SUMMARY: Set sometime after season five, Jordan makes some choices that lead her to places she never expected to go.

DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters. No profit is being made. It's all for fun

FEEDBACK: Yes, please. I respond to everything except flames. Constructive

criticism is valued.

Author's Note (Please Read): If you don't like Pollack, don't read any further. If you do like him (or if you're willing to consider another point of view on the whole Jordan/Pollack/Woody/Lu quagmire), then please read and let me know what you think!

A/N2: "I don't want to be your rebound guy." What the hell was that! Sigh…

A/N3: I swear I'm working on "Shadow Me" and "No Rain or Snow." "Shadow Me" insists on being written in reverse order though, and this fic just wouldn't let me work on anything else until this was done.

IF EVER AGAIN

Jordan raised her curled hand to knock on the door in front of her, lowered it, then raised it again. She changed her mind – yet again – and turned to leave. This is stupid. I shouldn't be here. I need to walk away. She whirled back and rapped on the door, her heart thudding dully in her chest. She plastered what she hoped was a light, easy grin on her face and tried not to shift from foot to foot. When the door opened, it all fell apart.

She fell apart.

He didn't say anything, simply drew her into his arms and held her, letting her silent tears flow. After a few moments, he nudged her inside and seated her on the couch. He moved into the small kitchen, took down a wine glass and poured her some of the red he was drinking. She accepted it with murmured thanks. He sat down across from her. "Not that it isn't good to see you, Cavanaugh," Pollack began. "But you're a little far from home, aren't you?"

She looked away, biting her lip. It took a long moment for her to speak. "I – I needed – I needed to get away."

"Police after you?" His words were joking, but his tone gave hint to his lingering bitterness.

She snorted. "Hardly."

He sighed softly. "I'll take it all is not well with Hoyt."

Jordan shook her head, tears trickling from her eyes again.

With a deep breath, he moved to sit next to her, sliding an arm around her. "All right, Cavanaugh, tell me what's going on."

XXXXX

Woody looked down at the blond head pillowed on his shoulder. He tucked a strand of her hair behind her ears. God, she's so… uncomplicated, so easy to be with. She stirred and smiled up at him. Not that she doesn't have her depths. She's intelligent, funny, attractive. She doesn't get close only to back away….

Her smile widened. "What're you thinking?"

He let a lazy smile play across his own face. "About you."

She levered herself up on one elbow. "Yeah?"

He nodded. But even as she pulled him down for a kiss, a thought drifted across his brain. Who backed away the last time?

XXXXX

Jordan sat hunched over, hands clasped between her knees. Pollack hadn't said much during her stop-and-start recitation of the last few months of her life. Bleakly, she finished, "I didn't know where else to go."

He arched an eyebrow. "Thanks. I think."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way." She looked over at him. "Really." She pushed herself off the couch. "I shouldn't have come. You probably have places – things – someone… I…" She headed for the door.

He uttered her name softly, with a tenderness that overwhelmed her.

She rested her head against the door, her hand on the knob. "I'm – I'm sorry. I can probably still get the last flight back-"

"No."

She swiveled her head, her eyes filled with confusion and need. "What?"

"Stay."

"Why?" The word came out as an anguished plea.

He stood up and crossed the room to her, drawing her once more against him. "You've told me what's been going on lately, Cavanaugh. Now tell me why."

She shook her head in disbelief. "I can't – It's not fair."

He lifted her chin with one finger. "I can take it."

She shook free. "Why would you want to?"

His mouth quirked into a sad smile. "Because I haven't found anyone else to break my heart lately."

XXXXX

Woody looked up at the M.E. approaching him. He frowned, wondering why his request hadn't been honored. "No offense, Dr. Macy, but I asked for Jordan. I mean, this looks like the work of the Commons Killer and she's done the other cases."

"Jordan's not on call right now," was all Garret said.

"But-"

"You got me, Woody. I'll have to do."

Before Hoyt could respond, Lu walked up to the two men. She nodded to Macy and then turned her attention to Woody. "We may have a witness."

Woody stood up. He smiled at the blond. "Good. Have we got a statement?"

"That's going to be the tough part."

He raised one brow.

"She's six." Lu grimaced.

Woody sighed and excused the two of them, leaving Garret to watch them move away a few feet. The Chief M.E. noted the way Hoyt's hand found its way to the small of Simmons' back, how close their heads were, how she almost relaxed into him. Bastard. If he's behind Jordan's latest disappearing act….

XXXXX

"We don't talk to each other."

"Different cases?" Pollack asked.

Jordan shook her head. "No. Not cases. I mean, we talk. We – We get along. But – We…." She wrung her hands. "I don't know."

"Yeah, you do, Cavanaugh," he prodded.

She looked at him, tears spilling forth once more. She swallowed hard. "I – All these years – All this time… we – it was – everything was – unspoken. I always thought it was me, that I was too afraid." She dipped her head. "When you – When you told me you knew and said – said we could get past it…." She brushed the fast flowing tears from her cheeks. "I couldn't tell you it didn't mean anything. I – I didn't know what it meant, but I – I needed it to mean something." She sniffed. "I – I couldn't – couldn't face the fact that maybe, after all that time, after everything I thought was there, maybe it wasn't." She hesitated, continuing in a voice bare and low. "I didn't want to be like my mother."

"Like your mother?"

She nodded miserably. "She cheated on my dad. I – I don't know if it meant anything to her, but I didn't want to be like that, to hurt – to hurt you."

His eyes clouded, but he made no accusations. Softly, almost inaudibly even in the heavy silence, he said, "I meant it, you know. Before that – Before."

She nodded. "I know."

"My timing, to put it in the vernacular, sucked."

She shook her head this time. "I'd have - It would've scared me any time, Pollack."

"But there you were – with – with him."

"Yeah." She took a deep breath. "Yeah. And I thought… No, I didn't think. I – I – Something I'd lost… I had another chance." She swallowed again. "But now I don't know. I don't know if finding what was lost was worth this."

He waited, the clock ticking loudly in both their ears. "Why do you think it didn't work?"

She shrugged. "Besides that he didn't want to be my rebound guy?"

Pollack snorted lightly. "How could he think that?" He studied her profile. "And why did you let him?"

She turned and faced him. "Because... we don't talk. We know everything about each other, except how we feel… felt."

"Felt?"

She swiped angrily at the moisture on her face. "You were right. About love being like malaria. But you forgot one thing about malaria."

"What's that?"

Her voice was wounded, desolate. "It can kill you."

XXXXX

Garret stopped in front of her open office door. "Decided to grace us with your presence?"

She looked up from the paperwork on her desk. Her dark eyes were cool. "I needed a few days. I left you a message."

"Yeah. Great message, Jordan. I won't be in for a while" His own eyes hardened. "You know, it's been a while, so I'm willing to let it slide this time, but we were short-"

"I'm sorry, Garret. I needed a few days."

He looked at the tight set of her shoulders, took in the fact her face was too thin again and thought of Hoyt and Simmons. He softened. "All right."

"Thanks." Her tone was sincere.

"Yeah," he told her before walking away.

XXXXX

She walked into her Pearle Street apartment, her feet aching from being on them all day, her mind numb with exhaustion. She refused to count the doubles she'd pulled in the last month. She let work consume her, moving through life much as she had the previous year. Suspended animation – though there was precious little that was animated about her. Colleagues were careful not to mention Woody and Lu to her. Jordan answered his calls – or hers - with professionalism and civility, maintained the façade of friendship, feigned an acceptance of his rejection that slowly became resignation.

The aroma of something bubbling on the stove greeted her. She looked around, taking stock, letting her mouth crack into a tired smile at the wine bottle, open and breathing on the counter, the table set for two. She walked over to the counter and read the note she found there. "They say quinine is good for malaria."

She chuckled softly to herself. Before she could go in search of Pollack, the key she'd handed him a month ago in D.C. scraped in the lock and the door opened. He smiled at her.

"Quinine, huh?" Her voice had tones of merriment she hardly recognized anymore.

He approached her with a bouquet of flowers. "I thought these might be better."

XXXXX

He nuzzled her neck, reaching over her to silence her alarm. She murmured something about getting up. "Call in sick," he suggested, his voice morning-rough.

"Can't."

"Go in late then." He kissed the spot just behind her ear that made her shiver and let his fingers trace a thin line of heat down her arm.

"Can't."

"Sure you can." His hand cupped one breast, fingers trailing lightly over the nipple. She drew in a sharp breath of desire.

Garret's never fired me before. She groaned at the teasing pressure of his touch. Well, he's never meant it anyway. His lips on her abdomen sent shockwaves of pleasure through her. Who the hell is Garret?

XXXXX

The elevator door opened onto an empty hallway. Feeling like a fugitive – something she knew a little too much about, thank you very much – Jordan crept down toward her office. She pushed open the door quietly.

"Oversleep?"

She jumped, spilling hot coffee onto her arm. She hissed and hastened to set the paper cup on her desk, shaking her arm rapidly. "Geez, Woody! What the hell are you doing here?"

"Waiting for you," he told her lightly. Who backed away the last time?

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. Dr. Macy thought you'd get here…" he checked his watch. "Oh, about ninety minutes ago." And the time before that? With Riggs.

She lifted one shoulder with studied nonchalance. "Sorry. I – uh – I – Something came up."

He raised one brow. And the time before that? With the ring. "Woody, I have a confession..." What had she wanted to tell him? Hadn't he seen the flash of pain in her eyes when he – yeah, when he put on the brakes. "Old habits, Jordan?" He didn't know where that had come from, but it slid out of his mouth before his brain could object.

She didn't flinch, not visibly. The only physical sign of her reaction was that flash in her eyes again. Verbally, she gave as good as she got. "You want a note?"

The goad worked. "Could he write one?"

A brittle, cold smile curved her lips. "And publish it."

The retort forming in his gut died as his mind grasped her implication. He could only stare at her.

She dropped her gaze. For a moment, they were both silent. Finally, she moved around to the other side – the safe side – of her desk. "What was it you needed? It must be important if you waited."

He nodded. The olive branch was going to stick in his craw, but deep down he knew he couldn't blame her for her reaction. "Your results on the Hauser case. Dr. Macy said you promised to finish it before you left last night."

She nodded and found the file for him. "If I'd known you needed it, I'd have sent it-"

"The judge agreed to hear a new argument about bail. This morning. I mean, the new hearing is this afternoon. The judge-"

"I get it, Woody."

He pressed his lips together. "Yeah." He looked down at the file he held. "Thanks."

"Sure."

He turned and then stopped. "Walcott might want you to testify, you know. The hearing is late." His eyes sought hers. "We could – grab some dinner afterwards?"

For a long series of heartbeats, she met his gaze.

He tried to nudge her toward agreeing. "There's that new Italian place near the-"

"No." Her voice was quiet. Final. Something in that one syllable severed a thread or two of the invisible fabric wrapping them so tightly to each other.

"No?"

"No."

He ached. What had he done? "Can't? Or don't want to?" He knew his expression was hang-dog, but he couldn't change it.

The tenor and resound of her grief stunned him – not because she was clearly sad, but because the depths, the finality of that sadness were entirely new to him. "Both." The fabric, never seen, maybe imagined, only felt at such strange intervals, unraveled a bit more.

He stopped himself again at her door. This time he could not turn. "Why, Jo?"

"Why what, Woody?" Exhaustion wreathed her voice now, a telling counterpoint to the ache in her soul.

"Why is it – Why are we – It's always this way. This walking away from each other" Now he did turn, letting the ferocity of emotion in his eyes pin her to her chair where she'd sunk for refuge. "We – You and I – There's too much, Jordan, too much between us to do this."

"Maybe there's too much between us not to walk away."

That angered him. Jordan Cavanaugh playing word games angered him. He strode back to her desk and leaned forward, palms pressed flat, face close to hers. "I love you, Jordan. I have for – God, maybe since I met you. Tell me how you walk away from that. Tell me."

She shook her head, denying herself the tears welling up. "Maybe you should tell me, Woody. I told you – told you that I loved you and you cut me out of your life, said it didn't change anything. And when I look back, you know what I see?"

"Enlighten me," he growled.

"I see myself in stupid, dangerous situations – usually my own damn fault – and you saving me. I see me backing away, trying to get up the courage to let you in. And then I see that every time I do, you do your own back pedaling. You're right, Woody. You're right. We love each other. But the time – and the place – they're never right."

He took a deep breath through his nose. "What about at the Inn?"

"What about it?"

"Jordan! We made love."

"Did we?" she challenged. "Or did we try to get through all the things that just don't work right by finding one thing that would?"

"How can you – How can-?"

"I'm not the one who wanted to take it slow. I'm not the one who started dating someone else." She took a breath to control the rising anger. "I'm the one who faced up to the facts, Woody. I love you. Part of me is never going to be able to stop. But sometimes that isn't enough." She let a single tear trickle down her cheek. "Love doesn't always conquer all."

XXXXX

Somehow it never worked out for Pollack to hunt for a new place to live. The few days at Pearle Street turned into a week and then a month and then he slowly stopped waiting for her to ask him to find something. He settled in to her settling in – with him. He watched a little of the weight come back. He couldn't help but smile when her eyes sparkled – at times over a joke, at others because she'd found the answer to some perplexing case, once in a while even for no apparent reason. Gradually her morgue family seemed not only to accept him, but to like him. He still pursued stories that occasionally put them at odds, but they were both adults, both accepted that fact and got past those times. He surprised her in October by asking her to take a few days off.

"Why?"

"Tell you later," he told her, his grin mischievous.

They were lying in bed – she, reading; he, making old-fashioned hand-written notes about a series he had in mind. He protested – half-heartedly at best – when she tugged the paper pad and pen from his hand and dropped them to the floor, straddling him. "Tell me now."

He shook his head, instead reaching up to capture her face and kiss her.

"Pollack," she growled. "Tell me."

"We're going somewhere. That's all I'm saying." He kissed her again, silencing her inquisitiveness with his mouth, keeping it at bay with the deft action of his hands and fingers. He should have known Jordan Cavanaugh wouldn't let him get away that easily though.

"Where are we going?" She demanded softly as he drifted to sleep, his arms around her.

"The Vineyard," he whispered.

She raised herself on an elbow and peered down at him. Her eyes glowed in the dim light filtering in from the street below. "Why?"

He reached over and traced the line of her cheek. "Think about it, Cavanaugh."

"We haven't been there in…." She took a sharp breath.

He grinned. "Happy Anniversary."

A year? It's been a year? She lay back into the protective circle of his arms. Her heart beat rapidly.

He could feel the flutter of her pulse. "You all right?" The question was casually asked, but honestly meant.

She was silent for a moment. At last, a tiny smile lifted the corners of her mouth. "Yeah. I am."

It was hard to tell which of them was more amazed by that.

XXXXX

Despite the cold, damp weather, Pollack had insisted on a picnic. She'd accused him of just wanting to get her under the big, heavy, plaid blanket he'd brought out. His answering leer had contained no denial. She found she didn't mind too much. He sat with his back to the seawall, with her between his legs, pressed against him. The blanket engulfed them both. They had the shore to themselves, unless you counted a few wheeling gulls.

The sound of the tide soothed and nearly hypnotized Jordan. Pollack was warm and safe, his scent familiar and, to her surprise, still heady. She'd lost this for a while, hared off chasing something else. Her own romantic Holy Grail maybe. But he hadn't given up on her. He'd given her the space she needed and, she knew, if she'd never come back, he'd have left her alone. There wouldn't have been recriminations and accusations, the hurt surprise that she'd taken his words at face value. They both knew she'd always have feelings for Woody; there'd been something electric and sizzling there, something all the more powerful because it had gone so long denied. But that spark had damn near consumed her, one heartbreak at a time. The pain had crowded out all the might-have-beens and left only never-really-weres.

She sighed softly, her breath the sound of the tide pulling away over the sand. "I meant it. Last night." She twined her fingers in his beneath the blanket. "It was just because… because of… it wasn't just that." She blushed.

His low chuckle rumbled through her. "I rather hoped it wasn't." She could feel the curve of his grin as he pressed a light kiss on the back of her neck. "At least not just that."

She reached her free hand up and ran it through his hair. "No. Not just that."

"Would you marry me, Cavanaugh?"

It took her by surprise and yet, it didn't. He'd made no secret of the happiness she brought to his life (a thought with which she still struggled at times), nor of the fact that he was, in many ways, pretty traditional. She grinned. "Is that hypothetical? Would I?"

He squeezed her fingers. "No, it's not hypothetical. Will you marry me?"

She craned her head back, her honey eyes solemn. After a moment, she nodded.

A spasm of something she couldn't read crossed his features. He loosed his hand from hers and straightened his back against the wall. "Now I'll give you the chance to change your mind."

"I'm not going to."

"You just might, Cavanaugh." He shifted again, his muscles suddenly clenched. "When you hear what I have to say."

Anxiety gathered in her chest, pressed against her lungs. Her heart quickened and in the depths of her mind the sick thought that it had all been a game, payback for her infidelity, twisted. Then, he spoke. She knew he'd had a check up a few weeks back. And a test or two. He hadn't wanted to worry her. He had the results now.

She waited.

She was a doctor. She understood what he was telling her. She never hesitated. When he'd finished, she spoke. "When do you want to get married?"

XXXXX

She stopped at Garret's office as she came in Tuesday morning. He looked up from a phone call and motioned for her to sit down. She waited, perched on the edge of the chair until he hung up. He tilted his head, seeing, as always, even the littlest details of her mood. "Good weekend?"

She hesitated. "Uh – busy."

"I thought you and Pollack went to the Vineyard?"

"We – uh – Yeah. We started there." She twisted her hands together and the light flashed off the rings she now wore.

"And ended up…?" He peered at her, trying to gauge exactly how much jewelry she was wearing.

"In Vegas." It came out in a matter-of-fact, Jordan way.

Garret managed to keep his jaw shut. Barely. "You got married?"

She shrugged. "Yeah. It – Um – I mean, you know…."

"Jordan, don't take this the wrong way, but you are the least spontaneous person I know – you're not… pregnant?"

She shook her head rapidly. "No, no. No. Uh – no."

"Then… Vegas? I don't get it."

She rushed on. "Well, we were going to go to Maryland, but, I know people in Vegas and I thought…."

He gave her a baleful look.

Jordan swallowed, the tears springing to her eyes. And it flooded out.

It took longer for the news to sink in than it did for her to tell it. Garret nodded slowly, her impulsiveness explained in a heart-breaking way. "How long does he have?"

Another shrug. "Six months. A year at the outside." She leaned forward, resting her hands on his desk. The diamond and gold bands sparkled. "Garret, I know I'm a pain in the ass sometimes – okay, most of the time-" She grinned disarmingly. "But – I need a leave of absence."

"Of course." He regarded her with dark, serious eyes. "How long?"

"Can we start with a year? Maybe eighteen months?"

"We can." He watched as she stood up. There was something new in her, as though the cool, frightened strength she'd always possessed had been heated, reformed, polished. She's fighting for someone else now. The truth she's searched for is in the past and she's here – in the present.

"I'll stay a couple of weeks-"

He shook his head. "Go pack up your office. We'll manage."

Tearfully, she nodded in gratitude.

XXXXX

The tentative tapping at her door surprised her. One by one, they had all drifted in. You really got married? Shy smile from Bug. Big, bear hug from Nige. Squeal from Lily. And the rest of it? He's really…. Commiserations and brave smiles all the way around. What are you going to do? The answer was simple and the same to all of them: live. So she wasn't expecting anyone as she boxed up the last of the contents of her desk, laying a picture of her and Max on the top.

"Jordan?"

She kept her face blank. "Detective Simmons. What can I do for you?"

"I – uh…." Lu gazed around, brow crinkled in confusion at the welter of boxes and the sudden antiseptic feeling of the room. "Are you – Are you leaving?"

"I'm taking a leave of absence."

"Oh! When?" Even as she asked it, Lu blushed.

"Now," Jordan responded, a hint of acid coating the single word.

"And this has been planned?"

Not that it's any of your business…. Jordan took a deep breath. She made a slight show of checking her watch. "Since about two hours ago."

Another soft, "Oh!" Evil thoughts went through Jordan's mind as the blond kept making that noise. Guess she's not a screamer.

"Do you need something?" Jordan brought Lu back to reality.

"Um – Um – Yeah. The Davies case. You're supposed to testify."

"Garret has all my findings. I can swear out a statement."

"I don't know if that'll be good enough."

Jordan's voice was sharp as a knife point. "It'll have to be."

"Jordan, I'm sorry. I know things between us have been…." She stopped, realizing the M.E. wasn't paying her any attention. Slowly she pivoted. Her brows flicked up in surprise.

"About ready, luv?"

Jordan smiled softly at Pollack. "Just have to label this box." She gestured to Lu. "Pollack, you remember Detective Simmons, don't you?

Pollack shook her hand, despite – or maybe because of – her obvious discomfiture.

"I'd noticed your byline in the paper again," she tried gamely.

"Hope you didn't too used it." His voice was light, but ironic.

"I – Um – That is…." Her eyes widened. She looked back at Jordan. "You two are going away together?"

It was Pollack whose reply caught her off guard. "That's what husbands and wives do, Detective."

XXXXX

Pollack was at the paper, working out a few details with his editor. He'd do some freelance type writing from wherever they happened to be. Jordan was hoping she wouldn't end up doing any freelance work – not in her profession. She looked around the apartment one more time. A wave of sadness engulfed her and she swiped tears from her eyes. There were snakes the first time I looked at it. And more than one snake – of the two-legged variety - broke in over the years. She sighed. She would, in all likelihood, never see this place again. When she returned – whenever that was – she'd probably move in to her dad's place, empty, but waiting for her. She took another breath and smiled. I never manage to keep a plant going.

He'd taken the light suitcases with him. She'd meet him at the paper and then they'd head out to Logan. A few boxes had been hurriedly shipped to Sydney. The boxes would wait until they made it down there. Until he goes home to… No, I'm not going to think of that. Not now. She had only a shoulder bag. She started down the hall.

"Jordan!" The voice was behind her.

She stopped.

His feet ate up the space between them in great pounding steps. "Jordan! Lu told me – You can't – What the hell is going on?"

She turned, but said nothing.

He scrutinized her, his blue eyes searching for some answer, any answer – except the one she had for him. "This isn't – This isn't real."

"Yeah, Woody. It is."

"You married Pollack? Why?"

She glared at him. "Why do people usually get married?"

He snorted. "Oh come on. You're not saying… You're not saying that you – that you…."

"That I love him?" Her voice was soft. "I do."

Woody's jaw tightened. "What about us?" He demanded.

"Us?" Jordan laughed harshly. "There is no us, Woody." Not anymore. Maybe once upon a time….

He grabbed her then, his fingers digging into her upper arms. She winced and tried to pull away, but his grip held firm. He brought his mouth to hers and kissed her roughly, parting her lips with his tongue, pulling her flush against his body, burying one hand in her dark hair. He let her go only when neither of them could breathe. "Tell me there's no us."

She took short, quick breaths, fighting back tears of anger, of hurt and of yearning for something that never worked. "There's no us, Woody." She turned and walked away.

XXXXX

Jordan found them in the break room. She whistled lowly. "Fancy," was her comment at the nice, new fittings and spiffy coffee machine and microwave.

Four heads turned in unison and four jaws dropped. "Jordan!" Lily squealed, lifting herself out of her chair and waddling to her friend.

After a fierce hug, Jordan looked down at Lily's swollen belly. "How far along are you?"

The grief counselor rolled her eyes. "Seven months. It feels like seven years. And it doesn't help that I look like a whale."

Jordan laughed. "You don't look like a whale. You look great." She let her gaze fall on the others – Garret, Nigel, Bug. "You all do."

Garret's mouth twitched. "Geez, Jordan, did your parents never teach you to tell time?"

She smiled at him. "Eighteen months… four years. Problem?"

With a laugh of surrender, Dr. Macy swept her into a hug as well. It opened the floodgates. Soon she was seated with a cup of coffee – certainly a cut above the old morgue coffee – smiling at her old friends, the family she'd chosen – unwittingly – a rather long time ago, it now seemed.

It was Nigel who broached the subject. "So, then… he – uh…."

Jordan closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them, they shone with tears, but the tears did not fall. She'd promised him. No tears, luv. Don't you dare cry over me, Cavanaugh. "About four months ago."

"Four months ago?" That from Bug. "But the prognosis…!"

"I know, I know." Jordan nodded. "Believe me, I know. He surprised everyone. He – Um – He lived long enough to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, to – um – to waltz on the banks of the Danube, to visit the ancient shrine of the Oracle of Delphi, to ski two more winters in New Zealand and um, most of all…." She bit her lip and a few tears did trickle from her eyes. "Most of all, he lived to see his daughter, to feed her her first solid food, to hear her first word, to help her take her first steps. He lived long enough to see her build her first sand castle even."

"You have a little girl?" Lily spoke through her own softly flowing tears.

Jordan nodded. "Hannah Rosemary. She's almost three."

"Oh, Jordan," Lily put her hand on Jordan's and squeezed. Jordan returned the pressure.

They remained, talking for another hour or so. When Garret announced he had some paperwork to finish, Jordan excused herself. She trailed him to his office. As she lingered in the doorway, he studied her. "You've got great timing."

"I do?"

He nodded. "Your replacement – and I use the term lightly," he smiled at her. "Your replacement just moved to Denver. I kind of need an experienced M.E." His eyes sparkled at her. "Know any?"

Smiling, she nodded. "Thanks."

"Will that work? With Hannah?"

"Yeah. My dad's back in Boston. We're living with him. He's enjoying being a grandpa. A lot less history."

Macy nodded. "How are you holding up?"

She see-sawed a hand. "Some days are better than others. I try to think about everything we had that the doctors all said we shouldn't have. Hannah most of all. I try to remember that he - that the end was – he was watching us play on the beach." She hadn't even told her father this. At first, it had been too private, too personal, something she hoarded to herself for reasons she only dimly understood, but now she needed to tell someone, someone who loved her and would understand what it had meant to her. "We were in Sydney, had a place right there, near the water. I was out there with her, dipping our feet in the water, scaring gulls, building sand castles. He – He'd been tired, said he'd sit on the porch. He did. He took some pictures of us. He was a good photographer, actually." She sniffed. "Anyway, I went up and checked on him. He said he was going to take a nap. He just never woke up."

"I'm sorry, Jordan."

She brushed her wet cheek with one hand. "Thanks." She bit her lip. "For everything." She turned to go, but stopped, her hand on the doorframe.

Garret waited, but she didn't ask. He answered her anyway. "He's Chief of Detectives now."

She found her voice. "Detective Simmons."

"You mean Detective MacGregor. Moved to Miami."

XXXXX

Jordan was just stripping off a pair of gloves when Garret came into Autopsy One. "Done?"

She looked up and nodded. "Yeah."

"Good. I've got another one for you."

Jordan groaned. "Do I havta?" Despite her frown, Macy saw the familiar spark in her eyes and knew she was thriving.

"Well, Bug's gone for the day; Sydney just went out on a vehicular case and I've got to testify in about thirty minutes. And seeing as how the body won't autopsy itself," he grinned. "Yeah, you havta."

"You're worse than the nuns. You know that?" She shook her head. "All right. What've you got?"

"Bank president. Found dead in his office after his three-martini lunch."

"So? The martinis didn't alleviate his stress and he had a heart attack."

Garret ignored her. "A heart attack that left him foaming at the mouth and clawing at his own throat?"

She sighed. "Which bank?"

He told her, wondering if it would register with her. It did.

"Garret…."

"He asked for you."

XXXXX

She could see him, head bent toward a young woman – probably the bank president's assistant – listening, making quick notes of what she said. He still looked good in a suit. Even from a distance, she could tell he kept himself in shape, too. As she neared him, she could make out fine lines at the corners of his mouth and his eyes. His hair, now carefully flat, was the same entrancing dark shade. She was mildly surprised to see a few silver strands at his temples. One of the uniforms approached her.

"Miss, I'm sorry. You can't-"

She flashed her badge.

"Oh, sorry." The young man turned made his way to Woody. "Sir. The M.E.'s here."

Woody turned. She was more beautiful than he had recalled and, God knows, he'd recalled her often, usually mentally kicking himself. She stood straight, her face a mask of professionalism and courtesy, but her eyes awash with a history neither of them could quite forget. He knew he should already be telling her the few details known to him, but he couldn't help but drink her in. Her black slacks and long-sleeved black t-shirt made her look severe, remote and yet vulnerable. The glint of gold at the hollow of her throat was not her mother's locket, but a man's ring. Pollack's? At last he recovered himself and approached her. "Dr. Cavanaugh."

Her look was appraising. "Detective. What do we have?"

He watched her as she worked, studying the body, making notes, taking pictures, directing that the corpse be removed to the morgue. She told him she'd have a prelim for him in the morning. For a moment his eyes followed her and then, as she neared the bank's doors, his feet took over. He caught up to her on the sidewalk.

"Jordan!"

She stopped, holding herself stiffly straight, wondering, dreading… hoping? She turned.

In the years since she'd left, since he'd walked out on Lu, he'd thought of all the things he'd say to her if he ever saw her again. He'd known what had happened – Nigel had let it slip about two years before, and it hadn't been a secret when she came home that she was widowed. So in his mind, he'd known exactly the right words to say, to tell her everything he'd ever felt, to apologize for the times he'd hurt her, to make certain she knew exactly what she meant to him. He'd had the scenes down pat, like an actor giving his thousandth performance as Hamlet. Every word deserted him.

Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes shone with tears she wouldn't shed. Tears that magnified for him the words she wouldn't speak. What now, Woody? I figured out how to put my heart back together with someone else and you want to break it again now that he's gone? She swallowed. "Something else, Detective?"

"I – Uh – I wanted to – to say Welcome back."

She nodded, her throat painfully tight, the words squeezed out by force. "Thanks, Woody." She stood for a moment, shifting. "I need to get back."

He nodded.

She moved a step.

His hand reached out for her, stopped her, drew her back. She met his blue gaze with her own honey one. He put a hand to her cheek. Not this time. I'm not going to break your heart ever again. Slowly, he dipped his head down and took her lips with his. Softly, briefly, he kissed her. And felt her kiss him back. They pulled apart, his forehead resting on hers. "There will always be an us, Jo."

"I know," she whispered. She extricated himself from his arms, which had somehow found their way around her. She ran one finger down his neckwear. Her smile was a thousand things in his eyes – fragile, heartbreaking, beautiful, promising. "I like your tie."

END