Hi everyone,
I'm back with a new story (will be a shorter one, but let's see how this develops) -
I've recently watched S2 and S3 and one thought came into my mind: It would be totally in line with the canon, if Audrey and Jack had met between S2 and S3 already - so this is what this story is about. Audrey was already working at DoD, as an advisor to the intelligence committee responsible for CTU missions, and Jack is just planning his undercover mission with the Salazars.

I'd also like to dedicate this story to one of my reviewers who said that there were too few stories covering Jack pre/post S3!

Have fun reading! amacma




Being in Washington brought back lots of memories. Most of them were associated with past missions, of having to answer questions of committees, before they'd decide on a go or no-go.
The last time that he'd been here was already years in the past. Five years ago, he had come here to get his final mission briefing for the Nightfall mission. It was a wonder that five years had passed already.

He tried to push the memories of the past five years out of his head as he opened up the file on the table in front of him to read the first pages again until they'd wait for the DoD representative who would be the first one to ask questions.
Tony did the same. He had been sitting here, drowned in the papers, for the past fifteen minutes already while Jack had looked around in the room, quite aimlessly, trying to sort his thoughts. There was a bunch of unpleasant questions, which they could ask. Tony wanted him to be prepared, but actually he hadn't found any answers to the questions on the sheet of paper that Tony had given to him yesterday. Half of the night, he'd been sitting in his hotel room, awake, thinking about answers. He had none.

The door got opened up and a young man and a blonde woman came in.

Jack and Tony stood up immediately, buttoning up their jackets to greet her. She introduced herself and asked them to sit down again.
Judging from the thick file in her hands, containing all their mission profiles and cover details, he guessed that Tony wouldn't have needed to introduce him to her at all, she seemed well prepared for this meeting. In the end, she sent her other colleague away again. The three of them were alone in the room now.

"Agent Almeida, we're here to go through all the information that you supplied us with. Tomorrow you will meet the committee which will decide on the mission but there are some questions which we have to go through beforehand. I will consolidate some of the information and brief the committee tomorrow."

Jack watched her closely. She looked extremely confident and seemed like she was enjoying her job here. After all, he hadn't seen that many women in high-level DoD positions. Some of them who he'd met were ex-officers, but she didn't look like she'd ever been in the army. There was nothing rude on her, not the slightest sign of having ever fired a gun or faced an enemy. Everyone who had been a soldier at one point carried something home – a faint scar, a distinctive tattoo, a certain way of talking or maybe just that look in their eyes that spoke volumes. He knew that he had all those signs, but the woman across him had none. He fingernails were neatly done, she wore a few rings and a marriage ring, expensive looking clothes, high heels… simply her elegant and slim figure distinguished her from all the manly women with military backgrounds who were also working here.
He listened to her and Tony talk for a few minutes, until she turned to him for the first question.

"Agent Bauer, when do you think would be a favorable point in time to start your undercover mission?"

"We can be ready to start it within three weeks after we receive a go from the intelligence committee." Jack looked over to Tony. "We'd have to pull a few agents and analysts off other cases, brief them and then start to get the cover story going."

She nodded her consent and wrote that down, while she had another look at the papers that she'd received beforehand. "Why did they choose you, Agent Bauer, to do this mission?", she asked.

That was one of the questions off Tony's list, which he had read for a hundred times but hadn't really found a good answer for.
"I was the only logical choice.", Jack said, crisply.

"That answer is not good enough, Agent Bauer.", she looked up from her papers. "There are a thousand agents out there, probably twenty at your branch of CTU who could also do that job. So why you?"

He knew that he shouldn't take this personal. After all, she was just preparing them for the committee hearing tomorrow, where the same topics would come up, but even a few levels harder.
"Are you familiar with the cover story?", he asked her, almost provocatively. He felt Tony get nervous beside him. "There are not so many agents out there with that kind of a history.", he added.

"You left active service two years ago.", she read from his file. "Is that the history you're talking about? That doesn't really qualify you."

"Oh yes, it does", Jack cut in, "This is the exact thing that made CTU Los Angeles choose me as primary operative for this mission. Read the cover story, Ms. Raines.", he emphasized again.

She had already read the cover story three times. "Ex-agent, left service and got hooked on drugs. Now trying to make a come-back, but on the other side of law and the border.", she summarized. "It's a decent background story, but what the committee will want to know from you tomorrow is why CTU is involved in this and not the DEA."

"We have supplied you with comprehensive evidence that the Salazar cartel is using drug money to finance terrorism and arms trafficking. We're not after their drugs.", Tony explained, searching through his file, "We have evidence of meetings between Ramon Salazar and Armad Uzaghi, one of our most wanted…"

"We are aware of that evidence.", Audrey cut in. "But don't you believe that he'll notice that you are after his terrorist connections when an ex-CTU agent arrives at his doorstep?"

"CTU isn't on his list of enemies. We never had any encounter.", Jack answered, "If an ex-DEA agent showed up he'd probably kill him right away, smelling the trick."

Audrey looked straight into his eyes. "What makes you so sure he won't smell the trick when you show up? What makes you so sure he won't shoot you point blank when you meet him?"

Her eyes kept his locked. She was objective, almost cold when she expected him to talk about his chances of death.
"Read the cover story.", he just said again. "I've been away from active service for more than two years. There are not many things in my recent past that tie me to CTU or any other agency. He can do a very good background check on me and he won't find anything interesting, even if gets a hold of the real version of my file."

"You were reinstated on a provisional basis for one day, six months ago.", she read from his file. "How do you want to explain this?"

"Bad mistake.", he answered, like a shot. As the words left his mouth, he didn't know if they were a good answer which had suddenly come to his mind or just the plain truth. "I ended up in hospital for three weeks after that day."

"Unfit for further service.", Audrey read from his file.

"We left that in there, already preparing for his cover.", Tony cut in, sliding a piece of paper over the table, over to her, "Agent Bauer is fit to work. He was cleared three months ago, when we started to plan this mission."

She had a look at the report. It wasn't included in any of the files, an anonymous medical report clearing someone for agency field work. "This could be anyone's.", she commented, silently, as if she didn't want to directly accuse them of supplying false information. She inhaled sharply.

"Do I look unfit to you?", Jack asked her.

She sized him up. He didn't look unfit, like his file said. He didn't look like a man who had suffered multiple heart attacks. Actually, he looked well trained, and determined. A blonde man, not all too tall, but she found him handsome. The way he sat here, he looked like he wasn't used to wearing suits. She had read so much about him, in these files, that she had already been eager to meet this man who she had already read so much about. The L.A. crisis, half a year ago, had also been a topic here. There he was, the one who had single-handedly stopped the third world war from happening. She could picture him in a uniform, or in army greens, or wearing a bulletproof vest. But here, he looked somehow displaced.

For a moment she looked into his blue eyes, but then she turned back to the files. That stare was brutally intensive. It felt like his eyes were piercing her. She had challenged him, but he didn't just give in. He had started to challenge her back.
"Someone else will judge about that. Let's see what the committee decides, but I'll recommend them to have you tested again. Here, at DoD."

"Fair enough", Jack sighed. Tony didn't look satisfied. Not about the test and furthermore, he wasn't really satisfied that he and Audrey Raines were constantly challenging each other.
Jack decided to stay silent and let them continue. Tony was about to butter her up, to win the committee beforehand.
They continued talking about financing, equipment and all the other stuff that they didn't need him to talk about. Silently he sat there and watched the DoD representative on the other side of the table. Audrey Raines. He wondered what had brought her here, to this job. She didn't fit here, but as far as he could tell, she made her job pretty well. She could handle being challenged by him, she could also fight off Tony who was still constantly trying to schmooze her. Didn't he know that this wouldn't lead him anywhere? She wouldn't be the one to decide about this mission. Even if she briefed the committee, there was hardly any chance that she'd leave out any of the critical information: his person, the strange cover story that could get him killed in an instant, the fact that CTU was invading DEA territory or that they'd be spending a lot of government money on this.
He only talked when they asked him a question. Most questions, he answered as short as possible, trying not to interfere any more than he'd already done. The financing and the logistics were Tony's part anyway.

It took them three hours to go through all the details. Three hours in which he just sat there and looked at her, sizing her up again and again.
She was handsome.
She was obviously doing her job very well.
He couldn't deny that he was fascinated by her.