No-Win Situations

The air smelled like soot and gunpowder with a sharp tang of metal, and the brick walls of the alley were dirty and sprayed with blood. There was no way that they could make it; not even Jack Bauer could save them now. But Renee leaned from behind the metal dumpster she was using as cover and fired two more shots. There was a gargling cry and soft thump as the man she had double-tapped in the chest fell onto the dusty pavement.

Jack looked over at her, and he slid another round into his Glock, aimed, and fired three shots, rapid fire. He indicated his pocket and held up three fingers. Three more rounds. Renee checked her pocket; two. She showed two fingers, and the old Renee in a flash briefly thought of how her two fingers once would have meant V for victory. New Renee, broken Renee, trying-to-stay-alive Renee, shut off the ironic thought and fired again.

"How many?" she whispered across to Jack. Reading her lips, he held up his fingers, using both hands to indicate the number, and her stomach sank. Eight. And they had semi-automatic weapons.

If this was a romantic movie, they'd go in, guns blazing, and have one final, passionate kiss before reinforcements magically appeared and took them out. But it wasn't a romantic movie, no one knew where they were, and Renee and Jack had more important things on their minds than hormone-fueled kisses—like not getting shot. She leaned around and fired again, aiming at the man positioned on the balcony. Four shots. One caught his arm and they could hear his cry of pain as he dropped his weapon, cradled his arm. Jack took him out with one more shot. Seven to go.

A grating noise came from behind them, metal on cement. Jack swore and aimed his gun at the hand lifting the sewer grate. A smiling face popped out—Josh Curtis, an ally. Perhaps it was in the cards for them to survive after all. Another man climbed out after him.

"You have any more ammo?" Jack asked as Josh scampered over to him, taking cover behind Jack's dumpster. Josh grinned infectiously and held up a messenger-style bag. It was full of unused clips of ammunition.

Jack almost smiled, and nodded across to Renee as Josh set down the bag. She didn't smile either, but she looked a lot less worried, he noted. The other man stood next to her with a similar bag, also full of ammunition. She fired several shots around the corner and turned back to find a hot metal barrel in her face.

"What the—" Renee began, but the man disarmed her and had her in a headlock before the sentence was even finished. The barrel was pressed to her throat, and she could feel her skin heating up where it was touching the barrel. Probably first degree burns. Jack looked over at her and stopped dead.

"Josh, isn't that guy with you?"

"Yeah," Josh replied, looking bored, waiting for the light bulb to turn on. It did.

He was pinned to the brick wall and Jack had a gun over his heart. "You tell him to let her go. Now." He jabbed the barrel into the man's ribs for effect. Josh just grinned his infectious grin.

"Can't do that, Jack. There are a few members of the US government who paid me too well to worry about bullet wounds. Besides, you kill me, he kills her. All we want to do is talk."

"I don't have anything to say to you."

"You will."

Josh issued a series of shrill whistle bursts and the gunfire stopped.

"Drop me now, Jack. Or your FBI call girl over there gets a hollow point through her jugular. Not a pretty sight."

Jack hesitated, then released him.

"Better. Now give me your gun. On the ground." Jack obeyed, barely concealing his fury.

"Traitor," he growled.

"Businessman," Josh corrected. "Hey, Lu, let up on her windpipe. She's turning a little blue."

Lu loosened his grip, then easily handcuffed Renee, hands in front, and Josh did the same for Jack.

"Come on, you've got a ladder to climb."

They descended into the sewer, the lid slid back into place. As a man drinking Starbucks on his way to a meeting passed by, he thought he heard a clink, and looked over briefly. The alley was empty.

The sewers were dark, wet, and full of an absolutely horrible smell. Chunks of unidentifiable semi-solids floated in the murky brown water, visible only by the flashlights that both men held. Jack and Renee walked on, Jack in front, Renee behind, both between the two men. Jack held back a gag and heard Renee swallow as her gag reflex jerked.

"Raw sewage," Josh commented lightly, as though on the weather, or the best gun for a long-range shoot-off. "Hope none of you have open wounds. It could get really nasty there."

"The company suits the environment," quipped Renee darkly, and the man in back jabbed her sharply with his pistol.

"You wanna eat the sewage, FBI? Shut it."

Renee didn't bother to mention that she had quit the FBI a while back, after…well she wasn't prepared to think back on that. What was important now was the mission at hand—escaping. She reached her hands forward and held onto Jack's belt from behind. The man behind her gave her another jab.

"Should'a gotten into his pants earlier, when you had the chance, FBI." Renee let go of the belt after another blow. In front of her, she could see Jack's back tense. She knew he hated not being able to do anything and that every ounce of his self control was keeping him from turning around and trying to take out the man, though he was handcuffed, and their guard was armed. Renee herself was having a hard time being hit, it reminded her too much of her Russian experience. She gritted her teeth and took it.

"Where are you taking us?"

"Aw, Jack. You're such a spoilsport, always wanting to ruin the surprise. Have some fun with it, let life throw things your way."

Jack didn't say anything, merely snorted angrily. Josh grinned at him over his shoulder.

"No one likes a sourpuss, Jack-y boy."

"And no one likes an idiot either, but you seem to be doing fine," Renee muttered. That earned her another blow, even though Josh chuckled.

"You sure can pick 'em, Bauer. Pretty and with a sense of humor. And she can shoot a gun too! I'd take her from you, but you know how I prefer blondes."

They walked on until they reached a junction. Josh turned left and out of nowhere was a metal door, stuck into the wall in a haphazard fashion. It was rusty iron and covered in dirt, grime, and sewage. Josh kicked it three times, then pressed one of the bolts of the door. It swung inward and onto plastic grating. Showerheads hung from the ceiling. Josh hit a switch and freezing water poured from the heads. Stepping out of the way, Josh rinsed off his boots and moved out of the reach of the spray. The other man followed suit. Jack and Renee got soaked quickly, and Renee held her jaw so her teeth didn't chatter. Josh hit the switch again.

"Was that necessary?" he asked no one in particular, then, answering himself, "Yeah, it was. Really improves conduction if we decide to run some electricity through them." Lu chuckled and gave Josh an affectionate whack on the back.

"It's a good thing you're paying me for this. You're one crazy son-of-a-gun."

"And you're…" Josh looked him up and down. "Well…let's not go into that."

He casually pointed the gun at Jack. "Come on Jacky. We're off to meet the man of the hour."Renee made to follow, but Josh shook his head and indicated Lu.

"Sorry babe, you're staying. Lu would get lonely otherwise."

Jack opened his mouth to protest, but Renee shook her head first. "I want to go with Jack."

"Oh I'm sorry, were you under the impression I cared?" With a cheerful smile, Josh backhanded her so hard she stumbled back. "I would ask you to go make me a sandwich, but that would be terribly cliché. See you in a bit, Walker. Lu." With a nod of his head, he and Jack walked away.

Honestly, all Renee wanted to do was scream Jack's name, but it wouldn't help anything. As she turned to look at Lu, she saw the pipe coming at her head. She ducked, but not quite fast enough because her world went black.

When she came to, Renee was secured to a chair by a thick wire and a buzzing sound could be heard from the little electrical generator. She was sitting in a metal chair and there was a sprinkler head above her. This wasn't looking good.

"I'm not telling you anything," she informed Lu.

"No, but your boyfriend will once you start screaming. He was trying to get us to let you go. What'd he think we were? Stupid?"

Renee wasn't really sure that boyfriend was the sort of word used to describe Jack, but she really didn't have a word for their relationship, so she let it slide.

In the office, Jack scowled at the balding man sitting in the chair. He was quite tall and looked frail, but in his eyes glinted a spark of both strength and malice.

"Why." It wasn't a question, not really. It was an accusation.

"Revenge," the man replied simply.

"For what? What could possibly convince you to betray your country?"

"Betray my country? My country betrayed me. I used to be a fine soldier, and then do you know what they did? Dishonorable discharge."

"What'd they discharge you for."

"I killed a traitor, and they found him to be innocent and me, guilty."

Jack didn't say anything, merely waited. The man was a narcissist, and the grand plan of his would come out quickly.

"So shall I tell you my plans, Mr. Bauer? I'm going to kill you anyway, and I need someone to appreciate my brilliance."

As Josh opened his mouth to protest, the man silenced him with a wave of his hand.

"Joshua, you may amuse me, but you are no genius, and your associate has less class than a low-paid call girl. Mr. Bauer has saved our nation many times and he alone can truly understand my brilliance. So, Mr. Bauer, have a seat. I plan to start an international conflict, and I'd like your opinion on it."

Jack sat, his mouth a tight line and his face a mask. The man introduced himself as Mozart, and refused to be called anything else, explaining Mozart was a genius and that they shared a bloodline. His plan unfolded quite brilliantly, though Jack hated to admit it. It took about an hour and several diagrams to explain, and once he was done, Mozart rolled up his sleeves and smiled at Jack.

"Now let's find out what you know."

Jack was dragged to a viewing room and it looked into a room where Renee sat, bound and gagged, to a metal chair. There was a table in the room covered in various tools, and a small electrical generator.

"Please sit, Mr. Bauer. We have some questions for you. First of all, what is the procedure for the evacuation of the President? We know it was reviewed with you earlier today."

"I don't know the procedure," Jack replied steadily. Mozart pressed a button on the wall and Lu, whom was sitting in the room, looked up. A red light on the wall of the other room was on, catching his attention. He smiled and attached a clamp to one of the chair's legs. Mozart pressed the button twice, light on, light off, and Lu grinned and attached the other clamp to another leg. She screamed and began to convulse violently. Mozart hit the button again. Lu removed the clamp.

"Now, Mr. Bauer let us try this again. What are the protocols?"

"I'm telling you I don't know. Please, stop hurting her, I don't know them. I wasn't at the meeting. I was at CTU."

"Hmmm, I think not." Red light on. Clamp.

Renee screamed and shook as though having a seizure. Her screams were desperate, almost animal. Words could not define them, and as Jack watched, each scream pierced him like a dagger and twisted slowly. Light off. Unclamp.

"Hmm, perhaps this is not effective enough. Lu enjoys knives." He pressed the intercom, "Luis, I believe you have a razor blade?"

The other man's grin was feral and his eyes gleamed with something that turned Jack's stomach—enjoyment. He was enjoying hurting Renee.

"You may use that as you wish. Nothing that will make her bleed out, though." Mozart looked over at Jack. "Where do you think he'll cut her first, Mr. Bauer? Luis favors women, you know. He says it's because they're so tender."

Jack leapt from his chair and tried to hit Mozart, but Josh caught him and shoved him back into the chair.

"Jacky boy, we have things to do." Mozart hit the button and Lu reverently ran a finger down Renee's neck. He undid her ties and used the cord to hold her handcuffs to a hook on the ceiling. Slowly he peeled up her shirt and slid his finger down her spine. He stopped halfway down and drew a line with his razor. Renee didn't scream, but in the mirror, Jack could see her expression—empty, dark, alone…afraid.

"Stop," he whispered hoarsely. "Please, torture me instead."

"Oh Mr. Bauer," Mozart replied affectionately, "We are."

At that moment, the door was kicked in, and a very serious looking man stood in the doorway holding a pistol. A sniper rifle hung across his body.

"Hey Bauer, you could'a called." Jack looked up at his second in command, then stood and hit Mozart's button. Lu looked up, disappointed, and stopped drawing the red line across Renee's pale skin. Jack could see her shaking, and his face dropped the mask and pain washed over his features. Elliot, Jack's second, cuffed Mozart. And then Josh bolted.

Elliot paused, looked over at Jack. He nodded and Elliot fired. Josh tumbled, blood pouring from his leg. Elliot fished a key out of Mozart's pocket and undid Jack's cuffs. Jack ran into the other room and threw open the door. Lu looked up, surprised, just in time to see Jack's fist collide with his face. He was out cold.

"Renee," he breathed, and he unhooked her, unlocked the handcuffs. She fell into his arms, gasping for air in gulps that sounded like suppressed sobs. Her back was bleeding and Jack tore a strip of Lu's shirt with the razor and used it to stop the bleeding. Another strip held it in place, ties around her ribs.

Elliot walked in. "You know, that whole microchip thing was a great idea. You're a lot smarter than you let on, Boss."

Jack didn't have time to smile, he was too busy cradling Renee, stroking her hair. And the words fell freely from his lips, whispered again and again.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry."

As they left the underground hideout, Renee followed Jack. CTU agents were in Mozart's 'hall' detaining the three monsters within. Still wet from their abrupt shower, Jack and Renee climbed into the back of an ambulance. Jack had refused to be separated from Renee, and she had practically taken out one of the EMPs who tried to take her away from Jack. He was wrapped in a towel, she covered in blankets.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to her. She reached an arm up to touch his face and he knelt next to her.

"I don't blame you, Jack."

"I do. It was my fault."

"It was me or your country. I would never ask you to make that decision."

Jack shook his head.

"I love you, Jack."

"I love you too."

He held her hand as the sirens screamed above them, and he did not leave her side. Not for anything.

I DO have a multi-chapter thing planned, but for now, here is a peace offering. Plot bunny junk I know, and it is NOT my best work, but there were….so many bunnies…

Review me please, it keeps me going.