For You – Sasha’s POV of the Arctic

Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, we’re taking a look at Sasha’s POV in the Arctic. What was he thinking? Why did he make the choice he made? This prompt comes from Hikari, who gave a whole bunch of amazing prompts that I can’t wait to write! Thanks, Hikari!

Spoiler warning: This Byte reveals the ending of Enemy Within! Do Not Read if you haven’t finished Enemy Within!


 

First came the adrenaline.

 

The hot, slick slide coursing through his veins, licks of power that swelled his muscles, but faded fast. Weakened spurts tried to keep him going. The exploding RusFuel station. The dogfight in the plane. The crash, and saving Sergey. Storming Madigan’s Arctic base, and his rusted destroyer.

 

By the time he followed Ethan, Adam, and Sergey into the pitch black, fuel-and-salt-stench hull of the ice-bound destroyer, he’d wrung every drop of adrenaline from his weary system that he could.

 

Sasha took each step forward for one man: Sergey. Sergey wouldn’t die before him. He wouldn’t die at all, if he could help it.

 

Then came the panic.

 

A shot in the dark, watching Ethan and Adam set the explosives around the destroyer’s inner hull. Burning, in his shoulder. Sergey’s voice, calling his name. No, damn it, he wasn’t supposed to go first. He stumbled to his knees, trying to shield Sergey even as the lights flared on and a dozen men surrounded them both, weapons pointed at their heads.

 

Being hauled to the top deck and bound. Sergey went limp against him, sagging into his restraints and the inevitable. Sasha’s mind spat one word, over and over and over again: Sergey, Sergey, Sergey. Ethan was tortured in front of them, Adam was beaten beside them, and Sergey sagged more into his side. This was the end. They’d come as far as they could go. He tried to salvage the tiny bit of strength he had left, pull on damaged muscle fibers and flood his body with oxygen. When the time came, he’d fight. He’d take out as many as he could, make it hurt, make them suffer for this. Maybe, if he took out enough of them, there’d be no one left to hurt Sergey.

 

He waited, and waited.

 

Finally, there was just bare-fisted reactions. White-knuckled, clinging to whatever came in front of his face. He saved Sergey, and then Sergey saved him. Together, they leaped from the broken deck and plunged into the icy waters. Sergey’s hands helped him onto the ice cap, and he reached back, frantic, an animal seeking its mate. That same word repeated in his mind, an endless drone that consumed his thoughts. Sergey, Sergey, Sergey.

 

Too many targets. Too many threats. Jack needed to stop Madigan. Ethan was dying. He and Adam had half-empty rifles, and three men were stacked against them.

 

Sergey went with Jack as he sent hot lead toward Cook and Paloshenko. Two against one. Safer than three against two nearly-empty rifles. Sergey was safer with Jack. When his bullets ran out, he ran for Paloshenko. Sergey, Sergey, Sergey. Keep him safe. Buy him and Jack time.

 

He had nothing left against Paloshenko, aside from that mental drone, the klaxon in his mind, the mantra he repeated. Sergey. As if the word would give him strength, fill his depleted muscles with oxygen and blood and power. Sergey. A dream, one he’d dared to have, and tasted, once. Sergey. Sasha knew, from that first night he met Sergey, that he would die for this man.

 

Paloshenko’s back broke first, and he used the very last curl of strength he had to plunge his knife into Paloshenko’s heart. Sergey, Sergey, Sergey.

 

He thought he saw Ethan, painted in blood and bits of bone, sag against the ice, throw Cook’s broken body off. Scott, sliding on the ice, and then running for Adam, collapsed next to a pool of blood and another man. But the world was spinning, ice and snow and wind twirling and somersaulting, and he slumped to his knees as he whispered Sergey’s name to the wind.

 

Sasha opened his eyes and saw a half-empty IV bag resting on his forehead. Scott cursed bitterly beside him, placing tiny bandages along the cuts on his hand. “Can’t fucking read this calculator horseshit,” Scott grumbled. “Fucking hell. Why the fuck are all these bandages so small?”

 

Russian soldiers swarmed the ice, penning in Madigan’s army. Half a submarine rested on its side, a trail of debris scattered in and around the deep gouge she’d left in her wake, leading to a blown hole in the cap. She must have busted through, but tore herself apart. A scratched American flag gleamed on a dented hull panel. Honolulu. American tropics, all the way up here in the Russian ice.

 

He pulled out the IV bag and dropped it on the ice. Scott glared at him, but turned to Adam, breaking every rule of cleanliness as he re-used the IV line and stuck it into Adam’s arm. Battlefield medicine. Infection was better than death.

 

A hum broke over their exhausted group, a high-pitched whine like a jet engine. Or a snowmobile. Jack and Sergey had left on a snowmobile, chasing Madigan. Who was coming back?

 

Sergey, Sergey, Sergey.

 

Hope was not a Russian emotion. He waited for the quiet resignation, the acceptance that would sink in him like lead. Instead, he got hope’s deranged cousin, desperation, clawing at his bones. Like a frantic dog digging a hole, he felt his skin flay, his muscles tear, his bones shatter as he watched the dark dot on the horizon grow closer, closer.

 

And turn into two men, two lost lovers returning from war. Ethan gasped, his fingers gouging the ice, and then struggled to his feet.

 

They embraced, and their happiness was like a breaking dawn, a solar eclipse, a meteor shower igniting the sky. He was caught in the corona of their love, warmth bursting from them both, sheer, unadulterated joy.

 

Sergey grabbed him and pulled him close. He smelled blood. Sergey had gotten himself shot, but he was all in one piece.

 

They’d survived. Somehow, they’d all survived. It was a miracle. A Russian miracle, something that should never, ever had happened.

 

All the thoughts he hadn’t allowed himself to think rushed in at once. Now what? He was supposed to die defending Sergey, saving his life. He wasn’t supposed to live beyond this icy hell hole.

 

There weren’t supposed to be consequences for what he’d done. The dream he’d dared to dream, tasted. Stolen.

 

“You did it. Now you must go back to being Russia’s president.”

 

“Just because Moroshkin’s forces are here cleaning up Madigan’s trash does not mean I am safe. We can still make a break for it, Sasha.” Sergey kissed his temple, sweetly. “I just want to be with you. No more people shooting at us. No more plane crashes.” A glare, and Sergey held him at arm’s length. “You are forbidden from flying again. Two crashes in two weeks. Nyet. No more.”

 

That was Sergey, always thinking of the future. He was such an optimist, a disgusting optimist. They loved once, so they would love forever. They lived, so everything would be okay. That was not the Russian way.

 

“Sergey—“

 

And then Ilya arrived, the bastard showing up with the entire FSB, the whole force of the federal police. Moroshkin’s men and Madigan’s men were handedly captured, and the sky swelled with helicopters and planes. Ilya himself landed and marched across the ice, smugly proud of himself. “Mr. President, I am pleased to inform you that Moscow is once against yours.”

 

Sergey hugged Ilya, shouted with joy, held his best friend as they both cheered. Ilya had done it. He had given Sergey what Sasha never could: the future.

 

He pulled himself away in bits and pieces. Parts of his soul escaped on the icy wind. He let go of dreams, of hopes. Wild imaginings. Step by step, he released every part and piece of himself. You knew it would end like this. You knew there was no future. You should never, ever have given in.

 

Greedily, he kept his memories. Every touch. Every sigh. Every moment. Sergey had burned him, seared his soul, and he’d never recover from that. Sergey would, though. He always looked forward, never back. He’d move on, pour himself into Russia, into righting their country. Sasha would hide, slip away into the unreachable corners of their nation. There were more than enough places to disappear to, to become a ghost in. He’d have his memories, until the vodka and the depression ate through his body and his bones would end up scattered in the wilderness. Just like his old comrades had wanted a year ago. Maybe he should have just died then. This, leaving Sergey, was worse than waking up in the snow, bloody and beaten. At least then he wasn’t broken.

 

“Time to go, Sasha. Ilya has a chopper for us.”

 

He stared at Sergey, memorizing him. Committing his face, his body, the smile in his eyes, the curve of his lips, to his eternal memory, the hard drive of his heart. Sergey, Sergey, Sergey.

 

Everything I do, I do for you.

 

“Let me help Anton and Aleksey a little more. I will fly back with them later.”

 

“Hurry. I want you with me in the Kremlin. I have been dreaming of it.” Sergey squeezed his hand.

 

“You must focus on what you need to do. You are the president, Sergey. Your duty is to the Russian people. They need you now, more than ever.”

 

“Together. We will do it all together. You and me. The way it should be.”

 

He wouldn’t last a year without Sergey. Depression would kill him, murder him, the aching loss of Sergey a black hole that would suck his life away. “Ya lyublyu tyeba.” I love you. I’ve loved you from the moment you held me that first night. I will always love you. I will die loving you. But this is the way it must be. He squeezed Sergey’s hand back. Our people need you, and I am just one broken man. “Go, before Ilya has an aneurism.”

 

He got to see Sergey’s smile one last time. “Zvezda moya, I will see you soon.”

 

My star. He loved that nickname, had burned up inside when Sergey had first used it. No one ever thought he was a star, certainly not their star. For a few days, though, he’d been loved, and he’d burned bright with love himself. But like all stars, he was burning out, and every step Sergey took away from him made his soul collapse into itself. A black hole was forming in the center of his chest, in the center of his heart. Maybe not even a year. Maybe just six months.

 

He watched Sergey fly off, and the world bled away its color. Turquoise and aquamarine, crystal white and baby’s breath blue, the colors of the Arctic, smeared to gray. He ended up on a prison transport, flying to Lubyanka prison. Transferring all the prisoners was chaotic, and he slipped away from the FSB.

 

He felt a clock on his back, ticking down the days he had left. North. He’d head north. Back to the ice. He’d freeze the burn of Sergey’s love out of his soul.

 

* * *

 

Weeks later, he walked into his cabin in the Russian north, buried in the snow, off the edges of every map, and color roared back into his world.


Timestamp: Sasha’s POV during the later parts of Enemy Within and the battles in the Arctic.

 

Playing the Presidential Card – Jack and Ethan, post-Enemy Within

 

Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, we take a look at Ethan and Jack in their married, post-presidential life. How are they settling in? How do they begin to make a normal life together, after everything. Enjoy!


 

Sure, they had a new home—their first home together—but that didn’t mean they had everything.

 

The kitchen was full of Ethan’s belongings, and the furniture was mostly a mixture of Jack’s classic style and Ethan’s ultra-modern taste. It made for an odd mix, in places. Two couches faced each other in the living room, one sleek black leather and smooth lines, and the other a warm, rumpled brown leather lounger.

 

Sometimes, they flopped onto their preferred couches and stared at each other over the divide. Who would break first and cross to the other side?

 

Ethan always did.

 

They had their king bed, their first purchase as husband and husband, but they still needed all the odds and ends that filled a house. Bathroom crap, towels and toothbrush holders and baskets. Sheets and blankets for their new bed, pillows, candles—according to Ethan—and hangars. Pictures for the walls—Jack—and maybe a set of dishware that was theirs.

 

So, off they went, shopping. First stop, Bed Bath and Beyond.

 

Jack, former president of the United States, still had a small Secret Service detail assigned to him for the rest of his life. Usually, they were older agents, agents who wanted to wind down the end of their careers with a president they’d liked. Not with Jack, though. Today, it was Agent Caldwell who was at the curb, waiting in his SUV. They said hello and chatted during the drive. Caldwell had two kids in elementary school, and he showed off pictures of their talent show and told a funny story about his kids running ragged on his wife. He’d come home to find them running wild, her in full retreat in their bedroom, like a Lord of the Flies documentary come to life. “They’re a handful right now,” he said, chuckling.

 

Ethan and Jack shared a long look.

 

The store was mostly empty mid-morning, just after opening. Caldwell shadowed their movements, hanging out a polite distance behind them, but close enough to keep an intimidating bubble of ‘keep the fuck away’ around them both.

 

Jack pushed the cart and waited as Ethan detoured into the kitchenwares. He waited… and waited… and waited. Ethan poked at the food processor, lifted and closed the panini press a half dozen times, checked out three blenders, and looked back and forth between two stand mixers.

 

Jack thought roots were going to grow out of his feet. He gave Caldwell a long, suffering sigh.

 

Finally, though, Ethan trotted back, empty handed.

 

“After all that, you didn’t get anything?”

 

“I just wanted to look.”

 

Jack stared at him.

 

They made it to curtains next. Their walls were painted butter yellow, and Jack reached for ivory linen. Ethan frowned, and grabbed an armful of sheer white panels. “These will look good.”

 

Pillows, and they both grabbed armfuls. Jack bopped Ethan on the head, and Ethan swatted him on the butt.

 

Jack picked out a dish set while Ethan loaded up on candles. Cotton and pine, sunshine and vanilla, lavender and leather. If they lit them all at once, it would be an olfactory crime. Ethan had an eclectic taste in scents. No doubt each candle was for a different room, a scent picked out for each part of their house that only he knew.

 

Bathroom crap, and Ethan was mesmerized by the electronic gadgets, the whiz bang shavers and electric mirrors, the shower radio and the digital scale. Jack picked out a neutral bathroom set and an armful of towels, and then another armful, and Ethan was still looking at two electric razors, going back and forth.

 

Of course, he got nothing.

 

Jack shook his head, keeping his smile to himself.

 

And then, they came to the sheets. They already had a blue and white comforter, and another taupe and eggshell one. Jack reached for a set of white sheets.

 

“Jack… really?”

 

Jack froze. His eyes flicked to Ethan’s, outstretched hand hovering over a pack of white king-sized sheets. “Not… white?”

 

“The thread count. It’s too low.”

 

Jack blinked. “Four hundred is too low?”

 

A slow smile spread over Ethan’s face. “What kind of Neanderthal are you?”

 

Jack pulled back his shoulders. One hand rose, landing on his hip. “A presidential Neanderthal.”

 

“Okay, you cannot play the presidential card our entire marriage.”

 

“Play the presidential card?!”

 

“Yes! You cannot pull that out, throw out that you were the president.”

 

Jack threw his hands in the air, his jaw hanging open. He looked for Caldwell. Caldwell had beat a retreat and was standing down the aisle, far out of helpful range for this. “Well… I was.”

 

“That doesn’t mean you have great taste in sheets. God, Jack. Four hundred count? Really?”

 

“Okay. You pick the sheets, big boy.” Jack folded his arms, pursed his lips. Nodded, and watched Ethan slowly walk up the aisle. “Should I give you a time limit? Your track record today for picking anything has been pretty terrible.”

 

Ethan ignored him. He picked up a set. Put it down. Picked up a different set. Set it down.

 

“Oh my God.” Jack sighed, very loudly. He rolled his head to one side.

 

Ethan picked up another set. Turned it over.

 

Progress.

 

Ethan set it down.

 

Jack started humming the Jeopardy theme.

 

Ethan would not be rushed.

 

Eventually, well after Jack dragged a stool for sale from the barwares section over and sat down on it, crossed his legs, propped up his chin, and settled in for a long wait, Ethan came back with three sets of sheets. A twelve hundred count cream, a bamboo ivory, and a satin snow white.

 

“Hmmm.” Jack led them to the register, and paid.

 

* * *

 

Hours later, Jack flopped back on their bed, panting, trying to catch his breath. He starfished out, his hands and legs limp, his body boneless. Everything tingled, their lovemaking always shredding him apart in the very best way.

 

Ethan hit the mattress next to him, lying on his side. He grinned.

 

Jack writhed, wriggling on the sheets. Ethan’s grin grew.

 

“Okay. Yeah. These are nice sheets.”

 

“Yes, Mr. President.” Ethan dropped a kiss on his lips and snuggled close.

 

“That was our first argument that wasn’t about national security or my safety.”

 

“Well. It was still about you. Kind of.”

 

“Because you accused me of playing some kind of presidential card!”

 

“No.” Ethan kissed him again. “Because I want to make sure you only have the best of everything.”

 

And just like that, his heart melted again. “Oh, jeez, Ethan.” He pressed his face into Ethan’s neck, kissed his throat. “I do have the best. I have you.”

 

Ethan’s arms wound around him, held him close. He wiggled down, found Jack’s face. Kissed him, and kissed him some more, until Ethan rolled Jack to his back and started nibbling and licking down his chest, his belly, again. “Hands flat on the sheet, love,” Ethan breathed, dropping a kiss below his belly button. “Don’t take them off.”


Timestamp: Jack and Ethan, post-Enemy Within.

Go On Without Me – Ethan’s life in Peril

 

Welcome to this week’s Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, Ethan’s life is in serious peril. He is struggling to survive, and Jack is doing his best to keep Ethan going.  Will they survive this latest threat?

 


 

“Go on without me.” Ethan’s voice was strained. His words shook, and his face contorted with pain, with anguish. “Leave me. I’m too far gone.”

 

“Ethan… Love…” Jack passed his husband another tissue. “It’s just the flu.”

 

Ethan, face half buried in his pillow, pulled the tissue to his nose and groaned, the rattle of a man assured of his own pending demise. “I’m dying.”

 

“No, you’re not. You’re going to be fine in a few days.”

 

Ethan’s sniffing sounded like a broken trombone was blaring, a tragedy of brass and snot. Jack pressed his lips together, holding back his smile.

 

“I leave everything I own to you.” Ethan sighed, long and loud, a dramatic burst that wouldn’t have been out of place from a southern belle at the turn of the last century.

 

“We’re married, love. I get your stuff automatically.”

 

Another pitiful sniff. Ethan moaned, a mournful half-sigh, half-whimper as he pushed his face further into the pillow he clutched.

 

“How about I make you some soup?”

 

“Why bother? I’m going to be dead soon. You’re just trying to feed a corpse.”

 

Jack patted Ethan’s head, smoothing back his dark strands from his clammy forehead. “I’ll be right back.” He leaned over, kissing Ethan’s hair.

 

Ethan grumbled and tried to move, tried to get away. “Don’t kiss me,” he mumbled. “You’ll get this plague, too. And then you’ll die.”

 

“I’ll take my chances, love.”

 

He listened to Ethan’s grumbles as he headed for their kitchen. Their kitchen in their home. Finally, they had a place of their own. Not the White House, or a hotel room, or an apartment in Iowa, or a jeep in Siberia, or a nuclear submarine under the Arctic. This was theirs. They had four walls, a roof, and—best of all—privacy.

 

Boxes still lined the walls, a mixture of Jack’s crap from storage—and before that, his apartment in DC when he was a senator—and Ethan’s townhome, and also their stuff from when they lived together in the White House. Their kitchen was mostly made from Ethan’s stuff. Jack had never been great in the kitchen, before Ethan, and didn’t have much in the way of useful kitchen paraphernalia.

 

Two cups sat next to their coffee maker. His, a chipped mug from his alma mater, the University of Texas, and Ethan’s rainbow cup, an art deco print of his own picture, a campaign poster from his presidential election redone in vivid pride colors. Jack smiled. Ethan had used that cup, the one he gave him for Christmas last year, exclusively since Christmas Day. He brought it with him from Iowa each weekend, and it was the first thing he unpacked from the crates Iowa had shipped to DC when he moved into the Residence.

 

Jack rummaged in their cabinets until he found a can of condensed chicken and rice soup and a sleeve of crackers. The soup warmed as he put a chunk of crackers on a plate. There was a half-empty bottle of Sprite in the fridge, and he filled Ethan’s rainbow mug with Sprite as the soup started to bubble.

 

Jack padded back to their bedroom—their bedroom! He still was giddy at the thought—and sat on the edge of bed. Ethan had thrown himself across their bed, pulling Jack’s pillow to him and mashing his face into the center as if he could huff Jack’s scent. He was doing his best impression of a jellyfish, stretched out as much as he could, and his legs stuck out from the ends of the sheet, his ankles hanging off the side of the bed. He was shirtless, and the ends of their sheet wrapped around his hips, leaving the tan skin of his back exposed. The muscles along his back were rolling hills, dipping into the valley of his spine and the curve of his lower back hidden beneath the sheet. His shoulders flared, muscles wrapped around his shoulder blades and up the back of his neck, and corded down his arms.

 

He was beautiful, stunningly, stunningly beautiful. Jack let his fingers drift down Ethan’s neck, ghost over his skin and down his back, along the bumps of his spine and ripples of his muscles. Ethan twitched beneath his touch, and tiny hairs rose to meet Jack’s fingers, goosebumps on Ethan’s skin erupting along his lower back and down his arms.

 

Groaning, Ethan opened one eye and peeked over his shoulder. “You shouldn’t touch me. I’m diseased.”

 

“I brought you food, love. To combat this deadly plague so you can live to fight another day.”

 

Ethan groaned again.

 

“Sit up, love.”

 

Moaning, Ethan hauled himself up, moving like a lumbering bear just coming out of hibernation. His face, normally stern, severe even, focused and intent on the mission before him, had turned into a pout, his lower lip pushed out, eyebrows pulled together. He was, for the moment, the world’s largest five-year-old, grumpy and overtired, and all Jack wanted to do was smooth his rumpled hair away from his forehead and kiss his cheek.

 

Ethan sat back against their headboard with a huge, rattling sigh. He still held Jack’s pillow, squeezing it to his chest like it was his personal teddy bear, a security blanket that he couldn’t let go of. Ethan propped his chin on top of the pillow and scowled.

 

Grinning, Jack held out the plate of crackers with the bowl of soup. Sighing again, as if Jack were forcing him to endure brutal hard labor, Ethan took the food. He huddled over the plate and bowl, slurping soup off his spoon with loud smacks and swallows. He got about half of the bowl down, and a cracker and a half, before he passed the plate back to Jack.

 

Jack traded the plate for Ethan’s rainbow mug of Sprite.

 

Finally, Ethan—kind of—smiled. He clutched the mug and sipped the Sprite, sagging back against their pillows and the headboard.

 

“You should get some rest.” Jack set the plate on the hardwood floor, out of the way, and crawled into bed beside Ethan.

 

Ethan sent him a horrified look and shrank away as if he didn’t want Jack’s touch. “Jack… Go away. You’ll get infected.”

 

“And then I’ll die along with you, like the very best love stories.” Jack hauled Ethan closer and kissed the top of his head. “Rest, love.”

 

Grumbling again, Ethan slid down until he collapsed into Jack’s lap, the side of his face mashed against Jack’s legs. He still clutched Jack’s pillow, but he curled up, almost in the fetal position as he breathed through his mouth, heavy, slow breaths that tickled Jack’s belly through his shirt. “You should start measuring my coffin.”

 

“Yes, dear.” Jack grabbed a book from his bedside table and slowly stroked one hand down Ethan’s back, over and over.

 

* * *

 

The next morning, Ethan padded out of their bedroom in his boxers, rubbing one eye with his fist.

 

Jack beamed, sitting on the couch with his coffee and the paper. “It’s alive!”

 

“Barely.” Ethan shuffled to Jack, still blinking owlishly.

 

Jack wrapped his arms around Ethan’s waist and kissed his belly, right above his belly button. He looked up and played with the waistband of Ethan’s boxers behind his back. “But, you’re certain you’ll live through this? You’ll survive the plague?”

 

“Maybe.” One corner of Ethan’s mouth curled up, just a bit. “And only because of my nurse.”

 

“You should probably give your nurse a big thank you.” Jack winked.

 

“In a few days.” Ethan still looked a little pale. But, he shuffled to the couch and collapsed beside Jack, rolling around until he had his head in Jack’s lap again. “Thanks,” he whispered, kissing Jack’s shirt-covered belly. His eyes were already closed.

 

“How did you survive the flu before me?”

 

Ethan’s smile dimpled his cheeks. “It was a cold, lonely existence before you, Jack. I suffered alone. I barely survived.”

 

Jack slipped his fingers through Ethan’s hair, massaging his scalp. Ethan hummed, sighing like a content cat, and pushed his head into Jack’s touch. “Well, I’m glad you endured. And I’ll be your nurse anytime you need.”

 

Ethan’s eyebrows quirked up, two quick bounces as he grinned wide. His eyes stayed closed, though. “In a few days, I might need my sexy nurse to take a look at a problem I have. Something seems swollen.”

 

“Is it a big problem?”

 

“Oh, yes. Very big.” Ethan rolled into Jack, pressing his face into Jack’s belly. He moaned, but he was still smiling.

 

Jack laughed, and he kept stroking his hand through Ethan’s hair. “I love you so much.”

 

Ethan finally peeked up at Jack. His eyes were warm, full of adoration, full of the kind of love that had set Jack’s world on fire and changed his life for the best. God, he loved this man, every part and piece of him. Even his flu-stricken zombie side.

 

“Love you too, Jack. Thank you for staying with me.”

 

Jack blew a kiss at his husband. “All the way, love. All the way.”


Timestamp: Post-Enemy Within. Jack & Ethan, after moving into their (first) new house together.