Disclaimer: It's not mine, even though I would have treated them better than ABC.
Author's Note: I actually wrote this part a long time ago, and it's been posted on my livejournal for awhile, but when I found out had a Traveler section I wanted to keep all my fic together. I actually wrote this part prior to the finale, so you will have to take that into account if things seem slightly off.
She's pretty sure this isn't standard practice either.
She doesn't say anything about it this time, though. Something in his eyes warns her off, makes her swallow the snide comments and ungrateful retorts. They're treading new ground here, plunging headfirst into territory which should remain barricaded, uncharted and untouched.
There's no protocol for this, no procedure. If there was he wouldn't be here, and she wouldn't be grateful.
And she is grateful, more than she wants to be, more than she would have thought possible. But there's no one else, no one else who would have come. She didn't have a "one phone call". Her neighbors won't speak to her, her friends don't call back, her parents . . . well she wasn't about to call them from jail. He's what she's got left.
She wonders when that happened.
Part of her wants to ask, but she wouldn't get an answer. He'd simply turn and leave because this only works so long as neither one of them holds up a mirror to what's happening, and she's tired of people leaving.
So instead she stands, moves out of the holding cell, and braces for the too firm grip of the guard, who's already decided she's not inclined to give the girlfriend of a Drexler bombing suspect the benefit of the doubt.
It doesn't come.
In a single deft maneuver, Chambers manages to insert himself between her and the guard. Not physically, not really, he does it more by arrogance than anything else, a step forward, a look, an extension of his hand in placid expectation, and the next thing anyone knows, he's the one escorting her out, the guard trailing behind, his firm warm grip on her upper arm less of a hold and more a reassurance. She has to stifle a smile at the thought of how much it's killing him to break protocol this way.
The inner smile lasts all the way until they go to collect her things, and he insists on going through every one. Wallet—no money. Cell phone—no calls, no messages. Blackberry—no emails. Makeup, tampax, bodice-ripper romance novel she bought two days ago at the Borders in a fit of loneliness and boredom. She'd be almost embarrassed if she weren't so pissed. iPod—yes she likes Kelly Clarkson, sue her. She bets he likes Barry Manilow. Digital camera—no pictures of Will.
He turns the camera on and begins to scroll through the photos—photos of Jay laying boneless on her couch after helping her move in; of Jay and Tyler happy and laughing; of sunsets and children chasing ducks; of street bums resting near steam vents, of the city she used to find so beautiful, tiny pieces of a life that doesn't exist anymore, fragments of a Kim he doesn't get to know because he had a hand in destroying her.
"So, are you gaining insight into my devious criminal mind?" It isn't even good sarcasm, but her wit went out the window with her patience.
There's that twitch of a smile again, almost patronizing in its amusement, and he hands her the camera, stopped on a picture of Jay studying for his bar exam, hair mussed, face intent. "Into yours . . . no . . ."
Unwilling to give him satisfaction of evoking a reaction, she works to keep her face blank and impassive as she shuts off the camera and crosses her arms in a posture of indifference. "Are you done?"
He doesn't respond, just runs his hand along the inside of her bag, as though searching for something sewn into the lining. She rolls her eyes. "Don't you think you're giving me a little too much credit?"
The look her gives her as he hands back the bag is evaluating, unreadable. "No. I don't think so."
She has the strange sense he half means it as a compliment. Even more disturbing, she half takes it as one.
Time bleeds during an investigation. Hours run into days, days into weeks. You start to eat lunch just when it's getting dark out. You anger your wife by calling at two in the morning and waking up your daughter. You wear a watch, but it means little. The passage of time gets marked by other things. How many cups of coffee have you had since you last slept? The last hot lead that had parts of the team off and running. When you last showered.
The last partner he had before being promoted to command marked time by cigarettes, only smoked during an investigation—one at each quarter of the day, four in all, and then to bed. One pack gone and he insisted on going home to his family for at least dinner. Last he checked, Garrett still worked as a field agent in drug crimes down in D.C., passed over for promotions more times than he can count. Chambers hasn't been passed over since he graduated from the academy. Perhaps that's why Garrett is still married and Caroline left him within months of Jenny going to college. He's never been good at marking time, at registering the presence of things outside the chase.
The fact that he registers Doherty makes him wary, sets off warning bells in his head. When he starts using her mark time, ordering things in his mind with their interactions as the sign posts, he realizes things have spun out of control. She may be an asset to the investigation, but she's quickly becoming a personal liability. He cares too much about whether she's hurt, and that compromises things, particularly when he's likely to be the one inflicting at least some of the wounds.
So he does the only thing possible, damage control, cuts his losses, advises her to go to visit her parents, where she'll be far enough away that he's forced to leave her to other agents. Tells her goodbye in so many words and walks out the door.
That afternoon, for the first time in months, he tears into Marlow about Trenton, details her transgressions in the harshest light possible, and by doing so reminds himself precisely why Doherty is not an option.
Doherty moves to Queens, another senior agent taking over her surveillance detail. He goes back to marking time with his old standbys, clean shirts, fresh coffee, and press conferences. Attempts to craft distance the same way he did connection.
It almost works.
Three clean shirts, twenty four cups of coffee, and one press conference later, he gets the call he's been dreading. Burchell's been spotted near the Doherty home. They've lost him of course. His expression of displeasure is almost mechanical, after all he had Fog slip right between his fingers, he's not in a good position to issue chastisement.
Interviewing her is more a necessity than a choice, too much effort has gone into creating what rapport they have for him to dispose of it now. At least that's what he tells himself on the drive over.
She's hunched on the couch when he gets there, hands clasped behind her neck, face tear-stained, body almost rigid with grief. The man who let him in comes to stand beside her fairly vibrating with protectiveness, obviously not intending to move anytime soon.
"I'm going to need to speak with your daughter alone, Mr. Doherty." He uses a voice that assumes compliance and usually gets it. But this time he's given a taste of where Doherty gets her backbone.
"Anything you have to say to her you can say in front of me."
Because he's tired, because he's not all that certain it's a good idea to be here, because the look she flashes him from the couch is almost pleading, he lets his temper flare a little hotter than is perhaps strictly necessary. "Mr. Doherty, your daughter is, at the very least, a material witness in a major terrorism investigation. I will speak with her under the circumstances I dictate." Taking a step forward, he drops his voice to a quiet threat. "Now you have two choices, one you can go take a walk and let me speak with your daughter, or two I can march her out that door in front of a dozen cameras and take her back to headquarters, where I will still speak to her without you."
Her father shakes his head in disgust. "You people. She's entitled to a lawyer. I'm getting her a lawyer."
"Dad. It's okay. I'll be okay."
She's looks at him as she says it, her eyes extracting a promise he can't keep, and what's more he lets her. With his silence he lets her believe that he won't hurt her, and maybe he believes it, too.
Once they're alone he remains standing, needing the space, needing the psychological barrier of a coffee table, flimsy as it is.
"Is this the part where you threaten to arrest me for obstruction of justice?"
"Try aiding and abetting a wanted fugitive." The words come out harsher than he intends, fueled by a rush of anger too great to contain, and he doesn't know whether it's directed at her for doing this or himself for hoping she wouldn't.
Flinching at the threat, she looks away, her mouth twisting into an ironic grimace of acknowledgement. There's nothing pretty or attractive about it, but he finds himself moved all the same. Unclipping his badge, he sets it on the table and sits down in the chair, elbows on his knees, eyes fixed on the physical reminder of what he is, why he's here.
"Tell me where he's going Kim."
She's quiet for so long, he finally looks up, only to find her staring at the same spot on the table. Pressing her lips together, she shakes her head. "I can't. I wouldn't let him tell me."
He believes her, and the relief at that is tangible, dangerous. They don't know where Burchell's going next and he's not disappointed, not angry. He needs to be angry.
So he gets angry—thinks about Hayward lying dead in the morgue, about the two agents he lost when Burchell and Fog escaped, the eight people burning in the fires of the Drexler, about how many times she's going to force him to consider putting her in jail—and takes her through the interview with more bite and snarl than necessary. Did Burchell have anything with him? Did he say anything about where he's been, who he's talked to? Did he ask her to do anything? Did she know her boyfriend held a man hostage at gunpoint? Not the actions of an innocent man.
"How long does he get to use that excuse with you, Kim? Until he hurts someone? Until he kills?"
Now visibly agitated, she gets up from the couch and moves away, running her hands through her hair. Then all of the sudden she turns on him, eyes vicious, accusing. "You're doing this to him. You keep chasing him, forcing him to run, like some animal. Why the hell won't you just listen?!"
"To what? He's not talking." He stands and walks towards her. "Get him to stop running, Kim. Convince him to come in, and I promise he will get a chance to tell his side of the story."
But she only hears what he doesn't say, what he can't promise—that Burchell will be believed. Looking out the window, she whispers, "You're not going to stop chasing him, are you?"
He doesn't answer. She wasn't really asking anyway.
"I think I'd like you to go now."
There are other questions he could ask, but she won't answer, and he doesn't want to be forced into making good on his threat. So he collects his badge, turns to go and then stops in the doorway. "Six agents are going to come in here and tear this place apart, someone will search you and your family, if Burchell has given you anything, left anything here, we will find it." He pauses, fingering the badge, considering, and then quietly adds, "Is there anything I should know about, Kim?"
She doesn't answer.
He wasn't really asking anyway.
She hadn't thought to see him again, half-hoped she wouldn't. She was growing accustomed to the other agents. The thick-set blonde who likes his hotdogs with onions and his country old school, the rail thin brunette who seems to exist on caffeine alone. They don't interfere with her life, don't demand acknowledgement, just sit in their cars and watch, like the highly-qualified voyeurs they are. Sometimes she flips them the bird when she leaves, just to piss them off. Sometimes she wonders if they report that part to Chambers.
Life has settled into a kind of routine since Jay's visit, since Chamber's exit. She gets up after her parents have left for work, she reads books that don't hold her attention, and watches tv shows that don't either. At dinner time, she runs, hard and fast and long. Comes home to a plate of food left in the refrigerator after her parents have gone to bed and watches the tv news flipping around until she's found a channel replaying a clip of the latest FBI press conference. It's a sad little life, but a comfortable one. She's stays away from people, ignores the occasional picture of her that pops up in the tabloids, and tells herself Jay is coming back to her.
Chambers makes her uncomfortable, makes her think and doubt, and want different things.
So when she sees him, sitting on the park bench where she usually stretches out after her run, waiting for her, she considers turning and running the other way. She'd do it, too, if it didn't feel so much like giving in.
Coming over the bench, she begins to stretch out her quads and hisses, "Don't you think you're a little bit conspicuous?"
And he is, sitting there in a suit—God, does he own anything else?—in the sweltering August evening, sunglasses on, coffee in hand, he practically screams Fed. Then again maybe that's the point, everything she knows about him is tangled up in this identity, it occurs to her now that he might not have another.
"I hope so." He doesn't look at her, just keeps his eyes forward, and she knows he's scanning the passersby.
"If you're looking for Jay, I think your watchdogs have probably scared him off."
She's moved on to hamstrings, heel on the bench, leg extended, and when he turns to look at her she knows his eyes travel its length before coming to rest on her face, even with the sunglasses on, she knows, feels its. She switches legs.
His gaze doesn't waver from her face. "Do you know how I knew to find you here?"
"My keepers told you."
"No." The look on his face is so smug, she wants to scream. Straightening up with a sigh, she crosses her arms to glare down at him. He takes a sip of his coffee. "Don't forget your calves."
This time she does scream, low in the back of her throat, so that it sounds like a grunt, but it's a scream and he knows it. She walks around to the back of the bench and braces against it as she stretches her calves. He turns his attention back to the jogging path.
"You leave your house every evening at five forty five, fifteen minutes after your father gets home. You run six point seven miles, which takes you an hour and ten minutes. At the end of your run, you come and you stretch out here, after which you go across the street to get a cup of coffee, and you stay there until eight, when you walk home. You're developing a pattern."
She leans forward, elbows on the back of the bench, a little bit intrigued now and asks conversationally, "Are you going somewhere with this?"
"What? Your men getting bored?"
"There are four good sniper positions along your route. Sixteen places where someone could grab you and have you in a car before you could so much as scream. Don't make it easy for them."
The words are so foreign, the idea so removed from the reality of her sad little existence, that for a moment she can't process it, can't make sense of what he's saying. And then she does, and the shock nearly knocks the breath out of her.
"You can't be serious." But he is, she can hear it in his voice, feel it in the coil-spring tension that radiates off his body, and the knowledge settles in her stomach like a lead weight, buckling her knees, so that she's forced to lean up against the back of the bench for support. "Oh God, you are serious."
All she gets in response is a curt nod of acknowledgement.
Coming around to sit on the other end of the bench because it's getting hard to stand, she stumbles over the million and one questions tumbling through her mind. "But who—what makes you—Why?"
Chambers doesn't immediately answer, and she can tell he's picking his words carefully, choosing what he's willing to tell her, selecting exactly how he wants to tiptoe around what he isn't. The strange hesitancy discomfits her. Finally, he speaks, his eyes still elsewhere. "There have been some developments, which raise the possibility that Fog and your boyfriend may not have been acting alone."
He pauses, obviously waiting for her to say something, so she provides the required prompt, her words burning, acidic, "A vast conspiracy . . ."
There's a twitch at the corner of his mouth, but it's not the tiny flicker of amusement she's grown to expect, even count on. It's different, regretful and darkly ironic. "Whatever is going on, someone is going through a lot of trouble to erase their tracks, whatever or whoever that might be."
Maybe his words should have a more chilling effect, and maybe they will in twenty minutes or an hour, but right now, all she can hear are the pieces that shore up her sagging belief, the truth that should now be so obvious. "So you admit Jay's telling the truth."
He shakes his head. "I admit there may be more involved than we originally thought, and I know that people Jay Burchell comes into contact with are developing a nasty habit of ending up dead or missing."
"You actually think Jay would hurt me?" She's aware that the question is a dangerous one for both of them, that it practically begs him to give her answers she'll refuse to hear, but she can't help it. Her anger has flared white hot at his obstinate refusal to see what should be so obvious, and it won't be tamed.
But Chambers surprises her, refuses to take the opportunity to paint a darker picture. "No. I don't think he would. But if I was someone who wanted to bring Jay Burchell in line, I'd start with you."
"Should I be flattered?"
"You should be careful."
"Of this vast conspiracy, which doesn't exist, but if it does exist, Jay is obviously a part of?"
"Get out." The words roll up from her gut, all bile and venom, and she spits them at him through a jaw clenched so tight it's a wonder she hasn't broken a bone. When he looks around at the outdoors as though to say 'out where' she loses it completely. "Fine. Go away, get the hell off this bench, whatever. Just leave me alone. I don't want you here."
She's about to start physically hitting him, shoving him, anything to rid herself of his presence, when he stands and walks away. No apology, no expression of concern, not even a parting shot, he's simply gone.
She walks home a different route that night, his warnings about patterns still ringing in her ears. Gets home earlier than usual and has to endure forty minutes of head-in-the-sand chatter from her mother and stoic silence from her father before they finally go to bed and she can turn on the prohibited news.
But there's nothing new, hasn't been for days now, and the retreads of old stories don't hold her attention. Giving in to temptation, she walks to the front window and looks out, but it's just the blonde sitting in his car doing a crossword, and she has the sinking feeling Chambers is doing what she asked.
He's leaving her alone, isolated with only her anger and her hate and her grief for company. And it sucks.
And she misses him.
Comments and criticism always appreciated.