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DIGGING DEEPER

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Digging Deeper
Author: marinw

Rating: PG for angst
Characters: Jack/ Dr. Schreber
Summary: Post Day 6. Jack makes a decision.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.
A/N: I wrote this for all of you who have been politely asking for more shrink!fic. Flattery and enabling will get you everywhere. This fic takes place a week after Scratching The Surface but years before Hostile Witness. Linear thinking, like soap, is over rated. Thanks to my long-suffering beta worsdthatfail.

“So I’ve been sleeping a bit better.”

“That’s good. Finish the prescription. By then, your normal sleep patterns might start to re-establish themselves, and we can go from there.””

“I don’t know about that. I’ve never been a sound sleeper. I used to keep Teri up half the night with my…”

Jack stopped himself mid-sentence. He had promised himself not to bring Teri here. Not like this.

“You were saying?”

“What you call ‘normal sleep patterns’ isn’t really an option in my line of work.”

Line of work? What the hell am I talking about?

The eggshells were everywhere today. Daniel seemed adept at walking around them.

“Hmmm. Almost anyone can cope with sleep-deprivation for a few days. Over the long-term, however, there can be serious consequences.”

“Which is why we use it as an interrogation technique.”

“We?”

“Sorry.”

“In order to for you to cope with your re-adjustment on a psychological level, you first need to take care of yourself physically. That means rest, good food, a certain amount of exercise. It sounds simplistic, I know, but those basic elements are essential for any recovery to be possible. You also need to gain a sense of ownership over your own body. Bill told me that…”

“Bill?! You spoke to Bill?

“No need to be incredulous, Jack. He’s the one who set everything up.”

“I know that.”

Still, he didn’t have to like it. He didn’t have to like the fact that Bill and Daniel were discussing his night terrors and moodiness. It was embarrassing.

“I’m respecting your privacy as much as possible. Still, if you’re staying at Bill’s house it’s only fair that he knows what to expect.”

“Well, I’m not easy to live with right now.”

“No one expects you to be.”

“Maybe it would be better if I got my own place.”

“Like the room you were staying in the night Division found you? I don’t think being by yourself is a good idea.”

“Why not? Isn’t living my own life the whole point?”

“Ultimately, yes. But consider this: You spent twenty months in isolation. Your only contact was with your interrogators, and those exchanges went entirely in one direction. Indeed, you decided early on not to talk at all. So it’s not surprising if you now find normal conversation and crowds of people overwhelming.”

“It can be a little much sometimes.” Jack recalled his most recent visit to the mall. Disarming a suitcase nuke was easier than buying a pair of jeans.

“On the surface, you seem to be interacting reasonably well. Yet there must be times when having a conversation that doesn’t involve classified information or terrorist threats seems a little alien.”

“Yeah, you’re right about that.”

“The only way to normalize that experience is simply to be with other people. You can’t be part of the world unless you participate.”

“So I don’t get any privacy at all?”

“Not at all. At times privacy can be essential.”

“Well that’s good.” Jack knew that after this session he was going to be due for some much-needed solitude. He thought longingly of the beach and the salt water and sand between his toes. He had missed that.

I need my shrink’s permission when I want to be by myself? I’m more messed up than I thought.

“It’s understandable if you feel isolated. What I am concerned about is the way that you seem to be isolating yourself. You do have a history of withdrawing after experiencing trauma. Cutting yourself off from your remaining family members, for example. There is your nephew and your sister-in-law…”

“Marilyn isn’t an option.”

“Care to elaborate?”

“We were involved many years ago. Marilyn thinks there’s still something there. There isn’t. I can’t give her what she wants.”

“I can see how that could be problematic.”

“I appreciate that.”

“There is one other person, isn’t there? Which bring us to another topic we need to discuss. Your daughter.”

Jack’s head snapped up. So far, he had been able to avoid discussing Kim.

“You obviously love your daughter a great deal. She should have been the first person you contacted when you returned.”

“It’s not that simple.”

“Why not?”

"She doesn't want me in her life.”

“You don’t know that.”

“Yes, I do. She told me.”

“If I recall what I read in your file correctly, that was when you reappeared from staging your own death. It’s possible that your daughter was, understandably, angry and confused, that she didn’t really mean what she said.”

“No. She meant it.”

“So that one statement is enough to prevent you from making any further contact? I understand that Kim was one of the first people you inquired after upon your release from Chinese custody, and that you specifically requested the she not be informed about your return. What are you afraid of?”

Jack responded by staring at his shoes.

“All right, then. You’ve probably imagined the reunion many times. Are you worried that the reality won’t be the same?”

“That’s part of it.”

“What else?”

“I don’t…I don’t want her to see me like this.”

“See you like what? Is it the scars?”

“With all due respect, when I was with the Special Forces, I saw a lot of terrible things. I saw men return to their families in wheelchairs, with missing arms and legs or with their faces burnt so severely their children didn’t recognize them. That gave me a bit of perspective. So no, this isn’t about a few scars.”

“Then what?”

“The few people who knew me from before I went to China? Bill, Karen, even Chloe, they all treat me differently. Like they don’t know what they’re supposed to say to me. And they’re right. I’m not the same person. Despite the pills you gave me I still wake up screaming. I spend hours alone in my room with the lights turned off and staring at the wall because that’s what I’m used to. I don’t want to expose Kim to that.”

“You’re not giving your daughter nearly enough credit. She’s already lived through the death of her mother, her father being declared dead, reappearing, and then being extradited to a foreign prison.”

“That’s just it. All I’ve done is cause her pain.”

“I doubt that. Eventually, Kim is going to learn that you’re back on American soil, and that you haven’t tried to reach her. How do you think that will make her feel?”

Dammit. Daniel was good,. With almost anyone else Jack would have been able to steer the conversation in another direction by now.

“You would be a good interrogator.”

“Thank you.”

“It wasn’t a compliment.”

“Let’s try to stay on topic. It is possible that Kim will be overjoyed to see you. It is also possible that she will reject you again.”

“I don’t want to take that risk.”

“You’ve already made that decision for her. You’re not giving Kim the chance to accept or reject you. If I may be completely blunt, that’s not fair.”

“Look, when we started this you told me it wasn’t your job to make decisions for me. I’ve made a decision. Why can’t you respect that?”

“Because you’ve haven’t made a decision at all. You’re just attempting to rationalize your way out of doing something difficult.”

“Let’s get one thing straight: my daughter means more to me than anyone else in the world.”

“Then contact her.”

“I will. Just not now. I’m not ready.”

“And exactly when will you be ready? This type of meeting doesn’t get any easier with time, Jack. The longer you wait the harder it’s going to be.”

“Well, there’s something else that’s going to make it even harder. I’ve made another decision. I’m not going to be staying around here very much longer.”

“You’ve decided to leave Los Angeles?”

“I’ve decided to leave the country. Maybe for good. I’m just waiting for my passport and my other documents. There are some problems with the paperwork. You just said that I’m not being fair to Kim. It would be even less fair if I showed up and then left again.”

“Let’s go back here. Leaving the country? This is a big decision.”

“I’ve been thinking about what you said last week. About how sooner or later survival wasn’t going to be enough, how I was going to have to make my survival mean something. I can’t do that if I stay here.”

“Interesting.”

Jack was taking a certain amount of perverse pleasure in leaving Daniel almost at a loss for words.

“I always thought that serving my country was enough. It isn’t. I’m not willing to put my ass on the line. Not anymore. Besides, my back pay isn’t going to last forever. Bill says I’m probably eligible for some sort of pension, but I don’t want that. I need to make myself useful.”

“You’re an intelligent and capable person. There are many ways you could earn a living and contribute to society without ‘putting your ass on the line.’ I agree that a career change could prove quite beneficial, and not just for financial reasons. I can refer you to a career counselor…”

Jack snorted. “I’ve tried that before. A few times. It doesn’t work. Something always drags me back in. And I always end up paying the price.”

“That sounds like a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re convinced that you’re going to being involved in foiling a terrorist plot or some other violence, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Leaving the country isn’t going to change that. The United States isn’t the only country prone to attack.”

“I know that. But this country doesn’t have anything left for me. Whenever I’m driving Bill’s car or walking down the street I notice the schools and the restaurants and the office towers. I see mothers walking their babies in the park. All that stuff is for other people. None of it’s for me because I don’t belong here any more. And there’s what I said a few minutes ago about how everyone treats me differently. Like I’m damaged goods. If I stay here that’s never going to change.”

“You haven’t been back for that long. These things take time. There are many people who emerge from similar situations and go on to build happy, meaningful lives. Without leaving everything they know.”

“Good for them.”

“So where are you going?”

“I haven’t decided yet. Not China, obviously.”

“Obviously. And what are you going to do?”

“Like you said, there are many ways I can contribute. Before I went to China I spent eighteen months in hiding. It wasn’t easy, but I did learn that there are many ways I can earn enough money to survive. I don’t need that much, and I don’t have to do anything important. I want to start living again. Eventually I’ll find something I can believe in.”

“It sounds like you’re withdrawing again.”

“There’s nothing here to withdraw from. All that’s in LA are a few friends and a lot of memories.”

“I’m not saying that this is a bad decision. In some ways it actually makes a lot of sense, although it would be wise to wait until you are somewhat less fragile. You just admitted that you still find some situations overwhelming.”

Jack shrugged. “It’s going to be a few weeks. Bill and Karen are about to go to their house in rural Vermont. They said I could come along if I want. It will be a little quieter there.”

“Are you going to take them up on their invitation? We can conduct our sessions by phone.”

“Thanks. I just don’t want to get too dependent on them. They have their own problems to deal with.”

“I’m not concerned about that. I think it’s a positive sign that you are willing to accept their help.”

“Yeah.”

“This still doesn’t resolve the issue with your daughter. If you leave without at least trying to contact her you’re going to regret it. I know you want to protect her and protect yourself. This isn’t how you do it.”

He’s right. right. Damn him, he’s right.

“So? Are you going to call her?”

“I’ll try.”

END