So, this fic begins set in season 6 and follows that the major plot points are the same. Some notable changes: Morris is not in the employ of the CTU, had left about a month prior. He still gets grabbed by Fayed for his tech skills. Other changes will be noted as they come up.

Of course, I'm gonna add a chlack twist J


THE FOLLOWING TAKES PLACE

BETWEEN 2:00 P.M. AND 3:00 P.M.

Chloe O'Brien exited the situation room, having been tasked with tracking how Gredenko managed to get himself in the United States. Personally, she thought a better question was why the hell the Russian government had assigned an ultranationalist with a major hate-on for the US to transport a bunch of nukes into the States.

Before she was even out of the door, she noted a few agents leading Morris onto the floor, directing him toward Medical. It was the first time she'd seen him in nearly a month an he looked awful. Granted, that probably had something to do with the time he spent in Fayed's company and she really hoped he'd tried to get back on the program after leaving CTU. His fall off the wagon had put the final nails in the coffin that contained their relationship, but that didn't mean she had stopped caring about him.

Chloe approached as a doctor stepped in to lead the wounded man away for treatment. "Morris," she said, unsure how or even what to express. Sorry the psycho terrorist tortured you. She knew she wasn't so good with interacting with other human beings, but even she knew that sounded very insensitive.

"We have to take him to medical," the doctor informed her in the odd sort of monotone many of the CTU medical staff often used.

Not one to give in easily, Chloe didn't relent. "I just want to talk to him for a minute. Are you okay?"

He didn't answer and the doctor hustled him off, saying, "Give us 10 minutes."

They disappeared, leaving Chloe standing there alone. She just wanted to make sure he was going to be all right. God, computers were so much easier to deal with than people.

Glancing up, she saw Bill Buchanan and Milo Pressman watching her through the glass wall and quickly turned, not wanting, needing or, she felt, deserving pity. After all, she wasn't the one the cranky terrorist with the drill had perforated.

Another group of agents in full black tactical gear arrived and Chloe froze when she saw Jack Bauer enter behind them. He looked good, far better than she had dared to hope for after 20 months of torture in a Chinese prison (and especially after seeing how wrecked Morris was after spending less than an hour in Fayed's company.). She had read Bill's report earlier, seen the notes about extensive and horrific scarring, but those injuries must have been concealed by his jeans, long sleeved grey shirt and tac vest.

She felt the salty sting of tears prick at her eyes and blinked them back as the room fell into a hushed silence and the agents present turned, nearly as one, to stare at Jack. Here, in their office, was a man thought dead, who had resurfaced only long enough to avert a massive bio-weapon attack and topple a corrupt president only to be grabbed up by the Chinese and endured months of God only knew what kinds of torture before being brought back to the US to be used as a bargaining chip against Fayed, who double crossed them anyway…..

Hell, they were probably all shocked he was upright and coherent, let alone an active participant in the operation to try and stop today's terrorist du jour. Most people would have either been dead for real or crouched, twitching in a corner, praying for an Ativan the size of a football. But Jack wasn't most people.

Chloe continued to watch as Buchanan approached Jack, greeting him and quickly filling him in on their new Intel, the email fragment that indicated Gredenko's involvement. According to Jack, his father hadn't been a part of that deal, but Bill was advising caution. Chloe knew better, sure Jack would have questioned his father without the prompting, maybe after the man finished up in the morgue.

Sigh. She didn't particularly like working in a facility that had it's own Morgue, but what could she do. It was better than having bodies smelling up the place. The neighbors complained enough about the tactical team exercises and occasional explosions such without giving them decomposing flesh odor to whine about…Although, maybe they'd think twice about bugging the people who worked in a place that smelled like death.

During his talk with Bill, Jack had turned slightly, his gaze catching Chloe's for a moment. She hoped she'd managed to blink back any potential tears, as for the rest of his conversation, Jack kept shooting glances back over to her.

Promising to speak with his father, Jack asked where he could find him and Chloe flinched in sympathy when Bill informed him that Phillip had gone to the morgue to view Graem's body.

Obviously pained by this, Jack thanked Bill before stepping away and making a beeline for Chloe.

For the first time in nearly two years, Chloe found herself face to face with Jack, looking into his sad blue eyes, hearing his low, rumbly voice in person, as he asked, "Chloe, you all right?"

She wanted to cry again. Why was he asking her if she was all right? She wasn't the one who had been tortured, sent to die, then later had to kill a friend and possibly his own brother. It just seemed wrong that he was the one to ask that.

Somehow, she couldn't express all of that and breathed, "Yeah. Thank you for saving Morris's life."

"Yeah," he replied simply.

She glanced down, nervous as she said, "I'm really glad Fayed didn't kill you this morning." I thought you were dead today, Jack. Thought we handed you over to someone who wanted to kill you horribly. I haven't cried that hard in years. Please don't die today!

She didn't say all of that and he just quirked a crooked little smile at her and said, "Me too…I have to talk to my dad. I just wanted to thank you for everything."

Chloe smiled slightly as Jack reached out and rubbed her arm for a moment before turning away. Conflicted, Chloe turned toward her station before taking a breath and spinning back on her heel. "Jack!"

He hadn't gone too far and stopped as she called out, turning with a question written on his face.

Not saying anything, Chloe closed the distance between them rapidly, refusing to second guess herself as she wrapped her arms around Jack's neck and shoulders, pulling him close and burying her face against the side of his neck.

For a moment, he stiffened, then she felt his body relax and his arms came up to enfold her in a strong hug. His breath stirred her hair as his hands gripped her back and she knew she was shaking, knew people were staring and found, in that moment, she couldn't have cared less.

Jack had been stunned when Chloe had thrown her arms around him and pulled him close. His initial response was to remain rigid, as he had with Graem earlier, but then he felt Chloe shuddering, felt her tears on his neck and a warmth flooded him. This was Chloe. This was okay.

He wrapped his arms around her and squeezed, reveling in the first real, gentle caring touch he'd known in 20 months. He couldn't remember the last time he held someone and felt such an overwhelming flood of relief and comfort.

Ignoring the stares from the agents around them, ignoring Milo's shocked look and Bill's raised eyebrow, Jack pressed his face into Chloe's hair, brown now, not blond, and breathed in the soft, lavender scent.

He really would have liked to just forget about all the shit that was going on and just stay there, safe and warm in the arms of someone who cared for him, someone who would never hurt him…But he knew this moment of comfort could only be fleeting.

Slowly, with no small measure of reluctance, he drew back, touching one of Chloe's smooth, pale cheeks with his scarred hand and pressing a chaste kiss to the other. His eyes closed for a moment when he felt the soft, warm brush of her lips return the gesture.

They moved apart, communicating with looks traded between damp eyes. Without having to speak, they knew. When this was over, when the current crisis was put to rest, if they both survived, then they'd talk.

TBC………

Reviews and Requests Welcome!!!!