My dear readers,
I decided to continue my other fics "Fallout", "Truth" and "Freedom" with one last episode.
After Jack was inaugurated as Vice President, he and Audrey parted once again.
this will be their final way back together.
Set half a year after Jack's inauguration / half a year after „Freedom"
After several months in office, he had finally accommodated to his new job, the people around here, the way Washington DC worked and who to trust and who not- actually, only a handful of people were still on the ‚trust' side.
President Taylor wasn't one of them.
Jack sometimes thought back to the day when she had literally forced him into this office.
For the sake of her own ideas, of her own goals and above all, to keep her administration from tumbling down.
There had been some strange moments in the past half year, when he'd seen that Allyson Taylor was also dependent on the goodwill of others- mainly the people in their own party. The hardliners kept waging for war, pushing her towards the unthinkable. By the way that she had select him as her right hand man, she had made herself a life insurance. If she'd fall - or be forced to resign or whatever - he'd follow.
And slowly he was beginning to grasp all her motives. She had put him in place to make the option who would actually follow look even worse to her enemies than letting her stay in the office.
Harry opened up the door and peeked into the room. As he found Jack, sitting at his desk, drowned in thoughts, he silently came in and closed the door behind him.
„Did you call Taylor back?", he asked.
Jack looked up and watched him come over to his desk. „Yeah. I just got off the phone with her." He sighed. „She asked me to attend the CGI charity ball tomorrow, instead of her."
Harry sat down at the chair in front of Jack's desk, slightly nodding his head. „I see.", he spoke, and sighed, too. „How is she holding up? Better? Worse?"
„I don't know." Jack answered. „That's probably the most closely guarded secret of this country.", referring to Allyson Taylor's health status.
She had been diagnosed with ‚something', as she had said to him - five weeks ago. Since that day, the occasions had become more frequent, when she had asked him to take over some of her activities. Up to now, it were only the less important things - public relation events, some charity balls, speeches at some universities. It was no great deal for him to take these events, too, since he hadn't got anything to do, aside of his job.
As this all had begun, he had even been glad for the additional distraction.
„She should at least give us a warning when it'll be time for you to take over.", Harry - almost angrily- murmured.
„No.", Jack most definitely cut in. „Let's not hope for that. I don't want to take over."
He knew that Harry was far more ambitious about this whole thing than he was.
But Jack could could really do without having to take over Taylor's presidency. He was glad that she had sounded optimistic, as she had called him. He had just found his way in here, in the office, in this life, in the party, in DC, and he was glad that he had finally grown into this job. That was more than he had expected.
„You're not gonna let me down on this, are you?", Jack asked his chief of staff, showing him the invitation to that ball. „Tomorrow, 8 p.m., here in the Hilton."
Tomorrow would be Audrey's birthday. He had promised her to be home early.
„Listen, Jack, I think you'll have to do this alone…", he began, not knowing how to go on. What explanation should he give to Jack? He would lie - that was for sure.
Feverishly he thought about what lie to tell. That he wanted an evening off… that some relatives were in the city… that he had a relationship - just not tell him who it was?
„Come on, Harry, don't leave me hanging. You know this place will be crowded with rats."
Harry took a deep breath and stared into the far corner of the office. „I can't come, I'm really sorry Jack.", he began. Finally, he had decided on one of his options. „There is someone"
„Then take her with you, Harry.", Jack cut him off.
Harry didn't know what to say any more. „I can't.", he simply said. He could't tell Jack the reason why he couldn't. „You need to go alone. I really can't come with you. I promised…" Though he left it unsaid, it was clear that it was a woman that he was talking about, his woman.
„Take her with you.", Jack said again, looking at Harry's face, who only shook his head, evading.
Finally, Jack leant forward, onto his desk. „Harry?"
The former Colonel turned around to him, looking into Jack's eyes. They had a certain glance.
„I need you there. You know we're going to be besieged with questions about President Taylor."
He really made it hard for Harry to say no.
Thinking of Audrey's birthday, he sighed. „I'll think about it, Jack. I'll tell you tomorrow, okay?"
Probably he'd find a way to explain it to her why she'd be alone on her birthday… he could only promise to make up for it on another evening.
While Harry was still thinking, Jack silently added, „Take her with you, Harry. Don't leave her at home alone on her birthday."
Harry had needed a few seconds, until Jack's words really seeped into his mind. Birthday. Had he just referred to Audrey's birthday? He hadn't said anything about a birthday to him.
Schocked, Harry turned around.
Jack stayed calm. „When did you plan to tell me?", he silently asked.
Harry tried to judge him. Was it a reproach? Actually Jack's words hadn't sounded like it.
„Since when… did you know?", he asked.
„Since the beginning.", Jack answered him, looking right into his eyes.
Harry felt threatened, caught and ashamed in the same moment. „Why didn't you… say one word?", he stammered.
He knew how much Jack still cared for Audrey- he made no secret of that.
„What for?", Jack answered. „I don't own her. I left her. She's alone. I'm not in any position to judge over you two."
Harry looked at Jack, slightly nodding his head. But he didn't feel comfortable with this situation right now. „I don't know if she… wants to go there."
As he had said it, he already regretted it. Harry didn't even know if Audrey wanted to see Jack again or not.
Jack stood up with a sigh and went over to the large windows behind his desk, looking out.
Harry watched his back, as he said, „I can relate."
The truth was finally out.