Coming July 2017 – Hush

 


A federal judge running from the truth.
A U.S. marshal running from his past.
A trial that can plunge the world into war.
 
Federal Judge Tom Brewer is finally putting the pieces of his life back together. In the closet for twenty-five long years, he’s climbing out slowly, and, with the hope of finding a special relationship with the stunning Mike Lucciano, U.S. Marshal assigned to his D.C. courthouse. He wants to be out and proud, but he can’t erase his own past, and the lessons he learned long ago.
 
But a devastating terrorist attack in the heart of DC, and the subsequent capture and arrest of the terrorist, leads to a trial that threatens to expose the dark underbelly of America’s national security.
 
As Russia beats the drums of war, intent on seeking revenge, and the United States struggles to contain the storm before it races out of control, secrets and lies, past and present, collide in Judge Tom Brewer’s courtroom. With the world’s attention fixed on Tom and this case, he suddenly discovers he may be the only person who can put everything together in time to stop the spark of a new world war.


 

A Sneak Peek at Hush!

 

Welcome to this week’s Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, we get a sneak peek at my new novel, Hush! Meet Deputy U.S. Marshal Mike Lucciano!


 

Simultaneous knocking—banging, like an invading horde was at his door—and a ceaseless rattle of his doorknob broke over his radio belting out Britney Spears on Saturday morning.

Mike threw open the door with a glare, leaning against the heavy wood.

Kris Caldera, his best friend, stood in the entrance, his perfect face curved into a pout, lips pushed out, long eyelashes batting slowly. He held up a key like it was an indictment. “My key doesn’t work.”

Mike held up another key. “I changed my locks. Here’s your new one.”

Kris snatched it out of his hand as he strutted into Mike’s townhome. He was dressed for Paris, for Milan, an haute couture fashion model gracing his apartment with color and style. Shining boots, polished to a high gloss, pointed at the toe and with a heel that was just on the wrong side of scandalous. Tight twill pants, a sunny button-down. A skinny tie, shades of blue competing for dominance. A long Gucci trench coat, and Gucci sunglasses perched on his perfectly spiked hair. Mike swore Kris accented the harsh angles of his face with makeup, dusted his cheekbones with bronzer until they looked like they could cut diamonds. He knew Kris wore eyeliner and mascara. Kris was two years older than Mike, a year away from forty, but he’d cut Mike if he ever said that aloud.

Kris was a walking stereotype. He knew every Tony-winning musical by heart and could belt out Bette Midler, Celine Dion, and Idina Menzel. He was sass on heels, deadly with his tongue, and went through men like a ravenous black widow. Mike had met him out on his first week in DC, after he’d transferred out of the hellhole he’d been working in before. They’d spent the whole evening at the bar trading barbs, verbal repartee that tried to draw blood. Mike wanted to take him home, wanted to unwrap him and devour him, wanted all that sass to shred him to pieces. He’d practically begged. Kris had refused. “You’re too young for me, sweetie.”

They were best friends from that moment on.

Kris stopped in Mike’s foyer, staring at his living room as his perfectly sculpted eyebrows slowly rose. He flicked a hand out to Mike, pushing one slim hip out. “Did you forget to tell me you’re moving?”

Everything from Mike’s kitchen was in the living room, stacked in boxes and bags and piled in haphazard stacks. Half his shelves in the living room were bare, emptied of Silvio’s crap. His hall closet looked like it had been ransacked, jackets and clothes heaped on the floor and spilling onto the hardwood.

“I moved Silvio out.”

Kris pulled his head back, just slightly. His lips pursed. He was being good, so far. Holding his tongue. Waiting.

Mike sighed. Kris would let him have it eventually. “I came home and found him banging some other dude in the kitchen.”

Kris’s manicured hand flew to his neck, his long fingers spread over his throat and across his collarbone. His eyes flared, Spanish fire blazing bright. He blinked, ridiculously long lashes fluttering over his creamy cheeks. “I never liked that bitch,” he finally snapped. “I told you he was no good.”

“I know.”

“I told you he was a fuckboy.”

“I know.”

“I told you you have the shittiest taste in men.”

Mike grinned. “I know.” He reached for a sledgehammer, leaning against the wall of his entranceway.

Kris gave him a flat glare. “What’s that for? Did you keep one of his shitty polyester shirts? Going to whack it to broken threads? I might actually help you with that. Let me grind it beneath my heel.”

Laughing, Mike headed for the kitchen. It was just empty cupboards and bare granite now. His eyes lingered on the spot Silvio had leaned, his elbows braced on the stone, getting drilled by Tall & Swarthy. “It’s time for a remodel.”

“Oh, honey, you know I don’t do manual labor. You called the wrong friend.”

“You’re keeping me company. And your seat is over there.” He pointed to his barstool and a mixing bowl filled with ice he’d set up beside it, perched on his end table. A bottle of vodka rested in the ice and a Martini glass sat beside the bowl.

“Lovely, darling.” Kris sashayed his way across the living room, picking through piles of crap and tossing his jacket over a stack of boxes. He poured a straight vodka Martini as Mike spun slowly in his kitchen, one last survey. It was all coming out. Every last scrap.

“You could at least take your shirt off while you’re being super masc.”

Mike laughed and peeled his t-shirt off. He flung it at Kris, who batted the sweaty fabric down, grimacing and glaring like Mike had spilled paint on his clothes. He brushed his pants, flicking imaginary dust from his perfect pleats.

“Ready?” Mike heaved the sledgehammer over his shoulder.

Mmm hmmm.” Kris lifted his glass and winked at Mike. “Let’s see it, big boy.”

 

 

 

The kitchen was rubble in under an hour.

Granite cracked and smashed, turning to dust. The cupboards splintered, breaking apart into shards. Wreckage and rubble built around his feet. Only his sink and his fridge remained, stainless steel islands in a sea of dust and ruin.

Kris clapped slowly as Mike stood in the center, breathing hard. “Great job, Fred Flintstone. What are you going to do with the mess you made?”

Kris deigned to help him with the rubble, picking through the wreckage and plucking all the medium sized pieces into bags and boxes that Mike hauled out to the dumpster. He went back to his Martini as Mike swept and vacuumed, and then made Mike wipe down his boots after everything. Only when he was satisfied with Mike’s cleaning was Mike allowed to collapse onto his couch.

“Did that feel good?” Kris poured another drink and brought it over to Mike. He perched on the armrest.

“Yeah.” Mike sipped the vodka. “Yeah, that did feel good.” Getting over Silvio was easy when Silvio acted like the biggest bitch inside DC. Anger had a way of speeding up the breakup process. Silvio was just a mistake. Another one. Another in a long line of mistaken boyfriends and bad decisions.

“I assume we’re going out tonight? You’re going to fuck your way through DC again, until you fall head over heels for another fuckboy?”

Mike scrubbed his face, stalling. Why was it always the same? Why did he always end up like this? Alone, pissed off for one reason or another, and left to wonder why he seemed like he was the only guy to want something real. Mike took another drink. “I… think I need to change how I date.”

Kris almost fell off the arm of the couch. He pressed his hand to his chest, feigning a heart attack as he blinked fast. “I hear the cries and wails of fuckboys from Virginia to Pennsylvania. Lamentations. Bottoms going unfilled.”

“Jesus, Kris. Am I that bad?”

“After a breakup? Honey, you put Madonna and Coco Chanel to shame. I think there’s a mass fuckboy alert when you go out. Some bottom booty call, making them all a’tizzy. They come flocking, holes already lubed. They’re hoping to catch you in their nectar—”

“Okay, okay. Look, I’m not doing that anymore.”

“Really?” Kris couldn’t fit another ounce of disbelief into that single word, he really couldn’t.

“It’s hasn’t fucking worked, has it? Here I am again… alone. The last thing that I want to be is alone.”

Kris sat back and crossed his legs, one foot bouncing delicately. Silence strained the living room. “You are a hot mess.”

He looked down.

Kris took pity on him, though. “You want the gay fairytale, Mike. You want Prince Charming and happy ever after. But… Prince Charming is not going to come wrapped up in the packaging of a fuckboy.”

Mike sagged into his couch cushions with a sigh.

“You’re a good guy. A really good guy. Why do you keep wasting time with twenty-four-year-old flight attendants and wannabe models? They’re not good enough for you, honey.” Kris smoothed his hair, tucking wayward strands off his forehead. “You need someone who thinks you are their Prince Charming. Not the pretty face and attached dick that comes with a credit card.”

He stayed quiet, twirling the glass back and forth, making ripples in the vodka. “I don’t know if that guy exists, Kris. I’ve been looking for him. Where is he?”

“He’s for damn sure not a fuckboy!” Kris sat back, pursing his lips. “I cannot believe these words are passing my perfect lips, but…” He sighed. “Why don’t you take a break from the scene? Focus on yourself for a while. I mean, do you have any idea what your Prince Charming is like? What do you really want? Cause you’re not happy with what you’ve had.”

“I do know what I want.” Mike could picture it, could imagine life with the man of his dreams. He wanted a partner, a real partner, an honest to God relationship. He wanted to find The One, the man he’d marry. He wanted someone to love.

Faces blurred together, his exes and his hook ups a haze of haughty smirks and sneers, flashing eyes and slit-eyed glares. Sarcasm, biting tongues, ferocity when provoked. He loved Kris like a brother, but Kris wasn’t who he dreamt about night after night.

“He’s kind,” he finally said. “I want someone kind. Gentle. Loving.” Nights spent alone, or watching his partner texting all night long. Distance, when all he wanted was closeness. He could count the good times with Silvio, the moments where they seemed to be really close and not trying to shred each other with sass and sarcasm that flayed too close to the bone. “Affectionate. He wants me. Really wants me.”

Days he wanted to talk about his work, the cases he saw. The law, politics, and the world they lived in. Being laughed off, or ignored, or talked over. Being told he was boring. “He’s smart. We talk about things. Maybe we’ll stay up all night talking sometimes.”

The truth was, he wanted someone so out of his league his mystery man might as well be a satellite orbiting the earth. And Mike was an ant. He wanted someone intelligent, grounded, and with a heart of gold. Someone who wanted to hold his hand and cuddle with him, watch movies on Friday nights and sleep in on Sundays. Someone gentle with his heart, with his dreams. Someone who wanted him to be their whole world, the way he would be Mike’s.

“Does that sound like a fuckboy?” Kris’s voice was gentle.

Mike shook his head.

“You’re looking in all the wrong, places. You want Prince Charming, but you’re looking in a swamp. Get away from the bars and the apps. I know God isn’t your thing, but there are gay mens groups at some of the churches, and the center has volunteer gigs you can join. There’s a lot for gay men to do, Mike, other than troll for a hook up or look for The One at the club.”

“I know.” He squeezed his eyes shut, rubbing them with his fingers. “We already are doing that, though. I mean, we’re in the league. And we volunteer. That’s how we met Billy and Aaron.”

“Do more. This is our culture. It’s not just bars and clubs and hookup apps. If you want to find someone special, go look for him where you think he’s hiding.” Kris tilted his head. “And, be the kind of guy that you want to attract. You’re a good guy. Stop settling for less. Quality attracts quality.”

“That’s not true and you know it.”

“The flakes will stop hassling you when you stop feeding them your dick.” Kris stood, brushing off his pants. “Doctor Caldera prescribes a cleanse, Deputy Marshal Lucciano. A cleanse of the scourge of fuckboys.” He pointed at Mike, tapping the tip of Mike’s nose with every word. “No more fuckboys.”

“Yes, doctor.” Mike smiled.

“C’mon.” Kris snapped. “We’ve got to get you a new kitchen. And tonight, you’re taking me to the Kennedy Center. Madame Butterfly is playing. I’ll culture you, even if it kills me.”

“Yes, my queen.” He winked as he stood, and Kris tsked at him as he grabbed his trench coat.

He sighed, blowing air out of his hollowed cheeks. “We need to stop by the clinic, too.”

Kris whipped around, his eyebrows disappearing beneath his spiky fringe. True concern poured from his gaze.

“Silvio was banging the guy bare. I don’t know how long he was cheating, but if he was going bare, then I need to get checked.”

Kris turned away and shoved his arms through his trench coat sleeves, bunching the fabric and viciously tugging on the lapels. He took a long time straightening it, smoothing his shirt front, facing away from Mike. When he finally turned, his face was smoothed back to his haughty indifference, but Spanish fire still smoldered in his gaze. “I never liked that bitch.”

“I will listen to you from this day forward about any man.” Mike pressed his hands together and bowed, as if bowing to a master.

“You’re damn right you will. Now go shower and change. We’ve got a busy day.”


Hush releases July 2017!

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The Eagle Has Landed – Jack and Ethan’s Trip to the Beach

 

Welcome to this week’s Bauer’s Bytes!

Jack and Ethan are headed to the beach, finally. 🙂


 

Finally, it was time to head to the beach.

 

Jack trooped out in his itty-bitty baby blue swim squares, and Ethan tagged along behind, in his bright white pair. He’d tanned before their trip, making sure he’d look at least halfway decent next to Jack. If anyone looked at him at all. He was next to Jack, which meant he was invisible.

 

Jack looked stunning. His stomach was flat, his abs carved into his flesh, canyons running down his obliques with a small divot above his belly button. It wasn’t a six pack, but they were definitely there. And definitely hot.

 

They planted their towels in the sand and let the waves tickle the ends of their toes. The cove was private, huddled next to their beach bungalow, and the ring of palm trees kept the public away. But, it wasn’t Camp David-level security, and Ethan caught the shine of at least one camera lens behind the line of palms.

 

“There’s a photographer. Do you want to stretch and show off?”

 

Jack laughed. He had the decency to blush, at least, before he rose and pretended to stretch to the sky, his baby blue swim trunks falling just below the angle of his hip bones and revealing the barest hint of blond fuzz just above his crotch. His abs seemed carved from marble in the tropical sunlight.

 

Ethan’s mouth watered.

 

Jack was right there, an arm’s length away. He’d never put the moves on Jack in public when Jack was the president. It wasn’t presidential, and he wanted to maintain the dignity of the office. Never let anyone have any ammunition to use against Jack.

 

But Jack wasn’t the president anymore.

 

He reached for Jack, wrapping both hands around his calves, and stroked up the back of Jack’s legs, tugging him closer. Grinning, Jack shuffled forward, looking down.

 

Ethan pressed his face between Jack’s thighs. He bit down, nibbling, and then nuzzled higher. His lips dropped kisses around his leg, tracing the line of his swim trunks and his sun-kissed skin.

 

Jack’s fingers threaded through his hair.

 

Ethan slid his hands higher, until he had two handfuls of baby-blue fabric covered asscheeks. He grinned, and then tugged.

 

Jack’s legs buckled, and he slowly collapsed onto Ethan, sliding down until he landed on Ethan’s lap. He draped his arms around Ethan’s neck, a saucy smile curving his lips. “Hello, handsome.”

 

“I’m not the handsome one.” He stroked up Jack’s sides and let one hand drift over his abs. “These really are amazing. You should be very proud of yourself.”

 

“I am.” Jack lifted his chin. “I’ve been fending off your pizzas.”

 

Chuckling, Ethan kissed his chest, pressing slow kisses in the valley between his pecs, around his nipple.

 

Jack shivered in his arms. “You know the photographer is probably capturing all of this…”

 

“Do you care?”

 

“No. Don’t you though?”

 

“Not anymore.” He winked. “We’re private citizens now.”

 

“So no more worries about ‘Eagle One and where it’s landing’?”

 

Ethan laughed at Jack throwing his words back in his face, his caution to Jack to cool their jets while kissing on the sand while celebrating Jack’s birthday weekend. “Well, I don’t think we can call it ‘Eagle One’ anymore.”

 

“Excuse me? It’s still presidential! I was the president!”

 

“You love that presidential card.” Ethan laughed and kissed Jack at the same time, his cheeks aching from the width of his smile. “You play it every chance you get.”

 

Jack grumbled, but he was grinning too.  He settled in Ethan’s lap, making himself comfortable.

 

Ethan’s body caught fire. He gripped Jack’s hips, stared him right in the eyes.

 

Jack smirked. His body shifted, just so. “Are you saying I’ve been… naughty?”

 

Ethan stopped breathing.

 

“A naughty… president, even?”

 

He hissed. “Jack… You’re playing with fire.”

 

Jack chuckled, and then wiggled, and his eyes lit up when he felt Ethan’s reaction to his teasing, his playfulness, and just him being him. “I think that you need to teach me a lesson, Agent Spiers-Reichenbach.”

 

He tried to breathe, tried to remember that they weren’t really in a private space, tried to restrain himself from just tipping Jack back in the sand and going crazy. But he was just a man, just Jack’s husband, and Jack could always light him up like no one else ever could. He rolled them both, a quick combat tuck and dive that put Jack on his back on the beach, his legs spread and Ethan kneeling between them.

 

He wasn’t the only one affected.

 

Jack bit his lip and arched his back. Tipped his head, and reached for Ethan.

 

Ethan dove down, capturing Jack’s lips, wrapping him up in his arms, bringing their bodies into perfect alignment. The beach, the palms, the sand all faded away, until it was just Jack and his kisses, his warm body, his perfect sighs.

 

They managed to stumble back to the beach bungalow before they were entirely naked, and before they were in danger of being exposed online in a celebrity sex video, presidential edition. If there was one thing Jack did not need, in addition to the rest of his mottled legacy, it was to be the only president with a sex tape. Ethan drew a hard line in the sand at that.

 

* * *

 

Much, much later, as they both laid in bed and listened to the waves crashing, sated and boneless and utterly spent, Ethan’s cell phone vibrated. He fished it off the nightstand. Anderson had texted them.

 

You know, I’m glad you two are able to enjoy yourselves now that you’re out of the WH. The love you have for each other is clearly evident – I married you. I saw it firsthand. BUT… my teenage son looks up to you both as role models to perfectly emulate. Now I have to explain to him that wildly making out on the beach is just on the other side of what we tell him and Gabe are “wise decisions.” 😊

 

Attached to his text was a link to a TMZ article. Smoldering Presidential Beach Holiday screamed from the headline. Presidential Bod an Eleven on the Hottie Scale. Grainy pictures followed. Jack and Ethan on the beach, laughing. Jack stretching, showing off his body. Their kisses, and the way that turned to passionate, uninhibited making out. It was a good thing there was a thick fern obscuring most of the interesting bits, or the whole world would have seen Eagle One.

 

“Oops.” Jack blushed, but laughed.

 

Ethan texted back. [Oops. 😊 ]

 

Oops my ass. 😉 And, someone has been working out.

 

Jack beamed. “See? The rest of the world thinks it’s awesome. I’m an eleven.” He looked very proud of himself. “I’ve never been an eleven. One girl in college called me a ‘beer-seven’.”

 

“Beer-seven?”

 

“A seven, if she’d had enough beer. I’ve always been slender and nerdy. Especially in college. I was a stick.”

 

“You’re perfect.” Ethan rolled on top of Jack, cocooning him in his arms. “And you’re a twelve to me.” He kissed the tip of Jack’s nose.

 

“A twelve, huh? That’s convenient. ‘Cause I think you’re a twelve, too.” Jack winked. “Maybe an eleven.”

 

Ethan gasped and collapsed on Jack, wrapping him up and burying his face in Jack’s neck, nibbling and kissing as Jack wiggled and laughed, escaping and chasing Ethan’s touch, his kisses. They ended up in a tangle of arms and legs and sheets, cramping from giggles.

 

“Are you ready to show off that body some more?”

 

“I guess if we’re vacationing at the beach, we should actually go to the beach, huh?”

 

“It’s recommended.”

 

Jack swatted Ethan’s stomach. “You’d better keep your hands to yourself this time, then.”

 

“No promises. You are an eleven.”


Timestamp: Post Enemy Within and following “Father & Sons“.

Fathers & Sons – Jack and Ethan go to Hawaii

 

Welcome to this week’s Bauer’s Bytes.

Due to the horrific shooting in DC yesterday, I did not post Bauer’s Bytes.

Today, we’re following up on Jack’s demand request that Ethan take him to the beach to show off his sexy new muscles. Ethan has obliged Jack… and is taking him to Hawaii. Enjoy!


 

“I’m nervous.”

 

“You? Nervous?” Ethan snorted. He reached for Jack, though, and laced their hands together. Across the aisle, an older businessman peered over his newspaper at them for a half second.

 

“I don’t know what to do. Or what to say. I’ve never…” Jack sighed and threw himself back in the first-class plane seat. “I’ve never been anyone’s hero before,” he breathed.

 

“You’re my hero.” Ethan leaned in close. “You’re a hero to a lot of people, Jack.”

 

“Not like this, though.” Jack bit his lip. “He came out to his dad because of us.”

 

Ethan smiled and squeezed his hand.

 

A minute later, the pilot came on the speaker and announced they were making their final approach to Honolulu International Airport. Jack took a deep breath as he buckled his seatbelt. “Why are we doing this, again?” He rubbed his hands over his face.

 

“You said you wanted me to take you to a beach.” Ethan kissed Jack’s cheek. “So I am. And we’re going to meet Captain Anderson’s son.”

 

Jack said nothing. He just squeezed Ethan’s hand, holding it tightly as the plane descended through the fluffy clouds haloing Honolulu, landed, and then taxied to the gate.

 

* * *

 

They were staying at a hotel overlooking the beach, complete with a private cordon of pristine sand and crashing waves reserved for the hotel guests. It was a place where people went when they wanted privacy, and the other guests understood that. Even so, Jack and Ethan got more than one head turn when they walked into the lobby.

 

Beside Ethan, Jack was almost vibrating.

 

It was their first public outing since the congressional hearings and Jack’s very public resurrection and resignation as president. They’d stayed low all summer, focusing on themselves. Buying their house and making it a home. Being together, without the stress and strain of world politics and the eyes of the media. Enjoying themselves, as husband and husband.

 

Putting the past behind them, and ignoring the mixed cries from the public. Jack was a traitor and a fraud, according to some. To others, he was a sacrificial hero, willing to put everything before himself, before even his own life, to save the world.

 

This trip was the first they’d taken outside of their bubble, outside of their protected isolation that they’d hidden in. Eyes followed them everywhere – at the airport, in the plane, in Honolulu, and now in the hotel.

 

Ethan wrapped his arm around Jack’s waist. “I’m here,” he breathed into Jack’s ear. “We’re okay.”

 

Jack silently leaned into him.

 

They were driven out on a golf cart to their beach cabana, a private bungalow at the edge of the resort, resting on a spit of sand with a private, gentle cove of lapping waves. Palm trees ringed the cove, providing a partial screen of privacy.

 

They changed quickly, stripping out of their jeans and polos and donning khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirts. Pineapples for Ethan on a white background, and sailboats on a blue background for Jack.

 

“Do we look appropriately touristy?” Jack held out his hands.

 

“You couldn’t look bad if you tried, Jack.” Ethan took his hand and spun him in a gentle circle, as if they were dancing, and then pulled him close. They swayed for a few minutes, their cheeks pressed together. “You’re going to be great. I’m proud of you.” He kissed Jack’s cheek. “My hero.”

 

Jack smiled, and he nuzzled Ethan back. “It’s time to head out.”

 

* * *

 

Captain Anderson had sent his address to Ethan a few days before, and given him a heads up that his son, Jonathan, was heading off to his homecoming dance that weekend. He and his boyfriend were going together, and Anderson had spent the past two weeks taking both boys to tux shops and florists for their fittings, matching cummerbunds, and coordinating boutonnieres. It was, apparently, a multi-trip excursion when the boys decided to change their color scheme halfway through the process.

 

Ethan and Jack were going to surprise Jonathan and his boyfriend, Gabe.

 

Jack fidgeted the whole drive. Anderson lived in Mililani in a house at the end of a private cul de sac on a hill overlooking Pearl Harbor and Mamala Bay. Ethan drove, and halfway there, he reached over and tangled his fingers with Jack’s.

 

Anderson texted and said they should come straight around to the backyard. Jonathan and Gabe were taking photos, and they had no idea Jack and Ethan were on the way.

 

“Ready?”

 

Jack looked at him with wide eyes, whites ringing his irises. “I’m not a hero.”

 

“You are, Jack. You are for so many reasons. For Jonathan, you’re a hero because you’re you.”

 

Jack squeezed his eyes closed. Took a deep breath. “Jesus. All right. Let’s go.”

 

Ethan had always marveled at the transformation politicians could undergo, transitioning from growling, furious, temperamental beasts behind closed doors to smiling, glad-handing, gregarious crowd pleasers in public, sometimes making the shift in a blink of an eye. Jack never had a sour side of himself to hide, and he’d always been known for his authenticity in the Senate.

 

But he still could transform himself, hiding his nerves, his stress, and his panic as if he gathered his strength into a shield that buried his fears. Ethan watched Jack breathe in again, straighten his spine, and then stride forward, leading the way into Anderson’s backyard.

 

Anderson, his wife Julie, Jonathan, and Gabe were all congregated beneath the covered patio, overlooking the hillside littered with tropical blooms and palm trees. In the distance, the bay beckoned, and the bustle of Pearl Harbor, Navy battleships and carriers, and the marina laid out in long, sprawling lines.

 

Jonathan and Gabe had their backs to Jack and Ethan. Anderson started smiling. Julie threaded one arm through her husband’s, and they both pretended to not notice Jack or Ethan as they crept up behind their son.

 

“I hear someone special has a homecoming tonight.” Jack spoke into Jonathan’s ear, and then jumped back, smiling. He stood beside Ethan and waited.

 

Jonathan whirled around, eyes wider than Ethan had ever seen on someone. He gasped, shrieking as his jaw dropped, and clapped his hands over his mouth. He looked them both up and down.

 

“Hi Jonathan,” Jack said. “It’s so great to meet you.”

 

Jonathan burst into tears.

 

Gabe and Anderson came to either side of Jonathan, both wrapping one arm around him. Jonathan was a slender teen, with sharp lines along his face and a dark, perfectly spiked head of hair. He curled into both his boyfriend and his dad, weeping as he stared at Jack.

 

Jack reached for Jonathan, holding out his hand.

 

Shaking, Jonathan reached back. Their hands met, and Jack gently tugged him forward. Jonathan stumbled, and then, as if he’d tipped over the edge of a cliff, he raced for Jack, burying his face in Jack’s neck as he continued to sob.

 

Gabe stared, his jaw hanging open, blinking slowly as his eyes flicked from Jack to Ethan. Ethan held out his hand. “Hi Gabe. Pleased to meet you.”

 

“Mr. First Gentleman…”

 

“Not anymore.” Ethan pumped Gabe’s hand. “Just Ethan Spiers-Reichenbach now.”

 

Gabe tried to say something, tried to find words, but his lips just moved soundlessly.

 

Beside Ethan, Jack murmured into Jonathan’s ear, soft whispers that Ethan couldn’t make out. Jonathan nodded slowly after Jack spoke, and his sobs subsided, quieting until he was just sniffling. Finally, he stepped back, but he held onto both of Jack’s hands.

 

“Mr. President.” Anderson stepped forward, and he wrapped his arm around his son’s shoulders. “I’m so glad you could make it. This is my son, Jonathan. He’s a real big fan of yours, Mr. President.”

 

“It is an honor to meet you, Jonathan. Your dad has said amazing things about you.”

 

Jonathan’s lips quivered. “Mr. President,” he choked out. “You… I… You have no idea—“ Tears welled in his eyes again. Gabe reached for him, wrapping one arm around his waist.

 

“And this—“ Anderson reached for Gabe, squeezing his shoulder. “Is my son’s boyfriend, Gabe.” Anderson had already texted their names, but the boys didn’t know that. “Gabe and Jonathan have been together for four months.” He grinned. “And, I think they’re going to be together for a while longer…”

 

Jonathan flushed and beamed, squirmed both into and out of his father’s hold. “Dad…”

 

“You two are good together! I like him. I approve!”

 

Gabe smiled wide. Jonathan squirmed again.

 

Jack squeezed Jonathan’s hands. Jonathan hadn’t let go. “Congratulations, you two. Tell me about this dance tonight.”

 

Jonathan started slowly, stumbling a bit as he tried to put words together into coherent sentences. Gabe chimed in, and then they both were on a roll, describing their homecoming dance on a cruise ship in the bay, and how they both couldn’t wait to dance the night away. Gabe edged closer, holding Jonathan, and the love in his eyes was blindingly obvious to everyone.

 

“Reminds me of our Christmas Ball.” Jack smiled at both boys. “It was the first time Ethan and I danced together. We almost didn’t. We were trying to be discreet, and trying to avoid the media. I hated hiding. I wanted to dance with him so badly.” Jack chuckled. “When we finally started dancing, I was the happiest man on the planet. My cheeks hurt, I was smiling so much.”

 

Jonathan’s arms shook as he squeezed Jack’s hands. “I cut out your guys’ picture from the paper,” he breathed. “I wanted that. What you guys have. But I was so scared. I thought—“ He shuddered, his eyes closing as he gulped.  

 

Anderson gave his son a one-armed hug. His eyes flicked to Ethan, and then to Jack. He’d shared this story with them on Honolulu, his former submarine, on the way to the Arctic.

 

Ethan spoke up. “Your father loves you, and he always will. Always. No matter what.”

 

“I know.” Jonathan gave a shaky, brilliant smile. He inhaled slowly. “My dad is the best. Seriously. The absolute best. He helped us get ready for the dance.” He rested his head against his dad’s, and Ethan saw Anderson blink fast and sniff.

 

“I’m proud of you.” Jack lifted Jonathan’s hands to his chest. “I’m so very, very proud of you. Both of you.” He smiled at Gabe. “Being yourself, and being who you are, no matter what, is the most important thing. Don’t ever hide. Don’t ever let anyone else bully you into hiding who you are, or who you love. Surround yourself with people who love you, and who support you.”

 

Jonathan nodded fiercely.

 

“Let’s take some more pictures together.” Julie waved the camera, running her hand down the back of Jonathan’s hair.

 

Jonathan ducked away. “Oh my God, no way. I have to fix my face. No pictures, God, no pictures.”

 

“Get in there and freshen up.” Anderson swatted at his son. “Gabe, go help him.”

 

“Yes sir.” Both boys scampered into the house, sharing a wide smile and looking back over their shoulders at Jack and Ethan.

 

Anderson smiled at Jack, reaching for him and shaking his hand. Jack pulled Anderson into a quick hug. “Thank you for coming, Mr. President.”

 

“I’m not the president anymore.”

 

“You’ll always be the president to me.”

 

Jack’s chin quivered, but he turned to Julie, smiling wide and forcing himself forward. They shook hands, and Julie took a quick picture of Jack and Ethan together in their backyard. Small talk flowed, chit chat about the flowers in the garden and how Anderson was doing after smashing his sub into pieces against the Russian ice. He’d been reassigned to Pacific sub fleet command, and was waiting on a new boat.

 

Ethan moved to Anderson as Julie took Jack on a tour of their house. “Captain.”

 

“Mr. First Gentleman.”

 

Ethan breathed in slowly. “You… remind me of my father.”

 

Anderson stared at him.

 

“We never talked about… me. We never said the words. I never came out to him. But… I think he knew. Or, I hope he knew.” Ethan looked down. “I found some pictures he had kept from when I was young. I barely remember it, but I used to wrap a bed sheet around myself like it was a dress. Apparently my favorite game to play with him was modeling on a catwalk and dancing like a ballerina. Putting on fancy shows.”

 

Anderson chuckled. He looked Ethan up and down. “You? A ballerina?”

 

Ethan shrugged. “I don’t really remember it. I was little. But he had some old pictures of me pretending to strut down a walkway in our little trailer.” Him and his dad, living in a single-wide trailer on cinderblocks on the edge of the dairy farm his dad was a farm hand on. He’d been a scrappy kid, seeking freedom on the back of his single-speed bike, and he’d joined the Army to get out of the twenty square miles he’d lived his whole life in.

 

How had his life ended up like this? How had he become the man he’d become?

 

He’d tried to emulate his father, follow in his footsteps. Work hard, every single day, and believe in what he did. Be a good man, in all things. Dad… I wish I could have introduced you to Jack.

 

“I bet he loved every minute of it.”

 

Ethan’s throat clenched hard. “When I came back to visit, he kept telling me he just wanted me to be happy. He never, ever asked about a girlfriend. He’d only ever ask if I was happy.”

 

“He knew.”

 

Ethan took a shaky breath. “I hope so.”

 

“He knew. I guarantee it. And he adored you, exactly as you were.” Anderson pulled out his wallet and flipped it open. Inside there were two pictures – one of his wife, and one of Jonathan and Gabe, a selfie they had taken, beaming as they laid on their bellies on the sand with their faces pushed together. “Speaking as a dad? We keep what we love close.”

 

Tears welled in his eyes, heat that blurred the world and stung his cheeks. Ethan turned away, covering his mouth with one hand as he tried to force his tears back, push down the pain. “He, uh.” Ethan cleared his throat. “He kept my picture with him. My official Secret Service picture. In his wallet. I found it after he passed.”

 

Anderson reached for Ethan. He squeezed Ethan’s shoulder hard. Slowly, Ethan turned into Anderson’s hold. For a moment, he wasn’t forty-one, the same age as Anderson. He was eleven, he was a little boy, and he needed a father’s love. Anderson wrapped him up, a tight bear hug, and said nothing.

 

I’m happy, Dad. I’m so happy. I wish you were here to see.

 

Footsteps thundered down the steps inside the house, loud enough that Ethan thought the walls were going to blow off the frame. Anderson shook his head, sighing, and they both pulled back. “Two skinny boys, and they sound like a damn herd of elephants.”

 

Julie and Jack appeared after Jonathan and Gabe, and she hustled everyone to the yard, lining up the boys and Jack and Ethan for photo after photo. Anderson joined in, and then Jack and Jonathan took a picture together. The sheer adoration, the hero worship pouring from Jonathan’s gaze, made Ethan’s heart burst.

 

And then it was time for Jonathan and Gabe to head out. Gabe was driving them both to the cruise ship in his bright little convertible. Anderson stood in front of Gabe and squared his shoulders. “You’ll both come straight home right after the dance. I expect to see both of you here promptly at eleven thirty.”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

Anderson smiled. He hugged Gabe, holding him tightly. “I’ll wait up for you both. I want to hear about everything. We’ll sit in the back and light a fire, and I’ll pretend I don’t see you two cuddling on the chaise lounge.”

 

Gabe flushed, but he smiled back. “Yes sir.”

 

Anderson turned to his son. His expression softened.

 

“How do I look, Dad?”

 

“Fantastic. Emerald was a good color choice, when you finally made up your mind.” Anderson winked. He kissed his son’s forehead. “Have a great time. I’ll be here when you get home.”

 

Jonathan hugged his father, and Ethan caught the whispered, “Love you, Dad.”

 

All four adults walked Jonathan and Gabe to their car, and then waved and waved as Gabe peeled out. Anderson winced as the tires squealed, and Julie patted him on his arm. Anderson shook his head, but smiled.

 

“Where are Gabe’s parents?” Jack frowned.

 

Anderson’s smile turned sad. He said nothing. Jack’s face fell, and he reached for Ethan’s hand.

 

“Well, now that the boys are off, it’s time for our fun.” Julie beckoned Jack and Ethan into the house. “Are you both ready for dinner?”

 


Timestamp: Post “Strength Training” and post Enemy Within

Strength Training – Jack and Ethan prepare for their next chapter

 

Welcome to this week’s Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, we’re taking a look at Jack and Ethan as they train for “what comes next”. 🙂 I feel like I’m posting chapters from a forthcoming novel! I probably am!

Enjoy Jack and Ethan in their post-marital bliss (?) as they gear up for their next adventure. And, Ethan, predictably, puts his foot in it.


 

Jack grinned as his eyes slid sideways, checking Ethan out. Ethan huffed and breathed through his last set of bicep curls. Sweat dripped down his face, trickled down his neck. His shirt clung to his back, his straining arms. He’d take his shirt off after this set. He always did.

 

They were in their basement gym, something Ethan had wanted in their new home and Jack had helped him put together. Ethan loved working out, and their relationship had really begun sharing jokes and stories over the treadmill and while lifting weights. Jack loved seeing Ethan like this, at the peak of his power, raw in his intensity, almost animalistic in his strength. Jack responded in a very specific way, desire curling through him like burning fingers scraping through his muscles.

 

Jack finished his own set of leg raises. He watched Ethan, and waited.

 

Ethan finished. He shucked his shirt, using it to wipe the sweat from his face. He grinned at Jack.

 

Jack pulled his own shirt off. He’d been waiting for this, waiting all day. He struck a pose, hands on his hips, and beamed. “Check it out.”

 

Ethan chuckled. His eyes raked down Jack’s body, pausing on his abdomen. His eyebrows quirked up. “You need to eat more.” Ethan squirted water onto his face before taking a long drink.

 

Jack’s jaw dropped. “I need to eat more?” He waved one hand over his abdomen, highlighting his newly-revealed chiseled muscles. “Hello? Did you not see the incredible six pack I’ve developed?”

 

“I see it.”

 

He threw his hands wide, eyes boggling, non-verbally asking Ethan “What the fuck”.

 

“You told me you wanted to gain strength, especially with what we’re getting ready to do. Six packs like that are just to show off. They’re for beach bodies and models. They’re not really strong.”

 

“Not strong? I’m forty-six years old, Ethan, and I can see my abs. This is the third best day in my life.” He glared. “I don’t see your abs!”

 

Ethan slapped his stomach. His stomach was flat, but not chiseled. “I have abs. They’re just protected by a layer of hamburgers.” He winked.

 

Jack snorted. “A protective layer of hamburgers?”

 

“Yes. Because I eat enough to build my muscles. If your muscles are starting to show, then you’re not eating enough to build them the right way. Your body is burning fat, and in danger of burning muscle, too. You want to start giving me the spaghetti jars to open?”

 

Jack gave him a look. “You could at least show a little bit of interest. I’ve never looked this good. Never.”

 

“You always look amazing. You’re the hottest man on the planet, Jack.” Ethan looked confused.

 

“But these—“ Jack pointed at his abs. “—are something that should be given extra special attention.”

 

A light flicked on in the back of Ethan’s eyes. He smiled and padded across their basement to Jack. He rested his hands on Jack’s hips, his thumbs stroking over Jack’s taut tummy, the defined edges of his abs. “I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I fully intend on exploring all of these glorious muscles. All of your very, very hard work.”

 

Jack crossed his arms. He said nothing.

 

“First, I’ll start with my tongue. I’ll trace every muscle, every inch of your abdomen.”

 

“…that’s a start.”

 

“Run my hands all over your body… Kiss every inch of your skin…”

 

Jack shivered. Ethan’s hands rose, trailing over his abs, his chest. Down his ribs.

 

“Suck your cock until it’s rock hard, and resting against these muscles. Dripping with my spit.”

 

Breathless, Jack moaned, rocking into Ethan. He pressed his forehead to Ethan’s neck and closed his eyes.

 

“I want to bend you in half. Spread your legs and sink into you, and watch these muscles clench as I make love to you.”

 

“Yes. I want that.”

 

“And then…”

 

Jack whimpered.

 

“After I feed you my cock…” Ethan breathed against Jack’s ear. Jack shivered, and he grabbed Ethan’s arms, his waist. “I’m going to feed you a whole pizza.”

 

Jack shoved Ethan away, groaning. Ethan laughed.

 

“Ethan! You really don’t care about this at all?”

 

“I do care, love.” Ethan came back, holding out his arms. Jack glared. “You’re already the world’s hottest man to me. You’re already perfect. Nothing can change that. No matter if you have chiseled abs or an extra hundred pounds.”

 

“An extra hundred pounds! What do you think I’m going to do—“

 

“You are perfect, Jack, and I’ll always love you. No matter what you look like.” Ethan kissed his forehead, gently. “You asked me to help you gain strength. You said we should both be in the best shape of our lives if we’re going to be doing this. Accept the offer. It could be dangerous sometimes, and whether our bodies are able to push ahead through the next mile, the next challenge, or even the next threat could make all the difference. Maybe even between life and death.”

 

Jack sighed. He reached for Ethan, tugging him close. “You really think things will get like that?”

 

“It could get like that. On a bad day. A very bad day. Most of the time in the Secret Service, we stood post in the air conditioning and battled boredom. But on the bad days, we had to be Olympic athletes. And that’s what saved us. Saved you.”

 

“So you’re saying I shouldn’t be proud of these?”

 

“I’m saying you look gorgeous. With a six pack and without one. I’m also saying that we should feed you more so that you gain real, solid strength. Models aren’t action heroes.”

 

“Gymnasts are Olympic athletes. They have pretty great bodies.”

 

“If you want to train to be a gymnast, I won’t complain. I’m teaching you what I know. Military strength training.” He frowned. “Hey. Are you saying I don’t have a great body?”

 

“No! I—“

 

Ethan grinned. He kissed Jack, sweetly. “I want to make sure you can handle everything. Everything that could possibly happen out there.”

 

“I think I’ve proven that I can hold my own. I had an active presidency.”

 

“There’s the presidential card again.” Ethan winked as Jack shook his head, sighing. “And you have proven yourself. Above and beyond. You are a hero. Now let’s make it perfect. Refine it. Hone it. Turn what you did for survival into your natural instincts.”

 

Jack was quiet for a moment. “I’m with you all the way,” he finally said, softly. Ethan beamed. “But!” Jack held up one finger. “But, we are going to a beach. Pull out your itty-bitty bathing suit again, ‘cause you are taking me and my abs to a beach. I want to lie in the sun and act shocked, just shocked, that there are pictures of my abs on every magazine.”

 

“Yes, dear.” Ethan barely held back his laughter. “I’ll take you to a beach, love.”

 

“And! You are absolutely doing that thing with your tongue. And everything else. Everything you teased me with.”

 

Now Ethan did laugh. He dragged Jack close, wrapping him up in his arms, and rested their foreheads together. “Well, no time like the present…”

 


Timestamp: Post Enemy Within

Tables Turned – Scott Inherits the Detail

 

Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes!

This week, we’re going back in time to Enemy of My Enemy, and taking a look at Scott’s POV as he inherits the detail lead position and now has to protect his best friend, Ethan – the First Gentleman – and his boyfriend…. the POTUS. How well did Scott really handle this? What went on beneath his snarky exterior? Read and enjoy!


 

Scott scrubbed both hands over his face, squeezing his eyes closed.

 

Agent Beech kept talking. “And, we’ve got more reports from Atlanta. Three threats made against POTUS and BOTUS over the weekend. Local agents are checking it out.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“The protests on the South Lawn have grown. We count two hundred new protestors as of this morning. DC Metro arrested the three who threw eggs, and chased out the squatters who were setting up tents.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“Welby and Caldwell are serving the warrant to the ISP providers this afternoon. If they cooperate, we’ll get all the information the ISP has for the individuals who made the online threats against POTUS and BOTUS. As soon as they have that, Welby is planning on taking teams out to the DC, Maryland, and Virginia addresses. We’ll task offices around the country for the others.”

 

“Uh-huh.”

 

“NSA has passed along international chatter they’ve picked up. The usual anti-American rhetoric from America’s favorite places, but now there’s more. Iranian state TV is ranting about the infidel American president and his gay lover and how the end of days are finally here. They’re encouraging attacks against any gay or lesbian individual a faithful believer encounters, and the mullahs are calling for death to POTUS and BOTUS.”

 

“Fuck. Pass that on to the FBI and all law enforcement agencies.”

 

“Yes, sir. And, there’s a porno circulating the web. Someone put POTUS and BOTUS’s faces on a pretty raunchy skin flick. It gets violent in parts. Definite defilement and debasement of the individual with POTUS’s face. Could be construed as a threat.”

 

Scott heaved a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Put a warrant together for the web hosting center wherever that porno is. We probably can’t get anything, but if we can, we need to go shake them up.”

 

Beech nodded. “That’s it for this morning, sir.”

 

“That’s all?” Scott scoffed. “A light load.” Usually, there were at least ten to fifteen new threats every day made against Ethan and his boyfriend.

 

His boyfriend. The President of the fucking United States. Damn it, Ethan… Why couldn’t he just settle down with some doctor or State Department flunky? Why the hell had he gone and fallen for the president?

 

“I’ll let you know how the warrants go, sir.”

 

“And let me know how it goes with Welby and his team.” Beech nodded and moved off, heading to his desk. Scott threw himself back in his chair, gripping the armrests as he stared at Horsepower’s ceiling. He’d never wanted this job. Ethan was the one who had been career-focused, wanted to climb to the top. He was just along for the ride. Even in the Army, Ethan had made rank faster than Scott. Hell, Scott had only joined the Secret Service because it was the one agency that picked them both up. Ethan hadn’t got into the FBI and Scott hadn’t got into the CIA. But they both got into the Secret Service.

 

Best buds. Friends for life. That’s what he’d thought, all the way back in Iraq and Afghanistan. You deploy with a man once, twice, three times, you either love him like a brother or hate the air he breathes with a searing soul-blasting passion. They’d become men together, growing from wide-eyed soldiers on their first deployment, staying awake and sharing cigarettes and talking about the world and all of their dreams, to professional government employees, Secret Service hotshot agents protecting the president.

 

Twenty-one years of friendship. He’d thought he’d seen it all from Ethan. Even when Ethan came out to him – literally, the day Secret Service training began – he wasn’t surprised. You deploy with a guy three times, you eventually see what kind of porn he hides away, and he’d put the pieces together. ‘No girlfriend ever’ plus ‘super-hot Ethan’ plus ‘that hidden folder on his laptop’, the one he found when he was trying to punk Ethan, equals gay.

 

“Dude, duh. I figured. C’mon, I’m starving. What are we eating?” Ethan had smiled, they went to lunch before reporting in for training, and nothing at all had changed. Well, Ethan stopped hiding who he was, and Scott realized very quickly that ‘no girlfriend or boyfriend’ was not the same as ‘not getting any’. Damn, Ethan.

 

They hopped and skipped their way up the Secret Service career ladder until Ethan got the big job, and Scott was just happy to be his right hand. Fucking Welby was still up there with them, that laugh-a-minute bore. One year senior than them both, Welby’s fabulous personality had kept him languishing just below senior command. God, when Welby had taken over the detail after Ethan was injured at Spiers’s inauguration, Scott had wanted to die.

 

Now, though… Ethan was out of the Secret Service, Scott was in charge of the whole damn operation, Daniels was running Ethan’s detail, and Welby was acting as Scott’s second in command. What the fuck?

 

Welby should be in charge. By all rights, he had seniority. But he’d spent a long afternoon with Director Triplett, after Ethan’s transfer to Iowa, and right after that, Scott was named the detail lead.

 

Protecting POTUS… and Ethan. His best friend.

 

Was this what Ethan had felt like, at least some of the time, when he and Spiers were trying to secretly date? They were fucking awful at keeping it secret, all soft eyes and smiles, and he thought he was going to use up his lifetime supply of heavy sighs and eye rolls over their ridiculousness.

 

But had it been this excruciating? Caring for someone whose life was in your hands? Hearing the detailed threats, day in and day out, seeing the visceral hate? Ethan had built a friendship – and more – with Spiers. Scott was already best friends with Ethan. In both instances, protocol and procedure demanded they both back off, distance themselves. Keep away.

 

But damn it, Ethan was his brother, and the world wanted to hurt him and the man he loved. As a friend, as a man, he was bound to protect Ethan, be by his side, ride until they died like they’d vowed twenty-one years ago in Iraq. The fact that the man Ethan loved was the president – and Scott’s job – was just another layer of fucked-up to the already fucked-up shit-sandwich.

 

He glared at the plain brown bag he’d tucked under his desk. Who was he kidding? He couldn’t be distant. Not from Ethan. Not ever.

 

Grabbing the bag, he headed out of Horsepower and wound through the early morning White House. He passed by the end of the overnight shift, trading off with their morning counterparts and hiding yawns. There were more agents standing post than there had been a year ago. He’d doubled their force in the White House, and on the move. He’d quadruple it if he could.

 

“Morning butthead!” he shouted at the top of the grand staircase, calling down the main hallway in the Residence. Spiers and Ethan’s bedroom door was ajar and the kitchen lights were on.

 

Ethan poked his head out of the kitchen. He wore an undershirt, boxers, and a giant smile. “Morning buttmunch.”

 

“That’s you.” Scott winked as he headed for Ethan. He could hear the shower running in their bathroom. “POTUS in the shower?”

 

“Yeah, he’s getting ready. He’s got an early call. I’m making breakfast.” Ethan flipped an omelet in a pan on the stove. “Grab some orange juice. Want anything?”

 

Was this what it had felt like to Ethan every time Spiers made a friendly overture? That urge to accept, to kick back and be a friend slamming against the need to back away, keep professional distance, stay objective. Jesus, he’d seen Ethan completely lose it out there, blow his objectivity entirely out of the water over his feelings for Spiers. They’d barely survived Ethiopia. Saudi. Storming the White House.

 

Was he repeating history? When would they ever learn?

 

“No, man, I’m good.” He set the brown bag on the kitchen island. “Special delivery.” Inside was a gigantic bottle of lube, an industrial sized bottle with an extra-large pump dispenser on top.

 

Ethan grinned over his shoulder. “Thanks. We need it.”

 

“Shut the fuck up. I don’t need to know that.” He smiled back, though. “And, I expect nothing less, you horndog.”

 

Ethan shimmied his hips, jiggling his ass. Scott sighed, long, loud, and completely put-upon. Ethan laughed.

 

“So… no condoms this time? Or was there a delay in shipment?” Ethan had his order for lube and condoms go to Scott’s house, who then brought them to the White House. Like Welby before him – and, Jesus Christ, did his brain break at that thought – he was their sex supplies mule.

 

Ethan flipped the omelet onto a plate and grabbed toast from the toaster. He poured a cup of coffee and brought everything to the table, setting it down for Spiers. Then he picked up his own coffee cup and came to the island, leaning against it and smiling at Scott. “Don’t need them anymore.”

 

“Well, well, well.” The sign of a serious relationship. Not that they weren’t already serious. Spiers had come out for Ethan on the global stage and Ethan had given up his career to be First Gentleman.  

 

“Sure you don’t want a cup of coffee? You look tired, old man.”

 

If you come under fire, how will I react? If what happened in Ethiopia happens again, who will I protect more? Spiers or you? He’s the president, but you’re my brother. He tried to smile. Ethan frowned. Damn it, Ethan could always read him like a book. I can’t share a cup of coffee with you and pretend everything is normal.

 

Spiers breezed into the kitchen, his tie draped around his neck, suit jacket in one hand. He went straight to Ethan, kissing him with a wide smile, and then dropped into his seat at the table. “Morning, Scott. How are you?”

 

Ethan surreptitiously moved the brown bag to the floor, tucking it out of sight as Scott answered. “Good, Mr. President. You?”

 

“Great.” Spiers shot Ethan a beaming grin and then turned to his breakfast as he scrolled through his phone. Ethan watched him eat and sipped his coffee.

 

Ethan was disgustingly in love. Joy poured off of him in waves, a tidal flood of it. Contentment, pure happiness, relaxed and serene. His eyes shone and he smiled as Spiers ate, happy as a clam that he’d made his boyfriend breakfast and his boyfriend was enjoying it. Delighted with their morning, their life. Content to his bones.

 

It would all change when Ethan left the Residence. He had that hard frown on most days, and panic lay banked in the backs of his eyes. He seemed three seconds from going full Rambo when he was down in the White House, but here, with Spiers, he was the man Scott had always wanted to see. To know. Ethan, deeply, deeply in love.

 

Why did it have to be the fucking president?

 

“Excuse me, gentleman.” Scott nodded to Spiers first, and then to Ethan. “I’ll leave you to your breakfast.”

 

They both tried to stop him, inviting him for toast, orange juice, or coffee. Ethan offered to make him an omelet. He waved them both off, saying he had to get back to work. Ethan nodded and took a seat beside Jack at the table. Scott watched them lace their fingers together, a one-handed hold as Jack finished eating while Ethan sipped his coffee.

 

He walked away, his feat lead, his heart sinking. How can I be objective? He’s my best friend, and he’s finally found the man he loves.

 

Cold fire settled inside him, a conviction made of heavy plutonium that promised a thermonuclear reaction. God help anyone who tries to hurt these men. God help you if you ever do, because I’m coming for you.


Timestamp: Early EOME

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.

 

Getting On With It – Doc & Coleman after Enemy Within

***Spoilers for Enemy Within! Do Not Read if you have not read Enemy Within!***

 

Welcome to Bauer’s Bytes! This week, both Dorota and Annie had prompt requests featuring Doc & Coleman. Both wanted to see more of those two after Enemy Within, and specifically Annie wanted to know what was up with those two. Well… I guess we’ll have to see!

 


 

Watching over someone in the hospital was mind-numbingly boring.

 

The lines on Coleman’s heart monitor paraded in neat mountains and valleys, a textbook example of cardiac rhythms. All that PT paid off, despite the beers and the shots and the deep-fried diet they all loved to indulge in. Fucking Marine Corps. Keeping them healthy, despite their best efforts.

 

Doc threw his head back and sighed as dramatically as a damsel in distress fainting at the sight of the dragon about to roast her alive.

 

He couldn’t even text Adam anymore. The damn LT—well, not an LT anymore—was going off to confront Faisal’s family.

 

He’d seen Adam face down Prince Abdul in Saudi Arabia, at Faisal’s hospital, once before. That relationship seemed as cozy as a tiger getting ready to eat your face. Adam wanted to get closer to the Saudis, a family and a nation that so viciously protected their own that they’d rather face international condemnation than give up a member of the royal family who supported terrorists? They’d “handle it” on their own, they said.

 

And said family member or troublemaker was never seen or heard from again, as the fairy tale went.

 

Adam wanted to be a part of that? Was he the outsider, destined to disappear? Or was he one of the Saudis’ own now, wrapped up in sand and secrets? Would he ever hear from Adam again?

 

Groaning from the hospital bed made Doc spring forward, a jack-in-the-box bursting free from the confinement of boredom. He watched, hovering in the chair at Coleman’s bedside, as Coleman’s eyes fluttered open.

 

Doc leaned in close, beaming. “Hey beautiful,” he crooned.

 

Coleman groaned and squeezed his eyes shut. “Fuck, I wish I died.”

 

“Stop flirting.”

 

“If I were dead, you wouldn’t be here.”

 

“So you think.” Doc winked.

 

“God, you’re an asshole.” Coleman finally opened his eyes again and struggled to sit up. Doc helped him, grabbing pillows and rearranging them behind Coleman as the motorized bed slowly rose, taking Coleman with it. “So what’s going on?” Coleman looked around, taking in the hospital room, the government issue machinery, and the drab, clinical sameness of everything. “Bethesda?”

 

“Yep.” Doc sat back and kicked up his feet, resting his heels on the side of Coleman’s bed. Coleman shoved his legs off, and Doc put them back, this time resting his feet across Coleman’s shins. “The world was saved from going to hell in a handbasket. Russia is Russia again, President Spiers-Reichenbach is back in the US facing down a congressional investigation that wants to put him in jail for the rest of his life, and the L-T and Prince F skipped off to Saudi Arabia for their happy ever after.”

 

Coleman’s eyes narrowed. “The L-T is alive?”

 

Oh yeah. The last Coleman saw of Adam was him being dragged out by Cook, beaten and bloody, and shouting in Arabic at Faisal. He’d folded for Faisal when Cook threatened to blow Faisal’s head off in front of him. And, yeah, after Cook murdered Ruiz… Doc didn’t doubt that Cook was a half second away from murdering Faisal, too. Murdering them all, one by one.

 

“Yeah, Adam’s alive.” Again, Coleman glared at him, using Adam’s name instead of his rank. “He’s also not a Marine anymore. He left everything. I think that mission made him rethink his priorities.”

 

Coleman looked away.

 

“You mad, bro?”

 

Coleman shot him another dark glare, somehow ferocious even though he was propped up by a mountain of pillows and wearing a flimsy hospital gown.

 

“I didn’t think you were a homophobe.” Doc crossed his arms and glared right back.

 

“I’m not!” Coleman’s head whipped around, that glare now a permanent fixture on his mulish face. “But he fucking sold us all out. He gave us all up. He surrendered.”

 

“Because there was a gun to Prince F’s head.” Doc spoke slowly, like he was talking to a five-year-old. “What the hell was he supposed to do? Let Prince F die?”

 

Coleman huffed.

 

“There’s gotta be someone you’d give everything up for.” He watched Coleman, peering at him carefully.

 

Coleman looked away, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he stared at the tile floor, the scuffed linoleum and the rubber-stained baseboards. “Once, maybe.”

 

“You’ve got some kids. You’d give it all up for them.”

 

Sighing, Coleman’s face twisted, a rictus of pain and an eternal frustration that only came from dealing with Doc. “Yeah, but they wouldn’t care. They call some other guy Dad now.”

 

“That fucking sucks. Sorry, man.”

 

Coleman shrugged, but said nothing.

 

“If it were you in that position, you’d have done the same thing. You’d have given up if the L-T was there with a gun to his head. Or me.”

 

“I’d have let him shoot you.”

 

Doc clucked and tilted his head, playing coy. “You say the sweetest things to me. Makes my heart go all aflutter.”

 

“God, you’re so fucking annoying.” But, Coleman finally chuckled, a breezy half-laugh.

 

Doc let it slide. “So, you’re going to be set loose in a few days. If Adam texts back, and if he survives facing down Prince F’s family, then d’ya wanna go see them?”

 

“He’s facing down the Saudis?”

 

“I think something happened on the ice. When they were speaking all that Arabic, and Faisal was crying like he’d never see Adam again? Faisal said his name was ‘Faisal Cooper’ when we got back to Honolulu.”

 

Coleman’s eyebrows shot straight up, climbing into his hairline. “You think they got married?”

 

“Well…” Doc shrugged and leaned back. “So, no one takes the others name in Islamic marriages, but Prince F is Westernized a bit, so maybe he took Adam’s name to feel closer to him, especially since we all thought he was dead? Or, I dunno, for shits and giggles? But, no matter what happened, Adam decided to say fuck off to the Marine Corps, and he’s living in Saudi now. I mean, yeah, they totally could be taking it to the next step.”

 

“That will go over well in Saudi. Don’t they still stone gay guys there?”

 

Doc nodded slowly.

 

Coleman cursed under his breath. “You know, I just really wanted to work on my career. Do a high-speed assignment in a special operations unit, fast track my promotion, and then keep working hard. I wanted to go someplace.” He shook his head. “And then I landed in this fucking team.”

 

Doc smiled wide.

 

“Everyone else is gone?” Coleman’s voice softened, went thin, almost like a whisper.

 

“Yeah.” Doc sobered too, his almost maniacal glee at tormenting Coleman vanishing with a snap. “Two turned traitor, three murdered, two gone to Saudi, and you and me, left behind. It’s like a bad ‘little piggies gone to market’ rhyme.”

 

“You’re so dumb.” Coleman shook his head. He chewed his lip though, turning over the disintegration of their team, the forces that had shredded their people from the inside out. “Are Ruiz and Park getting funerals?”

 

“Park, yeah. Ruiz’s ashes are going back to his home country with his grandmother. Park’s is in his hometown.”

 

Coleman scrubbed his face, exhaling hard. “All right. We’re going to Park’s funeral. And then, we’re going to Saudi. Adam needs all the help he can get.”

 

“Gonna ride in and save him from the Saudis?” Doc winked.

 

“Yeah, if we need to. Prince F too.”

 

“I knew you had a heart of gold.” Doc playfully kicked Coleman’s leg with his foot, blowing him a kiss.

 

Coleman rolled his eyes, staring at the ceiling as if he was asking God what he’d done to deserve Doc in his life.

 

“You know you love me.”

 

“Like I love a tumor.”

 

“I’m as hard to get rid of as a tumor, too.”

 

“I fucking know. But I’m about to ask the nurse for a scalpel.”

 

Laughing, Doc clambered out of his seat and kneeled on the foot of Coleman’s bed. Coleman’s eyes went wide as he crawled up, straddling his legs until he flopped to the side, cuddling against Coleman and tucking his shoulder under Coleman’s arm, on his uninjured side. “Somedays, I almost think you like me.”

 

“What the hell are you doing?” Instead of sounding freaked out, Coleman sounded resigned. He held his arms wide, not touching Doc.

 

Doc snuggled closer. “I’ve been sleeping in that chair for days, watching over you so you wouldn’t wake up alone. My back hurts. I’m sleeping here now.”

 

“God dammit.” Coleman didn’t touch him, but he didn’t tell Doc to get the hell out of his bed, either.

 

“Hold me. This is uncomfortable.”

 

Grumbling, Coleman’s arms fell, and he begrudgingly wrapped one massive hand around Doc’s thin shoulder. “It’s like cuddling a pencil,” he grunted.

 

“And you’re a grumpy elephant, but you don’t see me complaining.”

 

Coleman snorted, but said nothing. Doc made a show of snuggling up to Coleman’s armpit and resting his cheek on Coleman’s chest. One of his hands rested on Coleman’s belly, just above his belly button.

 

Eventually, Coleman’s other hand covered Doc’s, and they fell asleep before the nurse came in to change Coleman’s IV bag.

 

* * *

 

“Bahrain?” Doc scrunched up his face as he listened to Adam on his cell phone. “Why the hell are we going to Bahrain?”

 

“It’s where we’re living now. I’ll tell you when you get here.”

 

“Is this a good reason to be in Bahrain, or a ‘we-left-in-the-middle-of-the-night’ kind of reason?”

 

“It’s a good reason.” Adam chuckled, softly. “I’ll pick you up at the airport.”

 

“Whatever, man. We just picked up our tickets. Thanks for buying them.”

 

“See you tomorrow.”

 

Adam blew off Doc’s thanks, again, for buying his and Coleman’s tickets to not-Saudi, but to Bahrain. He sounded good on the phone, though, relaxed, for once.

 

Coleman, on the other hand, looked like a spring wound too tight, looking out of place in his khakis and his polo, and holding his duffel in one meaty hand. He waited by the benches, tucked off to the side in between the airport doors and the security checkpoint.

 

They’d been given a month of leave by the Marine Corps and told to go be elsewhere. Go do something personal.

 

But how could they just fall back into their normal lives? What was normal even, anymore? Their teammates were dead, half heroes and half traitors. Their memories were tainted. Was it fair to Park and Ruiz to remember laughing with Wright and Kobayashi? Was it wrong to want them all back, to want to turn back time and go back to the nights and days they spent in Prince F’s palace, playing basketball and laughing like children? When there was never a thought that their brothers weren’t all virtuous, weren’t all knights of the round table, and they were all on the same side?

 

What was left, back in Tampa, aside from memories of traitors and heroes, and a blurred line between the two? Empty apartments, bars they used to haunt. Empty spaces in their life.

 

And, a missing leader. Adam should be there, should help them find their feet again. Should be guiding them back to true north, like any good leader would.

 

But he’d lost his own north, and he was rebuilding his own life in the desert sands. He didn’t have room for two stragglers, two lost puppies who didn’t know where home was anymore.

 

At least, that’s what Doc thought, but when he poked at Adam, asking if they could come out and see him—in a moment of pure desperation, watching Coleman’s chest rise and fall and his eyes stay stubbornly closed, and he feared he’d be the only survivor, in the end, of their team—Adam had said he wanted them to come.

 

Park’s funeral—God, it was fucking awful—was the day before.

 

They were flying out first thing.

 

Did Coleman have that same feeling of freefall? Like they’d stepped out of the back of a C-130, plummeting straight to earth, and they were waiting to pull their parachute cord. Waiting and waiting and waiting, but the ground wasn’t getting any closer, and they were still in freefall, forever it seemed. The world rushing by, and them suspended, not knowing where to go, where to spin. To pull or not to pull?

 

What would impact feel like? What was waiting at the bottom, at the end?

 

Doc kept pushing, he knew. Pushing as hard as he could, on everything. Testing the boundaries, and trying to find the limits. He needed to know where the lines were. Needed to know exactly how to push and push until he could destroy. When he wanted to blow up his world, again, he needed the blueprints as to how.

 

Coleman waited for him, looking like sasquatch trying to blend in. He couldn’t be more awkward if he tried, couldn’t scream I don’t belong here any louder. The last time he’d looked this out of place, he’d been sneaking into the White House on a campus tour.

 

“We’re all set. And yeah, we’re purposely going to Bahrain.” Doc smiled and waved the tickets, and then nodded to the TSA security checkpoint. “Ready?”

 

Coleman stared at him, silently, and then reached out, dragging Doc close, physically hauling him across the tile until they were mashed together, chest to chest. Doc’s face pressed against Coleman’s neck, and he felt Coleman’s heavy sigh, a long, shaking exhalation, as Coleman’s muscled arms settled around his bony shoulders.

 

He didn’t move. Didn’t hug Coleman back. “You alright, bro?”

 

“Yeah.” Coleman’s rough voice and his hot breath ruffled Doc’s hair, brushed over the tip of his ear. “Yeah, I’m good.” He pulled back, looking down, avoiding Doc’s gaze.

 

He should say something. Do something. Not let Coleman flounder in freefall.

 

He held out his duffel. “Carry my bag?”

 

Coleman snorted and rolled his eyes, but he grabbed Doc’s duffel and slung it over his shoulder. “Yeah, princess, I’ll carry your stuff.”

 

Doc winked. “Thanks, big boy.” Now for the push. “I’ll be sure to give you an extra special treat when we land.”

 

Coleman shook his head as he looked away, but a flush stained his cheeks and ran down his neck. Doc led them both to the security checkpoint, and Coleman stayed quiet, not saying a word, for the first half of their trip.

 

Until Coleman pushed back.

 

Three hours before they landed in Frankfurt, Coleman leaned against Doc’s shoulder and whispered, “Ever joined the mile high club?”


Timestamp: Post-Enemy Within, after Adam & Doc text, and Doc & Coleman discharge from Bethesda Naval Hospital.