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WALKABOUT

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Walkabout
Author: marinw

Rating: PG
Characters: Jack/Stephen Suanders/Chloe/Erin Driscoll
Summary: Various point in the official and my own Canon. Jack compares himself to SS.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.

A/N: This was written for an armbell prompt. The challenge was to take a line of dialogue and expand on it. Thanks to my wonderful beta sardonicynic.

JACK: What happened to you, Stephen?

SAUNDERS: I was abandoned by the people I worked for. As you will be one day.

Episode 3:23


BOSNIA:

“We should have cyanide caplets.”

“Stephen, what the hell are you talking about?”

“In case one of us gets captured. I don’t think you realize what the Bosnian secret police are capable of.”

“Nobody’s going to be caught”

Jack and Stephen sat in the safe house, talking in low voices. In the next room the other members of the Delta Strike Force lay sleeping in their bunks. Smart men. Jack and Stephen, however, were both notoriously light sleepers.

On the metal table between them was a map of Drazen’s stronghold, downloaded from the latest satellite intel. Jack insisted on going over the plan. Again.

“Can you guarantee, that, Jack? Can you be sure that no one will be captured?”

“Yes, Stephen, I can. This is my mission. There is only one way it can end: With the death of Victor Drazen.”

“You’re a confident man, Jack. I respect that. But we still have to plan for contingencies.”

“There are no contingencies.”

“If there is a chance, even a small one, that one of us is captured, then every precaution must be taken. I know that I can withstand any amount of torture. But what about the other men? What about you? Give us the caplets.”

“I think you’re scared, Stephen.”

“I’m not scared. I’m realistic.”

“I don’t order my men on suicide missions. And I don’t leave anybody behind. That’s not how I work.”

“How reassuring.”

“You’re becoming distracted. Since neither of us can sleep, I suggest we focus on the mission.” Jack pointed to an area on the topographic map. “We approach Drazen’s stronghold from the north…”

LOS ANGELES: 6 ½ YEARS LATER

Jack returned to CTU the day he was released from the rehab clinic.

“Jack? What are you doing here? You’re withdrawing from a heroin addiction.”

“I’m fine. Chloe, I need you to do something for me.”

“You can’t just barge in here and start ordering me around. We’re really busy right now bringing our new Director up to speed.” Chloe gestured to the office above the bullpen.

Tony’s office.

Not anymore.

“Erin Driscoll isn’t going to tolerate any weirdness, Jack. I’m telling you that as a trusted co-worker.”

“Chloe, I need all the information about the time Stephen Saunders spent in prison. It will be on the hard drive Chase and I retrieved from MI-6.”

“That breaks a bunch of regulations. I’m really not comfortable doing this.”

“Is there a problem?”

Jack looked up from Chloe’s station to find a slightly harsh-looking brunette standing in front of them.

“Jack,” said Chloe, “Jack, this is Ms. Driscoll. Um, I mean Erin Driscoll.”

“I’m the Special Agent in Charge of CTU,” Driscoll answered in no uncertain terms.

Jack extended his hand. “Jack Bauer. Head of Field Operations. If there’s anything you need to help you settle in, please let me know.”

Her handshake was almost self-consciously firm. “I know who you are. What are you doing here, Jack? You’re on leave.”

“I came to get some things from my office.”

“All right, then. I have work to do. When you come back to work, you and I will have a conversation. I’ll need to inform you of the changes I’m making. Excuse me.”

Erin Driscoll walked away as if she had far, far more important things to do than talk to a field agent on medical leave.

“Changes? Chloe, what is she talking about?”

“She’s just exerting her executive authority. Here, you forgot your DVD.”

Jack hadn’t brought a DVD. He quickly slipped it into the inside pocket of his jacket.

“Thank you.”

“You ask a lot from people, Jack. I think you should know that.”

•••••

Jack sat in front of his open laptop. His apartment was far too quiet.

Still, it was good to actually have the time to absorb information, not just study the data long enough to get what he needed.

The information from MI-6 was unsurprisingly sketchy. Saunders (he was no longer “Stephen” to Jack, just “Saunders”) had never been properly debriefed or treated after his release from Bosnia. Details on how his release or escape was engineered were vague. MI-6 did suspect that he was still alive, and they had been, very covertly, been collecting intelligence on Saunders’ bio-terrorism activities. Nothing could be proven.

What did exist in abundance was a information on how the Bosnian secret police treated their prisoners. The usual suspects were all in play here: waterboarding, sleep deprivation, extreme variations in temperature, chemical interrogation, stress positions, old-fashioned beatings.

Saunders had boasted that he never broke.

That depends on your definition of ‘broken’, Jack thought.

MI-6 had concluded that no breeches in intelligence could be directly linked back to Saunder’s time in Bosnia. So he had broken in other ways. His jailers may not have taken his intel, so they took something else. It must have been the years of torture and solitary confinement had driven him insane and fueled his need for revenge. Perhaps Saunders had even been brainwashed into his plan to control the US president.

Jack rubbed his eyes. He needed to know what had driven Saunders mad. How did he go from an esteemed MI-6 agent to a bio-terrorist? What the hell happened?

He couldn’t ask Saunders himself, thanks to Gael’s widow.

Jack hoped she wouldn’t be judged too harshly, that she would be released with no charges. He had satisfied his own need for revenge earlier that morning. The investigation into the death of Nina Myers was considered a low priority. The report had been written and the file quietly closed.

Jack tried not to think about that too much. He returned his attention to the open files on his laptop.

Jack remembered Saunders as being extremely private. Emotionally he was almost blank.

It was often the people who allowed themselves no emotional release who broke the easiest. Jack had learned that early in his career. He had established a simple rule for himself; He would allow himself to cry. But not where other people could see him. In basic training, Jack would sometimes retreat to the latrine and sob. He would return a moment later with no one being the wiser. It wasn’t shame or embarrassment. It was strategy.

The one exception, the one time his colleagues had seen him cry was the night Teri died.

Jack wondered what would happen to him if he ever got captured. He knew that he could withstand almost anything, even being Tasered until his heart stopped. He had all the training. But Jack had only been subjected to real or mock interrogations for hours or days. What if someone had him for months or years? Would his tears save him then?

“I was abandoned by the people I worked for. As you will be one day.”

Jack had dismissed that statement as posturing from a madman justifying his atrocities.

Now, he didn’t know what to think.

Jack couldn’t avoid feeing responsible, even though he hadn’t rescued Saunders because he was sure Saunders was dead. If Jack had known, he would have rescued him. He would have done whatever it took. He didn’t leave his men behind.

Tony. He had been denied bail. American prisons weren’t as bad as former Eastern Bloc prisons (as far as he knew) but the principle was the same. Jack vowed to do everything possible to get his friend out.

Jack closed the laptop and yawned. He still had moments of shivering and nausea. It was the withdrawal. Sleep would make it better. At least temporarily.

Jack made a decision. He wouldn’t leave Tony to rot in prison.

If I were being held, my colleagues,my friends, would come for me.

Wouldn’t they?


AUSTRALIA: 5 YEARS LATER

For once, he hadn’t dreamt of China.

He had dreamt of the time before that, of Bosnia and Los Angeles. He had dreamt of Stephen Saunders. In his dream Saunders was in one of CTU’s holding cells, his hands and feet in shackles, and bolted to the concrete floor.

Jack stood on the other side of the clear, thick glass. He was screaming.

“Why did you do it?”

“It was necessary. Lives had to be sacrificed in order for things to change.”

“What things?”

“Everything, Jack. Everything.”

“I’m the one who left you behind. If you’re angry why don’t you blame me?”

“I do blame you.”

“Then why kill thousands of innocents? How could that possibly makes thing right?”

“I’m surprised at you, Jack. I thought you would finally understand. I was right. You were abandoned by your own people.”

“I wouldn’t kill thousands of people just for revenge.”

“Is that a fact? When you were locked in your tiny cell, waiting for the next interrogation, knowing that you had been left there to rot, did you ever want revenge?”

“Shut up! I’m asking the questions!”

“The President and CTU knew your were alive. They knew where you were. And they did nothing. Until someone did want you. But not to rescue. You must be angry.”

“I am angry. But I wouldn’t kill children or civilians. I’m not like you.”

“Are you sure?”

Jack awoke suddenly. Despite the cold air, he was sweating. He curled into a ball, breathing heavily, trying to find reassurance in his current surroundings. By the light of the propane lamp he could see the nylon walls of his small tent.

The sweating soon turned into shivering.

Jack lay in his tent, his sleeping bag zippered underneath his nose. Christ, the Outback got cold at night.

It would be awhile before he would be able to get back to sleep. He fumbled for his watch. Not that time meant much out here.

The illuminated dial told him it was almost four in the morning. Best wait out the night, wait until the return of the light and the warmth.

Jack zipped his soft leather jacket over his turtleneck sweater. He slipped his hiking boots over his thick wool socks and went outside into the night.

He rekindled the fire he had allowed to expire before he went to bed. He rubbed his hands over the open flames.

Special Forces training never stopped being useful. No matter how questionable his reasoning behind this camping trip, at least he wouldn’t freeze to death.

What the hell had he been thinking?

He couldn’t believe his arrogance. He had heard of the ancient Aboriginal coming-of-age ritual of the ‘walkabout’, the journey in search of oneself. It seemed like a good idea.

Except Jack wasn’t a aboriginal teenager. He was a middle-aged white American, having his very own profoundly fucked-up midlife crisis. It was almost funny.

Jack sat in front of the fire, hugging his knees. He looked upwards towards the bright, unfamiliar constellations.

Out here his dreams had been vivid. He even had pleasant dreams now, dreams of Teri and Kim and Audrey.

Tonight he had dreamt of Stephen Saunders. After all this time, Jack still didn’t know what had driven Saunders mad.

Even after China, he didn’t know.

He only knew about himself.

He realized why Saunders had returned to him, here, in the desert. Jack was still afraid of Saunders. He was afraid that he could become like him. That he would want revenge against the government that abandoned him.

He knew all the reasons why he had been left in a Chinese military prison for twenty months. Those reasons still didn’t make things right.

Part of him did want revenge. The desire terrified him. It was one of the many reasons he left the United States as soon as he was able. As soon as he was healthy enough and had a credit card and passport and access to his bank account.

Jack hadn’t broken. Not the way Saunders had.

Jack buried his face in his khaki-covered knees and sobbed. Not out of sorrow, but out of relief.

He didn’t have to be afraid anymore. He wasn’t going to be like Saunders. He was on a different path.

I’m going to be okay.

For the first time, he really believed it.

END