Hello hello! Here's another one! So this one is pretty angsty and a tad bit graphic but not overly bad, don't fret. Hopefully I'll have the next one up asap :) Thanks to all my lovely reviewers, on here and IG! #jaudrey forever! - Ellisaed
Jack huffed as he finally pulled into his driveway, turning off his SUV and sitting in silence for a moment. It had been a particularly harrowing day at CTU, - per norm, as of late with the presidential election approaching - and Bill had given him fifteen suspect profiles to work through for the meeting with DOD in the morning. He reached across to the passenger seat where he had haphazardly thrown them, opening one of the envelopes lazily to scan through it.
Jack had wanted to decline the extra work but knew he was the best for the job. Taking a second thought, he probably should have.
Jack Bauer knew he was always willing to take on a challenge, but the challenge that he faced this point of his life was one that he fought day in and day out to conquer. But he owed it, to Audrey, because he knew she was fighting an even harder battle herself.
Just two weeks ago, his partner Audrey Raines had been discharged from the hospital after finishing three months of intensive recovery from her times of torture in China only a few moths ago. Though she still had numerous scars, inside and out, Jack had been able to see glimpses of her regular self each passing day. She began to strengthen, and could walk and eat on her own. Her physical and mental health had been well enough, and the doctors had okayed her to go home, with Jack, to their tiny little place in the suburbs. That day had been incredibly wonderful.
The doctors had warned Jack that despite Audrey's improvements, every day for them was going to be an uphill climb: her recovery was ongoing, and she still had a long journey. They had been right. Ever since Audrey began attempting full time living on her own, things had been busier for Jack. That night he still had to make dinner and spend time with Audrey, reading usually, and help her get ready for bed. He would have to make sure the house was semi presentable for the morning, when the visiting nurse came each day to run vitals.
As busy at times as it was, he wasn't going to complain - things were going good. Audrey was improving faster than she had been, and was much more herself now that he could spend more time with her. Her bouts of extreme paranoia, anxiety attacks, and frequent nightmares were lessening day by day. Even yesterday, Jack had seen her nearly smile for the first time in weeks. He didn't want to ruin it just because Buchanan gave him homework. He would find a way to make it fit.
With another sigh, Jack gathered his things and shoved them in his briefcase before locking his SUV. The sun was just starting to sink below the horizon beyond their house, which meant he had plenty time to do what he needed, and maybe even some yard work, glancing at the weeds lining the flowerbeds around the house. Maybe I can finally get around to cutting this lawn too, he mused. Audrey had always been the one to tend the garden, though at the moment she didn't like going outside too much.
Jack grabbed the door handle while trying to fiddle in his keys -
But the lock did not resist his grip. Rather, the door was not even closed at all. As an array of nervous thoughts battered him, Jack tightened his grip on the brass knob, forcing himself to be calm as he slowly pushed the door open. He instructed Audrey to lock the door after 3 p.m., and she had so everyday. Maybe she left it unlocked for me, Jack pondered. The thought was nice, but it was more for the benefit of his comfort.
The house was dim and quiet. Shadows rested still and slanted on the staircase. Usually Audrey played music, because the silence reminded her too much of former torture. It did to Jack as well. As much as he wanted to call his wife's name, he both did not want to startle her or alert the possible assailant in his home. He waited a moment, listening, but heard not a sound.
"Dammit." Jack breathed. Something wasn't right.
Warily, he slipped off his shoes and jacket, grabbing the pistol still at his hip and bringing it up at ready. He glanced into the den as he passed, and the washroom, but both were empty. His socked footsteps creaked on the wooden floor as he headed toward the kitchen, and Jack paused to see if he had alerted anyone. Not a sound.
Jack moved into the kitchen, and was stopped at what he saw.
Their granite countertop was covered with an array of spilled silverware, and the dishwasher was half-emptied below it. Shards of a broken glass plate were scattered all across the floor, and sitting amongst the pieces was his wife, pale hands and fingers smeared with the familiar deep scarlet of blood. She flinched and clenched her hands together at the sight of Jack and the gun he pointed at her, and he quickly lowered it.
Audrey's lip trembled, her face yearning to provide an explanation, but she seemed even more broken than the fragments around her. She only whispered.
"Help me, Jack."
It was the phrase Audrey used during her anxiety spells, the one ingrained in her from China. Jack felt a wash of relief cover him at the sight somehow, the uncertain fear he had felt replaced with a new gentle worry. She had only suffered an anxiety spell.
"Audrey," Jack set his gun on the countertop before kneeling before her, careful to avoid glass beneath his feet, "Are you alright?"
Jack brought a hand up to her cheek, trying to steady her wandering eyes, "Hey, look at me."
She did so.
"Are you alright?"
Audrey tightened her hands again, opening her mouth but only releasing incoherent forms of words.
"Shh, it's ok." Jack soothed, rubbing her shoulder, "What happened sweetheart? Can you tell me?"
Audrey gasped, a tear escaping her still skittish eyes; she pointed a piece of the broken plate with an unsteady hand.
"You broke this." Jack concluded, receiving a half-nod from her. Even though he suspected what happened, he knew he had to help Audrey calm down and realize she was ok. It was the methods the therapist had taught him to use.
"How did you cut yourself?" Jack asked, taking one of Audrey's hands so he could see it. There were four or five inch long cuts on each hand, and judging by the red-stained shards of broken plate he figured she had only been trying to clean up the mess. He hoped she had. Audrey had shed most of her tendencies of self-inflicting injuries, but the thought that she could have relapsed did cross his mind.
"How did you get these cuts?"
She didn't like his touch, but he didn't let her pull away.
"Hey, talk to me. Audrey. How did you cut your hands?
". . . help me, Jack."
"Please sweetheart, I want to help you. But you gotta tell me what happened."
". . . I . . . the, the - the . . ."
"Take your time," Jack said, gently rising and helping her up with him. He lead her carefully out of the danger of the glass and toward the washroom. "You're doing fine."
"The - the, I . . . dropped, I dropped it. It was s-slippery and . . . help me Jack - "
"It's ok, that's good," Jack knew it wasn't really a good thing, but she had managed to explain herself relatively well - better than other times. Audrey was reluctant to follow as he walked her into the bathroom, her body stiffening at the bright lights, but he helped her sit on the edge of the bathtub and she relaxed as he touched her knee.
"Help me, Jack, help me - "
"I'll help you, let's get you cleaned up."
Jack wet a washcloth with lukewarm water and gently washed her hands clean; thankfully, the cuts were not deep, and they looked accidental. That relieved him.
"Do you remember the time we got caught in the rain after one of your father's banquets?" Jack said, trying to take both her mind as well as his off of their situation to calm them, "It was the spring, and hell it was so cold out we were shivering like crazy. It was 1 am, so no places were open, and we were running around like lost little schoolkids for some shelter."
Audrey's eyes still were not steadied, but she had stopped trembling.
"We hid underneath the overhanging roof of a coffee shop. I put my jacket over you, and you held my hands because yours were freezing." Jack stroked the soft skin of her arm, "You said to me, 'I love the rain. Everything is so . . . vulnerable. So bare, so real.' I kissed you, because I didn't know how you could be so happy when our clothes were ruined and we were lost in the dark somewhere in the city. Do you remember that Audrey?"
She didn't respond.
"That's you. I'll never forget that." Jack slid the first aid kit out from beside the sink and found a roll of white gauze.
"Lemme see," Jack said, waiting for Audrey to offer her hand. She had to be willing to let him help her. "Audrey, let me see."
She pulled her hands close to herself, whispering, "No."
". . . sorry, sorry. I - I'm sorry Jack," Audrey mumbled, eyes blinking rapidly. A tear fell from her eyes.
Jack felt his heart sink a bit, seeing. She was in distress, yes, and she was not in her right mind, but even then she knew she was hurting him. She did not want to hurt him.
"Listen to me: I am not upset at you. It was an accident. You don't have to be sorry, okay? Look at me Audrey."
At the softening of his voice, Audrey met his eyes finally, and Jack immediately saw the change in her. It was like it was the first time she had laid eyes on him, the clear blue that steadied him firmly in the present moment. Her anxiety spell was over, as quick as it probably had begun.
Audrey blinked a few times, glancing down to her hands, but kept her gaze steady on him, "Jack?"
"Yes, sweetheart. It's me."
Jack forced a smile, and Audrey nodded back, realizing everything all at once. He took her in his arms, stroking the back of her soft hair as he held her close.
"I remember," She said quietly, "I remember."
"Good," Jack managed to reply, elated inside. It was the first time she had acknowledged a memory. "You're okay. You're gonna be okay."
He whispered this in her ear over and over, not really knowing if he was talking to her or himself. Sitting on the cool edge of the porcelain bathtub, silence except for their breaths; that was where they stayed for a long while, Jack not even bothering to do his paperwork later that night, simply feeling safe and grateful to have Audrey with him, to whisper sweet nothings in her ear.
Thanks so much for reading!