Weep for yourself, my man
You'll never be what is in your heart
Weep, little lion man
You're not as brave as you were at the start
Rate yourself and rake yourself
Take all the courage you have left
Waste it on fixing all the problems
That you made in your own head
But it was not your fault, but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really fucked it up this time
Didn't I, my dear? Didn't I, my dear?
“Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons
Title: We Need To Talk About ChengAuthor: marinw
Summary: Post Live Another Day. While awaiting trial, Mark summons a visitor.
Notes: I originally had a much different scenario for this fic, but the finale forced me down a different path. If you are looking for catharsis and healing, look elsewhere.
House arrest was worse than it sounded.
Mark’s lawyer had been proud of that one. For the price of several million dollars, Mark Boudreau, former Chief and Staff to former President James Heller, could await trial in the comfort of his luxurious Washington townhouse, tethered by an ankle bracelet and a team of secret service agents with nothing better to do.
Only it wasn’t that comfortable. Audrey’s presence was everywhere. The terms of his house arrest made it untenable to have someone come and take away Audrey’s extensive wardrobe of tasteful white, tan and black outfits. There was her jewelry. There were photographs of them together, happy. There were her books, her collection of phones and tablets that hadn’t made their way to London.
And there were her journals. All handwritten.
Audrey’s therapists had encouraged her to keep a journal to help her work through her trauma. She wrote early in the morning or late at night, the times she eschewed her sedatives and couldn’t sleep.
She kept the journals hidden, but Mark had found them and read them.
Mark re-read them now, as if expecting to find something new.
He didn’t. Her journal was still full of Jack, Jack, Jack. Nothing was ever Jack’s fault. Jack wasn’t responsible for what happened to her previous husband or to her or all the other damage he left in his wake. It was so unfair that he was doomed to a life of isolation and exile.
He re-read the entry she made over five years ago, before they were married. Audrey had slipped away from her minders and made her way to West Arlington Hospital.
To see Jack Bauer. What a surprise.
It had been a one-sided conversation as Bauer had been in a coma. One of his more benign states. Even so, being in his presence had upset her, just as she had been warned.
Yet while at the hospital Audrey had managed a conversation with someone else, a woman almost as taken with Bauer as Audrey was, if such a thing was even possible.
Mark needed to speak to this person now. Maybe she could provide him with some much-needed insight.
Mark hadn't known what to expect. He knew her record and her various crimes. Yet Heller had given her a pardon. No doubt another symptom of his deteriorating health.
She sat at the edge of the beige couch, scowling into her tablet. A woman somewhere in her forties in non-descript clothes and her dark hair growing out of what must have been an unfortunate haircut. Mark could see bits of tattoos on her neck and arms.
Maybe she was attractive. Mark couldn’t tell, because no woman could ever be as beautiful as Audrey.
She looked up. "What do you want from me?"
"I beg your pardon? Don't forget who you're talking to. I am the Chief of Staff to the President of the United States."
"You were the Chief of Staff. And James Heller isn't even the president anymore. I didn't have to come here. But I did. So tell me what you want so I can leave."
Mark sat down. He clasped his hands in front of him. "Ms. O'Brien. Chloe. We have clearly gotten off on the wrong foot. I apologize”
“The truth is, I’m still trying to process everything that happened in London. And there aren’t a lot of people I can talk to. And I don’t have a lot of time.”
“Before your trial begins and you go to prison.”
“That’s right. Thank you for reminding me."
“So what do you want?”
What do I want? Mark wondered. Besides one of those pardons Heller was so fond of handing out? I forged one signature. One! Bauer and O’Brien are guilty of much worse.
There it was again. The anger. The resentment that threatened to explode at any moment. Like right now.
“Tell me what the hell do you women see in Jack Bauer? Why do you all love him so damn much?”
“Audrey loved him. You obviously love him too.”
“That’s none of your business!”
“I think it is. You’re part of his world. Audrey was too. And she paid the price for that.”
“It wasn’t his fault! Stop blaming Jack for everything Cheng Zhi did. It’s Cheng’s fault. He’s the one we need to talk about.”
“Don’t lecture me about what Cheng Zhi did. I saw what Audrey was when she got back from China.”
“So did I. I saw her the day she got back. It’s great that Audrey got the help she needed and got better. But Jack suffered too.”
“Oh please. Bauer is a trained agent. He knows how to resist. How to survive.”
“Not for a whole year and a half. And he never got any of the help that Audrey did.”
“And who’s fault was that?”
“Everybody’s. Audrey went to China because nobody else would. And Jack left the country soon after he got back because no one was there for him.”
“Not even you.”
For a moment, Chloe stopped talking. Mark had obviously hit a nerve.
“You’re right Chloe. Cheng is who I should be angry at. But we can’t punish him because Bauer killed him. And I’m glad. For everything else that happened in London. I’m grateful for that.”
“Then why did you forge the extradition order?”
“How can you know about that? The press releases say treason, but don’t specify.”
“The Russians had me for twelve hours. It was weird. They didn’t ask me any questions. They fed me and let me sleep. The guy guarding me was bored so to pass the time he told me everything. He told me you signed that extradition order. That's why you’re under house arrest now. You got what you wanted. Jack is in Russia. You didn’t have to forge a signature or put a hit out on Jack. If it wasn’t for you Jack could have gotten to Cheng in time to stop him from killing Audrey. If you want someone else besides Cheng to blame then blame yourself. Can I go now?”
“You can go,” Mark acquiesced, his voice barely above a whisper.
Chloe O’Brien gathered her tablet and purse and left. She had said what she needed to.