A/N: Here it is! Complete! Thank you all so much for sticking with this personal story. Thanks especially to NCCJFAN for her always wise advice.
It was a sight that still never failed to bring tears to her eyes.
Exhausted from his first birthday party, Will had curled up on his father's chest, and her two men were snoozing peacefully on the sofa. She sat on the chair opposite them and watched for a long time as Will's little form rose gently up and down with Woody's even breathing.
She hadn't thought moments like this were possible six months earlier. Woody had started therapy, and it had been a slow and difficult process. His near-fatal shooting had stirred up painful memories of his own father's murder, and he had never really healed from that. As a result, he had gone to war emotionally raw and off kilter. Just weeks later, he had faced death again.
Toward the end of the summer, she had started to go to his therapy with him, and pieces of the puzzle had begun to fall into place. He had been seated behind the pilot as the engine quit and the plane plummeted toward earth. There had been long minutes of sheer terror, and then a sickening crash. Even after months of therapy, he had never given all the details, but she gathered the pilot had died in Woody's arms, and his end had been particularly gruesome.
And then there were the missions. He was close-mouthed about just what he had done in Iraq, but she suspected he had been involved in things that no man should have to see. She knew he would never tell, and she would never ask.
It had all been going very well. Woody seemed more himself every day. He hadn't moved back in, but he was spending more and more time with her and Will at the apartment. They had found each other again, and everything seemed wonderful.
But not quite.
There was a nagging at her, something under the surface that she couldn't quite articulate.
It was a hot August evening. They were due to meet at the therapist's office, but the sitter canceled at the last minute. She frantically called Lily, who happily offered to keep Will overnight if necessary but their house was across town from the therapist's office, and the A/C on Jordan's car was broken. She finally arrived at the appointment late, overheated, and frazzled.
She supposed her body language said it all. Woody leaned forward in his seat, talking animatedly to the therapist, while Jordan wedged herself into a corner of the sofa and examined her fingernails.
"What's on your mind, Jordan?" the therapist finally asked.
She looked over at him for a long moment. "Nothing. I'm fine." I'm fine. It had become a meaningless phrase in their lives.
She could feel the therapist's eyes on her as she looked blankly out the window.
He was silent for a moment and began a different approach. "Woody's made a lot of strides since we started. You must be very happy."
She squirmed with discomfort in her seat and only raised her eyebrow. The only noise was the squeaking of springs as the therapist leaned back in his chair. "Is there something you'd like to share, Jordan?"
She frowned, feeling like a four year old being reprimanded by her nursery school teacher. Woody had turned to her now with a look of puzzlement. Her eyes fell onto her hands, folded neatly in her lap.
"Jordan?" Woody whispered with concern.
"I want to know why..." she started, her voice rising. "I want to know why it took almost three months. It took you three months after you moved out to get help. Why?"
"I don't know," he said in a startled revelation, as if he had never considered the question before. "I think...I was trying to pretend everything was all right."
"But it wasn't. How could you think it was all right? You woke up in a cold sweat every night. You raged at everything and everyone. I asked you to move out because I was afraid for Will and me. I begged you to get help, Woody. I begged you. Shouldn't that have been enough?"
Woody's jaw pumped wordlessly.
"All those months I worried about you. Not knowing what kind of danger you were in. Not knowing if you were coming home. And all those times things went wrong, and you weren't there. Then you came back, and I thought the worrying was over. Do you have any idea of what I went through for you?"
It was selfish, she knew, to ask him that. He had faced death while she had remained safely in Boston. But she had been selfless for too long. There were parades and medals and yellow ribbons for men like Woody. There was nothing for her, and the emotions finally spilled out like a flood.
"Jordan, I didn't know..."
"I was sick with worry for twelve months. For you, for Will, for us. But you kept acting like there was nothing wrong and refused to see anyone. Why? Weren't we worth it?" She shouldn't have asked it. It wasn't fair. But there was a small, fearful part of her that wondered if it weren't true.
"How can you say that, Jordan?" he asked angrily. "All I wanted to do was get back to you and the baby!"
"I thought I was going to lose you, Woody. Why? Why did it take so long?"
"Because..." He shrugged as if he did not have an answer. Then he lowered his head, knowing that he did. The words were difficult. "Because I was afraid of what you might think. I just wanted to be strong for you, Jordan. I thought you might feel different about me."
She drew in a sudden breath and pressed her hand to her mouth to stop the tears. His hand slid across the sofa to her, and she took it. "I love you, Woody. I love you. You don't have to be that strong all the time. No one does." She held his hand for a moment and then moved across the seat to him. She wrapped her arms around him. "I'm not giving up on you. I'm not."
When they reached the apartment, they stood there for a moment, exhausted and drained, and then fell into each other's arms. They made love that night, out of need and desire, for the first time since he had left. She felt safe there again in his arms, and they drifted off into dreamless sleeps.
He moved back in later that week, and he had been there ever since.
Life returned to what passed for normal, but she had realized that there was really no such a thing. They fell back into their routines at work. Will took his first halting steps just after Christmas. Woody was still in therapy, but he seemed to need it less and less. They were happy.
But Lily had been wrong all those months ago. He wasn't the same Woody. There was a gravity about him that hadn't been there before, a certain pain in his eyes from time to time. Just when it seemed the nightmares were over, he would awake in a sweat and cling to her in quiet fear until he finally drifted off again. He would never be the same Woody again. But then, she wasn't the same Jordan.
But he hadn't lost the things she had loved about him. He still delighted in awful puns. He still professed undying loyalty to his beloved Badgers. He still loved her and his son beyond measure. And his time in the desert had given him a sense of urgency and purpose that Jordan had never seen in him before.
During the busy holiday season, she realized she was waking up happy first thing in the morning, and she knew it was that way with him, too. Will's birthday approached, and it was full of meaning. It had been a year since he had month since Woody had returned from the desert. This was a new beginning. As she lit the candles on his cake, she knew they had much to celebrate that day.
He blew them out with help from Woody, and Will stuck his fingers in the middle of the cake and held it out for his father. "Daddy eat," he said solemnly, and Woody licked the goo off his chubby little hand.
"Okay, I am truly a dad now," he said through a mouthful of blue frosting. Will giggled happily, and Jordan smiled through her tears.
She'd been weepy like that all day, crying at the simple joys of life. Like this, as Woody stirred beneath Will's sleeping form.
"I don't know how it happened," he whispered, "but I woke up with a one-year-old growing out of my chest."
Jordan smiled and crossed to him. "Here, I'll put him in his crib."
Woody held up a hand. "No, don't. This is kind of nice." She knelt on the floor next to him as he stroked his son's drowsy head. "Speaking of Will's crib...it seems like we're kind of running out of room around here."
She put her chin on her knees. "It does, doesn't it?"
He turned his head towards her. "Maybe...maybe we should think about getting a bigger place."
"I think so. We're going to need some extra bedrooms." Woody's mouth dropped, and she laughed. "No, don't worry. I'm not pregnant."
"Phew," he said, but then his eyes grew thoughtful. "It wouldn't be bad, though. Would it?"
"No. It wouldn't be a bad thing at all. Not right away. But soon, I think." She reached out with a slow smile and stroked his cheek. "That doesn't mean we can't practice."
He grinned lazily. "Lots of practice," he whispered back.
Will stirred and then nestled in against Woody's chest. The three of them sat that way, curled around each other, until the sun began to glow red and orange and dipped behind the horizon.