November 28, 2009
St. Michael's Church
Danny stood in front of the small, round mirror hanging on the inside of the closet adjusting his tie. Satisfied that it was even, he tugged on the cuffs of his tuxedo and stepped back, studying his reflection.
"I have to admit, I look damn good in a tux," he announced out loud. He heard a snort of laughter and glanced at Martin over his shoulder, seeing him standing next to a rickety bookshelf flipping through a missal and shaking his head. "What? I do." He returned his attention to his mirrored image and quietly added, "Don't worry, you look pretty good, too."
"Gee, thanks," Martin deadpanned. Dropping the missal back on the shelf, he cocked an eyebrow and asked, "I forget, who's supposed to look better: the best man or the groom?"
Grinning, Danny gave him a cocky shrug. "Let's not argue and just agree we're the best looking men at this wedding."
Releasing a light laugh, Martin quipped, "Fair enough."
Shutting the closet door, Danny looked around the small room where they were sequestered at the back of the church. It seems St. Michael's decided that while the women merited the large dressing room with floor length mirrors, private bathroom and small sofas, the men garnered a musty smelling storage room filled with dusty, broken pews and aged props from Nativity plays of years past.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, anxious for the ceremony to be underway, Danny wandered over to the window and glanced outside. It was an unusually warm fall day in New York City. Down below, he saw Jack talking to Vivian and Marcus. Jack was wearing a slightly fancier version of his usual black attire while Marcus was dressed in a dark grey suit with a navy blue tie that complimented Viv's sapphire colored dress. Nearby stood, Jack's dates. Jack had managed to convince two young, attractive brunettes to accompany him to the wedding of one of his junior agents. With a proud smile on his face, Danny watched Hannah, who was dressed in a burgundy silk dress, busily texting on her cellphone while idly listening to something Kate, dressed in emerald green, was telling her. He still found it hard to believe that those two beautiful young women were the same girls he used to give piggy back rides to when they came to see their father at the office.
Standing alongside the cast iron fence, he spotted Brian, also dressed in a dark suit, cradling David on his hip as Lucy coo'ed at the giggling toddler. Mac and Olzyck were also there, laughing with their significant others. He smiled at the sight of Sofie, spinning around on a nearby patch of grass, proudly twirling her flower girl dress in front of Sylvia and Rafi. He released a light chuckle as his nephew, Nick, walked up to Rafi with a grumpy expression, fidgeting with the collar of his shirt. He was certain that his nephew was complaining, having preferred to be wearing a t-shirt and jeans. However, for all of Rafi's troubled history, Danny knew his brother still possessed that Cuban pride and insisted on the entire family dressing their best for formal occasions.
The only ones visibly absent were Elena, Claire and Sam as they were busily getting prepared for the ceremony, checking their hair, make-up and dresses.
Sighing, Danny stepped away from the window and looked over at Martin who was fidgeting in his suit, pacing the small length of floor in the crowded room. Danny chuckled softly as he couldn't help but feel grateful and somewhat amazed by how far the two of them had come during the course of so many upheavals and changes over the last few years.
"...I was locked out so I decided I should just break the back window and get in that way. But breaking a window isn't easy when you're drunk," Julie explained, releasing a bitter, self-deprecating laugh. She was a young, thin impish-looking girl with stringy blonde hair who looked like a stiff wind would blow her over. She held up her arm, exposing a large scar under her bicep. "I got this as a result." She ran her fingers over the bright pink, raised tissue. "I don't remember much after that because I passed out—maybe from the pain or maybe just because I was so wasted…"
Danny lowered his head knowingly. This was always a tough part of the meetings, seeing someone new enter the fold of AA or NA, their pain and addiction still so raw and fresh. Their ache and desperation was almost palpable. For Danny, it both reminded him how far he'd come as well as how easily he could still be traveling down that path. As painful as these people's stories were to hear, they also reminded him how grateful he should be for the blessings in his life now.
As Julie finished talking, there was a scattering of applause. While Julie walked back to her chair, the meeting's leader, Travis, walked back to the front of the room and asked, "We have time for one more. Is there anyone here feeling the compulsion to share?" He shifted his attention to where they were sitting and said, "Martin, we haven't heard from you in awhile, feel like giving it a shot?"
Danny sat back on his metal folding chair and glanced around when Martin stood up. As the group clapped encouragingly, he watched as his friend walked up to the front of the room, sharing a quick nod with Travis before turning to face the room.
"Hi, I'm Martin," he greeted the room.
"Hi, Martin," everyone responded.
Running his hand over his chin, Danny stared back at Martin, listening carefully. He knew that sharing was Martin's least favorite thing to do, his upbringing having trained him that emotions and pain were to be suppressed and concealed from others. But he also knew that in the months following his time in the hospital he struggled against his addiction once more. While the doctor's were careful to monitor his meds knowing his history with narcotics addiction, he found that once he left that the cravings returned with a vengeance.
"I'll be clean three years…at the end of this month actually," Martin announced, looking surprised and in awe at himself. There was a large clamor of applause. As it grew quiet again, Martin continued, "I still think about them everyday—some days more than others." Many members nodded, relating. "A few months ago I got hurt…" Martin paused and Danny knew he was trying to avoid spilling the details about the case. Licking his lips, he pressed on, "I had to spend time in the hospital and that meant drugs to deal with the pain. The doctor's were very careful, they knew my history—my friends and family made sure of that--" There were knowing murmurs shared in the room. "But I'm not going to lie, it felt pretty good." A flash of shame crossed his face as he added, "But at the same time, I felt disgusted with myself because I liked it." He looked up and scanned the room. "It was the first time since those first few months when I had quit where I found myself facing those dark feelings again. And it made me feel just as shitty."
Pausing, Martin hunched his shoulders and continued, "But as much as I wanted more, I was able to resist." He shook his head and bit his lip, overcome by the memory. "I didn't want to go back to how I was when I was using. Not being able to meet people's eyes or even look at my own reflection in the bathroom mirror. Lying to my friends that I was okay. Lying to myself." Squaring his shoulders, he said, "And thanks to these meetings," he fixed his eyes on Danny, "my friends, my family, and…" he smiled sheepishly, "the love of a really good woman, I know I don't want to fall back into my old ways. I can't and I pray everyday that I won't." Some of the members murmured understandingly, each of them knowing that when it comes to addiction there are no absolutes – only strength to resist. Martin smiled at the room and finished, "But today is a good day. Thanks."
There was another round of applause as Martin returned to his seat. As he sat down, he and Danny exchanged a look, each knowing how sacred the things said at these meetings were.
Travis returned to the front of the room. "I'd like to thank you all for coming tonight." He held up a small basket. "Now we have some chips up here. Who has been sober for the last…?"
After chips were handed out, the meeting broke up and some members hung back to drink coffee and talk. Normally, Danny and Martin would linger as well but tonight they had plans that couldn't wait.
Stepping out into the cool spring evening, the two men headed down the street towards the restaurant.
They walked in silence for a bit before Danny cleared his throat and said, "Good meeting tonight."
"Yeah," Martin replied with a small nod.
They slowed to a stop as the crossing signal changed. With his eyes on the flashing red hand, Danny said, "So, has Claire found a place yet?"
Martin shrugged, non-committal. "No, not yet."
As the crossing signal switched to 'walk,' they started across the street. Carefully avoiding a teenage girl focused more on texting on her cell phone than paying attention to where she was walking, Danny glanced at Martin and said, "You don't seem like you're in any hurry to have her move out."
Claire had moved in with Martin 'temporarily' until she could find a place of her own. When she'd gone undercover, she sublet her apartment and put all her stuff in storage. Now that she was back, she was going to have the couple she rented to move out but found out they were expecting triplets and just didn't have the heart to do so. So while she was hunting for a new place to live, Martin offered her his place.
With a wry grin, Martin shrugged again. "Not really." Not willing to meet Danny's eyes, Martin stared straight ahead and said, "I like having her around."
Turning the corner, they neared the restaurant and Danny replied, "It is pretty nice, isn't it?"
Martin didn't reply, he just smiled a little wider and kept walking.
Danny had to admit that he wasn't so much talking about Martin and Claire as himself and Elena. He liked waking up with her every morning, each getting ready for work, talking with Sofie over breakfast and dinner, and then just being with Elena every night. On those rare nights when he went to bed before she did, he found it harder to get to sleep without her body lying there next to his.
"Looks pretty busy tonight," Martin commented, his gaze set straight ahead.
Looking over, Danny saw a small crowd of people standing outside the entrance to Il Cantinori. It did look pretty busy for a Wednesday night. Walking over, they deftly moved around the crowd of patrons still waiting to be seated and entered the restaurant in search of their dates. The din of the restaurant was loud with the sounds of people talking and laughing, servers reciting the specials of the day, and the clamor of glasses and dishes clinking.
Craning his head around a large ficus tree, Danny spotted Elena and Claire sitting at a table in the center of the dining room. He nudged Martin with his elbow to get his attention and then jerked his chin in the direction of the two women who were engrossed in conversation. As they maneuvered through the tables, Danny couldn't help but feel like one of the luckiest men in the room that the beautiful woman with dark brown hair and a breathtaking smile was his and his alone.
And better yet, he was hers.
"Hey," he greeted as he reached their table. Elena smiled up at him as he kissed her. He pulled back and sat down next to her, catching the tail end of Martin and Claire's similar greeting.
"Meeting okay?" Claire quietly asked, studying Martin's face.
Martin nodded and sat down when a short young man dressed in the standard server attire of black pants, white long sleeved button up shirt accentuated with a garish tie appeared at their table. He had long black hair tied back into a ponytail and was entirely too cheery for a server working the dinner rush.
"Good evening, sirs. I'm Vince and I will be your server," he greeted them. "Can I get you something to drink," he motioned to Claire and Elena's wine glasses filled with what Danny guessed was a merlot or cabernet, "or will you also be having some wine?"
Danny shook his head. "I'll have club soda with lime."
"Scotch neat," Martin replied.
Vince nodded before smiling directly at Claire. In a lame Italian accent, he asked, "Gradirebbero un'altra bottiglia di vino?"
Shaking her head, Claire said, "No, penso che siamo a posto cosi' ma potrebbe controllare il nostro antipasto?"
Vince nodded. "Certo."
"Grazie," Claire replied with a grateful smile. Unlike Vince's accent, Claire's accent sounded authentic. It seems as easy as it was for her to pretend to be Croatian, she could probably pull off Italian just as well.
"I recognized 'antipasto'," Martin said, eyeing the waiter as he walked away.
"Of course you do," Claire teased, reaching over and gently caressing his cheek. "Don't worry, I only asked him to check up on our appetizer." She winked at him. "I didn't ask him to run away to Florence with me."
Martin's face perked up. "Oh, did you order the calamari?"
Grinning, she looked over at Elena and said, "What did I tell you? It always comes down to food with this one." Martin reached up and grabbed Claire's hand, kissing her palm.
Laughing, Danny picked up his menu. Scanning it, he asked, "Since when do the waiters here speak Italian?"
"Vince is a student at Columbia and he's going to do a summer exchange in Italy," Elena explained, picking up her wine glass. "So Claire here volunteered to help him practice speaking."
"Vince?" Danny repeated. "You seem to know a lot about our waiter." He narrowed his eyes at Elena and playfully asked, "Was Vince flirting with you?"
Amused, Elena smiled at him. "Don't worry, we told him we were waiting for our novios."
"Yeah, well, I'm still keeping an eye on him," Martin darkly teased.
"Oh, you're so cute when you're jealous." She chuckled softly and leaned over, quickly kissing Martin.
Vince returned to their table to deposit their drinks and appetizer. After listing the specials, they placed their orders. Once Vince took their menus and disappeared, Danny pumped his straw a few times in his glass and looked over at Claire.
"So, exactly how many languages do you speak?" he asked, lifting his glass and taking a drink.
"Eight," she replied, taking a sip of her wine. Her response wasn't boastful, just matter-of-fact. This was something Danny liked about Claire, she was so laidback and comfortable in who she was that she didn't have to try and impress anyone. She just did.
Danny held up his hand and started ticking off. "Okay, so I know there's Croatian, Spanish, and now Italian." He wiggled three fingers. "What else?"
Almost blushing, Claire added, "Russian, French, German, and Mandarin."
Danny raised a finger for each language she listed. "That's only seven." He frowned. "What's the last one?"
Martin chuckled, taking a sip of his Scotch. "Isn't it obvious?"
Danny furrowed his brow genuinely perplexed. They all just stared back at him in disbelief and unanimously said, "English."
As the table burst into laughter, Danny cringed and lowered his head embarrassed before looking up and joining in on the humor.
Once the laughter quieted, he shook his head and looked across the table at Claire. "Now I seriously don't get it."
"Get what?" Claire asked, puzzled.
Picking up his club soda, he asked, "How you can possibly be happy working wire taps?"
After the dust settled with Risto and Ivo, she took six weeks off to ease back into her life. She settled into Martin's apartment while helping with his convalescence as well as fielding job offers from all branches of law enforcement. With her skills and background, she was in high demand. So when she accepted a position in wire taps, it took everyone by surprise.
Smiling over at him, she replied, "What do you mean? It's great. I love it."
Setting his glass down, he stared back at her in disbelief. "You're lying."
"Excuse me?" she laughingly asked.
"Danny," Elena gently warned, reaching over and caressing his forearm.
"Come on," he teased Claire, gently placing his hand on Elena's to reassure her. "You have to be full of it." His eyes darted around the table, looking for Elena or Martin to back him up but they just leaned back, leaving the conversation to him and Claire. "First of all, no one likes working wire taps. No one. It's just the job they do to kill time until they can get a job in the field. Second, you're way overqualified. You have to be wanting to do real work again."
Smiling, Claire replied, "I'm not lying." She picked up her wine glass and took a sip. Lowering it, she explained, "After almost fours years of pretending to be someone twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, I like working a nine to five shift where all I have to do is translate surveillance audio and video and then just going home."
"Don't you get bored?" Danny asked, still not believing it because he knew he'd be bored out of his mind.
"Nope. I think living my daily life as Claire Roberts isn't boring at all," she adamantly replied, shooting a beatific grin at Martin. "In fact, I think it's pretty terrific."
There was a knock on the door, pulling Danny from his thoughts.
He and Martin both turned in time to see Jack enter. His eyes darting between the two men, Jack said, "The wedding is about to start so they told me to come fetch the groom and best man."
Danny ran his hands over his jacket, smoothing out any wrinkles before nodding and sharing a look with Martin. "I'm ready if you're ready."
Grinning, Martin tugged on the ends of his bow tie and replied, "Let's do this."
End A Treasonous Heart
The most important thing must be addressed first: Huge thanks to Anmodo for all her hard work on this fic. If you could only see how invaluable her contributions, guidance and support were in this story you would know that she truly deserves the highest praise. I cannot thank her enough for agreeing to undertake this journey with me. Thank you, thank you, thank you and thank you. You are truly awesome and it was the highest honor that you agreed to help me.
As for the ending of this story, if you are perplexed or confused wondering if it was Martin or Danny getting married then my intended effect worked. It was not designed to be cruel or keep you guessing but rather to let you, the readers, create the ending you wanted. I thought by keeping it an open ending, it would give me more to work with in case I decide to write a sequel. I'm not saying there will be one but some ideas are knocking around my head… LOL.
Finally, thank each and every one of you who took a chance and read this fic and double thanks to those of you who were kind enough to review. I could tell that I frustrated you at times so I appreciate you trusting me enough to keep reading. I hope that in the end you enjoyed it.
Thank you very, very much.
ETA: HUGE thanks to LoveWinter for helping correct my Italian phrasing. It was very kind and generous of her to send me a PM with the correct phrasing. Thank you!