Characters: Jack Bauer, Renee Walker
Summary: …she finds that her hand is running up his arm, her mouth is on his shoulder, and her answer is hopelessly in the proposition of his hands.
Warnings: Sexual content. Spoilers for seasons 7 and 8
Disclaimer: They’re not mine. If they were, this is what I’d make them do.
Author’s Notes: These ficlets are/were a Christmas gift for leigh57. She also kindly agreed to beta them, even though I just NOW got around to editing. Thank you, leigh! This is basically a bunch of shippy 24 Jack/Renee AU. All of these were based on random prompts that I couldn’t form cohesively, so I separated them into three alternative scenarios. The prompts that originated from song lyrics are thanks to Bruce Springsteen, Ingrid Michaelson, and The Frames. The main title comes from a Mumford and Sons song.
Pre-Season 8 AU
You've Gone a Million Miles. How Far'd You Get?
There was (well, still is) this big bluff overhanging the river by her childhood home. When Renee was growing up, it was this not-so-secret tradition in town that the eighth graders always snuck down to the place where the waterfall breaks, right after graduation, and jumped, all exhilaration and that youthful feeling of indestructibility.
Her mother made her promise that she wouldn’t do it. Ever.
“But no one ever gets hurt, Mom! It’s not even rocky in that part,” she remembered grumbling in protest, sometime after she turned twelve.
She’d dwelled on this promise on that June night when her turn finally came around. It was so not fair. But she sat up on the rocks, arms wrapped snugly around her knees, trying to control the tremor in her jaw and the tears rising to the surface as her classmates plummeted into the water below.
When she got home that night, bone dry with attitude, her mother hugged her, exhaling. “I’m proud of you, bean.”
“Well, I really wanted to do it,” Renee said quickly, annoyed, trying to escape to her room.
“I know,” her mom whispered into her ear, grasp becoming tighter than Renee could ever remember. When her mom released her grip a minute or two later Renee noticed how her eyes were noticeably wet with what she assumed to be pride or relief or both working together.
In that moment, even through the humiliation, sadness, and relative certainty that she’d be a social outcast until the end of forever, Renee knew that she’d made the right decision.
So when Jack called her for the fourth time -- short message with a long pause, some throat clearing and recuperation written in the steadiness of his breathing -- he’d muttered, Renee, I’m worried, and she’d swear over her mother’s grave (if she believed in stuff like that) that it was the sudden flash of this almost-forgotten adolescent memory that gave her enough of a reason to call back.
Enough permission to expose him to...this.
“Hello?” he said, low, sounding like a calmer version of himself.
A bunch of words seemed to travel across her tongue before settling down.
“Hi,” she said, quietly into the receiver, arms wrapped snugly around her knees.
His phone had been on its highest volume in his pocket for five days. He noticed he’d been missing calls when it was set on vibrate, full feeling returning to his body in the same fashion as his memories -- slow and painful.
He stopped looking at the caller I.D. when, for self-preservation, he concluded it would never be her. He assumed it would be Kim or Chloe calling. No one else had the number. Well, his granddaughter called him once and asked him for an ice cream sandwich, over the phone and three thousand miles away.
He liked that Teri still thought in miracles.
But it was six o’clock on some idle Tuesday night. Jack was searching through the drawer for something to use to stir his decaf when the volume of his phone startled him.
“Hello?” he muttered, still rummaging until he had his hands on a spoon.
Jack set the spoon down, quietly, his fingers closing around the edge of the counter. He shut the drawer and swallowed. “Renee?” he said, knowingly, enunciation failing.
“Yeah. It’s me.”
“You called back,” he stated, and he immediately feared she’d interpret his comment as accusatory. Too many things he wanted to say to her all at once, but so much of it lost in his inability to access words. Part was the toxin, another part something else working within that made his mind dumb and his heart thump.
“Sorry, Jack. I didn’t mean…” Jack waited. No, no. Don’t be sorry. “I didn’t want you to worry.”
“I’m glad you called,” he said, trying to reassure her, clearing his throat. When she didn’t say anything for a while he panicked. Fast. “Is there reason to be worried?”
Again no immediate response and he thought about things like the Red-Eye and speeding taxis. Just wait. Wait, I can be there. Tomorrow.
“I’m fine,” she whispered after a moment. Jack tried not to exhale too loudly. “How’s Kim?”
With a little jaggedness they eventually settled into smoother conversation. He told her about his granddaughter (how she was too fast to keep up with, how Kim was a lot better at discipline than he ever was, how Teri made him a bright pink Play-Doh rocket that they were going to “set off into space” tomorrow). The whole time he tried to imagine her faintly smiling on the other side of the country, wished he could see her face.
“I go back to D.C. twice a month,” he told her later. “So Dr. Macer can run some tests.”
“Oh?” she said. “Is everything okay?”
“Yeah,” he said quickly. “Yeah, just standard progress checks.”
He swallowed, tried to find buried courage. He hadn’t done this in a very long time.
“There’s a Starbucks in front of the hospital,” he said. “Would you like to meet me there next Tuesday?”
There was deadness on the other end of the line; he couldn’t even hear her breathing.
“I just-” he paused, rephrased. “I’d really like to see you.”
“Yeah, Jack. Of course. What time?” she said.
What he didn’t know when he hung up the phone that night (inner smile and sleep suddenly easier) was that their coffee meetings would become daily, that he’d start seeing her smile when he shut his eyes, and that every time his plane landed in L.A. he’d be waiting to return for his next appointment.
What would thrill him most of all was that the coffee house tradition would end one day in her apartment. His hand would cup her face as she spoke of Wilson and she’d respond by leaning forward, (disbelief, privilege) and for the rest of forever they’d brew in the morning together, spending less and drinking in more.
Gunshot Recovery AU
She’s spent months cooped up indoors in a terrycloth bathrobe, so she doesn't realize it's Christmastime until she looks out the window and notices the wreaths hanging on the brick buildings across the way.
TBS starts airing The Christmas Story like, 24-7.
Jack drags in a Christmas tree one day, stomping the slush off his boots, and he asks her what she wants. She makes a mental list of intangible things, then tells him some slippers would be nice.
Jack nods and smiles, as though he’s letting her off the hook this time, but he’ll get the real answer out of her soon enough.
Renee’s not so sure she can put it into words either way.
It's freezing in his apartment this week, the old heating unit broken after the pipes clanked a few too many times. Jack buys a humidifying space heater and sets it up near her spot on the couch. Every time he has to change her dressing he rubs his hands together for what seems like minutes before touching her bare skin.
His nose is a little red, his smile polite. She spends a lot of time tracking his movements and responding to them. When he walks by the couch, for example, she always tries to move a little to the left, leaving more and more space for him to get the message. Finally she gives up and says, “Jack, will you just come sit?,” and so he does. But it’s as though he doesn’t know where to put his hands, doesn’t realize that she wants them… on her.
When she’s being real with herself, she can't imagine the massive bullet wound is much of a turn-on, but her mind and body have been telling her that something is missing from this relationship for about a month now. Something she can’t quite articulate even to herself.
He sits there, kind of still, eventually laying the palm of his hand on her knee, and when she settles into his frame he looks sort of relieved, so that’s something.
The next time he changes her gauze, gently applying a strip of medical tape around the outer edge, his thumb lingers on her good side and brushes up and down the curve of her waist. He licks his lips when her breath hitches.
"Jack?" she whispers.
"Sorry," he says quickly, clearing his throat and lowering her shirt over the fresh bandage, avoiding her eyes.
When she crabs about being totally dependent on him, he agrees to let her do some things, like get the mail from the hall and scoop the coffee.
She thinks, big deal, but she’ll take any responsibility that will distract her from the monotony of life right now.
It’s a couple weeks until Christmas and Jack’s been busy preparing for Kim’s family. He’s excited as a little kid about seeing his granddaughter. She finds herself living off of his enthusiasm, and sometimes that alone can get her through watching the cable listings scroll by twenty times before she accepts that nothing’s on except corny Hallmark Christmas specials.
When she steps into the hallway to get the mail she finds a piece of holly on the ground, fallen from the piney decoration above the neighbor’s door. She bends to pick it up, but when she moves upright again her sutures stretch and she leans her body against the wall, clinging to her side. She gasps and squeezes her eyelids shut.
Jack comes running; he’s immediately holding her upright against the doorframe.
He’s so close she can smell his body wash over the angry, throbbing pain. He’s feeling her all over to see where she’s hurt, eyes panicky before she can manage to say, “I’m fine. Jack, I’m fine.”
“Did someone…” He’s all out of breath now, too, looking down the hallway while holding her in place. “Was someone here?”
“No. I just…” The pulsing is replaced by a muted pain that tells her nothing’s ripped. She catches her breath and manages to hold the holly up so he can see, starting to laugh at how pathetic she is. (If not laughter it’s tears and given the choice…) “I wanted to pick this up.”
She watches as relief washes over his face. His hands find her wound and he places his fingers there, delicate as air, as if to ask, here?. She nods and he takes a deep, recovering breath. He looks down at the holly in her hand, replacing the emotion in his eyes with something that’s almost amusement. “Mistletoe?” he asks.
She stares in confusion and pauses, aware of his hand at the very bottom of her back, supportive. Jack looks at her. He’s close enough that she can see the tiny wrinkles around his eyes. The quiet seems to last, implication rising on his face. He’s fiddling with the terrycloth of her robe.
“Yeah,” she lies, thinking in potentials.
She moves in as close as possible without touching her lips to his. Her nose brushes against the side of his cheek. She concentrates on the quiet proximity, hears him inhale, feels his arms wrap around her, and waits for him to eliminate the inch of remaining space.
(Later, she’ll tell him it was holly and joke about plant identification. Later, she’ll tell him she never really wanted slippers.)
For now, reality is his tongue in her mouth and the comfort of his hands inching up her back. Any lingering pain is forgotten by the miraculous way he manages to kiss with his entire body.
New Years Eve, Quiet
He wakes up on the couch to Renee straddling his lap and kissing his neck. He feels the outline of her breasts touching his chest and smells her shampoo before he opens his eyes.
“Wake up,” she whispers between kisses. “You’re gonna miss the Ball Drop.”
When he reorients, she moves her attention to his lips, releasing a soft hum into his mouth. She tastes like champagne and raspberries and that sweet dipping sauce.
“I think I’m gonna miss it anyway,” he says through a smile, placing his hands on her thighs and rubbing upwards. She’s very warm on his lap.
When her lips fall back on his neck he catches a glimpse of the TV. Ryan Seacrest in Times Square, muted; he’s thankful for that.
Five minutes and thirty eight seconds to go.
She’s taking off her shirt now (and he’s thankful for that, too). He’s studying her as her red hair clings to the material of her sweater, static electricity, and he watches in awe as her freckled face moves back towards his lips.
She moves her hips across his jeans, her hands working on the button as she glides, leisurely, and holy fuck he doesn’t know what he did to deserve this. To deserve her.
“Renee,” he says, closing his eyes. He’s already really hard. She’s driving him crazy and tugging up his shirt, her fingers burrowing under the cloth to touch his skin. When he’s free of the fabric, the lace of her bra rubs against his bare chest and the outline of her nipples tease him as she leans forward. He swallows and tries to control every impulse he has to flip her over.
As if she can read his mind, she stands up to remove the rest of her clothes. He slides his jeans and boxers down, then she’s back on top of him just in time to touch her everywhere possible. She shivers when he runs his palms up her naked spine, making that irresistible sound he likes, the one he plays in his head when he’s alone.
“Are you sure?” he says, because they’ve tried only the traditional positions, mindful of her wound, and this is the first time she’s made it clear she wants to take the reins.
He worries. Worry is always there, actually, no matter the context. She’s not supposed to test the boundaries of exertion like this.
“Shhh,” she says, lifting up her hips and guiding him inside of her. He shuts his eyes and swallows the protest he’s nearly forgotten.
“Let me help,” he compromises, and he holds her hips and moves up into her, the both of them moving forward in fusion.
She tilts her head back, eyes shut, and he watches her, marvels. He steadies his hands on the small of her back as she pushes into him, deep.
“Jack,” she says, her whole body trying desperately to move faster. She wraps her arms tightly around his shoulders and lifts herself up for momentum. He buffers her movements so she won’t be disrupted with pain and compensates by securing her waist as he thrusts up, faster, responding to the gasping hitch of her breath.
“Oh god,” she says and with a few more motions she’s arching her back and breathing erratically, shaking on his lap. He’s trying to absorb the entirety, about to come but keeping up the movement until she recovers. After a moment she’s raising her hips over him again with purpose, sharp focus on his face; he feels her gaze on the tips of every nerve ending.
“Jesus, Renee,” he says, because he was already so close and now there’s no hope of making this last. He’s throbbing inside of her as she’s lifting herself up and down around him, faster as the low quakes reverberating out of him become louder, his breathing heavy with release.
He is in awe of her. Every day.
When his breathing finally calms she’s whispering, warm in his ear, “Happy New Year.”
“Happy New Year,” he repeats, kissing her shoulder, and for the first time in many years, he believes it might be.
And Our Cracking Bones Make Noise
“I can’t sleep,” Renee whispers, rolling over to face him. It’s been an hour since the lights went off, and they’ve both been rustling around. It’s dark; he can’t see her face, but there’s somberness in her voice, penetrating the quiet like loudness.
“What are you thinking about?” he asks, moving closer under the blankets. He places his hand just above her hip bone, carefully. Her skin is warm there and she exhales as she moves her body closer.
“Nothing, really.” She moves her head onto his pillow (he makes room there). “Everything.”
Jack’s been wide awake, too. Tomorrow Renee is testifying. Tomorrow she’ll look Pavel in the eye and it’s a fucking shame, he thinks, that he didn’t kill the bastard when he had the chance.
(Sometimes he has nightmares of her going still in his arms, of what would have happened had that bullet been a couple of centimeters higher. Sometimes he manages to stop himself before his breath fails and the urge to touch her everywhere overcomes him like compulsion. She’s been patient about that.)
“You don’t have to look at him,” he whispers, her face becoming clear as his eyes adjust to dark. “I’ll be right there.”
“C’mere,” he says, and she eliminates the few inches of space between them, overlapping her legs with his and dissolving fully into his frame. He kisses her, soft, rubs her back while his mouth lingers.
“Thank you,” she says as his fingers move over the tightness in her upper back. He buries his face in the curve of her neck. Her breath meets the skin of his shoulder, calming.
He rubs for a while longer and when her breathing evens he thinks she’s maybe falling asleep until he lifts his head and brushes against wetness on her cheek.
“Renee.” His hands are on her face in an instant.
“Yeah?” she says, barely audible, cracking.
He moves his thumb across the tears there.
This is familiar.
“It’s going to be okay,” he whispers. “I promise you.”
“You were right,” she says, “the last time you said that.”
She comes onto him then, a distraction that will allow the both of them to sleep later. It’s intensified. Heightened by the slow and the quiet, except for the sound of her breathing, which is more than enough.
Hot Chocolate with Cinnamon and Whipped Cream
She’s starting to get chilly in his bed, their bodies cooling down, and it occurs to her that it’s time to put on some clothes, but she doesn’t want to move. He’s got his arm wrapped around her torso and the way the skin of his chest touches against her back makes her feel settled.
She starts to wiggle, trying to extract herself without disturbing him.
“You’re tensing,” he mumbles, half asleep, his breath hot against her neck. He rubs a hand up her arm.
“Sorry,” she whispers. “I need to get my shirt.”
“Why would you want to do that?” he says, half laughing, kissing her neck through his words.
(He’s irresistible like this.)
Renee laughs. "It’s cold”, she says. “And I’m naked.”
“I noticed,” he says, leaning over her to find her lips.
She kisses him back (his breath in her mouth, her tongue teasing the roof of his). She breaks contact and reaches for her shirt. He pulls her back towards him, gentle, lips on her collarbone, then lower, pleading.
“What can I do so that stays off a little longer?” His voice is low and crackly, full of desire, and Oh, God, she doesn’t want him to stop. Sometimes she laughs at herself at how easy he makes this.
“You could make me some hot chocolate,” she suggests, distracted because his hands are now smoothing their way up her stomach and towards her breasts. His tongue is on her ear.
“Oh yeah?” he whispers.
“Yes,” she says, trying for adamant. “With cinnamon,” she states, but she finds that her hand is running up his arm, her mouth is on his shoulder, and her answer is hopelessly in the proposition of his hands. “And whipped cream.”
He chuckles, low in her ear. “Right now?”
“Yes,” she mumbles, almost incoherently. He’s got her on her back now; she finds herself arching up towards him.
A hand slides lower, past her hips. Then he’s pressing the pads of his fingers over her, up and down, making any question of her desire inarguable. “Now?” he asks again.
She feels him, hard against her thigh, his tongue swirling circles across her chest.
“Later,” she relents, reaching under the covers.
Post-Season 8 AU
You Have Suffered Enough/And Warred with Yourself/It’s Time That You Won
She’s nowhere or somewhere. Everywhere, maybe. Spinning. Her head pounds, but she’s whole. Feels whole, at least. She doesn’t know why this seems so significant.
When she opens her eyes there’s a shadow, more like a silhouette, blackened by an omnipresent, incoming sun. She moves to sit up, instinct, but a jagged twisting of razor-sharp pain, throbbing through her middle like a drum, reacquaints her with reality.
“Jack?” she hopes, voice rusty, but it becomes clear very quickly that this man is not Jack.
“Ms. Walker,” he starts. His sound is easy and smooth but there’s a herd of thoughts stampeding through her mind, quick as the pain and all at once, and she knows this man (tall with dark brown hair, she realizes as she finds focus) is about to confirm them.
“No,” she whispers.
(’Jack’, she’d said and he was there and she was down and bleeding, being lifted up, whispered to in a car, and that’s the last thing that was.)
“Ms. Walker, Jack’s not here. You were shot and wounded badly. Jack…” the man hesitates and she’s in no position to get worked up, but she wants to scream at him to spit it out. “Jack is gone.”
“Where is he?” she manages. She doesn’t recognize the sound of herself; it’s muted and weak. Her side is throbbing through the haze.
The man clears his throat. “Jack Bauer, and the rest of the world, is under the impression that you’re dead.” He pauses, looking at her so sympathetically she cringes. “Can I get you something? Some water?”
She doesn’t respond.
“I’ve read your file, so I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you the necessity of relocation. For protective purposes this is the last day you will be addressed by your former identity.”
Her eyes wander around the room, chin quivering involuntarily. Her hospital bed’s inside a house, wallpaper and scanty furniture, and before the onslaught of questions form themselves in her head -- What happened? Where are we? How long? (Indefinitely, ma’am)—she can’t bring herself to move past the one she’d asked first.
“You didn’t tell me where he is,” she says, so quietly the man has to lean closer to hear.
This isn’t happening.
“I’m very sorry, Ms. Walker,” is his reply.
The day he finds out she’s alive (connections everywhere, too many and not enough) is the day he initiates a plot to feign his own death.
He has to see her. He’d felt all but physically dead until this news had surfaced like hope.
When he traces her location he holds her address in his hand and squeezes until his fingers hurt.
Car accident, plane crash, massive heart attack. He brainstorms, considering all the people who owe him favors, considering what can pass as plausible.
Fugitive Declared Dead, the headline read, when it was all over: Passenger Plane Goes Down in the Atlantic.
He made sure she knew, in his way.
It would look like an Amazon package she hadn’t ordered. It would arrive at her house, a note from him inside, tracking info made useless by vagabond consistency.
Jack knew how to be lost.
He’d scribbled out the message several times, changing his mind, rewording. He didn’t want to presume anything.
He needed her to know.
It’s not true are the words he settled on.
There’s a Christmas tree in their cabin. Glass ornaments absorb the rows of colorful light and project a soft glow across the wooden interior. Jack cut down the spruce from the woods in the back, behind the saplings and the stream where the deer like to drink, where Renee sometimes watches from the kitchen window.
Just as soon as this place starts to feel like home she knows they’ll be on the road again, perusing real estate like a grocery store aisle, shopping for seclusion and a place to become new people to everyone but each other.
This is her life now.
She sits on the couch and stares at the ornament in her hand, clutching it until her palms sweat, remembering.
Five years ago Renee was in Colorado Witness Protection (scars across her chest and stomach bearing no connection to her identity). And on one of the few days she’d mustered the will to turn on the news, she’d seen his name displayed on MSNBC, smoke clouds, plane pieces, and underwater photography littered the screen. Some sort of tragic victory. God’s work, the reporter had seemed to think.
A fugitive we no longer need to worry about.
She didn’t open her mail for two weeks, her body raw with all forms of ache, her mind pondering the razor blade in her medicine cabinet, top shelf and behind the Oxycodone. A test.
A really hard test.
On the rare occasion she allows herself this memory, she can never seem to breathe correctly until she recalls the day she decided to walk to the mailbox, deluge of relief and meaning soaking her core. But Jack comes into the living room before she relives the relief and he finds her by the fire, trembling, her hands clenched so tight her knuckles are popping up.
“Renee,” she hears him whisper. She turns. Her eyes, wet with consciousness, meet his and follow to where he comes close to her on the couch, resting his hand on her thigh and taking her fist into his lap.
She thinks about the small brown package she found in her mailbox, a cushioned snowman ornament and a tiny note scribbled in his penmanship:
It’s not true.
She’d read it over and over again until the paper became illegible, all crumpled and faded from being forever present in her palm. She’d kept it close until he arrived at her door, months later.
He sees the snowman in her hand and takes a deep breath, wrapping his arms around her torso. She leans the weight of her body against him until she can reassure herself he’s really there.
“I sent a package to Kim, too,” he says softly, his words blowing up a few strands of her hair.
This is the first she hears of this, but she swallows, bites her lip. “Did it say you’d come back?” She rests her chin on his shoulder, where she feels him shake his head.
“It’ll never be safe enough,” he says.
“It’s been five years, Jack. No one--” This is still hard to talk about, all this time later. It feels like she’s swallowed a rock. “No one thinks you’re alive.”
Without a moment’s hesitation he says, “But everyone knows she is.”
She could have predicted his words verbatim because any risk involving Kim, in Jack’s eyes, is never worth taking.
She loves him so much.
He’s quiet now and she relaxes, taking in the gleaming colors of the tree before shutting her eyes. He runs his fingers up her arm. As she’s calmed by the rise and fall of his chest, all she can think, at the risk of being on his shit list for all of next year, is that there has to be a way to safely give him this.