Disclaimer: I don't own 24 or its characters

Author's Note: Don't get me wrong, LOVE every minute of this show. And adore the angst/drama of Nadia, Milo and Doyle as it plays out in season 6, including Milo's death and Doyle's being blinded (wouldn't have TPTB done it any other way). But my brain couldn't help wondering about the vague allusions to a love triangle. Being as it was less than a full day for it to play out, it couldn't achieve its full potential. Thus for the sake of this fic, I've done a what-if...?

Universe: Post Day 6, if the events had only been slightly different… Milo wasn't shot in the head, Doyle wasn't blinded…

Summary: AU Post Day 6... Six months later, Nadia finds herself caught between two men. Nadia/Milo, Nadia/Doyle


It was going to be one of those days. As if the headache wasn't indication enough, there was that knot deep in her guts, one of cold dread. People would be hurt. That was not only a certainty, but the best possible outcome, especially if it were the terrorists rather than her own people (but God help her, it would be the best outcome even if CTU sustained casualties). The alternative made bile bite at the back of her throat. If they failed, people, innocent people, would die.

Nadia Yassir tore herself away from the report on their dubious informant. The man's intel had proven entirely solid, his commitment to stopping the homegrown terrorist cell undeniable. However, he was severely paranoid, refused to meet any CTU agent or government official face-to-face, and was impossible to track (not for lack of trying on their part). He could've simply been playing along, setting up a trap, a distraction to allow the insane militia group to carry out whatever attacks they had planned.

But how could they know? How could she know?

It was ultimately on her shoulders. Her responsibility. Her decision as director of the Los Angeles Counter Terrorist Unit. A job she still did not feel qualified for, even after six months. Six months since she'd been appointed Acting Director by Bill Buchanan, six months since that day from hell. She wasn't about to jinx herself by even thinking it, but even this day that found her filled with foreboding could not turn out that bad. Numerous good agents, innocent people, and terrorists alike had all perished that day. Her boyfriend, Milo Pressman, at the time just a coworker and friend, had been shot in the leg and almost bled to death when a commando unit seized control of CTU. The current head of Field Ops, Mike Doyle, had narrowly avoided a direct blast from an explosive device during a trade-off. They would have been just two more deaths amongst thousands that day, yet she would've felt them more profoundly, the guilt of them lying solely at her feet.

She shook her head but could not dispel the negative thoughts. Had Buchanan been plagued by such worries when the role was his? He always had seemed so controlled, so put-together, so eminently in charge and confident. Nadia felt a complete mess, entirely incompetent and incapable of making the necessary decisions. Always she wavered, the options and the consequences circling over and over through her mind until the edges blurred and the world appeared a blinding tempest.

Nadia stood, rubbing the tense muscles of her neck. With a deep breath, she began to give herself a silent pep talk. Division had approved of her, had decided to make her permanent director rather than replace her. Doubtless, the recommendation of Bill Buchanan had gone a long way, despite whatever disfavor he had garnered with Washington. And if he thought she could run CTU, then she could. And she had. And done well, too. They'd preempted three bombings and a plot to release anthrax in a shopping mall, and broke up a terrorist cell. All minor incidents in the big picture, but accomplishments to be proud of nonetheless.

And she couldn't have done it alone. What if Milo or Mike had been killed that day? Honestly, she relied heavily on their skills and support. Not so much as to leave doubt as to who was in charge, but they were essential to her team. The O'Briens as well...

Nadia wandered over to the side of her office where the wall of glass overlooked the main floor of activity for the Counter Terrorist Unit. She looked down on her people, busy like bees in a hive. Good. They worked efficiently. And primarily without complaint, which was a feat given the high stress, high stakes nature of the job.

Milo was setting up the comms end for the operation they were about to undertake, retasking satellites and securing frequencies, establishing contact with local LEOs. A few stations away, Chloe and Morris O'Brien sat side by side, their fingers flying over keyboards as they scoured databases for all pertinent data. Specifically, the execution of the raid required schematics of the building they believed to be the militia group's base.

Nadia sighed.

Was the man raised by wolves?

It seemed to be the general consensus about Agent Doyle, given his curt, often impolite behavior and tendency to use physical means to assert his dominance in a situation. Nadia knew better than to assume he had no manners whatsoever, but whether he chose to ignore them or lacked them entirely, the result was the same; an extremely terse man who rubbed most people the wrong way. Somehow, she had developed some sort of friendship with Mike. Perhaps, it was that friendship which allowed him to function, nay, fit in, at CTU Los Angeles. In the beginning, Nadia had frequently served as the buffer between Mike and the rest of their team. Many would question whether it was wise to keep a man who couldn't 'play well with others' in an environment that required intense levels of team work. But he was undeniably one of the best at his job. And she valued him highly.

There were still times, however...

Currently, he was prowling about like said wolf-man, hovering over Morris and Chloe's shoulders as they worked, pressuring them for results. Even at a distance, Nadia could see the displeased expression on Chloe O'Brien's face. Normally, the tech was capable of tolerating a lot of shit, but the pregnant woman's fuse had been quite a bit shorter as of late.

Nadia picked up her phone and dialed Morris' extension.

/Morris O'Brien./

"Hi. It's Nadia. Could you please tell Agent Doyle to come up to my office to discuss tactics for the raid."

/Will do, love./ She could hear Morris relay the message.

"And send the schematics to my computer when you get them."

/You got it./

Doyle was already heading towards her office, but Morris lowered his voice as he raised his eyes to find Nadia, saying, /Thank you. I thought Chloe was going to implode. She's been quite tetchy. You know. Hormones and the like. Not that Agent Doyle wouldn't be enough to set anyone off... Do you happen to know by any chance whether Agent Doyle was raised by wolves?/

Nadia suppressed the laughter threatening as the man whose heredity was in question knocked at her door. She motioned for him to come in, wrapping up her conversation with Morris.

"Thanks, Morris. I'll look into that."

"Look into what?" Mike Doyle asked. His eyes took on that all-too-familiar suspicious edge. Some might find it odd, for on the surface the man was all the consummate soldier, appearing to follow orders and get the job done without questioning. But Nadia had discovered Mike to possess a significant curiosity, which drove him to pry into almost everything around him.

"Nothing." She failed to kill the smile threatening and said nothing further. Mike had cocked his head slightly to the side as he studied her, a rather canid trait that made her fear that giggles would escape her.

"Nothing relevant to the mission, anyway," she said, finally in control of her tickled funny bone yet still unnerved as she always was by his piercing gaze.

"Just concerning my upbringing by a pack of feral dogs?" he asked. Nadia was unable to catch herself and her eyes grew wide with surprise, her cheeks turned hot with embarrassment. She averted her gaze.

"Or are wolves responsible for me, now?"

There was something lighter in his tone than his usual business attitude that drew her attention back to his face. She smiled in relief. Mike wasn't smiling himself, per se, but there was that expression that she had come to recognize as one in which a smile was almost threatening to make itself known.

"You tell me, Mowgli," she said. It didn't earn her a smile, but his eyes brightened with amusement, which was enough to please Nadia. She hadn't expected to get a smile from him. He never smiled.

"Shall we?" She sat down at her desk, and Mike pulled up a chair as he always did when they reviewed tactical operations, reports, security protocols, interview files and interrogation reports.

The light exchange had made Nadia feel much better. However, as soon as they began discussing the situation, that terrible dread sunk its claws into her stomach once more. When Morris called to let her know the schematics were on her system and she got a look at the militia building, her nerves only got worse. She printed them out for Mike and he spent several silent minutes pouring over them. When he finally announced his tactical plan for assaulting the building, Nadia felt dread's claws squeeze.

"It's a suicide mission for whoever breaches the front door," she said. She knew who would be taking up that task, and she didn't like it. But she could not override his decision. Technically, she could. She was the director. But there was no logical basis for it. And Nadia had to admit she'd only be doing so out of concern for a friend.

"Maybe. Maybe not." Forget feral wolf man. Mike Doyle was a rock.

"There must be a better way." She studied the building plans until her eyes burned. Front door, boarded up windows, no roof entry, no cellar entry. By the time the windows were breached, a matter of seconds, they could scatter or set off devices, commit suicide, who the hell knew. They needed a distraction.

"I'm open to other options, but short of a missile strike, there's no clean way to take the building. And since we have no clue as to the extent of their plans, we need to take at least some of the militia alive."

Unable to speak, Nadia nodded her head. Why was she having such a hard time with this? She was doing her job. Mike was doing his. They were protecting the innocent, a noble and necessary undertaking. However, the thought of him being injured or killed nearly paralyzed her. How could she continue to do her job without him? The words were pressing to escape her mouth. Does it have to be you? But she managed not to ask the question, to beg, or plead. It took her literally biting her tongue.

Unable to sit still for the building nerves, she rose from behind her desk and began to pace, absently rubbing at her neck and pinching the bridge of her nose when the headache pulsed towards migraine. Nadia didn't notice how intently the man was studying her until he had risen to his feet and said, "Take off your jacket."

She stopped dead in her tracks and turned to stare at him incomprehensibly. Concern in his eyes melted into that softer near-smile of his.

"I'm not coming on to you," he said. She smiled. Since Mike seemed to never let anyone in, their close friendship had always made Milo jealous and some others suspect deeper feelings. Admittedly, Nadia could see how the lack of frigid treatment by Mike towards her could be mistaken for affection or romantic interest, since he treated most everyone else with cold austerity.

He reissued his command, and motioned to the chair he was standing behind.

"Sit."

More than a little bemused, she obeyed. He had the kind of commanding presence that made it hard to do otherwise, even when she did not want to do so or was extremely pissed at her supposed friend and feeling rather defiant. Now she was solely anxious and confused.

"You have a tension headache."

It wasn't a question. Did he mean to do something about it? Such as making her sit down and relax a moment. Did he know how utterly disturbing it was to have him standing, looming behind her, even though she knew she had nothing to fear from him? It was anything but relaxing.

There was a tickle of cold air as Mike brushed her hair off the back of her neck to rest over shoulder. And then she felt his fingertips on her skin, a warm contrast to the cold air that had given her goose bumps. A shiver ran down her spine as his fingers passed over her flesh, searching for what, she could not guess. His thumbs worked their way up the muscles in the back of her neck and came to rest at the base of her skull, his fingers wrapped about her slender throat. The contact conjured a memory that seemed much more a strange dream for all that had happened since then. Mike Doyle had had his hands on her neck before. Come to think of it, he had not touched her since. No friendly pat on the back, no tap on the shoulder. No offer of a handshake.

She felt the large, calloused pads of his thumbs press into her flesh, sending a stinging jolt of pain through sore muscles. She flinched.

"What are-?

He shushed her, holding her still with his strong hands. Large hands. Well, not so large, she supposed. Overall, Mike Doyle was only of average height and build. It was Nadia that was abnormal. She had always hated being so petite. The majority of people never intended to intimidate her, but it was a default that she constantly was aware of their superior size and strength. A small person was always aware, in the back of their mind, that they were potentially physically at the mercy of so many of their fellow human beings. And Mike Doyle was physically intimidating by nature and cultivation.

It had only taken one hand for him to grab her by the throat and choke her during that interrogation. Both of his hands were on her now, and yet she was not afraid like she had been that day. She trusted Mike implicitly. He would never hurt her. Not without cause, anyway. That day, there had been evidence that she was a traitor, as wrong as it had turned out to be. Now, she wondered even if there were piles of evidence against her, he'd be able to do what he'd done again. For her part, she could never again accuse him of the things she had that day.

The tension that had her wound tighter than a spring seemed to ease as he pressed unrelentingly into the flesh of her neck.

"Pressure points," he said. "Capable of giving pain. And relief..." He cleared his throat, adding quietly, "...and pleasure."

Nadia would've harassed him about learning whatever brilliant technique he was applying to her neck just to get women into bed. However, said wondrous touch was melting away all tension, and apparently resistance and ability for thought as well.

And then his hands were gone. Her skin grew chilled once more for the loss of his body heat.

"Better?" he asked, moving around to crouch before her.

When had she closed her eyes? She forced them open. Mike was looking amused but primarily concerned. He reached for her hand, and began to massage it, pressing at a specific spot near the base of her thumb. It felt so nice. But it wasn't right. She felt all warm and content and... Mike shouldn't be touching her this way. He didn't touch her at all. He...

There was quick knock and her office door creaked open.

"Nadia, do you...?"

Milo's voice trailed off, but it was enough to make her start. Mike's expression was unreadable, but Nadia didn't want to turn around, didn't want to see the look on her boyfriend's face as another man caressed her hand. She tugged her hand away, and Mike willingly released it, rising to his feet and excusing himself. She did turn around in time to catch Milo glaring at the field agent's back.

Damn.

And the two men had been getting along so well... Nadia had been attending conferences at Division for the past couple weeks, as entirely new security protocols were being established throughout the network. It was a tricky situation to leave CTU. Under standard operating procedure, she would've put Milo in charge while she was absent, except for his past animosity with Mike Doyle. Normally, the last word to describe Milo was petty, but she had a feeling with the way Mike could irk people, Milo would wind up using his authority to assert some sort of dominance over a man he sometimes viewed as his rival. And that would only serve to get Mike's hackles up. Instead, she had left them each in charge of their branch of CTU, to report to her when decisions fell out of their separate purviews, and prayed the fistfights would be kept to a minimum. Just in case, she had tasked Chloe and Morris to keep an eye on the pair. They had reported back that the men had 'gotten on swimmingly', better than usual. Chloe observed in her blunt way that with Nadia gone, they didn't have to compete for her attentions.

But that wasn't true! Milo had her attentions (in the appropriate setting, outside of work). Mike did not desire them. And this was not the time to be concerned with such matters.

"Milo, don't," she said. He closed his mouth. "We have a violent militia cell to deal with right now."

He nodded, but looked no less peeved as he carried on with the inquiry that originally led him to her office.

The tension seeped slowly back into Nadia's neck.

TBC…


A/N: Are my ship proclivities already extremely apparent?

A/N2: I know my obsession is rather late, but maybe there's others out there who'd be interested in this tale?