FEEDBACK: Yes, please. I respond to everything except flames. Constructive criticism is valued.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters. At this point, I'm not sure I'd want to...
A/N: Pretend with me here, folks: Woody has grown up, Woody has grown up… Just keep chanting it and it might be true. Probably not, but for the purposes of the story, just keep thinking it!
A/N2: Jordan. Woody. The Kinks. A song about dancing. One of my "desert island" songs (you know, one of your top ten or twenty or whatever number of songs that you could listen to for the rest of your life if you were stranded on a desert island – with unlimited battery power apparently)! This was the inevitable conclusion to the series.
DEDICATION: 2kool4skool who kept hoping I'd be able to like Woody again and write some J/W fic. This counts I think. And for everyone else who still isn't certain, don't worry, I haven't resolved all my Farm Boy issues. Not by a long shot!
Prickles of sweat teased the back of Woody's neck. He reached up to loosen his tie and then caught himself. Damn but his shoes pinched and he was pretty certain that the flowers in his left hand had dripped water onto his suit pants. Swallowing painfully, he knocked on her door.
"Be right there!" he heard her shout.
His stomach twisted in knots that would have made any boy scout proud as his mind ran through every way in which this could go wrong. He half expected (no, more like nine-tenths expected) her to come to the door and announce she'd changed her mind.
The clack-clack of heels across the floor behind the door put to rest some of his anxiety. She wouldn't be in heels if she wasn't going to go through with their date. Would she?
He had to avoid that word. He really, really did. A date. With Jordan Cavanaugh. Almost three years after he'd just about nuked all chance of ever having anything but a professional relationship with her. After six weeks of casual, impromptu dinners of pizza or sandwiches or Chinese. Always after work. Always spur of the moment. Always on neutral ground.
And then last week. "Woody, I'm not doing this again."
"The whole dance."
He'd looked down for a moment before meeting her eyes. "I wasn't sure what you'd want."
She'd shrugged. "I'm not sure what I want either. I'm sure that I don't want things the way they were though."
"What if it … doesn't work?"
"Then it doesn't work, Woody. I just can't do it again."
So he'd asked her out. On a date. And then spent the four days in between hoping she wouldn't change her mind.
He was holding his breath when she opened the door. She smiled at him, her head inclined as she finished putting an earring in. He couldn't speak for taking her in. She wore leather boots with a slim heel, a pencil thin, knee-length leather skirt and a red top that flowed over her hips, dipped between her breasts and left her arms bare. Her dark curls flowed over her shoulders, sculpting her face which wore only enough make-up to highlight her beauty, not to overwhelm it. Woody felt his jaw unhinge briefly and then he found his voice. "You look beautiful."
Her mouth twitched into a wry grin and she tossed back some wise-ass comment, but he noticed the faint blush creeping over her skin. As lightly as she could, she asked what the plan was, did he want to come in for a drink, her voice hinting at the anxiety beneath her smile.
He declined her offer, explaining they had reservations "somewhere special" in half an hour. As she stepped into the hall and pulled the door shut behind her, his hand slipped into the small of her back. He waited for her to stiffen, to slide away from him, to give him a look declaring that he had overstepped his bounds. She didn't say anything. Maybe he imagined it, but she seemed to step slightly closer to him even. Whatever the reality, his head swam as he touched her for the first time in three years.
He caught his breath and she pretended not to notice.
They made small talk and toyed with more food than they ate at dinner. Afterwards Woody suggested a new little bar, much like the Pogue had once been, where they could grab a drink and maybe a dance or two. She agreed, and they found themselves seated at an oak bar, drinking pints of Guinness, sparring lightly over a case and enjoying themselves. Someone punched up "Unchained Melody" on the jukebox. Woody held out a hand to her, unable to speak. She smiled at him and slipped her hand into his offered one. He noticed she was shaking slightly as he pulled her close to him.
They moved easily together, the rhythm between them long ignored but never totally lost. He brushed a stray lock of hair from her cheek and sucked in a harsh breath at the soft feel of her cheek beneath his thumb. The digit lingered briefly, brushing her face ever so softly. Her eyes fluttered shut and stayed that way as she laid her head on his shoulder. His arms tightened about her.
The quiet murmur of her voice in his ear took him by surprise, sent waves of desire through him. "A lot like old times."
He looked down and she met his gaze. Their eyes locked for a moment, before she looked down at their feet. Still there. Grinning like an idiot, Woody tilted her chin back up. "Not quite," he replied.
He shook his head. Her eyes spoke the volumes her tongue wouldn't. He answered the mute query. "I finally grew up."
He took her home at an hour any father would have approved and kissed her respectfully at the door of her condo. She didn't invite him in and he didn't expect her to. Too much water had flowed under the bridge – all the bridges they'd crossed together and apart – for her to let him back into her life fully so soon. She'd let him in when she was ready. That no longer bothered him. He'd had plenty of time to accept that as much as she had shut him out at times, had pushed him away, he had done the same thing. The only difference had been her unflinching honesty. He'd hidden behind his carefully constructed façade and then blamed her when she tore it down.
They dated for a while, took it slow, but steady. This time there were no stops and starts, no backtracking. There were also no illusions. He saw her for what she was, not what he wanted her to be, and he found he loved her even more than he ever had imagined possible. She knew the veneer of the naïve Farm Boy had long ago been stripped away, as had the varnish that lay beneath – the controlled, self-sufficient boy who'd been the Man of the House far too young but had succeeded. What she found in his place was a man who knew and accepted his limitations, who no longer saw the world in solid colors and who wasn't looking to save her because he didn't know how to save himself.
Summer came early that year. June days were hot, the nights, balmy and soft. Good weather for throwing some steaks on the grill, making a big salad and eating it all up on the roof deck. Add a nice bottle of wine and life was almost perfect.
Pleasantly full, they sat in companionable silence, watching the sunset painting the western sky beyond them in gaudy pinks and lavenders. They sat in the lounge chairs, their fingers entwined, the music from the tiny speakers weaving itself into the air around them. Neither had to work the next day, nor were they on call. They were content for the moment to sit, lazy and calm, letting the songs say everything and nothing at the same time, feeling each other in their loose grips.
"Jordan." His voice was soft, tentative.
"Woody." Her voice was light, teasing. She smiled languidly. "Now that we've established we know who each other are…."
He smiled at her despite the turmoil in his chest. "I – Um – Never mind."
She watched him, sideways, from beneath her lashes. They were both so different now, but they kept tripping over how it used to be, scraping their knees on the jagged what ifs that remained. They were trying to get to know each other again, but their shared history made it treacherous at times; the way they still felt about each other didn't always help – but sometimes it did. Jordan smiled softly to herself as she reached for the iPod and wheeled the song list to something else. She pressed the play button and waited.
Woody watched her but he couldn't see what she did. It took a few seconds, but a familiar beat began. He looked at her, to find her honey eyes smiling at him. Her lips twitched up into a grin and an invitation. Woody stood up and tugged her along with him, drawing her to the center of the roof garden, an area that made a perfect dance floor for a couple. They moved, sometimes together, sometimes at arm's length, shaking and shimmying (he actually left that part to Jordan – it was safer), but each time the chorus came around, he pulled her into his arms and murmured the words to her. On the last refrain she lifted her face to his and they sang it together. "Come dancing…."
His mouth dipped down to hers for a gentle kiss. He pulled back softly, resting his mouth against her ear. "I love you, Jo."
Her face buried in his neck, she smiled. "You sure?"
"I'm sure, Jo."
"Things are different," she told him.
"I know. That's good, don't you think?"
She leaned back and looked up at him. After a long moment of scrutiny, she agreed. "Yeah. Yeah, I do." She shrugged, the motion too casual. "Besides, not everything has changed."
He played along. "Yeah…like what?"
"I still solve most of your cases."
"And I still have to remind you you're not a cop on every one of them."
They both laughed.
"You another thing that hasn't changed, Jo?"
She arched a brow in silent response.
"Every time I see you I want you just a little bit more than the time before."
She caught her breath.
He held her tightly against him. "Do you ever feel that way?"
She leaned into him, pressed herself against him as she murmured in his ear, "Come dancing, Woody."
"I thought we were," he told her, his voice low and throaty.
"Different dance floor," she breathed.
It was his turn to ask, "You sure?"
For an answer, she slid from his embrace, took his hand and led him toward the stairs. He followed her to the second story landing and then along the short hall to her bedroom. This time she was not running from that thing which scared her more than all others. This time he wasn't, in some vague way, trying to save her. Their immediate past was not of bruised anger, sullen silences and tentative restoration, but of ease and warmth and the simple pleasure of getting to know each other without walls or facades. This was not the endpoint of a years-long dance, frustration, fear and desire finally winning out, but the beginning of a lifelong one, built on love between two people who finally knew what they needed from each other – and what they gave each other.