DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Not thinking the coup is necessary, but still ready, willing and able to stage it should the need arise.
A/N: I challenged myself to write this, since it's something of a Switzer story and though I may be the only one, I really don't like her. Sometimes it's good to step out of the box though and do something new. The title is from an episode of Damon Lindelof and Carleton Cuse's incomparable "Lost."
WHAT KATE DID
Kate Switzer, medical examiner, forensic anthropologist and proud owner of an AKC, show-winning Dandie Dinmont Terrier, glanced up from the autopsy she was performing. "Detective," she said, her dry voice sounding its usual acerbic note. The man staring out the window and down the hall ignored her. "Detective." Her voice was sharper now. "Detective Hoyt!"
"What?" Woody turned around at last, his face blank, blue eyes storming with a confusion of emotions. "Sorry. You said something?"
Now his look became pure confusion. "You said 'three times?'"
She rolled her eyes and didn't deign to respond. "I have something for you."
"Cause of death?"
"No. A ham sandwich on rye. I'm a medical examiner – of course, I'm talking about cause of death!"
Sheepishly, Woody walked over to her. His face paled, but after six years of hanging around the morgue, he didn't get green anymore. He'd never enjoy these things, but he could tolerate them a lot better now. "What am I looking at?" He gave her a look. "Other than this man's insides, that is."
She gave him a saccharine smile. "These spots? On his liver?"
"Mr. Benton indulged in a fungus he should have eschewed."
His voice dead pan, Woody asked her for a translation.
"He ate poison toadstools."
"Ah. Okay." The detective pursed his lips. "Any chance you can tell if he ate them on his own or was… fed them?"
"Isn't that more your job than mine?"
"Yes, I know. Jordan would spend hours, maybe days, to figure it out. But this isn't Jordan's autopsy. It's mine. Now, if you can give me more to go on, I can take another look, but right now, all I can tell you is that he ate some bad mushrooms."
"Gee, thanks." Woody's voice dripped sarcasm. He turned back and looked out the window again, his gaze once again stormy. Behind him, he heard the sounds of Switzer taking off her gloves and tidying up instruments. He figured she'd leave without another word.
Her voice surprised him. "You know, you could just go talk with her."
For the second time, Woody turned back and said, "What?"
"Talk. With Jordan."
His eyebrows knit down and he cocked his head to one side. "But this isn't her case."
Kate rolled her eyes. "Talk to her about… this… thing between the two of you."
"There's nothing between us," Woody replied, sounding a little lost.
"Yeah. Right." Switzer gave him another one of those superior smiles."
"Really. There's isn't."
"Un huh. You know, Detective Hoyt, she had a brain tumor. What's your excuse?"
Woody felt his self-control begin to slip. He recalled a time when he thought Jordan was the most exasperating woman he'd ever meet; he recalled that time fondly. "I have to get going. As you pointed out, it's my job to figure out if he ate those mushrooms on his own or someone fed them to him."
"I could check for you."
"You said you couldn't tell," he reminded her.
She snorted. "Not about your corpse here. I could check to make sure your spine is there."
Woody's blue eyes flared with anger. "Look, if you have something to say, why don't you just say it? Isn't that your style? Tell it like it is, all that."
"Fine." She eyed him up and down. "You want me to say it? Whatever it is that you're afraid of? Get over it."
"You don't know the first thing about me," he shot back.
"Yeah, I do, actually." Kate's eyes were dark, her voice edged with something akin to anger. "I know that you have something with Jordan. I know that, for whatever reason, neither of you will come out and admit it. I know that if you keep… avoiding whatever you're avoiding, you're going to lose it." She looked away. "And I know that would be something you'd regret. Probably for the rest of your lives."
For a long moment, Woody stared at her back. "What do you know about it?" His voice was not kind.
She ground her clenched teeth. "I've been through two husbands, Detective, and the trial separation with number three is looking to be pretty permanent."
"Then forgive me if I don't really want to take advice from you."
Kate whirled and faced him, eyes blazing. "Don't you get it? You have something most people search their entire lives for. Not that many find it. A lot of people pretend what they do have is what they were looking for and sometimes that works; sometimes if doesn't. And you're going to – what? – ignore it? Walk away from it? Run? Because it might not work?"
Woody's gaze was stony, his heart thudding dully at the idea that this – this interloper could see the situation and would dare say what friends never could. "You don't understand; you don't know about – about Jordan and me."
Another snort from Kate. "You think I haven't heard all the stories? Or at least enough of them to get the picture. So you two have a weird history. So you each have 'baggage' you're carrying around. So what?"
"We've – We've made more mistakes than you could ever guess at," he told her.
Kate shrugged. "Learn from them. Don't make the same ones again. But don't make the biggest one of all."
Woody's jaw tightened and his mouth thinned into a sharp line. "Why do you care?"
"Because, contrary to popular belief around this place, I do have a heart. And maybe being here – I don't know."
He nodded slowly. After a moment, he spoke, his voice softer now. "It kind of sucks you in, doesn't it?"
She closed her eyes briefly and shook her head, but a smile played on her lips.
"My advice? Stop fighting it. It doesn't work anyway."
"I didn't ask for your advice," she retorted.
Woody lifted one shoulder. "I didn't ask for yours. I guess we're even."
Kate turned back to the body on the table and the conversation was at an end. Woody pushed open the door, sparing her one backward glance. He didn't think he'd ever like her a whole lot, but clearly there was more to the new M.E. than met the eye. Three marriages? He shook his head and headed down the hallway.
Jordan's door was ajar and Woody pushed it open without knocking. She looked up from the report she was writing. Her smile was tentative; her eyes told him if he'd come to check up on her, he'd better turn around now and find another way to occupy his time. No, Jordan Cavanaugh hadn't much appreciated being babysat during her recovery.
Her eyebrows arched.
She nodded. "Yeah. Garret put me back on the rotation. Or so he claims."
Woody chuckled. "Claims?"
She shrugged. "This one was pretty obvious. Guy fell four stories from a balcony."
"Nope. Tripped on a potted plant, hit the railing, which happened to be rusted and well… only Wile E. Coyote survives that kind of fall."
"You sound almost disappointed."
She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "I'm fine. I wish Garret would see that and let me have something… I don't know… more challenging."
"So… what brings you by?"
He pursed his lips for a moment before reaching behind him and closing her door. "I love you."
So few things left Jordan speechless that when it happened, it was usually a moment to be treasured. Woody was far from treasuring it, however. Her sharp, "What?" almost relieved his anxiety.
"I love you."
Jordan nodded as she gave him a look of utter confusion. "I – uh – Woody, that's-"
"You love me."
This time she couldn't even manage the "what?"
He gave her a moment. "I love you. You love me."
She gave him a half smile, the one tinged with sarcasm as she recovered her equilibrium. "I get it. You're thinking of changing careers, becoming that big, purple dinosaur that sings that song."
"I'm not kidding, Jordan."
Her face paled. "What – Why are you… saying this?"
"Yeah. I figured that. What does she have to do with – with this?"
Woody shrugged for lack of a better response. "She – uh – there's more to her than meets the eye."
"Which still doesn't explain-"
"Jordan, whatever this – this – whatever is between us, it's real. It's real and it's strong and it's not something everyone gets."
"We've had this conversation, Woody." Her whiskey colored eyes were etched with a fear he knew too well.
"No, we haven't. We've always walked away from it."
"The friendship we have-"
"Is the most important thing in my life, Jordan."
"Me, too! Which is why – why we shouldn't do anything to screw it up." She stood up and retreated toward the window.
"Come on, Jo. Screw it up? We've tried! Do you want me to name all the things we've done to hurt each other? But we always end up back here."
She gave a harsh laugh. "Well, I work here."
He bit his lip. "Don't joke, Jordan. You know what I mean." He crossed the room and stood behind her, sliding his arms down hers, resting his hands on top of hers. "We always end up… like this. With each other. Even when we try not to."
He moved his hands to her shoulders and turned her gently. "Kate said something. She said people search their whole lives for what we have and most of them don't find it." His eyes searched hers. "She's right."
Jordan bit her lip and fought back tears. "We might ruin it."
He smiled softly. "Like I said, we already tried that. That ring, the shooting, the – the hospital," his voice broke before he went on. "Pollack, Littleton Village, Lu… a brain tumor." He brushed her cheek lightly with the pad of his thumb. "I don't know about you, but I quit looking a long time ago. It just took me a while to realize it."
She took long, steadying breaths and finally nodded.
He tilted up her chin and kissed her softly.
"It's never going to be easy, Woody," she murmured after the broke apart.
He grinned, his eyes dancing. "It never has been, Jo. And I wouldn't change it."
She gave him a dazzling smile then. "I'm going to remind you of that."
"I hope so," he replied. "For a long time."
She nodded. "A very long time."