chapter one

"Go home, Chloe," Jack whispered to the woman who was sleeping lightly on his couch. It was midnight, and she'd been there since early in the morning.

She awoke at the sound of his voice and immediately turned her face away. "I'm not going anywhere," she replied as he sat beside her.

"Chloe..."

"I'm not leaving, okay? Don't fight me on this," she replied.

"Chloe, I know you're trying to help me, and you know that I am grateful for everything you've done for me these last few weeks, but - "

"But nothing, Jack. Go to bed. I'll be here on the couch if you need me," she interrupted, pulling her coat over her head like a blanket so as to ignore him.

He sighed and gave up, leaving her to sleep on his couch for the seventh straight day. She watched him walk away, wishing that one of these nights he'd insist she leave the uncomfortable couch for his bed. Then she silently scolded herself for thinking such a shallow thought during his time of need.

Her role as helper in his time of need had begun a month earlier, when he was released from one chaos in China only to be placed in another. The last remaining threads of his life had unraveled that day, but when the day finally gave in to the next, he turned to find that Chloe was still there. Somehow, she was still there.

It was unspoken but known by both that they needed one another to survive the new normal forced upon their lives. They simply had no one else but each other.

Jack lay awake in bed and recalled how Chloe had taken him from CTU to her apartment that first night. He remembered walking inside and sitting down only to fall asleep within seconds. She had then gently nudged him awake before guiding him to her bedroom, where he slept as she took to her couch.

He both loved and detested every moment she spent taking care of him. He needed her, but he hated being a burden to her with every fiber of his being. Three weeks later, with his savings that Kim had received when he was in China but never touched just in case he ever returned, he rented out an apartment of his own.

He smiled scoffingly at the thought that his own apartment would increase his independence. Chloe helped him move, helped furnish the place, brought meals every day, drove him to his now-numerous doctor appointments, even did his laundry. She rationalized to him that her sleeping there was necessary, because "what if you had one of your nightmares and no one was there to wake you up?".

Nightmares, though they plagued him often and were treacherous when they did, wouldn't be a problem tonight, he thought to himself. He'd only been in bed for 10 minutes and he knew he couldn't sleep. Tomorrow a decision would be made as too whether he would be officially reinstated to limited duty at CTU - something he wasn't even sure he wanted. Anticipation left sleep out of the question.

Drifting out of his small bedroom, he was on his way to the kitchen but stopped at a doorway to check in on Chloe. She was sleeping peacefully, though uncomfortably, he was sure. Watching her sleep from his safe distance, Jack couldn't help but wonder just what kept her in his life. He had been through many hells in the last few years, to be sure, but she was always there to catch him, and she always gave him her all, no matter what.

Something in her had changed, though, and he couldn't figure out what it was. He had been gone for a long time, to be sure, and he wondered often what happened during that time. He knew about Morris, obviously (though she never told him that he was the reason why Morris left her), but she didn't let him in any further. And though she was still the same essential Chloe he had always known, she now possessed a silent, resolute strength that was new to him. Whatever it was, he wasn't going to ask. He knew that, like himself, Chloe kept things to herself for good reasons.

Jack retrieved a blanket from his room and returned to cover her with it. He smiled slightly as he gently wrapped the blanket around her, wondering what the hell possessed her to want to be there. In moments like those he was honest with himself and could admit how much he needed her there with him. When he was alone, he couldn't stop his mind from flashing back and returning him to the place he had physically been saved from but mentally was still a prisoner of. To not feel alone was the greatest comfort he had to hold on to, and she was the only one willing to provide it at all hours of the day.

Forgetting whatever it was he wanted from the kitchen, he turned and headed back to his room, hoping this sleep thing would work this time.