Garret came back.

Slocum never turned the damning evidence over to the authorities. It gave him too much perverse pleasure to have it locked away in his desk, leaving it dangle over Garret's head like a sword.

And then Slocum had issued one too many employee memos, the staff had revolted, and the governor had been forced to call Garret back.

The morale at the morgue lifted immediately, and the tension between Garret and Jordan seemed to evaporate as soon as he came back through the elevator doors and caught her in a warm hug as the staff applauded his entrance.

Later, he pulled her aside. "I'm sorry. I know I've disappointed you."

"Yeah, you did, Garret..."

"It was twenty years ago. I'm not that person anymore. I was being pressured from above. We had a newborn, and I couldn't lose my job. I know it's no excuse"

"It's all right, Garret." That was all there was to say. They had all done things that they lived to regret. A life couldn't be measured in its mistakes. It was time to forgive Garret.

It was Woody she was finding harder to forgive. They hadn't spoken since he had left the Pogue that night. It was ridiculous, hypocritical. She knew that, rationally. But there was nothing rational about her emotions: anger, jealousy, guilt. He had slept with Devan. It suddenly seemed as if the fates were conspiring against them. This was just too hard. Perhaps it was simply not meant to be.

It was a wise decision. Make a clean break. Move on. It was the right thing to do, even if two weeks later, the pain of it cut as bright and deep as ever.

She tried to beg off when the others decided to throw Garret a welcome back party at the pub across the street from the morgue, but Lily dragged her bodily there with the promise of a good time. She didn't particularly want a good time, but she went and raised a glass to Garret.

The mood was light, and she even found herself smiling and laughing after a couple of stiff drinks. For a moment, Woody Hoyt was the furthest thing from her mind.

The jukebox was blaring, and they were singing along. Nigel had slipped his arm around her and swayed with her to the music. She threw her head back with a tipsy laugh, and then the door opened and the bell -- that damned bell -- jangled cheerily.

They all turned to the door, and the laugh caught in her throat. It was Woody, standing apprehensively in the doorway. His cane was gone, and he walked inside with a slight limp. Their eyes met. There was a small smile, but it disappeared as his eyes fell to Nigel's arm wrapped protectively around her waist.

She didn't know he had been invited, and if she had, she probably would not have come. She thought perhaps he might turn to go, but then Lily ran to greet him. "Woody! I'm glad you could make it! You look wonderful!"

He flashed her a forced smile and crossed to where Garret sat at the end of the bar. "Welcome back, Doc." He offered his hand.

"Welcome back, yourself. I hear you're back on duty, too."

"Well, they've got me chained to a desk for the time being, but it's great to be at work again. I was really going crazy cooped up at home by myself." He glanced at Jordan then, and she quickly looked away.

"Well, have a drink! Stay awhile!" chirped Lily.

He waved at the bartender and stood next to Jordan in a painful silence. "Hi, Jordan," he finally said.

"Hey!" she said with artificial brightness. "Good to see you. You look...great. No cane?"

"No! How about that? The doctors don't believe it." He beamed, and she smiled back warmly. The bartender passed him his drink. They struggled for words, and he finally went to the other end of the bar with a small nod. It was bittersweet. He was doing fine. It was all she had wanted those weeks ago as he lay close to death on that gurney. But he was no longer hers.

Nigel hopped onto the barstool next to her.

"He's a fool."

"So you've said, Nigel."

"It bears repeating."

"It's not his fault this time. I know about Devan."

"Ah."

"Why didn't you tell me?"

"She asked me not to," he said pointedly. "Believe it or not, Jordan, she liked you. She didn't want to hurt you. And when someone asks me to keep a secret, I keep it. I've still never told anyone about that podiatrist and your lost weekend in Atlantic City..."

She shuddered at the memory and laughed. "Okay, I get it. Point taken."

They sipped silently at their drinks. She watched Woody at the other end of the bar. He sat alone, smiling and nodding occasionally when someone would come his way. He quickly ordered another beer and downed it with alarming speed.

Bug and Lily migrated over to where she and Nigel were sitting. Bug leaned over and grabbed a handful of peanuts. "What's with Mister Morose down there at the other end of the bar? He makes me look like the life of the party."

"Yeah, is he all right, Jordan?" Lily chimed in. "Has he been..."

Nigel frowned, and Lily's mouth snapped shut. He waved them off as Jordan polished off her drink.

"There's no hope, then?" he said nodding in Woody's direction.

"Nope. Just not meant to be, Nige." It was the phrase she had repeated over and over to herself these last two weeks.

"So, you and Woody are really and truly over?"

"Yep. Really and truly over."

"But you still love him, don't you?" His voice was soft with concern.

"Yep." And then: "Is it that obvious?"

"Yep."

She put her head down on her hands and groaned. The room had begun to spin a bit from the alcohol and lack of food. She was not aware that Nigel had gotten up and slipped more money into the jukebox. He pulled her to her feet and out onto the floor before she could protest.

"Nigel! What are you doing?"

"Live a little, Jordan! Kick your heels up. You're a free woman now," he purred into her ear and spun her across the floor. She wobbled unsteadily, but then he pulled her back and drew her tightly to him.

She could still see Woody in the blur each time Nigel spun her around. He was there on the barstool, watching them with narrowed eyes and a hard set of his jaw.

Nigel's hands were on her back, and he suddenly buried his face in the crook of her neck. "Nigel, come on!"

Suddenly, Woody was in her line of view. He was moving determinedly across the floor toward them. "Let her go, Nigel." The stern edge of his voice barely covered the emotion underneath.

"It's okay, Woody." She pushed away from Nigel, but he grabbed her hand and yanked her back.

"Let her go or what? She's a big girl. She can make her own decisions."

Jordan slipped her wrist from his grasp. "Okay, boys. No sense fighting over little ole me. Why don't you two just..."

"You see, she doesn't want you anymore," Nigel suddenly said, his voice just loud enough so a few of the partygoers turned and looked on with curiosity.

"Nigel!" She turned to him in disbelief.

"I believe her exact words were 'really and truly over.'"

Woody looked at her questioningly.

"Nigel, stop right now, okay? This has gone too far." She put her hands on his chest and tried to push him away, but he stormed forward. She looked back at Woody. His eyes were full of hurt as he retreated a few steps toward the door. "Woody! No, wait! Don't go!"

"Let him go, Jordan," Nigel said wearily. The room had grown still, and everyone looked on varying degrees of embarrassment. "As you said, it just wasn't meant to be." His raised his voice again so that Woody wouldn't miss it. "Perhaps he wasn't man enough..."

The air seemed to have been sucked from the room. They all waited in deadened silence. And then Woody spun and landed a punch on Nigel's jaw. He teetered backward, arms flailing as he looked up with stunned eyes.

There was a moment of stillness. Jordan looked on mutely as Nigel curled his right hand into a fist and connected it with Woody's jaw. Woody reeled but quickly steadied himself and grabbed Nigel around the middle. They tumbled backward into a table, sending a pair of mugs crashing onto the floor.

It took four men to separate them and pull them to opposite ends of the bar as they huffed breathlessly. Lily had begun to cry, and Jordan looked on in stunned silence as they glowered.

"You could have killed each other!" she yelled as she stood between them.

Nigel skulked over to the bar and resumed his place.

Woody. He was still weakened. He could have been seriously hurt. She turned quickly toward him as Garret released his grip on Woody's arm.

"Are you all right?" she asked, masking her concern.

"I'm fine."

"That's a nasty cut over your eye. Come on. You're coming with me."

XXXXXXXX

She whisked him out of the bar and over to the morgue. He sat now on her office sofa, and she knelt on the floor in front of him with the first aid kit, dabbing at the cut over his eye with antiseptic.

"Ow! Jeez, Jordan. That stings!"

"You were shot in the gut by an armor-piercing bullet, and you're going to complain about a little Bactine on a cut? Men!" She slammed the first aid kit closed for emphasis. "You're really stupid, you know that?"

"Me?"

"Nigel trained with the SAS, for Pete's sake. He probably knows 100 ways to kill you with his pinkie."

"Yeah, well. Something tells me Old Nigel was pulling his punches tonight. My guess is he set that whole thing up."

She nodded slowly. "The thought had occurred to me." She rose and flopped onto the sofa next to him.

"Anyway..." He looked at her sideways and grinned slyly. "I still got some pretty good punches in, didn't I?"

"Don't you smile at me. I'm very, very angry with you." He poked her in the ribs. "Stop. I mean it." But she smiled in spite of herself. They were silent for a moment.

"I'm sorry, Jordan," he said in quiet simplicity. "I'm sorry about Devan. It was wrong on so many levels, and I ended up hurting both of you."

She nodded. "I'm sorry about leaving you in the hospital. I should have stayed. You're worth fighting for." She reached for his hand. "I'm sorry about everything."

He finally folded his fingers around hers. "What do we do now?"

"I don't know. I just know I don't want this to be over."

"Then it's not." She leaned her head against his shoulder, and he slipped his arm around her. After a moment, she felt him press his lips softly against her forehead. "I don't think I'm in any shape to drive home, Jordan."

"Me neither," she muttered sleepily. She drew her legs up onto the sofa and laid her head on his lap.

"Good. Let's just stay here for awhile."

THE END