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FALLOUT

Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Fallout
Author: marinw
Rating: PG
Character(s): Bill. (Because we can never have too much Bill.) Nadia, James Heller.
Summary: Set immediately after Day 6. Bill leaves CTU and thinks about the past day.
Discalimer: 24 isn’t mine. But I reserve the right to fanfic!
A/N: This fic is a prequel of sorts to "Turning the Tables."



Los Angeles was in ruins.

“President Wayne Palmer remains unable to execute his office and is presently being treated in an undisclosed medical facility,” the announcer stated. “Vice President Noah Daniels has declared a state of emergency in the Los Angeles suburb of Valencia. Riots have broken out in the surrounding communities. The Red Cross, FEMA, and the National Guard have joined forces in the relief effort. Canadian Prime Minister Stephane Dion has expressed his sincere sympathy over the tragedy and offered his nation's support…”

Bill Buchanan sighed and turned off the car radio. So much for taking the day off.

Oh right. He didn’t have his job anymore. Karen didn’t have her job, either. They would both have to find new ways to make themselves useful. It was 6:30 in the morning, but Bill wasn’t driving towards CTU. He was driving away from it. He had left his truck on the beach, so no one had objected when he took one of the only CTU cars still on the lot, an inconspicuous '10 black Camry. He had been tempted to "borrow" another helicopter, but that would have been pushing it. Too bad. Flying that beautiful, expensive machine had been the only fun thing Bill had done is a decidingly unfun day.

Bill knew without checking that the car was stocked with all the standard parphernelia: Power bars, Gatorade, first aid equipment, a difibulater, Kevlar vests, a couple of handguns stashed in the glove compartment…

Bill couldn’t help but smile. He might need all that gear on his next trip through downtown L.A. He certainly didn’t expect to see his truck again. He assumed that Jack had taken the vehicle to get to wherever it was he needed to go.

Jack. The thought of him filled Bill’s heart with guilt. He was still shocked by how Jack had looked the previous morning when he had half-stumbled off the plane. Bill's first instinct had been to lock him in CTU medical and have him debriefed by the top experts on post-traumatic stress, which Jack would have hated. But circumstances had made that scenario impossible, and Bill could not allow himself the luxury of remorse.

It was hard to believe that Cheng's weakened prisoner was the same man who had flown with Bill to the oil rig to save Josh and secure the circuit board. The same man who had waved Bill off after he had swum through the Pacific onto the beach while the oil rig burned in the background: Go on. I’ll take it from here. I’ve had enough. I’ll be fine.

“We’ll never find Jack if he doesn’t want to be found. Let him go” Bill had told a confused Nadia. It had sounded logical and even noble at the time. But now his words just seemed lazy.

"My people will not abandon me like you abandoned Jack Bauer." Cheng had taunted.

Cheng was right. They had abandoned Jack in China. And now Bill had abandoned his friend a second time. Sure, Jack was tough. He was incredibly resourceful. He could ignore his own injuries for as long as it was necessary. But that still didn't make it right.

Bill had long ago learned not to second-guess his actions. That way lay madness. But of all the decisions he had made during the past day, leaving Jack to fend for himself was the decision he regretted the most.

Bill continued to drive into a glorious, post-nuclear California sunrise. His thoughts turned to Karen and he promised himself that his marriage would not be among the days casualties.

His cell phone rang. How many times had Karen lectured him about talking on his cell phone while driving? He answered it anyway.

“Buchanan.”

“Bill, it’s Nadia.”

“Nadia, get some sleep.”

“I’m fine. I have James Heller on the other line. I think you should talk to him.”

Heller? “Put him through.”

“This is James Heller!” Bellowed the new voice.

“What can I do for you, sir?” Bill replied tiredly.

“Would you please get Bauer off my property?!” It wasn’t a request.

Audrey, Bill realized. Of course.

“Let me talk to him.”

“Not too long ago, he had a gun pointed at my head. I’m not going anywhere near him.”

“What is he doing now?”

“He’s on the balcony. If he wants to jump, I’m not going to stop him.”

Jump? Bill wasn’t worried. Jack was more than willing to sacrifice himself for the right reason, but empty suicide was beyond him.

But after the last twenty-four hours, anything was possible.

“Just keep an eye on him, sir. I’ll be right there.” Bill hung up the phone.

Bill executed an illegal u-turn and started to drive in the other direction. He knew what he had to do.

END

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