DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Willing to stage a coup.
THANKS for reading! This is the final part.
A Place You Used to Call Home - Part Five
For a moment Jordan stared at him, her eyes glossy with new tears, her mouth a straight line. Finally, she dipped her head for a brief heartbeat and then looked back up to take in his deep blue eyes, as dark as she'd ever seen them, swimming in emotions she no longer thought she could stir in Woody Hoyt. "I – uh – I… I… yeah."
He straightened against her car. "Really? So… what? It slipped your mind before now? Or did you think I'd enjoy hearing it from Nigel?"
She shook her head, the tears now beginning to fall down her icy cheeks. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I've had a lot-"
"You think I haven't? All of here didn't… have a lot? God, Jordan! You've been gone almost six years and do you know how many nights of unbroken sleep I've had? How many nights I didn't dream about you? Do you know there hasn't been a single hour of a single day when I haven't thought of you? Did any of us – did I – ever even cross your mind?"
Her eyes flashed in warning. "Yes! Of course. All the time." She stiffened, standing straighter. "Wait a damn minute! Why are you mad at me? Your girlfriend is the one who tried to pin a murder on me that I didn't commit!"
"Ex-girlfriend, Jordan. Ex. Like my job was almost my ex-job, too. I did everything I could for you. We all did. And how did you thank us? How did you repay that trust in us? By running to Danny McCoy!"
She gaped, her jaw unhinged. With an effort, she closed it, her teeth clacking audibly. "Is that what you think? Is that what Nigel told you?"
He hesitated. "Not exactly. He said you'd been with Danny McCoy though."
"So you automatically assumed I'd run off to Vegas and – and what?" She snorted in disgust. "You want to know where I was most of the time? I was living out of a car, staying in places a day or two, doing whatever I could to get some cash. I finally ended up in San Francisco with this crappy little apartment and a job tending bar at a downtown meat market. I spent every day of my life looking over my shoulder, wondering if that would be the day someone finally found me, the day I finally got caught for something. I. Didn't. Do!"
Woody opened and closed his mouth several times. He'd stopped at the morgue for a report he needed, heard Nigel on the phone, talking to Max – about Jordan. From there, he'd learned she'd come back in the company of Danny McCoy. He'd demanded Nigel tell him where Jordan was, and when the Brit had said he thought she was visiting the cemetery, he'd hauled ass out of
there to come find her. He ran a hand through his untidy hair. "I'm sorry. I – I didn't… I shouldn't have said all that."
"No. You shouldn't have." Her voice was flat and as cold as the snow settling on the ground. "Thank you."
His brown knit down in confusion and consternation. "For what?"
"For everything you did… while I was… gone. For me. With my mom's… case. Dan- I just found out, a couple days ago, about all of it. That part of it, I mean." She tucked a lock of stray hair behind her ear. "So, thank you."
He nodded slowly. "That's it?"
"What more do you want, Woody?" Her voice was surprisingly level despite her roiling emotions. "I know you put your ass on the line to clear me, too, and I'm grateful for that."
"How about 'I missed you, Woody,' or 'I thought about calling.' Something like that?"
She stared at him, the winter chill beginning to seep through her coat. "Do you really think I just walked away from everything – everyone – here and never thought about any of it, any of you? Of course, I missed you. Of course, I thought about calling. There were times I wanted to pick up the phone and just tell you to come get me, that I didn't care anymore, that I just wanted to be home – even if home was a BPD jail cell – that I wanted to quit looking over my shoulder." Her breathing hitched and she bit back the tears. "I wanted to see familiar faces – faces of the people I… love… loved."
"You didn't trust me? Is that it?"
Her shoulder slumped. "God, Woody! I trusted you! I distinctly recall standing in my office pleading with you to help clear me. I just – I couldn't do it anymore… couldn't keep wrecking your life – all of your lives here – with mine. I wasn't even sure about coming back here now."
She shivered. "Oh, for God's sake, it's freezing out here! Can we do this somewhere warmer? Get some coffee?"
He looked down for a minute.
"I'm not trying to run away, Woody. I'm seriously freezing my ass off out here! I'm enjoying the snow and all – it's been six years – but I'm not going to enjoy it much longer if I get pneumonia!"
He agreed and asked where she was staying. He raised his eyebrows and whistled when she told him. "And they have a coffee shop?"
She shook her hand in the universal noncommittal gesture. "More like a mock, Parisian sidewalk café, but yes." At least it lightened the mood for a moment.
Forty-five minutes later they sat in the corner of the mock sidewalk café, sipping lattes and nibbling on the sandwiches Woody had ordered when he realized Jordan hadn't had lunch. As she warmed up from the outside, she felt her emotions thaw as well. He was entitled to a measure of his anger, after all, and she could imagine how she would have felt had the situation been reversed.
He broke the awkward silence by asking where she'd been. She gave him the abbreviated version, having told it so many times over the past week or so that she wished she'd had cards made up to hand out. Awkward silence was soon replaced with burning anger.
"You've known for eight months? Vegas Boy found you eight months ago?"
She sighed and repeated her mantra of having needed time to absorb everything she'd learned.
"I'm surprised you bothered, Jordan," he spat back. "You could have sent a postcard from sunny Las Vegas. I'm fine. Vegas Boy is fine. Vegas is fine. Don't wish you were here. Don't call me, I'll call you. Maybe."
"That's not fair," she scolded.
"And you staying away all this time was?"
She set her jaw for a moment. "All right, Woody. You want to score points off me? You want to let it all out? Go ahead. I deserve at least some of it and if it makes you feel better…." She ended with a shrug.
He stared stonily at her, silent, fuming.
"Go on, Detective Hoyt. Let me have it. Tell me everything I did wrong. Remind me how many times you put everything on the line for me and how many times I screwed up your life. Give me all the details of how you helped catch the man who killed my ex-lover. Don't leave out the fact that he was my ex because I'd left him for you. And be certain you include how you didn't want to be my rebound guy and you chose instead to get involved with one of your colleagues, the one who was content to go along with the frame the real killers had designed for me!"
"Jesus, Woody. You don't think maybe I needed – deserved – some time to try to sort everything out?"
"You could have called. Not me. Fine. Someone."
She shook her head, her eyes fluttering shut for a moment. "And what? Who would have been on the next flight? You? Nigel? Lily? My dad? Or how many phone calls would there have been? Asking when I'd come back or when someone could go out there?"
"We would have respected what you wanted, Jordan."
"Really?" She wiped away a tear. "God… I love all of you here. You were more my family than my own dysfunctional mess, and I know you all would have promised." She took a steadying breath. "Right until the point someone wondered aloud if I was really okay or if maybe I didn't know what was best for me. Again."
He swallowed hard.
"I needed time to heal. I needed space to do that." Her voice dropped. "Danny gave me all that."
"I'll bet," came Woody's derogatory sarcasm.
She glared at him. "Think whatever you want," she told him, suddenly weary. "You always did anyway."
"What the hell's that supposed to mean?"
Pain knifed through her, along with a loss and desolation she wasn't expecting. He'd known, always, that she was complicated; he'd thought knowing it had been enough. She wiped away the tears brimming in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "This – I can't do this anymore."
She pushed back her chair and fled the small café setting.
She gazed over the skyline from her once-familiar perch on the morgue rooftop. The skyline was much the same. The setting sun painted the sky beautiful, soothing colors and had etched them in her memory. The distant traffic sounds, so muted up here, played in her head like a well-known song, perhaps a lullaby even. It hadn't changed all that much, but she had.
Her roots were here; they always would be. She had finally learned to make peace with the past, to forgive the sins committed by others. And to forgive herself for being a child unable to wring from the perpetrators justice for her mother, for being a daughter who loved perhaps too well, though not always wisely, for being a woman, passionate and devoted to her job even when it created problems for others. Most of all she forgave herself for having fallen out of love with the one man she'd once thought was irreplaceable in her world.
The slate was as clean as it would get. It would forever carry the palimpsest of everything wrought in her life before Pollack's murder, but that she could live with. She could live with the memories of the awful times and the great ones, with the tears and the smiles, even with the moments of confusion and of clarity.
She once thought her life had ended that morning when she woke up with a corpse, but now she knew that it had just gone on hiatus until she could figure out in what direction she was meant to travel. And for the first time in her life, she knew what baggage to carry forward with her and which to leave behind. She could not change the past and the past could not be the future.
She opened her cell phone and speed dialed. He greeted her with easy warmth. She smiled. "You know those big metal rooms that shoot across the sky?"
He laughed a bit. "Yeah. Yeah, I do."
"Well, the one I'm shooting across the sky in should arrive in Las Vegas in about eight hours."
"I'll meet you at your gate."
"Thanks," she purred. "And Danny?"
"I've missed you." She paused a beat. "I've missed me with you."
"Me, too," he assured her.
She closed her phone and shouldered her carry-on bag. Garret was waiting to take her to Logan. Her goodbyes had all been said.
All except one. And she had finally figured out that she'd said that goodbye long ago standing in a precinct hallway.
I've grown up a lot this year.
And I haven't?
Some things need no words.