By Heather Hinam
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to CSI New York, just the thoughts in my head.
Email: please ask first
Summary: def: Comfort in sorrow or misfortune. Lindsay tracks down Danny when it's his turn to need a shoulder to lean on
Spoilers: A post-ep for Run Silent Run Deep that exists in the same universe as my previous story CatharsisAuthor's Notes: This is the second story is what is turning into a short series. It's basically a post-ep to "Run Silent Run Deep', but coloured with the history that I laid out in my first story, Catharsis.You don't have to read the previous story for this one to make sense, though I think it would make it more enjoyable. Do let me know what you think.
Again, huge thanks to my dear friend Joy. You're such an excellent editor, thorough, but with a great sense of humour when I leave a word out at a critical moment. Thanks taking the time to go over my work. Writing wouldn't be nearly as much fun without you.
Finding him hadn't really been all that hard. When he'd come blazing into the lab earlier in the day asking to hear the wire tape, he'd almost been his old self. However, when he emerged from the AV lab, a scant fifteen minutes later, it was a different and unknown Danny that nearly slunk back out of the building. When she couldn't find him at the hospital with his brother, she knew the next place to look. The cool breeze nudged her curls about her face as she studied his silhouette against the darkened field of Giants Stadium.
He was the epitome of exhaustion, his body bowed under the weight of his grief and Lindsay's heart broke as she watched his shoulders slump further. She wanted nothing more than to rush down the stands to him and wrap him in her arms, but they weren't like that. She was prepared to say that they had graduated to the level of friends; she just wasn't entirely sure just how welcome her presence would be at the moment. She just couldn't seem to shake the overwhelming guilt that held her back. Lindsay knew rationally that none of this was her fault, that if she hadn't run the DNA on the cigarette butt that someone else would have and they might not have gone to him first. Still, the reality was that she had been the watershed for the last few days and so her feet remained rooted.
He could feel her presence. She hadn't made herself known; somehow Danny knew it was Lindsay perched about fifteen rows up in the stands. It was like he had developed almost a radar for her presence. He just seemed to know when she was nearby, like that moment in Mac's office when they'd taken away his badge and his gun. He'd felt her eyes on him then, like he did now, and it warmed him while simultaneously leaving him feeling hollow, like he didn't deserve the comfort her presence brought.
When she'd brought him those DNA results, the fear in her eyes had stopped him cold. He knew he hadn't done anything wrong, but he could feel her uncertainty and it had cut him deep. How could she possibly think he had killed someone? He wanted to be angry with her. He just couldn't seem to put his heart into it. Why should she trust him? They hadn't known each other all that long. It wasn't like one evening of bonding made them best of friends. Still, he'd hoped that her first instinct would have been to believe in him.
Then, it hit him with a force that nearly knocked him back on his heels. That was exactly what she had been doing by coming to him first… trusting that he would explain everything and instead he'd just walked away. Sighing heavily, Danny reached up to pinch the bridge of his nose, trying to stave off the headache that had been building for days. His brain was processing too much at the moment. He really just wanted her to leave him alone with his thoughts. He'd sort things out with her later, when his world hadn't been flipped on its head. Thing is, he knew that this time she wasn't going anywhere until he talked to her.
"Go home, Montana. I'm fine."
Those few words finally spurred Lindsay into movement. Tentatively, she descended the stands, coming around to his right to lay a cautious hand on his shoulder. His flinch at her touch was subtle, and it made her heart break just a little more.
"You're not fine, Danny."
He whirled on her.
"What do you know about it, huh?" Danny couldn't help the edge in his voice. His mind was at war with itself. He desperately wanted to surrender to the comfort that she was offering. Yet, uncertainty and fear continued to hold him back. He'd already let her in closer than anyone else, only to push her away when it really mattered. What if he did let her all the way in? What if it became the final straw? What if she took one look at all that was deep within and said 'to hell with it'? He knew he wouldn't be able to handle that, not now.
She could see him folding in on himself as he turned back to look out over the field and Lindsay was damned if she was going to let him retreat into the dark even further. Gently, she traced her fingers over his shoulder and down his back, rubbing careful circles into the corduroy of his jacket. Adding her own amount of edge to her voice, she answered him.
"I know you've had a hellish couple of days and I know I owe you a shoulder."
Danny sighed resignedly. Of course she'd remind him of his offer to her from a few weeks back. Danny fought hard to maintain his composure as the soothing rhythm of her hand on his back threatened to shred the last of what few defences he had left.
"You don't wanna be here, Montana."
"What, you think you're going to scare me? And since when do you have any say in where I want to be?"
Danny ignored that last question as he fought to keep the tears that were gathering behind his lashes from breaking free.
"My head's in a pretty dark place right now."
"And what, you think I can't handle it? I've got news for you, Messer. I've been to some pretty dark places myself and it was you that got me out. It's time I return the favour."
In the end, the dam didn't so much as burst as crack slightly. Lindsay felt the change wash over him as the tension in his muscles under her hand lessened just a little bit. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught a glimpse of his left hand darting up to swipe at his eyes beneath his glasses. Taking a deep breath, and praying that he wouldn't recoil, Lindsay slipped her hand down to trap his fingers with her own.
"C'mon, let's sit down."
Tugging gently, she guided Danny over to sit on the steps after deciding the seat separators were too much of a barrier. He was still staring blankly out over the field and Lindsay knew it was going to take some prodding to get him to talk. So, she decided to go for the gusto.
"How's your brother?"
Danny's grip on her hand tightened painfully as he drew in a shaky breath.
"He's holding on… they…they beat him pretty bad, Linds. They don't know if…"
The use of her given name betrayed just how shaken he was. Still, Lindsay had no words to offer. She'd seen how badly injured Louie was and didn't know if there were any words she could give that would lessen the toll on his little brother. She squeezed his hand before releasing it to slide her fingers again around his back to trace the grain of his coat.
"He saved me."
Danny's words startled Lindsay from her thoughts. Turning, she watched his profile as he continued his perusal of the playing field.
"Yeah. Wearing that wire was a big risk."
She knew her words would only make it worse, but Lindsay figured they might be the catalyst he needed. She sensed his need to get everything out and if there was one thing he'd taught her, it was that talking it out was good for the soul.
"All these years… I'd always thought he hated me after… but he saved me, both now and fifteen years ago."
Lindsay could only tilt her head quizzically to urge him to explain. Danny inhaled shakily and ploughed ahead.
"I guess you know by now that my brother's a Tanglewood Boy."
Lindsay could only nod. When she'd found Danny's DNA on the cigarette butt, fear had gripped her momentarily.
'For much of my formative years, I'd skirted the line between the straight and narrow and a very dark path.'
His words from a few weeks ago had surfaced from her memory and threatened to eat away at her confidence. Could he really be involved with this? Her heart answered a resounding 'no', which was what had sent her to find him, knowing that her confidence wasn't misplaced.
Danny continued, his eyes fixed on the crime scene tape on the other side of the field, delineating the shallow grave that he'd never known existed.
"What I didn't tell you was just how close I got to becoming one myself. I didn't know it then, but Louie saved me from all that."
Danny chanced a look up into Lindsay's face, afraid of what he might find. He was both surprised and relieved to find only open concern and honest caring in the warm, dark eyes that gazed back at him. It injected a modicum of strength into his weary body and steeled his resolve to share this small but significant piece of his past with her.
Reaching blindly, he found her hand in the darkness. Wrapping her fingers tightly in his, Danny held onto his lifeline as he pushed on, slipping back into the moment as his memories swept over him.
"I was seventeen years-old… a kid and all I'd wanted was to be like my big brother. I had no idea what that really meant. In my neighbourhood, you were either connected or you were nothin' and I just wanted to belong… somewhere. I'd like to be able to say that I took the high road out with the help of some kind of moral compass or somethin', but the truth was that no one wanted me. I was never one of the cool kids, like Louie. Sure, I tried to walk, the walk. Mostly I was the dumb kid brother who wouldn't cut class 'cause he had a big test."
Lindsay couldn't help the weak smile that tugged at her lips at the picture Danny was painting of his adolescence; I was far from the idyllic childhood. Still, she was sure she would've liked to have known him then: a little ungainly and with more attitude than smarts. They would've had a lot of fun together.
Squeezing his hand gently, Lindsay urged him to continue.
"Anyway, finally Louie relents and lets me run with the Boys that one night. I thought we were gonna go down to Atlantic City to score some chicks, maybe a joint or somethin'; but Sonny shows up with some kid in 'is trunk, Bobby Manning. Next I know, Sonny drags him out and starts wailin' on him about some drug dealin' and I…"
Danny drew a shaky breath as the memory from that night coupled with the reality of what happened threatened to overwhelm him. Lindsay slid closer, a reversal of their roles from a few weeks earlier, offering the warmth of her body as an anchor to the world.
"I…got scared. I tried to get 'em to leave the kid alone and suddenly Louie's in my face, callin' me an embarrassment and tossin' my keys at me."
Danny's voice dropped suddenly and Lindsay caught a glimpse of the scared teenager he'd been back then.
"He was so mad. I've never seen 'im so mad. We've… we've never been the same since. I didn't know that... I didn't know…"
His voice broke as he realized that just one small change that night could've sent him down a very different path. "Louie saved me. He knew what was gonna go down and he saved me."
The dam finally burst and Lindsay slipped her arm fully around his waist as his shoulders shook with muffled sobs. She pulled him into her body as another wave of tears wracked his frame. Her heart clenched painfully as she listened to him try to breathe through his sobs. She suddenly felt incredibly out of her depth. Until a few days ago, she would've never expected that she would see the normally cocky and unflappable Danny Messer cry. Now he was slumped heavily against her trying to catch his breath between sniffles. It stirred a protective streak deep within her and that realization rattled her a lot more than she was willing to admit.
When she'd come to New York, Lindsay had promised herself that she would not get involved with any of her co-workers. She'd been burned before and she'd be damned if she was going to let it happen again. However, between the other night in the park and now, Lindsay was finding it harder and harder to keep her distance or even dredge up the desire to want to do so.
His sobs had subsided and now Danny sat mutely in her embrace. Lindsay didn't need him to tell her the rest of the story; she'd seen the report. The evidence filled in the blanks. Lindsay couldn't decide if she wanted to thank or kill Louie Messer. He had saved his little brother from a terrible future, but the present cost to Danny was staggering.
Now that he'd pulled himself together, Danny's first instinct was to run. Never in his adult life had he ever let his guard down like that and now he'd done it twice in the same day. Losing it with Mac had been hard enough, but with Lindsay… They'd built their relationship on playful banter. Then, in the last few months, Danny found himself wanting more. What that more was, exactly, was still a mystery to him. All he knew for sure was that Lindsay had somehow, at some point, taken up residence in his heart and he just couldn't bring himself to evict her. Helping her through the darkened corridors of her past, a few weeks ago, had come naturally, now that the coin had flipped…
Carefully, he tried to extricate himself from her embrace, studiously avoiding her eyes and the disappointment he was so sure he would find there.
"Sorry, Montana," he muttered under his breath as he tried to put some distance between them. "I just…"
He didn't get very far.
"You have nothing to be sorry for, Danny."
Lindsay tightened her hold on him. They'd made it this far and she wasn't going to let him run now. He still wouldn't meet her eyes, so she turned and ducked her head to look up into his face.
"Look at me, Danny." Carefully, she slid her fingers under his chin and gently nudged his face up, holding his gaze all the way. "C'mon, I don't bite… unless you're into that kind of thing."
That drew a genuine laugh from his lips and Lindsay's heart celebrated that small victory.
"You have nothing to be sorry for… and for the record, you haven't scared me off."
Danny couldn't look away. He was trapped by the emotions he saw swirling in her ever-expressive dark eyes. Never in his life had he felt so vulnerable. Still, to his amazement, Lindsay's shining gaze held no reproach or disappointment. She only stared resolutely back, making it more than clear that she wasn't going anywhere. His heart leapt forward at the realization that he really wasn't alone.
He'd felt like a shadow these past few days. Since they'd taken away almost everything that had meant something to him, he'd felt like he'd all but disappeared. A city of eight million people and he couldn't reach out to any of them, so he turned in on himself, waiting to be proven innocent… waiting for his brother to heal… waiting for someone to reach out to him.
He knew his reputation around the lab. He'd heard the whispers and speculation about his past. And now, even with his innocence, it would likely only get worse. He'd confirmed their suspicions; Danny Messer had connections to the mob, even if it was only by blood. As they'd taken away his badge, he'd glanced out at his friends assembled in the lab. How would he ever be able to look them in the eye again? Would they always wonder? Still… Mac still believed in him and apparently, contrary to his original fears, so did Lindsay.
'The past only owns us if we let it.'
His words to her from a few weeks ago swirled in his head, steeling his resolve. He wasn't going to let an almost mistake from fifteen years ago ruin the best thing he had going for him. Maybe, if Lindsay was any indication, the rest of his friends would see things his way too. Still, he had to be sure… Finally breaking free of her gaze to stare out over the football field, Danny asked the one question that had be nagging at him since this whole mess had started.
"The DNA test… when you uh, found out it was me…"
It wasn't really a question, but Lindsay knew what he was asking. She also knew just how important her answer was to him. She'd seen past the bravado a long time ago. Despite all the bluster and attitude, Danny was actually one of the most sensitive people she'd ever met. Now she was starting to understand why, and just how much he needed to hear that someone believed in him. Reaching out before she could stop herself, she cupped his chin and brought his gaze back to hers.
"I never doubted you, Danny. I'll admit I was scared because I knew that it was going to put you in a lot of trouble, but I never doubted you. I've just been waiting for you to tell me what happened in your own time." Her eyes darkened to a deep mahogany as the strength of her words were echoed in her face. She never released her hold on him. "One thing was certain though. I was not going to let you go down for something you didn't do. None of us were."
Something seemed to settle within Danny as she spoke. His eyes cleared and some of the tension in his face eased. Almost reverently, Danny's fingers reached up to trace a delicate line along her brows. He carefully tucked an errant curl behind Lindsay's ear as he continued his path along her cheek as though trying to assure himself that she was, in fact, sitting there with him in the end zone stands of Giant's Stadium in the middle of the night offering him her trust.
Lindsay dropped her hand back into her lap and her eyes closed of their own volition as his gentle touch sparked all her senses to life. Inhaling deeply, she suddenly found herself enveloped in the spicy scent she'd come to know well from their months of working so closely together. When his fingers found their way around under her hair at the nape of her neck, Lindsay's eyes shot open, startled by his sudden proximity.
Before either had a chance to back away and break the spell, Danny quickly closed the distance and their lips meshed in a gentle kiss. Electricity raced through his body. Danny's free hand snuck around her waist and his heart almost tripped over itself as he felt her fingers slip around his neck to tangle in the short hairs at the base of his skull. Heat radiated from every point of contact. He felt alive for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime… Then, just as suddenly, he remembered why he had been feeling dead in the first place. Horrified with his behaviour, he pulled away abruptly.
"Lindsay, I'm …"
Lindsay released her hold and stopped him with a gentle finger to his lips.
"Don't you dare apologize, Danny."
Lindsay's gaze was resolute.
"Please Danny. We're both tired and our emotions are boiling pretty close to the surface right now. Let's not ruin a nice moment by saying something we might regret."
Danny felt his heart rate return to something resembling normal. He really had no idea what he'd wanted to hear. Although that was not quite what he'd expected her to say, he was awash with relief to know that he hadn't just ruined what he coming to cherish as one of the most positive relationships in his life by acting out of desperation. It wasn't that he hadn't wanted to kiss Lindsay Monroe. In fact, he wanted to do it again; what he didn't know was what she wanted. He was pretty sure he'd convinced her that he wasn't looking to add her to a purported list of conquests. The thing was that he had no idea where she wanted this relationship to go, if anywhere. All he knew what that he had come to relish their time together and he never would have been able to forgive himself if he had scared her away with a momentary lapse in judgement.
A tentative smile bloomed across his lips as he searched her gaze. Lindsay's dark, chocolate eyes held no reproach, only understanding, genuine affection and something else he couldn't name.
His voice was rough with exhaustion and emotion and Lindsay found herself fighting to hold back the tears that clamoured for escape from behind her lashes.
"Hey, what are friends for?"
Danny released the breath he'd been holding for a while, no irrevocable damage. Then, he couldn't help himself as a spark of mischief lit itself within him.
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe you could help me move or somethin', huh?"
The genuine laugh that escaped Lindsay's lips was cut short as Danny suddenly grasped her shoulders with purpose and held her gaze with intensity.
"I really mean it. Thank you, Lindsay. What with my brother and… Let's just say there haven't been a lot of people I can count on to go to bat for me. This really means a lot."
Before she could respond, Danny pulled her back into his arms, hugging her to him tightly. Lindsay couldn't help herself; she softened in his embrace, relishing the warmth and comfort. She felt like the ground had dropped from beneath her, leaving her heart permanently lodged in her throat. Their kiss had left her nerves tingling and her mind whirling. She'd stopped him from apologizing because at least then she could pretend that it wasn't a kiss borne out of desperation, fatigue and an overwhelming desire to connect with someone, anyone, in order to feel alive.
Lindsay wasn't sure when she'd turned the corner and found herself wishing for moments like this with Danny. Now that they were here, she knew that it wasn't the right time. Their wounds were too raw and their hearts too easily broken. Still, someday… when the spectre of their respective pasts had faded…
Danny's sudden intake of breath drew Lindsay from her musings. His body tensed in her arms and she tightened her hold, unwilling to let him draw away just yet.
"What's the matter?" she whispered into his shoulder.
Danny sighed heavily, the warm air rushing over her ear to be absorbed by her hair.
"How am I ever going to face them?"
Lindsay's brow furrowed in confusion as she fought to remain focussed despite the delicious proximity of his lips to her ear. Now that she'd let the idea out of the box, it refused to be tucked away into the recesses of her mind.
"At work. Between the shooting last year and all the talk 'bout me an' now this… How am I gonna be able to look any of 'em in the eye? How am I eva gonna be able to walk inta that building again?"
The thickening of his already pronounced Staten Island accent only confirmed just how shaken up he really was. He tried to back away and Lindsay let him, only to capture his face in her hands, her dark gaze boring into his.
"You're going to walk into that building the same way you always have, Danny, with your head held high. The only difference will be me, walking right beside you." A small smile softened her face in the dim light. "Besides, I don't think you realize just how many people you have behind you: Mac, Stella, Flack, Hawkes… me. We all believe in you Danny. We've never stopped believing in you and if anyone has anything to say about that, let 'em talk to me."
Danny couldn't help the laugh that broke free at the image Lindsay was creating. "So, Montana, you gonna beat up all my bullies for me, huh?"
Lindsay's smile quickly became a grin. Quirking her eyebrow, she released his face and brought her hands to her hips before answering, "Just bring 'em on!"
Between sniggers, Danny shot back. "Down girl! Mac told me about that take down on your first case. I don't doubt your skills one bit."
Lindsay hoped that her blush at his words was camouflaged by the darkness. Ducking her head for a moment, she collected her thoughts before she gave Danny just a little bit more of her heart. Slowly, she raised her eyes back to his, being sure she held his gaze before continuing.
"Danny, it goes both ways. You helped me beat back my demons, now it's my turn to help you." Shrugging, Lindsay tried to defuse some of the tension strung between them. "Consider it the Lindsay Monroe friend service at work."
Danny struggled for words. Before he'd even laid eyes on her all those months ago, he'd been determined to hate her. He resented that the brass had been able to find a replacement for Aiden so quickly. Didn't they know she was irreplaceable? Then, he'd seen Lindsay for the first time. Danny would never forget their first scene together. His eyes had been drawn to her and he'd watched her, as she worked with Mac, over a tiger no less.
For a long time, his heart had been in the middle of a war between jealousy, resentment and longing. He wanted to resent her for taking Aiden's place, but it was really no fault of her own. Then he'd found himself feeling like an older brother who'd been replaced in their father's eyes by his new sibling. So he'd reacted just like any good older brother would, he'd teased her, mercilessly at times. Then somewhere along the line, the tone of it had changed and his feelings definitely shifted away from brotherly. His nickname for her had gone from being a snub to an endearment and, slowly but surely, longing crept into his heart, edging out everything else. Danny had found himself craving her presence, going out of his way to see her, if only for a minute, so that his day would be complete.
She'd never replaced Aiden, no one could. She'd become something else entirely, filling spaces in his heart that he hadn't realized were empty in the first place. He'd never stopped to analyse it before, probably out of fear; but now, in the darkened seats of Giants Stadium on what had to be one of the worst nights of his life, Danny realized that more than anything he wanted this woman in his life. He didn't really care at the moment in what capacity, so it was an overwhelming relief to discover that apparently she wanted to be in his life too.
"I know I've said it a few times tonight, but really thanks, Lindsay." Taking a chance and jumping in with both feet, Danny opened his arm to her and whispered tentatively, "C'mere."
Lindsay only hesitated a moment before she settled herself against his side, within the circle of his outstretched arm. Bonelessly, she melted into him. It had been a rough few weeks and for the first time in a while, Lindsay felt truly calm. She only hoped that her presence brought him the same solace.
The cold damp of the cement floor crept up his spine. Still, Danny had no intention of moving any time in the immediate future. It would already be too soon when they would have to return to the reality that was his brother, the lab and the rest of the world. For now, he was content to savour this moment as long as time would allow.
The first rays of sunlight found their way over the distant towering spires of Manhattan, painting the slate grey clouds with strokes of coral and violet. Lindsay snuggled further into Danny's warmth, smiling when she felt the residual tension in his body finally ease and his arm tighten around her. The exhaustion of the last twenty-four or so hours gradually washed over her and her eyes slipped closed.
His eyelids heavy, Danny glanced down to find that Lindsay had already surrendered to their shared exhaustion. Closing his eyes, he dropped his chin to the top of her head, surrounding himself in her comforting presence. To think that an hour ago, he'd wanted her to leave. Now, he couldn't imagine her anywhere else.
The colour in the east continued to grow and morning would soon demand their attention; cell phones would ring, pagers would go off, a scene would need to be processed. Yet, until then, they were content to remain where they were, shoulder to shoulder, each supporting the other, as they sat on the steps of the past and faced the future.