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24 - Brittany House/Jake Hannigan - stages of change: acceptance

And these are done. It's been fun doing these two, because they're such a dysfunctional pair without ever really being 'together.' Hope you enjoyed!

Title: Breaking Convention
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 278
Rating: PG
Summary: They've done everything they said they'd never do when it came to each other. So where are they now?
Author's Notes: Set the same evening as "Finale" and is canon, futurefic by just a few months.

They were standing off to one side, watching the rest of the people at the party mill around, the couple of people dancing to the soft jazz music somebody had put on. It made them both chuckle a little, because that was the last place either of them would ever be caught. They'd come in as outsiders, and they were going to go out that way too, it seemed.

"This isn't what you wanted, right?" he said, not even looking at her.

She shook her head slightly. "I didn't even want a party."

"Parties are bullshit to help us forget the difficult realities." Jake exhaled, finishing off his beer and setting it on a nearby table. "This is the end. We get it. Let's move on."

Brittany cocked her head and looked at him. "You're just gonna 'move on,' are you?"

It was another unspoken challenge. They had been through a lot in the year and a half they had known each other, they had reached a point where they couldn't just leave it alone. They'd gone through betrayals, alliances, abductions, treason charges. It was a relationship they didn't talk about or even acknowledge, but they both knew it was there. What was to become of it now?

"I never just 'move on,'" he told her softly. His eyes darted anywhere but at her, and then she felt him studying her, looking for a reaction.

She turned her head and looked directly into his cold blue eyes. "Nobody said you had to."

"Good." His lips curved almost in a smile. "If you ask me to dance, you're dead to me."

Brittany chuckled. "I wouldn't dare, Jake. Wouldn't dare."

Title: This War Is Over
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 292
Rating: PG
Summary: This war is over, I'm coming home... --Melissa Etheridge, "This War Is Over"
Author's Notes: Takes place in November of 2005 and is canon.

She's holding out the folded papers to him, and she's staring at him, him staring at her holding out the papers. His reinstatement papers.

She's the one that fired him. Now she's the one hiring him back.

Jake just looks at her another moment more and then he asks her why. Why she's giving him back the one thing he wants most when she seemed to have made a life of taking things away from him. Not like she hasn't had enough taken from her. They've both lost a lot.

"Because you wanted it," she replies, "and you earned it."

He can't really argue with the second part of her logic. He's paid his dues a couple times over in his eyes. He just busted his ass co-leading a strike team to rescue her husband and her ex-husband. He's saved what's most dear to her. She owes him, if he believed in that sort of thing.

But it's the first part of her statement that's the most intriguing.

Because he wanted it.

Jake Hannigan knows about intensity. About desire, both how it can drive and kneecap you. Both things have happened to him. He does nothing without an intense drive to succeed at almost any cost. He knows she knows about desire, too. He's seen how much she pushes him, pushes herself, pushed her team when she worked here. That's what matters to her. Wanting something. Believing in something enough to fight for it.

He takes the forms from her and signs them right in front of her.

She wants him to do this job.

He wants this job more than he's ever wanted anything. He makes a promise, right then and there, to prove her right this time, instead of wrong.

Title: Empty Spaces
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 226
Rating: PG
Summary: There are things he can never say except when she can't hear them.
Author's Notes: Alternate universe. Takes place during a larger piece called "Strange Allies With Warring Hearts."

Jake cracks the door open and looks at her. She's asleep, curled up on one side, hair falling into her eyes. There's no sign of the stress and strain he normally sees when he looks at her face.

He really shouldn't be doing this. This is not what they are. They don't do comfort and caring and feeling. He's slept with her twice by now, and that's all this was supposed to be. Sex and protection. One night became two became whatever they just decided. That they're not going to go their separate ways. That this is more than just a whim or a moment of desire.

He can understand why she's staying. She needs somebody. She doesn't do well alone. The more important question is why he's staying. Deep down inside, maybe he likes being needed for once when everything else has turned out wrong.

But he doesn't want to think about that. So he slips into the room instead, dressing down in the silence before he eases into the bed beside her. He reaches up to take one outflung hand, watching her back and the steady rise and fall of her breathing. How much simpler and easier it all looks when they're not being tormented by the outside world and the wrong choices that they made.

This is the feeling that he's been missing.

Title: Exaudio
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 317
Rating: PG
Summary: Everything is in their eyes.
Author's Notes: Takes place in May of 2005 and is canon.

They're fire and ice, polar opposites who level anything anywhere near them when they're in proximity. Brittany House and Jake Hannigan were never meant to peacefully coexist. It's one of those unwritten rules.

But if you look in their eyes, they're not so far apart after all.

Her eyes are always alive with a passion. A crackling, burning surge of emotion. Whether it's giving the big rallying speech, or breaking down in tears when she hears of the loss of someone she loves, she feels everything with an unabashed, open intensity. Everyone knows what she's feeling just by looking at her. And her agents respond to the drive, the fire, the infectious spirit that comes with the spark or the heat or the glow in her eyes. She might not be the best, but there's no one more passionate than she is.

In contrast, Jake's eyes are always cold. Looking at him is like looking into a cold blue deep freeze that leaves chills and is meant to intimidate. Nobody really knows what he's feeling, because to him, most of the time, feelings are irrelevant. He does his job well, so who needs to know what's going on in his head? He's guarded, set in his ways, keeping his distance from everyone. He shows them only what they need to see. But in his own way, he is equally as possessive and intense as she is. Equally as determined to do the right thing when that moment comes.

They're exact opposites. But as time has worn on and thrown them together again and again, the battle has gotten old. Now, when they look at each other, they don't see the differences so much anymore. They see the similarities. The same strength of emotion that has both helped and harmed them over the years.

For the first time, they've started to see each other, and it's changed everything.

Title: Missing Pieces
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 417
Rating: PG
Summary: Jake and Brittany compare battle damage.
Author's Notes: This takes place in an alternate canon storyline where Jake and Brittany have been dispatched to Mexico on an undercover operation. It follows "Disproportional Response" and precedes "Broken, Wanting More."

It's something like over a hundred degrees in Mexico, and either of them would give anything for a nice New York climate right about now. Especially since all they're doing is sitting on their asses. She's stripped down to a tank top and capri pants, and the collar of his T-shirt is soaked through with sweat. Both of them look like real pieces of work at the moment.

"This is why I've never had any desire to go to Mexico," he mutters, standing behind her as she works at the keyboard. That makes her chuckle. "Me either. All people seem to do down here is get drunk...or disappear and end up dead."

He laughs at that and shakes his head, folding his arms over his chest and watching her work. His eyes roam over her shoulders, the exposed portion of her back, the small strip of skin that he can see every time she bends over to write something down on the notepad she keeps on the desk. This is the body he once wanted so badly to possess. She's no supermodel, but she was more than good-looking enough for him. Which is, lest he forget, the reason he ended up on sexual assault charges.

But now when he looks at her, he looks at different things than the aesthetic. He can see the scar on her shoulder that's some four years old. If he squints, through her sweat-soaked tank top he can see two dark lines on her back that represent two hideous lacerations that happened the next year. He knows she has more that he can't see, standing behind her. But he's memorized each and every one.

He's got scars of his own. The one near his eye from trying to break up a bar fight while he was in the Air Force, that almost cost him his vision. He turns his right hand over and looks at the scar just below the second knuckle of his thumb. With the shit he's been through, he's lucky those are the only two he has.

Obviously, she hasn't been so lucky. But he knows that she has been through just as much, if not more, than he has. Never mind that he's more than a decade her senior. She's been tested, proven, she's paid the prices that she's been asked to pay. Somehow, now, that means something to him. Matters more than her physical beauty. Now she's not just an object du art. She's a fellow soldier.

Title: What Never Happened
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 374
Rating: PG
Summary: Jake and Brittany share a moment. Of denial.
Author's Notes: This takes place in September of 2005 and is canon.

There was something oddly...almost intimate about how close he was to her. And the way he carried himself, like it was just natural for him to be that close to her all the time. As if he was comfortable with it. And she was comfortable with it, now that she thought about it.

"Familiar territory," she said, turning her head and looking him in the eye.

He nodded slightly. After all, this was the place where he'd committed misdemeanor sexual assault against her months ago. In a warped way, she was almost appreciative of it now, because without it and his subsequent fall from grace, she never would have been able to understand him like she does. To build this...alliance that they have. That they've both come to need.

"So let's not have it infected with nerve gas," he replied, daring to smirk just a little before he continued looking around to see if he could see the canisters.

They walked down the concourse to the end of the shops, reaching the T-junction in the pathway, and she was mid-step before she felt him grab her by the arm and pull her back. Glancing up at him, she saw him looking both ways, eyes narrowed in some form of concentration. He'd seen something he didn't like.

She looked at his hand, still on her arm.

He finally shook his head. "It's one of those damn metal trash cans. Go left."

She did. "Thanks for stopping me there."

"Well, I didn't want you to die," he said with a due amount of sarcasm.

"You had your hand on my arm."

"So? Don't tell me that qualifies as sexual assault now."

"No." She shook her head, attempting to defuse his defensiveness. "You didn't have to, though. You could have just yelled at me to stop and I would've. You didn't have to touch me."

He looked at her for a moment, understanding what she was saying. She arched an eyebrow and looked back at him. After a heartbeat more, his lips curved in a small smile.

"You're worth the hands-on approach," he said.

They shared a small smile and turned to keep walking.

"So this never happened," she said.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

Title: Critical Error
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 385
Rating: PG
Summary: This is one victory that didn't come at the price of the other's defeat.
Author's Notes: Canon, futurefic, into early next year.

The Princeton Tigers win their home opener by ten points. Brittany House is subsequently in the middle of a mob of players, coaches, and reporters alike. Jake Hannigan is in the stands, with no real reason to be other than that he knows exactly what she's trying to do. He's been on that floor, in this game, and she's someone he would almost call a friend. So maybe it's personal.

He catches her at the bottom of the stairs, as she's coming back from the locker room to collect her family and her things. The stadium is practically empty and there's nobody there in that hallway but the two of them. Which is the way all these things happen between them.

"Hey," he says, drawing her attention. "Congratulations."

"Thanks." She nods slightly, looking him over. "I didn't think you'd be here or I would've gotten an extra seat for you."

"It was fine. I don't need you to worry about me." He shakes his head. "It's a tough damn world out there, but you're hanging in there."

"Yeah." She swallows and nods again. "If I have to deal with one more sexist interview question...but that's the price I pay, I guess. I have to go through that stuff to get to this stuff," she adds with a nod of her head toward the empty playing field.

He nods. Studies her face and sees the fear and trepidation. He's seen that before, when she quit CTU New York. She doesn't want to screw up. And she's afraid of the people who are judging her just because she's a woman. Of what it all means, because she doesn't know.

Jake doesn't let her dwell on it. "It'll be okay," he says, and she turns back to look at him. "Because you'd be too pissed off if it didn't to let that happen."

She laughs softly. Without even really thinking about it, he pulls her into a quick hug. She hugs him back, and he leans in and kisses her gently on the cheek. This is what he should have done a long time ago, and then maybe things would have turned out different. But it's the mistakes that made this possible. And maybe this is a mistake, but he won't regret it.

She blushes and he smiles.

Title: Walking Through
Fandom: 24
Pairing: Brittany House/Jake Hannigan
Prompt: #5 -- Acceptance
Word Count: 384
Rating: PG
Summary: They can go out knowing they gave everything they had.
Author's Notes: Canon, taking place in the final chapter of the novella "Behind Closed Doors."

The car is waiting to take them to the airport, to put them on a plane to go back to New York. Brittany House and Jake Hannigan walk down the hallway, neither of them saying much. They've just committed treason to stop a madman from killing the President of the United States -- what's there to really talk about when you're just grateful you haven't been charged with a capital crime?

But they know they did the right thing. Their man is in custody to prove it. Their crime will be pardoned because they saved the leader of the free world. Some evils are necessary for the greater good, and that's a concept they're both too familiar with.

There's no shame in what they did. Everything they've done, over the last day or however long it is, was the right thing in the end. They can go out knowing they gave everything they had.

"Jake," she says when they reach the car, and he turns and looks at her with his hand on the door handle. "Thanks for all your help today. I appreciate it." She's never one to let a compliment slide when one is deserved. And she knows she made the right choice, bringing him onto this case. Even if it pissed off her husband to no end.

He looks back at her and just chuckles. This was the opportunity that he wanted -- to prove he was a different man than the one he had become. All he's done is cement his reputation the way that he wants it, rather than the way everyone else has made it. In all reality, he owes her, too. "You gave me a chance," he tells her, "and I just made the best of it."

"You keep doing that," she replies, "and there will be a lot more chances."

She doesn't say anything else, just gets into the backseat of the car to be with her injured husband. Jake stands there for a moment, looking at the space where she was, her words stuck in his head. He won't forget them. He closes the open door for her, before climbing into the car. It's time to go the hell home. And make the most of this chance.

And the ones he knows will come after.

Tags: 24, brittany house/jake hannigan, stages of change: acceptance
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