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"What the Hell Happened to You?" (Jack's thoughtsThis is just another one-shot inspired by the final exchange between Jack and Tony in 7×10. This one tries to examine Jack’s thoughts as he sat on the steps of the Capitol, before Tony came and ruined his moment of contemplation, including a theory on why he was smiling. I hope you enjoy it, and please review and let me know what you think. Also, I don't love my title, so if you have any better ideas let me know.
Jack sits on the steps on the Mall, with a view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol, just digressing and digesting the events of the day. He remembers walking around the Mall one night with Audrey on one of their first dates, a few months after he moved to DC. For the past four years, he has tried to put her out of his head and convince himself that he did the right thing by giving her up, but since he came back to DC it has been difficult not to think about her, and this moment is no exception as he sees a happy-looking couple passing by. He smiles nostalgically, then chuckles at the irony as he remembers their conversation.
FLASHBACK: 6 MONTHS BEFORE SEASON 4
Jack and Audrey are walking around the mall holding hands, just like the couple Jack just observed (in 7×10) while sitting on the steps.
“I have to admit, you’re right. The Capitol and the Washington Monument do look different at night,” Jack admits. He had insisted that he had been to DC before and did not need to sightsee, but she had insisted.
“I told you,” she says with a grin. “I remember standing right around here on Inauguration Day,” she says, pointing to a spot nearby.
“Yeah, I remember seeing you on TV. I didn’t realize Secretary Heller was your father before that,” Jack says.
“Yeah, well, it’s not something I like to advertise,” she explains. “I don’t want people to think I’m less qualified to do my job or anything.”
“Oh, come on, anyone who’s seen you do your job for 10 minutes would know that you’re not just there because of who your father is,” Jack insists. “But I understand why you want to keep it on the DL. My daughter had the same problem when she worked at CTU.”
“Yeah,” she agrees. “That’s why I use my married name at work, even though I’m separated.”
“Yeah, I figured as much. That’s why I didn’t realize Secretary Heller was your father right away. When I realized it I was like ‘oh, shit’,” Jack admits.
“Why? Did you have your eye on me even then?” she teases.
“Maybe,” Jack admits, blushing a little. “Of course, that was before you were separated from Paul, so I didn’t think I’d ever have the chance to act on it.”
“Well, I’m glad you finally did,” she admits. Now it is her turn to blush.
“Me too,” Jack says with a grin. He puts his hand on her cheek gently and draws her toward him, wrapping his arms around her and stroking her hair as they start to kiss. Afterwards they smile at each other, still a little awkward in a good way. They are still getting used to being more than coworkers, and Jack feels a little shy all of a sudden.
“So being right up close on Inauguration Day must have been pretty cool,” he says, feeling like he needs to say something to break the awkward silence.
“It was amazing,” she agrees, suddenly at ease again. “I had been to other inaugurations but I never got to stand up close before…my dad said that you can never go back to watching from the cheap seats after seeing it up close and he’s right. I remember it was SO cold though…for some reason, Inauguration Day always seems to be the coldest day of the year.”
“Don’t things always work out that way,” Jack says with a chuckle.
“Yeah, I guess. Of course, you were probably watching from the beachfront in sunny California, right?” she teases.
“No,” he says with mock indignance. “Actually, I just saw the opening part. I was on the phone with the outgoing president until seconds before it started, and then I had to go out to pick up a friend before the speeches started.”
“So is that why the ceremony started late? Because you were on the phone with President Palmer?”
“Could be,” Jack says with a chuckle. “He called me pretty close to noon on the East Coast.”
FLASH FURTHER BACK: INAUGURATION DAY - 4 MONTHS AFTER SEASON 3
Jack is in his apartment reading e-mails on his laptop. He has the news on in the background.
“Any minute now, outgoing President David Palmer will take the stage,” the anchor says on TV, reporting live from the Capitol Reflecting Pool, the same spot Jack is now sitting eight years later (in season 7).
Jack glances anxiously at his watch. As if on cue, his phone rings.
“This is Jack Bauer,” he answers.
“Dad, it’s me,” Kim says on the other end.
“Hey sweetheart,” he says hastily, sounding surprised to hear from her.
“Is it a bad time? I was just returning your call from last night…”
“No, it’s fine, I’m sorry. I’m waiting to hear from the president, so I may have to call you back.”
“You haven’t heard from him?”
“No, not yet,” Jack says, sounding a little anxious.
“They said on TV that he’s about to take the stage,” Kim observes.
“Yeah, I know. I don’t know why he hasn’t called yet.”
“He said he’d let you know either way, right?”
“Do you want me to hang up so you can try calling?” Kim offers.
“No, that’s alright. I called the Justice Department and confirmed that the paperwork went through. I talked to Wayne yesterday and he said the pardon was on the President’s desk…he just has to decide whether or not he’s going to sign it.”
“Do you think he will?”
“I don’t know. I would have said it was about 50-50 after I talked to him, although the fact that I haven’t heard back by now can’t be a good sign.”
“Maybe he already signed it and just hasn't had a chance to call,” Kim says optimistically.
“That's what I'm hoping," Jack concurs.
“Yeah, well, fingers crossed.”
“Yeah,” Jack agrees. “Listen, Michelle’s still in Seattle and can’t leave because of the heightened threat level, so if the president does sign the pardon I’m going to head up there this afternoon to pick up Tony and then take him to LAX so he can fly to Seattle. Why don’t you and Angela take a ride with me? There’s something I need to talk to you about.”
“Is everything okay?” she asks, sounding a little worried.
“Yeah, everything’s fine. I just…the reason I was calling last night was because I wanted to let you know that I’ve been offered that job that I applied for in DC,” he says. He had wanted to tell her in person but is afraid she’ll worry if he doesn’t tell her now that he said he needs to talk to her.
“Dad, that’s great!” Kim says enthusiastically. “Congratulations! This was the one you said looked the most interesting, right?”
“Yeah,” Jack says, but his tone sounds conflicted.
“So when are you going to move?” Kim asks.
“I don’t know…I don’t know if I’m going to move. I haven’t decided whether to take the job yet. DC is pretty far away, and you’re taking care of a baby. I don’t know if I like the idea of being so far away and not around to help.”
“Dad, I’ll be fine. I’m a big girl, no matter how much you like to pretend otherwise.”
“I know. I just hate the idea of being so far away from you,” he admits.
“I’m going to miss you too, but I think you should take the job. You can still come visit…didn’t you say the job would involve traveling to the LA office every now and then?”
“Yeah, I guess…” Jack begins. Before he can go on his phone beeps.
“Sweetheart, I’m going to have to call you back,” he says.
“Okay, good luck,” Kim says. Jack hangs up and presses a button on his phone to receive the other call.
“Bau…this is Jack Bauer,” he corrects himself. Now that he is out of CTU and applying for “desk jobs” he is trying to remember to answer his phone like a professional instead of an agent.
“Please hold for the president,” a voice says on the other end.
“Jack?” President Palmer says on the other end.
“Yes, Mr. President?”
“I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you with my decision. I could tell you how busy it’s been around here in the last 48 hours, but the truth is, I’ve been really struggling with this.”
“I understand,” Jack says tentatively.
“I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said the other day, and I know how tough it was for you having to watch Nina Meyers go free…it was painful for me too, and I know that I have an opportunity to at least partially make it up to you now,” he begins. “But I can’t make decisions this important based on a personal sense of indebtedness. I have to do what’s right for this country.”
“I understand that, sir. And there’s nothing to make up to me…pardoning Nina Meyers was necessary to protect millions of American lives. I was wrong to bring that up the other day and I apologize,” Jack says dutifully.
“No, you weren’t, Jack,” Palmer insists. “You were right to point out the imbalance of the situation. I know it doesn’t seem fair that a woman who deliberately committed murder and treason could go free while Tony Almeida is sentenced to years in prison. I recognize the tough situation Mr. Almeida was in, and it in no way excuses what he did, but it’s certainly a mitigating factor.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack agrees.
“I have the document in front of me. If I sign it, I’m going to take some heat for it. There have only been two people pardoned for treason in our country’s history and it’s going to cause a stir.”
“Yes, sir, I understand that,” Jack responds.
“Jack, I know that I owe you more than I can ever hope to repay for everything you’ve done for me and for this country. I’m willing to accept the political fallout, but I just want to make sure I’m doing the right thing. I know Tony Almeida is your friend, but are you absolutely sure that giving him a pass for what he did is the right thing for this country?”
“Yes, sir, I am. Tony Almeida has served this country with more dedication than just about anyone I know. Stephen Saunders put him in an impossible situation…he would never betray this country by choice.”
“Jack, you know I trust your judgment more than just about anyone. If you’re convinced this is the right thing to do then I’ll sign the pardon and Tony Almeida will be a free man effective immediately.”
“Yes, sir, I am. I can’t speak to the politics or promise that you won’t be criticized for this decision. But I can promise you that it’s the right one.”
“Alright. I’m going to sign it now, and I have to go out to the Mall for the ceremonies now, but my staff will notify the warden at FCI Lompoc so they can begin making arrangements for his release.”
“Thank you, Mr. President.”
“Thank you, my friend,” Palmer says before hanging up.
Jack thinks back to that conversation and chuckles at the irony. He doesn’t know exactly what those “pretty bad things” Tony said he did were, but judging from Tony’s new ‘friends’ whom he had met that morning, he has a pretty good idea. He cannot deny now that Tony has betrayed the country by choice, and it feels like a personal betrayal to Jack after he had gone to bat and vouched for Tony when he was in prison. But he also cannot deny that the government had betrayed Tony, just as it had betrayed him. He does not want to sympathize with Tony, and it makes him angry that he may end up paying the same price when he had avoided going down the same path.
Yet as angry as he is, Jack understands his old friend more than he cares to admit. He thinks about his argument with Renee at the hospital, then thinks about Audrey again and remembers the look on her face when he had to sacrifice Paul to save Lee Jong. Then, as today, he knew he had done what had to be done. The difference was that back then it was a painful decision, one that he wrestled with for months and could never fully forgive himself for. Today, he did not feel anything, and that scares him. His mind flashes back to the last time he saw Audrey, and he realizes that he gave up a piece of his heart when he gave her up, cutting off that last link he had to humanity and numbing himself to emotion in order to deal with the pain.
Earlier in the day, he had looked at Tony with disbelief when they first came face to face. “What the hell happened to you?” he had asked, unwilling to believe that his friend could have become so hardened and indifferent to the pain his actions inflicted on others. Now, as Jack thinks back on the events of the day, he realizes that he could ask himself the same question.
As if on cue, Tony comes up behind him and sits down, interrupting Jack from his thoughts.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Jack asks hostilely, not wanting to sympathize or understand, because doing so would mean admitting to himself that Tony is not the only one who has lost his way.
Aw that was awesome! Really interesting parralells you drew between Jack and Tony, I really enjoyed it.