callisto24 (callisto24) wrote in 7secrets,

7 romantic secrets, prompt#6, separated, fandom 24

Title: separated
author: callisto24
fandom: 24
characters: Bill, Jack
category: drama, mild slash
theme: Bill’s point of view, spoilers for season6, 1-4
rating: R
disclaimer: nothing belongs to me, no money made..

part2 can be found here:
* * * * *
* * * * *
follows trouble
follows sex
follows nighttime
follows together
follows separated
* * * * *

He had to keep it secret. A man in his position wasn ‘t allowed to feel this way.
People were used to him staying cool in each situation, he was expected to deal with..., to manage the most impossible situations without losing control. He was really good in this, in staying calm, in keeping balance no matter if the world comes tumbling down around him.
He was able to put up the necessary distance, to lock emotions which threatened to become noticeable away until he would be allowed to handle them, which happened usually in the same reserved manner he showed during each imaginable situation his fate deciced to throw him in.
Not even the nervegas attack had been enough to increase his heartbeat, no threatening of his own life could do it.
The grieving about Michelles death hadn ‘ t interfered his work though he had loved her once, neither had the shock about Tony’s or Edgar’s end, or the dying of the amounts of people he ‘ d relied on, who had demonstrated to him that there existed a chance to live as a normal breathing, feeling , human being and work as an agent at the same time.
He had never been able to believe this, at least not for himself.
To hide his emotions meant to hide them completely, allowing no exception. Nobody knew what he carried inside. Not even Karen.
Their relationship worked perfectly, because they lived seperated lives, each of them in another state, in another part of the country.
Bill loved her, like a man of his age and in his profession could love a woman, in a rational, reasonable way.
They belonged together... provided each other with the sense of family, thankful for the love they shared in the rare moments their work left them, thankful to be able to understand their reciprocate needs.
His life had been like he had wished it to be, far away from the dreams and hopes he had carried as a young man, but satisfying enough to be content.
Until everything changed, again during few hours. God knew he had enough reasons to break down under the pressure of these days.
The attacks. The sick deal with Fayed, Jack ‘ s return and his own role in it.
It had been enough to make him hate himself.
But he had always been proud about his ability to function like he was expected to do and it wasn ‘ t deceiving him this time. His responsibilities guided him into the right direction, made him move where he was supposed to move.
The pale faces around him told better than words about the shock the detonation had caused.
He felt it himself especially with the thought of the teams they had lost.
But the reason why he felt close to a break down, why he was afraid each moment that his body would start to tremble and give away his fear, was hidden deep inside his mind, buried there for years, buried from the first moment on he had seen him, he had looked into these eyes, he had discovered the burden this man had been forced to bear.
When he knew him in China it had been worse, the guilt had been harder to endure than during the time he had supposed him dead.
Maybe because he had never really believed into Jack dying, not when the circumstances fit in so perfectly.
He hadn ‘ t been that surprised with Jack ‘ s return though he had been astonished about the slight tingle in his guts whenever Jack had approached him this day.
The events of the situation had demanded his full attention, there had been no room for wonder or anger.
Nevertheless he had wished to be a part of this conspiration, to be trusted by this man.
Bill had watched him with Audrey, had seen how torn he was inside, how much her behaviour had hurt him, how he craved for her forgiveness and it ate him up inside though he would never admit the reasons why he felt this way.
His hair had been cut short, shorter than he had ever seen it, even on his army photos. It had lost its golden shine, the boyish innocence he had noticed while studying the pictures of him together with Teri and his daughter. How much time had past since these days, how much had he been forced to go through.
Bill remembered his own time in Washington, his climbing up the career ladder, his interest for the events in L.A. which led to the decision to join Division. Had it been already then, that he had felt the pull towards a fate which moved out of his own hands?
During this day he had watched him, each move had burnt itself into his memory, the way his clear eyes stared into his, finding their way right to his soul, causing it to shiver until he had to drop his gaze. The sun playing with the blond strands, stroking the face which had gained tone from the physical work outside. He swallowed thinking about the hard muscles playing under the fabric of his shirt. He found himself hypnotized by the sight of Jack changing clothes, slipping in and out of his flak jacket, always in motion, always in a hurry, always acting fast.
And the thought that they all relied on his skills, depended on his intuition, aroused him. A sensation which scared and surprised him at the same time. It was the first time he allowed himself to recognize this feeling.
* * * * *

Only few hours had passed by, few hours which changed Bill’s point of view basically, which catapulted Jack back into his destination. And when finally the threat was over, when they started to relax, when he honestly began to consider the existence of a possibility to work with Jack, when he had smiled at Karen delighted with the prospect of a brighter future, then he’d received the call telling him about Jack’s vanishing and everything broke down again.
No rest, no peace, no relief, no time to mourn their losses.
The search had started at once, hectically, frantically, without a concept visible.
Audrey was devastated, Chloe clearly angry, the questions were thrown at him like arrows hurting him more than he would admit.
How was he supposed to know what Jack would be able to do the country’s, to Palmer’s reputation under pressure? Besides he certainly didn‘t care after all he had learned during the past day about the nasty failures in highest government positions.
But the priorities were clear, were confirmed to him from above without a second of delay.
The damage had to be limited, nothing could be more important than keeping the silence at any costs, even when they finally got the confirmation about what had happened to Jack.
The urge, the tormenting feeling that he had to act, that Jack needed him gnawed permanently at his insides, an everlasting pain offering no way to escape.
Of course he hadn’t talked about his doubts, had kept them inside as he was used to while he constantly was running against the walls of bureaucracy and the political barriers building up sooner than he could pull them down.
Karen’s friendship had given him strength these days.
What they had shared, the loyality he sensed in her, the wordless understanding of his useless efforts had touched him deeply and it had finally been easy to accept her approach.
It had also been easy to let her leave for Washington, he had seen the chance given unexpectedly, the chance to influence people in most responsible positions.
But he never had been able to imagine the speed things changed finally.
After nearly 20 months of uncertainty facts became clear surprisingly fast. The shameless demand of a single terrorist had been enough to allow politicians to move the mountains they hadn’t been able to face before.
And they made it Bill’s task, he had to sell this unacceptable deal to a man, they had let down not for the first time.
And he fulfilled his duty like he did everything he was expected to.
Bill watched Curtis, found him on the edge fumbling with his weapon, ready to force Jack, if he would show any sign of refusal, but the unease clearly written in his face.
Intentionally Bill had hidden his own inner conflict as far as possible, well-knowing that there was no other way and desperately trying not to make things harder for Jack.
Yet nothing had prepared him for the coming events, for the hollow face, the void in the former clear eyes, the bowed body giving away nothing else than submission and obedience.
Though he felt like a judge condemning consciously an innocent person to death, he suffered more from the sudden realization that not only Jack welcomed the situation, but just it might turn out to be the best solution available. That Jack maybe knew that he neither would nor could be of any use in this fight anymore and that he preferred to end it this way.
And though nausea had made each step an effort, though his stomach felt like cut by countless knives, though his heart ached in a way his cardiologist would have considered a possibility, he had done what had to be done, had sold Jack, sold a part of himself in exchange for their last hope, a loose chance he would never have relied on if the circumstances hadn’t been that horrible.

Without looking back he had walked away from the place where Jack had remained handcuffed, motionless, his head bent down, accepting whatever he might have to endure.
And when Jack had been carried away, when Bill had returned to CTU a part of him died inside with the thought of Jack being murdered cold-blooded, of his last moments in the captivity of people who hated him enough to betray their own folks just to get their personel revenge on him.
And he felt like shit knowing that it should be a man like him, the person who at that time had made the decisions, had ordered Jack to interrogate Fayed’s brother, the person who had carried the responsibilities then, their fury should be directed on.
Sick inside he returned to CTU pushing forcefully each thought distracting him from their current aim back into a place where it couldn’t touch him.
But he wasn’t able to prevent the short flashbacks shaking him during the rare moments when his thoughts weren’t bound completely by his task.
A glimpse on Jack’s hands when he had left the plane.
The shock caused by his first appearance which turned to anger when he noticed the damage done, when he captured the questioning glance Jack threw into Cheng’s direction, the silent plea for permission when Bill had insisted on removing the cuffs.
He knew Cheng and the chinese culture well enough to respect him as an horourable man captured in his own beliefs and traditions trying to act for the sake of his country.
Bill understood the anger about the unacceptable intrusion of the embassy. Usually he would consider it himself a crime which deserved no excuse. He prefered not to imagine how his government would react if the roles were changed.
But they weren’t. Cheng had acted like he was expected to, had taken advantage of the situation just as he would have done.
Without the slightest doubt Bill would have ordered each kind of ‘special treatment’ on a prisoner who would keep him in the dark, who would keep his mouth shut though he knew about a traitor in Bill’s rows.
It would have been his duty as well as it has been Cheng’s to find out everything possible, to take each chance to make his witness talk. His means might have been different but not so much he would like to convince himself. Cultural differences in the conception of the human-rights-term would lead people in his part of the world to act more secretly but the consequences remained similar anyway.
Each time he had ordered torture in his past, he had signed his acceptance he had given up his own humanity a little bit more and sometimes he wished there would exist a possibility to gain it back.
He remembered the shudder running down his spine with the sudden sight on Jack’s pale back when he had undressed in the middle of the abandoned warehouse soon after he had agreed to the exchange. He seemed unaware of the fact that several people watched him, had to watch each movement he made taking care that their valuable trading subject wouldn’t slip away or even transform itself into a dead body worthless for any deal because he chosed to take his own life instead of enduring more than he’d already endured.
Jack had cleaned himself up silently, cut his hair and beard step by step changing into the person Bill remembered.
But yet he wasn’t the same, probably would never be again.
Not only the scars on his body, not his hands shivering slightly, not the avoiding of any eye contact transmitted the impression.
His whole shape seemed slumped down, awfully skinny, his shoulders slack, the former strength gone forever.
His movements slow, deliberately and Bill wondered if Jack had recognized them as the last moments of his life or if the past months had taken away the ability - the necessity to rush things.
It had been almost unbearable to see him that close yet that far gone and even more worse to watch the other men staring at the exposed figure in front of them.
Jack had shown no feeling of shame, no emotion at all when he had been forced to prepare himself without the favor of any privacy. Probably he was accustomed to the exposition but it still hurt to see him act like this, obedient, quiet, doing what he had been asked to do.
But they had no choice, none of them had.
And so Bill had waited at last, waited for Fayed’s call, waited for the final affirmation and for the reward he had promised them.

* * * * *
But Fayed had made them wait in vain, never had intended to play fair. And once again it had taken one special man to find out the truth.
One man already broken, abandoned, rejected, this man who had made his way through hell and back only to be tortured, mistrusted and left alone again.
This one man whose death Bill couldn’t stand but whose life he couldn’t cope with either.
But he survived, lived, discovered in hours what he hadn’t seen for weeks.
The doubts meeting Jack’s judgement were understandable yet unforgivable at least from Bill’s point of view.
Though still shocked, still fighting with his own disbelief he carefully strived to give the outward impression of the required self-assurance, the certainty his co-workers needed to see in him in order to be able to deal with the demands of the situation.
Again he forced the tremors shaking him back into his subconsciousness, the bewilderment, but mostly the sudden unexpected delight he desperately tried to ignore, but couldn’t.
Jack was here... finally, alive and on his side and Bill sweared to himself that he wouldn’t regret it.
Time rushed while his heart jumped in his chest, the constant subtone of deep relief hammering an unusual fast rhythm through his body. He stayed focused, it was his job to combine the different threads or to untie the presented knots until the danger would be banned.
It wasn’t the moment for sounding the depth of his emotions, it was the time for quick, rational acting and he was up to it.
Until the events started to come thick and fast, until the incredible became reality.
He never had guessed a reason to doubt Curtis’ loyalty, the man had been a rock from the start. But everybody had a breaking point and the underestimation of the traumatizing effects caused by each war experience had always created the worst imaginable consequences. He hadn’t seen it for the first time and he wouldn’t see it for the last. The strongest man could lose his grip on reality in a second, could betray his own conviction when a situation called him back into a life where justice and honour had remained hollow words, where surviving had been the only goal left.
These wounds were too deep, they could be painted and hidden, but their existence couldn’t be denied. Maybe... if Curtis had never seen Assad again, he could have lived his life as he was supposed too. But the confrontation had scratched the surface long enough to free the still bleeding injury, had hurt him until his instincts had taken over.
And Jack had to pull the consequences. Thrown into another nightmare without having had the time to wake up from the last, his training, his professionalism had taken the lead, had ruled his movements, had threatened, had warned, had pulled the trigger at last when no alternative appeared.
Bill could feel what Jack must feel though he only heard the husky reports from the agent witnessing the killing. He sensed the pain, he too had lost a friend, a friend he’d known for years and though Curtis might not have been that close to Jack there were countless things connecting them besides the situations they had managed side to side.
He had hit him good, a perfect shot, even after months without any practise.
Bill could tell how the gun must have seemed to develop a life of its own, how the brain must have shout out its commands while the heart screamed, begged for mercy, begged for a chance to get out of this impossibility. But there had been no way out for him, Jack had murdered a friend, had done it fast and safe, providing him with the mercy of a short death.
And then Jack was gone and Bill listened to the confused explanations, ordered the necessary treatments, barked his demands to bring Assad without any delay to him, and yet could think of nothing else than the weight his fate had thrown on Jack again like it had no other aim than increasing the amount of anguish the man had to suffer from.
And when he finally reached him it was worse. But the worst of all was that he understood, that he wished him to stop, that he wanted him to leave it all behind, to stay away from the people who used him, who would never recognize what he did, who would never thank him for his sacrifices, who would demand more and more each single day without giving an explanation, without giving him a reason or a single hint that they would understand what he had done his whole life.
No matter how much Bill craved for Jack’s presence in this struggle, how much he craved for him to stand up with him, to support him and to be supported, he had to let him go, to give him this break, even if it might be too late.
Only minutes had to pass to show him how late it really was. What everybody had resisted to imagine since the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had happened in his town, on the day Jack had returned.
And now he was gone, away, separated from him by the chaos ruling the streets, by the panic turning normal people into ticking time bombs, unforeseeable and explosive, by a catastrophe America hadn’t experienced until this day.
And while everybody in CTU stared on the monitors trying to understand what happened during this moment, Bill’s thoughts were with Jack who had broken their connection, who had build up this front by making clear that his decision was final, that their separation inevitable.
And the fear grew, his fear that he really wouldn’t come back, that he had lost him, that Jack would walk the way voluntarily Bill knew his teams had taken.
Alone, unreachable in the distance, far away from him, Jack fought the pain, far away from the tiny little chance Bill had always carried inside for the last years, the little chance that Jack would learn one day, one very special day about his hidden feelings, that Bill would despite each resistance find the strength to talk, if not with words than maybe in another way, a way which couldn’t be misunderstood.

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