[ fic ] rise and fall (you're down, then you rise again)
title: rise and fall (you're down, then you rise again) rating: r for language characters: jack bauer, renee walker spoilers: through day eight. (and beyond! /buzz lightyear) warnings: vague references to torture and PTSD summary: in this ill-defined after, they're learning how to live all over again. word count: 845 disclaimer: the characters aren't mine; the words are. a/n: holiday gift-fic written for paladin24, who requested jack and renee. prompt: breaking your teeth on the hard life coming / show your scars / cutting your feet on the hard earth running / show your scars. title inspired by the same metallica song (that would be "broken, beat and scarred," for those of you playing at home). a/n 2.0: set at some nebulous point a few months post-day eight. au as all hell, it goes without saying. apologies to those of you who've already seen this over on my journal; I used to be so much better at remembering to cross-post!
They don't talk about Vlad.
They don't talk about Vlad the same way they don't talk about Renee Zadan, or Alan Wilson, or Frank Flynn, or Jack Roush, or a dozen other still-frames from before.
Before New York.
Whatever this -- this after -- is, now.
Jack decides he doesn't care so much about definitions, these days. He damns his English degree, relegates the eight accepted parts of speech to the wayside, and sweeps away the text and subtext, too. Because whatever this is, it's with Renee.
That's enough, most of the time.
- - - - -
She's a better shot than he is.
Better depth perception, better eyes -- better, in the line of her board-straight firing stance and singular focus, her Glock braced as if it's encased in amber between her palms.
She reels in her paper target, and Jack can count the number of entry points peppering the head, torso, and heart on one hand, despite the full clip she emptied.
(Four to the forehead.
Six in the heart.
Five to the solar plexus.
No strays, no missed opportunities. Practice makes perfect, and perfect means survival.)
Jack ejects the magazine from his well-oiled Sig, puts down both components, and balls his unsteady right hand into a fist. Some days, the tremors are worse than others; some days, they're not there at all.
Today is worse, phantom electricity jangling beneath the scar tissue.
He stares at his own target, hung and waiting down the gallery, until its white edges blur. He knows Renee's watching him; he can see the slight cant of her head in his periphery, that flash of mostly concealed concern in her eyes.
Thank fuck they're the only two paying customers at the range, at least for the moment.
He shakes out his fingers, reaches into the box of ammo, and begins to reload.
Later, they don't talk about his ruined hand, either.
- - - - -
They talk about movies, sometimes. Innocuous shit -- iconic characters, favorite lines, silly quotes. Books, too. Anything that isn't what they've left behind.
On Independence Day, tangled between the sheets of a cheap, pay-by-the-week motel on the outskirts of Des Moines, Renee mentions A Christmas Story. Jack chuckles into the scratchy pillowcase, makes a crack about winning a major award.
"Hey," Renee says, one corner of her mouth turning upward in the shadows, "let's hear it for Christmas in July."
Their laughs are rusty from disuse, but all the sweeter for those rough-hewn edges, the too-rare sound bouncing off the sheet rock overhead.
- - - - -
A month and a half later, they're in Minnesota when Chloe sends another package.
Jack picks up the slim, flat-rate mailer at a post-office box Chloe had registered under an alias. Inside are fresh ID cards, Social Security numbers, and forged passports -- another matched set of necessary lies, couched in smoke and mirrors.
When Renee looks them over after dinner, Jack doesn't understand the soft snort he hears.
He glances up from his daily crossword, pen poised above seventeen across ("smokeys" in the '70s, eight letters).
Renee looks more bemused than anything.
"We can't use these," she says.
"Are the holograms not -- "
"No, they are." Renee's voice is rich with suppressed amusement, and maybe something close to exasperation. "But what she's done, it isn't ... "
Jack's eyebrows rise. Neither of them has had any cause to question Chloe's handiwork before.
"I'm Susan Reeves," she says, lifting her new Ohio driver's license, "and you're Greg Anderson."
"Is that a problem?"
"My last name is Reeves. You're Mr. Anderson, Jack."
He doesn't say anything, his brain cells bumping to blank.
"I don't understand."
"Reeves," she repeats. "And Mr. Anderson. Is Chloe a Matrix fan? Because somebody's going to put this together. They'll see the joke, and they'll know."
Jack chuffs a low, wry chortle, pushing past the initial tightness and itchy, creeping panic behind his sternum.
"Only you, because you're looking for it," he says, finding a smile for her sake, and his own. "No one else is going to see that connection."
"But -- "
She breathes out, and rakes her pale, slender fingers through her dyed brown hair.
"I must be losing my mind."
Jack doesn't quite shake his head.
"Nah," he says, deadpan. "You're just getting paranoid."
He supposes he earns the pillow she chucks at his face.
Small moments like this, he figures, build one of the better days.
Just in case, though, he'll send Chloe an encrypted e-mail from his burner phone tomorrow, and request to change one of their identities; being too careful is no longer part of his lexicon, or Renee's.
He returns his attention to the paper, and scrawls T-R-O-O-P-E-R-S into the waiting blanks.
This is how they operate, in the confines of this ill-defined after.