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There's dust filling his lungs, rubble digging into his back, and nearly every part of his body aches, but none of it matters—because Annie is kissing him, her body pressed close on top of his, her lips soft and warm. Jack runs his hands softly through her hair, clinging close, because she's alive, I'm alive, we're alive, and in this moment, nothing else matters.

 

When Annie smiles against his mouth, Jack wants to etch the sensation into his heart and never, ever let it go.

 

 

After the EMT's stitch up the gash on Jack's arm, and after insisting half a dozen times that no, he doesn't want to go to the hospital, Jack is finally free to go. He quickly stands and rushes over to where Annie sits at the back of the ambulance, another emergency medical technician tending to her wounds.

 

“Didn't think I'd be sitting in an ambulance twice in one day,” Annie jokes as an EMT cleans cuts on her wrists from where the handcuffs were digging in. Thankfully, she doesn't seem to have any serious injuries.

 

Jack smiles. “You doing alright?” He asks, just to be sure. “Nothing's broken?”

 

“I'm fine, Jack,” Annie laughs. “I don't even need stitches.”

 

The EMT clears his throat. “Um, miss, unless you want to go to the hospital, I think you're all set.”

 

“No hospital for me,” Annie replies. “Thank you.”

 

Annie stands and reaches out for Jack's hand. He takes it, twining their fingers together, careful not to touch any of the scrapes on her wrist.

 

“Now, wait a minute,” a familiar voice rings out. Jack looks over his shoulder to see Captain McMahon running out of his squad car to get to them. Great.

 

“She can take a statement later, Mac,” Jack says. “She's been through enough.”

 

“I don't just need her statement, I need statements from both of you. And—what the hell happened? Where's Payne?”

 

“Dead,” Jack says. “I'll fill you in tomorrow.”

 

“Jack—”

 

Tomorrow,” Jack repeats himself, narrowing his eyes at Mac.

 

Mac sighs, defeated. “Your ass better be in my office first thing tomorrow, Traven.”

 

“Yes sir,” Jack says, squeezing Annie's hand as they walk away from the swarm of gawking onlookers and emergency vehicles.

 

Annie rubs her thumb against Jack's hand and leans into his ear.

 

“So,” she says, “you have the rest of the day off?”

 

 

They barely make it through the door to Jack’s apartment before they’re tearing at each other’s clothes.

 

“Are we really doing this?” Jack gasps between kisses.

 

Annie nudges a leg between his thighs. Fuck.

 

“Shut up and take your clothes off,” Annie says, breathless, hands running up Jack’s sides.

 

“Yes, ma’am,” Jack replies, desire burning hot in the pit of his stomach. He pulls his dirty t-shirt up and over his head, tossing it behind him.

 

It’s a miracle they make it to the bed.

 

 

The next morning, Jack makes scrambled eggs and toast—the one meal he can reliably make without burning anything. He sets it on his shabby kitchen table along with a pot of coffee and two mugs. He doesn't have any creamer in the fridge. He's always liked his coffee black. Shit. What if Annie likes cream? He has sugar, at least... Shit, what if Annie hates eggs?

 

He is suddenly acutely aware of the mismatched wooden chair and stool sitting beside the table, the pile of dirty dishes in the sink, and the fact that he hasn’t showered in days. The scabs from yesterday's scrapes aren't very attractive, and neither is the line of six stitches on his forearm. Should he shower before Annie wakes up?

 

He’s about to go check on Annie when she emerges.

 

She's wearing the same clothes from yesterday—however, her University of Arizona sweatshirt (the sweatshirt that saved their damn lives on that fucking bus) is gone, replaced with one of Jack's plain grey sweatshirts. She must have rummaged around in his dresser. He silently hopes she didn't find the copies of Penthouse that he keeps under his socks.

 

The sweatshirt is a little big on her. Her fingers peek out from under the sleeves. Shit, it's adorable.

 

“Hey, Jack,” Annie says, breaking his train of thought.

 

“Hey, Annie,” Jack says, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.

 

Annie gestures to the sweatshirt. “I hope you don't mind I borrowed this. Mine, um... it had blood on it.”

 

“That's okay! It... looks good on you.”

 

Annie laughs. “Sure it does,” she says dryly, pulling up the sleeves.

 

“I mean it,” he says, a little softer.

 

A silence settles between them. Jack finds his gaze dropping to Annie's mouth. She leans in—

 

Oh, crap. Breakfast.

 

“Um,” Jack starts. He points over his shoulder. “I made eggs. Do you like eggs?”

 

Annie nods quickly. “Eggs are good.”

 

“I also made coffee. How do you take yours?”

 

“Black.”

 

A woman after his own heart.

 

They eat in his dingy little kitchen on his crappy table with his mismatched chairs.

 

Jack could get used to this.

 

 

“Do you need me to drive you to work?” Jack asks as he puts their dishes in the sink. “You mentioned your license was suspended.”

 

It dawns on him that he has no idea where Annie works, what she does for a living, or pretty much anything else about her. He's known this woman for all of 24 hours.

 

Jack shakes the thought, shifting his weight from foot to foot, waiting for her reply.

 

“It's okay,” Annie says, “I can take the bus.”

 

“You sure?” Jack says, voice softening.

 

Annie rolls her eyes. “Jack, I can handle it.”

 

Jack nods. “Alright. I just thought maybe wherever you worked might be on the way to the station... Where do you work, anyway?”

 

“I'm an assistant manager at Macy's,” Annie says. “Exciting, I know.”

 

“Are you sure you don't need me to—”

 

“I'm sure, Jack,” Annie says before planting a kiss on Jack's cheek. Jack's stomach does somersaults.

 

“Alright,” Jack says. He grabs a pen and notepad from the kitchen counter, scribbling on it. “This is my work number. You call me if you need anything, okay?”

 

He rips off the sheet of paper and hands it to her. Annie takes it and stuffs it into her pocket.

 

“Are we seeing each other again tonight?” She asks.

 

Jack balks. He'd assumed they would. Hell, he had assumed they were together now. He's only known her a day, but somehow, it felt like a lifetime.

 

Yesterday was one hell of an intense experience.

 

“If you want to,” Jack replies to Annie's question, looking her in the eyes. Hoping.

 

“Of course I want to,” Annie says quietly, and then, more confidently, “How are we going to base this relationship off of sex if we've only had it once?”

 

Jack laughs, and his heart sings. Relationship.

 

“Whatever you say, ma'am,” Jack responds with a grin.

 

“I'll see you here tonight, then,” Annie says. “Unless you want to come over to my place, but you don't. It's a mess.

 

And here Jack was embarrassed about the state of his apartment.

 

“See you tonight,” Jack says. “I should be home by seven. Unless Mac really grills me. I think I can hold off on him bringing you in for a statement until tomorrow.”

 

“I appreciate it,” Annie replies. She leans forward and presses a quick kiss against his lips. “I'll see you tonight.”

 

Jack can still feel Annie's lips against his long after she's out the door.

 

 

Jack hears a loud knock at his door at half-past seven.

 

“Annie?” Jack calls, making his way to the door.

 

He opens the door to find Annie standing there, trembling, with tear streaks down her cheeks. Jack's stomach drops.

 

“Shit! Annie, what happened?” He asks as his hands reach for her shoulders. “What's wrong?”

 

Annie's breath hitches. “I thought...” She laughs humorlessly, crossing her arms. “I thought I could take the goddamned bus. Turns out I can't. Scared the living shit out of me. I just kept seeing... I just kept seeing the bomb, and the bus, and him, and... What if we hadn't made it?”

 

A renewed hatred for that maniac Payne blazes as Jack clenches his fists. It hurt seeing Harry's empty desk at work today, already ridden with flowers and sympathy cards. It hurt knowing innocent civilians were dead because of that asshole.

 

But seeing Annie like this makes Jack want to kill that son of a bitch all over again.

 

“We’re alive, Annie,” Jack says, voice unwavering. “We made it.”

 

He holds his arms out and Annie rushes into them, burying her face in his shoulder. Her tears dampen the front of his t-shirt.

 

“I’m not going let anyone hurt you again,” Jack whispers as he holds her against his chest. “I will never let that happen.”

 

Annie hugs him tightly, breathing him in. They stay like that for a while, breathing in tandem. Jack swears he can feel Annie's heart beat against his.

 

“Don't ever leave me, Jack,” Annie chokes out, pulling away slightly to look at him.

 

Jack tucks a stray lock of her hair behind her ear, gazing into her eyes.

 

He's only known her for two days.

 

He wants to know her for the rest of his life.