A/N: I'll try to be brief. I started this story over a year ago, writing feverishly through over half of it until the idea on how to continue slipped through my fingers. With much regret, I stuck it in my infamous (in my mind) "unfinished stories" folder & went onto write other pieces. But in the back of my mind I was always determined to finish it. Only recently, as in the past few months, have I been able to do more than just reread what I had already written. New ideas started coming & I found myself able to write for it again & finally finish it. As I'm giving it yet another read through to make some edits, I'm struck by sections that make me very proud, while others I feel could have been better. But you're always your own worst critic, right?
So anyway, enjoy, comment, critique...I'm just happy to be able to finally start posting this story!
"Guess who's getting married?"
Danny looked up from the pile of reports he was going through, eyebrow raised in curiosity, though he wasn't sure he cared all that much. Sam had a way of making even interesting things sound mundane. Already he could hear the slight sneer in her voice and he had to wonder if she was talking about a coworker they both knew and disliked or if she'd been reading a tabloid about the latest celebrity couple.
"You?" he said, smirking.
She rolled her eyes in return, offering him a look that said, "we both know that's never going to happen" and shook her head. Instead of answering right away she pulled her chair over to the conference table and sat next to him. He frowned; smirk faltering a bit as he met her eyes. The sneer was gone now and instead her expression was gentle, almost sad. But as usual, it was hard to tell with Sam, and even though Danny knew her better than most, he still had his moments of doubt. She was nothing if not good at keeping things hidden. But the compassion – or was it pity? – persisted and now he found himself genuinely curious.
"What's with all the suspense? Who is it?" He leaned forward a bit, mimicking her posture – like they were having a secret conversation. He had to wonder when it was exactly that they'd become so close. At best it was confusing, at worst horribly annoying…he'd never purposefully sought out her friendship. If that's what it was anyway.
She looked away for a moment, something rare, and Danny was just about ready to threaten her with violence when she blurted it out. "Martin."
And that had been the last name he'd expected to hear. For a moment he thought seriously about ignoring her – knew she wouldn't like it if he did – before he laughed. He forced all the clues out of his mind and laughed at her, leaned back in his chair, hands pressed together at the fingertips. It was a wall, built quickly and easily and his eyes sparkled dangerously as he shook his head. "Nice," he commented as he crossed his legs.
She sighed – not a good sign – and stayed where she was. It was another blow to Danny's ego to realize that she wasn't buying his reaction. Again, that strange sort of friendship they'd developed was back into play. How on earth had she come to know him so well? And vice versa for that matter. He really hated it sometimes, this definitely being one of them.
"I'm serious Danny," she replied. He noticed how careful she was to keep the pity out of her voice. "Viv told me earlier this morning," she went on. Danny started to wonder why she was still talking. "She saw it in the society pages."
Danny laughed again and now he knew it was a joke. It had to be. "Does Viv always read the society pages?" he asked, smirking again.
Again, she sighed and Danny rolled his eyes, wondering why she was still putting on this performance. "She's bored Danny. She hates being stuck at home, recovering and trapped on the couch all day so she reads the paper from front to back. Says it's distracting."
He opened his mouth to reply but couldn't find a snappy comeback now. For a few brief moments he'd actually forgotten that Viv wasn't here right now. She hadn't just been skimming the newspaper in the break room, or going over it on the subway, she was at home. Recovering. From heart surgery. So now on top of everything else he felt like an asshole.
Swallowing he made a point of looking away from her and started to push away from the table, back to the safety of his desk. But when she followed him, he turned, irritated now, and met her concerned gaze with anger in his own. "What is it you want Sam?" His voice was harsh and low – didn't want to cause a scene – and he was glad when she winced.
"Just…are you okay?" she asked, voice a little shaky. She pressed her lips together and for one brief horrifying moment Danny thought she was going to reach out and touch him. He recoiled at the thought and laughed. Strange how the sound held no trace of happiness.
"What were you expecting? Were you hoping I'd cry? It's been two years Sam. I can't even tell you the last time I thought about him." His voice was sarcastic, defensive now. And his words were lies. He laughed bitterly again. "What? Did you think I've been pining away over Martin Fitzgerald all this time?"
She didn't buy it; he saw that right away. And he decided that if she didn't leave him alone in three seconds she was going to die with his hands around her throat.
She held up her hands, palms facing him and shook her head softly. "Fine, I just thought you'd like to know."
Again her eyes were soft, pitying…or was it concern? She held his gaze, her own lingering for a few more moments, searching for everything that he was sure she already knew. She reached out and squeezed his shoulder, making him tense and he was sure he'd snap at any second now. Hands around her throat, about fifteen people pointing guns at his head if he didn't stop….
She walked away, heels clicking on the floor as she went back to her desk, smiling at a coworker – one of those ones they both secretly hated – who walked past. And suddenly Danny wished she were back at his side.
It was Thursday night. Thursday night, almost 10 o'clock and he was at home. Sitting in front of the TV, long legs stretched out before him, head back against the soft leather of the couch, bottle of cold root beer in hand. Thursday night at home, drinking root beer – wishing on some level that it were beer – and watching baseball.
He thought of where he could be. Where he usually was every Thursday night, or Friday night if someone was enough of a jerk to go missing late in the day on Thursday so that he didn't get to leave work when he wanted to. He'd be at Pearl's or Goddess or even Sanctuary if they were in the mood. Yes, they. He and Sam. Every Thursday like clockwork, they'd leave work, go home and change, take separate cabs to the decided upon location and they'd spend the next few hours together and in the company of strangers. Sam getting hit on by every guy whose eye had ever been turned by a blonde. Danny getting hit on by every woman who'd ever heard the phrase tall, dark and handsome. And sometimes it was the reverse.
But it was their thing.
Go to Pearl's…a dive of a bar if ever there was one. They'd laugh about it and wonder what half of the establishment's patrons would think – or do – if they knew the two of them were federal agents. Sam would order beer first and then diet coke. Danny would stick with root beer and order French fries. They'd gossip about coworkers – never work itself – and tease each other.
Go to Goddess…one room a bar that thought it was a high-class nightclub; the other a room that knew it was a cheap topless bar. Again, there was always laughter. Two FBI agents at a sleazy, dreamless place. Sam would order a rum and coke; Danny just coke and they'd get all their change in one-dollar bills. Had to so that when they eventually migrated to the topless bar room they'd have plenty of money for the strippers. Sam always giggled, blushing from her cheeks to her temples and Danny would inevitably end up doubled over in laughter watching her watch the strippers.
Go to Sanctuary, but only occasionally…a more premiere nightclub, classier, yet sleazy in its own way. They'd lost count of all the illegal activity they could have been busting people for. But when they went out they weren't working…that was a very big part of the point. It was the only place where Sam would get drunk. Drinking cosmos – a decidedly girly drink for her – like they were water, and Danny always stuck with just that: water. They went there when things were at their worst. When cases had ended badly, horribly. When they knew if they went home there'd only be nightmares and the desperate desire to scream. Often, they'd lose each other in the crowd. Sam perched on a barstool drinking her cosmos and ignoring the men that hit on her. Danny would wander around, glass of water in hand, eyes scanning the crowd for someone to dance with. There was always someone. The redhead with all the curves and green eyes like a witch. The blue-eyed blonde with pink lips who pressed herself close and nibbled on his earlobe. But more often than not there was a guy. Someone nameless and quiet, not quite ready to dance but drawn to Danny nonetheless.
Sam always ended up backwards on her bar stool, facing the dance floor, scanning it for Danny. He always kept her placement in mind and watched for her gaze, smirking at her over the girls' shoulders. She'd giggle to herself and roll her eyes at him before turning around for another drink. Perhaps by then she'd be tipsy enough to at least talk to the men that hit on her. But it all changed when he was dancing with a man. She'd stay quiet, her gaze glassy and never quite meeting his own, but she'd watch him. She'd watch for as long as he'd let her, before the lust in her eyes forced him to turn away and inevitably leave his dance partner at the next song.
He knew it wasn't about him. She wasn't lusting over him – something he was grateful for. And she never talked about it, but he knew what she did. Filed the image away for later, something to get off to when the shades were drawn, the lights turned off and the wineglass was empty. He'd asked her about it once, and she'd been drunk enough to answer. She'd told him not to flatter himself, that she'd sooner sleep with the bartender at Pearl's – not by any means an attractive guy – than sleep with Danny. But, she went on in a slurred voice, she wasn't denying that Danny was sexy as hell and that the image of him dancing with other men was something she liked watching. Loved it.
Some nights he'd find a particularly attractive dance partner…someone he'd want to take home and somehow Sam always knew. Danny would kiss her on the cheek and put her into a cab and smirk over her lust-filled gaze. Then he'd take his nameless guy home and fuck him until his mind was blissfully blank. Most of the time though, he'd end up bringing Sam home with him, helping her out of her clothes and into one of his old t-shirts, tucking her into his bed and then falling asleep on the couch. And that was why half of his hall closet was filled with her clothes, because it was easier on both of them if she could just change at his place before they went into work.
Scowling, he drank down the rest of the root beer and turned off the television, plunging the room into darkness. Slowly the lights from outside started to creep in and his eyes adjusted to the dark. He'd avoided Sam all afternoon at work, not even acknowledging her most of the time. He'd ducked out quickly before she'd had a chance to ask which place he wanted to go to tonight. She'd called once; left him a message asking him to call and that had been it. She knew not to push, but he'd felt guilty because he could hear the very slight tone of hurt that her voice had held.
So now he was alone, sitting in the dark and wondering why he'd thought this would be a better idea. He just didn't think he could take her concern or pity all night. Oh if he gave her a certain look or said a certain thing he knew she'd leave it alone. In fact she was so good at leaving things alone that she'd probably never ask him about it again – even when he'd want her to. But he just didn't feel like pretending.
Martin was getting married.
Caroline Vandergrift. That was her name. Danny had bought a paper on his lunch break, unable to resist reading the words for himself. Even now he had to smirk, eyes narrowing.
Caroline Vandergrift, daughter of Edward and Elizabeth to wed Dr. Martin Fitzgerald…
A match made in WASP heaven if he'd ever heard one. His smirk turned into a scowl and he stopped himself just before he threw the empty root beer bottle at the wall. No need to send shards of glass flying across his apartment over Martin fucking Fitzgerald.
Two years had passed and Martin still wouldn't leave him alone. Two years ago, Danny had been left with a broken heart and wondering what he'd been doing for the previous eight months.
Two years and the news that Martin was engaged hurt like hell.
"What do you mean leaving?" Danny asked, sure he hadn't heard right. He couldn't have.
"I got a job at Saint Margaret's hospital in Boston," Martin replied as he pulled on his shirt. He glanced around the room a few times and Danny watched him carefully, a sinking feeling in his stomach. It was early and Martin had to be at work in less than an hour. They'd gone out for dinner the night before…one of those few times that Martin had actually agreed to a real date. It had been ideally romantic, candlelight and all; and afterwards they'd taken a cab back to Danny's apartment and had sex…twice. It had been a special occasion – although Danny had failed to mention that, knowing Martin would scoff at the idea. But it had been eight months since they'd met…an anniversary of sorts. And Danny found it special because he'd never had a relationship last longer than two.
"And when were you planning on telling me this? Once you got to Boston?" Danny asked, eyes darkening. He got out of bed and pulled on some track pants and a t-shirt, following Martin – in his apparent rush to leave – out into the living room.
"I'm telling you now," Martin replied. He went into the kitchen to make coffee and Danny followed at close range, swallowing hard over the sick feeling in his stomach.
Martin turned to face him, a sad sort of smile on his face. He took a few steps closer and Danny, who moments ago had wanted to hold onto Martin and never let go, stepped away. He held up his hands in defense and shook his head. "Don't…"
"What?" Martin asked, confusion in his eyes now. He stepped closer again, reaching out and brushing his fingers over Danny's cheek. An action to which Danny replied by swatting Martin's hand away. He took a few deep breaths, forcing the panic down. He didn't want pity.
"So what have we been doing for the past eight months?" Danny asked, his voice low and even. Dangerous. His eyes flashed with an anger Martin hadn't been expecting. Or at least hadn't wanted to deal with, Danny thought to himself. Martin shook his head again and Danny swore to himself that if the other man smiled that soft, pitying smile one more time that he'd punch him.
"Danny I really want this job," he said softly, eyes gently pleading for understanding.
And at that moment, and that moment only, standing there in his kitchen, he hated Martin. It had all been a game and now he was taking the easy way out, blaming things on a career move. Danny had to call him on it. "That's not what I asked."
Martin paused, looking nervous. Danny knew how much he hated confrontation. "I'm sorry Danny," he said softly, his eyes flashing with a moment of genuine sadness. "I don't want to hurt you. I…I care for you." His voice was softer now, something different in his expression. "But I…I can't…can't stay," he fumbled over the words. The change in his manner was so surprising and so quick that Danny thought he was only imagining it…that he was willing it to be there.
"Can't or won't?" Danny asked, voice taking on a cruel tone. If Martin was going to leave him – leave him and break his heart – then he wasn't going to play fair. "Maybe your father found out about us and now you're being banished to Boston?"
"My father doesn't control my life," Martin answered, angry suddenly. And that was good, it was what Danny wanted because he couldn't handle Martin being in control and just walking away.
"And yet as I recall your father is Chief of Medicine at Presbyterian Hospital here, and he's probably an old college buddy of the Chief of Medicine at Saint Margaret's Hospital in Boston…so you see where this is going, don't you Fitzie?" he asked, hating the sarcasm that dripped from his voice. And he called Martin a coward? "Dad finds out you're fucking a guy, he decides to get you sent somewhere else, all the while making it sound like a prestigious career move. And being that you're too damn scared to stand up to your father, or stand on your own I might add, you agree. Was that about right?"
"Fuck you Danny!" Martin yelled, and from the blush on his cheeks Danny knew he'd gotten it right.
He smirked and leaned back against the wall as Martin stormed past. "Ah but we did that last night," he replied. He could only watch as Martin picked up his bag and his jacket. He wanted to stop him, apologize for the harshness of his words and try to work things out. But what could he say? There was nothing to work out because Martin was leaving. Leaving with or without Danny's apology.
"It was never supposed to be serious," Martin said, his eyes flashing with something Danny would swear was sadness. But he was trying so hard to hold onto his anger. He stepped past Danny and turned around once more at the door.
"Well thanks for letting me know," Danny replied softly. He let the hurt leak out, let it color his voice and his eyes. He didn't have enough energy to keep up the pretense of anger anymore.
Martin seemed to falter as he looked at Danny. His eyes clouded over, seeing something Danny couldn't. "I'm sorry," he whispered, looking up again, meeting Danny's gaze and taking his breath away.
Danny took a few steps closer. He wanted to reach for him but he didn't seem to know how. Never mind the way his heart was screaming at him to grab Martin quickly, to make him stay. But Martin was already leaving, turning away and opening the door, a soft and broken goodbye on his lips. Danny reached out too late, coming up with air and he couldn't seem to find his voice to call after him. He heard the small hitch of Martin's breath as he left, felt like the world had suddenly come to a stand still, and then the door clicked shut behind him.
Danny sank down to the floor in the hallway, back against the wall, hand braced against the door. Everything was so quiet and later he'd swear he'd heard Martin crying outside his door. But he'd never know for sure because as he dropped his face into his hands he realized his own face was already covered with tears.
He sat up abruptly and ran his hands through his hair, leaning forward on the couch. It was hard to believe that his mind had been cruel enough to replay that awful day in his head now of all times. He wasn't thinking as he reached for his phone and dialed a number he knew by heart.
She answered on the seventh ring, her voice sleep-filled and annoyed. "Danny?"
"Yeah Sam…um, sorry I woke you," he answered. He squinted and looked across the room to the clock on the wall. 12:48am. Maybe he should have checked it before he'd dialed the number.
"Sure you are. What do you want?" she asked, yawning between words, but Danny knew she was up.
"I'm sorry," he said awkwardly.
She sighed and he knew everything was okay, that his earlier ignorance of her was forgiven. "Have you been thinking about him?" she asked, her voice taking on a tender quality.
Not for the first time he marveled at how well she knew him. Funny how before he'd broken up with Martin they'd never once spoken to each other about anything besides work. "Yes," he replied, voice dropping to a pained whisper. "And I hate it."
She yawned again, and Danny could picture her trying to shake off the sleep, hair a little mussed, lips still full and pink because it was as if she'd been born wearing some sort of permanent lipstick. "I'm coming over," she said without pretense, and Danny knew that the following rustling he heard was her pulling on some sort of cotton pajama bottoms, tennis shoes and a sweatshirt.
He didn't even try to protest. He wanted her here and he didn't have the energy to even make a show of things. "Thanks Sam," he whispered.
They hung up and it was only twenty minutes later that she sat with him on the couch, listening to him tell the story she already knew by heart. Danny was grateful for the way she listened, for how good she was at doing it. And when she hugged him he knew it wasn't pity in her voice, her eyes or anything else and it never had been. It was concern. Concern and a mutual sadness.