DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Willing to stage a coup though.
A/N: I have either developed hypergraphia or ADD because I've got way too many stories going on. And the end does not seem to be in sight! At least this is a one-shot.
DEDICATION: To all who have reviewed. Thanks – it keeps me plugging away.
"I'm sorry," the young doctor told the small knot of people outside the ICU room. "There is no change."
"Can we – Can we see her?" Lily asked.
The doctor glanced back over his shoulder as if the mere suggestion could endanger his patient. "No more than two at a time. No more than fifteen minutes total every hour."
Wordlessly, Jordan' friends chose an order. Nigel and Bug. Sydney and Peter. Lily and Garret last. Lily insisted she'd stay, checking on Jordan every hour for those precious fifteen minutes. She charged the rest of them with finding out who had done this.
It took two hours for Woody to arrive. He'd spent part of that time arguing with Lu Simmons, his captain and Renee Walcott that a woman in a coma, suspect or not, did not need a police guard. He'd won in the end, though he suspected budget concerns were the real motivating force. He didn't care. He all but flew to the hospital to find that he couldn't go in for another hour.
Lily sat with him and they made small talk. Finally, he asked, "Where's everyone else?"
"At the morgue. They're going to find proof she's innocent." Lily gave him a sidelong glance. "You'd kind of think this might support that little theory."
"You'd think," the detective agreed softly. "Lu – Um – Detective Simmons…." He scrubbed a hand through his hair. "God, Lily, I screwed this up. Completely. More than you can imagine."
So, they talked. For real.
Jordan blinked and sat up unsteadily. She gasped at the figure sitting next to her bedside.
He smiled at her. "Hey, Sis."
"James? She looked around. Everything seemed… paler, a faded watercolor. "Where am I? What are you doing here?"
"Don't you remember?"
She shook her head.
She looked around again. There was only the bed she was in and the chair from which he gazed at her. "I don't think so."
"Oh, you mean this?" He waved his hand to encompass the pale blandness. "Yeah, let me rephrase that. Your body is in the hospital. You got a rather nasty blow to the head." He smiled stickily. "The good news is it should probably clear you of those murder charges."
"The bad news?"
He shrugged. "Coma."
"Coma?" Her brows knit down. "Am I dying?"
"Hard to tell at this point. Oh, they're worried about you. They all have their reasons. The doctors – well, you know how they are – hate to lose anyone on their watch; that lovely Detective Simmons and the equally charming D.A. Walcott would hate to see you get away in this manner; all those people at the morgue can't imagine losing their friend. And the cop? Woody Hoyt? Well, his reasons are a pretty big jumble. Some of them are quite touching." James leered. "Some of them involve quite a lot of touching."
"Enough!" She narrowed her eyes. "Why am I imagining you?"
"Who said you're imagining me?"
"Because it's that or I really am dead and the nuns, the priest and Father Paul were all right all those years and I'm in big trouble."
He laughed. "Really, Sis, you're not dead. Stop being so suspicious. And you're not imagining me. Not really."
"How to explain it….It's not easy."
"Find a way," she told him through clenched teeth. "Or coma or no coma, I'm going to strangle you, imaginary or not."
"I think you mean that."
She moved toward him.
"All right, all right." He grinned. "You're a lucky girl, Jordan. You're getting a second chance."
"At what? Killing you when you held Max hostage?"
He pondered that. "Well, you could."
Her eyebrow arched hopefully.
"Personally, I'd pick something a little more… meaningful."
"Meaningful. Something that has great meaning-"
"Okay. You're right. Look, here's the deal – you get to pick one moment of your life and make a different decision. Then you can see how it would have played out. If you prefer that version of your life…."
"Well, it's… sad. For those here."
"I die," she interrupted flatly.
"So basically I'm choosing life or death."
"You can boil it down to that," James agreed.
"You know, I'm not Jimmy Stewart and you're not Clarence the Fucking Angel."
He shrugged. "No. But you still get to pick a moment, see where it takes you, Sis."
She closed her eyes, sighing deeply. "Fine. I pick Mom never getting murdered."
"Can't do that."
"A moment from your life, Jordan. That's her life."
"But it affected my life!"
He nodded. "But it's not your life."
She thought again. "So I guess nothing from when I thought I'd finally get answers."
"Nope. Those are from other people's lives."
Jordan sat, hands clasped, thinking.
James surprised her by speaking softly and with something remotely like actual caring. "Here's a hint. Pick a moment you regret."
"Something that hurt?"
"Not necessarily," he told her. "Sometimes we get hurt even when we do the right things. Think of something that seemed insignificant at the time. Think of-"
"When I told Pollack I had maid of honor duties to attend to."
James regarded her for a moment. "You sure?"
The dim room around her dissolved. She stumbled slightly as she found herself suddenly standing upright, wearing her rehearsal dinner dress, slipping on her second heel. Pollack, coming out of the suite's other room, moved to catch her. "Easy, luv. Haven't even had any wine yet." His eyes twinkled. "Well, I'm ready. Let's get you to these maid of honor duties, shall we?"
Jordan regarded him for a moment, then she smiled, her face alight. "You know, I'm pretty sure Lily will understand if I don't make it."
His eyebrows rose. "Yeah?"
She nodded and pressed herself to him. "Yeah." Her voice was husky with desire. "Put out the Do Not Disturb sign. I'll put in a no call request."
He was leering happily at her. "And turn off your cell phone?"
Grinning, she tossed back, "I'll turn off mine, if you turn off yours."
"Hardly an offer I can refuse."
From across the room, she purred, "I hoped you'd say that."
Pollack moved back to Boston, wrapping up the investigation that had started in D.C. with some surprising results. The indictment of a federal judge, the hasty resignation of one of Boston P.D.'s top brass, the flight to a nice, non-extradition treaty nation of one of the mayor's longtime aides and the revelation of a conspiracy stretching back three decades, a score of murders and a host of other crimes. Jordan finally learned the truth behind her mother's death and found a way to make peace with it.
As she watched Pollack over a glass of celebratory wine, he smiled at her and reached forward to take her hand. "D'you really miss me, Cavanaugh?"
"Yeah," she said softly. "Yeah, I did."
"'Cause of Hoyt and Simmons?" His voice was even, steady, and Jordan knew he had every right to question her motivation. She'd questioned it herself.
"No." Her mouth quirked into a crooked smile. "I don't – Maybe a little."
He chuckled at her and sipped the imported Shiraz.
"But not – not because…." She bit her lower lip. "It wasn't because – God, how do I explain it?" She shook her head as if to clear it. "I missed you. I missed what – what we'd been like together."
His eyes watched her carefully, gravely.
"I was…." She gave a rueful shrug. "I was happy with you. I always knew where I stood with you; I knew – I knew you'd be there for me."
"We had our problems, Cavanaugh."
She drank a mouthful of wine. "Yeah, well… we did. But I'd never been one to stick around and work out any problems before."
"That little voice?" He grinned.
She smiled, lowering her eyes for a moment, a faint flush creeping up her neck and into her cheeks. "The cuckoo one," she affirmed. "You… wanted to work at what we had, seemed to think it was worth it."
"It was." His eyes deepened and he squeezed her hand. "It is."
A spasm of pain crossed his face. He spoke in a rougher voice before, gritted with hurt. "Would you do it again?"
Her brows shot up for a moment and she swallowed around the sudden painful lump in her throat. Wordlessly, she shook her head.
"Why not?" The hurt was still there, but a new emotion danced around it: hope.
She felt the tears start in her eyes. "It wasn't worth it."
"Because he's with… her?"
Vehemently, she shook her head. "Because I lost you." Her voice was a plaintive whisper.
Gently, he smiled as he rubbed the back of her hand with his fingers. "Nah, you didn't." His eyes flashed gaily. "I just got misplaced for a while."
Jordan hugged Garret tightly before he could escape his retirement party. They stood together for a moment, surveying the small crowd at the Beef n' Brew. Lily and Bug, laughing happily at something Nigel had said. Their two daughters, Eva and Miya, were being entertained by J.D., who was doing magic tricks – of all things! – for them and for the two little Pollack children, as well as Abby's son.
Garret shook his head. "Where did the time go?"
Jordan laughed. "I don't know. Sometimes it seems like yesterday that Lily left Jeffrey at the altar-"
"You and Pollack ran off to Aruba."
Another bright laugh from the new Chief M.E. "But it's been ten years."
"And two kids," Garret reminded her dryly. "Not to mention you new promotion-" he raised an invisible glass in her honor. "And his."
She just smiled and shook her head.
"Does it ever seem… unreal to you?"
Watching her children, J.D.'s son and daughter, she nodded, almost distractedly, as if his question had triggered something deep in her mind, something she couldn't quite name, but that lingered. "In a good way, though," she added.
"Yeah." He looked around the knot of people again. "I gotta go, Jordan. It's time."
She nodded and gave him one more quick hug. He slipped out without anyone else noticing. Jordan knew by midnight he'd be on a plane, heading off somewhere – he wouldn't say where – to roam around, get to know himself, he said. When he'd told her that a few weeks ago – when he'd told her she was going to be the new Chief – she'd joked with him. "It's about time."
"Yeah," he'd replied, his dark eyes deep and serious. "It is."
She knew what he meant. She'd spent so long figuring out who she was. She was lucky; she'd ended up happily married with two great kids, a nice circle of friends and a job that was often grueling, but generally fulfilling. And if she ever saw a certain blue-eyed detective and if – if – his smile could somehow still make her pulse speed up just a bit and if – if, if, if! – she ever wondered what would have happened if she'd fought for that instead of walking away… well, it was something she banished from her thoughts.
Their friendship had continued, somewhat cooler than before, almost entirely on a professional footing, and had become far less complicated. It was as if the subtext they'd spent all those years writing had slowly faded into the paper of their relationship. The ink was invisible, its meaning lost. Whatever instrument had penned all that had lain between them was gone, consigned to a desk drawer somewhere in the great bureau of Matters of the Heart.
But what is invisible can sometimes yet be seen and what has been misplaced can be retrieved. If it should be.
Looking at the group of people – her friends, her husband, her children – Jordan knew it was time. Garret's question, innocuous as it seemed, had been enough. This life – this place – was a happy one, and she could stay here, even though her heart was beginning to remember it wasn't real. But this life was also the easy way out. She owed herself more. She owed her friends more. She owed J.D. Pollack more.
She slipped as quietly from the restaurant as Garret had.
The first thing Jordan was aware of was a soft susurration of sound. The man's voice was low, etched with care and concern, and he spoke in an almost ritualistic way. Even before she opened her eyes, she smiled. Paul would be praying over her, one of the Psalms. She managed a dry croak, "It's not the Twenty-Third one, so I'm not dead, right?"
He looked up at her, a smile suffusing his own face. She'd technically come out of the coma the day before, but had remained unconscious. He laughed softly. "No, Jordan. You're not dead."
"Thank God," she murmured in her cracked voice.
She rolled her eyes.
He offered her some water, which she accepted gratefully.
"Someone hit you on the head. And this time you didn't even deserve it," he teased.
"How long have I been… out?"
"You were in a coma for almost three weeks." He glanced over at the bedside phone. "Which reminds me, if Lily finds out you were awake five minutes before I called the Morgue, I'll be in a coma!"
Jordan grinned and closed her eyes. She listened as he made the call he needed to make. After he hung up, he sat next to her again. "Think we should time her?"
She nodded. "Take bets."
"Can't." He grinned. "Gambling's a sin."
She opened her eyes and rolled them again.
"It is, you know." He was more serious now. "Especially when you gamble with your life, Jordan."
"No lectures right now, Paul. Okay?"
He reached out and brushed hair from her face. "Okay. But just for now.
Lily had either hit every green light between the Morgue and the hospital or she'd run a few red ones, because she made it in record time. Her face was alight with a smile so big it threatened to split her face. Paul said his good-byes once the grief counselor settled in.
Jordan turned to look at Lily. "Sorry I ruined your honeymoon."
Lily laughed. "You didn't!" She shook her head. "Wow, so much has happened."
The M.E. gave her a quizzical look.
So Lily told her what had gone on during her "absence," including the fact that a week earlier Woody, Nigel and Garret had put all the pieces together and found the real killer. "You're in the clear, Jordan."
The M.E. sighed deeply. "After everything?"
Lily nodded. "Even Detective Simmons couldn't very well see pursuing charges against a comatose woman who'd gotten that way because of – well, her own incompetence. Walcott wasn't even interested, apparently."
"Lucky me," Jordan replied with more than a little sarcasm. "If this is all it took…."
That produced a wry smile. "It does seem a little extreme."
"So," Jordan changed the subject. "You and Bug?"
The Grief Counselor blushed. "Yeah. Better late than never, right?"
For a moment, her friend could only stare at her. She managed only a soft agreement in the end.
"I – uh – I'm sure the others will be here soon. I about flew out of the morgue when Father Paul called. I talked to Bug on my way up to see you, so…."
Lily talked quietly, not wanting to tire Jordan too much, but too thrilled to have her back to sit silently. True to her prediction, the others trickled in, coming and going like a slow tide until the nurse shooed them all out, insisting Dr. Cavanaugh needed her rest.
Though she wouldn't have believed she could have spent three weeks in a coma and still been tired, she was. The door had hardly closed behind Garret and Nigel when Jordan's eyes slipped shut and she fell into a profound, but healthy, sleep.
This time when she woke up, the only sounds in the room were those made by the machines monitoring her vital signs and dripping saline into her body. It was dark out, but a light in the corner spilled out a pool of gentle light. As her eyes focused, Jordan noticed a figure standing near the window. It took her a moment to adjust, for her still foggy mind to determine it was Woody.
"Hey," she said softly.
He started a little bit and then turned, his eyes twinkling a deep, but brittle blue, his dimples showing as he smiled broadly, but stiffly. "Welcome back."
He didn't move, tension flowing off him in nearly palpable waves.
She put out a hand.
He crossed the short distance and sat down, taking her hand in his, rubbing her fingers gently. "You don't know how happy I am to see you awake."
She smiled. "No one's happier than me."
"Okay, yeah," he agreed. He looked down, unable to meet her eyes. "I – Uh – It's really hard. Watching someone you – watching someone lie there, not knowing."
"I know," she reminded him, her voice soft and sad.
He looked up and she saw moisture in his eyes. "There's a lot. To work out. You and me. I don't even know if you want. That." His broken sentences were punctuated with short breaths until Jordan thought he might hyperventilate.
She nodded. "Yeah, there is a lot to work out."
"If you need some time-"
"Don't you think that's part of the problem, Woody?"
He raised his eyebrows.
"If we're going to be together – or try to be together – aren't we going to have to work this stuff out that way?"
"Together?" He gulped.
"Together." She flexed her fingers in his grasp, wrapping them around his. "It's not going to be easy, but I think we've taken the easy way out for too many years now." Before he could voice the words in his throat, she cut him off. "And I'm not just talking about me, Farm Boy. You're almost as good at sabotaging relationships as I am."
Slowly, he lowered his head in agreement. "You're right."
"I'm always right," she reminded him with a grin.
He laughed and let her win that argument. Tentatively, cautious of the tubes and wires connected to her, he leaned in, gathering her into his arms, kissing her forehead in a soft, lingering way that held a lifetime's promise in it. He laid his mouth next to her ear and whispered, "I thought I'd lost you."
She leaned back, her smile at full-wattage. "No. I was just misplaced for a while."