Summary: So much for making light of it. She wasn’t going to let it go. She never did.
Warnings: Language; sexual situations? Also, AU to an unbelievable degree.
Disclaimer: They’re so not mine. If they were they’d be on every week. In bed.
A/N: For roseandheather, who asked for Jack/Renee in response to my recent meme post. Yeah the ficlet got a little out of hand. But only a little. Ahem. Katie and Adrienne, nobody does beta better. I love you guys. And A, you rock for title help, as always.
Jack twisted the deadbolt gingerly, pausing each time the metal emitted a sound. His eyes were so dry he had to blink repeatedly to keep objects in focus. Exhaustion created a slight halo around the doorknob as he finally twisted it open, letting himself into the darkened apartment.
He lowered his bag silently to the floor and took several long slow breaths. Garlic. Coffee. That Yankee candle Renee was currently obsessed with – Harvest or Fall or some fucking thing. He only knew it was pumpkin orange and he’d hated it before he left, constantly blowing it out when she was in the shower or reading with her ipod on. The status of that tiny flame had become a silent comic war between the two of them. Now he inhaled more deeply, letting the warm spicy scent flood him. For a second it almost canceled out the smells of the past ten days.
Sweat and heat. Urine and feces. Smoke. Trash. Mostly an indefinable hopelessness, which you shouldn’t be able to smell at all.
He pressed his fingertips into his side, testing the tenderness of the carefully bandaged wound that ran almost the length of his left ribcage, bottom to top. It still hurt like a sonofabitch, and probably looked worse than it felt. So much for making light of it. She wasn’t going to let it go. She never did.
He glanced around the living room, his vision fuzzy again for a second as he noticed a single coffee cup in the sink, a copy of Foreign Policy open on the couch, his grey hoodie tossed on the coffee table instead of where he’d left it in his drawer.
Finally he walked down the hall, quietly pushing open the bedroom door, grateful he’d remembered the WD-40 last month. Renee was stretched out on her side, facing away from him with the deep green sheet up to her chin. The ceiling fan spun on high, occasionally lifting strands of her hair where it fell on the pillow. She didn’t stir as he moved toward the bed, and he couldn’t help grinning, because he could hear her groggy voice when he’d tried to sneak in after a late night a few weeks ago. Give it up, Jack. You know I wake up if you breathe wrong. Besides, you might want to try a new approach. My gun’s on the bedstand when you’re not here. Could get ugly.
Jack leaned over, watching her breathe for a few seconds before he stroked her cheek. “Hey.”
She rolled onto her back, her eyes open instantly, wide and confused. “What-”
“It’s me. It’s okay.” He rubbed his thumb over the curve of her chin.
“Jack? What the hell? You weren’t supposed to be home until Thursday!” she exclaimed, her voice crackly with sleep.
“I know. We finished the final project plan. Dan and Jessica decided they could handle it from there and-” He paused. “I wanted to come home.”
“Why didn’t you call? I would have picked you up. I wanted to pick you up.” She rubbed irritably at her eyes.
“It’s almost four a.m.”
“So I wasn’t calling you to pick me up at four a.m.”
“Jack-” She sighed. “Fine. We can fight about this tomorrow. Will you get in here? You sound exhausted.” The edges of her mouth turned up, just a hint. “You probably look it, too. You’re lucky it’s dark.”
He cautiously slipped his shirt over his head, throwing it on the floor. As he unbuttoned his jeans he heard her breathe in sharply a beat before she asked, “Are you okay? What’s with the bandage?”
Shit. “I thought you couldn’t see.” He pushed his jeans down and stepped out of them, biting into his lip so he wouldn’t make noise as the movement stretched his side.
“The huge white gauze square is hard to miss.”
He pulled back the sheet and eased himself in beside her, trying to ignore the protests from his exhausted muscles and pulling sutures. “Can we fight about this tomorrow, too?”
She didn’t respond for a few seconds, and in the loaded silence Jack absorbed the familiar sounds of the apartment. The liquid swish of the dishwasher Renee must have set on timer before she went to bed. The barely noticeable click of the ceiling fan he could never figure out how to balance. Rain smacking the window a few feet away from the bed. Then the inevitable collision in his brain, the contrast with the sounds surrounding him not twenty-four hours ago. Sharp staccato blasts of intermittent gunfire. Muffled but panicked screams.
Pounding feet, running.
Inside the tent late at night, he had never been sure if it was toward something or away from it.
Renee rolled over to face him. “Fine. Tomorrow. But I expect you to get up first thing and make a list of stuff we’re supposed to fight about.”
“Six a.m. I promise.” He reached for her face, holding her jaw in both hands and dropping kisses slowly across her forehead and over her cheekbone before he finally arrived at the edge of her mouth. When his lips touched hers, she pulled back and blurted all in a rapid sleepy jumble, “I had garlic chicken for dinner.”
“I don’t care.” He felt the give of her smile as he kissed her again, her mouth opening beneath his. Heat prickled down his neck and back, tiny electric jolts, and he briefly wondered if kissing her would ever stop being a full-body experience. Jack slipped his hand under the sheet, sliding his palm over the warm skin of Renee’s thigh. He’d reached her ribcage when he stopped cold. “You’re naked.”
“It’s hot.” Her hand moved softly across his chest, stopping to trace one of his scars. The sensation of her fingers on his skin still brought back for him the first time she’d touched him there, how he’d made his own lip bleed fighting not to pull away, to understand the marks could bring pleasure without pain. He felt a split second of surprise at how easy it was now not to flinch, not to back away. “Besides,” she continued mischievously, “Biff was just here, and I was too tired to get dressed after he left.”
Jack leaned in, drawing her closer and burying his face in her neck. He could feel her pulse against his lips, and fuck if the smell of her skin didn’t compress his chest, make it hard to inhale. He swallowed against the pressure. “Biff, huh? Where’d you pick him up?”
“7-11,” she replied drowsily, skimming her hand lightly over his bandaged side. “Our eyes met when we grabbed the same package of Sour Patch Kids. The rest was fate.”
Kissing the hollow of her throat, Jack muttered, “Tomorrow when we’re done fighting, his fate is that I’m gonna find him and kick his ass.” His hand meandered upward.
“Can I watch?”
She slapped at him just as the backs of his fingers brushed against her breast. “I’m not having sex with you.”
He chuffed into her neck. “You think I don’t know that?”
“So what are you doing, hmmm?”
“Nothing. I just-” His hands stilled, and he relaxed into the mattress, his arm still over her stomach, her heart beating faintly against his fingers. “Tell me what you did while I was gone.”
“Yeah. Besides him.”
He squeezed her ribs and she laughed, shoving his hand away. “Stop! I read the last three issues of Foreign Policy, ate an entire loaf of banana bread by myself, and went to some horrible movie with Chloe.” She slipped her leg between his, carefully moving closer, her head on his chest. “I already forgot the title. Two hours of my life I’ll never get back.” She yawned. “Chloe liked it though. And I’m going to sleep now.”
“Okay.” Jack looked up at the ceiling, watching the shadow of the fan as it circled and hummed.
“I also spent the entire time trying to ignore the fact that you might not come back.” He felt her voice as much as he heard it, a low vibration on his skin. “I’m really, really glad you’re here,” she mumbled sleepily, the last few syllables sliding into one another.
He pulled her to him, tightening his arms even though it hurt. “Yeah.” He brushed his fingers through her hair, smiling because her breathing was already smooth and even. “So am I.”