As always, thank you to everyone who has been reading and a special thanks to those who have reviewed. I appreciate every one of you.
The next day dawned bright and fresh, filled with the promise of a new start that Jordan had been looking for. She stretched softly, careful of both her stitches and of Woody, who was still asleep with his arms tight around her waist. Feeling him spooned behind her, she grinned crookedly and closed her eyes against the morning sun streaming through the big bay windows. He had been so gentle with her the night before, so affectionate, and she felt herself falling in love with him all over again with every kiss, chasing away the demons that had been plaguing her for the last several weeks.
She knew that he had taken her attack hard, but she had been so wrapped up in her own turmoil that she'd had a difficult time being as supportive as she could have been. Just as he had been, unable to see her own struggle. They'd drifted apart, and she was relieved beyond belief that they were able to find one another again so easily.
Moving slowly, Jordan rolled over in his arms so she could look at him. His face was so peaceful, lacking the lines and stress he had been carrying since that awful day. She reached out and ran a single finger lightly down his jaw, reveling in her calming emotions.
A few minutes of simply watching him later, Woody's eyes peeked open and caught sight of her. She grinned, pulling her hand back, almost embarrassed. "G'morning."
"Hey," he said softly, smiling widely and going back to that charming, innocent Wisconsin Boy Scout she'd fallen for so many years ago. "How long have you been awake?"
"Not long. You, uh, you want some coffee?"
Woody stretched briefly before turning back to pull Jordan closer. She settled easily against his chest. "Not yet. You're blushing," he pointed out humorously. "I want to view this rare sight for as long as I can."
"I am not blushing!" she retorted, but his calling her out just made the color deepen. "And besides, I want to look at my case. I know you have it."
He immediately tensed when he heard those words, the light joy of the moment dying away. "I...are you sure that's a good idea?"
"It's cold, isn't it?" she asked softly, reading the fear on his face easily. "When?"
"Yesterday. I'm so sorry," Woody whispered, trying to reach for her hand but stopping when she recoiled slightly. "But they're going to look into it every chance they get; even Seely's going to help. So it's only cold by status, that's all."
Jordan fully extracted herself from both his grasp and the warm bed, standing up and looking for her discarded tank top, horribly unwanted tension starting to build again. "If you don't show me that file willingly, I'll just look for it on my own. Is…Woody, is there something in there you don't want me to see?" She had turned slightly to gaze at him over her shoulder, but he wouldn't meet her eyes as he sat up, too.
He was silent for a heartbeat before breathing, "A photograph. Of you."
"…What?" Her arms went limp, the flannel pants she had just picked up from the foot of the bed almost falling to the floor.
"I don't know when it was taken," he supplied quickly once his voice returned, "but it was in that envelope with the card. The one given to me in the precinct, right before I left to come home and…found you."
Jordan nodded slowly, staring at her hands in dull shock. "Show me."
Thirty minutes later, the file and its small amount of copied evidence was spread out on the mahogany kitchen table. Jordan was sitting before it, reading over the few pages of reports with Woody leaning against her chair with a comforting hand on her shoulder.
"There's nothing here," Jordan whispered, carefully controlled fury lacing her words. "Just…just everything standard to any investigation. No suspects? No real evidence? Not even any trace evidence except a black fiber and the fucking knife tip that broke off because I jerked to get away – the analysis of which only came back to say it was a shitty blade made of shitty metal that still would have killed me?" She picked up the vivid color copies of the card and photograph Woody had received and scowled down at the grainy picture of herself, studying it for the second time. "I don't even know when this could have been taken. How long have they been watching?"
"Jordan, it's -"
"It's not fine, Woody!" she snapped, dropping the papers back to the table and looking up at him, her eyes flashing with anger. "It's not fine, it's not going to be okay, it is a big deal."
"That's not what I was going to say," he said gently, battling back his own anger at the case only so he could help her through hers. He'd had a feeling this was going to happen, that letting her look through all of this so soon was going to push her back down a few of the steps they'd taken the night before. Wanting to be closer and more at her level, he reached for another chair and dragged it over, sitting down and grasping her hands tightly. "I was going to say, it's not an answer we can find right now, but we're not going to give up. This isn't going to turn into your mother's case."
Jordan started to pull her hands away but stopped herself, recognizing that she wasn't angry at him but at the situation and trying to keep it that way. It wasn't his fault. "You can't promise that."
"No," Woody agreed, pushing a strand of hair out of her face and behind her ear. "I can't. But I can promise that this affected me just as much as it did you, even if it affected me differently. I want these bastards as badly as you do."
There was silence for a few seconds while he stared at her and she dropped her gaze, unable to handle the unhidden adoration in his blue eyes. "I remember, Woody," she suddenly whispered. "Between the nightmares about…you know. It came back, bit by bit. I remember what happened. How -" She halted, forcing the air out of her lungs and turning her face toward the large windows over the kitchen sink. "How can there be nothing here? Just dead ends and no leads? They tried to kill me, Woody. They knew who I was."
"Jordan…" He used a gentle finger under her chin to bring her face back around, hoping to catch her eyes. They were stormy, a hatred he had only seen a handful of times burning in their honey depths that took him off guard. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"Because nothing I remembered would help!" she spat venomously, standing quickly to pace the room. Woody didn't follow her, and she was oddly grateful. She needed space right then, and, though she knew he wasn't doing it on purpose, him being so close was making her feel claustrophobic even when she had enjoyed it so much just an hour earlier.
She came to a stop in front of a window and crossed her arms over her chest, forcing herself to continue talking. "There were two of them, but they wore masks. Black ski masks. So cliché, right? Dressed in all black, too. No distinguishing or identifying marks. Had knives, which was either stupid or very smart. We'd've been able to trace bullets and a gun right back to them." Her voice tapered off, and Woody almost thought she was going to walk away and leave it at that, but she kept going, staring out the window and focusing on something far in the distance.
"I was getting something to drink in the kitchen. Water. Lily had left two hours ago and I'd just finished a load of laundry I didn't do the weekend before. There was a scraping noise on the porch, like someone scuffing their foot on that loose board to the left of the door, by the window. We haven't fixed that yet…"
She took a deep breath, still not moving. Woody didn't move either, both horrified and enraptured by what she was revealing to him.
After a moment, her words cut through the stillness. "I knew something was wrong and I had already started moving toward the stairs, wanting to get my gun. But there was one knock on the door and then it was kicked in. I had locked it after Lily left. I…ran for the stairs and was halfway up, but one of them grabbed my leg and pulled me down. I kicked him. Or her, I guess. We both fell and he slammed my head into the floor. Twice. I, uh, still had my water glass in my hand so I smashed it into his face to get him off me." Jordan paused again, gathering her thoughts. "By then the other one had blocked my way upstairs. Pushed me into the counter and pulled out a knife. I grabbed one of the bar stools and swung it. It hit him in the arm, and I swung it again when he staggered so it hit him it the chest. He fell back."
Woody remembered the broken stool against the wall when he'd entered the house, and it made sense now. But he didn't speak, completely unable to yet. "The first guy – he came toward me again, so I just chucked the stool at him. It hit his head and he fell against the wall. I threw that vase – the ugly one from Nigel – at him, too. Books, anything I could get my hands on. Somehow I ended up back in the kitchen and saw that cast iron pan in the sink. I grabbed it. One of them came toward me again and I smacked him with it. Side of the head. Hit him two more times, and he fell. But the other one…he came at me too fast, and I couldn't hit him and the other one at the same time and then…one of 'em had me and the other…the other…" There were silent tears streaming down her face now, yet she refused to acknowledge them.
"He got me with the knife. It hurt so bad. But I guess adrenaline kicked in even stronger and – and I felt the one holding me hesitate so I twisted out of his grip in another attempt to get away. The knife tore my organs; I could feel it. And then…suddenly they were gone and I was on the floor in the hallway. I…I…knew the closest phone was by the couch, so I tried to get over there to call someone because I knew I was going to die if I didn't, but I couldn't make it. It was black, and then…you were there. I..I couldn't…couldn't…"
Woody had started to cry, too, and he couldn't resist any longer, not giving a damn if she wanted space or not. He stood and went to her, wrapping her in his arms from behind and lowering his face to hide against her soft hair as the same sickness he'd felt when he found her rose in his stomach. Hearing her recount what happened was horrendous, and realizing once again how close she'd come to dying in his arms made his head spin. "Oh, Jordan. Oh, sweetheart."
"That's it," she said quietly, stiff in his arms and trying to convince her body to relax against him knowing instinctively he needed the comfort just as much as she did. "That's what happened. Next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. You had saved me."
"You saved yourself, Jo," Woody choked out, surprising himself with how hard he had started to cry. He held her tighter, squeezing his eyes closed and letting the warmth of her body reassure him that she really was alive.
She let out a long, slow sigh before finally turning around in his grasp and cupping his face in her hands. She wanted to apologize to him for her erratic behavior, she wanted to tell him how much she loved him and how much he meant to her, she wanted to tell him that he really had saved her life. But all that came out was the surface of the truth she was feeling right then. "I need to know who it was, Woody. I need to know who wanted me dead so badly. And with…with everything it brought up…I think the only way I'm going to keep from going insane is with closure. It can't end up like my mom's case."
Pain blossomed in his eyes and Jordan pressed both of her thumbs over his lips before he could speak. "Being here, away from Boston, with you – probably the only person who has ever successfully pulled me back from that edge – will help so much. But I just…"
"You need to know," Woody finished, understanding where she was coming from and not judging her for it at all. He swallowed around the large lump still in his throat, immense guilt pooling in his stomach to intermingle with the lingering nausea. "This is probably all my fault. It probably happened because of some case I worked on. Revenge or something. You were attacked because of me."
The command in her voice made him fall silent and look at her and, for the first time since they had woken up that morning, there was a soft light in her eyes. "That kind of thinking will make you crazy," she whispered sagely before giving him a very small grin. "Take it from someone who knows crazy."
"Two peas in a pod, aren't we?" he asked, closing his eyes and reveling in the feeling of her hands against his face.
"Pretty much." She rocked forward slightly to press her forehead against his, her eyes cast down. "Why the powers that be or whatever exists out there ever thought it would be a good idea to throw us together, I will never know. Your temper is almost as bad as mine when you're set off by the wrong things."
Woody just chuckled dryly. "Yeah, well. I guess we've both had rough lives."
Suddenly – and much too soon for his liking – Jordan dropped her hands and stepped away, cutting the moment short and effectively shutting down the conversation. "I'm going to go find a book to read and sit out in that nice sunroom. Did you see how many books there are in here?" she asked, turning to walk away. Her voice faded while she padded barefoot into the spacious and luxuriously furnished study down the hall.
He watched her robed back as she left him, still standing there in the kitchen. She was getting better, wasn't she? he asked himself, listening to her indistinct voice now in the other room, naming titles out loud – possibly to him, possibly to no one – to find one to read. He himself was furious that the case had been cast aside, cold, even though he knew Santana and Framus would look at it whenever they could. He was having a very difficult time coming to terms with her near-death, and now this? Now knowing the people who did it could very well have gotten away with it? No. It was unfathomable.
But if she was driven off, or driven crazy, or if she was never able to get the closure she so desperately needed to find peace –
Immediately pulled from his thoughts by her sharp voice, he dashed from the kitchen and down the hall, his heart starting to clench. But she wasn't hurt. She was standing rigidly in front of one of the many bookcases, her finger paused in front of a book. He broke his run, instead coming up behind her slowly and placing a hand on her shoulder, almost afraid to startle her. "Jordan, what is it? Are you okay?"
She didn't answer right away, and Woody followed her gaze to the shelf, then to her hand, and then to the spine of the book she had stopped in front of. East of Eden. Another of John Steinbeck's works, The Grapes of Wrath, was beside it, surrounded by many novels by Edith Wharton and other American classics.
"Isn't…isn't this that book you were telling me about yesterday?" he asked softly, feeling weird as he looked at it.
"Yes," Jordan finally said. "This is the book those words came out of. I'm – I'm fine, just surprised. You know, to find it here." Not hesitating any longer, she slid her fingers around the spine and slipped the book off the shelf. "I've read it so many times. I'll probably read it again, too, I just… I don't understand. Why? Why did he choose those two phrases?"
"Can you show them to me?" Woody covered her hands over the book with his, keeping his eyes down. "I, uh, I mean, if you remember where they are."
"Here. I do. Vaguely, anyway."
She pulled her hands away and flipped the book open toward the beginning. Through the chapters she skimmed, her lips moving silently as her eyes flew. She didn't have to search too far, and she found what she was looking for at the start of chapter eight. "Right there. Introducing a new character. It's beautiful writing, really. Why did someone have to twist it like that, to use against…against us?"
That was the first time she had said us rather than me, and Woody met her gaze briefly to show how much that small gesture meant to him before carefully taking the book to read where she pointed. There were the words, printed right on the paper. Insignificant though it might seem, that meant something.
Letting out a soft sigh, Jordan reached around him for an anthology of poetry instead. "I'm gonna go get some coffee and read for a while. You okay?"
"Oh. Oh, yeah." He looked up at her, catching her worried whisky eyes with his. If he were honest, he didn't know what to feel right then, holding that book in his hands.
She gave him a soft smile and leaned forward to press a chaste – though only because he was taken off guard – kiss to his lips. "Let me read for a while and then we can go out somewhere. I should be up for that. Though maybe not horseback riding."
Once again he watched as she walked away, this time to get her coffee and go find a place to sit for an hour or so. He felt a little better, knowing that she was feeling all right – mentally and physically. And, while she read, he would go call Santana and make sure she knew about where those phrases had come from.
As though it would make any difference.