Author's Notes: This is based on MAJOR SPOILERS for Season 6. If you want to remain spoiler free TURN BACK NOW. You have been warned.
Precious Things was intended to be a one-shot. Just an idea that popped into my head after reading some casting sides. But I uploaded it wrong and then I got a bunch of story alerts and figured I better do something. Plus, I found that writing this, which fully acknowledges spoilers for season 6, has a cathartic effect that allows me to continue writing A Father's Heart, which is stuck in some weird limbo where Jess died, but the shooting never took place.
So, this will become the ongoing saga of Danny's recovery and how Lindsay and Danny deal with it. Not sure how long it will be. I could actually end it with this chapter. I guess it will depend on what kind of response I get. --grin--
Full headers and disclaimer in Chapter 1
Title: Precious Things, Chapter 2 completed 09/06/2009
Chapter Rating: T
Lindsay sat in a chair along the wall, gently jostling Lucy to keep her happy, while doing her best to be unobtrusive. When Danny suggested they pick up Lucy first and then go to PT, she thought he just wanted a few minutes with Lucy before Lindsay dropped him off. But he'd talked her into parking the car and bringing Lucy up, joking that he might do better if he had a little reminder of what all the hard work was for. She agreed, not wanting to throw cold water on his newfound enthusiasm. She crossed her fingers and prayed that Lucy would cooperate.
And while she was at it, she added a prayer that she wouldn't fall asleep while sitting there. It had been a long day to begin with and the scene with Danny earlier had taken the last of her energy. She needed a shower, some food and a bed, and not necessarily in that order.
Danny was approaching the end of the "monkey bars" as he called them. Each step was a milestone, and he'd taken a good dozen of them already. But Lindsay wasn't fooled. It was plain that most of his weight was being born on his arms. Years of baseball, together with the daily pull-ups Danny still did using a bar installed across a doorway in the apartment had given him amazingly muscular, powerful arms. It felt wonderful to be wrapped in those arms - like nothing could touch her. But without those arms gripping the parallel bars, he'd crumple to the floor like a ragdoll.
At the end of the bars, Danny braced himself. His wheelchair had been positioned at that end, so that he could transfer into it at the end of his workout. Liz, the therapist, realized too late that Danny had something else in mind. Releasing his grip on one side, he tried slinging that arm over to the other side, while exercising a none-too-graceful quarter turn. But absent the support on one side, his legs began to crumple underneath of him. The momentum from his arm carried his upper body so that he wound up in a near-kneeling position, partially hanging over one bar, balanced at the waist. The therapist was holding his gait belt in a death grip, to make sure he didn't slip any further.
"Ooof!" Danny gripped the bar with both hands, but wisely elected to remain hanging there, lacking the strength to push himself back up. Turning his head, he smiled at his upside-down wife and daughter. Releasing the bar, he spread his arms wide and grinned. "I guess I'm not quite ready for those Salsa lessons, am I, babe?"
Lindsay stood, wanting to rush in and help, but not having a safe place to put the baby down. Fortunately, the training assistant spotted the trouble and moved in to help maneuver Danny off the bar and back to his chair. As he ruefully rubbed his belly, Liz stood back, hands on hips, shaking her head and rubbing the developing bruise on her arm where the gait belt, holding much of Danny's weight, had dug in. She addressed Danny like a six year old caught running across a street.
"I appreciate your efforts, Mr. Messer, but you really need to do what I tell you to do, and ONLY what I tell you to do. You could have seriously re-injured yourself there. Re-injury at this stage could possibly take you from being rehabilitatable to permanently disabled. I've studied a long time and I'm paid a good salary to ensure that doesn't happen, but I need YOUR cooperation. Are we clear?"
Danny glanced from his therapist to his wife and back. Both women right now reminded him disconcertingly of his mom. How was it possible that every woman in the world was able to perfect that set line of the mouth that made her lips all but completely disappear? And when their lips disappeared, their sense of humor went along. Still, he was a bit old to be treated like a child; even if he did act like one sometimes.
"Okay, okay. I get it. I'll stick to the rules next time. Still, that was pretty good, huh?" Danny flashed his brightest grin. He might be married, but he still knew how to sweet-talk the ladies. "All the way down the monkey bars this time. You watch, next summer I'll be runnin' the bases at the Police/Fire softball tournament, just like last year."
Liz couldn't help herself. This one was a charmer all right. She smiled, wondering what had caused the sudden change, although she was certain it had something to do with the two people that he brought with him. She knew he was married of course, and she met Lindsay once or twice before when she had dropped Danny off for sessions. She still couldn't get over the contrast between the two. Danny Messer with his bad-boy, leather-jacket, torn jeans biker look not just paired with, but actually married to the fresh-faced All-American girl-next-door. Of course, the baby in her arms could explain some of that. Although somehow Liz thought that if Lindsay's daddy had come after Danny with a shotgun, one look at him might make Daddy decide she'd be better off as a single mom. Still, the unlikely image of an enraged dad chasing Danny around Central Park was enough to make her chuckle inwardly.
"Well, I'm not about to argue with anything that keeps your spirits high and keeps you working hard. But I have to repeat, you risk permanent damage if you do too much too soon. Just stick to the program and we'll get you to that tournament together, got it?"
Danny's smile faded just slightly, but he threw a wink in Lindsay's direction. "I got it, I got it. You're the boss, Liz."
"Good, and don't you forget it." Liz smiled. She really hoped that all the work would pay off for Mr. Messer. He was not the type that would ever really accept any kind of disability well. Even sitting in the chair there was a sense of barely contained action about him; a sprinter on the blocks just waiting for the starter's gun to fire. "Now, hit the showers or your wife won't want to take you home. Jake will give you a hand in there."
Danny obediently moved off toward the showers, the PT assistant trailing behind him. Lindsay watched as he left, smiling and waving Lucy's hand in his direction when he paused to use one hand and wiggle his fingers at her. Once he was out of sight, she approached the therapist.
"Liz…uh Ms. Holter? Do you have a minute?"
Liz looked up from the desk where she was writing session notes. "Sure, Mrs. Messer. And Liz is fine. Please have a seat." Liz reached out to tickle the baby under her chin. "I take it this is Lucy? Danny talks about her a lot, you know."
Lindsay sat down in the proffered chair, adjusting Lucy so that both were comfortable. "Yes, this is Lucy. And please call me Lindsay. I get the impression that you're going to be a part of our lives for some time."
"You might be surprised, Lindsay. It takes awhile to make real progress in the beginning, and that can be very frustrating for patients, and for their families. But once things get off the ground, the improvement is often really fast. I've seen patients who were in a wheelchair for two to three months suddenly go to a walker, then a cane and then walk unassisted within just two to three weeks. It's as if the muscles finally get the idea of what they are supposed to do, and suddenly the muscle memory comes flooding back. Of course, that's not the medically accepted explanation." Liz grinned. "Would you…like me to hold Lucy for a bit? You look like you could use a bit of a break."
Lindsay had been jiggling Lucy non-stop to keep her entertained. She was overdue for a feeding and, not expecting the layover, Lindsay hadn't brought any bottles. Nor was she about to breast-feed in a room full of twenty or so strangers. She gratefully passed the baby over. Lucy scrunched her face up a bit at first, not sure if she liked the hand-off. But as Liz resumed the gentle jiggling, she settled down to waving her fists quietly in the air.
"So, you had some questions?"
Lindsay nodded, "What just happened, is it really as dangerous as you said? Could Danny really make this worse?"
Liz nodded. She'd been smiling and cooing at Lucy, but looked up, all trace of the smile erased. "Yes, he could. But you shouldn't worry about that too much. It happens at least once to almost every patient. They get impatient with the pace, and decide that if they just go all-out, maybe they can kick start the process. But we've got all kinds of safety equipment, and our training, to prevent them from hurting much more than their own ego. And then, of course, we give them that speech in the hopes that a little fear will keep it from happening again. It usually works."
Lindsay nodded, but pursed her lips, not entirely convinced. "You may not realize this yet, Liz, but um…patience is not exactly Danny's strong suit." Lindsay smiled at her own understatement. "He's…more than likely to keep pushing the envelope. And I've never been able to stop him before, I doubt I'll be able to do it now. He's…very motivated right now. And I'm afraid after what happened tonight that he might continue to overdo things; to push himself too hard. It's just who he is."
Liz shifted the baby to her shoulder, and patted her gently on the back. "I understand your concern, Lindsay, and you're right, there's probably not much you can do about it. In point of fact, I really wouldn't want you to try. You need to concentrate on being as encouraging as you can, let me rein him in when he needs it. It's important that Danny see his family and friends supporting him. Your confidence that he can do this will bolster his confidence. If you try to slow him down, it may seem to him that you don't believe he can do this. But I do appreciate your insight. I hadn't really seen that part of him until tonight. It's good to know that it could be an issue, so that I can keep an eye out for any future problems."
"Is there…anything he should be doing at home? Exercises or something?" Lindsay was beginning to feel a bit better. And she'd been meaning to take time to learn more about Danny's therapy. He didn't say much about the sessions, and she hadn't wanted to appear too intrusive.
"He's getting three sessions a week, and they're very tiring, as I'm sure you can tell. For now, that's probably about all he should be doing. He needs the time between sessions to rest those muscles, because they really do get a workout. Just the effort of transferring to and from the wheelchair that comes with day-to-day living is about as much additional exercise as he needs. And he certainly shouldn't be attempting to stand or walk anywhere outside of his therapy sessions for now. He needs trained supervision anytime he tries to really work those legs. There are some light exercises you could assist him with that will help to preserve his muscle tone, and eventually build strength in those legs. I'll print out a sheet of those. They're pretty easy. But Lindsay, from what Danny tells me, you've already got quite a bit on your plate, caring for both Danny and the baby and holding a job. I don't want to discourage you from helping, but if this is too much, I want you to realize it's not essential, ok?"
Lindsay nodded gratefully, "Thanks, Liz. I'll remember that. I'm not sure Danny will want me helping with these. He tries to avoid getting any more of my help than is absolutely necessary. But I'd like to at least give it a try. Maybe now that he's feeling a bit gung-ho about this, he'll let me."
"That's really normal too, Lindsay. He's trying very hard not to be a burden to the people he loves." Liz held a hand up as Lindsay began to protest. "It doesn't matter if you don't see it as a burden, he does. He hates what he's putting you through and he's trying to spare you. Just accept it. In fact, don't jump in to help every time, even when you see he needs it. Allow him the opportunity to try things on his own, as well as the chance to realize when he really does need help and ask for it. He needs the chance to learn that he can do things on his own, and he also needs the chance to learn that he doesn't have to - that he can ask for help."
Lindsay spotted Danny wheeling himself out of the showers, wearing a fresh shirt and jeans, his gym bag hanging off the back of the chair. She stood and took Lucy back from the therapist. "Are you sure you're not a psychologist, as well as a physical therapist, Liz?"
Liz stood as well, chuckling. "It's all part of the job. You can't treat their bodies if you don't have at least some idea of what's going on in their heads. Danny's going to do just fine, Lindsay. He'll have some setbacks and frustrations, but in the end, we'll get him back on that softball field."
Lindsay gratefully shook the other woman's hand, then walked off to join Danny and make their way out.
"Thanks, Liz!" Danny waved as he punched the automatic door control and wheeled himself out. "See you next time."
As they made their way to the elevators, Danny turned to Lindsay. "So, somethin' tells me you two weren't tradin' recipes over there."
Lindsay smiled, "No, we were talking about you. That's what girls do, you know. We talk about the boys in our lives."
"So, you telling me you were just passin' notes in the back of gym class? Liz tell you all about the boy who asked her to the dance?"
"No-oh. She didn't." They exited the elevator in the garage and Lindsay beeped the remote to unlock the car doors. "I've never watched you do therapy before and I had some questions."
"Oh yeah? Like what kinda questions?"
Lindsay stopped as they reached the car and turned to face him. "Danny. I just wanted to know how you were doing, and I wanted to be sure that you really weren't hurt by what happened on the bars. It was a little…frightening…seeing you suddenly start to fall like that." She shook her head as Danny started to protest. "Look, Danny. I know you're tough and you can take care of yourself. And I'm so incredibly proud of the work you did on those bars today. But that doesn't mean I don't worry about you and please don't ask me to stop, because you might was well ask me to stop breathing; it's not gonna happen."
She opened the rear door and started to settle Lucy into the car seat. Danny sat for a moment in stunned silence.
"Look, Danny, it's another part of the territory. Don't tell me you don't worry about me, because I know better. Families do that. I'm sorry if you thought I was being sneaky or something, talking to your therapist while you weren't there. I didn't mean to be talking behind your back or anything. But I also know you try to protect me from things. And there's not much point in me asking you to stop doing that because I might as well ask YOU to stop breathing - it's the same thing."
She had finished getting Lucy securely into the car seat and opened the front door to let Danny get himself in.
"Danny, when I was laying on the floor of that bar, broken glass all over, I could feel your hand on my back. You were moving it up and down and I thought, 'Thank God we're both ok'."
Lindsay blessed the day she chose a car that had swiveling front seats. The feature had been a godsend. Releasing the latch, she turned the seat, then rolled down the window so that Danny could hold onto the door.
"Then I tried to sit up; only you couldn't move yourself off of me. I had to roll you off. And there was so much blood everywhere, and you said you couldn't move your legs."
She stepped out of the way to allow Danny to lift himself from the wheelchair and into the seat. He pulled one leg in, then the other and fastened his seatbelt. Then he reached over and grabbed the door to close it.
As she wheeled the chair around the back, Lindsay continued. "I swear, Danny; in that moment my heart stopped." Lindsay collapsed the chair and hoisted it into the trunk and walked around to the other side.
As Lindsay slid into the driver's seat, Danny stopped her before she put the keys in the ignition.
"Is it ok if I talk, now?"
Lindsay turned, smiled and nodded. "Ok. Your turn."
"Good. Lindsay, I understand that you worry. And you're right; I probably try to keep things from you to protect you when I really shouldn't. I can't promise that I'll stop doin' that, but I'll try not to do it so much. And if it helps you to have a private pow-wow with Liz, then I guess that's ok, too. It kills me that I'm puttin' you through this, and I just want to make things easier for you, if I can, 'kay?" Danny grinned, "Just don't go tellin' Liz about us kissin' in the elevator at the lab."
"WHAT? Why would I tell her that?"
Danny took Lindsay's hands, brought her left hand to his lips and kissed the palm, then he turned it over and brushed a kiss over her wedding band. "It's a joke, Linds. You said the two of you were talkin' about boys. I just don't want her findin' out any of my really embarrassing secrets."
Lindsay closed her hand to grip his, her thumb absently stroking the calluses that were beginning to form. "You mean like how you like to lick my ears?"
Danny pulled back, a mock-indignant look on his face. "That's not MY secret - it's YOURS." His voice lowered as he continued, "I only do that 'cause it makes you really crazy." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, leaned in and gave her a short demonstration.
"DANNY! Stop that!" She swatted playfully at his chest. "I have to drive!"
Danny leaned back and released her hands. "I suggest you get moving, then, Montana. I'm gettin' ideas for some things we really shouldn't be doing in front of the kid, if you know what I mean."
Lindsay grinned and started the car. It had been so long since Danny had joked about anything. She'd missed the banter and the innuendo. She'd missed the Danny she fell in love with. She crossed her fingers and hoped this was a sign that he truly was beginning to heal - in mind as well as body.