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Fandom: 24, Castle
Characters: Jack Bauer, Kate Beckett
Pairings: Bauer/Beckett
Rating: PG-13 (this segment only)
Summary: It's Beckett's turn to help Jack out, though in the process she finds out a couple things she's not sure she wants to.
Spoilers: Vague spoilers for S2 of Castle, S3 of 24.
Warnings: Mentions of drug use.



Beckett tried to discreetly pull the damp fabric of her silk blouse away from the skin of her back as she walked through the halls of the NYC Criminal Court, debating whether she should take off her jacket. Pro: she was going to get hotter walking to her car, and it'd be one less layer between her and the A/C once she got there. Con: with the way the A/C in the courthouse was working (or not working, for that matter), she was pretty sure the back of her blouse was damp enough to show exactly where the witness chair had pressed against her back with a big sweaty spot. Not exactly the professional image she wanted to convey.

She left it on, deciding to just tough it out for a couple more minutes. At least she'd taken her car today, not the train. She'd reasoned that after spending a day in court, trying to make her way through rush-hour traffic was preferable to descending into the bowels of hell known as the MTA, or at least that's what the platform temperatures felt like.

At least the sweating she'd been doing had simply been because of the temperature. Police still had to give testimony, even when the cases were a slam dunk like this one, provided the defendant was too stupid to plead guilty. This guy had been about as sharp as a butter knife, and while she tried not to get cocky, saying the evidence was so solid it was just about bulletproof wasn't an exaggeration. Prints on the weapon, security camera footage of the entire incident, the suspect caught in the act of trying to use the victim's credit card to buy beer, along with a few other things. Easy conviction.

That didn't mean she wasn't looking forward to getting home and sliding into the tub with a glass of wine. Being bored out of her skull with waiting to testify and batting off the cross examination questions like mosquitoes was still wearing.

As she pushed one of the Center St. exit doors open, however, she got a pleasant--and cooler--surprise. Instead of facing a gauntlet of cabs in front of the city court to get to the parking lot across the street, she saw the familiar sight of Milliways. Even better; now she could change her shirt, or dip her feet in the lake before she had to deal with traffic.

Those plans took a detour, however, when she stopped at the bar to pick up her room key and received a note along with it.

You'll want to check the infirmary before you go up.

Beckett felt something in her stomach tighten, and without asking for clarification, she turned on her heel and sprinted for the infirmary doors. Inside, most of the beds were empty, so it took only a heartbeat of a second--one heartbeat too long, with the amount of adrenaline pulsing through her veins--before she spotted a familiar face. Near the back of the room, Jack lay in one of the beds, sleeping--God, she hoped he was sleeping--soundly, his heavily-bandaged right hand resting on a pillow next to him. He looked paler, thinner than the last time she'd seen him, or maybe it was just the illusion of seeing him in the larger-than-standard hospital bed, surrounded by white cotton.

She approached him slowly, the sound of her heels tapping against the tiled floor seeming so loud she was sure it would wake him. Her heart rate spiked as her imagination ran away with her and all the worst-case scenarios--had someone come after him outside? Had he gone to help a friend in another world and gotten hurt?--came rushing at her. Her rational mind kicked in by the time she reached his side, however, though it didn't help much. He wasn't hooked up to any of the machines around the bed, so he couldn't be hurt too badly. She couldn't see any other injuries, though that wasn't much reassurance considering the scrubs and blankets could hide a multitude of sins.

They didn't quite cover everything, though. The sleeves of the scrubs only went to his elbows, and as she stood by his bedside, she could see a number of scars on his arms, ranging from soft pink to white with age, some looking like cuts, some like burns. She wouldn't need to ask him where they were from; she knew where he'd been for nearly two years, knew what human rights groups reported about the treatment of Chinese prisoners and assumed that wasn't the worst of it. As an enemy agent, Jack wouldn't have gotten off lightly.

But knowing and seeing were two different things. These were the things that put that haunted look in Jack's eyes sometimes, the scars behind that thousand-yard stare. At the moment, Beckett wasn't sure she wanted to see any more, just yet, and not just because she knew Jack wouldn't want her to.

Jack shifted in the bed and Beckett jumped, another shot of adrenaline hitting her system. She closed her eyes for a moment and took a deep breath, berating herself for being so damn jumpy. Placing a hand on Jack's arm, she called his name softly, hopefully giving him a warning that someone was right next to him before he woke up.

His eyes blinked open, and there was a moment where he stared dully at her, almost as though he didn't know who she was, before she saw recognition click. Even then, he seemed to look through her, his eyes a little glazed and when he spoke his words were slow and slurred. She hoped it was the result of painkillers, not something more sinister.

"Hey, Beckett. When did you get here?"

"Just a minute ago. What happened to your hand? Did you get hurt?" she asked, trying not to sound as concerned as she felt.

"My hand?" he asked, raising his head from his pillow for a moment to peer at it, a look of struggling concentration on his face. "Oh. That. Jus' decided I didn' want the scar anymore. Too obvious. This seemed like th' best place for someone t' do it."

"Do you have to stay down here long?" Beckett asked.

"For the moment, yeah."

A voice piped up from the office to her right. "He knows damn well he can go back up to his room if he's got someone to keep an eye on him until the last of the anaesthetic and the heavy painkillers wears off."

Beckett turned to see Dr. Cottle, ship's doctor from the Battlestar Galactica, sticking his head out of the office. His ever-present cigarette dangled from between his lips, and as usual he looked like he'd been running on coffee for the last 24 hours. Beckett had to wonder if the look was permanently etched into him by now.

Looking back at Jack, she caught a slight grimace crossing his face. "And you probably didn't tell anyone about this," she said to Jack, her expression stern.

Jack had the grace to glance away. "Didn' want anyone makin' a fuss."

"Well you sure won't be getting that here," Cottle said in his usual gruff tone.

Beckett sighed, tempted to just leave Jack in here as he'd obviously planned to tough it out in the infirmary from the beginning, despite how much he hated the place. Somehow, though, she couldn't do it; she was such a sucker.

"You don't have to worry about dealing with him, Doc. I'll keep an eye on him." So much for sticking her feet in the lake.

"Beckett--" Jack started to protest, but she silenced him with a look.

"No arguing. What do I need to take with us, Doc?"

In the space of a few minutes, Beckett had fetched anything Jack needed from the bar and they started to make their slow, shuffling way upstairs. Jack wasn't very steady on his feet, though that may have been because of Beckett's choice of footwear for him: a pair of fuzzy, plush bear-paw slippers. She'd picked them primarily because she knew Jack would hate them; a kind of advance revenge for her having to deal with a difficult patient.

At the moment, however, she was finding him surprisingly docile. Whatever Cottle had given him, it was good stuff.

"I feel like Bigfoot in these things," Jack said, lifting one slippered foot up the stairs at a time. "Or like 'm waitin' for someone t' give me the rest of the Goofy costume at Disneyland."

"Last time I checked, Goofy wasn't a bear," Beckett said, trying to hide her smile.

"Y'know what I mean. My memory's just kinda fuzzy right now. Everythin''s kinda fuzzy. The good kind."

"Well I guess the good kind is better than the bad kind," she said, trying not to laugh. Really, it wouldn't be fair.

"Yeah. I should ask Doc what he gave me. Whatever it is, it's better 'n heroin, an' I didn't think it could get better 'n that."

Beckett's smile froze on her lips, and she stumbled slightly over the top step. That didn't sound like someone talking about what they'd heard; it sounded like the voice of experience. Could Jack really...?

"Sure he didn't give you some, too?" Jack said with a slight chuckle, and she pulled herself together. She needed to focus on getting Jack to his room and lying down.

It was easy enough to do, as the moment they walked in, Jack flopped down on the bed without even bothering to shed the slippers. With a mumbled "thanks, Beckett," he swiftly dropped off to sleep, leaving Beckett with questions she couldn't ignore.

She wasn't naive. She'd known a few colleagues that had been suspended because of a drinking problem. Two years earlier, the vice squad had busted a couple of New York's own in a drug smuggling and dealing ring; both users that had been blackmailed into helping their dealers circumvent the system. Every cop had their vice, their way of dealing with the things they saw every day. Not all of them were healthy, or legal.

Considering all the things Jack had seen and done, she couldn't judge him if he had turned to drugs, but the thought that he might have made her inexpressibly sad and maybe a little unreasonably disappointed.

That didn't mean she could be sure that he was using, or that he had in the past. Somehow it didn't seem like the Jack she knew. At the same time though, she couldn't ignore what he'd said, and couldn't imagine how she was going to ask him about it when he woke up.

She was placing a pillow under his bandaged hand when she realized there was another way to find out. If he was using, there would be evidence. There might be track marks on the inside of his arms, even if he used different injection sites, and he did wear long sleeves, no matter what the weather...

She hesitated, uncertain. Looking would mean she didn't trust him, and he'd have a right to be angry with her later for it. But what if he was using? Was it her duty as a friend to try and help? And if she didn't check, would she even be able to look him in the eye and not wonder?

The argument went back and forth in her mind, flip-flopping each way with each passing second until she finally got to her feet and walked out of the room, away from temptation. If she looked, she wasn't any better than Castle had been, digging into her mother's case, though part of her said that maybe that had been a good thing. That if he hadn't, maybe no one would have caught the similarities with the body that had come in a few months later that led them to her mother's assassin.

This wasn't the same, though. Jack had a hard time trusting people; she needed to trust him if she wanted him to do the same in return, and if he trusted her and he was using, then maybe she could help.

Somehow, though, that thought wasn't much of a comfort.

*

A few hours later, Beckett let herself back into Jack's room to find him starting to stir. The painkillers were likely finally wearing off, as he winced when he moved his hand.

Placing her cup of coffee on the bedside table, Beckett walked into the bathroom and filled a glass with water before shaking two of the painkillers Cottle had given them into her hand, and was back by his side by the time he was blinking up at her in confusion.

"Beckett? What are you doing here?" he asked, still a little groggy, but obviously with a clearer mind than before.

"I volunteered to keep an eye on you so you could come back up here instead of staying in the infirmary. How're you feeling?" she asked, realizing that even to her, she didn't sound quite as welcoming as she usually would have; that there was something awkward in her tone.

It was too much to hope that Jack hadn't noticed, either, and she caught a curious look from him as he sat up. "My hand hurts like hell, but that shouldn't be a surprise."

"Here, take this," she said, holding out the pills and the water. Jack looked at the pills a little warily for a moment before he finally popped them in his mouth.

"Did I say or do something to make things awkward? I don't really remember coming up here."

She probably should have expected him to cut to the chase, though she had to wonder what he was thinking he might have said. Probably that he'd made a pass at her or something; if he had any inkling of what it was, she was pretty sure he wouldn't have asked, because asking would have meant talking about something he wasn't likely to want to.

Beckett hesitated a moment, not sure she wanted to get into it. But while part of her wanted to pretend it never happened, part of her wanted to know the truth, and needed to trust Jack that he'd tell her.

"When we were coming up here...you said you should ask Doc Cottle what it was that he'd given you. That it was better than heroin, and you hadn't thought that was possible." Her voice might have been even, but she couldn't quite meet his eyes as she spoke.

Jack swung his legs over the edge of the bed as she started to speak, as though he was planning on getting to his feet. He froze, however, when she mentioned heroin.

"You've checked for track marks." A statement, not a question.

This time she did look at him, though he wasn't looking at her. She owed him that much, at least. "No, I didn't. I trusted you to tell me." He didn't need to know how hard it had been to not look, however.

With barely a glance in her direction, he turned his right arm outward, showing her the inside of his elbow. In the light from the lamp, she could see small scars from puncture wounds--ones that had likely been infected at some point--as well as a few collapsed veins, but nothing from the last few months at least. "There's your answer."

"But you've used before."

He turned toward her, levelling her with a hard stare. "I've been clean for seven years, not counting the time I've been in here."

"I'm not judging you, Jack. I wanted to know so I could help."

"Well I don't need it, so you get off easy. Though I notice you don't seem surprised. I can't tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing."

"You've been through a lot that I know about, and I know that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your past," she said, matter-of-fact. "I found out a long time ago that even the best people are still human. I wasn't going to blame you for trying to find some way to cope."

Beckett looked at him, tilting her head for a moment as the real source of Jack's anger suddenly hit her. "But you probably do that enough on your own."

Jack's quick, narrowed glance her way was all the confirmation she needed.

Taking a seat next to him on the bed she asked, softly, "How did it start? I can't imagine you just deciding to use something like heroin."

Jack's jaw tensed. "It was an undercover operation. CTU needed someone to get in with a South American drug cartel as they were branching out to dealing with terrorists, trading weapons for drugs. I needed an in, needed something they thought they could exploit."

"So you started buying from their dealers."

"They were dealing in a lot of it, as they were getting it from Afghanistan. It got me a way in with their people in L.A., who could then vouch for me to their higher-ups. I was under for six months before we brought them down."

"I take it you got pretty high up in their organization."

"Third in command." There was no pride in his achievement in his voice; not that Beckett had expected it.

Getting to that point would have meant doing a lot of things--unsavory, horrible things--to get to that position in the cartel and stay there. Things that probably hurt a lot of people, even innocent people. Things that she wasn't sure she wanted to know about, but which she could imagine would haunt someone who was just trying to do the right thing, trying make the world a better place, but who had to get their hands very dirty in the process.

"And when you got back?" she asked, though she knew where it was heading and her stomach sank with the thought.

Jack's jaw tensed again, his voice more strained. "It wasn't exactly easy to stop."

"But you got clean."

"CTU found out on one of those days when the shit hits the fan. I went to rehab, and not long after I got back, they fired me," Jack said with a grimace.

"It doesn't seem fair, but I can't say I'm surprised," Beckett said, honestly. If she hadn't known Jack personally, if it was just a story she'd heard about someone else in the department, she would have believed CTU had a right to fire him. Not even that it would have been a decision between right and wrong, it would have been expected. A foregone conclusion.

"Yeah. Wasn't like I'd been a total Boy Scout before that, anyway."

"It must not have been easy."

"It wasn't. But I realized that if I wanted any kind of a life, I needed to get out of field work anyway." He didn't need to add that obviously whatever he'd found after he'd come to that decision, it hadn't lasted.

After a moment of digesting everything he'd told her, though, she voiced the one question she still wanted an answer to; for his sake, not for her own curiosity, particularly as it was another one where she had the depressing feeling that she already knew the answer. "Do you still have cravings?"

There was another pause before Jack replied, not looking at her. "Almost every goddamn day."

All those times she'd come in the bar and found Jack more than a little drunk or obviously nursing a hangover, she'd thought he was just trying to drown the memories that haunted him. Now she understood there was another reason: it was the vice he indulged in to try and forget the desire for another, more destructive one.

She placed a hand on his arm. "Thanks for telling me." Even if it was something she probably could have lived without hearing, it was part of who Jack was. She couldn't stick her head in the sand, pretend that Jack had never done anything wrong. If she really wanted to be a friend, she needed to accept the bad with the good, even if it was difficult to hear or think about.

Jack glanced at her, as if knowing what she was thinking. His own disgust and self-blame for his past was written clearly in his expression.

"Feel like getting something to eat?" Beckett asked as she got to her feet, eager to end the awkward moment and get some time to think about everything he'd told her.

Jack looked up at her for a moment, staring intently at her face before nodding slowly. "Just let me get changed and we can go down."

Beckett's eyes narrowed. "You sure you should? You've just had surgery and you were out of it for a while. You should probably take it easy and let me bring something up."

Jack levelled a stare at her. "You going to stop me?"

The only way she actually stop him was by knocking him out, and they both knew she wasn't going to do that.

Beckett sighed in frustration, though there was something comforting about being back on what felt like a more normal footing with Jack. Pestering him to take care of himself, she could handle. "If you start feeling woozy or pass out, I'm getting someone else to carry you to the infirmary and this time you can stay there."

Jack's mouth curled up in a ghost of a smile. "Deal."
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