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Fear Itself

Chapter 11

It was after two o'clock in the morning when Max Cavanaugh stepped off the elevator and pushed cautiously into the morgue. He did not know about the contagion outbreak, and he was not expecting to see many familiar faces – especially not his daughter's. Luck was on his side, though; since everyone had been cleared, most of the day staff had been replaced with a brave skeleton crew so they could finally return home. This new batch of people gave him a curious glance, but he still had his old 'Visitor' badge, and they let him by without incident.

He had the idea of going to Jordan's supposedly empty office and leaving her a note before skipping town again, maybe leaving her a good phone number this time, but a shocked, "Max!" caught him off guard.

Garret came out of his office, quickly shutting his dropped jaw. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"Woody Hoyt called me. I, uh…came to leave something for my daughter."

"I see," the M.E. muttered, seeing through the ruse and opening his door to usher the other man inside. "She and Woody are asleep in there right now, but you can go wake them. If you want."

"She's here?" Max asked, surprised. "She's here asleep? Did she forget to make the rent payments on her apartment or something?"

"No, Max. Woody didn't tell you?"

"Tell me what?" He looked around, his eyes settling on the windows of Jordan's office. The blinds were drawn completely over all but one, and he could see through the five inches at the bottom his daughter and the detective asleep in each other's arms on the couch. He chuckled dryly. "She's still leading him on, is she? Poor kid."

Garret just laughed at that, only able to repeat, "No. She is definitely not leading him on now. In fact, between the two of them, they're paying the rent on her apartment just fine."

"They're living together?" he choked out, remembering that he was her father and flashing back to his teenage daughter going on her first date with a boy he hated. At least he liked Woody. He'd have to remind himself of that.

"Jordan's happy," Garret soothed, seeing the familiar parent-like panic flash across his face. "Maybe for the first time in…a while. She's calmed down. Well, if you can call it 'calmed down', anyway."

Max nodded mutely, still watching the two of them sleeping across the hall and almost wishing he had kept in touch better. But there was nothing to be done to change the past, and he could tell something much bigger was going on. "Why did Hoyt call and ask me to come back, Garret? Why is she here right now instead of home with him?"

The other man paused then, unsure. This was Jordan's life, and it was certainly not his business to be sharing. But he also knew that Max had absolutely no intention of talking to her himself; it was obvious from the way his jaw was set. If he didn't tell him, then her father may never know unless he got a phone call to come to the funeral, and that just wasn't right. "There was a bacterial outbreak earlier this week," Garret began slowly. "Jordan had to be quarantined at first, and she still can't leave just yet. Woody is staying with her. You know how he is."

"But everyone else could leave," Max cut in sharply, his detective instincts still strong. He gave Garret a withering glare. "Why?"

The doctor sighed and sat down heavily on his couch, gesturing for his companion to do the same. When Max just raised his eyebrows in growing agitation (a look he was very used to seeing on Jordan's face) Garret pursed his lips tightly, trying to think of the best way to approach the situation. "Her immune system was compromised last year, which means she was unable to take the antibiotics with everyone else," he hedged gently. "She just needs to wait out the storm, so to speak, before she's allowed to go to be sure it's safe – both for her and for everyone else. This is just a precaution; she's going to be fine."

It didn't work. "Compromised by what, Macy? I know you're hiding something, and I want you to be straight with me right now. Because you and I both know I won't be asking Jordan."

Garret was quiet for a beat before breathing, "A brain tumor."

Max tensed, his eyes widening and darting back to that window to stare at her again. He noticed this time the way Woody's arms were tight around her, protective even as they slept. "Why didn't anyone tell me?" he asked quietly, starting to seethe with anger.

"She didn't want us to."

"I'm her father! I had a right to know! What if something had happened to her? What if she had died?!" He waved his arm widely toward her office, his fury starting to fade as quickly as it had erupted. Finally, after a long moment of pained silence, he lowered himself into a chair by the door, still able to see her. She had tried to call him once in the last year, but he hadn't responded. Was that why she had called? "I could have lost the only child I ever really had and I never…I never even knew."

"It was not malignant," Garret said softly. "She was only in danger because of where the tumor was located. It took some convincing – your daughter is just as stubborn as you are," he added with a gentle smile, "but she eventually had surgery that removed most of it. I tried to get her to contact you then. She wouldn't go for it, and I wasn't going to go against her wishes. But I promise you, Max, I would have tracked you down if something had gone wrong. If it had been Abby…" He trailed off, horror-struck just thinking about his own daughter in that position. "And you know how much I care about Jordan."

Her father just nodded silently, digesting this news and unable to take his gaze away from her now, slumbering as peacefully as she could be on the couch with Woody.

"She took something about an hour ago to help her sleep, but you could probably still wake her if you'd like," the other man offered.

"No," Max said quickly.

"In that case, she'd likely sleep through any minor disturbances. If you want to go in and see for yourself that she's alright, I mean."

The aged detective nodded again and got to his feet, a small, weary smile tugging back his lips. "Thank you, Garret. I could always trust you to look after my baby girl." Macy stood as well and they clasped hands firmly. "I guess I'll be seeing you around."

"Leave an address for the wedding invitation," Garret joked as Max went back out into the hallway and toward Jordan's office.

He stopped in front of her door, still shocked over what he had just learned. His hand shook as he turned the knob and silently let himself inside. She had rearranged the furniture, but otherwise her office was just as he remembered it – warm and Jordan-like, filled with her things. Photographs on the desk (turned away from the door now with the rearrangement, so he couldn't tell what was in the frames), diplomas on the walls, little trinkets on the shelves, medical journals, case files piled on the desk and end tables, whatever she and Woody had been working on spread on the coffee table in front of the couch, the snow globe she'd had forever. The little bits and pieces that made this space hers. And then…there she was, asleep on the sofa with Woody, both of them wrapped in a blanket.

Quietly as he could, he crept to the couch and knelt beside it so he could run a gentle hand over her hair. She had changed it again; it was lighter now, no curls, but she was still so lovely. Just like her mother. A brain tumor.

"I love you, Jordan," he whispered, leaning forward just enough to plant a feather-light kiss to her forehead. She didn't stir.

"Max?"

But apparently Woody had, and he gazed up at him blearily. "Don't wake her," he warned quickly, standing again and backing away. He dug something out of his pocket. A piece of paper with a good phone number and an address, which he slid under a medical text on a high shelf of the bookcase. "Here. If anything happens, you can get in touch."

"But don't you want to -"

"No." Max came forward and touched Jordan's face one more time, staring down at her for a long moment. "I just needed to see her. That's all."

Woody watched him in sleep-addled confusion, not quite sure if he was dreaming or if this was actually happening. "Okay."

"Take care of her for me," he requested, kissing the side of her head again before making his way quietly toward the door to leave just as he had come. There was nothing left to say, and he didn't want to risk waking her.

"Of course," the younger man replied, realizing suddenly that this was definitely not a dream and naïvely thankful he and Jordan weren't naked under the blanket. But by the time he had come to his senses enough, Max was already gone. Woody saw him walk quickly down the hallway in front of Jordan's office for the elevators as he made his escape. Take care of her for me. That was a blessing, he understood. An acknowledgement of their relationship. She had been asleep the whole time, though. All she had asked of him was to find her father. He had, and then Max had refused to even talk with her.

He sighed in frustration, tightening his arms around her waist. I'm sorry, Jo, he thought sadly. I tried. He turned his head and caught sight of Garret through the section of blinds that hadn't been pulled all the way closed. They had probably talked, at least. So Max knew about her illness. Was that good?

"Thank you, Woody."

Jordan's quiet voice pulled him from his reverie. "You're awake," he observed, bringing his gaze to her face. Her own eyes were still closed and her lips were turned down, but she was definitely not asleep the way she had apparently been pretending to be. "Why didn't you say so?"

"He wanted me to be asleep," she continued softly, finally opening her honey eyes and shifting slightly so she could look up at him, a gentle grin tugging at her mouth now. "Dad wouldn't have come in if I'd been awake. He didn't want to talk; he just wanted to see me, like he said. That's all I wanted, too. Thank you."

"You're welcome, Jordan." If he could have pulled her closer, he would have. As it was, he brought one hand up to cradle the back of her head and moved one of his legs to wrap around hers as she started to doze off. They wouldn't speak of this night again, but she had gotten what she wanted: one step closer to closure, and the understanding that the cease-fire with her father had been called. "You're welcome."

xXx

"Look, dude, I don't have a clue what you're goin' on about," Patrick Gilbert defended himself, shaking his head wildly. "I was assigned to those people, okay? It was…it was totally random, I swear."

"You were assigned to them?" Woody asked slowly, his voice mocking. "Looks pretty bad for you that they all ended up dead. Especially with a hefty sum showing up in your bank account just two days before. Are you sure you still don't know what we're "goin' on about"?" He slid a photocopy of the kid's bank statement across the cold table.

The color drained from his face. "Hey, that's illegal! I-isn't it?"

"We had a subpoena for the records," Santana said coolly from across the room. "Your bank sent you a letter when you didn't answer your phone."

"A loan! Yeah, I'm buying a new car." He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms defiantly. "It's a loan for a new car."

"A loan," Woody repeated dryly. "For only ten thousand dollars – for a new car, no less! – two days before you are magically assigned to give four people an injection that ends up killing them. Sounds pretty perfect." He pulled the piece of paper back and placed it in the folder again. "Did you realize what you actually injected them with, Patrick? A bacteria called Yersinia pestis. Do you know what that is?"

The twenty-seven-year-old shook his head silently.

"Right. Because you never finished medical school. It's the Black Plague!" Woody slammed the file shut, letting his hand come slamming down on the table with a bang. "Whoever paid you off to switch out the flu vaccine for what he gave you? Genetically altered it, and then gave it to you with the sole purpose of murdering four people. And right now, kid, you're the only one going down for all four counts."

"Whoa, whoa!" Patrick jumped out of his chair and backed up into the far wall. "I was just told it was a different vaccine for them! No one ever said anything about a plague!"

Santana went over to take his arm and guide him back to the table. "Sit down."

"Told by who, Patrick?" Woody asked, leaning forward. No answer was forthcoming, and he clenched his fist. "Told by who!"

"Some guy, okay? He said we used to be in the same class in school and he remembered me, said he was in charge of dispensing the vaccines and that the board members needed a special one. He was going to fix it so I'd be the one to see them."

"What's his name?"

"I dunno, I hadn't seen him in years before that. To be honest, I only vaguely recognized him. Something O'Malley." Patrick slumped, the reality of his situation hitting him hard. "His first name is normal, I can't remember. He didn't give me a phone number or anything."

"And the ten grand?" Santana pushed.

The kid shook his head sadly. "He said it was to help me out. Shit. He was buying me off, wasn't he?"

"So it really wasn't any kind of payment?"

"No way, lady. I'm not a hit-man." He looked at them both, eyes wide with fear. "Should I be getting a lawyer? Am I still being charged with anything?"

Woody took a deep breath, thinking for a moment. "You should probably talk to the Public Defender's office about getting a lawyer just in case, but I don't think the D.A. will be bringing charges against you given the situation." He pulled a business card out of his breast pocket and handed it to him. "But if this O'Malley tries to contact you in any way, get in touch with me or Detective Santana immediately. Got it?"

"Yeah, man."

"You're free to go."

Patrick scrambled to his feet and practically ran from the interrogation room in his haste to leave.