By Heather Hinam
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to CSI New York, just the thoughts in my head.
Rating: T, for vague references to violence.
Email: Please ask first.
Summary: def: A release of emotional tension that restores or refreshes the spirit.
Spoilers: A post-ep for Cool Hunter that takes the story way beyond canon.
Author's Notes: This is my first CSI NY fic; but not my first crack at fanfiction. I'm finding these characters a lot of fun to play with and hope to get a chance to speculate on Lindsay's past for a while before they actually tell us what happened. The dynamic between these two hold a lot of possibilities. I hope you enjoy it. Be sure to let me know what you think. This is a one-shot, however I will hopefully follow it up with a few more post-eps from this season.
A big thanks as always to my dear friend Joy, for being an outstanding sounding board in all respects and for making it look like I know how to spell and use a comma: I'm glad I can make you laugh with my mistakes. That makes it all the more fun.
The sound of gravel crunching under her boots echoed of the off the sodden wooden walls of the empty water tower. Gazing upwards, her mind's eye could see the bloody body of Stacie Avida break the water's surface, wisps of red seeping out through the clear liquid. As she'd left the lab earlier for one last once over of the crime scene, Lindsay had caught Flack musing to one of the lab techs.
"Just how much grief would drive a woman to take her own life and frame another person for her death?"
Lindsay could only speculate as to the latter part of the question; but as for the first part… Let's just say she had some first-hand experience.
"If you think I'm going to carry you outta there, Montana, you got another thing comin'"
Lindsay froze at the sound of her colleague's voice. This was the absolute last thing she needed. Normally an encounter with Danny Messer would be fine, welcome even. The problem was that emotions were boiling a little too close to the surface at the moment. The last thing she needed was to be in the company of the one person in New York, other than her boss, who had an uncanny ability to see more of her than she really wanted to be seen. Schooling her features into what she hoped could pass for normal, Lindsay turned to gaze up at him.
He'd followed her. Danny wasn't exactly sure why he'd followed her, except that when Lindsay had passed him in the hallway on her way out of the lab she'd looked… haunted. It was a look he'd never seen before and Danny'd found himself needing to know what was bothering her. So before his brain had a chance to kick in and remind him of all the reasons this was probably a bad idea, he'd passed off the report he'd been carrying to a passing lab tech, traded his lab coat for his overcoat and took off after her.
Finding her hadn't really been that hard. He'd guessed correctly that she had some follow-up work left to do at the crime scene. As he'd navigated the streets of Manhattan to catch up with her on the roof of the cursed apartment building, Danny couldn't help but remember the last time he'd been on that roof with Lindsay.
It would be quite a while before he'd forget the feel of her pressed against him as he'd carried her across a garden bed to compare track depths. When she'd jumped into his arms and draped herself around his neck, Danny had found it incredibly hard to concentrate. There was just something about this little spitfire from the Montana backwoods that wouldn't leave Danny alone. Granted, he would admit only under pressure that he really had no idea what part of Montana she was from; but anything other than the Big Apple constituted the backwoods in his mind. Still, there was just something about her. He couldn't get her out of his head and this had never happed before… ever.
He'd never had a problem keeping people at arm's length. He'd never let his co-workers or his girlfriends see anything he didn't want them to see. It was just that Lindsay had this annoying habit of catching him off-guard, of asking him questions no one had ever asked before and what scared him more than anything was that he found himself suddenly wanting to answer them.
To add to his aggravation with the whole situation was that he found Lindsay occupying his thoughts at the most inopportune moments. Her smile would haunt his dreams regardless of how hard he fought to shake her hold on his psyche. His brain would try to remind his heart that she was just another cute brunette in a long line of beautiful women that has passed through his life.
The problem was that it wasn't just her ingénue looks that were the source of his distraction. She was so much more than that. She was charming and intelligent, almost quaint in her mannerisms, but with a fiery temper that had tamed more than one perp into submission.
And currently she was standing on the floor of the empty water tower, staring up at him with lost and haunted eyes.
Danny felt an odd tug in his chest as he gazed down at her. She looked tiny in the cavernous space. It was obvious that she was fighting hard to maintain an appearance of professional detachment. She was ultimately losing the battle. Danny surprised himself with a sudden overwhelming desire to gather her in his arms and shield her from whatever was dogging her mind. He tried desperately to shake the thought loose, blinking rapidly to clear try and clear his head. Emotional entanglements weren't his scene. He had always managed to bail whenever any of his girlfriends had gotten all weepy. But Lindsay wasn't his girlfriend… and she looked like she really could use a little help.
"C'mon, Montana! They're gonna want to put the water back in this thing sometime and that only works if you're not in there"
Danny felt that tug in his chest a little harder when he saw Lindsay's shoulders sag ever so slightly.
"What are you doing here, Danny?"
What was he doing here? Falling back into his comfort zone, he shot back. "I thought I'd come and collect on that dinner you owe me."
This time, she took the bait. "I never promised you dinner."
Danny flashed her what he hoped was his most disarming smile.
"Fine Montana, I'll get dinner. You did promise drinks, though. And, I won't give you anything until you get moving. Make tracks up that ladder, cowgirl or I will come down in there and get ya."
With that, he disappeared from the hatch.
Lindsay's mind was a mess. Thoughts and emotions swirled relentlessly, making it exceedingly difficult to focus on one response. What the hell was she going to do now? She was in no shape to be having dinner with Danny Messer. On a good day, it took most of her mental skills to keep him from drawing more of her out than she wanted to reveal. How the hell was she going to keep her cool when this case had rattled her to her core? And how would he react if he suddenly found himself with an exhausted and overly-emotional co-worker? He'd bail, that's what, and Lindsay wasn't sure she could handle that right now.
It wasn't that she had any allusions with regards to her relationship with Danny, if you could even call it a relationship. She knew he was a player and that his charming ability to draw her out was part of a long-practiced routine. She had no intention of being another notch on his bedpost. Still, despite his reputation, Lindsay had found herself enjoying his company. Sure, they flirted shamelessly; but she'd never felt any pressure from him. And now here he was just when she'd probably needed a friend the most… why? They hadn't worked the case together so he shouldn't have had any idea where she was. Eventually, curiosity won out over trepidation and Lindsay started the slow ascent up to the hatch.
He was packing up her kit when she spotted him. She watched from the tower hatch as he delicately returned all the instruments to their respective slots, mesmerized by his unexpected grace. Danny had always fascinated her in a way. He definitely wasn't your typical 'science geek.' Had they met on the street, she might have pegged him for a ball player, maybe a beat cop or even a pool shark, but never a CSI.
There were days when he seemed like a walking contradiction. One minute he'd be ragging on her about something or arguing vehemently over a case and the next he'd drop everything to help her with an experiment or just show up out of seemingly nowhere when she was needing a sounding board. Actually, lately it seemed that he had been turning up a lot, even though they hadn't been working many cases together. She really didn't know what to make of it. If she believed the whispers around the lab, the general consensus would be that he was trying to seduce her. The thing was, it didn't feel like that at all. It felt… nice. And now here he was and with the resolution of this case leaving a cloud over her heart, Lindsay really had no idea what he wanted from her.
So, she carefully slipped her leg over the hatch and turned to climb down from the water tower, ensuring that her back was to him before she asked.
"What do you want, Danny?"
Danny spun around to greet her, smirk firmly in place. "Ah, m'lady deigns it time to descend from her tower."
Lindsay was wound up too tightly to laugh at his mangling of old English with a Staten Island accent.
Touching down on the rooftop, she turned and searched his eyes imploringly.
"What do you want, Danny?"
Upon seeing her haunted look earlier in the water tower, Danny had resolved himself in his mission to help Lindsay out of whatever it was that was troubling her and right now, the only way he knew how to do it was with humour.
"I want a lot of things, Montana: a new car, a promotion, Yankees tickets. Mostly I just want to see you smile… and make sure you don't go back on your promise of dinner."
That earned him a small upward quirk of her lips.
"I never promised you dinner, Danny."
"O.K., O.K… fine, I'll get dinner; but you still owe me drinks. C'mon, I know this great little Korean place a few blocks from 'ere. You get the beers; I'll get the bulgogi."
With that, Danny turned on his heel and started carrying her case to the stairwell, leaving a befuddled Lindsay in his wake. Turning, he smirked.
"What? You were expecting cannelloni?"
His words spurred her feet, and Lindsay caught up with him at the door.
"I don't know what I was expecting; but it wasn't that."
Danny gifted her with a full-watt smile that lit up his eyes. Reaching out, he grasped her left hand and before she could protest, wrapped her arm in the crook of his elbow.
"Stick with me, Montana. I'm full of surprises."
He'd been right about two things. The restaurant was great and it was definitely little. It was obvious that Danny wasn't the only one who knew the secret of this place. Nearly every seat was occupied and Lindsay had found herself crammed into a tiny corner booth, facing an ageing silk-screened panel. Danny sat opposite her and Lindsay constantly found herself distracted by the feel of his knees brushing against her own.
The food had helped. Their meal had been flavourful and satisfying and enough of a diversion to keep Danny from trying to probe her psyche; but now as the waitress cleared their dishes, Lindsay's brain again began to spin on its axis. She'd spent much of the meal continuing to try and divine Danny's motives for the last few weeks… and her own.
Moving to New York had been both a blessing and a curse. At first she'd revelled in the anonymity; but now, six months later, loneliness was creeping into her heart. She'd always been a gregarious person and now she was just another warm body in a sea of people and Lindsay found herself craving a familiar face. Lately that face had been Danny's.
They'd got off to a rocky start when she'd first arrived. Then somewhere along the line his teasing had gone from trying to the part of her day that she looked forward to the most. Even his nickname for her had become endearing along the way. If he had been, in fact, seeking her out of late, she was making herself easier to find. Lindsay was finding that days without him in it felt lacking and that scared her. If even half of what she'd heard about him was true, Danny Messer was not the guy to be pinning any hopes to. Then he would catch her gaze over a piece of evidence, tagging her with those surprisingly blue eyes, and Lindsay would find herself wishing desperately that everyone else was wrong.
And now, sitting across from him in a bustling Korean restaurant, doubts and hopes swirled together in a confusing mass as she struggled with her desire to reach out to him. Unfortunately with all the confusion, she wasn't paying attention to what her mouth was doing…
"I don't want to be a notch on a bedpost, Danny."
To an outside observer, the matching reactions of shock might have been comical; but neither was an outside observer and it wasn't funny.
As she realized just what she'd said. Lindsay quickly buried her head in her arms on the table, wishing the floor would swallow her up where she sat or lightning would strike her down or something… anything so she wouldn't have to face the revulsion she was sure was written on Danny's face. Burying her face further into her sleeve, Lindsay wondered abstractly if playing ostrich really worked.
"Whoa, Montana! I don't know what people've been tellin' ya; but…"
Lindsay cut him off, suddenly terrified to hear the rest of his words.
"God, Danny, I'm sorry!" she muttered into her sleeve, still reluctant to face him. "I don't know what's wrong with me… you've been nothing but great lately and I … that was completely uncalled for."
Danny decided to take pity on her and silenced her ramblings with a gentle hand to her arm. He was well aware of the reputation he had around the lab. Some of it was deserved. Still, like all rumours, most had been blown out of proportion… he'd just hoped that she hadn't bought into it.
Reaching for his wallet with his free hand, Danny pulled out the requisite number of bills and dropped them on the table. Lindsay still refused to look at him, so he scooted over and slipped onto the bench beside her.
"C'mon Monroe," he whispered over her hair. "Let's go for a walk."
Lindsay's head shot up in surprise as she found him much closer than she'd remembered him. His eyes held none of the reproach she'd expected; but still guilt continued to bubble out of her.
"Shh…" he moved to hush her again, this time with a finger to her lips and the spark that rocketed through both of them stilled the pair into silence.
Recovering first, Danny fixed her with a purposeful gaze.
"Let's go for a walk."
He slowly backed out of the booth, his eyes bidding her to follow. Before she could protest, Danny guided Lindsay out the door and into the gathering dusk with a solid hand at the small of her back.
The light evening breeze gently brushed her face as they moved silently along the Manhattan streets. The regular daytime crowds had thinned considerably; but the city still thrummed with life. Sirens echoed off the building walls. Music spilled out into the streets with the opening of a nightclub door and the roar of the occasional motorcycle drowned out all other sound as it peeled down the street. Then the soundtrack of the city faded away and Lindsay suddenly realized that they were enveloped by trees. Looking up, she watched the city lights fade behind the soaring canopy of elm branches as they continued to move deeper into the small corner park.
Danny continued to guide their progress and she let him, if only because she had no idea where they could possibly go from here. Her heart ached at the thought that she may have damaged them irrevocably. The rumour mill may have pegged Danny Messer as many things; but he had been quickly becoming one of her only friends in New York.
Suddenly, Lindsay found herself being seated on a wooden bench and her pulse raced with horrible anticipation. Still, it had to be at least somewhat of a good sign that he was even still with her and that he hadn't walked away outright.
Turning, she was immediately snagged by his eyes.
"Alright, Montana, talk. Whatever's eatin' you is now eatin' me and I'll be damned if either of us are gonna get any sleep until we sort this out."
Her natural defences still refused to give up and she tried to back away and put some space between them, only to be stilled by his fingers wrapping tightly around her own.
"It's not your problem, Danny."
Danny's fingers slackened and his thumb began to run soothing circles along the back of her hand.
"See, I think it is, Linds, because when I look at you, I don't see a potential 'notch' on my bedpost. I see a friend who needs help." He gazed at her imploringly. "Would y'a let me help you already?"
Danny again tightened his hold on her hand as she broke free from his gaze, afraid she might try to run. He watched, lost as she struggled for purchase amongst her swirling thoughts. He'd never seen her like this, so unsure of her footing. The Lindsay Monroe he'd come to know was confident and capable. In all honesty, Danny had no idea how to handle the woman beside him, so he sat quietly, hoping that his presence alone could offer some solace.
"What kind of grief does it take for a woman to kill herself?"
Her words startled him from his thoughts. He had no idea what to say, so he gazed back inquisitively.
Suddenly, she wheeled around to face him, eyes haunted.
"That's what everyone in the lab's been asking since we figured out that Stacie Avida drowned herself." Lindsay forced herself to take a deep, steadying breath. "The thing is… is I know what it takes."
Danny's heart caught with her words. For a moment, he wondered if he really wanted to hear the rest of her story. Still, it was obvious that she needed to get it out, so all he could do was nudge her forward.
"What do you mean?"
Lindsay was fighting valiantly with her tears. Then one finally escaped the barrier of her lashes, trailing a shimmering line down her cheek in the muted lamplight.
"I know… I know because I was never enough of a reason to keep my family alive."
Lindsay finally lost her battle with her emotions and cast her eyes forward. She didn't sob or cry out. She didn't make any sound at all really, save for the deep breaths that shuddered beneath her rib cage. Danny could only watch as tears slipped silently down her face as she stared mutely in front of her, as if reliving events long since past.
The dull ache that grew within his heart threatened to overtake him. Danny held fast to her hand, trading his left for his right so that he could slip the latter around her waist. She felt surprisingly small as he tried to pull her into his warmth. She'd always had such a large presence; but now as she resisted his offer to lean on him, she seemed to fall in on herself and all he could do was wait for her to return to him.
He knew that he was wading further and further into uncharted territory. He'd always made a conscious effort not to wade in too deep into his relationships with women, careful to tangle as few strings as possible. Yet, there was just something about the woman beside him that seemed to draw him in and it both thrilled and terrified him.
"I was almost eleven when my sister disappeared."
Her words shocked him out of his reverie. Her eyes were still fixed on the same faraway point; but her voice was clear in the crisp night air.
"She was older than me, fourteen at the time, and she was the apple of my parents' eye. She was a girl scout and she was always winning her riding classes. I was… I was a tomboy, always coming home with muddy hands and scraped knees. I would spend my time out following my dad and the ranch hands around, learning their jobs or I'd wander off on my own to muck around in the streams and gullies back behind my family's ranch. My mom would often ask me in exasperation 'Why can't you be more like your sister?'"
Under less difficult circumstances, Danny might have smiled at the idea of a young Lindsay in pigtails and ratty overalls with a frog in her pocket. Instead, he tried to pull her closer in an effort to tether her to the present. Still, she resisted, allowing him to close the distance only marginally.
"We were at the county fair and I wanted to ride the merry-go-round. Mallory insisted she had to ride a horse a few rows behind me because Jake Sclater was watching and she didn't want to be seen with her dorky little sister."
"I remember the smell of popcorn and woodchips and when I looked back near the end of the ride, she was gone. They stopped the ride. Mom was hysterical. Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by grown-ups asking impossible questions: 'Did you see anything?', 'What did he look like?', ' Why didn't you say anything?' I didn't have any answers for them. They turned those fairgrounds upside-down; but we went home without her that day."
Danny heart twisted painfully as the story poured from her lips.
"Days passed in silence. I spent most of the time in my room. My mom and dad wouldn't let me leave the house. We were all holding our breaths, waiting for it all to end…for them to find her, one way or another. Soon, weeks had passed and still we'd heard nothing. Mom would burst into tears at random intervals and Dad started going out at night. In the morning, he'd smell like beer and stale cigarettes. Then one morning, a little after a three months in, he never came home at all."
The ache in Danny's heart continued to grow. He could almost see the lost little girl in the woman that sat stiffly beside him.
"I spent those days desperately trying to piece together any clues I could think of. I… I thought that if I could help find Mallory, then that would fix my family… then I wouldn't be so alone. Of course, I turned up nothing. I wasn't much of a CSI at eleven and I had nothing to go from. She had just… vanished. Eventually, we had to start moving on… at least I did. I started back at school; but Mom spent most of her time on autopilot, waiting for the phone to ring. One day… about six months after she'd vanished, the phone rang. I remember when Mom hung up the phone that she looked like a ghost. I guess in a way she was."
"I found out much later that they'd found Mallory's body with those of three other children in an FBI raid of a remote cabin that had belonged to a suspected pedophile. That night, Mom tucked me in and I never saw her again."
Lindsay inhaled shakily, but the tears had stopped falling long ago. Danny continued his awkward attempt to hold her to this world, firming his embrace around her waist. She still refused to close the distance and fully accept his support; but he wasn't letting go.
"They… found her… a couple miles down the road in the neighbour's pool… we never had a pool… I found her note before the police came. She'd said," Lindsay's hand tightened reflexively around his fingers. "She'd said that she had nothing left to live for… I wasn't enough of a reason apparently."
Danny couldn't stifle a gasp as the pieces fell into place.
"And then you found the vic floating in that water tower."
His words seemed to pull Lindsay back to the present. She turned red-rimmed eyes to meet his.
"I've been to drownings before, Danny. It's just when I found out how the vic died and why she died…I'd put it all behind me, Danny. My grandparents, who raised me, were kind and I… put it behind me; but Bozeman is just a big small town and people don't forget. When this job opening came up… I left Montana to start over; but I guess you can't really bury the past and now I've dumped all this on you and…"
Before he had time to second-guess himself, Danny reached up and gently framed her face with his hands.
"Hey, hey, hey…shh, shh, shh…"
His train of thought derailed momentarily as he marvelled at the softness of her skin and the way her glassy eyes glittered in the dim light. Ducking his head, he held her gaze with purpose.
"Hey, Monroe, I have news for you. You're not dumpin' anythin' on me. I'm here because I want to be… because you need me to be."
Her furrowed brow and hopeful eyes pushed him to reveal more of his heart than he'd originally intended.
"Look, I know what the rumour mills say about be an' I'll admit that some of it is true. But, with you, Lindsay I…" An ingrained fear that had been well honed over many years kept him from going too far down that road and he quickly deflected. "Friends are supposed to be there for each other, so will y'a just let me be here for you?"
A ghost of a smile tugged at the corner of her lips and Danny smiled in return, continuing to make his case.
"So you've got baggage. Everyone does. Hell, for much of my formative years, I skirted the line between the straight and narrow and a very dark path; but I made it and so did you. Hell, you did more than make it. You're a brilliant CSI and a great person. The past makes us what we are. It only owns us if we let it and you obviously haven't let it."
Lindsay tried to drop her head to ease the intensity in the air between them; but Danny wasn't going to let her. He loosened his hold to slide a gentle finger under her chin. Smiling wider, he pushed a little deeper.
"The point is, Montana, you didn't dump all this on me. I wanna know what makes you… you; the good and the bad. And if y'a need help with the bad," he tapped his shoulder with his free hand. "The shoulder's free of charge."
That drew a genuine laugh from Lindsay's lips. A final few tears found their way along her face, as she broke free from Danny's hold only to close the distance between them at last, and melt into his embrace.
The palpable relief that coursed through him as her arms knit tightly around his back surprised him. She felt tiny and perfect and her hair tickled his nose with the fragrance of ginger and cinnamon. He never wanted to let go and the realization sent his heart into a tailspin.
"Thanks, Danny," she whispered into his shoulder. Lindsay's heart gradually slowed from its frantic tempo of earlier as she realized that he really wasn't going anywhere. When he'd found her in the water tower, Lindsay was sure that if he managed to drag her story out of her, that would be the last she would ever see of him outside of work. But, she couldn't have been more wrong and she chided herself for doubting her friend while revelling in the warmth and security of his embrace.
Before he could stop himself, Danny pressed his lips to her hair, hugging her tighter before forcing himself to let go. Then, suddenly uncomfortable with being on the receiving end of such appreciation, Danny cleared his throat and muttered. "No problem."
Still, he couldn't seem to stop smiling. Gradually, his smile became playful as he stood from the bench, offering Lindsay his hand. "Now let's see what we can do about getting you home and tucked into bed so we can both get some sleep tonight. I don't know 'bout you; but I'm beat!"
Lindsay slipped her hand into his almost bashfully as she allowed him to help her to her feet. However, as she once again reached his level, Lindsay quirked an eyebrow as she met his gleaming eyes in the darkness.
"So, is tucking me in a part of this new Danny Messer friend service you keep alluding to?" she asked as she stepped into his personal space.
Danny's smirk burgeoned into a full-fledged grin. Licking his lips, he pulled Lindsay in almost dangerously close, holding her gaze with a new intensity.
"Stick with me, Montana. Like I said, I'm full of surprises."
Laughing, Lindsay pulled back and settled comfortably at his side. Fingers still linked, the pair found their home way through the darkened streets.