This lengthy thing was actually born from a little tiny thought I had about whether or not Woody would take ibuprofen if he weren't feeling well. It grew to a 3k beast. Yeah, sorry about that.
Set somewhere around the middle of S6, just before Jordan finds her tumor.
From the Wreckage
"Jordan, love, you have a phone call."
The medical examiner raised her eyes from the body she was currently closing to give Nigel, who had poked his head into Autopsy, a suspicious glare through her plastic face shield. "Which phone did you find it necessary to answer for me, my office or cell?"
"Your cell." He gave her a wide, contagious smile, knowing that she wasn't really angry that he had gone into her work space uninvited and waved the little device in the air in front of him. "It's the vivacious Detective Santana. She said it was important, or I wouldn't have disturbed you. Would you like to take it?"
Jordan sighed and peeled off her gloves and mask, confused. Of all the detectives she usually heard from, Santana was not one of them. "What does she want?"
"Dunno." Nigel shrugged, handing her the phone and leaving the room.
"Hey, Doctor C." The young woman's voice came clearly over the line, and Jordan could tell immediately that something was off. She straightened, her autopsy completely forgotten. "I wasn't sure who else to call, I hope I'm not interrupting anything. It's about Hoyt -"
"What has Woody done this time?" she interrupted, pulling off her gown one-handed and shoving it down in the biohazard bin with a bit too much gusto.
"Oh, nothing!" Santana was quick to supply. "Actually, he was sent home a few minutes ago. He's sick. Like, really sick. I think he needs to go see a doctor, but try telling him that, right? I'm just…worried about him. And, well, you're a doctor, and you're his – friend. I just thought you'd like to know."
"Thank you," Jordan said quietly. She'd heard the hesitation when the detective had said 'friend', and she lowered her eyes in a familiar embarrassment. Their odd relationship was no secret around the police precinct, of that she was sure. "I'm glad you told me. Has he eaten at all today?"
"No, I don't think so. He spent most of the day slumped over his desk until the chief sent him home."
She asked a few more questions about symptoms before thanking the detective again and hanging up. The clock above the door said it was only a quarter to three in the afternoon, but she was sure Garret would let her leave. Or she could just go without saying anything. Woody would never ask for her help with his illness, she knew. She'd have to just show up at his apartment and barge her way inside. The flu, maybe? Or food poisoning? They'd had the same dinner last night, so probably not that.
"Everything okay?" Nigel asked, coming back into Autopsy and glancing over to where she was staring blindly at the clock, lost in her thoughts.
She blinked, coming back to the moment, and gave him a small grin. "Cover for me, will you, Nige? I've gotta go see Woody. I, uh, won't be back today. Or probably tomorrow." Pausing just long enough to pull a sheet up over her finished autopsy, she started to back out of the room. "Just put this guy back in the Crypt."
"Jordan, where -"
But she was already gone, heading to her office to gather her things and leave a note for Garret.
An hour and a half later, Jordan was pounding loudly on the door of Woody's apartment, a bag of groceries to make soup over one arm and her messenger bag stuffed with possible overnight necessities (and a case file or two) over the other. She still wasn't sure how sick he was, and she wasn't going to take any chances leaving him alone with something that could turn nasty.
There was a shuffling in the foyer before Woody angrily threw the door open. "What!" he snapped, obviously ready to rip someone's head off at being disturbed. But his train of thought was visibly thrown off when he saw her standing there, and she raised her eyebrows at the venom in his voice. "What - what're you doing here, Jordan?"
She studied him for a moment before speaking, taking in his gaunt appearance. He was shirtless and wearing flannel pajama pants, probably having just gotten out of the shower if his wet hair was any indication. But he was far too pale, his eyes glassy and unfocused, and there was a thin layer of sweat on his chest and forehead despite his previous bathing. Definitely not doing well. "Your buddies down at the precinct are worried about you. Santana thinks you should go see a doctor."
"Fat chance of that happening." He wiped at his nose, which was running like a faucet, and leaned his upper body against the door frame for balance.
"Yeah, and that's why she called me. Now get outta my way so I can come in."
She thought for a second that he was going to refuse, but finally he stumbled backward and gestured dramatically for her to come inside. "You could have just used your key instead of pounding on the door like that," he grumbled, crossing his arms and standing awkwardly in the living room as she set the single grocery bag on the kitchen counter.
"Oh, um." The casual way in which he said that stung, and she busied herself by taking out the cans of broth and ginger ale and needlessly arranging them in front of her to deal with later. "You've...never given me a key, Woody." Not giving him a chance to reply to that, she quickly turned and took three long steps until she was standing directly in front of him. "Damn, you look like hell," she whispered, touching the backs of her fingers to his cheek. "And you're burning up. Come on, you need to lie down. Do you have a thermometer?"
"Second drawer in the bathroom," he answered softly, not putting up an argument as she gently guided him through the room and helped him into his bed. The left side, as always.
She grinned at him and touched his warm cheek again, tenderly with the palm of her hand this time as his head sank back into his pillow and he pulled the comforter up tightly around his body. "Can you tell the pretty doctor what hurts?"
"Woody," she mocked playfully before taking his chin with her thumb and forefinger and forcing him to look at her as she crouched beside the bed. "Really, Woody, what kinds of symptoms are you having? Tell me."
All of the fight left his mind and he closed his eyes in defeat, finally willing to accept her help. "My head feels like it's going to explode. My, um, my throat is sore. My nose is all g-gross. And my muscles...no, my whole body hurts. I'm so cold, and really d-dizzy."
A terse nod.
"Sick to your stomach?"
"It's all right, Woody. Just lie still." Jordan ran her hand soothingly over his forehead and down the side of his face. She pushed the familiarity of it – of the feel of his skin under the pads of her fingers – away as she gazed down at him. Yep, sounded like the flu. It was a good thing he had left, otherwise the entire precinct would have been contaminated by morning. Medical personnel were required to get a shot every year; she'd thought cops were, too, but she must have been mistaken. Or maybe he'd just been one of the lucky few to get sick anyway. "I'll be right back, hon."
She dropped her hand and stood, turning off the overhead light and closing the blinds on the window as she made her way to his bathroom to find the thermometer. For a bachelor, he was surprisingly neat, and the little instrument in its unopened case was easy to locate. There was a linen closet near the shower, and she was also able to find a clean navy washcloth, which she doused with cool water at the sink. As an afterthought on the way out, she picked up the empty trashcan by the toilet as well, not wanting him to have to get out of bed should his stomach decide to suddenly empty itself. Hopefully it would only be a twenty-four hour bug, but regardless - he was going to be miserable for a while.
His eyes were open again when she came back into the room, watching wearily as she placed the trashcan by the bed and leaned over to press the cool cloth to his forehead. He had a clear view down her shirt as she did so, and it was a testament to how ill he felt that he didn't take advantage of it. Not commenting, she popped the thermometer from its case, wiping it down with a sterile piece of gauze from her bag.
"You keep medical things in your p-personal bag? That's just w-weird."
"I came straight from work," she said, acting defensive only because she knew that's what he wanted to hear. Honestly, she'd actually stopped by her apartment first to get some stuff, but poking at her made him feel better; she would give him that, just this once. "Besides, I wasn't sure what I would need here. Now open your mouth so I can see what I'm dealing with." She pulled out a little high-powered flashlight from her bag as well and twisted it on, tilting his chin upward slightly with a finger. "Stick out your tongue and say 'ahh'."
He gave her an indignant glare but did as she asked. She only looked for a second, though, before seeing what she needed to see and nodding. "Good. Now your temp."
Once the thermometer was snug under his tongue, she sat next to him on the edge of the bed and reached out to adjust the cloth. Woody watched her wordlessly, trying to breathe through his nose and being very loud about it. "You probably have the flu," she explained softly, her fingers playing with his damp hair absently. "This is the first time in six years I've seen you get sick, you know that? You must have an incredible immune system."
Silence fell, filled only with Woody's labored breathing, until Jordan took the thermometer from his mouth to check it. 103. "Jeez, Woody. That's some fever."
She stood again to put the instrument back in the bathroom and get some medicine for him, only to find...none. She opened the mirror case, the drawers, the linen closet. There were razors and lotions and toiletries, but there wasn't a pill of any kind to be found. "Why don't you have any medicine in your medicine cabinet?"
"Don't like drugs," came the faint response.
She pursed her lips at that, knowing that this next part was going to be difficult as faint memories of his vehement reactions to cases involving illegal drugs came filtering through her mind. Grabbing the plastic water bottle the he usually took running from beside the sink, she filled it partially up with tap water and sauntered slowly back to his bedside to rummage through the bag she had left there. There was a beat up bottle of ibuprofen in it somewhere...ah, there. She pulled it out with a triumphant grin.
Realizing what she was doing, Woody started to shake his head. "No. Jordan, no. I am n-not going to take anything. I'll be -" He winced at the movement but forced himself to keep talking. "I'll be fine."
Jordan leaned back on her heels and gazed up at him steadily as she opened the bottle and tipped out two red pills into her hand. "You really should, Woody. They'll reduce the fever and take away some of the pain so you can sleep."
"I don't want to."
If she wasn't so worried about him, his whining like a five-year-old would have made her laugh. Instead, she did her best to push that worry down and gave him a glare. "I did a rotation in a children's oncology ward. I can force you to swallow these pills if you won't do it yourself and believe me, it won't be fun."
He narrowed his eyes to little slits when he understood she was serious. "I'm b-bigger than you."
"And I'm stronger. Right now, anyway," she added in an undertone. "Take the damn pills."
"Your bedside manner sucks," he mumbled, grudgingly letting her help him sit up just enough to take the bottle of water in one hand and the pills in the other, finally putting them in his mouth and swallowing with a look on his face like he was taking poison.
Jordan took the bottle back and set it on his bedside table, still within easy reach should he need it again. "Then it's a good thing I don't deal with many living patients then, huh? But it's not like you're a ray of sunshine either, you big baby. Now lie back down."
Before she could stand up or pull away, he grabbed at her hand and held it with a surprising strength born of fear. "You're not leaving, are you? I-I don't want you to leave."
"No, Woody," she murmured gently, "I'm not leaving."
To prove that she was telling the truth, she slid her feet out of her shoes and walked to the other side of the bed to sit down beside him, resting her back against the headboard. He reached out for her hand as soon as she was settled but she didn't give it to him, instead tracing soothing lines over the side of his face with her fingers until he closed his eyes. "Try to get some sleep, okay?"
"Okay." That one word was so tired and so sick, and he rolled to his side away from her to tuck his arms up to his chest.
She stretched out her legs on top of the comforter, getting relaxed enough to be there for a while. How long has it been since someone took care of you? Since his mother died? His father? Since an innocent little boy had to grow into an adult overnight? It was saddening, and she remembered that evening working with him when Cal was in town. His big brother had just lost his parents, too, he had said. Maybe no one had ever taken care of him. Not the way a child needed. He had been everyone else's rock for too long.
Maybe…maybe we've really lost our chance, she began to muse silently, her heart swelling enough to break at the thought as she stared down at him, sweating and miserable beside her. She ran her hand over his hair in gentle circles, wanting to comfort herself as much as him at this point. The circle widened enough to include the side of his face, and she picked up the washcloth again and briefly shook it out to cool it off before leaning forward to pat soothingly at his forehead. Her upper body was so close to his back and shoulders that she could feel the fevered heat radiating from him, and she considered lying down behind him and pulling him into her arms. But she quickly pushed the urge away.
The emotion she felt for him was unlike anything she'd known before, and it frightened her to realize that maybe she had screwed this up beyond repair. That maybe he had reached the end of his rope with her once and for all. Having that glorious love returned for one ill-timed night in Littleton would never be enough; her soul would always be longing for the rest, every time she looked at him - just as it had been for so long but she'd been too scared to accept until it was too late.
She could have loved Pollack, if she had been given enough time. But she also knew that it would never have been the same kind of passionate and unconditional love she had for Woody. There would always have been a question under the surface of it all with her and JD. The question would have changed – did she trust him, did he trust her, were they happy, was this right, did he regret taking her back – but one would always have been there, haunting them both as they plowed their way through a life together.
And there would have always been a little part of her mind wondering, remembering, hoping, dwelling on her Farm Boy. Yes, she could have loved Pollack, but she would not have been truly, blissfully happy with him. She hated that he had been taken from her in the way that he had, and she missed him so much – even knowing now that their relationship had been doomed from the start.
Through it all, she had been head over heels in love with this detective right here. She had known it for years. So why had it taken her so long to admit it? She'd let him slip right through her fingers.
"What?" She blinked as he interrupted her scattered reverie, confused at his slurred words and wondering what in the world he was apologizing for when it was her who should be saying 'sorry'. Along with a few other things. Now, though, was not the right time, and she bit it all back. Just like she always did.
"For the key thing. Earlier." Woody tried to turn to look at her, but quickly gave up when his stomach lurched. He made a gagging sound, and Jordan touched his shoulder to stop him from moving. "I, uh, I thought...thought I gave you one. Long time ago."
"Hey, it's fine."
"No, it's not," he pushed on stubbornly, clenching his jaw to keep his teeth from chattering as he tried desperately to talk. "M-maybe I just thought about it so-so hard that I forgot I didn't a-actually do it. Ever do that?" Not waiting for her response, he sucked in a breath and continued. "There's a spare in the wooden bowl on top of my fridge. Y-you can have it. Oh, my God, I feel so sick. Why am I so cold?"
"It's part of your body's fight response to the virus. Your immune system releases these great little proteins into the hypothalamus called cytokines to raise the set point for your core temperature." She gave him a crooked smile that he couldn't see, knowing everything she had just said had gone right over his head. "It'll pass soon. And those pills you took will help. Unless it's bird flu - in which case I'm taking you to the hospital."
There was real panic in his voice, and Jordan softened, touching his hair again. She wished she could rub his back, but he was too swathed in blankets for her to really reach it. "I'm just kidding. There's no way you have bird flu, man."
His unfocused blue eyes darted back toward her. "You're not gonna catch it, are you?"
"Nope. Got my flu shot this year." She left out the little fact that those things weren't always one hundred percent successful and, since she was smack dab in the middle of the contamination zone, there really was a pretty decent chance she would get at least a minor strain of the virus. Not to mention she had already been feeling pretty crappy lately. But she just sighed and repositioned the washcloth, which had moved when he had started talking. "Now really, go to sleep. I'll still be here when you wake up."
He just moaned in response this time, tucking his knees almost up to his chest. The pain in his muscles and joints was making it nearly impossible to find quiet enough to be truly comfortable, and she ached for him, knowing how miserable he must feel. At a loss for what else to do, she ran her hand through his hair again and began to softly sing the first ballad that popped into her head, letting her deep voice wash over him in the hopes that it would give him some peace.
She'd move to the couch once he was fully asleep and pull out those files to work on. Shower, put on her pajamas, call Garret to say she wouldn't be in tomorrow, scrounge up some dinner for herself, and camp out in his living room tonight. She'd go find that key, too.
Maybe – maybe– they still had time to figure things out. Maybe she hadn't ruined what they had beyond repair quite yet.