This is not intended to be a multichapter thing (we all know I am barely managing two and staying sane right now) but I needed to write something to cheer me up after the last Time Has Changed Me chapter, and I couldn't get the image of Danny and Martin with a kid out of my head. Oh, and this fic is set in wonderful WaT universe in my mind, the one where Elena does not exist, but basically everything else in the show happened.
You guys all know by now I don't own anything- except maybe Savannah? in this story- and the title came from Lilo and Stitch (anyone else spending mid-term break watching Disney movies? Nope, just me? Cool) or, if you haven't see it, Ohana just means 'family' in Hawaiian... (and family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten- see what I did there?)
I hope you guys like this, I know a lot of the actual romance is just hinted at, but maybe someday I'll get around to writing more drabbles for this. As always let me know what you think!
He hadn't given much thought to being a parent.
Well, he figured that one day he might find a woman who didn't think his parents were an immediate deal-breaker and that they'd get married. It was also fairly likely that eventually they'd slip up and she might fall pregnant, but they wouldn't be actively planning for a family—hell, did anyone anymore? He'd spend nine months dreading the preceding eighteen years and decorating a nursery with an animal border, and then when he stopped having a choice in the matter, he'd step up and realise he made quite a half-decent parent. It couldn't be that hard, he'd reasoned. Almost everybody had kids now, and anyway, he'd just do the exact opposite of what his parents had done with him. Easy.
But he hadn't seen parenthood coming at him like this— a six-year old girl with pigtails and a loose tooth who already had two parents (even if one was a deadbeat and the other was, well, dead) raising her in his two bedroom apartment, with Danny freaking Taylor of all people.
Savannah wasn't the problem—she was adorable and gave him a new crayoned drawing for his desk at work every single day; she was sweet and funny and had a knack for cheering him up without meaning to; she was the perfect excuse to buy Lucky Charms breakfast cereal and not feel guilty. Not to mention, she called Martin her 'hero' and looked at him as though he'd hung the moon and the stars.
It wasn't the apartment, either. It was a little cramped for the three of them, but it was enough right now until their situation was more permanent, until there was an actual arrangement agreed upon, until one of them could somehow gather up the cash to rent somewhere bigger or invest in a proper house. Savannah had her own bedroom here and it was a little smaller than Martin felt a kid should have, but it was the first time she hadn't had to share with a stranger and had been able to choose the colour of the walls—pink, of course- and she adored every inch of it. The only problem in her eyes was the fact their land-lady had a strict 'no pets' policy, and she reminded them constantly that owning a kitten was her greatest life ambition.
It wasn't even sharing the apartment or Savannah with Danny Taylor (her 'other' hero, and Martin had to remind himself every now and then that it was not a competition, that there was enough room for the two of them on her imaginary pedestal) that had Martin feeling disjointed. Sure, it was a little awkward—okay, a lot awkward—living with somebody he was trying to maintain a strictly professional relationship with (not exactly a challenge, considering Martin was fairly certain by now that his crush was purely one-sided) but they had settled into this haphazard attempt family life with only minor difficulties—like the fact Danny liked to lecture Martin about vegetables and fruit and the importance of consistently healthy meals for a growing girl versus take-outs and sugar-loaded breakfast cereals; or the time Martin had forgotten what colours couldn't mix in the washer and the three of them had wound up with shirts and jumpers the same matching pink as Savannah's bed sheets; or the nightly games of snakes and ladders that sometimes got a little heated when Savannah went to bed and it stopped being a toy and became a loser-sleeps-on-the-couch battle instead.
For the most part though, they had yet to kill each other or even really argue in front of Savannah. Some days—usually after a tough case that had exhausted them both and kept them away from Savannah for long enough for guilt to set in—one of them would snap at the other over something ridiculous like forgetting to lock the door or leaving the bathroom light on. Once or twice it had escalated to a full blown huff on Martin's part, a bitter 'just go to bed, Martin' on Danny's. But when the morning came, they would fuss over Savannah at the breakfast table like always, and on the way to work, they'd tease each other relentlessly about their respective music tastes, even after they'd dropped her off at school.
Martin had never really had a friend he hadn't needed to apologise to after a fight. He had never gone to bed after an argument and fallen straight to sleep anyway, knowing that in a few hours all would be forgiven and forgotten.
No, it wasn't Savannah or the apartment or even Danny that was necessarily unsettling Martin. It was…the domesticity of it all. Danny cooked, Martin cleaned. They both tucked Savannah into bed at night, one perched on either side of her twin size bed, taking it in turns to read to her until she fell asleep. They had an agreement with Jack that Danny could leave at 3pm sharp if they didn't have an active case demanding all willpower—he'd head straight to Savannah's school and pick her up from her after-school club, take her to the park for an hour and then back to the apartment where they'd watch some TV or she'd play in her room while he'd do the paperwork he would be doing if he were at the office. When Martin got home—usually around 5 or 6, but sometimes later, depending on if they had a case or not—the three of them would sit together at the tiny table and eat whatever recipe Danny had decided to try his luck with that day. After, Danny would return to the paperwork while Martin and Savannah washed up and then made a start on homework. It was only first grade stuff, and she barely needed his help at all, but Martin loved the way Savannah acted like he was the smartest guy in the world when he'd go over it with her. The rest of the night would be spent watching whatever Disney movie that was Savannah's current favourite—it was 'Brave' this week, although Martin suspected it was more because she found Scottish accents hilarious ("you mean people actually talk like that?") than the actual warmth of the plot.
Overnight—or, rather, in a few short months- they had become a semi-family who built snowmen together on the rooftop of the apartment building; they made plans to go to the beach in the summer and the zoo for Savannah's seventh birthday; they sat on the couch with Savannah between them, pretending not to notice the way she looked from one to other when they watched Lilo and Stitch (which was secretly Martin's favourite Disney movie, and never failed to make him tear up, not that he'd admit it to anyone, though) and it got to the part where Stitch said, "this is my family, I found it all on my own. It's little, and broken, but still good," and neither he or Danny mentioned the fact this whole thing wasn't supposed to be anything other than temporary; neither one of them broached the subject of moving out or leaving.
But it was so easy, the two of them living and laughing together and falling in love with a little girl whose life they had saved. It was too easy, and maybe that was really the problem—that sometimes, Martin had to pinch himself to be sure this was real. That he waited for the phone call from the social worker saying they'd found somewhere more permanent for Savannah before their request for joint guardianship could come through. That one of these days, he figured Danny might get sick and tired of more often than not bunking on Martin's old couch, and could just decide to move out—taking Savannah with him.
Naturally, he tried not to think like that. They were better as a team, he and Danny, whether that be at work or as Savannah's guardians, it was best they were a united front. They were doing something right, obviously, because according to her teacher Savannah was thriving in class, had handled the transition from foster care wonderfully, was truly happy and seemed to feel much more secure than she had in previous homes.
She still had nightmares—but then, so did they, sometimes, and they were a lot older than she was—but they were much less frequent now. Danny had wisely invested in a pink and purple dream-catcher after the first ten consecutive nights she'd woken up at 2am screaming at the top of her lungs and crying until she was gasping for breath. The placebo had had some effect on her subconscious, obviously, because since it had been hung at the top of her bed and it's 'purpose' explained, the bad dreams had shifted from nightly to bi-nightly. These days, it was hardly even a weekly occurrence. Her social worker, Imelda, claimed it was simply the acknowledgement that she was safe here, and Danny had nodded in heartfelt agreement, but Martin guessed that maybe she was suddenly sleeping so well because she finally had a decent bed, forever disapproving of the conditions she had lived in in some of her earlier foster and care homes—not that he said this to Imelda, though, because Danny probably would have shot him a look to kill.
All in all, it was a pretty surreal situation that he found himself in, but he tried not to think of it like that. It was the way life was right now, and even if it was a little dysfunctional, it was the best Savannah had ever had, and it was also the first time since he'd moved here from Washington that Martin hadn't felt like he was missing something.
"Oh, I forgot to tell you," Danny murmured as they stood together by the kitchen bench, dishing out freshly made pancakes just out of Savannah's earshot. "Bella's mother asked if Savannah could go over to hers after school tomorrow- well, uh, today, I guess." He wiped his hands on a dishcloth, then handed it to Martin to do the same.
"What did you tell her?" Martin asked, tossing the cloth to the side and opening the cupboard overhead in search of syrup.
"That I'd need to talk to you about it first." An arm reached past Martin's gaze and moved some jars of assorted jams aside to reveal a plastic bottle with the familiar Lyons symbol. Martin took it in his hand, gave it a quick shake, and began squirting it on each of the pancakes in turn. "Hello?" Danny said, tone a note louder. When Martin looked past him to ask Savannah if she wanted syrup on hers, he felt a sharp nip of the skin on his upper arm.
"Ow!" he howled, almost dropping the Lyons bottle in shock. "That hurt." Across the room, Savannah was giggling as she sorted her books into her backpack.
"Good. You shouldn't ignore me." Danny looked triumphant, but then he was inching closer so she couldn't hear them. "So yay or nay on the playdate with Bella?"
Martin frowned. "I don't even know who Bella is."
"Well, she's six-years old, so I doubt a background check is the best course of action—"
"Oh ha-ha," Martin mocked, but then he sighed. "Seriously though. We don't know anything about her parents. They could be—"
"Married? Employed? Responsible? Productive members of society?" An exaggerated gasp at this last option, and Martin narrowed his eyes.
"I was thinking a little darker, actually. They could be drug addicts or alcoholics or child abusers or murders or—"
Danny smirked and quirked an eyebrow. "Two addicts looking after a kid-imagine that."
"Recovered," Martin scolded, voice lower so that Savannah wouldn't ask for an explanation of their respective pasts that she had no knowledge of. "And I'm just saying, maybe we should get to know them before we just give her to them."
"Recovering," Danny corrected, folding his arms across his chest. "It's a few hours after school Martin, not an arranged marriage or a slavery agreement. You're being irrational."
"Yeah, well you're being incredibly irritating," Martin growled. "I'm thinking of her safety and wellbeing—"
"—whereas I am concerned with what, exactly?"
"—and I really don't think we need to be passing our responsibilities onto other people—"
"—dear God, can you actually hear yourself right now?"
"—until we know if we can trust this kid's parents I really think we need to hold off on just letting her do whatever—"
"—we have no reason to distrust Bella's parents. Her mother seems sweet: she baked delicious cookies from scratch for the last school bake sale."
While they had left it until midnight the night before to add an egg and few spoonful's of vegetable oil to a Betty Crocker cake mix they picked up from the 7-eleven at the end of the street. "Oh, wow, she bakes. Well I guess we ought to just ask her if she wants custody of Savannah while we're at it. No way she could be a danger to society—not if you enjoy her cookies."
Danny scowled at him. "You sound like a child."
"You sound like an idiot," Martin retorted. "For God's sake Danny, you know what the world's like. How can you say you have no concerns about letting her go to a stranger's house? Even if her parents are the best people ever to walk this earth, all it takes it five minutes for something to happen to a little girl like Savannah."
He was dreaming up the most horrible succession of potentially lethal accidents: in his mind, he could see Savannah jumping on a bed, braid-flying and smile wide one moment, on the floor unconscious with a pool of blood around her head the next; he could envision a too-friendly neighbour or gardener taking a liking to her as she played in Bella's garden; he was seeing her not looking both ways at a street crossing or being lured away with promises of small animals in the park in broad daylight or playing pharmacy with an unlocked medicine cabinet—in not a single one of these visions was Bella's mother.
"She's been at that school for three months, and this is the first kid whose parents have shown any interest in wanting them to be friends outside of the playground. She likes Bella; she has fun with Bella. And I trust her mother, because unlike you, I can accept that while we see a lot of the bad, there is an equal amount of good left too." Danny lifted his head an inch higher. "Why isn't that enough?"
Before he could conjure up an answer, the cell phone in his suit pocket was buzzing. He reached for it, glancing at the caller ID and seeing Jack's name. "Hello?" he answered, aware he sounded gruff, but hey he was kind of in the middle of something.
"I need you to meet me in Edgemere," Jack replied, not bothering to ask what was wrong. "Four year old twins were abducted from their beds this morning."
"I'll be right there," Martin said, hanging up and turning to Danny. "Two little kids have just been kidnapped, and you're seriously trying to tell me I should be more trusting?"
"You're leaving?" Danny asked, ignoring his remark and frowning. "We haven't even had breakfast yet."
"The pancakes are cold anyway," he said dryly, earning a glare for his efforts. He grabbed his car keys from the hall table and hugged Savannah goodbye. "Have a good day at school, alright? I'll try to be home in time to tuck you in." With her arms still around his neck, he pressed a kiss to her hair and stared at Danny over the top of her head. "Be careful," he warned when she drew back, and just like every morning she pulled a face.
"I'm always careful," she said, a traditional part of their morning routine. She blew him another kiss and then whispered, "you be careful too."
He winked at her and, without as much as a goodbye to Danny, he left the apartment.
Missing children's cases never used to be this hard.
Of course, they had always been the worst kind of cases for everyone involved. Besides the fact children were small and defenseless and innocent, there was the added concern that the person who took them was likely someone not very well psychologically- and in Martin's experience, nothing was as dangerous as somebody who didn't have anything to loose.
Now though, he was looking into the smiling faces of Ryan and Ruby Harper in a photograph taken on Christmas morning, surrounded by toys and wrapping paper, seeing the girl he had hugged and kissed goodbye a half hour ago. The woman in front of him was in pieces, understandably bursting into tears every five seconds, unable to give them any information she was so inconsolably devastated- Martin, for the first time when facing the mother of a missing person (or people, in this case) found himself regrettably thanking God this wasn't happening to him.
The kids had been fast asleep when she'd checked in on them going to bed at 2am.
"Do you usually stay up so late?" Martin asked, as if on cue, a baby somewhere in the other room began to howl.
"Rebecca has a cold," she managed, by way of explanation.
Jack handed her another tissue and nodded in the direction of the screaming. "We can continue this in a few moments, if you want."
Every second was critical, but she was useless to them right now anyway, and trying to get coherent sentences out of her was a waste of their time. When she left the room, Jack stole a glance at his watch. "I'll stay with the family. I want you to take over from Viv canvasing the area with the team—maybe the mother will open up better to her."
"Sure thing," Martin said, and he looked down at the picture still in his hand. He slipped the cell phone out of his pocket and took a picture with its camera. "I'll send this to Sam- get some posters made up."
Jack nodded, and Martin got to his feet, telling himself that this really wasn't all that different from every other case before—that it didn't matter where he was in his life, these kids were just as important as every one before them.
Long after he set the picture back on the coffee table, he was seeing bright brown eyes and smiles that spoke of innocence, burned into his mind.
"Any luck?" Sam ducked under the yellow police tape, a stack of papers tucked under her arm after she'd flashed her badge to the officer standing by.
Martin walked towards her, hands tucked deep in his coat pockets—cursing the fact he'd rushed out without gloves, wondering if Danny had made sure Savannah wore hers. "Nothing yet. A woman three houses down says she saw a man driving past around 5am with two kids in his car, but she can't say definitively that it was the twins."
Sam shivered, despite the fact she was wearing a thick red scarf. "How did the kidnapper get in anyway? Viv said there was no forced entry. Was a door open?"
Martin shook his head. "A downstairs window. Their mother had been bathing the baby—she opened the window to let the steam out."
Sam raised an eyebrow, and he knew what she was thinking. "What was it last night? 15 degrees? I'd be glad of the steam."
She had a point. It had been so cold last night Savannah hadn't even kicked her blankets off in her sleep; Danny had made him a hot chocolate and in turn, he surrendered the hot water bottle and the bed for another night. It had been freezing, on the couch with a too-thin quilt thrown over him, but the burning sweetness of the warm drink—and Danny's grateful smile—was enough to make it a fair trade.
"She seems genuinely heartbroken," Martin said fairly, more so because he felt guilty for harbouring any kind of accusation towards the twins mother than a sincere belief in her innocence. It wasn't like him, but according to Danny, he needed to start seeing the good in people.
"Guilt?" Sam suggested, and then she shrugged. "It just seems odd to me."
"Are these the posters?" Martin asked, hopeful for a change in subject. He took the papers from her and examined the information above the picture—most of it approximates and estimations.
"It's March— that photo is three months old." Beside him, Sam folded her arms. "I'm just saying, most parents nowadays take photos at every possible opportunity."
"It's March 2nd," Martin reminded her. "And most parents don't have three kids under the age of five to look after single-handedly. She's probably a little too busy between work and being a single mother to get her camera out."
A phone started buzzing then, and they stared at each other for a moment before Sam realised it was hers. She answered it, turning away from him so he couldn't hear what she saying, but not before he detected a note of frustration in her tone.
He turned back to the search, the papers in his hands feeling suddenly heavy. There was a press conference scheduled for noon—at the mother's request, and Jack had obviously been a little pissed that she could talk to cameras but not to them; Viv was staying with her to go over once again if there was anything suspicious she needed to tell them; Jack and Danny were across town interviewing other relatives and teachers at the twins kindergarten. Martin was just waiting for the call to say he was needed to handle tips or something equally as dire at the office.
He wondered how low temperatures would drop tonight—the weather channel had forecasted the bleakest March in New York City for over twenty years—and he was imagining two brown-eyed kids held in some warehouse somewhere, huddling together for warmth; he was picturing tiny bodies covered with a thin layer of ice, frozen blood and tears.
But then Sam was beside him again, hanging up the phone and sighing dramatically. "Brian wants to bring Finn down to visit his parents for a few days, even if it means taking him out of school….against my judgement."
Martin smiled at her sympathetically. "Ah," he said delicately, not really sure why missing three days of preschool—which was really just a glorified day-care, in his opinion- would be so detrimental to a three-year old, but wisely choosing not to question it.
"I swear, he just refuses to listen to reason," she fumed, folding her arms. "You're lucky you and Danny are on the same page when it comes to parenting."
He almost laughed out loud when he thought of their fight this morning; how Danny was being so naïve but maybe he had overacted a little bit himself; how he'd stormed out. It wasn't perfect and obviously they were constantly disagreeing, but there was something amusingly… marital about it all.
Not that he said any of this to Sam. Instead, he just smirked and nodded. "Yeah, I guess I am."
Two hours later and he was feeling anything but lucky. He was back at the office, answering phone calls from the same people he imagined rubbernecked at accidents on highways, sticking coloured pins to a map of the city and trying not to be disheartened when every single lead was basically debunked by Danny and Jack as they investigated the streets he sent them to.
The phone ran again, causing him to jump and inadvertently stab himself with a red tack. He swore, and then pushed the swivel chair over to his desk. "Agent Fitzgerald," he answered, distracted as he tried to wipe the tiny spots of blood away quickly.
He realised then that the tips were coming to the phone on the conference table—not their individual desk phones. "Mr Fitzgerald?" A woman's voice, and she sounded a little apprehensive. Perhaps it was his tone. "It's Margaret Fuller, I hope you don't mind me calling you at work, but I didn't have your cell number and Danny wasn't answering his phone—"
"Uh, no, it's fine," he assured her half-heartedly, as he racked his brain for anybody by that name. Nope… nothing. Then it struck him—if she had tried Danny, it was likely something to do with Savannah. Martin felt his stomach drop.
"I feel so silly calling now! Especially because those poor little kids are missing—you must be so busy."
He really was not appreciating her attempt at small talk. Maybe she was a school secretary or something? "Is it Savannah?" he demanded, aware of how blunt it came out. "Is she sick?"
"Oh, no, nothing like that! I haven't picked them up yet—I just wanted to check with you if it's alright if I take the girls to McDonalds before we go home. It's just I know some parents can be concerned about junk food but I thought it would be a nice treat." An awkward pause, when he didn't reply. "I'm Bella's mother?"
Maybe Danny hadn't seen her at the school gates when he'd left Savannah to school—he'd probably been in a hurry to get to work; maybe she'd just assumed. He forced a little laugh, to ease the embarrassment of her misunderstanding. "Right. Uh, actually, Danny and I talked about it and—"
"—oh yes, Danny mentioned this morning that you hadn't been so sure at first. I think that's just adorable, you being so protective and everything. Still, I'm so glad you came around, Bella's been so excited to show Savannah her bedroom and—"
Danny told her Martin had come around?So much for giving Danny the benefit of the doubt.
Martin was not about to look like the bad guy in all of this. "—Can I have Danny call you back?" he asked sweetly, and she said of course but she sounded a little shaken all the same. Put off, perhaps, that he hadn't answered her question about McDonalds. There was no need, because the entire thing was not happening.
He hung up the phone, and by chance Danny chose that moment to strut in. Martin watched as he shrugged out of his coat and tugged his scarf off. "I can't believe it's supposed to get colder," he moaned, and then he slipped something out of his coat pocket—Martin's own navy scarf. He tossed it in his direction, smirking. "I figured you'd need this today."
It was a sweet gesture of peace, but Martin was too pissed off to be touched. "Why did you tell Bella's mother that Savannah could go to her house after school today?"
Danny sighed, but he didn't seem surprised. "How did you find out about that?"
"She called me to run her plans for dinner past me." Martin threw the scarf onto his desk and stood up to face Danny. "Hey, at least someone does. Where you even going to tell me?"
Danny shrugged, looking the least bit intimidated. "Sure, when you stopped acting like a colossal pain in the ass."
"We decided this morning—"
"No, Martin, you decided, and then you walked out in the middle of our discussion about it." Danny shook his head. "I didn't do this to piss you off. We got to school and Bella asked Savannah if she was allowed to come over today—you weren't there, okay? You didn't see how happy she looked—and I figured that we were probably going to be stuck here all night with the case anyway, so what the hell?" When Martin just stared at him blankly, Danny explained, "I made an executive decision—you can thank me later."
"Thank you? You had no right to just go against what I wanted, just take it upon yourself to decide where she's safe, who we can trust with her. We're supposed to be doing this together, Danny, you're not meant to be going behind my back to make me look like the bad guy—"
"—do you honestly think that's why I did this? Martin, I know we're supposed to be doing this together, but you don't want to compromise, you just want to wrap her up and protect her from the world and you can't." Danny inched closer to him, and Martin felt like his face was on fire. In a gentler tone, Danny continued, "I know that you want to keep her safe, because that's what we promised we would do, but part of that is letting her be a kid again. Something awful isn't going to happen to her just because we trust someone for a few hours; the bastard who kidnapped her before isn't going to escape from prison because she's out of sight for a while. You're right to be overprotective, you have reason to be—but just because we find it difficult to see the good in people doesn't mean it isn't there, and it doesn't mean we can stop her seeing it either."
This all felt incredibly patronising, and it completely avoided what was annoying Martin the most. "You shouldn't have gone behind my back," he said frankly.
Danny sighed exasperatedly. "Is that really what this comes down to? You're pissed because I didn't roll over and let you have your way? You don't know her Mom; you don't know the kid and you weren't there this morning to make an excuse while Savannah stared up at you like you were about to kick a puppy, so I'm sorry if in the heat of the moment I rendered myself a little more capable of making the choice; I'm sorry if her feelings took president over yours, but it was the right thing to do and I stand by it."
Just then the phone on the conference table rang—another tip. He glared at Danny, an angry 'we're not done with this,' and turned to answer it. By the time he'd calmed the caller down enough to piece together another likely false sighting, Danny was gone.
They were communicating strictly via text right now.
It was a necessity rather than a desire to speak to each other—neither was interested in testing the water or making any attempt to apologise (although Martin had a feeling this might be the first fight that actually warranted one—on Danny's part, of course) but because of the case and the fact they were indeed going to be here much longer than Bella's mother had planned to have Savannah, they didn't have much of a choice in the matter.
Eventually, they came to the reluctant agreement that their trusted babysitter, Erin (a twenty-five year old budding artist who'd lived three doors down for as long as Martin could remember; originally from Cincinnati with an array of younger siblings she'd helped her father to raise after her mother's death. Paint and canvases were expensive and interest in her work came randomly, so she was always grateful of the extra money, and Savannah adored her) would pick Savannah up from Bella's at six and bring her home. One of them would try and get away before eight if they could, but the way things were going it was unlikely they both would be able to.
When he explained the situation to Vivian, in the car on the way to interview the twins father whom their mother had just this morning claimed was dead but was really living in Brooklyn, she insisted it was a compromise, but Martin wasn't so sure.
The street lights were on, casting shadows, and they were holding their guns a little too tightly.
From inside the house, they could hear a man yelling, a child—the girl, maybe?—crying. Martin met Jack's eye, waited for the nod to go ahead.
They'd planned it on the way here—while they were interviewing the estranged father (who didn't even know he was a father, and really, that was an alibi if Martin had ever heard one) Sam had called them, explaining that the mother's ex-boyfriend (who she had insisted all along would never do such a thing) had sent her an email saying he had the kids and was going to kill them if she didn't come meet him right that second.
They'd managed to stall him, but now the FBI was involved he'd already waved in gun in front of the window and sent her another email warning what he would do if she involved them in this situation.
She was standing beside Martin now, her entire body shaking. They couldn't send her in on her own—it was a disaster waiting to happen, but he'd already taken a disliking to Jack when he'd been interviewed earlier. Danny was back at the office, probably flipping a coin with Sam right now to decide who would get to go home before things were wrapped up; Vivian was consoling the grandmother in the car who had begged to be a part of this too. That only left Martin to talk him down.
"You can stay out here if you want," he whispered to the mother, Ella. She shook her head, and more tears fell.
"They need me," she cried out, a little louder than he hoped, and Jack shot them both a dark look.
Moments passed, and Ella was tugging on his sleeve, demanding they do something, wanting to know what was taking so long, but by then Jack was nodding and it was time.
"Come on," Martin said, slipping his gun back into its holster and guiding her towards the small house.
The door was unlocked, and really you'd think someone who wanted to hide would have taken more procedures to do so. They stepped inside, quietly, with Martin taking the lead, ready to pull his gun at any moment.
"Are you a cop?" A rough voice, a man with a gun pointed right in their faces the second they walked into the living room. There was no furniture here; the wallpaper was damp and peeling off around them. Sam had found out that this was Steve's grandmothers house; that he had stopped paying bills when she'd died eight months ago; that he'd started to spend his money on drugs and alcohol at which point Ella had decided he was no good for her, or her children who had never had a stable father-figure or even their daughter together—the baby, Rebecca.
"I'm with the FBI. I find missing people. I just want to make sure the twins are safe." Martin held his hands up in surrender, swallowing hard, the gun inches away now as Steve moved closer. Ella, behind him, gasped.
"Give me your gun," Steve instructed, holding his hand out.
Martin suddenly wished he had worn an earpiece instead of a wire—he would give anything to have Jack tell him what to do in that moment—but there were two children at risk, and that had meant there hadn't been time to waste.
"You know I can't do that," Martin reasoned. He looked down at the holster on his hip. "Listen, we don't need guns. You don't really want to hurt anybody—"
A soft cry came from the direction of the stairs, and suddenly two sets of footsteps were pounding toward them. Ruby and Ryan embraced their mother with the force of a hurricane, a tangle of arms and tears. Ella had stopped paying attention to Steve, and his eyes had darkened. Steve moved his gun toward them, waving it between Ella and the two children. Odds were, he was too nervous to actually shoot any of them, but Martin wasn't about to take that risk with two already traumatised children involved.
"Okay, okay," Martin said quickly, trying to draw Steve's focus back to him. "I'll put it on the ground. But only if you put yours down, too."
"I want to talk to you, Steve," Ella said shakily as her kids continued to sob against her. "For Rebecca's sake. I still love you—you know I do. But you're scaring them." This was what they had rehearsed and more, Martin couldn't help but feel relieved she had remembered her end of this bargain. He'd worried that the second she saw her children again, all of this preparation would go out of her mind.
Steve looked like he was physically in pain. There were tears in his eyes. He looked back to Martin. "Fine. But you first."
This could be a horrible trap; this could end in getting all five of them killed, but it was also the only option Martin had other than waiting for Steve to blow up and kill one of them anyway. Slowly, so as not to startle needlessly, Martin took his gun in his hands.
For a split second, he considered raising it, calculating if he would have the time to pull the trigger before Steve did. But Steve's gun wasn't pointed at Martin right now—it was pointed at Ella and the twins, and it wasn't his life he was putting at risk.
There was no decision to be made—Martin did what any of the others would have done. He dropped his gun in the middle of the floor.
Steve bent down, and Martin's heart lurched—and then he was dropping his gun too, kicking them both out of sight and burying his head in his hands as he crumpled onto his knees. Martin looked in the direction of the far window, saw a SWAT team member shooting him a questioning glance. With another brief look down to make sure Steve was too busy falling apart to be aware of what was going on, Martin nodded his permission.
When Ella ran out the front door with a crying child balanced on each of her hips, Steve did not even look up. Jack came in, along with SWAT guys who ordered him to put his hands up even though he was clearly only using them to wipe away tears. As Martin backed out of the house, Jack caught him and clasped him on the shoulder.
"That was a risk," he said, but it was hardly even a scold. He would have done the exact same thing, and they both knew it. "I'm glad it paid off."
So was Martin.
He went back to the office to get his stuff after Jack offering him the rest of the week off—well, providing a case equally as dramatic did not crop up. Two kids going home safe and unharmed with their mother who was sure to shut every window in the house tonight and three lie-ins as a reward for his efforts: Martin chalked this up as a pretty good day.
He was even humming to himself, some country song that had come on the radio on the car ride back here, one he had known the words to forever ago but now only knew the tune and a few lines of the chorus. Walking down the corridor to the deserted bullpen, he wasn't expecting to be thrust against the wall roughly.
Danny grabbed him by the shirt, eyes wide and wild and looking like he was the one who'd just stared down the barrel of a gun. "You're such a fucking idiot!" he yelled, shaking with anger, and Martin swallowed hard.
"What are you—?"
It was way past nine by now, he'd thought Danny would have gone home, but obviously he'd heard about the situation with Steve.
"What the hell were you thinking, Martin? Did you think dropping your gun would get you some kind of peace prize? It could have gotten you freaking killed!" His grip was loosening on Martin's shirt now that he'd gotten his attention, but Danny still looked like he was about ready to shoot Martin himself.
"I did what I had to do, okay? My job was to get those kids and their mother out of there and it worked, didn't it?"
"Today was a fluke," Danny snapped, sounding petulant, and it might have amused Martin if this were any other situation, if Danny wasn't still shaking, and Martin had a feeling it wasn't just anger that was making him react like this. "You can't pull stupid shit like that anymore. Things have changed. Things are different now."
Martin wanted to ask how so, but his mouth was dry. What was Danny trying to tell him? His heartbeat sped up, beating faster.
"What would happen to Savannah if you got shot?" Danny demanded, and Martin tried not to appear disappointed. Of course this was about her—why else would Danny care about what could have happened to him this much?
"She'd still have you," Martin said quietly, but guilt was beginning to sink in. He was already somebody's hero; he didn't need to act like he was invincible at work, too. Maybe he could have handled the situation better, in hindsight. Maybe he had let his emotions cloud his judgement a little more than he should have.
"And who would I have?" Danny words sounded like pebbles being dropped into water, leaving ripples in their wake. He drew back, dropped his hand to his side, but he didn't break eye contact once. There was pain there, fear and desperation, but maybe there was something else too—something Martin had never seen before; something that said there was more going on here than just a begrudged concern for a co-parent.
"I'm sorry," Martin said softly, because even though he wasn't, he knew Danny needed to hear it. "I'll be more careful, okay? I promise."
Danny took a step back, nodding, looking lost. He had stopped shaking, but he was still too pale for Martin's liking. "I'll wait in the car," Danny said quickly, and then he turned away from him and walked toward the elevator.
They hadn't spoken on the way home; hadn't said more than a few words to each other the entire drive. Only when Danny pulled into the apartment complex did Martin dare bite the bullet and strike up a conversation.
"You can go ahead and grab the shower first, if you want. I'll get Savannah from Erin's."
Danny just nodded numbly, unbuckling his seatbelt and trailing into the building behind Martin. They took the stairs—the elevator was almost always broken—and when they got to their floor, he watched Danny struggle with the keys in the lock before turning towards Erin's door.
Savannah was already fast asleep, her thumb in her mouth as she curled herself even smaller on Erin's sofa.
"We were going to go to your apartment, but she wanted to paint," Erin said, pointing to the array of coloured paint splatters on her carpet. "I figured better my floor than yours."
He flashed her an apologetic smile, took out his wallet and handed her 40 bucks, which she of course insisted was too much, but he refused to take it back. It had only been a couple of hours, but it had been short notice, she'd picked Savannah up from Bella's house, and Martin had noticed the stack of bills on her coffee table when he'd walked in.
He smiled again when he lifted Savannah into his arms and she moaned at the sudden movement. He smiled even wider when she buried her head in his shoulder, and clung a little tighter to his shirt as she breathed him in, smelling a scent that was safe and familiar enough to make her relax again, body limp with sleep.
"Thanks, Erin," he whispered as he stepped out. He kicked his own unlocked door open as gently as he could—he didn't exactly have a free hand to knock—and the first thing he caught sight of was Danny jumping; Danny, who was sitting on the living room couch with his legs tucked beneath him, looking a thousand different kinds of broken.
"She's completely out of it," Martin said, motioning his head toward the girl in his arms, because he didn't know what else to say.
Danny nodded, but he didn't move.
Martin carried her into her bedroom, resting her down easily onto the unmade bed, pausing to take off her snow boots (her coat, scarf, hat, gloves and schoolbag had been kindly been left in their hallway by Erin) and place a kiss to her forehead. He tucked the quilt around her, ignoring the voice in his head that was quite vocal that it constituted as bad parenting to let her sleep in the clothes she'd been wearing all day. He flipped two switches by the plug on the bottom of the wall that had the fairy lights around her bed lighting up at the same time as her Dora the Explorer nightlight. He left her bedroom door ajar just enough so that they could hear her clearly if she had a nightmare.
Danny was in the same spot he'd left him, but he looked a little less blank now. "Listen, about earlier—" Martin began quietly.
"—we could share a bed," Danny said abruptly, and Martin almost choked.
"You have a double bed," Danny explained slowly, like he was explaining it to Savannah. "Double beds are designed for two people." He waved his hands between them. "There are two of us."
Martin hadn't been aware the bed situation was among their biggest problems right now, but okay? "Uh, right. Listen I can just take the couch if you really want—"
"—I'm not saying every single night," Danny continued with a frown, and Martin was really beginning to feel like he was not a participant in this conversation. "That could get confusing." Oh yeah, because it wasn't already? Martin doubted Danny's proposition could possibly affect Savannah any more than it was currently affecting him. "But you know, nights like tonight, when we're both so tired. It makes sense, doesn't it?"
No. No it did not make any sense at all.
He had shared a bed with Danny before, nights here and there spent in hotels when they were out of town finding missing people and on the Bureau's budget, and the memories of those nights were far from the logical, comfortable arrangement Danny was suggesting now. Instead, Martin could remember being painfully hard while Danny actively went out of his way to be even more of a flirt than he always was; remembered midnight fights over duvet and blankets; remembered not being able to sleep most of the night for fear of how close his subconscious might let his body get to Danny.
There was no way to get out of it without telling Danny all of this, and saying it aloud was somehow worse than the thought of living through it again, so Martin let out a sigh that probably sounded too negative to be intended as a positive reply.
"Fine," Martin muttered, when Danny just blinked at him. "But not every night."
For the first time in hours, Danny smiled at him, and Martin stopped caring about the fact they couldn't agree on the line between paranoia and protection when it came to looking after Savannah; he didn't care that this was far from a concrete plan; he didn't care that he had many torturous nights ahead of him, lying so close to Danny and not being able to do any of the thing he wanted to do because there were boundaries and more than just each other to hurt if they started something that might go wrong.
He didn't care about any of this at all, because Danny was smiling at him, and he could hear Savannah snoring softly in her bed, and right now, it was just enough.