05.23am

"So where is this living breathing example of how to screw your way to the top then?" Chloe asked, again, as she was inclined to do so, snippily, as she reentered the Situation Room with a summary of the latest 'internet chatter' pertaining to the terrorist threat hanging over her arm, "You said twenty minutes Bill."

"And it's been twenty minutes exactly." He pointed out by way of reply, "And she's just cleared security and is on her way." He sighed, "Really Chloe, what is the issue with you two?"

"You'll see." Chloe remarked smugly, only to have her smirk wiped off her face when Jack glared at her, unimpressed by her attitude. "Does it really matter? As far as I'm aware this is a Government Agency facing a biological terrorist threat, we're not in Grade School anymore. Just do the job you're paid to do and keep the hell out of her way, you understand me?" He kept his glare, a glare so hard it had been known to coerce hardened terrorists to crack, on her, awaiting some kind of response, but before she had time to formulate one that wasn't "Screw you Jack", a voice, English in accent and quite obviously amused, came from the doorway,

"It sounded perfectly understandable to me."

Jack turned towards the door and as he did so his gaze fell on the speaker. Dark hair, big deep brown eyes, suited and booted but in a pencil skirt that left nothing about her slender legs to the imagination. She was, there was little doubt, gorgeous and were it not for the small issue of having a terrorist cell in possession of a lethal virus to catch he'd have fucked her right there and then on the situation room table, definitely more than once, and quite possibly in a whole variety of positions.

He'd not felt like this, he thought, since Audrey, or even before that…

Since Kate maybe… or…

Shit… Nina… or…

He couldn't even bring himself to think it, and yet, looking at her, he couldn't help himself…

Fuck it. Since Terri.

But really, it wasn't the time to be falling into that trap. He pushed all thought of it out of his mind and stepped towards her, extending his hand for her to shake.

"Constance Beauchamp? I'm Jack Bauer. Good to have you on board."

"What can I say? It's good to be on board."

She took his hand and shook it firmly, professionally. Her loins were stirring and taking her mind with them but she knew full well that she couldn't allow herself to get distracted. He was a good looking man, incredibly handsome, his T-Shirt clinging to rippling muscles in a way that left her feeling like she wanted to rip it right off but she garnered all the self control she had to stop herself from thinking about it. Now was not the time to be drooling like an over excited schoolgirl.

What was the old saying? You only get one chance to make a first impression.

She strode purposefully past him into the room. She'd got the number of the situation from the small exchange she'd viewed from the door. Bill Buchanan was in charge, technically, in so far rank went, but it had been perfectly clear that this Jack Bauer was really running the show. The issue now was working out where she fitted in, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be under the little IT nerd in the bad blouse.

She glanced at the table in front of her, 3 of the seats around which had obviously recently been occupied – laptop and a cappuccino, bog standard white coffee and a triple espresso. Glancing at the occupants of the room it didn't take much to work out whose was whose. The question was, which seat to take? She moved, at first, towards the cappuccino but as her eyes met Jack's she realized he knew exactly what she was doing and knew instantly that pissing Chloe off wasn't going to be a statement enough.

Without a moment's hesitation she took the seat with the triple espresso.

At first, Jack said nothing, and then he moved very precisely to her, crouched down at her side and spoke to her in a low tone that fell somewhere between incredibly sensual and very, very dangerous, "Ok, you've made your point. You like to go on top. Now get the hell out of my seat."

And, without another word, the controlling and authoritative Mrs. Beauchamp, did precisely as she was told.

"Right," he said, still questioning his use of the word 'go' as opposed to 'be', as he settled himself into his now vacant seat, "I suspect you want to know why you're here." It was a rhetorical question and he made to continue before an answer was forthcoming but she didn't give him chance as she calmly shook her head,

"Not particularly. Allow me to tell you." She leant back in her chair, smiling a wry smile, obviously enjoying setting the cat among the pigeons in such a way, "You want me to look at a body contaminated with a lethal virus that if terrorists have their way will wipe out a significant number of our population today." She fixed her gaze on him and smiled again, "Impressed?"

He wasn't so much, since he knew she had contacts, but he wasn't about to tell her that. He'd already shown her who was boss by removing her from his seat, there was no point in trampling her completely – the spirit she showed was far too attractive to risk that.

At his side however Chloe rolled her eyes, "We might be, if your husband wasn't Mrs Logan's Chief of Staff. What was it? Phone sex on the way over to coerce him into telling you?"

Jack saw Bill make to reprimand Chloe for the comment but he quickly shook his head. Not that he particularly appreciated the bitching but he felt Chloe had at least something of a point and besides which, he was intrigued as to what the response was going to be.

Their new arrival didn't disappoint.

"Yeah, something like that. I just didn't fancy walking in here blind," She paused momentarily, meeting his eyes and if he hadn't known better he'd have sworn there wasn't another soul in the room, "I mean would you walk into any new situation unarmed?" She didn't await an answer, just quite rightly taking it as read, "And as for my methods?" She smiled at him, one eyebrow raised, and to his discomfort he felt himself hardening slightly under the cover of the table at the thought of her pretty little mouth putting those 'methods' into practice, "I do whatever it takes. Would you want someone on your team who did anything less?"

"And the conference link up with CTU is arranged for 5.30 Pacific Standard Time?" Martha Logan asked Michael as they concluded their discussion.

"Yes, that's correct. In the Communications Room. I'm just heading there now to check everything is in order. Unless," He looked at her questioningly, "there's anything else you need."

She shook her head, "No, that'll be fine." She glanced at her watch and saw that she had approximately five minutes until the briefing began, "Actually, have Mai-Ling bring me a sparkling water please, and I'll see you shortly." With a nod of her head she dismissed him, but as he headed for the door she called him back.

"Michael?" She said gently, "Is Connie alright? You didn't say."

He nodded, "She's fine, Mrs Logan." He smiled but it didn't quite reach his eyes, and Martha felt most unconvinced, "She's very excited to be in the thick of things."

She rose from her chair and moved to his side to place her hand lightly on his arm, "How many times must I say it? It's Martha." She saw him go to argue but she quickly silenced him, "Protocol counts for nothing if no one's listening."

He smiled again, more naturally this time and she found herself reminded of their times together at Harvard when that smile had been all it had taken for him to woo her into his bed. Good times, and yet, she quickly brushed them aside. Things were different now, she had Aaron and he had Connie, and one or two other lovers besides. They were the American President and Her Chief of Staff, nothing more.

As a distraction she turned her attention back to the conversation at hand, "You're worried about her."

He shrugged, "It's a new world to her Martha, I'm not sure she'll cope."

He was being unduly pessimistic. In the 18 months that Martha had know Connie it had become obvious to her that here was a woman who could cope with pretty much anything, although, that said, these were exceptional circumstances. She squeezed his arms gently, supportively.

"I'm sure she'll be fine."

He sighed, "I just don't want her to fail." He said, and then left the room, leaving Martha to ponder how a man, who loved a woman so much, could repeatedly treat the same woman so badly.

Then again, wasn't that precisely what Charles had done to her, albeit on a far larger scale than with lovers on the side?

Looking at that level of betrayal, Michael was an absolute angel.

05.27am

With Connie having done away with all need for a by the book in-house briefing it didn't take long for Jack, Bill and the ever charming Chloe to bring her up to speed, and she soon knew exactly what they required. After tying up the final details;

"Hazmat suit?"
"Waiting for you in Medical."

And,

"Results wanted when?"
"Yesterday."

She saw them all waiting for her to leave, but, having spied some very interesting looking handwritten notes in Chloe's notepad she'd already decided she was going nowhere.

"Was there anything else Connie?" Jack asked when it became apparent she wasn't moving.

She shook her head. "No, not at all. I just couldn't help noticing that you have a conference link up with Washington shortly. If it's not a problem I'd like to be in on that."

Before Jack could respond, Chloe was already cutting in, "Only Department Heads are involved in that Briefing."

"I'm the Head of Medical." Connie responded coolly, having already decided not to let the stupid woman rile her, "Does that not make me a Head of Department?"

"No. It makes you a glorified nurse."

Bored already with constant sniping from a woman who was clearly as bitchy as Chrissie Williams with about a hundredth of the sex appeal Connie decided to appeal to Jack's better nature, not least because he seemed to be inclined to meet her halfway.

"I'd really appreciate being in on this." She told him as she unclipped her security pass, "And if you're in any doubt about my credentials," she handed it to him, "you will note I have…"

"Level 6 clearance." Jack said, turning the pass over to Bill for his inspection, "What do you think Bill?"

Bill stared down at the pass, saying nothing, possibly, Connie suspected, because he was astounded that Jack was looking for him for guidance rather than just doing whatever he wanted. She already got the impression it didn't really happen that often. She decided, since they'd wasted more than enough time already, to help him out a little.

"If you're still unsure you could always call The White House," she couldn't resist a small self satisfied smirk, "I'm sure The President's Chief of Staff would be happy to approve my attendance. You only have to ask."

Jack groaned inwardly. With this one on board, one way or another, it was going to be a long hard day.

Meanwhile in The White House Communications Room, the Chief of Staff himself was talking to Homeland Security and Military Officials and wondering, not for the first time, exactly how he'd landed this gig. It was, after all, a long way from UK Local Government to this, and it didn't seem to matter how often Martha told him that he was just the man for the job – dynamic, charismatic and with the ability to spin a good story – he still couldn't help thinking, quite immodestly in some ways, that she only wanted him around for reasons pertaining to his being nice eye-candy, and he found it disconcerting, especially now, when he found himself in conversation with people with more experience, knowledge and bravery medals than he'd had hot dinners.

He was distracted from his conversation by Karen, an attractive blonde whose job title he could never really remember although as he recalled, vaguely, she was one of the Homeland Security crowd. On a more personal level, he got her very drunk on Tequila once but nothing ever came of it because, apparently, she was 'completely devoted to her husband'.

Lucky bastard.

"We're ready to start Michael. Is Mrs Logan on her way?"

He nodded, "She said she'd be right along."

"Excellent." Karen went to walk away but then turned back, "Bill Buchanan from CTU just put a call in. Do you have any issue with their Medical Officer sitting in?"

He grinned at her words, glad that Connie appeared to have recovered from her earlier shock and was already ruffling feathers. That was the girl he knew and loved, he wouldn't want her doing anything less.

"Sure thing Karen, not an issue."

She looked surprised, "You don't want to check with Mrs Logan?"

He shook his head, "Martha won't mind at all."

05.31am

Connie was sat going through some briefing notes when Jack sidled up to her, just as the room to fill up, "Ok, you've got clearance."

She smiled, "You do surprise me."

He rolled his eyes at her but said no more, as Bill rose from his seat at the front of the room and everyone around the table fell respectfully silent, as TV screens at one end of the room flickered into life, showing a similar set up on the other side of the Country in Washington. There was a few moments of mumbled chatter at the other end and then Bill spoke.

"Good morning Madam President, this is Bill Buchanan. You're linked up with the CTU Los Angeles."

Connie craned her neck slightly so she could see one of the TV screens more clearly, smiling slightly as she saw Michael, looking particularly grim as he sat at the President's side.

He looked so sexy when he was being serious.

"Good morning Bill." The President said, breaking into her particularly kinky thoughts, "First off, I want to thank you for moving so quickly on this, but obviously we've got a lot of work still to do. For the benefit of all, could you provide us with a brief summation of events to date."

"Certainly." Bill cleared his throat nervously, "At 4.15am PST this morning, we were notified by an anonymous source that a body at been 'dropped' at an address in Georgetown. This body has been infected by source or sources unknown but it's clear even at this stage that we're dealing with a serious viral infection, the likes of which we've never seen before."

"Has the body been examined?"

"Only superficially. We'll have a full report for you shortly."

The President smiled, but it was clearly strained. Connie had never seen the other woman look so uptight, but then again, she'd never seen her in circumstances like these. Mainly just over gin and tonics in her private quarters at 'The House'.

"Ok Bill, what are the real concerns here?"

"The problem is this. We have a disease we've yet to identify that we have no idea how to control or contain. We also good reason to believe that this body we've been given is little more than a warning."

"A warning?" The President echoed Connie's thoughts, as the true implications of what she was involved in hit home, chilling her once again to the core.

"Yes." Bill sighed, "The call we received. It implied that this was their way of showing us what they can do. It is our belief that this virus is their bargaining chip. We accede to their demands and they give it up, we don't and US citizens will die today."

There was a brief pause and then the President spoke again to ask not only the question on Connie's mind, but, she didn't doubt, that of every one else in the room, "What are their demands Bill?"

Bill grimaced and glanced at Jack who nodded slowly, before turning back to the TV screens,

"That's the point Madam President, at this moment in time, we have absolutely no idea."

05.34am