DISCLAIMER: Don't own 'em. Ready, willing and able to stage a coup – and I'm back to plotting it since Woody's head is up his….

A/N: Whoo, this one started going one place and then did this big one-eighty. Most of you will be happy with that, I think. I guess hope really does spring eternal, huh?

The Past is a Distant Flicker

I used to try to figure out the exact moment when it all fell apart. Slowly I learned there wasn't a single event, no one moment when we lost each other. For my flip answers to some of the deeper questions, I'd never fallen in love before, so how could I know that falling out of love can be gradual, too? I only realized that I woke up one morning and something – that ineffable spark – was gone. Not dormant. Not ignored. Just… not.

You'd have thought it would hurt, but it didn't. Sometime earlier – six months? A year? I don't know – I would have wondered about that, tried to find the pain somewhere because, even though I often shied away, deep down I couldn't let you go.

You didn't notice. I wondered when the last time either of us had really noticed had been. It didn't matter though.

Did guilt turn love cold? Or was it just time and the unfulfilled promise of one long-ago night? Did I keep more than a brain tumor hidden from you? Or did you just never look beyond what you wanted to see?

I know there really isn't any blame to assign. Except, maybe, fate.

The announcement in the paper took me by surprise this morning. I didn't know you'd been training and once, long ago, I'd have known every single detail. I wasn't sad though, just surprised. I'm happy for you – I'm sure you'll make a good FBI field officer, and starting off in San Francisco sounds pretty good.

I smile as I looked down at the envelope at the top of the stack; your name is written on it. I can't help but wonder if you noticed the other announcement. My announcement – Jordan Cavanaugh, Chief Medical Examiner, is pleased to announce her engagement….. I start to throw the envelope away when a knock stops me.

The look in your eyes tells me you noticed it.

Maybe I was wrong.

I used to try to figure out the exact moment when it all fell apart. Slowly I learned there wasn't a single event, no one moment when we lost each other, but it only took a heartbeat to find out the exact moment when we put it all back together.

END