My fics have been pretty light lately, but after TPTB decided to send W&J back to square one at the end of "Embraceable You" (GRRR!), I'm not feeling so fluffy right now! So, I'm going to my dark and angsty place, and I'm taking Woody and Jordan with me!
This takes place IMMEDIATELY after the lovely end of "Skin and Bone," with Woody and Jordan still on the sofa at the morgue.
Warning: Character death.
They sat that way for a long while.
He had comforted her countless times in the past, folded her tiny frame against his sturdy chest. But as he sat, eyes closed, with his head against her shoulder, Jordan realized she had never seen him as as small and vulnerable as this.
He had taken care of her, Cal, everyone for so long. Years, really. Who took care of Woody?
She leaned over and skimmed his forehead with her lips. His eyes fluttered open, and he looked up at her.
"You're not alone, Woody," she whispered. He cocked his head and wrinkled his forehead, as if it were all finally sinking in for the first time.
Her fingers were still intertwined with his. He raised her hand to his lips and planted a tender kiss in the center of her palm. "I know, Jordan."
There was a small, airless instant where his blue eyes softened and looked into hers. No one spoke. She leaned in almost imperceptibly, her lips parted. His mouth curled into a gentle smile, and his eyes flickered shut.
She shut her eyes, too, and leaned in toward him until she could feel the heat rise from his body. His mouth was achingly close to hers.
And then they were jarred to awareness by the insistent buzzing of Woody's cell phone.
"I'm not answering it..." he whispered hoarsely.
"Woody..." she chastized and leaned back against the sofa in resignation. "You've got to."
He sighed heavily and reached for his phone. His face fell as he read the incoming name on the display. "Cal..." He snapped the phone shut and jammed it back on his belt.
They sat in an uncomfortable silence while the phone continued to ring and then dropped into voice mail. She reached over and stroked his arm, but the intimate moment had been irrevocably broken by the phone call. He stared straight ahead out the window into the black night.
The phone began to ring again and he yanked it off his belt. "You're supposed to be on a plane back to Kewaunee!" he growled at the phone as it continued to ring. "You're not going to do this to me, Cal!"
As if in response, the phone stopped in mid-ring, and then began immediately to buzz again.
"I'm not answering, Jordan. I'm not."
"Woody," she started gently, "What if something's wrong?"
"That's the whole point, Jordan. He expects me to ride to his rescue every time he screws up. Well, I'm sick of it. He's a grown man. He's got to learn to take care of himself."
She held up her hands in agreement. "I know, I know. But..."
Finally, he jumped to his feet and snapped open the phone. "What do you want, Cal?" His voice was flat. There was a silence while Cal responded. Jordan couldn't make out his words, but she could hear the panicked urgency of his voice. "No. No, Cal. I don't care...that's your fault...Walk. Hitchhike. Call a cab...I don't care...I don't care if it is a bad neighborhood...No. Goodbye," he said and snapped the phone shut with finality. He paced the room with clenched fists.
"What is it?"
"His rental car ran out of gas. He doesn't have any money to call a cab, so he wants me to come get him and drive him to the airport."
"Well, that doesn't seem like too much to ask," she started hesitantly.
"This time, it is," he turned toward her and hissed angrily. "I'm through with him."
She sat for a moment looking up into his hardened face and then rose and reached for her jacket.
"Where are you going, Jordan?"
"To give Cal a ride to the airport."
"Look," she turned to him. "I don't want to get in the middle of this, Woody. I know you've got your reasons for not wanting to help him, but he saved my life tonight. Giving him a lift to the airport is the least I can do." She opened her own cell phone and had her thumb poised on the button to call Cal.
Woody stood resolutely for a moment before taking the phone from her hand with a resigned sigh. "Wait, Jordan. I know where he is. I'll come with you. I don't want you going into that neighborhood by yourself."
She smiled and handed him his jacket.
"But this is for you, Jordan. Not for him."
Her SVU wound its way through the desolate neighborhood.
"What the hell was he doing down here? It's nowhere near the airport."
"I don't know," Jordan said with foreboding.
"I don't like this, Jordan. This is one of his scams. I know it." He shook his head. "Turn around. We're getting out of here."
"What? No! Woody, if it is one of his scams, then he might really need our help."
"You're too trusting, Jordan. You don't know him. And I'm not getting you involved in this. You could have gotten killed tonight."
She pulled the SVU over to the curb. "Well, it's too late anyway. We're here." She looked out at the derelict building next to her: an old, abandoned nightclub. This neighborhood had experienced renewed growth twenty years earlier, and then had died just as quickly. The area was covered with high-end stores and restaurants that had simply been shuttered and left to crumbled. "So, where's Cal?"
"Good question," Woody muttered. "Stay in the car, Jordan."
He slid out of the car and walked tentatively toward the front door of the club, which had been propped ominously open. They had been expected. He heard the sound of a car door slam behind him and Jordan's footsteps on the pavement as she sidled next to him.
"Jordan..." he groaned.
"Come on. You didn't really expect me to stay in the car, did you?"
He said nothing but eased inside the building. "Cal? You here?" His voice echoed in the darkened and empty nightclub. The floor was still littered with broken chairs and overturned drink tables. "Cal?"
"I'm here, Woody," Cal's voice sounded, thin and strained.
They carefully stepped over a patch of broken glass and onto what had been the old dance floor. There was a thin stream of light coming from somewhere, and they blinked as their eyes adjusted to the black.
Cal was sitting there in one of the old chairs, hands clenching his knees.
"Calvin, what are you..." he started, but then Jordan stopped him as her hand reached out and gripped his wrist.
"Woody..." He was aware then of another figure standing behind Cal with a gun pressed against Cal's head.
"Jesus..." Woody exhaled.
"He said you'd come," the figure said in a heavily accented voice. Woody's heart sank. Albanian. It wasn't over yet.
"What have you done, Calvin?" Woody's voice was cold and flat.
"I thought I could take care of it myself. I swear to God, Woody. He wants money. He says he's gonna kill me. He made me call you. You gotta help me, Woody. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. But he says he's gonna kill me. You gotta help." Cal's voice rose to a panicky peak.
Jordan watched Woody from the corner of her eye. She could almost sense the wheels spinning in his mind.
"How much?" he finally said coldly.
"He owes five-thousand," the Albanian said. "But I will settle for twenty-five hundred."
"How very big of you," muttered Jordan. The Albanian smiled back at her with an acid grin.
"Well? You've got twenty minutes to get me the money, or your brother dies."
She wasn't sure what she expected from Woody. Heroics, perhaps. Or an impassioned plea for his brother's life. Something other than this dreadful, empty silence that followed. She watched as the terror grew in Cal's eyes as each second ticked by.
She waited for his response, and when it came, the chill in his voice made her blood run cold. "I don't have it."
"Woody!" she hissed, but he stood staring stonily ahead. She whipped around to face the Albanian. "I'll get you the money."
He shrugged indifferently. "You were wrong about your brother," he said blandly to Cal as he pressed the gun into his head. He looked back up at Jordan. "You have twenty minutes."
Jordan swallowed hard and nodded her head rapidly. She had turned to go before Woody had her by the arm. "No. He's my brother. I'll get the money."
"Very well. Twenty minutes," the Albanian repeated. Woody nodded in understanding and slipped his arm around Jordan as they headed for the door. "Oh. And Detective Hoyt? The girl stays."
Jordan sucked in her breath as the Albanian raised his outstretched hand and pointed it towards her head.
"Leave her out of this." The coldness of Woody's voice had been replaced by a heated urgency. "Let her go. I'll stay."
"You weren't willing to help your own brother just a moment ago, and yet you are suddenly concerned for this woman? Americans,"he spat with contempt. "You have no sense of family. In Albania, we would die for our own flesh and blood." He let out a sinister chuckle. "The man you killed tonight? He was family. I am settling all his debts. So, who will it be, Detective Hoyt?" He jammed the gun into Cal's neck. "Your own brother?" The Albanian turned the gun on Jordan, then. "Or this girl? The decision is yours. But I think one of them must die tonight."
"WAIT! NO!" He threw his hands up in a panic and stepped in front of Jordan. "Don't! I said I'd get you the money!"
The Albanian shook his head. "It's not about the money. It's about something you know nothing of. Honor. So, who will it be?"
She could feel her heart begin to thud in her chest. Woody stood numbly for a moment, his eyes darting around the room for some possible plan other than the inevitably that seemed to be hurtling toward them. Cal looked up at them, trembling with fear.
"I'm sorry, Woody," Cal said. His voice shook with terrible, resigned emotion.
"Me, too," Woody managed to croak back.
It was over in an instant, then, as Jordan watched on in horror. Woody's hand flew up to his holster and grabbed for his gun, then she heard the sickening pop of the Albanian's gun. He turned to flee, and he and Woody were swallowed by the black that loomed behind them. There was another shot, as she flew down to Cal's side.
It was Woody who emerged from darkness with his gun hanging limply at his side. Jordan was kneeling beside Cal with his hand in hers as a pool of blood spread out from behind his head like a halo. She looked up at Woody, her eyes welled with tears, and slowly shook her head.