Title: (Away) From The Past

Author: Kameka

Rating: G

Disclaimers: Dan isn't mine... Unfortunately. No money's been made.

Notes: Written while at the VA hospital with my sister when she needed someone to go in with her on one of her days off. Needless to say, a sofa in a bland office in the middle of a maze of hallways is not only boring, but semi conducive to writing -- if not writing plots. Thanks to Sharon (for doinga quick read through) and Arline and Elle (for helping with the title.) Any mistakes are mine.

Spoilers: Watch the show? Know Dan's history? You won't be spoiled.

Summary: "Hardest steps I ever took -- probably because I didn't know what was waiting for me on the outside." Dan to Andrea Perry in 'Dead Again' (season 1, episode 6)

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The world swam, streaks of color beginning to fade to gray and then white paired with black dots that danced in his field of vision. Daniel Lennox took a shuddering breath that racked his frame before taking another and then another. With each one the life-giving movement became easier and the pain in his chest lessened a little bit more. Finally the movement came without thought, though the tension remained in his shoulders and the flicker of unexpected emotion pressed deep into his gut. He grimaced slightly as a particularly strong burst of it broke through. Fear. It wasn't something he'd been very familiar with at any time in his life. A mild fear of being caught when working had been buried deep in his self-conscious, but it was something he'd never acknowledged. This... This was different. It was also completely unexpected.

For years, he'd dreamt of this moment. He'd lived in a small cell surrounded by concrete and metal bars and longed for the freedom he'd once had. It was here. He was free. All that was left were the formalities of opening the gates and letting him out. Those and a marathon of walking, an expanse of gray pavement that stretched endlessly in front of him, the outside seeming slightly hazy in the distance.

It was funny, he decided while waiting for his belongings to be given back to him, that during all the conversations he'd had with his fellow inmates about these final moments before achieving freedom the fear had never been mentioned. There had been wistful memories of loving families and home-cooked meals, anxiety about no longer having a place in said families, surprising integrity and resilience as some unbent enough to speak of hopes and plans for the future, and even anger at having been trapped behind bars in the first place. But never any fear. Was that part of the darkness that had shadowed the mens eyes? A weakness they wouldn't verbally acknowledge, couldn't afford to in their present circumstances?

Or maybe it something far more basic. Was it possible that they didn't have this same feeling of fear that wrapped itself around their spines and pervaded their entire beings? Why would they be different? Was it because he was alone, being set to sink or swim on his own, while they had their family waiting for them on the other side? It wasn't something that Dan wanted to think about, knowing that no amount of dwelling would change the fact that there was no one there for him.

Footsteps echoed on the tile near him and the clacking of computer keys continued as he shook himself out of his reverie slightly, still looking out the small window as best he could.

"Hey, Lennox!"

Dan turned slightly to look at the guard who had spoken, one of four in this wayside station of a room. It was one he was familiar with, the man having been near all of the prisoners at one time or the other during his work. He raised an eyebrow even as he took in the almost unrelenting gray of the uniform broken by black leather and shiny gold. It was the same uniform that he'd been surrounded by for the pas three years of his life. "Yeah?" he questioned, knowing that a verbal response was expected of him.

"How're you feeling?"

Dan blinked at the unexpected question, shaking his head as he looked at the guard in confusion. "What?"

The guard gestured to the beaten metal door that was the first obstacle between Dan and the outside world. "Over the years I've seen a lot of guys walk through that door and those gates, Lennox, and I've always wondered how they're feeling right before they take these first steps. Some of them I never see again and others land right back in here."

Dan's lips curled ever so slightly into a smile. "Any of them ever answer you?"

"Not a one," the man answered with a shake of his head and a shrug. "I never really expected one."

Dan nodded, lacking anything better to in response and looked back to the expanse of concrete and the tall fence that was the last barrier that he had to pass before rejoining the world that he'd left behind. After standing in silence for a minute or so, he shook his head slightly to clear it before speaking softly. "Overwhelmed." The guard he was standing next to didn't say anything for a moment and Dan absently wondered if he'd spoken loud enough for the other man to hear.

"What?"

Another brief smile flickered over Dan's lips as he looked at the guard. "You asked me how I felt. 'Overwhelmed' pretty much sums it up." When the guard simply looked at him, Dan made a small movement with his shoulders, not quite a shrug. "I thought you might like an answer after all these years."

"Oh."

"Lennox! You ready?" a voice interrupted whatever the guard had been about to say. The owner of the voice, another guard in an identical uniform strode to where the other two men were standing and took a set of keys off of his belt.

Dan nodded and took another deep breath as the cuffs around his wrists were taken away as the inner fence slid open. He went to stand by it, followed by the two guards who moved to flank the portal. As he slowly went past them, the one he'd been talking to lifted a restraining hand and Dan stopped, looking at him silently.

"You're going to be one of the ones that makes it."

Dan's eyes closed briefly at the assessment of his character, a sign of respect that had become wondrous to him. That had been a statement of fact, with no questioning in the tone. He nodded, opening his blue eyes and locking them with the guard's brown ones. "Yeah, I am," he agreed before squaring his shoulders and raising his head with pride before stepping onto the sun-warmed pavement and beginning the hardest walk of his life.

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The End

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