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Fandom: 24
Characters: Jack Bauer, Kim Bauer
Rating: PG-13
Summary: When faced with a terrible reality, Kim has to make a choice.  Greytext from Fisher's song "Breakable".
Spoilers: Through to the end of 5x13
Warnings: Suicidal thoughts.
Originally written: March 16, 2006

And every time you throw him to the floor
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?
And every time you push him to the wall
Why are you surprised to see he's breakable?

Kim's jolted awake by the ringing of the phone on the bedside table next to her. Barry stirs, sprawled on the other side of the bed, but doesn't wake; he'd fallen asleep faster than she had. Visions of both her parents' funerals, of when Chase had walked out, of visiting her Dad's grave on his birthday... An unending stream of memories had run through her head as the bnight had deepened, relentless, until finally she'd fallen into a restless sleep.

She picks up the phone, wishing they could have headed to Barry's conference as they were supposed to. With martial law declared, though, they hadn't been able to get out of the city.

"Yeah?" she says, sleepily, expecting it to be someone from work.

"Kim?" She has to stifle a groan; it's Audrey's voice. God, she can't deal with this right now.

She rolls out of bed, whispering as she heads for the hallway. "Look, Audrey, if you're calling on behalf of my dad--"

"Kim, no, that's not it. Have you heard from your Dad at all in the last hour?"

She closes the bedroom door behind her, blinking. "What? No. Why?" she says, a little irritated. It's only after she says it that she registers the fact that Audrey's voice is shaking, that she sounds close to panic.

"No one's seen him for half an hour, since the nerve gas was secured, he just walked out of CTU--"

"What, he didn't talk to anyone? Has Tony seen him?"

There's a long, terrible silence on the other end of the line, and her stomach begins to sink. Even before Audrey's voice comes over the phone, she knows.

"Kim...Tony's dead. Christopher Henderson killed him in CTU. Just after you left...Bill found your Dad holding Tony's body. He..." Audrey stops for a moment, her voice choked. "Kim, if your Dad calls or anything, could you please call me and let me know?"

"Yeah," she says a little distantly, Audrey hanging up.

Tony dead. Palmer dead. Michelle dead. He'd asked those men to give up their lives, had watched those people pounding on the glass of the situation room, and who knew what else in the last, what, eleven hours?

...There's nothing left to say except I don't want to be around you. Every time I am, something horripble happens. People die.

He'd been holding Tony's body when they found him... Suddenly she can see her Dad again when she'd found him at the end of that long, long day of the Presidential primaries. Rocking back and forth, holding her mother's body, tears streaming down his face. Remembered the way he'd just died inside after that.

A chill goes down her spine, remembering the thought that had gone through her mind much later, wondering whether he'd ever wanted to kill himself after her mother's death. It had only crossed her mind once before she'd pushed it aside, locked it somewhere deep in her brain and ignored it. She hadn't wanted to believe that her Dad would ever be in that kind of situation. But after today, after losing everyone he cared about, even her, the look in his eyes as she'd told him goodbye...

No. She'd said goodbye, planning it to be final, but she hadn't really meant it. She definitely hadn't meant it that way.

God, why did I say that? How could I have been so stupid?

Grabbing the previous day's clothes out of the hamper in the bathroom, she pulls them on, not bothering to leave a note before she pulls on a pair of shoes and grabs her car keys from the table in the front hall. She doesn't know if martial law has been lifted, but at the moment she doesn't care.

She peels out of the parking garage with a squeal of tires, pulling out her cellphone before she realizes that she doesn't know his cell number. Tossing it on the seat next to her, she scans the near-empty streets in front of her, trying to think. Where could he have gone? He'd left CTU, where else in L.A. could he go?

There are a hundred different options. Motels, hotels, wherever he'd been living until the previous morning... None of them feels right, though. But then one more option comes to mind, the thought that makes her stomach dip with a sickening lurch.

She sprints down the gravel path through the cemetery after parking her car near the gate, her breath coming in sharp gasps. Please don't let me be too late, please, I take it all back--

Silhouetted against the rising sun, he's standing right where she expected, right in front of those twin headstones which by now are so familiar to her. She slows down, suddenly uncertain of what she's going to do, what she can say.

As she thinks, he moves slightly and a chill runs down her spine. There's a gun in his right hand. He's not raising the gun though; his arm is just dangling by his side, his shoulders slumped. He looks beaten, tired.

Slowly she walks down the row toward him, her dread increasing as she notices that he doesn't seem to realize she's there. Twenty-five feet, twenty feet, fifteen--surely he's going to turn and look at her any minute now?

She's ten feet away before she stops, watching him carefully. Finding her voice, she squeaks as she tries to speak. "Dad?"

He doesn't move, just keeps staring at the marker in front of him; his own. A wilted bundle of flowers lies at the base of the stone; she'd placed them there just a week ago. One week, but it seemed so long ago; everything before she found out her father was still alive seems like it belongs to some distant year.

She clears her throat, forcing herself to speak a little louder. "Dad?"

There's an empty silence before he finally turns to look at her, and she has to clench her teeth together to not react as she sees the hollow pain in his eyes. A look of confusion flickers across his face for an instant. "Kim?" he says softly, his voice flat, emotionless.

She swallows, trying to think of what she can say. "I...I heard about Tony." He closes his eyes, turning his head away, and she mentally kicks herself for reminding him of it. Taking a step forward, she hurriedly adds, "Dad, I'm so, so sorry. I was hurt, and angry, and--"

He shakes his head. "You were right."

"What?" she asks, though she already knows what he means and a cold rush of guilt runs through her.

"Everyone close to me ends up dead."

"Dad, it's not your fault--"

"I know. I know what you said. But it's true."

She stares at him for a moment, not sure what she can say, not when he's taken taken her words so much to heart that they're destroying him. Barry had always encouraged her to say what she was feeling and not hold things in. At the moment she's thinking that maybe that wasn't such a good idea all the time.

"Dad, I..." She trails off, still not sure what she can say. Fear churns in her stomach; she can't let him do this. All of a sudden she remembers the overwhelming desire to have him back she'd felt after Tony had turned up on her doorstep eighteen months before.

She'd thought she could walk away from him, thought she'd buried him, that her life had moved on. But that isn't as easy when she's confronted with a living, breathing father. When she realizes that as much as she doesn't want to live thorugh the same upheaval, the stress, the constant shaking of the ground her father's world brings, she doesn't want him to actually be dead, either.

He lifts his right hand, rubbing his forehead with the heel of his hand, still holding the gun. She wants to grab it from him while he's not looking, but she can't move, frozen with fear.

"I'm tired, Kim. I can't do this anymore."

"Dad, no, please... You don't want to do this--"

"Yes I do, Kim," he says, staring off into the middle distance, his face in profile. "I've lost everything: Tony, Michelle, Palmer, you." His voice cracks on Tony's name, and he can barely get out the last word.

She swallows. "What about Audrey?"

He closes his eyes again, lowering his head. "She's better off without me. She'll live longer."

"Dad--"

"Kim, please, just leave," he says wearily. But she can't leave; she has a feeling that her presence is the only thing keeping him from actually doing it.

"No, Dad. I can't let you do this," she says, trying to make her voice firm, steadier than she feels.

"Kim, this isn't your problem." Anger's creeping into his voice now, his posture tense. It's an almost-welcome change, as it's more recogniseable than the hollowness.

"Yes, it is," she snaps, regretting it an instant later. Somehow snapping at someone who's suicidal doesn't seem like the wisest thing to do.

His expression turns stony, anger flashing in his eyes. "No, it's mine alone. You can't have it both ways."

She looks down at the ground for a moment, having to look away from those eyes as she teases the sense out of his words, not that it takes long.

All she wanted was for her life to be normal for once, and it had been, until the day before. She knows things never stay "normal" around her father for very long, and she'd thought that not seeing him would be easy, would make life easier. Trouble seemed to follow him around, leaving bodies in his wake. Not that she blames him for any of that. She knows that he'd give anything to have Tony, Michelle, Palmer and everyone else back. That he'd give up his own live if it would give them back theirs, give it up without a second thought. She loved him for that, it was something she'd forgotten.

But then that solution she'd come up with, the one to make life easier would only make it so for her, not him. She wants him to be happy, have his own life, but she's starting to realise just how much she means to him. Glancing back up at him for a moment, seeing this man who'd finaly been dealt more than he could handle, she remembers how much he means to her, too.

When she'd thought he was gone, when she'd lost everything, she hadn't wanted to go on living; just like he does now. And suddenly her reply is so obvious, everything so much clearer. I can't lose him again. No matter what might happen because of it.

She lifts her head, meeting his eyes, and takes one hesitant step forward, then another. One step after the other, until she's right next to him, shoulders squared, chin up in determination. Even though there's a lump growing in her throat and her eyes are stinging, her hand is steady as she reaches out to him, placing her hand on his arm. "Dad, I don't want to lose you again. Please, give me the gun," she says, lifting her other hand, and holding it out to him, palm-up.

The wariness in his expression hurts, but she doesn't flinch away from his gaze. She's not sure if he's too far gone for him to see that she means every word, but she hasn to make him beleive her. Time stretches out and she holds her breath as she waits for his decision.

Glancing down at the gun for a moment, finally, slowly, he places it in her hand.

She takes her hand off his arm just long enough to go through the routine movements she'd learned in her weapons training at CTU: safety on, eject the round in the chamber and pop out the clip. The clip goes in her pocket, the gun in her purse, the entire operation taking much less time than she would have expected. It's a little frightening, how easily it comes back to her, when she hasn't held a gun in nearly three years.

Impulsively, she wraps her arms around her father's neck, starting to feel her hands shake with relief now that the main danger's passed. She clings to him as his arms go around her, overwhelmed by gratitude for this chance.

"I love you," he says in a choked whisper, and she can feel the shoulder of her blouse getting damp.

She takes a shuddering breath, smelling that familiar smell of him, one that had always made her feel comforted, protected when she was little. Tears are starging to trickle down her cheeks and she has to swallow hard before she can get out a squeaky, "I love you too."

She knows life isn't going to be easy, isn't going to be normal for quite a while. She can't erase everything that drove him to this extreme with a few words, with one hug. Nor is she sure how she's going to tell Barry about this. But she'll take the complications willingly, if it means being able to have her father hug her again, to eventually see him smile again. She's lost so many people in her life, she can't not grab the opportunity to get one of them back.

Sniffling, she hugs him tighter. She's not letting him go again. Not even if it means getting pulled down with him.

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