Beautiful Disaster

Danny felt the wind blow against the car as the thumping of the wipers kept him awake. The rain was coming down in sheets and Danny was thankful he was almost home. After his conversation with Ed the other day he needed to get away from everyone and everything. Danny had escaped up to the mountains and spent a long weekend hiking in the woods and just being alone. Delinda would already be moved out of their condo by now, but the heaviness that settled in his chest from months of pretending to be in love with someone still remained. He knew it was because of Mary.

Originally Danny had felt indignant in his relationship with Delinda, he could be with whomever he wanted. After all, Mary was the one who broke up with him. Over time it had become a matter of him making the right choice and he fooled himself into thinking he was happy. When the holidays came Ed noticed Danny begin to withdraw a little. Danny blamed it on missing his dad but Ed pressed him – hard. He knew there was more to it and finally got Danny to admit how much he missed Mary. Mary had been his family for a long time, well before they were ever romantic. Danny was grateful to the Delines for becoming his surrogate family but Mary had always been there, even after she had called off their engagement things may have been strained but there was always an undeniable connection between them. Now it was gone. They were past the hard feelings Danny and Delinda's relationship had caused but there was no longer the warm familiarity that had always bonded them together.

When Danny realized his mistake and admitted to himself he still loved Mary and always would he buried himself even deeper into his relationship with Delinda. The once fulfilling sex life they shared now left him cold. When he began to struggle with his feelings their sex life took a new turn, instead of the risqué flirting or closet romps they had indulged in they became more adventurous. Delinda had always been very aggressive in the bedroom always taking control and suggesting new things to try, the latest toys, even an occasional third party. It had been exciting at first but Danny was never totally comfortable with the experimenting and eventually felt that he had lowered himself to a level he could no longer respect. The once honorable person he was proud to be no longer stared back at him in the mirror.

Dirtbag was a new word he used to describe himself, even Mary saw him that way now. He could only guess what she knew about him and Delinda even though Delinda had promised she would not discuss their private life with Mary. Danny couldn't see Delinda keeping her mouth shut about anything for very long and the possibility that she made remarks about their sex life in front of Mary made his skin crawl. The last straw had been when, in an argument with her father that Danny had nothing to do with, Delinda had thrown up in Ed's face what she wanted to do with Danny in the pool house to get back at him. When Danny protested and gotten angry it had started a full-scale fight right in the Delines living room. Jillian and Ed had left the room and in the heat of the argument Delinda brought up Mary's name lashing out in the one way she knew how to hurt him. She rubbed it in his face that Mary could no longer stomach him after what he had done. When Danny questioned her meaning she finally revealed to him what Mary had told her about seeing Danny's face when Jake proposed. Realizing the real reason Mary had been so upset about his relationship with Delinda had left Danny so shaken he had rushed to the nearest bathroom and heaved into the toilet. His world was falling apart around him and he was totally lost.

A few nights of sleeping on the couch despite Delinda's attempts to apologize and promises to change still hadn't helped Danny know how to handle the downward spiral he had fallen into. Ed had finally set him aside and they had a heart to heart.

"You don't have to be with Delinda to be a part of my family, you know," Ed said quietly as he handed Danny a glass of scotch.

Danny accepted the drink gratefully, hoping the amber liquid would ease some of the pain he felt in his chest.

"I feel partly responsible," Ed continued.

Danny looked at the man closely. "What are you talking about?"

"You haven't been happy in a long time, Danny. I knew you didn't love Delinda but I encouraged the relationship. I was selfish, I was hoping for something that wasn't meant to be. I should have done what was best for you."

"What was best for me," Danny said, not really sure if he wanted to know the answer. He swirled the liquid around the crystal glass and waited for Ed to continue.

"I should have told you to work things out with Mary. I've always known how you felt about her."

"It's too late for that," Danny said remorsefully, taking a gulp of the drink, enjoying the way it burned his throat.

Ed nodded his head in agreement. "I know it would reopen old wounds but for both your sakes I think you should at least talk to her. You owe it to each other to explain why you made some of the decisions each of you made. It's the only way to truly move past this."

"I think she has moved past it, Ed. She doesn't love me or even hate me anymore, she sees me as gum on the sidewalk she needs to avoid. I don't deserve her forgiveness and I can't ask for it."

That was four days ago and now it was time to return to what was left of his shattered life. His first instinct was to sell everything and move away, he even briefly entertained the idea of re-enlisting. There was one thing he had decided on his weekend alone. He had no false hopes of winning back Mary or ever being more than the work acquaintances they had become but he was never going to leave her again. He was going to stay in Vegas no matter how much he wanted to run just in case there was ever a day that she might need him.

6 months later…..

Mary was heading to her suite when she heard Danny following behind her; she began to walk faster when she heard him gaining on her. Some days it was hard to put up the façade of indifference she showed toward him and today was one of those days.

At the management meeting earlier that morning everyone had been broken down into small groups for a team building exercise, as luck would have it Danny and Mary had been placed together with Polly from the salon and Herb, a nice man from custodial services that Mary didn't know very well. Polly had kept them in stitches with her blunt speaking and no fuss attitude. Mary felt the familiar flutters in her stomach when she caught Danny laughing uncontrollably at Polly's candor. For a moment Mary saw her Danny, the fun loving boy without a care in the world. Reality came crashing back when the moderator asked the next question.

"Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

It was Danny's turn to answer first and Mary sighed at his cryptic response.

"I don't really see my life changing that much."

Mary's answer was quite different when her future included a baby. "What about marriage?" Polly said in her thick accent.

Danny couldn't hide his shock when Mary informed the small group she didn't really picture herself being married. When he questioned Mary's logic in having children without a husband he instantly knew it was a mistake.

"You don't think I'll be a good mother?" Mary challenged, trying to hide the hurt that his words caused.

"No, that's not what I meant. I know you'll be a good mother. It's just that you wouldn't have to do it alone, that's all."

She looked at the defeated expression on her former best friend. He had been doing this for months, the politeness, backing down every time they disagreed, afraid to upset her in any way.

"Oh Danny, you know I've always wanted kids and I'm long past the point where I am going to wait for a man to make my dreams come true. This is something I'm planning on doing by myself."

Mary's quick steps were no match for Danny's long strides and he easily caught up with her. "Mary slow down," Danny said as he reached out and grabbed her arm.

"Danny, I've already told you. I'm a big girl, I can handle it." Mary said stubbornly.

Danny looked at her with concern. "What did he want? He knows he's in parole violation when he steps into the casino."

"I've already taken care of it and frankly I am a little upset with Mike right now. I specifically told him not to show you the tape." Mary said as she placed her hands on her hips. The mention of Mike's name cut through him like a knife. Mike and Mary had become very close, and in many ways Mike had replaced Danny in her life. Mike was the friend and confidant that Danny had been and could still be if he hadn't taken her for granted.

"He told me because he knew I could help you," Danny said in a tone that was almost pleading.

"Danny, thank you but I don't want your help," Mary said politely but firmly. Danny hated the fact that when Mary looked at him he no longer felt the special connection they had once shared.

"Mary, please. I swear I won't let you down. Please just let me be here for you."

Mary's apathy toward Danny suddenly began to crack as she heard bitterness creep into her voice.

"I let you be there for me today then what about the next time Danny? You'll be too busy with Delinda or some other girl who's caught your eye. Isn't that the way it's always worked with us?"

Mary looked at Danny's stricken face and regretted her outburst. Ever since he had broken up with Delinda he had made every attempt to be her friend. He always supported her at work and took her side whenever there was a disagreement on how things needed to be handled with a client. He had shown her respect and showered her with admiration the way she dealt with situations that had come up at the casino. Through all of that she had been cordial and polite but always dissuaded any sort of personal relationship between the two. To others they appeared to be friends but they knew differently. Knowing how affectionate they used to be and how they never felt the need to hide how much they truly cared for one another, those days were gone.

"I'm sorry, Danny. That was uncalled for. It's been a long day and I need to go lay down to get rid of this head ache," she said hoping to soften the blow.

Danny watched her walk the short distance to her room and gracefully open the door, she gave him a small smile before she disappeared into the suite.

Mary had barely shut the door when she felt herself being spun around and slammed up against it. She started to scream when a hand covered her mouth and the barrel of a gun pressed up against her temple.

Chapter 2

Danny stood out in the hall letting Mary's words soak in. He had heard the hurt in her voice when she mentioned Delinda. This was the first time Danny had heard anything other than indifference in her voice. Danny took a few tentative steps down the hall, if there was even an ounce of hope that she would let him back in her life then he was going to fight for them, something he should have done years ago. Feeling a sense of resolve he started to walk faster down the hall until he came to her door and knocked loudly. Danny needed to talk to her before she was fast asleep.

Mary slowly opened the door careful not to let him inside. "Did you forget something?" Mary asked a little shakily.

"Yes. Mary I think we really need to talk. Please just give me a few minutes."

"It's really not a good time, Danny. We'll talk later, okay?" Mary said as sweetly as possible. Her father had given her strict instructions to get rid of Danny. When she had told him she didn't believe he would shoot her he had agreed but he wouldn't think twice about shooting Danny.

"Mary, please," Danny begged. He had a tendency to stammer during their emotional confrontations which usually left him standing alone still trying to get his words out long after she would have walked away. He took a deep breath determined not to let that happen this time. "I-I know I'm an idiot and you probably don't even care anymore but I need to tell you how much it's hurts that I've screwed things up so bad. I still love you more than life itself. I know you've moved on but if-"

"Danny stop," Mary cried as the tears began to trickle down her cheeks. How could he pick now of all times to give a confession from the heart. "Your timing sucks." Mary felt her father's gun press into her side as a reminder of who was in control.

Danny laughed softly and put his hand on the door as he made a move toward her.

"No!" Mary said forcefully moving his hand away. "I told you I want to lie down."

"But Mary-" Danny had thought he was getting through to her and she would at least give him a few minutes to talk. The look on her face told him she still had feelings for him and he was taken aback by her sudden change in demeanor.

"Do you think a few sweet words are going to make me forgive you? You cast me aside like I was garbage Danny McCoy." Mary's voice had a stinging quality that Danny had never heard before.

Danny's jaw dropped open at her sudden vehemence and Mary inwardly winced at the pain she saw on his face. She silently begged for forgiveness but was willing to say anything that would get him to move away from the door.

"Isn't Delinda dripped in honey waiting for you somewhere? Like a broom closet or control room?" Mary taunted.

Danny went pale at Mary's words and began to turn away unable to bear any more rejection. Mary let out a silent breath until he suddenly stopped short, his gut telling him something was wrong. He saw a shadow through the door jam and turned back toward Mary. Remnants of the bond they thought was lost forever seemed to reconnect as his gaze settled onto hers. Danny pointed to the crack in the door and the anger that had been in her eyes turned to panic as she silently pleaded with him to go away. Danny recognized the fear in her eyes; it was the same one that clouded her dark brown eyes the night he had gotten into a fight with her father. Mary had been terrified the older man would hurt Danny not realizing that by the time he was seventeen he could hold his own against men twice his age.

"Okay, Mary. I'll let you rest." Danny lied as she began to shut the door. Danny suddenly threw himself against the door with all his might knocking Mary and her father to the floor. The gun went skidding across the carpet as Danny grabbed a stunned Frank Connell by the lapels. All the contempt he felt for this man erupted inside of him.

"Are you okay?" he shouted to Mary.

"Yes," Mary said shakily as she scrambled for the gun.

"You son of a bitch," Danny screamed at the older man as he kneed him in the stomach. Mary saw her father double over from the blow as she dialed Ed.

When Danny jerked him upright Frank spit in his face. "You piece of shit. You were never good enough for her."

"Tell me something I don't know," Danny growled as he knocked him off balance with a right hook. Frank's slow, middle aged body was no match for Danny who continued his assault. Mary watched as Danny punished the man who had caused her so much pain until she began to fear he would actually kill him.

"Danny, stop." She said grabbing his arm. "As much as he deserves it I don't want you to kill him." Mary continued to pull on Danny's arm until he finally turned to look at her.

The wild fury that had consumed him began to dissipate when he looked into Mary's eyes. He had expected to see the scared little girl who had to hide from her father, instead he saw the strong woman she had become.

"It's okay," Mary reassured him as she led him over to the window and away from the crumpled form of her father. She heard Danny trying to control his ragged breaths and calm himself down as her hand made slow concentric circles on his back. "Let them deal with him now," Mary said as she saw Ed and two uniformed police officers come through the door. Danny instinctively wrapped his arms around Mary as much for his own comfort as hers.

Several minutes later Metro was taking their statements as the paramedics took Frank out on a stretcher. They had moved to the sitting area and Mary held Danny's hand in her lap with their fingers intertwined. Mary was moving one hand slowly up and down his forearm that rested on her thigh. The movement was quite comforting and Danny wondered when their roles had reversed, he was used to being the one doing the comforting when it came to her father. Mary was struggling with her own feelings as well. Somewhere in all the chaos they had become Danny and Mary again, the inseparable best friends who would do anything for each other.

"Why come here? He knew he would get caught." Ed was still trying to make sense of Frank risking his freedom.

"He thought he could convince me to change my testimony. He was denied an appeal last week." Mary explained.

"But he's out on parole, why take the chance?"

"He wants to leave Nevada and he can't under the terms of his parole, I actually expected something like this to happen, minus the gun," Mary smiled half-heartedly. Truth be told Mary had prolonged her stay at the Montecito just in case her father tried something. She knew she would be safer under Danny and Ed's watchful eyes than anywhere else.

Lt. Anderson looked at Danny then turned to Mary.

"If you secured the gun then why was he so banged up?" the lieutenant questioned. Danny began to speak up when Mary interrupted him.

"Danny pushed him off of me and he kept trying to fight back," Mary said without hesitating.

The officer finished writing his report and looked back at Mary. "Thanks Mary. I had to ask," he smiled and looked at the composed woman before him.

"I am sure he will have his parole revoked and will complete the remainder of his sentence. New charges will be filed against him of course. Feel free to come down to the station anytime tomorrow to fill out the paperwork. Take care Mary, you to Danny," the lieutenant said as he began to leave the suite. "You should have someone take a look at that hand, Danny."

Danny nodded his thanks and absently rubbed his knuckles that were becoming red and swollen from the altercation, not letting go of Mary's hand.

"I think you two should get out of here," Ed suggested as he looked around the suite.

"I'm fine Ed. There's no need-"

"Mary, please. If you don't do it for yourself do it for," Ed paused as he glanced down at Danny who seemed lost in his own world, "the Montecito. There's going to be staff members speculating what happened here and it will be a lot easier to come up with a story with you two gone."

Mary understood and was grateful to Ed. During her father's trial they had been able to keep things fairly quiet to protect Mary's privacy. There was no need to call attention to that part of her past now.

After throwing some clothes in her overnight bag Mary held Danny's hand as they made their way out of the casino to Danny's car. Once they were both sitting in the front seat Mary turned to apologize.

"I'm sorry, Danny. I didn't mean those things I said, I just wanted you to get away from the door."

Danny looked down at the black leather steering wheel and began to trace the stitching with his index finger. He cleared his throat before he began to speak. "If anything would have happened to you-"

"Nothing happened. I'm okay and you're okay. It's over, thank god. You know I should be shaking in my boots after what just happened but I'm relieved," Mary continued after taking a deep breath. "At least I know he's going to be sitting in jail for the next 15-20 years. Thank you," Mary leaned over and gave him a soft kiss on the cheek. Noticing Danny continued to stare at his steering wheel she gently urged, "Let's get out of here."

"Where are we going?" Mary asked as they turned off the Strip. She had asked Danny to drop her off at the Wynn knowing he would offer to let her stay at his place. The last thing she wanted to do was spend time where Danny and Delinda had attempted domestic bliss.

"You don't really want to go to a hotel do you?" Danny asked sincerely.

Mary looked away and tried to think of how to answer. She finally settled on the truth. "I can't handle being at your condo right now."

"I don't live there anymore." Danny stated rather flatly.

"Since when?" Mary was dumbfounded that Danny had moved and didn't even know about it. Mary felt the warm breeze across her cheeks as she noticed they were headed out of town.

"Have you been staying with Ed?" she asked as he turned on the road that took them up the mountain that led to Ed's house.

"No, I have my own place. Well, sort of." Danny said cryptically. He pulled off the main road onto a private drive and stopped in front of a gorgeous Spanish style home. "I've been house sitting for Fred Puterbaugh," he explained.

As he let her in the front door he explained he had been staying there for the past few months. Danny led her through the living quarters, kitchen and dining areas. The house was gorgeous and looked like it had never been lived in.

"I'm not here much," Danny explained when Mary commented on how neat the house was. She remembered how messy Danny's place could get and bit back the question of what he was doing with all his time outside of the Montecito. Sam and Delinda had speculated there was a new woman but Mary had her doubts.

"Here's the spare bedroom, there are two more down the hall but this one has the biggest tub. My stuff is in that one." Danny pointed to the room next to hers. She smiled that he remembered her affinity for baths.

"I'll be in the kitchen if you need anything." Danny said as he left her alone in the beautifully decorated room.

---

Mary lay on the four-poster bed hoping the soft music from the radio would lull her to sleep. As soon as she heard the slow, soulful Kelly Clarkson song she knew sleep would continue to elude her, she had first heard the song live shortly after she gave Danny his ring back. The song always reminded her of him and she listened closely to the words hoping they would give her direction somehow.

He drowns in his dreams
An exquisite extreme I know
He's as damned as he seems
And more heaven than a heart could hold
And if I try to save him
My whole world would cave in
It just ain't right
Lord, it just ain't right

Oh and I don't know
I don't know what he's after
But he's so beautiful
He's such a beautiful disaster
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Lord, would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster

He's magic and myth
As strong as what I believe
A tragedy with
More damage than a soul should see
But do I try to change him
So hard not to blame him
Hold me tight
Baby, hold me tight

Oh and I don't know
I don't know what he's after
But he's so beautiful
He's such a beautiful disaster
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster

I'm longing for love and the logical
But he's only happy hysterical
I'm searching for some kind of miracle
Waited so long
Waited so long

He's soft to the touch
But frayed at the end he breaks
He's never enough
And still he's more than I can take

Oh and I don't know
I don't know what he's after
But he's so beautiful
He's such a beautiful disaster
And if I could hold on
Through the tears and the laughter
Would it be beautiful?
Or just a beautiful disaster

He's beautiful
Lord, he's so beautiful
He's beautiful

---

"What are you working on?" Mary asked quietly. She had been observing Danny for several minutes as he worked in the living room. She noticed the half eaten sandwich and empty bottle of beer on the end table. He was studying what looked like blueprints and had been so engrossed in his task he hadn't heard her come in.

Danny looked up at her and was distracted by the way the moonlight coming in from the window was reflected in her eyes. It was a cool night and the stars were bright and casting a pattern on the floor where the light from the small lamp didn't quite reach. He had given up on sleep as well and decided to work on his house plans as he had been doing with most of his free time over the past few weeks. He found the chore very therapeutic.

"You should have more lights on if your going to be working. Is this something for McCoy Construction?" Mary asked as she made her way over to Danny and looked down at the plans on the coffee table.

"Uh, no." Danny said as he began to roll up the blueprints. He didn't know how to explain his dreams that were literally laid out on the table.

"Danny that looks like your fathers house," Mary said as she stopped him from rolling the prints any further.

Danny sighed and laid them back out. "It is in a way. These are my father's blueprints for his house and these," Danny said as he laid another blueprint out "was what he had planned to build."

Mary looked at the gorgeous two-story house in amazement. "How did you get these?"

"I found them in his office after he died. He and my mother had planned on adding to the house. She had wanted a lot of kids and my dad was going to build the second story when they saved some more money. After she died he left the house the way it was. My bedroom was going to be the study and your room was supposed to be a craft room. The master bedroom was going to be the guest room, probably for my grandpa."

"What are you going to do with them?" Mary's heart sank when she the thought of him wanting to build this for Delinda. She knew they had had brief plans to build a house before they broke up.

"I don't know," Danny lied as he put the blueprints away and walked over to the floor to ceiling window.

He took a deep breath before he addressed her. "That's a lie," Danny said flatly. He turned to face her and Mary was unable to read his facial expression because of the shadow over his face when he turned away from the window.

"I bought some property and I think I'm going to build the house. I need to make a few changes to the original plans but most of it is going to be exactly the same. I know it sounds silly but I just feel compelled to do it."

"I'm sure it will be beautiful, Danny."

Danny looked at Mary's downcast face and watched the way her fingers were tracing over the end of the rolled up blueprints. It never occurred to him what she was thinking until her words echoed through the night and sent a chill down his spine.

"Is this what you were going to build for Delinda?" As much as she hated herself for it she needed to know.

"No," Danny said quietly as he walked back to the sofa and sat next to her. He needed to feel physically closer to her before he spoke his next words.

"Mary, what I said before. Before at the Montecito, I meant every word. I miss you so much sometimes I can't breathe. Ever since that day that you confronted me about Delinda and I destroyed us I've felt like I lost the most important part of me." Danny reached for her hand and gently brought it up to his lips when she made no attempt to remove it from his grasp. Danny closed his eyes; unable to look at Mary for fear he would only see pity or indifference.

"I know I can't go back and change how things have turned out but if there's anyway I can have you back in my life.." Danny paused to re-compose himself, although he wasn't above begging he needed to control the tears that were threatening to fall.

Mary couldn't remember the last time she had seen so much emotion in Danny's face. She leaned forward and willed him to look at her. When Danny finally looked into her moonlit face he saw the reflection of his own tears in Mary's. He began to speak but was stopped by her lips pressing hard against his. Danny eagerly kissed her back until he felt Mary's hand tighten around his own as she pulled back.

"Show me your room," she gently commanded.

The next morning Mary woke up with a sense of peace. The sun was streaming through the bedroom window and she felt Danny stir next to her. When he opened his eyes and smiled at her any awkwardness she feared would come with the morning vanished.

"Hi, did you sleep well?" Danny asked with his rough morning voice.

Mary sat up hugging the sheet to her chest and nodded. "Probably the best night I've had in a long time."

"Me too."

"Danny, this doesn't-"

"Don't, please. Don't say it. I know it doesn't change anything that's happened. What I hope it does is make you consider the possibility that it could be different between us." Danny said softly. Mary nodded and smiled.

"Could you go with me to the police station? I want to get it over with."

----

After leaving Metro an unspoken uncertainty settled between them. Mary wasn't sure what to say to Danny as tension began to fill the camaro.

Mary expected Danny to stay on the road towards Fred's house when he turned into a small subdivision that had been built 5 years earlier. It was one long winding street and consisted of only nineteen houses with 1-2 acre lots. Danny came to the end of the road that led up to the edge of the mountain. He parked in the cul-de-sac in front of an open lot.

"Is this your property?"

"Yes, do you want to see it?" Danny asked with a vulnerability he couldn't hide. He had wanted to show her for weeks and only dreamed that he would ever get this close to her again. Mary was already getting out of the car and asking questions.

"Be careful, I just bought it last month so I haven't had time to finish clearing it." Danny said as they walked around piles of brush. He told Mary that a former Las Vegas native had bought the property for his daughter when the subdivision was first developed hoping she would relocate to Las Vegas. When it became clear she was staying in California the older man had decided to move closer to his grandchildren and sell the property after hanging on to it for several years. He had been reluctant to sell the lot to Danny preferring it to go to a family but changed his mind when he heard Danny's last name.

"Apparently my grandfather built him his first house," Danny said proudly. "I guess it was fate that I buy it."

Mary let out a gasp at the view. "Oh, Danny. This is perfect!" The property overlooked the valley with a magnificent view of the strip. "You can see Ed's house from here." Mary exclaimed as she looked over to the left, seeing the Delines' house standing alone a little farther up the mountain.

Danny explained that no one would be able to build on either side of the subdivision or in the valley, as it was protected land. "The developer was lucky he got his plans approved when he did, the Planning Commission would never approve them now."

Mary looked around the property in amazement. When she glanced back at Danny and saw the smile that lit up his face she couldn't resist reaching out for him. She giggled as she pulled him into a hug. "I love it, Danny. You're going to be happy here."

"We're going to be happy here." Danny corrected.

Mary looked up into his dark eyes and saw the quiet promise of a future.

"I know we have a long way to go, but this is where I want to end up-with you. No one will ever share this house with me unless it's you." He said as he kissed her softly on the lips. Danny felt Mary's hands on both sides of his face as she slowly tilted her head back to look at him with shining eyes. Her heart began to swell with joy as she no longer tried to deny that she wanted this too.

"I love you Danny McCoy."