A.N. Welcome to the sequel to Can't Go Home Again. Thanks again to everyone who stuck with and reviewed Can't Go Home Again. Hopefully, this story will
She swallowed when she heard his voice, suddenly unsure of what to say. Opening her mouth, she couldn't force anything except air past her lips.
"Montana?" His voice sounded worried now, and she wanted to kick herself.
"Yeah, sorry. Hey."
"Hey. How's it going?"
"It's over." She hesitated. "He's going to be moved to maximum security next week."
"Yeah, I think I am," she murmured. "When they gave the verdict I felt…clean. I don't know. I—I don't want to watch the execution."
"All right." She could hear the confusion in his voice, and bit her lip. When he didn't press her, she wasn't sure if she liked or hated this Danny of the even tone and calm demeanor. Danny was rarely calm and he certainly couldn't sit still. She wanted the old Danny back. "When are you coming back?" he asked after a long pause.
And he wanted the old Lindsay. Resting her head against the headboard, she buried her feet under her quilt. "Next week, I hope. I don't have my ticket, yet."
"Let me know when you find out?"
"Yeah," she murmured.
"Now, about that pizza tour of the city." His voice was lively again and she could feel a smile tugging at her lips.
"What about it?"
"I think we should start with Bernie's."
"Bernie's?" she repeated incredulously. "Where is that?"
"Down an alley off Delancey."
"In an alley," she said wryly, leaning back on the bed. "Why am I even surprised?"
"I'll set up an appointment for the psych eval. You're going to be stuck in the lab for awhile," Mac warned her, lifting the folder with her paperwork and handing it across the desk.
Lindsay nodded. "I figured it would be something like that." Picking up a pen, she flipped open the folder and signed on the dotted line at the bottom of the page.
When she'd handed it back and Mac had signed his name, he closed it and tossed it into his Out box. Then he smiled. "Welcome back."
She couldn't stop the grin that spread across her face as she stood and nervously smoothed her shirt. "Thanks for everything, Mac."
Mac shook his head. "You did this, Lindsay, no one else."
Then he motioned towards the door and she turned to precede him out only to stumble to a stop when she saw the small group of people waiting outside for her. Stella was grinning, clutching a manila folder to her chest. Hawkes had his hands stuffed in the pockets of his labcoat. Even Flack was hovering behind the rest of the group with his usual grin. Arms crossed over his chest and feet braced apart, Danny looked as cool and collected as ever with his tiny smile.
She hadn't seen any of them since her return earlier that morning. She'd gotten off the plane, taken a cab back to her apartment to drop off her luggage and then come straight to the crime lab to see Mac. She'd been planning on trying to find all of them after she'd gotten the paperwork squared away. Considering she'd only been in the place for ten minutes, she wondered how they even knew she was in the building.
Mac swung the door open, and Lindsay descended the stairs with a smile. "Hey, guys."
"Welcome back," Stella said, wrapping her in a hug.
"Thanks. It's good to see you."
As soon as Stella let go, Hawkes swept her up, almost lifting her off her feet. Flack gently socked her in the shoulder. "Good to have you back, Monroe."
Slightly overwhelmed, Lindsay glanced around at everyone with a fragile smile. Reaching up, she ran a hand through her hair. "Sorry guys, I'm still a bit jet-lagged. I took the redeye."
"Why would you do that?" Flack asked in disbelief.
"I'm a masochist?" she replied with a laugh, trying not to notice Danny's silence.
Suddenly, Adam came careening around one of the corners, skidding to a halt a few inches from the group. "Mac, I—"
When he noticed her, he stopped and smiled shyly. "Lindsay, hey. Welcome back."
"Hey, Adam. How's it going?"
"Good, good." His eyes were mostly focused on the paper he was holding, but he managed to glance up at her a couple of times.
"What have you got for me?" Mac asked him, gesturing towards his office. Adam followed him inside with another nervous smile and small wave. Watching him go, Lindsay shook her head, trying to hide a chuckle.
"What are your plans for the night?" Stella asked, stepping closer to Lindsay as Hawkes squeezed her arm and wandered back to the lab, mumbling about trace.
Lindsay let out a sigh. "Unpacking probably. Then sleep."
"How do you feel about a little company? Some take-out maybe?"
She didn't let herself think about it, just nodded. "Sure, sounds great. Give me a call when you're heading over?"
"Good. See you tonight," Stella called as she backed down the hallway, pointing seriously at Lindsay before waving. Lindsay watched her stride purposefully down the hall, her curls bouncing behind her until she turned a corner.
Flack had wandered a few feet away to chat with Angell, a detective Lindsay had never worked with. Glancing at Danny, she saw him eyeing her speculatively. She raised an eyebrow at him. "What, Messer?"
He shook his head. "Nothing." Some of his usual stalwartness faded and he leaned forward. "How you doing?"
She shrugged. "I'm all right, I think," she murmured, letting the corner of her mouth lift a fraction. "Long flight."
"Believe me, I remember," he said wryly, moving his shoulders as though he still felt stiff.
For some reason, she felt a wave of nervousness flood her. Danny had seen her at her very worst—well, almost—had heard all her secrets, and she still felt shy when he stared at her with that intense expression. How could that be possible?
It made her eyes settle somewhere near his left her rather than meeting his eyes and she nearly groaned when he frowned. "You should have called me," Danny murmured, stepping closer to her. "I would have picked you up."
"You had to work," she whispered back, surreptitiously glancing at Flack and Angell to see if they were listening. They didn't seem to be, but that didn't mean anything with detectives.
Danny stared down at her for a minute, then nodded. "I should get back to that," he said in a normal tone.
She didn't say anything as he backed away, then turned and stepped over to where Angell was leaning against the wall. "You ready?" Lindsay heard the other woman ask.
He jerked his head in the affirmative and Lindsay started down the hall, pretending not to notice Angell's curious glance. Somehow she'd expected everything to be simpler, despite the newest complication in her confusing relationship with Danny. But everything seemed just as twisted and convoluted as when she left.
She rubbed her temple as the elevator doors closed behind her, not noticing the other patrons staring at her as she tapped her foot impatiently. She'd wanted to hug Danny when she saw him, but was that appropriate? She'd hugged Stella and Hawkes, but everyone was aware of the tension between she and Danny…that made a difference, right?
They weren't dating, but he was insisting on waiting for her. What did that mean, what did waiting entail? Did he mean he wouldn't be seeing other women or he just wouldn't get emotionally involved?
And, considering she had been the one to stuff them into their awkward position, was she really allowed to care this much about the answers to those questions?
The elevator doors slid open on the first floor, and Lindsay pushed past everyone else getting off. He'd been very clear about what he wanted, so she wasn't sure why she was so confused.
As much as she wanted to give in to him, she couldn't risk betting on her own sanity. The ground still felt unstable beneath her, and she knew that she wasn't ready to be with Danny. Because Danny was a force to be reckoned with, and she was too weak to even know her own mind.
To be with Danny, she needed to be strong. She didn't want to screw things up with him like she had before. Oh, she knew it had been the right decision, just as she'd known it then. But she truly hadn't meant to freak out and stand him up that night.
And she also knew that if she relented now and let him in, she might do something similar. He could forgive her once, but twice?
Even once was pushing it in her book.
She hid a sigh as she let the crowd sweep her onto the subway. It really didn't help that he was so damn wonderful about it all.
Lindsay gently unfolded the scrap of paper underneath the light. One curl slid down into her eyes and she blew it out of the way without pausing in her painstakingly slow movements. She could just barely make out the impressions of writing on the paper, but not what it said.
Swinging the lamp out of the way, she straightened and walked to the magnetizing machine. She was just finishing when Stella came through the doorway behind her.
"Hey, Lindsay, whatcha got?"
Without looking up from carefully peeling the plastic away, Lindsay shook her head. "Not sure yet. It's just a bunch of seemingly unconnected words."
"River, cloud, elephant, crowbar?" Stella read out loud, her tone incredulous. "What the hell?"
"Maybe it was a code?" Lindsay offered, making a face as she began to move to the next piece of trace.
"Maybe our vic liked doing crosswords."
Stella and Lindsay both glanced up as Danny sauntered into the room. He nodded in greeting to Lindsay before turning to Stella. "Angell just called me. A witness stepped forward, says she saw the vic this morning."
"This morning?" Stella frowned. "But when we found him, he was still in bed."
"Or he'd just gotten in," Danny pointed out, folding his arms across his chest.
Sighing, Stella picked up the folder she'd been carrying with her. "Let's go talk to her then. Call me when you get the rest of the results, Lindsay?"
Nodding, Lindsay felt a wave of frustration as they swept from the room with quick goodbyes. She hated being stuck in the lab processing trace. Sure it was interesting and she loved the science of it, but the mystery was outside; the real excitement found in the questioning and investigating. In the lab, she wasn't part of the team and it was really starting to grate on her nerves.
The sharp anger she felt didn't make her hands any less gentle as she took a sample of the powder found at the scene. Paper, powder, sticky substance. It was all the same, and she was starting to get really bored.
When the results on the powder and wet jelly-like substance came back, she called Stella immediately, hoping her voice would stay even and controlled. The last thing she wanted was Stella telling Mac that Lindsay needed to talk to someone about her feelings. Particularly since she hadn't quite gotten around to seeing the first someone.
Stella's voicemail picked up and Lindsay spoke quickly to hide the annoyance in her voice. "Hey Stel. I ran the powder and jelly. They're actually the same thing, just different forms: grape jello with traces of arsenic."
Hanging up, Lindsay slipped the phone back into her pocket and put all the results together in a folder. She knew she should have gone to the psych evaluation in a more timely fashion. She'd done therapy before at her parents' insistence; she knew the drill. And she knew how to say all the right things to get the All Clear sign.
But her mind was such a jumble right now that she wasn't sure she could say those things effectively. She might let something slip about how the dreams weren't going away. Or how Danny was starting to make frequent appearances in those nightmares, replacing her friends as the victim. And she might just say something about how her father hadn't spoken more than "hello" "goodbye" and "pass the potatoes" to her in almost four years.
So, really, going to a psychiatrist right now wasn't a viable option. In fact, it would be downright dangerous.
Shaking her head, she finished one of the samples from Mac's case just as Stella and Danny came rushing through the door. "Arsenic?" Stella yelled.
Lindsay took an involuntary step back and gestured at the folder. "And jello," she offered tentatively.
Stella snatched up the folder as Danny stepped up behind her to read over her shoulder. When she finished reading, she closed it and smacked it up against Danny's chest. Automatically, he raised a hand to catch it.
Lindsay felt her eyebrows rise up her forehead as Stella stomped out of the room again, muttering in Italian. Or, actually, it might have been Greek, Lindsay wasn't really sure. Meeting Danny's eyes, she silently pointed after Stella's rapidly retreating form.
"Our vic died of strangulation. So, this just means he had someone else trying to kill him," he explained, lifting the folder.
"Popular guy," Lindsay said wryly, swallowing when Danny grinned at her. "You should probably catch her."
Laughing, Danny shook his head. "She's on the warpath. Nobody can catch her now."
When he was gone again, Lindsay looked down at the tie she'd been examining. The room seemed a little less claustrophobic, but she sighed bitterly and bent over the fabric. She had to get through that psych eval.
"Miss Monroe," the doctor said seriously, resting one hand against his cheek. "Tell me about the dreams."
She recognized the posture. It was designed to make him seem interested, yet, at the same time, intelligent. She was pretty sure it was based off of The Thinker.
"Nightmares," she corrected calmly. "They come back every once in awhile, but they usually don't stick around for long."
He waited a moment, pretending to make a note of that, then pressed forward. "And what happens in them?"
Shrugging, Lindsay casually crossed one leg over the other. "Sometimes I remember, sometimes I don't. Usually it's just a reenactment of the shooting."
Damn. "Sometimes they're less…clear."
"What do you mean?"
Stifling a sigh, Lindsay tried to appear as though she were actually considering the question. "Once, it was a dog instead of my friends," she offered, wrinkling her brow. "But that might have nothing to do with the PTSD."
The doctor nodded, jotting something down. "How do you feel now that the trial is over?"
"That now you can move on in your life?" the doctor asked, tipping his head to the side with an understanding expression.
"It didn't rule my life to begin with," Lindsay told him, her tone even, though she was careful not to make it cold. "I'm just glad I was able to help bring him to justice."
The doctor nodded again, and Lindsay could see an easiness in his eyes. Yeah, that positive eval was practically bronzed and already on Mac's desk.
"Hey," Stella greeted as Lindsay slipped into the booth next to her. "How'd it go?"
"Fine," Lindsay told her, shrugging her jacket down her shoulders. She had no desire to talk about her psychiatric experience. "What is that?" she asked, nodding at the drink Hawkes wordlessly slid in front of her.
"Lemondrop," he said with a grin.
"A lemondrop?" Lindsay laughed. "I'm more of a white wine girl, Hawkes."
"Or Fat Tire." Lindsay's eyes darted up to meet Danny's as he placed the beer next to the martini glass and sat down across from her.
Her smile felt a little shy as she glanced between the two men. "Thanks guys."
"Which is gonna be, Montana?" Danny asked, his smile taunting.
She raised an eyebrow. "Who said I couldn't have both?"
"Gotta pick one," Danny insisted. Lindsay watched in fascination as his eyes twinkled mischievously behind his glasses. As she stared, the mischief turned a little wicked, making her swallow convulsively.
To cover, she raised an eyebrow and regarded him with a superior expression. "Class or crass, whichever will I choose?"
"Since when are you too good for beer?"
Stella shook her head at their strange argument. "I need a refill."
Standing to let her out, Lindsay started to slide back in when she felt a hand on her arm. She looked up to find Flack standing next to her. "Mind if I slide in?" he asked, pointing at the seat.
"Sure," she said, glancing back at the blonde Flack had vacated in favor of the rapidly crowding booth. "Blondie not interesting enough for you?"
"One drink not enough for you?"
"Yeah, yeah," she muttered, eyes darting between the two glasses. Sighing, she picked up the lemondrop and took an experimental sip. Not too bad, but a little sweet.
"What's with the girly drink?" Flack asked, nursing his own beer, which—like Danny's—was still in the bottle. "I thought you were a beer girl."
"White wine, actually," Hawkes corrected him. Danny laughed as Lindsay glared at them all.
Bringing the martini glass to her mouth with a determined expression, Lindsay drained the sweet drink and flipped the glass upside down. "Thanks, Hawkes," she said calmly.
Hawkes was staring at her, and Flack laughed in disbelief. For some reason, Danny just smirked at her, like he really wasn't surprised.
Almost immediately, a cocktail waitress sauntered up to the table to smile down at Lindsay. "Did you need another drink?" she asked.
Lindsay felt her cheeks flushing as she realized that she'd made a bit of a spectacle of herself. "No thanks," she said with an overly bright smile.
"Just let me know if I can get you anything."
The words were obviously meant for Lindsay, but the waitress's eyes were locked on Danny as she spoke. When he merely smiled and took a sip of his beer, the waitress moved away again, hips swinging provocatively.
A sour taste filled Lindsay's mouth and she picked up her beer to try and drown it. Beautiful women had never bothered her before; she'd never been particularly jealous of large breasts, blonde hair or eyes that were a more interesting color than brown. Really, she'd just assumed that after growing up with the junior Miss Montana she'd never feel envious of beauty. Shelby had never put much stock in it, so neither had Lindsay.
But suddenly, after twenty eight years of indifference towards appearance, she found herself wishing to be more than 5'2" and an A cup with hair she kept short out of convenience. It was ridiculous. Danny had made his interest very clear, so she knew that she shouldn't feel so unappealing. But a part of her doubted he was driven by physical attraction when he asked her out. He was used to tall, leggy women with coy smiles.
Lindsay didn't know how to be coy.
Flack was relating a story from the precinct when she tuned back into the conversation and the guys were laughing. Unsure what the punchline had been, Lindsay suddenly felt exhausted. She smiled brightly when Flack glanced at her, but dropped her eyes back to her beer.
Taking a deep breath, she raised her head and began pulling on her coat. The guys looked at her as she stood. "I'm sorry, guys, I'm gonna head out."
"What? It's only nine thirty," Flack argued, glancing at his watch.
Lindsay sent him another glancing smile. "I'm pretty tired."
His face grew serious. "It was all that getting in touch with your feelings, right?"
It surprised her into laughing. "Yes, that was exactly it. I should stop doing that."
"That's what I'm saying," he agreed. When she pulled out her wallet, he raised a hand. "Whoa. What you think you're doing? Put that away."
"Sorry." Lindsay smiled, but her eyes were wide in mock horror. "I didn't mean to insult your masculine sensibilities."
"Don't worry about it. You get a free pass this time."
Shaking her head, she started to button her coat and her gaze darted over to Danny. He wasn't even looking at her, staring across the bar. Sighing, she looked around for Stella and found her near the end chatting with a guy. She also found Danny's point of interest. The buxom cocktail waitress was leaning over the bar to display her cleavage to its best advantage to a customer.
"Could you say goodnight to Stella for me? I don't want to interrupt." They nodded and she waved a bit at them. "Thanks for the drinks guys. Have a good night."
Pushing her way out of the crowded room, she saw Detective Angell pass her going in the direction of the booth. At the door, Lindsay glanced back and saw her sliding into her vacated seat and smiling directly at Danny. Who knew someone's teeth could be so white?
He might have had one too many. His head was only buzzing, but he'd long ago given up the Drink to Get Drunk philosophy. So he was a little surprised when the room tilted for an instant as he stood.
It righted itself immediately and didn't move again, but he knew a cab was calling his name somewhere. "All right," he said. "I'm out."
Hawkes had disappeared an hour or so after Lindsay, leaving Flack and Angell for company. Stella seemed to have disappeared with the goodlooking guy from the bar.
As he pushed his way through the crowd, he felt someone tap his shoulder. Glancing back, he found Angell following him. "Wanna share a cab?" she asked, pulling on her jacket.
"Sure." He really didn't, but what could he say? No?
Outside, they didn't say anything as Danny whistled for a cab. Sliding in first, she gave her address, leaving Danny to wonder how things were about to play out. He had a pretty good idea, considering she'd spent the last couple of hours flirting with him, but he was hoping he was wrong.
The ride to her place was spent making small talk, mostly about work. He tried to come up with more than one or two syllable answers, but it was difficult to make his brain cut through the awkwardness.
After what seemed like a millennium, they pulled up in front of her building and she paused while reaching for the door handle. "You want coffee?" she asked with a small smile and coy head tilt.
Shit. "Nah. I'm just gonna head home."
Her eyes caught his and he tried to look apologetic. He just wanted to get to his apartment and pass out for a few days. Pretend this whole conversation never happened. Maybe pretend he'd never kissed her in the first place.
"Monroe?" Angell asked quietly, eyes curious as they searched his face. His eyes jerked away involuntarily. "Really?"
She sounded so surprised he looked at her sharply. "What's that mean?"
"Nothing," Angell said with a shrug. "Just doesn't seem like your type is all."
"My type?" He scoffed, turning away in irritation.
"You in or out?" the cabbie snapped.
"Keep your pants on," Angell snapped back. "It's not like you stopped the meter."
The driver started to mutter obscenities under his breath, but the meter was indeed still running so he didn't argue. Danny shook his head at the absurdity of the whole situation. He was aware that he owed Angell this conversation, but did it have to take place in a cab?
"Look, Messer. I just want to see where that night was heading."
"It wasn't heading anywhere," Danny muttered, rubbing a hand over his face.
"Let me get this straight," she said, beginning to sound irritated herself. "You're not together, but you're not available for one night?"
Taking a deep breath, he lifted his head to meet her gaze. They stared at each other for a minute then Angell shrugged and opened her door.
"Suit yourself." She handed the driver a twenty then glanced at Danny. "For the record, you don't know what you're missing."
He tiredly gave the driver his address and dropped his head back against the seat. He was pretty sure he knew what he was missing, and it was definitely tempting. Angell was, without a doubt, beautiful. Even the way she walked said she was aware of the effect she had on men. Confidence like that generally indicated that a woman knew a million ways to make you scream.
So, he was pretty sure he could picture what he'd just turned down. And he knew that Lindsay had told him he could see other people; told him not to wait.
He was attracted to other women, always would be whether Lindsay eventually came around or…But the idea of following through made him feel cheap. Sure, he had watched the bar waitress a bit; she'd been on display. Would you ignore a Monet hanging in front of you? Sure, he flirted with Angell; he flirted with every woman.
And it had been a very long time since he'd had sex. Too long, for him. He hadn't gone this long since…since puberty, he suddenly realized. The thought was staggering, and made him feel more than a little uncomfortable.
But, even though other women caught his eye, Lindsay was the only one he wanted to touch. And not even in a sexual way—not always anyway. Sometimes, like earlier that day while she was reading the trace results for his case, he wanted to brush his fingers against her cheek just to make sure she was really there; make sure she actually existed.
That was definitely new.
The cab pulled up in front of his apartment, and he paid the guy extra for having to listen to the embarrassing conversation. Outside, he trudged up the steps and into the cold entryway of his building.
Lindsay had been back for nearly a month now, and—to his chagrin—they seemed to be back where they'd started before she'd left. He could tell she wasn't completely healed yet. A week earlier, she'd come into work with dark circles back under her eyes.
Really, it would be easy to convince himself that she would never be ready and that using another woman to make himself forget was a good idea. Somehow he doubted that would make the dull ache in his chest any better, though.
He didn't plan on giving up anytime soon. If one thing could be said about Danny Messer, it was that he was a stubborn son of a bitch, and he usually got what—and who—he wanted.
Frankly, he liked the way he felt when things were going well with Lindsay. It was new, the sweet almost giddy feeling he got when they accidentally brushed against each other in the lab. He liked it, and he wanted more of it.
So, while his body might be, he wasn't even tempted to give up on her.
A.N. The next chapter will be up in a day or so. I wasn't able to give this one as much editing as Can't Go Home Again, so I'm sorry if there are any glaring errors. Let me know if you find one and I'll fix it!