Category: I don’t know! Maybe humour, maybe drama, a bit OTT?
Summary: Audrey comes up with a last ditch effort to save her relationship with Jack.
Author’s Notes: This story just came to me and wouldn’t stop annoying me until I wrote it down. It’s not something I’d normally write, but I’ve been going through a bit of a dry spell lately and this kept nagging at me ;)
“I can’t believe I’m actually going to do this,” he muttered to himself, straightening his tie.
“Jack,” she pleaded with her large doe-like eyes. “You told me you were committed to this relationship, and would do whatever it took to make us work.”
“I know, Audrey, I just can’t believe it’s come to…this.”
She cupped his face in her hands. “I honestly believe this is our last chance, Jack. Believe me, we wouldn’t be here if I didn’t.”
He heaved a ragged sigh and nodded.
“Places, please!” The brunette yelled, ushering them onto the wooden platform. He sat on the high chair, glancing uncomfortably around the room at the already judging eyes and low mutters. He frowned, glancing quickly at Audrey’s serene face.
Squirming in the soft cushions, he attempted to find a comfortable position before settling for just clasping his hands in front of him.
The large, bald man with the thick brush moustache appeared and the people in front of him went nuts, even Audrey looked upon him as some sort of God.
“Thank you, thank you. Today we’re talking to couples in crisis.” The crowd murmured their approval and Jack started squirming again.
“Jack,” Audrey hissed placing a hand on his arm and sending him a warning look. He felt like an overdressed five year old stuck in the middle of church.
“Now, let me introduce you to this couple.” All attention suddenly focused on them and Jack froze. “Audrey and Jack.”
“Hi,” Jack said gruffly.
“Dr Phil,” Audrey smiled radiantly at him, taking his hand warmly like he some foreign diplomat. “Thank you for having us.”
“My pleasure. Now, why don’t you tell us all about your situation, cos I gotta tell you,” he half chuckled, sounding almost as if he were choking. Jack kind of wished he would. “This one’s a doozy.”
Audrey smiled at him, while Jack gave him a tight lipped smile.
“Jack and I met after he started working for my father. We ended up in a relationship and we were both very happy.” She looked down, taking a deep breath. “One day he ended up being called back to work at his old job.”
“Now, let me stop you there,” Dr Phil interrupted, “I think it’s important at this point to say that Jack,” he turned his attention to the blonde man, “you had a very important job before you went to work for Audrey’s dad, isn’t that right?”
Jack straightened up and cleared his throat, “that’s correct; I was a Government agent working for the Counter Terrorist Unit in LA before moving to Washington.”
“A worthwhile, but stressful calling, I’d bet.”
“Anyway, Jack got called back,” Audrey continued, “and things started changing. He got violent and aggressive; I’d never seen him like that. And then at the end of the day, he disappeared.”
“Disappeared?” Dr Phil pressed.
Audrey nodded, unable to speak with the tears building in her eyes. “We all believed he was dead, and he let us.”
“It was a difficult situation,” Jack said defensively, hating the greedy eyes that stared at them enthralled. “I didn’t have a choice. Audrey and, my family were only going to be safe if they believed I was dead.”
“Well clearly,” Dr Phil replied, “you came back, because here the two of you are.”
“Yes, I returned eighteen months later. And we decided that we still loved each other and were willing to give it a try again.”
“So you forgave him then?” he questioned, returning his gaze to Audrey.
“Yes,” she nodded, smiling as she looked at Jack.
The crowd applauded in support, and Jack squeezed her hand.
“So, what’s the problem now? What do you need from Jack that you are not getting?”
“Commitment. I don’t think Jack’s as committed to this relationship as he should be.”
“That’s not true,” Jack interrupted.
Audrey laughed sarcastically, “yeah right. You can’t possibly compare the life we have in LA to the life we had in Washington!”
“Well now,” Dr Phil intervened, “why do you think he’s not committed to making this relationship work?”
Audrey dabbed her eyes, “I think he’s scared he’s going to be hurt again.”
Jack shifted uncomfortably.
“And I think he’s scared that by committing to me, he’s finally cutting off the option of Chloe.”
“What?” Jack exclaimed, shock written all over his face. “What the hell does Chloe have to do with this?” he hissed.
“Come on, Jack,” Audrey replied, “we both know Chloe has feelings for you, and you can’t bear to loose her.”
The audience started murmuring and Jack sat staring at his girlfriend.
“Well,” Dr Phil drawled, “after the break we’re going to meet the woman that Audrey says in contaminating their relationship. Don’t go anywhere.”
The music sounded and Jack looked at Audrey in shock. “Chloe? You got Chloe to come here.”
“Are y’all all right over there? We can cut this short if you’re uncomfortable.”
“We’re fine,” Audrey replied.
Jack would have responded only his attention was drawn by the surly brunette walking towards the stage.
“Hi Chloe.” he said quietly.
She glared at him. “Why am I here?” she hissed.
“Because it has to end, Chloe.” Audrey snapped. “And it ends here. Today.”
Chloe rolled her eyes. “Whatever. I don’t think this is really going to make a difference to your relationship, Audrey. I mean if you don’t even trust Jack, then what the hell are you doing with him?” She sat up on the other side of Jack and waited impatiently while the sound tech fed a microphone through her shirt. He accidentally brushed across her breast and he flushed. “Sorry, ma’am.”
Chloe rolled her eyes, while Jack’s narrowed, glaring at the awkward young man. He caught the gaze and hastily finished up. He ran off and Chloe smirked at Jack.
Audrey glared at her, “it has nothing to do with trust, Chloe. It’s about you and your unnatural fixation with my boyfriend.”
Chloe ignored her and sat immobile while Jack tried to talk Audrey out of bringing all this up in public.
Eventually, the tall psychologist arrived back and the music started again, with the crowd cheering.
“All right. Now we’re back here with Audrey and Jack, and the other woman in Jack’s life, his friend Chloe.”
Chloe glanced nervously at the crowd of eagle eyed audience in front of her and then at Jack who gave her a reassuring smile.
“Now, Chloe, Audrey here says that you’re coming in between her and Jack, and their relationship. How do you respond to that?”
“I have nothing to do with their relationship,” she snapped defensively.
“Of course she doesn’t,” Jack confirmed.
“See,” Audrey sobbed, “this is what I’m talking about. They always back each other up and make it look like I’m in the wrong.”
The audience murmured and Chloe scowled.
“Now, when Jack left you, and faked his own death, he didn’t tell you it was all a ruse. Is that correct?”
Audrey nodded, unable to speak. “Okay, and did anyone else know?”
Jack was the one to respond. “Four people knew it wasn’t real. Former president David Palmer, who informed me of the danger I, and my family were in. My two friends Tony and Michelle Almeida, and Chloe who arranged my new identification.”
Audrey’s head snapped up suddenly. “But that’s not all she did, Jack, was it?”
The murmuring among the crowd grew.
“She was the only person he would keep in contact with. Not with his supposed best friend Tony, but someone who was only meant to be a colleague, someone he wasn’t meant to care about.”
Chloe scowl darkened. “He didn’t have a choice. It had to be me!”
“Of course it did,” Jack agreed, “I explained this to you before Audrey. It would have been too obvious if Tony or Michelle had kept in contact with me. They would have been watching them. That’s why I couldn’t tell you the truth, or my daughter. It had to be real, convincing. Besides, by that stage, I thought we were over.”
Audrey looked away, and Chloe couldn’t help the small smile that crept across her face.
“Why would you think that, Jack?” Dr Phil intervened.
“Audrey was exposed to a part of my life she hadn’t seen before. Her ex-husband was a casualty during the day and she said she couldn’t handle it. I respected that and at that stage I thought we were finished.”
“That seems like a pretty believable excuse, given the circumstances.”
Audrey nodded, “I agree. I’m sorry, I don’t know why I get so worked about this. It’s just…during those eighteen months I know Jack and Chloe got a lot closer and they have this…connection because of it. I guess, I just wish that if I’d been the one he stayed in contact with, we’d have that connection.”
“But you didn’t because you dumped him,” Chloe muttered, forgetting for a moment the microphone on the front of her shirt. Explaining somewhat her startled expression when Audrey glared menacingly at her.
“Now hold on one wee second.” Dr Phil interrupted, a half chuckle escaping from between his lips. “Let me see if I got this straight. You and Jack met and started a relationship that lasted…six months?”
“That’s right,” Audrey confirmed.
“Right. And then he gets called back to his previous job on the same day you were kidnapped. I think we all remember seeing those images on the news.”
The crowed murmured in agreement.
“So you’ve been going out for six months, everything’s all lovey dovey and then he gets called back to his job and you can’t handle it. Now, I don’t think there’s anyone here who would blame you for that. It’s not easy watching the man you love being shot at, and in turn shooting other people.”
Audrey nodded, dabbing her damp eyes.
“But, the thing is, he disappears for eighteen months, you have no contact with him, and you get on with your life. Then, and correct me if I’m wrong, but he comes back a year and a half later for twenty fours hours during which time you both reconcile.” His hands sweep between the two of them and Jack nods in agreement.
“But later that day, Jack, you get captured by a foreign country and taken away for two years. And when you return, obviously, you’re a changed man. And that’s when you find out that Audrey here, was also taken by these people as a means to get you to do what they wanted?”
Jack hung his head painfully, “Yes, that’s correct. I’ll never forget that.”
“They captured you after you went looking for Jack?”
“Yes,” Audrey replied breathlessly, looking at Jack and squeezing his hand lovingly.
“And these people did things to you both physically and psychologically that caused you to fall into a sort of waking coma. You were effectively brainwashed and unaware of those around you.” Dr Phil looked towards Audrey for confirmation.
“Jack, you saved her, but understandably, her father asked that you stay away from her and not be near her again.”
“That’s correct, but at the time I didn’t feel like that was the right thing to do so I ended up going after him and trying to get to Audrey, because I loved her.”
The audience awed appropriately and Chloe clenched her hands tightly together, resisting the urge to roll her eyes again.
“But you made a remarkable, miraculous recovery,” Dr Phil insisted, praising a smiling and flushed Audrey.
“Of course I did,” she replied, “I’m Audrey Mary Sue Raines, there’s nothing I can’t do. I wasn’t going to let a little thing like eight months of intense physical and psychological torture keep me from Jack. We wanted to be together and everybody else wanted us to be together, so obviously I had to get better.”
The crowds applauded and Audrey looked upon them with a fabulous smile and a tear in her eye.
Chloe rubbed a hand across her face, willing the contents of her stomach to stay where they were.
“That’s great,” Dr Phil said, “really, I mean it. I’m glad you’ve made a full recovery but here’s my problem, which I think is really at the crux of your relationship issues.”
He leaned forward and Audrey looked at him attentively, Jack frowned uncomfortably, and Chloe clamped her mouth tightly shut, wishing she could run screaming from the room.
“You and Jack knew each other for six months, at which point you decided you couldn’t handle this other life he had had. Then he disappears for eighteen months, only to come back for one day. He is then captured, and taken out of your life for a further two years, during part of which you had been captured and tortured. Then after your miraculous recovery a year later you both decided to pick up where you left off four and a half years previous, completely ignoring the changes and events that took place during those years.”
“We love each other.”
“Uh huh,” Dr Phil said in a tone that was evidently disbelieving, “you didn’t even have counselling or anything though. So, here’s my question to you two. How’s that working for you?”
“Well, clearly it’s not,” Audrey said wryly, dabbing her eyes once again.
“Yeah, well that’s pretty clear. I mean, how long have you been together now, since Audrey’s recovery?” Dr Phil addressed Jack.
“Eight months. And now you’re having problems again. I mean, do you think it’s even possible that your problems have less to do with Chloe and more to do with the fact that you’ve known each other for five and a half years, have built up this image of your life together in your head during those times you were separated, and the reality is that you are both different people than you were when you first met and so that life you dreamed about could never happen?”
“Thank you!” Chloe suddenly exclaimed, raising her arms up to the heavens.
“Jack and I are meant to be together,” Audrey replied. “I’m the love of his life.”
Jack stared at her suddenly, “Audrey, that’s a little…”
“A little, what, Jack? I am the love of your life.”
“Are you serious?” Chloe said, “he was married for nearly twenty years before he even met you, he had a daughter with his wife and she accepted him for who he was. She didn’t ask him to change.”
“Chloe,” Jack said quietly.
“No, Jack,” Chloe said harshly, “she’s up here trying to tell the world I’m trying to steal you from her, and claiming to be the only woman you could ever love, completely ignoring the fact that if anyone was going to be the ‘love your life,’ it would be Terri, the woman who didn’t ask you to give up your job and move half way across the country because it didn’t suit her image! She needs her head checked!”
“Woah!” Dr Phil sat back in the chair, “there is some serious hostility here!”
“Chloe, are you okay?” Jack asked, turning his attention to the woman by his side and taking one of her hands in his.
Chloe flushed and nodded, “yeah, I’m sorry, she just really annoys me when she talks about you like that.”
Jack smiled affectionately at her and squeezed her hand. Behind him he heard a sob ripped from Audrey’s throat.
“Look at them! And then he tells me there’s nothing going on between them!”
“Now, I have to say Jack. I have plenty of female friends but if I ever treated them, the way you treat Chloe, Robin would not be as accommodating as Audrey. In fact I’d safely say I’d be lucky if she let me sleep in the garage, never mind the couch!”
The bright eyed brunette in the audience nodded slowly, menacingly and the audience tittered amongst themselves. On the dais, Chloe looked down at the floor while Jack felt like he had to let go of her hand and sit back in the chair, a hand resting defensively against his mouth and chin.
“Let’s take another break.”
Chloe shifted uncomfortably. “I need some fresh air,” she muttered, hopping off the chair and leaving the studio.
She exited the building and took a few deep breaths, before hearing the door open and close behind her.
“Chloe, we need to talk.”
She rolled her eyes and turned around, squinting in the sunlight at Audrey, looking decidedly determined and a bit nervous.
“What do you want, Audrey? I thought the whole point of dragging me here was so we could ‘talk’ in front of Dr Texas.”
“I just want to make sure you’re not going to do something stupid.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“We had a deal, Chloe. You promised me you wouldn’t tell Jack about China, and I need to know you’re not going to change your mind.”
Chloe scowled at her, her eyes lighting up. “I gave you my word, Audrey, which actually means something to me. I don’t just go around breaking it at will. I made that promise because at the time I believed it’s what would make Jack happy.”
“It will still make Jack happy,” Audrey insisted, “he loves me, and we we’re meant to be together.”
Chloe snorted, and crossed her arms. “Don’t worry Audrey, I’m not about to take the responsibility of ruining your relationship with Jack. I think you’re able to do that all on your own.”
She brushed past her and walked back towards the set, Audrey following behind her. She stalled suddenly at the edge of the set, Audrey bumping into her back.
Audrey was silenced as she looked out over the set and found both herself and Chloe the captive attention of the entire crowd, Dr Phil and Jack, who looked pissed as hell.
Chloe shifted hesitantly, taking a tentative step forward.
“What’s going on?” Audrey asked, a nervous smile on her face.
Dr Phil, looking none too pleased, “is there something you all would like to share with us?”
“I’m sure I don’t know what-”
“What about China, Audrey?” Jack said through clenched teeth, “what was it you didn’t want Chloe to tell me?”
“Oh God,” Chloe muttered looking down at her shirt. “Microphones,” she hissed at Audrey.
“If you all are serious about being here and making this work, then you have to be open and honest. Which means no little secrets between the two of you.” Dr Phil iterated pointing at Chloe and Audrey.
Audrey paled, and Chloe kept her eyes focused on the ground as they made their way back to the chairs.
“Audrey?” Jack demanded, facing her with barely restrained anger and frustration.
She smiled anxiously at him, her eyes reflecting her worry. “It’s nothing terribly serious, Jack.”
Chloe looked up sharply and relaxed a small bit seeing that all attention was focused on the glamorous daughter of the former secretary of defence. “After you were taken that day, naturally, there was a big search for you. And while we were at the airfield, I saw a man there I recognised, but it wasn’t until a few days later I realised I’d met him at the Chinese consulate when my father went to meet with the Chinese ambassador one day.” She sighed, looking down at her clasped hands, “if I’d realised sooner, Jack,” she shook her head, her hair half veiling her features from him. “If I’d realised, maybe we could have stopped you from even getting on that ship.”
Jack sat in his seat, an impassive look on his face. “What does this have to do with Chloe?”
“Well, when I eventually told Chloe what I’d realised she grew angry, and with good reason. I could hardly forgive myself for not making the connection sooner, so how could I expect Chloe to? We had a large row in the CTU situation room, Bill had to ask us both to go home.”
She looked back up at Jack who glanced between the two women on either side of him. “You’re not telling me everything.”
“Excuse me?” Audrey said, his voice eerily reminiscent of that time when he’d been forced to interrogate her.
“You heard me, Audrey. I know you and Chloe well enough to know you wouldn’t keep something as inane and childish as a fight in CTU from me. It wouldn’t change how I felt about you. So what is it?”
“Are the cameras getting this?” Dr Phil whispered to the stage hand nearby, too scared to move in case they broke the atmosphere. The stage hand nodded and Dr Phil chuckled softly. “Good. Let’s see Oprah top this one!”
“Damn it Audrey!” his voice rose, and half the audience jumped with the intensity of it. He turned to Chloe, disappointment written so clearly on his face it made her chest ache. “And you. I can’t believe you’d lie to me Chloe. Keep something from me like this.”
“Jack,” her voice wavered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to keep anything from you. And you’re right there is more, and I’ll tell you but I don’t think it will change anything. Not really.”
Jack pinned her with his gaze. “Tell me,” he urged her quietly.
“What Audrey said was true,” she began slowly, “she was the one who realised the Chinese had you, but by then a week had passed, and I was angry with her. I overreacted but we got over it.”
She looked away, her gaze focusing on a point in the distance. “We did everything we could think of. I tracked, planes, ships, anything headed towards China that day. But it was difficult to get some satellite images over seven days old. We missed things, but we tried, Jack. I swear we tried.”
“Yes, we did,” Audrey interrupted, and Chloe rolled her eyes, temping the urge to voice the suggestion that attention had clearly been diverted away from her for more than ten seconds.
Audrey sighed dramatically. “Chloe and Bill were working at CTU and Dad and I worked politically from Washington. My father met with the Chinese ambassador a number of times and put pressure on him to release you, but they denied any involvement and began threatening economic and political ramifications if the US didn’t stop making what they called ‘unfounded allegations.’ And after two months of searching and getting nowhere, they shut us down. CTU were no longer given the money or resources to continue the search and Dad and I were sent on a month’s tour of the Middle Eastern Countries.”
Jack sat in silence and Chloe met Audrey’s eyes, taking over the storytelling. “But I had three weeks vacation time worked up,” she said quietly. Jack turned to her, stunned in his silence unwilling and unable to stop this erratic flow of conversation between the two women. “Buchanon tried to stop me, but he couldn’t. What I do on my own time is my own business and I couldn’t just give up like that. I had to keep looking for you Jack.”
“My God,” Jack whispered hoarsely, “you were in China.”
She nodded, meeting his eyes, “Chase and I went to look for you. It was crazy and stupid, we didn’t even know where to begin really, but I couldn’t just suddenly start back into work looking at mundane and irrelevant internet chatter when you were still out there.”
He grabbed her hand, squeezing it tightly. “Chloe, do you know what they could have done to you? If they’d gotten you too…” he trailed off, closing his eyes painfully.
“But they didn’t Jack,” she reminded him, placing her free hand on top of his. “I’m here and I’m fine.”
“You didn’t give up on me,” he whispered, opening his eyes, and she was shocked at the mixture of pain and relief staring back at her.
“Of course not.”
He turned back to Audrey, “why didn’t you tell me?”
“I spoke to Chloe, and we both decided that since you were focused on getting better, and making this relationship work, there was no need to bring it up now.”
“I don’t understand,” Jack said looking between the two women. “How did Audrey end up going back to China alone?”
Chloe stiffened and cocked an eyebrow at the slender woman. Audrey smiled nervously at him. “It’s complicated. I was sent as part of a diplomatic envoy to Beijing.”
“So, you didn’t go to China specifically to look for me.”
“I, I…” she closed her eyes, stemming the flow of tears, “no, but I decided to stay to look for you.”
“Why? How were you planning on looking for me?”
Audrey locked eyes with Chloe and shook her head. “The morning I was taken… it was the first morning after I’d decided to stay. I got a call from Chloe who had a lead she wanted me to check out.”
Dr Phil, who had remained silent up until this point, decided it was time to remind people that this was his show. Oprah would never have let her guests talk this long without attention being brought back to her.
“Woah, woah, woah,” he interrupted, turning his attention to the brunette analyst. “You sent her, unarmed and untrained out to follow some lead you’d picked up in the US?”
“It wasn’t like that,” Chloe said angrily, “She rang me the previous day, and told me she was staying on. Chase decided he’d go out with her, because she had no training. I gave her the lead I’d discovered and told her to wait for Chase.” She glared at Audrey accusingly. “He would have been there in a few hours, but she decided to go off on her own.”
“Is this true?” Dr Phil turned his attention to Audrey.
She lowered her eyes demurely, while somehow managing to flutter her eyelashes flirtatiously. “I couldn’t wait a minute longer for the chance to get Jack back, so I went off to the location, and while I was on my way, I got involved in the car accident. The rest is history.”
The murmuring among the crowd heightened for a moment before they were silenced by stagehands, and Dr Phil sitting forward in his seat.
“Now Jack, how do you feel about this? Both these women you care about have deceived you.”
“I don’t know what to think,” he said wearily, staring straight ahead, and refusing to meet the gaze of either of the two women by his side.
“Well,” Dr Phil said, pulling the hem of his jacket closer around him. “You have to decide if you want to continue this relationship with Audrey. In weighing up everything the two of you have been through, do you want to put in the effort and work that will no doubt be needed to make this relationship a success?”
Jack considered him carefully, his mind running in ten different directions.
“Jack?” Audrey said tentatively, slipping her hand inside his and giving him a tentative smile.
He didn’t squeeze her hand or make any attempt to grip it, and the smile began to fade from her face.
“I don’t know, Audrey. I really don’t.”
She dipped her head, a genuine sob escaping her throat as she withdrew her hand and brushed the moisture away.
“What did you think I was going to do Audrey? After hearing this little story, did you think I was just going to run off to Chloe? Tell me!”
“I don’t know, Jack,” she sobbed, “I’m sorry.”
“I think,” Dr Phil said quietly, “that as well as the obvious dependency issues Chloe and Jack seem to have-”
“Dependency issues?!” Chloe bit out angrily.
“There is a serious lack of trust on your part Audrey. And I think that’s something you would really have to work very hard on if you wanted to make this relationship work.”
She nodded her head slowly, “I know, and I want to try.”
“Jack?” he turned to the blonde man.
Jack regarded Audrey thoughtfully, a pained expression in his blue eyes. “I need some time to think about this.”
“Okay,” Dr Phil replied turning back towards the audience, “and while Jack thinks about this little revelation and the effect it could have on his future with Audrey, we’re going to take a quick commercial.” He smiled at the camera until the red light switched off.
“I gotta go to the little boys room, but I’ll be back in two ticks.” Dr Phil told them before disappearing from the stage.
Jack turned to Chloe, leaning towards her, turning off their mics. “Why didn’t you tell me you were in China?”
She shrugged, “it didn’t seem important. Besides, it’s not like I achieved anything by going, and I didn’t want you to think you were beholden to me somehow.” Her expression soured a little, “anyhow it may have just added to our ‘dependency issues.’ Can you believe he said that?”
“Chloe,” Jack reached out, catching her attention and forcing her frowning face to meet his gaze. “It matters.”
Their eyes held for she didn’t know how long, until eventually, she realised she was holding her breath and needed to breathe again.
“Whatever,” she muttered, quickly averting her face so he wouldn’t see the uncertainty and confusion that had overtaken her.
Jack sat back and stared thoughtfully down at his hands. Chloe got up and left the stage, wanting to put a little distance between them. The crowd still murmured discussing amongst themselves the complexities of the situation and what they would do in that position.
“I can’t believe you’d keep something like this from me, and ask Chloe to do the same,” Jack eventually spoke, turning to Audrey.
She sighed, her eyes closing briefly, before she looked at him, a vacant resignation on her face. “I honestly thought it was for the best, Jack. I made a mistake. If I could take it back, I would.”
“You told me CTU gave up the search, and so did Chloe.”
“You heard her yourself, Jack. She didn’t want you to feel like you owed her anything.”
“Bullshit,” he growled, “you didn’t want me to feel like I owed her anything. But what you’re forgetting, Audrey, is that I already do. She kept me safe when the rest of the world thought I was dead, she risked her life and her job for me more times than I can name. I thought she’d reached her limit, that she couldn’t do anything more for me, and I accepted that. Because she’d already given me more than I could ever repay. Now I find out she didn’t give up on me and the only reason she didn’t tell me was because the woman who’s meant to love me convinced her it would help me.”
Audrey rolled her eyes, frustration and anger barely restrained on her plastered face. “You know what, Jack? I’m sick of this. I’m tired of being some little minor character on the Jack & Chloe show. I don’t like her, I never have. She’s rude, has no respect for people in authority and thinks she can speak however the hell she wants to whoever she wants. And you encourage her. You don’t put her in line, you defend her when she insults people like my father and is condescending to me.”
“That’s just the way she is,” Jack bit out, “I’d never ask her to change.”
“But you’d ask me to,” Audrey snapped back. “You knew who I was when you met me. You knew my political ambitions, you knew I wanted to live in Washington, and you knew everything that would come with those ambitions. I want to go back home, you told me you wanted that too.”
“That was over four years ago,” he growled.
“So what? You changed your mind, you want to stay in this hell hole where, let’s face it, it’s a miracle you managed to live to your 40th birthday.” Her eyes narrowed as his jaw snapped shut and tightened. “And don’t even dare to tell me Chloe’s the reason you’ve made it this far.”
“Why not?” he challenged, “it’s true.”
“Please tell me the cameras are getting all this,” Dr Phil said quietly from the side of the stage as Chloe reappeared by his side.
“What the hell’s going on?” she frowned, in an instant taking in and understanding the scene in front of her.
“I suggest you keep out of this,” the bald man told her, “you’ll only make it worse, besides this sounds like it’s working out in your favour.”
She glared at him and crossed her arms, unwilling to get involved in the battle between the couple.
“So what are we saying here, Jack?” Audrey asked tiredly.
“I think we both know,” he replied, looking away.
“We’re going to give up, just like that?”
“You don’t trust me, Audrey, and I can’t pretend to be somebody I’m not. When we met in Washington, I was happy to spend the rest of my life there with you, but things have changed. I’ve changed. I’m not that person anymore. It’s not easy for me to admit I failed at this Audrey, but I did. And I’m sorry.”
Tears formed in her eyes and she nodded, her silent sobs comforted by the squeeze of his hand. “I should have told you about Chloe.”
He nodded, “Yes, you should. But it’s not just that, Audrey, it’s a culmination of a hundred different things. I’m sorry, I never meant to hurt you.”
“We can get past this, Jack.” Her voice brightened and her eyes widened. “We’re good together, remember how we used to be?” she clung onto his arm suddenly desperate.
“That’s the problem, Audrey,” he sighed, “we keep ‘remembering’ instead of focusing on the present and future.”
She pulled back from him, her face falling, and a sad resignation settled in her eyes. “You’re giving up,” there was no fight left in her words, just an acceptance and she quickly stood up and left the stage, leaving him sitting behind her, frozen as he watched her walk away.
Audrey moved through the small number of people there, brushing past Chloe, only then seeming to register her presence. With a bitter smile she turned to the petite analyst, and looked her up and down with disdain.
“Off you go then Chloe,” she sneered, “help yourself to my leftovers.”
Spinning on her heel, she straightened her shoulders and walked out the door, never once looking back.
Chloe looked after her in shock, her mouth hanging open slightly, when she felt her wrist grasped.
“Come on,” Jack hissed at her, half dragging her out of the room, and out of the buildings.
Her mind briefly reminded her of her bag and belongings in the green room, but she got the feeling now was not really the right time to bring it up.
Once they reached the outside world, with the hot, burning sun in the LA sky, his grip relaxed and he let his head fall back, a deep sigh escaping between his lips.
He turned towards her, as if just remembering he‘d dragged her with him. She was surprised that instead of the pain and hurt she’d expected to see in his eyes, all she saw was relief. Overwhelming relief, and the corners of his mouth lifted in a half smile as he looked down at her, tugging on her arm again. His hand slipped down her wrist, entwining their fingers and she squeezed his hand gently in response.
“Walk with me.”
“Where are we going?” she squinted up at him against the sun.
He chuckled, deeply, a sound that made her heart flutter and tugged her closer to his side, a smile tugging on his face.
“We’re going to work on our dependency issues, Chloe.” Brushing his lips across her forehead, she sighed against him. “I think they’ve been sadly neglected recently.”
The corners of her mouth drifted upwards, she couldn’t have agreed more.