In Charge

by Angela Gabriel

Summary: Jack's thoughts at the end of a long day, set at the end of ep 4x02, "Safe." Characters: While it's Jack's POV, everyone is mentioned. There's an emphasis on Danny and Martin, of course. (I doubt I can write a piece that doesn't have a hefty dose of them in it.)

Disclaimer: Don't own them. Not making money off of them.

Author's Note: This little one-shot came about from a challenge on the WAT-AllFic list: Pick a character you aren't comfortable writing about, or whose POV you don't usually explore in great detail, and write a first-person piece. This is my first attempt to write something from Jack's POV. I used ep 4x02 as a jumping-off point. In that ep, we saw friction between Jack and Danny and Jack and Viv, and definite awkwardness between Jack and Martin. Lots to work with there.

I did not use a beta reader on this story, so please excuse the errors. Quick thanks to Nancy, who's archiving my stories.

It's been a crappy day.

And it's only going to get worse.

Things started out well. Martin came back to work this morning after a six-week sick leave. He looked less than spectacular. Pale, thin and clearly not fully recovered. But still, at his core, Special Agent Martin Fitzgerald, dependable as always and ready to do whatever he can to help the investigation along.

I'd hoped he could also help Danny along, his mere presence providing a stabilizing force for the dark-eyed agent who'd exercised piss-poor judgment more often than not lately.

But that hadn't been the case at all, because even after I told Danny and Sam to sit tight if they found Ryan Wallace at the high school, Danny rushed in to play the big hero. Like some half-assed Lone Ranger, he tried to single-handedly talk Ryan down. Instead, the teenager pushed the detonator. Thanks to some kind of miracle or divine intervention or whatever the hell you want to call it, the bomb didn't go off. If it had, Martin and Viv would be the only ones left of my dysfunctional team.

I say dysfunctional because that's what we are. What we've become. Sam and I are the most even-keeled ones on the team right now, which is saying something, considering all of our baggage. But our baggage pales in comparison to the heavy burdens everyone else is lugging around.

Viv is still getting back to full strength after her heart surgery. I don't like to think too hard on that whole thing, on how close I came to losing a damned good friend, a damned good agent. But she survived. Has healed up enough to call me out today, ticked off that I'm keeping her from doing much fieldwork. But damnit, I'm in charge. It's my decision who gets to do what around here.

Like Viv, Martin's also not 100 percent. He has a long way to go, longer than she does. I'm pretty sure that's going to wear on his nerves after a while, given that stubborn Fitzgerald pride he inherited from his old man. While Martin seems all right today, this could be the calm before the storm.

Danny's a mess, to put it mildly. Not physically, but mentally. And it's pissing me off. The stupid bastard is taking too many chances lately. Thinks he's invincible. He's not. None of us are. You just have to look at Viv and Martin to know that.

Well, if Danny's not going to take better care of himself, I'll do it for him. I'll keep him from putting himself in the line of fire like he did today, even if it means sitting his ass at a desk for the next six months until his head's on straight. And I don't care how many times he gives me that wounded puppy look. I know what's best. Period.

So that's my team. There are five of us total, but I only feel comfortable with having two of us in the field right now. And two won't cut it. We're too vulnerable like this. Too many things can go wrong. And yeah, I'm worried about more than just my team. I'm worried about the missing people we're supposed to find. They deserve better.

I scrub a hand over my face and sigh. Might as well get this over with. The sooner I do, the sooner I can get the hell out of here and go do something other than worry about my broken team.

Pushing myself up from the desk, I leave the safety of my office for the long walk down the hallway toward Martin Fitzgerald. I don't have to tell him the news tonight. I don't have to deliver it one-on-one. I can wait until the morning and fill everyone in at the same time. But that doesn't seem right. I owe Martin this small courtesy. Of all my team, he's the one most likely to take this personally. His wounds were the most severe, and their repercussions, the most visible.

The least I can do is explain myself in private, let him take everything in without having to worry about Sam, Viv and Danny casting furtive glances his way.

I approach Martin's desk slowly, my steps deliberate as I consider how best to phrase this. Should I be blunt, or ease into it? His face shows the strain of his first day back at work, and I go with easing into it. We briefly discuss the case before I make my not-so-little announcement.

" I'm going to add a new agent to the squad."

There, I've said it. I wait, and watch. He seems taken aback, like I knocked the wind out of him.

Great. Just great.

"Is it ... because of me?" Martin asks, like I knew he would.

"No." I shake my head, wanting him to understand that I made my decision because of everyone, because it's what's best for everyone. "We're just spread too thin. It's starting to take its toll. I thought it was necessary."

And that's the truth, as simply as I can put it.

I don't think it makes him feel any better.

"Yeah," Martin says, eyes flicking away briefly before meeting my gaze. "Yeah, well, whatever works."

"Just giving you a heads up." I pause. I wish this had gone better. I wanted to reassure him that his place here is secure, but I've done a lousy job of it. I lack the finesse necessary in this kind of situation. "So you're good?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I'm fantastic," Martin says, smiling.

I nod, not buying his smile or his words, but knowing he needs me to believe him. Or pretend to believe him. If I second-guess what he's saying, I'll only convince him that I'm adding the new agent because I don't think he's capable of doing his job.

"Okay," I say, and head back to my office. The walk is even longer than the trip to Martin's desk had been, and I sink wearily into my chair, letting my eyelids close. I rest my elbows on the desk and rub the heels of my hands into my gritty eyes.

Tomorrow morning, I'll come back to work and call everyone in for a meeting. I expect that Sam will take my announcement in stride, but I doubt Danny and Viv will appreciate my decision. Danny especially. He's a good kid, but when he's angry, he's a handful. And I suspect he'll be angry.

Viv will probably bristle, raising one eyebrow and staring pointedly at me.

And Martin? Even though he'll have had a full night to process the news, he'll probably still have that uncertain, pained expression I saw on his face a few minutes ago.

It's been a crappy day.

And I don't think tomorrow will be any better.

December 2005