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I DISAPPEAR

Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: I Disappear
Author: marinw
Rating: PG for angst
Characters: Jack/Frank Flynn/Waitress
Summary: Early Post Day 4. Jack confronts his new reality.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: This fic is a companion piece to “Someone Like You.” Thanks to my beta reader sardonicynic.

"The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated." ~ Mark Twain


I had better get used to this.

The cheap motels. Living off of fast food and vending machines. The clunker of a third-hand car. This was his new reality, and he had to get used to it.

Tony and Michelle had somehow managed to provide him with a few thousand dollars in cash, hidden at the bottom of a hastily-packed courier bag. It would have to last until Chloe set up a numbered bank account.

Eventually he would have to find work. He would need an employer who didn’t care about official credentials and references.

He couldn’t think about that right now.

Jack had been hiding out in this motel for the past three days. He needed to lie low for a while, and he felt like crap. The Marwan-inflicted wound in his hand and the self-inflicted wound in his side were both infected. He needed antibiotics but he had to make do with aspirin and rubbing alcohol. The last time his heart had been artificially stopped and restarted Jack had spent the better part of a week in the hospital. That was no longer an option. Faking one’s own death didn’t come with a health-care plan. The only thing he could do now was rest and let his excellent immune system do all the work.

So Jack stayed in bed, staring at the mint-green ceiling and covered with a polyester bedspread. He kept the TV on, half-listening to the fallout - literal and figurative - from the nuclear plant meltdown and the kidnapping of James Heller. He couldn’t concern himself with any of that, he only kept the TV on to distract himself from the loneliness that threatened to consume him.

A week ago he had everything. His daughter was talking to him. He had left the chaos of CTU field work and had a prestigious office job that used his talents without putting him and everyone close to him in constant danger. Most important of all, he had someone who loved him.

Audrey. He remembered the hurt and disbelief in her eyes as she watched Paul die.

Jack wondered who had broken the news of his death to Audrey and Kim. He hoped it was Michelle.

By the fifth day he felt better. Well enough to travel, and he needed to keep moving.

Before leaving the small town near the Mexican border Jack stopped at a Wal-Mart to stock up on some basics, as he been spirited out of CTU with only one outfit. He bought some briefs and socks, a few t-shirts, a second pair of jeans, running shoes, a sweatshirt with a hood. A shaving kit and a few other toiletries. Nondescript clothes that wouldn’t attract attention. He also brought a duffel bag in which to store everything.

In Washington, someone (Kim? Audrey? Both?) was packing up his apartment and his closet full of suits. Jack had never been a packrat, he had only kept the minimum of personal gear. That would, he hoped, make the task of closing his apartment easier. But not by much.

He couldn’t bring himself to think about his funeral. His will called for cremation, and his ashes were to be scattered over the Pacific, where they would somehow join with Teri’s. Destroying whatever body (the CTU morgue had no shortage) that had been switched for his would destroy a lot of evidence. Good.

He loaded the flimsy plastic bags into the trunk. He had to limit his possessions to what could be stored in the old sedan.

As Jack left the huge parking lot he realized that the last few days spent fighting off infection had left him ravenous. The sight of the Taco Bell’s and McDonald’s lining the highway made his stomach recoil. He had become a little too accustomed to Washington’s finer restaurants and the catering at all those Department of Defense functions.

He had also enjoyed the evenings when he and Audrey had stayed in and cooked for each other. He missed those evenings most of all.

After about twenty minutes behind the wheel Jack happened upon a roadside diner. Did those places still exist? Apparently. After stopping to fuel up the car, Jack entered the diner in order to fuel himself.

The service was quite slow but Jack didn’t mind, for he found himself in absolutely no hurry to do anything. It was a unique situation. Bizarre, even. Jack spent the time starring out the window at the people coming and going from the gas station, observing anyone who looked suspicious. He skimmed that day’s Los Angeles Times, and was almost amused at how the press misinterpreted everything that had happened on the day that it all hit the fan.

“Sorry that took so long, dear,” the waitress said as she finally brought Jack his lunch. “One of our cooks just up and quit today.”

“I can help you with that. I’ve had some kitchen experience.”

“Is that a fact?”

Jack gave her what he knew was a charming smile. “Yeah. It is.”

“Then you should tell me your name, dear.”

“Frank.”

••••

So Jack became Frank and Frank became a short-order cook. The work was hard and more than a little tedious. He was forced to suppress his naturally ambitious nature. Still, the job paid cash and prevented him from thinking too deeply, at least when he was on the job. He had always been good at living completely in the present moment.

Frank found a small one-bedroom apartment in a run-down part of town. He convinced the landlord to skip the usual paperwork in exchange for the one-month deposit paid in cash. His evenings were horrible, he could see and hear his neighbors smoking pot and drinking whiskey and cheap beer and he was tempted to join them. But he had to stay alert, to be ready to react or move at a second’s notice.

He tried to follow the dictates of the CTU Manual:

“Keep a low profile…Get work that pays in cash-such as construction, restaurant work, or landscaping…Monitor your emotional involvement.” *

That last one was going to be difficult. Frank longed for companionship, another person to make him feel complete. He already had to keep himself from flirting with the waitress. It would only make it harder when he had to leave, quickly and quietly, in the middle of the night. That would happen. He knew it would.

He had to get used to this. No matter how hard this life was, at least he was still free. And it was still infinitely better than a Chinese prison. That was a fate he needed to avoid.

He had to hope that it wouldn’t be this way forever. That someday he could reunite with Audrey and Kim and that both those women would, somehow, forgive him for the huge lie of his non-death and welcome him back into their lives.

Until then, Frank had this. It wasn’t ideal, but it would do. It would have to.

END

* Page 108

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