FEEDBACK: Yes, please. I respond to everything except flames. Constructive criticism is valued.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters. No profit is being made. It's all for fun – sick, mean fun at the moment, but hey…
A/N: NCCJFAN told to make myself feel really good, i.e. keep writing these. I got a lot of that actually – you guys all rock! Who am I to argue with what's working?
A/N2: The title does actually sort of have something to do with dancing – or so the twelve year old me doing "roller disco" in the garage would have insisted "back in the day." Cyber chocolate to anyone who can identify it. And thanks to those who suggested titles. I think there are doing to be two more of these. Stay tuned to find out for sure!
Jordan kept her eyes on the body in front of her. Her skin prickled dully as Woody peered over her shoulder. There would've been a time she might have enjoyed and even encouraged such closeness, but it was long past and, with each day, Jordan was more and more at ease with that. His hiss of indrawn breath caught her off guard. Instinctively she craned her head up to look at him. She wished she didn't, but she still knew him well enough to read his eyes and the set of his mouth. He was caught somewhere between fury and despair. Curious as to what exactly – besides her – could produce that combination, she followed his line of sight. A smile quirked up the corners of her mouth. Now let's see she thought this could be good. I could walk over there, wrap my arms around him and kiss him until we're both panting.
She gave herself a mental slap. No, one of them deserves better treatment than that. Not Woody, but….
She straightened up and moved around the body, aware now that the reporter's eyes had found them. She'd already seen the slight scowl marring his features. She understood it but hoped she'd have a chance before too long to correct Pollack's first impressions of this little tableau. For the moment, however, there was a young man whose death needed to be treated with respect. At least Woody had moved off a bit to ask questions of the hiker who'd found the body.
"Bug? Look at this."
Dr. Vijay bent next to her, taking in the area where she was pointing. His forehead crinkled. "It looks like… paint. Yellow paint."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. Hmm. Might give us a clue to where he was killed since it wasn't here."
Bug agreed with her and they both then concurred that there was nothing more to be learned in the field at that moment. Bug glanced over at her quickly. "I'll stay, make sure he makes it back to the morgue."
Jordan started to protest, but saw that Woody was heading back toward them. She'd found a lot of release in venting her feelings toward him in the past few weeks each time he tried to work his way back into her life, but this wasn't the time or place for another such incident. Instead, she nodded her thanks to her colleague and began walking toward her Blazer.
She was aware of Pollack's movement toward her. His trajectory brought them together at the door of her official car. Jordan found herself utterly tongue-tied. There were roughly a thousand things she wanted to say to him all at once – most of all that she'd been very very wrong – but she knew he was here for professional reasons. If – a big if – she got a second shot with him, it wouldn't be here. She also mused wryly that she'd be lucky if he didn't treat her the way she'd been treating Woody.
Pollack gave her a small nod of his head. Her heart beat faster at the signs of unease on his face. She didn't enjoy causing him anxiety, but the fact he wasn't glaring at her or – worse – giving her a blank, uncaring look made her wonder if there might be a chance. He swallowed. "Dr. Cavanaugh, any comments on the case so far?"
For a moment the world stopped. Flat out stopped. Her heart screamed at her to say all those things she wanted to or – better – kiss him. Her head whirled, came close to reaching an agreement with her rapidly beating heart and then the world spun again on its axis and she knew she had to do this the right way. "Um… yeah, sure." She gave him a nerve wracked, tentative smile. "We – Uh – We have the body of an unidentified male, approximately twenty to twenty-five years of age, Caucasian. Cause of death appears to be a single gunshot wound and um – the crime did not take place here."
Pollack's jaw about dropped. He managed to stutter out a "Thanks."
She gave him a tiny nod. "Any time."
They stood for several more heartbeats, staring at each other and then Jordan reached for the door handle. The click of the opening door rocked Pollack out of his stupefaction. He spoke even as she climbed into the driver's seat. "I missed you, Cavanaugh."
She lurched just the tiniest bit, her foot catching on the running board. His hand was on her, steadying her. Their eyes locked and Pollack thought he would lose himself in the bottomless warmth of her honeyed eyes. "Me, too," she breathed.
A look of confusion crossed his face. He moved his hand, loathe to do so, but wondering if the contact with her was fogging his thought processes. "Really?"
She could only nod, her throat painfully constricted.
"Cavanaugh, is everything all right?"
"No," she whispered. "But I think it just got better."
Everyone had else had gone home long ago, but Jordan was doing paperwork. Garret had taken one look at that occurrence and demanded to know what the aliens had done with his Dr. Cavanaugh. Lily had given her a curious look. Bug and Nigel had looked only mildly disappointed when she turned down their dinner invite. She didn't have the heart to watch them argue over which one of them always ordered the crispy eel, amusing as that usually was. She knew she ought to go home. He might be waiting at her door for her.
Or he might not.
For about the fifth time – in the last five minutes – she told herself to go home. Then she reminded herself that this paperwork had to get done sometime and it might as well be now. It was her stomach that betrayed her, growling without warning. The aroma of … What was that? Yao Chang's Mu Shu Pork? It had to be. Her stomach rumbled again and her mouth actually began watering. Her first thought was that it was another one of Hoyt's attempts.
Standing up from her desk, she strode around it, crossed the room and opened the door. The sight of a carton of Chinese food dangling before her eyes greeted her. "Damn it, Hoyt. When are you going to get the clue that-" She looked past the box as it waggled. "Pollack!" Heedless of food, time or place, she threw her arms around his neck and pressed herself against him.
After a moment, he pulled back, his brows drawing down in confusion, but his eyes dancing with something like happiness.
"How'd you know…?"
He grinned. "I didn't. But waiting for you at your place wasn't working either."
Her eyes widened and then she smiled shyly.
"Is that why you're still here?"
"Afraid I was there?" He searched her face. "Or afraid I wasn't?" His voice was soft, gentle, hopeful.
She shrugged, nervously. "Both?" She looked up at him, again half fearful of what she'd find in his expression and half fearful of what she wouldn't. Realization crawled over her that she was still standing just inside her office, Pollack facing her, holding dinner. She blushed. "Um, come in. Unless you just wanted to stop by and… make me hungry."
His eyes grew sly, but his smile did not falter. "Maybe that's just why I came by, Cavanaugh." He slid past her, noting the paperwork spread on her desk. "Mind if I…?" He gestured to the files.
Rather than answer, she tidied them up, clearing space for the Mu Shu pork that was soon joined by egg rolls, cashew chicken and steamed rice from the bag he'd held, unobserved by her, in his other hand. For a while they ate without saying much. Jordan thanked him for the surprise, impromptu dinner. They talked about D.C. politics and the Red Sox. The weather even seemed like a good topic for a while. As they neared the end of the meal, he held out the two fortune cookies toward her. "They say it only counts if you choose your fortune," he told her.
She grinned. "Yeah, and at the end of every fortune you add the phrase "between the shee-…." She turned about fourteen shades of pink and red.
Pollack's hand trembled slightly. "Right," he got out, his voice thick. "Go on then, Cavanaugh. Pick."
Feeling utter unease and mentally reprimanding herself for ruining what had been a pleasant evening, she plucked one from his hand, their fingers brushing slightly. Wordlessly, they each broke open the pale cookies and withdrew the small slips of printed paper. Jordan could not help but chuckle over hers.
"Well?" He looked at her with expectation.
She shook her head. "You first."
"Mine's boring as anything."
"Then read it," she prompted.
Shaking his head at her, he read off, "Your job outlook is bright." He waggled his eyebrows. "Between the sheets. Slightly illegal, I think."
"Now you," he prodded.
She shook her head, blushing.
"Come on, Cavanaugh. I shared mine. It's only fair."
Sighing, she conceded. In a tremulous voice, she read, "What's old is new again." She looked up, unable to add the jokey tag.
His eyes widened for just a moment and she caught the telltale flare of his nostrils. "Between the sheets?" His voice was soft, not expectant in the least. But not even remotely joking.
As much as she really would have liked to, Jordan wasn't going to take the reporter home with her. He wasn't going to push, beyond a quiet, "Hoyt?"
She shook her head. "No. God, no. A thousand times no."
"That bad?" His eyes were concerned.
"And then some."
He didn't say anything, his breath held indrawn in the sudden still quiet of her office.
"He was sleeping with Lu Simmons," Jordan blurted out. "He wanted to take it slow. With me. I finally figured out why." She tugged a hand through her hair. "Well, at least that's why slow became stop."
Pollack swallowed. "I'm sorry."
That was it. No anger. No recriminations. No reminders of the way it had all ended. Just a sympathy Jordan wasn't sure she deserved. "Thank you. I'm not sure I deserve that, but thanks."
He reached out a hand and brushed it over her cheek. "No one deserves to get hurt, Cavanaugh."
She gave him a tired smile. "What I did… to you…."
"Won't say it didn't hurt. Like bloody hell." Another soft pass at her face. "I also can't say I was that surprised."
She looked down, her face burning in shame.
He tilted up her chin with one finger. "Not because I think it's something you go around doing, Cavanaugh. Anyone could see the situation with you and Hoyt." He smiled at her, his eyes dark with concern and caring. "Maybe it was for the best."
She snorted, the power of speech seemingly gone.
"Better to know than always wonder?"
"Maybe," she murmured.
"Maybe you can start getting over him."
Jordan rolled her eyes at him. "Start? Believe me, Pollack, I'm over him."
His smile was enigmatic. "Know your Shakespeare, luv?"
It took her a moment, but she finally shook her head, exhaling forcefully enough to lift a lock of hair from her face. "I am not protesting too… I am, aren't I?"
He pinched his fingers together. "A little. Maybe."
She smiled, the first real smile to cross her lips in months, if the truth were known. By unspoken agreement, they moved to clean up the remains of the take-out. He then insisted on following her home and walking her to her door, despite her protestations that she was a big girl. At her door she thanked him, without inviting him in. She was going to learn this timing thing if it killed her! She did call out after him as he walked away however. "Hey! Pollack!"
He turned and cocked one eyebrow.
"How are – How are… you know… you and me? We? Us?" She laughed. "Whatever."
His grin lit his face. "We're good, Cavanaugh. Not perfect, but pretty good." He winked at her. "Dinner. Tomorrow at eight. Wear something red, okay?"
Laughing, she waved him away.
Jordan and Nigel were going over some of the trace analysis from the previous day's victim when Woody showed up. Lily was right behind him, trying to get Nigel's attention. The Brit tried to ignore her, but it turned out a source of his was on the phone with information possibly relating to the victim. He excused himself, glaring harshly at Woody as he left Trace.
Woody watched him go, his nerves stretching even tighter, if that was possible. He laughed. If the sound was meant to be cheery or light, it failed on both counts. He sounded a lot more like a sixteen year old trying to reassure his date's father he'd have her home by curfew, no funny stuff. "Nigel. He's really connected, huh?"
Jordan looked up at him. "Yeah."
Woody moved aimlessly around Trace. Whistling would have completed the portrait of "Man on Tenterhooks," but he managed to avoid that. "Speaking of sources, I see Pollack's back."
She gave him another uninterested, "Yeah."
"You two probably – uh…." He made a weird gesture that Jordan refused to interpret. "I mean, you know…."
She just arched an eyebrow. "Do tell."
"I mean – He probably – You two… Jesus, Jordan, do I have to say it?"
Suddenly Jordan remembered why she'd begged her dad for a cat. Some dark part of her nature enjoyed the idea of watching a feline toy with its prey. "Want me to say it for you, Detective?"
"Not really," he muttered.
"Hooked up? Went to bed?" She wetted her bottom lip with the tip of her tongue. "Had sex?"
"What do you care? Didn't want to be my rebound guy, remember? Wanted to take it slow. Your choices, Woody. Not mine."
"I told you why I care," he growled at her.
"Oh right," she snorted. "Because you love me."
"Sometimes I don't know why," Woody spat back at her.
She closed her eyes briefly. When she opened them she was chuckling. "Did you ever?"
"Know why you loved me," she clarified for him.
"Because – you're – God, Jordan, you're you!"
She didn't reply.
He dropped his gaze for a moment. Meeting her fierce look once more, he stumbled over the words. "You're smart, beautiful, dedicated, funny-"
"And I love moonlit walks on the beach," she mocked.
"I wasn't really trying."
He studied her for a moment, a new thought burgeoning in his brain. "Why do you care?"
Her heart beat once. Brush him off. Her heart beat again. Again? Her heart continued to beat. This is how you got where you are. She took a deep breath. "Something Pollack said."
"I can hardly wait," Woody told her, his eyes flat and wary.
"He seems to think I'm not quite over you."
Now Woody snorted. "You didn't give him a recap of our little go-arounds?"
She shook her head.
"Why not? I'm sure he would have loved that!"
"I think he may be right." Her voice was soft, devastation and ruin cradling it. Before a very stunned Hoyt could think of anything to say, she continued. "And I won't be until I understand what happened."
Hoyt choked on whatever excited remark had perched on his tongue. "But you want to be? Over me."
Steadily, she nodded. "I need to be, Woody. I can't do this anymore."
"Fine," he said, his voice rough, grating. "How can I help?" Jordan made a mental note to get a mop for the sarcasm.
Pretending he'd meant it, however, she said, "Tell me why."
"Why you put the brakes on. Why – Why you and Lu."
He pursed his lips. Could he lie to her? Find something to say that would bring her back to him? Be like every other important man in her life who'd lied to her at one point or another? It turned out Woody Hoyt wasn't that kind of coward after all. "You had to make a choice."
Her brows furrowed.
"After everything we'd been through." He had to swallow, try to convince his mouth not to dry out. "After the Inn."
Jordan remained still.
"You had to choose."
She watched him in silence for long moments. "You thought – You thought I'd leave Pollack." She closed her eyes. "As soon as I got back."
"It'd had been – been so long, Jordan. You and me. This thing between us. The desert, you chasing after – after stuff about your mom, Malden, James, Devan, karaoke…." His voice broke on a weak chuckle. "Cal. That – That stupid thing, with the ring, the shooting, Riggs… all of it. We'd made it through all of that and still got back to each other. And then you still had to choose."
Swallowing tears at what-might-have-been, she replied, "Do you know what you were asking of me? This choice you think should have been so easy?" She shook her head. "You're right. We'd been through a lot. The fact we managed to be friends again is probably some minor miracle – I'll ask Paul the next time I see him. But, despite that, Woody, you were asking me to choose the unknown over something secure."
"Pollack?" His voice reverberated with disbelief.
Jordan nodded. "He – He was never afraid of – of my problems. He didn't have illusions about me or put me on some pedestal."
"And I did?"
Her eyes welled up. "Didn't you?" She rushed on. "And I couldn't live up to it, Woody, even though, God knows, I actually tried. I wanted to in some ways. Most ways."
She shook her head, wiping delicately at the rims of her eyes. "The problem was – was reality. After all that time, after everything, how could I – how could either of us – ever live up to – to the hype?"
He spoke through clenched teeth. "You had doubts. About Pollack."
She shrugged uncomfortably. "Yeah. I did. Do." She sighed sharply. "I don't know. But I do know – He always saw me as I am, Woody. I don't have to worry about how to climb back up onto that pedestal – or down from it. Reality is enough for him."
He looked down at the floor, scuffing the tiles lightly with his toe.
She let the silence thicken for as long as she could stand it. "Why Lu?"
He looked up at her, defeat sliding across his blue gaze. "She never had to choose."
Jordan gave one short nod of her head.
"I took the easy way out, Jo." His voice was nothing more than a hoarse whisper.
"I know," she replied softly. For the first time in months, the anger inside loosened its grip on her. She no longer needed to hurt him. There's been enough pain between them to last a lifetime – or more.
He turned to go, stopping as he opened the door. "I'm sorry, Jordan."
She bit her lip. "Me, too."
She went home after lunch, her mind too scattered to focus on her cases. Garret hadn't said a word; Nigel had mentioned Hoyt's appearance to him. When she got home she looked about for ways to distract herself. She knew it was coming – the flood she'd denied, held back with her dam of anger and she wasn't ready yet. She began dusting, working up a good sweat as she moved on to the bathroom. It wasn't until she got to the kitchen – cleaning out one of the drawers you always seem to have – the one that collects odds and ends. Her fingers brushed the surface of the matchbook. The Lucy Carver Inn.
The dam burst and the tears she'd never shed, the tears she'd pretended hadn't existed, washed through and over her. She stood at the sink, white-knuckled hands gripping the edge of the sink, sobbing until her throat ached and her eyes burned. When there was nothing left, she stumbled to her bed, crawled under the sheet and slept.
When she opened her eyes, there was more darkness than light and there was a knocking at her door. Groggy, drained, muscles aching with grief, she sat up and looked at the clock. She groaned. Eight o'clock. She slid out of bed and made it to the door. She gave Pollack a sheepish grin as he took in her attire.
Gently, he reached out a hand to brush her cheek. "When I said 'something red,' Cavanaugh, I wasn't really thinking of your eyes."
She laughed briefly and then let herself be in his arms, let herself press close to him, let herself breathe deeply of his scent. She brought her head up and kissed him lightly on the lips. When he broke away, his eyes searched her face. Wordlessly, he slipped an arm around her waist and guided her all the way inside her apartment, pulling out his cell phone with his free hand.
"What're you doing?"
He grinned at her. "What do you want on your pizza, luv?"
Pollack stayed with her that night, listening to her, holding her. His gentle caresses here and light kisses there comforted without demanding, promised more without extracting from her what she didn't have to give. Yet. His body ached for her, but his heart was prepared to wait for her to choose, for him to be not only what she needed, but wanted.
Jordan didn't see Woody for several weeks. Whether he was requesting another M.E. or Garret was purposefully keeping her away from him or it was blind luck, she didn't know. She only knew that the wounds ripped open that day had finally drained of the infection. Genuine healing had set in at long last, and she knew, in time, what she'd had and hadn't had with Woody would simply be one more set of scars on her soul.
Unbeknownst to her, Woody had seen her at least once. He'd stopped in at the Beef n' Brew one night on his way home, only to find the morgue staff there. He might have even risked approaching them, staying except that Pollack had been with them. Pollack and Seely, actually. Matt looked a little uncomfortable, but the reporter was at ease, exchanging banter and laughter with those closest to Jordan as if he'd always been part of their group. Even then Woody might have dared it – he could always claim he was socializing with Matt – thought he could just about stand the way Pollack's eyes drank in Jordan every time his gaze slid over to her, but he caught the way she returned one of those glances. She was gone, someone else's, and happy to be. So the day, nearly a month after that final act in their relationship, when dumb luck threw them back together, Woody was unprepared for the welter of emotions going through him.
He'd been interviewing a witness when Jordan had arrived. He stopped and allowed himself a moment to watch her – and to gather himself, to try to hold the frayed ends of his heart together as best he could. It took a moment, but she felt her eyes on him. She turned and met his gaze. Her smile was professional. For the first time in five years, there was nothing more to it.
"Any thoughts?" Woody asked as he knelt next to her.
"Yellow paint again."
"You think it could be Striper?" Boston P.D. had dubbed this latest serial killer that because the M.E.'s office had determined the yellow paint found on his victims – four in four weeks now – was the kind used to paint traffic lines.
She shrugged. "You haven't released that detail have you?"
He shook his head.
"Then, along with manner of death, the fact the victim is a male Caucasian about – uh – twenty-two or –three and knowing he didn't die here? Yeah, I'd guess it's Striper." She stood up, wincing at the pain in her knees. She'd spent too long crouched over the body. "I'll get him back, see what turns up." She moved to get things rolling.
She looked back at him.
"I – I haven't seen you lately. How're you doing?"
She smiled. "Good. Thanks. You?"
He shrugged. "You know." He clenched one hand into a fist at his side. There was so much more he wanted to say to her. But she wasn't listening any more. She never would again. Funny, he goaded himself, looks like she made that choice you were so worked up about. "Um – God – look, Jordan, I just wanted to – to say…." He shook his head.
"Come on, Woody. What?"
He looked at her. "It sounds corny and – and uh – it's from some stupid song, but um – it was all worth it, Jo."
She cocked her head to the side. "What was worth it?"
"The ride with you was worth the fall… I think that's how the line goes." He blushed. "I know… corny, but it was."
Her eyes softened. She gestured behind him. "I think Detective Simmons needs you."
Her words shocked him, until he realized Lu must have finished her interview. "Yeah," he managed before Jordan strode toward her morgue Blazer. "Yeah," he murmured to himself. He turned to talk with the blonde.
Jordan glanced over at them once before pulling away. A line from another song came to her. The ache of old goodbyes. That's all it was now.
That's all it would ever be.