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SCRATCHING THE SURFACE

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Scratching The Surface
Author: marinw

Rating: R for angst and descriptions of torture.
Characters: Jack/ Dr. Schreber
Summary: Post Day 6. Jack talks to his shrink.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.

A/N: I wrote this for catch22girl and xbedhead, who begged nicely for more shrink!fic. Be careful of what you wish for. Thanks to my long-suffering beta sardonicynic.
Also: I have been misspelling “Schreber” for quite some time. * facepalm *
Also the Second: This fic is my 50th post to this comm. I’m not sure whether that’s cause for celebration or serious concern.


“What do you remember?”

“There was a room. The walls were metal. There weren’t any windows so it may have been underground. I was chained to a metal table. I was naked. There was an IV in my arm and there were some bags of fluid. That’s when the pain started.”

Jack said all this in a monotone and without blinking, as if he were talking about someone else. Daniel Schreber wasn’t the only person in the room who was capable of detachment.

“Cheng yelled at his men in Chinese. I could tell he was getting frustrated. But he never yelled at me and he spoke in English. He kept saying the same thing over and over; ‘Give me a name and the pain will stop’ .”

“But you didn’t give him a name.”

“I knew how it worked. If I talked it wouldn’t have stopped. Or Cheng would have killed me.”

“How did you come to that conclusion?”

“I’ve conducted a few of my own interrogations.”

“So Cheng did the same thing to you that you would have done to him?”

“Not exactly. I know when to stop. If it’s not working I change tactics or I stop. Cheng didn’t stop.”

“So the drugging went on for a long time.”

“Yeah. I don’t know. Maybe.”

“What else happened?”

“After awhile I started to choke on my own vomit. They suctioned out my mouth. Eventually I lost control of my bowels. So they hosed me off.” That had been for their benefit, not mine.

Jack knew that doctor wasn’t going to leave him alone until he gave him a few details.

Daniel raised his eyebrows but didn’t seem particularly horrified or sympathetic. Which was good. Jack couldn’t handle any pity. Daniel knew that.

“Yeah,” Jack continued, “I’m usually pretty good at keeping track of time even when I don’t have a watch. But like I said, there weren’t any windows. They never fed me, The IV must’ve kept me alive. I suppose I passed out at some point. It’s hard to say. Eventually Cheng did stop the chemical interrogation, and I was put another cell. From then on they used more conventional techniques. For a while anyway.”

“Hmmm. When I visited you in the hospital* you were adamant that you didn’t give up the identity of your colleague Marcus Holt. Now you don’t seem so sure.”

“The timelines match up,” Jack admitted. “Why do we keep going over this, anyway?”

This session had fallen into the now-familiar pattern: Whatever topic Jack didn’t want talk about the most was precisely the topic Daniel insisting on discussing. Daniel was almost telepathic that way.

“We’re discussing this because this subject obviously upsets you a great deal.”

“Marcus could be dead because I broke. So yeah, I’m upset. I was a federal agent. I’ve been trained how to resist interrogation. There’s a counter to every technique.”

“A person with the proper training can endure a certain amount of physical duress, yes. But not chemical interrogation. You can’t resist the effects of those drugs anymore than you can negate the effects of nerve gas or a general anesthetic. It’s physiologically impossible.”

“If you know what you’re doing you can neutralize the effects. I’ve seen it done many times.”

“On the people you’ve interrogated.”

“That’s right.”

“And how long did you have? A few minutes? An hour? Cheng Zhi had weeks. Months.”

Jack rubbed his eyes. “Dammit, Dan. What the hell do you want from me?”

“I want you do stop blaming yourself for the death of Marcus Holt.”

“That’s not possible.” Jack’s voice was reduced to a raspy whisper. “Not unless I know for sure.”

“Jack, you’ve lost a lot of people: Colleagues. Friends. Family members. Your wife. Maybe some of those deaths could have been prevented. But not Marcus Holt.”

“Division doesn’t see it that way. They might even subpoena the records of these sessions.”

“I don’t record these sessions.”

“You take notes.”

“In German. And no one can read my handwriting.”

Jack actually managed to smile.

“I can assure you that I take doctor-patient confidentiality very seriously. So let’s not concern ourselves with Division right now. If your recollections are correct – and judging from the medical report I have reason to believe they are – then the death of Mr. Holt wasn’t your fault. You have to accept that.”

“No, I don’t.”

“You’re blaming yourself because you want to gain a sense of control over a situation you had absolutely no control over. To create a sense of agency where you had none.”

“You don’t get it, do you?”

“What is it that I don’t get, Jack?”

“Everything I suffered over there. Why I didn’t talk. It wasn’t about serving my country. I don’t owe this country anything. I did it to protect the people I worked with. If I did give up Marcus Holt and don’t remember doing it, then who else did I betray? How many people are dead or in prison because of what Cheng did to me?”

“There was Mr. Hong…”

“That one I remember. And Agent Hong died because I let my guard down. He paid the price.”

“You’re being very harsh on yourself.”

“I’m not. This was the one time that Cheng did exactly what I’ve would have done: He arranged a false extraction. I used the same scenario myself, so I should have recognized it. I should have known I was being played.”

“Accepting what happened is going to take some time. So let’s move on to something else: You said that that you stayed silent to protect the people you worked with. You also must have done it to protect yourself.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Cheng Zhi got what he wanted from you months before he stopped the interrogations. You were also in hiding the eighteen months prior to your capture, so much of the intelligence you had access to was out of date. Yet Cheng kept you alive.”

“It turns out I had some value as a bargaining chip,” Jack said bitterly.

“I think there’s more to it than that. You told me that you didn’t want an empty death, that you fought to stay alive. There must have been a reason.”

“I thought I would have something to come home to. That I could get my life back. I was wrong.”

“There were some people who were important to you. Audrey Raines, in particular. And you daughter, Kimberly.”

“Kim,” Jack corrected.

“Kim, yes.”

He paused.

“I’m aware of the situation with Ms. Raines, Jack, and I know you haven’t made any attempt to contact your daughter. We should talk about this in our next session.”

“Fine,” Jack growled.

“The point I was making is that you chose to survive. On some level you believed your life had value, not just as a ‘bargaining chip.’. Now that you’ve survived you find yourself presented with a new challenge: how to make your survival mean something. Forgive me if that sounds unduly existential.”

“I took philosophy in college. I know what you’re talking about.” Still, Jack was starting to sound exasperated.

“Good. But I know your readjustment hasn’t been easy.”

“It’s been difficult.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“You’re the expert.”

“I’d still like to hear it from you. Start anywhere.”

“I don’t know where to start.”

“All right, then. Are you sleeping?”

Jack shrugged “A bit. When I wake up in the middle of the night I think that…I’m back in the cell. It takes a minute for everything to catch up.”

“That’s not unusual. Do you leave the door open and the blinds up?”

“Yeah. I tried leaving the light on, but then I don’t sleep at all. And about a week ago it rained. That night I didn’t sleep either.”

“Why not?”

Jack reverted to his monotone. “Sometimes when it rained they would take me outside. So rain makes me nervous.”

Schreber raised his eyebrows again.

“It would help if you took the pills I prescribed.”

“I never told you I wasn’t taking them.”

“It wasn’t hard to figure out. You have a complicated relationship with drugs: You were once addicted to heroin and there was the chemical interrogation you just described. Not all drugs are bad. What I prescribed is just a mild sedative, something designed to help you re-establish normal sleep patterns. It’s difficult to recover if you’re always exhausted.”

“I’ve always been a light sleeper. I’ll manage.”

“I can’t force you to do anything, Jack, but it would be beneficial if you took the medication. You can’t control this amount of anxiety by sheer force of will. “

“Those drugs are over-prescribed.”

“They are. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be useful. I’ve ordered the lowest possible dose.”

“I’m trying to co-operate…I am…I just…”

Why does every conversation feel like an interrogation?

Jack scrubbed his face with one hand. He couldn’t allow himself to lose control. Not here. Jack had surprised everyone - including himself – when he had agreed to undergo therapy. He was trying to do this properly. He wanted to do this properly. He knew he couldn’t fake his way through these sessions anyway; Daniel had a finely-tuned bullshit detector.

But all of this was so damn hard.

“I’ll take the damn pills.”

“I know this is difficult for you,” said Daniel. “We are making progress, even if it doesn’t seem that way to you.”

Jack didn’t answer.

“The fact that you’re here is significant in itself. You have the resources to rebuild your life, if you want to. It won’t be the life you left behind, but it can still be a good one. You can find happiness again. Possibly in the place you least expect. I’m not offering you false hope — I really believe that.”

The room was quiet for a long minute, until Schreber spoke again.

“Had enough for one day?”

Jack nodded slightly, without looking up.

“Good. I’ll see you next week.”

Jack composed himself. He stood up. “Yeah. I’ll see you next week.”

END