She was stepping out of the shower when she heard the gunshot. In deep cover still, she wrapped a thin towel around herself and walked into Vladimir Laitanan's office, trying to maintain her cool.

"Who're you killing now, Vlad?"

And that's when she saw him. Jack, his eyes dead and glassy, a blossom of ruby red spread over his heart, his glasses worn for his cover sprayed with a fine red mist.

"Jack! Jack?" She fell to her knees and felt for a heartbeat, for a breath of air. Nothing. And as she turned around, Vladimir was laughing, laughing, laughing….

She awoke screaming, covered in sweat and gasping for air. A heart monitor went haywire in frantic beeping and Jack started in his hospital chair. He practically leapt across the room and as Renee shook and looked around the room with the expression of a caged animal. She was clutching the needle in her arm and getting ready to yank, when Jack quickly grabbed her hands.

"Renee. Renee, look at me. It's all right." His voice was steady and soothing. She looked up into his eyes, and some of the initial fear washed away. He was here. He wasn't dead. She was safe. He carefully released her hands.

She was in a hospital. Why was she in a hospital?

"What were you thinking?"

Renee looked at him blankly for a moment, "What am I doing here?"

She paused for a moment and images came flashing back to her. A tall glass of water and piles of sleeping pills. How after a few they didn't taste like anything at all. How she wondered if you dreamed when you were dead.

He saw her reaction, knew he didn't have to tell her why she was in the hospital bed.

There were scars on her wrists and she wasn't thin, she was skinny, bony, skeletal. Her skin was translucent and her eyes were empty with purple bruise-colored marks around them, from lack of sleep. She had the look of an animal in the same cage as a predator, of a creature with nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

"It was…so easy…" she murmured, "Sleep came, Jack. No nightmares, no fear, just soft blackness." Her eyes were pleading. "Why did you wake me up, Jack? Why did you bring me back?"

"You know why." It didn't need saying, but for Renee, it did. It did so badly, it was an unquenchable thirst. She needed to hear those three simple little words. She wanted to bed him to say them, to tell her that she was not alone, was not the only one fighting this fight. He pulled his chair closer to her bed, held one of her hands. She clutched it like it was her last lifeline.

"Please." She didn't need to say what she was asking for. Her eyes, dark and empty, were wet and pleading, begging. Looking for an end to the abyss of sorrow and pain.

"I love you, Renee." His voice was hoarse as he said it, but those pools of grey-green were steady and strong.

She nodded, swallowing, and lay back against her pillows.



"Tell me a story."

He wasn't sure whether to smile or not, so he compromised with a half-smile.

"About what?"

"It doesn't matter. Anything. Where the good guys win at the end. And nobody dies."

"I think I have the perfect story for you," he replied gruffly. She adjusted her grip on his warm, strong, hand.

"Once upon a time, there was a perfect world, where everybody got along, and there was no war, or hatred, or famine. And nobody ever worried about taxes, or not getting enough to eat, or if their neighbors would hurt them. And the world was called Earth…"

As he spoke in the soft tone that he used to tell bedtime stories to his granddaughter, Renee's grip on his hand loosened and she fell into a deep, dreamless sleep. As her breathing grew deep and even, Jack tucked the blankets around her and kissed her forehead.

Settling back into his chair, he stayed with her, just like he promised.

Another oneshot inflicted upon me by plot bunnies. Reviews if you please, because I feed on them, and without them, no more fanfics for you.