OK...this is VERY MUCH a change of pace for me. I never have felt really comfortable writing for Nigel, and I don't really see him with Jordan. I don't see him with anyone, really (at least not a woman), but I just had this plot bunny that was multiplying in my head.
Rest assured...I am totally a W/J shipper, and love will conquer all in this case, but I just wanted to take this little detour and play around a little bit and try something new.
I hope neither the N/J shippers or my W/J sisters flame me too badly for this one!
The weather was as miserable as she felt.
The rain pelted the sidewalk outside like hard little pebbles, and a passing car drove by, sending a splash like a bucket of water on the front window.
She didn't bat an eye, but drained her glass and waved her hand at the bartender. He nodded and poured her another drink.
She could see the front door of the morgue building from her barstool perch. The shift was ending. Bug, Sidney, and Emmy shuffled out huddled under their black umbrellas, and it looked, she thought fittingly, like a funeral procession.
Lily followed a few seconds later with Nigel. He held his coat over their heads to shield them from the rain as they dashed across the street and into the bar. The bell over the door jangled, a cheery intrusion into her gloom.
She braced herself. She had sneaked out of work an hour early to avoid the stares and the questions, and now here they were. Her misery did not want company.
"Looks like someone had the same idea," Lily said as Nigel shook out his coat. Jordan raised her glass joylessly.
"Drowning your sorrows, then?" Nigel asked ruefully as he and Lily slid onto the stools next to her.
"I'm trying, but the little suckers keep coming up for air." She took another swallow.
Lily rubbed her temples. "God, I thought this day would never end. That man is..."
"Pure evil," Nigel finished.
"I can't even comprehend. Garret is gone. We've got to get him back. What are we going to do?"
There was nothing to say, of course, and there was no easy answer. The others had lost a fair and firm boss, but that was all. For Jordan, the loss cut much deeper. He was friend and mentor. He had been her rock, her father figure when her own had failed her, and he had betrayed her.
Just as she had steadied herself from that blindside, Woody had rejected her. The double-blow had sent her reeling.
"Does 'Simon Legree' know you skipped out early?" Nigel asked as the bartender set down their glasses.
"Who cares? Let him fire me." She threw back her head and finished off another drink.
"You can't quit now, Jordan. Not with Garret gone." Lily placed a concerned hand on Jordan's wrist.
"You don't mean that."
She sighed heavily. "I don't know what I mean anymore. Nothing really makes sense right now."
"I know," Lily whispered in quiet understanding. "Any word on Woody?"
His name sent a pang of regret through her. She steeled herself with a long drink. "I wouldn't know."
Lily and Nigel traded confused looks. "What happened, Jordan?"
"Never mind. I wouldn't want to bring the room down even further," she snorted humorlessly. "Let's just say we're not exactly on speaking terms anymore."
She could see Lily's eyes grow as wide as soup plates. "Jordan, I'm sure he's just
..." she started to speak. "I mean...I always just assumed that you two..." She stammered, at a loss for words.
"Woody and I were just friends. And now, we're not even that." She slammed her empty glass down on the bar for emphasis.
"Look, just drop it, Lily. All right?" She snapped.
Lily cleared her throat in the uncomfortable silence that followed. "I'm...sorry, Jordan. I just...Well, anyway. I guess I'd better be heading out." She looked down in hurt and fiddled in her purse for her carkeys. "Traffic's going to be a nightmare in this weather."
She said goodbye to Nigel and was gone before Jordan could speak.
Jordan slapped the bar with an open palm. "Hey, barkeep. What's a girl gotta do to get some service around here?"
"How many is that, Jordan?" Nigel's voice was soft with concern.
"Who's counting?" she smirked as the bartender poured her another. "Thank you. And pour my pale British friend here one of whatever he's drinking."
He raised a hand to cover his glass, and the indifferent bartender shrugged and walked away.
"What happened at the hospital? Does it have anything to do with that ring?"
"That ring. God, why did he give me that damn ring?" She clenched her fists above her head in frustration. " And why the hell didn't I take it?" The words poured out of her. She had always played things close to the vest, too close. And as a result, she had lost Woody. "It was there, right there in front of me all along." Her voice cracked with emotion. "I told him, Nige. I finally told him how I felt."
"What did he say?"
"Um, lemme see. I think his exact words were, 'Get out. Now.'" She still heard Woody's voice, cold and empty, ringing in her ears.
"I'm sorry, Jordan," Nigel said after a quiet moment.
"Do you know what it's like to come that close to loving someone, only to have it all ripped away?"
He looked down and fidgeted uncomfortably with his drink coaster. "Yes, Jordan. Yes. I do."
She knew then. Sarah. The pain of it all must still have been fresh. "God, I'm sorry, Nigel. I wasn't even thinking. Have you heard any..."
A flicker of emotion played over his face. "She pled guilty to misdemeanor false reporting. She'll probably spend a few months in jail, get some counseling. Maddie's gone to live with her father." His face lit up. "She sent me a picture she'd drawn." Then the smile quickly evaporated. He turned his empty glass over on the bar.
"We're quite a pair, aren't we?" He only nodded, and they sat there for a moment in a heavy silence. "Well. I guess I'd better go back to my cold and lonely apartment. Joke. I'm joking. My apartment is actually rather warm."
"And how do you think you're getting home? You're not driving, are you?"
"Of course not. I'll...call a cab." She slid off the barstool and nearly landed in a heap. "Oops. The floor isn't really where I thought it would be."
Nigel stood and helped her up. "You'll never get a cab in this weather. Let me drive you."
"It's miles out of your way. Don't worry about me, Nige."
"But I do worry about you, love. It's my lot in life." He dropped a wad of bills on the bar. "You're coming with me."
He had meant to say no when she had invited him in. He had meant to say no when she offered him a drink. But he didn't.
He had sat stiffly on one end of the sofa as she poured him that first glass of wine. She curled up on the other end and drained half the glass and then refilled his and her own. Time was lost, and the empty bottle now lay on the floor at his feet. She had moved to his end of the sofa at some point, with her head against his shoulder.
"Did you think you were going to marry her? Sarah?"
He thought about it for a long moment. "I'm not really sure I'm the marrying kind, Jordan."
"But you loved her."
"Yes. I thought so."
"She doesn't know what she's missing out on."
He went on in a small voice. "And what about you and Woody?"
"I remember the first time I saw him at that bank robbery. He looked like a high school kid on a field trip." She covered her face with her hands. "Why didn't any of you tell me I was in love with him and didn't even know it?"
He stroked her hair gently. "We all thought you'd figure it out for yourself, love."
She shook her head. "Oh, I did. That's the irony of it. I didn't really understand what I had until I was in danger of losing it. Only problem is, it was too late. He's going through this horrible thing, and all I want to do is be there with him, but he thinks the only reason I told him how I felt was because I pity him. Ain't that a kicker?"
"Jordan, he's scared. He doesn't know..."
She threw a hand up. "Don't. Don't tell me he's just scared and confused and he'll come around. You didn't see him. You didn't hear him. He hates me."
"He doesn't..." he started, but then let his voice trail off.
"God, what's wrong with me? Why do I always screw things up? She began to cry and he reached up and dried her tears with the tail of his shirt.
"There's nothing wrong with you, Jordan. You're beautiful and smart and drop dead sexy, and if he can't see that..." She sniffed and rubbed at her red eyes with the heel of her hand.
"Woody's an idiot if he can't see how much you love him. And he's a fool for letting you go. I'd never make that mistake."
She gave a small, wistful smile. "Thanks, Nigel, but I'm not sure how drop-dead sexy I am right now."
He moved a dampened strand of hair from her cheek and swallowed hard. "You look positively beautiful."
She looked up at him, wide-eyed, and blinked. "Nigel, I..."
But his mouth was on hers then. She reached up and put a hand on his shoulder to push him away, but she didn't. He kissed her, long and hard, and for a moment, she felt something other than pain and grief. For a moment, she was desired. For a moment, she could drown the hurt in that.
She rested her hand on his shoulder and pulled him closer.