Chloe’s stomach tied itself into a knot as she gazed at the cool reflection of Audrey Raines. Immediately she straightened, her face turning calm and impassive. “Hi Audrey, I’m finished here. I’ll get out of your hair.”
She tried to leave, but Audrey moved forward, blocking her path. “Actually, I came here to talk to you.”
“Why?” Chloe demanded harshly, “I can’t imagine we’ve anything to talk about. And I don’t do small talk, so don’t think I’m being rude by not wanting to girlishly chat about how wonderful your life is in Washington.”
She attempted to walk past her again, but once again found her path blocked. She grew impatient and folded her arms, glaring at her.
“Fine Audrey,” she rubbed her forehead tiredly, “what is it you want to talk about?”
Audrey sighed, letting her arms drop to her sides. “Chloe, I…it’s just been a long time since I last saw you, and I guess being back in there brought back a few nostalgic memories.” She smiled wanly at her, but frowned as she got a closer look at the smaller woman. “Chloe, are you all right? You look terrible.”
Chloe rolled her eyes, “well, gee, Audrey, that was worth staying to hear.”
“I don’t understand where all this hostility is coming from!” Audrey snapped, her patience wearing thin. “I just came here to tell you I’m over what happened two years ago.”
The brunette stared incredulously at her. “You’re over it? Are you serious? Am I supposed to be grateful to you?”
Audrey crossed her arms, glaring defiantly at the younger woman. “You’re unbelievable, do you know that? Most women never forgive the other woman.”
“The other woman?” Chloe snapped, practically snarling at Audrey. “I was not the other woman. If anything…” She stopped herself from saying anything more and looked away, willing her racing heart to stop and took a few deep breaths. She didn’t want to do this. She thought in leaving LA and CTU behind, she could have left her ambivalent history with Audrey behind as well. But it looked like Audrey wasn’t going to just her walk out of there without some sort of confrontation.
Looking to diffuse the situation, Chloe took a step back, trying to curtail the anger and loathing she felt for the pampered woman before her.
“Look, I’m not saying Jack and I aren’t to blame for how far south our friendship went,” she said calmly, fists clenching by her sides, “but you didn’t exactly have a sideline role either!”
“Why can’t you just be honest, Chloe? Your friendship with Jack ended because he was in love with me and you resented that.”
“You’re kidding yourself if you think he actually loved you,” Chloe bit back harshly. “Like most men, Jack wasn’t using the head on his shoulders to do the thinking for him, and you took full advantage of that. We were happy,” Chloe blazed, eyes shining fiercely. “We trusted each other, we were friends and you broke that. You,” she bit her lip and stood back, an all too familiar stinging burning the backs of her eyes. She continued her voice softer, broken. “You tainted it. You helped turn us into office gossip. They never talked about us before. We were Jack and Chloe, we…just were. You changed that,” she was ashamed at the tears that were building up at the corners of her eyes, but she couldn’t stop it. “You took something unique and special and made it into something wrong, something sordid, and something we should be ashamed of. And worst of all, we let you.”
Audrey stared wide eyes at her, her lower lip trembling. “It was wrong, Chloe. Jack was my boyfriend and yet I was the one who was made to feel like the other woman!” she let out a bark of a laugh. “You talk about your friendship with Jack like that’s all it was.”
She moved closer to the analyst, towering over her, a smirk on her face. “You never fooled anyone, Chloe, especially not me. We all know how you felt about Jack. You were in love with Jack Bauer and, well to be honest, I felt sorry for you. It couldn’t have been easy, for you.” Audrey stepped forward and with faux sympathetic tone in her voice. “I mean there you were in love with a man you thought you had a special relationship with, and still he’d chose someone like me over you. But I’m guessing that says more about you than me.”
Chloe snapped, and almost of its own free will, her hand slapped Audrey’s face. The taller woman stumbled, and grabbed hold of the sink to steady herself, unable to stop the gasp of shock that escaped her mouth. She touched her cheek, felling the spot where a red print was starting to become visible. They stared at each other, and Chloe couldn’t honestly say which of them was more surprised by her actions.
“God, damn it!” Audrey hissed, checking her inflamed cheek in the mirror.
“I, I’m sorry,” Chloe stammered, “but you shouldn’t have said that.” She crossed her arms defensively as she looked uncertainly at the blonde woman. “I mean, it’s been a long day, and I’m tired and worried about Jack, but, I never should have hit you.”
Audrey shook her head, clearing it and took a few calming breaths. Her lips twitched wryly at the corners. “I knew it was a bad idea to come see you. I guess that’s what I get for trying to put things right.”
She sighed and closed her eyes for a long moment, before meeting Chloe’s gaze. “I shouldn’t have said what I did. It was wrong and…well, not completely honest. The truth is Chloe, I couldn’t even hold onto Jack for six months after you left. It was just easier to blame you than admit that we were wrong.”
Chloe didn’t know what to say, and was saved the inconvenience of trying to think of something when a young female, analyst entered the bathroom. Her wide eyed gaze took in the reddening cheek of the former Secretary of Defence’s daughter and the defiant looking, but legendary, Chloe O’Brian.
“What do you want?” Chloe snapped.
“I’m sorry,” the redhead replied, “I didn’t mean to interrupt, but Mr Buchanon thought you’d like to know that Agent Bauer has returned and is being taken to medical.”
“Is he all right?” Audrey inquired before Chloe could get a word out.
“Well, I haven’t seen him, but I hear he’s doing okay. It’s not a life threatening thing anyway.”
As soon as she’d delivered her message, the young intern disappeared, thankful to escape the thick atmosphere in the small bathrooms.
The two women she left behind stared at each others, and Audrey was the one to look away. She smiled tightly at Chloe. “You should go to him. He’ll be looking for you.”
Chloe opened her mouth to say something, but unable to think of anything appropriate, she merely walked past the Washington socialite and headed to Medical, almost scared of what she was about to see.
By the time Chloe made it to medical, Jack had been stripped from the waist up and the doctor was dressing the wound and preparing the sling. Chloe stood nervously just inside the door of the room, her arms wrapped around her waist. Jack spotted her as the doctor finished up and beckoned her over to him.
“Hi,” she replied her mouth scrunching up as she looked away. He took in her edgy stance and uncomfortable posture. He lightly reached out and brushed her knuckles.
“Thank you for your help today. We couldn’t have done it without you.”
She shrugged, uncomfortable, and averted her gaze. “You’re welcome, Jack. Is it over now?”
“Yeah, the terrorists are being interviewed and the supply from the main water tank in the facility has been closed down until it can be replaced. At least they still have another two tanks to use until they can replace the other one.”
“That’s good,” she replied, gazing intently at his wounded arm.
“Are you all right?” he asked, forcing her to look back at him.
Her mouth twisted. “Shouldn’t I be the one asking you that?”
Jack half smiled at her, “I’m fine, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in asking how you’re doing considering it’s the first time you’ve been back in over two years. In fact-”
“You got shot,” she blurted suddenly, unable to stop herself. “You got shot, and I forgot how bad it feels when I think you’re badly injured, or maybe even dead!”
He nodded, his eyes falling to the scrubbed floor beneath them, “I’m sorry.”
“Why?” she blinked in surprise, “it’s not like you asked the terrorists to try to kill you.”
“Still, I never realised,” he paused, gathering his thoughts; “It’s been a long time since anybody has worried about me. I’m not used to it.”
Chloe felt her face colour and stood awkwardly before him. “Of course I worry, Jack. We’re friends. Or, at least we i were /i friends.”
His reached out and grasped her elbow, forcing her to meet his gaze. “We are friends, Chloe. I’m sorry I let things go this badly wrong, but don’t ever doubt the fact that I care about you. You’re important to me, and now that I’ve managed to get you back into my life, I don’t want to let you go.”
She smiled sadly at him, “I want us to be friends again too, Jack. But I don’t know how we can be. I can’t be here anymore. Being here today has only cemented in my mind that I made the right decision in leaving CTU. I could never come back. Not now.”
“I’m not asking you to come back to CTU, Chloe,” Jack insisted, his grip tightening on her arm. “I’m asking you to let me be a part of your life. I know it won’t be easy with us living across the country from each other, but I want to try. You’re my best friend, Chloe, and I can’t lose you again.”
Impulsively, he pulled her closer to him, and she let him, wrapping her arms around his frame and letting him settle against her chest. She kissed the top of his head and felt a relieved sigh escape his body.
“They’re sending me home as soon as my debrief in done.”
“Good,” she replied and he chuckled against her stomach. “I’m heading off myself soon.”
He pulled back, an anxious look on his face. “Not back to Boston?”
She shook her head. “Tomorrow afternoon. I’m staying at a hotel tonight. At CTU’s expense of course. They needn’t think they can drag me clear across the country and expect me to pay!” she grumbled. “Mr Buchanon offered me a room at his and Karen’s place, but that would just be weird.” She wrinkled her nose and he smiled at her.
He cleared his throat nervously. “You know, you could always save the CTU expense budget by staying at my house.”
She felt her cheeks grow hot and shook her head sadly. “I think that would be even weirder, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t”
“Jack,” she pleaded, “I really don’t think that’s a good idea. It would be too awkward.”
She turned around, but he kept a hold of her hand, and forced her to stop. Mindful of his aching side, he stood up and forced her to look back at him. He cupped her jaw, his thumb running across the downy softness of her cheek.
Beneath his fingers he could feel her flesh warm and colour at his attention, and he smiled softly at her. “I think this is the best idea I’ve ever had.”
Her eyes locked with his, and without a moments hesitation he leaned down and brushed his lips against hers. He was soft and careful, giving her room to pull back, which she didn’t. He deepened the kiss, pulling her to him, and wrapping his arm around her waist, while her own travelled up his arm and to his shoulders.
She mumbled something unintelligible against his mouth, before she pulled back, her mouth swollen and red, and her pupils dilated, turning her eyes into a dark heaven.
“No, Jack,” she said shakily, taking a few steps away from him. “We can’t, we shouldn’t. Nothing good could happen if I went home with you tonight. It wouldn’t change anything. I still live on the other side of the country and you still live in LA, doing your CTU agent thing.”
“I thought you said we needed to talk?”
She frowned, staring at his lightly tanned chest. “We did, we do. I just…I wonder if any good can come of it. Or how much talking we’d actually do.” They shared a brief smirk, both knowing their talking would be limited to as few words as possible. “Perhaps it’s better to leave the past in the past. We’ve made our peace Jack. At least now, we can say we parted on good terms.”
His eyes lit up in fire, “That’s not good enough, Chloe. We need each other. you know that as much as I do.”
She swallowed hard, and squeezed her eyes tightly shut. “I’m not denying it, Jack. But things are complicated enough without making it even more so!”
“Chloe,” he urged with a low growl, but she refused to listen to him, and shook her head.
“I have to go,” she furrowed her brow and turned on her heel, fleeing from medical and leaving a defeated Jack Bauer behind.
Through the sandblasted glass, Audrey had watched their little scene with a sick feeling in her stomach. She was happy with Craig, she loved him, but there was something about seeing Jack and Chloe together that irked her.
Maybe it was the fact that Jack had been the only man she’d ever lost to another woman. A woman he’d never laid a hand on while he was with her. Of that she was certain, Jack wasn’t the type.
Her eyes followed the analyst from the darkened corridor as she hurried away, and she felt her mouth tighten. She had never understood the strange relationship the two of them had, or that strange connection that always seemed to bind them to each other. they were an odd pairing. Jack so masculine, strong and handsome, and Chloe who was sarcastic, incredibly intelligent, but nowhere near Jack in the appearance department. Chloe was pretty, but she was no supermodel, not that Audrey would call herself one, but compared to Chloe…
She shook her head, trying to clear it of her current train of thought. She had to get over this, it wasn’t as if she wanted Jack, or was still in love with him, and yet seeing Chloe and Jack together had turned her into some sort of bitchy, she-demon she didn’t recognise.
Her gaze floated back towards the man sitting on the bed in the sterile room in front of her with slumped shoulders. She had flirted with the idea of disappearing without seeing Jack, so many painful memories coming to mind when she thought of him, but she couldn’t do that. She needed to say goodbye.