This is primarily a Jack/Renee fic but you'll find other characters from seasons 7&8 in here as well. It takes place in the hours, days and weeks after Season 8. I've read conflicting timelines and dates on a couple of sites but have decided to go with 24 Wikia's timeline with 18 months passing between seasons 7 & 8 and also that the dates for season 8 are Feb 27 & 28 for timing purposes.

Standard fanfic disclaimers apply and feedback is always sincerely appreciated. :)

Enjoy…


February 28

5:32 pm

Half-slumped against a cinderblock wall, Jack Bauer waits in the shadows of an abandoned industrial building, wooden crates of various sizes providing cover while he breathes in air thick with dust and heavy with the scent of motor oil and diesel fuel.

He raises a hand to wipe the thin sheen of perspiration from his face then drops his palm to rest against the bandage high on his left chest. He winces from the pain the added pressure induces at the site.

The gunshot wound has been throbbing incessantly since the pain medication the EMTs gave him wore off. How Chloe managed to miss his lung is still beyond him and, on another day, he'd probably consider himself lucky.

But not today; not with everything else that's happened.

Taser burns, stab wounds, gunshot wounds… He's lost track of all the damage inflicted on him by another day intent on leaving him bruised and battered, exhausted and grieving.

The slice along his ribcage and the gunshot wound in his chest are the worst of it right now. And, while the EMTs had done a decent job of cleaning and dressing everything in the field, when he last checked the dressings over his ribs and near his shoulder he could see they were still oozing.

Still, he isn't overly concerned about them right now.

In the end, they're all just the latest in a long series of wounds that will leave the latest in a long series of visible scars – and it's been a long time since those have mattered to him.

It's the other wounds and scars, the ones that only he can see or feel, the ones that travel deeply enough into his soul that they never truly seem to heal, it's those wounds and scars that affect him most, it's those wounds and scars that always leave behind the most damage.

He's suffered another in a long line of those today as well.

As another painful spasm travels through his shoulder and chest, he clenches his jaw and closes his tired eyes against it.

Instantly, he is greeted by a quick succession of images playing out in the darkness.

For a few quick moments, she is with him again…

Standing in front of him at CTU, deeply weary, her lips bearing a small smile that hadn't quite managed to reach her eyes, even though he could see she was genuinely pleased to see him. Then she is walking away from him, her jaw set in determination, her eyes hardened in anger as she heads to a briefing…

This isn't the first time he's seen her when he's shut his eyes for any measureable length of time today. It isn't even the fiftieth. And even now, in mere mental pictures and memories, her expressive eyes – green with hints of blue and the occasional speck of gold – impact him in ways he can't quite grasp or explain.

The images aren't always the same, but they're always of her. And, as they have every other time, they bring with them the sensation of a fist closing around his heart, squeezing with all its might. The resulting pain and anger is strong enough that he's actually found himself flinching at times.

In his mind's eye, she is still there, standing near a ditch, moments before he was going to shoot her, her eyes full of challenge and betrayal and anger.

And she is in his apartment, her eyes resigned as she tried to tell him it was okay to walk away from her.

Then she is still and lifeless on an operating room table, the eyes that hadn't once failed to draw him in since the moment he met her, closed forever.

Pushing it all away, he swallows hard and forces his eyes open. He can't deal with this. Not now. Not yet.

There are still things to do.

Thankfully, the distant crunch of dirt and gravel seizes his attention. Instantly, he tenses and becomes more alert as he automatically assesses the situation.

He listens carefully and hears the muffled sound of a car door closing in the distance. Then a second car door – or a trunk, maybe – is shut.

Now, there are footsteps.

One pair of heavy, military-grade boots is slowly moving along the outside of the wall bordering the alley. He strains his ears for a moment and by the sound of the stride, he decides the wearer is male. There are no additional footsteps, no other sounds to be heard beyond the normal background noise of the city. The man appears to be alone.

A minute later, the large and heavy door on the adjacent wall slides open with the screech of metal grating against metal.

Jack does his best to quiet his harsh breathing.

The soles of the boots echo into the thick, gray stillness as they make contact with the concrete floor of the building and another moment passes in silence before the door is pulled closed again.

As the man slowly steps further into the room, Jack picks up on the almost imperceptible fact that one step is just slightly heavier than the other. The man is carrying something heavy.

Finally, he comes to a stop in the center of the room and into the view provided by a thin slice of daylight between the crates.

Jack exhales and his body relaxes somewhat. It seems to hurt more.

Ninety minutes ago, after speaking to Chloe for the last time, he'd tossed the cell phone he'd used to speak to her. He managed to find a run-down maintenance garage he felt would likely be devoid of working surveillance cameras. After verifying that fact, he'd snuck inside and knocked out the sole and unsuspecting mechanic from behind. He used the sink in the small bathroom to rinse the blood – both his and Pillar's – from his mouth and cleaned up his face and hands as best he could. Before leaving, he snagged the man's jacket and cell phone, making one call from it before ditching it a few blocks later.

Since then, he's been here. Waiting. Planning. And trying not to think about how he got to this point.

Now, Jack silently steps around the crates and into the rapidly fading daylight filtering through grime-caked windows.

"Hey," he breathes to the broad-shouldered back facing him.

The man whirls to face him, his weapon already drawn.

"Christ," Jim Ricker mutters, lowering his gun. He drops the large, military-issue duffle bag draped over his shoulder to the ground and, as Jack makes his way over to him, Jim appraises him with arched brows and a faint half-smile. "You look like shit, Jack."

"Yeah," Jack snorts, letting the fact that it's also a pretty apt description for how he feels go unstated. He shifts his gaze, nodding at the black bag now resting at Jim's feet. "You brought what I asked for?"

"Yeah, it's all here. IDs, passports, equipment. I threw in a little cash. It's enough to get you started."

"Thanks," Jack says, reaching for the bag. He hauls it onto a nearby crate, grimacing from the pain that the movement and stress subjects his body to.

Jim watches patiently as Jack opens the bag and rifles around inside, checking the contents.

Two Sig Sauers with holsters, extra clips and a good supply of ammunition; a military-grade fighting knife and ankle holster; a laptop, USB cable and a small electronics kit; his messenger bag; sunglasses, a baseball cap, black denim jacket and two changes of clothes…

"So you have any idea where you're going?" Jim asks finally, "Or what you're going to do?"

"I'll figure it out," Jack mumbles, ignoring his shaking fingers as he pulls out the Sigs to check them. Both have clips that are already fully loaded and when he's satisfied they'll function properly, he slides one into his waistband and the other back into the bag. Then he grabs the knife and straps it to his right ankle.

Next, he carefully slides out of the thin jacket he took from the maintenance garage and lifts his torn and bloodied shirt over his head, holding his breath through the pain shooting through his entire chest and abdomen as the muscles stretch.

"Jesus, Jack," Jim exclaims, getting a look at his arms and chest, "they've sure done a number on you, haven't they?"

Jack doesn't answer. Instead, he turns and grabs the baseball cap, one of the t-shirts and the denim jacket. Just as he starts to put the shirt on, Jim stops him.

"Hold on," he says, moving over to the bag. He reaches into it, digging deep before pulling out a large Ziploc bag and tossing it to Jack. "Antibiotics and pain medication."

Jack frowns as he examines the labels on the plastic bottles inside the bag, the sight suddenly reminding him of the remainder of the medication regimen he's leaving behind along with the rest of his life.

The shit just keeps piling on.

"From what I heard on the scanners," Jim goes on, "I figured you might be needing them. From what I see, I figured right."

"Yeah," Jack exhales, watching as Jim continues rifling around in the bag. Finally, he pulls out a medical kit.

"Looks like a couple of those could use some attention," Jim says before nodding to a low crate, "Take a seat. It's been a while since I've had to do this sort of thing but I can still clean and suture when I need to."

Jack doesn't move. He doesn't have time for this; he needs to get going. "It's fine. The EMTs cleaned them up. I'll take care of the rest later."

"Jack…" Jim says, pinning him with a hard look, "My guess is that the EMTs cleaned them up expecting a doctor to be looking at them. Now, I'm no doctor but we both know basic medic training came with the job."

Jack stays silent. He's already wasted enough time. Chloe can't hold everyone off indefinitely.

"At least let me work on that one," Jim goes on, nodding toward Jack's upper chest, "I'm guessing gunshot wound, right? Through and through? I'll have two hands and a better vantage point, Jack. And I'll be quick about it."

Jack appreciates the man's point. The exit wound is going to be a bitch for him to deal with on his own, even with a mirror and plenty of time – neither of which he foresees having any time soon.

Finally, he nods. "All right."

If Jim is at all thrown by or curious about the other scars scattered on his back and chest, he doesn't say anything. In fact, he works in silence as he cleans both the entrance and exit wounds. For his part, Jack stares straight ahead, grimacing from the pain, wishing he would hurry the hell up.

Several times, the discomfort forces his eyes closed for more than an instant and each time, she is there…

Next to him, assuring him she could handle engaging a suspect while he covered her flank, her eyes confident and fearless…

In front of him at the reflecting pool in Washington, her jaw firmly set, her eyes silently arguing with him, wordlessly telling him he was asking too much of her…

Inches from him, her eyes determined and unyielding as she told him she was coming with him on his mission to supervise Hassan's evacuation from the UN – whether he liked it or not…

Climbing out of a van after he'd shot and buried her alive, her eyes hard and angry and a paler shade of green than he'd seen to that point.

When Jim is finally done, he presses two bulky bandages into place and steps back. "Okay, you're set," he declares simply.

"Thanks," Jack says, rising to stand, feeling a brief wave of dizziness pass over him. He ignores it and carefully pulls on both the clean t-shirt and the denim jacket, watching Jim as he moves back to the duffle bag and tosses what's left of the med kit back inside.

"There's another kit at the bottom," Jim says, "Gauze, saline, tape… The basics."

Stepping back over to the duffle bag, Jack drops the bag of medications back inside and returns his attention to making a mental note of the inventory.

A sat phone; several IDs with corresponding passports; a standard tool kit; a basic surveillance package; a thick envelope of money...

Finally, Jack grabs the cap and sunglasses and closes the bag, satisfied that it contains everything he asked for and more.

"Thanks, Jim," he says tiredly, hefting the bag onto his right shoulder, his body protesting under the added weight.

"Listen, Jack," Jim says before Jack can step away, "I have a buddy who captains a freighter. He's shipping out tonight for Cape Town. With the stops it'll make, it's practically a month by sea, Jack. That's almost four weeks off the grid without even really trying. That's a little time for the heat to die down and for you to 'figure it out.'"

Jack doesn't say anything immediately. Instead he openly studies Jim's face for hints of deception or ulterior motive. He doesn't find it.

Jim sighs. "Yeah well, it was a thought," he says grimly, "Look, I gotta go pack up. Some kid from CTU barged into my place looking for you. I'm compromised."

"What was his name?"

"The kid?" Jim asks, then pauses to think back for a moment. "Ortiz. Why?"

Jack says nothing, quickly putting it together. Somehow, Chloe and Arlo must have spotted Jim while searching for him. Probably at the mall. They must have managed to ID and locate him and Chloe sent Cole in. That's how she figured out he'd be targeting Suvarov and where to look for him.

"The fact that you're not dead tells me he found you," Jim goes on with a frown, "And if you're waiting for me to say I'm sorry I helped him out with that, don't hold your breath. We both know every law enforcement officer in the city is gunning for you right now. And this guy? He seemed to be the only one of 'em genuinely interested in making sure you didn't get yourself killed. I just thought… you could use some help."

Jack sighs and meets Jim's eyes, a tired, faint smile lifting the corner of his mouth. "It's all right, Jim. It worked out."

Jim's eyes drift to Jack's chest as if picturing the damage underneath the t-shirt. "Did it?"

Jack doesn't answer. He's not dead. That's about the only relatively high point he can see of it right now.

"Anyway," Jim goes on, "This Ortiz kid gave his word he'd keep his mouth shut but I can't take the chance."

"I know him," Jack says firmly, "If he gave his word, you can trust it. You don't need to pack up."

"Maybe. Maybe not. We'll see." Jim reaches into a pocket inside his jacket and pulls out a folded manila envelope, extending it toward Jack. "Look, in case you decide to go with the freighter, you'll need this. All the info you'll need, all the proper documents, they're in here. Captain's name is Quentin Tucker. I'll call him after I leave here. I won't give him any specifics, just enough that he won't shoot first and ask questions later. Whether you show up or not will be entirely up to you."

Jack stares down at the envelope, absently running his fingers along his palm as he silently analyzes the option.

"He's one of us, Jack," Jim adds, as if sensing Jack's hesitation, "He's a good guy. You can trust him."

Jack switches his gaze to the door, squinting as he continues to consider it for another long moment, the thought of being on a freighter threatening to dredge up memories he'd rather keep where he's buried them. Finally, and without an actual decision about it in his head, he takes the envelope.

"What makes you think he'll let a fugitive on board? Let alone give one safe passage?"

"Let's just say he owes me like I owed you. And that's past tense, if you get what I'm saying."

Jack nods and extends his hand. "Consider the debt repaid, Jim. I... I appreciate everything you've done."

"Good luck, Jack," Jim says, firmly grasping Jack's hand and shaking it. "And take care of yourself."