She answered the insistent knocking at her door in part confusion and trepidation. Her relief lasted only a moment when Jack Bauer brushed by her and rounded on her in the hall.
“You told Chloe we were moving to D.C.?”
Slowly, Audrey closed the door and finally turned to him. She touched his arm gently, momentarily surprised at the tension she felt beneath her fingers. A tentative smile crept across her face and she licked suddenly dry lips.
Shaking her head, she walked into the perfectly kept sitting room. “It was an accident,” she admitted, “I didn’t intentionally set out to tell her anything.” She patted the cushion beside her and he sat down, keeping some distance between them, not quite ready to have her touch him just yet.
“It came up in conversation, Jack. We were speaking of how hot it was in the summer here and I, I told Chloe we were thinking of moving.”
“Audrey, I….. why would you do that? I don’t remember saying I was going to move across the country with you!” his eyes flew to her, angry, confused and betrayed, and Audrey felt her breath hitch in fear.
“I know, Jack,” she said pleadingly looking up at him. “Like I said, it just came up one day when we were waiting for a briefing with Bill.” She paused and studied his tense posture and suddenly closed off face. “I don’t understand what you’re getting so upset about. I was merely telling her there was a possibility that we would be moving back to Washington. I’m sure she knew it was a possibility anyway. I don’t see a problem here. We met in Washington, I have a life there, and you did too. I thought…I thought you’d want to go back to that life.”
Jack leaned forward, his tightly clasped hands resting on his knees.
“Audrey, you can’t go around telling people we’re moving without talking to me first! We’ve haven’t talked this through properly. I have a life here in LA, my daughter, my friends, my job. This is what I do. You can’t seriously expect me to just pack up everything and leave like they mean nothing.”
“You did it before,” she moved to sit closer to him and hesitated, gathering her thoughts. “We have friends in Washington, Jack. We can start over there; forget about everything that’s happened here. I don’t know how you can bear to be here this long.” She looked around the room with something akin to disgust on her face, “This place…it’s full of such unhappy memories, Jack. For both us. We were happy in Washington; don’t you think we should go back to where we were happiest? I want us to live a happy life together, and I thought that’s what you wanted too.”
“Audrey,” he closed his eyes and grasped for her hand, lifting it to his lips and kissing it lovingly. “I love you, I don’t think you’ll ever know how much, but I can’t leave LA now. Not like this. I need to be here. My daughter’s here. I can’t just leave Kim when I’m still trying to rebuild our relationship! And I can’t leave CTU right now either.”
“You mean, Chloe,” she said sharply, pulling her hand out of his grip.
“Audrey,” he said warningly.
“Do you think I don’t know that, Jack? I see how you look at each other.” She stood up and walked to the fireplace, bracing herself against the mantelpiece, her voice quiet, but passionate. “For God’s sake Jack, you tell her everything. When you come back from a mission, your eyes seek her out straight away. Do you even realise you do that?” she spun around, pinning him with her questioning gaze.
“I rely on Chloe when I’m in the field,” he defended tightly, “She’s my eyes and ears out there.”
“Dammit, Jack. You don’t even know the way the rest of the place talks about the two of you, do you? You don’t see the sympathetic glances that get shoved my way! Do you have any idea what it feels like to feel inferior to someone like i her /i ?” she finished quietly, deadly.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Jack stood up angrily, his fists clenching at his side, it felt like they’d had the same argument a hundred times over the past few months. “Chloe’s my friend, Audrey. She’s the only one I can trust.”
“I’ve noticed,” the bitterness in her voice made him pause and he studied her carefully across the room, taking in her defiant stance and narrowed eyes, suspicion growing in his own.
“Audrey,” he asked tentatively, “why did you tell Chloe we were moving to Washington?”
“Because,” she bit her lip and looked away, shame fleetingly passing across her face, “because I wanted to tell her one thing about you she didn’t already know. And since I’m not one to talk about my sex life openly, I figured this would have to do instead.”
He stepped away from her, and closed his eyes, trying to push away the horrified and hurt emotions that came with her confession, “how can you say that?”
She stepped towards him, and shook her head. “I’m sorry, Jack. I know I shouldn’t have done it. I’m not…I’m not proud of myself. I don’t normally let the gossip get to me. I know it’s not true. But, I just…I was upset and Chloe, she….she unnerves me.” She looked at him, tears forming in her large eyes, a wry smile on his lips, “sometimes I think she knows you better than I do. You have this connection that I can’t compete with.”
“How many times do we have to have this conversation, Audrey?” his voice stumbled and he looked at her with a regret that sent a sharp pain race through her veins. “I care very deeply for Chloe. She has done things for me that no ordinary, sane person would do. She’s risked her life and job for me more times than I can count. But we’ve never…I’ve never laid a finger on her Audrey, not like that. I wouldn’t do that to you.”
She nodded, the tears spilling over and running down her cheeks. “Jack,” she went to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, burying her face in his shoulder and holding him tightly to her.
He wrapped his own arms around her waist and sighed in frustration and relief. Eventually, her sobs subsided and she pulled back, dabbing her eyes and smudging her already running mascara.
“I really am sorry I said anything, Jack. I know I shouldn’t have until we’d talked everything through. I just, I got caught up in the idea of moving back to Washington. I want to go back to Washington. I’ve never made any secret about that, but if you want to stay here for a while, then that’s what we’ll do, Jack. I love you too, and if you need to be here, then that’s where I’ll be.” She gave him a watery smile and he returned it, but his eyes were still troubled.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” she asked quietly, leading them both to the couch, “were you and Chloe arguing about Washington earlier? Is that why she was so upset?”
Jack shook his head, a ragged sigh escaping his chest, “not just that, she’s had a rough day and I blamed her for something she had no control over. I think that might be what finally did it.”
“Did what?” she asked confused, reaching out and holding tightly onto his arm.
“She’s leaving, Audrey. Leaving CTU and Los Angeles.”
He looked straight ahead at nothing and everything. Audrey hated herself for it, but she couldn’t help the thrill of relief that ran through her at Jack’s words. Without Chloe their lives would be so much easier. She would never admit it but she always felt slightly intimidated by the computer genius and she felt Jack relied on her far too much.
“I’m sorry, Jack. But maybe, maybe Chloe’s decided the time is right to move one with her life. You didn’t expect her to stay at CTU for the rest of her life, did you?”
And he realised, he did. For as long as he was at CTU, he expected Chloe to be there. Because he needed her there, and the thought of never seeing her again sent panic racing through every never ending.
“No, Audrey. Of course not.”