Danny was exhausted as he made his way up the stairs to his apartment after shift. Aiden's leave had resulted in a little bit of a more taxing caseload on all of them and he was partially glad her weeks were up.
And he just missed her.
He unlocked the door to his apartment slowly, not for any particular reason other than his absolute fatigue. He went about his normal routine and was seconds from sitting down on the couch for some quality time with his sports channels when he noticed the body on the sofa.
He had wanted to do the chivalrous thing and pick her up at the airport, but apparently she had other ideas. He looked down at her fondly, looking at her peacefully sleeping face. She looked more relaxed than she had been before she left, less stressed. It suited her.
He shook her gently, too tired to work at moving her so he could have a seat too. Her eyes blinked open slowly and focused on him.
"Hey," he responded, the tiredness in his voice.
"I didn't mean to fall asleep," she started, eyes wide. "There was a million and one things I was going to do before you got home…"
"Aiden?" She stopped talking.
"Let's just sit, okay?" She nodded, making room for him to sit and curling up against him.
"Talk to me," he requested, too tired to really press her.
"It was awesome, Danny. We've decided to find some way to get together every month, probably here because both Jamie and I are here."
"You really made progress."
"You have no idea. That was one of the few times I felt like I belonged, like that family was one I was supposed to be a part of and not one where I'd been a mistake." They fell into contented silence, both still partially asleep.
"What started it?"
"The whole thing. Why did this parents thing bug you?"
"The case," she admitted, having puzzled over the reason herself while away. "There was a family that was so full of devotion, but not communication. Now the kids are going to foster families because their mother's in jail and the aunt they were staying with is dead."
"It hit home."
"Something like that. It made me look at my family and reorganize my priorities."
"You've thought a lot about this," Danny said, his hand running through the ends of her hair that trailed down her back.
"Had a little bit time," she responded in explanation.
"So family's a big part of your life now?"
"I'm hoping so." They fell into silence for a few moments, partly in exhaustion, partly in a serious lack of anything really to say. Nevertheless, the silence was comfortable.
"You know, Aid. I'm really proud of you."
"I'm proud of you."
"Overcoming everything like this."
"It's still not perfect, you know."
"I don't think it's ever supposed to be perfect. If life was perfect, it would be boring," he responded. "Look and me and Louie." Aiden shivered at the mention of his brother, the man responsible for getting Danny mixed up in the Tanglewood Boys in the beginning.
"It's kind of nice to know the motivations behind what my mother did, though," she said, changing the direction of the conversation. Danny had never been completely comfortable with talking about his brother and she didn't want him to have to.
"She truly believed she was losing Dad to me. She couldn't handle the thought of being second best to her own daughter. I don't think she understood that we could both be with Dad, just in different ways."
"You think she gets that now?"
"Yeah. I think she knows I didn't want to take Daddy away from her now. I think things are starting to come to light."
"And you're going to keep working on it?"
"Yeah." That comfortable silence bloomed again as they sat, facing the blank television.
"I love you, you know," he said after a while. "I'm not totally sure when I knew, but I do." She didn't reply immediately and Danny wondered if she'd fallen asleep.
"You've been with me through this whole thing, supporting me, loving me… It probably would have been more awkward if I didn't love you back," she finally spoke up. "You're part of my family, Danny."
"Good. That's right where I want to be."
All right, all ye faithful, this is the culmination of just over a year of work. I apologize for this taking so long and I'm really sorry if this chapter sounded a little forced. I still hope you enjoyed it and I really want to thank everyone who stuck around to the end, regardless of how long it took me to post.