A/N: For all I know Jordan has perfect teeth. I, however, do not. So for the purposes of this fic I gave her my teeth. What she did to deserve them, I don't know exactly, but there it is. And for anyone wondering, it's true – Novocain doesn't work on some people – and thank the heavens above we have nitrous oxide!

Oops forgot to DISCLAIM in the first post: Don't own 'em. Willing, ready and able to stage a coup.

COMFORTABLY NUMB

Jordan forced herself to relax her grip on the vinyl covered arms of the chair. Vinyl covered, incredibly skinny arms she revised in her head. Tiny little arms… kind of like T-Rex. She sighed. And forced herself to quit tapping the tiny little, T-Rex, vinyl covered arms of the chair. She rolled her gaze toward the television hung from the wall. A soap opera played, two well dressed men having an argument. Jordan grinned. That's one way to get your fix. Work in a place where there's a reason for the TV be on… did that first guy just beg the other guy not to tell anyone about his troubles… with the I.R.S.? The M.E. snorted. Yeah. Right. Will Jenny find out about Derek's crushing tax problems? Will Derek be able to pay the government? Sure.

She crossed her ankles. Well, they do call this laughing gas for a reason, I guess.

The dental technician came back and checked on her. "How are you doing there, Dr. Cavanaugh?"

Like I can answer? I'm lying at an angle where the blood isn't exactly rushing to my head, more like making a slow, meandering jaunt there; I've got an ever-so-attractive paper bib clipped around my neck and I've got two rather inflexible prongs of God-knows-what sticking up my nose emitting nitrous… well, that's not all bad. Jordan settled for a slight and potentially lightly confused nod. That girl is too damn perky.

"The doctor's going to be right in and do your Novocain and then we can replace those fillings!"

Oh, goody! After that can I have some bunions removed? Maybe get a nice, all-over body wax? Jordan gave her a weak grin, hoping it wouldn't dislodge the rather ponderous apparatus the girl had affixed to Jordan's face. The nitrous oxide was the only thing keeping Jordan in that chair. Nothing personal, but she hated dentists. She had as long as she could remember. And days like this, she could remember a long way back. Howling at her mother not to take her. Begging her father to turn the car around. Fighting back tears every time they took x-rays because she already knew what the verdict would be: another filling. Only one if she was lucky.

"Poor Jordan," her father used to say. "Got my teeth."

And it had only taken her thirty years to convince whatever idiot of the day was filling her teeth that the anesthetic didn't work on her. One so-called professional had even gone so far as to tell her it was impossible and that she was just imagining things. Personally, Jordan still considered that one lucky to have all his teeth. Jordan would admit to having a vivid imagination, but, aside from the Marquis de Sade she doubted anyone had ever had one vivid enough to encompass the feeling of a dental drill pounding into very live nerve endings. And if anyone did have an imagination that vivid, that person had Jordan's full supply of pity.

"How we doing, Dr. Cavanaugh?"

Great. The man himself. She gave him that weak grin.

"Okay, we'll get you all numbed up here and then it'll be one-two-three and we'll have those old fillings out and the new ones in."

Jordan remembered one reason she was a medical examiner. No need for some faux cheery bedside manner. God, she hoped it was faux cheer! Anyone with that much actual good humor should be selling ice cream from a van that played a cute little jingle or hosting a nationally televised game show. She sighed and steeled herself for the inevitable needle pricks in her gums. No, the Novocain wouldn't exactly work, but the idea that it would seemed to be a comforting fiction they all maintained. And hey, what girl didn't light up at the prospect of having her chin and nose go numb? Because for that, the drug was highly effective. That and making her drool.

She took deep breaths through her nose, letting her imagination wander. She could almost picture those nitrous oxide molecules working their way into her brain, spinning her head around so that at least when that needle went in, it wouldn't hurt quite so… GOD! What the hell are you doing? Tranquilizing an elephant? And that was just the first one?

"Try to stay still, Dr. Cavanaugh," the dentist advised.

She clamped her eyes shut, afraid the death glare she'd otherwise give him might work and then, besides attending his lamentable funeral, she'd have to go through all this another day. Still? Still? You know, buddy, if it weren't for this stuff I'm breathing, you'd be peeling me off your ceiling, not just telling me to stay still. She pushed her shoulders back down and then made a conscious decision to move her thumbs. That made her giggle mentally – giggling physically probably would have resulted in her tongue getting its own dose of Novocain. And then she couldn't remember why she wanted to giggle in the first place.

Oh yeah. My thumbs. Hmm. Are they still opposable? Are they even still attached?

"You can rest your jaw now, Jordan." The dentist patted her shoulder. "We'll let you get numb for a few minutes. Okay?"

What? Huh? Oh, you. Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Did you know Derek there on the t.v. – the one in the gray suit? He owes back taxes. Shocking, huh? Shock-ing. Shock-ing. Shock…. Where'd he go? Jordan gave the ceiling a grin and then pulled her mouth back into a neutral line, hoping the technician hadn't seen the goofy look. Because Jordan knew it was a goofy look. At least she'd learned not to attempt any conversation while breathing this stuff. The first time she'd had the nitrous she had and… oooh, good thing her dentist then had been in his sixties, married forty years and maybe a tad deaf. Sure, Jordan, the only time you can admit your feelings is when you're high on something or terrified out of your skull. She almost giggled, but then realized the thought was somewhat sobering. And then she wondered what thought it was and why it was sobering.

She blinked her eyes a few times and decided to go with the whole stream of consciousness thing. It wasn't as if resisting it was doing her much good; her mind kept wandering, veering off on tangents, plunging through the underbrush of her psyche and… I wonder if that's the I.R.S. guy that Derek is afraid of. Look out, Taxman! Derek seems to be armed!

Jordan suppressed a snort. Like that little gun would do much damage from that range. Please.

"Still okay, Dr. Cavanaugh?"

The M.E. dragged her gaze away from the television, which was now showing a bleach commercial and probably had been for longer than Jordan realized. She gave the girl some muffled sound that the girl took for an 'okay.'

Jordan took another deep breath through her nose and marveled again that this stuff was legal. Controlled, but legal. She could just imagine Nigel's glee if he'd known this was the only way she ever had dental work done. He'd probably take delight in telling her exactly what the gas was doing to her brain cells. She pushed that thought aside – or, really, it sort of meandered away on its own – and she decided to wiggle her toes. This little piggy went to… Damn. Where did those stupid piggies go? One went to a market, didn't it?

Do I have any juice at home? I need juice. Orange juice.

Wow, oranges. Florida. I bet that's where Max is. I bet he's-

"All right, Jordan! We're all ready!" The dentist smiled at her, like the wolf in the story. No, Jordan had been thinking about the other piggies, the ones on her feet.

There are pigs on my feet?

"We're going to get those old fillings out and then Marcy will set the new ones and you'll be good as new."

Jordan snorted. Mentally, of course. Yeah. Good as new. Gee, thanks.

"Open wide."

Does anyone ever bite? I mean, on purpose? I'm sure some people do – reflex or something. But… meaning to. Hmm.

And then the nitrous wasn't working so well. Rather, it was working, but fighting an uphill battle. Like Sisyphus and that rock. Huh? God, Jordan, go back to thinking about the piggies. Greek philosophy and laughing gas…an odd combination.

Like me and… Pollack? Woody? Christ, any guy who stays with me more than ten minutes. And Doc? Yeah, you with the drill? Just as a reminder? The Novocain doesn't work! I can feel that! I. Can. Feel. THAT!

Shit. How did I stand this as a kid?

She took another deep, shuddering breath and the excruciation in her mouth dialed itself back to agony. Or that's what her brain told her. The rational part of her mind spoke up and reminded her that she could still feel it all with the exact same intensity, she was just fooling herself. Yeah. Wouldn't be the first time.

The drill stopped and Jordan breathed again. She shifted slightly in the chair, amazed to find her fingers had about welded themselves to those tiny, vinyl covered, T-Rex arms of the dental chair. She should consider prying them loose.

But not at the moment. At the moment, the dentist was asking her to open up again. She let her mind go blank as he drilled out the second of the old fillings. Images played themselves against her closed eyelids. She was floating above herself and, looking down, seeing the child who'd had these fillings put in.

The dentist moved on to the third one, which must have been the most difficult of the three because despite several deep breaths of the laughing gas, Jordan swore she could feel the exact rotation of the drill. She wasn't sure if she loathed its sound and wanted to rip it out of its electrical socket or if she just wanted it to spin faster, push harder, just to get it over with.

"We're almost done now, Jordan," the dentist told her soothingly.

Yeah, yeah. I bet that's what Torquemada always told his prisoners. Right before he turned the Rack a bit more or reheated the iron poker. Too bad the Inquisition hadn't known about modern dental work. It would have been right up their….

"All done. You can rest your jaw." The dentist patted her shoulder. "Marcy'll get those replacements in and you'll be all set. Another ten minutes or so."

Yippee! And in another twenty minutes or so, the entire lower half of my face will go numb so I won't even be able to take the Tylenol I forgot to take first. This day just gets better and… oh, come on! A gun that size wouldn't do that kind of damage. Sheesh! Stupid soap opera… good God, please tell me I only care because of the nitrous.

Jordan closed her eyes again and listened to snatches of conversation from some of the other exam and procedure rooms. Somewhere the dentist gave a hearty laugh and a patient a muffled reply. Elsewhere a child whimpered and Jordan's heart raced slightly. On the television an ad came on, its theme music that Five for Fighting song about life being short, having only a hundred years to live. The M.E. sighed softly and tried to redirect her thoughts away from the whirlpool where she suddenly knew they were heading. She hated maudlin sentimentality any time, but like this? It was enough to make her shudder. Although shuddering would have taken more effort than she could muster just then.

Marcy returned and in her perky voice asked Jordan to open up, explaining she was going to set the new fillings. Jordan just grunted. Her mind wasn't behaving. Her thoughts were spinning inexorably toward Woody. Or, more accurately, toward the long and winding road that had led Woody and her to wherever it was they were at the moment. Friends? Possibly. One-time lovers? Definitely. Future partners? Anyone's drug-befuddled best guess was as good as Jordan's. She trusted him with her life, her freedom and he'd proven himself time and again. She'd tried trusting him once with her heart and that hadn't gone so well. She'd trusted him with her body and, in her own stumbling way, her heart a second time. That had almost been worse. Had they been to the brink of too many cliff edges together? Slipped one foot over the precipice on too many occasions? Were the ropes that would help them climb that mountain together too frayed to be of any use?

Jordan winced as she felt Marcy grind the new feeling and she was glad for it; it masked the reason for the hot tears that had started in her eyes. She was afraid that maybe it was too late for the detective and her; maybe it had been too late for a while now.

But as the laughing gas molecules continued to interact with her brain cells, she also knew that she didn't want it to be too late. She needed the man who had once suggested what she needed was someone to hold her closer. She needed the man who had told her that deep down we always know what we want, not what we say we want. She needed Woody.

Marcy stuck some sort of pad between her teeth, where the new filling was, and told the M.E. to bite down and then move her teeth back and forward. Jordan obediently did as she was told. Marcy removed the pad and declared a little more grinding was necessary. Jordan's fingers clenched the T-Rex like arms of the dental chair again at the sound of the grinding tool. She could feel the throbbing pressure, but dimly. Her heart hurt more and there was no nitrous oxide for that.

The girl finished the other two fillings quickly and switched off the nitrous. She told Jordan to relax and breathe deeply of the pure oxygen now flowing through the mask. Again, Jordan did as she was told and soon her brain stopped feeling like it was just slightly too large for her head. Her nose and jaw began to go numb and she could feel the full ache in her mouth sharpening up already. It was still her heart that hurt most though.

Jordan snorted to herself. Now I have yet another reason to hate dentists.

When Marcy came back, she dismissed Jordan, reminding her to make an appointment for the other two fillings the dentist wanted to replace. The dark-haired woman skipped that part and headed home instead.

XXXXX

The knock on her door a few hours later surprised her. She'd left everything in good order when leaving early for the day and she'd told Garret that unless they had some untenable mass casualty situation, she simply wouldn't be able to come in until the next morning. He'd given her that knowing look – he was the only person, besides Max, who knew her exact feelings on all matters dental. She groaned as she got off the couch. She'd been staring longingly at the glass of water she'd poured half an hour ago and the Tylenol bottle she'd set next to it in the apparently premature hope that the numbness might be abating.

She peeked through the peep hole and gave another groan.

"Come on, Jordan. I know you're in there."

She rested her head against the door for a moment before opening it. She glared up at Woody, who was smiling and carrying… straws? With ill grace, she stepped aside to let him in. Woody was smiling mischievously at her. Her glare intensified. "Why are you here?"

The cop laughed softly. "I brought straws." He shrugged. "Though they might come in handy."

"Damn Garret."

Spying the glass of water and sliding past her, Woody said over his shoulder, "Garret didn't tell me."

She arched one eyebrow.

"Come on, Jo. You really think no one else knows how much you hate the dentist?"

She refused to answer.

He sat down and patted the cushion next to him. "Look," he popped one straw into the water and opened the Tylenol bottle. "Now you can take something for the pain."

"Great, so you figured it out. Congratulations."

He chuckled. "Nigel said to ask if the nitrous helped this time. And Lily was taking Bug with her to that New Age place she goes…something about doing some sort of ritual to help your… chakras? Something like that."

Jordan groaned yet again.

"Come on." He waggled the glass at her and the straw bobbed up and down.

She finally joined him and, trying to mask her eagerness, took the pills he handed her and sipped hugely through the straw. She put the glass back down. "Do you know how much fillings hurt?"

"I don't." He gave her a grin. "Never had a single cavity."

"I hate you," she muttered and then leaned against his shoulder. His arm slipped around her and he let her rest closely to him. "People like you… you're disgusting."

"I could get one." He looked down at the top of her glossy head. "If it would make you happy."

She snorted. "Novocain would probably work like a charm on you and wear off as soon as the filling was in."

"I'll have it done without anesthetic."

She looked up and, to her horror, felt drool sliding out of the corner of her mouth. "Great. Now I'm drooling on you."

Woody reached a hand up and brushed away the moisture. "I can think of worse things than having Jordan Cavanaugh drool on me."

"Name one," she challenged.

His blue eyes deepened and his face grew solemn. "Realizing I blew it with Jordan Cavanaugh and worrying that it's too late for another chance."

For a moment she stared at him, goggle-eyed. "I'm still at the dentist's. I'm still in that stupid chair."

"You think?"

She nodded.

"I hope the dentist never tried this." His mouth descended slowly toward hers and his lips brushed against hers with hesitant pressure. When she did not pull back, he pressed his mouth more firmly against hers and let his tongue tickle her lips into opening. With a lazy gentleness, his tongue delved into her mouth. She mewled quietly and let her tongue dance against his.

"No," she managed after he broke the kiss. "The dentist never tried that."

"Good," he whispered.

After a moment's study of his face, a moment of drinking in the depths of his blue eyes, of visually tracing the line of his jaw and of mapping the planes and angles of his forehead and cheek bones, she murmured, "Why tonight?"

He shrugged. "I figured you'd be weak and defenseless?"

She laughed.

"No," he shook his head. "I was thinking about you all afternoon, thinking about how many chances we've had and – and I didn't want to waste any more of them."

"I was thinking about you, too," she admitted in a small voice.

He rubbed the pad of one thumb along her cheek bone. "Really?"

"Yeah. On the nitrous. Sort of your basic stream of consciousness thing." She gave him a lopsided grin – the best she could manage with little or no feeling in her lower face. "You and Derek."

"Derek?"

Another attempted smile. "The guy on the soap opera they were playing. Her tone became grave. "He's in deep trouble with the I.R.S. And now probably the police. He killed the tax guy."

"That'll do it," Woody agreed.

"With a .22. From about a city block away."

The detective snorted.

"Yeah. That was my reaction."

He tilted her numb chin up. "So you thought about me and Derek?"

She nodded.

"Come to any conclusions?"

"Besides the fact that Derek couldn't have killed that guy with that weapon from that distance?"

"Besides that," he averred.

Her dark eyes glowed. "Yeah. We've been through a lot. Maybe too much."

"Jo-"

She ignored his protest. "I need you, Woody. Maybe it was just the nitrous… streaming along." She paused. "But I don't think so."

"I didn't have any nitrous today and I know I need you, so…."

She rested her head against his chest once more. "Where do we go from here?"

He combed his fingers through her hair, tugging her head back so he could gaze into her eyes. "You tell me what's still numb and what's not." He was smiling brightly.

"You know, I think I can feel just about everything now."

"Care to test that?"

Threading a hand into his hair, she allowed that she would indeed like to test that.

END