He knew where to go to get comfort. This wasn't it. Comfort was waiting for him at his apartment. Blue eyes, open arms and a quiet sense of home. But Danny didn't want to allow himself comfort. Not yet.
He wanted answers. Answers to questions that he didn't want to ask. Questions that plagued and haunted him no many how many times he thought about them or searched for a result.
It wasn't often that he went to church, in fact he'd pretty much turned into one of those people who only went twice a year. Christmas and Easter. A part of him regretted that because he could remember going to church weekly with his mother, and sometimes his brother, when he was young. It had been important then. Maybe not so much to him, but to his mother. Sitting quietly on the edge of the pew, trying not to squirm or kick his feet too much, he'd watch her. That was probably the only thing that kept him from complaining. The way his mother would look so peaceful in church – a rarity for her. She sat still and listened attentively to the priest, taking meaning from his words, and Danny tried to do the same, wanting her admiration and her smile. He stood when she did, looking upwards at her face and listening to her sing along quietly with each of the hymns.
The sharp scent of incense brought the memories back easily and he almost turned around. Found himself wanting to flee, back out into the fresh air where his memories would fade enough until he could safely lock them away again. But he stood his ground, taking off his gloves and putting them into his pockets. It was quiet inside the church, and he paused for a few moments near the door, gathering his thoughts and trying not to remember.
Bravely, he walked forward, down the aisle only a little ways, coming no closer than he dared. Paused briefly at the end of the pew to dip his fingers in holy water, knelt down, crossed himself and then slid into the pew. There were only a few other people inside…a couple of older ladies towards the front near the altar, quietly murmuring the Rosary to themselves. A man sat a few pews away from him, head bowed, lips moving in silent prayer. A priest at the altar, thumbing through the bible and marking spots with ribbon bookmarkers, probably preparing for tomorrow's Mass. Danny had come late enough that the Saturday evening service was passed, wanting the relative silence and the privacy.
Today had been hard. They'd been working on a new case since Thursday and now, two days later, it was solved. Danny still wasn't quite sure that he wouldn't have rather left it unsolved. A fourteen-year-old boy had gone missing. The mother had been frantic, the father…after a quick search of the apartment building's basement had been found dead. And the younger brother, only nine…had been strangely quiet.
The story had peeled back, layer after layer, revealing a sad and all too common story. A story that, for Danny, had hit a little too close to home. The father was abusive, cruel. The older brother took the worst of it, protecting his sibling and trying to do the same for their mother. And then he'd fought back a little too eagerly. Threw a punch that didn't do any damage, pushed his already-drunk father backwards until he tripped over a kitchen chair, stumbled backwards and fell into the pointy edge of the kitchen countertop, his head smacking off of the Formica and killing him. Not intentional. Only a scared fourteen-year-old trying to protect his little brother and himself. But the mother had thought it better to hide the body – hadn't thought much about it obviously, because a crawl space in the apartment's basement was easily uncovered. And the younger brother had been witness to it all. Had left him quiet, vacant…traumatized. The older brother had run away afterwards at his mother's hysterical ravings, and had hid himself as best he could among the streets of New York.
Too close to home for Danny. Memories of his own childhood quickly became a constant companion throughout the case and he'd found himself remembering things that he'd thought were safely buried. Remembered the fights between his parents that had too often ended with his mother being hit in the face or pushed to the floor. Remembered his father, drunk, losing his temper…how Rafi had protected Danny. Remembered, though they were even more deeply buried, the few times that Rafi hadn't been there and Danny had borne the brunt of that drunken anger….
Startled, he shook his head and sat up straightly in the pew, forcing himself out of his memories, back to the present. Sighing, he leaned forward, resting his forearms against the back of the pew in front of him, clasping his hands together and shutting his eyes for a few moments. When he opened them again, he gazed forward, eyes darting from the statue of Mary with flickering candles at the base to the golden cross on the altar and to the stained glass window behind it all. Everything looked so peaceful, so promising and so full of hope.
His mother had believed in that hope. Despite her life at home with an abusive husband, despite the fact that they had always been poor and would always struggle…she'd still believed. And he didn't know how to do the same.
Day after day he saw the worst in humanity. Murderers, rapists, thieves and just general cruelness. People hid things, dark secrets, from those they claimed to love. They lied and stole and cheated and hurt.
He saw all of those things again and again. How was he supposed to come here, to church, and believe in goodness? The church tried to promise redemption, forgiveness, peace, love and absolution. But Danny didn't know how to rectify that with what he faced at work everyday. And the more he tried the more he was left with a bitter taste in his mouth, with a feeling of failure and anger. Mostly though, he felt as if the church – which had always been such a comfort to his mother – had let him down.
Because, despite the horrors he faced on a constant basis, he'd found love. He'd found powerful, passionate, wonderful love. Martin gave him peace where there was none, warmed his soul even when it was faced with the coldest of cruelty. Martin loved him. And yet, the very same church that preached from on high for people to love one another denied and shamed the love he'd found. The church said it was wrong, sinful…evil.
But Danny had seen evil. Saw it constantly. And what he had with Martin was such a contrast to all of that. So he didn't understand and was afraid he would never understand the proclamation that his and Martin's relationship was wrong.
This wasn't the first time he'd come back to church to pray and he knew it wouldn't be the last. He craved the peace and contentment his mother had, apparently, so readily found within similar walls. He tried to find it in the easy quiet of this church, breathed in the familiar scents of candles, incense and books, listened to the murmurings of those few people nearby. And eventually, as he sat there with his hands clasped, wishing for answers in his mind, a sense of calmness settled over his heart. It wasn't really the tranquility that he sought, and he knew that none of his questions had been answered…and if he thought about that for too long he knew it would bother him. But he felt less shaky now, more able to put the day behind him and continue. Maybe it was the building itself that soothed his nerves. The familiarity, the traditions his mother had tried so hard to instill in him at such a young age, the memories of those few peaceful moments from his childhood – at church at his mother's side. He still had questions, yes. He still didn't understand the hatred that was preached towards him because of whom he loved. The hypocritical message of his love being wrong when love was what he so readily found being taught by the church. It was confusing and left him cold and empty. But the hour he'd spent inside these walls had calmed him nonetheless.
Crossing himself as he left the pew he walked slowly up the aisle, leaving the memories of pain, hurt and hatred inside the building. He breathed deeply as he exited the building, slipping on his gloves and buttoning his coat again. Twenty minutes later he was home, warm and felt that very love swirl close around his heart. All in a quick greeting from Martin, a kiss hello and an embrace Danny found all sorts of peace in.
As he lay awake that evening he thought once more about the questions he still wanted answered, knew that they would always be there, lingering beneath the surface. But there were other questions that he no longer had to ask because he knew the answers. The answers lay asleep beside him, and love, wrong or not, brought him a different sort of calm, tranquility…relief.