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Posted in 24_fanfic

Title: Reconstruction Day
Author: marinw
Characters: Jack/Bill/Karen/Audrey/James Heller
Rating: PG for angst, hurt/comfort, and medical stuff.
Summary: Post Day 6. Jack tries to undo some of the damage.
Discalimer: 24 is the property of the Fox Production Company. Back to work, Howard!
A/N: So far, all my fics have been one-shots. This fic, however, is almost a direct sequel/companion piece to A Pocket-Sized Apocalypse, so Jack is still staying at Chez Buchanan. This is also a prequel to Jack Of All Trades. I write my fics as they occur. Thanks to my wonderful beta sardonicynic for enduring my cringe-worthy first draft.

This was the last place he ever expected to find himself.

It was one of those tony Beverly Hills clinics featured on Extreme Makeover. A place that specialized in breast augmentation and liposuction.

He would have preferred a large anonymous hospital. But those institutions were filled with radiation victims. Walking amongst those individuals would have made his own issues seem trivial.

No. This isn’t trivial. This is my decision. I don’t have to explain it to anyone.

So he sat in the waiting room amongst a collection of women with long red fingernails and over-groomed hair. Some of them looked at him sideways and appreciatively. He wondered why Cheng had left his face more or less alone.

He offered his new admirers a small half-smile and covered his right hand with his left. That had now become his default pose. That was why he was here.

Finally, the receptionist said something.

“Mr. Bauer? You can go in now.”


The surgeon wore fancy wire glasses and had suspiciously perfect teeth. Yet there was something about him that put Jack at ease.

At least he didn’t ask me to undress, Jack thought with an infinite sense of relief. A glance at the man’s desk told him why: his file was there, couriered over by CTU. It contained all the photos, all the test results, even (he supposed) the psych evaluation. Jack hoped he made for interesting reading.

He was uncomfortable with the surgeon, a stranger, having access to that much information. But it also meant that the man would hopefully avoid asking too many questions now. A reasonable trade-off.

Dr. Sheppard examined Jack’s dominant hand, cradling it almost as if he was a suitor about to ask for his lover’s hand in marriage. He poked at the scaled and bubbled skin. “This is a severe burn. How long ago did this happen?”

“I’m not sure. A few months. Maybe more. Perhaps a year. I’m sorry, I can’t be anymore specific.” His voice had resorted to a somewhat raspy grumble.

“You’re fortunate there wasn’t any more nerve damage or loss of function.”

True, Jack could hold a cell phone, aim a gun perfectly, disarm a suitcase nuke, punch a suspect. The muscle memory was there.

“Any pain? numbness?” Dr. Sheppard asked.

“A bit, yeah.”

“Anything else?”

“It shakes sometimes,” Jack offered.

“Hmmm. I don’t know if that has to do with the injury.”

The psych report. Dammit.

“Yeah. So. What do you think?”

“The skin on the hand is quite delicate. Normally I would do a graft, but you have a fair bit of scarring elsewhere,” Dr. Sheppard said matter-of-factly. “However, there have been some developments in artificial skin and stem cell injections…”

Dr. Sheppard went on at length about the procedure. It was state-of-the-art. It was complicated. It was very expensive. But the offer had been made: all his costs related to his time in China would be covered.

It’s the least they owes me.

“According to your file you’ve been prescribed Estazolam,” Dr. Sheppard said.

“I haven’t been taking it,” Jack admitted. How could he possibly explain how desperate he was to gain some control over what chemicals went into his body?

“Good for you. That stuff can be addictive.”

Jack immediately felt a bit better.

Dr. Sheppard looked at his large leather-bound agenda. “There are a few preliminary test to do, and I have to take some measurements, but we can do all of that now. I have an opening this Thursday…”


“This isn’t a minor procedure. It will require a general anesthetic. Perhaps you’d like to think about it first…”

“I have thought about it. I wouldn’t be wasting your time if I hadn’t.” Jack tried not to sound exasperated.

Dr. Sheppard was quiet for a moment.

“I’m sorry, Doctor. “ Jack mumbled. “I know I’m not exactly your typical client.”

“You would be surprised at who I’ve treated, Mr. Bauer.” The doctor handed Jack several pamphlets. “Here are some instructions. Don’t eat anything after midnight Wednesday. And you’re going to need someone to drop you off and pick you up, since you won’t be able to drive yourself…”


Jack sat in the passenger seat of the truck. “Thanks for the lift. I should be able to get my own car soon.”

“You should think about a hybrid,” said Bill. “Gas has gotten pretty expensive in the past two years.”

“I’ve noticed.”

Bill steered the discussion back towards the more immediate issue. “You’re going to be pretty groggy afterwards, so you have to let me and Karen take care of you.”

“You’re already taking care of me.”

“I’m glad we can help. I think you’ve made a good decision.”

“I appreciate that.” That was what Jack liked about his friend: Bill was capable of offering his opinion without pretending to know how Jack felt.

“I could wait there for you, if you’d prefer.”

“That won’t be necessary. They’ll call you when they’re done. Karen just got back. You need to spend some time with her,” Jack said, even though he was in no position to offer Bill marital advice.

“You’re right Jack, I should,” said Bill as he paid close attention to his driving and the road ahead.


Jack wondered if it was too late to back out.

The staff here were certainly very efficient. Within fifteen minutes of Bill dropping him off Jack found himself wearing a gown and strapped to a crucifix-shaped surgical table.

Once again, he was restrained, half naked, and drugged. It wouldn’t take much for his imagination to transform the gleaming operating suite into Cheng’s filthy interrogation chamber.

Had this really been his idea?

“I’m going to start your IV now, Mr. Bauer,” the anesthesiologist announced as she searched for a suitable vein in Jack’s left hand.

Not caring to observe, Jack turned his head and was greeted by the sight of a tray full of very sharp and very shiny scalpels.

He had to gain control over himself. These people were accustomed to treating neurotic trophy wives and divorcees, not agents in the throes of post-traumatic stress. If he gave into his growing panic, the whole procedure could be called off, and he knew he didn’t want that.

But his breathing was already ragged and he knew from the beeping of the monitor that his heart rate had increased. The mild sedative the nurse had administered wasn’t having the desired effect.


“It’s okay if you’re a little nervous,” said Dr. Sheppard, his face obscured by his mask. “Almost everyone is.”

“I’m fine.”

“I’m glad to hear it. This will be over before you know it.” He nodded towards the anesthesiologist.

His head was turned upwards and he squinted towards the huge, bright ceiling lamps. And then a pair of slim hands placed something over his mouth and nose.


“Did you see his back?” the nurse half-whispered, “He must be into some really kinky stuff. Too bad, ‘cause he’s pretty hot.”

“Would you be quiet?” another voice reprimanded. “I think he’s awake.”

Jack opened his eyes. Resting on a pillow was his right hand, now wrapped in a fat mitten of bandages.


“Karen, could you please help me get him upstairs? He’s still pretty out of it,” said Bill.

Jack felt a slender hand being placed around his waist. Now he was being half-carried up a flight of stairs by the former National Security Advisor and the ex-director of CTU. This day was growing steadily more surreal.

“Maybe we should have hired a nurse?” Karen asked sensibly.

“He just needs to sleep off the anesthetic. We can handle this.”

So far, Jack had nothing to contribute to this particular conversation.

“Apparently he has an very high tolerance, so they had to use more than usual,” Bill informed his wife.

Jack didn’t even remember the nurse helping him get dressed or the drive back to the house. The floor was spongy beneath his feet and his head felt like it about to float away from away from the rest of his body. The sensation wasn’t unpleasant. Was this it was like to be really, really drunk? He couldn’t remember.

Karen and Bill finally reached the guest room, now flooded with the late-afternoon light. Karen managed to turn down the covers before Jack sat down on the bed.

“I’ve got it from here, darling. Thank you.”

“Are you sure, Bill?” Karen asked, although she seemed somewhat uncomfortable with the situation.

“Yes. This won’t take long.”

Karen squeezed her husband’s shoulder and left the room.

Jack’s eyelids were drooping shut.

“Jack, you are not going to bed with your clothes on. Come on..”

Bill quickly unbuttoned Jack’s shirt and pulled off his jeans and shoes, as Jack was presently incapable of doing those things himself. Bill grabbed the t-shirt and pajama bottoms he had laid out earlier. Those clothes belonged to Bill and were therefore too big for Jack’s more compact frame, but that didn’t matter. Jack cooperated, as he was still too dazed to be embarrassed, and Bill was reasonably efficient.

Bill opened a bottle of pills. “They gave me these at the clinic when I picked you up. You should take one before things start to hurt.” Bill handed Jack a tablet and a small glass of water.

So far, this whole experience had been miraculously free of pain. Jack saw no reason why that shouldn’t continue. As he only had the use of his left hand, he took the pill first and a sip of water second.

He lay down on his left side, an unusual position considering his still-broken ribs. Bill retrieved a pillow from the other side of the double bed and tucked it underneath Jack’s right arm.

“You need to keep this elevated.”

Jack grunted something inaudible.

Bill pulled the up the bed covers. “You should eat something later. We’ll leave a pot of the soup on the stove.”



“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, Jack.” Bill left the room but kept the door open.

Jack slept deeply and almost dreamlessly.


“It’s too early for the final reveal. But I can give you a sneak preview.”

It had been four days since the surgery. Jack had returned to Dr. Sheppard’s plush office. The surgeon began to unwrap the layers of bandages.

“You can take a proper shower now.”

“That will be good.”

“Have a look.”

Jack held up his hand.

His eyes filled with tears. He made a futile attempt to blink them back.

Now this was embarrassing. It wasn’t that Jack never cried. Sometimes it was impossible not to. But never over something this minor. And never, ever, in front of other people.

“This is…” He had no words “This is…this really means a lot…Yeah.”

“I’m glad you’re pleased.”

“I am. Thank you.”

“I’m glad I could help. Hey, it’s all right.”

Dr. Sheppard was used to emotional displays. He let Jack do his thing.

“Sorry. I’m fine.” Jack finally mumbled, indicating that he was ready to get back to business.

Sheppard wrapped Jack’s hand up in what was basically a fingerless glove made out of a thick elastic material. “You’ll need to wear this for the next month. Wear gloves if you’re doing any work outside. And finish the antibiotics I prescribed. This wouldn’t be a good time to get an infection.”

“I will.”

“Okay. I’ll see you in two weeks.”

“That won’t be possible. I’m leaving LA.”

“But you need some more follow-ups.”

Jack stood up. “Doctor, I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. More than I can express. But I can’t stay here any longer.”

“Well, you have my e-mail address. Follow my instructions and contact me if you have any questions, and you should be fine. Oh, and Mr. Bauer?”

“My name is Jack.”

“Jack. Look. I couldn’t help but notice that you have some extensive scarring. It can’t be eliminated completely, but I do have some suggestions for how the scars can be minimized. Non-surgically.”

He sat back down. “I’m listening.”


Half an hour later Jack left the clinic. He regretted leaving his sunglasses on the dashboard: the bright California sun made his eyes sting.

He was lost in his own thoughts as he crossed the parking lot. Bill was right: this had been a good decision. It had been self-indulgent, perhaps even vain, and the bill was going to make an accountant at Division very unhappy. But it had been necessary. This was something he had to do. Just for him.

Jack wasn’t naïve. This wasn’t going to solve all his problems. He was still covered in scars and his life wasn’t yet his own. But this had been an important first step.

For the first time in almost two years, Jack felt a genuine sense of hope.

He put the bag of supplies that Sheppard had given him on the hood of the car and reached into the deep pocket of his jacket to fish out the keys to his new Ford Escape.

He looked up to see a couple walking towards the clinic. A thin woman with wavy, dark blond hair. She was accompanied by an older, somewhat heavy-set man with silver hair. Her father.

Jack turned his head. He couldn’t see her. He had given his word.

It was too late, Audrey had already seen him. She walked towards him, and Jack was frozen where he stood. James Heller watched helplessly.

Audrey took Jack’s face in her long hands. “I never stopped looking for you Jack. I never gave up.” Her voice sounded somewhat robotic.

“I know, Audrey. I know. I am so grateful.” Jack covered her hands with his own, and brought both pairs below his chin. “You’re my hero.”

Heller glowered at Jack. Jack ignored him.

“I saw what they did to you,” Audrey stated blankly.

“Audrey, look at me.”

Audrey stared through Jack rather than at him. But her green eyes no longer looked entirely vacant.

“Audrey. I’m all right now. I’m safe. So are you.”

“Audie, come on. We’ll be late for your appointment.” James Heller said.

Jack could easily imagine why Audrey would require Sheppard’s expertise. He was about to ask Heller, but the former Secretary of Defense wouldn’t even acknowledge Jack’s presence. He took his daughter by her arm and led her into the clinic.

Jack climbed into his car. He wanted to put his fist through the windshield, but that would have ruined a lot of costly handiwork. He made do with pounding the dashboard with his left hand. Then he put on his sunglasses, put the key in the ignition, and drove off.


Jack tossed his duffel bag into the back of his black SUV.

“Are you sure this is what you want?” Bill asked skeptically. Jack, Bill, and Karen were standing in the driveway of the Buchanan house.

“It will do for now. I have to get out of this city. I need to start over. Somewhere else.”

“But Montana? A dude ranch? Jack, with all due respect, can you even ride a horse?”

“I’ll figure it out.”

“Aren’t you a little…overqualified to be a ranch hand?” asked Karen.

“That’s the point. I don’t want to do anything important. Not now.”

“Call if you need anything.” Offered Karen.

“You’ve done enough. I haven’t been the easiest guest.”

“You were fine,” Karen lied.

“Thank you. For everything.” Jack and Bill shook hands. After a moment, Jack and Karen embraced. That was more than a little awkward. But it was still nice.

As Jack drove off he could see Bill and Karen in the rear-view mirror. Their arms were around each other’s shoulders. It looked like they might be able to work things out. Jack felt a pang of sadness for his own loss, but no envy towards his friends. Bill and Karen deserved to be happy.

Jack headed towards the freeway and out of the city.




( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
okay... so I know it may be strange but I find the thought of anybody even Bill questioning if Jack can do ANYTHING...even ride a horse to be halarious... like snort water up my nose near tears halarious... not sure why.

so thank you for that.
Jan. 9th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)
The horse thing was inspired by Cowboy!Kiefer.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )