Chapter 4

Bill Buchanan whistled almost silently to himself as he marched down Division's main corridor, hesitating only briefly before turning the opposite direction of his office. Although he had only transferred to Los Angeles a few short weeks ago, her office had already become part of his regular path upon arrival to work. He had worked with Michelle in Seattle when she had spent a few months working with him for the Homeland Security restructuring. Bill had been surprised when he had first met her. She hadn't met the expectations he had after reading her file. He hadn't thought much about the prospect of working with a woman who was adamantly and publicly standing by a traitor.

However, he was pleasantly surprised upon their first meeting. Michelle was good at what she did; she had been a great asset to their team. And he found that she was a good person. She had the right values for this job, the right attitude. He had enjoyed the few months they had worked side-by-side as colleagues. Although he didn't want to admit it to himself, the thought of working with her again had factored into his decision to accept the transfer to Los Angeles.

Another thing he tried to not admit to himself was the small level of disappointment he had felt upon hearing of Tony Almeida's presidential pardon and subsequent release from federal prison. He had tried to be happy for Michelle, but a little voice in his head kept wondering what it would be like...

Bill donned a neutral expression as he turned the last corner to her office, and was surprised to not see a band of light shinning around the outline of the door. It was the first time sine his transfer to Los Angeles that she had not beat him to work. Bill glanced at his watch and furrowed his brow. Although she was not required to be in for another hour, she had always come in quite early, especially the last week. She was in before him and left after him. Although she hadn't said anything, Bill suspected problems at home. As much as he wanted her to be happy, and wanted the best for her, that little voice wondered if he was best for her. Bill sighed and headed back down the hall toward his office, trying not to look too concerned.

0000

Michelle felt fifty pounds lighter as she made her way through security and headed through the maze that was Division towards her office. Upon accepting the transfer to CTU years earlier, she had been apprehensive about the open concept, but now missed it horribly. She missed the human contact. She greeted her coworkers as she passed, knowing she was a little out of character, especially for the past few weeks, but didn't care. She felt too good.

She stepped into her sparsely decorated office and signed into her computer system. It promised to be a relatively boring day. She had been assigned a project that was required by Friday, but had already finished during her avoid-going-home-to-an-empty-house work marathon the previous week. There were weekly system checks she would work on today. It would give her something to do.

"You broke our pact," the voice in her doorway startled her out of her thoughts.

Michelle turned to the see Bill leaning against her doorframe. "I don't know what you're talking about," she replied, trying to look innocent. After working what felt like more overtime than regular hours the first few weeks after Bill's transfer, they had made a pact that they would not work any weekends this month.

Bill rolled his eyes. "You know exactly what I'm talking about. I checked the logs and you were in for more than ten hours on Saturday."

"So, you're spying on me?" She challenged, jokingly.

Bill shrugged. "Just discovering which staff members I can trust."

Michelle laughed at this. "Sorry, I couldn't help myself. It won't happen again, I promise."

Bill scoffed. "Like I believe that. The least you could have done was call me. I would have come in if I'd known our pact meant so little to you." His voice sounded serious, but Michelle knew better. Two of the qualities that contribute to being good at their kind of work are being good actors when needed, and being able to read people.

Michelle offered an apologetic smile. "Sorry, I just...I really needed to not be around other people."

Bill hesitated before deciding to probe a little deeper. "Is everything okay? You seemed a little down last week."

Michelle was surprised by Bill's question. They had become close at work in Seattle, and she enjoyed his companionship, but they very rarely strayed outside of work related conversation. She was suddenly aware the expression on his face portrayed a little more than friendly concern.

"Everything is fine," she answered, smiling brightly both at the thought and the realization that she was right. Everything was fine; everything was great.

Bill appeared to want to ask more, but refrained. "Good to hear," he told her, nodding. Michelle would have let it go, but the expression that still masked his face told her she needed to tell him more.

"I was going through some personal problems last week, but everything has been worked out," she told him. "I'm sorry if I brought that into the office," she added, trying to make it seem like a conversation about work.

Bill shook his head. "I didn't mean it that way, Michelle. You're one of the best agents we have, and you're very good at keeping your personal life separate," his voice was steady and professional, but his eyes gave him away. He didn't want her to keep her personal life separate, not from him. "On a personal level, I was worried." He seemed sincere, but she was unsure which context he meant it in.

Michelle sighed and lowered her voice, not wanting anyone to overhear. "Tony and I have been having some problems," she admitted. "It's been hard since he got out of prison."

Bill looked surprised that she was confiding in him. "I guess that can't be easy," he said, sympathetically.

Michelle shook her head. "No, but its better now."

"You're okay?" Bill asked, concern etching his features, with just a hint of something else.

Michelle tried to read his expression, not knowing how to decipher it. It couldn't be what she thought. She would have noticed before. "We're fine," she answered, "Great even."

Bill smiled. "Good to hear it," he told her before glancing at his watch and excusing himself.

Michelle sat silently for a few moments, replaying the conversation in her head, before sighing and shaking the thoughts free. She was overanalyzing, she would have noticed before if he thought of her as anymore than a work friend.

0000

Tony hung up the phone and groaned as he buried his face in his hands. That morning he had been so motivated and optimistic that he had forgotten the horrible process of trying to find a job that had landed him in his depression in the first place. He was determined not to let that happen again. He had too much to lose.

He allowed himself to wallow for a few minutes before scratching the number off his list and moving on to the next. He wished he hadn't gone for a run that morning. He really needed to relieve some tension now, but knew if he ran again he wouldn't be able to walk the next day. His muscles were already screaming at him for having used them so little in the past year.

Of the many places he had called today, half had already filled the position, and many would not put him through upon passing his name to their supervisor. He had only managed to get himself one interview for the following afternoon, and it didn't look promising.

He hung up the phone for the umpteenth time, silently cursing the man he had talked to, even though he knew it wasn't his fault. He crossed the number off his list and faltered as he moved to the next number. Tony's fragile self-esteem couldn't take anymore of this for today. He glanced at the clock, noting that Michelle would be home soon. He pushed the papers away from himself and got up, making his way to the kitchen. He wanted to do something nice for her.

0000

Michelle pulled Tony's car into the driveway, grabbing her bag as she hopped out of the driver's seat. They had taken his car home Saturday night, just wanting to be together. The plan had been to pick it up on Sunday, and they had gone out to get groceries with the plan of Tony dropping her off at her parents to pick up her car on the way home from the supermarket. The grocery shopping had gone as planned, but it wasn't until Michelle went to leave for work and found herself standing in the driveway, keys in hand with no car to use them on that she realized they had failed to get her car. She had laughed at their forgetfulness and made her way back inside, meeting Tony at the door, a smirk on his face and his keys in his hand, having just realized himself. Michelle had rolled her eyes as she traded her keys for his. She made her way to the car, knowing his laughing eyes were on her the whole time.

Michelle stepped into the house, smiling as the aroma from the kitchen wafted around her. She stepped out of her shoes and made her way into the kitchen, smiling at the sight of her husband at the stove, apron hanging around his neck and a spatula in his hand.

"Hey," she called as she entered the room.

He turned around, meeting her eyes and smiling. "Hey, dinner's almost ready."

Michelle returned his smile as she dropped her bag on the chair and stepped around the island in the kitchen to wrap her arms around Tony waist, resting her face against his back as she breathed in his familiar smell. She felt one of Tony's hand wrap around her fingers and squeeze them gently. After a moment, she heard a small noise as he rested the spatula down beside the drying pan and used his hands to gently turn her, so she was facing his chest. He planted a kiss on her head before placing a finger under her chin and gently raising her face to meet her eyes.

"You okay?" He asked gently, cocking his head slightly.

She smiled tiredly, looking away for a moment before meeting his eyes once more and shrugging. "Yeah, just had a long day." From his expression, she knew he suspected more, but wouldn't push it, not yet. Their relationship needed more time to heal before he would push. This was the same reason she wouldn't mention her suspicions about Bill. He gazed into her eyes for a moment, before smiling and kissing her quickly. After a moment, he removed one hand from around her waist to resume whatever it was he was doing on the stove. She closed her eyes and leaned into his body, thankful for the umpteenth time in the last few days that she had him back.

Michelle felt Tony's arm return to its place around he waist, but was surprised by the movement he forced on her body, as he turned away from the stove, keeping her in front of him. She pulled her head away from his chest, a questioning look in her eyes. "What are you doing?"

Tony's eyes were sparkling as he smirked at her. "Just keeping you away from the food."

Michelle's jaw dropped as she realized what he had said, and glared at him. She scoffed and pushed her self away from him, pulling away from his arms.

"Hey," he protested, trying to keep her close.

"Nope, you ruined it," she muttered, moving away to sit at the island and glower at him.

He rolled his eyes as he stirred the contents of the frying pan, knowing she wasn't mad at him. "You take things far too seriously," he stated, defending himself. He cringed slightly at her single raised eyebrow and silence. After grabbing plates from the cupboard, he masterfully divided the stir-fry onto the dishes, setting one plate down in front of his wife before ducking around her chair to the seat next to her, running a hand gently across her hair on the way by.

Michelle smiled at the all too familiar gesture. "Thanks," she offered as she picked up her fork.

"You're very welcome."

"So, how was your day?" She asked, trying to keep her question light. She was pleasantly surprised by the wry smile on his face and honesty in his eyes.

"It could have been better," he said, shrugging. "But it could have been worse. I have an interview tomorrow afternoon."

Michelle looked up in surprise. "That's great."

Tony took a breath before replying. "I don't think so. Its just a small security company. They didn't seem very promising. I only got to talk to the secretary and managed to convince her to book me an interview, but I doubt the manager will be impressed."

Michelle hesitated, not sure of what to say to comfort him, knowing there was a great possibility that telling him he was wrong could be a lie.

He offered her a comforting smile. "It's okay Michelle, I get that this isn't going to be easy. I'm okay, really." He reached over to squeeze her hand for a moment.

Michelle smiled and nodded. "Good."

"I've decided to take a new approach to the whole job thing. I'm going to be completely upfront about the whole thing. I have re-vamped my resume, adding notice of the arrest and pardon and everything in the cover letter. I think its a better way, I hope at least."

Michelle nodded. "I think you're right." She hesitated slightly before continuing. "I could give it a read, if you want."

Tony smiled and nodded. "I'd really like that."

Michelle smiled back at him, feeling her cheeks redden at the intensity of his gaze.

He smirked and laughed slightly as he reached a hand to wrap around hers.

Michelle laughed aloud as well as she squeezed his hand tightly, her heart light with the knowledge that their life was back on track. They would be okay.

AN: Hey, so sorry about the delay. Oh, and I was wondering if anyone could help me. I read the first part of a TM fic a while ago and can't seem to find it again to read the rest. It started when they were just starting to date and were keeping it a secret, until Michelle answered Tony's phone by accident in the middle of the night. Does this ring a bell with anyone? Please let me know if it does. lol.