A Good Man

Monsters Chapter 7

Disclaimer: I don't own 24. If I did Jack would realize that the perfect woman is right in front of him. The Fauve character is from Talk It Out by Aragothwinelfblade and used with permission from the author.

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Chloe felt rather dizzy as she sat there waiting for the next shot. She continued to stare at her bloody chest. It was all wrong. The blood spatters were wrong. She'd seen gunshot wounds before. This wasn't a shot from a .45.

When Peter Mueller had gone to the armory back at CTU he'd been delighted to find the automatic shotgun there. Most agents prefered submachine guns or pistols but Peter liked the sheer firepower of a shotgun loaded with double aught buckshot. He had a feeling this would be his final mission and he wanted to finish Reich Reborn once and for all. They had taken over a year from his life. Fourteen months away from his wife and kids. Fourteen months yelling at their stupid rallies, laughing at their foul jokes, drinking beer and watching football with men he hated. He had smashed tombstones in Jewish cemeteries and vandalized synagogues. But the worst part was what they called their "Coon hunts" where they would look for a homeless black man to beat up. The first one was Peter's initiation into Reich Reborn. He had managed to contact CTU beforehand and one of Peter's friends, Nathan Taylor, volunteered for the assignment. Peter found Nathan pushing a shopping cart near the rail yard and leaped from the car to attack him. Some of the others joined in and Nathan ended up in the hospital with both arms broken, three cracked ribs and a mild concussion. Peter knew Nathan understood why and forgave him but he could never forgive himself. And there had been other times when he had been forced to attack civilians. He had never actually killed anyone but had come close several times. He kept telling himself that breaking up the bomb plot was worth it. Saving thousands of lives was worth causing misery to dozens of innocents. Sometimes he even believed it. What really frightened him was that a small dark corner of his soul actually enjoyed it. Was he a good man pretending to be a monster or a monster pretending to be a good man? Did it make a difference? Now they wanted him to sacrifice the life of an innocent woman and he would be damned if he let that happen. After today he would probably face prison at worst or be drummed out of CTU at best but either way it ends now.

Shari had made it clear that there were two people in one room and three in another. The Delta team had tossed a flash boom grenade into the building and charged in. It was clear to Peter that Chloe wasn't in the first room so he pushed through a partially open door into a hallway. There he encountered Richard Hardt charging through with a hunting rifle. Hardt started to bring up the rifle.

"You fuckin' traitor!" he snarled.

Mueller was a hair faster and fired a load of buckshot into Hardt's chest liquefying his heart. He then heard some shots coming from another room. He charged in and saw O'Brian sitting on the floor by an overturned table in a tangle of electronics with John Snow standing over her, his back to Peter, raising a .45 pistol. Without hesitation Mueller raised the shotgun and fired a load of buckshot into the back of Snow's head. He saw the heavy pistol fly from Snow's lifeless hand and hit Chloe in the chest causing her whole body to jerk. It then bounced off onto the floor by her left knee. Peter quickly scanned the area for additional threats then rushed over to Chloe. Her hair, face, and especially her chest had been sprayed liberally with the contents of Snow's head and she was looking down at the bloody front of her sweatshirt mumbling something to herself. She looked up in suprise as Peter knelt next to her then she noticed Snow's body.

"Thanks Peter, you're still a jerk."

"So are you, Chloe."

He pulled up the sweatshirt and grunted in suprise at the bruises and welts. This woman was in a lot of pain but he found no bullet wounds. He checked her back for good measure then felt her head. She seemed on the brink of fainting but was otherwise OK. He wrapped her right arm around his neck and lifted her up to her feet. "Let's get out of here."

"A bandit has the package," Shari's voice said over his headphone.

"Negative! Delta Six has the package!" he shouted into his transmitter.

"If you're Delta Six then who's in the hallway?"

Peter pushed Chloe behind him and brought up the shotgun.

"Delta One is in the hallway! Hallway is clear!" Curtis shouted, he definitely had to run those drills next week.

"I have six live bodies. Sound off." Shari stated.

"Delta One," Curtis said.

"Delta Two."

"Delta Four."

"Delta Five."

"Delta Six," Peter said, "With package."

"That's six," Shari said, "Stand down, the party's over."

Chloe immediatly sensed something wrong. "Delta Three! Where's Delta Three?"

Curtis stepped up, "I'm sorry Chloe."

"Who is he? I need to see him."

As they entered the other room Chloe pulled away from Mueller and rushed past the bullet riddled bodies of Tat-Face and Whiskers to the still form of a man in CTU body armor. He had a battledressing on his throat but it was too little, too late. She saw his face and recognized him from his file. Francisco (Frankie) Gonzales, AKA Gonzo, Age 27, two terms in the Marines. Joined CTU because he was homesick for LA. Never married, no kids which is somewhat tragic in itself. Two years in Iraq, one year in Afganistan, only to die in the hills of southern California. It's suprising how much you can know about a man you've never actually met.

"He died saving me," Chloe said in a soft voice, tears welling in her eyes. "He was a good man and he died because of me."

"Don't say that Chloe," Curtis told her. "He died because of them, not you. You had nothing to do with his death."

"It's never going to end," Chloe muttered. "I'm going to have to buy another black dress because it's never going to end."

"Get on that stretcher Chloe and we'll get you out of here."

"I don't need a damned stretcher! I can walk just fine!"

"We don't know what they've done to you! You could go into shock! Now get on the stretcher!"

Chloe pulled herself up to full height in her blood stained sweat suit and bare feet, crossed her arms, and glared up Agent Manning's nostrils. "I don't take orders from you Curtis!"

"This is a field operation! I'm the senior field agent! That means everybody takes orders from me! Now get on the stretcher O'Brian and that's an order!"

"OK! Fine! I'm getting on the stretcher! See, I'm lying on the stretcher! I'm not even complaining about how tight this gorilla is strapping me in! Happy?"

"Yes, very, Peterson, Fuchida, stay here and police the area. Now let's get Chloe home."

As they carried Chloe out to the helicopter she felt the sunshine for the first time since the rail trestle an age ago. The sun was setting behind the hill to the west. It was all so beautiful.

CTU Two hours later

Chloe was pacing back and forth in CTU's sickbay speaking on the landline. "Thanks a bunch, I'll owe you big time for this. I'll send them over as soon as I get back to my station. Bye for now." She hung up the phone and looked around the room. It had an awful lot of flowers for someone as thoughly disliked as she was. Then the phone rang and she snatched it up.

"O'Brian, wadya want?"

"Bill Buchanan, Director Hayes and I need to see you about your after action report. Can we come over?"

"Just you Bill, not Karen."

"Why don't you want to see Karen?"

"I don't trust her. Come alone."

She hung up the phone and walked over to the big window opening up into the main control room. CTU was nothing but windows. It was like a big goldfish bowl. None of them opened to the outside though. Closed off from the outside world but no privacy within. That was CTU. She noticed Agent Mueller across the room. 'Oh my God he's making moves on Heather from Security! And he's got a wife and kids! Why that sleazy no-good two timing bucket of slime!'

Bill wasn't suprised that Chloe didn't trust Karen but he was mildly surprised that she trusted him. When he walked into sickbay she was scowling out the window at something but turned to see him as he entered. He winced at the swollen blue and yellow mottled legs extending from the short hospital gown she wore. Her blond hair was damp and clung to her head. She didn't have a trace of makeup and looked like a young schoolgirl except for the eyes. They looked old, tired, but with a glint of triumph. A slight smile at the corner of her lips. He got a sudden urge to hug her but since her torso was probably worse than her legs she probably wasn't in the mood for hugs.

"Are you sure you don't want to lie down?"

"No, my feet are about the only parts that weren't pounded on. I prefer to stand."

"I need to talk to you about your after action report. Mueller's report said that he kidnapped you at gunpoint to exchange for the children. But your report says that he didn't kidnap you, that the terrorists contacted you directly and that you arranged the exchange yourself and only contacted Mueller afterwards to let him know where to pick up the children.

"Mueller was so distraught over the children I guess he felt himself to blame for what happened."

"Mueller's version matches the evidence. Your version doesn't match the evidence and frankly doesn't make any sense. The car he stole was found only three blocks from Dr. Akana's house. He came back to CTU driving your car. And why would the terrorists kidnap his children only to contact you instead of him? Dr. Akana said nobody contacted you at her house but CTU but you immediately tossed your purse into her bushes. I don't need to remind you of the penalties for filing a false report. They are quite severe."

Bill had seen that look on Chloe's face before. It was the hand-in-the-cookie-jar look she got whenever she was caught in a lie. Usually it was to help out Jack Bauer or some other agent in trouble. Her blunt honesty would make her a lousy field agent. "This man kidnapped you at gunpoint and turned you over to a terrorist group to be tortured and murdered. You don't owe him anything. Now Chloe, look me in the eyes and tell me what really happened."

Chloe looked him in the eyes then her gaze dropped to the splint on his hand and she winced. She stared at the sink in the corner then focused on his eyes. "They had his kids. He's a good man sir. We've lost far too many good men around here and I don't want to lose another." Her gaze then dropped to his chest. "I stand by my report," she mumbled.

Bill spent a long moment watching her fidget. "OK Chloe, I'll endorse your report. Maybe we can adjust it a bit. I don't think anyone reads these things anyway. No further action will be taken against Agent Mueller."

"Thank you sir."

"I've arranged to give you as much time off as you need to recover."

"No thanks, It will hurt just as much at home as it does here but when I'm working I don't think about it. Besides we still have that huge backlog of Chinese intercepts. I've just called Bobbie Lee over in Boston and he's going to help with the translations. We'll be working late."

"Are you sure about this?"

"I've got a neighbor who puts out cat food whenever I mysteriously vanish for long periods and we have a medical staff right here. I'll be fine."

"All right, let me know if you need anything."

"I would like to know where they're going to be buried.''

Bill looked puzzled, "Why?"

"It's personal, Oh never mind, I'll find out myself, I'm good at finding out things."

As Bill left the room Chloe looked out the window. Now Mueller was holding Heather's hand and looking into her eyes! 'Why that arrogant womanizing little turd!'

Chloe's apartment two days later

"So Fauve, I think I'm over the PTSD. I haven't had any panic attacks or nightmares and my paranoia's no worse than it would be for anyone else in my line or work."

"That doesn't make any sense! You've just gone through the worst trauma I can imagine. It should make you worse, not better."

Chloe slowly lowered herself on the couch. "Ow, ow, ow, I think it's that one treatment you mentioned. Exposure to stressful conditions where the patient is in complete control. I was under stressful conditions and I realized that I was in complete control."

"That's a very controversial technique to be used only under carefully controlled conditions. And those were hardly carefully controlled conditions. And let me get this straight. You were stripped naked, beaten within an inch of your life, locked in a cage by a gang of homicidal terrorists with no chance of rescue and you decided you were in complete control!"

"I was in control. They set the whole thing up for me. I was the one calling the shots by deciding whether or not to give them The-Thing-I-Can't-Talk-About. I was in complete control."

"But they could have killed you!"

"True, but I was in control of that too."

"That's the craziest thing I ever heard! Chloe, promise me that you'll never become normal! Normal people are so boring."

"I really don't think that will ever become a problem for either of us."

"So you thought The-Thing-You-Can't-Talk-About was worth dying for?"

"The-Thing-I-Can't-Talk-About is very important. More important than I am. So yes, it is worth dying for."

Fauve leaned forward in her chair. "So what is it that makes it so important?"

"I can't tell you about The-Thing-I-Can't-Talk-About. It's classified."

Fauve pouted. "Well the bad guys know about it."

"I don't care what the bad guys know or don't know! I'm not going to discuss classified materials with you!"

"Aw come on! How about a little hint?"

"For the last time Fauve, I'm not going to discuss classified materials and if you keep pumping me for information I'm going to shove you out the door!"

Fauve decided to back down. She knew Chloe wasn't bluffing and she wasn't joking. And she'd been on the receiving end of the legendary O'Brian temper enough to know when it was starting to boil. "OK, OK, I won't ask anymore. So much for my career as an international spy!"

"Just don't push me. If I don't tell you something there's a good reason for it."

"OK, OK, So you were able to tell your friends your exact location even though you didn't have any idea where you were! How did you do that?"

"That's classified too."

"Chloe! You're going to drive me up the wall! So now you're not worried about being killed anymore?"

"Of course I'm worried. I just learned to accept it, that's all."

"Well I think you need to adjust your calculations a bit."

"What do you mean?"

"Did you figure in that Chloe's smarter than the smarties, tougher than the toughies, and braver than the bravies?"

"Bravies? Is that even a word?"

"You know what I mean!"

"If by brave you mean a sniveling, terrified, little crybaby then I guess I was brave."

"Well, you didn't give them The-Thing-You-Can't-Talk-About."

"It was too important! I didn't have a choice!"

"You always have a choice. You just always make the right choice."

"Oh really! Think about every man I've ever had a relationship with!"

Fauve laughed, "Oh well, men don't count."

Chloe shut her eyes briefly, "Some of them do."

"And did you figure into your program that God and all his angels love you and were trying to keep you alive?"

"Well, no."

"That ought to be worth 50 points right there!"

Well, it's pretty hard to quantify."

"All I know is I was worried sick when you disappeared. I even looked up your friend, Father Petrowsky, and asked him to do some of his priest mojo with the Big Guy."

"How did you find him?"

"There's a finite number of Catholic priests named Mike in the LA area and I think I went through most of them. I don't know if it worked but I figured it couldn't hurt. Besides the friends of Chloe is a rather small and exclusive club. If you go missing we should all pull together."

"How did you find out I was missing?"

"A few hours after you disappeared I got interrogated by the tall, dark and super sexy Agent Manning who's phone number I'm sure you have stashed in your PDA."

"I can't give out personal information about other agents. That would get me fired or even arrested! I admit I've broken the rules a few times for very important reasons but you being horny is hardly a national security crisis!"

Fauve pouted, "It's just that I was so rude to him! I need to appologize!"

"I bet! OK, next time I see him I'll tell him you're interested but it would be up to him whether or not to call. He might already have a girlfriend."

"Fair enough. By the way I like the new black dress. It's a lot nicer than your old one. And the black hose is very sexy."

"Well the black hose is to hide my not so sexy legs which still frighten dogs and small children."

"Did they hurt you bad?"

"Yeah, they beat me pretty bad."

"Let me see."

"I don't know."

"Well I am a doctor."

"Oh very well!" Chloe said in an exasperated tone. She stood up and unzipped her new dress. It fell into a puddle around her ankles leaving her in her bra and panties. Fauve gave out a squeek at the sight of her bruised and battered body. Chloe rolled down her hose for good measure and then slowly turned around with her arms up to give Fauve a good look then pulled her dress back up. "OK, freak show's over. If you want another look you'll have to buy a ticket."

"Does it hurt much?"

"Not as much as yesterday, and yesterday was better than the day before. The Docs tell me I should heal completely except for a couple of small scars that would be hardly noticable."

"Oh I know a guy who can laser them off. We can even get Uncle Sugar to pay for it."

"No, I think I'll keep them. Scars are just records of our experiences. Our experiences are what makes us strong. Makes us who we are. Besides the kind of man I'm looking for isn't going to wuss out over a few scars."

"Are you sure all those sons of bitches are dead? Couldn't you leave just one for me?"

"Sorry Fauve, my buddies are pretty good at applied violence."

Fauve was sobered at the brief glimpse into the cruel, violent world that her nerdy college roomate had chosen to immerse herself into. "Well I give up. If this doesn't convince you to leave CTU, I don't know what will. I still hate the idea of you working in that awful place. You will never find happiness working there."

"I've never found happiness anywhere. I don't think I was ever meant to be happy. But at CTU I have purpose. I'm fighting the good fight. That's enough."

"And I suppose that tragic, doomed heroine is an alternative life style." Fauve declared putting her left hand on her chest and waving the other in a hammy grandious manner.

Chloe slapped her forehead with the back of her hand tossing her head back in an equally hammy manner.

"I'm still not sure you're completely recovered. I would still like to monitor you."

"Sure why not, Oh! I've got some good news. We're 90 sure we know who has Jack now. The world just got a lot smaller."

"And who would that be? Oh, it's classified isn't it?"

"Yeah, sorry about that. And I'm going to have to leave soon. I've got another funeral to go to."

"Oh that's too bad. One of your CTU friends?"

"No, Amy King, the babysitter. I didn't know her. Never met her. But sometimes I have to be reminded why I put up with this crap."

"I'll go with with you. Maybe I need to be reminded too."

"And as for the evil bastards who killed her I'm going to find out where they're buried. I can't go anytime soon I've got too many things to do now. But maybe later."

The two women looked at each other with nasty grins and shouted in unison "Road trip!"