TITLE: Georgia on My New York State of Mind
AUTHOR: Sugah Sugah
SUMMARY: Their bodies are in one place, but their hearts are somewhere else...
SPOILERS: Through "Endgame", I suppose. See the A/N for further details.
RATING: T -- some language and suggestive dialogue, plus a little teeny bit of sexual content near the end. I don't think it's bad enough to warrant an "M" rating, but if anyone feels differently, please don't hesitate to let me know. I wouldn't want to offend anyone.
DISCLAIMER: Is my name Jerry Bruckheimer? I don't think so. So they aren't mine. But I wish they were.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story takes place three weeks after the end of "Falling" and is intended as a follow-up, not exactly a sequel. I may do a sequel sequel, like with an actual plot, later, but for now, I hope you're happy with this. It can be read on its own, but I wouldn't recommend it. You should read "Falling" first, to get an understanding of the situation. And that's not a shameless plug for my other fic. It's just a plug. I wouldn't call it shameless.
This story assumes that whatever happened between Martin and Sam didn't happen, but that everything going on with Vivian did. So it's only half-AU, if you want to get technical about it. Oh, and "Endgame" never happened. Not in my world. Okay, well, some of it happened. Everything about Viv happened. But nothing else, do you hear me? Nothing else.
Italics are used for dream sequences and to show a character's thoughts. Also for book and movie titles, but that's just the English major in me.
Danny's portion is based on the song "Georgia on My Mind" by Ray Charles, and Molly's is based on the song "New York State of Mind" by Billy Joel. (I don't own those either. Actually, I do kind of own "New York State of Mind" in that I have a song book of Billy Joel's greatest hits, and it's in there. But not in the sense that I get royalties or anything, which would be nice, actually, because I need a second job just to keep paying my car insurance.)
P.S. Review and I'll give you a cookie! (In spirit, obviously, unless you can figure out how to fax a cookie.)
P.P.S. And, hey, an extra cookie goes to whoever can name the song that Molly quotes. I happened to be listening to it as I wrote that section, which is where it came from.
Danny had followed her the entire night, and he was growing tired, but it would be worth it, he knew. It always was. It was the anticipation, more than anything, that led to such a climactic release – the building tension, the burning desire, the inescapable need to be driven completely and utterly mad by the mere existence of the other human being. He had missed this, missed her, being with her in a way that was more than physical; it was elemental, almost spiritual, and that's the only thing that kept him trudging through the darkness after her.
He could smell the salt of the sea air as the breeze whipped his clothes around. Of course, they would have to go; they would only get in the way of what he had planned. He could hear the gentle lapping of the waves on the sand as the tide went back out to sea. The water washing over his feet did nothing to cool the fire burning in him. He could see her, just barely visible in the distance. She was laughing at him, taunting him, driving him mad – but of course that was what she wanted. And it was what he wanted, too. What he had wanted for seven long weeks.
He was very nearly there.
Just a few more feet and he would be there.
He stretched out his hand to touch her, grasping only the silky material of her dress as she slipped out of it.
He took another step closer and –
BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ! BUZZ!
Danny groaned and rolled over, groping blindly for his alarm clock, which he now hated with the fire of a thousand suns. He pressed down on the snooze button and a blissful silence returned. He didn't want to open his eyes, trying desperately to cling to the last few precious seconds of his most recent dream. It had been such a good dream, and he'd gotten so much closer to her than he had in the past few weeks. He would just have to start getting to bed earlier, so he would get to sleep faster, so he could dream longer.
Ten minutes later, the abominable alarm went off once more, and he hadn't managed to return to the idyllic unawareness of his slumber, so he figured he might as well get out of bed.
He plodded to the bathroom to take his shower and tend to his…baser needs…which had been brought on by the dream, and by the sight of the picture tucked into the corner of his bathroom mirror. There she was in semi-living color – her red hair in loose curls, her green eyes not looking at the camera, and the soft pink of her tank top clearly standing out against her tan. God, if that dream hadn't turned him on, that picture would have done it no question.
After his rather long and uncomfortably cold shower, he walked into the kitchen to make "breakfast", which these days consisted of his culinary masterpiece – uncooked Pop Tarts. Any hopes of having a decent breakfast daily had faded when Molly left. He dropped the Pop Tarts on a plate to at least give the illusion that this was a real breakfast and dug around in his fridge for some milk.
The Cherokee roses she'd sent him still smelled fresh; he was doing his best to keep them alive. And it seemed as though Molly wanted to make certain that she was never out of his thoughts – she sent him a fresh bouquet once a week, whether the current one had died or not. There were times, such as now, when his counter was full of vases of brilliant white flowers. Even the brown, drying ones he kept, because he just couldn't bring himself to throw them away.
His copy of The Illustrated Da Vinci Code lay open on his sorry excuse for a kitchen table, and he paged through it as he ate. It was a fascinating read, but he couldn't get through it. He had read the first fifty or so pages more than a dozen times, but every time he came to the part where Robert Langdon first meets the cryptographer, he had to stop. He was so strongly reminded of Molly that his chest would tighten and his eyes would burn. He would have to put the book away. But he still liked to look at the pictures, even if he couldn't stomach the story.
His breakfast eaten, he got dressed. Thankfully he didn't need to put much thought into what he wore to work; the dress code at the bureau was pretty strict, and ever since he met Molly he didn't feel the need to impress anyone anymore. He still looked presentable, but he didn't put as much effort into his appearance as he used to. He grabbed the first suit he saw in his closet and put it on, took the top tie out of the drawer, and slipped into the shoes by the door.
Work was intolerable. For the first time in quite a while, there was no missing person to track down, and therefore nothing to distract him from reliving his dream. Nothing to stop him from staring at the picture on the desktop of his computer, of a redhead in a modest blue bikini standing on a picturesque beach and making a weird face. He had to open Internet Explorer to cover up the image, because he couldn't continue to look at that picture without experiencing the first signs of lust, and as he was at the office, that wouldn't be good. He was already in enough trouble at work without adding that to the list.
Martin and Sam, so deliriously in love that it made Danny want to puke, approached him at the end of the day and asked if he wanted to go out with them. They'd been asking every day for nearly two months, and though he appreciated the gesture, he always turned them down. But today he said yes, if only because he didn't feel up to returning to his dark, empty apartment for another lonely night of watching the world series of poker on ESPN2.
They went to an Irish pub in the village called Claddagh's. Danny went there sometimes, when the urge to think about Molly was so overwhelming that he just gave in because it was easier than fighting. The bartender, Finn, was an old college friend of Molly's, and he delighted in telling Danny stories of debauchery from their college days – most of which, he suspected, were fabricated. Molly had been a wild child at one point in time, but by the time she entered college, she had sowed most of her wild oats. Martin and Sam said nothing about his choice of location, and both of them ordered non-alcoholic beverages, as Danny had been incredibly tempted to hit the bottle more than once since Molly left. Sometimes, he hoped he could just drink her memory away, but whenever he felt that way, he called her.
She always stopped whatever she was doing to talk to him, because she knew what it was like to be in that situation – when the despair was just too much. And every time he explained to her why he felt the need to drink, she would remind him that their situation was only temporary, that she would be back in New York before he knew it, and that if he was really that lonely he should look into renting some porn or something. He always laughed when she said that, but he never took her up on her suggestion. Doing that felt wrong, like he was cheating on her, even though it wouldn't count.
And as Martin so often reminded him, it wouldn't count if he happened to hook up with another girl, since he and Molly were in different area codes. But Danny couldn't bring himself to do that. He wouldn't even entertain the idea. He'd been with other girls before, but none had ever done to him what Molly did to him. And he wasn't about to throw that away just because he woke up in the middle of the night lonely.
Besides, other girls just didn't do it for him anymore. Not that they didn't try. In fact, tonight, out with Martin and Sam – too wrapped up in themselves to even notice Danny, for which he was grateful – women approached him, flirted with him, made subtle and not-so-subtle innuendos, and invited him back to their apartments. He was polite but firm when he turned them down, claiming that he was taken. If they protested, if they refused to take no for an answer, he would show them the proof that he belonged to someone else.
Molly certainly could stake her claim; she was excellent in that capacity. They hadn't been intimate in almost two months, but he still bore the scars from their last encounter. The scar on his left shoulder suspiciously resembled teeth marks, and the long, thin scars that crisscrossed his back looked as though they'd been made by fingernails.
He immersed himself in the baseball game on the television behind the bar and struck up a conversation with Finn. He relayed Molly's latest ordeal with being referred to as "the Yankee" by everyone in her office, which she found highly insulting – she was a Mets fan. Talk gradually drifted towards the current season and the Mets' abysmal chances for the pennant, until Danny could stand it no longer.
Dropping a rather large tip on the counter for Finn, Danny bid goodnight to Martin and Sam and left the already crowded bar a little before 8:00.
The night was balmy – high humidity because a huge rainstorm was due to hit the island sometime in the next few days – but it wasn't uncomfortable, so Danny took a walk. The sun was just now beginning to set, and though Danny didn't want to be around people, he didn't want to be alone either. He glanced up at the sky – the stars invisible due to all the lights from the city – and decided to head for Central Park.
Walking through Central Park was as close as Danny could come to getting away from it all. If he walked far enough into the trees, everything about the city faded into the blackness, and he could almost pretend that he was in a forest somewhere – until the screeching of brakes and the frenzied honking of someone running a red light permeated the air. In fact, for the most part, the walk was almost peaceful, but as he stared into a grove of pine trees just off the path, he could feel his mind beginning to wander.
His phone rang shrilly, shattering the tranquil solitude of his daydream, but his irritation faded instantly when he checked the caller ID.
"Hey," he said, not even bothering to do his standard greeting of "Taylor". "I was just thinking about you."
"Why, Agent Taylor," said the voice on the other end, and the playful mocking was evident in her tone from the get-go, "you shouldn't say things like that to me. Because then I'll just have to jump through this phone and kiss you senseless." She was in a good mood. Those were the best conversations, when they were both in good moods.
He smiled. "Then remind me to say things like that more often."
"Oh, you'd like that, wouldn't you?" she said, and he could tell that she was grinning. "But I'm afraid that the laws of physics are against us on that one."
"I knew I hated physics for a reason."
They laughed for a while, but then the tone of the conversation grew somber. "How's Vivian?" she asked.
Danny's smile faded but didn't disappear. After collapsing while on a case, Vivian finally revealed that she had some heart condition. Danny couldn't remember the exact name of it, but it was long and medical sounding and apparently very serious. Vivian required an operation to remove excess tissue from around her heart – or something to that effect. Danny had been in such a state of shock that he really hadn't listened to her explanation of the procedure. She'd had the operation a few days ago and was recovering but very weak.
"She's doing okay," said Danny. "I went to see her the other day. She seems to be recovering. It'll be a while before she can come back to work, but she's looking a lot better."
"That's good," Molly said. "Give her my best, will you?"
"I will." Danny paused, continuing to gaze at the grove of pines. "Is that why you called?"
"Partly. But mostly, I just wanted to hear your voice."
The familiar sting in his eyes indicated that tears were sure to follow. He forced them back, digging the heel of his free hands into his eyes to prevent crying. "I miss you," he said, and his voice broke even though he didn't want it to.
"I miss you, too." He could tell that she was having just as much difficulty as he was.
He knew he shouldn't ask, but he couldn't stop himself. "When are you coming home?"
That was always her answer. What he wanted to ask – but didn't – was what she meant by soon. Was "soon" tomorrow? Was "soon" next week? Or was "soon", God forbid, sometime next year? But she always refused to elaborate, and he never asked her to, because this was something she needed to do. They'd fought about it enough before she left, but as these few precious moments of a phone conversation were all he got of her each day, he didn't want to start another argument. She had explained it enough times, that she just needed some time away – to reflect, she had said. But how much time did she need?
"I – I have to go," she said suddenly, and he could hear the tears in her voice. "Alex is making me go to the movies. She says it's high time I actually left the apartment."
Danny smiled slightly. "Sam and Martin said the same thing."
"Are they there?" Molly asked. She had taken a particular interest in their relationship after learning that her analyses about the two of them had been correct.
Danny shook his head, even though he knew she couldn't see. "Nah. I, uh, left."
"Okay. Tell them I said 'hi'."
He nodded. "I'll do that. And, uh, have fun at the movies."
She made a noise, and he could picture her rolling her eyes. "Doubtful. We're going to some stupid foreign flick about cheese makers or something. I suggested seeing Revenge of the Sith, but Alex vetoed that. She said I've already seen it six times."
"And have you?" Danny asked, knowing that Molly, with her science and math obsession, was a huge science fiction fan.
"Of course not," she said, sounding insulted. "I've seen it seven times, thank you very much. I just get a kick out of Darth Vader's dramatic 'Noooooooooo!' at the end."
Danny laughed and shook his head. "Well, you don't want to miss that foreign cheese movie."
She sighed heavily. "I suppose not. I'll talk to you later." There was a pause, and then she said, quietly, "I love you."
Danny felt his heart leap into his throat. She'd never said that before. Should he say it back? He wasn't even sure if he felt that way. He'd never been in love; he didn't know what it felt like. But he knew that he couldn't stand the thought of her being in Georgia much longer, and that he looked forward to getting that stupid bouquet every week, and that the best part of the day was when she called.
He opened and closed his mouth several times, but no words came out.
Molly saved him from the awkward silence that had fallen by saying, "You don't have to say it back. I just…wanted to make sure that you knew. Good night."
He couldn't even squeak out a "good night", because his vocal chords didn't seem to be functioning properly, and thankfully Molly didn't wait for one. The line went dead after only a few seconds of silence, but Danny still held the phone to his ear, his mouth open, his eyes wide, in complete and total shock of what had just happened.
Hell, he would never get to sleep now.
Molly found herself entranced with the back of Robert's head. Whether or not he cared to admit it, his bald spot was getting larger by the day. She stared at the back of his head because, quite frankly, it was more interesting than listening to him. Good Lord, was she this boring? Was this how she sounded to other people? She made a mental note to never ever talk about math in front of other people unless it specifically came up – and she meant, like, "Hey, Molly, can you figure out the tip?" and situations like that.
However, staring at Robert's bald spot instead of listening to him was freeing up her mind to do the one thing she swore she wasn't going to do – rehash her phone conversation with Danny.
What the hell had prompted her to tell him that she loved him? Forget the fact that it was true – though she'd never been in love, she had a pretty good feeling that that was she felt for him – why had she opened her big, stupid mouth and inserted her big, stupid foot? She could tell that he was freaked by their entire relationship. It was cute how he tried to hide it, but she could tell that the situation – or lack thereof, at this point in time – made him uncomfortable. For instance, how she had unceremoniously, and basically without being asked, moved into his apartment, which she now thought of as home, even though she'd only been there two weeks.
And she didn't want him to know the truth – that leaving New York had very little to do with what had happened with Kate and very much to do with what was happening with him, even though she told him that it had nothing to do with him. But that's what people were supposed to say, in situations like that. What she felt for him, it wasn't some silly schoolgirl crush that would go away as soon as someone cuter came along; her feelings ran deep, deeper than anything she'd ever experienced, and for her to have fallen so hard so fast was…overwhelming, to say the least.
It wasn't just the sex – though that was phenomenal. She absentmindedly fingered the scar on her collarbone, remembering – in quite vivid detail – their last night together. It still amazed her how quickly they'd progressed to a physical relationship. Molly was hardly the virginal prude her sorority sisters made her out to be – by the time she hit college she was already well versed in the matters of sex, though most of her experiences were blurred by alcohol – but she was not the type of girl who slept with a guy she just met. But there was something about Danny, something that she couldn't control and was afraid to identify, that made her turn primal when she was with him.
Perhaps that was why she'd used him for comfort. In the past, when she needed comforted, she would bury herself in her comforter with a good book – or a good movie – and a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream. But with Danny it was different. When she was with Danny, she was able to forget everything except the way she felt when he touched her. It was a beautiful thing. And so every time she needed to forget, she went to him. It was wrong to use him for comfort like that, to take advantage of him, but she didn't hear him complaining.
But there was more to it than that. He understood her better than anyone had in a long time. They had so much in common it was uncanny. He had quickly staked out a place in her mind and heart, and she knew that removing him would require a lot more than a nine-hundred-mile move. Some sort of operation would have to be involved.
Just when exactly had she realized that she loved him? She couldn't even remember. Maybe it was when he'd helped her clean her apartment that horrible morning, or when they'd started quizzing each other over breakfast, or when he risked his job to take her to the church. Did it even matter?
Danny was the reason she had left New York, but he would also be the reason for her to go back. When she eventually went back. Because she would go back, it would just take a while for her to adjust the fact that she was so hopelessly attached to one other person that it scared her more than anything in her life up to this point.
She rolled her eyes. She sounded so pathetic, packing up and leaving because she was afraid to be in love. Yes, she had considered leaving a few times – getting out of the city and away from all the bad memories. She'd thought, at the time, that it was a good idea. Now she knew it was stupid. What did she have to fear from feeling something not induced by alcohol? People waited their entire lives to feel what she felt, and she'd run away. Danny was right – a change of scenery wasn't going to change what had happened. Everything – and everyone – she was trying to run away from was going to be there when she got back. Hopefully.
She wondered if she should send him another bouquet. She glanced at her calendar, the day-by-day tear-off kind – Star Trek, naturally – and saw that she had another two days before the last bouquet she'd sent him started to die. She wasn't sure if that was overkill or not – it certainly seemed like it to her, but Danny never said anything about it, and if he didn't like it he would tell her to stop. She did that because she didn't want him to find out why she had really left New York.
Tired of staring at Robert's bald spot – she feared she'd go blind – she turned back to her computer screen. Not the wisest decision she'd ever made, as the desktop bore a picture of the New York City skyline.
She sighed. This just wasn't her day.
It didn't get much better as the day wore on. She had the kind of job where there was either nothing to do or fifteen million things to get done by the time the office closed at 5:00, and today was one of those days where there was nothing to do except listen to Robert complain about the price of gas. She had the most boring coworkers in the world. At least her coworkers in New York were interesting on occasion. But Robert and Van were the two most boring people on the planet.
She glanced over at Van, who was reading a magazine, his tongue poking out the side of his mouth. Her first few days at the office, she had derived great pleasure from purposely calling him the wrong name. She'd called him every mode of transportation she could think of, trying to get a rise out of him. But Van, with his southern mentality and ridiculous obsession with manners, just politely corrected her every time she called him Bus, or Truck, or – her personal favorite – Moped. So she'd given up after about a week. It was no fun teasing someone if it didn't garner a reaction.
Molly dropped her head into her hands. Apparently, praying for a serial bomber who sent cryptic letters with coded warnings wasn't working. Days at the office were filled with the TV Guide crossword puzzles book she had picked up at the grocery store last week. Two more and she'd finish the whole damn thing. Oh, what an exciting life she led. Why the hell had she left New York again?
After work, she went to the Barnes & Noble downtown, walked into the science fiction section, closed her eyes, and picked a book at random. She did this occasionally – picking out a random book and sitting down in the café with a latte until she'd finished it. The book, not the latte. Well, the latte, too. She was a fast reader, and depending on the length of the book – and the complexity of the language – she could read a novel in several hours, provided she had nothing better to do. And she had nothing better to do. Plus, it managed to distract her – albeit briefly – from the train wreck that had become her brain.
She opened her eyes. Mists of Avalon. She groaned. She'd read this one already. Figured. She moved down a few steps and tried again. Wizard's First Rule. She flipped the book over and read the synopsis on the back. It sounded interesting.
She got a latte and seated herself at one of the small circular tables by the big picture window. That way, if she didn't care for the book, she could people-watch until she got bored. She'd done that a few times – like when she'd wandered into the "young adult" section and accidentally grabbed A Separate Peace. She'd read three pages when she decided that she hated it and remembered that she'd been forced to read that book in ninth grade and had hated it then, too. So she'd stared out the window and amused herself by inventing life stories for the people that she saw walking past, who were on their way to the CVS the one side or the Urban Outfitters on the other.
But she didn't even open the book. She didn't touch her latte. She simply stared at the book's cover, where a guy built like Fabio was riding a dragon and reaching for a girl in a long white dress. She ran her fingers lightly over the book, remarking on how much the guy in the picture looked like Danny.
She blinked and brought the book closer to her face. Actually, the guy looked nothing like Danny, but wasn't it interesting how quickly she had inserted him into that picture and ergo the rest of her thought processes, thereby missing the entire damn point of this exercise in the first place? She groaned and sank against the wire back of the chair. Served her right for rooming with a psychologist. She would be analyzing her behavior all night if she didn't find something to do – and fast.
Maybe a walk would clear her head. Leaving her latte on the table, she put the book on the first shelf she passed – fiction new releases – and left.
The heat was unbearable, the humidity oppressive, but her blood was beginning to thin to the point that it really didn't bother her all that much anymore. If she stayed down south any longer, she would become one of those people who had to put on sweatshirts when the temperature hit sixty degrees Fahrenheit, claiming that it was cold. And that simply could not be.
She kicked at a stray stone on the sidewalk and marveled at the turn her life had taken in the past two months. Had it only been two months? It felt like an eternity. Two months ago her biggest concern had been who was going to win the NCAA tournament. Now her only real concern was when the hell her life would get back to some semblance of normalcy. She still couldn't walk past a church without giving a small, involuntary shudder. She'd had to start going to AA meetings again. She hadn't gotten a good night's sleep in weeks. Her sanity was hanging on by a thread. Running away had done no good whatsoever. So why was she still kidding herself that this was a good idea?
Because here she was safe. Here she didn't have to deal with the overwhelming emotions that made her want to curl under a rock and die.
She shook her head in self-loathing. All those reasons she'd given Danny for the "change of scenery" – her creative way of saying "running away" – were bullshit. She wasn't afraid of her apartment back in New York – she was afraid of the memories the apartment conjured. And those wouldn't go away just because she didn't go back there. They never went away. They returned full force – and with friends – at the most inopportune times, like when she was trying to sleep. The whispers she heard when she walked down the street were still there, only they were in her head, where she couldn't escape them. She had no peace of mind. She had no peace at all. And she hadn't retained her sanity. She was, in fact, very slowly losing her damn mind.
As if to prove her point, she tripped over an uneven part of the sidewalk and viciously kicked at the ground, convinced that it had purposely waited until she was in position to lift itself up and trip her, thereby making her look like some kind of idiotic klutz in front of all the other pedestrians.
It was a damned conspiracy. The universe was conspiring against her, trying to make her crack. Well, she wasn't going to crack.
When she became aware of the fact that she was still attacking the sidewalk, and that people were starting to stare, she realized that she had already cracked. She was going bloody mad and there wasn't a damn thing she could do about it. Her mind would slowly begin to unravel until she turned into one of those old ladies who pushed around an empty shopping cart and talked to herself about cats she'd never owned.
She leaned against the nearest building and buried her face in her hands. God, she needed Danny. She didn't care how pathetic, how co-dependent, how chick-flick-Lifetime-movie-of-the-week that sounded. The simple truth of the matter was that he was the one thing in her entire, messed up life that had actually made any sense.
Face it, Molly, she told herself, strongly resisting the urge to say it out loud, because she wasn't that crazy quite yet, you're in love with the guy. Putting all this distance, all these states between you isn't going to change that. You know what they say about absence and the heart.
What was that stupid cliché, anyway? Oh, yeah. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." But there was an unpleasant lurch in her stomach as she remembered a quote from Disney's Robin Hood. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or forgetful."
Don't think like that, said that little voice in the back of her head – which sounded a lot like Kate, actually. What's meant to be will always find a way.
Molly swallowed a groan. She'd been in Georgia too long. She was starting to quote country songs.
And now she was listening to the voices in her head. She really had gone crazy.
She jammed her hands into her pockets and gazed blindly across the street. You love him, that voice in the back of her head said again. You love him and you're scared to death that he might actually love you back, because the last time you trusted someone and let that person in, she betrayed you in a big way. And you'd rather stay stuck here in limbo, never knowing how completely and totally unbelievable a relationship with him could be than run the risk of it not working out and getting hurt all over again.
Molly bit the inside of her cheek. Is it better to know or not to know? They say ignorance is bliss, but are you happy right now, not knowing? Or would you rather take a chance and find out the answer, even if it's not the answer you want?
But what if it doesn't work out? she asked the voice in her head, who seemed to be thinking a lot more rationally than she was at the moment. What if I go back and pour out my heart to him, and he just looks at me like I'm crazy and breaks what's left of my heart?
If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out, the voice responded. At least you'd know, and you wouldn't be standing here, leaning against a Subway, having arguments with yourself in public. If anything, that's why he would look at you like you're crazy. Please tell me you're at least not talking to yourself.
She glanced around at the people walking by her. None of them were staring at her like she was deranged – not since she'd attacked the sidewalk for no reason – which led her to the conclusion that she was not talking to herself out loud. Of course, the fact that she honestly didn't know whether or not the conversation she was carrying on with herself was out loud or just in her head didn't look good.
Look, the voice said again, it comes down to just one simple question. Do you love him?
The answer was a resounding yes.
Do you want to be with him?
So then what the hell are you still doing standing here?
Absolutely no idea.
Danny never thought he'd be doing what he was doing right now. But here he was, on a Friday night, waiting for the phone to ring.
God, he was really waiting for the phone to ring. Like some dopey teenager who couldn't get a date to save his life and had finally gotten the courage to give his phone number to the girl he would spend the rest of his life not having. Not that he knew what that was like, of course. Well, now he did, because he was actually holed up in his apartment, without even the TV on to distract him, waiting for the stupid phone to ring.
Ring, already, damn you!
It wasn't just that, though that was bad enough. He was laying on his stomach on the couch, his head resting on the arm of the couch, his eyes trained on his cell phone, which sat on the end table in front of him. That way, when it finally rang, he could answer it quickly.
But did he want to answer it so quickly? He didn't want to seem too eager, but it had been almost three days since Molly had called last, and he was starting to get worried. He hoped that nothing was seriously wrong – that someone would notify him if something had happened to her, since she didn't have any family – but at the same time hoped that that was the reason she wasn't calling. Because the other option, he didn't want to think about.
Was she regretting telling him that she loved him? He prayed that that wasn't the reason, because he was already regretting not saying it back. He loved her. God help him, but he loved her. Madly. Passionately. Undeniably. And he desperately wanted to tell her so. But she hadn't called.
He could call her, he supposed, but he wasn't sure what was going on. Maybe she was mad that he hadn't responded to her declaration and didn't want to speak to him. Maybe she hadn't meant to say it and wasn't sure what he thought and maybe thought that he didn't want to talk to her. There were dozens of possible reasons why he shouldn't call her, which he felt were perfectly justified but he knew were really based in fear.
The phone sparked to life in front of his eyes, and he answered it halfway through the first ring, not even bothering to check the caller ID.
"So I was just watching the Weather Channel," said a very familiar voice, which immediately flooded Danny with an overwhelming sense of relief, "and did you know that there are hurricanes in Georgia?"
He furrowed his brow in confusion. Was he supposed to just completely ignore what she had said to him? Was he supposed to pretend that it hadn't freaked him out, sending him on a massive soul-search until he finally realized that what other excuse for their bizarre relationship could there be other than that they were both completely gone for each other?
Well, if she wasn't going to bring it up, neither was he. Two could play that game. "Really?" he asked, hoping that he managed to keep the bitterness out of his voice. "I had no idea."
"Oh, yeah. Every year, apparently. More than one. Hurricanes, hurricanes, hurricanes."
Despite his frustration, he couldn't help but smile. "Makes you wonder why anyone would ever want to live there."
"Doesn't it? But when I posed that exact question to Alex, she got all pissy with me. Can't imagine why. She asked me why anyone would ever want to live in New York, what with all the crime. And I must say, much as I'm loath to admit it, she brought up an interesting point."
"Hey, crime keeps me employed," Danny said, feeling oddly defensive, though he couldn't quite explain why. "Besides, I thought New York was the most perfect place in the entire world."
"I did say that, didn't I?"
"Must have been watching 'Sex and the City' again."
There was a knock on the door, but Danny just glared at it. If it was important, whoever it was would come back later. But the knocking persisted, loud and obnoxious, until Danny couldn't take it any longer.
"Hold on," he said, "there's someone at the door."
He threw the door open, totally prepared to chew out the person on the other side, but his chew-out died in his throat.
It was Molly.
"'Bout bloody time," she said.
Danny had to blink several times to make sure he wasn't hallucinating, to make sure that she was really standing there in front of him. She was wearing yoga pants and a tank top and her hair was pulled into a messy ponytail, but she looked incredible. And Danny stood there, gaping at her, the phone still in his hand, unable to believe that she was actually here. If he had been able to move, he would have touched her, just to be completely and totally certain.
She gazed up at him through her lashes. "Um, aren't you going to invite me in?"
He was no longer capable of intelligent thought. He simply stepped back from the door, giving her the space she needed to squeeze inside his apartment.
They stood there, staring at each other, for what could have been hours, before Danny realized he was still holding his phone. He shut it off and tossed it aside, not caring where it landed or if it even landed in tact. Now that he was able to move, he cautiously reached out and poked Molly in the arm. That seemed to break her out of the trance that she was in, and she propelled herself forward, circling her arms around his waist and burying her face in his chest. His arms went around her automatically, and he choked back a sob as it hit with incredible finality that she was here. She was actually here.
"What about Georgia?" he asked, nuzzling her neck and marveling at how soft her skin was. He'd forgotten.
She dug her fingernails into his back, and he winced. "I'm where I'm supposed to be."
He slipped his hands underneath her shirt to get closer to her warm skin. "So you're back for good, then?"
She nodded against his chest.
He dropped his head back to stare at the ceiling, wondering if he should even ask. But he had to know. "About, um, what you said…"
She pulled away so that she could look at him. "I meant it."
His heart felt as though it would burst. One of these days he really would keel over. "You did?"
She smiled as his voice cracked yet again. "It's the reason I came back."
She stretched up on her toes so that she could whisper in his ear. "I love you, Danny."
That did it. Two months' worth of dreams had taken their toll, and Danny couldn't wait another second. He had to have her. Now. He grabbed her by the backside and lifted her up, so that their faces were level, before crushing his lips to hers in a kiss that left him breathless and lightheaded. He couldn't stifle the moan that escaped when she locked her ankles at the small of his back.
She grinned at him. "Missed me, did you?"
Danny nipped at her bottom lip. "Oh, yeah."
"Well, miss me on over to the bedroom, why don't you, Agent Taylor."
He was all too willing to oblige. He dropped her on the bed and followed quickly after, bracing his hands on either side of her head and hovering slightly above her. She arched into him and he almost lost it right there. But he had to keep his senses long enough to tell her what he should have told her days ago.
He looked deeply into those amazing green eyes – how had he gone two months without seeing her eyes? – and said, "I love you, Molly."
Her eyes lit up in a way he'd never seen before. God but she was beautiful. She cupped a hand to his cheek, and he anxiously awaited her response, his arms shaking with the effort of maintaining the distance between their bodies. She smiled shyly, bit her bottom lip, and kissed his chin.
"Prove it," she said.
Molly stretched languorously, content for the first time in, well, ever. For once, her life made sense. Things were just as they should be. She stretched again, arching her back off the mattress in a futile attempt to crack it. Her cramped muscles protested, having endured a bus, a plane, a taxi, and Danny in the span of twenty-four hours, but it was nothing a good hot bath wouldn't cure. But that could wait until morning. She wasn't quite ready to leave the sanctity of Danny's bed – not just yet.
She rolled over onto her side and couldn't help smiling when she saw him. He was sound asleep – exhausted, no doubt, which only served to widen her grin – on his back, with one arm thrown over his face, snoring softly. She covered her mouth to hide her giggles as he mumbled something in his sleep. The sheet had bunched around his waist, leaving his chest wondrously exposed, and she reached out to trace light circle patterns on his skin. He gave a contented sigh and twisted in her direction, tossing one arm over her and drawing her close. She snuggled against him, burying her face in the crook of his neck and breathing him in.
So this was what it felt like to be happy. Interesting.
See? said the voice in her head. I told you it would be worth it.
Molly eventually drifted off to sleep, enveloped in the safety of Danny's arms, and her last coherent thought before she fell asleep was, So totally worth it.