At last, the final chapter of Anything For Love. I want to thank everyone for their encouraging comments, and especially sparky_girl82 for all of her help.
Chloe was incredibly nervous as she opened the door to her apartment. She and Jack hadn't really said anything during the drive home, but he had held her hand the entire time.
Her head was still swimming from the events of the day. When she had asked Curtis for his help, her only goal had been to give Jack another chance at happiness. By the time she had found Audrey, she was fully expecting to not survive the mission. Finding herself completely alive at CTU, she had made the decision to walk away from Jack Bauer for good.
But now Jack was standing in her living room, staring at her with a gentle smile on his face. She smiled back, remembering the feel of his lips against hers, his hands on her skin. She had never seen this coming.
"Do you want to call Kim now?"
Jack looked down at the floor nervously. "Yeah, thanks."
Chloe walked to the kitchen, where she had Chase's number on the fridge. Taking the cordless phone from its cradle, she handed it to Jack.
"There's the number," she said, pointing. "I'll just…umm…I'll just…"
Jack smiled, resting a hand against her cheek. "You don't have to go."
"But this is a private thing."
Resting his forehead against hers, he whispered, "Please stay."
Taking a deep breath, Chloe nodded and moved to make them some tea while Jack dialed the number with shaking hands. His stomach knotted painfully as he listened to the rings, and he suddenly wanted to hang up.
The sound of her voice cut through him like a knife. Tears fell down his face and he found himself unable to speak.
"Kim…" he whispered brokenly.
There was silence on the other end of the line. The knot in Jack's stomach tightened as he tried to think of something suitable to say. Chloe saw the anguish on his face. Worried that Kim had once again rejected her father, she sat down next to him, taking his hand and caressing it gently. He looked up at her gratefully, but his eyes were still full of pain.
Jack found that he could breathe again as relief flooded through him. He squeezed Chloe's hand and gave her a smile.
"Yeah, baby. It's me."
He heard her start to cry, and he wanted nothing more than to wrap her in his arms and tell her that everything would be okay.
"Shhhh…sweetheart, it's okay."
"It's really you?" she asked.
"Yes. Oh Kim, honey. I've missed you so much."
"Where are you?"
"Chloe? Dad, I don't understand…"
So Jack told her everything. He was done with lying, with hiding things to protect her. She was a grown woman now with a family of her own, and she deserved to know the truth. He told her about his release, the suitcase nukes, Audrey and Chloe. He told her their plans to move away from L.A., to start a new life far away from the pain that had plagued them for so many years. Chloe sat by him the whole time, holding his hand or rubbing her hands through his hair. He wasn't sure he would have been able to make the call if she hadn't been there.
During her father's imprisonment in China, Kim had grown up considerably. She realized now that the things she blamed him for were not his fault, and that she'd give anything to have him back in her life. When she had heard his voice on the phone, she had nearly passed out. As the conversation continued, she knew that her decision was the right one – her father belonged in her life, and in the life of his grandchild.
"You and Chloe, huh?" she asked after he had told his story.
"Yeah," he said. She could practically hear the huge grin on his face.
"Yeah. You know, it's not that surprising."
"I hear you have a couple surprises of your own."
"Brat. I wanted to tell you."
"I’m very happy for you, Kim."
"Thank you, Dad." There was a pause. "So when are you two leaving?"
Jack took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. "Well, that's the thing, honey. We don't want to leave you and Chase and the baby."
"But you don't want to stay here either."
"That's true. We want you to come with us."
Kim placed the mouthpiece against her shoulder and turned to Chase. "He wants us to leave with him and Chloe," she told him quietly.
"Do you want to?" he asked gently.
Kim bit her lip in thought, but she didn't hesitate long before answering. "Yes."
"Then tell him we'll start packing."
Jack and Chloe stood in the kitchen after he hung up from Kim, with promises to meet up for dinner the following day. Neither knew what to do next. Jack had thought that the hard part was over, after telling her how he felt. But it seemed that now they had to figure out what the next step was.
"Do you want to go to bed?" Chloe asked suddenly.
Jack laughed softly. "Actually, I'd really like to take a shower first."
She nodded, and then frowned as a thought struck her. "My shower doesn't work. You'll have to take a bath."
"That works too."
Taking him by the hand, Chloe led him down the hall and into her bathroom. She moved toward the tub, turning the dials and testing the water that came out of the spigots. She turned back to see Jack staring at the tub, an odd expression on his face.
He shook his head. "I can't do it."
"I can't," he repeated.
Chloe took his face in her hands and forced him to look at her. "Jack? Jack! Look at me. What's wrong?"
"They…while I was in China…they would…they…" Jack trailed off, his mind plunging into the nightmarish memory.
"Jack, I'm right here. They can't hurt you anymore. You're safe here."
He stared at her, and she realized that he was shaking. He was terrified, and it was the first time she had ever seen him break down in fear. An idea came to her.
"What if I stay with you?"
"I'll stay with you. We'll take a bath…together," she added, hoping that she wasn't pushing too hard.
"You'll stay?" he asked, the fear still in his voice.
She stroked his face. "I'll be right in there with you. I'm not going anywhere."
As the water began to fill the tub, Chloe reached for the buttons of Jack's shirt. She slowly undid each one as he watched her with a measure of amazement. The look on her face was focused, but it lacked her usual scowl. She seemed calm as she reached the last button and released it from its hole. Reaching up, she slid the shirt off of his shoulders and let it flutter to the floor.
Trailing her fingers down his chest, she looked sadly at the scars covering his torso. She knew that they were worse on his back, but she didn't want to make him feel like she was scrutinizing him. Leaning forward, she gently placed her lips on one of the scars. Jack closed his eyes at the unexpected contact, tears once again filling his eyes as she lovingly caressed every wound. When she finished, she looked up at him and wiped away the tears that had fallen onto his cheeks.
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I seem to be crying a lot today."
Chloe smiled at him. "There's nothing to be sorry for, Jack."
She let her fingers slide down his chest and stomach, resting them on his belt. Hesitating slightly, she began to undo it, slowly sliding the belt out of the buckle. She stopped suddenly when Jack's hands grabbed hers, forcing her to look up at him in confusion.
"Chloe," he whispered. He looked at the floor nervously, and she could tell he was having a hard time finding the words. "I…I don't know if I can…I mean…it's been almost two years…"
Suddenly understanding what he was saying, Chloe brought her body up against his, holding him close. He sank into her embrace, tightening his hold. After a few moments, she pulled away, looking up at him with a gentle smile.
"It's okay, Jack. We don’t have to do anything tonight. I just want to hold you…touch you. We'll worry about the other stuff later."
Returning her smile, Jack couldn’t help but wonder what he had done to deserve such an amazing woman. Then he thought back to his conversation with Bill earlier that day and realized that the older man was right. This wasn't about deserving – it was about love.
He reached forward with shaking hands to undo the buttons of Chloe's shirt. Seeing his nervousness, she covered his hands with her own, guiding them as he undid each button. Her shirt joined his on the floor, and she turned her attention once again to his pants.
Jack was torn between closing his eyes at the sensation of her hands at his waist, and wanting to stare at her body, taking in every beautiful aspect of her. Unable to stop himself, he reached out and touched her shoulders, rubbing his hands up and down her shoulders, reveling in the feel of her smooth skin. His eyes closed of their own accord and he gasped sharply as he felt Chloe slide his jeans and boxers off of him at the same time. He gingerly stepped out of them, kicking them across the floor and standing completely exposed to her.
Chloe was having a hard time controlling herself. The sight of Jack Bauer standing in front of her drove her insane. She wanted to be touching and kissing every inch of him…but she also knew that that wasn't what he needed right then. They would get to that point eventually, but tonight was about comfort and trust. She smiled at him encouragingly as he moved to remove her pants and underwear as well, sighing at his touch on her bare flesh.
They stood staring at each other, both naked. Taking him by the hand, Chloe went to step into the tub, intending to sit behind so that she could hold him. Jack pulled on her hand, though, stopping her. She looked back in confusion.
Climbing into the tub and settling down against the back, he reached out his hand to help her in. "I want to take care of you," he whispered.
Keeping her eyes locked on him, Chloe stepped in and sat between his legs, leaning back against his strong chest. His hands rested on her shoulders and began to knead the flesh, undoing the knots of stress that had grown there. She groaned in pleasure and closed her eyes, relaxing for the first time in almost four years.
They had stayed until the water grew cold, neither wanting to move away from the other. But eventually they got out, wrapping themselves in Chloe's fluffy blue towels. This time Jack led her by the hand, walking them to her bedroom. Keeping his eyes locked on hers to make sure that this was okay, he removed his towel and slid into bed. Smiling anxiously, Chloe did the same, sighing happily as Jack pulled her to him. They fell asleep, tangled in each other.
Chloe awoke early the next morning and headed out to the kitchen to make coffee, letting Jack sleep for a while longer. She tried to be quiet as she opened cupboards, smiling at how the day before had turned out.
While the coffee was brewing, she thought back through everything that had happened. She still couldn't believe that Jack had chosen her, that he had told her he loved her…
Chloe stopped suddenly on that thought. She quickly sifted through the memories, going back to when he had asked her to take him with her. Her dismay growing by the second, Chloe realized that Jack hadn't told her he loved her. He had only asked that she love him. And since they had gotten home last night, he hadn't kissed her, or given her any indication that he wanted to. He hadn't even wanted to make love to her when she was standing before him, completely naked.
Chewing her nails, Chloe abandoned the coffee.
When Jack awoke, he breathed in deeply, enjoying how relaxed and calm he felt. He had slept the entire night through, much to his surprise, and he smiled as he remembered the feel of Chloe sleeping in his arms. He frowned in consternation as he realized that she was no longer next to him, and then sat up as an unpleasant smell permeated the apartment. Rushing out of bed, he quickly got dressed and raced into the kitchen. The coffee machine was on, but it had been forgotten, and the smell of burnt coffee was everywhere. He shut the machine off and dumped it out, opening the kitchen window to let in some air. He wondered what could have possibly distracted Chloe from making the coffee, since he knew that she needed it to function properly in the morning.
Walking into the living room, he stopped short at the sight before him. Chloe was wrapped in her bathrobe, sitting on the couch with her knees tucked under her chin. Tears were coming down her face, and she seemed to be staring into space. Jack went over to her quickly, taking her face in his hands and tucking her hair behind her ears.
"Chloe, what's wrong?"
Sniffing, she answered. "Nothing. I'm fine. Don't worry about it."
"That's not gonna work with me, Chlo'. I know you too well."
Chloe just shook her head, refusing to answer him. Jack decided to try another track. Bringing his lips to her ear, he whispered, "Last night…"
She pulled away sharply. "You don't have to say anything."
"What are you talking about?"
"About last night. You don't have to say anything. It's okay. I get it."
Jack looked at her sharply, worry creasing his face. "You get what?"
Chloe took a deep breath, staring ahead and avoiding his eyes. "It's okay, Jack. I know that you don't want to be with me. You needed a friend, and I was there. I guess I just let it go to my head and I thought…but I get it now. It's okay."
Jack stared at her in shock. This was the last thing he had been expecting from her. "Chloe…" he started, floundering for what he could say to convince her that she was wrong. "What would make you think that?"
She gnawed at her bottom lip, not wanting to tell him. Jack dropped down on his knees in front of her, once again holding her head steady so that she was forced to look at him. "Chloe…" he nudged.
Closing her eyes to block him out, Chloe tried to explain. "Last night…you…you didn't want to…" She couldn't finish the sentence, embarrassment causing her to blush.
Jack inwardly groaned as he realized what his actions had done. Bringing his face up to hers, he desperately tried to make her understand. "Chloe-"
But she cut him off. "And earlier. When you…asked me to love you…you never…you never…"
"I never what?"
A single tear slid down her cheek as she answered. "You never said that you loved me." She wiped away the tear and looked down at the ground. "But it's okay, Jack. I know…I know that you were just grateful that I saved Audrey. I know that this was just because you could trust me. It's okay-"
"Chloe," he said sharply, causing her to stop. "I need you to turn your brain off. Now."
She furrowed her brow and continued staring at the carpet, but she shut her mouth in an attempt to stem the tide of her thoughts. The struggle played out on her face, and the sight broke Jack's heart.
"Oh Chloe," he said sadly, realizing how broken she was right then. He cursed himself for not having made himself more clear. He ran his hands through her hair, refusing to let her go. "I never meant…I never meant to make you doubt my feelings for you."
Chloe's eyes snapped up, unable to believe what she was hearing.
"Last night," he continued, swallowing his embarrassment, knowing that he had to make her understand. "I was afraid…it had been so long…since I'd been with anyone. I was afraid that I couldn't…that I wouldn't be able to. I didn't want to disappoint you." He paused, letting his words sink in. "And as for the other thing, Chloe…" He brought his lips up so that they were almost touching hers. "I love you. And I will say it as many times as you need to hear it."
Jack closed the distance between them and kissed her, leaving no room for doubt as to how he felt. As his tongue slid into her mouth, he leaned her back so that she was lying down on the couch, his body on top of her. Their hands explored each other, and Jack groaned in frustration as her hips thrust against his. Feeling a familiar tightening in his groin, Jack pulled back slightly and smiled. Chloe felt it too, and she smiled up at him coyly.
"Guess you can," she said.
"Guess so," he replied as he leaned in to kiss her again.
They were soon off the couch and down the hallway, both eager to find the bed. As Jack pushed her down onto the mattress, Chloe stopped, looking up at him with a frown.
"What?" Jack asked, worried.
"For being so insecure. For making you have to prove it to me."
"Chloe," he said gently. "I am just as scared as you are. I have no problem reminding you that I love you as many times as you need. In fact, I want to spend the rest of my life proving to you just how much I love you." He kissed her again and pulled back. "On one condition."
"And what's that?" she asked warily.
Resting his forehead on hers, he looked at her seriously. "That you'll do the same for me."
Caressing his face, Chloe whispered, "I love you, Jack."
"I love you too, Chloe," he said, leaning in to capture her mouth again. She pulled him closer and they blissfully sank into one another.