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Title: Hold On (Part 1 of a possible series)
Fandom: 24
Characters: Jack Bauer, Renee Walker
Spoilers: Up to and including 7x17
Warnings: ...If you've seen the episode, you can imagine anything I might warn about.
Summary: She's the only thing he has to hold on to, even as he feels his grip start to slip.
Author's Note:  This was entirely written and mostly typed before 7x18, but I didn't quite have all of it typed up before the episode.  I have not added anything or removed anything to what I wrote before 7x18 aired, so things have obviously changed since I wrote this.  This might become part 1 of a longer series of vignettes or scenes, depending on how things go.  If so, the title will become the chapter title, most likely.

He had to admit that going through heroin withdrawal was probably the best training he's had to deal with his current situation.

Larry had just radioed in, letting them know he was five minutes out from the FBI when Jack started feeling the pain again.  Whatever Macer was giving him, it hadn't worked in removing all the shakes, but it at least banished the worst of the electric pain that zapped along every nerve in his body, making his muscles spasm uncontrollably.  At least that was until it wore off.

Jack pulled a deep breath in through his nose, leaning against the conference table and trying to breathe through it.  He'd done the same thing when he'd been trying to wean himself off the heroin on his own.  Try and focus on something else, take deep breaths.  Try and wait as long as you can before you give in.  Every minute that you gain is a victory. Only in this case, it wasn't going to get easier next time, if he stalled this time.

"Jack?" Renee's voice was soft, right next to him.  He'd noticed the way she kept looking over at him, looking for every little wince, every sign of weakness.  He wanted to hate her for it, but the memory of the look on her face when she'd found out he was infected kept him from succeeding.

"I'm fine," he said for probably the tenth time in the last hour.  He knew she didn't believe him anymore--if she ever had--but that didn't stop the words from coming out every time.

"No, you're not.  Macer gave you those syringes for a reason," she said, in what Jack was starting to think of her "mom voice".  Stern, but not angry.  He should hate her for that too, but couldn't.  She actually cared.  It wasn't something that he was used to, and as much as he wanted to believe that it didn't matter, that he didn't need it, for some reason knowing that helped.

"It's not time yet," he said, the words coming out from between clenched teeth, as he felt the first jolts of pain travelling along his spine.

"It's time when you need it," she said, tersely.  Jack looked up at her just long enough to see her glance around the bullpen, and he had to wonder how many people were watching their conversation, probably wondering if he was going to collapse again.

"You can watch things and help from my office.  Come on," she said, gently taking his arm, much as he had taken hers earlier that day, when she'd felt dizzy.

For a moment, he had the instinct to pull back, something deep in his mind hearing the slam of a heavy iron door and for a moment he saw a larger, stronger hand than Renee's on his arm.

No.  No, you're not there.  It's Renee, not a guard.  You're in the FBI, not in China.

Jack looked up at her, his eyes meeting hers in defiance, though the smell of mildew and blood and dirty concrete wafted past his nose and inwardly made him waver.  It's a flashback, that's all, he tried telling himself, though he knew that wasn't it.  He hadn't had a flashback like this in ages.

"I can deal with this."  He didn't want to get shunted off to some other room, kept busy while someone watched him closely, looking for the first signs of delirium.  Goddamn it, this wasn't over yet.

"You can't deal with this and lead field teams at the same time.  Either you go to my office or I'll get security to take you down to medical, take your pick," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

Their gazes locked, and he felt the urge to look down, something in him preparing for a blow for daring to look--no, it was Renee standing in front of him, Renee, not Cheng or a guard.

He did look away first, though, as the pain began to radiate outwards from his spine, and he tried to keep her from seeing the battle going on in his mind.  He didn't have long before his arms and legs failed him, started twitching uncontrollably and he collapsed again.  Doing it once didn't mean he wouldn't rather avoid everyone seeing it a second time.

"Fine," he said, forcing the word out and hoping she couldn't hear the pain in his voice.

She nodded, her expression softening.  "All right.  Janis, I'll be in my office but I'll be listening in on comm so you can route any problems my way until Larry gets back."

Jack didn't look to see anyone else's reactions, turning instead toward Renee's office, tunnel-visioned on her door.  Each step required an effort it hadn't just a minute ago, his feet sluggish to respond to his commands.  He could feel the fine muscle twitches start in his abdominal muscles, his hands feeling heavy and tingly.  Renee's hand touched his back, silently urging him along.

He collapsed into the nearest chair as soon as they reached her office, and he fumbled with the pouch Macer had given him, trying to open it.  Managing to pull it open, he took out the next syringe with hands that felt clumsy and numbed as Renee pulled up his left sleeve.  He pulled the cap off with his teeth and brought the needle to his arm as she stepped back, but his hand was shaking so hard he couldn't keep the needle steady, and as he tried to brace it better in his hand, he fumbled, nearly dropping it.  The pain was starting to zap through his fingers now, and he could barely keep hold of the syringe.  He'd had practice injecting himself with shaky hands, but even this was beyond him.

"Renee, I can't--" he said, hating the note of panic  that crept into his voice, "You have to do it."

He glanced up at her, saw her go a little pale.  She looked ill at the thought, but she took a step forward, kneeling next to him.

"I've never done this before," she said, her voice shaking just a little, even as she took the syringe from his fingers.  He could see her inhale and exhale deeply, trying to steady herself. She might be scared, but she would do it; he'd seen that earlier that day.  Her mind might revolt against something she had to do, but she would do it.

"I can talk you through it," Jack said, trying to breathe deeply, but only managing sharp gasps.  The sight of the syringe in her hand, the needle poised at his arm made him want to recoil again, something in his mind urging him to knock the needle out of her hand and run.

You can't let them inject you again, you don't know what they'll make you say--no, no, this is Renee, dammit, you're not back there, you can trust her, just hold on--

"You should be able to see the injection sites from earlier.  You only have to stick the needle in a little bit--that's far enough--then push the plunger."

He didn't feel the stick of the needle or the slight pain as she pushed the plunger and emptied the syringe's contents into his vein.  He was fighting the urge to double over with the pain or to attack, reminding himself of where he was, of who this was in front of him, and he looked away from the needle, staring at the floor instead as he tried to focus.

He felt, rather than saw her move as she pulled the needle out, and on impulse he grabbed her empty hand, trying to squeeze it, clinging to anything that might keep him anchored.

"Don't go.  Please, to me," he said, the words spilling out before he could think about what he was saying.

He saw rather than felt her squeeze his hand, heard her voice murmuring to him as he started to hear other things, other voices from behind him.  Harsher voices, speaking words he couldn't understand.

"It's okay, Jack, I'm here.  I'm not going anywhere."

Every minute seemed more like an hour, the pain feeling like it was going on and on, not easing at all at first.  Then, gradually, he could feel it start leaving his hands, some of the feeling coming back in them.  The pain receded as did the voices, quieting to a whisper until only quiet accompanied Renee's voice.

"Jack?" she asked, tentatively, as he started to breathe more deeply.

He looked up at her, saw the worry and sadness in her eyes and felt his heart sink.  He knew who she was, this time.  But any ground he'd gained this time was a hollow victory.  The hallucinations would be back, and it would become harder and harder to fight them, until he stopped fighting them because he no longer realized that he should.

"Yeah, I'm okay," he says, closing his eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath.

"Maybe you should go down to Medical.  Larry's almost here; you don't have to keep doing this."

"Yeah, I do."  He couldn't just sit there in Medical with nothing to do, waiting for it to start again, analyzing every thought, everything he saw--or thought he saw--or heard and trying to decide whether the mental deterioration had started yet.

"At least let me call Kim and see--"

"No, Renee," he said with all the ferocity he could muster.  Kim had asked him years before to stay out of his life; he wasn't about to break that promise now.  Besides, she didn't need to see him like this, and he didn't need to invite any more pain into what was left of his life.  He could cope with this, as long as he didn't see his pain reflected on his daughter's face.

Renee stood, pulling back, but Jack tightened his grip on her hand, stopping her.   Looking up at her, he forced himself to form the words, as unused as he was to revealing anything, to opening himself to anyone.  It didn't matter anymore, at least not in this case.  Already he was having trouble keeping his mind from wandering; he couldn't be sure how much longer he'd be coherent enough to say this.

"Thank you, Renee, for everything today.  For trusting me."

It was hard to believe they'd only met that morning, and already he trusted her more than almost anyone else.  As much as Tony or Chloe at least.  If they'd had more time to work together, if they'd known each other a few years ago...

But they didn't.  Thinking about the ifs wasn't going to help.

She didn't acknowledge it other than with a few words, but the sheen of tears in her eyes told him that she knew what he was trying to say.

"Thank you, Jack.  We'll get them, I promise."  She took a deep breath, set her jaw and let go of his hand, walking quickly out of the room.

His head dropped as he heard the click of the door behind her and somehow he felt more alone now than he had at any time in the last few years.  Somehow the walls he'd built around himself didn't seem to be as much of a comfort, and his grasp on life more tenuous, now that she wasn't holding his hand.
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