Waiting for Rain

by Kass

Thanks to Sihaya, Justine and Alanna for reading through this one.
These characters belong to whoever's responsible for 24. The only thing I own here are my words.

It's hazy again, like it's been all June. The sky is brooding, but nothing falls.

A bug spatters the windshield and Jack flips on the wipers, but he's out of washer fluid. All it does is spread the mess across his vision.

It's almost three months since Teri died. Monday he returns to work.

The investigation could have been worse. Mason tried to smooth things over with District, but the questions were inevitable. The sleep dart in Mason's thigh, the dead cop, the hostage waitress, all the way to emptying his clip in Victor Drazen's body: the night replayed itself in obscene technicolor on IA's tape-recorders. And against his closed eyelids, too’—almost daily, the first few weeks. Damn near developed an addiction to Ambien; it was the only way he could get to sleep. Without picturing the kid Kim says helped them out, the first time they were kidnapped. Without picturing Teri bloody in his arms.

But they didn't fire him. By the morning after the primary, the news anchors were already trumpeting him as Palmer's two-time savior, and Chappelle's too savvy to fuck with a media darling. Besides: they can't afford to fire him. He's too good.

So they gave him a paid leave of absence to work his shit out. PT for the leg, mandatory counseling for everything else. The three months are almost up, and the bitterness at the back of his gut is starting to lessen. He can go a few minutes at a time now without thinking of Teri. Kim seems to be hanging in; not perfect, but about as good as you'd expect, for a kid who lost her best friend and her mother in the same night.

There's a decent chance they'll tell him on Monday that they're transferring him. In the weeks right after, strangers would come up to him and ask if he was the guy who'd saved Palmer. Some asshole had leaked his photo, and it was all over the papers for a while. An agent's worst nightmare.

Jack scrubs a hand over his face. Just what Kim needs: another change. Not that he knows how he's going to be any kind of parent once he's back at work, anyway. The thought of leaving her at home alone, even with a bodyguard, makes his stomach curdle.

But maybe they won't move him. The beard seems to help, or else it's just been long enough for the notoriety to fade. He's last month's flavor. There's somebody new in the public eye now.

And tonight he's driving to a bar an hour outside the city. He wants a drink. He wants, badly, to get laid: last time he went celibate three months must've been high school. His body itches for it, but he can't handle the thought of even kissing anyone he knows, anyone who knew Teri. He compares every woman he sees to Teri automatically, and they all come up short.

The job doesn't help. Not like he can make most average small talk. "What do you do?" "Oh, sorry, I can't tell you."

(How many people died last night because you were doing your job?)

Push it away, push it away. Damn it. The ridges on the steering wheel are hard under his hands.

No. No stranger would put up with the secrecy. And why should she? Christ, even twenty years married, he couldn't tell Teri what he was doing: not this year, not ever. Was why they split, when they split.

Sure, there's always coworkers, they understand the pressures. But coworkers...Jesus.

Thinking of Nina is easier than thinking of Teri, but only slightly.

So tonight he's going to find somebody who doesn't know him. He has ghosts to banish.

Rusty's is dark and more than a little smoky. Television set in one corner over the bar, tuned to basketball. A pair of pool tables. And a decent crowd. A faint nervousness coils as he walks inside.

Little Dutch courage never hurt anybody. Jack orders a shot of Beam and a pint of Miller GD, both. The bourbon goes down fast, woody in the back of his throat. He can feel it humming into his veins.

He takes the beer and settles himself at an empty table. Back to the wall, of course; long habit. Might as well scope the place. Potential exits ahead and to his right; a handful of women, scattered like pool balls across the room. The tall ones, the ones with short or fawn-colored hair, are off the radar immediately. He needs somebody who doesn't look anything like Teri. Nothing at all.

He's starting to almost feel decent when he glances to his left and realizes that the other guy against this wall, the guy watching the ballgame, is Tony Almeida. Jesus Christ.

There's a split second when he could get up and walk away, but he doesn't move fast enough. Tony turns. Recognition flashes across his features, and something that looks like resentment, but he reaches over and offers a hand.

"Jack." Voice noncommital.

"Tony." Jack has to slide along the bench a little to reach him, and once he's moved closer, he feels awkward about shifting back, so he stays there.

Tony takes a long drink. "How's your vacation been?"

His voice is slightly wry, and despite himself Jack almost smiles. "Bearable."

"The leg okay?"

Jack shrugs. "I guess. Been running sprints again. Like being back in fucking Basic."

Tony chuckles.

There's a pause. Jack doesn't want to mention Nina, but he has to say something. "You all right?"

Tony's lips tighten for a second. "Not the greatest summer so far, but I'm okay."

Good: they're not going to say anything specific. Jack relaxes slightly.

They drink again. Jack's beer is half-finished already. Tony gulps the last of his, then stands. "Back in a sec."

When he returns, he's holding two pints: a peace offering, maybe. Jack nods thanks and takes one. On the television over the bar, Mike Bibby shoots a perfect three, and Tony makes a quiet sound of approval. Must be the only native Angeleno in the world who roots for Sacramento.

"So. What brings you here?" Might as well cut to the chase. LA has more sports bars than CTU has hidden cameras; there's got to be some reason Tony's out here.

Tony exhales. "Same thing that brought you, I imagine."

"Which is?"

"Wanted to be anonymous. Away from the office. Pick somebody up, maybe."

Some part of him considers denying the common motive, telling Tony he's full of shit and insubordinate to boot, but he doesn't. He raises an eyebrow for a second, then lets it fall. "Yeah, well, next time you want to be anonymous, coordinate with me, okay?"

They both laugh.

Okay, so it's not the night he was hoping for, but he might as well make the most of it.

There are four glasses in front of each of them when Jack says, "I'm sorry I didn't trust you."

He doesn't mean to say it, but the words leave his mouth with their own volition. The rest of the bar seems darker now, like everyone else is further away.

Tony shrugs. "Yeah, me too.." His voice is light but his eyes are angry.

Jack figures they are both thinking the same thing: of who they trusted instead. "You ever find out who she was working for?"

"Clearance isn't high enough. Chappelle knows, he just won't tell me."

"I'll tell you. If I'm still in their good graces when I get back." It's strange to be forging an alliance with Tony. He hasn't seen anyone from CTU since the investigation ended. And he'd mistrusted Tony pretty much from the second Nina started sleeping with him. It wasn't jealousy, exactly, just...unease. He knew what kind of power Nina had: knew he'd let things slip that he shouldn't have, smoking a cigarette after a fuck, or after she'd sucked him off, her lips full and wet.

Makes him sick now to think of what she might have done with that information.

But somehow the fact that they've both been betrayed gives him a feeling of kinship with Tony now. Either that, or it's the beer.

They're working on their fifth pints each, and the Kings are up by fourteen, when Jack glances up and realizes there pretty much aren't any women in the bar anymore. At least, not any who aren't obviously on somebody's arm. He sighs and gestures around them. "So much for getting laid."

Tony chuckles. "I blew your cover."

"Yeah, well." Jack shifts on the bench, suddenly uncomfortable. Maybe because he was thinking of Nina before, of her mouth on his dick, but he's half-hard, and his jeans pull. And he's realizing Tony and Nina look a little alike: same dark hair, intense eyes. Part of him is idly wondering what it'd be like to have Tony going down on him, eyes closed, cheekbones hollowed.

He wanted someone totally unlike Teri, right? Some beery voice is whispering in his head that Tony fits that bill. And what's the big deal; a mouth's a mouth, right?

There's another voice insisting that this is the worst idea he's ever had, that he has to start using his brain instead of his gut (or his dick). Voice sounds a lot like the therapist he's been seeing. He blinks hard and shakes his head slightly, wanting both voices to get the fuck out of his head.

How long has he been sitting there? Tony's staring at him. Jack feels his face reddening beneath the beard. "Listen, Tony..."

He doesn't have a chance to finish his excuse; Tony licks his lips and Jack has to bite back a gasp. He can't be blushing now; all the blood in his body is rushing to his dick. The room seems swimmy; he must be drunk. He's clinging to that like a lifeline. If he's drunk, Tony is too. Everything's going to be okay. He's making all of this up. Tomorrow he'll be hungover and he won't remember a minute of it.

Tony clears his throat. "Look. If I say something I...shouldn't, you'll chalk it up to the beer, right?"

Jack nods, a little hazy on where Tony's going with this, but willing to go along. He's not thinking about Teri. He's not even really thinking about Nina. He's glad to be here, at Rusty's, with Tony, who it turns out was his buddy all along. Even if he doesn't know what Jack's been thinking.

"I feel bad I kept you from finding some nice woman."

"Nice isn't exactly what I was after." His voice feels gritty from inhaled smoke.

Tony laughs, which is somehow gratifying. "Yeah, okay. But I could. Y'know. Make it up to you."

Jack blinks. How the hell else could Tony mean that? Suddenly his pants feel even tighter. Excitement spirals through him. The voices are silent: his course of action is clear. He's goal-oriented. His dick throbs. "Where?"

Tony jerks his head towards the door. "You've got tinted windows, right?"

He can't help cracking up. Sex in the back seat. "Jesus. I haven't done that since I was a kid."

Tony quirks a smile. "I haven't done *this* since I was a kid, either, but I'm pretty sure I remember how."

Jack staggers to his feet and has to clutch the table for a second. Head rush. He almost snickers, but Tony doesn't know what the joke is, and he doesn't feel up to explaining.

They pay up; they make it to the door. One waitress calls a goodnight; Tony answers, Jack doesn't.

There's some awkwardness getting into the back of the Explorer and fitting themselves into the back seat. Was easier at sixteen. But after a minute Tony's pushing him against the driver's side door and unzipping his jeans. When his dick is freed from the tangle of clothes he almost moans.

And then he does moan, when he slides into Tony's mouth. It's hot and sweet and perfect. It's dark in the car; Tony's a dim shape, slightly darker than the upholstery. And Jack's definitely drunk. The blowjob seems to be happening in discrete instants, like a slideshow. Slipping between Tony's lips. Pressing against his tongue. Bucking up. Tony pulling away for air, then returning.

And it's not long before he's jerking helplessly, coming hard, and Tony's swallowing, choking a little but not letting him go until he's finished, until he's softening. Their breathing is loud against the surfaces of the locked car.

Tony moves to sit beside him, half-collapsing on the bench seat, and Jack opens his eyes again. He's adjusting to the darkness a little. What the hell do you say?

"I can't - I've never." Is that enough? Suddenly it hits him in a rush that he has no idea what he's doing, that this is a really bad idea.

He's close to panicking when Tony says, "Gimme your hand." Jack sees him unzipping his khakis. Feeling like he's dreaming, he reaches over and pumps Tony's cock through his briefs. Tony hisses an inhalation and strains up a little.

Now that it's his hand and not the possibility of his mouth, the panic passes. Weirdness aside, it's not that unlike jerking himself off. Tony's breathing hard, gasping a little. His erection is hot under Jack's palm.

When he comes he bites back a sound. Jack feels oddly bereft. Like he wanted to hear whatever sound that would have been.

They lie there for a few minutes. Jack's head feels clearer. Maybe he's not drunk anymore.

There's a vaguely sick feeling at the pit of his stomach, but he ignores it. So he just did something he really wasn't supposed to do. Isn't that his modus operandi? Jesus, given how often he breaks rules, maybe it's amazing he hasn't wound up here before. Sitting with his dick out of his pants in the back of his car with a coworker whose erection just pulsed under his hand. A coworker who shared his mistress. The mistress who betrayed them.

He bites back the rest of that train of thought.

"I should," Tony says after a while, motioning towards...what? The door? The outside?

"Yeah." Jack's voice sounds strange in his own ears.

They both fumble for their underwear and their zippers. Jack gets out of the car, looks around, sees no one, and motions Tony out too.

They stand by the car door. Above, a dying parking lot light sizzles, casting a weak orange light.

"Look," Jack says finally. "We shouldn't..."

Tony nods. "I know."

What does he know? That they shouldn't have done this? That they shouldn't ever talk about it? That they shouldn't do it again?"

"See you Monday, Jack."

Oddly, and this feels more surreal than the blowjob, Tony offers his hand again. They shake. Tony turns and walks towards his car at the far end of the lot.

The bar door opens and music spills out briefly, along with a guy in cowboy boots, who gets into a pickup truck and starts it loudly.

Jack gets into the car. Not feeling quite as bad as he was this afternoon. Kind of empty, but that's an improvement.

He heads back out of the parking lot. As he turns onto the highway, there's a distant sound of thunder.

Maybe it's finally going to rain.

The End