Disclaimer: I don't own 24, or its characters.

Eye of the Storm

The hum of activity in CTU had long since ceased, the eyes of everyone focused on the entryway, waiting. The TAC teams, or what was left of them, would be coming in any moment, and the tension in the air was almost oppressive. None were more eager than the 2 women who stood to the side, both waiting for the same thing. They didn't have long to wait as Jack came in, followed by Doyle and 10 others, a far cry from the 40 agents that had left the building a few hours prior.

Chloe sighed with relief. He's back.She shot a quick look at Audrey, who was staring at Jack, with an indescribable look on her face. Audrey shook it off and marched up to Jack, embracing him. "Jack, you're back."

"I told you I would be back, Audrey. Don't worry about me." He looked over her shoulder to see Chloe staring at him worriedly. "Excuse me." He broke away from Audrey and walked over to Chloe. "Hey, Chloe."

"Hey, Jack. Are you all right?"

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Good. I'm... glad you're back. I was worried about you."

Jack looked down. "I know." He saw Bill waiting for him to debrief. "Look, I have to go debrief. I'll talk to you later." He gave her a smile, then walked off to join Bill. Chloe immediately got back to work processing the data that the TAC teams had acquired, not noticing the icy glare Audrey was giving her.

Audrey continued to stare at Chloe angrily. He brushes me off to talk to her? I'm his fiance. She's merely his little lapdog. He calls for her, and she comes running like a puppy. Well, I'm going to have to do something about that. But not right now. Later. A nasty smile came across her face as she got an idea. It's perfect. By the time I'm done with her, she'll be long gone. And once she's out of the way, Jack will be mine, just like before. She headed off to the DOD station to put her idea into motion.

Jack logged off his computer and leaned back. The day had been a long one, compounded by the fact that his attention had been focused not on his work, but on the young woman sitting at the main terminal. He looked down to see Chloe hard at work, like she always was. Why can't I stop thinking about her? Audrey and I are going to be married soon, just like we planned back in DC. If we do, we're going back to DC, like I promised her. But that would mean leaving Chloe. The thought of never seeing Chloe again made him feel sick, and he quickly pushed it out of his mind. What am I doing? I can't think about that. His phone rang. "Bauer."

"Jack? You ready to go? We're going to be late." It was Audrey. Dinner tonight. I forgot.

"Look, Audrey, I think we should cancel dinner tonight. I'm not in the mood."

"Jack, we had this planned for 2 weeks, and now you want to cancel?" she asked incredulously. "Do you know how hard it is to make reservations at that place?"

"Audrey, I'm sorry. It's been a really bad day, and I don't feel like going out tonight. We'll have dinner at home."

"...All right. I'm going to head out. I'll see you when you get home." Audrey disconnected, and Jack turned to watch her leave. He saw her stop by Chloe's station, and exchange a few words with the analyst. From the look that came over Chloe's face, Jack guessed they weren't pleasant ones. What is her problem with Chloe? He frowned as Audrey smiled unpleasantly at Chloe, then turned and left. Once she had gone, Jack finally left his office and headed towards Chloe's station. She didn't look up as he approached. "Chloe."

Chloe looked at him. "Hi, Jack. You leaving for the day?"

"Yeah, I am. Chloe, what did Audrey say to you just now?"

"We were... just going over some protocols."

She's lying. But I can't talk to her about it right now. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I'm okay." Chloe paused. "Jack, I need to talk to you tomorrow about something. It's kind of important."

"What is it?"

Chloe shook her head. "Tomorrow."

"All right. I'll see you then." Jack turned and left the building. Time to have a talk with Audrey.

"Jack, are you okay? You've been really quiet tonight."

Jack merely looked at Audrey blankly. "I'm fine, Audrey. It's just been a long day. I'm tired." He stood up and walked over to her. "Audrey, we need to talk."

"What is it, Jack?"

"When you were leaving, I saw you talking to Chloe about something. What were you talking about?"

"I was just going over some revised protocols with her."

He glared. "No, you weren't. She said the same thing, but I could tell she was lying to me. Now what were you talking about?"

Audrey sighed. "All right, fine. I told her that you and I were going to be leaving once we were married, and she didn't take it too well."

"You did what?" Jack was getting mad. "Audrey, I told you not to say anything until I had a chance to talk to her myself. I wanted her to hear it from me. I wanted to explain to her why I was leaving. She deserves that much from me."

"Why would you even need to, Jack? Why does she deserve that?"

"Because Chloe is my friend. And friends don't keep secrets from each other, not like that. I should have told her sooner, but I was willing to wait until everything had been finalized." He left the table. "I'm going to bed. I have an early day tomorrow." He climbed into bed and closed his eyes, but the rest he needed eluded him. What is going on? I have everything I've ever wanted since Teri died- stability, a relationship, all of it. So why does it feel so wrong now? Am I making a mistake by going forward with this marriage to Audrey? She wants things to go back to the way they were before, but they can't. We've both changed too much for that. I can't go back to working behind a desk all day. More importantly, I can't leave Chloe. After all she's done for me, that would hurt her. He turned and looked up at the ceiling. I know what I have to do.

Jack walked into CTU the next morning and looked for Chloe, but she wasn't at her station. That's odd. She's always here before I am. He saw Bill up in his office, going over some paperwork. I'll ask Bill. He walked up to Bill's office and knocked on the door, the older man waving him in. "Jack. What's going on?"

"Have you seen Chloe? I need to talk to her."

"She's in the tech room."

"Great. Thanks, Bill."

"Jack, wait." Jack stopped as he was about to leave. "What is it?"

"Is there something going on between you and Chloe?"

Jack was confused. "What are you talking about?"

"I came in this morning, and this was on my desk." Bill handed a piece of paper to Jack. "It's Chloe's letter of resignation."

"What?" Jack scanned the document briefly. "Bill, why would Chloe resign? Just 2 days ago, she was telling me that she wanted to stay."

"I know. Something must have happened. Yesterday, maybe? It was a pretty brutal day."

Jack shook his head. "No. She wouldn't leave because of one mission, even a really bad one. Something else happened." He handed the letter back to Bill. "I'll go talk to Chloe. Sit on this until later, all right?"

"All right. I will."

"Thanks, Bill." Jack left Bill's office, and headed to the tech room. Audrey tried to stop him, but he brushed her off, saying he was busy. He reached the tech room and went inside. He stopped as he saw Chloe hunched in the corner, crying softly. "Chloe? You all right?"

Chloe jerked her head up and hurriedly wiped away her tears, getting up and walking past him. Jack stopped her as she tried to leave. "Chloe, what is it?"

"Nothing, Jack. I just got something in my eyes, that's all."

Jack gave her a stern look. "Chloe, something's bothering you. Tell me what's wrong." She didn't respond. "Chloe, Bill told me you're resigning. Why? You told me a couple days ago you were going to stay."

Chloe looked down, refusing to meet his eyes. "I just think it would be better for both of us if I left."

"What? Chloe, you are the best analyst this place has ever had. I trust you more than I trust anyone else around here. More to the point, you're my friend. It hurts me when you try to block me out. Talk to me."

She shook her head vigorously. "I can't, Jack. I can't tell you what's going on."

Jack merely stared at her, his mind going over the past couple of days, particularly the conversation between Chloe and Audrey. "Audrey put you up to this, didn't she? She told you to resign."

Chloe faintly nodded. "She came up to me last night and told me that I was getting in your way, and that I should resign. She said if I didn't, she would get her father to force Mr. Buchanan to fire me. I didn't want to be fired, Jack, so I agreed to resign." She sank down to the floor. "I'm sorry, Jack."

Jack felt a sick feeling in his stomach at what Audrey had tried, and he stormed out of the tech room in a rage, his eyes darting over the floor looking for Audrey. He spotted her sitting at her station, and he stormed over, slamming his hand down next to her. "You just couldn't leave it alone, could you, Audrey?!"

Audrey jumped at his voice, and turned around to look at him. "What are you talking about, Jack?"

He grabbed her arm and dragged her off the floor. "You told Chloe to resign, didn't you?"

Audrey was scared for a minute, but pushed it aside. "Yes, I did."

"Audrey... why would you do that?"

"Because I want her out of our lives. When you kept putting off the wedding, and our return to Washington, it didn't take long to figure out why. You didn't want to leave here because she was here. If she were gone, you and I could finally go back to Washington, and get our lives back to the way they were before."

Jack was stunned at Audrey's confession. I don't believe it. "Audrey, are you jealous of my friendship with Chloe?"

"Yes. Jack, you're my fiance. We're supposed to talk about these things. But instead, you brush me off to talk to her. I want her gone, Jack."

"I can't, Audrey. I am not going to give up my relationship with Chloe, not after everything we've been through together, and everything she's done for me."

Audrey stared back at him, then stepped back. "Well, then, I'm going to make this simple for you, Jack. Either you tell Chloe you don't want to talk to her anymore, or we're done." He can't give up our relationship, not even for her.

Jack looked down, then back up at Audrey. "You haven't given me much of a choice here, Audrey."

She grinned. "I knew you'd agree."

"Yes." He took off his engagement ring and handed it to her. "We're done."

"What?!"

"You heard me. I don't want to be with someone who forces me to make these choices. The only reason I asked you to marry me, Audrey, was because Chloe pushed me into it. All she's ever given me is her friendship, her trust, her loyalty. She never once asked me for anything, except that I be happy. I care more about her than I do you."

"You can't do this, Jack" Audrey cried.

"Yes, I can. I want you and your things out of my apartment by tomorrow night." Without sparing a glance at the now-sobbing woman, Jack turned to find Chloe. She was still in the tech room, working. "Chloe."

Chloe jumped. "Hey, Jack. I was just finishing up here." She glanced at his hand. "You're not wearing your ring."

He nodded. "I broke it off with Audrey. After she told me why she did what she did, I knew I couldn't stay with her any longer. That and... I don't love her. Not anymore. I haven't loved her for a long time now. There's someone else, Chloe, someone I love with all my heart. That someone is you."

"Me?" Chloe whispered, as if she was trying to convince herself this was real. "You love... me?"

"Yes. I love you, Chloe. I've loved you for a long time now."

"I don't believe you. You can't love me. Everyone knows you only talk to me because I help you. If we didn't work together, you and I would never talk."

"Let me show you." Jack grabbed her hair and pulled her into a kiss. The two stood there, until Jack pulled back, smiling gently at Chloe.

"NO!" Jack turned his head to see Audrey standing in the doorway, tears running down her cheeks, her eyes burning furiously. Without warning, she launched herself at Chloe, delivering a stinging slap to the analyst. Chloe went down in a heap.

"That was just the start of what I'm going to do to you, you little homewrecking bitch!" Audrey went to strike Chloe again, but was stopped by Jack, who restrained her, and Bill, who had witnessed Audrey assaulting Chloe. "That's enough! You are not going to attack my people, Audrey. You're out of here."

"You can't remove me without my father's consent!"

"Your father doesn't run this office, Audrey. I do. Now leave, or I'll have the guards escort you out."

Audrey gathered up what remained of her dignity and began walking out, but was stopped by Chloe. The analyst stared at the other woman, then gave her a slap of her own. "That was for messing with Jack."

Audrey stood up and left, her head held high. Once she was gone, Jack turned to Bill. "I'm sorry about that, Bill. I'll talk to Secretary Heller, and convince him not to press charges against Chloe."

"Don't worry about that, Jack. To tell you the truth, I've been wanting her to leave for a while. My people have been complaining for some time about Audrey. She's been interfering with things here, preventing people from doing their jobs effectively. Audrey won't ever set foot in this office again."

"Thanks, Bill." Jack looked over at Chloe, who was standing by. "What about you, Chloe? You still want to resign?"

"No. Mr. Buchanan, consider my resignation rescinded."

"I wouldn't have accepted it anyway" Bill said with a smile. "Now you two get out of here. And don't come back until you work things out, you understand?"

"Yes, sir." Chloe grabbed Jack's arm and led him out of the building, ending up back at her place. She had no sooner shut the door, then she found herself scooped up by Jack and carried off to her bedroom. "I think we've waited long enough" he said huskily.

"I couldn't agree more."