Author's Note: Forging on! And as always, please review.


Tony's hand was clenched tightly around the neck of the champagne flute. Thankfully, the glass was thick enough that it didn't shatter under the pressure of his fingers. All the fake laughter and ass-kissing was annoying the hell out of him. He took a huge gulp of champagne with the intention of getting buzzed enough as to be able to drown out the incessant chatter around him. Through the bottom of the glass, he could vaguely make out the shape of Michelle in the center of a small group of men. He could imagine what cheesy pick up lines they were using on her. They were probably saying stuff like, "If I had known CTU agents were as gorgeous as you, I'd have been a terrorist" or other crap like that. He set the empty champagne flute on a waiter's tray and grabbed another one. Being off in a corner of the room by himself allowed him to watch Michelle without being noticed or interrupted. Plus, he didn't think his brooding facial expression was very inviting either, which was intentional.

Although Michelle's face didn't give anything away, Tony could tell that she was uncomfortable with the attention. She was nervously playing with the clasp of her clutch as she laughed and smiled politely with the men around her. He badly wanted to swoop in and rescue her, but he didn't want overstep any boundaries. The whole car ride to the event had been filled with awkward silence with neither one of them knowing what to say to each other. They weren't really friends outside of work, so they didn't know where they stood with each other. Tony was about to join Michelle's little circle, regardless of the consequences, when she graciously excused herself from the group with her hand reaching in her clutch. As she walked towards the doors that led to an outside area, she looked down at the phone in her hand as though she were seeing who the caller was. Tony pulled out his own phone to see if he had gotten any messages, but there weren't any missed calls or voice mails, meaning that the caller was not from CTU. Damn it, he thought, I'm still stuck here. Downing the contents of his second glass, he set it down on a random table as he made his way towards the doors as well, following Michelle. He was curious about the phone call and wanted to find out what was going on.

When he got outside, it took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the dark. Looking around, there weren't many people outside: a few couples hidden in the shadows having private conversations. He looked for a sole figure and saw the faint light of a cell phone a minor distance away. He headed in that direction, making sure to stay a safe distance back as to not get caught but still close enough to be within earshot. By the time he was within hearing distance, the conversation seemed to be nearly over.

"She's not worth it… No, don't do this… Look, I'll be right there. Don't do anything till I get there, okay?"

Michelle quickly hung up and started moving back towards the doors. Tony stepped out from the shadows, intercepting her. Her hand went to her chest when she saw him.

"You scared the hell out of me, Tony. What are you doing here?"

"I followed her to see if you were okay. You looked upset." He wanted to ask her what was going on, but he didn't feel like it was the right time. And judging from her tone and her side of the conversation, there wasn't time to ask questions. Also, Michelle wasn't one to talk about her private life in general.

"I've got a family emergency, and I need to leave right now. I'm sorry to strand you here by yourself. I know these aren't really your thing."

"Don't worry about me. You just take care of whatever you need to take care of. Here, let me find you a ride."

Tony took out his phone and called CTU. "This is Almeida. I need a car for Ms. Dessler. Who's nearby?"

"Agents Groth and Loring are two minutes away from your location. They can take Ms. Dessler wherever she needs to go."

"Okay. Thanks." He hung up the phone and looked at Michelle. He carefully took her arm and led her to the front of the hotel.

"Thank you for doing this, Tony. I really appreciate it."

"Don't mention it. The car will be here soon. I'll talk to George when I get back so that you can get tomorrow off."

Michelle's face softened with gratitude as she took his hand from her arm and into hers, giving it a gentle squeeze. "Thank you for this, Tony.

A black SUV pulled up to the front and Groth got outside to open the door for her. With one last look at Tony, she got into the car and gave Loring an address. Tony watched the car drive away before heading back in to find the open bar and get something stronger than champagne.