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[personal profile] knitwitfics
Fandom: 24, Milliways
Characters: Jack Bauer, Christine Chappelle, Jeanine Chappelle
Pairings: Jack/Chris
Rating: PG
Summary: Chris' sister-in-law overhears a few things she probably shouldn't.
Originally written: October 16, 2006

Jeannie walked into the kitchen, shaking her head slightly and trying not to smile. "Ryan's still giving your new boyfriend the third degree," she said as Chris appeared, scooping stuffing into a Tupperware container.

Chris looked up, and Jeannie thought she saw a slight expression of concern cross her sister-in-law's face for a moment, before being replaced with a wry smile. "I'm sure after being at CTU, Jack can handle it."

"I'm sure he can," Jeannie said, turning to the sink and dirty dishes, so Chris couldn't see her expression. Somehow she didn't doubt what Chris said, not after what little her new boyfriend, Jack, had said about his work at CTU. She got the feeling there were still things he wasn't saying, even with Ryan's sometimes intrusive questions. Still, he hadn't been able to avoid it--and Ryan's suspicions hadn't been helped--when Caiti had recognised him from her time in Morocco. Recognised him even though he'd given her a different name at the time.

Shaking her head again, this time without the smile, she cranked the louvered kitchen window open a little to try and get rid of the stuffiness in the room, then dunked her hands in the soapy water and started scrubbing one of the pots. She knew from Chris' evasion of what she did that CTU often involved cloak-and-dagger kind of stuff, but his story about being undercover in Morocco, that he'd had to disappear for two years... Somehow it still seemed so foreign to her, like something from one of those spy novels, rather than something that people actually did.

She glanced over at Chris, questions coming to mind. Was this why she hadn't seemed like herself for so long? Did he have anything to do with the reason that she disappeared for a few days back in March, and why she was so withdrawn afterward? Though at least it seemed that he'd helped in that area; while Chris still wasn't very forthcoming about things, at least she'd actually called Jeannie a few times in the last few months.

And other than the moments when it was obvious he was skirting something, he did seem like a nice guy. Intelligent, friendly enough, though distant at times, good sense of humour, caring, good with Tori... It was obvious to her from the way that he looked at Chris and the way he acted toward her that he loved her, and he treated her well. Jeannie thought that should probably be happy with that and forgive the rest.

"So how do things work out, with you working at CTU and Jack consulting? You've said before that CTU doesn't give you a lot of time off," Jeannie said, wondering how to get around to things that she really wanted to ask.

Chris shrugged. "It works out all right. Jack understands that sometimes work has to come first, and he can make his own schedule, so when I do have time off, he can work around it."

"Why did he leave CTU again? It sounds like the work was a perfect fit for him."

There was a pause before Chris replied. "He didn't want to do the job any more--he wanted a personal life and he couldn't have it at CTU. Not that he was given much choice." There was an edge of bitterness in her tone, and Jeannie gave her a curious look. "He can't do field work. He...he has a heart condition, thanks to something that happened. He's fine," she adds, hastily, seeing Jeannie's look of concern, "but the doctor said if he kept doing field work, it'd shorten his lifespan dramatically."

Jeannie nodded, not sure what to reply to this, or how to feel about it. If Jack had health problems... Well, she'd just have to hope that nothing would happen to him; she didn't want to see Chris lose someone else.

Silence fell for another minute, and she was just about to ask another question, when she heard footsteps heading through the hall to the front door. She looked up just in time to see Jack shrugging into his coat and heading out the door. She caught a glimpse of his face, and while she'd expected to see anger--perhaps at something Ryan had said--instead he just looked troubled. She watched out of the corner of her eye as Chris finished putting leftovers in Tupperware bins, then slipped out of the kitchen without a word. The front door opened then closed again.

"Hey. You okay?" she heard Chris' voice say softly, out on the porch. Jeannie glanced at the open window, wondering if she should close it. Would they hear it if she did?

The floorboards of the porch creaked, then she heard Jack's voice, sounding a little tired. "Yeah, I'm okay. Just needed some quiet for a minute."

"I can go if you want."

"No, you're always welcome," Jeannie heard him say, softly, followed by the rustle of fabric and a moment of silence. It was only just as he started talking that she realized that they must be kissing, and she flushed all over at her eavesdropping. Not that she moved to close the window. "Besides, this is the first time I've had alone with you all day."

"Was Ryan being too rough on you? I told him last night--"

"Chris, I'm fine," he said, his voice sounding firm, "Trust me, your Dad grilled me harder during debriefings than Ryan is right now. He's just worried about you."

Chris sighed. "I wish he wouldn't. I practically expect him to start asking to see your bank account to make sure you're financially solvent."

"He did ask how consulting was doing, in more detail than most people probably would," Jack said wryly, and Jeannie rolled her eyes. She was going to have to have a talk with her husband about that part of his "interrogation".

"You'd think he was someone from some Jane Austen novel, checking out a prospective husband for me," Chris said, obviously not happy with this.

"I'm sure he just wants to make sure you're with someone who's right for you, even if it's not really up to him."

"I know." There's a short pause before she adds, "I...kind of did the same thing to Ryan's girlfriends, the first time I met them."

The sound of Jack's low chuckle drifted in, as Jeannie shook her head again, smiling. Good thing she'd been Chris' roommate before she met Ryan, then. "Now why does that not surprise me? I'm sure Kim could tell you some stories about when she brought her boyfriends around for the first time."

Chris snorted. "I'm sure she could. Probably involving cleaning your gun at the time."

"Well...not exactly."

Chris laughed, and there was a moment of silence again. Jeannie stood perfectly still, not wanting to make any noise to startle them; part of her did want to hear more, but part of her just didn't want them to know that others could hear; that she had been inadvertantly listening.

"You sure you're okay?" she heard Chris say, finally, sounding a little concerned. "You look tired."

"Just didn't sleep well, as it's an unfamiliar place. Kept waking up."

"Nightmares?" Chris asked, her voice gentle.

"Yeah, the usual." Jeannie blinked. 'The usual'? Nightmares that kept him from sleeping were 'usual'?
She was starting to fret over that when he spoke up again. "How about you?"

"All right. The pills help me sleep without dreaming much. I just woke up a couple times because I'm not used to the bed."

Pills? What pills is she taking? Jeannie thought, biting her lip. They both spoke about these things so matter-of-factly, like they were an everyday thing. Like they were normal. How in the hell would she get Chris to explain?

There was another rustling of fabric, another smal silence. "I don't know how I would have gotten this far without you," she heard Jack say, softly.

"I don't know what I would have done without you, either. I love you," Chris replied, and there was the sound of one of the floorboards on the porch creaking.

"I love you too, sweetheart."

Jeannie took a deep breath, looking down at her hands, swishing silently in the sudsy water. Something was very wrong with Chris; something she was being medicated for. By the sound of it, Jack was dealing with a few problems as well; somehow it didn't seem like a good idea for Chris to be with someone who obviously had nightmares on a regular basis, particularly if she wasn't entirely well herself. But then...Jack had been at CTU, as Chris was. If it was something connected to whatever had happened back in March... Maybe it was a good thing that Chris had someone who had the same experiences she had. Maybe it was good for her to be with someone in the same boat, someone who understood. And from what she'd seen, Jack didn't seem dangerous or unstable; before dinner, he'd distracted Tori from getting underfoot by setting her in his lap and reading storybooks to her. He was gentle with her, and friendly enough to everyone else. Maybe it was for the best.

"I'd better get back to cleaning up; are you coming in?" Chris said, after a long pause.

"No, I'll stay out here for a couple more minutes."

Jeannie quickly grabbed a dish and put her head down, starting to scrub. "Everything okay?" she asked as Chris came back in.

"Yeah, just talking to Jack for a minute about a couple things we need to do when we get back," Chris said, nonchalantly. If she hadn't heard the conversation outside, Jeannie wasn't sure she'd have known Chris was lying.

"Oh, okay," Jeannie said, turning on the tap to rise off the dish. She wanted to ask about everything she'd heard, wanted to find some way to get the conversation to a point where she could ask about them even though part of her knew that it wouldn't do her any good. That it would just make her worry more, that, if she told Ryan, would probably only push him into giving Chris and Jack the third degree again, and probably make this Thanksgiving even more tense than it already was. Things weren't all right between Ryan and Chris already; pushing it might just make it worse.

Instead, she just asked boring things--what Chris did on her time off, what kinds of things Jack liked--anonymous, safe things. In the end, there were just some things she wasn't supposed to hear, and some thing she wasn't sure she really wanted to know.

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