This story was originally a one shot, but then the evil little plot bunnies started hopping away, and so I felt I had to make it longer. I hope you enjoy. Please, pretty please R&R.

WARNING: This fic does contain speculation based on spoilers.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own any part of Crossing Jordan. This fic is purely a creation of my own weird brain; I'm just playing with the characters Tim Kring and Co. have created and own.

Chapter 1: Afterimage

It sat in the top drawer of his bedside table, still inside the two boxes it had been wrapped in that day.

Some days, he forgot all about it. Those were the busy days. The ones where he was running down leads, doing interviews and making phone calls all day. The ones where he didn't get home until late at night, and all he had time to do was eat whatever take-out he'd picked up on the way home and then drop down on his bed, exhausted.

And then there were days like today. His leads would wrap up early, the suspects would crack. The paperwork went faster than normal. Days like these were great. It meant that he'd actually get off work on time. He'd be able to go down to the bar with some of his buddies from the precinct or go catch a Red Sox game if they were in town. He used to love days like these. But for his first time in three years in Boston, he actually hated days like today.

Ever since Cal had made his appearance, he felt disconnected. The solid little world he had built here had started to crumble. Sure, it felt like Jordan had shored up the falling walls for a time, but just one week later… his world dropped.

He tried to make it all business, tried to limit their conversation to whatever cases they were working on at the time. He tried to stand away from her. That didn't work either. It was if his body was drawn to her, wanting to feel her presence and protect her from… whatever it was she needed protecting from. And he hated himself for that.

Which is why he now hated days like today. He was done early, leaving the precinct just as the next shift was coming in. In the past, he would have gone over to O'Malley's, had a drink, and watched the Sox on TV. Or he would have gone over to the morgue or the crime lab, and watched whoever was on the night shift work in trace and talk about the newest law enforcement technologies. But that didn't feel right anymore. He may not be able to avoid her when the worked together, or when the situation called for them to watch out for each other, but he could damn well limit what contact he could control.

When he had first made that decision, on the days where he wasn't working late, he'd find himself at home, doing absolutely nothing. There were only so many times a man could clean the house, balance his checkbook and then channel flip for four hours. After the fourth night of that, something happened. He found himself drawn to the small box that sat in the top drawer of his bedside table. He had taken it out and stared at the tiny bejeweled object. He hadn't been able to bring himself to take it back. The light from the bedroom lamp glinted off one of the small jewels. He really had just meant it as a friend. He had wanted to show Jordan that he was still there, that he wasn't going anywhere. He had wanted her to see him, and stop looking at her own life for a while. That there was more to life than what she had been living.

Be it hadn't been enough. He hadn't been enough. He put the ring back in its boxes. She was still trapped in her emotion-blocking walls. She had rejected him, and it had burned. He put the ring back in the box. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times…well… it was even more his fault this time. Apparently, he didn't know how to handle Jordan Cavanaugh. The third time hadn't been a charm for him. In his anger, he threw the box across the room. But the padding had protected the ring, and when he retrieved it ten minutes later, it had still been in perfect condition. He put the ring back in the drawer. For some reason, he still didn't want to let go of it.

He hadn't opened the box since. In fact, he hadn't opened the drawer since. He'd made do without the other trinkets in the drawer. Which included his rosary and his mother's bible.

And he'd come to avoiding his own apartment. He saw enough of Jordan during the day, that he'd unconsciously found himself avoiding places that reminded him of her. Bars, coffee shops, his own home. The one place he'd found that didn't remind him of her was the gym at the precinct. It was in a part of the building – downstairs and in the back – where Jordan never had cause to go. And so now, it was where he spent most of his free time. He'd work himself into exhaustion, to the point where he barely managed get something to eat and then himself home, where he'd fall asleep almost instantly. He'd lift weights in rhythm with whatever rock music was pounding on the stereo. He'd practice moves with some of the other members of the force. He'd run for miles on the treadmill, climb the ropes, or beat the tar out of one of the three punching bags, like he was doing now. Whatever it took to make his mind clear and focus on the task at hand. Now between work and his workouts, he was running himself ragged.

But at least he wasn't thinking of her.