TITLE: Sympathy
SUMMARY: He's no stranger to broken bones. He's no stranger to pain. But this sympathy thing is new to him.
SPOILERS: season 3
PAIRING: Danny/Lindsay
RATING: T – I really don't think it's strong enough to warrant an M, but there is some sexual content in this chapter, so be warned.
DISCLAIMER: They aren't mine. I don't own them. I don't own anything, really.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: A long-awaited 324 post-ep from me. Sorry it's not the smuff I'm sure a lot of you were hoping for, but don't worry. I've got one of those planned.

Also, I haven't written anything in months that wasn't related to Ghosts, so I may be a bit rusty.

Metacarpophalangeal joint – where the fingers meet the hand

Unbeta'd. All mistakes are my own.


Danny Messer is no stranger to pain. He's a cop – it comes with the territory. He's been smacked in the head by suspects jumping out of closets. He's gotten banged up tackling people to the ground. He scraped the hell out of his forearms dragging that Al kid off his motorcycle. Pain is part of the job. He knows this.

And he's broken bones before. He's broken lots of them. The childhood he had, the neighborhood he grew up in, his big, loud, New York City mouth… Yeah. He's broken quite a few bones in his time. Broken bones were a rite of passage, a badge of honor. If he had gone this long without breaking a bone, he would have been worried.

His nose has been broken twice – once when he face planted trying to do a trick on Louie's skateboard and once when he got in a fight with Stuart Lieberman. He doesn't remember what the fight was about. All he remembers is that it ended with Stuart punching him in the face. It was probably about a girl. Usually was.

He broke his leg in high school, trying to sneak out of Maria Cuccione's bedroom window. He misjudged the distance from the sill to the tree and ended up sprawled on his back on the Cuccione's front lawn. Luckily, the Virgin Mary statue broke his fall. Unfortunately, it also broke his tibia. He was extremely happy that Mr. Cuccione didn't break anything else.

And of course, there was the bar fight that ended his baseball career. He doesn't remember much of that fight either – just that he was extremely drunk and that his opponent was a lot bigger, and not at all happy that Danny was trying to hustle him at pool. He knows he's lucky that he escaped from that with only a broken wrist.

He also knows he's lucky that he escaped from his ordeal with the IRA with only a couple of broken fingers.

Still, he just broke a few fingers. He doesn't understand why everyone is treating him like he's about to break down and cry. He's used to pain. He's not used to this sympathy. It's unnerving. It freaks him out. He doesn't want it. He wants people to treat him like they always have. This walking on eggshells around him – it's not making him feel better. It's pissing him off.

Adam has taken a week off – Danny's heard whispers that Adam plans on heading to California to do some surfing. He's more surprised that Adam can surf – he is, after all, from Phoenix – than the fact that he's taking time off. Danny expected stuff like this to happen to him when he joined the NYPD. He knows that it's a constant struggle, that his life will be in danger on a daily basis. But Adam probably never thought that he would be taken hostage, spending most of his days in the lab. Danny also suspects that Adam's trauma was more emotional than physical. Cigarette burns aren't a picnic, but they're survivable.

Mac, before leaving for London with Peyton, tells Danny that he can take some time off, too – if he needs to. Danny declines. He's fine. He knows he won't be able to handle sitting at home doing nothing. He's never been able to sit still. He hasn't taken a day off in three years – he doesn't plan on starting now. Mac seems surprised by Danny's response, but he doesn't push.

Stella greets Danny with a hug as soon as he steps off the elevator. She asks how he's doing. He tells her he's doing fine, and she doesn't believe him. She says, "How are you really doing?"

He raises his eyebrows. He doesn't know how he can say this so that people will believe him. "Fine."

It's the truth. The doctors have repeatedly told him how lucky he is that his fingers broke so cleanly. They tell him what a smart idea it was that he thought to set his fingers using his badge, and that he did it so quickly. Danny knows that doing that probably saved his fingers. They're swollen and still slightly purple, but they don't hurt as much any more. It's more of a dull ache, and they only throb if he puts too much weight on them. He doesn't even need a cast – just a splint.

Stella gives him the sympathetic head tilt as she tells him that he'll be in the lab for a while. Danny protests, loudly. He doesn't want to be in the lab. He doesn't want any special treatment. Stella seems taken aback by his reaction, especially when he growls, "I just want to do my job."

He doesn't mean to snap at her, but he's getting sick of it. He's getting sick of the way people speak in to him in hushed tones. His fingers are broken. His ears are fine. He grits his teeth and takes a deep, calming breath and apologizes. Stella takes it all in stride. She smiles at him and says that he's just under a lot of stress and not to worry about it.

He wants to scream. He got snippy with his boss, and she didn't even reprimand him. She does, however, make him do lab work all day. Which, when he thinks about it, is even worse than her yelling at him.

Hawkes's idea of being sympathetic is to offer to look at his fingers periodically. When he comes into the lab to drop off some evidence from the case he is working on, he explains that the fractures were clean enough to not cause permanent damage to Danny's hand. He even volunteers to show him the proper way to brace his fingers, rendering them completely immobile. As it is right now, Danny can bend his fingers at the metacarpophalangeal joint, which gives him the illusion that his hand is fully functional. What Hawkes is suggesting is that he makes those fingers completely rigid.

Danny doesn't want to do this. It'll only remind him of what happened, and that his fingers are broken. As trivial as he finds the injury, he'd like to get on with forgetting the whole thing. He can't do this if he can't move his fingers. So he tells Hawkes thanks but no thanks, and kicks him out of the lab.

Flack, of course, gives him no sympathy. A couple of nights after the whole thing, they meet for beers. After his second beer, Danny discovers that – broken fingers or not – he can still play pool fairly well. Flack sets up the table; Danny breaks.

"I just want people to let it alone," he tells Flack as he watches the balls go everywhere – his worst break in quite a while. He won't blame it on his fingers – it's his mental state that's making him suck. "I don't need any damn pity."

"Well, you won't get it from me," Flack says. His voice is half-serious, half-joking. "So you broke a couple of fingers. Big deal. I had my stomach blown open last year. Stop being a whining little pussy and take your damn shot, Messer."

Danny laughs and takes his shot.

The worst of it comes from Lindsay. She's decided that he can't take care of himself. She's been staying in his apartment ever since it happened, which he actually kind of likes – he likes that she's there when he wakes up in the morning, and he likes that the gentle sound of her breathing lulls him to sleep at night. But he hates the way she's constantly getting things for him – things that he's perfectly capable of getting for himself, even with only one functioning hand. She pours him his morning coffee; she serves him his dinner. She brushes off his repeated statements of "I'm fine", insisting that he's just being a typical guy. He's not being a guy. He just broke a couple of fingers. His hand will be back to normal in a few months.

What is the big fucking deal?

They haven't had sex since that night on the pool table, and it isn't for lack of trying. Every night Danny tries to initiate something, and every night Lindsay indulges his kisses but doesn't let it go further than that.

This is partly his fault, because he's an idiot. The first night – the night it happened – he kisses her frantically, desperate to feel alive after the day he had. She responds just as urgently, probably because she needs to know that he's alive. He rolls her underneath him and puts too much weight on his injured hand. He winces, and she sees it.

"Maybe we shouldn't," she says, as she tries to slide out from beneath him.

"It's fine," he says, resting his weight entirely on his right arm, which makes it shake. He needs to kiss her, touch her, feel her, or he'll explode.

Lindsay shakes her head. "You're going to hurt yourself like that."

He grins. "Not if you're on top."

But she extricates herself from underneath him and curls up on her side. He has to go take an extremely cold shower.

Danny is slowly going crazy. After everything they've been through over the past two years, she's letting a silly little thing like broken fingers get in the way of them doing what Danny's been dreaming about since the night she showed up in that dress in the subway – probably even longer than that. It's taken them so long to get where they are, and he just hates the thought of waiting any longer.

He doesn't want sympathy. He doesn't want to be pitied. He doesn't even really want the sex… Okay, he's not going to lie. He wants the sex. But it's more than that. He just wants Lindsay. She's all he's ever wanted. And this person who's suddenly inhabited her body, who's doting on him and waiting on him… It isn't Lindsay. His Lindsay wouldn't do that. His Lindsay would be more like Flack – calling him a wimp and challenging him to prove just what he can do with his one fully functioning hand.

So after five days of the 'royal treatment' – during which he feels more like a child than a king – he decides to take his life back. She has good intentions; he knows she feels guilty about what happened, which is so goddamn ridiculous he can't even wrap his mind around it. But he's tired of it – of all of it. For crying out loud… He's Danny Messer. It takes more than a couple of broken bones to get him to crack.

However, one more night without touching Lindsay – having her so close he can smell her shampoo but being unable to do anything about it – ought to do it quite nicely.

She has a later shift than he does, and he's back at his apartment a good two hours before her. He cooks dinner – nothing too involved or complicated, as he's only got one hand, but he manages to fare quite nicely with the spaghetti. He pulls a bottle of wine out of the freezer and sets it on the counter to thaw. He even manages to brew himself a nice pot of tea.

"Look at that," he murmurs to himself. He blows on the steaming liquid to cool it. "Look at what the one-handed boy can do all by himself." There's just a hint of bitterness in his voice. Thankfully no one is around to hear it.

Lindsay comes home just as he's pulling the garlic bread out of the oven. He's doing just fine until Lindsay gasps, "Danny!" Then he drops the pan on his bare foot.

It burns. He's not going to lie. It hurts like a bitch. He rests his palm on the counter and bends forward to retrieve the pieces of bread that are now lying all over the kitchen floor. "Hey, Montana," he says, as nonchalantly as possible, as he deposits the bread in the basket on the counter. "How was your day?"

She drops her purse on the pool table. His breath catches in his throat. He'll never look at that pool table the same – and he really should get it refelted. "You didn't have to do this," she says. "I would have cooked dinner."

He shrugs. The annoyance is bubbling to the surface, but he chokes it down. "Thought I'd give you a break. You've been cooking all week. Besides, I was home first. Figured it was only fair."

"But, Danny, you could have hurt yourself."

He grits his teeth and tries not to snap at her. She's just doing what she thinks is best for me, he reminds himself. So he swallows the biting remark he wants to say and goes with, "But I didn't. Ya hungry?" She moves into the kitchen but he blocks her, holding the pot in front of him. "I got it."

She blinks at him and purses her lips, and she clearly doesn't think he should be doing this, but she doesn't argue with him. She sits down at the counter. He effortlessly dishes out heaping platefuls of spaghetti, then dumps a couple of spoonfuls of salad into each of their bowls. "Smells delicious," she says, smiling.

"Yeah," he grins, plopping down on the stool beside her. "Well, I'd better know how to make pasta."

They begin to talk about their days. Lindsay tells him about the case she's been assigned to, and how bizarre it is. She goes into all the details, and Danny wishes he were on it with her. He imagines they could have a lot of fun on a case like that – despite the circumstances. Pretty soon they're joking and laughing and Danny can almost forget about everything until she asks him about his day and he remembers he spent the whole day in the lab.

He sighs and rests his elbows on the counter. "I'm suffocating in the lab, Linds," he tells her. "I don't need the time off. I can do just fine in the field. I want to do my job."

She puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Stella's just looking at for you," she says, just a hint of mirth in her eyes, and he recognizes his own words from more than a year ago. "She's only trying to do what's best for you."

Danny stares at his fingers – the swelling has gone down even more, and they've lost their garish purple color. He says, "I think I know what's best for me. I just wish people would stop making such a big deal about my damn fingers. They're only broken bones. Broken bones heal."

Lindsay gently takes his injured hand in hers and smiles sweetly at him. "It's not your fingers that I'm worried about, Danny. It's you."

He raises his eyebrows at her, and she giggles. Then she catches herself, and her face sobers. "I know that it's going to take more than a couple of broken fingers to break your spirit," she murmurs. "It's just that… You suffered through a horrible experience. I don't want to push you. I'll understand if you don't want to – "

"Don't want to what?" he interrupts. "Be with you? Fuck, Linds, being with you is the only thing I do want. It's all I've wanted for a long time. If you really want what's best for me, you'd shut up and let me kiss you."

But she doesn't let him kiss her. In fact, she slides off the stool and starts walking away from him. "Danny, don't."

The annoyance creeps back into his voice. He can't help it. This whole situation is driving him completely nuts. "Don't what?"

"Don't act like you weren't affected by what happened," she says. She wanders towards the bedroom, partially disrobing. His eyes widen as she removes her jacket and tosses it on the chair. She kicks off her shoes and lets her hair down from the hasty ponytail she pulled it into earlier. Unfortunately, that's all that she does. "You were held hostage, Danny. You were attacked. I understand if you feel – "

He has a feeling that he knows where this is going, and he wants to stop it before it gets there. "I'm glad it happened."

Lindsay's jaw drops. "You can't be serious."

"I'm totally serious." He puts on his 'serious face' and slides off the stool to move closer to her. "I'm glad it happened to me. Because it could have been you. And if it had been you in that building, Linds, things would have turned out a lot differently."

She starts to say something, and he can tell by the look in her eyes that she's feeling guilty again, and he can't have that. "I don't blame you. I wish you wouldn't either. You told me to wake you up, and I didn't. But I want you to know that I would do it again in a heartbeat, even knowing what would happen."

Tears start streaming down her face, and he goes to her, using his thumbs to wipe them away. "You can't mean that," she whispers.

"I can and I do," he says, placing a kiss on her forehead. "If it had been you in that building, I sure as hell wouldn't have been able to stand outside and wait for negotiations. I would have charged in there, guns blazing, and probably gotten myself killed. Maybe even gotten you killed. So I'm glad it was me in there. Because every time I mouthed off and they hit me or kicked me or smashed my fingers, I could feel relieved that it wasn't you."

She's still crying, and he can't keep up with the tears. So he keeps talking. "I know you just wanted to make things easier for me. But if you really want to help me, you'd stop trying to help me."

She rolls her eyes, but she's smiling. "Fine," she says. "If you want to be a stubborn jackass, that's your prerogative."

He does want to be a stubborn jackass, thank you very much. And he proves this by dipping his head and capturing her lips. It's soft and sweet and so erotic Danny's knees almost give out, but when Lindsay tries to pull away, he puts his good hand on the back of her head and holds her in place. He forces her lips open with his tongue, not caring at all for propriety, because it's been five days since he's been inside her, and if he doesn't get her naked in the next thirty seconds, he's going to go crazy.

He continues attacking her mouth with his own, nipping at her bottom lip and grinning when she whimpers and pulls his head back to hers. He slides his injured hand down to cup her ass and grimaces as he puts too much pressure on his broken fingers. He tries to cover the grimace by trailing kisses along her jaw to her throat, but unfortunately, she sees.

"Danny, we don't have to – "

He cuts her off with another kiss, moves his good hand to the button on her pants, and pops it with a practiced flick of the wrist. Anchoring her with a light touch of his injured hand on the small of her back, he yanks at her shirt, managing to pull it off her body – though he rips the collar in the process. He deftly unsnaps the front clasp of her bra and tosses the offending garment to the floor, then draws her closer to him.

"Oh, yes," he growls, dropping his lips to her throat and relishing the moan that escapes her. "We fucking do."

She slips her hand underneath his shirt and gently rakes her fingernails down his chest, and as they stumble to the bed, Danny thinks that he can get used to this kind of sympathy.