A/N: (PLEASE READ): This is actually the first CJ fanfic I ever wrote and it has sat on my hard drive for over a year, waiting for me to find exactly the right ending, until I finally realized that it already had that, for me. All I needed was a sentence or two. In a lot of ways, it's appropriate to post it now – it's my fiftiethCJ fic (not counting a couple of Nina LaVough efforts), so somehow it seems right to post it. It's a big milestone for me and it's a post-"Push Jump Fall" piece, which was a big milestone in terms of plot arc for the show.

Thanks for reading and reviewing over the past forty-nine fics!

DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Ready, willing and able to stage a coup.

WORTH ALL THE WHILE

Unseen but steady mist wrapped itself around her. She sat unmoving, knees drawn up, hands clasped around her denim-clad shins. The day wound down, afternoon fleeing with each breath. The wind rose, whipping up tiny white caps on the ocean's leaden surface. Time to cut today's losses and - and what, exactly?

Really, what was she supposed to do now?

Go back to the small, dingy hotel room, picking up take-out on the way? Eat fried clams or fish

and chips or something else destined to raise her cholesterol and bring an early onset of

heart disease? All while she brooded on the absolute mess she'd made of her life.

Not brooded, she mentally corrected herself. Reflected

Right.

Reflected. Great word. It implied looking back, taking stock and using what you saw to

improve the situation, whatever it may be. Only she couldn't seem to see anything.

Nothing. Except a leaden sea under a tin sky.

Maybe because you wouldn't like what you'd see some other version of herself whispered in her head.

When Garret had suggested Jordan take some of her vacation time, get away (get outside her own head a bit, he meant), this probably wasn't what he'd had in mind. Get out of Boston for a while, leave behind the already-grim early winter weather. Go to the beach, Jordan. Sit around, maybe read a few trashy paperbacks.

He'd probably meant Acapulco. Maybe somewhere further a field. Majorca? A small island in the Aegean? Fiji?

She was fairly certain the Cape in early December hadn't headed the unwritten list.

He'd probably envisioned leisurely meals in small local cafes, a little flirting with the waiters

who spoke about four words of English between them.

The Fishing Pole ("Take out our specialty!" and yes, she grinned every time she read the sign's unintentional humor) and the taciturn, pimply youth invariably behind its greasy counter didn't fit the bill, did they? Even if Jordan had never heard him utter more than three words of English. Identifiable English at any rate.

Garret had most likely been thinking of books like "Lady Lenore's Lust" in terms of reading material. You know, Jordan, something with a cover showing a well-endowed heroine wearing a half-torn, ruffled gown, valiantly resisting the -ahem- 'blandishments' of the villain she really loved and would redeem. Something written by someone with the improbable name of Bliss Langley.

Not battered true-crime books she'd unearthed at the local second-hand shop. Books with covers that showed blood splatters, gleaming knives and the occasional set of skeletal remains.

Books by people with "M.D." after their name or described as "formerly a homicide detective."

Then again maybe this was exactly what Garret had expected of her. Maybe it was exactly what everyone expected of her. Even if they'd hoped for something different.

Even if she'd hoped for something different.

She sighed, telling herself again to get up. The sand was getting damp and cold. She stood and stretched, arching her back to ease the ache in it. She wondered - briefly - how long she'd sat there. Her gaze flicked to her wrist; she reached up to push aside the long sleeve so she could check her watch. Then she stopped. It didn't matter. She'd been sitting on this damn beach every day for almost two weeks and nothing had changed. Knowing how many minutes had ticked by in the process of her life standing still wouldn't help.

She ran her fingers through her hair, grimacing at the sticky salt-heavy feel. Oh well, she could stand under the shower for an hour if she wanted to. It wouldn't be the first time in the last two weeks.

In the last six months. Wait...seven? Don't count, Jordan. Just don't.

She began walking along the sand. Only her own footprints greeted her. She thought of times when she was a child, when her parents would take her to the beach and she would try to stay in her father's steps, leaving no trace of herself in the sand. It had been a game then. Now it was an uncomfortable metaphor. Nearly a mile back to the parking lot with only the sandy ghosts of her morning's passage to prove she'd been here. The tide would wash them away and tomorrow she'd renew them, only to have them washed away. Every day. Yep, pretty damn uncomfortable metaphor.

She walked slowly, taking her time, knowing it would be almost dark by the time she reached the parking lot. Hers would be the only vehicle waiting on the blacktop. The summer crowds had departed long ago. Another uncomfortable metaphor. Jordan admonished herself to stop looking for them.

As she walked, hands in the torn pockets of an old sweatshirt, tennis shoes leaving those impermanent zig zag patterns she couldn't find the energy to lament, she let her mind drift as it did every day to how she got here exactly.

"Head out on I-93..." she murmured softly.

She snorted without enthusiasm. That little joke had been old the first day. But it gave her a momentary reprieve, a few easy seconds when she didn't have to think about Woody, about the years that had gotten her here, about the last time she'd seen him - in the hospital.

Still, she forced herself to think about it. She couldn't have said exactly why, except that this was what she did with everything in her life. The things she couldn't control anyway. The things that made her feel.

He'd told her to get out. Now. She'd felt the protest rising in her chest. Her steps had faltered, ever so briefly, as her courage had fluttered and then fled, taking with it the words she wanted to say. Wanted to say. Jordan Cavanaugh. Wanted to tell him that she did love him, that it wasn't pity, not even close, that she'd love him no matter what the specialists said, no matter the outcome. She'd gotten out.

With a vengeance. If he didn't want her in his life, she wouldn't be. She'd spent her life watching the backs of people she cared about as they retreated from her. She'd go Woody Hoyt one better. She'd refuse to watch.

She'd thrown herself into work. Autopsies were done as thoroughly as ever and the reports came in a manner so timely Garret would have probably had her checked out for some exotic disease. She'd stopped thinking to herself how Woody would be as surprised as Macy. Or she told herself she'd stopped thinking it.

The day they'd found out the shipwreck that was the S.S. Slocum was being abandoned, she'd celebrated with everyone else, not even looking around for Hoyt. Or not looking around more than once. Or twice. Or most of the night.

She'd given Nigel a vague smile and muttered something blandly encouraging the day he'd told her Woody was being released from the hospital. She'd kept her face a mask when Nige had talked about the progress Woody had made, how he still had PT to do, but he was going to make a complete recovery. She'd taken personal time the day Woody went back to work. Coincidence. She'd been avoiding her dentist and it turned out he had an opening that day. Big coincidence.

She'd said nothing when Garret tried to give her Woody's first homicide back on the job. He'd taken one look at her, seen the marble coolness in her eyes (seen a terrified plea was more likely, but she wasn't going there) and suddenly remembered she'd mentioned dinner with Max and it was getting late and... Yeah, she'd agreed. And gone home to a microwave pizza. Max had been God- knows-where. Maybe Jordan's dentist had known.

No one had commented on the circles under her eyes or the weight she lost; everyone knew better. No one had said his name. If conversations came to a screeching halt when Jordan entered the room, if Lily rushed from her office to divert Jordan's attention at times, if Garret juggled cases to let Jordan keep her distance from a certain detective, it had all became routine, accepted. Jordan had pretended not to notice the concern in their eyes or hear the sympathetic notes in their voices.

She'd pretended her heart didn't stop the day there'd been a cop killed. Again. But she couldn't pretend she could do the autopsy. She couldn't pretend it wasn't Woody's face she saw when she looked at the young patrolman. She couldn't pretend the shaking in her hands would go away.

Macy had told her to get out of Boston for a while.

"How long?" she'd asked.

He hadn't answered for a long moment. Then he'd been blunt. "Until you get your head and heart on the same page, Jordan." And then he'd told her, oh so lightly, to go to the beach, to read those trashy paperbacks.

And she'd gone.

She'd gone, wondering if she'd be back. Not when.

She stopped. As darkness descended the air seemed to get heavier. She stared for a few moments at the surf, watching it draw closer with each wave. If...

She shivered softly and turned toward the parking lot. Her car sat under the one working light. Jordan's brow creased at the sight of a dark-clad figure sitting on the hood. She started to shout something when the figure stood up and began walking, slowly, with a trace of a limp, toward her.

She closed her mouth, the angry protest at the invasion of her space forgotten. The one time running would have been successful and her feet might as well have been in cement as sand.

"Jordan." Damn it, his voice was as soft and knowing as ever.

She shifted, one hip outthrust, her pose defiant. "I could outrun you, you know."

"Not funny," he replied, his blue eyes dark and grave.

"I wasn't trying to be funny."

Clenching his jaw, he looked away for a moment. When he looked back, those eyes drew her in, commanded her to meet his gaze. "I can't do this anymore, Jordan," Woody told her.

Anger and an uneasy humiliation boiled within Jordan. She struggled to keep her voice even. "You made that pretty clear in the hospital, Woody."

"Jordan-"

"Forget it, Woody. I really got the hint, okay?" She began to push past him, but he grabbed her wrist, his fingers gripping painfully. She stopped and, over her shoulder, gave him the frostiest glare she could manage. Too bad the touch of his hand was quickly melting the angry ice around her heart. "Try a bit lower," she told herself in an effort to deny her feelings were anything more than a residual physical longing.

"Jordan, would you let me finish?"

"I thought I had," she spat back.

He took a deep breath. His eyes burned in the growing darkness. "Please?" He hesitated. "Jo?"

Jordan turned, clenching her jaw, but saying nothing. Her gaze was mutinous yet Woody saw something deeper in her eyes.

"I can't do this anymore." Seeing the instinctive quality of her reaction he regretted his choice of words. Rushing, he started anew. "What I mean is ... I - I can't - I need you in my life."

"You told me to leave me you alone!"

He looked down for a moment, his fingers relaxing infinitesimally around her wrist. "I know.

I was - I was in pain. I was scared, hell, Jordan, I was terrified. I was angry." He took a breath. "Angry at the situation, angry at myself and, okay, yeah, angry at you a little bit."

"Me? Why? Because you thought it was pity?"

He looked at her, his eyes hard and searching. "Because I felt like you didn't - I don't know -

I don't know how to say it. Like I didn't mean enough to you until you thought I might die."

Shock took Jordan's breath away for a moment. "You know me better than that. You know my - how I am."

He shrugged. "Yeah, I do. But I wanted to be ... different to you."

She swallowed a lump in her throat. "You are - were." The defiance came back into her voice on the correction, but she didn't fool Woody.

He smiled. "Besides - I didn't think you'd actually do it. I mean, when was the last time you did anything I told you to do?"

She couldn't stop her own responsive smile and quipped, "First time for everything."

Woody shook his head. "You had to choose that particular request?" He took a step toward her and tugged her closer to him. She resisted only slightly. "Look, Jordan - Jo - I don't care..." He gave her a sheepish look, "Well, I care, but I mean, if you want to be just two people who work together, if you want to be friends, if you want me to sit there with everyone else when you finally decide to get married, if you want to name your firstborn after me, I can live with it."

He reached out a tentative hand and pushed back a strand of hair that had fallen across her face.

"I'm not going to say it'd be easy or that I'd be thrilled, but I just can't go on like this, never seeing you, never talking to you..." Never touching you, never knowing you're near just by the scent of your shampoo. He gave her a teasing grin. "Never wondering what danger you're in now."

She thumped his chest half-heartedly. "I'll admit, wondering what awful sort of tie you had on each day has been an ordeal." Her eyes sparkled with humor.

Woody looked around for a moment, taking in the bleak, empty beach, the cold, salt-laced air and the barren parking lot as if for the first time. "I think Garret was hoping you'd gone to Florida or something."

Jordan shrugged. "Not wild about Florida."

"Obviously." He grinned down at her and wrapped his arms around her. "How would you feel about dinner? I noticed a little take-out stand-"

Jordan bargained for pizza and beer instead. Woody thought about suggesting they get a pie to go, but hesitated to test the new boundaries. The last thing he could face was Jordan panicking and running again. As if to prove he didn't quite know this softer, more open Jordan, she mentioned it. "Are you staying?"

"Here?" He still smiled at her. He couldn't seem to help himself.

"I think it's a little late in the year for a camp-out, but..." Her grin was wicked. "I meant somewhere in town."

"Is there much choice?"

"Not much," she replied. "The place I'm staying is... cheap. And close. We could grab a pizza, get a six pack and head back there."

Woody's look grew sly. "I don't know, Dr. Cavanaugh. Can I trust you not to take advantage?"

"There are two beds, Woodrow," she informed him.

"Just friends then?"

With a diffident sniff, Jordan agreed. "If that's what you want."

Woody shook his head. "Not even close, Jo. Not even close."

He kissed her, softly, tenderly, and felt her ease against him, their bodies molding together as if they'd been made that way in the beginning of time. He ran a hand over her hair, cupping her head as the kiss deepened. Her arms went around his neck. When they were both breathless, they broke apart, letting the night whirl around them until their breathing slowed and their hearts didn't pound quite so much. Woody pressed his mouth against Jordan's ear and murmured, "How late is the pizza place open?"

He felt the shivers that ran through her, that she didn't even try to hide. His arms tightened around her, his body demanding contact with every inch of hers. "We could probably hold off a bit," she murmured with a coyness Jordan Cavanaugh rarely used.

"Good." He bent down for another kiss, his mouth stopping millimeters from her ear. "I think we've held off on other things for way too long."

For once, Jordan couldn't argue. Nor did she want to.

END