She finally let a fitful sleep overtake her hours later. At some point in the night, she rolled over, and Woody was sitting up on the edge of his cot with a blanket wrapped around his shoulders. His hair stood on end, and there was still a grey pallor to his skin, but his eyes were bright.
The fever was gone. It had simply been a bad reaction to the medication.
"Hey!" she threw her legs over the side of her cot. "You're up!" A strong flood of relief swept through her.
"Yeah." His voice was steady but weak. "How long was I out?"
"About eight hours. Looks like you're in the clear, though."
He rubbed at his eyes. "Then why do I feel like I've been hit by an eighteen-wheeler?"
She rose and quickly and crossed to the pile of food supplies. "You should eat something. You need to get your strength back."
He waved her off. "No! No more energy bars, for the love of God."
"Then at least drink some water. You're dehydrated." She passed him a bottle of spring water. He muttered a thanks and downed most of it in one gulp.
"Looks like we're almost out of here," he said, glancing up at the clock.
She only nodded, and he sipped at his water.
"I want to thank you, Jordan. Thank you for everything you did for me."
She wondered if he had any memory at all of the things he had said during the fever. "You're welcome," she said simply.
They stood in silence for a moment. The awkwardness had crept back into their conversation.
She looked for something, anything to do, and fussed with a stack of papers on one of the countertops.
"For what it is worth, Jordan, I am sorry. Not just for what happened with me and Lu, but for the things I said to you. I'm sorry. I know that doesn't count for a whole lot right now."
She kept her back to him, unable to speak, but nodded her head once, as if in acceptance of his apology.
"What happened?" He finally asked after a beat, his voice soft and pleading.
"What do you mean?" she asked as she turned to face him, though she knew, of course, what he meant.
"To us? When did it all go wrong?"
Well, when you slept with Lu.It was the first thought that popped into her head, but she realized quickly that much of her bright anger had broken with Woody's fever. And besides, she knew it wasn't entirely true.
They had never talked about what happened at the Lucy Carver Inn. It was not something they did, rather, it was something they avoided at all costs, talking about the strange nature of a relationship that existed somewhere between platonic friendship and romance.
It was time. If they didn't do it now, forced together in this small space, they never would. As painful as it would be, they had to hash things out. Perhaps then, they could both move on.
She thought of the events of the previous year, and the past unraveled in her mind like a film running in reverse, trying to pinpoint the exact moment things had begun to hurtle toward this inevitable conclusion.
"I don't know," she said thoughtfully and crossed back to her cot. "Maybe it was the ring."
"That ring…" he groaned and let his head drop into his hands. "What the hell was I thinking? Not one of my better ideas."
She hesitated, but if they were going to tell the whole truth, she needed to go on. "I didn't turn down the ring because I didn't want it. I turned it down because I was afraid I did want it." He looked up at her, confused and wounded, and she went on haltingly. "I couldn't think of one good reason not to take that ring. And that scared the hell out of me. But even so, I was going to ask for it back. Even though I was terrified. Then, before I could say anything, you told me you thought we were better off as friends."
"Come on, Jordan, you had to have known I didn't mean that. Why didn't you say something?"
"Who knows?" She smiled ruefully. "Not one of my better ideas." There was a beat. Her voice dropped. "And then you were shot."
He nodded sadly, and she didn't even need to ask the question. "I thought I'd never walk again. I didn't want to guilt you into staying with a cripple and then resenting me for the rest of your life."
She shook her head. "But even after you knew you'd walk again, you threw me out of your life. Why?"
"I remember the first time I saw you at that bank four years ago. I got a phone call from a buddy of mine from back home that night, and I told him I'd just met the most perfect woman in Boston. I was only half joking, but then you and I started working together more and more, and I knew I was right. I guess it started off as kind of a game, trying to get the hot M.E. to notice me. But I fell in love with you somewhere along the way, despite everything, you dragging me all the way across the country, landing me in all kinds of trouble.
"I loved you, Jordan," he continued. "I wanted to be with you. I thought if I showed you how much I loved you, you might love me, too. It took me almost four years, but I tried everything. I tried being patient, giving you space. I tried treating you the way you deserve to be treated. I tried that damn ring. Nothing worked. And then it took me getting shot to get you to figure it out. I was there lying on a gurney with a bullet in my gut, and you finally tell me what I've always wanted to hear. Afterwards, I had all the time in the world to just lie there and brood, and I kept getting angrier and angrier. It was like nothing I had done mattered. Was that what it took? Me almost dying? How could I ever do anything to top that? How could I ever be just good enough?"
She knew there was no easy answer to his questions. "You were so angry..."
"Yeah, I was pissed. But I was pissed at everyone and everything. There's a reason they take away your badge and your gun when you get shot." He smiled a humorless smile. "Then you started seeing Pollack. I had myself convinced that I was better off without you, but the truth was it killed me every time I saw you with him."
"I can't apologize for that, Woody. You said we were over, more than once, and I had no choice but to believe you and move on."
"Yeah, I think I understand that. But it didn't keep me from being jealous as hell. Then, I figured out that maybe you and Pollack weren't so happy together after all. And then we ended up at the Lucy Carver Inn."
She felt herself flush pink a little, and she looked down and fidgeted with her hands. "Yeah…" she exhaled.
"When we woke up the next morning, I thought I might feel over the moon or guilty or awkward. But I didn't," he shook his head in surprise. "I don't know, it just felt natural to me. Like we'd been waking up together every morning for years." He smiled at the memory. "But you were moody and barely talked on the drive back into Boston, and I knew you didn't feel the same way I did."
"I had just cheated on my boyfriend, Woody."
"I know, I know, and I think I understand now how badly you must have felt about it. Believe me, I know. But at the time, I didn't get it. All I could see was us getting back on the same treadmill."
"So, that's why the rebound guy line."
"We were standing there at your doorway, you asked me in, and I knew what would happen if I went inside. I couldn't do it. I knew how hard it was on you, telling Pollack the truth and then finding the engagement ring. Jumping into things so soon after all that was the last thing we needed. I would have been your rebound guy. Maybe not in the way people usually think of the word, but I would have been. Besides, starting things right after you ended another relationship just seemed sort of, I don't know…disrespectful. Like dancing on someone's grave."
She leaned forward. "But later…what happened? I really thought we had an understanding. Was I wrong?"
He knit his brows together. "I'm not completely clueless, you know. I'd started to hear things, started thinking. I thought maybe you might have used me as an excuse to end things with Pollack."
She swallowed hard. "I didn't use you. That's not how it was. What happened at the inn was about us, not Pollack."
"But it was all pretty convenient, don't you think?" There was no hint of accusation in his voice, just a sad weariness.
She said nothing. There was nothing she could say to convince him. He had hit closer to the truth than he knew. They were quiet for a moment as she let his words seep in.
"Why Lu?" She finally asked, and pulled her knees to her chest. She braced herself, not sure if she was prepared to hear the answer.
A look played across his face, and Jordan wondered if it was because he didn't really know the answer, himself. He wrestled with the question for a moment and then spoke. "After the subway bombings, she was pretty shaken. We ended up talking, and...we kissed. It was just one kiss, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. She wasn't afraid to show me how she felt. She wasn't afraid to need me. I felt like I could actually matter to her. Do you know how long it has been since I felt that way?"
"She's your ex-shrink, Woody. There's a conflict of interests there. She cleared you for duty after the shooting, but you almost died. People don't get over it just like that." She snapped her fingers and went on carefully. "I still see that same rage in you sometimes…like when you grabbed me yesterday."
He looked up at her, and his eyes were dark. He opened his mouth, let out a strangled noise, and then nodded quickly. "I'm sorry, Jordan…"
"I know you are. And this is none of my business, but I think maybe Lu is too close to the situation to see it." She took in a deep, steadying breath. "I think you need to see someone else. Professionally. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help, it's a sign of strength."
He only nodded, and then finally, "I know."
Jordan bit her lip. She hated sounding like a scold. "Besides, there are rules against it. She could get in trouble. Both of you, maybe."
"Screw the rules, Jordan. I've been responsible all my life. Since I was four years old and my mother asked me on her deathbed to look out for my little brother. When my dad died, my uncle was supposed to take us, but he didn't really want two teenagers, and Cal and I didn't want to change schools. So, I did everything. I cooked, cleaned, did the shopping, the laundry. Everything." He shook his head resolutely. "I'm sick of being responsible."
He was silent, and the revelations seemed to have worn him out. He drew the blanket closer around him. She rose and began to fold up her blanket and her cot.
"I'm happier right now than I've been in a long time. But Lu and I both know this is a just a fling." A small, sad smile pulled at the corner of his mouth. "God help me, I can't get you out of my system, Jordan Cavanaugh. I don't know what the future holds for any of us, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't hope that maybe there's still a chance for us somewhere down the road."
She looked across the gap at him. She knew she had to say something, to tell him that it was wrong for him to live in that hope, but she found that she couldn't.
The silence was broken by the sound of the tape and plastic being pulled off the front of the autopsy room door. Garret stepped inside with a reassuring smile on his face. "I just got a call from the CDC. Your test results are back, and you're free to go."
"Hallelujah!" Woody whooped and stood on wobbly knees.
"Now, go home and get some real sleep, you two."
"Twist my arm, why don't you?" Jordan tossed him one of the wretched energy bars. "Here, Garret. They're all yours."
He rolled his eyes and left them to gather their things. Woody pulled on his suit jacket, and Jordan slipped on her shoes in silence.
"Well, I guess this is it then," he said as they stood at the autopsy room door.
"Yeah. This is it. I hope you'll think about what I said," she held his gaze for a moment. "About getting help."
"I will. And I hope you'll think about what I said."
She took in a sharp, startled breath and found herself answering with a non-commital, "I'll think about."
"See ya 'round, Jordan," he said after a moment and moved down the hallway toward the elevator.
She watched him go before she headed back to the locker room for her street clothes. It would take her some time to make sense of everything that had happened in that room. If she believed in such a thing, she would say that some force had dropped them there together. As painful as it had been, she had her answers, and much of the anger and hurt she had felt had given way to a sense of peace.
Woody was damaged, not just by the shooting, but by a lifetime of tragedy and the burden he had been forced to carry on young shoulders. He was as imperfectly, fallibly, complexly human as the rest of them, after all.
And as she thought of the tether she had kept Woody on for years and her own doomed relationship with JD, she knew that she was not without blame for the tangled state of her life.
Maybe there's still a chance for us somewhere down the road…
She smiled in spite of herself as she shed the set of scrubs she had been wearing for the past twenty-four hours, and his words replayed again in her head even as she left the locker room and let the elevator swallow her back up.