DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em; willing to stage a coup though.
A/N: I had no intention of doing a sequel to "If Ever Again" but the opening scene of this story wouldn't leave me alone and once I got started with it, the rest just kind of followed. There may be a third one, but I'm not sure. Feedback is always appreciated of course. Grin.
Receiving no reply to his tapping on the front door of what he would always think of as Max Cavanaugh's house, Woody opened the door. He scanned the hallway, just as Jordan emerged from the kitchen. She wore a terrycloth bathrobe; her hair was pulled up into a messy ponytail, her make-up non-existent. She was scowling, not having noticed Boston's Chief of Detectives yet. She shied when her eyes found him lurking in her hallway. He could see the flutter of her pulse in her throat. "Geez, Woody!"
"Sorry." He grinned sheepishly. "You didn't answer the door."
"Yeah." She blew out a puff of breath. "We're not having the greatest morning around here."
"My phone call?"
"Jo, I can get Garret to send someone else with me."
She looked at his face, the fine lines around his eyes slightly deeper as he made that puppy dog face at her. She shook her head. "No, it's fine. It's just – my dad's visiting his sister. I'd send the kiddo to Lily, but the baby's colicky and neither Lily nor Matt is getting much sleep. So… it's a playschool friend's house. Normally, that's not a problem, but it's like she knows there aren't any options and has to make it difficult for me."
Woody couldn't help but smirk at her.
She glared, then laughed. "Don't say it. Don't."
He held up his hands in defense. "Say what?"
"What my dad says at least twice a day."
"She's just like her mother?"
Jordan rolled her eyes. Then she called up the stairs, "Hannah Ro Pollack! Now!"
"Can't find my shoes," came the plaintive reply.
Jordan sighed. "They're down here. Come on! Mummy has to go to work."
The little sprite appeared at the top of the steps and Woody caught his breath. She was Jordan, the Jordan from Emily Cavanaugh's locket. Slender, her face alight with a mischievous smile that vanished when she saw they had an audience, replaced with a sly twinkle in her eyes. There was nothing of Pollack in her. Nothing.
The little girl's face took on the same scowl as her mother's. "I'm gonna make an edital about mummies who work."
"Editorial," Jordan corrected tiredly. "And just think, you'll have all day to work on that."
Woody grinned again. Okay, something of Pollack. He felt a flash of sympathy for Jordan. Two such strong-willed personalities melded into one tiny, recalcitrant being? Yikes.
Finally Hannah spoke to the stranger next to her mother. "Who're you?"
The detective's grin deepened. Oh yeah, she was Jordan and Pollack rolled into one, with at least a dash of Max in there. Woody stepped toward the stairs. "I'm Detective Hoyt. I work with your mom."
"Are you making her work today?"
"Um… yeah, I guess I am." He watched the dark eyes grow belligerent and defiant. "Make you a deal?"
That piqued her attention. "What?"
He gestured to her. "Come here."
He bit back the chuckle in his throat. His smile became conspiratorial. "'Cause it's a secret deal. Your mom can't hear."
He'd judged correctly that such an offer would not be refused. He flashed that smile in Jordan's astonished direction. "Go finish getting ready," he murmured as Hannah made her way down the treads.
"Who says I'm not ready?"
He looked her up and down. "Well, okay. I heard terrycloth was all the rage this year."
She glanced down and groaned, then sprinted up the stairs, depositing a quick kiss on her stubborn little angel's dark crown of hair.
Woody insisted they had time to drop Hannah at her friend's house before heading for Vermont. While he drove, Jordan called Max and asked him to come home early, just in case she and Woody got stuck out of state. When Max asked her what it was about, she said told him only it was an old case. She kissed her child at the door, marveling that the same girl who'd been wailing forty-five minutes earlier now ran, hand-in-hand with little Julia Campbell, to play in the Campbell's backyard.
She settled herself back in the car. They rode in companionable silence until Woody had navigated them out of Boston. He was the one who spoke first. "Hannah Ro?"
She smiled. "Hannah Rosemary."
"Any particular reason?"
Slowly she nodded. "Hannah means 'grace of God.' In the Bible, she was the mother of Samuel, unable to conceive until she prayed to God and her prayer was answered. Rosemary… well, remembrance."
He was quiet for a while. "That's lovely. Was she?"
Jordan glanced over. His face was calm, but she saw the tight set of his jaw. "Yeah." Her voice was soft, aching. "Not that I really – really prayed-"
"Not Jordan Cavanaugh," her interjected, his voice gentle in its teasing.
She smiled ruefully. "Right. But, yeah, she wasn't supposed to happen. I mean, he wasn't supposed to live long enough really. I could hardly believe it when I found out I was pregnant."
"Were you scared?"
She shrugged. "Terrified. But ecstatic." She drew a deep breath. "She doesn't look a thing like him. Never did." She laughed a little. "He always said he loved that about her. But she's got so much of his personality."
"Oh, believe me, I know." She groaned, closing her eyes and letting her head loll back against the rest. "I'm already dreading the teenage years. You know, Pollack called my dad. Made him promise to run background checks on all her dates. Encouraged him to greet them at the door with a shotgun."
"Think Max'll do it?" Woody asked with a laugh.
Jordan chuckled. "Dates? If Dad has his way, Hannah won't be going on any of those until she's at least twenty-five."
They lapsed back into silence for a few moments. Woody broke it again. "Does she remember – remember him?"
Now Jordan turned her head to watch the passing landscape. "She says she does, but I don't think she really does. Flashes, images here and there. And I think in time those will fade. He'll be a picture to her, a collection of videos. Not real."
She nodded, her throat too tight for words.
"You really loved him, didn't you?"
"Is that so hard to believe?" She looked at him, tears shining in her eyes. "I am capable of it, you know."
He swallowed. "I didn't mean it like that. Sorry. I meant – I meant – He didn't seem like someone you would…."
"He was a good man, Woody. I know it's hard for you to see that, but he was. He made a difference. In the world. In my life more though." She licked her lips. "He gave me Hannah."
Woody couldn't quite let it go though. The part of him that was still bruised after all those years pushed him. "He married you even though he was sick."
Her eyes closed again. "I knew."
She nodded, opening her eyes. "He asked me to marry him. Then he gave me a chance to change my answer."
"Did you – hesitate?"
Her lips jerked up into the smallest of smiles. "Not for a moment. We were married twelve hours later. In Vegas."
She nodded, her smile a bit bigger now. "Ed Deline and Danny McCoy stood up with us."
He took a deep breath. "Then you left Boston."
"Yeah. We thought we had a few months. I wasn't going to spend it cutting up dead people." She sighed. "Ended up with a honeymoon that lasted four years."
"The whole time?" He smiled, but the spark did not reach his eyes.
She grinned. "Well, the fourteen hours I spent giving birth, maybe not, but the rest of it? Pretty much. African safari, climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, visiting friends of his across Europe – Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Paris, Berlin, Italy, Greece." She paused. "Hannah was actually born in London." She laughed. "Which meant the doctors could understand my cursing during labor! Should have had her in Kenya."
Woody chuckled, actually finding that amusing. "You'd probably have picked up enough Swahili just for that purpose."
She grinned over at him. "Yeah. Probably."
"Do you ever resent him?"
She shook her head. "Why?"
Woody shrugged. "My dad. He – uh – he tried not to show it, but a part of him… he was really mad at my mom. For dying."
"It was different with Pollack and me. I knew."
"Did you hold anything back?" He wanted to change the subject, but the scab somehow demanded to be worried, tugged at, torn away cell by aching cell.
"Nope." She gave him an appraising glance. "And the funny thing? I probably would have if I hadn't known."
Silence descended again, settling this time for nearly a quarter of an hour. It was Jordan's voice that knifed into it this time. "Why Lu?" They were being brutally honest, so she figured, why not ask the question that had long haunted her.
As long as the question had dwelled in her mind, its answer had resided in Woody's. "She was willing to be mine."
Confusion wrote itself across Jordan's face. "I wasn't?"
He glanced over, shaking his head slowly. "That's what I finally realized about you, Jo. You always belonged to Jordan Cavanaugh; you always will."
He shrugged. "For years, I tried, I waited, I imagined what it would be like when you were mine. I thought – I thought that's what I needed. In life. And then – then we made love and it didn't happen. I thought at first it was Pollack, but it wasn't. It was never anyone else. Just you."
"Woody, I'm sorry. I – I – God, I…." She couldn't say the words. Loved? Love? Sometimes she was convinced God alone knew how she felt about Woody Hoyt.
"I know." And he did. Somehow he did understand her heart. "And it took me a long time – too damn long, Jo – to realize that loving someone doesn't really mean they belong to you. It means they're a part of you. And you're a part of them. Lu was never a part of me. In the end, I didn't really want her to be a part of me either. You gave me a part of yourself. That day when I was shot."
"I'd given it to you a long before that."
He reached for her hand. "I know. And then I - I tore it out of me. Out of my heart and soul, flung it back at you. It took me so long to realize what I'd lost. Longer than that night at the Inn, longer than when you were living here with Pollack, longer even than when you left. About the time I realized that I also realized I didn't need you to belong to me. I'd never needed you to belong to me – I just thought I did." He looked over at her; tears trickled down her cheeks. "Pollack always knew that, didn't he?"
She could only nod.
He drove, staring straight ahead, paying exaggerated attention to the road. Inwardly, he seethed with jealousy. She had come back to Boston. They might have another shot together. But it would never be like it was before. Part of her would always be with Pollack. He glanced over at her. She was fiddling with the ring she wore on a chain around her neck. Her dark eyes were glazed over as she looked out the window. "You know what I said," he murmured at last. "That day outside the bank?"
A soft, slow smile settled on her lips. "There will always be an us?"
"Yeah." He matched her smile. "Do you think it's – could it happen?"
She looked over at him. After a long scrutiny, she dipped her head slightly. "Possibly."
He let out the breath he hadn't known he was holding and then he grinned. "That day? I had it all planned out. What I'd say to you. I'd gone over it all in my head thousands of times." He shook his head ruefully. "One look at you and I couldn't remember a single word."
"Maybe that was for the best."
Jordan shrugged lightly. "Don't you think we always got to the heart of the matter when we just said what was on our minds, instead of trying to rehearse it?"
He thought of a birthday, a bunch of balloons and a ring. He thought of the hours lying in that hospital bed readying his "it doesn't change anything" tirade. He thought of all the moments he hadn't said anything at all, even when his heart had screamed at him to say something, anything. It became his turn to nod. "So… what now?"
She reached for his hand, making him glad for automatic engines and power steering, not to mention cruise control. "We start with you – telling me the secret deal you made with Hannah Ro."
He laughed. "Can't. It's secret."
"Come on, Woody. Spill." She regarded him slyly out of the corner of her eyes. "Who knows? It could lead to a 'deal' between you and me."
He groaned softly. "The circus. I told her we'd take her to the circus."
"We?" Jordan burst out laughing.
"Yeah." He was on the defensive unexpectedly.
"Oh, no, Farm Boy. You're on your own with that one." She laughed again. "Popcorn, cotton candy, sodas… yeah, you're on your own."
"I also hate clowns. And those stupid costumes the elephants wear."
"You can't hate clowns!"
She shuddered. "Yes, I can. And I do. Nope, she's all yours. Good luck."
He groaned again.
She smiled her broad, Cheshire Cat grin. "But she'll love it."
Woody grinned back. "And her mom?"
"I'll love not having to take her. Did you know she's been begging to go?"
"Didn't have a clue. I just figured kids like the circus." He squeezed her hand. "So, does Max's background-check-shotgun-at-the-door policy apply to you, too?"
Her full-throated laughter resounded in the car. "I don't know."
"Want to find out?"
She flicked up her eyebrows. "Are you asking me out on a date?"
After a moment, he shrugged and nodded. "Yeah. I am."
"We've never been on one of those."
"Might be a good place to start then, huh?"
"Might be," Jordan agreed.
Weaving his fingers between hers and tightening his grip on her, Woody thought again that nothing would ever be the way it had been. He also realized that might just be a good thing.