Danny woke up to a clap of thunder, surprised that he had even slept at all. His next realization was that Martin wasn't in the room, nor was he in the bathroom or out on the balcony. Swallowing hard and forcing himself not to panic, he got out of bed and looked around, relieved to see that the other man's suitcase was still in the closet, his clothes still in the drawers. But a quick check of the nightstand showed that Martin's wallet and cell phone were gone as were the keys to their rental car.
He sat back down on the bed, regret and sorrow washing over him powerfully. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to swallow around the lump in his throat; but the tears were determined to fall, so he wiped his eyes quickly and went into the bathroom to take a hot shower, hoping that if he ignored the need to cry it would go away. It wasn't until he came back into the room that he saw the hastily scribbled note on his nightstand underneath his phone. Perched on the edge of the bed he reached for the paper gingerly, almost wanting to ignore rather than read it.
Be back later. M.
It was cold, impersonal, yet it was more than Danny had done. When he'd disappeared the day before, he hadn't even written something so small. And Danny could only guess what Martin was feeling now…his trust betrayed, his heart hurting…and yet he'd still thought of Danny, had given him some sort of word before leaving.
Danny sat with his back against the headboard, knees pulled up to himself, holding his cell phone in one hand and Martin's note in the other. Part of him wanted nothing more than to get up and go looking for Martin, but he didn't know where to start. He knew the city well enough, but he had no idea where Martin would go to be alone. The beach was an obvious choice as the very nature of the ocean was made for one to sit along and think, but it was storming pretty badly. Besides that he had no other viable guesses. He knew Martin was good at hiding when he wanted to, and Danny, though good with his instincts and able to read Martin pretty well, just didn't know where to start. His other dilemma being that he didn't want to be gone if Martin came back to the room.
So he waited instead. Moving around the room from the bed they'd shared to the small table in the corner and out onto the balcony to watch the storm. He checked his cell phone repeatedly to make sure it was still turned on and that he hadn't inadvertently turned the volume down or off. He forced himself not to call the other man, knowing that Martin needed time and space.
He tried his hardest not to think of the night before or all that he'd done to make things wrong. But after a while he couldn't help it; there wasn't much else to do after all, shut up in the room by himself torn between going after the other man and waiting desperately for him to come back.
That he'd hurt Martin was obvious. Wondering if there was anything he could do to fix it was what was killing him.
It hadn't stopped raining all day and as it began to get darker, Danny's worry began to turn more frantic. Frustrated, he sunk back down onto the edge of the bed, leaning forward to run his hands over his face and through his hair. By now he'd pictured Martin at all sorts of places and doing all sorts of things, none of which he wanted to contemplate being truthful. He picked up his cell phone again and stared at it, willing it to ring, flipping it open several times to check that it was on, that he was getting a signal, that the volume was turned up. When it actually rang, he jumped and dropped it on the floor, so surprised by what he hadn't honestly been expecting.
"Martin?" He opened it without looking at the caller ID, figuring it couldn't be anyone else.
His voice sounded tired, hoarse. Danny swallowed hard, fingers gripping tightly to the phone, wishing he knew what to say to make things better. "Are you all right?" he asked softly, squeezing his eyes shut and cursing himself for not coming up with anything better to say.
"I…" he paused and Danny heard him exhale a shaky breath before going on. "I'm at another hotel," he said, voice trembling. "I'm gonna stay here for the night. I'll…be back um tomorrow or…" he trailed off, his voice rough, shaken.
"Fitzie…" Danny pleaded softly, his throat tight, his chest aching. He didn't know what he could do or say to take back the previous night, to take back all that he'd done wrong so far. More than anything he wanted Martin back with him so that he could at least try.
"Call my cell if you…if you need something…" Martin answered, his voice nearly a whisper now.
He looked down at the phone, confirming what he had already heard. Silence. Martin had hung up.
"Fuck…" Danny swore, his eyes stinging with tears. He nearly threw the phone across the room, strangely desperate to see it shatter all of the sudden. He dropped it on the floor beside him instead and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. He sat that way for a long time, wanting to cry but not really able to, wishing there was something he could do to change where he was now. Where they both were now.
It was on shaky legs that he stood up, pulled on a pair of jeans and a button down shirt, slipped into a pair of flip-flops and grabbed his wallet and his keycard for the hotel. He walked aimlessly through the streets of South Beach, comfortable in the hot air, watching the city come alive as the sun went down and the lights became brighter. It would've been easy to step into one of the bars and get started early, but his stomach rolled at the thought, and he walked past each one with a strange sort of confidence. It wasn't easy because his mind was only on Martin, and every thought hurt. Drinking could've taken it all away, but it wasn't what he wanted.
He got into a cab, softly gave an address, sat back and waited. Once they arrived, he offered a ridiculous tip if the driver waited fifteen minutes and didn't drive away. A flash of the promised money made the cabby's eyes light up, but he didn't hand it over and wouldn't until he got back. He walked briskly through the night air, hotter here, not quite as close to the coast where the ocean air created at least a semblance of a breeze.
The cemetery was dark, not very well kept and Danny knew without a doubt that it was dangerous at night. He should've brought his gun, but he hadn't been thinking that far in advance. It didn't take long for him to find their plots even though he'd only been here once before…on the day of his parents' funeral.
He stood still in the grass before the two small headstones, arms wrapped around his chest, hugging himself tightly. He could barely see their names in the darkness, only a dim glow coming from the streetlights and the half moon in the sky. But he knew. He shivered, feeling cold, uncertain. He couldn't bring himself to cry, or even find any true feelings of sadness within his heart. Instead, he felt empty and broken. If he shut his eyes he could feel Martin's arms tight around his waist, his body warm against his back. If he listened hard enough he could hear Martin's voice in his ear, warm, comforting, true…
"Enough," he whispered, running his fingers through his hair and tugging a bit on the ends. He gave one last look at his parents' graves, swallowed hard and turned away.
By the time the cab dropped him off on the strip in South Beach again he was considerably calmer; however, he still didn't feel any better. There was a bar across the street from where he stood, dark and inviting, but he only sighed, turning away and feeling worse. He stopped in one of the Walgreen's he passed, blinking against the bright fluorescent lights and walking slowly through the aisles. After grabbing two handfuls of items he went back and got a shopping basket, dumping his bags of chips and cans of soda into it. He added some doughnuts, a box of cookies, some pretzels and a few other random items, not really caring what they were. As an afterthought he asked the cashier for a pack of cigarettes and threw a lighter into his pile of merchandise.
A few more blocks went past and he made a quick stop into a dank, unimpressive Chinese restaurant and picked up two orders of sweet and sour pork. By the time he made it back to the hotel it was well after midnight, but he wasn't at all tired. He turned on the bedside lamps and the TV, dumping out his bags of junk food onto the carpet, opening a can of soda and reaching for the Chinese food first.
It was the only unhealthy sort of binge he could allow himself, because he refused the clichéd fall back into alcohol. But he wanted something to fill him up, to take away the emptiness that he felt every time he thought about Martin. They'd been so close to taking a step in the right direction, a big step…something close to a solid commitment. Something Danny craved. Except he knew he'd screwed it all up…couldn't get past his issues of trust, of the past, of sharing the burden of all that haunted him.
He ate more food than was healthy, knew he'd probably wake up in the middle of the night sick to his stomach – assuming he was able to fall asleep after all the caffeine and sugar he'd consumed. After four hours of mindless television, he forced himself to get up and walk around the room. On impulse he grabbed the pack of Marlboro Light's he'd picked up and took them out onto the balcony. He shut his eyes and leaned back against the sliding glass door as he took his first drag, the smoke nearly choking him. But it felt good in some strange way so he took another, pacing the balcony for a while before settling on a spot against the railing. It didn't take him long to figure out that he would've been better off staying inside with the television.
It was quieter out here. The soft, hypnotic crash of the waves below, the distant glimmer of voices on the beach. All that combined with the slow, warm sting of the cigarette smoke…it brought him right back to where he didn't want to be.
Thinking about Martin.
He shut his eyes and took another long drag…thought about the night before until he couldn't take it anymore. He sank down to the balcony floor, leaning against the cool bars of the railing and looking out at the moonlight that reflected dimly on the ocean water. He jumped when he felt the cigarette burn his fingers, swore to himself and put it out. Drawing his knees into his chest he wrapped his arms around his legs and rested his chin on them. And went on thinking.
Danny woke up with a start, jolted out of sleep by an immediately forgotten dream. Blinking against the bright sunlight, he groaned and pushed his face back into the blankets. It took him a few minutes to realize that the television was still on, that his head was at the foot of the bed and the room was once again, empty.
His neck ached from sleeping without a pillow, his head was pounding, he felt slightly nauseous and his mouth tasted like an ashtray. All things considered though, it was better than a hangover.
He managed a glance at the clock and wasn't surprised to see that it was well after two in the afternoon. Not at all curious since he probably hadn't fallen asleep until close to six a.m. Just as the sun had been peeking over the ocean. After a moment's panic he located his phone – trapped under the jumbled blankets – and sighed when he confirmed what he already knew. That he had no missed calls, voicemails, or even text messages.
Biting down on his lip, he once again buried his head against the bed's soft comforter and tried to wish away the past twenty-four hours. He wanted to go back to before he'd disappeared without an explanation. Or if not that far, he wanted to at least force himself to go back and give Martin an honest answer. He wondered where the other man was now. If the hotel he'd stayed in was nearby or farther away. If it was nicer than this one or a dive. If he was safe, if he was okay, if he was thinking about Danny…
Letting out a cry of frustration, he grappled for the remote and fought to quickly turn up the television's volume…wanting nothing else than the mindless drone of actor's and advertiser's voices so that he could stop reliving all that he'd done wrong. He refused to move for most of the afternoon, resenting the bright Florida weather outside, hating the remains of the junk food scattered around the room, wishing that Martin would call again, and more than anything that he would come back.
It wasn't until after dinnertime that he got his wish. In the middle of another reality-show marathon, it caught him by surprise to hear the sound of the door opening. He'd been lying diagonally on the bed, the television upside down to his view. But he'd sat up quickly at the sound of the door being pushed open slowly. He sucked in a sharp breath and immediately met Martin's eyes.
Swallowing hard he picked aimlessly at the blanket beneath him, watching as the other man averted his gaze, his eyes and expression both weary and nervous. His already-stressed face seemed to amplify as he glanced around the room, darting from the empty bags of chips and cartons of Chinese food, to the opened pack of cigarettes on the bedside table, and finally back to Danny's gaze.
"Were you smoking?" Martin asked, frowning, his voice a mixture of disappointment and worry.
"Only two…well one and a half. It nearly choked me," he replied lightly. "The last time I had a cigarette was nineteen eighty-eight," he added, trying – and failing – to smile.
Martin nodded in response, eyes lingering on Danny's for just a moment before he turned away. Danny ran his hands through his hair and sighed softly, frustrated and unsure of what he should do next. There was a barrier between them now that had never been there before. Oh, there had always been a wall of sorts between them because of Danny's hesitance – or refusal – to share anything honest about himself. But they'd still managed to connect on some levels. Now, everything was awkward and out of sorts, and Danny had no idea where to start to make things better.
But when Martin turned away, went to the closet and retrieved his suitcase, Danny finally stopped thinking and acted instead. He untangled himself from the blankets and walked quickly across the room to where Martin stood. Without hesitation, he wrapped his arms tightly around the other man from behind and pulled him close, ducking his chin down to rest on Martin's shoulder.
"Danny please…" Martin said hoarsely, his body trembling. "I…I think I should go home," he went on softly. "I just can't…"
"Stay," Danny whispered, his lips brushing the soft skin below Martin's ear. "Fitz, don't do this…don't leave," he pleaded, arms tightening around the other man, one hand pressed firmly against his hip, the other on his chest. Martin's soft whispered pleas and his lack of response to Danny's touch were quickly causing him to panic. He knew that if Martin left now and went back to New York that the chances of their working things out would be very slim. He had to try now.
A few moments of silence passed before Danny felt Martin's body shift, just a little. He didn't hold himself quite so rigidly anymore, leaning back – only slightly – against Danny. One of his hands brushed Danny's where he held his hip. Danny pushed himself closer, gently pressing his lips to Martin's neck, murmuring pleas and gentle words in Spanish.
But suddenly Martin's voice was choked, desperate and it froze Danny where he stood. "Danny…please don't…you know I can't…can't tell you no when you…"
Quickly, Danny let him go and forced him to turn around. He took Martin's face in his hands, struck by the nerves and the weariness he saw painted there. He swallowed hard over the lump in his throat and tried to ignore it; he did not want to cry. Not now when Martin was the one looking so vulnerable and upset. When Martin had practically declared that a good portion of their relationship was based upon nothing more than Danny's ability to seduce and seduce well. "Please don't leave," Danny begged then. "Let me try again…stay and…give me another chance Martin…please," he said, voice rough.
To his great surprise, Martin nodded, falling against Danny weakly, sighing as he wrapped his arms around him and buried his face against his neck. "I don't want to leave," he admitted softly, his breath warm against Danny's skin. "I just…I don't know what to do anymore."
Danny squeezed his eyes shut and held Martin more tightly, the other man's words tearing through his heart painfully. "I'm sorry," Danny whispered, wishing he could find better words to say. He pulled back slightly and looked into Martin's eyes again, hating the sadness he glimpsed there.
Sighing, Martin leaned forward, pressing his forehead to Danny's and shutting his eyes. "I'm exhausted," he murmured. "I didn't sleep much at all last night."
"Me neither," Danny replied. He took a few steps towards their bed, pulling Martin with him. "Why don't we sleep for a little while?" he suggested. Nervous almost, he bit his lower lip and looked away from blue eyes that were curious suddenly. "I just want to hold you," he added in a soft voice. "And then…"
Martin kissed him softly, surprising Danny, and suddenly making his heart ache even worse with the thought that he might have lost – and could still lose – the other man.
Despite everything it was easy to climb into bed together, to move close and back into each other's arms. Martin kissed him softly again before burrowing closer, pressing his face into Danny's neck and holding him tighter. Danny, in turn, squeezed his eyes shut against tears as he slid his arms around Martin's back. Their legs tangled automatically and Danny felt the other man relax against him, his breathing evening out as he fell asleep. Part of him wanted to stay awake, to fight against sleep and make sure Martin didn't disappear. But he was so tired after an endless day and a very sleepless night, and Martin's body was warm in his arms, fitting against him so perfectly that it was impossible to not give in.
When Danny woke up it was dark outside. It took him a few moments to orient himself, to remember and realize that Martin was still here. Still here and still in his arms. He was, however, surprised when he realized that Martin was already awake and watching him steadily. Swallowing hard, he took a few moments to gather his thoughts, unable determine why he was, in fact, so nervous suddenly. They were so close and Martin's blue eyes were strangely calm, warm, watching Danny with a careful sort of precision and hope.
"I thought you'd still be sleeping," Danny murmured, not knowing what else to say. He just had to get past the silence that had settled around them. Not that it wasn't comfortable, it was…but a part of him felt unnerved and ridiculously exposed.
Martin shook his head. "I slept much better here…with you than I did last night," he answered softly. Lightly, he ran his fingers over Danny's cheek, letting his hand rest gently against his neck. An action to which Danny responded with a shiver; and he couldn't help closing the last little bit of distance between them, sighing as his lips pressed against Martin's. Martin's hand slipped upwards into his hair as they kissed, and Danny could feel himself melting. It was soft, warm and sleepy and he whimpered as their tongues touched. And somehow it was different from any of their previous kisses…slow and deep and…more. It made Danny tremble and ache and when they finally broke apart, he found himself whispering desperate apologies against Martin's swollen lips.
"Shh, Danny…" Martin soothed, his thumb moving slowly back and forth over Danny's jaw, his eyes full of warmth.
"I never wanted to hurt you Fitzie," he whispered, his grip tightening on the other man.
Martin nodded and kissed him again. "I know."
"Tell me what I can do," Danny pleaded, desperate suddenly. "To make things better." The feel of Martin in his arms this way was too much; such a contrast to the previous night that he never wanted to go back to that again.
Martin shook his head slightly, looking away for just a few moments before meeting Danny's gaze again. "You know it's not that easy," he replied softly, the soft lines on his face hardening just slightly. His eyes were sad in a way that made Danny's heart clench with fear. "Maybe…maybe we did all of this too quickly," he admitted, his voice hollow and colored with regret.
Danny shook his head, unable to help the way he pulled back slightly. He didn't want to have this conversation. "Martin…"
"Danny, you know we've moved fast," Martin interrupted, his eyes full of sorrow. "It's only been a little more than three months together and now we're here and…" he trailed off, silence indicating the problems they were both already well aware of. "Maybe we've been trying to force something that just doesn't work," he added softly, his voice trembling.
Again, Danny shook his head, denying Martin's words, not wanting to give up like this. "I know this has been fast," Danny agreed. "And I know it's scary but…I wanted to take a chance with you because…it feels so right. Being with you…"
"But you don't trust me," Martin argued.
Danny's eyes widened and he frowned, surprised by Martin's words. "I…I trust you with my life," he answered softly, voice full of conviction.
Martin nodded in agreement, his eyes never leaving Danny's. "But not with your heart."
Danny wanted to argue, but he couldn't, because he knew – despite how much he wished it otherwise – that Martin's words were true. Painfully true. He'd yet to let go with Martin, to open up and really share anything. All because he was afraid of getting hurt as he had so many times in the past. He trusted Martin to be a good partner at work, to have his back, to be his friend even…but he was terrified of giving him his heart.
"Danny, being with you was a big step for me. You know that I've hidden who I truly am for so long, but you've been so patient with me, and helped me come to terms with all of this. You've made me want to stop hiding," Martin said earnestly. "And I want more with you," he went on, reaching out to squeeze Danny's shoulder, his blue eyes bright and eager.
"I want more with you too Martin," Danny admitted softly.
Martin shook his head, his eyes darkening. He pulled back from Danny and sat up, running his hands through his hair and sighing in frustration. Danny sat up as well, a sinking feeling in his stomach as he watched Martin try to choose his next words.
"But how can I believe that when you won't share anything with me?" he asked, sounding upset. "You got me to share so much with you…about my family, my past, my fears, what I want from life…but every time I try to get you to open up, you push me away. Or you lie," he added, pain flashing brightly in his eyes. "And I just don't know how we're supposed to stay together like this…" he finished softly, a defeated expression on his face.
Danny swallowed hard, Martin's words making him cold, scared, desperate. He didn't want to lose him. But he didn't know what to say now, couldn't bring himself to offer another empty apology and watch that pain flash across Martin's eyes again. Shaking his head, he blinked away tears and stood up, walking away from the bed and out onto the balcony, hugging his arms around himself as he looked out at the darkened ocean. He jumped in surprise when he felt Martin's arms wrap around his waist, the other man pressing close to him against his back. He hadn't expected Martin to follow him; he had, in fact, expected him to leave.
"Tell me something real Danny," he pleaded, his breath warm against the back of Danny's neck.
He turned around slowly, careful to stay within the warmth of Martin's arms. He studied the other man intently, surprised at the hope he saw in his eyes. Only moments ago, Martin had been explaining why they weren't going to work, but now he was here, trying once again to get Danny to be honest with him. Danny took a deep breath, pressing closer to Martin for comfort. Absently, he trailed his fingers over Martin's jaw and neck, needing to touch him.
He knew this was his last chance, but that didn't make it any easier. For so long he'd kept himself hidden from anyone and everyone, knowing that if he didn't open up there was less of a chance that he could get hurt. Growing up the way he had was what had done that to him…making him cynical and sarcastic. At least on the outside. But hidden deeply inside he still had hope, still wanted love…but showing any of that made him vulnerable to pain again. Now, however, staying silent, and keeping his feelings hidden so that he didn't risk his heart was something he just couldn't do. Because the prospect of losing Martin was so much more painful.
"I grew up only thirty minutes or so from here," he confessed quickly, knowing that once he started it would be easier to keep going. "The other day…when I disappeared for a couple hours, that's where I went. To my old neighborhood…just to see, to remember…" he explained, voice tight with fear and uncertainty. It was still hard to get the words out. "When you asked if I spent a lot of time at the beach when I was younger…we didn't, not really…that much was true. But there were a few times, when somehow my mother had a free moment, and she'd gather my brother and I together and bring us to the beach…and I…I loved those days Martin," he whispered, grateful for the way the other man didn't interrupt, only listened, his eyes warm, his touch comforting.
"You'd think that…something like that would be easier to share. But I…I think I'm more protective of the good memories," he explained softly. "If I share them I'm afraid that they'll get away…"
Martin pulled him closer, pressing soft kisses to the corners of his mouth, his cheek and his neck. Whispered his name against his ear and held him for the longest time, fingers combing gently through his dark hair.
"Last night…when you were gone I went to see my parents' graves. I…haven't been there since their funeral when I was eleven. I didn't want to be there…not by myself," he confessed, lowering his voice because he knew it was about to break. "But I needed to go…"
"I would've gone with you," Martin said softly, cupping Danny's face in his hands, his thumbs moving back and forth soothingly over his jaw. "If you had told me; if you had asked."
Danny nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. He felt undone by Martin's words and the deeper meaning that lay behind them. Mostly though, it was the expression in his eyes…the feelings that flickered there. Something deep and strong that Danny knew would only grow if they managed to work through their problems.
"I want you to have faith in me Martin," Danny said eventually, his voice trembling. "I…want to trust you more, to share my feelings, to be honest with you all of the time and not lie or give you half truths. Because I want this to work so badly, more than any relationship I've had in a very long time. I…I think that's a big part of the reason why I asked you to come to Miami with me. Because I knew it would be harder to hide here, so close to where I grew up, and maybe I'd be forced to tell you something real…"
Martin kissed him softly, wrapping his arms around Danny's waist and resting his forehead against his when their mouths broke apart. "I know why you were keeping things to yourself Danny. I understand that need. It's easier to keep it hidden, because if you start to share yourself there's a better chance you'll get hurt," he murmured, breath warm against Danny's mouth. "I know that. I've lived like that practically my whole life. But with you it was all so different, and for the first time I found it easy to share things, to not be so cautious or secretive. I wanted you to know my feelings and my secrets. And when you didn't do the same, I just felt that…that I had made a mistake or that you didn't want the same things…"
"I do," Danny said quickly. "I want us to work so badly Fitz. I want us to be real and strong because I've never felt this way before. Things with you are just so…amazing." He paused, pulling back just slightly, his hands at the back of Martin's neck. "Tell me I didn't fuck it all up," he whispered, eyes pleading. Where they were now was different from where they'd been a few hours ago. But he still needed reassurance. "Let me try again…please?"
Martin's lower lip trembled and he pressed his fingers to Danny's mouth. He nodded, a small smile flitting across his lips. "Yes Danny," he answered, voice breaking softly just before he kissed him again. "I don't want to give up," he whispered frantically against his mouth. Danny held onto him tightly, kissing him with a powerful sort of need, thankful that he hadn't lost him.
They made love with a new sort of closeness that had never been there before, coming together with touch and taste, their eyes locked. It was slow and intense, Martin moving methodically inside of him, their hands intertwined above Danny's head. He gave himself over in a way he never had, surrendering, letting Martin see what he'd always kept hidden before. Their skin was hot against each other, kisses wet and deep; the only sounds in the room were their bodies moving together and their hushed moans of pleasure.
Danny held Martin tightly afterwards, both of them still breathing heavily, their hearts beating frantically. He ran his fingers in random patterns over Martin's sweat-slicked skin, nipping gently at his lips as they traded kisses and soft whispers. And it was easy to fall asleep that way, in a tangle of limbs and sheets, nearly every inch of each other touching in some way.
The morning brought a reassuring continuance of what they'd promised the night before. And Danny felt surprisingly safe. He wanted to share more of his past and his feelings with Martin, and now he found that he could. Not that it was exactly effortless, but it was so much easier because he was learning that he could trust Martin. With everything. It brought them closer than they had ever been before, and by the time they left Florida, Danny felt more secure. Not only in their relationship, but also with himself.
That wasn't to say that he could immediately overcome the urge to hide, to make up half-truths and cover his feelings with sarcasm or a quick change of the subject. And sometimes Martin let him hide, knew that he needed some time to figure it all out. But he remembered more often to trust Martin, to remember that they were together and it was so much easier than being alone.