Disclaimer: I don't own 24 or its characters…

Author's note: This was stuck in my head since I saw that scene (when Jack first sees Chloe again) from season seven. I don't remember which hour it was exactly anymore, and the details are probably not all that accurate, but I was more stuck on what Jack might be thinking (or, admittedly, more what I'd like for him to be thinking).

Somehow the shock of seeing her was more paralyzing than the revelation that the man who had died in his arms was still alive. It didn't make much sense, but it didn't stop it from being the case.


Chloe O'Brian; She looked basically the same as the last time he'd seen her. Perhaps a little different than the way his memory had twisted the past about, but it was still her. He could see it in her eyes. She was still his Chloe.

Well, not entirely his Chloe, Jack corrected himself, noticing the ring on her finger, so small and yet so significant.

She had gotten herself a life, and it didn't include him. The fact should elicit a feeling of happiness for his friend, but somehow it didn't. Maybe because he wanted nothing more than to wrap his arms around her, hug her close, smell the scent of her hair, feel the warmth of her body. And he wasn't sure why.

It had surely been a while since he had held a woman close, and maybe any woman would do. However, it had definitely been even longer since he had felt that kind of connection with anyone, the one that eased the pain of being so very alone... alone with the memories, alone with the not-so-clean conscience... And that's what he craved.

He supposed that he had always been lying to himself, that having a woman to love, who loved him, would end his loneliness and ease his pain. Subconsciously, he had been drawn to the innocent and genuine tenderness of the women he had loved. But their innocence had never absolved him of his burden, of the horrible things he had done because there simply was no one else willing or able to sacrifice their soul. And when they were finally exposed to the side of the world-the side of him-that caused him so much pain, they had been destroyed by it.

Why was it then, as he was staring in a confused state of shock at the socially awkward computer genius, did he realize how mistaken he had been?

There had only ever been one woman that knew who he really was, everything he had done, everything he had sacrificed, the terrible decisions he had been forced to make, yet had never cringed. And he knew the words of forgiveness he had sought on so many others' lips would never pass over hers. She would never forgive him his atrocities, because she did not believe there was anything that required forgiveness. He had seen it in her eyes.

And it was still there.

She had loved him despite the burden he shouldered. Or maybe, as he'd prefer to believe, she had loved him because of his willingness to accept such a horrifying taint on his soul just to preserve the lives of others.

He had always thought it was passing fancy on her part, that she'd get over him. The look in her eyes as they stared awkwardly at one another informed him otherwise. She had always been good at hiding it, and out of respect, he had chosen to ignore the fact that she couldn't really hide it from him.

Lucky he was back into crisis mode, despite the emotional rollercoaster ride of the day's revelations. Because this time around, he wasn't sure he could hide how much he cared for her.

But Chloe O'Brian had gotten herself a life, one he no doubt could never give her, one that he knew she deserved.

So he would do what needed to be done, undeniably feel safer with her watching his back just like she used to do, and then leave her to her life again to return to face the consequences of his own.

A/N: I've continued this into a post Day 7 scene, but it probably won't fit with the actual events, but I might post it anyway.