Author's Note: It has been ages since I've written about Tony and Michelle, but I recently watched Day 2, went back to a story that I wrote almost a decade ago, realized it was dreadful, and felt the need to create another. Please give it a read if you feel so inclined.
Introduction: The following story takes place between Day 2 and Day 3.
Disclaimer: These characters are owned by Fox's 24, and as such, I have no claim.
Hot water pulsed against her head, the spray fanning out and softly sprinkling her shoulders. Standing on her toes, she leaned closer toward the shower head, willing the water to burn the flashes of the day out of her mind. It wasn't working.
Flash: Her feet tripping over bodies, people she once knew, lying crumpled amongst the building's detritus. Flash: Syed Ali's emphatic denial of the Cyprus recording. Flash: Tony's mistrusting eyes searching her face while questioning her about Jack. Flash: A body she thought was Tony's, mangled and motionless.
With a flick of her wrist, the pulsing ceased, and the remnants quickly pooled toward the drain. Stepping out of the shower, Michelle reached for a towel and winced. Never in her life had she been so sore. Not even after her first week of training to become an agent, which included weight and weapons training and daily five mile runs. She thought she'd known what sore was then. Turns out excessive exercise has nothing on being thrown a greater distance than your height by a bomb. It wasn't something she ever thought she'd come to know, even in her line of work.
Steam coated the room like a thick blanket, reverting the mirror to nothing more than a useless rectangle of fog. Her hand brushed across the glass surface, and her face looked back at her. Bruises lined her left shoulder and dotted their way down her ribcage to her hip. The visible damage was localized on her left side, where she'd landed, but the pain sparked everywhere with movement in addition to the constant dull ache. Sighing, she turned away from her reflection and made her way down the hall to her bedroom. The visual reminder wasn't necessary; she recalled each and every moment with absolute clarity.
Flash: Paula struggling to give the location of the encryption key and dying for it. Flash: Tony lowering Chappelle's sedated body to the ground. Flash: Her and Tony sitting in a holding room hoping they wouldn't be going to prison for treason.
T-shirt and shorts donned (she hadn't even realized she'd been getting dressed), Michelle sat on her living room couch and curled her legs beneath her. Her eyes traveled up to the black screen of her TV, the remote resting on her coffee table. She didn't move to grasp it. Moving was too much. All she could do was freeze. Freeze and stare. Stare at nothing.
Flash: George Mason walking out of CTU for the last time. Flash: Carrie's condescending voice remarking on her lack of interrogation experience. Flash: Her brother getting dragged away by agents. Flash: Tony—
It took her a minute to register her phone ringing. Without thinking, she reached for her purse and pulled out her cell, because you didn't screen calls. Not when you were the third ranking agent of the Counter Terrorist Unit of Los Angeles.
"Dessler." Her voice was quiet, even a little hoarse, like she hadn't spoken in a while.
"Hey," a smooth deep timbre resonated on the other line. "How'd everything with your brother go?"
"He's fine. I followed him home, got him settled. He's probably sleeping now," she whispered, settling back against her couch pillows. Without a thought, the tension in her back and shoulders gradually eased with the sound of Tony's voice.
"Good. I'm glad. Did I wake you?" he asked, a touch of concern altering his pitch like he'd only now realized she may have been asleep.
"No, no. You didn't. I'm just…" She glanced around her living room, trying to find something to say, but faltered. "I showered."
"It's harder to read your voice over the phone, but I don't think you're lying to keep me from feeling guilty for waking you." He paused. "So, if you're not asleep…Let me guess: You're sitting on your bed or your couch and seeing nothing but the past 30 or so hours playing in clips over and over in your head."
Tensing, the phone slipped slightly from her grasp. She didn't say anything.
"Yeah, I thought so," he sighed. "I've been there. In that place where you watch everything happen again and again and question every decision you made, no matter what the outcome was. I've been there." His voice as soothing as honey, Michelle could still hear the pangs of his past through the phone. She took in a shaky breath, tears stinging at the corners of her eyes, his "I've been there" echoing in her mind.
"Well, if you're anything more like me in this kind of situation, you probably haven't eaten," he went on. "The first time I went through a day like this, I didn't really eat anything for 48 hours, and trust me, it didn't help."
Food. Right. She thought about what she had in her kitchen and shook her head.
"I haven't really gotten the chance to go to the store in…" she trailed off, counting multiple weeks at least, and settled with "a bit" in an attempt to keep him from finding out so soon that her kitchen skills were practically nonexistent. He chuckled, sensing she was holding something back.
"Well, you're in luck, because my knowledge of the best food places in LA rivals my counter terrorism skills, and we both know how expansive they are." The smirk she knew was on his face added to his tone like a perfect composition.
Laughing, she stretched out on the couch, her hair like a stormy ocean spanning across the cushion, and ran her fingers through the damp waves. With the phone to her ear, the methodical tick tick tick of a turn signal and the soft melody of a song she couldn't make out played through the speaker. Tony hummed along, and she could just see him in her mind's eye driving, fingers tapping on the steering wheel to the beat, a smile slowly playing on his lips. It baffled her how easily he could take her from miserable to laughing.
"All right, look. I'll be there in half an hour with sustenance." His voice was decisive, final, like it was a completely normal occurrence for Tony Almeida to stop by her place. With food, no less.
"Tony, no," Michelle protested. "You really don't have to. It's been a long day for both of us."
"Right. And the best way to make a long, crappy day better is by eating something delicious. Trust me, good food always helps. It'll make us both feel better," he murmured, his final sentence making her think that maybe he needed her, too.
Her fingers tightened around the phone. After everything they'd been through, maybe each other, and food, was just what they needed. She relented. "Okay."
"I'll see you soon, all right?"
"See you soon," she murmured and let the phone drop onto her chest with a quiet thump. Her gaze traveled to the white expanse of the ceiling, and without Tony's voice to distract her, it became her new screen to view each clip. Over and over.