A.N. All right, so I'm writing my own version of the Montana thing. Original, I know. But the cut of the phone call pissed me off, so I'm writing it myself. If only I was as genius as the actual writers.
No, I don't own anything. Well, maybe Lindsay's family.
Warnings: Graphic, violent, too dark to be all that fluffy. Though it has a happy ending. I swear. Also, the time frame is a little off surrounding Lindsay's departure to Montana in order to fit with my needs.
Danny leaned forward slightly, just enough to show subtle interest, and let a half smile form on his lips. The girl looked down coyly before meeting his gaze from beneath her lashes. Her shyness was fake; she knew exactly what she was doing. Lisa—Leslie—whatever her name was—had talent; she made it almost look real.
But Danny had seen genuine shyness on a woman's face, appearing as the result of endless bouts of teasing, and he wasn't buying it. If his smile slipped a little, his eyes becoming a little colder, the girl didn't notice, busy toying with the stem of her wine glass in a calculated maneuver.
Letting his eyes flick quickly around the bar, Danny spotted Flack a few stools down, chatting up a blonde. She was laughing at something he'd said and Danny watched as Flack smiled back and continued his story, completely at ease. A spark of anger pulsed through Danny's veins, dangerously akin to resentment, but it was aimed towards himself.
Looking back at the girl in front of him, the irritation disappeared as quickly as it had come, leaving him suddenly empty and tired. He wondered if the change was evident on his face, but Lisa's—Leslie's—confident expression didn't falter. Stifling a sigh, Danny smiled a bit more, rising from his stool.
Surprise flickered in her eyes, and she carefully tamped down on it. "Little boy's room?" she asked, tilting her head just slightly to the side.
Because he knew she wanted him to, Danny let his eyes follow the swish of her honey colored hair as it swept across her shoulder and barely resisted the urge to smirk. Oh, she was good. Unfortunately, he couldn't seem to force any enthusiasm for finding out how good.
"Early morning," he answered, smiling casually to ease the sting to her ego.
"On a Saturday?" Her voice was calm, betraying none of her disappointment.
He shrugged. "It's the job."
Tossing a few bills on the bar as a tip, he nodded to the bartender and then to the girl. "Nice talking to you. Get home safe."
She wiggled her fingers at him with a friendly smile and turned to face the bar again. Out of the corner of his eye, Danny noticed several men watching his vacated seat. Ignoring them, he caught Flack's eye and pointed a thumb over his shoulder as he walked backwards out of the bar. Flack gave him a confused look and jerked his head towards Lisa. Danny just smiled a little and watched as Flack's face gave way to understanding and what looked like sympathy.
Hiding a wince, Danny turned and shouldered his way politely through the crowd. The shock of the frigid night air was welcome as he let his chin fall to his chest. Blowing out a breath, he reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose.
"What're you doin, Messer?" he muttered, raising his head to glance back over his shoulder at the bar.
He knew what would happen if he went back in. He could find Lisa—or some other girl for that matter—finish what he'd started back at her place and discover just how good experienced teases could be. It was how he'd spent countless nights of his life, and he generally woke up satisfied and happy.
But somehow, it just didn't appeal to him. Calculated looks and touches designed to make his knees melt now left him only mildly interested.
Stepping to the curb, he raised his arm and waited for the cab to pull up beside him. When it screeched to a halt, he pulled the door open and rattled off his address before letting his head fall back with a loud thump.
"Rough night?" the cabbie asked in a thick accent that matched Danny's own.
"You have no idea," Danny countered with a raw laugh.
"Women." The exasperation was obvious in the cabbie's voice.
Danny nodded and glanced out the window. "Tell me 'bout it."
The rest of the ride was spent in silence as the cabbie picked his way back to Queens in the Friday night traffic. Usually, Danny didn't mind silence, but lately, when it was quiet, all he could hear was the sound of his own thoughts rattling loudly around his brain. And they were riotous. Dropping his face into his hands, he rubbed his palms roughly over his head.
"Here we go, buddy."
Looking up, Danny found them parked outside his apartment building. "Thanks," he muttered, pulling out the appropriate number of bills plus a good tip. He somehow felt this man understood his pain.
Tugging his keys from his jacket pocket, Danny trudged up the stairs to his apartment and opened the door. Mechanically, he slid the deadbolt and chain into place before letting his head fall forward to thunk against the wood. Pulling back, he let it fall gently against the door again a couple of times, groaning inwardly at his own hopelessness.
Then he straightened and slowly stepped into the apartment, dropping his keys onto the side table one of his aunt's had sent around when he moved in. He blindly tossed his jacket towards the couch, not bothering to see if it hit the target as he made a beeline for the fridge. And beer.
Lindsay nearly crushed the test tube in her hand when she heard Danny's voice address Hawkes behind her. Quickly regaining her composure, she smoothed her face into an even expression, ignoring the way the other lab rats' eyes automatically swung to look at her.
"You got a name for our vic?"
Trying to block out the sound of their conversation, Lindsay carefully rested the test tube in the holder and began filling tiny vials with its contents.
"Not yet. Her prints weren't on file in AFIS. However, there was a bit of trace stuck in the print you found," Hawkes was telling him. It made her picture Danny leaning over to check out the trace under the microscope.
She could feel the eyes on her, just curious glances now, not the staring it used to be. Before she'd told Danny they had to be completely professional, the staring had been much worse. She'd heard the rumors around the lab; all the women were in love with him it seemed. They'd all watched to see what a plain girl from the country could possibly have that New York's finest couldn't offer.
Their resentment had hit her like pellets from a bb gun as they glared, but gradually that had died away as Danny spent less time paying attention to her and more time being "professional."
Danny had never seemed to notice the discord he caused by paying so much attention to her, but he'd never seemed to notice how women stared lustfully at him either. Maybe after all these years he just considered it part of life, like white noise in the background. Lindsay couldn't imagine going through every day knowing that half the population of any given room was staring at you. The idea was downright creepy.
To be honest, though, she couldn't blame the women for staring. She found herself watching him a bit too often for comfort. She couldn't help it. Danny managed to balance grace and lazy masculinity in a way that drew the eyes. It was almost like a tiger prowling a cage.
Coffee. She definitely needed coffee.
Carefully placing the capped vials in their slots, she closed the lid of the machine and pressed the appropriate buttons before stripping off her gloves and striding from the lab. It would take at least ten minutes to get those results, definitely enough time to grab a power bar and a cup of coffee.
Pushing open the glass door, she hurried across the room, delighted to find fresh coffee in the carafe. She grabbed her mug out of the cupboard and began pouring while she slid open a drawer with her other hand and snatched up a power bar. She had just replaced the coffee pot and was heading to the couch when her phone began to vibrate.
Frowning, she quickly set her mug down on the high table and pulled the phone out of its holster. 406-555-7914. Dread filled her as she took in the number. Like ripping off a Band-Aid, she flipped the phone open and held it to her ear. "Monroe," she snapped, squeezing her eyes shut.
"Lindsay, it's Greg."
Reaching up, she rubbed her forehead and tried to make her voice a little more pleasant. "Hi, Greg. How are you?"
"I'm fine. I just wanted to give you the heads up."
Lindsay felt her fingers clench around the edge of the table. "They've picked the date?"
She heard Greg sigh on the other end. "Lindsay, I'm sorry. If we could do this another way we would."
"I know," she muttered. "But there isn't another way."
"Not unless another witness pops out of the woodwork." Lindsay winced and, after a moment, Greg groaned. "I'm sorry. Gallows humor, I guess."
"Don't worry about it. When do I need to be back?"
"The trial starts the first of next month. We'd need you back a couple of weeks before that though—"
"Two weeks. Got it. I'll let you know when my plane lands."
"Lindsay, I really am—"
"Sorry?" she asked on a humorless chuckle. "I know, Greg, but don't be. I've always known I'd have to do this. I'll talk to you in a couple of weeks."
She didn't wait for his goodbye before flipping the phone closed. Swallowing the bile that had risen in the back of her throat, she looked up and let her eyes lock on Mac, pacing in his office. After a moment, her eyes strayed back to her coffee and the power bar, lying benignly on the table. Sliding the phone back in its place, she picked up both and dropped them in the trash on her way to see Mac.
The conversation was easier than she'd expected it to be, possibly because Mac was already familiar with the story. He'd even brought it up in her interview; not one of the most comfortable conversations she'd ever participated in.
But when it was done and the ease of having that particular hurdle behind her finally hit, she immediately felt that ease give way to sheer panic over what lay ahead of her. The worst part was that it strung before her indefinitely. Murder trials were never quick. At least not the ones taking place ten years late.
When Danny found the note, his stomach clenched at the sight of her handwriting. He'd helped her complete enough paperwork for it to be almost as familiar as his own, and he eyed the familiar curvature of the letters with trepidation. A part of him had been waiting for this. The grand kiss off. He'd known it was coming as soon as he saw Mac hug her in his office.
Mac didn't hug.
But then he opened it and found a silly note about cows heading home to Montana and a promise to call him soon. He felt unabashedly relieved and returned to the case at hand feeling lighter than he had in weeks, the card safely tucked inside his jacket.
It didn't say why she had to go home for a while, but that didn't bother him until hours later when he was laying on his couch, card tossed haphazardly on the coffee table. The realization hit him suddenly, right as the ballgame came back from another commercial, and made him sit straight up.
Snatching the card off the table, he scanned the lines again. Initially, the "Montana" scrawled at the bottom had blinded him to the rest of the note. Now he read through it again, trying desperately to decipher the real meaning behind her words.
Remembering the serious expression Lindsay had worn as she left Mac's office, Danny knew that she wasn't going home for a bit of a breather or a visit with Mom. He was pretty sure it had something to do with the issues she'd vaguely mentioned she had to deal with.
The card also didn't say when she'd be coming back, and that fact was quickly tying his stomach in knots.
Tossing the card back down on the table, he glanced over at his silent phone. All he could do now was cool his heels and wait. Wait for her to call, as she'd promised she would. (How soon was soon in her book? A day, a week?) Wait for her to tell him what he desperately wanted—needed—to know.
Danny Messer had never been good at sitting still.
A.N. Okay, the next chapter will be up later on today. This whole story is pretty much done, I just have to edit the last few chapters.