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A FACE IN THE CROWD

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: A Face In The Crowd
Author: marinw
Rating: PG
Characters: Africa!Jack/Chase
Summary: Spoilers for Exile. Jack’s past catches up with him.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: Thanks to my beta sardonicynic.


Jack was enjoying himself.

The marketplace was crowded with vendors selling their wares. Shouts of English were mixed with the local Sengalese dialect that Jack was beginning to understand more and more. The scent of frying meat offered up its rancid perfume. Best wait until he was back in the village before eating.

Jack wasn’t here to buy food. His canvas courier bag held the products of the morning’s bartering: antibiotics and batteries. Cell phone chargers. Some small parts for the generator. Things that were needed. Things that had to be acquired through less than orthodox means. Through the black market. Jack had been more than up to the task.

“That’s what I like about you, Jack,” Carl Benton had told him. “You didn’t come here with any starry-eyed delusions.”

Hidden in his boot underneath his khaki trousers was his gun, a basic nine-millimeter. It was all he needed. He hadn’t fired a gun in years. But he kept it anyway, hoping he would never have to fire one again.

Jack didn’t carry his gun was when he was in the village, when he taught in the schoolhouse. Or when he did any of his other work. There were no guns in the village. That was one of Carl’s rules.

In his other boot was his knife. Not a Microteck Halo, but close enough.

“Getting your life back isn’t going to change who you are."

Damn James Heller. He had been right about almost everything.

He had signed on as a construction worker. He had found manual labor to be remarkably satisfying. But nothing was simple. Jack soon found himself procuring supplies from dubious sources. He had skills and it wouldn’t be right not to use them.

Maybe he couldn’t change who he was. But he could change who he worked for.

Jack was happy here. The rest of the world seemed to have forgotten him. Again. Only this time, he didn’t mind.

He left the perimeter of the marketplace for his battered Jeep

Someone caught his eye.

It wasn’t unusual to see Caucasians, even though Sengala wasn’t exactly a tourist destination. There were all the other aid workers, foreign observers, a few brave and stupid journalists.

This person was different. His khaki clothes seemed a little too new. He had a distinctly military haircut. It wasn’t just his appearance though, it was his whole demeanor. He seemed to be hyper-alert.

Jack this person as another, earlier version of himself.

This new man couldn’t be a UN observer - those people were almost always in uniform and made pained efforts to interact with the local population. This person was a solider. But for whom?

Jack’s instincts told him to stay hidden. He followed the man as he made his way through the marketplace, using the throngs of people as a cover. It was easy to hide in a crowd.

It was also hard to track someone. The people moved slowly. Many stopped to talk and argue. Jack was still able to keep his eyes on his target.

The other man stopped in front of an alleyway. His eyes locked with Jack.

Chase. It was Chase. He was older, but he still had the same buzz cut. His scarred wrist was hidden by a thick watchband.

What the hell was he doing here?

Chase nodded towards the alley, inviting Jack to follow.

Jack retrieved the gun from his boot. Something didn’t feel right.

“Mr. Bauer, there’s a call from you daughter. We’ve linked it to a land line.”

He wasn’t making that mistake again.

They were halfway down the alley before Chase stopped.

“Jack,” he said simply.

Jack immediately pinned Chase to the brick wall with his left forearm against Chase’s throat. He pointed the muzzle of his gun to Chase’s temple.

“How the hell did you find me?”

“Jack, calm — calm down.”

“I won’t calm down. I came to Sengala to — ”

“Run away. I — I know.”

“Who sent you? How did you get here? Who are you working for?”

“Jack, I can’t — ” Chase coughed and tried to swallow. “I can’t talk if you’re — if you’re choking me.”

Good point. Jack released Chase. He sagged against the brick wall, rubbing his neck. Jack still held the gun to his temple.

He couldn’t trust anybody from his old life.

“I came all the — ” He paused and swallowed again. “All the way here to warn you.”

“About what?”

“About CTU.” By this time Chase had regained his voice. He stood and faced Jack. Just like old times. Or not.

“CTU doesn’t exist anymore. And I’m glad. I gave them everything.”

“Did you know that there’s going to be a congressional hearing about CTU’s activities?”

“No, Chase, I didn’t know that. The Washington Post usually doesn’t make it out here.”

“Neither does your e-mail. I sent you dozens of messages, but you never answered.”

“I’ve been busy. Look, Chase, I asked my country for exactly one thing: to be left alone. So tell me what the hell this is all about, and then leave.”

“It’s about the hearings.”

“I don’t care about any damn hearings.”

“You should. That’s what I came here to tell you. You’re being subpoenaed.”

Jack lowered his arm. He took a step backwards.

“They’re sending an agent to find you. If I can track you down, then so can the FBI.”

“Dammit.” Jack could already feel the world changing. The tendrils of the life he had left were already reaching out to him, strangling him, trapping him in their net.

“You need to leave Sengala, before they find you.”

“No. I’m done running.”

“Jack, c’mon.”

“Do you know how hard I had to work to get my life back? I’m not giving that up. If the agents come for me, I’ll kill them.”

“You don’t really mean that.”

“I do mean it, Chase. Now tell me who sent you.”

Chase’s jaw tightened.

“TELL ME WHO SENT YOU!”

“Kim.”

Jack swallowed. Hard

“Your daughter came to me and asked me to come all the way here just to warn you. And I did. Do you know why? Because no matter what you think, there are still people who care about you.”

“I…don’t know what to say.”

“I think you want to be isolated. Kim was right. People like us can’t hold on to anything.”

“Shut up, Chase. You’re not my shrink. I appreciate what you’ve done. But you have to go. Tell Kim I love her.”

“She knows that, Jack. She knows that.”

Jack swallowed again.

“Just watch your back, Jack. That’s all Kim and I want.”

Chase left the alley, leaving Jack alone with his thoughts.

END

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