2007-08-23: DF: Reprieve


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Summary: Logan shows how it's done, and Jack and Nathan speak on what to do.

Dark Future Date: August 23rd, 2009


Level 5

Without symmetry and proportion there can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there is no precise relation between its members as in the case of those of a well shaped man.

Smoothly, metal slides beneath bandage, very gently, and cuts. The snip underscores the sounds of buzzing fluorescent lights up above, casting a shade of blanched white through the cell, over Jack's pale, sleeping form, and over Logan's as well. He sits at the end of the bed, where Jack's leg would have been had it not been sheared off at the knee merely days ago. The damage is wrapped expertly in white material - though now it falls back, layer by layer, as Logan uses a silver pair of scissors to find what's hidden.


The restraints on Jack go untouched, secure, and Logan pays very little attention to the man himself. Dressed in a conservative shirt, slacks, he seems almost ordinary, clean shaven and wholesome and healthy, aside from the healed over missing finger. A gaze is flicked carelessly up to Jack's face, then back down to the stump of a limb, and again, the blade smoothly glides beneath bandage, closer and closer.

Donovan's visit to Jack's cell earlier in the day was an exhausting experience for the terrorist-turned-prisoner. He's still fragile. His injuries are debilitating, and would have killed many lesser men. Now that he's no longer being kept on a regular, intensive pain management program, alertness is a valuable commodity. It's a currency to be wisely spent. Wake up for an hour, but only if the price is right. Food. Information. Medication. This is all he can hope to barter for with his attention.

Unfortunately, he's not in a position to dictate terms right now. With his limbs secured, there's no way to fight. No way to flee, even if he were able. His brow wrinkles as the flat side of a cold scissor blade presses in precariously close to the stump of his leg. On the next swipe, his pasty-dry mouth works and smacks in an instinctive, futile attempt to produce moisture.

During the next snip, the scissor graze against Jack's fresh, raw wound. He awakes with a start and a hiss of pain, rattling his restraints loudly as he attempts to bolt upright and is stopped short. It takes several seconds for his eyes to focus on Nathan. "Jesus," he grates. "Be careful, man."

And Logan ignores him for now, save for a small smile. Snnnniiip. He seems to be enjoying that sound as sharp metal separates fabric fibres, the bandages easily separating as tautness is released. He takes it slowly. Only a few layers to go, but he pauses, lifting the scissors as he scratches his jaw contemplatively, cold eyes now looking up towards Jack. "Like you were careful with me?" he asks. "Hush, now. I just want to see it." He lowers the scissors again. "Don't you?"

When Jack meets Nathan's eyes, comprehension dawns on him almost immediately. "Logan," he whispers. It must be. His closest friend never made a smile into such an offensive, unpalatable expression. He flexes against the cuffs a second time, this time more slowly, testing the play that he's been given. Too little. He shoots a smoldering glare at Logan, but the anger is a fabrication to cover his rising panic. "No," he growls. "Go away. Leave me alone."

"Or you'll kill me?" Logan fires back, eyes lowering down to the bandages once more. "Try it." He snickers softly, very much confident in the restraints that restrict Jack's movement, and again, the metal glides beneath bandages, carefully snipping once more, and it brushes closer to sensitive skin. "You're becoming quicker on the uptake, Jack. How long did it take you to realise who I am, even after Mr. Gomez had to spell it out?" he asks, with that permanent sneer. The scissors are set aside and gently, he unwraps the bandages the rest of the way, as if unveiling a delicate gift. It doesn't take much to reveal the injury, gauze peeled back.

Must remain focused. Must remain centered. Your fear is his fuel.

Jack yelps and cringes convulsively away from the contact as the wrappings are peeled away. Before he was stabilized on the med-evac chopper, a government sawbones sheared the ragged injury off cleanly, removing the splintered, twisted mass of tissue that has previously extended below his knee. What remains now is an exposed joint thinly ringed by muscle and cartilage. "Oh God. Oh God."

He clamps his teeth together before he can begin to pray. Defiantly, he continues to glare up at Logan.

The glare is met with another smile, and Logan actually looks critically at the injury. "You know, I can see the bone?" he says, as if fascinated, picking up the scissors again. Just toying with them absently, hooking the loops with his fingers, then lets the tip descend… gently, down onto Jack's other leg. He draws an invisible line, approximately where his injured leg has been sliced away. "Tell you what. Why don't I give you the opportunity to cut off my other finger," he wriggles his left ring finger for Jack to see, "and you let me take off the other leg. Maybe we'll both feel more in proportion."

It takes all of Jack's will to keep from flinching or passing out, but he doesn't do either. He closes his eyes and breathes deeply several times, collecting himself. Steeling himself. Then he opens his eyes and looks down at the stump of his leg. It's the first time he's seen it unwrapped, and it's a ghastly sight. Despite his pressing, driving need to appear strong and willful while facing Logan's presence, he can't help but turn his head and squint his eyelids closed again. "Oooh," he groans. "God. What do you want?"

Logan raises an eyebrow, even if Jack isn't watching him. He leans forward. "I want my life back," is murmured, almost too quietly to hear, but no doubt the words carry within this vacuum all the same. Should Jack look again, that amused stoicism has transformed into barely contained anger, held trapped under an icier mask of loathing. "The walls are closing in, it's all being pulled apart at the seams, so much work, Jack, and no one understands." He takes a breath, even if that was all delivered calmly. "Not mine to take anymore, just spaces of time when his attention slips, but that's okay, because I'm going to pull you apart at the seams, with so much more finesse than you attempted with me. But don't think I didn't learn from the best."

I want my life back.

Shocked to hear his own words parroted back at him, Jack glances over at Logan again. There's another rattle from his cuffs as he yanks at them ineffectively. His breathing quickens and his heart pounds, but he is unwilling to show his fear outwardly. Frustrated, he grits his teeth and snarls through them at his tormentor. "You're weak, Logan. You're soft. You know why it's all falling apart on you?" A rough, gasping laugh crawls out of Jack's throat. It's an unhealthy, unhappy sound. "It's because Nathan was stronger than you. He could take what you couldn't."

"No," Logan says, sharply, then louder. "No." The scissors are lifted, gripped firmly in his fist with the tip pointed downwards, directly above the severed limb. His hand trembles with the desire to drive it down, but he holds back. "It's falling apart because no one else could be strong. They're the weak ones. I'm the only one willing to break America the way it needs to be broken to heal again." His tone softens, but his tense grip of the scissors above Jack's leg remains. "Besides, if Nathan's so strong, where the hell is he?"

As strong-willed as he is, Jack can only take so much. He pulls and strains against the three cuffs that bind him down, desperate to get away from even the possibility of the scissor blades probing his exposed knee joint. His half-leg flails and flops, but he has no anchorage. No leverage. No way to escape. So keep him talking.

"You're wrong!" Jack insists. Then, weaker, "Nathan would never hurt me." He skips over the topic, unwilling to dwell on why Nathan isn't here not hurting him right now. Better to move on. "People don't need to be broken, they need to be led. Even if you take over, they'll fight you. 'Americans love to fight. All real Americans love the sting of battle.'" Despite his helpless position, the Irishman smirks. "That's another gem from Patton. He was right. You can't win, Logan. There will always be someone willing to fight you."

"Just like you," Logan hisses, a faint smirk. "And look where we ended up. Believe me, I have no trouble in beating them all back down. It's fun." The smirk fades, and his grip works around the scissors, which are still poised to stab. "That's all over now, of course, there are plans in motion, Nathan is going to flee the title I worked so hard for and hide under the covers until it's all over like some kind of bad dream, so now it's just you and me. I really do want to take that other leg off. It'd take a while with just scissors, but there's all the time in the world." Finally, the scissors are moved away, and he taps the point against his jaw, as if contemplating. "It'd kill you, but it would make a nice gift for your friends. I could send you back in pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle. Least your wife would have her husband back."

Now Jack screams. He screams long and loud, shouting every obscenity he knows in every combination he can imagine, many of which make little or no sense. As he does he bucks and strains against the ties that bind him until his face is red and he's puffing and sweating from the effort. The new proud flesh that's forming around his severed leg is scuffed away by his frantic flopping and the wound begins to leak weak trickles of blood. Despite their padding, the edges of the cuffs bite into his wrists and ankles, gouging angry red circles in his skin. "YOU SONOFABITCH! YOU FUCKER! I'LL KILL YOU! I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU! DON'T YOU DARE TALK ABOUT HER!" Hot, angry tears spring up in his eyes and run freely down his cheeks. "GODDAMNWHORESHIT! I'LL FUCKING KILL YOU!"

Nerve ending located. Logan might have reached it sooner, had he any real grasp on human relationships. His eyes widen a fraction as Jack descends into his tirade, watching and watching and doing nothing to silence him. Flesh is broken open, fresh wounds bleed, and Logan just keeps watching as if to see if Jack will simply scream and flail himself to an early grave. Then, in between the bellows, he speaks, just quietly, as if verbally nudging this sore spot, irritating it further. "She probably thinks you're dead, you know, I'll bet they all do. How long will it take for her to move on, do you think? A girl like her, with that mouth on her? Give it a week and you'll still be a broken soldier in a cell and she'll be working through your men in no time."

There is an ominous creak from the cuff attached to better of Jack's two arms, but all three straps that keep him bound continue to hold. Too far gone to know that he's only fanning Logan's fire, his eyes goes crazily wide and he screams until froth and spittle come from the corners of his mouth. Uncaring of the damage it causes, he pushes and flaps his legstump wildly, attempting to gain purchase so he can better try and tear his restraints from their moorings.

It doesn't work.

"FUCK! I'll kill you! I'llkillyou - I'llkillyou - I'llkillyou! YOU BASTARD!" Jack weeps unabashedly and repeatedly throws his body against the wall, jerking at the same wrist-cuff over and over and tearing gashes in his arm.

Logan glances to the restraint as it creaks, pausing. He could probably subdue Jack if need be, and even then, he can always walk away, so it's more out of satisfaction that he regards this omen. He stands, then, moving up the length of the bed, ignoring the wounds forming, and swiftly, he places the blade beneath Jack's chin, angling the tool so it doesn't cut when he pushes to expose the man's throat. "No, Jack," he says, gravely. "I'll kill you. And know that it will tear her apart, but more importantly? She'll get over it." The blade is turned, nearly breaking skin. "Ready?"

Jack gulps when the pressure from the small blades forces his chin back. As frantic as his is, self-preservation is a stronger motivator. His flailing ceases, leaving him an exhausted, battered mess. Blood that he can't afford to loose spills freely from his newly aggravated leg wound and the cuts across his wrist. It hurts. It hurts badly. The aches pale in comparison to those cause by Logan's words, as false as they may be. "I hate you. I hate you. I fucking hate you." Far beyond decent, intelligible communication, he clings to his mantras like a drowning man clings to a floating spar. "I hate you. I'll kill you I'll kill you I'll kill you."

And simply, Logan breaks into a smile. "See?" he murmurs, over Jack's mantra. The scissors are withdrawn, and he pats Jack's cheek in a mockingly fraternal gesture, before lingering there, in a touch like Nathan may have given Peter years ago. "That's how it's done." The hand is withdrawn too, and Logan brings those scissors up, to look into the reflection of the steel with a trace of defiance - and with a clatter, they're dropped to the ground, and Nathan backs up a step, looking panicked at this new environment he finds himself in - barely seeing Jack at first.

As soon as the scissors pull away from Jack's throat, his eyelids flutter closed and his head sags against his shoulder. He flops from side to side, shaking a vigorous negative and further skewing his short, untidy hair. "NoNoNoNoNo. No. No. I hate you I hate you I hate you. I'll fucking kill you. I swear to God I'll kill you. Goddamn you." What little strength he had is spent. His words are more vauge, quiet denial than actual threat. Unable or unwilling to face the person he views as his tormentor, he keeps his eyes squeezed shut in an attempt to block out everything around him. His huffing, sobbing breaths echo loudly in the tiny, windowless room.

Stop. Assess. Nathan's gaze is sharply drawn to Jack when he hears those words, and he feels cold, all of a sudden. Almost fearful to do so, he forces himself to look his friend over from where he stands a foot or so away. No injury besides the obvious, though that leg clearly needs bandaging now, glancing at the shredded material half fallen on the floor from the flailing. And Jack is ranting, the breathless threats not going missed. God, what happened? "No… no, Jack." Nathan kneels, a hand moving to his friend's shoulder, then glancing down at the restraints. He curses to see torn skin, and moves to start freeing the injured wrist. "It's me, Nathan, I swear it is. It'll be okay."

Jack can endure nearly any amount of physical pain. It's a logical, quantifiable reaction to an action. It makes sense, and so he's able to process it. The pain brought on by Logan's words doesn't make sense. He knows it isn't true, that Trina may believe him dead, but she would never forget him. Still, the threats are a vivid, white-hot, knife-edged thing. When he hears Nathan speaking, he's too far gone to understand that a transition has taken place. Maybe he's too far gone to believe it. Either way, as soon as one hand is free his eyes snap open and he launches a vicious attack at Nathan. Lacking the strength to punch, he straightens his fingers into a blade and drives them toward one of Nathan's eye sockets.

Jack has an advantage of surprise, but perhaps Nathan's gotten better at flinching away. It's not a graceful dodge, launching himself a way and landing on his backside a few feet from the bed before Jack can pursue anything else further, a wrist and ankle still caught up in the restraints, though they aren't locked, only strapped. And Nathan's not going to wait until Jack tests this theory, hurts himself, so he scrambles to his feet and moves back in, to firmly pin that arm back down, unwilling to use the cuffs, however. "Jack, listen to me, damnit," he growls, though there's little threat in his expression. He just wants his friend to calm back down, unknowing of exactly what kind of hurt Logan dealt.

Jack groans and thrashes weakly for several seconds before he truly has exhausted himself. He no longer attempts to fight or shout, he just heaves in rasping breaths and bows his head. It takes time for him to regain his composure. In the meantime, he mutters something under his breath thickly, his heavy tongue making the words undecipherable. "… Amen." A rattling cough. Another. Slowly, unwillingly, Jack meets his friend's eyes. "Nathan?"

Just as slowly, almost as unwillingly, Nathan's hard grip on Jack's arm loosens, not wanting to risk getting lashed out at again. But he releases him all the same, pushes himself up to sit on the side of the bed. "Yeah," he confirms, hands clenching. Tries to dig up an explanation for this slip up, but there is none. Just that one moment he was sitting in the car being driven to this facility, and the next moment, harsh lights and grey walls. Instead, he simply waits, a question in his eyes for Jack.

Jack blinks away tears and shakes his head again wearily. "The less we do that, the happier I'll be," he croaks. He searches Nathan's eyes intently, looking for the spark that distinguishes him from his counterpart. Whatever he sees, it must be enough to satisfy him, because he relaxes and reaches up to clutch at Nathan's arm with his freed hand. "God. If you do that to me again, I'll cut off another of your fingers. And I though I knew how to make a man hurt. He didn't even touch me, Nathan. Oh Lord, you have to tell Trina. We have to find some way to tell her that I'm alive."

There's pity, there, in Nathan's eyes, because rarely has he ever seen Jack quite like this, but it's overtaken by bewilderment, not quite understanding what Logan did if he didn't physically hurt the man. What… he must have said. Nathan almost winces. No, he knows the kind of poison Logan has a talent for, the same brand of venom that almost made him give in so many times. "I'm sorry. I'm trying. I won't come here without using the drug, or something." Shakily, he brings his hands up to his face, rubbing around his eye sockets as if very, very tired. "I don't know how to contact Trina," he adds, dully. "They won't necessarily think you're dead, Jack, not until they can see it for themselves."

Slowly, bit by bit, Jack is beginning to calm down. He releases Nathan's hand when the other man paws at his own face and instead hugs it around his body, low on his abdomen to avoid contacting his burns. He takes deep, cleansing breaths, each deeper and steadier than the last. Losing control is not in his best interest right now. It can only work to his detriment.

"Logan said things about Trina. It's not important. She has a personal radio. The frequency is 27.315. Call her and tell her I said 'North Dakota.' She'll know that I'm alive and to trust you."

Nathan looks about to argue, say that she won't trust him no matter what kind of code is used, that to contact the Saints now might be a bad idea, but… Logan said things. They can't be taken back. So he has to move forward to mend it. He'd better get used to this concept and fast. "Okay," he agrees after a short silence. Still, Nathan can't help but add his concerns. "She'll want to know where you are. I don't think much would get in her way after that."

"No… She trusts me. Tell her that I'm sorry I broke my promise, and that I'm trying to find my way home. She won't like it, but she'll listen." Aware of how dubious this sounds, Jack shifts uncomfortably against the flat, cold shelf that serves as his bed. Suddenly inspired, he reaches across to unfasten his other wrist, then clamps his fingers above the bleeding gash in his arm to stem the flow. "Donovan stopped by to see me earlier. Did he tell you about his plan?"

Nathan glances at the movement from his friend, and after a short moment, he picks up one of the cleaner pieces of cut bandages that had once wrapped around Jack's leg, and tugs Jack's arm up so he can wrap it around the wound in short, impatient movements. "He told me about a couple," he mutters.

Jack winces and the not-extraordinarily-gentle handling of his arm, but he holds still and lets Nathan wrap him up. Now that the adrenaline is leaving his system, the pain in his leg, chest, and now his wrist is again an urgent, insistant presence. He peers up at Nathan curiously, then lets out an agonized, shuddering breath. "And what did you think about his Plan B?" he queries neutrally, his voice kept level and unquavering with intense concentration.

Nathan manages not to look startled, as neutral as Jack's tone of voice as he focuses on tying the bandage off. "I think it's probably inevitable," he says, not quite looking at Jack. "And that at the very least, it needs to be handled the right way. I just wish I could…" He releases Jack's arm, gestures, but the sentence falls short. Wish he could do what? Fix things? No. Stalin or Caesar, not both.

Jack's not quite looking at Nathan, either. He's glancing from the corner of his eye, gauging responsing and studying body language. "I know," he replies sympathetically. "You just got back, and already you've been tossed nose deep in the shit heap. I don't envy you, my friend." He presses his arm down against the shelf to help staunch the wound and to keep the bandage from unraveling. "I think Donovan's right," Jack admits sadly. "It's the only way."

He had asked Cyprus to figure out the alternate route, but if the spin doctor is already approaching the terrorist… Nathan shuts his eyes for a moment, bringing a hand up to rub the back of his neck. So much for that. He told Cyprus he'd hang alongside him, and he still… "I'm letting things fall as they may," he tells Jack, now finally meeting his gaze. "As soon as I know what the hell to say, I'm resigning. That won't get me out of much but at least someone a little more reliable can handle it, when shit hits the fan. I stay in power, Logan steps in again, we'll have worse than a war to deal with." Jack must already realise this, but perhaps Nathan wants to confirm with someone that his actions won't be about hiding. Mostly.

Jack reaches up to grab Nathan's hand, gripping it firmly and meeting his friend's eyes simultaneously. "You're doin' the right thing," he assures. "You've done your part. You fought the monster off. You beat him and took away his power, and you've earned your rest." The same could easily be said for Jack, but a peaceful night's sleep has never been in the cards for him. Even in planning to leave war and hardship behind, he has been drawn into it deeper than ever.

He's pretty sure he'll always be fighting the monster off, for as long as he's alive - but hopefully the world can enjoy a reprieve from that particular threat, so it's understood. Nathan twists his mouth into a bitter smile. "You did that," he corrects Jack. "You, Ramon, Elena… Cass - all of you. This could have gone forever otherwise." But he squeezes Jack's hand, sentiment appreciated, before releasing again. "We've all earned a break. You can still have that, no matter what Cyprus's said to you."

"We did it together, Boy Wonder." Jack grins crookedly, and for a moment he's the image of his carefree, roguish old self. He reaches up to cuff Nathan's jaw in a familial, affectionate fashion. "Fratelli in armi, right? We'll keep on doin' it together, just like the old days. When we're done, me an' you an' Trina can all go somewhere for a holiday." His grin grows a little wider and he even manages a reassuringly mellow chuckle. "I could never stay mad at you for the stuff your other self did."

If only it were this easy with everything else Nathan has to atone for, for Logan's sake. But he actually manages a smile that isn't ironic, or strained, or somehow disconnected, matching Jack in that glimmer of a past friendship, attitude. It's nice in its simplicity. "Yeah, well," he says, standing up— and hesitatingly picking up the fallen scissors that he knows had to be used as a threat, partially hiding them once they're in his hands. "One step at a time. I guess I have a speech to write."

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