Getting By
by cha-cha mia

After all this time, Jack still woke in a cold sweat almost nightly. He'd feel the gun in his hand, his finger twitching trying to pull the trigger over and over and over. He sometimes saw Kingsley, but more often, it was Drazen he saw. The events of those two days seemed never to leave his subconscious, even if he had learned not to dwell upon them during waking hours.

In some ways, the Kingsley day was worse than the Drazen day. Oh, but that sounded terrible. Could any day possibly be worse than the day Teri died? Sometimes he wondered. That was the day he started to open himself up to emotion again. The day he met Kate. The day he'd expected to die.

He had truly wanted to die that day. He'd been prepared to die. Life held nothing for him. He'd had nothing left but his guilt and his gun. Then Palmer had pulled him back in.

Even once he'd known about the bomb, he'd tried not to become involved. He had tried to leave but couldn't, so he had gone in full boar, whole hog, balls to the wall. He knew he'd gone over the edge that day without giving it a second thought. He had lied to Mason when asked if he was losing it. He couldn't lose what he'd already lost. He'd lost it big time long before that day.

He had been able to rationalize everything he'd done during the ordeal with Drazen, but the bomb day, the Kingsley day, he'd been suicidal. Seriously so. Had to have been for how else could he have hack-sawed off Goran's head and put himself in every subsequent position where he could get himself killed? And then there was the plane. He'd never even asked for volunteers. How could he ask someone else to do what he so desperately needed to do?

But then Mason. . Mason had stowed away with the bomb. Jack could hardly believe it possible for anyone to read him as Mason had done that night. No other person would ever have seen that Jack wanted to die. That he welcomed death as he had never imagined he could. That it would be a release from his guilt and loneliness.

Mason had seen through his facade. A facade he wasn't sure even he had seen through himself. But Mason had convinced him to live. To forgive himself, a little, for Teri. To do what was necessary. To be there for Kim. And maybe, just maybe have something resembling a normal life. Perhaps he could even love again.

Something had stirred in him with Kate. Something he almost didn't recognize. She brought out a tenderness in him that he hadn't thought he could still feel. Something she wakened in him that he hadn't thought could still be touched. Something at his core melted a little at the plight she had endured, even before the plane. Then at the house, he had almost kissed her. It had been the first time since Teri that he had wanted to kiss a woman. He'd been almost thankful for the ringing of the phone.

He thought now, what they had seen in each other, what they had loved about each other, was their mutual damage. Each of them was hurting and had lost so much. He had let himself believe for a moment that they could be together. After all, she knew first hand about his work. She'd seen him at his best, or worst, depending on which side of the line you were on. Maybe, unlike Teri, he could share all of himself with her. Maybe she could understand and accept him. Maybe she could love, and thus allow him not to hate, the man he was, as he had for so long.

He should have known better, but it had been pleasant for a little while. When she'd come to see him in the hospital she'd been a sweet vision, drugged as he was. She'd brought him flowers. No woman had ever given him flowers. When she'd come again, he'd tried to push her away, to release her, but she would have none of it. She'd told him that she had put off her life for too long. She was going after what she wanted from now on. She'd held his hand. She'd smiled silently when he told her he didn't think it was a good idea. That he didn't think he could handle any kind of relationship. She'd told him her father didn't approve of her getting involved with him. He'd told her to listen to her father. She'd laughed. He'd never seen her laugh before. The sound was intoxicating. When she left, she told him she was coming back, and she had. Every day she had come. By the time he was released two weeks later, she was at his side, with Kim's approval.

While he'd been ill, Kim and Kate had gone into his tiny apartment and emptied all his boxes. When they helped him inside, he'd been taken totally aback. It was painted, pictures were on the walls, and beds were made. He wouldn't have known the place. It was more comfortable than it had ever been during the previous year he had lived there. Still, Kate had come every day.

Within the month, she had moved into his apartment. Shortly thereafter, they had become lovers. For a while, things had gone well. They had both healed. In fact, they had been very good for one another. They had helped each other through night after night of the dreams. It had melded their souls.

They had lived together for two years before deciding they'd be better off as friends. Though they loved each other, it wasn't enough. They both needed more. Plus, that which had originally brought them together began to come between them. Kate found she couldn't look at him without thinking of Marie. He knew she tried, but. .

They had talked about getting married, knowing that wasn't going to make things any better. When they finally gave up on it, they had both moved out of the apartment promising to stay in touch. They had for a while, but it hurt too much. That last time, after they had made love, as they lay in each other's arms, she had cried. She had touched his face, told him she would always love him, and left his bed. It nearly killed him to let her go, but he had. He hadn't seen, or tried to contact her, since.

The worst part was the dreams. Waking up alone in the grip of one of those dreams was harrowing. His heart pounded hard and fast in his chest. His skin was clammy. The sheets were wet. This time it was Kingsley. He'd felt the empty gun in his hand and kept pulling the trigger, hammer landing on empty space. This time, CTU didn't get there in time. The last thing he saw before sitting bolt upright on the bed was Kingsley pulling the trigger on his gun. He could never go back to sleep after one of these.

He missed Kate most at these times. He was glad he no longer kept a gun at the bedside as he sat, knees drawn up to his chest, smoking, willing his pulse to slow down. There had been many times he would have pulled the trigger if he did. By morning, he was usually better. He knew he still had Kim and his work, and that knowledge was what helped keep him going. Never having thought he'd have to, he'd learned what getting by meant. He laughed, the sound harsh and loud, humorless in the cold, empty room.


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