She watched from her workstation as he kissed his wife goodbye and turned to follow the other agents joining him in the field. She wondered why he ventured into the field as often as he did. He didn't need to. Nobody at CTU breathed easy when their director put himself in harm's way, not after the revolving door of casualties that left the post in chaos until he was chosen to fill it. He was a natural at bringing stability to an irrepressibly unstable environment, tough when he had to be but assuring and confident when crisis loomed like the unfading cloud it was. That, she suspected. was what drew her to him first.

She knew her worry was more than just that of a concerned employee. She had known for a long time. It was passing at first, and not surprising either. She was hardly the only person in the building who harbored a crush, and after all, he was as taken as any man could be. It was as pointless and harmless as any of her school-aged crushes, she once rationalized, and there was no reason to make a big deal out of it. She kept to herself and focused on her work, work she did well and was learning to enjoy. That didn't stop others from judging and questioning her merits, watching and waiting for her to slip up so they could take advantage and indulge their jealous biases. One day they found their mistake, and though it was hardly major and yielded no serious consequence, it brought tension to a head and ushered in a confrontation so ugly it took all of her maturity and self control not to cry and run away...until he intervened.

She knew there was nothing behind it. He was just trying to keep the peace. She also wouldn't have been surprised if he was so kind to her mainly to pacify her father and avoid confrontation with him - she wouldn't have blamed him. But when he brought her into his office afterward and counseled her on how to handle the unwarranted attention from her peers, she almost let herself believe otherwise. He had a way about him that made her feel as if she were the only person in the building, as if she was first and foremost in his mind for this moment, like he really did believe in her and respect her for who she was, not for the last name that few could see past. He would grin and it would prove contagious, though she would be too distracted to notice her own smile crossing her lips. If the light would hit his dark pools of eyes the right way, she could swear that she could see her reflection staring back at her. Then she would realize she was staring and she would look away, trying to hide her embarrassment. She wondered if he noticed, if he cared enough to notice. Best if he didn't - some things are best kept under wraps.

He was old enough to be her father. He might have been older, but she didn't know, nor did she care. She had been forced to grow up faster than anyone should be, and had already felt more pain than some did in a lifetime - it was easy to feel out of place among those of her own generation. She felt at home here, working alongside people who had a higher purpose than most and, like her, paid the price for it. Her mother used to say she was her father's daughter, and it felt like her words rang more & more true with each passing day. Whether or not that was a good thing was debatable.

As she matured, so did her understanding of what men, real men, were made of. She cringed at the faces that dotted her past, the men - boys, really - she thought she had loved. One in particular stood out, one from that day almost five years earlier that had changed the course of her life forever. That person disappeared from her life as quickly as they had appeared, something she was enormously grateful for now. She was so naive then, so trusting and new, untouched and unhurt until that day. She was stronger now, smarter and aware of her own worth. She knew what she wanted, what she deserved, and she could only hope she would be lucky enough to find it twice. Surely, men like this were not easy to find. It was her luck that he had to be so hopelessly unavailable, obviously content in his own life and at his peak.

Of course, even if he wasn't, she was rather sure it wouldn't make a difference. This was a one way street, a dead end, and she accepted that. But acceptance didn't mean it didn't sting a little bit every so often. Especially during little accidents that happened often in a busy, packed office full of moving people - bumps, accidental brushes, hands touching unintentionally when passing documents, and the absolute worst - the challenge of keeping cool and focused when he would lean over her shoulder and tap something on her keyboard, coupled with the temptation that came with knowing if she turned her face toward his at exactly the right moment...

It didn't matter. It couldn't matter.

The slam of a door not far away snapped Kim out of her daze, and she let her eyes wander one last time to the field-ready object of her unwanted affection before he finished his preparations. This time Tony took notice and returned her gaze, over the workstations and moving bodies that separated them, and offered something like a smile. She pursed her lips lightly in return, watching as he turned and got on his way.

He'd be okay, she assured herself. He always was.