By Heather Hinam
Summary: Def: a brief interlude; Lindsay discovers that Danny isn't completely without culture.
Spoilers: Post-ep to A Daze of Wine and Roaches
Disclaimer: I hold no claim over anything related to CSI NY or the works of Verdi for that matter. This is just my way of having fun.
Authors notes: As much as I loved the finale (and I really did love the finale), I felt the writers really dropped the ball when it came to Danny and Lindsay. So here's my attempt to fill in at least one of the blanks.
A quick thanks to all of you who take the time to read and review all my work. It's wonderful to hear your thoughts.
Thanks as always to my dear friend Joy. Thanks for being the Toby to my Sam and for making editing so much fun.
All she wanted was a shower and a bed.
Shoulders slumped, Lindsay Monroe dragged her feet through the darkened corridors of the New York City Crime Lab. Her heavy-lidded eyes only registered enough of her surroundings to keep her from running into any walls. However, every now and then, the sensation of tiny phantom feet skittering up her back would send a disgusted shiver down her spine, momentarily rattling her out of her stupor.
Lindsay was starting to wonder if unbeknownst to her, she had some sort of strange bug karma. She and her partner, Danny Messer, had just wrapped up a case where a man had killed another over of all things, a cockroach. The hell of it was that it wasn't the first time she'd caught a bug-related case. If she wasn't wrangling dermestid beetles, Danny was goading her into partaking in some bizarre entomological feast.
Speaking of karma…
Cocky, and with way more attitude than anyone should really be allowed to have, Danny Messer was the last person Lindsay thought she would ever open up to when she'd first moved to New York from her native Montana nearly two years ago. Despite her past experience, it still amazed her now and then just how quickly things could change in a short span of time. Somehow, against her better judgment, she'd started allowing Danny to slip into the spaces in her life, filling the voids with laughter and a warmth she hadn't felt in a long while.
But when he'd got too close, old fears had resurfaced and the drive of self-preservation had kicked in. She'd pushed him away… hard. So hard that Lindsay had feared that she had damaged their fragile relationship irrevocably. For a while there, she was pretty sure she had.
Talking had never been one of their strong suits, at least not when it came to the important things. Sure, they'd mastered the art of banter within hours of their first meeting, but they never did much more than just scratch the surface. Then with just a few simple words 'Maybe we should just do our jobs' Lindsay had single-handedly killed any chance they'd had for an actual conversation. As the months of silence stretched between them, she would have given anything for a few seconds of the meaningless verbal dance that had characterized their relationship until that point.
Then the letter had come. The letter that sent her already messed-up life into a tail-spin. The letter that forced her to face the fear that had been dogging her all her adult life. The letter that informed her that she had to return to Montana to put her demons to rest and testify against the murderer who'd ripped her childhood from her grasp.
She'd needed Danny then. She'd needed his smile, his reassurances that she would ultimately survive. She just couldn't find a way past her fear. The silence between them had been left unchecked, growing in the dark for months into an impenetrable wall that Lindsay couldn't seem to find a way around. She didn't know how to face him, how to ask him to again give of himself when she couldn't bring herself do the same in return. In the end, her demons had won yet another battle and she'd left without saying goodbye, certain that whatever was left of the 'thing' they'd shared would not survive the 3500 miles she'd put between them.
Apparently she had completely underestimated the situation.
Lindsay was sure that everyone within fifty feet of the witness box could have heard the thrumming of her heartbeat when Danny had appeared in the doorway of the Bozeman courtroom as she was completing her testimony. For a moment, she had thought that she was losing her mind, a notion she'd quickly dismissed. If he'd only been figment of her imagination, she wouldn't have been able to feel him. And she did feel him standing there, bringing air back into a room she hadn't noticed was stale, offering her support that didn't deserve.
After all those months of silence, words hadn't come easily. Danny's time in Montana had been short and Lindsay's strength had been tapped. So instead of spending what little time they had together trying to breach the wall between them that had weakened, but not yet toppled completely, Lindsay had selfishly drawn from the silent strength he'd offered, giving back only inadequate words of thanks.
They were back to scratching the surface. One of these days they were going to have to have an actual conversation.
A week later, he'd met her at the airport with a steaming cup of coffee and a daisy he claimed Adam and Don had goaded him into bringing. They'd shared a smile and continued to skirt any meaningful conversation, talking instead about the unseasonably warm weather and some of the stranger cases Lindsay had missed while she had been away. That was until Danny had gently trapped her fingers with his own, stilling her progress towards the exit. He'd leaned in, his warm breath feathering through her hair as he whispered, "Welcome home." Lindsay had been taken aback and had only managed to answer an earnest thanks, but his two simple words had set up residence in her mind, refusing to be shaken free.
Now they were slowly getting their rhythm back, relearning the patterns that defined the complex dance they had once executed with ease. However, it was becoming clear to Lindsay that some of the steps had changed and that they were going to have to start trusting each other to take the lead now and then if they were ever going to do more than just move in circles.
Suddenly a yawn derailed her thoughts. Reaching up, Lindsay pinched the bridge of her nose to try and stave off the dull ache that was developing behind her eyes. She was way too tired to be thinking this hard.
Banishing all thoughts of Danny from her mind, or at the very least delaying them until she'd had a shower and a cup of coffee, Lindsay made a beeline for the locker room. She was stopped dead in her tracks by a sudden crescendo of music coming from the general direction of her office.
The flourish was short-lived and left Lindsay standing rooted in the corridor, straining her ears in an effort to determine if she'd just imagined the whole thing. Eventually more notes lit on her ears as the melody again began to swell and the orchestra was joined by a chorus of voices. Wondering idly how the Metropolitan Opera Company had ended up in her office, Lindsay took off in the direction of the music. Although she had no memory of ever turning it on, Lindsay assumed that she'd at some point simply forgotten to shut the radio off. Granted the office wasn't solely hers, but Lindsay couldn't imagine that Danny would have been listening to any station that would feature musical theatre of any kind.
Apparently she was going to have to re-evaluate some more basic truths in her life, because there was Danny relaxing on their shared couch, the soft strains of lilting Italian lyrics filling the room around him. As she leaned against the open door watching from the threshold, Lindsay couldn't help the small smile that tugged insistently at her lips. She was immediately struck by how peaceful he looked. Lindsay wasn't sure there'd ever been a time when she had seen Danny Messer at rest.
He had this uncanny ability to breathe life into any room he entered, filling it with a vibrancy that she rarely experienced with anyone else. It appeared that this commanding presence also transcended his waking hours. Even asleep, Danny was an extrovert, draped across the couch, apparently bent on occupying as much of the space as possible. He was slouched in the middle of the seat with his legs propped up on his office chair, which Lindsay guessed he had wheeled over just for that purpose. His arms were spread wide, resting along the back of the cushions like a scarecrow who had fallen off his post. His head lolled back against the seat, exposing the strong column of his neck. If she looked carefully, Lindsay could detect the gentle rise and fall of his chest as breathed.
It would be so easy to just curl up against his side and join him in his slumber. An almost overwhelming warmth suffused her body as Lindsay considered that very possibility. The problem was that she really wasn't sure if it was something they did. Their brief time in Montana had been punctuated with the occasional hug that had nearly graduated into something more. However, they'd had almost no physical contact since that brief moment in the airport. It was almost as if they were holding themselves back and Lindsay honestly had no idea what to do about it.
She shook her head almost violently in an effort to shake off her wandering thoughts. Needing a distraction, Lindsay quietly made her way deeper into the office, passing behind the couch on her way to the stereo perched on the filing cabinet in the corner. Reaching for the controls, she was surprised to discover that it wasn't the radio they were listening to. She didn't have time to completely assimilate her discovery before his voice stilled her hand as she was reaching to switch off the CD.
"I'm listnin' ta that."
Sleep had thickened his already heavy Staten Island accent and Lindsay fought to suppress the shiver that crept down her spine as she imagined what it would be like to wake up to that voice every morning. Glancing over, she noted that Danny's eyes were still closed, but she knew that he was very much aware who was standing behind him.
"Sorry," Lindsay stuttered as she slowly withdrew her hand from the stereo. "I thought you were sleeping."
"Nah," he answered, stretching languorously before opening his eyes a crack. "Just restin' my eyes… case wore me out." Tilting his head to one side, Danny regarded her critically. "You look like y'a could usa rest too." Nodding pointedly to the empty space beside him, he added, "Take a load off," before turning back to gaze out the window in front of him.
Lindsay hoped that the waning sunlight filtering through the half-closed blinds wasn't enough to highlight the flush that she was certain was colouring her cheeks. As she rounded the couch, Lindsay quickly discovered that she didn't need to worry. Danny hadn't moved from his original position, but his eyes had again slipped closed as he waited for her to fill the space beside him. Carefully, Lindsay lowered herself onto the cushions, feeling her body sink as the worn out stuffing gave under her weight. She had absolutely no idea just how close she was supposed to sit. Danny didn't let her wonder for long and in keeping with the unspoken nature of their relationship, answered her question by sliding his arm off the back of the sofa and onto her shoulders, drawing her in tightly to his side.
As his fingers found their way into her hair to slide gently through the strands, Lindsay found herself leaning into his touch, wondering absently how something so simple could feel so good. She allowed her to eyes slip closed and let the rising music fill the silence between them. She tried to be comfortable, to settle into Danny's loose embrace and just let the stresses of the past days, weeks and months slip away as his hand smoothed out the waves of her hair. She just couldn't seem to relax.
They needed to talk and Lindsay knew that the sooner one of them took the plunge, the better. She'd resigned herself to the fact that she was going to have to initiate any communication. Danny had taken the risk last time, all those months ago, only to have her brush him off. She owed it to him to be the one to make the first move this time. The problem was figuring out how to start.
The chorus' sudden sfortzando gave Lindsay her opening. Eyes still closed, she tipped her head up slightly and asked, "What are we listening to?"
She felt him shift slightly beneath her, as though rousing from sleep.
"Và Pensiero," he muttered in response. "It's from Verdi's Nabucco."
Lindsay couldn't help the smile that snuck across her face as she absorbed the soft cadence of his words. Danny's accent had always been a little rough around the edges, but the Italian syllables simply flowed from his tongue, washing over her in a fluid stream. She'd always assumed that his Italian was fluent, but she'd never had the opportunity to verify that assumption. The few words he'd uttered a moment ago seemed to suggest that she'd guessed correctly. She suddenly found herself devising ways to make him switch languages more often, a notion that caused her grin to widen… so much so, that Danny could feel the change.
He dropped his hand to her neck, squeezing ever so slightly.
Lindsay stilled beneath his touch. The penetrating warmth of his fingers on the delicate skin of her neck robbed her momentarily of rational thought. Suddenly needing to deflect his attention, she asked the one question that had been nagging at her for the last few minutes.
"Since when do you know so much about opera?" It echoed a similar question he'd asked her recently about her apparently extensive knowledge of wines.
Danny chuckled in response before tucking her in closer and dropping his lips to just above her ear.
"Just 'cause I'm not up for sommelier of the year, like you an' Flack, doesn't mean I'm completely without cultya."
An intense flush of heat suffused her body as his warm breath bathed the fragile curve of her ear. Fighting to maintain her composure, she answered with a short bark of laughter.
"Fair enough." Lindsay hoped that her voice didn't sound as strained to his ears as it did to her own.
They both lapsed back into silence and Lindsay cursed her hesitance, fearing she'd let the only chance she'd have tonight of starting an actual conversation slip through her fingers.
Then, he began to speak.
"It was my Nonna," he almost whispered, as though afraid of disturbing the cocoon of stillness and music that had enveloped them. "My grandma on my ma's side."
Lindsay sat as still as she could, measuring each breath as it passed through her nostrils. She willed him to continue, hoping she wouldn't spook him into retreating back over the line again after only a few tentative steps into this new territory. Chancing a glance upwards, Lindsay could only see a portion of his face. He was staring, unseeing into the dying sunlight that was streaming through the window. She could only hope that he was searching for a place to start.
"Non dimentichi mai le vostre origini."
Lindsay couldn't help but startle slightly as his words cut through the almost trance-like state she had lapsed into. Shifting in his loose embrace, she turned to study Danny more fully. He shifted towards her and met her eyes. His gaze was distant, as though staring right through her and into the past.
"Never forget your roots… your origins. It's what she used to say to me all the time."
Turning back to the window, Danny continued. "She came straight from Italy an' that link was important to her and she expressed a lot of that with music."
Lindsay listened intently, greedily soaking up all he had to share, eager to learn as much as she could about this man who had all but taken over her life.
"Her favourite was opera." Danny chuckled, remembering some lost conversation. "She used to call it love's melody."
She tried. She really did, but Lindsay just couldn't stifle the decidedly un-lady-like snort of laughter that escaped at his words.
It completely ruined the mood.
"Wha'?" Danny demanded, shifting so as to be able to see her properly. "Wha's so funny?"
He was obviously feeling defensive as a result of her laughter, but Lindsay just couldn't quite stem the chuckles that shook her body.
"I'm sorry, Danny," she answered. "But, I swear to God, if you're trying to play me…."
He continued to glare at her indignantly until his mind managed to catch up and replay his last words from what it must have sounded like from her point of view. Suddenly his gaze softened before he arched an eyebrow. "Yeah, Montana," he teased. "I always pick up women by telling 'em stories 'bout my grandma… works every time"
They both laughed then at the ridiculousness of their conversation before settling back into each other and letting Verdi's melody again wash over them. This time, Lindsay felt completely at ease as Danny's arm tightened around her, moulding her to his side. Breathing in his scent, she waited for him to continue the story.
"Nonna was from Milan. I've neva' been, but she used to tell me 'bout it all the time. Said it was full of cultya." Danny paused for a moment to collect his thoughts. "Still is I guess…. Anyway, Verdi was big there just before the turn o' the century… before Nonna was born. Everybody loved his operas, 'specially this song. See, it had a double meanin.' The song in the opera was sung by slaves longin' for their homeland and when this opera came out, the people in the north of Italy were actually part of Austria and wanted to be reunited with the rest o' Italy. So, they sung this song, I guess like a protest or somethin', and eventually it became some sort of national thing."
"Milan's where Verdi lived at the end of his life and the story goes that when he died, the people in the city started singin' this song at his funeral as a tribute or somethin'. Nonna grew up with it and she sang it a lot when I was a kid, when she said she was thinking about home."
Lindsay's head rose and fell as Danny sighed heavily beneath her. "I don't think she eva felt like she really fit in Staten Island. I think if it hadn't been for me an' Louie she might'ev gone back, y'know? But she never did. I hope she was happy, though."
He lapsed back into silence again, letting the music take over. His fingers found their way back into her hair, threading gently through her curls. As relaxed as she felt, Lindsay couldn't help but furrow her brows in confusion. She'd hoped when they'd settled in on the couch that they would finally have the opportunity to have a real conversation about whatever this 'thing' was between them, a conversation that wasn't hidden behind jokes and innuendo.
This wasn't exactly what she'd had in mind. While Danny was, in fact, being serious, and Lindsay certainly enjoyed learning about another small piece of his life, she just couldn't figure out why he had chosen to share that particular story with her. Sure, she'd asked where his knowledge of opera had come from, but he'd answered a lot more than her question… she just couldn't figure out exactly what he was saying.
His fingers continued to sift through her hair as his breaths gently rocked her body in the cradle of his arms. As the music grew for one last flourish, realization hit her smack in the face.
Opera… not exactly something most people would associate with Danny Messer. But she wasn't most people. By telling her about this unexpected side of his life, he had shown her that she was special to him, that he trusted her with this knowledge.
Still, there was something else. He was holding himself taught beneath her, like he was waiting. Like he was afraid of whatever it was she would say next. Suddenly, he seemed to grow impatient with her attempts to make the connection and put a voice to his fear.
"I'm sure you can relate, y'know? Longin' for your homeland an' all."
It wasn't exactly a question, but she'd heard the unspoken tag all the same. Suddenly it all made sense. He'd seen her in Bozeman, where she still had family, friends, a life he knew so very little about, and he was scared that she'd leave again, return to what was familiar. She couldn't exactly blame him. Even before the letter, it had been her past that had kept her from moving forward with him. Now, however, was another matter. Those tethers had been loosed and Lindsay found that the pull that had tugged at her heart when she'd first moved east had been overtaken by another force. Danny's hand had migrated back to her neck, not moving, just reminding her of his presence with its warm, solid weight.
His words in the airport settled within her heart, taking on a life of their own as a wave of peace washed over her body, spreading down from where his hand rested against her skin.
People had spoken those same words to her in Montana, when she'd returned for the trial, but it had never really sat right. Now, curled in the circle of Danny's embrace, Lindsay realized why. She hadn't really known where home was… until now.
Danny was still stiff beneath her and Lindsay snuggled as close as she could, reaching out to trap the fingers of his right hand in hers. He seemed to understand the gesture and relaxed markedly against her, squeezing her shoulder in response. Still, she needed to say the words.
"I am home, Danny."
Lindsay could sense his smile before she felt the fleeting brush of his lips over the top of her head.
Danny's fingers resumed their path through her hair. Lindsay smiled in return and leaned into his touch. The last rays of sunlight warmed their faces as Verdi's opus wound to a close. There was still much more that needed to be said. Their conversation had only just begun, but the urgent need to talk seemed to wane with the light. Danny's fingers travelled to her shoulder, pulling her in even tighter, tucking her head under his chin. They'd spoken the words that mattered and the rest could wait. Tightening her grip on his fingers, Lindsay let her eyes slip closed as the last strains of music faded into the gathering dusk.