A.N. Sorry I missed my self-imposed deadline. Christmas ended up being pretty crazy this year. So I finally managed to finish up this chapter in the last couple of days. I hope you enjoy!
My usual huge thanks to scoob2222 for her betaing prowess.
Jen heard his voice over the noise of the streets and automatically tried to locate the source in the confusion of mid-day Manhattan. Pausing on the steps to the precinct, she looked up and found him staring down at her from the top of the steps. She swallowed thickly as their eyes met and she was so shocked to see him, she didn't initially notice the flash of red hair next to his shoulder.
But she did notice the small hand that landed on his arm when he stood still for too long. Her eyes didn't have far to slide to the right since Cynthia was practically plastered against Adam's side.
It was the confusion on Cynthia's face that really did Jen in. The complete lack of recognition in Cynthia's eyes. At the realization that Adam hadn't even told Cynthia about her existence, Jen felt the vulnerability in her own gaze harden as her eyes came back to his.
He seemed frozen, but she really didn't care anymore. At least, that's what she told herself as she continued up the stairs, giving him wide birth when she passed the couple. But despite the deliberate distance, she still felt that strong pull towards him, the yearning to know him that had been tugging at her since the first moment she'd seen him.
Her steps nearly faltered as she passed him, but Adam didn't move an inch, and she kept walking.
That night, Jen stared up at the ceiling with dry, gritty eyes for hours. Morpheus had obviously decided to fight dirty. Finally, sighing, she eased herself into a sitting position and dropped her head back against the wall. The dull thunk her skull made upon impact didn't break through the craving any more than the slight pain did.
Reaching for her phone, she flipped it open and hit speed dial, forcing her fingers away from the button they itched to press. Mostly, she couldn't believe she still hadn't taken his name off her speed dial list. But a part of her just couldn't let go of that symbol of intimacy.
When Lindsay's voice finally came on the line, it was obvious Jen had interrupted some deep sleep. "'ello?"
"I want to call Adam," Jen said without preamble, frustration making her voice sharp.
"Why don't you call Adam then?" Lindsay suggested groggily.
"Linds," Jen said, annoyed.
"All right. Sorry." There was a pause across the line as Lindsay attempted to rouse herself enough to have a real conversation. Then Jen heard her take a breath. "You know he still loves you."
Pain scorched Jen's chest, and she sucked in air to cool it. "No. He doesn't."
"Yes, he does," Lindsay insisted. "He's just respecting your decision. You should see him at work—"
It was too much, the pain was too much, and so Jen cut her off. "I did."
Lindsay stopped, and Jen heard her swallow. "When?"
"Today. He was leaving as I was coming in." She knew her voice sounded dead, but it was how she felt. Or maybe being dead didn't hurt this much; maybe she just wished she felt dead.
"What happened?" Lindsay whispered, obviously guessing some of it.
Jen took a shaky breath. "Nothin'. He didn't even say anything."
"Did he see you?"
"Yeah. He wasn't alone, though. So I doubt he wanted to explain me."
"Lindsay, stop. He lied to me. First he hid her then he straight out lied to me."
"I know. It's just…you were so happy, and I want you to have that."
"Thanks, but apparently I'm not good enough for Adam."
Lindsay gasped, and Jen winced at the volume of it with the phone so close to her ear. "Jennifer, that is not true. If he's going to lie to you, he's not good enough for you."
"I know, but—" Squeezing her lids shut, Jen cringed at her own words. "I wasn't enough for him. How can I ever be happy with him if I wasn't enough?"
"Jen, I am so sorry."
Her own pain was reflected in Lindsay's voice, and Jen took a bit of comfort in the fact that Lindsay truly did know how she felt. She would never have wished this pain on Lindsay. She hadn't understood quite how Lindsay felt after Danny left until Adam's betrayal. But knowing there was someone else out there who completely understood how she felt and seeing the strength Lindsay possessed to get through it, gave her hope one day it wouldn't hurt quite so badly.
"I still miss him," she whispered.
"I know," Lindsay murmured back. "I know you do."
"I don't get it. After all this, how can I still miss him?"
Flack jerked as the door to the lab was flung open, and Lindsay marched inside. Next to him, Adam and Danny both took a step back as she came closer, the glower on her face blistering.
"Do you have my results?" she snapped at Adam.
Swallowing nervously, Adam twisted his ring. "Uh, yeah. Hold on." His hands were quick as he lifted a folder and slid a page out from under it. "Here we go. The sticky substance was glue, specifically washable glue."
"Like you'd find in a preschool?" she asked, scanning the sheet. Her voice was calmer and Adam visibly relaxed.
"Exactly," he told her, only to stiffen as she raised angry eyes to his.
"Thanks, you traitorous son of a bitch."
They all watched in silence as she stalked from the room. Through the glass wall, they saw lab techs scrambling to get out of her way as she bulldozed through the hall. Flack blinked as the mini-hurricane turned a corner out of sight.
The three men stood frozen until Flack glanced at his friends. "Did I miss something?"
Danny's face was blank in the way Flack had become accosted to in the last few months, all his energy sapped from his body. He could hide the pain most of the time—Danny was a damn good actor—but Flack saw glimpses of it, peeking through the apathetic façade. Danny was anything but apathetic. Without Lindsay, Danny was an empty shell of the violently emotional man he'd always been.
He was, in other words, freaky to be around.
Adam cleared his throat and picked up the folder again. "Your vic died of CO poisoning, right?"
"Yeah," Flack said when Danny remained silent, staring at something neither of the other men could see.
After a minute of gazing at the page, Adam held it out to Danny. "She was yelling at me, man. Not you."
His voice was too gentle, though, and Flack closed his eyes briefly to block out the sight of Danny starting to boil. Before he could blow, Adam turned and made his way out of the lab. Flack stared after him in surprise. He hadn't even gone over the results. Adam never shirked his job like that.
Feeling as thought the world was a little unstable under foot, Flack let his eyes drift back to Danny. "What the fuck was that about, Dan?"
Danny turned angry eyes to him and made an obvious effort to calm himself. But the Italian in him was too strong to subdue. "How the hell should I know?" he countered, his fingers gripping the page tight enough to wrinkle it.
Flack turned his gaze out to the hallway, looking in vain for any sign of Adam. "You think he's comin' back?"
Exasperated, Danny slammed his way out of the lab and disappeared in the direction of Mac's office. Flack raised his hands to the empty lab and let his own anger fly. "What the hell just happened?"
After indulging his shock for a few moments, Flack ran a hand over his face. Pulling out his phone, he followed Danny's example and beat a path out of the lab. But when he passed reconstruction and saw Lindsay hunched over a table he paused, torn.
Groaning inwardly, he pulled open the door and stepped inside, tensed for battle. "So, you chased off my investigators."
"You mean Buckaroo Bonsai and his lying scum of a friend?" she muttered, the glower still in place.
Running the scanner over a piece of paper, Lindsay ignored him as he moved closer. "I'm not sure I'd call Danny 'Buckaroo' but what did Adam do?"
He tried to keep his voice casual, hoping he'd read her tone correctly. Lindsay pressed a few keys, and the image popped up on the screen behind them. Still she didn't respond.
"What is that?" he asked finally, if only to break the heated silence.
"I don't know yet," she told him, but the bite was gone from her voice. "It's a composite of several digital images I took from the crime scene. It should show me the blood pattern."
Flack squinted at the strange dots. "That's a spatter pattern?" he asked in disbelief.
She relaxed a bit more and smiled at him. "No. Someone cleaned up the crime scene, but they didn't use bleach. So we were left with the protein remnants."
"And this is where the blood was?"
"Yep." She pressed a few more keys, and the computer started creating a digital reproduction of the room.
Flack tilted his head and crossed his arms over his chest. "It looks like your vic crawled from the next room."
"She was a fighter," Lindsay murmured, making notes in the file. Sighing, she dropped her pen. "Unfortunately, we didn't learn anything from this we didn't already know."
Flack watched her carefully as she printed out the map and shoved it in the folder. Rubbing her forehead, she offered him a wan smile. "Adam broke my best friend's heart."
Carefully neutral, not sure where his loyalties lay in this situation, he nodded. Lindsay swallowed, looking a bit uncomfortable. "And, okay, Danny's not Buckaroo Bonsai."
"He's a bit of a cowboy, though," Flack offered with a smirk. It wasn't until she grimaced that he remembered her pet name for Danny.
He was still cursing himself silently, scrambling for something to say, when she hid the wince behind a cough and snatched up the file. "I gotta go see Mac."
Unsure what he could do to repair the damage, Flack nodded again, hating that she seemed so broken. He wanted to tell her Danny missed her; that he was fairly certain Danny had a reason for casting her aside and it had nothing to do with other women. But he couldn't prove it since Danny was a tight-mouthed son of a bitch when he wanted to be, so rather than call her name, Flack watched Lindsay move away from him.
Even with her heart broken, Lindsay strode down the hall with sure, purposeful steps, and Flack couldn't help but watch in appreciation. Lindsay was a hell of a woman. He'd always known that, of course, but he'd never let himself dwell on it considering his best friend was borderline obsessed with the woman.
A cold sweat broke out on Flack's back at the direction of his thoughts. Completely at a loss as to what to do with himself after that foray into disloyal territory, Flack answered his buzzing phone with an embarrassing amount of gratitude.
"Flack," he snapped.
"Hey. We're movin'," Danny said from the other end.
"Oh, you got somethin' now?" Flack shot back, annoyed with the world.
"What crawled up your butt? Meet me at 216 Avenue A."
"Alphabet City?" Flack asked, but Danny had hung up already. Staring at his screen, he punched the end key with a little too much force. "The whole world's gone insane."
"Tell me about it."
Whirling, Flack found Stella smirking at him from the doorway. Stowing his phone back in his pocket, he smiled wryly at her. "Hey, Stel. You on the case with Lindsay?"
"No, she's solo. Hawkes and I pulled a jumper over on the East side."
"Why you on a jumper?" Flack asked, confused.
Stella's voice was dry. "Turns out he didn't jump."
"Got it." Gently clapping her on the shoulder, he moved past. "I gotta go meet Buck—Danny."
"Buck?" Stella repeated with an amused smile. "Do I wanna know?"
"Not really," he muttered on a laugh, and she grinned.
"Be safe," she called after him.
He waved without turning, wishing that Danny and Lindsay had just stayed the hell away from each other. They were like the poster children for why intra-office dating was a bad idea.
Then he shook himself. He didn't mean that. Danny and Lindsay had been great together. Really, what he wished was that Danny wasn't such a self-destructive jackass.
"Is he seriously going to do that?" Lindsay muttered, staring at the tv in disbelief.
"Obviously the lad isn't known for his quick thinkin'," Flack muttered back, reaching over to pick up his beer.
"Obviously." The player faked to the left and shot towards a hole in the defense. "Yep, he's really going to do it."
They both winced a bit as he was taken down with an elbow to the ribs. "You'd think once in a while the ref would call a foul. Just for shits and giggles," Flack said.
"I thought New Yorkers didn't believe in fouls."
Flack glanced at her distractedly, clearly not paying attention. "Come again?"
"Oh come on," Lindsay said, hiding a smirk as she turned away from the commercial. "None of your teams are—how should I put this—clean players?"
Flack's eyes narrowed. "I'm not sure I like what you're implyin', Monroe."
Smiling innocently, Lindsay stood from Flack's couch and took her empty beer bottle to the kitchen. "I only speak the truth."
"No, you only speak slurs. Baseless slurs, no less," he said, his voice rising.
Recognizing the challenge building in his tone, Lindsay rolled her eyes before turning back to him. Expression still innocent, Lindsay picked up the darts from his counter and examined them casually. "Perhaps we should play for it?"
"For what?" he asked, suddenly suspicious.
"Honor. Pride. Glory." She shrugged. "Take your pick."
Smirking, Flack stood and drained his beer. "You're on. Throw for turns."
Stepping triumphantly to the wall with the dartboard, Lindsay shook her head. "It's too easy."
"Pride goeth before the fall, Monroe," he muttered, coming up behind her.
"Oh, so now you're Catholic?" Barely putting any effort behind the throw, Lindsay landed the dart in the bulls-eye.
She turned to hand Flack one of the darts and found him frowning at the board. He waited a beat, and then, never looking at her, spoke. "Is there a game in existence that you're no good at?"
"Not really, no."
Flack sighed and looked down to step behind the line. "Great. Gimme a dart."
Danny stepped through the door of his parents' house, shrieks freezing him on the threshold; they were so blood curdling he needed to fight the urge to draw his weapon. At the noise of his entrance, Natalia appeared down the hall from the kitchen wiping her hands on a towel. Their eyes met, and she shook her head dismally.
"What the hell?" Danny said, shutting the door behind him and tossing his keys on the hall table. "Is everyone gettin' a little torture in before dinner?"
Natalia sighed and started to respond but was cut off as Danny's cousin Dylan came barreling down the stairs. "She won't stop cryin'," Dylan said, running a frustrated hand over his face. Catching sight of Danny, Dylan whirled on him. "You. She likes you. Follow me."
Okay, so it had to be Sophie screaming her lungs out. Danny raised an eyebrow and followed up the stairs, not really appreciating his cousin's order but too worried about Sophie to protest. Dylan wasn't exactly the most diligent of fathers, but he'd always seemed competent. And Sophie wasn't the kind of kid who'd throw a fit because she didn't get the right Barbie.
A group of Danny's cousins stood in clumps in the hallway near the doors to the bedrooms. Dylan stopped outside the doorway where the din grew almost unbearable and took a deep breath before plastering a smile on his face and stepping in the room.
"Look, Sophia. It's Cousin Danny."
Sophie merely cried harder when she saw Danny come in alone. "Want…Linny!" she managed to shriek.
The wail that left her mouth made all the adults wince and take involuntary steps back. Bravely, Danny moved forward and crouched in front of the child. "Sweetheart—" Danny tried.
"I miss her."
The statement would have been adorable if Sophie hadn't screamed it at the top of her lungs. Danny felt his heart constrict as he watched the toddler's face. The desperation emanating from her made Danny's own sense of loss clutch at his throat.
Squeezing his eyes shut, he whispered, "Me, too."
Sophie couldn't hear him over her grief. "When's she coming?"
"She's not," he rasped. "She's not coming back. She's never coming back."
Once he started, he couldn't stop saying it, like a floodgate had opened. The dawning understanding on Sophie's face turned to horror.
"I'm so sorry, Sophie. But she's never coming back here. She can never see us again." Because that was what had to happen. That had been the plan.
His mother grabbed his arm. "Daniel. You stop it," she hissed.
Startled, he raised his eyes to hers. She must have seen something there, because her face froze, the anger draining from her. Jerking his eyes away, Danny looked at Sophie again and realized what he'd done.
"Oh, God. Soph, I'm so sorry." He reached to pick her up, and she stretched her little arms out to Natalia instead, fat tears streaming down her face.
Natalia picked her up and settled the child against her in that special groove left by several dozen babies over the years. "Give me your cell phone, Daniel."
Her voice was cool, but Danny saw understanding and an odd suspicion in her eyes that made him want to shrink away. Pulling out the phone, Danny handed it to her, shame spreading through him.
When he looked up, everyone was crowded in the doorway, staring, not bothering to hide it by turning away. Everyone knew what had happened, that he'd broken up with Lindsay, so the confusion on their faces was understandable.
"Lindsay? It's Natalia."
Unable to stand the faint sound of her voice on the other end, Danny stood and pushed his way through his family. Their heavy silence followed him down the hall and out the front door. Dropping into the porch swing, Danny stared at the old chestnut tree across the street, shocked at his own lack of control.
His mind raced over all the reasons he couldn't be with Lindsay, the way he'd treated Sophie, the way he'd cut Lindsay off from his family. The four months he'd spent without Lindsay played across his mind's eye, and he found himself paralyzed. He didn't move an inch, didn't even blink, until the sound of the front door opening twenty minutes later shook him out of his stupor.
Natalia slid into the swing next to him, and Danny automatically pushed off with his foot to set the swing moving lightly. "Is Sophie all right?" he asked after a moment of silence. The words came out growling and rough, but Natalia didn't even blink.
"She spoke to Lindsay. She's fine." Danny nodded, keeping his eyes averted. "What happened, Daniel?"
His throat tightened at the compassion in her voice and he found he couldn't think of an explanation. He was just so tired of speaking in circles to throw people off the scent, even to keep Lindsay safe. It was like wearing a vise around his throat all day, every day. No one could know. He felt his mother's hand, gentle and loving, run over his short, stubbly hair, and he swallowed thickly.
"My boy," she whispered, reverting to Italian. "Why are you so unhappy?"
He let his lids flutter shut for a moment. "I'm not, Mommy."
She hated lying, had literally washed his mouth out as a child on several occasions. Now, though, she slid her hand to his shoulder and squeezed. "All right, sweetheart. You'll tell me when you're ready."
Standing, she cupped his chin in her hand and turned his face to look at her. She smiled sadly and leaned forward to press a kiss to his forehead. Then she pulled back and patted his cheek.
"You need a shave, Daniel."
She surprised the laugh out of him and instantly his shoulders felt lighter. "Sorry, Mommy. Not gonna happen."
Letting out a dramatic sigh, she threw up her hands. "Fine. Fine. Look like a caveman."
Lindsay looked up as Danny blew into the office. "Hey, where's the fire?"
"Just runnin' late," he muttered, tossing her a tiny smile as he collapsed into his desk chair.
Lindsay smiled back and returned her focus to her paperwork. A few seconds went by before she heard Danny clear his throat. Glancing at him, she saw his eyes skitter away from her face.
"What's up?" she asked, wondering if a remnant from lunch with Jen had followed her to the office somewhere on her face.
"Nothin'. I just—uh—I wanted to apologize."
Her heart sank like a stone. What now? "Oh?"
"For Sophie. On Sunday. I know you were workin'—"
"Danny," she cut in with a smile. "It was fine. Really. I wouldn't have answered if I'd been at a scene."
"I know," he assured her. "I know you wouldn't. I just—"
"Danny." He stopped and met her eyes. "It was fine."
His face relaxed a little. "Thanks, Linds."
"Not a problem. I miss her, too." She saw him hide a wince and hurried to cover the awkwardness. "So we made plans to go to the zoo together."
His face froze, his eyes locking on hers, a panic she couldn't decipher turning the blue irises dark as midnight. She swallowed. Oh God. He didn't want her near his family.
Heartbroken, she began to babble. "She really likes the zebras. I think because I told her they were related to horses. Really, they're more like donkeys, but she didn't seem to know the difference, so I just told her they were all related. So now she calls zebras 'striped horses'—"
She cut herself off, completely mortified. Danny's brow had furrowed and he looked thoroughly confused. She swallowed again. "You know, I have to go ask Flack something. About the case. I'm doing my report and—I'll be back."
Jumping up, she scurried into the hallway to avoid his response. She could only think of one reason he'd be worried about her spending time with his family. Well, enough worry to incite that sort of panic in an otherwise tough-as-nails cop.
He was seeing someone else, and he didn't want her to know.
It would be almost sweet, really, if it hadn't been so humiliating. If it hadn't meant that he knew she still cared for him. She'd tried so hard to hide it, to make him think she was getting over him. Just the other day she'd been bragging—bragging—to Jen about it.
Stepping into the elevator with a large group, Lindsay fought to control her face. She took deep breaths, noticing a few people glance at her out of the corner of their eyes.
Flack was, miraculously, at his desk when she peered through the doorway to the bullpen. Shoving through the door, she marched over to him, trying not to make eye contact with any of the other officers. She didn't think she could hold it together through pleasantries.
"Hey," she murmured when she finally stepped up next to him.
He glanced up from his report and grinned. "Hey, Monroe." She forced a smile and his faded. "What's wrong?"
Obviously, she was a horrible actress. Thank God she'd decided to become a cop. "I need to talk to you."
Nodding, he flipped the file closed and stood. "Coffee?" he asked, reaching for the jacket hanging off his chair.
She shook her head at the suggestion, and he frowned but dropped his hand. "Here," he said, steering her towards a little-used hallway that led to the storage closet where they kept office supplies for the detectives.
"What's goin' on?" he demanded, leaning close to her to avoid being overheard in the larger hallway.
At this point, she'd been waiting so long to ask, her voice came out sounding irate. "Why didn't you tell me?"
He blinked. "Tell you what?"
His eyes searched hers, his brow furrowed. "Danny did what now?"
"That he's seeing someone," she hissed, mad he was still hiding it from her.
"Whoa," he said, holding up his hands. "First off, Danny's not seein' anyone to the best o' my knowledge."
Lindsay's face froze. "What?"
"And, secondly, if he was, I wouldn't tell you." She frowned, feeling lost, and Flack crossed his arms. "Linds, if he started seein' someone, it wouldn't be my place to tell anyone. Even you."
Lindsay winced and nodded. "You're right," she whispered, shame making her cheeks flush. "I'm sorry, I—"
She tried to walk away, but Flack caught her arm. "Hey," he whispered, cupping her cheek with his free hand.
He applied gentle pressure to turn her face towards him, but she kept her eyes lowered. His thumb brushed across the skin of her cheek and she heard him sigh. "He's not seein' anyone," he repeated, his voice barely audible.
She shook her head at the compassion in his voice. Now she looked like an even bigger moron than she had before. "I wish he was."
She felt Flack's confusion even though his thumb didn't pause as he continued to gently stroke her cheek. "I hate waiting for the other shoe to drop," she explained. "I'm always wondering, hoping he's not, and hating myself for hoping."
Flack swallowed and dropped his hands. "You're still in love with him."
Frustrated at the lump that filled her throat, Lindsay watched him pace away. He stayed there, turned to face the door to the storage closet for a long pause. Just as she was about to force herself to speak, his shoulders straightened and he whirled to walk back to her.
"All right, I'm gonna tell you somethin' that I really shouldn't tell you," he said, running a hand over his face.
She waited, dread coiling in her stomach until it was a hard knot. Flack cleared his throat, his eyes turning determined. "Do you remember the party I threw for the fourth?"
She nodded, the movement jerky. Yes, she remembered. She suddenly knew exactly what he was going to tell her, knew without a doubt. But she needed to hear him say the words.
"I told you it was a good thing you didn't come because Danny was there." He paused, waiting for confirmation, his eyes intently locked on hers, and she nodded. "He left with someone that night. A woman."
Her heart stopped for long breathless moments, then pounded so hard her shirt shook slightly between her breasts. Calmly, she nodded, proud she didn't flinch. "Thank you," she said, genuinely grateful for the knowledge.
Then her face crumpled.
Flack gripped her shoulders. "You are not going to cry," he said firmly.
"Okay," she whimpered.
"No crying." His eyes searched hers. "I shouldn't've told ya. What am I, terminally stupid? Why did I tell you that?" he muttered, more to himself than to her.
"No, no," she said, sniffling in a deep breath. "Thank you. It's good to know."
And it was. Oh, it hurt. It hurt worse than being shot ever had. But, despite the pain, she could feel relief spreading through her.
Danny was over her in every way. He was never coming back. And now she knew for certain.
Connor stared at her from across the table, his wrists limply holding his fork and knife. "Come again?"
"I just think it's time," Lindsay said, shifting her eyes to her wine glass.
"Suddenly, just like that, you think it's time?" Connor said, his voice even and controlled. His eyes narrowed. "What happened?"
"Nothing," she insisted, keeping her tone light. "I just think I've let this drag on long enough. He's not coming back. It's time to move on."
Setting his utensils down, Connor ran a hand through his hair. "Lindsay, that time came several months ago."
His voice was gentle, but she still winced. "I'm not saying that to be mean," he told her. "I just…I don't understand what brought this on all of a sudden."
Biting her lip, Lindsay swirled the wine in her glass for several seconds before lifting it to her mouth. Connor tilted his head to the side as he watched her. "Maybe you should slow down a bit with that."
Her eyes shot back to his as she swallowed and crinkled her brow in confusion. "That's your fourth glass in an hour," he pointed out, a half smile on his face.
Glancing at the wine glass still in her hand, Lindsay paused then shook her head. "I don't want to."
"Okay," he murmured, turning his attention back to his plate.
"Flack told me something a few days ago that…" She took a deep breath, trying to rearrange her thoughts. "He just reminded me that everyone has to move on. I have to move on. It's been four months."
"Yeah, it's been four months," Connor repeated. "But you're a Monroe. You hold on tighter than most people do. Look at Freddy."
Lindsay blinked. "Excuse me?"
"He's been stuck on the same woman for ten years. She married someone else, and he's still stuck on her," Connor said, never looking up from his plate. "Then there're your parents—"
"How do you know about Freddy?" Lindsay asked incredulously
Connor glanced up and raised his eyebrows. "You told me."
Sighing, Connor shook his head. "I don't remember, Mouse. The point is—"
"But I didn't tell anyone," she muttered, looking to the side with a frown.
"Night of your twenty-first birthday, Freddy spilled his guts to you in a bar," Connor told her, clearly exasperated. "Couple nights later, you ended up telling me under much the same circumstances."
Lindsay blinked. "And you remember that?"
A wave of exhaustion settled onto Connor's face. "I remember everything, Lindsay. I remember you were wearing that red sweater, the soft one with the vee neck, and those diamond earrings I bought you."
Lindsay felt her heart twist a little for the pain she heard in Connor's voice. "Connor—"
"I remember what you were wearing the night I proposed. I remember the first words you spoke to me when you came home from school that summer. I remember not being able to think about anything but how much I'd missed you." He smiled wanly. "I remember everything."
"Connor, I'm so—"
"Don't say you're sorry," he said, laughing humorlessly. "I'm not. I got to be with you for a little while and that's really all I wanted. So don't say you're sorry. I wouldn't trade any of it."
Her fingers clenched around the stem of her wine glass as she felt her breathing begin to quicken with panic. She couldn't do this with him. She couldn't sit here and tell him that she was ready to move on from Danny. It wasn't fair. Especially since she wouldn't be moving on to him.
But before the panic could really take hold, Connor smoothed his expression into a small smile. He didn't look happy exactly, but Lindsay could see he was content in a way.
"Monroes don't love halfway, Linds," he said, picking up his fork. "Four months isn't long enough for you to get over how you feel about Danny. You know it, and I know it. But if you feel that you need to get back out there, that's what you should do."
She'd expected encouragement and suggestions, proverbial pats on the back for her initiative. But, somehow, this was better. She no longer felt quite as much like a buffoon as she had for still being in love with a man who'd most certainly moved on.
Danny and Hawkes opened their doors but Lindsay hesitated, glancing over Danny's shoulder with a frown. He was startled when she stepped away from the car, saying, "Just a second."
Following her with his eyes, he saw her moving towards an old woman sitting on the front steps of one of the more run down houses on the block. "Hi," he heard Lindsay call as she got closer.
The woman looked up, and Danny suddenly noticed the woebegone expression on her face. Instantly, it turned to naked suspicion as Lindsay opened the gate and stepped up to her.
"What's she doing?" Hawkes asked Danny.
"No idea," he muttered.
"Are you all right?" Danny heard her ask. "Did you need some help?"
The woman hesitated and glanced down. When Lindsay unclipped her badge and held it out, the woman heaved a breath, saying something very quietly. Lindsay nodded and climbed the stairs. When she was even with the woman, she offered a hand and helped her to her feet.
The woman leaned against Lindsay, and they both disappeared into the house. Danny narrowed his eyes, beginning to tense, but Lindsay was back mere seconds later.
When she got back to the car, Hawkes jerked his head towards the house. "What was wrong?"
"Oh." Lindsay paused as they climbed in. "Her hip went out. She said it happens all the time since her surgery."
"Replacement?" Hawkes guessed.
"Yeah. One of the plastic ones or something." She glanced at Danny curiously. "You okay?"
"Yeah," he said, his fingers tightening around the wheel as he stared straight out the window.
"You might want to start the car," Lindsay suggested, sounding vaguely amused.
Reaching down, he put the car in drive, trying to shake off the vise clenching around his chest. Why did she have to be so goddamn amazing? It didn't seem fair since he was trying to be so noble and keep her alive.
He slammed on the brakes as they came to a red light, annoyance coursing through him. The entire situation was particularly annoying seeing as how she seemed so intent on throwing herself right back into danger by taking his baby cousin to the zoo. Which she'd be doing in a few days' time.
And it definitely wasn't fair that Sophie got to see her and he didn't. Not fair at all.
Hawkes cleared his throat from the backseat and Danny snapped out of his angry daze to find the light had turned. Stepping on the gas, Danny concentrated on weaving through traffic until they got to the precinct, Hawke's stop.
"I'll see you two back at the lab," he said in his quiet voice.
"See you," Lindsay said and Danny muttered something incomprehensible, staring straight out the windshield.
The door slammed shut and Danny immediately pulled the truck back into traffic. Sassone hadn't even resurfaced in the last few months. Danny had been paged for a couple of false alarms when suspect descriptions tripped over the feelers Johnson had been surreptitiously putting out. Nothing had ever come of it, but Danny knew Julian was out there, biding his time until he spotted Danny's soft underbelly.
Jerking out of his reverie, Danny glanced to the side. Lindsay was staring out the passenger window, but, as though feeling his eyes on her, she twisted to look at him. "You okay?" she asked again.
Turning his eyes back to the road, Danny nodded. "Sure, sure I am."
"You're sure now?"
The teasing in her voice brought his eyes swinging back to hers. There was a small smile on her face, and Danny wondered how she could still be amused by him. "Sure I'm sure. What's it to ya, anyway?"
A smile flashed across her face, making his heart thud loudly. "Nothin'. Except you're driving like a maniac."
"Can it, Monroe. Here in New York, we don't let the passengers do the drivin'."
"An enlightened city," she said seriously, settling back into her seat and turning to look back out the window.
Telling himself it was a bad idea, Danny asked anyway. "So I hear you and Sophie are goin' to the zoo this weekend."
Lindsay glanced at him. "Yeah." She cleared her throat nervously. "I think your mom's coming, too."
"Yeah," he muttered. "I heard that rumor, too."
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her swipe her tongue over her lips. "Does it…does it bother you?"
Feeling his shoulders tense, Danny tried to force himself to look more relaxed. "Nah, course not. Sophie adores you."
It wasn't what she'd asked, but it was as close to answering as Danny could come without breaking her heart all over again. Sassone was still out there, watching Danny for any sign of weakness and here Lindsay was paling around with his mother. Of course it bothered him.
"Of course it bothers you," she sighed.
He'd forgotten that she could read his mind. "Really, it's fine."
"I'm sorry it makes you uncomfortable," she told him.
He should've snapped at her, told her that she needed to stay away from his family considering they were no longer a couple. But he couldn't. Her eyes were so sad he felt himself leaning towards her and had to quickly pretend to be shifting in his seat.
"Lindsay, they called you," he said, more gently than he would have liked. "You didn't do anythin' wrong."
When she answered, her voice was barely a whisper. "Right."
Who the hell was he kidding? It was his heart that kept breaking.
Lindsay felt like the car was closing in around her. She had to get out, but didn't think a tuck and roll at forty miles an hour was a good idea. Leaning her foreheadagainst the cool glass of the window, she shut her eyes and tried to block out any thoughts of Danny.
As they pulled into the lab garage, Lindsay concentrated on controlling her breathing. Danny couldn't see how upset she was. But even after they pulled into the parking space, she couldn't make herself move from the car.
Oddly enough, Danny didn't seem to be moving either. After several long moments of being frozen in the tension, she heard him take a deep breath. "Lindsay?" he murmured.
She looked at him, trying to hide the pain in her eyes. When his brows came together in a helpless expression, she looked down, knowing he'd seen it anyway.
"Lindsay—" he started again, stumbling to a stop when she winced.
"Please don't," she said, still not looking at him. She heard him take a deep breath, but he didn't try again.
After another few minutes, she spoke, deciding to take advantage of the already embarrassing situation. "Danny, we were always friends," she whispered.
She felt him glance at her, eyes sharp, and she looked up to catch his gaze. "Even when I couldn't be with you, we were friends. I know it's not the same, since we both had deeper feelings. But couldn't we try?" she asked quietly.
Danny's eyes closed slowly and he took another deep breath. Before he could respond negatively, she rushed on. "I promise it won't give me false hope. I know we're over. I get it."
His eyes opened and met hers, slightly softer than they had been. "Yeah," he murmured, nodding. "Yeah, we could do that."
A smile tugged at her lips, easier than the ones she'd been doling out in recent months. "Okay."
He smiled back. "Okay."
Blowing out the air she'd been holding in her lungs, Lindsay turned to open the car door. "Let's do this then."
"You want body or trace?" he asked.
She snorted. "Body. Duh."
Then she hopped out and slammed the door. Glancing back through the window, she caught his eye as he sat stock-still in his seat. Raising an eyebrow, she rapped on the glass. "C'mon, city boy. Shake a tail feather."
She spun on her heels as she heard him start to laugh. Grinning happily, she wondered if maybe everything would eventually be okay. She knew they'd never be together again, knew it like she knew the sky was blue, but maybe they'd be friends. And maybe she could live with that.
"Why did my son break up with you?" Natalia asked, her voice deceptively calm.
Lindsay's eyes jerked away from where Sophie was playing in the ball pit for a fraction of a second before seeking the toddler out again. Swallowing thickly, she managed to close her gaping mouth and moisten her lips.
"You'd have to ask him," she finally responded.
Reaching up to tuck a piece of hair behind her ear, Lindsay tried to stop the wave of nausea sweeping over her body. What did 'hmm' mean, anyway?
"I already tried that. Didn't get much out of him." Natalia's eyes never left Sophie's serious little face as she waded through the balls as though searching for a particular one.
"I'm sorry," Lindsay said for lack of anything else to say.
She could feel Natalia smiling gently though the women never looked at each other. "Don't be silly."
A tense silence descended upon them, and Lindsay squirmed surreptitiously on the brightly colored plastic bench. Sophie looked up from the balls, her eyes searching for and landing on Lindsay. Grinning, she waved so enthusiastically she nearly tipped over. Lindsay relaxed slightly and waved back, a smile spreading across her face.
"I tried to call you a few times," Natalia murmured.
Wincing, Lindsay nodded, remembering the unreturned voicemails about getting coffee or another cooking lesson. "I know. I'm sorry. I just didn't think Danny would appreciate me still spending time with his mother…I'm sorry."
Natalia shook her head. "That's all right. I understand. I was just beginning to wonder if…maybe…you were the one to initiate the split?"
Eyes wide, Lindsay spun to look at the other woman. "What? No. Of course not, no."
Uncertain, Lindsay turned back to watching Sophie, feeling extremely uncomfortable. "The giraffes were nice today."
"Mm," Natalia murmured in non-committal agreement. "The elephants were always my favorite, though. And Sophie seemed rather fond of the zebras. I wonder why?"
Lindsay hid a smile at Natalia's perplexed tone. The other woman shrugged, accepting a toddler's inexplicable attachments.
Rubbing her temple, she abruptly sighed and admitted, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't pry. I just…I find it very odd that Daniel broke up with you, that's all."
Lindsay blinked, stunned by both the apology and the ache Natalia's words caused. "But why?" she asked, wondering why Danny's own mother didn't recognize his need for excitement.
"Because," Natalia said, shrugging and sounding rather sad. "You were perfect for him."
danaa: Sorry it didn't come sooner. I was really hoping to get this up before Christmas. However, I hope you enjoyed the small bit of DL interaction there was in this chapter. There will be more!