Thank you to all of my readers, and especially to my reviewers. Every one of you brightens my day. I hope 2013 is treating you all well so far!
Woody was woken many hours later by a gentle hand on his arm and a soft voice calling his name. The first thing he was aware of was a sharp pain in his back from having fallen asleep slumped against the wall with his pillow as the only buffer, his duffle bag as an arm rest of sorts. He slowly opened his eyes, confused and not sure where he was for a moment. "Jordan?"
Then the morgue hallway come into focus and, much to his surprise, Kate was kneeling beside him with a file in her hand. He quickly sat up straight, running a hand over his cheek in an attempt to fully wake up. "What? What's wrong?"
But Kate just gave him a small smile. "Nothing is wrong, Detective. Actually," she continued, holding up the chart, "everyone's blood panels came back. We put a rush on them. We're all negative for the bacteria."
"Even Jordan?" Woody was already on his feet, heart pounding as he looked through the window for her. She must have been against the wall, though; he couldn't see her.
"Even Jordan." Kate rose as well and walked to the door in front of him to start tugging at the barrier. "She can't leave the morgue yet, but she can come out of her office now – and you can go in."
"Thank God," he breathed, just giving her enough time to clear space in front of the doorknob before reaching for it blindly. All he could think about was getting to Jordan, holding her, kissing her, whispering in her ear this time that she would be okay - and now there was proof. It had only been a day. That wasn't long enough for her to withdraw completely, right?
The latch on the door released, and he practically fell into the office in his haste, his gaze instantly finding her curled in the corner in the same place he had been outside. Tears pricked his eyes. "Jo..."
Not waiting for her to wake up, he rushed over and sank to the floor, gathering her into his arms and hiding his face against her warm neck. "It's okay now, Jordan."
The jostling was enough to rouse her, though, and she gasped against him in shock. "Oh, my God, Woody, what are you doing!"
She started to pull away from him, but Woody just held her tighter, his hand coming up to cradle the back of her head. "The results came back. No one is sick. You're not sick. You're going to be okay." She sagged against him with that, unable to hold back a quickly stifled sob.
"A-are you sure?"
"Positive," Kate said from the doorway. She had finished taking down the covering, leaving it in a pile on the floor. "You're good."
"Oh, my God…" she sighed so softly only Woody could hear. But then she sniffed quietly and started to disentangle herself from his arms to look at Kate. "Did, um, did the tests only check for the Y. pestis?"
The other doctor nodded and stepped forward to hand her the file, a somewhat awkward look on her face as she got closer to the couple still on the floor. "Yes. That's why we were able to put such a rush on it. Everyone came back clean. Were you looking for something else?"
Jordan glanced quickly over the papers in the file, but Kate was right and there was nothing else of interest there other than the fact that she had once again escaped death. "No, nothing."
"Jo." Woody watched her closely, far too aware of the small lie she had just told. He reached out and brushed away the stray tear that had escaped down her cheek, and her eyes darted over to meet his. Her fear of the continuing unknown was obvious, but she wasn't going to open up to him now. Even as he watched, her wall was being rebuilt. He moved his hand to cup her face, not knowing what else to do as she retreated further into herself. "Jordan, sweetheart…"
Whether or not she was going to respond was lost as Claudia poked her head into the room and greeted them all with a cheerful, "Good morning! May I come in?"
Jordan gave Woody a small smile before pulling away from him completely and getting to her feet. "Yeah, of course."
Claudia came into the room and extended her hand. "Claudia Lancaster. It is so nice to meet you, Doctor Cavanaugh. Or do you go by Hoyt now? Nigel didn't specify."
"Oh, um – Cavanaugh. You can call me Jordan." Behind her Woody's face flamed, but he couldn't help but be surprised that, once again, she didn't try to set the record straight even if she was a little flustered. She took Claudia's hand. "It's nice to meet you, too."
"I take it y'all got the good news, then?" She looked between the three people, trying to keep up her cheerfulness when she caught Kate's awkward stance and Woody's nervous energy. "It's definitely a good start! Though I'm sorry you and Doctor Vijay can't go home just yet. Woody, Kate, I have the antibiotic here, you can both take the first round. You'll be free to go by dinner."
Jordan crossed her arms and paced over to her desk, unsure of what to do with herself now as Woody and Kate followed Claudia out into the hallway to get the pills. The threat was still far from over. Just because she had come out of the first blood test unscathed didn't mean she would be able to avoid the bacteria indefinitely. Especially since she wasn't able to take the antibiotics.
In the hall, Woody took two pills from a paper cup and chased them down with a swig of water from the bottle Claudia handed him. "Thank you," he said. And then, with a quick look to Kate, he repeated, "Thank you, too."
Kate grinned before walking off. "No problem."
"So, Detective," Claudia started, gesturing he could keep the bottle when he tried to hand it back. "The State is ordering the entire staff – as well as everyone else who has been stuck here – breakfast. Pancakes or scrambled eggs and bacon. What can I put you and your wife down for?"
She gave him a wide, expectant smile. Woody just bit his lip uncomfortably. "Um…pancakes, I guess. For both of us. But, uh, we're not actually married. Yet, I mean. If it ever happens. I don't know why Nigel told you that. I think it's a running joke with them now." He stopped himself, realizing with a rush that he was rambling.
Claudia's eye's widened and her cheeks colored. "Oh, my goodness! Oh…oh, man, this is so embarrassing. What, is this 'initiate the new kid' or something? Gosh." She covered her face with her hand. "I've read so much about Doctor Cavanaugh, and I was so excited about meeting her. I mean, the works she's had published in medical journals have been absolutely incredible! Now I've really put my foot in my mouth, haven't I?"
A few years ago, the answer to that question would have been an irrefutable, yes. But now, apparently, Jordan was letting it slide right off. Which was odd in itself, though he didn't say so. Keeping this in mind, Woody shrugged and gave her a small smile. "I wouldn't say that, exactly. Jo's probably too preoccupied to really care right now."
"Of course! What's the matter with me?" She sighed and shook her head. "Gracious. Just because I'm used to this kind of stuff doesn't mean you guys are. I'll just go now, leave you two alone. Need to make sure everyone gets the antibiotics, anyway."
He watched her turn and walk off, pulling a notebook out of her pocket to check a list of names before going to find whoever was left to take the pills. Woody took a steadying breath before turning in the other direction back toward Jordan's office. She had closed the door again, and for some reason Woody's heart began to thud as he knocked once and let himself inside. She was standing in front of the circular window, looking out over the street below with a glazed and exhausted expression on her face. She had picked up her pillow and other belongings from the floor and placed them on the coffee table.
"Hey," he whispered quietly, as though worried he might startle her.
She didn't look at him. "Hey."
"Claudia took a breakfast order. Apparently we're getting pancakes. It's okay if you don't want to eat them, though. We'll probably get a free lunch, too." There was no response, so he walked over to her and wrapped his arms around her waist from behind so she could continue looking out the window. "Are you okay?"
She was silent for a moment before responding dryly with, "No, I am definitely not okay."
"Talk to me, Jordan," Woody implored, dipping his face to rest against her shoulder and pressing a light kiss there. "Please."
"Not right now, Woody," she murmured before twisting in his arms and putting a hand to his cheek. "I…I just can't deal with it all right now, okay? The last time something like this happened, I found out I had a tumor in my brain. The time before?" She gave a mirthless laugh. "Elaine died. I guess I need to sort it out myself before I try to talk about it out loud, and it's going to take some time. Just don't…go anywhere."
"No, of course I won't leave." He tugged her against his chest, tucking her head under his chin and cradling it there as he held her tightly. "Take all the time you need. I won't go anywhere." He felt a damp spot start to appear on his shirt and he knew she was trying very hard not to start sobbing, but he didn't mention it. Instead, he stroked her hair gently and said, "You must be worn out. Come on, let's sit down."
They went over to the couch and sank down together, Woody leaning back against the corner and Jordan immediately pulling her feet up so she could fall against him sideways. Their arms wrapped around the other without thinking. Woody took a deep breath, taking solace in the fact that she was close enough now that he could smell her intoxicating scent. He needed to keep her talking. If not about something important, then about anything at all before she shut down entirely.
"So, um, Claudia mentioned that you've been published?"
"What?" Jordan lifted her head just enough to give him an inquisitive stare, raising an eyebrow as she caught on to what he was doing. But then she sighed and lowered her head to his chest again, giving him this one. "Yeah. Two times, a while ago. Nothing big, really – just some interesting medical findings from cases, that's all. Claudia read those?"
"Yeah, apparently. She thinks you're brilliant."
She did laugh at that. "Please. I was pressured by Nigel and Garret to submit those essays. I never even read the journals they were published in. Guess I'm not one for fame, huh?" She paused for a moment, recalling each time more fondly than she thought she would. "Garret got copies, though. They're on my bookshelf somewhere."
Woody ran his hand over her hair as she spoke, more relieved that he could express to be there with her. The conversation died out then and Jordan did nothing to keep it going.
Very quietly, Woody whispered, "Hey, I'm going to need to run by the precinct to talk to my chief once we're released. Would you, uh, like me to go back by our place and bring you your guitar? Or something?"
He felt stupid as soon as the question was out of her mouth but a faint smile touched Jordan's lips. She ran her hand across his chest and let it rest right above his heart. "No. But thank you for offering. That guitar hasn't been here since I was living in the morgue," she added with a light laugh in an attempt to lighten the mood and bring it away from the position they were in.
"You used to live in the morgue? Okay, now this is a story I have to hear."
"Are you sure?" Garret asked into the phone a few hours later. "Absolutely positive?"
The person on the other end responded and the M.E. scribbled something on a piece of paper. Then he hung up, hastily stood, and dashed from his office. His first impulse was to find Jordan, but there was no way he was going to let her be involved in this. Bug, then. And Claudia. Still, though…
"Jordan!" he bellowed as he ran down the hall toward the Crypt.
Even though he was headed in the opposite direction from her office, she heard her name being called and flung her door open in time to see him running off. "Garret! What's going on?"
He motioned for her to follow. "Another body is being brought in. Put on a mask, find Bug, and come on."
"Wait, you're actually letting me help?"
"Yes. Don't make me regret it."