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The Greatest of These
Jordan found the setting all too familiar. Another hospital room. A different injury. Same man. A man who probably wouldn't even want her here if he were conscious. Of course, if he were conscious she probably would have stayed away. The frostiness that had developed between Woody and her had thawed somewhat lately, but he was still unpredictable in some ways, still volatile. And he still seemed to take it out on her.
She sat down next to his bed and studied his bandaged head. The man was from Wisconsin, not exactly a tropical paradise. You'd think he would have learned to watch out for patches of ice by now, especially in February. You wouldn't think he'd be likely to slip and crack his skull open. She sighed. At least he'd done it right in front of the precinct.
Jordan had been surprised by Lu Simmons' call. Surprised at Woody's hapless accident and surprised that Detective Simmons thought Jordan's presence would be a good idea. Declaring to Nigel that she'd given up trying to figure out what was going on with Hoyt, she'd left for the hospital. Nigel had smiled at her retreating back, knowing Jordan Cavanaugh had done no such thing as giving up. The only reason the phrase was in her lexicon was she knew it was something other people did.
She'd also been surprised at Woody's current condition. Comatose. From a fall on some ice. As an M.E. she knew it was possible; she knew worse outcomes were possible. But it still seemed surreal. Jordan had passed Detective Simmons on her way out of Woody's room. Lu had been warm and encouraging. Jordan had been skeptical. Lu's smile had become almost mysterious and she'd reminded Jordan that she was also a psychologist and that she and Woody had been talking. Jordan had heard enough rumors about that 'talking.' She'd nodded her head and, muttering a bleak, "Here goes nothing," had gone in to sit where she now sat.
Tentatively she reached out and took his hand. Reflexively, she felt for his pulse. It was strong and steady. His hand was warm and his color was good. The machines monitoring his vitals all reported that, except for the fact he wasn't waking up, everything looked fine. Medical science had no reason to give for his condition. Jordan began to run her assessment again, knowing this clinical rundown was a good way of avoiding her fears and feelings. She sighed deeply after checking his pulse for the fourth time.
"All right, all right," she muttered. She lifted her gaze to the ceiling. "Uh, hey, God? Yeah, I know I don't do this too much." She snorted. "Well, okay, I really only do it when I'm really scared and need something. You probably get a lot of that though." She punctuated her unorthodox prayer style with a wry chuckle. "See, the thing is – well, You know what's happened in the last few years. And I've tried – I really have – not to be angry with You, but a lot of things have happened and I guess I still am."
She paused, her mouth dry. After a moment, blushing for no reason she could name – except the fact I'm talking to some fancy sound-dampening ceiling tiles – she continued. "But here's the thing. Woody? It's really not fair this happened to him. I mean, the shooting last spring and everything that went on after that. Things – Things between him and me haven't been the best, but I – I – I love him. You know how big a deal that is for me. So, I want to make a deal with you. I know, I know, we're not supposed to make deals with God; we're supposed to have faith and all that. But that's a little too passive for me. So I'm willing to make a deal. Get him through this, make him wake up and walk out of here and go on with his life and if he never speaks to me again, then – then – well, that's my part of the bargain."
She chewed her lip for a moment. "I can live with that. As long as he's around, I can handle it, even if it means he never knows how I really feel. Okay? So that's the deal."
For good measure, she added an Our Father and a Hail Mary before she stood up to go. She loathed the thought of releasing his hand, knowing it was probably the last time she would ever touch him. She rubbed his hand softly for a moment, trying to commit the feeling to memory. At last she stood up and leaned over him. Gently she kissed his mouth. "I should have done that a long time ago," she murmured. "Bye, Woody."
Jordan's relief knew no bounds when Lu called to tell her that Woody had woken up – with a splitting headache – and was going to make a full recovery. After her relief subsided, misery set in. He would never know how she felt. As far as Jordan was concerned, God had kept His side of the deal. She would keep hers.
He'd been out of the hospital and back on active duty for almost three weeks and Jordan hadn't caught a single one of his cases. She decided God had taken some small measure of pity on her and at least wasn't throwing them together all the time. Her subdued spirit and the fact her social life had come to a screeching halt when Pollack had taken a job with a flashy L.A. tabloid kept her home when she wasn't at work. She kept telling herself the quiet life was working for her. She was catching up on a lot of reading at the very least.
The sound of a knock on her door startled her. She put down the book she was reading – truth be told, she'd read the same page three times in the last ten minutes and still couldn't recall what it said; she wasn't even sure what the name of the book was. She sighed, wishing that unexpected visitors would call first – even if they would then be expected. She was getting tired of being caught in her pajamas. Although she was fond of these ducks. She peered through the peephole, pulled her eye away and then peered once more.
Wonderingly, she opened the door.
Woody gave her a look similar to the one Danny McCoy had.
Jordan forestalled any comment. "Ducks. I also have lambs. They came in a set of three."
"Right." Woody nodded. "I actually wasn't going to ask about your –uh – sleeping attire, Jordan. I was going to ask if I could come in for a minute."
"Oh. Yeah." She stepped back, feeling ridiculously like someone had just walloped her upside the head with a hammer made entirely of Silly Putt. "Getcha something?"
"Huh? Oh, no, thanks." He looked around for a moment, avoiding her eyes. When he did meet her gaze, she saw the anxiety in his face. "Uh – Jordan – Um – You know what? Maybe a beer or something?"
Glad for the escape, she nodded and went to see what there was in the fridge. Happily, there was a six pack she'd forgotten about. She cracked open two bottles and carried them out, handing him one before draining about half of hers in one swallow.
Woody watched her and then seemed to come to some sort of decision. "You know, Jordan, you're really not supposed to make deals with God."
"I know, but sometimes it just…." Her eyes went round and her jaw slackened. "How did… you… know?"
"You know how they say they think people in comas can hear what's being said around them?"
Jordan nodded, dumbstruck and more or less terrified of whatever was coming next.
"Well, I can't speak for all coma patients, but I could hear a lot of it."
"Do you know what the dumbest thing I ever did in my life was?"
Taken aback at such a seemingly random twist in the conversation, she shook her head. "Slip on that ice?"
"No." He grinned. "That may have been one of the smartest things as it turns out. No, Jordan, the dumbest thing I ever did was telling you I didn't need you in my life."
"Oh. It was?"
"The dumbest. The absolutely most stupid thing ever." He took a step toward her. "Because I do need you, Jordan. I need you in my life. And I want you in my life. And I don't care what bargain you struck with God. I want to hear how you feel about me every day for the rest of my life. And I want to tell you how I feel about you every day."
She looked at him in disbelief. Somehow the one thing which she had wanted the most, but hadn't been able to ask for, had happened. God had answered both prayers.
Woody reached for her, taking her hands and easing her into his arms. He slid his arms around her, holding her tightly. Her hands found their way around his neck and her fingers threaded themselves into his hair. His mouth claimed hers.
And later – much later – Woody did get to find out what was on the third set of pajamas.