Disclaimer: I own nothing and no money is made with this.

Erin was standing at the door of Danny's hospital room, a good distance away from his bed. She leaned a bit against the wall behind her, not daring to go any closer to the still figure a few feet away. She could see his face, pale in the white light of the halogen lamp above, his closed eyes, his slender hands still on the sheets. He was hooked up on machines which were beeping softly in rhythmic tones, and it frightened her. Tears prickled behind her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. She breathed out slowly, trying to keep them at bay. She was not losing another brother, so she was not going to cry about it; she was not losing Danny.

He was invincible, at least that's what she liked to tell herself when he did something stupidly reckless; like getting himself shot while trying to save a woman from a robber. He'd always had this hero complex, this urge to save everyone. That's what made him such a good cop, and that's what put him in danger more often than his family liked. Looking at him now, a memory came unbidden to her mind.

Seventeen-year-old Danny was staring at her, slouching in the doorway with a scowl on his face. With his arms crossed in front of his chest, he looked older than his actual age. "Ben is a total dick, why are you going out with him?"

Erin looked up from the mirror, stopping in the process of brushing her hair. "I like him. He's nice to me." A grin flitted over her face. "And he's hot!"

Her brother grimaced. "He's only nice to you because he wants to get into your pants. And you're much too young for that."

Her younger, naïve self looked at him, outraged. "I'm fifteen and it's none of your business what I do with the boys I go out with! And he likes me." She turned back to the mirror, studiously ignoring him, but he wouldn't be ignored.

"I know what boys his age are like because I'm one of them, so don't be fooled by the sweet things he might whisper in your ear. It's bullshit. I've seen how he treats girls and it's not a pretty picture."

Erin glared at him, her expression furious. "Why can't you leave me alone? He likes me, why can't you accept that a boy likes me? Now get out, I'm done talking about this with you." She got up and, none too gently, shoved him backwards over the threshold. "Mind your own business." Then she shut the door in his face.

Five hours later she was sitting in Ben's car, parked on the street in front of her house. He looked at her, his blue eyes bright in his face. Then his hand went up to play with a strand of her hair. Erin thought she might die of excitement. "I had a good time tonight," he said.

"Me, too," she replied, gazing into the brilliance of his eyes.

"You know what would make my night still better?" His words were barely more than a whisper and her breath hitched in her throat.

"What?" He kissed her then, gently at first, then more passionately, and she responded in kind. She had only experienced a few kisses before and none of them had been like this. Then all of a sudden his hand was under her blouse, under her bra, and she thought this was exactly what she wanted…until it was not. She pulled away, startled by her own unwillingness to go any further, but sure of it nonetheless.

"I should go," she said. "My parents are expecting me home soon."

"Oh, come on, Erin. This is where all the fun begins." And his lips were on hers again, his body pressing her into the seat. She could feel his hard-on against her leg and tried to push him away. Unfortunately he weighed a lot more than she did. Turning her head away, she tried to reason with him. "Ben, stop it. I don't want this."

But her pleas fell on deaf ears. "Seems to me like you wanted it a minute ago. You're gonna like it." A second later his tongue was deep inside her mouth. She hit him on the shoulder, to no avail, and just when she decided screaming would be her best option, Ben was pulled off of her and thrown into the now open car door.

"Leave her alone, you stupid fuck!" She immediately recognized the low growl of the words and her eyes went wide as she saw Danny standing in the semi-darkness, holding Ben by his collar with his back against the door. That was until he landed a good punch to Ben's nose and let him fall to the floor.

Her brother turned to her, his brown eyes full of concern. "You ok?"

She found herself nodding, still staring at Ben on the ground, blood spurting out of his nose. "I am now."

"Good." Grabbing Ben's arm, he pulled him to his feet.

"You broke my nose," Ben stammered, his words mumbled and hysterical. "You broke my nose!"

Danny was unfazed. "If you ever go near my sister again, I'll break it a second time, you understand? Now take your car and get lost."

Ben was too stunned to reply and Erin used the opportunity to jump out of the car, grab Danny by the arm and pull him after her into the house. There, without another word, he left her standing in the living room and started going up the stairs to his room. "Aren't you going to tell me 'I told you so?'" she called after him, confused by his reaction and subsequent silence.

Her brother turned around and for a while just studied her, then his face broke into a quiet smile. "I told you so." A second later his broad back had vanished up the stairs.

In that moment, as she was left staring after him with the memory of Ben's bleeding nose in her mind, she knew that no matter what, her big brother would always be there to protect her. Even if she didn't want it, even if she resented him for it, he would always be there.

Erin looked at Danny, the memory washing over her, and only after a minute did she notice that there were tears running down her face. He was always there to protect her, but where had she been when he was the one who needed protection? She was by his side in a second, sitting down in the chair beside the bed. "I'm here now, Danny." The whispered words were loud in the otherwise quiet room. "And I'm not going to leave."

The coke was stuck. Frank hit the vending machine in the cafeteria with all the frustration he felt inside him. The coke fell out. He grabbed it and automatically turned to the corridor that led back to the patients' rooms. Then he stopped, stood still for a moment and instead sat down at the closest table. He ran his hand through his hair and a sigh escaped his lips. He knew he should get back to his family, but he needed a quiet moment. Just the thought of seeing his son lying on the bed unconscious, helpless, kept his feet rooted to the spot; he couldn't bear the sight.

The moment he got the call he knew that his worst fear had come true, again, and he had hurried to the hospital, desperately hoping that he wouldn't lose another child. With Joe he had been unprepared for the call. His son had always been so careful, responsible, not getting himself into impossible situations. Frank knew you always had to expect anything when someone was working on the force, but still…to a certain extent he had felt Joe was safe.

With Danny on the other hand…since his oldest son was little Frank had been dreading this call, had known it would come one day.

He remembered when Danny was eight, a small, slender child who always got himself into trouble. Even so, Frank adored his son; his firstborn was always a source of amusement and laughter.

One day the mother of one of his friends at school had been beaten to death by her alcoholic husband. It was a crime that shocked the whole school, but not so much himself. He had known that her husband beat her.

As Frank tucked him in that night and ruffled his dark blond locks, his son looked up at him with big, intelligent eyes. "Why didn't you help her, Dad? If you had been there, she wouldn't have had to die."

In Danny's innocent conception, being a police officer meant that you had to be able to save anyone and everyone there was. Frank knew he had to give him an honest answer because he wouldn't be satisfied with anything less.

"I wanted to help her, but I couldn't. Helena came to us once and filed a complaint against her husband, said he beat her and she had the bruises to show for it, but a day later she withdrew the claim. Said she fell down the stairs. Without her testimony there was nothing I could do."

Danny looked at him, processing what he had heard. "You could have helped her anyway."

Frank shook his head. "No, Danny. There are certain rules that you have to abide by, even as a police officer."

Danny raised his chin a notch. "I would have done it anyway. When I grow up, I'm gonna be a police officer, just like you, and I'm going to do what is right for the people. Because I want to help them."

Frank sighed and watched him, this young person who was so stubborn in his opinions. He was well aware of the fact that children almost never became what they wanted to be when they were young, but there was something in his son's expression, a fierceness and determination that made him believe it. In that moment, he knew that Danny would make a great cop one day. He also knew that when that day came, worry would be his constant companion. He wasn't looking forward to it.

"Good night, son."

"Good night, Dad."

Danny turned on his side and snuggled into the blankets while Frank went to the door and looked back on the small form on the bed. Right then another thought came to him, one he liked even less than the first. Which was that he should be dreading the day his worry became justified. Turning the lights off, he left the room and shut the door.

Frank's memory faded away and he got up to make his way back to Danny's room. Even expecting this day, it was worse than he had imagined. He stopped at the door and looked in on his daughter-in-law watching his son sleep. In the end, he thought, it was true what people said; there's nothing to prepare you for the pain you feel when your child gets hurt.

Linda sat beside her husband's bed and watched him. He had been out of surgery for a few hours now, but still she watched his breathing for fear it would stop. The doctors had said they had been able to repair the internal damage, but it could take a while before he would wake up. She let her fingers travel over his cheek, anxious about how cold and pale he was. Lacing her fingers through his, she lifted his hand and kissed it gently before holding it to her face, comforted by the feel of it.

Linda was used to waiting; waiting for Danny to come home after working for 24 hours straight, waiting for him to make it to the important events in their life, waiting for him to come back from Iraq safe and sound; she was used to waiting, but this…this was excruciating.

She waited for him to open his eyes, to look at her in the special way he had, the way that made her feel like they were the only two people in the world. She just wanted to see his beautiful smile, the one that lit up his whole face, because she was afraid she might never see it again.

She still remembered the first time Danny had ever smiled at her as if it was yesterday. It was her best friend's twenty-first birthday and they were playing pool at a bar. Linda had a winning streak and was just potting the black, when a group of guys entered, laughing loudly and thumping each other on the back. Rolling her eyes, she turned her attention back to finishing the game. "I won again, Mary. Really bad luck you have there." Turning to her friend, a big grin spread over her face.

"You know," Mary countered, "it's my birthday. Ever thought of maybe letting me win once in a while?" She leaned against the table and frowned.

Linda laughed. "Where's the fun in it when you know I'm letting you win?"

"You're impossible." But she seemed distracted and Linda followed her gaze to the bunch of guys at the bar. They were playing a drinking game, two of them downing shots while the others watched. She had to admit quite a few of them were good looking, but one in particular struck her eye. He was dressed in blue jeans and a black shirt which highlighted his well-muscled arms. Tussled hair was falling on his forehead as he laughed while cheering on his friends. Linda averted her gaze and started looking for the chalk for her cue. He seemed like the kind of guy who partied a lot and played with women; she usually made a habit of avoiding that kind. It only led to heartbreak, mostly on her part.

Then a commotion at the table next to them caught her attention. It took her a moment to understand what was going on, but when she did, anger rose up inside her. Three guys were standing in the corner, one of them she immediately recognized. He was one of the regulars of the bar. Barely over eighteen, he always came to play a game of pool while drinking coke and bothering no one. He was sweet as a honey-pie and mentally disabled for all she knew.

Two other men were making fun of him, snatching away his baseball cap and tapping him on the shoulder, confusing him. And nobody was doing anything.

She was ready to go over there herself, giving those men a piece of her mind when suddenly the guy in the black shirt appeared beside them. He was quite a few inches smaller than the two, but he had an air of confidence about him which was quite impressive. "Give him back his cap, now," the words were said quietly, almost softly, but there was no mistaking the tone of them.

The taller of the two laughed, white teeth gleaming in the yellow sheen of the light. "Or what? What will you do, hmm?"

The black-shirt guy took the cue the kid was holding, examined it with great interest and then grinned up at the guy. It wasn't a particularly nice grin. "Or I will take this cue," he took a step closer, "and shove it so far up your ass that it comes out of your nose. Maybe then you'll have some backbone, and stop bullying defenseless people so that you feel better about yourself." He glared at the other who had come closer, warning him off with a glance, then his gaze whipped back to the one in front of him. "Are we clear?"

The guy took a look around, at all the faces who were staring at him, and backed away. "Relax, man. We were just having some fun."

"Well, then have fun somewhere else."

He turned to the kid who stared at him with huge eyes as he got handed back his baseball cap. "You all right?"

A nod was the only answer he got, but he seemed satisfied. "Good. Don't let those guys walk all over you."

He turned away and in doing so caught her gaze over the pool table. She was openly staring at him, she knew that and was fully aware of how stupid she must seem, when all of a sudden a smile lit up his face. It transformed his eyes and his whole face and suddenly she caught something else under his tough exterior. Something which fascinated her.

In that moment, as she looked at him, she knew that this was the man she would love for the rest of her life. The first time Danny smiled at her, she was done for.

Linda opened her eyes, smiling at the memory of their first meeting. "It took us a while to get together, babe, but I knew it from the first day," she said softly. She gave his knuckles a kiss. "I knew it was you who I wanted, so come back to me. I need to see you smile again."

She didn't know how much time passed until all of a sudden she felt the slight squeeze of his fingers. Her heart skipped a beat when her head snapped up and she found Danny staring at her. A short laugh escaped her throat and before she knew what was happening, tears were running down her cheeks. "You're awake." She leaned forward and kissed his forehead, her lips lingering for a second as she enjoyed the moment.

When she pulled back, her eyes settled on his face. "How long was I out?" he rasped, his voice throaty, when he noticed the intense expression on her face.

"Hours." She tried for a teasing smile. "Gave me the scare of my life, you did."

"I'm sorry." Linda thought she would never tire of the sound of his voice, not ever. She knew she wasn't reasonable at the moment, but she didn't care.

"I love you, Danny." And there was the smile, the smile she had waited for. It made her feel warm, and loved, and all was right in the world.

A.N.: I hope you liked it. I tried to keep everyone in character by imagining how they could have acted when younger, but of course I needed to add some of my own interpretation since we know so little of their past. Reviews are always appreciated, tell me what you think! :)