TITLE: In the Doghouse
SUMMARY: After forgetting Lindsay's birthday, Danny asks Stella how he can make it up to her.
SPOILERS: 4x15, "DOA for a Day"
RATING: T for language.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the show or the characters. Promos would not be so mean if I did.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I am in my bubble. Please do not disturb my bubble. Mean promos do not exist in my bubble.
Reviews are, as always, appreciated, but I ask you to please remember that I am spoiler-free. Thank you much.
Un-beta'd. All mistakes are my own.
Stella knew even before Danny came to see her what the trouble was. Not because her breasts had magical psychic powers, like she knew the lab techs liked to joke when she seemingly pulled an answer out of thin air – and she was still trying to think of a way to get back at them for that remark, but because she had actually bumped into Lindsay in the break room and gotten the scoop.
It had been odd to see Lindsay, normally so cheerful, looking despondent. Honestly, the girl looked like she just found out her puppy had been hit by a car. True, there had been times, leading up to her abrupt departure to go testify at her friends' murder trial, when seeing her like this was a common occurrence. But since her return from Montana, it was rare to find her without a smile on her face. Stella knew a lot of factors went into that, but she also suspected that the largest had to do with a certain 5'9", blond-haired, blue-eyed detective with whom they both happened to work.
And it didn't take a woman with psychic breasts – hell, it didn't even take a trained criminalist – to guess just where the problem lay.
"Oh, it's nothing, really," Lindsay said in response to Stella's inquiry, her voice pumped with false cheerfulness, as though trying to convince herself as well as Stella. "Danny just, you know, forgot my birthday."
That in itself was an outrage to Stella. She was big on birthdays. She lived for birthdays. She would go into her coworkers' offices and pencil her birthday on all of their desk calendars, so they would have no excuse not to remember. And she made it a point to remember all of theirs – not just the members of her team, but the CSIs on other shifts, the lab techs, even the security guards. Her personal calendar was full of people's names, color-coded by what area they worked in at the crime lab, because there were at least three Katies working in the building – all in different departments.
Lindsay had seemed most surprised when Stella presented her with a gift card for Bath & Body Works. She'd stared at the gift for a while, as though unable to believe it. And now Stella knew why. It looked as though Stella was going to have to break into Danny's office to write in not only her birthday, but Lindsay's as well.
Stella had expressed a desire to poke him with something pointy, but Lindsay shook her head and said in the same falsely bright voice, "It's nothing, Stella, really. Men just aren't wired to remember birthdays." She paused, gazing forlornly into her mug of coffee. "Even though everyone else remembered."
There was obviously more to it, judging by the tone in Lindsay's voice and the look on her face. However, she chose not to elaborate, even after Stella's incessant nagging, and for someone not to give in to Stella's wheedling, something had to be wrong. Lindsay had never been one to open up about her private life, especially since she and Danny worked so hard to keep their personal relationship separate from their professional one, but lately she had been coming to Stella more and more to talk. And Stella thought that, after nearly three years of working side by side with Lindsay, she could tell when something was up.
And something was definitely up.
So when Danny came to find her later, she was expecting him. She tried to make it look as though she hadn't been waiting for him to pop by her office, stacking up paperwork that she'd already finished and pretending to be deeply engrossed with her latest report on the computer, though she was really browsing the Tiffany's website.
"Stella, ma bella," he murmured, rapping his knuckles lightly on the door frame before leaning against it, "you're a woman."
Stella rolled her eyes. "An astute observation, Detective," she said, lifting one eyebrow in his direction. She took the opportunity to scrutinize him, as if she could get to the root of the problem simply by analyzing his posture. "Did you arrive at that conclusion all by yourself?"
He ignored her, jamming his hands into his front pockets. "I was wondering how long the probationary period lasts after you forget, uh, an important event."
"Depends," Stella said, leaning forward on her elbows, her 'report' forgotten, "on what the important event was."
He rubbed the back of his neck in one of his nervous habits. "I kind of forgot about Lindsay's birthday."
Stella shook her head and sighed, even though she'd already known that piece of information. "Oh, Danny," was all she said.
Danny groaned and threw up his hands. "I've apologized like fifty times!" he exclaimed, stepping into Stella's office. "I told her that guys are programmed to remember things like, you know, sports stats and steak sides, and not birthdays and anniversaries."
"Then how do you explain the fact that everyone else remembered?" Stella asked, folding her arms across her chest. "Even Adam remembered, and you know how flaky he can be."
"I know, I know," he said, slumping into the chair opposite Stella's desk and burying his face in his hands. His hangdog expression told Stella exactly where he'd been sleeping the past few nights. "We were finally starting to get back on track, and then I go and do something like this, and she says she forgives me, but I know she doesn't."
Stella furrowed her eyebrows. "Back on track?"
Danny nodded, his head still in his hands, so his next words were muffled. "I'd been spending a lot of time with, uh, Rikki lately."
Her eyes narrowed. She now had a pretty good idea of what else had been bothering Lindsay. "Rikki Sandoval? You're spending a lot of time with an attractive, single, grieving woman who has some kind of bizarre attachment to you and happens to live down the hall from your apartment, and then you go and forget Lindsay's birthday? You do remember Lindsay, right? Your girlfriend? The woman you flew two thousand miles on the spur of the moment so you could be with her in her darkest moment? I don't think I like what I'm hearing, Danny."
Now Danny's eyes narrowed. He straightened, his spine going rigid. "I don't think I like what you're insinuating, Stella."
He practically spit out her name, but Stella was too far into her 'overprotective big sister mode' to notice or even particularly care. Before, she never would have even considered the possibility of Danny being unfaithful to anyone – loyalty was big with him, and he was always so disgusted with suspects who admitted to cheating – but a lot of things could happen in the heat of the moment, especially when two people shared something as tragic as Rikki and Danny apparently did. Which made no sense to her, but whatever, neither did reality television.
She practically growled her next words. "If you did anything to hurt Lindsay, I swear to God, I'll – "
"I would never do anything to hurt Lindsay," was Danny's response, and it wasn't in the angry tone he had just been using. The softly vehement way in which he said it revealed that the intent behind his words was sincere, and Stella felt her anger fading. "She's…everything. I know I don't have the greatest track record, but I'm not about to screw up the best thing that ever happened to me. It's just…with Ruben…Rikki understands."
Okay, her anger was back. With friends. Friends with pointy sticks. "You think Lindsay wouldn't understand? Lindsay, who as a teenager had to witness her friends being brutally murdered and then had to face the killer in the courtroom, you don't think she'd understand what you're going through?"
She scoffed, feeling suddenly sick to her stomach. Danny, like Lindsay, had never been one to open up. He was just not a 'let's talk out our feelings over a cup of coffee' kind of guy, but to be doing so with another woman was just… She knew that Danny had never been in a relationship that had lasted as long or gotten as serious as his and Lindsay's, but even a guy who'd never had a girlfriend before should know that what Danny was doing was unbelievably inconsiderate. Inconsiderate was an understatement. How could a guy who had as much experience with women as Danny claimed be so completely and utterly clueless?
Danny opened his mouth as if to respond but then groaned and sank down in the chair. "I'm an idiot." Stella privately agreed, watching with raised eyebrows as he repeatedly smacked himself in the forehead with the heel of his hand. "Oh, god, you don't think Lindsay suspects there might be something going on with me and Rikki, do you? And that's why she's so angry with me?"
Stella honestly had no idea. Lindsay was a strong, independent woman, and Stella had a feeling that if she suspected her significant other of infidelity, there would be a confrontation with a lot of foul language and that wicked-looking pocketknife she carried around. However, Stella also knew just how much Lindsay cared about Danny, and how long the both of them had wanted to be with each other before it had actually happened. After everything they had gone through, Lindsay might not want to give up on what they had so easily.
She thought back to her talk with Lindsay in the break room earlier that day. She had been despondent, but not devastated, and something like that, Stella was sure, would devastate her. And, most likely, leave her wracked with guilt at not trusting Danny. Lindsay didn't trust easily, but she trusted Danny with her life – Stella could tell. Plus, Stella was extremely adept at reading people – it was one of the things that made her such a good investigator – and she hadn't been able to see any hint of anger or suspicion on Lindsay's face.
Stella sighed. "I don't think she's angry, Danny. I think she's hurt. If you have been spending a lot of time with Rikki, she's probably just feeling neglected. Underappreciated. Disappointed that you two aren't spending as much time together anymore. She may have thought that her birthday would be a chance for you to show her how much you care – "
"And I forgot," he grumbled. He leaned forward, and his head fell to her desk with a 'thunk' that made her wince. "Like a jackass. Because I am a jackass. Damn, and Adam even remembered? I am a colossal fuck-up."
He glanced at Stella, as if hoping she would contradict him, but she only raised an eyebrow. He groaned again and dropped his head back into his hands. "How do I make this up to her?"
Stella angled her monitor so that he could see the website she'd been browsing. He peeked through his fingers at the screen as Stella said, "I'd suggest something sparkly and expensive. To start."
Danny shook his head slowly, his brow furrowed. "Lindsay doesn't like jewelry."
Stella didn't really believe that. "What woman doesn't like jewelry?"
"She says it's too flashy for her." He shrugged. "Also, I bought her a pair of earrings for Christmas that she ended up returning, so I don't think that's the way to go."
The idea of returning earrings was an entirely foreign concept to Stella. "She returned them? Why?"
He ducked his head, embarrassed, but not before she managed to catch sight of the slight tinge of red on his cheeks. She never thought she'd live to see the day that Danny Messer blushed. "She doesn't have pierced ears."
Stella rolled her eyes, though she hadn't known that either. She just thought Lindsay didn't wear earrings to work – they could sometimes get in the way. Or get something disgusting on them. "Danny."
"Hey, in my defense, when I look at her, it's usually not her earlobes that I'm focusing on, okay?" He cleared his throat. "And I'm a guy. We don't notice this stuff."
Stella smiled and shook her head. "That 'I'm a guy' excuse only works for so long."
"All right, so no jewelry. And considering what a jackass you've been lately," she murmured, ignoring the angry glare Danny shot in her direction, "it has to be something big. Hasn't she been wanting to go to see RENT?"
"We did that for our anniversary."
"You remembered your anniversary but not her birthday?"
"Focus, Stella. And no, I didn't. About a week before, she said she hoped I didn't have anything huge planned for it because her uncle couldn't use his tickets and gave them to her."
Stella exhaled slowly. "You really do suck at remembering dates." He nodded, silent. She pursed her lips. "Okay, maybe it isn't so much about the actual gift as it is about the gesture. Make an effort. I mean, anyone can run out and buy something, but if you make – "
"She likes that bakery," Danny said. He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose with one finger and looked at Stella as if his statement should make some sort of sense to her.
"Danny, this is New York. There's a bakery on every block. You'll have to be more specific."
"That famous one, with the cupcakes? It was on some show she watches. She loves those things. She says they must be filled with crack, because she can't stop craving them. Whenever we have a scene in the Village, she always has to pick some up."
Stella scrunched up her nose. "Magnolia Bakery?"
Danny slapped his knee. "That's it! I've got it. I've so got it. Thanks, Stella."
"You're welcome?" she said as he disappeared out the door.
The next time she saw Danny, she was passing his office on her way to the restroom, and he was on the phone. She only caught snippets of the conversation, but it sounded as though he were arguing with someone.
"They're how much?" she heard him exclaim as she rounded the corner. "You're kidding me, right?" There was a pause, probably during which the person on the other end informed him that, no, they weren't kidding, and he sighed and rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. "No, no, that's fine."
He was still at it on her return trip, this time screaming about something else. He was angrily pacing back and forth in front of his desk. "You have a limit? What the hell kind of bakery has a limit? How am I supposed to work with that?"
Stella slowed her stride as she passed by the open door, wondering just exactly what Danny was planning if he had to worry about how many cupcakes he was able to buy. He happened to glance up then and catch her looking, so she hurried on her way, slightly embarrassed at having been caught eavesdropping.
It wasn't until later that evening that she discovered what Danny had done. She was making her way to the trace lab to give something to Hawkes when she ran into Lindsay – literally.
"Oh, Lindsay!" Stella exclaimed, steadying the other woman as she stumbled from the collision. "I'm sorry! I wasn't watching where I was – "
"Have you seen Danny?"
Stella raised her eyebrows. "Not since this afternoon. Why?" She narrowed her eyes. "What did he do now?"
Lindsay's only answer was a smile. It wasn't as big or as bright as the ones Stella was used to seeing on her, but it was genuine, and that was what mattered. Movement over Lindsay's shoulder caught Stella's eye as the man of the hour walked up to them.
"Hey, Stell. Linds – "
He was abruptly cut off as Lindsay launched herself at him and latched her lips onto his. He didn't seem to mind, though, as his hands came to rest lightly on her hips and he gently tugged her closer, returning the kiss with enthusiasm. Stella was just wondering if she should suggest they get a room when Lindsay pulled away.
"I love it, Danny," she murmured, wrapping her arms around him. "Thank you."
He rested his chin on the top of her head and slipped his arms around her waist. "Anything for my girl."
They didn't seem to remember that Stella was standing there, so she took the opportunity to duck into their shared office and see just what exactly Danny had done to make it up to Lindsay.
On Lindsay's desk sat twelve cupcakes, each covered in pastel icing and festively decorated with sprinkles that spelled out WNT FRGT NXT YR.