A/N: Shout out to Bauer24 for suggesting that I write a post LAD story. Everything from LAD stays the same with the exception of Audrey's death (obviously because how would I even write a story without Audrey). Kate was successful in saving Audrey and brings her back to the U.S. Embassy. Jack catches Cheng and makes sure that he is identified before killing him. This story picks up after that.
President Heller was relieved that Jack had gotten to Cheng before war broke out between the US and China. He relaxed a little. He had heard about the danger Audrey had been in only a little while ago and thanked God that she was alright and was on her way back to him. On the phone was one of the CIA agents who had rushed to help Jack once Agent Morgan had secured Audrey.
"Mr. President," the agent said. "Would you like us to put Jack Bauer under arrest?"
"No," Heller said firmly. "Get a car to take him to me."
"Yes, Mr. President."
Heller hung up the phone and went to his office. He only got to relax for a moment as Audrey walked through the doors. He got up and hugged her, feeling so grateful that she was safe.
"Thank God you're okay," he said. "I never should have let you go."
"It was my decision," Audrey reminded him. "I thought I could help. Did Jack get him?"
"Yeah, he did," Heller told her. "Everything is okay now."
Audrey sighed in relief and took a seat. She realized that it was odd that Mark wasn't there to welcome her back.
"Dad, where's Mark?"
"Audie," he started. In all the commotion he had forgotten that Audrey didn't know what Mark had done. "Mark is in custody for treason."
"What?" Audrey asked in disbelief. "That's not possible."
Heller nodded his head. "Mark forged my signature on a document that would hand Jack over to the Russians. If it weren't for Mark giving them Jack's location, Cheng would have been stopped hours ago. He claimed that he didn't know there was a connection between the Russians and Cheng."
Audrey was surprised and upset with him for what he had done. But, she also knew that it had nothing to do with him conspiring with the Russians and Cheng and had everything to do with his jealousy of Jack.
"I'm sorry, Audrey," Heller added.
"It's okay," she said. "What's going to happen to him?"
"I was hoping you could help me with that decision," he said. "If you want to forget this ever happened, I can let him go. Or, we can move forward with him going to trial for his crimes."
"Can I think about it?" Audrey asked.
"Of course," he nodded. Audrey knew what Mark's intentions were. He wanted to get rid of Jack to protect her. She wasn't sure if he should go to prison for it. Audrey and her father sat in silence for the next few minutes just reflecting on the crazy day they had had. Their thoughts were broken as a secret service agent came in.
"Mr. President, Jack Bauer is here," the agent announced.
"Send him in," Heller said.
"What's going on?" Audrey asked her father before Jack walked through the door.
"Mr. President," Jack greeted, glancing over to Audrey who looked to be okay despite the fact she had been held hostage only a short while ago.
"Take a seat, Jack," Heller insisted. Jack took the chair next to Audrey. For a second, it felt like a different life. The life he had had back in D.C. all those years ago. Sitting next to Audrey across from Secretary Heller. Except so much had happened since then.
"You okay?" he whispered to Audrey. She smiled and nodded in response.
"I want to thank you, Jack," Heller said. "You've saved so many lives today, including mine."
Heller noticed that Jack was about to try to protest against the compliment and raised his hand to tell Jack not to speak. Jack stopped.
"I mentioned this earlier today and you said you weren't interested. I hope you'll reconsider," Heller said, handing him a document. Jack opened it and saw that it was a pardon letter, exonerating him of his crimes. Beside him, Audrey was smiling. She hadn't known about the pardon but was relieved that for once, her dad was on Jack's side. He could finally go back to his life.
"Thank you," Jack said, not really sure what else he could say.
"Enjoy your second chance, Jack," Heller said, standing up. Jack stood up and shook his hand. He glanced over at Audrey and gave her a smile before walking out the door.
As he shut the door, Audrey felt sick. She realized that that was the last time she would ever see him. That's what his smile had meant. Audrey excused herself and walked quickly down the hall hoping to find Jack. She found him in a stairwell and called out to him before he could get too far. He stopped as he heard her voice.
"What's wrong?" Jack asked, wishing she hadn't followed him. He was ready to go home and find his daughter again. Having to formally say goodbye to Audrey would be too hard. He realized he had never had to face her for their goodbyes before. Sure, she had broken up with him and said goodbye before, but he hadn't considered it to be a real goodbye since he planned on going back to D.C. where they would be working together again. But, then he had to disappear without saying goodbye. And, when Cheng had taken him, he didn't get to say goodbye. And, when he left her at Heller's beach house, it had been a one sided goodbye.
"I didn't get to thank you," she said. "For killing Cheng."
"Trust me. It wasn't just for you," Jack admitted, rubbing the scars on the back of his hand that reminded him of China.
"I know. But, thank you."
"Of course," Jack said. A moment of silence lingered between them. "Is that all you wanted?"
Audrey shook her head and choked back tears. "Were you really going to leave without saying goodbye? Again?"
Jack felt a lump in his throat. "Sorry."
Audrey stepped closer to him and Jack lowered his forehead to hers. He reached up to wipe away a tear that had fallen down her cheek. They both had so much they wanted to say to each other but didn't know where to start. Neither of them could talk about the things they needed to talk about. Jack didn't know how to thank Audrey for trying to get him out of China. He couldn't tell her that he never wanted to leave her and that he regretted doing so everyday. He couldn't tell her that he was still in love with her after all these years. She was married now. And Audrey didn't know how to ask him why he had left her after China. She wasn't even sure she wanted the answer. She didn't know how to tell him that what happened to her wasn't his fault without reminding him of those memories. She wanted to tell him that she still loved him after all this time but couldn't stand thinking that he may not feel the same way.
"Where will you go?" Audrey finally asked him.
"To find Kim and her family," he said. "They're in LA."
"Good," Audrey said.
"Will you be okay?" Jack asked, vaguely. He wanted to make sure that she would be okay with him leaving, with her father's Alzheimer's, with the fact that she was forced to remember her time in China because of Cheng's return, and with Mark. But, that was too much to ask and would have been overbearing, so he settled with the simple question.
Audrey nodded, sadly. She knew that Jack's question was deeper than it sounded. There was another silence between them. She knew it was time for Jack to leave but she wasn't ready. She reached into the purse she was carrying and pulled out a pen and a piece of scrap paper. She scribbled down her cell phone number and handed it to him.
"In case you need anything," Audrey explained.
"Thanks," Jack replied, knowing full well that he would never use it. He could never ask her for anything. "I should get going."
"Okay," Audrey said sadly.
"Goodbye, Audrey," Jack said, his heart breaking over the sight of Audrey's eyes filling with tears. He took her hand in his and squeezed gently.
"Bye Jack," Audrey replied. "Be safe."
Jack started back down the staircase, their hands staying together until the last possible second.
Audrey went back to her room to freshen up her makeup which had been smeared by tears after Jack left. She knew there was one other hard conversation to have. She fixed her makeup and headed to the room where Mark was being held. She asked Secret Service to let her in. She walked in and Mark's head shot up immediately.
"Audrey," Mark said, in relief. "You're okay? I thought Bauer chose to go after Cheng instead of you."
"There was another team that came for me," Audrey told him. "Jack killed Cheng."
"That's great news," Mark said. "I guess you know why I'm in here."
"Yeah," Audrey said, disappointedly. "What the hell were you thinking?"
"I'm sorry. You have to believe me. I never would have done it if I knew the Russians and Cheng were working together. I even asked them to wait until Jack retrieved the override."
"I know!" Audrey yelled. "I know what you were doing. You were trying to get rid of Jack because you were jealous!"
"I know it was wrong, Audrey," Mark said, begging her to forgive him. "I just wanted to protect you."
"Do you have any idea what they would have done to him in Russia?" Audrey asked, horrified at the thought of it.
"The fact you care so much shows that I had a right to be jealous," Mark commented. "Audrey, I have been there for you for so long and through so much. And, yet for whatever reason, you still love him! Do you know how hard it is to love someone who will never love you back in the same way?"
"Yeah, I do," Audrey said, knowing that she was basically admitting to Mark that she loved Jack.
"I'm so sorry for what I did," Mark said, sincerely.
"I know you are," Audrey said.
Mark sighed, "What happens now?"
"Now, I tell Dad to let you go," Audrey told him.
"Really?" Mark asked, surprised. "You don't have to. I know I don't deserve it."
"Well, don't make me change my mind," Audrey teased.
"I promise, Audrey. I will make it up to you. Everyday for the rest of our lives."
Audrey shook her head at him. "I want a divorce."
"Audrey," Mark protested. "I can fix this. Give us a chance."
"Mark, we just went over the fact that I'm never going to be fully in love with you. That's not fair to you. Or to me. I don't want to keep pretending."
Audrey apologized and walked out before he could protest. She went back to her father's office and told him that she thinks Mark should be released. Heller agreed and told Secret Service to release him after he and Audrey had left on Air Force One to return to D.C.
Jack parked outside Kim's house in Los Angeles and sat in the car for a moment contemplating whether or not he should go knock on the door. He had disappeared on Kim so many times in the past and the most recent time was his own fault. He had chosen to avenge Renee's death and had put himself in a position where he could never seen Kim, Teri, or Stephen again.
He thought back to the short time where he had a normal life with them. Babysitting Teri just like any normal grandfather would do. He had been planning to move to LA with them. He wanted nothing more than to see little Teri grow up. She would be seven years old now and wouldn't even remember him. He knew there was a chance that Kim would reject him, just like she had done after he had faked his own death. He wasn't sure he could handle it. But, if there was a chance that she still wanted him in their lives then he had to know.
He got out of the car and knocked on the door. He heard footsteps moving to the door. It was too late to change his mind. Kim opened the door and was frozen in shock.
"Dad!" she exclaimed, throwing her arms around him in a hug.
"Hi, sweetheart," he said, hugging her tightly. He was thrilled at her reaction.
"Come in," she said, moving both of them inside. "I'm so happy you're okay. How can you be here right now?"
"President Heller pardoned me," he said, assuming that she knew by now about why he had never come to LA.
"Mom, what's going on?" a blonde girl asked, walking towards the entryway.
"Teri, this is your grandpa," Kim said. "Do you remember him at all?"
"Not really," Teri admitted. "Sorry."
"That's okay," Jack said, smiling at her. "You were only three the last time I saw you."
"I'm seven now. I've grown up a lot," she stated, proudly. "Now Ben is the baby."
"Ben?" Jack asked, looking at Kim.
"Come with me," Kim said, leading him through the house into the living room where one year old boy sat on the floor playing with a toy. Kim picked up the boy and handed him to Jack. "This is Ben. He just turned two a few weeks ago."
Jack held his grandson, in complete awe. Jack could not have been happier. He finally had his life back.
Later that night after Stephen had gotten home from work and the kids had been put to bed, Kim asked if Jack had a place to stay or if he was going to stay with them. Jack felt guilty for asking them to stay but honestly had no where else to go. Kim said that it was no problem and fixed up the guest room for him. Stephen turned on the TV and turned it up when they saw President Heller on the screen.
They watched as Heller professed his resignation and admitted to the nation that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Jack's eyes were focused on Audrey in the background behind Heller. She looked beautiful and strong. But, he knew that her father's condition had to be hard on her. He wanted nothing more than to reach out and hold her. Although Jack was happy to be back with his family, he wished that he could share the moment with Audrey.
"Dad?" Kim asked, waving a hand in front of his face to get his attention.
"I asked if you knew about Heller's resignation."
"Yes," Jack admitted.
"That's not going to change that fact that he pardoned you, right?"
"Why did he do it?"
"I helped out with the terrorist attacks in London a few days ago."
Kim looked back to the screen and figured out what her dad had been staring at. Audrey was in the background behind Heller. She was curious about what had ever happened between them after he returned from China. She figured it was best not to ask him right now.
When Jack went to his room to go to bed, he took the paper with Audrey's number on it and contemplated calling her. He hadn't noticed Mark with her at the press conference. Maybe she left him. But, more likely, he was probably released and back together with Audrey but no longer Heller's Chief of Staff. Jack put the number in the drawer of the nightstand.
Jack spent the following seven months enjoying his time with his family. He became close with his granddaughter again and also connected with his grandson. Kim and Stephen loved having Jack around again and knew how much it meant to the kids. It was also nice since they no longer needed to find babysitters while they were at work.
Every once in a while, Jack would take Audrey's number out of the drawer and stare at it, hoping that he could convince himself to give her a call. But, he could never think of what he would say to her.
One night, while he held the paper in his hand, Teri had come barreling through the door and jumped onto his bed.
"What's that, Grandpa?" she asked, looking at what was written. "It looks like a phone number."
"It is a phone number," Jack told her.
"Who are you calling?" she asked, taking the paper from his hands to read the name written on the top. She started spelling, "A-U-D-R-E-Y. What does that spell?"
Jack put the paper away as Teri tried to sound out the word she had spelled.
"Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" Jack asked, playfully scooping her into his arms and carrying her out of his room. They ran into Kim as they made their way to Teri's room.
"Mom, what does this spell?" Teri asked. She repeated the letters that she had read.
Kim smiled and looked over at Jack who seemed uncomfortable. "It spells Audrey. It's a name."
"Sounds like a girl's name," Teri commented. "Is she your girlfriend, Grandpa? Do you call her every night?"
"No," Jack said, putting Teri to bed. "She's just a friend. Goodnight, Teri."
Kim and Jack shut the door behind them on the way out.
"How often do you talk to Audrey?" Kim asked him.
"I don't talk to her," Jack said.
"Then, why does Teri think you call her?"
"I have her phone number. That doesn't mean I call her," Jack insisted.
"Whatever happened between you two?" Kim asked. "You two were great together. And, even when you came back from the dead she still loved you. What changed after China? Had she moved on?
"No," Jack said, sadly. "Audrey went to China to try and save me but ended up getting thrown into prison too."
Kim was shocked. "I had no idea."
"When she came back, she was in bad shape. She needed a lot of help. I couldn't help her so I left."
"You left her when she needed help?" Kim asked. "That doesn't sound like you."
"She was better off without me," Jack said.
"And, you haven't seen her since? Not even to ask if she's okay?"
"I saw her when I was in London. She's married now. And happy," Jack told Kim, trying to convince himself of that last part.
"And, she gave you her number," Kim said. Jack nodded. "So, obviously she wants you to call. Why aren't you calling?"
"Why are you so invested in this?" Jack asked.
"You're lonely," Kim said. "Your only friends are an eight year old and a two year old. I really thought that Audrey was going to be the one for you. I didn't think you'd let yourself find anyone after mom died and then Audrey was just perfect for you."
"Well, I'm sorry but that's in the past. Let it go," Jack said. He moved past her and went to his room.
It had been a few weeks since then and he was finally going to use her number. He just wished it was under different circumstances.
After her father's press conference announcing his resignation, Audrey had moved in with her father to take care of him. She wanted to be there to watch over him to be sure he wasn't forgetting to turn off the oven or trying to drive when disoriented. His memory got worse and worse every week. After a few weeks, Audrey noticed that he was making more and more mistakes. He would lecture her on trying to fix her marriage with Paul even though he meant Mark. Sometimes he would forget that he was no longer President. Sometimes he would call Audrey by her mother's name.
Audrey had to admit that it was exhausting to take care of him. Heller had suggested that he go to a facility instead so that Audrey wasn't putting her life on hold for him. He constantly told her that he didn't want her to be alone when he eventually died. He wanted her to get back together with Mark so that she would have someone. Audrey refused saying that she wanted to spend all the time she could with her dad before he died. She also told him that she was still going through with the divorce with Mark. She'd rather be alone than remain in a loveless marriage any longer.
It was seven months after Heller's resignation that Audrey went in to wake up her father for the day and found that he had died of a stroke in his sleep. Audrey called an ambulance but it was too late. She cried hysterically. Her dad had always been her biggest supporter. She had spent most of her life by his side, taking care of him. She didn't know what to do next.
Jack gripped his phone tightly. He had been watching the news with Kim and Stephen when an announcement came on saying that President Heller had died of a stroke at his home in D.C. Jack had been completely floored by the news. Heller certainly wasn't his favorite person considering their history but he knew that Heller was Audrey's favorite person. He couldn't even imagine how sad she was. He noticed that Kim and Stephen were looking at him, wishing he would speak his mind.
"I need to make a call," Jack said, excusing himself. He went to his room and closed the door. He took a deep breath and dialed her number.