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JACK OF ALL TRADES

Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Jack Of All Trades
Author: marinw
Rating: PG
Characters: Jack/Surprise Guest Appearance from a character I’ve been studiously avoiding.
Summary: Post Day 6. Not exactly Happy!Jack, but Recovering/Getting-His-Shit-Together!Jack. Time to give the man a frakking break.
Disclaimer: 24 isn’t mine. But this extrapolation is.
A/N: I’ll stop writing Day 6 stories if we ever get Day 7. I want Day7!



This was just what he needed.

Don’t make any big decisions just yet. Give yourself some time. Eventually you’ll feel like your part of the world again.

That damn shrink had really proven quite helpful. But nobody expected Jack to actually follow his advice.

The Montana Dude Ranch was a living cliché. Bucolic but rugged. The perfect setting for citizens of the second decade of the twenty-first century to go and pretend that they were cowboys. It was as all hopelessly corny.

The pay wasn’t great, but Jack did get room and board. He didn’t need much money anyway, as he had two years of back pay from CTU collecting interest in his neglected bank account. This wasn’t about the money.

It was early summer and the sun had just risen over the mountains. Jack’s cabin was a little further away from those of the other ranch hands, which was fine with him.

His first stop was the stable. The horses needed attention, so Jack spent the next hour happily tending to Starbuck and Apollo, feeding and grooming the large animals and cleaning out their stalls. He wore gloves the whole time, as his hands were recovering from the surgery which promised to reduce the scarring. He still wore a thick elastic bandage-something akin to a fingerless glove-on his dominant right hand, and told anyone who asked that he had sustained the burns in a barbeque accident. Plausible enough.

He left the stable smelling of manure and in need of a shower. But now that particular sensation wasn’t unpleasant. Context was everything.

He saw Janice and waved.

“Good morning, Janice.”

“’Morning, Jack. Say, after breakfast would you mind taking a look at the generator? It’s on the fritz again.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks.” Janice grinned, showing Jack her very straight and white teeth. Janice flirted with Jack and Jack gamely flirted back, but that was as far as it was going to go. He just couldn’t deal with anything else right now.

The day went by in a series of fairly non-consequential tasks: He fixed the errant generator and then tinkered with the carburetor of one of the ranch's’ old trucks. He unjammed the photocopier in the ranch’s’ office. He replaced a beam in the fence of the corral while ignoring the protestations of his still occasionally aching ribs. He thought sadly about how he never had gotten around to repairing the fence on Diane’s property.

Jack even found time to help out in the kitchen, tolerating the endless stream of banter from the overly cheerful head cook. Jack didn’t mind. The food here was excellent, and all the work and fresh air was helping his appetite.

Jack of all Trades. That was his new nickname. There was no end to his usefulness. There was no task too difficult or complex or menial for him to handle.

Jack also had a good idea of how he was perceived: Polite and cordial enough, but rather distant. Mysterious. It was a small ranch, and rumors were circulating: Jack was some sort of ex-military type who had endured some horrible trauma. That he was part of a witness-protection program. That he had just gotten out of prison for some terribly exotic crime.

People whispered that they could hear screams from his cabin in the middle of the night. The enigma of Jack of all Trades made his male colleagues leery and intrigued the female employees to no end. Jack did nothing to try to dispel all the fanciful theories about him. They were all too close to the truth.

He still had to stop himself from going entire days without talking.

Jack had made at least some effort to be social. But the evening activities amongst the ranch hands invariably included sitting around the mess hall and drinking large amounts of beer. Something about Cheng’s drug regime had rendered Jack incapable of metabolizing alcohol. He had found that out when he had gotten sick after his first attempt to join the night’s festivities. So now he spent his nights watching dvds or reading books from the library.

Often he went to the office and surfed the net. The news sites detailed the post-nuclear horror that was now Los Angeles. The local and national authorities seemed to have things in hand. There had been no terrorist attacks, or at least none that had made the news. The world seemed quite capable of going on without him.

Sometimes Jack would just sit under the stars and re-acquaint himself with the constellations. So very corny, and yet so very necessary. This was just what he needed.

So after dinner Jack returned to his cabin. He did have one roommate. The Bull-Mastiff /German Sheppard stray had appeared on his doorstep one morning and refused to leave. So now Tigh lay curled up in a tight ball at the foot of Jack’s bed and Jack was afraid to love him.

He went to get Tigh his dinner. As he put the dish down the dog’s heavy, muscular tail whipped against Jack's calf in gratitude. Jack scratched his pet’s head. Animals were so undemanding.

He heard a ringing in the front pocket of his jeans. He retrieved the phone.

“Yeah?”

“Jack? It’s Janice.”

“What can I do for you?”

“Could you come down to the mess hall? There’s someone here to see you.”

“Who?”

“Just get here.”

“Fine. I’m coming.” Jack hung up the phone, annoyed. It wasn’t like Janice to be mysterious. He was grateful that the other hands had decided to visit one of the bars in the nearby town. At least he wouldn’t have too large of an audience.

Before leaving the cabin he tucked his handgun in his boot. Just in case.

The visitor was waiting for him in the empty mess hall. Her hair was short and she looked older.

But it was his daughter.

“Kim.” His voice was only a whisper.

She stood up. “Hi, Dad.” She responded.

They stood there for several long moments. Neither of them knew what to say.

Jack finally took his daughter’s hands in his own. “How did you find me?” He asked.

“Chloe told me where you were. I went to the hospital, but you had already left.”

“I didn’t want you to see me like that.”

Kim examined her father’s bandaged hand. “What did they do to you?”

“You don’t need to know the details. It’s over. That’s all that matters. Kim. I never thought I would see you again.”

Jack took his daughter in his arms and sobbed. He couldn’t help it. He didn’t care who saw him or how it looked.

Kim was crying too, but quietly.

“We have a lot to talk about, Dad.” Kim managed to say.

“Yes. We do.”

Still with their arms around the other's shoulders, they walked out into the star-filled night.

END

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