Hi all, whoever is still reading (or those who will read this in the future). I had an idea in mind for this chapter for awhile but hadn't given the actual details much thought. Despite that, once I sat down to write, the words seemed to just come together. I'm not super happy with how this chapter flows but I could procrastinate forever so just decided to publish it. Anyway, this chapter is all about the festive season. I debated some elements to this as to whether Jack would tell Kim about Audrey or if Audrey would want Jack to meet her friends this early in their relationship but I decided that yes, maybe the fictional festive season put these fictional characters in a good mood. I hope you agree! I'd love to hear reviews or general thoughts.


Thursday 23rd December 2004

Jack and Audrey, under James' encouragement if not instruction finished up work early in the afternoon of December 23rd. They would be forever busy in their jobs but the urgent matters had wound down over the week leading up to Christmas and most people weren't coming into work on Christmas Eve, Jack and Audrey included. They had anticipated being able to leave early on this particular day given the circumstances but they ended up finishing earlier than expected. Being able to leave early was particularly appreciated by Jack and Audrey as they had decided to celebrate Christmas together this evening as Jack would be flying to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve and spending Christmas with his daughter and family. Earlier in the week they had stocked the refrigerator with food to make themselves a festive dinner and had agreed to exchange gifts tonight. Audrey left the office as quickly as she could, Jack following shortly after as they both gratefully and eagerly headed towards Audrey's house to commence an evening they had both been looking forward to.

Audrey arrived home first and walked inside feeling happy. It was one of her favourite times of the year, she was happy to be spending tonight with Jack and was incredibly happy to have some much needed time away from work. Audrey anticipated needing to get through some work between Christmas and the new year but knew she could get away with some work from home or just casually drop into the office fore a few hours when it suited her. She certainly wasn't planning on doing a lot of work over this period. She would have liked to spend some of this time with Jack though, knowing that she would miss Jack when he was in Los Angeles. She wasn't sure when he was flying back but presumed he'd be gone for a week or so. It had only been a week and a half, nearly two weeks since they spent their first night together but they had spent almost every night together since, apart from only one where Audrey had plans with friends and she was already used to and enjoying having him around so much. Jack arrived home a little after Audrey and just like Audrey, was happy to be sharing this special evening with her and also felt relief to be free from work for a little while. Jack was heading to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve. Although he'd have his phone and laptop with him ready to work if he needed to, James had told him to enjoy the time with his family and leave the work that needed to be done urgently to the rest of their team. As excited as Jack was about heading to Los Angeles though, he knew that he would really miss Audrey, even if it was only a few days.

Jack and Audrey changed into something more comfortable than their work clothes and Audrey put on some soft, happy Christmas carols, setting the festive mood. Jack poured them each a glass of wine and handed Audrey's to her. "Merry Christmas" Audrey said with a smile, clinking their their glasses together before they leant in to kiss each other softly.

Jack and Audrey spent the rest of the afternoon in the kitchen, cooking dinner, drinking wine, listening to Christmas carols, talking and laughing together. Given that it was only the two of them, they had tried to keep dinner as simple as possible although Audrey had found this quite difficult to stick to. They did extremely well though, making a beautiful Christmas dinner perfect for the two of them; a herb roasted turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, roast vegetables and a mixed green salad. Audrey also made a cinnamon apple pie, a family recipe that she had been making her whole life. Audrey was competent and relaxed in the kitchen and cooking seemed to come naturally to her and although Jack wasn't such a natural, he followed recipes and Audrey's instructions with focus, which Audrey found incredibly sweet to watch. The afternoon ended up running smoothly, both of them having fun and enjoying themselves as their food cooked and the sky grew darker and afternoon turned into evening.


After a couple of hours, the food was ready and Jack and Audrey were ready to eat. Audrey set the table beautifully, poured some more wine and and put their dishes on the table as Jack finished washing a few leftover items. Audrey surveyed the table and satisfied with it, she turned to in Jack's direction.

"I think we're ready" Audrey said.

Jack quickly finished with the dishes and walked over to the table where Audrey was. "Wow, it looks great" Jack said as he reached her. Jack felt a sudden wave of emotion come over him. He was thankful for Audrey every single day but sometimes things happened that just reminded him to be extra thankful. Jack had been so lonely for so long, up until only a couple of months ago and he never would have imagined that Christmas would look like this; being incredibly happy with an amazing woman who wanted to put in such effort for him, for them. Jack wrapped his arms around Audrey and looked into her eyes.

"What?" Audrey asked with a laugh, seeing that Jack was in deep thought whilst looking at her.

Jack kissed Audrey gently then rested his forehead against hers. "You make me so happy, that's all" Jack replied.

"And you make me so happy" Audrey replied, bringing her hands up to trace Jack's face gently. Audrey knew the emotion behind Jack's words because she felt it too. Of course Jack had been through more than her the last few years but Audrey knew loneliness and felt the same gratefulness for Jack that he felt for her. She felt incredibly lucky to have found Jack and be here with him, celebrating Christmas with someone special that she cared so deeply for, who she also knew cared deeply for her too.

Jack and Audrey kissed again before disengaging and sitting down to eat. They were impressed with their cooking and ate happily, basking in the joy of the evening as they ate, drank, talked and laughed together, free from work, time constraints and pressure and just enjoying the evening.

Over dinner, Audrey decided to just ask Jack something that she had been debating how and if to approach for a few days. "So when are you back from LA?" she asked.

"I actually haven't booked a return flight yet" Jack replied.

"Not planning on coming back are you?" Audrey said with a laugh, nudging Jack.

Jack laughed with Audrey before responding. "Well I wasn't really sure what was going on with work, if I should come back just after Christmas or wait until the new year".

"Dad doesn't mind you having the whole time off" Audrey said.

"Yeah. I know. I should book the return flight tomorrow."

"No pressure on this Jack, I don't want you to feel that you have to say yes. You can say no" Audrey said, reaching out to hold Jack's hand as she spoke.

"What?" Jack asked gently.

"You know my friend Claire who I've told you about?"

"Yeah."

"Well, Claire and her husband have invited a couple of close friends over on New Years Eve. It isn't a party or anything, just dinner, celebratory champagne, watching the fireworks. I'm going and if you're back, I thought you might like to join me".

Jack smiled. "I'd love to spend New Years Eve with you and meet your friends. Are you sure though? Do they know about us?"

"There are only two other couples going. I have been friends with all of them for a long time. They were all supportive of me in ending my marriage and yes, they do know about you and are happy for me, us. They'd love to meet you".

"That sounds great" Jack said. It meant a lot to him that Audrey wanted him to meet some of her friends. She's told him a bit about them and they seemed like good people, and most importantly good friends to Audrey. He'd like to meet them.

Audrey was happy with Jack's response but didn't want him to feel like he had to join her. She started babbling "But if you want to stay in LA that's fine. Or if you don't want to meet my friends yet that's fine too."

"Shh" Jack said laughing, leaning in to kiss Audrey."I'd love to come. I really would love to spend New Years Eve with you and I really would love to meet your friends. It sounds perfect Audrey".

"Okay" Audrey replied, smiling at Jack happily.


Later in the evening Jack and Audrey exchanged presents. They had both been slightly nervous, having faced the same dilemma; unsure what to buy so early in their relationship but for someone they cared for so much, hoping for something personal that the other would truly love.

Jack had said that he wanted Audrey to open her presents first. He had given her three small presents wrapped separately. Audrey was excited to see what Jack had bought her. "Which one first?" she asked.

"This one" Jack said, gesturing to one.

"Okay" Audrey said excitedly, Jack nervous as Audrey reached for it and started unwrapping.

Audrey unwrapped the paper to find a thin but long box, a jewellery store's name printed on it, a very nice jewellery store in fact. Audrey gasped softly as she pulled the lid off the box. Inside the box was the most beautiful bracelet she had ever seen. It was silver but almost white, sparkly, frosty even. The pattern was intricate and delicate, elegant, timeless, feminine and completely her style. It was incredibly beautiful and Jack had chosen so well, Audrey was so impressed with the gift and the obvious effort Jack had gone to.

"It's beautiful" Audrey said, smiling.

Jack felt relieved, she seemed to like it. "I thought it looked like something you would wear and like" he said. "Do you really like it?" Jack asked.

"I love it" Audrey said happily, taking it out of the box and asking Jack to put in on her wrist, kissing him once he was done. Audrey's next two presents were thoughtful too; a big, beautiful candle with a beautiful floral scent, Jack knew that she liked to burn candles throughout her house then a big box of chocolates from one of Washington D.C.'s finest chocolate shops and one of Audrey's favourites. Audrey felt incredibly spoiled and kissed Jack again after opening the last of her presents, thanking him.

It was then Jack's turn to open his presents and Audrey's to watch on nervously. Audrey gave Jack two presents, one big and one small, both wrapped in beautiful, sparkly wrapping paper with bows tied around them. Jack was drawn to the big present first, which was what Audrey had hoped for. It was quite a large box and Jack wasn't sure what it was, he was excited though. Audrey was very thoughtful and suspected it would be something great, but didn't want to get his hopes up.

A few seconds later and Jack's suspicions were confirmed. Jack smiled as he unwrapped the present and saw the box, the name of the store giving the present away instantly. "You didn't did you?" Jack asked.

"Open it!" Audrey exclaimed in response.

Jack opened the box and found a beautiful, high quality, warm winter coat. The reason this was funny though was that Jack had been debating whether or not to buy a new winter coat for months now. He was wearing an old black one which was fine but he had mentioned wanting a warmer one, maybe grey he had said, something more his style and simply nicer. Only a couple of weeks ago they went out to dinner and to see a movie and they had walked past a store where the mannequin was wearing a grey coat, exactly what Jack had been imagining. Jack had stopped and said "I think I want something like that". The store had been closed late that night and Jack hadn't had the time to give it any more thought or go and try it on but Audrey had obviously been listening and had gone and bought it for him for Christmas.

"You still like it right?" Audrey asked, looking at Jack expectantly.

"This is so great. I love it Audrey" Jack replied. Jack stood up and tried it on, it felt warm and comfortable and was a perfect fit.

"It suits you. You look really good in it" Audrey said with a smile.

Jack smiled and took Audrey into his arms, kissing her and thanking her.

Jack sat down again to open his second present. It was not so big or expensive but equally thoughtful, a book that he had been wanting to read. He hadn't gone looking for this book yet but had mentioned it enough times for Audrey to remember the name of it and get it for him.

Jack and Audrey were both happy with their presents, feeling very lucky and cared for and were both happy that the other seemed to like their presents so much. "Thanks again for my presents" Audrey said, scooting over to where Jack was sitting on the lounge.

"Thanks for my presents" Audrey said, cuddling into Jack.

"Thanks for mine" Jack replied, holding Audrey in his arms and stroking her face gently. Jack continued "I think I got an early Christmas gift this year though".

"What's that?" Audrey asked.

"You."

Audrey grinned and leant in to kiss Jack.

As the night continued, Jack and Audrey continued to enjoy themselves, eating their dessert which Jack agreed was the most incredible apple pie he had ever tried, thanking Audrey's family for passing this recipe down to her. They then finished their wine as they settled onto the lounge, embracing and cuddling, giggling and glowing as they talked. After some time though the talking ceased and they made their way to the bedroom, making love tenderly into the night.

Jack and Audrey fell asleep beside each other, happily whispering another "Merry Christmas" before kissing each other good night and falling into a happy, peaceful sleep.


The next morning

Jack had to be up early for his flight to Los Angeles. Audrey had tried to insist on taking him to the airport but it was really early and Jack wanted to leave her happy and asleep in bed rather than interrupting her first day off work with an early morning airport run when Jack could easily get a taxi. The alarm sounded and Jack quickly pressed snooze. They were already in the habit of pressing snooze just once and cuddling in the morning for a few minutes until the alarm went off again and this morning was no different. Audrey sleepily shifted closer to Jack and they wrapped their arms around each other.

"I'm going to miss you" Audrey said, kissing Jack's shoulder and snuggling into him, knowing this would be it for a week or so.

"I'm going to miss you too" Jack said, holding Audrey tightly. They had only been dating for two months but Jack was already so used to her presence, he really didn't want to be without her as much as he was looking forward to Christmas with his family. They enjoyed their morning embrace for a few minutes and reluctantly disengaged once the alarm went off for a second time. Audrey rolled onto her back and Jack followed. Jack bent down and kissed Audrey's lips and hovered there for a few moments, savouring the feeling.

Jack finally pulled away and said "Have a good Christmas Audrey, I'll really miss you".

Audrey wrapped her arms around Jack and replied "Have a good time with your family. I'll miss you too".

Jack smiled. "Go back to sleep" he said gently before kissing Audrey's forehead.

Audrey curled up on her side of the bed and fell asleep as Jack had a quick shower and got ready. He had packed his bag a couple of days ago and would eat something at the airport so it was a quick process, simply showering, packing his toiletries and getting dressed.

Jack showered and dressed in the bathroom as quietly as possible. On his way out a few minutes later, he looked at Audrey, sleeping peacefully and beautifully. He didn't want to disturb her but he couldn't resist. Jack walked over to Audrey's side of the bed, which she was facing and leant down and gently kissed her cheek.

Audrey wasn't quite back to sleep though and didn't make any movement to show Jack that she was actually mostly awake. She heard Jack's footsteps come towards her and felt her heart flutter as she felt the most tender kiss and stroke of Jack's fingers against her cheek before he walked out of the room, saving her smile for once she heard that he was gone, thinking to herself how sweet he was.

Once Jack arrived at the airport, he booked a return flight for early on New Years Eve, getting him into Washington D.C. in the afternoon so that he could spent it with Audrey. Jack sent Audrey a text to let her know he had arrived at the airport and booked a flight home, smiling and happy as he wrote it.


Sometime between Friday 24th December 2004 & Friday 31st December 2004

Jack had been having a wonderful time in Los Angeles with Kim and her family. They had spent Christmas Eve at home as a family and had seen Chase's family on Christmas Day as well as stopping by Teri's sister's to see her family. Kim was still close with Teri's family whereas Jack had only seen them sparsely over the years but he was willing to drop by briefly, wanting Kim to keep up her connection with them. They were a good family, it was just painful for Jack to face them after everything that happened. The following days had been relaxed, winding down and spending quality family time together, watching movies and reading books whilst lounging around the house or getting outside and taking Angela for walks and playing with her. Kim had commented a few times on how happy Jack seemed, Jack suspecting that she was onto him.

One afternoon after lunch Kim and Jack decided to take Angela for a walk in her stroller, letting Chase catch up on some things at home. They headed out to walk around the nice neighbourhood that they lived in, the air crisp but sun shining. Jack and Kim spoke happily as they walked and at one stage, Kim mentioned making some New Years Eve plans which hadn't been discussed yet due to the craziness of Christmas.

"I forgot to tell you, I won't be here for New Year's Eve" Jack said gently.

"Oh, I thought you got the whole break off work" Kim replied, disappointed.

"I go back to work early in the new year" Jack said.

"When are you flying back?"

"Early on the 31st."

Kim was confused. "What's the rush? What are you going back for?" Kim asked.

"It will just be easier" Jack replied, unconvincingly.

Kim had developed suspicions over the last few days that her dad was dating someone and thought that this odd conversation had everything to do with that suspicion. For one, he seemed incredibly happy which was sadly unusual for him and two, he had spent a lot of time checking his phone, texting and disappearing for phone calls the last few days, when she knew her dad used to be someone who could probably go days without checking his phone and he certainly wasn't someone who sent text messages. Kim wanted to respect his privacy but he was her dad and she wanted to know what was going on. She couldn't help but question him. "Right. Does this have anything to do with all the phone calls and text messages the last few days?" Kim asked, smiling at Jack knowingly.

"There haven't been that many phone calls" Jack replied.

"Well no, but for you there have been and I've seen you texting, since when do you text?" Kim giggled.

"I guess you're right there" Jack said, laughing softly.

"Dad, tell me" Kim said, reaching out to grab his arm and leaning her head against his shoulder.

"I don't know what to say" Jack said.

"Well you can answer my questions then. So, is it a woman?" She asked, stopping the stroller and turning to face her dad.

"Yes" Jack replied, smiling, a real smile, Kim hadn't seen many of those the past few years.

Jack wanted to tell Kim about Audrey but he was nervous, he didn't know how she'd react and it was all still so new, navigating new territory. On top of that, it was usually the child telling the parent who they were dating, not the other way around.

"Dad!" Kim exclaimed, "Why didn't you tell me? That's great. What's her name? What's she like? Tell me everything."

"Okay, calm down first" Jack said, laughing. "This is good news for you?" Jack asked, surprised by her reaction. He didn't think Kim would react negatively but he didn't necessarily think that she's be so happy.

"Of course dad, I want you to be happy. And you seem really happy?" Kim said questioningly.

"Yeah" Jack said, smiling again.

Kim turned back to the stroller and started walking again, thinking it might be easier for her dad to talk as they walked. She left it a few seconds before she asked her next question. "So… Name?" Kim asked.

"Audrey."

"Audrey from work?" Kim asked. Jack had mentioned Audrey a couple of times, just when he told Kim about work, certainly not in any dating sense.

"Yes" Jack replied.

"Isn't she the boss' daughter?" Kim asked.

"Yes" Jack replied with a laugh.

"Wow okay. Trust you to date the boss' daughter, office work was getting a bit boring was it?" Kim joked.

"Hey, unfair" Jack said.

"Alright. How long?" Kim asked.

"About two months."

"What's she like?"

"She's amazing. Smart, thoughtful, kind, funny."

"Beautiful?"

"Very" Jack said with a smile.

"And you're happy?"

"Really happy" Jack confirmed.

"Is she good to you? What about you know… everything. Have you told her about mum? What about you know, the heroin and leaving CTU?". Kim saw Jack wince out of the corner of her eye. She didn't want to bring up bad memories but she felt protective, wanting to make sure that Audrey knew about these things and was okay with them.

Jack sighed and answered as quickly as he could, wanting this part of their conversation to be over. "I've told her about everything. Not a lot about your mum, but enough. Quite a bit about CTU and well, the heroin and having to leave. She's good to me, much more than I deserve."

"How did she handle it all?" Kim asked.

"Really well. She wants to listen and seems to know what to do or say to make it feel better. She's helping me heal from a lot of things".

Kim smiled, satisfied with this response. "Well I'm really happy for you dad" Kim said, stopping again to quickly hug her dad.

"Thanks baby" Jack said, hugging her back.

"So what are you and Audrey doing for New Years then?" Kim asked.

"We're going to her friend's place. They have invited a few people over for dinner."

"That sounds nice. Have you met them before?"

"Not yet"

They were quiet for a moment. Kim liked that Audrey was introducing Jack to her friends and that they had discussed a lot of big, difficult topics. It sounded real and like Audrey was a good match for her dad. Kim was happy that Jack was not only in a safe job but that he was really getting his life back together, that he was loved and happy.

"I'd like to meet Audrey" Kim said next.

"Maybe" Jack replied.

"Why not?"

"I don't know" Jack said, genuinely unsure, it just seemed big in his head and not something he had thought about yet.

"Well not right now obviously, maybe next time I come out?"

"Maybe" Jack said, sounding slightly more optimistic now though, at least starting to consider it.

"Maybe it's time to talk about something else now" Jack said.

"But you haven't told me what she looks like or how you started dating or anything."

"Maybe later" Jack said, starting to get embarrassed now. They walked quietly for a few moments before moving onto something else, Jack pleasantly surprised with how well that conversation went.


Friday 31st December 2004

Audrey had spent the day busying herself but she was so excited for Jack to come back and found herself counting down the hours. She almost felt silly, she was an adult and it had only been a week but she couldn't help it. Audrey decided to not look at work at all today and instead instead took herself to a yoga class in the morning, made herself a nice breakfast, caught up on some cleaning even though her house was always tidy, prepared some food to take to Claire's tonight and got herself ready all before Jack arrived home in the afternoon.

Jack had been equally excited to see Audrey. As sad as it was saying goodbye to Kim when he left Los Angeles, he felt happy to be coming home to Audrey, really feeling like he was coming home. Jack had really missed Audrey and was beyond excited to see her again. Jack got a taxi straight to Audrey's house, paid the taxi driver and got out of the car. Audrey must have heard the car because the front door opened before he had quite made it up the stairs. Jack and Audrey smiled at each other as their eyes met and Jack quickened his pace. Seconds later, they were reaching for each other, kissing and holding each other, pressed into each other. "I missed you" Jack said.

"I missed you too" Audrey said, smiling.

They made their way inside and out of the cold. They only had an hour before they wanted to leave to go to Audrey's friend's house. Audrey made herself and Jack a coffee and they sat on the lounge talking, telling each other about Christmas. They had talked briefly on the phone over the last few days but it was good to get to tell each other more and in more detail. Jack told Audrey about Los Angeles, how warm it was compared to Washington DC, seeing his family and spending quality time with Kim. Jack also told Audrey about his and Kim's conversation, Audrey smiling and feeling happy that Jack had told Kim about her and that Kim was excited for them and even wanted to meet her. Audrey told Jack that she'd like to meet Kim too, whenever Jack was ready for that and she in turn told Jack about her Christmas, spending time with friends and family and her dad's antics over the holidays, which Jack was amused by.

After spending some time together, Jack got himself ready and shortly after they headed out. They debated how to get there however Jack decided to drive, anticipating that it would be easiest to have their own car and preferring to drive, wanting Audrey to enjoy a few drinks with her friends and not have to worry about driving. Jack was excited to meet Audrey's friends but he did feel a bit nervous as they drove there. Audrey could sense Jack's nerves and reached out to rest her hand on his thigh as they drove.

It wasn't a long drive and Jack parked easily in front of their house. Jack and Audrey got out of the car and Jack opened the back door to get their things. Audrey walked around to Jack's side of the car though before he could get anything out and said "Hey". Jack turned to Audrey and she wrapped her arms around him, Jack doing the same.

"Are you excited?" Audrey asked.

"Yeah" Jack replied.

"Nervous?"

"Kind of" Jack answered honestly.

Audrey smiled and reached up to stroke Jack's face. "Don't be, they're really great. I promise" Audrey said.

"I know" Jack said with a small smile.

Audrey leant in to kiss Jack, knowing that he'd feel better once they got inside. Jack reached into the car and picked up their bag with one hand. They then walked up to the door together, Audrey reaching out to hold Jack's other hand as they walked.

Jack instantly noticed how beautiful and inviting the home was, just like Audrey's. They rang the door bell and a woman answered, Claire, Jack had seen her in a photograph before and Jack felt instantly relaxed. She was warm and welcoming, like Audrey. Claire kissed Audrey's cheek then Jack's, telling him now nice it was to be meeting him and she ushered them in. They walked into the kitchen where Jack was introduced to Rob, Claire's husband and another couple, Audrey's friends, Emma and Stephen. They were all inviting and warm and made Jack feel at ease. Claire poured them a glass of champagne to celebrate New Years Eve and walked all of them into the living room. The other couple arrived shortly after, Elizabeth and Thomas, who also had a sleeping baby in tow, again more of Audrey's friends who Jack had heard about and they were equally as nice as the friends he had just met. They all made comfortable small talk to begin with, nobody putting any pressure on Jack and Audrey remained by his side.

After a while, the four women who had all been friends through college or early stages of their careers, started to form their own conversation, volume rising, as women did. After a while they relocated to the kitchen to help Claire get dinner ready.

"Do you need any help?" Jack asked.

"No, stay, you lot can clean up later" Claire said.

The men made themselves comfortable, sitting and having a drink, Rob getting Jack a beer. Jack liked these people. They were good people, intelligent and kind. They were easy to talk to, discussing sport, family and work. When topics drifted to things Jack wasn't privy to, they let him know what the backstory was and made sure he was included.


Later, dinner was served. Claire had made a delicious dinner herself and everyone had helped, bringing additional dishes. They all walked over to the table to get themselves settled and Audrey leant into Jack before they sat down and quietly asked "All good?"

Jack smiled back and replied "Really good" as they sat down.

They enjoyed eating dinner together with lots of enjoyable topics being discussed, funny stories being shared, banter between couples extending to everyone sitting at the table. It was fun and Jack felt lucky to be included in all of this. It was also nice to see Audrey with her friends, relaxed and enjoying herself. This was who Audrey was around Jack. At work she was professional and didn't give a lot away, although she did soften around her dad or colleagues that she'd been friends with for years. At home she was relaxed and was able to let go of all of that and Jack loved being part of that. Audrey was even making him feel more free and fun that he had in a long time. Jack was enjoying tonight, being with Audrey, seeing friends and it was nice to revel in the happiness and normality of something he had gone without for so long.

As promised, after dinner the men cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher. At one stage it was just Rob and Jack in the kitchen and Rob took a moment to say something to Jack.

"Audrey seems really happy" Rob said.

"I hope so" Jack replied.

Rob smiled. "We love Audrey, she's like a sister to me and I think Claire actually thinks they are sisters", both men laughing. "It was hard seeing her with Paul the last few years, he wasn't good to her and she was unhappy for so long. It's nice to see her with someone who really cares for her and see her so happy".

Jack wasn't sure what to say. "Thanks. Audrey is the best thing that could have happened to me. I certainly hope to make her happy".

The two men smiled at each other, nothing left to say.


Later in the evening they had dessert and by midnight made it onto Claire and Rob's balcony which had a great view where they were able to see the fireworks over the city. Claire poured them all champagne again. It was cold but they were wearing warm clothing and the view was worth it anyway. Jack stood behind Audrey, arms wrapped around her, hugging her into him, warming each other up. As midnight struck, the fireworks started and everyone wished each other a happy new year. Jack and Audrey missed the first few moments of the fireworks though as Audrey turned around to kiss Jack softly, full of promise and excitement for what this year would bring them.

Once they were over, everyone started saying goodbye, tired and laughing about their age making them so exhausted. As they said their goodbyes, Jack was genuine, telling everyone how great it was to finally meet them and thanking them for a great evening. Audrey felt her heart flutter, something Jack often caused. It was so nice to see Jack enjoying simply being with her and her friends. Audrey's friends were equally enthusiastic back, telling him now nice it was to meet him and that they hoped to see him again soon, Rob, Stephen and Thomas telling Jack that he would have to join them for baseball season in the new year.

Once they made it out and to the car, Audrey was quick to say "So?".

Jack smiled at her "They're so great Audrey, I really like them. I knew you'd have nice friends but they were really great".

"They liked you too. A lot." Audrey said and leant in to kiss Jack. Audrey was happy that she had asked Jack to come with her. The night had gone well, everyone getting along well. As nice as their bubble had been, just the two of them, it was nice to extend it slightly to people that Audrey trusted.


They drove home and made it back to Audrey's house. They showered together, kissing and holding each other as they showered followed by stumbling into bed together. They were tired but had missed each other and this evening had only spurred them on, both desperate to connect and enjoy each other again. Jack and Audrey made love, making each other come alive in their arms, easily losing themselves in each other.

Once they were satisfied and ready for sleep, Audrey kissed Jack goodnight, as she did every night and said "Happy New Year". Jack smiled and said "Happy New Year Audrey". They fell asleep together, both thinking that this wasn't where they thought they would begin the new year but deeply happy and excitedly wondering what this year would bring for them.