Worth the Wait
Chloe O’Brian looked at her watch for the umpteenth time. She nervously took another sip of her wine, and looked out the window, searching for any sign that he had arrived.
“Where the hell is he? He should be here by now!” Chloe thought to herself.
She had been sitting there for almost an hour and a half, waiting for Jack to show up. He asked, no, demanded that she go out to dinner with him, and Chloe reluctantly agreed. She still remembered the brief conversation.
“Chloe, want to grab some dinner with me?”
“Um, no thanks.”
“You need to eat, don’t you? Aren’t you hungry?”
“Well, yeah, but-”
“Great. Meet me at Andre’s at the corner of 5th street. Wear something nice.”
Chloe had been caught off guard, but inside she was secretly pleased and scared as hell as well. Jack Bauer had just asked her to have dinner with him! What was she going to wear?
She had always had feelings for him, but she had pushed them away, always keeping them at bay since Jack was dating Audrey. She settled for being his friend, his confidante, but nothing more. She would rather keep her feelings to herself than reveal them and ruin her friendship with Jack. But when his relationship with Audrey went to hell, she allowed herself to indulge in them for a while, that is until he was taken by the Chinese. He came back a different man, a broken man, and Chloe knew that he didn’t need anything else to further complicate his life.
That was why the sudden invitation from Jack had been such a pleasant surprise. Chloe thought that perhaps he was starting the healing process. Or something along those lines.
Of course, Chloe knew that this was just a dinner, between two friends of course. She didn’t even allow herself to cling onto the tiny ray of hope that it might be something more, because she knew that if she did and it turns out it really was just a friendly dinner, she wouldn’t be able to deal with the crushing blow of disappointment.
That didn’t stop her from freaking out about what to wear. Looking through her closet twice, she saw that the clothes she owned were not adequately suited for the occasion, and she found herself walking into a dress shop and buying a little black dress (nothing too fancy!) and pair of heels to match. She went so far as to apply make up and fix her hair into one of those wispy hair buns that she had seen on woman far more elegant than herself.
She had told herself that this effort to look nice was not to impress Jack, but that the occasion had called upon it.
Jack had told her to show up at seven at the restaurant. She had arrived promptly at the small, albeit fancy bistro, where the matre-d had taken her coat and hung it on the coat hanger. He led her to a secluded table in the back of the restaurant, near the fireplace.
Chloe had nervously waited for Jack for an hour and a half, sipping her wine occasionally and frantically looking at her watch.
“When he gets here, I’m going to kick his ass. For God’s sake people think I’m being stood up!” She thought to herself. She could feel the eyes of the restaurant staff, and some customers as well, boring into her. They whispered, and looked at her with sympathetic expressions.
Then another thought hit her. “What if something happened to him on the way here?” she thought anxiously. She started to bite her nails.
“No! Stop biting your nails. Just call him.”
Chloe flipped open her phone, and dialed his number.
A feminine voice answered the phone, and it belonged to none other than Audrey Raines.
Chloe was speechless. Why was Audrey answer Jack’s phone?
Then it hit her…she was with him. And he was with her obviously, which means he’s definitely not coming to dinner.
Chloe snapped her phone shut, and felt a sense of humiliation wash over her. She was stood up because her dinner date was with his (ex) girlfriend! Anger set in, and she rose from the table, her face red.
With her head held high, she dropped a couple of bills onto the table to pay for the wine, and walked out of the restaurant with what little self-respect she had left.
Jack was in the middle of putting on his jeans when the doorbell rang. Curious, he opened the door to find Audrey standing in his doorway, tears running down her face.
“Jack.” She had whispered.
“Audrey. What’s wrong? Did something happen? Are you OK?” he had asked, genuinely concerned for her well being. Although his feelings for her had long ago vanished, he thought of her as a friend, and wanted to look out for her.
“I’m OK. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.” She took a deep breath, and said “I shouldn’t have let you go.”
“Huh?” Jack had said, stupidly.
“I think we should get back together.” said Audrey. “I love you, Jack; I’ve never stopped loving you. It was a mistake, breaking it off the way we did. Can we pick up where we left off?”
Audrey entered the house, and sat down on Jack’s couch. He closed the door, and glanced at the clock, knowing he was late for his date with Chloe.
“I was having a drink, trying to forget about you…about us.” She went on. “But then I realized that I couldn’t. I couldn’t forget about us.” She emphasized the word “us”, obviously liking the sound of it.
“Audrey, we already went through this. You couldn’t deal with what I do, and you couldn’t accept who I was. Really accept it. And I couldn’t fit in with your world…I can’t sit at a desk and do paperwork. I told you that it drove me crazy.” He said, all the while looking at the watch.
“I know, I know. But I think I’ve finally made peace with what you do. You belong in the field, I know that. A lot of lives are saved because of what you do. And yes, the things that you do are a bit unorthodox, but I think I can accept that. I’ll turn a blind eye to it…I’m willing to do that because I love you. Can’t you see that Jack? We should be together.” Audrey cried, sounding desperate.
Jack looked at her, and shook his head.
“No, Audrey. If you truly loved me, you wouldn’t have to turn a blind eye to what I do. If you loved me, you would accept me wholly. And would you really be able to deal with it? And what about what happened with Paul?”
“I forgive you for what happened to Paul! You were doing what you had to do!” she said, tears streaming.
“Do you really forgive me? I killed your husband. I chose someone else’s life over his. And what if there’s another Paul in the future? Would you be able to deal with that?”
He pressed on when he saw her trying to rebut him.
“And I’m sure that you don’t really trust me, right? I can tell that you’re just not ready to accept me for who I am. But I have found someone that can do that. She’s been there the whole time, and I was too damn blind to see it.”
Audrey saw him smile slightly when he mention this woman.
“Who is it?” Audrey said quietly, looking down at her lap.
“Chloe.” He replied. “Look, Audrey.”
He tilted her chin up so that she faced him.
“I will always love you. You were very special to me, and I will always remember the time we shared together. It’s just that, when I see you and me in the future, it’s just as friends. Please, move on. I know you deserve better than me.”
Audrey nodded slowly, letting the words sink in.
“I guess your right. Maybe I was in love with the idea of us, instead of the actual thing.” She gave him a small smile. “Chloe was always there for you. I hope it works out between you two.”
He nodded. “Me too.”
Jack looked at the clock, and said “Audrey, I kinda have to be somewhere right now. I’m going to finish cleaning myself up and then I’ll be heading out so…”
“Right, right.” She said, taking the cue to leave. “I’ll let myself out; you do what you need to do.”
Jack nodded, and headed upstairs.
Audrey looked around at Jack’s house for the last time, sighing. Maybe it was time to move on, to look for someone else. Her thoughts were broken when she heard Jack’s phone ringing.
Since he was busy upstairs, she figured she could tell the person on the other end to call back later. She picked up the phone.
There was a few minutes of silence, and then the caller hung up. “Hm. Weird.” she said to no one in particular.
Audrey set the phone back onto its cradle, opened the door and left Jack Bauer’s house for the last time.
Jack cursed as he drove down the busy streets of LA. He was over two hours late, and Chloe was probably long gone by now.
He gunned it down the street, probably breaking a few speeding laws, and turned up at the Andre’s, his favorite restaurant.
Jack had only ever taken one other woman there, and that was Teri. It was where they had their first date, and where he proposed. He felt that this place was special, and only to be reserved for the very important people in his life. Chloe was the only other person he felt was important enough.
When he was in China, he was often left to rot in some cell after his captors beat the living crap out of him. In there, he had a lot of time to think. He thought about the people he left behind, but his thoughts mostly centered on Chloe. He really had time to think about all the sacrifices that she had made for him, the many, many times she was arrested, and forced to give up her job, all in an effort to help him. She never doubted him, never questioned him, and she just trusted him with a faith that both pleased and scared him. She was always there for him, and his confidante, his constant, his friend, his love. She accepted him for who he was, and she knows exactly what he does, but still she looks at him with confidence, instead of disgust, which was what Audrey did.
After that hellish day with the nuclear suitcase nukes, and that whole thing with Marilyn and Josh, he had time to clean up and he finally got up the nerve to ask Chloe to have dinner with him.
And he just blew it by being two hours late.
He ran into the restaurant, and the matre-d, Matthew, stopped him.
“Mr. Bauer, your date left. But if you want the table it’s still available.”
“Dammit.” Jack cursed. “No, it’s alright.”
He left the restaurant, jumped into his car and drove as fast as he could to Chloe’s apartment.
Chloe had driven home immediately, changed into sweats, stuffed the outfit that reminded her of the hideous evening into the back of her closet, took off her make up, and ordered Chinese food. She planned to sulk for the rest of the evening, thinking of ways to kill Jack.
She was contemplating between poisoning him and pushing him down the stairs “accidentally” when the doorbell rang. Thinking it was the Chinese food delivery guy, she grabbed some cash from her wallet and opened the door, saying “ABOUT TIME. I thought you would get here in 20 minutes!”
She stopped dead in her tracks when she realized that she was looking into the blue eyes of the man that she had earlier thought of murdering.
Anger rose within her. He stood her up because he was spending time with his girlfriend, and he has the nerve to show up at her apartment?!?
“What the hell are you doing here?” she hissed, putting as much venom into her voice as possible.
“I’m sorry, Chloe.” He said.
“I’m sorry too Jack. I’m sorry that I agreed to have dinner with you in the first place. Instead of dinner, I get humiliated!”
Jack’s hung his head. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“Yeah, I guess you were so busy with Audrey that you forgot about me. Figures, she always has that effect on you.”
Jack looked up. Was that jealously? “How did you know I was talking to Audrey?”
“Well, when you didn’t show up after an hour and a half, I called your house since I was scared something had happened to you…but when Audrey answered the phone it all became pretty clear to me.” She yelled.
“You were…worried about me?” he asked.
She snorted. “Before, yeah. But now, I don’t really care what happens to you.”
Jack cleared his throat. “Audrey came over, and tried to get back together with me.”
“So? Shouldn’t you be with her, making out or something? Perhaps whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears?” she said, sarcasm lacing her words.
He chuckled, despite the seriousness of the conversation. “No. I said that it didn’t work before, it won’t work now, and it won’t ever work. Spending time with her just made me realized how deeply, madly in love I am with someone else.”
“Whoopee! Won’t you tell me who it is?”
Chloe was ready with a witty, mean and sarcastic comment but that totally fazed her.
“It’s always been you Chloe.” He said, looking at her, his gaze searing into the depths of her soul.
She looked away, and said “What are you talking about?”
Jack cupped her face with his hands, and gave a slow kiss, full of passion and pent up emotion. The effect was shocking enough to cause her to forget what she‘d been saying.
They only broke apart since they needed air. He rested his forehead against her’s.
“I’m sorry you had to wait so long at the restaurant.” He said quietly.
She shook her head. “You were worth the wait.” She said, smiling.