I shouldn't be doing this. Damn it. She doesn't want to talk to me, so what makes me think she'll see me? In the same instant, I know that I don't care. Renee Walker is going through the same Hell that I have been through. Different reasons, same Hell. And I'll be damned if I'm going to let her go through it alone.

As I head up the stairs of a dumpy apartment complex, I wonder…why? Why her, why now, why this? Of all the people I've lost, of all the people who've shut me out, why am I dead set on kicking her door in if I have to, in order to find her again? I only knew the woman for one day. Just one. But I can't get her out of my mind. She made virtually no sense to me for more than half of that day – first aloof and disapproving, then down and dirty with the rest of us. First slapping me, twice, then shaking in my arms. First hating me, then… Well. I'm sure she cared about me to some degree. She wouldn't have swooped in to disarm the bomb strapped to my chest if she didn't; she would have, instead, sprinted to a safe distance like I told her to.

I shake my head and start eyeing the doors as I walk down the halls. 21B. 23B. 25B.

And then I'm standing there. 27B. The solid door seems to loom defensively, or maybe I'm imagining things because I know she doesn't want anything to do with me. Yeah, I'm imagining things. Inanimate objects don't show emotion. They have no living faces to express emotions with. Only living things do.

There's a world of knowledge to be had in people's expressions. There is no way to create a perfectly fabricated expression. The human body doesn't work like that. Even the best actor in the world can't replicate an expression perfectly. You have to truly feel it to make it real. I can tell when a terrorist isn't afraid to die for his cause. I can tell when someone is feeding me a bald-faced lie. It's not what I see or what I want to see – it's what I feel, what I sense. Some third sense lifts its head and snarls when someone doesn't lie well enough to go undetected, and then I rip into the problem and hunt down the real answer.

But even I can't foresee what expressions will play on Renee's face when she sees me, what emotions she'll have. I can't even foresee if she'll open the damn door, or leave me to rot in the hall. But I have to find out, because if she lets me in, I'll get exactly what I want, and if she doesn't…what's one more stab of pain to my feelings, when every ounce of my flesh, mind and soul has already been tattered a hundred times before?

I knock on the door.

The knock jolts me out of my stupor. I'd been staring at the plant on the windowsill…for who the hell knows how long. It's just as yellow as it was when I remember feeling alive last, so I can't have been out of it for long. Besides, I remember now: I went to work today.

I can't seem to muster the hatred for the person on the other side of the door, whoever the sorry bastard is. They've interrupted my pity-party. Oh well. Whatever they want, they can shove it up theirs, since I don't care enough to do it myself.

They knock again. Well, hell. They're not going to go away if I ignore them. Since I'm aware of myself, I might as well see what they want. I get up and go to the door, not bothering to grab the gun in the kitchen drawer. Who cares if it's a robber or a hitman or whatever? So they'll kill me. My fingers flutter over the bandage on my wrist.

…It's nothing I haven't tried before.

I don't look in the peephole. I just slide open the deadbolt – the door was locked out of habit, I'm sure, rather than concern for safety – and open the door. I stare at the body in front of me. Who are you, what do you want, how long will it take to convince you to go away?


The gravelly voice yanks my vision into focus, and for the first time in months, I see him. Holy crap. Jack Bauer.

I believed he was alive. I knew. The messages were proof enough for me. I didn't even need to have someone else confirm their existence, that I wasn't hallucinating. I pressed the button, I heard the recording, I knew the voice, and I didn't question it further.

But believing and knowing are two different things. Seeing him…Oh. My gaze travels from his worried eyes down his lean body. He stands there, so strong. Tense. Like he was before the bioweapon. He looks alive.

Well, good. One of us ought to.

"Not dying looks good on you, Jack," I say, my voice hoarse from silence.

His face smiles around worried eyes. The smile deepens the crow's feet at the corners of his eyes, framing them. "Thank you," he says softly.

I don't have words to speak, but I'm not…I'm not as willing to dismiss him like I would have dismissed anyone else. I run one hand ragged through my hair, and then step back, opening the door more widely. With the lazy wave of the same hand, I motion him inside.

He pauses so long that I expect him to excuse his madness and flee far, far away, when he nods and steps inside.

I close the door behind him. Jack Bauer. Jack Bauer is in my apartment. I try the thought on for size. It feels foreign. I should hate him. He gave me the key to my own destruction.

But I can't hate him. I can only hate myself. Because he may have given me the key, but I'm the one that slid it into the lock, and turned it.

Writer's Note: I'm not quite done with this one. :) I will be posting the next chapter of Redemption in the next few days - I haven't forgotten it, I promise! Meanwhile, this was a tidbit that just sort of meandered to the forefront of my brain, so I thought I'd post it. The next chapter for this story will be up sometime after the next chapter of Redemption. Thanks for sticking with me, folks. Hope you enjoy this one. :)