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: Though the actual show continues to do its God's-honest best (as far as I can tell) to encourage me to dislike Woody this year, writing these has softened me up again toward our blue-eyed boy. I'll just pretend that last bit of "Save Me" didn't happen, that he didn't do something really nice for Jordan while basically on his way out on a date with Lu. I'll stop at the letter thing.
A/N2: Set about eighteen months after "Stepping Out."
Put on Your Dancing Shoes
Jordan sighed as she kicked off her shoes coming through the front door of the place she rented with Pollack. It had been one of those days. Long. Depressing. Four autopsies, all straightforward. No mysteries or surprises. You'd think after all these years, she'd be inured to the damage one human being could inflict on another, but she wasn't. Stabbing a guy to death over a pool hall bet. Running down a neighbor who accidentally killed your son's dog. Shooting a woman for the shoes on her feet. Sometimes she thought those cases were the worst. So little regard for human life.
She dropped her keys on the small table by the door and glanced around, smiling tiredly to herself. She'd been so uncertain of this move, but had vowed to herself not to let fear rule her relationship decisions so, when Pollack had come to her, the rental ad for this place in hand, she'd taken a deep breath and agreed to look. She'd fallen hard for the condo. Tall and narrow, there was a small den, eating area and kitchen on the ground floor. The ultra modern décor had resisted being soulless, its hard wood floors gleaming in the mellow light, the light marble countertops and cherry cabinets warm and inviting. The second floor contained a large master suite with a bathroom Jordan previously had only dreamed about. She'd scoffed at the whirlpool tub – until the first day she'd slipped into after a long shift. The small second bedroom was perfect for the guests they rarely had. The third floor had a small storage area and a door that led to a roof deck, where they'd had a number of summer barbecues, laughing, talking, watching Sox games, even stargazing when Bug brought by his telescope.
Jordan felt settled. Happy even. There was a quietness, a predictability to her life that she'd never thought she'd find appealing, but she did. After so many years of inner turmoil and outer conflict, of dancing close to others, only to whirl away again at the last moment, she felt calm in her world. For the first time since her mother's death, she could look back at the most recent year of her life and find no new wounds, no old ghosts. She'd even managed to make some peace with God, a fact on which Father Paul congratulated her. The healing she'd denied herself for so long had overtaken her, replacing the anger without robbing her of the passion and drive that had always motivated her.
She peered into the kitchen, a bit surprised not to find Pollack there. It was his night to cook. Maybe he was grilling. She'd learned a lot about the Aussie passion for tossing meat onto an open flame. It always amazed her the local E.R. hadn't learned more about it, too, but he never so much as singed an eyebrow. She made her way up the stairs and, finding their bedroom dark, kept going to the roof. She saw him through the French door.
His back was to her as he sat in one of the deck chairs, looking out over the city. Her brows quirked down at the small collection of beer bottles next to him. She opened the door and stepped out. "Hey," she called softly.
He craned his head back and replied in kind. He held out a bottle to her, inviting her to join him. Wary, she accepted the invitation and sat next to him, studying his face. His eyes were red, his cheeks slightly puffy, the skin a little loose. She took a small sip of the beer. "What's wrong?"
He took a deep shaky breath.
"Pollack?" She watched in concern as tears slipped down his face. "Pollack?"
He looked away, closing his eyes and leaning his head back. "My sister called." A swig of the beer. "Dad and Mum were in a car accident." More beer. "It's – It's…."
Tears starting in her own eyes, she reached for his hand. "How bad?"
He coughed. "Mum died in the ambulance."
"Oh, God." Jordan's breath rushed out of her. She'd never met his family, but she'd talked to them on a number of occasions. They'd been nice, open, enthusiastic about her after Pollack had sung her praises.
"Dad's – Dad's not gonna make it."
"J.D….." When she used his first name, it was serious. She slid to her knees between their chairs and reached for him, holding him as he wept silent tears.
He clung to her, her arms the only anchor to sanity, her scent the oxygen keeping his lungs going, her heart reminding his how to beat. It wasn't even the suddenness of it all. It was the guilt. He hadn't been home in nearly ten years. He'd longed to take Jordan to meet them or have them come to meet her, but he'd let his own fear throw up roadblocks. Things were so right when it was just the two of them, when it was their world, and he just didn't want to risk that. He pulled away, bringing his hand to her face, bringing his mouth to hers. God, she was warm and alive. The kiss was chaste, an expression not of passion, but affirmation. He then wrapped his arms around her, stroking her hair, reveling in every tactile proof of what they were together. "I'm going home," he murmured at last.
Against him, she nodded. "Do you want me to come with you?" Just a hint of the old Jordan, the one not entirely sure of her footing in these situations.
He sat back, regarding her solemnly for a moment before bringing one hand to her cheek. "Yeah, of course, I do." His voice ended with the contradiction unspoken.
Jordan said it for him. "But?"
He thinned his mouth for a moment, trying to find the words, knowing what would happen when he did and dreading it. "I – I want you with me more than you can know, Cavanaugh." He took a breath. "As my wife."
She swallowed. "Pollack-"
"Shh, luv. I – I can barely do this. But I've got to get it out." He felt like he couldn't get enough air. He stroked her cheek again. "You'll never leave Boston, Cavanaugh, and I'm not coming back. I know you love me, but you love this place more. Shh. Please? And maybe this isn't right for us. 'Cause I think if it were, we'd have changed our situation a long ago." He dipped his forehead to hers. "I've never loved any woman more than you and I've never regretted a moment with you. Never will either. But maybe it's time to move on. For both of us."
Jordan looked up at him, seeing the lie in his eyes, knowing it wasn't for her benefit, but his, knowing, too, that he was right. He'd have married her in a heartbeat anytime since they had reunited if he'd thought she'd agree, but he'd known. Deep down, she'd known. Tears falling down her face, she nodded. "When do you leave?"
He closed his eyes. The words came out in a hoarse whisper. "Tomorrow night."
She nodded, her throat too tight for words to escape.
He'd moved around enough to know better than to accumulate a lot of possessions. He packed his clothing, some books and photos and she promised to send him anything else once he got settled. She told him not to worry about the lease – she'd find a way to swing it. She called Garret and told him she needed the next day for personal matters. He probably thought she was pregnant or something. She didn't elaborate. She couldn't.
The rest of their time together, they spent making love, talking, holding each other, crying, smiling, laughing. As she fell asleep spooned against him, Jordan whispered, "Thank you."
"For what?" he murmured.
"For loving me."
"How couldn't I, Cavanaugh?"
She grinned. "Cuckoo, remember?"
He chuckled against the back of her neck. "Nah. Just who you are."
When he woke her the next morning, it was with coffee and croissants. He admonished her not to cry. "You still have the whirlpool," he teased.
She laughed in spite of herself.
She drove him to Logan and sat with him as long as she could before he had to go through security. They sat over a table in one of the ubiquitous bars, holding hands, sipping sodas desultorily. They said little, just rubbing each others' fingers in a last moment of intimacy. Pollack checked his watch. "I'd better go."
She squeezed his hands. "I can't do this."
"You can, Cavanaugh." He leaned across and kissed her gently.
"Okay, I don't want to."
The moment balanced on her words. He could have said "Come with me, then. We'll make a life together, be happy. You'll never miss Boston." He could have, but he didn't. It wasn't true. She would miss Boston, miss Macy and the rest of them, miss herself because so much of what made her Jordan Cavanaugh was wrapped up in her history and that history was in this place. It was something she could not- and in his mind, should not – shed. So, instead, he shook his head. "Make you a deal?"
She sniffed. "What?"
"You've always told me things here have been like a dance, right?"
"And you got tired of it, took off those dancing shoes." He wetted his lower lip. "I think your feet needed time to rest, Cavanaugh. And I think maybe you're ready to put them back on."
"If this is about Woo-"
"It's not," he said softly. "It's about you. It's always been about you, Jordan. For me anyway. And I think – I think it's time." He shrugged. "Maybe I'm wrong. So here's my deal." He drew forth from a pocket a ticket folio. "It's a ticket to Sydney. One way. Six months from today. If I'm wrong – or if it's me you want to be dancing with – I'll see you at Kingsford-Smith in six months. If I'm right… well…."
She bit her lip.
She nodded and took the folio.
They walked slowly toward security, holding each other tightly, one believing it might not be the last time, the other knowing it was. He kissed her gently, but thoroughly, wanting to drink in her taste, to memorize the softness of her lips and carry them with him forever. She watched until he disappeared around the corner. So this is one way to end a mature relationship. She swiped at the tears. It still sucks.
She came in the next morning, her eyes hidden behind her sunglasses. She went directly to her office, shutting the door softly and going to stand by the window. She looked out without seeing anything. She had spent a nearly sleepless night. The condo bore his stamp everywhere she looked. The sheets on their bed smelled of him. A number of his toiletries lurked in the shower. She'd finally given up on more than broken sleep and read. A book he'd left behind.
She didn't hear the tapping at her door, but jumped when Garret called her name. She turned like a guilty thing surprised. He took one look at her, noting especially the dark glasses and figured she was in trouble. Ready. Set. Go. He cleared his throat. "Can we talk?"
Without energy, she nodded, drifting to her chair and sinking into it.
"Any chance you could take those off?"
She slipped the glasses from her face, revealing her red, puffy eyes, shadowed by circles so deep they looked like bruises.
"Jeez, Jordan. It's not that big of a deal – I mean, you know, you don't have that much to worry about!" He watched her face – the pain, confusion, even anger – and knew he'd figured wrong. At least partly. "You're – You're pregnant, right?"
For some reason, the question cut deeply. She'd known it was what he would think, would ask and she'd half-planned a smart-ass rejoinder about it being triplets. She'd not expected the clenching in her heart and dull ache in her soul. She shook her head.
"I – uh – I thought… sorry. After yesterday…."
She nodded. "It wasn't that."
"No." She sniffed. "You're closer though. Pollack's parents. Car crash."
"God, Jordan. I'm sorry. How's he – I guess he's-"
"On his way to Sydney."
"And you're not."
She shook her head. "He asked me. Sort of." She swallowed hard against the tears. "He's not coming back and he knew I'd never really be happy anywhere but here."
"You sure about that?"
"No." She reached for a tissue. "Maybe. I don't know, Garret. He wanted to marry me."
"He has for a long time."
"Yeah. But he said if it was right for both of us, we'd have done it by now." She bit her lip. "I think he was right."
Macy reached a hand out across her desk and squeezed her fingers. He'd never tell her that, because Max was nowhere to be found and Macy was the closest thing to her father, Pollack had come to him, nearly a year ago. Asking for permission to propose to Jordan. No, it may not have been right for both of them, but it had been right for one of them. He wondered if Jordan would ever know exactly how much Pollack loved her, walking away from her when she was his world, letting her go. The reporter may not have been Macy's favorite to begin with, but the man had proven his worth. He couldn't know how closely his thoughts mirrored those Pollack had pondered as Macy wished he could say to Jordan just to go, that she'd be happy there, even though he knew it wasn't true.
Jordan thought the first few weeks would kill her. She worked without really noting what she was doing, ate without tasting a thing, slept without feeling rested and cried without end it seemed. She'd been hurt in her life – God knows she'd survived more than most people could take in their entire lives – and she'd always found a way back to her feet. She'd always fought back, as if anger and righteous indignation were an even match for the ache. For the first time, she had no reason to be angry, no defenses against her feelings. There were no "easy" answers, no illusions, no "figure out who killed your mother and everything'll be fine," no "get your dad to tell you what he's hiding and life will be good." She couldn't do anything. She lost count of how many times she picked up the phone, dialed his number and then hung up before she got to the last digit. He wanted her, she knew that. He also needed her to want him, more than anything else. He deserved that. And she had six months to figure out if she ever would.
One evening – he'd been gone two months – she sat in her office, not ready to face the cold, darkness of home yet and something Paul had said to her years ago came back to her. "Jordan, I hate to break it to you, but, between you and God? It was never a choice." Tears trickled down her face as she suddenly understood what he'd felt. It had never been a choice.
She'd tried to make it one, but it never would be.
Pollack had known. He'd known all along. He'd loved her anyway, given her so much of himself without demanding any guarantee of her feelings. He'd quietly, consistently and generously helped her fit back together the pieces of a shattered emotional life. And he'd left her still put-together. Yes, he'd taken a piece – maybe more – of her with him, but that was all right. She was not a puzzle, destined to remain forever incomplete due to a few missing bits, but a mosaic, whose beauty came from the whole formed by its pieces.
Her feet itched.
Her dancing shoes were calling.
Pollack had been gone nearly a year. He'd called her a few weeks back. He was getting married. She's not you, Cavanaugh. Who is? She dances well though.
It had hurt. She didn't even try to deny it. But in the end she knew it didn't diminish what he'd given her or what they'd shared.
Garret stuck his head in her doorway. "Body. Commonwealth Health Club." He rattled off an address.
She smiled at him. "Got it."
It turned out to be a simple case of heart failure. Poor guy had eaten himself to three hundred pounds and then jogged himself to death trying to shed some of it. She finished her report, copied it and was readying it to go over to the precinct so the detective – Woody – could close the case. She almost bumped into him in the hall.
He smiled at her. It had been a difficult two and a half years for him. She'd never been rude or cold even, just so blandly professional. He'd seen her work with other detectives, like Capra or Santana or even Seely, and get just as passionate about the forensics and speaking for the dead as she always had, but never with him. He often found himself wishing for the days when she'd been confused about their relationship, uncertain, angry with him even. Indifference turned out to be the worst Jordan Cavanaugh could dish out to him. "Hi, yourself."
"I was just getting ready to send this to you." She handed him the report.
She shook her head. "Completely natural." Then she grimaced. "If dying on a treadmill while wearing red shorts, a white t-shirt three sizes too small and listening to the Bee Gees can be considered completely natural."
His grin widened, the dimples at the corners of his mouth appearing. "No, I don't think it can be called completely natural." He tapped the folder's edge against his free hand. "Um… you heading out?"
"Yep." She looked up at him. "You? Back to the precinct I mean."
"Uh… yeah." He shifted from foot to foot. "Maybe not."
She arched one brow.
He swallowed. "Wanna grab some dinner?"
She regarded him steadily for a moment. Put on your dancing shoes. It's time. "I'd like that."