A/N: I find this one to be a little self-indulgent and not entirely in character, but, like one of my favorite people, bourbon, I seemed to have needed to use Jordan and Woody as "worry dolls" in this story. A friend and co-worker of mine is going through this situation and I just ache for her. As always, being able to write about it helped.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Not sure the coup is necessary at this point, but ready, willing and able to stage it should it become necessary.
Woody found Jordan in the break room, staring at a jelly doughnut. Although staring didn't quite do her intense facial expression justice. "Hey," he said, his voice light, that note of happiness that only she could sound in him emerging quietly.
She didn't look away from the pastry. "Hey," came her own distracted reply.
Woody sat down across from her and gave the doughnut a little study of his own. After a moment, he observed, "You know, if you really want it to talk, we could take it to the station, shine some lights on it, threaten it with a rubber hose."
She finally looked at him. "Huh?"
"Sorry," he waved away her question. "Stupid joke. You were just pretty… in to that doughnut there and… I know you like the jelly ones, but…."
Her eyes returned to the glazed, golden brown confection with just a hint of raspberry jelling leaking from it. "Oh. This."
"Yeah." Woody grinned. "You looked like maybe if you stared at it long enough it would confess its crimes to you."
She gave him a wan, brittle smile. "Aside from being too high in sugar, saturated fat and preservatives?"
He shrugged. "We have had reports of innocent cheese danishes being mauled by unseen predators. Kind of a "bit and run" sort of thing."
Jordan groaned at his atrocious pun. "I'll examine this one for traces of cheese and let you know." She set down the pastry. "What brings you by?"
"I – uh… um…. Why were you staring at a jelly doughnut?"
She didn't answer right away, taking several deep breaths. Her mouth opened and then he caught the look in her eye. He saw the exact moment the shutters came down and she changed her mind. "It wasn't important."
Woody leaned back in his chair. "You know someday, Jordan, you're going to figure out that when it comes to you, I rarely – if ever – think 'Jordan' and 'not important' in the same sentence."
Jordan appraised him, those honey eyes of her taking him in, weighing his words, weighing something else that he couldn't quite read. After a moment, she sighed. "I got an e-mail today from an old friend."
Her brows knit down. "Dad? No, nothing to do with Dad. He's fine." She rolled her eyes. "At least as far as I know." She shook her head. "No, this is a – a girl I knew in med school. Her brother was in my class and she – she used to – to hang out, I guess, with us. I liked her. She sort of became the little sister I never had."
"I… didn't know."
She shrugged. "She lives in the western part of the state. With… things in the last few years-" Jordan snorted. "The last decade… whatever. I haven't seen that much of her. E-mails mostly."
Woody waited patiently. Rushing Jordan Cavanaugh was a lot like trying to carry water with a sieve.
"She – uh – Her husband walked out on her."
"It happens," he replied, not without sympathy. "It pretty much sucks, but…."
"I know." The M.E. shook her head and Woody thought he saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes. "God, I see the results of marriages gone bad every week; sometimes it feels like every day, but…."
He smiled gently and took one of her hands. "This one was different?"
Miserably, she nodded. "I guess everyone says that."
"Maybe." He cocked his head. "Why was this one different?"
She pulled her hand free and stood up, pacing in that restless way Jordan had, the one that reminded him of a lion stuck at the zoo. "What does it matter?"
"I don't know, but it matters to you."
Jordan fixed the cop with a very sharp eye. "Woody-"
"So tell me why this one was different." He enunciated every word, his blue eyes boring into her. "Who knows? Maybe between the two of us we'll think of something to save this couple." Though he gave her a smile, the remark carried its share of sadness and irony.
She laughed harshly. "Right. Because we obviously know what we're doing."
"That's what I mean," he teased quietly. "I think we've mastered what not to do, don't you?"
After a moment, she sighed. Shaking her head, she gave a small murmur of "Oh, Woody."
"Come on, Jordan. Tell me." He let his dimples appear. "Please?"
So Jordan gave in and told him about Emma Lovell Cantley. Eight years younger than her brother, Jordan's classmate. Children of parents who were more interested in yelling at each other than raising their three kids. She'd sort of fallen in with her brother's med school friends despite the age gap. Jordan grinned slightly. "Emma's always been… funny. I mean, that quick, sarcastic, smart kind of funny, not the other one."
Woody chuckled. "A girl can be both, you know."
A faint pink crawled into Jordan's cheeks, but she went on. "She's also creative. She wanted to be an architect. And then she met Rafe. Her senior year of high school. Everyone knew right away he was different. I mean, before… Em would date a guy two, three times at the most. She was… cautious."
"I know someone who can relate."
Jordan growled softly at him.
Woody held his hands up in a plea. "Did I say who?"
The M.E. rolled her eyes. Emma had married Rafe when she was nineteen and he was twenty-three. Their first baby had come along fourteen months later and a few months after that, Emma had left school. "Just until Jenna was a bit older and Rafe finished his education and…."
"Haven't heard that story before."
"Yeah. But, the thing is… well… they had another little girl about three years later and Em was… happy. Really happy being a mother and wife and dabbling in painting and things like that."
"But one baby became two and school didn't happen again?"
"One baby became two babies and then Rafe was diagnosed with Crohn's Disease." Woody gave her a puzzled look and she explained the rather nasty condition to him. "Still… Em was still that funny, sarcastic, smart girl with so much determination. She just readjusted her timetable. And then, last year, she did start back to school." Jordan sighed. "I guess somewhere between being a mother, working part time and taking classes, Rafe – God, who knows what Rafe was thinking. Anyway, Rafe apparently found someone who wasn't doing all that."
"That's rough," Woody commiserated.
"Like you said, it happens. And if that were it, I'd – I'd feel awful for Em. But it's worse." Jordan stood again, that captive energy pulsing through her again. "Do you know what he did? Or more accurately, didn't do?"
Woody shook his head.
"He hasn't paid the household bills in months. Months! She's going to lose the house in six weeks! Her car isn't running and all his promises to fix it…well, that hasn't happened, so she doesn't have a way to go look for a full time job or get to the part time one she had. He doesn't call or come by to see his kids, but he did manage to stop by one day and kidnap the dog!" Jordan's eyes gleamed with rare malice. "A shitzu, by the way. Which leads to the obvious question of which one of them is the real shitzu!"
Woody arched an eyebrow, knowing far better than to interrupt Jordan in spate.
"Emma's even willing to work it out, but he won't even talk about it. And the lowest part?"
"It gets lower?"
"This woman he found? She's a friend of the family. Their kids play together! In fact, the two of them would meet and 'hook up' at another friend's house while the kids played together in the backyard!"
"That is pretty despicable."
"You know, Woody, I know I'm cynical, but – but Emma… geez, she's been with this guy for – for fifteen years almost, married twelve, worked hard at being a good mother and wife and helping with the money and sticking by him when a lot of other people might have left. And he's – he's always been terrific to her. Until…" Jordan shook her head. "This is what happens. It's a good thing he's in western Massachusetts, because if not…."
"You have sharp implements?"
She flashed him a grateful look. "And I know how to use them."
He gave her a moment. "You've seen stuff like this before."
"I know," she told him. "I know." The tears welled and she fought them. "But – But those are strangers. People on a table. I – I can do something. And – And I don't… I don't…."
"You don't know them."
She nodded, swiping at the tears that refused to be denied. "I'm a cynic."
"You said that already." His tone was gentle.
She smiled wanly. "I am, Woody. But I'm not – I want to believe people can be – happy. Together. And, in the back of my mind, there's been Emma. Proof that it can work. Proof that maybe someday, maybe…."
He stood up and went to her, tugging her to him and wrapping his arms around her protectively. "Proof that love doesn't always end?"
She sniffled her affirmative reply.
He tilted her chin up with one long finger. "Don't you think you already have that, Jordan?"
"I'm sorry about your friend. It's – It's beyond awful for her. But – Look around this room. What do you see?"
"What are you talking about, Woody? It's just – just you and me."
He nodded. "Yeah. How much have we been through Jordan and… yet here we are. You. Me. And – And … emotions."
She gave him a look that was a mixture of curiosity and fear.
"Jordan, I tell you things I can't imagine telling anyone else." He took a deep breath. "I – I can't imagine my life without you in it. And I've tried." He snorted. "Hell, I tried to make that a reality. And it didn't work."
"Can you tell me it's any different for you? Look at us, Jo. Look at us. Everything… everything we've been though. But we keep coming back to each other. Don't you think that's pretty strong evidence?"
For a moment she only stared up at him, held close, warmed by his body, enveloped by his scent, and she realized the truth in what he said. The world fell apart and reformed itself and no matter what else happened, they found their way back to each other. The path was longer and more tortuous at times, but still it led them to right where they were.
To right where they belonged.
She laid her head on his shoulder. "Yeah," she whispered. "Proof."