Author: brokenroots PM
Sometimes it's only clear from the outside.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Drama/Angst - Dani S. & Nico C. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,172 - Reviews: 21 - Favs: 8 - Follows: 19 - Updated: 10-05-11 - Published: 10-04-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7436831
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Word Count: 3,150
Pairing: Nico/Dani, Dani/Matt, reference to past Dani/JD
Spoilers: up to 1x12.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. I just break things.
Summary: Sometimes it's only clear from the outside.
Author's Note: I really like the way this one turned out. And six scenes... six is such a nice, even number. :)
"Now what exactly would he base that on, Doctor Santino? The man does not know me," Nico countered, and she almost lost control of her rolling stomach. She hadn't realized how worked up she'd gotten until he denied JD's allegations and nearly threw up. She hadn't really thought that Nico would just... admit to that, did she? She should have known that he wouldn't. He didn't. He didn't feel that way about her. She had already told JD that. "He does not have a basis for his observations."
"The way you interrupted dinner. The way you checked up on him. The way you confided in me. The way that you don't like my relationship with Matt."
"How would he know that I confided in you?"
"Uh... I may have let that slip in my babbling—but I did not tell him what you confided, just that you had," Dani quickly assured him. He nodded, still uncomfortable with the idea.
"If I were you, I would have been more concerned if he had observed that you were in love with me," Nico went on. "He has had far longer to observe you than he has me. And now I really should be going."
"Wait," she called as Nico turned to leave. "This isn't going to make the... awkwardness worse, is it? Me asking you about that?"
He shook his head and got in his car. She watched him leave, biting her lip. She couldn't believe she'd asked him that. Well, not asked, but... Still. She'd wanted to know if he was in love with her. Not that she'd expected him to really answer her, but the evasion... It wasn't enough. Nico didn't lie, so why hadn't he just said no?
And why did she suddenly feel the need to call JD and ask him what he thought of Nico's counter? Was she in love with Nico? Did JD think that? He hadn't said anything about her feelings, but that didn't necessarily mean that he hadn't observed them. Why would he have been so convinced that she'd be with Nico if all he'd seen was from Nico's side?
She shook her head. What did it even matter? She was with Matt. They were happy. Things were good. She didn't need to go making problems where there weren't any before. The slight distance had been a bit awkward, but this was only going to make things worse. She couldn't believe she'd done it. What, she couldn't resist the curiosity? She couldn't leave well enough alone? Matt wasn't enough? She had to have Nico, too?
She shook her head. She didn't know what she was doing, but she had to stop herself before she made things even worse than they already were. She didn't need to push this any further. She'd asked. He'd... answered, as much as Nico ever answered, and it was done. Over. That was it.
She dug her phone out of her purse, bringing up JD's number and staring at it for a moment. He couldn't tell her how she really felt. She had to figure that out for herself. She was not going to call. The whole thing was stupid. She was done.
"Hey," a voice called from behind her, and she turned around to face Matt. He grinned at her. "I was looking for you. Do you have any idea how lifeless this place seems without you? You shouldn't take days off—unless you're going to spend them with me."
She forced a smile as he wrapped his arms around her. She hoped that he wouldn't ask her what she was doing out here or how her conversation with JD had gone the other day or anything like that. She was so mixed up right now, and she didn't know what to think. She just wanted to forget what JD had told her. That would be the simplest solution. Easy. Convenient.
"It's not a day off. I was working from home," Dani said, sighing. "And I should get back to that. It's—I just came for something from my office, and really, I'm done, I... Uh... Sorry, Matt. I guess I'm just a little distracted. I'll call you later, okay?"
"Does this mean that dinner is off?"
He nodded. "Yeah. You. Me. Plans. I made them with you a couple days ago—before Aldridge came back. I told you I had something to tell you."
She nodded, remembering the plans now. Another flash of clarity came to her a second later. "You... took the job in San Francisco, didn't you?"
"Well, I... Not yet. That's why I wanted to talk to you."
"I don't know what to do."
JD smiled as he opened the curtains and looked out at his surroundings. The publisher had come through with her promise of a room with a view, and he was going to enjoy spending the next week here, even if he didn't really care for the signings or the talk shows. He wasn't big enough to be on television, at least, but he didn't think he did that good with his message on the radio. He should have been a better public speaker after all that time in the classroom, but the radio was different somehow. He shook his head. At least now that he had a soothing view, he could focus on the conversation again.
"What do you mean, you don't know what to do?"
"I think Matt wants me to help him make the final decision about going to San Francisco, and I think I made Nico very uncomfortable when I brought up the whole 'you're in love with me' conversation," Dani began, and JD recognized the tone of her voice. She was nervous. Worked up. Maybe even a little panicked. "Not that he is. Well, maybe he is. He didn't answer me directly—and he doesn't do that often, so it's not like that's proof or anything—but he doesn't lie, either, so the fact that he chose not to answer could be an answer in of itself. I don't know. It's not bad enough that I actually brought that up to him and now I'm even more confused about it than I was before, but I'm pretty sure that Matt wants me to tell him whether or not he should go to San Francisco, meaning that he wants... commitment. I thought I knew how I felt, and I... don't."
JD studied the window, looking out at the city. "Did you call me for answers?"
"For clarity," she said, and he swore he could hear the slap of her hand to her forehead. "I can't believe I just said that. It's... Not that I can tell you what that was about, but it... Nico came to me for clarity, and now I'm doing it, and—Damn it."
"You need to relax," JD told her. "Take a breath. And another. Keep doing that. Don't talk for a few minutes. I'm a friend. I can help you with your clarity, if that's what you need. I'm here to listen if that's what you need. I'll even tell you what I think, if you want."
"You telling me what you thought is half the reason I'm in this mess."
JD laughed. "I hate to break it to you, Dani, but the whole triangle between you and those two developed long before I was even in the picture. Careles and your friend Matt both showed signs of interest back when I was around, and they didn't suddenly start because I was there."
"Oh." She took a deep breath. "Matt, yes, I definitely knew he was interested. It's this Nico thing. It's so out of left-field that I am having trouble wrapping my head around it."
"But it's not out of left-field. The signs were there before. It's only that you didn't see them."
"Why didn't I? I have the same training that you do."
"Maybe because you didn't want to," JD suggested. He crossed back over to the minibar and took out a drink. This was going to be ridiculously expensive, but he wanted to have the best time that he could while he was on this trip. It might never happen again. "Careles is distant. He's a puzzle. That interested you, I think, but he doesn't come off as warm and friendly, and you could rely on him to keep a certain level of distance between the two of you. You could see him as a colleague, but the idea of being with someone who's a puzzle is kind of frightening to a person who likes to understand people. The less you know, the more it irritates you. The more you figure out, the happier you are. He has the potential to make you... very happy."
"'Cause of a puzzle?"
"More than that, but leave it at the puzzle if you want," JD said. He opened the bottle and took a sip. "Let's go back to the San Francisco thing. Are you willing to go there?"
"I can't go there any more than I could go to Africa."
"And Matt knows this?"
"I... think so."
"It's his decision, but if he wants that job, he has to let go of you. It's a good position?"
"Then it's good for him. Not for you. Still, if he wants to advance his career, he will probably end up leaving. Life in a professional athletic career is not really about staying in one place. It's subject to a lot of... factors, and it's not the most stable of career choices, even as a coach. If your man can't pull off a win, they might fire him."
"Right after everyone packed up and moved."
"Nico works for the Hawks, too."
"Completely different field, though. Security is a lot more stable a job market. People may not think they can afford to protect what they've got, but if they don't, they pay a lot more. Plus, if he's got training, then he would probably be able to transition to something else easier than an athlete."
"Matt's a trainer."
JD nodded. "I know. And he could get a job as a personal trainer for someone other than the team. That's a possibility, too, but that doesn't change where your life is. That you're needed where you are. That your children are there. You're established. You have roots. You need them. They're what you want. If he can't be tied down, then... he has the same decision to make as I did. I knew I couldn't stay, so I left. I would have wanted more, but I'm not the one that stays."
"You're upset because you think Matt is the type to leave, too, aren't you?"
She sighed. "He should go. It's better for him. He'd only be staying for me, and... I'm not enough. I don't want to be the one that holds him back. If he really wants this, then... I can let him go. I didn't think I could, but I can. It's the right thing to do."
"I think you found your clarity," JD said, sitting down on the edge of his bed. He didn't know if she'd want to go into the rest of it, and maybe it wasn't the time. She needed to process what she'd just realized, and then she could face the next issue. "Dani?"
"You're right," she agreed. "At least there I'm clear. Thank you, JD."
Nico knocked on the door, stopping to pull on his scarf. It must have bunched up on him when he was driving or something. He hadn't noticed until now, but it was irritating now that he had. He looked up when he heard the footsteps getting closer and let the scarf go. The door opened, and Santino forced one of her late night smiles for him—the ones that were tired but polite and always asked why he was there.
"I know it's late."
"And you felt that you had to stop anyway?"
He probably could have waited to speak to her. A part of him said that this conversation never needed to happen. The other part of him knew that he would not have said anything if he'd allowed himself time to talk himself out of it. So, he hadn't. He'd finished what he was doing and gone to her house. In retrospect, he did not agree with the decision. "At the time, yes."
She frowned a little, then shook her head. "Come inside. I don't want to do this on the porch, whatever it is. You want some tea or something?"
He shook his head. "I don't need anything, thank you."
"I'm making tea for me. It's not an inconvenience," she muttered, walking into the kitchen and leaving him no choice but to follow her. He entered the room and looked around. He hadn't actually been in this room before—her office, the foyer, and the porch were where he usually stayed. He wasn't really comfortable in people's homes. He was not really a person that belonged in one, no matter what the situation was. "So I think I'll make you one anyway."
"I don't need it, Doctor Santino."
She set the kettle on the stove and turned to look at him. "Why am I always 'Doctor Santino' to you? At least now? I know you called me Dani at least once, but now it's always 'Doctor Santino.'"
He nodded. He knew why he'd done that, and he knew that he should explain, but it was all a part of the same conversation, really. "I did you a disservice."
"By calling me by my formal title?"
He shook his head. "No. Not that. I... misdirected you when you deserved a true answer, and that is a disservice because you are... a friend."
She smiled a little and then turned to reach for a box of tea. It was up on a shelf that was just far enough above her head to force her to strain even on the tips of her toes. He crossed over and took it down for her, handing it to her. She looked at it and smiled again. "Thank you."
"You can tell I don't make tea that often. I think that box has been up there since Ray left."
"It could have been because you're normally wearing rather high and impractical shoes," he told her, and she laughed as she opened the box. "Is it out of concern for fashion? Do you enjoy the styles so much that you would rather risk injury to your ankles or is it because you feel the need to level the playing field with so many tall men around you almost constantly?"
"Are you analyzing me now, Nico?"
"A little. It was a matter of curiosity, mostly."
"Not to dissuade you from being curious, not necessarily, but... why are we having a conversation that seems almost mundane when you showed up late at my house? Isn't this supposed to be some kind of emergency? Because if it's not, I might have to kick you out and go back to my very warm bed."
"I can go, if you want."
She shook her head. "That's not what I meant. I would like to know why you came, though."
He wasn't really ready to talk about the main reason, so he selected one of the others. "I heard that Donnally took the job in San Francisco."
"Yes. I told him to."
Nico was surprised. "You did?"
"I guess I'm the type of woman who stays when the men need to leave. I couldn't hold him back, and I couldn't go with him, so... I let him go," she explained. She sighed and took out two cups from the cupboard. "It's not that bad. I'm not heartbroken. It's... easier than with Ray. With JD. I guess I'm getting practice at it."
Nico didn't like that, not for a second. He covered her hand over the cup. "You shouldn't have to have practice. Men who leave a woman because she has roots are lacking something in themselves. Maybe they were meant to be alone, they fly better solo or they need someone who wants to travel with them, but that doesn't give them the right to hurt the ones who want to nest. He should have been up front with you from the beginning."
"Not everyone is like you, Nico," she told him, shaking her head. "Not everyone is that honest. Or knows themselves that well. I don't think that Matt had any idea that he was the leaving type, and he wanted to stay. I couldn't let him. That's different."
Nico let go of her hand. "It is."
She caught his arm. "What did you really come here for?"
"To apologize and explain the disservice," he answered, not sure that he could actually do that, not now. He did not want to, that much was for sure. If he did not finish this conversation, then things would remain as they were. That was for the best. He should excuse himself and leave. That, however, would make him yet another man who left when she stayed. "I should not have deflected that comment onto you. It was an unfair accusation, one that I should not have made, whatever the level of discomfort I might have had with the subject matter. It was not right to put that on you."
"Well," she said, smiling up at him. "That proves it."
"That you are capable of apologizing."
He laughed, nodding. "Yes, I am. I hope that was sufficient enough for your satisfaction."
"Well," she began. He looked at her. Her smile went from shy to devious, more of a smirk now. "I'd like it to be, really, and maybe it should be. I shouldn't put you in this position, Nico, but you're honest. You're so honest that it makes me wonder why you didn't say anything outright. If you didn't feel anything, you'd just say that you didn't, right? A simple, 'I'm not in love with you, Dani.' I mean, 'Doctor Santino.'"
He took a breath. "It... is not that simple. After so long being entangled with Gabriella, I could not say what my feelings truly are."
Santino blinked. "Did you just... admit to feeling something? I thought the idea was to admit nothing and deny everything."
"I don't lie."
"Then evade everything."
"That is more my style," he agreed, smiling a little. He reached over and turned off the burner before the kettle could start to whistle. "In the interest of evasion, perhaps I should go."
"Please," she said quietly, looking more vulnerable than he had ever seen her before, "don't."
"Well," he began, turning back to the stove. "You did go to all the trouble of making me some tea, so I should at least stay and drink it, shouldn't I?"