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ADVENTURES IN REAL TIME 1/3

Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Adventures In Real Time, Chapter 1
Author: marinw
Rating: R
Characters: Jack/Jonathan Bauer (OC)/Teri/Audrey/Cheng/Mandy. How’s that for a combination?
Summary: My own post-Day 5/Day 6 AU (?) mindfrak. Inspired by xbedhead’s "Paranoia"
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: I’ve been drinking way too much Kool-Aid. Much gratitude to my beta, the most awesome sardonicynic.

"We all sleep.
Whether we acknowledge it or not we all dream.
And certainly every single one of us will die."
~The Dalai Lama



Jack was teaching his six-year-old-son to ride his two-wheeler.

Jonathan Bauer looked at his father with huge, serious, dark-blue eyes. His full mouth pouted in concentration. Tufts of his blond hair escaped his helmet.

Jack regarded this miniature version of himself. “I just took off the training wheels. I’m going to give you a bit of a push. See if you can make it to the end of the driveway.”

“I wanna go now, Daddy,” Jonathan whined impatiently.

“Fine.” Jack gently pushed on the back of the bicycle. Jonathan was somewhat wobbly, at first, but did make it almost to the end of the driveway before tipping over. He fell on his padded elbows. Jack ran after him.

Jonathan was already on his feet. “I’m fine. I wanna go again.”

Jonathan was not satisfied until the fourth attempt, when he finally reached the end of the driveway. He applied the brakes and put his feet on the ground, in exactly the manner his father had instructed.

“I did it, Daddy!”

“Yes, you did,” Jack said, kissing the top of the helmet. “Great job. Now put the bike away and go wash up.”

Jonathan did as instructed, skipping happily into the one-story house.

“He’s quite the daredevil,” Teri noted. She was sitting on the porch, where she was reading the latest issue of Communication Arts.

“He doesn’t get that from me,” Jack replied.

“No, of course not,” Teri smiled.

Jack suddenly grew serious. He sat down beside his wife on the love seat. “I want to do a good job with him, Teri. I want to do a better job than my father did with me and Grae.”

She put her hand on his sunburned cheek. “You are. Look how happy he is.”

“I made mistakes with Kim.”

“We both did. But Kim’s fine. She’s getting married. Our lives are so much different now.”

“I’m glad I resigned from CTU. I can imagine what our lives would be like if I stayed.”

“You sacrificed a lot when you quit.”

“It was worth it. To have you, and Kim, and Jonathan, and to know that you’re all safe. It was worth it.”

Jack kissed his wife. With that kiss, the universe vanished.

••••

He knew it was selfish, to bring those people here. He rationalized it my telling himself that neither Teri nor Jonathan were real, that his wife was dead and his phantom son had never been born. It was perverse, willing them into the part of his mind Cheng’s men couldn’t reach. But he needed this because it was just a fantasy. He couldn’t lose what wasn’t real to begin with.

How long had he been here? Weeks? Months? How long since the last interrogation? It was probably less time than he thought.

His eyes had grown used to the dark, but there wasn’t much to look at. A hole in the floor. A threadbare blanket. A dirty plate and pitcher, still half-filled with stagnant water. They were careful not to let him starve or become too dehydrated. He could refuse to eat, but them they would force-feed him. It had happened several times already.

Escape was impossible. He had tried.

He had to hold out for a while longer. Someone would come for him.

••••

Jack had fallen asleep in the best way possible, with his nose buried in Audrey’s hair and his arms wrapped around her slender torso. Those arms had scars where the tattoos had once been, but Jack was far past being self-conscious. Audrey had scars too.

He had finally trained himself not to scream when he had one of the nightmares. They came less frequently then they used to. But they still happened.

It’s been two years. They should have stopped by now.

He lay still and followed the checklist Dr. Schreber had given him: Breathe deeply. Take a moment to re-orient yourself to the present. Focus on your immediate environment.

That last one was easy enough, as his immediate environment was extremely pleasant. Jack allowed his head to sink deeper into the pillows and felt the soft weight of the duvet covering his lower body. He moved his hand slightly, stroking the silk fabric of Audrey’s nightgown, careful not to wake her.

Audrey had been Jack’s personal cavalry, a white knight who had charged in to rescue her damsel in distress, who was quite literally trapped in a dungeon. It had been a case of complete role-reversal, and Jack was fine with that.

And now they were together. A simple restraining order wasn’t enough to keep them apart.

Jack knew he should get up. Maybe make some coffee. But this moment was perfect and he didn’t want to lose it.

“I’m so afraid, Audrey,” he whispered into the back of her head. “I’m so afraid that this isn’t real.”

“That’s because it isn’t,” Audrey murmured, still half-asleep.

••••

“This is becoming very tiresome, Mr. Bauer,” Cheng said. “Your government obviously considers you expendable. As a bargaining chip you are useless. And you still refuse to talk. I sometimes ask myself why I am keeping you alive.”

Jack said nothing.

“Is this how you want your life to end, Mr. Bauer? Do you want it to end here? Like this?”

No. This wasn’t how he would die. He had already decided that. He had imagined his death many times, and this wasn’t it.

He who lives by the sword…

••••

Jack pointed his Glock at Mandy’s temple. “I know you helped Cheng escape. You’re going to tell me where he is. Now.

Mandy stared back at Jack. She knew that he wasn’t going to kill her. She was too valuable.

“Not until I have an agreement.”

“Another one?” How many times was Mandy going to play that particular card?

“Full immunity. Not just against prosecution. I need protection from the Chinese.”

“What?!”

“Chinese prisons are places a person should try to avoid. But you already know that, don’t you?”

“Fine. But we need to get out of here before Cheng’s people find us. Federal agents have already set up a perimeter. We need to leave now.”

“Give me your vest. I’m not taking any chances.” Mandy had an astonishing capacity for self-preservation.

Jack quickly but reluctantly took off his Kevlar vest. He felt almost naked without it.

Mandy had barely finished adjusting the vest to her smaller frame when Jack heard the gunmen coming.

“Let’s go!” Jack ordered.

Mandy and Jack ran through the poorly-lit warehouse

They were halfway across the cavernous storeroom when the gunfire started. Men emerged from behind the shelving. Jack ran backward as he squeezed the trigger. He hit one of the men in the thigh and the other … well, he didn’t have the time to check.

“I have a situation!” he shouted over his comm.

“We’ll send in reinforcements,” the head of Field Ops replied.

Armed agents appeared at the hangar-like doors, but most of Cheng’s men were still hidden.

As bullets ricocheted off metal, Jack remembered that the warehouse’s inventory included explosives.

And then somebody’s bullet hit what must have been a case of them.

"Dammit!"

Jack grabbed Mandy’s arm and ran. The exit was only thirty meters away, but it might as well have been thirty kilometers.

He focused on the doors and the waiting agents. At this moment nothing else existed.

The explosives detonated the moment Jack and Mandy cleared the doors.

Mandy was immediately taken into custody, still stating her demands while being handcuffed.

Something was wrong. The usual adrenaline was replaced with lightheadedness.

His hand instinctively went to his chest, protected only by a t-shirt and a canvas jacket. He lifted it a moment later to find it covered with blood. Too much blood.

He fell onto the rough asphalt. The medics were running towards him even though everyone knew there was-in all probability-really no point.

Jack was now on his back. Staring straight up, he saw the black-clad personnel, the SUVs, the huge floodlights illuminating the parking lot.

“So this is how it ends,” he moaned softly as the blood pooled in his mouth.

Mandy was suddenly standing over him.

“You should be so lucky.”

TO BE CONTINUED…