Characters: Brittany House, Mark Holden; possible implied Brittany/Mark UST
Prompt: 4. Love when you can, cry when you have to, be who you must, that's a part of the plan.
Word Count: 1010
Summary: Brittany makes the biggest decision of her life. Mark makes his after the fact.
Author's Notes: Takes place in December of 2002, shortly after Brittany is recused from treason charges. Brief cameo by Brian Holt (Jason Gray-Stanford). Written for the stagesoflove painfic challenge.
The first one she runs to is Brian. Once they're all out of the courthouse, she bolts over to the young chief medic and launches herself into his arms. Brian was, of course, expecting this, and he wraps his arms around Brittany, kissing the top of her head and holding her close.
Coming down the steps behind them, Mark Holden finds this interesting for a number of reasons. The first is that Brittany didn't go straight to her father figure, Jack Bauer, who almost seems off in his own world. The second is that Mark wonders absently what it would be like to be the one she runs to.
But that isn't in the plan.
He's not supposed to get close to people. That's not what and who he is. He's the protective services specialist, and that means he keeps his distance. He's all right with that. He's close to only two people -- he has a certain working friendship with his boss, and somehow he got attached to the boss's sort of adoptive daughter. And Mark still isn't sure that isn't two people too many.
He says nothing about it, merely continues to walk toward the parking garage with his fellow agents. The handful of CTU agents who testified on her behalf, to keep her out of prison. His partner, Matt DeVincentis, and senior agent Stephen Claire, along with Brian. None of them wanted to see an eighteen-year-old spend life in prison just for trying to protect a friend. Even if said friend happened to be a rogue MI5 agent.
Mark shakes his head at how much trouble seems to find them.
Matt and Steve go on their way. Jack and his daughter Kim part not too long after, leading Mark to further suspect things between Jack and Brittany aren't kosher. Brian goes to pull his car around, leaving Mark and Brittany standing together in the parking garage. He can see the tears drying on her skin. The body language that says she's relieved to have her freedom.
He should be leaving, too, but Mark doesn't want to go without making sure that she's okay. Without saying something to her. Because she's obviously shaken up, and no matter what happens to her, she's still going to be his baby girl. He promised her that.
"Scared, huh?" he asks softly, because he doesn't know what else to say.
"Terrified." She swallows hard. "I'm pretty sure I owe David McNorris my first-born child." She wipes at her eyes with the heel of her hand. "I thought I was screwed. I really thought...and I was ready for it but that didn't mean I wasn't scared."
"I would've been scared too." He nods slightly, watching the passing traffic on the city street. "You did what you thought was right. That's all anybody can ever ask you to do, is try and do the right thing. You had a lot of courage. Not everybody can say they'd risk their freedom for a guy they don't know all that well."
"But I was right about him." She exhales. "I knew, I knew I was right." Brittany stops and looks at him plaintively. "Think it was worth it?"
Mark knows it was worth it. He knows that if she hadn't done what she did, Tom Quinn would probably be in jail or dead. She saved his life. But he also knows that's not what she's talking about. She's talking about how her father won't look her in the eye. How she's caused more trouble for CTU over the last couple of weeks than anyone could have imagined. What happens to her friends and colleagues matters so much to her. She's just a kid wanting to do well by the world. He can't fault her that.
"I think you did the right thing," he tells her. "I'm proud of you. I wouldn't be here if I wasn't." A pause. "Even if I disagreed with you, which I don't, I'd still be here." Another pause, longer, the words sounding almost alien coming from him. "You're precious to me, you know that, right?"
He wonders what it means that he has to look away when he says it. He's not used to being so close to somebody.
She just nods. "I just don't know what to do," she murmurs, shaking her head. Mark can see her eyes fill with the tears of a young woman scared to death, trying to figure out where her life goes in the aftermath. He can't stand to see her cry. He pulls her into his arms, holding her close to him, and just letting her cry into his chest. He'd say something comforting, but he's not sure it wouldn't come out stupid.
This isn't who he is. He's a man who operates, who lives and works and exists alone. Just being here, holding her, wanting to make everything all right, is deviating from the plan. But yet, he can't tear himself away. He cares what happens to her. He cares that she knows she doesn't deserve to be looked down on for saving a man's life. He wants to give her a shoulder to cry on, and he doesn't care that she needs to cry over this.
"You're a hero, baby girl," he tells her softly, kissing the top of her head, and it's the closest he can get to telling her how much he's come to love and care for her, but it will have to be enough. Because it's all that Mark Holden has to give her.
She'll run to Brian, in the end, and he'll be okay with that. Because Brian has what she needs. Mark wishes he did, but he doesn't. She's his boss's daughter, a girl half his age. And falling in love is not and will never be part of the plan. He can't love her.
But she'll always still be safe with him. That's the one thing he can give her. And she will always be here to make him feel in moments like this.