|Long Walk Home
Author: madamenaan PM
Danny and Delinda, dealing with a loss after the series finale. -Complete-Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst - Chapters: 6 - Words: 18,975 - Reviews: 32 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 9 - Updated: 02-25-09 - Published: 08-14-08 - Status: Complete - id: 4473575
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
17/05/10 - Edited to re-add the formatting. Sorry for any confusion!
Disclaimer: I don't own Las Vegas.
Chapter 1: Just Counting The Miles
He always gets this feeling, as he reaches the apartment door. This sense, that something is wrong somehow. He wonders if it will ever fade with time, or whether he will go on feeling this way, remembering things he just wants to forget, for the rest of his life.
The apartment is always dark by the time he gets home in the evenings. Outside, the sky looks almost black against the bright glow of the Vegas strip. It used to comfort him, that oh-so-familiar view, the one constant in a city full of change. Now the neon lights just seem garish, too luridly bright and unashamed, as though they are taunting him with their promise of excitement, of happiness and escape. But then, in so many ways the darkness of home is worse.
He spends the day just wanting to get out of the casino, away from the lights and the sounds that are too vivid and too loud, too false and harsh; away from the people, all of them talking, laughing, shouting. It is all too much now, leaves him dazed and disoriented, this world that he grew up in. But every day, in this moment as he turns the corner of the hallway and makes his way towards their door, he finds himself dreading the darkness and the silence he will find inside.
He used to love coming home; it used to be the best part of his day. Opening up the door to find the lights on, music playing softly, and her there waiting for him. She'd come over, meet him with a smile or a kiss or a story about something that happened at work that morning, something somebody said, some crazy idea she'd had.
He misses the way she used to be then – always so full of life, always smiling, laughing, pouting, moaning. Now he feels like he's sharing the apartment with a ghost. Now it's a good day if she's out of bed and dressed, and he's ready to celebrate if she tells him she's been to the store to buy milk or a newspaper.
He reaches the door, unlocks it and pushes it open. It is dark inside, as it always is, and cold; she has forgotten to turn off the air conditioning again today.
"Dee?" he calls into the silent room. He can hear his voice sound back to him through the shadows, can hear the faint anxiety in its forced and cheerful tone. "Dee, I'm home!"
She doesn't reply, perhaps because she doesn't hear him, perhaps because she doesn't want to.
He leaves his keys on the table, hangs his suit jacket over the back of a chair. He tugs his tie looser with one hand – sometimes, now, he starts to feel like he's choking on that thing.
He walks to their bedroom, spacing his steps slowly, evenly. The door stands half open, and he sees her, sitting by the window.
She is looking outside, watching the darkness fall and deepen. She wears an old grey t-shirt of his that hangs just above her knees. She must be cold, he thinks. Her hair falls untidily over her shoulders; in the faint light from the window, it looks silver rather than golden.
Looking at her makes his heart ache. She is so pale that her skin looks almost translucent, greenish veins visible just beneath it. Her eyes are swollen and red: she has been crying again. He can't stand to think of her sitting and crying alone in this room, but he knows that she does, and that there seems to be nothing he can do to stop it.
She doesn't look up. He lifts his hand and gently taps his knuckles on the wooden door. She turns her face towards him, and tries to make herself smile.
"I didn't hear you come in," she says.
He lingers a moment in the doorway. He wishes he knew what to say.
"It's kinda cold," is all he says in the end.
He walks across the room and sits at the window seat beside her, looking out. Lights flicker on and off, luminous against the dark sky.
He reaches out to her and takes her hand. She is cold; her flesh stands up in goose bumps.
He wraps his warm hand tight around hers. He doesn't know how to touch her any more. She seems so fragile, breakable as glass. He doesn't want to hurt her.
He doesn't know how to talk to her either, doesn't know what to say. He thinks perhaps he could tell her that he knows what it's like, this deep, constant ache that just doesn't go away; could say that maybe to talk about it might ease it, soften it.
But then he looks at hazel eyes that are clouded from crying, and he can't bear to talk about it. He can't bring himself to burden her with his grief, when she is so crushed under her own. It seems wrong to claim any pain for himself.
He wants her to talk to him, tell him what to do and how to help, but at the same time he is afraid that there really is nothing he can do, no cure for this. So he just sits, wordlessly, holding her cold hands.
"How was work?" she asks finally, forcing herself to break the silence.
He is grateful to her for making the effort, but he can't think what to say in reply. All his days merge into one now. He finds himself losing track of what is going on, of what day it is, what meetings there are, what arrangements need to be made.
At first he embraced work as a distraction, but now he finds that there is no way of distracting himself from this. He spends as much time as he can at his desk, poring over files and accounts and paperwork – anything to avoid being with people, talking to people for any length of time – and yet he just can't seem to keep up, can't seem to get himself together.
Like a couple of days ago, when he and Mike picked up some lowlife lifting chips on the casino floor. As they dragged him off to holding, the guy had started babbling something about his kid daughter, about who would look after her if he was locked up. And while a part of Danny knew that this was probably nothing but a desperate attempt at sympathy, and that he just needed to call the cops and have them take this guy away, the other part of him had bought it anyway.
Looking in the guy's wallet, he found a picture of a girl: maybe six or seven, cute and smiling gap-toothed at the camera. He didn't hear much after that – the questions Mike was asking, or the chip-thief's stuttering responses. He just kept thinking about that little girl, with her untidy bangs and her freckled nose, couldn't get it out of his head long enough to think straight. So he'd let the guy go, asked Mike, who was calling Metro, to say it had been a false alarm.
"Just go home to your kid," he'd told the chip-thief wearily, and walked away before Mike could start asking him what the hell he was doing. The answer was simply that he didn't have the strength to keep talking any more.
Now, he just says, "Fine, thanks," and smiles at her. And then, after a moment, he adds, "It's gettin' dark. You want me to turn on the light?"
She makes a vague gesture, a kind of half shrug. He stays where he is, holding her hand.
"I hate thinking about you sitting here crying all day," he tells her. He tries to look at her, searching out her eyes, but she turns them away, out to the dark sky.
"Hey," he says gently. He wants her to see him, to see how much he loves her; wants her to listen to him, to hear him.
Finally, after a moment's hesitation, she looks up. He reaches to touch the curve of her face, to smooth a soft tendril of her hair with one finger.
She turns her cheek into his palm, lets it rest there a moment, and then turns it away.
"I'm fine," she tells him, her voice quiet.
He sighs. She's not fine; they both know that. She has gotten thinner and paler every day. Any weight she gained with the baby is long gone. Now, her hips and ribs are sharply defined beneath her skin, her face has lost its colour, her eyes are large and unhappy, and she no longer smiles.
He misses her – he misses his beautiful girl, misses the sound of her laugh, misses the life he almost led.
"I'm worried about you," he says softly, urgently.
"I'm okay," she answers, not meeting his eyes. She squeezes his hand, and then untangles her fingers from his, smiles that wan, almost-smile. "I'm gonna take a shower."
She gets up quickly, moves past him, and closes the bathroom door behind her. In a few moments, he can hear the water roaring, and he knows she's doing this to try and drown out the sound of muffled, choking sobs.
He contemplates knocking on the door, calling to her, but he feels suddenly tired, too tired to move, to talk, to deal with all this. And he knows that she will pretend the shower is too loud to hear him, won't answer.
So he sits by the window and stares out into the night, but he no longer sees it. He closes his eyes and leans his forehead against the cool black glass.
That night, he lies awake, watching shadows flicker across the ceiling, dancing patterns of light and dark. Beside him, she sleeps, the deep, empty sleep that comes after taking the pills the doctor has given her. He used to worry about her taking them, but now he is grateful, glad that she has some way to get away, if only for a little while. He even envies her peaceful, drug-drowsed sleep – for him, it is harder and harder to find.
When he does sleep, more and more often he finds himself dreaming an old dream, a dream of the desert that wakes him in the night with a gasp, thinking he can still feel thick, hot sand on his tongue, hear gunfire in his ears.
It's a dream he used to have a lot, one that has gotten less and less frequent as time has passed. And before, when once in a while the dream did come back, and he woke with a start in the bed beside her, she would have stirred at his sudden movement, would have reached out for him, still almost asleep, wrapped her arms around him from behind with a drowsy murmur.
Then, he could lay there, anchored safe in her arms, and wait for the nightmare to fade. He could let his breaths fall in time with hers, slow and gentle, in and out, in and out, like waves turning on a beach, until he slept again.
But now, her sleep is so deep that nothing can wake her, and he is left to lie awake, watching the hours creep slowly by. He has come to hate the night time, the darkness of it, the stillness, when there is nothing there to stop him from thinking about things he doesn't want to think about, remembering things he doesn't want to remember.
He remembers the hospital: the sharp, antiseptic smell of the hallways, the bright, glaring strip lighting overhead. He remembers being told about the baby, remembers swaying for a moment where he stood, thinking his knees were going to give way but somehow staying standing.
He remembers her face, pale and crushed, in the hospital bed. Remembers the doctor asking them, gently, if they would like to see their son, to hold him.
He remembers the day they got back from the hospital, coming into the apartment to find vase after vase of flowers set out on the kitchen counter, waxen white lilies that filled the room with a thick, cloying scent.
People had sent them - everyone, it seemed, who worked at the Montecito – Mike and Piper, Cooper, Mitch, Sam. Jillian had put them out, had left a note on the counter – "I'm sorry, honey," it read, "I wasn't sure what to do with the flowers. I thought you might like them."
Delinda had stood in the doorway, stiff and still, her arms wrapped around herself as though to ward off blows.
"Can you throw them out, please?" she asked him, suddenly, sharply, and he remembers how her voice shook.
"Dee…" he'd protested softly, and even then he wasn't sure why. He knew the flowers weren't going to help in any way, knew she didn't want to have to look at them, at a constant reminder of the baby's death. He didn't want to have to look at them either. But there seemed something wrong, somehow, about throwing them out, flowers as beautiful as those, with their fresh, clean petals, their sweet scent.
"Please," she'd said again, her voice louder, insistent. "Just get rid of them."
And then, he'd hesitated, and she snapped:
"For God's sake!" She screamed it fiercely, her voice tearing, and then she was crying, and not even noticing, and he looked at her face and realized how angry she was, furious. "The house looks like a goddamn funeral parlour!"
She'd pushed past him then, gathering the lilies up in her hands, stuffing them roughly into the trash.
"Delinda," he'd said, "Delinda, stop."
He stepped towards her and she whirled around, turned on him, her eyes wide and wet and blazing, her breath coming in sobs, her face angry, and despairing, and heartbroken, and beautiful.
"It isn't fair, Danny," she half-shouted, half-sobbed, "It isn't fair! There are all these people out there who hurt their children, who starve them, and beat them. We would never do that, we would never, never do that." Her voice was anguished; passionate and furious, "So how is it right that they get to keep their babies and we don't? How is that right?"
And then, as she screamed that last word, she had flung out a hand and swept one of the vases from the countertop onto the floor. And they had watched it shatter, had stood there looking down at shards of smashed glass lying in a pool of spilled water, crushed flowers and wet stems.
Tears streamed down her face and she did nothing to wipe them away, to stop them. She just looked at him, her grief wild and uncontainable, and he looked back.
"I don't know," he told her softly, and he remembers feeling then as though his heart would break at the sight of her, so raw and vulnerable and broken.
He remembers how unbearable it was to be so helpless, remembers thinking then that he would walk for miles on broken glass, and gladly, if he could just come home and have things be the way they should.
He wished that he could say something, anything. But there was nothing more to say. It was true: it wasn't fair, what happened. It was cruel, and senseless, and unfair, and there was nothing that he could do about it.
He'd reached out for her then, and pulled her to him, and she'd given way in his arms, not angry anymore, just lost; desolate and weeping.
He remembers how easy it was to hold her, then. Remembers how she slid slowly down to the floor, while he went with her.
"It's okay," he'd whispered, over and over, face buried in her thick hair, "It's okay, baby, it's okay."
She had just shaken her head, her face pressed against his shoulder, and he had known that she was right, that it wasn't okay, and that perhaps it never would be.
They'd sat together on the living room floor while she sobbed, harder and harder, and he held her; rocked her gently, tenderly; whispered helpless words of comfort into her hair.
They'd stayed there for the longest time.
It had seemed then like those first days were the hardest, when the pain was breathtaking, burning and searing, and the two of them could do nothing but cling to each other and let it wash over them. But he thinks now that in some ways that time was easier.
Then, at least, they had had each other. Then, at least, she would turn to him, hold onto him like he could save her. Now, she knows he can't, and he can feel her drifting away.
Now, he is almost afraid to come near her, afraid to touch her, for fear of hurting her more. Now, she pulls away when he tries to talk to her and she cries alone in the house, while he is out at work.
And then, when he is home, she will just sit for hours, silently, staring outside. And these are all things that scare him more, somehow, than the wild, desperate anger, the storms of sobs.
He loves her, more than anything, and she is all he has. He wishes he could find a way to make her see that.
Lying in bed, he sighs, covers his face with his hands. He doesn't want to think about this.
He slides soundlessly out from between the sheets and slips next door into the living room, where he can lie on the couch, with the TV flickering quietly in front of him, and drift in and out of muddled, broken dreams until the morning comes.
It has been four months now, and it feels like a lifetime.