A/N: I admit it. This story is a little bit...different. If you don't like AU, you probably won't like this. I guess I'm getting a bored writing the same old stories. It's a long haul until the fall and all new storylines to inspire. In the meantime, here's another little detour inspired by my interest in WWII and my love of men in uniform. (Good thing I married one!) :-)
"No! N-O! Absolutely not! No! No way!"
"Come on, Jordan, it'll be fun!"
Jordan hurried to her office as Lily chased her down the hall.
"Fun? You want me to do a fashion show? I didn't even play with Barbies when I was a kid." She flung her bag on the office sofa as Lily followed in behind her and slipped a flyer into Jordan's hand.
"It's not your average fashion show, Jordan. It's a fundraiser, and I'm in charge this year. I really need your help."
Jordan scanned the flyer. "The Red Cross, huh? I didn't know you were a Red Cross volunteer."
"Well, I am. Disaster relief. And the fashion show is a benefit to raise funds for a permanent memorial in Washington to honor all the Red Cross volunteers who've served in the wars. We're going to play Big Band music, model vintage World War II fashions and uniforms. I promise. It'll be fun. Please? Everyone else has already said yes. Garret, Bug, Nigel, Woody..."
Jordan looked up. "Woody?"
Lily gave her a knowing smile. "Yes, Jordan. Woody, too."
She hadn't talked to Woody in weeks. Things had thawed a bit between them after he had sent her away that night in the hospital. She didn't know if it was hurt pride or pure Irish stubbornness, but no one seemed to want to be the first to talk about what had been said. They had never addressed her tearful confession or his angry rejection of her. In the weeks that had followed, they had talked, visited, but it wasn't the same, and there was still an awkward distance between them.
"I don't know, Lily. Olive drab really isn't my color."
"Oh, come on, Jordan!"
"Okay, okay. Anything for the Red Cross."
Lily clapped her hands in excitement. "Thank you thank you thank you! It's going to be great! Imagine all those guys in WWII uniforms!" Lily swooned. "I have to admit it...for a pacifist, I sure am a sucker for a man in uniform. Gosh, I think if I'd been alive in WWII, I would have been the easiest girl in town." She laughed. "Oops, did I say that? Saturday night, St. Denis Church! The details are on the flyer. See you there!"
Lily bounced out of the office with her stack of flyers as Jordan slipped hers into her bag. It was a good cause, and she really didn't have any other plans for Saturday night. And, she thought to herself with a sly smile, maybe she was a little curious to see what Woody might look like in a sailor suit.
"Wool in August? You've got to be kidding!" Lily stood in front of the mirror backstage at the St. Denis parish hall. She was wearing a dark blue wool pantsuit with a Red Cross emblem on the jacket sleeve.
"Yeah, thank God for air conditioning. This stuff does not breath." Jordan sat buttoning up her green wool nurse's uniform. "Hey, I like yours. Cute hat. Who are you supposed to be?"
"I'm a Clubmobile girl." Lily did a spin in her uniform. "They were Red Cross volunteers who drove little vans and followed the troops, doling out donuts and cigarettes."
"Very nice," Jordan said distractedly and scanned the sea of olive and khaki backstage area. Bug and Nigel were there. Garret, too, looking very smart in a summer Naval dress uniform.
"Woody's not here yet, Jordan," Lily said flatly.
"I wasn't looking for Woody," Jordan insisted, rolling her eyes. "I was just looking around for a pair of bigger boots. I'm having a hard time fitting my size eight feet into a pair of size five shoes."
"Sure, Jordan," Lily teased.
Of course, she was looking for Woody, and she had been hopeful about tonight. Perhaps on neutral ground they could put aside their differences. But the show was about to start, and he still wasn't there, she noted with disappointment.
"How's the crowd out there?" Jordan asked, changing the subject.
"We've got a packed house!" Lily beamed. "I'm so nervous!"
"It'll be fine."
Lily crossed her fingers. "Five minutes until showtime!"
Jordan rose and peered through the curtain. The parish hall was beginning to fill with people. No Woody.
"Places, Jordan!" Lily whispered with excitement. Jordan sighed. He wasn't going to make it. She wasn't sure what difference it would make. They were barely speaking, anyway. She finished lacing her boots and got in line between a paratrooper and a Marine.
Movement by the backdoor caught her eye. It was Woody, already dressed in green combat gear. Her heart danced a little. Lily rushed to him with her clipboard and directed him where to stand. Her eyes caught his then, and he looked back at her, motionless for a moment. She gave him a small wave of her fingers, and he crossed to her.
"Woody, hi. You look great."
"I feel like a giant G.I. Joe doll," he said with a groan. "Wow, olive drab is..."
"Yeah, I know. Not my color." They both laughed. It was a nice, shared moment, but then it passed, and the pained look of discomfort came back into his eyes.
"Well, I guess I'd better get in line."
"Oh, yeah, sure. Good seeing you."
"You, too, Jordan." He was gone with a small nod. So, that was it. That was the state of their relationship now. She sighed sadly, and then suddenly the curtain was open and the lights went up.
Her turn came and she walked out onto the little stage of St. Denis. The light was almost blinding. She'd never been good at things like this. She'd thrown up once during a Christmas pageant when she was eight.
"Dr. Jordan Cavanaugh models a typical nurse's uniform. As you can see, Army nurses in the field needed to have the same rugged and functional uniforms as the combat soldiers..." the emcee said in an enthusiastic sing-song as Jordan took her turn.
The audience clapped politely and she headed back for the curtain. Almost done. So far so good. No major mishaps. She breathed a sigh of relief. It was then that she heard the cracking sound, and she turned to it. The last thing she saw was a stage light coming away from its pole and swinging into her path.
There was darkness. Thick and black. She seemed to be floating somewhere in it. And then she could hear the urgent call of a familiar voice. "Jordan? Jordan, are you all right?"
Her eyes fluttered open, and she was immediately aware of the pounding in her head. She was on the floor, and Nigel was there, standing over her with a look of concern.
"Yeah, Nige, I'm fine."
"You gave me quite a scare." He took off his helmet and offered her a hand up. She let out a surprised little laugh. Funny. She didn't remember him having gotten a buzz cut for the occasion. "Nigel, what did you to do your hair!"
He cocked his head. "Hair? What are you on about? Are you sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine. It's just a little cut." Her hand went up to her throbbing head, and she winced in pain. She pulled her hand away and saw then the blood on her fingertips. "Or not so little."
"Dr. Macy can have that stitched up for you in a jiff."
Dr. Macy? Why would Garret stitch her up? She blinked hard and shook her fuzzy head. Something wasn't quite right.
The smell...the sickening sweet smell of ether filled her nose and mouth. She hadn't smelled it since they used it to anesthetize some fruit flies in her 12th grade biology class. "Is that ether? Where did that come from?"
Nigel ignored her and pulled her to her feet. "Dr. Macy! We're going to need you in here!"
She was aware of Garret's presence then. "You all right, Cavanaugh?"
"I'm fine, Garret, really. It's nothing..." Jordan frowned. He was wearing white scrubs. Hadn't he been wearing Navy whites?
Garret and Nigel exchanged looks. "She's calling you by your Christian name, Dr. Macy," Nigel muttered. "That must have been quite a blow."
"Dammit, how many times have I told you all to wear your helmets during air raids. That was an order, lieutenant!"
Jordan wrinkled her nose. "Lieutenant? What are you talking about, Garret? And dear God what is that smell?" It was the ether, but there was something else, too. The smell of damp canvas and, she realized with dawning horror, the stench of burnt and decaying flesh.
Her eyes widened and darted around the room. The nausea that came with fear began to rise in her throat. She was still at St. Denis, but something was different. Part of the back wall had crumbled away and opened onto the grey sky. Garret and Nigel were there with her, but everyone else seemed to have vanished except for a young man sleeping in a cot in the corner. He appeared to be missing both of his legs.
She covered her mouth to stifle a scream. "What happened? Where is everyone?" she said with mounting panic. "Garret? Nigel? What did you do?"
"Calm down, Lt. Cavanaugh. No one did anything." Garret put his hands on her shoulders to steady her.
She broke away and grabbed at Nigel's shirt. "What's going on? What did you do, Nigel!"
He looked back and shrugged his shoulders in confusion.
Home. She had to get home. She would get in the car, drive home to her safe, warm bed, and in the morning, everything would be all right. She pushed at the door, but it opened not onto the church parking lot but onto an unfamiliar street. The building across the way lay in ruins and an overturned jeep smoldered in the street with dying flames.
"Oh, God! This is a nightmare, isn't it? This can't really be happening!" She slapped her hands over her eyes, but she knew in horror from the sickening odor, the ache of her head, and the cold sting of snowflakes that fell against her bare skin that it was all too real. She turned back to Garret and Nigel as they looked on with stunned eyes. "Please someone help me! You've got to help me! I don't belong here!"
Garret was crossing to her then, and she opened her arms for him. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. "Snap out of it, lieutenant!" And then he slapped her once, hard across the face. Her mouth formed a round "O" as her hand flew up to her stinging cheek. "These men need our help," he said sharply. "Pull yourself together."
There was the sound of an approaching truck, doors slamming, the anxious shuffle of feet on the gathering snow, and another frantic voice. "We've got wounded men here! Give us a hand, corpsman!"
Nigel ran past her into the street, and Garret placed a hand on her arm with a stern look. "We need you, lieutenant. Are you going to be able to handle this?"
Two figures passed by her carrying a bloodied man on a litter. She nodded numbly at Garret. Her instincts took over as Garret turned and shouted orders for bandages and instruments. She followed him in a semi-daze, repeating to herself...This can't be happening, this can't be happening.
The pages of a calendar hanging over a desk ruffled in the wintry gust that followed the men in and caught Jordan's eye. Her throat closed with fear as she took long breaths to try and steady herself.
This can't be happening, this can't be happening, this can't be happening...