"Do you want me to drive?" Danny asked softly, eyes careful as they watched the other man. It was hard not to notice the strain he was under or the way he held himself so tightly in check, panic threatening to escape otherwise. Danny wouldn't have been able to notice it had he not known where to look.
But Martin's answering gaze was cold and he shook his head quickly, barely acknowledging Danny's offer. He said nothing as they slid into the quiet car, and Danny knew not to push. Knew that any attempt at comfort – even disguised – would not be received well, if at all. Martin would pull even further away from him, would leave himself empty and closed off, retreating to a dark place that Danny had only been able to pull him out of when…
Danny shook his head and looked away, not letting his thoughts continue. He stared out of the window, watching the darkened, nighttime landscape roll by and forced himself to stay silent.
The case had been ugly from the start. A pregnant woman and her eight-year-old son, both missing from their house an hour south of New York City, reported a few hours after her disappearance by the mother's best friend. She'd come to their house after work for a visit and had found an open door, shattered glass, broken furniture and blood. The story had unraveled slowly, leading them down several wrong avenues of thought before finally discovering the truth. The missing woman, Keri, had found out a few weeks earlier that her husband, the father of her children, was having an affair with the same best friend who had ended up reporting her as missing. Rather than confront them, she had instead kept the knowledge to herself and had retreated inward. Consequently she had easily fallen prey to Michael Carrington – convicted rapist and murderer, out of jail only because his high-priced lawyer had exploited an easily-made mistake by one of the arresting officers.
The trail had eventually led them to an abandoned warehouse in the middle of a small, industrial town in New Jersey. She was dead. And from what they had been able to tell, she hadn't died peacefully. The unborn baby inside of her was dead, cut from her body and thrown aside – whether before or after her own death they wouldn't know without an autopsy. The eight-year-old boy – Jason – was alive. He'd been beaten, had a broken leg and some bruised ribs. But what was worse, and what would inevitably haunt the child long after his physical ailments healed was what he had been forced to witness. When they found him, he'd been tied to a chair, facing his mother's dead body, and the general belief was that he had been forced to watch as she had been tortured and killed.
On top of that, their murderer was still there. They'd chased him through the old building, cornering him, and finally Jack had been the one to shoot and kill him, but not before he'd shot one of the other agents in the leg and had just barely missed shooting Danny.
And now…well now they were on their way back to New York. Separate from everyone else because Martin had volunteered to let the husband and so-called best friend know. Jack had insisted he take Danny with him despite Martin's silent protests; something for which Danny still wasn't sure he was grateful for or angry about. Having accomplished what had been extremely difficult – telling what they could to the husband and best friend, and letting them know what hospital the boy was being taken to – they were now driving silently back towards the city.
But from the moment they'd found Keri Williams and her son, Danny had watched Martin closely. While struggling with his own feelings of disgust and terror, he'd watched pain flicker – potent and terrible – in Martin's eyes. Had watched as the other man had shut himself off from all of it, staying cold and quiet, running on automatic as they had chased down the killer and had wrapped up the case. Danny was still waiting for him to break.
Partway back to the city, Martin stopped for gas and while he was pumping it, Danny went into the small store to pay and get them each a cup of coffee. He'd come back to find Martin standing silently next to the car, keys in hand, staring out at the highway. Danny called his name softly and received no response, inciting a flicker of painful worry in his stomach. He stepped closer, until he was in front of the other man, blocking his view and gently offering him the cup of coffee.
"Martin? Are you all right?" he asked, watching as Martin's eyes fluttered, changing from a cold and hopeless sort of despair to something worse. Blankness.
He looked up, slightly startled, and nodded. "Fine," he snapped. When he saw the coffee in Danny's hand he took it from him, sipped it and thanked Danny quietly before getting back into the car.
Danny sighed and took another sip of the heated liquid, wishing – for just a moment – that it were something stronger. It would be so easy right now to stop somewhere else, a bar open late. So easy to order something strong…to just drink and drink until the days events melted into oblivion. Until the past several months just disappeared.
"Danny! Let's go," Martin called impatiently as he started the car.
Shaking his head, Danny pushed away his thoughts and got into the car. A quick glance at Martin told him that he was no more ready to talk or share anything, and Danny felt a horrible sense of sadness settle over him. Because they could have worked through this together…had Danny not so effectively ruined everything.
Lost as he was in the thoughts he couldn't avoid, he barely noticed Martin pulling off the road again and stopping the car. Confused, he turned his head, felt his heart nearly break at what he saw. Martin was shaking, his lower lip quivering, and even though he was still looking straight ahead, Danny could see the tears shining in his eyes. Quietly, Danny reached over and placed his hand on top of Martin's, effectively shutting off the car because Martin's hand was trembling so badly he couldn't seem to manage.
"Fitzie…" he murmured, not letting go of his hand, squeezing it instead and shifting closer despite their being in separate seats. Martin shook his head, looking away from Danny as a sob escaped his lips. Danny reacted quickly, pulling Martin as close as he could with their being in the front two seats of the car.
"No Danny…please don't…" Martin begged, struggling against Danny's embrace, his voice high-pitched and filled with his sobs. He gave up quickly though when Danny didn't let go, collapsing against the other man and burying his face against his shoulder.
"It's okay Martin," Danny murmured, his heart aching at the sound of the other man's cries. He ran his hand through Martin's hair, gently caressing the back of his neck, his other arm tight around his back. Absently and without thinking, he turned his head, pressing his lips to Martin's temple and murmuring words of comfort, a mix of English and Spanish.
Martin shook his head, burrowing further into Danny's embrace, clinging to him as he cried against his neck. "It's…not. Not okay Danny…" he sobbed. "I can't…I can't do this…"
Danny squeezed his eyes shut and pressed Martin closer, wishing for all the world that he could take away his pain. There were cases that got to each of them more than others, but Martin always took his hardest. This one had broken him, more than Danny had realized. When they'd first found the mother and her son, Martin's eyes had gone cold and afraid just before he'd shut it all out. But Danny had watched his fingers tremble as he'd untied and pulled the child away from the scene, and had they not still been chasing down their suspect, Danny would have gone with him, tried to talk to him…something he knew would have met plenty of resistance.
Danny wanted to kiss him. He wished they were somewhere other than the front seat of a government-issue sedan, somewhere where they could be completely alone and shut away from the rest of the world. Together. He wanted to be able to hold Martin more fully against him, to surround him with touch and strength and safety. He wanted to make love to him and help him forget.
But Martin was so closed off from him. Even now when Danny had him - for the first time in months - in his arms, he was still so far away. There was a rift between them that was entirely Danny's fault, and while he wanted nothing more than to mend it and their broken relationship, he still couldn't be sure that he had made the right decision.
Danny wasn't entirely sure what it had been that had caused him to panic and break things off. For three months they had been together. Never mind the year of flirting and quietly building sexual tension before that...they had finally confessed their attraction, their growing feelings for one another and somewhat mutually came to the decision that they should start seeing each other as more than just friends and colleagues.
"Martin…" he murmured, pulling back slightly as he ran his fingers through the other man's hair.
Their eyes met and Danny swallowed hard, hating the bright look of pain he saw in Martin's gaze. For a few seconds, Danny saw everything…Martin's vulnerable heartache, his disbelief and horror over what had happened with the case. More than that, Danny could see just how alone he was, and he wanted so badly to protect him and take his pain away.
But Martin's eyes darkened, closed off and he pulled back abruptly, out of Danny's arms, away from him. Danny reached for him, wanting to pull him back, and keep him safe, but Martin shook his head, his eyes flashing angrily. He held up his hand before Danny could touch him. "Don't," he said quietly. Danny swallowed hard, keenly aware of the lump in his throat, hurt by the look of finality and mistrust he saw in Martin's eyes. Martin's anger seemed to fade as quickly as it had come and he shook his head again, his face crumpling in anguish.
"Fitzie please…" Danny begged, moving closer, reaching out and gently squeezing his shoulder.
"No!" Martin yelled, voice breaking. He turned away, hands shaking as he fumbled with the door handle and stumbled out of the car.
Danny followed him quickly, but kept his distance, watching with a heavy heart as Martin took a few steps away from the car, wrapping his arms around himself as his shoulders shook. Danny wanted nothing more than to go to him, to put his arms around Martin and hold him tightly, but he didn't. He knew how it would be received; Martin would push him away, and things between them would worsen…if that were possible. He wasn't sure what to do because he couldn't do what he wanted, but he knew he had to do something. Martin was hurting, breaking and Danny couldn't just stand by and watch.
"Martin," he called tentatively. He took a few steps closer slowly, watching as Martin flinched and hugged himself tighter. "I know you're upset about the case. Believe me I know, it was…horrible. And I just…you don't have to keep it all inside. If you want to talk…" he trailed off, hating how clichéd and insensitive he sounded. It was ridiculous. Because if they had still been a couple, Danny was confident that he would know exactly what to do. He'd hold Martin close and kiss him, love him, remind him how there were still good things and good people in the world. He'd know exactly what to say because Martin wouldn't be able to hide.
After a few moments, Martin turned around, his eyes slightly tearstained, but what Danny saw mostly was the bitterness. It made his heart ache. He glared at Danny for a few moments, and just as Danny was sure Martin was going to say something, his expression changed. He looked away and shrugged, his face hopeless, blank, closed off and empty again.
"Danny…would you just…just take me home?" he asked softly.
Before Danny could say a word, Martin walked back to the car and got in on the passenger side. And Danny wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry; he felt frustrated and sad, angry with himself for what he'd let happen, angry with Martin for not giving an inch. He was half tempted to haul Martin out of the car and force him to talk, but that could only end one of two ways. They'd argue until one - or both - of them ended up throwing a punch; or they'd end up having angry, desperate sex in the backseat of the car. And while the second option was tempting, Danny knew just how dire the ramifications of that would be.
Resigned, he sighed sadly and got into the car. He glanced at Martin once, unsurprised to see him calm and blank once again. But he didn't say a word as he started the car and pulled back out onto the highway towards New York, wondering as he had so many times before over the mistake he'd made.
"Night Danny," Martin said briskly. A quick dismissal and end to the evening as he got out of his car and walked quickly up the stairs to his apartment building. Danny hadn't even gotten a chance to ask - again - if he wanted to talk, couldn't even call after him because Martin was inside now and Danny was left, aching and worried in the car at the curb.
He'd broken things off because he had been scared. In such a short time, he'd fallen so deeply, so completely for Martin, and he'd never before felt so much for someone so quickly. Even more frightening though had been the fact that Martin returned his feelings. Easily. Intently. It was wholly terrifying on Danny's part. Everything with Martin was so easy, so damn near perfection. Not to say that they didn't argue, didn't get on each other's nerves still; and they both knew how difficult their relationship was to maintain, everything they had to sacrifice and do to be together...yet, despite all of that, it was so simple. So simple and so damn amazing. And because of that it scared Danny. He'd never known simple. Had never known real, true, unselfish happiness like Martin gave him. Quite simply, he'd panicked.
He'd pushed Martin away not because they were having problems, but because really, when it came to the things that really mattered...everything worked. It didn't make sense, and even now when he thought about his reasoning, he was baffled. More than anything though he regretted how much he'd hurt Martin. He loved Martin and yet he'd broken up with him and had given him nothing more than a clichéd reason that they'd be better off apart.
Danny thought about him now…alone and hurting. And Martin did such a good job at hiding things, at burying them inside and not letting anyone help. The thing was, when they had been a couple, Danny had known all sorts of ways around and through his walls. He supposed he still did now, but Martin was much better at keeping himself closed off. Danny had hurt him, and thus Martin wasn't quite so trusting or ready to let his true feelings show anymore.
But Danny had to do something. He needed to fix things…somehow. Martin was feeling vulnerable and lost, this Danny knew without having to be told. And the case had brought it to the forefront, yes, but the case wasn't the main problem. Oh, it was painful enough; cases such as that always got to each of them in one way or another. But it was a mask of sorts for another sort of heartache that Martin had been living with for a while now. That Danny had put there.
A part of him felt extremely egocentric for thinking this way. That he was so damn important and special that Martin couldn't possibly be happy without him. But more realistically, and sadly, he knew it was true. Because he felt the same way. He'd hurt Martin by breaking up with him, but at the same time he'd hurt himself. Badly.
He hadn't consciously made the decision to turn the car around, but suddenly he found himself parked a block from Martin's apartment building, and he knew he couldn't go back to his own place tonight. Martin might throw him out, but Danny had to try.
As he walked, Danny thought about the last time they'd had such a bad case, remembering Martin's struggle – and his own – to deal with it and how they'd comforted each other. It had been surprisingly easy. Martin had opened up to him, confessing how difficult a time he was having handling the case and the horrible side of human nature that they were constantly exposed to. And Danny could remember being so surprised because before they had been a couple, Martin was near impossible to get through to. There were times when it would have been far easier to talk to a wall. But that time…they had curled up together on Danny's couch, reveling in each other's closeness, talking quietly and kissing. Simple. But it had made things so much better. Martin hadn't kept his pain inside – something he did far too often – and Danny hadn't been tempted to drink…anymore than usual.
There was more to it this time though, he knew. Martin had been empty and cold for weeks now…ever since Danny had ended their relationship. And to pile today's case on top of that was just too much. It was in Martin's every step, every blank look that Danny had managed to see, evidenced by the way he'd broken down in the car, allowing Danny to comfort him briefly before remembering that he couldn't.
A middle-aged woman held the door to the apartment building open, flashing him a smile, which Danny barely managed to return, so lost in his thoughts about Martin. Slowly, he climbed the stairs to the second floor, wondering what he could do – besides forcing himself inside – to get Martin to let him in to his apartment. The other man had made it painfully clear that he wanted no part in Danny's comfort.
"Martin?" he called, knocking on the door, praying that the other man would let him in. Danny was worried about him. "It's me…please let me in," he added, straining to hear any sounds coming from the apartment.
He was stunned when Martin opened the door after only a few moments. More shocking though was the sadly hopeful expression and the way Martin invited him in without a word. And then only seconds passed before Danny found himself engulfed in Martin's arms, felt the quickening of his breath, the chill to his skin.
"You came back," Martin murmured, his voice a mix of gratefulness and surprise. But there was a lingering desperation in his voice, his body, in the frantic way he was holding Danny so tightly. And the entire scene was in such opposition to Martin's attitude earlier that it made Danny worry more.
Frowning, he pulled back slightly and looked into distressed blue eyes, his heart aching at the pain he felt radiating off of Martin in waves. "What's wrong Fitz?" he asked softly, fingers tracing gently over the side of Martin's face. He already knew the answer, yet he had to ask, needed to get Martin to open up and let his feelings out before they poisoned him further.
But Martin frowned and shook his head, pulling away before Danny could stop him. Helpless, Danny followed him to the living room, keeping his distance when Martin stopped in front of the window, quietly looking out at the city. "It hurts Danny," Martin said softly. "Everything," he added before Danny could manage to ask. "God knows what that boy had to watch happen to his mother…" he trailed off, shaking his head. "I just…I'm not sure I know how to keep doing this." His voice was softer now, trembling and Danny knew just how close he was to breaking. Shattering.
Cautiously, Danny moved closer, reaching out carefully to pull Martin back against him, something the other man tried to resist for just a few seconds before he slumped, defeated, against Danny's chest. Danny had heard these words before from Martin, and he knew that while they had a very real truth to them, that in the long run, Martin wouldn't walk away that easily. He was stronger than he realized, but everyone had their breaking points.
Danny held him tighter, pressing his lips to the top of Martin's head and when Martin tentatively laid his hands over Danny's own, Danny threaded their fingers together. They stayed that way for a while, silent and close, Martin sighing as Danny gently ran his thumb back and forth across Martin's hand.
"I can't stop thinking about it," Martin whispered. He turned slowly in Danny's arms, eyes shining with tears as he looked up at him. His arms slipped around Danny's waist and Danny gladly pulled him closer, one hand cupping Martin's cheek, his heart breaking with how distressed and hopeless Martin looked.
"If I could take the memory away I would Fitz," Danny said earnestly.
Martin smiled sadly and leaned forward, burying his face against Danny's neck as his tears started falling silently. Danny held him tighter, murmuring his name and pulling him gently towards the couch. They sat down and Martin curled into him, the two of them settling comfortably against each other.
Danny wasn't sure how much time passed, just knew he didn't want to leave. Ever. A thought that was much less surprising than he would've thought it to be. And much less frightening. As Martin's tears subsided he pulled back slightly, looking up at Danny curiously and reaching out to gently touch his face. Their eyes locked, showing so much emotion and all of the things that still needed said. But as Martin leaned closer to kiss him none of it mattered.
He pulled Martin closer as their lips met, sighing softly against his mouth as he slid his fingers into his hair. Danny shivered, deepening the kiss, nearly melting as he realized just how much he had missed this. Martin whimpered as their tongues touched, fingers pressing harder against Danny's back, their legs tangling as they struggled to get closer. They made out for a while, kisses alternating between deep and passionate, to light and comforting…but it was easy to get lost in each other, and when they finally broke apart they were breathless and tangled together.
"I want you to stay," Martin whispered, eyes bright, cheeks flushed, lips still swollen from their kisses.
Danny nodded and kissed him softly again. "I'll stay."
Martin shook his head, looking frustrated now. "Danny, I…I don't want you to leave again," he pleaded. "I…need you," he whispered, eyes flitting from Danny's face to the floor. He was nervous, afraid and Danny's heart throbbed painfully because it was his fault.
"I'm sorry Martin," he whispered, cupping the other man's face in his hands and looking into his eyes. "So sorry…for leaving you, for hurting you. I just…I got scared because I've never felt that way before. But then when I left it…it hurt and I hurt you and…all I wanted was to come back. I need you too Fitz," he finished softly, gentle desperation leaking out in his voice.
There was wariness in Martin's eyes as he leaned closer, and his smile was tentative, cautious…but Danny felt nothing but warmth and hope as they kissed again. He felt Martin push closer and Danny returned his kisses, held him closer, surrounded Martin with comfort and safety as best he could because he knew, despite everything else that was what he needed now more than anything.
He'd made mistakes, but he promised himself that he wouldn't gamble away this second chance; he wouldn't walk away this time. There were plenty of things left for them to talk about and that they needed to work through, and he knew it was going to take time. They had to start over, because he knew Martin didn't quite trust him yet. But he was going to do whatever it took to prove himself, to earn back that trust. He'd be there for Martin now, to help him through this case, this night and whatever else came along.