Summary: Jack tells Kate he's leaving.
A/N: Don't own anything from 24. Can you take any more of this? I might have to take a break for a while. But in the meantime, "Loov harts."
He wished he could be high for this; it would make it so much easier. The idea that he could even think that scared him a little, even as it reassured him that he was making the right decision. He didn’t want her to have to watch this, nor to wait around until it was over.
He owed it to her to be sober. She deserved her that, and more. He entered the kitchen and poured himself a coffee before turning to her.
“Kate, we need to talk.” His hands gripped the mug, grateful for something solid to hold on to.
Kate lowered the newspaper she had been reading. “Sure, Jack. What’s up?”
He ran a hand through his hair and moved to the table, pulling out the chair next to her and setting his coffee on the table. “I have to go away.”
Kate blanched. “Away? Where are you going, Jack?”
He looked her in the eye. “It’s for work. I may be gone for several months.”
He was surprised when she relaxed a bit. What had she been thinking?
Then her forehead wrinkled. “Are you going undercover?”
Jack couldn’t respond; she knew that. He gave her his answer by looking at her steadily.
Something must have clicked, because a look of relief washed over her face. “Is that why you’ve been using drugs?”
He blinked. “What?”
“Oh, come on, Jack. I’m not that naive. The mood swings, the loss of appetite, the erratic behaviour…” He got the sense that she knew more than that. Shit. He obviously hadn’t hid it as well as he thought he had.
Jack leaned back in his chair and ran his hand down his face. “Oh, god, Kate.” He was ashamed at how selfish he’d been.
“I thought it was because of me.” Her voice was small, quiet, as her finger traced the edge of the newspaper.
“What? Kate, listen to me,” he pulled his chair a bit closer and reached a hand out to her face, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’m so sorry. I had hoped that you wouldn’t have to find out. I never wanted you to get hurt.”
She tilted her head to rub her cheek against his hand. “I’m just surprised CTU is okay with this. It seems pretty risky. I’m glad they’re supervising you.”
His hand stilled and he looked up to the ceiling. “They don’t know.”
Kate gripped his hand, pulling it down in front of her. “What? Jack, are you insane?” she asked sharply.
“Kate, they can’t know,” he said miserably. “They’ll think, they’ll think it’s because of Teri and they won’t let me go on the mission.” His eyes met hers again. “But it’s the only way for me to get in with these guys.”
He could see her considering this, weighing it in her mind. “I think you’re nuts. Do you know how dangerous this is? What if you get hooked?”
“I won’t get hooked, Kate,” he lied. Judging by the way he was feeling, he was pretty sure he already was.
She laughed bitterly. “That’s what everyone thinks.”
“Kate, you have to trust me on this.”
They sat there silently for a few moments.
Kate sighed. “When will you be back?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will I get to see you?”
“No. Kate –” Jack took a deep breath. He hated what he was about to do, but it was necessary. “I don’t want you to wait for me.”
“What?” There it was: the look of surprise and hurt. Once again, he was inflicting pain on someone he cared about. “Jack, of course I’ll wait.”
“No, Kate, you can’t.”
“What do you mean? You won’t be gone for ever.” She shook her head slowly in confusion.
Jack pushed away and stood up, turning his back to her. “Dammit, Kate! Can’t you understand?” He gripped the back of his neck and faced her, tears in his eyes. “I can’t let you be touched by this. If my cover gets blown, they might come after you. I can’t risk having them find you.” His voice was ragged. “I can’t let it happen again.”
Kate stood and went to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and tucking her head into his chest. “I don’t want to lose you, Jack,” she whispered. He could feel his shirt getting damp from her tears. He held her close and kissed the top of her head. What could he say? What could he possibly say?
“Listen, Jack,” she leaned back so he could see her face. “Let’s not make any decisions now. Let’s see how it goes. I’ll lay low, and when you’re done, you can come back and we’ll take it from there.’
He shifted his eyes away from her. “You may not want me back.”
“Why? Because of the drugs?” He wished she’d stop talking about that. “I agree that’s not ideal. I don’t want you to do that to yourself. Frankly, I think it’s stupid.” Her raised hand prevented him from interrupting. “Let me finish. I know you, Jack.” She moved her had to his face. “You are a good person. Whatever happens, that person will still be in there.”
He gave a little half laugh and rubbed his forehead. “I just don’t think it’s a good idea. Kate, you’ve said yourself: I’ve already changed. Who knows who I’ll be in six months, or however long this takes?”
“I’m not ready to give up on you, Jack.”
She was too good for him. Her kindness gripped his heart, and the thought of anything happening to her because of this…It was time to be brutal. His voice was harsh. “Kate, you’re not listening to me. I don’t want you to wait for me.” I don’t want to do to you what I did to Teri.
Kate jerked back as if he had slapped her. “Oh. I – oh.” She turned and started tidying the newspaper nervously.
Behind her, Jack raised his hand as if to comfort her, then let it fall. “I’ll pack my things today.” He turned his back and went towards the bedroom. As he left, he could hear the soft sounds of her crying.