A/N: This is an odd piece for me, but one I can't get out of my head. It's based on a silly speculation (I hope it's silly, at any rate!) made by one of those spoiler gurus. It's in relation to the sixth season finale. Like I said, I can't get this story out of my head.
A/N2: I'm posting this from an airport. Why? God only knows, and I refuse to examine the psychological ramifications of it all. (That'll make sense if you read the story).
WARNING: I can count on one hand the number of times I've written major character death stories (unless a character actually died). This is… the third. If you don't want to read a character death plot, I'd suggest you skip this one.
DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Not thinking the coup is necessary at this point, but still ready, willing and able to stage it if it should become necessary.
Better to Dream
The plane dropped. It dropped just like one of those amusement park rides that go into freefall. Of course, those rides are actually on a track, so it's controlled. There was nothing controlled about this.
"Jesus Christ!" Jordan explained through clenched teeth, glancing over at Woody. "What the hell was that?"
Woody gave her a smile and light shrug. "A little turbulence, I guess."
"Turbulence?" Her voice rang with a note of disbelief. "Woody, turbulence is when the plane bumps up and down a bit. That was like some kid let go of the yo-yo."
"Come on, Jordan," he cajoled softly. "It was a couple of feet."
She snorted at him in disgust before turning to look out the window again. Grey skies surrounded them, cocooned them in swirling mist as wind rushed over the plane's wings. In the distance, she could see a flash of lightning. She sighed and rested her head against the window. She'd had quite enough of fighting her own mortality for the time being, thank you very much. She just wanted the plane to reach Boston, touch down, taxi to a gate and let her off. This whole trip had been… ridiculous. Politics.
She looked over at her seatmate. Seatmate and… bedmate. It still seemed unreal. Waking up from surgery to find Woody sprawled in a chair next to her bed, sleeping. Wondering if she'd heard what she thought she'd heard right before… Realizing that she still knew who she was, who he was and why she was here and that the surgery must have been successful. But it was real, as real, maybe more, than anything in her life. His susurration of "My turn to tell you not to leave me, I love you," in her ear as they rolled her away made it real. He'd been there then, been there when she'd woken up and he was still there. He always would be; so would she. It had only taken six years, his near-death, Pollack's murder, Lu's shooting and her own medical crisis, but they'd finally fought past all the obstacles they'd thrown at each other and themselves.
The plane dropped again. Jordan's hand snuck into Woody's and gripped his fingers tightly.
"It's okay," he promised. "Just some… weather."
"I can't believe we had to go up there."
He nodded. No one in BPD or the M.E.'s office had tried to follow the labyrinthine explanations of one American state, one Canadian province and the two national governments that got in the act. The bottom line was a man had killed four people in Boston, fled to Nova Scotia, killed one more person and then turned himself in. Extradition became a thorny tangle and the investigating detective, Woody, was asked – well, commanded – to give a statement in the province. The provincial officials also demanded the presence of the M.E. who'd done the autopsies in Boston. Which actually meant Macy, Bug and Jordan unfortunately. By that time, Nigel decided to come along because, hey, who knew when you might need a criminalist of his ability?
"It was such a waste!"
In the end, everything could have been settled with depositions and some good lawyers – at least in Jordan's impatient opinion.
Before Woody could respond, the plane dropped again. He clenched his jaw, not wanting to say anything to scare Jordan, but, for the first time, his stomach began to twist in knots. The chartered plane was on the small side and, unless he was way off, they were over the Green Mountains somewhere. Mountains and stormy weather weren't famous for being a good mixture.
"Hey there, folks," came the captain's plumy voice. "Just a little weather here, nothing to worry about. Air traffic tells me about another twenty minutes or so and we'll be through it. In the meantime, if you look out the windows and use your imaginations, you can get an idea how pretty the Green Mountains are this time of year." He paused, hoping his passengers would laugh with him, or chuckle at least. Not even a titter. "All right then, we're going to climb a bit and see if we can't get over some of this."
Jordan rolled her eyes when the man was done. "The only thing I want to imagine right now is Logan Airport," she told Woody, her voice emphatic. "Nice, solid runways… maybe the airport bar."
He smiled at her and slipped his arm around her. She rested her head on his shoulder. He put his mouth low, close to her ear. "You know what I'm imagining right now?"
She craned her head to catch the twinkle in his blue eyes. "What?"
He brushed a lock of hair off her cheek. "A nice, soft bed. A hot, naked M.E. I happen to know. Pulling the sheets up over myself and said hot, naked M.E. and not leaving that bed for a week."
"Hmmmm," she purred.
"I think we're owed that, don't you?"
"At least a week," she responded, stifling a soft moan as his tongue darted around the rim of her ear.
"For the love of Buddha, could you keep your hands off each other?" Bug's glare was baleful.
Woody smirked at him. "We're making up for lost time."
"Yeah, well, make up for lost time… some other time."
"Come on, Bug," Jordan teased, her eyes dancing happily, her voice light and at ease. "It's not like we're thinking of joining the Mile High Club or anything."
Woody gave her a disappointed look. "We're not?"
She felt the blush creep into her cheeks. "Well…."
"Enough," Garret broke in from two rows back. "I've had enough dealing with impossible people for the last three days. Jordan, Woody – cool it, whatever it is. Bug, read your etymology journal. All right, children?"
"Yes, Dad," Jordan replied, singsong.
Woody and Bug made murmurs of agreement and apology. The detective knew better than to look down at the woman who still rested against his shoulder. She'd give him a look and they'd both burst out laughing. Or something else.
"So," he said casually. "You want to grab some Italian tonight?"
She shrugged against him. "I was thinking of grabbing some Boston detective, but hey…."
They never got a chance to laugh at that. From outside the plane came a bright bolt of light and then a sickening ripping sound as one of the engines sheered off. The pilot's voice, no longer smooth and plumy, but tightly controlled and commanding, came on and told them to fasten their seatbelts and get in crash position. The plane was small enough that, even with the cockpit door shut, they could hear the co-pilot's frantic radio calls of "Mayday! Mayday!" The plane hurtled through the storm, screaming its dying fury. It hit the ground and broke apart.
The first thing Jordan was aware of was how much her damn ankle hurt. The second was that one side of her face was coated in something sticky and… warm. The third was that she was going to have to get a better mattress; this one was hard and lumpy, scratchy even and there was something across her abdomen.
"Jordan? Jo? Jordan?"
Woody's voice. He was worried about something.
"Jo? Can you hear me? Open your eyes." He swallowed audibly. "God, please, open your eyes."
She complied – or did her best. One eye was gummed shut by whatever was coating her face. Woody swam into view. She groaned softly. "Woody?"
He let out a sigh of relief that she could feel wash over her.
"Wha- Where are we?"
His eyes blinked shut for a moment and for the first time Jordan noticed a trickle of blood down the side of his face. "I'm not sure." He reached toward her and gently undid a metal flap. She felt the pressure around her abdomen ease and then he slid her gently to the ground.
She lifted herself up on her elbows, fighting nausea as she did so. "Oh. Oh, God. The plane." She gulped and raised one hand to her face, knowing for the first time it was blood that she was feeling.
He nodded and a flap of skin at his hairline fell loose. For all her medical training, Jordan thought she might well throw up. She reached a hand toward him. He placed his own hand over the chunk. "Sorry. I'm – I'm going to see if I can find something to – to – I don't know. I just needed to know you were awake first."
"Yeah. I'm – I'm…oh. Can you find some water?"
"I'll be back." He glanced down at her. "Don't move. I'm pretty sure your left ankle is broken."
"Now that you mention it? So am I."
He wasn't gone long and when he returned his face was paler than before. He carried with him a first aid kit and some bottled water. He made Jordan drink some of the water before submitting to her bandaging of his scalp wound. She tried to give him a reassuring smile. "It'll be fine. Head wounds always seem worse than they are."
"Yeah," he agreed, dampening a cloth and cleaning her face.
As he worked gently, she asked, "Did you – Did you check on the others?"
He didn't answer.
"Woody?" Panic rose in her voice.
"Jo – I – uh – We need to find- to find some shelter."
He ignored her. "We're in the mountains and it still gets cold here at night. I don't know when they'll find us. So we need to – to move."
She took deep, shaky breaths.
"I'm going to get some supplies from the – from the plane. Some snacks and more water. It's not much but-"
"Woody." Her voice was tiny and very scared. "We can't just go off. Can't leave the others."
"We – We can."
"No, we can't!"
He put his arms around her, cradling her carefully, "Jordan… we – we have to leave them."
She pulled back. "We CAN'T!"
He looked straight into her eyes, his as dark as she'd ever seen them and as haunted. "We have to. There's nothing we can do for them, Jo."
Tears washed down her face as the words she didn't want to hear sunk in. At last, she nodded slowly. "Okay. But just – just until they find us. Then – Then…."
He brushed the hair out of her face. "Yeah. We'll – We'll take care of – of them then."
Jordan limped as far as she could, using Woody as a crutch. When she could no longer hide the strain she was under, Woody ignored every protest and lifted her into his arms. He gave a muffled groan as he settled her and she tried to tease him, asking if she'd gained weight recently. The joke fell flat. By the time they found some place suitable, a small cave, almost more of an overhang really, Woody's face was ghostly white and his arms trembled so that she nearly fell out of them. From the backpack he'd found somewhere, he brought out a stash or airline blankets, more bottled water and some of those boxed snack packs. He made Jordan lie down and promise not to move if she could help it while he went to look for some wood. The cave, such as it was, wasn't big enough for a fire, but he wanted to build one outside its mouth, if he could, to attract attention.
Jordan drifted in and out of a light sleep, her ankle in too much pain to let her body completely rest, her mind too agitated by the events of the last few hours. When Woody came back with an armful of wood probably too wet to burn, she was staring at the stone roof above her. He dumped the branches and settled on the ground next to her. His lean body stretched out next to hers and he put his arms around her.
"The signal fire?" She asked.
He nodded. "I'm going to rest a minute."
She swallowed and reached for his hands. He wove his fingers with hers and pressed their joined hands to her belly in a motion that might once have sent Jordan running; it was so protective. After the last year of her life, she was ready to be protected a bit though. She'd begun to let Pollack take care of her – coffee in bed, dinners out, weekends away, nothing big – before it all blew up and she'd enjoyed it, more or less. Then she'd found Kayla and discovered that part of her really liked taking care of someone else even more. Finally, when her own death stalked her, she had found herself in a place where she could let people take care of her and where she wanted to take care of those same people. Especially Woody. She choked back a sob when it washed over her – the others were dead. The tears came anyway.
"It's okay, Jordan," he murmured.
"It's not okay," she replied through her tears.
He held her more tightly. "No, I meant, it's okay to cry. Don't keep it inside. We both did that with too many things for too long."
She glanced back at him to find he had tears rolling down his face as well. He held her until the worst of it passed. When he disentangled himself, it was with great care not to jostle her. He got one of the bottles of water, which she accepted gratefully. The doctor in her knew that the explosion of grief she'd succumbed to wasn't physically a good thing, but the enormity of what had happened couldn't be denied. Woody had a few sips as well and then moved away to try to light the fire.
Jordan's mouth formed a slack "o" as she watched him, her trained eyes seeing him anew. "Woody," she gasped.
He turned and looked at her.
"Why didn't you say anything?"
He gave her a quick head shake. "It wouldn't have changed anything."
"I would have walked longer!"
"You couldn't, Jordan."
She sat up, wincing at the jarring of nerves and bones. "You should never have carried me."
His blue eyes were as steel and, for one of the very few times in their relationship, Jordan dropped her gaze first. "I did what I needed to do," he told her.
"You're bleeding. Internally." She bit her lip. Saying it made it seem worse.
"I'll be fine."
She watched him move gingerly as he piled up the branches and produced one of those butane lighters – God knows where that came from. It took Woody ten minutes to admit it was hopeless. The wood was all simply too wet or too green to burn. They would have to rely on the rescue teams to find the plane, realize two passengers were missing and track them. The last shouldn't be that difficult – a woman with a broken ankle and a man helping her while shouldering a heavy pack weren't exactly doing to leave an invisible trail. Luckily, they hadn't had to go very far, either. Woody told Jordan he thought they'd be in for a cold night, but surely they'd be found by the next day.
The ground was hard and cold, but relatively even and free of pebbles and sticks. Their little almost-cave had even been somewhat protected from the storm so the dirt was not particularly damp or muddy. Both moving with ginger care, Jordan and Woody slid into each other's arms, nestled close and tight. Keeping warm was the first intent, but the reassuring presence of one to the other was almost as important.
They talked softly as the night grew deeper, both aware that they needed to stay awake, not only to listen for any rescue searchers, but because they were both hurt more badly than they wanted to admit. They talked about Madelyn and how she looked so much like Lily. Jordan teased Woody about the first time he held the infant. He'd grasped her tiny rib cage, just under her arms and held her at arms' length in front of him, petrified of dropping her or some similar disaster. Only when they'd done giggling, had Lily and Jordan coaxed him into cradling her in his arms. Jordan felt tears trickle down her face at the memory of his expression. The baby had fallen asleep in his embrace, making soft, snuffling noises in her sleep. Woody had been entranced. Truth be told, so had Jordan – with both of them.
Woody was making his own teasing remark about the baby girl spitting up on Jordan when he stopped, realizing she was sobbing quietly, the trembling of her body more overt than any sound. "Hey, hey," he murmured. "It's okay."
She swallowed. "You know… after… Madelyn was born and – I kind of… I don't know. I didn't even know what the doctors would say about my chances but… I thought… maybe…."
He rubbed her back. "Well, you can ask them when we get back." He glanced down at the tangled mass of chestnut curls. "Maybe we could ask them."
She wiped away the tears. "Woody, don't you get it? We're not going to get back to Boston."
"Don't say that." He was stern with her; it helped tamp down his own fear. "They're going to find us and we're going to be fine."
She didn't reply.
"Jordan! You have to believe me. We're going to be okay."
"All right, Woody. All right," she conceded, although the tone in her voice made it clear she didn't believe him. "We're going to be fine."
"And talk to the doctors about…." His eyes widened in the dark. "Jordan?"
The sudden softness took her unaware. "What?"
"Were you – Were you saying you wanted to have a baby - my baby? Our baby?"
In most circumstances it would have been the moment for one of her wise-ass comments, the kind that frustrated him and yet kept him interested and challenged. This was not most circumstances. "Yes, Woody. That's what I meant."
For a moment her ankle and the variety of cuts and bruises on her body faded from reality. For a moment wherever his insides were leaking blood ceased to matter. Their mouths found each other and lips molded softly, with growing fervor. He kissed his way from her mouth up to the hidden spot behind her ear and then back down along her jaw and again to her lips. There was nothing hurried or desperate in the kisses, only a great amount of tenderness and love. In another time and place, her admission probably would have led to a night of passionate love-making, half-silly-half-serious discussions about who would be changing diapers in the middle of the night and a joking list of acceptable presidential names. As it was, they were content to lie against each other, held securely in each other's arms, a vague sort of content enveloping them despite the wretched situation.
Woody stroked Jordan's hair with a gentle hand, working out the tangles. "Amazing."
"What?" she whispered, drowsiness stealing over her.
"After everything - and I do mean everything – here we are."
"It'd be more amazing if we were home in bed." Her eyes opened in the darkness, the sleepiness retreating. "And if our friends were… in theirs."
He couldn't find anything to say to that. Maybe there wasn't anything. "I'm sorry," he settled for at last. It pretty well covered everything.
They began to talk of less serious topics. The other matters were too dark, the pain something in which to drown at a time when they both needed to keep their heads above water. The Sox. Spring in Boston. Spring in Kewaunee. An antique robot Woody had his eye on. A pair of Italian leather, handmade boots Jordan was salivating over. Her new neighbor across the hall who had a miniature schnauzer that seemed in constant need of a clipping and some serious obedience training. Woody's half-formed plan to grow some facial hair (nixed by Jordan; she liked him clean-shaven). A trip somewhere warm – Jamaica maybe, when they both took richly deserved vacation days.
"It could be a honeymoon," Woody suggested.
Jordan looked up at him. His voice had hitched just the slightest bit and, even in the dim light from the cloud-scudded moon, she could see the trepidation in his eyes. It didn't matter. She wouldn't have run – even if she could have. She'd had enough of that. "It could," she replied, her voice as ethereal as the few pinprick stars struggling through the tattered remnants of the storm.
For a while they didn't speak. Jordan could feel the night growing colder and she worked herself closer to Woody. She felt warm and peaceful in his arms. He was murmuring something to her, but he seemed to be speaking from a great distance. She replied with a tongue grown heavy and rough. It really wasn't that cold, after all. What could a few minutes of sleep hurt? Then, she roused herself and gave herself a mental slap. She gave Woody's face a real slap. A gentle one, to be sure, but enough to bring him around as well. Still, it was a battle to keep their eyes open and their voices going. By the time dawn began to break they had been reduced to summarizing the plots of favorite movies.
Woody smiled as the light began to strengthen. "See? Won't be long now."
"Yeah," she murmured, her eyes slipping shut even as his did.
"Dr. Cavanaugh? Dr. Cavanaugh? Can you hear me?" The voice was loud, disturbing. Someone was hitting her face. She groaned as her ankle was jostled. Then the voiced grew louder. "She's semi-conscious. Where are those stretchers?"
And Jordan let darkness take her again with a single thought unspooling in her head: they'd come for her and Woody.
The next time she came to was in a hospital. Lily was sitting in a chair. Madelyn slept in her car carrier-seat. Jordan managed to croak out her friend's name. Lily was on her feet and cooing over Jordan almost as much as she cooed over her daughter. She got the M.E. some water and called the nurses. It seemed an interminable time until the doctor arrived and checked her over, declaring he was pleased to see her awake and responsive. Finally, she was left alone again with Lily. Her first question was about Woody.
"He's going to be okay," the grief counselor assured her. "They had to remove his spleen and fix up a few things internally, but they say he'll make a full recovery."
Jordan nodded and then swallowed hard. "Lily? The others?"
She shook her head. Together, they cried for what had been torn asunder.
Jordan eventually drifted back to sleep on the promise that she could go see Woody the next time she woke up.
Staring down at the metal gurney, Lily nodded her head. She couldn't say anything. Her voice was gone. It had abandoned her after she identified the second of the bodies the search parties brought down from the mountains.
"Yes, dammit!" she snapped, finding her voice again after all. She turned and stormed from the room.
Kate Switzer caught up with her as Lily was contemplating punching the wall in the break room. "They have to ask, Lily."
"I know," she wailed. "I know. But – But… oh, God."
Lily expected nothing from Switzer, but was surprised to find the M.E.'s arms around her and the blonde woman murmuring sympathetic syllables. After a moment, Lily broke away, pacing and wringing her hands. "I know that – I know that nothing could have been done for – for Garret and – and Nigel and… Bug. But – God! – I keep wondering. And – And – Did they know? Did they know what was happening? And what if the searchers had gotten there sooner?"
Kate made her sit down and then sat across from her. In her gentlest voice, she said, "Lily. It wouldn't have mattered. The cold and exposure were one thing. The shock was another. It was over at least six hours before the searchers found them." She looked down. "I know it probably won't help, but, based on the – the medical evidence, it was probably like going to sleep. I doubt either of them ever knew what was happening."
"Jordan is… was a doctor; she'd have known," Lily sobbed.
Kate squeezed the other woman's hand. "Lily, don't do this to yourself. Don't."
"They didn't know." Kate's voice was stern, her tone an attempt to keep Lily from spiraling into the darkness, but there was still compassion and understanding. "I – I saw them, Lily. They were … peaceful. No fear, no pain… no awareness of what was happening." She paused. "I'm telling you – they just … fell asleep."
Lily took several deep breaths. Finally, she spoke. "Do you suppose the dying dream?"
Kate shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe." She figured it could be reasonable – as the body's organs shut down and the amount of oxygen getting to the brain decreased, she supposed that yes, it was all together possible. "Yes." She brushed Lily's hand with her own again. "They were good dreams, Lily. I'm sure of that."
"How can you be sure?"
Switzer repeated what she'd said earlier. "I saw them." Jordan's dark head pillowed on Woody's chest, their arms around each other, his chin resting on her head. "I saw them."