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Fandom: 24
Characters: Jack Bauer
Rating: R
Summary: After weeks, months in China, Jack has learned a few valuable lessons.
Spoilers: Pre-season 6
Warnings: Torture, psychological trauma
Challenges: Written for the psych_30 challenge, prompt #20 - Learned Helplessness
Originally written: June 19, 2006

After the first week or two, he spent his days waiting for the sound of heavy boots on the floor. He never had to wait long.

Of course he'd tried to fight back at first, tried to think of ways to escape, to keep himself sane. If he could catch one of the guards off-guard and get his weapon, he'd have a better chance of fighting his way out. Once he escaped could live off the land, make shelters, evade captors that came hunting for him; it had all been part of his training so many years ago when he'd been accepted to Special Forces. It was just that first hurdle; once he could get beyond the walls of this place, he would be free.

But that first hurdle was too high. There were never less than two guards who came to drag him from his cell, and the one time he'd tried to move for the guard's weapon, he'd gotten a steel-toed boot in his ribs for his trouble, and that was just to begin with. The injuries piled up, and the few times he was dragged outside to be tied to a tree, dangling from ropes tied to his wrists for hours on end, showed that wherever they were, winter was setting in. It was getting colder, and if he escaped his chances for survival were getting narrower.

After three, or four, or maybe even five weeks--he couldn't be sure, with no windows and the lights left on all the time, woken from sleep every hour--he wouldn't even look up when they came in. His left arm had been broken and badly re-set, so that it was no longer straight. He'd torn a lignament in his knee, giving him a painful limp the few times he could actually walk, instead of being dragged. He'd lost weight, his muscle tone disappearing after being locked in a seven-by-seven-foot room, too dizzy from sleep deprivation and malnutrition, too injured to stand on many occasions.

It wasn't worth it to fight back; all it did was intensify the torture until he was ready to beg for death, if he thought anyone would listen. They wouldn't, of course, the only thought that stilled his tongue from crying out with his pleas. That, and the small spark of pride he had left that wouldn't give them the satisfaction.

He let them drag him from place to place, do what they wanted, because there was nothing he could do to change it, except hide away that one part of him they couldn't touch. That place he went in his mind, the fantasies becoming more and more elaborate, more comforting with every day, until he wasn't sure why he was pulling himself back to the real world at all.

The cool air outside became the chill of air conditioning turned too high in an L.A. restaraunt. He was meeting Kim over lunch, to talk about things. She was still distant, still wary of being drawn into his world, but they were making progress, which was all he could hope for. And now that he had his name back and was working only for himself, consulting, he could make time for her whenever he liked. Voices faded to a murmur, hands on his body were Audrey's as he climbed into bed at night and she curled around him, whispering sweet nothings in his ear.

He slipped into that other world like slipping between warm sheets, wrapping himself in it, warm, safe, and sheltered from anything anyone in the real world could ever do to him.

Day after day, they dragged him out of his cell, beat him, tortured him, shouted a barrage of questions at him. He didn't fight back, didn't say anything; he didn't have to. He was free.

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