Thanks to those still reading and especially to those leaving their feedback. And as always, thanks to my awesome guinea pig Roadrunnerz!
St. Andrew's Hospital, New York City
"You did great, Renee," Janis says as the physical therapist and the nurse draw the door closed and leave them alone.
Renee grimaces as she shifts in the bed. Clearly, she is unconvinced. She is also visibly exhausted.
When she doesn't acknowledge Janis' words and continues to avoid meeting her gaze, Janis shifts her eyes to the monitors, relieved to find that, in spite of all the exertion with the therapist, all the numbers seem about the same as when she woke up this morning.
For a moment, she finds herself debating whether she should try to broach the topic of Witness Protection right now or wait until Renee's had some more rest. And of course, finding a way to bring up the subject of how things stand between them is still on her agenda at some point, too.
Looking back down at Renee just in time to catch a soft groan and another wince passing on her face, Janis makes her decision.
"You should get some rest," she says quietly, "It's been a long day."
Janis watches as Renee closes her eyes without a reply. Not for the first time in the last eighteen months, she feels a spark of disappointment and sadness.
She's been feeling the awkward, uncomfortable tension between herself and Renee since her friend woke this morning and it feels like the distance and coolness has only grown as the day has gone on. This is the first time they've really been alone all day and Janis is still searching for a good day to address it all. Maybe by the time Renee wakes up next time, she'll have figured it out.
As the door slides open again, she looks up to see Cole returning from standing watch in the hall with the FBI agent while the therapist worked with Renee. He nods to her in silent greeting, glances at Renee and slips into his chair in the corner by the door.
Janis shifts her gaze back to Renee. In spite of the fact that she's sure she can't be asleep already, her closed eyes don't reveal even a flicker of curiosity about who's come into the room.
She watches Renee for a moment longer then finally presses her lips together, sighs quietly and reaches for her laptop.
Several minutes later, she's still staring unseeingly at her email, wishing she knew how to get her friend to talk to her, when she hears Renee's tired voice break the silence.
"Why are you here, Janis?"
Janis pulls her brows together and looks up from her laptop to find Renee watching her with weary and guarded eyes. "What?"
"Why are you here?" Renee repeats stiffly, "This is a New York operation."
Janis adjusts her glasses and draws a deep breath. Though Renee's tone just sounded disappointingly similar to Chloe's when Chloe had asked her the same question just a few days ago, she hopes this is the opening she's been waiting for.
"I was still at work the night you were called in to CTU," she starts cautiously. She glances at Cole to find him looking up from his laptop and though he already knows some of the story, Janis still wishes Renee had asked this before he returned. "I was there when they called Gordon with a request for your file. Then we heard they'd sent you undercover. I… I learned what happened the next morning – that you'd been shot and killed – and I couldn't believe it. Or I just didn't want to believe it. I dug deeper and figured out there was more to it."
"Never could get anything past you, right Janis?" Renee mumbles under her breath and glances away.
Janis frowns, easily picking up on the bitterness in her voice. Maybe this isn't the right time after all, she realizes sadly.
But then Renee sighs and shifts her gaze to her knees. "I'm sorry," she whispers, "that wasn't fair."
"It's okay," Janis says quietly.
"It's not okay!" Renee counters angrily, her tired eyes suddenly sharp as they turn on her, "For Christ's sake, be honest! Stop treating me like I'm going to break!"
Janis looks back at Renee for a long moment, debating how to handle this. Finally, she closes her laptop and tucks her hair behind her ears.
"All right," she says simply, "I'll stop treating you like you're going to break. If you stop treating me like I'm the enemy."
Renee holds her gaze long enough for Janis to glimpse the discomfort in her eyes before she looks away again.
"How did you get here?" Renee asks once more.
On a plane, Janis almost cracks.
Once upon a time, it would've been just the response to draw a grin out of Renee. Or, at the very least, a rolling of the eyes and a small smile. But that was before everything changed. So instead of responding with her natural sarcasm, Janis fiddles with the edge of her laptop and studies Renee's features.
But the aloofness she's been sensing from her seems at least a little diminished now.
"Once I figured out what was going on," she replies finally, "I put in a request for a temporary transfer to assist."
"And they approved it?" Renee asks with just the faintest mix of curiosity and surprise.
"The SAC here wasn't happy. And part of me knows they accepted my offer to act as your medical proxy just to keep me quiet. But then they decided that I'd also be the one to brief you on the situation when you woke up."
Renee's jaw tightens further and she shifts her eyes to the curtain covered door as if picturing the agent beyond it. "Of course. Because it's easier if they have someone I know be a buffer. And god forbid the idiot who made such piss-poor decisions own up to them in person."
"I'm sure that had something to do with it, too," Janis agrees with a shrug, "But honestly, I didn't care why they accepted my request, Renee. I was just happy they did."
At that, Janis finds Renee's tired eyes back on her.
"Why?" she asks in a voice just above a whisper, her brow furrowed as if perplexed. "Why did you even offer, Janis? Why do you care? After everything..."
Her voice trails off as she glances at Cole as if suddenly registering his presence. Then she shakes her head and turns away.
Janis knits her brows together and resists the urge to reach for Renee's hand.
Does she really not know the answer? she wonders to herself.
"Because you're my friend, Renee," she says softly, "Even after what happened. And I thought… I thought you could use one in all of this."
Renee seems on the verge of saying something in response but with another glance at Cole she seems to think better of the urge and closes her eyes. When she speaks again, Janis is only mildly surprised to find she changes the subject.
"Who's in charge here?" she asks, "Who made the call? Masters?"
"No," Janis replies with a shake of her head. "Fred Masters retired two months ago. Richard Jackson is the SAC now."
"I want to see him."
Janis nods. She figured Renee would want to have a few words with him. "I'll let him know. But Renee… There are a few other things I need to discuss with you."
She doesn't miss the hesitation and reluctance in Renee as she exhales and her eyes drift closed. Nor does she miss the way her friend's body seems to sink into the mattress as if weighed down by some unseen force.
"I guess they can wait for now," she adds quietly and leans back in her chair. "Get some rest."