Nico Careles had recently become used to disappointment. In the past six months, Nico had been disappointed in the way his relationship with Gabrielle had ended, disappointed in how little he had been able to talk to Dani, and disappointed in the way Marshall had treated them all. Just that day, Nico had been disappointed to learn that his best and longest friend had been found dead. But tonight, Nico Careles felt no disappointment.
"Oh, Nico," Dani sighed during a brief moment when their lips were parted. The warmth of her breath on his face sent chills down his spine.
"Shhh…" Nico replied and pressed his lips to hers once more.
No. This was certainly anything but disappointment.
Dani's hands wandered absentmindedly through his thick hair while his hands pressed in the small of her back and her shoulder blade, pulling her closer. Her mouth moved against his, eventually falling open. And as he slipped his tongue between her lips and began to explore the inner reaches of her mouth, Nico thought nothing of disappointment.
Nico knew that he and Dani had always had a special relationship. It had taken him a few weeks at first to find out just how effective and trustworthy his friend was, but as he watched her help TK through all of his problems, Nico grew to admire her, to count her as a valuable ally and someone on whom he could depend. It was easy from there to make the jump from trusted asset to cherished friend, and from cherished friend to unrequited love.
Of course, he had never expressly told her how much he cared about her. But he knew that, at the very least, Dani must have known how much he enjoyed her friendship. And it was that fact that made it so painful when they began to drift apart.
To some extent, Nico was aware that their distance was only natural. After all, the season had ended, and with it, so had most problems concerning Dani. TK was a special case. Then again, he always had been. But even TK didn't require Dani's help for half of the off-season. He left town to go to rehab, and Dani had stayed in town, looking after her own practice. So, naturally, the contact Nico had with her had dwindled.
At first, he had been reluctant to admit that their communication would be drastically affected. He was too nervous anymore to approach her at her house for fear that he would once more interrupt her with Matt, but he would call her, and in the beginning, she would call him, too. But as he began to see less of her, he began to hear from her less often as well. At that point they began to text more. But eventually, that too started to die away.
Nico hated the loneliness he had felt when he thought of Dani. She hadn't only been the object of his most secret desires, but she had been his best friend as well. So he hated that Donnally could pull them so far apart.
One of the hardest things Nico had to admit to himself was that he was often too harsh on Donnally because of his relationship with Dani. Donnally was a good addition to the management team. He made smart decisions that actively sought to increase the value of the team. He deserved the chances he got, and he often made good on them.
There was no aspect of Matthew Donnally that had made him unworthy of Dani. And that was the hardest pill to swallow.
But swallow it he did. He tried to accept the fact that Donnally had made an expensive purchase at a jewelry store. He tried to accept the fact that he would soon see a ring on Dani's finger that had only been bare for a little less than a year. So when Vera pulled him into her hotel room and onto her bed, Nico allowed her to numb him, thinking it would be best to get his mind off of Dani.
But even Vera brought his attention back to Dani as he made ready to leave. He never felt so disappointed in himself as he did at that moment, and his only option was to quickly leave, which he did.
When a week went by and Dani's finger remained bare, Nico couldn't keep himself from digging. And when he found out that Dani and Matt had broken up, Nico never knew such relief. Perhaps, he thought, they could once again be friends like they used to be.
More than anything, Nico had missed Dani. He missed the laughs and the smiles they shared in the hallway. He missed how she teased him about his secrecy, but admired him for his professionalism. He missed her interrogations. He missed knocking on her door in the middle of the night and standing there guiltily under her annoyed eye. He missed how she would reach for his arm conspiratorially when they were talking. He missed telling her things he could never tell anyone else.
When he finally got his chance to test if they could be close again, however, the circumstances had been far less than happy. He got his wish of pounding on her door late at night and silently enjoyed the annoyed look on her face. But when she saw the bug in her office, Nico saw just how far they had strayed from one another's company.
"I need you to go, please."
Those words had stung more than she realized, for Nico learned in that moment exactly how little he seemed to mean to her anymore. Later, when he showed her the copies of the tapes he had collected from Tony, he was again greeted with a hurtful, "Would you please leave? I want to be alone!" That time, however, Nico couldn't just leave her. He had to do what he could for her. He needed to make her understand that he was going to right this wrong.
Nico had almost kissed her that night. But instead, he stood up and went off to make good on his promise.
In hindsight, he thought as Dani began to pull at the top button of his shirt, if denying himself the indulgence of a kiss that night had guaranteed her eagerness tonight, it had been more than worth it.
"Mmmmm, Dani," he groaned as he pulled away from her. "Dani," he repeated when his eyes opened, "we should stop."
She looked up at him and took her hands away from his shirt, resting them instead on his shoulders. "I'm sorry, Nico," she said softly.
Nico shook his head gently. "Don't be sorry," he responded and then leaned forward, kissing her tenderly once more. When they pulled apart Dani spoke:
"Would you like to come inside?"
He smiled and cupped her face with his left hand. "I'd love to," he began, "but I shouldn't."
Dani lowered her gaze, causing Nico to drop his hand from her cheek. "Right. It's getting late anyway," she said.
"Hmm," Nico murmured with a slight smile on his face as he tried to meet her eyes. "It's not that late," he dissented. She looked up at him then, and returned his smile with a shy smile of her own.
"Then you must have some super secret spy stuff to take care of," she inferred. He chuckled.
"No," he responded. "It's just that now isn't the time to rush things."
Dani exhaled her surprise at Nico's honest answer. "You're right," she answered. "It's best that we stop."
"Hmm," Nico grunted again. "But let's not stop too soon."
With that, he pressed his lips against hers again. She responded once more, her mouth moving under his. She took his bottom lip between her own and gently sucked. She felt his tongue flicking against her lips and she soon granted him entrance. As she lost herself to the dizziness of his kiss, she draped her arms around his neck while his hands held her sides tightly, pulling her closer and closer to him.
They sat there, gently kissing, for an eternity. Yet, when Nico moved to pull away again, they both found that the end of eternity had come too soon.
"I really should go," Nico said softly between kisses.
"You're right," Dani replied before kissing him again.
When they pulled apart Nico said, "Goodnight, Dani."
"Goodnight, Nico," was her response, and as if on cue, Nico covered her mouth with his own.
This time when they pulled apart, Nico slowly removed his hands from their positions on her sides and stood. He gave her a warm smile as he turned to leave, but when he walked away he heard:
"Will I see you tomorrow?" He turned around and saw Dani standing, waiting for an answer.
"Of course," he said simply, and after a beat he added, "Goodnight, Dani. Pleasant dreams."
"Pleasant dreams, Nico."
He knew then that he would be able to obey her. He knew that for the first time in a long time he just might be able to sleep soundly, that he wouldn't have to stay awake worrying.
That they didn't have to live in disappointment anymore.