Author's Note: I am so sorry about the delay in this, the final part. Real life and writer's block got in the way of writing. Enjoy, and I hope it was worth the wait. Any feedback you have, I'd love to hear about it in a review.
Spoilers for anything through Green Piece (5.17). Thanks to Joe for betaing this for me!
As time danced slowly by, the scars on his heart began to heal, one by one, and from all outward appearances, he was coping about as well as could be expected, if not better. By throwing himself into his job, all of the passion that he held for her was instead dedicated to finding justice for the victims. He knew that she wouldn't hold it against him if he moved on, found a new person with whom to share his heart. It didn't prevent him from privately grieving late at night, though, wondering what his life would have been like if she hadn't had a martyr complex.
The new girl, the one he called Montana - she had potential, with her small-town naivete that he found refreshing. She was worlds different from Aiden, that he knew. He didn't want a new Aiden though; the temptation to compare them would be almost irresistible, which wouldn't be fair to anyone involved, including himself.
He didn't know if it was because he was afraid of losing her, as he had Aiden, or because he was falling in love with her - or, he thought to himself ruefully, maybe a combination of both - but he found himself clinging protectively to her after her undercover operation had been botched. And, he noticed, she wasn't pulling away. After he clocked out that day, he went to a local diner, a dive by some people's standards - food is food, and starving men aren't picky - and ordered the daily special. A wave of emotion swept over him, as he saw the dish the waitress was carrying toward him. He choked back a fresh flood of tears as he ate the chicken parmesan, not noticing the taste. It could have been sawdust for all he cared.
Through the next few months, he attempted, without much in the way of success, to make inroads with her. Every time he felt that maybe there was some sort of spark, there was another setback, culminating in her disappearing for a period of time. Before he knew it, he found himself at the airport, clutching a boarding pass and a greeting card she had left on his desk, bound for Montana...bound for his Montana. He didn't even really know what inspired the bold move, maybe it was instinct, or a bizarre form of a homing signal, but when he walked into the courtroom during her testimony, he realized that it was the right move for him to make to move on. As he moved in for a kiss that was ever so rudely interrupted and had to be held off until a private time later, a piece of clarity came to him: she wanted this as much as he did. The realization allowed for some of the guilt he felt surrounding his pursual of her to dissipate.
As he lay there on his pool table, holding her in his arms, looking down on her face, he realized that nothing in the world could compare to waking up next to her in the morning. She was the only person, well, not quite the only, he thought to himself, the only person since Aiden though, that he felt he could open up to and allow into his heart. He had to laugh inwardly, he didn't imagine that it would be his pool table that would bring them together like that.
He had to admit, coming on the two-year anniversary of her death, that he would never be fully over Aiden. He knew, however, that without the love she had shown him once, he wouldn't be able to love Montana the same way. They were going through a rough patch - which he had brought upon himself, he admitted fully, but it was a mistake, and people make mistakes, and why couldn't she see that he still wanted to be with her, that the affair didn't mean a thing, and it was over and in the past? He sighed, picked up the phone, and punched in her number, ready to apologize for what he had been doing wrong, hoping against all reason that she would be ready to listen.
At the clinic, where he and his partner on the case were planning to interview one of the doctors, he saw her there. Before he could say a word, ask her what was going on, why was she at a health center, she bolted, scared. All he wanted were answers, and he thought he deserved them, seeing as how they were supposed to be in a relationship, and wouldn't he give her answers if the situation was somehow reversed? But, he mused, he wasn't a woman, and as much as he may have tried to relate to her, empathize a little, he could never see the world through her eyes.
When she finally got the nerve to tell him that she was pregnant, and handed over a small sonogram, he saw his whole world being thrown upside down and torn inside out once again. All the times...he had never really thought about pulling a double shift as a crime scene investigator and a father. Her angry words bitterly pierced the air of the lab, and he found himself wishing that he had someone to turn to, someone that would listen.
He found himself, after shift, after the child was safely with his grandparents, making an unexpected pilgrimage to her grave with a bouquet of carefully-chosen wildflowers. With a frown, he noted that her grave was one of the more neglected plots in the area. Laying his jacket on the ground, and sitting with his forehead pressed against the cool marble of her headstone, he let all of his feelings regarding the pregnancy, and what that meant to him, out into the crisp New York air.
Not for the first time, he prayed for a sign that someone out there, maybe Aiden, maybe someone else, was watching out for him. Many hours later, as he walked away into the night, a few delicate snowflakes freckled the grass below his feet. He took it as a sign, and his gait changed from a solemn one to more upbeat. Everything would be okay.
It shouldn't have been that difficult to get her to marry him. They were having a child together, and while that was very far down on the list of ideal reasons for him to propose marriage to anyone, he wanted to do it. Maybe it wasn't the ideal timing, or the ideal reason, but it was something that he had thought about some nights when he was laying in bed, sleepless and missing her, wishing that she was beside him, always. And, he mused, something would always keep it from being the perfect, idealistic proposal that she deserved. If it wouldn't be one thing, it'd be another, and another, and eventually they'd just never get married, and he didn't think either of them would like that idea too much.
The first time, he admitted he probably botched it before he started, with the incessant questioning. She remarked later, after rejecting his proposal, that she'd rather walk, rather than be pushed. Was he being pushy? He didn't think so, after all, the baby was a wrench...a miraculous wrench, but a wrench all the same, in their lives and the true test of them as a viable couple would be the reaction they would have.
Time elapsed, they continued to excitedly talk about the baby, and she was leaving for Montana the next day to see her mother before she gave birth. It was now or never, he thought to himself, if they were to get married before the baby arrived. He wanted to forget about the vision of her in a long, flowing white dress in a church, surrounded by their family and friends. It would be nice to play to tradition, he had to admit, considering she'd look positively angelic in a bridal dress, but then again, he thought sadly, their lives weren't exactly traditional.
After their wedding, which as far as weddings in front of a bored city clerk and two of their best friends went much better than could have been expected, they went out for their first dinner as husband and wife, before she had to get home and pack for her trip, looking at each other and smiling. All of her fears were assuaged by his declarations, and they had taken the leap together. No turning back now, though neither of them had any desire to do so.
After ordering their dinner and receiving it in a timely manner, he realized that the chef had made a mistake, this wasn't the chicken piccata he had ordered. Looking down, however, he realized that maybe it was a sign of some sort, and let out a low laugh. "Only you, Aiden," he said out loud, barely constraining his laughter, seeing a perfectly arranged dish of chicken parmesan before him. "A toast to traditions, past and future," he said, clinking their glasses together, noting with a slight nod that Lindsay had opted out of drinking anything alcoholic and was instead sipping a glass of lemonade.
Danny swore, at that very moment, that Aiden was smiling down on him, probably laughing that it took this long for everything to happen, but at the same time, genuinely happy for him being happy. He smiled to himself, and turned back to Montana, no, Lindsay, his new wife, ready to start their new life together. "Ready to go?" he asked, grabbing her coat and scarf off the chair for her, and they walked out into the bustling, swirling world, completely oblivious to everyone but each other.