to meet Ms. Nash at a hotel in about an hour."
            "Good. We can grab him and be done with this."
            "I don't think that's a good idea, George."
            "What do you mean? The guy is right there. All we have to do is set a trap and take him."
            "His brother Andre is still out there. I think this goes deeper than just Alexis."
            "What do you propose?"
            "Have Ms. Nash keep her date with him."
            "Jack, are you insane?" George asked. "That could risk everything. Let's just arrest him."
            "We could put a wire on her. Have her put a tracker on him. Then we follow him, see where he goes."
            "It won't work," Ava interjected.
            Jack turned to look at her in surprise. He had expected her of all people to back him in this.
            "Why not?"
            "She knows what he is now. What he's done. And you expect her to let him touch her? To kiss her? The very thought disgusts her now, and she'll have a real hard time hiding that from him. He's going to know that something is wrong. And that puts Elizabeth in a whole hell of a lot of danger."
            "But we'd be right there," Tony argued. "If something went wrong, the team could go in and neutralize the situation, arrest Alexis."
            Ava stared at him for a moment. "This girl doesn't deserve this. Yeah, she was stupid and slept with a guy she shouldn't have. She told him things she shouldn't have. But to put her in this kind of danger is even more stupid. Human emotion comes into play here, gentlemen, and you can't control that."
            "We don't have to," Jack asserted. "We can control everything else." He turned back to Mason. "George, let me do this. We'll be right across the hall, and we'll be able to see and hear everything. If it doesn't work, we just go in and get him. We've lost nothing."
            Ava shook her head even as George slowly nodded. "Alright. Do it. But make sure, Jack, that this woman knows the kind of danger she'll be in. If she agrees to this, I want her to know exactly what she's getting into."
            "Understood." He turned and walked toward Ava, taking a seat next to her on the couch. "I don't want you in on this."
            "What?" she asked, sitting up. "Why?"
            "First of all, you're injured. You shouldn't be doing anything that might result in another fight."
            "And I need you to do something for me."
            Ava sighed. "What?"
            "I want you to go check on Teri and Kim."
            "Why me? Nina is already there."
            Jack shook his head. "No she's not. She came back." He paused. "Besides, Teri and Kim know you. They'll feel more comfortable with you and they might tell you if anything is bothering them. I just need you to go there and help them in any way you can. And I'll feel better, knowing you're there. I'll know they're safe."
            Ava sighed again. "Way to throw in the schmoozing and the compliments, Bauer. But I'll do it."
            Jack squeezed her hand. "Thank you."
            Tony came up to Ava as she gathered some things from her desk.
            "How are you feeling?" he asked, sitting on the edge of her station.
            She shrugged. "I'm a little tired. But no pain."
            "You think you're up for this?"
            "Not much to it, Tony. Check on Teri and Kim, keep them company for a little while and make sure that they're really okay." She paused and looked at him closely. "What's the matter."
            He shrugged, looking away. "I just don't want you to get hurt again."
            She placed a gentle hand on his arm. "I'll try to be careful. I promise."
            He lifted his eyes to meet her again. "Nina gave me an ultimatum."
            Ava frowned. "What kind of ultimatum?"
            "She said I could either be friends with you or be in a relationship with her. She said I couldn't do both."
            "Why not?"
            Tony looked away again. "She really doesn't like you. I think she might be jealous. I don't know."
            Ava looked down at the ground, scuffing her foot against the tile. "So…does this mean we don't get to be friends?"
            "No. That's not what it means."
            She raised her eyes to his in confusion. "Then what does it mean?"
            He sighed, chuckling. "It means I'm going to be newly single by the end of the day."
            "I'm confused."
            "It's pretty simple."
            "No, I mean…we barely know each other. Until today, and even for most of today, I was convinced you hated me. Why would you give up your relationship with Nina for a friendship we might have?"
            "Because I don't love her. Because I can't be with someone who gives me ultimatums like that. Someone who…manipulates me and pits me against other people."
            "You see it now?"
            He nodded. "I think I've known it for awhile now. I just didn't want to admit it."
            They stood there for a moment longer, neither knowing what to say next. Then Ava looked at her watch and realized that she had to go.
            "I'll see you when I get back from the safe house, okay?"
            "Be careful," he said quietly.
            She smiled over her shoulder at him as she walked away. "Always."
            Ava slowed as she neared the safe house. A strange feeling formed in the pit of her stomach, weighing her down and making her slightly sick – something wasn't right. She parked the car in the driveway and got out, looking around. After a minute, she put her finger on what was bothering her – it was too quiet.
            Quickening her pace, she moved up the path and toward the front door. But her feet slowed as her eyes rested on the body lying on the step. She recognized him as a fellow agent. Crouching down, she felt for a pulse, despite knowing that he was already dead. She pulled her weapon and stood back up, moving into the house slowly.
            As she found each room empty, Ava moved faster, that sick feeling in her stomach growing and threatening to overwhelm her. When she had completed her search, she moved back out the front door, staring at the utility truck across the street. She knew that she would find dead agents in there as well. Tears pricked the back of her eyes as she realized that Teri and Kim had been taken again. She closed her eyes and took a steadying breath.
            "God help us," she whispered.
failegaidin: (tony ava stand)
Title: Fighting for Salvation (11)
Rating: R
A/N: Firstly, this is a shorter, transitioning chapter. Don't worry, the action will be back! Also, the icon I'm using is Tony/Ava. I've decided that Eliza Dushku (from Buffy and Angel) would make the perfect Ava. So now you all know what she looks like! If anybody likes to make graphics and wants to make some more icons, let me know!

Chapter 11

            Ava did not enjoy her first helicopter ride. She wasn't a fan of flying in the best circumstances, and the chopper didn't exactly offer her a smooth ride. The bumping and jostling caused pain to shoot through her body as she cradled her left arm, a rag pressed against it in an effort to stem the bleeding. All in all, she had decided that she didn't enjoy getting shot.
            Her eyes snapped open, and she realized that she had dozed off for most of the ride. She was feeling somewhat lightheaded, and she knew that she had lost a lot of blood. The helicopter landed, and Jack shepherded his family out, turning and extending a hand to Ava.
            "Go," she whispered, struggling to push herself up.
            "You're family too," he said quietly. "And they're okay. We need to get you down to Medical."
            Too tired to argue, Ava nodded and let him lift her from the seat and carry her across the pavement and toward CTU. Once inside, he walked straight to Medical, Teri and Kim trailing behind him as they watched their friend with worry in their eyes.
            Gently, Jack laid her on the first bed he came across. The doctor was already striding toward them, a nurse in tow.
            "What happened?" he asked.
            "Gunshot wound to the left shoulder," Jack explained. "Bastard stepped on it afterward, too."
            The doctor nodded. "We'll need you to clear the room."
            Jack put his hand on the man's shoulder. "Take care of her."
            His eyes softened as he took in how worried and tired the agent was. "I will."
            As he walked out with his family, Jack saw Teri wince out of the corner of his eye. He was by her side immediately.
            "Are you alright?"
            He missed the look his wife exchanged with Kim.
            "I'm fine," she lied. "Just tired."
            He nodded, distracted as Nina came over to them.
            "Are you guys alright?" she asked.
            "I need you to take them to a clinic."
            "What? Why?" Kim demanded.
            Jack turned to her. "You need to get checked out. Make sure that you're completely okay."
            "I don't want to leave you," she protested.
            "I know, sweetheart. But I have some things I have to finish up here. I need to make sure that the people behind this are found."
            She thought for a moment before nodding. "Okay. But we'll see you soon, right?"
            Jack hugged his daughter, holding her tightly.
            "Yes, baby. This will all be over soon."
            As soon as Tony heard that Jack and Ava were back, he raced down to Medical, knowing that Jack would take her there right away. He slowed his approach as he neared the door, hearing voices arguing on the other side. Cautiously, he pushed the door open and stuck his head in.
            Ava was sitting up on the bed, arguing heatedly with the doctor. Her shoulder looked ghastly, with dried blood running down her arm. There was blood spatter on her jeans and tank top, along with dirt and grass stains. Her hair that had been so perfectly pinned early that morning was starting to fall out of it's pins. She looked like she had been in an all-out brawl.
            "Just do it!" she yelled.
            "You need surgery," the doctor insisted. "And antibiotics. And most all, you need rest!"
            "I'm fine," she asserted.
            "No, you're not. You've been in a car accident today, you've been shot, and you've gotten the crap kicked out of you!"
            "I'd like to point out that I won that fight."
            "I'm betting that Agent Bauer helped more than just a little."
            "Only by putting a few bullets in the guy. I did all the hard work."
            "Ava," Tony said gently as he came all the way into the room. "Just let him take care of you."
            She turned her hard gaze on him. "No. I'm fine." She looked back at the doctor. "You don't need to do surgery. Just fish out the bullet, give me some antibiotics and let me go!"
            "Why? What's so important that you can't let your body heal?" the doctor asked.
            "Have you not noticed the national crisis today? There are bad guys to catch. And I'm not going to sleep in a hospital bed while they're still out there."
            "I'm not letting you back out into the field."
            "Then I'm not letting you touch me," Ava retorted, crossing her arms and ignoring the jolt of pain that shot through her.
            Tony sighed.
            "You're serious, aren't you?"
            She looked at him, her eyes pleading. "Yes."
            He turned to the doctor. "Patch her up," he shrugged.
            "This is against medical advice," he warned her.
            "Yeah, I got that."
            "Agent Almeida, I'll need you to leave the room while I do this."
            Tony nodded. "I'll come back in a little bit to get her."
            Giving her a long, worried look, he turned around and walked out.
            It was much quieter when Tony went back. He opened the door slowly, noting that while Ava was still sitting up, her face was much paler than it had been. He knew that extracting a bullet while the patient was awake was painful, and he wondered if she regretted her decision to refuse full surgery. His eyes drifted to her shoulder, which was now bandaged, the dried blood washed from her skin. He opened his mouth to greet her, but then stopped as the sound of her voice reached him.
            Twisted every way, what answer can I give?
            Am I to risk my life to win the chance to live?
            Can I betray the man who once inspired my voice?
            Do I become his prey? Do I have any choice?
            He kills without a thought. He murders all that's good.
            I know I can't refuse, and yet, I wish I could.
            Oh God, if I agree, what horrors wait for me
            In this, the Phantom's opera?
            Tony smiled as he recognized the song. Unable to stop himself, he answered her quietly.
            Christine, Christine don't think I that I don't care.
            But every hope and every prayer rests on you now.
            Ava's head snapped up when she heard him finish the lyrics, and when she saw who it was, she gave him a small smile.
            "Cue the big instrumental music," she said.
            Tony laughed and walked the rest of the way into the room.
            "Do you normally burst into song in the middle of the day?"
            "It's just something I do," she said quietly. "When things start to get crazy. It centers me."
            "I didn't know you were a Phantom fan."
            Ava shrugged. "There's a lot you don't know about me."
            He nodded, walking closer. "That's something I'd like to change after this is all over."
            "You want to be friends?" she asked in mock incredulity.
            He laughed. "Yeah. Is that okay?"
            She nodded and opened her mouth to speak when Alberta Green came striding into the room.
            "Agent Connelly," she greeted a tight smile. "I was told you were injured. I didn't expect to see you up and about."
            "Takes more than a bullet to keep me down," Ava replied.
            "Good to hear." Her smile disappeared. "I've been trying to find you."
            "You could have called. I do have a cell phone."
            "I asked Agent Almeida about your whereabouts."
            Ava didn't miss a beat. "Well that was silly."
            "Excuse me?"
            "Tony didn't know where I was."
            A predatory gleam shone in Green's eyes. "He didn't?"
            "No. I lied to him."
            "Why would you do that?"
            Ava shrugged. "I knew that if he knew where I was going, he would try to stop me. And I knew that if things took a turn, he'd be asked about where I was. I didn't want to put him in that position."
            "So you lied about a family emergency? Have you heard about the boy who cried wolf?"
            "I have an alcoholic father. And for all I know, he might be passed out somewhere and need someone to collect him. That person just won't be me. But it was a plausible lie. Getting to Jack's family was more important than worrying about the chain of command."
            She and Green held each other's gaze, neither wanting to back down. But Alberta knew she needed the agent – at least until the threat against Palmer was completely neutralized.
            "I want to know where you are from now on, Agent Connelly," she said.
            "Yes ma'am," Ava replied sullenly.
            Jack looked up as Ryan Chappelle walked into the room. After sending his family to the clinic with Nina, he had immediately been placed in a holding room to wait for a debrief. He knew that there was going to be fallout from his actions, but whatever they threw at him, it had been worth it – his family was safe, and that was all that mattered.
            "Jack," Ryan greeted as he took the seat across from him. "You've been busy today."
            "The threat isn't over, Ryan. The people who want Palmer dead are still out there."
            "I thought you killed Gaines."
            "Gaines was just a pawn. He's not the brains behind this."
            "Then who is?"
            "I don't know. But I think it's connected to a mission I ran in Serbia."
            "What makes you think that?"
            "I interrogated a man today who spoke Serbian. That's not a common language for any businessman to be fluent in. And Gaines said that whoever was behind this wanted to make it personal."
            "What do you think he meant by that?"
            "I don't know. Look, Ryan. I understand why you have to keep me on a short leash. But I can help. I've been working this case all day and there's obviously some connection with me. Let me help."
            "I don't know if I can do that, Jack."
            "Please, Ryan."
            "We'll talk about this later. I need to oversee what's happening on the floor. Alberta Green will come in to do your debrief."
            Jack sat back in his chair and sighed and Chappelle walked out of the room.
            "So what have I missed?" Ava asked as she slid off the hospital bed gingerly. Green watched her closely, but made no comment.
            "We know that there are three shooters," Tony answered. "But we only know two of their names."
            "I don't like the sound of that. We have no idea who it is?"
            "Milo is working on it now. Hopefully we'll have a name soon."
            "That would be helpful." She paused. "So Palmer is definitely not out of the woods yet."
            "Not until we've neutralized this third shooter."
            "Well, we may not have a plan, but at least we have a general direction."
            "You really think you're fit for duty?" Green asked suddenly.
            Ava gave her a rueful smile. "I can hold my own."
            Green seemed to mull that over before finally nodding. Then she turned toward Tony.
            "I'd like to talk to you about Jack Bauer's actions today."
            "What about them exactly?"
            "His blatant disregard for authority. His endangering the life of a senator in order to save his family."
            Tony opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off by his cell phone ringing. Gesturing for Alberta to wait a minute, he answered.
            "Hey Tony."
            "Nina? Is everything okay?"
            "Well, I'm not sure."
            "What does that mean?"
            "I have a bad feeling. I ran into an FBI agent a little while ago, but when I mentioned it to another agent, they said they didn't know who I was talking about."
            "You think that means something?"
            "I don't know. Look, can you send a guy over here to dust the room for fingerprints? I just want to make sure all the bases are covered."
            "Yeah, I'll do that right now."
            "Good." She paused. "How's Ava."
            "She'll live."
            "How long will she be out?"
            "Actually, she refused surgery."
            "What?" Nina exclaimed.
            "She ordered the doctor to pull the bullet out and patch her up. She's going back into the field."
            "What does she think she's proving?"
            Tony shrugged, even though Nina couldn't see it. "I don't know. But I feel better with her back on the case. We're gonna need all hands on deck."
            He heard her take a deep breath. "Yeah, you're right. So you'll send that guy."
            "I'll do it now."
            "What's going on?" Ava asked as soon as he hung up.
            "Nina wants me to send a fingerprint tech over to the clinic. There's somebody suspicious over there."
            "It's probably nothing," Green interjected. "But keep me posted. I need to go do Jack's debrief."
            Without another word, she left the room.
            "I don't like her," Ava said as soon as the door shut.
            "Yeah, well, you need to watch your tone with her. She's in charge now, and your attitude is just going to get you in trouble."
            "You think Nina's on to something?"
            Tony thought for a second. "She might be. We don't know all the players involved in this yet. Teri and Kim might still be in danger." He sighed. "But Green won't let us do anything about it."
            Ava shrugged. "So go over her head. Talk to Chappelle."
            "He's not much better."
            "Tell him it was my idea."
            "You think that will make him listen?"
            She shrugged again. "He likes me more than you."
            Tony sighed. "Fine. But you have to stay here until we figure out where we need you. Get whatever rest you can."
            She glared at him, but relented. "Fine."
            Giving her a small smile, he left the room to find Chappelle.
            "I need to talk to you," Tony said as he approached Chappelle on the floor.
            "What is it Tony?"
            "It's about Jack's family. Can we step off the floor?"
            Chappelle regarded him for a moment before nodding and leading them to a more secluded spot.
            "Is there a problem?" he asked.
            "Nina just called. She said there's somebody suspicious lurking around."
            "Do you think she's just jumping at shadows?"
            Tony shrugged. "I talked it over with Ava. She thinks that since the kidnappings and the attempts on Palmer's life are connected, we have a better shot at finding these guys if we keep a close eye on the Bauers."
            He was shocked when Ryan started nodding right after he mentioned Ava's name. "Connelly is right. We need to watch them, see if these guys make another move on them."
            "So can I move them to a safe house? Put some agents on them?"
            "That's a good plan, Tony. You did the right thing by bringing this to me." He paused. "If you have a minute, I'd like to talk to you about Bauer's actions today."
            "You're not the first," Tony sighed. "Look, I know he went against protocol. I know he ignored the chain of command. It's no secret that I can't stand the guy. I think he's an ass and he flouts the rules whenever they suit him." He paused, looking down at the floor for a few seconds before raising his eyes to Ryan's. "But I think he made the right decisions today."
            "You're going to stand by that?"
            "Yeah, I am."
            "Alright, Tony. I think you're wrong, but you're entitled to your own opinions."
            Chappelle moved away then, leaving Tony to stand there with a frown. He wondered at how easily the man had agreed to the safe house idea. Ava had been right – he definitely softened up when he heard that the idea had come from her. For a brief moment, he entertained the thought that maybe there was something going on between them. The image was so ludicrous that he almost burst out laughing. Shaking his head, he turned to return to Medical. A commotion across the floor caught his eye though, and he watched to see what was going on.
            His mouth nearly dropped open as Senator Palmer strode into CTU.
failegaidin: (Default)
Hey guys! Wondering if any of you have any good size Tony/Michelle pics where they're standing close, smiling at each other...I need to put together a couple of manips (or try) by replacing Michelle with someone I have in mind for Ava (Fighting for Salvation). Thanks in advance!
failegaidin: (Default)
Chapter 10

            The three women moved quickly and quietly. Sounds of fighting continued behind them, but Ava forced the other two to keep going despite their fears. Jack had entrusted them to her care, and she vowed that she would get them to the lake no matter what. She tried to keep her thoughts from Jack and Rick behind them and focused on the task at hand. But as gunfire continued, her worry threatened to smother her.
            Tony and Nina watched silently as Jamey's mother collected things from her daughter's desk and placed them into a plain cardboard box. She was making no effort to hide her tears as they rolled down her cheeks and fell on the assorted papers that littered Jamey's station. She hadn't said anything since walking into CTU – she had just set about her task and ignored everyone else.
            Tony found himself thinking about Jamey's son. Not only had he lost his mother today, but he had probably lost his exalted image of her as well. She had betrayed her friends and her country and then taken her own life when the pressure became too much. That wasn't an easy thing for any of them to swallow, but Tony knew that it would hit her son and mother the hardest.
            His thoughts were cut short as Alberta Green approached them. He was beginning to foster a severe dislike for the woman, and the very sight of her made him want to run in the other direction. But for now they had to work with her, so he took a deep breath and turned to face her. Nina hesitated before doing the same.
            "I hope you two can put past events behind us so that we can get on with our work," she stated.
            Tony saw Nina open her mouth to retort, but he laid a gentle hand on her arm.
            "We just want to get Jack and his family back here, and find the men responsible for the attempts on Palmer's life. Just don't expect us to be warm and fuzzy with you."
            "Of course not," she agreed. "I only expect you to be professional." She paused, taking a breath. "I need the two of you to speak to Mrs. Farrell."
            "About what?"
            "A substantial amount of money seems to have found its way into her bank account."
            Nina gaped. "And what? You think she knew about what Jamey was doing?"
            Green shrugged. "Until we know for certain, we have to assume that she had some hand in or knowledge of her daughter's activities. I want you two to interrogate her."
            "She just lost her daughter," Tony reminded her.
            "I realize that, Tony. But if she has information, it will be our fault for not exploring that avenue."
            He nodded, seeing the reasoning in her argument.
            He sighed as he and Nina approached Jamey's mother.
            Fear had settled in and now they were running. Ava's eyes were everywhere as she tried to keep abreast of her surroundings, not wanting anyone to catch them off-guard. Teri and Kim ran ahead of her, both stumbling here and there from pure exhaustion. But neither of them complained even once – they just kept moving, knowing that their lives depended on how far they could get from Gaines' men.
            A sound rang out, and before Ava even had time to figure out what it was, she found herself on the ground, a burning pain erupting in her left shoulder. She brought her right hand up to touch the spot where it hurt, and when she pulled it back, it was covered in blood.
            All the descriptions in books about how it felt when the main character got shot flitted through her head, and Ava almost laughed out loud. They were all woefully inadequate. No flowery words or vivid adjectives could possibly convey the pain that shot through her body. It hurt – plain and simple.
            Teri and Kim turned around and rushed to her side, kneeling beside her.
            "Oh my God," Kim breathed. "Are you alright?"
            Ava tried to smile. "It's only a flesh wound." She sucked in a sharp breath. "Go."
            "No," Teri said firmly.
            "Yes," the younger woman retorted as she struggled to a sitting position. "You two go. I'll draw their fire."
            "You have no idea how many of them are. They could kill you."
            "As long as they don't kill you, I'm fine with that." She pulled out her gun. "Jack asked me to take care of you. That's what I'm doing. So go. Now. Please."
            Teri rested a hand against her cheek. "Jack should be coming this way soon." She kissed Ava on the forehead. "I won't forget what you've done for my family today, Ava. Ever."
            Ava nodded, giving her a watery smile. "They're my family too," she whispered. "Now go. Get off the path and head for the lake."
            Wincing and gritting her teeth, Ava dragged herself to her feet. Taking aim, she began firing shots in the direction she thought the first bullet had come from. She saw Teri and Kim run away out of the corner of her eye as her assailants fired back at her. Diving behind a tree, she took cover and continued shooting.
            "We need to stay on the path," Rick insisted, his face pale from the blood he had lost.
            Jack turned to face him. "They know we're here. I don't want to meet up with any of them trying to cut us off. And I'm almost certain Ava would have taken Teri and Kim off the path."
            "Just don't get us lost," Rick muttered as he stumbled after him.
            "Alberta, it's Jack."
            "I've sent the team out. They're on their way."
            "There's an old water tower by the lake – let them know we'll meet them there."
            "Will do, Jack." She paused. "Good luck."
            Jack felt his heart plummet into his stomach as he and Rick reached the water tower. There was no sign of Teri and Kim. He looked everywhere, checking the ground for fresh footprints, but he could find nothing.
            "Where could they be?" Rick asked, doubling over at the pain from his wound.
            "I don't know," Jack whispered. He thought for a moment. "I have to go look for them."
            "What if Gaines caught them again?"
            He shook his head. "I can't think that. I'll go back. I'll find them."
            Rick nodded, wincing again. Jack looked at him closely.
            "There's no way you can go any further. Get in the water tower. Stay there. If Kim and Teri show up, tell them to wait for me."
            "Be careful, Jack."
            He moved quickly, but quietly. Having no real idea which way Teri and Kim might have gone, he simply plunged into the woods, hoping for some sign. He knew that Ava would do everything in her power to protect them, and that she would also want to leave some clue for him as to where they had gone if they were forced into hiding.
            Up ahead, Jack spied a cabin nestled between a copse of trees. He paused as he saw an Asian man come through the door, his focus on something Jack couldn't see. The man raised his gun, taking careful aim. As his finger applied pressure on the trigger, a shot rang out and he crumpled to the ground. Jack ran around the cabin, stopping and breathing a sigh of relief as he saw Teri and Kim staring at him. He ran to them, embracing them both tightly.
            "When I couldn't find you at the water tower, I thought…"
            "We were found," Kim told him. "We had to get off the path. And then we got lost."
            Jack smiled gently at her and ran a hand though her hair. "Then I'm glad I found you," he murmured. Then he paused and looked around in confusion. "Where's Ava?"
            His heart sank again as Teri's face fell.
            "She got shot, Jack."
            His chest constricted and he struggled to breathe.
            "She made us leave. She distracted them while we ran."
            "Is she…was she…" He couldn't say the words.
            Kim told him what he needed to know. "She was still alive when we left, Dad. It looked like it was a hit to her shoulder."
            He nodded, looking suddenly lost. Pulling himself together, he shook his head and refocused on what he had to do instead of things he couldn't change.
            "Alright. I'm getting you two to the water tower. Rick is there waiting for you. A team from CTU is going to meet us there and get us out of here."
            "What about Ava?" Teri asked. "We can't just leave her."
            "We won't. After I get you to the lake, I'll come back for her." He paused. "I owe her that," he added quietly.
            Tony slumped in the chair at his desk and rested his head in his hands. His face still stung from where Jamey's mother had slapped him. She was outraged at the very idea that her daughter had done something illegal, and that they had accused her of knowing about it. He couldn't blame her, and he would have let her hit him as many times as she needed to, if it would have made her feel even the slightest bit better. But she had just stared at him with venomous eyes and then picked up the box containing her daughter's things before walking out.
            Nina pulled up a chair and sat next to him.
            "You believe her?" she finally asked.
            "Yeah," he nodded. "I do."
            "Me too. I hated doing that to her. I hate Green for making us do that to her."
            "She was right though. I don't want to admit it, but there was a chance she had information. And it would have been on us if we hadn't looked into it."
            The phone on his desk rang, and Tony wearily leaned over to pick the receiver up.
            "Tony, it's me."
            "Jack! Is everything alright?"
            "Not quite. How far out is the team?"
            "Ten, fifteen minutes. Why?"
            "I've gotten Teri and Kim to the water tower. They're waiting for the helicopter."
            "Where are you?"
            "I have to find Ava."
            Tony froze, his throat dry and choking him. "What are you talking about?" he rasped.
            "She got shot while she was trying to get Teri and Kim to the rendezvous point. She made them go ahead while she drew the gunman's fire."
            "Do you know where she is?"
            "Teri said somewhere along the path. I'm following it now." He paused. "Don’t worry, Tony. I'll find her."
            "Bring her back, Jack," he whispered.
            "I will."
            Nina watched Tony closely, surprised at his sudden show of emotion. When it became clear that he didn't have anything else to say, she took the phone from him.
            "We had Milo do some digging and we found out that the money in Jamey's account came from Belgrade."
            "You still think this is connected to Operation Nighthawk?"
            "I'm almost certain now. Keep looking. I have to find Ava before the team gets here."
            "What happened to her?"
            "She got injured. Tony will fill you in."
            As he hung up, Nina looked down at her boyfriend. "I'm sure he will," she murmured.
            Sounds of fighting reached Jack's ears as he moved further along the path. Slowing down, he took cover behind a large tree and peered out, trying to distinguish what was going on ahead of him.
            His eyes rested on Ava locked in combat with a man he didn't recognize. Even from that distance, he could see how pale her face was, how much the fight was draining her. There was blood running down her left arm, but she didn't cradle or favor it. As he watched, she swung a quick right hook at the man's face, that he easily blocked by grabbing her hand. Unable to break his hold, Ava wasted no time in slamming her left fist into his nose. He stumbled back, clutching his face, and she continued with a hard upward kick to the head. She moved to knock him out with rotating kick, but at the last second he lifted his head and grabbed her ankle, throwing her backwards onto the ground. As she struggled to get back up, he rushed towards her, taking careful aim and slamming his foot onto her left shoulder and grinding his heel in.
            Ava let out a horrendous yell, and Jack brought his gun up, intending to take the man out then and there. But before he could get the shot off, Ava swung her legs up and back, kicking the man square in the back and forcing him off of her. As he stumbled, she lunged for him, grabbing him around the waist and tackling him to the ground. Now they were entangled, rolling around the forest floor, and Jack couldn't fire – there was just as much chance that he would hit her instead of the man he was aiming for.
            He watched in helplessness as they continued to fight. Ava managed to get the advantage, rolling on top of him and pinning him to the ground with his knees. She started pummeling him, sending resounding blows into his torso and face. When she seemed to be satisfied, she wrapped one hand around his neck and squeezed.
"I'm assuming you're Gaines," she said, clearly out of breath.
"Who the fuck are you?" he asked.
"Someone who's day you have thoroughly ruined," she gritted out, tightening her grip. "Now why the HELL did you kidnap Bauer's family?"
"He wanted to make it personal," Gaines smirked.
"Who?" Ava demanded.
"You'll find out eventually."
She pressed down on his throat. "I suck at waiting. It would be in both our interests for you to just tell me now.
As he sneered up at her, Gaines reached all around him until his hand settled on a large rock.
"Go to hell you fucking bitch," he growled as he swung the rock toward Ava's head.
She caught it out of the corner of her eye and threw herself to the side just in time, but she had now lost the advantage. Gaines scrambled to his feet, landing an angry kick to Ava's ribs. As she writhed on the ground, he pulled out his weapon and aimed it at her head.
Ava could see the muzzle of the gun pointing at her, but she couldn't seem to get herself off the ground in time. Everything slowed down and her vision narrowed until all she could see was Gaines' finger moving inexorably against the trigger.
A sound roared from behind him, and he stopped suddenly, blood pouring out of his mouth. He stared at Ava in surprise before stumbling forward and then falling face first onto the leaves around him. She stared at his body for a moment before looking up and locking eyes with Jack. He rushed over to her, turning her over and inspecting her wound.
"This looks nasty," he commented, obviously trying to keep himself under control.
"I'll live," she laughed, wincing at the sensation in her shoulder. "Can we go home now?"
"If by home you mean CTU, then yes, absolutely. Think you can walk?"
She nodded. "Just help me up."
He aided her with a gentle hand, watching her cautiously. He knew she was more injured than she was letting on, but they needed to get to the lake and arguing with her would only slow them down.
"The helicopter is meeting us at the lake," he told her.
"Onward ho," she mumbled as they started moving back up the path.
            They boarded the helicopter silently. Kim looked around as worry washed over her – Rick hadn't been in the water tower when she and her mom got there, and she had no idea where he had gone or if he was alright. But her father wouldn't wait, anxious to get them back to safety.
Ava was too tired to put a coherent sentence together, and she sat across from the Bauers as helicopter lifted from the ground. She watched them, the smallest of smiles teasing her lips as Jack wrapped his arms around his wife and daughter and kissed them both. The family was finally back together, and they could all breathe a little easier.
            "We've got a problem!" Tony called out to Alberta as she walked near his desk.
            She immediately changed course and headed toward him.
            "What is it?"
            "We've been monitoring wire transfers from Belgrade – we have reason to believe a second assassin left Yugoslavia this morning."
            "Do we have any idea where he is now?"
            Tony nodded. "He arrived in L.A. this morning."

Pieces (4)

Aug. 20th, 2007 03:38 pm
failegaidin: (sayid awesome)
Two chapters in one day. I must be insane.

Chapter 4

            Jack and Kim moved quickly, looking for a car they could hotwire and drive to the next meeting place. They stayed low, using the vehicles as cover should Mandy be nearby. As Jack tried the handle of a red Mazda, his gaze drifted across the parking lot and came to rest on something happening out front.
            His blood ran cold as he watched Nina march Milo and Chloe out of the building and toward an SUV nearby. He struggled to breathe, the knowledge that for the second time that day Chloe's life was in danger because of him weighing heavily on him. All thoughts of escape fled as he struggled to think of a way to save her.
            Kim noticed his sudden preoccupation and her gaze followed his. She swallowed hard when she saw their friends being taken away.
            "I knew it."
            "Knew what?"
            "That I shouldn't have left her. Not with Milo. Not with anybody," he added quietly.
            She put her hand on his arm, making him focus on her.
            "Then we need to go get her back."
            He shook his head. "I need to get you out of here."
            "You can't let Nina have her, Dad. She's already taken Mom – you can't lose another woman you love to her."
            His eyes narrowed at her words. "You know?"
            Kim laughed. "Please. It's obvious. Well, to everyone but her."
            He hung his head. "I can't risk it."
            She grabbed his chin and forced his eyes back up to hers. "No, what you can't do is let that bitch get away with this. Let's follow her. Then you can end this. Once and for all."
            Jack marveled at the strength his daughter possessed, and her confidence snapped him out of his despair. He looked at the car they were standing next to and nodded quickly, tugging at the door and breathing a sigh of relief when it opened.
            "Let's go then."
            He drove quickly, but made sure that he stayed far enough back that Nina wouldn't realize she had a tail. Constant worry flooded him as he followed her, his mind imagining what she would do to Chloe when they got to wherever they were going. Kim was right – he couldn't lose anyone else to that woman, especially not his best friend.
            Kim watched her father out of the corner of her eye. She could tell that this new development was weighing heavily on him, that it was threatening to pull him under. But she could also see his determination. He wasn't going to let Nina win this time – he would finish this no matter what.
            Her thoughts shifted as a car passed them on the right. Her eyes skimmed over the driver absently, her mind still focusing on the problem at hand. But her mouth dropped open as her gaze rested on someone in the backseat.
            "I think we have another problem."
            She pointed and Jack turned to look at the car next to them. Staring back at them was Nadia, pleading with her eyes for them to see her, not wanting to draw Mandy's attention. Jack was momentarily stunned at the coincidence – and then he found himself wondering where Tony was.
            Before his thoughts could go much further, Mandy turned her head and stared at him in surprise. She quickly got her expression under control though, and promptly slammed her car into theirs. Jack gripped the wheel in an effort to keep control, but Mandy simply continued to ram them. Cursing, he decided that he'd had enough and turned the wheel sharply, pushing the other car back across the road.
            The two cars sped down the road, crashing into each other and then pulling apart again while they prepared for another hit. Jack clenched his jaw at the pain racing through his body – his left side was going to be one big bruise in a few hours. He knew they couldn’t keep this up much longer. Traffic had been sparse so far, but they couldn't count on that. And the cars weren't faring well - he had to put an end to this now.
            He slowed down slightly, letting Mandy gain a little bit of a lead. She turned to look at him with suspicious eyes, but for the moment she couldn't figure out what he was doing. Then Jack swung the car out to the right before turning the wheel sharply left and plowing his front end into the very back of the side of the other car. The vehicle went into a violent spin, its front end slamming into Kim's side before careening off the road and into a line of parked cars on the side of the street.
            Jack pulled over, immediately turning to Kim.
            "Are you alright?"
            She nodded, still in a daze from what had just happened.
            Jack got out of the car and pulled his gun, moving slowly toward the other vehicle. The back door opened and Tony clambered out, rubbing his head. Nadia followed him – neither looked seriously injured.
            "Are you two alright?"
            Tony nodded, and then winced.
            "She knocked me out. I woke up while you were slamming us across the road."
            "She started it."
            Kim moved closer as Nadia spoke up.
            "So what do we do now?"
            "Do you guys have any idea where Mandy was taking you?"
            "I was unconscious," Tony pointed out sadly.
            "She said something about mansions by the beach," Nadia told them. "I didn't really understand what she was talking about."
            Jack thought for a moment. "I think I know where it is. There's a place by the beach where there are a bunch of warehouses. Their known ironically as the Seaside Mansions – a lot of druggies hole up there."
            "Alright," Nadia nodded. "So what's the plan?"
            Jack looked at his friend. "Tony, I need you to get Nadia and Kim someplace safe."
            "I can't put Kim in any more danger, and Nadia isn't even a target. There's no reason for her to put her life on the line."
            "How about you stop talking about us as though we're not here?" Kim demanded, stepping in. "I'm not leaving you."
            "And neither am I," Nadia asserted. "You need help, Jack. I don't care who's after you guys. I can't just walk away. Chloe and Milo are my friends, and so are you two." She looked at Kim. "I don't actually know you very well, but you're Jack's daughter and that's all I need to know."
            Kim nodded her agreement.
            "I'm not letting you do this alone," Tony added. "You'll just get into more trouble. You're going to need someone to watch your back."
            Jack hung his head at the onslaught of argument. After a minute he looked up again, his eyes hard with determination.
            "Fine. Tony, you come with me. Nadia, I want you to take Kim away from here."
            "No!" Kim argued.
            Jack turned to face her. "Kim, I couldn't stand it if something happened to you because of me. Go with Nadia. Please."
            She opened her mouth to protest again, but Nadia caught her eye, nodding her head just a little to let her know that it was okay. Kim huffed and crossed her arms.
            "You'd better not get hurt," she warned. "Either of you."
            Jack breathed a sigh of relief when she relented. Leaning in, he gave her a kiss on the cheek.
            "We'll try our best," he murmured. "You two go back to CTU. See what you can find, okay?"
            Kim nodded and hugged her father as Nadia moved closer to Tony, brushing her hand against his.
            "Kim's right. You two better be careful. I want you both back in one piece."
            Tony stared at her for a moment, a smile teasing at his lips. He reached out and squeezed her hand gently.
            "Don't worry."
            They pulled back when Jack turned to talk to them again.
            "You two take the Mazda. Tony and I will find another car."
            "What about Mandy?" Kim asked.
            Jack stared at the crumpled car that was still on the side of the road. A crowd had gathered and there were sirens in the distance, but he couldn't leave Mandy as a loose end. Striding toward the car, he cocked his gun, deciding that a bullet in the head would put a stop to her coming after them.
            As he walked across the street, the car burst into flame. Jack was thrown back against the pavement as a fireball erupted and shot into the sky. He stared in shock at it, suddenly realizing that he must have punctured the gas tank while they were crashing into each other.
            Tony came over to help him up.
            "At least we don't have to shoot her in front of a bunch of witnesses," he murmured. "But we should get out of here. Before the police show up."
            Jack nodded, still in a daze from the explosion, his eyes fixated on the flames. Finally he shook his head and turned to the two women.
            "Call me when you get to CTU," he told them. "We'll see you soon."
            Nadia and Kim watched as the two men casually walked up to another car, opened the door and hotwired it before they drove off.
            Nadia turned to look at the other woman.
            "You don't really want to go back to CTU, do you?"
            Kim shook her head. "I was hoping you had an alternate plan."
            "I say we follow them."
            Kim pondered that for a moment. "They'll probably need help. I doubt Nina's alone. It could even be a trap."
            Nadia nodded. "Exactly. So we're agreed?"
            Kim thought a moment longer and then nodded her assent. They walked over to their badly beaten car and got in, breathing a collective sigh of relief when it started back up. Ignoring the looks of the crowd, they drove off, following Jack and Tony.
failegaidin: (oh shit)

Chapter 9

            "Can I make a suggestion?"
            "Only if it's helpful and not snide."
            Ava glared at him. "I think we should get a new vehicle."
            "Because a limo isn't exactly inconspicuous. Especially one that's been driven into a cement pillar."
            "She's got a point," Carroll interjected.
            Jack pushed the gun into his head harder. "Shut up." He turned to Ava. "Think you can get us a car?"
            She shrugged. "I've been stealing and destroying cars all day. I'm thinking of putting it on my resume."
            "Always the smart mouth."
            "Made you smile, though."
            It didn't take long for Ava to acquisition a new car, and they were soon heading for wherever Kim and Teri were being held. The ride was silent and tense, Jack holding his gun steady against Kevin's head, and Ava deep in thought.
Her mind flashed to her father, and the things Tony told her. Their relationship had never been strong, and things had only deteriorated as she got older. He used to be a closet alcoholic, but in the past few months his drinking had become more erratic, more obviously detrimental to those around him. His newest wife had finally left him, winning the prize of being the wife that put up with his crap the shortest. But Ava just couldn't get free of him. She had told him on numerous occasions that she no longer wanted to speak to him – that she needed to be free of him, for her mental and emotional help. But he always found her, calling her and ranting about just how much of a failure and disappointment she was.
Things had gotten better once she started working at CTU. Her dad seemed to have finally gotten the message, and she had a lot of new friends in her life. Jack and Teri had really taken her in and treated her like family. She was at their house most days of the week for dinner, and she had bonded with Kim as well, the two of them having movie dates almost every Friday. Jack had grown to take her father's place, being everything that he could never be. He supported her, encouraged her, let her talk about anything that was on her mind. It hurt her to see him in so much pain now, filled with the fear of losing the family he loved so much.
Her thoughts ceased as the car slowed, and she took a look out the window. They were on a long dirt road, with nothing but trees around them. She wondered for a moment if this was a trap, if Carroll was going to drive them all off the edge of a cliff. But soon they were stopping on the side of the road.
"Why are we stopping?" she asked.
Carroll answered. "There's a guard post up ahead. If he sees you with a gun to my head, he'll probably kill all of us."
"There's a couple blankets back here," Ava noted. "We could hide."
Jack nodded. "I'll still have my gun pointed at you, Carroll. Make a wrong move, and you'll have a whole in your back."
            “It’s me.”
            “Jack? Where are you?”
            “We’re outside of the compound where Teri and Kim are being held. I need sat images.”
            “Please, Nina.”
            “Jack, Green is just getting more suspicious as time goes on. Why don’t you tell her what’s going on? She can send a team in.”
            “No,” he replied quickly. “A team might endanger my family more.”
            “If Gaines sees a bunch of CTU agents, he might panic and kill them. Ava and I are going to sneak in, get them out, and get whatever information we can.”
           Nina sighed. “Give me the location. I’ll get you those sat images.”
            Jack tried not to move too much, but he was incredibly uncomfortable on the floor of the backseat. He had himself positioned behind the driver’s seat, his gun resting against Carroll’s side. Ava was beside him on the passenger’s side, and he knew that she couldn’t be much more comfortable – she was at least as tall as him, with very long legs, and her feet her so big that they usually warranted jokes. To be stuffed into a space so small was probably driving her just as crazy as it was him.
           Once again, he thanked God that she was there. Despite her constant joking and sarcasm, she was a comfort to have around. She never gave up, no matter the odds, and she always managed to lighten the mood just enough to help others to keep going as well. She had risked her life for him and his family more than once today, and it made him feel better that she was going to be in this fight with him.
            “It’s no wonder you and Teri separated,” Carroll said suddenly, jerking Jack out of his thoughts. “I watched her, while we were looking for Janet and Kim. All you do is leave her, over and over again. Everyone could see how lonely she is except you. I wasn’t surprised at all when she opened up to me – I get the feeling she never gets to talk to you. You just leave her home everyday, with no one to talk to, no one to share with-“
            Jack slammed the barrel of his gun into Carroll’s ribs, causing him to grunt.
            “Shut up, Carroll. Or I’ll shoot you here and we’ll find our own way in.”
            The rest of the ride was silent as the car approached the guard post. Jack increased the pressure of his gun against Carroll, his body tensed as he waited for their cover to be blown. But Kevin stuck to the plan, snapping at the guard when he asked about his bruised face. Jack could practically hear Ava’s smirk when he commented on his broken nose. Then they were moving again, Carroll driving slowly along the dirt road for a ways before pulling over.
            Jack and Ava immediately sat up, both relieved at being able to stretch their limbs and breathe fresh air. Ava moved out of the car quickly, her gun out as she scanned the area around them for any more guards. Jack remained in the backseat, seemingly deep in thought.
           “Well?” Carroll asked, irritation clear in his voice.
           “I think you’ve outlived your usefulness,” he said quietly.
           “So what? You’re gonna kill me?”
           Jack shook his head. “Ava’s already yelled at me once today for killing someone. We don’t have time for that kind of argument right now.”
           “What then?”
           Instead of answering him, Jack turned his gun and slammed the butt of it into the back of Carroll’s head. The man slumped forward against the steering wheel, unconscious. When he stepped out of the car, Ava was staring at him, an eyebrow raised and her hands on her hips. He faced her silently, waiting for her response.
          “Nice,” was all she said.
            They stared down at Jack’s PDA as the sat images from Nina popped up onto the screen. Little dots showed them where all the men were, and Ava didn’t like what she was seeing.
            “That’s a lot of men, Jack.”
            “And they probably all have guns.”
            “I would imagine so.”
            She sighed. “So…do we have a plan or are we simply hitting bad guys?”
            “Shooting them would probably be more effective.”
            “You know how I feel about shooting people.”
            Jack pointed to a building on one of the images. “This is where Carroll said they were keeping Teri and Kim.”
           “So that’s our goal?”
           She took a deep breath. “Okay. Lead on, MacDuff.”
           Jack just stared at her. “Huh?”
          “It’s from Macbeth…oh, nevermind. We don’t have time for a dissertation on Shakespeare right now. Let’s go.”
            They moved quickly and silently, avoiding guards whenever they could, disposing of them whenever necessary. The place was crawling with men, and it certainly looked as though the operation involved much more than just holding Teri and Kim hostage. The bright sun overhead left them very few shadows to hide in, so they relied on buildings and vehicles for cover. After a little while, they found themselves at the door of the building they wanted. Ava watched for any guards as Jack slowly opened the door.
           An arm came swinging down at his head, but he caught it before it made contact and found himself staring at Teri. Her eyes went wide at the sight of him before she was wrapping her arms around his neck and sobbing his name. Ava came in and quietly shut the door, trying to stay out of the way as Kim ran at her father and embraced him as well.
            She watched them with a small smile as Jack asked them over and over again if they were alright, as he kissed them and held them as tightly as he could. It was the happiest she had seen him all day, and she saw some of the tension ease out of his shoulders as he held his family and convinced himself that they were really there, that he had really found them in time.
           “Can we leave now?” Kim asked suddenly.
           Jack smiled at her. “Soon, sweetheart. I’m going to get you both out of here.”
          Ava shifted her feet, looking around the room. “I think I should go scout out the rest of the compound.”
          He turned to look at her sharply. “Why?”
          She shrugged. “We need a safe route out of here, and we don’t have one at the moment. And maybe I can find Gaines. That would go a long way to helping us figure out who’s really behind the Palmer hit.”
          Jack walked over to her, placing a hand on her shoulder and frowning when he felt her tense at his touch.
          “I don’t want you putting yourself in any danger,” he said quietly.
          She smiled at him. “Stay with your family, Jack. Let me do what I can to get us out of here.”
          She pulled back from him and moved toward the door when she was stopped suddenly by Kim standing in front of her.
         “You tried to save me.”
         Ava nodded. “I’m sorry I couldn’t get to you sooner.”
        “I thought you were dead. When I saw your car crash.”
        “I thought I was too.”
        Kim reached out and hugged her tightly then.
       “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
        Ava hugged her back, letting herself relax for a second. She went to pull away when Teri was there as well, adding her own embrace.
       “Thank you,” she whispered.
       Ava stepped back then, blinking away the tears in her eyes and giving them all a smile.
       “Be back in a flash.”
            "Any word on Jack and Ava?" Tony asked quietly as he approached Nina's station.
            She nodded. "They're at the compound where Teri and Kim are being kept. I just sent them sat images."
            "So they're both okay?"
            Nina watched him for a moment. "Yes. Ava's fine, Tony."
            "I was asking about both of them."
            "You were asking about her."
            He sighed. "Are we going to go through this again?"
            "No. But you're going to make a decision by the end of the day."
            "Fine. But for now, can we just focus on helping them?"
            Whatever they were about to say next was put off as Alberta Green came striding toward them with two security guards, a slightly victorious expression on her face. She stopped in front of them, looking at them with a small smile before speaking.
            "Until further notice, the two of you are suspended. These guards will escort you to separate holding rooms. You are to have no further contact with each other. I'll be in shortly to see which of you is going to talk."
            Nina and Tony glanced at each other as the guards stepped forward and led them away from the floor.
            Tony wasn't too surprised when Alberta walked into the holding room a few minutes later. He had expected her to start with him, because he was sure that she saw him as the weaker link. He watched her warily as she approached the table and sat down. There were no files with her, and she gave him a small, sympathetic smile.
            "Why are you doing this, Tony?"
            "Doing what?"
            "Protecting them."
            "Protecting who?"
            "Jack. Nina. Ava."
            "I told you where Ava is. I'm not protecting her."
            "I've noticed some tension between you and Nina today."
            "Which is none of your business."
            "It is if it affects your work."
            "Which it hasn't."
            "Are you sure? I know you're the one who called Division earlier this morning and reported Jack. Are you telling me that wasn't done with any jealousy?"
            "He was out of control. I thought someone needed to rein him in."
            "And now you're protecting him. Why? Did Nina ask you to? Does it bother you that she'd do anything to help him? Even sacrifice your relationship?"
            "Our relationship has nothing to do with this."
            She sighed, looking down at the table for a moment.
            "Tell me about Ava."
            Tony frowned. "What about her?"
            "I've asked around. It seems you two don't get along very well."
            "We have our differences."
            "Really? I fail to see what those are. I would have expected the two of you to be friends." She paused. "She and Nina on the other hand…I hear they get along even less."
            "Other agents have told them that they routinely get into verbal altercations. I heard from someone that Ava went so far as to attack Agent Myers today."
            "I don't know anything about that."
            "You didn't notice the bruise on Nina's face?"
            "I saw it. She told me Ava did it. That's as far as the conversation went."
            "You weren't curious as to why Ava would lash out?"
            "It's between them. I didn't want to get involved."
            "You know what I think Tony?"
            "I'm sure you're going to tell me."
            "I think you have a little crush on Ava, and that's what has Nina all riled up."
            "Do you usually concern yourself with your subordinate's personal relationships?"
            Green's face fell into a deep frown. "I'm saying this for your own good, Tony. Both women are trouble."
            "I don't think that's your judgment to make."
            "It's obvious they both have feelings for Jack."
            "Look," Tony said sharply, leaning on his elbows. "I know you think you can break me by playing on my inferiority complex when it comes to Jack. But it's not gonna happen. I trust Nina. And Ava shouldn't even be a part of this conversation – she's taking care of her father, not running around after Jack."
            "Are you sure?"
            Green pursed her lips. "Why would she confide in you?"
            "Excuse me?"
            "You've practically admitted that the two of you don't get along. Why would she tell you about her father? Why would she trust you with that information?"
            Tony shrugged, thinking fast. "She didn't really have a choice. I answered her phone earlier and it was him. It was obvious that he was inebriated. I hounded her until she told me what was going on."
            "Are you really willing to go down for all of them?"
            "Are you really willing to waste all this time on me when you should be out looking for the guys who want Palmer dead just because you want to advance your career?"
            "That was out of line, Agent Almeida."
            "So is this interrogation."
            "There is one deal on the table. Immunity for whoever talks first. Take it or leave it. I'm sure Nina isn't thinking about you right now."
            "Why don't you go ask her then?"
            "You're making a mistake, Tony."
            "That's my call to make."
            They stared at each other as silence descended over the room.
            As Ava ducked and weaved around buildings and behind vehicles, her weariness started to creep up on her. She had been up for more than twenty-four hours, and her body was beginning to protest. She found herself almost wishing for a guard to find her so that the adrenaline would kick up and wake her back up.
            She moved toward the main building, where multiple vans were being loaded. Ava realized that they were getting ready to leave, that they had found Teri and Kim just in time. She doubted that Gaines was going to go to the trouble of moving them if he no longer controlled Jack. The weight of that realization threatened to overwhelm her for a minute, and she leaned against the side of a building to take a steadying breath. She was still fairly new to the federal agent gig, and she hadn't acclimated to all it entailed yet. She still couldn't wrap her brain around the idea of people she loved being in mortal danger. But they were, and she had to do whatever she could to get them out safely.
            Looking once again around the corner at all the vans, Ava came to the conclusion that they could not go out on the road they had used to come in. Another way would have to be found. Sighing, she moved back toward Jack and his family, hoping that they could find a back way from there.
            Tony and Alberta were still staring at each other when her cell phone began to ring. Without breaking eye contact, she answered.
            "Alberta, it's Jack Bauer."
            "Jack? We've been looking for you."
            "I know. I'm sorry I didn't involve you earlier – but I didn't know who I could trust and I couldn’t endanger my family."
            "You've found them then?"
            "Yes, I'm with them now. But we need help getting out of here."
            "Did you find the man responsible for taking them hostage?"
            "No. He's here, but I want to get my family safe first. Then I'll go after him."
            "If you had involved me earlier we could have already extracted them. Instead, you chose to go rogue."
            "And you could have helped me earlier, but instead you chose to play political games and alienate the people working for you. Let's cut the crap, Alberta. You want my job, and that's why you don't want me to be right about this."
            "You acted outside the bounds of this agency, Jack. You endangered the life of a senator. I can't-"
            "I found the people behind the Palmer hit."
            Green stopped. "Are you sure?"
            "Yes. They took my family to make me cooperate. I pulled that Secret Service agent's gun to save Palmer. Not to kill him." He paused. "Send a team in, Alberta. Let's catch these guys so they don't have another chance at the senator."
            She thought for a moment. "Fine. Give me your location."
            After he had done so, Jack spoke again. "Agent Connolly is scouting the premises. She should have more information for your team when they get here."
            Green stared at Tony. "Thank you Jack."
            Hanging up, she folded her hands neatly in front of her. "It seems you lied to me, Agent Almeida."
            "Ava Connolly's whereabouts."
            "It seems she's with Jack Bauer."
            "I see."
            "You knew that. And you lied to me."
            "I only relayed the information I was given, Alberta. I can't do anything if Ava mislead me."
            "That's your stance? That she lied to you and gave you faulty information?"
            "You do realize I'll ask her about this when she comes in."
            "She's always been a truthful girl. I'm sure you'll get the straight story."
            Green sighed and stood up. "Get back to your station, Agent Almeida. We need to send an extraction team to get Jack and his family out, and to catch the men behind the attempted hit on Palmer."
            Tony almost made a sarcastic comment, but bit his tongue at the last moment. As much as he enjoyed antagonizing Green, it wasn't worth it – they had a job to do, and for the time being at least, he had to work with her.
            With a nod, he left the room.
            Ava cursed when her phone suddenly started to ring. She had forgotten to put it on vibrate, and she prayed that no one heard it as she ducked behind another building.
            "It's me."
            "Is everything okay? Teri and Kim?"
            "We're fine. Where are you?"
            "I'm heading back towards you guys. There's no way we can get out the way we came in."
            "That's what I thought. Did you see Gaines?"
            "Considering I don't know what he looks like? No, I didn't see anyone that looked like they were in charge."
            "Okay. We have someone bringing a van to get us."
            "His name is Rick. He's one of the guys who took Kimberly."
            "And now he's helping?"
            "That was my thought exactly. But Teri and Kim say he's been helping them since they got here. That we can trust him."
            Ava paused, biting her lip. "Okay. I don't like it, but under the circumstances, I don't see that we have much of a choice."
            "Agreed. There's a back road out of here that leads to a lake. I've called CTU and they're going to send a team in."
            "You called them?"
            "I had no choice. We need help."
            "Okay. When's this kid getting you the van?"
            "He should be back any minute."
            "Alright, if I'm not there, leave without me."
            "What? No."
            "Just do it, Jack. I'll catch up with you."
            "I'm not leaving you here."
            "And I won't have you waiting around for me and endangering your family. There's a lot of guards between us and I might get held up. Just go. I'll find the road, I'll follow it to the lake."
            Jack paused, thinking. He was torn between his refusal to leave her behind and his family's safety. A sudden noise outside interrupted his thoughts and he pulled his gun as Rick came bursting through the door.
            "Who's that?" Ava demanded, hearing things over the phone.
            "It's Rick. He's got the van."
            "Then go. I'm on my way. I'll meet you at the lake."
            "You'd better, Ava."
            "See you soon."
            The sound of gunfire erupted somewhere ahead of her, and Ava increased her speed, ignoring the stitch in her side. Truth be told, she hated running with every ounce of her soul. But shots were coming from the direction of that back road Jack had told her about, and she worried that they had been caught.
            She skidded to a stop just before the tree line, staring at the scene before her. A red van was stopped across the road, and men were shooting at it. Now and then she could see Jack returning fire from behind the vehicle. Ava froze for a moment, unsure of what to do, her mind racing incoherently.
            Then she was moving without realizing what she was doing. Both of her guns were out and she fired at Gaines' men, taking down quite a few of them as she ran through their midst. Her attack caught them all by surprise and by the time they aimed their guns at her, she was already to the van, sliding over the hood and behind it.
            "What the hell were you thinking?" Jack hissed as soon as she settled on the ground.
            "I needed to get over here. They were in my way. I took a couple of them out for you."
            Jack paused. "You actually killed them?"
            Ava shook her head. "Took out their knees. Kinda hard to shoot when there's a hole in your kneecap."
            "You need to get over your aversion to killing people."
            "We can argue about that later. Where are Teri and Kim?"
            "I sent them ahead. It's too dangerous here."
            "Do you want me to stay and help you?"
            He shook his head. "Go after them. Get them to the lake. Keep them safe."
            She nodded. "Good luck, Jack."
            She had just gotten to Teri and Kim when there was a sudden explosion behind them. The three women turned around, watching as fire erupted into the sky.
            "Jack," Teri whispered, turning back.
            Ava grabbed her arm. "No. He's fine, Teri."
            "How do you know?"
            "Because I'd bet serious money that Jack blew the van up. It's a nice distraction and it puts a big fire between him and Gaines' men."
            "Ava's right, Mom," Kim said, despite the fear in her eyes. "We need to keep going."
            Teri finally nodded. "Alright."
            They ran down the path and into the woods.
failegaidin: (blue kate)
Woohoo! Two chapters in one week. You guys should be VERY proud of me. Hope you like it!!

Chapter 8

            "Agent Almeida?"
            Tony turned around to find Alberta Green striding towards him. She had a small smile on her face, but he could see the predatory gleam in her eyes and he knew that she would hunt for any weaknesses that she could use to her advantage. Taking a deep breath, he steeled himself against whatever tactics she might use.
            "May I speak to you for a moment?" she asked.
            He put his hands on his hips. "Sure."
            "I was wondering if you could tell me where Agent Connelly is."
            "There was something she had to attend to."
            "I don't suppose you want to be any more specific?"
            "Not really, no."
            Green sighed in apparent regret. "Tony, may I call you Tony? I have to say, I think it's sad."
            "What are you talking about?"
            "The way you let these women play you while they cater to every one of Jack Bauer's whims. It's common knowledge that Nina and Jack had an affair. And now you've got a crush on Ava and she's too busy running after Jack to even notice you. When are you going to open your eyes and see that they're just using you?"
            Tony looked down at the floor, trying to rein in his anger. He had heard the same thing from Mason during the lockdown, and he had thought those very things on his own from time to time. But Ava hadn't asked him to keep her whereabouts a secret – she hadn't asked him for anything. She couldn't be using him if she genuinely believed he wouldn't let himself be used by her. Shaking his head slightly, he raised his eyes to Alberta's again.
            "Look, my personal life is none of your business. And I'd appreciate it if you would refrain from badmouthing my girlfriend or any of my friends. You're supposed to be in charge here, and trying to sow seeds of discord among your subordinates isn't a good way to lead."
            "Does that mean you're not going to tell me where Ava is?"
            He sighed, making a quick decision. "She had to leave."
            "Why? We're in the middle of a national crisis."
            "There was a family emergency…something with her dad. She had to leave."
            "You do realize I can check hospital records, correct?"
            "I didn't say he was in a hospital."
            "No. You were conveniently vague."
            Tony held her gaze and made another decision, praying that Ava would forgive him. "Look…Alberta…Ava's dad has a drinking problem. A pretty serious one. She was called by someone who found him in pretty bad shape. She couldn't leave him like that, knowing that he could hurt himself or someone else. So she left to take care of the problem – discreetly."
            Green stared at him for a long moment, trying to discern where the lie was. But Tony kept his eyes on hers and willed her to believe him. Finally, she relented.
            "I'm sorry to hear that. It must be very difficult for her. You'll let me know the minute you hear from her?"
            He nodded. "Of course."
            "Thank you."
            She stared at him for another moment before turning around and walking back across the floor. Tony breathed a sigh of relief and wondered how much time he had bought them.
            "Richard, I said LAX. Are you taking some kind of shortcut? Because if you don't get me to the airport on time…"
            Ava glanced back in the mirror, just as Cofell raised his eyes. They stared at each other for a moment, until it clicked that her eyes were a bright blue compared to the brown of his normal driver.
            "Hey! Who are you? What's going on here?"
            Without a word, Ava turned off the road and headed toward a parking garage. She drove to the bottom level before pulling the limo to the side and putting it in park. There was banging on the partition behind her, but she just ignored it as Jack unfolded himself from the floor of the passenger's side and stepped out of the vehicle. A second later, he was climbing into the backseat with Cofell, his gun out.  
            "Who are you?" he repeated. "What do you want."
            "Shut up," Jack growled.
            Ava lowered the partition so that she could talk more easily to Jack.
            "Do you need any help?"
            "Believe me, you're not going to want to help with this."
            "Should I go take a walk? God, I feel like I'm in a mobster flick."
            "Call Nina."
            "Do I have to?"
            "Call Nina. I want an interrogation profile on Mr. Cofell here." He turned to the man sitting in front of him. "Unless of course, you'd like to just tell me what I need to know?"
            "Go to hell," the businessman spat.
            "Call Nina."
            "You didn't ask nicely," Ava scolded. Then she turned to Cofell. "Sir, we're federal agents. We have reason to believe that you've been involved in illegal activities. There was a transfer of one million dollars to your bank account. Would you please explain that to us?"
            "I'm not telling you anything, you little bitch."
            Ava sighed. "I'll call Nina."
            "It's Ava."
            "What do you need?"
            "What, no insult or scathing remark? Are you feeling alright, Nina?"
            "Look. What's happening today is bigger than whatever problem we have with each other. I've got Alberta Green breathing down my neck here, and we're trying to help you guys and save the Senator all at the same time. Maybe we can hold our fighting until tomorrow."
            "I hate to admit it, but you have a point. Fine. Temporary truce pending resolution of national crisis."
            "You're a dork."
            "Hey, truce, remember?"
            "What do you need?"
            "We've got Ted Cofell."
            "What exactly does that mean?"
            "It means Jack's got him at gunpoint in the back of his limo on the lowest level of a deserted parking garage."
            "Oh God."
            "Pretty much. He wants an interrogation profile on this guy. He refuses to talk…well, he refuses to say anything helpful – his language is quite colorful, though."
            "Alright, I'll need some time. I'll call you back when I've got it."
            Nina hung up the phone and began typing furiously on her computer. She pulled up all the information she could on Cofell and started sifting through it, looking for anything that could help Jack get information out of him.
Tony watched from his station, fighting back the jealousy, knowing that Jack was on their side and that he was doing what he had to do to save Palmer and his family. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Alberta Green watching Nina as well. She narrowed her eyes and left the person she was conversing with, probably mid-sentence. Striding toward Nina, she had a determined look on her face.
Without thinking, Tony stepped out in front of her.
"Ms. Green."
"Do you need something Tony?"
"I…you wanted to know as soon as I heard from Agent Connelly."
She crossed her arms and looked at him with renewed interest. "And you have?"
He nodded. "She called in a couple minutes ago. Her dad put up a struggle, and she had some trouble getting him home. She said she should be back in an hour or so. She just wants to make sure he passes out and then she's purging the house of whatever alcohol she can find."
"If he's an alcoholic, he'll just go out and buy more."
"Not if he doesn't have any money or keys."
A small smile appeared on her face. "That's very true. I see Ava is very determined to rid her father of his drinking problem."
"Ava knows she has no power over her father's habit. What she wants is to make sure he stays out of her hair for the rest of the day so that she can come back and do her job."
Green nodded. "She has her priorities straight, then. I like that in a young woman." She looked up and saw that Nina had disappeared from her station. Her eyes shot back to Tony.
"I was on my way to speak to Nina when you stopped me."
"Was it something I could help you with?"
"No. Do you know where she went?"
Tony shrugged. "How could I? I've been talking to you."
Green nodded. "So you have."
            "It's Nina."
            "Did you find anything?"
            "Excuse me?"
            "Cofell. I think the key to breaking him is pain."
            "That sounds unpleasant."
            "Don't worry. Jack will take care of the dirty work."
            "I'm not sure that makes me feel better."
            Ava tried to ignore the cries of pain coming from the backseat. She faced the front, her hands gripping the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles had turned white. This was the part of the job she liked the least. Many had called her a bleeding-heart liberal, and she had always spoken out against the government and their willingness to suspend people's rights and torture information out of them. But now she was sitting in a car with a man being hurt in the backseat, all because of the information he might hold.
She sighed, wondering not for the first time why she had agreed to take this job when Jack had offered it. She could have said no. She didn't need the money. But she had needed to feel as though she were doing something. And it had sounded fun…Ava wasn't sure what that said about her as a person, but it was the truth. Jack told her that she would mostly be going into the field, retrieving things that had been stolen, disarming the bad guys…he had neglected to tell her about the dirtier aspects.
Finally, there was a knock on the partition and Ava lowered it, turning to face Jack.
"Call Nina. Cofell just told me he was on his way to a meeting with a Kevin Carroll. He's supposed to work for a machine tool company. I want her to get any information she can on him."
Ava nodded and dialed the number.
            "Me again."
            "Did Jack find anything out?"
            "He got a name. Kevin Carroll. Cofell says he works for a machine tool company. Jack wants you to look him up."
            "Okay, give me a second."
            Ava listened to the other woman typing away at her computer as she drummed her own fingers against the steering wheel.
            "There were a few Kevin Carrolls in the system. One of them does, in fact, work for a machine tool company."
            "Well that's interesting."
            "You know what that means, don't you?"
            "This guy might be innocent. It could have just been a simple meet between businessmen."
            "I'll see how Jack likes that theory."
            "I think Jack's a little narrow-minded right now."
            "Not much we can do about that at the moment. I think he's our best chance at finding out who's behind the hit on Palmer and Cofell and Carroll are our only real leads right now."
            "Call me if you need anything."
            "Have I told you lately how helpful you are, Nina?"
            "Shut up."
            Ava closed the phone and turned back to look at Jack again.
            "Nina found a Kevin Carroll who works for a machine tool company. She would like me to point out to you that Cofell may in fact be innocent and that this was just a business meeting."
            "I think we should go meet Kevin and have a chat with him."
            "I figured that was your plan."
            The meeting was in another parking garage. Ava idly wondered about the significance of that. Secret business was always done on the lower level, whether on TV or, it seemed, in real life. She mused that it wasn't always evil business, though. Mulder had met with his contacts, and even Scully on occasion, in the dark recesses or a parking garage…
            "You seemed distracted."
            "I was musing."
            "On what?"
            "Fictional media's use of the parking garage and it's proximity to real life."
            "Is now really the time?"
            She shrugged. "I'm sorry. You were busy torturing somebody. Didn't think you'd notice."
            "I want you to put the partition up again."
            "Because Carroll might be armed and I don't want him shooting you in the back of the head."
            "That sounds like a valid concern."
            "I'll join you in front again when I have him restrained."
            She rolled the partition up again and focused her attention outside. There were no other cars near them, and she thought it likely that she would catch a glimpse of Carroll as he approached the limo. Unless, of course, he came from behind, in which case she probably wouldn't see him until it was too late. She prayed that Jack had a more solidified plan than he normally did.
            Something slammed against the partition behind her, making her jump. Turning, her eyes widened as she saw Jack and Cofell struggling against each other, the latter wielding a knife. She hurriedly lowered the partition, wondering how she was going to be able to help her friend in such tight quarters. When the glass was finally out of her way, she started to move through the opening. She stopped when Cofell suddenly began yelling. Jack punched him in the chest, forcing him to fall back against the seat.
            "That wasn't English," Ava observed, her upper body halfway through to the back.
            "It was Serbian," Jack muttered, shock and confusion evident in his voice.
            "That mean something to you?"
            His answer was cut off as Cofell's breathing suddenly became labored and he clutched at his chest.
            "Jack, I think he's having a heart attack."
            The businessman motioned with his right hand, pointing toward his briefcase. Jack picked it up from the floor and opened it, eventually pulling out a bottle of pills. He went to hand them over and then stopped, the bottle just out of reach of the dying man.
            "You want these?" Jack asked in a low voice. "Tell me about Carroll. Why were you meeting him?"
            Cofell just continue to make pained noises, gurgling as he doubled over in pain.
            "Jack, you're killing him! Just give him the pills!"
            "Tell me what I want to know!" Jack roared.
            A few seconds later, Cofell slumped forward, falling to the floor of the limousine. Ava stared at him in horror as Jack reached out to feel for a pulse. He looked at her and shook his head.
            "You killed him," she whispered.
            "He wouldn't talk."
            "That's no reason to kill somebody!" she screamed.
            "Look! I did what I had to do-"
            "No!" she yelled, cutting him off. "If you had just given him the fucking pills, he would still be alive and you could be trying to get more information out of him. Instead, you let him die and you're no closer to finding Teri and Kim. You fucked up, Jack!"
            He stared at her for a moment, both of them flushed and angry. They had just lost one of their leads, and Ava was still in shock from watching someone die. Jack was the first to drop his gaze, unable to stand the absolute certainty in hers any longer – she knew she was right, whereas he didn't have that luxury with his choices.
            "Carroll is still coming."
            "He'll run when he sees that Cofell is dead."
            "So we need to make sure he doesn't realize that until it's too late." He paused, pulling out his phone.
            "Who are you calling?"
            "It's me."
            "Jack? Where are you? What's going on?"
            "I need you to look something up for me."
            "I don't know how I'm going to be able to do that, Jack."
            "What do you mean?"
            "Alberta Green has been sent in to replace you. She's been breathing down our necks trying to find you. Tony's been lying for Ava, so she doesn't know she's with you yet."
            "Cofell is dead."
            "He had a heart attack while I was questioning him."
            "Did you get anything useful out of him?"
            "Maybe. I need you to look up any connections to Operation Nightfall."
            "What's that?"
            "It's a mission I led a while back. Just find any connections you can…to anything."
            "Alright. I'll get back to you when I have something."
            Jack hung up the phone and looked at Ava, who was still staring at him.
            "So you think this might be personal? Against you?"
            "Maybe. There's no real reason why a normal American businessman would get a money transfer from Gaines and be able to speak Serbian. Gaines has my family and I led a mission in Serbia. There has to be a connection."
            "So what do we do now?"
            "I'm going to sit Cofell up so that it looks like he's just sitting here. I want you to put the partition up again. I'm going to join you in the front. When Carroll gets in, I want you to lock the doors and then push the button that initiates the child locks. We'll go from there."
            "So we're kidnapping another person? Great."
            "Please, Ava. I need your help."
            She sighed and thought for a long moment before speaking. "Look, Jack. I'm dead set against what you just did. It was wrong, and it was inhuman, and it was unnecessary. But your family is missing and Senator Palmer's life is at risk, and I know our hands are going to get dirty today. So…I'm not okay with what happened, but I'm still with you."
            He grasped her hand. "Thank you."
            It was ten minutes later when the back door opened and Kevin Carroll climbed into the backseat. He sat next to Cofell and shut the door again, turning to speak to him. He realized that something was wrong just as he heard the click that locked the doors. Reaching over, he felt for a pulse on his colleague, his eyes widening when he found none. Frantically, he looked toward the front seat.
            Ava and Jack found themselves looking at the man who had passed himself off as Alan York. Jack's jaw tightened as he realized that he and Teri had been duped, and that this man had gained her trust only to hurt her.
            When he recognized them, Carroll pulled out his gun and fired multiple shots at their heads. The bullets hit the partition, but didn't break it – the limo had been outfitted with bulletproof glass. He growled at them in frustration as Ava started the car.
            "I need you to crash the limo."
            "Excuse me?"
            "I want him to slam his head into the glass and knock himself out. That way I can restrain him and get some information out of him."
            "Do you realize how many cars I have crashed or abandoned today because of you?"
            "Will you do it?"
            She sighed. "Fasten your seatbelt."
            A parking garage wasn't the easiest place to pick up speed, especially in a limo. Ava drove the car around in circles, trying to gain enough momentum to do some damage. Finally, she shot straight ahead, appearing to head for the next level. At the last minute, she turned the wheel and plowed the limo into one of the concrete posts that marked which row you parked your car in. She and Jack surged forward, their seatbelts the only things that kept them from going through the windshield. There was a loud bang behind them and they turned to look, seeing Kevin Carroll sprawled out on the floor, blood trickling from where he had smashed his head into the glass.
            Jack grinned wickedly and got out of the car.
            It wasn't long before Jack was opening Ava's door and motioning for her to get out. Carroll stood beside him, tied tightly in multiple ropes.
            "He's agreed to take us to Teri and Kim."
            "That was nice of him."
            "He didn't want to help at first. I had to persuade him."
            "I don't actually want to know the details."
            "I didn't think so."
            "So where are we going?"
            "He's going to drive and I'm going to hold a gun to his head."
            "I hope you don't expect me to sit in the backseat with the dead guy."
            "We'll put him in the trunk."
            "I hate you."
            "I know."
            "I'm not lifting him."
            "You watch the hostage, I'll move the body."
            Ava nodded and pulled out her own gun, training it on Kevin.
            "You're not just a friend of the family, are you?" he asked, referring to their first meeting.
            "Nope. And you're not just some guy that gives me the heebie-jeebies. You're actually evil."
            He turned his eyes to watch as Jack hauled Cofell's body out of the backseat and dragged it towards the trunk. Ava moved her head slightly as well, and Kevin moved them, trying to disarm her while she was distracted.
            In one smooth move, Ava twirled her gun and smashed the butt of it into Carroll's nose. He cried out in pain as blood starting pouring down his face and he sank to the ground. Jack shut the trunk and walked over to them.
            "He tried to escape," she explained.
            "So we know he's not too bright."
            "Minions usually aren't."
            Jack bent down and dragged Carroll up, leading him to the driver's seat while Ava kept her gun pointed at him. Then he took his own place in the passenger's seat as she climbed into the back. He placed his gun right against the other man's temple.
            "Now take me to my wife and daughter."
failegaidin: (jack stupid)

Here's chapter 7 of Fighting for Salvation. I'm actually quite proud of myself for how long it is and how quickly I wrote it. Hope you enjoy :D

Chapter 7


            Ava was a little disappointed in the Secret Service agents. These were men who were entrusted with the lives of some very important people and they hadn't even noticed her yet. Thinking about it, she had to admit that she had the advantage. They had no reason to suspect anyone would try to free Jack, nor that they would be silently crawling atop the pipes that lined the ceiling of the warehouse. She conceded that maybe they deserved the benefit of the doubt. She would reserve final judgment until she and Jack escaped.
            They took Jack upstairs and away from the crowds. He was handcuffed and thrown into a chair while calls were made over their walkie-talkies. She watched in interest as her friend tried to explain everything that had been going on that day and his reasoning for his actions. Her heart hurt for him as he explained about his wife and daughter, how he'd been told that if he didn't go along with what the terrorists wanted, then they would be killed. He said that he had grabbed a Secret Service agent's gun as a last resort, a way to get the Senator out of the room before the real assassin managed to get a shot off.
            Ava knew that he was telling the truth. She was generally a good judge of character, and even from her awkward angle, she could see the sincerity and pain in his eyes. But she also understood the other agent's response – he couldn't just let Jack go because he said he was acting under duress. He had no choice but to keep him under arrest.
            She waited patiently while the agent in charge sent one his men back down to the floor – her odds of success bettered as the number of men below decreased. Grimacing, she decided that she was going to have to settle for four. The idea didn't really make her happy, but she was afraid that if she waited much longer, more men might come up or they would decide to move Jack to another location.
            Taking a deep breath, Ava placed her hands on a nearby pipe after checking to see if it was hot. With a silent prayer she swung down, slamming her feet directly into the chest of the head agent. He fell back with a grunt, and she knocked him out with a roundhouse kick to the face. Ava picked up a chair that was nearby and threw it at the farthest agent, knocking the gun out of his hand and bringing him down. Without hesitation she ran at another agent, lowering her shoulders. They caught him right under the ribs and she stood up slightly, still moving forward. Pushing with all her strength, she threw him away from her and into the last agent standing.
            It had all happened in a matter of seconds, and she didn't stop to see who was unconscious and who wasn't. She had only meant this as a diversionary tactic. Running over, she grabbed Jack by his handcuffs and dragged him along with her. They moved quickly, taking twists and turns wherever they could to lose pursuit. When she was sure that no one was around to see, Ava swung back up into the pipes above them. Jack stared after her.
            "What are you, some weird kind of monkey?"
            "We can debate my heritage later, Jack," she muttered.
            Hooking her legs around one of the pipes, she hung down so that he could reach her hand.
            "Hold on," she warned.
            "You really think you can lift me?" he asked dubiously.
            "Never doubt my ab muscles," she growled.
            She grunted with the effort, straining to bring Jack up into the ceiling. He tried to help as much as he could, swinging a leg up when he could reach. As Ava sat up and he moved to bring his other leg up, shouts erupted below them.
            "I think they found us," Jack observed.
            "You think?"
            "Why are you in such a bad mood?"
            "Because I had to save your ass – AGAIN."
            "I had to save Palmer. And Teri and Kim."
            She sighed. "I know. I'm sorry. But if I don't make bitter sarcastic comments, I'll never get through today."
            He nodded. "Let's go. Before they start shooting at us."
            "Sounds good to me."
            Running along the pipes was not an easy task, especially with Jack's hands cuffed in front of him. They moved as quickly as possible, the shouts of the Secret Service agents below them. Shots were fired occasionally, but by and large the men below were afraid of hitting a pipe and piercing it.
            As they neared the far wall, Ava swung down from the ceiling and ran at a window, the sound of Jack hitting the floor behind her assuring her that he was keeping up. Jumping, she threw her body through the glass, causing it to shatter as she landed on the pavement outside. Jack landed beside her and she helped him up, dragging by the arm as they ran away from the warehouse and the Secret Service agents.
            Ava pulled her gun as she ran, leading them into the middle of the busy street in front of the warehouse. Holding it up, she stood her ground and forced a young woman to stop her car. She walked purposefully over to the driver and opened the door.
            "We need your car."
            "Please don't hurt me," she begged.
            "I won't. Just get out and wait for the nice agents who are running after us. They'll take care of you."
            With a firm hand, Ava dragged the woman out of the car. Sliding behind the wheel, she opened the passenger's side for Jack and barely waited for him to close the door before slamming her foot onto the gas pedal and speeding away.
            Ava wasn't sure exactly why she chose the construction site to hide in. But she knew that they had to get off the road – they had no real chance of losing the agents behind them in a full-out race, and the streets of L.A. in the morning were no place to be weaving in and out of traffic at top speeds. She parked the car among the others in the small dirt lot, and she and Jack moved quietly up into the manager's trailer, breathing a sigh of relief when they found it to be empty.
            She closed the door behind them and secured it while Jack moved to the desk and pulled out his cell phone.
            "Nina, it's me."
            "Are you alright?"
            "You mean after you shot me?"
            "I am so sorry, Nina. I had to. They have Teri and Kim."
            "I know, Jack."
            "We found the mole at CTU."
            "What? Who?"
            "Jamey Ferrell."
            "But…but she's the one that Walsh trusted the most."
            "Well, he was wrong. We caught her in the act."
            "Have you questioned her?"
            "That's what we're doing right now."
            "Has she told you anything?"
            "No," Nina glared at Jamey. "She refuses to talk without immunity."
            "Put her on the phone." He waited a moment. "Jamey?"
            "Who are you giving information to?"
            "I want immunity."
            "Jamey, they have my wife and daughter. I need to know who's paying you."
            He could practically hear her thinking. "His name is Gaines. But that's all I'll say until I have immunity."
            "Jamey, please."
            "I'm sorry, Jack. No one was supposed to get hurt."
            Nina got back on the phone. "Well, at least that's something."
            "Jamey has a son. I want you to bring him in."
            "For what?"
            "Trust me. It'll get her to talk."
            "Fine. What happened with you?"
            "They used me to smuggle a weapon in to the warehouse where Palmer was speaking. I pulled an agent's gun so that they would be forced to move the Senator. They took me into custody."
            "And they're letting you make a phone call?"
            "I'm not exactly in custody anymore."
            "What do you mean, not exactly?"
            "Ava helped me escape."
            Nina sighed. "So now you're both on the run."
            "We need a car."
            "Where are you?"
            "A construction site. I need you to have someone park a car on Wilshire. Have them leave the keys under the seat and the car unlocked. We'll get there as soon as we can."
            "Alright." She frowned. "Tony wants to talk to you."
            "Put him on."
            "What do you need, Tony?"
            "Look, I wanted to apologize. For doubting you earlier. For calling Division. For calling the Secret Service. I didn't realize what you were going through."
            "You did the right thing, Tony. Your call probably saved Palmer's life."
            "So we're okay?"
            "Yeah. We're good."
            Tony looked furtively toward Nina as he walked to the door. "Is Ava there?"
            "Can I talk to her?"
            "Yeah, sure."
            Nina's frown deepened as Tony left the room and shut the door behind him.
            "Hey, Tony."
            "Hey…look…your dad called."
            He heard a silence on the other end that he could practically feel.
            "Did he say what he wanted?"
            "To talk to you. He sounded…"
            Tony took a deep breath. "I think he was drunk, Ava. He was saying some pretty awful things."
            "Oh, God. What did he say?"
            "He called you a few names, mostly alluding to how worthless he thought you were-"
            "No. I meant…what did he say to you? Did he…did he insult you at all?"
            "Yeah. How did you know?"
            She sighed. "I imagine when you answered the phone you said your last name. My dad…isn't fond of people who aren't Caucasian."
            "I noticed."
            "Tony, I am so sorry. Please. My dad is just a racist ass. Don't take anything he says seriously. And please do not think I agree with him. He-"
            "Ava, stop. I'm not mad at you. I'm mad for you. He's the one who called earlier, isn't he?"
            "Yeah. He's not my biggest fan at the moment."
            "I'm sorry."
            "For what?"
            "For giving you a hard time. I've been giving you and Jack a lot of shit today, and neither of you needed that on top of everything else."
            "It's okay, Tony. I haven't exactly been the soul of courtesy either."
            "Can I ask you something?"
            "You were only worried about what he said about me…don't you want to know what he said about you?"
            "Believe me, it's nothing I haven't heard before. He hasn't liked me for a very long time. When he gets drunk he works himself into a tizzy and calls me. It's no big deal."
            "I think it is."
            "Well, we can talk about it later. For now, Jack and I need to focus on getting out of here safely and you guys have to get Jamey to talk."
            Tony nodded and walked back into the room. Nina handed him a piece of paper. "The car is on it's way," he told her. "Silver Honda. License plate 55-LME. Should be there in about fifteen minutes or so."
            "Okay. Sounds good. And Tony?"
            "Thank you."
            "You're welcome."
            Nina watched him as he hung up the phone.
            "What was that all about?" she asked.
            "Leaving the room to talk to Ava."
            "I needed to tell her something."
            "That you couldn't say in front of me?"
            "It was personal. I don't think she'd want anybody else to know."
            She continued to stare at him as he returned to interrogating Jamey.
            When Ava hung up the phone, she walked over to Jack, who was sitting behind the manager's desk. Without a word, she kneeled in front of him and pulled a bobby pin from her hair. He held his hands out to her so she could work on his cuffs.
            "Your dad called?"
            She nodded. "Tony answered the phone. My dad wasn't very nice to him."
            "Bad names?"
            "He didn't go into details. But I know my father. I imagine it was something along the lines of 'dirty spic.'"
            "I'm sorry."
            She shrugged. "Tony seems to have handled it fairly well. He was nice about it."
            "How are you handling it."
            "I'll live."
            Ava smiled in triumph as the cuffs fell to the ground with a clunk. Jack eagerly rubbed his wrists.
            "No problem. You were slowing me down."
            "Yeah, yeah." He looked out the window. "Ava?"
            "We have another problem."
            "I really don't know how many more problems I can handle today, Jack."
            "Well, if Secret Service gets a hold of you, I imagine your problems are only going to get worse."
            She stood up and followed his gaze. "Fuck."
            Jack's eyes widened. "Ava."
            "Oh, shut up, Bauer. I do know how to swear."
            "It's just so refreshing to hear it."
            "Are you ready to go? Or should I leave you here to distract them while I escape?"
            "Let's go."
            Ava looked out the window again as Jack stood up and moved toward the door. The agents were talking to a construction worker, and he was pointing toward their car. Evidently their entrance had not gone unnoticed. As the agents ran toward them, she and Jack moved to the back of the office, opening one of the windows and shimmying out. Jack grunted with the effort – the opening was quiet big enough for him. With a loud clatter, he fell to the ground next to Ava.
            Shots fired and they threw themselves to the ground. One of the agents had gone around the back in case they tried exactly what they were doing. Hissing in frustration, Ava pulled out her gun and took aim. She pulled the trigger, and the agent went down, clutching his foot and howling in pain. Jack grabbed her hand and dragged her away at a run.
            They ducked and weaved through the construction site, heading toward the road. Jack led the way, setting a hard pace that Ava easily kept up with. By the time they reached Wilshire, all sounds of pursuit had disappeared behind them and they slowed their pace, attempting to look ordinary as they crossed the road and moved toward the CTU car that had been parked there. Jack got behind the wheel as Ava moved to the passenger's side.
            "In the foot?" he asked as she buckled her seatbelt.
            She shrugged. "You know I hate to shoot people."
            "Yes, but sometimes it's necessary."
            "He's one of the good guys. I didn't think he deserved a serious wound."
            Jack shook his head. "Your logic and aim frighten me."
            "As they should, Jack. As they should."
            "You're mad at me," Tony stated as they left the room and moved back out onto the floor.
            "Not at all. Why would I be mad at you?"
            "You don't like that I had something private to tell Ava."
            "What you do with Ava is none of my business."
            "Come on, Nina, don't be like that," he pleaded as he laid a hand on her arm.
            She snatched her arm back. "Leave me alone, Tony."
            "You're jealous. You think there's something going on between me and Ava."
            "I think she's a manipulative bitch who would do anything to get her hands on you."
            "I think you just want me to hate her as much as you do."
            "What are you saying?"
            "That for whatever reason, you can't stand her. So you've been badmouthing her and telling me lies about her to get me on your side before she had a chance to."
            "Are you accusing me of lying?"
            "I know you haven't been entirely truthful, Nina."
            "And what makes you think I want you on my side? What makes you think you're that important?"
            He dismissed her barb and leaned in closely to whisper in her ear. "Because you hate to lose, Nina. No matter what. You hate to lose."
            She jerked back from him. "I need to go check something in Tech 1."
            Without another word, she stormed away from him.
            "Jamey's son should be here soon," Nina said as she came up to Tony's station.
            "Are you talking to me again?"
            "Just because I don't like you personally at the moment doesn't mean I can't work with you."
            "This is really bothering you, isn't it?"
            "We're in the middle of a national crisis right now, Tony," she snapped. Then she paused and lowered her voice. "But by the end of the day…you're going to have to choose."
            "What are you talking about?"
            "Her or me."
            "I can't be with you and be friends with her?"
            "We should go back in to Jamey. See if we can get anything else out of her."
            She walked away before Tony had a chance to respond. His mind was still reeling from the ultimatum she had just thrown at him, and he followed her silently. He could admit to himself that he and Ava were not great friends and that it seemed illogical to give up Nina over a relationship like that. But he found himself unwilling to make that choice. Anger started to pulse inside of him as he realized that Nina had no right to be making such demands, that he had never made her choose between him and Jack…
            All of his thoughts ceased when they opened the door. Jamey was lying on the floor, one of her wrists bleeding profusely with her broken cup next to her. He and Nina rushed to her side, yelling for a paramedic and doing what they could to stop the bleeding. She was unresponsive as they attempted to revive her and they were both forced back as the medics burst into the room. Their voices were tense as they lifted her onto the gurney and moved her out, Nina and Tony both sensing from their tones that things weren't hopeful.
            Nina opened her mouth to speak when a sudden vibrating caught their attention. She walked over and picked Jamey's PDA off the floor. Raising her eyes to Tony's, she held it out as though it were a bomb.
            "It's Gaines," she whispered.
            Nina bit her nail absently as recent events flitted through her mind. Because Jamey was unconscious and on her way to the hospital, the call from Gaines had gone unanswered. If Jamey didn't get in contact with him soon, he was going to realize that something had gone wrong. And there was no telling what he would do then.
            She glanced over at Tony as he sat at his station, staring at his computer screen and trying vainly to focus on the task at hand. Things were not going well between them, and she was afraid that by the end of the day, that would come back to bite her in the ass. But she couldn't have him cavorting with Ava – too many things would be out of her control then, and she needed to be in control today.
            Her thoughts were interrupted when the phone at her station suddenly rang. She stared at it for a moment before shaking herself out of her reverie and picking it up.
            "Oh thank God."
            "Teri, where are you?"
            "I don't really know. But Kim is with me. I managed to get one of their phones."
            Nina snapped her fingers to get Tony and Milo's attention and she mouthed to them that she needed a trace now.
            "Okay, Teri. Let me see if I can connect you with Jack, okay?"
            "Thank you."
            She switched over and dialed Jack's cell phone.
            "Jack, it's Nina. I've got Teri on the other line."
            "What? Is she okay? Where's Kim?"
            "Slow down, Jack. She sounds okay. Kim is with her. We're running a trace to find out where she is now."
            Pushing a couple buttons on her phone, she connected the two calls.
            "Okay, Jack, you're on with Teri."
            "Hi, sweetheart," he breathed, emotion thick in his throat. "Are you okay? Is Kim?"
            "Yes, we're both okay. They're holding us somewhere. I'm not sure where."
            "We're running a trace, Teri. We're going to find you and I'm going to bring you home, I promise."
            "I know, Jack."
            "I love you so much. Both of you. You know that, right?"
            "Yes. We love you too, Jack." She heard a sound at the door. "Someone's coming, hang on."
            They could hear muffled noises and Teri tried to hide the phone. Then someone was in the room with them.
            "Where is it?" a male voice demanded.
            "Where's what?" Teri asked.
            "My phone. I know you stole it, you bitch!"
            They could hear feet shuffling as Teri moved Kim behind her and tried to move out of the man's reach.
            "I don't know what you're talking about."
            "Yes you do you crazy whore-"
            His voice cut off as something beeped. Jack strained to hear what was going on, but without anyone speaking, he couldn't figure out what was happening.
            "Who did you call?" the voice demanded, much louder and closer this time.
            "No one."
            "Don't lie to me."
            The line went dead.
            "He turned the phone off, Jack," Nina told him.
            "Did Milo get the trace."
            She looked at the tech, but he shook his head.
            "No. It cut out too soon."
            Nina looked up as Tony took another call. She frowned as she watched his shoulders slump. He hung up the phone and walked over to her.
            "Let me talk to him," he said quietly.
            She handed the phone over silently.
            "Yeah, Tony."
            "Jamey Ferrell was just pronounced dead at the hospital. She never regained consciousness."
            "But I did find an email on her computer. Milo's almost done decrypting it." He paused as the younger tech brought a printed version of the email over to him. "Here it is. There was a wire transfer of one million dollars to a Ted Cofell. Milo did a search and came up with his office address. Cofell is scheduled for a flight this morning. Milo's sending the info to your phone now."
            "Thanks, Tony."
            "What are you going to do?"
            "Follow the money."
            As Tony hung up the phone, there was a commotion at the doors. He and Nina looked up to see a tall black woman in a business suit striding toward the middle of the floor. Her heels clicked loudly and she held her head high as everyone's eyes were riveted to her. She stopped and turned to face the room.
            "Your attention, please," she called, her face cold. "My name is Alberta Green. I am now in charge of this CTU. Jack Bauer has been removed of his duties, as he has gone rogue. Finding him is our number-one priority right now."
            Tony leaned over. "Did she miss the memo about the assassination attempt on a presidential candidate?"
            "She probably thinks that Jack is the threat, so she's killing two birds with one stone," Nina whispered back.
            Alberta fixed them with a steely glare. "Jack Bauer is to be considered a fugitive, and a highly dangerous one at that. And any agent or agents helping him should be considered the same. Thank you."
            With that, she turned on her heel and mounted the steps toward Jack's office.
            "What was that all about?" Milo asked as he came over to them.
            "It means," Tony sighed. "that Ava and Jack are in a lot of trouble."
            Ava watched Jack out of the corner of her eye as they sped toward Cofell's office. He kept his gaze forward, and she could see that his knuckles were white with the effort of reigning in his emotions.
            "So…is there a plan this time?"
            "I'm open to suggestions."
            "Really? Usually you just wing it."
            "As you so kindly pointed out earlier, that hasn't gotten me anything but trouble today."
            "That's not true. You got results. They were just results that required a little extra help, that's all."
            He gave her a tight smile. "Alright. So do you have a plan?"
            "Well, I'm thinking that Cofell has a driver."
            "Well, he needs to get to the airport. He has a driver. I say we go in, dispose of the driver, impersonate him and pretend to drive Cofell to the airport. Then you can have a private chat with him."
            Jack thought for a minute. "That's actually a good plan."
            "Just imagine if I used my cognitive powers for evil instead of good."
            "The world wouldn't stand a chance."
            "Lucky for you guys I think evil sucks."
            "Excuse me?"
            The driver turned around to face Ava. She had a shy smile on her face and she was nervously wringing her hands in front of her stomach.
            "I was just wondering if you knew how to get to Wilshire from here? I'm new in town, and…"
            "Sorry, lady. Can't help you."
            "But…you're a driver. You have to know your way around the city."
            "You'd better get out of here. If security finds you, they won't be as kind as I am."
            The façade fell from her face and her fist lashed out. The man slumped against the car and slid down to the pavement, unconscious. Ava stood over him, her hands on her hips.
            "Is it too much to ask for a little kindness around here?" she demanded.
            "You realize he can't hear you," Jack said as he came up behind her.
            "Your point?"
            He hooked his arms under the mans armpits and dragged him behind some cars. He motioned for Ava to follow him.
            "You need to put on his clothes."
            "They are way too big."
            "Cofell will never believe you're his driver in that outfit."
            "Explain to me again why you're not driving?"
            "You maneuver better. If we get into a jam, I don't know how well I can drive this boat."
            "Men," she sighed. "What if I just put on his hat and jacket. Will that do?"
            "Yeah, I guess."
            "Then you got yourself a deal."
            As she waited for Cofell, Ava made sure that the partition was up. She didn't want the guy to be able to get his hands around her neck. Looking in the mirror, she double checked to make sure that her hair was tucked up under the hat. Then she spared a glance at Jack, who was stuffed on the floor of the passenger's side.
            "If he sees you talking to the floor, the plan is ruined."
            She straightened up in her seat as the backdoor opened. From the corner of her eye, she watched a balding business man climb into the backseat.
            "LAX, Richard."
            Ava nodded and started the car, fighting the smirk that threatened to overtake her mouth.

Pieces (2)

Aug. 8th, 2007 03:51 pm
failegaidin: (Default)
            "You get more junk mail than anyone I know," Tony commented as he sifted through the stack of paper on the kitchen table.
            "I know. You would think that being dead and then taken by the Chinese would get me off their radar," Jack replied.
            They were quiet for a minute as Jack continued to make dinner and Tony rifled through the mail, checking to see if anything was worth keeping. It seemed Jack just piled it on the table every day and then forgot about it. There was at least two months worth there.
            "Dinner's almost ready," Jack said, his attention on the stove in front of him.
            When Tony didn't respond, he turned around to look at his friend. The other man stood stock still at the table, his back to him and an open letter in his hands. Jack walked around so he could see his face, and he was shocked to see how pale he was.
            "I think we have a problem," he said, handing him the letter.
            Jack took it and started to read. As the words began to sink in, his stomach tied in knots and he found it difficult to breathe.
            Agent Bauer,
                        A man who holds nothing close has nothing to lose. After all these years, you have lost much, and have very little left. But those three things that you hold closest to your heart leave you exposed to more pain. Unless you can save them in time.
I come when called
I never falter
I can be what you ask
What you want
What you need
But I never change
I never leave
I am a weapon
I am a shield.
I go in first
I follow behind.
I draw fire
I spew it forth.
My blood for yours
And yours for mine.
I am part of you
And of someone else.
I am never one thing
But always another.
I own your heart
Your soul
Your mind.
But then I leave
I go away.
I run to another
And possess them as well.
            "What the hell is this?" Jack demanded when he had read it through twice.
            "They're riddles. Somebody is coming after you."
            "I don't know. But they want to hurt you, and it looks like they're going after where your heart lies instead of just killing you."
            Jack sighed in frustration. "But I don't get it. I don't do riddles. These make no sense!"
            Tony took the letter from him gently. "Actually, they do. Just give me a couple minutes. I can figure them out."
            "I used to do a lot of puzzles and cryptology stuff. Now be quiet."
            He sat down at the table, trying to ignore Jack's pacing as he scoured the letter again. His finger ran along the lines and his lips moved as he worked his way through the riddles as fast as he could.
            "The first one's easy," he finally declared. "Chloe."
            "She's your net, Jack. She's always there, always ready to do whatever you need. She'll be an analyst, hacker, field agent…whatever you ask of her. But she never changes. She's always a loyal friend."
            "They're going after Chloe?"
            "Not just Chloe. There's two more riddles, and I'm pretty sure they're not about her."
            "Then who?"
            "Hang on. My blood for yours and yours for mine. That pretty much describes a partner. They sacrifice their lives for each other. I draw fire. Maybe that's not real fire, but bullets. A partner draws fire to keep the other safe and does this by shooting his own gun."
            "You. You're my partner."
            "I haven't been for years."
            "Curtis is dead and Chase is on the other side of the country with a brand new family. You three were the only partners I was ever close to, and you're my best friend. That one's about you."
            "In danger again. Lucky me," Tony muttered.
            "What about the last one?" Jack asked anxiously.
            They read over it again and again, both wracking their brains in an attempt to decipher who the riddle was about. Jack started pacing again, muttering under his breath. Finally, he turned back to Tony.
            "This is ridiculous! It sounds like a demon or something. I own your heart, your soul, your mind and then I run to another and possess them as well? It's like a parasite."
            Tony scratched his head. "What owns your heart? A spouse. You don't have one of those. A child…Kim."
            Jack stared at him. "Does the rest of the riddle fit?"
            "I am part of you and of someone else. She's you and Teri. I am never one thing but always another. That pretty much describes any child. And the last part – that reminded you of a parasite or demon? A daughter rules her dad's heart, soul and mind. And then she gets married and rules another man. It fits. It's Kim."
            "We need to go get them. Now."
            But Tony remained seated, staring at the envelope that the letter had come in.
            "Tony? Come on! We've got to move!"
            "Jack…this letter came two days ago."
            He froze. "What are you saying?"
            "That we have no idea how much time we have."
            Jack closed his eyes and nodded. "Okay. Well, you're here with me. So I know you're safe. Chloe lives nearby. Kim is a few towns over."
            "Is there anybody that can get to Kim faster than we can?"
            He was silent for a long time, his eyes glued to the floor as he tried to think.
            "There's only one person I can think of who lives there."
            Jack looked up. "Milo."
            "Can we trust him?"
            "I think so. The important thing is that we get Kim out, right?"
            Tony nodded. "Call him. Tell him to get her and meet us at the safe house in Silverlake."
            "I'll call him on the way to Chloe's. Let's go."
            Jack's heart stopped when they pulled up in front of Chloe's house – or what used to be Chloe's house. There was nothing left. Debris lay everywhere, charred, some of it still on fire. Firefighters were already there, digging through the wreckage, but it was clear that if anyone had been inside, they hadn't survived.
            Tony was out of the car immediately, but he stopped when he realized that Jack wasn't with him. Turning, he saw that his friend was still sitting behind the steering wheel, obviously in shock. He raced around to the driver's door and yanked it open.
            "Let's go, Jack."
            "We're too late."
            "You don't know that. You don't know that she was home."
            "I've lost her."
            Tony knelt down and grabbed Jack's chin, forcing him to look at him. "You would know, Jack. If Chloe were dead, you would know it. You would feel it in every nerve and tissue. Stop and feel for a second. Is she dead?"
            He took a few deep breaths, calming himself and letting his body relax just a little. Finally he lifted his eyes to Tony's again.
            "No. She's alive."
            "Good. That means we have to find her. So get your ass out of the car and help me look."
            He got up that time, and the two of them moved onto Chloe's property. Policemen tried to stop them, but backed off once they saw their badges. They moved slowly, picking their way through the debris, looking for any sign that Chloe was there or maybe that she hadn't been there when the bomb went off.
            Straightening from some wood he was examining, Jack stared into what would have been her backyard before the explosion. His eyes swept over it, pausing when he saw a dog pawing at something on the ground. Even from a distance, he could see that the dog's fur was singed and it was limping slightly. The animal whined, scratching against a large piece of wood that lay on the ground at an odd angle. He continued staring until everything finally clicked in his head.
            Jack surged forward, running across the property after yelling over his shoulder to get Tony's attention. As he neared it, the dog backed up slightly, still whining and staring at the wood. Jack reached forward and took hold of the debris, trying to move it, but it was too large for him. Tony joined him, and together they managed to lift it and throw it to the side.
            His heart stopped again as he found himself staring at an unmoving Chloe. Her face was covered in suit and the edges of her clothes were burned, but she looked as though she had missed the worst of it. Bending down, fear choking him, he reached out a hand and felt for a pulse. After a moment, he breathed a deep sigh of relief.
            "She's alive."
            Kim sighed as her doorbell rang. She stood up from the box she was emptying and took a moment to survey the room. She had only moved in a couple weeks ago, and she was still unpacking her stuff. But slowly it was starting to look like a real home and she was really quite proud of herself. She was single, but she was making it on her own. She had her own house, she had a great job, and she was speaking to her father again. All in all, things were finally looking up.
            The person at the door grew impatient, and started pounding on the door with their fist. Kim bit back a rude comment and moved down her hallway, wondering who could be so anxious to see her. Her dad would have called first, and there really wasn't anyone else who would come visit her.
            She found herself staring with her mouth open when she opened the door and was faced with Milo Pressman. She hadn't seen him in years – not since the day her mother died. They had met before that of course. He worked at CTU sometimes, and whenever she was there to visit her father, she ended up talking to him because he was the closest to her in age. But she could think of no reason why he would be standing on her doorstep right now.
            "Hey, Kim. I need to come in."
            "I'll explain once we're inside."
            "Why are you here?"
            "Kim, please. This is important. Just let me in."
            "How do you even know where I live?"
            He sighed, realizing that she required some explanation. "Jack sent me."
            Frowning as even deeper confusion set in, she stepped aside and let him in. Closing the door behind him, she led him into the living room, which was still full of boxes. Milo looked around curiously.
            "You just move in?"
            "Yeah. Couple weeks ago."
            He nodded. "Nice. I live a few blocks over. It's a good neighborhood."
            "That's what I heard. Milo, why are you here?"
            "Right. Your dad called me a little while ago. Said you were in danger and I need to get you out of town. We're supposed to meet him and Tony and Chloe at a CTU safe house."
            "Why didn't he come himself?"
            "He was afraid he wouldn't get here in time. I was a lot closer. And he had to go get Chloe. She's in danger too."
            "Anyone else?"
            "So we need to go. Now. My car-" He paused as his gaze drifted out the window. He could see his car from there, parked in the driveway. But further down the street, he could also see a blue Lancer. It had been there when he got onto the road, and now a woman was stepping out of it, one he was sure he had seen before in his work at CTU…
            He pulled her to the ground just in time, as bullets came flying through the large picture window. They crawled across the floor toward the kitchen, trying to move quickly without making themselves into targets. When they reached the safety of the other room, they stood, jumping when they heard someone kick down the front door.
            "Is there a back door?" Milo whispered, his gun out.
            "Yeah, but we'd have to jump. They're going to build a deck, but for now it just opens up onto thin air."
            "Shit! Okay, here's what we do. We're gonna move into the room with that door in it, and I want you to open it and then close it loudly. I want her to think we went out that way. If it works, we can sneak out the front."
            "And if it doesn't?"
            "Then we'll be finding out how rusty my aim is."
            Kim led him slowly through the kitchen, pausing when she had to cross the entrance into the hallway. She had no idea if the assassin was still there or if she had moved into one of the adjoining rooms or even up the stairs. If she got to the dining room before they did, they weren't going to be able to protect themselves.
            She peeked around the corner, breathing a little easier when she saw that the hall was empty. Motioning to Milo, she led him across the rest of the kitchen, moving into the dining room. When she saw that that room was empty as well, she picked up the pace, heading straight for the back door.
            She felt Milo grab her before her brain registered the pop. He pushed her to the ground, crying out in pain as the bullet grazed his side and lodged itself in the door. Sitting up, he fired back, forcing the assassin back into the kitchen. Kim opened the door and slammed it while Milo fired again, covering them as they moved out of the dining room through the other door. They walked quietly toward the hall again, listening closely to discern where the woman had gone.
            When they heard the back door open again, Milo grabbed Kim's hand and they slipped out the front door with as little noise as possible. Kim instantly ran for his car parked in the driveway, but Milo pulled her up short.
            "What are you doing?"
            "I want her car."
            "The bitch shot me. I want her car."
            Ignoring her protests, he pulled her down the street, keeping his gun at the ready. When they reached the car, Milo went for the driver's door, but Kim reached it first.
            "You're injured and you're the only one of us that really knows how to shoot. I'll drive."
            He nodded, running around to the passenger's side. As he sat down, he opened his mouth to explain how to hotwire the car, but ended up staring in astonishment as he watched her do it without any help. When the car roared to life, she gave him a small smile.
            "A friend taught me."
            "Thank God for that."
            As they sped down the road, neither noticed Milo's car pulling out of the driveway and following them.
            She sat in the backseat of the SUV, staring out at the apartment building. It had been years since she had seen Tony, and part of her wished that she could show herself to him before finishing this. But her job was simple and the pay was good, and she knew that making herself known to him would only complicate things.
            Turning her attention back inside the car, she reached for the RPG-7 rocket launcher sitting on the seat next to her. She took careful aim, double checking that the other backseat window was already open so that it didn't shatter. With only the slightest second of hesitation, she pulled the trigger and watched as the rocket flew toward its target.
            As people on the street screamed and ran and pointed at the billowing smoke coming from the burning apartment building, Nina got out of the backseat and moved to the front, putting on her sunglasses and driving out of the city.
failegaidin: (Default)
And I present to you....Chapter 6!! By the way, there is offensive language in this chapter. I had to introduce an unsavory charactor. This author does not hold or agree with any of that character's opinions.

            Ava scrambled down the embankment, almost tumbling head over heels a few times. When she reached the bottom, she had to force herself to keep moving toward Nina's motionless body. She knelt beside her, hesitating slightly as she reached out a hand to feel for a pulse. Just as her fingers rested on the other woman's neck, Nina let out a shuddering gasp and started to move. Ava let out a little shriek as she threw herself backwards, landing on her butt.
            "He shot me," Nina muttered as she sat up, staring down at what Ava now recognized as a flak jacket.
            "Thank God you're alive," the younger woman breathed.
            Nina looked at her with a raised eyebrow. "I never expected to hear that coming from you."
            "Don't get used to it. I'm sure I'll be feeling the opposite any minute now."
            "What are you doing here?"
            "I thought Jack was acting funny. I saw him switch the key cards. So when you two hurried out of CTU, I decided to follow."
            "Your nosey-ness finally paid off."
            "Keep it up and I'll make you walk back."
            "I still can't believe Jack shot me," Nina muttered as they drove back to CTU.
            "You can shut up anytime, you know."
            "Geez. Getting shot by an ex-lover really makes you cranky."
            "At least I have an ex-lover."
            Ava frowned. "And that somehow makes you a better person?"
            "Proves that guys at least find me attractive."
            "Ah, yes. You have Tony wrapped firmly around your little finger by playing on his jealousies and insecurities. Kudos to you."
            Nina turned to look at her.
            "Does it bother you?"
            Ava sighed. "Does what bother me?"
            "That every single man in your life has a woman higher on his priority list than you? I mean, Jack has Teri and Kim. Tony has me. Your father has whatever bimbo he's picked up this week…"
            "Leave my father out of this."
            "Please, Ava. He's a drunken wife-beater with the intellectual qualities of pond scum."
            "I see you've been reading files that are none of your business."
            "I like to know who I'm working with."
            "You're a bitch."
            "By the way, have you heard from Daddy lately? Or are you still disowned?"
            "I happen to like being disowned."
            "Do you ever wonder how any man can ever love you if your own father wants nothing to do with you?"
            "Do you ever wonder if karma is going to bite you in the ass someday?"
            "My, my. Now who's cranky?" She faced the road again, pulling out her cell phone.
            "Who are you calling?"
            "Jamey. Things just got a hell of lot more complicated." The phone rang as she held it against her ear.
            "Nina? Where are you?"
            "On my way back to CTU with Ava."
            "What happened?"
            "I can't tell you right now. Is Jamey there? I really need to speak with her."
            "Tony, not now. I need to talk to Jamey."
            Tony pulled the phone away from his ear and turned to call for Jamey. He stopped when he overheard her talking to Milo.
            "Where's Nina?" Milo asked.
            "She had some meeting to go to," Jamey shrugged.
            "Are you sure?"
            "Yeah, I'm sure. I just got off the phone with her."
            Tony frowned in confusion until Nina's voice yelling through the phone finally got his attention again.
            "Tony? Did Jamey just say she talked to me?"
            "Yeah. Did she?"
            "No." Nina paused, her eyes widening. She turned to Ava even as she spoke to Tony. "It's Jamey. She's the mole."
            Tony was waiting at the door for them when they came in. He immediately embraced Nina, giving her a quick kiss on the lips. Ava stuffed her hands into her pockets and bit back any sarcastic remark as she focused her eyes on the floor. She could feel Nina's victorious smirk aimed at her, but she refused to rise to the bait.
            "So what exactly is going on?" he asked when they had pulled away again.
            "Not here," Ava muttered.
            She led them both to an empty holding room. Walking over to a corner, she leaned against it, her hands once again in her pockets. Tony stared at her expectantly.
            "Nina can explain."
            He gave her a look, confused by her strange behavior, but Nina pulled his attention back to her.
            "Early this morning, Richard Walsh explained to Jack that there was a mole in CTU and that the only person he could trust was Jamey. He passed him a keycard that had been filled with information from our network. They traced it back to my computer, and Jack thought that I was the mole. But I was cleared."
            "So why couldn't you tell me this earlier instead of all the sneaking around?"
            "We couldn't be sure you weren't the leak," Ava murmured from the corner, her eyes fixed her shoes.
            "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
            "Tony, we weren't supposed to tell anyone," Nina interjected. "Jack trusted Ava, so he told her. You and he…don't exactly get along. It was easy for him not to trust you."
            "Not to mention I'm dating the woman he used to sleep with."
            "Fine. So what happened when you and Jack ran out of here so fast?"
            Nina raised her eyes to Ava. "You said you noticed he was acting strange earlier?"
            Ava nodded. "Ever since he got back from the hospital. Teri said he got a call from you, but you never called him. And then he left suddenly. I saw him switch out the keycards and give Milo a fake."
            Tony put his hands on his hips. "Then Jack's-"
            "No. He's not the mole."
            "He was trying to tell me something," Nina explained. "Up in his office. But it was like…like he was being watched. When he pulled a gun on me, he put a flak jacket on me, too. He instructed me to drive somewhere, and we were followed by some guys with a video camera. They were there to make sure he killed me."
            "He shot you?" Tony exclaimed.
            "Someone's controlling him," Ava said quietly. "And I'm guessing whoever it is has Kim and Teri."
            "And if they're having him switch out the keycard and distract us, that can only mean that they're the same people who want Palmer dead," Tony finished.
            "Do we have Palmer's schedule?" Nina asked.
            "Yeah. He has a speech at the power plant this morning."
            "Eight o'clock."
            "Someone needs to go and stop Jack from whatever he's being ordered to do."
            "I'll call Secret Service. Tell them that Jack may pose a threat to the senator."
            "I'll go," Ava volunteered, pushing away from the wall and moving toward the door.
            "Are you sure?" Tony asked.
            She shrugged. "You two have work to do here. I'm useless with computers. There's usually violence where Jack is involved, and that seems to be my forte. I have my cell." Without another word, she left the room.
            "What's the matter with her?" Tony asked, staring after her, worry in his eyes.
            Nina shrugged. "We had a talk in the car about her little crush on Jack. I told her he was a married man and she needs to move on."
            "She has a thing for Jack?"
            "Isn't it obvious?"
            Tony shook his head. "I thought better of her, that's all."
            Tony stood outside the door to the woman's bathroom, where Jamey had disappeared seconds earlier. Nina was watching the room through the camera system, waiting for their colleague to contact whoever she was leaking information to. While he waited for the go-ahead, he thought back to Ava's peculiar behavior. Something had been bothering her ever since she got that call on her personal cell phone, and her mood only seemed to worsen every time she interacted with Nina. Tony knew the two women hated each other, but he found himself wondering if he could believe everything that Nina said. If he was honest with himself, he could admit that he wanted to like Ava. She was a strong person, someone who stood up for what she believed in no matter what other people thought of her. And she had tried on more than one occasion to befriend him. But Nina had badmouthed her from the start, and he hadn't liked how close she was with Jack, so he had been guided by her opinion. He wondered suddenly if he had made a huge mistake.
            Nina's voice interrupted his thoughts and he moved in to apprehend Jamey.
            "I'm sorry, Ms. Connelly. But you're not on the list."
            "I realize that. And it's Agent Connolly, Agent Pierce."
            "We can't let you in."
            "But I need to. Palmer is in danger."
            "If you have information of a threat…"
            "You should let me in so I can deal with it."
            Pierce held up his hand as a voice squawked over his earpiece. He listened intently and then gave Ava a resigned look.
            "Agent Connolly you are cleared to enter."
            "Tony took his sweet time calling, I see."
            "CTU has informed us that Agent Bauer might be a threat. I have my men looking for him."
            "Just don't hurt him too much, okay? He's having a rough day."
            "Excuse me?"
            "Nevermind. Just catch him and then let me deal with him."
            "If he makes any attempt to harm Senator Palmer, he's ours."
            "And if you make any attempt to get in my way, you and I will have words."
            Pierce gave her a hard look. "You're a difficult person to deal with."
            "Makes me a more formidable foe," she said with a smile as she passed him and moved into the crowd.
            Her smile faded as she moved through the sea of people. Finding Jack in this throng wasn't going to be easy, and she had no idea what she was going to do when she caught up with him. If somebody was using Teri and Kim to make him do things…he would do anything to protect his family.
            Ava sighed and continued to look for him.
            The interview was not going well. Jamey had admitted to passing on information, but she refused to tell them any more until she got a lawyer. Tony was getting more frustrated by the minute, and he eventually walked out, leaving Nina to carry on for a little while without him.
            He moved back out onto the floor, pacing between the stations. They needed to figure out who Jamey was working for. They needed to find Jack. They needed to find Teri and Kim. If they could find at least one of those answers, they could move forward, but they were at a standstill until then.
            His thoughts were interrupted as Ava's desk phone rang. Thinking that it could Jack, he moved to the station quickly.
            "No, this is Tony Almeida."
            "This is supposed to be my daughter's number."
            "It is. She isn't here right now."
            "And who are you?"
            "Tony Almeida. I work with your daughter."
            "Almeida. That's not a white name."
            Tony frowned. "Excuse me?"
            "I'm not surprised. I wouldn't put it past my daughter to work with a bunch of spics and niggers."
            "Mr. Connelly-"
            "That's not my name. My worthless daughter took her mother's maiden name. My name is Harrell."
            "Fine, Mr. Harrell. Your daughter isn't here-"
            "No, I imagine she's out causing trouble."
            "Was there something in particular you needed?"
            "She hung up on me the last time we spoke. I wanted to have words with her about that."
            Things started to click for Tony. "Sir, this is a government agency and your daughter is a government agent. She has work to do and you need to not interrupt."
            "She can't be doing anything important. My daughter isn't terribly useful. She failed all the hopes I had for her-"
            Tony's already-frayed nerves snapped. "Hey! Ava is one of our best agents. She's resourceful, she's kind, and she always gets the job done. I'm thinking the only failure here is you."
            There was an unsteady chuckle on the other end. "I've heard that tone before. You have a thing for her, don't you?"
            "Leave it to my daughter to have a spic boyfriend. She never did understand how the world works."
            "You just tell her that I called and I expect her to get back to me. A daughter doesn't just hang up on her father. She needs to learn her place."
            The line went dead, and Tony stared at the phone in disbelief. He now understood Ava's earlier bad mood. He couldn't imagine what it was like to have someone harassing you like that constantly. Hanging up the receiver, he vowed to talk to her about it later.
            He turned around to see Nina standing behind him.
            "Who were you talking to?"
            He shook his head. "Nobody. Let's go back to Jamey."
            Ava really hated being surrounded by so many people. Jack wasn't a very tall man, and she was having trouble finding him in the power plant. She had moved most of the way across the floor now, and she was starting to lose hope that she would be able to find him.
            People around her stirred, and she turned to see Senator Palmer taking his place behind the podium. It was time for his speech, and she knew that time was running out. Now was a perfect time for the assassin to make his move.
            A commotion erupted suddenly, and Ava watched in confusion as Secret Service agents pulled Palmer away from the podium and off the stage, using their bodies as shields. She looked around, trying to find what had caused them to take him away. There was nothing threatening on the floor around her, so she lifted her eyes to the second level.
            She watched in resignation as agents wrestled Jack to the ground. He had been the cause of the disturbance. Ava didn't know whether to be happy that they found him or frustrated that he was once again in trouble. She watched the agents restrain him and drag him off somewhere, presumably to question him and put him formally under arrest.
            Ava sighed as she moved toward the stairs. She was really getting sick of saving his ass.
failegaidin: (Default)
Yes! I finally finished Kony! Hope you all enjoy!!! Definitely NC-17.

            As soon as Kim was gone, Jack got into his car, automatically heading for Chloe's. He needed to tell her what had just happened, and she was the only one who could confirm his suspicions.
            He knocked on the door and waited anxiously, his brain still struggling to deal with everything. Never had he thought that Kim might fall in love with Tony. But at the same time, he wasn't as surprised as he thought he would be. They spent all their time together, they told each other everything, and they made each other laugh – something that both of them desperately needed.
            Chloe opened the door then, interrupting his thoughts. He stared at her for a minute, his reasons for coming momentarily forgotten. But then he could see Kim's tear-stained face again, and he shook himself out of his reverie.
            "We need to talk."
            Chloe's expression grew wary. "What did I do?"
            Jack frowned in confusion. "What do you mean?"
            "We need to talk usually means it's going to be a painful and awkward conversation where you tell someone something they don't want to hear."
            Jack gave her a soft smile. "Relax, Chloe. This has nothing to do with us."
            "Oh." He could have sworn he saw a flash of disappointment in her eyes. "Come in, then."
            As she shut the door behind him, he turned to look at her.
            "I know about Kim and Tony."
            Her eyes widened. "Oh."
            He saw her flounder for something to say. Reaching out, he gently took her hand and led her over to the couch. They sat down, Jack still holding her hand.
            "Kim told me she's in love with Tony," he began quietly.
            "Are you okay with that?"
            He leaned back against the couch, nodding. "Yeah. I think I am. It's a little…unnerving. He's my best friend. He's older than her." Jack took a deep breath. "But there's no one I'd trust more with her. And he makes her happy…She's not my little girl anymore. I can't make her decisions for her. And if Tony is what she wants…well, she's still my daughter and he's still my best friend. I'll just have to deal with it."
            When he finished talking, he looked over to see Chloe smiling warmly at him.
            "I'm very proud of you."
            "But I have something to ask you, Chloe."
            She frowned. "What?"
            "Does he love her back?"
            "You don't know?"
            "I think I do. But Kim came over this morning and told me he was mean to her last night – cold and distant."
            Chloe sighed. "I was afraid of that." When Jack stared at her, she continued. "He loves her, Jack. That's what's been eating at him. You and Kim are his best friends and he couldn't go to either of you. He's afraid she doesn't feel the same. He's scared to death that you'll hate him. And on top of all that, he's been dealing with the guilt of loving someone else after Michelle. That's why he's been coming to me. He had nowhere else to go."
            It was Jack's turn to sigh. "I need to talk to him. Before he hurts Kim any more. Before he hurts himself."
            Chloe nodded. "He needs to know you'll still be friends."
            He narrowed his eyes at her. "When I first got here, you thought I was here to talk about us. Is there something we need to talk about?"
            "No. I mean…I don't know."
            "Chloe. If there's something bothering you…please. Don't shut me out."
            She frowned, looking down at their hands, still entwined. "Tony and I…we talked a lot. When he was coming over. He…he told me something. About you. And I need to know if it's true."
            She felt him stiffen immediately. "What did he tell you?"
            Chloe raised her eyes to his, forcing herself to look at him. "Do you love me?"
            He found that he couldn't breathe. But her eyes were staring at him with…fear, and he knew that he had to answer her.
            "Yes," he whispered.
            "That way? Like…more than just a friend."
            She nodded. Then she was leaning towards him, her lips brushing lightly over his. He gasped at the contact, completely unprepared for her response. Her lips pressed more firmly against his and her tongue ran along his lips until he opened to her, letting her fully explore his mouth. He moaned, one hand wrapping around her waist while the other moved to tangle itself in her dark hair. Then she was leaning against him, pushing him back down onto the cushions and bringing her body to lay atop his. Their kisses grew deeper and more passionate as they moved against each other, their sighs and groans melding together.
            Jack's phone ringing caused them to jump apart. He gave her a smile and kissed her once more before pulling his cell out and answering it.
            He sat up suddenly. "Kim? What's wrong?"
            "He's gone."
            She nodded even though he couldn't see her. "I went into his room. All his stuff is gone and there's a note. He left."
            Jack sighed. "Okay, Kim. I need you to breathe. I think I know where he went. I'll go talk to him. Everything's going to be alright."
            "How do you know?"
            "Trust me, baby. I know what's wrong with him. I'll talk to him." He paused. "Do you want someone to come stay with you for now?"
            She sniffed. "No. I'm okay. Will you call me? Let me know what's going on?"
            "If everything goes well, I won't need to. Get some rest, Kim. Everything will be okay."
            He hung up and saw Chloe's questioning look.
            "Tony left," he explained. "I think I know where he went. I'm going to go talk to him."
            "Where do you think he is?"
            "Michelle's grave," he answered as he threw on his coat. Looking back at her, he walked over and kissed her again. "I'll be back later. Is that okay?"
            She nodded, smiling at him. "I'll be here."
            He kissed her once more and was out the door.
            Tony was right where he thought he'd be. He sat on a bench near Michelle's grave, his head in his hands. Jack's heart broke at the sight of him – he knew exactly what that felt like. He had visited Teri's grave multiple times with that same hopelessness and despair and guilt. That kind of pain could kill a man.
            He got out of the car and walked over to his friend, taking a seat next to him. They sat in silence for a long time, Tony never lifting his head and Jack staring straight ahead. Finally, he rested a hand on the other man's shoulder, pulling him out of his isolation.
            "What are you doing here?" he asked hoarsely, raising his tear-stained face.
            "Kim called me. Told me you left. Told me what happened last night." He paused. "I know you're in love with her."
            "Oh God, Jack. I'm so sorry."
            "It's okay, Tony."
            "I never meant to. I know she's your daughter. I know she's off-limits-"
            "Tony, stop."
            The other man fell silent, not knowing what else he could say.
            "You didn't betray me."
            His eyes snapped up at Jack's words. "I didn't?"
            Jack shook his head. "No. You make her happy, Tony. I've never seen her so happy than in the past few months you two have been living together. I'm not going to stand in the way of that."
            Tony's eyes widened in surprise. "But she doesn't…"
            "She loves you. She told me herself."
            His eyes drifted to his wife's gravestone. Jack's gaze followed and they sat for another long while without speaking.
            "Am I betraying her?"
            Jack shook his head. "No. I know it feels like it. But she would never want you to be alone, Tony. Punishing yourself isn't going to bring her back. It's just going to make you and the people who care about you miserable." He paused. "Although I think Michelle would laugh at you for falling for my daughter."
            Tony smiled faintly. "I think you're right."
            "I understand why you didn't tell me. I probably would have yelled, gotten upset and told you to get out of my sight and stay away from my daughter. But…it was easier coming from Kim. I just want to see her happy. And now she'll have a boyfriend I actually like. So…go back. Tell her how you feel. Apologize profusely for being a complete ass. And make her happy. That's all I want for her, Tony. I want her to be happy."
            "And us? Are we okay?"
            "You're still my best friend. I told you nothing would change that or make me think less of you. I meant that."
            "I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner."
            Jack shrugged. "I know what it's like, Tony. I nearly broke when I got together with Kate. She was the first after Teri. Just…don't ever expect Kim to be a replacement for Michelle. She's a completely different person, and I'm sure you love her for completely different reasons. Just remember that. Because sometimes she'll compare herself to Michelle and it's going to hurt her and she's going to need you there to remind her that you love her. That you'll always love Michelle, but that there's no reason for comparison. You can love them both at the same time."
            Tony nodded. "Thank you."
            "Yeah yeah. Now get off your ass and go fix things with my daughter. You make her cry like that again and I'll kill you."
            "Where are you going?"
            "I'm going to go have sex with Chloe."
            Tony's eyes widened. "Really?"
            "We'd probably be having sex right now if Kim hadn't called and told me you were stupid and had taken off."
            "She finally told you? How she feels?"
            "No. She finally asked me how I felt."
            "About damn time."
            "Go home, Almeida. Before my daughter gives up on you."
            Tony nodded and got up, heading for his car.
            The knock on the door startled her. Fear leapt up in her, threatening to choke her. She thought that it must be her dad, coming by to tell her that he couldn't find Tony. Or worse – that he had found Tony and the other man wasn't coming back. Trying to steady herself, she got up from the couch and moved to the door on shaky legs.
            Kim nearly sobbed when she found Tony standing on the other side. He looked haggard and worn and afraid, but there was something in his eyes that hadn't been there the night before – hope.
            He came in then, reaching for her face and crashing his lips against hers. She sank into him immediately, relief flooding through her veins. He kicked the door shut behind him as he wrapped his arms around her and pulled her body flush against his. His tongue nudged at her lips until she opened her mouth, letting him in completely. She moaned roughly, the sound swallowed as their kisses grew more urgent. Then Tony pulled back suddenly, and she almost whimpered at the loss of contact.
            "I'm sorry," he gasped, his breathing heavy. "I didn't think you…I thought Jack…" He took a deep breath. "I was scared."
            "Me too."
            He looked at her deeply. "I love you," he said quietly.
            "I love you too," she whispered.
            She kissed him again and it was different from the other times they'd done this. There was no sense of wrongdoing or betrayal. There was no deep-seated grief that they were trying to hide from. They reveled in the touch of the other and took their time as they moved into Kim's bedroom.
            Tony's hands were everywhere, running along the contours of her body through her clothing. Then he wrapped his arms around her waist and lifted her until she had no choice but to wrap her legs around him. Slipping his shoes off, he moved to kneel on the bed until he could lay her down, his body over hers. He kissed her deeply as his hands slid under her t-shirt, his fingers dancing along her bra-less breasts. Kim moaned, pressing herself closer to him. Pulling back to breathe, Tony pulled the t-shirt off of her completely and found himself staring at her in awe. She smiled, her hands moving to lift up his shirt as well so that she could let her fingers roam over his chest. He closed his eyes at the feeling before pushing her back down and bringing his mouth to her breasts. He drew his tongue around one nipple as he used his hand to squeeze her other breast, his fingers teasing her hardened nipple. Kim groaned loudly, her fingers tangling in his hair as she held his head against her.
            After he had moved his mouth to her other breast, he moved his kisses lower, traveling across her stomach and down to the edge of her jeans. Without hesitation, he undid her pants and slid them off, along with her underwear. Seeing her completely naked before him made him even harder and he found himself speechless. Choking back the emotion welling up in his throat, he let one hand drift down to her core, staring into her eyes as he thrust a finger up inside her. She arched against him, gasping at the sensation. Smiling, he slowly moved his face down until he could taste her. His tongue moved inside her and her squirming increased as she could feel her orgasm building. She moaned his name breathlessly, anxious for him to let her come. His thumb scraped against her clit urgently and she felt herself climax suddenly as she yelled his name and sagged against the bed.
            He moved back up her body, giving her soothing kisses as he went. When he reached her mouth he kissed her deeply, letting her recover from her high. Pulling back, he moved his mouth to her ear.
            "You okay?"
            She nodded. "Very much so."
            Shifting slightly, she felt his arousal pressing more firmly against her. She gave him a soft smile before pushing him off of her and onto his back. Her nimble fingers did away with his belt quickly and then she was sliding his pants and boxers off, dropping them to the floor. She planted kisses up and down his thighs, her tongue sliding along his skin. Tony groaned deeply, his hips bucking as he felt her mouth getting closer and closer to his cock. Then her hands were there, moving slowly up and down his shaft as she took him in her mouth completely. All coherent thought was lost as he felt her tongue move against him. He struggled to maintain some control, but he could feel himself about to fall over the edge.
            Her mouth left him suddenly and she kissed her way up his chest and back to his mouth. Tony tried to get his breathing regulated as he stared at her.
            "Geez, Kim. Are you trying to kill me?"
            She smiled coyly. "Are you saying you didn't enjoy it?"
            He grinned as he rolled her over and pinned her to the bed. "That is exactly the opposite of what I'm saying."
            She giggled as he kissed her again, his tongue exploring her mouth as he positioned himself at her entrance. He pulled back so that he could look in her eyes, making sure that she was ready. Kim nodded, and he leaned down to kiss her again, pushing slowly into her body. She moaned into his mouth as he filled her completely. They paused for a  moment, adjusting to the fit, but then they were moving again, their rhythm coming naturally. Tony moved one hand down and pinched her clit, their bodies moving faster as he thrust into her harder. Kim wrapped her legs around his waist, holding him to her as tightly as she could. Breathlessly calling each other's names they came together, her muscles clenching around him and bringing him over the edge with her. He slumped against her, holding himself up by his elbows before rolling off and pulling her close to him. She reached out a hand to cup his face.
            "Are you alright?" she asked seriously.
            He nodded, giving her a small smile. "Yeah, Kim. I'm alright."
            "I know it's hard. But you can talk to me…about that stuff. I can handle it."
            "I know. And I'll try. I promise."
            "No more running away?"
            He kissed her forehead and covered them both with blankets. "No more running away," he promised.


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