|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|
22/05/10 - Edited to re-add the formatting. Sorry for any confusion!
Author's Note: I'm really, really sorry for the long wait yet again. Things have just been really busy and I haven't had a lot of free time. Thank you very, very much to anyone who's put up with my slowness and continued to read!
This one is the last chapter for this story, although I'm hoping to perhaps do an epilogue or something once I have a bit more time (hopefully people will still want to read it!)
Anyway, I hope you enjoy the chapter! If you have the time, please let me know what you think.
Chapter 6: The Way Home
As they walk into the room, she feels like everyone is looking. She can feel herself shrinking into him, her grip tightening on his arm. She feels almost silly for doing it, thinks it's kind of funny, how someone like her, someone who's never been shy, who's always thrived on people and parties and crowded rooms, suddenly needs him here to hold her hand, to keep her standing upright.
She wonders how he can do this, how he can bear to come here every day and face all these people; all these people who know, and look at her like they know, all these people who will come over soon, who will ask her how she's doing and how she's been.
And she will have to smile, and nod, and tell them that she's fine, and suddenly she doesn't know if she can do that. Just the thought of it makes her feel anxious, panicked, her heartbeat sounding louder and louder inside her head.
All day, she's been telling herself, over and over, that she wants to do this. She wants to get out of the house, and she wants to see people, talk to people.
She wants, too, to show Danny that she's trying, wants for him to know that.
And sometimes, she's found herself actually believing it, found herself feeling just a little braver, just a little steadier, just a little bit more like her old self.
But now, now that she's here, all she wants to do is turn around and get out of the door.
The room, full of voices and lights and people, catches her off balance, the whole thing disorienting, overwhelming. Faces seem to float around her, at once familiar and strange in the soft, blurry lighting. A musician plays the piano in the corner, but though she can see his fingers moving, the sound of the music is lost under the loud, insistent stream of talking and calling and laughter. The air fills with a powerful cocktail of smells – perfume and aftershave, fresh linen and floor polish, seafood and champagne.
She stays, though. She tells herself that she's here, and she has to stay. That she said she would and so she will. She shakes her head, as though that will clear it, and tells herself to stop this, to stop making it into such a big deal.
She brushes her hair back uncertainly, tugs awkwardly at her dress, the plainest one she could find in her closet. For the first time in her life, she doesn't want to stand out at a party – all she wants is to melt away into the background, unseen.
She looks around the room, taking a moment to adjust to it again, to all these things she used to see every day without even noticing them.
"You okay?" Danny asks her, gently, in an undertone. He gives her a little smile.
She takes a deep breath. "I'm okay," she answers, finding the confidence from somewhere.
And soon, in fact, she is okay. Her eyes grow accustomed to the brightness of the lights; the sounds of the party fade gradually back from her ears. She stops feeling like the room is right up against her, surrounding her, threatening to swallow her up.
Mike comes across to them, calls out, "Hey, Danny, hey, Dee." He gives her a hug, a quick peck on the cheek, and if he's surprised to see her there, he doesn't show it. She gives his hand a thankful squeeze.
Beside her, Danny looks around, admiring the view from the windows – the Strip spread out before them in all its glowing, gaudy glory.
"This place looks amazing," he says, and she nods along. It does, she thinks, it's beautiful.
"Kinda makes you feel like you're gonna fall off the edge though," Mike jokes, gesturing to the floor-length windows, and they both nod, and smile slightly.
Sam, who stands a little further off in the crowd, breaks the moment's quiet.
"Danny!" she exclaims, holding up a hand. She hurries over, her heels clicking out a brisk beat across the polished floor. "My whale wants to talk to you," she says, "Mr. Tyler." She waves her hand back toward a silver-haired man drinking champagne at the buffet. Danny gives her a questioning look, as if to say, "Why?", and Sam shrugs at him. "I don't know," she says, lightly sarcastic, "I guess he thinks you're in charge around here or something."
Danny pulls a little face at her.
"Oh, Piper's looking for you," Sam adds to Mike, who thanks her and heads off into the swell of people spreading round the room.
"Be back in a minute," he says as he goes.
Finally, Sam turns to Delinda, seeing her there for the first time. "Hey, stranger," she says simply, and smiles at her.
Delinda smiles back, a little unsure of how to behave around here, around them. She doesn't want to seem as shaky and fragile as she feels, doesn't want them all feeling sorry for her. But, at the same time, she isn't sure if she knows how to act normally any more, can't remember how to put on the pretence of being totally fine.
"Hey," she answers quietly.
There is a brief pause, which Sam should be filling with the usual softly-spoken questions, the vague, anxious-faced responses, but isn't; understanding, silently, that there isn't really any point to all that.
Instead, she turns to Danny.
"You coming?" she asks, as though scolding a dawdling child.
"All right, all right," Danny says good-naturedly. He looks to Delinda, tilting his head to the side in the direction of Sam's whale, wordlessly asking the same question.
She shakes her head slightly. She doesn't think she can face Sam's whale just yet. Maybe once she's had a drink or two.
"I'm just gonna go to the bar," she tells him, and he nods.
"Okay," he says, lightly. He hesitates, watching her for just a second longer. "Come find me when you're ready." And then he smiles and turns, and follows Sam away across the room.
She finds a stool at the bar, away from the crowd, and sits there for a while. There aren't too many people around here, and she doesn't have to talk much. She sips her drink, stirs the ice in her glass with a swizzle stick. She studies the damp, smudged circle left behind on the coaster.
When she glances back up, the bartender smiles at her, the conspiratorial smile of someone who doesn't really like parties either, and she guesses that he doesn't know the story about the baby, and smiles gratefully back.
She watches the other people in the room, talking and laughing, and she wonders if they are really all that happy, the way they seem, or if they are just better at pretending.
Looking around, she's almost surprised at how everything here is so much the same, when she feels like it should all, somehow, be different. She guesses it's true, that old cliché: life goes on.
They've been trying to do that, she and Danny, over these last few weeks: trying to let their lives go on. She thinks that mostly, surprisingly, it's been working.
Sometimes, she tries picturing the days as steps, always going, however slowly, upward and forward.
Other times, she tries imagining herself inside some sort of protective bubble, imagining that if she can hold herself steady, if she can take everything nice and slow and easy, then somehow she can keep the bubble in place. There have been times when it has quavered, times when a word or a touch or something she's remembered has almost penetrated its thin, shielding surface. But, through all that, it has stayed intact so far.
It has been hardest, she's found, because it's so much more difficult, somehow, so much more painful, to let go of the bad memories than it was to let go of the good. She feels sometimes like she's caught up in this constant, delicate dance, forever spinning between forgetting and remembering.
Because, as hard as it is to remember, she can't help thinking it would be still harder to wake up one morning and realize she'd forgotten.
She wants to remember the baby because, after all, she and Danny are the only ones who really can. She doesn't want for him to fade away forever, some sad thing that they've put behind them. He means so much to her, her baby, and she doesn't want to lose him completely.
And so, sometimes, she lets herself remember, chafing away at tender, aching skin, pricking at the surface of the bubble.
She lets herself think about all the things that she wanted for him, for the three of them. She remembers what it felt like to hold him, the one and only time that she did, and how small he was, so small it felt almost like holding nothing at all. She remembers the nurse coming softly in, remembers Danny taking the baby from her, so, so carefully, and the tiny shudder that went through his shoulders as he did.
But she's started to learn, now, how to stop herself from doing this, or at least how to limit it. She's started to understand that there is a difference between not forgetting things, and letting herself get trapped by remembering them.
And, gradually, she's found she's started to remember other things too. Things that she hadn't forgotten, exactly – just lost for a while. Things that she used to like, used to love; things that she finds herself, now, starting to miss.
Things like getting coffee with Sam, or wandering through the Forum shops with her mom, or the calm, satisfied sensation of looking out over the restaurant and seeing everyone served, every table filled.
Things like the way it used to feel, kissing Danny, light-headed, weak-at-the-knees kinds of kisses.
Now, from her seat at the bar, she turns towards the party and searches out the faces of her friends in the crowd.
She watches Sam talking with her whale, giving him a toss of smooth, thick hair, and a sly, flirtatious smile. She watches Mike, motioning with his hands toward the windows as he talks to Piper.
She watches Cooper, walking unhurried circles around the room, cigar in his hand. He looks across at her at one point, nods to her and smiles slightly, and she returns the gesture.
And she watches Danny, who's with Sam and her whale. He's wearing a dark suit and a white shirt, which he doesn't very often. The shirt is crisp and clean-lined and makes his skin look tan. He's smiling at something Sam's saying, and he looks happy and handsome and, for a minute, like nothing's changed.
She thinks about how often now the only look she seems to see on his face is that tense, weary expression, like he's got the dead weight of the world on his shoulders. Or that other look, that anxious, searching, Are you okay? look, the one that leaves her feeling tired and guilty, and angry with him for making her feel like that, and angry with herself for being angry with him. She misses seeing him smile.
And so she takes a breath, and, catching his eye from across the room, she smiles over at him, the best one that she can manage. He looks at her for a second, surprised, and pleased, and then he smiles brilliantly back, that heartbreaking smile of his.
And for a moment she feels, perhaps not fully happy, not yet, but better – lifted, buoyed by something. She feels, for the first time, like she can bear it. Like she can breathe through it.
They are quiet as they drive home. She gazes out of the car window, trying to make out her reflection in the glass. She wonders if she would recognize herself yet.
When they get back to their apartment and he closes the door, she reaches for the light switch, and then she hesitates. Slowly, she moves her hand away, and turns towards him in the dark. She finds that she's shivering slightly.
He doesn't say anything; watches her and waits. She gives him a quick, trembling kiss.
Gently, he pulls her closer, and kisses her back.
Maybe it's the champagne she's drunk, or the fact that she's safely back now, and tonight wasn't so bad as she'd thought, but suddenly she feels reckless, giddy, a funny, bubbling feeling. She feels like, finally, she just wants to stop thinking and be happy for a while.
They stand for a moment close together in the doorway, her hands on his shoulders and his cheek against her hair, like partners tiring at the end of a long, slow dance. And then they move, finding their way to their bedroom in the dark.
This is a step, she thinks.
Later, she lies awake in bed. She listens to him breathe; can tell, without looking up at him, that he isn't sleeping either.
"Danny?" she finds herself asking, her voice sounding soft and unsure in the silence of the room, "Do you ever think… about the baby?"
It's the first time she's felt brave enough to bring it up.
She asks it because she does, all of the time, even when she doesn't mean to. Because she wonders, sometimes, if she'll ever stop thinking about the baby, or if the thought of him will always be there, somewhere, lingering at the edges of everything she says and does.
She turns her head towards Danny, and he glances at her briefly, and then looks back up at the shadows on the ceiling. "Sure I do," he says, quietly, keeping his voice deliberately calm. He still doesn't look at her, squints at the ceiling as he speaks. He's hesitant, at once wanting to say something and not sure what will happen if he does. But, after a moment or two, he carries on. "I mean, he'd be five months old by now," he says, his voice low and soft and steady, "A year's time, he'd be walking, and talking… Few years after that he'd be starting school… bringing back those – those little finger-painting things…" He half-smiles, swallows hard. "I'd be teaching him to play catch in the yard, you know, like they do in movies…" He makes a sound that's a sort of soft laugh, and she manages a smile.
He turns suddenly, so that he's facing her. His eyelashes are wet. "I just – " he starts to say, then falters and stops short. He shakes his head slightly. "I think I would've liked all that."
She nods, her eyes suddenly full. Tenderly, she trails the back of her hand along his arm, wanting, maybe for the first time, to be the one to reach out to comfort.
She tries to think of something to say, thinks of all those times, in the hospital and after they got home, when he'd tell her, again and again, that she would be okay, that they would be okay, that it would all be okay, as though he thought that if he said it often enough he could actually make it happen.
In the end, though, she doesn't say anything for a long time. She moves closer to him, just lies for a while with her head on his shoulder. His hand rests against her back, stirring circles onto her skin with his thumb.
Eventually, she says, just wanting to say it and not knowing when to. "I'm sorry." She tilts her head slightly to look up at him. "I must have been unbearable to live with."
He looks back at her, shakes his head. "No," he answers. He sighs quietly, and then says, emphasising the first word lightly, "I'm sorry. I should've, I don't know, I should've been more patient. I shouldn't've always…"
And now, it's her turn to shake her head.
They fall into silence again for a second or two. There are a lot of things that she wants to say now, but she doesn't know which.
She turns her head, kisses his shoulder.
"I love you," she says, meaning it.
Another few weeks go by, and she takes them slowly, step by step. She tells herself that she has to be sure about this. She doesn't want to stay just because it's the safe and easy thing to do. Doesn't want him to stay just because he wants, needs, to take care of her.
She thinks sometimes about Cooper telling her to remember what was most important. A lot of the time she still doesn't really know what that was supposed to mean. But, occasionally, she will find herself thinking, just for a moment, that perhaps the most important thing is simply that they've been to hell and back, the two of them, over the last six months, but they're both still here. Still breathing, just about.
She thinks about that one morning, sitting in the sun at the bedroom window. She feels, for some reason, different today, happy. At the same time lighter and somehow more solid.
It's a good feeling, she thinks.
She doesn't hear Danny come into the room, only turns her head when she hears him saying, "Hey."
He stands in the doorway, smiles at her. "What're you doing?" he asks.
"Thinking," she tells him. She takes a deep breath. For a moment she's nervous, almost doesn't say it. But in the end she asks, "You remember what you said – the night before the opening party? You asked if I'd thought any more about it?"
He hesitates, looks at her quizzically. And then he nods slowly.
"Yes," he says.
"I have thought about it." She can feel her heartbeat getting quicker, can feel his eyes fixed on her. She makes herself keep looking back. "Do you still want to?" she asks.
Slowly, he smiles. He gives a little nod. "Yes," he answers again, after a moment.
She finds herself starting to smile now too, as she says, "Do you wanna ask me again?"
He looks down and laughs softly, smile widening into a grin.
"You sure?" he jokes, "'Cause I'm not gonna keep asking forever, you know."
She shakes out her hair. "I'm sure," she tells him.
He looks across at her from the doorway. He's still smiling a little, but his eyes are serious now, dark and deep.
"Will you marry me?" he asks.
She allows herself, before she speaks, one last thought of before. She thinks of him asking that same question, half a year ago, and she wishes just for a second to have that moment back, to pare it down the centre like an apple and step inside.
And then she looks at him, now, and she tells herself that maybe one day, maybe even soon, they will be happy like that again. She tells herself that though there are some things that will always hurt – March mornings or baby shoes in a shop window – eventually it will get easier, even if it never really gets easy. She tells herself that she loves him, and that he loves her, and that somehow, in some way, everything will be okay.
She smiles, and tells him, "Yes."
A/N: There we go! Thank you for reading, and I really hope you've enjoyed it. Thank you so, so, so much to everybody who has left reviews/replies – it has been so much encouragement and it has really made my day to read them! I'm very, very grateful :)