And also, bye bye Audrey!
“You’re free to go Agent Bauer,” the doctor told him handing him a sheet of paper. “Here’s your prescription. Come back next week for a check up.”
“Thank you,” Jack replied, lifting heavily from the clinical bed. He moved his arm gingerly, as he left medical, testing the restraints of the sling that had been imposed on him. His mind was already on ways to change the stubborn mind of Chloe O’Brian when he rounded a corner and was confronted with…her.
“Hi Jack,” she smiled tentatively at him, and his step faltered, but he was unable to return her smile.
“Audrey.” He stared at her, taking in her unchanged face and still brilliant smile, and he waited. Waited for the initial sharp pain followed by the dull ache that always came whenever he saw her. He waited for it, but this time it didn’t come.
Immediately her gaze honed in on his injured arm. “Nothing too serious I hope?”
He shook his head, clearing his thoughts, “uh, no, no, the bullet didn’t hit any major arteries, it was clean straight through. I’ll be fine in a few weeks,” he frowned as he took in her appearance and pushed back her hair to see the reddened skin on her cheek.
“What happened, Audrey?” he growled.
She shook her head, her arms tightening around her waist. “It’s nothing, Jack.”
“Who did this?” Jack insisted.
Audrey sighed, “it was Chloe.”
“Chloe?” Jack blinked in surprise, staring blankly at her. Then something seemed to fall into place in his mind.
“Audrey,” he said quietly, deadly, stepping closer towards her, “why would Chloe hit you?”
Audrey averted her gaze from the famous, intense gaze of Jack Bauer and cleared her throat nervously.
“I…I may have said something I shouldn’t have. I pushed her too far, you know how I get.”
“Damn it, Audrey,” Jack sighed, frustration on his face.
“Look, I didn’t come here to talk about Chloe.”
“Okay, then what do you want to talk about?”
“Nothing,” she caught her bottom lip between her lip and pushed back her perfectly coiffed hair. “I’ve to go back to Washington soon. I just wanted to see how you were.”
Jack nodded, his eyes darting downwards.
“I’m fine, Audrey,” he said carefully, meeting her eyes. “How are the wedding plans?”
“Coming along nicely. I bet you’re glad Chloe’s back,” she said, with the hint of sharpness to her voice.
“No Jack,” she interrupted him, shaking her head, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. I was just surprised when I heard her voice on the other end of the phone. You don’t need to explain yourself to me.”
“I wasn’t going to, Audrey,” he replied, taking a step away from her. He shook his head, and ran a hand through his short hair. “It’s been over eighteen months. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I don’t spend my time mourning how it all went wrong. We were never going to work Audrey, and we both know that.”
Her eyes welled up and she angrily wiped away a stray tear that had escaped. “I know that, Jack,” she replied shakily, “but it’s not like we’re talking about some new girl you met last week. This is Chloe we’re talking about, and seeing the two of you together again... it brings it all back. We spent most of our time together arguing because of her.”
“Audrey, the only reason we argued over Chloe was because you didn’t trust me. I’m sorry it still hurts you, but that was then, and this is now. I thought you’d moved on,” he finished quietly.
She chuckled mirthlessly, shaking her head. “Oh, I’ve moved on Jack, don’t worry. You know, I’ve never told you this before but….” She trailed off and looked at him uncertainly.
“It’s okay, Audrey, whatever it is.”
She bit her lip and sighed, looking down at her three hundred dollar Gucci shoes. “If Paul hadn’t died, I would have left with him, Jack. I would have moved to Washington with him,” she met his eyes, a sadly serious expression shining back at him. “I would have gone with him, and I can’t honestly say I would have regretted that decision.”
Jack nodded, a sad smile on his face, “and if Terri hadn’t died, I never would have moved to Washington and never would have met you, Audrey. I’m finally catching onto the fact that there’s no point in looking back at ‘what ifs’. We made the decisions we did, and we have to live with them.” He paused, and moved toward her, capturing her smooth hand with his calloused fingers. “Whatever else you believe about me and Chloe, I hope you know I i did /i love you, Audrey.”
“I know, Jack. I loved you too. But it’s not the same now.” She smiled warmly at him, “I love Craig; I wouldn’t be marrying him if I didn’t. I didn’t think I could ever love anyone like that anymore, but here I am. Engaged to a senator they’re tipping to be president one day,” they shared an amused look and she glanced back in the direction of the hub of CTU, her expression darkening. “But that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t hurt.”
She pulled her hand away her eyes tracing the rough contours of his face. “I’m not in love with you anymore, Jack, and to be quite frank, I’m not entirely sure I was after you came back from hiding.”
Jack half smiled at her, “I know what you mean, but I’m glad you’re happy now, Audrey. You deserve to be happy.”
She smiled gently back at him. “Thank you. You deserve to be happy too, Jack….and so does Chloe. I’m sure you’ll be very happy together.”
“Audrey, we’re not-”
She shook her head, “For God’s sake Jack, when are you going to admit the truth? Everybody knows how you feel about each other. Even I could see it two years. I was just stupid enough to believe that with Chloe out of the picture, you would finally love me the way you should have.”
Jack looked down at the ground, a shaky breath leaving his chest, with his head bowed. “I never meant to hurt you, Audrey.”
“I know.” She placed her palm on his cheek and pushed his head back up, sending him a watery smile. “Goodbye, Jack.”
She kissed him on the cheek and turned away, not once looking back at the man who followed her every move with his clear blue eyes.
Jack had zoned out on Curtis a few minutes after they left CTU. His voice had become merely a light buzzing in the background to his thoughts. His thoughts focused solely on Chloe O’Brian.
He hadn’t expected to feel so instantaneously connected to her again after all this time, but he had. As soon as he’d walked into that classroom and seen her petite figure at the top of her class, her scowl in place as she’d reprimanded him for turning up late.
He couldn’t help the smile that had appeared on his face at seeing her again. That connection, that pull had immediately righted itself, lit up and made itself known. And she had felt it too, he could tell. But she was scared, she’d told him to ignore it, to leave her alone, and shouldn’t he respect that decision?
The buzzing suddenly stopped as they pulled up outside his house, and Jack glanced towards the driver’s seat, before following the darker man’s gaze to where the object of Jack’s restless musings sat on the steps of his front porch, her sweater clad arms wrapped securely around her small frame, a bag resting by her side.
“Looks like you have a visitor,” Curtis commented, his lips twitching in amusement.
“Thanks, Curtis,” Jack replied absently, getting out of standard issue vehicle. He didn’t even hear Curtis drive away, his gaze was too intensely focused on the petite woman in front of him. Scared that if he looked away from her, she’d disappear again.
She stared up at him, an uncertain smile on her face. “Hi.”
“Hi,” his keys clanged together as they swung around his curved index finger. “What are you doing here?”
She got up from the front step, dusting off the backs of her thighs. “You are right. I shouldn’t be wasting the CTU budget. I got to the hotel room and then the guilt kicked in.”
He cocked an eyebrow at her and she rolled her eyes. “CTU’s budget, huh?”
“You know me, Jack, I feel bad anytime I do anything that goes against CTU.”
This time he actually laughed, a deep chuckle that was so good it almost curled her toes.
“And that’s it?” he pressed, inserting they key into the lock.
“Well that and the fact that I do actually want us to be friends again, even if my behaviour doesn’t always suggest that. And me running off isn’t going to make that happen.”
He regarded her thoughtfully, the ghost of a smile gracing his mouth. “Would you like to come inside?”
She answered him with a smile and a nod, following him wordlessly into the small bungalow.
“You redecorated since the last time I was here,” she noted quietly, her eyes taking in the new features and colour schemes.
“Yeah, I figured it was about time. Kim picked out most of the colours and décor.”
“Kim?” her surprised eyes flew to him at the sound of his daughter’s name, and a gratefully relieved smiled answered her.
“That’s great, Jack. I’m so pleased for you. Both of you. You deserve to be happy.”
“Thank you. We’re not as close as we used to be, but we’re slowly getting there. It takes time.”
Chloe nodded in understanding and sat down on the leather couch. Jack disappeared and reappeared with two opened beers. He offered one to her and she took it gratefully.
“I hit Audrey,” she blurted out suddenly, her eyebrows drawing down in a frown.
“What?” Jack blinked at her, trying once again to picture the words she’d just uttered.
“I hit her, okay? I smacked her right across that pretty damn face of hers.”
She was surprised when Jack’s only reaction was a chuckle that seemed to come from the very bottom of his soul.
“I know,” he admitted, smirking at her.
“You do?” her eyebrows scrunched together before the pieces fell into place. “She told you?!”
“Yeah, right before she sailed out of CTU.”
Chloe sat frowning, her mouth twisting, trying to process this. “I don’t know why I’m so surprised she told you.”
“I wish I could have seen your face,” he shook his head, an amused laugh escaping once again.
“You think it’s funny?”
“You don’t,” he countered with an arched brow.
Chloe shrugged, the corner of her mouth lifting. “Maybe a little, but you shouldn’t be condoning violence like that.”
He laughed, picking at the label of the beer bottle.
“God, I wish they had cameras in the ladies toilets.”
Chloe slapped his shoulder playfully, and their laughter died away.
“Do you miss her?” Chloe asked quietly.
He frowned as he studied the dark green bottle in his hands and painfully shook his head.
“No, Chloe, I don’t. To be honest, when she finally left…it was a relief. I think that’s what hurt most of all.”
She stared at him in confusion, forcing him to look at her. “I don’t understand.”
He sent her a lopsided smile, that didn’t meet his sad eyes. “It wasn’t until Audrey left that I finally realised the truth. Do you remember that evening out in the parking lot, when you told me you were leaving?”
She winced and shifted uncomfortably. “Yeah, can’t exactly forget. I should probably apologise for that.”
“No, don’t,” he insisted, taking her hand in his, holding it reverently, his beer bottle forgotten and standing perilously on the edge of the coffee table.
“From the moment you told me you were leaving, I swear, I stopped breathing, Chloe. I couldn’t get my head around it. I was filled with this overwhelming sense of…panic and loss, and that was before you’d even left.”
She sat hypnotised by his words, unwilling to say anything that would stop this sudden openness Jack had embraced and let her be part of.
“Audrey left six months later, and the relief I felt at not having to pretend we were okay anymore, at not having to be around her…it just made me realise how much you mean to me. Because I still missed you, Chloe, everyday, and I still cared about you. A lot more than I thought I ever did. I cared about you as more than a friend…and more than Audrey.”
He looked at her again, and her breath caught in her throat at the emotions she saw in his eyes, and the sincerity behind them.
“I still do,” he finished, in barely a whisper.
“Jack,” her voice cracked, and she threw herself forward, wrapping her arms tightly around him, holding him as close to her as possible, forgetting his injury until she felt him groan in pain.
“Oh God,” she pulled back, embarrassment and concern fighting for dominance on her face, “I’m sorry, are you okay?”
He laughed, and grabbed hold of her hand again, squeezing it tightly.
“I am now, Chloe. I missed you,” Jack said, meeting her eyes. “I’m sorry I acted like an ass before you left. I never should have treated you like that.”
“Good, you should be,” she huffed wrapping her arms around herself.
He groaned as he moved his arm again, attempting to find a more comfortable position.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” her voice filled with concern as she looked at him, and he grinned back at her.
“I’m better, now that you’re here.”
She rolled her eyes, trying to hide the colour rising in from her neck. “Are you always this cheesy?”
“Only when it works.”
“And you think cheesy will work with me?”
“You baby? Never.” His arm reached over and started playing with her hair. Giving in, she leaned back against the headrest and into his touch.
“Why did you come here? You were pretty adamant at CTU that this was a bad idea.” His voice was like melted chocolate and warm velvet and she couldn’t help the indulgent sigh that momentarily escaped from her mouth.
Eventually, she turned towards him, a smirk on her face. “Well, I figured it was time we talked. Besides, I’m meant to be a genius, and what kind of idiot would it make me if I turned down the opportunity to have sex with Jack Bauer?”
He coughed satisfyingly to her ears, a stunned expression on his wide eyed face. She smiled smugly and cocked an eyebrow at him.
“Are you okay there Jack?”
“I’m fine,” he growled, glaring at her. “And your argument about us living on opposite sides of the country?”
She shrugged and leaned her head against his uninjured shoulder. “Like I said, I’m a genius and you’re Jack Bauer, we’ll work something out.”
“I guess there is that,” he agreed, a smile tugging at his lips.
“So, which way to the bedroom?”
She woke up in the morning, in a comfortable bed with a warm body beside her. Not a bad way to start the day she mused, a smile spreading across her face. She cracked open an eye and found herself the object of Jack Bauer’s attention.
“Good morning,” his gravely voice greeted her.
“Morning,” she replied, biting her lip and turning a light shade of pink.
Above her she heard Jack chuckle as he pressed a kiss to her pliant lips. “Is that embarrassment I see on your face, Chloe?”
“No,” she replied stoutly, “I just happen to like your morning voice.”
His hands travelled over her body, tracing every curve and contour. “Well, I’m just going to have to make sure you hear it a lot more often.”
Her fingers ran through the light hair covering his arms and she sighed contentedly, “Is that a promise?”
“I’ll hold you to it, you know.”
“Yeah, I know, that’s why I made it.”
To be continued…..