Disclaimer: I don't own 24 or its characters...

Author's Note: I'm sure everyone who's ever written 24 fanfiction has tackled this subject, but I just like to play...

He stares at the man staring back at him, intently studying his features for any tells. He looks older than he is; scars and furrows subtly marring a face that should be showing the first signs of laugh lines. Should. Hell. Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. That's the lamentation apparent in the haunted blue eyes staring back at him.

Blue eyes that are no longer his.

When did he stop being able to find himself in his own goddamn reflection?

He isn't sure he wants to remember, even if he could. It hurts too fucking much.

No, when it comes down to it, Jack Bauer is a fucking coward. Sure, he can withstand almost any amount of torture... No doubt there is a physical breaking point for him somewhere. He just tends to die before he ever reaches it. But that, that is nothing. He can face getting beaten, shot, electrocuted, stabbed, cut, drugged. If people's lives are at stake, he runs towards a bomb in the slim hopes that he might be able to disarm it. But when it comes to his own emotions, he'd rather stuff them down into a deep dark corner to be dealt with later than face them when they arise.

But later never seems to arrive, and that corner just keeps getting larger.

And now, now it is time to cram more of himself in there, squash down his sympathy, trample the more compassionate side of his morality. In short, it's time yet again (and there has been far too many such occasions) to do what is necessary.

People never get that about him, except those who have bothered to get to know him (and there haven't been many, and he doesn't care, for his friends always seem to get hurt).

Jack Bauer is in fact, not a sadist.

He doesn't enjoy hurting people. There's no perverse pleasure in it for him, even when they've harmed so many others, innocents. But he knows how effective an influence physical pain can be, and such a motivator cannot be ignored in these sort of situations that find them all bordering on the edge of imminent catastrophe.

He always gives them a way out. He at least has to try, even knowing beyond a doubt with his first appraising glance that the guilty party is not going to take his generous offer. Appeal to their morality, if there's any possibility it still exists within their twisted soul. When that fails, appeal to their base emotions.

And then the physical threats need to begin. Hell, the psychological component starts before he even walks into the room. It begins right here, when he's staring at his goddamn haunted reflection in the mirror, burying every last piece of his personality under layers and layers of stoicism, leaving only his intimidating presence on the surface.

Sure, he'll leave a little bit of his empathy exposed, if he thinks they'll bite.

But not this time, not this bastard. There'll be no appealing to his sense of right and wrong. It's obviously been discarded long ago. Things are going to get physical, messy. This interrogation is going to take Jack to the place he never wants to go for fear that some day he won't be able to find his way back.

If you pretend to be something for long enough, when do you start to become it?

He swallows and sets his jaw, focuses his mind and watches his eyes grow even harder in his reflection.

Judging by the creature staring back at him, it was quite a while ago...

A/N: I just love how tortured he is...can't help myself.