Despite the perpetual heat of San Antonio, Jordan pulled the sheet closer around her body, wanting desperately to sink into the pillows and mattress underneath and disappear into the false sense of comfort they provided. There, in the solitude of her home, her mind drifted to times when life was simple, if there ever was such a moment, wanting to go back to a suspended point in time where her chosen family was still together and she felt whole. But time only rushed forward cruelly, regardless of her wishes.
Jordan had always prided herself for being a rational person, facts and figures were her driving force, and she knew perfectly well that change was inevitable. She had lived through unwanted change before, so why was she struggling to adapt now?
The night shift had not been the same for the past weeks. Now, some of the faces that surrounded her every night were no longer familiar and the seed of loneliness settled in her chest, growing heavier and morose as time went by. But among the recent change there was a single constant, even after spending years revolving through the door of her life.
Weeks had passed since T.C. decided to stay, which initially ignited a flicker of hope in her heart that she tried hard to prevent from spreading like wildfire ever since. Their smiles were timid at first, eyes grew heavy with silent confessions, hands brushed, absently and by force of habit from a familiarity gained by a decade of intimacy. They even found themselves drifting towards Topher’s corner together, pulled there by grief and a raw need for comfort. Jordan often leaned into that corner to fill in patients’ files while T.C. peeked over her shoulder just to annoy her, his steady breathing fanning the loose strands of her hair and also escalating the need to touch him.
Yet, the initial hope eventually faded into a void where nothing happened and soon they arrived at a stalemate, wanting to break the emotional inertia that would certainly drive them insane but entirely paralyzed by the fear of rejection, past pain and heartache without end.
That morning, at the end of the shift, Jordan observed T.C. for a while. He sat slumped on a chair with his gaze, absent and growing tearful, fixed on the corner of the nurse’s station, while lost in memories of the past and clearly hurting as much as she was. Exhausted and with no strength to maintain the pretense in that moment, Jordan moved forward pulled by that irresistible need to take care of him. She brushed his hair lightly with her fingers, kissed the top of his head.
She then left towards the morning light without a word, feeling like they were slowly circling the inevitability of their love, agonizingly aware of each other, though never truly crossing that invisible line made by the pain of the past that still seemed to keep them apart.
Jordan sighed deeply, attempting to drive the thoughts of him out of her mind, as it was already bad enough that he populated her unconscious dreams, and she resigned to turn around a few more times hoping to find a comfortable position to sleep.
A knock on the door, loud and persistent, pulled Jordan from that state between sleep and awake, and her heart started to beat wildly in her chest. Still feeling the aches of fatigue and lack of sleep, she got out of the bed slowly and made her way to the door, the knocking never subsiding.
The open door revealed an equally tired T.C under the bright midday sunlight, his hair stuck out in all directions as a tell-tale of his own struggle with sleep.
“What are you doing here?” she asked quietly.
“I couldn't rest and it seems neither can you.”
“I'm fine, T.C..”
“You're not and you haven't been for a while.” his voice was low, rougher than usual and filled to the brim with concern for her.
She moved back into the living room in silence and he followed her inside.
“Talk to me, Jordan.” he took a seat on the couch without invitation, looking so at ease there as if he had never left this place they once shared.
Under his pleading gaze, dark and inviting, Jordan yielded and sat beside him, realizing that their usual roles were inverted as T.C. was now the calm and collected one asking her to open up. All the words she wanted to say out loud floated in her mind, though none took form on her lips. Silence stretched in time, opening a pit between them until he reached across it and took her hand in his, giving her the courage to go on.
“Everything has changed so fast.” a tremble scattered her usually clear voice. “Everyone I consider family is either dead or gone and I don't know how to deal with it.”
“Not everyone is gone, I'm here.”
The hopeful smile on his lips made Jordan scoff loudly and pull her hand from his forcefully, leaving him surprised by her abrupt reaction. The need to put space between her and that statement drove her to stand up again.
“Yes, but for how long?” she asked a little too loudly. “When will be the next time that you’ll crave danger and leave again?”
T.C. stood up and, in a few strides, crossed the space between to stand directly in front of her. Jordan felt his large hands close around her shoulders and immediately lost the will to keep hiding her emotions as it was already far too exhausting.
“I'm not going anywhere again, Jordan.” his eyes were intense with emotion as he spoke. “It took me a while to understand that staying away was not the best for everyone, that it was actually causing more pain to those I love the most. I’m here to deal with my problems, to get help and do the work, no matter how hard and painful it will be. I finally know I'm needed, that I have my family beside me no matter what, and just like you said, if we’re in each other's arms or halfway around the world.” he finished with a grin.
Jordan laughed briefly and leaned forward until her forehead collided gently with his chest, the worries that had plagued her mind for weeks somewhat lessened by his words.
“I still love you so much, Tee, but you have to be sure about this because I won’t be able to handle more pain,” her eyes filled with tears, the sight of him momentarily blurred by them. “and I don't want to hurt you again either.”
Still engraved in her mind was the broken look in his eyes as she declined his proposal with a broken heart herself, which effectively shattered their mutual trust that took a long time to mend.
“I never stopped loving you, so I’m staying for us if you’ll have me back.”
The time for words seemed over and she nodded silently, allowing her body to take the lead from then on. Jordan lifted her face and their lips touched gently at first, but soon the desperate need for each other shaped their movements until they settled into the rhythm that was so familiar to them.
Even though T.C. held her tight against his body, Jordan still managed to slid her hands between them and unbutton his shirt, pulling the fabric off his body in haste.
Her hands traveled over the expanse of his chest, feeling the skin underneath burn hot to touch, and they moved until her fingers reached uneven skin on his shoulder. She broke the kiss and her attention immediately diverted to the spot she had touched. There was a new scar on his shoulder, bumpy and roughly healed, most likely a gunshot wound, and she smoothed the skin there with the tip of her fingers.
“That was a rough one.” was all he supplied before pulling her shirt off as well.
With her chest heavy with concern, Jordan wanted to know more about it or at least reproach him for always putting himself carelessly in danger, but T.C. lifted her off the floor effortlessly before she could utter a word and prevented any complaints by firmly attaching his lips to hers again. Her arms and legs locked around his tall frame and he moved towards her bedroom, knowing the way blindly already.
They landed ungracefully on the bed among the rumpled sheets and Jordan no longer felt the need to disappear, but rather hoped to lose herself in his passion in there. The remaining clothes were quickly discarded, driven off by the need to quench the thirst of all the time spent apart.
His eyes met hers, dark and soft in the dim light that filtered through the curtains and bathed their naked bodies in yellow tones. T.C. moved above her then, flexible as a feline with well-defined muscles stretching under skin that was sprinkled with scars, some old, some new. Her hands pulled him down greedily and he covered her body with his larger one, their skins melting into one another while his fingers dug deep into the skin of her hips. His mouth trailed a blazing path across her breasts, his beard tickled the sensitive skin there and made her moan his name. Eager for more, Jordan locked him in the cradle of her legs and gasped when he slid into her, quick and all at once, burying himself deeply inside.
“It's like coming home, everytime.” he said breathlessly into her neck.
She felt the muscles on his back tremble with the effort to control himself and her nails dug into the skin there, finally feeling entirely at peace and more loved than ever.
“Welcome home.” she whispered in his ear.