trigger_man: (Jack is not thinking happy thoughts)
( Nov. 5th, 2012 11:42 pm)
Jack hasn't left his room much in the couple days since he woke up outside, with no memory of the few days before that.  No memory for kidnapping someone, of fighting Teja.

When he has gone downstairs, he definitely hasn't gone anywhere near the woods.

He still has no memory of anything he did while under that spell, and the thought that something took him over, that he has no memory of it, unnerves him like nothing else has in years.

He needs to get out of here, but the door back to his world is locked, and so he stays mostly in his room, dreading every time he falls asleep and the nightmares start again.
Jack poured himself another cup of coffee from the urn, then took his seat again.  Around the waiting room, feet shuffled, chairs creaked. Most of the chairs were filled; today was a slow day for day labor jobs, and as the door opened and a man walked in Jack caught the glance of disappointment on the man's face.

He'd arrived in Lexington a few days earlier, found the day laborers' center and a local Wal-Mart where he could park his truck overnight.  He'd turned up at the center every morning at five, had a shower in the facilities provided, then watched the noticeboard for work.  The other days, he'd found jobs fairly quickly.  Today, not so much.

Heads snapped up as one of the volunteers working the phone stood and headed for the noticeboard, then dropped again as they saw her pin the index card under the "volunteer" category.  While the center was mostly for those who needed the pay, they still posted volunteer positions, when they were from a registered charity and when a meal was provided.  Sometimes volunteer opportunities allowed the workers to make contacts with businesses, find paying work.  But most of the time the charities wanted someone with a clean police record, and that wasn't always an option, especially for those that weren't in the country legally.

Jack sighed, looking at his watch.  It was eight a.m., and considering the number of people in the room, he was pretty sure his chances of getting work that day were pretty low, especially when he had got more of a cash safety net than most others in there probably did.

Getting up from his seat, he walked over to the noticeboard, looking at the card the volunteer put up.  

Charity: Coming Home

Trades Needed: Any & all related to housebuilding, esp. roofers, bricklayers.  Minimal skill required

Jack pulled the note off the board, and walked over to the reception desk.  "Could I get a map to this address?"


The sun beat down on the roof, heat radiating off the tar paper as Jack knelt to place another shingle and hammer it in.

"You're getting fast at this," Don, the roofing supervisor said with a slight twang that Jack was getting used to.  "You done this before?" 

"A couple times.  Here and there," Jack said, once he'd pulled the last roofing nail from his mouth.  

Don gave him a grin.  "You want to keep doing it after this job, you let me know."

Jack gave him a slight nod and smile, and Don went back to his work.  Over the last couple days he'd gotten used to Don and the others on the building crew; mostly Don's employees, volunteering their time to built a house for a family that might not otherwise be able to afford one. Across the street, more volunteers were nailing together the frame of another house, along with a couple families that had already received their houses and were paying back in hours what their small mortgage didn't cover.

Jack looked next door where the concrete foundations of the next house's basement were being poured, then down the street at the house that had been finished a couple weeks earlier.  There was something amazing in the sight, seeing this little neighborhood cropping up among the gently rolling landscape, at all the people helping.

That first day he'd come out to the site, he hadn't been sure what to expect, what he'd do when the day was over.  The next morning, he'd only stopped at the day labor center for a shower, then come straight here without looking at the noticeboard.

There was something in him that said he needed to be here, whether it was to build something himself, or to see that others were building things too, for someone they didn't even know.  That other people were building things up, instead of tearing them down.

Don called for a water break, and Jack joined the stream of guys climbing down off the roof and grabbing a water bottle.  Finding a tree, he took a seat beneath its shade and gulped the water.

Out on the street, he saw a woman approaching the site with two children in tow, each wearing a hard hat.  Both the kids looked excited, grinning from ear to ear, while Jack could see the mother's chin quiver as she looked at the house with a tight smile.  Not tight because she was forcing it, but because she was obviously trying not to cry with happiness.  It looked like she was losing the battle as she turned to talk to the site supervisor, and Jack looked away, feeling his throat tighten as he stood and disposed of his empty water bottle.

Maybe the reason he felt he needed to be here, was because he was building something up, instead of tearing it down.  Helping someone's life get a little bit better, instead of making it worse.

Maybe it was time to do a little of what he'd talked to Carl about in the bar months ago, and start doing good, to try and make up for all the pain he'd caused over the years, even if it was just a little at a time.
 It's quieter in the upstairs hallway, and there's less evidence of impending disaster up here. It's almost enough to allow you to forget what's going on downstairs, or to write it off.

Almost. Not quite.

Jack turns to Beckett as they reach his room.  "You want to come in for one more drink?"

He doesn't want to say it out loud, but there's a part of him that doesn't want to be alone just yet.

It always starts out as an ordinary day.

Jack's got his bag slung over his shoulder, ready to head out to his world for a while.  Only when he opens the door, it's not the tiny apartment he's rented in Lexington that he sees.  Instead, it's sidewalk and tall apartment buildings.  Turning his head, he sees yellow cabs and New York licence plates, behind him apparently an ordinary phone booth.

Something cold settles in his stomach; there are only a few reasons for the bar to have dropped him off somewhere other than the place where he'd walked in, and none of them are good.

Following a hunch, he covers the sidewalk between him and the nearest apartment building in a couple strides, eyes searching the nameplates by the door, until he finds the one he's looking for.

K. Beckett.

The bar dropped him off at her home, not the precinct, not a hospital.

(not a morgue, a church or a cemetery)

Telling himself that it can't be that bad if he's been kicked out of the bar at her apartment building, he presses the button to buzz her apartment.

If only the butterflies in his stomach were listening.
It was a shitty day - rainy, cool. When Jack arrived at the usual hardware store parking lot where day labourers gathered, there was about the same crowd as there was any other day. A couple hours later, that crowd had thinned considerably. Few of the agricultural and landscaping employers showed up, and when no one had come looking for workers for 45 minutes, most of the crowd dispersed.

A black panel van pulled into the lot and stopped some distance away from the few workers that were left huddled under the overhang of the store’s roof. After a couple minutes--and just as Jack had decided he wasn’t going to have much luck that day--it turned out of the parking spot and drove over to where he stood.

“Hey, you want some work loading some boxes?” the man on the passenger side--blond hair, blue eyes, stocky build--asked, rolling down his window. “We’ll pay ten bucks an hour.”

Jack hesitated for a moment... )
trigger_man: (Jack needs a default icon)
( May. 14th, 2011 10:32 pm)
Jack's voice is a low growl.  "Move it."

The first shove is a gentle nudge, a suggestion.  The second is much harder.  "Dammit, just move, will you?"

"Need help?"

Jack turns, peering over the large rump of the horse he's trying to move, spotting one of the other members of the cleanup crew.  Dale, about ten years his junior and way too chipper for two in the morning.  

"More like a cattle prod," Jack says with a grumble.

Dale laughs.  "That's Apollo.  Stubborn as all hell.  You gotta give him a stern look to let him know you mean business.  Eventually he'll get to know that you won't put up with his shit."
Jack just gives Dale a wry smile.   Apparently his well-honed intimidation techniques might work on potential terrorists and traitors to the U.S. government, but not on a fucking horse.
"I'll move him out to the paddock," Dale says, holding out his hand for the lead rope, which Jack's all too eager to toss over.  "Sure you don't want the light on in here?"
Jack shakes his head.  "Burnt out.  That's something else I gotta fix, once I shovel this place out.  The light from outside's fine."
It takes Dale an appallingly short amount of time to get Apollo moving, and Jack turns toward the corner where he'd propped his pitchfork. Then, behind him, the stall gate swings shut with a metallic ring.
Metal scraping on metal, footsteps on the concrete floor of the hallway, always dark inside, always light outside, the smell of sweat and blood and urine and feces close around how so he hardly even notices it anymore--
His hand touches concrete behind him as he pushes himself into the corner, pressing his back against the wall.  It takes a moment before he realizes it isn't concrete immediately under his feet, that the sounds outside aren't the voices of guards or the cries of prisoners.
Realizing just where he is--or more importantly, where he isn't--he steps away from the wall, his knees feeling watery.  Even though the stall is much larger than the cell he'd spent almost two years of his life in, it feels as though the walls are closing in; as though he can't breathe in here.
Jack pushes his way out of the stall, making a quick right and heading for the arena's exit door, barely noticing whether anyone sees him. He needs out, the larger space of the hallway not helping relieve the tightness in his chest or the creeping panic.
He's almost sprinting when he hits the bar on the door and it flies open.
trigger_man: (Jack is feeling sleepy)
( Jan. 20th, 2011 10:31 pm)
It's the pounding in his head that wakes him the following morning, and for a moment he has that stomach-roiling panic of where am I why does my head hurt--

That is, until he realizes the real reason his head feels like someone's tried to bash it in and it's not just panic making him feel close to puking.  If there's one thing Jack's pretty familiar with, it's a hangover.

Even just the light coming through his eyelids gives him the sensation of an ice pick being stabbed into his brain, and so he slowly rolls away from the window, curling into a ball with a moan and wishing the rest of the world would just go away already.
trigger_man: (Jack is thinking)
( Dec. 27th, 2010 11:49 pm)
 [After this.]

Jack makes a quick pit stop in his room to change into dry clothes, already feeling the burn on his skin as it warms up again.

Heading back out into the hall, he hesitates for a second outside Beckett's door.  After the awkwardness of him falling on top of her--and neither of them moving for a moment--this might not be the best idea.  But then he'd told her he'd be there in a moment, as as much as part of him has misgivings about it, there's part of him that wants to show that whatever that moment outside had been, it was just an aberration; nothing to see here, move along.

Taking a breath, he raps decisively on her door.
 When Jack closes his eyes, he’s surrounded by the familiar environs of his room in Milliways, curled in his bed as a few rays of moonlight slant through chinks in the blinds.

When he opens them, it’s to a room which is nearly as dim, just as familiar, but nowhere near as comfortable. Concrete walls, blue lighting embedded in the walls, a one-way mirror dominating one wall.

It’s a room he’s seen so many times in his dreams--his nightmares--but this feels so much more real than it ever has before. The walls close in, the air feels oppressive, like a weight on his chest.

The dreams never go anywhere good from here.
Leaving L.A. isn’t quite as easy as Jack had planned.

He steps out of the bar into a world that for him is almost a year behind him, one that in some ways he’d moved past and in some ways he hadn’t even started to. The Valencia bombing isn’t quite as fresh in his memory, though there’d still been times in the bar when a bright flash of light from somewhere out of the corner of his eye brought him back to that suburban yard, the sight of the mushroom cloud rising on the horizon momentarily filling his vision as though he was back there, watching it all over again.

But for the most part, the event feels distant, even if that distance hasn’t made it much easier to think about. The deaths of nearly 20,000 people and climbing never is.

The world he walks out to, however, isn’t even 48 hours beyond the blast, and so when he steps onto the sidewalk in front of his apartment building--the same sidewalk that had traded itself for the bar so many months ago--it’s a world still in the middle of trying to cope with it.

The first thing he should have realized back in the bar is that the train and inter-city bus service has only just resumed, and is still in chaos. None of the routes heading north are operating, whether they go through Valencia or very far to the east or west. So far the wind is blowing radiation to the west, toward the ocean, but no one seems to want to take the chance that the wind will change. Buses and trains are having to be re-routed around it, taking up space on highways and rails and at stations that don’t have enough tracks or platforms for the traffic.

Not only that, but there are throngs of people competing for every space available. People who’d been stranded when flights had been grounded, when all transportation in and out of the city had ground to a halt for two days. Then there are those that are just leaving, those that aren’t confident that the threat really is over, and are trying to get away from a city that’s been the target of so many attacks over the years.

This is the world that Jack walks out to, and finds himself trying to cope with. That morning he takes one step into Union Station and walks right back out, pressing his back against the station wall. The number of people heading inside as he’d approached should have been a clue, but the number of people packed inside had caught him by surprise, sending his instincts into overdrive.

The Greyhound terminal isn’t any better and Jack walks away with the certainty that he won’t be getting out of L.A. any time in the next couple days. Not when simply being in the stations with all their possible exits and hiding places threaten to send him into an anxiety attack.

Maybe it’s better this way, anyway. If the government’s looking for him, they’ll be expecting him to leave the city as soon as possible. Wait long enough and they might assume they missed him, or that he has no intention of leaving L.A.

It’s four days before he tries again, four days that make it amply clear that spending that time in the bar hasn’t acclimatized him to being free very much at all. While the bar allowed him more freedom than his cell, it still had boundaries, still had places where you could go no further and just ended up heading back where you came from. It also had its own strange kind of order. You were locked in or allowed out by the whim of the Landlord, Bar provided the food and sometimes chose for you. Strangely enough, for someone who’d spent the previous twenty months in a concrete box that was barely eight feet by eight feet, who had been severely punished when he’d disobeyed an order, this had been comforting. It had been just a little freedom, a little choice, giving him a chance to remember what both of those concepts were like.

Outside, though, the thought that he could go anywhere is a little frightening. The lack of boundaries, the abundance of choice is almost paralysing. Faced with so many decisions and no crisis or order pushing him toward one, he finds it difficult to decide, and he hates himself for it. Hates himself for letting his tormentors win, in the end, by creating a prison for him in his own head.

The plan he’d come up with in Milliways is his only guide, and he clings to it, not considering a deviation. It narrows his choices, gives him one step to focus on at a time; a technique he’d found was the only way to stay sane in China. Think only of this one moment, this one task. Don’t imagine what will happen after until you get there, or the thought of the unending scope of everything in front of you will break you. One step at a time.

His plan holds no place for finding Audrey again, for looking up Kim. Chloe had told him after he’d faked his death that Kim had moved away from Valencia after Chase had left her. He has to believe that going back would be too painful for her, and she wasn’t anywhere near the blast. As for Audrey...there’s no way he can help her. How can he be any use, when just getting through the day is a struggle, when he jumps at every unexpected movement, when he keep looking over his shoulder?

No, they’d both been hurt enough because of him. Better that he stay away, draw any danger that might follow him away from them.

So four days after leaving the bar, he's sitting in Union Station, pretending to read a newspaper as he waits for a train to take him east.  His ticket's for Tucson; after that, he's not sure where he'll go.  Just as long as it's not L.A.
trigger_man: (Default)
( Apr. 19th, 2010 12:11 am)
The next morning, Jack doesn't wake easily.  Mired in disturbing dreams, he tosses slightly as sleep eases its grip and as the dream fades and reality replaces it, he has a growing realization that he's not alone in the bed.
trigger_man: (Jack is vaguely unhappy)
( Nov. 17th, 2009 02:01 am)
[From here.]

It's slow going as they make their way down to Jack's room, though that's mostly on Jack's part. He's more than a little tense, as light-headedness keeps his eyes firmly on the next step in front of him, which is never quite where he expects it to be. Not to mention trying to stay himself, instead of letting those other memories and that other personality take over.

He's not sure he's ever been quite so glad to see his door once they finally make it there. Unlocking his door, he steps inside, making a beeline for the bedroom. All he wants to do is lie down, so he no longer feels like he's listing to one side, or that the floor is further away than it is.
trigger_man: (Default)
( Nov. 10th, 2009 10:03 pm)
Jack's been keeping an eye on Beckett, and he's starting to have to admit to himself that it's not just out of ordinary human concern.  He's worried about her, particularly considering the hallucinations she'd had.  Which means that he's started to see her as more than an acquaintance.  Maybe not quite a friend, yet, but more than just someone whose name he knows.

He's not sure how he feels about this.  He doesn't want to get close to anyone; getting close means getting hurt eventually.  And it's not himself getting hurt that he's really worried about.

But even with those misgivings he can't not head up to Beckett's room, carrying a tray from Bar with the kinds of things she needs, or should have.  Chicken soup, orange juice, ginger ale, kleenex; it might have been Bar's idea, but Jack had been intending to get a few things anyway.

He shifts the tray to one hand so he can knock on the door.  He has her key, of course, but he can't be sure she isn't taking a bath to try and cool off or that she wants the company.
trigger_man: (Jack is not thinking happy thoughts)
( Oct. 24th, 2009 11:05 pm)

concrete walls

stained floors

steel doors on either side

the hallway outside his cell

a voice, distant, pleading: "Jack, please help me!  Jack?!"

Audrey's voice.

trying to run, feet feeling like they're encased in cement

hallway doesn't end, stretching on into infinity

a hand on his shoulder, holding him back

turning, Curtis is behind him, shirt covered in blood as he holds his neck where Jack shot him

can't hear what Curtis is saying, but he doesn't have to, the expression in Curtis' eyes says everything

can't pull away, can't run, tries to speak and nothing comes out, trapped, no way to escape--

Jack opens his eyes with a gasp, for a moment unsure of where he is as the darkness presses in around him.  For a moment, he thinks he's back there, in his cell, before he realizes that he's on a bed, not a concrete floor.  That he's wearing jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt, not the loose, prison uniform.

He sits up, slowly, wincing at the pain in his ribs and his left shoulder, his heart still hammering.  He's safe, but that feeling of danger isn't gone yet, and doesn't seem to be dissipating.  If anything, it's getting worse; that inner instinct that a threat is nearby getting louder.  Something isn't right.  Something is triggering his defenses, telling him to get out of there, that he isn't safe.  In the dim light, it feels like the walls are starting to close in on him, his chest getting tight.

Shoving his feet into his shoes, he grabs his room key and hurries out the door of his room.

trigger_man: (Default)
( Oct. 10th, 2009 10:05 pm)
"I can snap his neck and kill him before you get a shot off."

With every step he takes down the hallway at District, he half-expects to feel the clamp of a hand falling on his shoulder, to feel something jab into the back of his neck, hear someone call his name to stop him.

They aren't just going to let him go, are they? This has to be some kind of trick. Let him think he's going to get away, then grab him, drag him back to the interrogation room.

He'd fallen for it once before, thinking he was safe. He isn't going to fall for it again. They didn't fucking trust him enough to believe that he hadn't talked under twenty months of torture in China, he isn't going to believe them when they said he could just walk away.

"I've known Agent Holt for years. He was my friend. He was a partner."

He reaches the security checkpoint, presents his visitor's badge and watches as the guard types his name into the computer. Any minute, he expects the guard to say that there's some problem and can he just wait a minute?

The guard's sitting behind a desk; no cage, no plexiglass, nothing to stop Jack from diving over the desk. It'll make his ribs hurt like a bitch, but he's had a lot of experience in dealing with pain. From where he's standing, Jack can see that the snap on the guard's holster is loose; that will shave a second off Jack's ability to pull the gun out of the holster. The security guards' training is pathetic, he knows from experience; no match for someone with his skills. The guard will finish telling him to wait while some problem is sorted out and thirty seconds later Jack could be out of the building, without a shot fired.


"Okay, you're signed out, Mr. Bauer," the guard says, breaking into Jack's thoughts. For a moment he isn't sure he'd heard right, and even as he turns to walk out the door, he expects to be stopped.

Then he's out in the warm, breezy night, the doors to District closed behind him, and still, as he takes each step away from the building, he can't believe they're going to let him go.

"And if you think I forgot a second of what happened to me in China, then go ahead, shoot me. But don't you dare try and make me responsible for Marcus Holt's death."

He walks back to the apartment, as he hadn't grabbed any money and doesn't know what bus routes to take. It takes him an hour; an hour of glancing over his shoulder every couple minutes, of listening to every sound. An hour where every step he takes might increase the distance between him and the people he never wants to see again, but only heightens the anxiety of waiting for that to change.

He goes up the stairs two at a time, ribs screaming in pain as he tries to catch his breath. He can't take the time to stop and rest; he has to get out of there. They know where he is, and might come looking for him again, even though he'd threatened to shoot first if he ever saw Ramirez on his doorstep again. If they really want him, that won't stop them.

Grabbing his bag, still damp and smelling like saltwater after he'd washed it out, he tosses his few meager possessions into it before unscrewing the vent cover and digging out his cash and his gun from their hiding place. Leaving the key on the table, he walks out, the button lock closing behind him. The room is paid up for a week, so maybe no one will realize he's gone before the landlord comes looking for the rent.

Taking the stairs more slowly this time, he tries to think of where he's going to go, without much luck. He has to find a place to stay, but he isn't sure whether to leave town first, or to find a night's accommodation and do it then. It's been nearly two years since he's had to make any kind of choices, since he's thought further ahead than the next torture session under Cheng's hands.

He's also nearing exhaustion; he's only slept a couple hours in the last thirty-six, and hasn't eaten much either. He can feel the broken rib fragments grating against each other every time he breathes too deeply.

He needs somewhere to sleep, but even more than that, he wants something to drink. Something to dull the memories that dog him at every step, something to let him sleep without dreaming, something to make the shaking in his hands and anxious feeling in his chest go away.

Heroin would do a better job of helping him relax, and if he hadn't been clean for so long, the thought might actually have some sway. It isn't like he has anything to lose, other than the little amount of money he has. He'd seriously considered jumping off the cliff at Heller's house; an overdose has to be a more peaceful way to go. But then he hadn't jumped when he had the chance, and he can't intentionally OD now; god only knows why. Maybe because of what he'd told Bill earlier that day, that he'd stayed alive in China because he wanted to die for something. Killing himself would be dying for nothing, as otherwise appealing as it is.

"Come on! Shoot!"

Besides, unless he's willing to take that final step, there's no point in trying to find a dealer and wasting his money on smack. He's used to dosing intravenously, and after almost two years of being injected with a range of chemicals by Cheng's men, he isn't sure he could actually get himself to stick the needle in his skin.

His stomach clenches. Ramirez had said one of those things that the Chinese had injected him would have wiped his memory of giving up information...

No. No fucking way. He didn't talk; Cheng was just making it up as one last way to save his own skin and put Jack through hell. Just like he had when he'd let Jack believe that Audrey was all right.

He remembers every minute of his time in China, remembers everything they'd done to him, and he knows he hadn't talked. Hadn't spoken a word in almost two years. If he'd really spilled about Agent Holt within two months of his capture, then why the fuck hadn't Cheng just used that drug to get everything else from him? Why continue with the beatings, with the hours of prodding him with electric batons or pouring acid on his skin?

The anger that bubbles up inside him thinking about the last few hours--the last twenty months--gives Jack the energy he needs. His government let him rot in a cell in China, at least until they needed their blood sacrifice. They can all go to hell now, and if any of them comes near him again, he intends to honour the promise he'd given Ramirez.

"You ever see me again, you better start saying the Lord's Prayer, because it'll mean I've come to kill you."

By the time he's reached the lobby, he's made something of a plan: find a spot to sleep for a few hours, then make his way to the bus terminal or train station and get the hell out of town. It'll do for now, and hopefully it'll keep Division from finding him.

Shifting his bag on his shoulder with another twinge in his ribs, he crosses the lobby and opens the building's front door.

Fandom: 24
Characters: Jack Bauer
Rating: PG-13
Summary: He's always known he was expendable.
Spoilers: 6x01
Warnings: Torture, psychological trauma, angst
Challenges: Written for the psych_30 challenge, prompt #6 - Inferiority Complex
Originally written: November 5, 2006