Just a little fluffy something to tide you over while I polish up the next few chapters of Wonderland. Not exactly what I had planned when this idea popped into my head, but it'll do, right?

Set roughly a year after the end of S6, though the timeline isn't terribly important.


Heartbeats

"It's not your fault she died, Woody," Jordan said gently late one night as they sat together on the sofa in her dark office.

It had been a particularly rough day for them both, but especially so for the detective. The case alone was enough to send anyone reeling in disgust, but having to watch the last victim die painfully in his arms nearly sent him over the edge. Jordan had refused to let him leave alone after that, instead dragging him back to her office once the autopsy had been completed. They'd been sitting there silently for nearly two hours, and that was all she'd had the heart to say in the hope that it might break him from his depressed stupor.

"No?" he snapped at her attempted kindness, quickly getting to his feet and meeting her surprised brown eyes with his sharp blue ones. "She only died because I didn't know how to save her. You would have been able to keep her alive."

"Oh, Woody, that's not true and you know it." She stood as well and reached out to grasp his shoulders firmly. "The bullet nicked an artery; she'd have passed whether I had been there or not. The only way she would have survived is if she had been shot in the middle of an operating room with a surgeon waiting. This was not your fault, you hear me?" She shook him slightly to emphasize the words.

He just dropped her gaze, trying in vain to hide the tears that were threatening to spill down his cheeks. "I don't know the first thing about keeping someone alive. How many people have died because I didn't know what to do? The first aid training they give us in the Academy is bullshit."

Jordan was silent for a moment, mulling over his words and taking in his haggard appearance. She was worried for him - for his current mental state. She hated seeing her usually happy Farm Boy beat himself up like this over things he could not control. "Do you know all of the places on a body to check for a pulse?" she asked quietly, suddenly conceiving an idea to give him a bit more peace of mind.

Woody shook his head mutely, face flushing with shame.

"There's one point here." She took his hand gently in hers and pressed his fingers over her wrist. "The ulnar and radial arteries run there on either side. They supply blood to your arms and hands. Can you feel it? Count the beats for me."

Her pulse thudded under the pads of his fingers and he nodded, starting to flush for another reason as he felt the heat of her body so close to his. He counted for a full minute, until she told him to stop.

"How many?"

"Seventy three."

"Well look at that! I'm alive!" She gave him a classic Jordan grin that he slowly began to return. The plan was working. "Seventy three, huh? Not too shabby. The standard resting heart rate for an adult is between sixty and ninety beats per minute. Anything significantly above or below might indicate a person needs medical attention - barring any outside factors, like exercising. And don't try to check someone else's pulse with your thumb or you'll just feel your own, and what good would that do?"

Woody nodded again, taking all of this in without speaking. She was helping him tremendously; he didn't need to say anything for her to understand that.

"There's one here, under the bicep muscles or here, inside the elbow. The brachial artery. Though this one can be difficult to read in times of emergency." She led his fingers up her arm. She was still wearing scrubs and a long-sleeved undershirt, and she knew those would be hard to find through the clothing.

Another nod. She took a step closer, lowering her voice so that it was just above a sultry whisper. "There's also a point here, over the abdominal aorta." This time she lifted his hand from her arm and pushed it with hers up under the front of her shirt, then just under the center of her bra so that his fingers could feel the small dip between her ribs. "Can you find that one?"

Her skin seemed to burn against his hand, sending pleasant tingles through his body as what had started as an anatomy lesson changed into something else. He could feel the sides of her breasts as she breathed, and his eyes were glued to her chest as though he could see their hands through the fabric. "Yes."

She kept his fingers there for a few seconds, knowing exactly what it was doing to him and becoming secretly pleased by his subtle reactions. But she also knew that he wouldn't try anything, not as engrossed as he was with the beating of her heart. The next one, though, would be more difficult, and she briefly debated even going there at all. The thought drifted away almost as soon as it had come. While not exactly what she had planned at first, he needed this. Guiding his hand from under her shirt and covering it with both of hers, she continued without hesitation.

"This," she murmured with a sly grin, "is the femoral artery." She directed his hand downward and under the band of her scrub pants, over her hip, and let it stop just inside her thigh. Moving forward until her lips brushed his ear, she asked, "Can you feel it?"

Woody swallowed, unable to answer. He could feel the soft, warm flesh covering the hard muscle of her leg. He could feel the smooth lace of her underwear. And, more than that, he could feel the gentle thudding of the artery there where she was pressing his fingers. As often as his hand had been in that same place, he had never noticed it before – this sign of life just under the surface. An overwhelming surge of emotion caught in his throat.

All too soon, Jordan pulled his hand up and, finally, touched his fingers to her neck. "The carotid artery," she breathed, leaning her forehead against his.

Somehow, feeling the pulse there as the blood ran to her brain was more thrilling than any of the others. He stood still, silently counting the beats again and not taking a single one for granted. The carotid artery – the same artery that the tumor had plagued just a year earlier. Tears suddenly clouded his vision again as he remembered all the times he had come so close to losing her, and he squeezed his eyes closed, continuing to count. Jordan covered the back of his hand with her palm, understanding where his thoughts were going and managing to fill the simple gesture with adoration.

"The human heart is an amazing organ," she said lowly, not forcing him to speak or break his concentration. "When two are so close together, like this, they begin to sync and beat in time with the other." She kissed him sweetly right near the hairline. "And just so you know, this heart – my heart – is still beating right now because of you. You've saved me in more ways than you'll ever realize. So don't you ever think that you don't know how to keep someone alive. I'm living proof that you do."

"I...I don't know what to say," he mumbled, truly at a loss for words.

"Yeah, well. Don't get used to it, Farm Boy." She smiled at him, raising her eyes to find his just a few inches away and still filled with tears. "You'll never hear such sappy words come outta my mouth again."

That earned her a small chuckle. "Will two hearts really sync like that, or were you just trying to make me feel better?"

"Oh, no - they really will. Here, look." Using her free hand, she pressed two fingers to his neck, expertly finding his own artery. "See? One...two...three...four...five..."

"It's almost the same," he realized with growing reverence. Sometimes, after she fell asleep at night, he would almost think that their hearts were beating together as he started to doze - but he'd always brushed it off, telling himself instead that he was imagining things.

"Just give it a few minutes and they'll be going at the same pace." She grinned again, tilting her face just enough to touch her nose to his. She loved having him so close, even if she was rarely able to find the words to tell him that. "Incredible, isn't it?"

Too overwhelmed to speak, he shifted slightly and kissed her lips with fervor, then the point on her neck, then, taking both of her hands in his, her wrists. And then, to her great surprise, he fell harshly to his knees in front of her as though losing the strength from his legs and hid his face against her stomach - his ear resting just below the abdominal artery she had shown him minutes before. His arms wrapped up around her lower back, fingers fisting tightly in the rough fabric of her scrubs.

"Woody?"

This was a vulnerability - a weakness - that he rarely let anyone glimpse. It startled her more than she would admit. He was always her pillar of strength; seeing him like this...it didn't frighten her so much as remind her that he was a man who had already endured more than any person should. Not faltering for a moment, she cradled Woody's head against her with one hand, her other arm curling around his shoulders as best she could manage. An awkward embrace, but he didn't seem to care.

"I love you so much, Jordan," he mumbled brokenly, voice muffled against her torso as if trying to hide from reality. "Please…please don't leave me that way. I-I don't think I could handle having you die in my arms, too. Not you. Not…not you."

"Jesus, Woody."

Taken aback by the dry, silent sobs ripping through his chest, Jordan sank to the floor and pulled him completely into her arms. She desperately wished she could promise him that wouldn't happen, that she wasn't going die, that he wouldn't have to watch her take her last breath. But they both knew that promises like that were far too easily broken. So she just held him tightly against her, kissing the top of his head, the side of his face – anywhere she could reach – as the horrors of the day started to fade away. It was this, what was revealing to her now, that was at the center of all of his fears, and she hated that there was not anything else she could possibly do to help.

"Shhh," she soothed, starting to rock him like she would a scared child and rubbing circles on his back. As she usually did when she was at a loss, she attempted to revert to humor to lighten the mood – or something, at least. The words just sort of spilled out on their own. "You are so coming home with me tonight. In fact, I think you just might get lucky all week. Man."

Slowly, very slowly, he began to calm down, but he did not move out of her embrace and she did not try to make him. "I love you, Jo."

"I know." Jordan smiled crookedly and pressed her cheek to the side of his head, tightening her arms around him just a little bit more so that he'd hear what she was still having difficulty saying. "I know."