He knew my name. Jack Bauer, my gramps, knew my name. Talk about flattering. This was good news, it meant that despite what he said to me that night on the Hollywood foothills, he actually did give a care enough to remember my first – or at least what I prefer it to be, rather than Terri – name. The moment would have been perfect had he not been screaming in my face.
I shrunk into the somewhat attractive Hispanic guy behind me. This was so not ideal. "Jack, calm down. You're scaring her." Amen. "Stop it." Tony coaxed in an even, soothing tone, his hands resting comfortingly on my shoulders.
Jack watched me in distrust, and though he was silent at the moment, his eyes still glowed with rage. Why doth my family yell so much? We seriously DO have only two volumes: loud and louder. I tried to appear harmless and innocent, but like I wasn't terrified of CTU at all. Only that wasn't true. Nevertheless, my mask melted away when Chloe's sharp, accusing stare caught attention. She angled her body towards Bauer.
The way she looked at him – geez – I think she's got the Hots for gramps. Erm…
"Should I call the parents?" She asked him. I froze. "Kim will get worried."
My first thought was: that's so creepy, how does she know my mom's name? My second thought was: oh my lord, she's gonna snitch me to me madre and me madre will destroy me. "Please-don't-she'll-kill-me!" I babbled, stringing the words together until they made one giant word-phrase.
Chloe seemed amused by the idea.
Jack looked at me, nodding, but his response was directed at Chloe. "Yeah, I think we should let Chase – and Chase only – know." Jack must have taken Mom's threat seriously, too bad he was so blissfully unaware of how much my dad sucks at keeping secrets from her.
I dropped to my knees – literally – and clasped my hands together. "Please don't call them, please!" I begged. "Just lemme go home, I'll tell Mom that I fractured my wrist playing soccor in P.E…"
Jack stared down at me, his green eyes rounded and his mouth shaped into a perfect O.
Chloe knew what to do, even if I didn't like it. "Get up." She ordered, yanking me off of the hard, cold floor. "I have no choice but to call your parents."
"No, wait a minute." Jack's throaty voice interrupted. He was speaking to Chloe, but was looking at Tony, who was watching me.
We all stood in silence, waiting for him to continue, especially me.
Something happened when he started; it felt like earth beneath me began to move. "I need to talk to her." He told Chloe, surprising me. "Take her up to my office."
He spun around on his heel and disappeared around the corner. I looked up to find Chloe watching me. "Do you need anything?" She asked, for the first time her voice was soft and filled with concern. When I didn't answer out of pure shock, she tried again. "Can I get you water or anything?"
I shook my head rapidly. "No. Thank you."
Chloe snapped her head away from me, her line of vision traveling up higher to look Tony in the eye. "I have to get back to my desk. Tony, take her up to Jack, will you?"
I felt, rather than saw, him nod. With one last goodbye nod of her head to me, Chloe turned away towards the opposite end of the hall, her heels making sharp clicking sounds on the dark cement floor, the kind that they have at Costco and Sam's Club. I watched her until she disappeared, then I turned hopeful eyes at Tony.
Tony cleared his throat. "Guess we better get over there, eh, kid?"
I nodded, shuffling after him. He led me down the long prison-like corridor that seemed to go on for miles. It made me wonder why everything was so bloody grey here? The corridor widened out into a large open space, filled with busy desks, not-so-private cubicles, and adults with phones pressed to their ears and fingertips dancing across keyboards.
There was a semi-second floor; mostly it looked like a glass cube that was suspended in midair with stairs leading out of it from the door. We scaled up those very steps. I kept my eyes on Tony's back, ignoring everyone else. My hand felt clammy along the cold metal banister and my footsteps grew heavier with each step. It felt like I was going to the execution room.
Tony paused at the last step, and opened the frosted glass door for me. I took a deep breath and walked in past him, to what I guess was Jack's fancy office. With one last, reassuring smile, Tony closed the door behind me. It was like in scary movies how the victim walks into a haunted house and suddenly the door slams and locks shut – that's kind of how it felt..
I swallowed. There's no need to be afraid – it's only Jack Bauer – but to me, the very name sounded terrifying. I looked around the room. The walls were made entirely of glass, covered with white vertical blinds. There was a grey microfiber sofa against one corner, and a shiny silver desk with a black Apple PC on top.
Behind that Apple computer was Jack.
He looked up, his blonde hair catching the fluorescent lighting. "Sit down." He commanded in a gruff voice that was used to giving out orders.
I didn't need extra coaxing. I floated down onto the farthest end of the sofa. Jack typed something onto his PC and then turned the computer off. With that, he rose from his leather swivel chair and walked around his desk towards me, sitting down on the opposite end of the L shaped sofa.
I shrunk back in my seat, staring at him stupidly. He watched me through blonde eyelashes that made his eyes look tired and sleepy, as if the weight of the world rested on his shoulders. He pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed small circles onto his forehead, finally he opened his mouth.
"Why were you looking for me?" He asked in a way that suggested he was struggling to remain calm.
"I heard what Mom said to you at the mall." I murmured quietly.
Jack looked up. "And?"
"I wanted answers." I finished simply.
Jack rose abruptly, looking as if there was a civil war going on inside of him. "I can't help you. I suggest having your father pick you up…"
I cut him off, and in the smallest voice ever, asked him the most dangerous question. "Did you kill Terri?"
That really hit home.
Jack turned on me, rage splitting his tired features. "Do you honestly think that I would kill my own wife?" He shouted, the sound vibrating in the room that was too small for his volumous voice.
He ignored me. "I would give my life to protect my family, damn it! Your mother – Kim – she just doesn't understand that." His voice broke, as if he was about to cry. "She acts as if I murdered her." His voice was so tortured that I almost stood up and gave him a hug. He covered his face with his hands. "You can't possibly know what it's like to watch everything that you love slip away."
I stared at him, speechless, as he struggled to recompose himself. He sat back down on the couch, refusing to look at me. "Please." I leaned forward, speaking in my Oprah voice. "Tell me what happened."
He looked at me sharply, all emotion suddenly gone, his guard up again. "Kim's right. You shouldn't be here. Anyone close to me always gets hurt. We need to get you home."
It was my turn to snap. I stood up. "Damn it!" I shouted, stealing his words. "I'm not leaving until you tell me." Suddenly I felt very small when he frowned at me.
I changed my tactics, sitting back down again. "How did she die?"
He sighed deeply. "My coworker, my friend, she shot my wife when she walked in on evidence that she wanted to conceal."
I pursed my lips in an O. I was finally getting somewhere. "Who shot her?" I asked, pushing my luck. "Was it the woman that you…" I swallowed. "…went to Santa Monica with?"
Jack watched me in an unnerving manner. "How did you know?"
"You cheated on her." That was totally none of my business, but the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them.
"I made a mistake." He snapped, bitterly. "But Teri was everything to me."
I nodded quietly. "Why do you hate me?" I braced myself for the next slap in the face.
"You think I hate you?" His tone was incredulous.
I stared at my lap, nodding repeatedly. "You told me to leave when I found you. You don't care." Tears blurred my vision. "You have a whole different life. You forgot about us. You hate me."
"Oh sweetheart." He whispered so softly I could have imagined it. "I could never hate you."
I didn't say anything.
"I was trying to keep away from you, because in my line of work someone close to me always gets hurt." He murmured softly but earnestly. "The night I walked away from you was one of the hardest things I've ever done."
"Why did you do it, then?" I retorted, folding my arms over my chest.
Jack looked at me with a heartbroken expression. "There are several reasons." He murmured softly. "One of them I've already told you. Knowing me is life-threatening. Another reason is…" He sighed dejectedly again. "…your mother and I…we haven't been…we…"
He looked away, and I didn't press matters for I understood. "What exactly do you do?"
"I'm a government agent." He stated that in a tone that implied he wasn't going to tell me anything else.
I bit my lip. "Have you ever killed anyone?" I whispered softly.
He laughed sharply, bitterly, but he didn't answer that question - I suppose I could take a hint. I felt a little bit of fear as I watched him. He looked like a man that had nothing else to lose – the most dangerous type of person. "Aren't you even going to try to fix things with Mom?" I asked hopefully.
He shook his head, his shoulders sagging as he leaned his elbows on his knees. "It's much more complicated than that."
"You won't even try." I accused pointedly.
His eyebrows knitted together as anger flashed once again across his sharp features. Once again, he raised his voice. "I would do anything, anything to change this but I can't! When Teri was alive, I thought I would always have time to fix things but I never did!"
He dropped his forehead into his hands. "She was everything to me." He repeated softly. "Kim is everything to me."
I bit my lip, my mouth seemed to have a mind of its own today, and before I could stop the words from flowing, they escaped. "What about me?" I said quietly.
He looked up at me, his eyes a tortured blue. "I…I…" He looked like he wanted to touch me. I wiped away tears from my eyes, waiting for him to continue. "I loved you since the day you were born." He murmured with a sad smile.
It was my turn to struggle with my composure. I believed him with all my heart. So he did care. He really meant it. I scrambled off of the couch and stalked towards him. Before he could change his mind, I wrapped my arms around his shoulders in a tight warm hug. And after a moment, he placed a gentle hand upon my back… and hugged me back.
Thank you to all the wonderful reviewers! I hope you liked this chapter and please review/let me know if there's anything you want to see more of. Thank you.