London After Midnight
Yes, this really is the final chapter. Or the epilogue, as I put it, because the last chapter really was the conclusion. This just kind of ties everything together. I figured I would go out on a high note – the last thing I set out to write here was a hundred chapter bore fest, lol. This isn't the last of my Jordan/Nigel fic writing days; I'll be back sometime soon either with a new fic, or who knows, a sequel to this one if I get inspired. I just want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for supporting me and supporting J&N, and for all the J&W fans who read and tolerated this story, and for the precious, beloved few who jumped ship and swam over to ours. Here's hoping this season gets better, not worse.
Vehemently Dreading the Crossing Jordan/Las Vegas Crossover Episodes,
MANY THANKS: Thank you Brandi, ShadowyFigure, Hester, and NCCJFAN for your continued praise. Thank you Xelena and lily-cavanaugh for your first reviews. Thank you gryffingirl for your continued praise and for calling me an awesome writer. You're not so bad yourself and I love your story. I look forward to reading more J&N fics from you while I regroup to plan out my next one. Thank you ever so much Aesear for all your wonderful comments. I agree that with the exception of seeing Steve Valentine both in sweats and shooting a rifle like a character in a Tarantino film (yummy), "Justice Delayed" was highly overrated and extremely disappointing. I miss the old days of Season Two when Nigel and Jordan used to flirt all the time. Things are so clinical between them now; they're like two completely different characters, Jordan especially. Is it just me, or did she used to be a lot nicer to Nigel?
Nothing is as easy as it looks;
Everything takes longer than you expect;
And if anything can go wrong,
It will, at the worst possible moment.
So we tried it out.
That night, I got incomprehensibly bloody smashed, smashed for the both of us – hell, for all three of us. Jordan brought me home in a taxi cab and helped me stagger up the back staircase to our little flat. She took off my boots and my clothes – Everything, love, like she had requested at the motel – and put me to bed, pulling the covers over my shoulders and kissing my forehead just as though I were a little boy. I nearly expected her to be gone when I woke up, halfway to America already, having taken an earlier flight as a result of my pipe dreams about staying in England. But she was there. Jordan Cavanaugh was still there under the blanket, her front all lined up with my back, one of her tiny arms around my waist, her sharp knees behind my knees. Spooning me. Dear beautiful girl. As I recall, I nearly wept with joy and relief and the pain of the horribly intense hangover hitting me like a mack truck from behind. So much for having a high tolerance. But Jordan took care of me that day, and she didn't go to Boston.
Oh, she did eventually. We both did, once I got my new Visa. Jordan was a little over two months along by then, and we were even able to make it in time for her first appointment with the obstetrician; the one she had scheduled a month prior. I have to admit I got a little carried away with it, my fingers working like mad to jot down nearly every word the doctor said in a fresh composition notebook I'd purchased just for the occasion. I took notes like I never bothered to in high school; I picked up two of every pamphlet in the waiting room and once we got back to Max Cavanaugh's house I began immediately to arrange the paraphernalia in a binder – the History of Coffee one, actually. I'd retrieved it from my old office at the morgue and promptly nuked it, a necessary sacrifice to begin my newest labour of love: an homage to the prenatal life of my firstborn child. I've since completed it. It's part how-to, part memoir, part comedy, no tragedy whatsoever. You'd enjoy it, I think.It also happened that we had scheduled our trip to spend Christmas in Boston, and the day after our doctor's appointment, we crashed the obligatory holiday party at the morgue. God, it was great seeing everyone again; we handed out the presents we'd purchased in London and accepted the gifts they gave us as well. Going into it, no one knew that we were expecting, but after I'd gotten a few egg nogs under my belt, I had no trouble blurting out the truth to anyone who was willing to listen. "We're pregnant, you know," I'd say during the first break in the conversation, and the reaction, as I recall, was mostly warmth with an undertone of surprise. Buggles thought I was joking; I spent a good ten minutes trying to convince him before I finally had to drag Jordan over and have her tell him. He still refused to believe it. I don't think he actually believed it until the bloody kid was born.
Lily cried. Garret clapped me hard on the shoulder and warned me that if I did or said one thing wrong to Jordan, ever, that he would kill me, and reminded me that he of all people would know how to do it so that he'd never get caught. I don't think anyone told Woody Hoyt directly, but word travelled fast around the crowded little room and eventually he overheard, his eyes meeting mine over the sea of mingling heads and translating pure contempt that I didn't bother to return. Why should I? I had won.
Boston was nice, full of snow and memories and Red Sox fans still gloating over the Series. But we didn't stay for very long. We were back in England in time to ring in the new year, and soon after, I landed a job with the coroner's office. Jordan was itching to get back to work but she had to apply for citizenship first, which we both found quite amusing and ironic, in its way. She helped Auntie Bea run the shop while she waited, and sometimes in the evenings I'd help her study for the exam, prattling bits of useless English trivia off the top of my head.
The months ticked by and Max Cavanaugh came over to visit for St. Patrick's Day. He hit it off quite well with Auntie Bea, who's been widowed since the early Nineties or so. She had a lot of fun teasing him about being a cop in the Sixties, by far the most uncool time to go into that profession. She called him a pig and he called her a commie, but they decided they were quite fond of each other in the long run. On a whim, we all made a go over to Dublin for a weekend pub-crawl; Jordan lead sing-alongs in crowded rooms and the rest of us drank green beer and cheered her on.
She was five months along by then, and we'd since had several sonograms done. I can remember the first time, sitting beside her with our hands wrapped up tight, watching the doctor press the camera to Jordan's slight little belly, then watching the monitor to see what popped up. I had studied prenatal photographs on the Internet and I knew what to look for; I found our baby even before the doctor pointed it out. A little bean pod, really, curled up in a sea of placenta. Each time after that it grew bigger, looking more and more like a miniature human being, but no instance was as humbling as the first, sitting there watching an entire ecosystem unfold inside of Jordan, our child twitching with each beat of its tiny heart. Knowing I helped put it there. I bowed my head to her neck and I kissed it, overcome with gratitude, nearly swooning.
The most terrifying day of my life was the day our first child was born.
It happened in the morning. I was in my office at my new job – a private office, with a door and a window and everything, it's really quite extraordinary – and at about nine forty-five I got a phone call from Auntie Bea. She was hysterical, really, as panicked as I'd ever heard her soothing peacenik voice become. Shrieking about how Jordan's water broke while she was behind the register and I'd better get my arse to the hospital, now, because she was in labor.
It was June 19th, an entire month ahead of schedule. This was not the due date we'd planned on, this was wrong and unfair and scary as sweet fuck all.
I stumbled blindly and frantically from my office with no explanations, not caring if they fired me. Too wound up to wait for the elevator, I bounded down six flights of stairs. I drove like a madman atop my new motorcycle, taking turns at illegal speeds with complete disregard for my own life and the lives of pedestrians. Nothing was more important than getting to that hospital; everything paled in comparison to the mental image of Jordan in pain, bleeding or worse, our baby so small still and so unprepared for the world. Defenseless and fragile. It isn't ready yet, my thoughts wildly bombarded me as I pulled into the parking lot and dismounted the bike. Something's wrong. This is all wrong, I have to get to Jordan.
She was crying when I finally arrived at her bedside, sobbing and reaching out for me. My strong, brave Jordan, looking so frail and vulnerable there. I threw both arms around her and clung to her and whispered and cooed. For several terrible, frightening moments I was sure that we had lost it; that we had somehow failed, but I quickly realized that Jordan was crying only because she was scared and in a lot of pain. There was still a baby there between us but it was in great jeopardy – we all were.
The labor stretched on for almost sixteen hours. The nurses tried to purposely stay it off for as long as they could with various drugs, explaining that even an extra twenty-four hours in the womb would help our baby's lungs develop further. They all kept assuring us, though, that it would be a comparatively healthy baby, probably the healthiest in the neonatal intensive care unit, and being as it was thirty-two weeks old, it would most definitely survive. Later, I did a little research on premature birth and realized that babies that have only had as little as twenty-five weeks to develop can still survive, thanks to the wonders of modern medicine. So I suppose you could say our child was only impatient, not critical.
Around one o'clock in the morning, Jordan's contractions became undeniable, and the doctor was called in. He checked around a little and announced that Jordan was fully dilated and she should start pushing; it wouldn't be long now. Every nerve in my body took a giant leap and Jordan cried, "Oh shit," and I seconded the notion. My arms were wrapped around her shoulders to support her, my body half-sitting behind her on the bed, prepared for everything, anything, but at the same time, nothing at all. I had studied many things about childbirth, but studying and experiencing are two very different ideas altogether.
Some fathers say that birth is beautiful, and many more say that it's disgusting. I don't suppose that I agree with either one of these opinions, really. For me, birth was terrifying and heart-wrenching and yes, beautiful, but only afterward, for during it, all I really wanted to do was cry. It was a sad, painfully emotional experience and I did cry, I did, I sobbed quietly into Jordan's neck as she screamed and wailed in agony, because there was so precious little I could do for her and I just felt so useless and small and insignificant, miniscule in the wake of this life-altering thing, this life, this birth happening before me. This thing that was so horribly painful for Jordan, my dear girl, my love, and even more painful for our baby, being squeezed and pushed out by the cruel force of nature into a world so arctic and biting and bright... oh God. Dear God, I wanted to wave a magic wand and make all the hurt go away. I held on tight to Jordan and prayed for her, prayed like I haven't in years, in decades, since I was a little boy before my Mum passed away. And then... and then...
Nearly as suddenly as it had all begun, it was over. It was over, and Jordan was limp in my arms, whimpering and sobbing, and there was a tiny human being nestled in the doctor's cradle, naked and bloody and squirming. And so small. So very small, and...
"A boy," Jordan whispered, the back of her head heavy against my chest. She knew right away, with only one glance. "He's a boy."
That's when I really cried, broke down and cried so hard that Jordan had to put her tired arms around me and comfort me while they took our baby boy to a basin and bathed him, counted his fingers and toes and weighed him and wrapped him in a tiny blue blanket. Our son. My son.
"Five pounds, three ounces," the doctor announced in his smooth Cheshire accent, numbers I would suture to my memory for the rest of my life. "He's small, but he'll be just fine. You can have some time with him before we take him to NICU."
"May I please hold him?" my voice was deep and full of tears and I even surprised myself with my eagerness.
The doctor smiled. "I believe that's a question for his mother to answer."
I looked to Jordan apologetically, my cheeks hot with embarrassment. "I'm sorry, love," I blubbered, emotional as all hell and baffled at my uncontrollable display of it. "Of course you want to hold him first. I'm sorry."
"Oh Jesus Christ, Nige," she sighed, exhausted and exasperated and shaking her head at me. "There's no law that says I have to. Listen... listen..." Her slim, soft fingers brushed tears from my cheeks with the infinite care of a brand new mother. "Stop crying. We'll hold him together."
The poor nurse had been playing musical chairs with the baby up until this point, and now seemed relieved when Jordan gave her an approving glance and held out her arms for our son. I held out my own and we welcomed him into our shared cradle, his little body nestled against Jordan's swollen breasts, his head resting in the crook of my elbow. Jordan's temple was warm and moist against mine as we gazed down at our child together.
He was beautiful. The most beautiful boy, and I'm not saying that just because I'm his father. He was small, yes, but nestled in our arms that night he was a little jewel, his skin pale as the moon and almost transparent in its youth, light violet veins visible just below the surface in some parts, like a map. His mouth was thin and his nose was a button and his eyes, when he opened them, were hazel. Our hazel; green sometimes and brown sometimes and gold in the light. He had eyebrows that were so light they were barely there at all, a large contrast to the veritable turnip top of jet black curls that sprouted from his scalp in all directions, baby-fine and soft as silk, my color and Jordan's texture. And best of all, he had my ears. Big limey ears, round and protruding, so large that if anyone back in Boston ever had any doubts about his parentage, all they'd have to do is look at those ears and they'd know he's my son.
We decided to name him Murphy, in honor of the way he was born. At first it was just a fond little joke between Jordan and I, but Max Cavanaugh loved it because it was Irish, and so it stuck. Murphy James Townsend, the middle name adamantly insisted upon by Jordan. I didn't argue. I knew it meant something to her to do that, honoring her brother, perhaps even putting him to rest. She gave him my last name on the birth certificate and promised me she'd take it soon, too.
That first week, we visited Murphy in NICU every day, staying for hours each time. The nurses taught us all the special ways to hold and touch him, having to be extra gentle with this tiny little elf, his skin so soft and yielding and sensitive to the slightest little poke. For the first few days he had tubes in his nose to help with his breathing and it made Jordan upset to see him looking so frail, but I kept reminding her that he was growing stronger with every day that passed. And it showed; he gained weight and grew longer. The nurses showed Jordan how to breastfeed and she seemed nervous about it at first, but they explained to her that Murphy needed it more than a healthy baby would, that he actually depended on it to help him get better. I'll never forget the first time she reached for our son and brought him to her breast, how wonderfully strange it was to see her in that light. Jordan Cavanaugh, a mum. She smiled and furrowed her brows and told me she felt weird. I told her she looked beautiful to me.
Murphy was nearly seven pounds when we brought him home the following week and strong as a horse, according to the doctor. He was still a pale, fragile little thing, quiet as a churchmouse most of the time, but he no longer had trouble breathing and didn't sleep as much as he did in the hospital. Jordan's father came by for another visit, staying nearly a month this time around at Jordan's request. He slept on the sofa bed and pestered Auntie Bea and helped us in ways I will never be able to repay him for. Thank God for Max Cavanaugh; his presence was truly a blessing.
Our son is three months old now and babbles to himself in his soft baby language, fascinated whenever anyone speaks to him, watching everything we do with those huge hazel doe eyes, so much like Jordan's with their long dark lashes. He likes to tug on my hair with his little fists, and I let him even though Jordan tells me I shouldn't, that I'll I spoil him. She isn't one to talk, dear girl; she barely ever leaves Murphy to himself, and as a product of her affection, he is completely devoted to his mum, cooing at her like a purring kitten whenever she is near. I look at them sometimes when they're together and I can't believe I lucked into such an amazing little family, how if I hadn't told Jordan how I felt about her that night, if I had just kept waiting, none of this would have ever happened.
I'm thinking that right now, standing in our little kitchen preparing Murphy's bottle and watching Jordan and my son curled up together by the bay window in the front room. It's nearly twelve-thirty; Murphy woke us for a late night snack, it seems, and Jordan told me she would take care of it but I insisted on helping. I always do. They're there now, Jordan sitting on the window seat with her knees tucked up and Murphy slumped against her breast, waiting patiently for his bottle. They're pale in the moonlight, the two of them, and I would paint them if I knew how. That's how beautiful they are.
"Here we are, little beast," I whisper as I approach them, settling in behind Jordan to cradle them both. I run my palm over Murphy's satin curls and admire their color, raven bathed in blue from the moon, just like mine. I part my knees and welcome Jordan into the gap, our bare toes resting side-by-side against the seat, hers so much smaller and cuter than my long, strange slender ones.
"Thanks, Nige," Jordan whispers, accepting the bottle from me and testing it on my forearm. "Too warm?" she asks, finding my eyes over her shoulder.
"Just right," I reply, offering her a smile and nuzzling a kiss against her temple. She turns around again to feed the baby, resting her head just below my chin and letting her gaze fall down to the street below. For several blissful moments, the entire apartment is silent spare the ticking clock.
"So this is London after midnight, Jack?" Jordan observes, her words a hushed realization.
I follow her eyes to the window and the world beyond it. The moon is full and high in the sky, pristine yellow-white, thin clouds streaming across it. A fog has settled along the sidewalk, turning everything silvery gray, and mist beads the windowpanes, derivative of a Sherlock Holmes novel.
"Indeed, Sally," I whisper my agreement. "This is London after midnight."
And gathering my small family into my arms, I know that I wouldn't have it any other way.