TITLE: A Fresh Start
SUMMARY: It's a new year. Time for a fresh start.
PAIRING: Danny/Lindsay
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the show or the characters. They belong to CBS.
A/N: I realize this is a little late to be posting a New Year's fic, but it was written for the MesserMontana fic challenge. I wasn't allowed to post it anywhere else until the end of the challenge.

Elements of the challenge:

Had to take place at the NYPD New Year's party at a bar, a drunk coworker, someone getting a drink spilled on them, and the words 'deoxyribonucleic acid', 'cactus', and 'the Who'. Could not be longer than 2000 words.

Unbeta'd, so all mistakes are my own.

A Fresh Start

Danny arrived at the NYPD New Year's party well after it started, having been one of the unfortunate souls on duty that night. And the first sight that greeted his eyes upon walking through the doors of Sullivan's, the Irish pub across the street from the precinct that the department had rented out for the occasion, was a very intoxicated Lindsay Monroe dancing on the bar. He glanced around, looking for his coworkers, hoping to get a little assistance in getting the woman down on solid ground. Hawkes was chatting up some girl in a leather miniskirt, Stella was flirting with one of the detectives from traffic, and Flack was trying to calm down one of the girls from payroll. He'd apparently spilled his beer all over her brand new, overly glittery outfit, and she was smacking him with her equally glittery purse as he struggled to apologize. Mac, as per usual, had opted not to end the festivities.

That left Danny to deal with his inebriated partner on his own. He took a deep breath and headed over to the bar.

"Montana," he said, reaching up to grab her hand as she flung it to the side, no doubt doing some complicated dance move.

"Danny!" Lindsay squealed. She crouched down to throw her arms around his neck. And as drunk as she was, he couldn't help noticing that her hair smelled like lilacs – if they were drenched in alcohol. His arms went around her naturally, and he was enjoying this far more than he should, considering how drunk she was. He was just about to pull her down to the floor when she abruptly stood up. "Hey, everyone!" she called to no one in particular. "Danny's here!" She started dancing around again, saying his name repeatedly. "Danny Danny Danny…"

He bit the inside of his cheek to keep from swearing and tried again. "Montana! I really think you should get down from there."

Lindsay shook her head emphatically. "Nuh-uh! It's the Who! You gotta dance to the Who! It's like a law!"

He was impressed that she could not only hear the music but identify the band in the condition she was in. He tried to grab her hand again, but she moved and pulled it out of his reach. "Seriously," he said, wrapping his hands around one of her ankles. Her skin was warm and soft, and he was already gone. "You're going to hurt yourself."

She made a noise in the back of her throat that made her sound like a horse and carefully crawled onto a nearby stool. Danny's heart momentarily stopped beating as she balanced precariously on the stool, and when it wobbled under her weight, he held out his arms in case she fell. She shifted around until she was seated. Relieved, he took the stool next to her. She eyed him as he sat down. She probably thought she looked alluring, but he thought she looked kind of possessed.

"What are you staring at, Cowboy?" she asked.

Danny shook his head and signaled the bartender. "I've never seen you drunk before." He didn't even think Lindsay could get drunk, but here was the proof right in front of him. He only wished it were under different circumstances. He would never take advantage of an intoxicated woman, especially Lindsay, but he couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if he were able to take her back to his place and nurse her through her hangover.

"I am not drunk," Lindsay declared forcefully, though her proclamation was undermined by the fact that her words were slurred, and she stumbled a bit as she slid off the stool. "You," she said, jabbing her finger in Danny's face and coming dangerously close to poking him in the eye, "have absolutely no idea what you're talking about."

"All right," he said, turning to face her, his patience hanging by a thread. He cared about her, but she was really starting to grate on his last nerve. "Prove it. What does DNA stand for?"

Lindsay stared at him for a moment, blinking. She leaned forward, though he suspected it was not intentional, then fell back a bit. "Deoxyribonucleic acid."

His jaw dropped. Her enunciation was perfect. She didn't even waver. She was the most coherent drunk person he had ever seen. He yanked the nearly empty glass from her hand and gingerly sniffed it. "What the hell is this?"

"A cactus bite," she answered, giggling. "All's I know is there's tequila in it." She hiccoughed and covered her mouth, like she was going to be sick.

He set the glass on the bar. He needed to get her home before she really did something that she would regret. She was normally so reserved and composed. He couldn't imagine the look on her face when she realized that she had been dancing on the bar. Though the image would be burned into his memory for the rest of his natural life. He leaned forward to speak directly in her ear, so that she could hear him over the noise. He tried not to notice the heat that was radiating off her. She was drunk, and he wasn't that much of a heel. "Time to go, Montana."

Lindsay pulled back to look at him and staggered backwards into her stool. "But you just got here. Why do you want to go home?"

He pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and his forefinger. He hated New Year's. The only reason he had even come to the damn party was to spend time with Lindsay, and she was hammered. "Not in the mood for partying. C'mon. I'll walk you home."

She shook her head, pushing away from the stool and weaving into the crowd. Groaning loudly, Danny followed her. He was so not in the mood for this. He grasped her by the elbow, but she yanked her arm out of his grip. "I'm not ready to go home yet. It's not even midnight!"

It was obvious that there would be no reasoning with Lindsay when she was drunk, so he did the only thing he could think to do. He crouched down, wrapped his arms around her legs, and flung her over his shoulder. She squealed and started to pound on his back, but amazingly no one noticed as he carried her out of the bar. Snow was softly falling, but the sidewalks were clear. Still, he took great care as he headed in the direction of Lindsay's apartment. She pounded on his back the entire time.

"It's for your own good, Lindsay," he explained, ignoring her repeated requests that he put her down so that she could go back to the party. Difficult to ignore, however, was the temptation to slide his hands up her legs and touch her ass. "You'll thank me in the morning, after you recover from the massive hangover, that is."

They walked another three blocks in silence before Lindsay said, "Danny, put me down. I think I'm gonna be sick."

Those were the magic words. He eased her off his shoulder and onto the ground. She ran to the nearest garbage can, Danny quickly trailing after her. He reached her just in time to pull her hair back as she emptied the contents of her stomach into the can. He rubbed her back soothingly, closing his eyes and willing his own stomach not to follow suit. He would never willingly admit it, but he was a sympathetic vomiter. If he saw it, heard it, or smelled it, he would get sick, too. Now he was being faced with all three. He breathed through his mouth, looked away, and hummed "Baba O'Riley" loudly.

When she was finished, he helped her to her feet. She looked terrible, and it wasn't just the alcohol, though that probably had a lot to do with it. She seemed haggard, exhausted, the weight of her problems bearing down on her, making her crazy. She was obviously in no mood to party, same as him. A little coffee was probably in order. He sighed and slipped his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into a hug. "C'mon, Linds. Let's get some food in you."

She moaned. "You sure that's a good idea?"

He raised his eyebrows. "You need something in your system to absorb the alcohol."

He took her to an all-night diner nearby. It was empty tonight, with everyone out celebrating the New Year, so Danny and Lindsay sat undisturbed in a back booth. She nursed a coffee while he picked at a plate of garbage fries.

Eventually, Lindsay raised her eyes to meet Danny's. "I'm sorry to make you leave the party."

He lifted one shoulder in a barely perceptible shrug. "Don't worry about it. I'm not big on New Year's."

She furrowed her brow, reaching across the table for his glass of water and taking a generous swallow. "Why is that?"

Danny licked his lips, unsure if he wanted to dump all of this on her when she was already dealing with so much. But if he opened up to her, she might return the favor, and he desperately wanted to know what was going on with her, why she had pulled away from him when they were finally starting to get close. He exhaled slowly through pursed lips. "I played baseball with this one guy. Matt. We were pretty good friends… He was one of the first people I met in college. Good guy."

His chest clenched painfully as the memories started to resurface. "He was really important to me, you know, because after what happened with Louie, I wanted to surround myself with good people." He bit his lip. "Turns out Matt had all kind of problems, but he never told any of us about them. He kept it bottled up inside. I guess it was really bad, though. I mean, he – "

His voice broke, and he scrubbed a hand over his face, anxious to stop the tears that threatened to flow. He looked up as he felt Lindsay's fingers close around his. She smiled softly at him, and he continued. "We were at a New Year's party junior year. Huge bash, you know, thrown by one of the guys on the team. Matt disappeared early, and when it was getting close to midnight, I went to find him." He took another deep breath, steeling himself for the rest of his story. "There was blood everywhere. I got covered in it. I – " He stopped abruptly, his eyes burning. "I guess he just couldn't face another year." Lindsay's eyes bored into his. He coughed and looked away. He really didn't want her to see him like this. "Anyway, that's why I don't feel particularly festive today."

Lindsay gently stroked the back of his hand with her thumb. She slid out of the booth to sit down beside him, never letting go of his hand. "When I was in high school," she said, and he held his breath, "my friends and I were attacked. I was the only survivor." She lightly touched his cheek. "The man who did it is up for parole soon. They want me to testify at his hearing. I got the letter a few months ago."

Danny's heart broke. He had no idea she'd been carrying that around these past few months. He hated that she thought she had to go through that alone. But he was thrilled that she finally trusted him enough to confide in him. He used his thumb to wipe a stray tear that was making its way down her face. "What a pair we make, huh?"

She laughed and rested her forehead against his. "You can't dwell on the past, Danny. All this baggage you're carrying with you, you have to let it go."

He smiled. "Why, Miss Monroe, I do believe you should practice what you preach."

She pulled away slightly, blushing to the roots of her hairline. "Well, then we both need to make a fresh start."

He nodded. At that moment, he wanted nothing more. "Agreed. I say we make a toast." He handed her the mug of coffee and held up his glass of water. "Here's to a new year."

Lindsay clinked her mug against his glass. "To a fresh start."

He licked his lips. "To us." And before he could think better of it, he leaned forward and pressed his lips against hers. She gave a little gasp as he cupped her cheeks, and he tensed, afraid that she was going to push him away. But soon she was kissing him back, gripping fistfuls of his shirt, practically crawling into his lap. He kissed her with renewed vigor, hoping to tell her with his actions what he didn't have the courage to say with his words. She kissed him with just as much fervor, and he felt his heart trip over itself when she ran her tongue along the seam of his lips.

Danny broke the kiss, breathless, his eyes widened by disbelief and awe. He stared at Lindsay, sure he had hallucinated those last few moments, but her lips were swollen, her cheeks were flushed, and she was grinning like an idiot.

"Happy New Year, Danny," she said, almost shyly.

He smiled. "Same to you, Linds."

EDITED to add the following:

I appreciate the reviews, guys. I really do. But if I get one more review about Danny kissing Lindsay after she got sick, I am going to go postal. First of all, he doesn't kiss her immediately after she gets sick. Second of all, she's been drinking coffee. Third of all, when you care about someone, you don't care. There is more to the fic than that part, and you are overlooking the important parts.

Seriously. Let it go. Please. It upsets me that that is all you are taking from this fic.