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MERCY AMONG THE CHILDREN, 3/3

posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Mercy Among The Children, Part 3
Author: marinw

Rating: PG
Characters: Africa!Jack/Benton
Summary: Pre-Redemption, Minor Spoiler warning. Jack reunites with an old friend.
Disclaimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Etc.

A/N: Title taken from the novel by David Adams Richard. Thanks to cybertoothtiger for the beta.

*Crosses Finish Line.* Last May, I promised my LJ flist that I would post one fic (or one chapter thereof) a week (with the exception of two weeks in September) until the day that our beloved show was returned to us. Having completed this self-imposed task, I am herby declaring a hiatus while I watch and absorb the long-awaited fresh canon which is now almost upon us. Time to retire this icon. I will write again only when the muse strikes me. Thanks to my betas, sardonicynic and cybertoothtiger, and thank you all for reading, commenting, and being such wonderful enablers.


Carl Benton was still capable of drinking prodigious amounts of whiskey.

Jack was nostalgic for the days when he could drink Carl – or anyone else – under the table. Now he could only manage a few sips of the coveted liquid. Something about Cheng’s drug regime had permanently altered Jack’s ability to metabolize alcohol. He couldn’t get drunk without first getting very, very sick.

After depositing Michael with the other children, Carl and Jack had spent the evening filling in the other on the past fifteen years. Carl went first. His life had been almost as eventful as Jack’s.

When it was his turn, Jack told Carl everything. Even about China. Especially about China. China was part of who he was.

“It’s not fair,” Carl said “You went through all that and you’re still prettier than I am. So what brings you to Sangala?”

“I heard about your project.”

“How?”

“I’m good at finding things out. You’re doing something important. I want to be part of it.”

“In what way?”

“I know you want to start a school. I can help you with that. I do have a degree in literature.”

“You want to be a teacher?”

“That’s right. I’ve already brought you a new student.”

Carl looked skeptical. “With all due respect, I don’t need a teacher to explain the finer points of Dostoyevsky. I need someone who can teach these kids how to read and write.”

“I can do that too.”

Carl poured himself another shot. “You’ve been through Hell. I’m sorry about that. I really am. And I understand if you still have some shit to work through. I have some shit of my own. But the last thing I need is another traumatized solider. My priority is the children. If you want to stay you’re not getting any pity points. From me or the kids.”

“I kind of figured that out,” said Jack, recalling his recent adventure with Michael. “I’ve had three years to work through my shit. I’ve dealt with it as much as I can. I’m ready to give something back to the world. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t.”

“I don’t know. It sounds like you have a lot of baggage.”

“I did. I got rid of most of it. These days I travel light.”

“I’m not Oprah Freaking Winfrey. My resources are limited. I can give you room and board, but I can’t pay you a salary.”

“Fine.”

“And you’re going to have to do more than teach. You’ll have to cook. Help build the schoolhouse. Fix the Jeeps. Do whatever needs to be done.”

“Carl, cut the crap. This isn’t the most secure place in Africa. You know what kind of skills I have. You need someone like me. Admit it.”

“I’m done with violence, Jack.”

“Of course you are. But sometimes there’s no other choice.”

Jack gave Carl a moment to absorb the logic of that statement.

“Carl, please. Give me a chance.” Jack tried to keep the desperation from his voice. He hadn’t realized how much he wanted this until that very moment.

“Okay,” Carl relented, “You can stay for a couple of weeks. We’ll see how you do. But if you can’t pull your own weight, you’re ought of here.”

Jack stood up and extended his hand. “Thank you. You won’t regret it.”

The handshake was firm. “We’ll see. The cabin near the field is unoccupied. You can stay there for now. Get some sleep. You’re going to need it.”

“Goodnight, Carl. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Breakfast is at seven.”

“Copy that.”

Jack picked up his baggage - both literal and figurative - and headed out across the village.

Jack soon reached his assigned accommodations. It was a simple one-room affair with a thatched roof. He had stayed in far worse places. He paused at the doorway. The sun was setting, its orange glow bathing the tree-filled landscape.

Jack thought of the airplane that was still in the field. He hoped he could fix it. A plane could be very useful. If the Cessna Skyhawk was beyond repair, it wouldn’t be a tragedy. Jack wasn’t going anywhere. Not for a while. It was typical of Benton to play hard-to-get, but he was going to let his old friend stay. Jack was sure of it.

Jack felt his eyes sting with tears.

He knew he was home.

END