Woody should have felt good.
He did feel good. He'd sent a man home tonight, a man who hadn't done anything except try to beat the bureaucracy. A lowly Boston homicide cop had figured out what the FBI hadn't; an innocent man had been set free. And Woodrow Hoyt was the one who'd cut him loose.
He felt good. Yeah. He even managed to work up a pleasant glow of self-satisfaction on the way back to the site.
Then he reached the site, and all he felt was tired, as his 30-plus hours of concentration on the case gave way to the realization of more than 100 lives that no one could have saved. He stared at the wreckage for a long time, then let his head fall forward on the steering wheel for just as long.
He could have slept there without a problem. He'd have woken up with a stiff neck and a sore back, but there wouldn't have been dreams, so it would have been an okay trade-off. But while he'd been busy being SuperCop, Jordan had been in that wreckage, gathering bodies and talking to a dying man. Her pain meant more to him than his own -- he didn't question that, just accepted it. And hauled his tired, aching body out of his car.
His badge was still around his neck, but he'd been in and out often enough that everyone recognized him anyway. The air was still heavy with the smell of dust and ash and blood, even though it had all mostly settled by now. He thought maybe the smell was in his head, and maybe it would always be there, from now on. The search lights shone over the rubble, tracing rough shadows on brick and stone that had been a building 30 hours ago, and he tried to focus on the bodies that were moving, not the other kind.
Jordan wasn't in the temporary morgue, and neither was Garrett. He paused long enough to check on Elaine, dozing next to the whiteboard that counted bodies (111, his mind whispered, 111 families now minus a member, 111 people who would never walk out of that building), before leaving again. Even the air outside smelled better than the cold helplessness of the morgue. The people there were beyond his help; that lay on Jordan and Lily and the others now.
He heard Bug before he saw him, talking to the FEMA guy who was in charge. Woody hadn't gotten his name and felt vaguely bad for the lapse in manners, but since he was having trouble focusing on staying upright, he didn't feel that bad.
"Bug, have you seen Jordan?"
Bug exchanged looks with the FEMA guy, and Woody's head suddenly cleared a bit. He knew that look. "What happened to Jordan? Is she all right?" Funny, he could have sworn he'd run out of adrenaline about 18 hours ago, but there it was, flooding his body, icy cold even through the chill of exhaustion.
Bug shook his head. "No, Woody, she's fine, more or less. It's just... the guy she was talking to.... He didn't make it."
Woody didn't need the details; he'd been keeping track of the situation all day. It involved Jordan, how could he not? "Damn it. How long ago?"
"About half an hour. We couldn't get him out." The FEMA guy looked strange, caught between guilt and anger. At himself? At the victim? At the world?
"There's something else," Bug said with careful control, like he was going to scream or cry, only he wasn't going to do either, because Bug didn't do that. "The guy she was with -- he wasn't who he said he was. He was the one who set the blast."
Blank. It was one shock too many in a day that had lasted too long. Jordan had been sitting with a man, taking care of him, suffering with him, and.... "Son of a bitch."
"It's a long story, from what we could get out of Jordan," Bug continued, rubbing a tired hand over his face. "Seems the law firm got his kids killed or something. I haven't got the details and frankly, I think they can wait until morning. I need sleep before I make judgment calls on whether 111 counts of homicide were justifiable."
Woody looked up at the mass of rubble and ruin. Saw the search lights glimmer off something that might have been a window once, watched the pattern of light and shadow shift as the tiny patch of brightness twinkled in the darkness. "They weren't," he said hoarsely.
Bug sighed. "No. They weren't." He put a hand on Woody's shoulder, whether to offer support or to get it; either way was fine. "Anyway, Jordan's still inside; Nigel and I can't talk her out, and we can't find Dr. Macy. We were about to try to track you down, and here you are."
"Yeah. Thanks, Bug, I'll take care of her." He returned the pat on the shoulder automatically, already starting towards the jagged entryway. The FEMA guy caught his arm and Woody turned on him, suddenly ready to take a swing at anyone that got between him and Jordan. On this awful, terrible, absolutely crappy too-long day, all he wanted was to see Jordan, and to make her be all right.
The FEMA guy didn't blink, just held out his hard hat with an ironic smile. "Sorry," Woody apologized after a second, taking the offered protection.
The FEMA guy nodded. "Watch your step, don't stay in too long, and get your lady out of there. She's done enough."
"Yeah." Later, he'd think to protest the 'your lady' on the grounds that Jordan would have had a fit if she'd heard it, but he would be about 12 hours too late to bother. Now, he just said, "Thanks," and started picking his way into the building.
The ME's office was still fighting with FEMA for space, looking for that last poor guy's body. He nodded at the faces he recognized, and kept looking for the one he knew. West stairwell, yeah. East side of the building, yeah. Stepping over grid markers and flags, careful not to disturb the evidence, the information, the last knowledge the families would ever have about their lost loved ones.
He found Jordan huddled on the concrete, her back to a pillar, her face in her knees, so deeply hidden in the shadows that he might have missed her if not for her white crime scene suit, now gray from dust and dirt. Her arms lay limply around her legs, as if she didn't have the strength to move them, or just didn't care. Another arm fell beside her, falling out of the hole in the wall where no one should have been able to survive. Where no one had.
She didn't look up when he knelt next to her, didn't seem to notice anyone was there. He said her name quietly; he knew how many people had trampled over and through this ground today, but even a whisper still felt somehow sacrilegious. When she didn't answer, he gently touched her shoulder.
She shook her head in vague irritation, but didn't raise it. "I'm fine, Nige. Just... go away all ready, all right?"
"It's not Nigel," he told her quietly, and Jordan rolled her head a little to the side, to look up at him with one swollen red eye.
"Hey, Woody," she said after what felt like a long time. "You stay safe?"
"Yeah. I did."
"Good. That's good."
"Yeah." She'd lost interest in the conversation, her face dropping back down into hiding, and he let his hand slide along her back until he was cradling her shoulders in one arm. He wasn't sure whether to be happy that she let him, or worried that she didn't shake him off as she normally would have. He decided on the second; a Jordan who forgot to fight was a Jordan to worry about.
The FEMA workers continued to move around them but kept clear, either out of respect for the dead man, or for the living woman. Someone called the MEs forward, out of the building, and they didn't come back; Woody thought he should probably find out why, but Jordan had somehow shifted so that she was leaning on him, her head against his shoulder, and he couldn't bring himself to move. The dead man's arm hung out of the wall, palm open and empty, and there was something sitting in it, something metallic and deadly and.... Woody blinked and shook his head and it was just a hand again, and someone he vaguely recognized was gently covering it with a blanket.
Whoever it was draped another blanket around his shoulders and Jordan's, and the vague recognition became solid: Nigel. How could he not recognize Nigel? The realization of how far gone he was, how much worse Jordan must be, nudged him into motion. He let his head fall down across Jordan's, her hair sliding like raw silk across his cheek, until he found her ear. "Jordan? It's time to go."
She shook her head again, the movement so slight he felt it instead of seeing it. "I told him we'd get him out," she whispered, and her voice was rough with tears. But she wouldn't cry, not his Jordan; she'd just hold the tears in, dam them up deep inside her heart until she drowned in them.
"He's already out, Jordan." He could feel moisture cutting tracks through the dirt on his cheeks, the dust and ash that covered everything in sight. He wasn't Jordan; he'd cry for both of them if he had to. For all of them. "You stayed with him until he left, but now it's time for you to go."
He thought she would ignore him, but Jordan finally took a deep, shuddering breath, raising her head enough to scrub her hand over her face. It smeared the dirt around a little, and not much else. Her eyes were swollen, the circles under them seemed to swallow the light, and she looked like a Madonna. Not the bloodless painted images in blue silk and golden crowns, holding saintly babies and smiling in ethereal beauty. This was the other Madonna, the one carved into stony marble, her bones refined by fire and rain. The grieving woman kneeling beneath the cross, cradling the pitiful remains of all she had loved and had lost.
Woody loved her more fiercely for her grief than for her laughter, and wondered if he would ever be able to make her understand that.
He settled for brushing a kiss across her forehead, and helping her gently, firmly to her feet. She leaned against him as they made their way out into the night, stumbling more than once; she would have fallen if he hadn't been there to catch her. Nigel shadowed them silently to safety, then gave a small wave as he turned away. Woody saw him reach Bug, saw the two men stand silently together staring up at the rubble. Jordan had turned, staring up with them.
She made a sound like a choked laugh, and he looked down at her in surprise. "What?"
"Nothing." He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows, and she gave in, like she always did. "It's... nothing. Just.... I think I expected to come out, and find a building here. I don't know why."
He didn't know why, either, so he just drew her closer, absurdly grateful when she didn't pull away. Instead, she turned her head to bury her face in his shirt, and he put his other arm around her, wrapping her up as tightly as he could in the blanket and his love. He didn't know when her trembles became silent sobs wracking her body; he just rested his cheek on her hair and waited out the storm.
112 people gone. Jordan had broken her heart to try to save one. Woody had busted his ass to save another. Holding his best friend close, he looked up at the stars gleaming dimly over the ruins, and tried to believe that someday, it would seem like enough.
Thanks to Beth, who started cj-complicated, nagged me to write fic, then told me it was good; and to Kiki, for the beta.