By Heather Hinam
Summary:def – a night scene. Months of trauma come to a head for Danny and Lindsay the night after their world is shaken to its core. Post – Charge of this Post
Spoilers: Post-ep for Charge of this Post
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to CSI NY, just the thoughts in my head
Author's notes: I promised you all a third and final instalment to the series I inadvertently started with Catharsis and Solace. Here it is. You don't need to read the other two for this to make sense, but it'll help. I've never been known for being very timely with my writing, so this post-ep to last season's finale is a little late. I started it just after the show originally aired, but it takes me a long time to get things to just where I want them. In my defence, I'm also trying to finish writing a Ph.D. thesis. Anyway, I wanted to get this out before next week's episode blows everything out of the water. It has now been beta'd! I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading.
For Joy, Thanks for being the Toby to my Sam.You always make my work seem so much better.
The glow from the streetlights blurred past her window, melting into a sort of neon impressionist painting. It had started to rain about half an hour ago. Lindsay leaned her forehead against the cool glass, her head throbbing in time with her pulse.
It had been one hell of a day.
Actually, when she stopped to think about it, Lindsay had to admit that the last couple of months hadn't been much of a picnic, period. Between Danny's brother, Stella, Aiden and her own… issues, the team had barely a chance to stop and catch a breath. It was as if Fate was taking turns with them, dealing each one a crappy card, one at a time. Now, it was Flack's turn.
Lindsay suppressed a shudder as the image of the young detective, prone in his hospital bed, came unbidden to her mind's eye. She'd taken Mr Smith's statement after they'd pulled the three men from the rubble. She knew in Technicolor detail the horror Don and Mac had gone through.
The words were quickly becoming her mantra over the last few hours. She found herself cautiously hoping that Flack would recover to his normal, vibrant self, hoping that Stella could trust enough to love again, hoping that Danny didn't lose the brother he had only just found… hoping that they could all catch enough of a break to get the chance to rebuild their lives.
Lolling her head to her left, Lindsay's eyes lit on her traveling companion. Even in the dim light, Danny looked worn. Of all of them, he'd been carrying one hell of a load in the last few months. Despite the bravado and bluster, Lindsay'd figured out a long time ago that Danny felt everything very deeply. She could see that he carried around not only his own pain, but also that of the people around him. He'd done it for her a couple of months ago, absorbing her sadness and lightening her heart. Since then, the road had only become rougher and Lindsay was starting to see the effects on her friend. His fatigue was palpable.
Sensing her scrutiny, Danny turned and briefly met her eyes before returning his gaze to the road. Traffic was light this late at night. Still, one couldn't let their guard down for too long. This was New York City after all.
"You alright, Montana?"
Lindsay smiled inwardly at his use of her nickname. At least some things didn't change.
"I'm managing, just tired, y'know?" Lindsay sighed lightly. "That, and I still can't get my ears to stop ringing."
Danny dragged his eyes away from the road and regarded Lindsay with concern.
"Y'a sure you're alright? I mean, we can go back to the hospital, see a doctor an'…"
Lindsay hoped that the darkness inside the vehicle was enough to hide the growing flush to her cheeks. They'd become a lot closer in the last few months, but his increasingly obvious care for her still took some getting used to.
"Really, I'm fine, Danny. It'll go away eventually. I had the same experience when I got too close to a goose banger a few years back. Only this time, I'm sure the ringing will last a lot longer."
Even in the dark interior of the SUV, Lindsay could see his eyebrows scrunch up in confusion. A small smile tugged at her lips at the prospect of getting him to laugh, even if it meant baiting him a little. Sure enough, he took the bait.
"What the hell is a goose banger?"
Lindsay answered matter-of-factly. "It's a propane-powered cannon that farmers put in their fields to scare away migrating flocks of geese from their crops."
Danny couldn't help himself. Glancing slyly out of the corner of his eye, he asked, "So, do y'a think they could make 'em to work for scalpers at a Yankee's game?"
Lindsay chuckled more in response to his renewed sense of humour than from the joke itself. "I dunno, Danny. I hear they're a pretty tenacious bunch."
Danny chuckled in return and they settled into a comfortable silence.
It didn't last long. Soon the worry in Lindsay began to flow again and she tentatively reached across the console to brush her fingers along his arm.
"How are you holding up?"
Danny kept his eyes studiously on the road, but his voice was a little rougher than normal when he answered.
"Me? I'm fine. Besides, I wasn't the one who had a buildin' blow up in my face this mornin'."
Lindsay couldn't suppress the shudder than wormed its way down her spine. The memory of the explosion was all she could see when she closed her eyes. The ringing in her ears was a constant reminder of the horror they'd all been through less than twenty-four hours earlier. Until now, she'd been able to push the 'what ifs' from her mind and focus on the job. They'd had a perp to catch and they needed to catch him fast. Well, now the bomber had been caught and processed and the memories and scenarios rushed back to crowd out anything else that she tried to occupy her mind with. What if Flack had been even closer to the bomb? What if it had been Danny instead of Flack? What if she hadn't left for her case when she had?
Suddenly, she found herself unable to put a voice to any words; she silently turned back towards the window, sagging heavily against the door.
It was at that moment when Danny's head caught up with his mouth.
He took the opportunity of an open spot in front of her building to wrench the car over and shut off the engine in one quick manoeuvre. Turning as completely in his seat as his seatbelt would allow, Danny tried to draw her gaze away from the window.
"God, Lindsay! I'm so sorry! I didn't mean to make it sound like I don't care…"
Unable to take the weight of his gaze on her back, Lindsay turned to meet his concern with a wan smile.
But, Danny was in full self-flagellation mode.
"…because I do care… a lot. When I heard the 10-33 on the radio, my heart stopped. I knew that was your scene. I…"
Lindsay finally stopped him with a hand to his forearm. Her emotions were too close to the surface to be able to relive the morning just yet, even through someone else's eyes.
"Danny, I mean it. It's okay. I know you didn't mean it that way."
Before he could answer, Lindsay released her seatbelt, reached for the latch and was halfway out the door. Still, he just wasn't ready to let it drop. Freeing himself from the safety belt and jumping out of his own door, Danny raced around the back of the SUV to catch Lindsay at the curb. She met him halfway and continued to deflect.
"Thank you, Danny, for the ride. I guess I'll see you tomorrow." Rummaging around in her bag for her keys, she continued, "When you get any news about Don, will you give me a call? I know you told Mac that you wanted to be the first to know anything."
Danny could only watch as she edged her way towards the door, as though she couldn't escape fast enough. Her behaviour left him completely befuddled. Still, all he could do was answer, "Yeah, no problem."
Lindsay held her breath as she all but ran up the steps. If she could just hold out a few more minutes, she could fall apart in the solitude of her apartment. Danny may have seen her crying once before, but it she didn't really want to make it a regular occurrence. Her key in the lock, she was almost home free when just on the edge of her hearing came,
"If it had been you in there, Linds, I would've never left your bedside."
The tears that had been threatening all day finally broke free to spill down her cheeks. Her breath hitched painfully and her fingers trembled as she turned the knob and forced her feet to carry her into the building, leaving Danny, standing mutely in the rain, on the sidewalk in her wake.
Her apartment was cold and damp. Being on the fourth floor, she'd decided this morning that it was safe enough to leave the window open to fight the heat while she was at work. Now, the rain filtered through the screen, leaving a fine mist on her desk and stereo. Toeing off her shoes, Lindsay rushed across the living room and slid the sash closed. Hands on her hips, she surveyed the damage. It was nothing serious; her curtains had absorbed the worst of the moisture. She mopped up tiny puddles with the already wet sleeve of her jacket.
Everything ached. Now that she finally had a chance to stop and take stock, her cuts and bruises complained loudly. She'd hit the ground hard, striking the pavement with her shoulder and flopping over a few times like a ragdoll. She was extremely lucky that she wasn't more seriously injured. Years of practice falling off a horse had ingrained the instinct to protect her head. Still, the rest of her body was more than a little worse for wear.
Tears continued to flow freely down her cheeks as she backed away from the window, eventually reaching the opposite wall and sliding bonelessly to the floor. Her body wanted nothing more than a hot shower and a soft bed, but her mind was far from ready to settle down. Images, both real and imagined, swirled in her head, preventing her heart rate from completely returning to normal. She could still taste the dust and what little smoke there had been. She could hear the panicked cries of the bystanders and feel the shockwave that had sent her flying. Uncontrollable shivers wracked her body as the sequence of the explosion itself replayed in her mind on a continuous loop.
She could've died today.
Her experiences with her sister and mother had taught her that things could change on a dime. People you loved could be with you one day and gone the next. Her job dealt in death nearly everyday, but it had been a while since she'd had her own mortality thrust so fully in her face.
She could've died today and all her mind could think about now was Danny. Of all the 'if onlys' that swirled in her consciousness, her relationship with Danny was the one that came to the fore. If she had died today, she would have never had a chance to kiss Danny Messer again and that bothered her more than she'd ever expected it would. She'd been in New York nearly nine months now and it had been almost three months since he'd tracked her down on that rooftop and helped her find peace with her past. It had been nearly two months since she'd returned the favour and they hadn't made any progress from there. She felt like they were in a perpetual holding pattern, too afraid to move forward, but incapable of moving back.
Unable to take the constant swirling of her thoughts, Lindsay swiped at her remaining tears and heaved herself up from the floor, making a beeline for the kitchen. She rummaged through her cupboards, not really registering what she was looking at and having no idea what she was looking for. Frustrated, she shuffled back out into the living room and began to pace back and forth across what little floor space she had in an effort to try and bring order to the chaos in her mind.
Just what did she want from Danny? An even better question was what did he want from her? She'd been so certain when she had met him that he was a player looking to add her to his collection of conquests. He'd managed to dispel that myth pretty quickly. It wasn't like he was a monk, by any means. Still, his reputation had been more than slightly exaggerated over the years. And his intentions… she really had no idea what his intentions were. She just knew that he had come to mean a lot to her over their time working together.
In the cold damp of her apartment, warmth suffused her body at the sudden memory of his arms around her as they sat on the steps of Giants Stadium those few months ago. She found herself craving that warmth… needing it desperately. But, just what did it mean? Where they in a relationship? Were they just really close friends? Did she want to be in a relationship with him?
She could feel the beginning tendrils of a headache creeping up her spine, adding insult to her other injuries. Her whirling thoughts were getting her nowhere. Her hands crept up to cover her eyes and a ragged sob tore from her lips as the memory of the morning's explosion rocked her body once more.
She could've died today.
Suddenly, new energy suffused her body and Lindsay dropped her hands and regarded the door to her apartment. She wasn't going to find the answer to her questions by brooding in her apartment.
She could've died today.
Striding purposefully to her door, she grabbed up her shoes and wrestled them back onto her feet.
Heart beating an insistent tattoo against her ribs, Lindsay ran her fingers along the cool metal of the doorknob. Taking a deep breath, she turned the knob and rushed out into the night.
Danny came awake gasping for breath.
Stretching out an arm, he fumbled blindly for his glasses. The living room was dark, lit only by the streetlights streaming in through the foggy window. The rain was still falling outside, a steady shower, washing the city of the grime of the day. Slipping on his glasses, Danny stared at the ceiling from his prone position on the couch, trying to sort out the last twenty-four hours in his head.
He was having a hard time getting his heart rate to return to something resembling normal. He wasn't there when the bomb went off this morning. It wasn't even his scene. Still, when the 10-33 came over the radio, Danny'd felt his heart stop for what felt like an eternity before resuming a panicked rhythm against his ribcage as he and Stella responded to the call. He'd been terrified of what they might find there. Danny had known it was Lindsay's scene. At the time, he'd been glad that Stella had been driving because he wasn't sure he would have been able to still his rolling thoughts long enough to focus on the road.
Even now, he couldn't put into words the intense relief that suffused his body when he'd spied her amongst the chaos, safe and in one piece. In the dark solitude of his apartment, the strength of his emotions scared the hell out of him. Never in his life had he found himself so inextricably tied to another. It was like he'd stopped breathing from the moment the call had come over the radio until he saw her again.
Danny draped his arm across his forehead and closed his eyes, expelling his breath in a long heavy sigh. What the hell was he going to do now? The last time he'd seen her, Lindsay hadn't been able to get away from him fast enough.
Lightning lit up the room for a brief second as Danny was suddenly filled with a sense of purpose. Either one of them could've died today. There was no more time to waste. They needed to sort this out…now.
Heaving himself off the couch, Danny fumbled along the coffee table for his cell phone. Through the sudden clap of thunder that rattled the windows of his cramped one-bedroom apartment, Danny thought he'd heard a knocking on his door. Standing stock still for a moment, he listened in the following silence and… nothing. Flipping open his cell phone, the lighted screen illuminated his tired face. His attempt to key in Lindsay's number was then thwarted by another, more insistent barrage of knocking.
Glancing quickly at the face of his cell phone, he noted the time before tossing it back to the table. Two thirty-three. Not exactly a prime time for visitors. Figuring it was probably some drunk friend of his neighbour's pounding at the wrong apartment, Danny stomped over to the door with a grumbled "Hang on, I'm comin'!" Flipping on the foyer light, he squinted for a beat, letting his eyes adjust to the sudden brightness before releasing the locks and throwing open the door.
Any tirade that may have been building in his mind for the drunk on the other side died in his throat as his tired eyes lit on an absolutely soaking wet Lindsay standing at the threshold, dripping water into the hall carpet.
The world stopped rotating on its axis. Time slowed as she came into sharp resolution before him. Her hair was dripping, tight curls plastered to the side of her face. Her clothes hung limply off her body, dragged down by the weight of the water. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, but they held an intensity he couldn't remember ever seeing. Her body seemed to be coiled tightly on itself, waiting for what, he wasn't sure. All he knew was that he could feel a charge building in the few feet that separated them.
Desperately needing to break the tension, Danny opted for his fail-safe humour.
"Montana, you look like a drowned rat. What'd y'a do, take a swim in the Hudson?"
She didn't move.
Danny regarded her nervously, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides, unsure of how to handle her silence. "Seriously, Lindsay, you O.K.? I mean, I know you had a rough day an' all, but we…"
His useless rambling was suddenly silenced by her lips crashing down over his as she knocked him bodily back over the threshold. Before his mind could register the movement, Danny found himself surrounded by all things Lindsay: her hands holding his head still, her scent enveloping him and her tongue seeking entrance to his mouth. Staggering backwards, he scrambled for purchase, fisting his hands in the sodden material of her jacket. This only seemed to encourage her to burrow into him further, pressing herself firmly along his torso. An all-encompassing warmth radiated quickly out from his core, igniting his senses and burning the fog from his brain, replacing it with an insistent yearning. All the thoughts and worries that had been plaguing him were lost in the heat of her mouth moving relentlessly against his own. Nothing mattered but her warm weight molded tightly along his body.
Danny released his grip on her jacket to slide his fingers up into her damp curls, momentarily cupping her rain-cooled face before allowing them to venture further, learning all the curves and crevices that made her uniquely Lindsay. She returned the favour, releasing his head to roam her hands over his shoulders and the planes of his back, trailing heat in their wake. He took full advantage of his newfound freedom and met her urgency with his own in a bruising union, walking them backwards, deeper into his apartment. His back connected sharply with the foyer wall bringing their lower bodies more firmly into contact. Groaning deep in his throat, he thrust his tongue forward to slide it hotly against hers.
It was her answering whimper that brought him back to reality.
Panting for much-needed oxygen, Danny recoiled, cracking his skull on the wall behind him.
"Wait… no! Ow!"
Lindsay only giggled and tried to pull his head back down to hers.
It took everything in his power to resist her.
"No… Lindsay, hang on. We can't…"
Lindsay smiled up at him seductively, rubbing herself more firmly against him, tearing another groan from his throat.
Drawing on what little strength he had left, Danny pushed her forcefully away, giving himself enough room to slip out from her grasp and retreat into the living room.
"Because," he bit out. "We've both had a horrific day and I don't wanna be your one night stand or whateva y'a think y'a need to remind yourself that you're still alive."
His words were like a blast of ice water through her veins and Lindsay couldn't help the bitter laugh that escaped her throat at the irony of his statement. All this time, she'd been worried about being his one night stand. "Is that what you think this is?" she asked, her voice ragged with emotion.
Danny spun around to face her. "No! Wait…. I don't know! Why are you doin' this, Lindsay?" He ran a trembling hand up over his face, trying to calm his thoughts. They were standing on shaky ground and he didn't want to lose her now. "This," he continued, absently waving his hand between them. "This isn't you."
Lindsay's eyes darkened, but not because of desire.
"This is me, Danny, " she replied as she stalked slowly across the room.
"This is me. I'm standing here, tonight,'cause I'm tired and I could've died today." Her voice broke on a sob as she forced herself to continue. "I'm tired, Danny. I'm tired of dancing around this thing between us. We've been doing it for months and I don't want to do it anymore."
They were once again face-to-face and Lindsay stopped for a moment, breathing heavily, trying to will her heart rate to slow to something resembling normal, as she attempted to school her thoughts. However, his scent that overwhelmed her senses only made things worse.
"I thought I had you pegged, Danny, when we met. I was so sure I knew what you were all about and I was not going to let you suck me in." Lindsay forced herself to meet his eyes as she continued. "But then you weren't what I thought at all. You cared and you were there for me when I needed you and I don't know when it happened, but I fell, hard, and it scared the hell out of me."
Danny's heart clenched painfully at her words. Reaching out a tentative hand, he grazed her arm, silently urging her to continue, unwilling to break the spell by speaking.
Lindsay rewarded him with a watery smile. "It scared the hell out of me because… you already know I don't have much luck with the people I love in my life sticking around. I was determined not to give anyone the chance to walk away on me again. I wasn't going to get involved. I didn't want this to happen, but it did."
She laid a cautious hand on his shoulder as she trapped his gaze, searching for an anchor in the storm of emotions that were threatening to overwhelm her. "I could've died today, Danny. You could've too…when you and Mac had to diffuse that bomb, I…." Steeling her resolve, Lindsay finished. "I'm not scared anymore, and I want to stop dancing."
Danny's heart had taken up residence in this throat. Was she really saying what he thought she was saying? For his entire adult life, Danny had been running from just this kind of moment. Whenever his girlfriends would start looking for something deeper, Danny would start looking for a way out. Now, trapped in the coffee-hued gaze of this spitfire from Montana, Danny didn't want to run anymore. They'd never really even dated, but he couldn't imagine his life without her and this morning had driven that realization excruciatingly home.
Suddenly those big brown eyes filled with fear and Danny realized he'd been silent for far too long. Reaching up to pull a tendril of wet hair out of her eyes, Danny was stopped short when she quickly recoiled.
"Oh my God!" Her face crumpled as she backed away from him.
Casting her eyes to the floor, she continued, muttering almost to herself. "I can't believe I could be that stupid."
Danny searched his mind desperately for the right words to say as he watched in horror as she turned in on herself, bringing her hands up like a shield, as she tried to escape his apartment.
"I'm sorry, Danny…" she cried. "I… I… have to go…"
He finally managed to get his vocal chords to work.
Lindsay now had her back to him, but at least she'd stopped.
Danny rushed up and dropped his hands to her shoulders, a wave of pain washing over him as he felt her cringe under his fingers.
"I couldn't breathe this morning… when I got the call. I couldn't breathe..." Now that he'd found his voice, everything he'd had to say flowed out of him. "I knew you were there and I couldn't breathe… I couldn't think. Hell, it was a damn good thing Stella drove because I would've never made it. But, then I saw you. You were standing there, covered in dust, cell phone attached to your ear and it was… it was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen in my entire life."
With a gentle nudge to her shoulders, Danny coaxed Lindsay around to face him. He slipped a finger under her chin, bringing her glistening eyes up to his.
"I couldn't breathe until I saw you there, safe and in one piece." Tears crept into his voice as he continued, his own eyes suspiciously bright. "If you had been in that buildin'… if you had been in there… like Flack… I don't know what I would've done." He reached up to trace the path of a tear that had slipped from her lashes, smiling as she leaned ever so slightly into his touch. "I didn't plan for this to happen' either, Lindsay, but you're right, it did. You might not be scared anymore, but I still am. I can tell y'a though, that I'm not goin' anywhere."
A slow smile creased Lindsay's tear-stained cheeks as her hands reached out of their own volition to cradle his face. The last inches of space between them evaporated as their lips melded again in a soothing kiss.
His lips slid over hers with a gentleness she didn't know he possessed. The kiss was chaste, especially considering their earlier foray. Still, Lindsay could feel her heart trip into overdrive as his fingers forged paths through her thick curls. The need to breathe drew them apart too soon and Danny dropped his forehead to hers, seemingly reluctant to break contact. Finally her exhausted legs betrayed her and she swayed heavily into Danny's body.
"Whoa there, Montana," he whispered in her ear as he slipped his hands up under her arms, propping her weight against him. "I'm that good, am I?"
Lindsay chortled into his shoulder, but she made no move to stand up. The day had finally caught up with her and her adrenalin reserves were tapped.
"You can barely stand up." Keeping one arm around her shoulders as support, Danny turned and guided her down the hall. "C'mon."
Lindsay was too tired to argue and wordlessly let him guide her into the bedroom and sit her down on his bed. A momentary wave of embarrassment washed over her as she realized that she was, in fact, in Danny's bedroom and sitting on his bed. Then she remembered that had they continued on their earlier path, they would've ended up here under considerably different circumstances.
Apparently reading her thoughts, Danny turned and kneeled before her, a bundle of clothes in his hand. "I know this isn't quite what you had in mind when you got here tonight, but I think it's better that we don't jump inta anythin' we might not be ready for."
Lindsay fervently hoped that the darkness of his room hid the crimson heat she felt rising in her cheeks. "Look, Danny, about that… I'm sorry I…"
"Shh…" he stopped her with a gentle finger to her lips. "You don't have anythin' to be sorry for. I'm not sayin' I don't want to, because I do. I really do. I just think it would be better if we both had a chance to get our heads on straight again."
A slow smile spread across Danny's face, lighting his eyes in the dim light from the streetlamps outside. " M'kay. Now, let's get some sleep."
He retreated from the room, giving her a chance to get changed. Not bothering to turn on a light, Lindsay slowly peeled her sodden clothing from her body, wincing as the fabric brushed against each bruise and scrape. Mindful of her injuries, she carefully slipped into the NYPD sweatshirt and boxers that Danny had left with her. The soft warm material soothed her aches and she revelled in the scent that enveloped her. Draping her own clothing over the chair in the corner to dry, Lindsay contemplated the bed for a moment. Not all that long ago, she would've never imagined herself about to slip into Danny Messer's bed. Now, she couldn't imagine anything she'd rather be doing at the moment.
She was fully ensconced under the comforter when he returned to her. She was the picture of serenity, eyes closed, her face finally free of the horrors of the day. Wordlessly, he crept around to the far side of the bed and crawled in beside her. The new weight on the mattress drew her closer to him and he took advantage of their nearness to drape his arm over her shoulder, carefully molding his body to hers.
"This okay?" he mumbled into her hair.
Lindsay answered by leaning back into his embrace.
The rain-coated window scattered the light from outside like stars across the bed. Cocooned in his warmth and the faint scent of his aftershave, Lindsay finally began to surrender to sleep. As her heart rate slowed and the world around her became fuzzy at the edges, Lindsay couldn't help the small smile the tugged at her lips when Danny's arm tightened around her waist. Turning in his embrace, she snuggled closer into his warmth. They could've died today. Now, they had a chance to really live.