Well, here it is. The final chapter of this very odd tale.
twentyfour.mad: Heh, yeah, lots of thought went into this. Maybe a tad too much! ;p Thanks for the compliment and sticking with the story from beginning to end!
Weatherfac: I'm glad that you've enjoyed the story and don't want it to end! That means a lot. I hope you like the final chapter as well.
Disclaimer: Still, I own nothing but the plot. All characters are from their respective movies/tv shows which belong to their respective companies.
David growled. "Death is the answer? Then I'll help you all to it."
With a roar so ferocious it momentarily froze Jack and Mick in their tracks, David lunged towards Jack, the closer of the pair, his face transforming into that horrible demonic guise before their eyes. Jack lifted the weapon to fire but David came in close and fast, grabbing the gun with one hand and striking towards the agent with the other. Jack let go with one hand to block the strike and fought David for control of the weapon. David had more power, but Jack knew how to maneuver a body. Calculated placement of his knee on the inside of David's leg and a shift in weight forced the knee to bend, tripping the vampire and causing him to take several surprised steps backward. Jack, following to keep the vampire close, tried without luck to twist the dangerous weapon from his opponent's hold as he barely kept David's other arm locked harmlessly at his side.
To the side Schreber shouted once for them to stop before retreating several steps fearfully as Jack and David's struggle brought them closer. Mick aimed his weapon, attempting vainly to find a good target, but David and Jack were moving around too quickly and he couldn't fire for fear of hitting Jack. Finally the detective gave up and moved in to help the agent manually.
Just then two shots sounded sharply and two shells from Jack's gun, still held by both the agent and the vampire, fell to the floor with a dull jingle.
Jack watched in horror, David shouted in anger, and Schrerber averted his gaze as Mickey Hayden, crystal blue eyes wide with shock and agony, took a faltering step then collapsed. He was dead by the time he hit the floor, dark red blood seeping out from two holes in his chest to stain his light shirt.
The following silence was deafening and seemed to drag out forever.
'How had this happened?' Jack wondered. 'How had things spiraled so badly out of control?'
"No!" David growled again, giving up on the weapon and stepping away. Jack had no doubt that the creature was only upset because Mick had failed to give him what he wanted before dying. The creature's yellow eyes, narrowed into slits, suddenly turned away from Mick and he spun to the side where Schreber was standing, staring aghast at the scene, but quite oblivious of David's sudden attention until it was too late.
David grabbed the psychiatrist roughly. With one hand he yanked one of the doctor's arms behind his back into a painful lock. The other the vampire wrapped around Schreber's neck in a proficient choke. Not only was it proficient, but if David twisted his arm up and to the side, he could efficiently snap Schreber's neck.
"David, freeze!" Jack shouted, aiming the weapon he still held. The weapon that had caused the death of Mick Hayden. David kept himself low behind the frightened doctor, remaining out of Jack's line of sight.
"Go ahead, Bauer, shoot. You'll be doing him a favor. I'm sure he'd rather die by your hand than mine. Even though I'd make it quick," David replied, emphasizing the last word by tightening his arm around Schreber's throat. Schreber choked and struggled against the offending vice-like arm, but to no avail.
"Stop!" Jack ordered, or maybe he begged. He wasn't sure anymore. "Let him go!"
"Oh, that's right. You still don't believe death is the answer."
"Mick's not gone, David. He didn't disappear and go back to some fantasy world. He's right there. Dead!" Jack exclaimed.
"This isn't our place!" David shouted back, twisting Schreber's arm in aggravation until he whimpered. "Can't you see that? You can't contact anyone you know because they don't exist here!"
"If they don't exist here, then they don't exist anywhere!" Jack exclaimed.
"Then I guess your deaths will be solely for pleasure."
Jack saw the glint in David's eyes and he started forward with a shout on his lips, but something stopped him. As David's arm began to twist Jack met Daniel Schreber's eyes. The psychiatrist looked back at him assuringly, his gaze almost soothing and it caused Jack to freeze in disbelief.
And then it was over. Jack stood there, his breathing shaky from anger and horror as the timid doctor's body was dropped carelessly to the floor. Why was this happening? Why couldn't he save anyone? How could he have let things get so out of hand?
Suddenly Jack found himself shouting, his anger and guilt bringing him a single focus. "You sunnovabitch!"
Jack dodged right and fired off his weapon even as David dodged in the opposite direction. The creature's speed was amazing, but Jack knew as he watched David leap deftly over Schreber's body and dive effortlessly behind a desk, that the creature was only toying with him.
"Watch your language, Jack! The children might be watching," David laughed from his place of hiding.
Emotion and adrenaline continued to focus Jack until they'd melded and melted away into pure tactics and instinct. He scanned the room in a split second then charged for the door, firing a few rounds into the desk for cover. A plan was already forming in his mind as he made it to the stairs and took them two at a time.
"This is how it should be, Bauer!"
David's unearthly voice echoed up the stairwell and off the walls making him sound like his was everywhere at once. Jack didn't pause his ascent, but was the smallest bit relieved that David was following, leaving Sutherland behind and for the moment, forgotten.
"It's just the two of us in the hunt that everyone's been waiting for!" David chuckled and Jack could just imagine the menacing smirk.
Jack scanned the area he was in, knowing he had only seconds. David might look like a kid, even act like one, but there was wisdom in his eyes that came only with time and experience. What the agent had earlier taken as an arrogant, pretentious nature and a teenager's overconfidence, Jack now recognized as a dangerous intelligence and, perhaps, an older soul.
Maybe David had been an amateur at torture, but this was his element now, Jack knew. Hunting. But Jack was a hunter too, which is why he knew David's taunts were not just taunts. The building's design and composition resulted in the strange echoing of sounds, making it difficult to tell where they had originated from. The echoes hid David's true location in a blanket of distorted sound.
That's why Jack dove into the closest room, closing the door silently behind him and staying put. The best way to win this was to bring the vampire to him.
David's footsteps didn't make a sound as he climbed the stairs. The vampire watched the open space above him in case the agent decided to fire over the rail. He wasn't counting on it, though. Jack had to know that would only succeed in giving away his position
"Jack!" His call bounced off the walls and echoed up the winding staircase. Why the staircase went up through the center of the building he didn't know, but it did wonders for the acoustics. "It's the final showdown. The hero and the villain!"
David paused, listening intently to how his voice echoed before deciding yet again that the media's whole comparing vampire to bats thing was highly over-dramatized. He blamed Dracula.
Although David and his pack from back home had a thing for hanging upside down while they slept, they did not turn into bats, hang around bats, talk to bats, or anything weird like that. He'd be perfectly happy if he never ran into a bat again, but if there was one thing David envied of the little flying critters, it was the whole echolocation thing. Now that would be a neat trick.
As it was, however, David's echoes bounced meaninglessly off walls and other objects revealing nothing of his prey's location. It did, oddly enough, hide him from Jack in a far more eerie way than simply hunting him down in silence.
"The hero and the villain," David repeated. "Just like Sutherland's movies, I bet."
The vampire paused to inhale deeply. There it was. The scent of his prey. Who needed echolocation! It smelled of sweat and gunpowder, but hardly as much fear as he liked.
"Here's a question for you though: Which one of us is really the villain here? You're the one who wanted to stop me from helping the others go home."
David chuckled. He was a floor below Jack now so he paused and glanced up. Human or no, Jack was trained to hunt and kill, but the fact that he had to consider his prey's moves only made the game more interesting.
"I'm the one trying to save everyone!" David exclaimed. "So really... I'm the hero. You're the villain!"
Against the wall opposite the door, Jack waited, partly hidden behind a couch. The shoddy piece of furniture wouldn't stop a bullet if David had decided to filch Mick Hayden's gun, but it was better than nothing.
The agent doubted his enemy would have picked up the weapon anyway. Although it would add to the advantages David already possessed, it wasn't his style.
He listened to David's proclamation of heroism and stifled a snort of disgust. He doubted highly that David truly thought he was doing anything but getting rid of possible threats.
Minutes past and Jack's gun, held outstretched before him began to feel heavy in his arms. What was David waiting for? The agent didn't believe that David simply couldn't find him. Was he waiting for Jack to slip up? To make a move too soon?
The sudden noise startled Jack, but in an instant he was focused once again.
"One more question and then it'll all be over," David called.
Jack found himself swallowing hard as he waited. David's voice echoed through the building, but there was something slightly different about it now. Jack tightened his grip on his trusted weapon, a deep breath of cool morning air, seeping in from the partially open window to his left, relaxing him for the final struggle. David called out his question.
"How do you feel about snakes?"
Jack lifted an eyebrow. Snakes? What did that have to do with...
In his hands Jack felt something squirm. The agent's gaze focused in on his hands and in the blink of an eye he realized that his fingers were laced not around his gun, but a writhing black adder.
The agent's eyes widened in surprise as the venomous snake turned its head his way and let out a long, low hiss. For a split second Jack was torn between the urge to toss the thing away and incredulity at its presence in his grip.
His hesitation paid off and suddenly the door to the room burst open, nearly breaking off its hinges. The noise shocked Jack out of his confusion and suddenly he was holding only his weapon once again. Before he could wonder at David's strange power, the vampire shot into the room, strafing towards Jack's left. The agent switched back to hunting mode and took new aim with the 9mm, trying to keep up with David's movements.
Then David moved in towards him and Jack fired off several rounds. Smoke wafted off the weapon as he fired again and again, but somehow the creature had learned from his earlier mistakes and was anticipating his shots with an astounding accuracy and, unscathed, David continued his advance.
And then David was upon him. The vampire went for the gun, swiping Jack's arms out wide and causing the agent to spin left. Jack went with his newfound momentum and stepped with it. His left hand released his weapon and he continued his spin, leaving his back open to David for a dangerous second before coming around hard and fast with a back fist directed at his opponent's head.
David was forced to dodge at an awkward angle to avoid the fist, but while doing so he twisted the wrist he still held, forcing Jack to reflexively release his gun.
"Not bad, Jack," David replied as the gun hit the floor.
With a growl Jack spun back, twisting his trapped wrist and pulling it close to him. David lost hishold and as soon as Jack's arm was free it went up to jab David in the face. The vampire tried to dodge, but didn't quite get out of the way and the fist glanced painfully off his cheekbone with a force that would otherwise have crushed his nose.
"Not bad at all!" David replied, enjoying this far too much.
Another jab momentarily wiped the smile off his face as he was forced to block. The next series of strikes had the vampire blocking, dodging, and occasionally taking a hit.
"So, what's your plan, David?" the agent demanded through his heated blows. "Kill me then kill yourself? Go back home?"
David smirked. "I don't know. Maybe I'll hang around for a bit first." The vampire bared his teeth, fangs gleaming despite the dim light. "Maybe I'll have a better look at the locals."
Anger boiled in Jack as he thought of all the innocents that would be at this murderer's mercy. "So you want to stay in Los Angeles." It wasn't a question.
"Not forever. I've got family to go back to. What about you, Jack?" David questioned, more than eager to make Jack the one in the hotseat. "Do you have a family?"
The question stung Jack and he swung hard. David blocked it easily, more easily than before. It was as if Jack's pain was invigorating him somehow.
"Maybe I should look them up while I'm here. They've got to have their own counterparts, just like we have Sutherland."
Jack swung again and followed up with a knee, his expression a mask of something between fury and stoicism, but again, David blocked.
"Maybe an old girlfriend, hm? A wife?"
David darted forward and struck Jack hard in the chest, sending the agent stumbling backwards until he hit the wall. Jack glared at him as he wheezed, trying to take back the air that had been knocked viciously from his lungs.
"How about children, Jack?" David stalked slowly towards his prey. His black leather boots hardly making a sound as they hit the wooden floorboards. Jack tried to straighten, to prepare himself, but he couldn't seem to get his legs to work the way he wanted. The man set his jaw stiffly as the doppelganger approached, his hands pressed against the wall as if trying to use it to stabilize him. "You do, don't you. You're thinking of it-her- right now. Never going to see her again?"
Suddenly David was right in front of him, his coat swaying from a movement so fast Jack had hardly seen it. David's hands, no longer gloved and as pale as his face, were around Jack's throat before he'd even finished registering David's presence. A searing pain shot from the tear in Jack's neck and he cried out despite himself, one hand grasping futilely at David's arms. David only grinned and began lifting the agent up.
"Well, we'll see soon enough, won't we. It's been... fun," David said simply.
And that's when David noticed something strange about the hand Jack had been using to try to free him. It wasn't trying to free him at all… It was keeping David close. It seemed like slow motion as David looked from that gripping hand to the other which had slipped unnoticed behind Jack's back, beneath his hooded sweater, and was now coming back around front, striking right towards David's chest with something sharp gripped in the fist. The vampire tried to move, but Jack's first hand still held him in place. The vampire's eyes went wide and he stared in surprise into Jack's eyes -his own eyes- as the hidden weapon drove straight into David's chest.
With a shocked howl of sheer agony, David released Jack who dropped onto his feet, coughing heavily, his stern yet somehow sad eyes never leaving the dying creature before him. David took a faltering step back then fell to his knees, his eyes scrunched closed, and a moan escaping his lips as he grasped futilely at the broken wooden chair leg that protruded from his chest. Jack shifted to his left, but didn't leave. Somehow David managed to open his eyes and he looked up questioningly at Jack. The agent might not have been a mind reader, but he understood the query.
"I still don't believe in vampires," Jack told him. "But I figure… a wooden stake to the heart will kill anyone."
David stared incredulously for a moment, blood dribbling from his pale lips and seeping through his black shirt. Then he smirked and bowed his head. In defeat, Jack thought, until he heard a low growl from his opponent. The sound erupted into a roar as David used every last bit of strength he had to drive himself up and straight into Jack. Stunned Jack didn't understand the full meaning of David's attack until he was flying backward, still tangled with his doppelganger, right into the window.
Jack's eyes went wide as David's tackle took them both straight through the glass and suddenly Jack felt his heart in his throat as he and David began the ten story plummet.
'This is it…' Jack thought and he found himself wanting to believe, truly wanting to believe, that death was a way back home, back to a place where the world made some kind of sense.
Jack instinctively put up his arm to protect his face as, beside him, flames suddenly flared up off of David as rays from the sun peeking through the clouds struck him. Somehow still alive, Jack could hear the weakened creature's cry of agony begin anew past the deafening sound of wind rushing in his ears.
He pulled his gaze from David only to be looking at the ground that was flying up to meet him and he found that he couldn't look away...
The sound of his own name was what brought him to. He jumped in surprise, hands flying out in front of him for protection.
"Whoa, easy, Jack," came the feminine voice again.
Jack looked up into the familiar face of Michelle Dessler. His curly haired coworker looked down at him with concern. Taking a moment, Jack looked around him.
He was seated on a cold tiled floor, his back pressed against a cool cement wall. From a quick glance left and right he noted he was in a long hallway, recognizable by its lighting and style. Somehow he was back at CTU.
"Hey, are you all right? When did you get back? I thought you took some vacation time," Michelle said, looking him.
"I... just got back," was all he could think to say. He stood, still trying to grasp what had happened. The last thing he remembered was... fear. The ground had come up so fast... Jack rubbed his eyes. He didn't remember hitting the ground, but he remembered the instant right before when his mind had gone utterly blank and he'd closed his eyes in resignation.
Michelle tipped her head to the side. "You just got back, so you decided to go to work and sleep in the hallway?" she asked skeptically.
Jack looked back at her, trying to maintain his normal air of calm. "I... wanted to check something. I just sat down for a minute... I guess I nodded off."
Michelle crossed her arms, looking like she wanted to discuss it further, but finally she just shook her head. "All right. You should go home after you're done. Even you need some real sleep every once and a while."
Jack nodded, only half hearing her as he turned and began to walk away. Was it possible he'd imagined everything? Meeting Mick, David, and the others? Had the search for Sutherland all been in his head? He wasn't sure which answer he liked better. That it had all been a product of his imagination or that somewhere out there, there were a good half dozen other versions of himself wandering around.
Jack paused and turned back to Michelle who was still watching after him.
"Do you mind if I ask what happened?"
Jack lifted an eyebrow questioningly and Michelle tapped her neck. With a frown, Jack's hand went to his own neck where his fingers touched the gauze that Daniel Schreber had placed over the wound in his neck. A wound that, to Jack's surprise, no longer hurt...
Jack looked at his friend a moment, his expression one of confusion until it was replaced with a humored but half-hearted smile. "I... picked a fight with a vampire," he replied simply.
Then, one hand still over the gauze still covered in dried blood, he turned away. If he was still alive... that meant the others probably were too, he realized. Banks, Mick, Schreber... Jack sighed, a weight lifting from his chest.
"I'm going home" he called back as he continued down the hall, leaving Michelle to look after him in confusion.
David jerked awake, his mouth still open in a silent scream of agony that he no longer felt. That the pain was gone was the first thing he noticed. The second was that he was upside down. His long black coat hung behind him, brushing against his dangling arms. And then he heard familiar laughter at about the same time he noted the pressure of a pair of hands on each of his boots, keeping him suspended high off the floor of a familiar room of rock.
"David, man, what the hell? When did you get here?"
David lifted his head to look ceilingward. There, hanging from the beam where they slept by clawed feet, hung his gang, his pack. It had been Marko who'd spoken. He was the furthest from David while the other two, Paul and Dwayne held on to him.
"Uh... David?" Now it was Paul who spoke.
David grinned and suddenly became light in the hold of Dwayne and Paul. The pair looked at him inquisitively and released him. Without loosing any height, the bleach blond turned himself around in midair and with a thought lifted himself higher so that he was level with the confused faces of his three upside down packmates.
"Thanks for the catch, boys."
"No problem," Paul replied. Dwayne nodded silently, dark black hair swaying.
"What happened?" David asked curiously.
"That's what we'd like to know!" Marko exclaimed. "There I was, finally falling asleep when all of a sudden I felt this intense suffering coming from you. I opened my eyes and suddenly you were falling from the ceiling!"
Paul and Dwayne nodded in agreement, Marko's story matching their own.
"If I didn't know better, I'd have thought you were dying from the pain I felt," Marko said seriously, rubbing his hand over his chest- over his heart right where David had been run through with the make-shift stake.
David frowned. "Maybe I was," he said quietly. Paul and Dwayne looked at him curiously, but said nothing.
Marko, his long curly mane looking wild upside down, crossed his arms. "I still don't get how you fell like that. You're wearing your boots, so you weren't sleeping... What's going on?"
David wondered fleetingly why and how he'd just appeared there, but then he realized something else and grinned. He'd cheated death. Again. David chuckled as he began a controlled descent to the ground below. "It's just been a long night," he answered. "I was shot, staked, burned-"
"Wait, 'staked'?" Marko questioned. He glanced at the others who were in a similar state of confusion. David didn't seem to have heard the question.
"And I saw enough versions of myself for a psychologist to have a field day," David continued.
Suddenly Marko dropped down in front of him and put a hand on his forehead, checking for a temperature that wouldn't be there.
"You feeling alright?" Marko asked anyway. "Drink some bad blood?"
David slapped the hand away with a scowl of annoyance as Paul and Dwayne touched down behind Marko.
"Did you find what you ran off to look for?" Dwayne asked as Paul yawned loudly.
Taking his glare off Marko, David regained his air of mystique and his blue eyes once again seemed thoughtful as they stared into the darkness of the tunnel that led out to the main part of the cave.
"I did," he replied after a pause.
The other three glanced to each other, obviously wanting a little more out of him than that.
"So..." Marko crossed his arms as he eyed David curiously. "So who is Kiefer Sutherland anyway?"
David tipped his head to the side, taking the three other vampires in at once as he considered the question. That smirk pulled at his lips as he shrugged.
"Kiefer Sutherland? I think he's the only one that could tell you that."
And with that David turned away and lifted himself by will alone into the air, floating up towards the beams from which they hung during their daily hibernation. The others stared after him in annoyance. After a moment Marko shouted up to him.
"Wow, way to be vague, David!"
David's humored chuckle filtered down from the cavernous roof, but the others never got the answers they were looking for. The truth, David thought, was best left between him, the other look-alikes, and Sutherland.
A.N.: Thanks for being so patient with the chapters. Life has a way of getting in the way sometimes. ;p I hope you've enjoyed this story. Thank you to all who've taken the time to read this story and a special thanks to all who've reviewed. Your comments have always brightened my day!