Cracks In The Armor
Almost immediately after Jennifer Horton walked into Jack's life, a spark within him was ignited. Suddenly, there was this young woman who, despite Jack's rather dubious reputation in town, did not seem afraid of him or intimidated by him--in fact, she delighted in standing up to him time and time again.
This fascinated Jack to no end, and although he would be the last to admit it to anyone, least of all to her or himself, he was actually enjoying the fact that she was no pushover. Her spunk may have infuriated him, but it also impressed the hell out of him.
Their early days of working together consisted of Jack taking her under his wing and teaching her everything about journalism. Along the way, Jennifer challeged him at every step, accusing him of being cold and heartless in the quest for objectivity, while Jack shuddered at her "hearts and flowers" view of the world. But secretly, they both respected the other's point of view, and as time went on, they each incorporated the other's views into their own.
Jennifer wasn't quite sure what to make of her enigmatic boss. Everything she had heard about him had been bad: from his rape of Kayla, to his mistreatment of her cousin Melissa. And yet to her surprise, the man behind the bad image seemed quite different. Though he enjoyed challenging her as her boss, he also seemed to be genuinely concerned for her too.
The first cracks in the armor came when Jennifer came across a pregnant, homeless teen. Shocked by the fact that the girl would be sent to jail for a petty crime and would not get to keep her baby, Jennifer pleaded with Jack to let her write a story about the situation. Jack pooh-poohed the idea, calling it a hearts and flowers piece, but Jennifer insisted, and soon became emotionally involved, as she decided she wanted to help take care of the baby.
Meanwhile, Jack, wanting to assert his authority with Jennifer, who kept defying his orders to start another assignment, laid down the law with her. She was to cover a religious revival in town if she wanted to keep her internship. Jennifer reluctantly obliged, and was injured when the tent collapsed. Jack saw her and helped Steve rescue her, and it was clear he was distraught not just because she was just one of his reporters who had gotten hurt; she was his friend. He visited her at the hospital, giving her flowers--but waving it off as a minor gesture when Jennifer awoke to find him in her room. Here is when Jack started to cover up his growing feelings for his cub reporter.
Jack presented her with an outrageous idea: that they pretend to be married in order to become foster parents for baby Hannah. Jennifer was shocked and incredulous at first, but wanted desperately to keep her promise to Sally that she would take care of her baby, so she relucantly agreed to the scheme. Jaws around town dropped open when Jack and Jennifer began their charade of being a couple at Shane Donovan's party. Tom and Alice, concerned about what their granddaughter may be getting into, warned her to stay away from Jack, but Jennifer insisted that she knew what she was doing and she could handle everything. At the party, Jack had a run-in with Steve which left him hurt and feeling alone--Jennifer witnesses this and feels bad for him.
But things were about to get worse for Jack. His past came back to haunt him once again as he and Jennifer learned that they would be turned down as foster parents because Jack had pleaded guilty to a spousal assault charge when he had raped Kayla. Devastated, Jack hid away his pain and pretended it was no big deal, though he told an empathetic Jennifer that he longed for the day when he would meet someone who would have no idea who he was and what he had done. He left, with Jennifer seeing how much this had hurt him.
Jennifer later got custody of Hannah as a single foster parent, and struggled to juggle parenting, school, and work, but fell more and more in love with Hannah. Jack saw this and was touched by her efforts--but this also started to bring up memories of his own adoption and his lingering resentment towards Jo for giving him and Steve up.
Eventually, Jack learned that Jennifer would lose custody of Hannah when Sally's parents are granted custody of her. Knowing how much it would crush Jennifer, he wanted to tell her in person, but did not get the chance, and when Jennifer found out that he knew, she lashed out at him. Jack tried to console her anyway, and this incident proved to bring them closer together.
The seeds were already planted at this point: Jack and Jennifer were beginning to care for one another, but an obstacle was standing in the way, in the form of the Emilio, who came back to town...