By 302pilot

Riley watched in horror as Agent Bannister was thrown to the ground. Mac physically stepped back from the screen as the Russian agent demanded information, then ruthlessly shot the American agent in cold blood. Riley, hand drawn to her face in shock, closed her eyes and turned away. She had seen violence in prison, but nothing like this. Jack shook his head, eyes riveted to the screen as Thornton shouted the agent's name and the Russian kicked the camera phone to the ground. Mac just watched helplessly as they dragged the American away.

Riley couldn't breathe. She shook her head, as if to wake herself up. Realizing she was holding her breath, she gasped for air. Dark spots appeared around the edges of her vision as she bolted for the door.

Thornton turned to see her new analyst running down the hallway. Giving a glance to Jack, he nodded in response.

"I'll check on her" Jack quietly stated, eyes still on the screen. Thornton acknowledged silently, turning back to the screen, still in disbelief from what transpired in front of them.

Riley ran down the hallway to the first exterior door she could find. She grabbed a trash can from an empty desk near the door and pushed her way thru. The balcony was small, but provided the privacy she needed. She just made it to her knees when her stomach convulsed and she lost its contents. Struggling to hold her hair back, she vomited repeatedly, her body reacting to the shock of what she had just seen. In the midst of her misery, she suddenly realized a strong hand was holding her shoulder, another hand gently pressed on her forehead.

Jack held her as she dry heaved over and over. "It's ok. Breathe. It'll pass".

"Can't. Breathe. Can't," was all she could get out between painful spasms.

Jack held her as she shook violently and gasped for air. "Shhhh…..breathe with me now. In-and out….In…..and out…that's it. In…..and out…It's ok" he whispered.

Riley breathed with him, shaking her head back and forth. "No. It's… not ok. It's not ok! We watched…..we watched and were helpless to do anything! We….. were helpless….." She continued to breathe harsh, raspy breaths as Jack turned her to face him.

Brushing a stray lock of hair out of her face, Jack looked deep into her eyes. "She did her job. By getting us that intel, she potentially saved millions of people. She knew the risks—"

Riley took a deep breath and shook her head. "But she's dead! And we could do NOTHING! Mac and his ginormous brain—me and my computer-you and your weapons-even Thornton and her, her-everything! We couldn't stop it from happening….."

Jack held her as she started to cry, panic and the realization of this harsh reality settling in.

"Shhh….I know….It's a helpless feeling…and it's so wrong…..and it makes me angry too…...but you need to make a choice. You can choose to let it all frighten you to the point of not being able to be useful….or you can use the anger to make a difference and continue what Agent Bannister started…." He pulled back and lifted her chin, brushing away her tears.

"We save lives," he said quietly. "That's our job, that's what we do. And it's a dangerous job. Every day we put ourselves at risk-at THAT kind of risk-but if we don't put it all on the line, people like that bastard will succeed in killing millions of people. And we can't let that happen. And that's why Thornton is here….and Mac…..and you. And I'm here to watch your backs so you can do your things and help save lives. And Riley—" he positioned himself in her line of vision so he would have her full attention. "We're good at what we do. But everyday we have to make that choice. Agent Bannister made that choice. And she saved lives. And I know she wouldn't have given up that chance."

Riley's breathing had evened out as she rocked back on her heels. Leaning against the glass wall of the balcony, she looked up at the clear blue sky overhead and closed her eyes.

"It just seems so-" She struggled to find the right word.

"Senseless. Ya. I know. But we have an opportunity to do good with the information she was able to obtain for us—we have an obligation, so that what she did won't be wasted... And we need your help."

Riley sighed and wiped a stray tear from her cheek. She nodded and opened her eyes to find Jack standing in front of her, hand outstretched to help her up.

"You with me?" he smiled, pulling her upright.

Riley shook her head and headed for the door. "Who would have thought so much thinking goes on in Jack Dalton's head? I have to say, I'm impressed."

Jack accepted the back handed compliment with a grin. As he opened the door and let her pass, he whispered, "I've got your back. I will always have your back."

Riley looked up at him, uncertainty in her eyes.

Jack put a hand on her shoulder. "I. Have. Your. Back."

Riley thought for a long second, then nodded a silent 'thanks'. Turning, she walked into the building and back down to Thornton's office. When they reached the door, Riley looked up at Jack, relaying a silent request. Reading her thoughts, Jack gave her a playful nudge.

"Don't worry. Need to know only."

Riley smiled. "Wow. You definitely are NOT the tile guy I thought you were."

Jack smiled back, opening the door to Thornton's office.

"Life is full of surprises."

The End.